Friday, January 13, 2006

Back in Berlin

Minus the medical emergency 3 rows in front of me and the woman who was being deported 5 rows behind me, my trip back to Berlin was uneventful. My exit row seat did not recline, but it was an exit row and no one sat next to me so I can't complain. One wonderful little Actifed pill allowed me to sleep most of the way but I did wake up in time to see the sun dawning over the horizon during our final approach. The spectrum of color above and clouds below were spectacular (and probably the last sunshine I will see for a while:-))

I am a mix of emotions at the moment... Sad to leave my family again, yet excited to return to the city where I had such an exciting fall. Though I have obviously been to Germany before, this trip back was the first time I was returning to a known set of circumstances-- my apartment, my fellowship, my city. It all seems very comfortable and normal, while foreign at the same time.

So that's it, I'm back! I took a nap with a duvet blanket, brought a canvas bag with me to the grocery store, watched for dog poop on the sideway and saw the following advertisement at the store. I am sure there is a crass joke or two I could make about this picture, but I will use my better judgement. Ah, back to the land of wurst!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Es hat geschafft"

With those three words I passed the Foreign Service test yesterday!

Now before you start to have visions of me being shipped off to Tashkent or Timbuktu, I should say that I passed with the same score that did NOT get me a job offer in 2002. This means I still might never get a job offer. That said, I am super excited and am looking forward to taking the German language test to increase my score and my chances of being called off of the “list of eligible hires.”

Throughout the day I felt that the test was not going well and totally did not anticipate passing. I have actually been seen ill for the last week and was seriously considering skipping the test. But I figured taking the test five times was a good number, plus the tickets to see the new baby panda at the zoo were all gone for today so I had nothing better to do.

As the day came to an end, one person after another was called out of the testing room. Finally, I was the last person left, my hands were clammy and I was ready to puke. After a few minutes the program assistant came in and said, “you’re still here?” I said yes and shrugged my shoulders. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. At the beginning of the day she said to the whole group we should say a morning prayer. So I told her I had indeed said a little prayer. She said “Amen,” smiled, gave me a thumbs-up and walked out. After a million hours (or perhaps a couple more minutes) an examiner came into the waiting room and escorted me to another room where all the other examiners were waiting. It was then that he said, “es hat geschafft,” (“you did it”.) I said “WUNDERBAR” and then the next couple of minutes are a blur. When I finally returned to earth, the examiner explained that he had served in Berlin and Bonn, hence the German greeting.

So now I am back in Foreign Service limbo. My background check will take a long time because of the contact I have had with “foreign friends and associates." Most everyone who reads this blog (minus my family) should expect a call from diplomatic security in the next few months (especially the non-Americans!)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

My time at home has led to some perplexing German-American questions that I would like to pose to the peanut gallery. Some may find these questions mindless while others might also be perplexed. In either case, you know what I have been spending part of my vacation thinking about:-)

1. I bought a pair of “penny loafers.” But since I don’t have any pennies in Berlin, should I use euros and does that make them “euro loafers?” Did there used to be “pfennig loafers?”

2. If you go on a blind date in Germany, do you use the “du” (informal you) or “Sie” (formal you?) Does the answer change if the man is a lot older than I am? In a variety of made-for-tv Christmas movies I saw in Berlin, the main characters go on their first date and use “Sie.” At what point would a couple “duzen/dutzen” each other (decide that they will use the informal you?) Does this mark an important step in the relationship?

3. My apartment lease states that I am to open the windows in my apartment for 5 minutes each day. I thought this was a joke, a funny reward for reading through the otherwise boring rental contract. Apparently not! A friend of mine is currently in a disagreement with his landlord who says that some mildew in the apartment was caused by not fully airing out the place. What!? I know no American who regularly airs out his/her house. If anything, Germans seem to be terrified of drafts so I am surprised they would open the windows in the winter.

4. Do German cars that are not automatic have cruise control? I have thoroughly enjoyed using the cruise control in my car and wonder whether manual cars can cruise. What is the German word for cruise control? Does it sound as cool?

It is with those thoughts that I begin 2006! Cheers!