Saturday, 23 February 2008

New Departure Date

We were able to change our flight to France once again, and the extra cost will be covered by our travel insurance. Just need to get a doctor's certificate...
Instead of meeting the Marcoux family in France we will now meet them here. They are due to arrive on 8 March, and we have booked our departure for 11 March. It adds more to our list of logistics, including our transport to the airport. At the moment we think we will borrow my Dad's 4WD wagon, to transport us, but our luggage will require a trailer or another car. We'll work on it some more...

At this stage I am wondering if we will ever get there??? Today Stef Marcoux sent us some pictures of their home and surrounds in France (the picture is a view from the balcony), so we are becoming more familiar with where we will be living for the year. Just makes it more frustrating that we are stuck here!

Meanwhile I am getting a taste of French life through "La Vie Échangée", the blog of an American family who are doing an exchange very similar to out own.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Unforeseen Circumstances

Due to unforeseen circumstances we will not be flying out on Sunday. The start of our big adventure will need to be delayed once again.

This time it really is my fault.
I haven't mentioned it here before, because I wanted this blog to focus on our trip to France, but over the last couple of weeks I have had several medical appointments, including a mammogram (breast x-ray) and ultra-sound. Last week my GP referred me to a specialist breast surgeon in Perth. The culmination was today when I visited the specialist, and he booked me in to have an operation with general anaesthetic on Monday.

At the moment I am still shell-shocked, and none of this seems real. In my head I am trying to work out how we can still go ahead and catch our flight on Sunday.

Tomorrow I will have to contact the travel agent, and check out our travel insurance to see if we are covered for such an occurrence.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Visas Arrive

At last we have our visas in our hands. A huge sigh of relief was heard in our house this morning when they arrived.
Here is the evidence.

When I was in town in Darkan this morning lots of people were surprised to see me. (When I say lots I am speaking in local terms - there are never lots of people in Darkan - population approx. 200!)
I had told everyone we were leaving on the 17th, so they were imagining us in the air, or in the snow, or anywhere but here.

Only 5 sleeps to go!!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Seven More Sleeps

If we hadn't changed our plane booking we would be heading to the airport right now as I write this.
Instead Roger is spreading fertiliser on the farm, and I am baking shortbread.

We have relaxed a bit about the visas because we had an email to say that they are on their way to us.

Dear Sir/Madam,

thank you for your email, your passports and visas have been sent today.


The visa section
Consulat général de France à Sydney

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

One Step Closer

Some good news regarding our visas.
On Monday morning I had a phone call from a representative of the French Consulate in Sydney, to say that our visas had been approved. I had already posted our passports back to them on Friday, BUT would you believe I forgot to put in a reply-paid self-addressed envelope for their return??? They had wanted a Platinum Registered Envelope, which I had never heard of before. When I inquired at our local post office I was told they didn't have, and have never had, such a thing. And you would understand why when you know that it is guaranteed to be delivered by courier by noon the next day. City to city. As we have one of the lousiest postal services in the state in our town the guarantee of delivery would be all but meaningless. So we decided to send the passports in a normal registered envelope, and silly me completely forgot about the return postage.
On Monday morning I realised my mistake and rang the post office, before opening time, to urgently request a favour! Because we live in a small town where people are helpful and provide personalised service, and because I begged her to, the post mistress addressed an envelope for me and sent it off, with a covering note enclosed. [Thank you very much Vicki.]
Now I just hope that the bureaucrats at the other end can match up the passports with the return envelope and send them back with their pretty little visa stickers attached.

Before next Friday...

(After my panic last week with the visas not being issued I changed our flight booking to buy us some time. Our departure is now 4.30pm on Sunday 24th February, one week later than originally planned.)

Monday, 11 February 2008

The "Au Revoir" Party

Our party on Saturday was huge, with guests arriving from 4.30pm. The local Lions Club set up their merry-go-round carousel and also the miniature train, which was extremely popular with the children.
The merry-go-round in full swing

Hugh's favourite was the "horsey one", which is what he called the merry-go-round. The children's rides continued until dark, when Sophie set up a face-painting table in the cubby house. The boys got right into the face paint with all sorts of ghastly looking things painted on them. The girls mainly stuck to hearts, butterflies and flowers. The solar lights which had been dotted around the garden were spread far and wide by children using them as lanterns to explore after dark.

A few families stayed the night, to avoid the drive home. Apart from the usual driving hazards of gravel roads combined with kangaroos, there were a lot of police in town monitoring the big "beach party" at the hotel. In fact one well respected elderly gentleman was stopped for a random breath test on his way home. I wonder if the police asked him when he had his last drink? His son didn't think he'd had one since 1948!!
In the morning we cranked up the bbq again and cooked up some bacon and eggs. We had breakfast until about lunch time!!

Sophie said today that the party was over so quickly, after all the preparation and build-up for it. That's was happens with events like that. But the getting ready for it is half the fun.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Will We Make It???

We were due to leave for France in ten days.
We had bought warm clothes and started to pack our cases.
We had our airline tickets and our passports.

We don't have our visas.

...thank you for your email, your visas have not been issued and there is no guarantee that you will have a reply for the 17/02.
So read the email from "Courrier Consulat" - The visa section of the Consulat général de France à Sydney.

Sending the applications away on the 16th of November I was happy that I had got all the paper work done in plenty of time - three months before our departure date. And there was a LOT of paper work. Passports, birth certificates, bank statements, airline tickets, travel insurance, immunisation certificates, police clearances, copies of our hosts' passports, copies of our drivers' licences, a letter explaining our exchange agreement, a letter from our bank manager, school enrolments for the children. All in triplicate. All placed in the correct order.

Now I am told "...your completed application did not allow for the minimum time of visa processing (2 months from a complete application). These type of visas are delivered from France and at this stage we still don't know if they will be issued.

I feel like dieing. Or at least running away. What will I tell the children? We don't have visas, we can't go to France, Mummy didn't do it right?

AND our going away party is TOMORROW!!
We have killed a cow and a few sheep for a barbecue and invited most of the district as well as friends and family from further afield to come and say "Bon Voyage" at a party at our place. Some people are going to camp the night, and we'll have entertainment for the children. Yesterday I did a big shop in Bunbury for fresh fruit and vegetables, and I have ordered 8 litres of icecream for the kids.