Monday, October 30, 2006

In England

My first post from the United Kingdom! The invasion is complete, the entire c'lonial force is now in the same country. So much happened in the last few days, I don't have time for a full update right now. I'm at the library and only have a short amount of time to use the computer - we don't have access from at home yet - so just a few short points to tell you about:
  • I love our neighbourhood. This is already pretty clear to me. It's pretty rural, but it makes a great change from the busy street we used to live on with the heavy traffic noise.
  • I still go to the wrong side of the car to get in, but am fairly okay with driving on the wrong/left side of the road. In fact, we were watching TV last night and I was confused as to why Tom Hanks was driving on the right in the movie.
  • Still several things left to do in Germany, like officially deregister, but everything can be done from here via email or fax. I was so busy the last few days I'm really happy to have left, to be honest. I think homesickness will hit sooner or later though.
  • Paperwork in the UK is just as bad, if not worse, than Germany.
  • At a later point, I will have to write about how frustrating I find it to have switches on all the electrical outlets.
  • Lots of boxes still to unpack, but G made a good start without me and we did some more on the weekend. Part of it is finding a good place to put things, not just unpacking them.
  • Getting used to an English keyboard again is amusing to me. Lots of misplaced letter Zs instead of Ys and funkz punctuation.

Time's up on the computer here, so more another day. Hopefully a post about the last frantic 48 hours in Germany.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Furniture has arrived

I have received word from the advance force that the supplies have caught up with them.

In other words, G sent me an sms this morning to say the moving van arrived. The boxes and furniture are being unloaded as I type this. On my end, I'm covering our tracks with a special team of painters who will remove all traces that we actually lived in our flat for the past 3 years. The kitchen that technically should be removed (see previous post) might give the game away however.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moving Update

Am over at my friend's, D's, place and using her computer, that's why the update in such a short period of time.

Both G and I didn't sleep too well the night before the movers came, too nervous about the whole thing. In the end, our worries were pretty unnecessary, as it all worked out well. It will cost us more than they estimated (what a surprise) but we'll see what happens there. They came in the morning and I was telling them what to pack and they kept asking, "Alles? Es kommt alles mit?" (Everything? Everything is coming with?) I think the 4 flights of stairs and 4 rooms of stuff was quite daunting for them. Oh well, better them than me, that's all I have to say. We did tip them well at the end though.

Friday was pretty tiring for us too, as we were busy sorting things to throw away from things to keep, started ripping out the carpet (we have to take it out as part of our rental contract), took a bunch of junk to the junk yard, making sure that stuff we need like passports didn't get packed and pulling down shelf units that were built-in. The carpet was easy to rip out, but the backing underlay is horrible stuff that has basically turned to powder in several places, so we only did a few pieces and cleared out one room before deciding to leave it until Saturday. For me, the big tiring thing was going up and down our stairs a dozen or so times over the course of an hour or so. Being 7 months pregnant and many kilos heavier than usual made that a real workout. G had to go up and down many more times than me, poor thing. The actual easy thing that I was a bit nervous about was taking stuff to the junk yard, aka Wertstoffhof in German. You have to be a Munich resident to be allowed to take things there for free, so I had our rental contract with us, and you are only supposed to be allowed to dump 2 cubic meters per household per day, so I was worried they would measure us to see how much stuff we had. Yet another thing I was nervous about was that it would be a huge line-up to get into the junk yard and take forever. In the end, it was the easiest thing we did all day. Drove straight in, no one measured our stuff, no one asked for proof that we live in Munich. Dumped our stuff in the appropriate bins and drove straight out.

Saturday was another full-on working day for us. We ripped out the rest of the carpets and took down the shelves in our closet. This was such a futile thing to do. The shelves were very useful and I'm sure anyone who moves in will want shelving in there. But the way German rental contracts are, you have to take everything out. Everything. We have to remove the kitchen in the flat too, according to our contract, but we are hoping to sell that on to the next renter so we are leaving it for now. Also as mentioned, we needed to remove the carpets. So basically, you rent a flat that consists of walls, roof and floor. Oh, the toilet, bathtub and sink are staying too, so you don't have to bring your own john at least. Anyways, the shelves were a bit of a pain to get out; one because of the futile nature of the business, two because the people who put them up used a zillion different sized screws with different heads on them to put them up. So I had to keep changing the head on the drill to remove them which really slowed things down. Finally we got them down and did two more trips to the dump.

