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?...is 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.
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.