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.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nikolaikirche. (pic)

Faust's lucky shoe (pic)

The Devil with Faust (pic)

Augustusplatz (pic)

Cold and wet in Leipzig

I thought a lot about my father today.
I went back to Augustusplatz, walking to the tram stop, waiting for the tram and hopping on it like a native this morning. I walked around there for hours, buying a couple pairs of socks (I forgot to bring any socks), an umbrella (rained lightly all day), looking at the weinstube where Goethe spent his time, the statues of Faust and the Devil. If you rub his shoe, they say you will have good luck. Faust's that is. And his show is bright and shiny. And yes, I gave it a surreptitious rub. I spent the day just soaking it all in. Later on I got a curry and then went to an organ concert in Nikolaikirche. Bach in that magnificent church. Wow.
It amazes me that this is now MY city.
Dad arranged for me to take German lessons from a lady in the neighborhood when I was in 5th grade. We worked from a 3rd/4th grade reading book. I'm not sure how much I actually learned of grammar and such, but enough interest stuck to have me taking loads of German in college. Because of all that German, Dad also bought me some sort of commemorative plate that had a picture of Rumpelstilchen. For some reason, all these years I thought it was Rapunzel, but when I pulled it out of the closet a few weeks back to show the niece, it was a short little man spinning gold from straw. Wrong story, right idea. I think my Dad would be very proud of both my storytelling and this move.

The ubiquitous golden arches. (pic)

They are everywhere!!!!! With so many other places to eat, I should be shipped home in a pine box if I step foot in this place.

Next door to Pension Piano Forte (pic)

Pension Piano Forte, my room (pic)

In Old Town. (pic)

Nikolaikirche, Old Town. (pic)

Walk on Green! (pic)

St. Alexi's Russian Memorial Church (pic)

On Interacting in German, or Rather, in What I have Learned is Called "Denglish"

1 July, 2011
I really like this city.  
Leipzig has a population of about half a million, brilliant public transportation (I have a week's pass to take full advantage) and what seems to be about three-fourths of all the people here on bicycles.  There are bicycles everywhere.  I was planning on getting a bike but the people here don't just ride bikes, they drive their bikes on the roads the way we drive our cars on the interstates when we are running late.  It's terrifying, yet beautiful to watch.  I don't know if my bike riding is up to it.  

I got up at a more reasonable time today, ate my fruit for breakfast and hit the streets.  I used the Leipzig transit system's website ( to see how to get to the Russian Orthodox Church and then successfully made my way there.  I got a bit thrown off when I had to change trams at Augustusplatz and couldn't find my connection, but a bit of wandering around and a chance glance showed me where I should be.  

I got to the church, which is where the Battle of Nations took place in 1813, a wee bit of a disagreement with Napoleon and the rest of Europe.  [].  I spend quite a bit of time talking with the lady there, who had no English.  She was patient, kind, encouraging and invited me back for Liturgy on Sunday.  If I understood correctly, it is in both Russian and German.  I found myself remembering some of my German and she reminded me of more.  

I returned by way of Augustusplatz and the tram and wandered around there for a bit and took a few pictures.  Seems to be the city centre and old town.  I saw a few used bookstores and despite the language barrier, both verbal and written, bought a children's copy of Grimm's Hausmärchen.  Yes, Grimm's.  Perhaps before too terribly long I'll graduate to an adult version of the German Grimm's but I figure if I have to learn to read in German, I may as well read something I like and have a bit of a jump on.  (Hush up, some of you nasty people.  That is not what I mean by "adult".)  While ringing me up, the man showed me a very nice, very old copy of Grimm's for €200.  "Später", I told him, with a grin.  Later.  He knew I was buying a children's version because of my baby German.

I bought a Bratwurst mit Brötchen and a coke at a street stand, where the vendor was a bit impatient until I apologized.  "Entschuldigen, Ich kann kein Deutsch.  Amerikanerin. Ich bin langsam.".  Then he smiled even though he didn't want to, so either I said something funny when I didn't mean to, or I said exactly what I meant to.  I then met up with an Irish Terrier and her owners and spoke the universal language of "I admire your dog because she is a terrier and terriers are great!"  The owners seemed impressed that I knew she was an Irish until I pointed to myself and said "Airedales".  The Irish sensed a kindred spirit and got hyper and friendly.  The owners must also have been true terrier people because they didn't seem surprised, bothered or taken aback by any of this.

Tram back to Sudvorstadt, and I meandered down the opposite side of the street than the one I've been walking on.  I befriended a shopkeeper in a small market where I bought cheese, wonderful German bread and butter.  Her English is pretty good, far, far better than my German.  We talked and she showed me some sort of memorial to Heinrich Heine in the park behind her shop.  I spent some time in a Turkish sandwich shop for early supper and chatted for a while with the owner and some other people in a mix of English and tattered German.  I was also given a free dessert and cup of tea there.  I'll be going back.

