Thursday, March 25, 2010

Le jour de gloire est arrivé

Update: strike everything that followsI have no fingerprints. That’s right, no fingerprints. The FBI says so, which means no dual citizenship for me until further notice. On the other hand (which has no prints either), this could ultimately be a good thing. After all, do I really want to be beholden to TWO governmentsregardless of where I liveforever? Not so much. Maybe I’ll just stick with residency, which has almost all the perks of citizenship, and then take to a life of international crime cuz hey—no fingerprints (*cackle*).

Big news: I have decided to request French nationality (!!!). It promises to be a lengthy and complex process, which will take roughly 18 months and involve all manner of new and ever-so-slightly daunting paperwork, but I feel that the time has come. I have lived in this fine country for over 8 years now, have fought very hard to continue to do so, and it is time to take my relationship with France to the next level. As I recently discovered (otherwise I probably would have done this sooner), dual citizenship is allowed by both the United States and France, and as my heart belongs to both countries, it is only natural that I have two passports, is it not? Then at last I will be able to vote in French national elections and can quit bellyaching about taxation without representation (as you may recall, we Americans have long-standing issues with such things).

However, regardless of my extensive experience in wading through bureaucratic mires, jumping through administrative hoops and slashing through red tape, I admit to being just a TAD nervous about this request for citizenship. I mean, the government could very well say non—although I don’t see why it would—plus it is definitely going to require a lot of paper-lassoing, including a hand-written request for a background check by the FBI and various birth certificates decorated with scary-sounding additional stamps and seals (which I will then have to have translated at horrendous pricesnote to self: become a certified legal translator and retire early). But my mind is made up: I’m going for it. My love for France began at the tender age of 14 with that first high school French class, when I took the play name of Brigitte (much to my mother’s dismay) and learned to conjugate my first -er verbs. Now, 16 years—16 years!—later, I find it poetic and perfectly fitting to become a bona fide French citizen, and in so doing create a very far-reaching branch of the Holt family tree that no one saw coming. I love that.

Stay tuned. The day that, God willing, I receive dual citizenship, there will definitely be a champagne-filled celebration to remember.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Zen and the art of grocery shopping

Today I would like to discuss one of my favorite activities—grocery shopping. I’m serious. Wandering the aisles of the local supermarket has always afforded me a peace of mind akin to that of a long stroll through a flower garden, or the silent contemplation of raked gravel. In college, when most of my fellow student-types were off engaging in more conventional forms of decompression, I could often be found lingering in the aisles of the local grocery store, collecting my thoughts while hunting for exotic sauces. Zen meditation or supermarket cruising—both do wonders for my sense of inner calm.

Land of food, France and its grocery kingdom were just waiting for my arrival. When I first moved here, I couldn’t get enough of grocery shopping—which was inconvenient considering I was living with a host family and had no refrigerator of my own, but that is beside the point. All I knew at the time was that in France the grapes looked different, the cucumbers looked different, the yogurt aisle was like something out of a dream ... and they had this crazy system where you weighed your own produce and printed out your own little labels with the prices right on them! How exciting! Now, many years later, I admit that the element of novelty has worn off (yeah, yeah, so the zucchini are round), but I still love to grocery shop.

The funny thing is that whereas in the beginning I celebrated all the new, strange and wondrous things that I could find and buy in French supermarkets (fromage blanc, for example, or liqueur de litchi, or pâtes d'Alsace...), today I get excited when I stumble across beloved “American” items that I had assumed I would never see on this side of the Atlantic. I’m thinking baby carrots; I’m thinking Special K; I’m thinking SMOOTHIES. Yes, after long years of bitterly lamenting their absence, my craving for pureed fruit drinks can at last be appeased—smoothies are now an accepted member of the French supermarket club. Thank you, Tropicana. In fact, smoothies have garnered quite a following in Paris. And what with the bagel bar that has recently sprung up next to my office, I feel nearly as though I’m at home in SoCal (well, kinda).

So my question now is: what on earth are smoothie shops like Jamba Juice and Surf City Squeeze waiting for? It is high time for them to go French. And before you get all up in my grill for advocating chain stores and industrial food and all that everyone loves to hate about America, I’d like to point out that this is no longer 1930 and France has so many of its own chain stores that no one bothers to do any hand-wringing over the presence of big, mean Starbucks anymore. Simply take a stroll along the Boulevard des Italiens in the center of Paris and THEN let’s discuss chain eateries. Or take a gander at the zones commerciales peppering the provinces. Honestly, France requires zero help from the US to go franchise. Hence my dream of opening a Bath and Body Works here and retiring at age 40, because believe me, all they need to do is tone down a bit of that cutesy barn look they have going and French women will be all over them. Witness Sephora, the Body Shop and Yves Rocher. Creams and lotions are of international interest. Much like round zucchini.