It's my sixth time to spend the 4th of July in France. I have to admit it was never my favorite holiday when I was stateside, but I do sort of miss it now that I can't celebrate it properly. And just by coincidence I did something today that reminds me of my nationality: going to the French administrative office (la préfecture) to renew my visa that allows me to live and work here legally.
This used to be my least favorite activity in the world when I lived in Lille. I had to get up at ungodly hours to stand in line outside their ugly, unfriendly Préfecture to wait for the equally unfriendly guards to open the doors and look at our passports and give us a number. Then I'd wait inside in offices that were screaming to be remodeled often to be told conflicting things by civil servants who desperately needed vacations or transfers to Martinique.
But in my new city it has been smooth sailing. I just walk in when I want and wait a minimal amount of time. Today I asked a fellow foreigner if I needed to go to the reception first. But he didn't speak French. Later I heard one of his friends speaking English with one of the employees so I asked where they were from. Sudan in Africa. I told them I was American and they said, "First country in the world." I didn't want to come across as one of those smug Americans who thinks her country is better than everyone else's. So, I said, something like, but not Bush. Then the guy said, "Obama." I guess it's true that many African countries are watching the campaign closely since his father is from the continent. When the employee called my name to give me my temporary visa, one of the guys said, "America." I imagine most of these guys would love to have a chance to live there. It's hard enough for them to make it in France not knowing the language.
Must be my international day, 'cause at the bakery, after I asked for my bread, the baker asked me "Is that all?" in English. Then we talked a bit about where I was from. He knew about the south and of course had the stereotypes of our racist past. I tried to tell him things were better now. He was born in Morocco and made a joke that Moroccan and American almost sounded the same. Well, letter-wise, I suppose we can give it to him.
I don't think I'm gonna make anything particularly American for dinner today. But I wouldn't mind having a nice light mayonnaise potato salad, juicy hamburger, a slice of watermelon and some Barber's ice cream air mailed to me. Mom, are you taking notes?