Thursday, April 30, 2009

Doppelgänger

You ever think you see someone you know? This is happening to us all the time. On the train, in the park, at the Rathaus. I have seen my friend Steev's girlfriend Christine, I have seen Doug Timms, my friend Chad, I have even seen my mom. All German versions. But then I think to myself--"cant be, we are in southerm Germany. What are the chances." One of these days, it will actually be that person. That would be a trip. Ever expectantly run into anyone in a far away place? Of the top of my head, the closest we have come is this chick we met in Thailand a few years back...like 6 months after we saw her, we were on Hawthorne in Portland and there she was. That was weird.

If you ever see John C Reilly at the mall...it might be me! (I dont think I look anything like the guy, but people have told me that). Actually I would probably not be at the mall...maybe you will see me/him at a 50 cent show.


The Checkout Line

Bagging your groceries at a German supermarket has to be one of the most stressful things about living over here. It is INTENSE. Actually the entire shopping experience is something you have to plan for. Back home, we would just roll up to Fred Meyers or whatever, not worrying about needing money for a grocery cart, or having bags with you. Money for a grocery cart? You heard it right. You have to have a 1 euro coin to release a cart from the other carts....

its a cool idea--people don't steal the carts, but damn, it's tough to always have a 1 euro coin. There is a black market for little plastic pieces that are the same size as a 1 euro coin, so luckily I have procured one of these (dont you dare ask me where I got it), so I don't have to worry about it anymore. But Jenna does. She ends up having to grab a handbasket if she doesnt have a coin with her. 

Shopping is fun--the cheese, yoghurt, and meat areas are huge compared to home. The drink aisles have to be seen. You have never, ever seen so many different varieties of water--mineral water, still water, mineral water with bubbles, fruit water, I dont even know. Its insane. We have been drinking the tap water so I walk right by to the beer aisles, which are just as impressive.

Onto the checkout. Its a 2 person job. If you are by yourself, you are for sure going to piss someone off because you are taking too long. The first thing is that there is usually only 1 or 2 lines open. Did you bring bags?? Don't worry--you can buy a few bags (pastic ones are 9 cents each, cloth and paper more). We have a collection of cloth bags now. The unloading areas for the groceries is much smaller than home--so small that sometimes a whole grocery shop doesnt fit on the thing...you have to wait tell they scan some things for the conveyor to move a bit. The cashier has no regard for your speed of bagging--you have to bag at the speed of their scanning or the items will get all backed up at the end. Sometimes when I am alone, I just throw everything back into the cart so that I dont get behind. I hate that because I feel like I am handling the items more than I need to. Gotta be efficient here! If you get backed up, it doesnt matter--you have to pay your bill when they are done scanning, else you will get stares and uncomfortable silences from the cashier.  And then the worst part--they will start scanning the next person even if you arent done!! Oh man, thats stressful. Its a rush job. And I was not built to be a bagboy--lettuce and eggs on the bottom, right? Whatever, as long as I get out of the store.

As crazy as it is, we are getting better at it, and I know I will use cloth bags more at home when we return. I will probobly give the bagboy tips, too---- HURRY UP, MAN!

Fünfzig Cent

Back at work this week. My boss is trying his best to keep me in Stuttgart, but there is no word either way...we are playing the wait-and-see game. The radio is playing while we work and a 50 Cent (fitty cent) song came on the radio and they called him ´´Fünfzig Cent´´. HA. I guess he is half a euro over here. More expensive than 50 cents!



Yes, German radio is as bad as US radio. There are some interesting German hits that we would never hear, but it is basically the same western pop music we would hear at the mall back home.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I gotta lighten this up...

what better way than to watch a dog ride a bike.


Kindergarten mornings

Another lull in work means that I am home everyday, so I am around in the mornings while Mayzie is at kiga (thats what they call it!) from 8:30am - 1:30pm monday through friday. It's a very relaxing 5 hours that we both have been thouroughly enjoying. A perfect time for a bike ride together, or grocery shoppping with ease, or watching a movie, or doing yoga, or going to the bakery and hanging out. It's a win-win situation...Mayzie is loving her school and we are loving the time while she is away. At 1:30pm all the moms are at the school entrance, waiting for their kids, and we usually bring Mayzie's bike and Oskar for the short 10 minute walk home. She loves that. Then Mayzie has been having a quiet time in her room for an hour...she is loving the routine and we are stoked she has taken to it so well. She hasnt told us about any friends in particular, but we have been near the school on an outing so we spied on here as she is playing out in the schoolyard--she is fitting right in. Her gibber gabber german is slowly becoming words, too...she is picking things up quickly--just words or songs here or there--basically learning to speak again with baby gibberish, but in German. Pretty cool.

