Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

Winter recap

Sooo in an effort to keep my trip to the States last week a secret I’ve been lacking here and as well as in email updates…. Sorry. Here’s the highlights of the last few months:

December/January: not too much happened, continued to waitress at the cafe, tutor in English, and coach lacrosse. I came home for Christmas this year for 3 weeks! It was great seeing my family and friends, and I even got to make a trip out to New York for New Years to celebrate with about 50 of my closest friends. Can’t ask for much more 🙂

Becca and I at our first Bundesliga game

February: The first weekend I went up to Berlin and attended my first Bundesliga (German soccer league) game! Hertha BSC (Berlin) vs. Hannover 96. We sat in the Hannover fan section with some friends of ours from Hannover and had a great time (Hannover won). The weekend was a mini-reunion of sorts, my friend Rob (who lives in Hannover) and Becca (in Berlin), both from USA Starz Lacrosse last summer were there, as well as Laura from BC who lives in Paris. I actually got to stay with Laura overnight in Paris on my way back to the States for Christmas (thank you, 16 hour layover). Needless to say the weekend in Berlin was a big success and lots of fun.

The following weekend I went down to Munich to stay with Katelyn and Charlotte, both Fulbrighters this year and actually go out with them! (as opposed to crashing on their couch for lacrosse camps, as I’ll be doing this weekend). I was supposed to meet up with Basti, Phillip and Flo as well but only ended up seeing Basti before we moved onto a different club. There’s always next time I guess…

Whew February was busier than I thought and we’re only halfway done…. the next weekend was Fasching! It’s the German version of Mardi Gras, but I feel it’s a combination of Mardi Gras and Halloween, with a parade. It’s really big in Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Mainz, and people get days off work, but even Wuerzburg celebrates it on a smaller scale and our parade was on Sunday. All of the celebrations stop by Tuesday since Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. I felt like I was back in college, waking up at 9am and starting to drink and play beer pong around 10am. I made good use out of my dress from the 70s party in the fall and re-wore it to go as a 70s girl (not sure if that’s a real thing but whatever, no one questioned my costume). The last weekend I was in Frankfurt for lacrosse and then the surprise visit got underway…

BC roommates in Vegas

Wednesday (the 29th) I flew off to the States to surprise one of my best friends for her 6th birthday (okay 24th, but she’s a leap year baby). After much confusion and tears regarding the air traffic control strike at Frankfurt which resulted in my cancelled flight, I rebooked out of Munich and made the 30+ hour trip, getting into Las Vegas approx. 2 am. Almost everyone but the birthday girl knew I was coming, and the surprise was completed on the casino floor of our hotel (the Palazzo) around 2.30 am and our girls weekend in Vegas was off to a running start. I had absolutely no time for jet lag, not to mention I didn’t know what time it was half the time without clocks and windows in the casino, so it worked out in the long run. I only get to see my closest friends from home/college roommates about once or twice a year, so this trip meant a lot to me and I was so incredibly happy and thankful to get to spend time with them. Our trip consisted of the typical walks along the strip, getting harassed by club promoters, having umpteen options per night, a great sushi dinner, drinks at various bars (the last 2 provided by Kat’s family/boyfriend for her birthday), and of course the hangovers nursed at the pool or in the hot tub with ridiculously expensive bloody marys/mimosas. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Okay maybe I would have had a little bit less to drink on the last night (Friday) since I was aware I was flying into Denver the next day with one of my old roommates, Steph, to stay with her at her apartment in Keystone for a few days. Poor planning, a hangover, and adjusting to altitude proved to be a deadly combination and left us both in bed Saturday night with lots of Gatorade and sleep. Sunday we went to Breckenridge and just walked around, enjoying the town and the great weather, of course stopping to have some beers on the outdoor patio at a sports bar (perfect Sunday, if you ask me). Monday Steph had to work, but her friends saw to it I got my skiing in! First time back up on the slopes in probably 5 or 6 years (that’s embarrassing) and I was so nervous beforehand, but everyone was right, it comes back to you just like riding a bike.

Skiing at Keystone!

I felt like things came full circle, since Keystone was where I learned to ski back in 4th grade. Took some early runs down Schoolmarm and worked my way up to some steep blues by the end of the day. It was great getting to see where Steph lives and meeting her friends, and to be honest Denver (along with Seattle) has always been on my list of places I’d like to live. We’ll see when I end up back there next.

Done yet? Nope, told you it’s been a while. At least we’re into March! Made it back to Germany after a whirlwind week in the US and quickly readjusted to life, leaving me with the feeling that the trip was just a dream. Thursday was back to work and Friday was down to Stuttgart for my second-ever Bundesliga game with my guy friends (no games in the past 1 1/2 years then 2 in a month!? I know). We had a blast seeing Stuttgart and of course drinking in the Irish Pub afterwards. The game itself was boring, a 0-0 tie and they were playing against the worst team in the league. I think the sports announcers referred to it as “one of the weakest Bundesliga games in recent years”. Ouch.

