Friday, March 9, 2007

Nancy's Brain

I realize I’ve been silent from the blog lately, but I haven’t been slouching. I have been doing homework. I have a blank book in which I write my “To Do” lists, notes to myself, little tidbits of research I’m collecting---my version of a day timer. Doug calls it ‘Nancy’s Brain’, and when I’ve misplaced it all hell breaks loose. Right now it’s chock full of all the various forms, phone calls, documents, letters, quotes, appointments, etc. I’m trying to arrange before we leave for France again.

I’ve run into some obstacles that have me scratching my head in disbelief … I’ll take a few minutes to share a few with you….

Some of you may already know that I was married once before, divorced nearly 30 years ago. Apparently it is a quaint custom of the French government to ensure their homeland that I am not a bigamist, and I am required to produce a copy of the divorce decree---which I probably round-filed on the day of the dissolution. Now, to get Boulder Co. Courthouse to call me back. No proof, no house?

Very accidentally one day I came across information on passport restrictions in the Schengen countries (most of Western Europe) and discovered that we were only legally able to remain in France for 90 days without a visa (and I don’t mean the credit card). I have to admit that just the fact that such a restriction exists ticked me off, limiting my option to stay longer if we wanted. So, what could be so difficult about getting a visa?

I eventually located the French Embassy website listing locations, hours of operation, and most important: Who Needs a visa? The Visa de long Sejour made opening a French bank account kid’s stuff. First of all, no visa is issued by mail or over the phone---only in person---period. All the documents submitted in English have to be translated into French. Allow 2 – 3 months for processing. Four application forms and 5 passport photos. Include dates of arrival and departure. Attach a letter from your health insurance company confirming that you are covered for those very specific dates; if not, purchase travel insurance. Attach bank statements and brokerage statements guaranteeing at least 1800 Euro per person per month. Include property deed. Include Letter from local police stating that you have no criminal record. Lastly, write a letter certifying that you will not have any paid activity in France, the purpose of your stay and your motivation. Oh, and make 3, no, 4, no better make it 5 copies of everything just to be safe. Then make your online appointment, but be certain because once you make the appointment you can’t change it! Gotta love the warm, charming reception of the French.

So, I’m thinking after reading this, IS THIS A JOKE? I try calling the San Francisco Embassy, keep getting a recorded choice for “Press 2 for English” and that’s the last English I ever hear. I go back to the website and learn that they only take phone calls 2:30 – 5:00. I call the Houston Embassy, thinking that since we are going to ship our Toyota truck out of Houston, they would be the one to go to anyway. Right? Wrong. Utah is not under the jurisdiction of the Houston office. There is no way my residency in Utah could possibly be verified by anyone in the Houston office. RULE #1: Do not ask the French government to change any rule.

Back to waiting to call San Francisco, finally. Just by chance, I ask them about switching the venue to Houston. It doesn’t go over well. Oh well. San Francisco it is. But the good news is, they have added yet another visa not quite listed on the website, a Sejour Temporaire, which accommodates us non-terrorists better. We can stay up to 6 months, can produce our papers in English, only a couple extra copies necessary, no police clearance, and may get the visa the same day. But we still get to write the letter about what we want to do on our summer vacation. And, as they say on their website:1 passport = 1 visa = 1 appointment, so I had to make two separate appointments for Doug and myself. Changes in appointments are now being accepted.

The old Toyota pickup is going to have a new home in France. We are arranging to ship it in a shared container from Houston to Rotterdam. There is also a RO/RO “roll on/roll off service where cars are loaded like on the Seattle ferries, but the lead time is longer, they sail less frequently, and the vehicle must be 100% empty. In a shared container, we can load up the camper shell and passenger and jump seats with tools, clothes and other personal possessions. The crossing takes on average 28 days, so at some point we will either drive, rail or fly to somewhere in the vicinity of Rotterdam to pick old “Smokey” up. I don’t even want to think about going through Customs at that end. Once we have it there we’re committed. Then the next hurdle is navigating through the red tape of getting it registered and licensed in France. Which, because it is an older vehicle, will probably require some sort of major transplant sanctioned by the French government.

Renting a car or the supposedly cheaper lease buyback option for several months every time we come will get expensive. And buying an “unknown” vehicle is always dicey, whereas Smokey has been like a Boy Scout all these years: trustworthy, reliable, etc.

One last comment, faithful readers, I find the discourse about ‘americanizing’ our French house very interesting. I guess you’ll just have to come and judge for yourselves.


Anonymous said...

When I mentioned earlier that you were "courageous" to go on this adventure...I underestimated the RED TAPE you would encounter! Luke thinks you deserve the "Legion of Honor" (I don't know the correct French spelling!)for steadfastly advancing the cause of Franco-American understanding (or is it mis-understanding?) Good luck with getting your truck and it's contents to Leran without too much pain! I have to admit though...the picture of you with the goofy glasses does make you look like a terrorist! HA!

Noah said...

when I was married to Olga and dealing with the Russian embassy here in Seattle I made some conclusions about them in general. One day I showed up for my appointment only to have them slam the little doors shut over the desk and decide to have lunch. They told me to wait.
So I had a good hour or so to sit there and reminisce about Russian governmental practices.
More on next post

Noah said...

It seemed to me that in the embassy they know that legally they occupy a small piece of land that is actually a piece of Mother Russia, and surrouded by non Russians they were more Russian than even Russia. I think embassy workers create a hyper cultural environment where every little cultural trait is amplified by 10. Expect them to be VERY french in all the good and bad ways you can think.