Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The final countdown: the thrilling conclusion

And it's finally here, my last night as a Fulbrighter and the single most important lesson I learned in the year leading up to this...
Things I learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding a bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be the student
#5 - German
#4 - I am a Georgia girl
#3 - you're allowed to visit home on a year abroad
#2 - the future comes no matter how hard you try to avoid it
#1 - it's all about the people
Honestly, this is the simplest lesson in my entire countdown. There is no witty story or profound moment of enlightenment involved. And yet, it is without a doubt the most important thing on the list. I'm sure almost every Fulbrighter formed preconceived notions on how their year was going to turn out as soon as they got their placement letter ("I got Berlin?! I'm going to be so culturally diverse!" "Munich?! Lederhosen EVERYDAY!" "Forchheim... is that a real place?"), but I found it really has very little to do with where you are, but rather who you're with.
Now all the Fulbright ETAs met at orientation and again in March at the Berlin conference. So I've met a fair share of the 140 people placed across Germany, and trust me, it is a very diverse group of personalities. So the fact that I ended up in the same region as 6 other amazingly awesome ETAs, I'm going to say was fate. You may remember my explanation of ETA and famous,  well those people are my group - the other ETAs in the Franconia region (we prefer to just call ourselves "Franken"). We don't like to brag, but at the convention in Berlin, we got the impression that we were the closest-knit group of ETAs there. We're just that awesome. We hang out (or used to hang out, now, I guess :() fairly regularly, and became incredibly close through our woes and triumphs over the year.
Without these people, my year would not have been half the success that it was. So that is why I wanted to use my last post as an official Fulbrighter  to introduce you to FRANKEN, the most amazing ETAs Germany has ever seen:
You know Gemma. The better half of Gemily. Poor Gemma is the only British assistant, so she has to put up with a lot of our Americanisms. She and I live together and basically come as a packaged deal in the Franken group. Two years ago, Gemma did was an ETA in Berlin and (like me) had been just looking for any reason to get back to Germany. Basically she's so awesome that she's already had an entire post devoted to just her!
Jennifer and I have a pretty similar story in that we quite randomly decided to study abroad for one year,  fell in love with Europe and have been doing anything we can to get back. I think that's why we get along so well. Only, instead of Switzerland, Jennifer had spent most her time in Austria (they have the Alps and really strange accents, so, I mean, it's not too different from Switzerland). She has had some interesting luck in her Fulbright year, between crazy landlords and extreme medical adventures, and I'm always so impressed by what a positive attitude she keeps through it all! She also frequents Hotel Baptistella for caramel corn binges and HIMYM marathons. 
Erin is the only one in our group that doesn't live on a direct train line. But despite the hassle, she always manages to make it out with us. I like to think that she is the most rational and sensible one out of all of us, but at the same time, she cracks me up every time we hang out. She is also very good at rapping. Especially when her only line is to say "Ausgebildet". 
Oh Andy. Andy was the first of our group to leave when he headed home about 2 weeks ago. He is definitely the life of the party in that he is the one who is always encouraging us to party at all. Andy was living abroad for the first time this year, so he probably did the most traveling out of any of us. I swear, every weekend he was in another country making new friends and having an awesome time. He is also the mastermind behind the ETA and famous videos. And it's uncanny how many people wink at him. 
Sind Sie der Beck? We like to call Matt "der Beck" since that is his last name and also the name of a very popular bakery chain here. Despite having probably the worst experience with German bureaucracy ever when he first arrived (and for the following 4 months), he was still able to come out with a positive attitude and a good sense of humor about it all. He is probably the wittiest person in our group and can always think of the best response in any situation. He is also very outspoken about his love of ethnic women. 
Zach is my music nerd buddy. Since we both have a history of studying music (some things will haunt you forever), we formed a special bond over a children's evening performance by the Bamberg symphony (hey, cheap tickets are where it's at). Aside from singing, Zach's special talents include dancing - with moves he only first busted out with at the Berlin conference in March. Since then I think we've all looked at Zach in a new light. Until two weeks ago at the Berg festival in Erlangen. There we met a completely new side of Zach, that, for the sake of internet exposure, we'll refer to as #DZ. Long story short, I told #DZ I would marry him and I meant it. 
Of course there were other people (both ETAs and... well, not ETAs) who I met along the way that definitely impacted my year. But these 6 - the Franken group - were really something special. So thanks, guys, for helping to make my Fulbright year as awesome as it was. And whoever I end up with next year has 12 very big shoes to fill. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The final countdown: 2 peas in a pod

 or, you know, 2 days in a countdown
Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding your bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be the student
#5 - German
#4 - I am a Georgia girl 
#3 - you're allowed to visit home on a year abroad
#2 - The future comes no matter how hard you try to avoid it
This one is a pretty good life lesson that I've really escaped facing for a long time... say about 23 years. Really, there were only three times in my past that I've actually  had to make serious decisions that would affect my future:
1998: picking an instrument for 6th grade band (hey, that was serious business for an 11 year old)
2005: picking a college/course of study
2009: trying to figure out what to do after graduation
Other than those three times it really has been smooth sailing (I'll just ride out this college thing as long as I can... add another major? ok! Oh wait, you mean I have to do something after I graduate. Ehh, I'll worry about that when I graduate) Well, if it wasn't made clear to me in the Fulbright application, which is a grueling year-long process that is started 15 months before you even board the plan to Germany, the future involves a little pre-planning. But if you know me at all I like to wait till the last possible second to do anything. And I'm damn good at, if I say so myself (you're talking to the girl who made a 100 on my final upper-level music history paper that I started at 8pm the night before it was due). 
After all the stress and waiting and applying and waiting and planning that went into the Fulbright application, when I arrived in Germany in September I was just ready to enjoy my Fulbright year. No more applications. No more stress. Just enjoying life abroad. 
That was until about mid March when I realized that my options were pretty much live in a box in Germany avoiding deportation or live in a box in Georgia avoiding the wrath of my mother for not having a job. And really both were equally as frightening. There I was in the final months of my stress-free Fulbright year and I realized I had not organized a single thing for after the grant ended. 
What ensued was a whirlwind of stress and self-loathing and about 500 different fall back plans that went as low as moving back home and getting some part-time job in Watkinsville that I wouldn't even need a car to get to and just save money for a year while I got my life back on track (hi, my name is Emily and I'm a recovering procrastinating Fulbright scholar....). 
Long story short, I got very lucky and ended up with another year as a teaching assistant which means I get to stay in Germany longer and I get another year of job security. A sort of get out of jail free card for the unplanned future. 
But I have learned one very important lesson in it all: no matter how much you just want to live in the moment and enjoy the present, the future is always creeping up and eventually you're going to have to face it, ready or not.
Which is why I'll be spending my year next year soaking up the excitement of another year in Germany, but also applying for grad school and looking into career options and generally just trying to not end up in a box (in Germany or in Georgia). 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The final countdown: t-3 days.

I'd like to begin this post with a happy birthday to my dearest old pops. I always tell him he's old, but today it's particularly true! 
but let's get back to the countdown...
Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding your bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be the student
#5 - German
#4 - I am a Georgia girl
#3 - you're allowed to visit home on a year abroad
This is something that I would have completely denied 4 years ago when I was leaving for Switzerland. I was heading off to not live in Georgia for the first time in 10 years and, by God, I wasn't going to come back till it was over! 
And I didn't. I didn't see Georgia, my home, or my mom for 10 months.
When I left for Germany last August, I remember not knowing when I would see anyone, let alone the country again. This time it wasn't so much that I was convinced I had to stay abroad as it was I didn't know when I would have the money to come back. But I never thought I'd be getting ready for my second trip home at this point...
As luck would have it, I found myself with a little extra holiday cash and amazing deals on international flights a mere 6 weeks before the Christmas break. So, quite spontaneously, I booked a flight home for a week at Christmas and managed to keep the whole thing a surprise for my parents. 

In the weeks leading up to my Christmas return, I started to worry. Maybe going home was like cheating. I was resetting the living-abroad clock to zero and gaining an unfair advantage over my friends who could not make it home for the holiday. Not to mention, the first half year is always the hardest. Right around the midpoint you get that "ok, that was cool, glad I did it, but I'm ready to be done" feeling. And while that feeling was not nearly as prevalent this time around as it was in Zürich, I was worried that getting a taste of home-life would make me not want to come back to Germany. 
But after my week at home, visiting friends, spending time with family, I gladly packed up my suitcase and got back on the plane, ready to continue life in Forchheim. 

And I have not once regretting making that trip since. I think a quick visit for the holidays was exactly what I needed to get me motivated for the next 6 months. Plus, I will never be able to get the look on my mom's face when I popped out of the trunk out of my head - if anything, I'm glad I went just for being able to pull of the largest international Gauld-surprise in history!

So even though I'm super excited to be spending another year in Germany and at the end I'll be able to say I've lived abroad for 2 years, I have no doubt in my mind that my visit home will be the best thing I do all summer. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

the final countdown: the final 4

Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English Language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding your bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be the student
#5 - German
#4 - I am a Georgia girl
This is a truth I have been trying to avoid for the past 13 years. Even though I wasn't born there, and didn't even move there till I was 11, I have spent over half my life in the state of Georgia. In fact, having been born in Nashville and never having moved north of the Mason-Dixon line, I don't know how I even managed to deny my southern-ness for as long as I did. 

I remember a similar thing happening during my year in Switzerland, only on a less specific scale. I've never felt more patriotic (Go 'murika) than I did that year. It wasn't that I was wearing red, white and blue everyday and singing Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" in the shower every morning. But instead of being annoyed or embarrassed when I ran into loud or obnoxious (or loudly obnoxious) Americans, I felt a little twinge of kinship - those are my loud and obnoxious people!

This year, however, seemed to go a bit further and awaken my southern belle. Although I still don't say "y'all", like grits, or believe the south will rise again, I have embraced my southern roots more than ever. I don't know if it was my group of very not southern American friends here or the fact that I was constantly asked to prepare lessons or talk about my home in the US, or maybe some weird combination of the two. But whatever it was, it's made me miss hearing a good southern drawl, the standard of southern hospitality and cold sip of sweet tea on a scorching summer day more than ever! 

I wonder if I'll still feel that why by the end of July... 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The final countdown: Fünf Tage

und jetzt geht's weiter mit...

Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English Language
#9 - There is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - Riding a bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - Missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be a student
#5 - German
I mean, I am living in Germany and my aim in coming here was to improve my German... But whether or not my language skills have actually improved since September, I've definitely gotten a lot more comfortable with speaking. And that is the number one thing I tell my students: the main point is to just speak. 
At the beginning of the year, if I didn't know how to say something, I would quietly dismiss it, then look it up later - at which point it was pointless because I didn't need to say it anymore. These days, I've become a lot more comfortable just saying "wait, how do you say this?" or "is this the right word?"
Of course, where I'm living (you know, Franken, we've talked about this before), there is a fairly strong dialect (Fränkisch), so understanding the locals can be challenging at times (especially old people!), and some words/pronunciations I've picked up over the year will probably be completely useless once I move away. But, it is definitely much closer to "real" German than what I learned in Switzerland (where, for example, I spent a year calling a bike, which is "Fahrrad" in German, a "Velo"). 
Earlier this year I posted a list of 6 steps of language acquisition while living abroad, and I have to say, I really think I've made it to step 6 (complete lack of shame). So although I still have a long way to go to fluency (a looooong way), I have pretty much lost all shame for making mistakes - and really, that's the best place for any language student to get (and it only took 7 years).

Friday, June 24, 2011

The final countdown: 6 geese a laying

Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding a bike in the snow can be dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
#6 - how to not be a student
While I have learned heaps and heaps about teaching and being the teacher, the single greatest lesson I learned in it all was that it's not about becoming a teacher, but rather, no longer being the student

However, when you spend 23 years of your life being the student, the one in the classroom furiously copying down notes or meticulously reading and rereading materials, it can be incredibly challenging to suddenly jump on the other side of that equation. 

