Friday, 13 July 2018

Growing Pains...

Giant light up robot in the centre of Ljubljana
I thought I would start this post with a literal story of growing pains! Yesterday I was in a shop when I realised that I couldn't reach the item I wanted. I tried jumping a few times but it wasn't working and there wasn't really anything to climb up... I had no choice but to ask for help. In England I hate having to ask random strangers to help me because of my height but it is definitely worse in Slovenia! So there I was in the middle of the shop and the only people nearby were a slightly older couple. I screwed up my courage and started trying to think in Slovene so that I could explain the situation. Trust me to pick a Spanish couple who spoke no other languages! Now I learnt French, German and Italian in school but never any Spanish. I realised that even though Italian is similar no other languages were coming to mind except Slovene. What else could I do but mime? There I was pretending to jump and point at the item I wanted until they finally understood! It just goes to show that even knowing some Slovene doesn't always help you in Slovenia!

These last couple of weeks have been fairly quiet but have been a good time for cultural growth. In the summer Ljubljana has a summer festival with outside concerts. They build a stage in the middle of one of the squares and have different performances every night. If you want a seat you have to pay but you can attend for free and just stand around the edges of the barriers. The opening night was a festival of lights. It was amazing! Complete with a giant light up robot, a light up ship and fireworks from the castle on the hill above the city. Imagine the Proms but outside and you might get a bit of an idea. The most impressive bit was the performance of the Montagues and Capulets from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (otherwise known as the Apprentice theme tune). It was a great time to spend with people and to get to know them better.

England vs Croatia
Another good thing for getting to know people better over the last few weeks has been the world cup. Slovenia didn't qualify after being beaten by England a couple of years ago. This has not stopped many of the Slovene men and boys (sorry to be sexist but it's pretty much true) getting very excited about all the football. Wednesday night was obviously the big match. It also happened to coincide with a Bible study. The timings worked out fairly well as the study started at 6.30 and the match didn't begin until 8. For those of you who aren't too sure on your geography, Croatia borders Slovenia and is another ex Yugoslav republic. I spoke to some Slovenes who didn't want them to do well due to rivalries but that was definitely not the case with the group I was with! The Australians were pretty neutral although some were supporting England. At times it felt like I was in Croatia with the excitement in the room. Someone was quick to assure me that they did love me really even though they were celebrating England's loss. It's hard to feel too sad about the result when I see the joy of people from a country that is always described as very small. Apart from anything else it was great to spend time with people from my church and getting to know them better.

This week has also seen a massive answer to prayer: I received my Slovene residency and have leave to stay here (if I wish) until August 2020. This was a metaphorical story of growing pains. I don't know what bureaucracy is like in other countries but it is terrifying here. When I arrived I had to register my presence at the police station in the district of Šiška where I was staying. I couldn't apply for residency to begin with because I didn't have a permanent address. When I moved I was able to start the process. This involves going to Tobačna which is the central office. Despite it being the office for foreigners, they refuse to speak English. I have heard so many horror stories of people going in and being shouted at for not speaking Slovene or saying the wrong thing or the wrong paperwork being started. My Slovene housemate was so lovely and helpful and she came with me the first time. Unfortunately I didn't quite have all the right paperwork with me but we were able to start the process and were told to come back with the rest of my documents. A week later we returned with the documents and were told that it should all be fine but I just needed to wait for an invitation to return when my application had been processed and accepted. At this point I needed to de-register from the police station in Šiška and then register in Moste where I now live. I was so thankful to God that the trips to Tobačna had gone well but I wasn't expecting problems at the police station. I rang up Šiška and thankfully they understood my English and de-registered me. It meant, however, that I still had a piece of official paper with my passport. For some reason this caused a problem in Moste. The police officer was really in a bad mood and was shouting at us because apparently my rental contract wasn't good enough (!) and that I still had this slip from Šiška. It was all in Slovene and I didn't really understand what was going on. We had to wait for quite a while for it to be sorted out but it finally was.

On Monday I received the invitation to go back to Tobačna because my application had been successful. I had 15 days to return but this was really awkward timing. A week had already passed whilst the letter was in the post and my Slovene housemate is on camp this week. My British housemate was also going away and really couldn't help. We managed to get another Slovene friend to come and sit with me which was an answer to prayer because I was really starting to stress out. After all that, the official spoke to me in English! That's pretty much unheard of in Tobačna. It also gave me the confidence to go back to Moste police station by myself to de-register now I have my residency. I was incredibly scared and worried that I would be yelled at in Slovene (although there shouldn't have bee any problems, you never know how they're going to react). Thankfully God answered my prayers and it all went well at the police station (apart from being ignored for 10 minutes whilst I waited to be served). All in all this experience has taught me that I can have the confidence to deal with Slovene bureaucracy although I would prefer to have a Slovene by my side every time. I just need to remember that God is with me and He will help me through the difficult and awkward situations!

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