Thursday, January 31, 2008

A quick note to End the month on...

Hi all,
So, we'll see if I can quickly write this post so it ends up in the month it belongs to!
Tonight was completely awesome! Not to mention a major adrenaline-kick and a little bit nerve-wracking. We had testing tonight in Karate - and I was going for my yellow belt (yet again...). This was a very different setup than what I am used to. In Shoryn Ru we accumulated hours and showed throughout training that we'd become competent in certain areas, in Kong Su Do we were loosely tested by our instructors and it included board-breaking. However, these guys go the full nine yards and had 2 important (I'm assuming, no one really bothered to tell men from the German Shotokan karate association there to pass judgment. Luckily, the white belts went first, so it was over fairly quickly. I was a little nervous for two reasons. The first being that it was just a normal reaction to a new situation. The second was because of a "wardrobe malfunction" (thanks pop culture!). When I first returned back to Germany, the ties on the left side of my uniform (the under-tie side of my shirt) broke, leaving only one attached. Now, this had happened before, but it's really only the top tie that's important. Well, that decided to rip off tonight too. So I was basically praying that my slightly-too-small belt wouldn't slip or loosen at all. Fortunately, all went well...

My Nutella Fixation Continues...

Well, I must admit that I have been stretching my culinary muscles into rather odd creations. First came the peanutbutter nutella cookies (I made another batch...mmm), next came the grilled peanutbutter and nutella sandwich (mmm, melty!) and most recently I have altered the timeless American classic of ants on a log to "smeared ants on a log" (layer of peanutbutter between the celery and nutella...mmm, healthy? No.).

And Finally...The Embarrassing Story of the Month

So, last week at Karate I went Thursday night as well (I usually end up missing it due to other engagements or pure laziness). Afterwards, I was conversing with a girl named Tina and we were walking back to the changing rooms (remember, you have to go through the changing rooms to access the gyms). The rest of the karate class (all guys that night) were behind us. So, I was just about to step inside the outer door of the changing room when it was Flung open...revealing 4-5 half-dressed MEN. Without a word, I did a 180. Tina, who was a half-step behind me, continued another step forward and just as quickly did an about-face. The guys behind us all roared...We had almost just went into the guy's changing room! Now, since Tina and I don't always come on Thursdays but always on Tuesdays, we're used to being in the gym that's directly across from the girls' changing rooms. I'm also pretty sure that had the door not been flung open the guys behind us would have been content to let us blindly walk into a rather...awkward situation. So, as sorry as I am to have let you down (because I'm sure that would've made a MUCH better story), I found it embarrassing enough as it was.
Now, I'm going to beat the clock and post this quickly. The picture is of the documents I received in my Karate class.
Hope all is well...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

General Mischief

Hey all,
The last few weeks haven't been particularly exciting, but I have been up to a few things...

Tandem Partner
So, today I had my second meeting with Julia (which, means that I obviously lived through the first one!). We talked in German the first half of the hour and English the second half both times. The conversation has to be kept a lot simpler in German (such as today, where it was mostly about movies) while Julia's English is really good (we talked about colleges and Native American reservations in the Midwest). However, I think we're both getting something out of it and she's really nice.

About a week ago I went to IKEA with Eric and Christine (who was awesome enough to drive her car!). It was kind of funny, because although I'd been the one to ask to go, it turned out that they both came up with lists of their own pretty easily. I finally got a few new pillows (thank God...sleeping's been a lot better!), a sheet thing to go over my air bed, another fleece blanket, a knife, pizza cutter and some dish towels for the kitchen (which are nice to have, and worth the price for another 6 months!) and some candles for my room. During the visit to IKEA Eric and I were found guilty for not caring enough about Christine's bathroom - apparently picking out the right floor mat is VERY important and last time she bought a shower curtain the decision took days. Which, I can partially understand - it being a matter of pride of having your own place - however so humble and having it reflect you. I was really excited about the candles (just tea candles, but I got little holders too), and was all ready to light one that night - until I realized that'd require fire...So now I own a box of matches.

