Saturday, 31 July 2010

Was that the end?

Today's focus was on performing, bellydancing. I had the opportunity today to perform my fan dance and also a couple of other numbers at the Mt Eden Memorial Hall. The weather was bad and the audience was sparse. Never mind, It was great to climb into my costumes and perform, maybe one last time.

Was it the end of my bellydancing career? I don't know. I am hopeful I can perform from time to time in France. I haven't found a teacher where I'll be living; that's a problem because I need to keep my technique and performances sharp. Maybe there will be a market for some seduction dance workshops for ladies? I'd love to find out.

I'm working on faith and hope right now; faith that I can catch my booked flight to Paris next month. I want it, I need it in order to be truly me and to have a future. I'll give everything for it, and it seems I really am. I want the french government to welcome one of its 'daughters' home.

Friday, 30 July 2010

A harrowing day!

My future is hanging by a thread. My financial situation is so precarious.

Today was quite the day from hell. It began when I looked out the window this morning and saw fog. Oh shit, what about my flight to Wellington? That was rather unsettling but I hoped things would be alright. It seemed they would be as I logged onto Air NZ and checked the departures, so far so good. Having parked at Auckland domestic airport I went to check in. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The staff person asked me if I would like to transfer to an earlier flight as she suspected my flight would be cancelled. Oh-oh, Yes please. Just as she handed me my boarding passes they announced my original flight was cancelled. Then they announced my new flight was delayed and a decision would be made later. All around me flights were being cancelled, it wasn't looking good.

I went through the gate and hoped and hoped.More cancellations were announced. I was now quite unnerved and i could not rebook. I had to get to Wellington in time for my interview at the French Embassy for my work visa. I had all my documents and more to prove I had been offered a job in France and documents had been sent to the french government. Alas, when I arrived at the embassy with not a moment to spare, Madame took all my documents and passport and then went through everything. She stared at me and said she could not process it because there were no stamps from the french government. Well no, I explained I was still waiting for that. She told me I would have to go away and start over another time if the government approved the visa. I told her I was all organised, the payment was there and I could not afford to come back again. She got angry and raised her voice saying it was nothing to do with her, over and over. I became more desperate. Madame kept reminding me the website said appointments were made AFTER APPROVAL. I explained the university was closed for the summer holidays, the government was on go-slow for the same reason and my future boss was unreachable, on leave.She admitted the situation was stressful and unfair BUT...I burst into tears. I couldn't help it, this was my only chance to make my dream come true and... actually to survive financially.

I have had to act on faith in my new employer. I have been selling my belongings to fund my flights and living expenses until I get my first monthly pay in France. Next weekend the moving company arrives to take my personal effects to France.It will take months to get there so must be done now. I need to resign from my job at the council in a couple of weeks, I need to refinance my mortgage now. If I do not get the visa in time to take my flight to Paris I will end up with no job, no means of support, no belongings, no ability to stay in my home and what few books and key papers I have etc will be sitting in a warehouse in France charging me money.

I cannot suspend the process or I will not meet the deadline to leave NZ if my visa comes through. Madame pointed out the pile of folders in her in-tray and stated she didn't want any more work sitting there. This could take months, even years, she informed me. Eventually she softened. Was it the tears rolling down my face? Was it the fact they had given me the interview appointment against the rules? Eventually my biometric data was taken: 10 fingerprints, face scanned etc. All I can do is wait and hope they will not take a month or more to approve my application. There is nothing more I can do and I am not permitted to contact the embassy to enquire as to progress. If this does not work I am facing financial ruin. Madame then told me my french is very good. Well, if that's the case they must hear some pretty cruddy french. They have kept my passport,I can't go anywhere right now.

My friend Helen, whom I've known since the late 70s, texted me and suggested we meet up for a coffee. What a godsend. Great to see her but especially so when I was so stressed from my appointment. So the two of us munched our savoury scones and had a hot drink in a cafe in Cuba St and discussed my situation and her recent trip to England. It was helpful to have a friend to talk to and to hear of her adventures overseas.

