Thursday, December 15, 2011

In which I hit the fast-forward button.

I'm so exhausted from the excitement.  First: I still have no idea what exactly is going on with my job-status, but I'm getting closer to figuring it out thanks to the fine people who are trying to steer me in the right direction here.  Will I do this training or that one?  Will I receive some kind of tiny financial safety net from the government or not?  I don't know!  It's a little adventure, this job upheaval, it is.  Will something good come of it?  I think it has to, one way or the other.  I have to make something good come from the absolute crap-havoc hurting my back has brought into my life over the past few months.

SECOND... We get to be with my family for Christmas!  I'm so excited, it's like there are blinking neon lights in my head, making that buzzy neon-light sound, and making it very difficult for me to concentrate on the things I need to finish up here before we go ... like the chocolates I have to finish before Sunday?

Anyhow, it's the fast forward button because now everything here in Liège becomes compressed to essentials over the next few days.  Christmas plans we made for here we must now undo, and after we leave the house to catch our flight in just a few short days, we'll just be rolling with the punches for a couple of weeks right into the New Year.  We pretty much have nothing planned and this was all a rather spur of the moment and "hey look there are four seats left on this flight" kind of thing.

Eeeee!  I'll get to see my sisters 3 little munchkins on Christmas morning.  I won't have to hear how Christmas dinner isn't the same without us at the table because WE'LL BE THERE!

It's not quite a miracle, but it's definitely a good surprise.  Even if the rest of me is buzzing with nervous energy, the cockles of my heart feel slightly warmer today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's raining again

Yesterday a man let loose in one of our central squares here in Liège with a hail of gunfire.  He then shot himself in the head.  A few people died right away, many people were hurt, and a few more are in a touch and go state at the hospitals.

I was at home when it happened, thankfully.  I received a text from a friend checking to see if I was ok, and then The Boy called to make sure I wasn't downtown, explaining what he'd heard at that point.  I was surprised at the time, but not entirely.  Though Liège hasn't had a crazy with a gun before, believe it or not I've heard more than a few disgusting news stories regarding prison breaks, judges being shot, and enough rapes and knifings in Belgium to know that certain people don't really hold back here.  While part of it is cultural, part of this certainly has to do with a flaw in the justice system here.  This man had a conviction sheet with 20 items on it at least.  Rape, possession of (many) arms without permit, running a large grow-op, and so on.

Do you want to know how much time he's spent in prison here in Belgium?  From what I understand, not a very long time for someone with such a long rap-sheet.

Know what goes on in Belgian prisons?  Again, from what I understand: Overcrowding.  Early release after serving a third of your time, or payment of a fine instead of jail-time altogether.  And also from what I understand... jail isn't a place that tries to rehabilitate you, or to help you acquire any job skills.  It's just a place where you go to live like a cooped chicken.  Which means if you were a criminal when you went in... chances are you will still not be able to figure out how to live like a decent person when you get out, and you'll turn back to crime.

In this case I'm not saying that this guy would have been any different were he given access to rehabilitative programs in prison, because with a rap sheet like that we might safely assume that he was just scum who didn't aspire to be anything other than scum.  What I am saying is "really?  SO LITTLE TIME in prison for having a large grow-op, RAPING someone, having an illegal armery in your garage? Among other crimes?"

People were really frightened, and rightfully so.  I think a lot of people (myself included) find themselves asking a few questions they weren't yesterday prior to the shooting.  For everyone it's different questions, you know, the kind you ask yourself or others when you realize that life is short and very place-specific.

For me, yesterday is just more weight added to the question that's been growing all through my time here, regardless of how 'adjusted' I've become.  The question being: "what am I really doing here?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Story according to someone else in the same office

I am officially a "job-seeker".  The lovely lady I consulted with at the FOREM offices informed me (contrary to the one I spoke to last week,) that the employer doesn't actually have to provide the C4 document until the end of the "periode de préavis".  This basically means that I can't expect to see this paper until the end of December, or to be more realistic (since there is the whole "periode des fêtes" at the end of December and offices are closed more frequently at this time of year,) that I'll likely see it (hopefully) before January is half-finished.  Yeesh.

BUT... at least I'm in the system.  Which is good... I think?  I'll find out in the nearish future (at another FOREM office) what exactly being "in the system" is good for as far as education or trades-certification type of stuff is concerned, and in the meantime I'll be doing a little research and figuring on my own as I try to determine my next steps.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free advice for the FOREM

I'm still waiting on the papers that should have followed my "you're being let go" letter, but I figured 2 weeks was long enough to wait and so yesterday I made a few calls; one to the FOREM (the government administrators of job-status,) and the other to FGTB, a syndicat (union.)

Did you know... that even though an employer is normally supposed to furnish the C4 and whatever other papers that should follow the "rupture of contract" letter within days of the rupture of contract, that a person in Belgium can (and should) still visit the FOREM within 8 days of being let go, even if they don't have those papers?  I didn't.  Lots of other people (both immigrants and native Wallonians,) don't know this too, judging by the number of confused people in online advice forums regarding work here in Belgium.

Did you know as well ... that *nowhere* on the FOREM website, nor the FGTB (at least that I could find,) is there a section or mention of "what to do and when to do it after being fired / laid off".  I'm thinking there should be a general list of things to do and the order in which they should be done, given that I've now seen horrible things online now about employers not producing the C4 for MONTHS after the firing, and former employees waiting for their C4, (thinking it's what they need this document before they can visit the FOREM and register in the system as a "job seeker".)  Those people have effectively fallen through the cracks of the system due to a lack of information.

So, if anyone out there in the readership of this blog happens to be in any sort of governmental advisory capacity - I'm just putting this out there as a free recommendation: please do create a "so, you've lost your job, what to do next?" section on the FOREM site, and given that the FOREM is a site people tend to visit after being let go, or when looking for work-information... place the link to that section fairly prominently.  From my experience of trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do, when I should expect my C4, and so on I can tell you there are definitely enough people out there who don't know the procedure of what to do after rupture of contract, and who don't know they can go directly to the FOREM as soon as they've got their letter of dismissal.  Some have been waiting for months, calling their employers and asking when the C4 will come, all the while unsure of their status in 'the system', unsure of if they are authorized to look for work since they don't have "job seeker" status, and all the while they're worrying about how to pay for groceries while they wait.  And it's simply because they don't know that they don't have to wait!

I tried (professionally and politely,) to contact my employer twice during these past two weeks regarding my C4, and was ignored completely by them.  Now I'm thinking it's almost a good thing they didn't respond to my queries by telling me "yeah, it's coming soon," because I probably would have kept waiting if they had!  I'm also grateful I'm not as patient as some of those people I ran into in the online forums, as it's my lack of patience in this situation that drove me to make the calls I did yesterday.  Today I'm off to my FOREM office to start (hopefully) putting things right.