Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cause for concern

It's been a tough week. It started Monday morning when my boss told me plus a colleague who has only recently joined the workplace that our jobs are at risk. If shit hits fan we'll be the most vulnerable, the first to go. Was this done in a thoughtful way with consideration? Not at all, standing in the print room where anyone could come in, made to sound like it's our fault. It's not, of course. These are risky times but the crisis is only part of the reason. I can't discuss possible reasons at this time. But this is a catastrophic thing to say to me. I have everything to lose, more than anyone else at work.

I recently took out a bank loan in order to be able to buy basic furniture for my apartment. I didn't own so much as a bed or a tin opener prior to my move out of the depressing old studio. So, knowing that my contract had been renewed for another year I made a commitment to France. With no job I'm not able to stay in France. I lose my home, my only friend, this country, my dream, my income- my existence really. I don't even know how I'd even get back to NZ. How would I find the money to bring my bits and bobs back? No car, no home I could afford to live in, no job and probably no unemployment benefit for months. This is not a prospect that aids sleep. So I'm not sleeping well.

The previously mentioned furniture is STILL not all in a functioning state. Four months after I ordered it I have a head board, sides and foot of my bed lying around. My dresser still misses a functioning drawer. My bedside table has no way of closing the door properly because the first guy broke the key and the second guy put the door on the wrong side. My wardrobe door is still buckled and needs replacing. There's part of a dresser (a part I don't need as I've already got it) propped up in my little hallway. From time to time I receive a letter in the mail to tell me a screw has arrived. I might get a separate one telling me a hinge has arrived, a few weeks later I might be told a nail has arrived. Wow! On a rare occasion a guy might arrive to install something but, wouldn't you know it, he doesn't have the right screwdriver so he leaves. He's the official installer. I paid a lot of money to have my furniture put together but not one guy has been able to do his job, and they don't care. There is no accountability because he's contracted. But when it all goes wrong I, or often JC, have to make the endless phone calls, visit distribution centres to identify types of screws, be around when the installer visits (and then abruptly leaves having done nothing). This is France. There is no concept of service. If you buy anything you take a risk.

Months after I paid a lot of money to have the internet and pay TV installed I've only NOW got the TV working (reliably I hope). I've been through 2 routers and 3 decoders. Each time we've had to go miles to find a decoder and queue for it. Each time JC has spent hours waiting at my place or on the phone listening to endless menus. This is a hopeless way to run a business but it's happening all the time it seems to me here. They have no idea of service, effective business strategy or management. It seems to be one a very unproductive country. Dysfunctional. The one company I CAN rely on to get it right is DARTY, a national appliance and electronics chain. Just goes to show it's possible to get it right if a company actually wants to.

I'm STILL waiting for my Titre de Sejour - my legal entitlement to live and work in France. The application was done months ago. I waited with my temporary one. That's about to expire with no sign of the legal/real one. JC made enquiries months ago only to be told the department of immigration is having a restructure, it's all a mess, nothing ever gets done during the frequent and lengthy school holidays, someone on holiday- too bad, no one's following my case. A woman at the prefecture knew I was in the system and advised I come back two weeks before my temporary was due to expire. I did. So what, I was told by someone else to go away and  I'd have to wait until it expired in case by chance it arrived. Hell, that would make me illegal. Worse, without a valid SdJ I don't get paid. I went away empty handed having been told he'd try to put my file near the top for priority consideration, WTF. This is all guaranteed to create anxiety.

 My Carte Vitale (health card) hasn't been functioning for months. I received conflicting information from doctors and pharmacists. One pharmacist told me it had been cancelled. I thought this might be because of moving to a different region-it's all so complicated here. I took time off work to go to the bureau and investigate it. I was told it was in hand and that I'd receive a letter in 15 days telling me to go to a pharmacy to activate it. I've been waiting 2 months. Without it I pay full price with no reimbursements for doctors and pharmacy visits even though I'm paying for this in my taxes. More time off work and another visit to the prefecture to be told that people on a salary have to prove they are employed each year in order to have it renewed. JC had never heard of this. No-one had told me this-they just cut it off. My previous visit had not told me that either even though I'd brought pay slips that time- she'd said they weren't necessary.

I will have to come back yet AGAIN with various proofs that I'm working in order to get it all going again. Yet the tax department is very efficient and knows I am working. The government departments have no integration at all. This can all do your head in when you come from a simpler, better organised country like New Zealand. It's also scary because these departments can make life in France impossible for one or miserable at best. Appreciating this comes slowly to me- it's really difficult to accept this way of doing things. Just because that's the way it is doesn't make it any good. It's not that I'm anti-French, far from it- I'm just relating what actually happens to me in real life.

 There are some great things about France. I want to become a French citizen but I hope I can survive- literally survive- long enough. In the meantime, it's not a lot of fun right now. I'm scared about my future or lack of. It's extremely stressful never knowing where you can live in the world from one day to the next, if you can work again in your life, how you will spend old age, if you will lose your only friend. Will I be reduced to absolutely nothing again? How do I pick myself up and carry on again if that happens? How would I live knowing I gave it everything and still lost it all with no hope of getting any of it back? These worries may account for the significant chronic pain I have now-I really need that health card. I haven't lost my vision, nor my determination, nor my sense of humour. I'll hang in there for all I'm worth and fight for what I want. I'm just a little tired...


Defogger said...

Bummer! Sounds like the bureaucrats are swarming this summer. It is too their advantage to have no rules or too many rules because they can then be the god of interpretation, and since they are not accountable,... it is butter on their bread, being able to play god. It is jam on their butter to enjoy the struggle and frustration of the minions who come from afar to worship them. Oh, were they supposed to be working?
So your capacity to turn over stones and boulders that hide the worst of the idiosyncrasies of any country is surely delivering in buckets.
Wishing you all the best. I definitely don't want you failing on your French quest.
Warm wishes heading your way.

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