Thursday, June 28, 2012

Visa Roulette

I find myself sinking further and further into “I hate this fucking country”-mode, which can only mean one thing:


Whoot.  Whoot.  Joy.

I follow changes in immigration law like other people follow sports teams.  Currently the laws are like the underdog.  You cheer when they suck less and you keep hoping that they’ll get better, even though in your heart of hearts, you know they never will. 

Expats love to compare immigration policies.  People who have brought spouses to the US claim that the US wins for ass-suckery.  They point out that you get questioned in private matters and that many of the questions are outright offensive.

For future reference, American INS: My husband and I don’t have sex nearly enough and I am more than happy to deliver my husband and child over for you for paternity testing because, yes, I am THAT confident that my husband is the father of my child.

But whereas the US INS only ass rapes you the once (and it’s a good buggering, let’s be honest), Denmark likes to do it again and again.  And every year they learn of a new way to fuck you.  Denmark is proud of this.  The people (and I use the term loosely) that work in immigration like to point out how few visa applications there are and how few of those are granted, as if the goal for the country is to stop people from coming all together.

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but the goal is to stop people from coming to Denmark all together.

Anyway, after a bit of a hullabaloo about Danish citizens being unable to bring their spouses to Denmark just because they happen to not be EU citizens (the EU rules make it impossible for Denmark to keep EU residents from entering DK, possibly another reason DK would like out of the EU), these laws were relaxed.  Not completely repealed, but relaxed.  The Department of Integration was liquidated.  Now the blame for any immigration shenanigans can be passed from department to department.  By the time you figure out whom is behind any shitty rule, the author has been promoted to a different ministry.  (Finger pointing is a Danish pastime.)  Sure, it is now possible to bring your non-EU spouse to DK.  But Denmark is going out of its way to make sure they don’t stay permanently.

The rules that really get my goat? 

1) The working for 2.5 out of 3 years and currently being employed at the time of application (and granting of the permit).  Why is that a problem?  Where I live, most of the Danes don’t have full-time employment.  So I would need to move somewhere where I there’s the possibility of getting a job.  Which means that my husband would have to try to get another job.  Can I just tell you that now is not a good time to be looking for a job in journalism?  Even if you are a Dane?  As an archaeologist, I’m not going to find full-time employment for 2.5 years in a 10-year period.  So I guess a new career is in order.  I’m limited in my degree choices by my Danish language scores.  And I need to take a degree in something that will result in steady, full-time employment.  I’ve got an idea for that - but we’re looking at +3 years of education before entering the job market… so I might be able to apply for permanent residency in 7 years if I’m lucky. *

A lot of expats applaud this law, especially if they are gainfully employed.  This is kind of like how healthy people in the US don’t like socialized medicine, it’s easy to judge the people who lack the right cards when you have a full deck

Of course it’s my own fault I don’t have a full time job!  I should have majored in engineering or become a doctor because OBVIOUSLY I was going to meet a Dane and fall in love with him and decide to immigrate and I should have realized 15 years ago that the Danish government would change the immigration laws after I first applied for residency in 2008 and planned accordingly!!  And I certainly have no right to complain now, because I should have instructed my husband NOT to take the only job that he was offered because it required us to relocate out of the big city and be tied to one location when obviously he should have continued to work as a taxi driver so that we could move to wherever I might some day get a full-time job (that I would have already gotten if I had just made better career choices before I met my husband and if I’d just been better at learning languages).

Of course Denmark doesn’t mean to catch little ol’ WASP me in its big bad net.  It’s meant to prevent all those other immigrants who come over here to milk the system. But who exactly are these other immigrants?  ‘Cause I know when you (the uniformed masses, not you the reader, because obviously I don’t mean you the reader, you are the exception to the rule okay?) say other immigrants what you mean is “Somali” and “Iraqi” and “Afghani” and you do realize that they are here as asylum seekers (or my favorite phrase “quota refugees,” ‘cause Denmark doesn’t want them, but you know, the EU makes them take these damn refugees) and not here on a family-reunification visa? So, all those other other immigrants who married Danish citizens, then? 

