Paris Diaries

Things that end well.
December 31, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: Pre-move | Tags: , ,

Ryan came over to watch the Golden Bears take on Air Force at the Armed Forces Bowl this morning, which started at the ungodly and unfootbally time of 9:30 AM. Cal quickly, but not entirely surprisingly, dug itself a deep hole by early the second quarter, giving up 21 unanswered points. That sad reality combined with the jingoistic and masquerading patriotism of this particular bowl game (sponsored by the friendly and, yes, patriotic folks at Bell Helicopter) made the whole affair unbearable.

What better time than this to take a quick break to make some bank wires, especially when banks were closing early today and we still needed to beat the East Coast deadline for currency conversion. The task went relatively smooth even though the friendly representative at the neighborhood branch had never done a wire transfer in foreign currency before (surprise, surprise). Never mind, there was money to be sent (even at an abysmal exchange rate of 1.525:1) and the second half of a bowl game to catch.

All was well that ended well when the money went where it was supposed to (knock on wood) and the resurgent Cal football team with a new quarterback, Kevin Riley, at the helms overcame the early deficit for an exciting finish in Forth Worth. A potential first losing season for Coach Tedford was thus avoided and the seeds of a promising new start were sown for the next season. Very well indeed.


[As always, be sure to check out the rest of our Parisdise afterward for much, much more!]


If not one thing, then another.
December 28, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: Pre-move | Tags: , ,

Eleven days until the consulate appointments and we think we have finally sorted out the translation issue. While the professional translation service might be desirable and even necessary for corporate clients, we have neither the deep pocket nor the need for that kind of precision (we think). Instead, we will go with the solo translators from craigslist.

One guy we contacted yesterday responded this morning. Though he didn’t provide the requested samples and references he seemed earnest and, most importantly, his rates were quite reasonable: 7.5¢/word or $18/page versus the pros’s going rate of 30¢/word. In the end, it really came down to cost, and the revised quote of $190 for just the two motivation letters from the profession translation service sealed the decision. That and the fact that our friend in Paris, Jean-Louis, agreed to take a quick look at the translation to spot any glaring problems. We’ll start this solo translator out with the two motivation letters at $18 each and will see how it goes.

Unfortunately, the money we save from the translation task will not go back into the Paris fund but will instead go to pay the hefty health insurance premiums. With the able and invaluable assistance of Alta Vista Translation, deciphering the insurance applications word by word wasn’t as daunting as it initially seemed. (Maybe we could even translate some of our documents ourselves.) The applications were rather simple; we just needed to confirm that professeur also meant teacher, to spell avocat with no “d,” and to consistently use the dd/mm/yy date format.

We selected March 15 for the coverage start date with the assumption that it typically took about two months to get the visas. If we did not get the visas, we could still get our premiums back but only if we provided Mercer with written proof before our policies began. Though we were trying hard not to think of this latter scenario, we couldn’t help but think that it would double the blow to have one’s visa application denied and to lose thousands on an insurance policy of no value.

We still needed to bind the policies before the January 7 consulate appointments. However, Estelle was out until January 2 because of the holidays, which left only three business days to do so when she came back. Hopefully that will be enough time; doing all this around the holidays is really a balancing act, on a tightrope.

Another issue to solve before mailing the insurance applications to France (before the Post Office closed today) was what to do about the payments. It turned out that our bank could not generate checks in a foreign currency so the applications ultimately went out alone. Fortunately, the payments could be wired in euros to the insurance broker, but this could not be done until Monday because it was already past the currency-conversion deadline on the East Coast.

It seemed as if it was not one thing, it was another. But that was OK by us because there was no point stressing over things we could not control. Besides, there was a good bowl game to watch at home tonight (Oregon State defeating Maryland at the Emerald Bowl for the Pac-10’s first bowl victory this post season) and plenty more exciting games in the days to come.


[As always, be sure to check out the rest of our Parisdise afterward for much, much more!]

Never a dull moment.
December 27, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: Pre-move | Tags: , ,

The focus today, the most pressing task, was to settle on a translation service and get moving on the translation. We spent some time tightening up the motivation letters. It is amazing how much could be cut when each eliminated word saved 30¢. We decided to bite the bullet and go with the professional translation service that Riot contacted yesterday, which had also done work for his firm. This latter fact should have raised a red flag that we probably could not afford it. In fact, we couldn’t. Not at a total of nearly $1,200 for seven – yes, seven – pages. Shocked by the quote, we decided to request a revised quote for just the two motivation letters, which were the most complicated. The rest, financial letters, birth certificates, etc., we hoped we could do by ourselves. Maybe. Or, maybe we could use one of the individual translators peddling their services on craigslist (why didn’t we think of this earlier?).

