Friday, October 28, 2011

I'm just so lucky... have a brother who sends me new headphones because of this post

And it was this generous act of kindness (and definitely not the repeated emails I kept getting after this post) that moved me to proclaim to the internet just how awesome my brother is! 
oh, and yes, we usually do have that holy glow behind us when we're in pictures. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The happiest place on Earth

For this week and next week I am enjoying my first school holiday (that's Brit speak for vacation). My big endeavor for fall break is to head down to Forchheim next week for a few days. But until then I have a whole week of no commitments and a Semesterticket at my disposal (basically giving me free-reign to travel anywhere in Nordrhein-Westfalen for free). A winning combination, if I say so myself. 

After a lazy Monday, I decided to take advantage of my free time + free travel by spending my Tuesday at the happiest place I could think of. 
Oh internet people, how I wish I could explain my Ikea love to you. Perhaps it has to do with my love all things Swedish (Ikea, H&M, ABBA, Shahida, Ace of Base, that guy who wrote pretty much every hit pop song of the late 90's, meatballs, and the list goes on!). Maybe it's their unwavering trust in mankind to assemble any home furnishing in existence. Whatever it is, it makes me light up like a kid at Christmas when I see those giant yellow letters posted high on the bright blue building. 

So I spent a very delightful afternoon mentally furnishing my future home. And to top it all off, I had lunch for 1€. 
Tomorrow the plan is to go to Aachen, a city on the Belgian/Dutch/German border. We'll see how it compares to today's excitement. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marshmallows and Spray Cheese

Today while perusing the aisles of Rewe (a German grocery store), a familiar box caught my eye. There, in the middle of this regular German grocery store in the middle of Dortmund I found myself face to face with Pop Tarts. Real live Kellogg's brand Pop Tarts. For 7€, granted, but a sighting like this has never been made in your plain ol', run of the mill Rewe. 
After a solid 30 seconds of shock, I stepped back and took in the entire 7 foot display standing alone in the middle of the store. 
Sweet mother of over-priced American imports! 
It was an entire "American" themed shelf of some "classic" American foods. There I stood taking in all 6 shelves of BBQ Sauce, Peanut Butter, and Pop Tarts, wearing a stupid grin that probably said something like "why, yes, I am a crazy American rejoicing in the super-processed, disgustingly unnatural food of my homeland." And I'm not just talking American-themed foods made in Germany. These products were so American they had stickers translating ingredients and instructions into German. And there, sandwiched between the Marshmallows and spray cheese, I saw it. My weakness. 
Of course, I had to splurge and spend the 2.50€ for what is normally a $1 off-brand box of mac and cheese. But don't worry, since it wasn't the real blue-box Kraft favorite, it wasn't convincing enough to buy all that often. 
It was also good fun to see what kind of foods seemed quintessentially American enough for the Germans to make it on the list for this display. Among the previous mentioned products, you could also find legit maple syrup, Betty Crocker cake mix, microwave popcorn, Campbell's soup, Swiss Miss hot chocolate mix (with and without marshmallows, of course), some random candy bars I had never seen in my life, and so much more. All exorbitantly overpriced. 
Some things (read: the spray cheese) I got a good laugh out of, but you better believe I will be baking a Betty Crocker cake at some point in the very near future! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

drug habits.

If you know me very well, you know that I'm not a big medicine taker. It's not really because I have something against taking medicine, I just 1. don't get sick very often and 2. never seem to remember that some quick tylenol would be a great way to beat that headache.

The irony of me and my lack of drug use, of course, is that my sister, on the other hand, is a pharmacist. 

If ever I do find myself in need of drugs (or any other medical attention, really), I always consult the my pharmacist first. And for being on a completely different continent, you would not believe how many calls and emails I still put in on drug-related business. 

Being able to go over every little detail of the drugs I'm looking for makes days like today - my first ever trip to a German pharmacy - a little less stressful. 

Thank goodness for sisters that are pharmacists. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Very Brief and Not Particularly Helpful German Lesson, Lektüre 2

While the first installment of A Very Brief and Not Particularly Helpful German Lesson focused on a few of my favorite words the language has to offer, I would like to spend part 2 on an often over-looked part of learning a new language: Handwriting.

Of course, German uses the same alphabet with just a couple new letters: ä, ö, ü and ß - but nothing too wild. And of course everybody has different handwriting even when they speak the same language. So how could "handwriting" actually be a part of the German language? 

Well, even with a world of varying handwriting, some differences that exist and may be quite normal in Germany can be completely unrecognizable to an English speaker.

The number one.

It is my completely unprofessional, unqualified opinion that most prevalent difference in terms of handwriting is the number one. I always think the German 1 looks a little bit like a teepee (but hey, Indians Native Americans are pretty big in Germany, so maybe there is a connection!) Because of this difference, though, many English 7s get confused for German 1s. So whenever I am filling out official documents or anything I know has to be read by Germans I generally right my 1s like a teepee and cross my 7s to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings! 

