Tuesday, June 30, 2015

8.7 millions report to crime bureau

Imagine that

When you fill out required tax forms you had to send them to a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network even though you never did anything wrong. Wouldn't you feel wrongly accused of being a criminal?

Your are under threat of penalties from $5,000, $10,000 or half your life savings if you make a mistake in this or that form.

Imagine that you can't save for your retirement.

Imagine that you can't make any investments-

Imagine no bank, investment house or insurance company will do business with you.

Imagine your bank

Tells you to pay up your mortgage in 30 days.

Closes your accounts.

Rescinds your charge card

Rescinds your debit card

Won't give you a loan for a car, your business or any reason.

Imagine your company

Can't deposit your paycheck because you have no bank account

Denies you promotion because you are American and the post requires that you can have signatory power on its accounts.


Have to give up your role on a board of  a social organization because it will show up on a bank account and even if you are the only American among hundred of members all their financial info will be reported to the US.

This is what is facing 8.7 million Americans including those that have only had the misfortune to be born in the US (and only spent a short time there) or to a US parent living outside the US. If you couldn't live with those fears, than you will understand why expats are upset.

Tomato caviar

I never bother buying tomatoes from a supermarket or anywhere until I ferret out real ones in the summer normally from a farm.

At the marché a man had a variety and tomato smell fills the air.

I pick one up to inhale the aroma and experience olfactory visions of a tomato sandwich or tomato with some of Joel’s olive oil and bit of my basil from the patio. The bread had cooled from the bakery.

He takes another and cuts it in half. “Caviar de tomato,” he says and gives us a chance to suck on the seeds and juice. He explains the different varieties. There is passion in his voice.

I select three, one with a strange nob on the top much like a chignon. “It has personality,” I tell him.

As he packs up my tomatoes he puts in an extra as a gift.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Internet safari

Friday there was a fire that took out the SFR transformer and antenna. We noticed the water planes overhead as we sat talking with friends at a café (photo from a previous year).

Everyone who is on that service is without internet, phone or TV. It is now Monday late and nothing.

Fortunately in the nest I have livebox and in this canicule we are cooler than we would be downstairs. Bless my daughter for throwing a tantrum about air conditioning. She was in her 30s and mumbled about cooked mothers without it.

The boys at Hostalet are on and said we can sit at our outdoor tables as long as we want.

Still if we have to go on an internet safari to other villages we won't be happy.

However on Thursday we are going up to Geneva.

Disappearing cows and safety.

I do not use Google for searches except for images.

I went to Swisscow.com because they claim they don't keep any information. Therefore reporting my information to government agencies has to be limited.

When I tried to go on Swisscow a few days ago there was a new logo.

Was it safe, I wondered.

I went to their about section.

"Hulbee.com is the safe alternative
Hulbee.com is the efficient alternative for anyone who attaches great importance to data integrity and the protection of privacy. Contrary to search engines, users at Hulbee.com don’t leave any tracks. Hulbee.com even does without countless analyses of their visitors. Their topics, IP addresses and personal information, are not stored or used for any additional business. All the servers are located in Switzerland and neither the US nor other data snoopers can get their hands on this information."

I may miss the cute cow but I know I have an alternative to snoopy search engines.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Morning sensations

(My first opening-my-eyesview)

The breeze felt cool on my arms peeking from under the light coverlet. My window is a double door opening onto the street with a yellow and blue flowered curtain. I’m in the snore room more so I could read without disturbing Rick than his disturbing me.

The garbage men can be heard chatting as they slam down the empty plastic bins. Today they are taking the paper, plastic bottles and cans: the latter rattle as they hit the lip of the truck.

From one of the bakeries in the neighborhood or maybe any or all of the five the yeasty smell of baking bread tickles my nose.

I can hear muffled voices from down the street where the merchants are setting up their stands for the marché.

I look at the paintings and my piggy bank. I see the small ceramic replica of the building where the nest is.

I roll over and enjoy the bird calling to a friend, my eyes still shut. I don't have to start the day yet.

Cinderella gives up being a wimp

ONCE UPON A TIME, Cinderella lived with her wicked stepmother and two wicked step sisters. The sisters were very sporty spending days at the gym, playing tennis, swimming, biking. The step sisters, although having great figures could have used a bit of plastic surgery to improve their faces, unlike Cinderella who was one of those women who never had a pimple and whose hair always fell in just the right way including rainy days.

When her father was alive all was well, but he’d died leaving the stepmother as trustee for all three girls, his own daughter and his two adopted daughters.

With the lower budget after her husband’s death, the wicked stepmother had to reduce staff and insisted that Cinderella do the cleaning and cooking. Her real daughters were always off to the gym.

Although Cinderella thought this was unfair, her father had always told her how important it was for girls to be sweet and do for others, although he had demanded very little from her. She thought he would want her to help her stepmother so she did the chores in his memory despite part of her resenting it.

One day the girls came home from the gym all a twitter. The owner of their gym and many others was having a gym-a-thon and the rumor had it that he was also looking for a wife.

They went out and bought new sweat suits and bathing suits and the latest in sneakers.

Cinderella wanted to go to. Before her father died, she’d been a great swimmer and tennis player. She even had a three handicap in golf, but the family could no longer afford a club membership.

The day came when the girls were to leave for the gym-a-thon. Cinderella’s outfit was old but she still looked beautiful.

The older sister put her hand on the back of Cinderella’s neck and ripped the sweat suit so it was unwearable. They laughed as they went out the door.

Cinderella sat down and cried.

There was a tinkle of light and a fairy appeared. “I’m your fairy godmother,” she said. 

She didn't look like any fairy godmother that Cinderella had ever seen in picture books, but fairy godmothers are hard to come by, so she said nothing.

Whipping out her magic wand, the fairy godmother, created the most beautiful pink sweat suit.

And for sneakers, she created a logo-free pair that matched her costume. Nowhere in the world did another pair like that exist.

“The only thing is you must be back by 10 pm when the gym closes,” and in another twinkle the fairy godmother disappeared and Cinderella found herself in the center of the gym.

The owner noticed her immediately and they played a tennis double. Cinderella made every shot.

“How do you know this?”

“I read business reports on the Internet.”

She made him laugh with her sense of humor and stories. Until now he’d been so wrapped up in his business, he hadn’t had much time for fun.

The two step sisters were most annoyed and tried to barge in but the owner sent them away.

Then they swam in the pool to cool off before going to the juice bar to talk. He found Cinderella not only pretty, but she smart and understood how his business worked.

Cinderella was having such  good time until the clock began to strike 10. She rushed off loosing a sneaker.

The owner was shocked. He hadn’t asked her name. He recognized the sneaker as an original and the next day he took his guest list and started calling at all the houses of those that attended his event. When he came to Cinderella’s house, the two stepsisters locked their rival in her bedroom.

One said it was her sneaker, but the gym owner looked at her and said, “Your feet are too big.”

The owner left, but just as he was going to get in his car, Cinderella called from her bedroom window. Fortunately, the two step sisters weren’t that bright and had forgotten about the window.

Of course, the sneaker fit Cinderella, but that wasn’t all that important. The gym owner would have been really stupid not to recognize her.

They didn’t live totally happily ever after because they were normal people and Cinderella decided to use her back bone. She became VP of Marketing for the gyms. However, the owner respected her spunk and overall they had a good life.

Dear NSA, etc.

Dear Naughty, Naughty NSA...

It is not nice to spy on French presidents. But France, you're naughty too increasing your surveillance laws. 

To the French...voulez-vous que je parle et écris en français plus de faire vos travaux plus facile que vous nous espionner ????

To the NSA...I'm sure most of you are uni-lingual so if
I know the CIA greatly reduced its multi-lingual people several years back.  Thus if we just write and speak in French it will make your work harder.

By the way, NSA you aren't really all that good at stopping USA terrorists are you? 

And if any terrorist is reading this you'd be really dumb to communicate through any online channels. I suggest you learn smoke signals.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The right frame

I have a Swedish artist friend and I love her work. I love her too.

Rick and I had talked about buying one of her paintings, but they were out of range.

Thus, imagine our joy when she gave us a 1/30 print of one of my favorites as a wedding present along with a sassy note about being legal.

Rick and I spent a wonderful time with Annie, our framer down the street, making sure we had the right matting and frame to fully show off that wonderful face. A truly serendipity moment.

Even if I didn't know the artist, I'd love the painting. Knowing it is her work makes us even happier.


My husband has spent most of the morning filling out his Fbar with the changes our accountant told us about it after more hours spent before being sent to the accountant.

Even though I'm NOT an American they now have my financial details. How many ways can I say "PISSED OFF"????? I don't have anything to hide but why should the US government know anything about my bank accounts?

Will China know after the next hacking too? Maybe I should send them to China directly. Why don't I send them to three or four other countries where I don't live and will never live just in case.

A great quote from another expat about having to pay US taxes although he doesn't and will never live there. "I'm tired of paying my fair share to a corrupt government where I don't live."

