31 December 2007

Sick again and again...

Sunday December 30: I have finally recovered from what was apparently a bacterial superinfection after the flu. The girls were out of school for one week, then they both went back for two days and in those days I went to two doctors, got a scrip for ten days of doxycycline and started to feel better a few days later. But on Tuesday Thing1 had what seemed to be a burn on her finger and that evening she developed an earache which got worse and worse as the evening wore on. Although she went to sleep, she woke up late in pain and the German wound up going to the children’s emergency at about 2 am, which definitely was not something that 1 wanted! The doctor there said that the pain was a result of a build up of fluid behind her sinuses and that we needed to get her mucus to loosen, so that was our next try, with a prescription nasal spray and an emphasis on blowing.

But of course I kept her home the following day and she went with me to my doctor. On the way home I noticed that she was limping and when I looked at the bottom of her foot I saw what appeared to be a wart, so that evening we called Dr. R and asked him what to do and of the two choices (cut out or medicate) we decided on medication. So, off to the Apotheke for wart medication. However, when I examined her foot on Thursday, the spot had blown up and no longer looked like a wart, but rather seemed like her finger, which we now decided was an infection rather than a burn. So, another call to Dr. R later, the German came home early and ran 1 to his practice. Speed was of the essence because almost everything and everyone closes down in Germany for the Christmas holidays. Dr. R decided to lance both and start 1 on antibiotics because of his concern that she might develop an infection over the holidays. So, antibiotic for the next 8 days and a second visit Friday morning to do a second lancing, just to be sure before the long holiday.
On Saturday we had hoped to take the children to visit the KinderWeihnachmarkt at the Citadel in Spandau, but it was too cold and raw, so we just cleaned up, packed up and had lunch before heading off to my in-laws for the next week. The German makes the trip far more tolerable because he manages to make it in an average of 3.5 hours, rather than the 6+ hours that it takes F. There is much to be said for the Autobahn when one lives in the hinterlands .

We stayed in the Sauerlands from Saturday night through Friday the 28th and it felt like a milder reprise of August in NY : our palette load had finally arrived and when picked it up at Bremerhoven three weeks ago, we discovered that all of the boxes had been opened and examined. Now we found that they had been left on the dock uncovered and there had been water exposure and damage. So we spent several days moving boxes, opening boxes, repacking boxes, examining boxes. We were clearly punch drunk toward the end of our packing in NY, because we actually sent a box of paperwork that we had planned on hand carrying and I was very grateful to see it.

We wound up staying through Friday rather than leaving Thursday because we needed to run to Ikea and pick up a bookcase and a double wardrobe to actually allow us to make a habitable area. The wardrobe was a hack for the German to put together, because the ceiling is low and he had to put it together standing up. Took some time but by Thursday night we actually were able to hang clothing up for the first time (there are no closets in Germany and there had been only a tiny armoire in the apartment). I also unloaded all my book boxes and filled two Billy book cases (we got the new black with white flowers design: pretty cool). Other than the packing and moving it was a gentle and relaxed vacation. F & G had a tree, which the kids liked looking at. They also had real candles, which I found strangely hypnotic to watch (as well as a strand of electric candles). We took a run into Soest to buy a humidifier and some undershirts for the girls and met C for a coffee and cake. We found all their Little People figures and most of R’s toys and games in the new boxes, so the girls were ecstatic. We had a traditional (sort of) Christmas Eve dinner of potato salad and bratwurst (although in this case they were a very untraditional turkey sausage) and on Christmas day Gerlind made beef for us (and rabbit for the others). On Wednesday, we all shared a raclette dinner. We socialized with sister-in-law G and her friend C, sister-in-law C and her husband E and their kids K and B through most of the week and stopped in to say hello to the German's uncle H and aunt U and their daughter C and her friend A.

