- I officially turned in my request for French nationality on the 24th of May 2009.
- I then received a letter saying that I had an interview at the Prefecture de Nice in November 2009.
- On September 7th 2010 I called the Prefecture de Nice to see how my file was moving along. It was then that I learned that I had been French since August 27th 2010.
- On September 9th 2010 I received a letter confirming what I had been told over the phone and informing me that within 6 months I would receive another letter with information about my official documents etc.
- On September 16th 2010 I tried to get a French ID card using the letter that I had been sent telling me that I was officially French. It was then that I learned that I needed to wait for the "ceremonie". Ahhhh - who knew!
So I waited knowing very well that I could be waiting quite awhile before the famous ceremony information was sent my way.
France, I just want to say, wow - way to go. Big pat on the back for you my friend. Even though none of your worker minions knew what the hell was going on most of the time, you managed to pull through in the face of adversity. Gold stars all around for France!
Just last week I got THE CEREMONIE LETTER telling me that I could do one of two things:
I could go to the Prefecture on October 26th to turn in my request for my French ID card and therefore receive it at the ceremony on November 10th OR I could just turn up at the ceremony and deal with my ID card later.
Never one to refuse the offer from France to show up at the Prefecture at a precise time instead of waiting in line for 8 hours like the rest of the population, I decided to go to the rendez-vous on October 26th. They even warned us to prévoir une demi-journée - plan to stay half a day...how thoughtful.
I was nervous, I was running late and I was determined to re-do my ID photos so that my first French ID card would have a picture of how I looked at the time I learned I was French (I know, I know). The French gods were obviously looking down on me that day - there was a photo booth in the Cité metro stop and I got it on the first try - bam! Take that France!
This didn't prevent me from going to the wrong part of the Prefecture and having to take a long walk along the Seine to get to the right part but I finally made it to the Salle Marianne (the Marianne room) complete with Nicolas Sarkozy's photo, a French flag and Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité written on the wall. I felt French already.
The essence of France: bleu, blanc, rouge and lots of paperwork
I waited in line expecting to be standing there for at least two hours when I was surprisingly greeted by two stoutly French women who took our photos and placed them on what can only be described as a serving tray. Whatever works right? We were instructed to take a seat and were then given a crash course in "Filling Out your ID Request Form 101". We were told that if we didn't know our height that they had a measuring stick there for our use - I was again so incredibly impressed with the planning that obviously went into this rendez-vous. I began to wonder if they hadn't they been secretly taking lessons from the Anglophones...
I looked around the room - people of all colors, all nationalities, all ages were there with me - and we all had something very special in common: we had worked hard to go through the system and to ultimately be French. And we had made it. This was what we had been waiting for.
I wanted to reach out and congratulate each and every one of them but my new Frenchness told me not to -- only an American would do that right? Even still, I felt close to these people and just as happy for them as I was for myself. We had all been through the gamut (some much more than others) to get to this very moment.
We all got copies of our French birth certificates to help us fill out our ID request forms. I noticed that France had made a few small mistakes (mais bon, on est en France n'est pas?). My last name now had a space where before there was none AND my street name was completely wrong, but eh - those are just les détails right? I wasn't about to slow down the process by complaining about a little space or about my street name...so voila. Tant pis, c'est comme ça. The French FrenchCannesCannes will have a last name with a space.
I measured myself in meters, I turned in my documents (secretly took a photo- see above) and I left after only 2 hours of Prefecture galère. It was the least painful Prefecture experience I've had in 6 years.
Outside, I felt like Paris was congratulating me. A man played the accordion on the bridge and the sun was shining in such a way that the Seine sparkled, creating a glow around the buildings on the banks.
Due to my running late I hadn't had time to eat and the pangs of hunger were starting to get stronger. I decided to bypass the bran biscuits in my purse and treat myself to a very French breakfast. And that's just what I did at Chatelet, in a warm café where the Parisians bustle by the café windows. Just me, the Française, and my French petit-déjeuner.