Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can You Believe It Has Been A Month Already?!?!

"We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life ...  I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...” -  Marina Keegan

Here I made a countdown until I leave Germany, right now, I honestly can't wait until it's over (though I will miss the bread, the beer, and the sense of adventure it's giving me.) Give it some time though and I know my thoughts will change. Today is yet another day in the exciting life in Paderborn, Germany. Honestly, I'm still quite lonely, but I think that just means I need to go on an adventure after work today! Right?!

This morning was tough, even though I was up until 11:30 PM reading a book after I finally finished my long post from last night, I woke this morning at 5:10 AM, uhg... I just laid there, staring at the ceiling and waiting for the sound of my alarm. I gave up at 5:40 AM and got out of bed. Showering and getting ready is really easy for me so at 5:50 AM, I was ready to go... With nowhere to go. Of course, I went on Tumblr to read some blogs and look at some photos then, reluctantly, I left the apartment at 6:30 AM.

I got downstairs to my bike and while putting my headphones into my iPod and then into my ears, Roman walked out of the building behind me. He greeted me warmly and began asking about my weekend, he's the one who invited me to the swimming pool last week. We talked for a bit about my weekend in Frankfurt and he informed me that he had a boring weekend at home. He offered me a ride to work, but at this rate, I was going to be early enough. I said good bye and rode off down the street. Once in Schloß Neuhaus, I stopped for a coffee and an "apfel tasche", kind of like and apple fritter. Heavenly!

Work this morning went well, I think I'm nearly done with the project I'm working on too. Though in the afternoon, I decided to add a bunch of new information, so it may take a few more days. It's always good to look at the data from a different point of view. For lunch, I had brought a yogurt and everyone was doing their own thing anyways, so I stayed in and worked through lunch. That meant that I could leave at 3:30 PM, nearly an eight and a half hour day I think, so, good. I only really need seven hours a day.

I left work and stopped at the bank. I got the android phone but I had yet to change my number with the bank. Since I need the text messages from the bank to make transactions online, and I need to pay rent soon, I thought it would be a good idea to get it settled. I also returned the other phone to Patrick over the weekend so it wasn't going to work without. After changing the number and signing some paperwork (holy bureaucracy!) I left and sent in search of some Nutella, yeah, mine's all gone. I wound up in a few stores but couldn't find any! Man! While in a Rossmann store, I remembered my conversation with Marc on Monday night and picked up a bottle of red wine for him. I don't know much about wine, but this one sounded delicious and fruity. I asked if I could pay him for the ride and he said no, wine would be fine. I suppose a bit of an inside joke between us now.

I stopped in a few more stores on my way home and even in a bike shop. The let pedal on the bike is squeaky as all get out and it's annoying and embarrassing. Couldn't find any WD40 though, man. I'm so out of my element here. I stopped at the Kaufmart on the way home and bought an avocado, some potatoes, butter, and of course some yogurt. Why can't I find nutella? I was racing home when I decided to take a detour. I saw a street named "Von-der-Reck-Straße" and thought it was a sign that if I went down it, I would get in a "wreck", stupid me, I went down the next street and was suddenly hurdled into construction cones and I hit a tree. Ouch! My upper thigh has a welt and a bruise, my left knee is bruised (in one of the most sensitive places since surgery) and my right ankle has a gash in it on the back. Wow, Gabi. Embarrassing. Luckily, no one saw me and I walked off with slightly more than a bruise to my pride.

In this image, the large white building are where I work with the plant attached. Von-der-Reck-Straße is at point A.

I finally made it home and just wanted to crawl into bed but decided to take the wine to Marc. I don't think he was expecting it, honestly, but he was happy. I told him about my catastrophe and he just started cracking up ... to my face! He said he wished he could have seen it! The nerve. I started laughing too though, it was contagious. I limped back to my room and just laid there. My whole body hurts. I went to cook dinner a bit later and Marc walked past the kitchen on his way into town. A smile lit his face as, surely, he's still replaying my failure in his head. He said goodbye and quickly ran back to remind me to have a good night and that I should probably just walk anywhere for the rest of the night. Cracking up, he ran downstairs. Boys!

After dinner, some pasta, I came back to my room and began writing. But as of right now, sitting in this chair is killing me and I just want to crawl into bed and read some more of this book. Hopefully I'm not in this much pain tomorrow for work. I even took pain medication, I haven't done that in a while! Well, wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Frankfurt and Back with Marc

Ok, so about that super long, super fun weekend in Frankfurt. Here goes...

