I’m leaving and I’m taking the kitchen with me!

Hello all,

I haven’t been blogging recently, because well there hasn’t been much to talk about, and honestly there still isn’t. So this is when I do a quick over view of the last couple of weeks followed by some interesting things I have learned…

Since Hamburg life has been extremely normal. I go to work in the bitter cold, deal with hyper kids who want Christmas to finally get here, and then wander the city for a bit before walking home in the slightly less bitter cold, and playing with the girls for the afternoon. My evenings tend to be rather lazy and cozy. Interrupting this delightful routine was a trip to the Christmas markets in Metz, an extremely long coffee at some friends of Christoph and Nanette’s, and a fabulous Chinese buffet, oh and a few trips to Saarbruecken to finish my Christmas shopping.  The Christmas vacation started today, accompanied appropriately by a blizzard. The snow is piled up and my general dislike of being cold has kept me inside for the day, a pleasant option.  I had planned on making at least one day trip or an overnight adventure before I left for the US on Wednesday, but like my cat I am thinking twice about every plan that brings me in contact with the outdoors, and(unlike my cat) doesn’t include snowman building followed by cocoa or Gluhwine. We do have a Christmas movie night tomorrow which I am excited for.

In less relevant news I would like to relate the contents of a conversation I had on the way to the Chinese Buffet. First of all, as we drove the radio informed us that they were getting ready to set off a bomb in Saarbruecken. My first thought was: shit! But it turns out that this was no crazed terrorist group or rebel teen, but a left over bomb from WWII which had just been dug up. They calmly evacuated the surrounding houses and deactivated it. To  further complicate matter  they had already scheduled  a shipment of nuclear material to travel through Saarbruecken only hours after the bomb was discovered, but seeing as we are all still here, it seems that it must have went fine too.

The second topic of conversation had to do with kitchens, and if you should take your kitchen with you when you move. That’s right  you can take the kitchen from house to house, or apartment to apartment. It seems that when renting a house, the kitchen is not automatically included, not the kitchen appliances, the entire kitchen, cupboards counters the whole nine yards. When renting a house you usually have to buy the kitchen separately (unless the house is rented fully furnished). And by default when you move out of your rental you may take the kitchen with you to your next apartment, and if you rent a place with a kitchen, but you like yours betters, the landlord has to remove the kitchen so that you can put yours in.  I pointed out that that is like trying to sell the toilet and shower separately, but apparently that is an entirely different situation, and the bathroom is indeed part of the apartment. I personally find this arrangement entirely illogical, very amusing and oddly German.  I can just imagine this concept transferred to the US. I imagine it would end in countless numbers of lawsuits, as former couples battle over the custody of the kitchen, maybe the kitchen would end up as consolation prize to the partner who had to move out? Or would it be a winner takes all situation?

Other than that, I have mainly been pondering the greatness of “National Geographic”.  I was distressed to learn that the little gray bats and 23 other species of hibernating bats are dying because of a fungus that seems to irritate them and wake them from their sleep, a fatal interruption.  It seems pretty dire, but so far no one knows what to do about it. “National Geographic” also had very cool article about Swans, and I have decided that “The Ugly Duckling” has misrepresented swans to children for generations, baby swans, or at least those in the magazine are incredibly cute. Also cute, but not featured in “National Geographic” are sloths. CNN had a video piece on a sloth sanctuary with over a hundred sloths in residence. It seems to me that sloths have mastered life, they like cats spend the vast majority of their time asleep, but unlike cats(at least wild ones) the rest of their time is spent mainly hanging out, literally. They don’t have to hunt, just eat the leaves next to them, and they only climb out of their tree once a week to relieve themselves. Baby sloth’s only requirement in life is to hang on to mama sloth, who is herself not doing much more than hanging onto a tree limb.  Very cool animals.

Well I believe I shall return to my sloth-style life, sans tree of course.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas and  wonderful holiday season.

Allison

Alexa turns one, and I go to Hamburg

Presents!

Well it’s time for another update from St. Ingbert.

I’ve been pretty busy over here since I last wrote. Classes are going fairly normally, I had one fabulous hour last week where my students successfully carried on a conversation entirely in English for the whole class period and announced they wanted stay at the end of the hour!!!! It was awesome, but if the results can be repeated is yet to be seen.

