Saturday, December 22, 2007

You can win!

You probably have thought you've seen it all... little do so many Americans realize, foreigners are able to 'win' a green card.

Now that I live abroad, I get pop ups (such as the one above) advertising what a privilege it is to come to the US - the land of immigrants. I believe the first time I heard of this, was when Stefan told me Burger King had a contest to win one. It's not as simple as winning however. The new 'winner' must go to the US and go through fingerprinting and investigations... then if they hope to maintain their 'prize', they have to live in the US / come back every 6 months. It still requires a fair amount of resources to sustain green card status.

I've mentioned my German language classmates before (such as the post below). I always think how fortunate I am to have two homes. I can feel safe, happy, content, and healthy in Germany or the US. Sure there are differences, but in grand scheme of things, it's merely surface and superficial.

When I consider what so many of my classmates and other permanent residents have gone through to be here it's really quite amazing and I feel for them. It's easy to be a 'privileged' immigrant. I don't say that in attempts to sound entitled or ethnocentric. Germany does have its kinks and like the US, being inundated with people willing to move here, there are some prejudices as well. I feel advantaged because I speak English. I really avoid doing so at all costs while in public, unless I'm speaking to Stefan though. I know that if I were in a dire situation the language barrier wouldn't be as difficult - particularly in a time of crisis. I don't figure the chances of a doctor speaking Albanian are very high.

At one point I considered becoming an immigration lawyer. Life is a bit too complicated for that, particularly if I am not sure where we are going to live. I also think I see the humanity side of it rather than the paperwork that it really entails. I'm still very intrigued by it all.

When we went to file for my permanent visa renewal the woman was new to the office. Even her tone was pleasant. She said it was 'an easy case' because we had a marriage license (with an apostille), and translations. She said they 'get couples from Afganistan who say they are married because her father said so'. The fascinating thing is that so many people are able to come to Germany. We have great social systems here, which does set things up to be taken advantage of. It's a tricky divide, because I believe in helping people as much as possible, but it's hard to help people who come here simply to milk the system. It's a better quality of life here for much less work for some. The German attitude varies, although it is evident there is a streak of resentment towards these families, especially when the women are oppressed and use their children as translators.

Stefan' mom and I were discussing these issues. It does make it difficult especially when you have children in a school that is diverse. Of course being exposed to other cultures is important. Stefan learned to say 'aya caba neeki' (Turkish that I phonetically spelled) meaning to tie his shoes, while he was in school. - I even said it to a Turkish guy in my class and I could see he was so happy that I would try to learn some Turkish. I'd greet him with a 'Merhaba'. It is a large struggle though, when your child speaks German and comes from a German background and they go to school with children that are there learning the language first. I have had multiple children come up to me with their mothers in tow at the train station asking me something and being the translator.

I've also been told Salzburg also has issues with wealthy Russians coming to purchase homes in the Alps for winter time. They drive up the prices and are only there several weeks a year, so many people living there grow resentful.

The struggles are interesting. It is also obvious they start young. When I was teaching Greek children English last summer I was asking who had traveled to (insert place). As soon as I said 'Turkey' they went from raising their hands to shoving them in between their legs in an act of defiance.

In being here I see things as human struggles more than pinning things on certain cultures. People with money are always going to be advantaged, those without it are going to want a better life for their families, and a lot of attitudes start young and at home.

I enjoyed my German class - it was a small group that was always kind to one another and there unspoken understandings that united us all in being foreign. There were people who unfortunately cheated themselves. They would cheat on tests or want to copy homework. At times I wondered if I was the only one that got the memo that we were there to learn for ourselves. I have to step back and realize that other cultures may take great insult to be held back in a class. It was always obvious though when someone would not be able to speak with basic conversation, or would respond to 'Wie heißen Sie?' (what's your name) with 'Ich habe' (I have).

That being said - there was still a strong religious current. The Islamic men united, and nearly didn't come to the end of the year holiday party for fear it was a Christmas celebration. Two of my favorite classmates were from Morocco and Tunisia. I quickly realize how people must hold on to what is uniquely them when they are thrown into something new. Suddenly basic things like religion and language or nationality are strong uniters. Everyone wants to be understood. I really love the dynamics of it all.

My next 100 hours (to make me half way finished with the required amount) should begin in January 08. I hope this class is able to keep pace for those of us that want to learn. Last time it was really catering towards the lower achieving / unmotivated people.

No comments: