Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Legal At Last!

A few weeks ago, as I was too busy writing about Ireland, I FINALLY had my appointment with OFII, the immigration office. After 4 months of waiting, and miscommunication, and them losing my file, etc, etc, I was finally called in to get that stupid little stamp in my passport saying I was legal to be here as a long-term visitor. I was so nervous heading out that day, for I knew anything dealing with French Admin was not going to be easy and/or pretty. Luckily, I had spent almost 2 hours the night before getting all my documents in order and making sure I'd translated the instructions of what to bring before coming. Thankfully, I caught on that you can pay your visa tax online and print out a receipt to show you've purchased this 'stamp.' The document clearly stated, 'buy this online, or at a local Tobac (corner bar).' The latter seemed fishy, so I bought the damn thing online, and that was that. Done. This wasn't so hard.

As I was running just on time to the appointment, I remembered I didn't have any cash, but I thought, no time to stop at an ATM...and what will I need cash for anyways at this stupid appointment? I've already bought my 'stamp,' right? As I was finally called up to the desk, I nervously brought out my folder of docs with my mind racing a million miles a second hoping I could understand everything the guy asked for (dressed intimidatingly in a suit, tie, and an ever-so-french annoyed look). The first few transactions went smoothly. Then he asked for the 'timbre' (stamp). Haha, got it right here! bam. But no, he wanted something else. I thought...there's nothing else! My french turned to shit. I didn't understand, panicked, then asked in English. I've never seen someone role their eyes so much at me my entire life. I wanted to cry. He said, No, you have to go to the Tobac, buy €9 worth of stamps to put with this receipt. If you buy it online, it's less money, and you need to pay more in stamps. WTF?!? How the hell were you supposed to know that? And so I headed out with tail between my legs hating everything French, looking for this damn Tobac. This could all be a huge joke for all I knew, but I really didn't have any other option. Ahhh, and of course, there was the big sign in the Tobac saying, "Cash only". F! Ahhhh, now I had to find an ATM, and of course you can never find one when you want one. I felt like time was ticking like a bomb where soon the French patience would simply blow up and I'd miss my chance. 

OK, so I bought the stupid stamps, slapped the most fake grin ever on my face, and practiced in my head  my most utterly sincere apology to say to the suit guy about the mix-up.  (I later learned I wasn't the only one in the waiting room that day who had to do the same as me). After admitting my defeat, the suit guy all of a sudden acted so nice. blahhh. He took my stamps, and literally stuck them to the print out I'd given him earlier. What? It wasn't even being used to mail anything. Just F'ing charge €9 more online if that's what it takes. Sheesh! He told to me enter the next room for my doctor's appointment and as I opened the door, I gasped as I saw about 60 other people ahead of me....this was going to be a long day.

I plopped down and began the wait. Luckily, I had another American across from me with the same appointment time, so we instantly became friends over complaining about the whole situation.  People of all races, genders, and age where in the waiting room that day, I'm sure with all their own stories to tell. And here I was again, one of the many, (over 8 years later in the same sort of situation I thought I'd never again be a part of), waiting with a ton of expats willing to jump through the hoops to be able to enjoy a slice of La Vie Français.... Ah, name was called. Into the exam room to take an eye test, get weighed, etc. etc., then shuffled into the next room for chest x-rays. Back to the waiting room to wait for the X-rays. Ah, name called again. Here's the X-rays. My friend and I joked that this is all probably just a show, that these x-rays are probably all the same image just handed out like fliers. More waiting. Ah, name called again. Now it was time for a personal interview with another doctor about vaccination history. Thank god this part was in English! Back to the waiting room. Ah, name called again....here, now you must go to THIS waiting room. Back to the first room with the suit guy. At this point the place was going to close in 30 min. and my heart sank as I saw at least 20 people ahead of me.....'Ooooh, if they even ask us to come back tomorrow!'....my friend and I whined....By the time I was called to suit-guy's desk, it was 15 past closing time, and you could see the antsy-ness in his face; he wanted to get the hell outa there just as much as we did. He was in a good mood this time, though, asked for my passport, and brought out a shiny new sticker to put in my book. Then STAMP, smile, and voila! Merci à vous! 

Four more hours of hoop-jumping outa the way. I busted outa the place so fast with a sense of relief. Legal, finally.....now, if only we could say the same for Adam.....

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