Monday, November 29, 2010

new pictures!

New pictures are up including Thanksgiving and our first snow!

**be sure to scroll to the bottom of the album for the new pictures**

The promise for a Vlog of yesteryear

Hello world (or the 3 people that read this...), just popping in to tell you that I haven't forgotten to update about our amazing Thanksgiving festivities last week, I'm just planning on making a VLOG for it! Hopefully I can get it up by the end of the week, but you just never know!

I've been surprisingly busy these past couple weeks. Aside from my rigorous 12 hour work week - which requires little to no planning - I've been working on a 20+ page translation from German to English, enjoying the company of visitors (Gemma's parents came for a weekend), visiting other ETAs around Bavaria, and just generally enjoying life in Germany! But things are calming down before the winter break (exactly the opposite from home, were finals hit right before the holiday and you get so stressed and busy you want to pull your hair out before it all comes grinding to a halt just in time to go Christmas shopping and settle down for a couple days of holiday), so I'm hopeful that the posting will pick up.

I would like to commend Germany on being right on time with its Christmas mood-setting. Like clockwork, it started snowing on Thanksgiving, and by the time we woke up the next day, there was snow on the rooftops and tree tops and hillsides in the distance. Things really picked up this morning when I woke up to at least an inch of snow on the ground - and it's still coming down. I decided I would live on the edge and try to ride my bike to school despite the many warnings against such ideas. After riding my breaks all the way down the hill of our street to the main road (which I take all the way into town) I found the bike lane to be covered with all the snow pushed aside by cars. So I rode on the painted white line, barely visible beneath the sludge, separating the road from what was previously the bike lane. I made it no more than half a block before I was splattered by not one, not two, but three cars! at this point I decided to ride on the side walk, safely away from the cars kicking up dirt and snow slush onto innocent bikers. The rest of my ride proved more frightening than actually dangerous. When I got to the end of this road I had two choices: 1. continue on my bike up the hill and across the bridge, or 2. carry my bike down to the pedestrian walk way under the road and not risk hills and bridges. Having already worn out my sense of adventure for the day, I opted for the latter, carrying my bike down and walking it safely to the other side of the train tracks. When I reemerged from the pedestrian tunnel at the train station I knew I had to decide if I should continue on bike or foot. While standing and deciding I saw several other bikers pass by - if they can do it, so can I! Then I looked pass the bikers and saw the cars. Those fast driving, sludge slinging, road hogging cars. I locked my bike up safely at the train station and continued the rest of the way on foot. It was really a nice walk, I got to take a lot of pictures and actually enjoy the snow, instead of fear it. Looks like I won't be doing much biking till Germany thaws out, but I can't say I didn't try!

But why were you going to school this morning? I'm sure your first thoughts are all concern for my standard three day weekends... Well, I'm swapping my off day this week (Monday) so that I can meet my Aunt and Uncle in Frankfurt on Thursday while they have a 12 hour lay over. I'm very excited! My first familiar faces in almost 3 months!

So keep your eye out for a the next Vlog... and until then, you can find me making snow angels all over Germany!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Catch up

Oh hey blog, I almost forgot you were there! I'm sorry I've been so horrible about posting this month (3 posts for November so far, compared to the 14 of October. And not a single vlog!).

But lets not focus on my short-comings as a blogger...

Life has definitely been picking up since we last talked. Gemma and I finally got paid so we've been able to leave the apartment without fear! But there was some irreparable damage done... for example, the fact that we discovered a mutual love of wine and card games, making it much less exciting to leave the apartment when the promise of both waits for us at home.

On Wednesday we had a day off (some obsolete religious holiday that only the schools still observe), so Gemma, Andy (an ETA in Erlangen -click his name for a link to his vlog-), and I went down to Munich for the day to meet some other friends, 2 from Munich and another from Passau. The actual reason for the trip was to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in English, but visiting friends and seeing Munich was an added bonus. We all felt honored (dare I say, unworthy?) that such a big movie was being released in Germany 2 days before its US release? For once we had the upper hand in pop culture by being in Germany (trust me, this doesn't happen very often).

I'll spare you a full movie review, but I do want to say that I thought the movie was fantastic! There were parts that weren't great, and plenty of details from the book were missing. But people need to stop expecting movies to live up to books, in general. There is no way you can fit every detail from a book into a movie. Not only just because of time constraints, but also because the two mediums, book vs. film, don't always allow for the same channels to inform the audience. Where, in a book, an important detail can be brought to light simply by the narrator mentioning it, in a movie, it would have to be added in a character's line or somehow visualized. So while the movie is based off the book, you can't watch it with the expectations of it being exactly the same.

right, sorry about that little tangent... back to life in Germany?

