Sunday, December 19, 2010

Merry Blossoms Christmas Card
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Monday, August 4, 2008

Last week in Germany

I really should have written this sooner. I wanted to write a nostalgic, sad post on my last day (Friday) in Heuchlingen, but the router broke! Of course! On the one day when I actually needed the internet (to check how the flights back to the US looked).

On Wednesday I got together with my friends for the last time. We met up in Heidenheim and ate ice cream and hung out and talked. It was really nice to see everyone a last time before leaving.

On Thursday we (meaning me, Stephanie, Dominik, and Johanna) went to Schlicker, which is the bar in Heuchlingen, to have a mini goodbye party. Basically it consisted of the kids playing on the swing set and us eating pizza. The weather was really nice to sit outside, but the flies were unbearable!! Oddly enough, there was also a group of Texans visiting one of the guys who works at Schlicker who had lived in Texas for 6 months or something. It was pretty weird hearing Texan English on the night before I left. Mostly it was just weird hearing English in Heuchlingen. Usually I only hear that from me!

Let's see, what fun stuff did I do with the kids? Oh yeah, on Tuesday I didn't have to work because Dominik was at the Dorffreizeit and Johanna was at Oma and Opa's. Wednesday morning Lukas was there in the morning to play with Dominik, and I can't remember what Johanna and I did... Thursday I played "Insel der Schmuggler" with Dominik, which was actually really fun! I wish we had realized earlier that that game's not that hard. We could have played a lot more often. Thurs afternoon I played soccer with Johanna and then she climbed around in the tree for a while.

Friday wasn't much because their friends came in the afternoon to stay for the weekend. In the morning Dominik and I made a little city out of cardboard and paint. We didn't get to finish much of it, so hopefully he will later. Then Friday night after dinner I had to say goodbye to the kids when they went to bed. It was definitely tough to see them for the last time. Tabea came and picked me up around 9, 9:30, and drove me to Frankfurt. She stayed overnight with me in the hotel then drove me to the airport the next morning. All the flights looked insanely full, so she waited around to see if I had made my flight. I didn't, so we drove back into the city. We decided it was a great opportunity to do some sightseeing in Frankfurt. Unfortunately we were both really tired, so we didn't walk around that long. And Tabea, being the excellent friend that she is, stayed overnight with me yet again and drove me to the train station the next morning (by that time I had booked a flight from Dusseldorf to JFK, because all the Delta flights were insanely full with no chance of me getting on any of them). Even though it sucked that I didn't get to go home that day and had to buy a ticket instead, I'm glad I got to spend some more time with Tabea. I'm so glad she and Judith are coming in September!! It was hard enough saying goodbye to everyone, but it makes it a little easier knowing that I'll see them soon.

So, now I'm back home, after taking the train to Duesseldorf, flying to JFK, and the crazy van ride back to Elkins Park. I've already gotten most of my stuff packed up, thank goodness!! And I even got my thing for UGA notarized! I've been so busy that I still haven't had time to be that sad about leaving Germany. Mostly I just really really miss being surrounded by German and getting to speak German all the time.

I guess this is it. The end of my German adventure. I can't believe it's been a year. I still remember so clearly the beginning and everything that happened. How can it already be over?? I'm so so so SO glad that I did not only a year abroad, but a year before graduate school. I learned so much about myself this year, and did things I never really knew I was capable of. I don't know that I'd necessarily recommend being an aupair, but I'd definitely recommend taking a year to learn another language.

So that's that. I might write some more stuff later, but probably not. I think I should just leave this as it is: the end of an adventure.

(Even though I still have to write about Heidelberg and Stuttgart!)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Errr, yeah

Today I took Johanna to the playground for a while, then we came home and cleaned our bikes (Stefan asked me to clean my bike before I leave, and it's always nice to have an excited 4-year-old do half the work for you), then Johanna played in the "Wasserblume" for about 5 minutes (it took about 10 minutes to set up, of course), then she played with Alina, then Alina and Marvin came over and went swimming with Dominik and Johanna. It was a really nice day with Johanna. We had a lot of fun and she was being especially sweet and cuddly. It was also my last day in kindergarten, which was sad, but not that sad. Some of those kids are a pain! I'm glad my job is only taking care of two kids and not twenty.

Oh yeah, and at the playground I got stung by a bee. On my big toe. When I looked down to see what hurt so much, the bee was still sticking out of my foot. I had to pull it out, then the stinger too. When I told Dominik about it later, he asked, "Didn't it hurt to pull the bee out??" My response: "Well, it had already stung me!"

Saturday night was my last night in Gegenwind. It was at Andrea's house, where lots of people had brought food and they had grilled out. They gave me a t-shirt with a picture of the whole Gegenwind group on it, and it says (in German), "To remind you of your time in Germany", then they all wrote their names on the back. Cute! Definitely a nice way to remember the group.

Yesterday I went to Heidenheim to see Eveline and Irene. Eveline doesn't have a car right now, so we had to walk from the bus stop to her house--not really that far, and I'm just complaining because I'm lazy, but we had to walk all the way up the big hill and then back down the other side. Tobias also was there for a little while. Eveline, Irene, and I also went to the BrenzPark, which I'd never actually been to. It costs money--what the heck! Definitely a nice park, but man, was it hot yesterday. Well, not really that hot, but HUMID. Today it was hot again, hotter than yesterday, but not nearly as bad because it wasn't humid. Anyway, BrenzPark is nice, even though the Brenz is a rather unimpressive river (comparable in impressiveness to the Tookany Creek).

Only 4 days left...this is a sad countdown, though. Tomorrow I don't have to work, which is nice. I think I'm gonna go to Heidenheim, return some library books, maybe go to BrenzPark again. I wanna see the stuff in HDH one last time, walk up to the castle one last time. I have a bunch of pictures I could post but eigentlich bin ich too lazy. Oy. I'll just leave that. I've been having that problem lately, where a few German words come out in place of English ones. Sometimes it just so happens that there are German words that work better in a situation, especially ones where English doesn't have one word for it. For some reason a word that I often want to say while speaking English is "fahren". It's such a diverse and multi-purpose word. You can use it to mean driving, traveling, riding a bike, riding the train, taking the bus, etc. Sometimes I just can't think of the English equivalent as quickly as the German one. I hope this keeps happening--maybe it means I won't forget German!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I really really will write about Stuttgart and Heidelberg before I get back to the US.

My last Saturday

K, some more exciting things with the kids....

--Making funny faces with Dominik (that kid makes really excellent funny faces!)
--Making funny faces with Johanna (she can't really do it very well, which is what makes it so funny!)
--Johanna "cooking" for me in her "kitchen" outside
--Playing board games with Dominik
--That Dominik took Johanna to kindergarten and then picked her up! Seriously, cutest thing ever, and Johanna was so thrilled

Tonight is my last time at Gegenwind, sad :-( I think it's also the only time it's ever actually been warm on a Saturday where I have time to go? Yeah, the weather has been crazy here this year. I think it's been legitimately warm (which I'll classify as 78 and above) maybe 3 weeks the entire time I've been here? Just take a look at my pictures when traveling. The trips I have gone on where I haven't needed a coat are: Prague, Wittenberg, Vienna. Wow. That's pathetic. I mean, I know it's Europe and all and not as warm as the US, but seriously! It's summer! Last week was crazy. There were several days where the high for the day was about 55. Didn't help that it was windy too, making it feel even colder. And now today, the high's 80. Oy. Well, at least I know that Georgia weather will be hot and humid. I'm sure I'll be praying for a Germany summer once I move.

Um, right. Moving on. Thursday night I went with Eveline to a different bible study group, and it was really good. It's a shame that this is the first time I went, because the people were really nice and fun. Oh well, at least I got to go once. Plus, it's not like I really would have been able to go before, since I have to babysit on Thursday nights. It was a nice change to go a bible group where the people actually talk. I got a lot out of the evening.

Not much else. Still packing a lot. I think I've pretty much got the weight thing down. It definitely helps that Judith and Tabea said that they'll bring some stuff over when they come in September. I've already taken out a ton of books that I'll give to Tabea tonight. That's really good, because it saves me from either having to pay $80 for an overweight (obese?) bag, or having to break my back carrying 6 kg of books around the airport.

OK, I'm sure I'll post another sappy nostalgic post before I leave, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Leaving soon

Wow. I can't believe it. I'm leaving Heuchlingen next Friday for Frankfurt, and then flying from Frankfurt back to the US on Saturday (hopefully--if not, then Sunday). It is so weird that I have been here almost an entire year. It really has gone by SO fast. I know in the beginning it felt like it was dragging forever, but after a month or two and once I'd gotten settled in, it just flew by. I've been packing and re-packing and adjusting for the past couple days or so, trying to get everything under the weight limit, and the weird thing isn't how empty this room looks, but how the same it looks. Most of the stuff in this room isn't even mine--it just kind of all belongs to the aupair room. I mean, obviously all the clothes and stuff are mine, but you can't really tell they're all gone, since they were in the closet. It's sort of cool though. I'm leaving my mark too. I'm leaving some of my books behind, some maps from places I went, even some clothes. A little sad that that's all that will be left here of my year.