Looked at a flat this evening, but the lady isn't moving out until mid September, so that's no good.  Looking at 5 next Monday and Tuesday; one of them will be it.

It was a good day and I am very excited about living here.  I'm also feeling pretty good about getting my German back.  I'm able to pick out words, even if I don't always understand them, have found people to be very nice, very patient with me as I struggle to make myself understood and have made, if not friends, then friendly contact.  Good people.  It's looking like this was the right thing for me to do.

I know this is all me me me, but right now, it is all me me me. I posted some pictures that show some of what I saw today.

First Day

Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 6:59pm
Got up later than I meant to and am tired now. I'm staying at a wonderful little pension in the trendy section of town. Yeah, Right. It was rainy and cold and it felt wonderful. I made my way via tram to the Hauptbahnhof and got a week's ticket so I can co me and go as I please on the trams and buses. As I walked to the tram stop' I passed a pet shop and saw a book on Ratten. Rats! So I went in and saw rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice but no ratties. So, in my baby German, I went up and asked, Haben Sie Ratten? Ja. She took me back and showed me the rats, 2 males who were under a wooden igloo in their cage. She and I talked a bit and t turns out that she has rats, too. When she asked, English? I said, Amerikanerin. She said, "Ahhh, alles ist klar. I got that a lot after admitting that I wasn't German. Or maybe it was "Alles klar." Either works.
I got to the school and met folks there and got a tour of the building to saw my office. I fell in love with that room (see my mobile uploads for today). I also got a little bit more of an idea of how things run. A lot to learn, but I know how to work with kids and to be a counselor. The rest is just adapting it to a new setting and culture.
I can't get in to see any flats until Monday, which is disappointing. But I will spend tomorrow roaming the neighborhood around the school and getting to know it. I might it the zoo Saturday or the old town.
I got back to the pension just fine and picked up some supper and some fruit for tomorrow morning. The tricky part is making sure I have food for Sunday, since everything closes down. The school sec'y is having me over for dinner Sunday night, though, so I won't starve.


Back around my birthday, in January, I begin looking for something to kick start things. As some of you may know, the last year has been...quite dreadful. A great deal of hurt, disillusionment and betrayal. Yet through all of that, I discovered that I am surrounded by some of the most caring, loving and downright wonderful people. People who love me more than I can ever deserve and gave me the care and encouragement I needed to get through the nightmare I found myself in. Some of these people came from the most unexpected quarters and some have been here all along. Without those people and without my church.  I don't know how I would have gotten through this horrible, horrible year. They gave me the strength to look at my dreams, hopes and goals and take this step.

I looked for jobs in school counseling overseas, applied for all 5 and had two top choices: Vienna, because it's, well, Vienna. And this one, because it had a killer job description. A counseling position that is student focussed, not program focussed, not data focussed, not managing all the myriad details that are more administrative than counseling. Counseling wouldn't be squeezed in between setting up MRT or CELLA testing or gifted screenings or any of that. It would be a lot like what I did back in my Orlando days. I interviewed and was offered the job. I snapped it like a duck on a Junebug.
I began frantically disposing of things I owned, packing up some of it to take, some to store. My contract is for 2 years, but if I like them and they like me, I'll stay.

And so I begin anew...

The flight over for this scouting trip for a flat (thank you, Mom, for the frequent flyer points and the free flight!) was long and tedious. Luft Hansa was not my friend. I got to Amsterdam and found that my connection to Frankfurt was delayed just exactly long enough to cause me to miss my connection to Leipzig. They were supposed to have someone meet me to whisk me to the Leipzig plane but they took us to a different gate at a different terminal!! No one was there. The first rep I spoke to was absolutely horrible. There was no line, no crowd of people around her, just me asking standard questions. She was awful. I was discouraged, didn't know how to let the folks at the school know I would be hours late (and they would have to pick me up at nearly 11pm) exhausted, starving and my ankles were starting to swell from too many hours on the plane. Oh, lovely. I made my way back to the correct terminal, got to the Luft Hansa desk and found a short line that became a hugely long line after I got in it. I would not want to be working for Luft Hansa in Frankfurt these days. Though people were upset and impatient, they didn't lose their temper, they stayed polite, gave me a meal voucher and helped me make the call to the school. They did have to get tough with the man next to me who kept saying F this and F that all over the place, but I don't blame them for that. I was getting tired of him, too.

I did eventually get to Leipzig and was picked up by the headmaster, himself who drove me to my wonderful little pension. I was so tired that I was a bit loopy by then and it was all a haze.