Friday, November 30, 2012

I'm a Legal Immigrant Again...and Obese (A.K.A. Trip to Nantes)

For the third time in my American life, I found myself with the task of having to pay a visit to my good friends at the Office Français de l'Immigration et de l'Intégration (the OFII), and a couple of things have changed since my last doctor's appointment back in 2010.

For starters, this round of The Famous French Paperwork featured the sticker which validates my current visa. It changed. It is no longer a yellow sticker with an adhesive transparent covering; it is a multi-colored sticker that is divided into small, tear-away bits to prevent people from falsifying any documents.

Of course having original documents is part and parcel of the deluge of passport-sized photos and photocopies involved in la bonne paperasse française.

Barb the French Bean Fact: I keep two passport-sized photos in my wallet at all times.

Well, not at all times. Here is this one exception:

Wallet and photos. Never leave home without 'em. 

As of this writing, the pictures have been safely tucked away into my wallet's interior once more. I provide so many photos that I have seriously begun to consider buying my own photomaton picture booth so it can provide me with an infinite number of passport-sized photos for the rest of my life.

As for the doctor's appointment (la visite medicale), I learned that the procedure of having to go topless for the tuberculosis X-rays was still intact. In case you were wondering, my lungs are fine.

Back in that fateful November 2010 day, I also had the joy of finding out that I had lost a total 44 pounds (20 kilos) since I had started to work out during the summer months. My celebration was later crushed by Dr. Killjoy when she stated clinically that I was overweight and that I still needed to lose another 30 pounds (14-15 kilos).  

Like I said, a couple of things have changed since I visited the familiar OFII in Dijon and replaced it with the one in Nantes. Based on the scale, I am no longer overweight if not OBESE. Yes, my BMI teeters above 30, which automatically places me in the "obese" category. At least I am making my country proud with the stereotype that all Americans are overweight or obese.

This is the cartoon I made when I was told  by the doctor to lose more weight two years ago. The sad part is that I actually resemble the cartoon in real life now...

Not only was facing the hard truth a wake up call, when the doctor pricked my finger to sample my blood, she informed me that my sugar level was 3 points above what should be normal for someone my age.

For those of you not in the know, I'm currently 25 years old. I probably shouldn't be hearing things like that.

If that doesn't send up a proverbial red flag, then I don't know what does. 

Not wanting to slide down the proverbial slippery slope and end up with a dreaded case of "diabeetus" by the time I'm 33 (ack), I asked the doctor if she could direct me to a nutritionist, STAT.

The French doctor, being very keen about prevention and keeping people healthy with effective socialized medicine, wrote a referral in heartbeat. I'm supposed to take it to my general practitioner, which I will do once I have one.

This act, to my knowledge, is known as "envoyer quelqu'un chez un généraliste vers un spécialiste." The "spécialiste" in this scenario would be le nutritionniste, and if I know my French doctors, le généraliste will give me plenty of ordonnances so I can have some happy pills medicine.

Weight and blood sugar issues aside, I'm in relatively tip-top health and the doctor complimented on how well I spoke and understood French. She said that I had the makings of someone who could reside in France in the long-run, and that made my heart all a-flutter to hear such a nice thing.

Right after the visite medicale, I took the initiative and purchased myself a nifty pedometer (un podomètre) so I can keep track of how many steps I take and calories I burn a day. Some of the crucial first steps to a successful weight loss are being honest with yourself and being aware of your actions. I think of it this way: the chocolate binges that I don't partake in today means that I will be able to enjoy them 40 to 50 years from now. (Now I only have to stop eating so many alcoholic chocolates and slices of fluffy brioche with apricot jam...)

I also purchased a copy of The Hunger Games in French, which made me one very happy French Bean.

Happy France gives an approximation of where things are

Visiting Nantes, by the way, was a personal Francophile dream come true. Not only did I revel in the historical significance of being in THE city where Henri IV of Navarre signed the famous edict, thereby giving a short-lived peace between the Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots, I also took some lovely photographs about the Duchesse Anne castle, former seat for the Dukes of Brittany.

The monument on the right is Nantes's tribute to its fallen soldiers.

I really liked this wall.

My mother often complains that whenever I travel, I take approximately 10,000 photos of my surroundings and only 1 of myself. LOOK. PROOF THAT I WAS BY THE WALL.

Inside the courtyard area!


April 13th, 1598: the day when the Edict of Nantes was signed, granting religious tolerance to Protestants.  

'Tis an awesome well.

The museum is closed on Mondays. It made me sad but gave me an incentive to return someday.

View over the wall. Things sure have changed since Henri IV was around.

Banner showing some Breton symbols.

Old and new side-by-side.

Outside of the castle, I took a left turn and walked further into the city.

I found it kinda odd that the statue of the Duchesse Anne faced a run-down, graffiti-littered hotel that bears her name.

What the heck?

As usual, the French don't disappoint when they decorate their buildings in scaffolding. 

Another moment of serendipity: I realized that based on the architectural style, this building's a former covered market (les halles).

After my doctor's appointment, I headed back to the train station but took a detour into the park. My brain went into an unfiltered "OMG IT'S FALL AND TREES AND STUFF" mode.

Do NOT get between goats and their chow.

I never expected to find a Cypress tree in France. 

Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.

Being in Nantes, walking in a bustling city that I had only read about in textbooks when I sat in my university classes, made me feel like a kid at a Disney World candy shop. As a Floridian who has been to Disney World eight times, it's a familiar sentiment. France is the country where I truly relish living.

Another memorable point to my day in Nantes: out of curiosity, I stopped by a Breton language school and asked the kind and proud Bretonne lady some things about the Celtic-origin language that is taught and still actively-spoken in France. We ended up reminiscing for half an hour about the values of being an open-minded bi-lingual person and how the knowledge of several languages benefits being able to interact with all kinds of people.

I also walked out of the Ofis ar Brezhoneg with these snazzy "Learn Breton" pamphlets.

The language is absolutely incomprehensible to me, but maybe I'll buck up and try to learn it someday. Some of my co-workers are Bretons themselves so maybe I can ask them for tips, especially from the cute one.

Kenavo (good-bye) from Barb the French Bean