Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Where in the World is Mike B ???

No, I did not die. I also did not run away with one of the pretty Russian girls from German class. I did not go crazy. I did not get kicked out of the country. I was not convicted of any crimes and have not been in jail.

I did go to the US a few times over the last couple of months, thus rendering me technically ineligible to blog as Der Auslander since I was really The Inlander, but I have since come back to Germany. Amazingly, the Beamters are letting me stay, so I guess I can resume blogging as Der Auslander.

Sorry for leaving things up in the air. The Partnerin has asked me perhaps twenty times in the last three weeks what is going on with my blog, to which I could only reply, "Uh, I don't know. I haven't looked at it since July." So I finally looked at it and was immediately smacked across the head with a very touching comment from a reader who said she missed reading my posts. I realize we all blog for many reasons, but you don't appreciate having readership until you step away from blogging for a while and then have someone write something like that a couple of months after your last post. It smacked me across the head because I had also shut myself out of a view to many interesting lives and worlds which other bloggers had opened to me, and I kind of missed those too.

So ... what have I been up to?

I went first to Florida, to wrap up my father's estate and to recreate (as in the verb form of recreation). As the old saying goes, a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office. Fortunately for me, there were no bad days at the beach. As for a good day at the office, I only recently set foot in one again, but despite being grateful for the opportunity to work again, I can confirm the old saying in spades ... My first week into the job, and I'm already tempted to run away to the beach.

You don't necessarily take the boy out of the man. True to my old self, I went for the Mustang convertible. For kicks I sent a few pix in an MMS to one of my 24 y.o. classmates, who used to tell me of her desire to go live on the beach and drive a cabrio, which is pretty much what my life consisted of when I was 24. This was again my lifestyle for sefveral weeks in July. She is, of course, looking for a man to keep her in that lifestyle, but she never once suggested that she saw me that way, so I didn't take it very seriously when I got her reply SMS, which was, "Can I come join you?"

I didn't think she would execute, so I fired back with, "Sure, get a visa and come on over and you can crash with me." She actually went looking for a visa to visit, but it is apparently not easy for Russians to get visas to the US if they appear to have no roots or ties that assure they will leave the US within the alloted 90 days. Just as well ... I don't know if I would have behaved myself. No, on second thought, I know I would not have behaved myself. But she would have looked great in the car in any case. In case you wonder, that was her torso pictured in one of my earlier posts ... use your imagination to fill in the rest of her and you will agree that I surely dodged a bullet from the Partnerin thanks to an assist from the State Department.

I also reconnected with an old flame, my first love actually. I try to do that whenever I am in the States. No, not another woman ... Flying. In the States it is still mercifully easy and cheap to rent a plane. In fact, the bug-smasher pictured here, a 1976 Cessna 172-M, is one of the first planes I flew as a teen-ager while working toward my license. It was strange to be sitting in the same plane again nearly 27 years later, and I must admit it has seen better days, but it still flies nicely.

But this time I got the jones for flying here in Europe. I decided to explore what it would take to do it, and that is the Rhein river pictured there out over the left wing strut as testament to finally taking action. I knew that I could go a few different routes to legally flying in Germany. The first would be to get the Germans to "validate" my US license so that I can rent German registered planes. This isn't too difficult, but this being Germany and my Visa status still being up in the air, I did not want to spend a lot of money to validate just to find out that this, like several of my other certifications, would expire with my Visa and would require re-validation that would last only as long as my new Visa. The next route would be to simply get a German license, which would essentially be like starting anew. Again, the visa issue made that problemmatic, although, like my drivers license, it would not automatically expire with the visa.

The final route was to find a US-registered aircraft based here in Germany. Given the international accords covering these things, a US licensed pilot can fly a US registered plane pretty much anywhere in the world with little or no hassle provided his or her paperwork is in order. Well, there are a few N-registered planes in Germany, and I found a nice one in the local area. Here we are walking out the ramp to it for my check-out flight (unlike automobile rentals, nobody in their right mind will rent you a plane without at least checking you out to see that you can really fly the thing safely).

Here we are buzzing along up toward what Jen affectionately calls Boweltown.

This is the old airfield at Boweltown.

