Saturday, 17 November 2007

Vorsprung durch Koffein

Hallöchen! Neglecting the blog wasn't some sort of cunning anticipation-building strategy (tempting though it is to try and pass it off as such), but rather a side-effect of the work placement I started last Monday, which has turned things like "free time" and "sleep" into fond but distant memories. I'm working at the Bundestag, in the office of a politician called Manfred Grund (nope, no one here's heard of him either), and - to cover up my complete lack of knitting news - I thought I'd give you a glimpse or two behind the scenes at the Bundesregierung. This will double up as a handy cure for insomnia for anyone who happens to be in need of one.

Firstly - I have my own office! The most work space I've ever staked a claim to before is half of a double desk at primary school, so this is a rather exciting development. The office is in Jakob Kaiser Haus, opposite the Reichstag on the map above, and if I tell you that this is an entirely typical picture of the interior you may understand why I get lost every time I venture more than a couple of metres in any direction. What's more, the government buildings in the immediate area are linked together in all sorts of baffling ways (every now and then you find yourself following painted arrows through an underground car park), and I have a curious habit of ending up in the right building but on the wrong side of the street. There are some welcome distractions among the labyrinthine corridors, though - the riverside canteen's lovely (though I'm not sure 'canteen' is an appropriate word for somewhere where you can choose from a dozen flavoured oils and vinegars to drizzle over your roast pepper salad [or, in my case, over your skirt] ), and the library's very soothing. My enjoyment of both has unfortunately been slightly hampered by the constant company of an over-friendly journalist (he calls me by my first name, which is pretty much second wedding anniversary territory for most Germans. Though it might be a bit less galling if he could actually pronounce it correctly. He also looks exactly like Ricky Gervais, or at least like Ricky Gervais would look if he wore a waistcoat.)

But I digress! The most exciting thing about this placement is really the little bit of laminated plastic I have to wear around my neck, which grants me access to all sorts of places I really shouldn't be allowed. Like, say, the Plenarsaal, which is essentially the German equivalent of the House of Commons. Although it's not clear from the picture, the blue seats are all in fact swivel chairs, and throughout one another's impassioned speeches the politicians rock back and forth, spin themselves around, wander off to talk to people on the other side of the room and even just amble out entirely when they feel like it. The one innocuously formal touch is the butlers in frock coats who bring round glasses of water. (Well, glasses of clear liquid; I've been giving them the benefit of the doubt.) Interestingly, whenever a vote is taken a fire alarm goes off throughout the entire government complex. No one else seems to consider this odd.

Over the course of the week I've also somehow ended up at a press conference (which, due to my mistranslation of the key word, went completely over my head, but hey, there was free champagne), and a Central Asian ambassadorial-type meeting (more free champagne! As well as cakes, biscuits and chocolates. Diplomats seem to be sweet-toothed), complete with half-hearted simultaneous interpretation and the distribution of "traditional" gifts from Kazakhstan (I bet they picked them up at the airport. One of them was a camel cuddly toy). This all makes a typical day sound much more glamorous than it really is - yes, there are exhilarating parts, but most of my time is spent staring in panic at letters from constituents and wondering what the hell 'Lastenausgleich' means. Still, I suppose placements are always useful to help narrow down what you're looking for in a job, and this one has confirmed what I always secretly suspected: that I like to swish through doors in a suit and heels, clutching reams of important-looking paperwork and frowning intelligently (can you frown intelligently? I'd give it my best shot) when people speak. Unfortunately my physical coordination isn't up to at least two of these.

If I can smuggle my camera past the security team, a proper picture or two might be forthcoming. For now, though, I leave you with this gripping dispatch from Mr Grund! If that doesn't knock your insomnia on the head once and for all, fear not; there are another thirteen in the series...


Alana said...

Ooooh excitingness!! I will definately go and see if there's another easyjet there anyone who flies straight from Edinburgh to Berlin? P.S. Jumper looks really nice!! I have almost managed to untangle enough wool to start on my asymmetric top, yay!

Boffcat said...

Ohh, I look forward to seeing the results! As for flights, Germanwings claim to fly direct between Edinburgh and Berlin, but then tried to send me via Cologne, which isn't my idea of direct (maybe I'm a fussy customer). When Mike comes over he flies from Glasgow, which is obviously a bit of a treck. As far as I'm aware, the only Easyjet flights to Germany fom Edinburgh are to Dortmond and Munich - no idea what's in Dortmund (steel, maybe?) but I'm itching to go to Munich sometime, so if you're feeling dirndl-y and Knödel-y let me know!