21 September 2008

What we did on Thursday.

What a valuable tool this is, the ability to get me back to writing when it seems that life has passed my blogging by and that it is difficult to catch up.

In no general order:

The German needed to go to Munich last week for a business trip (no, he didn't get to leave his conference or the airport hotel, so no Oktoberfest for him). Since he was leaving later in the day, we took that morning to take care of a few chores. The first was to pick up a package that was being held at the Zollamt (Customs house). (We went to register for our Anmeldung first, but the amt was not open until later.) I'm never quite certain why certain packages are held hostage and others are not, but tere is only one customs department for Berlin, so I am grateful that although it requires two separate U-Bahn lines and then a bit of a walk, it is still reachable by public transportation, as that is all we have. (I can see why the German needed to take the babystroller when he needed to pick up the huge package of clothes that we sent last time.)

When we got there, we stood in line to take a number and to make a guess as to what was in the package (after all, it was a gift, how could I be sure?). My best guess was: hot sauce or scharfe Sauce (Can you tell my German spelling is even worse than my spoken language?). Since the shipping was $55, the Customs raised an eyebrow at me in question and I just shrugged. We got our number and settled in for what seemed like it should be a 2 hour wait, based on the number of people ahead of us, but which turned out to be only 15 minutes. I used that time productively to examine the items that were displayed as confiscated in their several categories: OTC harmless medications such as Tylenol, completely harmless items such as multi-vitamins (which the powerful Apotheke industry keeps out), protein and work out powders such as whey protein (which Germany likes to keep out so it can charge 5x the standard amount and make taste terrible) and then the real items which should be kept out: endangered animals, pirated and illegal materials.

I think we were called so early because the Customs officer thought it was amusing. When he opened (with our permission) the box and saw the 14 lb jar of Louisiana Hot Sauce, he laughed. I asked what we could do in order to prevent being forced to come out here to deal with this in the future and we discussed the proper way to fill out the forms in order to minimize the chance of being called in (obviously, there's no toll on my Hot Sauce) but he said that sometimes it's just the luck of the draw and there's nothing that one can do.

Then we walked back to the U-bahn and went to register at our new address. The German had attempted to do this three times before, but the agency was on a modified strike. That's a strike when they wait until you reach the head of the (long) line and the worker tells you that the strike prevents them from doing any non-ememergency work and that your registration (and concommittant ability to purchase a parking permit and/or register for school) are not an emergency.

In this case, the strike was finally over but when we got to the head of the line with our briefcase full of required documentation (including our Anmeldung from 1 km away), the clerk informed us that without my passport or a Personalaufweis (which I don't have as a non-German citizen) that I could not re-register. Even though we had my marriage license, a German driver's license, a US driver's license and the previous Anmeldung, that would not be sufficient.

I told the German that we would stay and that he could re-register the children and himself and I would simply be a non-person. Strangely, when we got to the correct person, we had no problem in re-registering myself with the others based on the documentation that we had with us.

However, we weren't able to register for a parking permit as the letter that we had brought from the rental agency was not sufficiently explicit to allow for it. We will get another letter on Monday that states that we rent more than 6 times a year and that will be sufficient.

Then we ran off to the fitness center to replace my ID. First, the young lady couldn't find me. I suggested that if I weren't in the system, I would be happy to reverse the debits from my checking account and then she managed to find me in the system. She wasn't able to get my card done because this is Germany and she needed to contact three other poeple, promise to call us to tell us what to do, needed to be called twice (by us) and then was able to discover from the main office that she should have just given me the new ID I told her I needed. Love German customer service.

Quick lunch at a donner place, where I actually had a felafel teller and then ran back to the apartment to be there for the children and for us all to say good-bye as the German was off to spend the next 32 hours either travelling or at the airport hotel.

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