Thursday, September 26, 2013

Metz move: settling in

After completing our 600-ish km trip across France, Caro and I arrived in Metz around 9 pm on Thursday night to discover that we couldn't bring the van in to the apartment building's carpark since there was a car parked too far down the driveway to comfortably get the van in, and besides, I don't have an assigned parking spot. So after getting my key from a neighbour (the landlord was away on holiday) we just dumped my mattresses and a few essentials inside and then circled the block for a long time before we found somewhere we could leave the van for the night, then found one of the few restaurants that was still open and serving at that time of night before hitting the sack.

The next day, we were up bright and early, and I raced out as soon as I saw the neighbour up taking his kids to school, to get him to promise to come by on the way back to help us hopefully get the van inside. He, thankfully, managed to track down the neighbour and ask her to move her car up further so we could get the van in. However, she really didn't move it far enough and, thanks to my inexpert direction, Caro ended up in one of those situations where I was seriously concerned she was about to take out the woman's car whether she went forward or back, and/or hit the front of the van on the wall. So I had to go knock on the woman's door again and ask her to move the car further, and geez was she not happy with me. I tried to explain that I was really worried that if she didn't, we'd end up hitting her car, but she bitched and moaned the whole time about how she was going to ruin her suit getting in to the car, she didn't have time for this, where was she going to put the car so we could get the van back out again, etc. etc. How about a little sympathy for the obvious fact that there were only us two girls trying to move an entire van-load of stuff in, and it would really be much, much easier with the van right next to my apartment? Anyway, always good to start off by making friends in the neighbourhood.

Once the van was in, the move actually went really well. By a combination of sliding the whiteware down the front of the van and dragging it in to my new ground-floor apartment (deliberately chosen for ease of moving purposes), we managed to get everything unloaded by midday, took the van back out and abandoned it about a kilometre away where we finally found a parking spot and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking all of the boxes, arranging the furniture and building the bed (this alone took around an hour). Caro was a real trooper, and by early evening, everything was unpacked and set up ready for my new life.

Well, everything was ready except the small matter that I had no electricity. I seemed to have constant communication problems with the new landlord, whether by phone, text or email. I had asked him the name of the old renter, which the utility companies always want to know, and he informed me (this is not the real name, but very similar) that it was Robert Nestlé le N. Since that doesn't sound like a real name to anyone, I queried back, "Robert Nestlé le N?" only to receive back an email on a completely different subject. Still, I forged ahead trying to get EDF to hook me up in the new place, but they told me they couldn't find the address and they couldn't find Robert Nestlé le N, so I would need to get a number off an old electricity bill and also give them information from the meter. I tried to solicit this information from the landlord by email, but he had gone away on holiday without thinking that it might be helpful to write any of this down for me, so I had to wait until I got into the new place to call. Then when I did call, I just got the same answer - they can't find it, the number on the meter was no use, I needed the number on the old electricity bill.

So when the landlord turned up back from his holidays on the Sunday to do the inspection and the contract etc., I told him of my issues and he produced an old electricity bill. For a different electricity company. Turns out that EDF don't service Metz at all (and I thought they had a near-monopoly in France), and I needed to deal with this other company, which was closed on a Sunday.

So on Monday, I had to leave the apartment to go to work before their call centre opened, and of course my old phone didn't work outside France, so I couldn't call them from Luxembourg. However, my new contract was meant to be activated on Monday afternoon, so I thought I could get in touch when I got home on Monday. Turns out the new phone, which I got from my sister, was locked, so now I had no new phone and my old phone was already deactivated. So I had to get up on Tuesday morning, go to Luxembourg, and use a payphone to call back to France once the call centre opened at 7.30 am (yep, I have to be up and at 'em before that). Thereafter, they were actually really great. It's obviously a much smaller company, so there was no waiting before I got to speak to an operator, everything was set up straight away and - here's the kicker - they turned my electricity on on Wednesday without me even being there. I had grave doubts that it would happen, but I got home on Wednesday evening to see lights blazing in the apartment and to hear the insistent buzz of my epilator (yes, epilator) on the floor, which apparently had been going all day without burning out the motor. After 5 full days without electricity, getting up, taking cold showers at 6 am in the dark and then returning home after a long day at work to a cold meal, also in the dark, it was a huge relief.

So, work. I'm still settling in to the new routine, but it goes a little something like this. Get up at 6 am, get myself ready and run (I seem always to have to run, even with an hour to get ready) to the train station for the 7 am train to Luxembourg. Arriving in to Luxembourg, things are a little more tranquille, since the trip takes a bit less than an hour and I don't have to start work until 8.30. So I have normally been wandering into the supermarket at the train station to pick up a bite to eat, letting the rest of the commuters clog up the first buses before hopping on one of the very frequent bus connections to go to work. The bus ride takes about 15-20 minutes, so by the time I arrive at work, go through security (metal detector and x-ray every morning) and get to my desk, it's a little before 8.30 and I'm ready to start work on time. I can technically start any time from 8.30 to 9, which is good since it cuts down stress about late trains etc., but I have to basically do 9 hours a day from Monday to Thursday, then 4 hours on Friday morning, with Friday afternoons free. There's a bit of flexibility on how long you take for lunch, what time you leave etc., but there's a whole bunch of rules on not arriving too early or leaving too late or doing too little or too much on the one day, so on balance it's easier just to keep pretty much to the same schedule day-in, day-out. I aim to have a half-hour lunch, so that means working from 8.30 to 6 pm, grabbing a bus in time to get to the 6.30 train if I'm lucky, or 6.40 train if not, and then arriving back home at around 7.30 pm.

So it's a very long day, but so far I seem to have taken it in my stride without being too tired. Whether that will still be true when the days get shorter and colder and it just all settles into a humdrum routine, I'm not sure. At least I have no problems getting a seat on the train, especially in the morning, so I can just read the free daily paper, play Candy Crush, listen to podcasts etc. in peace, which isn't so bad.

As for work itself, my boss is super nice still. You may remember from the interview that I have a major girl crush on her, which persists despite the fact that she is preggers with her second child so we are probably not going to end up being BFFs and hitting the clubs together as in my fantasy land. The girl who is doing the same job as me and who has been assigned as my mentor is also really nice, and I think really pleased to have me on board, since the office we share with two others is otherwise silent as a tomb. It took until the Thursday before either of the other two had asked me a single question about my background, why I moved here, etc., which is bizarre, no? I'm not displeased to have a bit of a change from the constant baby chat and singing that went on in the old office, but it's so quiet in there that I'm afraid to open my mouth. Em, my direct workmate, has chatted with me a lot though, and taken me to lunch and so on with her, even offering to let me shower at her apartment until I got electricity, which is really nice (or maybe the cold showers were just not giving me the world's greatest personal hygiene). Maybe we can eventually transition to being outside-work friends, although it's a bit tricky since she lives in Luxembourg. She's on holiday now till the beginning of October though, so I'm on my own.

The work itself is pretty basic and pretty boring, to be honest. The thing is, I don't have quite the right diploma and zero experience in archives, so I can't do anything higher-level for the moment (it is the same for Em, who is obviously also over-qualified for what she's doing). But Girl Crush Boss (GC Boss) seems very hopeful that, with these few months' experience, we might be able to make the case in future that I have attained the three-year experience threshhold and thus move up in the future. Nothing is guaranteed, but I've been chatting to a lot of different people at the company, especially on Friday, when we had a special visit to HQ, and it does seem that a lot of people have been kept on for years, even if that meant bouncing around different contracts and even countries (I am again working for a prestataire - subcontracting/outsourcing company) and managed to move up to better jobs with more experience. Some of the work that got presented on Friday actually sounds genuinely interesting, so let's all cross our fingers that something good can happen in the future and I won't be back to the drawing board in three months' time (I don't think I can manage another move in the near future to be honest).

8 comments:

  1. I've been reading all of your posts but have been too lazy to comment. I'm glad the hectic move had a good ending and that so far the job is going well!

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Finally we arrive at the 4-hour day, yay :)

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  2. Fingers crossed alright! X

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  3. Your new commute is similar to mine (except that you cross a national border and I just go across Paris!) and I've been surprised how easy it's been so far. I actually enjoy my time on the train as long as I can sit down and either be productive (working) or unproductive (daydreaming). But as you said, I might feel different by the time November rolls around.

    Glad to hear the new job is going well and definitely fingers crossed that they keep you on afterwards1

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    1. Yeah, I used to have an hour+ commute as a student and in my first jobs at home, so it's not such a novelty in that sense, it's just the length of the day really, looking at the clock at 4 pm and there's still 2 hours to go etc. Thanks!

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  4. I'm sure you'll be a pro at your new job in no time!
    And how helpful of your landlord to not have told you what electric company you'd be using. Jerk.

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    1. Yeah, I think he just blanked on the fact that I wouldn't magically know that, but he could have thought about getting the number of the counter or whatever for me before going on holiday, cos like, of course I will want electricity. And I had sent him an email asking about it where the subject line was "coordonnées EDF", duh...

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