For all of you who know me well, you know that I change my mind weekly, if not daily, about staying or leaving Europe. Well, I had basically decided this was my final year and that I would make the journey back to the states this winter. However, I have switched again. But now I have the same problem you will find in my post earlier this year. Continue reading
Here it goes. Yes another French administration post. I am sure you all love reading these as much as I love going to these places but hey, its part of the experience. Whenever anyone asks me with that sparkle in their eye about moving to wonderful and romantic Paris, I can’t help but ask if they are ready for the year of impossibilities that lay ahead in trying to get a visa. Don’t get me wrong, my life kicks ass… but I definitely could do without this nonsense. However, today was pleasantly surprising. That’s right boys and girls… something seemed to go well. Shocker.
I had to go the Office of Immigration (OFII) because after your get your visa you have 3 months to have a medical visit and be approved by this office. When you return back to Paris, you send in your paperwork and they give you an appointment. Simple enough, right? Well yes, if you ever get that lovely appointment time. I am 12 days away from being here 3 months after getting my work visa. And I have no appointment.
I did the usual take-matters-in-to-my-own-hands sort of thing and decided to brave yet another journey to OFII. I first went to the office in Paris. It corresponds with where I live so that supposedly is the office. The first time I came here was when my encounter with the CERFA rouge devil happened. Optimistically, I had higher hopes today because I did in fact come equipped with my CERFA rouge!! (Yes, I somehow managed to track down this stupid paper in the labyrinth of French administration. Props to me.)
My hopes stayed on track when I entered the building and after a quick smile (smile! from a French person!) from the security guard, looked up to see the CERFA rouge devil was not working today. Instead, a young man with a pleasant demeanor stood behind the desk giving information that looked to be very helpful for the people in front of me.
When it was my turn, I carefully explained my situation in the best French I had available. I have to say that explaining your legal status of immigration is not the easiest subject matter in a foreign language. However, I got my point across and the young man was more than patient when I had to search my brain for a word. At the time, I thought he was being helpful and after looking at my papers, told me I needed to go to another office located in the outskirts of Paris. I double checked asking him if it was correct that the office associated with my work and not with where I live. He confirmed this, gave me directions, and I was on my merry way.
After a long metro ride, I found myself lost. Of course. I wandered around and wasn’t all too unhappy since the sun actually has shown its face today in Paris. Finally, I decided to ask someone. Luckily that person happened to be unbelievably nice and helpful man who gave very clear directions (even someone like me could figure it out!). As I made the short walk to the next OFII office, I chuckled and though, “3 for 3 on nice French people. Today is a miracle.”
Once I entered the office there was a line but at the front of the line was a short, middle-aged woman behind the desk speaking English to the person she was helping. Score! A little weight was lifted off my shoulders. When it was my turn, I carefully explained my situation. She kindly looked up my file and asked me questions to make sure she understood. She then looked up at me and told me I was in the wrong place. I needed to be at the office in Paris.
I explained to her I just came from there and they had directed me here. Dumbfounded but still polite, she told me to wait for her colleague to help me.
4 for 4 nice French people.
Next up. A nicely dressed man came over to me to discuss my file. I again explained my situation and he was just as confused as me and the path of people I had encountered prior. Eventually he had me follow him to his office. There, he copied my file and sent it electronically to the Paris office. He then tried calling them but of course they didn’t answer. He said even when you work together you can’t get anyone on the phone in France.
I still haven’t decided if I love these comments or hate them. I love it because then I know it’s not just me. I hate them because it is ridiculous that I live in a place that doesn’t believe in operating efficient businesses.
Anyway, he told me I should hear from them within a month for my appointment and if not he gave me his direct number and email. Where has he been my whole struggle through this process? Why can’t this wonderful man work in every single administrative office in Paris? 5 for 5 today! I left the office happy that I am one step closer to getting what I need.
Not a complete success but a step closer. And in Paris, I take that as a win.
Sometimes I fell like I am in Edward Norton in Fight Club—you know, when he’s asleep and wakes up in a different spot. The morning commute is difficult for everyone. I guarantee my dad can drive his over 2 hour commute with his eyes shut (although not recommended!). Sometimes I arrive at work, sit down to check my mail, and realize I have no recollection of my morning.
Going through the motions. Métro-Boulot-Dodo.
When I was back home, I frequently was asked what a typical day for me was like. I know it seems glamorous that I am in Paris, and yes, sometimes it is. I do in fact see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Sacre Couer everyday. I realize that these are all different sights from the everyday commute in southern California, but I also cannot boost that I see the beautiful Pacific Ocean everyday. The point is—it is all in how you see it.
I love my life in Paris because it is a challenge and allows me to experience new things daily. Because I work full-time, I have the option to travel frequently using the money I save. I am learning a new language and always find myself trying to overcome new situations. However, take the Paris thing away and you still have me at a desk from 9 to 6.
