For the most part in France, it is necessary to assume that if paperwork has gone through too easily, it is DEFINITELY too good to be true. I have already shared anecdotes of multiple meetings at the bank before I could attain a functional bank account, and while going to the doctor turned out to be easy breezy, the French consulate gave me its own fair share of difficulty last summer before I embarked on my journey. This year, I have come across no exception. I went to the student visa office over a month ago to clarify a few matters. I had never received my "carte de séjour" in the mail, something I had to send in papers for upon arriving in Paris. I did send in the papers and was aware that it was taking awhile, but was comforted by acquaintance with the knowledge that sometimes things take forever and to just be patient. Feeling a tad concerned, however, I went to the student office to ask what I needed to do in order to renew my visa without the carte, or if I needed to visit the OFII, another office many of us foreigners encounter from time to time. After a long conversation in French with a man who told me that at this point it was NOT necessary to go there, I was given a list of paperwork that I needed and told to return to the visa office without an appointment as soon as possible.
At this point in my story, I truly wish there had been foreboding horror movie music. The kind that suggests to the audience that under no circumstances should the main character advance forward and/or galavant into the mist of psychedelic dreams. Either that, or perhaps a large cartoon anvil could have fallen from the sky and forced me to recall that while I questioned this man several times in the most basic French to make sure that what he was telling me was accurate, nothing that easy could possibly be true under the guise of French bureaucracy. Sadly, neither of these magical anomaly occurred, and I was left in full technicolor, prancing around Oz as if the Wizard had finally shown me how to use my ruby slippers.
Naaaaaaaaaay. Today I revisited the student office. I had a folder packed to the brim with originals and copies of all the appropriate documents, ranging from proof of attendance to guarantor information to translated birth certificate. I walked up to the woman at the desk, explained my situation in what I hoped was a confident tone, and awaited her response. Admittedly, I did in fact experience a mild sense of foreshadowing as I approached the office. The horror movie darkness and wraiths, the lions, tigers and bears oh my! were definitely circling my periphery. My American idealism was punched soundly in the face as I was told that I absolutely must go to the office I was told I didn't need to visit AND have a physical examination in order to receive the necessary carte, and there is no possible way to schedule a visa renewal rendez-vous before either of these activities had taken place. As I was near tears, I took the advice that I should go to the other office immediately and start there. I went, was helped rather pleasantly though told I would have to wait for my medical appointment in the mail, and thus returned to the first office in the hopes that I could at least make some headway now that the wheels were in motion. Delusions of grandeur, my friends, delusions of grandeur. Having gone back to the first office, I was told that I MUST wait for the appointment from the OFII, I MUST have a physical, and only ten days AFTER that can I schedule an appointment at the visa office. All of this must be done before August 1 and good luck to me if it's not slash too bad I was dumb enough to take the advice of a man who worked there when I came over a month ago and could have figured this all out then.
Fortunately, I have the American spirit on my side, a sometimes annoying and obnoxious quality that refuses to accept that there is only one route to any goal and an ingrained notion that all will be well in the end just as long as I do the work to get there. Dorothy certainly didn't make it home without being scared a bit my woodland monsters and flying monkeys. My yellow brick road may be covered in red tape but as our mighty heroine proclaims, "there's no place like home, there's no place like home". So say she, and so say I! Except frankly I prefer Oz as my home and I jolly well wasn't Glinda the good witch for Halloween when a pre-teen for nothing!