Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Only two more days 'till the weekend... Can't time move faster?

The doctor I saw for my knee.
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this, I haven't been feeling too well these past few days and I'm finally beginning to feel a bit better. I have three whole days to cover now though, uhg!

Monday was a big day for me since I had another doctor's appointment. I got a late appointment at the doctor's, 5:45 PM, and I stayed at work until 5 PM. What a long day. I had to do a follow up with doctor number two after the MRI and basically, he said this:

"The swelling is going down, which is good."
"There's nothing we can do now and the ACL looks to be intact, albeit a bit stretched."
"Do some "Phisio" (Physical Therapy) that will be really expensive and come back here if you're still not feeling better in a few months"
"There's nothing we can do now."
"We can only do so many tests on the knee and sometimes it feels loose and the person feels fine with it. We don't do anything. Other times, it feels fine but the person doesn't think it feels stable. We need a solution."
"There's nothing we can do now."
"French physicians are really great, but they can't explain anything at conferences. They're the stupid ones who don't speak English."
"There's nothing we can do now."
Physical therapy knee exercises.
And yes, he really did say that about the French. He recommended a physical therapist in Paderborn that speaks English. The only one that is. I guess it makes more sense for me to explain things in English. Now it's up to me if I want or need Physical Therapy again or if I just live with it. As of now, though, it's feeling pretty good. Maybe I'll wait it out.

Tuesday was uneventful since all I did was go to work, do nothing but read articles from assorted newspapers, come home and go to bed. I still don't feel too well but I think that the extra sleep is helping some. 

We also have a new intern in the marketing department. He's a young guy, maybe 18, maybe. He's only here for two weeks for his summer vacation. It's a bit disappointing though, since he's around, everyone in the office has changed. It's like they're colder all the sudden. I mean, they're still polite, but they don't ask me to go to lunch with them (maybe for fear of having him tag along..?) and everyone kind of does their own thing.

I was upset on Monday though because he got work to do on his first day. A big project that should take him two weeks to complete. Where's mine?

Today I'm feeling slightly better, as I said, but my throat still hurts a lot and I have a constant headache. This will be a short post. But today at work, I got more to do, not much mind you, but it's something. Mostly it was busy work, transcribing information from visit reports and making a new Excel spreadsheet (the Germans say "Excel" like axle.) At least I didn't have to waste my whole day trying to find something new on the internet to do that was "work appropriate." 

RIP Bike
On my ride home from work, I left around 3:30, the pedal of my bike on the left side, just completely fell off, like the pedal and the arm attaching it to the gears. Like it was there on the bike, and then it was on the ground. Great. I found a rock and tried to pound it back on but after a few cycles, it was falling off again. Not too sure what to do about it. Guess I'm walking everywhere again. Back to square one.

On the bright side, I got a package today! (No mom, the one from you still hasn't arrived.) It was from Andrew (the same one I was on Skype this past weekend and included in the posts.) He made me two mix CDs, quite the mix too, these songs don't flow at all haha! He also made me a duck from Starburst wrappers, long story from our first summer as friends there, and a Lake Superior stone that he found. Another long story behind the stone, but maybe that's for a different day. I think I'm going to bed now, feeling worse by the minute.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I'm Never Drinking Again.. Ok, Maybe Just One..

OK, so Saturday I got out of bed at about 9 AM, feeling pretty good for how much I drank the night before and I just sort of hung out in my room for a few hours. I then went into the city and checked out the festival again but nothing had changed and town was the same too. I came back home and just sort of wasted some time on Tumblr and Facebook. I even got to talk to Andrew, a friend from Houghton on Skype in the early afternoon. We had an animated conversation about Thermodynamics, OK, no I'm kidding. 

We've gotten into this habit of recalling our weird dreams to each other and Skype is the best way to do this. I share my stories from the night before and he told me all about his dream from the night before, his always involve the ME-EM, I think this is weird and he spends too much time there, but whatever. We discussed the video blog idea and I was super excited to try it, as you can tell from today's earlier post, it didn't work out too well for me.

After we talked for an hour or so, I decided to go into town to buy hair dye. I need a change. I grabbed my bike and was getting ready to go and Marc was leaving too. We talked for a few minutes and he was headed into town too, to get a haircut I believe. We rode together into town and parted ways near the city center. I went to Rossmann's and bought some red-ish / brown hair dye and thought that going back to my room sounded lame so I wandered town a bit. Nothing too exciting. Though, I keep finding new things like this "couch" thing. It's a mosaic and it's in a square by itself and I can't fathom why it was there. It did remind me of South Street in Philly though.

Also, speaking of weird things to find in town. This guy. He was painted all silver and he was standing in the middle of like a bathtub thing and he had hoses all over I guess. He was a human fountain and he would just spray people walking by. It was funny but a bit scary too. And now that I look at this picture, it is of horrible quality. Oh well, what can I do now?

I came back to the apartment and dyed my hair. Unfortunately, I read the directions wrong and dyed it wrong. German directions didn't help. I mean, in the US we have like 5 languages on out hair dye but here, only one. It's OK though, I got it all worked out and I think it turned out pretty good! Not that you can really even see a difference in this picture. It's darker though.

