Saturday, December 8, 2007

Addiction

Hi all,

I know this will come as surprise, but I have a confession to make. I've fallen deep, head-over-heels into a shameful addiction. I never thought it'd happen to me. I'm not a gambler, a lush or a pothead. In fact, I barely drink at all, and that's my most mindful bad "habit." It started out slowly. I didn't even like it at first, when I tried it a few years ago. I thought it tasted gross and I didn't mind telling anyone who asked that I didn't like it. I think I can safely blame it on Vasso for establishing my habit - although I should really take the responsibility and not play the blame game. She had cooked us dinner and provided everything for us, and it would've been rude to decline - especially since we were celebrating Niamh and her birthday together. I sat there, looking at it for a while, but managed to choke it all down. I had more than I should have, but I would've felt bad leaving any. However, a seed was planted when I realized "You know, that actually tasted pretty darn good..." A few nights later I was up with Meike (a friend of Christian, who is a German who lives on my floor) and Jake and I was once again offered some. Peer pressure. I just haven't had enough experience dealing with it to say no. I was hooked.

A week later I bought my own stash, and I've had some every day. I had to stop keeping it in my room because it looked at me in such an enticing manner that I knew I was courting temptation. I have some left, but I already wondering if I should buy some more. I mean, it's not all I think about, but whenever I have some, it's in the back of my mind...






Damn you, Nutella...



Nuremberg

So a week ago today I went to the Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Festival) in Nuremberg, which is rumored to be the largest in all of Germany. I'll believe it. We (Eric, Claudia, Carol from France and another friend of Claudia's) walked around for over 5 hours and saw less than half of it! It also got super-crowded in the evening, which was not as enjoyable. It's a bunch of booths with everything from Gluehwein to liebekuchen (sort of like gingerbread and supposedly invented in Nuremberg) to any sort of knickknack you might like. The Crepe stands were a huge hit but they also had live music in the form of alpine horns and a full band in one of the squares. The market is open every day throughout most of December, but since it was the second day it was open when we went (not to mention a Saturday) it was SO full by the time it was dark it was miserable to try to negotiate the crowds. I heard so many people speaking American English. It's kind of funny, but the longer I'm here, the more reluctant I am to engage in conversation with American strangers (unless they need help, of course). I've noticed that a lot of other Americans at the University who have been there for a few years. It's not out of meanness, but I think it just makes you feel like you fit in more - especially if you can get by mostly using German.

Zwischenpruefung!

So today I had a "Zwischenpruefung" - which is essentially a "midterm". It was for my phonetics course, and it was a partner endeavor. So this morning I found myself jolted awake at an hour I'd lost to sleep for over a month at least now. 8 AM. (I know, I know...it's not that early, and I used to get up at least at 7 at home, but my whole sleeping pattern has drastically changed here). Anyhow, Sara had her test (same class) at 9 and I was at 9:15. Things got off to a rocky start when Sara's partner didn't show up on time, and the teacher didn't know my name and thought I was her partner. After we cleared that up, the teacher decided I could take it with Sara for the grade and then do it again with my partner without a grade. It was pretty easy - only a short conversation about booking a hotel room, and it went really well for both of us I think. Sara's partner showed up in the middle, so it was decided she would test with my partner. However, he never showed up and when I got home and turned on my cell (which is almost dead because Eric has difficulty returning my charger to me promptly...hint hint...) and discovered that he'd sent me a text, begging my forgiveness. Apparently his phone had died and since he used it as an alarm clock he had overslept. I'm not sure what happened to him in the end, but I'm glad that I was able to take the test.

Anyhow, I hope everyone's doing well and I'm counting down the days until Christmas!

Steph

Monday, December 3, 2007

Margarita Mishap


This is a tale, a primeval tale, a tale of man versus his worst enemy: technology.

Let me start at the beginning...
My tale of woe begins about 5 hours prior in a kitchen far, far away from the quaint land of Minnesota. This kitchen is the domain of the Brave Sir Eric (or, BS Eric, a rather unfortunate acronym), who rules his land with ample fridge and stash of Pepsi. Our tale unfolds with the appearance of all innocence. Desiring a frosty and refreshing beverage to accompany his extremely tasty Turkey Stew, and upon earlier procuring the ingredients, BS Eric proceeds to show his drink mastery. From his room he removes the much-sought-after and justly paid for prize: a blender. His humble apprentice (possessing no talent of her own to be taken lightly) assisted by helping put ice in this noble contraption. Next, he took forth the bag of the finest frozen strawberries and also added them. Finally, he swigged in an unknown quantity of traditional of Mexico's finest beverage (for overage consumption...that is) to finish his potion.

His apprentice stood in awe of the quantity of ice and strawberries but thought herself too unskilled in the talent of mixology to dare question his knowledge of this dark art. Or perhaps she figured that his great trust in his contraption was surely warranted. Upon twisting the dial, the machine gargled to life, causing much noise and commotion. Soon, however, the assistant's fear was realized, when the great machine ground to a murmuring halt.
"No problem!" Her master proclaimed and showed her a secret beyond her wildest imagination-
"It has reverse!" With a great smile of confidence, the dial was again swirled and the machine sprang back to it's grinding.
Too soon, however, did it stop,forcing the master to call for his secret weapon: a spoon. Taking the great lid off the mighty machine (and making his apprentice really nervous) the BS Eric proceeded to unjam the concoction: whilst the machine still ran!
In total awe of his prowess, the apprentice could not but help feel the tiniest tinge of alarm...and was about to blurt out "Is that such a great idea?!?" When the inevitable occurred.

Which a loud "PLURPT!" the temperamental concoction gave a great surge and exploded out from the blender. By the power known to man only as "Karma," did the majority fling itself out to be attached to the persons of BS Eric and his humble assistant.

Momentarily did the apprentice loose her head and after not finding her master's camera, set about in a frantic effort to find his detergent (for stains are mankind's second primeval assailant) quite unaware of her master's condition. BS Eric, for his part, manfully held his eyes from watering - an unfortunate chemical reaction due to the potion's strength.

My tale has an ending that leaves room for it to be interpreted by the reader's will as either happy or sad. Whilst the shirts were restored to their former brilliance by swift attendance, the concoction was ruled to be undrinkable due to a rather high ethanol content. It was also found out that while BS Eric has had many seasons of prosperous kitchen management, his strength was not to be found in slushy concoctions. This was found to contain considerable irony to the apprentice, whilst she had mixed many a fine concoction in her brief life.
The End.

In all fairness, he did clean up after himself and it was hysterically funny at the time.

Steph

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sabotage!


Hi All

Had some things that made me laugh, so I decided to share them...