We love that kid, but she can drive us crazy!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hamburg

We were hoping that this wouldn't happen...as soon as we are feeling settled into our new place, my boss drops me the bomb: there is a job in Hamburg for me if I want it, and if I do not take it, I will not be paid anymore. 

I am not as emotional or frustrated as I was when I found out on tuesday, so I think now is time to write about it all.

I know now that our only choice is to move to Hamburg, or to move back to the US. I feel that moving to Hamburg will be harder...we are just now feeling settled in Germany, but it has taken 3 months. I cannot imagine going through all of the paperwork, bureaucracy, and awkward German skills necessary to get Mayzie enrolled in kindergarten, finding a new apartment that suits our needs, registering in the town that we move to, starting up with language classes, even trying to get garbage cans to our house(which frickin took forever)! It is overwhelming just thinking about it and I feel very reluctant to put Jenna and Mayzie through all of this again. We found this flat in Tamm only 1 month ago and now we must leave it. I know that the situation right now is difficult and I trust that my company has done all that it can do to keep me in the Stuttgart area. I pride myself on being flexible, and a "team player", but moving here has been such a huge push for us. Things were getting easier by the day, but now, I feel like they are getting more difficult with my assignment in Hamburg.  We really want to keep this German thing going, if only because we have so much more to learn and see and do. I have read that Hamburg is a nice place to live, and we are eager to discover a new place. But to pack up all our shit, take Mayzie out of school and move again? BRUTAL. 

BIG SIGH. Even for a naivly optomistic person like myself, it's hard to stay positive with another setback. Jenna is about at breaking point. There is no one to blame, it's just a bad combination of the current economy, our timing, and our just getting adjusted. My company will pay for our move, and any costs that may incur, and will pay for 3 months accomodation for me while I decide if Hamburg is good for us (job-wise and liveability-wise). This means 3 months away from Jenna and Mayzie, which is completely un-acceptable for me and her. I am not one of those career before family kind of guys and it would be difficult to be away and not helping out. Hamburg is around 400 miles directly North, so a 5 hour train ride, or an hour flight. It is feasible for me to visit on weekends, but that will become expensive. But we go home to no jobs and the dashing of my dream (I am calling it my dream now...this is in no way Jenna's dream anymore, if it ever was).

Some minutes I feel like pressing on, pushing against the flow, others I feel like throwing in the proverbial  towel. We have been to Hamburg before, but didnt really spend any time there. It's more cultural, a larger city, closer to Holland, Berlin and Denmark, so geography isnt an issue...it would be great to discover that area. It's flat, so would be awesome for bikes. It really is just dealing with all the legwork of uprooting, moving, and knowing that it will be months before we are settled again. But it would be silly to say no to an OK paying job, to go home to no job at all. We are excited for Mayzie being here, and I am enjoying my language courses (I can tell the time now haha). I am tired of these tough decisions. 

So we told my boss that we would take the job in Hamburg. I was told the job was for 1 year at least, doing CATIA design for Airbus (airplanes) in High End Engineering's office. Would be nice to get some aerospace experience, and to use CATIA again..thats why we came over here (job-wise). The plan, as of today, is for me to go up there when I get the call (I am not sure when I will be starting...probobly a couple weeks), figure out as quick as possible if the job is any good, if we could afford Hamburg, etc. We are toying with the idea of sending Jenna and Mayzie home for 2 months while I get everything in order (apartment, kindergarten, language courses, etc). That way, she is not alone, and they can come back to Germany and ease into it a little bit. That is one option. We'll see what we come up with here...we are not even sure if it's possible to break the lease on our apartment (which we are really enjoying, DAMMIT). Hopefully a job transfer is a good enough excuse to not get charged up the ass.

The continuing drama of our life in Germany...why can't it be easy!???!?!?!?!? We are due for some ease. Maybe Hamburg is the answer...here it is on the map, with Stuttgart:




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Friday, April 17, 2009

Damn Germans! Pt.2 ....Family Day at the Movies...Spoiled by the SYSTEM

A rainy, dreary day in Southern Germany. A good day for a family day at the movies, right? There is an English cinema is Stuttgart that is playing Monsters vs Aliens, the latest Disney movie. I went onto their website to find the time and how to get there and I notice the rating of the movie...FSK 6. Further perusing of the site and I found this:

German Movie Rating

The American PG is quite similar to the German FSK. In Germany, an Organization named 'Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle' passes each movie with an individual Rating, based on child protection laws.

  • FSK 6: no children under 6 years are allowed to see the movie, not even with their parents.
  • FSK 12: children older than 12 are allowed to see this movie. Children between 6 and 11 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • FSK 16: no person under 16 is allowed to watch the movie.
  • FSK 18: no person under 18 is allowed to watch the movie.

For FSK 16 & 18 you may be asked for a document to verify your age.