Friday at work was great. I worked on the same project I've been working on for about a week now all morning, lots of reading, but that's not a bad thing! At lunch time, no one left, no one invited me out, nothing. Hmm... Luckily I had a yogurt in the refrigerator and had that. Suddenly around 12:00 noon or 1 PM, everyone went home. I sat there for another half hour but when no one returned, I went home too. It was nice because it gave me a chance to relax and I made sure I had all the necessary items for the trip. Finally at 3:45 PM or so, Marc knocked on my door and offered to carry my bag down to the car. I thanked him for the offer but took it myself. That's when he told me we were driving someone else too. We got to his black VW Golf and threw my bag in the trunk and off we went to the Paderborn Hbf (the train station.) There we picked up a girl who was maybe 18 ... or 16 even. She was quiet and slept most of the ride, it gave me some time to talk with Marc. We have similar taste in music (or maybe it's just that I like any kind of music that has a beat?) Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic for maybe one and a half hours, there was a car accident blocking both lanes on the autobahn. Good thing he had air conditioning, cause it was hot out. We dropped the girl off (oddly next to a circus) and Marc took me to Aschaffenburg where we met Patrick and his wife Jacqueline. It was the first time in ten or eleven years that I have seen Patrick and the first time I had ever met Jacqueline. I thanked Marc for the ride and got into the car with Patrick and Jacqueline. We then drove to Sebastian's house.

Sebastian is another one of my cousins and again I haven't seen him in ten or so years. He now has a six year old daughter and is married to his second wife Melanie (I think it's his second wife at least.) We all visited, Patrick, Jacqueline, Sebastian, Melanie, Harold, Evi, and myself. Here's a picture of Harold and Evi, thought Mom would like to see it.

After a few beers and a good meal (they grilled) Patrick and Jacqueline took me to another town, Patrick needed to meet with a colleague to give him a package. In the town we stopped in, there was a "big" festival going on. That's what I was told at least. It was a small town and their "big" festival was actually just a bunch of tables with people sitting around drinking and socializing. We had a beer, talked to some people, and finally went home. It had been a long day and it felt good to get into bed.

I woke up on Saturday morning at my usual 6:30 AM (darn not being able to sleep in!) and went downstairs. The apartment that Patrick and Jacqueline live in is pretty big and has a kitchen, dining / living room, a bed room, a bathroom, and a spare room. Also, upstairs, not connected to the main apartment, they have an office for Patrick and a bedroom with a full sized bed. I went down to the main apartment and we had breakfast. Brötchen and a variety of jams, meats, and cheeses. It was a typical German breakfast. After just one brötchen, I was full and we decided to pack up our things and go into town. I was shown the main shopping district in Frankfurt. There were all kinds of shops too! Much more so than in Paderborn. We went into a few and looked around but the main attraction was the new, very expensive (to build), shopping mall. I kid you not, I have never seen an escalator so big! Once we made it to the top floor, I jumped to flat ground because I was so scared while on it! We looked around a little and went back down. Apparently Hollister isn't as big in Germany, well, it's huge but there are very few stores. In this mall, there is ALWAYS a line just to get in and people wait for two or more hours just to go in an look! It's like Black Friday, every day in there (minus the good discounts) I'm sure it's MUCH more expensive here.

We left the expensive mall and went to a book store where I bought "Fifty Shades of Grey", a novel recommended to me by Cosmo magazine. Of course, it was in English, and I don't regret buying it. I finished the 510 page book in a day, I had to search online to get a PDF version of the second book so I wasn't left wanting more! We then went to a Galaria Kaufhof, another huge, eight floor store and on the top there is a restaurant / bar where we had beer and enjoyed the sunshine with a beautiful view of the city. and finally, before heading back home, we stopped at a shop called "nom nom" to get bubble tea. It was the first time I had ever had it and I had heard bad things about it, but this one was pretty darn good! I had passion fruit tea with pear bubbles. While you drink the tea, these rather large flavor bubbles come up the straw and when you chew, they burst releasing flavor. It's something I would do again, but it was very expensive €2,99 for 0,3L of tea.

We drove back toward the apartment but the day was still young! We stopped for some lunch at a sausage shop. They're known for their spicy food, thinking nothing of it, I ordered a B+ (on a heat scale of A to F) and man did I regret it. I couldn't even finish it. Not only was it way too much food with the Spezi (a mixture of juice and cola, usually lemon or orange) and fries, it was REALLY hot. Notice the redness in my face in this photo. And yes, the wall does say "sex, sausages, and rock 'n roll" behind me.

We decided to go to a swimming pool and enjoy the beautiful weather that we were having. We went in (bought a family pass for €10) and found a sunny place to lay. It was warm and the sun felt amazing on my back but I only put sunscreen on my back. Oops, I was enjoying my book so much that I forgot to roll over enough and the back of my legs were crispy-fried when I left four hours later. Man, let me tell you this, I've been in this situation before, scuba diving in  Florida, but I think it hurts more on the back of your knees than on your tushy. Ouch, sitting down wasn't really an option. We went back to the apartment and I continued to read my book in the car, on the couch and after our dinner of Spaghetti, in bed. I liked it so much I was up until 3 in the morning reading. That's when I had to force myself to stop reading and go to bed.

