Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I Have A New Apartment From December 1st

Well, the apartment viewing went pretty well. The first one I went to see was very close to work and I liked it quite a lot but the big problem there was that they wouldn't allow a dog at all so that pretty much ruled it out for me. It was a shame really as the location was great and it was pretty big. Still, the disappointment in the first one was quickly overshadowed by the elation after the second apartment viewing. Although the second apartment is a little further from work at 2.5km it is also a pretty decent size and, best of all, the lady said that I am welcome to bring Roman! I explained that he is a Rottweiler and described his temperament and she said it was no problem as a relative of hers had owned a Rottweiler and she had looked after it when they went away once so she was already familiar with the breed. A massive stroke of luck I think!

I am tied into the current apartment until 30th November so we negotiated for me to move in on the 1st December. The rent is slightly more at €700 per month but a lot of that difference will be saved on bus fares anyway and the location is so much better. There is a supermarket about 200 yards away so this is much better for me as I don't drive. It's a little awkward doing shopping where I live at the moment as a taxi is about €10 or €11 so it means that I have to buy little bits at a time and take it home from work each day. It's hardly ideal so I am made up that I will be in an apartment so close to a supermarket. Another big advantage of this apartment is the washing machine. You don't realise how valuable those things are!

I had a bit of a nightmare this week trying to find a launderette to do my washing in. I had got to the point where I literally had one more day's worth of clothes so it was imperative that I got my clothes washed. There is a new laundry service in Heppenheim but I had seen a price list and they wanted €1.50 per jumper, €2 per pair of jeans, etc... so it would have worked out to be very expensive. One of my new friends, Steffen, drove me around a few local towns here to see if we could find a launderette but the only things available were washing services and the cheapest price I could get was €24! I didn't want to pay that much - at that price I might as well get a train to Frankfurt and have a day there and then get the train back as there wouldn't be much difference. Luckily, Steffen's mum offered to do the washing for me and I now have enough to last me until I move into the new apartment.

I have made some big strides here socially now and have a pretty good collection of friends. I was in the pub one night and got talking to a lad called Daniel who was about to leave to go to the restaurant up the street so I asked if I could go with him. When we got there there were about 12 of his friends who were very welcoming to me. In particular I get along very well with two brothers, Timo and Steffen, but the rest are all very nice and I am happy that I have managed to make so many friends here so quickly.

It turned out that Timo plays for SV Kirschhausen so I asked him if I would be able to go along to training and see if I could get a game. I currently have no football boots or shin pads so he lent me both and we went last Thursday. I think the training session went well and some of the remarks that got back to me included "he's aggressive"! I think this was said in a good way but it certainly typifies the way in which I play the game quite well. After the training session I filled out some forms to sign up for them and the following day I made a copy of my passport to accompany the registration form. With any luck it will all be sorted in time for the game this weekend but should certainly be back in time for the one the weekend after.

Over the weekend I did a fair bit of partying again - it's becoming a bit of a theme really! On Friday Steffen picked me up from work and we went to get me a mobile phone as it is difficult for anyone to get in touch with me otherwise. We managed to find a pretty decent contract on O2 that gives unlimited minutes to other O2 phones for €20 per month. I am pretty pleased with this as all of my new friends are on O2 and I even managed to get a pretty nice phone from the deal. The phone is a Nokia 6700 and is packed with decent features. It has been a few years since I owned a Nokia but I have had only bad luck with other brands so I am hoping that Nokia's reliability is still what it was.

On Friday night I ended up going to Apfelbaum with Daniel and Tobias (another one of my new friends) and I got home very late into the night, I think around 6am but can't remember fully! On Saturday morning I got woke up at 11am by Steffen who had come to take me back to pick my phone up as there had been some online fault when they were trying to put the application through. I was still pretty drunk from the night before and this made for quite a bit of comedy in MediaMarkt!

Saturday was a day dominated by the local table tennis championship and this ran from around 1pm until about 7.30pm in the hall just up the street from my apartment. I abstained from drinking in the day in the knowledge that there would be a big party at the restaurant where I had met all of my new friends, Alfredo's. Timo came third in the championships after losing to another of my new friends, Marc. Marc ended up finishing second after being beaten by a very consistant Hajo who goes by the slogan "Hard to Kill"!

After the championships we headed off to the restaurant and the drinking games began, German style! After a few rounds the 3 litre beer jugs started coming out and this proved to be quite amusing. The game here was that whoever had drunk from the glass before the person who finished it had to pay for the beer. I managed to finish four of these jugs off - I was determined not to pay for it! On one occasion I was handed a jug that was half full and I looked at it wondering whether I could finish it - I knew if I didn't that the next person would. Anyway, I managed to down the lot to the surprise of a few people!

We drank there into the early hours of the morning and there was a real party atmosphere all night. Once people had become a little innebriated the songs started and the noise level went up a few decibals. I am learning some of the German songs from them but I am also teaching them a few English ones including Steve Gerrard, Fernando Torres and You'll Never Walk Alone! After most people had left there a few of us decided to get a cab into Heppenheim to go the the Hexenkessel (a pub in the centre that stays open very late). Whilst there we engaged in a few tequilas and got even more drunk before heading home.

I got to bed some time between 5 and 6 feeling pretty drunk and dreading getting up. Sunday is football day but they don't play until 3pm over here (whereas in England they play at 11am) so at least I didn't have to be up ridiculously early. Steffen came round and woke me up at about 1pm and we headed off to the football to watch Timo play. They game finished 3-1 to the opposition but Timo again managed to get on the scoresheet - it seems that drinking with an Englishman helps his game as he now has 3 goals in his last 2 games and he had only scored a couple all season before that!

This week has been pretty busy with work and I have a lot on right now. I have been looking at the reports that are currently used here and looking at ways in which to improve the reporting dramatically. Everything is done manually and in some cases it is quite basic so I am looking to overhaul everything using automated queries through VBA to provide dashboard style reports that need very little work to maintain and update. I think that people here are impressed with the work I have done so far and also with the ideas that I have put forward.

I mentioned last week to some of the IT department that I would benefit from more RAM as some of the calculations I have been performing are very RAM intensive and yesterday I got given a new PC that is much better and was also told that they are looking to order me a brand new laptop! Even after such a short period of time I feel very welcome and valued here and am looking forward to staying here for quite a while. Ideally for me I think I would like to stay maybe 2 or 3 years but I will have to see how things work out really.

Last night I had football training and the weather was typically English. Everybody looks at me like I am crazy when I turn up in shorts and t shirt for training - they all wear full training tracksuits but you won't catch me doing that! Ich bin Englander!! I keep telling them that the weather here (despite being fairly cold) is actually fairly mild from what I am used to at this time of year but I am not sure that they believe me. Training went fairly well and, although I gave the ball away a few times, I managed to clear the ball off the line 3 or 4 times and make some last ditch tackles. I am looking forward to our next training session tomorrow and can feel my fitness returning slightly already. I think I might have to give up smoking though...

Friday, 6 November 2009

Week 3 In Deutschland

Last weekend was a really nice weekend for me. I arrived in Frankfurt airport just after 4pm to meet my stepmum and her sister and we had a coffee there before heading for a taxi to take us to the hotel. I thought it would make more sense to get a taxi direct from the airport as the train into Frankfurt was €3.70 each (€11.10 for the 3 of us) and then we would have needed to get a taxi from there to the hotel anyway. I presumed a taxi to the hotel would be around €15 but it was €24 - taxis over here are pretty expensive!!

My stepmum suggested that I should see if there was a room available in the hotel for me to stay in as it would really have eaten into our time together if I had gone back home to Kirschhausen on Saturday night and then had to get a train back on the Sunday. It seemed like a logical idea, especially when you take into account the fact that it is €10 each way on the train anyway. Luckily they had spare rooms so I booked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt for the night.

The first thing we decided to do was to try and find somewhere to do my washing. We asked at reception in the hotel and were told that there was somewhere in the station so we headed back there. We looked around for a while but couldn't find anywhere and the staff at the station didn't seem to know anything about it either! We stumbled across a hostel on the way out of the station so I headed up to their reception to see if they could point us in the right direction. As it was there was one literally about 100 yards away. When I left the hostel I couldn't see my stepmum or her sister, Karen. It turned out that they had decided to wait on the other side of the street as the hostel was next door to an interestingly named shop, The World Of Sex!

We headed to the launderette and dumped my stuff in a washing machine before heading off to have a look round for 40 minutes whilst it washed. We managed to spot a few restaurants and bars but not before walking right through the middle of the red light district! There was sex literally everywhere in this area and it was a bit of a shock when you think what England is like. I thought it was highly amusing but I am not sure my stepmum or Karen felt entirely comfortable in the area!

Once we had been back for my washing we had to wait for it to dry. I think they must have bought their tumble dryers from NASA or something - it only took 15 minutes and it was completely dry - not bad for €1! We decided to try an Italian restaurant we had walked past but it turned out it was so busy that we couldn't even get somewhere to sit. It was a shame really as it looked really nice and if a place is that busy then it is usually good. We stumbled across another place just up the road so ate there instead. The food was good but a little on the pricy side but at least we all got to try the apple strudel!

After leaving there we decided to head back to the hotel for a drink before going to bed. I actually stayed up until 3am as my stepmum had brought Football Manager 2010 over for me after I had managed to get Nath to go and buy it the night before she came out - it had only been released that day and I didn't fancy paying the German price! I am pleased to say too that the internet network coverage in Frankfurt was superb so not only have I now got Rosetta Stone downloaded with all 3 language levels for German but I have also managed to download a few new music albums!

On Sunday we decided to take a walk up the river and head for the old town in Frankfurt. It was a nice walk but it was a lot colder than I had expected it to be. The temperatures around here have been mid teens most of the time but it felt about 7 or 8 down by the river. I think it was so cold because we were by the river because once we got back into the network of streets it certainly felt a little warmer. The old town was quite picturesque and gave my stepmum and Karen the opportunity to get some photos.

We found somewhere to eat in the main square in the old town and all had German dishes. I have to say, the meals were quite nice and I think we were all happy with what we had chosen. After we had eaten we decided to go and see if we could find somewhere to buy some socks for my stepmum - as the weather had been mild recently she had brought light shoes without socks so her feet were pretty cold! I learnt a lesson about Germany that day - everywhere is closed on a Sunday! I couldn't believe that a city the size of Frankfurt had no shops open but it was true!

We managed to find "designer district" so at least we got to have a look at some €25,000 outfits whilst we were there! We had a good look around the city - it looks very different in the day but then I suppose that is true of all places. It was a shame everywhere was closed really as it would have been nice to have a look around the shops to see what the fashion in Germany is like. In the end Karen offered my stepmum a spare pair of socks so at least that problem was solved but it was still frustrating to not be able to shop!

Our time in Frankfurt was quite funny really - every time we decided to go somewhere or to do something it seemed that it was closed. My stepmum and Karen wanted to do a Rhine boat tour but when we tried to ring the place they told us that the season had finished - we located the office a little later to find that the season hadn't finished and they booked on one for the next day! We also found a nice pub style restaurant that we wanted to eat in but, although there were staff inside, that appeared to be constantly closed too! We also wanted to try and find a tavern over the river as Karen's guide book had recommended the area for Apfelwein but when we walked down the street the guidebook mentioned we couldn't find anything!

We eventually found a place to eat on Sunday evening back in the old town - there was a traditional German pub there that looked really nice so we thought we would give it a go. It was probably the best decision we had made in our time there. The food was delicious and the Apfelwein wasn't half bad either! The dishes were all traditional German dishes and I got the chance to practise some of my German in there - I ordered all the meals and drinks in German; I'm getting better, slowly but surely!

The time came for me to get the train back to Heppenheim and I managed to get one just after 8pm that would see me arrive in Heppenheim just after 9pm. I decided to get a taxi back home as I couldn't really be bothered carrying my bags 5km! The taxi cost just over €10 which I wasn't too happy about - I won't be getting a taxi again, I will wait for the bus in future even if I do have to wait almost an hour!

I had made a promise to work that I would get something finished by Monday but, due to spending the whole weekend in Frankfurt, had not had any time to do it! As a result I ended up working until 3.30am but managed to get it pretty much done, bar a few final checks needed the following morning. Despite having such a late night I managed to get into work for about 10.30 and was happy enough that I managed to get all of the files finished quite quickly.

It's been quite a long week at work and I have done quite a lot of hours in the office but the advantage of working longer hours in the office is that I have not had a need to cart my laptop back and forth as I have not needed to do any work at home. That has given me the opportunity to use Rosetta Stone a bit more at home and I have been managing between an hour and two hours per night depending on what time I finish work each day. I am starting to get into a bit of a routine - I start anytime between 8am and 10am but I finish each day just before 7pm so that I can catch the pus at 7.10pm from Heppenheim to Kirschhausen. This means I have about 3 or 4 hours spare time in the evening to relax which is better.

I arranged to view some apartments this week too - yesterday I looked at an apartment that was really nice although it is about €100 a month more expensive than the one I am in right now but it has a big advantage in that the lady renting it out said she will happily do my washing for me! This is a big plus for me as I don't want to spend my spare time (and cash!) at the weekends going to the nearest town that has a launderette to do my washing. Also, it is much closer to work and is easily walkable in about 15 or 20 minutes so this will save me money on bus fares. The apartment itself was bigger than the one I am in right now and I also think it is decorated much nicer.

I have another viewing arranged on an apartment this afternoon that, from the pictures, also looks very nice. Again, the rent is about €100 more than my current rent but this one has an added advantage in that they allow dogs. I am not sure whether they will be happy with a Rottweiler but I can ask! This apartment is about 2.5km away from work but only about 1km from the station. Again, it is easily walkable so I will be saving on bus fares and this apartment has a washing machine in so that will be a money saver for me too!

I have been discussing with my boss this week about arrangements for me to go back to the UK for Christmas and have been delighted with the accomodating response I have received. As agreed when I commenced employment they have stumped up the cash for one return ticket for me and he also told me that it is no problem for me to work from the UK for a few days to allow me more time with my family and friends. I have now got a return ticket booked on Lufthansa flights to return to the UK on 24th December and to fly back to Frankfurt on Sunday 10th January. Officially, I have had to book holidays for the 28th, 29th and 30th December and the 4th, 5th and 6th January - Thursday 7th and Friday 8th will be the days I am working.

I am really impressed with the company so far. They seem to be very welcoming and very accomodating in so many ways and I have found people here to be really friendly, helpful and accomodating. The lady who I am currently sharing an office with has been ringing apartments for me to get information and has even been kind enough to take me to view them so that she can act as a translator for me! Things are good here, long may it continue....