Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tai chi and pot smokers

Nordic walking. Fast walking. Walking and talking. Walking. Everyone here walks and I'm pretty sure it became a bit boring for the Europeans to just walk. Hence the invention of Nordic walking. Nordic walking is "fitness walking" during the off season of skiing. It is not just any other stroll. You use two large specifically designed poles with rubber tips to heist yourself to the next step. These poles were invented in 1997 by the Finnish ski pole manufacturer Excel. The first time I saw Nordic walking what came my mind was, "I wondering if they are all blind?" Deceived by it's appearance at first, I later found out what it actually was. More beneficial than regular walking, Nordic walking accomplishes much more than your average stroll such as using your entire body resulting in burning more calories. In my opinion the most beneficial thing about Nordic walking is that it looks pretty funny and it has entertained me quite frequently upon my living here. When I used to run around Christoph's parents home in the forest, i would see it almost everyday. They even have large groups of Nordic walkers with Nordic instructors and you had better keep up or you might get a Nordic slap. They know their Nordic stuff. Unfortunately in Hamburg I have not seen any Nordic walkers yet. But there is something even more extraordinary I saw this morning.

Little old lady Tai Chi gave us our own personal show this morning in the park by our apartment window. She must have thought no one would see her hidden by some trees. I think she forgot all of the leaves have fallen off. But little did she know we had quite the laugh by her quick and slow silly movements that Tai Chi provides. I've downloaded a video of some of it so that you could see just what I am talking about. Resembling a fish out of water, rather a very old fish out of water, it's hard for me to believe this form of sport does anything beneficial. Although I have heard that it is very strengthening, I believe you actually have to constrict your muscles the entire duration of your exorcise. Little lady Tai Chi did not look as though she really new what she was doing. She even stumbled a little bit. My question is, how does one stumble when you are moving at a rate slower than a turtle? A long wiggle here and a short wiggle there, she looked quite deranged. I am not judging, just admiring what God gave me to watch in Germany today. You see, I find joy in these things. They probably bring me more entertainment than watching a movie or climbing a mountain. They bring a satisfaction described as being a hidden treasure that only I saw. No one else saw what I saw and that is something to be proud of. But I would like to share what I saw, so there it is. It's a bit of a rocky shot, but I was scarred she would catch me, so I had to hide my camera behind the railing. I love mornings. Especially when I have a side of Tai Chi with my oatmeal.

I would also like to tell you about my first German church experience. Sunday came quickly this week and it was indeed time for us to try and search for a church for us to go to.

Located in one of the sketchiest parts of town, Christoph and I strode up to the entrance of the church after passing a pot smoker and some beggars. We entered through the dark door and stepped up a dark staircase I could have sworn was from a horror movie I saw somewhere. That part was entertaining to say the least, but what was not entertaining was trying to understand a sermon in German. Once you concentrate on a sentence and try to get a little bit of what he is talking about, he is on to the next topic. By the time I got the gist of what he was actually talking about, the sermon was over. So there is it. I don't think we'll go back to that one for fear of being mugged and murdered on the way there.

I was also able to speak a little German/English to the cashier at the grocery store yesterday. She was weighing my apples and asked. "Elstar?" which is a type of apple. "Nein, Gala" I said. Which means, no they are Gala apples. I think I am getting the hang of this.

Also, when I went to this tiny little shop and bought some sparkling apple juice which is now my substitute for Fresca, the cashier lady asked me if I knew how much it cost. I said, "Ein und Zwanzig" which means what I thought was 1.20 Euro. But what I really said was that is cost 21 Euro. She laughed, and charged me 1.20.