I understand. I pay taxes in two countries both of which have some level of corruption, which is the nature of governments. However, I live in those countries. I get services from those countries. I participate in those countries.

I wonder if perhaps we expats could find a whole bunch of corrupt governments that we have little or no connection with and offer to pay taxes there too?

On to happy things to find a frame for a wonderful wedding gift from our gifted painter friend.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guess what this is

Six of us were sitting at La Noisette. Shane, an Irishman pulled it out of a bag.

We all looked at it, not sure what we were seeing.

Then he demonstrated.

I tried it.

It is a head massager.

Remember when Sally in When Harry Met Sally did the fake orgasm? I almost reacted the same only it was involuntary and real.

By the time I opened my eyes. Rick had disappeared. He came back with one.

Wikipedia describes it this way. "The Orgasmatron is a manually operated head massage device made of partially flexible copper wires attached to a handle. The device has been specifically designed to gently massage the head and the back of the neck.

It is made by an Australian company of the same name. The device is sold in the United States under the name Happy's Head Trip.

The Orgasmatron was designed by Dwayne Lacey, who registered the design in 1998. According to The Guardian, the device induces "an eye-lash-fluttering state of bliss."

Bliss is the word.

Where I fell in love

Not with a person, but a village. This was the first French house I ever owned but with a couple who divorced. It was several hundred years old. I sold my share. There was the kitchen fireplace once used to feed the family, a clay pig head holding up an original beam.

A new owner has created a rooftop terrace.

I had a chance to buy it once again, but didn't want to get into the need to upgrade from the studio I loved. 

Better to be happy with what I have than constantly looking for more and more. Living around the corner was anything but a hardship.

And the people who own it now invited us for meals.

I've been described as a cake eater because I want both the cake and to eat it. This is an example of how I do get both.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

To puppy or not to puppy

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For a long time Rick and I have been thinking about a puppy or a rescue dog. Our travel schedule has been a good reason for delaying the decision.

What kind has been bantered around: cocker, chin, mongrel, teacup poodle? We agree on small.

We almost cracked when we saw some puppies a few months back, but managed to escape without any furballs. They were none of the breeds above.

This week Ninni visited us. As Rick says she doesn't quite have the concept of chew toy. So sweet, so soft.It did help she piddled on the floor, not that I minded, but a reminder of the work of a puppy.

A couple of friends who also want a dog but travel said maybe we could share either a dog or take each others when travelling.

Family or FATCA first

No one should have to neglect their family because of a bad US law. That is exactly what has happened to Don Fahnestock when he wanted to take care of his 91 year old mother in law.

Fahnestock, a native son of Philadelphia, left the United States at 27 when he went to work for Colgate-Palmolive in Switzerland. He met his American wife, Debbie, a dental hygienist, there.

After an early retirement at 57, the family had to temporarily move to Florida to take care of Debbie's ageing and ailing mother. They continued to maintain their Swiss home but the bank didn’t agree with that last move. His Swiss bank UBS informed him that due to FATCA compliance insisted on by the U.S., it would close his bank accounts, and oh, yes, his fixed-rate mortgage which is due for renewal in 2017 would not be renewed, if he did not make Switzerland his legal domicile. His quarterly mortgages were left in limbo.


He is American. However, if he had a spare $250,000, UBS has a US registered office in Zurich, for non-Swiss-domiciled Americans that might offer him an account. As an ordinary American, he didn’t  have that kind of money.

To keep their bank accounts and mortgages open, Don had to leave Debbie and her 91-year old mother in Florida and return to Switzerland where they live in a tiny village. He would take Swiss nationality if he could, but the rules are you must be there 12 consecutive years.

He has already lived more than 10 years in Switzerland but not consecutively.

The couple is separated (by geography) as Debbie hasn't been back until recently when the doctor contacted them to tell them her mother is dying. So, Debbie flew back to Florida on May 18. With her mother's prognosis in mind, she's planned to come back on July 23. That may change to later, depending on her mother. Don does Skype sessions every day to support her emotionally. 'It is a very difficult time, for her.' he says.

“Political pandering has consequences in people’s lives. The masses cheer, certain people get hurt, but many unaffected don’t care about that because they have their ‘champion of righteousness’,” says Don Fahnestock a retired American expat about FATCA

He considers the legislation just that, ‘political pandering’. At 65, he has experienced the consequences first-hand, forcing him to make tough choices. 

He says he is not bitter.

He and Debbie want what every American wants – a normal peaceful retirement, as Americans. He just doesn’t know as an American expat if that’s possible.

This story was published at www.americansoverseas.info/news/family-or-fatca-first. The website is an excellent resource for Expats.