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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Flophouse Summer Vacation

It's la rentrée (back to school season) and what an odd re-entry.  Having dropped the Frenchlings off in Canada, we returned home to a house with two seriously disturbed cats, a pile of mail, and an overgrown garden.  I must be getting old because the jet-lag has been terrible and I'm not bouncing back as fast as I would like.  So far I have had the time and energy to: sterilize the litter box, contemplate therapy for the cats, clean up the worst of the back and front garden, and get some of our house projects restarted.

What's missing, of course, is the children.  This is the first time in 20 years that my spouse and I are home alone.  How strange and I find that I miss my daughters terribly.  I hate cooking for two.  I miss the family conversations at the end of the day.  I wonder how they're doing several times a day.  Maybe I'm the one who needs therapy - a group session with the cats to process our respective traumas.

Looking back over the summer however, I am amazed at how much activity we packed into such a very short period of time.  Here's just a few things that happened that made the trip so rewarding:

Meeting with the Brocksters in Vancouver:  This was one of the two best IRL (In Real Life) meetings I've ever had (the other was one organized in San Francisco many years ago by Electric Minds/Brainstorms).  The Isaac Brock Society is a website started by Peter Dunn (Canada) to fight FATCA and citizenship-based taxation.  It has become a powerful voice in the debate for many reasons:  It has some of the best research around, is open to wide variety of opinions (there is no censorship whatsoever) and it provides support and solace for those eggs (the "not rich" people) who are being adversely impacted by the FATCA/CBT omelet.   What a pleasure to meet in person and talk directly with others about what's happening to us - the people in the 99% who are collateral damage in the fight against the 1%.  It was really inspiring and I hope we can organize more meetings.  Anyone in Europe up for a meeting in, say, Brussels or London?

Visit to the District Offices of my Congresspersons:  While I was in Seattle I was able to meet with the staff at the district offices of my representative Jim McDermott and one of my senators, Maria Cantwell.   Bravo to both.  It was a wonderful experience for me, the people I talked were interesting, engaged, and willing to listen.  My sincere thanks to them and to Representative McDermott who took a few minutes as he was coming into the office to talk with me.  Made me feel much more a part of the homeland. I'm still an American even if I've abroad for many years and having that be recognized by my representatives meant the world to me.  As for the issues, I have no idea how persuasive I was - we'll have to see what happens.

Please note that my other senator, Patty Murray, didn't even acknowledge my request for a meeting.  I'm not going to mince words here:  That's not cool at all.  I would have understood her and her staff not having the time and saying so.  Silence I don't understand or accept.  Here is a constituent  in poor health from abroad who has flown thousand of miles to Seattle and was hardly asking for the moon: thirty minutes to an hour to talk about a few pressing issues that some of us Washington voters from abroad would really like her and her staff to understand.  A note would have been a nice gesture.  To add insult to injury, at the end of August Senator Murray did a tour of Washington State to hear from constituents.

Ms. Murray - you missed one and she is one very unhappy constituent/registered voter.

Meeting One of My Favorite Bloggers:  I've said before on the Flophouse one blog I follow religiously with bittersweet attention is Loic's Carnet de deux expats à Seattle.  Loic is a Frenchman who lives in Seattle with his wife and his observations about my hometown never fail to fascinate me.  In fact, these days most of the information I get about Seattle is through his blog in French.  We met and had so much to talk about.  He is a really remarkable guy and what pure pleasure it was to talk with him.

Looking at what I've written so far it seems clear to me that what makes any trip or summer vacation a success is people.  Connecting.  As I sit here in my little house in Versailles sipping my decaf, my thoughts are exclusively about the people I care about:  my Frenchlings, my friends, my frenemies.  That will never ever change regardless of where they (and I) are living at any one point in time.  As Frank Herbert once put it:   “Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place.”


Lea said...

If ever there is a meeting on London for those who wish to fight FATCA, I will definitely be there. It has saddened me that there don't seem to be many US expats in the UK who are fighting this thing. Perhaps most US expats only come to the UK for a few years for work/studying purposes and then go back to the US, and hence aren't as adversely affected by FATCA as the few of us who have dual citizenship and live here permanently. Either way, I would love nothing more than to meet up or join a working group in the UK.

Lea said...

As a US expat living in the UK, I would love to meet up with an anti-FATCA group in London! I've been surprised by how little anyone seems to care here. Maybe that is because most US expats only appear to come to the UK to study/work for a couple of years before moving back to the US. I don't have a good feel for how many dual citizens there are in the UK like myself.

Blaze said...

I've been wondering how you were dealing with empty nest syndrome and all the travel and activity you've been doing.

Thank you for sharing it with us so openly.

You amazed me at everything you were able to pack in over a few weeks--long trips, reconnecting with family and friends, writing, posting, commenting, working on the farm, meeting new people, reading a slew of books, advocating, explaining to your elected representative, seeing new places and viewing every day events as an adventure.

