Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Early Days

That first night, I slept well for a solid 4 hours, but after those few hours of sleep, I couldn’t go back to the world of dreams for several hours. After an eternity, I finally fell asleep and woke up around 8am. In a panic, because I had been hoping to wake up extra early and get a start visiting all the various official offices before the start of the weekend, I ate breakfast and got my things together, hoping to accomplish my giant list before office closing time.
First, I went to the university to register for a German as a Foreign Language course and the placement test on October 4th. This way, I would be able to get a free bank account.
In order to save time, I caught a bus back to Heiligengeistplatz, which is the main bus terminal and the square of the Holy Ghost. I quickly entered the Rathaus, where I stared in confusion at the array of choices plastered on the wall inside. I asked a woman standing on the other side of a little window where the Meldeamt was and she promptly told me, “Kumpfgasse 20.” She told me to hurry because they closed in 15 minutes. I asked her for directions and set off, but I couldn’t find any street with a “K” other than the one that led away to the Alter Platz in the opposite direction she had sent me. I went to the tourist information office and the bored looking girl behind the desk, who circled the street for me on the map. I headed back out, got lost for an entire hour off of the map and somehow managed to find my way to the Meldeamt. I worked my way up the stairs and was staring at the sign hosting the hours of operation, attempting to figure out when the office would be open again. A kind-hearted middle aged man, who worked for the Amt explained the process and how I would have to come back, push a button, wait for a number and then be called to a certain room. He also told me where to go for the Bezirkshauptmannschaft, where I could pick up the residency visa.
I decided to waltz by that office, but I only saw darkened doors and signs pointing the way for Fluchtlinge (refugees).
Feeling exhausted and down-hearted, I headed back home to go grocery shopping and ran into Irene gathering apples in the garden. She waved me over and was shocked to hear that the offices were already closed for the weekend.
I continued organizing and unpacking, Irene let me use her internet again, and I went to sleep feeling better.
Saturday, right away at 8am, I went to the phone and internet stores to ask about getting a SIM-card for my Handy and wireless internet for our floor of the house. They stared at me like I was crazy to only want a new SIM-card and not a 2-year package deal contract and that I had no idea if my Handy was “freigeschalten” (unlocked) or not. I discovered that my German phone was locked for Vodaphone (a cheap, load by the euro/minute phone) use only.
Frustrated, I found myself in an A1 store, which is the main provider of all things Austrian-technology. There, the man was able to offer me a package: internet for my home and a phone number rolled into one, so that the phone was free per month and I only paid 24 Euros a month for internet. I signed all the papers and walked away with a phone and phone number, but would be unable to use it until it was activated on Monday. First, it would have to be charged for 15 hours and then I would have to enter a series of pins to unlock the phone. Finally, hopefully, if I could figure out how to use it, I would have a functioning Austrian phone number. Internet, I wouldn't have until someone called me on that Austrian phone in 1-2 weeks and made an appointment to come install the internet. We could be 3-4 weeks totally internet-less.

I headed back home, stopping to pick up such essential items as soap, toilet paper, and paper towels.

As I came back, Irene caught me during her mad-packing to travel to the Weissen See, where she has another house and vegetable garden. She asked if she could come to check on the drapes, which had not yet hung and then finished a few clean-ups in my bathroom, which is when she noticed one of my two sinks was not working. She also pointed out that a painter would have to come for our second bathroom where her daughter had accidentally flooded the ceiling. I’m just curious as to why all of this couldn’t have been done before we arrived? I guess things must have been busy around the house.

