Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Officially Visa'd

About 10 months after I arrived here in Berlin, I am officially visa'd. Hooray! But why'd it take so long?

I think I learned a valuable lesson. Do not confuse the Auslanderbehorde. They do not like confusing American writers who work for off-shore companies. Many guidelines need to be followed and rule books thumbed through. There is no room for common sense - only Rules!

The German system (from our perspective) makes no sense and it's bureaucracy is no doubt increased by the unhappy people who work there. Do they have to get a degree in hating people? As always - this is the time to preface how lucky we are to even be able to live & work here. I know its nuts trying to get into the US and we are the ones who decided to live here. Still - not so fun.

Luckily, during our appointment we bumped into the one nice woman we worked with before and everything went according to plan. Well, basically. There was some confusion about where exactly to go, awkward butting in line, and a discrepancy in the price of the visa (in our favor so we were ok with it :). BUT the most important thing - I got it. It's even quite vague allowing me to work as a writer anywhere in Germany. If I wasn't so busy & happy in my current position that would be quite enticing.

I do feel so sorry for making the process so difficult. Ian got his teaching visa (much more common in these parts) ages ago. Next time, I will just lie & apply for the teaching visa. Just kidding kids, don't do that.

Berlin visa
Visa what!

(But seriously - do that. )

Want to hear more about stamps & frustration at the Ausländerbehörde? 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Observations for the Kita, part cuatro

Once again, it is time for Observations from the Kita and Ian is home being lazy. This time it is because the school is giving him time off, but same difference.  Lazy.

This week Ian and the kids visited another playground so Big News! for the Kita. In case you haven't seen the vast majority of European playgrounds- they are crazy dangerous. Huge metal disks they are supposed to run on, unsecured bridges, and giant ridged gerbil wheels. They are nuts! I appreciate the German sense of personal responsibility and worry maybe we have fallen into the trappings of nervous nelly parents that grips so many American parents- but c'mon! The 2 year old trampolining into the metal siding is a bit much.

Back to Ian's kids:

  • At the new playground, Ian "helped" the kids use the spinning wheel of Death. He would help them  onto the wheel and spin them until they got off and fell over. Bad teacher!
  • A huge slide scared the oldest kid so Ian went down the kiddie slide with him.
  • Levy has been taught to give the fist bump
  • Ian was playing soccer with the kids and hit one of the other teachers on the arm. She was not amused.
  • Darius & Joshua use Ian as muscle. They take him over to a kid using a toy they want & tell him to get it for them. Especially the tractor, everyone wants the tractor
  • Ian has come to realize the swings are like a bar. If no one is at the swing - no one wants to swing. But if they are full, everyone wants to swing. 
  • Toby rules the sandbox. As the resident collector, he will gather all the shovels and cry if anyone takes one.
  • Most the kids are still mid-potty training. Taking some boys into the bathroom they dropped their pants a good 10 ft to building
  • Playing a game with an afternoon class, one little girl had trouble with the words "little fish" and changed them to "dick fish". Teach that English Ian!
  • In this same game, little Andre is desperate to be caught & be a big fish. This is a problem because no one wants to catch him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little bit of German, A Little bit of French - Colmar

Crime Scene in Bordeaux
After the Belgium beer run, we thought it was time to venture back into France. The country of wine, the huh huh huh laugh, and elite cuisine is one we have only briefly skimmed. Marseille, Perpignan, Bordeaux, Paris...most of our whirlwind through the country was spent chasing a friend.

Despite this inauspicious start - we loved France. We were prepared for the worst, but the people and place gave us their best. Some of my favorite pictures and most bizarre stories (there was either a murder or suicide in the hotel room across the hall) have happened here.

So we were excited to make it back to the country. However, it was just going to be a baby toe in as we had to start making our way back to Berlin. Los!

We chose Colmar. A mini-Strasbourg, it is a town to fawn over the adorable finishes and the combination of German & French.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do we know about Germany politics?

From the political signs littering the city, it's become apparent that there is an election coming up in Berlin. Nothing is as bad as the American campaign process at this point, but German political posters (and parties) do seem a tad hilarious.

Somehow, Ian got in a long phone survey about German politics so clearly it was time to get a little informed.

CDU Christian Democrats - Yeah, the name says it all (assholes). Major players with Merkel in the club

Green - Germans are not into subtlety. Guess what their platform is? It is pretty cool that they once planted some of that wacky tobaccy in the Reichstag garden. (I was trying to think of a slang word for weed and ended up on a parenting site for watching for drug use in teens. Died laughing!)

Die Partei - This is a joke party. They have been hosting an awful campaign of bizarre ads like this blackface ad comparing the "canditate" to Obama. We actually saw them throwing a sparsely populated party in the park today.

Piraten Partei - This is a real party. Named after pirates. "Bbased on the model of the Swedish Piratpartiet...supports the preservation of current civil rights in telephony and on the Internet; in particular, it opposes the European data retention policies and Germany's new Internet censorship law called Zugangserschwerungsgesetz. It also opposes artificial monopolies and various measures of surveillance of citizens."

This explanation is mostly in jest as we really don't know what's going on. Expats can't vote and as we have been barely able to figure our situation- let alone the political climate - we have taken a break from following the dreary and depressing world of politics.

This is with one big BUT. One of the coolest moments we've ever had in connection with the political world was when Obama was campaigning and spoke at the Siegessaule. We saw Obama! In person! Do other people remember that feeling of hope when it looked like he was definitely going to be elected? It was a great moment in my life...and it seems oh so long ago. That Obama has never come to full fruition. Maybe with another 4 years and the freedom of not worrying about re-election we can finally have the president we saw a glimmer of that day. A girl can hope...

American in Berlin

security event berlin

Police Berlin Security

Siegessäule back berlin

Still incredulous we will be seeing the future leader of the USA

Siegessäule Obama

Listen to part of his speech here (do be jealous that I watched it live)!  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's a Guest post?

I started prattling on in this blog, forcing Ian to occasionally participate, in a vague sense of documenting EVERYTHING. I am terrible about trying to hang on to every moment, permanently stuck behind the camera, writing notes so I remember the name of that cafe, brewery, person. Technology has made keeping hold of things I like easier (Hello Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter!), but I am basically an amateur at social media.

So when one of my Favorite bloggers and first Expat Interview, Jack Scott at Perking the Pansies, asked me to write a guest blog I first had to find out what that entailed. He made it easy- write about whatever I want. And I'm off!

Here is my post about Ian & I traveling to Istanbul. It covers 24+ hours on a train, passport control with guns, and the most effective weight loss plan ever!

Ian & I in Istanbul with soldier

Make sure to check out the rest of the guest posters as well and Mr. Jack Scott himself. He's half of a gay English couple in Turkey and absolutely fabulous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Belgium Beer Run

Once again, I am off planning other trips instead of finishing the one I just got back from. Let's pick up from our impromptu road trip on our Belgium Beer Run.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Wonderful Way to Live

We have had such a serendipitous perfect Berlin weekend. They are easy to come by in a city that has something happening at every hour on every corner. You start out on a vague adventure that gets flushed out to a full scale ambush on fun. To just briefly sum up what the weekend has entailed

I became addicted to Yelp in foodie Seattle and have let my use slide while in Berlin. An event this Friday may have changed all that as Ian, our friend Kyla, & I were invited to a collective of cafe, bubble tea, and cooking club in Prenzleauerberg - Babbel T. We were champagne'd, taught how to make spring rolls, fed crepes made from a organic vegetable, and collected awesome swag.

Next we wandered to Bar 23 where we got second hand smoke, then stood outside a bar talking to a hilarious bunch of couchsurfers, and finally to my new favorite bar in the hood, Frollein Langner. The signs of hipsterdom were unmistakeable - ironic facial hair, seating in a bath tub - but we couldn't resist. I absolutely loved it. And will be back. A lot.

The next day brought us a lazy "Sex in the City" (oh yes - Ian has grown to enjoy it) delicious fruit salad, and a bike ride out to feed our friend's cats. Since we had to leave the house anyway, we figured we would stop by the Huhnerhaus. It's official - we are roasted chicken addicts. We continued to their place in Treptower, taking a leisurely loop around Spreepark. This abandoned amusement park has been broken into & photographed with glee by many, but we were basically able to roll around the entire thing and even check out the cafe that now has seats made of the swan boats. (There are great shots of the park in the movie Hanna.) I need to come back for the official tour, but my interest is temporarily sated.

