Sunday, August 27, 2017

A not-so-relaxing Sunday

In addition to the big annual report translation job I have going on at the moment, another client came back to me about a potential job that came up in June. It was dragged out and dragged out and then finally, last Wednesday, they came back and wanted some portions of that job done. As my client is actually also completely snowed under at the moment, he asked me to do the tricky part of figuring out how big a job the new reduced volume work is (he will pay me for my time on this but as I still had everything on file from the query in June, it didn't take too long - being a hoarder of files pays off on occasion). And then on Thursday afternoon came back to say it was a go but of course it is super-urgent. I managed to finish off what I had for the other job on Thursday evening after work and there is just one more piece of that to come but I'm not expecting it until Tuesday. Which is probably good as this new stuff needs to be done for Monday.

I had already explained that I have lots of holiday time left and could take time off to do this stuff if needed but I really wasn't expecting them to come back and say they wanted it in less than a week. I had even already asked me boss if I could take off Tuesday to Friday next week, just so that I'd be well-prepared. Oh well. I have to work on Monday because we have several things that need to be sorted out so I'll try and go in early and then head straight to the library with my laptop to hopefully finish off the translation by the end of the day (hooray for only working part-time, if I'm in by eight, I can leave at two, which gives me a good run of translating in the afternoon).

I am currently sitting in the library and about half-finished the biggest section of what I'm doing. I did a little bit on Friday after work and choir (had to sing at a funeral in the afternoon and then had rehearsal for singing at a golden wedding anniversary mass in the evening - should have snuck in a couple of hours of translation between those two but it's back up to 30 degrees every day here so I just collapsed on the couch instead). Yesterday, I did absolutely nothing. Not good when I have an estimated 18 hours worth of translation left to do. Really not sure what was wrong with me. It was probably a good thing I had to get up to go and sing at that anniversary mass, as I might have just stayed in bed all day otherwise. I stopped at a local shop to buy some lettuce and tomatoes on the way home from that. Even though it's not a great shop, it was on the way and the thought of walking the extra 500m to the good supermarket was just too much. I got lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and a few plums in the end. At least it was all German and the tomatoes and strawberries were local even. After spending an hour or two after getting home literally just lying down sweating, I read for another while and then did actually get up and make myself some dinner. I washed the lettuce (if I don't wash a lettuce on the day I buy it there is a very high chance I'll just end up throwing it out and I'm trying not to do that anymore), washed and hulled the strawberries and washed the plums. I also washed and chopped the tomatoes. They weren't great quality and would have gone mushy very quickly. So, at least I had everything ready to just throw stuff together this morning to bring enough food for the day with me. And I did have a nice dinner with a big salad as an appetiser.

I've been in the library since about 11 (five hours now) and have gotten about 3.5 hours work done. That's pretty average for me, I can only concentrate for so long before I need to take a break and just read something else. And I took a short lunchbreak, too. It's amazing how knowing you can only keep your place for 30 minutes without actually sitting in it becomes an incentive to take very efficient breaks. I've actually been making excellent progress with this translation and there has been some duplication, which always speeds things up. I actually feel like I might get as much as I wanted to get done this weekend finished today (would really like to get the 10 o'clock tram home).

While all of this translation busy-ness is going on, I also got a call on Thursday afternoon asking me to come in for a second interview for a position I thought I had been ruled out for. It's a permanent full-time position in a different part of the university. More like classical secretarial work than the more project-management-oriented stuff I am currently doing. So that's one plus. Permanent is a definite plus. Full-time I'm a bit torn on. The salary increase couldn't do any harm (about 1,700 instead of the 1,350 I currently get net for 75% hours), but I do love not having to work full days. Even adjusting to 30 hours instead of 20 was difficult to do after nine months of 50%. So there's that. And the reason I thought I had been ruled out is because it's a two-person office and the other secretary is also a non-native German speaker and the boss said at the end of the interview that she really needed a native speaker who would be able to correct grammar etc. in correspondence. So I was very surprised to be called back.

