The Way Things Work

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When moving your whole life to another country, what it really means is you get to start over from scratch.
Your old bank accounts, electric company, gas company, water company… none of those work anymore. The convenient online setup options, nope, those don’t exist. Your name isn’t on anything yet. Nobody knows you. You don’t know anybody. You also don’t know how anything works.

So, first things first, establish yourself. Apply for residency in the country.

They way things usually work, in order to apply for residency, you need an address to apply with.

It would seem, then, that finding an apartment is first on the list.

Actually, before you’re able to call any realtors, you need to register your phone. But before you can register your phone you need a tax number. So you go to the tax office, get a tax number, pay the tax, then go set it up with the Cell Company.

Now you can call the realtors.

And the apartment hunt begins…

Once you have your apartment, the utilities need to be transferred over as well. How does one go about doing that? You take your sorry self all the way to the perspective Gas, Electric, and Water company offices, take a number, and stand (or sit if you’re lucky to find a chair) for an hour in a hot waiting room.

Your number blinks on the screen. In your best attempt, you extend your rental agreement and indicate you moved to a new place and therefore need to set up the utility. ” Of course,” they reply. “May I see your residence permit?”

In fragmented sentences, you explain how you just moved to the country and don’t have a residence permit yet, but are in the process of applying for one. “Can you just use my passport?”

“No, I am sorry, we cannot do it without your permit.”

You leave the office, feeling both defeated and confused.

This can’t be right. You need an address to put on your permit application. How are you supposed to have an address if the utilities can’t be set up, because you need a permit to do so? Do you just live in an apartment without any heat or water for three months until your permit appointment?

Fortunately, your landlord empathizes with your dilemma and agrees to keep the utilities under his name until you receive your residence permit. “But don’t tell anyone,” he says, “because I’m not supposed to be doing this.”

Believe me, your secret is safe.

Next on the list, with your house taken care of, you can apply for your permit.

After filling nearly everything out, it asks you for your local health insurance information. Pause. You go to the bank and apply for the cheapest health insurance they offer. Yes, the bank. Weird, I know.

Unpause. You fill in your health insurance and click submit. It tells you your appointment date, 3 months from today. It also sends you a list of everything you need to bring with to your appointment, including a bank statement proving sufficient wages. Back to the bank we go.

The first two banks say you need a resident’s permit in order to sign up for a bank account. You gawk strangely at them because you need a bank statement in order to get your resident’s permit… Can you sense the frustration???

Well, third time’s the charm. Finally, at a third bank, they process you through no problem. But they do need for you to notarize your rental agreement for legitimate reasons.

You follow the red signs on the street for the notary and hand them your contract, explaining your need. “I’m sorry, ” they say. “You need to go to the tax office first and pay the house tax. This needed to be done within 15 days of signing the contract, but you’re too late. Go pay the tax then come back.”

At the tax office, nobody understands what needed to be done. They send you to 3 different floors before getting what you needed.

Back at the notary office, you hand them the tax receipt and they start making faces and tsks and call for backup. The manager hustles over and tells you the tax is too small. You didn’t pay enough. You need to go back and pay more.

“Will you write a note explaining what they need to do? We don’t know what we need.”

So she writes a note and attaches it. “But you have to wait until tomorrow. Everything is closed now.”

You head over to another notary office just to see if they say the same thing. They confirm: “You need to pay more tax.”

“You need you need you need…” Sheesh. All this for opening a bank account…

In the morning you head back over to the tax office. They read the note and consult with each other. Their conclusion: “No, this is not correct. You don’t need to pay any tax for the neighborhood you live in.” They also write a note back to the notary, explaining everything.

You take the note and head to a notary closer to the tax office in case you had to return again. This noter doesn’t even blink. Before you know it, your papers are stamped. Glad to see everyone’s on the same page…. not! Oh well. Relieved, you head back to the bank one final time.

