Sunday, July 27, 2008

Empty Room full of Memories



Hi everyone,
Phew. I just finished emptying and cleaning my ENTIRE room. As you can see above, everything is astoundingly white. However, this does not mean that my life very neatly boxed up at this point (at least where I will make a weight limit anyways...sigh). At any rate, I am enjoying the last hour or so I will be spending in this room. At 5 some good friends are coming over to help me lug things over to Eric's - where Claudia is making the last Sunday Dinner. Unfortunately this seems like it will be time to say "Goodbye" to a lot of the best friends I've made here. This will probably result in tears. As I'm not much of a crier, I'm hoping they won't be mine. We will see.

My last several days have been low-key, to say the least. I've been slightly in denial, but now am starting to get excited about traveling (knocking on wood against Lufthansa...). I have been trying to cram things into my bags, along with last minute purchases of German chocolate and tiny souvenirs. Fortunately, most people got something at Christmas, so I was able to fit about 90% of my clothing in - the rest will be donated. Sentimental feelings fade somewhat after 10+ hours of cleaning, and I went into "toss" mode.

Anyhow, some of my people are here, so I'm pulling the internet plug (I have to somehow electronically close my internet account). So, think happy thoughts and hope I get home all right!

Hope all is well,
Steph

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Universe is Conspiring Against Me

Hi All,
While I'm not trying to take it personally, the chain of events that has occurred over the past few days has made me wonder exactly what horrible deed I've committed to deserve such special treatment.

Washing Machine...?
Last Thursday they removed our washer and dryer...and that was exciting - because everyone knows that if you remove something, you're planning on replacing it quickly. Oh right, that's just a common mistake in reasoning that the optimists in the world embrace. So, really, I shouldn't have been surprised that it took them a WHOLE week to replace the darn thing (and she's a beaut- and cheaper) - the week before 30-40 students would be flying home. Not to mention all the German students leaving as well. Grrrrreat timing guys. At any rate, I have my last load (ever!) in the dryer right now, and then I'm free of the scary dungeon.

Rocky Horror Picture Show
So, I know that this is kind of a big deal to people who are in to it - and so my first time probably shouldn't have been in Germany. It was in English however, and some Germans went the whole nine yards. I heard I missed the hotdog throwing - but let's face it, the German's aren't the type to waste any type of food -especially their nationally acclaimed wurst. However, getting there took a good 40 minute hike, thanks to a very wrong map that I tried to use. However, a good long hike and one long, dark scary road later and Sara and I were there. Definitely an experience I'll have to do in the US!

Insurance...Covered...Hahahaha
So, no, I haven't suffered any atrocious injuries lately requiring me to test my insurance policy. However, Eric and Brady (who flew back today) stopped by with Yulia to sit me down for some bad news. Now, most of the times this has happened, someone has died...so I was a little freaked out. Apparently, my insurance hasn't been covering this past month. Also, they take out the insurance for the previous month on the first of the next month (ie, April was taken out May 1st). Now, one would think "Perfect! Steph closed her bank account, but since she wasn't actually covered this month, it won't be a problem". However, you'd be wrong. Apparently, we still have to pay for the protection, that we weren't under on this month. I don't understand it either, but they can apparently bar me from re-entry into Germany if I fail to pay the 50 some euros. So THAT'S going to be a fun mess to untangle on Monday.

Lufthansa Strike
Isn't "Strike" an ugly word? In fact, I'm beginning to draw an unfortunately strong correlation between the word "Germany" and "Strike". This is the second time an airline has gone on strike in Germany (plus the post, public transportation in Regensburg, the Bahn, etc). The best part is that the strike starts on Monday, and we fly out Tuesday. See?! I told you we're being singled out! So, once again, that should be a barrel of laughs. Apparently they have an "emergency plan" ready to put in place, but it's very likely we could be made to take a train to Frankfurt and re-routed through another company (with likely much lower baggage allowances...sweet...not).
So yeah, I'm kinda feeling screwed over here.

