Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Three small things.

1.) "Ingwer" is an adorable word. It means "ginger" (which the Germans think is a hilarious word - maybe it's just a hilarious thing in any language?), and I ran out of it on Christmas Eve, darn it, so my Christmas stir-fry was mediocre.

2.) I don't know if it's all Germans or just the ones at my school, but they pronounce the letter v as a w when speaking English. "Will someone wolunteer to read?" "Patience is a wirtue." "Who did you wote for?" I try not to giggle.

3.) One of my students mixes up the words "tourist" and "terrorist." This leads to statements such as "lots of terrorists visit New York every year." I try to correct without snickering too much.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of grease and gluehwein.

As indicated in my previous post, I had a lovely bratwurst (and a couple of kraeppfelchen) for breakfast. After that, I ran off to the English Club Christmas Party, which I was expecting to be an hour or so of awkward chat over, I dunno, potato salad or something.

It actually turned out to be quite fun. The gluehwein flowed like water (provided by our dear Clemens), and Frank (one of my 12Ls who is currently in training to be a chef) brought some lovely pralines, which were possibly the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. I was very responsible and all and didn't get drunk, but a ratio of about 1.5 glasses of gluehwein per hour is brilliant for loosening the tongue.

We played a very enjoyable game of Taboo, which is hilarious with a bunch of non-native-speakers. I kicked ass all around, of course, but my team still came in last. It was really fun though. Much laughing.

After this, I wandered out with Daniel and we had an excellent chat. He baffles me, really. His English is great when we're just talking - his grammar isn't great, but it's okay, and his pronunciation isn't great, but it's understandable. When we get into the classroom though, he goes completely afraid of speaking English and doesn't say anything. I think he's afraid of the other students making fun of his English or something (which is crap, because his English is by no means the worst in the class).

Anyway, we wandered around for three or four hours and eventually stopped at "McDoof" (an amusing nickname for McDonald's) when I realized I hadn't actually eaten since my breakfast bratwurst. Grease and gluehwein are both lovely (and both in wild abundance in Germany at this time of year), but subsisting only on those for ten hours apparently leads to a very displeased gastrointestinal system. So I had a cheeseburger. Then I went home. Then I wrote this. Now I'm going to sleep for ages.

Bratwurst for breakfast... the most brilliant idea ever.

Additionally, here are some pictures that I've been taking over the past month and neglected to upload: Oooh shiny!

Monday, December 10, 2007

...and another thing!

When Clemens found out that I was sick today, he followed up our Friday-night shenanigans perfectly by giving me the following piece of advice:

"Go home and drink some warm beer."

In which our heroine gets schnockered and traipses around the woods with a torch.

So, Friday night I took part in what is apparently a local Christmas tradition: the Lichterfahrt. It was a school-sponsored trip, on which about a half dozen teachers and me and the 12th-year students went. The order of events is roughly as follows (please keep in mind that this is a school-sponsored event, involving a bunch of students):

We get into the bus. They give us mulled wine to drink (it's a BYOB occasion - Bring Your Own Becher [cup]). We drive a couple of hours (having our wine refreshed periodically) to a Christmas market, where we can buy sausages and more mulled wine. We get back in the bus. They give us more mulled wine and start bringing out the beer (90 cents a bottle - good deal, but not as good as the free wine). They let us off at the beginning of a path through the woods (approximately 8pm, so pitch black now) and give us all torches. With fire. Actual fire. We walk through the woods to get to a cottage, where they have more mulled wine for us. Then we walk through the woods some more to get to a restaurant, where they give us food and beer. Then we are served more beer as we stand around a campfire. Then we get back on the bus, where they bring out more beer, because the wine is all gone. Then we go home.

So, summary: they get a bunch of high school students trashed, hand them fire, and send them through the woods in the middle of the night. I have no idea whose idea this was.

It was rather fun. You really would not believe how much better my German is after a couple-six glasses of the mulled wine (not going to discuss the beer, sorry, except to say that "helle Hefeweizen" or however it's spelled is delicious). When my improved German was combined with the students' improved English, and inhibitions were lowered all around, we wound up having an excellent time. I had a great discussion about gun control with a couple of them, and just generally goofed off all night mostly. I'm starting to actually make friends with a couple of them, which is odd, but kind of good. We decided that it'd be a good idea to start having English Club at a local bar/pub/brewery/what-have-you in the interests of lowering inhibitions (environmentally as well as chemically) and encouraging people to come.

It's strange how many school events are geared toward getting the students and teachers inebriated together (not just me - Clemens and Enrico and the other teachers present were all less than sober as well). I suppose it leads to greater comradery or some such.

Anyway. I woke up Saturday with a raging disease of some sort - sore throat, nasty cough, stuffy nose, etc. I went in to school today, but they told me to get some medicine and go home, so I wound up stopping at an Apothek (pharmacy, basically).

They're a bit different here than in the US. Instead of picking out what you want and paying, the store is basically just a room with a counter in it, and you go and tell the pharmacist what's wrong with you. She asks a few questions then picks out what you need and you buy it. It's kind of nice for indecisive people, as long as you can remember how to say "Help! I've coughed up one lung and can't afford to lose the other!" in German.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Not a European swallow, that's my point...

I had a funny conversation today. I was in Jutta's office, waiting for her, and one of her officemates (Frau R.) struck up a conversation with me, in German. I handled myself pretty well - didn't look retarded or anything! Anyway, there's some work going on at school, so there were also these two big burly grubby workmen in there putting up carpentry. So, somehow the conversation turned to me going to the Semperoper (the official city opera house or some such - the Dresden one is very good), and she's apparently highly involved there and can get me cheap tickets to a show. So...conversation went as follows, roughly:

Frau R: So, you like opera?
Me: Yeah, but I don't know much about it.
Frau R: Okay, so we'll have to start you off with something simple. Definitely not Wagner.
Burly Workman: What? But Wagner's operas are magnificent!
Frau R: Yes, although I can see why Hitler liked them, but they're not for a beginner, don't you think?
Burly Workman: Oh, certainly not, you'll want something a bit softer and lighter. Mozart, perhaps?
Frau R: Oh, good idea, Mozart is perfect...

I was almost laughing the whole time. It was very Python-esque. The teacher started talking about Mozart, and the very unlikely-looking worker guy starts chiming in with insightful critiques on composers. But hey, cheap opera tickets, good stuff.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Down with racism!

So, today I taught a class on racism. I have to say that it was the funniest class I've had so far.

I told them a bit about race issues in America, then we got to the fun part: a roleplay! Each group had a racist person and a minority of some sort and so forth and they were given situations to write a dialogue for (for example, someone starts working at an all-white company and his one coworker is a racist pig, etc.). It was very amusing. Some of them got...extremely into it.

See, Germans have this one problem with English. They don't seem to understand the concept of swear words, or offensive words. I suppose it's because the strongest word they've got in German is verdammt, and everyone uses that, from little kids to grandmothers to priests. They just don't really have any "bad" words. As a result, they don't seem to understand that profanity really isn't acceptable in most social circumstances in English. That can be quite entertaining at times.

During the time they worked on their roleplays, Enrico and I walked around the room helping them with things. It was funny listening to him on the other side of the room say "No, no, you should be louder. Call him lazy and stupid! You should use n***** if you want to be a good racist." And the group critiques of the roleplays were also entertaining - "You were not a very convincing racist, Felix. That wasn't discrimination at all!" "Georg, you make a much better racist." Etc.

The result? Well, suffice it to say that there's very little funnier than listening to a pair of thick German accents going "Get the f*** out of my country, you ass-n*****!" and "You are a piece of s*** racist f***er who should go to jail!"

I gave them all Mark 1 (A+) for enthusiasm.

PS - Lest you think my job is teaching Germans how to be good racists, rest assured that there were anti-racists in each group too. Tolerance just isn't funny, though, so I didn't write about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This was kicking around in my head a bit, so here. Enjoy the product of 15 seconds of finger-grinding labor.

Also, do look into Ron Paul. He's the only decent candidate up for election since I've started paying attention to politics...

*climbs off of soapbox*

Friday, November 16, 2007

How to get a Big Mac in Germany.

1: Find the teensy McDonald's counter in the crowded mall. This will be difficult since it is about three feet wide. Get in line.
2: Order your meal. While standing in line, you will have been practicing your umlauts, so asking for the "Big Mac Sparmenü" should be easy. Nonetheless, the girl will not understand you, so you must repeat it, and then point. She will then start speaking rapidly in German, so you must pay attention. Listen for key words, such as "Cola" and "mitnehmen," which will be sprinkled among improbably long sentences. She will assume you want cola and mayo, so be sure to specify "stilles Wasser" (you don't want that bubbly water) and "Ketchup."
3: Do not be surprised when she gives you your change entirely in coins, which you will never be able to get rid of, because the EU has eight different coin denominations, six of which are indistinguishable unless you squint (three large and gold, three small and copper), and you don't want to look like an idiot taking ten minutes to count out change.
4: Try to figure out where to stand. At this three feet of counter space, there will be six people waiting for food. Eventually decide to stand slightly to the left of the register, so that the next person can order but you're still visible enough that they won't give your food to some urchin. Try not to get elbowed out of the way by the other people who are also waiting for their food - German orderliness is entirely forgotten when it comes to "Pommes frites."
5: Take your food and find a place to sit. This will be awkward, because the food court has no tables, and also no chairs, only lightly padded rows of backless stools. Pick one and sit.
6: Eat. Resign yourself to developing a taste for bubbly water, because they will never give you still water, despite the sign. Realize your hamburger tastes like nothing but grease and salt, and acknowledge that the "native" food is really much superior. Wonder why you put yourself through this. Swear violently to stick to doener in the future.
7: Wait a week, get homesick, and come back.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

German phrase of the day.

