French Bureaucracy will be the death of me.
I am its tragic and undeserving victim once more. Only this time it is for the same reason and a rough second blow to the left cheek.
After waiting patiently for three months for an appointment time or any further instruction at all… Time was drawing near to a difficult impasse.
I wanted to leave France for a short break away from the intensity of life in Paris. I wanted a holiday from the French.
But sadly thanks to the legality of their international laws I had no chance of re-entering the country after I left as I was yet to receive part 2 of my yearlong visa – the famed Carte de Sejour.
So I was forced to make a decisive move. I employed the services of my cousin once again as a crucial intermediary between myself and French customer service!
They are notoriously difficult to contact and deal with and by no means will ever speak even a word of English even if they are of professor of English literature.
So she tried her hardest to call the office of immigrations contact phone number – they never answered.
Finally I gave up the battle for any logical support and went into their offices personally. I waited 45 minutes to be told by the lovely receptionist, who spoke some english, that why was I turning up now! There is record of two appointments being sent to my one month after the first letter had arrived confirming they had received my documentation. I had been given two appointments and failed to attend. I calmly and respectfully apologised for having not received any letters from OFII and that all I need is my interview and to be given my carte as I have already had my medical examination in Australia as advised by the consulate and as accepted by their own letter!!
She looked shocked as if she had never heard of such a thing and looked over the original copies of what was clearly their departments own forms. She looked confused and said she would have to have a discussion with her colleagues.
Five separate individuals weighed in on the discussion as in all French governmental issues. Triplicate does not exist here; everything must have five copies and be signed by two parties.
They finally agreed thirty minutes later that my French medical examination by the Australian French consulates official doctor written in French on their own medical examination documentation with a signed attestation was insufficient and I should come back next week for another medical appointment and further chest x-ray as it was on the forms with the old letterhead on the top from OFII with the name OMI. Paper is very important.
So, clearly distressed, I made my case with the receptionist and I negotiated for an appointment the next morning and had to call work to change my shift.
I was downhearted but there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel or so I thought… Maybe instead of glow of sweet freedom it was the pearly gates awaiting me after what was to come the next morning!
Turning up at 9am as requested I walked straight up the stairs to be faced by the gatekeepers of the underworld. That of the top socialised fresh medical system where I was about to receive life-changing mind altering preventative health medical advice that would improve my life and visa application status overwhelmingly.
Only they didn’t speak a word of English what so ever despite being supposedly welcoming.
This lady was a wolverine that would eat her own progeny. She was frightening. She was intimidating and she didn’t like my smile or my existence clearly. So I sat down and waited forty five minutes for my name to be called.
When she saw my dossier included a French medical examination already she scoffed, intimated I didn’t need to be here, was about to give me my carte de sejour but then hesitated and hurried off looking very pissed.
She came back five minutes later to tell me nothing about the medical and continued on her previous rant in French. Why I gathered was that firstly how could I not have two photocopies of my rental agreement for her, something not mentioned by her colleagues just yesterday, and then told in my limited French that I needed 340 euros worth of stamps not 55 as I was told yesterday and so diligently I ran to the tabac to buy a further 285 euros worth of worthless and pointless stamps!!
On my speedy return I again had to wait for her pleasurable company and after so lovingly and kindly photocopying my only copy of my rental agreement for herself (I believe she had reached her limit of frustration so saved herself the effort and just did it for me unlike the person before ho was told to leave, make to copies and return another day) she handed me my dossier and told me to attend my examination down the corridor.
I waited once again for fifteen minutes and finally my named was called.
The doctor was a gorgeous short four foot five older woman with really funky glasses and a lovely bedside manner not to mention the fact that she so kindly spoke to me in English. All the doctors appeared so sweet and kind and I felt drawn to their energy. I miss my colleagues in Australia terribly and I miss medicine.
So after measuring my weight, 83kg and my height 190cm, yes I am in the healthy weight range and have lost 6 kilos since starting pastry training and moving to France, she asked about my health insurance coverage, and checked my ailing eyesight.
After attending to yet another chest x-ray, a good thirty minutes later again, I was cleared by the shortest and most superficial medical I have ever had.
I returned to the first reception desk and waited calmly for the dragon whose cool style and multiple earrings disguised her clearly right wing conservative attitudes.
She finally handed me my carte de sejour and I was no longer illegal, the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could finally look forward to the relaxation and joy of my short Greek getaway.
Only now that I can actually book my flights they are twice as expensive!! The price you have to pay!!
I watched as all the Asian women with French husbands were whisked off for counselling.
Two and a half hours later I was back in front of the twins and the word complicated and bourdelle were mentioned a couple of times. This medical examination was good they said.
And so my carte de sejour, my license to be welcome and free was finally in my possession. I still felt like an unwelcome alien but at least I was no longer a semi-illegal one.
I was free to leave their country and then return… A luxury that was hard fought for.
The next bit of chaos lies within my troubled mind. Yet again I am at a crossroads.
But for now I am heading to visit an old friend and then off to a little old place named Greece!