Friday, October 22, 2010

Latest run-around

I love living here. I really do. I'm not being sarcastic or facetious or anything like that. I've lived a fair number of places and I enjoy really LIVING where I am. Even when it's hot and sticky here, this is where I live. (And we budgeted to save up to pay for the air conditioning this summer!)

But I'm really, really frustrated with the political Powers that Be, but don't Do. As one friend put it, the left hand doesn't even know that the right hand exists.

So...our acquaintance X tried pulling strings here and there, and last week I was able to talk with Mr. K at the Larnaka Ministry of Education and Culture. He was quite nice and spoke excellent English, and said that it had been two weeks since they had contacted social services to "examine the children", to see how they're being educated, so that the Ministry can officially exempt our children from being required to attend school.

A day or so later my husband chatted with X, who said that that's frustrating, and that the Minister has already decided to give us permission, but that they have to follow the proper channels, which includes a report from a social worker.

On Monday this week, at X's request, I phoned X to remind him to contact social services, which he said he would do. Yesterday, my husband saw X again, who said that we should just go to the office of social services ourselves, that it was "behind the police station."

So after a great deal of discussion about who goes where with whom and what we take and how we get there (my host parents from Costa Rica are visiting and we thought maybe we could combine things), my host parents, my husband, the four younger children, and I set out on foot. (Well, Elisabeth was in the sling and Helen was in the buggy/pram/pushchair/stroller.) We had with us the IG for Sonlight Core 5 (which we've only just started and which will probably take a couple of years to complete IF we ever do, but it does look impressive), the records I've kept for the last two and a half years up to yesterday, and a Sonlight catalog. We also had some oatmeal cookies which Marie made yesterday. Marie and Jacob stayed home with instructions to do math, clean the table, clean out and sort the plastic (Tupperware etc.) cupboard, practice the violin (Marie) and guitar (Jacob), and then they could go on the computer if they wanted to work more on the create-an-island projects they both wanted to do. We also had one of the slips we'd received from the post office about a package to be picked up, but couldn't find the other slip.

Walking downtown was fine, although once we got to the coast, everyone else chose to walk along the sunny promenade, while I darted from shadow to shadow. I don't like the sun. We first went to the office where we had registered Elisabeth's birth and asked where the office of social services was. Across the parking lot, two-story building, behind the police station.

Following those directions, we found a three-story building that said it housed offices for social insurance and the labor office. I went in one of them to ask questions and was told to go back out, so I did. While we stood there talking about what we should do, a friendly man asked if he could help, took me inside, asked some questions, and told us to go to KEP and gave me directions how to get there, a few blocks away. I can't remember what the letters stand for, but something like the center for civil services. (The first word was Kentro--center--and the third word something like "political".) But since we had to pass the police station anyway, I went in there to ask, and was told to go back the way we had come. My husband led the rest of the group to the tourist information office while I went back and went into a two-story building with signs only in Greek. I didn't find out what the building was, but a man there made several phone calls and finally told me to call Maria at such-and-such number, that where I needed to go was the welfare office "across from Cineplex". Cineplex is not far from where we live, but nowhere near "behind the police station", so I was a bit skeptical, since I figured that X should know what he's talking about.

So, while heading towards the tourist office to meet the rest, I phoned Maria's number. She told me to call a different number, which I did. Person number 2 told me to call a different number, which I did. Person number 3 told me to call a different number, which I did. Nobody answered at the fourth number. I tried four or five times, but by that time I'd arrived at the tourist information. Since nobody else had thought to get a bus schedule nor information in Spanish about Cyprus, I went in and got both of those things. (I haven't looked at the bus schedule yet. It's only in Greek, but it's mostly street names and numbers, so I should be able to figure it out.) In the meantime, my husband had been given a phone number at the tourist information office that started the same as all four phone numbers I'd been given, so we tried that one too. Finaly, we just ate some oatmeal cookies.

