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

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

*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

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

Debates, Stars, and Copenhagen

Okay so a lot has been happening in the past few weeks including the Fulbright seminar in Berlin, a weekend trip to Copenhagen afterwards, and lots more around Wuerzburg. I’m going to save the Berlin seminar for a separate entry since I want to do it justice. So I’ll work backwards and start with stuff that’s been going on around here then go onto the Copenhagen trip. School’s been going really really well lately. I kind of fell into a funk in February where I was a little bored with my schedule, wasn’t really feeling challenged, and was wondering if staying for a second year was a realistic option. But since I’ve gotten used to my new schedule for this semester, it’s been great. The kids are so talkative and I’ve had some really great conversations in my classes, especially with the 11th and 12th grades. They’ve watched An Inconvenient Truth in class and we had a great discussion about global warming (right up my alley), and in practicing for the oral exam at the end of the year, the students have shown themselves competent in current events knowledge ranging from Gutenberg’s resignation due to plagiarism to the earthquake in Japan and debating about nuclear energy. Also on that topic, at least for the past two Monday’s there have been rallies in town protesting the use of nuclear energy in Germany. Chancellor Merkel did temporarily suspend activity at a few plants after the earthquake in Japan, but people speculate it’s only for political reasons (especially since the greens just took power in Baden-Wuerttenburg, traditionally a conservative stronghold). But the debate on nuclear energy hasn’t been pushed to the back burner yet here, and people are adamant about reducing the amount used since the waste poses such strong potential danger. It’s been interesting to witness the reactions, especially since I get the feeling people are more directly politically involved here than back home.

Lacrosse has had its ups and downs. We’re in the semester break right now (school doesn’t start back up again until May 1st. Crazy, I know) so attendance has been low at practice. But in the past week we’ve gotten a few more new players, so it’s nice that I can devote my time and energy to them at practice instead of worrying about running practice and teaching the game. Our team is looking into ordering jerseys (!!) and I’m still trying to organize practice games. I actually get to play this weekend which I’m so excited about! I have a friend who plays for Kaiserslautern, and they won’t have enough players this weekend so she asked if I could play with them. (Since I’m not officially registered with a team, it’s not a problem for me to get a player pass through her team). We have two games in Karlsruhe on Sunday against Karlsruhe and Munich II, my former team! I’ll be heading out to Erlangen on Saturday to watch the men’s team play so hopefully I’ll have lots of good news to report after!

Last weekend we had an international film festival here in town, and my Canadian friend and I went to see an Italian film (with English subtitles) about four guys who travel across their small island by foot to reach and perform in a music festival. It was pretty entertaining. Afterwards we went to Hettstadt, a nearby town, for an astronomy viewing night. My friend is doing her PhD in Astrophysics, so there was no shortage of knowledgeable scientists on hand to explain the constellations, planets, etc.

Pretty much what Saturn looked like through the big telescope

There was one HUGE telescope and about 3 large ones (all bigger than any I’ve ever looked through). We could see the moon up close, craters and all, and saturn with its rings! I loved the astronomy unit back in the 6th grade- 6th grade science was the best, what with that, anatomy, ecology, a frog dissection, and we were still young enough to watch Bill Nye in class. Awesome.

Me and Nadiya at Nyhaven

The weather here has been amazing, bordering on summer, which was a really really nice change from Copenhagen. I dumbly didn’t realize just how far north it is, and it was definitely still winter when we were there (last weekend in March). Nadiya and I headed up there from Berlin after the seminar and spent Thursday-Sunday in Copenhagen. I liked it, but if I ever go back it’ll have to be in the summer months. I just got the feeling that there’s a lot more to do/the city’s more enjoyable in warmer weather. But we still made the best of our time there. We ate a lot of traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches, though I didn’t go so far as to have any with raw fish on them. We went to the Royal Palace and watched the changing of the guard, walked along Nyhaven (the part along the canal with all the colored houses) and took a boat tour of the city. We also visited quite a few museums but I’ve got to admit I really enjoyed all of the exhibits. My favorite were probably the motion of light exhibit, the best photographs of 2010, and the Picasso exhibit out at the Louisiana Museum. It was unbelievable and had so many of Picasso’s famous works, as well as information about his life.

