Vacation Time

We are still on summer vacation.  We started late (last day of school was July 12) and we get 6 1/2  weeks for the summer. 1 more week before the kids head back to school and I can finally clean the house and it will stay clean (for 4 hours)!!! Well, at least theoretically that will all happen. Lol

Vacation in Germany is a huge perk of living here. Not just the time the kids have but the time that M gets off of work. His company gives him 30 days of vacation, which is the normal amount. Some companies give only 25 days, but those companies can find it hard to hire people. Germans love their vacation. So, 30 days is not including weekends which really means its about 6 weeks of vacation time EACH YEAR!

You are actually required to take a main vacation in the year as well. You must be gone 2 weeks in a row or you didn’t actually take a proper vacation.

Plus, there are a ton of holidays here. There is no separation of Church and State here. Good Friday, Easter Monday? It’s a holiday. Christ ascension into heaven – Holiday. It lands on a Thursday? Work 15 minutes longer and earn a bridge day, so you don’t have to use up a vacation day on Friday. That makes a nice long weekend, and you didn’t even use a vacation day.

My favorite part is – if you get sick on your vacation, go to the doctor for a note and you can actually get sick time instead of vacation time. So you don’t loose out on your vacation!

I’ve tried explaining we only get 2 weeks a year in the states. People here are horrified. Then I try explaining PTO time, where my sick day is actually docked as a vacation day or simply paid time off. Most people don’t believe me. They honestly think I make that up.

I have to admit, I love this part of being here in Germany. We took a week vacation at Spring break. The kids had 2 weeks off of school. We took our 2 weeks over the summer and toured around Germany. We will spend a week in the Fall heading north and we are still coming to Arizona for Christmas for 2 weeks.

There is a small catch though. There’s always a catch, right? You have to really focus on when the kids have off of school. Right now K’s kindergarten (pre-school) is actually shut down so all the teachers get a 3 week summer break. If I worked, we would either have to take our vacation time right now, or stagger it so we could be home with the kids.

And because R gets 2 weeks for fall, Christmas and spring break, there is no leeway to taking her out a day early or bringing her back a day late. They actually FINE you if you don’t have your child in school before or after a holiday break (unless you have that doctors note). They are very strict on education, so you need to be in school.

But that’s ok. There is enough rest time here, down time. We are learning to vacation. 6 weeks a year and I hope to see so much more of Europe!   There are so many places on my list! Paris is only 5 hours away; Luxemburg is 3 hours by car… And M wants to lie on a beach somewhere when there are so many cool cities and museums to explore. We might need more time after all.

One year later

It’s been a full year since we got on that flight to Germany. One year since we sold everything, said goodbye and followed a dream. It’s been a tough year. It’s been a good year. We struggled together and we got stronger together. We learned.

We still miss our family and friends.   But life goes on. We are making good friends here too. We celebrated our second 4th of July here. Burgers, brats, potato salad, soccer and surrounded by good friends.

We’ve been very blessed to have visitors from AZ for the last 4 weeks. It’s amazing to step back into that friendship and show them all the wonderful places we have found around here. We’ve taken weekend and day trips to show off as much of Germany as possible, and then crashed out for a couple of days as the kids (and us) rest and re-coop from museums and tours.

K is doing great at his kindergarten (preschool). He just had his big summer festival party, I helped out with face painting and donated American Chocolate Chip cookies (an unheard of delicacy apparently). He showed off his artwork and we met a few more of his friends.

R is still in school. This is her last week before summer break. Germany staggers when all of the schools take summer break so that the entire country doesn’t shut down on vacation. We leave Saturday for our big family trip! We are getting so excited; we’re renting a large van so we can travel together with our friends. I’ve planned a very big tour, we’ll see how it goes with 4 adults and 4 kids.

M still likes his job with the city of Duisburg. They really like him too and have been giving him bigger projects. He gets out of the office a few times a week to oversee traffic lights, either the ones that were just broken or installation of new ones.

And I am doing good too. Collette has offered me a few tours coming up. I’m doing 2 this fall and 5 next year for the Oberammergau Passion Play. It feels good to be prepping for a bit of work. The kids will stay in after school and in Kindergarten the whole day and M will work his magic. He’s an awesome dad.

