As I get closer and closer to becoming a Frenchie, let's look back at my emails home during the early days...after re-reading a few of these long looooong emails I think it's a friggin miracle I still live here. Seriously, I deserve a damn medal. I think becoming French will be that medal - I plan on wearing a T-shirt to the ceremony that says "I survived living in France."
I'll be posting these emails now and again, in no particular order because, well, I have to find them first and considering that AOL is old school and erases your stuff and that my apartment got broken into and my computer stolen during my second year in France, that is no easy task. My mom kept the hard copies so unfortunately I may be re-typing these suckers in the near future. For now here is one that I found in a folder called "France" in my Yahoo account. It's about my search for a job after about 7 months in Toulouse...
**Before you read - keep in mind that Mr Auchan is the boss of the hotel Novotel and that he made me feel like total crap about myself when he called me for a phone interview. My French was awful and well, it showed. I guess being fluent was a sort of pre-req.
I Should Have Majored in Drama
written and sent to all of my Americannes friends on Friday 13 May 2005
It has recently come to my attention that my life here would not be non-existent if it weren’t for drama. Drama fills any and all voids, takes up my free time, and if I ever have a moment of peace in my brain, the drama-police takes care of that and throws some stress inducing thought in there.
I say this because after the past week, the drama has become cumbersome. Consequently, I have decided that this drama needs to be shared. With you.
After my last email requesting advice as to what I should do with Mr. Auchan, many events have taken place. And here they are, presented in the most dramatic way possible so that you can feel (even way over there in the United States) the all-encompassing drama of it all.
So, after being fully rejected by Mr. Auchan and toying with the idea of walking into Novotel and showing just how great I am to his face, I decided to go for a rejection run to get out my anger and empower myself. “I am woman, hear me roar etc.” It must have really worked, because as soon as I got home, the phone rang. Of course I didn’t answer it because it was a hidden number and I have a phobia of answering when I don’t know who it is. So I let anonymous caller leave a message. I checked the message, and low and behold, it’s another hotel, Hotel Mecure, calling because they need a “hostesse accueil petit dejeuner.” In other words, they need someone who is willing to arrive at the hotel bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7:30 in the morning to greet guests at breakfast. The woman on the phone, Laurence, told me that she would need me four mornings a week, two hours per morning, for a whopping eight hours per week. (oooooh…ahhhhhhh). I quickly analyzed my situation: FCC, you have no job. You are soon without parental support. Novotel and Mr. Auchan hates you. No one else is begging you to work for them. Getting up early sucks. Remember you have no job.
After my five second self-analysis, I took a deep breath and said “oui” I’ll do it. Laurence instructed me to bring a white button down shirt, SKIRT, and flat black shoes. I made do with what I had and arrived at the hotel at 7:30am the next morning…as bright eyed and bushy tailed as possible…with enough cover-up on to hide my rapidly growing under-eye bags. Laurence took me to the breakfast room and then, I was working. This was on-the-job training if I’ve ever had any. Basically, I have to greet the guests with a perky, “Bonjour!” and then ask for their room number. Usually they don’t remember, or can’t say it in French, so I impress them with my amazing English skills. The guest is relieved that SOMEONE speaks a decent language around here and can get them the extra spoon that they need or the double espresso that has been calling their name since they woke up this morning. (They secretly love me for this, and the guest and I exchange a silent bonding moment together). Once I have been the room number nazi, it is also my job to fill up whatever is empty: orange juice, coffee, ham and cheese, croissants, eggs, you name it, I re-fill it. When guests are done, it is my pleasure, at zero dark thirty to clear their trays and dishes and take them to the kitchen where Laurent (not to be confused with Laurence) puts them in the washer etc. Laurent is the helper guy in the back who comes up to my shoulder in height and runs around the kitchen saying, OOOH laaaaaa, je ne peux plus la…..ooooh laaaaaa! (ooh wow, I can’t take it any more…..etc). He’s overly dramatic and I love him for it. Besides the fact that I have eye crusties when I get to work and that guests get annoyed with me for asking them their room number twice (this happens when I forget a face), I do like my job. I speak more English than French while I’m there and I’m done with work by 9:30am.
