29 June 2008
We came back to the old apartment to watch it, because we don't have a real TV in the new apartment yet and we wanted to enjoy the scen on Ku'damm if Germany won. We will still go out and take a look, but I doubt that it will be very exciting.
(I also needed to use the telephone and internet- looks like I won't have one until July 7th).
28 June 2008
The German had taken the day off specifically to combine moving and this appointment (and this will definitely be the last time we move ourselves--- the work is backbreaking and exhausting) and when they did not arrive he called them. Much discussion later, the problem turned out to be 'a system error'. That means, of course, that DT does not need to make any effort to deal with the result of their error. Oh, excuse me, not their error, the system's error. The German was pretty unhappy with the concept and went up several layers, followed by a trip to the store where he had made the original appointment (which was incorrectly done by an employee) and the manager there assured him that a new appointment would be scheduled as quickly as possible, and certainly not even a week later.
We have a new appointment for two weeks from now. Right now, I am using the German's work computer (and it's quite difficult to use both the German keyboard and the wonky touchstick) and his UMTS card. It is very slow. So I won't be on-line much this week. Maybe I can catch up later...
25 June 2008
Owell. I'll go out and watch the crowd from the balcony. We are coming back to watch Germany in the finals: our lease isn't up until Monday and we want to take advantage of both the location and the very large TV which came with the apartment;).
It was an exciting game, with the first pair of goals scored in the first quarter and the last in the last few minutes. I was pulling for Turkey to pull out another miracle in the last minute, as they did twice before, but it was not to be.
24 June 2008
The move from the Pension in Prenzlauer-Berg, where we shivered and got sick, arriving in Berlin with inadequate clothing, coming from 80+F temperatures and landing in 60F and raining (and raining) and where I realized that SADD is real and that having constant rain = having no sun.
The extension, the new temporary, furnished short stay apartment. The Alien Registration, and Citizen and Marriage and Family registration and Schools registration and Driver's license registration. The 'my school' registration, and then the forms to allow the girls to go to school and then their school registration. The arranging of bus service and children's seats (resulting in my needing to carry the carseat for Thing1, considered old enough here to not require a 5-point harness, with which I disagree, up and down the stairs every day).
The arrival of the container and the arrival of the extra pallet, both delivered 5+ hours west of here. The unpacking of those and the dealing with red tape and idiots at the ports who can't find boats or containers or lading documents. The unpacking and repacking of boxes damaged by being left on a dock in Bremerhavn. The winnowing of our possessions as we decided what we needed in Berlin versus what should stay. The total inconveniencing of my kind in-laws, whose house we took a portion of and whose belongings we displaced and whose garage we filled. The additional extension of time in Berlin.
The waves of sickness for all of us, life starting to happen. Starting to read other blogs widely enough to interfere with my novelreading;-). Looking to see what is around, visiting the in-laws and seeing traditional holiday festivities. Eastercon for a weekend- the first ever away from the girls overnight. They liked it.
Starting to think that I like Berlin. Starting to think that I wish I had some time to actually see it. Starting to think about finding social activities and attempting to actually meet other adults. Got a longer extension of time here. Starting to really need social interaction.
Looking at and joining book clubs. Contacting other ex-pats, and finding some so homesick that they went home! Starting to feel comfortable in the city, no matter how bad my German is. Starting to organize my chaos and get my household under control.
Receiving the go-ahead to stay in Berlin as long as we want. Deciding on our neighborhood and finding an apartment that is almost perfect.
Moving this week.
21 June 2008
We did really enjoy going out last night but it's not that it helped me catch up on any sleep. The girls are pushing me to the limit every day with bed time. They went to sleep with the babysitter at 8 pm without a peep, but as per usual with us, it's 21:15 and Thing2 is still running in and out and even Thing1 is doing it tonight. It's broad daylight out there and I understand that they want to stay up, but that's why we put dark blinds in their room! And the yelling: every night I have a headache after bedtime.
The German just got home, so a few orders from him seem to count more than anything I say. And he just got home because he's been putting furniture together all day. He drezzed his EC card by accident and so is not able to go shopping by himself. So the girls and I had to go along with him to Ikea, which is a bus ride and a walk away. Thing1 was able to go to the playground, but Thing2 is too small and she needed to shop with us, a process she finds tedious. Even though we had done all our research in advance, printing out all the furniture that we needed and even though we walked into the store from the back, we were able only to get information to give us some site locations: we needed to go upstairs and get custom modification on the printout for our kleideschrank. Also, while I was waiting for the German to get the row numbers, I saw the white Anneboda and I liked them very much. So instead of getting the much more expensive Pax sliding door wardrobe and pink dressers, we got each of the girls an Aneboda kleideschrank and nightstand and a three drawer dresser to share. We got a highboy, a lowboy, 2 nightstands, a dresser and a large kleideschrank ourselves, as well asa few lights to put in to go with the ones we picked up yesterday from the BauHaus. All our bedroom, living room and dining room furniture will be in the relatively new schwarzbraun. Our current bemustert schwarze Billys will go upstairs to the gallery and we will pick up a few bookcases and schubladen in schwarzbraun for the entryway. We found a "man with a van" from Craig's List (in itself a surprise because CL is generally so inactive here) who picked us all up at Ikea and then helped the German unload and spent a few hours wiring light for us: German apartments come really stripped, with bare wires hanging from the walls and ceilings. We have to purchase and install 12 light fixtures and I think so far we have 6 or 7. We will need to mail-order the ceiling fans as they are relatively uncommon here. And we still have so much to do and can't do anything on Sunday: the country closes on Sunday.
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20 June 2008
First Croatia scored in the last minute, then Turkei scored with 15 seconds to go, plunging Croatia from the heights to the depths., Then came the Elfmeterschiessen, which I have never seen. That has each team shooting at the opposing goal from the 11 meter line. Croatia fumbled its first shot, made the second and fumbled the third. Turkey made every shot and that was the end.
The TV is showing the celebration, which is about 100 yards from here, but it is amazingly (comparatively) quiet now that Ku'dam has been mostly closed to vehicular traffic. My dream game will be Germany vs. Turkey. I think we will wake the kids up after that to go out and see the celebration. It's next Wednesday and the in-laws will be here helping us to move. i don't think we will turn over this apartment (and its huge TV) until the E-M is over.
added: It's pretty cool out there, 1000's ofpeople, men, women, childre, all walking up and down Ku'damm. The German says that this is the "unofficial" fan mile, where fans can go to display pride after a game. In several cities there are official areas.
19 June 2008
I'm also happy because they have closed Kurfuerstendamm off to motor traffic and that makes it much more liveable: it's just masses of people and bikes marching down the street waving flags and yelling and some miscellaneous firecrackers going off instead of stopped traffic all leaning on their horns. It's so funny hearing them singing through the windows and walls. Fussball definitely is a nationalistic pastime and it is interesting to watch that from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't think of sport in that way.
edit: Now the fireworks are going off.
18 June 2008
Note: there was almost no noise on the streets tonight. I guess that Italian and Dutch fans are both few and not very loud here.
16 June 2008
15 June 2008
The honking is even loader than last time. If they keep winning, it might be interesting to see what the streets of Kreuzberg look look after a game.
Actually, they just showed what it looks like 3 blocks from me and the shoving looks pretty intense: like a mosh pit. Cool
14 June 2008
We took a few pictures on the way there and while there. I've been admiring the red poppies on the rolling green hills for 7-8 weeks now and finally stopped to take picture. It was about a 4 hour drive to Amsterdam and we threw a duvet and some towels into the car in hopes that we would be able to snag a bed and a chat with one of the German's friends in Delft, a city not far from Amsterdam. When we drove into the city, we debated whether or not to leave the car at the Olympic Stadium and take the shuttle in. The car had come with GPS and the German made the masculine decision to drive in.
We are in agreement that next time we will leave the car at the stadium and shuttle in: Amsterdam is a city that makes it quite clear that it would prefer both its guests and it's residents to cycle, walk or use public transport. Like many other cities, including Boston and San Francisco, it has a residential parking permit system. In addition, at several Euros an hour both at inside and on-street parking, it's just about impossible to fill a meter. For the Dutch, there is a great payment system that involves the chip in your Dutch bank card. For the rest of us, there is trying to find an inside garage that has a space and accepts credit cards.
When we first drove in, we were aiming at the Rijksmuseum, which I haven't visited since 1995, when I was last in town. But when we drove past the Jewish Historical Museum I asked the German to grab the next parking garage he could fnd. He did, and we walked back to the museum. It was having a special exhibit on Jews in the graphic arts and comics, which was interesting. It's a topic I am familiar with, but the exhibit was both thorough and included artists whose works I was familiar with (Eisner, Spiegalman,Kirby, Simon & Schuster amongst them) as well as others I did not know such as Joann Sfar and Miriam Katin. I picked up an English language version of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon, whose latest novel, The Yiddish Policemen's Union I am in the midst of (and enjoying).
We spent some time going through the history of the Jews from the 1600's to the present and as usual I am saddened and confused by how alien Jews are to the people amongst whom they live. There are now 45,000 Jews remaining in the Netherlands, of whom 60% are either non-practicing or non-self identifying. That is out of a population of over 17,000,000 and with a pre-Shoah population of 150,000. The history of anti-semitism and discrimination and murder was actually more than I had expected: although I had known that the Frank family were betrayed, I hadn't realized how easily Jews had been culled from the population and with what help from the Netherlanders. It was depressing.
We then took a run over to the Rijksmuseum, parking on the street after emptying our pockets of every available coin. When we walked to the gates, we decided that the admission fee was too high (over 10E each) to be there for only 2ish hours, as the museum closed at 6. We walked around the area and enjoyed looking at things, then grabbed a late lunch (and a pair of sunglasses for the German). The lunch was at an interesting Thai/Asian chain and was just past the Irish Pub and Hard Rock Cafe, by the open air giant chess game.
Nice meals, mine rice based, the German's udon based. Service terrible as usual, with a manager actually being the person to notice our attempts to get the bill. I can't remember the name, some thing like Mamayama, maybe?
Afterward we went back to the car, drove to the old City and parked again (using an elevator, we went to the top of an 8 story building, which is where those photos from high came). Then we walked the city, just enjoying the view over canals and bridges, grabbing a water at a supermarket, walking through the flower market and being amazed and overwhelmed by the bulbs on sale,eating a late dinner at a cafe where we people watched, sat canal side and watched the tour and pleasure boats go by, and at around 9, when it was starting to get dark, took off for Delft.
We got there in the pitch-dark and our friend L met us outside his apartment. We unloaded the car into his apartment then we drove out of the inner city to park the car: L's house has 1 residential parking permit and it was in use. We walked back and walked all around the old city, taking a few pictures in the dark;). Then we stopped for some sodas, watched the drinkers and headed back to get some sleep. It's a very pretty city in the center and very ruhig (peaceful).
In the morning we walked the city again and looked at the Trodel and Flo and Wochen Market that appeared to take over the entire center of the old city of Delft. I get a real kick out of looking at these things and in this case, as we were walking to the cafe where we had sandwiches (on crunchy sunflower seed bread, in my case) and watched the parrot, I ran across something strange. An old brass menorah. I looked at it before we went to eat and on the way back I stopped and asked to see it. The vendor told me it was an old candelabra, very unusual. I guess with the statistics of Jews remaining in the Netherlands, it is pretty unusual to find a Jewish artifact that was not stolen and melted down decades ago.
I wound up getting it for 15E, down from the listed 25. Probably I could have bargained it down more, but it's always difficult for me to bargain.
We visited a bookstore- Holland's bookstores have a far greater English-language section than do German bookstores. I was quite annoyed that we managed to miss the Amsterdam American bookstore (it closed while we were having dinner there and we missed getting to it) so it was good to grab a new book or two. In this case, I was able to get a copy of Stepanie Klein's Straight Up and Dirty, a chicklit I've been wanting to read since I happened across her blog some time ago. Then we grabbed some poffertjees, a famous Dutch pancake with powdered sugar and butter that L wanted to make certain we did not miss. We could have shared the plate, because after I off-loaded about half of my plate the guys couldn't finish up. They were very good, though, and I would probably have enjoyed them more with less powdered sugar.
The waitress was as bad as per usual (and I think that service is even worse, and more clueless, in the Netherlands than in Germany). She had a misstep and our 2 coffees and 1 hot chocolate with cream spilled all over her tray, slopping in a pool and leaving the cups about 15% depleted as well as sopping wet. She then unloaded the drinks in front of us, didn't apologize, didn't offer to refill, and didn't offer us any napkins to sop up the spills so it wouldn't drop on us while we were drinking.
Man, no wonder people often don't tip at all here. We had to ask her twice for enough towels to clean the mess up. That was after reminding her that we had drinks coming after waiting to receive them after getting the poffertjees 10 minutes earlier.
Not far from the parrot cafe was an amazing house: it was so interesting that I made the guys come with me across the canal to see what it was. Turnsout to be the seat of the regional conservancy since the early 1600's. In a country which barely manages to keep itself dry, it was just amazing to see how long they have been working to conserve the land. And a beautiful building too, if you look at my earlier posted slideshow.
We loaded up and got going by a little after noon and back to F and G and the girls by 16:00 on Saturday. They were glad to see us but having a great time with Oma and Opa and uncle and aunts and cousins K and B. I think they won't have a problem when we are in the States without them in the summer.
12 June 2008
And still at 20:10. I asked the German if the people honking were the pro-Croations or the anti-Germans and he says there are enough pro-Croatians to do this.
11 June 2008
07 June 2008
05 June 2008
I mentioned that we had a delay in starting our trip. That would be because the German managed to get stuck in our elevator.
(this is not our elevator. It is a representation of one;))
He was carrying the car seats down to the rental when he let a strap get caught in the doors. Luckily he had his handy with him and called me or I might have fallen asleep on the couch with the girls and left him there all night.
I tried vainly to get the strap through the doors and went back to get a knife to try to cut it, but the strap was too taut and the end was too thick. The German kept pressing the emergency button, but it only produced a shrill audible alarm: it wasn't hooked up to any service notification. Luckily, a woman who works in a business one floor down from the elevator heard the alarms and came up to investigate. She very kindly talked to the German while I went for a knife and tried to persuade the girls to stay and watch a movie rather than stand on the stairs in their nightclothes watching me saw at a strap....
When my knife failed and I went to look for something else, she found a compatriot who had a smaller knife and was able to saw/push the end of the strap through the doors (after 5 minutes). And when that didn't work, she knew where to find the hausverwalterung and sherousted him out and made him come and deal with the fact that the elevator was still stuck between floors (turned out pushing at the doors rythmically made it drop down to the next floor).
After the German explained to the house manager that he didn't get stuck on purpose, we then had to carry all our stuff down 6 flights of stairs in multiple trips. That's a box of food (not to be left to rot, we brought it and ate it at the in-laws), a bag of our clothes, a box of clothes for the girls, bike helmets, cat, two children, 2 car seats,backpack, two cameras,sippy cups, bottles, milk in cooler bag... argh.
We got to the Sauerlands and to bed at 02:30. Tomorrow Amsterdam.
This Cabbage Roll Casserole is great. Tastes quite a bit like one of my favorites, stuffed cabbage, but takes no effort to make. The German had picked up bak choy instead of cabbage by accident, so I used that. No sauerkraut, more onions and garlic, I used tomato juice instead of water and tomato paste and at the half hour mark I topped up the pan with a box of Italian pureed tomatoes. It tasted great.
1 kg rind hackfleish
3 diced onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 bottle tomato juice
1 cup uncooked rice
6+cups cabbage (1 head diced)
Brown beef separately, then add to onions, garlic, salt, pepper, tomato juice
Bring to a boil and stir in rice.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Place 1/2 of the cabbage in a greased baking dish; cover with 1/2 the rice mixture.
cover and bake in 350 oven for one l hour.
If desired you can put sauerkraut on top of the layers.
Top with pureed tomatoes as well as adding diced fresh as desired, to keep moist.
- discussed lease terms with the German for half an hour
- washed three loads of clothes
- dried, folded, and put away two loads of clothes
- made a raspberry banana bread loaf and muffins
- made a cucumber onion salad
- unloaded the dishwasher, washed another sink of dishes, cleaned kitchen
- watched US election coverage
- still watching the season ender of "Men in Trees"- that's just such a charming show.
- prepared a (tiny) chicken to roast(it was thawed and won't last until we are back on Tuesday- I will roast it and then bring the meat with us)
- packed a few boxes for moving
- started to pack bags for the weekend for myself and the girls
- Had a cup of coffee (mmm) and now I am going to stop and have another with a muffin.
It's an hour later and I
- have discussed a lease addenda with the German, he appended it and mailed the lease out
- put a cabbage beef casserole in the oven (I know! but the meat was in the fridge and that and the cabbage/bok choy would go bad by Tuesday).
And in a whole other post for when I get back I'll tell you why leaving for our trip was delayed...
04 June 2008
03 June 2008
02 June 2008
In fact, it often seems that they will create a procedure that has one running in circles just for the sheer joy of telling one that since a rule has not been followed throughout its winding and twisting turns, one must either start over or just give up.
(Sometimes I still hyper-ventilate when I think about American Express and how completely incompetent their operations in this country are. And one day I will write that post, but at the moment it annoys me too much.)
So let us proceed instead to apartment hunting. The German real estate market here is relatively opaque and monopolistic. Since the renter (as well as the purchaser) pays the commission there is no incentive to negotiate commissions and they are therefore high (as are most professional compensations in Germany).
We are currently apartment hunting because (yeah!) the German's firm has told us that he may station himself permanently here in Berlin if we so desire, rather than moving to Duesseldorf and we gave that a great big "Yeah!". We did a lot of research on immobilien socout, which is a great resource, and then we started to call brokers and make appointments. And this is where German efficiency comes into conflict with my American version of efficiency: in many cases, apartments were not available to view for several weeks, even though listed, because the currents tenants did not want to allow viewings. In most cases, the photos posted were horrible and in many others no photos were available and even floor plans were not available. In several cases, when the German called to make appointments he was told that the broker had enough possibilities and would contact him if those fell through. In one case (that particularly rankles), the broker did not return calls, did not have an answering machine, and when he responded to an e-mail inquiry sent information on a completely different apartment in a different area! This while the apartment has been listed for 4+ weeks!
Many, many annoyances later, a particular apartment that we had called on three weeks ago was still posted, so the German called the broker again. Although we had previously left our information in case the "open contract" fell through, the broker had not done so. But this time we were able to make an appointment to view (the just renovated) apartment. The German looked at two apartments in the same day, both of which looked great on paper, and came back enthused about the re-opened one. I looked at both of them the following day the one I had thought I would like was far worse than in photo while the "re-opened one" was far better in person: I handed the broker the completed paperwork after a 5 minute walk through.
Then the real work started. The broker told us he would call us that evening: we called him. Then he said that he would call the next day when he heard back from the owner (a bank). We called him. He said he would call us the next day (Friday). While biking around the lake, we stopped and called him and he said he hadn't yet heard but we should perhaps send in additional documentation (from the firm) stating that the German would be stationed in Berlin, rather than elsewhere in addition to the employment contract which we had already submitted. So the German called his chef out of a meeting to get him to send a letter to the broker. That afternoon, the German called back to see what was up and the broker mentioned that it was a good thing that he had followed up, because the woman at the bank had misread his employment contract and thought that we would be returning to the US in August, and wondered why we would bother to apartment hunt for three months! Note that she did not call the broker to query him. And note that the broker only called to ask status or if there was other documentation that would help our case after the German had spoken to him four times, each time initiating the call.
Dear Reader, we got the apartment. But only because of our tenacity and follow through. We are pretty excited and you'll be hearing more about it as the next few weeks progress. There is an einbaukuche (built in kitchen) but, as is typical in Germany, all light fixtures are empty and we will need to purchase and install 8 light fixtures in the next 21 days, as well as get a washing machine and my heart's desire: a chest freezer. Luckily, we brought along a dryer (strange thing, someone had brought one to the US, found it was too much trouble/impossible to retrofit, and gave it to us to bring over) so that's one less purchase. We'll be visiting Ikea a bit because there are no built in closets, so we will need shelving and wardrobes.
But! It's a great apartment! A small balcony off the kitchen area and a huge rooftop terrasse. It's bi-level and we will need to thinl about how to best safely utilize the space, but more later!
there about 9 am and walked around looking at the horses that had already been coralled prior to what would be a cutting out of the first year stallions for sale.
The girls had a lot of fun walking and looking and petting the many already tamed horses that were waiting to compete in the "rodeo" that would take place after the cutting. There
were many Wildepfereden there in individual rope enclosures with signs showing when they had been purchased at prior sales and who the owners were: an awful lot of horse crazy girls and horse clubs. In addition we watched the Frieians being unloaded (there would also be a Friesian show). Then we wandered the area, picked up some pikante strudeln (there's not an awful lot of non-schweine food here in Deutscheland) and sat on the bank of the stream for a bit (we had brought a blanket and some drinks).
Here you see a horse-drawn bus bringing people in from the far parking lots.
Around 12:30, or about 30 minutes before the gates would open and an hour before the actual show would start, the kids just became too tired, so we bundled them up, the younger on the German's shoulder and Thing1 in the stroller and took them back to the car. We were able to sell our tickets at the gate for the price that we had paid;-), so we got to walk around for free rather than pay the (lower) price for grounds tickets, so we were pretty happy. I bought a DVD of the round up and next year we will buy sitzplatz and get there at 12:30 which should leave us fresh for the show!
Afterwards, since both girls fell asleep in the car, we drove the half hour to Muenster and took a quick drive through, as I'd never been there. Both the German's parents had gone to University there (it was where they met) and his sister had done her University work there as well and liked it. It was a cute (and very small) town and I could see why it has the title of Bicycle Capital of Germany--- I have never seen so many bicycles in my life. There were huge herds of them, like passenger pigeons, resting everywhere.