Sunday, February 25, 2007
Friday was my first trip/adventure to Bremen. Bremen is a city but also it is its own state, kind of an odity, it is also Ihab's home. As such, I have heard a lot about Bremen, mostly how nice it is. When I was asked if I would teach in Bremen since the center there was short on english teachers, eager to see Bremen, I agreed. I was told it was pretty. Not a word I would use to describe my first impression. I arrived at 7:45 and since I had been on the train since 5:45 I was happy to be outside now that the sun was up. I exited the train station, following my directions which led me under an autobahn and across a main road which, aside from the initial bombarnment of backeries and other shops that attract train station guests as customers, was eventualy deserted. It was a city larger than Braunschweig and nothing stood out. The day was overcast and fumes from the traffic brought about a general sense of dirty. I found the center and then found out that I had the wrong material as I was told I not would be teaching business when infact I was teaching the class of unemployeed people and needed the book for Level 3. Luckily, the center had one even though it took two tries to locate it. Side note, the government sends unemployed people to learn English for tswo reasons; a) to keep them entertained and b) to make them better prepared for jobs in English speaking countries so they will leave Germany and thus no longer contribute to the high unemployment rate here. This was interesting information for me. My day was off to a not so good start. I met two teachers and promptly refered to each of them by the wrong names. My class went well, aside from the fact that we moved twice as slowly as expected due to their learning curve. They were nice people and aparently they liked me as they invited me back (not like it is their choice). I agreed to return on the 13th of March because the pay is good. I taught 8 units and got paid for 4 travel units. It literaly took 4 hours to get there however and on the way home I had a bit of a disaster. I asked the service point when the next train to BS would leave and was directed to a train leaving in 20 minutes so I bought my ticket and headed toward the platform. I got on the train turned on my ipod, reclined my seat and relaxed. We made a few stops but it was the express and I was expecting to be home in 2 hours like the first train I took in the morning. After out stop at Hannover the conductor announced the next stops and I didn't hear BS so when the ticket checker came around I was sure to show him my ticket again. He looked at it gave itback to me and said okay as he stamped it before. So I asked if BS was the next stop and then he told me that I was ment to get off in Hanover and transfer trains. OMG the next stop was in Gueteguen (SP), 45 minutes from Hanover. The woman next to me was really nice and spoke English and the ticket checker worte me a slip that said I missed my stop but it was excusable since I was an Auslander (foreigner) so I did not need to buy a new ticket, which was really nice. However, I still felt like an idiot and it waas going to take 2 extra hours to get home according to the train times he wrote down for me and I was already exhausted. Somehow I got lucky im Gueteguen and the next train to Hannover was only one platform away and sittign there as I walked up the stairs so I jumped on. When that ticket collector came by, I showed him my note and old ticket and he tried to pair me up with someone getting off at Hannover so I wouldn't get lost. After he asked around and found me a buddy, I'm not joking, I reassured him that I alreaday knew what platform my train was leaving from. I also got an earlier train there and made it home only an hour late, totally exhausted and a bit disapointed in myself but in the end, I just had to laugh at myself! I never admitted to anyone that I lived in BS for the past 3 months. Hopefuly my next trip to Bremen will go much smoother.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A rant seems to be long over due. This is going to be a neat organized list. Enjoy. Things I Dislike...
- Provocative screens names, esp. on MySpace- it's just so tacky!
