Time for an update.

I’ve sort-of stopped writing on this blog. Our life here in France has become quite ‘normal’. Work, school, shopping, cleaning, washing… normal stuff, not much to write about.

It is back to a good normal though, and only my life has really changed. A good change also. Last year I knew it was time to do something. You know, get out of the house. The kids are all doing their own thing now. They get on a train or a bus in the morning and at some stage arrive home again. You never know when. Very different from the time when every coming and going involved me taking them there.

I had the idea of doing computer graphics. I searched for a course to do, but couldn’t find something affordable, or nice. Then I found a course in programming, and thought, ok, I didn’t really think of getting back into programming, but… I will start there and see where it goes.

After several tests: logic, English, programming… I was accepted. (To my surprise.) The course is offered by AFPA (one could describe it as a government institution for adult education) and it’s paid by the region of Paris. So what it means: I am doing a six month course in Java, web development, etc. and I am paid monthly to do it. That’s only in France.

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Well, I had to dust off my programming skills after 20 years of not using it, but in the end it is going very well. And I realized that I am actually enjoying programming, so maybe the graphics will have to wait first. We started in January and will finish in August. Then we still have to do a three month internship. I will do this with a company in Issy Les Moullineaux. Just around the corner from Danie’s work. : )

We are a class of 12 people. Different cultures, backgrounds and ages. Of course I am the oldest. A kind group of people. Lunch times they introduced me to Vietnamese and Lebanese food, or we had kebab, or sandwiches in the park. The formateurs (teachers) are good, and I am really impressed with what we have learned.

AFPA is in the 12th arrondissement in Paris. For me that meant train from Beynes to Montparnasse, and another 20 minutes on metro 6. It’s a full week, every day from 9 to 5, except for Fridays when we finish at 12 pm. And then I could also skip the English class on a Monday morning. : ) I still smile thinking of the Tuesday morning when the English class was moved. I arrived, not knowing it was English. The British teacher was surprised to see me, and I was wondering if I will now stay or not. After a while he said: “So, are you now staying or going, because your presence is a mystery to me.” : ) So I left. For a Starbucks coffee.

I learnt about life in Paris. It’s a big city, but you see the same people on the train, even on the metro sometimes.

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You see that the quartiers in Paris is almost like small towns. On my walk from the metro, Dugommier, to AFPA, I often see the same people (and animals). There is the big, lazy dog who is always lying around the bar le metro where I get off the metro. I pass a blind man and his wife. His dog runs around loose, till he greets his wife, and then he gives a soft whistle and the dog is coming for his duties with a wagging tale. I pass the man on roller skates. The ones with four wheels, like we still had when we were young. And the Parisienne lady who walks her five really small Parisiens dogs.

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I now know about metro and train ‘rules’. I understand some things that made me think that Parisiens are rude. If you stand on the escalator, you stand on the right. Don’t dare blocking the people who want to run up or down on the left. Now I understand how you feel when you have 1 minute to catch a train, and someone is blocking the steps. You always hold the swing gate for the person behind you, and they thank you with a smile.

I learnt French. I had no choice! This class and all it’s people only speak French of course. But they were kind and patient with me. There is still the report I have to write after the internship. At least 50 pages, in French. Then there’s the last presentation and evaluation in November for the certificate. I’ll get there…

The rest of the family is doing well too.

Mandi is healthy and finished with her treatment. She is finishing her schoolwork at home. In August she is off to Germany for a year as ‘au pair’. She found a lovely family with three young children, and will be in Regensburg for the year. An old German city, so of course I am planning a visit or two.

Franci finished collège, (middle school) and starts lycée, grade 10, in September. As it’s the same lycée that the others attended, it’s almost like old news. But it’s new for her, and she will have as much fun as one can have in school. : )

Pieter will be third year engineering at ESILV in La Défense, Paris. He still loves his school and will probably work and study next year. He is still waiting for confirmation about the work. At the moment he is working at children’s camps for the holiday.

Jaco finished his prepa in Mantes La Jolies and did very well. It’s always difficult to explain this, as it’s really something I think only exists in France. He did his first two years of university in a prepa school. Which gives you a really high level of maths and science. (After you have worked very hard for two years.) And with good marks you can get into the best universities in France. He doesn’t know yet where he will go. He will then be third year engineering, maybe in Poitier, or in Besançon.

