About the Blog

I recently accepted a position from Teach and Learn with Georgia, a Georgian Ministry of Education program designed to bring native speakers of English into classrooms around the country. I will be moving to Georgia in August of 2014 to begin my assignment.

Before this latest adventure, I studied at Bogazici University in Istanbul Turkey and at Azerbaijan University of Languages. I speak English German Spanish, Turkish Azerbaijani and Uzbek and am currently trying my hand at Georgian.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Fatherland

That's my residency permit on the right, with my Passport for scale
So. Guess what? This is the very last piece of the serial Hannah’s Residency Permit! I know that you will miss it terrible but please control your emotions. I had tickets to leave Istanbul on the first of March and my appointment to pick up the residency permit was the 28th of February. I kept my appointment slip in my wallet so that I couldn’t possibly forget it. I planned out if someone tried to mug me I would beg them to give me the appointment slip and I’d let them keep the credit cards. I got a little melodramatic about the whole thing if I’m honest. I went right after my chemistry class was over at 11am. I had my next class at 2pm so I knew that I’d be a little late since it’s pretty much an hour and a half each way to the building, but I figured it wouldn’t take real long to pick the thing up. Oh, so wrong. So so wrong. I showed them my appointment slip and they directed me to a room that contained at least 50 chairs and double that many people. This should have been my first intimation that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. I got there right after the lunch break, which was supposed to end at 1pm. By about 20 past some of the employees started rolling in again. The system went like this. Next to the door to the room was a small table. Everyone put their slips on this table. One employee took them. There was a long counter at one end of the room where 2-3 employees sat (depending on who was on chai break). The person who took the slips carried them to a file cabinet that covered an entire wall up to his shoulders. He went through it to find the permits that corresponded to the slips. The permits were still attached to all the paperwork that went with them. Once he had collected a stack he took them up to the front counter and they read off the first name and nation of the person whose permit it was. One guy read loudly, but the other two mumbled into their desks, which made it rather difficult to hear especially since there were already a hundred people waiting in this room and some of them were complaining pretty darn loudly, including one super pissed off American woman.  Some of the permits weren’t ready yet (all of those seemed to be for either Syrians or Somalis so I got the sense that there is a clear hierarchy of whose paperwork gets priority).  These people had their names off by the employee who looked for the permits and he gave them new appointments to pick them up, usually 2 weeks later. Again, none of the employees seem to speak any English. My heart is going about 3000 beats a minute at this point and I am fervently praying that my permit is ready. After waiting for about an hour one of the guys calls “Hannah America” and I vault myself over the chair in front of me and end up kind of sliding/skidding into the desk. I sign the original paperwork again, the employee makes some small conversation with me about studying Turkish and I have it. I dance my way out of the building, smiling like a maniac. But I never have to go back again! And I was only one and a half hours late to my class.

