Mittwoch, 3. August 2011

The Way Homeward

Well folks.... Here it is. The last day. I am leaving Regensburg in about an hour, driving to the airport, and flying out of this place. My stomach is in knots, my heart is racing, I feel hungry but can't eat. I think a lot of this has to do with continent to continent flying, but I think a bit of it is because I am leaving this place that I have lived and called home. The truth is I never really connected myself to Regensburg. I love it. It is a wonderful city and I have enjoyed living here, but all that I hold dear here are people and people move and change. I will see them all again someday. I think it is so interesting how much our environments and lives change in such a short period of time. I feel like I have grown and changed so much in just 6 months. How can that be? Maybe it is because I am still young. I am worried though. I am worried because I feel like I can't stay in one place too long. Now that I am out of high school the world seems so vast and calls the traveler in me. I will always call Maine/Wellington my home. My roots are there. I just feel that wherever I am there is always more to see. The cultures are endless.
Here in Regensburg I befriended a girl from Taiwan. She studies in the U.S. and speaks exactly like an American. We really got along. She is so interesting. I learned so much about Taiwanese culture from her. I would ask question after question about her culture. I felt greedy for knowledge. This greed is what keeps me on my toes, always searching for culture in everything. I think I will see Asia. I think I want to bad enough that it will become truth. Eventually.
I guess I will finish the last bit of packing and then watch Desperate Housewives in German. It is much more entertaining in another language. I will be seeing everyone very soon.

Mittwoch, 20. Juli 2011

The End

Well. Here it is. The end is in sight. Today is exactly 2 weeks until I leave Regensburg, fly out of Europe, and back into the States. 2 weeks from today I will see my mom. I can't believe it is so close. Can it be that today is also the 6 month mark? I have been living in another country for half a year. How have I changed?  Do I look different? Do I talk different? Do I still have the same opinions? Nothing is the same, but then again I am still Lucy. This time away has made me see life from a distance. I don't always think about the little tiny things that will hurt or annoy, instead I have begun to see all things that happen and will happen in the terms of my entire life so far and what is to come.
I have hope for humanity even if it looks bad right now. I hope people will understand the importance of each other and having human connection as well as our connection to the natural world. I hope greed and waste don't overpower love and hope. When we have those two things, eventually the other things will come too. I don't want to give up on humanity. If I do, that means someone else will. I will not. Even when our species is dead and gone and the world is run by insects, I will still believe in humanity.
This entry has drifted away from its original destination. I have to work now. Like in the book "The Road" by Cormac McCarthey, don't forget "we are carrying the fire".

Dienstag, 7. Juni 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Final Installment

The next day I was on my own again. I went to the real Alcazar, which is this wonderful extravagant palace with gardens 10 times the actual size of the palace. Great stone arches lead into a paradise that I imagine the Garden of Eden would have looked like. The call of a bird I had never heard rang through the tall eucalyptus and palm trees. It was a peacock or should I say many peacocks. I got to see the male impress the females with his enormous bouquet of beautiful shiny blue, green and brown tail feathers. I walked past orange trees heavily laden with decorative fruit, oriental plants, jungle flowers, beautiful stone fountains, pools and other fantastical flora. That night I went to one of my hostess's Flamenco dance classes. I thought I might dance, but that wasn't happening. You need high heels and more experience. I got to watch some of the foot work though and that prepared me for what I would see in an actual performance later. The Flamenco class took place in my hostess's tiny studio. There were 8 people other than myself. The dancers stomp so hard on the wooden floor that it sounds like hundreds of gun shots going off at once. It was so loud!
The next day I bought a croissant from the only German bakery I could find in the city. It was heavenly. It was so soft I had to be careful not to squish it in the bag on my way home. I parked myself on the roof terrace and prepared for what I knew would be an incredible food experience. The buttery warm pastry flaked off easily in my hands. As I sunk my teeth into that light feathery fresh delight I got a lovely crunch from the perfectly browned outside and was pleasantly surprised by a silky smooth and soft inside. I ate it in a million ways. I couldn't figure out how to handle such a treat. I flaked pieces off with my fingers, I broke chunks off and popped them in my mouth and I just bit right into that pastry. I made it last as long as possible. When I was done eating it I could still taste the buttery goodness in my mouth.
That night I went to see a real flamenco show. It felt like a dream. First we were introduced to the singer and guitar player. The singer was out of this world sensational. He was so into the music and I couldn't help but get goose-bumps. The guitar player was this tall skinny man with long fingers that flew across the strings. The female dancer was beautiful and the male dancer was too. Their faces were so intense and their feet moved at lightning speed. It was almost inhuman. The interesting thing about Flamenco is that it seems like every single muscle in the dancer's body is contracted. Everything is tight, sharp and clean. It almost looks like it hurts. The tradition is still incredibly alive in Spain and I could see that everywhere I went.