Danie is still with Itron in Issy Les Moulinneaux. Nothing too exciting happening there. : ) He had his shoulder operation in June, which went very well. So, he is hoping to be back on his bike soon, after last year’s ‘little slide’ when he tore all the ligaments in his shoulder.

This next phase will be good. We are thankful and looking forward to new and good things.

 

 

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By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

Make-A-Wish weekend

Mandi has been contacted by Make-A Wish France last year. It took some time to decide what she can ask for, as there were no celebrities in France that she wanted to meet. : )

Earlier this year we had a visit from Elodie and Rudi. Two young people who has full time jobs and work for Make-A-Wish in their spare time. At the end of the visit they knew that Mandi would like to be somewhere in nature, maybe staying in a tree-house, or by the sea. Then do anything adventurous, like bungy jumping for example. : )

In May, Elodie phoned to say that our weekend is booked. Make-A-Wish organize for the whole family. The boys already had plans, so we were four. I asked where we were going, but she said that we will get all the details in the mail ten days before we leave, and have to wait till then.

The letter arrived… My Album 1-001

We would stay in a tree house in an adventure park. Do accrobranche in the park the next day, and land sailing on the Monday. Tree house, nature, adventure, and the beach… everything she wished for.

So well organized. We had mappy print-outs for all the driving. Tickets for the park. The restaurants were booked for the evenings. Addresses, phone numbers, and everything you might need.

On our way…
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Half-way we stopped in Le Mans, and had lunch, after walking through this beautiful cathedral.

Cathédrale Saint-Julien du Mans…
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and then wonderful galettes (or hamburgers) for lunch.My Album 1-004

We arrived in the small village, Moutiers Les Mauxfaits…
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but our destination… Indian Forest, just outside the village.My Album 1-002

The car stays outside, and we were taken in a little electric ‘ride’ to our home for the next two days…
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At 8h30 you will find your breakfast basket hanging on the rope below. All you need to do is hoist it up. : )

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With your ticket at Indian Forest you can do all the ‘smaller’ games, and you have a choice between the accrobranche and the water fun. When we saw that, me and Danie did the noble parenting thing to say that the girls can choose the 2 hours accrobranche, and we will choose the water fun, and the girls can just use our tickets to do both activities. So, with a little feeling of relieve, for me, we looked forward to day 2.

But… we arrived at 10h30 and were told that you choose your 2 hours adventure when you buy your ticket and Elodie had booked accrobranche for all of us. We start at 11! Then, before we could even think about it, we were hooked up and started climbing in the first tree. Just need to clear that this is my story. The rest of the family has no problem hanging, climbing, sliding, and more, in very high trees. It was great fun for everyone, and only I had blue marks from clinging onto ropes, even though the girls kept on telling me: “You can’t fall!’

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The next few hours were spend around the more relaxed games, and coffee for the less courageous.
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My Album 1-004Then, Mandi got ready for her highlight of the day. The bungy/swing jump from 18 metres. Going higher and higher in the trees. Sitting around and waiting her turn. Telling me afterwards that she could see a little church from up there.

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et voilà, the video here.

With a smile she’s ready to go again. : )

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After another wonderful dinner, and of course the delivered breakfast basket the next morning, we had to greet Indian Forest.
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The next stop was La Tranche Sur Mer. A town on the west coast of France, where Boris was waiting for us. Char à voile. That’s what we were going to do. Land sailing.

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After our lesson how to set up the sails on the little cars, we could all do one ride a few meters far. Unfortunately there was not enough wind, and we could not wait till later the afternoon to see if the wind comes up. We were ready to leave when Boris called the girls back, and said he wanted to do something for Mandi. He gave her a helmet, and she had a nice ride on his quad bike.

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A kind man who added a special memory to our weekend. If you’re ever in France and want to try some land sailing. Boris from Aerobeach is the man you need to find. : )

The end of an adventurous weekend. A big thank you to Elodie, Rudi, and Make-A-Wish!

Merci beaucoup!

