Chapter Two
October, 1999

And so we attempted to settle down, something that proved rather difficult in the first weeks we were here; we moved three times in three days before landing in one place for a week. That was Bad Breisig, a small town nestled between the hills and curling up along the bank of the Rhein. From the apartment on the hill, I watched the morning clouds retreat into the river, revealing the fairy tale town below, all white walls with dark roofs and trim.

In that first week, we spent a lot of time simply adjusting to the new surroundings. We were told to explore and play as much as possible since the schedule once we start working is predicted to be more crazy than not. Some of us worked anyway, but we also checked out our new stomping grounds. There were field trips into Köln (Cologne) that included meanders through the cathedral (it has the largest facade of any European church), wanders through several shopping areas, and an excursion in search of local credit cards. We also began the hunt for the coolest dance clubs, cd stores, and movie theatres. Because we are so thoughtful, Ian and I also explored the world of German cold germs on behalf of the whole group.

The silly looking yellow creature in the first picture is called Flat Eric. In Europe, he's the star of a music video and a salesman for Levi's Stay-Pressed Jeans. Occasionally, we would spot Eric in a store window, appearing so down and lonely that the group stopped and adopted him (and his cousin, apparently.) Turns out he's quite the party animal. . . Flat Eric has gotten any number of us in trouble more times than anyone's sure of. Not to mention that if you carry him around downtown anywhere, you are nearly mobbed by folks wanting to know where they can go to adopt their own Flat Eric. The trials of celebrity. You should see what happens if we try to take him to a club.

I try to establish "home" for myself by cooking. I had the sense to stick to something simple, spaghetti, while we were in our first apartment. That was my first experience with the wacky stove top electric burners here: flat metal plates that you put the pot directly on. The pots are designed especially for these stoves, with extra thick bottoms with a little rim where the sides of the pot flare up. The temperature gets very difficult to regulate, and if you get distracted and the pot starts to boil, you have to move the pot off the burner to stop the whole thing from boiling over onto the floor, a difficult feat since not every pot I've encountered has had insulated handles. The burner won't cool down fast enough if you just turn it off. I've made some fabulous messes trying to get those things figured out.

After a week, we moved from Bad Breisig to another small town on another river. Bad Neuenahr is a little resort town along the Ahr where the retirees come to soak in the local mineral waters and drink the local wine. The average age of the town people, both permanant and guest, seems to be approximately 60; the local teenagers have this sort of crazed look about them, they are so desperate to be anywhere else. It's a little more touristy than Bad Breisig, but the area around us is gorgeous, all trees and hills and grape vines and ducks.

The group of us descended en masse on a residential hotel across the Ahr from the Spielbank, the local casino. We each got our own suite of rooms, and Ian and I have our first home in Europe. In one room, we have a large closet, a wacky European bed (take two twin mattresses, shove them tightly together, put separate fitted sheets on each, then cover them with two down comforters, each approximately 2 inches wider and several inches shorter than one mattress), and a complete bathroom that is not down the hall. In the living room, we have a sitting area, a kitchenette, and a table that was probably intended as a dining area but which we have turned into a work station. Somehow, we got the apartment with the largest sitting area, and the most chairs, so group meetings (when they are not happening over drinks at our local Irish pub) and our German language classes are held in our living room.

It may not be much, but it's home, for a month at least. Knowing that we were going to be here for a while, Ian and I unpacked and made use of the dresser drawers and closet space instead of living from suitcases exploding on the floor. A week after our arrival, the boxes of things we shipped from The States arrived, and we home-ified the place for real. The little decorations that came with the place have slowly migrated to the space above the kitchen cabinents; the challenge will be remembering where everything goes when the time comes to move out. I, of course, had already baked apple cobbler and now that I have my US measuring cups and all of our English language cookbooks, I am making more messes in the kitchen. Our combined CD collections and Ian's DVDs are all here now, and the poor little laptop is filling dual roles as the computer and the media center. We have installed a small library of tourist guides, phrasebooks, novels, reference material, and German translations of French comics by the TV. The candle collection is growing, and the German word magnets are invading the only metal surface in the house.

Occasionally, amidst all this home-ifying and shopping and exploring, we'll get a little reminder that we are here because there is a company to start. The arrival of the hardware for those who didn't already have computers with them was a bit like having Christmas in the middle of October. We even had the parts of the small children filled, people so eager to see the inside of the boxes that they nearly tripped over feet and stumbled down stairs. Some, I'm sure, were up all night wiring boxes together and customizing desktops.

The work can begin now, and for some it has. The struggle for online time has also begun; five computers driven by Internet junkies in a house where if two people are using the phone no one else can call in or out keeps life even more interesting. Our first round of phone bills were nearly corinary material. But here we all are, this crazy, fearless, wild bunch who decided to leave almost everything we knew to put flesh on a dream.

Chapter Three

Ian Gilman / Germany Journal
DolciDeleria / Germany Journal
Copyright 1998-2013, Ian Gilman & Christina Willott