Thanksgiving with the Uni

Ok, so I know that Thanksgiving is over and that it’ll be in my posts a second time, but really…one can never have enough Thanksgiving. I went to the dinner the Study Abroad office here puts on in the Mensa (think cafeteria, because it is one) for all the American students. The students from Colorado help to do the entertaining and all of their host families are invited. Everyone else was supposed to bring a side dish – so I made a vegetarian tortellini dish and helped Jake make…mashed potatoes. It was kinda funny, because we thought that they’d make a huge helping of those at the banquet, but he decided to make it anyways. Well, we got there and they had huge quantities of Turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries…but no mashed potatoes!

The Colorado group had decided to put on a skit and have Sara sing. After the opening remarks, Grant (a student from CO) wheeled out the Turkey. Now, all the CO students had costumes (stereotypical pilgrim hats and headbands with feathers) but Grant had taken his a step further. It was probably the fact that he got the green feathers that prompted Sara to arrange them for him in a very…herb-like fashion. So he got lots of laughs.

The skit they put on (in between dinner and dessert) was also rather funny. At first you saw 5-6 pilgrims “paddling” a boat (sitting in chairs and scooting along) with the guy in back asking

“Are we there yet?”

One person “No…”

“Now?”

Three people: “No!”

…”Now?”

All: “NO!”

Girl “And if you ask ONE MORE TIME, I swear, I will TURN THIS BOAT AROUND!”

Now, this was all in German and while it directly translated, I got the impression that kids don’t ask their parents that here. Must be all that public transportation. It was hilarious, however. The skit culminated with all the settlers and natives celebrating German-style: knocking back a beer.

After the skit, Sara sang a song in German: Liebebrief (?), or Love Letter. She sounded good, and poor Tekla (her accompanist on keyboard and also from CO) had a hard time using the crappy keyboard without pedals. But it was definitely amazing to hear her sing “for real.”

Then came the most exciting part of the evening for me – pumpkin pie! Mmmm, it was homemade too. Grandma, I know you’re going to read this, so can you make a pumpkin pie for Christmas too? I definitely have had a deficit this year. And for those of you not in the know, I am pretty much directly responsible for the best rule ever at my Grandma’s. The rule is: “You can always have pie for breakfast at Grandma’s!”

Mmmmm, I can’t wait!

Fireworks

See how thoughtfully I separated this next section so no one will think that anything blew up at Thanksgiving? I know, I know, I’m pretty much amazing. Anyways…

Due to the fact that UNESCO (some large corporation?) was in town, Regensburg decided they would launch off fire works. So, I get my doorbell rang by Eric and Claudia around 10 o’clock and we wandered down to the riverfront. Then we waited. And waited…and waited.

Finally, there came an announcement of which one of the few words I was able to catch was “sabotage!” So I turned to my interpreter (Claudia) and the scoop. Apparently, the announcer was saying that the mechanism to launch the fireworks in time to the music was sabotaged (to which Eric said “Yeah, right. The batteries are probably just dead.”) so they were going to attempt to light them manually.

At any rate, the music swells into one of the songs from Fantasia. Suddenly, the music cuts to…chanting monks? I kid thee not…chanting monks. Next, Flight of the Valkyries.

came up and then a couple others of no special merit. Finally, right before the finale, they played “Yellow Submarine.” I didn’t know what amused me more; the music or the fireworks, but I definitely had a fun time

After the fireworks, Mr. Announcer came back on and told us that we better be grateful…someone loves his job.

Oh, Goldener Turm

So, while there is the perk of living in the altstadt, sometimes I discover there are hidden perks – like scaring children.

While rushing of my room door to run to the bus stop for Karate, I suddenly hear a scream. A scream of terror consisting of what sounded like about 25 young girls. I gave it little thought, because as I passed Russell’s room I noticed his door was open and figured it was the soundtrack to his movie or something.

Two flights of stairs later, I fling the outside door open to hear a collective:

“GASSSSSP”

Facing the door (and a costumed actor/ historic tour guide) was a group of 25 or so girls under the age of 12. Not quite sure what I should do, I made a “gasp” face of my own and hurried past them. As I walked past, I heard the tour guide going on about ghosts. Then again, they could’ve been horrified that I dared wear bright red sweatpants in public.

Hard call, really.

Anyhow, I hope you’re all in the holiday spirits….

Steph

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving


Hi all,

Prepping for Thanksgiving
I was all excited to download my pictures and post one for the blog today. I whipped open my camera case and was sorely disappointed to discover I'd left my camera at Eric's. So I will be posting that at a later date to the blog. However, yesterday was a FULL day. I got up early (ok, ok but 9:30 is early for me) and threw a load of towels in on my way to the supermarket. It was a quick trip and I was soon back in my kitchen peeling away at apples. I hate peeling apples...but about 12 cups later, I had enough for my two pies (one in a large tart pan and another about 7 inch "container" thingy). After realizing I had to double the pie crust, things went a little awry, I realized I'd doubled the flour, but not the crisco (substitute) after I added water, so I kinda just flung some more crisco and flour in until it felt ok. Surprisingly, it turned out wonderful - really easy to roll and didn't stick. I got lucky - somewhere the saint of pie decided to smile on me.

The stuffing was a bit more of a challenge. I think I added a bit too much water, but it still turned out great, but somehow not as good as my grandma can make it. Some of her magic grandma-ness must rub off when she cooks - I have no other theory.

Thanksgiving Dinner
Everything was finished around 3:30, so I wound up at Eric's door at 4 to help with anything or everything that he needed a hand with. I must say that "Ted" was all Eric and that it was a good, tender Turkey that actually fell to pieces as Eric tried to lift it onto the platter (Ted is in the picture...he was a hefty 6 kilos...). It did, however, solve the debate on who got/had to carve Ted. Christine and I teamed up on the cranberries (apparently only a recent popular import) and we peeled way to many (but just enough) potatoes and carrots. So we had mashed potatoes, turkey, graving, pork stuffing, apple pies, cabbage, glazed carrots, peas, rolls (cheated on those), and some cheese and crackers. All our German guests were punctual, while the other exchange students walked in only 5 minutes late, so the food was still plenty hot. In all there were 11 people: Eric, Christine, Claudia, Tom (Eric and Christine's other apt mate), Regina (Claudia's apt mate), Constantina (A German friend of Christine), Max (England), Vaso (Greece), Niamh (Ireland), Carol (France) and myself.
Everyone had questions about what a "true" Thanksgiving was like. Perhaps some people have elaborate traditions but we essentially told them it was about spending time with family (or friends), eating a meal together, and fighting...erm "discussing". In the spirit of agreeableness we soon had hilarious conversation flowing (Max brought up the topic of "Weirdest thing you've ever had thrown in your face"). This led to many stories about Eric getting a hockey puck to the face "Weren't you wearing a face mask?" to other such stories of woe and abuse-ment by siblings. Christine was also very gracious and allowed me to talk to my family on SKYPE (the internet at my building was crashed all of yesterday) on her computer. So all in all, it was a very decent Thanksgiving although I did miss pumpkin pie.