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 4

The next day I finally got to have adventures with my hostess. We put up a few posters for her Flamenco class and then went to a traditional restaurant to eat some tapas. When I say tapas I mean TAPAS! They were incredible. We both started with wine. Then came the thick toasted white bread with gespatcho on top and juicy chunks of Spain's famous cured ham. Then, part way through that came the whiskey marinated pork fillet with whiskey marinated roasted garlic cloves (there must have been 2 whole heads of garlic on our plate) and fried potatoes, all of which was completely smothered in delicious green Spanish olive oil. Part way through that dish came the stuffed eggplant filled with veggies and tender baby shrimp all of which was covered in a lovely layer of melted cheese. When we were almost finished a waiter brought us a plate and said what was on it was a secret and smiled. To our delight it was tender chicken covered in a sweet almond sauce on top of more fried potatoes and drizzled with more olive oil. As you can imagine we were both in food comas after that. After a siesta we took to bicycles. We wove our way in and out of tight alleys, dodging people, baby carriages and motorized vehicles. It was really incredible to experience the city like someone who lived there. We went to a Teteria, which is a place to drink tea on pretty cushions on the floor or behind lacy curtains and smoke Shisha (water pipe), something that is really popular in Europe. I love it and can even blow smoke rings! I met some of my hostess's friends, one of which was an arabic dancer in that very Teteria. She worked there by dancing throughout the restaurant and entertaining the customers. It was not meant to be sexual in the least and it didn't appear that way. However, she was incredibly beautiful and sexy and a really excellent arabic dancer. Once a late hour of the night had dawned my hostess and I took back to the streets on our bikes. It was pitch black, but the many lights of the city lit our way. It was exhilarating. We put up some more posters and called it a day.

Mittwoch, 25. Mai 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 3

The next day I was once again alone looking for adventure. I decided to get in some distance with the most reliable form of transportation I know: my legs. I walked down small alleys and saw more and more old churches. More than I have ever seen in Europe. I found the river that runs through the city, Gaudal Quivir. It was huge and even though the weather wasn't ideal I walked along it for a bit. I found the Torro del Oro or Tower of Gold and the Plaza del Torros where bull-fights still take place this day. Apparently the way a bull-fight works is that the bull-fighter (a man dressed in fancy black and gold) comes out with a red cloak on and then proceeds to taunt the bull with the cloak. I guess the red infuriates the bull and gets it really worked up. Then the bull-fighter takes spears and impales the bull with them. This takes a while because he continues to throw spears until the bull stops moving. The bull will sometimes run for quite a while with numerous spears in its body. Once the bull is dead two horses come out and the men tie the bull to some rope attached to the horses. As an expression of the great success of the fight the bull is dragged in circles around the ring and the crowd cheers. At the end the only remnants of the bull are circles of blood in the sand. I was told that the meat was traditionally eaten, but I don't know if that is the case today. I refused to see that. I realize it is a very old tradition, but I wasn't going to be cheering about the brutal killing of a bull. After I saw that I walked back toward the heart of the city and found about 3 incredible palaces to explore. While walking in one of the gardens a man on a bicycle road up to me with a rose in his hand. He handed me the rose and asked "Como te llamas?" (What's your name?). I said "Gracias" and walked away without answering. I realized it wasn't a good idea to take the rose a bit later when I looked behind me and the man was looking at me through the trees. I made sure he saw me take the rose and throw it on the ground. I felt bad, but he didn't bother me again. I learned that by taking the rose I was leading the man on. I think it is fascinating how traditions like that are still so frequent. In the Plaza de España I talked with my mom for a quite a while only to discover after the conversation that I was charged ridiculous roaming fees and had only 80 cents left. I was so distraught that I simply cried on the castle stairs watching the lovely tourists in silly row-boats. Even though they were silly I couldn't help but think it would be fun if I had had someone else to enjoy them with. Crying made me feel much better and since I couldn't do anything about my problem at the moment I continued walking. I walked home and had an incredible and well-deserved siesta. After my nap I showered and put on my cute new dress and went to El Rinconcillo for some tapas. While standing by the bar eating Garbanzo beans and sipping a glass of red wine an old man came up to me. At first I was unsure what was going on. He laid a paper napkin with some writing on it next to me on the bar. I asked him "Para mi?" and he nodded and left. I was so curious so I picked up the napkin and read it. Naturally it was in Spanish, but I could understand it pretty well. It was a love note. I have never been so affected by such a small gesture in my life. The man must have been 80 or so. He was shortened by his years, had a sort of hump in his back and every hair on his head was white as fresh snow. Regardless, I was taken. I thought if only he had been my age. Why don't men write love letters anymore? I think people think it is creepy. Yes, maybe it was a little bit, but still... If it is meant in ernest, why not? I gushed. I have never been complimented in such a way. Maybe I needed that reassurance even if it came from someone not so perfect. You tell me. Is it possible to move away from the creepy side of it and take it as a huge compliment?

Dienstag, 24. Mai 2011

About That Time

Well, it is that time. I am finally homesick. Since I arrived in Regensburg I have missed my family and friends. It was never anything I dwelled on though. It was sort of just part of being away, like a vacation. It never made me cry and I didn't have any great desire to go home. Now, however, the vacation period is long passed and I am in it for real. The homesickness I have is not paralyzing. It is only present in moments of quiet, when I am alone. It is a slight gnawing in my stomach and chest. I have only teared up twice. It isn't so very bad, but it is present. The fact that we only have 10 weeks left here makes it sound so temporary. It is hard for me to settle into a NEW semester when this entire trip is over half over. I love it here. Really I do. I have a part in a play. I have a job. My german is improving quickly. I have really good friends, etc. Regardless, I would love to be at home sitting at the dinner table with my parents drinking a glass of wine and chatting about things that aren't so important. Knowing that so much love exists is what makes one homesick. Knowing that all of the people who know me and love me are far away is scary. No one has to tell me that not much time is left and that I should enjoy it, I know that. I am just realizing that it has been a long time and missing home is all part of my experience. At least I am happy. This is the longest I have ever been away from home and I am pretty proud of myself for only being slightly homesick. Being homesick also makes me glad because I have something to miss. I have something to go home to. I am not alone. Never truly alone.

Donnerstag, 5. Mai 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 2

Sevilla is nothing like Germany. Let's start with that. It is dirtier, but more vibrant than Germany. Everything feels so alive. The smells, the sounds, the sites. I stayed with a friend in her tiny apartment directly in the city. The streets of Sevilla are littered with garbage, bread crusts and bird poop. The smell of sewage lingers under your nose in most places. Spaniards are much louder than Germans. Something I was actually grateful for. For once, I was not a "loud American". I was asked about a billion times for directions or something else, but all I could say was "No hablo Español". No one cared, they just left me alone. I was just one of about a cagillion Tourists in the city. My first day there I showered the travel from my skin and went for a walk. I had to get copies of the apartment keys made so I went to the key copier. That was interesting. The man spoke no English and I no Spanish. Another customer (I believe a 13 or 14 year old girl) helped quite a bit. It felt good to accomplish the key endeavor with a lot of struggling, but finally understanding. I bought a map. That was totally necessary since Sevilla is an absolute maze. Then I went on a search for some tapas. I went to one bar where the man (unimpressed by my lack of Spanish and knowledge of Spanish tradition) told me that the kitchen wasn't open again until later that night. I ordered some water instead. I ate a tapa at this little cafe. It was so yummy. Cheesy baked eggplant and beef. I bought some strawberries from a nice street vendor who told me that I was "muy guapa" (very pretty). I didn't find it creepy at all, only endearing. Then I walked toward where the infamous Cathedral was. I took a very roundabout way and the night slowly began to creep up on me. I kept thinking I saw it because there were so many big beautiful churches on the route I had chosen, but when I found it, I was certain. The night had by this time fully enveloped the city and there standing in front of me, stretching for two blocks, was the Cathedral. It was enormous. A relic so big and solid that I felt like I had stepped backward in time. In the dark with the spotlights shining all over it the church took on a life of its own. The shadows made it seem bigger and more ominous than during the day. I imagined Dracula's lair. The spotlights lit up the sky above the Cathedral as well and I could hear and see tiny bats fluttering around the pointed towers of the ancient building, it was too perfect. It would have been scary had there not been about a million other people looking at the same building.  I sat on some steps for a while listening to a man playing Spanish guitar and watched the evening romance blossom around the Cathedral, perhaps spurred by the power and beauty of the history surrounding us. The number of horse-drawn carriages astonished me. I had thought that was a sort of cheesy romantic thing that people only did for proposals. They were everywhere in Sevilla and it turns out, in Málaga as well. I found it to be a totally overindulgent in such a large quantity. I understand a few and I would like to try it sometime in New York City at Christmastime, but they were everywhere in Sevilla and the horses looked so worn out. With many new interesting things in my head and lots to dream about I walked home and promptly had a fitful dreamless sleep.