Theater Weekend
This last weekend was a "Theater Retreat" weekend for Theater Babylon - the theater class I'm in. I was kind of the odd-person-out, because I don't technically have a roll. However, one or two people in minor roles didn't make it, so I did end up doing a little bit. We actually rode in cars (I know....twice in the span of a week...amazing) for about an hour's trip to Haunersdorf - a teeny little village a 10 minute drive to the nearest train station. The picture I put up is of the Hostel we stayed at. Since it didn't have the most convenient location, the rooms were cheap - 8 euros for the room and 11 (if you needed bedding) per night. They also made HUGE quantities of food - with soy substitute for the meat, which more or less kinda agreed with my intestinal track.
Also impressive were the vast quantities of baked goods (including my newly patented Nutella Peanut Butter cookies..mmmm) and the sheer quantity of alcohol. They(the 2 instructors for the course) brought the standard 2-3 crates of beer but also provided a few bottles of vodka and wine - plus everyone else brought at least one bottle. With approximately 20 people, this was impressive.
At times all the line running was enough to break a person, but we also had a lot of fun too. The first night we played a huge game of charades in English/German (because so many songs, books and movies are in English, so it's pretty standard). That night was most notable for me because of was happened during the night. I was sharing a room with Sara (after warning each other we sleep-talked) and she told me the next morning that she'd woken up in the middle of the night having a "conversation" with me - although we both apparently weren't making any sense. So, apparently I really never shut up.
The second night everyone was pretty hard core about drinking, but as most of the wine was really dry white wine and the fact that I was slightly sleep deprived (and knew it wouldn't be any better later) I only had a few glasses at dinner. On Sunday I was part of the group who took the train back to Regensburg (we didn't have enough cars) and it took 1.5 hours. I actually really like riding in trains and I think that'll be something I miss when I come home.

PS I Love you
All right. So when I was home I ended up seeing I am Legend (because I wasn't aware it was a "scary" movie...) and didn't see PS I Love You - which happened to be the English Movie this Monday. Which was good, because it is essentially an emotional mind-(rhymes with luck...and forgive the language). I mean, I'm all for sentimentality, but I've never bawled my eyes out at a movie before. One minute I'd be leaking like a river, the next laughing hysterically. Luckily, I was in good company, as both Molly and Sara were crying a fair deal as well. It was pretty weird though, because I can't even remember the last time I cried during a movie...

I Dreamt in German!
Finally, I have my breakthrough dream. Mr. McIver always said that you knew you were getting somewhere when your dreams switched languages. Up until last week, I'd never had a dream in German. I had had one dream where someone was saying something (German?) but I couldn't understand it. However, last week I had a dream that was a conversation with a German girl and we had a conversation mostly in German. Crazy...I might actually be learning German after all!

Anyhow, I hope everyone is well...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Home Again

Hey All!
I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and a safe and fun New Years! I was home in Walker from about the 19th of December to the 2nd of January. Only several events of note happened:
Driving on my way to pick up Chris in EGF and just outside of Bemidji, the little red truck I was driving started to fishtail on glare ice and I ended up backwards in the median. Fortunately I didn't roll the truck (as my mom asked me, causing me to hyperventilate some more) but some wires ended up getting welded to the frame, preventing it from re-starting. So I got towed into Bemidji and spent the night at Jeremy Fisher's apartment. It was kind of like a time warp, when I ended up crashing his D&D party, and also quite humorous.

Chris spent "Family Christmas" (we had pizza!) with my extended family in EGF, since I'd officially stranded him there with the truck still being in Bemidji. I think he's celebrated every major holiday with my family now...

To explain the picture...Years ago my Grandpa made a trip to Germany and when he came back, he'd packed his bag chocked full of 3 different types of candy that he found and loved. He proudly pulled out a box of Mentos when either my mom or one of my aunts chirped up saying "You can buy those in the gas station down the road!" So I couldn't break with family tradition and brought back my Grandma some "authentic" German candy...

I went to a "surprise" party for Katie (Marcus spilled the secret a little bit) and I got to see a lot of friends and catch up with everyone. She also went to Guatemala armed with about 10 varieties of chapstick, courtesy of Catherine.

