Where to begin?

Oopsie. It’s been a long time since I last wrote anything on this blog. Jeez, more than two years actually. Although I had been so confident in the beginning to keep writing and thereby document the time till our marriage. Well, chances missed, I guess. Almost – because Ali and me are very close to finally get married in Germany.

But first things first. It’s actually pretty funny how I end up writing this post. Right now I am in Kenya where I was sent by the humanitarian organsation I work for to get an idea of our projects, take great photos and document what experience. Well, eventually I got myself food poisoning – which is the reason I could not attend the mission I was supposed to go on this week. Spending the time till my flight back to Nairobi in our regional office I found a few minutes for the first time in weeks to check my private e-mail beyond mails from family. I stumbled once again over someone commenting “this blog about LDR, Venezuela and our path to marriage that started a few years back”. So since I feel miserable and there is nothing much to do (and because there is finally stable internet connection!) I check out what that person named “SK” wants to tell to the author of an obviously dead blog. I most certainly expected spam.

But nope, surprise, it’s actually someone who has ties to Venezuela and LDR and to whom some of my posts still mean something after all this time. A welcome wake up call. Well, one of the posts commented by him or her seems surprisingly recent.It tells about protests in Venezuela, similar to the ones taking place at the moment. There are so many reasons for these protests as there has so much happened in the past two years that they are difficult to name. To make it short: If the economy was ill before, it’s even worse off now. There are shortages of almost everything due to nationalized/socialzed and then mismanaged companies and strict currency control. The currency control is actually in place for quite some time. But many knew how to betray the system in order to make profits from it or to use the black market as a work-around. Now inflation is so high (700%) that even the black market work-around doesn’t work well anymore and currency control has become much stricter (which would be a good thing if it only meant fighting corruption). Ali needed some meds last week (luckily nothing life-threatening) but of course could not get them anywhere. Anyhow, so things are pretty dire – but you can actually read enough about it in the news if you just google “Venezuela” (sadly).

What about us? (This is the “what happened to you guys”-part requested by SK ;)
As I said earlier we are still on our path to marriage. And when I say “path” I really mean it. We have completed all the paperwork necessary in Germany. So Ali got all those nice little papers that are sometimes difficult to get in Venezuela because the Venezuelan State doesn’t know such documents asked by German authorities like the infamous “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” – which basically says that you able to get married (wtf?!). I got all of them translated into German – which costed me “only” about 300 Euros (and now I’m just waiting for anyone commenting that they got it way cheaper), handed everything in to the German authorities, namely Standesamt and Kammergericht (district court). The latter was to decide whether the documents we handed in to replace the in Venezuela unknown Ehefähigkeitszeugnis were actually sufficient. They were. Phew – so far, so good.

What is missing now is the “Visum zur Eheschließung”, the specific visa needed to enter Germany for the purpose of marriage (German bureaucracy is great, isn’t it?), for which Ali needs to apply for at the German embassy in Caracas. The documents from me/Germany he needs for this (Verpflichtungserklärung, Letter of Invitation and confirmation by the Standesamt naming the date of the marriage – 30th of September, by the way, woohoo) are on their way via DHL Express. Now we are hoping for them to arrive soon and safely so that he can apply, hopefully gets the confirmation quickly and can then book the flight to Germany.

So that’s it for now. Of course I have left out all the many details, the tears, the worries, the often frustrating seek for information…but as writing makes you reflect I realized that although many things have happened months, sometimes many months ago, they are still extremely present in my mind. So I hope I find the time and nerves to recap these many moments and fill this blog with life again. If not, maybe a gentle reminder by “SK” can send me back on track ;-) But this time: please without free time due to food poisoning.

TLDR – Venzuela is even shittier than in 2014. We are getting married on 30th of September. Period.

Insecurity and LDR double standards

So, I am sorry I haven’t been writing in some time. My new semester at university has started and classes, group works and tasks have already taken its toll again (it’s been two weeks since the semester started – what the heck?!). Oh, and I’m also massively working overtime.

And to be honest – I was also a little clueless on what to write about. Until I haven’t signed a contract that will ensure my employment for after June and guarantee me the chance to move to Berlin with my employer I feel a little insecure to make plans on precisely how, where and when to get Ali to Germany. I hope to have news about this within the next two or three weeks…Plan A is still a language course for him.

