04 March 2009

Charlotte's questions...

The lovely Charlotte, an expat blogger in Western Germany, has started another interview meme round, and one with very thoughtful questions (which is why they took me a while to answer).

Here are the rules:

1. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment, and I will send you some questions (although probably not as good as Charlotte's!).
2. Update your blog with the answers to the questions and link back to the original post.
3. Include the rules in your post.

1. Before you moved to Germany, you were a full-time working mom. Do you miss your job, and what would your ideal job be?

That's really an interesting question because I have had several different careers and have several different qualifications. I worked on Wall Street (during the S&L scandal and crash), I opened and ran my own fast food restaurant, I worked for a Big 4 accounting firm, I was in Treasury for a state agency and I had a real estate license (which has just expired).

I enjoyed my last job (at an agency) partly because, while I was a WOHM (work out of home mom), it offered me good benefits (not great) and flexible hours (allowing me to go early and come home not too late). In addition, I love playing with money, although I generally prefer doing taxes for sheer enjoyment;).
I never thought that I would stop working, but after my younger daughter was born it just seemed to make sense in terms of both the childcare situation and the desire to come to Germany for several years (made no sense to go back to work for only a few months until leaving again). I do miss the quasi-Beamtor status.
However, I find that being a SAHM here in Berlin is pretty darn busy work, especially with my German course. What with shopping every two days, dealing with an apartment bigger than our house in the metro NY area, and trying to handle everything while proceeding mainly by foot, I find that every hour of the day is more than filled.
Every now and then the thought of working here crosses my mind (because in Berin opportunities do exist for me, even with my poor German) but I look at how it would infringe on my time with the girls, require me to bus them to school and have a nanny or find a nanny whom I would trust to drive them, and lose all the precious moments that I am only starting to enjoy (because it really does make a difference when one drops them off and picks them up) and I say: No Way. Quality of life is one of the reasons that we are here and a major facet of that is the ability to be happy on a single income.
When we return to the US (whenever that may be), I will probably go into real estate (after renewing my license) because as a transactionally compensated field it can be both lucrative and extremely flexible and now that I have tasted the joy of "retirement", I will want to maintain this type of flexibility if possible. My ideal job, however, would be Treasury but with a 25 hour work week, so I could get the girls to school and be there for them afterward. Since that will never exist, working flexible real estate hours while enjoying the ability to be there for the girls as I choose and they need is as ideal as it gets.

2. I am so envious that you live in Berlin, while I live in the Burg. What are the five best things about Berlin life?

I could fib and say all sorts of glamorous things--- after all, I did eat at Marametto on Valentine's Day, an extremely cool experience with molecular gastronomy--- but the reality is that I am pretty boring.
Even so, the great part of Berlin (and the reason we chose to stay here rather than move to the far better weather around Duesseldorf) is that even a boring person like myself can have great fun here. So,
  • There are volkshochscules all round me and the JudischeVHS is just down the way. I can get to class within a few minutes.
  • That might be considered a subset of the fabulous public transportation system here. Although it took me a while (and a few cab rides home) to realize that the transport system isn't 24 hours, it's still pretty darn good and one doesn't need a car for an ordinary life (although for moving children around it helps). I love hopping on bus or train with my monthly pass and traveling as I will.
  • I love the amenities for children (although this is true of all of Germany in some ways). I have playgrounds around me in all directions and sizes (5 within 2 blocks) and the Zoo has the best playground of all. The kitas here are welcoming and one can find a place to be happy with relatively easily (apparently unlike in the former west) and there are many bi-lingual and international State schools: for English, French, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew and more. That's hugely important for us.
  • Because Berlin is such an empty city (so physically large and yet with so few people in it) it never feels crowded or claustrophobic and except for a few specific events (as some films at the Berlinale) one can almost always get tickets or entrance to interesting events and cultural activities even at the last moment. That's particularly important to us as we are babysitter dependent and tend to be last minute deciders. And there are very many cultural and interesting activities to tempt us.
  • Resources: I can find multiple (I am in two) English language book clubs, Anglophone ex-pats to chat with and ask advice of, and even a stitch and bitch group, all quite easily. In addition, I can find halal stores, Asian food shops, Italian lebensmittel and even the German equivalent of Costco all quite close by
3. Money is no object. Describe your dream vacation.

I am afraid that if money were no object, I would just stay on vacation with my family, forever. Assuming that there really were a required end though, it would be a 12 month around the world tour family tour, complete with lesson plans on laptops for the kids and a nanny to help out, so the German and I could get a bit of culture and adult entertainment.

It's hard to think without a budget, because when I dream, there always is one, no matter how extravagant. When one gets around-the-world air tickets, one must travel in the same direction (either going East or West, no back tracking allowed) so that is how I've been making my plans. West to the States and driving (with a trailer behind) from NY to Vancouver, but with multiple stops along the way and definitely not missing out on New Mexico or the Redwoods. Then a hop to Hawaii and some camping and climbing. Stops in Asia, Oceania... my brain reels. Some months driving through Europe again and seeing what I have never seen while camping and cooking and eating and drinking locally... I need at least a year to plan it.

Failing that, two weeks at an all-inclusive tropical resort with diving and babysitting;).

4. You are an avid reader. What was the last book you read, what are you reading now and what's next on the agenda?

Truthfully, I read several books at the same time. On the respectable level, it was This Must be the Place by Anna Winger (subject of a later post that will show the real coolness of Berlin) and on the genre level I am reading the Cast in... (Courtlight, Secret...) series by Michelle Sagara and very much enjoying it. Next serious books will be for bookclub, March and Oscar Wao: I am looking forward to both. I have a very eclectic taste, as you can see.

5. Barack Obama's report card by G. Tell us how the Prez is doing in his first month.

What can I say?
As I watch the world spiral into what seems to be a real Depression, worse than any crisis that I have ever seen, I am tearfully grateful that the man in charge is decent, intelligent, well-read and compassionate. Until I really see something to break my view I will continue to believe that he is doing the best that he can as quickly as he can, within the confines of a system that has flaws. We can all have desires for pristine philosophical thoughts, but in this world of real people I think that what really matters is to try to fix the system while protecting the people already caught inside its tears and holes. I think that is what President Obama is trying to do and I see him starting to pull against the terrible rip tide.


Charlotte said...

Great answers, G, and LONG interesting ones too! I have read March and I adored it, and have just started Oscar Wao.

I agree that it is wonderful that the US has a person of integrity as its leader right now.

Anonymous said...

And Charlotte... that's why it's taking me so long too - your questions are so good!