There has been great deal of paperwork to complete in order to change the direction of my life as I once knew it.
As part of my preparations to come to Paris for a long stay, I spent much of April and early May completing a visa application which caused my upper lip to sweat quite regularly as I passed hour upon hour in my local library printing and scanning and filling out forms (in black pen only). I’ve had multiple photos taken – never smiling and with my hair tucked behind my ears, making me look more like a woman in a mugshot newly under arrest for murder, than one seeking a new found freedom in search of an adventure.
Yesterday, I completed my final form, scanned my final document and copied more pages from my passport than you’d care to know about. Filling in the paperwork for the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) while diligently translating any words that posed a level of confusion, I felt a liberation of sorts and smiled as I realised that I might even nearly be done.
This form is to be sent off to the OFII with a copy of my passport and all stamped pages as proof that I’ve arrived, and if successful, it will enable me to renew my visa (should I wish) at the end of the twelve months currently granted.
My favourite question on the OFII form (and all forms relating to French bureaucracy, it would seem), is lieu de naissance (place of birth). It always makes me happy to write Warrnambool, Australia – a regional city about half an hour from where I grew up on a farm and about as far away from Paris as anywhere in the world. Second probably only to Launceston, Tasmania, where yesterday a new life began at the hands of my sister and her husband who welcomed their first child, my third nephew.
I received this news as I was heading out the door to Scoopy- a photocopy and scanning shop a short walk from my apartment, via the Jardin du Luxembourg and along the Rue Guynemer. I first found Scoopy when I was studying at the Alliance Française in Paris two years ago (where I was overwhelmed with the amount of enrolment forms required to study in a five week course).
The man who runs the store is very kind and is always accompanied by a small fluffy white dog who guards les ordinateurs (the computers) with sharp teeth and a frequent yap en français.
Due to the rate in which the French hand out paperwork and the love they have for requesting and processing multiple copies of the aforementioned paperwork, I have become quite the regular at Scoopy. Yesterday, as I marked Warrnambool as my lieu de naissance before making certain that I’d also marked ‘English’ as my spoken language in preparation my upcoming interview, I thought fondly of my new little nephew, brimming with pride. Navigating the French keyboard and pressing imprimer (print) over and over again, I wondered if he too would one day sit in a French copy shop with beads of sweat on his upper lip as he navigated foreign forms entering ‘Launceston’ as his own lieu de naissance.
The heatwave passed on Thursday night and I celebrated with a glass of rosé with the windows open, allowing the cool breeze to cleanse the apartment. The fan has been retired for the time being and I am now back into my favourite trousers and shoes – I learnt the hard way with trousers and shoes in Paris, with the shops only stocking a version of both more petit than the word itself, and I therefore always travel to France with an excess of luggage made up of just the bottom half of my outfit.
Yesterday on my walk home from Scoopy, decked out in my favourite lace up shoes and pink jeans, I decided un petit verre de champagne (a small glass of champagne) was in order to celebrate our newest family member. Stopping at Germain, a suitably chic restaurant in the strip of shops and cafés at the end of my street, I was greeted by a beautiful waitress who set me up with a table in the sun as I blubbered (in my best excited French) that my youngest sister had delivered a baby boy in Australia that morning.
‘Pour William,’ (for William) she smiled as she left me with a delicious glass of Veuve and from there, I spent the next two hours sifting through my mountain of forms and scans, sneaking in only a handful of peeks at photos of my newly minted nephew.
Life on the family property half an hour away from my lieu de naissance was an all female affair – Mum and Dad had (and still have) four daughters – all of whom are my closest friends. We teased, taunted, loved and supported each other (always unconditionally) and we also fought our fair share of serious wars over important things like Barbie caravans – which led to ‘do not enter’ signs being written in bold pen guided by a firm hand before being stuck with the stickiest of tape, onto our bedroom doors.
We’ve lived together, laughed until we’ve cried together and have cried until we’ve laughed together, and as I type this a million miles from home, I feel a love for these three girls greater than ever before. I’m now an Aunt to three of the most beautiful young boys, with another little person due to arrive in September as the third in line of four prepares for her own first child.
Our sisterhood is now filled with more men than I could have ever contemplated – not forgetting there are also three other (grown) men who have bravely joined our family, and I will close by dedicating this blog to William James Affleck Weeding. Congratulations Sophie and Nick.
Finally, and on a completely unrelated matter I do need to note that les pompiers (the firemen) were on the streets yesterday selling raffle tickets. I had to duck behind the newspaper stand in fear that had they spoken to me, I probably would have needed to be taken away in une ambulance. It is no myth that the men who fight fires in this country are very, very easy on the eye.
Pictured: mes sœurs et moi (my sisters and me, circa 1985). The baby in the middle is now a new mum.