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We have an address

September 1989

We actually have an address! When we first started looking for a place to live, we became discouraged quickly. One day I made fifteen phone calls to various real estate agents (Immobilien), and each one told me that they had nothing available. I made many more calls on other days, too, but no one seemed to have anything. We did look at one house that was being renovated, but it wouldn’t be completed until mid-October (so they said; we thought it would be later), and then we’d have to install a kitchen. (Most apartments and houses do not come with kitchens. The only thing you get is a pipe where the water supply is.) Not only that, after this apartment was completed, renovation would begin on the upper two floors. So we’d spend the next two years with plasterers and carpenters working above us. Also, the price was exorbitant. Needless to say, we kept looking.

The apartment we are in is the first one we saw. It’s in an 1880-1890 building that survived the bombing of the war. We have only three rooms (plus a kitchen), but the ceilings are thirteen feet high, and the windows are ten. It doesn’t have as much space as we’d like (105 square meters), but we did not want a forty-five minute commute, which would be required by the houses available in the country. The bedroom is 13½ feet by 17½ feet, the living room 15 by 19 with an additional 6½ by 8½ foot "winter garden" bumped on the front—it’s glass on all three sides and the other side faces the living room. The living room has a fireplace, and off the living room is another little room where we have the computers set up—it’s 15 by 10, the foyer 9 by 8¾. Now that I read this, the space doesn’t seem all that small.

We also have a tiled terrace with chairs and an umbrella, and steps leading down into a lovely garden with a fountain that we haven’t turned on yet. We’re the only ones who can use the garden since we’ve got the apartment on the first floor. Also we’re the only renters. The others own their apartments. Oh, this apartment did come with a built in kitchen—a rarity. Now Jack can walk to the office in less than ten minutes. And it’s fun to live in the city. We can walk or take the subways or trains to just about anywhere we want to go. It certainly feels good.

I’ve been job-hunting since we got here. I’ve been offered a part-time position at Big Bend Community College, an elementary remedial reading position with DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependent Schools) at Rhein-Main Air Force Base (about six miles but a half-hour from here), and I’m hoping for a position with City Colleges of Chicago. Again, it will probably be remedial work with soldiers, but I think that I can handle that. Also full-time work is considered 80 hours a month (for the colleges and universities). I’m also trying to get a job with the Frankfurt International School. If I work for them, I’ll be working as a German resident, as Jack is, but if I work on one of the jobs for DoDDS or one of the colleges or universities, then I’ll skip getting residency and work permits and also I’ll be able to use the PX to buy my gasoline, which is a significant saving. I hope something positive happens within the next few weeks. School started last week, and I sure would like to get something settled before the end of September.

Crumpet seems to be enjoying herself. We are amazed at how well she has been able to adapt. We were warned about how stressful the move could be for her, especially the flight. And here this antique cat has moved from our house to Chain Bridge Forest for a week at a friend’s house, to the Hotel Schwille in Frankfurt, to a spacious house in Sachsenhausen (Jack’s boss offered their house to us for ten days when they went to Madeira), back to the Hotel Schwille in Frankfurt, and finally to our apartment. We locked her in the bathroom on moving day, August 2. (The bathroom is 6¾ by 13, so she wasn’t claustrophobic. Oh, and the "bath" room is separate from the room with the toilet.) She even survived that trauma. We do have an "in town" garden though, and Crumpet loves to stand on the terrace, survey the garden, walk down the steps, and generally act as if she is princess of the whole world. Not a bad life for a cat! I wouldn’t mind it for a human. Anyway, she did survive the bathroom confinement.

And would you believe that a houseguest arrived the day before our move? She came by train from the French Alps. Despite the weirdness of a houseguest on moving day, she was a big help. She was bossy with the movers and told them exactly how to behave, how to unpack, how to carry items, and even how to open the boxes. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. She lectured them about every little item. Over the weekend we learned that Sunday was her birthday, so we made a big "to do" about it on Saturday, bought champagne (the German version: Sekt), and took her out to dinner—spectacular Italian food. I guess she was feeling lonely. She stayed until the following Tuesday—I saw her off at the train station about noon. Then I could get around to organizing the house.

Anyway, Jack and I didn’t get to it immediately after the movers left on Thursday because he had to go in to work on Friday, the day after the move, and I had to entertain our house guest. The reason Jack had to go to work the day after the move is that on Monday he was leaving for Sweden to observe the beginning of a series of tests. Had he started this job earlier, he would be in Stockholm for eight weeks observing tests! He didn’t particularly want to stay in Sweden yet. He’s still trying to learn what’s going on here.

