A few days after my panicky call to the German Consulate in San Francisco about my lost citizenship application, I received a phone call from a Schoeneberg district official informing me that my application had been found. Schoeneberg is the Berlin district where we live and it is also the locale for John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963. In moments of despair about my stalled application, I can at least take solace in Kennedy’s claim during his speech that “all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin.”
The local official who now has my German citizenship application had no explanation for why and how the application had suddenly turned up. He also promised that I would receive a letter within two weeks letting me know that his office was in possession of my application. The two weeks have now come and gone with no letter having appeared in my mailbox. My query to this official about when I might expect the application to actually be processed was met with firm proclamations that it would not be possible to give me any time frame for such an official business matter.
My angst over the impossibility of making any headway with the German bureaucracy has left me a little out of sorts. Perhaps I should take refuge in one of Kafka’s works to put my bureaucratic struggles into perspective. I wonder what connection there is between Kafka’s anti-bureaucratic writings of 100 years ago and the German bureaucracy of today. Perhaps it is just that I am still not fluent in German, but my attempted forays into the German bureaucracy leave me feeling more alienated than I do after receiving a computer call in America.
Fortunately, my friend Diana arrived for a visit last week and it was good to have the company of a friend from back home. We hit the pavement hard while she was here and had lots of girl talk. We especially enjoyed a visit to one of Berlin’s Turkish hamams located in an old chocolate factory in Kreuzberg. There’s nothing like a good long sweat followed by a soothing bath in the company of good friends to ease the tensions of life as a Berliner.