giovedì, novembre 20, 2014

Moving to, moving away

Well, I won't say everything has been going absolutely seamlessly with the preparations to move to Krautland, but they have been remarkably smooth. For example, I've come across a nasty little catch-22 where full-time contractors moving there can't get public health insurance, but it's illegal to not have health insurance . . . a private insurer would probably take me, but being a child-bearing-age woman, a mother and a pinko, that option is both too expensive and too contrary to my blah-blah-blahs. But I get to override the catch-22 with that special-statute-for-journalist thing. Fancy.

Anyways, things have been moving so smoothly that to be honest I'm sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Job, they say, is the oldest book of the Bible, and I'd say certainly the one nearest to my heart. I'm conscious of having led so far what would be considered by billions to be a charmed life, and fuck me if that doesn't make me nervous. When you've done nothing to deserve it, when there are so many better people who don't have it, how can you not be scared of it being taken away?

Another thing, not unrelated to my ridiculous angst, is that my application for Australian citizenship is also chugging along fast. There is every chance that when I fuck off out of here, I will be doing so as an Australian . . . and I can say it's just a potentially useful piece of paper, but A) I've spent longer here now than anywhere besides Canada and B) last night I had an erotic dream about Crocodile Dundee, and he left his hat on. I'm still breastfeeding, by the way. I don't have erotic anything about anything in the normal course of things.

 At least that's what it would have sounded like if anyone in Australia could play the bass.

I do wonder what my time here has done to me, and that is a question I won't be able to answer until years after I've left, probably. I do know that I've never felt so much like a trespasser anywhere, even in countries where I didn't speak the language that well. There isn't much nice you can say about what happened to the native people in North America - probably, at best, that if a bunch of busybody immigrants on the make headed to Europe right after the plague killed most of the population, something similar would have happened, so it's nothing personal. But there's something a little spookier going on here.

Australian aboriginals have been in situ basically longer than anybody has been anywhere. 70,000 years, by some reckoning. 70,000 years ago, if you wanted a bit of rough in Europe, you could fuck a Neanderthal, and go on fucking Neanderthals for the next 40,000 years or so. 70,000 years is basically an unfathomable amount of time in human history.

And here aboriginal people have been, on what is by global standards quite the fucking dump of a continent. Always catching fire, or flooding, or sending up swarms of poisonous things, and mostly desert at the best of times. They made it work for 70,000 years in this fucking dump. That is fucking insane. If anywhere "belongs" to anybody, this place belongs to them, and when you are, like me, fundamentally a south-of-Eboli-Catholic - about three catsprings away from a straight-up voodoo animist - ignoring that belonging is fucking creepy. Sure, you can do it legally. We own a good square kilometre of the place. But spiritually? Oh dear me no. Spiritually, being here creeps me the fuck out. Crocodile Dundee I am not. Even if I've now seen his spirit dong. 

martedì, novembre 18, 2014

Happy snotday

Ugh. The boy's second birthday has come, as has colds.

Melbourne, you fuck. Under an ozone free sky and sandwiched between the desert and a deep blue sea - a deep blue sea where the next continent over is fucking Antartica - the weather is the physical manifestation of the emotional state of a 12 year old girl. It hasn't been uncommon for the mornings to start off just a few degrees north of freezing and peak around 3 pm close to 40 degrees. Nor is it uncommon for that temperature to plummet so fast when the wind stops blowing from the desert and starts blowing from the sea that your lower body is still warm from the baked asphalt and your upper body is twitching in the chilly breeze. And then on a normal windless day there's still a good 10 degree swing between sun-in and sun-out.

I actually don't mind it too much. 85% of the time, it's better in most ways than a lot of the places I've lived - I'm really having to gird myself up in weather terms for moving back to northern Europe, for example. But I do believe these big temperature swings make it easier to catch colds than it should be. And the big heat is really unbearable here. We're going to get quite a lot of it this summer, I think, what with everybody in Canada complaining about how the cold and snow is coming down on them like the wrath of God and these things usually going oppositely.

