It’s just as well that I didn’t know about the weather when I undertook the rental agreement for the new apartment in July… Now I hear – and see – that mist is part of the joys of living in this area. There are two river systems that ensure cloudy days when the sun shines about 100 km or less in any direction from here! “The sun shines above the clouds”, joked a young visiting priest. Ah yes, that’s a good perspective to have.
Some have wondered why I chose southern Germany as my next 12-months destination… simply because of the wonderful teen memories of a happy and worry-free vacation and a long-time pen-friend that ensued. Unfortunately, although I still have the letters of this friend, I have no last name and therefore no way of tracking this person… even the internet needs some basic input to be able to assist and Germany’s telephone exchange ha changed just a tad since forty years ago.
The “Dachwohnung” or roof dwelling was freshly painted and everything in tip-top condition when I arrived. While awaiting the other household items, I stayed as a guest at the Brandenburg Convent, where I had stopped during a fact-finding week in early July. Once again I was in the good care of Sister Ancilla who spoke to Mother Raphaela regarding my furniture needs. On Saturday morning I was shown what was available and on Tuesday, the Hausmeister transported beds, closet and other furniture items as well as crockery to my new home, barely a five-minute walk from the convent.
I rented a car in order to look for a second-hand vehicle, required for work. Although there is a rich market of second-hand cars, my spending ceiling only allows for so much; I settled on a Volkswagen – a few were advertised and duly circled by Sister Ancilla who had been scouring the ad section for me. I did test-drive a 17-year old VW Golf who looked good and had some nice extras; nevertheless the sound of the engine wasn’t too encouraging. The price was within the parameters but having experienced an engine breakdown only after two weeks, while in Spain, I was a bit nervous with this one.
Giving the matter some thought, I went to see Mrs. R. at town hall to see whether she knew anyone with a car for sale. “Hmm, my son wants to sell his car but wants much more than you are willing to pay but let me check…” She promptly went online and keyed in someone she knew in the village of Dietenheim. “He is a reliable man… and he sells cars on the side as a hobby. Look here, a couple of VWs in your price range… they’re on the lot. Why don’t you give him a call?”
Meanwhile Sister Ancilla, acting on a sudden impulse, called the convent’s Renault dealer to see whether he had anything. “Guess what! I just had the idea of contacting our dealer – I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner but here you are… When I asked him whether he had anything available second-hand, he said he did but that he had an even better proposition. Renault is having a leasing promotion until the end of August that will cost you less than a second-hand car (always within my price range of course). Let me call to see when you can meet the owner.”
After calling both the dealer and the hobby dealer, Sr Ancilla grabbed me by the arm and led me to the door: “Let’s go! He can see us right now as he has a customer later on. We could drive by the hobby dealer afterwards – we can’t see him until this evening anyway.”
“Yes of course, Mrs S. will man the fort while we go. I want to be at the meeting since he knows us; we have several vehicles and have been his customer for several years.”
At the Renault dealership I was given all the pros and cons of a Twingo; test-drove it and found it to be quite good – has everything I need and very good on fuel consumption. Anyway Mr. R. guaranteed that I could return the vehicle in 12-14 months even with the three years lease. Mind, you no winter breakdown headaches – or breakdowns … period – or fear of something going wrong at each turn. I guess my Spanish car experience has left me a bit gun-shy… The fact that he won’t risk his reputation by false claims gave me some level of comfort. In a few weeks the new “baby” will arrive… the price for wanting a red car. There was one on the lot with all the extras…. And I was unwilling to add to the lease amount for those extras as tempting as they sounded.
The anxious feelings about taking on an old car and with the convent vouching for the dealer, I felt a great relief at making a much wiser decision than on my previous journey. Well okay, so it won’t be a German car, c’est la vie.
Today, one month and a week later, is German Thanksgiving. My landlady and her partner picked me up to attend an ecumenical service at the nearby village. Both the Evangelical assembly and Roman Catholic Church were sharing the pulpit in offering thanks to our gracious God. The altar area was nicely adorned with fruits and vegetables and flowers of the season, to remind us of God’s goodness and care for us. Children presented a number of skits on all that we could be thankful for and we sang songs of thanksgiving. It’s not a grand affair like in Canada or the US. Much more understated it’s more a time to pause for a moment and be grateful for all we have.
Personally there is a lot to be thankful for… Work has been steadily increasing and in my home, every basic necessity has been attended to. My landlady provided me with a new stove and range and a new fridge. The sisters have added additional furniture items where I can store my office files and English teaching manuals.
My two manuscripts have been progressing slowly but surely. What first looked like an awful dog’s breakfast is now taking shape and coherence. I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and hope to get through the edits in the next few months.
The weather has been warm and sunny, in the low to mid 20s but the nights are very cool. Today we had a foretaste of autumn. It was misty in the morning and a dull grey for most of the day. When I gasped at the thought of snow I was reassured that it would only be certain days and not for extended periods of time. Pfew! A far cry from the hot Spanish weather with no snow, at the same time this new area has other things to offer and I’ll just have to get used to the colder climate – at least in winter.
The only negative so far is the cost of health insurance. Unknown to me (and to most) is that if one doesn’t spend at least one full year in another EU country – Spain in my case – one cannot benefit of the German health care. On the other hand, it is a legal requirement to have medical insurance… Because I was shy of 12 months in Spain, the German health care will not accept me and forces me to take out private insurance at the tune of $650-750 a month!
One of the language schools is looking into hiring me part-time for the minimum legal requirement that qualifies me into the health care. Any hours over and above the minimum would still be as freelance. Let’s hope this works out!
Contrary to the experience of a northern German, I have found people here to be extremely friendly and open. Maybe because we are in the country and that the city might not have the same openness. You might hear a different opinion a few months down the road but for now I am quite enjoying the new environment and its inhabitants.
Until next time