The 21st was Alexa’s first birthday, so we spent almost the entire weekend celebrating. Nanette’s parents and Anne, a former exchange person from France, came for the festivities. We kicked the weekend off with an early Thanksgiving, which I cooked. It was fabulously delicious! We had the whole nine yards, I found a Turkey and due to my dear mother’s import services was even able to make Pumpkin pie, stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes and everything else. Unfortunately I forgot the pickles and Olives, but then again I think the Pilgrims probably did too.  Festivities continued the next day with the family (plus foreigners) cake coffee and gifts hour. Alexa got many fabulous toys that I’m sure she will enjoy greatly once Coralie is finished playing with them.  Between Hilde and Nanette we enjoyed five different cakes, all of which were to die for. The next day we enjoyed the cakes again, but this time with friends and Alexa, and by default Coralie, again got many wonderful things.   I also finished my novel on that Sunday night, which was pretty exciting as well. And yes I may allow people to read it, but it needs some serious editing first.

The rest of the week flew by since we left on Wednesday afternoon for Hamburg! It is a very very long drive to Hamburg accompanied by two small children, but we made it. It was COLD in Hamburg so the first two days we spent primarily running from warm spot to warm spot. We went on a short boat ride, stopped by the Christmas market and did a lot of shopping. The next two days I set off by myself to try and see a bit more of the city. I went to the Town hall, four or five Christmas markets, a variety of random cool looking streets, the international maritime Museum(very cool, ten floors of naval history) and at one point met the group at miniature world, which is pretty much like it sounds, a reconstruction of famous places in miniature, it is totally cool. Every person is hand done and I think no two people are the same, each and everyone is different and there is probably close to two million of these tiny people, the same thing for the buildings, and to top it off everything moves, lights up and changes seamlessly from day to night. It is one of those you have to see it to believe it sort of things. We left yesterday and it took the whole day to get back to St. Ingbert, luckily I had already planned for today so after a quick dinner and some wine with Hilde and Albert I went to bed, exhausted. It was a very cool trip and worth the many hours of driving. I’m not sure what this week has in store except for that I’m having dinner in France on Sunday, one of the perks of living on the border.

“Let them eat cake!”

Alexa loves Birthdays!

Adventures with class 10d and other news

Hi everyone,

I admit that I am in a way using this blog and therefore all of you as a procrastination tool while I try to think of the next scene in my novel, but also I have been pretty bad recently with updates, so I guess it works out well.  Life here is continuing pretty much as normal, the small one continue to be small and cute and I continue to be cold. Actually only on the way to school and that’s my own fault.

There are of course some new developments. I started two German classes at the university last week and six days into them I really like them. The teachers are really nice, and the group of students is great. At the moment my head hurts from contemplating German prepositions too long, but otherwise fairly good.

I also went to a very exciting St. Martin’s day festival at Coralie’s kindergarten. St. Martin is famous for sharing his cloak with a poor man, and I think he refused to be a Bishop as well, but don’t quote me on that one. So anyway they have a person in a cloak on a horse as St. Martin, and then all the kids make lanterns and parade around the streets, the festival culminates in the eating of sugared pretzels and drinking of gluhwine(hot spiced wine), over all I approve highly of this tradition.

I am also continuing work on my novel as stated earlier. A brief explanation for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, There is an international event each year, where participants write a Novel of at least 50,000 words(approximately the length of the Great Gatsby) during the month of November.  I participated and finished back in 2006, but since then have not had enough time to do it again. Well this year I have tons of free time and therefore the Novel writing in November tradition has been resurrected. This years novel is a about an apprentice who sinks the King’s ship with unexpected complications. At the moment I have 20,000 words written, so I’m making progress slowly but

Finally the most important development is that I have a job for next year. I deferred my Teach For America position last year in order to come here, and on Tuesday I received notice of my placement for next year. I will be teaching 4-8th grade English in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Days like today reinforce how glad I am to be working with younger kids. My Thursday 10th graders are notoriously difficult and I always have problems with this particular group, so I shouldn’t be that surprised by today’s conversation, I quote:

Student: Mrs. Goodfellow, when you fill out an application it wants to know your geschelct, what’s that in English.

Me: Gender, whether you are male or female.

Student: That’s sex.

Me: Yes sometimes it says sex instead of gender.

Student: Then what is sex in English?

Me: We also use the word sex.

Student: No what is sex, like, well sex in English?

Me: It’s the same word, we say sex for the action as well.

Student 2: She means how do you say f@#$ing in English?

Me: I know, we say to have sex.

Student: So If I want to f@@# someone, I ask to sex them?

Me: You would have sex with them, but we don’t really use F&$@ing in normal English, it’s not an appropriate word.

Student 2: That’s not true African Americans use it all the time!

 

Sometimes I hate tenth graders.

Anyway that’s my life at the moment, stay tuned for more updates from the Sting Bert.