We are enjoying our new life. Since we are relatively flexible people and since we do travel more than many, our "fitting in" has been quite easy. Also, we’re eager to learn about the culture and the people. We’re learning about the various modes of public transit: subways, trains, buses, trolley cars; the markets; the bread shops; the flower shops (Blumen); the vegetable and butcher shops; and the wine shops. It is a wonderful experience so far. You should see me trying to shop for food! At least I’m learning that vocabulary fast. There is a bread and pastry shop just two blocks down the street and around the corner. We’ve discovered marvelous dark and multi-grain breads and "brotchen" or rolls. I don’t understand how we’ve avoided the pastries, but we have. Personally, I’m probably more fond of the bread than the sweets.

In addition to the small shops there’s the Kleinmarkthalle, which translates as the "small market hall" which has meats, veggies, spices, fish, fruit, cheese, charcuterie, flowers, teas, and a few ethnic shops with diverse items from the culture—Greek, Italian, etc. It certainly doesn’t look small to me, but I guess that’s in comparison to the Grossmarkthalle on the outskirts of Frankfurt. One thing that happened to another woman here in her forays in a regular supermarket, they do have those too, was that she kept buying what she thought was laundry detergent, but it turned out that she was buying fabric softener—three large boxes. And she couldn’t understand why her laundry wasn’t coming clean. I don’t think that will happen to me, because I take my dictionary everywhere—and I use it!

Another thing—I was incredibly impressed with the women here. What a fashion sense! I find Frankfurt to be far more fashionable than Paris. And I don’t mean just the young women. Fashion seems to run the gamut from outrageous to the finest fabrics in designer fashions. It’s a treat to sit in a sidewalk cafe and watch the people go by. I feel like I’m in the middle of a magazine layout. I think that many of the people that I see feel that way also. Most people here seem to be health and body conscious—many, many great figures on all age groups, mostly bare legs now in the summer (yes, they’re shaved), and mostly flat or small-heeled shoes. You’ll occasionally see a youngish, teen-aged girl in spike-heeled shoes, but for the most part woman wear elegant, flat, leather shoes—and they’re not as expensive as I thought they might be (the shoes, not the women). Quality seems to be the word in shoes and clothes. And clothes are supposed to last. So people seem to buy the best quality they can afford and take great care in caring for their clothes and shoes. There seems to be an abundance of dry cleaners, laundries, and shoe repair shops. You find them every three or four blocks on the street.

Hair salons, usually for both men and women in the same establishment, are equally ubiquitous. This probably also has to do with the body-fashion consciousness. Perhaps part of that comes from the emphasis on physical activity, too. People seem to walk everywhere. We’re doing that also. I do all the shopping and errands on foot and just carry many bags with me. This activity does wonders for one’s legs and hips. Among the nicest things to happen to me (BL) here is to lose an inch from my hips—no weight loss but one inch gone. In the mornings I walk for almost a half-hour to get to my German lesson at 8:00. I could take the U-bahn and be there in 5- 6 minutes, but the walk is wonderful early in the morning. And then I feel that I have been so noble or some such thing by having had an hour walk to and from my class.

Jack’s job seems to be getting more and more involved. Already he’s moving to another building. It’s about the same distance from the house. They moved some of his stuff; it was still in boxes from the Washington move, when he was off in Sweden the first time. He moved the rest of it when he came back. He needs to get things in line here because he will probably be spending the next couple of months in Sweden. I hope that I’ll have a chance to join him for some of the time before one of my jobs begins. Again, he’ll be observing tests and collecting data to analyze while he’s in Stockholm. Fortunately the weather is still wonderful there. He said Stockholm is on the water and is similar to Leningrad. I looked at the map and it doesn’t seem to be that far away either. He’s had two trips to Stockholm already and it looks as if he’ll be going back next Tuesday if he can get things in order here. One of the problems is that the guy who was previously working on the project died of pancreatic cancer within the last few months. A couple of other people were helping out on the project, but no one was doing the job full-time. So Jack is having to learn the job and make judgment calls about it too.

He came back from his second trip to Sweden last night. He had been gone for almost two weeks, so Crumpet and I "Germanized" ourselves here. We did allow him to unpack, change his clothes, hug us, and then we were off to a "Weinfest" on the Fressgass, a pedestrian mall, about ten minutes from here. We sampled about ten different wines, snacked on potato pancakes and applesauce and calamari with garlic sauce. We had such fun that we’re going back tonight! It’s only on for this weekend, and Jack has to go back to Sweden on Tuesday.

© Copyright 2000 Jack Ludwick - All Rights Reserved

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