Sunday was a good day too. Sadly, I had finished my book and no stores are open on Sunday except in the airport so Patrick and I went in search of the second book. We went to the Squaire, a new office building / shopping center / attachment to the Frankfurt airport. Sadly, the stores in the mall / airport didn't have the book I was looking for, or many books in English. Defeated, we went to a McDonald's and had a quick breakfast. Let me tell you, McDonald's is NOT the same in Germany. The beef isn't nearly as good and the burgers are half the size. Man, I was hoping for "comfort food." We then drove back to Aschaffenburg to visit with Sebastian and his daughter Amy. We played some games and then drove to Evi's house. We were going out for lunch and it was Thai food, yum! Actually, it was really good! I had some dish with Chicken and fried rice and vegetables. Probably one of the best meals I've had at a restaurant here so far.

Patrick and I were both tired after dinner so we thought it would be best if we went back to Frankfurt. We got inside and I started reading book number two, Patrick found a PDF of it and I can read it on my iPod now! He went to take a nap and before we knew it, Jacqueline was home from work. (She works at a chemical company as an executive assistant or receptionist I think. She works 6 AM - 6 PM one day and 6 PM - 6 AM the next then has two days off.) Sebastian called and asked if we wanted to come over for dinner and so, back to Aschaffenburg we went. We had dinner (another barbeque) and the boys ordered pizza, drank beers, and then played some games on Xbox connect. It was super fun! Even if I was super bad. Hmm, this drinking this is happening a lot, but the beer here is just SO good! Before I know it, I have had 6 or seven and we're going out to a club. Melanie works as a bartender and it's karaoke night ... great.

When we arrive, I am handed a shot, I drink it, I'm handed another shot, and I drink it ... It just continues. I guess it's nice having a bartender who's family. Haha. Sadly, I didn't sing on stage, but Patrick did and it was hilarious, great even. Though, he wasn't drunk and he says he's much better when he's drunk.

Finally, around 1:30 AM, we drove back to the apartment and I stayed up until 3 AM again reading book two. Before I know it, I'll be done with book two and will need to find book 3! I woke up at 8 AM, with a very slight hangover. Uhg, I haven't done this in a while.

Monday already? This weekend was just flying by! Jacqueline was peeling potatoes to make soup for work for everyone (8 people or so) for that night and we had breakfast in the dining room again. The best picture ever was overlooking the table. A fat Mona Lisa.

After making the soup and eating breakfast with us, Jacqueline went back to bed because she had to work all night. Patrick looked online for things to do and we decided to go to Burg Ronnenburg, a castle in the area. Once we got there, we walked up the hill and there was a festival going on. We paid our entrance fee and walked around the castle a bit on the outside. There was jousting going on and lots of booths with jewelry and food and such. We found a place to stand and watch the jousting that was just beginning. It was really hot, and I could already feel myself getting burnt more. Ouch! Patrick suggested we get a drink and we went up to the booths again. We bought two beers and a "met" or mead. €21. Can you believe it?! Actually, there was a deposit for each cup of €3, so when you're done you return the glass and get the money back (very common at festivals like this.)

Patrick and I explored the castle some from the inside, the cool shade was welcome. I was built in 1573. It was cool because we didn't need to pay extra for looking inside and there wasn't a structure so you could go where you wanted to and really explore. Finally we had seen everything and it was time to go home. We walked back to the car and had to stop for gas. To fill your car is with gas is "tanken" in German. We even found a Burger King and had lunch. Then we were off.

Once we were back in the apartment, I went to reading my book again Jacqueline had to leave for work. We said our goodbyes and she was off. Patrick found "The Green Mile" for us to watch. I've never seen it, though it is an American movie, and Patrick couldn't believe it. It's a very good movie but sadly, I couldn't see the end because Marc called and we were to meet him for me to go back.

We left and went to meet Marc at the destination we specified but he couldn't find it. We met in a small town and I dropped my bag in his car, said goodbye and thank you to Patrick and we were homeward bound. I planned to read my book or sleep in the car but it was just Marc and me so I felt bad. I talked to him most of the ride. Other than the time that he put in a Backstreet Boys CD and we both sang along at the top of our lungs, laughing at ourselves the whole time. (By the way, I looked for a picture of them and I can't believe I used to be in love with these boys! What was I thinking?!) Finally we were back at the apartments and he bid me good night and I went to bed, nearly passing out before three pages of my book were even read.

I don't really have anything exciting to share from today. Except, that I finally have a working visa! I went into the office again in the city and got everything settled. I will be getting the card in 3 - 4 weeks. I have to wait for a PIN number to come in the mail then make an appointment and I can pick up the card finally. And work's paying me back for the €100 I had to spend to get the card! Score!

One of my colleagues read my blog and told me I shouldn't be sharing details on my work, or at least, I need to be very careful of what I say so I guess ... I'll be as vague as possible. I did more research on my project and the day dragged on. At lunch I went to a bakery for something quick and on the way back, stopped in a book store. Nothing for me, but it's always good to look. The afternoons usually fly by since I come in so early and before I knew it, I was on my way out the door. I had no food at the apartment so I had to go shopping, nearly killing myself on the bike on the way. I thought I'd fit between a block and the curb but I didn't and I flew off the bike. Completely unscathed though! I bought some food and came back to my small, empty, lonely room to write. Maybe I should start a novel...?


Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Few Good Phone Calls

I finally got the call from Katharina saying that I could come to work! She called at ten am and woke me up, man, I was getting a hang of this sleeping in thing, luckily, I didn't need to go in until today. Katharina said she has "good news, and bad news." Good news, I can come back and work. Bad news, I have to go to the city (Paderborn) tomorrow morning with Mrs. Grote to fill out paperwork. I need identification, a biometric photo (I think a passport size photo, or do I need to have one taken today?), health insurance paperwork, and 100 euros. She said maybe the department could pay me back for the 100 euros though (no promises though.)

I got up then, excited for work tomorrow (how often does that happen?) and headed into town. I found a nice park and brought a blanket. I "posted up" for most of the day there and just relaxed while knitting. It was hot, maybe 30C outside and eventually tired of the sun. I headed into town where I looked in a few stores and bought a few things from the grocery store. They only have English cucumbers here .. So much more than I need at once but it's OK, it lasts me a while.

I came home, around three, because it looked like rain. I was already exhausted from the day in the sun. I was walking into the apartment complex and was greeted by Roman, a boy who lives on the ground floor of my building. He asked me for my phone number, and seeing as I don't have many friends here yet, I gave it to him. He invited me to go swimming with him today and I said maybe. It all depended on the weather. He's a nice guy too.

I got back to my room and I wanted to sleep, but Katharina called me and asked if I wanted a ride into the city (because of the impending rain) early. We had plans to go out with some of the Benteler girls in the evening, but originally planned to meet at 5. I said why the heck not, and went downstairs to meet her. We went into the city and did some shopping because Katharina wanted some red leggings and then went for "eis", an ice cream.

We had plenty of time before we were to meet with the other girls so we found another park and sat on the hill for a bit. It was sunny still and we had a nice chat overlooking the small pond. Reluctantly, we got up and went to the Cafe & Bär-Celona, the place with the hilarious bear themed pamphlet that I posted earlier. We got there before anyone else did, so we found a table and decided to risk it sitting outside. Lucky for us, it didn't rain and we enjoyed more sun! I had a Radler and the other two girls had strawberry milkshakes. Eventually, the other girls came and each of them had a milkshake too. We decided to order food and I wasn't really hungry so I had some bruschetta. After dinner, some girls were going to see Men in Black 3 and after they were going to go to a club. I was still exhausted though, so I went home.

I couldn't sleep though, finally, I fell asleep at midnight and woke at 2 AM, and 5:30 AM ... BUT I must have put my iPod on silent because my alarm at 6 AM was silent and I didn't wake up. Crap, I jumped out of bed at 6:30, hopped in the shower, jumped out, threw on some clothes, biked to work ... and was still the first one there. Typical. I worked until 8:20 and then I had to go to Mrs. Grote. We went in her car to the city to meet about my working visa.

The office was quite ugly and we waited for a while in the hall before we were invited in for our appointment. Sadly, since my health insurance card did not say on the back that is good in Germany, though I know it is, there was nothing he could do for me. I then went down the hall and was registered as a resident in Germany. I had to go back to work for the day, around ten, and wasn't supposed to work. I called the Blue Cross, Blue Shield hotline for international members and was told that there was nothing they could do for me but confirm that I had coverage, but not how much or where. I had to wait until "normal" office hours in America and call then. I sent an e-mail to my parents:

So, more bullshit.

I went to my meeting in Paderborn today and was told that my insurance is no good over here because it does not say on the back that it works in Germany. I need conformation from BCBS sent to me saying that I'm covered. I called the overseas number but they can't help me. They can only tell me if I have insurance or not and not if I am covered out of the country. I now need to call the number on the back of the card... Only during normal business hours (which I wasn't given) and that'll be afternoon for me.

I was told that I could meet with Mr. Blume again this afternoon at 2 PM but that won't work because I won't have the papers yet. I can't work ... I'm still sitting in the office though, my co-workers said it isn't a problem but I don't want to work. I'm so mad!

I was registered as living here though and got paperwork for that all set up. I hate that this wasn't mentioned to me while I was in America and I could have taken care of it easily!

I'll let you know if I have any luck.


An example working visa for Germany

I waited until my parents were awake and at work then my mother sent me the necessary documents. Katharina sent them to Mr. Blume and he said they were sufficient but he has not appointments tomorrow and Monday is a holiday so I have an appointment on Tuesday. BUT it's OK for me to work tomorrow. At least things are coming together! Albeit slowly.

Last summer while working for Benteler, the company moved from one location to another in Auburn Hills, MI and I got to help pack everything for the move. And now, my department will move here too! We will be at the same complex but in a different building. In the afternoon, I helped Katharina pack some of the boss' things into boxes to move. There were a lot of folders and it reminded me of my time in the back room in Auburn Hills.

I had a call from Roman that he was on his way home and he wanted me to go swimming with him. I finished work, shut down my computer and went home by bike. The ride is quite nice now that I know my way and can avoid crossing a large street. I had to dig to find a bathing suit and soon realized that I only had one towel. I took a blanket instead. German swimming pools, like this one, are public and you pay a fee to go in. There were maybe five different sized and shaped pools with different depths. We found a nice place to lay our blankets and sat in the sun for a while. I bought a book yesterday so I took it along and just read while laying out in the sun. It was very relaxing and after two hours or so, we walked back. It's right around the corner / across the street from my apartment. I found out Roman is 24, looks more like 20 or 22, but he was shocked when I said that.