Voting

As many of you know, on December 4th there is a vote concerning a levy to support WHA High School. Without it, WHA will surely sink down to a depth of depressingly low -quality education. With all the cuts that will have to be made to academic (not to mention sports) WHA could very well be facing a crisis that would take years to reverse, if it can be. Obviously I feel quite strongly on the issue, so I set about (with a lot of my mom's help) registering as a voter and applying for an absentee ballot. I received the ballot in the mail on Tuesday, and hit my first brick wall...While reading the instructions, I was surprised to learn that I would need a 'witness'. Not a big deal, right? Well, the criteria for the position was rather depressing. I needed either a public official (would German count? And if it did, where on Earth would I find one?!?!) or a registered MN voter. Essentially, if Eric wasn't a MN voter, I could count myself out.

Thankfully, Eric "of Course!" is a MN registered voter and I thought I was in the clear (after having to go home again to look at my passport number) to send it out. Apparently not. My mom had said that Marcy (i?) would send me a return envelope, postage paid, that would be first class back to America (like the ones they send to the troops). Well, it was postage paid, but only within the continental US. This meant a trip to the post office. There, I find out, that because of the ridiculously large size of the envelope (keep in mind the ballot is smaller than 4x4 inches and you can fold it) I had to pay 3 euros to send it. I mean, it's worth it, but definitely depressing when you consider that it was supposed to be postage-paid and I'd already had to send 2 previous letters to get registered and request the absentee ballot. I know that sounded a bit whiny, but really, shouldn't we be able to do this online yet?

Anyhow, my ballot should make it there in time and after this voting really should never seem like a big deal, so no excuses...
I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving, and I look forward to seeing everyone at Christmas!

Steph

Friday, November 16, 2007

Making a Splash with Hotdish....


Hi all,
I wish I had lots of exciting things to talk about and make you laugh at which is usually why my blog entries take a while to appear. However, this hasn't been a very eventful week, but I'll try to make it sound interesting...

Yes...we call it a "Hotdish"....there is no German equivalent.
So, one of the most exciting things to receive in the package from my mom (the most exciting probably being the baking soda) was the condensed soup mixes. I have since found out that they have very similar things here, but not in a can form. Anyhow, after requesting the recipe from my mom I picked a night (yesterday) to make hotdish. This warranted intense scrutiny from my Mitbewohner (co-inhabiter of an apt) Christian who was rather perplexed with it. Of course, the whole conversation ended up being rather amusing since he kept trying to describe something he was looking for... "die Saugluft" - it made more sense to me once he described it (complete with body motion and sound effects) and he had a good giggle over the name it has in English - vacuum.

Later, when I kept popping my head out of the window that overlooks the courtyard from the kitchen he asked if I was expecting company. I'd invited Eric, Claudia and Christine over and had heard an affirmative from Eric at least (he had my phone charger and my phone died...) so I said yes. Christian then asked if my boyfriend was coming to dinner - which is funny for a few reasons. He's seen me with Eric and Claudia a lot and I've introduced him to both. Likewise, he knows I have a boyfriend named Chris. What made matters more interesting was that we were having the conversation in German and of course that's never perfect. The simplest thing for me to say was that I didn't have a boyfriend in Germany...which was then interpreted that I didn't have a boyfriend at all. After a few minutes of trying to explain in German I had to admit defeat and switch to English. At least we both got a few laughs out of it...

The hotdish turned out great and Christine was thrilled (she came later) to finally have a hotdish (apparently during her year at UND she somehow missed out on theses delicacies...).

Time at the Pool
As much love as I have for swimming (or rather, wearing a swimsuit) Eric managed to convince me to go swimming today (he mentioned a waterslide and wave pool...). Honestly, I ended up having a great time. Upon entering the building, Eric sees the little swim shop in the corner and says he's interested in goggles (since he actually swims...). After eying the display for a minute, one of the ladies (of about 6 crammed into a little 15x15 corner) runs over and helps him to put them on. It was hilarious. The whole time she's positioning and re-positioning a pair of goggles on his head she's talking to me (and pretty much ignoring him) about every detail (talking about his large head, how to adjust them, where they're most likely to leak...and then demonstrating multiple times the correct way to put them on). So while Eric's having his head squeezed, poked and prodded I get to stand there intently listening to the whole spiel. At one point, it got even better and we had 2 ladies "helping". In the end they let him borrow a pair to try until 6 o'clock.

Now, while Eric swam in the big cold pool, I stuck to the side heated pool with massaging bubble beds and people watched. My favorite would have to have been the 5 year old (or so) with the oversized floaties on his arms. He had a method of swimming that consisted of: Flailing his right arm in a forward, letting his body spin 360 degrees while drifting forward 6-12 inches with the momentum of the flail and then repeating. No left arm...just the right. It was hilarious. The best part was the defiant look he gave everyone while giving his all to his task.

The pools were actually amazing. Next to the warm bubbly pool was the wave/splash pool. Even cooler (literally) was the pool that opened up to the outdoors. The water was comfortably heated and it made mist rise (since it was around 30 degrees). Also outside (though connected to the indoors) was one of the water slides. I didn't try it out, but I was impressed. For 3 euros you get 3 hours at the pool (or you can do a 10x for 30 euros or 6 months for 130) it was fun and inexpensive. Anyhow, the picture is a map of the pool facility.

Anyhow, hope all is well with everyone...
Steph

Saturday, November 10, 2007

First Snow


Hi all,

As I lazily rolled out of bed today and wandered into the kitchen, I was struck by a beautiful sight - large, globular snow "flakes" plummeting to earth to melt on the cobblestones. I'm the large tree in our courtyard would be considered a majestic sight - if only it hadn't just been cruelly hacked to a nubbin the day before yesterday. As it was, I decided to make the best of the situation and do some laundry.

Laundry is always a fun affair. I get my clothes together, grab coins and my keys and amble down the 3 flights of stairs in the hope that no one else is using the machine. (Yes, Singular THE machine). It's always fun because they are constantly tour groups passing through and hearing a talk about our building and so either I get to hear about the college students living in the dorm ("cheaply" - ha!...) and sometimes get accosted by curious bystanders in rapid German. Anyhow, maybe it's the Walker tourism resentment buried deep inside, or perhaps it's just boredom, but today I decided to make it worth my while - in honor of the beautiful snow. I figured if I was going to be gawked at, I might as well be worth looking at. So I wore my flipflops down (this may not seem too bold, but they don't wear flipflops outside here even when it's hot - a complete fashion taboo apparently...). I know, I know...I'm such a rebel....

Last night was Sara's birthday and so I spent a good part of the day working on my present to her - a couple of delicious cakes for her party. Thanks to baking soda, all went smoothly and got rave reviews. It was a pretty low-key event. We went out to dinner at an Italian/Mexican restaurant, which had pretty good food. Susanna (from Augustana...small world) ordered Fajitas and they came with corn and kidney beans (but no meat...) - so I can't really attest to the authenticity of the food...Later we came back to the dorm in our "party room" and had cake and gluehwein ("glow wine") which is simply a spiced, heated wine that is very popular around the holidays. There was a huge group of people that showed up (hence the pic) and I think everyone had a good time.

