Boxland, 2011, and Hope for a Brighter (or at least more legal) Tomorrow

The only thing to which I might justly compare this is Christmas at the Schiller household, circa ~ 1995. It’s not that it’s particularly festive in here–the wreath I purchased for our front door still rests swaddled in florists’ paper, ribbonless on the nearby bookshelf and awaiting some sort of German hanging solution to which Niels refers only as “Power Strips”–but the feeling of it, the barely-past-eventiness of it all, is the same. As are the scads of boxes with clothes spilling raggedly from their corrals, tired prisoners on the cusp of effecting an exhausted jail break but too knackered to make it all the way over the fence.

We are, more or less officially and as of 8:30 last night, moved in. This is what our home looks like at present. Withold judgments, please, thank you.

(this image is larger because Niels demanded it so)

Never before snapping this photo had I considered the logistics of living on a ground floor apartment with all of its windows facing a reasonably popular pedestrian path. Sweet god, it’s all rushing in now. How might people avoid glimpsing me naked every day, all the damn time? What if I’m picking my nose, or eating an entire, giant paving-stone style bar of delicious, luxurious Milka chocolate enrobed in caramel and nuts and cookie in one sitting? (Don’t let that question’s detail lead you to believe I’d ever do such a gluttonous thing. *cough*). Does living on the ground floor demand that I become a perpetually clothed role model for the masses? Considering we live directly on a church playground, I fear this might be the case. And perhaps also a little for the neighborhood children’s innocence and hygiene habits.

Anyhow, we live here now. I have a real, fixed address at which I am findable by the German government. Ich bin (officially and statically) ein Berliner. With a declaration such as that, those of you who’re in the know about recent events–or have just read my post from a couple of weeks back–might be wondering now about how confident I can actually afford to be in staking my claim to this chilly, graceful old apartment. I’m not certain how to answer that, either, but here are the deets as I know them.

The question of legality in Germany and the issue of acquiring valid working papers is a tricky one, even for a crime-free, reasonably talented, well-educated American with cooking skill and a willingness to head bob and act affirmative about virtually any Deutsch garbled her way. So, at Olivia’s suggestion, Niels and I did the surefirest thing: explored the option of outfitting me with a Sprachkursvisum–basically, a temporary visa one can wangle on the premise of enrolling in at least 20 hours per week of German language classes (which certainly wouldn’t do me anything but good). I went for a level test last week and selected some courses I might take at the Volkshochschule (a community higher learning school), scraping me on up to a lean, probably questionable 15 hours/week. That was one option, and certainly one we’ll take should tomorrow at the Foreigner’s Office not go well. Right. When have encounters with bureaucracy–German or Spanish–ever gone well? Berlin, feel free to prove my cynicism groundless.

Tomorrow morning, roughly 9 a.m., will see Niels and me filed in a line of strangers to Germany, waiting outside of the Ausländerbehörde to submit yet another set of paperwork for a work permit. Two weeks ago, almost directly after hearing the sad news about my former prospective employer, Zalando’s, inability to help me (to Z’s credit, they petitioned for me and talked with the foreigner’s office, but sadly, the budget just isn’t there) I interviewed at the European answer to AirBnB.

Located in Kreuzberg, the heart of Berlin’s entrepreneurial scene (and across the street from a promising looking coffee shop), I found Wimdu. A sprawling physical site, it’s in an old, converted industrial building basically made for start ups. I limped up the stairs to the second floor office and was greeted by a blast of heat and an English-speaking office manager. Wimdu itself is aswarm in young internationals, and the Italian HR representative who interviewed me was one of the nicest people I’ve met in Deutschland. When at the end of the interview she asked me if I had working papers yet, I told her the entire truth about my recent rejection on the basis of too little salary, dangerous, because Wimdu offers the same. She looked briefly sad.

“Well, you’d have the job today if you had a permit,” she confided, looking off into the distance, pretty mouth turned down. “It can be hard to get the permission. We had a Romanian girl turned down last week for the same reason. I don’t know…”
She stared at me, searched my face, seemed to weigh her options and suddenly brightened.
“But, why don’t we try, anyway? We should try. We’ll draw you up a contract.”