A Little Light
Now, I love pessimism as much as the next person, but I'll leave you with this little ray of sunshine that fell into my life. After finding out that no, I couldn't actually sell my bike back to the shop Vaso bought it at, I was able to sell it. Not for a whole lot, but for something. That made my day. That, and the AMAZING lemon cheesecake I made.

So there, that almost overshadows the negatives, right? Sigh, I hopefully will be seeing you soon...cross your fingers for me!
Hope all is well,
Steph
P.S. Here's a youtube video made from my theater group. However, it's in German...


Monday, July 21, 2008

Who needs sleep, really?


Hi all,
If you know me remotely well, you will know of my deep hatred for the "textbook conspiracy". This is a phenomenon where large greedy book companies pump out new edition after new addition of essentially the identical textbook and con professors into using them for classes by giving them the teaching guide for free. Next, the campus bookstore (whether individual or a corporate giant such as, Barnes and Noble, for example) will give you only a pittance for the book when you sell it back - or refuse to take it at all if another edition has come out. Regardless of whether the Professor will be using the new edition.

I, however, full-heartedly loathe this system and through some website hopping (the official college book store link meant so that you can order the book-although they never give you the ISBN- to Amazon to get the ISBN based on the edition number to campusbooks.com for an automatic price comparison) I have managed through the last 2 years in the US to buy very, very few texts from the Campus Bookstore. Once, I even cheated the system, but that's another story.

At any rate, the whole point of this segue was to tell you why I am slightly crazy and to explain why I got up at 4:45AM this morning to bid on e-bay for a textbook. Unfortunately, I didn't "win" the book, and so I feel like my sleep was wasted. Especially since I was due to be at Eric's at nice for....

Painting!
The girl who lived in Eric's room before he moved in had moved out without painting the walls, so the task fell to him. Naturally, Claudia and I wanted in on the action. I got to Eric's at about 9:30, a half an hour late as I had difficulty waking up - but I brought bakery goods along so all was good in the world. It took us (Eric and I, since Claudia had a final at 8AM) just over an hour to empty his room of everything in it/on the walls. This included taking his bed apart (thanks IKEA!) and moving his dresser and desk and other things into the other rooms. Later, after Claudia came, Eric and Claudia went to go and buy the supplies. This left me to do the taping. As you can see in the slideshow, I think I did my mother proud. Since we were painting the walls white on white (harder than it sounds), my fastidious taping was probably a little over-kill, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment. We finished painting around 2, although Eric has to do some touching up tomorrow.

Selling my Bike
Or not, as it turned out. Vaso had assured me that I'd be able to sell my bike back from the place where the other Vaso had bought it at. If that's confusing, don't worry - it's all Greek to me because they are. So I've been working on getting the receipt from the Vaso that went home, with no avail. So Vaso volunteered (my friend Vaso, the one still in Regensburg) to go with me in case I needed back up. Then we discovered that this was all a moot point as they wouldn't buy it back. So...yeah. Now what? I'm not really sure. People suggested selling it at a flea market, but at the one Eric and I went to, I didn't see anyone selling theirs. So, yeah...not so good. At any rate, a back-up plan will simply have to be found.

So, another long day with mixed success. 8 Days left people, are you ready?
Hope all is well,
Steph

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ugly American

Hi all,
I'm pissed. Enraged is actually a more accurate term, really. Throughout my stay in Germany, I have endeavored to stay clear of the "Ugly American" tourist stereotype. I have been pleasantly surprised that I had not run into any...until tonight.

Claudia's older brother and father came to visit this weekend. So, naturally, Eric gave them a city tour today and after dinner called me up to come and be social. We met at Bismarckplatz, a nice square with two fountains that is surrounded by a few bars. Naturally a college student hotspot. Claudia's dad had been wandering around on his own for a while and met up with us a little later. At around 10, we went on a trek to search for ice cream. Our first choice was unfortunately closed, so we went to the little place by my dorm. Andreas (Claudia's brother) wanted to go to the stone bridge and see the Danube. So Eric led the way, taking a little side trip to see the Don Juan statue. Afterwards, we cut through a side alley (really just a narrow, but well lit street with restaurants and pubs on either side). There were two guys in suits that I guessed to be around their mid to late twenties. As we approached, happily licking away on our ice cream cones, we heard one guy telling the other guy:

"Shit...MAN! We're supposed to stay at their hotel with them tonight!"

