Bezirksamt Bürocratic Wunderland
A heavy-set Turkish man with salt-and-pepper gray hair taped me on the shoulder and began asking questions about the Anmeldungs form. (When you live in a city here you have to register with the Bezirksamt, which is interesting. For example; if you moved from Portland to Seattle you'd have to register with Town Hall to let them know where you lived, who you were and if you were employed.)
In broken German with a thick Turkish accent he began pointing at the different portions of my form:
öand this section, I am not moving with my wife, we're separated, what do I have to do?
Ah, I really don't know...
And here- I just put my new address here?
Yes, the address where you are currently living...
When I had helped as much as I could he asked: You're from California?
Uh, yes, I was born there?
What kind of man are you? You left paradise to come here?!?
Well, it's no paradise, people have the same problems there that they do here.
Hmpf. Really? Hmm. Ok, thank you very much.
(he returns to his seat and whisters to his friend 'This man is from San Francisco and he came her, can you believe that?!?' (I think he misread 'Sacramento' as my place of birth)
This is the second day I'm sitting in the waiting room here. It's 9:15 am. I was here yesterday also but in the afternoon, which was a very bad idea. The room is full of 40 wooden chairs all facing the front and the walls are painted a bold bright yellow. There are the usual strange phamplets here and there in stands on the sides and windowsills, and the main attraction: the three flipping-ringing-blinking number-changer boards up high on the wall front and center. Below the flipping numbers is a sign in German, Turkish, Polish and Arabic reminding visitors not to smoke. The place was packed, and I went to the ticket-number dispenser and got ticket #152, looking up I was unpleasantly surprised to see that they were serving #82... and the numbers changed painfully slowly.
I sat and waited with the bored and tense masses. Two stinking drunk guys with large plastic bags full of bread and pastries stumbled in and went to the tiket machine to get a half dozen ticket numbers. The loudly proclaimed:
So!... No tv here? No pornofilms?!
(mind you the room is full of mild-mannered middle aged Muslims)
The two flopped down behind me and proceeded to harrass half the room until they were kicked out for smoking a half hour later.
When they returned they attempted to sell the half dozen tickets they'd gotten earlier to everyone in the room Ein Euro? Ok, 50 cent, but no less...
No one bought.
Nadine returned and we decided to leave because the numbers had only climbed into the 90's after almost an hour.
I returned this morning right after the Bezirksamt opened. Outside the building looks almost like an old gray stone church. The freezing wind and rain might've kept people away, so the tall empty halls echoed and the bustling of activity (and random hanger-around-ers) from yesterday hadn't started yet. This: another German government building (as most all do) reminds one of a Kafka novel. The inside is purely functional, if even actually functional .I know that is a clichÈ, but it is a valid and true clichÈ. Barren of joy, each door marked with tiny plastic or vinyl lettering in a little box indicating what is behind it. Coffee and fruit on a fold-out card table by the door is attended by a woman who actually says hello to everyone, which is unusual. The maze of hallways and long lines to wait for everything. The lack of any sign that this might be 2006 and not 1960. I kind of love it, especially the worn stone floors.
When my number finally was called I went to an obscure 'Platz 6' pod, opening the door to find a room full of women at their little desks chatting and laughing- a stark contrast to the quiet somber halls and waiting room.
The woman helping me was a smiley plump librarian-looking lady who quickly pointed out all the things I was missing on my form, meanwhile she yelled-sang loudly:
Oh, Seattle like Schlaflos is Seattle
, what a beauuuuutiful film!
Ok, so I've heard, I still haven't seen it.
It's a lovely film! (calling over to co worker across the room) Petra, have you seen Schlaflos is Seattle with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?
Ya schönes film! Ah...
That wasn't to painful. What is painful is the freezing rain and the daunting task of finding a job before I'm completely destitute, heh. On that note the blog will be updated much less because we just received an astronomical bill for our internet. Ugh. I don't know how they can get away with that. The strangest things are so expensive here, there is a huge tax on plane tickets, for example, and all electronics and technologies are very expensive. But food and rent are very cheap.
Halloween came and went and the only sign I really saw of it was the super-sale on the doyen or so sets of Halloween paper-plates and party bowls they had which had been marked down to 1€, oh well, at least I didn't have to worry about a clever costume this year.