For one thing, going from student to teacher you have to learn to be a lot more selfless. As a student, I remember always being the one who wanted to answer the question, put in my opinion or read the passage out loud. How great being the on in charge of the class and able to just answer, give opinions, and read out loud as much and as often as I liked. Except no. I realized very quickly that teachers don't ask questions, begin debates or assign reading because they don't know the answer or are too lazy to do it themselves. They do it to give the student the chance. And, no longer being the student myself, it was my turn to ask questions, begin debates and assign reading. I realized as a teacher, your job is not so much to answer questions as it is to ask them. 

I also learned that teachers don't actually have all the answers themselves. Growing up, I tended to take my teachers' words as gospel. I mean, maybe I really did just have all-knowing teachers (I wouldn't doubt it, actually). I was terrified for my first weeks in front of the classroom, just thinking "oh no, what if they ask me a question I can't answer?!" But then I realized, they don't know the answer either (unless it's the capital of Australia, in which case I was actually the only person in the room who didn't know the answer). Now that doesn't mean that I just made something up "ha! what do they know, they think I'm right!" Instead I realized that as a student you feel stupid when you don't know the answer because the teacher DOES. But as the teacher you don't feel stupid if you don't know the answer, you just give a simple "you know, I'm not sure, I'll look it up and let you know." 

That brings me to my third not being the student lesson: don't make things up! When you're a student and you just make up the answer to the question, you get corrected. When you're the teacher and you make things up, you've completely warped the education of a class of 30 students. Just don't do it. 

It will definitely be interesting to see how next year goes actually coming in with some experience this time... 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Final Countdown: Lucky #7

Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding a bike in the snow is dangerous
#7 - missing your last train isn't always a bad thing
Ok, so this one really might be a euphemism for something more profound. But I'll let you be the judge of that...

It was the middle of January and Gemmani decided to face the cold and get out of the apartment one night during the final days of the winter break. We thought we'd head up to Bamberg since we hadn't been there much before Christmas. It was meant to be a simple night out - get dinner, have a drink or two, then head home probably by 11. 

But as luck would have it, that was the night we discovered the Irish Pub. The pub that reconnected Gemma with her roots (or you know, another island geographically close and often mistakenly related to her roots). We ended up having such a great time, we decided to aim for the last train, which left around 12:30am. Since Bamberg's station is a bit outside the city center, and we hadn't been there much before, we decided to leave a little early just in case. So at midnight we gathered our things, paid our tab and started the trek back to the station. 

We arrived at the station at 12:15 am. But it was surprisingly quiet. When we checked the departure board, we saw that the last train back was actually at 12:13, not 12:30 (oops...). But instead of getting upset, or taking a 40€ taxi ride home, we jumped in the little play helicopter, considered our options, then headed back into town to party the night away till the first morning train in 4 short hours.

Even though it was a cold Thursday night in the middle of January, no students were in town, and most the bars were closed by the time we got back from the station, we managed to find one sketchy little underground dance club and dance the night away! Despite the misunderstandings, unexpected delays and frigid weather, we didn't let any of it get us down and ended up having one of our best nights in Germany! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The final countdown: 8 days till Georgia

Ok, actually it's 9 days till I get Georgia, but since I have a 20 hour layover in Amsterdam, it's 8 days till I leave. But I digress...
Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
#8 - riding your bike in the snow can be dangerous
No, this isn't supposed to be a Euphemism for something more profound. I really did learn, plain and simple, that riding a bike in the snow is not as easy as it may seem. 

We were warned by our teachers that when it started to snow, we should probably leave our bikes at home.  If you are a religious das Blog reader (hi, dad), you might remember the account of my first (but sadly not final) attempt of riding a bike in the snow. It ended with me covered in dirty road-slush, abandoning my bike somewhere along the way to school. 

Unfortunately, I tend to be pretty persistent. So even though that first ride didn't go well, a few weeks later, after I had gotten my snow-legs, I thought maybe I'd be a little more adept at taking on the snow. Right, so if you're from a place where 1. people don't generally ride bikes as a mode of transportation and 2. it doesn't actually snow (or when it does the whole city shuts down so you don't have anywhere to go anyway), it is safe to say you should not combine the two. Ever. For the more practiced bike-riders/snowfarers, sure, this might be doable (there were definitely plenty of committed bikers taking on the snow all winter here), but for someone like me, who only ever really rides a bike on nice paved paths and plays in the snow like a small child, it just shouldn't be done. 

