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Committed, Or Should Be
Dear Friends and Families,
Last week was a house-hunting week. We bagged one. We are committed to living in Frankfurt. Next week, I hope to get my job details finalized. The order is a bit backwards, but that seems to be the way we do things: always assuming the next step will fit in with the last and cover our commitments. So far, so good but it was a roller coaster week.
We left Kiev on Saturday, bound for Frankfurt International Airport. Normally, this is a two-hour direct flight, but we have shifted to a "lowest-cost" mode, so that eliminates the direct flights. Instead, we chose a special offered by Malev, the Hungarian flag-carrier, and stopped for a plane change in Budapest. The stop on the way over was six hours and the flights before and after that stop were a bit under two-hours each, so airport-to-airport was over ten hours. We could have almost flown to the States in that time, but each part was pleasant enough. Marianne was able to practice her Hungarian as we visited most of the shops in the Budapest airport, but our current lowest-cost mode didn't allow any actual buying.
We didn't even pick up a bottle of that fine Hungarian beverage, Unicum. It's the worst tasting alcohol I've ever run across, but the locals do indeed use it "for medicinal purposes". It's unclear to me if it solves or causes medical situations. I believe most non-Hungarians would share my view after one taste.
The Malev flight from Budapest to Frankfurt was in a small Folkker jetliner. The plane was small, but the seats were big. On the normal Lufthansa from Kiev to Frankfurt, the plane is big and the seats are tiny. We definitely prefer the Malev approach.
We landed late on Saturday and took the train into town. We had reservations at a small hotel near the main train station and managed the eight-minute walk with no incident. Anyone who has stayed around the Frankfurt train station would recognize that, given the seedy neighborhood, this is an accomplishment. At the hotel, we encountered two problems: first, it fit right in with the seedy neighborhood. It was rated at three stars, but I think it borrowed one or two from some other establishment.
The second problem was that they did not have record of our reservation and could only accommodate us for one or two days since they were otherwise full. We had been emailing with Frau Jammer, the hotel manager, but somewhere along the line, the message had been missed. Our roadtrip experience said that we should take a day or two and solve the problem later, so we settled into our ground-floor, street-side, seedy-neighborhood hotel room.
We spent all of Sunday on the trains and subways, familiarizing ourselves with our potential work locations. First, we went over to the Offenbach offices of Framatome Advanced Nuclear Power, Gmbh. This always gets abbreviated to FANP, Gmbh or just "Gmbh". My job will be with the American branch of FANP, referred to as FANP, Inc or simply "Inc." There's also the FANP home office in France, but I've lost track of what cute initials they go by.
We also rode out to the end of the subway to see the Frankfurt International School. Marianne will be looking for work and this is one of the possibilities. There are also a number of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) schools in the area, but everyone she talked with said that full-time positions were filled. She's confident that something will happen over the summer to open something up.
Sunday evening, Frau Jammer came by the hotel and offered to take us over to her "Boarding House" to see if it would be more suitable. It was. In fact, it was a great small hotel in a pleasant neighborhood. Our hotel experience had turned from negative to very positive. Things were looking up.
On Monday, we got down to business. I visited my new office at Gmbh. It's a huge building. Before the nuclear power business was spun off to Framatome, this was all Siemens Power and even now, a majority of the space belongs to the non-nuclear folks. In case you are ever landing from the east at Frankfort airport, you can look down and see the buildings. We are on the south side of the Main River, next to a freeway and the larger of the two buildings has a big blue "Siemens" sign on it. Tell me when you are landing and I'll wave from my ninth floor desk.
Marianne also went off to look for work. She took the train to Darmstadt, south of Frankfurt. She interviewed at a DoD school there and was very impressed with the program. There's still no job, but at least the principle encouraged Marianne to call back in early July, so this seems more promising.
That evening, we met our real estate agents, Peter and Irmi. They are a wonderful find, energetic, friendly and thoroughly professional. They explained the general practices for renting in Frankfurt: apartments come BARE, not even kitchen cupboards or appliances; owners of good places are fussy about tenants; it's an owners market; it's not cheap. We were thankful that they were so upbeat and positive because their story was a bit sobering. Remember, we're still unemployed and "betting on the come" that work and income will happen in time to cover bills.
In fact, I ended Monday with a phone call back to the States to "Inc." We are still negotiating on the job and it's difficult. They are reluctant to commit to a long-term "full employment" position so the best they can offer is "part-time". It took me the rest of the week to understand that that really means a full-time job, but one which could end when the current project phase ends. In today's world, I think all jobs are that way, but here they were being up front with it. Besides, for Marianne and me, a part-time full-time job sounds pretty secure.
The rest of the week was more of the same: office time at Gmbh; employment discussions with Inc; apartment hunting with Peter and Irmi; Marianne's school visits; subway rides here and there and back again. The week was a real roller coaster ride with every aspect having ups and downs. I'm not even sure I could recount the peaks and valleys and, in the end, it doesn't matter. Things worked out.
We took the first apartment we had looked at. We looked at a half-dozen, but each one had plusses and minuses. Marianne wanted trees. I wanted a secure garage for our car. We both wanted an in-town location, close to public transportation and markets, restaurants, etc. We wanted about as much space as we were leaving in Kiev. We wanted "character". We needed a price less than or equal to what we hoped to get for our place in Kiev.
So, what did we get? No trees. A carport instead of a garage. Smaller than Kiev. A pretty plain remodel in a 100-year-old office building. Those were the minuses. The pluses were that the location was near shopping and the building had just four apartments (and a couple offices).
And, talk about convenient to public transportation; we are smack dab in the middle of the South Frankfurt train & tram station! From our living room and kitchen, we look out on the train platforms. We are close enough to see people getting up from their seats. From the bedrooms, we look out on trams and busses. They're even closer than the trains. The subways, both "U-Bahn" and "S-Bahn", run under our building. This may not be to everyone's liking, but we're enthused.
The apartment is completely empty of course, so Marianne went with our real estate team and ordered a kitchen. This is the third kitchen we've had installed in eight years. Each time, the cost has gone down and the selection process has gotten quicker. Our Frankfurt kitchen cost about what our Los Gatos stove did, and we finished selection in a couple days instead of several months. But I'm sure the food will be just as good.
So, that's it. We're back in Kiev now for the final chaos of packing and Customs clearance. But, that's another story.
Take care and do come and visit. Finally, we're convenient.
John and Marianne
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