Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

Highs and Lows

The past few weeks here have presented me with way more challenges than I thought possible in such a short amount of time but I think everything’s starting to even out. I’ll try and sum everything up in terms of highs and lows. (I’m starting with lows because really, everyone wants to end on a high note)

Lows:

– After 5 weeks of asking my name to be put on the postal box, it wasn’t, and I found out I haven’t been getting any of my mail. Included in that would be 1. my German bank account information and ATM card (-1) 2. my German train discount card (-1) and 3. a package from my mom (-1). I don’t usually crave oreos and peanut butter but as soon as someone tells me it’s on its way, I am checking the mail twice a day to make sure I don’t miss the package slip. Score: Germany 3 Colleen 0

– The changes in weather are nuts. Last weekend was in the low 70s and now I’m lucky if it hits the high 40s. As if the weather itself wasn’t bad enough, my sinuses have decided to revolt against me leaving me inside and sleeping most of the weekend instead of off having fun European adventures. Germany 4 Colleen 0

– I was supposed to get my passport back after 2 weeks with my visa in it. Instead, I got an email saying I needed a biometric picture (yeah I had to look that up online) and proof of health insurance. As far as I’m concerned, no one else had to do that. Thanks bureaucracy. So that left me a total of about 5 weeks, in a foreign country, without a passport. Germany 5 Colleen 0

– We’ll refer to this as “the washing machine incident”. I have somehow prolonged doing any laundry until this past week. I worked up the courage to ask about the laundry room (which is locked far away in a dark corner in the basement and consists of one, yes one, laundry machine). I was told it would take about 30 mins for a wash cycle, which is fine. I had 3 loads to do and the first load still wasn’t done after an hour so I figured something was wrong. A total of 90 minutes later it’s finally finished and I’m so thankful pulling my clothes out of the machine. Throw in the second load, head out of the dungeon, and run into the equivalent of an RA, except they’re all 50+ year old Fraus. She asks me if I intend on returning the key soon because she’s closing the office so I somehow have to find a way to speed up my laundry. Fast forward to an hour later, me frantically trying to open the door to the laundry machine, failing, and breaking off the handle. Great. Now I’m trying to put the handle back on the machine/am freaking out about my clothes in the machine/am wondering if I even get to do my 3rd load, and I know there’s nothing left to do but go find the RA/Frau. No one’s in the office, so I go across the hall and find her watching tv.

Me: Hi, Sorry to bother you, but, um, I can’t open the door to the laundry machine

Frau: *sighs because I’ve interrupted her show* The wooden door to the room (clearly thinking, you’re dumb, you have a key) or the door to the machine itself?

Me: No the door to the actual machine

Frau: Well I never do laundry here, no one really does, so I don’t know how it works.

Me: (Great why doesn’t anyone ever tell me these things) Ooookay…. Well can you try and help me?

Frau: Okay fine. (waddles downstairs, me trailing after her. Gets into the room, tries to open the door but the handle is cracked in two so obviously it comes off). What’s this?

Me: Oh it looks like the handle’s broken (Okay I’m a little reluctant to admit it was me because I don’t know how anything works and all I really want are my clothes. Do you have any idea how hard it is to go that long without clean clothes?!)

Frau: (now enters the phase where she treats me like I’m five. Including using a childish voice) Well it wasn’t broken this morning, and now it is, what do you think happened?

Me: (stuttering because this woman instills the fear of God in me) I-I couldn’t open the d-d-oor and I j-jjust tried to pull the handle a-a-and I guess I pulled t-t-too hard and um…. I’m really sorry… T-there was a (lack of vocab again kicks in…) a break in the handle, I-I mean it- it was already broken… *silence*

Frau: Well now you’ve broken the whole machine. I can’t open the door without the handle. You can’t get your clothes. The machine is ruined. We’re going to need a whole new one. Did you pay a deposit?

Me: What? I-I don’t know. I just asked to use the machine and they gave me the key to the door

Frau: Well you’ll probably have to pay for a whole new one. The Housemother will be in between 7 and 8 tomorrow morning so you’ll need to go see her then (on my day off.. really?). But I hope you’re ready to pay for a new one.

Me: oh… okay (then I run upstairs and proceed to have a breakdown based on all of the previous events and call my sister on gchat. except I can’t even do this in the privacy of my own room because I don’t get internet there so this is all happening in the middle of the hallway) Germany 7 Colleen 0

 

Highs:

– I now have my name on the mailbox and receive mail, including my bank information which I had to ask them to resend (+1), my train card is on its way (+1) but there’s still no sign of the package. Germany 7 Colleen 2

– I found the equivalent of a CVS (+1?) well I’ve stocked up on cough drops, Kleenex, and am getting no less than 10 hours of sleep per day this weekend. Germany 7 Colleen 3

– Got my passport back, complete with visa. Free to travel the world!! (+1) Germany 7 Colleen 4

– I get internet in my building! No, not exactly in my room but I no longer rely on public wi-fi in bookstores and the library to get internet access. Let the skype dates begin. Germany 7 Colleen 5

– Yeah I’ve really got nothing for the laundry incident. Except the fact that my sink’s really clean since I had to wash my whites by hand.

– I’ve gotten wonderful/hilarious email and facebook message updates from friends and family and they’re all great. Thank you so so much, all of you. Also I somehow got ESPN3 to work very sporadically last night and watched my first portions of a football game since last year, and I got to see BC almost take down FSU. But it was a great game to watch. (+1)

Final Score: Germany 7 Colleen 6

In spite of everything, I’m not ready to throw in the towel and come home yet. I was talking with one of my friends the other day and the truth is, this year is not a ‘study abroad’ round 2. There are no pre-packaged groups of Americans waiting to be your friends, no one to hold your hand and show you how to do things to get by. Moving to a completely different city, different country where you don’t know anyone is extremely difficult. I was very ready for the teaching aspect and I’ve actually found that to be one of the least challenging things. The hardest part, is making your own life out here for a year. But as my friend said, at the end of it I’m going to be ridiculously independent (even more so than before) and be able to appreciate everything I’ve learned over here.

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October 17, 2010 - Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Colleen, I am glad that you are keeping your chin up and not letting the daily grind get the best of you. If it is any consolation, the weather in Los Angeles is chilly, overcast and drizzly. I think it was in the 50s today! Hopefully, things will look up for you now that you can travel the high roads of Europe. Love, Aunt Kathy

    Comment by Aunt Kathy | October 17, 2010

  2. WOW!!! What an eventful time you have been having over there! So did you have to buy a new washer?! If it makes you feel any better..Jay and I were locked inside of our house last night…the door got jammed and he had to drill out the lock to get the door open so we could replace the handle!
    It looks like you are gaining on Germany though and having so much fun! Keep enjoying those experiences good and bad and just remember how you will laugh as you look back on those events that really pissed you off!
    Love ya! Jenny

    Comment by Jenny Gaspar | October 17, 2010

  3. Hi Col! I’m sure your luck will turn around for you real soon! You’re a fighter and a survivor – not to mention the lethal combination of being German and Irish! By the way, ever since I read your conversation with the “Frau” I’ve had the song in my head “Our House….in the middle of our street. Our house….” There’s a line in the song about “our mum she’s a house frau….” If you’ve never heard the song, then nevermind…..I just finished working 11-1/2 hours and I’m punchy – busy Halloween season at Tootsie Roll! Take Care and we’ll email you soon!
    Love and miss you!!!! A.A., U.M. and T2 (and T1 in absentia)

    Comment by Auntie Anne | October 21, 2010


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