We stumbled our way onto the 6am train back to Wuerzburg where I promptly grabbed my lacrosse gear and was off on a 3 1/2 hour ride to Leipzig, in former East Germany, for a lacrosse friendly game (don’t ask me how I do this. Or how my body holds up. I have no idea). I’m really proud of the way my girls played even though we lost- we didn’t have enough players in the first place so got some extras from the team we were playing against. I find out after the game that all of the ‘extra’ players were all of their rookies, meaning they played with all experienced players while we were left to play not only with girls who aren’t on our team, but who have very little lacrosse experience. I felt like a proud mom after the game though when one of my girls was saying “hey, but really, they don’t understand how to set up plays and build the game and how we play the game”. They do listen to me in practice after all! It was definitely a good affirmation of the work I’ve put in, and now I’m really looking forward to the spring season (which starts next weekend!)

The crew at the Stuttgart game

I’ve (obviously) very quickly gotten back into the working/coaching lifestyle, with a big change coming up. I’ll be starting to teach at the University (!! I know!) next semester (starting in April). It’s just a one-semester position for the moment, but as always, I’m staying flexible and keeping my options open so who knows where I’ll end up. For the moment, it looks to be more teaching and coaching, but I’m excited to see where it all heads.

Both teams after the friendly game

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March 14, 2012 Posted by | Germany, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My first Thanksgiving

A perfect host

“Your only goal is to just make sure no one gets sick. You need to make sure the turkey is thoroughly cooked”

For my birthday, all I want is the bathtub full of this apple crumble

“I’m not going to be able to move tomorrow”

“That was the glaze for the cheesecake? Well, it tasted great with the turkey”

Just to give you an overall idea of how Thanksgiving went. Let’s play “guess who said that”. Ready… go

Answers: 1. friend/guest, 2. mom 3. roommate, 4. friend/guest 5. German obviously experiencing a first Thanksgiving

So Thanksgiving ended up being a huge success, much to my surprise. A month or so before, I thought it’d be a great idea since I was lucky enough to go up to Hamburg last year and participate in Thanksgiving with a bunch of other Fulbrighters. This year, I decided to host for my roommates, a few friends who have been to the US, a Canadian friend of mine, and oh my roommates film crew and cast apparently (he was finishing up filming his movie for his final project. it was quite the undertaking) So all in all I ended up hosting roughly 15-16 people. Let me preface this story with telling you that I am not a cook. Good cook, bad cook, I don’t know. I don’t usually cook (aside from pasta and vegetables with rice. not really challenging) So my impromptu decision to take on Thanksgiving for 15 people was… questionable at best. Naturally the Sunday before I start freaking out resulting in very frequent panicked calls/emails to my mother and when she wasn’t available, to my sisters demanding to know where my mom was.

Our kitchen/what I had to work with

“Hi mom, it’s me. Just bought the turkeys today. It’s Monday. I’m putting them in the fridge. Do I need to do that thing where you fill the sink with warm water and put them in there to thaw them? Because sometimes you do that. But sometimes not. I never really paid attention before. If I need to do that, please let me know. But we only have one sink. And two turkeys. And people need the sink. Maybe I could use the bathtub? How long do they have to thaw?  Do I even need to do this?! (slight panic attack) Please email me when you get home. Thanks love you bye”

Email to sister: I tried calling mom, she didn’t answer. Can you ask her where I’m supposed to stick the meat thermometer in?

Tuesday: “Hi mom, me again. I sent you an email too, just to make sure, but the recipe says I have to sew the neck cavity together and I can’t find twine anywhere. Do I really need twine? Or need to sew it? And for the stuffing, it says to use bread that has substance. What does that mean? Also, I’m roasting the turkey, right?  I read on epicurious that I should put aluminum foil under the turkey and not cook it directly in the pan- should I do that? also in terms of basting, do I just baste once at the beginning? or periodically throughout the entire time? pleaseanswermei’mfreakingoutloveyoubye”

And that’s only Tuesday. I work all day Wednesday and then wake up at 8 am Thursday because I’m so nervous I can’t sleep anymore even though I don’t have to start cooking til 11. I had to get two turkeys since our oven (that tiny white thing behind the table) was too small for the size turkey I wanted/needed, not to mention they don’t sell turkeys larger than 7.5 lbs…. anywhere in this country. I go through my first solo gutting/cleaning a bird experience which went surprisingly well. Stuffed it (btw, way less stuffing fits in those birds than they tell you. I made way too much) and brought it downstairs to put in the oven (yes, I borrowed our neighbors oven so I could start later/the two wouldn’t be done so far apart from one another) and breathed a slight sigh of relief. Slight. Prepared everything else that I could- I was in charge of the turkey, stuffing, gravy, green beans, apple crumble, and cheesecake (yep, only that). My friends were in charge of the beer (which didn’t come a moment too early), mashed potatoes (Pat came over early to help/make them), a super fattening but delicious cheese/corn/bacon casserole, salad, and brownies.

my first turkey!

There was only one more  slight freak out before the guests came:

One turkey is done WAY before the other! It’s gonna go bad! Crap! Calculate 7 hour time difference. To call mom or not to call mom? It’s 7 am, she’ll be up. *call*  No answer. Try cell phone. No answer. Why do you have a cell phone if you never answer it, mother?! Too early to call the house? No answer. Where is my entire family!?!? …one hour and 20 bajillion skype-attempts later….

mom: hello?

me: Yes there is a God! thank you thank you WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!

mom: oh I went for a run this morning.

me: you told me you’d have your cell phone on if I needed you and you didn’t and then no one answered at home and then-

mom: Colleen. Deep breath. I didn’t take my cell with me. I’m on the phone now. What do you need

me: One turkey is done already and it’s only 3pm and everyone comes at like 6.30 and do I take the stuffing out right away or later? Do I leave the turkey on the pan? But I need the juices for the gravy. and I-

mom: you can cut the turkey now if you want and put it in the fridge and have people reheat it later and just put lots of gravy on it so it’s not too dry. did you cook it long enough? what temperature? that’s too much. it’s probably going to be dry. I’ve never done pan gravy so I can’t help you. At least you didn’t undercook this one. call us later and let us know how it goes. have a drink. please.

Mmmm success!

Solution: we put it in the fridge for the second shift (thanks Pat for the help) everything turned out way better than I expected. I didn’t undercook the meat, I made gravy by myself from the turkey juices, there were NO leftovers (which was actually a disappointment. I was looking forward to turkey for a week). But I managed to feed 16 people in two shifts (thankfully. the first one was my closer friends and much more relaxed. the second was my roommates cast/crew- also fun though)

Overall, I’m so happy with not only how everything came out, but for having such great friends here to celebrate with. We even upheld one of my family’s traditions and had everyone go around the table and say something that they’re thankful for. Although I did miss certain aspects of home (being with my family and in the city, decorating gingerbread houses), this year’s Thanksgiving was definitely a huge success.

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A little bit of Chicago in England

So, since moving over here my life has mainly consisted of teaching English and lacrosse. When I stopped playing after high school in 2006, I never imagined I would return to the sport this way to both play and coach. I’ve enjoyed it immensely; it’s brought me some of my closest friends over here and amazing opportunities to travel and meet people. That being said, I’ve started working with the European Lacrosse Federation (ELF), which does a lot of work with newer, inexperienced teams and helping them get off the ground. Since that’s basically what I’ve been doing since last year, I had the chance to assist at a camp in Mainz in August then coach my own in October in England.

SHS lacrosse 2006 (#13)

I arrived on a Wednesday in London and made my way out to Welwyn where I coached the girls team practice that night. They’re about the same level of experience, if not a little newer, than my girls here so it was great to be on the same level. The girls are all super nice and I stayed with one of them overnight (her dad coaches the boys team and her brother plays on it- quite the lacrosse family) and it’s nice to have a little home-y treatment. Sidenote: Beforehand, all the girls and family knew was that I was a coach coming from Germany. They had no idea if I was German or American or what, so they were a little nervous regarding the potential language/cultural barrier. The big concern was if I’d be okay eating cereal for breakfast and if not, what do Germans eat? (Yes, cereal was great and usually, bread with assorted cheeses, meats, jam, spreads etc)

Then I had Thursday-Saturday free before I had to coach the camp on Sunday. Among the many things I’ve learned in the past year, one of them is how to travel alone. And do it well. I no longer have any fear about traveling by myself or how to occupy my time, so I walked around the city a bit Thursday before making it to my hostel and checking out the area around there. Friday I went into the city again and had the best intentions of trying to get last minute student-rate tickets to go see a play or do something cultural, when I ran into this in Trafalgar Square:

Bear Down

Obviously, being a great Bears fan I knew the game was that weekend and had tried to get tickets beforehand but they were too expensive. So I vow to come back to Trafalgar Square later Friday night where it turns out, they’re hosting fan fest. I hop on a boat and make my way over to Greenwich (pronounced “Gren-itch” for all you non-east coasters) where yes, Greenwich Mean Time comes from and they also have a great market set up with various sellers and an array of international food. (Let’s just say Germany’s food variety is lacking and the Ethiopian food I had for lunch in Greenwich was amazing). I make it back to downtown London in time for fan fest where everyone naturally has to wait in a line to get in and be searched which takes forever. So I strike up conversation with some Bears fans I see (Chicagoans are all so friendly. Don’t believe me? Come visit. Or read the rest of this post). Once I get in, I naturally head over to get a beer (where they’re only serving Bud Light. Ahh.. America’s finest. We wouldn’t want quality European beer or anything).

New friends at the game

Now, I mentioned the fact that I’m more than okay traveling alone because most Americans are downright terrified of it and/or assume something is terribly wrong when they see someone traveling alone. Example: The group of Bears fans I was talking to before I went in see me buying a beer. One approaches me, asks me who I’m there with and is shocked when I answer with “no one.” They politely invite me to hang out with them for a bit, which I politely accept. “A bit” turns into “Friday early evening until Sunday night”. They took me under their wing and we had an amazing weekend from going out Friday night, shopping and pub-hopping on Saturday which brings us to Sunday: camp and game day. The lacrosse camp went well, a smaller turnout than I expected, but the drills I prepared went over well and it ended with an invitation to come back and do another camp sometime.

