Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Guten Morgen Herr Deutschermann

Hallo Herr Deutschermann! Guten Morgen!

Guten Morgen, Sara. How are you doing today?

Oh I am doing well thank you. I was hoping to set up a time to talk about our lesson on the USA next week, I am not available on Tuesday, so maybe Wednesday afternoon?

Oh Sara, I am very busy right now. Things have been very busy for me in the past few months. Let me tell you, with a mother to care for, no children, and teaching until 1pm each day, the time sure goes by fast. The thing is Sara, I never asked for this much responsibility, but it came to me. And, you may not realize this now, but you too will be grown some day. And you will have to understand the importance of respon--


Oh, yes Herr Deutschermann, I understand. But I have to run to class, and I was hoping--

Oh Sara, you shouldn't be running through these halls. Don't you know how dangerous it can be to run through halls? It's just not something you should be doing at your age, what are you, 16? When you go to Uni you will understand the importance of taking your time getting to places.

Thank you for your advice. So when can you meet this week?

Well next is really busy for me. And you wouldn't believe the week I had last week. Just look at my planner! You would think I was the president of the United States! By the way, Sara, what do you think of old Barack Obama!? Have you met him? I will tell you, Sara, that Bush character was a bit of an idiot, if you ask me. I am glad you were finally able to vote in someone who can tell the idiotic Americans how to bow down to the Europeans! AH hahaha...


My goodness Sara! You are late for your class! You should have left five minutes ago! And, you know, Sara, you forgot to set up a time with me to talk about our lesson next week! It's OK though, because I remembered! Let's do it on Tuesday!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

On Living Alone

There are 80 million people living in Germany. I live in one of the most densely populated areas: the Ruhr area. My town has about 70,000 people, mostly German, some Turkish. I teach classes full of 36 kids, and I am close friends with about 10 Americans/English and 1 German.

But I live alone.

There are a lot of ways to be alone in a foreign place. For instance, I am the only native English speaker for miles around. I am also the only one who has no idea what plastics are recyclable. I am the only one in Dinslaken that can make good chocolate chip cookies, and I am the only person who seems to lack an appreciation for the German delicacy of Spargel.

Living alone means doing a lot of stuff that I usually have help with. Eating dinner, watching TV, yelling at inanimate objects: these are all things that I have to do without the company of friends and family. It also means that I have to eat all of my fruit faster. Unfortunately, candy doesn't go bad, so there are no good excuses for over-eating there.

But its not all bad. Looking around the room, I have a good number of comforts that make time spent here pleasant. For example, I am quieted by the glow-in-the-dark paint-by-number running ponies on the wall across from my bed (Already provided by the landlords). As I drift off to sleep, I run with those ponies through the rushing waters of the American West. I also have a nice assortment of porcelain ducks and eggs that keep me company.

Another comforting aspect of living alone is the fact that I don't disappoint with failed dinner experiments. I've proudly made some pretty delicious meals with the meager choices at German grocery stores (for example, try to make THIS tasty), but I've also proudly made some of the most disgusting food I think ever created. There is one particular chicken dish I have in mind that couldn't even be saved with emergency, flavor saver, American BBQ sauce.

I also love the time I have to people watch. I have this great bay of windows facing a whole slew of back yards. These people have beautiful 10 foot high hedges keeping them safely hidden from passerbys, but little do they know! The bored, curious, and somewhat creepy American girl living alone has nothing better to do but to spy on their gardening techniques. I'll tell you what though, I met my match the other day when I saw an old dude gardening in his tighty whities.

I also get to see how people get their groceries home without cars. While I personally prefer the “hang everything from your bike and pray you make it home” technique, there's an entire family I love to see walking by once a week, grocery cart in tow. The boys skip alongside their mother, ready to stock up on about 10000 liters of water, 6 loaves of bread, and 25 kg of cheese. What a thought—walking to the store with your own personal grocery cart...if only!

As I get closer to the conclusion of this craziness, I am coming to realize how much I appreciate my position in society here. I have the unique opportunity to be an outsider, an observer of an entire culture. Being alone doesn't mean escaping or worrying, but it is a time to indulge in the anonymity that comes with such absolute foreign-ness. Never before have I found myself living the life of the lone wolf, looking out on the world with a (usually) thoughtful gaze, waiting for a new scent to lead me on my next adventure.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Transportation Part Two

As promised, the second part of the transportation saga is here. Ready for readers and right to roar through the German countryside is the German train system. Deutsche Bahn is both a beloved and despised part of life for all Germans. It is sometimes broken, often late, and always expensive. But those trains are without any doubt the most important vector I have...point A and B would simply be two lonely dots on a map without good ole' DB.

I have to praise DB because I don't want to be trapped here (its a Karma thing). So just keep in mind that my official viewpoint is that I love the trains...I love the smelly, packed, dirty, late trains.

There are many things about trains. For instance, the times I spend on the train during football games can't be beat. It's like a giant party; everyone is so happily full of beer that the only thing holding them up is the fact that they are packed into the car like sardines. What better way to mingle with the people than to breathe in the exhaust of a full day at the football stadium chomping on some Liver Cheese?

