And now for something completely different…

Finally some good news from the employment agency. They have agreed to give me 70 euros of the money I spent on train tickets to job interviews back. That means I now have a whole 100 euros for the month of September instead of a mere 30. Maybe I won’t be reduced to a diet of tinned tomatoes on toast after all (baked beans being ridiculously overpriced in this country).

Anyway, since I have absolutely nothing to talk about today and because Sleepyjane specifically requested it, I’m going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done on Confuzzledom before and give you a recipe. For chilli con carne. The amounts given here are what I use for two people. For those of you with actual families it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt.

Basic Chilli con Carne

You will need:
A packet of mince (here that’s 500g) – for any American readers, I believe that would be ground meat
Garlic cloves – how many depends on how you like it. I normally use 2-3
An onion
Dried chilli flakes or chilli powder (but not that horrible ready-made chilli con carne spice stuff). You can also add a fresh chilli if you want.
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of kidney beans
Optional: oregano and tomato puree

Method:
1. Chop up the onion so it’s fairly small. Either crush the garlic or chop it up as small as you can. If you’re using a fresh chilli you should chop that up into small pieces at this point as well.
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan (or a saucepan if you don’t have a big enough frying pan). Put some of the dried chilli flakes or chilli powder into the oil and stir it around a bit. Once the oil is hot enough add the onion, garlic ad fresh chilli (if you’re using one) and fry for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the mince and fry until all if it has gone brown. While it’s frying season it with salt and pepper. At this point you can also put oregano in if you want. The last two times I haven’t (because I didn’t have any) and it still turned out nice so it’s really up to you.
4. Once all of the mince is brown I usually add about a tablespoon of tomato puree. This will make your chilli more red later, you don’t have to do this though, it tastes just as good if you only use the tinned tomatoes
5. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the tin of kidney beans (don’t forget to drain the weird sugary-water liquid from the kidney neans first!), stir the chilli well and heat though.
6. The chilli is now basically ready. All that’s left to be done is for you to taste and decide whether it needs more of anything… chilli powder, salt etc.
7. Serve the chilli with rice. Or some of those crispy taco shells. Or inside a jacket potato. It’s entirely up to you.

That’s it. Easy, no?

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More about the German employment agency. Because lately I seem to have a one track mind.

When you’re unemployed in Germany and you register yourself as such with the employment agency, at your first appointment with an advisor you have to sign an agreement. What the agreement says differs depending on your circumstances… they like to add bits, put in legal clauses, take bits away and generally change things. By the end of it you’re left with the vague feeling that you’ve just sold your soul to the devil for a bit of money and a lot of hassle.

In my case, because I have no savings and am therefore receiving the maximum amount of unemployment benefit, I had to agree that the job I want is not easy enough to find and therefore I should also be looking for other types of job as well. Because in my current circumstances I am clearly a burden on society and the employment agency needs to get rid of me as soon as possible.

Another part of the agreement says that I am required to apply for any jobs that the employment agency officially suggests to me as soon as possible, preferably within three days of receiving them. If I fail to do this my unemployment money will be cut by 30%… then by 60% and, after the third offence, taken off me completely.

This is why I spent most of this morning googling various combinations of the words “letter of application” and “secretary”. Except in German… so not actually those words at all. But you know what I mean.
It’s also why, if I don’t get the job I’m being interviewed for on Monday, I may very soon end up working as an office assistant somewhere in the Black Forest. But that’s ok… at least it’ll get me out of the house.

Spoke too soon

Do me a favour will you… just go back to yesterday’s entry, read it again and imagine today’s date is over it.

Yes, it seems I spoke too soon yesterday. All that happened yesterday was I handed in one tiny little form (after filling in about 10) and was given another appointment with someone else for 9 o’clock this morning, where I finally got to hand in the rest of the forms and where my bank statements, wage slips, contract for my flat and a billion other documents were photocopied. The employment agency probably knows more about my life than I do now… but at least I may actually be getting some money out of it at some point.
All I have to do now is wait for the letter to arrive…

Oh bureaucracy, how I hate thee

Today was employment agency day.
First I had an appointment at 9:30 am to hand in my application for unemployment benefit I (ALG I). I knew I wasn’t going to be entitled to it, but I had to hand in the application anyway because to apply for unemployment benefit II you have to show proof that I’m not entitled to unemployment benefit I. Complicated no? So the woman typed all my data into the computer, informed me that I’m not entitled to ALG I and printed out a letter of rejection to take along when I apply for ALG II. Then she told me where I have to go to do that… the town hall of all places?! After that I had my second appointment, with my advisor. She’s the one that’s supposed to help me look for jobs. That meeting went smoothly… she actually found even less positions than I did because they only check their own website and not every company advertises on there. So she printed out one measly little advert for me, printed out an agreement (which basically says they will publish my profile in their virtual job market and send me details of appropriate positions and I will continue to look and apply for jobs) then sent me on my way to the town hall. At the town hall I was asked a million and one questions, given a form to fill in and a huge list of things they need me to bring with me next time… a list which includes my bank statements from the last 3 months!  Then I was given an appointment with another advisor for next Tuesday. It’s exhausting stuff I’m telling you! I’m going to meet Jan for lunch now but after that I may need to lie down for a while to recover from all the forms, questions and traipsing around town.

Welcome to the inside of my brain

Do you know, it’s just taken me over an hour to make a cup of tea. I kept switching on the kettle, forgetting I had then remembering again after the water had pretty much gone cold. I think that pretty much sums up my state of mind at the moment.

Anyway, the incredibly funny Jaywalker (whose blog Belgian Waffling you need to go and read RIGHT NOW) is asking people for diagrams of their brains. And since I have nothing better to do needed an excuse to stop job hunting before my head explodes I thought I would join in. And so I present to you my brain:

BRAIN (if the writing is too small to read let me know and I’ll provide a translation).

So, what do we learn from this exercise?

Clearly I am not panicking anywhere near enough about the unemployment situation… just look at that tiny little job hunting section. I actually think I expend more energy on feeling guilty about not looking for a job than I do trawling the internet hunting for somebody, anybody who is willing to employ me. Obviously I’m just not desperate enough yet.

It seems I am currently addicted to four things: books, the internets, junk food and cups of tea (since I’ve been stuck at home all day my poor kettle has been working overtime!). No wonder the poor boyfriend goes through periods of feeling neglected! At least the self-pity section isn’t too large… between blogging and rereading all my books I just don’t have time to worry about my lack of a social life!

That was actually kind of fun. If anyone else would like to do a brain I would love to see it!

Back to reality with a bump

After 6 lovely days of wandering round Rome, having other people pay for stuff for me and not thinking about job hunting, the employment agency or my lack of income at all returning to the real world has been a bit of  a shock. Yesterday I kind of eased my way into it, spending most of the day catching up on people’s blogs,  sorting out photographs of Rome to put on Facebook and blogging about Roman sights. I did check the employment agency website for new vacancies (of which there weren’t any… well, there was one for a German-Russian translator but that’s no good to me really). But today it was back to job hunting in earnest. Back to checking out every vacancies website I’ve ever heard of. Back to Googling every combination of the words “translator” “native speaker” “jobs” “employment” and “Karlsruhe” I could possibly think of. And back to wondering how on Earth people cope with being stuck in the house all day long with nothing to do and no money.

The good news is I had a phone call this morning from a woman inviting me to an interview next Thursday. The interview is with a personnel recruitment service, so not actually for the job itself as such… I suppose an interview with the company that’s actually offering the position will come at some later stage, but it’s a start. Even if I don’t actually know for sure what exactly the job even is – all the advert told me is that I will be coming into contact with customers (gulp!) and need to speak English, enjoy languages and know how to use a PC. Oh, and I should bring with me “unlimited willingness to learn”. Umm, ok then…