I took a nap after dying my hair though, not the best idea. No nothing happened with dye on the sheets or anything, but I fell asleep at 6 PM and didn't wake up until 10 PM. I needed the sleep but it meant that I missed my invitation to go out with Katrina in the city. I had four messages and a missed call from her inviting me to go out and I had to tell her at 10 PM (when she called and such around 6:45 PM) that I couldn't go. Bummer.

It stays light here until maybe 10 or 11 PM so it was still quite light out and I decided to go for a walk. Oddly, when I was on my way down the stairs, I was stopped by one of the Egyptian guys and asked to join in the party upstairs.

  Also, this song is probably the most popular, over played, music in 
Germany right now. That, along with "Call Me Maybe."  I heard
both songs more than ten times last night.

I saw a few familiar faces but names are gone (don't think I ever really learned them.. Oops..) Of course, everyone was drinking up on the patio above my room and I was offered my choice of different alcohols and beers. I said no thanks, I didn't want to drink because of the previous night. And half an hour later I had a drink in my hand. Vodka, vodka, and more vodka. That was the night. Around 1:30 AM, I said my goodbyes and was going to go to bed but a few new "friends", yup more boys (living in Germany has made me a heart breaker), insisted I stay for a while longer. I had one more drink, some strawberry flavored vodka, like drinking strawberry syrup (yuck, sweet and heavy) and maybe half way through the drink, I snuck over to the  edge of the patio and "accidentally" dumped my cup over the edge. Sorry.

Again, I said my goodbyes and was kept in a conversation with some of the German boys I had met. The Colombian guy just wouldn't give it a rest (you don't even want the details.) And, at 4 AM, I finally made it back to my room and into bed. I was not drunk, and very happy for that fact.

Got up again on Sunday around 9 AM and around 10 AM my dad was on Skype. Seriously? It's like 4 AM in the US then. It was nice though because we got to talk for a bit and it's always nice to see a familiar face. 

I actually remembered another dream too! Though this one could have been in German or English or Lithuanian for all I know here it is:

Dream last night was AWESOME!

It was almost a re-run of the previous night's activities, lots of Spanish dancing and lots of people. But in the middle of the party, some guy shows up with a delivery for me. (Like middle of the night UPS delivery or something.)

He hands me this box and it's white with like paint splashes of all different colors on it. I take it to my room to open it and it's full of toys from the 90's and 80's. Like tamagotchi's and G.I. Joe action figures and Barbie's and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots. It was epic. I said screw the party and just stayed in my room playing with all the toys. I think I assumed in my dream that my parents sent it but the box had no name or address on it.

After a quick shower and getting ready for the day, I went into town again. Still, the festival was going on but I opted for a pretzel with mozzarella, tomato, and arugula from a bakery in town. Nothing at all is open on Sunday's in Germany except the churches and you can't really be touristy on a Sunday in churches so I just found a nice place to sit and read a book. Didn't last long though because it began to pour down rain. I should be used to it, by now, seeing as it rains nearly every day, but it's still annoying.

Today turned into a stay inside, boring day, but hopefully I get to spend more time on Skype with my mommy soon!

The British are Coming, the British are Coming!

He'll probably hate me for this, oh well.
So, I thought I would try something new for this post. I got the idea while on a Skype call to a friend in Houghton (Say hi to Andrew!) and thought it would be cool to do a video blog, a vlog if you will, for today. There are a lot of emotions behind my evening last night and they are SO much easier to show than write about. I am, after all, quite the chatterbox.

Unfortunately, my microphone on my laptop is a total failure and all you can hear is the crackling from it over my voice. Gah! I was really excited to do it too! Oh well, I guess I'll write it out and maybe look into a new microphone..?

Ok, so I'll start with Friday afternoon. At work I got my own desk on Friday. Yeah, two months in and after the move, I had no desk. Luckily, one of the women in the department is out on leave for a child and I could use her desk. But, around noon, everyone left for the weekend and I had to stay until 1 PM for the IT guy to come up and set up my desk for me. I have the largest monitor in existence now, along with my laptop. I took a picture of the new set up (shhh, don't tell! I'm not sure I'm actually allowed to do that.) The set up was really quick and I was ready to leave, shut down my computer and went to walk downstairs to leave. It was pouring. I turned around, turned on my computer and waited maybe another half hour and it stopped raining. I got ready to go and went to the grocery store to but some food / snacks for the weekend. Then, back to the apartment I went.

I just sort of hung out here for a while and there was a big soccer game at 8:45 PM, so I left here around 5:45 or 6 PM to go into town. I kid you not, I got to the square for public viewing at 6:30 or 7 PM. Completely full. This is getting ridiculous. I will go to at least one game in public viewing while I'm here!

Hochstift A La Carte - the "festival" I went to.

Since that soccer game was pretty much a bust, I wandered around some and there was this big festival going on. The big, well known, good restaurants from Paderborn had booths with tables set up and you could walk around, try food, have a few beers, and enjoy the atmosphere and music. It was pretty cool. I have been craving something *different* recently and I found a sushi place at one of the booths and thought, I'd have some.

It's different here with how you buy sushi than in America. In the US, you buy a roll (between 6 and 8 pieces usually) but in Germany, or maybe it was just this one place, you buy it by the piece. I decided on four California roll pieces and four salmon roll pieces. In total, with a beer, it cost me about 6 euro. Not really a horrible price, but a bit expensive. They brought it to my table and the soy sauce was the cutest thing EVER. It came in tiny plastic fish. You unscrewed the cap at the fishes mouth and squeezed the sauce out.

