Monday, November 19, 2007

The Dilemma ...

I've been asked to photograph the launch of a new European Platform group at the European Parliament soon.

It coincides with my social orientation class.

The expectation from the Flemish government is that I will hand over my little note from my teacher, explaining that social orientation takes precedence over any other thing in my life, barring proven ill health.

Gert assures me a Belgian would suck it up and do the 10 weeks because that's how it is.

I've assured him that it takes a lot to annoy a New Zealander into rebellion but once there, it's never good. My ancestors moved countries to get away from this kind of nonsense.

Hmmmm, what to do ...?

Attend the European Parliament as a photographer or obediently turn up for 3 hours of studying the rules of living in Antwerpen ...


Mark J said...

I wonder if they would give you a note if you asked nicely. If the person writing the note was suitably important - perhaps you would survive with a strong censure? :)

"Kick it in the guts Trev"

Manictastic said...

Dress Gert up as you and make him attend your class whilst you are out taking pictures in the EU buildings. That way he'll realise Belgium is bigger than Antwerp (Antwerpenaren need that :P) and you'll have a good time.

V-Grrrl said...

Gert would look fabulous with long flowing hair and Di's glasses on. He even has a matching bum knee! They limp alike!

But if you decide to switch countries, may I suggest Spain? Haven't been there yet. I'm just sayin...

wandering-woman said...

I am sorry, was there a dilemma in here? Even a question, asks the Mick with relatives just like yours? (Nice that the right to be self employed comes with a requirement that you miss out on an incredible business opportunity...)

So, integration, in Belgium, means becoming as passive (if not more so) and conformist as some mythical "typical Belgian." Not only obeying laws but comforming to some typical personality type? Hmmmm tell your charming husband he knows I adore him, and I do, but does he really want to live in a country that wants to be sure nobody ever makes any waves or recommends a change or a new idea...well, or points out costly, ineffective bureaocracy... Yeh?

Di Mackey said...

I did smile a little then ... I should confess, Gert said that I'm not integrated for that reason of not wanting to conform to idiocy but he did say he would write to the powers that be and ask precisely what they were thinking when they try to educate immigrants about using footpaths and etc ...

I'll let you know how it goes. I'm a wee bit of a witch Mondays and Tuesdays. Meanwhile, every Belgian who has heard of my dilemma has been mortified and told me not to attend, until they hear of the consequences.

Di Mackey said...

Strong censure ... now Mark, you know me, how would I ask for strong censure with a straight face and a suitably contrite voice?

"She'll be right mate."

Oh Manic, that is surely a good plan except that he's so mortified by it all that he picks me up after class.

Antwerpenaren do need that 'experience' don't they, Mr From-Someplace-Else-In Belgie.

What is it they are rumoured to believe? That Antwerpen is the centre of the world...

SPAIN, sigh I love Spain ... sigh again. I'd like to be happy again and this 'stuff' is making me unhappy. During my first year in Belgie I was already teasing Gert that I knew more than him and those working for the Alderman for Tourism hehehehehe.

AND he couldn't argue because I was traveling all over Belgie and doing interesting things that he'd never done.

I was even on a train recently where the drug police came onboard with sniffer dogs and took away some depressed looking youths. AND he's never been threatened with 12 hours in jail for being caught without ID.

Sigh ... bloody class, I do hate it and it's tonight.

Claudia said...

* whispers *


Di Mackey said...

Di nods her head quietly, 'but of course'.

Peter said...

I'm trying to collect the facts here Di:
as far as I can gather you are forced (or face a 5,000 EUR fine) to attend that ongoing farcical Flemish social orientation course, although you will have to cancel a job offer in order to do so?

If Flemish "social orientation" equals "losing a job" I would contact the press
(if that wouldn't cause additional problems)

Related: my brother had to go through the misery of paying a lawyer when this great country pretended his marriage was faked to gain citizenship for his non-EU wife. They already had a child and she was pregnant with her second. Both born in this amazing country, Belgium, still without a government half a year after the elections.

Di Mackey said...

Hi Peter. I ran it by my teacher tonight, saying I had to choose between the course or this job at the EU parliament.

I'm going back into the integration office tomorrow, I need to know where I stand ... there's a certificate I get at the end of this course that helps with my naturalization, should I ever want to do that kind of thing here in Belgium ...

I need to know now what the consequences are of missing a 3rd class (the limit is 2). I don't intend becoming a Belgian, I love being a New Zealander so maybe that doesn't matter but I do need to know about this fine.