Not too much new or exciting at school. I'm starting to worry about changing schools with Gemma in March (that's when their semesters change), because I'm just now settling and feeling comfortable with my teachers and the way my school works. I still don't even know half the teachers' names (even some that I've worked with several times....)

I did get to make an awesome Quiz about drinking/going out in the US (click the link to the quiz for an idea of what kind of stuff we're allowed to talk about in school as opposed to in the US).

Gemma's parents are in town this weekend, so they have been out seeing the area. I met them for dinner in Nürnberg last night. But it ended up being the biggest night of coincidences. Gemma&co. were headed to Bamberg for the afternoon then to Nürnberg for the evening and dinner. My plan was to take a later train and just meet them for dinner. As it turned out, they ended up leaving Bamberg later than expected and we ended up on the same train down to Nürnberg. Then when we were walking around Nürnberg we decided to stop for our first glühwein of the season. Suddenly I heard someone say "Emily..." and since Emily isn't the most popular name in Germany, I was immediately suspicious. It turned about to be 2 other ETAs from Nürnberg who were supposed to meeting our other friend from the Erlangen area and her boyfriend. So there we were, all 8 of us, just having happened upon each other in the middle of Nürnberg!

It ended up being a fun night! Unfortunately there is a lot of construction going on on the railway between Nürnberg and Forchheim, so we had to take a bus to Erlangen. Well the bus dropped us off in Erlangen at 11:40pm and the next train wasn't due till 12:39. So we waited, in the cold, for an hour. But there were brownies from our newly working oven waiting for us at home, so it was all worth it in the end!

I'll leave you with this for now. I hope all of you in the US enjoy your Thanksgiving break and have a great holiday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life below the poverty line

"We strongly recommend bringing enough money to last 4 - 6 weeks (1,000-1,500€) when you first arrive." A wise suggestion from the PAD (long story, I know I'm here with Fulbright, but the PAD is really the organization in charge of everything, including pay).

Well, here we are 10 weeks since I started here in Germany and the only money my account has seen was travel reimbursement from Fulbright. Most of my Fulbright friends were paid within the first 2 weeks of October, but I wasn't worried, because I still knew people getting paid in the 3rd week. Well, as the last week of the month arrived, with our week long fall break on it's heels (this past week), I started to worry. I approached my teachers with my concerns and they reciprocated, so on Friday they called the powers that be inquiring about our payment. We were then told to give it to the end of the this week and if, by Friday, we hadn't received anything, to call back.

Monday: Nothing, turns out it's a bank holiday down here for all saints day
Tuesday: Nothing, no excuse.
Wednesday: Still nothing
Thursday: Nada - starting to question the need for an "if" clause when told to wait till Friday
Friday: ....Of course not.

But this post is not to tell you about the angry (and by angry I mean they included a lot of "please" and "thank yous"...) emails I've sent to Fulbright and the PAD. I wanted to give you a little glimpse into surviving a week vacation with no money.

On Friday last week I pulled out 100€ from my ever-dwindling American account to last me till we got paid (which I now consider the same as saying "to last me for the foreseeable future"). This 100€ would be my only funding for the week, for necessities, fun, travel, whatever I wanted/needed all had to fit with in my 100€.

So what do you do on 100€ for a week with all the free time in the world? Well at the beginning of the week, Gemma (who still hasn't been paid either) and I were pretty active. On Friday night we went out in Forchheim for the first time. Luckily, as beer is cheaper than water, a night out doesn't run the bill up too much. On Sunday we went out to the Franconian Switzerland region (Fränkische Schweiz in German) and spent the day hiking, splurged a little for lunch. On Monday and Tuesday we spent time with some teachers with Gemma's teachers hiking and visiting a "wild animal park" (basically a zoo with mostly animals you can actually find in the area) However, as the week progressed and we grew more skeptical of ever receiving our payment, we toned down the excitement a little and have spent the last couple days in the apartment.

I decided to compile a little list of some activities that can be done for free or relatively cheap over here in Forchheim.
  1. hiking
  2. visiting castle ruins
  3. hiking
  4. visiting castles still in use
  5. hiking
  6. playing cards
  7. reading
  8. sleeping
  9. watching an entire season of Grey's anatomy
  10. drinking
  11. hiking
  12. websudoku
  13. pacing
  14. doodling
  15. facebook
  16. writing blog posts filled with unnecessary links
from my original 100€, I still have almost 40€, but I'm very wary about spending any since I still don't know when I'll be getting paid for sure. But Gemma and I decided this recent poverty we've encountered, if nothing else, has been very character building. (and my Sudoku skills are much improved too)

Monetary donations can be sent to the address listed in the About Me section.**

**just kidding. Please don't actually send money. I mean, unless you really want to. But not really.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Pictures

Brand new pictures from the adventures of Gemma and Emily in Franconian Switzerland!

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