Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blech, banks!

One of the first things you should do when moving to a foreign country is to open a bank account. Otherwise, you will spend all your money in ATM/currency exchanging fees. But opening a bank account in another country is practically impossible.

Firstly, you will enter the bank, and start waving your arms around to attract the attention of the bored employees. When you've snared one, she will give you a long list of documents to bring to the bank. You will not know what most of these are. But after several hours of research and running back and forth between various government offices, you will have assembled all but one. You think "they don't really need document X, I've got all of the other 99 documents." WRONG! When we moved to England, this document was proof that I lived with my husband. Our friend Corrynn had to legally prove that she was single to get a bank account in Amsterdam.

But, after more government building hopscotch and pleading with the bank manager, you will get an appointment to open your bank account. At the Postbank in Munich, I got 5 minutes with a harried clerk who didn't fill out my form correctly and lost my original documents. They will tell you to look for your new ATM card and pin number in the mail in 5-7 business days. It will not arrive. You will go back to the bank and ask about it. They will offer to resend your card in 5-7 business days. And so on, and so on, into eternity.

I have just spent 2 months waiting for my ATM card for my Postbank account. Finally, I was fed up. I went and closed my account yesterday (having never actually used it) and opened a new one at Deutsche Bank. My DB card should arrive in 9 business days or less. I was feeling fairly confident that the employees at DB will be more responsible than those at PostBank, but when I checked the mail today, my PostBank ATM card finally arrived! No pin number, of course. So, I now have an ATM card for a closed account, a new account with no money in it or card for it, and we are still keeping our money in a jar.

Maybe I should start my own bank for foreigners. I will require no documents. You will give me your money and I will put it in a jar. When you come ask me for it, I will give it back to you. And I will charge no fees.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Is Clint Eastwood a Racist?

Ok, I'm a little late to the game here, but Ryan and I finally saw "Mystic River" last night. It is a really well done film, great script, AMAZING ensemble acting, its got the whole shebang. But, I was shocked to hear Lawrence Fishburne's character introduce himself as what sounded like WHITEY POWERS; and I brought this up midway through and Ryan was like "no you're hearing things" but in the credits, there it was...Whitey Powers! The only black character in the movie gets a name that sounds like the slogan of the neo-Nazis? WTF?

I know a while ago Spike Lee criticized Eastwood for his lack of African-American soldiers in his two WW2 epics. That is a big oversight on his part, I would say, but not overtly racist. But what the heck, Eastwood? That's not even a good name for a character.

We scoured the IMDB website for any sign of controversy, but it looks like either no one noticed or thought this was interesting...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sitting in a Circle, Talking Obama

Last night Ryan and I went to our first official "Munich for Obama Meetup" and I have to say, it was a strangely familiar process.

Growing up Presbyterian, I have been to all manner of meetings. There are numerous jokes about the Presbyterian love of order and desire to break up into committees. By the time I graduated high school, I had served on least a dozen committees, and even headed a few!

Its not that I like or dislike meetings, but church meetings were always the same, no matter the issue or the people involved. A leader trying to plow through a pages-long agenda, a rebel leader determined to "tell it like it is", a myriad of people bogging down the agenda with personal anecdotes or attempts at humor, and at least one teary-eyed older person who wanted to share some touching Chicken Soup for the Soul moment. But, as long as I'm not the one in charge of such a meeting, I find them quite funny.

But imagine my surprise as I sat amongst the middle-aged democrats and relived this church experience. The leader trying to be diplomatic as another experienced DA rants "the Amerikahaus hates democrats! That's a fact! They're all business neo-cons!" (oh the shame of that word!) Another lady went on and on about how we should find a way to order Obama shirts with "sprinkles" (aka glitter) and several other ladies cooed over her "sprinkle" shirt. A very elderly lady spoke with awe of a Gwenyth Paltrow viral video that she emailed to her nephew. I don't think she really knew what a viral video was, or that this particular one had been around at least a month and EVERYONE had already seen it, but good for her.

Mostly we spent time hearing about various attempts to register Americans to vote abroad. Each report was like this "I went to the _______ Festival where there were over 1000 Germans dressed as cowboys/Elvises/Hells Angels and I found only 1 American, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to vote." You have to have a sense of humor about these things. But, to Ryan's dismay, I have volunteered us to run a voter registration table at our English-speaking church on Sunday. That's another universal rule of meetings: attend a meeting, be volunteered.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Slave for a Month

To my faithful readers: I apologize for August's pitiful lack of postings. Some of you know about the crazy hours I've been working since August started. I suppose it would be unprofessional to spend an entire blog bitching about the family that I recently worked for, so I will make a few general, hopefully helpful, observations.

1. I don't know if I can contribute my experiences to cultural differences, the fact that these people were filthy filthy rich, or that they are just not very nice, but the fact is, they did not treat me respectfully.

Over the last several years I have worked for nearly a dozen families on a part-time basis, and there was always the understanding that my job was to play with, care for, and keep their children from danger. NOT to clean their whole house, wait on them, or iron their underwear.

I can't say they were entirely inconsiderate. There were very random occassions of consideration. For example, on one day at the beach I wasn't given time to eat lunch, yet the mother brought me over a child's hat because she was worried "about my wrinkles." But by and large her perception of me was rather one-dimensional. I was NANNY, not regular person with a house and husband and grocery list of her own.

2. Other than being treated lesser, there were a lot of difficulties with the children. I can make friends with nearly any kid, and am pretty good at keeping them entertained and out of trouble. But these kids were trapped in a vicious cycle of never seeing their parents, being spoiled and not disciplined when they saw them, behaving terribly as non-disciplined children will do, and thus being undesirable for their parents to spend time with. I feel very sorry for families like this, they don't seem to understand how good their relationship could be if they worked at it.

The upside of this stressful, over-worked, month is that I made some really good money. And they are now back at their primary residence and I no longer have to work for them. In September I start my next job with a much more grounded family, and I am really looking forward to that.