Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time, etc. (part 2)

Getupp told me this morning that it was time to write another blog post, so here we are!

Where did we leave off…still in January?!  Oh man.  Well, not too much happened right away after I arrived once again in Hamburg, except that I tried Turkish food for the first time the night I got back and IT WAS AWESOME.  I had a Döner sandwich , which is not unlike a Gyro, except that it’s made in a delicously airy, crusty flatbread with either chicken or beef, lettuce, and sometimes some spicy sauce.  One can also get the sandwich as a burrito-style wrap, which is also pretty great.  Overall it’s a little more subtle in flavor than the typical fare at Greek House or Oakland Gyros (gotta holla at MKE!).
The guy running the Döner stand was really cool and made me laugh, which was also awesome.  I hadn’t laughed in a while.

I really didn’t get out much for the next week or so after that.  I was still waiting on my financial aid from OU and didn’t want to exacerbate my already precarious finances.  However, fun was definitely in order for Super Bowl night!  (What a great time to be a Packers fan, eh?)
I found one bar in Hamburg that was showing the game–an Irish pub called Finnegan’s Wake.  They’d advertised their Super Bowl party on an American ex-pat website, and I was really nervous that the place would be packed completely full already a couple of hours before the game.  When I arrived (at 11:30 PM, an hour before the game), there were still a couple of open seats at the bar, one of them next to a fellow Packers fan.  What luck!

Crazy Swede, claimed to have played at UCLA with Troy Aikman.

Robert, the crazy Swede. Claims to have played at UCLA with Troy Aikman. (photo credit: Damian Helbling)

Upon learning that I was also a Packers fan, Robert, pictured here,  insisted that I sit by him.  (In other circumstances, I would not have done so, but my judgement was already impaired from having had a glass-and-a-half of wine on the train en route to the bar.  Cheap nights are always better, right?)  He proceeded to buy me a Guinness, and we started yammering on about our team and why the heck he’s even a Packers fan to begin with (something I still don’t understand).  Pretty soon his buddy showed up, and he bought me another beer!  I decided these guys were all right.  For a while.
Then things started getting weird.  Some random girl came up and got pretty friendly (heh heh) with Robert, who later claimed that he had no idea who she was.  Then the heckling started.  First he was bugging the other guy sitting next to me about his Bills shirt, then it was the quiet Steelers fan standing behind us.  Em-barrassing.  Bills shirt guy went somewhere else, which made it really difficult to ignore weirdo Robert, until someone my age (!) sat down next to me.  The guy was a Steelers fan, and I don’t remember exactly how our conversation started, but we ended up as friends by the end of the night.  I made friends with the afore-mentioned heckled Steelers fan, too (to whom credit goes for the picture).
So, at the end of the night, I’d paid only for one drink of my own, and a drink for my new friend Leonard as consolation for his team’s loss.  Packers and cheap night FTW!

Oh, I almost forgot!  The day before I went to Schwerin, Natalye’s and my friends Jan and Uli invited me to go with them to Ikea.  (Natalye was away that weekend.) It was a total coincidence that they’d invited me to go there, since I had planned to try to figure out how to take the public transportation there that same day.  The best part about the Ikea here is that they have a cheap hot dog and soda deal (€1!), and a self-serve fixin’s area with all the stuff I like!  After that, we went down to the harbor and took the public transport ferry, which was really cool (and also really cold).  Later, we decided to go for dinner, and they happily obliged when I said that I’d like some traditional German food.  Jan, Uli and their friend convinced me to get the Leberkäse (pronounced lay-buh-kay-seh) plate, which came with a fried egg and potatoes.  Now, for all the non-German speakers out there, Leberkäse literally means liver cheese.  Like, weird, right?  The name and the appearance of this meal (it resembled a slice of meatloaf, except pink and with the texture of bologna) made me a little nervous, but it actually tasted really good!  After an internet query, I found that there’s actually very little, if any, liver in it.  All in all, my first authentic German meal in Germany was awesome.

So, friends, we’re sort of getting caught up…now we’re stuck at the beginning of February.  I think I ought to try a little harder at this, no?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for…

…a trip back to Wisconsin!

My family ended up arranging a funeral for Gramma, so I spent this evening trying to figure out whether or not I could make it home. Turns out my travel insurance covers “trip interruptions” for family deaths, so I get to travel home for free. This is truly wonderful; I’ve had such a hard time coping with her passing, and being able to go home to pay my respects is quite comforting.
I’ll be home on Friday and leave again Thursday evening. I hope I’ll have enough time (unlike at Christmas) to visit with my family and perhaps a couple of friends.

Thank all of you for your sympathies and thoughts. I am still utterly heartbroken and really appreciate having such great friends right now. I miss everyone so much.

Oh man…

I really hate broadcasting this all over the Internet, but it’s hard for me to talk about anything other than my Gramma passing away the other night.  She was 85 and in great health, even in her last hours.

I intended to write another “normal” update today (since I had a very eventful and enjoyable weekend), but I need a little time to process things and probably won’t feel like updating for a few days.

Gramma didn’t want a funeral, and I am not sure what plans exist for a memorial service (although Mom says we’re having one eventually).   Mom told me not to come home, so for now I’m still in the Hansestadt.   Please don’t worry about me–I’m dealing with it the best I can.   I’m really trying to stay positive and keep life as normal as possible, as I know Gramma would’ve wanted.

So…hopefully I’ll have something more cheery to share on Wednesday or Thursday.   And maybe some pictures, too!

The first week

Well, this certainly took long enough.  I’m afraid everything is happening too fast for my memory to hold it!  I’ll see what I can still recall.  (Where has the time gone?  I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday!)

I apologize for the long delay in posting.  After getting most of the essential stuff settled late last week, relaxation mode kicked in and I haven’t done much other than that until today.  True, I might’ve been a vegetable most of the time I was at my parents’ house for the holidays, but that was just catatonia brought about by the semester from hell.  That didn’t count as unwind-time.  Now I’ve had some real rest and can deal with the world normally again.  (End of digression.)

I’m going to start with a little bit from day one, since I never really discussed arriving or anything like that.  The plane flights were rather more pleasant than I’m used to.  British Airways does a nice job of taking care of their passengers!  They kept me well-fed and entertained.  The transatlantic flight was probably the best; each passenger had their own little touchscreen entertainment system with a smorgasbord of movies, tv shows, albums and games.  Highlights: The Big Lebowski, 30 Rock, Björk, and the Talking Heads.  Two meals were served, and they didn’t charge for wine!  Heaven at 36000 feet.  After getting on the plane at Heathrow for an hour flight, the crew served (my second) breakfast.  I couldn’t believe I was being served a meal on such a short flight!

It was sunny in Hamburg when I landed, but I couldn’t see much of the skyline through the icy haze in the air.  It was beautiful, still, and I caught my first glimpse of the city’s charm on the car ride with Anne to my apartment.

That first day was pretty lazy, but we (Natalye and I) did venture out to find internet and to see a little bit of our neighborhood.  Napping so much during the day really hampered my night’s sleep; I was awake from 2 AM until quite late the next night.  Oops!  Luckily, jet lag was never an issue after that.

German class started the day after we arrived and, to my delight (yes!), it was taught almost completely auf Deutsch the first day.  (I’m a weirdo.)  So far we’re still going over things I have forgotten since German class in high school, so the review is nice.  Speaking German is not as easy as I thought it was…I suppose that speaking German in an American classroom seemed simpler because there weren’t native speakers around.  Class is four hours every morning, from just before 9 until 1 PM.

Having class for so long each morning did not make it easy to finish the rest of our errands during rather limited business hours.  Shops, cafés and restaurants here are required by law to close by 8 PM, and most businesses are closed by 5, if not earlier.  (Restaurants with bars are open later, but I have yet to find out when they close in our neighborhood.)  With so much to do, if we were finished eating lunch by 2, this gave us only two or three hours to stop by the Geomatikum to meet up with our lovely German-speaking helpers (Anastasia and Anne) and go on our errands.  On Wednesday we tried to get our bank accounts and health insurance, but the particular Deutsche Bank we went to didn’t have any appointments open for a week, and the health insurance provider had just locked up for the day.  That was frustrating, but everything got taken care of Thursday.

Preparing for the residency permit appointment was pretty overwhelming in itself.  I wasn’t aware of this until about a week before my trip, but the German government wants temporary visitors to prove they have enough money for their stay, which is (apparently) €15000 for a year.  Proving this means printing bank documents and perhaps making someone write a letter of financial support.  The government wanted original copies of these things.  Well, I was an idiot and left trying to put these things together until an hour before I was to leave for my first flight, having misunderstood AND forgotten parts of what Prof. Schatzmann’s email said.  So, stress, stress and more stress…I decided that the Germans would have to settle for a scanned copy of the letter my parents wrote and a printout of my financial aid notice.  And they did.  They gave me a residence permit!

{Now, if you’re planning to study in Germany anytime in the near future, I would suggest being more on top of these sorts of things.  Don’t leave anything until the last minute, because the stress of trying to diffuse the problems that inevitably arise makes everything unfun.}

So, this post is getting pretty long and is probably an arduous read.  Here’s a quick synopsis of the first week:

Monday: Class; met with Prof. Schatzmann and other Meteorologisches Institut people; got lost when we got off the train in our neighborhood; tried for hours to find food (because I was an idiot and didn’t get any Euros at the airport) and finally ended up eating at a combination tailor/café after I finally surrendered to the cash machine.  Also was denied groceries (on the first try) because I didn’t have cash, but eventually made it home with a loaf of bread, some cheese and three (very expensive) pieces of some quite delicious ham.

Tuesday: Met with the dorm manager to settle our housing contract; class; met at the Geomatikum with an American post-doc at the MI and got advice on EVERYTHING; went to Saturn, the most ridiculous electronics/appliances store ever; finally got internet access.

Wednesday: Class; sightsaw (is that correct verbiage?) around central Hamburg (which is a very short walk from our language class) and ate the best hot dog ever (with ketchup, mayo, mustard and french fried onions); tried to settle insurance and banking but failed; grocery shopped again.

Thursday: Insurance stuff; class; more bumming around central Hamburg; residency permit appointment; bank appointment; took the wrong bus in trying to get back to our apartment, ended up taking an hour detour on the one night we just really wanted to go back to the dorm and sleep.

Friday: Class; sightsaw around central Hamburg; went to talk to Prof. Schatzmann again; went shopping at TK Maxx (I bet you know what that is! ; ] ) for jeans and leather boots and failed; went to the Lidl next door as consolation and discovered paprika-flavored potato chips (here, paprika=bell pepper) which are a delicacy!

Saturday: Slept in; shopped my little heart out all over Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (thank God for H&M); had Thai food and loads of sparkling wine with pretty much random people (Natalye met some guy while getting her hostel membership who knows the guy whose house we were at); partied until 3 AM in St. Pauli with said people and had a blast.  !  Yes, I was in the Reeperbahn, and no, I did not enter the red-light district.  No girls allowed!  (Mom, don’t get too upset.  I didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen living in Milwaukee.)

(St. Pauli/Reeperbahn might be [not quite sure yet if it’s true] the only place in town that actually has clubs or live music venues.  It was crowded enough to seem that way!)

Sunday: freakin’ nothing.  And it was great.  This might be the only time I’ll appreciate everything being closed on Sundays.

Monday: Finally settled insurance; class; amazing bagel sandwiches at the shopping center down the street from our language school; tour of the Wind Tunnel Laboratory at the Uni; went on an epic hunt for Persil laundry detergent (apparently the best in the world?) which led us to Metro (which=Sam’s Club, which meant that we couldn’t get in) and then to good ol’ Lidl, where we found it; did laundry (which was not as mundane as usual–the wash machine had an electronic display in several languages and almost as many wash cycles!).

Today: Class; cheap lunch at the Mensa cafeteria with classmates; tried to go to the Dungeons but decided not to, so we went to St. Michaelis Church and the Beatles museum instead.  I think those were much better choices anyway.

It’s been a wonderful time, and even more so now that I’m settled in and really important stuff has been taken care of.  Now it’s all about learning German and trying to not act like a jerk tourist all the time.

Good lawd, I hardly want to write any more, and I’m sure your eyes are about to fall out of your head from reading so much.  I’ll try to keep it shorter and with fewer parentheticals from now on.

I’m sure you all are getting sick of content-void posts…

…but you’re going to have to deal with just this one more. I really hope I’ll get to write a real post about my first few days here tomorrow.

For now, it’s almost midnight, and I’m still working on things to get ready for my residency hearing tomorrow. Natalye and I have to get up pretty early tomorrow to get German health insurance before we have the rest of our day filled up by German class, our hearing, opening bank accounts and other such errand-running. There really is a lot of red tape that one has to cut through in order to stay here and be in the good graces of the government, but it is definitely worth it.

Today has been an awesome day.  It was sunny for most of the time, and although it seemed colder than other days, it was the most beautiful day we’ve had yet and was perfect for sightseeing around the Rathaus and the Binnenalster area.  (I will add a link to my google map of places I’ve been as soon as I can update it.  Pictures will appear soon, too.)  Between all of the success I had yesterday and finding out a little while ago that I FINALLY HAVE SOMEONE TO TAKE MY LEASE (!!!!!!), I think it’s been probably the best 24 hours of my life.  I can’t say that I’m stress-free, since I still have to deal with tomorrow, but I feel 1000% better about everything.

Our hosts at the Meteorologisches Institut are wonderful. The coordinator of our exchange here, Professor Schatzmann, has essentially been our German dad and always makes sure that someone is looking after us. Already, several of his students have been kind enough to help us with all sorts of stuff, from going with us to the bank to showing us how to use the computer system. And, of course, I can’t forget Anne! She was studying at OU last semester and was in Oklahoma until just before Christmas. She volunteered herself to pick us up from the airport when we got here and has really gone the extra mile for us. I feel guilty for not extending help to her when she was at OU.

So, it’s busybusybusy until at least tomorrow night.  I am hoping that we’ll have a lot more free time come this weekend, because we would really like to get out and do some serious sightseeing.

Okay, time to get back to work.  Tschüß!

Haben wir das Internet hier?

Now that I finally have Internet in my room, one might think I’d hop right on posting a catch-up entry, but whoever that is is WRONG.

It’s been a busy evening since we got back from Saturn (the hugest and most ridiculous electronics store in the world, where we got our ethernet cables), and I spent at least four and a half hours on Google Voice talking to my parents, OU and the apartment management in Oklahoma. Google Voice is a life saver! Without it, I’d be in some deep doo-doo. Lots of weird problems have been resolved now, and at almost 1 AM here, I’m ready to crawl in bed.

So, a short narrative of my first three days here will have to wait until tomorrow. I suppose I was just posting this so I could check back into electronic civilization.

Made it!

This has to be quick, since I only have a few minutes left of internet usage at this cafe…but I’m happy to say that Natalye and I made it here safely and on time this morning, and after some naps and settling in, we’re enjoying a little neighborhood adventure. Pictures soon!