In a weird way, this feels just like last year, except I'm not nervous at all. I'm making another huge change. Sure, I'm a little bit anxious about starting graduate school, but mostly I'm just excited. I think maybe the reason is, I managed to move to another country without knowing anyone (OK, I sort of knew the family) and rather apprehensive about planning travel on my own, and now I'm leaving a country that feels like my home, leaving behind good friends, and leaving Europe having traveled to 14 countries on my own. I feel like I can do anything now! I'm not worried about making friends in Athens. It'll happen. I'm also much less worried about putting myself into uncomfortable social situations (aka, situations where I know no one). This year has been full of uncomfortable social situations, in a foreign language at that, and I survived.

So, I told myself I would write about some of the fun moments with the kids the past couple weeks, because I don't want to forget that stuff! I only have a little bit more time with them.
--Giggling with Johanna over her "stinker sand". She always "cooks" with sand in her play kitchen outside, and when she drip-dropped the wet sand on top of her "food", it looked like chunks of poop. She of course thought that was hilarious! She adorably said, "Du bringst mich voll auf Lachen!"
--Building a marble chute with Johanna to send the marbles down. Both of us were entranced by it for a solid half hour.
--Playing Chinese checkers with Dominik
--Playing UNO Extreme with both of them
--Making a "Fußball Blume" with Dominik out of the leftover soccer ball cutouts
--Looking in the animal book with Dominik

I'm sure I'll think of some more, so I'll post them when I think of 'em.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vienna (for real)

July 5-6

My bus (again) got in insanely early (approx 5 AM), so after lots of running around involving trying to get into my hotel, discovering that it was locked and I couldn't get in til 9, then riding the U-Bahn across town to the Westbahnhof to drop off my bags, I made it to the city center. The guidebook I got from the library had a whole bunch of walking tours in it, so I did the historical one first. It was a good choice, especially since by this point I have no desire to go in a bunch of churches. Although surprisingly, a lot of them were open!

St. Peter's Church
I went into at least 2 before 7 AM. I hit the big sites, like the opera house, the Hofburg (where the Habsburgs lived for over 600 years), a bunch of churches, a ritzy shopping street, a memorial to the Austrian Jews killed during the Holocaust, and then the big church: Stephansdom. According to my good book it has the third highest church tower in Europe, after the ones in Cologne and Ulm. I didn't go up to the top because 1) I was tired, and 2) I couldn't find the entrance. I looked around the church a little bit but I mostly used it as a place to sit down. It was pretty cool and huge and all, but eh, it's a church.

After my historical "tour", I decided that a tour of the Ring (what the streets going around the historical center are called) would be excellent--especially by tram. I walked from the Danube canal down one of the rings (they change names every block or so) past the Urania (still not sure what that is), the government building, the Postsparkasse designed by Otto Wagner in the Jugendstil (dont know what that is in English), to the City Park. Let me take a second to comment on this. Vienna has AMAZING parks. They all look like gardens on the back of castles that are maintained by teams of gardeners, with the exception of Sigmund Freud Park, which is a dump. In the City Park I tried to take a nap, but alas, even though I had almost fallen asleep in the tram, I just couldn't do it.

When I gave up on my non-nap, it was almost 12, so I decided I should eat something despite being really not hungry. Since Vienna is famous for its Sacher Torte (complete with secret recipe, ooo) I went to the Cafe Sacher to eat some. Granted, it was really good, but right after I ordered it I realized that I've had it before (just a knock-off, of course), and that I hadn't loved it. I'm not a big fan of the raspberry jam that is spread between the layers and under the top layer of chocolate. Luckily it was so chocolately that I couldn't taste the raspberry much, and even with that it was pretty good. Not the best cake I've ever had, but good. And not worth 5 euros. But it's pretty cool to eat Sacher Torte at Cafe Sacher in Vienna in view of one of the best opera houses in the world.

Speaking of opera, both the opera and the orchestra take their yearly breaks in July and August!!!! If I had been there just one week before, I would have been able to see a performance by the orchestra, which is what I really wanted. To me, Vienna=great music, so it was a little disappointing to not be able to experience that.

After "lunch" I went to the Naschmarkt, where there is a seriously HUGE flea market every Saturday. There were tons of people there, including several disappointed tourists who thought it was a regular old market. I walked around the stalls for a while, looking at the ridiculous stuff that people were selling (want a tourist-y beer stein from Augsburg?) and debating buying some it. I didn't though, because then I would have had to carry it all day plus bring it back to Germany with me.

Flea market on the Naschmarkt
From the Naschmarkt I continued on to Karlsplatz and the Karlskirche. Karlskirche had unfortunately just been closed for a wedding that was about to start, but looking from the outside was enough. I thought it was a castle from far away. From Karlskirche I went back up to the ring and went to the Alte Hofburg, which I had missed earlier since it had been closed at 7 AM (go figure). Then the Neue Hofburg and some more amazing parks and gardens. From there I had been planning to walk only to the Parliament and the Rathaus, but just my luck there was a huge protest/parade that shut down all public transport on the Ring.

View from Parliament
Luckily, since they're German (-speaking), the protest was pretty much a bunch of twentysomethings drinking beer while listening to loud techno music...with a couple protest signs draped on trucks for good measure (not to mention a dude who'd painted himself green....), which meant that they were really slow-moving and by walking at a normal pace I could get way ahead of them. I walked what I thought was all the way around the rest of the ring, and actually turned out to be only halfway. Ugh. But I happened upon an U-Bahn station and rode the rest of the way, then got some dinner and went back to my hotel (I had taken my stuff there after lunch, so I didn't have to bother with going back to the Westbahnhof again).

Umm wow, writing up all the stuff I did, I did A LOT. My vacations are NOT relaxing.

The next day I was intending to go to a museum, because that is what I had budgeted for. I decided to pick a composer's house to go to, since I've already been to a ton of art museums in Europe (although Vienna does have a few really good ones). After making another trip to the infamous Westbahnhof to drop my stuff off again, I headed to the house where Haydn lived...and found out that all composers' houses (except maybe Mozart's?) are free on Sundays! Thus began my musical adventure. None of the houses ended up being that exciting. You'd think in Vienna, where all these amazing composers were born and lived and worked, they would have truly amazing collections of objects and writings from their lives. Not so. Most of the houses I could get through in about 15 or 30 minutes. The best part about them: all of them had listening stations where you could listen to full versions of selected compositions. The houses I hit up: where Haydn lived; where Johann Strauß (son) lived; where Schubert was born;

In the courtyard of the house where Schubert was born
where Schubert died. I also went to the Hundertwasser House (house designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser (not his real name) who also designed the Martin-Luther-Gymnasium in Wittenberg). His stuff is pretty famous mostly because it's CRAZY. I mean, it can't be because it looks good.
Hundertwasser House
After visiting Schubert's death house and making a quick trip back to the city park to see the Johann Strauß memorial, I was pretty wiped out. I still had a bunch of time until my bus left, so I took the tram out to the Central Cemetary, where lots of famous people are buried. It's also HUGE. According to my guidebook, it has more than 300,000 graves with about 3 million people buried there. That's a lot. It also has the graves of such famous people as Mozart (who was originally buried in a mass grave so now only his legs occupy his grave spot; apparently the Viennese take a while after your death to realize that they really like you), Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauß son and Strauß father, and Schönberg. There's also a huge church there, but it was closed by the time I got there. The Vienna airport must also have been practically right next to the graveyard, because literally about every minute a plane would fly over, and most of them were low enough that I could read the Austrian Airlines "AA" on the tail (well, for the ones that were in fact AA).
Central Cemetary
After eating dinner, I went to the Donau Insel because I figured I should probably actually see the Donau (Danube) while in Vienna, especially seeing as Strauß, who lived there, had written that song. The river looked pretty cool at night, but there were some shady characters out there.

The Danube River at night
Then I almost missed my bus back by taking too long on the Donau Insel, making a stop at the Parliament to see it at night, and not getting to the Westbahnhof until about 10 PM.

Parliament at night
I got my bags from the locker as quickly as I could, but I still didn't end up leaving there til about 10:10, which meant I got to the Erdberg station at 10:25, and to the bus stop about 2 mins after that. Luckily the bus was late (it pretty much always is), so I still ended up being there about 15 mins before it arrived.

Vienna is a really cool city, also a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to understand their dialect there, but it's really just a different German dialect. I didn't have problems anywhere else in Germany, so I don't know why I was worried. They do sound different, but most of them speak Hochdeutsch, or at least with me they did, thank goodness.

Only one trip left :-( Next weekend to Stuttgart and Heidelberg, and maybe Worms? Exciting, but also sad!