Exciting News!

I have really exciting news, nearly 3 years in the making!

In the summer of 2019, I needed to fly to the US (long story, ridiculous situation), and I decided that while I was there I would renew my American driver's license that I had gotten at the age of 18 and expired on my 21st birthday. In my country, in order to get a drivers' license, you need to take over 25 lessons with a paid driving instructor, but if you have a license from another country you can convert it to a local one. Since mine was expired, I needed to get a new one before I could transfer mine, and so decided that while I was in the US I would take another test. I paid for a few local driving lessons before flying to the US, since it had been 12 years since I had last driven, and I wanted some refreshers to ensure I'd pass. And fortunately, within my 3 days of being in Cleveland, I took my driver's permit test and my driving test and passed both on the first shot. This was especially important for me to be able to do then since I had planned on getting divorced and wanted to be able to be more independent.

I'd thought it would be a simple thing to just switch my license over to here since I passed the test in the US on the first try, but since it had been so long since I moved to my country, I needed to first take the theory test, which I thought would be simple, since I passed in the US in three different states on my first try (Ohio, New York, and Washington State), but here I decided to take the test in the local language since I knew how terrible their English translations were, but I failed that test when I took it in the local language because there were a lot of trick questions and I had a hard time seeing through the tricks in the local language. I did a bit more studying and then took the test in English, and bad translations and all, I passed it that time.

In the meantime, I drove with my kids on our trip to Bulgaria, and taking advantage of my newfound American international drivers' license, I started driving locally with it too, even though you're only allowed to drive with your foreign license for one year after becoming a citizen here. And because of that, getting a local license went on the back burner. Until I got into a car accident here and insurance wouldn't pay for it since I had no local license, and I needed to pay $2500 out of pocket for repairs.

That got my butt into gear to actually get a local license.

And boy, was that a headache. I wrote about it in detail here, but in short, as part of the online application form for a license I needed to get prescriptions for all the medications I take and letters from all the doctors including my psychiatrist that there is no medical reason why I shouldn't be able to drive. And then because of freaking bureaucracy, my license application was frozen for over five months while they twiddled their thumbs and decided that they would let me try to get a license. 

Once that was finally done, I contacted a few driving instructors, but most didn't want to take someone who just needed to transfer a license (all that is needed is one lesson and a driving test) because they wanted to make more money on a student who needs many lessons. Eventually, I reached out to a driving school that said they'd take me on as a student, and they assigned me to an instructor that was a crotchety old man who didn't speak clearly, yelled at me if I didn't understand him, yelled at me if I asked questions, and didn't speak a word of English. (Yelling is no exaggeration, I videoed him screaming while I was in the back of the car as another student was driving.) I took a lesson with him and he was really difficult the whole time, and then came the next time for a lesson and test the same day... and the tester had Corona, thanks Omicron, and no one bothered to let me know that the test was canceled until I traveled there for an hour and a half.

Then the test was rescheduled and that took another two months or so until they had an available testing date. I took two more lessons before that test, including the lesson the day of, but the instructor was really nasty to me and kept telling me that I'd fail. I was completely stressed out about the test, panicking before I had my turn at the wheel, and, as predicted, I failed. My friends tried to comfort me, telling me that even long time drivers fail when they try to convert their license, because they are ridiculously strict about the rules, but I was still bummed out, especially since my body hurts so much and I really need to not be lugging heavy things by wagon and bus since that injures my body...

After that, I reached out to the driving school and asked them to schedule another test date for me, but asked them to please switch me to a different, nicer, driving instructor who didn't yell. And they did.

My instructor and I, right before my test

I was given today as a testing date, and decided to practice more before the test to ensure that I'd pass this time. The instructor was a gem, really kind and encouraging, and from the first lesson (I took 4 lessons-and-a-half (an official lesson is 40 minutes, I had a total of four hours) he told me that he can see that I'm a good driver and I'll definitely pass the test and that he'll put in a good word with the tester for me that he should pass me because I'm a good driver. He also spoke English fairly well (but was happy when I'd correct his imperfections, like when he called things intersuctions and walksides) which was really helpful in learning. He was happy to answer any questions I had to clarify rules, and was patient and kind. (Not that that actually would make a difference, but the confidence he had in me really was helpful.) In the lessons that I had, he taught me how to perfect my parallel parking (I always knew how, but now I perfected it), pointed out some little things to notice that I could use improvement in, and then told me how confident he was I'd pass, really boosted up my view of my driving abilities, told me to chill out and not stress because he saw how nervous I was... and then today when we arrived at the testing site, he told me that he was sorry, because the tester I got was a really tough tester, but he believed in me.

There were two of us taking the test- the first student drove well other than two glaring mistakes where the teacher stomped on the breaks (an automatic fail) and then the instructor took me to the same places and I reminded myself not to fail in those ways, and I didn't. The instructor told me as I was driving that if I already have an American license it should be easy for me to pass, and we were chatting about when he was living in Houston, and my previous driving experiences. There were two/three small things I did wrong during my test. One time the speed limit went from 50 to 70 kmh and I didn't notice and stayed at 50 until he told me the speed limit changed and I need to speed up. And at the very end, when I went to park, I accidentally moved to park instead of reverse, until I realized my mistake when the car wouldn't go, and switched it back to reverse. Also, I backed a drop too close to the curb when parallel parking, so I moved forward and back once to get it perfect, so it wasn't as smooth of a park as I wanted it to be.

I was nervous but confident when I got out of the car. I thought there was a good chance I'd passed, but you don't get told right away if you pass or not (in the past there were instances of testers getting assaulted and even killed when the student found out they failed), but instead, you have to wait a few hours to get a text message informing you if you passed or not.

I told the instructor that he was a really great teacher, and I enjoyed the lessons with him, but I really hope I never see him again, because I don't want to fail and need more lessons. We had a good laugh (and I really did hope never again but wasn't sure).

So I went home, hoping for the best, but nervous. I had ants in my pants and knew I couldn't get anything productive done until I knew what the results were, so decided to take a nap until my results came in. I woke up from my nap after more than 3.5 hours (which is how long I was told it would take for answers) and still nothing. So I messaged the teacher who said it could take up to four hours, and he said that any minute I'll get an answer. And then a few minutes later he tells me I passed.

I didn't believe it until I got the text message myself a few minutes later, telling me that I passed and tomorrow I can get my temporary permit.

The instructor told me that I got my wish, and I never have to see him again. I told him that I don't mind running into him around the city, but no more lessons!

So, all's well that ends well. But I wish that it didn't have to be so complicated, 10 months after I applied for my license and 13 months after I attempted my theory test. 

But what next?

For now, no car, but the ability to rent a car as needed will definitely be helpful! And if I get approved for disability, then maybe I can buy a car. We'll see. But for now, I'll be using a car to lug heavy things, and not carry it all by hand, injuring my body. (My physical therapist will be really happy about this.)

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. So happy for you! A good instructor really makes all the difference. I hope this will be a life-changing benefit for you and your family. Congratulations!

  2. Congratulations! This will help so much.

  3. Congrats on your accomplishment. Sorry they have to make it so hard to get a license in your country. It would appear they don't want people to drive.

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