An American in Berlin
18 September, 2018
Right, so obviously I haven’t written in a while. Well, that’s not true. I’ve written quite a bit. But I haven’t posted in a little while. There’s reasons for that, but first, Hi. How ya doin? Anyway, I guess the big news is, I had my appointment with the Ausländerbehörde – the foreign peoples office – today, to see about extending my visa, which was due to expire this November. First of all, I mean, can you believe it’s been two years already? Crazytown. Anyway, it went off without a hitch, and they’ve given me three more years. Now of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to actually stay for another three years. But it does mean I have the option; and that I don’t have to stress about it until sometime in 2021…if ever.
Lemme tellya though, it was a surreal morning. Just going to the office, I could remember my last visit there, back in November 2016. I mean, I could remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the weather; how dark it was in the morning; how I got lost and wound up having to take an Uber; how just that morning my phone had run out of data because I was staying at an AirBnB with no wifi and how I had to rush to a drugstore to buy more minutes just to call the Uber; how nervous I was while I waited. All of it.
And I was nervous today, too. I mean, in theory, I had all my papers in order. But you know, you’re at the mercy of bureaucrats when it comes to this stuff. And if the person you’re dealing with is having a bad day, they can decide to fuck you just because. So I’m turning over and over in my head all the possibilities. Like, what if they ask for something I didn’t bring? What if something I brought wasn’t good enough? What if they ask me something in German and I don’t understand? What if whoever I got stuck with was having a bad day?
I tried reading my book – Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, btw; more Dumas; the Musketeers continued; he’s so fucking awesome; also Athos is kinda my hero – aaaanyway, I tried reading my book while I waited, but I just kept re-reading the same paragraph over and over. Mazarin on his literal deathbed, confessing his sins, and I’m just like…whaaaaat even are you talking about you silly Italian cardinal person? So I put the book away.
Anyway, I needn’t have worried. My particular bureaucrat today was a young woman, very blond and very pretty. Which I only mention by way of saying, she was very pleasant and not yet ground down by a life in bureaucracy and therefore more likely to be nice to me. Which she was. And also very patient with my German, thank gods. Because she asked me two questions which I didn’t quite get at first.
I mean, I did get them. But I so wasn’t expecting them that they caught me off guard and I needed to ask her to explain. Which she did, patiently, and then I was able to answer her no problem. She also asked me for my contract with the school, which I didn’t bring because the website didn’t mention it among the required docs. But fortunately, they already had it in the system from my first go-round. Major sigh of relief.
Anyway, she takes all my docs and tells me to wait in the waiting room while she does her thang. And the way she said it, it sounded like it would just be a formality. But of course, as I waited, I started imagining every worst possibility. She was going to call me back in and reject my application because she didn’t like my job; or my second job. Or I didn’t make or have enough money. Or who the fuck lives in Köpenick? I mean, who knows what she might decide?
Also, I had expected her to ask me how long I wanted to extend for. I mean, maybe this was going to be a one-year thing, and I’d have to go through this every year. Or maybe it would be like the first time where the maximum I could ask for would be three years, but really she could give me whatever she felt like. My plan had been to ask for two years, on the grounds that my initial visa was also for two years. In any case, she never asked.
So she calls me back in – finally; it was like half an hour – and she just smiles and said she’d given me three years. I was delighted, yes, but more than that, relieved. Vielen herzlichen Dank, I said, thanking her in the most polite but also effusive way I could think of. To which, she was all, No problem; albeit pleasantly. But you could tell she was already done with me. So I hightailed it outa there before she could change her mind. Which, she probably couldn’t, because the new visa was already pasted into my passport. But still.
After that, all I had to do was pay. On the website, it said the cost would be 49-96 Euros, “depending on the technical effort,” whatever that means. Well my sweet golden angel of a bureaucrat hit me for the 49 minimum. So I hope she’s having a swell night, wherever she is.
There was one other cost in this whole thing. I had to take my tax returns, invoices and bank statements to an accountant and have them draw up profit/loss document for me. That set me back 170 Euros. So all told, renewing my visa cost me 120 Euros. Well, that plus the 1.70 I spent on a celebratory beer after I got out of there at 11:30am don’t judge me.
So that’s the biggest news, but not the only news. About two weeks ago, I finally finished the Torah. That’s right, bitches. Operation Read the Whole Fucking Torah in a Year was a success! And three weeks ahead of schedule to boot. I don’t usually crow about my accomplishments, but this one, I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of.
I also finally finished my first draft of the French translation of that story I wrote. I still need to go over it with Charlotte so that it’s actually, you know, readable. And who knows how long that will take. But the point is, I did it. It’s over. And thank all of the gods.
I’ve had some travels. In August I visited Jared and family in Italy, which was wonderful. And this past weekend, Joschka and I were in Bavaria to celebrate the birthday of one of our friends down there, and also to visit a Volksfest – kind of like an Oktoberfest. So that was a great time as well. And then the last weekend of this month, I’m meeting Charlotte in Copenhagen; so I’m quite looking forward to that.
As for upcoming projects, I’ve just bought a Yiddish grammar. So I’m looking to take that journey to the next level. And I’ve got my hands on a Tanakh, so I’ve started with the book of Joshua, which begins where the Torah left off. I’m not making any grand plans for how long it will take me to read the whole Tanakh. More, I’m just gonna try and keep it going as a side project. Because I’ve also got Greek to do. And I want to get my Latin back into shape. And of course, in a few weeks, it’s time to start the Torah all over again; but this year with (English) commentary. Not to mention, I need to get back to the Federalist Project; which I’ve picked up again this very evening. Oh, and also work. So I’m busy as ever, I guess.
I’ll get more into detail on all this stuff in coming posts. In fact, I’ve written a bunch about it already. But I haven’t posted any of it because, in their totality, I haven’t been happy with the posts I’ve written (but not published) lately. To be honest, they read as a bit angry and bitter. Or, at least, I think they do.
The reason being, I think I was in a bit of a rut for most of August; maybe even most of July as well. And really, most of September, until today. Part of it was the visa thing was certainly weighing on me. But work has been frustrating as well, which I suppose is normal after two years. Or so says every other freelance language teacher I’ve spoken with.
But I think I’m past the tough stretch now. Or, at least, I hope I am. So I’ll probably cull the interesting stuff from those unpublished posts and try to turn them into something a little more upbeat in the coming weeks. But for now, I just wanted to give this (comparatively) short update.