I had another beer and a vodka energy (pre-mixed in a can and very strong) before I rode my bike back to the apartment. It was about 9:30 PM and I didn't want a ticket for riding my bike in the dark with no light. I was honestly thinking about just calling it a night, or maybe getting on Skype with family or friends but since this week is Marcus' (the Swedish guy) last week, I thought I would see if he was home or wanted to go out. I mean, worst case he's not there or says no and I go on with my original plans.
My new German flag scarf so I would
fit in in Paderborn for the game

I knocked on his door and we chatted for a bit and I asked if he wanted to go to the city and he said yes. Awesome! I don't like going places alone and I had someone to go with me! We decided to walk into the city and the whole time he complained about walking. He drives everywhere and has never walked into the city. Wow, and I thought Americans were lazy.

We checked out the festival and walked through town a bit and decided on a beer. We went to one of the Irish pubs and ordered two beers. While waiting for the waiter to bring us back our drinks, two guys came up to the bar and ordered drinks and I looked at them. The one in front immediately apologized because he thought that they had "cut us in line" but I said nope, we're waiting for our drinks and have already paid. Mind you, this whole exchange was in English, this is one of the big Brit hangouts. The second guy pops his head over the first one's shoulder and points an accusatory finger at me and says "you're American." Um, uh, yeah... What about it? I was super confused.

Marcus and I decided to go outside and drink our beers at a table in front. The Germany v Greece game was on in the pub and it was quite loud, outside was quite nice though. I finished my drink after some time and conversation and drunk British and German men squabbling hilariously and telling me "not to laugh." I went inside to buy another drink and while waiting to order, this very drunk British man asked if he could guess my age. What the heck, I don't care. He explained the rules of the game to me, he was "very good at this" and he would guess within two years each direction. He asked again if he could guess my age and I said sure. He looks me in the eyes and says 28. I about died of laughter and informed him that no, I am in fact much younger. Oh boy, this guy was drunk but he was still putting on the moves, he said he was very sorry and he needed to make it up to me by buying me a drink.

Of course, all his friends showed up and I met a bunch more British men but I was kind of stuck at the bar and Marcus was still outside. Luckily, he came in and saved me. I like going out with guys to drink because I can always use them as an excuse. Oh, this is my boyfriend. He played along too, for most of it. We stayed at the bar and I met this crazy guy from South Africa and a pretty cool girl from Germany who hangs out only with the Brits.

At some point, the German girl, Julia, says "OK, we're going" so I said bye, it was nice to meet you and the sort. She informed me that she meant we're all going to the next bar. Mind you, this was after a few Jäger bombs and  other drinks. I asked where they were going and she said "Mango", OK, and I'm supposed to know what that means? We walked down the street, around a few corners and into another bar. I had another drink but soon, I told Marcus it was time to go. We said our good byes and walked / stumbled / nearly crawled back to the apartments. Not too sure how I got my zippered shoes off, I struggle with that when sober.

Lots more to come! I need a break from writing though. Saturday is next!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Woah, wait, what? There's metal in there? - More fun Doctor Visits!

So, today was the dreaded MRI day, but I'll start with the morning.

This morning at work I didn't have work to do, again, so Dominik took me on a "plant tour" and to see the Benteler museum. I put plant tour in quotes because we didn't actually go in, we just walked around the outside and looked in through open doors. It was still interesting though and I learned a few things. The Benteler museum was also quite interesting but a bit sad. There was a plan for making the museum from one of my colleagues and he is interested in history and had a great plan for it, or so I've been told. Apparently though, word came down the corporate ladder that the company wasn't going to do it by his plan.
No, the cute one doesn't come with the car :(

They "finished" the museum over a year ago and it's still a mess. There's no information up or organization at all to the layout. It was still interesting to see though. Apparently, Benteler is a huge sponsor of the Paderborn Formula Student team and they also worked on bikes, refrigerators, reconstruction after WWII, AND produced their own car at one point. This car only has, like 14 hp, but it can get up to 65 or 70 kph. Interesting.

When I got back to the office, it was nearly 11 AM and I just sort of putted about until 11:45 AM when we (Dominik, Katharina, and I) left to go to Alte Residnez to meet up with Verena for lunch. This is the same place we went for dinner and drinks last night. Lunch was great and I had schnitzel, probably one of my favorite German foods. It is a bit surprising that this was the first time I have had it while here on this trip.

After lunch we headed back to the office and I reminded Katharina about driving me to the doctor for my appointment at 1:30 PM. She was frazzled and didn't know where to go and we were leaving later than we should have. I remembered but I forgot to remind her, oops. We arrived at 1:30 PM, just in time for my appointment and went inside. I had some paperwork to fill out and then I sat. I was waiting maybe 30 or 40 minutes in the waiting room and Katharina decided that waiting was pointless so she left to meet up with a friend since I still needed a ride back at some point.

Basically what an MRI looks like...
With a good knee...
Finally I was called back and taken to a room, one meter wide by maybe two meters long. I had to remove all my jewelry, strip down to my knickers and wait. Of course, you can't have metal on you for this so I had only a t-shirt and undies on. Talk about awkward. I wasn't sure where to go or what to do so I peeked out one door and tried the other but it was locked. I was in that tiny room for 10 minutes before someone finally opened the door for me, to the other side. 