"Doof" rhymes with "loaf" and means "stupid."  "Sau doof" ("sau" is pronounced "zow" and means "sow") means "totally stupid."  Enrico taught me this phrase the other day.  This thingy with the sheep is all over on bookbags and stuff here.  It makes me very happy.  Isn't "doof" a much more expressive word than "stupid"?  

(the big caption on the picture reads: "Without you, everything is stupid.")

Hallelujah, glory be!

I've been paid finally!  

I haven't posted in a week or so because it was really just too depressing.  I didn't care for the thought of having my whining preserved in a semi-permanent format.  I prefer my complaints to be more ethereal, dissolving like the whims on which they are based as soon, lost my train of thought.

Anyway, I've been living for two weeks on eight euro.  Yesterday, I had a bowl of rice and an apple.  The day before, just a bowl of rice.  And so on and so forth for the past week and a half.  And it's freezing and raining and snowing here, and I didn't have money for a coat or winter boots or anything.  So I've been terribly traumatized - constantly cold, wet, and hungry.  But now it's okay!  I've got like fourteen hundred euro.  So, tonight I'm going to go get groceries (YAY!) and some winter clothes (MORE YAY!).

On a sadder note - Ira Levin died today.  Most people don't recognize the name, but he's a great author.  He wrote Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives, but his best work is his earliest: A Kiss before Dying.  Go honor the man (and appease me, hehe) and read it.  Go!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I did a lesson on stereotypes today.  I handed out a sheet with some American stereotypes about Germans (blond-haired, blue-eyed, orderly, hobbies include drinking beer and invading Poland), then asked them to come up with a sentence or two about America for each of my stereotype categories.  Here's what they came up with (things in quotes are direct quotations; things not in quotes are summaries of class feelings):

Society: Very open to other cultures except Afghanistan.  Friendly 
and funny.  Very individualistic. 

Lifestyle: Fast food and "secret parties."  One girl: "Americans are very nervous and eat a lot of hamburgers."  That cracked me up in class.

Entertainment: "The sound of guns being fired is like music to Americans."  Movie stars everywhere.  Country music. 

Politics: Everyone loves George W. Bush. Always going to war with other countries.

Economy: Big houses and big cars.  Only interested in other countries if they have oil. 
"Americans all want Mercedes but they can't get them." 

Religion: All Christians.  All irreligious.  Tons of different religions. (I laughed when we finished that one, because I got the whole spectrum after calling on three people)

Problems (hooo boy): "America is full of violent rednecks and the KKK and 
everyone hates black people." 
Homeless people. Drugs. Gang wars. Healthcare.  George W. Bush. 

Miscellaneous: Americans are all out of shape. Americans see everything in black and white.  Americans are stupid.

It was a fun lesson.  We talked a little about how much of this stuff they thought was probably true (50-50, they said, much like the German stereotypes I told them).  Amusing stuff.

Hot air balloons and cake.

Pretty sky.

Prettier sky.


Dresdner Christstollen.

Edited to add - blargh, those came out much smaller than expected.  Oh well, you get the idea...  Full-size pictures are on Picasa, if you're desperate for them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm druhnk1!!


I wenrt out with Enrico and Clemens tonight. (Enrico wbrought his wife, Mom, so be relieved!) First we ewent on a night tour of the Altstadt. It was fun. I discovered lots of stuff I didn't know, like nickniames of kings, and who built the big schurch thingy (August der Staerke!), and what that mural thing is made out ofc (porcelain!). It was fun. And it was raining, but it's okay, 'cause I don't mind being a little damp,a nd it wasn't raining too much.

So after that (hah, how's hatat for a detailed description?), we went to a tapas bar in Neustadt. It was pretty good. I had rabbit in whiskey sauce and calf in caper sauce. The calf was better than the rabbit, but they were both tasty. I found out that I actually like Hefeweizen beer (Haefeweizen? Helleweizen? Something), and I had three of them. Doesn't sound like too much until you remember that beer is sold by the half-liter here...

Anyway, it was good. I'm kind of drunk right now, so forgive my spelling errors. Enrico's wife is nice, but I don't know her well, which made conversation a little more awkward. But it was still okay. I discovered that Enrico actually has pretyt gool taste in music. We both like Corvus Corvax. He was surprised I'd heard of them. He was telling me about concerts in Dresden this year. Motorhead and Nigthwish are both going to Leipzig apparently. I'm gonna go see Nightwish, and I'm going to go see Corvus Corvax with Enrico;

Anyway, a fun night. Wee!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A decent weekend.

So, Ariana came over this weekend. We spent most of the weekend shoe-shopping, of all things. She needed winter boots, and we both kept getting distracted by the pretty shiny shoes, so it took forever to find. It was fun, though. It's nice to be able to be completely irresponsible and consumeristic for a day or two.

We also made our way over to Neustadt to do some shopping in the second-hand stores. There's actually quite a lot of good stuff over there. I really like that section of town in general. It's Lots of character. On one street, there was a featherbed store, a reptile store, a used bookstore, and an African food specialties store, all in a row. Just very eclectic. And the people are really interesting - the place is full of punks and artsy sorts.

After a productive Saturday morning thrifting, we were lured into the Devil's Kitchen by their pretty sign, and discovered it to be an awesome retro-American-style diner. We had a couple of burgers with the best fries ever and wound up camping there for about two and a half hours. That's the awesome thing about eating out in Germany. They don't pressure you to leave. So it was nice. Look at the picture I found!

So, by this point, we were both pretty broke, so our entertainment Saturday night consisted of cooking tortellini (delicious!) and splitting a bottle of cheap vodka (bye-bye tortellini :( ) between the two of us. It was the kind of vodka that tastes fine mixed with coke until you get to the bottom of the glass, at which point it suddenly tastes like pure nail polish remover. It was fun, but I am extremely grouchy today because of it. Blah.

Today we went to the Hauptbahnhof for some good ol' fast food for lunch (yay for Burger King!) and there are Polizei everywhere. There's a helicopter over the city, police cars and vans on most corners, and groups of 5-10 cops in full riot gear with batons and muzzled dogs on pretty much every street. The reason? Dynamo Dresden, the local soccer team, lost last night and is playing again tonight. Damned hooligans... They tend to get extremely violent. So, on the one hand, it looks like a police state today. On the other hand, at least I won't be beaten by an enraged soccer fan today.

Okay, so now I'm off to prepare a lesson for tomorrow. G'night.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oh, and I got propositioned.

As I was walking to the tram stop after the first bank fiasco this guy came up and started asking me what's your name, etc., in kind of accented German, all friendly-like. I didn't feel like chatting, so I said I didn't speak any German. So he tried some very broken English. I was mostly polite, but then he started asking if I wanted to go out for coffee, and I declined, so he wanted to know if I'd go out for whiskey then (!), but I declined, and then he got huffy about it and left. It was...kind of hilarious.

Yes, I would like some cheese, thank you.

But first, a brief school-related adventure! An appetizer, if you will. So, you all remember those classes I was supposed to teach all by myself? Well, I went to the first one yesterday, and apparently the teacher I was subbing for hadn't told the principal I was subbing for her, because the class was cancelled, and no one thought to tell me. So I was all running around panicking and so forth because I couldn't find my students. It was unpleasant.

So, today's big adventure... I'm going to the theater with Clemens and Enrico on Tuesday! Weeee! That'll be fun. However, the theater requires marginally nicer clothes than I normally wear around, so I had to do a bit of shopping. To do shopping, I needed to take some money out of my German bank account (no, they haven't paid me yet - I just got the two hundred euro reimbursement for baggage charges and travel from Cologne to Dresden). So I go to the bank.

The money in in the Tagesgeldkonto of my account - the savings account. It turns out that you can't actually withdraw money directly from your savings account in Germany. You have to transfer it to your Girokonto first - your debit account. But it seems that they can't transfer the money over at the bank. You have to do that online, the lady says, and then you can just withdraw it with your debit card. Small problem, says I. They never sent me the TAN-list (which you need to do internet transactions) OR the PIN for my debit card.

Lady blinks. Looks at me. I give her some more information and she calls home office, or whatever they call it here. They're going to send out the TAN-list and PIN again, since apparently they forgot to write my apartment number on it the first time. But I do have a telephone-banking PIN, right? Yep, sure do. So she sends me home to transfer the money into my Girokonto over the phone, and then I can come back to the bank and take my money out. Fantastic...

So I go home, find my phone-PIN, find the account number I'm supposed to use over the phone, find the phone number (all three of these in separate mailings, I might add), and dial. Halfway through the computerized spiel I get disconnected and my phone informs me that I have to charge more minutes to it.