The second interview was with a different woman who the boss had asked to talk to me so that she could get a second opinion. She kind of pushed me a little bit (which I don't always respond well to - so although I didn't show it in the meeting, I felt it and still am feeling it) on whether or not I would commit to improving the flaws in my German (grammar) within, say, a year. While I have nothing against learning more and am even prepared to put work into improving, after thirty years of learning it, I think there are limits to how much can be achieved. Especially to satisfy someone else's definition of good enough. I'm torn. And yet there's not much point thinking about it unless I actually get offered the job. And on top of all that, since they're not willing to split the job (job-sharing is technically on offer for all positions at the university but they don't feel it's realistically feasible for this one - I had kind of semi-hoped the person who was leaving might entertain the idea of doing 50% and me doing the other 50%), I would definitely have to leave my current job, which I do really love, even if it's not as quite as secretarial as I enjoy. It feels like a big risk - I nearly hope I don't get offered the job, to be honest, anything to not actually have to make a decision that's not clear-cut!

Sunday, August 20, 2017


This evening, late enough at just after nine o'clock, I ate some salad as a starter. Just the small amount of oakleaf lettuce I had left in the fridge with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing. Then I had some pasta with a sauce made up of just about everything else in the fridge that needed to be used up. Two small courgettes, three leeks, and some tomatoes, along with a onion and garlic and a tub of cream cheese with wild garlic. I ate half and half is now waiting in Tupperware in the fridge to serve as lunch tomorrow. Actually, I didn't use up all of the courgette, leek, onion and garlic mix as there was too much to fit into the pan. So, after I'd make the sauce for the pasta, I quickly cleaned the pan and filled it up again with the rest of that stuff. I'll be away for a day or two and when I get back, I'll be able to use that to rustle up a very quick dinner. So, at least I've gotten something productive done today.

I'm not doing well at the moment, kind of having a bit of a crisis of confidence, feel like I've had a headache for three or four weeks, am stressing about money, not sleeping very well, and to be honest feel like I'm slipping into a bit of a depressive episode. Feelings of depression are not at all helped by starting to hear mention of suicide prevention day from different sides. Although it doesn't fall on the same date every year, it's always around the same time and suicide prevention day four years ago is the day my sister killed herself. It somehow rubs salt in the wound to be hearing about it for weeks leading up to the day.

And at the same time I have occasional moments of almost pure joy when I'm doing something and realise how different my life is now than it was two years ago. Whether it's walking down the street and catching a glimpse of a gorgeous building or the hills in the background, or doing something for work and realising I don't feel like what I'm doing is a soul-crushing waste of time, or even just stepping outside onto my balcony to take a deep breath of fresh air.

I wonder if I could just get rid of this headache, would things feel better. It's definitely a stress headache, bordering on migraine and it started halfway through the summer school I organised and attended a few weeks ago. So I wasn't terribly surprised. But I just haven't been able to take time to let it clear up as work has been so busy (I have taken two separate days off in the last three weeks but my boss has been away so it has been really busy, with a couple of tasks to take care of that don't occur very often and are just that bit more difficult). Anyway, I have another day off this week and am going to try to extend it to two days. Maybe that'll help. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Looks like those back training classes are paying off

It has been a long couple of days, especially today, when I spent just over six hours on my feet serving food to the hordes of visitors at my choir's main fundraising event. Essentially just a load of tables and benches set up in a playing field in the hills about our town with plenty of food and drink to keep everyone happy. It goes on for three days and it is amazing to me how it possible manages to get a more or less constant flow of people on each of the days. I've been going to back training classes for the last few months and today was one of those instances where it feels like they probably are helping, even if I almost never manage to do any of the exercises at home. I was there this morning just before ten and by the end of my shift, at four o'clock, I was tired but not really very stiff or sore. Feels like progress. I was stiffening up a bit this evening, as I sat at my computer working, but a nice long shower has sorted that out and now I think I'm just ready for bed.

Moon shining clearly

I did go to the birthday picnic by the river yesterday and although that means that I'm a bit behind on the translations I'm doing, I'm glad I went. As expected, I did have a good time and it was nice to catch up with some people I haven't seen since April and meet new people too. Everyone was really nice and friendly and it was all really relaxed. And we got to watch the sun set and the moon rise over the hills as well. I really do love living in such a beutiful place. It soothes my soul to be able to look at the hills every day and the sky always feels somehow bigger here than it was in Dusseldorf.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Ten Things

I'm taking a cue from Andy and posting a list of ten things just to write something, anything.
"...writing ten things from the day. Not good, bad or profound, just ten observations"

  1. I should be translating and am procrastinating.
  2. Today I have baked a banana/coconut cake, a fruit of the forest yoghurt cake, and a batch of vegan banana/coconut muffins. 
  3. I really need to buy baking powder that isn't out of date.
  4. I'm currently nursing 12 mosquito bites, all from Thursday but all looking red and nasty - appaently the mosquitos around here particularly vicious this year.
  5. I love calamine lotion.
  6. I killed a mosquito yesterday before going to bed. So there.
  7. I'm going to a birthday picnic on the Neckar this evening, which I think I will probably enjoy very much, but I don't want to have to go to it or be at it. 
  8. After nine years, it still feels wrong to have to close the windows when it get warm outside.
  9. So far my plan to paint or draw something two or three times a month has resulted in one attempt at a painting in a copybook this year but the August page of my Monet calendar is calling me to attempt something similar.
  10. Ten things really can be difficult to come up with. But I have to go and rescue the muffins from the oven anyway. 
Anyone else have ten things to write about?

Thursday, August 03, 2017

It's already August

Which means it's quite a while since I last posted. For a while I just had nothing to say and then I felt like I had too much to get down. Just today three separate topics crossed my mind that I want to write about. Just smallish things so since I didn't just make a quick note immediately, I've now forgotten all of them. Posting something every day is probably asking a bit too much but I'm going to try writing at least a little bit every day for the next while, even if it's just writing down the name of a topic that I might like to put some more thought into and write about in the future.

I've now been here over a year and am also coming to the end of an extremely busy time in work, with a really busy time in translating just starting. I did the annual report for an NGO last year and this year they had a tender process for translation work for the next two years and invited me to submit a bid. I spent far more mental energy on the whole thing than I should have but it involved finding a native speaker to do the English to German translations as well as an English native speaker to proofread the stuff I translate. It all worked out in the end though and I ended up winning the job. It means a fair amount of work more or less guaranteed for the next two years, starting with the annual report again. Maybe I'll finally manage to get an emergency fund in place.

For my day-job, I have two interviews coming up. I am currently working at 75% (i.e. 30 hours/week) and my contract, which is non-renewable, runs until the end of May 2018. Basically a decision needs to be made whether or not the graduate program I am working for will continue beyond the intial phase. Financing from the state has been secured to allow all of the students currently enrolled to finish up the three-year program, i.e. up to 2019. However, because of the nature of the financing, the admin position can only be filled using the type of non-renewable 2-year contract I am on. So, if a decision is made to continue the program either as is or in a slightly different form, financing has to be found. This shouldn't be too much of an issue according to the professor who is our coordinator. However, he is approaching retirement age (in the next four or five years) so the issue of having someone continue on fighting for and coordinating the program at the higher level is a serious consideration, too. So, as of the last meeting we had where we discussed it, I wasn't left feeling terribly confident that the program will actually continue. And, perhaps more to the point, it didn't sound like if it does continue, the new arrangements will be in place before my contract runs out. With different financing, you see, the program would essentially become a project, and projects can have admin people on fixed-term but renewable contracts.

As it happens, there have been a spate of ads for other admin positions so I have applied for two and will probably apply for another couple next week. One in particular sounded really interesting and it's a full-time permanent position to boot. In the university sector that is practically unheard of for admin positions. As all jobs are always eligible for job-sharing arrangements I applied saying that I would be looking for 25%-50%. Honestly though, if I get a good feeling and am still interested during and after the interview I think I will tell them that I'd also consider full-time. I'm a bit nervous of that but it's probably the sensible thing to do. I have been so lucky with the people I now work with that I am a bit scared to potentially give that up. But I may have to give it up next year anyway. The other thing making me nervous is actually the full-time aspect. I'm more attracted now to the idea of having two 50% positions because at least there is a certain amount of freedom then if one isn't working out. You're just a little bit less trapped then, when it comes to finances.

The other interview is for another professor in the same institute I work at (different building though, our institute is spread out over four buidlings as it's made up of two faculties that merged a few years ago). It's also a temporary position but a project-based one that has a three-year contract and, if the project were to be extended, the possibilty of renewing the contract. It's a 50% position so either I'd share it with someone else and just do half of it (so 25% of a full-time, to bring me up to 75% in total), or I'd have to cut back my hours at my current position. That position is really moving even further away from classic secretarial work though, so it's a tough one. Technically these are all admin/secretarial positions but this one in particular is definitely moving much further in the direction of project management than I really like. But since classic secretarial work seems to be dying out anyway, that's something I need to take into consideration.

So, all in all, I don't much like the uncertainty of my current position but I'm kind of nervous to change anything about it, too. Hitting the one-year mark has definitely led to lots of reflection though and one thing is for sure, I am really glad that I left my old job and my old city. Those two things were definitely good choices for me.