Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A Little Run Down

I have spent the past few entries telling detailed stories. Some people have asked what have I seen, done, or experienced beyond the humorous stories. So this is an attempt to bring everyone up to date with a little run down.

Monday morning, I met my apartment agent who took me to my new place. The apartment is located in an adorable neighborhood surrounded by little shops and restaurants with a small fountain in the middle of the square. Its on a quiet little street that does not get much traffic. It is also a whopping one-minute walk from my doorstep to the subway (U-Bahn) station. The apartment is fully furnished and is ready to simply move in and live. It is quite spacious for European standards and has several decks that either overlook a peaceful courtyard or the quiet street described above.

The nicest thing that occurred during the move in process, was that the last tenant made it so easy for me. Angela is an American and her husband was working for Siebel Systems over here for the past year. She and I were put in-touch via email thanks to my apartment agent. Upon walking into the apartment, I discovered a spiral bound notebook with over 5 pages of hand-drawn maps and details about how to navigate and survive life in Munich. Talk about a Start-up Manual. This was it! Homemade restaurant guide that would have made Zaggits jealous, detailed maps scrawled out within the pages illustrating key points of interest and ways to make life more comfortable. Angela also detailed in the notebook exactly how to use the apartment's appliances, since they are quite different then home. For example, occasionally you must add salt to the dishwasher since the water in Munich is so hard with natural minerals. Also, a special tray in the dryer that collects moisture from your damp clothes during the drying process must be dumped out. Angela even labeled all the cleaning supplies in English so I could determine which product went with what and when. The clincher was when I opened the refrigerator. There in front of me stood two bottles of beer, with a little sticky note that said, "Welcome to Munich". I was overwhelmed and impressed at how comfortable a stranger, who I had never physically had met, had made me feel.

The agent and I signed my lease contract and executed my local work permit. She instructed me on how to take the proper subway and trains to get to work, which is located to the East of Munich in a small and quiet agricultural suburb. So off I went on my journey to work.

I bought my ticket and took off to find the right train. I found it, thanks to the agent's help and made a smooth transfer to my next train. Things seem so efficient, which is not always an expectation that we have with public transit back home. I made it into the office and was greeted by numerous co-workers.

Another American transplant, Keith, who will be living in Munich for the next two years, joined me for dinner on the first day. Keith is a newbie like me, so we are having fun struggling together. We took the train from work and got off at the Marienplatz (City Central in Munich) home to the famous Glockenspeil clock tower. Keith and I had met this past June when we were both here at the same series of meetings. We decided to hit an open-air beer garden we had enjoyed back in June. The food was great. Lots of pork and beef and I had sauerkraut as well. We both acknowledged that we will need to keep our exercise levels up if we hope to still fit into our jeans after all of this.

Keith and I said our goodbyes and we each struck out to get home. When we saw each other the next day, we found that we had similar adventures in trying to get home. I had found the right train, but had mistakenly chose the one that was going in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. Keith on the other hand, had boarded an "out of service" train that was headed back to the depot. He was saved by a friendly older lady who told him he really needed to get off because the train was "closed". Keith said he must have looked totally helpless as he twisted his city map in numerous directions trying to find which way was which. Even though the lady could not speak English that well, she was able to help Keith out and send him down the right path.

Yesterday (Tuesday) the highlight of the day was when Keith and I each received the keys to our cars that we would drive while in Munich. We each received dark blue 3-series BMWs. We were such little kids. After work we raced out to the parking lot to attempt to indulge in the "Ultimate Driving Experience". But then we each came to a miserable conclusion: Neither of us knew how to get back home to Munich using the local roads! All the road signs are in German, so one wrong turn and you could wind up in Poland I think. Undeterred, we decided we would just cruise around in the company parking lot to get a feel for our cars. Luckily it was late and almost everyone had gone home. However Tillman, the local security chief, had not. He must have been having a good laugh at our expense watching the security cameras around the perimeter of the building. Keith and I never got out of 2nd gear, but were tearing up the corners of the lot. After we parked, Tillman came running out and said, "You guys can just go through the gate if you want to drive home." Well of course we could, but we explained that we didn't know the way and just wanted to test out the cars. He must have thought we were idiots because a 3-series BMW to a German is like a Ford Taurus to Americans. I'm sure Ole Tillman had some hearty laughs over beers with his buddies at the expense of a couple of Yanks who were racing around a parking lot in their "Tauruses". They might of well have given us go-karts with the way we were acting. Oh well, it was fun.

Maybe today I will try my luck on the Autobahn. We will see if I can get home. Making it out of the parking lot will be the first giant step. We are pathetic!


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