I made a last-minute decision to make the trip out to Wembley Stadium (where the Bears game was) and try to scalp a ticket (the guys I was hanging out with already had theirs) and if it worked, great, if not, I’d go to a bar nearby and watch the game. I somehow have great luck an manage to score a club-level ticket (face value, 130 pounds) for 70 pounds. The guy who sold me it even walked me to the door and waited for it to be scanned for me to give him the money. Now I was alone in the classy club area, but not for long. The guys in front of me notice my Bears shirt, turn around and ask me where I’m from. Obviously they’re from Chicago as well, we start chatting, they take care of my beers for the rest of the game and I have yet another group of new friends. Needless to say this trip was a huge success overall, and it was amazing to get some quality time with a bunch of Chicagoans- in London. Who woulda thought? It made me really appreciate coming from Chicago/the Midwest and the generosity and friendliness showed from every Bears fan I met.

December 1, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

*Shock*… using the blog-defibrillator

*Revive*

aaaaaaand we’re back! After a hiatus (if you can call an approximately four month break a hiatus) the blog’s back. I’m sure the only one who’s missed the updates is my grandma (maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and find out otherwise). Random pictures have been inserted to hopefully keep interest despite the mundane content of this entry. The next one will be more exciting, promise.

SG Würzburg/Passau after our first game day!

Recap: Enjoyed my US Tour this past summer for five weeks in the states before coming back to Germany. Made it up to Hanover in time for the U19 women’s lacrosse world championship finals weekend (USA won, no contest) and down to Mainz to function as assistant coach at a camp before getting back into the swing of things in Wuerzburg. Now that the Fulbright was over and my subleased apartment had its old tenant back, I was both jobless and homeless in Germany. Yet somehow this did not proceed to faze me for about six weeks. Why is that? Because I have amazing friends over here who let me crash with them or, better yet, apartment-sit while they were on vacation and I had nothing to do except play and coach lacrosse and leisurely look for jobs. However, I had to come back to reality and some point and reached both of my goals before my 90 day time limit was up and I’d be kicked out of the country.

Goal #1: Get a job

This actually preceded goal #2 since I figured hey, why sign a lease and get an apartment if you don’t get a job and have to leave the country? So, I managed to apply for a visa as a self-employed English teacher who would work mostly freelance (spoiler alert: isn’t really working). But those of you who were around last year are aware of the hoops one has to jump through at the town hall to get a visa so I decided to cover all my bases: I got a tax number, applied at multiple English-teaching Institutes, and even in the end applied to the University as a “free mover” student (only possible since I’m already enrolled in a US University next year). Of course with the way things work in life either nothing happens or it happens all at once. Naturally the visa for the freelance teacher goes through and the next week I get accepted to the University. Of course.

Oktoberfest!

Now, since bureaucratically speaking, this country would never want to make things easy for me we get yet another near-tears situation involving me and the Auslaenderamt (foreign citizens office) at the town hall. Long story short, I get yelled at by a woman for about five minutes straight while trying to explain my visa situation (“Can you let me finish, please?!“) and in the end, it turns out you can study on a freelance visa and don’t need a separate student visa so I’m safe. At least until August. Phew.

I just realized I never addressed the job I actually got to get me the visa… to support myself I’m doing a combination of things: waitressing, coaching, and teaching English- mostly to students as an after-school tutor.

Goal #2: Get an apartment

This proved to be a point of major stress since Wuerzburg is a university town and there were two classes entering the university this year. Loyal readers and German-education enthusiasts will note that last year was the last G9 year, meaning the last 13th grade class graduated from high school back in February. It was also the first year the 12th grade graduated resulting in twice as many first-year students matriculating this year. No, is the answer to your question. No new apartment complexes were built in the last year so yes, there is just as much space as before for more students. Somehow, miraculously, after a frustrating search and some strange interviews, I hit the apartment jackpot. My four roommates are nice, funny, talented, friendly, and I enjoy coming home. Our apartment is in the second floor of a building which houses an office on the ground floor and another apartment underneath. It’s behind the train station right at the base of the vineyards. Perfect.

70s party... the costume rule was strictly adhered to

Before/during/after those goals were reached I’ve been playing and coaching lots of lacrosse. Our girls are playing in the South League of the German lacrosse league and while we’re currently winless, we win every game in terms of experience (hey, one of my players said it, not me. I’m not known for being the overly-cheesy-quotey type) and I’m so proud of the way they’ve played so far. I also managed to sneak a few Oktoberfest visits in there as well as a trip to London and host Thanksgiving (those last two will be separate blog posts. I know what you’re thinking- yes! More to look forward to!) So true. So until then… machs gut

 

 

November 29, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

June wrap-up

So June was basically full of lacrosse, lacrosse, and more lacrosse.

"South Mix" team in Austria

I taught the first week, then headed down to Vienna for the Austrian Lacrosse Open. I played with a mix of girls from various southern German cities (Passau, Munich, Stuttgart, and Tuebingen) and while it’s an understatement to say we weren’t the greatest team, we definitely had the most fun. There was another American girl on the team as well, she had played in Munich the semester after I left but it was great playing with another American and we actually just met up yesterday back in the states for lunch!