For my theater class this week we had to sign up for what roles we'd like in the play "Das Ehe des Herrn Mississippi" (The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi). There's only one strong female lead and 3 strong male leads. Right now my German is really not up to it, so I signed up for building sets and maybe learning how to work lights and sound. There will be more opportunities next semester so I'm not concerned.

Anyhow, nothing too exciting going on in my world and I should probably go and amuse the tourists again by fetching my laundry in my flipflops...
Hope all is well...
Steph

Monday, November 5, 2007

Heidelberg Abenteuer


Hi all,
So this weekend I traveled to beautiful Heidelberg. Friday afternoon, Eric and I boarded our first train of the day (with him running in 5 minutes before departure...boys). We were soon confused, however, because we couldn't find our car. As we walked along the train it went 3...4...5....5....7. Naturally, our car, number 6 was missing. Not quite certain what we should do, Eric found a conductor, who pleasantly informed us today there was no 6 and why didn't we sit right here and first class instead?" It was a hard sell, I tell you.
The landscape was beautiful - the grass is still green and the trees are all still clad in fall colors. There was a bit of fog that day so everything looked peaceful and a bit mysterious. We made our next train no problem - and that's where our luck ended. We barely made it off the train at our 5:53 stop - Eric had been napping and I was on my laptop. However, upon disembarking and watching the train roll away, we noticed two very important things.
1. This was a lovely town, but hardly looked like it was a major town (Stuttgart) and
2. The trainstation signs (along with a huge one on the building) all proudly stated "Ellwanger"
Shit.
So, God bless military time. We'd actually gotten off early - by just an hour to Stuttgart - but there is no way we could catch our train from Stuttgart to Heidelberg and have Eric make his Hockey game on time. Conundrum. So, Eric squared his shoulders, and dialed his friend Mike in Heidelberg. After enduring a few minutes of laughter at our luckless stupidity, he checked a map for us - he'd never heard of Ellwanger before. Next, Eric took on the envious (not) task of talking with the lady at the train station. She spoke mostly in German and after chiding us several times about our idiocracy she gave us two options:
1. Get on the next Express Train (which we were on earlier) and get to Heidelberg at 8:05 for a mere 72 Euros or
2.
Take the regional train pass for 29 Euros (together/up to 5 people) and get there at 8:20.
That was obviously a hard decision.

We had an hour to burn, so I took a lovely picture of Eric standing with a sign of a mother holding her child's hand (since we apparently are too dumb to ride the train correctly, we figured it fitting). Then we went to a deli shop and Eric got 100 g of potato salad. Without his glasses, he somehow thought that it looked bigger than 3 forkfuls...
After successfully making our way back to the station and the subsequent stations of Crailsheim and Heilebonn (?) we arrived at our destination.

Mike and his mom were waiting for us, bemused and ready to take us to their lovely home. After the formalities of introductions, Mike went and picked up his gf and we all played "Das Spiel des Wissens" aka, Trivial Pursuit in German. It was an old game and it was set up so you went around the solar system. This of course brought up the key point and intense discussion of the validity of playing Pluto or skipping it. The game was actually a lot of fun although Eric and I tossed around the dictionary a lot.

On Saturday we hit the town. We tried to get on the base (with thoughts of oreos and teddy grahams dancing in our heads) but Eric hadn't gotten the fine details down about how to enter (with a government ID or know someone on base) so the biggest attraction there was the prominent pink brothel across the street. We attempted the Philosopher's Path - which was pretty hellish and so we only went about a third of the way up. I figured that was adequate for a History and English/German major. Then we went to the fabled candy store. From the outside it doesn't appear to be a candy shop - if anything it looks like a dentist's office. The inside is literally crammed with candy and a line. It took a while because the shop keeper plays a dice game with every customer. If you win you get a large candy prize and if you lose, a little tiny one. It was pretty nifty. That evening we hit the local carnival but didn't stay for long - it wasn't anything spectacular and the main attraction seemed to be hanging out with your friends.

On Sunday we briefly went up to the Heidelberg castle (hence the pic) and although I didn't stand in the footprints again, I'm sure I'll be coming back sometime to Heidelberg. Then Mike dropped us off at the station and we made our way home in a relatively uneventful manner. It was a great trip and I wouldn't hesitate to go back but would definitely check my tickets twice next time.

Steph

Monday, October 29, 2007

Things that make you go hmmm


Hi all,
So, the title of this blog should be pretty obvious - lately I've just noticed a lot of things that have made me laugh or at least smile because I'm confused.

Kermit Heads....
So, when I go to karate on Thursday nights, the people on the other side of the cloth gym divider like to play music. Not just any music, however, just a very select repertoire. It consists of the "Splish-Splash I was taking a bath" song, a recording of frogs croaking, and then one of flatulence. What they were doing remained a mystery until last Thursday. Karate ran late, so we were still there when they raised the barrier - revealing a group of about 20 people eating ice cream and drinking gluehwein sitting on giant inner tubes (like, tractor sized) surround by what looked to be 20 decapitated beach-ball sized Kermit the Frog heads. So, I guess what they're really doing is still a mystery but I guess the frog soundtrack has been cleared up.

Hold your Applause, but Knock on Wood
In most ways I am finding that a University is a University no matter where they are but they all have their little quirks. Regensburg is no exception. For example, when a UND or Augustana Professor gives a lecture you simply sit there, answer as needed and phase in and out of concentration. At the end of lecture the teacher either makes a beeline for the door or waits around for questions. If a guest lecturer/speaker is present, there might be a quick round of polite clapping. However, I was a bit confused when I was sitting in my English class (taught by a German "lecturer") and the class ended with some vigorous table thumping. Apparently it is traditional to knock on the desk (instead of applauding) after every class.

The Boy from Minnesota (!)
Today I was sitting on the bus with Molly (a CO student) and we were discussing our weekends and classes in General. She suddenly remembered that - "There's a boy from MN from my class!" I asked her what his name was and from which University he was coming from, but she said she actually hadn't talked to him yet... This I found to be really interesting since I thought I'd met all the Americans and certainly all the Minnesotans. Well, I was on my way to Phonetics class, which I have with Eric. I told him that there was another guy from MN (who couldn't be Brady because he has a higher UNICERT level) and Eric also got quite excited about meeting a fellow Minnesotan. The excitement was shattered, however, when he asked me who Molly was and figured out that, sadly, He was the boy from Minnesota. Well, maybe it was funnier if you were there.

