crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Monday, February 26, 2007

Night at the Movies

There are always going to be some aspects of home that I miss while living abroad. Though, so far, Germany is much more what I'm accustomed to than Japan, there are still some little differences. What's great is when things differ for the better!

Since it's been ages since we've seen a movie, and because the cinema in Mainz offers films in original English (sans-dubbing) only on Sunday and Monday nights, we decided to go to the cinema last night. For those wanting to enjoy a movie in English, they have only one choice weekly, and ours was "Night at the Museum." Though Riki had been dying to see it, I was less than enthusiastic, but the popcorn and an excuse to dress up drew me in.

Riki surprised me by reserving a cuddle-seat (or, what I like to refer to as "make-out couch") in advance via the Internet. How sweet! Basically it's a little sofa that's built into the row of regular seats and there's usually at least one in each row. Very comfortable... especially when I get to sprawl across it with my legs over Riki!
Other cool features of the cinemas here in Germany are: 1. They sell beer and various alcoholic beverages for your drinking enjoyment throughout the show. In fact, inside the cinema are two bars (one more lounge and the other more club) and a Mexican restaurant. We didn't partake in this feature, since it was a Sunday night, but I can definitely see myself taking full advantage in the future! And, 2. After the advertisements and before the movie begins the lights go up briefly so that a round of ice cream bars can be sold to the audience. Again, I didn't partake because my head was pretty much buried in my bag O popcorn, but what a fab idea!

Oh yeah, and the movie was hilarious, too. Thanks, baby.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

An Inadvertent Idiom

Riki I enjoy our lazy Sunday mornings. We usually sit down to breakfast close to 10:00. After preparing the table and making toast on this particular morning, we sat down smiling. Then clumsiness stepped in. Before our first bite had even been taken, I sent the peanut butter jar careening into my full mug of milk, which promptly soaked everything on the table. Up we were again, salvaging what we could from the wreckage and sopping up the mess. We were no longer smiling. After 10 minutes of cleaning off jam jars, cutlery, milk cartons, margarine containers, kiwi fruits; after washing placemats and rinsing sponges, we finally sat down to eat. Now both of us were less-than-chipper. Grumbling at our breakfasts, now cold, we made it about halfway through before I got snappy with Riki over some unrelated subject. Having no idea of the common English expression, Riki said:

There's no sense getting upset over spilled milk.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Unsere Wohnung

For some reason I wasn't really bummed before when our apartment in Saarbruecken fell through. The city wasn't that inspiring, and the landlord wasn't friendly, but that really didn't have anything to do with it. I just knew that we'd find something so much better!

And, as I've mentioned, we did. Actually, we love the town we'll be living in and can tell that a fast friendship will form with our new landlord. What's more, we're going to be in there almost exactly when we originally intended... apart from some minor delays.

I think I mentioned what a nightmare renting is in Germany; that I was shocked to learn that 85% of apartments are rented without kitchens (renters have to spend 5000+ Euros to put in their own kitchens, and then more to take them out again when they leave). Additionally, most times, like in Japan, light fixtures and appliances are not included. We ended up buying the kitchen in our new apartment from the previous tenants. I think we got it at a steal for 800 Euros, including fridge and brand new ceramic counter-top stove and built-in oven, which we can sell or take with us when we leave.

So anyway, the current tenants have recently informed us all that they will, in fact, be officially out by March 1st. YAY! There will still be some delay though, because the wood floors in the living/dining room have to be re-finished, which will take about a week. Also, as a rule here in Germany, tenants must paint their rental either when they move in or when they move out, so we're also taking the whole of next weekend to host a painting party with some friends: should be quite the affair. It works out well because the training for my new job is in Mainz (5-10 minute train ride from where we are now) from Mar. 12 - 23, so it's more convenient to be close-by anyhow.

Long story, longer, we will be officially moved into our new apartment BEFORE the end of March. YAY!!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Job Sitch

In the six weeks (today) that I've been in Germany I've put out approximately 093752876 resumees. I've had exactly ONE interview. Of course, the interview I was invited to was from the furthest possible place that I applied (I was getting desperate): B!#$%&z, Frankfurt. Anyhow, I got the job.

YAY ME!!

Besides this job meaning a 200km/day+ commute, there are some other reasons why I'm considering not taking it. The pay is abysmal: just 11.7- Euros per unit, which is WAAAAY below the industry standard here in Germany. No insurance or benefits are paid (which means that I have to pay them, in-country, myself in order to qualify for the visa). The required 2-week, full-time training session is UNPAID. To tell you the truth, I'm a little disappointed that such a well-known company can get away with this.