Our last night there, Denmark was playing Norway in a qualification match for the European Cup in 2012 (this is soccer we’re talking about here) so we asked at our hostel where a good place would be to watch it and found ourselves in a small, crowded smoky pub where we were the only tourists. It was awesome. The Danes speak English better than probably 70% of Americans (it’s unreal) so we had no problems communicating and quickly made friends at our neighboring table.

They take changing of the guards pretty seriously

We played some strange dice game after the game was over (if you watch Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s the dice game they play in the second movie where Will tries to win the key from Davy Jones), and after we all moved on to a bar to celebrate one of the guys birthdays. I made it to the train station the next morning in time for my train and promptly fell asleep (as I do on any means of transportation) only to be woken up about 3 hours later by some woman telling me to go upstairs. Our train was stopped in what looked like a lit-up tunnel and there was almost no one left on the train. Groggily, I grabbed my bags and followed the last few passengers up these stairs only to find out that we’re on a boat. Our train had driven straight onto a ferry which was now carrying us across to Germany. What?!? I was pretty confused/astounded for the first five minutes, but eventually got used to it. When the boat landed in Germany, the train was already lined up with the tracks and simply drove off the boat and on to Hamburg.

I’ve got the next two weeks off for Easter (yippee!) so I’ll be updating a little bit more regularly (although there probably won’t be too much to update on). Bis dann!

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Germany, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weimar and German pride

Well, I had the best intentions to write this post about 2 weeks ago, but my computer died (yes, flat out died. All I get is a blinking folder with a question mark in it) so Ive been forced to rely on the internet solely at school. Also- if anyone has any idea how to fix my computer, Id appreciate any insights. In addition to my computer, my ipod stopped working back in December and now my camera isn’t functioning properly either. Technology and I are not mixing well here.

Anyway, the past two weeks have been pretty interesting and I want to try and get everything in here (moreso my observations/cultural notes than historical ones). A few weeks ago I had the chance to accompany the 11th grade on an overnight class trip to Weimar. First off, never in high school did we get to take overnight field trips so I automatically thought this was super cool. Second, Weimar is an important place for more than one reason so I was glad to have the opportunity to go. (and third, I only had to pay for the hostel since the students’ fees covered the teachers’ tours 🙂 ) Weimar was home to both Goethe (pronounced Ger-tuh. roughly) and Schiller, two of Germany’s most famous writers. Schiller was more of a playwright and is known as ‘the German Shakespeare’. Goethe’s best known works are ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ and ‘Foust’, a story about a man who wagers his soul with the devil. We had tours of both Schiller’s and Goethe’s homes, as well as a tour of the city to cap off our time there. And, one last fun fact, Weimar was the birthplace of the Bauhaus art movement (I learned way too much about German art during my class in Munich).

The name Weimar may also ring a bell because, after World War I, it served as the place where Germany’s first democratic constitution was signed. This trip also marked my first time into the former East Germany (aside from Berlin) and Weimar was one of the best-rebuilt towns due to its tourist attractions. Unfortunately, some of the other former East-German towns havent fared so well. (I have good pictures to make this post less boring, I promise, they’re just stuck somewhere in the black hole that is my computer).

After leaving Weimar we had one more stop to make before heading back home: Buchenwald Concentration Camp. This camp was especially known for hosting foreigners, and at the time it was liberated by the American soliders in 1945, less than 5% of the inmates were of German nationality. Buchenwald wasn’t an extermination camp, technically, but the number of deaths was still astronomical due to harsh living conditions and the fact that it was a work camp.

