The Visa application

In order to (legally) stay in France as a teaching assistant with TAPIF, I need to apply for a Visa.  I had done this once before as a student in Nantes, but this time, I applied as a worker.  Luckily, the process is a whole lot easier, as there’s no need to wait on the painfully slow CampusFrance site for a student certificate.  Which is not to say that I didn’t do a good amount of waiting – from postmark to my mailbox, my arrêté de nomination (work placement) took over two months to get to me.  Once I had it in my hands, I pushed up my Visa appointment a couple of weeks so I could avoid any bureaucratic nonsense.

So one morning, I hopped on BART and rode it to Montgomery, walking a couple of blocks to the Consulat Général de France à San Francisco.  I was greeted by the same man who processed my paperwork two years ago, but he wasn’t much in the mood to celebrate our reunion.  At one point during the appointment, he swiveled in his chair forty-five degrees to face away from me, folded his arms, and neither looked at nor talked to me for about a minute.  How appropriate, how French.

Despite the lethargic nature of our encounter, the interview was fairly quick, and I was told to come back in a week or two to pick up my Visa.  I skipped down Market Street to the Ferry Building to meet up with Jin (你好, 你好!), a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in far too long.  We caught up over lunch at Il Cane Rosso and dessert at Yogorino, and agreed to get together the next time I was in town.

And today was that day!  I made the trip to the city to fetch my passport – now with freshly-affixed Visa inside!  But first!  One hour of patient waiting, followed by an hour of frustrated waiting in the salle d’attente!  I don’t know how a simple pick-up turned into a full morning of sitting around doing nothing and knowing nothing, as French bureaucracy went on its merry way, strolling slowly and taking a couple of breaks to nap amongst sweet-smelling flowers (this is meant only partially figuratively).  But after a whole lot of government silliness, and a rather anti-climactic hand-off – “Here is your visa, you may leave now” – I have my nice, shiny sticker!  Not bad!

Except for that picture!  Sheesh, why didn’t they use the passport photo I brought to them instead of this washed-out, unhappy picture that they took during my interview two weeks ago (“No smiling!”).  Oh well, at least it accurately expresses my apathy towards French administrative stuff.  I have the strange feeling that I’ll be wearing this same blank expression quite a few more times, as I navigate life in France for the next year.

At lunch, Jin bore the brunt of most of my complaining over veggie burgers and vegan chocolate mousse at The Plant, though conversation quickly turned to a possible rendezvous in France in the next several months.  I guess that even given France’s many aggravating and inexplicable idiosyncrasies, I am mostly just really, really excited and ready to make the move and start my life over there!

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