Archive for January, 2009

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Tubby Runs

January 29, 2009

It’s been one of those productive days without a lot of hitches. After finishing office duties (to be expanded upon later) – my colleagues and I went for lunch at the university cafeteria. The street leading to the cafeteria ALWAYS smells like sewer shit..it creeps into your nose and sits at the back of your mouth and on your tongue. It’s really disgusting, and not so appetizing, to say the least.

We got there late so there weren’t so many options. I went for the Swedish meatballs on a pile of noodles drizzled with tomato sauce. Well.  It wasn’t bad. Enough to hold me until I have dinner. Had a cola mixed with orange Fanta, and that was delicious. Added a few pieces of silverware to my ever-growing collection of cafeteria forks, spoons, baby spoons, and knives. I know, it’s bad – I plan to return them before I leave one day.

The worst part about eating at the mensa is the way you smell when you get home. It reeks. I got home and sat down..smelled something like funk, onions, and garlic.. smelled my pits..no, it’s not me..it’s my clothes. So gross. It doesn’t smell like you would stink when you go into the cafeteria, but something happens in there.

Soon I am moving into a bigger room, which excites me to no end. I needed to change my address with the bank and my insurance company – managed to get that done in less than 30-minutes without incident! Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Productive incident free days.

We were all going home and decided to cut the trip in half by taking a streetcar one stop closer to home – as we’re walking towards the stop there’s a tubby looking guy with a computer bag buying a sandwich..moments later I see the streetcar sitting at the stop and people loading – I ask my two if they want to try to catch that, and as I say it we see the Tubby guy with the sandwich ‘sort of’ running to catch the same streetcar and Jack goes, “If he can do it, so can I”, and we all had the same idea and ran with Tubby to catch the streetcar. Indeed, if Tubby with a bag, and sandwich in hand can run for the tram so can we. And, we made it.

Song of the Day: I Like It Rough – Lady Gaga

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Paparazzi

January 26, 2009

As assumed – the trip to pick up items in the city and pay bills, and transfer, and blah blah blah took longer than anticipated with many hiccups. Such is life.

We, the trio headed out with a quick stop for coffee along the way. My co-worker, Jack, always gets a large coffee in a small cup because the large coffee in a large cup doesn’t fill the all the way to the top. The bakery uses one of those instant machines where they just push the large or small button. Anyway, there was talk of how he feels like he’s getting more coffee by putting the large in the small cup.

First we went to the student housing admin. office to pay for transferring rooms – a whopping 10euros. The lady working for our particular dorm is .. well, she was a total bitch when I met her last year in an attempt to change from the top floor to the ground floor. However, the last two times I’ve had to see her she’s been rather pleasant. Before I could pay for my room change she told me I had to pay my rent for the current month. I didn’t understand why, but she sent me to another office. Sometimes when people say things in German and I don’t think I understood them correctly because the reason or explanation seems like nonsense I blame it on the language..”oh, I must have misunderstood” – but usually I have understood them correctly and I have to deal with something. Case in point – my rent was never paid for January because the money wasn’t there – it’s usually a direct deposit for rent and the housing people take the money out. I go to this other woman and she gives me a slip and tells me to go to the cashier to pay, and then I can pay for a room change. She tells me she sent me a letter – I said I didn’t get it. (the letter is actually on my desk, I just never opened it when I got back in town..still haven’t opened it) I think that maybe they tried to take the money out before I was paid, so I go upstairs to pay.

The cashier is a friendly little German woman with fancy blue and diamond sparkled fingernails behind protective glass. I try to pay with my German bank card..debit..the machine asks me for my PIN. Well, shit. I never use my German bank card, well, I haven’t for the last two months – and I’ve forgotten my PIN. I try two times. The cashier tells me I can only try three times or else my card will be ‘gesperrt’, or blocked. I stop and tell her I’ll try to go to the bank and get cash in hand.

We head into the city and stop at the bank – I try my card in the ATM assuming I have three tries per location – but in actuality it’s per 24 hour period. Third try is not a charm and I lock my card. Dammit!

Luckily I am at the bank and I go upstairs and tell the lady I’ve blocked my card and have forgotten the PIN..by the way, can she tell me my account balance? It’s in the negative. I don’t know why. She tells me to go back downstairs and print out my account standing – I go and do that – and then back upstairs and wait in line again.

When it’s my turn to go I give her some money for my monthly insurance bill and to pay a doctor’s bill for a student from last semester.  In the time I went downstairs and back up I -think- I have remembered my PIN. In that case the woman doesn’t have to cancel my card out and she can just reset it for me. (For a fee? I don’t know..we’ll see on next month’s statement) She resets it and tells me to try it on an ATM downstairs.

I try on an ATM downstairs. FALSCH! I got it wrong, so I stop and decide to look for the PIN in my original paperwork from opening the bank account. Hoping, hoping, hoping I was responsible enough to keep that important paperwork. Well, that will have to wait until I’m home again.

We’re in the city to get some work done – what do we do? We head to the mall to try our luck at the closest T-Mobile where we need to collect 50 phone cards. The thing about Germany is that they are never prepared for more than 10-15..if that many. Every semester it takes at least 3 or 4 trips to different T-Mobiles to collect anywhere from 25-35 phone cards. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I would think 2 trips in the U.S.

Anyway, I go to the first T-mobile while Jack is trying on clothes in a store upstairs. The first T-mobile doesn’t have any phone cards. I think they’re lying to me because they just don’t want to sell me all that they have.

Fine.

We go to a 2nd T-mobile and manage to collect 15 or so..ok, good start – if we’d been able to collect a few from the first store. We continue on with a stop at Subway. Everyday there’s a sub of the day for 2, 49 euros. I’m tempted, but resist. I go for a delicious chocolate chip cookie to hold me until I get home to cook for lunch.