They were both at least tipsy and obviously aggravated. Since it was a narrow street, Andreas took the lead, with Eric and then Me, finally with Claudia's father at the back. Suddenly, and without any provocation the same guy starts hurling insults at Andreas. Now, he had a deep south accent and among other things called him a "lollypop licking faggot", and then threw out the "N" word (excuse my appalling language, but it's impossible to express the crudity and hpow appalling the situation was otherwise). Eric and I stopped dead in our tracks, shocked by this outbreak. Andreas completely tuned them out. However, Eric said (in a very mild mannered and non-antagonistic voice)

"Excuse me?"

The guy replied:
"You speak English?!?!?!"

"We are Americans."

At this point, his friend stepped in and told either him or us to just let it go. I had kept my mouth firmly shut, as the last similar incident I experienced to this drifted through my brain (the slightly infamous mini-golf fiasco) and Nate's (my older brother) advice echoed in my mind.
He'd basically told me that I should simply shut up, as anything I say is bound to make a male not take anything out on me, but instead on another guy; essentially picking a fight for him. Since a confrontation is the last thing we wanted (although I'd sure as hell be in on it), we just kept on walking.

Awkward and embarrassed silence hung thickly for a few minutes until we bumped into Kayla on her way to a bar. Still not saying much we made it to the stone bridge where Eric broke the silence by expressing his embarrassment over the situation and for the Americans who give others a bad name. Andreas shrugged it off saying that it didn't matter to him - no matter what nationality people are, he just chooses to ignore it. His father pretty much agreed with him.

However, I still find it deeply shameful and I almost wish I would have had the opportunity to help kick their asses. I hope that they weren't military guys (although I slightly suspect they were), because as a direct representation of America their actions were appalling. Equally so if they were civilians, and inexcusable either way. However, since we handled the situation in a mature manner, I am expressing my rage to you.

Hope your nights go better than mine,
Steph

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tick Tock

Hi all,
Today I did practically everything - except study. If this shocks you, it shouldn't. I fully realize I have my last final tomorrow and that I shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that it's in English. However, I made every class this semester, excepting one about 2 months ago that won't have material we're coving on the final anyways. Since all this Professor did was talk and talk and talk, if I haven't gotten the information down by now - no amount of studying this week would have made up for it. Add this to the fact that time seems to be trickling by until I get home, the importance of spending my last days here in a memorable manner far outweigh the potential consequences of my grade slipping a little in one course.

Today I packed one of my suitcases. My middle sized one is staring at me in an accusing manner, as it is 2/3rds full of books and the rest of my life is still strewn about the room. However, the washing machine (which apparently got replaced today...better late than never?) has wrecked havoc on my t-shirts, and so many of them won't be coming home with me. I'm also tempted to leave my slip-on Merrels behind...those poor shoes have been with me for years beyond common sense - even I wince when I take them off and see the state of the edges and bottom. But it almost seems disloyal, I mean, those shoes have taken me places. What's more, they don't make that design anymore (see, a recurring theme in my life...which unfortunately is the basis of the fashion industry). Likewise, leaving behind perfectly good books seems also as hard. I know I can leave some with Claudia and Christine, Eric's promised to bring them over whenever he goes back and forth, and honestly, it's probably not too terribly late to ship them. However, since books are my drug of choice and a good path to escapism, I feel we need to stick together. I also fully realize how very silly that sounds, and doubtlessly will relinquish my death grip on too-simple German exercise books. But these things take time.

In between sleeping today (levels of stress and anxiety have thrown my sleep schedule off-kilter, and I was up around 7:30 for no reason today) , I found the time to Get Things Done - such as closing my bank account today. I would thought it'd be harder to go through the steps necessary for me to come home; however, they actually are comforting as they give me targets for things to do and don't let me sit around in indecision or doing nothing. Which I still do, and enjoy immensely. Honestly, the period in my life where I will be allowed that kind of lazy freedom will be limited. My last year of college and then whatever ever happens afterwards are most likely Not going to allow me an afternoon nap, or a random stroll around the city. But at least now I'll have the memories of it.

It strikes me as ironic, that just as I'm finally being able to not only tolerate but actually appreciate some beers that I will be going to a country scorned in the beer industry. However, as I cultivated (ha) my wine taste this year, I look forward to being able to have a glass with dinner occasionally. After the marvel that is "Kaufland"'s wine selection, nothing can daunt me. Plus, being a student, I'm certainly used to cheap wine and will be unable to set myself up to be disappointed. Well, as this is starting to make me sound like a bit of an alcoholic (laughable, as I've had perhaps 5 drinks in a months time - and no, not just counting July) - onward!

As long as I'm being honest, I can fully admit that my room is about a 6.8 on the scale of room catastrophe. Things were shifted to be packed, loads of laundry had been lying around to be washed when appropriate load-size was reached and notes lay scattered from half or full-hearted studying attempts and succession. However, as Mom always said (whenever she could con/bribe/overtly threaten (and there wasn't much bribing, let me tell you) me into cleaning my room "It always looks worse before it gets better". And it'll get clean - practically spotless, as it has to be. And then I'll take a picture, just to have a pre-during-post sequence. (Although I cheated on the during and tidied some).

At any rate, I'm sure your mind is boggling from this non-headed post, so take your time to recuperate, and have a piece of cheddar cheese for me. (Because when I get home, there will be a scarcity in my near proximity...I have 11 months to make up for!).

Hope all is well,
Steph

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Pink Sock


Hi all,
So, a pink sock was the damage of the day. Also the knowledge that Eric's kitchen floor has an affinity for bright red liquids. This time the staining wasn't due to a Strawberry margarita gone wrong, but to a much more benign Koolaid fiasco. When my parents came and visited, they brought Eric some Koolaid and recently he's made it one of his goals to finish them all before we leave. So I was attempting to take the slippery "pitcher" (really a glorified tupperware) out of the fridge and accidentally gripped it only by the top. As I was attempting to gain leverage on the darn thing it slipped - sending up a brilliant red fountain of Koolaid to cover not only me but a good portion of the floor. Luckily my shirt was dark this time, although I had just washed my jeans. Sigh.

At any rate, after some mopping up and changing (Eric had a spare Metallica shirt that actually belongs to Niamh - question, Niamh, why/how does Eric have one of your shirts...?), I was good to go...minus one pink sock. So, I went home barefoot in my shoes. I also made up a great story to tell my apartment mates, should I get the question of why I'm wearing a Metallica shirt (because we all know how "me" Metallica is...), but unfortunately no one was in the kitchen area when I came home. That's ok, it's probably not half as funny as I'd like to think it is...moving on.

The Final From Hell?
No, it wasn't. Although it was certainly stressful enough today, I feel like I pretty much nailed it. I was confident that I did well - only to have it shaken by Vince and Rob (England) on the bus. The format on the test was pretty simple. We had little box charts with the name of historic people (different charts for different topics...ie, composers, writers, and building forms) and we'd have to fill in the style/dates/music selection/text section that matched the person. When I got to the text section, I was a little freaked out as it was 3 relatively modern people, and only one ancient middle-age person. The texts were clearly not old (it was readable, modern German) and I didn't recognize one of the names. Since it looked Italian, I ended up pairing it with Anti-fascism and hoping for the best. Rob and Vince were convinced that Heinrich Mann (who I'd labeled as "Aufklaerung"/enlightenment in English I believe) was actually the anti-fascism author, which meant I just lowered my grade by a nice huge lump as it would trip me up for 4-6 points out of 31. So I did what any person does in a crisis of doubt...I googled it. Guess who nailed it?

