Friday, February 06, 2009

A little from my day ...

View from the balcony, originally uploaded by - di.

I was out on the balcony, cleaning the big windows when this thing started happening in the sky ...

I almost blinded myself trying to capture something of the weird beauty that is sunshine and pollution here in the northern hemisphere city of Antwerpen.

It's been an odd day.
I decided, while walking to catch a tram to work on interviews in a cafe in the city, that it really was time I returned to District House for that outstanding paperwork stuff Gert had been nagging me about.

I need an electronic identity card so I can pay my taxes online and because my paper identity card has been so folded and jammed into my wallet for so long that people look quite troubled when I hand it to them ...

I also had to trade in my New Zealand driver's licence - a straight exchange for a Belgian one. I'm not arguing with that but I did get a wee fright when I realised how many years had passed since I had picked it up ... it runs out this year!

I wouldn't enjoy trying to pass a driver test again, in any country.

And then I wandered on over to another desk to ask about citizenship in Belgium. The woman took one look at me and said, no way, impossible!

If you followed the blog over the long months of my arrival in Belgium and subsequent trial by district house as an immigrant, you will immediately understand why I believed she was probably telling the truth - that this kind of outright rejection could occur at district office level.

Then the woman burst out laughing ... and I recognised her. A lovely woman I hadn't seen for a couple of years . She apologised immediately and asked me not to tell Gert, that he would be mad with her. I assured her that he would find it highly amusing and tell me I deserved it.

Unfortunately, because district house lost my papers more than once and took months to let me into the country, I can't apply for citizenship until October 2009.

I wonder if I can become fluent in Flemish Dutch by then ... ;)


Pam said...

I really had a fit when I had to get my Austrian driver's license - they told me I COULD NOT DRIVE in the country until my new one had been issued and it would take... SIX WEEKS. Ooo, I was mad.

Luckily, gov't employed husband made a few well placed inquiries and speeded the process along. I was thankful for the clout.

Di Mackey said...

Oh, it's kind of like that here too, Pam. The Europeans LOVE paperwork.

It's better if I don't drive here ... I'm not insane enough yet.

paris parfait said...

Ah, the bureaucracy involved - enough to try even the gentlest souls. Glad you managed to accomplish at least part of your tasks! My American driver's license has expired and I will have to take the test in Europe! Horrors! Hmmm, maybe a trip home to San Francisco is in order. :)

paris parfait said...

And the thought of having to take a driver's test again made me so cross I forgot to say, that's a beautiful photo! Good capture.

Di Mackey said...

Oh Tara, definitely worth a trip home! I think the European priority right rule would be enough to make me fly home to renew my one too.

Peter said...

Applying for Belgian citizenship sounds like a wise move Di.

And you're not alone:

'In 2008 Belgium approved a record 10,000 applications for citizenship, predominantly from Moroccan, Turkish and Congolese citizens, up sharply from the previous 6,000 yearly applicants.'

You'll be one of us! :-)

I'm curious though: did the woman at Antwerp District House address you in Dutch or in English? ;-)

Di Mackey said...

Well Peter, I believe she recognised me as the great great grandchild of a former coloniser so of course, she addressed me in English ;)

But it's simpler. How could I have a complex conversation like that in Nederlands if Belgians always say 'Wablief, oh ... you speak English, let's talk English.' And if my husband only talks English with me.

Lydia said...

We have just arrived in Belgium, and your dealings with the commune prepared me for what lay ahead. My husband, with UK citizenship, was given residency, however he does not receive a residency card, and was instead told to carry his passport and paperwork with him everywhere.

However, our wedding certificate is still waiting legalisation by the Belgian Embassy in Canada, so it will be quite a while before I am permitted to work or receive health care. Fingers crossed we hear back before my three month tourist visa expires.

Di Mackey said...

Oh, good luck Lydia.

Let me know if you need any help. My Belgian husband saved me a few times, when paperwork was lost and etc. :)