Or at least that's how I felt today when I finally got my hands on a Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale! After a long process of trying to change my "statut étudiant" to a "statut conjointe de francais" (which didn't work out and I actually ended up having to return aux USA), I was finally given my récépissé for a CDS application this past June. I was summoned again to the préfecture in September and they gave me a second récépissé as well as a date for a sort of "integration day." That was today.
It included a collective meeting to "welcome" (ha) newcomers. This took place at the ANAEM office in the 11th arrondisement of Paris and included a short video called "Vivez Ensemble en France," which basically said how important it is to learn French and understand the organization and functions of l'Etat as well as the fundamental principles of the French Republic: la Liberté, l'Egalité, etc. I honestly laughed out loud when I walked into the room and saw a big French flag, a buste de Marianne, as well as a photo of President Sarkozy in all his glory. It made me want to break out in song to the Marseillaise. Seriously.
After the video I was called for a short interview to assess my French language skills and sign the "Contrat d'accueil et d'intégration." I was then off to the visite medicale where they measured my height and weight, checked my eyesight, and of course gave me the infamous topless x-ray. Trust me folks, it isn't any more comfortable the second time around! Gah! At least I now have a souvenir (they allow you to keep the radiograph). I then had to purchase 275 euros worth of ANAEM stamps and was presented with my CDS. Finally! It only took 6 1/2 months, a round-trip to Atlanta and 7 visits to the préfecture, and *I can't wait to do it all again next year!