We went our separate ways at the door and I cooked dinner. I wasn't very hungry so I made a few boiled potatoes and ate some of my (gigantic!) cucumber. I checked my email and had a nice, inspirational note from my dad.
Remember, you are an “Explorer”, traveling over new ground and you can expect to find some surprises. (I don’t think that they ever had someone from the US before. So they are feeling this out to some extent too. )  It is unfortunate that they did not take care of these things in advance, and it is clearly less disturbing to them than it is to you. (After all they are at home, and you are on an adventure!)  

I  am very proud of how well you have handled all of these challenges that have come up on this trip! You should be too!

Remember that you are making memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t take it too seriously, and above all, HAVE FUN!

Keep us informed of your progress and let us know if there is anything more that you need.

Love Ya!


I know it's only nine here, but I think it's nearly my bed time. I should pack my things though because tomorrow after work, I will drive with Marc to Frankfurt where I will meet up with Patrick, my cousin.

Another big weekend, tons of pictures of course! Bis bald! ("See you soon", "until next time")

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Day Without Work Isn't Always a Good Day ...

Today was really boring. But, since I didn't get to work today (I'm still irked about that) I stayed up until 2 AM and got to talk to my brother and my parents on Skype. Again, seeing family is always good!

I finally crawled into bed and fell asleep hard. I then woke at 6 AM to the sound of my alarm. Oops, forgot to turn it off last night. Since I had nothing to do, I stayed in bed until 9 AM! That's super late! Finally I decided it was time to get up and get moving. I got dressed and thought it would be fun to go for a bike ride. Also, the bottles I have bought were piling up and I needed to return them. In Germany there is a different deposit depending on the size of the bottle and what it's made of. A 1,5 L plastic bottle, for example has a deposit of 0,25 euro and a 1 L glass beer bottle is between 0,15 and 0,08 euro. I packed everything into my backpack and another bag, threw it on my bike and off I went. Here's a picture of the bike I bought. Not bad for only 50 euro plus it came with the basket which is great for shopping. 

I returned the bottles at the Kaufland in Schloß Neuhaus and got 3,61 euro back. I went and bought a few things while I was there too though so I would up spending 2 euro on top of that. I bought some sugar because I like sugar in my coffee but apparently no one else does so I need my own. But at work, cream is always there. I also bought some laundry detergent because I needed to wash some clothes, and I finally found the laundry room on this campus. I mean, it's not a huge place, but can you believe that they only have one washer and one dryer? On my way back to my apartment, I took a different route and wound up a bit lost. Finally, I ended up in town, meaning I passed my apartment by maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Oops, I turned around and made it back. 

I asked one of my neighbors a week or so ago if I could use his wireless and he told me all I had to do was go to the office and ask for a wireless router. It was that easy. Well, except for my landlord's weird hours. Since I wasn't working today, I had time to go in and see her though. I got the router and it's all set up! I can finally have internet on my iPod, my phone, and my laptop all at once and without sitting directly at my desk! Strange, I'm still at the desk writing this though.

After setting it up, I thought it might be a good idea to clean a bit, I hate a messy room. Cleaning this place is pretty easy, with how small it is, but I still had some work to do. I put all my clothes away and gathered the dirty ones. I went to the laundry room and, of course, the washing machine was full. It still had half an hour on it so I went back to my room and spent some time online (of course.) Finally I went back and it was done. Sadly, the clothes were still in it. In America, it's no problem to remove someone's clothes but I felt awkward about it. I waited for maybe ten minutes but finally worked up the nerve to move this person's clothes. Yeah ... just as they were walking in. Talk about awkward. You never really understand the meaning of the word until you find yourself holding a guy's underwear and they walk in. Ahhh! I apologized but he seemed OK with it, took his things and left. Way to make friends when living in a new place Gabi.

People here nearly never use the dryer, they all have clothing racks to hang their things on and let them air dry. I, however, have neither the means or the patients to do this at the moment so when my laundry was done, I moved it into the dryer and started the cycle. It takes about an hour and a half I think with the dryer and much longer with the rack.

When I was moving my things into the dryer, an Asian girl came in and was excited that I was finished and loaded her things into the dryer. Really though, why do they only have one?

For dinner, I made cheese tortellini, simple because all I had to do was boil them and enjoy! I had dinner early, maybe 5 PM or so. My laundry was finally done and it was like a small victory dinner. I cleaned my room again, laundry made a big mess, and just kind of sat there. I don't know what to do half the time. Especially without work, it gets boring. I heard some boys joking in the kitchen and I joined them. It was Marc and two other boys from the floor. We talked about our weekends and how I can't legally work here yet and we had fun. There is a new girl on the floor too. She's from Canada (one of the French parts) and her name is Kathrine (but she pronounces it really weird.) She speaks French and English but her English is hard to understand. She also had a friend stop by who was from the USA (Marc informed me) but I didn't get to meet her and I think she lives a floor up from us. 

