Well, one day away from being here four weeks, and we are inching closer and closer to our apartment contract.  I will never complain about trying to find an apartment in the US again, or moving from one state to another, for that matter.  When I went to Colorado from Texas for grad school, I was all, “I had to wait in line for a drivers license!  And get new license plates!  Waaah!” Get out of my face, 23-year-old Andrea, it’s about to get real.

We get slowed down here because although we have an English version of the rental contract, the legally binding version is the Dutch version.  So, we have to take the Dutch version to get looked over by the Expat desk, who then gives us a list of questions about unclear wordings, email the questions to the realtor, wait for the answers, and then wait for the updated contract.  We have to keep in mind that we are thankful that we have a safe place to stay while we wait on all of this.

Last week I found out that I don’t have to apply for my visa just as Will’s wife, which is great because the companion visa doesn’t allow you to work.  I’m learning that with immigration, the Dutch want to know that 1. We won’t be depending on the Dutch government to support us financially (even through they wouldn’t give us anything anyway) and 2. I won’t be working in a job that an EU national could otherwise do.  I didn’t ever have a strong opinion about immigration in America, and I’ll be interested to see how I feel about it after all of this.  Definitely more compassionate towards immigrants in general so far.

Anyway, when we got here we got this big book called The Holland Handbook, which is pretty much a textbook for living in the Netherlands.  Reading the chapter on visas and residency, I saw a short paragraph about immigrants who have a masters degree that is less than 3 years old being able to have a special visa that allows them to work as much as possible to gain experience for a full time job.  For a whole year!

I asked the Expat desk about it, and they said that would be possible if CU were in the Top 150 of the Times Higher Education list.  In the world.  I thought back to grading music appreciation papers (from concert reports,”In the grand old tradition of white people stealing from others, this was rock and roll, in the modern ’emo’ sense.” and “The piano player played the third movement really fast because she wanted to go home.”) and figured that I would be out of luck.  We pulled up the list, and scrolled down.  Cal Tech, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Oxford, blah blah blah.  But there it was at #77!  I qualified!

Now I will be applying for a “highly skilled migrant” visa.  Will says it sounds both congratulatory and derogatory, like they’re saying that I’m exceptionally skilled at picking fruit.  The application is much less complicated, and there will be none of this pesky “I can’t technically work so you have to pay in cash” nonsense.

So, progress!  Tip for those wanting to live abroad: Get your documents ready for foreign governments with apostilles.  If it says to legalize it or have a marginalized note stamp or anything that seems weird…get the apostille. Just…trust me.

I’m learning more about Dutch children and it turns out that they don’t speak as much English as I thought.  They learn a lot of English in secondary school, so the age that I really, really, love teaching (although I’d teach any age) isn’t as bilingual as I originally thought.  Getting a job at an international school other than subbing also may be more difficult than I anticipated because teaching music at an elementary school is a lot different than being a classroom teacher, where there are multiple positions at one school.  Plus, I have to wait who knows how long before I get the freaking residence permit that all the schools want at the time of application.

So, for me to do meaningful work while I’m here I’ll have to be creative and branch out.  In two weeks I start an intensive Dutch course that is supposed to get me through the A level of language proficiency, which covers basic conversation, grammar, and simple topics.  B level is intermediate, and if you get through the C level, you’re considered fluent.  Learning Dutch would allow me to work in exponentially more schools and even if I’m teaching mostly in English, speaking in Dutch will help me corral them chirruns.

I’m slightly terrified.  I made good grades in Spanish class in high school, but I’ve never been in a situation where I had to actually USE a foreign language.  I have to do a presentation in Dutch at the end of the course.  Outside of the comfort zone is where the magic happens???

So, while I better myself for international teaching, it looks like I’ll be doing some clarinet-tips and finding some ways to market clarinet resources to a network I know and understand: Texas band.  I’ll also find out more about using some space in the church to start some after school music programs for the schools nearby.  I’ll be happy to be officially doing things in some kind of routine.  When Will and I meet new people, we tell them that we’re here so that Will can study at this school with this program that you can’t find anywhere else etc. etc.  Then it’s always “And what are YOU doing?” to me.  And it’s always the same “I’m looking for work, trying to get my residence permit, yes I’ve looked into that, yes I know a lot of schools have started already etc. etc.”  It’s like breaking your leg while doing something stupid and then having to explain it over and over again to everyone.  Sometime I absolutely hate not knowing what I’ll be doing.  It’s difficult for me to separate my core identity from a job, but hopefully this experience will help me to get to know myself better and with that, make a better impact.

Other stuff:

Will is at introduction week at Codarts, probably working on his group’s “artistic project” right now.  With his “buddies,” or orientation leaders.  Yeah, it sounds weird to me, too. He has a LOT of funny stories about the things people say to him, and I will encourage him to write about them.  I wasn’t there for some of them, so he can tell them.

We’ve been playing lots of duets lately, and we want to get some gigs and maybe do some competing as a duo.  So far the best name we’ve come up with is “Duo Hayter.”  Any suggestions?

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