Week twenty, here we are.
Also, be warned: I have reached the peak 'Screw this, I wanna go home' phase of my year abroad. Hopefully. This is probably going to be my most negative one of these. Again, hopefully.
In 2015, I lived in Germany for three months. In 2014, my friend and colleague Kait did the same. About halfway through, she reached her peak 'Screw this, I want to go home' phase. She was stressed, anxious, depressed. Luckily, she went to London for a study for a week around this time for work and just the language change walked her back from the edge. Fortunately for me, I was fine for the three months. I was busy and exhausted, traveling somewhere literally every weekend, but enjoying it. I had no hesitation in coming for a full year.
But this week has just been the perfect storm. I've made it to, 'screw this, I want to go home.'
First, I'm returning from an amazing week in New York City, a nice trip home, and a relaxing workweek back in the States (really!). New York aside (there will be a post, promise), the time home was perfect - I got to see family and chill for a few days, and the time back at work was honestly enjoyable - I got to catch up with friends and work colleagues, the work was nice, and I got to eat the food and shop the things I've been missing in Germany. And now it's over, this trip I've been looking forward to for months. When I was at the airport, my gate was going to Toronto (advice: every time I fly through Toronto I have the worst luck, suggest using another airport) and the gate next to me was going to Newark. As my flight kept getting delayed, I did a mental calculation of how much I would screw myself over by getting on the plane back to Jersey and NYC instead of Germany. I got on the plane to Toronto, in the end, of course.
So there's that. Then there's work. It was crazy right before I left, crazy while I was gone, and even crazier when I got back. According to my German colleagues, this is more my company and not a German thing, but there is a serious lack of respect for work hours. This happened to me twice the week before I left and twice this week: a meeting is scheduled to end at 4 PM. At 4 PM, it keeps going. There's no discussion - hey, can we keep going? Do you have an appointment? - it just keeps going. And then it's 5 PM and it's still going. Those four days - two ended around 5:30, one 5:40, and one 6:00 PM. What the hell? Look, I understand overtime is sometimes necessary, but let's at least take a break and discuss first, okay? I would say something but no one else seems to think this is weird. Guys, I come in at 6:30, please don't make my day go 12 hours.
Then there's the time zone. I didn't realize how much I really hate being six hours off. I know it doesn't sound like much but I'm leaving work as my colleagues and friends are coming in. This means socially I'm missing people, but also work is taking twice, sometimes three times, as long. I send an email to a colleague in the States. And that's it. They'll email me later after I've left, then I'll reply before they get in, etc. Even if we want to be proactive and schedule a meeting, we're down to literally a couple of hours a day. At a meeting-centric company, it's tough to schedule and suddenly you're talking about a date weeks down the road. But also I'm off on the news cycle. I wake up and check Facebook and Twitter and the world changed while I was asleep.
Then there's the little things that just add up - I came back on a holiday and nothing was open. I had to go back to the train station just to get food. There's no Mexican food here and I can't find a way to watch Friends; I binged on both while I was home and it just reminded me how much I love both. I've totally abandoned German lessons for three weeks now.
The real thing that was just the cherry on the sundae of shit that this week has been the Deutsche Bahn card. Back in March, I picked up a three month, second class, 50% card. It was supposedly 50% off all Deutsche Bahn purchases. I'm not sure what that 50% is of, because the train ticket purchases I made with it were nowhere near 50% off. Whatever, no big deal. You can get the cards for three months or a year. I went with three months, not sure if I would really use it that much. Also, it was already March!
I come back from my States trip to a letter from Deutsche Bahn saying they have automatically renewed my card for a full year and I owe them 255 Euros. Also, the bill is now overdue, so who knows what the hell I'll owe in the end. First, there is a serious logic flaw in this. I had the choice between three months and a year; why the hell would I want to renew for a year when I didn't want to sign up for a year to begin with? Another three months, okay maybe that makes sense, but a year? No. Second, it doesn't say anywhere that I will be automatically re-upped. I checked online (the subscription section for my original card is empty, nice) and the original thing I signed. Third, I thought fucking over consumers was an American exclusive thing?
I email them and they say they will cancel my resubscription for next year, but that's all they can do. Seriously? That's it? But the real best part: I can't even pay for the fucking thing. I went to the train station, to see if they could do something there. After waiting for half an hour, she tells me there's nothing she can do. I can't even pay her. You can only pay through a German bank. So now I have to go to this one special branch, the only one that lets you put cash into your account. I have to take out 255 Euros out of my American bank account, accruing a fee to use the German bank terminal and a fee from my American bank to use a foreign terminal, put those 255 Euros into my German bank, then pay for the friggin' thing.
Basically I'm pissed and frustrated and I just want to go home. But I'll tell you what - I'm using the hell out of that Deutsche Bahn card. I'm counting up how much money it saves me every time and if it comes up to 255 by the end of the year, I'm buying a bottle of champagne.