On the plus side, Frankfurt is a GREAT city and one I'm not opposed to spending time in. The "freelance" anti-contract would allow me to select my working hours at will - to a degree: overdone pickiness would lead to much fewer phone calls from the Scheduling Ladies - that meaning I can work as much, or little as I like. With 2-3 weeks notice, I can take holidays whenever I want, for whatever length of time I require. There is the long-term possibility to pick up a permanent contract (which would include aforementioned benefits, etc.) or to transfer to any Berlitz in the world. (Usually) the "Freelance" Visa provided for this type of position is not specific to any particular company, but would allow me to pick up hours at (the many) other language schools that offerred me part-time work (for more pay), though this would be rather hush-hush. Finally and probably most importantly, the school is about 5 meters from a major Frankfurt train station that features a terrific Asian Foods Market!!

Despite the negative bits, the most important thing is that there's a good chance I'd be granted a visa of some sort and not be deported, so I think I'm going to take the job. The last crucial detail I need to research: cost and time it'd take to get from our new town to the school.

Wish me luck!

2 Comments:

    • At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      ungh. that's quite the commute.
      visa: good
      200km, poor pay: bad.

      but whatevs. if taking this job means you can stay...

      don't feel like signing in,
      shortbus

       
    • At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Kani said…

      I;m so excited for you!!! Congrats! BTW, I was in a kitchen store today and saw a raclette thingy and thought of you.

       
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Meine Deutsche Sprache

Ich aufwende viel Zeit an der deutsche Sprache lernen. Aber, mag ich die Artikel nicht. Sie sind sehr schwer!

German-speakers: how did I do?

1 Comments:

    • At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Thomas & Jeanne said…

      Das klappt doch schon super! Weiter so, du schaffst das!!!

      Grüße aus Windischenbach!

       
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Time Warp: It occurred last night in the local cinema

We went to the movies!
Unexpecting newbie!

The scene was frightning!
Worse than lightning!

Everybody was singing!
The comments were stinging!
Let's do the time warp again!

There was toilet-papering!
And water-fight-drenching!

People confetti- and rice-ing!
But the toast was surprising!

We had to wear our rain-coats!
Just to stay a-float!
Let's do the time warp again!

It's just a jump to the left!
And then a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight!
Put your hands on your hips,
And pull your knees in tight!
Then do the pelvic-thrust,
That'll drive really 'em insa-a-a-a-a-ane!
Let's do the time warp again!

1 Comments:

    • At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Aaaaah!!! Riki-Riccardo said…

      I feel somekind of .... uneasy ... about this blog entry...

       
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Monday, February 19, 2007

Sunny Sunday

This was the first sunny weekend we've experienced in a while, so we decided to take advantage and get some time in outdoors. We drove to a naturepark where we "hiked" around in the forest, enjoying the fresh air and some wildlife. I spotted two white-butted deer in a thicket and we marveled at the tameness of some giant rat-like creatures who gladly took slices of apple out of childrens' hands. Before we knew it we had walked over five kilometers!

On the way home, Riki stopped off to show me an ancient fortress, complete with moat and cannon walls. Inside was a museum, but we decided to save that for another day. Good times out and about. :D


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Fastnach Fun!

This weekend is Fastnach, otherwise known as Carnival, otherwise known as 4-days-of-mayhem! Though Mainz hosts one of the three largest Carnival celebrations in Germany, their big bang is on Rosen Montag (Monday) so Riki and I opted for the lesser-scale-but-just-as-riotous version in the next town over. On Saturday we walked over to watch the parade: a four-kilometer long affair with much alcohol-consumption and candy-pelting (usually one the cause of the other, in that the parade participants were soon so hammered that they hurled their candy treats at the crowd, full-force). Like a 4-day Hallowe'en, Fastnach is an excuse to dress in the craziest costume one can find and party the weekend away; there are fairs, special markets, parades and parties throughout Germany for this, the biggest non-religious celebration of the year. Basically we spent the afternoon yelling "HELAU!!" (the traditional Fastnach greeting) back at the paraders at the top of our lungs.

I love an excuse to drink beer on the sidewalk.


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Scratch That

The sore throat, cough and stuffy nose
were just a little late in arriving.
How chic.

