Thursday, February 23, 2012

what do Penguins, Mario, a cross-dressing Heidi and Jesus have in common?

You can find them all in Cologne during Karnival! 

I know spoiled the whole costumes found at Karneval post by posting about the coolest costume there yesterday. But there were a lot of good runners up. 

My favorite - mostly because of the complete randomness factor - was a Mario walking alongside a cigarette smoking Jesus with a beer in his belt. 

We also kept running into the same pair of cross-dressing Heidis for the first hour or so. I was only able to snap a picture of the one, and I know it's not necessarily the most original or exciting costume, but there was something so hilarious about this pair and their complete nonchalance about the whole dressed in dirndl drag thing. 

There were, of course, the creative, culturally relevant, and hilarious costumes to be found about. Including these meme guys. Loved it. 

But, when all else failed, there was always the safe fall-back plan of onesies with an animal hood. That's what about 90% of everyone in cologne had. And I can't deny, it was elegant in it's simplicity! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

how I ended up in at least 10 random facebook albums

When my friend and I bought our Karneval costumes last week, we were super excited, but honestly didn't expect them to be anything special to the tried and true Karneval-goers. I mean, we got them completely pre-made at standard department store on sale. 
Then we got to Cologne looking like this.
Trust me, we were not nearly the most intense people there - not even close. But I mean, a barrel of mustard (Senf in German) and a bratwurst on our heads... you have to admit we were looking pretty good! 
And much to our surprise, the people of Cologne noticed us too. We ended up taking pictures with countless people (we lost count around 10) who loved the costumes, and even more gave us an approving laugh of acknowledgement as we passed through the masses. All I could think is "we're gonna be on so many facebook profiles tomorrow!
Did I mention how practical our little Senf barrel was as a costume? First, you only have to slip on over whatever you want to wear. Second, any purse or bag fits securely inside out of harms way. 
The crowning moment of the evening, for me though, came later in the day when I realized my dinner also matched my costume! 
And it's great to know I'll get at least a good 10 years worth Halloween costumes out of this! 

p.s. Extra Scharf means extra spicy

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One pretty picture and one pun

Aside from being completely frozen while we were there, Hamburg is a beautiful city. It was great to be surrounded by water (or ice as our case was), and the sunsets over the port didn't hurt the image at all. 
but one thing that I enjoyed ever more about the city, was Hamburg's sense of humor. I don't know if you've caught this yet, but I love puns. Like in a completely ridiculously, how do I still have friends kind of way. And I do not discriminate based on language. So when we ran across some Hamburg trash cans with little pithy catch phrases, I knew it was love (with the city, not the trash). 
For those non-German speakers out there - a little explanation: Trash in German is Müll and millionaire is Millionär. The sentence "Ich wär so gerne Millionär" means "I'd like to be a millionaire." Except this trash can changed "millionär" to "Müllionär." Get it, Müll - Müllionär. It's a trash can and wants to be a trash-ionaire! Ok... if I have to keep explaining it's probably never going to make sense. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Das Interview

Remember how last year I joined a Musikverein and got to play in a band and hang out with some pretty great people! Well every year they put out a magazine about the goings-on of the Musikverein. And after my year with the group, they asked me to give an interview for it.
They mailed me the finished magazine and when I got it, I felt like my own personal celebrity all day (I mean, check out how big that headshot is!), so I thought I'd share it with you!

Hello Emily, Tell us first of all, where you're from and how you ended up in Germany, particularly Forchheim:
I'm from Watkinsville, GA in the southeast USA. I studied German at college in Georgia and did an exchange to Zurich four years ago. Since then I've always wanted to come back to Europe. I applied to be an ETA in Germany and was placed in Forchheim.

Do you like it in Germany? If yes, what do you like in particular, since you've visited lots of cities in our country: 
Of course I like in Germany (I'm staying for another year if that's proof). I've tried to explain what exactly I like about Germany a thousand times, but I don't know if I've ever actually been able to. Maybe it's a lot of little thing that are completely normal to Germans, but are really interesting to me as an American. For example, I love riding trains. I've only ever ridden a train once in the US. So I think it's really cool that I can travel all over Germany without a car. The culture and traditions in Germany are also interesting to Americans. And I also like that I can speak German everyday.
And what did you think of the people in Franconia? People say we tend to be standoffish:
Hmmm, difficult question! I actually expected the people in Franconia to be more Standoffish, because I had heard a little from friends at home (I have a few friends who have done an exchange year in Franconia). At first, yeah, it was a little difficult to meet people, but the people I know now are all very open, fun and nice people!
How did you find our Musikverein?
A teacher from Ehrenbürg Gymnasium in Forchheim, Heidi Siegried, suggested the MVB to me and brought me to my first rehearsal.
Are there musical differences between Germany and the USA?
Actually there isn't that much! I always though in the rehearsals "yeah, we do exactly that at home!" Even the jokes are the same!
Was it difficult, because of the language, to follow the different directors here? Sometimes it gets really fast, or a lot of Franconian phrases are used:
Honestly, it really surprised me how much I understood at the rehearsals. Even if I didn't know a word before, I could recognize it right away from the context. At first, I was really confused by the (I don't know how I should say it) the letter-words for rehearsal letters (Anton, Berta, Cäsar, etc.).
Our little horn section was really excited you were there, because our director can never get enough of their sound, and now all four horn parts were being played! How long have you played horn?
I started when I was 11 years old. So that was about 13 years ago.
What kind of music did you play at home in Georgia?
The biggest difference with the music is probably the marches. We play a lot of marches from American composers. For example, J.P. Sousa. Aside from that, we actually play basically play the same pieces. The Junior orchestra, for example, played "The Great Locomotive Chase" at their concert. A piece that was originally written for a band in Georgia!
Was there a club there, that you played in?
In the US, there aren't really music clubs like in Germany. We do almost everything at school. So I always played in the school band or marching band.
Tell us Emily, was there a moment, when you thought "Oh my God, where am I?!" when yes, which moment?
Only once, and I thought it in a positive way. It was after the new year, when we celebrated at the restaurant Schwane in Forchheim. For hours, we sang fun German songs (e.g. Vogelbeerbaum). That's something we would never do in the US. It was really a great night!

And what was the best experience for you in our Musikverein?

Of course I have to say the camping trip! I don't know what - more clearly - I can say, it was simply an entire week of fun. I got to know lots of people I had already met a lot better, and they got to know me better. And to those that were there, I have to say "Cheers, Governor!"
What will always come to mind when you think of the MVB later?
Even if I forgot all the experience and people (don't worry, that will never happen!), I would always remember that playing with the MVB was the best thing I did this year!
And what will you do next?
For the next school year (2011/12), I'll be working as an ETA in Dortmund. After that, even I don't know yet. Maybe I'll stay in Germany a little longer or finally head back to the US.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cold hands

Today a horrible thing happened. 
It started out a day like any other. I woke up at 9, sat in bed till 10 or so. Got dressed, ate breakfast, watched an episode of Buffy and caught the 11:42 U Bahn and rode it 25 minutes for a whole 2 lessons at school.
And that's where it all went down hill. Caught up in some intense solitaire action, I almost missed my stop. At the last second I realized we had stopped, quickly popped up, grabbed my bag on the seat next to me and headed for the door. 
I wasn't in the chilly February air for 2 minutes when I stuck my hands in my pocket only to be greeted by complete confusion, shock, followed by dreadful realization and encompassing depression.
I had left my mittens on the U Bahn. The U Bahn that just drove past into the great unknown. And these weren't just any old mittens. These mittens were hand-knitted by a friend almost 5 years ago as a going away present for my impending move to Switzerland.

I loved these mittens. I loved when it finally got chilly enough to justify wearing them. I loved that they reminded me of my friends back home and also my time in Switzerland. These mittens had seen the world with me.
They were with me inside a glacier in the Swiss Alps

They were with me in Stockholm

They were there when it snowed in Georgia

They held up up the sunrise on Tybee Island

They where there when I found the Atlanta booth at the Nürnberg Christmas market

They were even with me a couple weeks ago in Bremen.

But now, who knows where they are. My hands never felt so cold as my trip home from school today. I'll miss you, mittens, it was good while it lasted! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My kind of souvenir

I'm not big on souvenirs. They always just end up being things I'll never use and eventually just feel guilty about when I throw out or pack away (I could make a pretty intense hoarder, if I wanted). So my solution to avoiding this dilemma is to just not buy souveniry-souvenirs.

