The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Monday, October 6, 2008

I'm Here!

Lucy and I have made it successfully and safely across the pond. We were all a little worried about how she would do given that she is 18 years old but once we finally arrived at Nikki and Bert's apt and opened the door to her kennel she came strolling out and immediately began exploring. She has never been a timid cat and has never exhibited normal cat behavior such as hiding under or behind something for a while when presented with new surroundings. She thoroughly investigated every room in the apt and it didn't take her long to decide that she approved. She has settled in quite nicely in the past 3 days. N&B's friend Nadja came over for dinner last night and, by the end of the evening, was trying to figure out how to hide Lucy in her bag when she left.

After breakfast on Saturday Bert left for an over night camping trip with a couple of his friends so Nik and I went to the Farmers Market down the street and came home laden with fresh fruits and vegetables including half of a fresh pumpkin that Nikki used to make a delicious pumpkin soup for dinner last night. Around midafternoon we headed out for the weinlesefest (wine harvest festival) in Neustadt.

The best part about arriving in Germany at this time of year is that I'm just in time for the Neuer Wein (new wine). It is the first press of the wine before it has gone through all the filtering processes that prepare it for final bottling. It is cloudy, sweet and packs a real punch. Nik and I ate and drank our way through the Fest and then did some window shopping (and lots of yakking!) before returning to Ludwigshafen on the train.

Yesterday we slept in and puttered around the apt until about 2pm when it was time to go check out my potential new apt in Mannheim (Mannheim and Ludwighafen sit side by side, separated only by the Rhine river). One of Nikki's colleagues at the Business College in Heidelberg had mentioned in conversation that the small apt above her house is seldom used anymore because her grown children don't visit as much as they used to. Lots of houses here look like single family homes but are actually divided into three separate apartments. Barbara and her partner, Peter, live in the ground floor apt and they rent the lower apt to a young couple with a baby. So when we began seriously talking about my moving to Germany Nikki thought of Barbara's comment and asked her if they would consider renting the top floor apt to me for the duration of my stay. Barbara said, "Sure, bring your mother to look at it when she gets here." So we made an appt to be there yesterday at 3:30pm. I wasn't getting my hopes up about it before we looked at it. We hadn't discussed the cost of rent or whether it would be OK to have a cat or if there was internet access or any other particulars.

It is the cutest apt! It's fully furnished, right down to dishes and linens. The largest bedroom is as big as the living room. The kitchen is small but very well designed. There are hardwood floors throughout and the bathroom was recently renovated. The overall feel of the place is just very cozy. Perfect for one person, but with room for guests (hint, hint!). There is internet access in the apt, cable TV that even includes a few English language channels, Lucy is welcome and in the basement there are two washers (one for each of the two smaller apts) and a shared dryer. The stairs to the attic are right outside the apt door with plenty of room for extra storage.
And the cost for this most perfect apartment? 300 euros (about $450) a month which includes internet, cable and all utilities!! OMG! What a steal, uh, I mean deal. I think the reason the rent is so low is that, unlike the lower level apt, they have never used this apt to generate income. It's always just been for visiting family so all they are really asking for is the cost of utilities and a bit extra. Lucky me! I'm very excited about my new apartment. Lucy and I will be so comfy. Door to door from Nikki's place to mine will be about 45 minutes via Strassenbahn (streetcar). I agreed with Barbara to take the apartment in January.

In the meantime, Nik and I have hatched another scheme. We had originally decided that I could do 'private' English tutoring as a means of support. But without the proper training and qualifications I wouldn't be able to do anything official (the way Nik does). Then Nikki found a four week program from Cambridge University that is taught at the Berlin School of English (in Berlin, of course). It is called CELTA (Certification for English Language Teaching to Adults). To qualify for English language teaching positions a person must either have a university degree or be certified to teach English to adults. CELTA is, worldwide, one of the most widely recognised certification programs. With CELTA certification I could teach anywhere except at a university. The cost is a bit pricey but doable for me and it is something that I could use in the future as well as while I'm here in Germany. So I have already requested an application package for the class that begins on November 10th and runs through December 5th. If I am accepted, I will spend the next month here in Ludwigshafen with Nikki and Bert and then the following month in Berlin. Just a couple of weeks later will be time for Christmas at Ruth and Bill's in Colorado with all the kids.

My other goal while I am here is to improve my German. The last time I lived in Germany I could get by with my limited German, because we were here with the military and part of such a large American community. My language skills are sufficient to 'get by' but not to function comfortably in a total immersion environment. I'll probably take actual German language classes but, at the very least, Nikki is going begin tutoring me at home.

So, those are my plans for the next couple of months. Never a dull moment, these days!


Sarah said...

Sounds heavenly!

Shauna said...

Oo, lucky you and Lucy and Nik! :) Sounds like a meowvelous plan and so much fun! Taking a German class or two is a great idea, too, and a great way to meet people.

Well well, Steve and I will just have to come visit..!

Michael said...

Fun Fun Fun!! And what a time to arrive. :-) Congrats on the apartment and the CELTA discovery. Good move!