Monday July 2, 2012
To the city we will go
SAMBAL ON THE SIDE BY BRENDA BENEDICT
After having spent almost three months scouring the city for new digs, our columnist finally made the big move, learning all about the binding power of German red tape along the way.
IN eight years of marriage, I have now moved six times – five of which were intercontinental.
And so, our recent ascent in status from country mice to city mice should actually have been child’s play for me. After all, this time we moved a mere 11.7km.
I had written some time back that we were on the lookout for a new abode. After several letdowns, we finally found one that met most of our criteria and promptly affixed our signatures on the dotted line.
Since then, we’d been plotting our move with the precision of a Swiss timepiece. We had our trusty files of mind maps, lists and deadlines specifying who does what by when. Yet the attendant logistics and bureaucracy remained as mind-boggling as ever.
It was decided from the get-go that my husband would deal with bureaucracy while I would do the running around.
This is because as fluent as I am in German, vocabulary and grammar fail me the minute I’m faced with a sorry excuse for red tape. Once we spent half a Saturday driving to three different post offices looking for a simple change-of-address order form.
You have to submit this form to the Deutsche Post, instructing them to direct all snail mail to your new address for a given period of time.
This gives all your postal correspondents a grace period to become aware of and register your new postal address.
One would think that obtaining this form would be an easy enough process – turn on the computer, click on Documents, click on Nachsendeauftrag, turn on printer (if you haven’t already), click on “print” and voila! But no.
We were told that they had all run out of the forms and that we would have to wait for them to be delivered some time that week.
That was the first of the many times that I’d turned to my husband and incredulously asked, “G8? Really?”
Thankfully, though, we were told at the third post office that we could also solve the matter online – for a fee, of course.
Officialdom aside, this time we finally did what we had oft repeated but never really executed: spring-clean our cellar. It’s amazing how much you hoard over the years. Since all our foreign postings have been short-term, we often only took the most essential items for our temporary stays abroad. The rest was stored here.
Hence, we had, among other things, two toasters, mismatched or incomplete tableware, and a collection of décor paraphernalia vast enough to set up our own ethnology museum.
Initially, we had the lofty idea of selling everything at a flea market and donating the proceeds to charity. Ditto eBay. But given the convoluted processes and time constraints, we finally opted for Plan C, namely Sperrmuell.
Meaning “bulk waste”, this is basically anything that is too big or unsuitable for the regular waste bins, like old wooden or plastic furniture, carpets, mattresses, scrap metal or electrical appliances.
You call a special number to register yourself and give them a rough idea of the type and volume of waste, after which you’re assigned a pick-up date. Two days prior, you should arrange everything at a designated spot in your neighbourhood that blocks neither traffic nor your neighbours’ entryways. A suitably-sized truck then comes and collects everything.
I’m also proud to say that I’m now a bit of a putty pro. Tenants leaving rented property are often obliged to leave it in the state they first got it, and that includes pristine, nail-free walls. Having been shown by The Husband how to fill nail holes with putty, I spent many afternoons doing just that while humming Time To Say Goodbye. It was somewhat therapeutic.
In a departure from moves past, we also decided this time to let the moving company pack all our stuff. This little luxury certainly prevented more grey hair from sprouting as our attempt to balance work and packing merely resulted in a sleep imbalance.
The big move finally happened last Friday, and as I sit here unpacking yet another box of books, I cannot help but wish that I could, in Harry Porter-style, intone, “Tergeo* apartment” and have everything magically rearranged for me. But then again, part of the fun (if you could call it that) of moving is being able to decorate a whole new place a whole new way. I guess with six moves behind me, this should be a breeze.
> Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian now living right smack in the centre of Frankfurt.
*The tergeo spell apparently cleans anything and anyone.