Freitag, 29. April 2011

España: The Land of Picasso, Bull-fighting, Tapas, Flamenco and perfect weather: Part 1

I really had no idea what to expect when I landed in Málaga, Spain on Friday the 8th of April. You never really hear much about Spain if you think about it. I know about the Spanish and Indian war, Flamenco and a few other weird facts, but other than that I don't read about Spain much in the news. Maybe Spain isn't given enough representation in the world. I think some people don't even know it is in Europe.
When I took off from the Memmingen, Germany airport (smaller than Portland's, if you can imagine that) I was in luck with good weather and nice seat partners, not to mention a window seat. We flew over Switzerland and the Swiss Alps. They looked like a giant field of cold gray rock shards with powder sugar snow dusting their tips. They were magnificent. I have seen the Alps from the ground, but there is nothing like the view from above. As we flew over mountains, rivers, fields and ocean I dwelled on the bliss of independence. It is so bittersweet. One longs for it all of childhood and then upon grasping that wild beast, we are taken aback. It is like a blow to the chest. It knocks the air out of you. Sometimes I am so happy to have it that tears sting my eyes, but sometimes those tears are not as happy.  It is all so much. I can easily say that traveling alone is the most exhilarating thing I have ever done because you are completely responsible for getting to where you need to be. As we circled around Costa del Sol near Málaga I became astounded by the landscape. It looked hot and dry, but full of life (true upon landing). Small mountains rippled across the land's surface. Olive trees evenly dotted those hills. After chatting with my seat partners in German we de-planed and went our separate ways. I had to take a subway to the actual train station where I would then take a train to Sevilla where I would be staying. I caught the slowest cheapest train to Sevilla, which was 2 hours and 45 minutes of incredible scenery. I didn't sleep a wink. We passed enormous cliffs with small caves dotting their sides. We passed flamingoes wading through a large puddle. Flamingoes! In their natural habitat. I saw black and white cranes or storks, I am not sure which. Fields and fields of orange trees, olive trees and other tropical produce flew by my window. I saw a shepherd herding a flock of goats through a ravine. Horses were numerous and to my great delight donkeys too! The temperature was 30 degrees centigrade or about 90 degrees fahrenheit. It was truly incredible. One thing I learned about trains in every country I have been in is that you don't see the nice part, the part where the tourists go, you see mostly working class housing and a lot of not so perfect situations. Old couches, pieces of cars, shoes, clothes, tables, etc.  are often seen strewn about the sides of railroad tracks. That is why I prefer the train. The landscape varies so much and it is really fascinating. Always take the train in Europe if you aren't traveling too far because it is a tour of what you wouldn't have seen from a plane, let alone as a tourist.

