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I haven’t written a chapter in this story since May 4th. That is not because nothing has happened since then. It is because I have mostly been waiting around all that time for the miracle to happen – the one where the Prefecture wakes up and gives me the right to work.
The letter from the mayor’s office and the conseil regionale was sent off in the middle of May – and, being me, I decided to follow that up with another visit to the prefecture. I had a copy of the letter that was sent and a letter from my potential employers saying they wanted me. I brought André along for back up. As usual my stomach was in knots waiting for my turn at torture.
This scene features yours truly (R) Andre (A) and Prefecture Employee 1 and 2 (PE1 and PE2)
R: Hello, I recently received a rejection on my change in status, but I have some additions to make to my dossier for reconsideration.
A: (in better French) She has some additional documents to add to her dossier. She wants you to reconsider her application.
PE1: leaves abruptly to the dreaded ‘back’
PE2 (who is the same person I’ve dealt with before and referred to as HBB): Why are you here?
R: Well, I have some new documents to add to my dossier.
PE2: Didn’t you get your letter? You were rejected!
R: Yes, I know, but I have some new items that might make you reconsider.
PE2: (ripping papers out of my hand) What is this stuff? Why would I want this? Why do you keep bothering us?
R: Well, I still want to work – and so far I haven’t gotten permission.
A: This is a letter from the conseil regional and her potential employer.
PE2: (Throwing the letter back at me) We have this one already, I guess we’ll keep this other thing – your dossier is already being reconsidered.
R: When will I find out?
PE2: Not right away, who knows when. Now leave – and (no, I am not making this up) STOP COMING HERE. Don’t come back again! Don’t bother us again.
R: OK, thank you!
So, that was in May. Towards the end of May and June I got several job offers, which I had to turn down (total bummer). Word on the street was that they were going to approve my request – but who knew when. Meanwhile, we sent an appeal for my driver’s license in to the powers that be. At the same time, André went in to request his French Driver’s License and began looking intensely for a job in Philadelphia for the fall. We had been going a bit back and forth about staying for the third year – we love the amount of family time and travel we can do here – but the red tape and paperwork and hurdles are just too much. Plus, I really miss my mom, my friends and my life in the US. We continued on as if we were going to stay here, signing the kids up for summer camp, (of course, we had to pay double what French citizens would…. ) and telling the kids nothing was certain. During all this time, I am still driving illegally. Then, one fateful day (July 1st in fact) the letter finally came in the mail (see proof left – says they wrote it 23 June – but it didn’t get to me for 8 more days). It said they were granting me the right to work in France (at least until the end of December)! It was like a miracle. I thought I would feel happy, but instead I felt angry. Why now, after I already lost a job I loved? Why now, when it is too late to get a summer spot? Why now, when our minds are turning towards living at home again? We went in the next day to get the official paper – and of course they were closed. I went back the next day and after the typical tortuous waiting and talking to useless intimidating employee of the day HBB came out and (I kid you not) snidely informed me that the machine that makes the document was broken! Yeah right – I saw how pissed HBB was that I finally won – I’m surprised they didn’t tell me it was on vacation – that is a typical French distraction technique. I had to go back a third time before I finally got the goods. I thought, perhaps, I might be able to start collecting some of the benefits that come along with this change in stature – but it turns out that takes about ano ther 6 months… The only good news that occurred during this painful process was that André was able to collect his French Driver’s License. Of course, he rarely drives, but at least when he does it is safe. And hey, we can still dream mine might come through. Again, instead of feeling elated at this ‘win’ for André, I felt angry… too little, too late.
So… that’s it, I guess – I won. I defeated the dreaded French bureaucratic machine – and all in less than 7 months. Why do I feel so bitter? Could it be because all the jobs for the summer are gone? Could it be because I still don’t have a license? Could it be because of all the income I lost? Or, more important than the income, all the opportunities to have fun and make friends? Could it be because the only reason it worked was that a higher power put pressure on? Could it be resentment over all the hours I spent sitting in that office when I could have been blogging?
Frankly, I am done with this shit. I am done with dealing with people who treat me as if I am a completely worthless individual. I am done fighting for things that should be naturally given to me. I am done struggling. I tried to fit in here, I tried to learn the language, the culture- to not be such an American Freak – but I failed. I think I don’t belong here. I feel as if, although I may have won this battle, it is France who won the war. They managed, by treating me so badly, to lose me, which is what they wanted all along. It is strange. Every other time in my life I left something – I felt like there would be people who missed me, who wished I would stay. It’s not to say that we didn’t make friends who will miss us, we did – but I didn’t make a mark here – unless it was by accident. After searching for months, André found a job in Philly that doesn’t require tons of travel. It starts this fall, and we are leaving. Which means I will get to speak English again – almost all the time. And, I am glad… glad Glad, GLAD! I wish I wasn’t so very glad – I feel like I should miss France. Maybe that will come after I’ve been home for awhile. Maybe, once in the US, I will miss it more here. Lord knows I am not the same person I was before I arrived in France – perhaps I will never fit in, anywhere, ever again! (Not that I ever did in the US, not really – but at least I felt needed and wanted there…)
Anyone out there have a great job that includes child care for the last 2 weeks of July and the first 2 weeks of August? I’m legal!