One Month In

Mannheim

Wow! Has it been a month in Germany already? I had meant to do a not-a-new-years post, but I think the window on that was passed. Resolutions aren’t a thing I really believe in. Years a cyclic, but where we place a start and end is arbitrary. I don’t give much weight to calendars, so I don’t see new years as enough of an anchor to use to force a change of direction. This whole trip as been rooted in decisions made last year. Although I didn’t move until the end of January in my mind things have been snowballing since October. And none of this would have happened without the lifetime of choices and actions before it.

A month is a long time. This is something I’d forgotten. Stuck in routine, with work and habits decided long before it’s easy to forget how many hours (days, weeks) we have at our disposal. But being between full time commitments it’s easy to lose track of time for other reasons.

Hitting reset and starting from scratch has been daunting. There were moments filled with vertigo, but these moments of overwhelm at the scale of the change I’m making quickly passed. Mostly, I’ve taken the move with a sense of zen calm. I met some friends for leaving drinks and one of them said that they didn’t think that they could just leave the way I have. I simply replied that a life time of small differences and choices had, 27 years later, put us at different places. Maybe it was perception or a situation of our own creating. Throwing half your things away and putting the rest into boxes does interesting things to your state of mind.

So does spending two weeks without furniture waiting at the other end. There’s nothing like living in an empty space with just a mattress and no outside commitments to make you feel like your life is on pause.

Even with few distractions it’s easy to let environment (the lack of furniture) mask the actual accomplishments. I have worked out how German backing works (shit by UK standards – they often make you pay for basic services and there seems to be a lack of trust), healthcare too and recycling (not too different from the UK, but the Gelber Sack/Green Dot rules seem convoluted and unenforceable). Plus staring from scratch with a foreign language and all the small things that make a house a home. Probably some small things I’ve forgotten too. There’s a familiarity that’s completely taken for granted as a native.

Skyline Coming Soon

I’ve already had the chance to catch up with a German uni friend and been visited by and old housemate. This led me to Frankfurt to the north and Karlsruhe to the south. We did a lot of walking around Frankfurt and I think I can navigate the centre blind. I’ve also kept in touch with other friends and family remotely, and I know that others are just a few clicks away. The wonders of modern technology.

But with all this shit done I want to move on to a more focused use of my time. I’ve enrolled on the German as a Foreign Language course, so I will be able to go from giving one word to one sentence answers. I am definitely up for making mistakes talking to people, but I’m looking forward to having a working vocabulary and being able to understand sentences with more than one clause in them. That said, I’ll probably be relying on translation services for a while yet.

Heidelberg

Now I know where some things are it’s time to go exploring. It looks like there are a few interesting things going on at the DAI, and Heidelberg in general looks like an interesting place. It seems that the university circuit isn’t quite like how it is in the UK and there aren’t as many societies to do with them. I’m told they exist, but it almost sounds like you need to be introduced. Regardless of how and where I’m going to find some things to get involved with.

Robohorse in Heidelberg

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Alive on arrival in Germany

On Thursday I went to the registration office. After being seen I was almost immediately passed to someone else who spoke English. I could have filled in a form slowly, but not answer the questions in real time. Week one in Germany has come and gone, but I am now officially a resident.

The move is still a work in progress. This week our shipped stuff will arrive. I’m looking forward to having more than just a bed and a kitchen again. We will still need to fill in some of the blanks, but it will be good to having a desk, books and a place designed for sitting to sit.

I would like to be getting on with productive things, but I’ve been spending most of the time settling in and that’s ok. Moving without a solid foundation in the language (but a desire to get one) was always going to be hard. I have managed to go shopping and get food, even if it is more draining than it should be.

I have already been lightly mocked for my lack of German. I’d been told that the attendant at the laundrette would speak English. After going into the dry cleaners next door and being redirected, it turns out they didn’t and what I’d been asked to do was not the default option. After acquiring the relevant verb from the shop window (trocknen – to dry) and through saying yes/no and gesturing we were understood, but it was not graceful.

wildfirebird joined me when we collected the laundry and when asked if she spoke German replied “ein bisschen”. The attendant assumed that this meant good enough to share a joke over how bad my German was. Even with my “super Deutsch” I could tell it was well intentioned, but we couldn’t really join in the banter. Still, clothes were cleaned but we may use the self service laundrette next time.

These types of things are going to happen and are expected to happen, but I’m past the point of being overwhelmed by everything. I have learning resources prepped, some time set aside and a willingness to try. More importantly, my lack of German has not caused me to starve to death. They say that it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Now that will be interesting, I haven’t dealt with the medical system yet.

The things we keep, throw away and remember

For the past month I’ve been putting things into boxes and sorting them. Moving involves a lot of that. This time I’m moving further than before and shipping has been the only sensible way to get stuff to the other end. This has made me more critical of what I keep and what I toss, making the proces both more cathartic and more stressful.

I’ve said a couple of times that I like moving. There’s the optimism of being in a new place. You know where most of your things are and it’s the tidiest that it’s ever going to be. I moved a lot as a student and I’ve mostly enjoyed the process. But stuff does accumulate and this time we’ve had furniture to deal with. Is this what being an adult is? It was a whole lot more complicated this time. I think I should revise that statement; I like moving in.

But very soon I will be moved in and shortly after that so will my stuff. I’m looking forward to a point in time where I can, again, refer to my position as settled. But even when I have been settled there have always been things that have changed. There were a life time of events that have lead up to this move. Some of these feel timeless and recountable, but others are ephemeral and become difficult to convey once their immediacy has been lost. Especially considering I’m moving to Germany I’d like to capture more of the confusion, the wonder and other moments of simply living as well as some of the bigger picture stuff.

Yesterday I met a friend for lunch and we wondered around Spitalfield’s Market looking at the antique and pseudo-vintage stuff that was there. While we were there we saw a poster for the film Pinocchio In Outer Space, a cross over I hadn’t expected. Silly as it is, the poster feels resonant with me off to a foreign land to become a real boy. This moment might have been lost to the ether if I hadn’t captured it today, even though our conversation has left me musing over some of the things that I might write about later.

I think I got all meta. A blog post about wanting to blog more is a bit self referencial, but that’s what I’m thinking about today. I have been asked to keep people informed of what I’m up to, and that’s a commitment I’d like to keep. So this is what I’ve been up to; packing mostly. Soon I move. Maybe I’ll use the flight to write about some more things I’ve been up to. But more likely, I’ll use it to sleep. I could do with more of that.

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