Gute Reisen

High Adventure at the Job Center

One of my roommates lost his job back in December. I feel for the guy, and in the time that he’s been on the job hunt we’ve gotten to know each other a little better. His first jobless day he said he didn’t know what to do with himself, and he actually tidied up the apartment a bit. I learned the he’s an avid e-cigarette smoker, and he has a wide variety of flavors that he mixes together. Last night’s mix was Strawberry with a hint of Bavarian Cream. I learned that in the 2 and a half years he’s lived in Germany (this was a rough estimate that could have been as little as one year, he is unsure), that the disgusting bathroom has “always been like that.” Perhaps he is under the impression that when he moved in, the calcium build up and the black toilet bowl had been aesthetic choices.

Yesterday he called me. Every time my phone rings I think, this is it, this is the call about my visa. In fact, it was my roommate asking if I’d join him this morning at the Job Center, they were asking a bunch of questions in German, they weren’t speaking much English to him, and he needed answers so he could get his Arbeitlosengeld, unemployment benefits. I warned him my German isn’t that good, but I’d happily help him out. I wish I had someone to call to help me on my plunges into the bureaucracy, so I figured I’d pay it forward a bit. So I got up bright and early, combed my hair, had a cup of coffee and tried to get my mind right for being his Übersetzter, his translator. On the way to the U-Bahn station he regaled me with stories of learning to snowboard. We were headed to an office he had literally been to the day before and he nearly put us on the wrong subway line, he took us out the wrong exit at our destination, and when it was time for him to take a number he switched the lights off in the Job Center, thinking the light switch was the number dispenser.

Last night when I told my other roommates about this plan, they were bemused. “They guy who has been here the least amount of time, is going to be the translator.” I insisted that it was simply because I had the time, but I’m sure it was more than that. After all, I’m still the only I’ve met that is here just because I want to be. Well, there’s one other person, Rose, from England, she told me she came here to be in a more outdoorsy city, but I feel that I don’t quite have the whole story from her yet.

Finally we sat down in font of a delightful German Bureaucratic Wheel. She was short, red headed, long multicolor finger nails, and a pretty positive disposition, all things considered. I spoke for my roommate, and she spoke to me as though I were him. When we sat down he attempted to set the table, and explain my presence. He called me “Mein Freund,” which is fine except that in German saying someone is “my friend” can connote a romantic connection. “Ein Freund von mir” is more clear, I saw a little laugh start to creep into the eyes of our Bureaucratic, I heard form somewhere off in California my brother hollering “Gay Boy.” I said quickly and confidently, “Wir sind Mitbewohner.” We are roommates. I hope my roommate didn’t take this as me wanting to make it clear that we weren’t friends. I should clear this up later.

None of the question that were asked were particularly difficult: bank account? children? was your last job with an English or a German company? There were a few times where I almost started laughing at the situation, it makes me genuinely happy when my German is good enough.

As things went on my roommate had to explain (through me) that he is in dire straits, and that he might not be able to make rent next month. My heart goes out to the guy, he’s living a nightmare scenario that I’ve played out, dreamed about, and visualized many times before. I’m god damn fortunate that I’m here at all, and even more so that I can afford to be living like this with stress, but not with the stress levels that go with not making rent and not finding a job in a country that is reporting record employment despite the refugee crisis.

After we were done we got back on the subway. He told me about how yesterday he’d gotten on a train going the wrong way and didn’t notice for a few stops. I worry one day he just won’t make it home. I asked him what he will do if he doesn’t make it, if no job comes, if he has to move home. It seemed like he had some back up plans he was OK with, but he wants to stay here. He asked me what my plan is if it all goes pear shaped. He said, “It’d be such a shame to have come all this way and wasted all that money.” I stopped him, not a waste I said, I knew that not making it was a possibility, but I have to try, and I have to keep trying. Through all the loneliness, and frustration, difficulty, and insomnia, I still have a strong desire to be here, and will not go until I feel I’ve had my fair shake.

Spent last week and this one e-mailing Immigration Lawyers and Immigration Services companies. So far I get the same response from all of them, “The office that has your paperwork is completely over-whelmed, you need to be patient. But if you want to pay us money you can come talk to us.” I respond bluntly and ask what my money will do to make the decision come more quickly, and I’ve gotten no response to that question. I think my case is such an odd one, the freelance thing, etc. that no one really knows what to do with me. Luckily I’m good at spending wide swaths of free time without totally losing my mind.