Oh, you may be wondering where we are staying in the meantime, since our flat is totally empty. A friend of ours is on holidays right now and kindly offered his place during the move. 3 cheers for TJ for being such a generous guy, we really appreciate it. I'm sure several of our other friends would have offered us space, in fact I think some did. But it's good not to intrude on anyone and also to be able to come home at the end of a day like Saturday and just shower and then hang around in your pyjamas without worrying about socialising with anyone.

Today is G's last full day in Munich, he flies out for good tomorrow morning. My flight still isn't booked, as I have to arrange when the flat transfer to the housing agents/landlord. That can't happen until Friday, as the painters are in Wednesday/Thursday next week. Soooo, sometime before November is still the best answer I can give there. Ah well, eventually we will have the full contigent of C'lonials for our attack upon Britain...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Last German home post

This is my last post from our flat in Germany. The movers come today, so the computers will be packed up. I might get a chance to log on before England (I'll be around until at least Wednesday next week) but not again from this address. Wish us luck with the move!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Last minute #1

I'm labelling this post last minute #1, as I think there might be another day with lots of last minute things to do. I'm going to keep it short, because of this.

Tomorrow the movers come. So today is the last chance to sort out junk that we don't want anymore from the stuff we do want to take. It's amazing how much stuff you can collect that you just never get around to throwing away. G. had an obsession of keeping the boxes that things originally came in. After throwing out about 20 boxes of various sizes and shapes and keeping 2 to repack in, I think he may be cured of the habit. Of course, I'm not much better, not tossing random bits of photo-copied teaching material, because "I might use this in another class". Well, it either should be filed or chucked, not left on a shelf for 18 months to collect dust.

The painters are coming in a few minutes to give us an estimate of how much it'll cost to repaint the apartment. The Hausverwaltung (the people who look after the building for the landlords) want our two pale yellow rooms painted white of course. I told them that I talked with my renter's association and they said that the yellow is okay because it's not a horrible shade, very decent. Well, the guy didn't agree, but I'll see what the painters say. He said on the phone it would take 2 coats to cover it. If it's 2 coats, I'll do it, but if it's more, too bad, they are getting yellow and we can fight about it. I also need to do all the final cancellation of stuff and faxing today while all the machines are around to use. We aren't taking the phone because the UK doesn't have ISDN, but some of the connecting cables and so on might go missing during the move. I learnt an interesting German saying on Tuesday: "Dreimal umgezogen ist wie einmal ausgebrannt," which means moving three times is the same as burning everything once. Very interesting and applicable in a few different ways. Both for throwing things away, the ensuing chaos, the loss and breakage of possessions, and maybe also the idea of having to start from scratch again.

Tonight is our farewell to the band we play in, The Pullacher Blasmusik. Yes, they are an oom-pah-pah band. I'm busy baking muffins for the occasion. I think that this is going to be the hardest goodbye for me. The band has been part of my life since my third month in Germany - basically I've known them longer than I've known anyone else in Munich, and I've had regular contact with them for 13 years, there's no one else I can say that about. Being in the band made me feel so much more a part of German society, it was proof to myself that I wasn't simply living in a little expat bubble community. Geez, I'm tearing up just writing this, I'm going to be a mess at band tonight.

I had my last OB-GYN appointment here in Germany on Tuesday. Everything is okay, she said I'm okay to fly still, thank god. I don't even want to picture having to take the train. So, if anyone from Cookham is reading the blog, I'm looking for a doctor, midwife and place to give birth, so any personal recommendations you can make will be appreciated!! It'll be only 6-7 weeks until my due date when I get over to England, so the situation is rather urgent. No, I don't have the exact date of when I'm flying out yet, probably mid to late next week. It all depends on how quickly I can organise the flat here.

Hmm, not as short a post as I planned, but lots happening to tell you all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

1 good thing, 2 potential good things

A stressful morning, but the afternoon is shaping up to be better. I just got an email confirmation of my visa for the UK. So I'll be allowed to live there. G picks it up at 2pm and I'm guessing his is confirmed as well. So that's one good thing off the stress list.

