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 ­čÖé

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

Advertisements

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Germany, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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┬áof 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 W├╝rzburg/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

┬áWell the weather here has been amazing (minus the past few days of course, but the vineyards need rain). Right now in W├╝rzburg 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)

┬áAnother 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).┬á This means the job search is on for me, yes, over here in┬áW├╝rzburg. 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 f├╝r 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 W├╝rzburg 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

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,┬á 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┬á 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┬á 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

Egypt part II: Cairo and Alexandria

Sorry for the delay in posting, I’ve gotten a little preoccupied with other things (getting a bike, applying to grad school and the peace corps) but more on those later….

So day two in Cairo: Jessie and I get up and ride the metro to Coptic Cairo. The Copts are Egyptian Christians, and the Coptic area is rumored to have been visited by the Holy Family.

hanging church

hanging church

We first went to the Hanging Church which appears to be grounded at first glance but due to some sort of architectural magic it’s suspended over a passage. It was, of course, beautifully and intricately decorated, complete with ivory fillings in wooden carvings. From there we walk around the rest of the area which includes more churches and even a synagogue, which was apparently right near the spot where Moses was found in the reeds.

We ride the metro back to downtown and walk around for a bit. I should mention the metro experience- they have separate cars for men and women, and Jessie told me that’s a good thing; we want to be in the women’s car. It gets so crowded in the mens car with people pressed up against each other whereas the women’s car has much more space (due to less women riding the metro than men). We stop for lunch and get koshari, a traditional Egyptian food. It’s really cheap, but really filling due to the fact that it’s mostly carbs. I think it was a combination of pasta, rice, lentils, onions, and chickpeas with a garlic and hot sauce. SO good. Then we (thankfully) proceeded to walk around for a few hours to burn off our bajillion carbs.

It turns out to be one of Jessie’s roommates birthdays, so we all go out for the night to celebrate. We start off by chartering a felucca on the Nile. A felucca is basically a big Egyptian sailboat. The view was amazing, the weather was warm, and I was riding a boat on the Nile at night. Can’t complain.

birthday group

We all went out to a club afterwards and continued to celebrate probably a little too late into the night. 3 hours later we’re up and rushing off to the train station with a friend of Jessie’s, hoping we don’t miss our train to Alexandria. We make it there fine and pass out the entire duration of the 2.5 hour trip.

Alexandria is absolutely beautiful. I liked Cairo a lot, but I could see myself living in Alexandria. Right on the water, not as big/crowded as Cairo, great library (obviously a plus for Jessie also). First things first, we get lost trying to find the Roman ruins but wander through a great market nonetheless. Find our way to the Roman ruins, including the Roman Theater, and some of the areas were roped off since there’s still excavation going on. After a confusing cab ride, we arrive at the greatest juice place ever. It’s called “King of Mango” and if anyone is ever in Alexandria I insist you go.

 

From there we walk to a restaurant for lunch which provides another miraculously delicious meal. We selected fresh seabass and crayfish (I think? Not a seafood expert), sit down, and are provided with an array of appetizers- Egyptian bread and a few hummus-like dips. They bring out the seafood and it’s amazing. We didn’t order anything special, just picked the food, and they chose how to cook it for us, complete with spices. After lunch, we walk along el corniche (the waterfront) to the library.

library from the outside

The library of Alexandria is a marvel for both its architecture and its content. It’s second in the world only to the US Library of Congress, and it used to be the biggest/most significant library of the ancient world, before it was destroyed. For anyone who knows Jessie well, you’ll know she loves libraries (especially Bapst) so this was fun for her too. Although, she did say she doesn’t know how much studying she could do there, since there’s tourists coming in and out all the time and taking pictures.

We stop for some tea/coffee then make our way back to the train station. Since it’s my last night, Jessie and I go out to a really nice restaurant for dinner. She lives in a section of Cairo called Zamalek, which is an island in the Nile. The restaurant was on the tip of the island, so it’s surrounded by water on three sides.

library from the inside

It’s decorated beautifully with billowing white sheets and candles and of course, the food is wonderful. (sushi for Jessie, kabobs for me). Fall break was definitely a success and I’m so glad I not only got to experience Cairo and Egypt but see and spend time with one of my really good friends.

Since I’ve been back, nothing too exciting has been going on but it’s starting to pick up. The Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) is under construction and opens any day now which I am so excited for! I’m also hoping to get to Nuremberg for a day to see the big one there. Teaching has been going well, the 11th grade is getting into units on America so for the next few weeks I get to explain the voting process, electoral college (ugh) and civil rights. Any suggestions?