I also talked to Marc about going to the Frankfurt area this weekend. I'll be visiting my second cousin since it's a three day weekend and Marc is headed down there anyways! Yay! More adventures in Germany!

A few people left the kitchen but I stayed with Marcus (the Swedish guy) and another German guy. I felt so old. But the German guy is studying Automotive Engineering in Germany and he works on a "Formula Student" team, like Formula SAE at Tech. Awesome! He is also the leader of the "Suspension Team", I think that means the whole chassis, but maybe it's specifically the suspension. Awesome-er! He kind of reminded me of Griffin Brooks, a friend of mine from my first summer at Tech, looks just like him even. Awesome-ist!

Wow, I think I just made up some words. Maybe it's time for bed, or to just walk away from the computer. Since I don't have work tomorrow, maybe I should check out a bar...? The Irish Pub would be nice, every Englishman in Paderborn is there, and there's a lot here because of the British army base. But, man, I hate going places alone. Especially social places ... What is something were to happen...? Decisions, decisions ...

I think I'll start with a beer here and maybe it'll help me gain some courage to head out on another adventure. Stay tuned. You may be in for a good story tomorrow!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Really?! You've had months!

Today was difficult. After getting back to my apartment at 9:45 and not getting to sleep until midnight, waking up was hard this morning! I nearly had a heart attack when I woke up at 5:58 to full sunlight streaming through my window! Oh, dear lord of all thing holy! I thought I was going to be late, but nope. Plenty of time to dilly-dally before work.

Work was nearly the same as every day since I've been here, go in, open the computer, wait for the computer to start ... wait a little longer ... open lotus notes, read e-mails ... wait for software packages to update and install ... wait more ... wait, oh, it's almost done ... psych! wait again ... finally have internet open. Check Facebook. Finally around 8 am, everything is open, everyone is there, and I can begin work.

I am reading a lot of articles currently on Steel Business Briefing (SBB) and Steel Guru, these are websites dedicated to articles and news on the steel and tube industry. Luckily for me, they're all in English, so it's not too hard. I was told it would be better for me to do this work than any of the guys I work with because I can pick up the important information faster since it's my native language. Honestly, I hope I get to use my German more soon though. (Don't ask why, but this was the image that came up when I searched Steel Business Briefing on Google Images.) I think the site / company is owned / run by Platts. Yet, Steel Guru has its own logo.

Around 10 am, Dominik asked if I would like to go to lunch with Katharina and him to a pizzeria. He e-mailed me the menu and I chose what to eat. Since we only have a half hour for lunch, we don't have time to wait for the food and so on. I decided on the Pizza Italian. Peperoni, Ham, and Artichokes MMMMMMMM! But wait, Katharina told me we need to go see Mrs. Grote in HR before lunch. We walked over to her office and I gave her (for the third time) proof of my enrollment at a university and proof that this is a "required" part of my studies. (Since I'm getting an international minor, it is required for me to work / study / serve in a different country, preferably one in which they speak German.) I was then called into the office of her boos where I was told that for the past two weeks, I had been working illegally in Germany. They hadn't obtained a working visa for me yet.

Seriously?! What the?!?! In the months leading up to the flight I had asked maybe four times if everything was going well, or if there was anything more that they needed. "No" they said "It'll be fine" they said. I'm not one for misusing MEEMs, but this is exactly how I felt.

I was then told that I couldn't work anymore. Not indefinitely, but until they have the necessary paperwork. Are you serious?! I am to wait for a call saying it's ok for me to come back ... Still no call ... I guess I have a free day tomorrow as well. I still went to lunch with Katharina and Dominik though, I mean, it was already ordered anyways ... so why not? Katharina paid for my pizza too! How nice!

Well, since I was sent home, I took the opportunity to explore some more. I started by going shopping though. Since I had been gone all weekend, I didn't have any food here. I went to the REWE near work where I found some Paulaner, it came in a box with five bottles, a glass, and a coozie for the glass shaped like a soccer jersey. This summer is huge for soccer in Europe. I also bought some yoghurt and a Radler. A Radler is a mixture of beer and lemonade or sprite. Yeah, laugh all you want, they're delicious! It's considered somewhat of a girls drink, but I've had guys tell me that they like to drink them in the summer and they're "refreshing."

I brought my drinks and food back to the apartment and drank the Radler (pretty quickly too) then it was off again. I went into town and decided it would be nice for me to stop by and see the Turkish guy again (only for you Martin) but he wasn't there. I continued into town and decided, why the hell not, go shopping. I started at a C&A store, kind of like a Kohl's?? But I could some jeans there for only 15 euro! That's REALLY cheap. I looked at other ones that cost 65! Clothing in Germany is very expensive and that's all I bought from there.