I am not complaining. I realize that my occasional weekend in Loire Valley or a business trip to London does make my job a bit more pleasant but the matter of fact is—my typical day consists of sitting at a desk behind a computer for 8 hours. I work to get to do what I really love. C’est la vie. And I don’t mind it. There are days that I stare outside the window in my office and day dream of my next adventure, asking myself why I am at a desk. But it is reality. Until I can make a decent living as a writer, I have to earn money somewhere to fund my travels. Sacrifice. I am fortunate because I like my job and work in a field I am interested in but I too am jealous of those who are “backpacking through Europe.” I wish everyday I could drop everything and just travel. But I don’t have the means to so I found something to make it work.
So myth buster time… “I don’t have the money to travel.” Well, if you want it bad enough you will find a way. Save up and take time off. Or suffer through foreign administration and find a job. You are young. You have so many opportunities. And I am a true believer you can get what you want if you try hard enough. The road was not easy to get where I am and I am thankful for it everyday—even when I blackout during my commute 🙂
I have grown to hate the phrase, “You are so lucky.” I am in a sense but in reality, I created my own “luck.” I am sick of people wishing they could do what I do or wishing they could travel or wishing they could move. Stop wishing and get off your butt. There are risks, but there is also great success. You just need to re-evaluate your priorities. Most people you hear quitting their jobs to travel took a lot of preparation in doing so. They gave up everything—sold their belongings, their house, quit their jobs. It was all a sacrifice to get to what they really wanted.
You can’t have it all sadly. I don’t buy new clothes or eat at nice restaurants all the time. I wait to download the new film on movie25.com instead of going to the cinema. I live in a flat easily comparable to a shoebox and frequently find myself choosing Cup of Noodles to eat just because it is so cheap. I know which grocery stores are the cheapest and make it a habit to shop there even if they are not conveniently located.
I make a good salary so why do I still live like I am in college? Because this month I will be going to Venice. And next month Thailand. And in May, I get to explore Prague and Budapest.
I have grown to love my little flat. I have learned to cook healthy meals with cheap ingredients. I realize I already have way more clothes than I should so I have cut back. This all used to be a sacrifice but now I am happy with how things are. I don’t need more space or more things. What I need more experiences.
So although we all want to break out of the métro-boulot-dodo routine, sometimes you have to tweak things a bit and compromise. Maybe one day this will be possible (and I am too hoping my travel writing career kicks off sooner rather than later!).
Look at things positively. Métro-boulot-dodo so you can enjoy-experience-grow.
My life is pretty awesome—I will not and can not argue that point. But I do have to suffer through the mundane tasks that every does no matter where they live. Yes, I realize that I shouldn’t complain because my months are sprinkled with weekend trips to different European countries and at any given moment I can walk the streets of Paris freely. I see that. I appreciate that fully. However, it does not erase the same pain someone in the US (or anywhere in the world) feels sitting behind their desk, staring at their computer, listening to their annoying co-workers as they shuffle through the 8 hours work day.
Right now it is worse for me because it is low season which means work is slower than usual and most of my tasks have to do with preparing for the season, translating, or creating things for the database. Not the usual action-packed, stressful environment I thrive in. In a few months I realize I will be thrown into a whirlwind and everything will be ok. I need to be grateful for this down time and the ability to take a bunch of time off. I get it.
But here I sit. Staring at the clock. I swear the minute hand is actually going backwards…
Life has seriously been in fast forward lately. When the hell did it get to be September? The good thing is although life is flying by quickly, it’s also flying by amazingly.
Paris has gone through la rentrée and everyone, for the most part, has returned from holiday. This is awesome and horrible at the same time. Lets get the bad news out-of-the-way first. Now if all of my readers lived in Paris, I could explain the problem in 2 words: RER A. However, for clarification purposes I guess I will delve into this a bit more. Basically all the suits that work in La Defense take the RER. Now this experience was really not bad in August when the suits had taken there ninos and left the city. But now they have returned. And although there is an RER about every 2 minutes, it still does not seem to be enough. There are actually human beings employed to push people on to the RER and attempt to close the doors. So there I am, among all the sleepy-eyed yet rushed business people with BlackBerry (or iPhone) in hand praying that I will manage to squeeze myself on to the next RER. Although completely used to this fact, it will never be enjoyable.
Now, for the good stuff. As I said, life has been seriously great lately. With la rentrée, comes the return of my friends who actually got a proper holiday during the proper holiday time, unlike me. It also brings in the new swarm of au pairs. So to say the least my social calendar has made a sudden leap from low-key alone time to too busy to do my laundry/grocery shop. I am loving it though. I have to say it is quite strange to be a “veteran” compared to all the newbies rolling into town. It seems like last week I was in their shoes but when I look back I realize how much I have grown. It is incredible. Although I really loved the experience, I am so happy where I am now. I love that I can look back and finally laugh on the series of unfortunate events that occurred or reminisce about the fun times I had with my fellow au pairs. I love that now I am not afraid to break out of my little au pair bubble and that I actually have French friends and go on dates where the language spoken isn’t always my own.