Meanwhile the Aliens Department in my hometown (get the joke with my blog title now?) surprised me by answering my question about the so called “Verpflichtungserklärung” (which is basically a commitement by a German citizen to cover the costs for living  for a foreign visitor, student, tourist or such) within one day via e-mail. I was a little confused because in the form I found on their website it said the maximum duration for the visit can be three months, which is way too short for the language courses we had in mind. So I wasn’t sure if I had actually found the right form. They told me to just state the number of the months he actually wants to stay here anyway, regardless of the remark in the form. So much about self-explanatory bureaucracy.

And because university, my job and my long-distance relationship isn’t enough already I had the brilliant idea to sign up for three voluntary teams in a club that helps to promote my degree program to possible future employers.

So I met with some of the other volunteers in a bar on Thursday to talk about how we divide the work that has to be done. And as it always is and because there actually wasn’t that much work to divide we also chatted about a lot of other stuff. I don’t quite remember how we got there but one of my class mates told another girl from a different semester about her boyfriend who studies in Latvia – so obviously a long-distance relationship (LDR). I was just beginning to feel sympathetic towards her when the girl she talked to mentioned someone she knows from Greece who is in a long-distance relationship with someone from Latin America. She also mentioned how difficult it is for them to see each other frequently because of how expensive plane tickets are. My classmate replied: “This sounds mean – but it won’t last between them for long.” This somehow hit me hard – and I don’t know why, because I have heard people disencourage LDR couples so often. But how dare you judge another LDR couple you know nothing about not to make it if you are in a LDR yourself. Well, sure it’s so much easier to visit each other if it’s “just” 1.000 kilometers separating you instead of 8.000+ but LDR remains LDR. And if you are in a LDR yourself why would you be so judgemental about other couples who are in pretty much the same situation as you are. I guess I’ll have to try hard not to let this influence me in how I interact with her in the future because hearing her say that made me kind of sad, to be honest. Are those double standards already? I don’t know.

Have you had negative experience with people judging your or someone else’s LDR? I’d be curious to hear about them.

There truly seems to be an organisation for ANY purpose

I have trouble sleeping lately. And as always when I’m lying in bed and it’s dark and quiet, my mind begins to wander like at no other time during the day. With all the worries of how Ali and I will be able to live together permanently in the future I naturally spend a lot of time researching on governmental websites, trying to understand criteria, conditions and laws. So while lying in the pitch black a thought passed through my mind: “I really wish there was any organisation of people who has already gone through this whole process and who are willing to share their knowledge and guide others through the same situation they have been in.” I  thought once Ali and me are through with this I should definitely start something like that – although I would most probably just want to forget about the hassle that is annoying me out of mind already before it has even really started.

And well, because I could not sleep, anyway, I grabbed my mobile lying on my bedside locker and searched Google for an organisation like that. I don’t know why exactly it surprised me that I actually found one. A German one. An organisation with an office in my hometown. And free advisory service. What?

I guess it surprised me because I had never heard of “Verband internationaler Familien und Partnerschaften” (Association of International Families and Partnerships) during all the years in this binational long-distance relationship when I have been reading associated blogs and forums all this time (eff you Google rankings!). The association does not only help (married) couples to make it to live together but also argues against racial discrimination and racism, and for cultural diversity, integration and many other topics that concern couples from two different countries and/or cultures:

“This association represents the interests of binational families and partnerships throughout Germany. We support the social and legal equality of people regardless of their skin color or their cultural origin. We work as a non-profit organization in more than 20 cities in and outside of Germany. Counseling women and men regarding all issues of binational marriages and relationships is one focus of our work. We use legal restrictions and the various forms of disadvantage and discrimination as an opportunity to inform the public and to provide a basis for dialogue between the organization and the federal government. One of our most important tasks is to highlight the chances and possibilities that arise when people of different cultures live together.
(Verband binationaler Familien und Partnerschaften)

This is what I really appreaciate about Germany: there are clubs and organisation for whatsoever “silly” purpose you can think of. And while may only a minority of the population can actually identify with the goals of each single one, the minorities are exactly the ones who need someone to speak up for them.

Although our primary goal is for Ali to take German class in Germany first, whenever it comes to marrying it is good to know that there are people you can turn to for help and that obviously you are not as alone as you think you are. And after all, marrying and all the paperwork that comes with it might not be as far away as I like to think…Hail bureaucracy!

