Thursday, October 2, 2008

Level 2: The Paperwork Jungle

My last post was a bit dreary. Rain and copious paperwork will do that. Yesterday was my first full day in Bonn. I'm happy to report that I am now an enrolled student at the University of Bonn complete with a student ID that gives me free access to all the public transportation.

A note about public transportation: On all the regional trains there is always a ticket taker who moves up and down the cars searching asking for your Fahrkarte (train ticket) and "danke"-ing you when you present it at the correct time. That's pretty much how things work at home.

Buses and subway trams work a bit differently. You are supposed to buy a ticket from the driver on a bus or on the tram, but no one ever checks if you did. You can just step onto the tram in the back, ride until your stop and get off without ever laying any cash down. Every now and then someone goes through the tram or bus checking tickets. If you don't have yours, you get a hefty fine. The advantage here is that there are no turn-stiles or ticket scanners so foot-traffic to and from the bus or train moves quickly and efficiently keeping them running in perfect time. The disadvantage is the city is presumably losing a bunch of change to people who take a free ride. I have yet to see someone checking tickets on the Stadtbahn (the tram/subway). Weird.

For the last two days I've been bouncing from office to office getting the correct signatures from the correct officials. I had to go into town to sign my housing contract, then back to the dorm to present the contract and get my keys. Then I went to the international student office, then the insurence agency, then the office in charge of fellowships. This had to be done in the correct order so that I would have the correct stamp and signature when I arrived at my next destination. Screw it up - game over.

I felt like I was in a video game, a real-life reenactment of Zelda as I collected the correct key to enter the next room where I was faced with some puzzel (in this case: communicating my needs through German). Once the puzzel was completed, I could enter the next room where a wise wizard told me what to do to get to the treasure chest (my free transport pass) or acquire a magical new ability (access to the internet).

This analogy falls apart a bit when you consider my quest involved less killing of bad guys or rescuing princesses and more of waiting around in offices on my butt. My quest is almost complete. Soon I will beat the game, have the internet and all the paperwork allowing me to take classes and live in the city. Maybe there's a cheat code I could have used to cut to the fun parts...

Yesterday I was also introduced to my office-mate, Vincent. He's a French Post-Doc working on enamel (the stuff teeth are made out of) structure with Dr. Martin. Very cool guy who knows more of the lingo then I do, but will hopefully put up with my gratuitous German mistakes.

Today, a mini quest ensued with Dr. Martin as we set up my workspace. I now have my own microscope, a box of fossils and modern skeletons to look at and all kinds of questions to answer, but more those later. When I can upload pictures, I'll give you an introduction to Bonn, a city of 250,000. That means there are more neighborhoods to become familiar with, museums to explore and restraunts to discover than I had in Marburg (Oh, how quickly we move on).

Tomorrow I will be leaving bright and early for the biggest party in Germany (besides Carnival): Oktoberfest. Obviously stories will be made and told.

Until then, I hope you have a wonderful weekend and you can take pleasure in the scavenger hunts that drift your way.


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