The next morning I woke up at 4:45 to get a taxi to Taksim, where I could catch a bus to Ataturk Airport for my Turkish airlines flight to Nurnberg. First of all, my taxi driver was super nice and didn’t try to rip me off at all, which was really kind of him since I don’t function well at 5am. Second of all, every good thing that you have ever heard about Turkish airlines is true. My flight was an hour and a half and I got a full, tasty breakfast. And I had three seats to myself so I slept after watching their excellent promotional video for Kyrgyzstan, which was listed under “documentary”.  My father’s friend Schippy met me at the airport and we took the metro to the train station and had some lunch (leberkase, or Bavarian meatloaf in my case, I have missed pork). We then caught the train to Kitzingen and Schippy drove us the 10km or so from there to Winterhausen, my father’s hometown. My Dad and I went to the bank to get my new German debit card and everyone recognized my dad, despite the fact that he has been living in the US since 1984. It was pretty impressive. My Aunt Marlena and Uncle George from Austria were already there so I got to catch up with them and then in the afternoon we went to see my Patin. The reason for the trip was that Saturday was my Patin’s 75th birthday so as much of the family as was available was getting together to celebrate with her. My coming was to be the surprise present of the event. She lives in a small senior’s home now, and likes it much better than she ever did living by herself. I walked into her room and she was confused for a moment before realizing who I was and then she was exceptionally pleased. My Uncle was so proud of himself for keeping my visit a secret and we all chatted for quite a while.
View of Winterhausen
Let me interject here to say that I didn’t do all that much talking because everything up to this point and really for the rest of the weekend was in German. I speak some German, but I haven’t spoken for quite a while or studied it since high school. Also the whole ‘Living in Turkey’ thing means that I have forgotten a pretty good bit of my German and mostly wanted to speak Turkish. However, due to having spent lots of time in countries where I don’t speak the language very well I am very good at picking up on social cues. I can tell when people are getting to the punch line of a joke and so I laugh at the right moment. This is a very useful skill and I suggest to everyone that you cultivate it. People think you are so much smarter than you actually are, it’s awesome.
After a few hours, Patin went to dinner and we went to Aldi’s to purchase real food (Aunt Marlena) and chocolate (me). I also bought beer and wasn’t even carded. I didn’t realize it till I got home and then I felt half grown up and half old. We had dinner and chatted before Dad and I went back to my grandparent’s old home to sleep. (To clarify, my Patin owns a home right next door that is rented out but the top floor is an apartment that the family uses when we visit, Georg and Marlena were staying there and so we ate and chatted there). I went to bed early and the next morning got to go to the local bakery down the street and get myself Schinkenstange, which are the best invention known to man and consist of smoked ham inside of croissants. Like I said, best thing ever. That was Saturday, my Patin’s birthday, so we had breakfast, read the paper, got ready and then my Dad and I walked across the river to Sommerhausen to rendezvous with Georg and Marlena, who were picking up Patin in the car. It was a pretty walk with the sun out and I was happy to be in Germany with my family. We had a very nice lunch with the next door neighbors. Next on the agenda was coffee and cake in the next town over, Eibelstadt. My dad and I decided to walk through the vineyards to get there since it was only a few kilometers, it was sunny and nice out, and we had just consumed massive amounts of meat and potatoes in the form of sauerbraten and croquettes. So we walked. There were a ton of people out walking and enjoying the sun. Germans don’t just walk though. They were Nordic walking, they were exercising, they were being very serious. You cannot just meander, you are walking! I found the whole thing quite amusing and such a perfect example of the German personality. Nothing is without purpose or schedule. I have my German moments, but I think that overall, I’m a bit more of a meanderer.
The path in the vineyards
The coffee and cake was delicious and helped me to top out at approximalty 30,000 calories for the day and my father and I walked home. We chatted first with each other, then with Georg and Marlena when they got home and then with Andrea, the woman who rents my Patin’s house and has done so for years. It was again all in German but I followed most of what was going on and it was nice to sit and have a nice glass of wine and listen to the ebb and flow of conversation going on around me.
Sunday was quiet too, with another trip to the bakery, breakfast, going through old photos in my grandparent’s house and a visit to Maria im Weingarten, a mediaeval church in the area with a stunning view of the Main river. We visited my Patin again and I said goodbye until this summer when I plan on flitting around Europe, using Winterhausen as my home base. I poked around the house some more, picking out some handwritten cookbooks and cookie cutters as mementos. I had to be up early the next morning to reverse the travel process and get back to Istanbul. My Dad slept through my departure but Marlena made breakfast for me and Georg went down to the bakery to get me a few more Schinkenstange before I have to say goodbye to them for quite a while. Everything was massively organized until I got back to Istanbul and the half of me that is German silently cried out in anguish at the inability to plan ahead. No matter. I got home, unpacked and chatted with my roommates before falling asleep in a bed that is starting to feel like my own.
View from Maria im Weingarten
It was strange saying goodbye in Germany. I’ve never spent hugely extensive amounts of time there. I don’t speak the language all that well. Yet I still can’t help but feel at home there, in the picturesque villages of winding medieval streets and minuscule gardens. Winterhausen isn’t just my father’s hometown. It was his mother’s hometown, and before that her parent’s and so on and so forth for at least 500 years. As ridiculous as it sounds I’m fairly sure that a place can almost be bred into you, that your genetics recognize it as home even though your eyes and tongue don’t. Perhaps I’m just being fanciful, and it’s just the beauty of the place that draws me to it. But I’ve had the great good fortune to be in many beautiful places in this world and none of them are quite the same sensation. Make of it what you will. Until my next adventure, Aufwiedersehen!

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