As for the work, this is an introduction into the EU Parliament. It's a networking freebie, with the promise of money when and if this NGO has money. All the same, it's not something I want to turn down, especially turning it down to go sit in a classroom learning stuff I either already know or simly don't need.

You would have been proud of me tonight. I quietly went to work on the English in the textbook. I seemed well-behaved and was even able to give the teacher information about the cultural guidebook that will be launched in December ... sigh, that one with my photographs in it.

It's all SO COMPLICATED here.

Mlle said...

oohhh, this has turned out to be a juicy discussion! I think peter has a good point. If you have a job, how can they say that attending their course for which you do not get paid is more important?

How many classes are you allowed to miss?

I would definitely miss the class, get a note, or find someone to make a huge stink.. wait, how about Gert? :)

Inge said...

Actually, a lot of Belgians have a hidden rebellious streak and love ignoring/breaking rules - think massive tax evasion/ a giant disregard for speed limits etc. So you would be acting in the national spirit if you skip the class, at least in my opinion!

w said...

I'm flabbergasted that there is so little flexibility to this. I understand the objective of helping new residents/immigrants integrate, but this borders upon idiocy. Surely being taxpayer is part of your role as a resident/citizen of good standing!

Anyway Di, I'm only here on a 2 year assignment (more than a quarter through!) so I hope that even if my relocation agent is mistaken that by the time they get around to looking for me I'm outta here!

Di Mackey said...

Hey mlle, the reason I have to attend is because some politician who wants to attract back some of the big percentage of Belgians who voted extreme right this last election has decided to come down hard on immigrants who supposedly fail to attend.

It's politically fashionable to go after immigrants at the moment, so what could the poor man do ...

They don't care for the individual story, or for the feelings of those who aren't viable voters ... this is business, the business of politics and doing whatever it takes to get votes I imagine.

I was allowed to miss two classes then the consequences were serious. First class and there had been a big mess up as to whether I was on the course or not ... a mess up caused by free work I was doing for the integration service. Longgggg story.

I know that hidden rebellious streak Inge and it does make me laugh, and possibly, if I had done this quietly, it might have worked out but how could I. I went in rebellious and then found the English and then had a horrible first night when I realised the level of the teaching and it's gone downhill from there.

Ohh, you should be safe w. I think a couple of Indians, with 2 year work contracts here in the city, put their hand up to attend and were horrified to learn that class is meant to take precedence over business travel.

As I said to mlle, I think it's about the government being seen to be dealing with the growing concern over supposedly non-integrating immigrants who don't conform to Belgian behavioural standards. The intention is good but integration is a little bit of a p.c. pipedream when I heard one Belgian acquaintance say that she would kill her daughter if she brought home a boyfriend of a particular race here in the city. I thought, 'Uh huh, so we can do all the orientation we like but brides and grooms probably still need to come from the 'home' country in some immigrant instances'.

You'll be safe w, I thought you had moved in as an immigrant.

Peter said...

You just posted the true explanation for these absurd courses Di:

"because some politician who wants to attract back some of the big percentage of Belgians who voted extreme right this last election has decided to come down hard on immigrants"
"It's politically fashionable to go after immigrants at the moment"

That's indeed the only reason for all this "attend or pay 5,000 euro" insanity.

As for:

I thought, 'Uh huh, so we can do all the orientation we like but brides and grooms probably still need to come from the 'home' country in some immigrant instances'.

you're again right on target.

A documentary aired on VRT2 showed how many 2nd generation Turkish 18 y olds from Antwerp still go on their yearly vacation to Turkey to find their bride, and import her.

Antwerp girls from Turkish descent were often considered "too liberal".

In the Moroccan community the pressure to marry a "virgin bride" from the home country is even more pronounced.

Di Mackey said...

Hi Peter, you know I saw the documentary, although I walked away from it. I felt like they went in to prove a theory ... that their aproach wasn't a holistic presentation of 'why'.

I know a Belgian guy who wanted to come home and find a nice girl from Flanders because girls from my country were too 'uncultured'.

I don't know why people make a fuss about this importation of brides, it happens everywhere ... and the reasons are pretty much the same the world over.

Meanwhile Gert and I have delicious cross-cultural misunderstandings but it's more about laughter than anger, so we're lucky.

Peter said...

Di, given the fact that my brother married a non-EU native, I strongly feel everyone should have the right to choose a partner regardless of their country of origin.

But deliberately (as part of one's cultural background) going on a "let's find a virgin in my own home country" because the local migrant population is too Western (or maybe even, too well integrated) does show that integration means different things to different people ;-)