The German School System
I know I've posted on and off about the German school system, probably in regards to my English conversation class I taught. However, I have made some discoveries about the German school system.
1. It really isn't ALL that great.
Honestly, yes, they have GREAT rates of kids going to university from their "gymnasiums" - however, if we in the US separated the top 20% (number is slightly arbitrary, I think it depends on the region) of each class and sent them on a college track - of course the numbers would be up! Instead, our public schools have "No Child Left Behind", which holds back the brighter kids and doesn't seem to really help the struggling students by passing them along instead of addressing problems such as poor study habits or learning disorders. However, moving along...
2. They CHEAT
This is apparently one of the best/worst kept secrets in Germany. Spurred by a conversation with Flo, Jake's friend, we learned that cheating is very typical in the German education system. In one of Sara's classes, they'd discussed how in a lot of European classes, testing was doing "cooperatively" and if a teacher left a room...everything was fair game. Flo claimed the cheating was rampant...not only in regular class but for the "Abitur" - the HUGE oral and written test over several major areas of study that German gymnasium students take that entirely determines where they'll be accepted into University. I asked Mike and Claudia, and they both acknowledged that cheating was rampant (although they both vehemently denied cheating, and I believe them) and kids caught a lot of shit if they didn't cheat. Flo then detailed popular cheating methods:
1. Girls wore skirts on test days (and teachers weren't allowed to check) and would hitch them up during the test to reveal written on answers.
2. They used lined graphing paper that they bring themselves, but write lightly with a silver gel pen - impossible to see from a distance.
3. Kids would write answers on their shoes.
4. They'd leave a cheat sheet in the bathroom - this was especially popular during the Abitur, as it was hours long and they were allowed bathroom breaks.
5. One kid tacked a drink coaster to the underside of his desk with answers and could flip it out when the teacher wasn't looking.
The list went on...
So, while the level of education in gymnasiums is undoubtedly higher than in the US, it's probably on par with private schools with strict academic requirements (similar to the sorting that all German students endure). What struck me the most though, was that when I asked if there were many minority students that went to Gymnasium (as I had never seen any as I was outside waiting) I was told that no, there weren't that many - in fact my class didn't know of any in their gymnasium at all. I was told that "They come to the country too late and their German isn't good enough". However, I have seen many, many pre-school aged and grade-school aged kids from obvious Turkish or other descent, so I don't buy that either. Apparently racism is also prevalent in the schools, although they skirted around that topic. I'm not saying that US schools are any better - looking at our rates of minority dropouts is equally appalling, but at least we acknowledge it as a problem. In the end, I have a new outlook on the German education system and now see the flaws inherent in it as well as the benefits.

Pics
Anyhow, enough with material that requires thought. After we finished our respective finals today and got ice cream, Eric and I took a stroll along the river. I had some fun snapping pictures and also included in the slideshow are some random pics from the night before Charlotte left of kitchen shenanigans - that's Rob with the Gummi bears that Molly so lovingly licked and placed on his face...
Hope all is well,
Steph

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'm Procrastinating...


Hi Everyone,
I'm officially in "Countdown"mode...which is not boding well for my two finals this week. I spent all of Thursday hammering out a 8 page paper (in English, which my group members will translate - yay for group work) and also did a handout. I should be working on formulating a study guide, but I"m doing this first.

Wednesday Dinner
This Wednesday I ended up making dinner with a friend of mine, Jean, from Theater. It turned out to be quite the improvised affair, as the pizza pan I'd brought didn't fit in his microwave oven. I found out once I got there that he didn't actually have an oven. Apparently he doesn't cook much. He was also captivated by the "Italian Spice" mix that I picked up - which we have at home, of course. Apparently he had a whole tin of mixed herbs that he brought all the way from France. Once again, I don't think he cooks much. Another French guy came and helped and ate with us as well. It was an interesting affair as Jean shares his kitchen with at least 15 people (it's very large though, with multiple stove tops) and it was quite the exciting environment to cook in.
Weekend Parties
Yes, there is a plural in my weekend partying fun. Friday night there was the last Gesslerheim (a big dorm party that all the Erasmus students go to) party. It was weird because I hadn't seen a large amount of the people there for months and I didn't recognize a large percent at all, as some people had gone home after only one semester. It was fun, but kind of sad at the same time. At around 3 I ended up walking home with Eric and Mike (from Heidelberg, he's living in Munich now for college). The buses stop running at midnight, which is why I normally never went to Gesslerheim parties.Laura had generously offered to allow me to sleep at her place, but it was a nice night and really, a 45 minute walk has become pretty much nothing or average, which is kind of funny.

