Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why my German class is Awesome

Yohannes: Ethiopia
Yusaku and Nana: Japan
Michail: Russia
Shamim: Bangladesh
Elizabeth: Colombia
Geraldine: France
Isaac: Ghana
Nitin: India
Farabi: Pakistan

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I always feel nervous on Tuesdays now.  I have until 3:15pm to wait around at home and get all worked up about my English lectures.  I kind of wish I taught at 8am just so I could get the nervousness over with.  It always turns out desk-knockable and fun, but still, teaching really is like putting on a one-woman show with a paying audience every single week.  And no one likes the thought of getting tomatoes thrown at them, metaphorically or otherwise.

I totally had another stress dream last night.  They come once every six or so months and they are all variations on the same theme.  I have to go somewhere really important that can't be delayed and I have to do about fifteen really small things that may not seem significant on their own, but when you have to do all of them very quickly it gets nerve-wracking.  And of course, in these dreams, one of those small things goes completely wrong and all heck in the world breaks loose.

I think that's what's going on in my subconscious on Tuesdays when I'm worrying about teaching.  I'm paranoid that I'm going to forget one tiny thing, like forgetting to bring chalk for the board, and everything will go horribly, horribly wrong because of it.

I know this isn't logical.  I'm just telling you about my day.

Today is especially jittery because it's my first day of German class.  What do I wear to school?  What supplies do I bring?  Will they speak in English at all?  Will I sit in the front or the back?  Where do I buy my book?  Will the teacher forget her chalk and break out all heck in the world?

The deep, ponderous questions of the universe.

I'm going to go eat some stir fry.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dreaming of Boar

Cafe Imperial in Prague

We leave for Prague on Friday morning and while Paul is spending his days in an apoplexy of glee about seeing Prague castle, I have to tell you that my particular fantasies revolve around the food.

We're going to eat out at the Cafe Imperial and the Cafe Savoy at least once each just so I can enjoy everything about them--the huge windows, those gorgeous tiles on the ceiling, and the food.  Oh, the food.

I'm kind of set on having my first eggs benedict at the Cafe Imperial, because it has such good reviews on its eggs dishes (and 4 euro for an eggs benedict breakfast?  sign me up!)

And for dinner?  Who can beat having traditional wild boar with ham dumplings?  Or a leg of hare?   Did you hear me?!  A leg of hare!  I mean, HELLO CZECH REPUBLIC!  I'm totally eating rabbit, boar, or both by the time we get back to Germany next week.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Signing Aquahaus: Rich and Poor

Check out that awesome
next-door building!

Today we will be (barring any random insanity) signing a contract for a place I've christened "Aquahaus."  At 5pm.  Set your watches--there might be some sort of astronomical sign that occurs at the same moment my pen hits paper because this is nothing short of a miracle.

A very expensive miracle.


Here's a mini-lesson in Rostock Real Estate for you (you can skip this starred section if you want to fast forward).  There is a university here, with many students.  Actually, this particular year there are approximately 30% more students than there have been any other year, which is probably how I got a job, actually.  You should also know that our income is approximately 30% of what a student makes (I kid, I kid.  But it isn't much-- 1800 euro a month).  So, as you can imagine, we're sort of trying to get the same kind of apartment all these thousands of extra students are trying to get--in the main part of the city, small, one room, cheap.

This particular combination of factors hasn't exactly been helpful for us--we went to see an apartment last week (three weeks after the semester started!) and there had already been 30 people to see it.  Oh, and we called the owner exactly one hour after it was posted online.    Also, the bathroom was such a skinny, tiny room that the toilet had to be turned sideways and you had to step over it to get to the shower.  25 people had already applied for it by the time we made it to our showing.

Of course, that sort of interest is only for the apartments that don't have a real estate fee--which is understandable since these fees generally are around 1000 euro.

But even the apartments with the real estate fee (which, to give you an idea, are around 95-99% of all the ones we've found listed) have a lot of competition too.  Of the 30 apartments (THIRTY) that Paul has seen these past two months, all of them have had at least seven other people apply for them.

Of all the times that Paul has applied to those thirty apartments, he has only gotten a response once, and that was the tragedy that was Peptohaus (or, should I say, NepoHaus?!).


But, even with the same odds on Aquahaus, we were chosen!!!!   Woo!  I have no idea why or how or who paid who what, but we were the number one applicants this one, golden, miraculous time!

And so we're gearing up to have a life that's a bit poorer, but also quite a bit richer.

Poorer because...
Aquahaus is one of those real estate fee apartments, unfortunately.  But, truly, we had kind of resigned ourselves to it a couple weeks ago.  What this means is that today, we're going to go sign a contract, pay the real estate agency 1000 euro, and pay the landlord a deposit of 850 euro (ouch).   That's before we start even paying rent!