SO. I go back to the plaza where the bank is and where I got my phone. I wait in line for twenty minutes at the phone place to get some time to charge on my phone. The dude ahead of me shows no signs of being done any time soon, so I check the other stores around on the off-chance that they'll have phone cards or something I can use. Nope. So I go back and am lucky this time - no line. I get fifteen euro worth to load on my phone. On the way back to the tram stop (have I mentioned that it's below freezing out here?) I stop at Ditsch for some much-needed sustenance and then return home to try my luck again. By this time, I'm two hours into the entire mess.

It's really hard to understand automated telephone systems in English, let alone in German. It takes a couple tries to get the phone loaded, but I manage it, and then I take a deep breath and call the PostBank system again. It takes me four tries to figure out which bank account they want me to use to access the system - the one they sent along with the phone-PIN doesn't work, and neither does the one in the letter with the phone number, and neither does the extended one in the first letter they sent me. After each try, the automated man sounds increasingly disappointed in me. After finally getting the right one, I accidentally cough and it hangs up.

So I do it all again. I put in the right number. I hold my breath while it states approvingly that I did it okay. I enter the PIN. It gives me options! Finally! Unfortunately, the only one of the options I understand is "Tagesgeldkonto." So I say that. It doesn't get it. I try again. Nope. Tagesgeltkonto. "Es tut mir sehr leid. Ich habe Sie nicht verstanden." Tagesgeldkonto! "Verzeihung. Koennen Sie das wiederholen?" TAGESGELDKONTO!!! "Wir verbinden Sie mit eine Beratungs-something or other."

So it decides I need to talk to a real person. I could've told it that twenty minutes ago. The wait is very irritating. It's got about a thirty-second loop of muzak, which it breaks up every fifteen seconds by a guy apologizing and telling me to be patient. On the plus side, I'll never forget what "Geduld" means again. Of course toll-free is not a German concept. I'm getting charged nine cents a minute for this pleasure.

Finally I get to talk to a woman. And it's extremely easy. "Ich moechte 160 Euro von mein Tagesgeldkonto zu mein Girokonto ueberweisen." I probably messed up the prepositions, but she understands me fine, and it's done in about fifteen seconds. Danke sehr.

So, German efficiency apparently means taking three hours to transfer money from one bank account to another, and I have nothing in my wallet to show for it still. I think I'll save the shopping for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Terrors abound.

I have no idea if I mentioned this or not here (I think I did, but I'm not sure), but starting next week I have two classes a week ALL BY MYSELF for three weeks. First-year brewers, never met 'em before, they don't speak much English, etc. Anyway, this morning I had a meeting regarding that with the teacher who is supposed to be in charge of the class. Or at least, I thought it was supposed to be a meeting. What actually happened was this:

Me: *arrives precisely on time*
Teacher: Oh. I didn't actually prepare anything for you.
Me: I see.
Teacher: Um, here, have these. *stuffs a sheaf of papers into my hand* You ought to be able to stretch that out to cover three weeks.
Me: Thanks... I my best?
Teacher: Great, see you in a month. *shuts door*

So. This is kind of what I expected from that teacher, but it's unpleasant to have your fears confirmed, no? Although I must admit that my self-righteous pleasure at my dislike being vindicated is almost enough to counterbalance the almost overwhelming terror.

Bleh, it's not that bad, I suppose. I can easily eat up the first week with introductions, and if there isn't enough there for the other two weeks, it shouldn't be too hard to just make smalltalk (that's my job, okay? :P) for a little while.

I hope.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage

So, you really can't escape the Mormons anywhere.

There were a couple of Mormon missionaries (one from Georgia [the state, not the country], one from Scotland) proselytizing in my building today. It was difficult to disentangle myself from the conversation, but kind of funny. They gave me a tract, in German, inviting me to their church to get a free Buch of Mormon.

The front of the tract.
The back of the tract.

Also, Leberkaese is delicious.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bah humbug.

So, I've got two weeks of vacation right now. And, as most of you know, my foot is busted. Well, not busted - just out of order. I did something to it last weekend, and after walking on it for a full week after that, it's feeling very cranky. So, it looks like most of my vacation will be spent not using my foot, which means staying inside or riding my bike (bike doesn't bother it) to a cafe or something where I can sit further. It's kind of depressing - I was planning on going to Leipzig and then Prague with Ariana, and now I...can't.

But I can't stay down for long! *breaks out the cane and straw hat, starts humming "Ragtime Gal"* Since I can't have geographical adventures, I've decided to go with gastronomical adventures instead. I've purchased canned fish (these Germans love their herring), liverwurst, and horse-meat sausage (in order from least to most terrifying).

Adventure the First.

I started off with some not-very-German fish - good ol' sardines. Which I haven't had in ages (I remember eating them when I was little with Dad, even though Mom thought they were gross), but I figured they couldn't be too bad. I discovered it's actually kind of fun eating them - you feel like a giant putting these almost whole fish in your mouth and crunching them up. Tomorrow (or tonight! if I'm feeling brave) I'll give the liver a go. Yum yum.

So, aside from my broken-foot-induced culinary risks, there is one other thing of interest going on. One of the teachers I work with is going to be in the hospital for three weeks for a minor surgery after the vacation, and she wants me to take two of her classes each week until she gets back. All by myself. No one else in the calssroom. Eeeek. They're first-year brewers, and I've never met them. It should be...interesting. I'm really very nervous. Enrico thinks I'll be fine, though he said if I'm not comfortable it's okay to just say so and someone else will do it, since this is explicitly in the guidelines as something I don't have to do (teach by myself). But I kind of think it'll be fun/interesting. So, we will see how it goes.

Okay. Maybe I'll post tomorrow about horsemeat. Or hot air balloons. I accidentally flashed a hot air balloon today. Maybe I'll post about that tomorrow. I'm tired of typing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Clean cups, clean cups!

New post, new post!

So, this weekend I had a friend over that I met at orientation (see Mom, not being completely antisocial and reclusive). It was rather fun - it's nice having another clueless American to explore the city with. We checked out some of the places I've already been (Frauenkirche, Altmarkt, etc.), went to the international bookstore so she could get an English fix (she's in a teensy eensy little town, so can't get anything there), and went to Neustadt and the Garten, both of which I hadn't been to yet.

Neustadt is cool; really, there's not another word for it. The buildings are old and multicolored (just how I like 'em :)), but they're not as well kept as in the Altstadt, so they're all kind of toned down to a similar shade. I'll have to take a picture - I like how it looks. And there's a lot of graffiti all over the place, and some buildings that are in disrepair, shall we say, from DDR days and before. There are little restaurants and cafes everywhere - a couple with standard German fare, but mostly very ethnic. I saw Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, African, Australian, American, Russian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Algerian, Albanian... Pretty much any food you have a craving for, you can get here. I need to make it to the American bar and grill, actually, just for amusement. They advertise themselves as having "cheeseburger!!"

There are also, of course, a plethora of bars, clubs, etc. Some of them are dancey poppy places, but more often they seem to be subculture oriented - raves, goth/industrial clubs, metal bars. If I were a particularly social person, this is where I would go. Thrift stores abound here, and also just...weird...stores. There was one that appears to specialize in selling nothing but hookahs. I need to go investigate the place further - it was Sunday when we went, so everything was closed.

The Garten was very nice, but in a completely different way. It's really huge - one kilometer by two kilometers - and as soon as you're thirty paces off the street it's very peaceful and quiet, easy to imagine that you're not actually in a city. At one corner, there's a botanic garden, run by the university and open to the public. I see myself going there rather a lot, partially because it's just pleasant, and partially because they have a North American section that feels like I'm in my woods back home.

I discovered over the weekend that German restaurants are completely infuriating. The middle is fine, but the beginning and end completely baffle me. First, when you go in, you just wander in and sit down wherever the heck you want. I find it slightly nerve-wracking - what if they don't want me to sit there? What if they don't notice I came in? But eventually they do notice that you're there and bring you a menu. You order, very easy, except that some things are impossible to pronounce (Quarkkeulchen!), and they bring your food in a reasonable amount of time. Seems to take a little longer than in the States, but I'm a patient person, so that's okay. After that, though, they leave you completely alone for the rest of the time you're there, and you pretty much have to hunt down and grab someone to ask for the check. Then, of course, they come to the table and tell you how much you owe and stand there staring at you until you find your money and hand it directly to them, and you have to tell them how much you want to pay. Tipping is very small here, and you don't leave it on the table - you tell the waitress how much you want to leave. Say it's 12.55 for your meal, you might say "Fourteen." and hand her a twenty and she'll hand you six back (probably in coins, dammit - they never give me bills as change). So. It's weird. But the food was tasty, granted...

Anyway, that was my weekend. It was fun. We get along quite well, surprisingly. I never expect to get along with people... We're making tentative plans to meet up in Leipzig and head to Prague over the vacation (two weeks vacation starting Friday!), or maybe to Vienna - she has a friend living there that we could stay with.

Yesterday I impressed myself. I've been having trouble with the bank - they were supposed to mail me my account number, which I need in order to get paid (!), but I never got anything in the mail, and it'd been two weeks. So I finally bit the proverbial bullet and went to the bank all by myself to talk about it. This being East Germany, they don't really speak English there (East Germans all learned Russian in school, not English, so only the youngsters really speak much English, I'm finding), so I had to explain my situation and why it was problematic and what I wanted them to do all in German. It was terrifying, but I actually managed to explain myself clearly and coherently and in good enough German that they understood it all immediately. So the situation is now taken care of, for which I'm eminently grateful (imminently? blast you, English language!), and I'm feeling a hell of a lot more competent in my German than I did before doing that. It was tough doing it on my own (well, honestly more scary than actually tough), but I'm really glad I did.

Today I had a slightly different sort of experience - I taught my first two lessons ever. It went a lot better than I expected, actually. I used a picture of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square for a picture description lesson (Clemens and Enrico wanted me to do one to prep them for their exam), and it was an amusing enough picture to keep their attention for the lesson. It's much easier to think of questions about a picture when it's a good picture - why is he playing a guitar? on the street? in his underoos? Clemens and Enrico both said it was a good lesson, especially for my first time, so I was happy.

So, now you are up to date. Tomorrow's der Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day - celebrating the reunification of East and West Germany), so we have off school. I'm probably going to sleep quite a bit, then do some grocery shopping (have to do that pretty much every day... no freezer, and must transport groceries by bike, making it impossible to get much at a time), and maybe wander over to Neustadt to explore some more. I'll try to update again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Guinea pig" in German is "Meerschweinchen."

So there's this woman who is always at my tram stop at about the same time as I am, and she has the cutest little puppy. It's very tiny and fuzzy and black and white and adorable, and every time I want to go say "Awww! Look at the cute little puppy! Can I pet it?"

But I don't know how. Welpe sounds way too clinical. "Junger Hund" sounds like "My, what a fine strapping young hound you have there, my man!" And I just made up "Huendchen," so I don't know if it's even a real word. So. Maybe I'll ask my brewers tomorrow if they can help me. Although I don't know if I have my brewers tomorrow...hmm.

Next week I start teaching full classes by myself. Eek. Clemens and Enrico helped me make a decent plan today, so I think it'll be okay, but still, I'm petrified. I had some classes with new people today - bakery shop assistants. Bunch of giggly 17-22-year-old girls. They were extremely talkative, which is equal parts good and bad. On the up side, it means they asked lots of questions, which means no awkward silences, but on the down side...for the love of god, would you shut up for four seconds so I can hear this person's question? Honestly! The teacher I was working with (Frau Kohs) got really fed up and talked to their primary teacher about that. But mostly they were nice.

So, that's essentially it. We talked a bit (E, C, and I) about what we're going to do with the English Club. I'd like to see it kind of like Stammtisch at Lyco - just casual conversation in a pub or something. I bet it'd get a better turnout that way, too. As-is it's held in a classroom, which doesn't really encourage conversation, oder?

A couple of students voluntarily came to me while I was sitting in the office to see if I'd help them with their homework (which I did). Makes me happy - means I'm not completely scary and terrifying. :P

So, that's it now. Outside of school, I've been quite lazy. Took a six-hour nap yesterday... But I needed it. I think I'm going to take another (shorter!) nap now.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I beat the doener man at his own game.

Pictures from my five-hour bike ride yesterday.

So, I'm really sore from my long bike ride yesterday, with the result that I stayed home most of the day. However, around 2 or so I decided that I needed some more English-language books, so I ventured out to find Internationale Buecher, which apparently has a great selection of books in English (it's true!). Things were fairly uneventful there. I picked up four Jane Austen books at 3,10 each. Jane Austen is basically emotional comfort food - witty romances that generally turn out well. I also got a Stephen King book, and Atlas Shrugged, and Die unendliche Geschichte (just because I've been looking for that and finally found it).

So, then I left and had a complete emotional breakdown in the middle of Altmarkt. There was some street musician playing an acoustic guitar and singing "Hey, You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and all I could think about was listening to Charlie play that ages ago, and I was so homesick, and almost sat down crying in the middle of the square. So that was kind of depressing. By the way, Charlie, you should join Facebook so I can recruit you to my pirate crew. :P

So, I made my way blurrily back to the tram stop, and made myself feel better by completely besting the doener guy. By "besting," of course, I mean "communicating with." See, I stop at the Prager Strasse doener stand a couple times a week probably, and every time I think to myself, "Dammit, self! Why don't I know how to say 'onions' so I can tell him I don't want any?" I'm too proud to say "Uhhh, das Stuff zwischen die rote Sosse und die Rotkraut." So anyway, I finally remembered to look it up, and was finally able to ask for "keine Zwiebeln" and to have it to go ("mitnehmen") without any trouble. So I'm proud of myself.

On the way back, I finally joined the orderly German hordes. See, at the intersections, you're supposed to wait for the walk signal to walk, just like in America. The only difference is that in Germany people actually do wait. If you go while it's still red, even if there are clearly no cars for miles, they'll all glare at you like you've just shot their firstborn. It's even worse if you do that when there are little kids there, because they hate people setting a bad example for kids.

So anyway, today I was standing there with a group of others waiting for the light to turn green, and these touristy types starting crossing while it was still red, and I stood on the curb and looked disapproving with the rest of the Dresdners. Self-righteous disapproval feels awesome, people! I'm such a conformist...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A story, for your reading pleasure.

So, my apartment is furnished to cook in, but not well furnished. I have two tiny burners, no oven, one tiny frying pan, one tiny pot, a miniscule fridge, and no freezer. This means that I can't have any major cooking endeavors. For that reason, I picked up some one-pan meals last time I was at Rewe - some pasta things that you just mix with water and heat, etc. So today I tried one: Penne mit Broccoli und Fruehlingskraeuten. I think Fruehlingskraeuten are brussels sprouts, but I'm not sure. *checks* Meh, can't find it. Who knows?

Anyway, I got out a pan, put the water in it, mixed in the pasta and sauce mix, put it on a burner. Then looked at the back of the package. Realized I didn't know any of the words. So I scrambled to the computer to translate (argh, WHY did I forget my favorite D/E dictionary in Kalamazoo?), and lo... "Scheiss! I should be stirring constantly!" Run out to kitchen, start to stir, look at the next line of text... Dammit. Run to computer. Oh no! It's not supposed to boil! Run back to kitchen. Then I remembered that my stupid burners have precisely two temperatures: "#$(@*$%, why aren't you hot yet?!" and "Arrrrrgh it's boiling over!" There's nothing in the middle.

So. It's done now, after much excitement. It tastes pretty good, and it's warm, which is the most important thing. Man cannot live on Nutella alone, as they say... But let this be a lesson: if you're ever cooking in a foreign country, translate the instructions before you start it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bring on the bread.

So today one of my brewing students firmly informed me that "Yeast is a living orgasm." I just about fell off my chair laughing. Fortunately, Enrico took care of correcting his pronunciation, so I didn't have to go into explaining to this group of 25-year-old men what that means in English.

In other news, I'm going on a field trip tomorrow! It's to some kind of lab, not sure what, but I arranged it (in German!) with the lady leading it, so I get to go. Then I'm off the hook for classes until Monday. I'm trying to locate a new apartment - this one is awesome, but it's expensive, so I need to find something else soonish. But it's a lot less stressful since I actually live in the same city and all, and have a bunch of teachers who want to help me.

I think that's about all the news for today. I'm going to go explore the Zwinger and the Neustadt over the weekend, I think, so there should be new pictures and thrilling tales of adventure on the high eastern Germany soon.

P.S. - these crazy Sachsens keep saying "nu" for yes. This sounds almost exactly like the way they sometimes say "nay" for no. That is incredibly frustrating. At least I know now - Enrico just told me yesterday what "nu" means. Until then, I'd been reading it as "no."

Monday, September 17, 2007

O Peanut Butter, at last I have found thee!

I've been searching for peanut butter since I got here. It's apparently an American thing, and it's really hard to find. Nutella is great (fantastic, incredible, completely orgasmic), but it isn't a peanut butter replacement. So today I stopped at Rewe on the way home from school to pick up a few things and checked the jelly aisle on a hunch, and lo! There it was! Tiny little jars of peanut butter. Big ol' American flag on them, so everyone knows your dirty secret when you check out, of course, but still. Peanut butter! I am saved.

Other than that, it's been uneventful here. I was roused out of bed (reading, not sleeping) a couple of nights ago by some kind of rollerblade parade. It was around 10:30 pm, and I heard this techno music coming out of nowhere, so I went over to the window and looked out and there were hundreds of rollerbladers streaming by. The organizers (I assume that's what they were) were on bikes and had lights and speakers for the music. The ones bringing up the rear were pushing little kids on skates and wheelchairs so they could partake too. It was kind of cool. Terrible picture, because it was dark.

I've got some lovely bread and cheese. Ordering the meat was a bit of an adventure - I had no idea what anything in the case tasted like, so I just ordered a random name: "Bierschincken." It turned out to be delicious - kind of like uebersmokey baloney. It's best eaten German-style. You take a slice of bread (thinner than you'd think), put some cheese on top (brie works beautifully), and stick a couple slices of meat on it. Open-faced sammich.

Here is the tram that takes me halfway to school. Here is Dresden on a rainy day. Here is a man on stilts wearing techno-medieval garb and handing out flyers, and also (in the white hoodie) the third black person I've seen since coming to this country.

I think that's all for now. May post later. Ta-ta.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I present...

...for your viewing pleasure, the Simpsons!

So I was out and about a little bit today, and I stopped and got a doener for lunch (with cold Mineralwasser - I'm developing a taste for the stuff, Mom!). It was very amusing - the guys at the stand spoke heavily Turkish-accented German, and I speak heavily-English accented German. We did a lot of pointing. Anyway, I was telling Ilya this, and he showed me this clip, and it is perfect, so if you have reasonable internet, watch it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Can we say "taxidermy," class?

Well, first, here are some lovely pictures of my first foray into Dresden proper a day or two ago. There's really not much to tell about that - it was pretty, and lovely, and I enjoyed it immensely.

As far as actual events go, I've made some pretty good accomplishments in the past few days. For one thing, I'm legally allowed to live here now, at least until June 30 2008. That was an amusing adventure... I'm very glad Clemens was there to do the complicated legal talking, or I'd be expelled from the country or something. The form was hilarious. I had to affirm that I wasn't a leading member of any banned organizations (apparently rank-and-file members are fine), that I wasn't a member of any terroristic organizations (brilliant plan, that - "Are you a terrorist? *angry face*" "Oh, damn, yer honor, ya caught me. *sad face*"), and that I had no plans to bring down the Federal Democracy or Something of Germany (though it feels nice that they have that much fear of my one-person demogoguery).

Anyway, there was a bit of hassle with the paperwork, but eventually that was taken care of. I got a bank account afterwards all by myself, in German. That was fun. The people at the bank were apparently as clueless as I was though, so I didn't feel bad. "Hallo, ich bin Amerikanerin und moechte ein Konto oeffnen..." "Amerikanerin? Aehmm.....ich rufe meine Chefin." But now I have an account, but alas, I won't get my account number for close to a week, so I won't be able to get money for a while yet. Fortunately, I think I have enough to last for a bit.

I finally made a schedule in school today. I'll have Fridays off, only one class Thursdays, and only three-four classes the other three days, so it'll be very relaxing and nice to start off with. Most of my classes will be with the eleventh and twelfth groups, but I've got four with the third-year brewers and one each with the bakers and the butchers and the shop assistants. All the teachers say the shop assistants are lazy and, er, not very bright. It's amusing how blunt they are here. I go into a new class, and the teacher starts by saying "Okay, these two guys are pretty good at English, she's terrible, she's smart but very lazy, etc." No dancing around being nice, like in American schools.

I got to go to one of the twelfth-year classes today, which was amusing. They're very nice in there - I even know a few names. Stefan, Lisa, Sebastian, Michael, and two Claudias. Maybe a Lars too, but I think he might be in one of the eleventh-year classes... Anyway, I was supposed to tell about some jobs I've had and let the students guess what the job was, as a warm-up for a class on getting a job in America. I started off with Wal-Mart, but that was really easy, so I went to my Fin Fur + Feather job next. That, may I say, was awesome.

"So, at this job, I got up very early, and I walked to work. Then I sat down and read for a while. Then someone would come in, and I would show them a bunch of dead animals."

You could practically hear the class's collective brain grind to a halt. The facial expressions were very entertaining. Then we spent five minutes trying to get them to say "taxidermy" properly. They'd say it, then I'd say it. "Taaaahx-IT-airmeee." "No. Taxidermy." "Taaaaaaaaaahx-it-AIR-meee." "Taxidermy. TAXidermy." "Taaaaax-it-air-MEEE?" "Close enough. Now try 'yiffing.'"

Then I went home. The End.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No pictures, sorry.

Well, it's been eventful here. I've started doing a little bit in the classes - not much, just introducing myself and trying to prod them into speaking English. It's really hard, but I can understand it. When the German TAs came to my German classes, we were always reluctant to speak German too. Anyway, I've worked with two classes so far - the 12 graders and the third-year brewers. They're both nice enough, but I like the brewers better. They're much more talkative. It's kind of amusing. Both classes have asked me my opinion on President Bush, and both in the exact same way.

See, it goes like this: They all sit around looking nervous and awkwardly asking how old I am, if I have any brothers or sisters, where the heck Pennsylvania is... Then one brave soul will take a deep breath and go, "Vat dooo yoooo tink ov President Booosh?" And the rest look all shocked by his daring, yet expectant, until I answer.

It's really funny how the classes have similar reactions, too. I have to be sure to speak really slowly, or else it goes like so: Everyone has an identical blank look. Then they nervously peek at each other to make sure they're not the only one who didn't catch that, and as realization sets, they start laughing (nervously, for the 12 class, or raucously, for the brewers). They find it hilarious when they don't have a clue what I'm saying. Not sure why, but their reaction is funny.

The brewers are the best. They're a bunch of 20-30 year old men (all male - Enrico tells me there's one woman in one of the other brewing classes, but that's it) who are obsessed with beer. Apparently they all keep their own beer (that they make themselves in the breweries they're apprenticed at) in their cars for school use. They volunteered this information when I asked them what kind of beer I should try while I'm over here. One guy was bragging that he has thirty liters in his car.

So, anyway, that's what I've been up to. Just getting to know these people a bit. They're very nice, if sometimes reluctant to talk, so I think the year will be pretty good.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Pictures from my adventures.

So, today was fairly uneventful. I slept in until 2, then I fooled around a bit at home and decided to do some shopping. I needed a watch, an alarm clock, some flowers (for Clemens and his wife tomorrow), and something for dinner. So, I took a look at my map and set off for the Altmarkt.

I really like it here, but the shopping is going to take some getting used to. You have to get essentially everything at a different store. In the US, if you need, say, a watch, and a clock, and some flowers, and some food, you just go to Walmart and you're done. Today I had to go to a jewelry counter to get the watch, and an electronics store to get an alarm clock, and the flower store to get some flowers, and a glasswares store to get a vase for the flowers, and an Aldi to get some spaghetti and sauce (I'm lazy, what can I say?). It's kind of fun popping into all these stores, especially when you get to go to the produce market or a bakery or butcher or cheese shop or something, but it's very time consuming, which is frustrating when it's rainy and getting dark and all the shops close at 8. Crazy Germans.

I also discovered that a college education does not prepare one adequately to ask the florist what kind of flowers she thinks are appropriate for a hostess gift. Fortunately, I have mostly lost my fear of looking ridiculous, so I was asking directions and for help and stuff all day. I'm glad I did - I would've taken a couple hours extra if I hadn't.

Germans are weird about their flowers, by the way. They insist on putting vegetables into most flower arrangements. The ones I got at school yesterday (the principal gave me some in addition to the ones Clemens brought) had a cabbage mixed into the roses, and the woman today tried to sell me an arrangement with a squash in it. Weird.

So, there, nice short message. Tomorrow, I'll check out the Altstadt if I have time, and go to dinner at Clemens's house, and ride my new bike home. Yay! At any rate, with biking to work and walking everywhere for shopping (I'll have to do that a lot - I have no freezer), I should be getting plenty of exercise...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Gruesse aus Dresden.

This is going to be really, really long. Here are the picture links, first.
Train ride to Dresden.
My new apartment.
Random stuff.

So, so, where to begin? We wrapped up the orientation, of course, and set sail, in a manner of speaking, for Cologne. I was lucky and got the back of the bus almost all to myself, so I could stretch out and nap a little. A little before noon we rolled into Cologne and made our giant luggage parade back to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station - remember that, kids, you'll be hearing it a lot in this message...). Ariana was there, so we chatted for a minute, and then she offered to watch my luggage while I went to a Moneygram station in the plaza. Ilya totally saved my bacon, yo. He wired me money so I wouldn't have to live in the train station while my bank transfer went through. :) So, I got my money, and Ariana and I went inside to wait for our trains.

After wandering around a bit, we decided to sit under the stairs - comfy, not in anyone's way. It was effective, except for this one time when a drunk guy wandered in, holding a bottle menacingly in his hand, and sat down with us. We exchanged nervous glances then ignored him and kept talking, and he got up and walked away. He dropped his bottle right in front of the Kamps bakery next to us, and it smashed all over the place. Then some Polizei came and escorted him out. Public drinking is fine here (they sell travel-sized Jaegermeister and other stuff at most of the snack counters). Public drunkenness is fine. Smashing stuff isn't, apparently.

Anyway, that was the only excitement there. Ariana's train left at 3:30, so I hung out alone reading Louis L'Amour until a little after four, when I went up to the platform and read there for a bit. The platform is actually really pleasant at the Cologne station. It's covered and heated and very airy and nice. So, my train came, and I crammed onto it with my bags, which were a trial to me the entire trip, being very heavy and all. Fortunately, this train wasn't too long - a little over an hour - and then I was standing at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof waiting for the next one.

The Frankfurt --> Leipzig train was actually quite empty, so I was able to put my luggage behind a roomy table seat and sat there across from an older gentleman. This was the long leg of the trip, so we both sat there in silence, occasionally glancing at each other, as he did his sudoku and I read my book.

The silence finally broke when we were departing the final station before Leipzig. He asked if I were going to Leipzig too. So we got to talking a little bit. I revealed that this was my first trip to Germany, and I was pleased to find out that he spoke no English (like, really no English - he thought "uno" was "eins" in English), so we had fun communicating with my inadequate conversational German. I was telling him it was my first time travelling by train, so I was kind of nervous, and he was allaying my fears.

So, we got to the Leipzig station, and I was having trouble getting my luggage out from where I wedged it, and he was really nice and got it out for me. I started to thank him, but he said we needed to move (since I only had eight minutes to get to my next train), and he carried my big bag up the stairs to the platform I needed, then saw that they'd swapped the platform on us, so he carried it for me all the way to the one they moved it to and helped me onto the train. So, basically, not only did he carry my bag for me, but he stopped me from missing my train to Dresden. I couldn't thank him enough.

It's kind of strange. I've been pretty much alone for a week, a very stressful busy week, with really no one to help me. And this one stranger helps me with that, carries my bag for me, helps me find my platform, even though he's just getting off his last train to go home after a long day... It was just incredibly nice of him. It's strange how a random bit of kindness from someone who didn't even know me can just about make me cry after that kind of a week.

So, emotional bit aside, I made it to the Dresden Hbf. around one in the morning. I found a taxi and asked for the hotel I'd reserved, but it turned out to be waaaaay outside the city, so I just asked the driver for the nearest cheap hotel that would have a room at that hour, and he took me to a nearby Jugendherberge (youth hostel) that gave me a single room (no shower, but that's par for a hostel) for 38 euros. Slept there, got my wakeup call at 6:30 am, and took another taxi to my apartment.

It took a few minutes to get into the apartment, but once I did, I was glad I went with this one. It's really quite nice. I'm on the top floor (17th), so I've got a beautiful view of the city, and the apartment itself is good. It's very new. Very small, too, but it has everything I need and is fully furnished, including dishes and cooking utensils for one person. It's also conveniently located from my school.

So, speaking of my school... I got into my apartment around 8-something in the morning, and Clemens was picking me up to take me to school at 9:30. So he got there, and he was really nice. He brought me some flowers to welcome me, which was really nice of him. He's also giving me a bicycle (one of his wife's old bikes), and I'm having dinner at his house on Sunday. So yeah, he's very very nice.

The school is cool. It's a standard old DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or basically socialist East German) model - square, lots of windows - but it's cool. They painted it bright yellow, and there's graffiti (not how you're thinking - it's nice graffiti, really colorful and artistically done) all over it. It's very cheerful and nice.

So, I met a lot of teachers. The ones I'm going to work with most are Enrico (he's my main teacher, my Betreuungslehrer) and Clemens. They're both very nice - in their thirties, I think, and very relaxed about stuff. Easy to talk to. They showed me around and introduced me to people. Everyone there is very nice.

It's strange. I think East Germans are a lot nicer than West Germans, from what I've seen. Yeah, I know, that's horribly judgmental of me and broad generalizations are terrible, but it's the impression I got. In Cologne, everyone was brusque to the point of rudeness. In Dresden (and definitely that guy from Leipzig, which is also East German, of course), people aren't always friendly, per se, but they're nice and polite and willing to stop and relax and talk a little and help out. I've had multiple people hold doors for me (when I had an armload of groceries). People don't run into you on the street like in Cologne. It's just much more pleasant and laid-back here.

Not to mention, of course, that the city is just cool. The area I'm in is this really awesome mix of old baroque architecture mixed with colorful heavily graffitied DDR block buildings and the occasional bombed out relic still left from WWII. It's really interesting walking around.

So, back to the narrative, I got back from school around 2:30, maybe, and went out to get some food, since I hadn't eaten since 2 or so the day before, at the Cologne Hbf. I found an Aldi, so I got the groceries there. German grocery stores are kind of weird. They pretty much all follow the Aldi model - rent the cart, and you have to buy/bring your own bags. They have a different selection of stuff than American, too. For example, there's no peanut butter, and only three kinds of cereal ("white flakes," "honey something-or-other," and "cinnamon chips" - I got the cinnamon ones, but they aren't very good), because Germans really don't eat cold cereal. German breakfasts are awesome, actually. They're a variety of rolls, and some cold meat, and some cheese, and butter, and jam, and fruit, and juice, and beer if you want it, and milk, and general awesomeness.

So. Distracted by the yummy. Anyway, I bought my groceries (six euros and thirty-eight cents for bread, jam [I think it's jam, anyway...the label said Erdbeere Konfituere or something, but it looks like jam], milk, cereal, bananas, and Knoppers) and carried them home by hand, because I forgot to ask for a bag, and it was very heavy. It's kind of odd. The milk here comes in a box. The cereal is kind of icky, so I shan't get it again. The Knoppers are a kind of candy bar thing, and they're delicious.

So. That's my day. Tomorrow I'm going to try to make it to the Altstadt and have a look around and buy some fruit and vegetables if I can find the market. Goodnight.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Two groups of pictures! Some random people from before I left Cologne while I was bored waiting for the bus, and some pictures of the place I'm in now: Haus Altenberg.

So, today they split us up by school type. I am one of the few, the proud, the fourteen of us (out of 200) who are destined for a Berufschule (career, job, technical, professional, etc., school). This makes us special because A.) our schools will be focused on a profession (electrical engineering, accounting, nursing, and in my much-envied case, baking and brewing) and B.) our students will be in the 16-30 range rather than the 9-18 range, as with the rest of them. So we get special attention.

This was actually really useful. The teachers were an English/computer programming teacher at a Berufschule in this general area (he looks like an aging British rockstar, and he's very funny), and his English teaching assistant from last year. They were very blunt and straight-forward, unlike everyone else here, and so we learned a lot. I'm not sure how glad I am I have to teach the older kids, but it beats 9th graders, anyway.

We watched a few training videos, in which other assistants do stupid things in class. The best of them was this guy who decided to do a song ("Homeward Bound" by Simon and Garfunkle) in class, and instead of playing it, just handed out a handout, and read it himself first in a hilarious rendition, and then forced the class to go around reading it out loud in hilarious German accents, and so forth. It's funnier than it sounds - the whole group was in hysterics. The other video of note involved adorable children with thick German accents discussing in English what their favorite day of school was. Eight year olds with German accents can't be beaten. Well, they can. Fairly easily, the scrawny whelps. But they're darn cute.

Additionally, the guy in charge of the American Consulate in Duesseldorf came to talk to us. He was the worst public speaker I've ever heard - I've no idea how he got so far in diplomacy. He seemed very nice and knowledgeable, but he spoke in a very rapid low monotone interspersed with plenty of "ummmmmmmmmmmm"s. Irritating as all hell.

We also made a lesson (three of us) and are presenting it to the class tomorrow. Scary.

So, that done, I had supper with some people - not as good as last night (breakfast was good, though). The conversation was pretty good. We (well, mostly me and Adrian) talked politics a lot, after discussion about each of our education and homeplace and destination. Afterwards we walked to a local village (Odenthal?) - me, Adrian from San Diego, Trevor from Oregon, and Ariana from Indiana (we're getting to be rather friendly, Ariana and I). It was pleasant. It's really pretty around here.

So, yeah, that was my day. Now I'm posting this. Ta-ta.

Ohhhh, holy _cats_ it's cold!

I'm sitting near the WiFi hotspot so I can check my mail, etc., and someone decided it'd be a good idea to keep the door open, and it's like maybe 50 degrees out there. I'm freezing to death. :(

Monday, September 3, 2007

Weee, human contact.

Hurray for internet at the monastery!

So, clearly, I'm here, and it's okay. There are too many people, and it's cold, but other than that, it's okay. There were some adventures this morning with finding a duffel bag (after purchasing things, I didn't have enough room...), but other than that, all was well. I wound up waiting on the steps of the Dom for four hours for the bus to take us to Haus Altenberg for the orientation. About an hour into it, I noticed a couple other people with bags sitting on the steps and speaking English, so I asked if they were from the Fulbright group, and they were, so I joined them. Gradually, we grew into a mighty throng (seriously - about two hundred people) of Americans (with a couple Canadians, Brits, Irish, Australians, and Kiwis) with way too much luggage and formed a procession to the buses when they arrived. Must've made a pretty sight.

Haus Altenberg is nice. It's gorgeous, really, but my enjoyment is marred by the presence of so many people. Argh. I was properly sociable all day, which took a major effort, but...bleh. I prefer people one or two at a time, not two hundred at a time. Plus, I have to share a room with two other girls, neither of whom are really my type at all, but I will survive, I suppose.

Anyway, the place is good. The guy in charge of the ceremonies and so forth is a very amusing German guy (who speaks in English). The heads of education or delegates or something from each of the Laender introduced themselves, in German, which I followed easily (even the jokes, yay). Supper was tasty. We (me and my roommates) sat with some funny guys who are stationed in Leipzig. The cooking staff are pretty good - we had really good mashed potatoes and some kind of meat dumpling things. We broke up eventually into groups by Bundesland (states, essentially) to discuss things. The woman in charge of Sachsen (Saxony) is very nice. Nice nice nice, everyone is nice. There are about a dozen people besides me stationed in Sachsen, Thueringen, and Sachsen-Anhalt - one in Dresden (one of my roommates), three or so in Leipzig, and the rest in smaller towns.

After all that, they started serving beer, and I escaped the ruckus to check my e-mail, etc. So, I've got internet access. Yay. Get online or e-mail me or something. Crowds stress me out.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Are there no alarm clocks in all of Germany?

Pictures ahoy!

Well, today I started off with the intention of finding an alarm clock. Alas, it's Sunday, so pretty much everything is closed here. I had a few things to do, so I went to the Haupbahnhof first to get a train ticket from Cologne to Dresden for when I get back from orientation (the 6th - not sure if I'll have internet access until then). I handled it pretty well, no issues with the language, so now I have a ticket. I'll be changing trains in Frankfurt and Leipzig, but only for about ten minutes each, so I won't be able to see anything. I'll be getting into town after midnight, which is kind of scary. I should probably make a hotel reservation now. *does so*

Anyway, that taken care of, I wandered around town for a bit and made my way back to the doener place I tried a couple days ago (NOT the one where I dropped the money in the hot sauce), and was actually able to remember how to say things like "cucumber" (Gurke!) so I could get precisely what I wanted without embarrassing myself much. I did ask for lots of the white sauce, so that was a bit, ah, humorous (stop smirking, Noah), but other than that, no issues. My pigeon friend came back and helped me eat until some shrieking children chased him away.

After that, I decided to explore a bit more down by the river. It's very pretty down there - lots of those tall thin brightly colored houses, plus the river itself is nice. There was some kind of festival thing going on which involved Wurst stands (alas, I was full from the doener) and a race. The most amusing part is that the loudspeakers were blaring "Living in America." Made me laugh when I realized it. There were some people playing drums, too, and they were very good, but very loud. It seemed like everyone had a dog, which made for some amusing situations. At one point, there were two middle-aged couples walking towards each other, and each couple had a miniature poodle (one black, one silver), so of course they stopped to congratulate each other on their excellent doggies. In the midst of this congratulating, the dogs simultaneously let out a roar (or at least as much of a roar as miniature poodles can produce) and lept at each other, and they turned into an almost-literal ball of whirling black and silver curls. It was a great scene - the dogs were snarling, the owners were shrieking, and everyone else was laughing. Really, there's nothing funnier than a poodle fight. I mean, they're poodles. And they're fighting. Poodles. Fighting. If you can't see the humor, there's really nothing I can do for you, sorry. Maybe you should read the Wall Street Journal instead.

So yes, that done, I came back. Although the Roman-German museum itself was closed, it has a corridor running through it that you can use to get to the courtyard by the Dom without walking around it, and there were some interesting things in it. I didn't look too closely, or I'd describe in painful detail. I took a picture of this really awesome statue lady. She was better than the gold guy - she held the pose without moving face or body for ages, enough to make me look twice, and if you gave her money she did a sort of dance like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when they're trying to be clockwork, remember? So yeah, she was good. And then I got a milkshake (yum!) and saw a guy playing a grand piano by the Dom. He was excellent, too. Most enjoyable.

Then I came home. I had an actual interaction with the people at the desk. For some reason, they're convinced my name is Weishans (pronounced Vice-hahns), so I now answer to Frau Weishans. Anyway, I was pleased with myself for not having any issues at all in that conversation, even though it required words that I don't use often. I looked up two words before talking to them ("Weckruf," a wake-up call, and "verlassen," to check out) and was otherwise fine. The language thing is weird. I know my German is good enough, but it sometimes hides from me. I don't understand perfectly simple things like "Bier aufmachen?" (ya want your beer opened, lady?), or I can't remember how to say something like "Ich moechte ein Stueck ______" (I'd like a piece of _____). So it's nice that it appears to be sinking in a little. Three interactions today (yes, I'm shy) - the ticket lady, the doener kid (he was like 13, maybe - turkish kid, I think), and the hotel guy - and I didn't screw any of them up. I'm getting used to it.

Okay, that'll be it for now. Hopefully I'll have internet at the orientation so I can update tomorrow, but if not, I'll talk to you all Thursday or Friday or something.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I dropped two euros into a vat of hot sauce.

Today's pictures (just four, sorry).

First thing today, I had to go down to the Bahnhof and get a BahnCard50 (that gives me 50% off all tickets with DeutschBahn for a year, which is great). I'm pretty pleased with myself with that, because I had my first conversations beyond "Ich moechte Kuchen bitte!" There were a few irritating moments (for example, I know what gueltig means, but it completely escaped me even though I knew that I should know it - argh), but overall, I handled myself...almost competently. Oh, by the way, Mom and Dad, they're mailing the permanent card to your house since I'm not sure what my address here is, so you'll have to mail it to me. :)

Anyway, after that I went to get some breakfast at the same bakery as yesterday. I got this excellent little apple thingy. It was absolutely delightful in every way - flaky, crumbly, delicious. I watched some kind of crappy skateboarders near the Dom while eating it. There are only two in the picture, but there were more like six or seven actually there. I also sat my laptop bag down in a pile of whipped cream someone thoughtfully left on the ground, so I was grateful for the wipesy things Mom made me buy (which I now carry everywhere).

Following that, I went further into the shopping area, where there were some weird girls in top hats and external underwear trying to give everyone shots of something or other and candy, and bought a jacket and two sweaters quite easily. Sizing is all new here, so I had to figure that out. I'm apparently a 40 in tops, and a 37 or 38 in shoes, and don't know for bottoms.

Anyway, after that I went looking for an alarm clock. ARGH! There's apparently nowhere in this bloody city that sells alarm clocks. How hard can it possibly be, I thought, but I was wrong, horribly tragically wrong. So I spent three hours searching for a clock and couldn't find one and almost died in the process from my own unvented rage. Tomorrow I shall ask the guy at the front desk of the hotel if he knows some place that sells an Uhr please please please. It wasn't a complete loss, though. Lots of pretty things around, none of which I photographed because I was annoyed.

There was another adventure after that. I went into a random shop to get another doener (they're everywhere, seriously), and, first off, my German completely abandoned me. How can my German be fine yesterday and fine today through complicated train conversations but leave me when I need to order supper? Enfuriating. Anyway, the doener places are set up kind of like sub shops in the US - there's a clear glass counter thingy arching over the toppings and stuff so you can see them make it. So I got my doener, and I payed with a ten-euro note, and the guy shoves my change in coins back over the countertop. Alas, I wasn't expecting him to push it at me so fast, so one of the two-euro coins bounces off my hand, back towards him, and.....into the vat of hot sauce below. Plop. We kind of look at each other. " tut mir leid?" I say. He cracks up, gives me another coin, and orders a minion to come pour it out and find the money.

The doener was delicious, incidentally. Chicken or something (some white meat, could've been pork) instead of lamb, with shredded cucumbers and tomatoes and onions in with the lettuce and cabbage, and way more sauce... I think I liked the lamb better, but this was a better sandwich.

So, that was my day. Tomorrow I need to get a ticket for the train from Cologne to Dresden on Thursday, and I'll try to find an alarm clock again. Hopefully I can.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pigeons and beer.

So, today.

I'm not inserting the pictures into the blog, so you'll have to follow along here: Linkity goodness.

I was feeling really homesick and crappy yesterday. I had cramps. I had jetlag. I had no one to talk to. I felt completely incompetent in the language (turned out to be just stress, because I was fine today), and just generally wanted to go home.

Fortunately, today was much, much better. I got a good night's rest and woke up at 3pm (twelve hours of sleep, yay!), so I promptly went outside and decided to explore and see if I could find a jacket or something, because it's much cooler here than it was back home. I stopped at the Bahnhof first and bought a map of the city (which I turned out to not need, because you can see the Dom from pretty much anywhere, and I can find my way back to the hotel easily from the Dom). There were some cool street artists outside - I took a few pictures of them. The chalk drawing guy was very talented, and there was an amusing kitty, which I liked very much. A guy was playing a big metal thing, which I wouldn't've known was an instrument, but he was making very interesting bell and percussion type music from it. There was also a living statue guy who was, as one might expect, very still. That done, I made my way into the shopping area.

Hurray for bakeries! They had all kinds of delicious things and were very busy, but I eventually decided on the "Pflaumenstreussel," a sort of bready-crumbley thing with sliced plums cooked in it. I managed to order it without embarrassing myself, which was an improvement over yesterday, and it turned out to be delicious. Kind of like rhubarb pie, actually, with the sour-ish fruit and the sweet sweet topping. So I ate that and then wandered around some, went in and out of a few shops, took some pictures. Mostly uneventful. I wound up after some walking at the Rhein, which was lovely. The bridge (Hohen-something?) is very nice. I have a minor thing for bridges. I'm not sure what's on the other side of the river - may try going over there tomorrow. There's also an interesting-looking Roman-German museum (I think :P) near the Dom that I might go to.

But anyway. I walked back to a pretty strip of eateries I'd found (I love the tall, thin, brightly-colored buildings) and bought a döner kebab and a bottle of kölsch beer. The kebab is slightly spicy shaved lamb meat with some cabbage and lettuce and a garlicky sauce in a really delicious soft pita-ish bread (freshly made, and nice and crispy outside, yum), and it was absolutely delicious. I want another one now, actually. The beer was pretty good too, surprisingly - usually I hate beer, but I figured I had to at least try the local stuff. I couldn't quite finish the bottle (half a liter is a lot of beer...), but I came close, and it was good, so I think I'll survive here. A pigeon helped me finish my doener (he ate some from my hand!), and I went back home. Passed the local brewery where they made the beer I drank on the way.

So, that's my day. Tomorrow I really do need to buy a jacket, so chastise me if I don't manage it.

Pictures, as promised.

Okay, so before I post about what I did today (it's just after 10 here *yawn*), here's a link to my pictures from yesterday (mouse over them to get the caption):

The flight.
The first day in Cologne.

Only eleven pictures, but I have lots more coming from today.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The adventure beings.

This is going to be long, so you may wish to clear a block of space in which to read it... I shall start from the point where Mom, Tammy, and Noahkins so cruelly abandoned me to fend for myself in the wilds of the Philadelphia International Airport. After sobbing brokenly for a few minutes in a probably effective ploy to later guilt-trip my mother, I made my way to the search thingy, where they forced me to take off my shoes and put all my stuff in little plastic tubs to go through the xray thingy. Why do they have you take the laptop out of the bag and then still run it through the machine? I don't understand. But anyway, that went reasonably well. I had food, tried and failed to talk myself into spending $50 for a pair of earphones that I could get at Walmart for $4 in order to listen to music on my laptop for twenty minutes before it ran out of batteries, and then sat down and read Louis L'Amour for two and a half hours while waiting to board.

So, got on the plane (Noah: you will be pleased to know that there were four large German security guys with big scary guns and a big scary dog checking us all over as we got on the plane). It was extremely teensy for being such a big beast. The guy next to me was that dude with the big mustache. He was very nice, although we didn't say anything to each other besides "excuse me" and "thank you" the entire time (due to antisocial tendencies on both our parts, probably). That was wise, because he might've been irritating to talk to, and that's okay for, say, a thirty-minute flight, but you don't want to start an eight-hour conversation if you don't know if you'll like the person. Just bad news.

The food was hilarious. This weird maggot-y looking salad that I didn't eat, four pieces (I mean 1" square chunks, not real pieces) of attempted-barbacue chicken, a flavourless leaden brownie, and a piece of cheese that was really more effort than it was worth to open. The result of this delicious meal was a need to use the facilities, but alas, that occurred just as the attendants (who, incidentally, all had thick German accents) were clearing off trays, so I couldn't make it back to the bathrooms behind us, so I decided, perhaps foolishly, to go to the bathrooms in front of us. The ones near the Business Class section. I ran into the captain just as I was doing this. He was like "Vhere are you goink?" in a delightfully WWII-propaganda-film-style German accent. I replied, "Um, to the bathroom?" "Ze batroom ist bahck ZHERE! Back to coach with you, prole!" (except I made up that last phrase) So I had to wait for the flight attendants to finish up. Then I took a nap. It was cramped, and my neck hurt. So sad. Regardless, it was a nice long one - started when we hit Greenland and woke up as we were finishing up England.

It started getting light just as we hit the edge of Germany. Germany is really pretty from the air. It's about equally divided between dark wooded hills and farmland with little red-roofed villages in little clusters dotted all over the place. We landed then at Frankfurt, and I almost had a panic attack as I got off the plane and realized that I had to find my connecting flight all by myself in a busy German airport which happens to be one of Europe's primary transportation hubs. *gulp*

Fortunately, it was easy. Those crazy Germans - signs everywhere. Who would've thought? And clocks! There weren't any clocks in Philadelphia's airport that I could see. Frankfurt's had them all over the place, for which I was grateful. I didn't take any pictures there because there were lots of Polizei all over the place, and I really didn't want to be detained, even if some of them were very attractive and undoubtedly had awesome accents.

So, I made it to Cologne. The plane from Frankfurt to Cologne was much smaller than the other one, and much faster, and flew much lower, making it way more fun. The pilot was all banking this way and that way and making crisp public service announcements that made me wonder if he was actually steering at all. But it was fun, and I wished that one lasted longer. Also, I got my whole row to myself on that one, so I was very comfortable. Yay.

I found my bag easily, thanks to Rose's bright pink scarf. Then I got a taxi for the first time ever and he took me to my hotel for 25-odd euros. The guy at the hotel said I couldn't check in for another hour, so I left my heavy bag there and went for a walk.

Back at the hotel, the internet was kind of a pain to set up, but now it's done. And I'm not leaving here again today. I think I'm going to take a nap and get up in a couple of hours when maybe some of you people will be up. Tomorrow, my plan is to find a jacket and some warm shirts, because it's a lot cooler here than it is back home - it's maybe 60 here. So, tschau.

(also: photos later because it's taking forever to upload)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pink laces or brown?

I got new shoes! They have kangaroos on them. They're also spectacularly comfortable. Additionally, they have little pockets behind said wonderful marsupials. Kangaroo shoes. With pockets. Delightful, no? I can store quarters at my leisure. However, they came with two sets of laces, pink and brown. Should I use the pink laces or the brown ones? The people decide!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Oh noes!

Pablo bit Kevin, and we have no clue why. It's very distressing. It wasn't a bad bite, just a teensy puncture wound with almost no blood, but still... Very out of character. I'm concerned about him. His usual fear-response is curling into a ball, not going all stabbity-doom on people. And it wasn't a feeding response because it was a bite-and-release, not bite-and-hold. But he's acting normally again now - we gave him a mouse and he's happy again. I bought a pair of oven mitts (with a spaghetti-and-meatball pattern!) for Kevin to use to handle him while he's all alone, because he's a little Pablo-shy now.

Useful information: if you get bitten by a snake, do NOT yank it off. You'll pull out the poor thing's teeth, and it'll just slash up your skin, because the teeth curve backwards. Instead, push its head forward and try to detach it that way. If that doesn't work, submerge its head in water, and it'll let go. If that doesn't work, pour alcohol (liquor or rubbing alcohol, not beer) into its mouth, and it'll recoil (wisely) at the taste and let go. If that doesn't work, resign yourself to having a snake on your thumb for the next twenty minutes and go read a book or something.

Also, I had birthday stuff today! Kevin got me a pony, and _Hot Fuzz_, and stuff for my camera, and is making me a lovely candlelit dinner of chicken cordon bleu, which I'm about to go eat. Ta-ta.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My ears aren't actually this small, are they?

Also, I have named the camera Klaus.

New camera!

Got a new camera! Canon Powershot A630, got it on Ebay for a bit less than the Amazon asking price, including a 4 gig SD card. Yay for good deals! It looks like this:

See, it's got a fun swivelly LCD screen, so I can see myself while I take pictures of myself making faces. When it's put away, it looks like so:

There was already a picture on the SD card when I got it. I was reluctant to post it for fear he might call someone out to break my legs, but in the interests of full-disclosure (and to punish the Ebay seller, who assured me that the card as well as the camera was brand new), here it is, in its full glory:

I have named him Ted.

Me, looking skeptical about this whole picture-taking business. Or, as Ben assumed, plotting how to use my new device for profit and world domination.

I kind of liked this one. My eye looks like a supernova. Could use an eyebrow wax, though...

All in all, I took pictures until well past Pablo's bedtime. Sky is a pretty color here.

So, this is my shiny new toy, which will accompany me faithfully to and fro. Welcome, mighty ... as-yet unnamed camera thingy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gratuitous me!

Because this is my blog and I can, I will now post the results of my attempts to photograph my pigtails.

Hmmm, no.

Also ineffective, but fairly cool-looking, no?

Yay a discernable picture! But alas, no visible hair. :(

Well, there's one of the beasties... Darned bathroom lighting and difficulty of taking photos over my head.

Weeee, furry success, despite my apparent skepticism.

Gratuitous moment over...

Friday, July 6, 2007


Apparently the forest moon of Endor is right outside Dresden.

The picture is actually the Dresdner Heide (Dresden Heath, I think - a 50 sq. km forest in the north of Dresden), but doesn't it look just like Ewok-land? This dude would look right at home.
Take me to Dresden!

Yay! Early culture shock!

So I got an e-mail from that apartment place I mentioned in my last post, and apparently no one's going to be manning the desk at the time I said I'd arrive, so they gave me a passcode to get my own key out of the box. Weird. Also, here's where Dresden is, since I'm rather obsessive at the moment:
And, to further illustrate my complete infatuation, here's a webcam of Dresden's Frauenkirche right now: Oooh, shiny.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Update on the Germany situation.

So, very exciting news which most of you already know: I've been placed in Dresden! Weee! I've been hoping to be placed there since I applied for the Fulbright, so I'm very very very very *deeeeeep breath* very excited to actually get it. It's a very cool city - one of the larger cities in Germany, and very old, and lots of history. It was bombed out in WWII by the allies, but a lot of the old buildings are still there and a lot more have been rebuilt.  

Pretty, no (click it to get the actual picture with the right proportions)?  The river is the Elbe.
So now I'm preparing everything, and it's really exciting but also scary to see everything coming together finally - dealing with actual dates and places and times.  I've got my plane tickets already to go to Cologne.  The three-day orientation is in Altenberg, 
a little ways from Cologne, in this very cool monastery:

After that, I go to Dresden - have to arrange the train myself and all, which should be entertaining, at least. I think I'm going to stay in the International Gaesthaus, run by the Studentenwerk-Dresden, for the first month. It's fairly inexpensive, includes all utilities and internet and so forth, fully furnished, and includes dishes and bedclothes and whatnot, so it'll make moving there very easy and give me a good base of operations to find a "real" apartment. The decoration appears to me amusingly attempted-modern, but it looks comfy, at least.

It's also only about a kilometer from the BSZ-Ernaehrung, where I'll be working. The school itself is cool. Some German secondary schools combine technical classes and academic classes with an apprenticeship to teach a trade, and this one is focused on cooking stuff, specifically brewing and baking. A picture from one of the baking department's tests:

Looks excellent, nicht wahr?
So, yeah, that's what I'm doing now - setting up apartment rental, and looking into train tickets, and just generally panicking over all that needs to be done.