She drove me to Wellington airport which was kind of her. After she left, the airport announced my flight was quite delayed. Great, but eventually I made it home, collected Laura from work and settled in with a takeaway, put the fire on and determined to assume that things would work out. It would be too cruel and a waste of effort if the universe didn't see this thing fairly through. I have no good choice other than to proceed to dismantle my life but I do feel as if I'm heading into a void right now, is it reckless to follow your dream like this, at my age?
The consequences could be magnificent or a disaster.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


My home is starting to empty and I try not to notice that too much. There's a big blank space where my piano, stool and art print used to be. Now they have a new home with some good friends - I'm grateful for that. Drawers are also emptying, pictures leave the walls. Saturday of next weekend the packers will arrive to pack and send away the few belongings I really need to take with me to Cafeolait.

It's the first day in a great many years that I have had no pets to feed or say 'hi' to. The last of my lovely goldfish are now living with neighbours. There's still a lot that must go-that's the tiresome part. A few bits and bobs will be put away for Laura, Trade Me and garage sales will need to take care of the rest. Anything left will go in the wheelie bin.

I'm burning those bridges behind me. I don't intend to return to NZ to live. I want a different life containing more people, friends, fresh experiences and the hope of some comfort later in life. To live life more on my terms. To live with an open heart. To be where there are more opportunities professionally and personally.

Despite having some good times in NZ and meeting some wonderful people I can honestly say most of it has been rather dark, painful, lonely and always a struggle. Lots of hurt, tragedies and feeling my efforts and determination amounted to nothing. Going to France changed that for me. When I was there earlier this year I celebrated in my mind that I had actually achieved an important goal - just being there. Sure, it wasn't easy but I'm glad I persisted over the years. Now my medium term goal can be realised and I'll be working hard on my long-term ones.

Tomorrow is an important day. I'm flying to Wellington for my interview with the French Embassy to obtain my working and residents visa. I have all my documentation but am waiting for the French government to send the OK to Wellington. Apparently they are going to take my biometric data - now that's personal.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The incredible disappearing life

Today I watched as people decided whether my belongings were worth a small amount or nothing at all. People arrived much earlier than advertised and I must admit the whole thing flustered me. I made a major mistake in not putting the price on each thing. This seemed to be an invitation to insist on what I should be selling it for, not what I wanted and in my 'need' to get rid of things I did let some go at silly prices, just to feel I was making some forward progress. When my friends arrived they pointed out I had been a very 'silly billy'. I was a bit careless in selling my step ladder and clothes dryer so soon too, ouch!

Their advice is to put the worthwhile stuff on Trade Me, even if I'm rather busy. I'm hoping Laura can help me with that as my head is spinning with all the myriad things I must deal with at once. Apparently all my few genuine rings and stones are only worth $250 to a jeweller. Ridiculous! I'll have to try Trade Me for that too.

At least my beloved piano is going to a good home. Some things about this move make me very sad, some important things are irreplaceable and have been part of my everyday experience for decades. Some things I chose to buy because I really enjoyed them and now they are gone. I will have 'regrets' about giving up things I still wanted to keep but I don't have the financial resources to keep them in NZ or transport them to France.

My bank is going to charge me for the privilege of topping up my mortgage - hey, they should be paying ME, it's all of benefit to them. Yet more sneaky new charges. Vodafone want to sting me for leaving NZ before next year.

I'm hoping my property management company isn't going to rip me off with high fees - just waiting for the paperwork. Fortunately I know my property manager from our forays into dating each other from the internet. I have to trust that he and future tenants will go kindly on the home Laura and I lived in for 14 years.

I do want to say a big thankyou to my friend Shuping and my lovely friends Yasmin and Muhab Hilali. They've known me since I came to my house 14 years ago, they've seen my trials and tribulations and I've seen their children grow up. We don't see a lot of each other but when we do catch up, it's as if no time has passed at all and they really do care about me. Thanks too to my colleagues at Waitakere who are so encouraging of my huge adventure. I have moments of confusion and almost doubt but somehow they manage to take the sting out of worry.