1 Comments:

    • At 3:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Haha, sorry, shouldn't laugh. But better a chic cold than a scruffy one, eh!
      Dave

       
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All By Myself

Today I had a REAL interview in Frankfurt! This meant getting to Frankfurt all by myself - well, Hans helped me buy my first train ticket. But I trained into the city and found the language school all by myself! I shopped around and got my ticket home all by myself! Some English-speaker even asked ME for directions to the proper train! ME! And I could answer him correctly! YAY!!

The interview went well, but I must not jinx it.

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My Valentine...

...took me out for Greek food. In case you were wondering.

oxox

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gesundheit

Sometimes when I think of my health over the last couple years these strange images of zombie-like children approaching me with outstretched hands that are dripping with snot arise. When I first got to Japan and started teaching I remember laughing in disgust with Tressa over how many of the little tykes ran around all day with green boogies on their upper-lips. I remember how many of these monsters I had to remind to cover their mouths when they sneezed or coughed. I never once wondered why I spent the entire 2-year stint sick.

Okay, so I left Japan a little "under the weather" - I can proudly say that I kicked that bacterial Meningitis to the curb. What's more important, however, is that I've been illness-free ever since mid-December. This is a record, people! No cough, no sniffles, nothing.

Until now. I'm being initiated into Germany with a typical German cold, or so I am told. My throat isn't sore, I'm not particularly sneezy, I don't really have a cough, but I'm achy all over and headachy, tired and weak, and most importantly, my teeth hurt. This is weird. I've never had a cold that attacked all upper and lower teeth on my rear left side, but here it is.

I guess some people can call themselves lucky since this so-called German symptom has effectively shut me up, for the time being.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Like Riding a Bike

There's an extra bike here. For some reason I've been compelled to use it. On Sunday I partook in my fourth bike ride in about 15 years. Riki and I decided to bike to the Roman History Museum in Mainz, which is about a 20 minute ride. Riki failed to warn me about the crazy-long bridge we'd have to go over.

Being long actually wasn't the problem. That the the bicycle/pedestrian path on this bridge is about a meter wide, that the deck is made of uneven planks, and that there were approximately 482548736541 joggers passing by us were the problems. So feeling out-of-control on my bike already, I was terrified at the prospect of having an accident...

About halfway across, when the path had narrowed as much as possible, a jogger approached. I couldn't stop, really, because Riki was right behind me saying things like "gear down so you can keep peddling" - or so that my balance can be thrown off completely and I can send us all flying into the Rhine below! I tried to make room for the jogger, but my handlebar caught in the guardrail. This sent my front wheel careening toward the unexpecting jogger who gracefully received it between her legs as I pressed her against the opposite rail with my bike, which I promptly fell off.

After ascertaining that she had miraculously escaped the collision with only some bike-mud on her spandex, we profusely apologized and carried on. The water that casually leaked from my eyes could easily have been attributed to the wind, rather than my fright, but at least it prevented me from totally noticing that nearby joggers went out of their way to avoid me after being witness to my mad bicycle skillz.

1 Comments:

    • At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Thanks for sharing that story, I had a really good chuckle and totally pictured the scene in my mind. Almost as good as a trip, ha,ha.

      Love Shawna

       
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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Not A Knight's Tale

On Saturday Riki and I went to meet another of my potential Au Pair employers and his family (fingers still crossed that the visa shit works in our favour). Coincidentally, this family lives in the same town as the last one we visited (I'm still in contact with both possibilities). After the meeting we decided to wind our way up Melibokushuegel (a hill) to visit a castle! Woo-hoo!!! - my first castle experience!


The castle was built in the 13th century and is basically a ruin. Actually, the location is quite famous for its weekly "Knight's Meal" - a public luncheon of Knight-food that is consumed with one's hands. Good times! Actually, the Knight's Meal is not operating December through February, so we made a pact to gnaw on various animals limbs at a later date.



Still, the castle was open and despite the rain (that has been ceaseless over the last weeks) we climbed all the way to the top and viewed a fantastic panorama of nearby Hessen (the province we're in). In the end, I made the informed decision that I wanted nothing to do with being royalty, in those days - I'd freeze with only stone walls against the wind and cold!!

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Wir Haben ein Schlafsofa Gekauft!!

That means: we bought a sofabed!! It's big, it's beautiful, it's black and it's being delivered end-of-April!! Sleeps two, comfortably: make your reservation today! ;)

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss

I'm the first to admit that I'm not the "deepest" person I know. I'm not really into weighing issues nor considering important subjects. I would rather watch 90210 re-runs than the News. But even I sometimes have to laugh at my heedlessness...

