Monday, December 10, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans . . .

It's good to write down a plan for the day, especially if you have a lot of things to do and are afraid you might forget something.

Writing things down, though, usually causes one of two things to happen. Either
1) you lose the piece of paper somewhere on your errands (typically the beginning) and have to try to do everything from memory anyway; or
2) things go terribly, horribly NOT according to the plan you made.

Today was a #2 kind of day (no pun intended). It was my return trip to the Berlin Foreigners' Registration Office.

You may remember from my earlier misadventures that when I showed up in late September, they were completely overwhelmed with applicants and told me wait six weeks before contacting them again. A temporary extension with the laughable name of "Fiktionsbescheinigung" would expire Christmas Day.

Four weeks ago, I sent an email to the office to apply for an appointment. Ten days go by without a peep. I send another email with the original attached, asking for a reply as I am leaving for the U.S. in (then) two weeks. Again no reply. Which means, if you remember, that you then go wait in line -- and since Berlin's foreigners all have to register in one and only one office, that line is loooooooooooooong.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. but didn't really think getting there early would help much. I arrived (still dark) about 40 minutes after the office opened at 7 a.m. The first line to get my number for the waiting room was surprisingly short. I was given number 225. That meant I was the 25th person in line. Last time, when I was #21, I was served shortly after 9 a.m.

Today at 9 a.m. they were on student #11. Another student (#24) in the waiting room and I left, him to print some financial documents at an internet cafe, me to get a haircut. I returned 20 minutes after he did at 10:20 a.m. They were on #21. There was a girl still sitting with us who had turned in all her documents and was waiting for her passport to be processed. She was #8. An hour later, we were both finally called to submit our documents; #8 was still waiting. More waiting. #8 was called and left. More waiting. #24 was called, got his passport and temporary extension, and left. One little Indian.

After 1:30 p.m. (did I mention they close at 2?) I am finally called to the office. "Please go pay your 40 euros."
"The sign says 30 euros for an extension."
"This was an extension for 30 and a change for 10. Don't tell me you don't have it?"
"I don't" (and I really didn't, because I'd just spent the 10 euros on a haircut).
So the woman told me to pay the 30 I had and put a note in my file that I owed 10 euros. I asked if I could transfer the money. That's not possible either.

I return with my paid receipt and receive my new residence permit. I looked it over because I was concerned about permission to work. Thankfully, the law had changed, allowing those staying on this visa to retain their "student worker" status -- 180 half days or 90 full days of work per year. Then my eyes fell on the name. NOT my name.

They had put someone else's name on my permit. The permit that was now stuck in my passport. I was asked to leave. In a half an hour she called me back and gave me the correct permit. Only 36 total students had been served in 7 hours. I walked to the bus stop, grabbed a quick lunch between transfers as I was absolutely famished, scarfing down my lunch on the way home. I got home at 2:45 p.m., eight hours after I left for the office in the first place. Aaarrrggghhh.

I thought I'd be done by mid-morning, would get my haircut, head to the gym, come home, have lunch (which was waiting for me here), finish a job application, mail it off, photocopy fliers and post them at the university, have dinner, collapse in bed. After a full day of "working" at the Foreigners' Registration Office (with a haircut "break"), I came home and finished the job application, mailed it off, had dinner, but I didn't have a chance to make those copies and post them. Now I'm digesting before I head to the gym. If I'm not totally dead when I get back, I'll watch a movie that needs to go back to the library.

There are still so many things on the list. Did I mention I'm going home in three days?


Blogger Dana Watson said...

Safe travels home! How long will you be there? I will endeavor to actually call you this year!

9:31 PM  

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