Brace Yourself

– Brace yourself, he said as we were packing all our things into moving boxes once again. You’re going to have a hard time getting used to Portuguese administration and bureaucracy. You don’t know what your getting yourself into.

So far I have been spared though, until last week when I started to deal with University registration, course information, and at the same time attending and supervising 3 children starting new schools/daycares.

It seems every question has as many answers as the number of persons you decide to ask, every doubt (singular) can develop into an infinite series of questions, and whatever it is your trying to achieve there is always a paper missing, another line to fill out, or some obscure reason to why a certain administrational task cannot be completed in one sitting. Then there’s the aspect of having to bring physical papers in original form in person to another person, only to find out about that missing line/paper, and having to come back another day. Or filling out the same form several times, by hand. When signing a contract, you have to sign every single page of it, the information you needed yesterday, you’ll most likely receive tomorrow, if your lucky. And all of a sudden you walk into a 3,5 hours meeting that you never heard of, but is required to attend.

It’s draining. At times it makes me laugh in amazement, but frustration has also brought me close to tears several times. There might be a few things rotten in the state of Denmark, but there is this marvelous, wonderful, time-saving, amazingly well organised and transparent public and private administration system that runs like a train (most of the time). How I miss Nemid!

There’s no amount of mental preparation that could have helped me. Now I just need to wade through it and get on with it. After all, walking around with papers in the sun in a beautiful spot is not such as bad thing. After all I feel lucky, and,  ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ Seneca

Life is Life

Where to start when one doesn’t know the general direction of ‘things’, or where to end?

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. What I really, really want to do. Life is all about making choices. Life is short and life is precious. Life is life, you remember that song…? I do… I bet none of my class mates do, if they even ever heard about it. I remember walking on the crust of the snow in our yard without breaking it that year.

Anyway, Woody Allen is supposed to have said that 90% of success is just a matter of showing up. Well, I don’t know about the mathematical correctness of that statement, neither am I a fan of Mr. Allen’s, still there is some truth to that statement.

In March this year, I applied to attend to a university course in a foreign country, a course taught in a foreign language, which entailed taking an entrance exam in the very same language that I do not manage, in a scientific subject I never formally studied. I took the test in May, and did better than everyone else (but one), all of which had that particular language as their first language, as for their previous knowledge of the material, I have no idea.

At the exam, some 5 persons showed up equipped with calculators, even though the instructions clearly stated that no calculators were allowed. Not only did they show up with calculators, they also spent some precious few minutes arguing with the staff attending the exam regarding the issue. Now, I showed up without a calculator. Not because my manage of their mother tongue was better, without any doubt I did and do speak it horribly. I came without calculator and was prepared to answer the questions without because I read the instructions at least 10 times. So a little like in the tortoise and rabbit story, I passed, and those people that in the end did not pass, most likely correspond more or less exactly to those native speakers who showed up with calculators. Showing up is not quite enough.

In the end, I not only passed the test, but was accepted as a student of the Bachelor course I applied for. It started last week, I have been registered, I paid the registration fees, have participated in classes for a week and a half, and in one week’s time the tuition fee is due…

Now, the only thing I need to do is to decide: is this really, really, really what I want to do? Is this the best option right now?

If not, that “free” faculty t-shirt that I was given the first day, is going to turn out to be the most expensive t-shirts I ever acquired.

 

Migration

The first time I migrated from one country to another I was 17 years old and with a few months worth of money to live on in my pocket. I worked in a factory the whole summer before departure, saving every penny (with the exception for one or another festival), in order to be able to make the move. Little did I understand that I was able to save every single one of those pennies, because my parents where there to support me with housing and food and whatnot.

I arrived in a foreign country, with a small budget, limited language skills, and a high school graduation that didn’t really get me far. When applying for my first few jobs, I remember not knowing what the hell they where talking about when they requested a CV. I also remember the first time my brother came to visit and he set me up with my first ever email address in a cybercafe (do they even have those anymore?). And, I remember not having a phone (let alone a mobile phone) and agreeing on hours when my parents would call me on the local phone booth, and writing many many handwritten letters to past lovers and friends and family back home.

I left my home town and lived together with (one of) my very best friends forever (with intervals, who by the way just gave birth to a baby girl named Penny), and together we learned the basic principles of economy. If you want to eat, and you want to have somewhere to live, while at the same time smoke and go out for drinks and clubbing, and do all sorts of fun and buy things, you need to have a job… and even if you do have a job, if you’re not keeping track of things, at the end of the month you still have to pay your rent.

At first, we had a really crappy studio apartment, with a shower that didn’t work, a kitchen I cannot remember using very much, and a bathroom/shower-room in the stairway which we shared with two other apartments. The bathroom had no heating, you had to be quite motivated to take a shower in winter in order to actually go through with it. The flat had a money-meter where you inserted coins to make the heating work for a limited time. Heating was not a priority. The plumbing in the building was fixed regularly, with duct tape. And in the building next door we had the Sherlock Holmes museeum, which we never visited once.

I started working at a Sandwich factory because the funds were running out, and because they would have me, while I really didn’t feel it fitted my identity. A month later I upgraded. As the work marked would have it, it’s much easier to find a job when you have one already. And then I upgraded again and again. In the end I was doing quite well for myself. For a migrating teenager, without a CV.

To be honest, I think I did call mum a couple of times in the first few months for some financial assistance at rent times, before I got the hang of it. And she sent all sorts of knitted clothing for my second winter.

Since then I have lived in another 2 countries, and now here I am at 40 starting anew in a 5th country.