Monday, December 13, 2010

I’ll Be Home for Christmas…I Hope

My last Monday memory article. Last year around this time I returned to the United States for the Christmas Holiday and when I returned in January I started my blog. So from here on out it's all in real time!  This article was written one year ago this week as I was preparing to return home. I am now in the process of getting ready for another return trip...for 4 weeks. I'm excited. And there is no doubt we will have a white Christmas. Apparently the worst snowstorm in 20 years blew it's way through my old stomping ground leaving up to 20 inches of snow in it's wake. And tonight the temperatures are supposed to bottom out at around -15 F (-26 C) with a windchill of -25F (-31C). The snow I love, the temperatures I detest! And I'm leaving France just when my rosemary is blooming so nicely! I had to check the headlines from my old hometown newspaper. Click here  if you want to cool off!

Five days and counting. On Sunday I’m on my way back to the U.S. for Christmas and I’m running around like a madwoman trying to get everything done. What clothes will I need?... do I even have clothes for a Minnesota winter? there room for Christmas gifts?... what Christmas gifts?... damn, I need to take care of that!... is there enough money in my bank account for rent while I’m gone?...find someone to take any perishable food and beg same person to water my plants…. check to see that tickets are in order…… make hair, dental and other such appointments in the U.S….  take care of rental insurance problem…and finally, make sure once I leave the country, that I’ll be allowed back in. Right now, that is the biggest problem on my list.

Last week I trekked back to the local prefecture to finally pick up my permanent Carte de Sejour (residency card). I began the process last January and I’ve written several times about the problems involved in obtaining this little treasure.

In May I finally got my hands on it…well, it was actually a temporary card but I was told my real one would be processed and send to the local prefecture in Aix. My temporary card was good for 3 months and after checking at the prefecture several times for my “real card” I was finally told there was a back up in Marseille and they would reissue me another temporary. That second card expired the end of November so off I went again.

The gentleman at the window, who truly resembles a gray rat and whom I have come to detest, looked at me in mild disbelief and said,  “You can’t have your card because your address has changed”. Oui, monsieur, in fact it’s changed 6 times since we first met but I’ve always informed you of the changes.

“I need proof of your new address”, he told me and gave me their hours of business so I could return with my rental papers another day.

I high-tailed it out of there and returned within 10 minutes with said document. I produced this paper for the combative little rodent and he looked at me again with dismay and said “ you can’t have the card without your medical certificate”.

“What medical certificate? In all the times that I’ve come here to make inquiries, no one has mentioned a medical certificate! This is the first time! It wasn’t on the list you gave me and nobody mentioned it to me in Marseille or here!” All of this in broken French, mind you.

He gruffly told me that was not his problem, teased me by waving my actual card in front of my face (if there wasn’t glass between us I would have grabbed it out of his greedy little paws and run like hell) and repeated that he could not give it to me without that certificate. He also informed me, to my dismay, that if I left France without that card, I would not be allowed back in because my regular Visa has now expired. C’est tout! He gave me several numbers to call in Marseille and I was dismissed.

C’est un grand probleme! Because I’m going back to the United States for Christmas and I’ll be damned if Monsieur I-Hate-My-Job-And-I-Hate-You-Too is going to stop me.

I tried the numbers I was given for days and it was impossible to get through. After another visit to the local prefecture with a French friend to help me make sure I had my information right, I decided that I needed to just get my body to this mysterious office in Marseille and beg for an appointment to obtain the certificate.

I hopped a bus early in the morning, landed in Marseille, finally found the proper metro station to get me where I needed to go and actually arrived at the Office of Strangers by 9:30 am. I marched past all the people waiting, went to the desk and told them in French what my problem was. They were actually very nice and called somebody on the phone that spoke English to help me (my French is obviously still lacking!). I regurgitated the details (finally in English), told the voice on the other end when I was leaving and that I must get this medical certificate before I go.

Of course she told me this was impossible…there just wasn’t enough time. I wasn’t going to give up and told her I had followed all the rules to the letter, done everything they’d asked me to do, and because of their ineptitude (I was nicer that that) I was now in a huge pickle.  She interrupted several times with more “not possibles” and several tsking noises. I told her this is an EMERGENCY! I also told her that if she could actually see me at that moment, she would know that I was on my knees, begging for her help.

I got an appointment for the next week, which is tomorrow!

That leaves me one day to get back to the prefecture here in Aix with a satisfied smirk on my face, medical certificate in hand,  and politely ask Monsieur “Willard” for my card. At least I hope that’s how it will go.

So my open bag is on the floor and I’m beginning to faire mes valises. All I really care about is wrapping my arms around my boys, one of whom I haven’t seen in a year, scratching my dog in that soft place just under his chin, laughing with my sister, helping my mother finish redecorating her house (an endless process), sharing a meal and good stories with my friends back home and celebrating my favorite season with snow, Christmas carols and the people I love surrounding me.

Merry Christmas to all. 

Crazy snow photo compliments of Sonja Gilbertson                                                                                          


  1. Have a great trip. We wish we were in France for Christmas but UK it has to be this year. Diane

  2. oh Delana, Delana....I have all fingers and toes crossed. What a story. You are something to be able to deal with all this. Please......calll me when you get back here so we can chat if just for a minute, ok?
    Our moving truck is here, as I write, so we are on our way (I hope). xxxxLibby

  3. Good luck with everything, Delana! Hope you make it home - just make sure to pick up some good gloves and warm socks!

  4. Merry Christmas from bitterly cold, excessively snowy northern Iowa (we got the same storm Minnesota did). I'm glad you get to come home for Christmas, but do be prepared. It's been a brutal winter so far.

    I wish we were closer so we could experience Christmas in France and in Germany, where I have so many wonderful memories of Christmases past.

    I will think of you when I pluck my fresh herbs and geranium blossoms from the sunny, southern windows at the parsonage and hope your flowers get watered while you are gone.

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your family!

    Sherrie and Mark

  5. What a story! I waiting with nervous anticipation to find out what happens. What grit you must have! GOod luck and Joyeux Noel.

  6. This saga was last year, right? So we know you got back to France. But guess we'll have to wait for awhile to hear about what a medical certificate is!!

  7. Have a safe trip home and a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year! :-)

  8. Enjoy your trip...and don't get frostbite!

  9. I am always very embarassed when I read stories like this. My son in the States also has a problem of visa, but rules are clear and there are no surprises.
    Have a nice Christmas, Delana: we have a lot in common, you are right. It takes a lot of courage to start again (at least you are younger than I was when I left), I didn't move very far...not yet, who knows...

  10. Delana, Enjoy your holiday :) My brother is in Forest Lake, MN! brrrrr! Happy Christmas! :) -susan

  11. Oh, a fellow Minnesotan! Hope you made it back safely - I'll be heading back on Sunday myself.

  12. Awe! Yes! A lot of snow and a lot of cold.

    Be warm and safe.

  13. Oh, my goodness, what a story! Good luck to you, and merry, merry Christmas!!!

  14. I find myself very anxious for your return so we can get "the rest of the story!"

    Hope your new year is the best ever, Delana. Thanks for your always entertaining, uplifting perspective on life!

  15. Brrrrr snow! And -25C wind chills??? Where do you live? I need to send you a heater, STAT.

  16. Hope you have a great trip kids are in Minnesota, too. Just discovered your blog and love it. I added it to my bloglist and wondered if you would be interested in reciprocal link. At any rate, I am sure you would enjoy reading it from time to time. I am a Midwestern married to a Frenchman living in Switzerland.
    Safe travels. Pat


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