A Visa For Everywhere I Want To Be?

From the time I was little I wanted to move to Europe. I mean–I say this–but then again, I also wanted to be a clown and a check-out girl at a grocery store (for a brief time in the 80s we went to one where they whizzed through the store on roller skates–no shit I wanted that job). Anyway, so moving to Europe was one of those things that I thought I wanted, but I’ve never really trusted what I wanted (shall we open this psychological door? nah…).

When I question this idea–like, what exactly about moving to Europe seemed appealing even as a small child?–I can’t really come up with a good answer. It probably seemed about as good an idea as growing up to be pretty or staying up late; something vaguely adult to do that would lead me in the right direction, style-wise.
I think that in a lot of ways I never really thought I’d do it. I distinctly remember that up until very recently I strongly disliked the idea of a vacation because of the implication that one must come back. The idea, or indeed, the fact of returning from a place where you visited  (and would like to have stayed) has always struck me as being so pedestrian. I remember my grandmother often remarking on our return from trips here and there that it was nice to go away but that she was glad to be home. I think–especially when she would volunteer this as my own sentiment after asking about some trip I’d taken–that it was for her a very reflexive attempt to whitewash any sadness or feeling of nostalgia for the place I had just been. Grammy has handled way more in her life than I can conceive of in mine, and she’s earned her right to do a little whitewashing. Nevertheless I hated that sentiment with all my heart. Why the insistence that where we came from was better than where we went? The compulsion to whitewash I’ve come to understand better over time, but that sentiment rankles me still.

So 3 years ago, after leaving a bad social situation in Toronto and spending a few months in Saint John with my parents to earn money and mentally regroup, I came to Europe. It seemed like many of the best people I knew were here, and if nothing else it would be a prime time to do some travelling while I had friends & family to visit and stay with.
After 7 months I settled in Berlin, and have lived here since then–May 2007
(incidentally, I have often given thanks for the shit that I got mired in in Toronto for making me feel so wretched that I felt compelled to leave the continent).

Tomorrow I go for my visa meeting at the foreigner’s office. This will be my third time since November. Normally I only have to go once a year, but due to changes in the system, I have been rejected for a visa twice now. I am confident that this time I have the sufficient documents, but then, I thought that before, too…

Everything about the experience of the foreigner’s office is strange. It’s strange sitting across the desk from a stranger who has the power to up-end your whole life. It’s strange standing in line at 8am with a 100 other immigrants eyeing each other as we stand in our best clothes and feeling like you’re competing with them for the favour of a bunch of ill-aired bureaucrats. It’s strange to think that as someone from a privileged background and a first-world country I could find myself competing with someone who has nowhere to go if Germany turns them down. It’s strange to find myself having to defend my own experience of this process as unpleasant and at times demoralizing on the basis of the fact that I’m a white, blond girl from a rich country and therefore (according to the logic of the immigration lawyer with whom I found myself arguing) it would seem, incapable of having such an experience–at least not in a context where gender wasn’t the defining factor.
So yes, it’s strange–I’ve made my point.

These weren’t the things my 4-year old self imagined when I thought of moving to Europe. I suspect that the Roman Coliseum and, probably, sheep factored more heavily into my imaginings than badly-maintained socialist architecture housing worse-off civil servants who get their coffee from a button.

All the same I submit to the process because 3 years on I am still enamoured of this place. The appeal can be as basic as the cuisine; peasant food–not unlike what I grew up with, but with 500 years more screwing around to get the recipes right–and every major city has it’s own damn sausage! How can you deny transmunicipal sausage profiles? Or the fact that I can just get on a train, and–theoretically–go anywhere from Lisbon to Asia! It may as well be around the corner! I may not do it but that’s OK, because even home is now somewhere to be discovered. Indeed, the most compelling aspect of it all may be the fact that I’ve finally gone away and kept on going.

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