2) Active Citizenship.  Seriously??  I need to be on the board or an “active member,” whatever that means, of an organization for a year?  Do you require this of native Danes?  No??  The only Dane I know who is involved in an organization is my husband, who also happens to be the head of the housing association where we own an apartment.  I’m pretty sure that having him appoint me to the board is nepotism.  I’m involved in a mother’s group and the local theater group, neither of which has “articles of association” that need to be documented.  Well, I’ll be sure to quit doing things that interest me and bring me into contact with Danes that I have things in common with and start volunteering at the Red Cross with the blue-aired brigade.   I’m sure that with a full-time job, I’ll have tons of time to be an active member!

3) It’s going to cost my Danish citizen husband 2,880 DKK ($483.16) to apply.  That’s just to apply.  If I’m denied, no refund.  If I get through, we get to do this again in a year or two or maybe, if I’m really lucky, three years.  Because the taxes that he pays are for Danish citizens who DIDN’T marry foreigners (excepting the royal family, who are free to marry any damn foreigner they want), so Danish spouses wanting to keep their dirty foreign wives had better be prepared to pay for that privilege. 

4) Biometric cards.  I have to present myself at either the center for immigration or one of a few selected police stations to be photographed and fingerprinted.  For my special identity card.  I didn’t have to be biometricked (new word, Webster!) for my driver’s license or for my Danish social security card.  But you know how us Family Reunification immigrants are, always stealing shit and leaving fingerprints…

Now I’ve been one to counsel patience for this government.  I know government moves slowly and in Denmark, where nothing happens unless there is a consensus, getting 89 Danes to agree to anything is a miracle (that’s a basic majority in the Parliament).   But I’m feeling a bit hoodwinked.  Sure, they softened the requirements to get the temporary residency visa for family reunification (I mentioned this above, it was a moment we all cheered that our team sucked a little less this year).  But then they stopped.  And added the biometric cards.  Yes, this government added the biometric card.  In May.  (If you have applied for extension but not gotten it before May 20th, you will have to go be biometricked.  This ends your public service announcement.)  Instead of continuing with immigration reform, they’ve hammered out a tax reform that no one likes, forgotten that the last government’s border wars were still ongoing and that the EU Parliament is quite upset with Denmark.  (In case you haven’t been following, Denmark used the it’s presidency [which revolves between member states every 6 months] to change the EU laws so that it can do whatever it damn well wants without EU approval.)   

So there you have it.  Denmark is a pot of water heating up on the stove and we are the frogs, slowly being boiled to death.  It’s still currently more difficult and expensive to move elsewhere, but only just.

*Note: there’s been some talk of allowing education to count towards employment, but the rule still stands for “regular” family-reunification visa holders

Friday, June 22, 2012

Obviously I’ve confused myself with someone else

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the “Muppet Theory.”  I’ll let you go check it out, quick like.  It’s fun and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but like many oversimplifications, you can still learn a lot about yourself from it.

For example, if you’d asked me before I read the article, I would have told you that I’m a Chaos Muppet.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY!  As I was reading the article, I laughed at “if your house catches on fire and you know precisely how to rescue your Schumann CDs in under 15 seconds, you’re an Order Muppet,” because I don’t have a Schumann CD!  LOL!

Cue slight delay for maximum humor purposes.

I know I don’t have a Schumann CD, because when I organized our CD’s based on frequency of use, I would have noticed if we had Schumann…


I am such an Order Muppet. 

And I really ought to know better than think of myself as anything but.  I am The Keeper of Knowledge in my relationship, after all.  My desk may look like the set of a post-apocalyptic disaster flick, but I could leap up and collect all of my family’s passports in under five seconds.  My passport and those belonging to my child (yes, she has two) are in the file on my desk, the DB’s is on the table in the entry hall, under a pile of other random crap that belongs to him that he has yet to put away.

And probably will never be put away, that’s the beauty of the system.

The Danish Boy is most assuredly a Chaos Muppet.  He looks like an Order Muppet on the outside.  His shirt is tucked in, his hair is gelled, he’s on time… but he’s carrying half a dozen different bags because his note pad is in one, papers he’s got to turn in to the municipality in another and his camera in a third and one of those bags is probably carrying another few bags for shopping which in turn may be stuffed with more shopping bags that he’s forgotten he’s already packed. His brain is constantly popping and fizzing with ideas and half-baked plans.  He looks so calm, but if anyone is going to suddenly say, “let’s go to Germany today!” it’ll be him. 

