Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Discoveries

I've just discovered two fantastic things this week in Germany and I'd like to share them with you.

The first is Schnappi Das Kleine Krokodil...

The Schnappi song reached number 1 in Germany in January of 2005. I can't get this cute song out of my head. :)

The other thing I recently discovered is the Amerika-Haus in Nuremberg which has a library with over 9,000 English books and media sources (including current DVDs, magazines, newspapers, etc). I am really really excited that I found this place (totally by accident) and now have access to much more material to read in my native language. In addition, the Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut also host American and German cultural events, lectures and discussions.

Yah for cultural exchange institutions, and for helping me to feel a little bit more at home in Nuremberg.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Case of the Missing S-Bahn

Today after work, I was waiting on the platform in Mögeldorf, waiting for the S bahn to take me back to Lauf, when lo and behold it never shows.

Some woman's voice comes over the loud speaker and says in a very polite German way, "Blah blah blah (German I can't understand)... nach Lauf... blah blah blah... bau arbeit.... blah... vielen dank."

Of course not understanding the majority of the announcement, I keep waiting, thinking it was probably just saying the train is running late. I wait and wait... and soon another announcement comes on saying the same thing, only this time "nach Nuremberg"... and all of a sudden, the somewhat crowded platform full of Germans, young and old, start grumbling loudly, and all disappear down the steps.

Now I'm alone on the platform with one old man who keeps talking to himself and saying something like "I'm not from Germany. I'm not from Germany.", a teenage boy who had fallen asleep on the bench listening to his mp3 player, and a woman with curly blond hair who was trying to read the train schedule.

Of course, now the butterflies in my stomach are starting to flutter, because I want to ask her a question and either a) I have to ask if she speaks English and if she says no, walk away shamefully or b) try to formulate my question in German. I decide to attempt the latter... so I step forward and say in my most convincing German accent, "Entchuldigung, Warten Sie fur der Zug nach Lauf oder Nürnberg?"

When we figured out that the train wasn't coming, we went to go find a bus, and then in the end waited at the bus stop, in the cold, eating Leibniz Keks mit Dunkel Schokolade, for her husband to come pick us up.

She didn't speak English, I spoke broken German, but somehow we managed. Of course I didn't understand everything, and I certainly couldn't speak in such fabulously constructed German sentences but we managed to communicate well enough, that I got to know where she was from, what she does for a living, about her family, where she goes on vacation every year, etc. etc. I could tell her why I was here and where I was working and the likes. It was such a liberating feeling to be able to communicate my thoughts to her... and for her to understand. Breakthrough. At last.

After her husband dropped me off in the parkplatz in Lauf and I walked the five minutes back home, I felt incredibly proud of myself... I managed to survive a very awkward and uncomfortable situation (no train & no way home) all on my very own, in a new language.

(pat on back to self)

Anyways, this is the last week of October. I seriously feel like I just wrote an entry saying it was the last week of September. Despite how fast time is going, I'm enjoying my life here in Nuremberg.

So to all my blog followers and readers, until next time, take care.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oktober Happenings

So this week will be my 4 month anniversary since I've arrived here in Germany. Time is really flying quickly, because four months equals 1/3 of a year, and I definitely don't feel like I've been here in Germany for a 1/3 of the year of 2009. I was working and I was sick for a total of about 10 weeks, that's true, but there were so many other days that just seemed to pass by that I can't even remember.

I started my German class about two weeks ago. The class is filled with people from the US, from Portugal, Kenya, Russia, Japan, Ukraine, Poland, etc. etc... all trying to learn German. I like the class in some ways... although to be honest at times, its not the foremost place I'd rather be, but it does give me a chance to focus on learning the language in an environment where I can feel safe to make mistakes. Maybe one of these days I'll attempt to write a blog all in German and see how that goes. But in all seriousness, one of my most favorite ways to practice German (other than speaking with David of course :) is by reading kids' books. The vocabulary is (usually) simpler and the pictures make it more entertaining, as well as greatly assisting me in figuring out what the text says. My favorite books? Olivia.

Also, as of last week friday, I am officially employed here in Germany. (celebratory fireworks sound off here)... The craziest part about it, was that I was hired by two different companies within a matter of hours. I had an interview at 2:30 meeting with one language school, to teach business English to one client. I go--and basically they agree I can do the job--and then within the same hour--I get a call from another guy, who I assume is from the same school, asking if I can in fact start teaching already the next day, on Saturday, because they just found out that one teacher got stuck in the US, and won't return in time for the lessons. He asks if we can meet in Starbucks, I say okay, and at 4:30, I find myself in an overcrowded coffee shop in the Hauptmarkt, trying to find a "six foot tall, blond haired, blue eyed" man (as he described himself) Germany.

After we spot each other, we sit down and he asks me to tell him a little bit more about my experience teaching English. I find this odd, as we have, I thought, had several phone conversations already and I had explained all of this to him. I show him the folder and papers from the school I just came from, telling him I was just at the office in Nuremberg already today. After about twenty-minutes of talking, I realize that perhaps this isn't an employee from the same school... in fact is completely not related at all, and so have to confess embarrasingly that I don't even know his name or which school he is interviewing me for.

Luckily he didn't seem offended and laughed it off--and then offered me to teach two more clients that he needed English teachers for.

So after searching for weeks and weeks and applying to a plethora of schools and jobs, within a matter of hours, on a cold and rainy October Friday, I was hired by two schools to teach three different clients, for a total of seven lessons a week. A coincidence, a helping hand from above, or destiny--however you want to look at it, sometimes things happen and you don't know why.

I have only done one lesson so far, and tomorrow I have another, but I think I'll like it. And I'm excited. And happy to finally have a job! Wooo. Just needed to share that with the world wide web.

Other than that... I just want to share that tomorrow is my little brother's birthday. He's turning 13. A teenager. (gulp)... :P HAPPY BIRTHDAY NATHAN.

Machts gut und viel spaß... until next time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


It's snowing in Germany...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

total insomniac...

So I can't sleep. It is 1:22 am, and I find myself tired, but without any hope to actually shut my eyes and fall into any sort of slumber. The house I am currently in is very full, and I don't have many options of where to go and what to do. Thankfully I have access to a computer. After wasting more time than I care to admit on Facebook, I thought I'd update the blog.

These days I'm trying to "be productive". What does that even mean? Well for me, I'm trying to read much and write often while I apply to as many jobs that I can that seem suitable to my interests and abilities. Each night before I go to sleep, I tell myself "Tomorrow, I will be productive." Each morning when I awake, I say "Today I will be productive." And while I am putting effort in to reach this goal, I still find myself feeling disatisfied--like somehow I could have done more each day.

Today, I went out in search of ingredients to make pumpkin bread. I love all things pumpkin related, and so I was really looking forward to making this for David and his family. I had to walk a little further outside of Lauf's marktplatz to go to the bigger supermarket, as I had already searched a smaller store, with no luck of finding the most important ingredient (pumpkin!). I get there and start wandering around to try and find the things on my list. Searching searching all over the place, as 1) I'm not really familiar with the store and 2) I have to try to search for ingredients with foreign names. After a good twenty minutes, I find the mehl (flour), I find the muskatnuss (nutmeg), I find the sultanis (raisins)--then I go in search for my final missing ingredient--canned kürbis (pumpkin). I look through all the canned foods I can find, and while the German supermarket is stocked up on canned peaches, mangoes, apple, maracuja, and yes, even canned sausages... they didn't have a single can of pumpkin. :( ... so instead I went and bought some marshmallows and some rice krispies and opted to make rice krispie treats instead.

Tomorrow (or today really) I will go into Nuremberg and perhaps I will have better luck there finding my beloved pumpkin.

I am three minutes away from entering the 2 o'clock hour. I think I will give sleep another chance, but before I do, thought I'd list some sites that I've found useful, in case you ever find yourself living in Germany and are in search of a job, apartment, insurance, or English-speaking friend... the following websites can assist you with just those things: (good for job hunting and getting news happening in Germany in English, also list when and where to see movies in English (!)) (networking for and by English speaking expats in Germany) & (the German versions of craigslist, excellent flat-finding websites) (super duper useful in securing inexpensive yet mandatory health insurance for foreigners living in Europe for a year or more)

When I find more, I'll post them.

Until next time,

your American in Deutschland

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"From zero to hero..."

No matter which civilization, time period, or class of people you look to, you will find in existence a legend or story of a hero. Human beings have always been fascinated by the extraordinary, exceptional human being. The Greek poet Pindar, defined a hero as the offspring of a mortal and a god, or those who had done a great service to mankind. So in general every culture celebrates those who achieve or overcome the extraordinary.

A hero is not a hero without overcoming some major conflict or enemy. Conflict is a necessary element of fictional literature, but is also a part of everyday life. No human life exists without conflict, in whatever form it might take, either through a flat tire on the way to work, or a homeless man lacking food to eat, the struggle to overcome these obstacles results in what we call conflict. Those heroes we celebrate, challenge some form of nature (a beast, monster, wild animals, weather), another human being (in war or villain in everyday life), or they overcome or conquer something within themselves.

I was thinking about what kind of qualities make up a hero?

Bravery is one. Heroes are known to go where normal men are afraid to, and they seem to, at least in the stories, challenge death often.

Strength is another. One stereotypical image that comes to mind when thinking of a hero, is the monster slayer, with unhuman like strength such as Beowulf or Hercules. Strength however, does not always come in physical form, but very often through inner strength, or a strong belief that what they are fighting for is for a good or better cause.

Self-Discipline. There are those heroes that exemplify the search or journey to find something; the quest which usually allows them to find or defeat something in themselves first before they can battle outside forces. Gilgamesh, would fit into this category along with Buddha who conquered his innermost desires and urges that led him away from the path of enlightenment.

These heroes, although facing different external forces, all share one more internal characteristic as well. Besides strength and courage, another major qualification in heroes seems to be the principle of self-sacrifice. Many heroes seem to go beyond the call of duty to do things for others; saving villages, saving strangers, dying for the sake of humanity or for their people, putting themselves in situations that average men would avoid at all costs.

Heroes represent and give hope.

However, no matter how grand heroes may be, I think people don’t solely look to heroes for their perfection, but also for their weaknesses. Perhaps this may be why people are obsessed with celebrity gossip or just gossip in general, we want to know about the flaws of the people that are portrayed as perfect. We want to be reminded of the "human" qualities within. For superman, it was kryptonite and for Achilles, it was his heel. Even Jesus, who some believe is God, was tempted by the devil, according to the Bible. In very god-like characters, like the ones previously mentioned, a weakness must be invented or else no drama or story can exist, and truth be told, it would be just plain boring. Heroes, even though they almost always overcome their challenges, do not necessarily overcome them easily. And we want it that way.

We hold a soft spot in our hearts for those who overcome the odds, in whatever shape and form they may come in, from legends to everyday heroes who do even a little something beyond the call of duty. Every person in every society ever lived has picked up on the fact that there is evil in this world. The hero is the person who chooses to fight against that. No matter how minutely existing it may be, people believe in the ideal of the hero. They always have and they always will. We look for an example through these heroes and we try to see some small part of ourselves through them.

No matter if your hero is alive or dead, famous or not, man or woman, real or made up—we want to be like Superman, Batman, Hercules, Achilles, Jason, Gilgamesh, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, the saints, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. because we are all looking for something better to become. Even if you don't always believe that good always wins; heroes embody hope, and that is something everyone wants to believe in.

And as long as we want hope in our lives, we will always want heroes.