You want the wrath of God, beaverbeaters? Try weather that can't decide whether to kill you fast with fatal heatstroke and poisonous cold blooded creatures, or kill you slow with skin cancer and respiratory disorders from all the fucking air conditioning. And then cover it in flies. Fucking millions of flies. Who get caught in your toddler son's snot bubbles on his second birthday. Poor kid.

Anyways, the boy is two and the best thing ever. 

martedì, novembre 11, 2014

Throwing shit out

Things are ticking along amazingly fast towards departure. I really like this practice I've got going of only putting a few things on my to-do list - things I can reasonably accomplish within a few days - and then scratching them off. And making them bite-size. For example, "Throw Shit Out." That I can do. If I throw out one box of shit once a week between here and February, I'll hardly have to pack a bag at all.

Talking with a good accountant there has also helped. German tax law. Hah! The three words together look so funny on the page. It's like writing "God is good" or "Life is hard". Three words with whole fucking universes of meaning behind them to the degree that even saying them is at best meditative or mantric and at worst totally fucking incoherent. Anyways, he seems to be a good accountant and was able to quantify for me what I do before we leave and what I have to do right after. The Byzantine nature of German tax law looks to be working out for me at the moment too, since they have a special, obscure statute for self-employed journalists that seems to promise to make life rather easier for me.

And maybe I'm counting my chickens, but I think that this move might be a relatively easy one based on the fact that we know it's going to be fucking devastatingly hard and we started - okay, realistically, I started intensive preparations for it back in September. We've both done the trans-global moves a few times before, together or singly, and I think have both tended to leave stupid, stressful amounts of time to ourselves to get everything done. But now that we have Godzilla, we're not quite so dumb. A little better, I hope, at managing our time.

We'll see. I'm curious myself to see how much of my own hair I've pulled out by the time we leave. 

lunedì, ottobre 27, 2014


That is a POP! of relief. A POP! of all my fretting muscles suddenly relaxing, as though flooded by a wave of healing grappa.

A different forest kindergarten has said yes to Godzilla next year, starting from August, providing that we send him to their playgroup starting when we get there February, which we'd been planning on anyways. We didn't have a trial day there - the pricey neighbourhood forest kindergarten was the only one in the city proper we did a trial day in - but I did go visit it. Funnily enough, on a visit I was near to blowing off, since it was scheduled for the day after the kinder in the pricey neighbourhood built up our hopes and dreams only to dash them a week or two later. My taxi didn't show up so I was one bad decision away from just cancelling at the last minute.

I'm pretty damn pleased - the neighbourhood it's in, which is close to where we stayed on our visit, is a good one in the sense of safety, schools, parks and forests, hospitals and transport (S-bahn AND U-bahn). Better, in fact, than the pricey neighborhood, certainly in terms of public transport, which will be important to the F-word, who will be working in companies all over the region. But it's on the uncool side of the Rhine, so it's cheap enough for us to live in a pretty decent flat or house. And when your grand total (as mine) of Exciting Cultural Events for the last year has been one opera and one ballet, and you're planning a second child before very long, cool neighborhoods aren't too important.

Indeed, I rather fucking hate cool or fashionable neighborhoods. I just don't like the class of people who pay a premium to hang out with other people who pay a premium to hang out with a certain class of people, be that in the sense of gentrifying neighborhoods or just straight-out chichi neighborhoods. The pricey neighborhood with the cocktease forest kinder floods all the time, for god's sake, but is still twice the price of where we're going. I guess it's prettier, to be fair, but pretty isn't the point of Cologne. It's an ugly city. One of those Rotterdam-type places that got all knocked down and built up again more for utility than beauty. The point of Cologne is the green space and the attitude.

But mostly I'm pleased that there is one less thing to fret about, and as I've mentioned before, I was breaking all previous fretting records over this forest kinder thing. I mean, sleepless nights, the whole deal. No negative emotion has ever got in between me and my sleep before. Not heartbreak, not grief, not job stress, not school, fucking nothing. But this . . . well. POP!

lunedì, ottobre 20, 2014

I am just a humble tenant of the Kafkaesque state

Yesterday had this trifecta of good stuff - a fucking HUGE tax refund, Godzilla getting his Italian passport super-fast, and my Yankee bosses officially approving giving me a German contract - that I can't help but be pulled out of my funk to a high degree. The passport, somehow, was the most gratifying one, though also in a sense the most meaningless, since Godzilla's Italian citizenship was already processed and in any case he has the right to come to Europe, live with us there, and go to school on the basis of both my nationality and his father's. But when we finally got it, something tight and nervous in me just dissolved into ahhhhhhh.

I'm pretty intimate with what the right passports are able to do for you, and have enough South Asian and non-EU Mediterranean friends to get a broad picture of what happens with the wrong passports. But us -  we have our papers. We can fly out of Casablanca now. Didn't even need to fuck the chief of police. (Casablanca is a really fucking good movie, by the way; we watched it for the second time the other night. Just throwing that out there again. One of those underrated obscure gems.)

The other thing with the Italian passport is that all of our interactions with the consulate have been really smooth, while the other people there at the same time as us got into shouting matches and tears with the officials. Well, the applicants were shouting and in tears. The consular officials were calm to the point of zen.

During the last round of paperwork for Godzilla's passport, at the next desk over an official dealing with a furious woman who was trying to get her daughter's citizenship sorted out and came up against the brick wall of the slightly different spelling of her own first name on her and her daughter's birth certificate - she was just laying into him, insisting there had to be a form he could give her that would sort the whole thing out.

And the fury was bouncing senselessly off him, as though he was Andre the Giant getting wrassled by a kitten. At the point where he said to her soothingly (in English), "Madame, this is nothing personal between you and me. I am just a humble servant of the Italian state . . ." I strived not to make eye contact with the F-word because I knew I would break down in laughter if I did. On the tram away from there he told me the same thing.

I guess you can't help but thanking your lucky stars to the point of schadenfreude when that sort of thing happens. Not least because when I say that when our dealings with the consulate have been smooth, I don't mean well-oiled machine smooth; I mean not-making-me-cry-or-yell-at-anyone smooth.

At one point, the consulate actually stripped the F-word of his citizenship until he handed in further documentation (years ago, when we were living in Europe no less, and he needed it quite badly). Last year I got a huge freak-out from the information on the website that suggested it would have taken until Godzilla was more than three years old to process his citizenship (well after we planned to leave). The lag between when Godzilla's citizenship was certified early this year and the February 2015 appointment then made for the one-hour process of his passport being printed was also remarkable, and needed to be addressed once we picked a February departure date.

All those things were resolved quickly, though, after some personal inquiries, and I think it really helped that those inquiries were made in Italian, when most of the people the consulate deal with here are monolingual "Italian" Australians trying to do all their business in English.

There's more, though; when I think back on the comically Kafkaesque problems driving the other people at the consulate to distraction, and the resolution of our own problems, I realize that those years in Belgium really broke us into this kind of thing. All the other people there asking for things were Australian, and besides the problem of monolinguality, their brains just popped like cumin seeds in a hot pan when faced with the slow pace and seeming intractability of European bureaucracy.

But we - well, we spent years dealing with a bureacracy that makes Italy look simple. Unlike full-time Australians, who are served by a madly efficient federal government that falls all over itself with apologies at the smallest hiccup, we don't expect things to go well. We expect that every visit to a bureau is only one step in a process, that the delays and issues that crop up are down to the game and not the players, and that when a resolution to a problem comes, it will be all at once and unexpected, so anything that needs to be done by a certain time needs to be addressed well before that time draws anything like nigh. We know what we are doing when it comes to this sort of thing. We have the technology . . . and the patience.

Realizing that has made me a little more - not relaxed - but less fretful about Godzilla's school next year. We will find a solution. We are on six or seven waiting lists, and we will simply keep working to make that work and to make alternative solutions work if that one doesn't work. And anyways, because of my job, he only needs to be in care for half-days; if things are bad, only three hours at a pop. He'll be okay. We'll be okay. We'll just keep being the gentle drip of a European citizen against the limestone of European bureaucracy until our family makes its own happy little European stalagmite.