Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'm a Legal Immigrant Now. And I'm Overweight.

Even though I am in possession of a French long-stay worker visa, as part of the procedure of residing in France for a period past 3 months, all English teaching assistants who come from outside of the European Union have to pass through the Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration, aka the OFII, to have their stay officially approved. (If you expect me to type out that mouthful of a French organization's name every time I mention it, then you are dead wrong.)

This means that I had to deal with a slew of French paperwork and passport-sized photos once again.

I am no stranger to the OFII. I went through the same process last year and I had to do it yet again. Essentially, I needed to undergo a medical examination to prove that I was in good health and to keep me trapped in France until I got clearance in the form of a yellow sticker that gets pasted in my passport.

Just like last year, there were quite a few assistants who had their own rendez-vous scheduled for the same day and time as my appointment. From what I experienced, the moment consisted of much waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Eventually, my 3 hour wait came to an end when the nurse announced it was my turn to be processed. She asked me a few health-related questions and told me to stand on the scale. I was a bit surprised that the scale in her office was not the nice, large expensive scale that has the dials that slide back and forth but just a regular bathroom scale. "This cannot possibly work well," I thought. On top of that, I had weighed myself earlier that morning to see that I had only lost 17.4 kilos (38.7 pounds). I removed my shoes and stood my ground.

I blinked. I couldn't believe it.

The scale said that I had lost 20 KILOS.

How is it possible that I was suddenly 2.5 kilos lighter? Something must be wrong with the scale...

I mounted off the contraption then back on to see if I saw a difference. 20 kilos.

Perhaps my scale was off? Perhaps I really did lose 20 kilos?

How much is 20 kilos in pounds anyway?



At that moment, nothing could possibly deflate my moment of glory. NOTHING.

The second step in the medical examination was the chest X-rays. I needed to be checked for tuberculosis, and that meant going topless for the procedure. Oh, and I was wearing a dress that day. Yaaaaaaay...

I stripped off my dress and stood in nothing but my panties. I walked into the ominous machine and pressed my upper body against a frigid surface. The nurse told me to inhale deeply and to hold my breath. Then it was over.

I don't have tuberculosis! And I am now the proud owner of a cumbersome chest X-rays that won't fit anywhere in my room! Success!

I finally made it to the third stage and found myself face-to-face with the OFII doctor who shall refer to as Dr. Tuejoie (kill joy). Dr. Tuejoie, a typical petite Française who was as thin as a rake and looked as if she had never had to in her entire life struggle with her weight at all, looked at the stats the infermière had written down and asked me the regular doctor's visit questions: if I was taking any medications, if I had any allergies, if I practiced protected sex, etc. She also inquired if I was married. I said no. She looked confused.

Based on the document in front of her, my surname, thus the maiden name, had been listed as my married name. "Oh, there's a mistake," she announced as she calmly passed a strip of white out on the offending lie. For a brief moment, I experienced a slight twinge of panic. From what I remembered from my medical examination last year, the yellow sticker comes all the way from Paris. The OFII in Dijon doesn't print it out if not it is shipped from Paris. If there is a mistake like, say, a misspelling of a name, an incorrect digit of an address or even a difference about one's marital status, then I would have to wait another two weeks to have a corrected sticker arrive from the capital city. If that were to happen, it honestly would not be that big of a deal, but it would mean that I would have to YET AGAIN spend more time just waiting for something to be resolved.

She then glanced at my stats and, without hesistation announced "You are overweight, and your BMI is 29.7." (That is still much better than the BMI of 31.68 about a month ago!)

"But according to your scale, I've lost 20 kilos," I replied, refusing to have my weight loss belittled by a technicality.

"Ah, really? Well, I suggest you lose another 14 or 15 kilos."

I am actually estatic about my weight loss because for the first time in over 2 years, I am technically no longer obese if not overweight. Dr. Tuejoie recommended that if I were to lose 30.8-33 pounds more, I would finally be thin and fall within the normal range.

Still, I wished she had exalted my weight loss a bit. I'm an American, for cryin' out loud. If I don't have my humongous ego massaged by encouragments and compliments at least once a day, I feel absolutely worthless.

Still, I have decided to follow Dr. Killjoy's suggestion and aim to shed those 14 or 15 kilos. As much as I want to meet my Shakira-hotness goal, I have to also accept the fact that my body type physically differs from the Colombian megastar. My main focus should just be to become a healthier, happier me. But Shakira had still better watch her back...

Anyway, in the fourth and final hurdle for my OFII procedure, I had to wait some more to receive the medical form signed by the doctor and see the highly disorganized secretary.

He asked me to come into his office and I sat down in the chair across from his desk. While ruffling through the massive stacks of folders and papers inundating his desk, he asked me a few questions. This lasted for a good three minutes until he admitted that he could not find my paperwork.

Me: Uh, you did receive them, didn't you?

Him: Yes, yes, of course we've received them. I just have misplaced them.

After a couple of minutes, he found my set of documents nestled on pile that was on the floor. He then asked for my passport to place the yellow sticker in one of the clean pages...and he nearly forgot to stamp it with the date! I quickly reminded him of placing the date before he covered the sticker with a protective film. I can now safely cross the French border and not have the risk of not being allowed back into the country.

Now all I need to do is to find another job that will provide me with a long-stay work contract so I can extend my visa.

Barb the French Bean


  1. First of all, congratulations. That's an amazing accomplishment.

    Second of all, f@#$ doctor's charts. I'm just saying. At my SKINNIEST - when I was a gaunt face and my ribs poked out front and back, my weight - according to the doctor's charts - *still* put me on the cusp of overweight and obese. I'm 5'8" and I was wearing a size SIX at the time.

    Those calculations are obsolete and they don't take frame size or musculature into account.

  2. Yeah, what Tricia said.

    I haven't been "normal" weight for 17 years and guess what? I don't give a shit. (Consequently, I have NEVER been "normal" at all, really).

    I say CONGRATS to you baby!! Keep it up!

  3. Tricia and Amber:

    Thanks so much for your encouragements! I do agree that the BMI is not exactly the best way to measure one's weight but it does give me an idea of where I should be aiming.

    Still, as it is with my body type, my weight is evenly spread out so I tend to look less than what I actually weigh (which is not bad).

    Trust me, I am *going* to keep it up! Yesterday, I cracked and bought a nice French dress that cost at least 3 weeks worth of food for me but guess what? It is a FRENCH dress that FITS ME and flatters my figure. I have always wanted to find something like that in France!

    -Barb the French Bean

  4. Barb congrats on losing 44 pounds! That is a lot of weight! Another enjoyable blog post. I need to come by here more often. :)
    Melody (Starbucks Melody)

  5. 44 pounds is a hell of a lot Barb, congratulations.

  6. Congratulations, 44 pounds is A LOT, and you must look great, no matter what the silly, rather rude Dr. says.

  7. LOL I am just addicted to your blog now. i just happened upon it and absolutely love it. i can totally relate- i'm an american living out of country too and know what it is like dealng with foreign governments. except i lvie in latin america where everything is about 25 years behind. lol i'm also trying to lose weight- what is your secret? how are you losing weight? that's what my blog is about- my journey to lose weight and kick the sugar habit due to a recent blood sugar problemi was diagnosed with. hope you'll stop by and check it out sometime. i've only been writing it for about a month now. addictedtosugar.blogspot.com

  8. New Diet Taps into Innovative Plan to Help Dieters LOSE 20 Pounds within Just 21 Days!


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb