Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holiday Day

Thank you, Santa!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Beautiful Mess

This is a picture of our house today. Those wacky newscasters said this is the worst storm in 40 years. Its most definitely the most snow I had ever seen in all my years in Portland. Crazy. I would say almost 2 feet of snow. Today was supposed to be my second-to-last day at work and they closed the place down. They are closed tomorrow, too, but I talked to a friend who made it in despite the closure, so I am going to make the effort tomorrow. I have so much to do, that I need a full day, and if it is quiet there, well, that will be even better.  I do not fancy the idea of going in for one day when the Christmas shutdown is over, after January 6. 

Had an awesome time out in the snow with Mayzie--she is very adventurous, which I am happy to see...she doesn't wimp out easy and is good for a snowball fight....awesome.

Felt good to have a full, non-weekend day at home. Got some stuff done inside and am trying to scratch off some of that list. Now its time for a Snuggie and some hot tea....

Happy holidaze, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mayzie is Ready

Frau Mayzie in the house!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Out the Door

I gave my notice at work on Thursday. Freightliner is closed for Christmas from Dec 23 - Jan 6 and I had anticipated going back the week of Jan 6, since we do not leave until the 13th. But Jenna and I realized that there will be lots to do, so we decided my last day will be Dec 23. That will give us plenty of time to get stuff together and gives us more of a chance to leave without being super stressed. That's only 7 more working days. I really haven't taken an extended break from work in awhile, so it will be nice to have probably close to amonth off before starting work in Germany. 

Feels strange to be quitting my job right now. I have finally made some real money, and with the economy the way it is, and the holidays coming up, it feels a little weird. It's nice to be able to talk about Germany at work and our plans--I have had many questions about why and how did you find the job and how many think it will be a great opportunity for me. I can also leave on good terms because its not like I am getting another job across town--everyone understands why I would want to do this and I feel  like I can be honest with why I am leaving. That's a good feeling. I got some feedback from my boss too, which is nice because sometimes I felt under appreciated or insecure about my job security, but he said they would hire me back if we ever got back to Portland. Because of the economic situation, they will not be replacing me, so I felt bad about that--kinda screws them up a little bit, since the group I am in will have to pick up my responsibilities. I don't think it is a huge risk quitting right now since I have a job secured in Germany, but nevertheless, it does feel like there is. Those are the kind of feelings that make lifestyle changes difficult, I suppose, and it is natural to want to stay in a comfort zone.

In other news, our contact Bettina has found us an apartment in Ludwigsburg, which is just north of Stuttgart:

View Larger Map

The apartment itself is OK--furnished, 2 bedrooms, on the top floor of a building so it's got some sloping ceiling lines which may prove difficult for a tall guy like me, but the location is excellent--right in the center of Ludwigsburg which is only a 10 minute train ride to Stuttgart. I am not even sure where in the area I will be working, so we shall see how good this location is, but what I have read of the town is encouraging. If its a long commute, I can handle it for the 2 months that my company is paying for it. There are many historic buildings and gardens and a castle right  in the town...I have even seen it described as "fairy-tale like". Sounds awesome to me. I like the idea of living in a nice German town full of character. Of course my romantic visions of the town and environs are going wild, but I do know that reality is mostly not able to live up to my vision, so we shall see. Bettina will check it out next week for us and let us know...hopefully I can get some pictures up on here.

Besides that, just plugging away--we bought some boxes, but they are still flat. We are going to have a going away party in January, but no concrete plans yet. I have a keg of quality Portland beer that I HAVE to get through before we leave haha. I am thankful that I am taking more time off than anticipated. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Like Butter

Today is a big day! I was expecting some news form the consulate this morning, but was surprised when they called me. The lady on the phone was the one I met at their office 4 weeks ago:

"Nicholas? I have some bad news. You were not issued your work permit."
"What?" I said
"Just kidding!" 

Man, that is some messed up German sense of humor! I cant believe she did that to me. TERRIBLE haha but funny. Went down to the office on my lunch break and picked up the passport! Now its really really official.
So, tonight I booked our flights. We leave Jan 13, non stop flight from Portland to Frankfurt. $1255 dollars for one way tickets. I will worry about what we will do with Oskar as we get closer. That's only 5 weeks away. Lots of stuff to do. I am finding it hard to think about Christmas and gifts and writing cards...better get on that or they will all be late and gift cards galore will be distributed.
The secretary at my new job (Bettina) is a real gem of a person, and she is hard at work trying to find us a place in Stuttgart. Seems like she is having difficulty, so I tried to be specific about what we want. Furnished places are quite spendy so she was wondering if we wanted a non-furnished place. I don't really want to think about how much it would cost to deck out a full apartment. I know we would go to IKEA but still it would be expensive. So we would need a furnished place, at least for the 2 months that they are paying for it.  There are lots of crazy things about renting an apartment in Germany--kitchens are not included?!?! This means a copper pipe for the water is all you will see in a kitchen--no cabinets, sink, nothing. That is the weirdest thing, what kind of backwards country is this. Also they require a 3 month deposit on many places. What? That's alot of money down. I think you get most of it back but damn. So now we understand what Bettina is going through.
I hope we remain sane these next five does seem overwhelming but I know we can handle it. I find myself easily irritated with Mayzie and I hate that feeling. I have like 5 different lists in my head and on paper, but keeping it all straight is going to be a challenge. I have not sat down and really relaxed for awhile....come home from work and take care of Mayzie, get her in bed by 9 and work on the house or take care of some computer business, go to bed late.
Speaking of that, its almost midnight now. Good night! More later

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Wait

Sorry blog (and masses!) for ignoring you. Here is a quick update....seems like things are flowing. I got word from Germany that they received my paperwork and passport and are processing it. My diploma was requested, at which time a mad dash through every single box we own commenced (sorry Jenna!). It turned up in the last box (as always) and I scanned it in and emailed it off to my contacts over there. I then was told that all is in order and I should expect my passport back no later than mid-January. So I guess it's official! I won't feel satisfied until I have it in hand, but I think its a 99% thing at this point. Jenna's last day at work is January 6, needless to say, she is very excited. Her work mates are throwing a party for her on Dec 19 at Gustav's (of course, a German restaurant). I am waiting until I get my passport back to give my notice. I havent told anyone at work, really. Dont want to burn any bridges so I hope 2 weeks is enough notice for them.

Now December is here and we are thinking and listing all the stuff we need to do before making a clean break in mid January. Jenna met with a property management company who told us we could expect between $1300 and $1400 a month for our house. They take 8% every month and do all the screening of the tenants and take care of any maintenance and check up on the place, etc. Seems like a good deal. Would be nice not to have to worry about our house, especially now that the place is pretty dialled in. We would need $1400 to cover all of our bills. So hopefully we can get that. The guy said that most places take 4-6 weeks to rent, so we should really decide soon if we are going to put it up. Another management company is coming over tomorrow morning so I guess we will decide then. 

Been scouting out flights--it will cost about $400 for a one way ticket each for mid January, so that leaves about $300 for shipping of a box (of the $1500 my company is fronting us for the move). We should be able to ship a fair amount for that much, by boat. 

More later....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Worrying About the Economy is for LOSERS!

I have lived my life in a perfect little vacuum of financial security--never had to worry about getting a job, never had enough money to worry about losing any, and I always felt completely independent of any financial strife going on in the world.  But maybe there really wasn't any financial strife since I have been working (1993). Anyways, I feel a little vulnerable now with this move to Germany and layoffs at Freightliner where I am currently employed and then I read stuff like this link:

Which is a pretty bleak portrayal of current German economic status. Seems like bad timing to me.  Hopefully this does not effect our plans, but it is a cause of concern. I am such an adult now! I discuss politics, the economy, and kids with other day you are young and hip and the next you are a regular old thirty something. ha! It happens quickly, but you cant tell that to a kidless 26 year old. In my little microcosm, I am worried about my work permit going through (because they have to prove that an EU citizen cant do my job, but if there are lots of unemployed people that that may be tough to do) and then my new boss finding me a contract at an automotive company, who seem to be hit pretty hard. Seems like a crappy time to be looking for a job or to not have a job. My job seems semi-stable right now at Freightliner so I guess if this whole thing falls through, we will have other options.

On a grim and selfish note: Now is a GREAT time to travel to Iceland! See, National Bankruptcies are fun! Seriously though, when we visited Iceland in 2001 we could barely afford to eat at the grocery stores and buy bottled water. I think we went out to eat one time in 10 days, it was so expensive. That is when the kroner was 60 to $1 US. Now it is 150 kroner to $1 US--so it would still be expensive, but maybe we would stay somewhere other than the youth hostel. One of my dreams is to do Iceland right....couldn't be a better time. Sorry, people of Iceland, for your troubles, but you provided an opportunity for people to actually afford to visit you. NORMAL people, like us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bye Bye Passport

I really needed an excuse to post that photo in the blog. I still do not have an excuse for posting it, but I did it anyway. MY BLOG. I imagine that is how my courier looks upon his faithful steed, carrying my important documents to Deutchland.

Did you know that Portland has a functioning German consulate downtown? Neither did I. Once I had my visa application documents all ready to go, on Monday morning, I called the local representative, thinking it was some local German guy that will gladly take my money and documents for the delivery to San Francisco, where the real consulate is. Or he would just tell me to FedEx it down there. Nope! I called and a very nice German lady answered and told me to come into their office right away. So I left work for an hour and visited their very small office tucked away on the 16th floor of an nondescript downtown office block. Upon arrival, she sifted through all my documents and corrected some things, and had me fill out a couple extra forms. She was very efficient ( I love these Germans) and basically grabbed everything from me and made sure it was all there. She stacked all my papers and passport and that was it. She will mail all the documents to San Francisco, where they will courier my application to Stuttgart, where it will probably sit in a pile for a month. I hope not. The lady said that she would keep track of it and on November 24 I am to call and she will give me a status update. At that point, my future employer will contact the local visa office in Stuttgart and conduct a brief interview about me and why they need me, etc. She seemed very hopeful that I will have the visa before Christmas holidays. I hope so because I know how much time these Germans take off, I wouldn't be surprised if they are closed all December.

Jenna and I sat down and made a list of all the stuff we need to do--money issues, how to handle student loans, any other bills (online), what we are going to sell (couches, desk), and what we need to do to the house to prepare for renters. We are going to put a wall up in our garage so that we do not have to pay for storage, which after investigating, would cost us $180 a month. Hope we don't forget Oskar in there. So that's kind of a project, but wont be too bad. With the rain and the darkness, it is easier to procrastinate but hopefully we wont. There is no doubt we will be rushing around last minute.

The plan now is to leave Portland soon after January 12. That is if the work permit comes before Christmas time. I will need to give 2 weeks of notice at work. My mom is going to Mexico Dec 31 to Jan 8 so I had to promise and leave after that. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marching towards the German Bureaucrats

I received the final contract today. All was as discussed, so everyone is happy. I also received my police report today in the mail (I am clean! PHEW). According to the German Embassy website, I need to send 2 copies of my work contract, police check, passport, application form and $92 to the consulate in San Francisco. There actually is a small consulate office in Portland that I can take all these papers to and they will send it off for me, so that is what will happen on Monday.  And then we wait.....I am confident that it will go smoothly, and I will try and keep tabs on the application. It's not in my control anymore!

BIG SIGH......I think that at this point all of this is becoming a reality. We should start going down our list of things that need to be done before we leave so that we dont get too stressed last minute. Looking back at the application process, I am quite surprised how it all worked out.  Going into it I thought I would get alot of interest. After about sending 30 resumes out there I only received around 3 serious inquiries, which really surprised me. I think that many employers are afraid of going through the work permit process, just the time it takes and really, even now, there is no guarantee that the authorities will grant me permission to work in Germany. THEY  BETTER. I hate to even relax about it because I am pretty often thinking the worst, that they will deny me and I will have to start over again. Job searching SUCKS, and that is saying it nicely. It sucks even more when you NEED a job, so I guess this was a little easier since everything would be fine if I didn't find one, but it still sucks big time.

All we can do is hope for the best. "Please Dieter, Helga, Karl, or Dirk...make this happen for us...we will do Germany proud! I will be a very well-behaved American and will adopt your country as our own (for a couple years at least), so please let us in."

I love that song Immigration Man by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young:

There I was at the immigration scene
Shining and feeling clean
Could it be a sin?
I got stopped by the immigration man
He says he doesn't know if he can
Let me in-let me in-immigration man
Can I cross the line and pray
I can stay another day
Let me in immigration man
I won't toe your line today
I can't see it anyway

There he was with his immigration face
Giving me a paper chase
But the sun was coming
Cos all at once he looked into my space
And stamped a number over my face
And he sent me running
Let me in-let me in-immigration man
Can I cross the line and pray
I can stay another day
Let me in immigration man
I won't toe your line today
I can't see it anyway

Here I am with my immigration form
It's big enough to keep me warm
When a cold wind's coming
So go where you will
So long as you think you can
You'd better watch out-watch out-for the man
Anywhere you're going.

Won't you let me in immigration man
Can I cross your line and pray
Take your fingers from the tray
Let me in-irritation man
I won't toe your line today
I can't see it anyway.

Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking

which one is Mayzie???
Mayzie was Pippi Longstocking for Halloween...she was so damn cute, I could not resist a couple photos and a comparison photo like above. Jenna did an awesome job! She carried around her stuffed monkey (Mr Nielsen) and her little horse (Old Man). I have been getting the old Pippi movies (dubbed in English from Swedish) from the library for awhile now, and Mayzie loves em, just like I used to. Awesome!

Here is a video taken a couple days after Halloween--I wanted to capture how she would sing the Pippi song...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Contract Negotiation

I received the offer from Stuttgart last Wednesday (the draft employment contract). It was long and winded, but basically he offered a salary of 4.200 (they use periods instead of commas over there. I know, they are INSANE) euros [$5,500] per month for the first 6 months and after this period, he offered 4.600 euro [$6,000] per month. I counter offered with 4.200 euro for first 6 months, and the 5.000 euro per month after that. I also countered with additional benefits like $1500 for the cost of us to move over there (basically one way airfares and money for shipping a big box), language course for Jenna and I (for help in "integrating"...that's the key word so they think you will be staying for a long time), help with taxes at the end of the year, and help with finding and paying the deposit for an apartment after our 2 months paid accommodation is over. I let him dwell on that for a couple days and called him Monday. We settled on 4.200 euro a month for first 6 months, 4.800 euro per month up til month 9 and then 5.000 euro per month after that. And he completely agreed on all my other requests! Wow, maybe we should have asked for more:)

We agreed via email and he said he would send out the signed contract by Friday! It is refreshing to speak and write with someone who is true to his word and does not fill me with any BS...hopefully that is a German trait. So, upon receiving the signed contract and the police report that I requested last week, we can send off my passport and all the papers to the German consulate in SF. Then we will wait. So hopefully I can get the papers in by next week, and if its a 2 month turn around, then that puts us in the middle of January. We agreed on a start date 3 weeks after the work permit arrives, so we will not book any flights before that time. He offered the 2 month accommodation and language courses before the work permit comes through, which is very nice, but the consulate will have my passport so that would be difficult.

Jenna is excited now that this is coming to fruition. I think she is mostly excited to know that she will not be working very much longer. 

Here is the company website I will be working for:

More later.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Week 4: Getting Closer

Things are rollin' now. I spoke with Mathias in Stuttgart today. We talked about our options and I told him about my preference of obtaining a permanent position with his company, with the hopes of getting the freelance visa once we are over there. He was excited about that, since he also investigated the process, and discovered that that would be the easiest and quickest option. By Friday morning, he will present me with an offer.

We talked about some details and he straight up informed me of the benefits that will come with my salary. 40 hours a week, 28 working days of vacation (almost 6 weeks!?!?), sick pay, health insurance, and they will pay for up to 2 months of accommodation once we arrive, until we get settled. That was a nice surprise, I thought I was going to have to beg for that one. He thought the work visa would take between 6-8 weeks to get. He will be offering me between 50-60,000 euros, so we will see what he comes up with. I hope it's towards the higher end, because I usually end up selling my self short and am not a good barterer. I have done some research on costs of living and how much would be enough for us to live comfortably and 60,000 should be fine. Stuttgart is certainly cheaper than Munich, so I am kind of glad that we are not there, but Stuttgart was not my first choice. 

I hope to get my hopes up too much, but I am excited about this...I will write again when I hear from him.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Week 3: Bureaucracy Wall

If any of you ever want to know anything about immigration to Germany, I am your man. Through that Toytown Germany site I mentioned a few posts back, I was put in contact with a company in Stuttgart looking for exactly my skills. I called him on Wednesday, giving him a few days to look over the ol' resume, which I sent last Friday. He is a very nice guy and I obtained lots of information from him. His name is Mathias (aren't they all haha). He can 100% guarantee me work, which is exciting, but the whole problem is the work permit situation. There are two possible work permit situations for a guy like me. One is a "freelance" visa which allows the holder to work as a freelancer (mostly teachers, writers, etc use this) for any company that they want. It is the holy grail of work permits. The second is a work permit bound to a company(a "permanent" visa), similar to the one Jenna got when we lived in London. This permit is valid only for working with the one company. If you were to quit or change jobs, you would have to go apply for the work permit all over again. As a freelancer, you are in charge of obtaining health insurance, get no paid vacations, or any social benefits, and are stuck doing your own taxes--basically you get paid 100% of what you earn and you take care of all the messy work with the government (and I assure you Germany has some strict laws haha). So an employer loves this type of arrangement because they have zero responsibility for you. These jobs pay alot more. We are talking 50 euro an hour. Now, if I was to get the permanent work visa, I would be on a salary. For the jobs I am looking at, this is 50-60,000 euros a year. Works out to be like 29 euro an hour max. But, 6 weeks paid vacation in Germany is the norm, plus all the extra holidays they get over there, plus complete healthcare coverage and any other social benefits (pension, etc.). My man Mathias in Stuttgart offered me an option of taking the freelance or doing the permanent. So, now we have to talk about how I am to get these work permits....

The permanent one is pretty straight forward--I will get a work contract from Mathias, send it in with my passport to the German embassy in San Fran, and they will process it, checking to see if the job is scarce enough to be hiring someone outside the EU, etc. I called the embassy today and they said the process takes 2-3 months! The one benefit to being an American in all this is that we have the privilege to be able to go to Germany without a work permit (90 days maximum stay), apply for one inside the country, and start working as soon as it is issued. Through research, I have read consistently that work permits are issued in 2-3 weeks or so, if you are in Germany and applying for it. This is alot different from 2-3 months. When I called the German embassy in San Fran this morning, the visa lady really did not know anything about the freelance visa. Through research on the subject, it seems like a daunting hula hoop fest to get one and could take months to obtain, which is why its the holy grail of work permits.

SO....right now I am leaning toward taking the permanent position for less money, but being relatively hassle free.  Mathias and company may even be able to assist with accommodation when we arrive or some relocation costs, which would be nice. I have yet to discuss this with Mathias, so I will keep you updated. I hope that his company is willing to wait the 2-3 months for the work permit. Otherwise, it would be pretty risky for us to pack up and move over there without the work permit in place. It's nice that it is an option, but if something did go wrong (work permit takes longer than we thought, etc.) than we would be losing lots of money trying to stay afloat on our savings. That rule really benefits a single guy with no wife no kid and no dog haha

I guess I was hoping that the situation was as it is here in Portland. I work for a company (Idex Solutions)who contracts out my services to a large company (Freightliner) and I get paid a good wage and have all the taxes taken out by Idex. A freelancer in Germany is basically the same thing as self-employed. Maybe once we are over there, I can talk to some people and find out what its all about. It is hard getting any quality up to date info from the US and speaking ZERO German. Sprechen Zie Work Permits? NEIN.

So I may not be making the big bucks right away but at least we will be over there...hope that salary is enough to be comfortable. 

I will update as I know more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Applying Myself: Week 2

Week 2 is over. Alas, no job yet. Things have slowed down a bit. I had one guy say he can definitely help me out, but haven't heard from him in almost 6 days. I did have a phone interview yesterday--that went well and they said they were interested, so we shall see. That was for a job in Stuttgart, which would be just fine. So there are some leads out there but I think the major issue is the work permit issue--just have to keep sending myself out there and hope that an employer bites (MORE fishing analogies haha). I am trying not to get discouraged. Life is going by so fast that if I am not careful, I will be 50 and still looking to work in Germany!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Applying Myself: Week 1

It's a battle out there! Week one is over and I have had some good feedback from potential employers but no job offers yet. Although I expected to possibly have an offer at this point (even though I told myself that was wishful thinking), I am fine with the fact that this might take awhile. Don't get me wrong--we want to be there and are ready if an offer comes by, but at the same time, we are still enjoying life and life is good right now, so it's fine. Gotta be able to go with the flow.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Job Applying, Day 2

Well, Day 2 of the applying-for-jobs adventure comes to a close. Including and, I sent out around 18 copies of my resume and cover letter. PHEW. I got many "thank you for your resume, we will review it and get back to you" emails and one email from a connection on Toytown Germany that was more proimising. It is for a design position in Nuremburg (north of Munich), doing car interiors using CATIA. He asked me what kind of wage I expected and why we wanted to move to Germany. After replying to him (I only have a rough idea of how much I should make over there so I asked for 45 euro an hour. I have seen some jobs for as much as 55 euro.... either way plenty of money), he said he would forward my resume to the people who do the hiring. So thats the news from the last couple days....I will keep updating the blog as more EXCITMENT develops!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Plan of Attack

Well, tomorrow is the day to start applying. I feel apprehensive and excited at the same time--I wonder how quickly it will happen. I have visions in my head of applying and getting tons of response from potential employers. I am a natural optimist though, so hopefully I can adjust OK when things don't go as swiftly as my visions. It might be a good thing that it takes awhile, seems overwhelming to think of all the stuff we will have to do once I agree on a date to go over there--rent the house, finish loose ends all over the house, get a storage facility...just lots of running around.

There is no looking back now... I have been eager to do this for many months and now that the time is here, the second thoughts start to creep in. Isn't that how it always happens when we decide to make a big change in our lives? It's so easy to talk your self out of doing things! Damn! Must resist that, no matter how much my brain is telling me to slow down. It's like a salmon swimming up river--always pushing against the flow. That can be exhausting. i am thankful for Jenna to provide a balance. I tend to jump into things without thinking about them, but she mellows me out and helps me relax. I need that or I would be completely scatter brained.

I have a list of places to throw my resume out to, all online. How would this be possible without the Internet? Seems like a huge hassle. There is a great website for English speakers in Germany. There are tons of people on there giving advice, looking for jobs, apartment rental, etc. Very cool. So that will be the first place to post my resume....its called Toytown Germany. i will also put my resume up on Monster (the UK version, since it is difficult to navigate the German one. Employers are able to search them all). I have colleague that worked over in Sweden for 3 years--he was hired by a guy that places engineers in Germany and Sweden, so I will contact is his website. Those seem like good places to start. There are lots of German agencies that I may try and contact too. It's Mayzie's birthday tomorrow, so we will be busy after work, and I really do not enjoy being on the computer at home after spending all day sitting on my ass in front of one.

More tomorrow or Thursday!

"the world is your oyster" whetevr that means. A big dead, hot oyster haha

Monday, September 29, 2008

Resume website

Ok, I think this is my final draft of my resume (CV in europe).....check it out. The Euros require a little more info in the header part as you will see....don't laugh at my photo, I am trying to be professional here! GOTTA SELL YOURSELF!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Onward to Europa!?

It seems weird that I am actually typing this (I have had this plan in my head for almost 2 years now), but in six days, on October 1, we (I) will start applying for jobs in Germany. I would like to use this blog for all of you to follow the application process, details on how and why we are doing this, and hopefully follow the three of us as we make the move over there. Since leaving London in 2002 we have wanted to move back to Europe again. We were able to live in England because of their nursing shortage--Jenna got the work permit and was stuck at her job (the permit is bound to one employer--if you wanted to change jobs you would have to apply again form the US). Now it is my turn---Germany is in dire need of engineers, I will be getting the work permit, and I will be stuck at my job. I cant say that engineering is even close to being a passion of mine (anybody have a job opening that involves beer, music, and travel???) but if I can use engineering to live abroad, than I will do whatever it takes.

I have been using an engineering, 3-Dimensional software package called CATIA for the last few years at Freightliner. This is our ticket to Germany. Almost all the automotive companies use this software and coupled with my engineering degree, this makes me valuable to the car design craziness in Germany. Many of the companies that I may work for are in Southern Germany, near Stuttgart and Munich. We have visited Munich a couple times and it is beautiful. Alps, beer, and a great quality of life. There are jobs in the north of Germany and in Holland and Sweden, so based on availability we shall see where they need me. We are trying to stay flexible but I think the Munich area would be ideal for us--a larger city, close to the mountains, and easy to get to anywhere in Europe via plane, train, or AUTOBAHN. Oh--I am sure many of you are wondering about the language issue. English (luckily for me) is the business language over there, but of course we will be needing German at the supermarket and bank. Sad but true, we are lucky to speak English since many Europeans know it, although it is sad that we know no other language. I always felt that being forced to learn is the best way, so we will see how that pans out. Mayzie will be picking it up before we do probably.

What about our house? We will be renting it out. We love Portland and Oregon is the only place in the USA we want to live, so we will keep it. Plus the housing market sucks right now, so that's another reason. Plus, we are nearly finished completely with the basement and we need to enjoy that in the future for sure. We will rent a storage facility for all our crap, I mean stuff. we will probably do the rental management company thing but those are details we have not worked out.

Will Jenna work? no!! That's a great thing about this, too, is that I will make enough money for Jenna to stay home. We hope to get Mayzie in a school as soon as we get over there so that will give Jenna lots of free time, which I know she is very excited about. I suppose if she becomes fluent in German she can get a job, or maybe down at the Hard Rock Cafe waiting tables (hahaha). I feel good about this because Jenna has always pulled through when I am jobless and she makes more money than me, so I always felt I had her to fall back on, so now I can take care of her and Mayzie LIKE A REAL MAN (but don't get used to it Jenna, there will be a time when I need you to WORK LIKE A DOG haha).

Mayzie? This will be an amazing experience for us, but especially for her--i am so happy that we can do this for her--there will be some adjustment, for sure, but I have no doubt that she will thrive. The hardest part will be being away from her grandparents and cousins, which makes me sad but I hope they understand why we are doing this. Maybe they don't even realize why. I hope they do.

What about the dog? Oskar is coming too! We got his microchip in, we got his rabies shots updated, all the paper work done, he's good to go. Hopefully we can find an apartment with a garden for him to do his bizness.

How Long? The plan is to stay over there for 2 years.

Why Now? This is hard to explain, but it feels right. Jenna and I do not like to get comfortable. When I say comfortable I don't mean a nice big LazyBoy recliner, we do like that, but we realize how easy it is to get bogged down with jobs and the garage filling up and material things keeping us from doing what we want to do, to be free. When everyday is just like the last, it is time to do something different. This is where we are at. I usually am ready to make a change in lifestyle and geography after about 1 to 1.5 years. Jenna is ready at about 3 years. We are at 2 years right now since buying our house so I guess we compromised! There is never a perfect time for a big lifestyle change... WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? I didn't write this, but this is so perfect:

When I spend any length of time somewhere — whether it's two months in Paris or an hour at the side of the road waiting on a bus — I can't help but wonder,"what would it be like to live here forever?" Giving that question a bit of thought almost always leads to the same conclusion: It would be great to live here, wherever here is, but what about that town just down the road? If there's a downside to vagabonding it's that there just isn't enough time.Everywhere I go I end up thinking, I should spend more time here, I should live here... I should know what it's like to work in a cigar factory in Leon, fish in the Mekong, live in a floating house on Tonle Sap, sell hot dogs at Fenway Park, trade stocks in New York, wander the Thar Desert by camel, navigate the Danube, see the way Denali looks at sunset, the smell the Sonora Desert after a rain, taste the dust of a Juarez street, know how to make tortillas, what Mate tastes like, feel autumn in Paris, spend a winter in Moscow, a summer in Death Valley. I should be able to not just visit places, but inhabit them.There is, so far as I know, only one short life. And in this life I will do very few of these things. Sometimes I think that's very sad, but then the bus comes and you're on to the next town, free to start the dream over again.

We have to keep challenging ourselves, avoid the rut, and try as many new things as possible. I realize that with age, house, dog and kids this is becoming more and more difficult, so it takes a huge push to up-root and move forward. I am lucky to have a wonderful wife who goes along with me and a kid who is super flexible. I can still have my dreams: