So I spent a happy afternoon with our friendly local asylum seekers getting their request for asylum completed and sent off. This experience was made wonderfully surreal by the following :
1) the charming Italian lady in the office whose English was better than her French, which meant I had to correct her spelling a bit.
2) the sheer glory of our friends' national calendar. It is NOT the Islamic calendar. It is another lunar calendar in which we are in the year 1393. This meant that working out the parents' and siblings' dates of birth was an exercise in complicated mental calculations. I KNEW algebra would be useful one day.
3) the application to join the French health scheme, a thick wedge of documents sealed in a plain brown envelope accompanied by colour photocopied instructions to :
1. take bus 15 direction Les Aubiers,
2. alight at Place de l'Europe,
3. find the tall building in the photograph, indicated on the map, then
4. enter, ascend to the second floor then
5. place the plain brown envelope into the hole in the wall pictured in the further photograph.
We actually laughed, but it was not a joke.