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It was fun while it lasted, and considering my health a month of classes each weekday may have been the best I could hope for before hitting a proverbial wall. The first two weeks of my integration course I was enthusiastic and well in familiar territory, having done some pre-course studying to help myself not feel as lost going in. This advantage evaporated in the face of the direct method of language instruction as I was getting a lot of information thrown at me that I didn’t understand. Success here is determined by two things; the ability to piece together what is being said, and the ability to recall it from one class to the next, which is where I got beat. Having chronic vertigo makes things difficult for me to recall, especially under pressure (and not knowing if it’s me or my condition that’s the problem with twenty other people ready to answer within .5 seconds of me being called on is, I think, an acceptable definition of “pressure”).

I did really enjoy the class and got to meet some interesting people, even though I could only communicate with about a half-dozen of them, but at least no-one knew enough English or simply knew better than to think it was funny to ask me about Rob Ford. One afternoon we made a field trip to the Reichstag, or “democracy’s own heated goldfish bowl;” and I made a vaguely obscene gesture at a senior citizen from Syria, but it was in the interests of teaching him the German word for “ice cream.”


To update: we committed matrimony successfully, if the lack of red ink on the documentation the officials handed back to us was any indication. I never saw myself walking down the aisle to The Beatles, although in this case it was more like quietly shuffling along the side of the room as the last two guests who couldn’t find the place hurried into the back row and looked as casual as possible after the officiator had already started playing “Here Comes the Sun” for the second time because Mr. Dreamer and I had already missed our first cue. Our ceremony almost inexplicably included a quote from Albert Camus, but thankfully Germans know the proper pronunciation of “Camus” so I didn’t actually need to bite my nails. The reception was as uneventful as a reception attended by two toddlers and one shockingly quiet post-toddler could get, and people seemed to like the food (apparently rice and bread constituted an acceptable substitute for potatoes and bread).

German bureaucracy is a many-headed hydra in which you will often be asked to procure and provide more to the destination agency than they would even ask for. Some official at some agency, bureau or office whose name I can’t remember said that we had to register our marriage at the embassy. The Canadian embassy is smack in the middle of Potsdamer Platz, probably the most American of the Berlin tourist areas (you can see the Dali museum from the front entrance). When the mister and I got to the embassy we impressed the guards at the metal detectors by leaving our cell phones at home. Of course, the lady on the third floor who we were referred to knew nothing about any requirement to register our marriage, but it was nice seeing Adrienne Clarkson’s name in bas relief on the building’s dedication plaque.

At the first post-matrimony visit to the ausländerbehörde my fingerprint was taken without the mess or prison romanticism of actual ink and I had to surrender a biometric photograph and eighty Euro for my subtly holographic visa (which has an impeccably understated design and my photo could have been worse), but I was given another surprising and unexpected mandate with the new sheaf of documentation.

I will be taking the German integration course provided by Berlitz and subsidized by the federal government for twenty-five hours per week of German language instruction, with a sixty hour “German culture and customs” chaser. My visa and my Canadian passport are set to expire on the same day. I did not expect to get tracked for citizenship this quickly.