The sort of nice thing about Germany is that your deposit goes into a high-yield savings account and you get it all back with interest when you vacate.  The sort of not nice thing is that we're kissing that 1000 euro fee goodbye--never to be seen again--and that's a lot of money for us right now.  Especially since we still need to buy things like, oh, a bed?  And ohhhh, a spoon to eat with?  Maybe two spoons if we get extravagant. And oh, like, a refrigerator?

Also, Aquahaus is a little bit more expensive than we were hoping to have to pay here--not because we can't afford it, but more because we were prepared to live in a closet so we could save money to travel to exotic locales.  I was hoping to find a place that would cost around 450 euro "warm rent" (that's including water/heat/garbage, but not electricity).   We found a few of those, but again, there were always 30 people interested as well.   Aquahaus is going to be around 570 euro "warm rent" (420 euro "cold rent") but hopefully we can get a bit of a refund at the end of the year if we go easy on our water and heat.  At any rate, it was about 50 euro more each month than our hoped-for upper range.  **Shout out to the ex-pats:  How much are you paying for rent or for electricity?**

What pushed us to taking Aquahaus (other than the fact that it was an actual OFFER) was the fact that the kitchen (minus fridge) came with the apartment so we wouldn't have to buy a stove/oven, sink, and cabinets on top of all our furniture and household necessities (yes, that's a common thing--needing to buy a kitchen).  Also, it's a rather large kitchen comparative to the others we've seen, so we'll have space to bake and cook--which is sort of a hobby and cost-cutter for us.

Blah blah blah budgeting stuff blah blah.  I'm totally into talking money, but I realize it probably gets boring to most people.  I should pace myself.

What I'm REALLY saying is that Aquahaus is going to cost us more than what some other apartments would cost us (if we could ever even have a chance to get one).


We're going to be RICHER in so many other things:

Like in the fact that we'll be living in the oldest part of the city
(This is our immediate neighborhood).  And it's a quiet part of town, unlike
the cheaper, though more crowded, closer to work student district.
We'll live within the remnants of the
original medieval wall--and see it every day
The largest outdoor market is a five minute walk away--along
with the Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church) and all her
beautiful organ concerts.

And this will be our commute--down the historic
street of the Kroppeliner Gate (one of the original city gates)

Instead of walking 30 minutes to "experience" this beautiful part of the city, it will be our home for the next two years.  I think that's worth a fee and 50 extra euro a month, don't you?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Desk-Knock Success!

The Hallowed Halls of Ulmenstrasse Campus
(The Building Where I Teach)
I've learned a lot of things from my English conversation students so far.

"Licking" is teenage slang for kissing, for example.  I discovered this when we were playing catch-phrase and a student had to describe "licking" for the others to guess.  She started out, "It is like when a man and a woman really like each other..."   You can imagine the look of utter confusion and suppressed horror on my face.

After we cleared up our mutual misunderstanding on that one, I told them that I'd probably end up licking my husband when I went home--which was hilarious to everyone involved.

Or, I also learned that there's a holiday called "Carnival" here.  When I followed up by asking if people threw plastic bead necklaces from parade floats and women wore feathers and glitter and did the Samba, well, you can imagine their looks of utter confusion and suppressed horror as they explained that, no, in fact, Carnival was during January and February (feathers and glitter indeed!) and involved paper lanterns, various sweet breads, and occasionally roller coasters.

Though...I'm still unsure about the roller-coasters thing since, when I expressed surprise that there would be roller-coasters in, you know, the fraggin' middle of the freakin' winter, all the students gave me a look that said, "Well, when else would you have roller coasters?"

There was a slight communication breakdown at that point.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today's Observations

1. The doorknobs don't turn.  Your key opens the door latch.  But I still try to turn the knobs every time.

2. All the cars are nice here.  I could think this a) because I just came from a small, rural community where cars were pretty not-nice looking and/or b) because they really are all nice since you have to be pretty well established to afford it and/or c) because people just take really good car of their cars.

3. People are generally really nice here (possibly excluding the two students I like to call "the cheerleaders"--jury is still out on them).  Paul and I got haircuts yesterday from this wonderfully friendly Ukrainian woman.  The only English she knew were lines from Terminator movies--when we were talking about how fast hair can grow back, she just agreed by pointing at my hair and saying, Arnold-style, "I'll be back." 

Monday, October 17, 2011


"We have been ill at the outpost.  Terribly ill with chills and the feint.  Some vapor or corruption of the water has overtaken our small party."

I actually don't know if people ever said "the feint" but it sounded like something someone would write to their friends and family if they were sick in a faraway land.