- That the mail man rings every single doorbell at the same time
- waiting for phone calls
- waiting for mail
- waiting in general
- washing dishes by hand
- late trains
- sparkling water
- frizzy hair
- most aspects of winter
- dirty streets
- rotton food
- Crayola red hair dye
- loose dogs
- The parents of rude/loud/greedy children
- people who beg for money but are not homeless (it's like a mob thing here)
- dropped phone calls
- unfriendly people
- dead batteries
- cold wind
That's enough for now.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I have some photos but for some reason, Blogger will not let me upload them (I've tried 3 times on 2 seperate days at this point) The big Karneval (think Mardi Gras) parade in Braunschweig was last Sunday. Our day was planned, we were set to go to church at 10:30 and then head towards the the begining of the parade route. Everything changed when we got to church and realized mass was actually at 11:30 oops! So we decided the best way to pass the time was to find a coffee shop and drink a coffee as we had an hour. As we walked towards the center of town we started seeing people with a bit of a Karneval flair, costumes, painted faces and hair. Then we saw a small group of teenaged boys lighting off small bomb type fireworks, our attention was directed toward them as they yelled bomb and scattered off. Soon they were throwing fireworks at each other (Luke- aparently this is not only a Bolivian thing) and running a muck. We stayed out of their way. Somehow, throwing fireworks never seemed like a friendly gesture when I was a kid but they laughed at it. We stopped in my favorite Italian Eiscafe for a coffee but I quickly changed my mind and ordered an Eis, 2 scoops in a waffle cone; 1 Hazelnut and 1 Tieramsu, the latter being much tastier. I have learned that while I prefer Gilato to American ice cream (mostly for its softer consistency) cones here can't hold a candle to Brickley's waffle cone. I decided ice cream at 10:45am was appropriate as it was, after all, Karneval! As we walked around on our journey to kill time we stumbled across the begining of the parade route...right in front of my bank. Music was playing and people were already gathering and waiting for the parade to start at 12:30. We staked out a good spot, bought some beer (at 11am yikes!) and decided to stay for the parade. We will go to church next week. As I looked around, I felt ill prepared. It seemed that everyone had a back pack containging some kind of alcohol and some type of costume. My favorite costumes were a group of women each dressed as a slice of cake complete with red wigs (cherries), a cadle and a champagne glass holder in their 3D sandwichboard style cake. The extent of costumes on adults took me by suprise as my only other experience with Karneval was in Portugal in 2003 and there only children dressed in costume during the day, the adults saved their costumes for night time partying. Some popular costume themes included cross dressing group costumes, unaccompanied colored wigs and pirates. The music was dance type and techno but all upbeat. I learned that a German guy (not important enough for me to remember his name) actualy recorded the Pizza Hut song which I know as a camp song from TI...leave it to the Germans to think that is good music, it's right up there with the Hoff and Danny K. I seriously doubt German taste in music these days. The tradition is that one person yells Brunswick and the crowd yells back Hallu! One specific man dressed as an elderly woman took it upon himself to start this, the crow was somehow not impressed but he carried on. Another guy dressed as some German rock star began the cheer and the crowd responded much better. This cheer soon became important as all of the floats and groups marching in the parade also called out and in response to an enthusiastic crowd threw candy, cookies, waffles, chips and other assorted goodies. When I was told there would be candy thrown I thought it was for the children but no this was also for the adults. In fact the adults were so into it it was a bit pathetic. the guy next to me climbed through the fence on more than one occasion to retrieve what could only be considered crappy hard candy, you know the stuff you would be dissapointed to get for Halloween as a child. Now this was only the second parade I've ever been to in Europe (the first being St. Patrick's day in Ireland) but if I may generalize, European parades are looooooong. I've never made it to an end. We left after about 3 hours. As we walked away from our prime parade watching real estate I realized just how many people came oout for the event. Patrick said they expected 250,000 and I would believe it. It seemed like the whole route was at least 5-6 people deep on both sides of the street. Karneval is more popular in the south of Germany and Patrick, being a northerner, does not get excited about the celebration. This was his (and my) first Karneval Parade in the 5 years he has lived in BS ! I can't wait for next year when I will be completely in costume and well prepared if I am still in Germany!
Friday, February 16, 2007
I am the new owner of CV photos. These things are serious business in Germany. It seams that every photo studio advertises them. They are for your C.V. (resume). The purpose is to show that you are friendly. Personaly, I think they are seriously close up and my smile is fake, The horizontal one that cuts off the top of my head was shot like that on purpose, aparently that shows ur friendliness better. They are also seriously close up. Only one goes on the C.V. (I think) though I'm not sure if it is the which one and as such I'm also not sure why I have 2. I'm sure that will be soon learned. However, I am currently interviewing for a job that I would love so I hope I never have to use these photos. But I still think Anne dis a great job taking the photos. I guess this makes me a bit more European and a bit more professional, if only on paper.