I am happy that I am spiralling toward a new chapter in my life. Everything seems to be working out lately (shocking I know!!) and I hope this continues. It has taken so much to get to this point of being content. A lot of people will comment on how lucky I am with my current situation, and while yes I did have my fair share of luck, I always worked my ass off. There has been many days of tears; stress, and uncertainty, to get me to this place. I have loved the journey and cant wait to see what is ahead.
On a side note, I am finally taking a holiday. Place of choice: CALIFORNIA. I haven’t been home in 10 months. Almost a year. I can’t believe it and I am so ecstatic to be back… but also terrified. It freaks me out I don’t know what to expect when I am returning to a place that is my home. In the whole scheme of thing I know that 10 months isn’t all that long but it is long enough to forget what used to be normal and mix it up with what is normal now. I am only saying this because there are seriously moments in my life that people back home question why I do something or say something and I have to think why. I know I have changed but I feel like some program has been rewired or something. I can’t find the words to explain. Instead, Ill let you know how it goes.
I’m going going back back to Cali Cali 🙂
I couldn’t believe it when I heard. Let me illustrate the scene.
A French person. August. 18h45. Works in administration. Calls my boss. Gives her an email of the person working on my file.
For those of you who have never dealt with French admin or visa issues, you have no idea who incredible this is. First of all, no one in France works in August–let alone pass 17h. And someone in French admin!!! And the fact she gave us a contact for my file!! Things are looking up. There maybe some light at the end of the tunnel!!
Apparently this dude that is working on my file comes back from his holiday on August 16 which means I have a month and a half to figure out this visa shit until well, I am full-blown illegal and forced to return to the US.
My first choice is obviously stay here. I love Paris and I still am not done with my experience here. However, I have also finally come to the acceptance that if I do have to go back, it wont be the end of the world. I am letting fate take the reins. I really do believe everything happens for a reason so I am excited to see what’s next.
That being said… cross your fingers for my visa 🙂
I am having quite a hard time believe that this is July. The July I am used to is full of BBQs and bikinis, not rain and jackets. Apparently, because we had such a good spring… we are paying for it now. That doesn’t make sense in my head but hey Ill let the French justify their crappy season.
On a high note (well I dont know if this counts as a high note but ill take it), today I noticed myself wearing the same outfit as about 70 percent of the women on the metro today. Beige raincoat, scarf, dark skinny jeans, heels. Have I been here too long? Am I slowly disappearing into the 20-something crowd of commuters on the metro?
I mean, I guess it is about time. I am living here. I have been for quite some time. I know what metro to take when the usual one is too crowded and what lines to avoid. I know where the best falafel in town is and where the best spot is to sit on a sunny afternoon. I now have no fear to ask the sales guy in the tech store if these speakers work with my Mac… in French.
Now, these all may seem like little thing… and they are. But they are little triumphs and that is what matters. In France, I have learned you have to take what you get and enjoy ever second of it. This year has been a test–and one I have struggled to get good grades with I might add–but slowly I am starting to get a few questions right. And it feels good.
I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day and we were talking about growing up. I have known him since 5th grade… so it was easy to be nostalgic. We were wondering when this whole grown up thing happened. Here I am. Hardly a grown up, yet technically living that life. I have a real 9 to 6 (ish) job. I pay my own bills. I do my own thing. But I still feel like I waiting for it to get real. But it is real now. Am I making sense at all?
Sorry for rambling on but it is still crazy to think where I am and what I am doing. Honestly, I would be happy where ever life took me next. After this, I feel ready for anything. Preferably on a year-long travel adventure… but hey whatever works 🙂
Number of days spent in France: 366
Vaux sur Seine’s population vs San Diego’s: 4,000 vs 1,223,400
Miles between Southern California and Paris: 5,600
Number of countries visited: 7
Size of my very own place in Paris: 15 square meters
Visits to the Prefecture: 10+
Average number of roses given to me in a night out: 2
Number of trains I have been stuck on a runaway train and had to jump off: 1
Number of months the French pension strike occurred: 2
Number of years ago France had such a cold winter and as much snow as 2010: 25
Amount of Euros I was paid per week as an au pair: 90
Cost (in euros) of a (cheap) pint of beer in Paris: 5
Number of trips up 6 flights of stairs to move: 8+
Number of baguettes eaten on average per week: 2
Average number of liters a French person drinks of wine a year: 57
Average number of people who read ride the Paris every day: 4.5 million
Average number of minutes daily spent on the metro for my work commute: 50
Average rainfall in inches in Paris vs. San Diego: 24 vs. 12
Average number of times I still talk to my mom A DAY: 2 🙂
Number of marriage proposals I have received this year: 5+
Number of times a night random French guys will tell you “you are ze most beauuteeefulll gurl in ze world”: 15+
Number of scarves I own: 15
Average number of times I had to clean up caca a week as an au pair: 5
Average number of people who visit Paris a year, in millions: 30
Times I have gone home since living here: 1
3 things I don’t know how I lived without: unpasteurized cheese, lebanese food, boulangeries
3 things I could definitely live without: France closing down on Sundays, French administration, lack of sunshine in the winter
Number of times I have regretted my decision to move abroad: 0