fj: (Default)
Since my contract with Voda ended, I went to Düsseldorf to clean up, Amsterdam, and my Dad's, then went to SF & LA and have now been back for almost two weeks, but I have not worked. I do not have a new contract yet. I had a job interview the day after I returned, and yesterday they got back to me and said it was a bad fit for the open position. I had to agree, but I hadn't send the No Thanks email myself.

There's no urgency money-wise; Voda paid buckets to compensate me for me having to pay for the commute, and by British tax laws I got most travel and lodging expenses deducted from the taxes that go off every paycheck. I am good, and need to remind myself to use this money to hold out for something good and not give in to that fear of not working by jumping in too early to any opportunity.

Of course, there's no open offer to give in to right now. Since I re-activated my resumes I got a call from a recruiter most every morning. These British ones are not as bad as the ones I dealt with in the US: they do not offer me wildly inappropriate jobs, and they get the salary space right. We'd agree intial stuff over the phone, they send me the req in email, I send them email back with a .doc version of my CV, I never hear back.

Then again, maybe I am too impatient for Europe. Sunday I was at Nigel's, checking out what normal TV looks like on a 32" HD panel by watching the pilot of Space 1999 and a documentary on Blake's 7, and we were bitching about "Remember rejection letters? You know, actually getting them? These days they won't even tell you if you didn't get the job, and I was actually interviewing in their offices! Is it because I didn't send the 'Oh thank you so much for letting me interview' email seconds after I left?" and then I see his expression and I have to follow with: "Wait, you don't know what that email is? All the rage in the US, especially during recessions. It reads like..." and he gets the confirmation again that the US is insane and I get told I needn't send that in the UK, and then one day later I actually got the rejection email totally denying my whining. I just wasn't patient enough.
fj: (travel)
I feel I should make a "Where's Larry" link like [livejournal.com profile] urbear did under every post, but for my location. Especially now that he probably no longer needs it.

So yes, I did arrive in Düsseldorf Tuesday late for my last week, late enough all I could do was go to the gym and get food and hang out. I spent Wednesday in the chic shopping district. I decided with the landlord we'd do the hand-off of keys on Monday instead of Thursday, which meant that after my last day at the gym, I got on the ICE to Amsterdam (2 and change super-speedy hours) without a wallet full of Euros of the deposit but able to leave the icky wet towel hanging in the bathroom. The no-Euros thing was good because The Netherlands was having Sales, and this way I only bought what I absolutely really wanted (one sweater). Amsterdam was rainy, the hotel was way too cheap for its location (PC Hooft) and season (High) which tells me the dollar is really in the toilet and the whole tourist economy must be bleeding, the gym I went to charged too much for a day pass but it was pure nostalgia because it was the one I went to when I was there for a month in 2006. The friend I wanted to see those two days did not call back.

The next day the trams were down, and I had to walk through the city with a heavy bag. Leidschestraat was never that quiet with just pedestrians. When I got to Nieuwezijdse Voorburgwal I saw the problem wasn't the lightning strike I was told had been the issue, but a nr 2 and nr 13 in a configuration that is deviant and unnatural for trams -- must have been a derailment. And when that corner goes out, omg, all the trams in the west side and cednter are just gone. I did get to Central Station huffing and puffing, and then got on a train to spend the next two days at the parental home, being fed, explaining things about Mac OS X to my Dad, ganging up on him with his girlfriend, and seeing some siblings and nephews and nieces who came by that Sunday to just be together.

This was also the weekend an ICE train slipped and derailed and the German railways [DB] took them all out of commission to inspect them, and the thus DB and the Dutch railways [NS} set up transports with busses and normal trains and whatever, but it would take forever. Seeing as my trip was a little time-sensitive Monday morning for the airplane back, I decided on advice of the NS to just not care that my ICE reservation was for Monday morning and leave Sunday night. Hooray, the ICEs were running again Sunday night! Boo, an accident somewhere on the rails near Utrecht means the ICE on Sunday night was two hours late, which for European standards is a total WTF? The NS station personnel felt so bad they started bring us, the people they had seen on that same quay wait for over an hour, coffee. I was all like oh god I don't drink coffee and she went back and got me tea. Once the ICE came it ran like a dream, and I just chose an empty seat, and nobody came by to check tickets and nobody had reserved my seat. Everyone knew this weekend nothing was normal on the railways. Thank god I still had an appartment to go to and just crash. It all worked out after all.

And Monday I cleaned the appartment, handed over keys, and came back to London. No taxi, flight, Heathrow Express, or Tube issues. Taking it seriously easy now. A little shopping. Proper food at good times. A spot of tea. Cold squash drinks. Because, in what seemed like a good idea at the time but I am now wondering what drugs I was on, I am capping off all this travel by getting on a plane to LA and SF. In two days.

How It Was

Jul. 11th, 2008 03:55 pm
fj: (travel)
So, contradictions. Düsseldorf is an impossibly chic little city, but rents in the central area, not at all run down, are ridiculously cheap. Germany is going through a prolonged economic malaise due to reunification, but organic-ish vegetables and perfectly lovely store brand products in my local supermarket cost nothing. And this gig was in Germany and yet I was caught dead doing it1.

This gig for Vodafone was one that my agent has been trying to get me to take fo a while, but I never liked the terms: one had to be in Germany at least four days a week, which means that if you do not move outright for the whole thing, you end up in London only one full day, and I went to London 6 months ago to live there, not in Germany. But after not having worked for a month and a half after that single week with the consultancy, and my savings being equally unhappy after this move, I was more receptive. Then my agent called and said he had talked them down to three days at the office, which means two days of work and weekends at home, plus an unbelievable dayrate as long as I paid my own travel and lodgings, but that those could come off taxes, and I said ok. It's only a 55 minute flight after all.

Logistics-wise, the gig turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Of course the first week I overpayed for a hotel, not knowing what and where. The next week I didn't because I knew where the Hotel Ibis was, a Europe-wide brand of cheap business hotels near train stations. By the third week, my appartment had been arranged, and that made me the slow one in the office: the MZW agency can do that in a day, and had for most of my colleagues who flew in like me. €580,- a month for a big studio in the center of town. Almost every name on the letterboxes, stuck on with label-maker tape, was Indian. The landlord basically rents to all us temp workers. Only drawback of my lovely space: it's a 6th floor walk-up. Oh yeah. The city was rebuilt in the 50s after the war, and elevators were not a priority.

So, little cheap Bio supermarket on the same street. Streetcar stop on the corner which I could take to work. The Vodafone tower and adjacent buildings are pretty much on the Rhine, and modern and spacious and open. My co-workers were nice, and it was kind of fun to sit in the auxiliary room together with all the young designers from the contracting firms chattering away. The work was perfectly do-able and started out bringing me further along to mastering the bread-and-butter of mercenary UI designers (which I am still relatively recent at) but by the end had me back writing strategic documents about revenue opportunities in new media (which I can do in my sleep if you tell me the focus).

I looked at all the gyms online, visited a few from very middle-of-the-road to very expensive, and settled for a bodybuilder's gym that had a good 3-month rate and was in the city center. I walked a lot with my backpack with this heavy computer and gym clothes, I ended up never buying protein powder but just eating a lot of eggs and chicken and tuna and fromage frais (known as Quark in German).

I settled on a routine for flying in and out on Monday and Thursday evenings. This means Mondays were always chaotic as I had to get ready to leave, spend a lot of time actually traveling (bus from Oval to Paddington, Heathrow Express, Plane, Taxi), and still get a whole day of work in and exercise, while Fridays were a mess while I had to get a whole day of work in, do expenses paperwork and time sheets, and was just a general tired mess from flying in Thursday night. Every Friday night when I got in to bed having juggled and hurried and done everything and eaten and worked out at two gyms and not dropped any balls, I just collapsed, and then reminded myself I'd get to do it all over again in two days. Sometimes with having to go to the bank on Monday as well to travel with €1K in cash, as using my UK and US cards was either impossible or expensive for things like rent or food. Never used it for shopping, though, as I never had time by day. This last trip I was able to just walk the whole of the shopping street and see how for a small city, Ddorf is just really well supplied in high-end fashion, all in a really nice area. Balenciaga's black knitwear for this season is Teh Raumpatrouille Orion Sex2.

The constant planning got tedious. What clothes were where, what should I bring, do I have enough cash for the taxi, what was in what fridge (which is important if you often arrive after shops close), what did I need to bring to work, what would fit in what bag. When I came back in London from having stayed over a weekend to visit my family I learned that Tesco's Finest Orange Juice is not pasteurized: the bottle had bulged, opening it was a plopping adventure, and the OJ had been diligently fizzily carbonated by little entities. The only way to deal with all the planning was routines: everything had to have a place and time, from when I switched currencies, to when and where I would switch keys on my key chain, to when I would pull out my passport and when I would put it back to what I would buy and when I would leave. I couldn't keep track of it all at the same time, so I kept track of each thing as it happened and put it in a place that would be predictable for the next time this part of the routine had to happen. By the end it was actually all really relaxed trip-wise, I just ran through the steps, back and forth, with the only spanner in the works being the damn planes. I only got three outright cancellations in the whole period.