I continued into the "innen stadt" and went into an H&M store. It looked rather small at first but once you went down the elevator, it wouldn't end! I swear, it was two blocks long underground! Not something you might think about, but bra sizing is way weird here too. I looked at bras in H&M because they were between 5 and 15 euro (cheap even by America's standards) but the sizes were weird. I'm an F in Europe! I almost bought a bra because it was one of two I found in my size (and the only cute one) but as I was walking away from the rack, I realized that it was a bra for nursing. Awkward.

Once I went into the Galeria Kaufhof, this store literally has everything. I mean, six floors kind of everything. There is kitchen items, housing items, a floor for men's clothes, a floor for women's clothes, a floor for shoes, a floor for makeup... EVERYTHING. I think it took me a food half hour just to go up and down, I didn't even buy anything! No, wait, I found some hangers (one was 2 euros) but there were clearance ones that were 1.50 euros for a three pack. I also found some small Tupperware, important if I want to pack a lunch! The escalators went up on one side but to get to the next floor, you had to walk around to the other side and use that one. Their way of making you walk around. Half the battle of selling an item is getting someone to look at it. Once I found my way out of the maze, I went into a few more stores but eventually decided to head back home. Good thing too, because as soon as I walked inside, it started to rain like all heck!

In my disaster of a room (from "unpacking" from the weekend, things were thrown everywhere) I began to relax. I cooked a deliciously simple meal, boiled potatoes and cucumber salad. When I went back to the kitchen to wash my dishes and put my things away, a boy walked in. He was new here too. He says his English was very bad though, so we had a somewhat muddled exchange, then we went our separate ways. Hmmm.. Joerg said all Germans are like this at first and it is hard / takes longer to make friends.. I wish the process would speed up though. I'm getting lonely.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stuttgart for the Long Weekend

This weekend is a big weekend for me! I am going to Stuttgart, well, actually I'm here now! Thursday was Father's Day and so, I got the day off from work. I also get two vacation days per month so I took Friday off work and came down to Stuttgart to visit some GREAT family friends. The Reiting family lived in America for five years or so and our families became good friends during their time there. They have two children, Johanna and Philip, who I used to babysit . Now they're all grown up and it is very strange to see them. I think Johanna was maybe in the 2nd or 3rd grade when I last saw her and now, she's 14. Quite the lady, she just had her "Konfirmation" - yeah, nearly the same work in English - Conformation.

Stuttgart Hbf
I looked into taking a train from Paderborn to Stuttgart but it was nearly €200 so I took a ride from a "student" in Paderborn named Philipp for €50 round trip. I met him at the main train station in Paderborn and we were on our way. He was very nice and spoke English well and his German was of course good, but he comes from a town in southern Germany, near Bavaria and so he also spoke a dialect called Swebish (not too sure on the spelling there.) He works for Siemens Enterprise and works with hardware on computer systems, he listens to "punk" music and bands like "Flogging Molly." We talked for some of the trip but the car soon fell silent. It wasn't a bad drive, maybe 5 or 5 and a half hours. Once we hit Stuttgart though, there was a lot of traffic (Jörg (Joerg) later told me that it is always like that. There are a lot of people living in Stuttgart and with it being a holiday the next day, everyone was either coming in or going out of the city.) I arrived at the train station around 6 PM and waited on Jörg to pick me up. I was in a parking lot and he was in a different one so we decided to meet in front of a hotel across the street.

He arrived in a Mercedes M-Class and we threw my bag inside and off we went to their house. They live in Göppingen, a smaller town outside Stuttgart. It was maybe a 20 minute drive to the house. When we got there, I was very warmly greeted by Tanja, Jörg's wife. They thought that hamburgers would be a good first meal for me so we had them for dinner. They apologized for them not being as good as an American one, but it made no difference to me. It was just good to be with family! After dinner, I got to see Johanna and Philip for the first time, woah, they're BIG! We played Dominos, or Mexican train to be exact, a game we used to play all the time when they were in America. I stayed up a bit later with Jörg and Tanja and then it was time for bed. It had been a long day!
On Thursday, I woke up at seven or so and just laid in bed for maybe half an hour. What a good feeling! The room that I'm staying in here is nearly twice the size of my apartment and the bed is HUGE! It feels good to sprawl out on it, so much room! I got up when I heard Jörg come back from his run, he went out and bought some bread and when he got back we had a nice breakfast outside on the deck. Tanja had made a strawberry torte and we had bread and, well, everything else. Jörg went for a shower and then we were off to Neuschwanstein, my mother's favorite castle. It is Bavaria (southern Germany) near the black forest.
We thought it would be fun to go into the castle but the line was VERY long so we didn't wait. It would take an hour in line to get a ticket then another two or three hours until we could go in. We, instead, walked up the mountain and looked around from the outside. It was maybe a 20 or 25 minute walk up and we went into the courtyard. On the way up there were a lot of souvenir shops and we stopped at one. They had a deal that for €5 you could get a coffee in a mug and a piece of cake. The mug was then yours to keep and had a picture of the castle on it. W continued up to the castle and I took a TON of pictures, they're on my Facebook if you want to see them (here's a link.) After seeing the front of the castle, we walked another 15 minutes maybe and there is a bridge where you can see the whole castle. We went out on it and, man there were a lot of people there, but we took photos. It was from the side without construction so they turned out great. After more and more and more pictures, we walked down the mountain on a different path, "the short path" and it was very steep. We got to the bottom and went back up the other side of the valley because there was another castle on the other side. After walking around there, we went back down and were extremely tired. We bought some bratwurst (but they were more like kielbasa) and ate them at the table there and went back to the car. It was only a two hour drive back to the house and I think I slept for most of it.

