Thursday, June 22, 2006

all systems go

At this time of day exactly four weeks from now, my three boys and I will be squashed into economy class on a plane headed to Vancouver. Wheee!

In preparation for our journey there were a few official things that needed taking care of. In Germany that can mean long waits and dealings with impolite, indifferent civil servants. But this time? Fast, efficient, friendly service all around! Things are looking up.

My Canadian passport was set to expire later this summer, so I had to apply for a new one several weeks ago. Godawful picture as usual, but very shiny and machine readable at last. Getting a new passport every five years also means having to go down to the foreigners' office and have my permanent residence permit transferred so they don't kick me out of this fabulous country.

I got to the right address fairly early, along with two really nice Polish ladies who had tagged along with me after stopping me on the street downtown to ask me if I knew where the office was. I must look like I know where I'm going because people are ALWAYS asking me for directions. Little do they know...

Anyway, total time there about 15 minutes. World record. So I got that over with and thought we were done, but then I just happened to read in the newspaper that the kids' German children's ID was no longer valid and that they'd both have to get a "children's passport" which isn't actually a passport but is recognized abroad. They have dual Canadian/German citizenship and have Canadian passports but apparently won't need real German passports until they're 16. Who knew?

Yesterday we all trucked down to our little city hall (open on Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon ONLY, thank you very much) and the guy did the children's passports in about 30 minutes while he told us all about his trip to San Francisco last year.

I don't know what's gotten into these people - they're being so darn friendly. It must be the World Cup. Let's see if it lasts.

So we now have 6 passports between the four of us and I have also documented a few other necessities that I simply cannot be without when we fly to Vancouver.

1. valid travel documents
2. travel sickness pills
3. ancient and as yet unused Lufthansa barf bag (see #2)
4. spare change
5. flip flops
6. umbrella


At June 22, 2006 3:20 p.m., Blogger Mike B said...

Must be because you are Canadian ... or maybe it is just Hannover. The Beamters in this neck of the woods aren't being so friendly to US citizens these days.

At June 22, 2006 3:46 p.m., Blogger In Actual Fact said...

Wooh! Nice. And good news on the officialdom front, but are you sure that there's enough of item Nr. 2 there, or has the exchange rate gone up very favourably?

At June 22, 2006 5:49 p.m., Blogger christina said...

mikeb - Yes, I can see you've been having a rough time with German bureaucracy - what a drag. I guess I've been dealing with them all alone for so long that they don't scare me any more.

Actual - Isn't it wonderful that they'll let me stay here as long as I want? :-s As for spare change - We've been saving up for two years - the rest is in the vault until further notice. :-)

At June 22, 2006 5:57 p.m., Blogger lily b said...

I love that you have flip flops and an umbrella in the same picture.

What about the Canadian Tire money? Isn't that just as valuable as the other stuff?

At June 22, 2006 6:01 p.m., Blogger wthenrest said...

It isn't just Germans, I'm afraid. I just went to get my passprot renewed here in Calgary and they were none too friendly either... Plus, I had to go back twice because it wasn't enough I was infront of them, had a drivers license, the old passport, and someone saying they knew me for over a the rule says 2 years. Ok! but what... I am a spy and got surgery to look like someone else in a year? Seeing my picture on the passport ...really who would say - "oh yeah, let me look like that!!" fun stuff.
Go Germany!!! -World cup awaits!!!

At June 22, 2006 6:02 p.m., Blogger Expat Traveler said...

How organized Christina! And yes Ginnie will meet up with us in the fall.

I love the photo. So does that mean you only have a Canadian passport?

The barf bag? Does that mean they don't give them out anymore??? (remember my story)

Ah yes that Canadian money. I guess they don't exactly accept Euros, but USD...

At June 22, 2006 6:06 p.m., Blogger Sigrun said...

Oh, you are going to Vancouver! Have a lot of fun and good weather there.
Is there anybody who says someting against German Beamte?? :-))


At June 22, 2006 6:55 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

Just think, now you can start counting the days! I'm so excited for you :)

At June 22, 2006 7:01 p.m., Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

I HATE having to have my passport renewed in Switzerland. I just had mine done a couple of weeks ago, and when my dentist (who speaks perfect English) filled out his bit of the 4-page(!!) form, he jokingly said to me:"Do you have a criminal background I don't know about? I mean, why do they want to know all this?" Then, he couldn't stop laughing. And then, he signed and one letter of his signature crossed the line of the field where it says: Void if signature touches line. I thought I'd never get my passport, but I finally did.

Sorry for the long comment, I should have posted a blog about it :-)

PS: Why people always ask you where you're going? Easy. Because you know where YOU have to go. They just think you might also happen to know where THEY want to go, too. ;-)

At June 22, 2006 8:39 p.m., Blogger Katja said...

People are a LOT friendlier in general. It seems, that the campaign "Du bist Deutschland" in combination with the FIFA World Cup did the charm...