Then we headed back to the post office side of downtown, but my host father had wanted to see about getting a Greek-Spanish dictionary, so while I took him in the bookstore, my husband went and bought water for us all. It can pretty much mostly be considered autumn here, I guess, but this would still be high summer in German terms, and we were thirsty. The man in the bookstore spoke native-sounding English and I decided to ask him if he had any idea where we should go. He was born here but grew up mostly in Australia, which explained his English, and I eventually did get convinced that we should probably go to the welfare office. It's been said that the U.K. and the U.S. are two countries separated by a common language, and although I do think I speak fairly fluent British (minus the accent), I only just today learned that "social services" does not refer to the people who check on confusing domestic situations, and that "welfare offices" DOES, and not to people receiving financial support from the state. He at one point said, "Forgive me for asking, but are you wanting to report somebody?" I laughed and said, "Yes--my family!" Then I did actually explain a lot of the situation, which was how we finally got the vocabulary sorted out. And the welfare office is "across from Cineplex" and I should go to the first floor. ("First floor" in European means up one flight of stairs--the second floor in American.)

So we went to the post office and picked up our packages (they gave me mine without my pick-up slip and without an ID, no problem at all), and then came home.

I decided to at least try to locate this place, which I imagined was closed by now (it was around 12:15 by the time we got home), so put Elisabeth in the car and headed out. At the intersection with Cineplex, the only "official" looking building across from Cineplex looked like a bank, but I didn't know what all of the words on the sign meant, and it wasn't a bank with which I'm familiar. After a few complicated turns (including one illegal U-turn) I parked in a supermarket parking lot (also illegal, as I wasn't shopping there, but I was so far beyond caring...) and approached the building. It took me awhile to find a side entrance (since the front entrance definitely was a bank), and then I walked up to the first floor, but the door from the landing was locked, so I walked back down and took the elevator up to "1". (When I left again and walked down the stairs, I discovered that I had to walk down two flights of stairs. I don't quite get that.) I walked into an office area and asked if this was the welfare office, and got a very confused response of "this is a bank," and an even more confused look in response to my, "I thought it probably was." There was a cleaning crew already starting, but two people who worked there did try to talk with me a bit, and then finally took me into a back office. From the looks of the office and the way the man there spoke, I'm guessing I may have been meeting with the director or someone like that of the bank. He lived in New York for nine years, by the way. Anyway, he made a few phone calls, gave me yet another phone number, and then lifted a window shade to point the direction in which I should go--"across from Cineplex", but in another direction, and not directly across, "three or four buildings down".

Back to the car, a few more strange turns, probably covering about two kilometers to get something like 300 meters, parked neatly on the sidewalk, and started looking for the entrance in the building (the second one from the corner, by the way) that had a bunch of regular shops on the ground floor, but did have a sign saying "welfare office" in English, as well as in Greek, which someone at the bank had written down for me so I would recognize it. I walked all the way around the building, went down in the parking garage, and took an elevator from there up to the first floor, where I surprised a few women.

Now that it's far too late to make a long story short, there really isn't much more to say.  After several back-and-forths about how children have to go to school, no they don't if the Minister of Education excuses them, etc., one lady suddenly said, "Do you have other children?" (Okay, so the whole situation is crazy anyway, but they didn't REALLY think I was trying to get permission to home-educate my four-month-old, did they?!) When I said, "Yes, five more," they suddenly got all excited and knew who I was. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. They asked if I'd already had contact with them, and I said yes, that the social worker Fodia had visited us in June, but that was essentially a separate case which was already finished. They looked through their big, handwritten book of appointments and sure enough, there was my name on June 18th. However, according to the book, that case isn't closed. So since this is Fodia's case, nobody else can help me in any way or give me any information, and as it was almost 1:30 by this time, Fodia had of course long since gone home for the day. They did give me her extension number, though, so I can call on Monday.

Four hours, several kilometers on foot and more in the car, and I lost track of the phone calls. But I know where the welfare office is, and I know WHAT the welfare office is, and I have Fodia's phone number. I suppose that's progress.

And unless Marie and Jacob did do math this morning (I forgot to ask, but I know that they did do the plastic cupboard, which was much more important to me), none of the children have done a single thing that would be considered "academic" by authorities, which I usually wouldn't care at all about, but I am thinking that if we're going to be "examined", now might be a good time to have something to show and maybe we should take a break from learning and do some schoolwork instead...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Not what one could call news

News of the day: E called this morning because X asked her to call me and ask for my address. Okay.