A day in Paris

One feels very local when you take the train to Paris, and leave your camera at home. No museums on the itinerary, because you have things to do. Well, the actual reason for going in was to renew my titre de séjour, my recidence permit. So, maybe we are not really locals yet… and I couldn’t resist to just use my cellphone’s camera. : )

I’m not local, but I do have my regular places by now. Close to Montparnasse, this is Exki. You have to start a day in Paris with coffee and a croissant. Ideally you should sit somewhere on a sidewalk, in a row with everyone else, and everybody facing the road. You pay 8 euros for your café crémé et croissant, and mostly sit and think that this is not the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had. : ) That’s the truth, but I still like to sit on that sidewalk. The idea of being in Paris, maybe looking at the Notre Dame while drinking your coffee, just change the taste of that coffee to very nice. : )

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I went to Exki with my sister the first time. Nothing special about this place. The train from Beynes stops at Montparnasse and Exki is just around the corner from Montparnasse. It is clean and quiet. (It has clean toilets… : )  )  And you pay 3,60 for a nice coffee in a nice cup with an ok croissant.

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Then you’re ready for the day. Pieter ordered something on the internet that I was going to pick up for him. Metro line 4 took me to this place. There was a market where I got off at Simplon. First I bought a 2 euro scarf, as this lovely, sunny, spring morning in Paris, had a freezing breeze. : ) Walked through the market and saw one of those we-sell-food-to-african-immigrants shops. Happy to see it, I bought white maize meal and off I went with my mieliepap.

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Next stop: Rue Hermel.
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Passe-passe. A circus shop. Really. I have never been in a shop that sells unicycles, magician things, and anything you can juggle with. I didn’t know there exists shops that sells circus stuff!

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I got Pieter’s parcel, and off I went with my mieliepap and 5 juggling balls. : ) Next to the circus shop I saw a church, and my tourist side took over.

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Notre Dame de ClignancourtPieter also needs a piece of fur for his ‘Alice in wonderland’s hare’ costume. I went to the textile area at the Sacre Coeur. Then continued my journey to the immigrant’s office with my bag: mieliepap, 5 juggling balls, and a piece of fur. Maybe I’m not yet a local… : )

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After a whole afternoon at OFII – Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration, I am now a bit closer to being a local. I am not a visitor in France anymore, but am now in France for private live and family reasons. Something like that. : )

By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

Our garden on the first floor

…and the second, and third, and it can go on.
Our house here in Beynes is build on the bottom of a hill and on the front of the plot. Yes, right on the pavement. If I stick my arm out of my kitchen window, I could touch the cars that pass. Really : )

This photo is old. Danie has made us a beautiful wooden gate in the meantime…
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The garden is behind the house and goes all the way up the hill. So you have to go upstairs to the first floor to get outside in our garden,

When we bought this house, you could not call it a garden. A wilderness would have been a better description. Anyway, we paged through old photo’s the other day, and actually felt impressed with what we have achieved by now.

People always say that we must have seen the potential in the house, that’s why we bought it. Unfortunately, no… it was big and cheap.

Ok, this is what we have bought.Beynes

We had ‘braais’ in that first weeks… but only because we didn’t have a kitchen.
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We got into it and started a big clean-up. Ok, maybe not we… mainly Danie, and with some help of the boys. And I should add that this was already the second summer in Beynes. The first summer (and winter) we only worked inside the house.

Less weeds and our stuff in…
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…and then it was messed up again to get ready for the paving.
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one whole summer of creating a patio (not we, but Danie)… with 450 cement tiles, that weighs 13kg each… and were all carried up to our first floor garden by Jaco and Pieter.

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and it grew, till we could have our first braai on the ‘almost finished’ patio…
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While the patio was growing, I worked a bit on the flower beds. I don’t know what we did in 2014, but that did not involve the garden that much. Well, we had some flowers, even sunflowers.
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2015 is a new and good year. Seasons in France is different from what we knew in SA. From November till March, it is so cold that we never even open the door to the garden. Then spring starts and it feels as if everything is getting alive. The tulips show. I had a few. The lilacs flower and the canola fields are the deepest yellow one can imagine. In this spring of 2015 I bought two blue chairs that now sit on our ‘third floor’ : ) garden.

