Thursday, March 31, 2011

Franken Friends.

So what happens when you put all the Franken* ETAs** in one skype chat?

*Franken = Franconia, the region I live in, as explained in this vlog
**ETAs = English teaching assistants [often used combination with the phrase "and famous." e.g. "we're so ETA and famous right now"]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

GA middle school band programs, FTW!

So remember that band I joined (the musikverein... I know you know it)...

Well, I was sitting at rehearsal this evening when the director of the youth band (who is also a member of the senior band) came over and asked me if I could lead a master class for the horns in the youth band. First of all AH! For as many band camps, horn sectionals I've ever led... OMG, never done it in German! But once I get past the impending terror of fumbling over broken German and confusing these kids more than helping them - it's pretty cool! I mean, I remember how excited I was by the surprising ease of being the member of a band in German, so maybe it will be cool to experience the language "situation" as the leader of the music... 

So, naturally, I agreed for this terrifying, yet awesome opportunity.

He gave me the scores for the pieces they're playing and I immediately noticed that one of them was dedicated to a middle school in Georgia. The Great Locomotive Chase, commissioned and dedicated to the 1999-2000 Tapp Middle School Symphonic Band. I don't know the program myself, but it was still exciting to think that with as many music educating friends I have in GA, that at least ONE person is familiar with that program. (like I said, it doesn't take much to excited me)

BUT WAIT! it gets better...

So I'm reading the notes on the inside when I come across the following paragraph:
It was composed in the fall of 1999 for the Tapp Middle School Concert Band under the direction of Erin Cole. The work is dedicated to the Tapp Middle School Band in commemoration of their performance at the University of Georgia in December of the same year
O.M.G. Here I am, sitting with my band in little Forchheim, Germany, holding a piece that was written for a band in the state I grew up in, to be played at the University I attended, at a festival I took part in! I don't know about you, but that is exciting stuff to me! It only would have been better if I had been at the 1999 Midfest, but alas, I went in 2000. 

I've been seriously buzzing about this little discovery for the past 90 minutes. I got home, ran in to tell Gemma, then ran back out saying "I'm so gonna blog about this!"
(don't judge me)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mullets aren't just for Gator fans

Oh, we all know the type - mullet, jean shorts, gaudy orange and blue apparel. Things you think only a gator fan would have the nerve (complete lack of sense) to wear. And for the most part you'd be right.
Unfortunately, Germany really tips the scale on the mullet count. It's one of those things that was strikingly obvious when I arrived in September, but over the past 7 months, I either have become numb to the mullet or Germany's wised up a little bit...

Now, I can't generalize too much. Not everyone in Germany has a mullet, and I've spoken to many Germans who see and share my concern with this problematic hair-demic.

But today, while out enjoying the increasingly warm spring weather, I noticed this gem of a mullet a few tables away. 
I wish I had more mullet photos to share. I've seen some real art here: kid mullets, old man mullets, she-mullets, slicked back mullets, curly mullets, spiky mullets, subtle mullets, and many many more. However, rarely does the opportunity arise for me to capture photo evidence of such perfection, and it's kind of awkward to just be like "Hey, can I get a picture of your mullet?!" 

As a final thought, I've always wondered how people get mullets. I mean, do they just go to the hair dresser and ask "I'd like a mullet" or maybe more subtly, "I want it a little shorter in the front, you know for business... and longer in the back, like a party!" And that raises the next question what hair dresser would actually do that? I feel like I would feel morally obligated to intervene at that point... 

Monday, March 28, 2011

People of the internet, feed me!

Dear internet people, want to help me out?

I only started cooking for myself regularly the year I moved to Switzerland in 2007. Before that I had either been on the meal plan or lived with my parents (my mom is great in the kitchen, and my dad... well, you never know when you're going to get a hotdog in the middle of your meatloaf with him).  Now, almost 4 years later, I'm still making the same 2 or 3 dishes I learned in Switzerland. 

My personal cooking method is just to add any combination of the following

  • bell pepper
  • zucchini
  • onion
  • garlic
  • tomato
Which works well in my 2 favorite dishes (favorite as in they're basically the only dishes I make), chicken teriyaki stir fry and veggie quiche. 

This week I'm on a strict pasta diet (it's all the rave these days... especially when you have 20€ to survive the entire week off of), so my limited creativity is even more limited. I was pretty proud tonight when I threw together basically everything I had for a zucchini-onion-chicken-alfredo-pasta dish. Which was actually pretty good. 