Do you have a License for that Radio Ma'am?
Sometimes I think the Germans could tell me anything and I'd believe it. Not necessarily because I'm utterly gullible, but just because sometimes you find out the weirdest things. Yesterday I was at Max's for "Sunday Dinner" and he switched on his Radio joking that he hoped someone had a license for it. Confused, I turned to Claudia and asked what he meant. Apparently, when you go and buy a radio it comes with paperwork and you have to send it in with a fee to attain a "license" for being able to play the radio. It is apparently also enforced (Claudia once had them come to her door) but you can refuse them the right to search your house. Weird huh? Now, I could understand this if they had commercial/sponsor-free music stations - but they don't. So, I'm not sure if it's a post-war law (to prevent people from tuning in to the BBC?) that's become outdated or what. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

In General
Saturday evening I went Ice Skating with a small group of people at the Donau Arena. We picked a bad night to go - it was "Disco Night" so it was teeming with tweens and thugs-in-training. It was particularly bad for a couple of the Irish girls who'd only been skating once or twice before - with little speed demons knocking into people, even I could barely keep my balance.
Yesterday we had a good Sunday dinner. I thought I was going to be contributing so I made a pizza and the pasta pesto chicken tortellini dish. I soon found out I was the only one cooking, so they also ended up ordering in a couple of pizzas. Mine was better... : p
I guess things are going well, classes have been interesting and the homework not to staggering. Today we were learning how to say the German "f" and so we got to play with fire. The teacher literally whipped out tee candles and matches and has us pass it around, making the sound to blow it out. This is guaranteed to give me weird sound associations for the rest of my life.
Today I bought a "Bahncard 25" and a ticket to Heidelberg for this weekend. The card gives you an automatic 25% on your ticket (second class, in my case) and I got the Heidelberg ticket for under 50 euros. I'm going with Eric who's going to see a friend. I didn't mean to invite myself along - I just asked if he was going to go again nearer to Christmas (because we only got to see it briefly on our German Club trip and Eric described a lot of neat shops) and he said nope and I should just come along. The nice thing is that we will be staying at his friend's house, and so there's no cost for accommodation (except bringing a little gift for his friend's generous parents). So that's really nice. Anyhow, I think that's about all for now.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Extra Curriculars


Hi all,
This is going to be a nice little post about my extra time in Regensburg.
Clubbing
I know this is going to be my mom's favorite section - don't worry Mom, I haven't gotten drunk and all of my clothing has remained on my person. With that disclaimer... I haven't really been big into going to pubs because of the smoking policies. This Spring they'll be enacting a smoking ban in public places so that might help. Also not helping is the fact that mostly the drink of choice for a nice long night at the pub is beer. I've not acquired a taste for it and really, I don't see the point of it. Strongbow, however, has acquired a new fan. It's a dry cider that is close to the alcohol content of beer but with a much milder, pleasant taste. As for clubs, I've only been to several and I find them slightly comic. I don't know if Germans are chronically shy around dance floors or if it's a taboo of theirs, but they never start dancing until about 12:30. This means, in the case of the first one we (me, and a group of Americans from Colorado) we danced in the floor with an ever-growing ring of Germans pressing in watching. Finally, it seemed as though the club had no more room and people were forced onto the dance floor. Now, I don't really dance...at all, so this wasn't the most comfortable of experiences but it was a lot more fun than sitting around staring at other people. It eventually got uber crowded and we kept getting elbowed and pushed around so we left. So, I would have to say that the night scene here is definitely happening, but just not my thing.
Shotokan
For those lucky enough to know me well (assuredly everyone reading this blog) knows I took Shorin-ryu karate in High School and then Kong Su Do (Korean) karate in College my freshman year. So, I decided that I should join a club here - since it's recommended and meeting people at bars isn't as easy for those already with a significant other. So while flipping through the Sport center's activities I saw they listed Shotokan Karate - a sister form to Shorin-ryu. So I trekked over to the Sport center (a LONG walk from the center of campus), determined to find the gymnasium. Well, after 45 minutes I had to admit defeat - even (or especially) after asking a little man in a booth for directions. Later I would find out the secret - that one must go through the changing rooms to get to the gymnasiums.

So I returned later that night, extremely nervous. First, because I hadn't practiced for almost 3 years and secondly because of the language barrier. I was fixated on the question of whether or not to leave my shoes in the locker room - not that it mattered at all. There was only a small group and brown belt leading us quickly ascertained that I had done some form of Karate (he couldn't understand my pronunciation of shorin-ryu) and that my German level was barely functional. I was put in a group of all new guys who had a bit of an ego going because they thought Karate would be similar to their military training stint. The evening flew by, however, and I was thoroughly exhausted and happy at the end of it. It was easier to go back on Thursday, where we were led by a black belt who talked very quickly. Luckily we just went over basics again and he demonstrated everything. This form is very close, although it's kind of funny because one, they have all the colors of the rainbow for belts (so it looked like a bunch of skittles) and secondly, we were sharing the gym with a bunch of rock climbers because that wall was the climbing wall. So while I've been rusty and exhausted, it's definitely been nice to get back into the swing of things.
Neuschwanstein
It was a pleasant surprise to find out that I would be able to go on the trip to Neuschwanstein (The Fairy Tale Castle) today. The list filled up very quickly, but Siobhain (Shivonne in English) got a nasty bug and was unable to go. Rather than lose her 25 Euro deposit, she wanted to find a replacement so I jumped at the chance. Due to a rather bad sleep schedule I've developed (I can't seem to fall asleep before 3) it was particularly brutal to get up at 5:55 to leave at 7 from the bahnhof (train station) on a stagecoach bus. Nevertheless, we made it there on time (Sara and Jake from my floor also went) and soon I was napping on the bus. I woke at a rest stop (it's about a 3 hour trip) and found out I missed out on seeing the first snowflakes in Germany. This turned out not to be a total loss, because by the time we got to Neuschwanstein, there was about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Oh, beautiful....oh frigid. This was not my brightest moment, I'll admit, but when I got up this morning there was only a slight chill in the air and so all I wore was my warm orange zip-up fleece sweatshirt. It was damn cold. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One event of note that I was awake for happened on the way to the castles (we toured the hunting castle and Neuschwanstein). Our bus suddenly slowed down and we all craned our necks to see what was happening. I would assume that the snow had something to do with it, but we had come across two men trotting after a small group of loose cattle along side the road. Unfortunately, the bus startled the cattle into a lope, causing the father and son duo chasing them to start having to run after then as well. The father lost his footing, and went down. The son looked torn (I was told, I was on the wrong side of the bus to see) but chose to run frantically after the cattle. The bus driver yanked the bus over to the shoulder and we all piled out to help with wrangling the cattle. We formed a huge circle and managed to get the cattle back under control of the father and son.

Sure, it makes a good story. And it's way better than what really happened. We actually just drove by and gawked. I was all up for wrangling the cattle - but I'm afraid I was deprived of this potentially culturally-enriching event. I have no idea if the they caught the cattle, but I figure they caught them when the cattle got hungry or tired enough to stop to go home. Had you going there for a minute though, right?

Anyhow, it was truly magical weather (albeit freeeezing) for the tours. The sun eventually broke through the clouds, hence the lovely picture for the post. The tours were in German this time, so I missed a lot of it (it's really hard to gawk and listen, in my defense) but it was cool to tour the hunting castle this time. Anyhow, the trip home was uneventful and I decided to post a nice blog about it for you all to enjoy. Feel free to leave comments or questions and I'll try to answer by e-mail or in the blog.

Steph

Thursday, October 18, 2007

First Week of Classes

Hi all,
I'll get to the title of the post eventually but I have a few other things on my mind first.
So, funny story / observation time!
Christmas Christmas Christmas
Now, I know in the US we seem to have an almost morbid fascination with how quickly the "seasons" change. Not fall or spring, I mean we go from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas season. Well, usually Christmas displays pop up on "black friday" - merely a day after Thanksgiving. However, Halloween isn't really observed here (the bars like to have promotional parties, but that's about it) and obviously Thanksgiving isn't either. For whatever reason, this just made me assume that the Christmas decorations wouldn't pop up until December or so. Wrong. This last week on the bus I noticed, one by one, the shops changing their window fronts. Going from regular displays to shiny, blue and white Christmasy ones. They celebrate St. Nicholas on the 6th and that's when good kids get a present and bad ones don't and then celebrate the more religious Christmas as usual. So they actually separate Christ and St. Nick. (St. Nich?)

Oh Where, Oh Where, Has My Shower Gone?
This is definitely my most embarassing story yet. Last week, I was jolted out of a dead slumber (at 7 AM) by the sounds of doors slamming and a general ruckus. Figuring that my apt mates were running behind or in a hurry, I tossed myself over and managed to somehow drift back off to sleep. I was woken up once again, about 20 minutes later and this time the sound went on for 10 minutes strong. Thoroughly pissed off, and definitely not awake, I Threw my door opened and yelled:
"What the HELL are you doing?!?!?"
To my incredible chagrin, I see a blurry (I didn't have my contacts in...) but distinctively uniform-clad man peek out of the shower room and say "...entschuldigung...?" ( I'm sorry?). Apparently (although we have no idea) one of the showers had been leaking and so when the Hausmeister decided to have the apts cleaned he decided to have them "fix" the shower as well. And by "fix" I mean he had them completely gutted. We had a nice dirt hole in the floor. About 4 days ago they put the bottom porcelain back in, and from the ruckus I'm hearing right now, they're hopefully putting in the glass door. But yeah, that's a story to make me proud. The best part was that at least one of my apt mates was in the kitchen and heard me yell. I would like to note, however, that the service guy did work a lot more quietly after that...

Classes...What Joy.
So, I have had all my classes for the week. As you might have noticed, it is Thursday - yes, I have achieved the impossible and managed to have a longer weekend than school week. I will accept kudos and cash payments in small unmarked bills. My initial schedule only gave me Thursdays off, but in my Monday class I found out that the Friday class I'd signed up for was the first part of the intensive course I already took. So I frantically searched through classes and jumped into a Texts class on Wednesday. My Phonetics class on Monday put me at ease a little, it seems manageable and the teacher seems really nice. It's funny that I've never had a female German teacher before, and this semester all my instructors (so far) have been women.

On Tuesday I had my first English class. We met at this giant black ball in the middle of campus, because the room is apparently in the Chemistry building and hard to find. She was going to take us there, but then brought us to the little pond on campus. This was nice, but won't help me any in finding the classroom next week. Next, she proceeded to conduct the entire class in GERMAN. I was a little freaked out, but it was only because she was going over the Important information and wanted to make sure everyone would understand. Well, I suppose that was good for the German students...I kind of expected her to stick around for a minute or two after "class" (it only lasted a half hour) but she buzzed off with some students that she apparently knew. So that was encouraging.

Wednesday I only had my Texts class this week from 4-6 because the theater class doesn't start until the 24th. The class will definitely be a challenge but I know it'll be good for me because writing is my greatest weakness. The instructor (I keep wanting to type "Professor" but that's not accurate and if you accidentally call them that they can get really pissed off) is from the North and so it was quite a bit easier to understand her, which was very nice.

Well, I have to run to the bank in a little bit (bank card still hasn't come, sigh, and I need to get my Sport Center card today - a long and involved process...) so I should be going. Feel free to leave a comment or just say hi.
Hope all is well with you all,
Steph

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Misadventures

Hi again all,
Well, it's been a while since my last post but not a whole lot has happened. I found out that my placement test put me into UNICERT 1 which is a B1 level (it goes, A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2) which was right about where my class was. I managed (somehow) to enroll in classes, this was actually quite amazing since it's more complicated than UND. I ended up with 3 German classes in the German as a Foreign Language dept, a Phonetics course on Mondays from 1:30-3, a Theater course on Wednesday from 6:30-8 and a basic course on Friday from 10-1. I also managed to contact an English teacher and will hopefully have a class on Tuesday as well. I found out (with some help from Christine) that I missed the deadline for classes by a measly 2 months. Apparently the sign-up for the levels I was interested in happened between the 23rd and 28th of July. Nice huh? Anyhow, the instructor I contacted was willing to try to fit me into one of her classes, so that will be nice.
Let's see, ah, how about more culinary mis-adventures? One night it hit me that I really wanted sugar cookies. Mmmm. Well, it turns out I had all the ingredients for the recipe except one. (my mom had bought a cookbook software program with about 50+ cookbooks in it) which I found in "Recipes for over 50." That should've been a first clue, since it was the simplest cookie recipe I've seen in quite a while. However, I didn't have the oil, and decided to go for the good old applesauce switch. Well, the first batch came out, and they definitely weren't cookies...but they tasted like them. They ended up being dubbed "cuffins" because they had the consistency of muffins and cookies together. After we found some expired (but still tasty and unopened) "chocolate drops" they were pretty darn edible. Then, 2 days ago I made an attempt at cornbread. However, I used a round cheesecake pan (making do with what we had) and had to guess on the baking powder since the only measurement was "enough for 500 g flour." I then used the convection setting (wrong....) and ended up browning the top with goo still in the middle. However, with a few more adjustments, it eventually came out close to perfect and perfectly edible. At least I haven't been able to screw-up noodles yet.
Sight-seeing / events...
I went with the Colorado group to Walhalla, which is a large building that resembles the Greek Parthenon. It's an hour and a half riverboat ride downstream that's kind of plopped down in the middle of nowhere. There were some pictures recently tagged of me there with some of the people from Colorado that live in my floor and building. We took the "scenic" path on the way back down to catching the boat and ended up WAY out of the way, so we had to run back. Thursday night I went to the play "Endspiel" (End Game by Samuel Beckett) with Claudia, Eric, Laura, Ingrid, Kim (from Korea) and Katie. Niamh was supposed to come, however, she can't seem to figure out the German bus schedules to save her life and ended up going to the opposite end of town. She ended up getting there with 10 minutes to spare, but went up a wrong set of stairs and ended up at a Nietzsche lecture...in German. Meanwhile, the play had started and was both hilarious and utterly depressing. The two best parts were inadvertently so. The first was at a part in the play where they script mocks the British and the Germans had to speak with a British accent. Beckett was an Irish expatriate and wrote his plays in French and English. So hearing a clearly British accent in German was hilarious - not to mention that Katie is British, so that was funny as well. (Oh yes, of course the play was in German.) The second funny part was completely by accident. One of the main characters is blind and in a comfortable chair with wheels. He has a helper (a man kept on only because the blind man has control of the food stash - this is a "end of the world and humanity" play) who he makes push him over to the window on stage. However, the stage is divided into 3 levels, the basement (where the blind man keeps his parents) which is the bottom 3 feet, the blind man's rooms, about 5 feet high, and his helper's rooms, above his rooms that go up to the top of the stage, about 5.5 feet. Anyhow, the helper is pushing him over to the window, and by accident, two of the casters on the chair go over the edge! The helper literally jumped off stage laughing almost hysterically and pushed and shoved for a few minutes in order to put the chair back up. You could tell the other actor was sitting VERY still and was ready to bail at any moment. It was only funny because it didn't happen.
Well, I realize that last part was long and I hope I haven't left out anything too interesting. Anyhow, I start lectures tomorrow so I better finish up and head off to bed.
G'bye all and take care,
Steph

