Friday, July 30, 2010

Passport Pages + an Article


We did manage to get our passports sent to the consulate in time to avoid the new $82 fee for having additional visa pages added. Yay! It took about a week for them to turn around. It appears that they sew the new pages to a piece of tape, and then tape them into the passport. You can see the sewing and tape in the photos here (click to enlarge). The quote on the stitched pages is kind of appropriate - I wonder if they did that on purpose.

It's nice, but I can't help thinking it doesn't look like $82 worth of materials and effort. They don't even pay for postage - you have to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (unless they've changed that since the fee change).

In other news, I just clicked on an article someone posted on Facebook tonight and in the sideline of the article saw this headline: "America, There Is a Better Way: It's Called Germany".
I'm not prepared to make a comment on it yet as I'm still reading it, but wanted to put it up right away because regardless of the lean or content I figure plenty of people who read this blog might be interested in checking it out based on the title alone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jein zum Stadthallenanbau!

B ack in March, this appeared on the cover of Heidelberg's free newspaper (click to enlarge any image in this post):

It shows the Heidelberg Altstadt from the north side of the Neckar, with a big change - the addition of that big modern box-like thing on the side of the Stadthalle, a Heidelberg landmark. Right now there's a little park where that box is sitting in the picture. The article says the design has been approved for the addition to the Stadthalle, and I didn't really read any further than that. Other than the fact that the photo was a little shocking - shocking enough that I saved it to share here - I assumed the addition was some kind of done deal. A really weird decision - I thought we all got over throwing up crap like that in the middle of nice old things back in the 50s or so - but done nonetheless. After all, this is the administration that put those jarring benches in last year.

Apparently a lot of other people were shocked when they saw it too. Since March, Heidelberg has exploded in signs and events for and against the addition, and there's going to be a vote about it this Sunday (July 25). There are handmade signs (oddly one on the Theodor Heuss bridge actually says "this sign is handmade" after imploring you to vote against the addition), parties and concerts to raise money against it, and a bunch of crap in our mailboxes. Even one of the local Italian delivery joints is asking us to vote against the addition (and then, after voting, order some salad from them):
There doesn't seem to be as much publicity in the pro-addition camp, but it's out there. They say it will save a lot of money over building something new in a less historical section of town, like near the Bahnhof. Other than that, I can't figure out what their arguments are. The most common sign just says it's "for the future" and this is illustrated by a young-Republican-looking blond guy frowning at the camera.

I don't think I can vote but haven't double checked that yet. Most of my German friends don't seem to care whether they build it or not. I guess maybe the mayor wants it in the Altstadt so they can have big meetings and stuff right there on the Neckar to show off the town to visitors. It's ugly. Seems they should be able to come up with something better.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Do you need more passport pages?

R ight now it's free to add more visa pages to your US passport, but starting Tuesday (July 13) it's going to cost $82 to have them added! So if you're getting low on pages, hurry and have them added before then! You can do it by mail (should arrive at the consulate before July 13 to be safe) or by going right to the consulate in person on Monday.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Awesome German Customer Service Alert!!

C all doctor's office.

Secretary picks up. She is clearly frazzled. "The phones are ringing off the hook," she says.

Does she put you on hold?

No - she tells you to call back later and hangs up!!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Germany defeats Argentina!

D amn, and I'd been all nervous.

We went to watch the game outside at a restaurant/bar. We arrived at 1:30 for a game time of 4pm, and that was just in time to claim a pretty good table. By the time the game started the area was completely packed with Germans eating salads, drinking beers, and smoking stinky Gauloises. It was wicked hot and humid, and I think the big umbrellas at the restaurant were collecting everyone's body heat. During halftime, though, it POURED rain and a lot of people got soaked.

Everyone talked about Argentina winning the whole thing and the odds I checked on line were in their favor, so I looked around and imagined all these Germans walking home all sad in their schwarz-rot-gold flags and leis.

Watching the game in a crowd is a totally different experience from watching it at home or even at home with a group. It's very tense and involving - every little thing that happens on the screen earns a reaction from the crowd and it keeps feeding itself. Huge cheers just for getting possession of the ball, nervous twitching and cigarette-lighting for losing possession, and my favorite, mocking Maradona's sad faces and the Argentine players when they put on their trademark high drama that they are hurt after THEY trip someone else. Mwa ha! People sang and high-fived strangers.

Angela Merkel was at the game too and I always love her at these games. She's usually so stiff and it's adorable when she gets all excited. (But can't really get her arms all the way up because of her jackets!) And I'm not being ironic when I say I kind of love Jogi Loew always wearing the same outfit of that other important guy next to him whose name I am always forgetting. (Yeah, even though he picked his nose on camera - check YouTube if you really want evidence. Even this is amusing because one of my teachers in Mainz also shamelessly picked his nose in front of the whole class.) On the fashion front, though, Spain's blue uniforms are really sharp, I LOVED Paraguay's stripey socks and I'm sad they're out, and I wish Croatia had made it to the World Cup with their awesome checkers. The German uniforms do nothing for me.

After the game came the standard massive street party that's been following all their wins, but this was the biggest yet. Unfortunately I've forgotten my camera every time! I'm scared to bring it now because we might lose if I have it with me. So I can't promise any future pictures, Germany might lose to Spain. It happened in the last Euro Cup. :/

I've been rooting for the Netherlands too - seems no one has been talking about them at all while they quietly kick ass. I guess if it came down to them and Germany I'd root for Germany, but feel a little bad about it!


On our way home from the game, we ran into a couple of (Japanese?) tourists, one of whom greeted us by raising his right hand in greeting and saying "Auf Wiedersehen!" Then he asked in English for directions to the Hauptbahnhof, which he managed to say all in one syllable. That was pretty awesome. :D Hopefully he found it because we were nowhere close!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

What rivalry?

T here's an ad showing here for Altoids-esque mints called Fisherman's Friend. Their motto is something like, "If they're too strong, you're too weak." The ad uses imagery to convey the strong and weak parts of this - and the strong shows German soccer fans cheering, while the weak shows Dutch soccer fans moping in nearly-empty stands. Kind of sad. It plays off of a supposed rivalry/hate going on between the two.

Not to say that it doesn't exist at all, but it can't be so bad. Last night my husband was riding the Bahn (train) when the Netherlands defeated Brazil, and he reports that not only did they make an announcement on the train that the Dutch had eliminated Brazil, but that everyone was happy about it! (Me too - I've come to love how they've been quietly kicking ass all over the place while everyone has eyes only for South American teams.)

Germany's playing Argentina today. NERVOUS!!! :D

In other news, the trip had to be cancelled to the tune of some major money loss. In addition to not using ebookers, I don't recommend flying British Airways. They have some seriously draconian policies. More on that later, if I feel like getting all pity-party about it again. (Okay, so maybe you won't hear more on that later!!)