Weíre settling in – we ended up renting the exorbitantly priced pre-war apartment with the 13í ceilings and marble floors with lots of volume but not a lot of area. However, Crumpet loves the garden and itís only a ten-minute walk to work. Fortunately, MITRE's housing allowance was even more generous than usual in our particular situation. The standard method compares the average cost of housing expenses for someone of our economic level in the Frankfurt and Northern Virginia areas and MITRE adds the difference to our paycheck. However, if one's U.S. housing expenses were less than the average, they will increase the payment by that amount. Since we had purchased our house many years before, the extra in our case was nearly $500 a month, which made the apartment affordable. (We also receive a Cost of Living Allowance, which leads to unexpected tax consequences.)
On the other hand, our moving company luck continued as it began – our air shipment made it here a whole week before the ground shipment; for the first time in anyoneís memory, Customs opened both shipments and sometime before or after several important items disappeared (including two-thirds of the new Bose speaker system and the silverware); 18 boxes that we relegated to storage showed up but not the all-important filing cabinet that included all this yearís records to date (hope the IRS doesnít actually need proof); the VCR needs repair and the new hard disk in one of the computers needed a low-level reformat to work.
Even worse, our custom-designed soft that had been totally rebuilt and reupholstered the month before the move, initiated before we knew we were coming, was totally sprung – it must have been at the bottom of a pile – and the fabric was soiled and torn. I guess it could have been worse – another of the recent arrivals had a sofa that seemed to have supported a greasy pallet during some part of the trip.
[However, the insurance settlement, including the Mustang damage, dragged on until nearly the end of our two-year stay, and was only achieved after a threat to involve MITRE's German-retained lawyer.]
We bought a 1983 BMW 323i Mustang replacement from a MITRE consultant who was leaving – I donít think a 6-year old BMW qualifies for yuppiedom (even if I wasnít already disqualified by age). Guess Iíll have to forget those BMW jokes. (Actually itís closer to 7 years – itís a "January 1983" BMW – they keep track of things that closely here.) Itís perfect for the traffic light Grand Prix – in addition to the usual yellow before the red, they give you a yellow before the green so you have time to get into gear and blast off. In fact, if you wait for the green, youíre likely to get a toot, particularly from taxis. My present office (until they finish remodeling the building – in the meantime, several times an hour someone working on the next level drops a large hammer on the floor and the dust is pervasive enough that Iíve decided not to bring in my computer until we move) is adjacent to a street that looks like one Iíve seen in the Monte Carlo race – thereís lots of acceleration and squealing of tires, but so far no crunches!
And then there are the autobahns. They are designed for speed and are really well built (both the foundation and the pavement are much thicker than our Interstate highways – the contractors have to guarantee them for a specified time). Of course, there are no speed limits, so when thereís not too much traffic, itís not too difficult to cruise at 160 (about 95 mph). The previous owner said sheíd often had it to the 220 speedometer limit – I havenít yet. Unfortunately BMW didnít include air-conditioning in í83 323iís, so with the warm weather weíve had to open some windows or the sunroof at least partly and the wind noise soon makes higher speed driving too tiring.
Of all things, Iíve been in Stockholm on business three times already – more travel than my previous five years at MITRE. Two separate Travel Expense Vouchers are required for each trip, one in marks and one in dollars, although three currencies are involved (the per diem rate is figured in dollars) and the conversion rates are different every trip. Iíve finally found the perfect use for a spreadsheet!
Itís a strange sensation to go "home" to Frankfurt. The first time I was in Stockholm, while watching a TV weather report of the U.S. I was thinking that I should pay attention, since Iíd soon be back there (like previous summer vacations) and I suddenly realized that this wasnít summer vacation. In fact, we havenít had a chance to take any vacation, and summer is just about over! Oh well, maybe weíll go to Greece or Spain this winter!