Ok so the video download is not working. I will try later. For now you will just have to take my word for it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Really clean sheets

Have you ever responded to someone and after the fact realize you should have said something else. You wish you could go back and change what you said and it consumes your mind. Well, this happened to me today upon a little excursion to the grocery store. Minding my own business most days hoping no one will speak to me because it usually catches me off guard and I am tongue tied, thinking in English and hoping it comes out German, I was approached today. A woman with her little baby were strolling in our neighborhood and she said something to me. Now looking back i believe I know what she said, but in my surprised state I simply said back to her in German. " I speak only a little German, I'm sorry."
Now looking back, I should have asked her to speak slower. I believe she was asking for directions to the Metro station, and just last week I learned how to give directions. How stupid I am. She looked shocked upon hearing what i said. She was either thinking two things The first, 'How on earth was the only person I asked in all of Hamburg unable to speak German.' Or the second, she didn't even ask me for directions but said something like, "Look out and don't get in my way." It's very likely it could have been the second, and I responded with "I don't speak very much German." Now thinking about it she looked pretty agitated but that could be because she was lost, or she wanted me out of her way. Truth is, I will never know. Truth is, I may have given a horrible name to Americans living in Hamburg. Truth is, I need to learn more German.

I believe our washing machine is kaputt (broken). I have been washing the same sheets over and over again, because our dryer and washer are in one. Trying to only dry the sheets, I end up washing them again and again. I know I am not stupid, but only that it's not working. Three day's later I am still on the same load.
Washing cycles here are ridiculously long as it stands, so this just makes it even worse. If you want to wash and dry your clothes the cycle runs for 4 hours. Not even kidding you. It's a good thing I have a lot of time on my hands.

I haven't seen the sun in about a week and it's getting to me. When I was younger I loved the rain and wanted to live somewhere it always rained, Now that I have that wish, what I would give for a day full of blue skies.

Now I must proceed to the floor, which is now my office and begin working on my Christmas presents.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Popping corn and Women's clubs

Lately I've been at a standstill for crazy things happening. This weekend Christoph and I enjoyed our Sunday pretty much relaxing in bed, watching Alton Brown create delicious food making us hungry for Mango's and Pineapples. Not too exciting.
I always like to make something special for Christoph to come home to. Last night I made french style cheeseburgers and apple cobbler. It keeps him coming home:)

The other day I researched online "Americans in Hamburg" finding nothing but an Americans Women club of Hamburg. The pictures on the website proved themselves to be enjoying life here, but they were all older women who seemed to entertain themselves with knitting and book clubs. Don't get me wrong, I love knitting and books, but well I think you know what I mean. None the less I was willing to give it a shot. I made myself a member, but before I was to be a true member they would have to send me an acceptance letter. Yesterday, I got that letter. They told me thanks for the application but unfortunately I would have to pay a monthly fee to be involved. I replied. "Wow, that's stupid." I literally wrote that regretting it after I sent it. But really! Nothing like being welcoming to a young girl who just moved here. That's ok, I don't want to be in their stupid club anyways. I can start my own knitting club. By myself.
On that same subject, I also joined something called Expatblog.com. This website makes it possible to find people who are in the same situation looking to meet friends. Maybe I'll have some luck here.

So with no American friends to show me how things are done here in Hamburg, I will just have to journey alone.

Christoph and I are very happy here. Besides our bed being the most uncomfortable piece of furniture we have ever set our bodies on, we are satisfied with whatever God brings our way. But that bed, seriously. If I move from one position to the next, Christoph is bounced around like a little popcorn kernel making sleep very light for us. Light sleep is also known to make you dream more. I think I have dreamed more in this past month than I have in my entire life. Last night in my dream I was very late for a flight after being told my gate was on the other side of the mountains. There was no way I could make that trip in 15 min. This left me very agitated upon waking up. Christoph and I have agreed not to talk too much in the morning, or take things too personally being as we are both super crabby from the lack of sleep.

Today I am going to start making Christmas presents. I have such a great idea this year. Hopefully unlike my other attempts at making something from what I see in my head, this one will follow through. I can't tell you what it is though because most, well all of my viewers are family. Sorry.

Now, I will visit my good friend Billy Blanks so he can show me a thing or two about Tie Bo. He is always telling me to "keep going don't give up." But this only makes me want to punch him in the face. Too bad he is on my computer and that would only lead to me destroying my display screen. I hope I'm not going crazy talking about Billy Blanks as my friend.

Well, as Billy Blanks say's, "Everyone needs help, someone to pat you on the back and help you keep going. I'm going to be that for you right now."
Thanks Billy. You're a true fighter.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"I'll have that to go please"

Downtown Hamburg all by myself. I did it. It took me the way to the grocery store to decide if I was just going to get my food and go home, or to pass by the Edeka(German grocery store) and continue down to the metro and be on my way downtown. By the time I got to the door I said to myself. "Just do it" Little did I know the Nike logo would flash before my eyes in such an indecisive moment.
The metro was not so bad. I knew exactly where to go. Jungferstieg.
As I awaited my exit I happened to catch a glance at myself in the reflection of the train window. I looked like I was about to die. I then tried to relax my eyebrows and just breath. What is the worst that could happen? No, don't think that. "Next stop Jungferstieg."
Ok here we go. I popped out from underground after almost getting lost in the underground metro station at the Europa passage (the mall). It took me awhile to find the exit out. Ok, I knew this place so I could always find my way back here if I were to get lost. In my survival bag I had my German to English dictionary, a cell phone, money, a gun, and a map. I was prepared.
I walked and I walked, for about half an hour. I had no idea where I was going, but there was no way I was going to stop and look at a map. I needed to look like a true Hamburger.
Soon, I was lost and wondering why exactly I wore these stupid shoes. The nervous sweet of my feet created a scientific reaction with the soles of my boots and I probably could of started a fire with that friction. But I had to keep going. If I could find the river, then I could find my way to the starbucks Lea and I were last weekend.

I finally found it after walking through a pretty desolate area that scared me a little bit.

Let me take a moment to describe the Downtown area. Walls of tall architecturally detailed carved buildings line the streets making you feel like you are apart of some old movie. The harbor is full of beautiful white swans and old fishing boats welcoming you with riverside benches to sit and enjoy an afternoon sipping your coffee. In each of the buildings first floor you have the shop of your choice stacked 10 stories high by apartments and businesses. Absolutely divine.

Finding the river then led me to the starbucks I had attempted to get a job at and I thought it a great idea to get my favorite drink today. A tall soy Chi Tea Latte. "Do I order in English or German?" I thought to myself.

I will try German. "Ein Chi Tee Latte bitte mit soje Milch"
She replies, "What size would you like that?"
Dang it, they know I am American.
I finish my order saying "I would like that to go please." Spoken like a true American being about the only one ordering my drink to go. I got a couple strange looks. The Germans like to sit and have a coffee for a bit, while Americans are always on the go. Typical American I am.

I finished my latte, now it was time to get to the grocery store buy some ingredients to attempt in making power bars via Alton Brown.

I always get off at Oesterstrasse. This time I got up from my seat way too soon before the metro train was stopped and the jolt forced me to take a seat on the lap of a fellow metro rider. "Entschuldigen!" (Excuse me!)
He looked disturbed.

It took me about an hour to not find the soy protein powder I was looking for. Seems that Americans are protein obsessed people, and for good reason in my opinion. I would have to substitute I guess. I did surprisingly find the Tofu. But unlike the recipe that called for silken Tofu, I could only find firm Tofu. Oh well.

Had I known earlier that this different texture in Tofu would make all the difference I would have planned on making sponges instead of delicious protein bars.

Next time I'll get it.

As for today my adventure will be attempting to start writing my book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The grizzly bear and the sloth

This past year I have become a fan of Womens Health Magazine. Todays message to all of the women on earth who want to stay fit and healthy. Don't be a sloth. Sitting around may cause obesity, heart disease, and you are further prone to diabetes. Although this may be an exaggeration, I take it seriously. After all, most of my days include sitting down. So from now on, I will never sit. I am going to write emails standing up, sleep standing, eat standing, watch tv and movies standing. I am going to even do all of my yoga moves standing. I'll let you know how this goes. I am standing right now. I could go down in the book of world records as the girl who wouldn't sit.

On a more serious note. Last night my birthday present from my wonderful husband including two old records from Johnny Cash and Fleetwood Mac, was indeed executed. We went to see Grizzly Bear in concert. To most of you who don't know who or what that exactly is, it is not a giant grizzly bear on stage. Although that would be thoroughly entertaining in itself. No, Grizzly Bear is a very talented band and a what wonderful show they put on. It's really fascinating to see venues in Germany. I didn't really know what to expect, but besides everyone once again speaking a different language, it all looks almost identical to venues in the States. You have your band junkies. Everyone there is dressed in a way that just by looking at them you would know they are fans of Grizzly Bear and most every other indie band on earth. Slouchy beanies, tight pants, dark rimmed glasses. Nothing to tell others "This outfit fits me perfectly" but rather "I don't care how big these glasses look on my face or how uncomfortable my pants are, but I am trying to make a statement here."
Yes, even the bar tenders are the same as in the states. As there studded belts drag around there baggy ripped jeans purposefully missing the belt loops, there faces are fully loaded for battle with piercings, and chuck tailor is their shoe of choice. Not as many tattoos though. I filled that role I guess.

So that was yesterdays adventure, along with a lot of sitting watching Alton Brown make granola bars on Good Eats. Today, I am going to ride the metro down town and see what I find there. This may include getting lost, but it's a good thing I have my boy scout guide to get me back home safely. Oh, and a cell phone to call my personal travel guide, Christoph.

I'll make sure I listen to some Johnny Cash's live show in prison to get myself pumped up.

Hamburg here I come!

Oh and as for the picture. One of the things I miss most about my dad, is when he makes our dog Harley almost poop his...well I guess dogs don't wear pants, but rather poop my dads lap, when he holds harley up, growling at him like a bear. This then causes Harley to growl even louder and show his teeth like a seal with rabies. Oh how I miss these two:(

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tiny little sleeper

Excuse my absence. I was busy watching One Tree Hill attempting to stop after just one episode but that never works. It's the cheesiest show on earth, and at the end of each episode they put something horribly dramatic in leaving you wanting more. Like when Lucas finds out who really killed his uncle after thinking it was Jimmy, he asked some strange girl who somehow saw the whole thing happen, but for some reason didn't want to tell anyone because her mother feared for their lives. Shortly before that Lucas's pregnant best friend gets ran over by a car of a guy who her husband owed money to. Lucas was so distraught by seeing her he had a heart attack. Believe me when I say you aren't really missing out if you have not seen this show. Just don't start watching it because you may never be able to stop.

Hamburg oh Hamburg. What a lovely place. This past week I have been able to explore the big city some and it has proven itself a truly great place. After the initial shock of being here, we soon ventured out passed our little neighborhood and saw down town, the street where all of the rich important people live, we drove over this huge bridge, we have taken the metro everywhere. The metro is less intimidating than I thought and pretty straight forward. It's a great place to people watch although your watching becomes a bit awkward being the person sitting directly in front of you can easily catch you eyeing them. I have been caught a couple times. But the lady who was so obviously chowing down on a granola bar didn't catch me. She ate it as though it would be the first and last thing she would ever eat.

It's funny but I never thought Starbucks would be the place I felt most at home. Yes Starbucks. The smell, the look, the taste. Everything is identacle to any other Starbucks in the states. It's just you have to order your drink in a different language, and non-fat milk doesn't exist. It's just as expensive, just as trendy, and open to anyone who would like a delicious mixed drink of your choice. Upon my coffee shop experiences all over the world, I believe it to be true that there exists at least one homeless/crazy person per coffee place. I'm glad they can have a place to feel comfortable.

This past weekend my sister-in-law and I were downtown at a starbucks and I got this amazing idea. I could work at starbucks! I worked at one in the springs, and how hard would it be to learn all of the drinks in German. They were printed in English on the board, so I didn't even know if people ordered in German. I got up the courage and decided to give it a shot. The manager said he would give me a resume but he thinks I should know more German.
My second approach at a job was at a little place called American Apparel. Christoph heard from one of his co-workers that they hire English speaking people. We walked in shortly after the hopeless try at Starbucks and I don't think it could have gone any better. It's a good thing I was dressed up a little, because she took a picture of me and they/re sending it to LA to decide if my style fits the position. I may have a job people, and it's full time. No more One Tree Hill if so. This is an amazing opportunity. I will meet people, learn more German, and maybe get a discount on clothing! I am awaiting my phone call and if I don't get the job I have other ideas in mind.

No more sitting around for me. I am going to know this city like the back of my hand when I am through with it. Everyday I am going on a little adventure and everyday I will write about it. Even if that adventure causes me pain, or being really scared, or getting lost, or peeing my pants, or talking to strange poeple in German, or putting my food in another persons basket. Oh wait, that already happened. Who knows what will come my way. It can't be any scarier than what I experienced in Italy.

This is a picture of Christoph taking a little nap and his feet just wanted to stay put. I didn't know anyone could fall asleep this way. Marriage surprises you with something new everyday.

Oh and the other one is on my Geburtstag(birthday). Though your eyes may deceive you we are not drunk. Especially Christoph.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cavities. I hate them. But there is one thing I hate more than them. Going to the dentist. In my experience I always seem to eat pork chops, or asparagus before venturing to the tooth fairy doctor, making his job more like a treasure hunt than dentistry. In this experience the other day I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had never in my right mind imagined I would be visiting a dentist in Germany but that is what makes it a bit more exciting.

Since my last checkup in march I was diagnosed with a pat on my back for brushing, a scolding for a lack of flossing(which I think is what 99.9% of people hear from their dentist), a compliment for my white teeth, and a "you better get that cavity fixed before too long).

Yes I had a bit fat cavity. I believe there are two things I have experience in life that bring me straight back to childhood. Those things are getting a speeding ticket, nothing like the feeling of getting a spanking in front of the whole town from the policeman. The other is getting told you have a cavity. They always seem to make you hold a up a little hand mirror so you can see just what the damage is. I think it's included in their training. To make you feel like a child. "You see that there, that is a cavity...(poke, poke poke, ouch)" Then they poke your gums around it to make it bleed. "You see that, that is because you aren't flossing."
Oh I'm sorry, I thought that was because you just stuck your pointy hand tool into my gums to make it bleed.
Not all dentists do this. I have had one dental hygienist who was a friend check my teeth, and all of this excludes her. She is a wonderful tooth fairy.

So here I was, on my way to the dentist in Germany trying to figure out in my head what this was going to be like. My mother-in-law was taking me and she agreed with me on the horror of a dentist visit. That didn't make me feel better. I thought maybe the German dentists had some new technology that enabled them to look into your mouth without even having to open it.

We entered the very impressively designed lobby, exclusively created by my beloveds interior architecture company "Gruener."
The dentist seemed nice enough. They all seemed to know that the American was coming, and maybe brushed up on there English the night before just so they could practice it on me. It was delightful. It would seem that I knew more about dentist talk that I thought. She wanted to know the different words for the different parts of the teeth. Little did I know upon going to the dentist I would also be giving an English lesson, but I was happy to oblige. I wonder how many Germans feel that way with me.

After a poke here, an x-ray there, I was informed that not only did I have a beautiful set of VERY white teeth (must be an American thing), I had no cavity! What! But I did of coarse need to floss....everyday or else my teeth will "eventually fall out."
She then asked me if I have ever gotten my teeth sanded down. This was a new one. She held up a very thin silver file looking device telling me it would shave down the corners of your teeth keeping food from getting stuck. The results sounded great, but I think I would rather die than getting my teeth filed. I can barely stand filing my own toe nails.

With a good report and some new dentist friends I was ready to go now. But there was just one problem. American dentist, "You have a cavity that really needs looking after."
German dentist, "You are cavity free!"
Did it possibly disappear? Does that happen?
Well, until my mouth is screaming to me in pain that I have a cavity I think I would like to believe the Germans. They are very smart people. Not saying that Americans are not. I think I really just want to believe I am cavity free and I have the dentists order that I can believe that. SO I will.

I feel accomplished in the health department here. After all I have now been to the dentist and the emergency room in Germany.
Speaking of emergency room, that was not a pleasant experience. I was scolded there for even coming to the emergency room for such a thing as a "wax clogged ear canal." He told me next time I shouldn't keep the whole emergency room waiting just because of ear wax and should have just make a doctors appointment. He then made the extraction process extremely uncomfortable for me on purpose. In my defense I couldn't even hear out of it. It seemed as though I had a water bubble around my head at all times. So, I think it was worth Tiny Tim waiting in the lobby a bit longer.

My next visit. The psychologist.