Friday, September 05, 2008

Steps

On Thursday, I went through another step in the seemingly never-ending process of obtaining my carte de sejour. The amount of time it's taking makes the whole thing seem like a fool's errand.

I had an appointment at 10:45. I arrived at the building at 10:20. I found the right place and had my appointment ticket in hand by 10:35. Started going through my papers and made sure my stack had copies of everything. I didn't see a copy of the main page of my passport, only a copy of the visa page, so I went into the hall where three copiers and one photo booth machine were located, and made two extra copies. I soon found two other passport copies in my stack. Oh well, what's another 40 cents?

I waited. I was very nervous. It wasn't the crazy scene like the first police station I went to. This was a large, old building on the Ile de Cite, with a large courtyard full of cars. The different offices provided all kinds of services--mostly for foreigners. The office I sat in was small and had no windows in the waiting area--only a door with a window to a courtyard where I saw employees come to smoke. I waited with about twenty other people. Many of them were couples and one had a baby. I wonder if the presence of the baby is required? Or maybe both adults have to be there and they don't want to leave the baby at home? Anyway, this baby was fine and quiet and, actually, out of the room for most of the time.

At 12:30, my number was called. What's another two hours of waiting? I gave the lady my stack of documents. She asked for my passport. She flipped through the stack of papers, handing back originals and extra, unnecessary, copies.

And that was it. No questions, no annoyance, no requests for other documents, no insistence that I did something wrong and needed more of the items translated (as the instructions seemed to indicate) or that my photos should have been in black in white (as instructed) instead of in color. Nope. Instead, she cut my photos into the proper size, printed something out that I had to sign in three places, and stuck the photos on. Then sent me across the courtyard to make an appointment for a medical exam. Right, the next step is to see the doctor!

I should also add that the entire transaction was conducted in French. She didn't ask if I spoke French. She spoke clearly and look right at me when she talked. When I didn't understand, I'd repeat part of what she said and then she would either correct me or repeat herself. It worked. All of my conversations were in French. I'm kind of pleased with myself.

I walked across the courtyard holding the piece of paper she'd given me. I got to the right doorway but wasn't sure which room to enter. A man who worked there (possibly a janitor) saw the confused look on my face and came over to help me. He confirmed I was in the right spot and I did get to the correct door.

I entered a very large room with lots of people waiting. I didn't have to wait…long. I walked right over to the correct window and stood behind a couple who were making their medical appointment. After about five minutes, it was my turn. The lady as this counter did not seem happy. She offered me an appointment on September 19th. I said I couldn't make it and asked about the next week. She said, "non." I said…I wouldn't be in Paris. She looked at me, annoyed, and said something I didn't understand. She said it again. She was asking for the dates I'd be away. Ah. I made an appointment for September 24th (interestingly, the week after September 19th--just as I'd asked for at first).

I walked back to the first office and had to wait while my lady finished up with another couple. When she was free, I handed her my appointment slip and she explained that after the medical exam I'd go to another office at the same place and something would happen--I'd get my temporary card. I'd get my permanent card in the mail later on. Then, she extended the date on my current temporary card (actually a half sheet of paper with my photo stuck on and embossed--sort of a temporary temporary card) to last until after I had the doctor's appointment (just in case, I guess).

Then I said I was going on a trip and should I take the temporary card? She said, oh no, for that I needed a re-entry visa. I could get that across the hall. Oh dear.

I went across the hall. I said something to the lady at the reception counter. She gave me a form and said the visa would cost six euros. I filled out the form and noticed that it required a photo. I was out of photos. I went to the photo booth machine in the hall and got four pictures for five euros. I went back to the room and waited for about half an hour. The lady I spoke to this time (another woman! Do they not employ men in these places? I did see a few guys here and there but all of my interactions were with women.) was much more laid back than the other women I encountered. She complimented my passport--apparently it's prettier than the French one--entered a bunch of stuff in the computer and sent me across the courtyard to buy six euros worth of tax stamps. The cashier, at it turned out, was in the same room where I'd been to make the medical appointment, but I entered through a different door.

Holding my two stamps (1 euro and 5 euro) firmly in hand as I walked through the windy courtyard, I returned to my laid-back helper. She pasted the stamps in my passport and hand wrote the visa information directly onto the page. I'm good to return to France until November 15th.

At 2pm, I left the building, completely exhausted and temporarily relieved.

Will someone tell me why I'm doing this?

Grateful for: patience.

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