And in-between we travel, we play together, we see stuff. Life is good.

Safety is in the eye of the beholder

Happy Mothers day!  I hope everyone had such a nice day like I did.  K drew me a picture.  He has discovered art and is now bringing home pictures almost every day.  Mostly circles, but a few he claims are hearts.  R made me jam in her class and embroidered a heart for the top.  I was so amazed by this because I knew it would never fly in the USA.

Just think for a moment, what making jam all entails.  The teacher bought a ton of strawberries (they are in season right now and super cheap and yummy).  Then she handed the kids knives and had them chop the strawberries.  She brought in a portable stove top burner and had the kids cook the strawberries down in the classroom.  She handed them sharp, pointy needles to sew with.  No one came home with their fingers missing or stabbed and no one got burned.  Because the mindset here is that you teach the kids how to respect and properly use knives and stoves and they won’t hurt themselves.

Because safety is how you view the world.  We left Arizona and a world of scorpions and rattlesnakes behind.  For Germany with mosquitoes, ticks and wasps.  That is like a trade off of venom for lyme disease and Valley fever.  Never been stung by a scorpion in 25 years of living in the desert.  K got stung by 2 wasps last summer.  Can I really claim that it’s safer?

I’ve been watching the news in the USA lately.  I’m so sad by all the gun shootings in schools.  And I keep thinking to myself, thank goodness the schools in Germany are safer.  HOWEVER.  I just moved to a country full of bombs.  Yup.  You read that right.  Every time a new building goes up, railway is laid, or subway built, the construction company must scan the ground for unexploded bombsLast summer authorities found 22 unexploded devises in the Elbe river alone.   WW2 lives on in a country were up to 10% of the ammo dropped didn’t go off and is still found every week, 70 years later.  Can I really claim that it’s safer?

Safety is in the eye of the beholder.  All we can do is try our best, protect our families and focus on the positives.   There is no one right path to take, it’s an individual journey.  And right now, my journey is sweetened by some strawberry jam my daughter made for me in school.

Driving in Germany – my interpretation

This week I’m going to pick up my new German drivers license.  I flat out admit, I was lucky when applying for my license.  Arizona has an agreement with Germany that I can simply apply and obtain my German license without a 1st aid test, proof of an eye exam, driving school and I didn’t even need to take the driving test here.  Not every state has this agreement with Germany and getting a license here can get pretty expensive – up to 2000 Euros for the school (which also helps with the pile of paperwork that you need to get through).

German’s love licenses (any paperwork really is considered a national pastime).  In 2nd grade, R will get her scooter license.  In 3rd grade, they get a swimming license and in 4th grade they take the all important bicycle license.  By 16, you are allowed to buy beer and wine (no hard liqueur until your 21 and they are really starting to card for this now).  Then after you’ve learned how to hold your beer, you can learn how to drive at 18.

Most American’s get excited about driving in Germany.  The 1st comment is always – You can drive 150 miles per hour on the all amazing Autobahn!  Yes and No. Autobahn means Highway in German.  And yes, there are sections that do not have a speed limit.  But cars here drive in kilometers and not in miles.  So when your odometer reads 150 km, your looking at about 93 mph.  If I’m being honest, I’ve probably hit that speed on I17 (but not near Camp Verde where the cops sit though, lol).

Driving in Germany is nothing like at home.  I often imagine it like one of those very structured dances, where every step is choreographed.  It can go fast, but everyone still knows their steps.

Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed while driving here:

  • There is no turn on a red light.  You can turn only if there is a green arrow, otherwise wait.
  • Germans practice right of way.  When two public roads cross at an uncontrolled intersection, then right-of-way is always given to traffic approaching from the right. This includes “T” intersections! In the US, traffic on the through street of a “T” has the right-of-way, but in Germany, you must yield to the right, even if you are on the through road.
  • Never pass on the right.  The right side of the road is for driving, the left side is for passing only.  Once you are done passing, get back to the right lane.  This is not considered swerving.  If someone is driving slow in the left lane, it is (apparently) considered appropriate to sit on their bumper until they move over.
  • If the lanes go from 2 down to 1 lane, a zipper is put into effect.  Everyone drives up to where the lane goes down, and they take turns going forward.  It’s all very polite, and surprisingly much faster to get through.
  • When stopping at a red light, stop way far back.  There are almost always pedestrians in the walkway, so you really can’t stop there.  Plus, the stop light is place in such a way that if you don’t stop farther back, you won’t see it turn green.  It really is a simple way to keep cars from stopping in the pedestrian zone, or creeping forward into the intersection.
  • When in doubt, put on your blinker.  The road turns naturally to the left?  Blink.  You’re driving out of a round-a-bout? Blink?  You’re sitting in the left turn only lane?  Blink.  Moving lanes?  Blink.  Claiming a parking spot!? Blink.
  • And last but not least – Parking is a huge problem here.  Always add 10-20 minutes to your travel time to find a parking spot.  Keep 2-5 euros in your pocket to pay for said parking.  Plan to walk anyway.

These are just of the few differences that I pay attention to when I drive around here.  This is in addition to the different road signs Germany has.  If you are interested, I found a good website that explains the rules of the road more in depth.  http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/regeln.shtml

 

Trash of a multi-step sort

I have never really thought about my trash before.  Oh, I recycled.  I was always proud how full our recycle bins were and thought I was doing a good job.  But it doesn’t hold a candle to the amount of recycling we do here.

Germany is determined to lead the world in recycling.  It certainly feels like it as I sort more trash then I knew I made.  My main trash can gets picked up only 1x a month.  And it is about the size of my old kitchen trash can – the one I use to fill up in 2 days.  It’s called the Restmull, the rest of the trash.  It’s all the stuff that can’t be recycled like diapers or Kleenexes.  To make sure you’re not tempted to throw away just anything into this trash can, it’s weighed and you are charged by the weight.  At the end of the year, you get a bill on how much trash you threw away.  We pay a monthly fee included in our rent and then at the end of the year it’ll be reconciled.  Right now I have a 45 liter trash can in my kitchen and I empty the bag out about once a week (or if it stinks).

Then you have the yellow recycle cans.  This is for all of the containers and plastic materials.  Milk is sold in 1 liter cartons (similar to the almond milk boxes at home) that are completely recyclable.  Yogurt cups, bread bags, candy wrappers and all packaging material goes into this recycle bin.  This is picked up 2x a month.  My trash can in the kitchen is also 45 liters and gets filled up more often.  I take that bag down about 2x a week.  Our house shares 4 large trash cans outside for the container recycles.  And by large, I mean probably the smallest one in Arizona.

Next we have paper material.  Kleenix boxes, toilet paper rolls, newspapers and cardboard all go into the paper recycling.  I keep a large grocery bag with all the paper.  Because paper is always dry, the plastic grocery bag works perfectly.  It’s the kind that you buy with nice rope handles. Our house also shares 4 large paper recycling cans outside.

Raw food scraps are also sent out for compost.  We have a small trash can that sits on my counter for coffee grounds, banana skins and eggshells.  Our house shares 1 biotonne – for scraps and yard waste.  This one feels easy as I’ve done my own composting for almost 10 years.  Here the city does it for us.

Glass is also recycled separately.  I keep a basket in the front closet for jelly jars, wine bottles and hot dog jars.  Glass is not picked up by the city.  This isn’t something we have a lot of, so about every other week I take the car and drive the glass with me to the recycling bins (because it’s heavy and I don’t want to carry it).  Ours are located across the street from the grocery store.  We separate it there into bins for brown, green and white glass.

Plastic bottles are also recycled separately but most of them have Pfand – a deposit price.  So juice, soda, sparkling water all come in these plastic bottles and I can get money back for them.  So those I sort into my grocery cart.  Since I usually walk to the grocery store, I have a cart on wheels to help be bring the groceries back.  So I just stick all the plastic bottles into the cart so that I take them with me to the grocery store.  At each store, they have a recycling machine near the doors (all the stores have these machines).  I get .10- .15 cents on each bottle depending on size.  But a basket full of bottles can net me around 3 euros.  Then the machine prints me out a little slip and I get that money back for my groceries.

