Tag Archives: language

Test Day

Last week, in the wee hours of the morning, I headed off to the train station to make my way to Clermont-Ferrand, where l’Office français d’immigration et integration, aka the OFII, had ordained that I and a couple hundred other immigrants to this fine country should take our test of the French language.  It was still dark outside as I half-walked, half-ran to the station – and not because I was late, but because it was so freaking cold.  The streets were bare save for one truck shooting salt out onto the pavement and another picking up garbage.  Just me and the streetlights and that most silent part of the day, before the world has kicked into gear.  Then – at volume:


Criminey.  I nearly peed myself.  It was M, a former classmate – Ukranian – making her way the same direction.  We did that penguiney power-shuffle together the rest of the way, not talking much as our faces were buried in our scarves.  At the door of the station was M2 – Romanian – and Y – Chinese, the former waiting for M and the latter for me, both of them standing with hands shoved deeply in pockets and chins tucked deeply in scarves.  It was not warm.

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Rambling into 2013: An update

I think I’ve always been a bit of an all-or-nothing type.  I’m melodramatic and a bit self-involved quite a lot of the time, much to the annoyance of anyone who loves me and many who don’t.  A knock-on effect of those tendencies happens to be that I give something a go and if it doesn’t work out, I let it go pretty easily.  I don’t give up, mind – I just shift.  My attention.  My effort.  My raison d’être.

When I was 15 I thought I might be a writer.  By 17 I was hoping to fall head-first into rockstardome.  At 18 I boarded a plane to Manila.  Said I to me, “Either animals, children, or music…that’s gotta be it.”  By the time I boarded the plane back to LA I was set upon working with kids.  Homeless kids, to be exact.  And I did – much more than I ever did poetry or rocking out.  But life has, in the past couple of years, led me in a number of different directions, and so I’ve found myself doing the things life has led me to do.  Most of those things haven’t involved homeless children…or children at all, really.

The last year has been an interesting one.  At the start of it, I was feeling rather zen about all of it, like things were sure to fall in place if I just kept my head about me and stayed focused.  I suppose things did fall into place, if by “things” I didn’t mean “money” and by “place” I didn’t mean “my bank account.”

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A contradiction, sort of…

Remember that time when I was all like, “Yeah – you have to give to get, the more you put out the more you bring in, blah-freaking-blah-blah”? OK – most of the time, that’s true.  But I think I’ve found my first exception.

Last weekend I had to attend an obligatory course on la vie en France – a full day learning about how the health system works, buying or renting a home, getting French citizenship, and getting a job.  That last bit was particularly interesting.  I learned that if a person has a degree, or a whole bunch of paid or voluntary experience in a particular field, France will often honor that background by giving said person a French equivalent degree or qualification, thereby making it much easier for employers to find an immigrant appropriately qualified for a post.

Excellent, I thought.  Sign me up!

So I made an appointment with the lady who handles that for our region.  At first I thought Chris would definitely need to go with me, but after speaking with her over the phone, I decided I could hack it alone…she was nice, spoke slowly, and obviously was accustomed to dealing with foreigners like yours truly, so we’d be OK.

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Spit it out. Or don’t.

Picture it:  we’ve just flown into Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.  It’s nearing midnight, we’ve been flying for 12- and 16 hours respectively and are destroyed.  We know that our accommodation won’t be perfect – the last time we stayed there, we had to wait an hour for the room to be prepared, the trash bin in the bathroom was strategically placed under the sink’s piping since water gushed into it each time the sink was turned on, there was no air conditioning and no screens on the windows to keep out potential roaches, mosquitoes, etc.

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