No lawyers, no translators, just me versus the bureaucrats. And I won.
Thing felt like they were moving when I started e-mailing with Achim. He was my man at the IHK, and he answered all my questions within 24 hours. I concocted this business plan for him, and sent it to him weeks before the deadline, hoping to get him to let me know if I was on the right track. He then stopped returning my e-mails. Typical. Everything went quiet, and I cleaned up my draft and combined it all into one document. Everything was in English, bad German, and a giant spreadsheet. The deadline came and went with no word from Achim.
I e-mailed him every few days to see if he needed anything, or if there was something wrong, or if there was any answer or movement. After 3 e-mails he responded. “Dear Sir” his e-mail began, even though we’d been pretty friendly in our previous e-mails. I wondered if Achim was an invented person to shield the real people from the occasional nastiness of their job. His e-mail was as cold and business-like as I was used to from everyone but Achim. “A determination has been made, but we cannot share it with you, please visit the Ausländerbehörde.”
So I did today. I thought I’d memorised their hours, but I showed up a half hour after they’d opened. Yet there were no lines. Two entirely new people were behind the desk that I have waited at so many times. They shuffled me off to a waiting room instead of shooing me away like usual.
One of the younger Bureaucrats that I recognised was going to be my man today. He dove into fast German, and though I’d been doing exercises in the waiting room to get myself warmed up, I stumbled and fumbled my words. However, he understood. I thought it was distracting that some English language pop song was playing and there were familiar words being warbled into my ears. He started to read my file. He asked me to leave the room so he could leave. I went outside, back to my German practices, and a few other people from the office came in to the office of my guy. They would leave after a few minutes. My brain was working double time to interpret these as signs success or failure.
He called me back in, and seemed really concerned about whether I was going to be working in video or as an English Teacher. I said primary video, and he explained that if I wanted to work as an english teach I’d have to come back and change my visa. It dawned on me then, the implication of what he was saying.
On the radio Abba’s “The Winner Takes It All” began to play.
I asked “Habe Ich das Visum gekommen?” as he handed me a paper and told me to go to the cashier. He kept saying, no, you have to go to the cashier. So literal. So I tried “Habe ich das Visum verdient?” Have I EARNED the visa. Again, he was confused, but it was clear, I had it.
Sniffling and crying started immediately. I tried to explain how long I’d waited and how happy I was. He got real uncomfortable. His coworker, who shared the office with him, looked away. I “vielen dank”-ed, and “danke sehr”-ed my way out the door. About 2 weeks shy of 6 months, and I’ve got it.
Tonight we will celebrate, I’ve hollered at friends, and can’t wait to transmit the news back across of the Atlantic. Spring is coming, summer is going to be beautiful, and I will be here for it.
So I’ll just stay here. And finally actually get to work. Though step one is probably going to be a new apartment. Oh, and maybe a bike ride in the sun just before that.