December 31, 2006

What an amazing and intense year! New continents, new jobs, new friends but also work permit problems and the loss of my grandmother. That alone sums up the year for me. So much positive and some negative. I get older, life gets harder but more rewarding things happen as a result. I don’t want to get all philosophical on yo ass but just wanted to let ya’ll know that I’m still here and looking forward to 2007. It is going to be a unique year for many reasons, namely the fashion show and also the fact that I very well could be broke because of my social security problems in Germany.

Here are my new year’s resolutions:
1)to get back into exercising and eating better
2)to not spend money so frivolously, i.e., not so many beers in bars and food in restaurants, cds,books, dvds and clothes. Not so much money on travelling but still using available income for that!
3)to get an extension to my work permit
4)to finish writing Selling to the Norwegians OR start a new book but you and I both know that I have to finish that one
5)look into self-publishing and selling books on amazon
6)at least one if not more photo exhibitions and try and find some places to submit my photos for publication
7)put on a fashion show
8)visit new countries. Only Turkey and Hungary on the radar so far but who knows, I’m dying to visit Montenegro for my birthday if possible
9)Get rid of some of my posessions, whether they are clothes or books or just stuff. I want to have fewer things, thereby appreciating more of what I have.
10)I’ll leave number 10 as a joker. This one is not yet known but it could be one of many things, like arranging my work schedule better or maintaining my friendships better or being a better person, whatever the hell that means! As I said, let’s leave number 10 open to interpretation.

I wish all of you a great 2007 and I hope it’s the best year of all of your lives, that is until 2008! Assiyeah and I are going to the beach for a few hours now and then tonight going to a friend’s bar to ring in the new year. Tomorrow while everyone is hungover and watching football, Assiyeah and I will drive down to San Diego and hang with my buddy Mooney and his girl Lorie. We’re going to see a concert on the 2nd, a band called My Morning Jacket and then we will have two more nights here in Southern California before going back to good ole Deutschland! I sure hope Deutschland treats me a bit better next year!



December 23, 2006

Got the new laptop, chillin with wireless on the bed. Don’t have too much of interest to report but wanted to discuss how I want to use my blog a bit differently in 2007. I have mostly been reporting on what’s happening my life and the past few months it hasn’t been too interesting maybe because of all this work permit crap. It’s finally drawing to a close, even though it could end up leaving me broke in 2007. I haven’t been broke in a long time. I don’t really have money but I can honestly tell you that anything more than the 5000 bucks I might have to pay back could leave me with nothing in Germany. That sucks.

It doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. After all, I probably should have been paying this social security thing from the beginning but all of us teachers try not to think about it or discuss it because you never know when this big bill is gonna come and hit ya. I have had the most amazing life in Germany, it is by far the best decision I have ever made in life and so there must be a price to pay. The thing is, I always try and make changes in life before life changes me. It’s important for me to be in control of my life, at least the general direction it’s going and the past 9 months I haven’t had control. I’ve been trying to discuss rationally with German civil servants and it’s been more than frustrating. All of a sudden, I had no control over my life. It disturbed me and I fought back. I won, sort of, but then this bill is coming down the pike. They still got me. I am going to try and get it down to a lower amount but am not sure how or even if it is possible. That’s how crazy I am. I am thinking of how I can make a deal with the government over back taxes, like I’m Kenneth Lay of Enron or something. Me, who made about 20,000 euro this year. It’s insane how much under scrutiny I have been, whether it was the German IRS asking questions about my tax return or the local Immigration office.

See what I mean, it gets uninteresting after awhile. 2007 I hope to discuss other things, namely the photo exhibition I’ve begun working on, the fashion show, finish my fifth book, start a six one, do a bit of travelling, and try and improve my German and Spanish again. We are getting to a point where Assiyeah and I are perhaps 18 months or less from moving from Freiburg. I want to stay in Freiburg, I love it there and it is possible for us to stay but Assiyeah will have to find work there. Doing what, you ask. Well, I’m looking at translation now. I think it is something that she would be really good at and it would mean that she could live anywhere and do the job. I would, however, be willing to move to another part of Germany, or maybe Austria or Spain. I would really prefer to stay in Germany, and even Freiburg at that, because Germany has a nice standard of living and it’s a great location in Europe. I am truly happy there.

