Sunday, December 17, 2006
In an effort to make the most of my last 24 hours in Braunschweig and to fulfill Patrick's dream of eating a one meter wurst we headed down to the Weihnachsmarkt. While he ate that rediculous beast, I had a ham sandwich followed by the German equivelant of dough boys but in bitesized form and w/o cinnamon. Weihnachsmarkts are one thing I will really miss. Above are some photos of the event. From the top; the founder of Braunschweig holding a mini version of the church u see in the background, flanked by lions, the city's mascot, me with my dough babies, Patrick with the remains of his meter making a sick face for the camera, Patrick about to begin his battle against the meat-bystanders were amazed at the size of that wurst!, the owner of the stand looking quite German, aparently he is a bit of a local legend and always partialy drunk, and the wurst in progress. haha the photos displayed opposite how I uploaded them so the story is a bit backwards. T minus 16 hours and counting...
Friday, December 15, 2006
So it seems that I've made it through the first semeser of my freshman year of life. I managed to have no exams this year and am planning to enjoy my last weekend here before returning home for Christmas. Somehow, this is not how I expected my freshman year to go. Moving was taken for granted but moving out of the country, I had intended to go to a city but aparently I was rejected from my first choice (NYC) so I gave up on my second choice (BOS) and decided to turn things around by going for my reach where I had an interview but acceptance was unknown. In the end, I was defered and used the first semester to improve my skills and adjust to the campus. I recieved my acceptance letter a few weeks ago and am almost officialy enrolled. Due to a miserable woman in the office who has all the power my official enrollment has been delayed but I at least have all of the proper documents to complete the process when the semester resumes. Today, I picked up my books (didn't have to buy them this time, they are on loan). Now I can enjoy Christmas break, aside from a assignment I must complete before orientation. Orientation is Monday, Januay 15th and classes start the next day. For my first week, I must attend class in Hannover at the main campus but after that my classes will all be on the local cmpus. I look foward to meeting the students and hope I get sent out on assignment. I'm planning to major in business if possible. Wow, real life really is a lot like college! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The internet is pretty much my source of everything English, except for the occasional advertisement for an American Green Card, although that is not in German. So each day, I log into Yahoo to check my email and Yahoo automaticaly loads a second tab containing updated news. Recently, the top news headline each day involves killings. Today it was a roadside bomb, yesterday it was American soldiers, the day before Palestinian children and that is all I care to list as the backlog goes on. The thing is, it is hard for me to see any good coming out of the US when all of the news is based on fatalities in Iraq. The more I am outside of America looking in, the more I realize why others are critical of us. I watched the movie Borat in a German cinema and was embarrassed for my country. I feel like the parts of America that are comical are synomous with the reasons we are looked down upon. In that movie, there is a scene where he, as a foreign journalist, was about to sing the National Anthem at a rodeo. Before singing he started talking about Iraq and got the audience all rallied up about fighting and killing and the like. Well, he went on to screw up the national anthem and get boooooooed out but the point is these are the Americans on display for the world. We always are made to look power hungry and war loving and anyone with that image deserves to be hated by others. I guess what I am trying to point out is that it is understandable why we are not the popular country in the world and look what that has done to us. Daily death tolls of both americans and locals coming from the middle east. Are we really solving a problem, I'm just not sure.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Marburg is an interesting city. It is in the southern part of Germany, about 3 hours south of us so not completely at the bottom. It is however kind of out of the way of civilization. There is no Autobahn that reaches Marburg and Patrick tells me that it has a large student popluation which is aparent from the vast presence of the university. My two favorite things about the city are its location, on a hill and its history, aparent. Basicaly, you take an elevator to either the first or second landing and there are shops and other city center happenings on both levels completely independent of each other. There are also hidden stairways to transport between the levels. From the ground you cannot see the inner happenings of each level above. We arrived an hour early and did not know exactly how to find Patrick's friends so we figured we would check out the city and its Christmas market. We were ultimately disapointed but we didn't know about the elevator until later. Once I found out about the other levels, the city became much more loveable. Unfortunately, we just arrived on the top level when I began to not feel well so we were not really able to enjoy it. The top of the hill is home to a castle and only accessible by stairs and cobblestone road. Marburg is home to a very old University and aparently the guy that founded the University did so by stealing knowledge. He was also the builder/owner of the castle. It is also said that he has a cannon at his castle and he built a wall directly in front of the cannon which led to firing cannon balls and making holes in his own wall (the guy can found a University but can't think his defense system out). Aside from being on a hill, Marburg managed to survive the war. Basicaly the University is the only thing that was there during the war and since it is not an easily accessible town, no one wanted to capture it. The buildings were saved and the town looks as I pictured Germany. I also learned that there was a movement in the 1970's to knock down all of the buildings and replace them with "new construction" think concrete high rise buildings. This happened to some areas outside of the town center but someone came to their senses and put an end to that. The cement 70's buildings are so ugly, one was even green with pink balconies and not in a cute preppy way, more in an I would be embarrassed to live there sort of way. If you are looking for a random place to visit, I would reccomend Marburg! I also have more photos of this exucrsion on Facebook as I can only post 5 here.
As I ready myself for my return home next Monday, I realize I should look into the current flight restrictions. Lucky me, I'm flying into London Heathrow, the world's busiest airport. There was a time I loved Heathrow and occasionaly even lunched there without catching a flight. Now, I am dreading my transfer between terminals 1 and 4. My boss told me that he fley through Heathrow to the US last month and took a good hour getting across the airport. Part of that is due to that stupid train that serves as a shuttle but is in fact an actual train and forces you to watch a safety video before taking you anywhere. Luckily I will have 4 hours to make the journey and both of my flights are on BA so I am hoping to catch the second one without problem. I am also hoping to bring my lap top home with me but first I must find a ruler and determine the size of my computer bag in centimeters. It is a good thing I brought my small purse with me as in order to bring a lap top and a purse, both must fit within one bag and within strict dimensional standards. Basicaly, these are the rules of the UK; cabin baggage allowance restrictions The following cabin baggage allowance remains in place and is applicable to all passengers: starting their journey at a UK airport all passengers transferring from international flights at a UK airport We advise passengers travelling to the UK to also adhere to UK cabin baggage allowance restrictions when travelling within Europe or to check individual airport operators. each passenger is permitted to carry ONE item of cabin baggage through the airport security the dimension of the bag must not exceed a maximum length of 56cm, width of 45cm and depth of 25cm (including wheels, handles, side pockets, etc) all items carried by passengers must be x-ray screened a handbag or bag can be contained within the one cabin bag, but must not exceed the maximum dimensions items permitted in your cabin baggage In addition to the liquids permitted in one transparent re-sealable bag you can take the following in your one cabin bag, as previously in place: electrical equipment including laptops, mobile phones, MP3 players, portable music and DVD players, digital and film cameras, video cameras – all larger electrical equipment will need to be removed from your cabin baggage and x-ray screened separately essential medicines in liquid form sufficient and essential for the flight in quantities less than 50ml (e.g. diabetic kit), as long as verified as authentic – items must be removed from the bag and placed in a tray and screened separately solid cosmetics e.g compact powder and lipstick (not lipgloss) baby milk and liquid baby food (the contents of each bottle or jar must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) are permitted in the cabin bag other items all coats and jackets must be removed and screened as cabin baggage items normally carried in cabin baggage such as books, medicines in non-liquid form, keys and travel documents may be carried in the cabin bag as long as they fit into a bag no bigger than 56cm x 45cm x 25 cm pushchairs and walking aids, including wheelchairs are permitted but must be security screened outsize items All items of luggage which do not fit in the permitted cabin baggage size must be checked in. One musical instrument in its case (no items other than the instrument and its accessories may be carried in the case), will be allowed as a second item of cabin baggage. The item will need to be screened and passengers should check if special arrangements need to be made. If the people flying are anything like those I encountered in Stanstead no one has heard of the no liquid rule or some how everyone thinks they are the exception to the rule. Even out of Boston, the guy in front of my tried to bring an entire bottle of Crown Royal and two maple leave-shaped bottles full of syrup in his back pack. The security guy asked him if he had any liquid and he said nope...bad idea Mr. In London, I watched a woman fight to keep her cosmetics as they were confiscated one by one out of her carry one. The whole time an orphaned 2 liter bottle of Fanta sat on the counter reminding me of how stupid people can really be. Let's hope things work a bit better this time around.
