by Jeffersonian Democrat
Fri May 29th, 2009 at 04:41:49 PM EST
Last week, I wrote a diary that was one part desperation, two parts dark snark, and four parts Schloss Hefeweizen. Needless to say, it didn't go over very well but it was about my despair about turning 43 on the 23rd and the French Foreign Legion's big "Non".
So what does age, the Legion, and immigration have to do with one another? Not really a lot unless you are trying to find ways to contribute to a society you really wish to live in.
I've loved Europe since I was around eight-years-old. It has always been a dream to live here. I'm really nerdy when it comes to visiting castles and museums and reading Sagas and Arthurian Legends, that hasn't changed since I was 8. My military experience provided me with the chance to experience exotic places from the Sinai to Honduras to Panama and elsewhere. But only once did I come here for Reforger '85 in January 1985. I've yet to experience another Winter here that cold.
I graduated University of Michigan in Russian and Eastern European Studies in 1996 after three semesters abroad in Moscow where I met my ex wife and current good friend. I returned to active military as a Naval officer but eventually returned to graduate school in Germanic Languages and Literature at University of Virginia and received my MA in January 2005.
In the fall of 2004 I came over to Germany as a guest lecturer and loved this place so much I decided to stay. I was also involved with a nice German woman and we were about to be married but everything fell apart in September and I think it has a lot to do with the miscarriage.
But I loved the more relaxed European lifestyle. I wanted to live in the places I studied and see everything.
Here in Germany "Intergration" is a very big thing for immigrants. But I cannot tell you how many times Germans have told me that I know more about their culture and literature than they do themselves. My German is not perfect, especially in writing, but I speak fluidly and everyone understands me regardless of grammar mistakes. I often brag how my family came to the US from the Principality of Hannover in 1870 according to Ellis Island documents and how their family Bible from 1725 traces us back to Jacob Luther, the brother of the Reformator.
But the obstacles of a Non-EU resident has hit me hard.
I have recently found out that the Auslandsamt made an initial mistake with my visa. November is coming up when I will have 5 years residency. However, despite allowed to work as a "Dozent", they listed me under paragraph 16, which is a student visa.
They admitted I should have been under paragraph 18 which allows you to work. But, and here is the kick in the balls, now that I am again a PhD student, they can't change it. The law states that under a student visa, the time of residency counts only as half. The new EU visa is also not applicable because I am listed as a "student" rather than a "worker".
I feel as though I just wasted five years chasing a dream and living in poverty to accomplish that dream. I mean, my only income is a veteran's pension and we all know how the dollar is doing. I can so far not find employment where I am allowed to work and cannot work generally because of the law.
Last week I considered what I knew how to do, and therefore the Legion seemed an option that would give me the EU citizenship at the end of another five years.
Here's the thing that kills me, too. I understand why it is so hard, I heard the same arguments in the US about the immigrants coming and stealing our jobs. In Dortmund, I lived on a park. Every morning there were people who looked like Turks or Middle Easterners wearing florescent uniforms and picking up trash. That same park had a Stehcafe/kiosk where at the same time people who looked like typical Germans were drinking beer.
There seemed to be a disconnect there. It seemed to me that like the US, immigrants will do whatever they have to to work and contribute to society in the hopes that their children will have more chances. Immigration brings a richness of diversity to the culture. We can look at food and festivals as anecdotal evidence.
I am an immigrant. I want to work. I do not want to live in poverty nor live on the dole. I want to pay my taxes, I want to contribute to society. I also feel that it is not only my responsibility to understand the political process but also my duty (that's my Americanism coming through), therefore I've become more active in Die Linke here in Jena and will probably join the SDS as well.
I view the xenophobia as ancient entrenched tribalism. My own education addresses this. It really did not get organized until the aristocracy recruited the Romantics against Bonapartism in the early 1800s with this new idea of "Pan-Germanism". Thankfully, most of it died in the rubble of Berlin in 1945. But it still exists in subtle forms, especially in immigration law.
Ironically, I can and have educated Germans on Goethe and Schiller but I would probably have an easier time if I were an IT specialist, scientist, or engineer. Special visas for those folks. But there is no need for philosophers or philologists. Europe certainly has a problem with ageism as well. It's protected as discrimination in the US but not here. It is certainly not a given that I will even find a job after my defense even in academia.
This whole diary is anecdotal. It's just my perspective and I am trying to live out my own personal dream. These concerns are really affecting my ability to study and write without stress; I am writing my dissertation as well as studying Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse.
It's a shame, I actually want to intergrate and participate. I am not the brightest, many others even here are much more brighter than I. But I am not dumb either and I would think that I would be the ideal immigrant for a society that is losing its best and brightest to globalization.
All is not so dire, however. I may be teaching next semester and that will change my visa status. I've applied with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and will apply with the Thüringen Stipend fund next month that I qualify for. But in the meantime, I have an appointment with the Evangelische Studentengemeinde, a charity affiliated with the church, for help next week.
And that is a another kick in the balls. I am fully able to work and pay taxes, yet this is the first time that I have to go groveling to a charity.