A Card Carrying Hungarian (Resident)

In late August, we went to the regional immigration office in Debrecen.  They took our digital fingerprints and a horrible driver’s license-type photograph.  They asked us about our mothers’ maiden names and our places of birth.  I explained that “Parma” is a suburb of Cleveland in the state of Ohio, and not just a city in Italy.  I did not try to explain my mother’s maiden name, which is probably an Americanized spelling of a Serbian name.

The immigration officer–who was affable and chatty for a bureaucrat–commentated on the death of Osama bin Laden, assured us that our residence permit should arrive in about 30 days, and sent us on our way.

Four months later, I finally have official permission to remain in the country until August 31, 2012.

On Tuesday, our contact person picked us up at our apartment and drove us to the office to pick up our cards.  (It was the first time I’d ridden in a car in almost two months.) The immigration office is located on the edge of town near the refugee camp.  A compound of ominous concrete structures surrounded by barbed-wire topped concrete walls, I believe the buildings were formerly Soviet military barracks.  As we pulled up, I saw two men leaning against the gate and chatting.  I knew then that the trip was not going to go as planned.

We soon discovered that the electricity was out, the office was closed, and we couldn’t get our cards that day.

For many Americans, a foiled attempt to complete a tedious errand would result in elevated blood pressure and a string of curse words–especially when stress is at a peak due to holiday insanity.  My Hungarian contact person calmly talked to the official, obtained a phone number, and established that we could return tomorrow to pick up our cards.  Then we piled back in her car and she took us home.

None of us were thrilled to make the trek out to the immigration office again on Wednesday, but we used the time to chat and catch up.

I told Jesse that I’d had a feeling on Tuesday that we wouldn’t be able to get our cards that day.  I was prepared for something unexpected to happen.  Am I becoming cynical or pessimistic?  I don’t think so.

When I try to micro-manage my own life, make meticulous plans, and expect everything to unfold as I imagined, I become stressed out by surprise detours.  In fact, I’m sometimes left with waves of suffocating anxiety, as if I am Giles Corey from The Crucible and someone is stacking stones on my chest.  But who puts the weight there?  I do.  I feel as if I should be on top of things at all times.  If I plan well enough, then everything should work out.

Well, I do not have to be on top of things at all times, and even if I am, everything is not always going to work out.

Sometimes the electricity will go out at the immigration office. . .and that’s okay.


Filed under Hungary

2 responses to “A Card Carrying Hungarian (Resident)

  1. Madhu

    Hi Scarlett,

    Even though I don’t usually comment, I do often follow your blog and even if I’ve missed a few posts, I generally trek back and read the ones I’ve missed to catch up. I just wanted to tell you—this is the single most important lesson I have learned in my own life: we create our own stress and the only way we can escape that is to learn that it’s okay if life goes and messes up the best laid plans… Nothing in my life has ended up the way I planned and while I have my good days and bad days, by and large, I have learned to be okay with that. and I’m glad that you’re learning this too. There are some things that we just need to let go of 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    • Hi Madhu, Thanks for the comment, and thanks for following my blog. 🙂 I am still working on learning this lesson, because I experienced some frustration with trains while on our trip. Trains and errands are small things, and I’m trying to apply this lesson to the big things in life as well. I hope you have a happy new year and that 2012 brings you unexpected but wonderful things. 🙂

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