Now you take some time to recharge your mind, body and soul in your "therapy" with your cats, garden and home. How's the fig?

In terms of your daughters, it's a cliche, but the two most important things you can give your children are roots and wings.

You gave them solid roots on three continents. Now it's time to let them soar--just like you did and just like you've always wanted for them.

Christophe said...

Hi Victoria,

It looks like you had a wonderful time in the US/Canada. I understand the feeling to find yourself with only your husband. My mom always talks about it when both my sister and I leave when we go see them for vacation.
Maybe you can schedule a daily Skype meeting with your daughters!

bubblebustin said...

That's a beautiful synopsis. I am so honoured to play host to you somewhat in Vancouver. Our paths will cross again, I'm sure.
Having been where you are, I feel pretty confident that you and your husband will find new fun and exciting ways to fill your time!
Hope you get over the jet lag soon.

Christophe said...

Funny, the jet lag does not bother me so much from the US to Europe. It is always harder when I come back to the US. I always wake up at 2 or 3am. And it usually takes a small week to get back on schedule.

kermitzii said...


I think I started that meeting idea in Vancouver but initially it was just with you and you were supposed to visit me at UBC (not that I am infatuated with you) but then bubblebustin got involved and then two others came aboard. One was a reporter for Vancouver Sun who wrote a good article at least a year ago that did not get many comments.

That lunch was a watershed at least for us four. IBS bloggers are the most articulate in terms of ranting and now they are becoming actavistic! Also Atticus does not post pics of her on her facebook but now I know why. I saw her picture today on IBS.

About renunciation last week, I forgot it was 5 days before 9/11. Watching the TV tonight I still feel totally American. If you do write a Harper's article talk about how Americans are always American where ever they live. You had a great blog about this somewhere. One symptom of my Americanism is that I am guiltless of renouncing, as I am being exceptionalistic American because I can do what I want to do, regardless of the authorities. Also being American means you do not want the government to intercede and monitor your tax accounts. I am afraid it is a bit like the gun debate (but I have never touched a gun except in boy scouts). Another idea: Americans within the bounds of the country think that Americans outside of the boundary are like traditional Canadians, they will comply. Not!

There is lots of fodder here to write a Harper style article. They are factual but extend to the deep end of commentary. And best of all, you write so well.

I posted an earlier version but I am not sure if I did the things to get it on your blog, so I resubmit it. Using google account.


CarnetsdeSeattle said...

It was such a pleasure to see you. Next time in France, maybe!

AtticusinCanada said...

Oh Victoria! I feel as though you need a hug.

My son had been very ill in high school. In grade 12 he missed 127 days of school, still graduated. As he began to feel somewhat better he announced to me at the tender age of 18 that he was going to meet a friend in CHINA. Mind, he wasn't quite well yet. So, not only was he leaving home but, he was going with illness to the other side of the world.

Of course, I argued my side of the deal. "You aren't well enough, yet." "It's so far!" "You've never traveled on your own." To which he replied. "I have missed so much in high school, I don't know if I will be sick again but, this might be my last chance to do something extra ordinary." I could say nothing to that.

But the angst, sadness,worry and empty place is a spot so many go through. Being really independent, I never thought it would bother me as much as it did. passes and a new pride grows in watching how well your kiddos make their way in the world. In time you become so happy they are so capable.

Having children who want to go so far away means you did a great job giving them the confidence, spirit of adventure, and skills to do so.

Joan Baez once sang "And if I'm worth a mother's salt, I'll wave as you go by." Bitter sweet.

bubblebustin said...


Yes, I seem to recall that Brockstock Vancouver originated with your invitation to visit you at UBC.

As someone who's lived most of her life in Canada, it's absolutely shocking that your only experience handling a handgun was in BOY SCOUTS! So much for slingshots and firecrackers!

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Lea, got your mail and I've found a few others who are interested. I'll get that email list started this weekend and we can start putting something together.

@blaze. I need some TLC. Thank you for the card - it really helped. Trying to take it easier this weekend. Will try to minimize the you-know-whats - I know blaze is watching. :-)

@christophe, We did have a good time. And didn't you come to France this summer? How was it?

@bubblebustin, You were the hostess with the mostest. I could not have asked for a better companion on the trip up. I still look at that picture of you and Marvin and smile. Thank you.

@Kermit, I was so happy to hear that your renunciation appointment went well. As far as I am concerned you are still an American if YOU want to be one. You are still you (minus the unfortunate baggage that comes with a US passport these days).

@Loic, Definitely in France. We can sit in the garden if it's nice or sit in the living room in front of the wood stove if it isn't. Bises.

@atticus, I definitely need a hug (and maybe a plane ticket to Montreal in November....:-)