Last week was a downer, and I will never forgive March. I mean depressing, discouraging, disappointing, a real down-right downer. The kind they make movies out of, because in the end all you can do is gather all your woes together (provided they are not too serious) and pour them into a bottle of a wine with a friend. Everyone laughs at the end of a bottle of wine shared around common frustrations.
It all began with the heat. Again, you say? Yes, and you will say again again before long. When I arrived chez moi after a difficult return journey on Sunday the 28th, I found the heater had gone on strike, as anything French is wont to do. Conditions have been worse in the apartment, if you will recall my return from Christmas break to an unheated apartment and sluggish heater. By comparison, that story ended happily. Last week’s saga ended with a reprimand from the gas company, who argued we had never paid our bills, neglecting the fact that we have yet to receive a single one. Although using utilities for six months without paying may seem odd, it does fall into the venerable tradition of colossal French paperwork and goes the way of, say, my housing assistance.
On Monday morning, still without heat, I awoke to a dear FedEx package that cost me a hefty price to receive. But I was grateful, seeing as a second package that had been delivered just after my departure could no longer be found by the Poste. They are still looking.
But this was a minor sum compared to the large charge sitting on my account from the phone company. I had settled my grievances with Orange and graciously pardoned them last month, when for all my troubles I was finally reimbursed, and then some. Well, the “and then some” is now the problem, as Orange has figured that it over-reimbursed me, and now has over-billed us. Since I am now an expert in French phone negotiations, I decided to try a new tactic to widen my repertoire. After eliciting the service rep’s sympathy for our six months of entanglements, I mentioned that I was “on the verge of cancelling the contract because I have no confidence that next month’s bill will be correct.” And you know what, it worked! I was offered a pitiable sum to pacify my concerns—enough to cover next month’s payment to Orange.
Also, bad news came from the Académie: our request to change our end-of-April work schedules was denied. Since a two-week spring break cuts April in half, leaving just one of week of work before the end of our contracts, we thought it would be wise and reasonable to make up the twelve hours beforehand. The idea of leaving in five weeks had become very appealing these last two months, as I slowly realize the futility and dissatisfactory nature of my work here. Simply put, I have never worked a full week; I have never been asked to coordinate my activities with teachers; and I have never received further training or supervision. I don’t seem wanted or needed here. To be required to return, for (possibly) twelve hours of work, out of petty propriety, is infuriating.
And to top things off, I received notice from the McGill Masters in Linguistics program that I have not been accepted. That took a few days to sink in. To quote a dear friend of mine: “Are you sure you read that right? They must have their heads up their bums. Christ, what are they looking for?” Let’s not dwell on it: the next step is to get my Rotary scholarship reassigned to another institution, and the four I’ve submitted are two public universities in Montreal, one in Brussels, and one in Barcelona. I most like the program in Barcelona, but I would be happy in any, and I imagine Rotary would prefer to keep me in the same country as the original institution. I’ll keep you updated.
As if to bring me from the depths of defeat into the realm of psychotic irony, the CAF finally granted me my housing assistance. I guess they just ran out of excuses for delaying. It’s retroactive and covers a good majority of my housing expenses from October to February. I receive 154 euros per month towards my rent, and although I am exceedingly grateful for this help, my question for the CAF is this: and what if I hadn't had the funds to wait six months?
Questions better left unasked. Like why can't one week just go as expected? Bills become routine instead of tribulations? One bureaucrat be organized and knowledgeable and sympathetic? Coworkers be more welcoming? And my favorite, What if I just don't like teaching?