I finally had my medical visit this Wednesday, the one I sent in a request for at the beginning of October. I never got my official letter for it and the only reason that I even knew it was happening was another assistant sending me a text message about meeting at the train station. Apparently, Inspection knew that all the Valence primary assistants had their medicale on the same day, but didn’t actually bother to tell us individually and just assumed we would find out some how. Thanks! I guess mine got lost in the mail because I finally got a last-minute faxed copy at 5 pm on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, our group of five Valence assistants took the train to Lyon. The medical visit is necessary to get the Carte de Sejour, which will let me stay in France after my Visa runs out. You don’t have to get it if you’re a member of the European Union, so all the language assistants from Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, etc. were all off the hook. The American, Australian, Canadian, and Argentinian assistants were not so lucky, so the five of us who fell into those categories got to experience one of the most bizarre and surreal of France moments. I was talking with a friend and we both agreed that the assistant experience in France would either make a brilliant reality show or a hilarious sitcom.
We got there early enough to find the place, which didn’t open until 1:30 pm, the exact time of our appointments. You couldn’t even go into the building until then. So we first got some coffee at a bar that had the aesthetics of both a funeral parlor and a bowling alley. It was covered in fake flowers and everything had that light teal color that you find on bowling shoes. The coffee was much needed, as it was snowing all day. However, it wasn’t cold enough for the snow to actually stick, so it was more like chunks of slush falling from the sky. After coffee, we got sandwiches and walked around the Christmas market. I’d been there during the Fête des Lumières, but so had everyone else, so this time we could actually look at things. We also got some vin chaud (mulled wine), which was delicious.
When the doors opened to the ANAEM (Agence nationale de l’accueil des étrangers et des migrations/National Agency for Foreigners and Immigration), we were all herded up to a small waiting room. There were some other assistants there from Saint-Etienne and around the Lyon area. Although I’m in the Academy of Grenoble, Valence is closer to Lyon so we had our appointments there. My name was the first to get called in its French pronunciation (May-aire, Aleesoon). This was part 1, the X-Ray. Either their X-Ray machine is incredibly week or they think we are going to wear lead shirts because you have to take everything off that is in front of your lungs and make sure your hair is above your head. All these instructions were given in rapid French. After that, they sent me back to the waiting room and I was called again for part 2, the eye exam. I had to read a couple of lines off the wall and carefully remember the French alphabet. They also asked me if I was pregnant. Then I went into an adjoining room for part 3, and a woman reading a newspaper told me to get on a scale and tell her the number. Then she stopped reading the comics and took my height and asked me about my family history. Then I went into another room for part 4, where a doctor asked about vaccinations and took my blood pressure and listened to my heart and lungs. Note: at no time was I asked to verify anything. I didn’t have to prove I wasn’t pregnant, prove my family history, prove my vaccinations. I guess they assume that if you’re coming from the States you must have everything, but it was still strange. After all that, the doctor stamped and signed a couple of papers, including the infamous Arrêté de Nomination, and I was told to go down to Office #10 on the first floor. However, when I went down there, not one was inside. I asked the man in the next office what to do and he said to go away because he was “cleaning his office.” Thanks. It turned out the office didn’t open until 2:30 pm, so we waited in yet another waiting room and got the last signature on our papers when the door opened. And we got souvenir X-Rays!
The rest of the week wasn’t nearly as bizarre, unfortunately. I finished reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith, as part of my unintentional immigrants in London literature series. Without knowing what either books were about, I read White Teeth and The Satanic Prophecies by Salman Rushdie back-to-back and they both feature similar characters, specifically immigrants from India and Bangladesh who struggle with their religious and cultural traditions as immigrants London. Also coincidentally, I started to read The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi yesterday and the focus is on immigrants in London, this time from Pakistan. Maybe I can teach a course. I feel like my reading in France has gone in themed stages like this, starting with the failed romances of old professors with young women (Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee and The Human Stain by Philip Roth), the past and current effects of slavery and prejudice for African Americans (The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Beloved by Toni Morrison), and now I’m in the midst of the immigrant experience. I’m also now reading Journal d’un fantôme by Nicolas de Crécy, a graphic novel that so far has been about admiring the godliness of Japanese advertising animals. I’m sure it’s going somewhere with that.
If you have any book recommendations, let me know. I’m currently working on a Christmas short story as a gift for friends and family. I think it will take place on a nuclear submarine in the future.