Sonntag, 20. März 2011

Weird Differences

It is about time I write again. I have had this topic on my mind for quite a while now. I have been thinking about the differences between German and American everyday things. That mostly includes groceries. It is actually really funny to come here and discover all the differences in food and culture. I am constantly surprised by things that I find in the grocery store. To begin with: milk. You can not find milk here that is lower than 1.5% milk fat. They only carry whole milk and low fat milk in even the biggest grocery stores. It is also only sold in quart sized cartons. Baking powder and soda come in packets. Yes packets. They look like tea bags! I had the hardest time finding baking powder for that reason. One of my favorite parts of the chicken is the thigh. I can't find thighs anywhere! That is not such a big deal though considering I eat mostly eggs. Speaking of which, eggs here are sold in 10 or 6, but never 12. Store bought eggs are also way better than store bought eggs in the states. The yolks are so yellow! They are actually more like orange. They have great flavor too. Then there is the chocolate. Every grocery store, convenient store, and department store has at least 2 isles dedicated to chocolate. That is not even including other candy!
There are so many little things too. Things that you notice right away when you get here. Like how the doors open opposite here. When you expect them to be push, they are pull and vise versa. The public transportation here is incredible! I have yet to see a pick-up truck. There are delivery trucks, but civilians only drive small cars (usually standards). Sunday is the day for walking, running, and biking. Everyday you will see people doing those things, but on Sundays everyone is out with their families, lovers, spouses, siblings, or alone to enjoy the air since shopping is out of the question because everything is closed on Sunday.
Most dogs are not on leashes here. Dogs are also allowed in most stores and on the bus. No questions asked.
The first floor here is the second floor in the U.S. The flusher thing on the toilets are large buttons and not the thin metal lever. They are sometimes in the wall.
I could go on about all the little stuff, but truthfully it is a different country and therefore everything is different. I just find it very interesting and thought maybe someone else would too.

Dienstag, 8. März 2011


One of the first things that my sister told me when I started running is that "you will see more of world". I didn't think of it that much until I started seriously running. I ran all over the place. When I started college running was something I did to relieve stress. It also took me all over the town and into places I never would have seen had I not been running. The same goes for walking and you can walk in more places. I found streets and paths and landmarks that no one else knew about (or at least I pretended they were only mine).
I have started the same thing here in Germany. I am running and walking in every direction and finding some wonderful sights. Today I walked for an hour and a half in a direction I had never been before. I walked out of the park and onto a different path. I hiked up a hill and found myself looking out at a flat expanse of field (most likely used for growing large quantities of vegetables). A dirt path lay to my left. I took it. I didn't think about where it went, I just took it. I walked through fields high up above the city. The sun was low in the sky and it warmed my entire body, unshaded by trees. I waved at drivers from a bridge over the Autobahn (something I love to do at home). I walked through more fields and saw views that took my breath away. Small villages dotted the hills with fields in between. I walked up an old dirt road that passed directly next to a cute farm house. It was liberating. It is liberating to know that no matter how things are here at home I can always walk somewhere else for a little bit.
I know this is a short post. I just don't have anything thing else to write about right now except how much I love walking and running. Not only are the views incredible, you get to see lots of other healthy people doing the same stuff and that is inspiring in itself.

Freitag, 4. März 2011

A True But Painful Site

I was told by some friends that I needed to go to the mall. Ok. The mall in Regensburg is pretty similar to malls in the U.S. You get an image of the bright lights, smells of fried food, mannequins in every window wearing a smattering of the latest trends, people shopping, sipping coffee, talking on cell phones, etc. You get the picture. Anyway, I wasn't told to go to the mall to see all of the above. Instead I was told to go and see the photography exhibit that was on display there. It was showing photography from all over the world and from every aspect of life. That included the horrible stuff too. As I walked through the mall I wondered where on earth they would display such an exhibit, when all of the sudden there it was. In front of me stood large pictures on those plastic board things right in the center of the mall. The first few were sports related: some of the olympics for the mature (that is being polite, two competitors were over 100 years old!), some of Lance Armstrong, some of people in the Iron Man in Hawaii, etc. The next pictures were of real life in Bavaria (very pleasant). Then the surprise. Images of present day war and turmoil all over the world. There were pictures of the drug wars in Mexico, pictures of Egypt, pictures of Africa, pictures of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars... This list goes on. The images were not merely of men standing solemnly with machine guns or soldiers rescuing a child from a demolished building (all there, but not as astonishing), but there were also images of death, suffering, and the worst pain. One was a series of images of a man being stoned to death for adultery. First the throwing of the stones, his bloodied body on the ground, more stone throwing, men pulling his body from the ground, his face a bloody pulp, his body limp with death. I stared, as though I was watching a movie, only I was trying to register that it was real. It is very real. Another picture was of the uncovered head of an 8 year old girl in a pile of rubble. Her eyes are closed, her face bloated and raw, her hair a frazzled mess, her lips parted. These pictures were so hard to look at and yet I couldn't leave. I couldn't cry, I couldn't talk, I could only look.
The last image I want to talk about is one of the Afghanistan war. It is of a young American soldier who was just shot and killed on the edge of a river being picked up by his comrades. It is slightly blurred as though in motion. The young mans face is scared, his body doesn't look right. In the caption below it told of the man's father who at first did not want the image to be displayed. He was soon persuaded upon hearing that most Americans would never see that image or any other of the reality in the Middle East.
Why is that? Why was I so shocked to see those images, as though I had never thought they existed? Probably none of you reading this will ever see those pictures. It is infuriating. Here in Germany they were posted in the middle of a MALL! A MALL! Something is not right. We are not being protected by not seeing these images, we are only going deeper and deeper within our own lives and the reality of the world is slipping by us in nice short clean pictures, nothing too sad, but sad enough to make us think we have seen the worst. What is wrong with this picture? You tell me.