On the health insurance front, we finally heard back from Estelle at Mercer France who sent the insurance applications. Now, we just needed to get them filled out and have our policies bound before the consulate appointments in 12 days. An easier item to tick off our task list was getting a letter from the police department stating that neither of us has a criminal record. (This wasn’t actually on the list of required documents for the San Francisco Consulate but it was on the list of another Consulate so we figured we should have it ready just in case.) The process was quite painless and even a bit humorous. After checking her computer, the clerk turned and asked us rather naively: “you don’t have a criminal record, do you?” Well, we don’t, but we don’t believe we would have said yes even if we did, especially when she couldn’t figure it out herself.

In other news, there was some trouble printing out the visa application without parts of the top and bottom cut off. It turned out that using A4 papers (yes, we managed to track some of those down) instead of the familiar 8.5×11 papers did the trick. To try to do everything right for fear of being denied a visa is to be walking the fine line between thoroughness and obsession. And, between translation that costs a fortune and papers that are seven-tenth of an inch too short, there is never a dull moment in this enterprise.


[As always, be sure to check out the rest of our Parisdise afterward for much, much more!]

Not being sure of anything.
December 26, 2007, 12:00 am
Filed under: Pre-move | Tags: ,

Last night we reviewed and updated the Paris task list (last saved: June 7) and saw that we had some work cut out for us. Today, with the distraction of Christmas gone, we boldly set out to complete the remaining tasks.

The first task was to find a translation service: “ALL DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED IN ENGLISH MUST BE TRANSLATED INTO FRENCH.” Because we had no idea how much translation cost, imagine our sticker shock when we were quoted 30¢ a word by a professional translation service. (To translate the last sentence alone would have cost $7.50.) It was mind-boggling to think of the hundreds of dollars that would need to be spent to translate the numerous required documents.

So, we set that task aside and moved on to the next one: photos. We needed five (or was it four? It all depended on whether we were following the instructions on the Consulate’s website or the instructions on the Consulate’s handout) for the visa applications and some extra for further paperwork once we get to France. Wolf Camera on Market offered the best deal at $16 for six (paranoid and overly cautious, we went for 12 each). We showed the not-too-friendly photographer the detailed, three-page “instructions” from the French Embassy’s website. Riot tried without success to elicit a sympathetic acknowledgment, photographer-a-photographer, of the seeming absurdity of the whole enterprise. The photographer mechanically went about the task and expectedly failed to heed the caution that the width must be between 35 and 45 mm (1.4 and 1.8 in.). In the end, for all of our trouble, we still ended up with the typical 2 in. x 2 in. passport size photos. Would this be a problem? Maybe, maybe not. We aren’t really sure of anything.

But we felt a bit better when we discovered later on at home that the visa requirements were all over the board, depending on which consular region you happened to be in. Each Consulate wanted something slightly different, including the number and size of the photos. Here’s an example:

Consular Region (Photograph Requirement)

  • Washington, D.C. (5 45×45 mm)
  • New York – (4 45×45 mm)
  • Boston – (3 45×45 mm)
  • San Francisco – (4 35×45 mm)
  • Los Angeles – (3 35×45 mm)
  • Houston – (5 “passport size”)

What remained unclear, and therefore frightening, from all of this was how all of these inconsistencies would play out when applications from the different consular regions all ended up at some central location in Paris. Curious as we could be at times, this was one conundrum we didn’t really want to think about further.

We spent the rest of the night composing our “motivation” letters “explaining the purpose of the stay.” There was some pressure to get the letters just right; not too lengthy but long enough to cover everything we wanted/needed to say. In the end, we kept to two simple themes: (1) why France (e.g., culture, history, people, and food) and (2) why us (e.g.,, we wouldn’t be a burden and we were coming for the right reasons). It was nice to cross this item off of our task list, as it required the most original effort, and we even had a brief image of a faceless civil servant reading our statements and declaring excitedly, “très bien!” OK, it was getting late.


[As always, be sure to check out the rest of our Parisdise afterward for much, much more!]