Quick Update

Okay, so the last week has been quite the crazy one with school starting and with Catherine visiting. I meant to write some posts while I was on the train, but that didn’t work out quite so well because I was just so dang tired! I hope by the end of the week, I will have my first week of school and my munich adventure all posted! 🙂

hope all is well in whatever part of the world you may be in! 🙂

Adventures with Catherine and Sholanda

Saturday 15 Sept

Woke up early to meet up with my cousin Catherine and her friend Sholanda. They were flying into Frankfurt Airport. I was really excited to see her! It was so much fun people watching at the airport, it’s one of my favorite parts about the airport. There were lots of cute kids speaking German, not only are they cute but they are so easy to understand too!

Finally, they came through the doors just as I was beginning to worry that something had happened to them. We then navigated our way through the airport to the Avis car rental place. It was cheaper for them to rent a car than to take the trains plus it allowed for more flexibility in going places. The car was super nice! It was a BMW and I can’t remember the exact series, Catherine knows it though. She fell in love with the car! It had navigation, leather seats and this cool thing were the speed and other stuff showed up on the windshield. It was really neat! However, driving on German roads was an experience too! The signs are different plus on the autobahn there are places where there isn’t a speed limit. Contrary to popular thought, the autobahn isn’t speed limit free. There are places where speed limits are actually strictly enforced. Driving on the autobahn was quite the experience!

We finally arrived in Heidelberg, which is tucked away in a valley between two hills. Without any help from the navigation system, we finaly found parking in the middle of town. We decided to do a little exploring. We came across one of the many churches and decided to have a look inside. It was absolutely gorgeous inside! The three of us decided to climb the tower because we thought it would be gorgeous. Catherine and I made it to the top, but we lost Sholanda along the way. It wasn’t the easiest climb in the whole world, especially if you haven’t been working out. It was really cool to see all around Heidelberg.

The gorgeous church in Heidelberg

The inside of the Church

A view of the castle from the top of the tower.

View of the City of Heidelberg

Part of the tower….that little thing is where we came out of!

The castle as viewed from the tower.

Catherine and I made our way down to find Sholanda so we could go eat. In the square next to the church, we found a nice little cafe. They even had blankets in case you got cold!. I became the translator for the whole lunch. Our waitress could speak English (i overheard her speaking to other customers) but she went along with my German. In my book, thats a win! I was excited to have a Radler again! Its just so refreshing. Its a mixture of beer and 7up. It sounds kinda gross, but its actually delicious! It would have been better if it was actually hot. Anyways, my lunch consisted of delicious potato salad and bratwurst!

That’s a Radler…mmmm!! Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of my food!

After lunch, we decided to conquer the castle. We were going to take the bahn, but the line was too crazy. We decided taking the steps would be the best bet. So we climbed all 314 steps to the top! It was a gorgeous view! I wish I would have done more research about the area and the castle. I was clueless to what I was looking. (note to self: research places before you visit….it will make the experience better!)

A view of Heidelberg from the castle. It was worth climbing 314 stairs!

A view of Heidelberg from the castle. It was worth climbing 314 stairs!

Two Cousins visiting the Heidelberg Castle

Apparently, Heidelberg has a reserved seat for Forrest Gump!

Catherine rockin a German Fedora!

Once we finished with the castle, we decided to go explore somewhere new. We started driving towards Mannheim. Once we got closer, we weren’t exactly impressed with the area. I knew there was a wine festival going on in Bad DĂĽrkheim and it was a pretty well-known festival. We decided that would be a much better option then exploring Mannheim. Finding parking in Bad DĂĽrkheim was quite the adventure, but luckily this family was leaving and a guy directed us right to their spot. It was in a prime location too!

The festival was wonderful! We made our way through the crowds and found a spot in one of the tents. This festival was much like Oktoberfest, but with wine instead. The glasses of wine were much bigger too!! The atmosphere was so great! You could order wine and then go get any type of food you wanted! I was sent out on the food mission, solely because of my German skills. After we finished our food and wine, we decided it was time to head out and find a hotel for the night. As we were walking out, we decided to try these things called Schneeballen aka snow balls. It was a cream like substance covered in chocolate. It was a chocolate lover’s dream. I liked them, but I have a really bad sweet tooth!

 

We had a pretty good seat in the wine tent!

Side view of the tent

This was my glass of wine!! YUMM!!

I always end up glowing in pictures!

