Sunday, April 29, 2007

Renewing My Visa

This past week I had to renew my visa again. Although this is not an extremely complicated process it can be time consuming. As a foreigner living in Germany I am required to register with the government and then to have their permission to live here. Again, this is not such a big thing but it is not something you think much about unless you are living in a country you were not born in.

The picture shown here is the government building I went to that has the offices for dealing with foreigners who need visas. This place is called the "Kreisverwaltung" but I am not exactly sure what the translation of the word would be into English. This building has offices for people like me looking for a visa as well as the German equivalent of the Department of Transportation where you can get your drivers license and license plates for your car. This is the same place that I got my German drivers license at a few years ago.

As an American getting the visa I need to live here is not too hard. What I am required to do is to show some purpose for being here and basically that I have enough money to not be a burden on the government. There is some paper work to take care of and some documents I need to provide them with (along with a fee of about $50.00) but it has all gone pretty smoothly for me. It is a bit strange thinking about the fact that you need to get permission to live somewhere and that there is even the possibility that they could actually throw you out of the country! The way I look at it is that this is just another one of the unique things that I need to do to live here and just another part of the life of a missionary.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Autobahn

If there is one thing many Americans know about Germany it is about the autobahn. While it is true that the German Autobahn system was an influence on the US Interstate Highway system there are some differences.

Most Americans have the idea that the autobahn is a system of roads with no speed limit. This is not entirely correct because although there are sections of the autobahn that are free of speed limits most of the autobahn has a limit of 130 kilometers per hours (about 80 miles per hour) and sometimes less in areas around cities. On the parts of the autobahn that have no speed limits there is often so much traffic that you can't go much faster than the normal limit. Besides that, because of the normal traffic congestion, a long drive on the autobahn is not a very relaxing experience.

Recently I took a trip to a leadership seminar with some other people from RHEMA Germany. Our trip to the meeting took us just about 4 hours but the trip home took about 7 hours! The main difference was that on the way home there was an accident on the autobahn and traffic was backed up for miles. Some of the traffic jams get so bad that the autobahn basically becomes a big parking lot and people get out of their cars and walk around to see if they can get some idea about what is going on. In fact, we experienced one of those situations on the way to the seminar. The autobahn is a great road system for getting around Germany but you hope that when you want to go somewhere there won't be any accidents or that most other people just want to stay home!