Saturday, 31 October 2009

Week Two In Deutschland

My second week has been mostly dominated by work - I have been working until 6 or 7 every night at the office and then taking work home with me too. There is a lot going on at the moment and there are some things that need to be done as quickly as possible so I have taken it upon myself to throw myself into work the only way I know how. I am enjoying the work although some of the stuff I have to do right now is a little monotonous and quite tedious but the stuff I am doing right now is not what I will be doing long term - there was a massive need for this work to be done quickly and I am probably the most suitable person to do it given my skillset.

I have not really been out anywhere this week as I have been so busy with work but I did pop out for a few beers last night in my local, the Trio pub. I didn't leave work until just after 7 last night and went straight to the pub - it took me 45 minutes to walk there so the first beer was all the more enjoyable! I had my work laptop with me so spent a couple of hours trying to get a little ahead with the work. I know my employers don't expect me to be putting extra hours in away from the office and the official requirement is only for me to do 40 hours a week but I am just not that type of person; I would rather sacrifice my personal time to ensure that the work is done in time.

I headed home at about 10pm last night so that I could get something to eat. Once I had eaten something and freshened up (with the assistance of a very strong black coffee!!) I headed back to the pub to see if I could get a few games of pool going with the locals. Sure enough there was a group of guys in there happy to play pool and table football so I ended up drinking with them until about 3am! I have never been particularly good at pool but I suddenly seem to have gotten the knack. I won a few games and was delighted to learn that not only does the winner stay on but the loser also has to buy the winner a drink! My choice of drink was tequila shots and I had quite a few!

I got to bed at about 5am after playing far too much Football Manager - I have a save going with Fiorentina at the moment and I am really enjoying it. I started out as Frankfurt manager but got offered the job after about 6 months so thought I would give it a bash; best decision I have made on the game for a while!! I expected to have a feel a bit off this morning when I woke up given what I had drunk but I feel remarkably alright. I feel a little tired but a few strong black coffees have helped that!

I am now on my way to Frankfurt to meet my stepmum and her sister from the airport as they are coming over for a few days to see me. It will be nice to see them again and have a little bit of familiarity for a change. Although I am making friends here it's not quite the same as people you know well and it makes a big difference to be able to have a fluid conversation. I am trying to learn German but have very little spare time at the moment and I am also waiting for Rosetta Stone to download so that I can start using that - I have literally no vocabulary in German so need some help!

Most people here speak at least broken English which is good but I always feel bad not being able to speak with them in their language. I am picking up some words here and there and I am finding German words easier to pronounce but I think it may take some time before I can have decent conversations. When I was learning French and Italian I had so much spare time and also had lots of opportunities to speak the language with people. I also had a basic vocabulary in each of the languages which really helped a lot.

I have been looking at apartments on the internet this week as I would like to find one that will allow dogs so that I can bring Roman over here. I am really missing him loads and can't wait to be able to take him for long walks over here. One big problem I have with the apartment I am in right now is that there is no washing machine. This wouldn't be such a big problem if there was a launderette in Heppenheim but there isn't so I have to get myself 5km into Heppenheim and then get a train to the next big town and then wait for the washing. This means that washing takes up a day at the weekend as well as costing me far too much! I am taking the opportunity today to do a load while I am in Frankfurt - two birds one stone...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My First Week In Deutschland!

My last few days in the UK were pretty enjoyable. On the Friday I went to Liverpool in the daytime on a shopping mission determined to find myself a nice new Emporio Armani laptop bag. It seems that the range of Armani in the UK is nowhere near the level it is in Italy (unsurprising when you think about it of course!) and I didn't have any joy whatsoever! I did find a bit of a bargain in the USC shop in Liverpool One in the form of a Henri Lloyd laptop bag for just £30! Given that I had expected to spend a lot of money on the Armani version I decided then to go on a bit of a shopping spree as I also needed some new gear for work.

I went up to Liverpool with one of my friends, Stevo. The last time we went to Liverpool on a shopping day we ended up going to one shop then a pub followed by another shop and another pub! We were very drunk by the end of that day and even went out in Chester that night! This time we concentrated a lot more on the shopping as I only had limited time to get everything sorted in time for Monday. I wanted to get some trousers and shirts but ended up only being able to find one shirt - I am quite particular about the shirts that I wear; short sleeved with a pocket, never different! The shirt I found was a Henri Lloyd shirt but I also found another gem whilst walking around.

We decided to have a look in the Liverpool shop as we were passing and I found the new white Liverpool shirt with a really cool touch to it - instead of a traditional name and number on the back it had the number 9 and "El Nino" printed on the back in a really cool font. It cost a lot at 60 quid but it was worth every penny! This now brings my collection of Liverpool shirts to 7 so I have one for each day of the week now! After we had finished shopping we decided to go to the Wetherspoon's near St John's Market for a few pear ciders before heading off back to Chester.

I also took the opportunity whilst I was in Liverpool to meet a girl, Katie, who I had been chatting with for a while on Facebook from Liverpool but had never met. We spent an hour or so in the pub with Katie chatting before we had to leave as we had a night out in Chester with a few of my friends to partake in! It was nice to finally meet her after what must have been about 6 months chatting online. I think that this was the first time I have ever met anyone like this and I don't think I would have done it before I had gone travelling.

After I had been back to my parents' house I took a shower and had something to eat before getting ready to go out for the night. Rich, Nath, Stevo and myself were all going out and we had arranged to go out just after 10pm when Rich's girlfriend, Lisa, got in from work. Stevo arrived at my parents' house just after 9pm and we walked to Rich's house to have a beer before we went out. A friend of ours, Paul (who we all call Dude!) came to pick us up. We were hoping for him to come out with us but he is a taxi driver so can't really afford to take a Friday night off but at least I got to see him again before I left the UK.

We had a real good laugh whilst in Chester and stayed out pretty late; I think it was about 3am before we decided to head off home. We played a bit of a game throughout the night too - each time someone bought a round they had to buy a "gay" drink and nominate someone to drink it. There were some quite strange drinks being bought for a group of lads! In the first place we went to myself, Rich and Stevo immediately started what we call "dickhead dancing" - if you can't have a laugh at yourself who can you have a laugh at? Nath is a little shy so he didn't really want to as he was a bit worried about what people would think!

When I got home I decided to take Roman for a walk (yes, at 3.15 in the morning!) so walked with Stevo to his flat from my parents' house. As we were walking an old friend, Emmeline, called Stevo so I arranged to go round for a brew. It was an interesting half hour as she also has a couple of dogs. To be fair they all got on quite well but, upon reflection, maybe 3.30 in the morning wasn't the best time to be reintroducing them! I left Emmeline's flat just before 4am and walked home with Roman - it's been a long time since he has been walked at that time in the morning (I used to do it quite regularly after a night out as I felt guilty leaving him alone all evening!) but I think he appreciated it.

On Saturday I arranged to meet Katie again, this time in Chester, and met her off the train with Roman shortly after 2pm. She had said she wanted to meet him so I asked her to come down and spend the afternoon with us. We walked over to the meadows near Handbridge with him and sat talking for an hour or so there. There were a lot of other dogs about but Roman behaved very well until a guy decided to let his little rat-like dog come straight up to Roman off his lead. You could see by the way the dog approached he was slightly aggressive but his owner was a proper tosser. He seemed to think it was amusing that his dog was daft enough to try and have a go at a Rottweiler - I doubt he would have found it so amusing if I didn't have proper control of Roman and if Roman had a vicious streak....

After that we took a walk around the city walls - it has been a while since I have done that and it is a good walk at about 2 miles in total. Katie had never been to Chester so knew very little about the place and it gave me the chance to play tour guide once more! I enjoy showing people around and it's good when you know a bit about the place where you are. We then walked down towards the station so that she could get the train back to Liverpool. She had just missed a train so we sat in the beer garden of the Town Crier for a bit having a drink and this also gave Roman an opportunity to have some water. In total I think we spent around 4 hours together and it turned out to be a really nice day, even if it was a bit cold!

Saturday night was a bit of a chill out night for me - I don't really get hangovers anymore but I certainly felt a little bit tired after a heavy night the night before and not the most sleep I have ever had. I can't really remember what I got up to but, knowing me, it was probably watching football or playing Football Manager or surfing the net - these are my usual relaxation routines so I doubt I strayed from them on this occasion!

On Sunday morning I went back up to Liverpool, this time with Roman, to spend the morning and some of the afternoon with Katie again. We had clicked quite well and it is always nice getting to know someone new; it was just a shame that I would only be in the UK for such a short space of time. It is often the way though that you meet people you really connect with at inconvenient times. It was really cold in Liverpool all day and, like an idiot, I had neglected to take a coat with me! We sat about for most of the time in a park just outside of the town centre chatting and, again, it was a nice relaxing day.

I headed back to Chester just after 2pm - I had been promised a Sunday roast and there was no way I was going to miss that after about 3 months without one! I love my food and nothing quite compares to a good Sunday roast. It's the thing, other than Roman of course, that I miss the most. It always seems pointless cooking one just for myself and the washing up afterwards is never nice - at least if there are other people eating you can normally con one of them into the washing up on the grounds that you cooked!

Sunday evening saw my first game of football in 3 months too - I played for the team I used to play for on Sunday evenings. Unfortunately the opposition didn't turn up so we had to play a friendly game. We were actually lucky enough to get two games as one of the teams didn't show up for the game after us either so we stayed on. We didn't perform very well to be fair so I guess it was actually pretty fortunate that the designated opposition didn't show up as that means you get a 5-0 win by default. It was nice to get a game again after so long not playing but I will certainly be looking for a team to play for in Germany.

Monday was a bit of a rushed affair as I still needed trousers and shirts for work and also had to do loads of washing and drying in time for leaving for the airport. I did the washing in the morning and headed into town with Nath and Stevo around midday. I managed to find a couple of shirts (again Henri Lloyd) and, eventually, managed to find two pairs of trousers that I liked. I also managed to pick up some Timberland gloves - Germany was not as warm as Italy and I knew that the winter time could get quite cold so I wanted to be prepared.

Upon returning to my parents' house and checking my tickets I spotted that the airline I was flying with stated you should arrive for check in no later than 2 hours before the flight time - I had presumed that check in opened 2 hours before check in so quickly had to rearrange my lift to get me there in time. To make it worse, I hadn't done any packing but luckily Nath and Stevo helped me out a bit and we managed to get everything sorted a couple of minutes before my lift arrived!

I had to wait around for ages in the airport and was pretty hungry so went to a restaurant there for a chicken tikka masala and a cappuccino. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the quality of the food but also with the size of the portion. I had been expecting something pretty basic and fairly small but it really was quite nice! I also spotted an Emporio Armani laptop bag in the duty free section of Manchester airport for 200 quid - I was proper gutted about that but in a way it had turned out well as I had managed to get plenty of decent clothes for work.

My flight left Manchester at 6.15pm and I arrived in Frankfurt at about 9pm local time. I then had to get a train to Heppenheim which was just over an hour. By the time I had located my baggage and located the ticket office it was about 9.30pm which meant I didn't arrive in Heppenheim until just before 11pm. I couldn't find a taxi there so my new boss, David, drove down from the hotel to pick me up. It wasn't very far away but I really didn't know where I was going and I was also carrying 28kg so didn't really fancy the walk anyway!

The hotel, The Park Inn, was quite nice and, luckily for me, they had an ironing room so I could iron some clothes for work the next day. It wasn't the best iron or ironing board but I managed to get the creases out of my clothes anyway. I didn't get to sleep until about 1am and had to be in reception for 7.30am to meet David to go for my first day at work! Lack of sleep seems to follow me around no matter where I go and I rarely get more than 6 hours a night these days - it's not through choice though!

Work have been really accomodating towards me in my time there - they sorted an apartment out for me to move into on Tuesday and David gave me a lift home Tuesday night so that I could go and get some shopping. The apartment is reasonably nice; it only has 1 bedroom but the lounge is a decent size as is the kitchen. I was pleased to be able to cook myself a good meal - after so long in hostels it really was a treat!

I have been picking up a few words of German throughout the last week and am now able to count quite well, name all of the days of the week, name all of the months of the year and ask a few basic questions in German. I am downloading Rosetta Stone so that I can learn more quickly but it is quite difficult to pick up when you have literally no vocabulary! Luckily, most people here speak pretty good English so it has not been a totally alienating experience so far but I am keen to develop my German skills as I always feel bad not speaking the language of a country I spend time in.

Over the weekend I went to the local pub near to my apartment and made a few friends there. I even went to a nightclub, called Apfelbaum (The Appletree) with a woman who drinks in my local pub and we were there until 6 in the morning! I was surprised at how good the place was as Heppenheim is not the biggest place in the world but there were 3 sections playing different music - R&B, 80s and dance. I am looking forward to going there again soon....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

It's Been An Action Packed Few Weeks, Sorry For Not Updating Sooner!

Well, where to begin! Lots has happened since I last updated my blog and I feel I must apologise for not updating sooner but the only internet connection I had available was really poor - every time I tried to do anything my connection got cut and I lost everything I had done so I got to the stage where I gave up! Confession time - since my last update I have not actually kept a diary either so a lot of this update will be from memory and, consequently, there will probably be quite a lot missing. Maybe the best way for me to do this is to focus on key events as it is really hard to remember in what order and on which day things happened.

I ended up staying in a hostel in Roma for around 3 weeks and, I have to tell you, I was pretty sick of hostels by the end of this 3 weeks! Hostels are really fun places to stay if you are moving around but the minute you stay somewhere for a prolonged period of time everything changes. Sure, you still get to meet a whole bunch of people but the new experiences tend to dry up a little if you know what I mean. You find yourself going to the same places with people and the conversations begin to take a similar trend.

The 3 weeks in the hostel weren't exactly fruitful for me either. I must have sent off around 50 or 60 emails to people that had advertised accomodation online but only ever got 4 responses. 1 of these responses ended up being a room share with a girl who didn't want to share with a guy, another was outside of the city centre but had no washing machine and was overpriced when you take into consideration commuting costs, another one seemed alright but was a little small and the last one turned out to be a scam - the pictures were really good, location was excellent and the price was really good but then the guy wanted me to send him a deposit before he sent the key! Yeah right!

As for work well this wasn't exactly the easiest thing to come by either. Although I have quite a bit of experience in the job that I have been doing I have never studied for it. As a result, nobody in Roma was prepared to even entertain me for a job as they insisted on candidates having a degree, regardless of prior experience. I found this particularly frustrating as I know how capable I am of actually doing the work that would have been available to me. The only types of job that I think I would have been able to get there would have been either bar work, pub crawls or hostel work. These jobs are not particularly awful but the pay is and it would have meant I would have been living on about 100 euros a month at the most and the hours would have been ridiculous.

I was resigned to the fact that I would have to accept one of these types of jobs when I got an email out of the blue from a guy I used to work with asking what I was up to and whether I would be prepared to relocate to Germany for work as he may be able to hook me up with something. We emailed each other a few times so that I could get more information about the role and he could get more information about my current situation before I agreed to speak to another director within his company regarding the role. The following day the other director called me up and asked me whether I would be prepared to fly to Frankfurt to meet with him. I agreed and he booked me return flights for the very next day!

The meeting, which was more of an informal meeting to give us the opportunity to get to know each other a little more than a formal interview, went really well. We seemed to share a fair bit of common ground and I think that he was impressed with the way in which I answered a lot of the questions he put to me. We sat talking for around 2 - 2.5 hours before parting company and I headed back to the airport to fly back into Roma. I was really impressed with the lengths that he had gone to in order to meet with me - they paid for the plane tickets and all other transport connected with the trip, it wasn't cheap let me tell you!

After I had spoken with him I decided that I was going to take him up on the opportunity of work, if indeed the offer was forthcoming. It was a bittersweet moment for me really - although I wanted to stay in Roma and had never even contemplated moving to Germany it was becoming apparent that life in Roma would be extremely difficult without qualifications and the potential offer in Germany would be a very good one that I would be a fool to turn down. When I left the UK I pretty much gave up the career that I had worked so hard for with no guarantees about the future and the job in Germany represented a way for me to continue my career at a higher level and also means that I do not have to return to the UK - this was one of the major things about me leaving, I didn't want to live in the UK any more.

At this point I decided that I would go to Perugia to visit the American girls who I had met in Sorrento so called Jordyn to arrange it. The first night I spent with them we travelled to a place called Lucca, a charming little walled city north of Pisa. Jordyn had seen it on a Relocation, Relocation, Relocation type programme and really liked it so suggested we all go there. It was a really nice place and I enjoyed the time we spent there. We arrived at about 9pm and left around lunchtime the following day - it wasn't a particularly big place and we also wanted to go to Pisa. Whilst we were in Lucca I received a text message to tell me that the director I had been speaking with wanted to move forward, basically I had the job! To celebrate we went to the local supermarket and bought a couple of bottles of 2.59 euro champagne - you wouldn't believe how cheap wine and champagne is in Italy - and we took it to the top of a tower to drink!

Pisa didn't really have too much to offer from what we saw of it but we did manage to get a bite to eat there before heading off to see the tower. The thing that struck me the most about the tower was just how small it was! I always expected it to be bigger but it really wasn't that big at all. We took the usual photos of each other trying to hold the tower up, hugging the tower, kicking the tower down etc.. before we had to head off to catch the train back to Perugia for a house party. We arrived back into Perugia just after 7pm and all headed off to get showered and dressed up.

The house party was really good fun and the Italians made me feel really welcome despite the fact that I couldn't speak as much Italian as I would like. I did, however, meet a guy from North Africa so I was able to speak quite well with him in French for quite a while. It was quite surprising that I remembered so much after 4 weeks of not speaking it and trying to learn Italian. When we arrived at the party we were immediately given red wine and there must have been hundreds of bottles of the stuff floating about. The Italians, contrary to popular belief, certainly know how to party!

After the party we headed off to a late night bar that had just opened in Perugia that was only open between 2am and 6am. It was free entry and the drinks were reasonably priced in there for a change. The music was also pretty good and I enjoyed myself there. After we finished there, some time around 3.30am, we headed back to a friend's apartment for some food - in Italy they don't really do fast food but like to cook pasta after a night out instead! It made a really nice change to get some decent food after a night out and we eventually headed back to Jordyn's apartment at around 5.30am.

The following morning I woke up with a bit of a sore throat and it has gradually got worse each day afterwards. At one point it was so bad that I literally could not sleep because of it. I know this is a bit gross but I will describe my problem anyway. One night I went to bed at 11pm and got out of bed at 10am the next morning although I would have been lucky if I had got more than 2 hours sleep. I was in so much pain that it was taking up to 45 minutes to get comfortable enough to get some sleep only for me to wake up within 5 or 10 minutes choking on phlegm - my mouth was producing loads of it due to my throat infection but it wouldn't go down my throat as it was so badly inflamed. It was a really horrible night.

The following day I decided to organise myself ready for returning to the UK for a few days before heading off to Germany. It had been 8 weeks since I had seen any of my family or friends and I had really missed Roman especially. My flight home was due to leave at 6.30am the following morning but I needed to check in at 4.30am as I had baggage I had to check in. To get there for that time I would have to get a shuttle bus at 3.30am from Firenze and this would mean me getting up at 2.30am! I didn't really trust myself to get up early enough so decided to get the last shuttle bus at 7.10pm and sleep in the airport.

This actually turned out to be a really bad decision. I didn't realise that Pisa was quite so small an airport and at midnight, when the airport had quietened down a little, I was just about to get my head down for a few hours when there was an announcement stating that the airport was closing until 4am! I have never been to an airport that closes before so it was a little bit of a shock and meant that I had to sit outside the airport for 4 hours waiting for it to reopen! It wasn't all bad though, there were about 20 of us that had to do this so there were people to talk with but it did mean that I got no sleep at all!

After arriving back in the UK I decided that I didn't want to sleep in the day as I wouldn't have slept at night so I spent the day at my brother's (Rich) house playing on Football Manager and catching up with him, Nathan and Stevo. It was nice to be back amongst the boys again even if I was feeling particularly tired and ill! I went to see Roman at Emma's house before heading back to my parents' house for something to eat and to sleep. It was really funny seeing Roman again - he was blatantly excited but it was almost as if he was so excited that he could hardly move! He normally bounds around all over the place but he was relatively calm despite the obvious excitement.

Yesterday I managed to get in at the doctors so I now have some antibiotics for my throat infection and I got some aspirin based painkillers off Rich that really helped me with the pain a lot. I spent another couple of hours with Rich and Stevo whilst waiting for Emma to get in from work so that I could go and pick Roman up and take him to my parents' house for a few days. Roman has behaved really well with Casper and my initial worries about him charging around the house have proved to be unfounded. He was remarkably calm once he got inside the house which I am pleased about.

Today I have come to visit my mum with Roman and will be staying here for the night. My little brother, Jamie, has apparently missed me loads so I am sure that he is happy to see me. My mum's next door neighbour has the tiniest dog in the world so we let Roman play with her. It was really funny to see as she really wanted to play and chase him around but he was a little unsure - he has never played with such a small dog before and I think he was worried that he might hurt her so he was really hesitant. Don't believe the press - Rottweilers are actually gentle giants!