Thursday, October 30, 2008

dreams and reality

Am I dreaming, or is that a real street vendor with wheels of cheese the size of a car tire? For the last few days, I've been having recurring dreams. Every time I wake up I'm at my new job--in the US. It seems we've decided to book airline tickets and flee... but, here in my new office, I am regretting not being in France. Then I awake and realize--I am still in France! It's hard to identify the feeling that comes next--relief? regret? Obviously I'm still in shock. I really am here, with real cheese, real vacation, and with much more family time than ever (except when I wasn't employed).

Yesterday I took a half vacation day so we could go to see the Bien Formidable Géant, or BFG, a great and entertaining book by Roald Dahl--translated and adapted into a French play. It's our first chance going to the théatre here, and for more fun we took a couple friends (Olivier's two kids). This particular play wasn't great for our kids (confusing since all 5 or so roles were played by the same actress, so when I translated with a whisper it was never clear who I was speaking for), but I enjoyed it--the actress had invented some interesting and creative ways of telling the story. We intended to stop at a vendor that makes fresh crèpes after the show (a treat only to be enjoyed when wheat-allergy-boy is with the sitter) but they were closed, so we stopped by our local corner-store instead. It is called the mic mac (we like to think of it as our french version of wawa) and sells essentials of french life: baguettes, french fries, pastries and a wall of candy!

Taking a part vacation day was interesting, because I was learned a bit more about how that works here. Basically, I accrue about 2 days vacation per month, plus 1 day of RTT, which is some federally mandated don't-work-too-much program, and the equivalent of yet another day of vacation. Just as in the US there is a lot of controversy about how much the government should be involved in corporate affairs, in France this is a concern as well, and the pendulum swings back and forth regarding the regulations. With Sarkozy in office, the pendulum is swinging to the 'right' as it has with George W Bush, and reforms for 'work more, get paid more' have been eating away from some workers' time off. Now since one of the reasons I moved here is to have a better work-life balance (New York was waaaay out of balance in favor of work), I'm not happy to hear that lots of companies are increasing the amount of time people spend in the office. But at my company, fortunately, they want to keep the current system, which breaks down somewhat as follows (if I undersand it right):

260 approx week days in a year
218 number of days I will work
42 days paid time off (25 vacation days, 12 RTT, 5 holidays)

42 days? Am I dreaming???

Just to put it in perspective, when I left my job in Philly with almost 6 years' tenure, I was up to 20 days. Not enough, since after the occasional sick days, it was hard each year to scrape together 5 days in a row for vacation.

Well, if this is a dream, it's one in which it rains 5 days in a row just so that my little boy (who loves pink and yellow and doesn't feel the cold even when it's 40 degrees out) gets to wear this crazy outfit (all his other clothes, ruined at a rate of 3+ outfits per day, won't dry on the laundry line): shorts, long green checkered socks (that belong to his sister) and of course, his yellow-pink umbrella and yellow rain coat!

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