Monthly Archives: October 2013

My life in an object

Auto Atlas Deutschland EuropaWhen a friend back home emailed me a workout at my request, she suggested I find myself a 10-pound weight. I had given her the parameters: I want to stay in shape while we’re in Berlin by doing indoor workouts that won’t disturb our ornery neighbor downstairs. I have no equipment at my disposal. Could she help? Her reply was a screenshot of a workout she’d led with fellow rowers back in the Twin Cities, and it included “TGUs,” which she suggested I look up online. I learned that TGUs are Turkish Get-Ups, in which you lie down and then get up off the floor while holding a weight over your head.

I looked around our sparse apartment for a 10-pound weight. Certainly nothing we’d packed in our suitcases would come close to that, as the heaviest things we’d brought for our year’s stay were our winter boots. I turned to our landlord’s shelves, half-populated with a random assortment of history books from his university days. One book stood out:  a hardbound Reader’s Digest Auto Atlas for Deutschland and Europa. I lifted it and saw that it would stay closed if I held it by its spine. Sure enough, it would become my new workout companion. Continue reading

Looks like I’m an expat

Expat Focus Top BlogThose of you paying close attention may have noticed a small logo that now appears on the right side of “Lost in Berlin” from the “Expat Focus” website. The good people over there decided to add my blog to their compilation of Expat Blogs from around the world.

I guess it’s fair to say that I hadn’t thought of myself as being an expat until I started reading other people’s blogs and experiences and realized that I’m writing about similar things. The only difference may be that I know I’ll be going back home after a year, while many people have pulled up stakes and moved their whole lives to a new country indefinitely.

The Expat folks asked if I would do an interview with them that they can post on their website. I just sent it off and thought I’d post it here as well. It is now available on this website. Continue reading

Small world

Quael dich, quad rowing boatHave you ever had a friend disappear from your life, only to return at the most opportune moment?

How can it be that I lost the friend who brought me to Minnesota in the first place over 20 years ago? And found her again in Berlin?

The other day, before my family and I trekked over to the visa office, I was reading an article in the New York Times about how outraged Germans are that American intelligence has been tracking Angela Merkel’s phone calls. “Not a good day to be an American applicant for a German visa,” I thought, as I reached the bottom of the article.

And who turned out to be the contributing reporter from Berlin? None other than my old friend Mel, a fellow rower on the Bucknell crew team. Continue reading

A brush with bureaucracy, Part II

visa

Interesting that “fiktion” is part of the German word for “temporary residence permit,” but that’s just the English major in me talking.

We returned to the Ausländerbehörden for our follow-up visa meeting yesterday, all five of us, plus our friend the professor who proved so helpful last time. We took the kids out of school early for this; German class, math class and Schülerläden were all skipped in favor of our visa meeting. Our experience this time around was more productive, though consistently inconsistent and in a few ways flawed to the core.

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Queen of the road

bike lightBerlin streets are exhilarating on a bike. As a pedestrian I thought I’d never want to ride one in this city. That could be because we saw a bike accident within our first hour of arriving in our neighborhood in August. Not so much an accident as a slow-motion collision between auto and bike, the car backing up into the bike, the cyclist shouting at the driver, a mom with a small child strapped to a rear seat just a few feet away. The dad was still upright but getting dragged backwards as the car backed up. The driver quickly realized his error, threw it in drive and sped off, and the biking family was rattled but intact. A little unnerved, we continued our orientation walk in which I was planting all kinds of misinformation in my brain, mainly which direction was north and which was south, along with a renewed fear of riding a bicycle in traffic. I’m still trying to undo the faulty messages I received on that walk.

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Saturday

Gravity-tether-is-broken-640x360On Friday night I took S and C to see Gravity at the cinema in Potsdamer Platz. It was in 3D and it was outrageously expensive, but we did it anyway because I couldn’t figure out if it would be in English at any of the other theaters where it was also playing, and for whatever reason, we needed a movie and a destination that night.

I won’t give anything away by saying that there are moments in the film in which we see the astronauts tethered to something or someone else. We also see them untethered.

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A brush with bureaucracy, Part I

Buro resident visa office berlin

It’s a welcoming sort of place, as you can plainly see.

I have been remarkably blasé about our visa appointment. M, a stress monkey. I have been convinced there will be no problem; why shouldn’t we be allowed to stay in this country? We have everything we need to show we are a solvent family and will not be a drain on the state. What could go wrong?

As an American, you can stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa. If you plan to stay longer, you need to apply in person for a visa. There are two steps to this process. The first is to register your residence with the police.

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