Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A summer of firsts

Looking back on my third summer here in Germany I’ve realized it’s been a summer of firsts for me. It’s the first summer I didn’t have to go to the immigration office as my visa is good for another year (woohoo!). I passed my theoretical road test on the first try (double woohoo!). And I just got back from my first typical German holiday.

So about the theoretical exam; I know I’ve written several posts about it describing how nervous I was and how difficult the content would be. Truth be told, the software I was using to prepare ( turned out to be perfect. Admittedly, I had to put in a fair bit of work. I started with it last year but then cooled off after a few months. I then resumed back in April and worked pretty consistently for a few hours several times a week up until September. In the days after my California trip I was studying at least four hours a day leading up to the exam. I must say, it paid off. 

I was nervous going into the exam-I knew the test would be on the computer, but I had no idea what the layout would be, if the questions would be variations of the ones I so diligently committed to memory, or even if maybe there would be topics I hadn’t discovered yet. But seriously, any expats in Germany looking to get their license transcribed who need to take the theoretical exam (in their own language), without going to driving school, I would sincerely recommend that website because the actual exam was no joke exactly like the software. I sat down and blasted through the 30 questions in 15 minutes. I started to go back and check my answers, but like any multiple choice test I've taken, and having graded enough of them myself, I decided your first choice tends to be the safest. So I submitted my work and moments later saw on the screen that I had passed.Though it’s an occasion to be proud of, I am not 100% road legal yet. I am now allowed to drive on German roads, which means I have scheduled my first behind the wheel lesson. I still need to pass a practical (driving) exam, and in theory could do that whenever, but figured it’d be best to get a few lessons in first to get an idea of what the examiner will be looking for.

So on to my other first, a typical German holiday in Mallorca. For those unfamiliar, Mallorca lies in the Mediterranean Sea and is part of the Balearic Islands (including Menorca, Cabrera, Ibiza, among others). 

Mallorca has developed into a prototype of mass tourism with all the comforts and attractions expected by tourists. It welcomes millions of visitors per year (nearly 10 million in 2006), 80% of whom come from foreign countries. From the graph you can see that the largest group of foreign tourists is German with the British coming in second.

So to put it in a nutshell, tourists abound! That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it. We stayed in Sa Coma, a town on the eastern coast of the island in the municipality of Sant Llorenç des Cardassar. The weather was warm and sunny, the beach was minutes away, and I had with me a guide who had visited the island plenty of times and thus knew where to go and what to see. I must admit, the bulk of the six days we spent  were either on the beach or by the pool. I went through 2 books, numerous podcasts and a bottle of sun screen. 

Of the millions of visitors who flock to Mallorca annually, more than half of them are “package tourists,” which means that their flight, transportation to and from airport and hotel costs (usually including food) are all together. This has advantages and disadvantages, particularly for the local economies as the money spent at a hotel chain doesn’t necessarily get pumped back into the local economy directly. If you book an “all inclusive” package, then you pay extra, but drink for free at the hotel. To those looking to enjoy a sun and alcohol soaked vacation, this seems like an obvious choice. However, it also means you’d probably spend most of your time at the hotel choosing from the shrunken drink menu of the all-inclusive package. I found it better to walk around and find local joints where to enjoy a few drinks. On one such stroll we went to a restaurant my guide had frequented in his youth. The food was outstanding and the service was just as good. The server, a friendly older Spaniard, asks where I’m from, I say, “California.” He then proceeded to drop a little knowledge on me. For the Californian readers, you may recall as an elementary school student learning about Father Junípero Serra and all the missions he founded (I’ll avoid describing treatment of the locals in said missions for now). Well, would you care to venture a guess as to where he is from? If you said Mallorca, then you’re correct! 

Anyway, it was a truly relaxing vacation. I enjoyed plenty of sunshine and will now proceed to cover up the tan I acquired with layers and scarves as all of a sudden it’s fall in Germany! The new semester is upon me and I have plenty of work to get done. I’ll conclude with a few highlights of the trip. Hope everyone had as nice a summer as I did!