When we got home it was 6:30 or so and we had dinner. Bratwurst, salad, and fries. Yum! By the time dinner was over, it was 8:30 or so and the kids had school in the morning and both Jörg and Tanja had work in the morning. We watched some TV, Germany's Next Top Model, and then it was bed time.

I fell asleep quickly and slept amazingly well. I got up at maybe 8 and showered in a bathroom nearly the size of my apartment and got ready for the day. Tanja and Philip were still there but soon left for the day. Philip to school and Tanja to work. I was left alone in the house for the day. Tanja would be back around noon though so it wasn't that long.

Once Tanja and the kids were home, Tanja and I made lunch. It was a noodle casserole with ham, tomatoes, noodles, and potato soup topping. Tanja ran out to the store and I made the lunch. We even had a tomato salad. Sliced tomato with salt and pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Yum! Tanja and I cleaned up after lunch and went for a walk. I guess I never thought about how much we have in common. She lived in America and went through a lot of the same issues when she moved there that I had when o moved here. We talked a lot and walked to see a "small castle" nearby. They hold concerts in the courtyard and have food now but nothing start until late. We turn around and went back to the house where we played a game. It is called Carcassonne. You build roads and castles for points. I won every time! Finally, Jörg got home and we set up for dinner. We had bröchen with meats and cheeses and another tomato salad.

After dinner, Johanna and I watched an episode of The Vampire Diaries and came downstairs to watch some TV with Joerg and Tanja. We wound up playing Mexican train again then it was time for bed.

On Saturday morning, I was reminded again of the slow pace in Germany. I was up at eight and we had breakfast at nine an after much waiting, and a trip to the grocery store for meat for our barbecue that evening, we finally left the house at eleven thirty. We went into Ulm to see the largest Baptist Cathedral in Europe (and the world I believe.)
We continued to wander Ulm and went for ice cream in the city and walked the city wall. Eventually, maybe around 3:30 PM, we went back to the car. There is a very important FC Bayern "fußball" game today. We drove home and when we arrived, Philip had a FC Bayern flag hanging in the door.

We had a delicious barbecue with the family. We ate outside on the patio and had a salad (that I made), different types of pork from the grill (Johanna had turkey though, guess she doesn't like Pork??) and potatoes. They were more like tater-tot triangles. Jörg opened a bottle of red wine and after dinner we sat and drank wine. A friend of theirs happened to stop by and say hello and he was a strange one. He had tattoos on all of his open forearms, to the wrist, and a long silver chain that said something like "riding gospel." he stayed and chatted and eventually left. Jörg an Tanja explained who he was after he left. He was the one who bought Jörg's orange Harley. They're not sure how he has so much money, he is retired rather early. He uses to be a pimp and sell women, not his wife though. Kind of weird. Now I guess he goes around to bike gangs and preaches to them about the importance of God.

I have a feeling that one of these guys is my future husband ... Don't under estimate the sexiness of playing soccer.

He finally left and we came inside to watch the FC Bayern v. FC Chelsea soccer game. Phillip had some friends over and they watched upstairs while Jörg, Tanja, Johanna, and I watched it downstairs. It was a very close game. It was 0 - 0 for the entire first 87 minutes. FC Bayern was playing really well, they kept the ball in the Chelsea zone for most of the time and they took a lot of shots on goal but Chelsea's defense was really good at covering so it was a tough game. We were so loud without cheering in the living room that Phillip had to come down to tell us that his TV has a three second delay and we were giving everything away. Ha! It was nearly half time and the phone rang, the weird guy from earlier would be coming over.
He showed up during the half time show and had brought his wife and a friend and a friend's wife (named Gabi too) with someone's kids. His wife was plastered but we all continued drinking wine and Grappa. The game was back on.

Again, it was closely matched so no goals but quite a few attempts from Bayern. Finally with less than ten minutes in the game, Bayern scores! The room went wild! We were sure they would win! But with three minutes on the clock, Chelsea scored. The game went into overtime but it was still 1 - 1 after the 30 minute overtime. Man, it was getting tense! In soccer, when there is a tie this close, each team can choose five players from the field and each team gets five shots on goal. Bayern made the first three shots and Chelsea only made two of the three, things were looking good! Sadly, Bayern missed the last two shots and Chelsea made one. Chelsea had won by one point. It suddenly got very sad in the house. This was the Munich Final and it was home field and Bayern lost.
Everyone said good night (and weird guys wife was creeping and tried kissing me, was rubbing my back and everything) then it was off to bed. Sad night in this house.

Today I think we (Jörg, Tanja, and I) will go into Stuttgart and see a few things. More to come.