Next year could see other new things. You can be rest assured that there will still be the occasional Friday night that extends itself a bit long and I can write about it but I probably will live a bit more German next year, meaning eating in restaurants less, not drink as many beers in bars (let’s hope for good weather!), and not buy as many cds and dvds and books. I have enough stuff for now, I have plenty of books to read and already two trips planned for 2007 so it’s not like nothing is going to happen to me. At least I hope not.

Look at me, it’s Friday evening, I’m chilling in bed with the laptop watching Scrubs waiting for the Daily Show to start. I guess you could say that my life is normal, right?

at least 4,000

December 20, 2006

I got an email today. I can get an extension to my work permit. That is huge news and has been successful mostly because I other people have begun going to bat for me. The bad news is that they said I have to prove that I have paid 50 months of social security, something I have not been paying because I never knew if I would be in Germany long enough to collect it or not. The lowest amount I may have to pay is 80euro/month for 50 months which is 4000 euro. That would basically eat up every penny I saved in 2006 and even some of the money I need to live for a few months though I could survive somehow. Worst case scenario is 19.5% of my income pre tax for the past four years. That number would be much closer to 10,000euro, an amount I don’t know. Now I am curious if it might be better to marry Assiyeah (for our financial sake) to save us (not me, but us) all of the money I have saved for us since living in Germany. I want to marry her, have wanted to for a couple of years and I would hate to have to give our money to the government and then not see it again for 35 years which is essentially what they’re asking. This is definitely bad news wrapped all around some good news. I am curious to see how this is going to turn out but I know that it’s going to be okay somehow, it just might mean much less holiday next year, less beer and restaurant meals, fewer books and cds and dvds but I think I can survive somehow. Keep your fingers crossed.

45 minutes

December 12, 2006

I had the longest cell phone conversation of my 3+ year life here in Germany today, with arguably the most imporatant person I have talked to, the boss of the boss of the boss of the boss of my case worker at the Foreign Authority Office. He was nice enough to concede that I were to invest 100,000euro and employ a few people, that might be enough to discuss the point. He says it’s just not possible. I was disheartened to say the least. I am disheartened. I have fighting 9 months on a “stupid technicality” and I have been unable to find one German person in a position of authority to say, “Ya know what, I will give you the extension, if anyone has a problem with it, they can talk to me.” They can see the merits of my case, I basically fulfill every one of their wishes except for one that apparently is the most important, the investing of a million dollars.

I am moving to Karlsruhe in January, only on paper of course and hope that when my folder arrives, the Freiburg authorities have not written anything discriminatory in it. It shouldn’t be a problem, but the loophole is closing. I just can’t fucking believe that my life here has to change. I have been so happy here, I loved that things were staying more or less the same.

The thing is, I have prided myself on making change in my life before life makes change on me and this time life got me. I have fought it as best I could, but damn it all, somehow I found someone who can better me, the German Beauracrats. I have been tossed around, given hope, denied ever having a chance, given hope, waited, hoped, denied, waited, hoped, hoped, crestfallen, determined, and now today, exhausted. I have not slept well in days, ever since I was given the rejection letter on Saturday. I left the house at 7.25am and arrived at 9.25pm, without coming home once. How in the hell can they kick me out when I’m working my butt off to make a living here, I don’t get it…

Anyway, I’ll get over it, I’m sure Assiyeah and I, if we do get married, it will just be something at the justice of the peace so we can get the paperwork, symbolically flip off every single person involved and move on with my life. I don’t think that I will count the day we go to the justice of the peace as my anniverssary day. That says a lot.

6 days

December 10, 2006

hi (someone who has helped me with my work permit problem),

vocabulary: Auslaenderbehoerde: Foreign Authorities Office
Regierungspraesidium: Their boss
quatsch: rubbish, as in that, that’s stupid to think that’s how it is.

