After traveling and waiting...we arrived January 6th to our new home in the Charente. When you live here you are called "Charentais" or even "Ruffecois" as the nearest larger town is called Ruffec. Another close town is Champagne-Mouton...not sure what we would be called then? It could sound like a version of pig latin! (Champagnais Moutonais...)
My priority was to find French classes. Je les ai trouvés! I had to go to a few to figure out my level, I am now "intermediate". I go to Confolens twice a week, about 30 minutes from our house. The Wednesday class has quite a bit of conversation practice and not so much grammar, which is what I need at this stage.
I know my French has improved, because we spent 2 hours at the bank on Friday to open a new account from our old account in the South. Apparently most banks here are regional and we didn't know that when we opened the account in July. So we had to do the whole process again. Last time we had our French friend come to help us, this time it was just me and the banker, and I understood most of what she was asking, and could answer reasonably well. I feel good that I am slowly improving, learning a language has so many parallels to learning an instrument. I keep telling myself that it will take 10,000 hours for me to master French. I had many hours in high school but that was quite awhile ago!
Another part of settling in is finding all the stores for different things we need for the house. We've tried every grocery store in the area, and it is very much like Bermuda--go here for vegetables, there for meat, another store for a sale, etc. Those of you in Bermuda can relate! We haven't found much in the way of furniture places, but Patrick is coming home for lunchtime so it breaks up our day and we can't go too far for the morning before we pick him up. In March he will go to a full day of school with lunch as well.
This week we have Brad and Michele here! (Our friends from South of Toulouse) We've been waiting for Brad to have time to come and give us advice on our renovations and layout. I know Keith is very relieved that he is here. Next step, the septic guy comes to redo our tank and we get our plans approved by the mayor.
Patrick is enjoying school most days, and speaking a little French here and there. His counting is excellent in both French and English, and he's been taking some baking lessons from Daddy. Mommy still has to get her act together and start violin lessons, but I've been waiting for him to be more settled.
I found a violin shop in Poitiers, about 1 hour North of us. They rent violins of all sizes, and have fine instruments. I plan to go there this week to see what they have and meet the owners.
The best news of the week is that as of February 1st I have my SIRET number which allows me to teach and play here in France, as a self-employed musician. Patrick is also registered with my number so that we both are registered in the health system and will get our social security numbers. I'm working on a new website for playing at weddings and hope to get it published this week. My goal is to line up at least a few weddings for this summer.
All in all, we are happy and settling in nicely to our new life. We take each day as it comes with the challenges we have and are very thankful to have helpful and friendly neighbors who can show us the ropes!