And so it has been with us.  Which mostly explains the lack of writing...though, I suppose, being sick you might expect me to be spending more time on a computer writing.  But, it's just not been happening.

Instead, we spent our convalescence trolling the internet for hours and hours at a time looking for cheap deals to Prague and Istanbul.

Galata Bridge in Istanbul
 Then we actually purchased things like train tickets and hotel reservations!  --What brave new world is this?--  Instead of just watching the Amazing Race and sending pining looks to the TravelZoo Top 20's, we're actually, you know, doing them.

For example, getting  Lucia di Lammermoor tickets for
14 euro at the Prague State Opera.
Which caused us to send out weak, sad-sounding cheers and then fall back into our bed wheezing.  Occasionally, in the darkness of our be-blinded bedroom, one of us will occasionally get up the energy to say "Hey.  We're going to Prague and we're going to hear Pachabel!  In Prague Castle!  On your 30th birthday!...what!? ::nose blowing::"  or "Istanbul.  We can get a Turkish Bath in Istanbul and go to the Spice Market and see the Hagia Sophia ...what?! ::cough::"    It's very exciting over here in The Garrett, let me tell you.

I also think part of our exhaustion, other than the sickness, might have something to do with this:

Miles Walked
Sunday: 4.2
Monday: 7.2
Tuesday: 2.5
Wednesday: 7.4
Thursday: 4.5
Friday: 3.4
Saturday: 10.3

Yes, I've been keeping track.  Mostly because I find semi-addictive, but also because keeping track of distances is just something I do.  So, check me out, I've gone from walking .3 miles a day to walking 5+ miles a day--Welcome to Europe.

Schloss Schwerin (Schwerin Palace) - We went to there.*

And I'm proud to report that, even with watery eyes and sore throats we sucked it up and ventured forth on Saturday to go look for an adventure.  I'm sorry to anyone who touched a door handle after us--but it really was a lovely day!

We went to Schwerin and Wismar and found a palace and a friendly swan and a freaky ghost and a pig bridge and a monument to mooning.  You should check it out at this link (for the internet beginner, that means you can just left-click on these words right here.).

*Shout out to all the 30 Rock fans.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Doors of Borwinstrasse

Well hello everyone.  Turns out that I made it and the Hunn Invasion is now at full force.

I made it all the way across America's loneliest road and all the way through an incredibly fun week for my sister's wedding and all the way into the eastern hemisphere.  I made it all the way to Germany!

I know there's a lot to say.

But for now, since I have to go traipse about town with Paul in about ten minutes looking at another apartment, I'm bringing you a few of the doors of Borwinstrasse (Bor-Vin-Strah-Suh), or Borwin Street.

Can you see me reflected in one ?

We're living here on Borwinstrasse right now, down the street from the Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Church of the Holy Spirit on Borwinstrasse...
and my knitted traveling gnome (thanks South Slough co-workers!)

My first morning in Germany I woke up hearing church bells.  It was a rather nice way to wake up, next to Paul, up in our little garret, hearing church bells, half of my body stuck in between our mattresses**, and me thinking/mumbling WHERE AM I WHERE AM I WHERE AM I!!!!!?????

Those first two seconds were a little stressful and panicked.  But since then, Germany has been treating me pretty well.  I've already taught two English classes to varying success (more on this later).  Yesterday I enrolled in the university's German as a Second Language course (more on this later).  I've been to the foreigner's office to get my "Don't Deport Me, I'm Perfectly Legal" card.  I've even opened a bank account (more on these things later)!

All in all, it's been a pretty great week here on Borwinstrasse.   Wish you were here!

**So, it's pretty much impossible to find a queen or even a full-sized mattress here.  Instead, what happens is you buy a queen-sized bed frame and then put two twin-sized mattresses on and wedged into it, next to each other.  This can lead to a sort of "Black crack of Calcutta" problem when you somehow manage to wedge half your body down between the mattresses during the night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

This is how I conceptualize the next week of my life:

Step 1

1200 miles, 21 hours, 1 driver

Step 2

6197 miles, 18 hours, Jet lag, Really short connections

Step 3

Make-out with Paul in an airport.  Duration: unknown

Step 4

119 miles, 2.5 hours, Drooling on Paul's shoulder on a train

Let me put this into a better perspective for you.  This is a REALLY long trip.  It's pretty much like doing exactly this:

My trip's grand totals:  7516 miles, 130 degrees of longitude, 40 traveling hours, 3 modes of transportation, 2 hemispheres, 1 super-mushy reunion, and a paaaaartriiiidge in a peaaaaar treeeeeeeeee!

See you on the flip-side: Eastern hemisphere 4evah!
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