Although I never actually got hurt, or even got in a real accident, I had enough close calls in my few snow-biking experiences to maintain a proper respect (read: fear) for the possibility of sliding into an untimely and icy death for the rest of the winter season. 

But because I love snow (it's the simple things in life), getting to walk a few miles in a winter wonderland everyday for a couple months didn't bother me too much! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The final countdown: 9 days

the countdown continues of...

Things I've learned during my Fulbright year:
#10 - a lot about the English language
#9 - there is such a thing as too much free time
As a teaching assistant, you're only required to work 12 hours a week. And by week, I mean 4 days (you are supposed to get one free day a week). So, out of the 168 hours there are in a week, 156 of them are free time. Living the dream right? 


But Emily, you're in Europe - can't you use all those free hours to explore, see the world, visit places most Americans don't even know exist?! 
Ah, yes, wouldn't that be nice. But unfortunately, when you only work 12 hours a week, you aren't exactly getting paid buckets of money either. 

Of course, you might have already realized the amount of spare time I have on my hands from posts like this, this, and especially this (For goodness sake, I'm living in Germany and the most exciting thing I had to write about is doing my laundry...).  And I  really am trying to appreciate rather than resent how little I have to work, because I know that one day not very far from now, I'll have a real job* with real work hours and just wish I had a little extra time. But for now I'm tackling the very serious art of wasting time (which is made especially difficult when you're internet access has a limited amount of data transfer). And while you might think that having so much free time would make you incredibly productive, I've found that it actually makes you quite lazy. Why take care of this today when I will still have plenty of time for it tomorrow (ad infinitum, on a downward cycle of nothingness)??  

On the other hand, this free time hasn't been completely wasted. I have been able to do a fair amount of traveling and exploring, I've spent many hours contemplating my future (it's still in the works...), and I've basically memorized the entire series of How I Met Your Mother. 

So for those of you working 50/60+ hour work weeks, I understand that you may hate me right now for complaining about the woes of having nothing to do, but I promise the other extreme is just as draining. 


Monday, June 20, 2011

The final countdown: a Fulbright year in Review

I realized recently that my Fulbright year will be over before I know it. It hadn't really hit me yet, and I definitely haven't been counting down each second with dread the way I did in Zürich. Not because the year was worse (though it was about 110% different), but because I'm coming back. Honestly, I've had an amazing year here and I'm sad to see it coming to an end, but I'm having a hard time being too nostalgic because I'm so excited about being able to do it again next year! However, as this was a pretty special year, I don't want the end of it to go unnoted. So to commemorate the passing of my Fulbright ETA, for my last ten days, I will be counting down the top 10 things I've learned over this year.
Things I've learned during my Fulbright year: 
#10 - a lot about the English language.
That's right. I've been living in Germany since September, and while my spoken English may have suffered, I haven't felt so knowledgeable about English grammar since I was diagramming sentences in the 7th grade. In teaching a foreign language (especially when it is your native language), you begin to realize just how much of everything that you say is that way because of a rule. 
It's very easy to take fluency in a language for granted: "You say it that way, because that's the way it is. You just have to know it." 
Well, sometimes that's true - like knowing whether you pronounce the word "read" as "I like to read" or "I read that last week". But usually there is a rule.  Even if it is something as simple as conjugating a verb (he, she, it - das s muss mit!), or putting something in a particular tense.
Let's play a little game: make a sentence in the correct tense. I'll keep it simple, your sentence only needs the subject "I" and the verb "ask". Now see if you can put your sentence correctly in the following tenses:
  • Present
    • simple:
    • progressive:
  • Past
    • simple:
    • progressive:
  • Present Perfect
    • simple:
    • progressive:
  • Past Perfect
    • simple:
    • progressive: 
  • Future
  • Conditional I
  • Conditional II
If you got these correct without looking it up*, you either payed really close attention in the 7th grade, teach 7th grade, have taught English as a foreign language, have learned English as a foreign language or majored in English.  I'll be honest, I had to be refreshed on the tenses and their exact rules at the beginning of this year. Not only how to use these tenses, but when to use them. Of course, as a native speaker, the answer is usually, of course I know when to use them... because I just KNOW.  But when a student asks "what is the difference between 'he bought a house' and 'he had bought a house'?" would you be able to answer?
Syntax was also a big one that, though I could spot and correct with ease, I found myself struggling to explain just why it was incorrect to say "I go tomorrow in the woods hiking" (In English, the word order follows "place-manner-time", while in German it is "time-manner-place"). Again, it is something that is obvious and natural to a native speaker, but when was the last time you stopped and said "I'm going hiking in the woods tomorrow because it's place-manner-time in the English language". 
So thank you, Fulbright ETA, you reenforced my knowledge of basic English grammar! 

