Finding a Foothold

Today was my second day of work, and although there are a lot of things I can’t talk about (due to pitches being pitched and new clients being sought), suffice it to say, it has so far been an overwhelmingly satisfying experience. Much like I was my first couple of weeks back, I am also this week: a bit stunned, a bit deer-in-headlights, a bit unable to believe that I actually got this to happen (with a little help from my friends, of course). I think growing up in New York, we can sometimes find it difficult to believe that we’re worth anything, even if we have been doing internships since we were in high school, even if we’ve have several impressive jobs and received a degree from a great university. Because we’re always comparing ourselves to others our age who have more money, better connections, are the children of someone famous, or were simply in the right place at the right time, we never think we’re good enough. It’s a very nice feeling knowing that a small group of people here in Berlin who didn’t really know me a mere three weeks ago and have not a clue what I am truly capable of, have decided to take a chance on me because I passed some kind of test. My first two days have been absolutely packed, in that way the best internships are when you are given big responsibilities, let into every meeting, and made to feel like a true part of a team. I will be getting paid a sum of money that here is live-able but in New York would be laughable, and I’m really, actually having fun. I feel the need to really rise to the occasion, to prove that they made the right decision and to make myself indispensable to them. I have this dream that maybe at the end of six months they won’t want me to leave and will hire me full-time, but even if only I feel they should have, my time there will have been a success.

Anyway, I came in a bit early today, and since the day before my boss had suggested I sit down and write out a draft of the letter they need to give me to take to the Ausländerbehörde (to which I replied that the letter had better be in German, and since I could write German although very badly and it would probably take me several hours longer than a native speaker, someone else had better do it), I sat down instead to write a list of points I felt should be included in said letter to make it sound more convincing. In no time at all, I had something down, although it didn’t look anything like what I had expected. For instead of writing a helpful memo as to how my company could convince the Ausländerbehörde that I absolutely had to be granted permission to work, I had instead written a two-paragraph, somewhat manic and fantastical summary of how evil the Ausländerbehörde actually is.

And it went something like this:

To the author of this letter, a note of warning:

Realize that the Ausländerbehörde is not an office to be dealt with but a wild and unpredictable animal to be tamed. It must be soothed and mollified, not reasoned with, and the sooner you understand what to say to keep it quiet, what proverbial “chew toy” to throw it so that it sits harmlessly in a corner amusing itself, the more quickly you will find yourself with a charming pet that can be used to your advantage, instead of a ravening beast that tears your house apart and eats your favorite pair of shoes.

The main thing to remember is this: the Ausländerbehörde does not want you here. You am American, and not part of the EU, and it will do anything it can to keep you from entering into a system in which they are finally responsible for you, instead of just tolerant of your somewhat illegal presence in their realm. They will aim to keep you in a state of perpetual limbo for as long as possible, continually trying to send you back for things you don’t have but don’t really need. Eventually, they will grant you what you ask, but not before sending you on a whirlwind tour of the various worlds of despair, agony, and insignificance. Eventually, they will grant you what you ask, but only after you admit that you are powerless before them.

On a somewhat frightening but necessary P.S. (not to cause anyone angst, but certainly to allow my dear readers, if they deem it necessary, to freak out completely on my behalf), I arrived here on December 30th. It is now January 28. That means that in a mere two days, I will officially be an illegal immigrant in Germany. In fact, I don’t know: I may already be one (I didn’t count exactly how many days I was here the last time around, but I’m fairly sure it was more than 60. Add an extra month to that and one certainly arrives at a number greater than 90–90 days out of every 6 months). I’m not quire sure what they do to you if they catch you, but right now getting sent back to America seems frightening enough indeed. Onward, as I hope for the best…