Ferney/Geneva for the summer, part 2 France

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Europe » France
August 22nd 2015
Published: August 22nd 2015
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We have enjoyed our European summer holiday, but as usual I have a few stories about being too loud and involving border control police and bus police and supermarkets.

Too loud.

Murray bought this really cool paddling pool, its deep, we actually used it as a spa late one night when it was really hot while Janine was with us. It cost 24euros, best money ever spent. The kids would spend hours in it playing. For Emma she gained confidence in the water without her water wings and putting her head under the water, it really was great. When I didn’t want to leave the apartment, they could chill out and burn off some energy, perfect. As I was finishing off the washing and thinking how this pool was just the best idea ever the doorbell rang. At first I thought I wouldn’t answer it, as I wasn’t expecting anyone and didn’t want to have an awkward conversation in French. But I looked through the peep hole and it was an old lady, so I thought ok. The conversation that happened I am still replaying in my head. She was lovely and nice, but what she said wasn’t easy to hear, even if it was true. It went something like this, . . . . people have written letters to the management about the noise, I thought it would be better just to come and tell you, I understand kids will be kids, but its every day for a couple of hours a day, do you understand, I thought its better to tell you, but people are really complaining about you . . . . Cue me apologising, I’m so sorry, I understand, thank you for letting me know. I shut the door, gutted, I get the kids out of the pool, I tell them why, I had been warning them to keep it down, they were loud, the lady was 100% right. I kind of thought everyone knew they were on school holidays and it would end soon, anyway. So for the next few days I shhhed my kids all the time, and it sucked! I hated it! I was that nasty mum who was always saying no and I became really grumpy! Charlotte asked me a question and that helped me figure out how I felt about it “Mum, why don’t our neighbours want us to have fun?”

Emma doesn’t walk anywhere, she dances, skips, hops and even bounces. She doesn’t do it quietly either, she is chatting away, laughing and singing. Don’t get me wrong, my kids were loud, the lady was right, and they do scream and shout as well. But we enjoy life. Hayley swam a length of the pool at Mums hotel, with lots of encouragement, I heard myself do the whole “Wooohooo you’re amazing, Hayley I can’t believe you actually did that all by yourself, you are so cool” high fives all round etc etc. I did it in hushed tones 😞 We enjoy life and get excited about things, and it sucked to be told to shh. Also, children need to play, everyday, I felt like asking the lady what the play schedule was, is it acceptable on the weekends or just Fridays, I was confused, not angry at her, just genuinely confused, do Swiss/French children not play? From my observations, they play quietly the few children we actually saw, they do get shhhhed all the time and they expect it.

Anyway, another neighbour I met in the hall was extremely nice and told me not to worry about “those” people who were complaining.

Bus police.

Last time we were here in April I caught the bus twice. Both with the bus police as we call them, storming onto the bus with their tazers and asking to see tickets, both times we had tickets. The time we were without Murray things got a little crazy. The kids and I are all facing backwards, Charlotte and Emma in a 4 seat, and Hayley and I across the isle. The lady in front of Emma starts banging her bag, shaking and shouting. And I hear “Madams et Monsieurs” and I realise the police guys have got on the bus, so I get me ticket and pray I’ve bought the right one. The lady in front of Hayley doesn’t have a ticket and gets fined, she hands over a 100franc note and got a receipt back, she quickly puts on her sunglasses as tears stream down her face she says “Je suis desoli” over and over which means I’m sorry. But the lady in front of Charlotte and Emma has got up out of her seat and is kicking things and banging her bag on the poles and screaming in French, I catch “police” a few times. The police bus guys manage to corner her into a seat and remove her from the bus. The kids held it together for the duration of the episode. But had a lot of questions, “Mummy why were those men being nasty to that women?” “they were police I think she didn’t have her ticket” lots of nodding French passengers pretending not to listen while they looked out the window. “Were they good police or bad police like in Kenya?” passengers now smiling while looking out their windows pretending not to listen. “lets talk about it at home”.