  • Present
    • simple: I ask
    • progressive: I am asking
  • Past
    • simple: I asked
    • progressive: I was asking
  • Present Perfect
    • simple: I have asked
    • progressive: I have been asking
  • Past Perfect
    • simple: I had asked
    • progressive: I had been asking
  • Future: I will ask/I am going to ask
  • Conditional I: I would ask
  • Conditional II: I would have asked

Friday, June 17, 2011

I couldn't make this up if I tried

While out shopping today, I decided to waste a little time perusing the movies/music section. And much to my cultural-difference-spotting delight, I stumbled upon this gem of a musical genre, as seen by German marketing:
oh so many things to say, yet no amount of words seem to do it justice. Instead I will just bask in the totally not racist marketing ploys of my current country of residence. 
This genre, I guess unsurprisingly, is compiled solely of Rap/R&B. And I especially like that a good majority of the CDs (you know, the ones that aren't R. Kelly, Notorious B.I.G., and Eminem) are German artists. I mean really, that's just lolz.
Something like this wouldn't last 2 minutes in the US without a lawsuit, so I just love seeing it as an officially accepted label in a very prominent store here! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

talk about airing your dirty laundry in public...

Today started out like any normal day. I woke up, realized I had no plans, commitments, or any real reason to change out of my pjs at all. But still, after sitting in bed, reveling in the nothingness that is my life for a good half hour, I decided I should clean (are you sitting down, mom? it's true!). And, of course, the first order of business: Laundry.
I really outdid myself with laundry this time. See, I was trying out the new "two piles" approach (it's all the rage in Europe, I hear). Things that were really dirty and needed to be washed went right in the dirty laundry basket. Things that could be worn again (you know, like that t-shirt that only made a 20 minute appearance on Saturday when I had to run to the store), went on the chair. Unfortunately, this highly thought-out and perfectly organized system quickly turned into more of a "oh, which pile am I closer to, to throw stuff in?" (I mean, who saw that one coming?!). So not only did I have dirty laundry hiding in several different corners of my room, I had also managed to unknowingly accumulate my largest collection of dirty laundry to date. Good thing I had all day!

An hour after putting in my first load, I return to the laundry room (you know, that room with the TWO washing machines that our land lady forgot to mention every time I asked for for the first 6 weeks)  to make room for load number 2. As I'm pulling everything out, I notice it is considerably more wet than normal. At first I just figured it was because I had my sheets in, and the smaller pieces of clothes usually get wrapped up in the big sheets, perhaps preventing them from getting excess water out effectively... But no, when I pulled out the last few articles of clothing, clearly dripping wet, I noticed it. A pile of water, about two inches deep still in the machine.


OMG, did I just break their machine?! omgwhatdoidowhodoitellmakeitgoaway!! So I throw the sopping wet clothes into washing machine #2 just for holding. While I try to figure out what to do with the flood in machine #1. Spin Cycle. Yes, there has to be a way to just activate the spin cycle again and it will automatically drain the water. And by the same token, I can just re-spin cycle the clothes now in machine #2. Focus. Machine #1 first. I shut the door and look at my options.

Now, washing machines in general confuse me. I prefer the ones with options like "hot, cold, color, white, delicates, etc." Easy choices. And that's just with American machines. German washing machines, well, I just pick a setting and hope everything comes out the same size and color. It's not really the language thing, more the numbers thing. There're all these options for different numbers, but what are they? Temperatures? Are they in Celsius? Of course... but what does it all mean?!?! AHHH (see how this can turn into a very stressful activity?) Maybe I was better off just sticking with the bathtub laundry! (just kidding, I'd never go back to that)

So here I am trying to figure out which setting means spin cycle. hmm. "Schleudern." That looks like a good one. Never used that word before, but logically on the ring of options it seems like the only choice. Turn the knob to Schleudern and press start.  A little water drains. Success! But no. It stops. Ok, I press "stop" then "start" again. A little more water drains. I repeat this process till all the water has drained. Ok, deep breaths, I'll just open the door and.... what? the door... The door is locked shut. Ok, I'll just press "Ende" (bet you can't guess what that one means). Nothing. Turn the whole thing off? Nope. Break the door off? Just kidding! Ok, so I'll just have to let it run the whole spin cycle and open itself when it's done...

I set the other machine (you know, the one that actually has clothes in it) to do the spin cycle at the same time. But, knowing my luck, I figure I better stay for a couple minutes and see both machines get started, to make sure they don't spontaneously combust (I mean, for all I know I could have just turned it to "drain water then self-destruct").  Then machine #2 (with clothes) starts rocking back and forth, while machine #1, starts spinning so fast, I'm convinced it's trying to break through the time-space continuum. OMG. now I'm going to ruin both of their machines! So I stop the rocking machine and reposition the clothes (because, even in a state of panic, I know that rocking just means everything is off balance).

Then I just walk away. What's done is done. If these machines are going to rock themselves over, or jump through space-time, there's nothing I can do about it. Except come back in 15 minutes when the cycles are done.

Of course, my first two google searches when I get back upstairs? "Schleudern definition" and "Running an empty washing machine". Turns out Schleudern is, in fact, spin cycle (Emily: 1, German language: 0), and that running an empty washing machine is quite safe.

So needless to say, I managed to avoid a couple major catastrophes today, and I get to sleep worry free in clean bed sheets (mom...)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

after not leaving my apartment for 3 days...

Right, so I hate to admit this, but it's true. For three consecutive days - Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday - I did not leave my apartment once. To be fair, I had a couple reasons for being so reclusive and boring. One, I'm poor. Well, I'm not poor, per se, but I will be poor soon and I'm trying to avoid the inevitable as long as possible. And if there is one thing I learned - if you don't leave your apartment, you don't spend money! Also, we had a friend in town. I mean, she's only from Erlangen (it's kind of like saying "I have a friend in Watkinsville for the weekend - she's from Athens"), but together, it made lounging around in pjs, watching marathons of HIMYM, movies or just hours of facebook stalking seem totally acceptable. 
But today reality hit, and I knew that I had to get out in the fresh air. So I decided to go for a bike ride to in the Fränkische Schweiz (Franconian Switzerland) it's a region in Franken really well known for it's visible cliffs in it's hill/mountains (too small for mountains, but bigger than hills). It's got all kinds of bike and hiking paths and pretty nature and all that fun [read: free] stuff!

So I set off towards a small village Gemmani had been to once in the fall called Streitberg. It's got a couple of very neat castle ruins to visit. I didn't really know exactly where I was going (I mean, I looked it up on google maps before hand, but I didn't know if the bike path would be different than the roads), but luckily it was all really well marked and I made it there and back alive (with only one wrong turn, which was quickly remedied).

It took about 1 hour to ride the 15km out there (including a few photo op stops and one wrong turn), then I spent an hour or so in the town hiking up to one of the ruins then stopping to read my book for a little bit. The ride back was much quicker - I think it was about 40 minutes tops. 
It was also really nice to actually get out - and completely FREE! I'll definitely be heading back out into the Fränkische Schweiz, and I also want to try the bike paths up to Bamberg or Erlangen! 

This was my route - nothing too exciting, just there and back, I'll try to be a little more adventurous next time. It was a total of about 20 miles of riding. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That time I had a staring contest with my dinner

Once upon a time, Gemmani were having dinner in the Kellerwald...

but to really appreciate this story, you need to know a few things:
First, I've never really liked to eat fish. It has really only been in the last 3 or 4 years that I've started eating fish.  Now, even though I don't often go out of my way to order fish, I enjoy the occasional fishy dish, or sushi (actually, I like more than the occasional sushi). But I still tend to avoid the really fishy-tasting fish (because that makes a lot of sense...). 
Second, whenever I go to the Kellerwald, I pretty much always order the currywurst to eat. So much so that the servers at our favorite Keller are surprised when I order something else. 