I was given ear plugs and asked to wait in another small room. I started freaking out because there were needles and some liquid and I hate needles. In America, they have never had to inject me before an MRI but I thought that they were going to do it before I went in here. Luckily, they didn't. I was escorted to the table and told to lay down while two women got my knee ready for the tests by placing it in a box of sorts to keep it still and finally, covering me with a blanket.

What I'm used to...
What I got...
This MRI is very different than any that I have ever had before. The ones I have had in the US were the long tube like ones where the bed slid in and the one here was more like an Oreo cookie with me as the filling.

After the 20 minute test was over, I was asked to get dressed and wait in the lobby again for my results. In America, it takes a week for the radiologist to look at the tests and get back to you, in Germany, it took half an hour. Katharina came back and she waited with me until the doctor called me in.

Basically, he explained that there were "artifacts" (his word choice) from my surgery left inside me knee. Small pieces, shavings of metal if you will that made the MRI hard to read. He can see that the ACL is in the correct place and at the right angle but there is liquid in the knee and obvious swelling so he's not sure what is wrong. The metal makes it hard to tell. 

Bacon faced MRI
How is it that no other doctor has told me this before? I have had multiple MRI's before and after surgery and none of them said a word about it. I was talking to this doctor with the screen in front of both of us and I could even see it. There were maybe eight brightly shining star-bursts of light in my knee making it impossible to see any detail. What a joke American medicine is. He told me he would speak with "my doctor", the one in Germany and I needed to make an appointment with him soon.

This is not an MRI of my knee, but it's the best example I could find online of the spots I was talking about. My knee had more. Also, this looks like a disapproving face in a piece of bacon, just saying. And the pain medicine is kicking in.

So basically, I spent 400 euros for nothing, but a bit of new information and frustration with my knee surgeon in America. Man, it's a good thing that my American insurance will pay me back. Also, it's much cheaper in Germany to have an MRI than it is in America. Phew.

When I finally got back to the office, it was after 4 PM and I talked to mom on the phone which was nice. Easier to explain my day verbally than in written communication sometimes. Before I knew it, I was the only one in the office and since I had no work to do, I went home too.

I think tomorrow there will only be three or four people in the office, so it'll be a slow day but hopefully I can find a way to make it fun! As of now, no plans for the weekend, but knowing me, I'll find something to do!

Dreaming in Germany or Dreaming of Germany

I realized it has been a while since I have posted but it's been a combination of a bit of work keeping me busy and nothing exciting happening. Now that I'm really thinking about it though, there has been a lot going on.
I guess I'll start by sharing my first half German, half English dream with you then maybe my dinner from last night with some American colleagues and finally a rant about some differences between Germany and America.
Yeah, this is TOTALLY me...
I was told that after living in a new country and speaking the language for a month or two, you begin dreaming in the language too. Unfortunately, I haven't been speaking much German here because almost everyone in the apartments speaks English and at work, most of the time, they don't even bother and speak English as well. In the community they speak German with me and they are quite patient too but when I need to do something with my visa paperwork, I try speaking German and the people say "oh, you're American and can't speak German. I'll speak English." BUT this dream was half German, half English ... Kind of like my life right now ...
So, in my dream the other night ...

I was somewhere in Germany and I was with this couple, they looked familiar but I couldn't tell you who they were. We rented sports cars (or owned them, I don't know) and we were in a hotel parking lot. I think the cars also turned into bedrooms though because that's where we were sleeping ... Yes, I realize that this makes no sense.

The couple I was with was having a photo shoot of themselves done and I think the cars may have been involved but I don't know. I also had some pictures taken by this photographer and the couple went into their bedroom / car because it was supposed to rain. The sky was quite dark and I wasn't tired or maybe I just didn't want to be alone.

I walked to a cafe and met some friends there, again, not quite recognizable. Though I think one of them was the Brazilian guy I met a few weeks ago when I went to dinner with some people from the B.I.B. but who really knows?
Tables like this but Outside
We were sitting outside at a high top table and this older lady asked me to hold her coffee cup while she did some errands and I set it on the table. We were all talking and hanging out and I saw the lady come back and it still hadn't rained so I thought I should go because it looked like it was going to rain still. I said my goodbye's and I grabbed her cup and took it to her.
It was empty and she said as much. I thought I noticed someone drinking it but I didn't know. Probably the Brazilian. I apologized and said I had to go before I got wet from the rain an motioned to my bike (where was I keeping it? Inside the sports car?)
She said, "but, you're already all wet" and that's when I woke up.
Can anyone tell me what all this means? I was super confused when I woke up.
The Euro Store
Moving on, this is an exciting week because I know someone from America who is here for work for a few weeks. OK, she's German anyways, but still ... It's a familiar face. Verena and I met last summer while I was an intern at Benteler Automotive in Auburn Hills. She works in the purchasing department for Benteler and is here for some meetings for a few weeks (I think.)
Yesterday, I chatted her through the company's e-mail system and she invited me out for drinks and dinner with her, her boyfriend, and two friends of hers (Nicole and Alek) that I met when Dominik took me to the "Roadhouse" (the "typical American diner".) Alek was one of those two friends and he's an American working her for a more extended period of time. (Also, he's old ... I hope there's someone out there reading this that gets my reference.)
The entrance to Alte Residenz 
We met up at "Alte Residenz", a restaurant / bar in Schloß Neuhaus. Unfortunately, I had already gone home from work (around 3 PM maybe) and we were meeting up at 6 PM, back near work.
On my way home from work I stopped at the "euro store" as I like to call it, but it's real name is "T€Di". I finally bought a cork screw so I can open my own bottles of wine and not have to rely on someone else to do it for me and a toilet bowl brush so I can clean a bit better.
Around 5:18 PM, I got on my bike and rode back to Schloß Neuhaus. Why does my morning ride seem so much longer than this one was? I got there at 5:36 PM and had to wait for everyone to arrive. I looked in some shops and then decided to just sit near the restaurant's entrance for them to arrive.
When they arrived, I was given a hug and we went inside to find a table. Surprisingly the place was nearly empty when we got there, all the tables were open, except for at the bar.
We sat in the corner at a table and ordered our drinks, cola's all around. It was really nice to be able to talk to a familiar person for once, face-to-face that is. We joked all night and I learned some funny stories involving "squirreled eggs" and other mispronunciations. I told them about my bike and how crappy it is, and Alek offered me some WD40, I have been meaning to ask at work but haven't got around to it yet. One problem solved.