Thing1 fell in love with their cat Shnurri (which means purrer). We came back Friday evening (December 28th)and unpacked and piled boxes everywhere (we brought a lot of stuff back with us- cake mixes, cereal, peanut butter, books, toys, 1's costumes, more winter clothes, etc). I was grateful that we had gotten the Mercedes R320TDI as our rental: not only is it a super car to drive in, with great handling and a wonderful ride, but there’s a huge amount of space in it, so we could load up.

Saturday morning we dashed out to the Kaufland and then to Ikea to pick up a bookcase for here in Berlin (we got a Billy and a Benno to hold CDs and DVDs). Then we stopped at the Post on the way back to grab a package (with an automated package retrieval system-very interesting and efficient) then ran back to unload and take the care seats out before the German had to return the car and grab the kids so that I could run to get my hair done. I finally got my hair cut (and colored) on Saturday for the first time since July- I feel like a new person! I know that I should be able to get things done on a regular basis, but with class until 1 pm and the girls getting home at 2:30 and then being sick so much, it’s been impossible and this was great. Maybe I will even be able to get my nails done some time! We put the bookcase and a Benno together and loaded them up with all my books and magazines and CDs and DVDs and the place is really beginning to be under control: I really can’t live for any period of time without having a bookcase available.

We weren’t able to get a babysitter for New Year’s, so instead we had booked someone for Sunday afternoon, which gave us the opportunity to have brunch at the local Greek place and then to walk around the Museum isle and look at a craft market. It was nice to spend a few hours with the German without the girls and it gave us the opportunity to check out our new babysitter, S , who will be watching the girls next week when we are at The Ring of the Nibelung over the next two weeks. The girls loved her, so we are pretty happy about it- wouldn’t want to worry through 24 hours of opera!

16 December 2007

Sick again...

Well, we are winding up another week of solid illness here. Sometimes I think that my in-laws might be plague carriers, but then I just acknowledge that we have absolutely no resistance to German disease at this point. So, first we get sick from the children that 1 and 2 are exposed to at school and get Berlin diseases, and then we visit or are visited by F and G and get all the Nord-Rhineland Westphalian bacteria that K and B are exposed to and we get even sicker from them. Hopefully we will develop some type of immunity before we leave Germany that will allow us to have just a single month without illness….

12/16 On Sunday morning Thing 1 developed a type of allergic rash that we thought might have been provoked by the pony ride on Saturday, but she had had a bath and had new clothes, so no. I gave her a bath and she seemed to improve, but after everyone left (the German needed to work, as he had a huge deadline this week) she blew up again and I got quite frightened. Her face was almost unrecognizable. I called the German to find out what to do, he called the pediatrician, and Dr. R came, on his motorcycle, on a Sunday, to make a housecall. Wow. So that’s what it was like in the 1950’s!
Thing1 is on an allergy medication and we need to see how it plays out before, perhaps, having her re-tested for allergies. Anyway, we have spent the week in the grip of the grippe. I haven’t had a real flu in ages and had forgotten how awful it is. Deep bone pain, intense head-ache, waves of heat and cold. The girls went in and out of high fever as well. It’s Saturday night now and we all seem to have reached, 6 days later, the level of deep, racking, phlegm-filled coughs and I alone have achieved the status of completely voiceless. We had hoped to go to a Weihnuka (Weinacht + Hanuka) festival tonight in Prenzlauer-Berg, but our babysitter came down ill with this same flu (which we almost certainly gave to her) and therefore we are staying home, coughing, eating carry-in Chicken Jahlfrezi and Sheekh Kebab and watching Blood Diamond. This is an absolutely horrifying movie about the murderous RUF in Sierra Leone and although I had known most of the background information, seeing it enacted was far more horrible than reading about it.

----We have had to just stop it, because Thing2 can’t sleep and the German is holding her and we can’t have her seeing any of that for at least the next 14 or so years, so An Unpleasant Truth is what we are watching now. Interesting movie.---- And back to BD…I am really impressed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He shows a depth of character (and acting ability) in this movie (playing a miserably greedy diamond dealer) that I find impressive. The movie was overwhelming. I can’t understand how anyone could bear to watch it in a movie theatre, because I could barely manage to watch it at home. I can see why Angelina Jolie adopts orphans, because when watching this movie, I wanted to adopt one as well. And she is seeing them in reality. Well worth seeing, but on the small screen, where one can pause to relieve the overwhelming nature of the subject and the sheer horror of its (accurate) depiction.
Well, at least in one way this movie has succeeded. Neither the German nor I will ever again buy a diamond that has not been certified conflict free. And I’m not certain I will ever want a diamond again. On to watch an episode of House. I can’t handle another serious movie this evening!

General News: While suffering through the worst illness he has had, the German managed to work overtime and on the weekend pulling through a major crisis at work. All went well and we have been extended here through March 31st, which we had been hoping for. Because we had been hoping for the extension, we didn’t give notice at school, or arrange for an integration course in the Sauerland or discuss start dates in Duesseldorf, about which I am very pleased. Germans don’t seem to do well with spontaneity or changing plans.

14 December 2007

Chanukah in Berlin

Today Thing1 had a party at school.

Although school is, to me, a black hole because she never speaks of what occurs there, this time I had guessed that there would be dancing because she has been dancing around the apartment for over a week. It was really sweet: the three different groups danced and sang. One section was water pitchers, another was candles and danced with flashlights, and Thing1 got her dreidal filled with cookies (which she kept and ate!) and I was given her Hanukiah (called a menorah, incorrectly, in the US), which she made herself!

While I was chatting with her teacher, S, Thing1 disappeared and when I tracked her down, she was playing with Thing2. N, 2's teacher, says that she frequently stops in to play with her and that it makes 2 very happy. I am so glad that they can be together like this. I took heaps of pictures (even a small movie on my camera!), so I hope that I will be able to get one on here before I send this off.

My friend J asked if there were differences between Chanukah here and at home. The major difference is that Chanukah is really a private thing here, that the Jewish community is really tightly knit, because it is as if Jews don’t exist. In a nice way, I guess. It’s just that not a single store has a Chanukah card, or wrap, or books, or info. That the only place to find anything relating to Judaism is in a Judaica store, at an extremely high price. Which I also find really annoying because there is just no reason for things to be priced so high as we are so close to Israel here. I went to the Chanukah bazaar at the Community Center, but it was disappointing. Also very expensive and not much Judaica- a startlingly large amount of ordinary stuff and the interesting looking book display was all in Geman, of course, and my reading comprehension, although better than my hearing and speaking, does not run to “real” books.

11 December 2007

Opera News

We went to Die Zauberflaute on December 10th (feeling quite ill, but couldn’t exchange the tickets on less than three days notice). C watched the children and I met the German at the Comic Opera. It was interesting, but a real disappointment. I have been trying to see The Magic Flute for years but this version was a bit of a stretch from what I had expected. It was perverse, with currents of sado-masochism and perversion evident. In addition, perhaps someone can tell me whether there should have been an undercurrent of paedophilia present in the characters of the Three Boys? For me, the last straw was that the character of the Moor was played in black-face. I understand that this may be a tradition in Germany (see St. Nicholas’ Black Peter) but I just found it too offensive, particularly since it wasn’t even mentioned in the program as being an artistic or historic choice. Ah well, the music was lovely.

Our other Opera news is The Ring of the Nibelung cycle. I had been quite disappointed to miss the cycle at the Metropolitan this year, so I was really pleased when we were extended here and I saw that we would be able to go see it at the Deutsche Opera, where I am hoping for a much more traditional setting than at the Komische Oper. It’s funny: I asked the German for the tickets as our holiday gifts to ourselves and said that we couldn’t get them until we were certain that C and her cohort of partner babysitters could cover the days. After he got the tickets, he said that he wasn’t certain why I was so concerned as it was only a few hours per evening. That concerned me, since I knew the cycle should run about 20 hours. Turns out he only looked at the time for Das Rhinegeld and didn’t notice the three other 5.5 hour productions….The strangest thing was that although the tickets were only purchasable as a set, we were not able to buy the same seats for each show or even stay in the same price category. Why wouldn’t the company sell you a set that was the same seats for all the productions?