The potential good things are about the apartment. I phoned the agency that looks after our building for the landlords, putting forward the idea of the landlords buying the kitchen we have in the flat. It belongs to us, meaning we could take it with us, but as we have no use for it, it might as well stay in the flat, so I offered that to her. She said she would have to check with the landlords and see the kitchen, but she didn't give an outright no. The other good thing was, once I told her that we will be out of the flat by the end of October, she said she would bring the agent in charge of finding the next tenant along and if they can find someone for November, we would be able to get out of our rental contract early. Tomorrow they will come by to take a look at the kitchen and the flat.

So the only stress now is to tidy up enough not to shock them at the haphazard state of our flat, with boxes everywhere.

Sleepless nights and stressful days

Have you heard of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale? Also known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, it's a rating system to determine how much stress you have in your life. Different events like death of your spouse or major change in social habits are weighted on the scale (100 and 15 points, respectively) and you add up all the events in your life over the past year to see how stressed you are. There's an interactive version too, if you don't want to add it up yourself. I projected a bit ahead and included the birth of the baby and having moved plus the other things, which puts me at a moderate to high level of stress. Considering that the last while before all of this, my stress level was probably mild to low, that's a lot of stress.

Right now the move is the thing that has me stressed out the most. There's so much to do in such a short window of time. This is the second night in a week I woke up and wasn't able to go straight back to sleep because my list of things to do kept pushing into my brain. Trying to keep track of everything is pretty tough, but today I'll be making a master list, so hopefully waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, "Don't forget!" will ease off, once I know it's written down as on a to-do list.

Today G. is in Düsseldorf for an appointment at the British embassy. This is one of his major stress points, applying for our resident permits. He had a big thick folder of papers with him, so hopefully everything they need to see is included and therefore we can get the permits glued into our passports this morning and have them straight away. Otherwise, it might take a bit longer, which is what has G stressed out because if they retain his passport, he can't go to the UK until he has it back, which could interfere with work. That's worst case scenario, which I don't think will happen, because we do have all the necessary paperwork for them. None the less, it's a stress until it's ticked off the list.

Not much anyone can do for us at the moment to reduce the stress other than keep their fingers crossed for us (or if you are German, press your thumbs) and wish us luck!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Confirmation of the niceness of Germans

I talked about before how when I twisted my ankle, no one offered to help me or ask if I was okay when we were in England. I said this was the opposite of my experience in Germany. Well, I had that confirmed again last night.

I was walking down towards the central pedestrian zone in Munich, right near Marienplatz. I was talking to G. on my mobile and wasn't paying close attention to where I was going. Or rather, not paying attention to where my feet were going. I stepped on an uneven grate and fell down. Fortunately not twisting my ankle, but going down pretty fast like a sack of potatoes. I wasn't hurt, and as it was a busy street, I picked myself up pretty quick. But even as I was getting up, about 3 people out of the dozen right near me were already rushing over, to see if I was okay. Several others were hovering, making sure I got up. I was still on the phone to G., so I smiled, said I was okay and kept walking, with nothing more than a scraped knee and a blown dignity.

This isn't meant as a dig at the Brits, but rather as proof that the Germans are friendly and helpful, something I don't think they are often credited with being. Hopefully next time I fall over in England (which is bound to happen, knowing me) I'll have better things to report.

As an aside, G. says the baby will have to learn walking from him, since I'm obviously not very good at it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First night

After taking posession of the house yesterday, G. spent his first night in the new house. We had thought ahead enough to pack him his sleeping bag and mat, but not enough ahead to pack any paper plates or a cup. Fortunately there was at least toilet paper in the bathroom! He'll manage, this is the guy who has overnighted in caves in the past.