That was my happy introduction. Don’t worry, the drama is coming.I got a call from Laurence yesterday. Well, not A call, as much as SEVERAL calls. She wanted me to call her back RIGHT away. Something was very wrong. I could hear it in her voice and see it in the fact that she had called six times. So I call her back and she says, “FCC, you don’t have the right to work.”
Uh, yes I do.
“No, you don’t have the right to work. You have to come to the hotel right now and pick up some papers from me and then you have to go to another office to get another special card in order to work legally in France.”
Are you sure?
“Yes, I’m sure. Come now because you can’t work until you have this card.”
I’m on my way.
I’ve just gotten out of dance class and I’m a nasty mess, but I jump on the metro and arrive in twenty minutes in front of the hotel. Say Bonjour to the women at the front desk and take the elevator to Laurence’s office. It smells like rotting cigarettes (do you feel the drama mounting??)
Laurence is in another private office that is on the other side of her office…this would be Olivier Name has been withheld’s office, and I believe that he is the big cheese/director of the hotel Mecure. In other words, this man is important. I shake his hand and apologize for the inconvenience.
He responds: “Are you trying to send me to prison Mademoiselle?!”
Me: No no, I’m so sorry, I had no idea! In fact, I called the director of my program and she says that I have the right to work. She is even faxing you the paper that says so.
The fax arrives. It is the same paper that Monsieur has right in front of him. I realize that my director is a num-nut who has no idea about the students she is directing, nor the legal side of them working in France. As a result, she is trying to send Olivier to prison. This is obviously HER fault.
Olivier and Laurence explain that I have to go to the Cite Administrative. I must bring my carte de sejour, my student ID card, a letter saying that Hotel Mecure is hiring me, and a stamped envelope. I take the letter, shake their hands, and leave the hotel. I am told to call them back when I receive my card which should be within a week. But knowing that I am in France, I am obviously multiplying this time period by two. Until then I cannot work, and I will not receive a check because I have already worked four days illegally and Olivier could go to prison if it is recorded that they paid me. Wonderful.
Fast forward to this morning. I jump on my bike and ride to the center of town. I go to the worst physical therapy of my life. My doctor asked me how is was and I basically told him that normally when I get massages I can feel it and that maybe he has a different method that I don’t know about. I would call it the “I’m massaging you, but you wouldn’t know it” method. He didn’t like my comment and told me that he has his own way of doing things and that if I didn’t like it….blah blah blah. So I’m burning bridges and it’s not even 11 am yet.
After I go to the Prefecture to get information about whether or not I have to return to the United States to renew my carte de sejour. I wait in a long line that reminds me just how Un-French I am only to find out that they “aren’t sure and I should call back later.”
(For those of you that don’t know, I am staying in France for another year because I got accepted to teach English next year to elementary and high school students in Toulouse!!) (the one good thing in this email…)
Then, since it is now 1:30 and the Cite Administrative is open, I ride my new velo (bike) on over there. By now, I have been riding all over town and I’m wishing that I had splurged and gotten the gel seat. I find the Cite Administrative, building B, and walk on in. I meet a woman who is in dire need of lip balm and say Bonjour. I tell her that I am an etudiante etrangere (foreign student) and that Hotel Mecure wants to hire me. She smiles and her lips crack. I give her the letter from Olivier. Her smile fades. I’m not sure if it’s because she is in pain or because there is something wrong with my letter. Sadly, it’s the latter. She says that the date that marks the first day of employment is missing. There is the final date (sadly July 4, I’m out of work!). But no beginning date. And that, she says, “doesn’t work for her.” My tension is mounting and I’m wondering if I need to find another physical therapist to get rid of the knot that is growing in my neck area.
I call Laurence and explain that the letter is not working out for lip balm lady. Well, she says, you’ll have to stop by this afternoon to get a new letter. Then, you must go back to the Cite Administrative to drop off the new information. I wait for another call telling me that Olivier has written a new letter. I velo it back to the hotel (I have now gone back and forth and back and forth too many times). As I enter his office, he is yelling into a speaker phone, sounding important. He hands me the letter, I shake the man’s hand, and before you know it, I’m on my velo again, biking my booty back to the Cite. I have to get there before 4pm when they close for the day. The French have a 35 hour work week, in case you were wondering. A typical office is open from 9am-11:30am and then from 1:30pm-4pm. Please notice that lunch is two hours. This basically leaves you screwed if you actually have a life and don’t have a lot of free time to be stopping by offices at times that are convenient for them. But that is another gripe, for another story.
I’m back at the Cite. I park the velo, and walk in. The lips crack again upon seeing me enter the office. She is obviously impressed with my velo skills and power over the mighty Olivier. I give her all of my documents and she hands me a receipt. She says that I will receive my card in about eight days. (so, 16). I am not allowed to work until I get it. Fortunately, Laurence and Olivier are going to save my place and Laurence will be the bright eyed and bushy tailed hostesse for the next week or two. She must hate me.
Problem number two. I am looking for an apartment. I have wanted my girlfriend, Amandine’s apartment ever since I saw it way back in October. It’s big, high ceilings, has a WASHING MACHINE (a rarity in studios here!), is clean, new, and is right in the VERY CENTER of town. Basically, your dream apartment. I’ve been holding out on saying yes to other apartments because of this one. I’d been waiting to hear from Amandine so that I could go and look at it to make sure that everything was fine. Then I wanted to go to her agency and tell them that I would take it, here and now. So, I call Amandine. She’s giving an oral presentation and is afraid she is going to miss her train to Paris, so she can not meet with me at the time we had originally discussed. However, she has already informed the agency of her departure in June and so I can go directly to see them myself.
I arrive at the agency. I tell them that I want to talk to someone about Amandine’s apartment. A woman in a very blue power suit comes to talk to me. She asks me questions blah blah blah. Isn’t Amandine’s apartment nice? Oh yes, I love it too..blah blah blah. So we have come to the conclusion that we both want to live there. Then from the background pipes up a man that works at the agency. Apparently, the landlord of that apartment is saving it for his daughter next year. It’s not available. Now I’m having heart palpitations because the apartment of my dreams is slowly falling into jagged pieces of glass and stabbing me in the eye! WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S NOT AVAILABLE??!!!! I’m trying to calm myself down but my dream is lost and the stress is rising.
Power suit lady tells me her name is Mme. Simone and that she would like to talk to me “calmement” downstairs. She can see that she has crushed my dream and she must feel really bad about it I tell myself. I go downstairs and wait for her. I tell her my budget: 450 euros a month. Where I want to live: right next to Amandine’s apartment. What kind of apartment I want: an apartment just like Amandine’s. Clear enough. She then asks me if I have a “Cautionnaire.” A what? A who? “A Cautionnaire.” Basically, someone who lives and works in France and makes three to four times the amount of my rent, who can sign my lease stating that if I don’t pay my rent, he/she will. Normally, this would be my two wonderful parents. Bo and Momo. However, we have a small problem. Neither one lives nor works in France. I thought about all of the people who I know who fit those requirements and I came up with : No one.
I looked at three apartments anyways…..but all the while I was inspecting the surrounding areas for nice parks; parks that might work well for a sturdy box that don’t require cautionnaires to live in.
With all of the recent events, I just wonder why I picked Dance when the Drama department was right next door. I could be writing screen plays with all this material, but instead, I have to burden you all with the re-counting of the tales in a long, five page Word attachment file.