Friday, March 16, 2012

Rotten Blogger

Let's face it.
I am a rotten blogger. Truly rotten.
I have not been able to keep up with posting regularly on here.
But I am going to try. A comment from a friend, who wrote a letter, a real letter, received via US Mail and DeutschePost, made me realize that I need to keep up with this running commentary of my life here in Germany.

So here goes.

It's going well. I like living here. I like riding the trams and buses to get around, I like not needing a car. I like walking to the store to get what I need. I like living in my small little flat. I love this city.

Sometimes I get frustrated and right now I'm trying to think of the things that frustrate me. Right now I can't but when I think of them, I will mention them. Wait...I have one! Limited choice in the stores. I wanted plain potato chips the other day. Plain chips. There weren't any. There were flavored chips (and not many flavors) but no plain ones. I hardly buy chips anymore, but I really wanted some this particular day. Plain ones and none in sight. On the other hand, there are all kinds of cheese that we don't have back in the States. And I've learned how amazingly easy it is to make my own spaghetti sauce. And Alfredo sauce, which has to be an American thing, because it doesn't exist here and no one has ever heard of it. You know what else isn't here? Pepperoni! If you ask for pepperoni on a pizza, you will get banana peppers. You get sliced salami on pizzas instead of pepperoni. It's not bad and you get used to it, but when I get back for this summer, I'm hitting Joseph's for a pepperoni pizza. Of course, there are no döner shops in the States and I've gotten really used to those. It's a type of meat with a middle east background and the little shops are on every corner, served on a pita with shredded veggies and a choice of yogurt sauce, pepper sauce, garlic sauce or a couple of others. I love them. You can also get them with falafel or haloumi.

Water isn't free in restaurants. And unless you ask for still Wasser, you get spudel Wasser: carbonated water. I hated it at first, and now I am addicted to it. I will whine and fuss and moan for it when I am back home. I guess maybe it's what we call sparkling water? I hope so, because then I can have some.

Winter took it's time getting here and I felt cheated, that I came from Florida to Germany and it wasn't really terribly cold and there was no snow. Then it hit in January. Brrrr. Temps in the single digits and the teens at the warmest part of the days, and the snow. I learned to navigate icy sidewalks and bundle up. I got a hat that covered my ears. I bought Strumpfhosen, which are thick tights, and wore them under pants and with skirts, and put my socks on over them.

I've somehow managed to acquire a boyfriend, a German one, at that. Alex works at school. He's the computer guy there. Not a teacher, but the IT person. He's a sweetie and I'm crazy about him. That's him in the pictures.

We went to Garmisch Partenkirchen over winter break. I'm including some pictures from there. The Zugspitz is there, the tallest mountain in Germany. We took the rack train to the top and a cable car down. There was an awful lot of snow!
This is on the Zugspitz. The rack train drops folks off down near where those skiers are and that's where Alex and I got off. We walked, in the snow, to where we took this picture. It felt like we were on top of the world, and trust me, it's cold up there.
This is me, all bundled up. Hat, hood, long, wool coat, gloves and mittens, scarf, lined pants and strumpfhosen with wool socks. The works. And it was still cold.
This is Alex and me.
From where folks being their ski runs you can take a cable car to the very tip top. By the time we did that, fog, or maybe it was just clouds, came in and you couldn't see anything from up there, but we were there. We were standing on the top of Germany. That's what they call it: the Top of Germany.
There's another cable car you can take down and this shows part of it. It was a really neat ride and much quicker than the train.
And here I am in a failed attempt to make a snow angel. Maybe I'm just not angelic enough? I also discovered that I am no good at making snowballs. Mine kept falling apart, though I am blaming the material my mittens were made of. Alex, on the other hand, had no trouble with his snowballs, and was pretty good with his aim, too. Next time, I'll talk about my fall trip to Salzburg. Heck, if I'm going to have a blog, I may as well show off. I'll also talk about my gall bladder operation and German hospitals. (Don't worry...I'm fine.)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A very long post, catching up...

