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Thank you!

I have received quiet some “fan-mails” asking me to continue writing my blog. Thank you for motivating me. I am happy to realize that people actually read and like my blog. This week end I finally found the time to do sit down and write about the changes in my life.
2.10.06 12:23


Summer

I spent the summer in Germany. Most of the time I stayed at my parents house in Hamburg, writing my thesis. I met my extended family on several occasions and realized that my cousins are all grown ups by now. I come from a big family. My paternal grandmother is the oldest of six children while my maternal grandmother is the second oldest of five. Both of my parents are the oldest of four and they have many cousins. I have six first cousins myself and three cousins once removed with whom I also keep contact with. Unfortunately, I am an only child myself. Being the oldest grandchild the daughter of oldest children and the grand daughter of oldest children, I am also the oldest cousin. This is why I always think of my numerous cousins as being small. I remember seeing them for the first time in the hospital, playing with them, and having them puke at me. Well, as I am already 26 by now (unfortunately I had a birthday in September) my cousins are no longer in a puking age either. One of them just failed to graduate from high school and has to repeat a year. His sister is 14 and becoming a young lady. My two youngest cousins are 8 and 11 and at the last birthday party I fell from a swing and could not sit without pain for the four following weeks.
My three cousins once removed have also become big. The oldest one is studying to become a police men, the second one just graduated from high school and the youngest one is 14 and very much into sports. Time goes by fast…. I still cannot believe that I am 26. I remember times when I thought that being 16 is really old. I could never imagine turn as old as 19. Fortunately, I still have to fight with pimples so I decided that I cannot possibly get wrinkles anytime soon. I actually spent the whole summer getting rid of my red cheeks and the numerous black heads and white spots in my face……

Being in Hamburg now was totally different from my life as a child and teenager. I spent most of the days in my mothers office, writing my thesis. Every day at lunch time we went to a Kebab place to eat the daily menu. My mother is a tax adviser and has come to the conclusion that eating out is cheaper when put into relation to the amount of time you would otherwise spend for cooking. Because of this calculation I will never be able to eat Turkish food again……..

Something else also happened this summer. Avtandil found a job in Erlangen/ Bavaria. That is close to Nuremberg. Unfortunately he lost this job after six weeks but found a new one within two. His new job will begin on 4 October in Nuremberg.

Erlangen is a beautiful town but unfortunately it´s beauty is often times disturbed by Siemens buildings. Half of the town works for Siemens and if the cityhall would ever decide to rename the city they would probably call it Siemensburg. Erlangen is not only Siemens town but also a Hugenotte town. As a northern German I always think of Bavaria as being a black hole, namely catholic. Erlangen, however, is situated in northern Bavaria, which is not really Bavaria. The region is called Franken and is predominantly Lutheran. Erlangen became a save haven for French Calvinists about 300 years ago. The big church in the city center is a reformed Calvinist church. Services are no longer in French but for many years there was a German as well as a French speaking congregation. What is interesting is that Lutherans, Calvinists, and Catholics have lived together for centuries. Add the orthodox church and it would be the same situation than in Cluj.

In the middle of September I went to Cluj for a week in order to go to the orthodontist. I have to admit that going to Cluj felt like coming home rather than visiting a place I once lived in. I had a very busy time visting people and getting other things done. I felt very happy there. On my way back to Erlangen I met Romanians from Serbia. Until then I had not known that there is a Romanian minority in Serbia but it turned out that there are 4 mio living there. We spoke in Romanian while listening to Serb music which is many times nicer than Romanian music (sorry to say that but I never developed a liking for Romanian music).

On Sunday 24 September Avtandil finally drove me from Erlangen to Strasbourg and this is where I am at the moment.
2.10.06 12:24


Getting ready for Strasbourg

The whole summer I had prepared my traineeship in Strassbourg. I tried to find a place to live over the internet but I did not really have success in finding anything affordable. In the end I decided to look for something once I am there. In addition, I had to think about what to wear. As most of you know my usually way of dressing is quiet trashy. This is not only because I do not like to add too much value to the way people dress, but also because my body has quiet unfavourable proportions. Buying pants, shirts, blouses or shoes is usually very frustrating for me. I usually end up buying ugly stuff that fits or somewhat nice stuff that costs a fortune. The things I would really like to wear never fit me. Fortunately my aunt just retired and my mother lost 20kg. They donated much of their office wear to me which I brought to the tailor in Cluj. By now I have a huge collection of shirts, blouses and shoes. I am still missing sweaters, a winter coat, pants and socks. I tried to catch up on the socks on saturday but was frustrated by the French prices. I had to pay 7€ for a pair of fat-leg-friendly-nylon-socks and 9 Euros for a pair of thin wool socks. Considering the usual life span of my socks this is VERY expensive. In the end I bought four pairs of black socks. The coloured ones I really like cost 13 Euros which I found a little exaggerated.
2.10.06 12:25


Getting settled in Strasbourg

On Saturday 23 September I finally decided to ask some hospitalityclub members if they could host me four a week. I found Sylvie and Alexis who welcomed me at their home on Sunday. I really had a great time at their house. I began to explore my French skills and we talked about many interesting things.
On Monday the traineeship at the Council of Europe started. I spent the whole of Tuesday trying to find a room. One of the Romanian trainees speaks French and made a thousand phone calls for me. Most rooms were already taken and the ones still available cost between 400 to 700 Euros. Since my budget is no more than 500 per month this was out of question. Luckily a Canadian trainee moved out of her place because she disliked the fact that the shower is located behind the kitchen and that the landlady has a cat. Since the place costs only 250 Euros per month I decided to like cats and not to mind a shower behind the kitchen. The apartment is situated in a nouvelle epoch building and I know well that these buildings used to have outdoor toilets and no running water.
My landlady, Brigitte, is a 50 year old artist. She comes from a family of magicians and has spent many years of her live as an circus artist. She currently works as a comedian, singer, stage designer and makes reproductions of sculptures. The apartment is decorated accordingly. The theme of my room is circus. There are posters of clowns and a marionette theatre. My furniture is antique and my couch is “pulled” by a wooden horse. The theme of our toilet is Tibet. Brigitte does not have any children but has a “godson” in Tibet whom she supports by financing his education. Don´t ask me why she put all of his pictures on the walls of the toilet….

I do not know Brigitte too much yet but I think that she is the kind of person you either totally adore or do not get along with at all. I hope our relation will be a good one. Last but not least there is the cat Grobidon. Grobidon means big belly and he really is the biggest cat I have ever seen. He weighs 8,5 kg and all he wants is to eat. On Saturday afternoon he came into my room when I was taking a nap and started to meouw. I decided not to support fat cats getting fatter and ignored his begs. Let´ s see if he will start mopping me out of the apartment…….
2.10.06 12:27


The traineeship

The Traineeship

The first day of my traineeship was very surreal for me. I still could not believe that I had been accepted to the Council of Europe´s traineeship program. I met the other trainees at the security check and they also seemed quite insecure. Luckily they all seemed very nice and not snobby at all. I had been afraid that they would all be upper class brats but this is not the case. We are a group of 61. During the last week we had an orientation week with a lot of presentations. Basically every division of the council presented their work to us and we were asked to contact them whenever we have a question or would simply like to get to know the division. One of the German lecturers invited me and the other three German trainees to come to the German evening next week. We also got council of Europe e-mail addresses and pass words for the intranet. We have access to documents which are not open to the public and had to sign that we will treat all of this data confidentially. I found it very amazing that we are not only allowed but expected to contact all of the divisions of our interest. The email addresses of all council of Europe staff members are accessible for us and nobody seems to feel bothered to be contacted by a trainee. My new e-mail address is tanja.wolf-akhvlediani@coe.int. This address is only valid for the time of the traineeship so you better do not get used to it.
I have not spent much time in my own division yet since I was busy attending presentations. I have been there three times in order to get to know my colleagues. On one occasion I also met Rudko Kawczynski who is one of the most influential Roma activists from Europe. He has an office at the council but is not an official staff member.
The Roma and Travellers division is part of the directorate General for Social Cohesion, or DG III. There is another trainee in my division who is Roma herself and there are about seven trainees in Social Cohesion.
The rest of the trainees work in all areas of the council. I quickly got to know a Moldovan and three Romanian trainees. Of course I also said Hi to the Georgians. Strangely, there are no French trainees. Maybe the French are boycotting the council because the trainee is unpaid?
For some of the other trainees it is really strange to see a blonde German girl being interested in Roma issues. Especially for the Hungarian ones. It is really hard for me to accept that even among the trainees of the council of Europe there are prejudices against Roma. One Hungarian trainee was complaining to me that she did not get a scholarship for university because all available scholarships were for Roma students only. Ironically she was saying this while eating a 10€ lunch and later told me that she lives in an apartment which costs 1100€ per month. I could name other remarks even from trainees working at the Court of Human Rights.
2.10.06 12:28


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