Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jesus Wept! I receive a visit from the departmental secretary, whose spies have informed her that I have rebooked my flight without letting her or the company travel office know. The travel service says I have to pay 90 euros to change the date.

What can I say? I am an adult, it is my ticket and the Emirates are doing the flying and they said it was fine, and mentioned no charge. Clearly I have not followed correct procedure and there it much shaking of heads.

It is this kind of thing that makes people I work with say “Oh, that is so fucking German!” Germans are exceptionally well organised, but they do like their forms and their processes.

After further consultation, it seems I do have to pay the travel service 90 euros for doing nothing, but my blood pressure was up and it was only 11am.

I have lunch with another Australian intern, recently arrived, who is also trapped in a nasty German paperwork vortex. She can’t get paid until she has a visa and bank account, but she can’t get a visa until she had registered with the town hall and got a health insurance card and despite applying for all these things it is taking time. In the meantime she is bring her lunch (cabbage and carrots) and feeling rather unmotivated at work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No, no news. Well, there is some, but it has only lead to more uncertainty so I will save it for later.

In the interim, I do some person admin. Having previously been assured that my very expensive ticket is fully flexible by the Emirates call centre in Calcutta some time ago, I call them again to change my return flight. I don’t actually have a return date in mind, but I know I don’t want to go home next Tuesday, which is when the booking is currently for, so I need to change it.

I call the Australian call centre number, which puts me through to India.

A very, very quiet, far-away voice answers.

“I can hardly hear you,” I say.


“I want to change my flight date,” and I give the booking reference.

Long Silence.

“This is not possible. Your ticket expires on the first of August. You need to go home on Tuesday if you want to use this ticket”

“WHAT? I called before and was told it was fully flexible”

“This ticket expires on the first of August.”

“Well, why was I told it was flexible when I called before?”

Long Silence.

Extremely bored tone. “This is what it says. Your ticket expires on the first of August.”

I throw myself full throttle into middle-class strop mode. [I learnt how to do this from watching my mother, who is excellent at it. One day when I have time I will tell the fabulous story of unsatisfactory dishwasher installation.]

Me, firmly, “I want to speak to someone else in your office about this.”

Long Silence.

Bored with a hint of snide now. “Well, if you hang up your phone, then call this number again, you will probably get another staff member taking your call.”

Long Silence.

I do not think my call was being recorded for quality and coaching purposes

I hang up, then freak out about having to pack up and leave in 6 days. Then I call the Frankfurt office of Emirates. Such is my state of nerves that I just start speaking in English. A nice man in reservations with perfect English confirms that my ticket is indeed fully flexible and rebooks it for me, for October.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I am under a supreme amount of stress, due to doing nothing. I am in limboland until Monday and it is doing my head in, although thankfully not as much as yesterday when I was trying to analyse the significance, if any, of Gordon Brown’s visit to Berlin.

It is like this. My contract here ends on July 31. I have friends to visit in August, and an air ticket back to Australia.

However, I have also received an email from the head of radio, giving me some feedback on some work I did for them a little while ago and asking if I would be interested in doing more work for them. I am interested. Very much so. She wrote this email late on a Friday night, and then promptly went on two weeks holiday.

I can not discuss my interest and any potential future employment, if indeed that is what is on offer, until next Monday. Which will be 10 days before I am scheduled to leave Bonn forever, having chucked out or given away half my things, confirmed return flights and trains to Frankfurt, got my bond back from Evil pseudo-landlord, had a last fond look at the Rhine and bought a whole lot of souvenir tat to give to people at home.

I can do none of these things now because there is this tiny possibility that I am staying. I have phoned German friends who have invited me to stay and I have phoned Emirates, provider of the most expensive economy airfare ever sold, and they told me that my flight is fully flexible, so I will not be stranded and homeless.

Now I just have to wait. I am finding it very difficult. Currently the only firm plan in my life is going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Cologne on Thursday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I need to be more careful what I wish for, it was 37 degrees yesterday, and only cooled down marginally at night. I also need to stop trusting my own employers weather service, which is currently reporting today's temperature as 16 degrees with a strong possibility of rain, when it is in fact 36 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

My office faces west and is not air-conditioned, although we have been provided with portable fans. I haven't worked like this since I was at school - I can't help feeling I should be going out at lunch time to run through the sprinklers in a school mandated hat and buying a 25cent Icy pole from the mothers canteen.

It reminded me of a strange thing the teachers used to do at my school when it was hot, which was to periodically switch the ceiling fans off because they claimed that having them on "made us talk." This always seemed like a implausable, we got in as much trouble for chattering in winter, and now I wonder if it was a threat to try and make us shut up. It never worked, and anyway little kids are less exhausted by hot weather than adults in my experience, so they were cutting of their nose to spite their face, which is another expression I could never understand when I was a kid. I mean, why would you want to spite your face?

All last week, when we were freezing in boots and thick jumpers, an ice-cream man with an esky would come around and no-one ever bought anything because it was so cold. But today, definitely a day for ice-cream, he has not come. Perhaps it is too hot to hauling an esky around the local offices.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I went to Drachenfels (Dragon Rock) in Königswinter on Sunday. It was beautiful, green, there was a castle and when I finally made it to the top I found stunning view of the Rhine.

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drachenfels 7.7.07 (64)

The Drachenfels is where, according to legend, Siegfried slayed the Dragon and then bathed in its blood to become invulnerable. The castle was used as both a Catholic Boys home and a then an elite Nazi Youth Academy. It's now a museum, and still has some of the china with swastikas painted on the base.

It was beautiful and oh, the green. There is no drought here, no water restrictions or lawns dying. The grass is soft and downy, nothing like the hard couch stalks interspersed with prickles at home.

So why then, am I looking at these pictures of poisoned trees in Perth, victims of the local council's unauthorised sump napalming*, and feeling homesick?


deadtree deadtree3


*My mother has turned into Perth's own Erin Brokovich over this, conducting her own soil testing, requesting documents under freedom of information and complaining to the Department of the Environment. She even has her own website.

[Essentially the local council contracted a firm called Turfmaster to spray and kill weeds at sumps (storm water drains). The firm used an industrial herbicide which has been killing, not just weeds, but valuable old trees in nearby gardens. The council is now offering tp pay for some damage repair and the replacment of some trees, but asking residents to sign confidentiality agreements. They have also renewed Turfmaster's contract, despite their apparent inability to read the labels of very powerful chemicals.

Anyway, you don't screw with people (and their property values) in the western suburbs like this and get away with it. Strongly worded letters to the local paper have been published, written complaints made to government departments.]