Old clothes shouldn’t be thrown away either.  There are a lot of trodel markets (think community garage sales) for children’s clothes that can be used some more.  I also have about 3 apps on my phone where I can buy and sell second hand clothes for kids.  But if the clothes are holey or ripped, the community has a big bin where you can have the material recycled.

I certainly think a lot more about trash then i use to.  The kids have learned to always ask which trash can to put thing in so they are recycling properly too.  I enjoy these teachable moments with the kids, because I know I’m teaching them how to save the world with one recycle at a time.

 

Oh the things we miss…

I have a confession.  When we arrived in Germany we were pretty excited to try everything out.  Chocolate, bread and rolls every morning, quark, Donners, currywurst and more chocolate…  The kids have done an amazing job trying new foods and taking at least 1 bite of everything.  They fast discovered we love Donners, Pizza with salami is almost as good as sausage and pepperoni and coffee with kuchen is the favorite meal of any day.

That said, we have now been in Germany for 8 months and we are missing a few things.  Some things I can make something similar at home.  Some things I can’t figure out why they don’t already exist here?!?

In the land of coffee….  why is there no creamer?!  For a group of people that have centered an entire 4th meal of the day around another cup of coffee, why can’t I find any flavored creamer here?  I finally did some homework and learned that Milk Mädchen is pre-sweetened.  1 can of condensed milk, 1 3/4 cup regular milk, 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp cinnamon.  Viola.  Flavored, sweetened creamer for me!

And what is wrong with a bottle of Vanilla?  Doesn’t exist here.  You get vanilla sugar, or tiny little 5oz bottles of vanilla essence (don’t try that, it’s yucky), or you buy the slightly more expensive 5 oz bottle of liquored up vanilla bourbon (much better in a cookie by the way, but 5 oz does not go a long way).  The lovely huge bottle you see above was brought by my awesome parents from some Mexican flea market.

In the land of pork… why is there no sausage?  Now, if you go to the store and ask for sausage they will gladly point you to 15 varieties of brats and wurst.  And although they are good, it’s not the same as ground sausage or a good morning breakfast sausage.  So I looked it up (google is my friend) and discovered breakfast sausage is more of an Italian thing.  So, either I find an Italian butcher (which there are a few in Düsseldorf, just not that near me) or I learn to spice up my own.  So yesterday, I found a recipe and spiced up 3 lbs of ground pork to make my own sausage.  Did you know that fennel is the key ingredient in an Italian sausage?  Anyway, it turned out really good.  Not as fatty as sausage at home, probably was a higher quality ground pork but I can add some extra fat next time.  I used up a whole pound making Scottish eggs. YUM!

I am a big fan of spices.  I love mixing up my own and making my own blends.  I have made my own taco seasoning for years.  It’s super yummy.  I have a small obsession (or a large one, depending who you ask) with Mrs. Dash.  Thankfully Google has provided me several recipes to make my own… once my stash runs out.  I also have an awesome BBQ rub recipe I really like on my ribs or even on chicken.

Peanut butter is also a fun topic.  Think about how much we eat in America.  PB&J sandwiches are pretty much a staple.  Serving up apples or bananas?  Slap some peanut butter on it!  Serve it with ice cream or with your chocolate.  American’s have a love affair with Peanut butter.  I admit we used to go through 2 Costco jars every 4-6 weeks.  The dog helped.  Germans?  Not so much.  At least I can find peanut butter here… in tiny little jars.  My kids still are living on PB&J, just not at the same frequency.  And their idea of peanut butter cups?  Leaves a bit to be desired.  Thankfully, that is also easy to make.

All I need is a bit of brown sugar…  no not raw sugar.  Yes.  I know raw sugar is brown.  Proper brown sugar has molasses.  Molasses?  Its uh…  from sugarcane.  Molasses can be found on Amazon.  Proper brown sugar is not easy to make at home.  3 attempts later and I thankfully found a bag of brown sugar at a specialty Edeka grocery store.  I bought 4 bags and now I need to find more…. Probably on Amazon.  But raw sugar does not leave your cookies so nice and soft.  Soft cookies are an American thing.  Here cookies are crispy or flaky.  I have definitely found the thing to bring to any party – American cookies.