The other party that I went to last night was Rob's "Cops and Robbers" birthday party. It was supposed to be dress up, but as I didn't intend on staying very long, I ended up being a "plainclothes" cop. The rules were rather interesting, as everyone had to be tied to one another (in pairs), one cop to one robber. I ended up getting tied to Stefana, which was pretty fun. The other rules included silly ones like no names, pointing, swearing...etc and then there were the bar rules. Obviously, it was a binge-drinking experience - or was supposed to be. The original plan called for a certain number of bars/clubs (9?), where there was a drink you were supposed to order, with a time limit in which to drink it. However, no one took it all that seriously, and I made it through with only one drink for the night. We drew quite a lot of attention, as I believe a there were approximately 10-15 pairs of tied people. That eventually got old as well, with non-smokers tied to smokers and mixed pairs and bathroom breaks. But it was a lot of fun, and I think Rob enjoyed his birthday exceedingly.

Picture
Last weekend there was a "Renaissance Festival" that was going on across the bridge in the far part of Regensburg. Sara went with me to check it out, and it was quite small in comparison. However, we spent a good hour walking around - just enough time to see everything before the rain started. We got inside pretty wet, but just before the total downpour. The rest of the week has been hot, except the last 3 days, where it's been raining off and on all day but pretty clear at night.

At any rate, I should go start on that study guide. I hope all is well with everyone...
Steph

PS. Here's a random video of Charlotte singing the Welsh anthem.

video

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Practically German...Right....


Hi Everyone,

I’m currently composing this on Microsoft Word, as for some fickle reason, my internet is not cooperating thus far today. So who knows when this will debut, although I’m hoping the connection will be fixed later today.

Authentic German Bus Experience
As I was sitting on the bus today on my way home from my morning class, an older woman struck up a conversation with me. And by “struck up” I mean that she started talking at me, without giving sufficient time for me to formulate an answer. About 5 minutes into our “conversation” on cell phones, she whips hers out and starts asking me a question. When I started to answer, her eyes widened a bit – as she suddenly realized I wasn’t German but patiently heard me out. Of course, I have no idea how her phone worked, so I wasn’t able to help. But I did commiserate with her on the difficulty of attempting to gleam useful information out of the poorly written instructional manual.

This is becoming a pattern. I am more and more frequently being stopped and asked for directions by Germans. Since I’m not exactly “exotic” by German standards, I take this to mean that the blind panic look that used to inhabit my eyes when strangers approached speaking German has dimmed and I look confident. Which is a good thing I guess. I actually gave the last woman the correct directions to somewhere (it’s been hard on the university – as I don’t know where some of the buildings are…let alone how to now get to buildings with approximately ½ of the campus randomly being shut down for repairs and up-keeping = nightmare!), and I truly apologize to any misled Germans. At least I tried, right?

In Which Steph Acquires a "Crazy"
At any rate, not all of the interruptions are so welcomed. As I stood for the bus last Wednesday (I think it was…), I was approached by a man who was talking to himself and making random people listen to his radio. He struck up a conversation with me (completely ignoring Eric) which I didn’t understand a word of. However, I decided to maintain eye-contact and nod, as everyone needs a little eye contact in their life. However, he proceeded to follow us onto the bus and kept up his conversation. By this point he’d slightly changed to speaking English (with French and other languages mixed in) and was talking about the Russian broadcasts he was picking up with his radio and how he wanted to go to California and the US. He was starting to make me uncomfortable and he started repeating “not crazy…Not Crazy…NOT CRAZY…” over and over, as I’m sure my discomfort was showing. He seemed like he was rather unstable, and I was glad when he finally got off the bus. The next day I avoided the bus stop when I saw him there, only to have him board it later in the afternoon on my way to play performance. Luckily I didn’t make eye contact. I’ve decided that “having my own crazy” is completely overrated, and a little scary.