http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AYuGzVu3cOXFA I uploaded some photos from the past week on Shutterfly. There's the link to check them out. All have captions for your benefit. Enjoy.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Today we went to the Jagermeister factory for a tour. Jagermeister translates to hunting master and ther is no deer blood in Jager. I blame/credit my mother for my interest in tours of all sorts of things. Growing up, I think I toured everything possible from the Cape Cod potato chip factory to the new prison in CF. Anyway, I talked Patrick into taking a tour as brewery tours are interesting so Jager must be too and it was. The only thing was I didn't understand everything as the tour was conducted in German. Interesting facts I was able to take away with a bit of translation from Patrick:
- There are 56 herbs and spices in Jager <- Germans never say Jager, always Jagermeister
- Only 2 people know the recipie
- There are several secret ingredients in the recipie
- The secret ingredients are stored in unmarked boxes in a glass room
- The largest consumer is the US
- 10 years ago they sold 30 something million liters/year, now they sell that much in the US alone and 56 million L total
- The 1.75L bottle is only sold in the US (it is illegal to sell bottles of alcohol over 1.1L in Germany)
- Most of the production from the factory we visited was on its way to the US via Breman
- The entire company makes only 2 products
- Jager is stored in barrels for one year (see photo)
- New barrels are never used because they don't want the wood flavor
- the oldest barrel is from 1884
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
This past Sunday there was an outdoor festival downtown. Patrick told me there would be ice sculptures so I expected a calm event with ice sculptures scattered about. I was a bit off. The ice sculptures were being arved in front of an audience which sometimes involved interested children putting the carvers in a claustrophobic situation. It was interesting but we never saw a finished schulpture. There was also one stage with a band and another with a radio station broadcasting live. There was also amound of snow brought in from the nearby Hartz Mountains. This is when I realized that BS will not get an accumulation of snow (Patrick said it may happen once a decade). Poor deprived children. Note in the first photo, the children are sledng down a hill with an incline no greater than 5 feet and if you can't tell the snow is fenced in and all of it is visiblei n that photo. I guess it's not a problem that we don't own a shovel! The next picture is an artist carving ice into a bull. Followed by a building, while I do like the looks of the building, the reason for this photo is the yellow sign. Note the 11:2 this is to show that the Braunschweig soccer team won 11 games in the second league. It is funny to me becasue the 11 wins don't even ammount to a winning record as there were 30 some odd games in the season. But these signs are everywhere and they even make t-shirts! The final photo is me in front of the Opera house looking really tired for some reason. Actualy, it's a pretty bad photo I'm not sure why I even included it...avert your eyes, it is too complicated to remove one photo.
M, I am sorry to inform you but Germans are not huge leggings fans. I see the occasional pair here and there but they are often worn with boots and a skirt completely tactfuly. Old ladies do not wear leggings and the naked legging is few and far between here. I imagine leggings are more frequently worn in Providence, esp. due to the close proximity of high school and college students to your house. However, you will be excited to learn about hte German infatuation with hair dye. Words can do this crime against the scalp no justice. First of all, age appropriateness is completly abused. I think my favorite example occured on the train one day after my training in Hanover. Train seats face each other so I arrived and sat in a block of four. As the train filled up an older woman sat down across from me. I had seen her on the platform and noted her rediculous scarf, it was green and fury and looked as if she was growing grass around her neck but I digress. Upon closer inspection, I noticed her scarf was the least offensive part of her get up. First of all, her hair was pure white (quite possibly dyed that way) but right in the front about a 2in wide section was dyed red. Keeping in mind, when Germans dye their hair red it is not in a natural hue but more of a crayon red. In addition, her hair was teased to stand up at least 3in abover her forehead. To top off the look, she had black eye brows. Upon deeper inspection I observed that said eyebrows were drawn on, why black? Beyond the hair dye and scarf, she was wearing no less than 4 gold necklaces and a ring on almost every finger. Speaking of fingers, her nails were fake and air brushed and at least two weeks over due for a fill. Let's talk about paperwork. Despite the fact that Germans, are environmentaly conscience they also love paper work. For example, in order to get a bank account i not only needed to bring my passport and visa but I also needed the paperwork I filled out to recieve my visa as proof of residency. I didn't even apply for a line of credit, simply a bank account so I could get paid since that is done only by direct deposit. There are some things I wil nevver understand.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
After work today I stopped into my local grocery store (I would not go as far as calling it a supermarket but it is decent). Last night, Patrick and I decided Mozzarella and tomato would be on the menu for dinner today. I knew what to buy, I decided we also needed green olives, and quickly gathered the items. I wasen't ready to leave so I wandered. I decided red wine would complete or dinner and it was an even better idea since I don't have to work tomorrow. When I arrived in the alcohol section of the shop, I was met by a woman sampling vodka from Moscow. Who can say no to alcohol samples? Expecting a thimble sized sip, I agree to taste the vodka. She poured me a full shot! Now I see that I must somehow taste and consume a shot of vodka in the grocery store w/o a chaser. I took a sip to "taste" and then Bottoms up! I'm sure my face showed my distress. Afterwards, I decided to buy some chips and cheese dip for consumption upon my arrival home. As I walked home, I began to wish for shots ar the grocery store everyday...it would make grocery shopping more interesting. Maybe next time we can sample tequila!
Friday, February 02, 2007
Steryotypes are generalizations made about a population based on a limited sample. My observations being the limited sample, here are a few steryotypes about Germans:
- Germans Love Hair Dye!
- There are more bad dye jobs than good ones!
- Trains are Not as Reliable as Everyone Claims
- Smoking is Acceptable EVERYWHERE!
- Germans Love Cars!
- Germans LOVE Wurst of all sorts
- Danny K. and the Hoff are not actualy as popular as American believe and the first is a disgrace to the culture
- Raspberries in sugar = dessert
- Fat in Foods is Good (I found 3.8% fat milk!)
- Blue eyes are expected
- Natural Blonde Hair as an Adult is not abnormal
- Coffee and Cake is an Afternoon Ritual
- Breakfast is only for the weekends
- NOTHING is open on Sunday and Germans don't have a problem with htis!
I will elaborate on my favorites soon (or let me know which ones you would like me to support).
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Since I had my training in Hannover the past two weeks and didn't really get to see much of the city, I decided to go back last weekend. Patrick came along and we ment up with one of my training friends and her fiance who live in Hanover. They were excellent help for exploring the city. We saw a bit of history, a bit of the present and I got a few good photos.
Most of Hannover was destroyed in the war. As such, there are few historical buildings but the city is organized in a very practical manner with the train station in the heart of the city. There was one Synagouge in Hanover, it was destroyed in 1938 and never reconstructed. The rest of the city was destroyed in 1939. The statehouse type building (see photo with 3 flags) has dated replicas of the city from the 1600's, pre-war, post war and present. In the 1939 model, the city is almost completely destroyed with the exception of this building. This building suffered only minor damage yet it was the largest building in the city at the time.
We went to Hanover on a Saturday as there is a fleamarket along the river every Saturday. The weather was against us and the market's showing was pretty pathetic. However, in the summer I can imagine it will be very different. There were still over a dozen tables/tents set up where people were selling everything from old shoes to antiques. I don't really know anything about German antiques so I didn't buy anything. Maybe next time, any suggestions?
Since it was a bit rainy and quite windy and cold, my friend directed us indoors for a warm drink. We went to a cute tea shop which is aparently the oldest tea shop in Hanover. The walls were painted a dark green, the celing black(I'm sure to hide the smoke damage) but the seating was cozy with a dark floral apolstry. It was the kind of intimate place were two strangers would share a table during peek time. Immediately, I thought it would be the favorite spot of any writer. I could picture the pages of a novel being penned in the corner over several cups of tea, coffee and hot chocolate. The place barely serves food other than cakes but has an amazing variety of beverages. I had a hot chocolate first and a vanilla tea second (we stayed for awhile). I learned just how popular coffee and cake really is in Germany around 3pm. And the cake is huge and rich, I don't think I could ever eat an entire slice without making myself sick.
I somehow think the picutres uploaded twice but since Blogger now thinks I am German, I cannot navigate a solution right yet. Note the photo of Big Boy. I think he was lost as there are zero Big Boy restaurants in Germany but he was just hanging out in the street.