Handing them your notarized documents, they finalize your new bank account. The only thing left is to transfer adequate wages and get a back statement for your permit. This also takes time and effort with your employer, who eventually agrees to give you an advance in order to show sufficient funds.

Next stop, the courthouse. The courthouse? The courthouse.

There you will get a translation and notary of your marriage certificate to prove your marriage in the country you’re applying residency. Which is necessary because all the other documents happen to be in your husband’s name, so you better be able to prove that you’re linked, or else!

Are you exhausted yet? I know I am.

Even so, this is just a small glimpse into the way things work around here. And this is literally just the beginning.

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Come Back Next Week

By now, we all should know that time in Turkey is… slow.

Slowing, waiting, practicing patience– these are all traits of grace that have yet to flow naturally from my veins. My character’s tendency is to activate, think quickly, maximize time, and serve with efficiency.

There’s nothing worse than being halted in my tracks; painstakingly frozen on the bottom step, unable to move forward. I have goals, a plan. Places to go, people to see.

I see each day as a gift to be unwrapped and used to its full potential, leaving nothing untouched or wasted.

Maybe it’s the American achiever in me, or maybe it’s the genuine desire to obediently live out a life of stewardship and responsibility with whatever God puts under my feet.

These feet, however, had suddenly been forced to a standstill. Weighed down by one notably important factor determining my steps and very much affecting the future of my work: the infamous visa.

I applied for it about 7 months ago, but since Turkey’s population is daily being stuffed with new immigrants and asylum seekers, my appointment ended up befalling in March.

Nervous beyond limits for the grandeur of the occasion, I arrived on my assigned date with the necessary paperwork and passport. With the exception of a minor complication that sent me running through an unfamiliar neighborhood in stressful search of a money exchange office that would give me a receipt for proof of a heinous dollar amount, the initial visit went quite smoothly.

I left the police station with a slip stamped “April 8”- the retrieval date for my visa.

April 8 was a full day so I went the 12th instead. As long as I got it within a month’s notice I’d be fine.

Excited to finally become an official resident of this country I have come to love, I sat in the lobby with my roommate eating pre-celebratory M&M’s, waiting to hear my name.

At the sound of my name I jumped up and stood at attention before the source. He looked at me, then back down at the slip of paper he was holding, the one stamped April 8. A new stamp had pressed its inked letters unto the white surface: April 17.

“Come back next week,” he said.

Trying to refute this delay of documents, I meekly asked, “Why?”

“It’s not ready yet,” was his short reply and he turned to gift someone else their bit of bad news.

Following orders, I faithfully returned the next week where I was handed the same instructions of “come back next week” along with a new stamp.

Now, the trek to this police station takes about half a day… It’s not terribly convenient. But then again, convenient is a word I barely recognize anymore.

My third trip at an attempted retrieval followed the same suite as the first two. I began to wonder, did they lose it? As soon as familiar phrase was repeated I confronted in brave Turkish “I think you lost it. It’s been almost a month, I’ve been back here three times already!” To which he replied, “it is not lost, it’s just not ready.” Then tagged it again with “come back next week.”

Not wanting to be bested, I brought along my Turkish friend to fight for me the following week. We waited in the lobby for about 2 hours, ears tuned for the only English name in the overflowing room. Babies cried. Mothers scolded. Multiple languages were being voiced. My friend and I scripted out our response for if I was overlooked again.

She heard it, and we went up to the front. I almost didn’t believe what was happening as they pushed papers towards me to sign… then it clicked: MY RESIDENCE PERMIT WAS READY! I nearly jumped up and down.

I doubt they’d ever seen somebody as happy as I was- happy that I’d never have to journey back to the station again.

Due to the frequent trips as well as my Turkish celebrity-like appearance I had made friends with many of the policemen… As nice and kind as they were, I didn’t mind saying goodbye. I was beyond relieved. My feet were free! I was free!

Free to live and move forward as a resident of Turkey.

The wait, though painful, was worth it.