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and the view from my blue chairs in springtime, with the canola fields on the hills opposite us…
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and this is what our patio looks like now, that made us feel quite impressed… : )
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and this is the rest of the garden up the hill…

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now we have started with the ‘second floor’. A bit overgrown in 2012…

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The open patch will become the vegetable garden.

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And with happiness and thankfulness I can look down from the second floor on my first floor. : )
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and see Mandi being silly in her room on the second? : ) floor.zIMG_7033

and have tea with Danie on my blue chairs, while looking over Beynes, that’s turned to summer green in the meantime…
zIMG_7030and see my ‘grown-up’ : ) children throwing tennis balls from one garden ‘floor’ to another. With balls going over the roof and ending up in the road. : )
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greetings from my garden in Beynes…zIMG_7038

By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

Talking to dr. Leruste

We are trying to get back into normal life, but it’s actually not that easy. With a body pumped full of chemo, there’s not much space left for energy. : ) Mandi’s cancer was gone after one month, and then she was sick with chemo for ten months. This makes me wonder if her doctor also questions this treatment sometimes.

Dr. Leruste. That’s Mandi’s oncologist. We like him. In the beginning we didn’t like him that much. Her first doctor was dr. Pacquement, a kind lady. Then she went to ICU with the lung infection, and one day, in walked a young man. We didn’t know who he was. We only knew that he said that she will have to stay in this hospital for five more weeks.

Two weeks later he sat down with Mandi and took some time to explain the whys and the hows of the treatment, and we liked him a little bit more. Although he didn’t tell her everything. He didn’t tell her that 8 months will become eleven months. He didn’t tell her really how hard it will be, but then, what good would that do.

You don’t see much of your own doctor here in France. He has interns to send around, although they never make decisions. They always say: ‘I’ve spoken to dr. Leruste, and he said that we can do this or that.”

Through the months I started to feel sorry for this man, because whenever life was hard for Mandi, she was cross with him, and made sure that she told him that. : )

Then the day came that she was really cross. She had to stay in Poissy hospital for 8 days after having high fever. The interns just said: ‘I have spoken to dr. Leruste, and he said you must stay’. A week later she was back in Trousseau for treatment, and insisted to see him. He came, and I actually think he gave up his lunch to make time to see her. Mandi told him that she was not happy at all, and he said that he then needs to get a chair to sit down and listen to her.

From that day I had respect for this man, and from that day on we really liked him. He knows how to handle teenagers. That I can tell you. She talked (not too friendly, I should add), and he just every time had an answer ready (with a smile).

We still only see him once a month, and Mandi tells him every time that her feeling not so well is actually his fault, and every time he has an answer ready, with a smile. We really like dr. Leruste…

But one day, I want to sit down with him, and talk. I want to ask him if this terrible treatment is really necessary. After one month she was clean from cancer. For the next ten months she received heavy chemo for that one cancer cell that is maybe still hiding somewhere. I want to ask him if he also sometimes wonder about this, but then I also know that he has seen children who’s cancer came back. He knows that that is not good at all. I know that he does his work for the good of the patient. I would still just want to know what he thinks about this, at times when he’s not the doctor at the hospital. Maybe he also wonders sometimes.

Mandi told him once that she will study after school and then proofs him wrong. He just said (with a smile), that it’s a good thing, but in the meantime, take your chemo tablets. : ) So, let’s hope the next generation will study and maybe find an easier treatment. For now she will take her tablets, and maybe dr. Leruste will stumble upon this post and see that we appreciate his work, even if his patients aren’t always very friendly. : )

Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Life still goes on. There are many good things. I could again spend a day at a tumbling competition. Pieter doesn’t do tumbling anymore, but the coach needed a guy to fill his team, and then they won the bronze medal! And also the top team in the club are again the french champions. The coach, René, also helps Mandi now to build up her muscles again. Another kind man in our lives.

The proud coach from Les Clayes sous Bois with his boys…

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Thanks to the Margot foundation, Mandi received tickets to the Cirque D’Hiver Bouglione. A real circus with a live band that plays proper circus music Exactly the way we remember from when we were young. The clowns don’t have red noses anymore. You could rather call him a comedian. There were dancing girls, which I am not so sure the little kids could really appreciate. But there was a magician who made his girls disappear and dancing poodles of course.