Once we left Bad DĂĽrkheim, we attempted to find a hotel in Heidelberg, but didn’t have much luck. Finally, we resorted to a Holiday Inn in Walldorf which was basically in the suburbs of Heidelberg. It ended up being a fairly nice place. I think Catherine and Sholanda were just excited to have a bed and a shower. I was still amazed that they were awake and functioning after having traveled so much!

Sunday 16 Sept 

We woke up and decided to head back to Heidelberg for lunch. We parked in the same place, since we knew how to get there and it was a good location. We walked around a little bit and found a Cafe Extrablatt, which has a sunday brunch: all you can eat for 10Euros! Such a great deal! I was excited about it!! They had all kinds of delicious things! I also messed up and ordered a coffee ice cream…I had wanted an iced-coffee. It was still delicious though!

After brunch, we walked in and out of some shops. Then we headed back to the car. I was dropped off at the train station to make my way back to Mainz. I needed time to prepare for my first day of school! It was wonderful to spend time with Catherine and I can’t wait to see her this weekend again and see what sort of shenanigans we can get into! 🙂

I rode a Swiss train on the way home….it made me Switzerland!

Next post: first week of school!! 🙂

Ice Breakers, Lesson Plans and the Boot Scootin’ Boogie: Orientation Part 2

Monday 10 Sept

For dinner, we had pasta and salad! It was delicious! I love German salad. If only it was so easy to make for myself. I’m sure I’ll eventually learn a version of it. I sat with some guys from Ohio, which made me feel at home because of all the Ohioans I met at SEU. There are only 3 true Texans in the group, so it was nice to have something somewhat familiar. The one thing missing from dinner was BREAD! I was rather disappointed that there wasn’t any bread.

After dinner, we met in a big group again and went over a few administrative things. We then divided into ländergruppe (basically we were divided into groups based on the state we were placed in). We  went over some more administrative things and played 2 truths and a lie, which was right up my alley. I just love ice breakers! It was a fun thing to get to know some of the fellow Fulbrighters. After we were done in the groups, it was time for social hour! They had a bar and it was great! It was a 1.50 Euro for a glass of wine and that night they even let us buy a whole bottle of wine! It was so great to just relax and have fun.. Heidi was great because we split the bottle of wine, true friends bond over a bottle of wine! 🙂

Tuesday 11 Sept 

Heidi and I decided it would be smart for us to get up early and shower before everyone since there were only 3 showers. So we woke up at 6am to shower before everyone else and then go back to sleep for an hour. It turned out to be a pretty good plan because there wasn’t anyone in the shower and these really loud bells woke us up early anyways!  It was nice to go back to my warm bed after the shower too! Breakfast was great!

The rest of day included more administrative stuff, some videos on other Teachign Assistant videos, which was basically our training on classroom etiquette. Afterwards, we discussed the videos in the ländergruppe, which was interesting because I think people saw the videos in different ways, which is perfectly fine and its what makes the world go around. We then had a break for lunch, and of course it was good food again!

After lunch, we started working in groups on a mock lesson plan. We were separated into groups of about 15 and then split into groups of 3. It was great, but also somewhat frustrating as most simulations are because they aren’t real. Plus it was hard because we had to follow a certain format and each person was supposed to teach for 15 mins of the lesson but that doesn’t work with the format. Regardless, it was fun! My group did a lesson on Thanksgiving and it was awesome!!! We had all afternoon to plan and then we would present the next day.

Next was dinner and I can’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it was delicious. After dinner, the second year ETAs shared with us their wealth of knowledge. It was great! It was a really long two hours, so I wish it was at a different time when I was more awake and more willing to write some stuff down. Regardless, it was all very helpful! I’m also really thankful that I have 3 great previous Fulbrighters from SEU to ask questions. They’ve been solo great to me! (also random side note: through an exchange friend, I’ve been in contact with a girl who was an ETA in Mainz in 2010-2011. its crazy how small this world is sometimes). Then, social hour commenced again with beer and wine! it was so wonderful to be able to get to know all the other ETAs.. There are so many wonderful people sharing this same experience!

Wednesday 12 Sept 

Today was the day full of lessons, which was really helpful!. It was cool to see all the different lesson plans that people created. One groups talked about gun control issues(obviously for higher levels of English), another group did English Idioms and another group did Parts of the Body. It was great exercise and I learned lots of valuable lessons from each group and especially my own lesson. We also finally had a welcome from Fulbright Kommision which was great and we heard from the American Embassy. After hearing from the Fulbright Kommision, I felt more at ease because I have a “family” to turn to if something happens or whatever. I was feeling weird not having Rotary like I did in Switzerland, but i actually do have something to turn to in case anything happens, which is quite comforting.