Third T-mobile..they have another 12 or so cards..grrrreat. At this store we meet another American, he teaches technical english somewhere in the city and feeds the factoid that there are 551 registered Americans working in our current city. Hm, who knew? I think it’s a low number for a city of 500,00 inhabitants, but we are in the East, so maybe it’s not so low considering.

So, there’s one more option in the area, it’s the T-mobile in the train station. This one only has cards in a denomination I don’t need, so it’s also a strike-out. We need 15 more cards at this point.

Time to go home – I get there and find my bank information. Yay! Good thing maturity started a year ago. Now the problem is I need money in my account that I can now access with my pretty lil debit card. I call my boss and get things straightened out – the money will be there soon.

After lunch and a bit of aimless web browsing my account is revitalized and I walk on over to the housing place to pay. But, not before attempting to wash my bedding – there are four washing machines in the building, when I go down they all happen to be in use. Who washes at 3pm? It seems like the least likely time..anyway, I have to wait an hour for an open machine.  I go to pay and get that mission accomplished and sign my new contract for my new, bigger, and better room to come next month. Juhu!

Back at the ranch, err..dorm..I go down to wash..two machines are stopped, but the clothes are still inside..I wait for 10 minutes..they’ve already been sitting for another 10 before I even got there..there’s a bag on top of the machine. Does that mean put my clothes in the bag if I’m not here, or does it mean “machine in use” – which is pretty obvious from the clothes inside.I tired of waiting and conclude that people should set a timer to avoid these kinds of things and get their damn clothes out of the washer on time. I move quickly, putting the clothes in the bag that was on top of the machine..I throw my bedding into the wash as fast as possible, kinda nervous about my “bold move” because I don’t know if it’s standard procedure and I don’t like sticky run-ins with Germans. As I’m pouring the detergent in the machine I hear the door open – it’s a German girl, she sees me at the machine, walks out and makes a “Hmph..” sound and takes her bag of wet clothes off of the washing machine, and then goes to the other machine she also used for her 2nd load and starts unloading it into another bag. I pay to wash and peace out as quickly as possible.

Holla!

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Day Three

January 21, 2009

It’s been three days since returning to ‘work’ life. There was a meeting two days ago, one in which I took minimal notes and pondered when my next vacation days might be.

My two colleagues and I were given a few tasks for this week concerning the arrival of 50 American students coming to study abroad in Germany. On the list of things to do: pick up 50 prepaid calling cards, pay the housing people $15 “administration fee” for changing rooms, register my room change with the city, and last but not least – clean rooms that were not up to the standards of the dormitory landlord.

Which do you think would take the most time of all of these tasks? Maybe the room change registration..maybe the cleaning of rooms? I actually think collecting the phone cards will be the most time consuming. I don’t know how it works where you are, but in some cities in Germany – the businesses are always shocked by groups of more than 6. When I walk into the phone store and say I need 50 phone cards..the automatic response is, “50?!”..yes, 50. The clerk will then look through the door, pull out a small stack of cards and say they only have so many – well, I’ll take what you have. The clerk counts out what usually turns out to be between 15-24 phone cards, I pay, I leave..and head to another phone store. It usually requires visiting 3, if not 4 phone stores.

Cleaning rooms today was a joke. There was a list of 21 rooms that weren’t left in ‘perfect’ condition. My boss agreed to help clean the rooms with us minion workers – so she’s there with her big winter coat on trying to smooth things over with the landlord. He shows us what “should” have been cleaned in the move-out process last semester.

Each room comes with a desk, table, tall bookshelf, and a closet that is just as tall as the bookshelf, and a bed. The landlord wants that every room have the top shelves of the bookshelf and closet -dusted- and the heaters to be -dusted- with a special brush (he only has one brush, for a building of about 300 people), and the light fixture on the ceiling to be – dusted-. Well, 3 of the 4 things he wants clean require a ladder. Are you telling me every person that moves out goes down to get the ladder, takes it to their room and -dusts- the VERY top of the shelving…the shelf no one can see when they move in and would most likely not be checking?

Add to my confusion with the whole idea, the boss asks if there is a vaccuum for us to use after we’ve -dusted- because the dust will land on the ‘clean’ floor .. he says there is no vaccuum, and it doesn’t matter if the dust is on the floor.

What kind of logic is that? Leave dust on the floor, because that’s really the first thing you want to see when you move in & have to clean up when you move in. So, dust on the floor means clean room? However, those top shelves, yeah, that’s the FIRST thing people are looking at when they move in.

I don’t have a problem with cleaning, taking care of the nooks & crannies, sure. But, trying to make me believe everyone does this when they move out and our group should have known to do so is really ridiculous.

All this discussion of rooms went on for 30-minutes before we could even begin the process of cleaning. The landlord told us how he was sick and when he started describing what was wrong with him, well, I didn’t quite catch it. It was really early in the morning, (ok, it wasn’t that early, but I’d just gotten out of bed, so work with me) and he was speaking Sächsisch (the local dialect in Saxony, Germany) – and I just couldn’t catch it…and I didn’t know if he was saying something really serious or something rather normal because my boss had on her “Oh, poor you.” face – which could mean anything from lung cancer to a paper-cut that wouldn’t heal. She really makes this face about anything that she can’t help – so, no telling what his ailment is. At any rate, he looks pretty healthy.

We had two ladders, two buckets, four towels, four people – so imagine how we split that up. Two of us took 10 rooms, the boss and my other co-worker took 11 rooms and their own ladder.

After working we felt entitled to a good lunch, and we all headed to a döner kebap – I hate to call it ‘restaurant’ – place nearby. It was pretty good.

Tomorrow is phone card & registration & pay to move day. Yip-yippee!

Song of The Day: Dig – Incubus