But I'm interested to expand my cooking repertoire. So, internet people, I'm turning to you! Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share? Preferably something not super complicated or cheap or made of things I'm likely to already have (as far as spices and such).  If I make it and I like it, I'll repost it for the world (or the 5 people that read my blog... hi mom, hi dad...) to know of your culinary genius! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

So there were 3 bananas walking down the street...

No really...

So you might remember I mentioned something called Fasching in an earlier post. If you're really good, you'll remember that I explained it's the time leading up to Ash Wednesday - sort of like a prolonged Mardi Gras. I basically of consider Fasching the German Halloween. I mean, really, the only thing the two holidays have in common is the tradition of wearing costumes. But that's close enough for me! 

In some parts of Germany, Fasching is a HUGE celebration over several days (Cologne is the most well-known city for Fasching). In Forchheim, however, we pretty much just had a parade. But everyone was still dressed up and I got to march (..."march") with the music club! 

Every year the band has a theme for their costumes and this year was Pirates. Well, since that doesn't really lend itself to originality (do I want to go as a pirate... or a pirate?), we had to get really creative. Luckily I got adopted by some of my friends in band to take part in a group costume... as a pirate ship! I have to admit, having to march with my actual horn while holding the music and wearing a box was no easy task!

It was fun to see the other costumes in band. There were, of course, plenty of pirates, but there was another ship, a few barrels of rum (my fave, I think) and I'm pretty sure I saw a Calypso from the third PotC movie. The floats in the parade were pretty good too. 

Sometimes they were basically just a party on wheels

and others had more obvious themes. 

This was the day before I left for Edinburgh, so I'm really glad I didn't miss it! I thought it was really fun to experience something uniquely German. If I'm in Germany for another Fasching, I really want to make it up to Cologne to see the "real" party 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

remember that time our landlords just bought us a 200€ tv?

Oh how times are always changing at Hotel Baptistella.  I've created this graph to show you the progression of my relationship with my landlords (otherwise known as Mama B and Papa B).
You'll remember a few of the highlights from previous posts: 
The broken oven is mentioned in my very first post from Forchheim
(that took 3 months to fix)
the washing machine discovery was worthy of it's own post
(a good 6 weeks before it was remedied)

But what's that you say? That last exciting event? Well, when they came the first time to help us set up our cable the first time, they took one look at our sad little TV (maybe about 13 inches...) and say they will ask around if anyone they know has any other TVs lying around we can use. 
(all of 2 weeks later)
Out of nowhere this morning, Santa I mean Papa B showed up at our doorstep with a TV for us. But no, not just another TV borrowed from someone else, but a brand new LED flat screen. And not only does he drop it off, he comes in and mounts it to our wall for us. So Mama B and Papa B are definitely taking care of us! 

Now if only we could get them to share their wifi.... 

Friday, March 25, 2011

don't forget your kilt - we're going dancing!

Berlin updates are going to have to wait till I a) get my sweet disposable cameras developed (which also depends on my figuring out where and having €€€) and b) finish with all my Scotland stories!

So today's post is brought to you by the traditional Scottish dance party (that's how I'll describe it anyway) called a Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee. duh). I didn't really know what to expect, but when we walked in and were greeted by the general dress code of kilts, tshirts and heavy boots, I knew I'd like it. 

Basically, it is a live band playing traditional Scottish music (on their electric fiddles, of course...) and everybody dances along. I don't mean dancing like prom night, but actual traditional dances. 
How do you join in if you don't know the dances, you might ask...
Before each dance, you go out on the dance floor however they tell you to line up (the majority had all the couples in one giant loop around the dance floor, boys on the inside, girls on the outside. Some had us in small circles of 6 or 8. One was 5 couples in a straight line, partners across from each other). Then they walk you through the steps. Some were simple: forward 3, hop, backwards 3, hop, spin the girl, waltz forward 8. While others were more complicated: 4 people hold hands and twist in and out of each other, 2 people work together to pick up 2 others under the shoulders and spin them around so fast their feet fly out. But they were all so much fun. After they walk you through it once, it's time to bust out your best moves. Or just, as I did, cross your fingers and hope you don't die. 

This Ceilidh is sponsored by the university and comes once a month. The crowd ranged anywhere from small kids (only a few, though) to old men (they would have seemed like creepers if I wasn't afraid they were going to die from the fast-paced music). There were experienced dancers who knew all the dances and did them well, then there were people like me who were there for the first time. 