Speaking of the bike, I learned something new. Headlamps and brake lights are required by law when riding bikes at dawn, dusk, or night. It makes sense and all, but I also learned that police sit and wait for people without them (even school children) and if you don't have your lights on, or just don't have lights, then you get a ticket. That's crazy!
We ate a great meal and I had a small salad which was WAY too big for me. The basic dressing that comes on every salad in Germany is a yogurt dressing and it kind of reminds me of only being able to buy cole slaw, not a real salad. It was good though. It had different types of lettuce, corn, different types of beans, bread, fruit, everything.
Around 9 PM, I rode my bike home from dinner and when I got back to my apartment, I went to bed. This morning, I woke up at 5:45 AM like usual, even thought my alarm doesn't go off until 6 AM, and decided that those extra few minutes of sleep were necessary. And then, who-da-thunk-it, I was at work.
And as promised, I have a few rants for you about the differences between German and America.

A typical German keyboard.
Keyboards and Communication
The keyboards are almost identical except with the adding of the umlaut (ä, ö, ü, ß, etc.) and the "y" is in the English keyboards "z" position and vice-versa. But when typing in English on a German keyboard, I use the "y" a lot and not the "z" so much. It gets confusing and I always type the word "crazy" as "crayz." I don't even notice it most times, then I use spell check and realize my mistake.

Also, on the German keyboard, things like the ', the *, the ) and ( that are all very commonly used in English are all in different places. Often I stare at the keyboard trying to find these common items for two or more minutes.

Shortcuts on the keyboard are the same though which is nice, until you realize that "control z" is nearly impossible to do one handed and takes more concentration to complete. Also, I still haven't figured out how to make a plus sign. I see it on the keyboard but I can't get it to work.

There is and "Alt Gr" key too for using the characters below the letter such as the "€" located below the letter "E" on the German keyboard.

Then, of course, my personal laptop, my cell phone, my iPod, and all other electrical communication devices that I own and brought from the US have an American keyboard so I am constantly switching from the German to the American keyboards and back.
I have also come to realize that the U.S. telephone number system is quite idiotic: all area codes are three digits long, while all phone numbers are 7 digits long. So obviously, large cities need several area codes. All these area codes count as local calls however, and local calls are dialed differently from long-distance calls. So you need to know at all times which area codes belong to your local area; when moving around in a city, you have to be aware of the area code you're currently in. And all this information keeps changing over time: when a city grows, they simply add new area codes.

In Germany, every city has a single area code. Large cities have short area codes, small cities have long area codes. In small cities, the phone numbers are short, in large cities they're long. Solves all problems.
Study Habits
You don't see many students doing work on campus cafes and in the workrooms most universities provide for their students, and in libraries and computer labs but you do see them in public. Students are reading and marking up books, learning from a stack of flash cards or reading papers were handed out. This is probably mostly because if you were to study in a cafe here, the waitress would complain that you're taking up a table without drinking fast enough and, after all,  there aren't as many cafes in bookstores like is common in North America.
Finding your way around in Germany is really easy though (if you're not me that is) because they have a lot of people who don't speak the language and are way better off on German streets due to the signage. Just look at the traffic signs: If you can't read, you can't understand half of the signs in the US. In Germany, they use symbols, even more so than the rest of Europe. I mean, look at these and tell me that they aren't helpful ... 
Alcohol and Food
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not more readily available in Germany. There are frequently arrests and fining of supermarket sales personnel and closing of bars and clubs where alcohol was handed out to underage customers. I would say it is enforced quite well. However, it is one of my favorite jokes / comments that in America the government gives us a few years to learn how to drive before we're allowed to drink and in Germany, they're given a few years to learn how to drink before they're allowed to drive.

Doggy bags in Germany aren't very popular. If you order too much and you can't eat it all, then you leave it. But, I wouldn't say taking along your food in a "doggy bag" in Germany is really frowned upon. I haven't had a restaurant where anyone objected to that or even looked askew. It is, however, not a very common thing to do. This may be different in 5-star-establishments, though. But your average Greek tavern or Italian restaurant will happily let you take food home.