This is the Tower at Mainz. I had to visit them to pay my landing fees, which include a charge for noise. The US has some airports that charge landing fees, but the vast majority of the general aviation fields do not since they are maintained via the taxes you pay when you buy aviation fuel. In Germany, you pay stiff taxes on the fuel. You then pay separately for the landings which means you have to fully stop the plane, climb up to the tower and fork over roughly EUR 14 per landing. So you don't do many touch and goes to keep your landing skills up to snuff. I think it shows when I watch the typical German private pilot landing. In the US I wouldn't think twice about doing an hour of touch and goes on a Saturday. Here the privilege might cost you a couple hundred euros above the cost of renting the plane.

To legally take-off and land in Germany, somebody needs to be on duty to run the radio and the firetruck, so most of the small airports are closed pretty much after dark. You can make prior arrangements, but it will cost you stiffly. If you don't make prior arrangements and you find yourself landing after airport closing hours, you will have either declared an emergency and therefore face stiff paperwork and penalties, or you will find yourself landing at places like Frankfurt, which will set you back something like EUR 500.

Unlike the US, you also pay for information from the weather service. It is indeed different over here. But once you clear the hurdles, it is still interesting to see the place from another perspective. More posts and better pictures will follow.

I also spent several weeks in New York, taking an apartment in my old neighborhood, the Upper East Side. This is the view to the south from the balcony of my apartment.

Here is what $3,000 per month will get you there. You don't see it from here, but there is a rather large bedroom and a nice marble bathroom, so you do get some value for the money. It wouldn't be me if there weren't cables running all over the place.

I originally went there just to reconnect with my old world. The Partnerin was there for a week, and during that week I went looking for and found a job. And then I learned that the old promise the Partnerin made to me, the one where we would move to the US if one of us had a job there, was as good as the paper it was written on (there was no written agreement, but I have done 6+ years in Germany, so we both agreed it was my turn to decide where to go next).

So I turned down the job in NYC. I still don't know how I feel about that. But at least I got a chance to flex my Chinese lessons and eat a lot of good food while doing it.

Not to worry, though, for I got a new job in Germany. It is roughly one hour south of Frankfurt, so I had to buy a new car. Both my mother and the Partnerin said it is a mistake for an ex-banker to show up at a Mittelstand firm driving one of these, but the Russian does indeed look really good in this one, and being a middle-aged guy possilby having a mid-life crisis, that still carries some weight. The only problem is that you really can't pack a lot into one of these ... so I tell the Partnerin to bring a toothbrush and a bikini. This does not go over very well with her ... I haven't dared to utter those words to the Russian because she really will! I still bring gasoline to a bonfire, but I don't always pour it on!

So I ultimately found a job here in Germany. It pays OK, and the people are nice. There was a bit of drama with the Auslandersamt, which at first refused to reissue my visa for more than two years, but they ultimately granted me the coveted Niederlassungserlaubnis, which is an indefinite permission to live and work here. By the time we got to that point, I had received permission from the UK Home Office to migrate there for two years, so I had a backup in case the Beamters decided to continue to be a pain in the arse. I still have four months to take up the UK residence, so we'll see how things go in the probationary period (its a two-way street ... I like the people, but I'm still not fully convinced taking the gig in Germany was the right thing to do). We will see.


Blogger christina said...

Welcome back - didn't think you were dead, just maybe taking a really long nap or something. But wow, have you been busy!

Congratulations on the job and the Niederlassungserlaubnis. Did you hear that next year we all get our very own ID cards with fingerprints and everything?

12:20 AM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger J said...

Glad to see you posting again. You sure have been busy.

Cool car.

Christina, I hadn't heard that.

6:05 AM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger Haddock said...

Welcome back Mike! I wondered what had happened, but it seems like you've been enjoying youself. Glad to hear you got a new job Germany. Hope all goes well! :)

7:17 AM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger Claire said...

Yeah! Your back! I was beginning to think that all those hot dogs had damaged your arteries.

So I guess you didn't become a food critic. That's cool, because I don't think that you could drive a car like that as a food critic.

The great thing about the beach is that it is not going anywhere. We can always go back, and in many ways, that is very comforting.

12:53 PM, October 08, 2006  
Blogger jen said...

Good to have you back, Mike.
Cool ride.
Will we, perhaps see you in November at the meetup?

11:20 AM, October 13, 2006  

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