I know I'm going to miss our visits together.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

It's in the blood

I've had a number of people say to me recently that they felt more at home elsewhere in the world than in NZ. Generally they felt most comfortable in a country from which their ancesters had come.

It's the same for me. I felt far more calm, comfortable and at home in France, especially Paris, than I ever have anywhere in NZ or any other country I have visited. Many of my ancesters are of French descent. The Libeau family were original settlers of Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, South Island of New Zealand 1840. They were enterprising, gardeners and many other things. My grandmother was proud of her ancestry. Even my grandfather was equally related to the same family (with several generations in between I must add), all on my mother's side. (see entry cradle of my Family June 2011).

Now I'm preparing to go home to France. I hope one day I can return to Akaroa for a holiday. Auckland doesn't interest me except that Laura lives here. I'm disappointed by NZ: the tall poppy syndrome, the small-mindednesss, the violence and drunkeness and sports obsession, the unfounded arrogance that makes so many NZers think it's Godzone or more beautiful than anywhere else. Somehow I have survived but never thrived in NZ and I don't know why.

NZ certainly has much going for it but I've had a whiff of an alternative and for me France has so much more depth, nuance and richness than what we have developed here in NZ. Plus, I think I need very different experiences to grow more into the person I want to discover in myself. If you want something different to happen in your life you have to change what you do.

I want a lot - I must change a lot even if it's uncomfortable and financially risky. I've never had a plan in my life before, I've lived like a piece of flotsam or jetsom, tossed about on a sea of random and often harsh or tragic circumstance. Trying so hard to change things but never doing more than surviving. Why is life this way, I would ask myself? I try so hard and am so focussed, why isn't it working for me?

Answer- because it's not right for you! Your future is elsewhere. Hindsight reveals so much, doesn't it? I can see why my efforts never bore fruit- that wasn't why I am here. The path of least resistence seems to be best now but it still requires a lot of effort and passion and it's still difficult to recognise.

Making an opportunity for myself in France has been a long, hard road. There have been false starts, misery and hurt, anxiety and despair. What if I had not persisted? To change my life seemed ambitious but to NOT do this was unbearable. I could no longer live the life I had.

My daughter told me, once I was back from my trip to France, "Mum you were dying before you went. You were miserable and getting sick and started to look old. Once you were in France you looked so happy and ...younger". And when you look at my photos from that trip I do look remarkably comfortable and even radiant.

Maybe we are so busy rushing around we don't notice what really works and what doesn't. What opportunities have we missed by being so run-into-the-ground?

The not-so-supercity has made many of us re-evaluate what life means to us.Do you know where you fit into the world?

Photos of Paris (Versailles) and Akaroa

Monday, 19 July 2010

Steps forward

I find the best way to deal with uncertainty and anxiety is to get stuck in and move things forward. It's tempting to procrastinate but there comes a point, fairly quickly, when you just know you'll feel better when you've achieved some forward movement instead of worrying about the current situation.

Forward movement is happening. I have now engaged a property manager to look after my home in my absence and an accountant to make sure I'm not wasting money and am meeting my legal requirements ie taxes. I've also signed my new employment contract. That's all go but still the documentation must be finished by the university and sent to the government in France, who will consider my case and (I really hope) will direct the french embassy in Wellington to issue the work permit after my visit there next week. Time is very short for a government department to make a decision before I arrive at the embassy.

If it doesn't happen I'll have really big problems. It doesn't bear thinking about so no more on THAT subject.

I'm still looking at options for my belongings. The small stuff has to go but I'm a wee bit nervous about getting rid of my large stuff-furniture. My contract is officially for only one year and although there's a good chance that it could be rolled over, that's not on offer right now.

What if I came back here to no chair, no bed, nothing. I'd never be able to replace it so at the moment I'm investigating minimal storage. It's very expensive, but less expensive than having to replace furniture. If things work out indefinitely for me in France I'd come back to NZ and wind up my affairs. I hope that happens.