And bless their souls, they did just that. Yesterday I picked up my contract and am in the process of assembling the masses of paperwork I’ll need for tomorrow’s trip to the Ausländerbehörde. Applying for a work permit again and simply hoping that the result is different this time may sound like a fruitless (and also dumb) plight, but after having consulted a lawyer and going ourselves to the Foreigner’s office on Monday to inquire whether or not applying again might be worth it, we were encouraged to give it a whirl. The relief comes in that this application gets me an immediate Fiktionsbescheinigung–a long word for what amounts to a temp visa that will allow me to stay legally in Germany for three months (or as long as it takes for the working papers to process). Should everything go off hitchless tomorrow, I would be, for at least a little while, safe. And I have the prospect of working with a bunch of young, upbeat people from around the world who are willing to take chances, even without ideal odds. I hope that this time it works; I think Wimdu might be a good place to get into the German labor force–and also a great environment in which to make some new friends.

Anyhow, my tasks for today include finding a copy shop in our new ‘hood, perhaps trying to make some sense of the wreckage that is our kitchen (though without any cabinets of which to speak, that might be more of a challenge than I’m fit to surmount) and shaking the the hangover accrued by Niels’ and my festivities of last night. A bottle of wine with dinner, beers, and a delectable flask of champagne will take down even the strongest of souls, as much as they might line their stomachs with fresh pumpkin and almond ravioli and spinach and fish. Advil, thanks for always being there for me.

Oooh! Another inanimate friend with which I was yesterday bequeathed? A new ankle brace! There’s a reason that the craptastic AirCast I scooped two weeks ago hadn’t really helped at all: it was the wrong item, given me due to a miscommunication between the shop at which I acquired it and the doc’s office. I was back at Doctor Neisser’s yesterday, crutches and all, and he’s prescribed a course of physical therapy and a new, more supportive cast. Let’s hope this one works out and the physical therapy does its thing. After a month of being stationary and  last night’s celebratory booze and junk food binge, I am not the sveltest version of myself. Plus, I’m sick of stabbing pain when I walk. And ohmygod. Crutches. I hate them. I am far too clumsy a person for crutches to be a viable long-term option.

And now I’m off! To assemble a metal dish rack and enjoy the feeling of freshly moving in! And maybe find a way to deck my halls with boughs of holly somewhat, too. Bis gleich, y’all.


4 thoughts on “Boxland, 2011, and Hope for a Brighter (or at least more legal) Tomorrow

  1. Caitlin!!! I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy you’re not coming back to Spain (I.e. You are getting this mess sorted out with the long unpronounceable word for a temporary visa). Good luck tomorrow at the immigration office, fingers crossed! Let us know how it goes.

    Also, could you pleeeeeeeeease send me your new address?? I still have your thank you note from the wedding and my OCD ass won’t be satisfied until I have mailed every last one (re: yours!)

  2. Thanks, doll! Let’s not count our blessings too soon though, ok? We’ll see how it all turns out tomorrow. In theory, it should work. In practice? No idea.

    As to the address, I’ll email it to you today! 🙂 besos!

  3. Oh, the garden-level apartment…everyone should live in one at some point in their life! My first post-college apartment was garden-level. Luckily, my roommate had the front bedroom facing the sidewalk, the street, and all the noise!

    Well I’m happy that you have found a way to stay in Germany legally, at least for a little while. Congratulations on your successful move into your German abode.

    I’m glad you picked up this blog again. It’s a great way to keep up with you. I just have one request – MORE PHOTOS!

    Oh and email me your new address, please. I’d like to actually attempt to snail mail you something in the future.

    K, have fun. Good luck with everything. Catch you later!


  4. Hi doll – been keeping up with your adventures here and I’m so happy for you and glad to hear there is hope for you to stay there legally!! Now, for the crutches: I am (sadly) an expert. I even carry them in the trunk of my car just in case. Small steps and some soft fluffy padding on the tops and you should be on your way to a more comfortable, less clumsy crutcher 🙂 But i’m sorry to hear you hurt yourself, I know how much that sucks! Take care of yourself girl. – Janet

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