In order to naturalise to the ordered German way of life, as well as managing the colossal number of things you have to do when you start a new job and move to a new country, I have taken up a new hobby: writing lists. I have a list of things I need to get sorted this week (lots crossed off), a list of research objectives (none crossed off), a list of telephone numbers I need to use, a list of documents I still need before I can get a library card (aaaaaaaahhhhhhh), and probably some other ones too. It sounds terminally dull, and sort of is, however the only way I can ever force myself to do anything is to get those accusing black squiggles of ink to blackmail me into it. The only way to battle the little bastards is with more ink, this time in straight lines, skewering them through their middles and ending their influence. Or something.
Massive victories happened this week. Firstly, I managed to have my first phone conversation with somebody official, and I opened it with German. Granted, the extent of the German was my name, confirming who they were, excusing myself for not knowing much German and asking if it is okay to speak English, but I suppose it’s a start. I’m on cloud nine at the moment, and all I did was book an appointment with the health centre. I can only imagine what will happen when I can have an entire conversation without using any English. I’ll probably explode or something. Anyway, so a brusque (maybe not, but I’d bet on it) German doctor is going to test my fitness for employment at the university at the end of next week. Thorough, these Germans. I was a bit nervous about phoning for reasons other than language, however. When I went into the office on Monday the letter with my appointment time on it showed clearly that I’d missed it, thus making me LATE. In Germany. Mind you, the receptionist I spoke to did not seem to mind too much. This is my first instance of being late it Germany, and all in all, it went better than expected and was somewhat anticlimactic. I do get the feeling that Germans aren’t quite like the British think they are.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, today I also have a viewing for a flat near the university that I will be able to occupy permanently, should I like it and my possible flatmates like me. I need a permanent address for all sorts of practical things, but I think it will also feel like I’ve settled a bit more, as lovely as this temporary place is. I suppose I will let you all know how that goes, but best case scenario is that the place is fantastic and come February I will have somewhere to live with Germans in it, thus speeding up my learning of the language, and getting to know Cologne’s many and varied denizens. I’m looking forward to it.
My biggest task at the moment is actually to prepare for a presentation of my research topic and questions to a panel of academics in just over two weeks. I’ll put it somewhat bluntly: this is terrifying. The main reason for this is that applying for this was more like applying for a science PhD, or a job, than a social anthropology PhD, usually self-proposed months earlier in order to secure funding. Now, I need to dispense with the vague notion of “working with hunter-gatherers” and actually nail down what the hell my book is going to be about. So that is what I have been working on this week, and to be honest it seems to be coming together to some extent. I have to talk for thirty minutes, but fortunately they would like me to introduce my previous work, which I am sure that I can stretch to ten, leaving only twenty minutes to talk about the issues I will be addressing in my work and the practical concerns as well as my actual project. Working brief so far: “The impact of the disappearance of land and resources on the motility and mobility of forager communities across contrasting climates.” Yes, it’s a mouthful. Also, as I am addressing academics, I now have to define “impact”, “disappearance”, “land and resources”, “motility”, “mobility”, “forager”, you get the idea. However, as with the language, it is the all-important start. Now I just need access to the literature, which requires a library card, which requires a permanent address.
I suppose I should go and see this flat. Tschuss!