Sunday, May 13, 2012

And So It Begins..

here is where I found this image
Well, here goes... My first blog post since I have been in Germany. Honestly I don't even know where to begin, there have been so many challenges and changes in my life in the past two weeks that I can't decide where to start so I guess I'll begin with my first experiences with landing in Germany, or more so, the flight.

The flight wasn't bad over here; I mean for any eight hour flight, it was good. I have an inside aisle seat, the plane is broken down like the image to the side here.

And the woman who sat next to me was very nice, and VERY talkative. I didn't sleep on the plane, which I think helped with the jet-lag once I got here, but made for a very tiring train ride. Once we landed in Frankfurt, I deboarded the plane and went to baggage claim and picked up my larger, checked luggage.

Customs was the next stop. I was expecting a bunch of questions, where are you going? How long will you be there? Where's your visa paperwork? What are you doing here for so long? And so on, but there was only one command and one question. "Passport and where are you going?" "OK and Paderborn." And I was through, on to new adventures, like finding the train station.

Frankfurt, as you may already know, is an International airport and so every sign uses images and text (in German) to show where everything is located. (Reminds me of Jingfang's International Technical Communications Class!) So, basically, finding the train station wasn't too hard. I went into the office and bought my ticket from Frankfurt Hbf to Paderborn Hbf and for about 100 Euro's, I was off. I had to make two train switches and the total trip should have taken me four hours or so. When I got onto the first train, I took the first seat and sat down near a nice Australian couple. When the ticket collector came around, I found out that I was sitting in first class and I did not have a first class ticket. It wasn't marked very well, so I took my two ENORMOUS bags and moved into another car. The first leg of the trip took about an hour and when my next station was nearing, I got up and got off. I checked my ticket and went to the platform that I thought I was supposed to be on, unfortunately, I read the ticket wrong and while waiting I asked a nice German woman if I was in the correct place and she said I was. Forty-five minutes later with no train having arrived yet, I asked one of the men on the platform and found out I was in the wrong place. Oops! I went to the correct platform and caught the next train. After having that mix-up, my next transfer was "seamless." I was having a hard time staying awake on the train but finally, after five hours, I made it to Paderborn Hbf!

Finding my apartment was the next task. I had my mother call me and try to help but it was hard when she's in America and not with me. Luckily, there was a German intern from Paderborn in America and, being so familiar with the area, he directed me to the taxi's, similar to these here.

this is where I found this image
I found a taxi, the first one in line actually, and he loaded my bags into the back. I pulled out the directions and address I had from my bag and off we went. Now I know my way around well enough to get to the train station in 30 minutes or so when I walk but on my first day, the taxi was amazing. The driver didn't speak any English so my German was immediately put to the test. He was nice enough to slow down his speech enough for me to follow him and he was patient when I spoke. He was really helpful too! He showed me where some supermarkets were and even told me how many Kilometers they were from my apartment (not that it helped me much since I didn't write it down and had no sense of direction here yet.) I arrived and paid for the ride, 8,40 I think plus a 1,00 Euro tip and we unpacked my bags from the car.

Now if only I knew where to go then! Ha! Luckily, there was a boy leaving one of the buildings and he helped me find the main office. That didn't help though, no one was there. My landlord has strange hours: 8:30 - 11:00 and 13:00-14:30 (she also doesn't work weekends.) Of course, she wasn't there! A few other boys walked past then and they looked on her door and attached to the door with tape was my "welcome packet" which included about a million keys and the lease agreement. The boys were nice enough to help me take my bags to my room 6.1.11 (building 6, floor 1, room 11.) I thanked them and they were on their way. After unpacking, I laid down in bed and was O-U-T.

That's when I decided to use my bathroom for the first time. Wouldn't ya know it...? No toilet paper! Really Gabi, you didn't check first? Oops! By this time, it was 4:30 PM, mind you, most of the stores close at 5 or 6 PM so of course, and I shook off and went into town to find a store. Another adventure in Paderborn! I wandered, and wandered and wandered and finally I found a Rossmann, basically like a CVS minus the drugs and bought some of the necessities. TP, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap... you know that stuff. I left the store but my stomach immediately rumbled and I was reminded that I hadn't eaten since 8 AM and I ran back in to buy some granola bars, water, and tea. All bottles here have a "Pfand" or deposit on them of between 0,15 and 0,25 euro cents too. Crazy.

Here are a few pictures of the "place"... Not much to look at...  

My second day was weird, living in a new place and not knowing anyone is really hard. I know I will repeat this a million times, but since everyone has their own room and bathroom, they come home and shut their door. They only come out to use the kitchen, and most of them go home on the weekends. I met with the landlord and gave her all the necessary signed papers and she gave me the "necessities" for Internet but first I needed a German bank account. I'm not getting charged for the Internet but with the package the school gets, I have the ability to have a room phone so if I wanted to use it, they would need my account info. No problem, I thought, how hard could it be? With no car, no bike, and no Internet... It proved very difficult.

I walked out of my apartment and chose a direction and off I went. Later I found out that it would be the direction I took to work every day. I found a grocery store on my way too, score! I asked some guys I saw on the street, "Wo kann ich ein Deutsches Bank finden?" and they pointed me further from the apartment into SchloƟ Neuhaus (the section of town where my work is located), in town I found a Sparkasse and went in. I had to make an appointment to meet with a banker for the next day and was told to bring my passport. I think I am the only American Benteler has ever brought over, everyone thinks I'm British.

On my walk home, feeling homesick and defeated with no Internet or prospects thereof, I stopped in the grocery store and bought some beer and bread and walked home. (Those are the basic staples here anyways haha.)

I also found a "euro store" (what I told my mom haha) on my way home. It was like a dollar store but with euros, obviously. I bought a plate, a glass, a trash can, and some trash bags. When I got back and unpacked my bag, I heard someone in the kitchen so I immediately ran out to introduce myself. The girl in the kitchen was my neighbor, Rhonda. She offered to help in any way and invited me to a movie with her the next night. We found out later though that since I didn't have internet or a German cell phone that contact would be hard. I never wound up going out with her. She offered to let me use her Internet on Tuesday, since she goes home on the weekends. Since the bank account takes three days, and Internet set-up another two. It would be about a week before I got Internet anyways.

That was it for that day really and I should probably get some sleep. More to come!







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