I also went on a completely gorgeous trail ride with Kris, her sister Louis, and my mom. It was all snowy and there wasn't an icy layer underneath everything this year. The horses behaved themselves and Bandit even surprised me by stepping up his pace the whole time to stay in front. I had a wonderful time and it made me realize how much I miss seeing the horses and working with Kris and Diane (although not sneezing) and how weird this summer will be without them. Although I will be home in time for Special Olympics to cheer everyone on and help however I can.

In the airport, walking through the security station I thought to myself: "I want to have a trip like Grandma's" (who's a big people-person and always meets characters on her travels, it seems). I must be careful what I wish for. I went to a money-changer to get a few euros (depressing, with the exchange rate) and noticed the man in front of me (Late 40's, early 50's and with a foreign accent) had wad of euros. Too shy to ask if he wanted to do a direct change, I worked up my courage after he was dissatisfied with the offered rate and approached him. He agreed, and then beckoned me to follow him. Slightly weirded out, but committed, I followed him around the corner. Which made sense, really, not to exchange money right outside the little booth. He led me to a little sit down bistro area, pointed out a table and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Suddenly, warnings blinked through my head and I thought "Steph, you're an idiot." I calmed my paranoia, however, by realizing 1. I was in a public space 2. There were people around to hear me yell and 3. I know karate.

He came back to the table with 1 coke and two glasses and two huge wedges of bistro sandwich. He then poured the coke and motioned for me to have a sandwich. In broken English, he talked about his trip (first time to US to see his mother and brother, plus friends in NY, CA and Chicago he was going to visit), his family (he has 3 sons, the youngest who turned out to be my age who is studying philosophy in University this year)and when he found out I was studying abroad he mentioned he'd studied in Russia when he was younger and spoke 5 languages - none of them English or German. It soon became evident he was "fathering" me and was a little anxious about being in America and had 5 hours before his flight. After a half an hour of chatting or so I had to get to my gate. I wished him luck and we exchanged currencies.

Sitting at my gate later, the flight was pushed back a full hour - leaving me 15 minutes to get to Cincinnati, take a shuttle bus and get on my Frankfurt flight. I discovered there was another guy (stationed in Illesheim - halfway between Frankfurt and Regensburg) and after we were assured the incoming plane from Georgia to Cincinnati was likewise delayed (although, it hadn't been hit by lightening like our plane...yay?) we started chatting about life in Germany. He was pretty isolated (they have cheddar cheese) and wanted to know about Regensburg's nightlife. And thus the extra hour's wait passed smoothly and we made it to our Frankfurt flight comfortably.


After I returned home (see, I call them both home, which is a little strange, but just seems to fit), things slowly got back to "normal". Oddly enough, I feel better about my German comprehension now and am feeling more confident than ever.

A day or two after I got back, Christian (the German guy on my floor) made a Bavarian meal. Now, he's a happy carnivore, so his finesse with making a pork roast was impressive, but my own personal feat of finally trying sauerkraut (and yes, dad, I liked it...) overshadowed it. Now, all they have to do is get me hooked on German beer and say "sammeln" instead of broetchen and I'll be not only German, but Bavarian to boot!

I've done some cooking myself recently as well. A few nights ago I made "Tater tot hotdish" which was...frankly, a disappointment to Eric and me. Christine, who'd never tasted it before thought it was pretty good, but the condensed soup from powder left much to be desired. Next time I think making the base with milk would be a good idea. It was also Christine's birthday yesterday, so I made a Black Forest Cake (even though, yes, Christine, I am aware the Black Forest is not in Bavaria) for her party. I got to it late after Karate, but it was enjoyed by all.
It was slightly humorous, however, as I ended up sitting next to Julia - as in the Julia who I'd tried contacting multiple times to set up a tandem partner meeting. After a slightly awkward moment, we set a date (next Tuesday morning at 10) and now I officially (finally) have a tandem partner. (They speak English and I attempt to speak German...)

Anyhow, that's been my small little world lately (greatly abbreviated).
Oh, I had several people not understand my last post - Nutella is my new "addiction" - not something unmentionable...
Bye for now!
PS - Grandma did make pumpkin pie (and a lot of other pie too!) for Christmas...mmm, thanks again Grandma!