I also adore the train stations. When you have the privilege of traveling with the “public”, it is usually the case that you spend a good amount of time waiting around. There are usually a few fun attractions around to keep you occupied. I try to fill the waiting time with grabbing something really bad for me to eat such as bread with cheese, bread with meat, or bread with mayonnaise. But sometimes its just about making it through the station to your track and onto your train. What you have to understand about the “making it through part” is that the bathrooms at train stations commonly explode. (Please note that the word exploded is used accurately here.)

I actually think I have to end this post here. If I think about this subject too long, my brain gets overheated, smoke starts coming out of my nose, and I make high pitched noises and sudden movements....hey just like a train!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Science and Technology: A Rant

Ok so I know that no one is entirely interested in hearing one of the many rants of the girl with the shortest temper in the world, but this one has got to be said.

The current theme for English classes in the 12th grade is Science and Technology, with a specific focus on Genetic Engineering and the future of science. Now, if you were in the class, you would come to the immediate realization that the future of science includes an army of human clones, vegetables that bite back, and animals with the head of a dog, brain of a human, and strength of a great ape (also monocolored onesies, if I can trust the movies). Upon learning this last week, I realized that somewhere, somehow, wires have gotten crossed. What must have happened is that the secretary over in Duesseldorf was typing up the guidelines for English classes in my state and accidentally included the plot of the comic book he had been working on in his free time. If this isn't the case, then I am fearful for the future of Science in Germany.

So I'll leave you now, keeping in mind that impressionable young minds in Germany are being taught about our dreary scientific future from people who last took a science class up to 30 years ago, with a few quotes from our reading:

“The Pre-Designed Body”, published in 1971. (That's right folks, that's almost 40 years ago!)

“One of the more fantastic possibilities is that man will be able to make biological carbon copies of himself. Through a process known as 'cloning' it will be possible to grow from the nucleus of an adult cell a new organism that has the same genetic characteristics of the person contributing the cell nucleus...Cloning would make it possible for people to see themselves born anew, to fill the world with twins of themselves. Cloning would...provide us with solid empirical evidence to help us resolve..the ancient controversy over 'nature vs nurture' or 'heredity vs environment'...whole libraries of philosophical speculation could, by a single stroke, become irrelevant.”

“In the opinion of many of the world's leading scientists the clock is ticking for a 'biological Hiroshima'”

“We will be able to create sexual superathletes, girls with super-mammaries (and perhaps more or less than the standard two)...”

“In short, it is safe to say that, unless specific counter-measures are taken, if something can be done, someone, somewhere, will do it. The nature of what can and will be done exceeds anything that man is as yet psychologically or morally prepared to live with.”

“The First Test-Tube Baby”: A TIME article that describes the scene in the town where the mother-to-be lived. This one is much more recent and representative of current thought on scientific progress, published in 1978.

“Theologians—and more than a few prominent scientists—sounded warnings about its [the birth of the baby] disturbing moral, ethical and social implications.”

“Some thoughtful observers saw the work as still another ominous step toward further control and manipulation of basic life processes—comparable perhaps to the recently acquired ability of molecular biologists to rearrange and recombine genes of different creatures and even to create new life forms.”

Tomorrow I prepare for battle with two articles: “10 Ways Genetically Engineered Microbes Could Help Humanity” and “Why Should You be Scientifically Literate?”

At least I know that if I get non-GE tomatoes thrown in my face I can use my multiple super-mammaries to block them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's all downhill from here

Whew am I tired. I just spent about two weeks with various good friends doing just whatever pleased us...seeing the sights and basking in the sound of the English language as we were bathed in it around various locals in Dublin, Liverpool, Manchester, and London.

I don't think its any surprise for you all that I was pretty excited to get out of Germany for a bit. I could sing praise about almost everything I did...the food was better (boy have I missed sandwiches that don't just contain cucumbers and mayo), the buildings were prettier, and to top it all off, there was an extreme abundance of smiles. Those English and Irish really dig the whole politeness thing.

I've already mentioned a few tidbits about Dublin, Liverpool, and Manchester. But let me start the highlight reel just in case you didn't get a clear enough picture:

Dublin—Ben and I spent the majority of our money at Guinness Brewery and Jameson Distillery. On top of learning a lot about science (who knew that a distillery was really just a giant Organic Chemistry classroom!), we got a lot of history. I really love touring factories where they make stuff you eat/drink regularly. I will always have a special place in my heart for Jelly Bellies after touring their place of creation, and Jameson and Guinness will be on the top of my list when I think of things to get my head spinning.

Liverpool—I haven't yet mentioned the guy who channeled Lennon through his guitar. Not really, but there was a man who plays every day of the week in the Cavern Club, where the Beatles played before everything started. We had a great time down there in the narrow halls lined with bricks and full of drunken tourists. It just makes me think how lucky those people were who go to see the real Lennon, rather than his (talented) chubby reincarnation.

London—ohh what a time we had in London. We saw the typical sights...a little history here, a little Harrods there. But the most remarkable thing to me was the abundance of security cameras everywhere! Keeping an eye along streets, around corners, and up skirts! I was initially bothered by the fact that they might see me picking my nose, or even worse, a wedgie, but just a few minutes ago another horrible thought came to my mind. You can't have a secret rendezvous in London! There are no stolen moments with a new love, no giving the boss the slip to wander catch an afternoon say the least, Donald Draper would not survive in London 2010.

I imagine some significantly large man with a sweaty handlebar mustache watching an arena full of TV screens with a pint and chips (that's the British chips) in hand. He scours day and night for anyone with a life more exciting than his. Hopefully he saw how much fun we were having and was inspired to get on the treadmill, pick up the razor, and trade in the crisps for the biscuits (that's the British biscuits). Cause boy was I having a lot of (legal) fun in that surveilled city. (Wedgies were few and far between, for those concerned.)

I had to eventually say goodbye to England after a short trip to the Lake District (which comes highly recommended) with REAL English people. Being back in Germany is not something that makes me want to boogie (like the Lennon guy did), but its a lot more doable with memories of my trip. I feel bolstered by the country that taught Americans the importance of manners and that desserts should have sugar in them. I can take on these pork addicted hoodlems...after all, the next time I go west, I'm going all the way! So its all downhill from here, watch out Germany, this girl isn't leaving behind any regrets!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Comments from the Road

A few weeks have blown by, but I've kept this space on my mind during my absence. I got to meet up with my ultimate match when it comes to havoc raising, and we have been leaving a trail of finished Guinness's, empty Jameson glasses, and half eaten fish and chips all throughout Ireland and the UK.

We spent some time in the land of green and alcohol and took part in some of the most sacred Irish traditions. Dublin was a welcoming and comfortable place to wander around...well the the weather was, to say the least, less than ideal but the people were friendly (at least, what we assumed they were saying through their thick accents seemed nice enough.)

Liverpool and Manchester were next on our list as we took just a thirty minute flight over to beans and toast country. Oh WOW! I'll tell you what, the Beatles paraphernalia in Liverpool makes this trip! I spent an entire 48 hours singing Beatles songs, learning fun facts, and discovering that most of the lyrics and information I thought I knew about the band was incorrect. It was both enlightening and informative.

I'd love to tell you more about my adventures through theses places of wonder and bad table service, but I've got to run down to London. The Queen has readied her men for the arrival of two trouble makers just in from America.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I regret to inform you that this post will be written under the influence of one of the worst sicknesses I've had in a long time. It's common around these parts, and during this time of year almost everyone is afflicted. It results in a weakened heart and restless legs (please don't confuse with restless leg syndrome), a wandering mind and fidgety hands. Yes, I am sorry to say that I am suffering from a severe case of spring fever.

In order to help my case, I've decided to celebrate some of the joys of this time of year. Simple things like the itchy hotness that comes from wearing a coat that was too hot for the day, finally! Signs of Spring that we all may know, but that never fail to surprise us after we wake watery-eyed from our winter rests.

Thunderstorms. For me, there is nothing better than to sit on someone's porch and look out at a storm. This weekend we had a pretty terrible wind storm. It was the closest thing that I've seen to a good American thunderstorm in Germany so far. I was stuck in the middle of the train station: trains were stopped, people stranded (including myself), umbrellas turned inside out--general panic ensued. But it was such a great distraction! To look out, see farm animals blowing by, and remember so fondly the treacherous American weather. In general, Germany's weather is just boring in comparison to the plethora of storm systems we have in the land of the free . It's not great, not horrible, just gray and dull. But ohh!--the energy of that storm—a great contrast to the monotony of winter life! Got me excited for more to come as the skies get warmer.

The Moon. Tonight, riding home from dinner with a dim bike light, I had a lot of trouble making out curb vs. street vs. was a bit scary riding through the quiet, windy streets. Along the stretch that carries on into the woods, I noticed the moon. I didn't just notice the moon, actually, I almost fell off of my bike for the size of it. I felt like howling! I was drawn along the road as if I was swept up in the wake of a star blazing across the sky. I barely noticed my pedals moving as I weaved in the sidewalk to catch a better view.

As this giant moon balanced on top of my German life shining light on my ride home, I was truly transfixed. I looked up at the rest of the stars in the sky, the same ones you all see, and smiled. I smiled! How wonderful it was to sit under the moon and smile like a little kid. To know that Germany didn't exist just to torture me, but that life under the moon belonged to everyone. That the moon has shone on all humans, on all problems, on all countries for all time. There was a chill in the air and freshness in my lungs. It was a good night for standing under the moon and feeling small.

Spring does these things to me. It makes me want to boogie, it makes me want to smile more, and it makes me want to just high five everyone I come across. I often find myself thinking things like “Well isn't it great to just be alive!”, or “Let's just all sing love songs together!” The sun shines brighter, people start looking less hairy and gray, and in general the world starts living up to its potential.