Finding myself with some time lately, I've been reading MSN Today. I didn't seek this out, it's just what pops up when I sign out of Hotmail. And don't misunderstand: I mostly stick to the Entertainment section (btw: Anna Nicole!?)

Anyway, today I saw a caption titled: "A Tory Spending Spree" and, of course, immediately clicked with excitement to read up on the latest Tori Spelling gossip (which, I realize now, is spelled differently anyhow. Duh). Yeah, not so much Tori Spelling, more like Tory Party (some Canadian political party).

Ugh. I hate politics. Needless to say, I didn't read up on that Tory Spending Spree.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Daily Life

Some of you may be interested in how I fill my days now that Riki is back to work. Here it is people:

If Riki isn't on a business trip, I usually sleep until 9:30ish; if he's home, we get up around 6:15. In any given order throughout the average day I usually check emails and blogs, correspond with potential employers, research visa requirements, research language schools I may attend/apply for a position at, and study at least 1 lesson in my self-study German course. Having re-started said course upon my arrival here, I can proudly say that I'm up to lesson 16 and already speak better German than I ever did Japanese!

Additionally, a couple times each week I cook lunch for the family, which is the main meal for the day; this usually involves a walk to the nearest supermarket (about a 15-minute walk). A few times each week I go for a walk with Carla, and once or twice a week we play cards or a boardgame after lunch. I've grown quite fond of capuccino breaks with Sylvia, who makes fantastic capuccino. I've also taken up baking as a hobby, which I'm not too proud of.

Finally, if everything else has been finished or become tiresome, I sometimes play SIMS or watch one of my DVD-shows: either The OC or Desperate Housewives. As in Japan, if anyone is interested in sending copies of seasons 3+ of The OC, seasons 2+ of Desperate Housewives, and/or seasons 1+ of Grey's Anatomy I would be eternally grateful. Don't worry about sending duplicates; if I get more than one copy of any of the aforementioned series' I can send them away to some people still in Japan who I know would also be eternally grateful. ;D

And then there is the blogging. Unlike some people, I have not fallen off the blog-planet (a-hem! shortbus!) So if there's anything you'd like to see posted, just comment or email me.

1 Comments:

    • At 6:47 PM, Anonymous Riccardo said…

      And if anyone is interested in that: I am bringing home the bacon and tell my little girl to "eat your ham!"

       
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Monday, February 05, 2007

New Friends, Part Two

Over the weekend, Riki's in-town friends, Andre & Melanie, invited us to dinner. They prepared Raclette, a do-it-yourself meal of great fun and delicious food. Basically you have a small frying pan thingy and you fill it with veggies and meat and then a slice of cheese and then you put it under a table-broiler until it's all melty. Mmmmmm! For this party we could choose from onions, mushrooms, red peppers, pre-boiled potato slices, salami, ham, pineapple, pickles, corn and two types of cheese. Using the grill atop the broilers, we cooked delicious chicken and pork. Along with some salad, wine, bread, and two very hospitable hosts, it was a fantastic meal! Thanks, Andre & Melanie!
I'm pretty excited about Raclette; I'm already thinking up various themes one could have at a Raclette dinner party. Thankfully, Riki already has a Raclette grill, so we'll be Racletting up a storm in no time! YAY!

2 Comments:

    • At 5:52 AM, Anonymous Amy said…

      Hi crystal...mmmm that sounds so cool. Its like the german fondu kinda. You have to buy one of those grills and bring it back when you visit!

       
    • At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Dave said…

      Hi Crystal!
      Glad to see you are having fun... this last post has got me hungry! Yum yum!...might have to make a konbini run!
      Dave :)

       
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Friday, February 02, 2007

No Comment

Why didn't anyone tell me my 'Comments' link wasn't working!?! Here I've been all depressed that no one has commented in AGES! Well, I'll extend the limits of my computer literacy and try to figure out how to edit the HTML in my template to include that link ASAP. Then I'll anxiously await your comments...