Donnerstag, 24. Februar 2011

Berlin on the Spree River

We left on Wednesday morning on a big comfy bus. Six hours to Berlin. It was a dream really. The whole time I was there I couldn't stop thinking: this is one of the most historically important cities in the world. So much has happened in Berlin and it has been the scene of so much governmental upheaval that it is hard to ignore its significance. The first night we walked around a large portion of the city. We passed the eerie shadows of the Holocaust Memorial. We strolled through Potsdamer Platz. We were overwhelmed by the glory of the Brandenburg Gate. We got lost on the U-Bahn (subway). I learned that the lights in East Berlin for pedestrian crossings are different from the ones in West Berlin (check facebook pictures to see what I mean). That night some girls and I walked deeper into the city to seek some night life. Since it was Wednesday we didn't find any, but we did see the Berlin Dom, the TV tower, and some other important and fascinating landmarks. John F. Kennedy is loved in Berlin because of his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in Schoeneberg. We saw a museum dedicated to the Kennedy family, but the sign read "Museum The Kennedys". We thought it was funny because it was in English, but the translation was a bit odd.
The next day we went on a bus tour through the city and stopped at the longest section of the remaining Berlin Wall. There is a lot more than I had expected. We took pictures next to the incredible graffiti and murals. It was such an interesting sensation to be there touching that concrete and metal. It felt so important to be there. I think that meant something. Somehow it did. I saw history. I touched it. I imagined what it was like during Soviet occupation. Somehow I was there.
Next stop was the Holocaust Memorial. It is incredible. It consists of 2, 711 cement blocks spread through a large square. They are pretty close together, but it is easy to walk amongst them. When looking across the tops they seem to be fairly short and not that intimidating. However, once inside you begin to see that the surface they are sitting on slopes down. You begin to walk down hill. The cement blocks grow taller and taller all around you. The halls get narrower, noise travels differently. Walking past each block I thought someone was going to jump around the corner. I constantly looked from left to right in fear that I would run into someone. My heart beat quickened along with my pace. It was the most I have ever been affected by a memorial. What happened to me was exactly the artists intention.
We then went to the Jewish museum, which is not specifically dedicated to the Holocaust. I was pleased to hear that because when most non-Jewish people think of Jews we think of the Holocaust, when in reality Judaism is one of the world's oldest religions and consists of a lot more than that horrible event. The museum was in the shape of a star of David, but broken so that it was maze-like. You were led in many directions to many different times in the history of Judaism. It took forever and I didn't see everything, but it was really interesting to learn about the history of the religion. I even learned how to write my name in Hebrew!
After that we went to Checkpoint Charlie. I could talk about this museum all day. It has the most documentation, footage, evidence, and objects I have ever seen designated to purely the years of the Wall. It is set up in the apartment building right next to where the border crossing used to be. It is on the border with West Berlin. It was a major border crossing for Allied troops. It soon became an important means of escape for East Berliners into the West. They were often given help from the building at this checkpoint. It was incredible to walk through the museum and see all of the ways in which people had tried, failed or succeeded in crossing the border. Hot-air balloon, submarine, stuffed in suitcases, in the floor of a car, boats, etc. The list goes on. My brain was full to the point of bursting when I left with new knowledge and fascination for that history.
I went to my first club that night. It was the most fun I have ever had and that is all I will say about that.
The next day, Friday, we went to the Stasi Prison Museum in Potsdam (not in Berlin). It was quite sobering. I got to see the cells that the Stasi put people in to await questioning. Some were about 10 feet by 10 feet and held up to 20 people at a time. I also saw the rooms and the interrogation chair.
I got a new hair cut in Potsdam as well. It was entertaining because the stylist only spoke German and I don't think she was too impressed with me. She did a good job though and in the end I don't think she minded cutting my hair all that much.
After that we went to Schlosses (castle) Sanssouci. It was nice, but not as nice as the Residenz in Wuerzburg.
The next day we had a tour of Reichstag or the house of Parliament where Angela Merkel works. I got to see where German law and order is carried out. It is a serious matter too, we were all searched very thoroughly before entering the building.
I also got to go to the Ritter Sport factory store and invented my own chocolate bar: roasted caramelized almonds, yogurt bits, and cocoa nibs all together with milk choclate. YUM!