Then there are things we just can’t get here.  Mom and Dad brought us a huge box of goldfish which was promptly and happily eaten in 3 weeks (I helped, I love goldfish).  Ranch dressing is another.  A big thanks to Frau Cindy for sending us Ranch packets to make our own!

I guess creativity is the key here.  And family and friends who take pity on us and send us loves from home.  In return for chocolate.  Because… Kinderschokolade.

We have our own home!

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about our move here.  I’ll freely admit that this last few months were hard. We struggled with finding work and a place to live.  We were unbelievably grateful for an amazing Aunt who let us stay with her until we truly landed.  But there were more then a few depressing days as it felt like nothing would click into place for us.

M was pushing out multiple resumes a week, went on a minimum of 6 interviews before he finally landed a job with the City of Duisburg.  Duisburg is located just north of Düsseldorf and is built around multiple harbors on the Rhine river.  M started middle of November working for the city upgrading and repairing the traffic lights for the city.  It’s a close knit office and he’s enjoying the work.  He said it’s very similar to the work he did at his last job working with cellphone towers.  Which means that the learning curve is more about learning technical words and Germany’s codes.

We looked 6 months for an apartment in Baumberg.  We loved the city and had already made progress in making friends in the school and community.  However, real-estate there was slim to none.  Coming from the states, I seriously couldn’t understand how NOTHING could be available.  But I do need to clarify.  If we were willing to live in a 2 bedroom 800 square foot apartment on the 5th floor, then we could find several overpriced options.  We finally made an offer on an apartment that was at least 1200 sf, but 2 bedrooms.  They accepted another couple – probably someone without 2 kids and would fit /stay longer in the apartment.

The day we were rejected, we decided to expand our search outside of Baumberg and actually found the perfect place in Kapellen-Moers.  Kapellen is a small suburb of the larger city of Moers.  It is on the west side of the Rhine (previously we were on the east side), and Kapellen has 4 Kindergartens (pre-schools) and the grade school is large and expanding.  The last renters here found a new place fully furnished and was willing to sell us most of their furniture!  We purchased their couch, kitchen table with 3 chairs and a bench seat, the entire master bedroom set with closets and we bought the whole kitchen. We have 1300 sf in our apartment, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath room (read that as bath and shower only, no toilet) and 1 toilet room.  Yup, we are down to 1 toilet.  So far so good.  The apartment also comes with a huge backyard that is shared use, a maintenance guy that mows the lawn and rakes the leaves, a laundry room downstairs, a drying room for items you want to hang, or if you don’t have a dryer (a common occurrence, I however insisted on a dryer!).  Plus we have our own basement storage room (with a lock) and a separate room in the basement just to store our bikes.

 

Now, you are asking yourself why did we buy a kitchen?  Why am I so excited about closets?  When you rent in Germany, you get the walls and floor.  That is it.  You buy or bring all of your own lights (overhead too), clothing closets and even the entire kitchen -not just fridge and stove but cabinets and sink too.  Because its not part of the apartment.  Closets are not built in and if you don’t like the kitchen, or the faucet breaks, well that’s your problem.  You own it.  There are parts of that idea I like.  If the drawers don’t work, I can now replace them to my taste!  But the downfall to this plan is that when you move, it can take you a week or more just to install the kitchen.  Ordering a new one?  Up to a month for installation.  But it is quite easy to buy a 2nd hand kitchen; provided you can make it fit into your new space.

We closed on the apartment in the beginning of December.  We rented an extra car (we only have 1), and M was able to drive to work while I was able to move our 14 boxes and clothes over in a week.  And because it was December, I also ordered a ton on Amazon and had it wrapped and ready under our first real Christmas tree in our new home.