At June 22, 2006 9:45 p.m., Blogger meredith said...

Ha! I'm leaving for that continent in 6 days and the only shoes I'ma bringing are flip-flops :)

At June 22, 2006 11:42 p.m., Blogger Dixie said...

They are always so nice to me at the Auslanderamt. Maybe it's because there aren't a lot of Americans here.

I need a new passport next year and I think I have to go to Berlin to the consulate to get it done. Any Americans know a different way because I don't relish going to Berlin for this.

At June 23, 2006 7:34 a.m., Blogger Karen said...

You must be soooooooo excited!
Happy for ya - getting to be home for a while :-)

At June 23, 2006 8:09 a.m., Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and safe journey. Hope you have a great vacation and be sure to take a lot of pictures!


At June 23, 2006 11:03 a.m., Blogger woman wandering said...

I'm so jealous of you going home.

The Belgians have really messed round processing me so I lost my free flight home when 6-8 weeks slowly but surely stretched out to almost a year now ...

Now I have to get legal to work and earn that lost flight home and back ... damn their eyes.

Have the best time, soak up some 'home' for me and blog about it so I can live vicariously :)

At June 23, 2006 2:11 p.m., Blogger christina said...

lilyb - I knew you'd catch that one since you're familiar with the weather in the Pacific Northwest. :-) And thanks for reminding me about the Canadian Tire money!

wtherest - Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, that guarantor rule is SO stupid, especially if you've been getting new passports for years. I can just send it my application by mail to Berlin so I don't have to deal with cranky officials.

Expat - Well this is about the only type of thing I'm good at organizing. :-) And yes, I only have Canadian citizenship - Germany only allows dual citizenship in certain cases (my kids, for one) and if I wanted to get a German passport I'd have to give up the Canadian one and there's NO was I'm ever doing that. As for the barf bags, they do still have them in the back of every airline seat, but I carry one with me at all times anyway just to make sure. :-)

Sigrun - Thanks! I lived in Vancouver for 27 years before I moved here so I'm kind of attached to it. And I'm sure we've all had our fun with German civil servants. :-)

Ginnie - I'm counting already! So much to do to get four people ready to go, and school starts again three days after we get back so I need to get that organized too.

CanSwiss Yes, you should post a Canadian Passport Rant. It's such a drag, isn't it? I noticed there was that new stuff about references and work/school history. What the heck do they need that for? And then the consulate phoned me and asked for my mother's maiden name. Silly people. There's a lawyer that works at Mr. M's company so he always signs our forms.

Katja - I think the World Cup has done so much more than the "Du bist Deutschland" but I guess they both helped.

meredith - Hope you have a great time! Casual footwear is definitely the way to go. :-)

Dixie - I've never had that much trouble at the Ausläneramt, but I have seen other people being treated very poorly and that irks me. Don't know about the U.S. passports, but for mine I can print out the form online and send it to Berlin by mail with all the necessary crap that goes with it. Maybe you have the same option?

Karen - We can only manage it every two years so we're all really excited to go.

Cynthia - Thanks! I plan to take about 5 million pictures.

wandering woman - Yes, damn all that bureaucracy. I so wish things would work out for you so you could come and go as you please. I plan to blog as often as I can.

At June 23, 2006 8:24 p.m., Blogger CBEMN said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At June 23, 2006 8:26 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

Sorry, that was me with the deleted comment...have fun with the trip preparations!

At June 24, 2006 7:52 a.m., Anonymous Elle said...

And will you be coming back voluntarily or do they have to drag you kicking and screaming?

Girl, I can't believe you arranged your passports into a little crimson/blue flower and put one shoe oh-so-femininely just a tad on top of the other, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing travel pak picture. You are something else.

Note on the barf baggie - I sure hope they open up four times as big because there's no way that thing's gonna hold anything I have to give it. Better give me the barf Hefty bag 'cause when I let go, I'm committed.

At June 24, 2006 3:09 p.m., Blogger Claire said...

It is the WM! they are being more efficient so that they can all go home and watch football! I have to get my passport renewed next year. I am dreading it already.

At June 26, 2006 11:43 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Cathy - Thanks! Packing is the worst part. I despise packing.

Elle - Oh, I'll be coming back all right, but more whining and sniffling than kicking and screaming.

And the arrangement stuff? I can't help it, I'm a control freak. Actually, I'm NOT a control freak so I'm thrilled to be able to control at least something in my life, even if it's only a flip flop..

Those barf bags really are too small, but I carry one to ward off the evil travel sickness spirits. Just like carrying an umbrella to make sure it won't rain.

Claire - Wow, the WM is making civil servants productive - will wonders never cease? Just out of curiousity I took a look at the U.S. embassy site and was appalled to find that you do have to renew your passport in person. Ugh. And I thought it was a hassle just gathering up all the stuff to send by mail.


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