Mittwoch, 9. Februar 2011

The Continuing Story...

I have now been in Germany for 3 weeks. I don't know why, but it feels like an eternity. This past weekend I went to Wuerzburg to visit some family. It was so great to see some relatives; people who know me and care about me. I had a grand old time with the fam: walking around the city, visiting old wealthy residencies, exploring museums, munching on Kuchen while sipping cappuccino, and living in the language. My favorite place we went to was the Residenz. It is this absolutely enormous old baroque style mansion that used to house various important officials and bishops. It reminds me of my favorite genre of literature (19th century romance). The ceilings are elaborately painted with gorgeous frescoes and gilded designs. There is one room called the Spiegal (mirror) room, because it quite literally is made out of mirrors. There are no visible walls. Outlining the mirrors are the most delicate detailed gold designs. The entire room reflects itself and your eyes almost hurt after standing in its shining glory for too long. This magnificence makes me long to time travel back to Elizabeth Bennet's time to bask in the glory of houses like the Residenz during their full glory. However, my aunt tells me that the Residenz was a Catholic building and therefore it held ZERO balls because dancing is just not Catholic. If I were the mistress of that house there would be minstrels playing every night! Alas, that wouldn't have been the case, but I can dream. I can close my eyes in those old castles and hear the hum of commotion from centuries before. I could imagine for hours about the glamor of those residencies.
Unfortunately, this Monday I woke up with a nasty cold... Poop. I hate being sick. It is lonely and depressing, especially when you are all alone. I stayed in my bed for two days wasting away behind the comfort of Grey's Anatomy and tea. I did do homework too, but that is not as memorable. Being sick makes me feel completely useless. I need to be doing something constantly or else I get antsy. I can't exercise or do much of anything. I did wash the dishes and that felt useful. Oh well. I am getting better slowly and I will go to school tomorrow.
I have been thinking about Valentine's Day... Some girlfriends and I are getting together tomorrow night to share chocolate fondue, wine, and a little bitching. I am looking forward to it, but alas I can't help longing for a Valentine. Alles Gute.

Samstag, 29. Januar 2011

sich gewoehnen an (to get used to something) - verb

You never really think about all of the things you do at home. Going to the grocery store: you know the brands you like, the best prices, etc. Buying stamps, exercising is done in the same place, you know your house, maybe you have a car. The point is, everything becomes routine. Buying stamps is not hard in the U.S. Nothing is really because that is what we are used to. At least I am. I never thought about how easy all of that stuff was until I came to Germany. I had a funny experience buying stamps. I went into the store and asked the man if he sold stamps (in German) for postcards. He asked me if they were to Germany or America. I said America. I thought that because I asked for stamp's' and not a stamp I would get a book of them or something. However, he handed me one stamp. It was the lickable kind too! I laughed so hard. The next day I went to the same store and asked for 5 stamps. Score.
Another thing that we never think about is the grocery store. For instance, my favorite brand of yogurt is Stonyfield. Well, it turns out that don't have that here ;). I have to learn brands and price. Not to mention I can't read most of the ingredients on the package. I have learned what high fructose corn syrup is so I can steer away from that. The first time I went to the grocery I was in there for about 15 minutes and had a whole bunch of stuff in my arms, but then realized I was so overwhelmed and ended up putting it all back and leaving without anything. I am slowly getting it though. I know the healthier brands now and that the eggs here are incredible (ignore the egg recall they had recently here). The typical store bought eggs here have yolks as golden as the ones you get from your neighbors. It is so great! And they taste incredible.
I feel like I am still a tourist here. I haven't found my niche yet. I am going for my first jog tomorrow and I am so excited that I can barely wait. I found this beautiful little park right next to where I live and it is like an oasis in a desert. The Germans really know how to treat their people. Did you know that you can go to any hospital at anytime if you have TK insurance (which I think all Germans have and study-abroad students need) and get treated for a grand total of 10 euros per month. That means if you go to the hospital four times in a month, you only have to pay 10 euros, not for each visit. I think America could learn a thing or two from the Germans. The only thing is that the taxes are really high here. Oh well, that is the price you pay for being treated like a human.
After a long day in Munich I am ready to have a slow night. I think a light dinner, some homework, and then a movie sounds good. Oh and EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday, that means all the shopping is done on Saturday. I love it!