I look like a Chaos Muppet, wearing whatever clothes I grabbed out of the drawers in the dark (I never remember to set out my clothes the night before, but my clothes are organized so that I can grab a complete outfit out of the drawers even if I can't see what I'm grabbing), I’ve probably not had enough coffee because I was child wrangling, and I’m carrying one ridiculously large bag.  But that bag contains everything that anyone might need on whatever trip we’re taking.  Chances are that the bag was packed the night before.  Chances are that it only took me a few seconds to pack that bag because everything we might possibly need is stocked, at hand, and probably already organized in smaller, easy to assemble containers.  If anyone is going to be able to be out the door and in the car, ready to go to Germany at a moment’s notice, it’ll be me.

We’re Kermit and Miss Piggy.   Sure, I can organize an event in under two weeks, but I need my Miss Piggy Danish Boy to kidnap invite the celebrity host. 

Yes, I just called my husband Miss Piggy.  I’m sure he’d be just as appalled as you are.

But have you ever noticed that the more hysterical Kermit gets, the more calm and focused Miss Piggy is?  And when Miss Piggy is frantic, it’s Kermit who keeps the show moving?  Yeah, that’s kind of how it works around here.

Even if I secretly wish I was Gonzo.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A less than stellar idea

I was just out trying to garden.

I've been trying all "summer" (in Denmark, summer is what happens to other countries because sun and warm, dry weather sure as HELL don't happen here) to take part in garden management, because

a) it's good for a person to get outside and I actually like being outside
b) the DB doesn't have time to do it all himself and hates using any tool smaller than an ax
c) I harbor dreams of being one of those women with a large straw hat, humming contentedly while tending my vegetables

But I've been done in by the weather.  And Danish homework.  And an ill child.

Finally, the planets aligned.  I finished Danish.  The child recovered.  The weather turned not-thunder-and-lighting.  In fact, it turned lovely and warm.  They say today is summer.  Not today-is-the-first-day-of-summer but today-is-the-only-summer-day-we-expect-to-have-this-year-go-enjoy-it.

Only it also happens to be the height of the grass season.

I have allergies.  No surprises there.  But this is the first year I've really paid attention to what's specifically blooming during my bad patches.  Sure, I could go in and get another scratch test, but since I don't like to voluntarily subject myself to torture and I know I have allergies already, it seems like a waste of time.

AG at the Allergist
AG: I have allergies.
The Allergist: Let me test you.
AG: Really I have allergies.
AG: I *told* you I have allergies.
TA: Don't scratch.
AG: Then give me cortisone, motherfucker.
TA: Let me prescribe you this ridiculous drug that I'm paid by the pharmaceutical companies to promote.
AG: That drug doesn't work.  I have tried it.  I have also tried these other drugs that I see advertised on your wall.
TA: Don't be silly, it will cost you $2 a pill and you have to take it twice a day, but with your health care coverage, you should be able to use it for two months before running out of your alloted medical co-pay amount.
AG: It won't work, I'll still be miserable.  If I take this generic over-the-counter drug, I'll be fine and it's cheaper.
TA: Nonsense, you are allergic to a long list of things, some of which don't even grow near you, but I tested you for anyway.  You're welcome, by the way.  Obviously, you are dying.  Here is a pamphlet on all the expensive equipment you must buy in order to lead a normal life.  This mask, for example, not only will make it so you can breathe in your own home, but also will let you look like Darth Vader.
AG: Um, it's not really all that bad except during certain times of the year.
TA: You must under no circumstances be out of doors.  Nature is trying to kill you.  Also, you can't be indoors, because mold and spores thrive there.  You should wear natural-fiber clothing because people like you tend to be sensitive to chemicals and you should under no circumstances wear any natural-fiber clothing because you will be allergic to it.
AG: So I need to be naked all the time and live in a bubble?
TA: Yes, and get one with a very expensive HEPA-filter breathing system.  Here's the pamphlet for it, it's sold by another major pharmaceutical company who gives me kickbacks.

