Written 09-10 September 2009 at 8:36 Montpellier
The past two mornings have been the mornings from hell. Hours spent at those locations in France everyone knows to avoid. Even I, after only a week into my stay, have come to dread any and all official obligations leading me to one of the many government-run offices in Montpellier. The task was simple when contemplated. Go, submit a dossier I had already assembled and be granted a carte du sejour. Like many other passes of entry and residence, I wasn't too sure of its necessity other than it was demanded by the French government. I should have known it was going to be a trying experience. Whenever the process is mentioned, it is never stated as something to go get, rather, as something to go ask for. If that didn't give me a clue, the preliminary events, obtainting a certain, special stamp obligatory to the process, should have warned me that misery was on its way. When I say special, I mean special. We went to more than ten different locations looking for this rare item. Finally, after nearly three hours of search and destroyed missioned, we arrived at the Préfecture and received the stamp in less than two minutes. Then, it was off to the University of of Montpellier to ask for the carte du sejour. By this time we had been at it for a few hours, legs wobbly, stomachs growling in disappointment that mid-day lunch had not been served. We arrived, waited for almost an hour, and were finally taken back for our turn to ask permission to have a carte du sejour. If the wait and searching was not painful enough, the real agony came when the civil servicewoman told us it was not necessary for us to have a carte du sejour, our passport would do the trick. Well, that was enough for me. I have grown accustomed to this in France. Ninety percent of the battle is getting to the point where you are actually able to acquire what you are looking for. Once you are there, it's quick and painless. Give your dossier and files, get what you are looking for. The difficult part is assembling the things you need to get whatever you are trying to get. Whether photos, school papers, or official signatures, something always seems to go awry and take up far too much time. For me, When told we didn't need the card that was enough. She spoke english to me so I understood what she was saying and the justification for the change of plans seemed sufficient. However, my roommate, Qibin, who havs been so helpful in getting me to and from and acquiring the things I need, came in to help his seemingly lost roommate and seriously complicated things. I knew what was going on, she could speak english. Qibin didn't take her for her word. Here came the problem. Qibin spoke to her in french and came out unsure of the information he had heard. He didn't believe her. Mind you, he speaks good french, but I understand and speak english much better than he does either in french and she spoke to me in english. I knew what was going. However, confusion set in it when Qibin insisted that we report the situation to our director. Here it is, Qibin was confused, he didn't really know the reason why we didn't have to get the card. However, my french is not good enough to explain the entire situation to Qibin and his english is not good enough for me to have assure him in english. Welcome to the miseries of communication problems. It's a maze, no, rather a bermuda triangle where when something goes through it doesn't come out the same, it it comes out at all. We went back to the office and notified our director. This precipitated into into a twenty-minute conversation of the event, our director sighting precedents of past cases where the card was needed, Qibin dismayed over the entire ordeal, and me, standing silently, unable to enlighten the group and solve our issues. It's a scene when something doesn't go the way a french woman had expected it to go. Speech and bodily gestures rage rapidly. It seemed as though someone had a fast forward button capable of speeding up a human being. The speech is fast, colorful, and ranged in volume from low and slow to high and extremely fast. The arms flailed, the legs stomped, and hair was grabbed. The solution was that we would return the next morning to the bureau with Christelle, our director, and she would sort out the confusion. We arrived this morning for session number two. It was shorter and an even bigger waste of time. A servicemen successfully satisfied Christelle and Qibin with the original assessment I had had, yet, was incapable of relaying. We left, Christelle shouting "Vivre la France" as we exited the building. This is about the worst it gets here. It might not seem like much, but, in the moment, the world seems to stop functioning, everything beautiful and worthwhile in the world seems to die. It seems like a dream, more like a nightmare, something you wake up from with a cold sweat, running and screaming. It's not though, it's part of France and, I think it is fair to say, it's completely miserable. I recovered and had a good time later this afternoon with our new roommate, Suzanna, at a café in the Place de la Comédie. She is very very helpful and fun to talk to. I successfully closed, actually Suzanna did the work, my internet contract that proved incapable or supplying the thing it was supposed to. The past two days, despite the hellish mornings, have overall been good and I seem to be creating something of a routine in Montpellier.