I prefer to buy things that I can use that may not actually say "I <3 NY" or "Mind the gap." Things I can use and always think about where they came from. Some of my favorite souvenirs are things like my Freitag bag from Zurich, my scarf from my Paris, or any of the mugs I've stolen from Oktoberfest (hey, those are TOTALLY practical items to keep handy!). 
My latest of these "practical souvenirs" was from my recent trip to Hamburg with my roommate. We went to this great little make-it-yourself jewelry shop called Nuenas. All the parts were provided for you, and you had to do all the assembly yourself. You could make any piece of jewelry you wanted, so I naturally opted for earrings.   There were sooooooooo many beads and options available, though, and it was all quite overwhelming at first (ok, actually it was overwhelming the whole time.)
about 2 hours and 3 different attempts later, I had finally settled on the beads that I wanted to use. It was insane to realize just how difficult it was to put it all together. Usually, you see a pair of earrings in the store and think "oh that's cute, I bet I could make that." But, suffice it to say I now have a much greater respect for people who make jewelry. All the mixing and matching and even the teeny tiny details like what sort of divider piece should go here, or should there even be one there!

But eventually I found my pieces, and took them to the craft table where I strung them on the wire, clipped everything to the right length and bent it, twisted it, and hooked it so that it was actually an earring (I told you had to do EVERYTHING yourself!). And I have to say, I'm pretty proud of my finished result! 

Now I have a great new souvenir that will always remind me of my trip to Hamburg as well as be totally unique! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On learning German

As a native English speaker, it can often be frustrating and discouraging learning a foreign language abroad. See the thing is, pretty much everyone these days knows at least a little bit (but usually a lot-a bit) of English, so it's not uncommon to encounter English on a day to day basis no matter what country you're living in. 

At first it can be really disheartening to keep getting responses in English when you want to speak German and it's quite easy to misinterpret this as an insult or some sort of negative commentary on your language abilities. Now, I can't say that I don't talk to people who really probably think "seriously, do you even know German?!" but over the past 18 months, I've learned that 9 times out of 10 an English response isn't usually a sign of your poor German, but rather the other person's interest in English. 

So, for those of you fighting the same battle and feeling increasingly more insecure about your language abilities, I've put together a little chart of some of the most common discouraging English responses, how I sometimes interpret them, and what the speaker's actual intent usually turns out to be. 
As you can see, and as I've learned (and still have to remind myself) a lot of people are excited to be able to show that they can communicate in English, or excited to have the chance to practice speaking with a native Speaker. Of course, some people really are jerks, but then you can just use big words at them. And I have to think, if the tables were turned and I was in the US and met a German speaker randomly, I would absolutely jump at the opportunity to speak German with them! 

Of course, I guess now I might be a little more sensitive to how I approach the situation, or at least preface my language switch with an "OMG! Can we speak German PLEASE! I'm really lame and love it!"

p.s. "sorry" is pretty much a legit word in German these days. People say it all the time, and it took me forever to figure out they didn't just magically know I was an English speaker! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Won't you be my Meerkat?

Germany seems to have this thing for meerkats. I didn't really notice it at first. Or maybe I did and just accepted it as one of Germany's many oddities cultural differences, then eventually stopped noticing it. Or maybe I subconsciously repressed it because it was so disturbing. In any case, the meerkat phenomenon went unnoticed until my sister visited in December. As we toured the Christmas Markets, she pointed out all the meerkat goodies available. But, as we all know, you can find some pretty strange things at the Christmas markets, so I guess I didn't register it too much.

Yesterday, though, while out shopping with a friend, we ran across the most amazing Meerkat selection I've ever seen and that just couldn't be overlooked.

Rows upon rows of the little creatures doing anything from gardening to being just plain creepy. Fun fact: the German word for meerkat is Erdmännchen, which translates literally to "little earth-men." That's way better than meerkat... in my opinion. 

Of course, of all the different types of meerkats available, I'd have to say my favorite was definitely the seduction meerkat. And since it's the season, I'm pretty sure it would make the best Valentine's Day present. 

Alright you got me, I added the lips... but that look in the eyes, that's real.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A week from today

Next Monday is a big day in the Karneval season. What's Karneval, you ask? Clearly you didn't read this November post.  Basically, all you need to know is that it is the German version of Mardi Gras, only with more clothes and more time. 

Even though the official Karneval period carries on for a bit, the main events are really on Rosenmontag. This means Shrove Monday, according to Wikipedia, though I'm certain I've never heard or said that before in my life. So my friend and I, excited to immerse ourselves in some German culture, are planning on heading down to Cologne - the center of the party - a week from today. We even picked up some AH-mazing costumes today (Karneval is to Germany what Halloween is to Americans*). I don't wanna spoil the surprise too much, so consider this a little teaser.

p.s. The slippers aren't part of the costume, but aren't they amazing, too?!
*only less slutty

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My happy place

well ladies and gentlemen, it looks like the extreme cold will be reaching it's end sometimes this week. Heck, today we managed to stay above 25ºf/-4ºc all day! So to prepare me for the coming heat wave (read: above freezing temperatures) I've decided to reflect a little on one of my favorite summer adventures: my week in the Greek Islands

The year was 2008, and I was due to be moving back from my year in Switzerland at the end of June. So as a final hurrah to life on the continent (as those crazy Brits would say), my roommate and I decided to book a 7 day cruise around the Greek Islands. Now before you get carried away wondering how I could afford such luxuries, I guess you should know that it wasn't the highest quality of cruises - in fact, the website refers to it as, and I quote, "a floating hostel." Why yes, I am talking about Easy Cruise, of the Easy Jet and Easy Hotel franchise. But hey, a week long vacation including 7 destinations, all travel, and all lodgings, and 2 meals a day for under 400€, I'd be willing to pay that again. 

Basically the deal is, you get on this mini cruise ship and that's your hotel. There isn't a whole lot to do on the ship, but that's ok, because every day you dock at a different island and get the entire day to explore, shop, wander around, or - my favorite choice - go to the beach. There really wasn't any need or desire to be on the ship when you had a brand new island to explore every day. 

During this whole Europe-has-turned-into-an-ice-cube debacle, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on this trip. And by that I mean pretending I'm at the beach in a warm happy place, instead hoping my extremities haven't fallen off after loosing sensation in them from the cold. So in case you're faced with any extreme cold fronts coming your way, I've decided to share my favorite beach pics from each stop on the trip to help power through! 
Ano Syros
Bodrum, Turkey

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do you like pirate jokes and pancakes? Then you'll love this post!

What is a pirate's favorite letter?
What is a pirate's favorite fast food?
How long is a pirate's plank?
What is a pirate's favorite Ke$ha song?
Where does a pirate go for pancakes?
Bremen, of course.
Well, I guess they're not pancakes in the American sense of the word - but it's really the best translation for the wonder that is the German Pfannkuchen. And in Bremen, not only do they have delicious Pfannkuchen, they have delicious Pfannkuchen on a pirate ship

Now, how the German Pfannkuchen differs from the American pancake is quite simple, but elegant (read: delicious). Where the pancake is often considered better with increasing fluffiness, the Pfannkuchen is thinner, and in my opinion looks a bit like pita bread from a distance. But upon closer inspection, it still maintains the light consistency of the pancake. The pancake is most often accompanied by any combination of butter, syrup, fresh fruit, or whipped cream. The Pfannkuchen can be topped with anything from the standard sweets to more savory delights. During our visit to the Pfannkuchen pirate ship, we opted for a happy medium - and quite fantastic choice it was. Let me just say, if ever confronted with the dilemma of what to top your Pfannkuchen with, I would highly recommend bacon, feta and honey. AH-mazing

Of course, the magicness of the Pfannkuchen pirate ship didn't stop with the food. After returning from the pirate bathroom (no really, the sink was a barrel!), I saw a pirate hat, eye patch, flag and battle ax thing. So what did I do? Put it all on and unabashedly posed for pictures in the middle of the pirate ship.  
No, you don't need to tell me how cool I am, I know....
Many people might find such an attraction a little kitschy, but I give it two pirate thumbs up and would recommend it to anyone headed to Bremen! Plus their Pfannkuchen really are delicious. 
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