Friday, September 05, 2008

Another Tale of German Bureaucracy

It's been a rather long time since I updated my blog. The reason why I decided to finally write something again? Because I'm sitting at home in Düsseldorf, barred from working due to the fact that I have no Arbeitserlaubnis (work permit).

Now, if you heard me talking before I left Germany in July to go to the States, I had planned on applying for everything at the consulate in New York. Well, I tried and the consulate told me I should just do it when I got here to Germany. I'm guessing that they didn't want to try processing the paperwork because they said they had to send it to Germany anyway, or someone really just didn't feel like doing their job. (Eh, it happens.)

After coming back here, I didn't have enough time to collect the extra paperwork required to apply here in Germany before I left for Salzburg for a short weekend trip with Christian. (Yes, the hills were alive with the Sound of Music, and yes, I made him go on a Sound of Music tour with me.) We came back to Düsseldorf for a day before jetting off again to Berlin for a few days since Alex and Elise were in town. When I finally got back to Düsseldorf, I had all the necessary paperwork from my (hopefully) future employers and was able to apply last Friday.

And now comes the wait. I went to the Ausländerbehörde (Aliens Department? That sounds too science fiction-y...let's say Foreigners Office) and handed in my stuff there. In the meantime, I received a "Fiktionsbescheinigung," which I don't have an English equivalent of, except for "fictional certificate." Obviously, this sounds like a joke, something that should only exist in my imagination, but it is pretty much a temporary residence permit for 3 months since the day I applied for residence and work permits, not since the day I entered Germany. (So I bought myself, literally, an extra two weeks time for 20€.) The man in the Ausländerbehörde said that the Arbeitsamt (Labor Office) could take anywhere between a few days and 10 weeks to approve my work permit, but until then, I'm not allowed to work. Fantastic. A few days versus oh, 70 days?

Because I'm not allowed to work, this has been my daily routine:

-wake up at 9 a.m. since I would have to wake up at 9 for work.
-turn on the computer at around 9:20 and read the news for two hours or more from various sources, like the NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, BBC, Der Spiegel, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine. I tend to start stressing about world events at this point.
-once done with the news, I switch to and watch the previous night's episode of the Daily Show in order to relieve some of the stress.
-after the Daily Show, I watch the previous night's episode of the Colbert Report.
-at this time, usually around 1 p.m., I finally get hungry. I scrounge around the kitchen for anything to eat because I'm a bit lazy and don't want to go out while it's raining to the grocery store.
-the afternoon is spent either playing Guitar Hero, reading a book, or brushing up on my Cantonese. "Brushing up on my Cantonese" means me trying to use a book my mom gave me to learn to read (the characters are kind of small) and/or watching a Chinese soap opera called The Drive of Life.
-the afternoon at some point will also consist of me coming back online to talk to all the people at home just arriving at work. This pretty much ends up occupying the rest of my time before I get bored and go back to any of the three activities listed above.

So that's pretty much my daily routine until Christian gets back, when we'll cook dinner and then sit around watching trashy German television. (Admittedly, it's pretty funny.) The evening usually goes by pretty quickly because I'm actually talking to someone rather than just IMing with them. I might read some more, do some more Cantonese.

I know a lot of people say that I should enjoy the time while I wait for my work permit to get approved, but at the same time, I feel absolutely helpless. Of course, the situation is out of my hands and if the Arbeitsamt feels like rejecting my application, then I need to find a plan B pronto. Additionally, because I'm sitting around reading the news all day, I tend to get stressed out about the upcoming election, which, like the work permit, is also out of my hands. It doesn't help that I get infuriated by both sides when I read articles, op-eds, comments under the articles or on YouTube that are misinformed about either side, skew the facts, sexist, racist, etc. etc. It makes me just want to scream, "Can't we just focus on the policies here? Who cares if Barack Obama is black?! Who cares if Sarah Palin is a woman?! Get the facts right and move on!"

I usually don't like being political in my blog, but I guess since I have time, I will devote some of it to writing about that the next time...but for now, I'm just hoping that I get a work permit soon.