Monday, April 30, 2007
I've been away for a week. I was busy. Without sounding corney, I like to think of this of the next step in my life. I now have a full time job. The kind where I have responsibilities, one of them being to man the phone from 9-5:30. Listen to the people who tell you the 9-5 is dead. It is. Anyway, I am a bit hesitant to call it a real job because there are no tangible benefits to working freelance. Anyway, I spent the week in London training with my director and my counterpart out of South Africa. It was similar to the training set up for most college positions such as RA or Mentor in that it was a week long intensive training program. We spent all day every day together. In this situation, I feel it was incredibly effective. We all got along really well which was a plus. There was also an event semi hosted by us so I got to experience that first hand and then we went to an awards ceremony put on by a supplier which provided another first hand experience and some networking. Those of you who know me know how much I love networking. I am really looking foward to getting into this job. I think it will never get boring as there is always something to do and new ideas are welcomed all the time. My dream job includes; travel, networking, exciting topics, business suits,projects, and a good co-workers. So far, this is checking off all the criteria so I'm quite excited. The travel bit is at the forefront now as our global conference is in Miami and then I took 2 days off after the conference. I leave this Tursday so I will once again be away from the blog. I will try to squeeze one in at some point but if not, it is most likely because I chose the sunny pool over the indoor blog. Managing Europe is a tough job, a girl needs to maximize her ocean time. I'm not too optimistic about German summers although spring is turning out to be quite nice here.
Friday, April 20, 2007
After Patrick finished his exam, I took two days off from teaching and we took a relaxing trip to the Neatherlands to enjoy the scenery. The main purpose of our spring trip was to go to Keukenhof, the flower park in Lisse, Neatherlands. Thanks to the internet, I learned that the 70 acre park has more than 6 million flowers. We drove down on Tuesday, the trip set to take four and a half hours more or less. We crossed the boarder after about two hours without any problem. In fact, noone checked us into or out of either country. The sky was overcast when we left and most of the way so we decided it best to stop in Amsterdam on Tuesday and enjoy the flower park on Wednesday as the forcast was only for partly cloudy on Wednesday. We wandered about Amsterdam for a couple of hours, enjoying the sights. Amsterdam is so pretty during the day. The sun began to come out. We took a stroll through a market. The architecture in the Neatherlands is so much more intense than in Germany. In Germany buildings are either rectangular or half timber. In the Neatherlands, especialy outer Amsterdam and the areas surronding the Autobahn, buildings defy normalcy. They come in all shapes and it is not uncommon to see asymetrical designes. As this was my first time driving in Holland, I had expected to see tulip fields on the side of the Autobahn as in the photos I've seen. Somehow those are only west of Amsterdam but they are breathtakingly beautiful. West of Amsterdam one will also find the Atlantic ocean. Our hotel was actualy walking distance to the ocean. I dipped my toes, or rather I rolled up my jeans and put my feet in ankle deep. It was nice. The hotel was so cute and homey I loved everything about it including the rumpus room like lounge area in the basement complete with leather couches, a flat screen TV, computers and a stash of classic board games. In the morning we had breakfast and set off for the park. The Kaukenhof is the largest spring bulb park in the world but I never would have predicted it would draw such a crowd! It was like Disney World but full of adults. I dare say it is a peaceful setting becasue that is only true when you find yourself in a distant area unreached by the masses. In spite of the crowd it was still awesome. I took almost 300 photos in the park and I wasen't the only one. Everyone was taking photographs, art was placed throughout the park to encourage photography. We saw two TV crews filming in the park, one from the BBC, I was unable to identify the other. There were also many elderly visitors in wheel chairs, making me realize why the senior discount is only 2 euros. The median age of park visitors is most likely around 40. This is not to say that there were no young people. There were not many children but other than that the audience was quite varried. I heard English, American English, German, French, Dutch, some type of Chinese and I'm sure many more languages were represented. In Holland it seems that most people speak Dutch, English and German. Dutch is a crazy language. It sounds like German with a HEAVY accent. All of the sins are only in Dutch EVERYWHERE so we began to decipher the language, it was easier for Patrick due to the similarities to German. Pretty much, you take the German word add a j somewhere, usualy in the end and double either the first or last vowel and you've gout Dutch haha. I guess that's not a fool-proof method but it seems like it would work. The trip was amazing and at over 50 times the size of Wembly stadium, Kaukanhof truly is a Super Garden!
Saturday, April 14, 2007
First, I must point out that ice cream is Eis in Germany, pronounced ice which is slightly confusing. I was teaching English and the topic was travel tips for foreign countries. One of the tips; don't use ice if the water is bad. I said this outloud and he looked back at me with a blank stare. Feeling stupid, I explained how ice is formed out of frozen water and then he laughed and told me he was thinking about ice cream. The second the sun is out, you can bet you will find ice cream cones in people's hands and all of the seats filled at the down town eis cafes. I'm not sure why the Germans at URI loved American ice cream so much when they have Italian Gelato so easily avaliable. There are Eis Cafes everywhere. There are two on the same street as my office in fact. Most of them also have walk up windows for easy access. However, I would like to point out the rising cost of one scoop of Eis. When I first arrived in Germany, one scoop cost 60 cents (about $0.90), as the weather started to get warmer, shops began to increase the cost and now almost all shops charge 70 cents for a scoop. I even saw one selling a scoop for 90 cents. While I don't feel like they are over charging, I was shocked to see prices instantly jump everywhere. Where is the shop that keeps charging 60 to get more business? Then I wonder, are all the Italian Eis cafes run by the Mafia? Is there price fixing involved? Maybe they are just money washing schemes?
This Easter was different than any others before. It was the first Easter I didn't go to church, it was the second Easter I was away from my family as I did spend an Easter in Italy but it was the time I most anticipated missing my family. I spent Easter with Patrick and his good friends, I guess I should call them my friends now too since we did spend some time together. Anyway, for me Easter is about church and family. I was in a church but for a baptisim. It was a really nice service, the priest was great, friends sand and plaed instruments. The location and weather couldn't have been better. Somehow it just didn't feel like Easter. It was the most intense baptisim I've ever been too and everyone was so friendly and the baby, Linnea was perfectly calm. I really had a good weekend. It was my first experience with Southern Germany and my first weekend with Net98 and friends. I also think it is impressive that the 8 of them have remained so close over the past 9 years while almost all of them have lived abroad at some point or another. Luckily for me they all chose to spend some time in English speaking countries so I didn't have to over stress on a whole weekend of non-stop German. It was interesting for me at times to just sit back and watch the relatives and friends. With so many conversations happening at once, I was unable to cohesively overhear anything. In spite of the feeling of being overwhelmed, I was able to sit back, take it in and just smile. When families get together everyone talks at once, it happens, it happens in all cultures.
This is the Schloss Arkaden or Castle Arcade for those of you who want to hear it in English. Basicaly, it is a mall. It's not even as nice as the Providence Place mall, there is no movie theatre and the food court consists of McDonalds, an Asian noodle bar (pretty good), a German wurst shop, a coffee shop and an ice cream shop. All good but the concept of a food court has filtered through with a few problems. The basic benefit of a food court is that all restaurants share a common seating area thus allowing each member of the shopping group to choose his or her food and all sit togethere to eat. There is no common seating area in this food court. In fact there is hardly and seating area at most of the eateries. Anyway, everyone knows the most important part of a mall is the shops within. The shops here are not bad but they are far from impressive. Most are duplicates of stores that already exist downtown. There are a few high end shops that only exist in the mall. However they don't impress me becasue they tend to sell labels like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger for twice as much as in the US. Anyway, I would assume you are still wondering why my photos are so dark. I have yet to mention that those photos were taken around 6:10 am on March 29th, the Grand opening. Patrick made me get up at 5am to go to a mall and it wasen't the day after Thanksgiving! However, if I ever had enough commitment to shopping to wake at 5am on the day after Thanksgiving, I would imagine the atmosphere to be much like it was at the Grand opening of the Schloss. First of all, this is the biggest and one of very few malls in the area, secondly the facade was constructed to replicate an old castle and third the unemployment rate in Germany allows people to have more free time. In all seriousness, a lot of shops were giving away free things and there were some good deals to be found so most of the city was in the mall by 8am! It was seriously crazy. You could not walk against the crowd as the human trafic flowed around the ring on each of the three floors. The mall is set up similar to an American mall. The one thing lacking is an anchor department store. The closest thing to anchor stores are the stores located on the ends, none of which are department stores, those remain outside the mall. I did get some good deals on necessary office equipment and I got a nice pair of sunglasses and 2 glasses of champage and the most exciting shop in the mall is Starbucks, the first one in Braunschweig! Even though I ordered, of course, a caramel frappachino and they made me a coffee frappachino and couldn't pronounce my name when it was ready, the guy remedied the situation and I took my coffee cocktail to work at 10, a happy girl. All in all, I am impressed with the Schloss, not becasue it is a mall, but because it is practicaly across the street from where I work and uber convient.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
In the Catholic religion (and other Christian religions), today is Holy Thursday, tomorrow is Good Friday than comes Easter Sunday and, if you are really serious, Easter Monday. In Germany today is the last day before a 4 day Easter weekend. In a land where "Seperation of Church and State" is not an issue because it simply does not exist, and neither does religious diversity for the most part, Easter is a big holiday. At this point, I'm pretty sure it is not for the religion but more of a time to be with family and relax. However, I hear religion is very regional and present in the south to a greater extent so I don't want to generalize. Anyway, I feel like it is just that Germany takes these two days off as I've missed so many one-day American holidays (President's Day, MLK Day, Veteran's Day, etc.) Not like I get paid for them though since I am not teaching. I feel like I can't complain about my teaching wages at the moment as I got an April 1st raise as a result of profits being up in Germany. Anyway, it seems like people prepare for this long weekend at least one week in advance and I am not refering to planning family visits rather planning to do all or none of their work or take to some extra vacation days in conjuction with the Easter holiday. I will be spending my Good Friday holiday cleaning the apt. as my family is too far away and my boyfriend is preparing for a major exam in 10 days and nothing will be open. I will be missing my family and their two Easter hams and their colored eggs (I don't care if the chickens do live in cages!) and the morning Easter egg hunt (can you guys still hide a few pink eggs for me) and Easter Sunday mass and talking to people on the steps afterward and generraly spending time with my family. Holidays away from your family really make you appriciate them more and take them for granted less.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
As I step off the strassenbahn (street train) my noise is filled with the sweet smell of what I can only imagine to be hops. I must be in my neighborhood. It's funny how this smell, of which we were warned when we moved in has become so familiar to me. Whatever it is, this odor is the by product of one or both of the breweries surronding my apartment. The smell lingers outside when they are brewing but it never comes inside. Even when the windows are open, not often since its been winter, I don't smell it inside. I don't think the smell sticks either as I've never smelt it on myself or anyone else outside of our neighborhood. It's the mysterious odor that lingers in the but, it dosen't travel much further than a one block radius around the brewery. I'm still not sure where it comes from but it always reminds me of where I belong.