In the evening, we also had a talent show. Of course, i love country music and I am a proud Texan, I figured I had to teach everyone a line dance. So I wrangled Morgen, one of the other Texans into doing it with me. The Boot Scootin’ Boogie seemed to make the most sense! We decided it would be better if we asked people to do it with us. We spent a little bit of time practicing beforehand so we would make sure to teach the right dances. Sadly, I didn’t have my cowboy boots with me. I had left them at my apt because I didn’t see any use for them, well learned my lesson! Well the talent show was AWESOME!! there were lots of very talented singers!! Luckily, a lot of people joined us for the dance and I had a blast!! Plus a lot of people came up to me afterwards and said they really enjoyed it!! Plus some of the teachers said that would be the perfect lesson for school!! so who knows, i might become the line dancing fool in Germany!

After the talent show, we had social hour again with beer and wine. It was great again and the conversation was wonderful! Such a great experience at orientation! I went to bed around 1 am, which wasn’t very smart!

Thursday 13 Sept 

We had to wake up super early to leave for Cologne. We woke up around 545 to shower and get all of our stuff together plus take off all the bedding. It was somewhat sad to leave Altenberg because it was such a cozy place and it was comforting being around so many Americans. Although, I was somewhat happy to be back at my apt and something familiar. Once we got back to Cologne, the weather was rather crappy so we just deiced to hop on a train back to Mainz. There ended up being about 6 girls on the same train, not all headed to Mainz though. I came home that day and slept for a little bit and then attempted to take care of some of my registering with the city. I got as far as printing off papers because it turns out to be rather complicated.

Overall, orientation was a wonderful experience! I’m so thankful to be able to have this experience. My goal is to make the most of this experience because I know its a once in a lifetime type experience.!

here are a few pictures:


The teachers and one of the head guys did a song for everyone too!! I’m pretty sure it was in Russian too!

Teaching everyone the boot scootin’ boogie. This was the best picture I could get!

The Ehemalige (previous ETAs doing their second year) at the talent show. Dan did a sing-along song. The white things have words on them, you just can’t see them in the picture.

much love to everyone!

(maybe eventually I learn how to be more concise in my posts! also, i need to take more pictures!)

 

Orientation in Altenberg Part 1

I realize it has been a while since I have written. This post will about part of orientation, which was a blast and I met lots of great people. So here goes it:

Sunday 9 Sept 

I headed to Köln (Cologne in English) a day early. A friend from St Eds lives there and is about to start her second year as an English Teaching Assistant(ETA). One of her friends who is also starting a second year and helped with orientation, came a day early too. It was great to be around somewhat familiar people. It was also great to hear about their experiences. They had some great advice! My friend Sarah was the most wonderful host. Her roommates and her grilled a feast of turkey, chicken, zucchini and eggplant. Plus they had salad and delicious bread. Her roommates were great and I actually had a bed to sleep in!!

Monday 10 Sept 

On Monday morning, we slept in a little bit. Dan had just gotten back from America on Friday so he was still a little jet-lagged. Then Sarah went out and bought a delicious breakfast of donuts and croissants plus she had coffee! After breakfast, we headed to the main train station to meet up with Susi, another Hilltopper who is doing a second year.  We sat on the steps of the famous dome in Cologne. I actually didn’t go inside, but I’m sure I’ll return to Koln at some point. We also played a fun game of guess who else is a Fulbright.

Finally, it was 2:15pm and we headed to meet with the entire group of Fulbright ETAs. You couldn’t miss the group at all. There were about 140 people and most had a ton of luggage. I finally saw Morgen, the other Hilltopper who is starting her first year as an ETA. It was great to see her finally and catch up. We sat with each other on the bus ride to Altenberg, which was about a 45 minute drive from Koln.

Altenberg was gorgeous! It was a small village tucked away in a valley. We actually stayed at the monastery next to this huge church! It was very picturesque.. We were welcomed by the head of the PAD (its the German governmental entity in charge of Educational Exchange Teachers or something like that). He gave us some house rules and laid out the plan for the rest of the evening. He then called out each person by name to get keys and head to their room. To my surprise, I was the third person to be called out! I met my roommate, Heidi, for the next few days and we headed to our room. After we made our beds and opened the window, we decided to explore a little bit because we had some time before dinner. Our walk was great….we just really seemed to hit it off! I blame the our common love for Service Break Experiences. Thats what we truly bonded over. We went inside the church and it was absolutely gorgeous! The sun was shinning in and made the stained-glass windows soooo beautiful!

