Monday, January 17, 2005

Meet Moniek de Hamm

Today I met with Moniek. She's a woman in her mid-30's with straight blonde hair and that social service look. I showed up early and she offered me a drink. I asked for water.

Moniek outlined the "inburgering", or integration, program. They all say it in this flat, offensive tone, "As a newcomer, you must follow the inburgering courses. It is the law." It always gets my hackles up, but I try to not let it show.

She explained the ways it can be done. There's a sixteen hour course during the day and a nine hour course during the evening. Either one should take a year to complete. She said this should not keep me from looking for or taking a job as I can always go between courses. But in order to get into the evening courses, you have to have a six month contract working at least 12 hours a week.

The other option that she discussed was the more intensive study course. It's for people with higher education and will get you to "Level 5 Dutch" - whatever that is. It's quicker as well as being more intense. Of course I would prefer that course, but we'll see. I told her that my concern was that I would be with students who were learning how to use the tram system and how to get child care and choose a school for children.

She said that my volunteer work (three days a week), while being very nice, was not enough to get me into the evening classes. There's a five week long thing I have to go to where they will do some testing and figure out in which level I belong. The inburgening program is still free.

When she was finished with that portion, she said, "Do you have a driver's license?" I do not, of course, have a Dutch driver's license and my New York Driver's license is expired as of June 12, 2004. She gave me some information about how to get my American d.l. transferred over with a quick test.

Then she asked if F was planning on claiming me as a dependant on his taxes. I said that he was. She said that he can do that and that he could and would get some money back. She said that he could also begin to get that money in advance so that "the non-working partner can have some money." I thought it was a nice idea, but F didn't know why I should get the money. I can see that.

I left quite happy about the meeting. I won't be seeing a lot of Moniek, but she'll be watching over my progress, she said and she can answer any questions I have about the process. My next meeting on this little Integration Journey is next Monday at the Inburgering Onderzoek where they will begin the testing.

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