That night, we ventured to a Sporkful meet-up where the saturation of English speakers was almost alarming. And people were friendly! We were a little put off. We wandered back towards our place, stumbling upon a funky 5-piece band playing to the street, a share shed of for people to leave things (like candle eyeballs) and take things, a communist street festival, Asian noodle shop for 3.50, and .40 cent beers. Good god I love Berlin. Awesome is less than a stone's throw away. Ian & I celebrated with said friend Kyla over a spirited game of uno. With pictures. (I love it when we discover Shmidty hiding under the couch & promptly incorporate him in our picture making.)

Despite the awesomenest of awesome weekends, there is a heaviness that weighs upon us today. No matter that we don't have any sad personal stories about 9/11 (luckily),  or that we currently live abroad and have not been forced into daily media reminders about the anniversary, we feel the solemness. That kind of tragedy, it's something you feel in your bones.

There is a storm tonight in Berlin. It tantalizes and terrifies.Thunder like this doesn't happen in Seattle.

Thinking about the turns life can make, how certainties can become an illusion in an instant, I just feel thankful to have today. To have my family & friends and this life to keep looking froward to. I think about the level of personal loss & realize all my pettiness and worry has no place in the larger scheme of things. I am free to be silly. I can be irreverent. I'm here. And I am thankful.

Spree Park pics from:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Observations from the Kita - Drei

A little light on news from the Kita this week cuz Ian took 2 1/2 days off. Hmph. Partially this is due to the doc system in Germany where if you go in with a sniffle it is automatically 3 days off. Glorious if you have paid sick leave. If you don't, like Ian, not such a happy wife. And you know what makes a happy life? Happy wife. Keep it in mind Ian.

Anyhoo, the chilins did manage to entertain in the little bit that he saw of them this week.

Mila has forgiven Ian for being big & scary in light of his bringing in the bunny. We'll see how long that lasts...

Ian asked Darius if he remembered the bunny coming in.
What color was it?
Who brought the bunny?
Ian's mutter!"
Awesome. I am ancient to a 3-year-old.

Ian wakes up one of his afternoon class's naptime by opening the windows and crowing "Cock-a-doodle-do"! A new kid wasn't so sure about the Kita, but was sure about Ian after that performance. He wrapped his hands around Ian's neck and hugged him.

Lazy Ian

Stories from last week, and the visit from the the bunny - Herr Schmidt.
Until next week's Observations from the Kita...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Moving 6 times in a Year has Taught Me

Yes - we have really moved 6 times within Berlin this year (8 if you count our 2 temporary stays on friend's couches - one planned, one not) . Why? I think the prominent point is that we're crazy.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Perfect Summer Day...in September

As summer draws to a close, I feel like

"Wait! But I didn't have all the summer fun I wanted to! The outdoor movies, swimming at badeschiff, and bike riding are still on the to do list!"

The seasons don't seem to care, but we are fighting back. Having just moved to Neukoelln (post about our near constant moving coming soon), and both of us finally having bikes, it seemed the time was right for an epic bike ride. Mind you, it's been since we were last in Berlin that I rode a bike (approx. 3 yrs ago).

Nervously, I saddled up and we were immediately off on a blissful ride down a trail and out into the openness of Templehof. Recently an airport, it has been shut down and is now a truly enormous park. We had walked through a tiny portion of it with Ian's dad & took some pics, but the park is made for cruising around by bike. It felt amazing to be riding on tarmac that once sent planes into the air and watch the Fernsehturm change in appearance in the distance.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Observations from the Kita, Part Duex

Ian has so many funny stories from the Kita, I thought it might be a nice recurring post. I started recording what he says about the class throughout the week to get the best of the best of the craziness.

Actually- let me first take a step back and explain more thoroughly what Ian does. He has talked about his work ever once in a while here, here, here, and here, but I still had no real concept of his job until I got to visit him a few times. He has 2 different teaching positions:
  • As an English teacher that has 50 min classes in which he has a set curriculum. His classes are pretty young at 4 to 6 years old. he only has a few afternoon classes
  • As a English teacher assisting Erzieherin (nursery teachers) at a Kita. This is basically taking care of children at a daycare, taking them outside, feeding them, brushing teeth, and singing songs. (Ask Ian "How to sing a Rainbow" - he loves that one). This is where he spends most of his day, with the same group of 3-year olds. He has become quite fond of them and they are where most of the stories come from.

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008