Guess what, it came. A “final” rejection for my work extension. Something is not right. Remember, you told me to write that while we are waiting for the law to finish being changed, let’s put it on the back burner. And then they wrote back, okay, until November 30th. It came and went finally on December 5th I called to find out what was going on. Nothing.
I then got another email or two from guys in Koeln and Ruhrgebiet how they got their extensions. I then called the Auslaenderbehoerde in Koeln to ask their rule about this. When I asked about the million euro and the 10 jobs “thing”, she said, “quatsch”, only if you’re going to open a language school. We have hundreds of musicians and artists in Koeln and naturally they don’t have to invest a million euro blah blah blah. I asked if she would call the Auslaenderbehoerde to inform her on how you deal with the law. She said she wouldn’t tell anyone in another Auslaenderbehoerde how to do their job but that Freiburg could call her if they liked, no problem.

Then I decided to try for an Auslaenderbehoerde in my own state, Baden-Wuertemberg. Karlsruhe got googled and 2 minutes later I was on the phone with the guy who would be my case worker if I was within the region of Karlsruhe. He said that of course no one of my status needs to have that million euro. I told him a little of my story and then he said I should go to the City Hall and file a complaint that I have been unfairly treated. He said in my case it was clear to him I should get the extension. I went there to the City Hall here in Freiburg and tried to file that complaint but of course no one told me where I could do it. One went so far as to suggest I go to the Auslaenderbehoerde one floor below us. I ended up going there in the end. I got to speak to the supervisor for my case worker. I told her about Karlsruhe and Koeln. I asked her advice. She told me to move to Koeln. It wasn’t until hours later that I realized how much she had insulted me considering the fact I have lived in Freiburg almost 4 years.

Anyway, I asked if she would at least ask her boss at the Regierungspraesidium if he didn’t think it was a little strange that in Karlsruhe, just 120km north of where we sat, English teachers like me in the same state were getting extension swithout problem. She stonewalled me. I asked if she knew that the Ministry of Domestic Affairs was going to have a vote in January if whether the Auslaenderbehoerden should have more power to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. She said no. So now she knew that but still typed a letter the next day rejecting me, even though we had decided more or less to let this run until we got some sort of decision by the Congress.

I have 6 days to write something back. A friend of my roommate is a new lawyer, and so she is free. She is not an expert of Auslaenderrecht but it does say lawyerafter her name, ya know? We’re going to write a letter tomorrow maybe. What should it say?

1)That I have been in Germany, the same city for 3 years and 9 months. Never once in that time I have gotten a penny from the State.
2)That I have worked very hard as a foreigner here to build up the work that I have, and have been out of trouble with the law (knock on wood) the whole time.
3)Again, how much I love it here in Freiburg, how I have developed a life here, this is my home now. You can’t kick someone out of their hometown, can you?
4)The conversations I had with Koeln and Karlsruhe, including their feelings on the subject, and even what the guy in Karlsruhe said about filing a complaint.
5) That they might be receiving hundreds of emails, phone calls and letters from students, friends, coworkers, employers, local politicians, lawyers, radio, and the newspapers. This is not a threat whatsoever, just giving the head’s up.
6)That part 4 of Paragaph 21 says that after 3 years of having a residence permit, you can have a permanent residence permit.
7)That I have indeed confirmed that Karlsruhe would be happy to give me a 2-year extension to continue work in Baden-Wuertemberg based on my current qualifications and requirements.
Here is the number and name of that guy.
8)Is it really necessary for me to “move to Karlsruhe” for a month, wait for my file to change Auslaenderbehoerden, get my work extension there and then move back to Freiburg?
9)That I have been untreated unfairly, listing the following points:
*Frau Ortlieb said in her opinion, I should get the work extension. When I asked her then what I should do, she said I should sue the city of Freiburg.
*How often the people do not work there and there is a substitute who either is extremely unhelpful, impolite and unpleasant is or super nice, unconcerned and helpful is.
*That my case worker seems to have absolutely no power to make a decision.
*That his boss does not have the authority to decide but can write the rejection letters.
*That when I told Frau Ortlieb about Koen and Karlsruhe, that she said I should move to Koeln as advice.
*It took them 3 months to respond to first letter. They gave me 3 weeks to write back. It took them more than 4 months to respond to the second letter and gave me 6 days to respond.

