Friday, November 02, 2007

Minden Germany for a while

Several days ago I arrived, and for the time being will be living, in Minden, Germany. I'll be here for over a month to help-out one of IFOR's 'member' organizations, Internationaler Versöhnungsbund and to establish temporary residency. Tuesday night I moved into a clean and comfortable, furnished, four bedroom flat on the third floor of a large, Tudor-style home. The address is "Steinstraße 26, 32427 Minden," you can find it using Google maps, although no change to my mailing address or anything else. I'm finally able to have access my email, have a private desk and computer at the office, as long as I'm here.

Considering that the software's language setting is 'German' (we haven't been able to change it), that the system is very old, the keyboard is laid-out differently, and the Internet connection is very slow, it's going to take me a while to get up to speed. Ha!

Stadt Minden is quaint, historic (over 1,200 years old and has many buildings in the Weser Renaissance style, in addition to its architecturally symbolic 1,000 year old cathedral) and quite different from Holland's cities, as you might expect. There are two fairly large shopping districts surrounding the huge and beautifully restored Cathedral of St. Gorgonius, or Dom Minden, displaying architecture in the regional Weser Renaissance style or later periods, as seen near where I'm staying. The flat I'm residing at is about 3km away from the office, my landlords Rolf and Anne Müller have been given a sporty bicycle to get around on.

I visited the Stadt Minden Ausländerberhörde (Minden City Authority Over Foreigners) this morning, and was eventually able to register for a residency and work permit to stay for two years in Minden. I was told by my hosts at the office that I needed to see the 'ansprechpartner' Herr Hartwick at Büro der öffentlichen Angelegenheiten (the office of public affairs). Herr Hartwick told me I would need a set of recent, special passport photos taken, and I found the nearby Foto- und Kamerageschäft in the Old Minden Marktplatz (Minden Market Square) to purchase these. Then back to the Ausländerberhörde to be told I needed to first acquirer a residency permit from the department next door, before I could apply for the work permit.

No one there spoke English, I only had a few German words to offer them, so the staff person and I were having a difficult time with the process. Finally, they brought in a translator from the Ausländerberhörde, the assistant of Herr Hartwick, still no one was exactly sure what it was that I planned to do here in Germany. In despair, I whipped opened my jacket to reveal the royal-purple colored tee-shirt underneath and, printed on it, the bright-white 'dove' logo and initials of the volunteer organization I was representing, BVS. Success! Both staffers immediately recognized the organization and knew my mission.

With that done, I headed back to the Office of Ausländerberhörde to see Herr Hartwick. Things went a little better from there: I presented several letters of explanation that Kristen, my Volunteer Director, had written for me while I was in Geneva, Switzerland, I was interviewed, and now I must wait to see if my application will be approved. Next, I'll attempt setting-up a bank account and ATM Card access at Sparkasse Minden-Lübbecke‎. That sounds like more fun!

Here are some interesting photos of the City of Minden, the Weser River, and the Market Square provide by Panoramio | Google Maps.