Friday, July 20, 2012

On the Road... to Residency

Yes, those are our two fully-loaded touring bikes. All ready to get on the train. This summer is going to be different. For the past two summers we've awaited July and August as if they were the only months that mattered. Okay, that's not entirely true - the house sitting has also been good.

But while we house sit, we work. We work long days and we work seven days a week, for the most part. We both work from "home", so we aren't working ourselves sick or stressing out or commuting - but we try to work as much as possible so that we can take the full two (or -fingers crossed- three) months off during the summer and tour on our bikes, spending what we've been able to save.

Until about a month ago, we had the same plan for this summer. Then we realized that we couldn't wait any longer to apply for German residency and a residence visa for Joshua. Plans changed quickly.

I had a Google map going for how we'd bike up and over the Alps, across southern Switzerland from the center to the far west, then south past Chamonix and Mont Blanc into Italy. I thought we'd finally get back to Siena, Italy, where I studied for a semester more than 10 years ago. And I thought we'd check off two new countries: Slovenia and Austria, FINALLY visiting good friends in Vienna.

Instead, we booked a train north to Hamburg as well as a flat in Altona through our new friend (for a €10 credit towards using the site, send us an email or leave a comment). We got in touch with my mom's childhood friend and a German friend who we met in LA and now lives in Hamburg. We scheduled a house sit in Germany for the end of July and all of August. And we've got a pretty exciting house sit scheduled for Oct-Dec.

July and August have been given over to a very important and exciting process - paperwork filing, bank account opening, health insurance purchasing, applications for becoming (officially) German residents. My mom was born and raised in Germany and didn't move to the US until she was over 30. In fact, she was about my age when she and my dad settled in California. She got German passports for my sister and I, soon after we were born. She did not imagine that we would ever move to Germany. But we have the choice and opportunity to live in a new country, immerse ourselves in a language that often sounds hilarious, and enjoy the challenges that this opportunity presents. Joshua is addicted to a language learning website called and his grasp of German cases is rapidly outpacing mine. Our work is cut out for us, as they say. German is not an easy language to master.

The process has been stressful, filled with anxiety about saying or doing things wrong and not having the correct paperwork. But yesterday we submitted all of our important documents (marriage certificate, health insurance confirmation (which required bank accounts), passport photocopies, passport photo) and in a few weeks Joshua should receive his very own residence card, which serves as both a residence and work visa. The feeling of submitting that application was - in the truest sense of the word - awesome.

Deep breath, and time for coffee and cake in the German fashion.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte mit zwei Espressos, bitte.

Our vista for cake eating and coffee drinking - the Hamburg Rathaus

So far, so good. We're Hamburgers now - or we're almost Hamburgers. The guy made it official in my German passport with a ruler, pen, and special stamp. Joshua has to wait 4-6 weeks.

August will be pretty interesting, too. A house sit in very rural eastern Germany, on a farm. Yay for farms! When I applied for the house sit I'm sure I checked to make sure we are qualified to take care of the animals they have. However, by the time we worked it all out with the owners, they'd taken down the listing, and since I've looked at many listings in the past month, I cannot remember just what we'll be taking care of. Find out when we get there!

And we still have September. Extra working during August means we'll be okay to tour as much as we can during September. We'll be going from eastern Germany all the way to Barcelona, with stops to visit cousins in Kassel and all lines from Germany to Barcelona go through Zurich (yes!), so I assume we'll take a couple of trains along the way. Maybe we'll get to see the Alps after all. South coast of France in September? Anyone?

Why Barcelona as our destination? Because our Oct-Dec house sit is on the island of Menorca. Holy crap is right. The owner was worried that such young folks would be terribly bored, since the island is dead during the winter. Sounds perfect for us. Apparently there are hiking trails and bike paths all around the island, so we'll be bringing those bikes with us. In December we have a trip planned back to the US, and then we have the option of coming back to Menorca for Jan/Feb.

So the second half of 2012 is all planned out. It's nice to know where we'll be. It's also nice to be a part of the German public health insurance, which merits a whole post of its own. Hopefully we'll get back to posting again, and riding bicycles, at least sometimes.

Alles gut! Essen, trinken, und laufen. Jetzt ein Bisschen Deutsch studieren.

Neighborhood street garden. Good one, Altona!