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bist du sicher?


The title of today's post comes from one of my German teacher's favorite phrases. It literally means "Are you sure?" Of course, the last time he asked, I don't think he was expecting me to immediately answer "Nein." That was on Wednesday, the day before my final (and first...) test for the course. I shouldn't say that it was my first, since we had a practice test last week. However, I managed to fail that one with an astounding 30%. Naturally, this made me feel quite good about my German capabilities. So I studied my butt off and somewhat was finally able to learn Konjunktiv I and II (somewhat...). I by no means dominated the test yesterday, but I have the slightest hope that I did indeed manage to pass this time. Today I had another test (a University placement exam) which had the most confusing system of fill-in-the-blank ever.
For example, the test consisted of 4-5 paragraphs with words within the paragraph cut off after a word or to. For example: I went to the park an_ then to the mall. Obviously, the missing letter is "d". But there were funny rules. If the blank had one letter and then the underline, you could only use 1 letter to go with it a___ = at. However, if there were 2 letters, you could use two or one letters to complete it. Four letters before equaled 3 or 2 letters afterwards. And then, randomly, sometimes you would have to make a compound word like baumh____ = baumhaus (tree house) which you were supposed to be able to gleam from the text. Might I add that this was all explained to us in German with a crappy overhead projection. We were supposed to have taken the test on a computer, but the whole system crashed and the server is in another town. Unfortunately for those who went the hour before me, they all had to take the test again on paper as well. So, for me it really could have been worse.
This last weekend was pretty uneventful. Saturday I did some studying and Sunday as well. Sunday afternoon all the students were supposed to go bowling, but only about 8 people showed up (all English speakers except one girl from Russia). We went to a place called "The Super Bowl" which had bowling lanes, lots of pool tables, some pinball machines and a air hockey table. The bowling balls were all in pounds (which I found to be funny) and apparently most Germans don't bowl too often. Our German students had fun laughing at themselves. Surprisingly, I bowled really well and I think my top score was 136. Which is fantastic for me.
Let's see...Oh, yeah. I finally caved in and got a German cell phone yesterday. It cost me about 35 euros (15 being for minutes on it). It's nothing special, but it does have it's very own pink leather carrying case. (Oooh, ahh...) Minutes are really expensive here. From one German cell to another it is usually around 30 euro cents a minute. But it's good to have so I can know when things are going on or in cases of emergency.
Well, I think that's about it for right now. I'm more than happy to answer questions, although in some cases it might be easier to e-mail. So, you can either leave your e-mail address in the comments or send me an e-mail at my student account: stephanie.munson@und.edu.
Steph

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's a Small, Small World...


Hey all,
So, I had a pretty busy last few days. Class has been very challenging, especially since we're moving into territory that I certainly haven't covered yet. I'm beginning to think that my teacher thinks I'm a little slow, but he's certainly very nice about it. And, the tangents we have in class are certainly worth the hard parts. Take this afternoon, for example. We had an article about Oktoberfest. We learned little tips, such as bow etiquette. Women at the festival traditionally wear their "dirndl" (think Heidi, or any other kitschy Scandinavian mountain girl get-up) with a bow tied on. Apparently, if they tie the bow on the right side, it means that they're fair game. While if the bow is tied on the left side it means "leave me alone!" They're big into subtlety here. Another thing that we learned is that the barmaids that lug the liters of beer out (and that's the ONLY size available from about 7.30-7.90 euros per glass) don't actually get paid. They buy the beers from the vendors (for about 4-5 euros) and then sell them to the customers at the mark-up. Our professor knew a student who did it for 6 days and made over 6 THOUSAND euros. He said a lot of the women only work the 3 weeks of Oktoberfest and take the rest of the year off. However, this is an incredibly hard job. Sure, it's not hard to convince people to buy the beer but almost every woman had her hands bandaged (getting crushed by carrying 10-12 liters at a time).

Anyhow, the Oktoberfest conversation led the teacher into asking about all of our "festivals". The Irish said St. Patrick's Day, Greece has Saint days, France has some type of wine festival, we have the 4th of July...and Mexico takes the cake. Apparently, the whole month of April is the Festival of St. Markus. Ingrid (she had a German Grandmother...) explained auf Deutsch that they drink beer mixed with salsa in the streets, wine with fruit juices at the bull fights (but it's not Sangria) and whatever in the clubs. She said there were activities for all ages - even games for the kids. Then a slight misunderstanding happened. The teacher jokingly asked (in German) "Oh, but the kid's don't drink, right?" - to which Ingrid said "Oh, Ja, alles trinken!" (everyone drinks). There was a great look of surprise on our teacher's face and it took him a while to stop laughing. I asked Ingrid about it at the bus stop and she was a little embarrassed when she found out what his question actually had been. Then she laughed for about 2 minutes.

However, back to Oktoberfest. I'm afraid it might have been wasted on me. Now, one would think that it would be a great opportunity for someone of any age - but especially for those who are not technically of age in their own country. I know it made Eric happy, for example. But the whole "not liking beer" thing kind of gets in the way of that. Also, the day was very hot and while Beer is very accessible, water was not. We got there early enough in the day to get a table (around 9:30) and stayed there for a few hours. However, since no one really wanted to put in a long day of drinking and because meal prices were incredibly exorbitant we decided to go wander around in the milling throngs of people. On a typical weekend, about 500,000(!) people are there. This was the opening weekend, so I'm sure on Sunday there were about 300,000 people. Of course, there was more that just beer tents. There were tons of carnival rides (and even an old-fashioned wood slide that had been brought there for 70 years) and what seemed like an infinite amount of nut sellers (along with chocolate covered fruit, wurst stands, etc). I only went on the Ferris Wheel, and that's what the picture is from(which is only a fraction of the festival!). We ended up "catching" the 5:05 train (Russell flat-out sprinted to the train and held the doors open long enough for us to hop in). But I've saved my best story for last...