It's going to be odd for me not to have a garden for some time. Gardening has been a very important interest for me and has supplied great organic produce. My time will be directed onto other things I suppose. What will they be? Will I be able to continue my bellydancing? What about Toastmasters? There are no clubs near my new home or workplace in France. More changes in the wind, it would seem. I wonder what will replace these interests? I'll take some dance costumes over there anyway, just in case.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Getting my head around it

It's about this time that the enormity of what I am about to do starts sinking in. I searched Google Earth to see what my new address looks like in Rambouillet. What do you think? Will I have one window or two? My space will be only about 30 square metres. I'm used to 100sqm. What can I bring with me?

I will be living more than 18,000 kms from all I've ever known and it won't be just for a couple of months and it's not a holiday. I am NOT having second thoughts in any way but I am thinking about the scope of the changes I need to deal with all at once. The biggest one will be language.

English is like breathing to me. I write well and sometimes it's effortless. Certainly it's easy for me to express myself and be understood. I enjoy listening to others' ideas. All that will be gone, at least for a while. I can barely survive with my current knowledge of French but if I need to live and thrive, well, that's another story. Sure, eventually I will improve but... in the meantime?

I'm thinking about the positives, and there are a great many. I accept that it's essential in the great scheme of things that I do this, in fact I can't imagine a life without this opportunity. But I'm thinking...crikey! What's the process going to be like? Will I manage this emotionally, all alone? OK, yes I will but this is the angst stage and there will be another one after I get to Paris.

Good things take time, great things require courage, I remind myself.

I'm very happy that Laura will soon have a full-time job at Countdown. She will be able to make her own way in the world. I imagine she's having similar thoughts about coping with major change as I am but it's a positive change for us both, even if it's not comfortable.

Tomorrow we'll work in the garage, sorting and chucking and preparing for a garage sale next weekend. It's all part of the process of letting go. I'd rather recycle than chuck and I do need to raise funds for my move but it's rather messy. I've also noticed that the moving companies I have contacted are in no hurry to provide quotes for my extremely modest move of personal items only. Some take weeks to answer an email, some ignore me and some dictate what I will do. None of that impresses me so I'm still looking and weighing up alternatives.

I'm about to hire a property manager and contact an accountant...chipping away at my list of To-DOs. Such alot spinning around in my mind at present and I'm experiencing some unpleasant headaches as a consequence. They say that moving house is up there on the list of the most stressful things to do. Well, I asked for this, it's a wonderful opportunity and I'll tackle it head-on. Note to self: go to bed earlier tonight.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

From eco to eco

All need not be lost but it will be difficult. Waitakere City, New Zealand's eco city, dies with the creation of the Auckland Council and CCOs and the transference of water supply and wastewater services to Watercare Services.

Waitakere has spent many years of proud struggle to offer its citizens a philosophical and practical alternative to the lack of consistent commitment to preserving a workable planet for ourselves and our children, which is so evident elsewhere, especially in commercially-oriented organisations and even central government.

But what happens to the eco spirit and community pride in Waitakere when the supercity kicks off on 01 November?

I hope every passionate west aucklander and all the current council staff will continue to advocate for environmental issues wherever they may be in future.
I don't live in Waitakere but I've been priviledged to work there for four years and see a different way of thinking and doing.

That's why I'm proud to say that the Waitakere Way will live on in France and ultimately contacts throughout the world, when I relocate in a few months. It's Auckland's loss and Europe's gain to have my passion and abilities recognised as valuable on the other side of the world. I'm moving to another organisation with sympathetic environmental attitudes, that makes efforts to help people and the planet to live sustainably so that the last nail in the coffin of our planet is not tapped into place.

I fear for Auckland and New Zealand at present because the necessary leadership isn't where it needs to be. I hope the elections result in people with vision being placed where they can truly work on behalf of the people and that automatically means they will be sensitive to preserving a good quality of life with a minimal environmental footprint.