G. has a very positive opinion of the place and says that the new landlord sounds very friendly on the phone, so it's all good. I asked G about the floor and a couple of the little things we wanted fixed before we moved in and that's all been taken care of too. He said, "it's done, but not to German standard", which means it's fine, but it doesn't look brand-new. When you move into a property in Germany, even just for renting, the place normally has to be and is immaculate. Fresh paint, no dust or grime, no recent signs of repairs, no mold in the grout, no build-up on the taps, etc etc. I'm not much of a detail person, but after 13 years here, I can easily spot things now that other nationalities possibly wouldn't even notice. A couple of small chips in the paint on a stair bannister for instance. In Germany, that would need to be fixed. In England, I don't think anyone would make a fuss about it. Both attitudes have their positive and negative sides. With the German one, you get an apartment that is in tip-top condition. But it also means you have to do a lot of work to leave the apartment in the same condition when you leave. With the English one, there's a more relaxed attitude towards "wear & tear" damage, but it also means the place you get might be a bit run-down. I'll give you my opinion of how the place in Cookham looks once I get there...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Minor annoyance - nothing to read

As I said in my last post, it's now arranged that the movers will do the packing. But one thing we did pack before we knew about that was all our books. I'm very much a recycle-reader, I'll read the same book more than once. And I read pretty fast, so I go through them quickly. Well, I've read everything that hasn't been packed up and am now facing going to bed without any reading material. I could read one of the books we've left out for sale, but there's good reason why we are selling them and not taking them with us - because they aren't that good in the first place. At least not to us. And I've already read a few of the more palatable options in the pile, now I'm down to the Dan Brown and Michael Crichton pulp. Bleh.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Moving quote

Yesterday a gentleman from Donath International moving company came by to check out what we had to move and give us a quote for it. Interestingly, it was the managing director himself who came by. I guess he isn't such an odd person to do the quote, he obviously knows the business, but it still seemed unusual somewhow. Today we got the quote, as did G's company (who are arranging the movers). Both me and G's office team leader thought it was quite reasonable. Best of all, the quote included the cost of packing. It's really negligible in the costs of things. So screw packing boxes! I'll let them do it rather than busting my butt to get things packed. Still need to do a cull of everything, which is nearly as tough as packing itself. And of course, there's probably a couple of boxes we'll want to pack ourselves. Don't need the movers going through all our underwear, as an example.

The price they quoted us, for moving stuff down 4 flights of stairs, taking apart furniture and putting it back together at the other end, packing boxes at this end (not at the other) and moving it the 1142km was €3800, including tax, insurance, etc etc. A lot or little money? You decide.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

First of the big goodbyes

Yesterday was the first of our group goodbyes. We did our last run with the Munich Hash House Harriers. It was a nice run/walk through the Ebersberg Forest near Kirchseeon. One of the things we'll miss living in England - easy public transport to wilderness locations. Okay, the Ebersberg Forest isn't exactly wild per say, but there are wild boars living in it, and it's easy to find yourself in a remote spot. We gave the Hash group laminated song sheets for the down-down circle as a good-bye present. Don't worry if you don't understand, what was important was that the other Hashers understood and appreciated them. They in turn gave us a Bavarian and Munich calender, two cute little porcelain dolls in Bavarian traditional costume and a bunch of pictures of all of them, which is what we had requested. The dolls were to represent how G and I looked on our wedding day.

After dinner at a local restaurant, we said our goodbyes to everyone. Lots of hugs and kisses and hopefully visits on both sides. As we were going home, G was a bit down, obviously more saddened by the whole thing than me. Which is very ironic, considering I'm the one who has been Hashing in Munich for well over 10 years, as compared to his 4. But it's probably the fact that he's going over to England on a regular basis for work, so the reality of the move has sunken in to him. For me, even though there are moving boxes all over the house, it's still not quite real. It'll probably hit me hard when it does though. Munich has been a big part of my life, and the Hash House Harriers too.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mental relief and side topic of Slough

I want to comment on how surprised I was to find a big burden off my shoulders after knowing we had a place to live. It obviously was important, but I didn't realise how important until after. It's one big unknown factor that is no longer unknown. It's great to be able to tell people where we will be living when they ask their usual assortment of questions. When we will be moving is the next unknown to solve. The other good thing about moving to Cookham is that for people who know the area, they usually are very positive and have good things to say about it. Whereas, if we told people we were moving to Slough, I doubt their reactions would have been so positive.

