The Hand with Fingers

Today, I had my appointment with OFII. What is OFII? Office français de l’immigration et de l’intégration. Don’t speak French ? I’ll translate for you. Bureaucracy, that’s what it means. I had to go to OFII for a medical appointment to complete my “immigration” process and to get a special sticker in my visa. Basically, it completes my visa requirements and allows me to freely travel in the Schengen Area which is a really cool concept. It also gives me the option to extend my visa beyond six months.


OFII appointments are given to you. You cannot change them under ANY circumstance. My appointment was today at nine o’clock…and I had a class at ten o’clock. Let me tell you something about missing class…I don’t miss class. There are many things I don’t like in life – snakes and missing class are right at the top of my list. I hate being absent. You miss important information and I genuinely like going to class. Days absent in college to date? One.


I also hate being late to class. Here in France, it’s five minutes before class starts and I’m the only one in the classroom! I always arrive to class at least ten minutes early, if not more. In college, I don’t think I’ve ever been late to a class, although I cut it close once.


Unfortunately, the OFII office is in another city which is close to Nantes, but requires me to switch tram lines. Appointment at nine, class at ten? I can do it. I can do it. I will not miss class. I will not be late.


I arrived early to my appointment at OFII hoping they would take me earlier. They did. I was number three in line. I waited in a waiting room. And waited. And waited. The two girls ahead of me were waiting too. They had the first appointments of the day, at 8:30 AM, and they weren’t seen until 9:00 AM! This was not looking good.


At last, a radiologist came to meet me. She took me into the room and told me to take off my shirt and fkfdjsfsa. “Uh…quoi?” I asked nervously.


She pointed to her chest and I realized. Oh. Bra. That’s another word they don’t teach you in French class (or, if I learned it, I don’t remember it). She took an X-ray of my chest. In France, they have to check to make sure you’re not concealing democracy in your chest or anything dangerous like that. I’m kidding. I think it’s to make sure you don’t have TB. She told me to get dressed and to wait in the waiting room again.


After another long wait, I saw a nurse. She weighed me and measured me. “Do these numbers look right?” she asked.


My weight was in kilograms and my height was in meters. I know my weight and height in pounds and feet. Not kilograms and meters. “Uh…oui?” I answered.

The usual health questions followed, but they were all in French. The names of vaccinations aren’t always the same as in French and English, but I was able to figure out what she was asking me. She tested my vision (which I have no idea why they do that for immigration). She asked what I was studying at school and how long I would be staying. After these basic questions, she sent me back to the waiting room.


My final visit was with the doctor. She took my blood pressure and pulse. My pulse was the same, but my blood pressure was measured in a different way so I have no idea if it was usually what it is or not. She said it was normal and then showed me my X-ray.


This is your heart,” she said pointing to a big white thing.  


This is your left shoulder,” she said.




This is your right shoulder.”




These are your ribs.”


Okay, I have got to get to class. Yes, it’s cool to look at your own X-ray, but I really want to go to class. Please. Just let me know. Just give me the sticker and let me go.


These are your vertebrae.”




You have a small ribcage.”


Vraiment?” Really? Well, is that important? If not, let me go to class. Please.


Okay. Everything is normal. So, how do you like France?” she asked.


Pretty, very pretty.” Sign the papers! Please just sign the papers.


But it must be very different from America?” she continued.


Yes, very different. But what can I say? France is France,” I said.


She finally signed the papers. “Here you go. Take this paper to the secretary,” she said


I went to the secretary where I gave more paperwork and received more paperwork. She placed a stamp in my passport and then sent me on my way. It was 10:15. I was already late for class. I rushed on to the tram, then switched tram lines, then ran to class. I arrived at 10:50, almost an hour late to class! It was my oral comprehension class which is two hours long. They had already listened to a tape and were answering questions in class. Naturally, I couldn’t participate because I didn’t listen to the tape. But I smiled and nodded. Thankfully, at the end of class, my professor played the tape one last time for everyone (although it was my first time listening to it).


I won’t bore you with the details of my grammar class, but it happened. That is what is important. I then had my literature class which I love more and more with each passing day. My professor continues to use literature to surprise us. He sometimes leaves off the ending of a story or the title. He lets us make our own conclusions and never treats us like we are stupid. Yes, we are using simple terms, but that’s because we’re speaking a foreign language. We’re trying to communicate complex and college level ideas with a kid’s vocabulary. Work with us. Some people are not very patient with non-native speakers. In class today, we were analyzing a poem in which the speaker comments on the richness of a woman’s hands. Our professor asked us what we thought that meant. One girl was trying to find the word for ring and came up with this description, “You know, the hand…with fingers.” At which point, we all laughed because we knew what she was saying and my professor jokingly asked, “As opposed to the hand without fingers?” Other people might not be so understanding of our lack of vocabulary.


Beyond that, he encourages us to formulate our own theories. My favorite literature professors aren’t the ones who tell me what it all means, but are the ones who encourage me to think in other ways. What if you interpret the text in a sociological way? What if you view it from a feminist perspective? My literature professor here in Nantes encourages us to interpret the text whatever way we like, as long as we have evidence. For example, in class today, a girl said suddenly, “I think she [the main character] is a prostitute.”


We all laughed, but my professor took her very seriously. “Okay. Why?


The girl gave evidence. She pointed to the woman’s dress, the woman’s behavior. “All valid points, but that is not correct,” my professor said before giving her other evidence to show her why her theory wasn’t correct.


Sometimes, literature allows for multiple interpretations. Sometimes, it doesn’t. However, a good professor should always be willing to listen to all interpretations and be willing to accept them if they are supported by evidence. If they aren’t properly supported by evidence, then they’re not, but at least the student had the opportunity to formulate a theory, to critically analyze a text. I think that process of learning and interpreting, even if it is not always right, should always be encouraged. And that is why I respect my teachers and professors who have taught and encouraged me to do just that.


I went to Quidditch, but then realized I forgot to do my homework that is due tomorrow (in all fairness, it was assigned today). I left Quidditch early (which was sad) to do homework. Then I remembered that I should probably write a blog post. And I need to pay for cell phone service tomorrow. And I need to make photocopies of the stuff I received from OFII (always make photocopies in France). And I need to look over my lines for my play tomorrow. And I… I need to go to sleep. I’m tired.