Shockingly, I have NO food allergies.

Anyway, I noticed this year that while others were complaining about their allergies, I was doing okay. "Argh," said one friend, "birch season is killing me!"  Odd, thought I, I'm not having any problems.  Maybe I'm getting better.


I was hit hard last week.  Like a small steam engine crashing into my brain-pan.  Sinus pain, liquid leaking from every hole in my head, small leprechauns up my nose with feathers... misery.

So I went looking for the pollen counts.  And discovered that it was grass season.  Now since every allergist I've ever been to has told me that I'm allergic to everything, I knew I was allergic to grass.  When the DB was shopping for a lawn-mower, I told him that he had to get one with a bag on the back to collect the grass clippings because I have allergies and grass clippings are my kryptonite.  Also, he has to leave his post-mowing clothing somewhere else than the house and take a shower, because I will otherwise sneeze in his food.  But I couldn't have told you when grass season was.  Grass has a season?

Yes, grass has a season.  During June and into July it germinates.  And if you start pulling it out of your flower beds, the seeds or spores or whatever it's called leaps joyfully into the air and covers EVERYTHING.  Twenty minutes is all it took out in the garden, trying to get the grass out from my wild-strawberry patches.  After twenty minutes my eyes were swollen and I was dripping snot out of my nose.

I've retreated to the house, taken MORE medicine, and studied the pollen calendar.  I'm screwed for another four weeks at least.  Doubly so, because with the weather being so bad lately, I've got to throw the doors and windows open to try to air-out and dry-out the house.  All that lovely grass pollen is going to come in and take up residence.

So here is my "note to self": garden in May.  In the rain if you have to.  Garden in thunderstorms and heavy wind.  Remove the grass before it starts to seed.  Because in June you will not want to be wading through it to get to your strawberries or your roses.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alot in the car

Today is Wednesday (YOU'RE WELCOME).  Wednesdays are my Now-I-Can-Catch-Up-On-Game-Of-Thrones days only we've reached the end of the season so WHAT THE HELL DO I DO NOW??

I suppose I could do the dishes, but how lame is that?

Anyway, the best part about Wednesday is that I don't have to get up early, I don't have to change out of my pajamas, and all I have to do is wrangle the Spawn until she and her father trip merrily off to day-care and work, respectively.  That's respectively, not respectably, because sometimes my child is dressed from head-to-toe in cotton-candy pink because beggars can't be choosers but we sure as hell can be embarrassed.  

And that's what Spawn and I were doing when the Danish Boy went out to the car to make sure that everything that needed to be in the car was in fact IN the car.  

He quickly returned, very distraught.

Alot had been in the car all night.  He'd gotten in yesterday and although this is a common occurrence, as the cat adores the car, the DB had completely forgotten to check before closing up the car.  

You'd think we would have noticed that the cat hadn't been around that evening, but the weather was fairly good and sometimes he's just busy doing whatever it is cats do, so it's not that unusual for him not to be in the house in the evening.

But there he was, frantically pawing at the window when the DB went out this morning.  And yes, twelve hours in a car was too long of a wait, so he'd left us a present.  In the brand-new car seat.

Oh was the DB pissed.  Not at the cat, but at himself for not checking the car.  "The new car seat!  That we just bought!  Oh, gauraghhhhh!"

I was a bit more pragmatic.  "Solid or runny?" I asked.  I happen to be the resident poop expert, not just because I am The Mommy and therefore have a high degree of exposure, but also because I have a great deal of experience with animals and their feces, I've worked in a pet store and a children's "zoo."  I found a book on animal tracks in the in-laws summer home and avidly read the section on poop.  Only the pictures were in black and white and lacked a scale so HOW DOES THAT HELP ANYONE IDENTIFY ANYTHING, I'D LIKE TO KNOW!?  So, yeah, me and poop?  No problem.  

Vomit, on the other hand.  Can't stand vomit.

"Solid," said the DB.  "Do you think he peed?"

At this point if you are reading this and thinking "oh my god, this entire post is about the bodily functions of her cat" you'd be right and you can totally stop reading now if you want.  "But hey," I'm betting you'll rationalize to yourself, "I got this far and I just want to know how it ends.  Not that I'm one of those weird people who like to read about defecating animals, I just want to know if they have to go buy a new car seat, or a new car."  

