It's hard to believe, but I have been at post for almost two weeks now. I've been settling in as much as I can and trying to get acquainted with my new job, my new city, and my new house. I am sure I am glossing over the difficulties I had in Belize, but this move seems a lot more difficult than moving to Belize. A few themes have stood out.
(1) Frankfurt is big. I don't just mean the city, which is about twice the size of the country of Belize, but also the consulate. The consulate building is a former Air Force hospital. Frankfurt is one the largest U.S. Consulates in the world. There are so many people who work here that there are entire hallways that I have not yet visited and probably never will. Despite the size of the Consulate, my section is very small. I work with only a handful of people in the whole building, which makes me feel a bit isolated.
The housing compound is huge too. It is more like a big city neighborhood than a small community. In Belize - if there was someone new on the compound, you introduced yourself because you knew that they were new. It's different here. No one goes out of their way to introduce themself. If I introduce myself, people are very friendly, but it definitely takes more work on my part than it did in Belize. This is a common complaint of FSOs at large posts and it will just take a bit more time and a bit of adjusting.
(2) Despite all stereotypes to the contrary Germans are not efficient. I first noticed this in language training - German born teachers were often late and poor with time management. We often joked that this is why they were in America; the Germans had exiled them for their tardiness and inefficiency. I now know that the stereotype is simply not true - German customer service is horribly inefficient. So far, there have been numerous examples:
- A week after signing up, I still don't have internet at my house because they are mailing a modem to the housing compound, rather than send a technician out.
- I spent 5 hours on the 4th of July trying to get a smart phone, only to be turned away by three different companies for three different reasons. (I was able to get it the next day)
- The two German movers who unpacked my HHE from Belize took about 5 hours, including three 20 minute smoke breaks, to complete the job. I could have paid two guys with pizza and beer who would have worked faster AND not dropped my stuff several times.
- My UAB is
stuckprocessing in customs for a minimum of 5 working days! This is bullshit - it should not take 5 days to clear duty free boxes through customs. Ironically, I have all these items from Belize that I don't really care all that much about and I can't get my computer or clothes that I packed in my UAB.
I must point out that everyone is incredibly polite and friendly, even though they are completely unable to accomplish what I ask for. Annoyingly, this keeps me from being able to get too upset about the issue. I want to be mad at them, but they are to polite to become angry with them.
(3) I miss Sara. Things were going really well between us in the months before I left. We text and skype on a regular basis, but its not quite the same as seeing someone almost every day. Plus, everyone is just a bit more adventurous when they have someone to do things with. Exploring is more fun when you have someone to explore with. I am positive that I will find friends to explore with here in Frankfurt, I just haven't found them yet. (But, yeah, Sara is coming to visit next month!)
So, meanwhile, I am keeping myself busy in other ways. First, I signed up for my first marathon and half marathon this fall. The half-marathon is on Sept. 1 in near-by Darmstadt. The Frankfurt marathon is on October 27. I have no idea if I am capable of doing this, but I have determined that I am a pretty stubborn runner and can continually put one foot in front of the other for however long I need to. Amazingly, if I pull this off, I will have gone from worrying about completing a 5K to finishing a marathon in under 13 months.
I also have a trip to visit my host family in Italy planned for the end of this month! I haven't seen them since 2007, so I am really looking forward to that. I am pretty sure my Italian is going to be horrendous and filled with German words. My mind has successfully developed a split between English/foreign words, but it doesn't really care what language falls into the "foreign category." I am pretty sure I will say things like "Ich non habe capito" or "Was machen wir, sta sera?"
Last weekend I took a day trip to Rüdesheim for the Rhein in Flamen (Rhine on Fire) festival. This festival takes place in several river towns throughout the summer and shoots off fireworks over the river. Rüdesheim is a cute little town in the wine region. I arrived in late afternoon and walked around town a bit, before taking a sky tram up the vineyard covered hill side. From there, I had a majestic view of the Rhine valley and a great spot to watch the fireworks. The intern in my office and her boyfriend (who told me about the festival) met me a bit later in the evening. The fireworks were the perfect touch to cap off my first full week in Germany.
Sorry that this is a boring, pictureless, blog post. I promise to post pictures as soon as I get my computer and internet in my house.