The Options

As the economic situation in Venezuela is becoming really grave (I will explain the situation there in another post) Ali and I are looking for ways that make it possible for him to leave as soon as possible. Well, to be precise, we have found and thought about different options in the past, of course, and I would like to highlight those that seem to be the best in our case. This post is only to give an overview – I plan to write about the various options more in-depth in the future.

Marriage
Although marriage always seems to be the first thought when it comes to foreign couples moving together it is definitely not my favoured option. It would enable Ali to stay in Germany and give him the oportunity to work here. But although I can definitely see myself marrying Ali in the future I would like to marry him because the timing feels right – not because laws leave us no other option. This might sound foolish and even selfish but especially for a person like me who has never really been the marriage type of girl it is crucial. Another important reason is that I am still going to university and the financial aspect of marrying. Getting all the necessary documents, fees and plane ticket(s) will cost a lot of money. I am only working part-time and Ali will probably not find a job immediately after moving here while our living expenses would continue. I have saved a small amount of money to cover the marriage itself but I would not know how or if we would make ends meet afterwards. Many people I have gotten to know who are in the same situation as us have the support of their families to bridge the first time after marriage. Sadly, this is not be possible in our case. So marriage was our option for the time after my graduation – that is in 1,5 years. But Ali wants to leave as soon as possible and therefore we are evaluating other options at the moment.

Finding a job
Finding a job – that sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, sadly it is not – at least if you are from outside the EU. Ali has studied informatics in Venezuela and two masters in economics and logistics in Spain. German companies are desperately looking for IT professionals – or so it is said. But Ali has applied for numerous jobs at internationally operating  companies in Germany (which would maybe tolerate his not so perfect German at the beginning) and only a few have bothered to interview him via Skype. I can even understand them a little. I mean who would bother to go through a lot of trouble including communication problems, visa issues and other paperwork when it is so much easier to keep looking for potential candidates from Germany or the EU.

There is the “jobseeker’s visa“, though: “University graduates with a German or other recognised university degree, or a foreign degree comparable to a German degree, are allowed to enter Germany and seek a job once here. They get a jobseeker’s visa for their job search and are allowed to stay in Germany for up to six months to find employment. They need to prove that they have enough money to live on during their time here. While trying to find a job, they may not work at all, because the job-seeking visa does not permit them to work, whether on a self-employed basis or otherwise” (bluecard-eu.de). Sadly, this is no option for us as well because the problem about covering Ali’s living expenses remains the same as if we were getting married. But to anyone who has the money it would greatly improve the chance to be invited for a job interview and therefore being hired, I’m sure of that. Finding a German company willing to give you a chance is the best thing that could happen to anyone looking to stay in Germany and for Ali and me, anyway. You get the chance to work on you German in Germany (which is the only efficient way to learn German if you ask me), earn money and can start settling in – that’s pretty much all you ask anyway, right?

Studying
Studying at a German university even with medium German language skills is though but not impossible. The advantage of studying here is that you keep educating yourself further and gain a certificate that is acknowledged by German companies for sure. Furthermore you keep learning German, study with Germans and therefore make friends and/or get to know people that might be helpful in finding a job later on. You even have the possibility to work while you study although the number of (full) days is limited to 120 per year. As the bigger part of the fees charged by German universities and colleges per semester has been abolished in most federal states, studying in Germany is now cheaper than some years ago. You will still have living expenses, of course. Depending on where in Germany you live and study you can get by with about 500-700 Euro. Many science, IT and engineering programs do not have any restrictions on entry as long as you are able to fulfill the necessary paperwork from abroad and meet general criteria for foreign students. But of course any person who has already invested many years in education in their home country would much rather like work than begin anew.

Language courses
Language courses are only a temporary option, of course. A visa for a language course grants you the possibility to stay in Germany up to two years although the visa will only be granted for a period of 6 months beforehand before you have renew it – at least that is what they told me at Inlingua in Hannover. Their main purpose is for you to improve your German language skills. You are not allowed to work during your stay, though.

Bundesfreiwilligendienst
bluecard-eu.de and bundes-freiwilligendienst.de state that it is possible for citizens from outside the EU to to get to know the life in Germany by serving a voluntary service (“Bundesfreiwilligendienst”, BFD – you gotta love German word chains, right? ;). There is no English version of the official BFD website, though, and I did not find any information regarding foreign volunteers on their website, either. I  have written an e-mail to them to verify if this is a genuine option for people from outside the EU.

As mentioned above I will write about these alternatives more in-depth in the future but I hope this gave you a good overview over the most common options.