Keep telling yourself that, poop-lover.  

Anyone who's owned a cat knows, you KNOW when your cat has peed.  So I asked, "Does it smell of pee?"


"Then he didn't.  You would know if he had."

But of course the DB wasn't convinced, so he brought the seat in for me to smell, after he'd de-pooped it and sprayed all-purpose cleaner on it.  And with my allergies running high at the moment, it was a miracle I could breathe, let alone smell, but okay, whatever, I'll lean over while holding a wriggling child and sniff.

"I don't think he peed.  But use the old car seat and we'll wash the cover, it'll be fine."  

This did not mollify the DB.  He was beside himself with loathing.  If he was any more distraught over the event, he'd be a Brontë heroine.  As it was, he stomped around and slammed doors and sighed loudly and pointedly.

"Don't worry about cleaning it," he declared magnanimously.  "I'll do that when I get home."

Yeah, because what I want is to leave a stinky car seat next to the clean laundry for eight hours.  "It's no problem," I said.

"But, well, it's the washing machine..." his anguish was palpable.  I'm not to play with the washing machine.  Bad things happen.  Like clothing getting washed at the wrong temperature, spun at too high a speed, or other unbelievably horrible sins.  It's not that I've once dyed my socks pink, ONCE mind you, it's that I wash darks at 30, colors at 40, and whites at 60 (all temperatures in Celsius), irrespective of their instructions.  The Horror.  Never mind that because I've played with the machine, I know more about the various settings (he only recently discovered that you can tell the machine that you've got chocolate stains that need removing), I might decide to skip the pre-wash or something!

"Fine.  Whatever."  And after he left, I stripped the car seat, put the cover in the washing machine but no, I didn't turn it on, it's happily waiting to be washed, and then carefully cleaned the foam padding.  I've looked up the washing instructions and have set them out for his approval.  Then I fed the cat, who's looking a bit betrayed, but is otherwise fine.

Then the cat promptly jumped into the closet, because being trapped in one confined space in the last 24 hours wasn't enough.  If he poops on my sweaters, I may just skin him and use him for slippers.

I can't see you... go away!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Who needs the big bad wolf?

The wind!  DA WIIIIIINNNNNND!  I may be the third little pig, all snug in my brick house, but seriously, I'm starting to wonder if another good gust might just pick me up and deliver me to Oz.

Although, if it's warm in Munchkinland SIGN ME UP!  I had to go digging for some woolen socks this morning.  Woolen socks!  It's JUNE for crying out loud!

I dressed my daughter in fleece and wondered if I should have given her tights as an added layer under her pants.  Not that she cares.  She's just figured out where the local playground is and she'll be damned if she stays inside with me and her buttloads of toys.  Wind, rain, cold?  Bah, these are but concerns of the parental units!  Come, the slide awaits!

I have two tomato plants that really need to be potted in a planter if they are ever going to grow.  I even have picked out which of my planters I'm going to de-weed in order to use, only it's right in the maelstrom that is my back patio and at the moment the wind is doing my weeding for me.  My little tomato plants will be naked if i try to put them out there!  I'LL be naked if I try to go out there!

I'm wondering if we'll lose another glass pane in our greenhouse.  I'd like to put the planter and the tomatoes out there, but not if it means being killed by flying shards of glass.

Most of the birds have decided to stay in today.  Every now and again a small black shape goes tumbling past the window and I know a blackbird has foolishly tried to catch lunch.  A seagull just went by... backwards.

I can't be sure, it could just be my over-active imagination, but I think the lamps upstairs are swaying.  Just slightly.  It could be a breeze, forcing it's way into the house through a crack or improperly sealed joint.  Or you know, it could be because the whole roof is swaying.

Once again I have to put aside the summer recipes I've been hoping to make and come up with something cozy and stodgy to keep us warm.  I dream of salads and ice cream, of iced coffee and mint juleps.  I watched a program about barbeque the other day and almost cried.  We got three days of summer over the weekend.  I wore shorts.  And then it was gone!  GONE!!

[in a hoarse whisperGONE WITH THE WIND!