Finding a table in Germany is different than in the US as far as restaurants go. While they don't have anyone assigning you a table in a restaurant in Germany, they do have "table reserved" signs. So, you may just sit down anywhere, but you can still make reservations. Oddly enough, you don't usually sit down at someone else's table, even if it's one person at a six-person table. (Though I think it is a bit different depending on the atmosphere. I do it in the Canteen and sometimes when we go out for lunch in Schloß Neuhaus.) Germans will try to squeeze a group into a small table before they ask a patron to share his table.
Free refills are NOT a thing in Germany, or Europe for that matter. I find it hard to believe that they're losing money on this one but when you buy a drink in Europe, you get one glass, no ice, and usually pay €2,50 for it. It depends on where you are of course though. We had a discussion about this last night at dinner and we all agreed that it was something that needed to come over here too.
Germans are very classic with their food. I think some of this may be that German's may have a tradition that they keep where in the U.S. we may 'fudge' around with a recipe and change it around for sometimes good results.
The more regular start times for TV shows in the US compared to those in Germany are probably mainly due to the fact the US is stretched across several time zones and that they produce their material themselves. E.g. 45 minutes is a "one-hour-show" because they can have 15 minutes of commercials - in Germany, there's a law about how many commercial breaks and how many minutes of commercials may be in a show of a certain length, so the stations that show lots of US shows have to start at odd times or show blank screens or additional short programming.
Also, in Germany it actually makes sense to start shows at 20:15, because that's when the majority of people are home and have watched their news. In the US, the time zones mean that when one part of the audience has already been home for an hour, another part is still in their last hour of work.
Ok, this turned out a LOT longer than planned. I have nothing to do at work today, again, but I do have lunch plans with Dominik and Verena. Then my MRI at 1:30 PM, I will keep my next post shorter, hopefully.

Monday, June 18, 2012

EM, Round Three, and Some Boring Work Stuff

I spent most of Sunday reading, writing, and lounging in bed but I went into the city for lunch. Ok, it's wasn't really lunch but I needed something greasy in my belly to soak up that, "oh god, what did I do last night" feeling. I went to a McDonald's and ordered some fries, a burger, and a coke. Seriously overpriced, I paid more than 6 euros for just that. Then their advertising tried to convince me to go back for dessert. Heck no!

I went back to the apartment and just wanted to sleep but there was an EM game on at 8:45 PM and Germany was playing. I had to watch! At first, my plan was to go into the city for public viewing but once it came time to leave, I had no motivation to go into the city and drag myself back so late at night. I stayed in instead and read some more but I looked online and found a website streaming the games.

Of course, Germany won, 2-1 against Denmark. Decent game too, well, it wasn't that close of a match but then again, Germany has won their two prior games too. Now it's getting to be time for finals. Next weekend begins with the Quarter Finals on Thursday through Sunday. I'm not sure when exactly Germany will play because it hasn't been announced yet but I plan to see at least the finals in public viewing. It's decided. Even if I need to be there at 6 PM when the game doesn't start until 8:45 PM.

Sunday was a boring day, not quite a hung over day but an I-lack-all-types-of-motivation day. Though, I did nearly die of a heart attack. While reading in bed early in the day, I heard a loud thud, looking up right as a huge bird slammed it's whole body into the window. Don't believe me? Here's the proof it left on my window before recovering and flying off. Huge white outline which is weird, the bird wasn't white at all. It's wing span seemed to be somewhere between 1 1/2 and 3 feet too.
This morning, waking up wasn't too hard considering I finally fell asleep around 11:45 PM, and the bike ride to work wasn't bad either. My knee is even feeling better! But, of course, I was the first person at work and even when my boss and co-workers showed up they had no work for me to do. Okay, this is getting a bit ridiculous. I know I shouldn't complain because I'm getting paid to be online and all that but it can be quite boring. The internet only has so much to see (without installing StumbleUpon on my work laptop.) I don't blame my boss for not having work for me but it makes my days so much longer, in a bad way.

I talked to Maucus the other day about this topic, he's the Swedish one, and he said he had the same problem for his first while here too. He suggested that I ask around for work to do and I explained that I have been. In Germany, privacy isn't the only thing they cherish. Hierarchy in the business place is VERY important. Not only is your bosses office often closed, it is considered and insult to go above your boss for anything (I think even if you wanted to find the bathroom and your bosses boss was the only one there, you'd probably have to pee yourself.) We discussed the German pride in work they have done and how it is hard for a German person to give up their hard work, it's their baby, and no, you can't touch it!
If in Germany your boss tells you did great work, you're in for a promotion.
If in the US your boss doesn't tell you did great work for one day, you'd better start looking for a new job.
It may be a little exaggerated, but it also sheds light on the value of sincerity vs. politeness in Germany and the US. Many Germans consider Americans as less sincere because they keep telling people they don't like how great they did and how nice they are, while Americans consider Germans as not polite and discouraging because they don't tell them they did great. I think both points of view have merit, though being an American, I have grown up preferring constant compliments.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Köln on Saturday, Club till Sunday

My ticket that I bought online to go to Köln

Hmm.. Everything is too bright today, too cheery.. Man, what a night.