We danced hard for a good 3 hours - I was so exhausted (and sweaty) by the end! And Simon, Shahida's   boyfriend, was such a good sport being the only boy in our group with 3 girls.  So it was always one girl dancing with Simon and then two other girls dancing together  (which, of course, led to the next decision of who was going to be the boy). 

And to wrap it all up, we all gather in a big circle and hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne. Or as I like to call it [G]Auld Lang Syne (because I'm just that cool). 

Oh Scotland, thanks for the red hair, love your dancing! 

Monday, March 21, 2011

that time I went to Berlin and forgot my camera

Hello from Berlin! Got here yesterday for a 5 day Fulbright conference for all German Fulbrighters (and then some). 
It's pretty swanky - they put us up in a 5 star hotel, feed us and entertain us for the whole time. I could get use to this. What could possibly not be good about this week?
Oh yeah, I forgot my camera. 
If you know me, you know I'm that person that is CONSTANTLY (yeah, all caps) taking pictures. I rarely even go out without my camera at all (even on a day-to-day basis). So being here in the amazing Berlin with great friends and so much to see, it's just torture to not have my camera! 
I did manage to buy a couple disposable cameras today (I was almost considering just buying a cheap old digital camera... might end up costing about the same if I go through too many disposable ones). Oh disposable cameras.
I swear, looking through the plastic little viewer is like looking through a porthole back to the 90's. I also enjoy (or not really) the element of surprise involved in not being able to check my pictures immediately. Hope they turn out...
There is already so much to tell about the trip (and I'm sure they're will be much more in the next few days) but for now I will just leave you with this really poor quality picture (taken with my macbook) of the view from our 7th floor room at the Park Inn on Alexanderplatz: The famous Fernsehturm or TV tower that stands out over Berlin's 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Flavor of the week

Although Great Britain isn't exactly known for their exemplary culinary skills, they did get one thing right: Chips.

well, I mean chips as in crisps, not chips as in fries - you have to be careful with that one. 

I first noticed it 3 years ago during my a trip to London. There, among the normal selections of Salt and Vinegar or Sour Cream and Onion, I noticed Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Thyme. 
Wait, what?! 
That's right. I've never seen a more impressive array of flavors on any chip[/crisp] shelf than in the supermarkets in Great Britain. 

So while perusing the aisles of the local Sainsbury's (a grocery story) last week in Edinburgh I decided to capture a few of my favorites. 

Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, are my top 3 chip[/crisp] flavors:

3. Lime and Coriander Chutney
This bag of chips, while not the most impressive flavor to be found on a chip[/crisp], wins major points for specificity and originality: I mean, chutney? Really?!

2. A TIE: Flame Grilled Steak and Sweet Chilli Chicken [sic]
One of my favorite things about chips[/crisps] in the UK is that they can be an entire main course in a little bag! This two struck a particular interest for going above and beyond with the delicious descriptors of "sweet chili" and "flame grilled"

and the winner is.........

1. Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper
Not only is this a big main course flavor for a little chip[/crisp], it represents a traditional (albeit, slightly disturbing) Scottish dish. It upholds the standard of originality set by our 3rd place, and with the addition of "cracked black pepper" continues with the delicious description found in 2nd place. 

So for those of you keeping score at home: 
Britain's chip[/crisp] flavors: 1, Rest of the world's: 0

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A brief history of beer, according to me

During my recent excursions, Shahida took me to a local German bar in Edinburgh. You might be asking yourself:
"But why would she take you  to a GERMAN bar in SCOTLAND when you live in Germany?"
Which is a fair question. However, it actually had nothing to do with the German beers offered. It was, rather, the Belgian beers that drew us to this cozy little bar outside the city center. 

But to really understand why this would be an important event on our schedule for the week, you have to know a little about my history with beer. 

My first beer was handed to me at a small party when I was 15 or so. But (and you'll be proud of me, mom) I took one sip then poured the rest out under the table (did I mention we were outside?). My relationship with beer over the next 5 years would stay pretty much the same... umm... because I didn't drink before I was 21...(?)

When I spent my year in Zürich, Shahida and I quickly bonded over our mutual dislike of beer. However, as is usually the case, beer was painfully cheaper than cocktails, and in Zürich cocktails are reaaaaaaaally expensive. So we embarked on a common journey to find a beer we both could enjoy. 

