Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm an Alien. I'm a Legal Alien.

Yesterday, I became a legal immigrant.

Before my change in status, I was a tourist. Without a visa, Americans can stay in Germany for 90 days. Now I am a resident. I was a tourist without a place to live in another country but I was in Germany as a tourist.

The United States is one of six countries whose citizens do not have to secure a visa known as a residence card before they arrive in Germany. Officials at the New York consulate said it would take three months to get a residence card from there and a month to get one from Germany. My Mama didn't raise no fool, so I made the leap of faith that I would be granted a visa in Germany and moved. Yesterday I officially found out that I was correct.

With my residence card I am now eligible for government-sponsored German lessons. The government sponsors them because the government makes you take them. What I must take is actually called integration courses, which are mostly German lessons and some lessons on Germany culture. One must pass language and cultural tests in order to get a settlement card when the residence card expires.

I am actually excited about the language lessons. I have wanted to learn the language for about the last year, but it has been a choice between $500 German lessons or a plane ticket to Germany. I always chose the plane ticket. Now I get lessons that cost one euro for each session. Soon I will know what people are saying to me and what signs say.

With my new legal immigrant status, I can work. OK, that is good but what jobs can an American who speaks no German do in Germany? Teach English, of course! That is not my only option. I could also clean bathrooms and offices. And if push came to shove, I would. But push and shove are no where near each other, so I am teaching English. I started training on October 17. My first lesson is on the 21st. It will be nice to have money coming in, instead of going out.

As a child growing up, I assumed some things about my life as an adult. That list did not include the word “immigrant”. But now look at me, I’m a legal immigrant.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Vacation at Home

Asmus and I have had a pretty domestic courtship and relationship. I traveled to his house and hung out or he traveled to my house and hung out. We would leave for boat trips and meals and promptly return. With my move to Hamburg, I decided to make a field trip. However, he is out of the house about 12 hours a day going to work in a town about 100 miles away, so there is no way to sneak in a long weekend in Paris. I suggested that we spend the weekend in a hotel in downtown Hamburg and he said, Sure.

Then he said, what about going to Lubeck. When I asked what is there to do in Lubeck, he said nothing. Asmus admits that was a useless suggestion.

I hit the Internet. Hard. I came up with Le Royal Meridien Hamburg. It’s a sister property of New York’s Parker Meridien Hotel. That’s where guests of Live With Regis & Kelly stay. It’s uptown but not uptight. (That hotel is also the home of the world’s most over-rated hamburger.) For 169 euros we got a hot tub, sauna, steam room, a rooftop bar, a location on the Alster Lakes, and contemporary art in every unoccupied space. Best of all, I get to sleep in a BED. Each night I fall asleep on a 6-inch mattress that sits on top of a platform that hangs about a foot off the floor. I hate my middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks. I am half awake and struggling to the full extension of my 5’8” frame. This weekend, I would simply unbend my knees!

Saturday afternoon, Asmus and I were Out. Not In. We packed suitcases. We were Downtown people, not villagers from northern Hamburg. We walked to restaurants and bars. We experienced the nightly drunken parade of the Reeperbahn until 4 am because there was no need to leave the fun before we collapsed from exhaustion. We were sleeping a few minutes away.

I spent more time in the hot tub than a normal person should. We checked in at 5 pm and ate lunch of gourmet sandwiches (Camembert, cranberries and ham. Warmed. Yes!). We washed the croques down with the free bottle of water that greeted us in our room. Right after the sandwiches, I was in the hot tub. Unfortunately, so was a family of four. They were German, so they said nothing to me. I hit the Jacuzzi a half hour before it closed Saturday night. There was no one there, so I got a nice quiet soak. The cherry on top of our massages was a visit to the Jacuzzi. Two hours before checkout Monday morning, I was there again.

Asmus is addicted to the art of massage now. He had his first one on Sunday and is now trying to decide how many he can enjoy on a regular basis.

At first glance, our hotel room seemed nice. It was a mix of white, mint green and blond wood.

But then you flip a switch, a purple light glowed from behind the ironing board. A switch lit up the headboard that covered one wall.

Another flip illuminated the hanging bar in the closet. Another switch made two photographs set into a wooden panel glow.

The bland room was full of interesting design and artistic features.

Sunday night was our last night in the Hotel and it was a little sad. We would return to real life in about 12 hours. We sat in the rooftop bar. Facing Hamburg, we talked. It was good to be with each other outside of the house. We now have Memories.