Yesterday I was in a place called -- ok, I don't even know what it was called. The name was long and it had a P in it plus some of those letters with hats on. We went there to finally get my tax number.
As you may recall, to get this ball rolling I need a bank account and for that I need a tax number. The tax number is issued from the Department of Finance in the place with a long name that has a P in it. This town, it seems, was constructed of concrete and contains government buildings and a bus station. When we got to the Dept of Finance it was less Soviet than I was expecting, and it was also less open than I was expecting. Anica at the bank (oh yes, I'm on first name terms with people now. Well, only the ones with name badges), Anica said it was only open until 1pm, so I promised to be there early. Turns out it was closed noon til 1pm, so we went for a cup of coffee.
A short way from the Dept of Finance was the old town, and the place with a long name that has a P in it turned into a little piece of perfect. There were ancient buildings, doorways that demanded to be photographed, atmosphere, places to eat, to drink, to relax. In the center of it all was a huge and densely elegant Christmas tree.
We went into a coffee shop -- a place that made me want to live next door so I could go in every day and become some kind of fixture. It was white inside, vaulted ceilings, cozy nooks, comfy, with Christmas all around in a very pre-Bing-Crosby European way. Groups of people sat enjoying the place but there was no intrusive noise. It made me want to live in this country close to a centre of population. I like the people here. Maybe not all of the individuals, but The People are good. I could sit and drink coffee with most of them I think, young or old, and would feel happy for having done it.
Maybe I wouldn't drink coffee with the girl from the Dept of Finance. The building didn't look Soviet, and neither did she, so I smiled as I walked up to her, speaking in loud and confident English. "Hello, Tax number don't you know, gotta have one. Pip pip, chin chin." I didn't actually say these things but I imagine that's how it sounded. She chastised the three of us.
"You want to live in Slovenia but you do not want to learn Slovene? Do you not think that is strange?"
"If you want to live in a country you must speak the language."
There are parts of my anatomy that are smaller for having been to the Department of Finance in the place that has a P in it.
And yet I feel good for having done it, shriveled though I am. I am now in the system and can truly say that I am not here on holiday. I have begun. In a couple of weeks I can get an account and I'm already looking for places to live. Offices are closed but I'm getting an idea of what I can afford and where I might end up. I'm learning the geography of the country and the flavour of its regions.
In a way, the trip to Radovljica (I just looked it up. It doesn't have any 'P's in it, nor does it have any letters with hats on. That's how right the girl in the Finance Department was. I demanded a tax number in a place who's name I couldn't be bothered to read) -- where was I? Oh yes, the trip to Radovljica was good for me in more ways than one. It made me happy to get something done. It made me happy to see civil people, in a civil setting, being civil. But more than that, it showed me a government building containing people who take things seriously, who aren't predisposed to smiling and wouldn't bend down to stroke my dog if I had gone in with him. In short, they were normal people as exist in any government setting anywhere. I found the girl's harsh reality check oddly comforting. So far there has been too much Shangri La, and I need a place where I can live.
It has been a while since I posted. It has been a while since I posted because my last post, "Sad", was only the beginning of my downward spiral. It got worse. Until yesterday I was slipping into a kind of bereaved state that I didn't want to share. Christmas is hard, but New Year is all about hope and a belief that the future will be better. With each passing day we get closer to that new beginning. I'm feeling more able to talk to Sarah without feeling like I have to catch a plane so we can have lunch and watch My Name is Earl. I'm getting better.
And so, to everyone I know and to those who read me but we have never met, I wish you a very happy, safe and rewarding New Year.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things