It’s been about 5 months, practically the entire winter, since my last post. Life’s kind of like a swan right now, everything’s picture-perfect on the surface with a lot of frantic paddling beneath.
Recently, I earned the C1 certificate in German which indicates conversational-adequacy. There’s only one class left – C2, business German. I’m longing to take it, but there are gaps that need to be remedied in my current skill level before taking the final class and test.
One of those gaps is active usage (speaking), as classes focus on learning grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure – so while reading/writing/understanding is a breeze, speaking needs work. If you’ve ever taken a highschool foreign language class, then you’ll understand how wide expectations and reality can be from another. Thus, I’ve taken a job as a Modeberaterin (salesgirl) at a department store. It’s the perfect opportunity to continuously practice the language and build a bit of professional reputation (which is immeasurably necessary in Austria), while taking the burden of paying for my Krankenkasse (health insurance) from my husbands’ shoulders.
Life’s a worldwind and most times, I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Scheduled for 120 hrs per month, about 30 per week, with full-time being officially 38.5 and my shifts being variable; some weeks are literally full-time. Add attending classes and studying as well as job-hunting and it’s no wonder I’m constantly exhausted and easily fall ill.
My job environment has been a joy. It’s always fun to enter a room and be met by cold silence and resentful stares followed by conversations about me in dialect (which they haven’t yet realized I can dicepher). As usual, there’s a queen bee – does highschool ever end?!! The work is physically streneous, the customers range from lovely to ‘just shoot me now’, and the hours are tortoreous (apparently I drew the short straws for the weekly 12 hr shift!). Despite it all, my speaking ability has improved immensely – I’m no longer afraid to use the telephone, my dialogue is much smoother, clearer, and quicker, and my cognition of both standard and dialect speech is child’s play. Overheard conversations (on the television, radio, in public) are as easily understood as if they were spoken in English. It’s gotten to the point that it’s becoming difficult to hide from my coworkers that I do understand their snide ‘secret’ remarks.
However, I have freed myself from the ‘joys’ of public transportation by buying the cutest little two-seater convertible. My first trip was to a Flohmarkt (flea market) with MIL1 where I happened upon a Destiny’s Child CD for only €2! Blaring “Survivor” or “Independent” can either renew determination or tears – depending on the day.
I’m dying to return to my field, so jobhunting and networking has become a second job. Most weeks, I apply to up to 10 offered positions, either logical stepping stones or directly affiliated to my field. If I do receive a response, it’s always the requisitory “You are highly qualified, possess all of the requested skill requirements, however, we have opted for another candidate.” Jobhunting has been tough on my identity and self-esteem – especially when I see the exact same ad a week/month/year later. The constant rejection eats at my confidence and most days I am reduced to tearfully questioning my decisions, my abilities, and my worth.
I feel like an athlete that’s lost the use of her body. The will is there, but the impulses no longer elicite the expected responses. I wish it was as easy as the main character’s recovery in “Kill Bill” – “move your big toe” (and then it happened!). As my friends, husband, and family here keep saying, I should be happy… but I’m not.