It’s Picture time!

the Blechsmitt family

Pelicans!!!

flash back to 73!

So I am going to attempt to integrate pictures and texts into one post. We’ll see how that works out.

 

Alexa

Alexa playing in the woods

I

 

Trier- It used to be Roman:

My favorite matching hikers

The city park

Sally and Liz being Swedish

 

Alexa and Coralie on fake Halloween

Parental Pasttimes

HI all, it looks like I may be able to actually keep my promise and deliver the second blog post on time! Like I said I would talk about my parent’s visit last week in this post. Keep in mind that my parents will probably also read this post… JK! Love my folks and we had a great time.

I meet them in Frankfurt, directly off the plane from Sweden and we three sleep deprived souls wandered back to St. Ingbert, where Albert was nice enough to pick us up with a last minute warning. After meeting the girls and Nanette we went to the playground with Coralie and Alexa and tried to keep the parents from falling asleep. We had a great dinner that night and collapsed into bed. The following day was Halloween! At least for us, we decided to celebrate a little early so my parents could take part in the festivities. Halloween pictures will be featured on this blog, much to everyone’s embarrassment.  We had a great time with the crazy candy Mom and Dad brought over and Karin’s amazing cupcakes.  Despite some language barriers everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and there was lots and lots of laughter.

We also spent a spent some time wandering around St. Ingbert and the towns nearby. We spent one day in the Saars(bruecken and Louis). And another day in village with a medieval market, followed by touring a sandstone mine in the next town over. My count of caves is getting pretty high at this point and I am starting to sympathize with moles. In reality it was a very interesting and particularly beautiful cave as the layers of sand and water left remarkable rings over time. Hilde and Albert took us to Heidelberg and Speyer, some of the most beautiful towns in all of Germany. Despite the extreme cold,so cold Dad felt compelled to buy a coat, we really enjoyed the day which ended with a remarkable dinner at Hilde’s house.  Christoph, Nanette, the girls and the three of us also went to Trier and Luxemburg, (check it off the list). We were able to see some of the famous sights and enjoyed being able just to enjoy walking around  the towns, as well as some excellent food. Once again, we finished the day with Hilde’s fabulous cooking. My Mom has even started writing a list of all the things Hilde has to teach me to make before Christmas!

We were supposed to move on to Paris at the end of the week, but with the strikes only increasing in intensity, we thought it best to change plans. So instead we headed off to Cologne! We rented a cute little apartment and spent the first two days absorbing the city. We took a tour and a one hour boat trip, as well as did some shopping and lots of good eating. On the third day we went to the Zoo, and enjoyed ourselves immensely watching some Pelicans eating leaves off the ground(pictures are coming). Later in the afternoon Christoph, Nanette and the girls drove up to meet us and we toured the Chocolate museum and had a great dinner with some of their friends.  We finished our trip off with a visit to a museum that featured artifacts from back when Cologne belonged to the Roman’s. Very cool for us history nerds.  Finally we said our good-byes and parted ways at the train station.

Overall I think it was a splendid success, as they say on BBC. Trips like this make me realize how lucky I am to have parents that I genuinely enjoy being around and hanging out with.

Sweden

Hi everyone I’m finally back with lots and lots of updates! I feel like I can hardly begin to fill you in on the last couple of weeks in one post, so I’m not going to. Tonight I will tell you about Adventures in Sweden and hopefully Wednesdayish I will tell you about adventures with parents, and pictures of both will follow by the weekend. That is if all goes as planned.

So Sweden is…wonderful! No seriously Fiona, I am down for moving there when you go to school, of course I’ll be leaving before winter hits…  Liz(A friend from college), Sally(A Fulbrighter and now friend) and I headed into the great Northern wonder that is Sweden immediately once fall break began.(Or almost immediately first we drank large quantities of beer in celebration of the beginning of fall break and then we left immediately after said celebration). We flew Ryanair practically in the middle of the night, as is the custom among poor people traveling in Europe, and arrived exhausted and hungry. Luckily we had found a wonderful Thai restraint which revived us and reminded us of the existence of spices, something sorely lacking in Germany. After that we purchased a large quantity of ice cream and spent the remaining evening in our delightfully cozy apartment watching American crime shows and eating ice cream. Clearly day one in Sweden was a huge success.

Day two mainly involved walking the entire city, which in case you didn’t know(we didn’t) is entirely composed of islands, fourteen to be exact. So needless to say there are lots of very pretty views over the water. The city is oldish, but still has a modern feel and is very relaxed and down to earth.(at least as far as cities are able to relax) The highlights of day two included gawking at the oversized scarves and glasses on Swedish women, and well the men in general. We spent the evening at a bar people watching and enjoying overpriced beer.