10 December 2007

Domain Dahlem

In the morning, it wasn’t raining! The reason that deserves an exclamation point is that it has rained every darned weekend basically since we got here. And being cold as well, it has been hard to do things with the children. But on Saturday, the sun was shining, so we bundled everyone up and went off to Domaine Dahlem, a working farm here in the city which also holds markets on the weekends. Rebekah got to ride a pony and was pretty excited. We also ate some traditional German foods (in my case, a plate of new potatoes with a side of herbed quark- a dairy product similar to sour cream in taste but with far less fat and more taste) and the others drank Gluhwein- I donated the majority of my glass to the common cause because I am just so slow at drinking hot beverages.. Before we left, we spent about 15 minutes watching a fire eater. His patter was very funny and Rebekah loved it.

We had hoped to go to Masters of Gregorian Chant on Saturday night, but they were sold out and when we looked for scalped tickets, we could only find one. So we had a really good dinner instead (Ernst’s parents were in for the weekend and had given us a night of babysitting as a gift for his birthday). We went to a Tibetan place around the corner from the Passionskirche (where the concert was) in Kreuzberg, and it was delicious. The appetizer was momo balls and they were so good that if we go again I think I would choose to have them for dinner. Our meals were also very good (my curry chicken was quite spicy) but those momo balls! After dinner, we visited a Weihnachtsmarkt, a holiday market of which there are what appear to be hundreds here!

We were aiming for the Nostalgic Weihnachtmarkt opposite the State Opera, but we got off at the wrong subway stop (or left the station from the wrong side) and instead wound up at the Gendarmenmarkt, the city’s most famous and posh market. It was very nice- I will definitely head back with the SLR to take pictures and purchase some things.

26 November 2007

Baking attempts...

It's Sunday and we had planned to take the kids to Domaine Dalhem, (a historical working farm in the city) but for the second weekend it rained (started off by snowing), so that put paid to that and we have another day indoors. Ugh. I made a marble cake from a German mix and I think I need to start using American recipes and working from scratch- can you believe a mix using 80 cl of milk, 250 g butter(!!!) and 3 eggs? Working from scratch at home I never used that much fat. Mom just sent me measuring cups and spoons (everything here is by weight), so I think I’ll start baking. She also sent brown sugar and chocolate chips, so that’s where I will try starting. Baking soda is not available in Deutschland, so I hope that baking powder will be an acceptable substitute (some sources say yes, some no, and some say to use a different amount, which conversion factor they do not give!).

It’s so strange: just this weekend Sarah has developed a tendresse for a small stuffed rabbit that Sue’s parents gave her when she was born. She has spent this weekend carrying it around with her and sleeping more easily with Bun-bun. Funny to see how these things develop.

23 November 2007

Getting out and having guests...

Our former au pair and friend C came in to join us for the weekend as her dad was playing with his band at a bar in Kreuzberg. The German's friend L(co-best man at our wedding) was also in town as an emergency replacement on a Frisbee team in a tournament (he is working as an architect in the Netherlands currently) and he joined us for the evening as well.

We have found a great babysitter, C, who has two daughters of her own and I think is better at being a mom than I am , so we felt great about spending the night out. Anyway, we went to Kreuzberg and just wandered about a bit until we saw a Vietnamese restaurant that looked interesting and stopped in and ate. L’s friend A, whom he had studied with in Nuernberg, joined us there. She lives in Mitte (a section of Berlin very close to Prenzlauer Berg, where we were when we got here).

Afterward we went to the Jazz club. It was really mellow and pleasant, although I had really forgotten how much I dislike having to breathe smoke and there was a man behind me smoking a cigar. I am going to be very happy after the smoking ban comes in on January 1st! We came back about 1 am and watched the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy: it’s a season behind here so C was interested to see it. On Saturday we had fresh-baked baguettes and cheese and turkey for breakfast and then Cand I went off to the Villa Grisebach (the gallery is in the Grisebach Stadtvilla, which by iself is a work of art) and to the Kunsthaus Ketterer. This is the other gallery we went to and the main reason C came to Berlin: she wants to go to the auction in Munich. They had absolutely amazing art on view. C’s dad is the world authority on one of the artists that is represented in this auction and she wanted to preview it and then actually go to her first auction.