Since, this post is getting a bit lengthy, I will stop for now and leave you with some pictures: I will write another post tomorrow about the rest of orientation and will try to be more concise.

The famous Dome in Cologne
It is quite large and breathtaking! It was also undamaged during the war.

The steps leading up to the Dome. Normally, the stairs are covered in people, but it wasn’t very nice weather that day.

 

The amazing church in Altenberg. I didn’t get a picture of the stained glass and I’m sure it wouldn’t have done it justice anyways!

So the head guy of PAD explained to us that there would be archaeologist digging around the complex because they are planning to renovate but since its so old they have to say what can be messed with during renovation. Except when he was explaining, he used “scratching around” and it was hilarious! So every time, we saw them, we would say “hey look! someone scratching around!”

 

This was my room key! I thought it was so cool looking!

A lovely spiderweb in our window. I immediately though of Charlotte’s Web.

So my goal is to catch up with posting by mid week, but we shall see how that goes. Tomorrow I go to the school for the first time!

Wandering the City

Today I didn’t do a lot, except for wander the city. I found H&M, the most important store of them all. And then just saw some wonderful stuff! Tomorrow I travel to Cologne for Orientation, which I’m really excited about!! For now, I’ll keep it short and add some pictures:

The Dome

The square next to the dome

A view of the Rhein

One of the main bridges

A path along the river, I will return here!

One fo the many beautiful churches!

I just love European churches

Sidewalk next to Christuskirche

Another view of the church

The walk home!

I will update as soon as I can. I’m not sure about my internet connection at orientation!

You Never Know Who You’ll Meet in the City

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been doing lots of sleeping. The jet lag seemed to really kick my butt. I think part of that had to do with my lack of sleep. I only slept like a total of 10 hours in the last days that I was in the US, so I think that really screwed up my body. I’m just glad that I have the time to catch up and be rested before my orientation starts on Monday.

Anyways, as for my adventures in the city today: I had a lot of fun exploring. I just decided to start walking and see where I ended up. I could’ve easily planned out my adventure, but I think its much more fun to just go out and explore. Plus I’m pretty good with direction, so I wasn’t worried about getting lost. I also took a map with me just in case, but was only going to use it if I got desperate.

I love just walking and soaking up my surroundings. There are just so many different things to explore and what not. These first few days, I’m mostly just exploring to see whats out there and maybe soon I will actually go to places and what not.

As I was exploring I came upon a little square with a lovely fountain. There were lots of benches so I decided it would be a good place to sit and people watch for a while. I think this might easily become one of my spots to go and think. Its a great place for people watching too!!

A view of the square and the fountain

I decided to move so I could get a better picture of the fountain. As i finished taking pictures, this nice woman asked me to take a picture for her and her group. I kindly responded in English and she seemed happy to hear an American accent. Well of course, we started talking and come to find out she was from Fort Worth, TX. What a small world, uh?  She was with a nice couple who spoke very little English and were excited to learn that I spoke German. I later learned that this couple simply decided to buy them the special wine of the region and take them on a tour of the city. I gave them my email and I hope they email me! They seemed really sweet!

Well the couple had to leave and the two lovely ladies, Bobette and Judy,  invited me to have dinner with them in a street cafe. I thought, why not? I don’t have any other plans. It ended up being quite a lovely evening. They were interesting ladies just beginning a tour of Germany and Austria. Of course, I told them my story too and they loved the idea of Rotary Youth Exchange. I always love to promote that. Judy has a granddaughter that would love the program, or so she said. They were even gracious enough to pay for my pizza and iced tea! Thank you ladies! 🙂

Well today was a good day!! I realize I need to take some more pictures. I will finish unpacking and gathering up my stuff tonight, so tomorrow I will take some pictures of the apt and post them!

For now, I will leave you with a few other pictures from today (sadly, I didn’t get a picture with the Bobette and Judy):

Not sure what this is exactly…but its a really cool building.

One of the many churches. I didn’t go inside today, but I will!!