As for visiting my father, one of the reasons I took this gig, that didn't happen because it was really hard to schedule him. He was busy every weekend in May, and I only stayed over on the continent once to see him in June. I will this weekend, but the whole let's go to Rozendaal often just didn't pan out much. The work did, minus two weeks, and the weather was often very lovely. I'd do this again. But now, two days in Amsterdam, and then to Dad, and then Monday to London.

1Ancient Euro rivalry alert
2If you are into paying €1200,- for a sweater, that is.
fj: (Default)

This Century We Are Doing Yellow
"This Century We Are Doing Yellow", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (Default)
Waarom hoor ik alleen maar Nederlands in de winkelstraten van Düsseldorf?

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fj: (Default)
Last set of edits discussed, and that is the end of this Düsseldorf gig. Going back next week for rest, wandering, and closing out appt.

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fj: (Default)

Just A Pretty Thursday Summer Morning In The Center Of Town
"Just A Pretty Thursday Summer Morning In The Center Of Town", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (travel)
Whether Turkey or Gemany won tonight doesn't matter, as I live in a Turkish neighborhood in a German town: I'll be lucky if I sleep before 2 AM.

Edit: Oh awesome, firecrackers!

Shortened

Jun. 25th, 2008 12:31 pm
fj: (tech)
I was told yesterday by the group manager that my contract has been shortened by two weeks because basically, there isn't that much for me specifically to do at this moment. I answered that I could kind of see that already, and that this kind of flexibility is what contracts are for. So next week is my last. I canceled the flight for the week of the 13th, which means I lost all the taxes and fees and charges which are half of the cost and a £15 handling charge. I will keep the flight of the 7th to come in and close up shop on an exit interview, clean the flat and get security back, finally have time to wander around the beautiful shopping district at a time the shops are open -- no, seriously, Königsallee rivals Old Bond Street and looks beautiful in summer -- and maybe hit the Netherlands with the ICE, maybe Amsterdam, definitely dad in Rozendaal, if he and the girlfriend are available. They have very busy social lives, you know. When I started this gig and wanted to spend a weekend with them in May, I basically couldn't because they were gone every last one. I have only been once, two weeks ago. So much for taking a job that allows me to spend more time with them.

Sucks about the last two weeks. I finally got the routine fully down so I was comfortable with it, and would have liked the money.
fj: (Default)
The honking tells me the local sports team must have done something notable in the Euro Soccer Championships. <- Why the gym was empty.

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fj: (Default)
Leave for airport in an hour. Middlemen are being so slow about money. But I committed to this so I go again. Tired.

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fj: (Default)

I Just Walk Down The Road, And Then There's This Scene
"I Just Walk Down The Road, And Then There's This Scene", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (Default)
I have a slight social anxiety disorder, which I have mentioned before, about talking to people who work in shops or over the phone for services. I can trace it to regularly having been confused for a girl in my very early teens, both in person and over the phone, and then later always having had problems explaining what I wanted. That stare of non-comprehension, that I am asking for something completely insane, it just got to me.

Then I moved to Britain, and I had to call tons of people at rental agencies and utilities and banks. Helen the lifecoach fully understood my anxiety, but pointed out having to extend myself to desensitize this blockage was probably a good idea. Yet there I was, having to psych myself to go into a a storefront office of 4 bored looking guys in suits and somehow I have to find the one that does rentals for my area, or find out through a thick plate glass window and thicker accents whether I can turn this piece of paper I signed into money in my account (YES IT IS IN DOLLARS SORRY!) . I spent so much time pacing in front of storefronts, until I had the gumption to walk in. Telling myself to consider myself being an actor, playing an improv part, breathe once breathe twice, phone in my hand, waiting to dial. All completely irrational, since I was the one trying to part with money here, not asking for it. My exchange basically went --"Hi, I'm helpless and stupid!" with the response "Thank you coming, and yes your are, but we'll see what we can do, you poor thing." Really made me feel good about myself, where 'good' means 'useless and stupid', until I got a handle on the scripts after doing them over and over, and knew the key sentences. I love shopping at IKEA because I do not need to talk to anyone, and usually I know the catalog better than the help anyway. But I was glad when the crush of it was all over and I was settled in. (I still am not getting electricity and gas bills to my name. It is up to them to get them to me then I say.)