22 November 2007

Thanksgiving Day

Obviously not a holiday here. The kids and I went to school, the German to work.I made a turkey (very moist and succulent: I think all poultry here is better than ordinary poultry at home) but no other sides. However, what is up with the miniature chickens? I know there must be regular size ones out there, because I buy the schenkels and they are a good size. But the butcher told me I needed to buy multiple whole chickens to feed a large family, rather than get a larger bird.

17 November 2007

Kirmes in Soest and our perma-state of illness...

Went to the in-laws in early November. The German had a meeting in Düsseldorf on Wednesday, so we drove in on Tuesday night and the girls stayed with Oma and Opa on Wednesday while I drove to the city with him. While he did his (all day) training, I wandered around the city a bit, trying to figure out where we might want to live, or at least crossing off some areas. It was a good week to go because we wanted to visit die Kirmes, which was having its 670th holding in Soest. It is the largest in city carnival/fair in Europe and perhaps in the world. The really neat thing about it is that it is built directly inside the city and Soest is a cute walled city. Looks very different with a carnival built inside it! The fair starts every day at 4ish and runs through later than we stayed up (we went home 1 am). On some of the rides it looks as if one’s feet will brush church steeples! We rode this ferris wheel and it was great, although raining.

Luckily, the rain stopped and the weather moderated and the evening wound up being very nice. Chrissie (our former au pair ) lives in Soest, so she had come back from school for Kirmes and we met up and wound up going about until after midnight, where we had thought that we would leave shortly after 8:30, when the fireworks ended. But we had a great time being shown about and tasting things and looking at things and drinking (although the German couldn’t partake, as designated driver). When we got back to the house, we found that K, my niece, who was staying over as well, had been ill.
Saturday morning I also was sick as the proverbial dog. I spent the morning uebergeben for the first time in 24 years and I didn’t enjoy it. I also didn’t enjoy my in-laws belief that my illness was due to over indulgence (that belief disappeared after Opa came down ill that evening). Chrissie was also sick as a pup the next evening so clearly a very nasty virus was making its way through Koerbecke. I threw up more times than I care to mention.

Both kids are sick again (November 17th) with what I had last week probably, so I think I will need to call a babysitter for Monday.

01 November 2007


and how Germany handles it.

Currently (and funds for the program have just been increased), a new-comer has a legal right to 600 hours of language and cultural courses at the cost of 1E an hour. In addition, because I am enrolled in a language course I am entitled to daycare/kindergarten for the Things (which is otherwise available from 4 and up through the state or without subsidization). Each state has its own department in charge of Newcomers (Anfangers) and the services are available in multiple languages. There are Volkshochschules everywhere which hold not only language courses for German but also teach many other languages and skills, all available at very low rates. The German will be contacting the Alien Registration Departments that handle the area around his parents nd Düsseldorf this week to get information on when classes will be starting in those areas, so that we can arrange our moves around classes, if possible.

Right now I’m taking German Mondays through Thursdays from 9:30-1. The kids are picked up by shuttle after 8(when they aren’t sick!) and dropped off Monday through Thursday before 3.

On Fridays they come home at noon.

15 October 2007

Getting settled

The children are in school. That took quite a bit of work.

First, the German had to register our marriage in the Sauerland where he was registered. Then, when we returned to Berlin, he registered both of us and the children here. I did some research on line and found some kindergarten/kitas within walking distance, called them, and set up appointments. The first one we went to, one that was supposed to be based on a nurturing method, left me in tears. The head told us that they were not really interested in children that would be “transient”, eg staying for less than three years, and that also the documents that the children require would take weeks and weeks to get, so why would we even bother to put them in school when they would be leaving Berlin in the spring? I pointed out that Thing1 was very sad, had walked up to a little boy in the school and asked him to be friends, and that Thing1was regressing due to interactions being mainly with Thing2. The head didn’t exactly shrug, but didn’t seem to give a darn.

She did give the German the number of the state agency that would provide the required documents, but reiterated that it would take weeks to get the forms, perhaps even months. When we walked out the door, I really was in tears at the thought that the children would not be able to play with other children for the foreseeable future. The German told me that everything would be alright, that in a country where children have a legal right to schooling that it would be impossible for it to take so long to get required documentation. In the event, he called the agency the next morning and when he went there, the woman in charge was wonderful. She assured him that it would take only a day or two for the document for Thing1 to reach us, and that she would be able to issue one for Thing 2 if he could provide documentation that I was taking a course.

So the German registered Thing1 for the 5-7 hours of kindergarten that she is legally entitled to. However, Thing2 could not be registered until I provided documentation that I either had a job or was taking an integration course.

When wandering about our new neighborhood, we had discovered the Jewish Community Center (Judisches Gemeinde Haus). When we stopped in to ask about the community, we were told that they have a Volkshochschule, which is a type of community school all across Germany, where I could take a Deutschkurs for Anfangers (German for Newcomers). So I signed up for the semester, the German took the information to the state and we received the documentation for both the girls within three days.

(Germany has an amazingly good post system. It generally takes only one day for mail to reach us from just about anywhere in Germany. If we haven’t received something in three days, we know that there is a problem and know to call to see what is wrong.)

We got the names of some Jewish kindergartens from the JCC and called a few to see which would have openings and how far some might be. The real problem was Thing2, because the spots for her age are generally filled (there is a legal requirement of fewer young children per teacher at her age). We went to one lovely school in Grunewald, but not only would it be quite difficult for me to reach by public transportation, but also they would have had a problem with Thing2- she would not have been able to start until January, when they would be adding a teacher. The head was very nice and after showing us around, she sat the girls down to play with toys, took us back to her office, and started making calls for us. After two tries, she was able to make an appointment for us with the head of X school. So we called a cab and went there. We drove back and forth but this time, after stopping and asking for help and calling for clarification, we finally found it. This was funny, because we had attempted to reach X school almost on our arrival in west Berlin. But when we had called to get directions there we had not been able to find the school: it’s not easy to find.

In the meantime, I had gotten information from the JGH about Jewish kindergartens and kitas and had spoken to an International School (second choice, being both quite expensive and thwarting our aim of having the girls exposed to German as soon as possible). ) So when we got to the X school, finally, we were very impressed. The Rabbi knew our previous school, was warm and friendly (from the US;-) ), the classes seemed good and at least one of each teacher pair spoke some English, and the curriculum seemed great and familiar (although with both German and Hebrew). This is just what Thing1 has been needing.

The Things started school October 8th, the first day after Succoth, when my class also started. I spent the first two days with them at school, making certain that they would be ok, and on the third day the bus service that the school has started and I was able to go to class. We are all enjoying our classes now, although you would never know it from Thing1: she doesn’t tell me anything that goes on! Thing1 has been to the Zoo and the Opera House and to the library, but I only know that from the teacher: she is not yet good at communicating this information.

We have suffered through waves of illness. First, I was sick. A bronchial illness that hung on until I went to der Artz in the Sauerland (the weekend our container finally came in) and wound up getting antibiotics. Then, the week after Thing2 started school, she was quite sick. She had a temperature of 104+ and I had to find a doctor within our area and run her over. Dr R assured me that it was a virus and I should continue to concentrate on keeping her temperature down, which I needed to do by medicating her every six hours around the clock with Motrin. Her high fever continued from Sunday through Friday, when the doctor had told me to return if she were still running a fever. The doctor looked again, said it was still just a virus and prescribed a mucus thinner as well as continuing with the Motrin. Thankfully, her fever finally ended on Saturday. I kept her home on Monday, just to be safe.

This had played havoc with my classes, of course. I took two days off, we hired a babysitter one day, the German stayed home through my class one day, and the final day we had another babysitter, who we needed to send home because she was unable to comfort Thing2 (the only person, ever. We complained to the agency about her.) So back zur schule went Thing2 on Tuesday and on Tuesday night Thing1 started to run a high fever. So, Wednesday I went in to class for a few minutes to pick up my work. Thursday she seemed a bit better so I brought her, with coloring books, to class with me. She was exhausted and wound up falling asleep on me when I carried her out, but it was the day of my appointment with the Alien Affairs office and I needed to be there with the German in person.

So Thing1 and I took a cab there and met the German, they quickly called us in and gave me my residence visa, and then he called us a cab and went back to pick up the forms and come home later. Germany is extremely organized in processing newcomers and it’s admirable.

30 September 2007

Staying sane as an expat without language skills

It's probably a pretty common plaint, but coming to Germany without a word of German (what was I thinking with 4 years of Latin and 4 of French?) it's almost frighteningly isolating to never hear an adult word that I can understand.

I am tremendously grateful that L and my parents have allowed me to set up a Slingbox at their house. That, added to a separate cable box with DVR, has allowed me to watch American TV and movies at my discretion. The only drawback is that the operating system is inferior to that of TiVo so it is more difficult to actually look up and plan for movies. So if anyone sees anything out there on HBO, Cinemax, SciFi, etc that they think I might like to watch, please drop me an e-mail and I can set the DVR to tape it. I’m very grateful to have family to allow me to use their connection because there is a professional organization that does this that actually maintains your own box and satellite dish and then charges an additional monthly fee for the privilege and I could never have justified the cost of doing that (until I went insane, I guess…).

14 September 2007

A new apartment and swimming through the red tape

While trolling the internet I ran across an apartment and the German leaped on it on Monday.
We are at my in-laws now, and yesterday registered myself and the children and the German's married status with the state. Today we got photos for the children and applied for their German passports. We splurged on the type required for the US, which is more expensive than the ordinary child’s passport. We also took photos of myself and the German for drivers’ licenses, but won’t be able to do that until next week, as the DMV was open only a half day today.

The saga of the container has been thrilling and chilling in terms of the utter lack of coordination and total messed-up-ness of its journey, but we hope to see it here next Friday and with it not only our bicycles but also our warm clothes: We have been freezing ever since we got here as we left behind 90+F weather and came here to the 60F and below chilly, dank, frequently rainy city of Berlin. The two light jackets I brought with me were not enough and the ch ildrenare rotating between only a few pairs of warm clothes as their shorts and tees are not useful.

08 September 2007

A nice interlude, street fair

Was leaving the REWE ( a supermarket) when we ran into Berlin Lacht, stage w/comedians , actors and musicians surrounded by drinks and eats booths. The supermarket is the in Kulturbraueri http://www.bilderbook.org/berlin/kulturbrauerei/pictures/.

Was very fun: I’m glad Thing1 asked that we stop. The German and Thing2went home a bit before us because T1wanted an alkoholfrei drink and we stayed to watch the magician set his hair on fire and chat with some Berliners. Was the first time I’ve spoken to another adult (other than the German) in 10 days and really appreciated it.

05 September 2007

The first week

Well, we are here in Berlin, in an area formerly east of the wall called Prinzlauer-Berg. It’s a bit what I imagine Greenwich Village was like 70 years ago, when it was still affordable, although it probably won’t be affordable to its prior residents within the next 10 years. Very cute, but not family enough and we are hunting for short term apartments in the Charlottenberg area, which is west of the line, more settled, and with a Jewish Community Center and kindergarten that I hope to get Thing1 into. Right now we are staying in a pension, and this is the first time that I have lived without a washer/dryer at least in my building in 24 years. It’s definitely worse with children.

