Friday, August 8, 2014

2014 Update, and still in Alkmaar!

Well, it's been a long time.  I was offline for almost a year, so could not continue my blog.  I am back online, obviously, but a lot has changed.  I am ashamed to say that I found myself back in the same situations and circumstances from my past, but now in a completely different world from my native land.

The good news is that while I have been unable to transform myself into the confident and competent person I want to be, I have managed to transform my circumstances.  Now, I did cheat a little, as I accomplished most of it in English, but I'm still proud of myself.

After five good years with my partner, the last year was difficult for us both.  I'm only going to tell you my side, as I'm sure he has his own version.  To be brief, I ended up in a homeless shelter and lost my permit to stay in Holland.  Most of my stuff went into storage.  You do get a little locker at the shelter, but from nine in the morning until nine at night you have to be out, so carrying around my laptop just wasn't an option most of that time.  And I'm on crutches, which makes it more difficult to carry a lot.  Good thing, though, that we had a very mild winter.

The first thing I did, was to apply for welfare.  You have to pay for the shelter.  I also needed to pay for a lawyer, as I didn't want to screw up my application for a new permit.  The permit also cost almost a thousand Euros, so saving every Euro I could became my priority.  Days turned into weeks, then months.  While the shelter here was no comparison to the American shelters I've been too, it nevertheless brought back a lot of memories.

In a way that was also a good thing.  It clarified for me how much I love the city where I live, in this country.  How, even when at the bottom of society, I still have more chance at a future here, than back in the U.S.  I filed an objection to immigration's decision, and won my argument.  I did that on my own, having never seen such a letter, after my attorney informed me that she could file an objection for me (which would cost Euros, of course) but she "didn't know what to write." I didn't either, but I got my laptop out of storage and borrowed wi-fi (a long story), and wrote my heart out.  It worked, and I have a new permit.

When it expires in five years, I will have the option to apply for Dutch citizenship.  What's important is that one must forget the odds, ignore what's stacked against you, and give life your best shot, as long as there is still a game to be played.  I still have a long way to go; I'm starting school again in two weeks.  With a brain injury, maybe I will have to return to Dutch language school every year or two for the rest of my life.  When I look at the homework I did for the last course I completed in 2011, I can recognize my handwriting, but it's written in an incomprehensible foreign language - Dutch - which at this point seems like Greek to me.

I am so lucky that I got through this past year, and hope that I can find the strength to continue creating the life that I want.  I know and understand pain, depression, danger, poverty and hunger.  I am comfortable there, and that is normal to me.  I have allowed people and circumstances to dictate my self-image and my sense of self-worth.  I can rationalize it, explain the perceived logic, and am not yet able to change the emotional context.

I am, as always, a work-in-progress.  Sometimes I move forwards, sometimes I slip back - but I will not stop trying.  I have hope, faith, and a whole lotta luck.

Taken with my cellphone, inside the homeless shelter, just before the Christmas season.  This is the face of homelessness.  And yet, I could probably go anywhere without someone pointing me out as being financially-challenged, or whatever the P.C. term is nowadays.  Don't cha think?