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By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

Le Paris Brest

…or maybe it’s la Paris Brest. That’s not important. My french friends are used to me speaking french with many mistakes, and they understand me… or I hope so at least. : ) The important thing is that I actually made a Paris Brest. It’s about time for us to get back to normal life, and to become more french. I did that by trying to make a real french pastry recipe. La pâtisserie… You see what I mean?! Pastry is la, but a certain pastry is le… Ai, this french language… : )

My Paris Brest tasted really good. Choux pastry with a praline flavoured cream.
The form… well that was far from perfect, very far… : )

Le Paris Brest

We had such a strange year. I posted only twice on this blog, and each time it was a summary of the months before. Ok, here comes the last summary of this year. We are getting back to living a normal life, and have things to write about again.

It felt like we missed summer, but our garden was still showing some colours…

Sunflowers

 Me and the girls had a day at EuroDisney in August…

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 I ran La Parisienne again in September. I know, only 7km, but still… : )

La Parisienne

 And we celebrated Mandi’s birthday with some french friends. Waffles, cream and ice-cream of course…

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We had a full week-end, which I will write about next time, and we have some nice things to look forward to. Mandi is almost back at school. She just needs to get all her energy back. Saturday we have a visit from “Make a Wish”.
It’s the first of December already, and our Christmas decorations are up. It’s 3 degrees outside today and we can start to hope for snow, and then, the big excitement… we are going to Denmark for Christmas! We still need to convince the men in our house that the 14 hour drive will be worthwhile. Maybe we can bribe them with coffee stops, or something…

Life goes on!

Three months later already. You will really think that our lives came to a standstill. We thought it did, but when I look back I see that it also carried on as always. We stopped doing things and we still did things. Sometimes different and mostly the same. We stayed at home and we went out. It was hard and it was wonderful. We changed, we learned and we grew and we are also still the same. : )

Birthdays came around as always. Mandi missed some, but they came to the hospital to celebrate a little bit.

even in hospital you need the funny face shot… : )20140131_190610

In February the boys passed their driving licences. Yes, in french, and on the wrong side of the road.  What a joy! “We need bread. Who will I send today?” At some stage you actually get your payment for driving kids around for how many years. : ) The friendly Elizabeth, who runs the Auto-Ecole (driving school) here in Beynes, is also the same person who blessed us regularly with chocolate cakes.

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One big difference of this year is that I’ve taken so few photo’s… I can’t show you all the dinners, gifts, flowers and more that we received from many, wonderful, people here.

Danie had a birthday too and we celebrated at home with steaks made by him.

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…and I turned 50! You will just have to take my word for that, as I have no photo’s to proof  it. : )

Franci had a school trip to Germany and came back a big supporter. : )

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The family came to visit and I saw some lovely places.

Me and my mom visited the beautiful château de Fontainebleau.

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I was in Giverny again with my sisters to stroll through Monet’s garden and visited Rennes and the very special Mont st. Michel.
My Album 6-001there was Paris on Bastille day…

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The big event of this year was the boys passing their BAC. French matric! What an achievement. To change in grade 10 to a whole new language and still succeed. They will start university in September.

We are in the middle of summer holidays and this year’s little detour is almost over. Only three months left…
Life goes on. Sometimes hard, but mostly wonderful!

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By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

New roads for a new year

I wrote nothing on this blog for five months. Not because we did nothing, but because we were given new roads to travel on and they weren’t so easy, so it didn’t seem like a nice thing to write about.

Since 2011 we are driving on the wrong side of the road here in France. Quite a tricky thing to do at first, but after almost three years, its not strange anymore. Sometimes life gives you a new road to take and you wonder if you will ever get past the ‘tricky’ part… but you do.

On 23 December last year our 16 year old, Mandi, was diagnosed with leukemia. We got a bit of a fright, no… we got a really big fright and we knew that this was a whole new journey. So, the day before Christmas we tackled the first appointments by train. We take the train at our town’s little station and get off at Montparnasse in Paris. Then two metro rides and a short walk to Institute Curie, just around the corner from the Pantheon.