For my non-Brit readers, Slough (pronounced to rhyme with "plow") is a town between London and Maidenhead with a very poor reputation as a place to live. Deservedly or not, I couldn't say, I've personally never been there. But when a British Poet Laureate wrote a poem to bomb the town during World War II, you get the feeling that this place hasn't been a favourite of anyone's in a long time. If you watch the British version of "The Office", the series is set in Slough, with the opening credits showing one of the industrial estates there.

For my Brit readers, I can tell you that most people from where I come from in Canada wouldn't rush to live there either, as a slough (pronounced "slew") is usually defined as a small, stinky creek that has very little water movement in it. Hence the stink and also lots of algae. So either way, poor Slough loses out.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

We have a house!

The first step in our infiltration plan is complete - we have a found a base for our c'lonial headquarters. Our credit has been approved, G. is just negotiating the date we take possession. We want to push it back a bit, they of course want to push it forward. I'm guessing we'll meet somewhere in the middle.

So, we'll be living in Cookham Rise. To help you to know the area, here's a couple of photos of the town and area around Cookham.

That's not me hugging the tree, but I know this tree very well. Right there, in the shade of it, is where I dipped my swollen ankle into the Thames to help it. As you can see, it's a lovely spot.

The High Street in Cookham.

The walk down to Marsh Meadow, a nice nature area right along the Thames.

If you want to see more pictures, the Cookham website has a pretty photo tour that shows some of the major sites around the town. In fact, it was the great information that the Cookham website provides that was one of the factors that helped us to decide that it would be a good place to live. So for their efforts, they now have a permanent link on the left.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The title for this post has been directly lifted from my previous blog, Zee Wedding. An interesting glimpse into what it takes to get married in Germany as a foreigner. Well, I found it interesting. Of course, it was my marriage, so that helped.

But the title is just as appropriate. People kept asking us when we were getting married and now they keep asking us when we are exactly leaving. I wish I knew. I know they aren't asking because they want to get rid of us, but rather because they want to be certain not to miss us! At least that's what they keep telling us, har har. But honestly, we don't have a date yet. We have a place to live theoretically, but not yet absolutely. Still waiting for them to approve our credit rating or whatever it is they do. Today I finally arranged when I will stop working, so until today that wasn't sure either. Our residence permits also have to be approved and stuck in our passports before we go there permanently. Oh, I nearly forgot getting everything packed and moved! So, fingers crossed, all that will enable us to go sometime in the last week of October to move. You'll know more when I know more.

On another note, I want to shortly comment on the fact that I now have Google Ads on this blog. It's hardly a huge income maker, I made all of $16 on Zee Wedding. It's more there for the fun of passively collecting a few cents here and there. I do want to say though, if you are contemplating it yourself but aren't sure about it, go for it! I had to change a few things with the new blog and combining it with G's sites and the support I got from Google Ads via email was extremely good. Quick, reliable and flexible, I can't praise them enough in how they helped me, even when there were problems due to my own incompetence. Really, very helpful. And no, they didn't pay me to write that either.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Terminator

Next week I will be playing the role of The Terminator. No, not a remake of the 1984 movie, with me starring as a pregnant cyborg from the future. Rather, the terminator of contracts, memberships and other assorted fee-paying associations.

It's actually rather incredible how many things there are to cancel. Phone, internet, language teachers' association, renter's association, apartment insurance, DAV (German Alpine Club), private liability insurance are what I can name off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's more.
Some will be easy to cancel, like the renter's association. Others will be sad to cancel, like the DAV. It always made me feel more like an outdoorsy-person belonging to the Alpine Club. And if you live in Germany (or Austria for that matter, they have the same) and go hiking regularly in slightly hilly areas, I can only recommend it.
I'm hoping none will be difficult to cancel. The phone and internet are the two I'm most worried about, as Deutsche Telekom (no link for them, the jerks) isn't well-known for their fabulous customer service. I can imagine calling them Monday to cancel for November 1st and having them turn off the telephone on October 3rd, a holiday here. That, or somehow thinking I want to cancel Nov. 1, 2007. Really, that's how incompetant I've personally found them to be. British Telecom will have an easy time of it, as the bar has been set very low.

I'll be back. With another post soon.