It's clear it's time for me to move on but I'm sad to leave my projects, colleagues and contacts back here. Waitakere is a place I'm proud of. Auckland is not. However, good people will find their way into the new organisation and I hope they can spread the special qualities they contribute to Waitakere into the new Auckland so that I can look on with some renewed enthusiasm for my birth country.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lifestyle change

How attached are you to your 'things'? When did you last have a major cull? I've had regular throw-outs over the past decades and I don't have a lot of clutter other than stuff in the garage but I must admit, it's not easy to part with the big stuff, even though it's getting a bit old. I like to look after my belongings and keep them well maintained so hopefully other folks might like to buy them for the right price.

It's hard to price things. I know they have to be a bargain but what's the market value for second-hand? It's what people are willing to pay, of course, but how do you determine that in advance? Research on Trade Me?

I've made a list and guessed pricing for both Trade Me and a garage sale. What if no-one comes to my sale? Oh horrible thought. I wonder what the best way to advertise it would be. I've never done this before. This process seems much worse than getting in a moving company and having the cost paid by an employer. For my move I must find new homes for things, empty the house and shift personal effects at my own expense. One quote was for only 1 cubic metre. How on earth am I supposed to manage with only that? Sheesh!

The weather in Europe is really hot right now, in the 30s Celsius. That's a bit hot, even for me. Next summer in Europe will be my first ever as a resident so I hope the climate will be kind. Before that happens I will need to survive a French winter Brrrr! I can see a new style of wardrobe will be required.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The starting gates are open

It happened! It finally happened. Yesterday I received a lettre d'engagement -a letter of appointment, from the head of my employment organisation in France. My dream really is coming true. It's official that I have been appointed to communications for some interesting projects. A worthy sort of work, important work.

What a challenge I have in store: learning new aspects of protecting our environment, giving up my worldly belongings and country and culture, becoming more competent in a second language, adjusting to an entirely different way of life and experiences. Even the Parisien climate will be very different to Auckland.

I have somewhere to stay for a while until I can find myself something more permanent to rent. My new home will be a small studio apartment in Cafeolait which is about an hour's trip in the train from central Paris. Cafeolait is a lovely city with interesting historical roots. It even has a beautiful castle, lakes and parklands near my future abode. Work has kindly arranged for me to rent the apartment. I have no details on it other than the address.

It's going to be a bit tricky without a car for a bit but I'll just have to find some way to manage domestic stuff. I'll have neighbourhoods and cities and a country to explore, interesting people to meet and hopefully I'll make some friends too.

In the meantime I have the unpleasant task of disposing of my belongings because I can't take most of them with me. I'm planning a garage sale and to put the big stuff on Trade Me but inevitably there will be 'things' I don't know how to dispose of. Byebye past.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Biting nails

Another week gone by and still no contract through from my future employers in Paris. I keep re-reading old emails to bolster my flagging confidence. I can't imagine they would just drop everything after the effort they've already put in but without a contract I have officially nothing. Human Resource departments do take a while to go through the hoops, I realise that, but it's driving me nuts.

I've already had to invest a few hundred dollars I don't really have in order to pursue a work visa (flights and taxis to and from Wellington, fee for new passport, fee for visa) and I need to have purchased a flight to Paris in order to complete my documentation this end. I'm reluctant to go that far financially without a signed contract. I'm supposed to be at an interview at the embassy in Wellington this month.

I have only two months to dismantle my life here and tie up all loose ends. It's not long. I'm sending feelers out for practical stuff I would need to do once things get the green light. When I imagine I have that green light I feel remarkably calm, at peace and happy, not really stressed by the process ahead. I try not to imagine the opposite-that would be far too dark a place to look into.

Already I feel my energy levels dropping again since I came back. I doubt it is due to jet lag after all these days. I would put it down to being back in a country that's not right for me, a country without good opportunities professionally and personally. It's easier to see it now that I've been away and come back.

Patience. It's hard. Faith. That's hard too. Watching what is happening to my colleagues, their stress, all my passion and hard work at the council going up in smoke. It's distressing. I think if a country has to call one of it's cities a 'supercity' just to sound positive about something creating this much upheaval it must have a very small d***. True greatness doesn't need marketing slogans.