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Phew

We were all a little nervous about Riki's new job. A-hem, new CAREER. ;) Though some apprehension remains, the first day was a hit. The new company did and said much to dispel our fears AND already gave Riki his Audi (complete with climate control and heated seats!)and gas card. It looks like we have a real future here!!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

New Friends, Part One

Riki's long-time friends, Thomas and Jeanette invited us for the weekend. They live about two hours away from us, so it makes sense to stay for the weekend. We drove up Saturday morning and arrived in time for brunch. After cleaning up, we decided to take a walk into the nearest town; Oeringen. The town was full of great historical sites, and of course everyone got a little sick of my snap-snapping of pictures. After a stop in a cute cafe for hot bevies, we headed home; of course the temperature had dropped considerably by this time, and the wind was a-howling, so the walk home was a little less pleasant. Back at their terrific apartment, we partook in a delicious Asian-style dinner (which was great, because I'm missing Asian food quite a lot) and capped off our evening with wine, conversation and a little Bohnanza (a card game). After another great brunch and a re-match of the game, Riki and I headed home to continue our apartment/job search. What a great weekend! Thanks, Jeannette & Thomas!

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On getting an apartment

Okay, so the visa situation is difficult, but otherwise things here are GREAT! Riki started his first day of work this morning (being the good housewifey that I am, I got up with him at 6:15 and prepared breakfast (Um, not that good at the wifey-thing: breaky was bread and jam)). I just know he's going to be fantastic.

The other big news: we found an apartment! Actually, we will sign the contract on Saturday, so it's not 100% official yet, but we found an apartment. Best of all, we LOVE this apartment. We had the trouble that we couldn't find anything that was really homey for us, nothing that immediately sparked the feeling that THIS IS IT... until we walked into this one. It was fate, really, we were encouraged by Hans, Riki's dad, to pick up a local paper during our apartment hunt on Tuesday, which we did. The first place we phoned could get us in for a viewing an hour later; we went and obviously couldn't control our delight when we saw it, especially the huge 2-story vaulted ceilings (it's a penthouse)! The landlord (private, so no realtor fee: 1000 Euros is average and common) told us that there were several other parties interested in renting it, but that he went by gut-feeling and had a good one about us, so if we decided to take it, it was ours. We decided to take it - after some consultation with Riki's lovely parents who invited us to stay here long enough to attain possession and paint the apartment (which is a little longer than originally planned). YAY YAY YAY!!

Where is it? Gruenstadt, which means Green City, but it's not really a city. I estimate about 20 - 25, 000 people in a very friendly and traditional town with all the amenities (including a huge shopping centre much like Superstore). The great part, it's directly on the Autobahn which leads in both directions Riki needs for work, and it's just 25 minutes (and a direct train ride) from a cluster of major cities: Mannheim, Heidelberg and Ludwigshafen, that have a combined population of over 550,000. AND, Gruenstadt is minutes away from famous bath-town, Bad Duerkheim (i.e. it has many hot springs where one can soak away one's troubles) and is on the Weinstrasse, or Wine Road (i.e. millions of vineyards all over the damn place! Yee-haw!) Just so you know, it's only about 1.5 hours from Frankfurt airport, and we are totally getting a sofabed: make your travel arrangements now! ;)

1 Comments:

On getting a visa

Unlike Canada, Germany does not want immigrants. It is becoming clear that to prevent people from effectively immigrating into the country a profusion of bureaucratic red-tape has been instated. Having no right to an EU passport makes it nearly impossible to get a working visa; it's a vicious circle of needing a visa to get a job and needing a job to get a visa.

I was recently at the local visa and immigration office and found out several things (only after Riki hounded them for straight and conclusive answers):

  1. 85% of the information I attained on Government Canada and German Embassy website prior to arriving here was incorrect, or incomplete.
  2. My 90-day tourist visa is NOT renewable for up to 90 days more; whats more, I must leave Germany for at least 90 days in order to attain a new tourist visa.
  3. There are no common-law clauses or financial responsibility documents that will secure a residency permit.
  4. Possibility of employment is insufficient in attaining a work permit: one needs to acquire an actual position with a company that is willing to fill out paperwork headed by the phrase: "untruths or declaration of employment solely for the purpose of attain a visa for a foreign immigrant is punishable by up to 3 years in prison." That's enticing.
  5. Most language schools here hire on a "freelance" basis, so not only do they not have to pay insurance or give benefits, but they don't have to sponsor visas.
  6. It is possible to lengthen one's stay in Germany if they acquire a student visa, whereby they must show proof of enrollment in a German as a Second Language course of at least 20 hours per week; the visa lasts as long as the course.

So basically, I need a f#$&ing job, ASAP.

... Or Riki and I could go down to the courthouse and sign a little paper that says: "Mrs. Weber."

(haha)

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