The next weekend I brought about 9 or so girls from my team in Wuerzburg to a training camp in Hof, a town about 2 hours away in Bayern. I think it definitely proved to be beyond useful for the girls since they’re all beginners, and it was nice to hear most of my coaching advice wasn’t far off the mark. The camp was run by an American who is currently coaching up north in Bielefeld and I really appreciated his advice both from a player’s and coach’s perspective.

Friendly game with Hannover

Then I had a two week break from school (thank you Pentecost holidays) and I played the whole time for a US Travel team (USA Starz). We had a tournament in Berlin, a friendly game in Hannover, and ended with another tournament in Amsterdam. We came in 4th in Berlin, had a great time in Hannover, and due to a few problems ended up coming in 5th in Amsterdam (although we should have played in the semis, long story). I can’t even describe how great those two weeks were- I made some truly amazing friends, both the guys and the girls teams played well (overall) and I had so much fun. (the picture is tricky, I’m in a Hannover jersey, #22)

So I wrapped up the last week of teaching when I got back, had a very successful “see you later” party, and headed back to the US July 1st. I’ve decided to come back to Wuerzburg next year since I deferred grad school and basically have some time to kill and have no place I’d rather spend my time. I feel like I’m in the midst of a stateside summer tour for the time being, but I’m loving every minute of it!

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Germany | | Leave a comment

Weindorf, Spargel, and summer trends

 Well the weather here has been amazing (minus the past few days of course, but the vineyards need rain). Right now in Würzburg we have the Weindorf, or “wine village” in the town center, built similarly to the Weinachtsmarkt but with fewer stores and a lot more places to sit! I went last weekend with a friend and we enjoyed some local wines. They also serve something called a “bowle” which you can get with different fruits, usually strawberry or peach. Apparently it’s a combination of fruit, white wine, sekt (like champagne) and lemon. I didn’t try it; I thought it looked a little questionable (not to mention they were way overcharging for it)

 Another food and drink-related piece of information I’ve come to learn (but not understand) is the German appetite for asparagus. Yes, asparagus. And it’s not green here either, they eat the white variety. I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s asparagus everywhere. Since about the beginning of May, there are individual stands all over the city that exist solely to sell asparagus. Well, sometimes strawberries too, but only if you’re lucky. The daily specials outside of restaurants consist of combinations of food I wasn’t aware of which could include asparagus. There’s your basic asparagus with hollandaise sauce, but asparagus soup, asparagus with ham, or potatoes, or rolled in meat and baked with cheese and tomatoes, or in a casserole, or fried, or au gratin are all new ways I’ve learned that one can enjoy asparagus. I don’t particularly have an aversion to it, I just wouldn’t pick it off the menu given other, better options.

Food aside, it’s hard to believe I’ve only got one month left here. I didn’t get the extenstion, due to an abundance of first-year applicants and grantees- the second years wouldn’t get placed until all of the first years have a spot. A classmate of mine from BC will actually be at my school next year, and I’m really excited for him (and to dish a little bit on what to do/not to do).  This means the job search is on for me, yes, over here in Würzburg. I figured, next year’s completely open anyways, I like it here, have friends and my lacrosse team, so why not? I’m planning on coming back in August or September, regardless of the job situation (which will hopefully be resolved in the upcoming months). Druck die Daumen für mich! (German equivalent of “cross your fingers for me!”)

I am sad to be leaving the school though, I really like the students. I was interviewed yesterday since there’ll be a short piece on me in the yearbook (celebrity status) and it was a little sentimental, I definitely got “graduation goggles” (HIMYM reference, anyone?) thinking back on the past year. But my students in the 10th and 11th grades have begun to find me on facebook so I have a feeling we’ll keep in touch somehow. I got to do a lacrosse “sample-lesson” with some of my 10th grade girls last week, and they loved it! Five of them actually came to our practice Monday to watch, and they want me to start a U19 team for them which would be amazing! I’m doing the same lesson with the 10th grade boys next week, and a few of the guys from the men’s team are going to come in and help me out (plus it’ll be cool to see all of the pads/equipment/helmet).

Lacrosse ladies at the mafia party

Otherwise May’s been a pretty low-key month. No big travels, aside from Munich for a weekend to celebrate a fellow teaching assistant’s birthday as well as my first experience with EuroVision. EuroVision is a Europe-wide song contest, in which each country selects an act or singer to represent them. It’d be like American Idol consisting of 50 singers, one from each state. We watched the finals which consisted of I believe 30 or so acts and somehow Azerbaijan won. I wasn’t under the impression that Azerbaijan was even part of Europe but hey, they’ll host the contest next year now. Overall Munich was a great time, as always, and aside from a mafia-themed party Würzburg hasn’t been too wild. With the nice weather everyone’s outside grilling or enjoying a beer by the river (YES open containers are allowed) and I’m sad I won’t be here the entire summer.

But don’t worry, in June I’m sure I’ll get more than my fair share of traveling/more upbeat events. It’s a little sad, but also exciting, that every weekend from now until I come home I’ve got something planned! (and it’s all to do with lacrosse. surprised? you shouldn’t be) This weekend I’m going down to Vienna with another girl from my team here to play in the Austrian Lacrosse Open. Next weekend nine of us girls and ten of the guys are going to a training camp, and then from the 15th-27th of June I’ll be joining GlobalStarzLax, an American lacrosse team, in tournaments in Berlin, Hannover, and Amsterdam. I’m so excited! We’ll have a lot of opportunities to learn and improve as a team, and I’m so proud of the girls already for how far they’ve come. Oh and as a last note, we also were lucky enough to watch the NCAA championships this past weekend, congrats to both the Northwestern women and Virginia men’s teams on their titles! They were great games to watch.

Hope everyone had a happy/relaxing/fun Memorial Day weekend and next big American holiday- 4th of July- I’ll be back to celebrate in style!

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinque Terre (aka my dream trip)

Cinque Terre is someplace I’ve wanted to go ever since before I left to study abroad in the spring of 2009. When I said I’d be traveling around, more than one person highly recommended Cinque Terre in Italy, a cluster of five small towns along the west coast between Genova and Pisa. After doing a bit of research I immediately wanted to go and vowed I would get there at some point. It worked out perfectly that Amanda had scheduled her spring break to end there and I was more than happy to accompany her and her friends.

I’m really not going to talk too much about it since the pictures speak for themselves (and more). We had four days there, did the hike through the five towns on our second day, relaxed on the beach the third, and left the fourth. It was absolutely perfect, the weather couldn’t have been better, it’s right before the tourist season so it wasn’t too crowded, the pizza and gelato were delicious, and it exceeded all of my expectations. I would recommend this place to absolutely anyone and if you’re ever planning a trip to Europe, you have to stop here. Enjoy the pictures! (and yes, you can click on individual ones to make them bigger in a new window)

The first town, Monterosso, and the beach we were at

Lookout from the first town

Amanda and I with Vernazza in the back

Vernazza, town #2

BC pride in front of Corniglia (town #3)

Corniglia

Riomaggiore, home sweet home

view from right outside the hostel

Perfect ending to vacation

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Easter Break- part 1

Okay well on a much lighter note… I had the last two weeks free for Easter break!! I could really get used to the German school system here, about 6 or 7 weeks of school then a 1 or 2 week break. I’ve got another 2 week break coming up in June, travel suggestions welcome. So the first week of break was relatively uneventful, just stayed in Würzburg and caught up on some rest, tv, made carrot cake (!! my cooking skills are steadily improving) then jetted off for the second week. Landed in Malta late Friday night and after ten very anxious minutes of me not being able to get into my hostel, all was well.  How did I end up deciding to go to Malta you ask? I decided to join up with Amanda, a family friend who is studying abroad in France, and a group of her friends- all Notre Dame students by the way- and despite my BC status we got along well. Explored Valletta, the capital city, by myself the first few days since the girls weren’t getting in until Sunday/Monday. Went to a disappointingly small and not very ornate Easter mass at St. John’s Co-Cathedral, enjoyed the sun at an outdoor cafe, went to a few museums (National Museum of Fine Art- good exhibit on Mucha, the Czech father of Art Nouveau and National Museum of Archeology, which was basically like Guns Germs and Steel -Malta style-in museum form. Sidenote- I recommend that book for anyone interested in human geography/sociology/in general) The island is beautiful and although not very large, still has a lot to offer.

street in Valletta

Monday I did a day trip to the center of the island (I was staying on the East coast) to the towns Mdina and Rabat. I use the term “day trip” loosely because it took about 30 mins by bus to get there, but is still considered a trip on the island. Mdina is a tiny city, completely walled, no cars allowed. Took me about 20 minutes to walk the entire thing- went in the cathedral (of course) and the museum where I actually found myself liking Dürer’s wood-carving prints (never thought I’d say that after my Art in Munich course). Walked over to Rabat and went down into St. Paul’s catacombs- the thing’s pretty big! (obviously can’t be compared to the catacombs in Paris, but still) Almost all “attractions” in Rabat are named after St. Paul since he was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta and supposedly spent time in Rabat.

Malta reminded me of a mixture between Egypt and Portugal. Which, after my visit to the Archaeology Museum, proved not to be too bad of a theory (Malta was invaded/taken over by various groups from both Europe and Northern Africa). The driving is much safer than in Cairo (no fend-for-your-life defensive driving) but they still don’t follow road signs/lane lines. The city was mostly a tan/brown color (also like Cairo) but really hilly (Lisbon). The port/seaside was beautiful (Lisbon, also Alexandria), but given the fact I was there on a holiday weekend, it was hard to get a feel for the city life since not a lot was open.

Harbor in Sliema

Tuesday I met up with the Notre Dame girls and it rained, therefore ruining our beach plans.So we just hung out for the day, read, chatted, and made our own dinner (great fajitas and guacamole). Wednesday we were up and ready to go for our day trip to Gozo, an island off the northwest coast of mainland Malta. We weren’t deterred by the clouds in the morning (which again made the SPF 50 I had put on completely irrelevant). Yes, I had SPF 50 due to the following conversation at the CVS-equivalent in Germany before I left:

Me (to salesperson): Hi I was just wondering if this suntan lotion protects against UVA and UVB because it only says UVA (this is SPF 30, just fyi)

Saleswoman: Oh yes it protects against both. *looks me and my pale Irish skin up and down*… Where exactly are you traveling?

Me: I’ll be in Malta for 6 days then going to Italy!

Saleswoman: Yeah… you’re going to want to buy SPF 50 to use at least for the first few days then you can shift down to SPF 30.

We underestimated the time it would take for us to get up to the north coast on the bus, take a ferry, take a bus to the center of Gozo, and another bus/walk to the beach we wanted to go to. Our destination was Ramla Bay, and eight of us started off the day together. We left two in Victoria, the main town in Gozo, and left 3 more after we reached this point:

Ramla Bay, in the distance

See that cove all the way in the back? Yes, we trekked there. And I mean trekked. The bus only runs during the high tourist months (June-September). The road was long and winding and would have taken much too long so we found a footpath through the land which looked promising.

Improvisation

Well the footpath ended about halfway down, forcing us to.. improvise. 20 minutes later, covered in mud, sweaty, a bit scraped, and providing entertainment to those who watch CC-TV in Malta, we arrived at Ramla Bay! It was definitely well worth the trek. Pictures are really the only thing that will do it justice. The guidebook had said how red the sand was and blue the water would be, but it’s hard to imagine unless you see it yourself. And, after coming all that way, we had to go for a quick swim in the Mediterranean (even though it was freezing) followed by a great cheap meal at the cafe. We made it back on time for the ferry and we all celebrated the end of Malta together over dinner at a restaurant. I’d say Malta was a successful trip and I really liked it despite knowing nearly nothing beforehand (I feel that’s a theme of mine…) and I was ready to head off to Italy! But that definitely deserves its own post (and pictures)

Ramla Bay

Success!

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Reaction… or lack thereof

Obviously the item dominating the news for the past week has been the death of Osama Bin Laden. Every time I go online, the BBC, CNN, and New York Times (among other websites) flood the screen with new headlines “Pictures to soon be released” “Pictures too gruesome to be released” “Was Pakistan aware of Bin Laden’s whereabouts?” “How will this affect US/Pakistan relations?” and so on. I understand there’s much more to know surrounding his death and we’re going to have to wait and see how this all plays out, but I’m just hoping for the most peaceful solution. Anyways, the point of this entry is just to discuss the reaction I’ve received over here in Germany, or what I more aptly call the “non-reaction”.

September 11, 2001 is a day that will always stand out in my memory. We all have stories of what we were doing, and we recount them just about every year. I was in the 8th grade, in Mr. Townsend’s science class. There were suddenly whispers floating around of an attack on New York City, and we had the tv on in time to see the second plane hit the towers. The feelings surrounding that day are something extremely difficult to explain to a non-American, as I’ve learned. You can tell your friends and your students how speechless, shocked, scared, and vulnerable you felt. You can try to explain how you believed your country was impenetrable and impervious to attack and how this all came crashing down in a matter of minutes. How the next things to go through your mind was wondering who was responsible, who could ever want to do such a thing and destroy families, cause so much hurt and grief, then wonder if we were at war. As an 8th grader (and history not being my favorite subject) talk of war immediately conjured up images of World War II- atomic bombs, men being deployed by the thousands, hundreds of thousands of deaths; was your world going to change so drastically?

But, even after you’ve exhausted yourself attempting to explain all of this and more, no matter how much sympathy a person is capable of giving, they will never understand exactly how we as Americans felt on that day and the following weeks, months, even years. The oldest of my students were 8 years old in 2001 (how old does that make you feel?!) and additionally, they’re not American. Maybe the news of the attacks didn’t even reach them until much later. So, after reading the news of Bin Laden’s death Monday morning, I felt a conflicting wave of emotions- relief, pride, patriotism, trepidation, nervousness, and lots of questions. More than anything, I wanted somebody to talk to this about but upon arriving at school Monday morning; it was mentioned once, once, in passing in the teacher’s lounge. Normally I’m the go-to for all things concerning the US, seeing as I’m the only American at the school, and the only American a lot of the students have ever met. So I was pretty surprised to see it being almost brushed off, or very quickly digested, and everyone moved right on. Okay, I thought, maybe not everyone knows about it yet, since we just got back from Easter Holidays, or is just waiting for a better time. Nope, nothin the entire week, nada, zero, zilch.

While, from what I’ve seen and heard from friends back at home, the reaction stateside was quite the spectacle. I’ve watched countless youtube videos of the celebration (and the one in Bapst was particularly emotional, I’ve gotta say) and I understand completely where the emotions are coming from and why the reaction is how it is. But being over here, removed a little from the situation, ever in “ambassador mode” representing my country, it’s been interesting to see how people have reacted not just to Bin Laden’s death, but to our reaction. They’re shocked at how Americans have been so jubilant about a death. They want to know why he was killed and not tried in court. They’re keeping the bigger picture in mind- the possible retaliation from Al Qaeda, the fact that one man does not represent terrorism, and that this is far from over. They’re worried this may only incite more fighting and killing, and they may be right. As more information is being released, the questions are being answered.

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least, and by Wednesday morning the headline on the homepage of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Southern Germany’s major newspaper, had nothing to do with Bin Laden but rather nuclear power plants. This is not to say the Germans are disinterested or apathetic; it’s actually the opposite as they’re quite invested with thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan. They just seem to have accepted the recent information and realized we’ve still got quite a fight ahead of us, with this and the recent battles in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, it shows how much the world is changing. Just want to end with a big Thank You to all of our soldiers and troops fighting for the US, our values, and keeping us safe. We can never be grateful enough for all you do.

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Germany, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Berlin seminar

Apologies this post may be a little sporadic (and without pictures for the moment) but I’m really trying to stay caught up here (even as I write from my hostel in Malta). SO at the end of March the Fulbright Commision hosted all English Teaching Assistants, Research scholars, and Professors abroad in Germany at the Park Inn Hotel in Berlin (along with a few other Fulbright guests from other European countries). Before I get into the nuts and bolts of it,  I have to say I was really blown away by the seminar as a whole, and it left a much better taste in my mouth as compared to the  Teaching Assistant orientation back in September.

I actually headed up to Berlin a day early (the seminar started Sunday) because I wanted to see Potsdam, a nearby town to Berlin. Luckily, my friend John (from BC, research Fulbrighter) happens to live in a section of Berlin that’s about halfway between downtown and Potsdam, so I got to crash there. Potsdam was really nice, a cute town with a beautiful castle and gardens (like any good German town has). We had a great dinner at a Vietnamese/Cambodian place and then went out first to a very Bavarian-like brewery (a bit of  Sehnsucht for John who studied abroad in Eichstaett, in Bayern) then to a very typical Berliner bar: smoky, small, great vibe, interesting characters. All in all, a successful night.

Brandenburg Tor

Seminar started up Sunday with a great welcome dinner and free wine (until it ran out) at which point we naturally moved onto a bar. But I’ll pat myself on the back for my ‘networking’ abilities (dad will be proud) and the fact that I broke out of my comfort zone and mixed not only with the other Americans I knew, but also got to know Germans as well. The Germans were there for the first 3 days; they’ll be going to the US next year for a year of study abroad through the Fulbright Commission. Monday’s opening panel discussion proved much more interesting than I anticipated. We had two highly esteemed panelists, and while I’m not usually one to enjoy political debates, I really enjoyed this discussion about the future of Europe, and America’s role as well as the current conflicts in Northern Africa/the Middle East. I will say, living over here has made me much more politically and culturally aware. After the talk, Nadiya and I went to the DDR museum which was really cool (mostly because it was interactive and we could act like 4 year olds and mess with everything) but also helped me understand a little bit how the mentality was effective. Then we had a meet-n-greet with Germans/Americans from the same geographic area (supposedly based on hometown but I was put in a group with people from New England) which was followed by a few lectures: one from the current US Ambassador to Germany and one from a former; I really enjoyed both speeches.

Tuesday we dont have any mandatory lectures so Nadiya and I take the day to enjoy Berlin- we’d both been there before but it was full of the ‘rush around and see all the important things’ usual touristy things so this time we went to quite a few museums.

The Infamous Checkpoint Charlie sign

The first having a really amazing and provocative photography exhibit, and the next day we went to Museum The Kennedys (yes, that’s its actual name) which had great pictures as well as an exhibit on Obama. Tuesday night ended with the Fulbright music gala and I’ll just say we’ve got some extremely talented musicians. Wednesday morning I had to myself and took the opportunity to go to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. If you haven’t been, go. I’m not the worlds biggest museum person (though by this post you wouldnt know it) but this museum is well worth the time and money- I was there for 2-3 hours and could have easily spent another 2-3 there. Made it back to the hotel for the closing panel, which was a little disappointing. Each man seemed to be on his own soapbox about certain topics and neither really answered the questions at hand. But in the end, I really enjoyed the seminar (and the structured free time helped as well)

In other more recent events, we have 2 weeks off for Easter break, and last weekend was my first full-fledged lacrosse weekend. Another girl from the team drove with me out to Erlangen for the boys double-header on Saturday (they won both!) and then I played with the Kaiserslautern team on Sunday in Karlsruhe: 2 games, back to back, no subs, and I played midfield. Safe to say I felt like dying on the train home, but the weather was beautiful, they won their first game of the season (against Karlsruhe, 6-5), and I scored my first goal in the German lacrosse league (which naturally resulted in me having to buy my home team a case of beer but hey, I’m not complaining). The next few months look to be filled with more lacrosse (yes!) and hopefully we’ll finally get a partner team and uniforms!

The boys... girls team pic coming soon!

Alright, I’ll add in pictures once I get back home (to Wuerzburg), but for now Happy Easter from Malta!

April 23, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | Leave a comment