I’m so very proud of myself today, I operated in total independence and confidence. Yes, this is my normal MO but until recently, I’ve not been applying it frequently. I can’t really explain how disconcerting it is to live in a place where you’ve regressed to the abilities of a 5 year old; its something you have to live through, I guess. But imagine not knowing ANYTHING, losing the ability to correspond and clearly understand others, having to consult a map consistently to find your way around, not even being sure that the food you’re buying is really food. The sense of helplessness is frustrating and sometimes depressing. So yeah, I’m really proud that after 4 months of living here, I was able to handle my business.
Mind you, its all very simple things that you would do without thinking but everything is different here. The rules of society learned in the western hemisphere do not always apply.
I was awoken at 10:45am by my GF (girl friend) calling to ask if I was available to meet for lunch and as I was about to answer got a call on the other line. It was the administrator of the Volkshule (state college), where I would be taking my language classes this fall, saying I needed to come in. Clicking back over to GF, my line rang again. This time it was my integration counselor returning my call. I had phoned her the day before to explain that the information on my Wiener Arbeitnehmerinnen Förderungsfonds forms (basically professional education and employment forms) were incorrect and needed to know how to go about correcting them urgently. She asked me to visit her at her office but I had to come before 1pm. Well, there went lunch!
Luckily, the Volkshule is two blocks away from my apartment – this will be really convenient for the coming winter, believe me! The administrator spoke about as much English as I speak German (fun!) but managed to explain that I needed to pay a further €100 which was a shock to me. I’d already paid €278 and was entitled to receive a €100 discount – there’s a backstory to this which I will tell you about in another post. A little dazed and indignant, I declined to pay until I’d spoken with my counselor.
I quickly jumped on the subway (my old conquered nemesis who I’m sure is just waiting to trip me up in the future) and, by memory (yay me!) exited at my station stop. Again by memory (will wonders never cease), I walked toward the Magistratsabteilung 17 office. After traveling 3 long blocks, confusion set in and I started to doubt myself. ‘Maybe I’ve turned the wrong way’, I thought, wondering if I should call for directions but not wanting to look completely useless to my counselor. ‘No, I’m sure this is the way’, buoying myself as I lifted my chin, squared my shoulders and cast doubt aside – and it was! Thank God because I got there with 30 minutes to spare.
Achieving the corrections to my professional history was a snap and further filled out my confidence in my ability to get my life back here but resolving the €100 payment for my classes was another thing all together. Remember how I’d explained that rules change in Austria consistently? Well, it seems that although I’d beaten the lawmakers’ July 1, 2011 deadline and was allowed my residence card, due to the delay caused by the vacationing bureaucrat, I wasn’t entitled to the €100 discount for the A1 German level because the new law states that all persons applying for residence must have completed this language certification. Yet, all’s well that ends well, turns out, as a spouse of a EU, upon successful completion of all my language courses (I have 4 levels to complete in 2 years), I will be refunded 50% of the total cost in addition to receiving €300 off the other three levels.
Floating out of the office with the further good news that I’m allowed to drive on my USA license (my Bahamian license is an oddity here), I decided to press my luck. I jumped back on the subway found the station stop that housed the library (again by memory – I’m on a roll here people!) and borrowed a few English-language books. Popped in at the college on my way home to pay my outstanding bills and went home fully self-satisfied.
As I said, minor stuff in my own world (The Bahamas or New York) but major achievements in Austria. I achieved my goals, did not get lost, am able to recognize stations and streets by memory, and am learning new German everyday! So yeah, today was a really good day!
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