The number nine.
German 9s have a hook on the bottom, making them completely indistinguishable from lowercase Gs. Fortunately a little common sense will tell you that 4+5 equals 9 not g, or that that word says "gehen and not 9ehen". But sometimes when you're living with a teacher whose address is 2g, you might accidentally tell the bank it's 29 when she writes it down for you. Not that I did that... often

The letter s. 
This one isn't always different, and in fact, I see it most commonly written like this with the younger students. It's obviously a cursive s, but it catches me so off-guard sometimes I really have to think about what I'm seeing. 

The letters h, m, and n.
These get me every time. I usually read Ns as Us and Ms as Ws at first glance. Just take a look at this German writing sample of my name:

Sometimes I've seen Ns and Us differentiated by using a line above the U.

Of course, this becomes even more confusing when we get to...

The Umlauts.
You know those funny dots above some letters? They have a name. And they're called umlauts. In German, they only exist for ä, ö and ü. Sometimes people get lazy when writing their umlauts and just draw a straight line instead of two dots.
So now that u with the straight line above it could either be a U with and umlaut or a U without an umlaut just being differentiated from an N (and that umlaut just might mean the difference between calling the weather humid or gay).

Is your head spinning yet?

So now you know, don't discredit the importance of learning the handwriting of a new language as well! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Survival of the Poorest

Darwin's lesser known theory on how to survive on the lowest of low budgets. 

The first step to surviving on a budget is to focus your aims. What exactly do you need? 

For me, it's quite simple: food and something to pass the time

Great! Next, let's consider the cheapest ways to legally attain these means. 

Food is an easy, albeit not generally very healthy fix. Which makes me wonder, with health being such a big issue these days (or, you know, always), why do they make it so much more expensive to lead a healthy life style? But I digress. A good solution is the college diet - Ramen noodle. 

Of course, you're probably thinking, "Ugh! I thought those days were behind me!" But my poor friend, desperate times call for desperate measures, and sometimes desperate measures mean eating anything just because it's 50 cents a meal (that's right Americans, our lovely 10 cent ramen noodles are a whole 500% more expensive in Europe!). 

As an extra measure, I've also started drinking my tea black. And by started, I mean about 2 cups ago. It's ok.

As for something to pass the time, well that's different for everyone. Generally the internet will suffice for me (I'm an admitted internet junkie), but it also helps to have awesome friends sprinkled throughout the country who will send you entire seasons of some of your favorite shows on DVD. 

I've also gotten pretty good at Freecell. 

Then, of course, it's important to keep hope that your next blog post will be about all the fun things you're doing while living in another country and not just about how depressing your life is without money...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

one day, when I have money...

Ah, the beginning of a year as an ETA. For some people it means making new friends and discovering new places, for others, it is the time they get their first chance at teaching. But for everyone, it means an indefinite period of not being paid

After last year's fiasco of not getting paid till mid-November, I'm mentally and emotionally prepared to call my parents crying for help live off my last 60€ for the foreseeable future.

But as a means of coping, I've made a list of 3 things I want to treat myself to following the weeks of poorness. And it is definitely helping keeping my mind off my current state of poverty. 

1. New head phones
When my actual iPod headphones got attacked by my bike over the summer, I had to resort to my old friend Amazon to find a cheap replacement. Of course, when you pay 7€ for headphones that normally cost 40€ you can't be too surprised when the quality turns out to be pretty low. Unlike my last headphones, these don't stay in my ears at all, meaning I basically walk around with my fingers in my ears when I use them. And after about 1 week of owning them and pretty light usage, the wire cover broke. Luckily they're still functional with the help of a little tape.

2. New boots.
I love boots. And after many visits to the many shoe shops in Dortmund, I found a pair that I really want!  
3. A new winter jacket
according to the locals, the winter up here in Dortmund is pretty harsh, so I decided I needed to step up my winter wardrobe if I want to survive. I like to think of the winter jacket as a necessity more than a want, but it's on the list because I can't afford it (you know, if I want to eat) until the pay check comes. (I could not find the jacket I've been eyeing online so this is just a picture of one that is really similar

Oh, how I can't wait to be paid! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the 2nd drag show I've ever hosted in a church

The first, of course, being the SAI drag show in the UGA chapel. an event we were all sworn never to speak of again (oops...).

This time around, it was at the PAD orientation.

What's that? You're a second year and you attended orientation? but I thought it explicitly said you could only attend as a first year ETA. 

Yes, you may only participate in the orientation preceding your first year as an ETA, but if you stay on for a second year you have the chance to come back as the seasoned, all-knowing Ehemalige (alum, vet, former ETA, etc.) to impart your wisdom on the fresh young minds that are to be spread across Germany corrupting the youth through the English language. Plus you get free meals, 40€, and a pretty sweet watch.
Yeah, so that's what I did. 

Aside from imparting wisdom and sprinkling the seeds of enthusiasm for teaching, your duties include mainly 2 things: running the bar every night and hosting the last night's activity. From previous experience and collective stories of others the usual picks are either a talent show or a quiz of sorts. But, being the awesome group of Ehemaligen that we were, we wanted to really up the bar and put on something that was both unique and entertaining. 

And thus was born the orientation drag show. And as orientation is hosted entirely at a church, the dichotomy between the setting and the event taking place was hilariously (inappropriately?) predominant from start to finish... 

Monday, October 10, 2011

If you really love me, you'll lock it on the Rhine

At least, that's the going theme on the Deutzer Brücke in Cologne - Ein Schloss am Rhein (a lock on the Rhine)
All along the famous bridge that crosses the Rhine River in the heart of Cologne, you will find locks of all shapes and sizes locked to the fence separating the train tracks from the sidewalk. 
"Finally. After 40 years a lock on the Rhine"

If you take a closer look at these locks, you'll see that the people of Cologne don't just have a collective habit of locking locks on the same fence and losing the key. Most engraved, others just written or decorated, some even bedazzled, each lock is supposed to be a symbol of love. It's the carving your initials in a heart on a tree for the environmentally conscious 21st century. 

Also, the cuteness increases tenfold with a little German lesson. Schloss means lock, but it also means castle. So I like to think of having a Schloss am Rhein, not just as a little memento for the couples, but as an adorable way of getting your own little castle on the Rhine. 

And I have to be honest, I love it! I could easily spend an hour just walking across the bridge reading the locks. Most of them just have initials or names, some have nothing, others have poems or sayings. Each one unique. So instead of going on about how awesome this bridge of locks is, I thought I'd post pics of some of my favorites. 

"Will you marry me?" 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

home sweet home!

so, I could tell you were all really concerned that I hadn't been posting a lot lately! Life has been unusually busy lately, especially as the indefinite guest at someone's house as I was for the past 3 weeks. No more locking yourself in your room and being anti-social - which is usually my blogging time! But as of yesterday I have officially moved into my new place! And as of this morning my room no longer looked like this:
There are still a couple finishing touches I want to add to my room (like a coat rack for all my coats that are currently piled up on top of my wardrobe, or an actual bed for my mattress) but they'll have to wait till after I have money again! Until then, this is the finished product of my new room! 
view from the door looking in
View from the window 
view from the bed

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

just one of those days.

How today was supposed to go:

8:30 am: Take train from Hennen, Iserlohn to Dortmund Hbf
  1. stop by bank and withdraw large sum of money from US account for University enrollment and apartment deposit/first month's rent
  2. get on train to university
  3. go to international Sekretariat, sign up, pay money, get train ticket
  4. go to school for 3 lessons
  5. go hang out in the city for an hour before
  6. meeting at apartment to discuss move in times, money, etc.
  7. Get the train home. 
How today really went (complete with a number-guided map!)

8:30 am: Take train from Hennen, Iserlohn to Dortmund Hbf
  1. arrive at Dortmund, realize it's raining and I have no umbrella
  2. walk to bank, get denied money I'm supposed to be withdrawing 
  3. Run to Starbucks to steal free wifi and call Suntrust internationally only to reach an automated message telling me to call back again after 6am EST (4pm in Germany). Also forced to buy a muffin as I'm the only one in the entire building that is not on staff.
  4. Run back by bank and successfully withdraw half the amount originally intended.
  5. Go back to train station to catch train that is 5 minutes delayed. Then 10 minutes delayed. The 15 minutes delayed - oh just kidding, it's canceled! take the next train in an extra 5 min. No wait, that train is delayed 10 too. finally leave after 35 min waiting at train station
  6. arrive at University, have no idea where I'm supposed to be going
  7. find the building. Wait for 3 hours with no line, no actual order, no promise of results. Finally get to talk to someone, get told I need a waiver for German health insurance. Even thought I have German health insurance already. 
  8. Get the waiver
  9. go back to building, finish enrolling and leave with everything I need.
  10. walk back to s-bahn station, miss train by 1 min, have to wait for 19 min till next one comes
  11. get back to Dortmund Hbf, 2 hours later than originally planned, already missed first 2 classes
  12. ride the 30 minute U-bahn out to my school only to find that no one shows up for the class. 
  13. Go back to Starbucks to try to call bank again. Proceed to both yell and cry in public on phone to bank for not letting me raise my daily withdraw limit so I can get the money I need to pay for my apartment in less than an hour. Get Pam involved. She makes it happen
  14. go back to bank and finally withdraw the rest of the money I need.
  15. Go to apartment, pay my rent/deposit, plus buy the bed, wardrobe, and desk for an additional 50€ (success!)
  16. Go back to Dortmund Hbf
  17. Arrive back in Hennen 11 hours after leaving.
I achieved everything I set out to do, it just was a lot more complicated than originally intended. Now I'm exhausted. And my legs hurt.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

what do bee stings and cakes have in common?

When combined, they are delicious! 

This is one of, if not my favorite German desert. Available at pretty much any bakery, it is called Bienenstich. Bienenstich literally means bee sting. So according to Wikipedia, in English you would translate the dessert Bienenstich as bee sting cake (to avoid any unfortunate, cross-cultural misunderstandings).

It consists of two layers of white cake with a layer of sort of vanilla cream in the middle and topped off with glazed almonds. Basically the most perfect combination of sweet ingredients I've ever had the pleasure of tasting.

So, if you're ever in Germany and someone offers you a bee sting, don't run away screaming....
Unless they're carrying a beehive. In which case, why are you even talking to them to begin with?
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