She headed off and I headed off to explore the Wörthersee, near which Klagenfurt sits. I walked past the University to the Lake and sat on a bench watching the sailboats and people playing with their dogs in the cool waters, then headed home. On the way, I got stuck in a massive rain storm with rain and wind buffeting me from all sides. I made it to a bus stop, huddled in the corner of the enclosed bench, until the bus arrived. I worked my way home, soaking wet, on a series of buses.
As I sat in my new kitchen in warm clothes, sipping tea, I began to think about all the little differences between Austria and Germany—even though they share a common language. I was so used to walking into a shop and greeting everyone with a hearty “Hallo,” that it was slightly jarring to have to switch to the Austrian traditional greeting of “Grüß Gott” (Greet God). After many a strange look or an awkward feeling on my part after being greeted with the proper form of address, my greetings seemed to come out like a mix between the two…more a “haaggrüß ggtt.” Upon leaving a store, official office, or anyone for that matter, Austrians typically say “Wiederschauen,” as opposed to the German polite form of address “Aufwiedersehen.” I, of course, was used to the “Tschüss” that most people used where I lived in Germany last year.

Sunday was raining the entire day, so I stuck around the house, organizing the kitchen, which was a jumbled mess of pots, pans, and everything in between, and researching travel options in Austria and Kärnten.
Monday I went back for round 2 with the official offices…
I had no problems at the Meldeamt where a young lady with long blonde hair efficiently typed in my information, as I tossed my number slip into her heart-shaped box.
I thanked her and asked about where exactly to pick up an Auftenthaltstitle. I wanted to double check the man’s information from Friday. She only knew it was somewhere in the Bezirkshauptsmannschaft, but didn’t know a room number.
I walked around the corner and went in the first possible door where I stared at an imposing wall of possibilities listing every possible office from driver’s licensing to the main health office. I had no idea what the office I was looking for would be called, so I scanned the entire list twice. I saw “Bezirkhauptmann” and since that was where we were told to pick up the visa, I headed off to the 4th floor. Upon reaching the door, I knocked and was greeted by a friendly secretary. She laughed when I said what I was looking for and informed me I was 2 floors too high. (I was essentially in the head-honcho’s office. Ooops!) She told me the room numbers I should look for and headed off for the second floor. Both doors looked dark, but I picked one that had more light and knocked. A woman called out “Bitteschoen!” and I opened the door, greeting her and telling her what I was looking for. I was hanging halfway in and halfway out of the door. She smiled and said, “ja, ja.” I moved further in, closing the door and she asked for my past Aufenthaltstitle. I said I didn’t have one, but I had already applied for one. She began searching her computer database using my passport, while simultaneously fielding a call. In the end, she told me I would have to come back tomorrow or call because her colleague had only half-entered the information and she didn’t know why. I would have to see her colleague. I must have looked confused because she began speaking in eloquent English, “You com. Tomorrow. 8 O’clock. Next door.”
I asked if she knew if I would be allowed to open a bank account without the Aufenthaltstitle. She threw up her hand and said I would have to ask the bank that question.
I headed to the bank, feeling rather downtrodden and hoping they would let me open an account minus a certain something official in my passport. I walked in and asked a woman sitting at a little kiosk where I would be able to open a bank account. She asked for an ID and I handed over my passport. She disappeared in search of someone. Soon, I was shaking hands with a rather suavely dressed young man, who led me to a room. He slowly and kindly helped me set up an account and even told me if I came back with an enrollment number from the University, I could have the account for free instead of the 20 euros pro 3 month term. He told me to contact him at any time with questions and he would help me close the account in May.
I left smiling and feeling better about the world, saying a proper “Wiederschauen” to the clerk who mans the door on the way out.
I headed up to the Bahnhof next to apply for the Vorteilskarte and received my temporary slip in exchange. My official plastic card will come in 4-6 weeks.
I exited, walking home in the in gusting wind and rain. Let me tell you, this is not just any rain, this is rain that comes in gails and attacks from all directions at once, leaving you breathless and freezing, attempting to fend off the next gust.
After warming up, I began preparing for Riannon, my future roommate to come Tuesday night. The last time I had used Irene’s internet I had discovered exactly when and where Riannon would be arriving and arranged to meet her at the train station.

No comments:

Post a Comment