I still don't have internet at my flat, but I am over at friends, who are allowing me to hook into their wi-fi.  This goes back to when I first left the States to head over here.

July 31
Nashville to Toronto to Frankfurt to Leipzig. 
It was a pretty easy change in Toronto, although there weren't nearly enough plugs for people who wanted to plug in their phones and computers.  I didn't like Frankfurt any better this time than I did when I was there last time.  Miles and miles to walk to get from  here to there and though the people were helpful, the system and set-up there isn't.   
August 1
I was picked up in Leipzig by Leslie and her new husband, Stefan.  I looked like a refugee, carrying everything I had in a couple of suitcases.  Though the weather was cool, the hotel room was stuffy.  I slept 7 straight hours, got some supper, then went back to bed.  
August 2
My first real day as a resident of Leipzig
I woke up at the hotel and ate a breakfast more American than German (link to a description  of a typical German breakfast) at the hotel's breakfast buffet.  Leslie met me at the hotel and we ordered a taxi to to take us to the school with my mounds of luggage.  We went to the school where Marianne had my bags from my week here a month ago and the keys to my flat.  We loaded up Marianne's car with my bags and drove the half mile to Oeserstrasse.   
The flat is perfect.  The new fridge isn't in yet, but we're checking on that tomorrow.  After getting the bags in, we went back to the school, where I met up with Leslie.  Leslie and I went out to look at shops so I could get an idea of what's what.  A great little shop called Xeno's that has all kinds of stuff you might need around the house or for school.  Then, treasure of treasures, a craft shop.  It has all the main stuff that I would want except fabric.  Then we went to look at curtain rods for my new windows.  I got a small lamp, bathroom cleaner and sponges, but no curtain rods.  I forgot to measure the windows.  

The view from my "balcony"
Once I get the place set up, I'll do a video tour and post it.  
All the new teachers meet Thursday at school and will be taken to get our work visas, a couple of other things and then go to Ikea.  I need a bed frame, sofa, light for the bedroom, and a wardrobe or dresser.  
Once I get my fridge and shipment, I can start some real grocery shopping.  Today was just a couple of rolls of toilet paper and a bottle of some kind of soda.
Except for the whole language barrier, it feels very natural to be here.  It feels good.  And I think the job is going to be great.
One day last week I was walking down the street after spending some time in Starbucks, drinking a chai latte for the sake of internet access, when I heard a bit of Handel floating down the street, coming from the direction of Nikolaikirche.  I like Handel.  So I hum along and continue on until I see a 5 piece brass band playing in front of the church in the street.  So very cool.  I stop and listen.   After Handel, they go into the Schubert's Ave Maria and then, though it was the middle of the day, we get to hear Eine Kleine Nacht Musik.  They are Neva Brass, from Saint Petersburg (Russia, not Florida!).  I liked them, so I decided to buy one of their cds.  They had the baroque/classic, a jazz cd and one of Russian traditional music.  I chose the baroque/classic.  

I love this town!
Earlier today, on my way into the school, I stopped in a little shop and got a small pastry, a brotchen and some cheese.  I learned how to ask for slices of cheese (I knew the word for cheese, but not slice, but I do now: scheibe).  I also learned how to say have a good day, but I didn't get it written down quickly enough, so I don't remember it.  I think it was a colloquialism, not quite the thing I could find on google translate.  I'll get it tomorrow or the next day.
Anyway, I hit a bigger jackpot today in the city center than I planned.  I was walking down the street when I saw it.  Black back, dark tan head and legs!  A bit small.  Really small, in fact.  A Welshie!  I walked over calmly (mad American woman dashing toward one's dog can't look good and can't be explained easily with my German).   I asked, "Welsh Terrier?" while pointing to the dog.  The woman looked at me oddly and said, correcting me, "Velsh."  Ah, yes.  I'm in Germany, after all.  V-v-v, not W-w-w.  I again asked, "ich kann...?" and gestured petting the dog.  She let me and I squatted down and got Velshie kisses.  I scratched him behind those ears and rubbed that wiry head.  It was gooood.  
But the Terrier gods had more in store for me today.  Later on, while walking through the market, I got the grand prize.  I saw tan wiry legs...was it the "Velshie" again?  No.  Too tall.  A closer look, peering through the human legs, I saw...I saw...could it be?  Yes, it was!  It was!  An Airedale!  Oh joy of all joys!   I walked up to the holder of the leash, a man this time, and said, "Airedale."  The man nodded.  I told him, in the most butchered of German, "ich habt Airedales alles meine Leben.  Meggie tod im Marz.  Zwolf jahren alt.  Aber Ginger!  Sechszehn jahren alt!"  That got the man's attention.  "16 jahren alt?"  "Ja"  Again I asked and gestured if I could pet his Airedale and got a yes answer.  I knelt down and got a true Airedale greeting, lots of kisses, happy dancing, paws on the shoulder,  The man smiled and apologized half heartedly (which I brushed off).  I had what I've been craving for a long time.  That dog knew I loved Airedales; he knew I was an Airedale person.  Better than the Welshie, better than almost anything was playing with that Airedale.  I haven't seen or petted an Airedale since I lost Meggie.  "Danke!  Ich bin ...frohliche" and I put my hand on my heart.  He said, in English, "your heart is full of"...but then his English let him down as my German did me.  But we each knew what the other meant, because we were talking Airedale.  

It was a very terrier day! 
A poster of a rattie that was in the foyer at the bank.  Ok, it's not really about the rat, it's about an art exhibition for Matthias Weischer.  But for me, it's a rat poster.  
August 12
It's been a very busy week!  Orientation, navigating the maze of German bureaucracy.  Our American systems don't have a thing on the Germans when it comes to papers and forms and stamps.  Sometimes, you need a stamp just to show that you don't need a stamp!  We registered our addresses with the Bergeramt, something all residents of Germany must do, citizens and aliens.   We registered with the tax office and the office where we get our work visa.  
In the evenings we got together a various local restaurants and got to know each other better and meet some of our colleagues, teachers from Australia, England, the Philippines, Columbia, the US, all over the place.  
Today we got our bank accounts set up so are now able to order internet and cell phone.  Soon, no more Starbucks for internet!  Yea!  Those chai lattes are far too expensive.
I haven't had a chance to do as much exploring as I would like, but while we were walking back from one of the restaurants, the Glashaus, which is located in the park by my flat, we walked home through the park. 
Now, when I say park, I am using the term pretty loosely.  Clara Zetkin Park is a huge park that is part park, part woods.  Mostly woods.  As we walked through those woods on a path in the dark (really, really dark), I thought about being in the woods, in German woods, where big bad wolves and all those other critters from Grimms' märchen exist and, you know? it was a little creepy.  If I hadn't been with the group, it would have been terribly creepy and maybe a little bit scary.  I intend to go back into those woods, that park, but in the daytime.

June 10, 1989
A memorial/information placard for a street music festival which was banned by the authorities in the GDR describing the courage and determination of the people who were in Leipzig reaching and fighting for their freedom. 

My view as I walk out of my building and head to school each morning

This is the way towards the main road, where the trams run and my school is located.  My school is about half a mile away.  I walk there.

Rounding the corner and heading towards school.

Laundrymat.  I hate this place.  I can't wait to get my own washer.

I pass most of the everyday conveniences on my way to and from work.  The laundry mat, a couple of fruit and veggie shops, bakeries and so on.  I can get everything I need on my way home.

My produce place
Look at those blackberries!
She knows me now, though her English and my German are rough.
(I do a lousy job at the self-portrait!)

 A bakery/coffee shop.  They also have salads and sandwiches for lunch.  AND pitchers of waters with large glasses!!!

You often see dogs outside of shops waiting for their owners.

The Konsum.  A grocery store, very close to the school.
Notice all the bikes in front.  Bikes are everywhere
and I will be getting one soon.