The tree was an awesome bonus.  We bought it at the tree lot across from Aldi.  Less then a block from our house, M put it on his shoulder and walked it home.  We had shipped our decorations from home and were happy to dive into boxes of familiar items.  We had plenty of toys we hadn’t seen in months and the kids played happily throughout the Christmas break.

As an wonderful surprise, my parents were able to come and visit us right away in January!  We took them to Amsterdam for a long weekend (its only a 2 hour drive from here) and I also got to see a dear friend and her children over the visit.  We enjoyed having my parents here and showing them around.  They helped us with an Ikea run and the kids were over the moon excited to play with Opa and Oma every day.

R has now started a new school.  We are about a 45 min drive from our old town and the new school is a block from our new place.  This move has been toughest on her.  She loves the space here and her own room again, but starting over again finding new friends again has been hard.  We hope the transition gets easier for her, but also know that it’ll take time.

K had found a place in a Kindergarten in Baumberg.  He enjoyed the socialization and his language really excelled quickly while he was there.  I was able to secure a spot in a Kindergarten here too.  It’s for only 25 hours a week, from 7:30-12:30.  I had wished for more time, but this will help continue his language grow and I will get a few hours in the morning to walk to the grocery store.  Right now, he throws a few German words around with me, but mostly I don’t hear how much German he knows until he’s playing with other kids.  Then I’m blown away with his skills.

A job, an apartment and schools – we can start putting down roots, meeting friends and making a home.  Door is open, you’re welcome to visit!

 

Remembering why we are here

Last week R started school. School is such a big reason we made this move. Not only do I believe that Germany has a better school system, but I also believe they value education to a level we do not see in the States.

In first grade, they have a huge ceremony and children take a huge cone to school called a schultute. Inside are school supplies, a toy and some candy. We got to see our cousin’s 1st day of 1st grade. Whole families came, aunts and uncles, cousins, younger siblings, opa’s and oma’s. There was a service at the church where each child got blessed. Then outside for pictures. Then we walked over to the school where the upper classes sang songs and preformed skits to welcome the first grade class. Then the kids finally went up to their classrooms while the parents got some new information from the staff before everyone went home to celebrate some more with the rest of the family. It’s a huge deal here.

R started 2nd grade. We gave her a schultute when she started Kindergarten in Arizona as her 1st day of school and celebrated with just our family. So this year, it was just back to school. But here is so awesome! Let’s start with the fact it’s so close we can walk to school in 10 minutes and bike it in 5. The grade school here (1-4th grade) keeps the same teacher every year, so 1 teacher moves up with her same class for 4 years. It creates a bond for the kids and helps the teacher really get to know her students. They promote independence here (a lot!) and encourage kids to walk to school on their own. It’s taken me a week, but R walked to school with a classmate this morning. She was all excited, I was a nervous wreck in tears. Tomorrow she’ll start coming home by herself too!

The school day for grade school is from 8-12:30. That’s it. After that your child can sign up for free afterschool programs. I was told I couldn’t pick for my daughter, she’ll pick the classes that interest her (promoting that independence). Unless it’s a paid program like dance or learning an instrument. Then I get to help pick. But she could choose from soccer, dodgeball, yoga, adventure playgrounds, cartoon design, cooking class, dog therapy, and a few others I can’t remember now. But all of those classes are free after school.

I do need to tell you though that is not a Germany wide thing. The city where we are living has a very progressive mayor and they are funding the afterschool programs and the pre-schools in this town. Unsurprisingly, this has driven up home values because everyone wants to live here now. Sadly, it means we are still searching for a place to live because rentable homes here are snatched up before they even get listed on the market. We are spreading the word to family and friends.

Food is also pretty well laid out here too. I send her with a small lunchbox that contains 2nd breakfast. A roll, fruit and veggie that they all get to eat in the classroom around 10 am. Then lunch happens after school is over at 12:30. So for parents who want to pick their kids up they would have to feed them. I pay 30 euros a month for the lunch program. R’s school is pretty big with lots of kids, so the upper classes eat in the cafeteria and R’s class eats in their classroom. They get real plates and real silverware – including a butter knife to eat their lunch with. Once they serve themselves what they want to eat, they put a mat at their table and then after lunch they have to clean their spot themselves.