All I can say publicly about this is, for goodness sake Aucklanders, make sure you are enrolled and vote when the time comes in October.

Do NOT leave it to someone else or you will get THEIR choice, not yours. Don't know the candidates? It's your responsibilty to put a little effort in and find out so you can make an informed choice. This is not a normal local government election. This is a whole different ballgame and structure and powerplays. What's involved is your entire daily lifestyle, your future. Don't like something? Use your vote.Please.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lists, inevitably

Making a list, checking it twice - in the immortal words of that song (apologies to Santa). It has begun. I've already made a list of key items to sell via Trade me and another, longer list for a garage sale; earlier rather than later.

I'm not a big hoarder, after so many relocations in NZ during my lifetime and so many situation changes, but after 55 years you do keep things which spark off memories of experiences. Memory alone is fickle. I've forgotten much of my life, much of the detail. My 'things' help me to remember. What will happen to me when I no longer have my 'things'? When I no longer have the people I have now, in my daily life, to remind me of shared experiences? That's an awful lot to lose.

I've kept receipts of things I've bought nearly 40 years ago. No, not most things, they've been culled long ago, but special things like houses, first motor bike, previous cars. This afternoon I spent time throwing out a lot of household documentation. When you have to consider how to pay for getting stuff to the other end of the earth and then find a place for it there you then find using the rubbish bin a lot easier.

It's going to be as if I'm 18 years old again, just starting out with little in the way of possessions. But this time I'll have added experience, wrinkles and arthritis and lost youth, energy and a lot of future years to rebuild. It's similar but different. And I'll be doing it completely alone in a foreign country with a foreign language and culture. Hmmm, where did I hang my 'balls'? I need to find them.

I've researched 'moving companies' today. I've cleared out a few drawers and files. It's too soon to do the big stuff but I didn't sleep much last night, trying to put a market value, in my head, to each of my belongings. What must it be like for folks who suddenly lose everything from a lifetime, such as in a fire? I at least have a choice about what remains, depending on the quote of course.

Somehow, being materialistic is no longer appropriate in my life. Having 'attachments' to things and places is not part of my immediate future. I was born with the surname FREE. Now I think I'm about to find out exactly what that means.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Each new day I'm looking for evidence of moving myself forward to the life I want and need.

Though I have not yet received the official contract I now know what my salary will be; modest but better than if I was teaching English in France. It seems my future employer will be happy to have me and find me useful. The Director of Human Resources and the  professor employing me there are writing the required documentation. Wow! Apart from enjoying my work with the ecocity I've found it hard to feel appreciated by employers in NZ. That's probably because I wasn't.

I think there's a chance I might actually thrive in my new home on the other side of the world. A bigger stage, a wider variety of people to meet and work with, friendly and generous people, a fascinating history and culture of depth and breadth. And that pervading sense of being home.

I'm allowing a little more excitement to make itself felt each day. I'm looking around my home in NZ and gently letting go of my attachment to my belongings. That also means my garden. I feel it is unlikely I will ever tend to it again, after I leave in September.

Ah September, a time for new things in my garden and for me. Already the jonquils are flowering, offering their sunny faces to me in greeting. I've promised myself that one day I will make a lovely garden somewhere in France- gee, I feel quite misty-eyed at the thought. In France there are more opportunities to plant the plants I enjoyed in my childhood and early adulthood because the climate is a little more like that of the South Island of NZ. Auckland is warmer but there are many European plants that don't do well there, a bit like me, I guess.

I've even found a worthy person to represent the ecocity and to deliver my presentation on community advocacy for sustainable living to a national conference at the end of the year. Things are falling into place.

Next week I shall investigate the ins and outs of finding the right property manager to look after my only asset and then it will be time to obtain quotes to move my personal possessions. I've only two months to pull this together but I want to experience the process rather than rush around in a mad fog.

My heart is ready to go now but my head needs to be in charge until I get on the plane for Paris. Yes, I do believe I'm getting a wee bit excited.