August 20
I have no idea what I did to deserve this.
There is nothing good enough I could have done to deserve this life.
Oh, don’t get me wrong; I could complain about.
I really miss free glass, large glasses of water at restaurants.  
I miss a/c.  It doesn’t get terribly hot here, but when it’s warm outside, it can get awfully stuffy inside and the air doesn’t move.  No a/c and not a ceiling fan in sight.
I miss the individual crystal lite packets for my water bottle.
I get frustrated when I can’t express myself in German, which is most of the time.  
Still, I love it here.
Take tonight, for instance.
We had a school community gathering at school so new families could meet some of the staff and I went to that, so we finished up around 6:30 or so.  I walked home and straightened up and got hungry around 8.  I thought I’d go out to the Greek restaurant.  I walked to the restaurant, which was about 2/3 of a mile away and located on a river (which looks like canal to most of us, but is still lovely) and got there and seated about 8:30.   The evening was beautifully cool, people were canoeing on the was beautiful.  Great food, complimentary ouzo (I don’t really like ouzo, but I drank it anyway) and I left around 9:45.  I walked home on the darkened streets, listening to the families behind the windows of the flats with a great air of contentment.  I was perfectly happy.  I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
I haven’t had any German food yet, but I have had all kinds of ethnic food.  There’s a Thai place that is very good that I’ve been to with friends here, the Turkish bistro (really Iraqi) Bistro Ischtar, where the proprietor knows what I get and how I like it (Döner mit Falafel), the Greek place, and many others.  Have mentioned that there are ice cream places everywhere?  Ice cream is very popular, and as many of you know, is my “drug of choice”.  
I walk pretty much everywhere and if it’s further than a mile or so, I take the tram or a bus.  It’s a very dog friendly place and you constantly see people with their dogs on the streets.
And then there is the job.  I like the school, it’s philosophy and the people.  I get to build the counseling program from the ground up, which is a school counselor’s dream.  School started Wednesday and I’ve already been in a 12th grade class and a 7th grade class.  The kids are great and I got to talk to a several of them at the tram stop outside of school the other day, which demonstrated to me that kids are pretty much the same the world over.   I will be offering a storytelling club/class after school for secondary students and am terribly excited about that.  I’ve begun work on my first bi-lingual story, which is a lot of fun, since I am using a German poem I’ve known for a long time.  
The people I work with are equally wonderful.  Friendly, helpful, fun.
I figure the glow will wear off to some extent as time wears on but at this point, I haven’t had a single, solitary moment where I’ve questioned this move.  
I have no idea what I’ve done to deserve this.  It’s all a gift.

There is still so much more, but I have been sitting on the sofa here at my friends house, absorbed in the my computer and uncommunicative long enough.  I will keep you posted on life here in Leipzig, taking pictures and as soon as my stuff is shipped and delivered, I will do a video tour of my flat and post it.  I went to Ikea yesterday with some folks and bought a few things and spent the rest of the day and most of the morning putting furniture together.  I now have a bed frame, a small desk, a sofa (sofa bed! so get those passports current!) and a wardrobe.  They are all put together, too.  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Packing and moving

My house is in a state of ordered chaos (or is that chaotic order?) as I move boxes of books from here to there and get everything ready for the movers on Tuesday.  The last of the furniture will be picked up by the Salvation Army on Wednesday and I will have a couple of days to play before I head up to Tennessee to spend some time with my mother before heading off to my little flat in Leipzig and my new life.

My friend, Lianne, is helping me.  I have known Lianne for ...gosh... since my sister got married back in 1985.  But she and I have been friends since she moved to Central Florida about 20 years ago.  We have been through thick and thin together, losing touch when we both moved from Orlando, she to the coast and me up to Jacksonville.   It took me leaving the country for us to reconnect.  It was one of those magical friendships where after years of little contact, we picked up as if we had just seen each other yesterday.  I can't describe some of our escapades because I believe there may still be some outstanding warrants out there and the statutes of limitations may still be in effect on others.  Feel free to speculate.

In a bit over two weeks the prelude concludes and the first movement begins.
Look for pictures of my flat in the next couple of weeks.  I sound so European, don't I?  "My flat".  My new home.