Found this lovely fountain as I walked home

I promise to post more pictures tomorrow! 🙂

Travel Fun

Overall, my flight to Atlanta wasn’t bad. The guy sitting next to me was nice. He was from Bandera, so we talked about some familar places and faces. He currently works for an environmental company, based out of Houston but currently on a job in Wichita, Kansas.Although, he doesn’t like traveling and has never been outside the US and has no desire to really travel.  My layover in Atlanta was short-lived…thankfully! I had just enough time to make my way to the International Terminal, grab some fruit and a Starbucks drink. I found my gate and sat down with enough time to call my mom and my dad. Then it was time to head to Frankfurt.

This flight wasn’t that bad either. I ended up sitting next to a really nice German teacher from somewhere in the South. I can’t remember where he said he was fron. He was getting back from a trip to Brazil where he was visiting his boyfriend and his family. It was nice to have someone to talk with in German. I could write about all the boring details of the flight but I think I will just bullet point the important stuff:

  • chose the pasta option for dinner, probably the safest choice. overall, it wasn’t too bad.
  • watched about half of Five Year Engagement, fell asleep.
  • Slept for about 5 hours of the flight
  • Watched an interesting TED Talk about Alone Together  I didn’t have time to start a movie.

I finally arrived at the Frankfurt Airport at about 7:45am German time. It had almost been 24 hours of traveling and it wasn’t quite done yet. I went through immigration which was easy, no questions asked. Next, I picked up my baggage, which I was dreading. I knew it was going to be miserable to carry two large suitcases plus my backpack plus my big purse all by myself. My luggage was already on the belt and they were together. I didn’t have to wait long at all. I accessed free wi-fi to let my family and friends know that I’m safe, etc.

I think every person in that airport stared at me. I was quite the spectacle though. I was wearing a dress with cowboy boots and I had a ton of luggage. I knew wearing the boots would probably result in this, but I couldn’t imagine not having my boots. Come on, Texas Forever y’all! Really though I survived, plus I think people pitied me and helped me with my luggage when getting on and off the train.

When I arrived in Mainz train station, my roommate’s friend met me to take me to the apartment. It was wonderful! She brought her friend. It was great to have the extra help with the luggage. Luckily, my apt is on the first floor. So far, i love it! its on the smaller side, but it will be perfect for me. I can’t wait to meet my roommate, she won’t be here for about 7 weeks because of internship.

Yesterday and today have been full of sleeping and figuring out the stupid internet. I’ve done a little bit of exploring and plan to do some more tomorrow! can’t wait! thats all for now!

sending lots of love to my family and friends!

Somewhere over the US

Currently I’m about 30,000 feet in the air somewhere between San Antonio and Atlanta. It’s crazy to think that in less than 12 hours I will be in Germany. I’ve been waiting for this day for so long and can’t believe it’s finally I’m here. There are so many emotions going on right now: excited, sad, happy, nervous, tired and many more. 

The past couple of days have been jam packed with family time and packing. I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and support that has been shown to me these last few days. I’m so thankful for everyone in my life and I wouldnt be here without all that support. 

Saying goodbye is never easy. Normally I’m a cryer, but when I’m the one leaving I feel the need to be strong and dont allow myself to cry. That held true today…I didn’t shed a tear when saying bye to my mom, who was crying, or my dad or my step mom or even my dearest friends that came to the airport. Once I was through security and seated at my gate, I opened some letters that were given to me. I turned into a hot mess. I was that girl crying by herself in the airport. It was funny because no one really said anything to me. I think everyone pretended not to notice. I finally was able to pull it together. 

Probably one of the hardest goodbyes has been the one with my Granny. She isn’t doing very well. I think may have mentioned her in a previous post. Well I told her a final goodbye. The next time I will see her will be when she is in heaven and welcoming me there. I’ve prepared myself for not being at her funeral because I probably won’t be able to afford it. I’m okay with that because I’ve spent this past summer visiting her as much as I can. I’ve rubbed her feet, gotten her coke and put on face cream. I know she knows that I love her dearly and I know she wants me to enjoy my new adventure. She’s an amazing woman and she’s a big part of who I am today. I love you Granny!! 
 
I’m sorry for all the sad things. One of the things I’m doing with this blog is writing about everything, even the hard stuff. I know that’s how I will learn from this year and life isnt always a piece of cake. Plus honesty is important to me. It may seem perfect, but there is always something going on. However, I will always try to look on the bright side of things too! 

Anyways, I think that is all for now. We are getting close to Atlanta.  Thanks again to everyone who made these past few days very special!