Yesterday I went to Köln, known to us Americans as Cologne. I woke up at 6 AM (yes, on a Saturday) and went to the Paderborn Hbf to catch a train at 7:38 AM. I got there early, as I always seem to do and I sat on a bench where I met an 84 year old man who continued to tell me his whole life story. He has six female cousins in Australia you know. He was a conductor for DB (Deutsche Bahn) and he has three children. Nothing is quite as bad as when he pulled out his wallet to show me the pictures he had with him. Gosh, he was so cute though (I mean that in the least "I'm attracted to old men" kind of way.) He offered to buy me coffee but I know what that means in Europe. When a guy asks to buy you coffee, it's a sign that you should probably run. They like you and they want to spend a lot of time talking to you. It's not the worst thing in the world ... Unless you have somewhere to be ... Or you're just not at all interested.
I had a quick (~ 3 hour) train ride into Köln with no stops, well, yeah there were stops but I didn't need to switch trains. I got off the train and skipped toward the doors on the Dom side. I say skipped but I really mean skipped, yeah that made no sense. I opened the door to the square and this is exactly what I saw first. This is the main reason that people visit Köln, and for good reason. It was absolutely beautiful ... Inside and out.

I had the opportunity to see what I think is one of the most impressive cathedrals ever constructed. I present to you Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Mary or The High Cathedral of Saints Peter and Mary. This cathedral is massive and the tallest structure in its immediate surroundings. To see this cathedral for the first time, I was completely speechless at how tall this structure is. To put it into perspective how massive this structure is, to get a photo that has the entire structure in the entire photo, I took a photo about 200 meters away from the Cathedral standing inside a restaurant!

Quick Facts about the Cathedral
Construction of the cathedral began in 1248. Construction was than ceased in 1444, and it did not resume until the 1842. The cathedral was completed in 1880. Production of this marvel lasted 632 years!

The spires stand at 157 m from the ground. From the main entrance to the flying buttresses it is 58 m long.
Like all Gothic cathedrals the foundation is in the shape of a cross.

The cathedral is the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe and the spires are the second tallest spires and the largest facade in the world. *The tallest Church in the World is the Ulm Cathedral, 120 KM from Munich, which I visited on my trip to Stuttgart.

The cathedral was not destroyed during world war because Allie bombers used it as a landmark to bomb the rest of the city.

In 1996 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 2004, it was determined as a “landmark in danger” due to the fact that a high rise building was to be constructed close to the cathedral therefore ruining its visual monopoly on the skyline of Köln. In 2006, it was taken off the “in danger” list as a law was passed to prevent any high rise buildings to be constructed near the cathedral.

It is estimated, that the cathedral has 20,000 visitors a day.

I have found during my short stint so far in Germany, that is quite impossible to see an entire city in one day. I don't care how big or how small it is, the next time you go back, there's something new to see, something new to do. I think I'm going back to Köln again, because in my 10 hours spent there, was NOT enough.

Honestly, the day is a bit of a blur so I can't totally give you a walking tour of my day because I got lost so many times. I didn't have a map of the city, well, not one that did me any good at least, it was so far zoomed out that I could only see the "major roads" which didn't help because I needed the small road names. It also had no attractions listed on it so I was SOL and began wandering. Of course, I started at the Dom, or cathedral mentioned above. I think I spent a good hour there, not that I minded, there was so much to see.

I left the Dom and walked to the left and it was like a girls dream come true, SO many shops. As far as the eye could see there was clothing stores, home goods stores, shoe stores, food, and even a Dunkin' Doughnuts. I just kept walking, there's no way I can afford to buy clothing in Germany, I mean even just a plain pair of jeans can be between 25 and 75 euros. PLAIN jeans, not a brand, nothing special, boring, plain jeans. That's when I got lost for the first time. I kept walking and walking and all the sudden, the shops were gone and I was in the residential area. I found a map on the street, you know the ones, like a billboard almost. Apparently I was already half way to Ehrenfeld, crap. I tried to get my bearings but I have no sense of direction what-so-ever (especially in a city, where my womanly intuition is blocked by the tall buildings) so it turned into me just walking back the way I came and taking a few extra turns. 

I found a REWE grocery store and I went in to buy some "mineral wasser" can you guess what that is? Yup, Mineral Water, "with gas" as the Germans say and I also bought a Popsicle 'cause, well, why not? I got back into the street and chose a direction and I guess it was a good one because I ended up at the edge of the Rhine river, near the cathedral again. I saw a museum, the Ludwig Museum, to be exact and it was an art museum. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take any pictures in the museum, or take my backpack with me for that matter, but I went to the museums website and I found this picture, I think it does justice to my favorite exhibit that I saw. "Ein Wunsch bleibt immer übrig" or "One wish is always left unfulfilled" as it is in English.

I left the museum and walked toward the most famous bridge in  Köln, the Hohenzollernbrücke Bridge. 
"The Hohenzollern Bridge  is a bridge crossing the river Rhine in the German city of Cologne. Originally, the bridge was both a railway and street bridge, however, after its destruction in 1945 and its subsequent reconstruction, it was only accessible to rail and pedestrian traffic. It is the most heavily used railway bridge in Germany, connecting the Köln Hbf and Köln Messe / Deutz stations with each other."

"The bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1911 after the old bridge, the Cathedral Bridge (Dombrücke), was demolished. The Cathedral Bridge was unable to handle the increasing traffic in Cologne. It was named after the House of Hohenzollern."

"The Hohenzollern Bridge was one of the most important bridges in Germany during World War II; even under consistent daily air strikes the bridge was not badly damaged. On 6 March 1945, German military engineers blew up the bridge when Allied troops began their assault on Cologne." - Wikipedia
 The bridge is also famous for the locks that are attached to it. Love padlocks  are a custom by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love. In Europe, it is quite popular. I have seen it in Paris and again this weekend in Köln where entire bridges are covered in locks. Sweethearts lock custom locks to the bridge to show their love and toss the keys into the river below. Deutsche Bahn threatened to have the locks removed from the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne. Deutsche Bahn is the bridge's operator, but in the end relented in the face of public opposition.

See what I mean, what do you call this?
Since I had finally found my way back to the river Rhine, I went down the walking path below to walk along the river. There was a lot of people there and I do love people watching quite a bit so I sat down near a nice little, hmmm, what was it. It was art I think, maybe like sculpture. But there was water running through it and there were people with their shoes off wading in it. It almost looked like buildings or something.
This view was AWESOME
Roman Ruins
After a while of sitting and drinking some water, I got up and walked down the river Rhine. I had no idea where I was going but eventually, I ended up at St. Martin's Church. Germany is a VERY catholic country and there's a million and a half churches here, if not more. This church was again, beautiful, high ceilings and beautiful paintings and stained glass. But it was more too. For 0,50 euro, I got to go into the basement to see the Roman ruins. Its foundations (~ 960 AD) rest on remnants of a Roman chapel, built on what was then an island in the river Rhine. The church was later transformed into a Benedictine monastery. The current buildings, including a soaring crossing tower that is a landmark of Cologne's Old Town, were erected between 1150-1250. The church was badly damaged in World War II, with restoration work completed in 1985.

I decided to keep walking along the river Rhine because at this point, I had not been lost yet while following this landmark. I ended up at the Lindt chocolate museum. Awesome! It cost me 6 euros as a student to go in and I even got a free piece of chocolate, then got to watch them make it! It was quite interesting to see the whole process that goes into making the delicious stuff and I got to see from roasting and de-shelling the beans to wrapping them up in nice papers and putting them into boxes to ship. I even got a free sample of the chocolate before it was molded into the tiny squares. There was a chocolate fountain and a woman dipping wafers into it and handing them out. The museum was a lot more than just free samples though and I learned a lot about the history of chocolate and the process of creation for one of my favorite treats. On my way out of the museum, I stopped in the gift shop and bought, obviously, chocolate but I also thought I'd try some chocolate liquor (... delicious by the way.)

When I left the chocolate museum, I noticed that next door was the "Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum" a bit ironic coming from sweets and treats to fitness. Entrance was 3 euro for students so I decided to go inside. It was interesting to learn about another countries history when it comes to sports because it's not really something most places focus on. There was, of course, an entire room / section dedicated to the EM that I wrote about last time and it was cool to see the way the uniform changes each time the EM comes around. Also, fast cars are considered sport everywhere in Europe and it's not just a redneck kind of thing. I like this place.

That says 1810, just so you know.
When I left the sport museum, I went across the street and there was the "Kölner Senfmuseum" yup, a museum about mustard. I mean, how could I resist? I went in and it was a bit disappointing, but it was free, so why not? There was samples too, no pretzel or anything, just a spoon and some mustard. What the?! Germans are weird ...

I set off in a new direction after that and man was that a bad idea, especially given my "I couldn't find a light switch on a wall if the lights were already on" method of getting lost. And of course I got lost. I did have a nice walk though, through the woods. Some of the places were screaming "rape me" so I jogged through them but other places, I found bunnies hopping along the path with me. Wildlife is hard to find in Germany, it's not nearly as big as the US and most of the space is taken up by buildings. As proof of my bunny encounter, here's a picture, they're so cute!

Eventually, I found my way back to the Dom, with many detours to stop in a church here, or grab some food there. Honestly, like I said everything was running together, don't forget to check out my pictures for the "full story." It was only 7:10 PM, but I thought I shouldn't risk getting lost again and went into the train station an hour or so early for my train's departure. I wasn't bored though because train stations in Europe are also malls. Mostly. I looked in a few shops and at 8:00 PM, I went to my track to wait for my train which departed at 8:21 PM. Again, the ride was about three hours but this time, I had to switch trains in Hamm (Westf) where I usually make my switch. And at 11:00 PM, I arrived in Paderborn. I rode my bike home and wanted nothing more than to go to bed.
Mary's Bar Paderborn

While walking into the B.I.B., where I live, some of the guys I have met in the past invited me out to the city. With having so few friends here, I couldn't really say no. I ran inside and grabbed my wallet and came out. We drove into the city and parked. We walked to Mary's Bar in the city center. We found a seat in the back and grabbed a table. I met a lot of new people and honestly don't remember any of their names. We drank and drank for, I don't know, hours maybe? Eventually, we decided we wanted to dance so we went to go to the club or "disco" as the Germans say. When we tried to get in, however, the bouncer wouldn't allow it because one of the boys who was with me looked like a boy who had been causing trouble a few nights ago. Really?

Whatever, we decided to go to a different club and wound up at Kenzo, another club nearby. (I had to go back this morning to take this photo because I couldn't remember the name.) Before I knew it, it was 4:00 AM and I was still going hard. I decided to leave and told the boys such and they followed me out to drive me home. I got to my room and passed out. Woah, the birds were already chirping when I got home.