Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Really Boring Post About a Trip to a Government Office which has a Happy (though not horribly exciting) Ending

Last Wednesday David and I had 8:30 a.m. appointments at the OFII office, which is the French government office that handles “Integration and Immigration.” Since we are not immigrating to France, I suppose we fell into the “integration” category.

Our hope for the day was that we would each leave with a carte de sejour—which is the stamp in our passport that allows us to stay in France for more than three months. I cannot believe I am going to write about the four hours that we spent in a government office, as if living through it were not painful enough. But for some reason I feel compelled to share the experience. You can stop reading now if you wish. I promise you won’t be missing much.

We arrived at the OFII office promptly at 8:30 a.m. David would have preferred to have arrived sooner but our GPS was not aware of construction in the area and we had a bit of trouble getting around it. As we parked the car we noticed a long line full of people who were waiting out in the cold. Through a challenging bit of eavesdropping (there we at least five languages other than French being spoken in the line) we learned that though the building did not open until 8:30 a.m., there were many people whose appointments were for 8:00 a.m. The doors were now opened, and it was not too long before David and I were at the counter, presenting our appointment cards. Our presence was noted, and then we were given a pile of paperwork and sent back out into the parking lot where we were to go into a trailer to have chest x-rays.

Why chest x-rays? The French were screening us for tuberculosis. The technician opened the door and invited us in to the trailer one at a time. There were three private stalls, and I was directed to the one on the left. Suddenly the technician magically appeared at the “back door” of my stall, and told me (in French) to remove all of the clothing on my upper body, including my necklace. At least I think that is what she said. But there were not any hospital gowns or robes hanging around in the stall, which meant that if I got naked I would be, well, naked. So now I have a dilemma. What if I did not correctly understand what she said to do and I get half naked, and then she comes back and wonders why I have removed my clothes? I am not horribly modest, but even I felt a bit awkward stripping down without even the hope of a paper gown to slip in to. I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt if the technician had been a man.

Oh, I had understood alright. Feeling more vulnerable than usual, when the technician came for me I reluctantly uncrossed my arms, got my chest x-rayed, and was (finally) told I could go back into my stall and get dressed. By the time I was all tucked and buckled, the technician appeared once again, gave me a large envelope containing my x-ray, and told me to take it with me to the second floor of the building.

In the building, around the corner and up the stairs I found yet another desk at which to check in and a crowd of fellow x-ray envelope holders. I took a seat. Minutes later David arrived in the waiting room holding his x-ray, but before we had a chance to compare notes on the x-ray process a nurse called my name and took me into an examination room. This time I got to keep all my clothes on. Well mostly, I was asked to remove my shoes to get weighed. Getting weighed in kilograms is awesome. I weighed 60-something. She also measured me and gave me an eye test. Again, this entire interaction took place in French, which means it is a good thing I learned to say the alphabet in French or I never would have been able to read that eye chart to her satisfaction. Everything was recorded by hand in a paper notebook—there was not even a computer in the room. Do you find that fascinating? Piles of people going through the integration and immigration process in France, and their information is being kept in something about as sophisticated as a spiral notebook. The kind nurse finished with me and sent me back into the waiting room, where a few minutes later a doctor came and called my name.

The doctor was a young woman who was probably capable of speaking English to me, but instead spoke French the entire time. I loved it because it meant that I was understanding and being understood sufficiently. She asked about prescriptions, operations, family illnesses, children…it seemed like a pretty typical medical history line of questioning. She asked if my weight was what I expected it to be, and I said that I had no idea because I had never been weighed in kilograms. I asked if she thought my weight was okay, and she said it was just fine. Whew. David, on the other hand, was told by both the doctor and the nurse that he needed to lose weight. The nurse even checked him for diabetes.

My doctor was surprised that I did not have my immunization records. I told her that in the States most adults don’t have their childhood immunization records. She asked how I possibly got my children into school without them, and I explained that I DID have immunization records for my children, just not for myself. I promised that I had had all of the required immunizations, and she seemed satisfied. By the way, am I right? Could any of you adult Americans produce your immunization records?

The doctor then preformed a fairly basic examination, told me my chest x-rays were normal, signed something, and sent me on my way. The next stop was the last stop. A government official needed proof that we had a place to live (our rental agreement sufficed), a copy of my marriage certificate (which David was clever enough to bring even though we were not told we would need this), and 380 Euros each.

And then, we were each given a carte de sejour in our passport.

And in a year, we will get to do this all over again, as the carte de sejour is good for only one year. As far as French bureaucracy goes, the process was actually rather simple. It was the final piece of “official” business we needed to accomplish to make our move to France complete. And so, it is finished. And we are here. And I am thankful.


  1. A few things...
    1. Oh so nice to be official by all accounts.
    2. God has blessed David with a record keeping (and producing) gift.
    3. Yes, I do have my official immunization record book with my original SS card and original birth certificate. That might be a military thing required of my parents....or probably just a pack rat kind of thing.

  2. And the adventure continues! So glad to see you have your sense of humor.
    No, I don't have my immunization record. I'm not even sure my mother still has it. Maybe I should make sure my girls have theirs.

  3. Are you asking as 'more of the humor', or are you serious?
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

  4. There are so many things rolling through my head but the primary thing:

    That you could understand and give your medical history in French is a HUGE accomplishment and I am so impressed with you Jenn!! Way to go... thank You Lord for Your goodness and faithfulness to the Williamson family. Please continue to bless them...

  5. I am a true Francophile and have always wondered about the process of living and staying in France. I am getting married in 11 days and I am hoping when we can travel we will spend considerable time in France and Wales. I found the Boring story fascinating and no I do not have my immunization records.

  6. So..1) The title of this post is completely written in error. These are the exact kind of details that make me feel like you are not so far away. It's what we would have been talking about on the phone....please keep posting "really boring" stuff!! I beg you!

    2) No I don't have a current immunization record. Why would I?