18 August, 2011

Close encounters of the bureaucratic kind

Most of yesterday was spent filling out all of the paperwork necessary for me to live and work (legally) in Germany. First, I had to register with the city to let them know that I am not just a tourist on my way through. Then I tried to get an Aufenthaltserlaubnis which is a sticker in my passport granting me permission to live and work in Germany for a specified period of time. But before I can get that, I need to have proof that I'm enrolled in a university and being financially supported by a job. But in order to prove that, I need to actually be enrolled at Reutlingen University as an exchange student, for which I need proof from Valpo that I'm enrolled there. Assuming I can get all of the necessary paperwork together, I can go back to the city building and pay 50 Euros for the sticker. Then I also need health insurance, for which I also need to first be enrolled in order to get the student rate. But wait! Last time I was here I had private health insurance, so there's a chance that I got a waiver for the obligatory, state sanctioned health care. If that waiver is still on the records then I will have to get private health insurance again: waived once, waived for good, I guess.

All of this has taught me that it really helps to be surrounded by people who know what they're doing and who can guide you along the way. The only thing I was actually able to accomplish yesterday was registering with the city. I couldn't enroll at Reutlingen, because I needed the proof of enrollment from Valpo (should have been faxed later yesterday afternoon). I couldn't get the residency permission because I wasn't enrolled at Reutlingen, and I couldn't get health insurance because I don't remember being told about the whole waiver thing last time.

So, today's goal is to pick up as many loose ends as possible.

On a side note, I discovered that Germany and Illinois have a full-reciprocity agreement with regards to driver's licenses. So, in six months, when my Illinois license is no longer valid in Germany, I can go to the German DMV and exchange it for a German license. This might sound mundane, but consider that German licenses cost around 1,500 Euros if you get them the conventional way! Now it sounds like a good deal, right?

I'm looking forward to going to an organ concert in the Marienkirche on Saturday. The program is "The Planets" by Gustav Holst accompanied by a light show! In a 700+ year-old cathedral nonetheless. I'm stoked! This is the main event of the Reutlinger Orgelsommer 2011.


Cheers!

16 August, 2011

Update on Lost Luggage

My second bag came today. There's a note on it that says it was delayed because of a problem with the x-ray machine. Now my wardrobe is complete!

Safe and sound in Reutlingen

I arrived safely in Reutlingen yesterday with half as many bags as I had when I left Chicago, but otherwise in good spirits. I was greeted warmly at the airport in Stuttgart by three of my friends from the Baptisten Gemeinde Reutlingen who had waited patiently while I arranged to have my lost bag delivered to Reutlingen. I would consider the first test of my German conversational skills passed when I received a complement on my German from the Lufthansa representative who was filling out the lost-luggage paperwork.

I spent the rest of Monday afternoon walking around downtown Reutlingen trying to figure out what had changed over the past year. It's pretty much exactly how I remembered it, except the Neue Stadthalle which was only a hole in the ground last I saw is now a full-fledged building. I don't think it's close to being finished yet, but it has windows at least. Also the scaffolding that was covering the tower of the Marienkirche has been removed and the tower looks gorgeous! I forgot to take pictures of that, but I'm sure I'll get around to it before long. The Penny-Markt (bargain grocery store) just around the corner from my dorm that got torn down half-way through my last year here has been rebuilt! It's very spiffy and it now has a little bakery/cafe attached. In addition to that there's now a Dönör Kebab right next door! My dream come true!

I stopped by my old dorm building last night and caught up with a few of my former floormates. A lot of them have moved out already, but I still knew a few of them.

Today was spent mostly shopping. I bought my first pair of European-made shoes. They're very nice. And I'll need them for my first day at the office tomorrow because my jeans were in the lost backpack and I don't feel comfortable wearing tennis-shoes with khakis -- the only kind of pants I have right now.

So, all-in-all it feels good to be back. I can't wait to get started at the international office and get to know the new international students. The group of Valpo students who will be here for the Fall semester should be arriving next Thursday, so I'll probably help them find their way around for the first few days that they're here.

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you want to hear more about something I mentioned or perhaps forgot to mention -- I'll be happy to oblige.