So, there I was, deciding to branch out and try something new on the menu. And feeling especially brave, I thought I'd go for the salmon. Well, a few minutes after ordering, they come out to tell us that there is no more salmon, but, instead, they have some trout. In the panic of the moment, I just agreed. 

Well, to my very unpleasant surprise, 15 minutes later, I was greeted by a plate of this: 

Here I am, not even very much of a fish-eater, staring my incredibly fragrant dinner in the eye. So, for the next 20 minutes, anyone within range got to witness me cluelessly tearing this thing apart, digging fish bones out of every inch, and wincing with every bite (sometimes from the potency of fish-taste, other times from fear of lingering fish bones).

But I made it. I powered through my very first fish dinner that still looked like a fish. It wasn't too bad, but I think I'll avoid ordering the same thing in the future. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

My beer forest can beat up your beer garden

I'm pretty sure the concept of the beer garden is not foreign to anyone reading this blog. Though always associated with Germany, I have been to and/or seen beer gardens (usually with a German theme) all over the US. And, of course, they do actually exist (and can often  live right up to your hopes and dreams and stereotypes) in Germany - especially around the beer capital state of Bavaria. During our trip to Munich (hello, Oktoberfest is like the mothership of all beer garden gatherings), we were able to visit some of the most famous beer gardens in the country/probably the world. 

But up here in [the northern region of Bavaria known as] Franken, it's a little more hardcore. When we put on our Lederhosen and Dirndl, we aren't just skipping across fields of happiness and sunshine to our dinky little garden of beer. No. We're climbing mountains (ok, it's more of a hill...) and fighting our way through the thick cover of nature (or, you know, we take the road) to get to the Kellerwald
Kellerwald literally means "cellar forest," for all the beer cellars it is built on top of. 
Wait, don't you mean the beer cellars were built UNDERNEATH the buildings?
No no (we took a tour of one of the cellars last week, so now I think I'm a professional, but I would like to apologize if any historical information is not entirely accurate). The beer cellars are an over 200 year old network of tunnels built into this hill as naturally refrigerated storage. Because of the thick sandstone walls that these tunnels were dug into, the cellars remain incredibly dry and a constant, year-round temperature of 6 - 8ºc (42 - 46ºf). Originally built to store more than beer, they eventually became home to 14 different breweries in Forchheim, of which
 there are only 4 remaining today. Back in the day, the beer would be brewed in the city, then brought up to the cellars by horse carriage to age for about 8 weeks before being brought back down to be served and sold. Of course, some beer was kept up at the cellars, where the more committed patrons could enjoy a fresh brew straight from the cellar. Now the Kellerwald is Forchheim's biggest "attraction", with around 23 different cellars serving beer from around the entire Franken region almost year round (I think they had their official opening in the beginning of April, but it is possible to find 1 or 2 open on the weekends throughout the year, especially when the weather is nice). It is also home to their biggest and most famous festival, Annafest. But that's another post entirely. 
Right, so that's the history/facts of the Kellerwald, but our experience has been so much more! Our story with the Kellerwald really begins about 2 months ago in the beginning of April. I had a friend visiting and the weather was finally starting to warm up, so we gathered our group and headed for the Kellerwald. The rest is history. It is a great place to spend the afternoon sitting outside under the shade of the trees enjoying deliciously cheap food and beer (no, seriously, I've had 3 half liters and a very filling dinner for under 10€). We tend to go to the same Keller everytime and have come to know the servers there pretty well.  "Our favorite server" (as we to refer to her), worked her way into our hearts by being super complimenting and positive about Gemma's and my German. She's never annoyed or frustrated if we don't know a word, will randomly give us some new (usually beer or menu related) vocabulary just for fun and will always stop by our table to say hi. Last week she even told us they had customers from Australia and that she wished we had been there to help translate. 
1/2 liter, 1 liter, and 3 liter Krugs
Although it probably goes without saying, but the Kellerwald is pretty much my favorite place in Forchheim. I will definitely miss it. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...