Concrete Jungle.

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on July 29, 2010 in News & Opinion |

The rain has managed to impregnate everything with a dreary feeling: the roads; the people; the buildings. The forecast tells us that we’re going to have more occasional showers through until the weekend and then, perhaps, everything will be better again. The rain didn’t make my wanderings between various local government buildings and offices any better but at least I managed to get everything done that needed to be done, and now I simply need to wait for the post and my completed papers. It was all something of a rush since all the local offices are only open to the public in the mornings, unless you have an appointment, and everyone had questions, advice, and more questions. And, of course, they all wanted the fees paying straight away, in cash, before anything could, or would, be done. I now have a small set of the most ugly, full-face photographs you can imagine which, if  didn’t need the again some time in the future, I would gladly destroy and forget forever.

Yesterday afternoon I packed everything together again, ready for my move into a new apartment. Martin and I discussed the move and my options at some length before it was finally agreed. The fact is, I cannot stay in this house and work with any ease simply because the buses don’t run and I have no other means of transport. The rooms I have here are also very limited in scope and size and, equally important, there is no real life here, not for an eighteen year old, unless you’re interested in joining the shooting club, the fire service or working as a farm hand. The new apartment comes with my job, it belongs to the company, and is considerably cheaper than anything else I could possibly find elsewhere.  Not that I would have turned it down, but I was thinking first of all about the costs and how much money I have available each month before Martin explained a few things to me. As a trainee working for his company I will get a monthly salary; it isn’t much compared to what the full time employees earn but more than enough to cover the rent for my apartment, the utilities, my daily needs and leave something over for the fun side of life. I will have enough time to learn and, probably more important, the peace and quiet I need to really concentrate on what I am doing. If I decide to do the whole translator course, and it is looking as if I will, the apartment is still there for me, and I will still work for Martin. The hours I need to spend in lectures allow me enough time to study and to work and, by the time the course starts in September 2011, I will have worked my way into the job enough to know exactly what is important, what needs action immediately and what I can farm out on other people.

The thing is, Martin doesn’t really need an assistant, but his firm receives a tax allowance from the government for training me. Since he doesn’t actually need me, the twenty hours a week I spend listening to a lecturer in Bremen will hardly be noticed. I don’t know whether this makes me feel good or not!

I learned something else which has given me a great deal to think about: my Dad and Martin were friends, many years ago, having met in some foreign country. My Dad was part of the contingent assigned to transport and protect Martin while he did his work, and Martin was seconded to the US Marines from the British Army. I also hadn’t given a single though to where Martin comes from but, as he told me all this, I finally caught the last remnants of an accent in his speech and understood why his English was almost perfect. He hadn’t learned it in school, he told me, and also hadn’t learned German in school. In the Seventies in England, where he was born and raised, French was the second language taught in schools; any other language had to be taken as an extra and, in his case, the language department head refused him permission to join  the German course or any other course for that matter. He taught himself German.

For once I slept well last night and awoke early, as usual, this morning to another overcast day. I walked along the bicycle way to the next town and then, despite the option of a bus, walked on to the main town beside farmland and small industrial buildings. Martin suggested that I visit my new apartment and see what I would need before actually moving in; if there was anything wrong it would be better to have repairs made before I spread myself out. We had agreed that I wouldn’t come to the office, if I needed anything I should telephone him and we’d meet somewhere else. His reasoning: I would find it easier to fit in with the work and workplace if I’ve had a chance to look it over in advance, when no one else is there, and get a feel for the whole. Apart from which the official training course begins in August and I am still officially on holiday.

The Town Hall

This wonderful building is not the latest addition to the Christo and Jeanne-Claude art world, but the Town Hall which, as you can see, is being renovated at the moment. What it really looks like, or what it will look like once all the work is finished, no one can say but it intrigued me all the same. I wasn’t out to take photographs today, but this building and the eel which follows caught my attention. There are a few other interesting sites in the town, but they’ll have to wait until later; when the weather is better and I’m not right in the middle of preparing to move homes!

The Eel

My first impression here was, a you can well imagine, WTF? I asked a few people sitting nearby what it was meant to be and, apart from shoulder shrugging, learned that this eel is meant to symbolise the connection between river and town. It has a long tail, which no one would recognise as such, heading towards the river on the other side of a tunnel and, when you push a large black button to the right of my photograph, it spurts a stream of water from its mouth into a stone pond. Whether anyone can see the connection between town and river I have no idea, there’s no sign or description anywhere nearby.

My apartment is spacious, light, furnished and considerably more than I had expected. Now all I need to do is move all my possessions here and it’s mine. That, I’ve decided, is what I’ll be doing this evening if I can. Tomorrow I’ve other plans.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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