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.