Belated Travel Chronicles, Pt. 1: French Week

April 24th: I’ve ranted so many times about the comically horrid shortcomings of Parisian infrastructure that it has become a stale subject long ago. I still want to set the record once and for all: rallying in short succession the cities of Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai from their respective airports, makes one really wonder, upon landing in Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, what economic world-tier France sits in.

Forget the usual mess at immigration, the overall decrepit state of arrival satellites or the thoroughly unhelpful signage1: riding the RER to Paris (only semi-reliable, affordable way to reach the city centre) made me honestly ache on behalf of hapless first-time visitors, their head full of clichéd romantic Parisian imagery, who get to sit on some of the nastiest train cars this side of Eastern Rajasthan, stopping at every single suburban town between the airport and Paris, having to meekly apologise to dour-faced morning commuters for taking precious space with their luggage. Who-the-fuck designs an airport line with no room for luggage and non-existent escalator/elevator access to the platforms?

Anyway, consider this my heartfelt apology, as a honorary Parisian, to anybody who ever had to land in Paris.

April 24th (3h and a quick shave later): The story of how close I was to end the Japanese chapter of my life prematurely.

Barely summarised excerpt of my exchange with Japanese embassy employee:

Freshly-landed and not-overly-fresh, yet bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Dave: – Hello, I am here to apply for a work visa. Here is the official letter of invitation from your own government, along with all the papers I was told to bring by my contact at JSPS (a public institution belonging to your own Ministry of Research).

Courteous But Not Overly Friendly Middle-Aged Japanese Embassy Employee: – This is all well and good, but you are missing a proof that you hold a higher education degree. I am afraid we cannot process your application without that critical document.

Dave: – This is very regrettable, especially considering this piece was absolutely not included in the list I was given before coming here. An honest mistake, considering that the very Letter of Invitation you are holding in your hands is for a Post-Doctoral position (and reads so in the title), for which I evidently had to send, times and over, proofs of my doctoral level of education to your own government. Surely, in light of such unquestionable proof, and the fact that a member of your own administration (albeit from a distant branch) is to blame for my oversight, you will be agreeable to my circumstances and show some leniency.

Embassy Employee: – I am afraid not. Not to worry though. Just go home, fetch your diploma and come back tomorrow.

Dave: – The problem, you see, is that home is in freaking Kyoto. Listen, this is at the very least the 4th visa application I fill with you. Each such previous application did include a certified copy of my last degree. Can’t you just go and fetch that from your archive? Or merely acknowledge the fact that my having received the visas proves without question that I hold at least a university degree. For Amaterasu’s sake, that freshly expired 3-year visa in the passport you are holding in your hands reads Doctoral Student

Embassy Employee: – Well tried, my mildly annoying and persistent friend, but no dice.

Dave: – If I can miraculously get Kyodai to fax/fedex a certificate or a copy, will that do?

Embassy Employee: – Of course not, we shall be holding the original in our hands for no less than 2 seconds before we accept a measly copy in its stead.

Dave: – What am I supposed to do then? My diploma is at home, where any sane person would keep a precious original document that the delivering institution pointedly warned you would not be re-delivered, I am here: 10,000 km away. My research position starts in a month and I have little reasons or means to stay in Paris until then.

Embassy Employee: – I guess you will have to fly back and go pick it up then.

Dave: – …

At this point, I swear that, had it not been for a certain person freshly moved to her flat in Akasaka and awaiting my own move to Tokyo, I would have showered the employee with the confetti of my application and gone looking for work elsewhere in the world.

I get that consular services, the world over, specialise in being dicks (I have dealt with my fair share of assholes from a wide range of countries, my own included), but seriously Japan[ese embassy employee], WTF? Are you that overwhelmed with higher-education research work applicants that you need to weed them out? Do you know how many fucking people asked me worryingly if I wasn’t afraid of a fiery nuclear death, upon learning I would be working on the same continent as Fukushima?

April 27th: (Epilogue) Many frantic emails/late-night calls later, one life-saving friend’s trip to my house, and one girlfriend flight to Paris later, I am able to go back with necessary document and contain long enough my urge to strangle aforementioned smiling employee to get my visa.

April 28th: Parisian rain was not particularly surprising, if thoroughly unfun, but continuous torrential downpour on your wedding day at the end of April in the French Bordeaux region could be considered shitty luck. Not to local customs, however, that reassuringly tells us that the rainier the luckier the wedding.
Even stuck indoors, hanging out with a large contingent of my beautiful and mostly soon-adult cousins made for a momentous occasion. Not to mention wedding-boy himself, wearing our national Manx tartan kilt (complete with ceremonial knife conveniently tucked in sock for easy access if the party gets out of control).

(Photo credits: Rachel)

And that concludes that week’s episode. I promise following week’s recount will be (somewhat) sunnier and definitely less whingy

  1. “Paris by Train”? “Paris by Bus”? I lived in Paris for 5 years and I have no idea what these are supposed to mean. Give me a fucking line number I can find on a map. []

2 comments

  1. > If I can miraculously get Kyodai to fax/fedex a certificate or a copy, will that do?

    Well, unlike French universities, most Japanese ones will provide an *original* proof a graduation within 5 minutes, in Japanese or English. As many as you want. I had one printed out this morning so that I could submit my application for a work visa (which I did without any problem.)
    You didn’t have to show the rigid cardboard fancy diploma, did you?

    > Embassy Employee: – Of course not, we shall be holding the original in our hands for no less than 2 seconds before we accept a measly copy in its stead.

    I had to show the cardboard French one when I applied at the university. They glanced at it and gave it back to me. Then I lost it, probably during the earthquake. I *should* have shown them a colour print of a scan of my diploma, they would never had told the difference, and I’d still have my original…

    P!

  2. @Pied: Kyodai can presumably give me a stamped certificate that might have been accepted. But that would only have been upon filling a dozen forms in person. As for getting something by phone/email, a photocopy/scan of a certificate is the best I would hope for.

    And yes, I ended up presenting the fancy cardboard thing (after it had travelled non-stop for the past 48h to my hands).

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