We went to visit some friends of Patrick's in Marburg this past weekend. They were very nice, the city was interesting, and had a lot of old buildings. I went to my first German hospital so that was a bit of a downer and somehow part of the culture I had hoped to not experience. Though the doctor was really nice and spoke great English and she even worked at RI hospital for 4 months...what are the odds. Well I'm doing better now, taking it easy and watching movies and playing with photoshop. I'm about to go grocery shopping for food I can eat that will not hurt my stomach, when I return I will put up some photos and a bit about Marburg!
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Well, I've been away from the blog for a couple of days and now I'm going away for the weekend again. I thought I would leave you with a few photos of Braunschweig; mail box, some buildings and a road with a sprinkle of Christmas. Last night I had invited all of my class over for an international Pot Luck dinner via an evite. at first I had 6 guests and then 2 canceled 2 hours before the start and then one was added to total 5 plus Patrick and I. In the end only two came, I'm not sure what happened to the others but I learned it is frustrating when you try to get a group of people together and they don't show up. Oh well we had fun and the neighbors stopped in and I made gluwein for the first time! Enjoy the weekend!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
This morning I learned about ST. Nikolaus. I first heard the name last ngiht when Patrick wrote it on a paper and asked me to give him the paper in the morning. This morning he instructed me to look up Nikolaus on Wikipedia. I learned that in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, etc. St. Nikolaus is celebrated the night of Dec. 5th and the morning of Dec. 6th. Children put their boots outside and in the morning they find treats left by St. Nikolous. If the child has been naughty they should find coal in their boots. It is much similar to the American tradition of hanging stockings for Santa to fill (Germans don't do that). Well, my next instruction was to open the door and see if St. Nikolaus came to our apartment. I found my Nikes on our doormat filled with chocolates...a nice way to start the day. The funny thing is I saw three pairs of boots outside of our neighbor's door and thought it was cute that the whole family lined their boots up on the mat, I just assumed they were dirty and that's why they were in the hallway as people do that.
Patrick is the most un-German German I know. I say that because while he loves being German, he often does not act lick a German. For example Germans are energy consious. Patrick turns on every light in the apartment and does not think twice about going out the door without shutting them. However, Patrick finds it important to close the doors to each room so that we can conserve energy when the heat is on (the heat is almost never on). Students have bus passes in BS and most will take the bus or the Strassebahn throughout the day, not Patrick. Patrick has a car and he drives everywhere. In fact, Patrick will even drive "just down the street" to get a coke from the gas station. Germans are usualy clean cut, Patrick is most proud of his sideburns. Germans dress neatly and wear things smaller than Americans. Patrick loves his XL hoodie. The most un-German charastic about Patrick is his sense of time. Germans are very time conscious, Patrick is ALWAYS at least 5 minutes late. In fact, just today he told me that when he says we want to drive somewhere at 6am, he really means we should be on the road by 10am. I wasen't sure I hear that right so I repeated it back to him and he was not joking. That's 4 whole hours later and if I know Patrick the earliest we will be enroute to our destination is 10:15. This is Patrick but I love him. I would also like to point out that he was sleeping when I took this picture, genuine Patrick style sleeping!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
For the first time, I accompanied Patrick to the sports bar for soccer. Tonight's game featured Breman (Germany) against Barcelona. The background of the game is that Breman was seeded into a bracket in which they were not expected to succeed. Last week they played Chelsea and won against the odds and this week they were playing Barcelona, the defending champion. All Breman needed to do was tie the game in order to knock out Barcelona. If there was a game to see, I decided this was it. Besides, since I decided not to take my German exam I didn't have to wake up tomorrow so I felt I could enjoy the night w/o worrying about getting to bed. To make a long story short, Breman lost 2:0 both goals scored in the first 18 minutes of the game (sorry Ihab). The first goal was scored on a penalty shot. The defense jumped in anticipation of a shor in the air and the offensive player shot right under their legs - ouch! (See photo above) But the bar was packed and aside from the guy in front of me who had no idea of personal space (something Germans occasionaly have a problem with) I enjoyed being there. Before I end this entry I must tell you about the man who scored the first goal for Barcelona., Ronaldinho (see photos). He is actualy from Brazil and plays on their national team. He is also considered one of the best players in soccer today. However, that being said he is the ugliest soccer player I've seen. His face is busted, mostly becasue of his teeth/mouth region. As if that were not enough he has hair as long as mine and equaly as curly. Tonight he was wearing both a black headband and a red scruncci - who wears scrunccies to play soccer...12 year old girls! I'm still trying to determine if he is so well known because of his soccer skills or his ugly mug!
Lubeck is home to Niederegger, the Godiva of Germany. Niederegger is a maker of marzipan candies and their flagship store in Lubeck is impressive. They have everything you could possibly think of made of marzipan from cakes to logs to red lobsters! They even have a marzipan based liquor, though that is imported from Spain. This year marks the 200th yead of the company and as such they created a marzipan likness of the founder (see above). In their windo display you can see things in history which have occured less than 200 years ago, of course, made of marzipan. Some of the creations included, Neopolean, the Statue of Liberty (green marzipan), Marilyn Monroe as a sex goddess, (glitterized marzipan) a famous soccer player, and the reunification of Germany symbolized by a car. It was entertaining. The store was packed out but I managed to buy some chocolates in spite of the crowd! Additionaly, they were making and selling fresh made donut like pastries in the front of the shop which made the entire place smell delicious. When I went to bed that night I noticed that my hair did not smell like smoke as it most often does when going out in Germany but like the sweets and nuts being made all around me in the martk, it was refreshing.