Also, I got an e-mail today that Jacob's U.S. passport, which we applied for on Monday, is ready to picked up. So...sometime between now and our trip to the U.S., I'll need to head to Nikosia again, to pick up Jacob's passport at the U.S. embassy and Elisabeth's at the German consulate. (We applied for Elisabeth's German passport on Monday, too, and the registrar was apologetic that she couldn't give it to us immediately because we'd only arrived ten minutes before they closed. I received the e-mail on Wednesday that it was ready.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Latest...lack of news

On Saturday, September 11th, I posted that I hoped to have news by the following Monday regarding having received official permission to homeschool. Not that I really care about that in of itself, but Immigration is making things difficult, saying that they can't issue me with a yellow slip (permission to live here indefinitely and leave and enter the country at will) until my children are either in school or I've received permission to homeschool.

So...has there been progress? Nope, not really. Monday the 13th came and went, no news. On Sunday, September 19th, our acquaintance, X, called me and said that he would definitely have news for us the following day, that he had convinced the Minister of Education that if he doesn't deal with us quickly, then we will go to the media and it could cause a huge publicity problem for him. At this point, I'm willing to go the media...I think. If they were to come to us, I know I'd have something to say, anyway.

Monday the 20th came and went.

On Thursday the 23rd, X called and said that if we could be at a certain location here in Larnaka on Friday the 24th, where the Minister of Education had a meeting planned, we would be able to meet with him. Our friend Annika, visiting us from Germany, willingly babysat five children and we dressed up (well, my husband did--instead of shorts and a t-shirt, he wore LONG trousers, a SHIRT, a TIE, and a JACKET!!!) and set off. After we'd waited for about 45 minutes, the receptionist told us that she'd had a phone call. I'm not entirely sure whether the phone call was from X, who had received a phone call from the secretary of the M of E, or if the phone call WAS from the secretary of the M of E. Either way, she said that the M of E had had to go deal with an emergency with his daughter at school, and so wouldn't be coming to Larnaka after all. So we went home. (But had very much enjoyed getting to sit and talk with each other uninterrupted for nearly an hour--it was like a date! :-) )

That evening, my husband looked up the M of E's biography on the internet: according to the internet, he has two sons, no daughters.

A couple of days later, X called again, said that he was sorry that the meeting with the M of E didn't work out, that there'd been a miscommunication and he only went to some villages, not into the city of Larnaka.

Yes, I'm aware that these messages don't match up. All I'm doing is reporting what I was told. It could be that there'd been a miscommuication and he was only going to the villages, but that was cancelled because he had to deal with an emergency with his son...or his granddaughter...or a friend's daughter...or someone else entirely. So maybe nobody actually lied.

Anyway, X then called me again on Sunday, October 3rd, and said that the District Minister of Education, Mr. Th., would phone me on Monday. As my cell phone doesn't ring, I carried it around with me all day. (Except while I left it in the car while at the U.S. embassy applying for a new passport for Jacob, as his passport expired in February and we only noticed it last Thursday. But there was no message of a missed call when I came out.) No phone call. Tuesday I talked with X's significant other, C, to ask for Mr. Th.'s phone number, and she told me to text X, so I did. No answer from him.

This morning, I got a phone call from my friend S, through whom we have the contact with X. X had apparently called S's husband, R, who called S because he didn't have my number on his new phone, and S called me, to tell me to call the location where we were supposed to have the meeting, as the District M of E was possibly there.

So...I called there. Happily, I was able to talk with E, whom I know, and who speaks excellent English. She said that the D M of E was only likely to be there a few more minutes. I told her I could be there in 10, and planned how I was going to call S and ask her if I could drop off several children, and I rushed to make sure everyone had clothes on (it may be October, but it still feels like summer to us...), but E said she'd wait and talk with the D M of E first, and ask if I could talk with him, and either he would call me or she would call me back. Within five minutes, she'd called to say that he had already left, but yes, she did speak to him. He said, "Mother of six children? Yes, we know all about it--we're just checking to see if the children are being educated." I asked E exactly HOW he was checking, if he won't talk with us or visit us or answer any messages!! E, of course, has nothing to do with any of it, but was sympathetic and said that things move slowly here in Cyprus, and to keep bugging him.

I'll keep trying...