Luckily we had the help of some very experienced beer-drinkers. One being our Belgian friend Wim. (No, that's not Wim in the picture, but that's a poster of some popular Belgian beers he brought back to aid in our Belgian beer education). 

So despite being so close to Germany and all the beer it offers, Shahida and I spent our time in Switzerland learning that the best Chimay is the blue kind, to be careful when nearing the end of a Kwak, and to never EVER accept a beer that has not been served in the correct glass. 

In recent years I have become a self-proclaimed beer-snob. Now, in all honesty, it's not actually because I know a whole lot about beer, just that I have grown to like the more "unusual" flavors (really really bitter, for example). And I also refuse to drink, for lack of a more tasteful expression, shitty beer

Since my "beer education" I have ventured out from Belgian beers and learned to really appreciate (and perhaps this can be credited to my year with Terrapin) the relatively recent phenomenon of the American micro-brewery. And, of course, now that I'm actually in Germany, I'm finally giving those a go too! 

But, of course, when it comes to Shahida and I, whether 2 years or 2 days ago, we have to reminisce the good ol' days with a delicious Belgian beer [or two].

<-------- 2008 in Zürich

Last week in Edinburgh -------->

Monday, March 14, 2011

what a tease

Well I'm all packed up to head back to Forchheim. 
As expected, I had an amazing in Edinburgh with Shahida and Simon! Great city, great company - what else can you ask for? 
However, there are too many great stories to post all at once, so instead I'll leave you with a promise for lots of posts about all our shenanigans... and a picture. 
This is me on Calton Hill looking out over Princes Street in the center of Edinburgh. During this week I discovered that Edinburgh is the windiest city I have EVER visited. The wind never let up, and it usually made it feel about 10º colder!  Also made the wearing of dresses and skirts a little challenging... 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A tribute to Harry Potter

In the heart of the old city in Edinburgh there is a cafe called the Elephant House. From the outside it looks like pretty much another cafe - a red facade with big windows - really nothing that seems to out of the ordinary. 

Of course, when you look a little closer at those big front windows, you'll see that this little cafe boasts itself to be the "birthplace of Harry Potter." 

That's right, JK Rowling favored this cafe (among a few others) in Edinburgh while writing the first 3 Harry Potter books. If you check out the link to the cafe's website, they have a very cool video of an interview with JK Rowling as she was writing book 3, before the books got really popular. 

So, being a bit of a Harry Potter fanatic myself (I don't want to admit how many times I've read the books...), I decided to give it a try. 

My favorite thing is that you order tea not by the cup but in either a small pot (about 2 cups worth) or a large pot (about 3 cups). And it's not just a cheap tea bag from a selection of about 4 different flavors, but actual tea leaves. I feel really awesome when I get to use a tea strainer :-p Having never been a fan of coffee, I <3 the UK for their tea culture!

Today when I went (yeah... I've been two days in a row now) I got a prime seat by a window in the back with a perfect view of the Edinburgh Castle (also a personal fave sight in the city). From this seat it was perfectly clear how this would be ideal location to create something like world of Harry Potter. 

Let's not lie, I'll probably make a few more visits to this great little cafe before I leave on Monday morning. 

Keep your eye out for many more stories from Edinburgh to come! It's great to be back :) 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

and I'm off!

In about 12 hours I will be getting on the train to get to the [other train, to get to the other train to get to the] airport to get to Shahida in Edinburgh!

I'm very excited to go back to visit Shahida, but also because I love Edinburgh! I like it in the way that I liked Zurich - it's a big city, or at least has everything a big city has,  but it isn't actually all that big (at least not when compared to NYC or London, for example). And it has a castle (<--- automatic win).

I'm flying from Munich which means I have to first take the train (with 2 connections). I've come to be really relaxed with the train system here because, despite it not always being the most punctual, there are always a few different options for reaching your final destination (even if it means simply waiting 20 min till the next train comes), and, even better, the tickets are not for specific trains (you can get a reservation, but that's only 2-4€, and only for the really fast trains). This means, when I get a ticket between Forchheim and Munich tomorrow, it doesn't matter what time I leave, or which cities I connect in, as long as I'm heading in the direction of Munich, my ticket is valid. It makes travel very stress free.

However, planes do not operate this way (though they should really consider it...).