Monday, December 04, 2006
I wish I had a night vision camera so I could have captured the people at the Lubeck Christmas Market! It was so crowded. On our way to Lubeck we passed through a toll booth, as it had been awhile since Patrick drove to Lubeck, he asked the toll booth operator if we were headed towards the city center (Zentrum). The man confirmed we were going the right way but warned it was packed and there would be no place to park, Patrick asked for his reccomendation and he told us to go home. Patrick was caught off guard by this response and as we drove away he translated for me then we both began to laugh. We drove almost 2 hours to go to the Market, not to turn around and go home so we proceeded toward the center w/o (ohne) hesitation. As we crossed into the city Zentrum there was a digital sign which listed open parking spots in our direction at 4. There were more if we wanted to park significantly further away. As we passed under the brick archway that seperated the center I noticed a silver Mercedes with its lights on and LEAVING a parking spot, it was going to be a good night! We got out of the car and bundled into our coats and scarves as I wished I brought my earwarmer instead of my umbrella and headed down the street without direction. We walked about 5 feet and Patrick asked a woman about our age in which direction we could find the markt. She was not German but gave great directions. The Lubeck markt is one of the more well known and larger markets in Germany. I hear the largest is in Nurenberg, unfortunately that is in the south, about six hours from here so I will most likely not be able to make it there this season. Anyway, we walked about 3 blocks before we stumbled upon the markt, the photo with the ferris wheel was my first impression and this was only a very small section. The section with the Ferriswheel also (auk) included a few other carnival rides, and some booths selling food and drinks. Next to this section was what appeared to be a large church. Patrick informed me that it used to be a hospital and the history in the building said it was build in the early 1200's. I was under the impression thatt his was an indoor Christmas markt until Patrick told me that was only part of the markt. We hesitated at the 2Euro entrance fee as we were unsure of the contents then we noticed the student rate of 50 cents and went in. We got to the door just as they started letting people which was nice as the line was cold and they were only letting new people in after so many people left. When the building was a functioning hospital it consisted of 85 single rooms and a few twin rooms. The original setup remains intact. The rooms are about 8feet by 8 feet with a celing that is about 7 feet high. I stood by the door in one photo to give an idea of how tiny the doors were. Each of these rooms was transformed into a booth for the night and some were open with benched to sit and eat or drink. People were selling all sorts of crafts from all over the world. I would have to say the most interesting was the woman who was selling jewelry made of the tusks of wooly mammoths (I believe from the netherlands). Unfortunately, she was so popular we were unable to actualy enter her room due to overcrowding. We ate heart shaped waffles made fresh by someone's grandma and covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon...yummy. On the outside we further explored the market, the unique and the typical. We stopped and drank a Lumumba, essentialy hot chocolate with Amaretto Liquor and topped with whipped cream (pictured above in our souviner mugs). It is typical in Germany that when you order coffee or some other hot drink it is served in a real mug instead of a paper cup and you pay a deposit, on these mugs you pay the 1.50 deposit and then most people keep them. You can also buy them for the same price and I realize that if we were smart we would have returned the ones we drank from and bought clean ones haha. I thought we had walked the whole thing when Patrick pointed out a whole nother section. This section was by far the most crowded and thus the least enjoyable and by this time we had been wandering the markt for at least about 3 hours so we got out and said Auf Weidersehen to Lubeck! I'm glad I saw this markt as it put the BS markt to shame. Lubeck is also famous for Marzapan...my next blog topic.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
December 1st brings Christmas Markets (Weinachtsmarkt) to cities (Stadte) across Germany. The first one I went too was in Braunschweig (where I live), last Thursday (it began a few days befor December) night. The booths in the photos above are typical, there is prepared food, local specialties, snack foods, gifts unique to the city or region, international snack foods (few), crafts, etc. The BS Christmas market is famous for 1/2 meter Bratwurst, which we did not eat but Patrick promises I will eat next time, we shall see. I am still not convinced by any of the wursts. To be honest, the only one I tried was Curry wurst as it most simarly resembles a hot dog w/o (ohne) a bun. Anyway, another local dish looks like spinach with sausage in it and is made in a giant wok looking device, for the record I will not be trying that one either. They even has wurst made from Horse meat in one of the stands, also something of no interest to me. I did eat those little fried dough things you can see in the photo. They are called Deke, essentialy it is fried dough in bitesized pieces and served topped with powdered sugar in a paper cone with a small wooden fork. It is easier to eat then a gian ball of fried dough but also more greasy! Germans love grease and fat and cigaretted and fire hazards, all things Americans are taught to avoid. Christmas markets also have Gluhwein, a sweet wine heated with cinnamon added and an optional shot of brandy or Amaretto. I've had that at the University (minus the shot as I had to return to class) and it is growing on me. At first the concept of hot wine was not appealing. The second German Christmas drink involving heated wine is called "Fire Bowl" It involves wine and sugar on top which is ignighted. There is a classic movie to go with this which I plan to watch when it is shown at the Student cinema next week. I have yet to try this one. Well I don't want to go into all the Christmas stuff now, I must save some more information for Part II - Lubeck to be published tomorrow as I am off to bed now. Tomorrow is my last German lesson.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I can finaly see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course I'm talking about my class and am equaly as excited for the class to be over as I am nervous for the final exam. I have class tomorrow and Friday, review on Monday and exam on Tuesday with the oral and spoken parts on Wednesday and Thursday (I think). My weakness is dictation and I just found out that that part will be worth 15 points out of a total of 65 and one point is subtracted for every mistake including spelling errors (my biggest problem) so it looks like I may lose 15 points right away! I really need to cram this weekend, I'm so nervous but so excited to have free time again and then 10 days later, I fly home for Christmas!! Ahhh it seems like time is suddenly passing by so quickly!! I still have so much I want to do and haven't even been to Berlin yet (or really anywhere touristy for that matter).
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This morning started out miserable as I woke up around 3:30 and could not fall back asleep. I didn't do the homework that I put off last night and I just wanted to skip school (but could not). So I went to school, had the most challending lesson thus far and then went to work. Patrick drove me so we got a chance to chat on the way (we were stuck in traffic) which was nice. By the time I got to the office I was already late and couldn't get by the receptionist. Security is tight and you need to be met at the front desk in order to get in but none of my contacts were answering their phones. The receptionist gave up after 10 minutes and told me I may as well go home. I was bummbed that I would have to wait 45 minutes for the train but kind of excited to have the eveining to myself. I went to the bathroom to kill time and when I came back to turn in my guest badge, she had contacted my boss' boss. On that note, it should be stated that I got a new boss yesterday and I know work for who is possibly the shortest man in Germany and quite probably a leprechaun! So I met him on the 3rd floor only to walk back down to the 1st floor, security procedures which make no sense. On the way he asked when I planned to go home, I expected to work from 3 to 6 like yesterday and then he asked if I would stay untill 7 as he was planning on doing so and he offered to drive me to the train station (we took the train home together yesterday as we both live in Braunschweig). So I stayed. The machine I was using was being rediculously slow today but other than that the 4 hours of working were fine. My boss dropped me off across the street from the train station and I walked the rest of the way home (it's about a 5 minute walk). I get in my apartment and am greeted by a hug at the door which was nice. It was followed with okay I need to tell you something kind of sucky. I think a better description would have been random or psychotic. Aparently during the day today, our next door neighbor and the weird guy who lives upstairs with his girlfriend (whom I've only seen once) got into a yelling arguement earlier. This ended with him at our neighbor's door with what Patrick describes as a "saber", her husband calling the police and her and her babies leaving the apartment. Aparently the police came and searched his apartment and basement and found some knives (which they took) and took him into custody for 6 hours as he had not committed a crime. The landlord has also been contacted and action is being taken to get him kicked out of the building. We had one loose cannon in the building and aparently he blew, is it a full moon tonight? Disclaimer: Please do not be concerned, I write this to keep you posted and slightly amused with the randomness and utter awfulness of my day not to cause alarm.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Last night I increased my knowledge of German culture. I also used my German language skills socialy with people other than Patrick for the first time. On that note, I learned that I can most easily understand German spoken by non-native speakers which makes a lot of sense as they tend to speak slower and pronounce the who words. The German language is such the words run together to make new words that often mean somethign similar to the words individualy but is not always a direct translation which can be really confusing when learning a language. I feel like the longest existing word must come be a German word. However, try as I may, I cannot think of a good example right now. So back to culture, file this entry under interpersonal relations. Germans, in general, respect one's personal space. For example, a Tunasian girl I met in class grabbed my hand in conversation to stress a point, a German would not do this with someone they just recently met, only a close friend. On the other hand, Germans have public saunas where they hang out naked in mixed company for recreation. Another huge cultural difference in interpersonal communications is dating. I have been told Germans don't date but since I've been here and spoken to others I think that needs to be amended slightly. Germans go on dates but mainly in the pursuit of a serious relationship and only after knowing each other for a decent amount of time. To go out and be approached by a person of the opposite sex and given a phone number will not happen here. In fact, the concept of a getting a number is completely foreign here. Another point of variation occurs ont he dance floor. I've been to one Disko (think club) here and I had to laugh when I saw the dancing. Students, people about my age, were dancing like my parents generation would dance and to a random array of music. I said they danced like old people and was told this was a display of normal dancing! Germans are intrigued by "grinding" which I find funny. In London, dancing looked much like it does in American and boys gave you their number w/o hesitation so I know this is not a general EU thing but it is a good illustration of the differences between Germans and Americans and I would imagine other cultures. Germans are a special breed :)
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Here's a sampling of the day. I didn't get to take a picture of the cooked bird as the guys started carving it while I was still in the kitchen but it looked great. I made a game time decision to stuff the bird and it was filled with deasoning, bread, celery, onions, Chardonney, a hint of cranberries, and a bit of pear. I hear it came out well but I don't eat stuffing so all I can say is it smelled nice and completly overfilled the bird. The day went well, I learned a few more German normalities and passed along my family's tradition of having peach wine on Thanksgiving :) I put butter on the table thinking people may want it for thie r turnips or potatoes, etc. Patrick warned me that no one would know why thereis butter on the table. Sure enough, the butter went untouched. Also, if you look at the desserts people brought you will notice no pies or brownies or cupcakes or cheesecakes mostly pudding type dessrts and most included alcohol and raspberries. All together we had 11.5 people (Lena's 2 and thus counts as half of a person) and we squeezrd around one table. The turkey was about 12 pounds and despite my dad's warnings there are still enough leftovers to make a soup and maybe a few sandwiches tomorrow. Well for now I must go and take my post Thanksgiving nap...
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I took my camera to school 2 days ago and this is what I came up with. The really ugly building with all of the windows is mine. The building with the statue in front is where the auditorium is located (this is where the 1st year students have giant lectures). The bikes are typical. They are everywhere. The bike racks fill up early in the morning and people just drop the kickstand, throw on a lock and leave their bikes outside of buildings, on the edge of the sidewalk, in the plaza, etc. A lot of the bikes have been altered from thier original state. Baskets, independent carrying aparatus, child seats, etc are commonplace. After market paint jobs are frequent. People cover their seats in plastic bags to protect them from the rain, it is cute. I thought it was fitting to photograph the signs that someone had locked a bike too haha. The top photo is an aerial view from my classroom (6 floors up). The weather at the time is pretty typical around here - overcast with a chance of rain! I think I had more sun in London then in Braunschweig. On an unrelated note, Braunschweig is called Brunswick on most English maps in case you happen to be looking at a map of Germany and wondering where I am. The county is Lower Saxony and it's middle north on a map. Today is Thanksgiving in America, Parick met me after school and asked me if I would like a turkey sandwich for lunch. After learning that said turkey sandwich was from Subway I declined. It's just not the same. Instead I ate some sort of mexican chicken and veggies with french fries from the school cafeteria, in two days I will be cooking my first ever Thanksgiving turkey (Pute) here.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
So last Sunday we went to church. There's this large, old church im Zentrum (in the center) of Braunschweig and I wanted to check it out besides it's been too long since I last went to church so Patrick agreed to mitkommen (come with me). When we arrived, there were orange signs outside and the place looked deserted, we thought the church was closed but a sign on the door said otherwise so we went in and sat down. The inside of the church looked almost exactly like St. Cecelia's but a bit wider to one side and with seating only in the center not on both sides. Also, the seats were chairs and not pews. On the alter was a giant candelobra that looked Jewish but with less candles swanked by lots of children in red chior robes (95% of these children were blonde). I did not see a large crucifix behind the alter as anticipated but noticed a small one on the front of the alter. Mass seemed to progress as normal (except in German), I could pick out the Our Father and Act of Contrition though they were said in opposite order and the Gospel. There was no sign of Peace but I know not all churches do that so I went along. The children's chior was so cute, the chior master would lead them to the back of the church and then return them to formation in the front, the priest told the congregation that today was the first performance of the chior and everyone clapped. I noted that all of the children in the church were in the chior with the exception of two seated a couple of rows in front of us and one of them appeared to be too old anyway. I also noted that Patrick and I were prob the youngest adults in the place. He later asked me if young people go to church in the US, aparently they don't in Germany. Suddenly, the chior master was leading the children off of the alter and away from their seats, why were they leaving? oh wait now the priest is leaving and people are getting up and putting on their coats. There was no communion? What is going on? In high school, Fr. Charlie told me that mass is like a meal lol, there was no Eucharist in this mass, it felt so weird. On the way out I noticed a display by the door labled information in foreign languages where they had a selection of colored flyers with information about hte church sorted by language. They myst have had at least 20 languages but somehow not English. I took Spanish and Italian and decided to challenge myself (I never read them as I was distracted buy a caramel latte machiato) I asked Patrick to explain and the best he could come up with was, "maybe they don't do it on Sundays" I laughed at the rediculousness in that response so he asked two older woman who were walking in front of us. They informed us that it was not a Catholic church but an Evangelical church, thus no communion. The women were even gracious enough to tell us that we could catch a Catholic mass at a church a little ways down the road at 11. Maybe next week.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Okay so I'm just going to preface that today everything seemed to be going wrong so I came home and went to sleep hoping to wake up and start over this evening. I woke up to an email with some good potential so now for some entertainment: When Britney Spears, Christina Aguleria and Co. first came onto the pop scene (circa 1997ish) people were shocked by their clothes and worried what kind of message they were sending to the young girls who followed them. Well since 1997, I have not seen many young girls dressing like they belong in a music video 24/7 and now I think Christina's grown up and defined her image and her audience has grown up with her, Britney's no longer a role model (she lost that status when she married K-Fed) and Jessica (formerly the virgin Minister's daughter) Simpson is the one marketing on sex appeal (and being overtaken by her newly cuter younger sister). Pretty much the others in the business at the time have either moved onto other things, gave way to new vixens who are not teens (i.e. Shakeria)or grown up themselves. Basicaly, I have not seen the negative side effects that were predicted to result from this generation of pop stars...and then I met a girl from Moscow, Russia. She is about 25, maybe 27 and each day she comes into class dressed like a poorly wardrobed back-up dancer in a music video (the type that would love K-Fed for his sleeziness). Her hair is bleached out and long (possibly extensions) with a few strands of hot pink, a few strands of black and, my personal favorite, a 3-inch wide section that starts about 4 inches from her roots and alternates between black and pink stripes. If you can believe it, the hair is far from the worst part of her daily ensambles. According to Patrick, she is part of the well off section of Moscow that gets MTV and uses it to form opinions of America and fashion. The thing is her clothes are so tacky they look more like Rave than Forever21 (and that's not saying that Forever21 is the best but they tend to be classiey than Rave). A typical outfit consists of boots, embazzled with sequins, beads or some sort of friverlously decorative article. Said boots are black and either have a stiletto or a 4-inch platform, she does own one pair of white boots that lace up in the front and zipper down the back all of said boots are of synthetic materials. One day she didn't wear boots but that was equaly disasterous with a pair of stacked wedge pumps (sounds cute but read on) black with bronze rivets all around the top and outlining the entire wedge, a gold piece of string that looked like it came off a box of Russel Stovers was tied around her ankle and it was visable as she was wearing black pants that stopped at the knee cumulating in a gathered snap and only suitable for well-to-do Pilgrims. If that wasen't bad enough, the pants had pleather back pockets with silver trim and a chain! These pants were paired with textured tights, a black long sleeve velvet shirt that had two sholder cutouts with mesh inlay and accented with giant hoop earings (the only thing not black but purple and sparkly), fishnet hand socks without fingers and the tackiest belt ever (not in belt loops of course) black pleather with multi colored jewels all over it and a jewel incrusted oversized silver buckle. This is as good an example as any of her daily look. Often the hair is braided at the bottom and a terrible mesh baret looking contraption is used to cover top (hence why I think extensions may be involved.) Every day, I look at her and hate American pop just a little bit but moreso I wonder when she will wake up and realize that no one in the real world dresses like that!
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I was sitting on the kitchen floor finishing up the painting project I started weeks ago and listening to my iPod on shuffle. John Mayer's 1983 came on and I started to put my life into perspective. When he sings about wanting to be 6 again I feel the same way. Well maybe not exactly but things were so much easier when I was in school and my future was just a far off dream. I wanted to be a dance teacher (briefly), an art teacher and then a marine biologist. I now have three degrees, all in the field of business and I want to be a business woman. When I think about why, I always come back to my original motivations, the clothes and power to make decisions. Are those really good reasons to choose one's life profession? I'm not sure but maybe that has something to to with my current situation. Right now I would say I'm a perpetual student currently learning German. I support constant learning but this is never what I wanted to do with my life. By now, I expected to have a job and be climbing the proverbial ladder. I'm not sure that I don't like where my life is right now. I'm happy. Soon I'll start teaching, not art but English. English as a second language and taking these German classes is going to be quite helpful as I'll be able to empathize with my students. It is just that I'm not working in the business world. I can't go anywhere with this job and I don't even have health insurance nevermind a 401K! Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out other times I love my life as it is. Two days ago, for the first time, I thought about going home and getting a real job and getting on with my life. I'm still undecided and I need to buy a plane ticket if I'm going to make it back here for training and to be able to start my job.
Friday, November 17, 2006
So I convinced Patrick that we should go to IKEA, not to buy anything but just for fun...okay we bought some stuff. The coolest thing we bought was a paper lantern lamp which went perfectly with my plan to rearrange the bedroom in anticipation of putting my desk in tomorrow. I am currently sitting on my rug/yoga mat typing this. Anyway, my computer manages to injure me in the process. I guess this is my first ever computer induced injury. The battery box thing on the cord fell right on my face as I was lifting it. So these are the photos of my new room arraingement and injury, it is more swollen in real life and I hope it is better when I wake up. Guten Abend!
I'm currently cooking a pretzel, German style. Well I guess it is kind of cheating because you buy the dough frozen and already in pretzel form but they are still fun to make and they start off white and turn pretzel-brown. haha I'll post a real post later. I have really come to appriciate Fridays more now that I am on a set schedule. However, I have so much German homework on the weekends.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Today, as we were driving to the grocer store we heard on the radio that a rocket launcher from WWII was found near the Autobahn. Aparentl they detinated the rocket and no one was hurt. This was the second time since I've been here (about a month) that I've heard of WWII weaponry being found in Germany. The first was a bomb that was aparently burried under the Autobahn. It was struck during construction and killed at least one person, injured others and caused a traffic delay. Aparently this happens from time to time in Germany. What I don't understand is how come, almost 70 years later, these bombs were not removed? Things were just built over them as they lay dormant in the ground with the possibility of explosion looming. Aparently they are under cities, towns, etc and it is too much of a hassle to remove them/it is not know where all of them are. This is the kind of stuff you don't hear about in America!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Socializiation is not something I tend to think of at this point in my life. I have a great group of close friends and really am not looking to make more. Don't misunderstand me, I still enjoy being social and I love to make new friends, I'm just not at a point in my life where it is a necessity to make new friends, or so I thought. Lately, I've been hanging out with Patrick's friends. I really like all of Patrick's friends thus far but that's exactly the thing they are his friends. He already took the time to get to know them and they have shared experiences. Becasue of their relationship with Patrick, they have welcomed me into the group and are really quite nice to me and I appriciate it but it is hard to consider them my friends at this point. My friends are in RI, NY, Tonga, Bolivia, CA and the like. LAst week I went out with Patrick and his friends and realized that I need to have my own friends to go out with because I don't always want to do what the boys want to do, like watch German soccer matches. So now I'm looking for some girl friends to hang out with. I've met some really nice people in my German class but alas communication will be a disaster and a half...potential. I met this girl Kristina who was really nice and we're sudo planning to go out for a girls night this Saturday, if I could only get her screen name right we'd be in, Jana are you around? haha I think I'm too last minute with my causal plans for Germans sometimes. At least I'm on the right track. If only I could meet some Americans I'd be happy but much less international and it would most likely be bad for my German language learning.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Ahh the Mensa, one of Patrick's favorite places to eat. The Mensa to Braunschweig Univrsity what the Ram's Den is to URI. Basicaly it is a cafeteria/social center. It is not unusual for us to go to the Mensa for lunch after class. The difference between the Mensa and the Den is that the Mensa is really cheap. Today I had currywurst (think a large hot dog minus the bun plus curry powder and ketchup) and fries and the whole plate cost 1.50 Euro. Patrick had some sort of duck with veggies and rice for under 3 Euro. As such sometimes non students can be found dining in the Mensa, particuarly those who are not well off. There is one notable character who frequents the dining room. This man is middle aged, rather large, baldine and beared. He appears to be homeless. I saw him once before in the Mensa nad once downtown crossing the street. Today he came up and started talking to me in German. Aparently he was asking if I was done with my food and if so could I give it to him. I hapily gave him the remaining 1/4 of my wurst and ketch-up soaked french fries. The rest of the table laughed and then told me that was the "Mensa Monster" he roams the Mensa and eats people's leftovers (and it seems he eats a lot by his appearance). To avoid the Mensa Monster, one must clear his or her plate. This has the makings of a scare tactic to get small children (Kinder) to eat their food.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I left my house around 8am by car and returned home on foot about 12 hours later, but it was a good day. First, class was not so bad and seemed to pass quickly today (althought I really didn't want to go), Patrick visited on my break - he had a morning appointment with a professor where he found out his American course would transfer for the German course he needed. I then went to get my letter of intent and it was ready and I got some visa advice along with it, then McDonald's happened and I had Sprite Zero for the first time (minor excitement), then Patrick dropped me off for my first day of my part time job at VW in Wolfsberg (can't talk about it as I signed a confidentiality agreement) and I tood the train home all by myself without screwing anything up, I stopped at the grocery store for a baguette and cream cheese and arrived home safe and sound thought a bit wet. It it as not raining it may have been a perfect day. I hear it is going to get warm here (18*C) around Thursday, here's to hoping! Guten Abend! German Observation: Trains here have a reputation in America of being on time, not so true.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Thanks to M for pointing me to this article from Wikipedia. Some of these I've already heard or experienced, I'll highlight in red ones which have proven true thus far. Also, the links to M's blog and Ihab's blog are both active as of this morning. Enjoy. Germany A rather comprehensive introduction on what is considered good manners in Germany can be found in the "Knigge". The original Knigge is a book on manners by Adolf Freiherr Knigge written in the 18th century. Nowadays, there are a bunch of books with a similar title, adapted to newer times. Much of what is described in the Knigge doesn't necessarily apply to everyone, especially when dealing with younger people, the rules are far more relaxed. Opening a door that someone has closed for privacy without knocking or otherwise seeking permission is considered rude and an invasion of privacy.  In German business dealings, scooting your chair closer to the host is considered an insult.  Germans tend to be more reserved than e.g. Americans. They value their privacy more and use phrases like "thank you" etc. more sparingly. They do not hug guests by default or ask everybody "How do you do?". To the unaccustomed ear the German language perhaps sounds "harsh" (this also applies to Nordic languages). This does not mean, however, that they are in fact less friendly.  As is the case in many languages featuring a T-V distinction, addressing someone with the familiar second person pronoun (du) when they should be addressed with the formal form (Sie).  Placing a phone call to somebody after 10 p.m. (22:00), unless by previous appointment or calling a friend. I'd like to amend this toi 8pm if the person has a small child. Furthermore, do not call anyone who you think might be interested in watching the news on television between approximately 8 p.m. and 8.15 p.m (20:00 - 20:15), as the prime time daily news are broadcast at that time.  The tapping of one's index finger on the side of their head, or the waving of one's hand up and down in front of their face (palm of the hand towards the face) are both considered offensive gestures. Both of these gestures, along with the phrase, Sie haben einen Vogel (lit.: You have a bird), insinuate that the other person is crazy or deranged. The same applies to pointing one's index finger to one's temple, and imitating a screwing motion. The corresponding expression in german is eine Schraube locker haben (lit.: to have a loose screw). In some cases, especially regarding police officers or judges, the offense may be fined. The severity of this offense has lessened to some extent in the last decades. Giving s.o. the finger is a major offense.  Displaying a swastika and other Nazi symbols as well as certain Nazi-gestures is illegal in Germany and considered extremely rude and will be fined. It can be considered rude to mention or refer to Nazi Germany during normal conversation, unless the topic was started/offered by a German. Even for Germans, this topic is often considered thin ice. Although most Germans do not feel responsible for what happened several generations ago, they feel that it is important to show a sensitive and mature approach to their past. So, before taking part in discussions about fascism and the Third Reich in Germany, make sure that your knowledge of the historic past is sufficient. When eating, starting to eat before the hostess or eldest lady on table is considered rude. This also counts for taking the last bit of a dish without asking if any other person would like to have some, or taking a second portion while other people have not finished their first yet.  Offering yellow roses to a married woman, since yellow roses are considered as a symbol for adultery by some people. Asking an unfamiliar woman for her age (especially if she appears older than yourself) or weight.  In Germany, as well as in Austria, it is impolite to begin eating before others have been served. Also it is impolite to begin eating without wishing everybody Guten Appetit (lit.: good appetite) first.  During a meal, crossing your cutlery on the plate means that you are taking a break, but have not finished eating. If you are finished, place you knife and fork parallelly on the plate.  If you served yourself, or had the opportunity to tell the serving person to stop serving you (so, almost always except in a restaurant), it is considered rude to not finish your plate. Kids are sometimes told that not finishing your plate causes bad weather the next day.  Especially in the north of Germany, using a candle to light a cigarette is said to kill a fisherman. The reason for this is that in former times fishermen earned their living during wintertime by producing matches. Putting your glass down on the table after clinking glasses (and before drinking) is considered rude in some parts of Germany. It is said to "invalidate" the Prost (cheers). When clinking glasses you are supposed to look into the person's eyes who you are toasting. Not doing so results in seven years of bad luck (or, more specifically, bad sex). Not closing your umbrella before stepping inside any building, even if there is more than enough room for it open. (It is considered bad luck to open an umbrella indoors)  It is considered impolite to not cover your mouth and nose when sneezing, coughing or yawning.  Letting one or both hands rest under the table or on your lap during eating is considered rude.  Addressing someone by their first name without mutual agreement is considered overly familiar. Never touch someone who is not an intimate or very close friend. It is considered very rude.  When eating, use a knife and fork. Normally the fork is held in the left hand throughout the meal, but the North American custom of holding a fork in the right hand and switching will be overlooked provided a knife is held at all times. The North American custom of eating with just a fork is considered bad table manners.  It is good manners to greet strangers when entering an elevator, a waiting room, and when sharing tables, and to say goodbye. It is not customary to greet strangers on the street.  It is not common in Germany to talk about someone's income or financial situation.  People normally don't tell their political preference or even their voting decision. Asking for this is considered very nosy and intrusive.  Smokers and non-smokers are to mutually respect each other. Smoking in non-smoking areas is considered to be very rude. In certain environments (e.g. restaurants) smokers are expected to ask people in close proximity if smoking is allowed for before lighting a cigarette. Objections should be adhered to. However, non-smokers are likely to consent if asked politely. In other environments (e.g. clubs and pubs) and outdoors (e.g. bus stops) smoking is generally tolerated and it may be considered gauche to make a fuss or object to someone smoking. Simply remove yourself quietly or, if this is not possible, address the smoker as politely as possible when asking him to be more considerate of yourself. At work strict non-smoking regulations may apply and you should always ask in office environments before lighting a cigarette. In the workplace, you are expected to bring cake or buy lunch for colleagues when it is your birthday, or when you are leaving the company.  I'd like to add that in an informal setting this translates to throwing a birthday party for your friends. the birthday person buys the food and drinks for the guests and guests bring presents. Unthoughtful driving on the Autobahn is regarded as rude. Watch your mirrors! On the Autobahn you must use the outmost right lane unless you are passing by slower cars or trucks. Overhauling to the right is not allowed on the highway and therefore very dangerous as you might not be taken notice of while trying to. You are obliged to give way to faster cars, irrespective of speed limits. Jamming left lanes can be prosecuted as felony under certain conditions and is likely to be responded to with aggressive maneuvers by other drivers.  Tip at the restaurant is typically 5-10% of the bill, depending on the customer's satisfaction with the service. Not leaving any tip is considered rude if the service was satisfactory, but not uncommon if the service was bad. Tipping is also customary for taxi drivers, barbers and hair stylists, for those who deliver food to your home or office, for casual handymen (neighbor teens who cut the lawn, and the like) and some others.  Public display of affection, such as holding hands or kissing in public places and public events, is commonly accepted and widely spread, but may be considered inappropriate in certain surroundings (workplace, church, high class restaurants, etc.)
When we went to that drink shop I mentioned before, I noticed this beer display on the way out with the Pope on it. I pointed it out to Patrick and he explained that the Pope, who is of German origin, visited Germany recently and stopped at a Braueri (brewery). Here he blessed the current batch of beer. Upon hearing this I needed to own "Pope beer", of course there was some laughter involved first. Last week we returned to the drink store and I bought the beer. It was pricy by German beer staqndards but quite cheap if you're an american. 6 half liters cost 4.99 Euro or about $7. For comparison, the cheapest beer you can get costs 5 Euro for 20 half liters. It is made at the braueri by our house and they don't spend any money on advertising and invest minimal into packaging and labeling to keep the cost so low. I guess an average price for 20 half liters would be about 9 Euro. Of course there are deposits on everything here and like 10-15 cents per bottle so you want to return the bottles. Anyway, back to the Pope beer. I did a mini photo shoot of the packaging so you can fully grasp the rediculousness. The beer is called Hefe Hell, it is a heffiweitzer or wheat beer. Last night we drank some for the first time and it is not bad. I just love that the front of the bottle shows a cartoon version of the pope toasting (prosting in german) towards heaven and back of the bottle involves a photo of the actual pope drinking beer. Only in Germany!
Friday, November 10, 2006
I know that I've been MIA for a couple of days and I've heard about it. I guess that is a good thing though, it means that people are reading this and I am not blogging in vain. I also know that the links I added don't work. I'm going to figure that out eventualy...anyone know how to link properly in the sidebar? School is going. I'm not yet ready to say it is going well. I feel like I am in elementary school all over again but at a super accelerated pace. I guess I'd say we've about reached the third grade in the first week. Thus far we learned, verbs, numbers (null to millione), sentance structure, introductions, ordering in a restaurant and a lot of vocabulary. This is only after 4 classes. Hopefuly in 4 more weeks I wil be conversational. I have some fun photos to upload including Pope beer but my camera had to sacrifice its batteries to the alarm clock. I promise they will be forthcoming this weekend. As far as the weather is concerned, it is colder here than it is there so I don't want to hear about it. I am excited to pick up the package my parents sent tomorrow as it includes my knee length down jacket. Whenever I feel like it is cold, I think of my classmates who left more tropical places like Greece and Tunasia.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
I've been giving the blog a bit of a makeover. Notable changes, aside from the physical layout include the links to M's blog and to Ihab's blog. Both are worth checking out if you're looking for something to read. M's is focused on life and entertainment while Ihab's presents the direct opposite side of my blog as he is German and living in America. Enjoy. Also, click on my google ads. Photos of my neighborhood are due and should be taken and posted within the week.
I think today was the first time I had a normal (soon to be) routine kind of day. I woke up, went to class and 5 hours later met up with Patrick and some friends for lunch, stopped by an ATM so I could pay for my health insurance and then came home. I chatted online a bit and now I am just relaxing before homework and dinner. There were no crazy appointments or errands or anything today and I feel like I suddenly have a routine, I like it. I also realized where my free time comes into play and will soon be lost to a job. School is becoming more normal and less exhausting. I worked on socializing with my classmates today. During each of two breaks, I made it a point to talk to different people. On the first break I met Tisch (not correct spelling). She is from Tunasia, there she just completed 8 years of school and is a medical doctor but her family moved to Germany so now she is here, learning the language and unsure of her future. Her English is decent so we can kind of communicate. She lives in the next town over (the one where I will hopefuly be working for VW) so we may take the train together after class. We have a similar style (sweaters and jeans) and I can relate to her in that I also finished school (MBA not MD) but am not doing what I went to school for and am not sure what I will be doing. During the second break, I went outside for some fresh air where I met up with Iohanna. She is from Greece and at 18, she is the youngest student in my class. She just arrived in germany last week. It was a bit harder for us to communicate as her English is minimal and I speak no Greek. Either way we sat together, she smoked a cigarette, I declined when she offered me one and explained that no one smokes in America anymore compared to Germany. She laughed and informed me that everyone smokes in Greece, moreso than germany as cigarettes are cheaper. We talked about the sunshine she left behind and my cold winters. Additionaly, the reputation Americans have for not knowing languages is true, most of my classmates already speak at least two languages (not counting German) and all know a bit of English. One student from India speaks 4 languages fluently and is now learning German, I'm not sure how one can focus on all of that information in his brain. I hope I can reach fluency in German over the next year so I can at least have two languages in life. Today, I think I learned a lesson in communication greater than fluency in any language. A smile transcends anything you cannot verbalize and hand gestures are universal.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
In International Business classes you learn that Germany is very efficient. Germany is also the country with the least context culture. I'll agree that Germans are straightfoward for the most part but I have a bone to pick with the efficiency in this country. Much like the rest of Europe, germany is less efficient than the US. I would say Germany is more efficuent than Italy as I have yet to witness a countrywide strike preventing air travel but I have only been her for about a month so I'm not ruleing it out. My latest bout with inefficiency involves my future employer. Last Friday I made an appointment with the director to pick up an important letter I need for my visa. Previously, I sent him emails on two occasions asking for this document but he did not answer so I called and det up the appointment. Today I went to my appointment and was greated by his assistant who apologized and explained that she called me to cancel the appointment as he was sick. I missed the call since I was in class with my phone off. She offered to reschedule for NEXT WEEK! I wanted to have the visa in process tomorrow not next week. I understand being sick and all but for the next 4 days he is out due to a throat irritation and no one else can help me. This is where I become frustrated. Since we made tha appointment on Friday he could have printed the letter Friday or even Monday and asked someone else to be sure I got it, maybe his very capable assistant. Not in Germany, here one person is to complete a task and if something prevents them from doing so, you wait, it is not reassigned. During times like these, I miss the American world of business and commerce.
I sat in class feeling like a bunch of ESL kids and then I realized we were the German version of ESL, GSL (I'm sure the abriviation would be different and longer in German). That's right today was my first language class and it was intense. First of all it is frustrating that everyone speaks different native languages. Of the 17 students the ethnic breakdown is as follows; 4 Chinese, 2 Korean, 4 Tunasian, 2 Russian, 1 Indian, 1 Greek, 1 Bangladesh, 1 Spanish and me. This means I can most effectively communicate with the guy from India as he seems to speak the best English. Most of the class is taught in German with a few instances of translation mostly in English (thankfully). Five hours of class is really draining, I haven't been in the same class this long (and not teaching it) since elementary school circa 1995. To make matters worse attendence at all classes is compulsory so I can NEVER take a day off. I guess that is actualy a good rule for learning the language. I have about an hour's worth of homework to do tonight and then it starts all over again tomorrow and every day of the week until Dec. 8th. I hope I make it. Mostly, I hope my German improves and that I can pass the tests.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Last night, the guy upstairs had a birthday party (same birthday from halloween, he just waited to celebrate on Sat.) Random cultural information; Germans believe it is bad luck to celebrate or wish someone a happy birthday before their birthday, but after is perfectly acceptable. Anyway, this was the perfect platform to get to know the neighbors as the entire building was invited and most were present (aparently Boris has a reputation for hosting good parties). The party was fun and I now know who lives where. Here's a quick run down: On the ground floor you will find Tommy and Anna and thier daughter Lena (possibly the cutest blond child ever) We like them a lot, Patrick knew them before and as such they told him about this apt. They are very helpful and let us borrow things :) They are also quite fun. Anna is a photographer and Tommy is in a similar stage of studies as Patrick (about to finish). Next to Tommy and Anna are two people I don't know and did not get to know at the party. they have a large, unfriendly dog. I live on the first floor. Next door to us is Anya and her husband who likes to play ping pong. They have twin baby girls who are really cute but sometimes cry loudly in the morning when we want to sleep. Both are very nice, I see them outside smoking quite often. We adopted a tree from them, it is doing well. They also have a large dog but I think it is the friendliest dog in the building. Above us on the second floor lives this weird guy Stephan and I think his girl friend lives with him. I see him in the hallway quite often with his Rotweiler. I've never seen her prior to last night. He always looks like he is high. They are both quite young (he's around 20ish and she looks younger though I don't know). He is always around but never really talks to anyone which is why he has the reputation of being the weird guy in the place. Also, he took a shopping cart from the grocery store down the street and leaves it in the back yard then takes it shopping and brings it back to the yard. Next to him is Boris. He is always smiling and quite friendly. I caught him "cleaning" bu throwing things into a closte in no particular order and instantly knew we would get along. He also has a clothes dryer in said closet. Speaking of which we have this cool old fashioned key which aparently goes to the drying room which is in the building somewhere. I've yet to locate it but it sounds cool. Aparently no one uses it. On the top floor you will find Peter "Pete" and his wife Ulie or something. I like Pete, he's quite nice but I've never really spoken to his wife. They have no kids and no dogs. Rounding out the building also on the top floor is Robert. He has long curly blond hair and I thought he was a woman when I first met him. Then I heard him talk and felt he looked like a pirate as he was wearing jeans and a blue and white striped shirt. His girlfriend was at the party but I am not sure if she lives here or not. All of the above mentioned people smoke. This is a random entry I know but I just wanted to get it out there for now and celebrate that my computer is working again thanks to Patrick and Tommy.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I've been here for just about three weeks now and I have not bought a single article of clothing or pair of shoes for myself! If you know me, you instantly know this is a problem. This is more of a problem as there are items that I need since I packed a lot of "work" clothes and less casual everyday stuff and am not currently working. I have been trying to buy a jean skirt for the past 2 weeks to no avail. First of all, I think jean skirts are seasonless and a timeless fashion staple that is current with leggings. I packed 3 pairs of leggings (I am taking up yoga) and forgot my jean skirt. I did not think I would have trouble finding a replacement...wrong! Okay so Germany has H&M (like all of Europe) and I'm familiar with their type of clothing so I figure I'll have no problem finding a jean skirt there. They have one, it is calf length with ruffles, not cute. I wandered around downtown and didn't find another single jean skirt in about 8 shops. I tried again my next visit downtown also to no avail. The last time I was downtown (2 days ago) I spotted a window manican wearing a classic jean skirt (denim colored, short and straight). Excitedly, I went in scouring the racks. I found the jean skirts on the sale rack they had a blue one and a black one, none were my size...disapointment. However, this store was also very Forever 21 (not quality but the skirt was cheap) which is prob. why I missed it the first two tries. A similar store was next door and it had a ruffley model that was more teenie bopper than anything. I've pretty much given up on the jean skirt and asked my parents to mail mine to me or else I'm going without. In other shopping disapointment I am failing at buying black boots. All shoes here are either vinyl (yuck!) or really expensive or both. If you want leather shoes, expect to pay at least $100. This is kind of rediculous in my mind (I'm on a budget here!) as I have lots of nice leather shoes that I bought in the US for less than $100. How am I failing at shopping?!? Oh how I miss malls with chain stores where you a) know the quality of the merchandise you're getting b) can browse online before going to the store and c) are not paying top dollar for crappy stuff. I also miss Marshalls (my URI addiction), I'm getting desperate enough so that the Warwick mall is a super apealing option right now. I wish online stores would deliver here! P.S. Germans use the expression Super Duper
Thursday, November 02, 2006
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! This is something I never wanted to give in to. Aparently fanny packs are the thing for males these days. Hulk Hogan may have had something to do with starting this rejuvination, though I doubt it as I've seen fanny packs in Germany and the UK and I'm pretty sure Hulk Hogan's reality show is not exported. Julia called this weeks ago and I denied it but alas, I've seen enough of them to admit they may be making a come back, at least around here, much to my dismay.
This is a pute, this is also a Turkey, they are one and the same. When I first told Patrick that I wanted to have Thanksgiving in Germany and that we would need a turkey, he told me that they have pute, a different type of poultry. It is true that the German language has a different word for turkey (truthahn)and puten are often small (about 3-5 lbs.). Yesterday, I was determined to find out what a pute actualy was so I googled things like turkey in Germany. I found a discussion board where someone had asked how to order turkey meat and pute was the response. I even went to an online translator and found that pute translated to "turkey hen." I assumed a turkey hen was a small turkey but could not confirm. I asked Patrick what pute look like and he said they resemble ducks so I was once again unsure what type of poultry this was. This morning, thanks to Wikipedia.de we cleared up the confusion. Just in time too as we went to the grocery store yesterday and found out that we could order a pute for Thanksgiving and I didn't want a pute unless it was a turkey. Looks like we will be having turkey after all.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
My entire building (10 apartments) is really nice and friendly and I've met almost everyone in the first week living here. That being said, my upstairs neighbor Boris turned 30 today and I learned about a German tradition. When an unmarried person, male or female, turns 30, they have a ceremony. I don't know the German name right now but it is called the equivelant of brooming. Friends of the birthday person organize and advertise the event and everyone gathers in the evening in front of the governor's house (more of a historic downtown building which is huge but I'm not sure if the governor actualy lives there) and throws "trash" on the steps. In this case, the trash consisted of cat litter (clean), bottle caps (lots) and rice (continuously added). See photo. The birthday person is responsible for sweeping up all of the trash. Boris' friends came up with a gradually increasing broom plan. He started with a tooth brush, moved to a nail brush, a bath tub cleaning brush and finaly a real broom. In order to upgrade his broom he had to complete three tasks from a list that one of his friends made. Said friend appeared to be the organization behind the event. In addition, Boris was to take shots at random intervals. Most of the tasks involved interaction with the passerby as we were in the center of town. The first task he completed involved unclasping a woman's bra. Lucky for Boris the first woman he asked agreed. Another task involved dancing with a woman, this one took him three tries to complete. At one point he had to do 5 push-ups, so on and so forth. Eventualy he got to the biggest broom and was given trash bags to seriously clean up the mess. Once he was done everyone got wine for a toast. It was an entertaining evening that was worth standing in the cold for half an hour for. I will not forget this!
Monday, October 30, 2006
IKEA opens at 9:30, we arrived at 9:45. I told Patrick that we should go early and he would for sure get a good parking spot. This proved to be false. There are 1,200 parking spots at IKEA according to Patrick and we were prob in #1,000 (no joke) 15 minutes after the store opened! A few people had even checked out already. Who gets in and out of IKEA in the first 15 minutes the store is open!?!...Freaks, that's who. Bad parking spot aside, it was about to be a good day at IKEA. Keeping in mind that all IKEAs follow the same floor plan, showroom on top, warehouse and little things at ground level and you instantly go upstairs on entering, we decided to enter the exit as Patrick wanted to check out scratch and dent. I had a list of things to buy and normally feel like the scratch and dent room is a waste of time. However, we were in our neighbor's apartment the other day and they informed us that all of their IKEA furniture was scratch and dent so I was inspired. On my list was a wardrobe (German apartments do not have closets) and as we walked out of the room I noticed one much cooler than the one I planned to buy for half the price. I was going to buy the 35 Euro model and this one was regularly 80 down to 16. I needed it and we bought it then disassembled it in the lobby and loaded the car. It is a good thing Patrick does not drive a Smart car as this had a bit of trouble fitting into his station wagon as it was. The car was loaded and the hatch was open so we could not do the rest of our shopping (my list was abandoned for now) until we took it home and unloaded. That is what we did. We went back for IKEA take II...the first thing on my list was this cream colored table I had seen twice before. It is the kind that expands in size and since I am planning on bringing Thanksgiving to Germany, this seemed like the right thing. Besides it was marked down from 200 to 50 (not scratch and dent). I couldn't quite convince Patrick it was necessary on the previous two trips but today it was one of the main reasons we went to the store...there were none left. The floor model sat lonely under the sign. I was attached and deflated. But wait, scratch and dent to the rescue, the floor model was moved over, I stood by it and waited as they priced it and then Patrick fought off a woman as I found a cart to move it on. This time we were able to fit it in the car w/o a hitch, lock it up and complete our shopping. The table is still in the car as it is awkward and heavy to move but we won't have to build it and we will have it for Thanksgiving. Now all we need are a dozen chairs. After spending the better part of the day at IKEA we officially live in our apartment now. The old tenant came and singed the paperwork and dropped off the keys. Furniture, a kitchen, even some curtains and our apartment is on its way to becoming our home.