Apr 272011
 
For Mom: A purple cow in the Kehl mall.

The Nitty Gritty

Holy Crudmonkeys we seem to have moved to Germany!  What the hefty-bags were we thinking?

So, as I said, now its time to learn how to live.  It is amazing what we don’t know.  We are relearning all the skills it takes to be a functioning member of society.  We are learning to drive, work, shop, get around, find a place to live and, oh yeah, communicate!  We are learning new laws, new hoops, new customs, new houses, new cars, new foods, new money and, new plants and animals (Crows here have white fuzzy beards!  Snails are really pretty!).  Basically, we really need a grown-up to show us how it is all done. 

Luckily, we often have one.  David’s work mate Sanja has taken us under wing and been simply wonderful.  She helped find this house, drives David to work every day, lent us beds for the kids, and today offered to take me food shopping in her car to make it easier.  Apparently she moved here from Croatia many years back and remembers how difficult it is to get set up in a new country where you don’t speak the language.  Definitely a wonderful friend to have.  But, we don’t want to take advantage or depend on her too much.  So, we need to learn to function as adults on our own.  Whoooboy this is going to be some work!

Yesterday was our first semi-normal day with David going to work.  We started the day by walking down to the town hall in Auenheim and filling out paperwork to say we were residents here.  David had said it would take 5 minutes- but that, apparently, is only when you have your grown-up with you!  For all us kids it took 10 minutes just to find the right room.  Then another 20 to fill out a short form.  We did eventually get through it.  We always find it odd that official forms in Europe all seem to ask religion.  My step-dad says this is because some of your taxes can go directly to your church if you wish.  There is no separation of church and state- more of a respectful coexistence.  Odd from our perspective, but perhaps understandable given local history.  

Practically Perfect

Next we all went to drop off the rental car in town, then the kids and I hustled off to shop while David hustled off to work.  The kids were definitely showing signs of wear at this point.  No one had fully adjusted to the time shift and folks were each displaying their own brand of tension.  DD was controlling, insistent and shrill.  DS was loopy, frenetic and unfocused.  DH was sharp and terse.  And I?  Well, of course, I was practically perfect in every way! 

Whatever our moods, our work was cut out for us.  The kids and I had a long shopping list, a backpack full of empty bags (none provided at the stores here), and a bus schedule to help us find our way back.  This was the first day we had been here that the stores were open, so we started by checking out many of the establishments on Hauptstrasse just to get the lay of the land.  Then we headed for the mall proper.

It is odd the things that we will focus on, but DS had gotten in his head that his clock was a key bit of home that he had lost.  So, I started right off by heading to the electronics store and let him select his own replacement.  This seemed to brighten his day.  But, DD was reaching her trip-expiration date at mach speed, so I whisked us off to the main supermarket, Edeka.  We deposited our Euro and grabbed a cart.

I could easily have spent hours there!  So may new things to check out and old friends in new, German garb to rediscover!  But, with limited time, limited child-patience and limited ability to carry items home, we tried to make it quick.  A few highlights:

  1. German markets look different from American markets because all the rows are lower.  You can see around the entire store even when you are in the middle of a row
  2. 3 rows devoted entirely to pasta!  DS was in Noodle-Heaven!
  3. Shelf-stable milk?  Yeah, an entire row of unrefrigerated milk.  That seemed to be the only variety that had lactose-free milk, too, so we bought it.  I *think* it has been cooked, but I need to do more research.
  4. Beef is hard to find.  I am not sure we saw any at all.  Lots of pork and chicken, though.  And there was a large fish counter, too, but I didn’t like the smell and since we were going to be at the bus stop for a while, I decided against it.

All in all I got 36 items for 96 Euros.  Not terrible, I suppose, especially since 1 was a 12 EU oven pan.  But, we still need so many things!  DS hustled us out with the intent of making the 11:22 bus, but with our load, there was just no way to get to the bus stop in time.  We watched as the bus pulled up and pulled out as we ran to try to catch it.  Ah well.  The next bus wasn’t for another hour, but with all the groceries we couldn’t really manage anything else, so we just hung out at the bus stop for a while before heading home.

While we were there a heavy man came and sat beside us and rolled a cigarette.  DS moved to the other side of me, but didn’t make a big deal of it.  Yay.  Then a loud German family came and sat next to us.  Something surprising we have noticed is that Germans in general are quite quiet!  Their default vocal volume is definitely lower than that of most Americans, and since we (especially me) are rather loud for Americans, we have to make a real effort not to boom over our German neighbors.  So, having a LOUD German family next to us was definitely of note.  As it happens, they seemed to not only be loud, but also rude.  Once they got on the bus one of them pulled out a really loud video game and proceded to play without regard throughout the trip.  When he first started everyone turned and looked incredulously, but they didn’t seem to notice or care.  As David noted, there are apparently asses all over!

DD guarding our bags at the bus stop.

The kids found a cool lizard

Kicking back later at home

David’s and my kick-back zone

Next up- Car and house hunting and the frustration and fun of foreign finances

Apr 272011
 

When last we saw our merry band they had landed, collapsed, and made a quick sojourn into French Territory.

 What now?

Up until this point, everything has been about getting us here.  But, we have arrived!  So, it is time to switch gears and figure out how to go about actually living here. 

We decided that one of the first steps would be to use our temporary access to a (huge-fannied) car and explore our general area.  In specific we wanted to go down to Offenburg, which is the next town to the south.  David’s work will be moving there in October, so we are thinking that we should find a home somewhere within easy access of both Offenburg and Kehl.  Granted, they are only 17 km (about 10.5 miles) apart, so this shouldn’t be a huge difference.

Driving down to Offenburg was simple enough.  It was still only our second time on the German roads, but this time was in daylight, so we had an easier time.  That is, until we got into town and couldn’t tell for certain which roads were meant to go which way!  As it turned out, we read the signs all correctly, but it is still a little tense when you aren’t 100% sure where the Pedestrian Only zones begin, for instance.

Steeple at an Offenburg church

Offenburg, as it turns out, is a very pleasant place!  It seems a little more yuppified and family friendly than Kehl.  Lots of public art is strewn about the main street- and it is from any variety of time periods.  Some is clearly hundreds of years old, while other examples seem as though they might have been added yesterday.  Most of the modern pieces have a whimsical feel, like the birds with human feet and hands that can be turned and positioned on spinning dollies (spinning art seems in vogue here, kids and adults alike enjoy standing and playing on it).

There is also a long snake with a huge apple that DD and DS had a lot of fun with.

And there is an older statue of Poseidon with his trident- upon which some cheeky person has strewn a pair of boxers.

In keeping with the cheerful theme, the Offenburg police station is located in what used to be a palace- painted pink.

We all got pastries and I got a kaffee at a local bakery (bakeries are everywhere!  Possibly my favorite discovery so far!).  Then we headed back to Kehl so the kids and I could learn how to ride the bus.


Walking

The bus works more or less like buses in the US.  They have monthly passes, but they are by calendar month, so we don’t have one yet.  Basically, you wait at your stop at the prescribed time, then you tell the driver where you are going and pay him, after which he gives you change and a ticket and away you go!  Since it was a holiday, there were very few buses running.  We rode into town and grabbed lunch, but it was going to be another 2.5 hours until another bus would arrive.  So, we decided to walk the 5k back to Auenheim.  Walking is a bit of a national passtime for the Germans, it seems.  And, it has definitely already become a much larger part of our lives.  David walks 3-5 miles each day, we estimate.  So, a little 5k stretch of the legs didn’t seem out of the question- even with the already walk-intensive day we had led.

Path to Auenheim

OK, 5k is a long walk when you are still jet lagged!  But, it was lovely!  Much of the path is along a small river that my friend Hans-Christian tells me is likely the Schutter.  We just called it the “Rhinelette”.

The Schutter

 We remembered to stop and smell the flowers.  Also to examine the local beetles….

…and to watch the large cranes off on the other side of the path moving some sort of metal coils.

When we reached home I noticed something I had not noticed before: our current home is equipped with solar panels!  How cool is that?

At that point figured we had walked about 5 miles that day, so we popped some frozen pizzas in the oven and got some well-earned rest!

Next up- Sea Legs:  Teil Zwei

Apr 252011
 
French frogs sound…. Different!

The Longest Day started around 7 AM in Riverside.

USA

I heard Mom up and about, but rested in bed about another hour.  Then it was up, shower, wake kids, and call 2 last businesses I needed to notify about our move.  Then we grabbed breakfast (at the Original Pancake House- YUM for Apple Pancakes that are really an apple upside down cake disguised as breakfast!).  Next off to say Good-bye to Grandma Connie at her retirement home, make a quick stop at the drug store for a last minute item or two, and return to Mom’s house to finalize packing and say good-bye to the cat.  We culled a couple heavy things from the bags (a couple books, DS’s razor scooter) and headed for the airport.

At the airport we checked in, weighed our luggage (had to rearrange things in the carry-ons but surprisingly we managed the checked luggage weight limits without incident), and proceeded through the maze of security (body scan *and* pat down?) and customs (just a quick passport check).  We had about 2 hours till the flight, so we grabbed a decent lunch and then went to wait by our plane.

Boarding went smoothly and we discovered our seats were advantageous because the family next to us had gone Cuddle Class and thus had bought the extra seat in our row to use when they had the other seats set up in bed-configuration.  This meant that through most of the flight our row of 4 seats only had 3 people in it- two of whom were DS and DD, so smaller people at that. Presumably because of cuddle class and the holidays, most of the plane was filled with families with small children. But other than the occasional diaper bomb or crying fit, it wasn’t really an issue.  Just made for more room, really!  The flight itself was pleasant, the food was rotten, the seatback gaming/movie system was awesome, and the service was oddly sparse and even somewhat surly.  Since it was air New Zealand we tied a New Zealand soda called L&P that mostly just struck me as less flavorful gingerale, though they claimed it was “lemon flavored”.  Sleep was elusive, especially since DS could not sleep.  Didn’t really sleep at all, though I closed my eyes a few times in effort! A tail wind allowed us to land 45 minutes early.  Which means that it was around 10 AM Saturday, London Time- 2AM EST.  DD had turned 14 in midair!

London, England

Heathrow has the longest walks of any airport I have visited.  You walk down mazes of passageways, double back, turn around, go downstairs, and hoof it from building to building with no end in sight. I think it was at least a mile from our plane to the checkpoint.  Eventually, you reach a security station full of pleasantly jovial agents and the usual “put your shoes in this box, now step through this scanner” set up.  Only the lady who pats you down is a 4-foot tall English matron who calls you “love”. The guy overseeing the process jokingly took my teddy bear out of its tub and stuck her on the monitor with a bag of potato chips and complained that she had stolen his “crisps”.  Hee.  He also told the kids to watch out for their mum since I almost left the passports with him.

Next you wind through more tunnels and eventually wind up at a central check in area with a variety of airlines stations.  From there you move on to a giant mall filled with duty free shops, restaurants and money exchange places with terrible rates.  There are, however, no drinking fountains, which sort of sucked since I had no pounds with which to purchase a bottled drink.  Since we were only going to be there 3 hours, I skipped dealing with the money issues and found us a set of benches to lie down on.  We tried to nap, but, sleeping in an airport is far from ideal.  Still, the rest was welcome- even when our flight was delayed significantly and we wound up spending 4.5 hours hanging out in the mall.  Eventually, they designated a gate for our flight and sent us trotting through an equally long set of hallways (back from whence we had come) to get to the waiting area for our actual flight.  They loaded us up relatively quickly (changing the kids’ and my seats in the process), and then our female German captain apologized in German and English for the delay.  1.5 hours later, we landed in Frankfurt!  That was about 6 PM Saturday, 9AM Saturday in LA.

Germany
We cleared customs and had our passport stamped without incident.  The immigration worker seemed to think my cheerful “hi” was cute and joked with me.  The kids happily told him we were moving here and he welcomed us.  The next, more difficult challenge was getting our luggage.  Two bags arrived, the other did not.  As we were waiting for it, people would exit the terminal via a set of frosted doors, whenever the doors would open we could see David standing there bouncing around, waving excitedly and waiting for us.  It was cute!
Unfortunately, the final bag was not forthcoming.  We found the right place to report this “baggage tracing” and they informed us that it was on a different flight and wouldn’t be arriving for 3 hours!  Doh!  They said we could either wait or file a claim and they would ship it to us.  They let me go get David to help make the decision.  It was Audric’s bag, so we decided he could share some of his sister’s t-shirts and manage until Tuesday, when the bag would be delivered.  Next we set about getting food.  A yummy but expensive (50 EU!  Ouch!) meal at the airport did brighten our mood.  Then it was off to find our rental car.
David had reserved a car and the check in went smoothly.  But, the cars themselves were kept in a massive structure worthy of Heathrow.  We walked and walked with our cart of bags, getting lost at one point where the signage was poor.  Eventually we asked a lone attendant in the wilderness of the auto zone and she directed us cheerfully.  We found our vehicle which wound up to be a huge white van built on a truck chassis.  We had to fetch the attendant one more time to show us a trick to the stick-mechanism, then we were off!

Now, mind you, it was night, David had never driven in Germany, and I had never read a German map.  So, there were some confusing moments, but we eventually made it down to Kehl, and then Auenheim.  David showed us around the house, and we all proceeded to collapse.  That was around 10:30 PM local time, 1:30 PM PST Saturday.  The kids and I had been up around 30.5 hours and I had a headache.

France

The next morning we slept in until around 9 AM.  Then we got up, showered (only 2 towels… need to remedy that!) and David made us breakfast- refrigerator waffles cooked in a skillet…. O.K.  No toaster and no ovenware, you think creatively.  Then we drove into town and discovered that while the shops were all closed, they were having a traveling carnival in town, an Easter Market set up on mainstreet (Hauptstrasse), and all the bakeries, restaurants and ice cream shops were open.  We took note of all that and then trotted off to the bridge over the Rhine!  It was just as pleasant as David said it was.  Lovely day, lots of folks out and about.  Swans on the river.  And frogs that sound… Different!  We crossed over into France and wandered around the gardens for a while before returning to the Easter Market for lunch and ice cream.  Then it was back to Auenheim for a seriously needed nap (and just maybe a little blogging)!

The kids- in France!
DS found one of several spinning toys/art around town.

David ad DD happily in Germany

Stephanie on the Rhine

Nifty Bridge

David looks at the Rhine

Nice looking church in town.  We were awakened Sunday (Easter) to the sound of many church bells.
Apr 242011
 

SO, the last blog was all about my last week in the US.  It was mostly filled with packing, contacting people (and businesses) and saying faretheewells.  As mentioned, and as you can probably imagine, it was a long, long, exhausting week.  I did not sleep much.  At first because I would wake up with a list of things that needed doing on my brain.  Often I would take advantage of having awakened by checking in with David, who had quite the list of prep work going on on his end, as well.  This week he got registered at city (and town) halls, got his official work visa, filled out company paperwork, got a bank account, looked into buying a car, rented a car to pick us up, and basically continued to work hard at getting us established.  He even found soft toilet paper!

As it got closer to moving day, though, I started losing sleep simply because there weren’t enough hours to do everything that I needed to do.  By the final night before moving, I was up until 2 AM and then up again before 7 AM.  I would have stayed up later, but I was falling over and I needed to be standing the next day!  As it turned out, I was only barely standing, but luckily I had enough help that I could reasonably share the burden and be OK.  Thanks again Connie, Mark, Dad and Mom!!!!

Moving Day-

Moving day itself was long.  As mentioned, I got up around 7 and got in a shower before breakfast.  Next we packed up my computer, stripped the beds, and finished packing the last couple of boxes with our last minute items.  Also, we completed packing our luggage with toiletries etc.  Mom and Mark arrived first and started right in on clearing out all the stuff in the kitchen that we would not be taking with us.  Soon after, the moving truck arrived with Daniel and Louis.

The first thing they told me was that they didn’t think all my stuff would fit.  Yipes!  But, I was still pretty confident it would and there really wasn’t anything for it but to get right in and see!  So, Louis, the burlier of the two deceptively small gentlemen started right in on disassembling the beds, while Daniel set about making an inventory of our stuff.  As it happened, he did not have to open *every* box- just the ones with computer equipment.  Otherwise, he took our word for it that everything on the labels was correct.  I assured him there were no flammables, and he commenced writing.  Every once in a while, Louis would need help, so Daniel would go assist.  They put each mattress in a box.  And everything that was not in a box (a couple small filing cabinets, framed art, etc.) was wrapped in stiff paper.  The computers were pulled out, inventoried, wrapped in paper and repackaged.  These guys had obviously done this a few times (Daniel said 17 years for him), and were extremely efficient.  They were probably 2/3 done by the time Dad and Connie arrived, a couple hours in.  We had been told it would take 5 hours, but I am pretty sure they had it all done in 3! 

As it turned out, all the boxes and the beds fit, but there was almost no room left over after that.  We fit one chest, a folding table and 4 folding chairs in the remaining space.  That was it for furniture.  Once they were done, I signed a big pile of paperwork and off they toodled.  Buh-bye stuff!  See some of you in 5 weeks… we sincerely hope!

Dad and Connie jumped right in with helping me clear out all the remaining stuff in the upstairs.  Our bedroom/my workroom was the place in the house with the most crappola.  We spent most of the day sorting through stuff that would either get stored, given away or trashed.  Dad shuttled a couple more truckloads of stuff to the Salvation Army.  And folks claimed any items that might be useful to them or people they knew.  As we did not have anywhere close to enough space in our trashcan, a large pile of trash bags were left beside the house to be cleared by the clean-out company the bank hires.* 

Mark, Dad and I rented a truck at U-haul to carry items to our storage place and things for my grandma’s new care facility.  Everyone summoned their remaining strength and loaded up that truck.  Interestingly, the kids each created their own moving rituals.  DS wandered around the house saying good-bye to each room, DD set up an odd shrine in her bedroom with a drawing and a couple photos of tigers, etc. that she wanted someone to find.  Sort of evidence of herself left behind, I guess.  Next, we said our goodbyes to Dad and Connie. Then, it was  to Riverside!

Traffic wasn’t great, but it wasn’t *too* bad.  Took us about 2 hours.  Unfortunately, when we got out there we discovered that the storage place had closed!  So, time for plan B.  We unloaded everything into Mom & Mark’s garage and grabbed dinner at a very nice Japanese restaurant.  I had been warned Asian food is less common in Germany (and Mexican is tough to find at all).  It was about 10:30 before we finished all the unloading.  That was a LONG day, but the longest day was yet to come. 

(again, photos to come)

*Many folks have asked, so I will go ahead and put it on the record: Yes, we are giving the house back to the bank.  Yes, were are largely OK with it at this stage.  Yes, it was a hard decision.  Actually, like much of this trip it was more of a difficult thought adjustment than a difficult decision, since there really were no other viable options!  Our neighborhood fared especially badly in the crash.  The house is under water about 200k, couldn’t rent it out for enough to cover mortgage, bank wouldn’t modify the loan and they wouldn’t authorize a short sale- at least, not until we told them we were moving the next day (boggle)!  No, in CA you do not have to bankrupt to walk away from a house.  The bank just gets a house worth far less than the loan, and we get a nasty blot on our credit.  Not an uncommon tale these days, I guess, but not one I really every expected.  In any case, that would probably be a whole blog in and of itself and I have more fun things to write about today!

Apr 242011
 

Honestly, the last week is a bit of a blur.  I know I did a lot.  But details are a bit fuzzy right now.  Ok, honestly, with jet lag and all, EVERYTHING is a bit fuzzy right now!  Here are a few things I know I did and did not do this week:

  • DID- pack up all the essentials in the house.
  • DID- learn that “essential” doesn’t mean what I used to think it meant.
  • DID- give about 5 full pick-up-truck loads of STUFF to the Salvation Army
  • DID- sell my car
  • DID- contact all of our utilities, banks, and other folks we typically do business with and canceled services and let them know we were moving
  • DID- hand the rats over to a good home
  • DID- miss them more than I expected
  • DID- hand over and begin missing the cat to a different good home
  • DID NOT- learn much German- plenty of time to do that now that we are here!
  • DID NOT- find a new home for much of our furniture- anyone wanting bookshelves or kitchen islands or china hutches or folding tables or a washer or dryer should feel free to break into our old house and take them.  I can tell you where the key is hidden.
  • DID- adjust my expectations to accept that I did not find a home for much of the furniture
  • DID- fit all the boxes and the three beds into our 2 liftvans.
  • DID- fit the cedar chest from the end of our bed, 1 folding table and 4 folding chairs
  • DID NOT- fit any more furniture than that.  IKEA will be our friend!
  • DID- remember to pack a pair of sandals and a pair of shoes in my luggage
  • DID NOT- remember to pack the rest of my shoes for shipping to Germany… whoops!

  • DID – Realize and remember just how lucky I am to have the family that I have!  I come from amazingly helpful and generous people! 
Special Thankful Shout out to my Mom, Mark, Dad and Connie who all came out and lifted and cleaned and erranded and hauled and provided support on moving day.  I could never have pulled this off so successfully without your help!!!

 When I get them from my dad, I will post some photos from Moving day.  Until then, I will go work on describing the trip here and first impressions :-)

Apr 162011
 

David’s first day back after his sick day, he was feeling rather cranky.  

<------------------------------
He still hadn’t been able to find a market that he liked, he was tired, sick, missing us and frustrated by the not-so-affluent village vibe (and accompanying inconvenience) of our local digs.  It was late night for me and first thing in the morning for him as I tried to help locate likely shopping zones.  Specifically we wanted ones that might be able to supply him with some of the items on his growing list of necessities (soft toilet paper and a working razor being chief among them).  He was a little snappish, and I wasn’t all that patient.  His ride Sanja, arrived as we were still making up.  So, I went to bed a little out of sorts, but pretty well exhausted.  I think I am fighting his cold.  How I could be fighting his cold from the opposite end of the world I don’t know. Sympathetic illness indeed.

The next morning I slept in as well as I could.  DS had his science class, so we couldn’t rest indefinitely.  Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of bed and over to the computer- 

where I was greeted by no fewer than *6* emails & 4 open writes- from my usually impassive husband. One even bore the subject “Yay Yay Yay!”

THE WORK PERMISSION CLEARED!!!!  Woohoo!
(Happier David!)

Not only that, but one of the locations I had pointed out on the map had yielded a small mall that included a full supermarket and an electronics store (Point to Stephanie)!  

And his work group was going to Sucker Punch that night! (….ok, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  He did say that is was rather a bonding experience to have the entire company sitting there together, uncomfortably squirming in their seats, though!  Ouch….)

The Move is ON
All that was yesterday morning.  Yesterday I spent coordinating with friends and family to try to figure out when I could work in the actual move. Turns out, with some effort, I THINK we can do this thing pretty quick.
So, now it is up to me to make this thing happen.  I contacted our top pick movers, Suddath, to accept their bid.  It was actually one of the more expensive ones, but we liked what we researched about them and they had proved relatively easy to talk with.  Our move coordinator, Michael, requested that I fax him our signed bid, which I did.  At which point he turned us over to Jessica, who is taking over for the rest of our move.  She immediately emailed us (getting my email address wrong, so it only went to David) with the following (emphasis mine):

Dear Mr and Mrs. Paris,  
I am pleased to confirm that I will be handling the coordination of your household good move to India.   I will be your main point of contact concerning this move from now until delivery and below you will find all my contact details.  The best form of communication is by email and it will be my most frequest form of communication with you.  If I am not in the office, my emails are always monitored.  

Holy moly!  Not the best way to make a first impression!  David mailed Michael who confirmed that she was, in fact working with him and that he was sorry for any confusion her “minor typo” had caused.  Minor Typo to them, different continent to us!!!

Germany = Orange, India = Green

So, here was my day: 

  • Get up  and return emails
  • Messenger my way through helping Hubby set up our flights through the less-English savvy admin while she works with a German travel company… that is right, 4 layers of “Telephone” to get that puppy done.  But, other than calling DD “Mrs.” and being completely baffled by our long, confusing, non-German naming rubrics, everyone did eventually make it through fairly unscathed.  Knock wood!
  • Grab donuts at the place next to the UPS store
  • Wait for old man with the bum leg and wrong fax number to remember the real one so the clerk can fax his 15 page document
  • Fax the movers with the signed quote
  • Get the kids’ hair cut
  • Pick up 2 additional full adapters and several plug adapters at Radio Shack
  • Drive past the defunct Staples and the defunct Office Max on the way to the remaining Staples to purchase $30 of cyan & yellow ink so my printer will permit me to print an all black and white document
  • Stop at Target to get socks for DD and pick up a supply of Lactaid for the trip (no way I am skipping milk-based goodies just cause we can’t find the right store to purchase a solution!)
  • Grab lunch
  • Return home and start on paperwork
  • Take a facebook break
  • Send emails trying to coordinate with the nice family buying my car, the nice family taking the rats, my aunt, my mom, my dad, the moving company, and a couple other sets of friends.
  • Field phone calls from many of those parties
  • Fill out more paperwork.  Did you know you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in order to hire a company for an international move?  The IRS supplies it, but the Census Bureau requires it! The census bureau?  The census bureau only has a job every decade or so.  When they team up with the IRS to create paperwork hoops, you KNOW you must be doing something serious!
  • Try to renew my prescriptions so I will have meds for the trip
  • Field phone call from my doctor telling me I haven’t been to see her in almost 2 years.  Re-explain that we are moving to Germany!  Scripts should be on the way.
  • Scan in all our passports (for customs) and the contents of my wallet (credit cards and drivers license for records).
  • subdue panic attack by working on my blog!

Where do we stand now?


Saturday- Pack, set up online statements for everyone who still sends me stuff snailmail
Sunday- Pack and/or go out to Rennaisance Faire (looking less likely as I think on it)
Monday- Dad comes to help us pack and deal with Stuff, order Euros, cancel utilities, etc.
Tuesday- Pack and see friends who will take rats
Wednesday- Not sure how I am working this one yet… final packing, kids are supposed to have a play date and I am selling my car…. Stay Tuned
Thursday- MOVERS
Friday- Plane!
Saturday- Arrive in Germany (Also, DD’s birthday!)
Wow, a week doesn’t look very long when you put it that way, does it?
 

May not blog a ton between now and the flight.  We shall just see.  Now it is dinner time and then bed for the kids and packing more in my bedroom.  More when I have the chance!

Apr 132011
 

Poor David was actually feeling sick enough to stay home today.  In our 20 years together, I can probably count the number of sick days he has taken on my fingers, so this is indeed an indicator of just how cruddy he is feeling.  He spent most of the day sleeping on the couch.  But, he also thought it might be a good time to brave the basement and get some laundry done. 

I think I may have mentioned in an earlier blog that we have a keen awareness of what “adventure” really means.  Think of any classic adventure story, say The Hobbit for example.  Now, all things considered, you would have to say that Bilbo is far better off for his time with the dwarfs.  Plus, it makes for a great story!  However, pick just about any page in between the time when he leaves his cozy hole without a hat or pocket handkerchief and when arrives back home with lessened respectability but some bitchin’ mithril armor and a cadre of new friends.  That page probably includes fear, struggle, discomfort and maybe even bloodshed!  Given we are talking Tolkien here, it may also include a song or two, turves (look it up!) magic and elves.  But I digress 😉  My point is that adventures usually include many aspects that are less fun in the experiencing than the retelling.  Case in point: the German washing machine.

That’s it.  Off to the left there.  Cute little thing, isn’t it?  I think it may be about the same size as the fridge.  I am not sure why German appliances all seem to be so small, but so far, they do.  Front loading.  That can be efficient.  But, well, let me have David tell it in his own words:

So I tried to use our washing machine today and found it pretty cryptic with its entirely German instructions.  I even have a manual, but no luck there.  The words it uses are largely not in my dictionary so it wasn’t making a lot of sense.  Finally I got it to run on what seemed a reasonable mode, and it did then finish.  Then I couldn’t… open it… ever.

It simply would not open on any setting.  I ended up running everything again (twice) but no luck.  Finally I went and asked the landlord how to do it and he… couldn’t open it either 😉

The water wasn’t draining, so he opened a runoff valve and dumped water all over the floor and made a huge mess.  Then still couldn’t get it open.

Fortunately the heavy guns arrived – his wife, along with their 2 year old son (they have a 9 year old son too).  She read the instructions and scratched her head too, and the husband finally figured it out – the door is a bit deformed so if you push it in at the right place you can get it open.  Yay!

He then unclogged the floor drain (leads to a big pit under the house and a runoff pipe I guess) and cleaned up the water and we were good to go.  The laundry ran.  There’s a spin dry (which doesn’t completely dry but it starts), and then you hang it on the rack after that.  Test load one eventually successful and now drying.

So, there you have it.  Yet another adventure, albeit with a happy ending!

Laundry drying.

David also defied his cold long enough to explore the immediate Auenheim area near the house.  Unfortunately the corner market we thought he would find seems to have gone out of business.  But, there area is pleasant.  Here are a few of his random finds.

Pretty sure this is a church!

David says a lot of buildings look like this.  The purple one is kind of fun!

Grave Stone Carver…. right next to the defunct grocery… things that make you go “hmmmm”
A kindergarten
War memorial at the supposed church
Apr 112011
 

So, the kids and I are still in limbo, but David is now getting settled into the temporary house.  Apparently the company has kindly agreed to rent it for us for a month without taking it from our moving budget, so that is a nice thing!  Especially since food there is proving expensive and tricky to obtain without a car.  For comparison purposes, a McDonald’s’ Value Meal (burger fries and a drink) is 6 EU, which is the equivalent of about $8.65 right now.  Ouch.

He says this one is much nicer than the one he used.

And David discovered another unexpected expense: Pay Toilets!  1 Euro (a buck forty-four today) to enter a turnstyle that allows you into the restroom.  He says toilets in general are scarce by American standards.  Large restaurants have them and that is about it.  So, bring your iron-plated bladder and a pocket full of change when you visit!

It took David a while to get internet set up (needed the landlord to add the computer), but I now have photos and he is once again skype enabled! 

Catching Up- The Walk to France

So, lets see, where did we leave off?  Friday, I think, so I will load his Weekend adventures first.  Really just his Saturday adventures because Sunday he came down with a cold and took a 5 hour nap, the poor guy!  I guess it is sort of inevitable that you get sick when your body is under that sort of strain.  So, onward!

Saturday David got his exploration shoes on and trotted out to hike over the bridge to Strasbourg and explore France!

(again, click on any photo for a bigger version… except the bridge, that is as big as I have :-)  
THE Bridge!  This is a famous walking/bike bridge that connects France and Germany.  There is a small park on the German side and a larger one on the French side.  There are pictures of dignitaries (including President Obama) crossing this bridge.

The German side- complete with tourists photographing a statue

French side- or part of it.  David says it has streams and fun stuff like that.
A bit greener than our typical view in Santa Clarita!
Unfortunately, David’s shoes gave out, so he didn’t get any further into France on this day.
He did find some nice German bakeries, though.  Check out the pretzels in the lower right corner!
Lunch: Eine Frankfurter mit croissant und eine… well, I don’t know what that is- David didn’t like it because it had a cream filling.  Oh, and the Coke Light.  He says in bottles coke light is just like diet coke, but at the fountains it tastes weird.
Do those pavers qualify as cobblestones?  Whatever they are, they are certainly prettier than asphalt!

Turkish Delight

Which brings us to dinner!  We spotted this place on Google Maps before he even arrived and were fascinated by the name “Viking Pizza” along with the curiously middle-eastern looking font used on the signage.  Turns out there is a good reason for at least that last oddity- this is actually a Turkish restaurant!  It is owned by a Turkish family and they serve Turkish food and pizza.  The Turks occupy the “immigrant labor” position in German society.  Until recently, they were not even allowed citizenship if they were born in Germany, but that law changed in the 90’s.  Still, David has noticed a definite social status stratification in Germany with folks of clearly Turkish ancestry toward the bottom.  For instance, in this restaurant only Turkish people would dine in- German folks would order carry out, but not sit in the restaurant.  David said the owner was visibly surprised when he asked for a seat and that the crowd eyed him cautiously, but not with any ire.  Doners are like Gyros by another (Turkish) name and Doner Stands are the local equivalent of a corner taqueria in LA- cheap and plentiful.  The pizza, in case you were wondering, was good!

No More Free Room-cleaning
 
In deference to David’s drippy nose, I will skip Sunday and move on to Monday’s moving day.  Here are a few shots to complete the image of our furnished temporary digs. 

But, first, some random coolness- Swans are to Kehl what peacocks are to Pasadena.  I am hoping quieter, though.

And, some random industrial public art.

Now- House…  In a lot of ways, this place reminds me of the house Mom rented for us in Morro Bay last month.  Not nearly so froofy or with the amazing view of course, but the mere fact that it is furnished sort of draws the equation in my mind:

Who doesn’t love grey faux-woven linoleum and 70’s style blue tile?  Seriously, though, looks like a pleasant enough place to get cleaned up in the morning.
Separate toilet room with its own sink.
I have NO idea how to work a radiator… help?  Actually, I would hope it won’t be an issue this month, but if this is standard, we will need to get acquainted come October or so….

Luckily, the kitchen comes equipped with what looks to be a decent array of cookware, flatware, glasses, dishes and the like.  David says the water was not pleasant, but running it for a while helped.

Ah yes, this is what I had heard… that is indeed the entire refrigerator.  The little box at the top is the freezer.  I am pretty sure my dorm fridge was bigger!  This will take some getting used to.  But, at least there seems to be a working dishwasher there to the side.  So, yay!

David did go shopping at the local “supermarket” to garner a few necessities.  Things that surprised him: 1) the complete lack of recognizable brands (he had expected a smattering), 2) No bags at all- even his co-worker didn’t have any, so they literally took armsfull of groceries and piled them into the back of her car! and 3) the carts are on a pay-trolly like the ones at the airport.  Put in your Euro, get a cart.  Return your cart, get your Euro back!

On the homefront…

Or at least, on the American side.  The kids and I continue our trudge toward packing and leaving.  A very kind gentleman and his brother in law came out to pick up the couch and bookshelves Saturday.  It was actually pretty fun watching them defer to each other and construct a marvel of engineering to wedge all the items into the back of a small pickup securely enough to drive all the way down to Ensenada!  We chitted and chatted for a good hour while they got everything loaded and they gave me a hug before they left.

DS continues to struggle with bouts of emo regarding all the things we are leaving behind.  He has associations with them all, so it is rough going.  DD on the other hand, can’t wait to leave.  But, she does have trouble focusing.  She is a bit behind on her novel, but further along on her packing than anyone.  I am just trying to pace myself.  I want to get everything done without panicking.  But, I am really missing David at this point.  And I never do feel like I have done enough or gotten enough organized.  And I definitely don’t feel like I know enough German, yet!  On the other hand, the weather is lovely, people have been really kind and supportive, I am enjoying the “farewell tour” of seeing our friends and family, and we can eat Asian food and Panera a lot more often without David’s dislikes in our already-complicated food-choice mix :-)

Apr 092011
 

Well, David has been in Germany for 3 days now, and the guy has been busy!  Aside from walking an average of 5 miles per day, he has also worked two days, started making some good contacts at work (knock wood), sent in our application for the International School, and (and here is the kicker) lined us up some temporary housing!  Oh, and he has even taken a few moments to satisfy my intense need for photographs.  So, here we go, let me share what he has shared so far!

First, here is his hotel and the local town:

(Click on each photo for a larger, more detailed version.)

This is David’s hotel, Hotel Europa.  It is getting  a face lift and has good breakfasts.
The local shopping zone/ mini-mall.  About a mile from his hotel.

German signs, just in case you weren’t convinced of his location!
All the comforts of home.  Yes, soda is served with ice.  The burgers taste different.  And Diet Coke is “Coke Light”.
The train station

Somewhat blurry, but this sign at the train station says that Freud fled through Kehl on his way out of Germany.

Next up, Work and the walk to it:

David says the default here is “pretty”.
Rhine River on the walk to work.
Industrial zone, Germany style.  Near work.
Spellbound
David’s desk.  He is in a smaller room with the other 3 “special projects” guys….
… who apparently appreciate Tarantino

Ok, now on to the temporary house!  One of David’s co-workers had a neighbor looking for someone to rent this house short-term.  David went with her to check it out and was so impressed that he agreed on the spot.  He says the neighborhood is full of kids and that the landlady has kids almost the same ages as ours.  He will move in on Monday.  It is in the next town up, so he won’t be able to walk anymore.  He will carpool with his co-worker, Sanja (Said Sahn-yah) and then take a bus home (as he has different hours than she does).  Here are some photos.  I wish he had taken one of the kitchen, but that will come on Monday, I guess!

View of the neighborhood from the (somewhat scary) deck.
The smaller bedroom.  Bright and yellow!
Dining area.  Nice hutch!
Living room (attached to dining) with a wood stove and working TV.
Landlady and stairs.  She doesn’t speak English but David says she is very nice.
And a view of the neighbor’s yard with bouncing kids.

So, I think that is it for now!  David plans to do more exploring tomorrow, since it is weekend.  We are hoping the paperwork comes through REALLY SOON NOW.  Please keep good thoughts on that one for us!  If I had a camera I could also show you all the growing pile of boxes in the living room and the diminishing of everything everywhere else!  Oh speaking of There and Here- it has been 80ish in Kehl since he arrived.  Here, we had a storm pass through today that dropped rain, hail and even a tiny amount of snow on us over the course of 1/2 hour!  Go figure!

Apr 072011
 
Bridge across Rhine linking Kehl and Strasbourg

Ever engage in some action or interaction that brought you back to a time and place in your past?  Perhaps seeing your parents makes you feel like a little kid or seeing your high school sweetheart makes you feel like a teenager.  This whole experience makes me feel like college again.  And why not?  We are essentially doing away with all the trappings of past success and whatever modicum of respectability we may have earned in order to start fresh in an unknown place with a learning curve the size of a 4 year degree ahead of us!  In any case, here are David’s adventures so far.

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Once upon a time the internet was a series of picture-less tubes and David was account demon@ucscb….
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The airport was easy.  No one blinked an eye at his hefty supply of insulin needles or other diabetic necessities.  His huge pullman bag was over weight, but the staff took pity on him and didn’t make him pay for the discrepancy.  The 20 lb portable computer (could this be the heaviest “laptop” ever?) tugged at his shoulder and the Disney-swag backpack weighed down his steps.  But at this point the difference in his gait was imperceptible.   The adrenaline was flowing. 
Alas, no “cuddle class” for us.

The plane was a study in progressions.  The roomy first class seats were clearly not for him.  But the business class beckoned.  Alas, his seat was yet to come.  The cheap seats were 8 across.  2-4-2.  Nestled in the middle of the center row with little leg room to speak of, he was just thankful that his 3 row-mates were not especially large people.  The 10 hour 30 minute flight was pleasant enough.  He watched 3 movies and tried unsuccessfully to sleep.  The cabin pressure changed frequently, sending his ears into an uncomfortable lack of equilibrium.  

In London, of course, everyone spoke English.  But, the food was just as poor as you might expect.  They even managed to ruin eggs, he mused.  And he was unprepared for the transition of “bacon” into fatty ham.  3 hours in the airport before the next flight was ready to leave.

Lufthansa.  Still everyone spoke English.  1.5 hour quick hop to Frankfurt.  His luggage was late.  Very late.  Apparently the victim of his early arrival in London.  A lone woman waited with him but her bags never arrived.  She grew discouraged and left.  Then David’s single black pullman dropped unceremoniously down the carousel.  Next, on to the train!

He remembered a sign directing him to the long distance trains upstairs and followed his instincts.  Luckily they were good because English was becoming more rare.  It took him three tries to get his ticket information entered correctly.  He had already been traveling 15 hours by now.  His day had begun 23 hours ago.

The luggage delay had cost him the more direct route to Kehl.  He would need to make 2 transfers.  At one train he tried to embark at the 1rst class car and was redirected to the other end of the platform. Blocking commuters with the moving black obstacle of his luggage, he hurried all the way down past car after car.  He was unconvinced that he ever arrived at the proper area, but he did manage to hop on and get situated.  A woman requested assistance in English and was given the evil eye by an attendant.  David struggled through in German. A passenger told him jovially that his bag should have a seat of its own! 


Once he got to Kehl, he looked for his contact.  But, no one was there to meet him.  The area of the train station was a bit seedy at night, with only a few bars open in the vicinity.  He wandered into one and asked for a pay phone.  The hard-looking female barkeeper motioned him down the block, so off he went dragging the black Trifecta of Heaviness: the pullman, the backpack and the 20lb laptop.  

The next challenge was to get the phone to work.  It took credit and debit cards.  Just not his, apparently.  One credit card seemed to work at first, but then the phone shut down and wouldn’t come back.  He trudged back to the bar and somehow pantomime to the barkeep that he wanted coins.  She smiled when she finally understood.  Back to the phone.  But, now he needed to figure out which numbers to use.  The 12 digit number we had was apparently just for international calls.  Some trial and error let him realize he only needed the final 6.  


Vladimir pedaled over on his bike!  Luckily, he had not been awake for over a day.  So the younger, fresher man grabbed the pullman and off the two of them went.  Dinner was on Spellbound at a local pizzaria.  But, Vladimir’s housemate had nixed their original lodging plans.  Apparently he felt that their apartment was not yet fit for a guest of David’s stature.  “It is more like student housing” his would-be host explained.  David said that he hadn’t expected anything else.  They would put him in a hotel until Monday in order to give the two young gentlemen time to adjust (clean) their apartment into a state fitting so prominent at visitor.  

Vladimir and David wandered downtown Kehl a bit looking for the right hotel.  Once they found it, they got him signed in and settled.  They took the extra time to get the internet set up right away so David would be able to call his family and tell them of his day’s travels.  Then Vladimir took his leave and David kerplunked into the chair at his hotel desk and set up skype.  It was almost midnight and he was due to start work the next morning at 10.  He had been awake for nearly 30 hours.  Still, he wouldn’t be able to sleep properly until he had seen the faces of his wife and children and recounted his day’s adventures.  The internet is a wonderful thing!