Then more train trips. More appointments. We spoke french to doctors, who did many blood tests, biopsies and scans and on 12 January she went to hospital. Our friend Marius took us in his car for this appointment. He is from Reunion island and his wife, Vimala, from Mauritius. We almost feel like family, because we all come from the Southern parts of the world. We drove along the Seine, saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre on our left, and I wondered whether Paris will still be beautiful after this difficult journey.

Mandi stayed behind in Institute Curie and I was back on the train. Going in early mornings and coming home late evening.

There were complications and our routes changed again. She was sent, via ICU, to Trousseau children’s hospital in the South-eastern parts of Paris. She had to stay for five more weeks. We thought it would never pass. I was back on the train every day. A different metro line now and a new path to walk. I felt like a real Parissienne. I ran for trains. Jumped on the metro with the doors closing behind me. Got tired of the walk and discovered the bus. I knew the train times off by heart.

Early March, after more complications and another little detour in ICU, she could come home at last. How happy we were! Trains were now forbidden for her. Too many people and too many germs for the low immunity. We came home with a taxi.

Now we again have new roads to travel on. The weekly treatment is done in Poissy at the day hospital. We drive their in our own Opel along the corn and canola fields. She still has appointments in Paris. Then we go in madame Benard’s taxi. We are ready with plastic bags and tissues against the nausea, but the kind madame Benard only say: ‘Its nothing, just open the windows a little bit.’

Five months later we are still on this road. The treatment works well and we are thankful! The side-effects are bad and make us scared. The road ahead is still long, but our hearts feel warm. We get lots of love from South-Africa and we have new french friends to hold us tight.

I look around as we drive and see that winter has come and gone. The trees are green again and there’s flowers everywhere. Summer is here and Mandi is doing so much better.

I look again… and I see… Paris is still beautiful.

ICU – Hopital Trousseau
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Franci’s messages on the blackboard for Mandi : )

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 Hospital visits : )

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By ButterflyHands Posted in Paris

Unicef in the Petit Palais

Since 2002 UNICEF has organized the Frimousses de Créateurs. All the famous fashion houses and designers are each asked to create a doll in their glamorous way. This year dressed in the theme of Marvelous Paris! These art works are then auctioned for charity.

The dolls were on display in the Petit Palais in Paris during November. The beautiful Petit Palais is an art museum built in 1900.

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Looking through the window at the Champs-Elysées

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A wonderful project. An exhibion that made you smile and all for a good cause. Last year these expensive dolls created enough income to vaccinate 300 000 children. The expected income for this year… 200 000 euros.

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Queues in Paris

Yes, one can actually write a post about queues in Paris. You always have to plan around the amount of people who are going to visit an exhibition or tourist attraction. I normally just turn around and decide to try at another time again, or give up. When you do buy tickets online, you feel like a VIP, walking past the whole queue.

One exhibition I have now missed because of queues, is the Tour Paris 13. I really wanted to see this, but maybe not enough to stand for a whole day.

La Tour Paris 13 on the left bank of the Seine…
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Tour Paris 13 is (or was by now) an apartment building from the fifties in the 13th arrondissement in Paris. Seven months ago, when a gallery owner in Paris heard that it was going to be demolished, he invited 105 street artists, from 18 countries, to decorate the walls of the 33 apartments with their art. Each artist had at least one entire room for himself.

outside too…
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During October it was open to the public. Because the entrance was free, you couldn’t buy tickets before. I now read that there wasn’t much interest in the beginning of the month… why didn’t I go earlier?! Then by the last week the queue was more than 300m long and they kept the building open day and night for the last three days. People waited for 10 hours in that queue.

I didn’t see the inside, but I saw the queue… this is only part of it…
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walking around the building…
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graffiti everywhere…
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on the other side…
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For safety reasons they only allowed 49 people in the building at the same time, and there were many groups of 49 in that queue. So… after I’ve walked around the building, I took photo’s of the queue and left.

So, now you can all do the virtual tour with me. Found here: La Tour Paris 13.

Or see the wonderful photographs of someone who was there, Huffington Post.

OK, I have to admit, I’m jealous… maybe I should have just packed a picnic, taken a book and waited… 10 hours?  maybe next time…