When planes are involved I start to feel a twinge of travel anxiety.  I go into way over-planning mode. I write down every possible train to leave as early or as a late as I can, so when I'm stranded by delays, there still might be a chance for me to make it to the airport on time. I've already spent half my day just staring at the train times, committing it to memory.

Ironically enough, I also always stress that I will sleep through my alarm. No, I'm not leaving obnoxiously early. My alarm is set for 7am (which, if I'm being honest, is probably way too early anyway). The real reason it's ironic though, is that in the past month I've slept in past 7:30 maybe twice. It's a curse more than a blessing, but I've always been an early riser.

I love to travel (obviously?), but I can't help but get a little anxious for the actual traveling part.

So here's to hoping I don't over sleep, miss all/any of my 2 connections from delays, and make it to the airport in one piece on time!

See ya in Edinburgh!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Vlog time!

OMG! It's here!

Emily's Vlog #8

British English Edition!

Lesson Planning: 50 Nifty United States

I hate to admit it (or do I?) but this incredibly simple, yet effective lesson was born out of complete laziness. It was originally created as day 2 of the USA intro lesson plan, but it is not at all dependent on that lesson.

I've done it for 7th graders, but really it doesn't involve too much language abilities, so you can do it at any level that is just starting to learn the states. It is just a fun lesson on the States.

We start by listing as many states as possible from memory as a class. I really stress no books or maps, because the whole lesson is sort of dependent on them not being able to name all 50 at first. I have a nice little worksheet for them to write on, but unfortunately I don't have it saved on my comp, so I can't upload the file for you. However, it is really basic: 50 blanks on one side (with very basic written instructions) and an unlabeled map of the 50 states on the other.

Like I said, the rest of the lesson is pretty pointless if they name all 50 states at first, my closest call was a class who got to 45. The general average has been about 30 though.

After you've exhausted all the states you know from memory I play them the most amazing song ever. That's right, School House Rock's "Fifty Nifty United States". The kids usually love it because it's super corny. And I always tell them that it's ok to dance to the first bit. So then they listen to the song as it lists all 50 states. I usually do the listening twice. After each time we see how many new state names we heard and add them to the list.

If, after 2 listenings, they are only missing 1 or 2, I say the states for them (partly because I'm a show off and partly because the song can be difficult to understand). But I like to make it exciting for them, so I ask the class who thinks I can name all 50 states from memory. I had one very faithful class who all thought I could, but the rest are usually pretty split. Of course, I've had this song memorized since the 3rd grade, so it's a breeze.

Once we've named all 50 states I tell them I have a new challenge for them: a race. Me against the class. We see who can fill in the states on the map on the back the fastest. But I tell them, they get to use their books (which has a map of the US), but I don't! I've honestly never had more silent classes than during this part. They are so focused
and determined. But I usually win. 

I fill out my answers on the overhead and turn it on when I'm done and ask them to check my work. Then, if there is still time left over, we label more things as a class: Washington, D.C.; the Mississippi River; the Great Lakes; the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; the Gulf of Mexico and Canada and Mexico.

Like I said, super simple, but between the song and the race, the kids really get into it!

Lesson Planning: Intro to USA unit

The 7th grade at my school has been starting their USA unit, which means I've been in a LOT of 7th grade classes these past couple weeks.  This is a simple lesson, but it's been a lot of fun!

We start by making a mind map (I've come to love a good mind map this year) of anything and everything that the students think of when they think of the USA. The picture on the right is what a typical USA mind map has looked like in my classes. Those are all actual responses I've gotten. (Justin Bieber gets a question mark because he's canadian)

Then we go to the book (which I'm sorry I can't scan, but this part is easily adapted by just picking photos yourself and writing captions to go with them). Where they have to match the photos with the corresponding captions. We do this together as a class.

After they've matched all the captions to the photos in the book, I ask them to pick a word from our mind map that we made at the beginning. They can pick any word they want, and they have to draw a picture of this word (or what it makes them think of) and write at least 3 sentences explaining why they drew what they drew. 

I like to save about 10 minutes at the end of class and go through the drawings and have them read their sentences out loud. I've found the best way to do this is ask "who drew a picture of ?" then they all hold up their pics and one kid reads theirs. This is the most effective way to avoid having 10 pictures of the Hollywood sign read. 

Like I said, simple, but the kids really seem to enjoy the chance to be a little creative and it's also been enjoyable for me, because you get something new every time!
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