Montag, 24. Januar 2011

Regensburg: The City That Survived

I have now been in Germany for 4 days. The air of the U.S. has left my lungs and been replaced with sparkling European air. Jet lag refuses to leave me be. Wherever I go it seems I must get accustomed to the bed and sounds of the night. I will tell you a bit about what it is like here: I live in an apartment building in Koenigswiesen (I guess it is like a part of Regensburg, but not in the city center). I live in a fairly large flat with 3 other people. It is a nice flat, at least I think so. I have my own room and lots of storage. We are also cooking for ourselves. Last night me and 5 of my new and old friends cooked a semi-traditional German dinner together. We had Wuerstchen (little sausages) and mashed potatoes with a lovely salad, oh, and of course, beer.
I want to say a smidge about the beer in Deutschland. The day we arrived here we had dinner in the Altstadt (old city). I ordered a beer at the restaurant. When most American students think of beer they think of the alcohol. In Germany it is quite different. We were told my our tour guide that the beer here is considered a form of nourishment. It feeds the body, mind, and soul. The reason for this is because apparently when the Catholic monks were fasting back in Roman times, they didn't want to become famished so they made beer. The beer was meant to sustain their bodies until the end of the fast. Today, that idea has not been extinguished. The beer here is an experience. The moment my tired lips touched the glass, all anxiety and worry disappeared. The fruity, cool, bubbly, hoppy, light but robust flavors encircled my taste buds and blew my mind. I cherished every sip. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. It wasn't bitter and didn't have a nasty aftertaste. It was pure bliss. Now I know why all of the Germans I have talked to tell me that I will not be able to drink American beer anymore.
Well, now that I have consumed half of my post with talk of beer I think I should say one thing about the city. Regensburg has somehow been able to maintain its spectacular buildings from as early as 1200 to a little before that due to complete oversight during WWII. Regensburg was very important before there were cars and trains and such because it is located on the Donau (Danube) River. Rich people built houses throughout the city center. Around the time of the war, Regensburg's reputation became hidden, how I am not sure. Not a single bomb was dropped on the city. Almost everything is still there. The buildings have been turned into shops, restaurants, salons, and other businesses and they still have their structure. It is truly beautiful and fascinating. It is nothing like I have ever seen before. Class starts tomorrow.
Bis bald! (Until soon!)

Lufthansa Flight 425, Destination: Munich Germany

I don’t even know what time it is anymore. My watch says 11:45 pm U.S. time; the screen overhead says it is 5:45 am in Munich. I am wide-awake. Sleep is not my friend tonight because a very unhappy baby is screaming mercilessly a few rows in front of me. I feel like doing the same. My throat is dry from the Cognac I had after dinner and I wish I had water. I feel bad calling the flight attendants because I know they must be resting. Luckily, outside the plane is a completely different world. The moon is full or at least it is very close. It is the brightest and biggest I have ever seen our Luna. She shines like a giant white beacon in the night directly to my right. The moon lights up the sky and all that surrounds this beast of a plane. Far below me, the clouds lay eerily still. They make our elevation of 36000 ft seem more realistic and that much more frightening. I know that beneath those clouds lays the Atlantic Ocean, cold and dark. The clear sky overhead gives a view of a few stars still visible even with the moon’s light. I am unafraid of the height or the magnitude of this journey. I feel overwhelmed by what is on the other side of the ocean, but not afraid. I am alive. I am here in this big plane on my way to who knows what. Adventure? Yes. Wisdom? Absolutely. Beer? Undoubtedly. Romance? Possibly. All things are possible. My mind is open and young. My heart is yearning and strong. My body is healthy. I can do anything. It is not corny. I am living my dream. I am doing exactly what I want to be doing. If possible, I highly recommend this. For the moment, I will let this optimism carry me the last 3 hours to Germany where jet lag will meet me at the gate. Until next time…