Speaking of keeping things clean, the kids are required to bring house-shoes for the classroom. Took me a while to figure out what they meant by house shoes. It could be slippers, crocs or just slip on shoes. But basically clean shoes that aren’t bringing in the dirt from the outside into the classroom. So the cleaning lady doesn’t have to work so hard cleaning mud from the floor. Yup, teachers don’t have to clean their own classrooms here.

R’s favorite part of the day is recess. I know, right? They can play before school starts on the playground. Then there is a recesses during the morning. Then if the weather is nice, they are out 2 times after school is over too. And they have a huge garage that has larger toys for the kids to bring out and play with during recess. They have balls, scooters, I saw an old fashioned bike yesterday – you know the kind with the large front wheel and the tiny back wheel. One girl was riding around that. Then all the kids clean up after recess and put the toys back before they go back to their classrooms. Each classroom also has a secondary room next to it with games, books and a quiet area for kids who need a bit more space to do homework. It just feels so well rounded keeping kids more active.

R’s happy to go to school in the morning. I’m happy because I know she’s learning and having fun during the day. And we all love the extra recesses.

We bought a car!

Progress. Some weeks it moves so slow and other weeks is zooms on past us. The last few weeks have been slow. So many people on vacation; so little moving forward and I have been very frustrated. Several of you reached out to me after my last post and I thank you for your support.

M is still looking for work. However, the good news is that people are coming back into the office after “silent August” and we hope to hear some news moving forward in the next couple of weeks. He has been working with a professional agency to help him revise his resume and he got new professional photos to go with them. Yup, you read that right. Resumes here need your picture on it.

Meanwhile we bought a car! This was a huge step in the right direction. But I had no idea what a hoopla it was to get a car in Germany. Let me explain. We looked a couple of weeks for the right car. M wanted one that was manual, diesel and had really good gas mileage. Gas is sold by the liter here, and if you figure (vague math) 3 liters to the gallon, then the 2.47 per liter becomes 7.41 a gallon. That’s all still in Euros not even taking exchange rates into account. Needless to say, it’s important to get awesome gas mileage.

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Anyway, we finally found one on Wednesday. It’s an 2007 Opel Zafira, its 7.7 liters per 100km. Not the best in gas but certainly not bad either. The best part is that it has a huge trunk room and it seats up to 7 people. We weren’t looking for a car that big, it was just a bonus. M negotiated a deal for new tires and we were set. Once we found the car and decided this was going to be ours then we needed to pay for it. So K and I ran down to the bank to pull out cash. After we paid for the car, we received a receipt and the title. But we couldn’t take the car with us. We had no insurance or license plate. Just got to go get insurance, right?

Ah ha! Not so fast there, buster. If you haven’t got a German drivers license, then you aren’t a “real” driver. The insurance companies here will put you on the highest pay rate (think just like a teenager’s rates) because we haven’t had a German license. We get a ½ a credit for having an American license. So here I think I’m going to beat the system. I found an American company that will give me a good insurance rate as an expat. So I spend all day Thursday filling out paperwork and getting the magic insurance code so we can get a license plate.

However. I send M down to the city to register and it turns out that he needs to be named on the insurance because the car is in his name. Ok, I call the company. He can’t be put on the American insurance as a co-signer because he’s the German. And I can’t be put on the title of the car yet because I haven’t finished my green card paperwork yet. (I’m not late yet, just still in progress.) Now it’s 5 pm and the offices are closing. American insurance canceled and still no car. Thursday was a loss.

After all of that mess, we end up getting German insurance on Friday morning. Not a terrible rate, I guess not all of them thing 40 year olds are beginner drivers. Once M had the insurance code, he took that and the car title to the city and registered our car. Here’s the cool part. He got to go out to a store and they printed him a license plate on the spot! He watched them stamp it and paint the new numbers. He paid for all the registration stickers and we were able to go and pick up our new car on Friday afternoon. Whew.

I celebrated on Saturday by making 2 trips out shopping AND a pedicure with my daughter. She is excited to have pretty toes to start the new school year on Wednesday!