This is going to get ugly for people. I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted my stupid extension. My radio piece was on the radio today. I’m going to the newspapers on Monday to blow this shit through the roof. I already wrote an email to Gernot Erler, the local congressmen.

I more or less just wanted to give you an update since you’ve been so helpful. I can’t afford you and therefore don’t expect anything from you though it would be nice just to know you read it all and might offer a few thoughts. Any advice would be appreciated!

Written on an English teacher messageboard

December 7, 2006

your take on my situation, john, really hits it on the spot. they are, i suppose, well within their rights to deny me an extension. They are wrong to do it, are going to end up looking foolish publicly as the onslaught of:

1)newspapers articles, in english and germany

2)emails and letters from all 182 of my students, asking why I am having trouble. And is it true that suddenly, after teaching them for 3 years, I have to invest 1 million euro in their country and employ 10 people to continue to live how I have been living the last 3+ years? They ask to be responded to. When the generic letter goes to each person, each can respond and now the auslaenderbehoerde and regierungspraesidium have entered into dialoge with almost 200 people from the local area, including employers, businessmen, lawyers, students, mothers, unemployed people, people who speak in a pretty hard Badish/Allemanisch dialect with grammar questions. I understand them, I am a native speaker of English who understands a good portion of their stupid grammar questions in their stupid dialect that I am constantly asking them about, wanting to learn new words like: huchekeshtle, sunniwirbele and countless others which embarass my girlfriend who is from berlin and thinks dialect words like guckele for Tute is a a bit embarassing, as is the German flag we have in our apartment which is mine. Me, is doing photo exhibitions and a fashion show with students from a culture management university I teach American history at. Me, who watched parts of about 50 world cup games around the town for a month, wearing my german flag as a cape like hundreds of germans, giving out german wristbands to one of my university classes before the WM started, who calls Freiburg the best place on earth, it is ME who has to leave Germany. Of all the people not from Germany who live here, I would have to say that I am in the top 1% of people who truly appreciate how beautiful this country works, and my possibilities to develop a life here, and how lucky I am to be with a wonderful German girl, who I plan to marry, and have planned to for a few years but we’ve wanted for her to finish school first, which is still more than a year away. She would lose her Bafoeg, and less romantic things and get us away from what should be the greatest day of our lives, with the wedding on the beach, drinks at sunset, dinner with all our friends and family, my friends drinking too much and dancing and jaegermeister and tequila shots, them having strange conversations with old people there, that is going to be when I marry, not just because I suddenly don’t have a million euro. That just ain’t right, yanowhaimsayn?

Bundesministerium des Innern

December 6, 2006

From 9.30am to 10.30am today I taught lawyers. Well basically, we just discussed my case, my work permit problem. It’s funny, I earned about 32 dollars for that hour of work speaking with 3 lawyers, who combined probably make about 500 dollars/hour. We tried to figure out what to do about my case. What should I do? One of them went and checked on the internet if there has been an update on the Self-Employed foreigner law. There has and there hasn’t. They are discussing changing it, giving local authorities more power to make a decision on a case by case basis. The vote for this committee is scheduled for January, 2007. My current work permit expires on January 10, 2007. We know when the committee is planning on voting because we called the “Secretary for Domestic Affairs”‘s secretary this morning, asking her about it. She mumbled a lot but the idea is that they are discussing changing the law and that has to be enough for now. I have a lot of other ideas for recourse and all of them probably would fall flat in the face of getting married to the woman of my dreams. I really do want to marry Assiyeah someday, but not because of them, ya know?

I was called by the magazine Accents http://www.accents-magazine.de today because they want to do a follow up article on my situation. I compiled happily. I got an email from a guy in Cologne who got his work permit. He is allowed to work as much as he wants wherever he wants. Why am I not allowed to? That’s the question.

Okay, I need to chill while I have a couple of hours break before heading out into the world again…