NOT EVEN WITH THEIR PARENTS! No way, I say to myself. There is no chance that they actually enforce this. But to make sure, I went to our trusty english speakers in Germany site, Toutown and I found this posting about it. It's a good read. Basically....they enforce this rule! So I can't take my own kid to a movie that is (I am sure, it's frickin Disney here) violent or nudity or whatever else these raters think is bad for kids. Wall-E and Ice Age had this same rating! And these are a couple of Mayzie's favorite movies. Insane. 

So no movies for us until she is 6? Luckily she's a big girl...maybe when she is 4 we will try it. I would try it now if my Deutsch was better...don't feel like trying to argue with sign language and broken German skillz.

LAME. #1 rule in Germany? Have patience. With EVERYTHING.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest

We headed downtown to Stuttgart's spring festival, the Frulingsfest (I can't type the umlats for the U on my keyboard ! lame! watch out google here I come.... Nope couldn't find it) on wedensday after work. Wedensday is family night, so rides and food and such are cheaper. Basically the place is a mini-Oktoberfest. We are talking rides for kids and big kids alike (ferris wheel, log ride, etc etc), carnival games (failed miserably to win Mayzie a stuffed pink unicorn on the dreaded "pop the balloons with the darts" game. She got a pen out of it. You can see it in the pictures. Sorry Mayzie), tons of food (if you call tons of food wurst and brezels), 4 huge beer tents...all spralwed out along the Neckar river. 

I am about to say something bold. This comes from experience. Oktoberfest in Munich is awesome, an experience that must be experienced(the atmosphere), but the Stuttgart Spring Fest beats it out!!!! I know, I know, this is blasphemous, but there are reasons...mainly 2. No tourists (Aussies, I am looking at you haha), and it's waaay less crowded. Granted on a saturday or friday night it is probobly very crowded, but why travel to Munich when you can have all the beer, rides, and games, crazy food...all right here. If any of you are going to visit, may I suggest during April (it runs until May 3), and we will hit it up. Preferably bring someone that can babysit and hates these kind of festivals, so we can thouroughly enjoy the offerings(no kids in the beer tents after 6pm). It's fantasy land--beers always at arms length, fatty German food, killer rides, corn on a stick, German people to laugh at....it's great! I am sure with beer goggles on, it would be even better. Mayzie loved it, too (we bought her a unicorn balloon, to ease the dissapointment). Here's some pics. Notice the 1/2 meter Bratwurst and the very German ride names.

(feeling self conscious....) Do I write about beer too much? Man, I bet those of you who do not know me that well must think I am an alky. I have a passion for beer, don't forget. The flavors and the traditions. This does not mean I drink it all the time. Only 4 a day :) 

















Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Half 9

I was an hour late today for work. I was told to come in at "halb neun" (half nine). To me, this is 9:30. To the Germans, this is 8:30. D'oh! Am I delusional, or in the US if someone says half nine (which they never do), this is 9:30, right? It wasnt a big deal, but I thought it was funny. I couldn't explain it properly to my work mates and it felt like a lame excuse when I was trying to describe the situation. The ironic thing is we are learning about time in my Deutsch class...I should have known.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You want a tour of our apartment?

OK...check it out below. Notice the great parenting skills on display. PARENTS OF THE YEAR!!



WORK...comment on the comments

Thanks everyone for your advice, kind words, and even job offer. I really appreciate the comments and they help get a grasp of the larger picture. Jenna and I have decided the wisest decision right now would be to stay over here, with the hopes that things will improve soon. I need to find out this week if my rasies will still come through. If so, I don't think we will have any problem surviving the GERMAN DREAM, even with the 10% paycut. If my raises are not valid because of the situation here right now, then we set a date for the end of the year for a new job, or some additional influx of money (possible Jenna work--as my spouse, she is able to work wherever she wants. A few of you asked if Jenna can work as a nurse...the answer is yes, they need nurses bad over here, but the language barrier will be tough for at least a year, I would think). If that doesnt happen, than we will have to come home.

So our minds are eased for now...we shall see how this all unfolds. Now back to our regular scheduled programming of dorky posts.

Vielen Dank! Thanks alot!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

WORK

I have been reluctant the past few days to post about work and my new job, because it is all a bit depressing. Depressing in the fact that it is a "busy work" type of job and not why we came over here. I should be thankful that I even have this crappy work, because there is absolutely nothing going on for engineering in the Stuttgart area. We had a team meeting on tuesday, like 15 people that work for High End Engineering out of 20 have lost their contracts and are now jobless (but still being paid, like me). Everyone has family and friends around here and houses and such, so it is a tense situation. Alot of contracting compaines are going out of business. So, the management is proposing a 10% paycut for everyone so that the company can stay afloat and still afford to pay everyone. I am assured that no one will be let go. This may have been ok in a year from now, when I have had all my raises come through (supposed to get a raise after 6 months and another after 9 months), but for this to happen right now, would truly sink us. Yes, we are living that close to poverty based on my current pay and things that are out of my control (taxes, bills at home, buying furniture, etc). I will not get the paycut as long as my current term of work lasts. They say it will last 2 months. But it's so boring! Checking drawings (actually pictures/scans of drawings, I am not even using CATIA) for Airbus. Tedious work that they usually send to Turkey and India, but because of the jobless here, they have brought it back. So I guess I stole a Turk or Indian job. Sorry about that, dude. Damn. This situation sucks for everyone, I guess. After 2 months and the project is ended, when there most likely will still be no work (my boss thinks the joblessness here will last through all of 2009), I will get the paycut, and will probobly not get my raises. I need to find out about that, though. If that happens, we will be screwed, since money at home is dwindeled to near zero and we can barely make it through the month with my payrate as it is. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Time will tell. Our only Plan B at this point is to go home, which I am reluctant to do based in the investment we have made to this adventure and the huge push it took to get over here. We would be scrwed at home too---no jobs and nowhere to live (our house is rented for a year...I think it's kind of a big deal for us to want to kick them out before a year). I know that if we went home it would be awhile before a.) I convinced Jenna that we have to move overseas again, b.) we had enough money to do it again and c.) we would even think about doing this all again. I should have slaved at some huge corporation and waited for the day for them to decide to send me overseas, pay for everything, but no, we had to try and do this independently. You certainly don't hear about this happening alot--you are in the Military or your company transferred you--thats how normal people move overseas.

Mayzie is the perfect age for this. I love/hate many things about Europe and Germany, but my passion for travelling and thirst for new sights and people is quenched right now, and I long for this to continue. I feel it is way to early to give up on this dream. Even if it means we are in some debt. But how much debt is too much? We hardly have enough money to travel. At what point do we cut our losses and go home? Is it any better in Portland? Jenna might be able to get a nursing job, but engineering is dead there too. Might as well stay where I am being paid, right? At least we would have family and friends around back home, I suppose. But we would be back in the US which I am not thrilled to do yet. You have no idea how long I daydreamed about living in Europe again, and now to make it a reality, and it not working out so good....frustrating. I know if I left now I would have huge longing for travel. It's a curse! I have always been very employable and I could quit and get hired at ease, since I graduated in 2000. Now things seem different and I am clinching to a job that I dont even like, waiting for things to get better.

This is the train of thought as of late. A see-saw of "yes, we will stay no matter what" to "we have to go home, because we are going to be financially screwed if we continue this way." It is exhausting. Typing it all out helps.

Thanks for reading. 

Multiple Choice:
What would you do?
A. Live the dream--travelling and working in Europe. Screw the money...don't worry about it, dude!
B. Oh man, you will be broke as hell if you stay...you better get home where you have some support and a free place to crash for awhile.
C. Wait at least 1 year to see how everything turns out. If you are in debt, you go home. If you managed to get a raise or a better job in that time, you stay.
D. Stay in Germany but be poor. Real poor. 
E. Apply for every job in Holland so that we can move there.



Friday, April 10, 2009

It's Official

Spring Is here. Had a nice, relaxing day in Stuttgart, enjoying the sunshine and outdoor European cafe culture...easy to forget your problems on a day like this. Friday and Monday are holidays for easter over here so everything is shut down, which was nice, because it wasn't overly crowded downtown. Here's a picture diary of our day...











Preparing for Oktoberfest

...as seen at a mall in downtown Stuttgart. Wonder if they come in Big Kid sizes? I imagine my legs would look pretty damn sexy in these.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Our First Biergarten....


...was on our back terrace. So nice to be able to sit out there and enjoy the sunshine. It has felt like old man Winter punished us this year.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good news! (or is it bad news?)

I have mixed feelings about this, but I am starting work on monday! After 2 months of paid vacation, I guess they are ready for me now. I will be working in-house at High End's office in south Stuttgart (50 mins by train. DAMN) doing drawing check's on CATIA. I think so anyway. There will be 2 weeks of training and then the work begins. That's what I am told. We shall see. It is a temporary job until the real gigs come back in. So 9am on monday..... the sleep ins end.

Mayzie's First Day At Kindergarten

So today was the day. First day of school in a foreign land. It went well! Jenna rode her over there at 9am and we both went and collected her at 11:30am as planned. When we got there, she was sitting at the lunch table, eating with all the other kids, perfectly content. Was very cute and we were happy that the teacher said she did great. She showed us the games they played--some very cool German games (kinda like memory and matching games) that we had never seen before. Tomorrow she will stay until noon and then a full day(until 1:30pm) on friday, if all goes well. Was great having some quiet and relaxing time around the house while she was at school. This will be good for all of us.