Day three’s highlight and primary focus, was The Blue Man Group! The theater was only a couple if blocks from the apartment we rented and we were able to get tickets to the Sunday Matinee. It was fabulous and slightly indescribable, so I won’t try. But if you get the chance you should go and then let me know and we’ll talk about how cool it was.

Day four involved seeing a 600 year old boat that sunk in the Swedish harbor, under very embarrassing circumstances. Since I know that most people are only mildly interested in Sweden’s Maritime history I will refrain from giving you a a lecture on how freakishly cool this boat was and all the history behind it and its restoration. Suffice to say, freakishly cool.

Day five was spent sailing out to an Island and wandering around for the day. There the three of us procured awesome Wooden Swedish horses, just what everyone needs and we ate many wonderful pastries.

Finally day six was spent walking the town and taking a tour of the Palace. The Palace was very cool, but most impressing was the difference in the security level between the Swedish Palace and well, any other Palace in the world. Since our flight once again left at an unholy hour we spent the entire night watching crime dramas trying to stay awake until we got on the plane. We waved goodbye to our apartment around 2am and I flew off to meet the folks. (next post)

Finally some general observations and stereotypes of Sweden that I formed while in Stockholm:

It’s cold.

The people are beautiful.

Swedes like everything with Shrimp paste. Yes shrimp paste.

Swedish Pastries could conquer the world.

There are more types of bread in Sweden than in Germany(this is actually true).

It’s cold.

Swedish women could be eaten by their scarves if they became animated.

Swedish glasses are only for show.

Maxi (fast food joint) is a good example of why McDonald’s has been successful around the world.

There are a surprising number of immigrants in Sweden(seriously who wakes up and says hey I think I want to move from by really warm home in Asia to a place that the sun has abandoned, Sweden should do the trick.)

Swedes could pass as Americans their English is so good.

And finally…it’s cold.

 

And I thought UP was a model of efficiency…

Of course any of you who went to UP know this could not be farther from the truth, but today I am tempted to say that the University of Saarland may take the cake in frustrating students.  I have spent the last two afternoons trying to enroll in the University, a process I was assured would be quick and painless. How naive I was…

I wrote the university to ask what I needed to do, they sent me a form and told me I just needed to fill it out and bring it to their office, so far so good.  After some miscommunication regarding the bus to the University and a spontaneous train trip I arrived at the University campus. Still on track. However I then consult my instruction they say that I need to go to building A4, 4. Ok it takes a few minutes but I find the A4 buildings, now I just need A4, 4. Seems easy enough, there is a A4, 3 and there is A4,5. So A4,4 is between them right? Wrong. There is nothing between them, I circle both buildings, still no A4, 4. Ok I find a map, to my dismay I discover that A4,4 does not exist on the map, and apparently not in reality either.

The search continues, Ah ha a directory. I consult said directory and discover that it is fine that the building does not exist because indeed the office I need is really in A2,2. Ok now to find A2,2…A2,2 does exist, but is under construction and the detour to get to the entrance is ridiculously long, but I make it. In A2,2 I am sent upstairs, but some well meaning German, Upstairs I encounter more well meaning Germany who gladly explain to me that the office I need is now in A4,4!

Two hours after arrival I arrive at A4, 4(which is new and unlabeled and also not on the maps).  After waiting another half hour or so at the office I finally get into to see the man I need. He was extremely helpful and almost made up for everything, until he told me that to finish I needed to have brought a passport photo! So many hours later I returned, without having enrolled and most importantly without the card that allows me to travel for free in the region.

So attempt number two:

I get a passport photo taken. I take the train I take the bus, I arrive at the university I even find the correct office and arrive before the strange closing time of 3:30pm. I wait patiently for the girl ahead of me to finish with her super quick question(which took half an hour) I make small talk with people from Poland and finally I go into the office, with everything including my passport photo.  It’s looking good until she goes to enter my information into the computer and it freezes completely. .. Her response, come back tomorrow. Now this seems logical until you learn that the card she is supposed to make on the computer is my bus pass, train ticket and so forth. Without it I have to pay  11Euros(14 dollars) each time I travel to the University. I have already spent 22 Euros to get the card that in theory is free! So no I am not going to come back tomorrow because the computer is frozen. After much discussion it is decided that she will mail the card to me as soon as it is ready.  Finally progress. Of course, I still don’t have my car and, I am still not officially enrolled in the University…

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