04 December 2011

Auslanderbehörde, Attempt Number 1

Upholstery on the S-Bahn
Thursday morning, 8:30 am.  It's cold outside and I've forgotten my gloves.  I'm in line at the Auslanderbehörde, the immigration office in Berlin (Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24.) It's an ugly building in a rather industrial area.  Not exactly what you think about when you consider dreamy, artsy, progressive Berlin.  The building doesn't open until 10 am, but already there are about 20 people in front of me.  I have with me all of my materials, passport, letters of intent to hire, bank statement, college transcripts stating my areas of expertise, CV, everything except an official letter saying that I will be insured by a health insurance company once I have a tax I.D. number.  Robert, my hero of the day (he's my hero many days, actually) has gone to the Lidl a few blocks away to get pastry and coffee for the both of us.  My fingers are so cold they ache, and I wait for the hot paper cup that he will bring back with great anticipation.  Robert has come to translate for me.  It is a relief to have a native German speaker with me, and the company is nice as well. 
Finally the building opens and some people shove past me, getting through the door first.  I don't care.  I have promised myself that I will not stress or rush today.  I have been under a lot of stress lately.  It has been manifesting in my body in different forms, knots in my stomach, a clenching of the jaw and stiffening of the neck.  I take deep breaths, try to let go of the anxiety of alienness, of not understanding the language around me, of trying to grasp a culture that is not my own.  On the second floor I show my passport, take a number and Robert and I sit in hard plastic chairs in room 212, waiting.  I know I will not get my Visa today because I don't have the insurance, but I'm not sure how to get it and they will at least tell me what I have to do.  In line, I met an American ukelele player who has lived in Berlin for the past few years.  She is renewing her Visa today.  She has given me the name of an insurance agent who will sell me private insurance without a german tax ID number.  I can pay through my American bank account with USD.  I'll buy this insurance later from a British man named John Gunn, who is based in Hamburg.  As far as I know, he is the only person selling the private German health insurance that the Auslanderbehörde accepts.  According to immigration law, I have to buy three month's worth of insurance at a time.  It is extremely expensive, this stuff, but I am in a race against the clock and there is nothing else available to me.
After about 45 minutes, my number is called.  Robert and I go into a little room and speak with a joyless woman behind a window. She tells me that I have everything except the insurance and she can either give me an extension on my tourist visa for 3 months until my appointment, or I can come back on Monday or Tuesday with the insurance.  I opt for Monday or Tuesday. 
Robert and get on the train back to my place in Lichtenberg, where I currently have a small, curtained corner of the living room to claim as my own space.  I sit on the fluffy red comforter on my twin mattress and Robert lays his head in my lap whil I read him a short story by James Herriot. 
I feel positively drained.  I know everything will work out.  I am a strong and persistent person, and going back to the States in a permanent way is not a viable option for me.  The parts of the US I might like to live in are not set up for someone who doesn't drive, and I've no interest in living in New York. 
Tomorrow the Visa saga continues.  I'll take my letter from John Gunn saying I am insured to the Public Insurance Agency, who will then sign my official form that says they will insure me after me 3 months of private insurance is up and on Tuesday I will go to the Auslanderbehörde just before 7 am when the doors open and maybe, just maybe, they will give me my Self-Employment Visa then and there and I can start looking for some work.
Deep breaths.
It will all be okay.
Deep breaths.
Boddinstrasse Pinwheel, Neukölln

TV Tower at Night




  1. Sending deep, calming breaths your way. Miss you much, Harvey! Stay warm and determined. Lots of love, Mandy p.s. love, love the image of you on that shiny, golden ball!

  2. Harvey-you are doing great and what an adventure! I too love the image of you on that gold ball. Harvey seizing her future with joy, zeal and ferocity! Yay!

  3. You rock, Harv! Enjoying the ride is our lesson! We just need to let our lives happen! Love you!