When some people heard I was coming over to Germany, one of the first questions I was asked besides ‘Why Germany?’ was somewhere along the lines of ‘what do the Germans think about WWII?’ In my experience, and from talking to the students I know, the immensity and wrongdoing that occurred during WWII is drilled into students’ heads. They learn so much about it and, quite frankly, I think it’s embarrassing that one of the first, if not the first, thing we still equate with Germany is World War II, not Angela Merkel, soccer, green technology, or even cars for that matter.  It would be like a foreigner asking you about slavery, or the genocide of Native Americans every time you said you were American. Those things happened in the past, you weren’t there for them, you know they were wrong, but there’s so much more to your country than just that one horrific event. Imagine not being able to show your national pride, or not having national pride, for a period of around 60 years. It wasnt really until hosting the World Cup in 2006 that Germans could wave their flag proudly, something a lot of Americans fail to understand due to our strong patriotism. In a lesson recently, I explained to a class how we have an American flag in every classroom and every day starts with the Pledge of Allegiance. The students were shocked. Aside from government or official buildings here in Germany, I have yet to see flags waving all over the place.

That being said, our trip to Buchenwald was still a very emotional one for both the students and teachers, myself included. There were very few dry eyes by the end of our tour and the immensity of the past did not fail to take hold of us. But, my unintentional rant aside, I urge you to see Germany with new eyes, not through the history books, but focus on what is actually happening today. Germany’s an amazing place with truly amazing people, and I’ve already made some fantastic friends while here. Let’s try and focus on the present and future together, instead of the past.

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January in a nutshell

So I realize that in using other people to write for my blog I’ve grown increasingly lazy and haven’t updated in a while. This will just be a short post since I’m off on an overnight class field trip to Weimar tomorrow, followed by a weekend in England.

Christmas break was obviously great, and after that I went to stay with a friend of mine from the lacrosse team for a few days. It was really nice to be in a home and we made the most of the rainy weather by installing her family’s new tv and watching lots of movies. Since getting back to school I’ve done a bit more teaching, some on the American school system but the big topic has been the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords from Arizona. In the older grades we’ve read some articles on the event which led to discussions about gun control laws in the US. Here in Germany it’s pretty simple: hand guns are illegal. In fact, the only guns allowed are for hunting and even then there’s a debate going on regarding whether the guns need to be kept at a shooting range instead of locked up in the home. It’s been interesting to criticize and defend my own culture from the outside, especially when required to explain the history behind the need for the 2nd amendment (had to look that one up). Outside of the classroom, I went with a few teachers from the English department to see the University theater group put on a production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. I’ve never read the play by Oscar Wilde, but really enjoyed the show and thought the actors did a great job, especially as English wasn’t anyone’s native language.

Aside from school, I finally moved into my new apartment! It’s beyond wonderful (especially in comparison to my prior living arrangements). My room came fully furnished as I’m only a sub-letter, and my roommate is super nice. Not to mention that she’s German which requires me to practice my German even more. Now that I’ve got a fully functional kitchen my goal is to learn how to cook, but don’t cross your fingers.

Last weekend I went to Heidelberg with my friend Nadiya who, as you loyal readers surely remember, is on a Fulbright up in Kiel.

view of Heidelberg from the castle

There was the Fulbright “winter ball” which in my opinion, was a little too expensive for an average dinner. But we did meet a really nice couple who sat at our table for dinner and had actually met at the Fulbright winter ball six years earlier (they were both German. The Fulbright commission also provides scholarships for those from other countries to come to the US either to study, teach, or act as a teaching assistant in their native language).

Nadiya and I took advantage of our time in Heidelberg (where Nadiya studied abroad during her time at BC) and I got a full city tour, complete with walking up to the Schloss (castle) and over the oldest bridge in Germany.

 

To end, I want to thank everyone who’s been asking about Jessie in Cairo and say that she’s safely back in the US now. Before she left she did partake in a few of the protests, get some great pictures, and get interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN:

Let’s hope the country continues to listen to what the people want and support them as they demand change.

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