Right after we got our table that morning, a couple of women (obviously American) sat at the other end of the table attached to ours. They were quite friendly and started up a conversation with Russell, who was nearest to them. Eventually we did the state introductions and upon hearing I was from Minnesota, one of the woman exclaimed "Me too! Where are you from?"
Here's the conversation:
Me "Oh, from a little town named Walker"
Her" Oh, really? I'm from Blaine...you don't happen to know anyone in the health field in Walker, do you?"
Me "Um, actually, my Dad is a Public Health Nurse..."
Her "No kidding! What's his name?"
Me "Dave Munson..."
Her "Oh my gosh! I know your dad! We've talked on the phone before - I work with a Med Tech company (KCI) and I've given a presentation in Walker!"
Me "Wow...weird..."
Her"Yeah. Do you talk to your parents often?"
Me "Here and there, I've only been here 3 weeks so far, but I definitely have to call tonight though, this is too funny..."
So then she told me her name was Nichole and that next time she sees my dad (before I will, of course....) she'll have to say hi for me.
It's a Small, Small World.

Anyhow, I have to go grocery shop for dinner but look for another update at the end of this week or the start of next.

Steph video

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

At long last...and comment this time!


Hi all...
Ok, so I finally managed to not only remember my password and switch blogspot back to English, but I also (ooooh, ahhhh) FINALLY got internet. It took about a week longer than it was supposed to due my extremely helpful friend Eric. I needed my IP address and he was very proud to announce that he could find it for me - Even on Vista. Well, he did find the IP address - for the Wireless network. However, I have to use a cable and therefore I must register with my Ethernet IP address. So. Yeah. Viola, a lifeline to the world. Actually, I thought it was going to be a red-letter day and that I might FINALLY be able to find out the phone number to my phone since I signed my lease today. Or not. There was a phone number on the lease, but apparently it is not the right one. I DO, however, know my mailing address.

Steph Munson
Goldener Turm
Wahlenstrasse 16 Zi 304
93047 Regensburg, Germany

Oh, and don't try to send me playing cards, apparently this is verboten. What I would really like at this point is baking soda. Or cornstarch. Or coolwhip. Simply because they don't exist here. Weird, huh? Let's see...was noch. See, I'm slipping in some German here - because I think I can. Needless to say, my German class is maybe helping some. Actually, I have already seen my comprehension level sky-rocket, but this helps me only a little as I am surrounded outside of the classroom with people speaking Bayernisch.
This is a southern dialect and I get shouted at a lot in it. Mostly by bus drivers and people at the supermarkets. By the way, I have found a great irony in the German food industry. People shop here either every day or every few days. So, all their food has pretty short expiration dates. Thus I was shocked (and confused, because I looked through all the coolers) to discover that their "Milch" lasts for 6 months! They keep it in an "aisle" of stacked up boxes. I have already decided that the reason that all the old people in Germany are typically short (but cute) is because they didn't drink enough milk as a child. This is due to the fact that the milk tastes like....like....well, there is no equivalent in America because we have "happy cows" and we are not afraid the steroid the heck out of them. But, I digress.

It is amazing how full my days are. Every day I have class from 8:30 to 2:30/3 with a lunch break. I have an amazing teacher who enjoys going on any good tangents. We work on written skills, pronunciation and mostly on expanding our vocabularies. I seem to have a knack for remembering the most useless words upon first utterance. So, I know button, acorn, push and pull, strange and badger. Great. Anyhow, at least the food is edible at the "Mensa" - but just barely. I am now a hard-core Schnitzel fan (breaded pork...mmmm) and know to stay away from the vast array of "pudding" desserts offered. Anyhow, after class we (all 54 of us fun-loving internationalists) trek to the "Kaffee-stunde" coffee-hour and either do fun things like register as aliens or get tours of parts of the college. The former usually includes harassed-looking and usually cranky university employees and the latter consists of much milling around. However, I am now officially a German Alien. How sweet is that?

Today I went to my friends' Eric and Christine's apartment and made a birthday cake for Eric's girlfriend Claudia. Now, I did have to only use baking powder and had to cook the canned cherries to a gel (oh, no pie filling here either...) but it still tasted great - Sachentorte/Black Forest Cake. I am missing a well-equipped kitchen and larder though. I know that larder is an archaic term by our standards, but honestly, the more I try to think in German the less capable I seem to speak in English. I figure it will even out at some point and then I hope that German will take over. Soon.

Anyhow, this was my nice long and rambling post that I am sure you have all (more or less) been waiting for.
Anyhow, I'm coming down sick and need my sleep. And no, I haven't been dreaming in German, yet.

Hope everyone is well,
Steph

Monday, September 3, 2007

Arrival...

Hello!
So, I survived my trip to Regensburg in one piece. I got 2 hours of sleep on my flight to Iceland and about another on my way to Frankfurt. The flights were ok, other than the meals took forever to serve - fortunately I had some dried fruit and gum to pull me through. Getting from terminal 2 to terminal 1 was a challenge though in Frankfurt. Note: I will NEVER EVER bring two large bags again...I have bruises everywhere and swear I got looks of contempt that are unmistakable to translate into English. Plus, I couldn´t pee. I mean, you can´t just leave your bags sitting out at an airport - that´s a good way to end up seeing the polizei or just begging someone to roll off with it. So, dehdrated from Iceland customs making me dump out my water, and unable to use the bathroom until the paranoia of leaving my seat on the train briefly wore off I was in a bit of a pickle. By the time I made it to the train station (too afraid to fall asleep on the 3.5 hour ride there for fear I would not wake up for the stop) I was SOOO glad to see my friend Eric and his friend\roommate Christine (pronouced Christina). It was a short ride to their apartment where another visiting friend (from MN, oddly enough...) had cooked a "traditional bavarian dinner". So, weiƟwurst and pretzels ( a white sausage...good with a sweet mustard) and LOTS of water. Also, fortunate for me was that the third appartmentmate was gone, so I even got a bed. I have already picked up all sorts of handy advice for living in Germany. For example: dont put your feet up on the bus, in fact, leave them FLAT on the floor. Or you get kicked off and threatened with a 30 euro fee...didn´t happen to me, but good to know. Also, you must ALWAYS buy a ticket, they have guys who are paid to camp out and fine the heck out of you - 50 euros at least. Lastly, bring your own computer - they switch the y and z places ´- along with adding all sorts of keys. Anywasys, my time is almost up, so goodbye and look for more info in the sometime near future!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Up and Running....

Alrighty, this is just a test-blog to make sure that everything is working well. My first update will not happen until shortly before I leave or whenever I arrive and have computer access.