Today was our official, state-insisted-on-it, medical exam. Luckily, Dr. B reminded me on Wednesday (I had received the letter a month ago, and forgot about writing it in the calendar) so I spent his nap time (when I wasn't taking pictures) preparing needed documents so we wouldn't have to think on Friday morning.
At my KNOTs meeting, knitting with the lovely ladies over hot tea and Godiva chocolates, the gals regaled me with nightmarish stories about cattle calls, having long conversations topless, and being forced to sit in a room with hundreds of other women with nothing on above the waist. OK, some of this may have been embellished in my mind, as I was a little nervous about going to this appointment. My past incidents with the French Government, albeit through the company called Égide that's handling Dr. B's fellowship, have not exactly been pleasant.
Dr. B, unfortunately, forgot his letter at work, so had to get up at 5:30 AM to go into work to retrieve it before our 10 AM appointment. He woke me just as he left to catch the metro to his office.
So I am at the appointment, in a room with about 50 other women, and we are all sitting there topless. The receptionist hands me a stack of papers two inches thick. I sit down to look at them, and the girl next to me makes a comment about "Thank Goodness I didn't shave. We weren't supposed to get rid of any hair for the last 3 weeks. They want us 'nature'."
What??? Nobody told me this! I've shaved! And plucked my eyebrows! OH NO!!! They are not going to let me stay!!!
I begin panicking. I go to let the receptionist know, hoping she'll say, "Ce n'est pas grave."
She doesn't. She says that I've had the papers for 3 weeks. I should have read them better, and it's my fault. Now I probably won't even get my carte de séjour, and then I'll have to go back to the US and then return and try all over again.
I tell her that I just got them, so it's not my fault. How was I supposed to know?
She says, "Everyone knows that in France. How could you not know that?" Then she makes a 'Pffutt!' noise, and goes back to stamping the papers in front of her with a little stamp that makes a "Kachunk!" sound.
I sit down and begin to panic. I go to get out my iPod, to try to chill with some tunes. Then I notice the sign that has an iPod with a red line through it.
OK, fine. I'll text message a friend. Nope. Another sign. No phones.
OK, I'll read.
Yet another sign. No books OR magazines.
I begin to sweat, heavily. I try, desperately, to will my hair to grow really, really quickly. I look under my arms. Nada.
Then, I hear my name called. "Oh, no! I'm not ready! My skin is still smooth, my hair isn't growing fast enough, and now that I am sweating, I kind of stink! Oh, who cares, they are french, they'll be used to that. But what am I going to do???" I hear my name again.
"Ronica. It's 7:30. You better get up and get ready for our appointment."
"KNIT!!! I can KNIT!!!" I shriek, as I sit bolt upright in bed, realizing it was all a cauchemar, a nightmare.
The real deal, was not nearly so bad. Yes, part was topless, as they had to do a lung scan for TB (and of course, the technician was not female, but he made it blessedly brief, although the machine was really cold.) The doc (a woman) wanted my top off, but the under clothes stayed on, and she just listened to my lungs and took my blood pressure before letting me get dressed again. She gave me a huge list of vaccinations she needed proof of, otherwise I have to get them again, but after several frantic phone calls to the US, I have made a little progress on this, so hopefully I can avoid the needle.
Then, we went into another office. We were helped by a young woman who looked to be about 21 years old.
She asked for our passports, and then rattled off some name that I didn't catch. I asked her to repeat it. Her colleague suggested that she speak English to us. She asked if we would like that. I said, "Yeah, it would be easier."
She switched into flawless English, with a beautiful British accent.
She asked for our "little blue paper."
"What little blue paper?"
"Didn't they give you one?"
Dr. B says, "No they didn't. But Égide has not been doing a very good job with their 'help' this year."
I just about passed out. He just criticized french bureaucracy, to a bureaucrat!!! Oh NO!!!! Now they will kick us out for sure!!!!
I watched her reaction.
She went to the computer.
This was a shock to me. The other bureaucrats had them, but really didn't seem to know how to use them, or else they just were too lazy to punch a few buttons.
She pulled up our files. Saw that we should have the blue paper.
We assured her we didn't.
She checked some hanging paper files. Couldn't find our names anywhere.
She said, "Don't worry."
THEN SHE PICKED UP THE PHONE.
(OK, it is not snowing in Brazil--this really happened!!!)
She called Égide. Égide!!! They put her on hold.
She looked over at Dr. B, and said, "You are right. They aren't doing a good job any more."
Whoa. Wait, she's smart, helpful, curteous, AND she says we are right to be irritated???
Someone pinch me. This must be a dream. I think I love this woman.
Basically, she found out they hadn't told us to pick up the blue paper, and it wasn't our fault. She gave us a letter to get us to the head of the line on Monday morning (because she knew we wouldn't make it there before they closed today, being Friday, because they close at noon), and when we do get there (she suggested going early), we should (and I stress the should--I still can't trust it) have our carte de séjour.
Which means we will get to stay in France.
That's it. I'm sending her flowers.