A Woman Without a Country

I went to the American Consulate last Tuesday to give up my citizenship. I stood outside in the drizzle as only the Germans are allowed through security early to stand in line indoors, since there are soldiers guarding their line. Citizens get to go upstairs without a soldier, so they are only let in on the dot of 8.30. Fit my mood.

I had left my computer and PDA at home, but they didn't like my mobile phone, so I had to lock that into a little locker before going through the "security" area. Strangely enough, I had been observing the people working at the embassy go through the same thing without a bell or whistle sounding, and they don't have to take off their coats or empty their pockets. So maybe the whole thing is just a fake, and the bell sounds randomly. Everyone always has some sort of metal left on them - keys, belt buckle, necklace - so there is always something else to take off.

I got upstairs to the hushed atmosphere of the consulate, and there was a guy there before me. Hmm, how did he get in? I spoke with a consular officer - a German (!) who couldn't pronounce English properly - who spent 10 minutes rustling together papers. Then he quizzed me on whethere I was doing this for tax purposes. I said no, I want to be a German. He harangued me for about 15 minutes telling me how irrevokable this all is, gave me the papers (I will have to sign 5 times in the presence of witnesses) and then said that I couldn't do it today, as only a consul or vice consul can take the oath an they are on holiday.


Then he told me that I will have to surrender my passport immediately, but the paper confirming my revocation will take about 6 months. So I called the German office to ask if just the submission paper will be enough for me to get the German citizenship. No, it will not be. I have to have the revocation papers. *And* they will re-check if I am still an upstanding citizen, not on welfare, not in jail, still living in my apartment and getting paid every month. I mean, with Hartz IV, lots of people will not meet the criteria!

This means that I will be a woman without a country or a passport for about 6 months. What fun, our son went through this for 3 years until the adoption was final. You apply for a "Reisedocument" at the Friedrich-Krause-Ufer (takes all day). Then you have to apply for a visa for every country you want to visit. I currently plan on visiting Sweden, Italy and Austria during the next 6 months, there may be more to come. For each visa you spend a day at the consulate. Getting on planes is tough, becuase the border guards have only ever seen a document like this in their education and are so thrilled to finally see one that they take it into their little rooms to examine every page while the lines behind me get more impatient with every passing minute.

Why does it have to be so difficult? Why can't people be memebers of two countries - there are many people with two passports out there, what's the problem? And why, in the name of avoiding double citizenship, do these two countries force me to be the member of no country for so long a period?

Stay tuned for further installments.....


What hit us?

Spent election night in Berlin at the "Tränenpalast", the palace of tears. The name of the place seemed fitting. I tried to get into the American party at the CineStar (I had actually tried to register voters with the AVA group that was celebrating inside) but the goons at the door didn't speak either English nor German and would not let anyone in. I waited half an hour and then decided to go to the Tränenpalast.

Had to wait there, too, but at least for every 10 or so that came out, they let 3 in. Sort of like the exchange rate of former Eastern German marks to Western German marks..... see, the Tränenpalast was the border between West and East Berlin, way back when.

When the boring MC asked if there were any Americans in the crowd, there were maybe 5-6 people. Since I am giving up my American citizenship now, I guess I landed in the right place, I'm a German now.

The "show" was stupefyingly boring (a wonderful review to be found in the Berliner Zeitung: Chicken Wings und Gähnen) and the educational comments both on the TV shows and from commentators were so wrong at times that I got agitated. Eva Quistorp thought the Amish in Pennsylvania were part of the Pilgrims. No, dear, that was a few years earlier. The Amish are also not the same as the Quakers (who did found PA), even though both are pacifist in nature. On screen Michael Friedmann (didn't he get the boot somehow for being a bad boy?) was droning on with more wrong things which I have now forgotten.

The real information I wanted to have - how is the Electoral College going as compared with a) previous years and b) the polls was not broadcast on German TV. Instead we were treated to boring interviews with boring people. At least there were some nice people sitting next to me, I rather enjoyed speaking with them. One young American and I spoke briefly about past presidents. She remarked: I'm not interested in presidents that were around before I was born. She starts with Jimmy Carter. I feel old. I got married the year he became president.

Shortly before 5 am I couldn't take it any longer and went home to sleep. Spent the afternoon (dressed in mourning) in a faculty meeting. When I heard on the way to pick up my son that Kerry had conceeded, the tears just came. Damn. What went wrong?

A friend sent me a link to Arianna's Blog : Anatomy of a Crushing Political Defeat. Thanks, Arianna, I feel better now!