Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tempus Fugit.

I came to a rather shocking realization a few days ago.  I only have 8 weeks of teaching left!  Excuse me?  What did you say?

8 weeks.

I feel that I’ve done so much and yet haven’t really done anything since I’ve been here.  Does that make sense?  I started making a definitive list of things I want to do while I’m here.  It got very long very quickly.  I’ve been doing stuff every week since I’ve been here though.  Sometimes when I make lists of things to do I include several things I’ve already done so that I can feel more accomplished.  I see nothing wrong with this.

One big thing I feel I’ve been missing out on is the opportunity to travel some while I’m here.  It would help if I weren’t so dirt poor.  This, as it turns out, is not my fault.  I have a bit of a confession.

I’m working in France illegally.  Technically.  As previously stated, this is not my fault.  Let me ‘splain you some.

So as an English assistant I’m eligible for the CAF, which is basically a welfare system that gives you back the taxes you pay each month (which is close to 200 euro).  This would help greatly with the “dirt poor”-ness.  So that’s the end goal: the CAF money.  But to get the CAF, I need to have French insurance, but to get that, I need to have a health care card, but to get that, I need to have a social security number, but to get that, I need to have a medical visit to prove to the French gov’t that I don’t have the tuberculosis, but to do that, I need to receive a letter telling me a specific time, date and place to go for this, and to get that I need to send in all the pages and pages of required paperwork.  The good news, however, is that I’ve already done my part.  So now I just have to sit back and wait.

The reason that this is becoming such a hassle is that, up until this point, the assistants had different rules for insurance and all that jazz, so there weren’t as many papers to file.  Now, however, the French gov’t decided that the assistants’ paperwork should be filed through the office of immigration (even though I’m not an immigrant….) with the rest of the world who wants to move to France.  So instead of competing with a few hundred people, I’m now in a pool of tens of thousands of people who are all vying to get their paperwork processed asap.  Normally I would have had my medical visit in November or December.  As it is now, I’m getting ready to tell my kids about Valentine’s Day, and still no visit.

“You should just call the office,” you might say.  Or maybe, “just go there in person,” sounds more logical.  One would think.

I have the great fortune to be in a program made up of a large population of type-A personalities.   There came a point after the majority of assistants had sent in their paperwork that mass emails began circulating to both complain about the process and get advice of how to proceed.  It turns out that several people had actually taken the initiative to call or go to the actual office…but to no avail.  If anything they lost a few hours of their life and had gained a few more forehead wrinkles from frustration.

I did actually call once, just to see if it would accomplish anything.  This is basically how it goes:

You go online for a good 20 minutes looking for a phone number to call.  And as long as you don’t call before 9 am, between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm (lunch break), and after 4 pm, you might get someone….if they feel like it….maybe.  So you dial, and the phone rings.  And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And someone answers!  You spend some time explaining to them the situation you’re in, including all information that you think is relevant, and the person on the other end listens politely.  After you’ve finished, she tells you, “oh, you don’t want this department, I will transfer you to the correct department.”  And the phone rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And rings.

And finally, someone picks up again.  You tell them basically all the same information, except you’ve had about five minutes to go over all the ill-conjugated verbs (“What’s the third person plural conditional form of ‘to be screwed over’ again?”) and all your incorrect syntax (“Did that need the subjunctive?”), so this time your speech is a little more compelling.  The lady on the other end of the phone listens, says “un moment, s’il vous plait,” puts you on hold, and then returns to the half-marathon she was right in the middle of running before you interrupted her with your phone call.  Upon her return, she tells you that she needs to transfer you to someone else, and before you are able to draw the breath to say “merci,” you hear a click and then ring ring ring.  Even if you call at the right time of the day, by the time you end up at the correct department, it will most likely be lunch time, and you will therefore end up at that dreaded black hole: the answering machine.

So, needless to say, I’m rather content to sit here in my apartment with a book and soothing background music, as opposed to taking on the French paperwork machine head on.

So that’s that, I suppose.  I apologize for this entry.  I had spent an hour and a half working on it, and then just as I was posting it, it all got deleted.   This version doesn’t have the same soul as the last one, but it’ll have to do for now.  3+ hours of blogging in one night does not a happy boy make.

One quick thing:  I resumed pastry Saturday this weekend.  Here's what I had:

And Sarah had one of these:

Photos courtesy of the delicious and talented Sarah Gilmour.  It was a red fruit kind of day.

And one last thing, I would like to send special birthday wishes to Shannon Metz and B Smith!  I'm a little late, but what I lack in timing I make up for in suaveness and being in France-ness.