The trip over was better than it might have been because we upgraded to business class with miles. I went through a whole rigmarole to get Felix microchipped and get him an international health certificate and then we wound up walking through immigration with him: we realized later that the border control didn’t notice him because the German was carrying him in a soft sided container around his neck. Now we wonder whether Felix is in the country illegally… On the flight itself, Felix wound up getting out of his carrier (the silly thing was able to be pushed open unless you pinned the sides and I missed it, always having used a hard sided carrier before). The German woke me to tell me that one of the attendants had come and taken the carrier away and I rushed back to see why only to discover F being dandled and pampered by an attendant who said that she had found him in the aisle: luckily, they were all cat lovers. And everyone was very nice to us in business class: definitely worth the upgrade.

I’m online because (old East) Berlin has free (slow) wireless, because there is no landline in the flat and although I might have gone insane without internet, we won’t get broadband until we are in a real apartment.

So far my culture shock has been primarily that even Germany moves at a molasses pace compared to the US. I mean, I knew it because German HR was so darned slow, but nothing beats walking into a Citibank to open an account (we have one in the US to facilitate international transfers) only to discover that one needs to make an appointment and that the earliest one can get is two days away. Or that it will take 4 weeks to get a landline, if we decide to get one, or to install DSL. And I couldn’t be part of the bank account because I am not yet registered with a “permanent” address here in Germany, even though I have a certified copy of my marriage certificate and my passport and the German already had a registered address (with his parents). There’s more, but I need to digest…

28 August 2007

Sheer Insanity

So, instead of moving to Duesseldorf, the German got a call in mid-July asking if he was interested in a long term project in Berlin. But if he were, he needed (this was a Thursday) to be ready to fly out Sunday.

We looked at each other, thought about it, and said,"Sounds great."
He came back August 15th, the container was delivered the 17th, we had a garage sale on the 18th and we will be hada relatively large farewell party on the 19th. On the 20th the container will be picked up.

Then we all had medical appointments and exams, went upstate to go to my 25th High School reunion (I could only manage the picnic because we still had so much packing to do- we were also dropping furniture with my brother and boxes in the storage unit we have up there).

We didn't finish up before the container left, so we packed and threw out and donated masses of stuff, all through the night into the day before we left, when the German ran a half pallet to the docks to follow us to Bremerhaven and we met with our tenants ( a great family from Stuttgart) to show them how things work and help them with the car transfer (we sold them our Sienna).

Monday back home, Tuesday the 28th turning the house over to the tenants and then grabbing a van to the airport (as we will be selling the tenants our Sienna). Gosh, do we have a lot of stuff! 6 suitcases, a stroller, two car seats, two carry-ons, a diaper bag, a purse, and a cat.

I haven’t even started looking at maps of Berlin and I had just started seriously thinking of what areas of Dusseldorf we should be looking at. Had contacted the Jewish kindergarten, spoken to people from the synagogue, met with an American woman (married to a German man) who will be moving into our neighborhood next week from Dusseldorf (by way of three months in an apartment in White Plains), spoken to the American Women’s group in D’dorf… and so on. So now I need to start from scratch and without Ernst taking off 4 weeks to help/look for an apartment.

The German found us a pension to stay in when we arrive, not easy finding a temporary place in Germany, and particularly not with our cat.

01 August 2007

In the beginning...

My husband (referred to hereafter as the German) and I had concerns that when we had children that they would not be able to communicate with their extended family if raised as monolingual Americans (after all, I could not communicate with my extended family when my parents chose to raise my brothers and myself monolingually). We attempted to deal with the situation by having German au pairs while I (G) continued to work after having Thing1. We had some great helpers, particularly Chrissie. However, after we had Thing2 and a problem with an au pair who quit two weeks before the end of my maternity leave, we decided that there had to be a better way. Why not go to Germany on an internal transfer with his multi-national firm and we could all learn German? That way, when we returned to the States we could continue to speak German together and the reinforcement would let the Things retain the language.

Ten months later, after a considerable amount of stress, it finally happened.

I am posting retroactively and hope to go forward as well as fill in the spaces, but this is my first blog, so please, if you are reading this, forgive my learning pains and feel free to give any advice you think might be useful