Sad News, Indeed
Charlotte became the first casualty to our apartment today. She went back home as she was done with her classes – she runs on an odd Law schedule. It’s hard to imagine that more than 2/3 of our floor will continue to trickle away as the month passes. I’m glad I won’t be the last to go. Apparently we’re supposed to dry-clean our pillow and duvet, or it costs us 19 euros. However, with the cost of the dry-cleaning, the hassle of finding the shop, dropping off and picking up the stuff might be just as expensive and annoying. They also want us to wash our curtains – understandable, except that I think mine would disintegrate and I very much doubt that they’ve been washed within the last 15 years. Plus they have an odd hanging system that I’m not sure I could even replicate!

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
It’s nice that it really is the simple things in life that can make your day. Today, I got a letter. It wasn’t the usual bank statement or insurance notification (which are still kind of fun to get…right?)…no, it was an honest-to-goodness someone-likes-me enough-to-send-a-letter letter. (Sorry for all the hyphens). It’s true that I also really like getting e-mails, but in this age of technology, there’s just something really magical about letters. So thanks Kris. : )

Oh Yeah…That
And finally, a d’oh moment by yours truly. On Monday morning I woke up, sat up, and was very confused. It felt as though someone had literally taken a hammer to my back…I was very sore to say the least. I spent a good portion of the day wondering what on earth I’d done in my sleep to merit such pain, when I suddenly realized:

“Oh yeah, I totally fell down the stairs on Sunday”. How’s that for short-term memory? It’s about 80% better right now, so I think I just pulled/bruised some muscles but should be back to normalcy in a few more days.

Hope all is well,

Steph

P.S. The cows are just because I Can.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I Just Fell Down the Stairs



Hi all...
To be honest, I only fell down the last 6 or so when my flipflop finally completely rebelled over it's long induced servitude. Why this should have prompted me to write a blog is anyone's guess - although I could dabble in analysis and wager it possibly had something to do with my grasp on mortality and wanting to leave a living record of the last few days. Or perhaps, it is merely my way of heaping the embarrassment factor up by sharing it with you. At any rate, after sitting stunned (my arms full of bedding I was trying to bring back to Kayla), Harry (i.e. the Polish girl who literally lives under the stairs) came out. She was duly concerned because she'd heard me fall...and then nothing. After assuring her I was still alive and merely surprised I collected myself and went upon my way. I do take comfort in the fact that I actually had an excuse of why I fell, as honestly, I could expect myself to simply lack the coordination to go down stairs at any point. I have also, officially, retired my flipflops from stair usage.
Also, the photo is of my friend Sara, who played the part of the maid in our theater piece.

Karin's Visit
Karin arrived at approximately 8 AM last Tuesday. Unfortunately, I had classes I had to be at, and so Kayla said she could pick her up. As I got out of my first class, I checked my phone and discovered 2 messages. The first was from Karin, asking where Kayla was. The second was from Kayla (about 45 minutes later) saying that she'd been sick and overslept, but had gotten Karin back to our apartment safe and sound. I skipped my afternoon class (the castle class's last meeting, which wasn't important anyways) and came home to find Karin just woken up from a nap. It's pretty hard to sleep on over-night trains sometimes. We went and, after grocery shopping, found the park that Jake had recommended to us. You've seen the pictures - it was absolutely enchanting. We enjoyed exploring it and catching up.

The rest of the week flew by. Karin came to my German conversation course and theater rehearsal on Wednesday (she had several years of German in junior high) and came with to my English conversation course on Thursday. We did a fair amount of walking around and cooking while she was here and she also hung out with Karin and Eric a good amount while I had theater. Unfortunately, I only got to see her for about 15 minutes on Saturday - Eric brought her by before he dropped her off at the train station. It was definitely better than nothing and wonderful to see her.

In Which Theater Ate my Soul (And Weekend)
As I alluded to in my previous post, theater became my life the last week. I definitely found out why it's considered to be a cult family. Saturday morning (after a late Friday night rehearsal) I was there at 9 am. We proceeded, over the next 12 hours or so, to turn the stage into this:

Honestly, the lights and curtains and techy stuff took the most time, but there was plenty of random things to do as well (ie, vacuum the carpet, varnish parts of the furniture...etc). Eventually, everyone showed up and we did a complete (in costume and makeup) run-through. We got done shortly before midnight - just in time to miss the last bus. So I walked home with another girl - a nice 40 minute walk. I got home around 1 and promptly went to bed - as we had to be back at the theater for 2 run-throughs starting at 11:30 (be there by 10:30) on Sunday.

So naturally we took forever to get started and only managed one run-through on Sunday. However, since I didn't have anything near a lead part (literally 4-joint lines with 10 other people) I got to go "early" - around 5. I headed over to Eric's to watch the Euro cup final and was quite disappointed by Germany's lack-luster playing. Their Turkey game was definitely a lot more fun to watch - which I had done Wednesday night with Karin at the local movie theater. (They give out tickets for free - and make a killing on selling drinks!). Now that was energy!

However, back to theater. We had our last performance last night. All of our performances went well and sported nearly sold-out crowds. Friday night was probably our best night - the audience was very energized (and probably also the most German...). Since a lot of the people who came were friends of the cast, we had a very high percentage of non-native speakers, and so some of the humor was lost on them. Of course, sometimes the German audience laughed at the most random-seeming times, so it's probably fair to say that a good part of the humor was lost on us as well. Last night was twinged with sadness, as we realized it'd probably be the last time we'd all be together. I was surprised at how close we'd become - we really had a great group of people. I can't imagine how hard it would be for the directors to start anew every year - although we received a compliment from one of our directors, Christine. She said (roughly translated) that having a group like us made it easy for her too look forward to next October with a new group. I also just mis-spelled October when I typed that. Wow.

At any rate, we had a cast party and for the second night in a row I went to bed at a ridiculously early time. (Preston's apartment had had a party the night before). By the time we'd caught a taxi home it was 5. Obviously there were large amounts of alcohol consumed, but as it was mostly beer (of which my tolerance has actually grown...) I only had one drink. Speaking German as a common language socially with people from as varied countries as Palestine, Bulgaria, France, Poland, North Carolina and Czech is hard enough without alcohol involved. Luckily, as I've said, it was a great group and we had a lot of fun:

video video


Charlotte's 21st
Charlotte had her birthday on July 3rd, and I managed to squeeze in baking a cake and teaching my last English conversation class before going to her party for a bit. I had to leave early, but managed to take some good pictures and also miss the swamping down-pour that swallowed them alive as they finally began the trek home (we were in the same park that Karin and I visited). You'll note that a large percentage of the girls (including the birthday princess Charlotte herself) were unfortunately wearing white.

Anyhow, I've been trying for the last 1/2 to flip my video clips - unfortunately my video camera and software is somewhat lacking...so if you still have sideways footage...sorry! At any rate, I hope all is well and I'll see you all in...23 days. Wow.
Until then,
Steph

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm still alive...mostly.


Hi all,
This is just a quickie - with photos from the high-light of my visit with Karin. We went to the Herzog garten (which was fantastically lovely) and I put the photos in the slideshow.
In other news, theater is consuming my soul. We had our first show tonight (which went wonderfully) but I spent over 20 hours at the theater this weekend. More about those shennanigans and my bus-mishaps later.
Enjoy the pics!
PS. If anyone wants to fly in for the show...we are playing until Saturday night...Just kidding, but my life will stop being consumed, hopefully in time for a Sunday post!