This time we had border control police come in, it was just me and thankfully I had my passport, these police were carrying guns. The kids first bus trip this time they kept asking when were the police going to get on. I’m told its not the norm, but 50%!o(MISSING)f my bus trips have involved the police in some form.

Border police.

My sister Sarah and I, with the help of the Tomtom GPS, went shopping at an outlet store in Switzerland for work clothes and sneakers for the kids for PE at school. Having driven through the border between France and Switzerland multiple times and never been stopped I wasn’t that nervous driving across with our purchases. I’m coming up to the border and the lanes merge into 1, a crazy black car comes up the wrong side and merges a little too fast, I’m watching him in my rear view mirror expecting him to hit me, and noticed 2 border control officers at the border. I thought I was driving slowly, but not slow enough for them, probably due to this guy behind me. Anyway, they signal me to stop, so I pull over so as to not block the traffic flow. Well, that was the wrong thing, and boy was I in trouble. You are supposed to stop and block the traffic. I wind down the window to talk to the border control person “Bonjour” “Bonjour” “blah blah blah” “I’m sorry” “blah blah blah anglais” and then his friend comes. I get told off in English now, “Haven’t you ever driven the border before.” When I explained that I had driven this border often and never been stopped, but that I was from New Zealand the country without borders. He asked me where I live, I explained I lived in Kenya, and I was just visiting. I then got asked what I was hiding in the back of my car, he then searched my shopping bags, and my handbag. Do I really look that dodgy? Anyway, he let me go warning me to go slower during the border control and to watch him rather than the guy about to crash into me at the back. Needless to say, I now drive the unmarked border 1km away, which is actually closer to where we are staying.


When I say we are spending the summer holidays in France, people seem to see me sitting on a beach or in Paris overlooking the Eifel tower eating a croissant. Unfortunately reality is I’m in a village in France, with little to no French, trying to function like a normal person, and hoping no one notices 1. That I don’t speak French, 2. That I have no clue what I’m doing, 3. That Europe is foreign to me, 4. That I am actually more comfortable in my Nairobi life.

Driving, its on the right, the parking/hand break is now a button, try hill starts with a button anyone?

To get a trolley you need to have a specific coin, 2 Euro or 1 Euro or 50cents? Put it in and the trolley detaches from the other 20 in the car park.

Getting through the doors, they have those fancy rotating doors, trying to keep the kids enthusiasm down, so people don’t hear the extremely loud and excited British/Kiwi/Kenyan accents getting a bit excited about . . . umm doors :-/

We get in there is too much choice, trying to read ingredients in French, Charlotte is dairy free at the moment, lait, bucree?? Still haven’t found vinegar, cocoa, baking soda or face wash.

Manage to get around, then look for the youngest nicest looking teller at the checkouts, the younger ones seem to be nicer about my lack of French.

Bonjour, bonjour (secretly proud of myself), I quickly whip out my recycled bags so the lady doesn’t ask me if I need a bag. The kids help to get the trolley unpacked, while I quickly start packing it at the other end. Lots of encouraging “well dones” to the kids, a silly question will come from them, and I’ll answer in English and the teller will smile and keep doing their job. I quickly whip out my card so she doesn’t have to ask how I’d like to pay. I stick it in and signature pops up. I stand there and wonder if I should take the card out or not. Ummm, French brain kicks in, and yeah, no idea how to say pull or take out. I wait for her to look at me with the paper to sign and signal to pull out the card, and she nods. She gives some promotion stickers of minions to Charlotte, “Say thank you” I hear myself say. “Thank you”, the teller smiles, “Say merci darling” “Merci”.

We walk out, unload my shopping, return the trolley and get my 2 euro coin back, and then happily get in the car, only to realise I’m in the passenger seat, not the drivers seat L glad to offer some entertainment to other shoppers, I just wish it wasn’t every time I go to the supermarket.

Kids and I are heading back to Kenya, with Murray heading to Rwanda for work.


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