Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Bootstrap Wednesday, 1 Sep, 2010

Who needs language, anyway? We're doing it. With a few grunts and hand gestures (and a lot of good will on both sides), a lot can be accomplished.

We're like persistent, demanding 2 year olds. It works for them and it's working for us. Our needs are being met. A couple key nouns in French and a couple words back in English accompanied by some pointing and gesturing (happy face, sad face), and progress is being made. We’re pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.

We set out with passports and our baille (lease agreement, also handwritten, used by many places as proof of address) to get phone service via Orange, the hip network in these parts. They apparently don’t require a year-long contract. After waiting a bit, a very nice, patient woman does it all for us. She should get an award. She should be a teacher. Just the right amount of information: not too much, not too little, using slow, clear words as we all search for ones that are the same or similar enough in French and English. Synonyms are us!

She says if we know the name of the previous tenant in our apartment, we can waive a connection fee. We tell her the name of Greg’s colleague who lived there last year. She shakes her head and shows us the computer screen to see if we recognize any names. We don’t, but it can’t be that hard. There are only 8 units in the building and only two on the 4th floor, so one of them has to be ours. She looks hopeless, presses a key to go to the next page, and there, only one more name, but it’s the one we had mentioned. Phew! Now she does not think we are so totally clueless. She is working for us. Yea! Land line set, should be up and running by Friday.

Then she sets up internet. Should be up and running in a week. Cost for phone and internet? About $30 a month. Compared to the $70 we pay in Colorado, that feels like a great deal. And we pay nothing up front. Don’t need a bank account.

Then we get a new sim card for Greg’s phone ($15) and a prepaid phone for me ($25) and we’re connected! We now have a way to call each other and have people call us. Boy does that feel surprisingly good! We’re doing it.

Communication. Check.

I want to press on and brave the line for bus passes. Transportation the next key piece of infrastructure. Greg says the phone store’s about all he can handle, and it’s a beautiful day, the last day before the start of school. He wants to take the kids out to do something fun. But hey, we can do that now: one person can go one way, the other person go the other, then meet up later. Wow!

The kids are in a bit of a rut and apartment living is not really Rees’s thing, so Greg is determined to get them out and moving. Yesterday on his way to the University, he walked past some interesting playgrounds with big climbing nets and ziplines. He wants to take the kids there for one last hurrah before the start of classes. Great idea as I think only one person needs to apply for the bus passes.

Before I even start standing in line I have the brilliant flash to walk a few blocks to our friendly internet café, stand outside, and quickly download my email to my iPod. Then, while I’m in line, I can read it. After doing my email, I familiarize myself with my cell phone and add the two contacts (Greg and Carina) I have in Grenoble. I’m multitasking. Feeling pretty chuffed.

I get to the front of the line and with a few more grunts and gestures, I successfully purchase 4 unlimited bus passes complete with photo ids for each member of the family. Hooray!

Transportation. Check.

I call Greg (my first contact!) to find out where they are. They are at a big park in the center of the city, but he is frustrated and says the playgrounds he saw seem to have vanished. Vanished? I think he is maybe in the wrong place, but I set off, using my new pass, to meet them.

I take tram A to tram C, cross the tracks and go one stop. I get off and call Greg again. He says they found out what happened to the playgrounds. Since it is the last day of summer vacation, it’s the day all playgrounds come down. Bad timing!

He even sees a truck with the workers in it that says: “Maître de l’éphémère,” or Masters of the Ephemeral. So zen, and yet so cruel. The kids are disappointed but at least that solves the mystery of the disappearing playgrounds. Bummer. Greg says they are at a snack kiosk near the tower and I can’t miss it.

I don’t see any tower. Hmmm. So I get out my map, walk a bit, then slowly realize my mistake. I got off one tram, crossed the tracks, and got on the very same tram going the other direction. I backtracked instead of transferring. Oh well, I’m not that far off, figure out where to go and meet up with Greg and the boys soon enough. Dope!

They are ready to go back to the apartment. So we do and I spend much of the rest of the afternoon figuring out how to recharge my phone. With only 10 minutes of talk time, I don’t want to wait until I am in a panic to do it. Much trial and error.

Takes me about half an hour to figure out that "précédent" on the phone menu means "back." Boy is that useful. Big old forehead slap when that came through! To my dismay, it seems that our foreign credit cards don’t work for the phones (or the trams, but tram problem now solved) and at dinner time I see Orange mobicartes for sale at the grocery store. I buy the cheapest one, and it works! Hooray! I found a way to do this without a bank account!

Very excited by what we’ve accomplished today.


Dais said...

What is a mobicart?

jeninco said...

Funny you should ask...I had no idea either! Mobicarte kept popping up as an option on my phone menu. When I went shopping for dinner I saw phone cards for sale at the store (like gift cards, you know) called mobicarte Orange and figured that's what it was for. So it's a way to turn cash into phone credit which is what I needed to do.