I’ve also gotten a bike- one of the teacher’s from the school has loaned it to me for the year- which makes getting into town much quicker (although about equal for the way back home since it’s an uphill ride). Lacrosse continues to go well, I’m scheduling a meeting with the head of University Sport next week to see if we can get our own practice times. We had a “team evening” yesterday with the boys team, and it was fun to get to know everyone/see them in clothes other than workout gear. We’ve got practice tonight, then it’s officially the weekend!

 

November 19, 2010 Posted by | Germany, Travel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mantelsonntag

Tomorrow is Mantelsonntag- literally translated as “Jacket Sunday”. In Germany, all of the stores are closed on Sundays, but on this one, the stores will be open with special discounts on coats, winter clothing, and most clothing in general. I should be receiving my monthly stipend money any day now so needless to say, I’m pretty excited for tomorrow. In other news, this week has been great, probably the best so far (and here’s why):

The Weather: YES we are back into fall and momentarily taking a break from winter! The trees have changed to colors other than just green or a weird yellow, the temperature has been in the 50s sometimes even the 60s the past few days, and this weekend the market square is full of vendors. Since Halloween isn’t really celebrated here (and I’m really bummed about that) they tend to focus on All Saint’s Day (Nov 1). So there’s no school/work on Monday and the market this weekend is in celebration of that holiday.

Lacrosse: There’s a men’s team here in W├╝rzburg, but no women’s team. However, the guys have been really great in helping me trying to get a team started. Monday was student activities day at the university. Somehow our table ended up in a not-so-prime location: in the corner with all of the Wohngemeinschaften (living communities which are usually religiously affiliated or conservative). However, we still drew a good amount of people over including lots of girls! Each one of the guys likes to think he’s solely responsible for this but I beg to differ… Anyways after about 10 minutes I finally had my ‘student activities day’ speech down which went something like this: Hi are you interested in lacrosse? Have you heard of it? Well it’s a sport and we don’t exactly have a women’s team here but I’m trying to start one. Here’s a list of our practice times/places and you should come try it out! No pressure, we have extra equipment for you to borrow’ and the other person was usually somewhat interested, somewhat confused. But, come practice Wednesday I had 5 other girls there! I think my first day as a coach went well, but I definitely have some vocab to work on. I’m trying to get established here as the official coach of the team, which is a little intimidating, but hopefully works out. Two of the girls are making flyers to hang around the university and once we can field at least a full team (12 people) then the real work begins. Wish me luck!

Market stall

Apartment: I finally got one! I don’t get to move in until February, but that’s fine by me. I’m renting the room of a girl who’s going to study abroad in Denmark next semester, and she’s leaving me her bed, dresser, tv, and dvd collection (yesss)

Friends: With the university finally starting up, the British teaching assistants getting settled in town, and the lacrosse project, it’s much easier to meet people/hang out. There are two British teaching assistants in my town; I’ve only met one so far but he’s really nice and we’ve hung out a few times. At student activities day I met a Canadian girl, and we actually went out to lunch Friday at this amazing Indian restaurant with a mutual friend of ours. The lunch buffet, complete with the best curry and vegetables I’ve had, was 7 Euros.


Travel! On Tuesday I leave for Cairo to see one of my roommates from BC for 5 days and I couldn’t be more excited! Expect a really exciting update (and great pictures) after I get back

In other news… I applied too late to receive an absentee ballot for the elections Tuesday, but everyone else should go vote! I’m actually kinda glad I get to sit this one out. The campaigns for governor of Illinois have been (unsurprisingly) dirty and perfect examples of why I think a two-party system doesn’t offer enough choices. So, fellow Illini, choose who you deem the lesser of two evils and hopefully things will start to look up.

Teaching is going pretty well at school, and we’re oh-so-slowly nearing the units on North America. We’ve just finished with Australia in the 8th grade and did a few days on the Rabbit Proof Fence (a film I actually had to watch for one of my sociology classes), and I’ve had some really interesting discussions with my students regarding fair trade and boarding school. I’m trying not to get frustrated when students say they wouldn’t pay more for items, even if the money went directly to the workers, or other things I may disagree with, and so far I’m succeeding. What I found really interesting, was the complaint from the majority of my students that they find their class sizes too large. Ideally, they think it should be somewhere around 15 students. They would like to talk more in class, not just read, and are envious of close student-teacher relationships, as seen in the article. They were amazed at the fact that we could email our teachers in high school for help, weren’t afraid to go talk to them, or even had the chance to get to know them better through co-curricular opportunities. I definitely took those things for granted, and I know as a high schooler, I wasn’t too concerned about things like that- I thought only parents worried about that stuff. (yes my dad was the one asking all of the questions on college tours about things no one seemed to care about- libraries, class size, etc). Turns out I was pretty lucky with the high school teachers I had after all.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment