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GERMANIC MANIA

May. 16th, 2006

11:20 pm - New beginnings

This journal is being reincarnated as my progress diary on this weight-loss and fitness campaign.

If you've come across here via my other LJ, hi!

I'm going to write in here what's been going on in this part of my life, who is helping me with it, how I'm going about it and my goals. I have no idea yet whether I'm setting unrealistic goals, so I'll just give it a shot to start off with.

Here we go!

Tonight I talked to Pat and Nicole and they agreed (well, organised me) to go walking with them three mornings a week, starting tomorrow. So, I have to meet them at Victoria Park at 7am (which is already a 1/2 hour walk from my house!). I'm not sure where we're going to walk to yet - hopefully not somewhere too hilly! They're both far fitter than me.

Goal: By the end of May, I want to have gone walking 7 times and be able to get to at least Parramatta Road at a decent speed without being completely out of breath.

Tags:
Current Location: mum's
Current Mood: determined
Current Music: purring kitty

Jan. 25th, 2005

08:55 am - Wiesbaden, Norway and Singapore

I have been being lazy recently! I’ll use the excuse that I haven’t had enough time, even though, as you will read on, that is a patent lie. Such is life. I’ll be home in a week anyhow and you can get all the news firsthand. But to satisfy my legions of fans, here is a quick update on what I’ve been up to since I last bothered to post anything:

I think I forgot to mention this last time, but for dinner at Schmelzeisen’s we had coq au vin, that delicious French chook in wine sauce. They called it “besoffene Hahn” which translates as “the drunk rooster”. It’s just like using babelfish ey!

Nicole took me on a fairly comprehensive tour of the city on Friday morning. Wiesbaden is indeed an opulent city. It was (and mostly still is) inhabited by the richest Germans and has the most expensive shops for one sole reason – it is built upon hot springs renowned for their healing powers. The crème de la crème used to rush here in the old days to spend up to 2 years soaking in the curative waters at the splendid Kurhaus, and of course needed things to do to fill the rest of the time, which is where the shopping and theatres come in. Even the Hessen Landtag (state parliament) which used to be a castle is decked out like a miniature Versailles. We didn’t go in there, but Nicole assures me that it is indeed gorgeous.

In spite of all this history, opulence and richness surrounding me, I prefer the simple pleasures of life. My favourite place in this entire town was a tiny shop on a backstreet of the old part of the city – the Gummibear shop. In this shrine to sugar, there was every flavour, variety and shape of jelly lollies imaginable to humankind. I was in heaven!

In the evening, we went out to dinner at the Obermuhle, a little cottage restaurant about an hour’s drive from Wiesbaden. It was spectacular. The specialty there is spare ribs, so naturally I had to give it a go, and they were amazingly superbly indescribably delicious! When we were done, Nicole and I went and chatted to the guy manning the barbeque, which was an enormous circular metal grill swung around over an open fire. I want to build something like that at home! It looked so awesome and the food was so so so good.

On Saturday, Gaby (Nicole’s hostmum) took us to Kloster Eberbach, a former Cistercian monastery up in the mountains. It’s now a state vineyard and historical tourist attraction. We took an audio tour around and it was breathtaking. Everything was so old and so cold, it was hard to imagine the Cistercian monks living their Spartan life in this freezing bare place. For those movie buffs out there, Kloster Eberbach was the location of the indoor scenes of the film version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It is remarkably well preserved, with different sections from different centuries of the monastery’s inhabitation.

Sunday was a day of traveling. I had to be at Frankfurt Airport at 8am for my flight to Oslo, then I had to sit in a train for 6 ½ hours to Trondheim after hanging around in Oslo for several hours. To waste some time in Oslo I wandered down Karl Johans Gate towards the palace, taking a million photos. Oslo looks like a building site. Outside the Law faculty of the university the footpath was in bits, and it was still open to the public! I just hope that Norwegian people are either careful where they walk or not the suing type.
The train trip was insufferably boring. I was sitting next to a bloke from the National Service whose sole purpose of the trip was to keep his knees as far apart from each other as possible. This left me with about 3 cm of leg space, which was hardly comfortable.

Hugo met me at Trondheim station and we went for a bit of a drive around town to orient me. Trondheim is a gorgeous little city. It’s really just a big town, and how I think a city should be! There is a central part that is all old buildings and shops and offices, and then the suburbs branch off in every direction, just like Sydney. I loved it! Mette, Hugo and I spent the evening catching up on the gossip and having dinner. It was very pleasant and I felt right at home straight away.

Unfortunately, I had the most revolting cold which resulted in me spending most of each day either in bed on the couch, trying to breathe when it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I had a gorgeous sexy deep sultry voice, but it was entirely wasted. I spent the time over the next few days reading, playing Diablo and playing with Simen. He decided on my first day that I needed to learn some Norwegian, so he pulled down his first English ABC book and taught me the most important words like wizard (trollmann), alligator (alligator), milk (melk) and rainbow (regnbogn). I can work out written Norwegian, as it looks a bit like a crazy mix of German and English, but understanding the spoken language is still far beyond me.

We went out for dinner two nights this week – once to Mette’s parents and once to Monica’s. Dinner at Andersen’s was lots of fun, and it was great to see TOrdis and SveinHugo again. They still remembered me well from when my family came to stay with them for Christmas and New Year in 1997! We caught up on how everything is going with our respective families and had a very enjoyable dinner.

Monica, one of Mette’s friends that camped on our floor for several weeks in 1993 made dinner for us on Wednesday! Her daughter Hanna is so cute and Monica is about 4 months pregnant, so there’ll be another new baby in June! While Mette and Monica talked about babies and pregnancy and naughty children, Sigurd (Monica’s partner) and I had a long and involving discussion about relative politics and social policy in Norway and Australia.

As a side note, I am colossally impressed with the Norwegian people’s grasp of English. Even the bus drivers could speak perfect English! Well, more of them than can in Sydney…

On Thursday night we went out for dinner to an ancient Tavern (1720s) that served all traditional Norwegian food. As most of it was fish, I stuck to meatballs and mushy peas. It was surprisingly yum. We had waffles for dessert that we made ourselves on the big waffle iron in the front room.

Friday involved lots of packing, and finally, using Nicole’s magic packing technique, I managed to fit most of my stuff into the one suitcase! Unfortunately one of the front pockets had split, but Hugo did some quick work with electrical tape and a strap so it should hold together until I get home. When we were all packed up and ready to party, we took off for a weekend up at the family cabin in the mountains. It was snowing heavily and everything was completely white. When we finally got up there, we had to ski the last 50 metres to the cabin as the path had completely disappeared. I had borrowed Mrs Andersen’s skis for the exercise, but none of us could figure out how to attach the boots to the skis. In the end I walked through about 60cm of snow and collapsed in a dripping puddle when I got inside. It was a gorgeous little house, with three bedrooms, a big living area and a decent sized kitchen. The only downside was that the toilet was outside, and it was bloody cold in the middle of the night! The evening comprised of having meatball and potato soup for dinner, then playing games and listening to music until everyone collapsed of exhaustion soon after midnight.

Saturday was a bit of excitement. It had snowed heavily during the night, putting about 70cm of fresh fluffy snow on the ground and, more importantly, on the roads. Hugo went out fairly early with a spade and dug out the car, and then went up and down the track to the main road three times on his skis to try and flatten it down a bit. Mette and I packed up and tidied up the cabin, and then set off for the car. I ended up taking Mette’s skis and nearly made it to the car, until I fell backwards and couldn’t get up again. There was simply nothing to push against! I walked the last five metres to the carpark through snow up to my waist, and spent the hours drive to Oppdal defrosting and drying my jeans.

We stayed in Oppdal with Hugo’s grandmother, who was a lot like Oma Janßen in Weyhe. We were given more food than any normal person could handle, and fussed over in a very adorable way. She’s 83, and still cycles 3000km through the mountains every summer and has her finger on every single happening in the whole town. I went to repack my bags before going to bed and managed to get everything into the two suitcases, with neither extension extended! Very proud of myself. Sunday morning we had to get up really early (8:30am!!) and hopski to the train station so I could get the choo choo back down to Oslo, beginning the long trek home.

The train journey was gorgeous. There was snow everywhere, and a million little snow covered villages. I took lots of photos, and even a few videos when there was just too much to photograph. Once in Oslo I had 4 hours to sit around and ponder the meaning of life before getting the plane the Frankfurt, so I had lunch (the most FERAL pizza ever conjured into existence), checked email and other such housekeeping and played Diablo in a café. That flight was tolerable, but the next one from Frankfurt to Singapore was hell. 12 hours stuffed into cattle class of a crappy Lufthansa plane, surrounded by burly blokes, one of whom was returning from visiting his fiancé in Finland and two Scotsman who ogled hard core porn magazines for the whole flight. I made the grave mistake of eating the dinner we were given, and was rewarded with ominous gut grumblings for the rest of the flight.

The route took us directly over Tehran! I was practically leaning out the window at the back of the plane (where I spent most of the time) just being amazed at the lights and the shape of the city at night. Sunrise was also very pretty.

Singapore is hot, sweaty and busy. I got in at about 5pm local time and got a taxi to my hostel. My room (where I’m sitting at the moment) is lovely – a double bed, a table and mirror and a bathroom. Most importantly, it has an air conditioner! Tristan came and picked me up from the hostel yesterday evening and we set off for dinner and a walk around town. The satay was delicious! And we had mango juice that was literally two mangos rammed through a blender with some ice. The food here is awesome.

Tristan also lent me his old mobile number, so anyone who wants to sms me is more than welcome – comment if you want the number and I’ll email it to you.

Today is some Indian god festival that involves people having large metal spikes pushed through them and then balancing heavy things on the ends. Sounds like just my cup of tea… I’m meeting up with Tristan and a group of his mates from uni this afternoon to go and watch for a bit.

The jetlag is horrendously nasty. I was up this morning at 3am. I’m so tired, but just not sleepy. Hopefully things will get better.

Rightyho, I’m off to post this on the internet computers downstairs. Behave, and see you soon!

Current Mood: tiredtired

Jan. 14th, 2005

03:02 pm - Long long post

Well, I have been keeping notes of what I’ve been up to, but haven’t really had the time and/or interest to turn it into a coherent sequence of events until my final hour (from five) of boredom on the train to Mainz. Given that I’m nearly all the way through my CD collection I decided to actually get something pumped out to entertain you poor creatures.

I think the last thing I wrote about was planning to go to Oldenburg. Unfortunately, as I felt like liquid death due to a headache I wasn’t really up for a night of clubbing out on the town so I went to David’s with Anna, Jan, Lena, Irina, Anne and Lars. However, beforehand we had raclette for dinner with Renate and Jochen, two friends of the ‘rents. We were nine people around that table! I think for those down the other end it was probably a bit dark (for those who’ve been to Kempers =P). At about nine we set off for Neukrug well rugged up and looking forward to an evening of games. We played Outburst!, Taboo and Uno and had a lot of fun, chowing through crates of chips and gummi bears. At midnight we trooped outside and had great fun setting off fireworks, and all managed to survive the evening unscathed! We had some trouble with lighters and matches at first because it was fairly windy, but it was very entertaining watching the boys dance around with various explosives. Jan finally relented and took us girls home at about 3am, but I still couldn’t sleep. I think here was where my sleep pattern became truly retarded.

On New Years Day, Annette, Klaus and I staggered down to the kitchen at about 11:30 for some breakfast (Renate and Jochen had stayed until about 2:30am) and then we decided that today was the day to collect our old bike from Oma’s that we’d swapped for her new shiny one when the Aussies were here. The weather was absolutely gorgeous – not too cold, not windy and the SUN was shining! We had a lovely hour or so riding through Weyhe, mostly on the field roads. There were lots of people out walking and enjoying the beautiful weather. In the afternoon I just fell back into bed, so tired…

2-1-2005
Today was another typically lazy day. During the day there was much eating, playing of games and coffee, and then I went for pizza at Knief’s and then to the movies with Axel! We saw The Incredibles and he really enjoyed it. Surprisingly enough I really enjoyed it too (given that I’d already seen it twice) and we had a relaxing drink at our old haunt, the Irish Pub after the movie. It was just like old times and we chattered for ages about everything from the last two years.

3-1-2005
Svenja finally managed to get hold of me – she had organised for us to have cocktails this afternoon with her Australian friend from the Musical Company! Sofia is an opera singer from Melbourne, via New York and is now studying at the Hanoverian School of Music. She moved to Bremen to be with her fiancé and is totally hating the weather. We had a brilliant chat about all sorts of stuff, all that shared experience things. I ended up being invited to a master class she was holding on Thursday night, so I might see what that’s like! When I got home I made pancakes for all and sundry, which was very popular.

4-1-2005
I saw Oma for the last time for this trip today! I went to her house to eat pancakes with blueberries, and it was amazingly yummy, as always. I was so full after two pancakes! Afterwards we watched the news and talked for a bit, then I had to go home because we planned to go shopping in the afternoon. It was so windy – on the way there it only took me 10 minutes to get to Kirchweyhe (normally 20) but on the way back I was fighting against the wind and I sometimes had to stop because I was pedaling my hardest, but not going forward! It was no fun, and took me nearly 40 minutes. However, when I got home Annette had a headache and I was completely spent from fighting the wind so we all went back to bed for a nap. I’m really enjoying this holiday.

5-1-2005
Nicole picked me up at 11 this morning to go shopping in Bremen for the last time. We were looking for a mouse for my laptop, stockings (I got awesome orange striped ones) and all the necessities to take home. I think we bought all of Hachez, and I got an awesome present for Dad in the Schnoor! We went around all the big stores and I finally got to take a photo of the Rathaus. Last time I was here it was all covered up for renovations, and since I was here the marketplace was covered up with Christmas markets so I could never get a good view.

6-1-2005
This afternoon we managed to get to the handwork shop and get the stuff for my cross stitches! Annette dropped me at the station afterwards and I met up with Svenja and Sofia again for coffee and dinner at Alex am Domshof. We decamped en masse at about 6:30 to the Waldau Theater for the master class! I got to play the piano for one song, All That Jazz (and I stuffed it up) but it was altogether good fun and very instructive. I think I learned a lot. It’s funny how people walk in and out of your life and you’ll never forget them. I’ll likely never see Sofia again, but just for those three days we were best mates, with a complete shared understanding of what its like to be an Aussie in Bremen that I didn’t even have with Briony on exchange! I hope that if she’s drifting past Sydney she’ll give me a call.

7-1-2005
I indulged in one of my newer, more entertaining hobbies today. I hunted monsters! Diablo II is an awesome game. Jan put it on my laptop for me, and I spent the majority of today up in Annette’s room sitting on the floor next to her, both of us happily beating the crap out of giant beetles with magic wands. It was very sociable. I also fell into bed at about 8:30 – I just couldn’t keep my eyes open! However, then I was awake again at 12:30 (I’m writing this now) and hopefully I’ll get back to sleep soon (ed: I got back to sleep at 3 and slept till 11:30).

8-1-2005
Anna and Klaus did maths homework the WHOLE DAY today. From after breakfast until midnight, and they still didn’t get it finished. So glad I’m not studying maths…Annette and I hunted monsters again and played Skipbo and Phase 10. Mama is good fun to be around.

9-1-2005
Anna decided that today there shall be no maths, so we played games with Mama and generally had a good chuckle. Unfortunately everyone was a bit tired so tempers were going off in every direction. It’s so nice to feel so accepted by a family that they can scream at each other in front of you! Other than that thought, it wasn’t all that pleasant for anyone.

In the evening we trundled off to the Italian restaurant around the corner and had the most delicious meal. Jan and Anne came along as well and there was much fun had by all. Afterwards we sat by the candles of the Christmas tree and talked, making all sorts of plans about the next time I was going to come and visit, and also what we were going to do when they came to visit me.

10-1-2005
I got up way too early today. Mama woke me at 9:30am! Criminal, I tell you. However, we did have a lot to do. I had a package to send off from the post office, and I also hadn’t even started packing yet! We managed to fit in a stopover at school and Anne and I went and sat in Mr Wattenberg’s classroom to see if he’d recognise me. Wattenberg was my English major teacher two years ago. It took him a minute, but he even remembered my name!! I have his email address now – I need to send him a photo I took on the England class trip in September 2002. The weather was gorgeous – 18 degrees in the shade and brilliant sunshine. As lovely as that was, it is truly screwed up weather for North Germany in January! Two years ago (nearly today) when I left germany it was -16 degrees and just so cold. Stupid weather.

I got all packed in record time, although I seem to have so much more stuff than I came with… I filled both suitcases to bursting and my rucksack was so heavy with books and other such excitement. When I was all done we had lunch (mmm pasticcio) and played a last round of Phase 10 and Skipbo. Anna, Lena, Klaus, Mama and all of Anne’s family came to the train station. It wasn’t awfully sad like last time, but it was very odd saying goodbye to Anne. Last time we farewelled one another we knew we’d see each other in about 2 months. This time, who knows when we’ll see each other again…

I nearly cried, but I managed to hold it together. It was easier to leave this time but I definitely feel closer to Kempers and Anne.

The train trip to Mainz was stink boring. 5 hours with very little to do… I slept for some of it, but mostly listened to music. Patty picked me up at Mainz train station and we went back to her apartment to have something to eat and catch up on the last two years. It’s terrific fun being around her, as always, and we always have heaps to talk about. It was fun jumping between German and English, depending on which words made more sense according to the topic we were discussing. She went to bed at about 1am, but I was still awake so I started reading a book… and finished reading a book, at about 4am. It was good, but predictable.

11-1-2005
Today Patty and I walked around Mainz for a bit, and went to the Isis Temple under a shopping centre in town. Mainz is an ancient Roman city and a developer’s absolute nightmare. You can’t dig a hole for a fence post without finding some priceless roman artifact. With this temple, the shopping centre owners simply excavated the temple and built it into the cellar, then built the shopping centre over the top! It’s really well done – thoughtfully presented.

When we got sick of the city we went back to Patty’s parents’ house in Klein-Winternheim. Edith needed us to help with the horses! We took two of the horses and Spike for a walk around the vineyards up the hill, chattering about exchange students and Patty told me about a postion her parents were offering – as she’s intending to do her overseas exchange from July 2005, her mother will need someone to help with the horses over winter, and she asked me to ask around in Australia.

Therefore people, you heard it here first. Free board and lodging in a village 10 minutes by bus from Mainz (which is in the middle of Germany), and that all for helping with the horses a couple of hours each day. They need you anytime between November 2005 and February 2006 (preferably as long as possible). You don’t need to be able to speak German, but you need to be willing to learn. If anyone is interested in coming to Europe for the summer holidays next year, comment and I will put you in contact with Schmelzeisens here. They’re awesome people, great fun to be around.

In the evening, Patty and I cooked chicken fried rice and it was really really good. The whole apartment still smells of capsicum though! We stayed up talking and watching Conor the Celt (with Heath Ledger very young and sexy in tight leather pants) until about 2am, what point we both collapsed from exhaustion.

12-1-2005
Today was a lazy day. It rained the whole time, so both of us just felt like lazing around. I went and got my hair cut in the next town, Nieder-Olm and then we went to a games store to see if I could find Phase 10 to take home with me. They didn’t have it, but they had some awesome long gummy pencils that looked like lots of fun.

The whole afternoon we lazed around the house, reading, doing puzzles and chattering. Very late in the evening Alex came back from a business trip to Berlin and we ended up talking until Patty had to go home at about 11 so that she’d be able to get up in time to go to her lecture at 8 the next day! I stayed up reading my book for a while, and it was very companionable with Spike snoring on the floor next to me.

13-1-2005
I’m writing this as I wait for Nicole to come pick me up. I’m cautiously optimistic that by the end of the week I’ll be able to reduce my number of bags to three rather than four, since everything closed easier today… otherwise I’ll just have to wear every sweater and coat that I have on the way to Norway on Sunday.

I had breakfast with Edith and Alex this morning, and then had a really long hot shower and washed all the hairspray out of my hair. That’s my one gripe with hairdressers, they always use too much goop. My hair is much shorter now, and completely off my neck. I love it!

Ack, Nicole is here. I shall attempt to post this sometime today, otherwise you’ll just have more to read tomorrow

...

I didn't get to post, so I'm just hastily adding an addendum here. It's lovely here in Wiesbaden and this house is amazing. We did a tour of Wiesbaden this morning, but I've managed to pick up my bronchitis again so I'm going back to bed now.

Also, congrats to Karen. I'm looking forward to meeting lil' Jasmine :)

Cheers!

Dec. 31st, 2004

01:18 am - Jever and Weyhe

I’ve been instructed by my mother to try and write something every day, so I don’t forget things, and she has something to read and doesn’t have to chase me up all the time.

Ice skating was not so hot. The ice was filthy and slashed up like a B grade horror film. There were also 4 billion people there, so for a beginner like me it was a bit of a maze. Anne and I gave it a go until I did something to my hip – the muscles just went PLOOP or something, and it hurt so much just to walk, let alone skate so I gave up. I know, such a wuss. While we were waiting at the tram stop to go home, we built a little snow couple, about 10 inches tall with the snow that was on the platform. So cute!

When I got home, since it was only me, Annette and Klaus we decided to go out for pizza instead of bothering to cook. Lots of fun!

Wednesday I went to Knief’s in Sudweyhe for lunch. It was fantabulous to catch up with Axel and Nicole again, and I managed not to stuff myself hugely! Wednesday evening we went to see Ocean’s Twelve in Bremen (my birthday present). Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, save your money. Or go see The Incredibles or something. I was not overly impressed.

Today was lots of fun. Anne took me to Jever and the North Sea coast to visit her grandparents and do some sightseeing. Her driving was awesome! If she tries to tell you she can’t drive, tell her to bugger off. It could have been a bit faster though ;) It was cold, and damp the whole day. We went first to Hooksiel, one of the North Sea ports and poked around the harbour and the beach a bit. The Germans have a very curious idea of what a beach is. When we were there, it was a dyke, followed by a swamp, followed by a small stretch of sand, followed by miles of mud. I assume the water was out there somewhere, but it could just be on vacation round the Indian Ocean…
Lunch in Schortens with Anne’s grandparents was wonderful. They are so sweet and lovely, and so now I have yet another set of grandparents! In the afternoon we wandered around the castle in Jever, and then hunted all through the town for a specific present I wanted for my mother. Nowhere had it though! I shall have to go hunting in Bremen and see if there is something similar there.

After a long and uneventful drive home (except for a gruesome accident on the Autobahn), I watched Mama fight monsters on Diablo II, then dinner. Then we watched Toy Story 2! That is such a great film. Then we played lots of cards, and now Mama and Papa have gone to bed and the other kiddies are playing Dr Mario on Jan’s computer. I shall head to bed soon – I’m going shopping fairly early tomorrow morning with Mama (10am!!) and then we’re going to the needlework shop to have a hunt for aida and thread for a pattern I want to work. In the late afternoon I’m headed up to Oldenburg to celebrate New Years with Anne and her friends at some party. Should be fun!

Cheers, and viel Spaß!

Current Mood: complacentcomplacent

Dec. 28th, 2004

03:58 pm - Christmas!

As I’m writing this, the ground is becoming slowly but surely buried in white stuff, and I am slowly but surely losing all feeling in my toes. Yes, it’s that time of year. Yay for snow! I doubt I’ll get this finished all in one go – Anne is picking me up to go ice skating in a while. If it’s anything like last week, should be a riot for everyone else.

Anne’s birthday last Saturday was lots of fun – we sat around eating mountains of food for breakfast and then I stayed for the afternoon and chattered with Anne and her parents and grandmother.

From then until Christmas, my days mostly consisted of slacking around the house, reading books and shopping in Bremen with Anne. We also went ice skating last Tuesday, as I mentioned above. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t fall down once! After skating we went into Bremen and saw “The Incredibles”, which wasn’t nearly as funny in German as in English.

Oma Kemper (Klaus’s mother) arrived on Thursday from Dortmund to spend Christmas with us here in the far north. She’s very sweet and lovely, but doesn’t listen to a word one says, and is firmly of the belief that Klaus is always right (which annoys Annette no end). On Christmas Eve, thankfully Annette’s present turned up in the post and I got my last parcels under the tree. Anna also drove me around the village to my other host families’ houses to deliver their Christmas presents to them. As a result, I’m invited to lunch again next Wednesday. I swear, these people’s purpose in life is to stuff me like a turkey! I’m not complaining that much though.

We had coffee and cake fairly late on Christmas Eve, then went to Church. It was very different to church services at home, but interesting. We sang a lot of hymns that I didn’t know, and I completely missed the whole point of the sermon. When we got home, we had a traditional German Christmas Eve dinner of sausages and potato salad, which was so yummy. After singing Christmas carols, on Lena’s insistence we finally got around to opening presents. I did rather well, with a pair of earrings, a book, a bracelet, a recipe book and a complete set of colourful felt tip pens! After spending a while on the phone with my family at home, eavesdropping on THEM opening their presents, I collapsed into bed.

Christmas Day composed of eating. I was woken for breakfast at 10, picked up for lunch at 11, went to a Greek restaurant for lunch with Anne’s family, then went home to pass out for an hour or two, before going out for dinner again to the same Greek restaurant with Kempers! Luckily, the food is awesome, although all my clothes stank afterwards of cigarette smoke.

Smoking everywhere is a very antisocial habit of the Germans. It means that whenever I go out, the next day I have to hang my coat outside and wash all my clothes, which is generally very inconvenient.

Sunday involved lots of sitting around, doing nothing until I went out with Anna and her friends to play billiards in Delmenhorst. My billiard skills are horrendous. I always hit a ball, and it was always the ball that I wanted to hit. Sadly, it never went in the direction I wanted to go. After 6 games I hung up my cue and watched the others. It was fun, but smoky again.

Yesterday Anne came over in the afternoon and helped me ice the rest of the lamingtons. Oma went back to Dortmund so we had the kitchen to ourselves, interruption-free! We sat around and chatted for ages – it was lots of fun.

Today was more lazing around – I’ve nearly finished my long boring book, so I have to start rationing myself again. I think I’m going to go into Bremen sometime this week, or next week and buy myself a cross-stitch so that I have something to do on the long train trips to Trondheim and back. Plus, I have to start thinking about how I’m going to lug all this crap back to Sydney.

Anyway, Anne is just pulling up out the front to collect me, so I have to dash and gather up all my stuff and be off to hopefully not embarrass myself too much on the ice skating rink!

Cheers and snowy hugs!

Current Mood: coldcold

Dec. 18th, 2004

09:13 am - Weyhe

Postage! To those who have been complaining about the lack of writage, pipe down and go do something useful.

Last Thursday Checks and I went to see The Incredibles after floating around in that internet café. It was an AWESOME movie, although in my opinion it took too long to get the rest of the family involved. Afterwards we wandered home and got pizza and spaghetti for dinner from a tiny pizzeria up the road that was all cigarette smoke and no customers. The food was excellent though.

On Friday we got up very late and walked from Alexanderplatz up to the Brandenburg Gate, stopping for lunch on the way. It was great to just eat a hunk of meat again – Germans always want to dress it up! We did a bus tour around the city, with a different tour guide this time who talked so strangely. The little words he rushed through like there was a deadline, and the street and landmark names he stretched out till I couldn’t understand a single word he was saying. It was very cool seeing all the lights around the city though.

Saturday involved lots of travel. We quitted the apartment fairly early (9am, that’s early for us students) and on the way to the underground station it snowed! Only very lightly, but enough to impress two Aussies. We left our bags at Ostbahnhof before wandering down to the remainder of the Berlin Wall. Checks was mightily impressed at the graffiti, but it was so icily cold that we didn’t hang around there long. All the way on the train back to Bremen all the trees were white and the ground frozen.

Bremen was completely insane when we go there. It was soccer day (Bremen v Leverkusen) AND Christmas Markets, so the city was jam packed full of people, most of them a bit the worse for wear. Soccer in Germany (and, I think, the whole world) is closely affiliated with beer, and Christmas markets with grog and mulled wine, so it was a very merry population. Checks and I had to wait about two hours before Nicole’s train got in from Wiesbaden but we finally got on a train going back to Weyhe and Klaus picked us up from the station.

Just about my entire memory of this week consists of eating. Eating at home, eating at Oma’s, eating eating eating. I think I won’t need my bike anymore, I can just roll around places. To our credit, we have been riding bikes around to various eating places, so the weight gain hasn’t been too shocking.

Sunday was spent mostly floating around the house, getting our bearings and eating. We also rode to Oma’s to pick up an extra bike for Nicole. On Monday we were invited to have lunch at Oma’s house, and what a lunch it was. First sherry to tickle up the appetite, then rouladen (steak rolled up with bacon and onion) with gravy, potatoes, red cabbage, peas and carrots. We ate until not a single crumb would still fit, and there was still enough left over to do it all again twice. Then Oma brought out pudding and berries, which we of course managed a bowl of, because vanilla pudding is impossible to resist.

In order to give our poor bellies a chance to recover, we went for a cycle around Sudweyhe, past my first host families’ houses and the old church. We also dropped in on Lemmermans, where I used to play the piano when I stayed with my second host family. We came on exactly the right day, because they were flying off to America on Tuesday to spend Christmas with Elke’s family in Missouri. Then back at Oma’s there was more coffee and cake, and then we came home and had dinner.

My stomach will never forgive me.

On Tuesday we caught a lift in with Mama and wandered around Bremen, doing the touristy stuff. Sadly it was grey and cloudy (typical Bremen weather) so all the photos are dark and gloomy. Oh well. Checks and Nicole were suitably impressed by my little “Dorf mit Strassenbahn” (Village with a tram system). I think the most fun was had in the Hachez Chocolate shop.

Wednesday was an altogether entertaining day. We wanted to go up to Oldenburg to go to uni with Anne for a day. However, we all got up really late, and luckily managed to scab a lift into town with Mama who was working a half day. We eventually caught a train, and got to Oldenburg at about 1:15, giving us (or so we thought) plenty of time to get a bus to the uni and meet Anne for her class at 2. The bus station was just next to the railway station, so we skipped across there and jumped on the 310 bus, which said University on it. All good, or so we thought. After about 20 minutes, the bus pulled up at the side of the road, and the driver turned the engine off and started eating his lunch. As you can imagine, we were a bit worried about whether we had missed our stop or not, or quite what was happening, so Nicole went up to the driver and asked him if this was the end of the line. He answered yes. Nicole: But the 310 goes to the university. Driver: Yes. Nicole: Did we pass the uni already? Driver: No. Nicole: But this bus goes to the university. Driver: Yes.

Eventually we sorted out that this bus indeed goes to the uni, but we had to get out and wait for the driver to come and pick us up again at the stop around the corner. After all that excitement, we only saw Anne for about 25 minutes before she had to go to her next class, and we went home to Weyhe.

On Thursday we were again invited to eat lunch with Oma, this time at the local hotel, Koch. Mum and Dad stayed there when they came to visit me during my exchange year. As always, the food was excellent and far too much. After that we went to school, supposedly to do a presentation on Australia for Lena’s (my host sister) English class, but it had been cancelled so we stuck our heads in the music department where I spent most of my exchange year and ended up rehearsing for the Christmas concert with one of the music classes. It was very amusing watching Checks try to understand what Veronika was organising – he was playing the xylophone!

Thursday night we sadly farewelled Checks as he embarked on the next stage of his world trip/Canadian odyssey. I think he had an altogether good time in Germania, his last point of friendly known faces before disappearing into the Canadian wilderness.
Today was a big exercise in lazing around. Nicole was industriously plowing through the His Dark Materials trilogy and I was alternately sleeping and reading a scholarly text by Bill Bryson delving into the origins of American English. The weather was shockers, so we felt justified staying indoors and doing nothing.

Tomorrow morning Nicole is abandoning me for her home in Wiesbaden and I’m off to brunch at Anne’s house for her 20th birthday! She’s getting lamingtons as a present, so I hope she doesn’t read this before I see her in the morning.

Prost!

Current Mood: goodgood

Dec. 9th, 2004

11:54 am - Berlin

Another day, another post :) Since I last wrote in this journal I've farewelled one lot of boys and collected the next lot (well, the next one anyway).

On Sunday Clive and I decided we were too tired to get up early to go to the Bundestag so we just wandered out at about midday and went to the museums. First we went to the Altes Museum which houses an enormous collection of ancient Greek artefacts. We walked around there for about an hour, me mostly reading the information post things and Clive mostly looking at the various pots, statues and old stuff. The central dome area was full of statues of the Greek gods and goddesses, and a few satyrs thrown in for good measure.

After we'd had our fill of looking at small old stuff, we trooped around to the Pergamon Museum to look at BIG old stuff! The sheer audacity of the German archaeologists in buggering off with entire temples and gates and whatnot was quite impressive. One section i really liked was the collection of ancient Islamic art, following various Muslim civilisations through their history. Lots of rugs, statues, writing and mosaic prayer niches. My absolute favourite was a 5 foot tall illuminated copy of the Qu'ran. It was beautiful.

Sunday night we just slacked around at home again after eating and drinking at this crazy American diner near the museum island.

Monday was House Elf Day! Clive and I packed up our stuff fairly early on Monday morning and set off for the new apartment. We'd been staying in a lovely two room flat in Friedrichshain. The new place was a one room second floor room in Prenzlauer Berg. We lugged our luggage around the S-Bahn for about an hour and finally got back into the open air at Senefelderplatz, the closest station. At this point, my jaw just about hit the ground. From the station i could SEE the apartment where Jens used to live! I couldn't believe that I'd entirely forgotten which station 'home' was. Argh so blonde.

After getting to the teeny little flat and flopping on the floor for a while, Clive and I set off with our filthy clothes to find a laundromat. We hung around at the laundromat for about 2 hours, washing and drying clothes. There were these mad people dressed all in leather who were also there washing, but had brought beer and dice to play with while they waited. I've decided i really like having a washing machine at home...

Tuesday morning i had to get up criminally early (7am!!) to go to Ostbahnhof and pick Checks up! The poor muffin had travelled from Hong Kong and arrived in Frankfurt at 6pm on Monday, then caught the overnight train to Berlin that got in just before 8. I was late, because a flock of nuns wouldn't move to let me get off the train at Ostbahnhof! I had to go to the next station and catch a train back. Checks thought this was about the only acceptable excuse for being late. We ditched our bags in a locker at Alexanderplatz and caught a train to Unter den Linden and walked through the Brandenburg Gate to the Bundestag. THis time we walked straight in and went up to the viewing platform at the top. Took lots of photos, then headed to a net cafe to nerd it up for a while.

In the afternoon we wandered through the Tiergarten, this enormous park in the middle of Berlin. During the siege of West Berlin, the citizens cut most of the trees down and planted fields of potatos, carrots and turnips in order to have enough food to stay alive! We also checked out the victory statue, Victoria, that it most well known for her role as the centrepiece of the annual Love Parade here in Berlin.

Yesterday we went to the Australian Embassy to pick up some newspapers, and then Checks left me at a swanky cafe to drool over my newspapers with a hot chocolate and took himself off the the Aquarium. Apparently it was heaps cool. Afterwards, we trekked down Friedrichstraße to Checkpoint Charlie. Checks spent about 400million years in the museum there, but i was well entertained. Last night was another lazing around watching weird German television kind of night. We listened to lots of jazz and nattered until about midnight.

Today we're going to see THE INCREDIBLES!!! I'm so excited. Then tomorrow we're going on a bus tour and also to the Pergamon Museum again. I love that place.

Saturday we're heading back to Bremen, and meeting up with Nicole for a week of Australian-Germanian madness! Should be fun, involving lots of food.

Cheerio

Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful

Dec. 4th, 2004

01:49 pm - Berlin

What a couple of days...

After I finished writing the last post I decided to stuff going back into the city and just went back to the apartment and watched tv. Twas very relaxing. 9pm came and went without a phone call. So did 10pm. And 11pm. And midnight.

By this point I was getting somewhat freaked out because as far as i knew, both Clive and Ed knew the address, were arriving at 9ish and were coming to the apartment. I slept somewhat horribly, always half awake so I'd hear the door buzzer. The next morning both had still not turned up so I walked up the street to the payphone and called Mum in Sydney to see if she could get in touch with Ed's parents and see what the hell was going on.

To cut a long and tedious story short - Clive was only meant to be arriving on the Thursday morning at 9, which I'd totally missed in the emails, and Ed spent the night wandering around Berlin and sleeping on park benches because he forgot to pick up my address and phone number before he left London. ARGH.

However, it is now all good, and we've been having lots of fun here in Berlin.

On Thursday we wandered into the city along the wall, and went down to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It was so interesting, all the stories about how people escaped or tried to escape from East to West. Ed also managed to get himself lost, which we discovered later to be the result of his lack of timetelling machinery, so he has my watch on loan until Monday. Thursday night we came home and tumbled into bed fairly early, but sadly made a terrible discovery.

Clive snores. Not just snores, but that earth shattering, volcanic variety of snoring. I did get some sleep because I'm somewhat used to it (not mentioning any names) but Ed has never had to experience something like that.

Yesterday we got up very late and headed to the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) and joined the queue to go up to the dome for a view over the city. However, when we discovered that it was going to be a three HOUR wait to get to the front of the queue, we hurriedly quitted the scene and headed back towards the train station. On the way we passed a lady selling tickets for something and ended up cruising around the city on a bus tour! It was really interesting to hear some of the history of the area in German and English. Then last night we came back to the Europa-Center, went to American Barbeque night at one of the local restaurants and ate ourselves silly, then went to this cosy little bar down the road a bit. It was so nice, although i think we were the youngest people there by about 40 years.

Today everyone is really tired so we're just wandering around the city this afternoon and then picking up a bottle of wine and ingredients for dinner and heading back to the apartment. One of my mates from mIRC lives here in Berlin, so I might meet up with him for a drink tonight or something.

Tomorrow we're planning to go very early to the Bundestag to get on the first liftload up to the top of the tower, and then head to the Museum Island to take advantage of the free entry day! There are four museums there that I'd love to see, including the Egyptian Antiquities Museum and the Pergamon Museum.

It is not so cold here, about 5 degrees today. However, at night it gets down around zero and its freezing!

All in all Berlin has been trés cool so far :)

Current Mood: nerdy

Dec. 1st, 2004

05:55 pm - Birthday and Berlin

Ahh, time for a new update. I'm hanging around in Berlin waiting for Ed and Clive to show up, so I popped into this extremely seedy net cafe to update for youse all :)

Where did I finish last time? Ah, Sunday.

Monday was busy. Although i got to sleep in, I went to lunch at Oma's in Kirchweyhe and Bettina (my host aunt) was there! It was great to catch up and hear how all that family is going. We ate delicious typical north German cuisine - roast something from a pig, lots of big yellow potatoes, carrots and peas with butter and lots of gravy. It was so so so yummy.

Then when I got home, I went shopping in Bremen with Annette and Lena! They needed various new clothes and I needed a book, stockings and possibly shoes if i could find anything nice. I found all three! Electric pink stockings which are tres cool, and these very sexy brown heeled shoes that are just gorgeous! They're reasonably comfortable to wear as well :)

Tuesday I was woken up way too early. Thanks Mum! It was, of course, my nineteenth birthday. I got rung by many people, got lots of presents and blew out candles fairly early in the morning and had a lovely lazy day. I GOT A LLAMA! And a Winnie the Pooh towel and loads of chocolate. During the day i had to go out and get bread for the soup and on the way home i treated myself to lunch at the Thai place run by Norwegians. Its still the same, except they have a vietnamese cook now. The food is heaps better.

Late Friday afternoon Nicole Knief came around for a while! It was lovely to see her again. She's now teaching French two days a week and learns Spanish on Tuesday nights. It's Herfried's (her husband's) 50th this weekend, but I'm not going to be there ;( The whole French troupe of relatives is coming on Friday and staying until after Christmas! It'll be great to see them again and especially to see how big Manon is!

About 7:30 the party really got underway. Anne, Svenja, Corinna and Antje and Sigi Michelt came, and we all sat around eating soup and bread and catching up on all the gossip. THEN there was birthday cake - my favourite cherry cake!! I ate far too much as usual and rolled into bed after packing my suitcases at about midnight.

This morning I had to get up somewhat early to catch a lift with Annette into the city. I wandered around for a few hours in the drizzly horrible rain before leaping on a train to Berlin! I had to change trains in Hannover and the train from there to Berlin was half an hour late, then the it sat in the middle of nowhere for another 40 minutes. Argh! It didn't really bother me because I didn't have another connection to get, but lots of people on the train did.

Because the train was going to be more than an hour late arriving, all the passengers got a 20% refund of their ticket! I bet if CityRail started doing that they'd be on time far more often...

When I finally got to Ostbahnhof in Berlin, I could not be bothered catching the S-Bahn and just got a taxi. It ended up costing about the same! I found the apartment easily and the landlord is really nice. He showed me all around, including where the closest supermarkets and pubs are and then took his leave. I wandered down to the shops and got some essentials and something to cook for dinner, and after I'd put that away decided to walk into town along the Spree River.

You can't walk directly along the river, because there is a wall in the way.

Yes, the Berlin Wall. I'd almost literally fallen over it (and other people as I continued walking alongside the wall without looking straight ahead). The paintings and messages were very interesting to read - I don't think I've been in this part of Berlin before. Not that I remember anyhow.

I didn't make it all the way into the city, but i'm heading there now. I stopped off at the Ostbahnhof to read email and update this. Next I'm going to catch the S-Bahn to Alexanderplatz and go to the Irish Pub there for a bit. Then home to cook dinner and watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and waiting for my boys to show up! THen I think I might take them along the wall :)


There are photos up of some things I've been to so far at http://users.on.net/~schaafa/deutschgal/
(Thanks Menno!). Hopefully soon there'll be a real gallery and such excitement, but you can see some pictures there :). Some are labelled, but I didn't get around to doing all of them. I'll do that soon!

Anyway, my time here is up.

Cheerio!

Current Mood: contentcontent

Nov. 28th, 2004

10:58 pm - Update!

Apologies to those who have been following this religiously – I’ve been so lazy in the last few days.

I wrote the following entry on the train on Wednesday, and never got around to posting it…

Well, we made it to Frankfurt! I’m writing this sitting on an ICE train at the airport.

The flight Singapore to Frankfurt was great! Nicole and I don’t even remember take off – we just crawled onto the plane in a state of near delirium from tiredness, plumped up our pillows and passed out. Nicole had to keep getting up to stretch her legs and other such excitement, but I don’t even recall her moving. I slept for about nine hours, and dozed for the rest. Stupid Lufthansa planes, no Nintendo games! Singapore Airlines rocks!

Coming out of the airport was a lot easier than I remembered from last time (although that was three years ago). The nice man even stamped our passports for us! He was all confused because we didn’t have a leaving stamp from anywhere, plus both Nicole and I still have our student residence permits from last time. Poor dude. There was no one at border customs thingy, so we managed to smuggle an entire chocolate factory into the country! Yay for lax German customs.

I just had the most AMAZING coffee in a little café at the train station here. It was terrifyingly bitter, but with sugar it was a work of art. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish it because I had to dash for the train, which is very annoyingly delayed, because there’s a train broken down on the main line. So, we have to go via the old line over the Rhine, and will be 60-90 minutes late in Cologne. Given that according to my ticket I have four minutes to pissbolt across the platform in Cologne, this is not good. I’m going to have to catch another train that I probably won’t get a seat on. *cries*. At least my suitcase is chunky enough to sit on. Plus, it’s so full of crap that I’m unlikely to break anything.

I just called Klaus to tell him that I’m running late – the lovely man sitting next to me lent me his mobile. I love Germans! I can understand about one word in 4 of what he says, but it’s enough to get by. We had a good little chatter about where I come from and whether my laptop batteries will last me all the way home. Lucky I have Patsie’s book to keep me entertained!

Now I have at least another five hours in a train before Papa meets me at Bremen station. I think I might get home, hide the Christmas presents then go for a bike ride around Weyhe and see if everything is the same as I remember. I guess I have to see if I can remember to ride a bike first!


Well, I did remember how to bike ride. I took some gorgeous photos around Weyhe at sunset and generally froze to pieces. It was so cold that when I finally got home and had a shower, my skin went bananas from heating up so fast. Stupid sensitive skin.


It is just like I never left. I’ve heard that for exchange students returning to their host country there are two options – either (1) it’s like they never left and the intervening time was just a short holiday; or (2) everything is irrevocably different and weird and just not right!

Of course, there are things that are different, but overall everything is familiar.

Last Thursday I went to Bremen for the day. Annette works at the Technology University near the airport, so I caught a lift in with her and then rode the tram into town. Even though it was already 10am, the sun was still rising and the whole city was so cold and quiet. It had also been about -5 degrees overnight so everything was still frozen and it looked like it had been snowing! I wandered through the Schnoor, and then to a tiny newsagent in the Lloyd-Passage to buy 400 million postcards. I ended up having a lovely chat with the ladies in the shop – they couldn’t believe that I wasn’t German from Bremen, and if I did insist on being a foreigner, that I hadn’t been in Germany for two years. It was great for my ego. I took my postcards and sat in the window of a café on the Herdentor. A German bloke came and sat at my table after about an hour and we chattered about all sorts of stuff! It was quite cool. He gave me his mobile number and told me he was free on Sunday if I wanted to go to the movies or something with him, but I really don’t feel like leaving this lovely cosy house. Besides, I don’t need a date :P. I then wandered around for the rest of the day, including a quick side trip to the train station to buy tickets for Checks when he comes and ended up having to sprint back to the airport to get a lift home with Annette.

Friday involved lots of lying in bed feeling blergh. The jetlag had finally caught up with me! I’m still really tired, even though I’ve slept so much. I think talking and listening to German all the time is also assisting in my tiredness. On Friday night I was feeling much more human, so I went with Anna, Lena (my host sisters) and Jan (Anna’s boyfriend) to Heiligenrode (about 6km from Leeste) to play table tennis! It was hilarious fun and we giggled lots. Apart from Lena who has won a million table tennis tournaments, we were pretty bad at it, but it was still good to get out of the house and run around a bit.

Saturday was a very lazy day. Annette, Lena and I went in the afternoon to the soccer! Werder Bremen was playing Borussia Dortmund at the Weserstadion. Kempers are all rabid Dortmund fans, coming originally from that city.

Man oh man.

Germans are insane when it comes to football.

We were, of course, sitting with the visitors supporters (Dortmund). There was a two metre high metal fence around our seats, with scary pointy metal spikes on top. The freakiest part was, I was so glad for that fence. The two groups of fans were going psycho, and didn’t let up with the chanting and singing and throwing beer around for the whole 90 minutes of play. It was great! Sadly the Dortmunder lost 2-0, but they played absolute crap and deserved to lose.

Saturday night Anne (who came to visit me in Australia), David and Cord (friends of Anna) came around to play Uno with Anna, Jan and I. It was all very witty and fast – just like hanging around with the 500 gang, except in German. When we all got sick of playing cards we watched Shrek 2, which Anne hadn’t seen yet. Ah I love that movie. And I want that pussycat!

Today has been even lazier. We only had breakfast at 11am, and since then have been decorating the house for Advent! It’s the first Sunday of Advent today, so we’re going to have coffee and baked apples soon and light the first candle. I love German tradition.

I’ve just been on the telephone to half the world, including Kniefs, Michelts and Axel. I also got Katherina’s number in Koblenz, but she’s not answering. No matter, I’ll call her another day. Now I’m watching Nirgendwo in Afrika with Annette and Klaus and considering crawling back into bed. After I’ve posted this, of course, or I’ll be in bigger trouble!

Liebe Grüße!

Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful

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