Now I had to do it all over again. Call the recommended agency, call the agent I am assigned to, email the agent who doesn't answer the emails, calla gain, meet the landlord. Go into gyms and try them out and ask what the price plans are. Go into phone shops to get a SIM card for wireless internet.

In German.

Oh God. I have died a thousand deaths, rehearsing sentences over and over while pacing on the street, sentences I never ended up using anyway. I have everything done now, sitting here typing in my flat, but the gym; the three I have been into failed for various reasons. One more left. I can't wait until it is all squared away and I don't every have to talk to anyone about anything.
fj: (health)
Waking up tired, I powered myself through Thursday, even trying out a new gym to join in Düsseldorf. Yesterday after airline adventures I came home at 1 PM, ready to work, and was unable to do even the minimum of what I would call a normal days output. Juts puttering around all day, catching up on BSG (3 episodes), go to gym, and feel like I won't last 10 more weeks this way on this schedule. Like my body is running on empty.

It's 4.30 PM now, and all I have done is sleep and eat all the healthy food I bought. Then I remembered: Wednesday I felt slightly feverish, but my good friend Ibuprofen took it away overnight. Yes, I am tired, and in Germany I do not take as good care of myself as I should if I am going to be in an airplane and under this work pressure every week, but obviously I am working out some sort of infection right now. Now that I have a flat I can get it together in Germany as well, and I will be ok. Work out. Prepare food I need in portions I need to take to work. Drink more on the plane, even if a small bottle of water costs €3. I just have to have a very slow weekend now. I think tomorrow I will be even able to catch up what I should have done yesterday. And not even consider going to the birthday party at last weeks club being thrown for the East End bouncer we met through chatting with his wife, which'll probably be attended by all his other, equally beefed-up bouncer friends, random East Enders, and sexual deviants he seemed to know last week. His wife, who put me and [livejournal.com profile] iejw  on the guestlist at 4 AM, probably will have forgotten all about us anyway. Can't go. Want to go. Can't go. Must sleep more now.

( Watched latest BSG, made me gasp at the end. Spoilers in comments.)
fj: (Default)

God This Is Too Easy
"God This Is Too Easy", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (Default)

Yup, Back In Europe
"Yup, Back In Europe", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (Default)
Back in D-dorf. Holiday here, so eating out again. Weather so stunning the restaurants put tables on the sidewalks, V. European.

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fj: (travel)
Düsseldorf is just like Arnhem. Which means nothing to you but a lot to me. Also, have a flat; no more Donner every night.

Actually, that was my Tweet last night, but AutoPostBot did not pick it up because I forgot to start it before I left after a restart of the server. I am back in London now, after an interesting flight. I checked in only this morning to find the system had not put me in my preference, a window seat, but still it had put me as far as front as possible, which is also a preference, just one I had never told BA about. I started moving myself back on the map to get a window and then realized this was stupid: 11E is an isle seat in a row of two in the middle, and for an hour and change that will be just fine, nice at the front. It was only when I boarded that I realized that the system had actually upgraded me: 11E is Business Class or whatever BA calls that. Just because I flew them last week and have three reservations pending for the rest of the month?

Still nice, though. And yes, by June I should be at Silver level so I get to use their airport lounges. I'd like that.
fj: (Default)

We Are Ready For The Meeting
"We Are Ready For The Meeting", Nokia N73, Düsseldorf, 2008

fj: (travel)
When adapting to a new city, I consider a weekend a success if I have one event in it in which I hang out with friends or new people. I have had a double successful weekend then: Friday night, on a gay.com chatroom, a local invited me to have brunch with him the next day. During the private chat I found out he was an interesting guy: a US filmmaker who has been in London for a while, and lives with his partner, a DJ and lecturer of philosophy, in a flat right smack in Soho. So of course I accepted the invitation. After some brunching Saturday we ended up sunning in the park, and we had so much to talk about that Saturday night, when we both logged on again, we both ended up reporting to an incredulous chatroom that we hadn't even mentioned them once.

Sunday [livejournal.com profile] iejw took me to a club for Gay Bingo, though not as glamorous a location as when he first went, it was awesome. On the way to -- we met in Cambridge Circus -- he introduced me to this guy. I tried to make smalltalk later by asking him how he knew [livejournal.com profile] iejw. "I am his partner, we've lived together for years."

Now I am Düsseldorf, and I swear, I can feel how being in an airplane makes me stupider. After we land I organize myself -- one allways ends up juggling coins and passports and stubs and receipts at some point -- and I end up with something in my hand, or not in my hand or a pocket that should be there and I can feel how the cognitive load is just too much right now, and that this normally would not have been a problem.

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