Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pretty Fall

These pictures were taken by my sister, she's better at remembering to bring her camera out than I am. This place certainly has 4 seasons. And winter's next. Supposedly this Thursday will be our first snow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2 steps forward, 1 step back

I think I made an appointment today over the phone.

I needed to make a doctor's appointment, so of course first I researched with our insurance company...yes this doctor takes our insurance...yes they speak fluent English, ok good.

I tried calling yesterday with Merissa around in case I needed to have her translate with the receptionist. She taught me a few phrases to use in case they didn't speak English, yet reassured me that they probably do anyway and I really shouldn't worry. Unfortunately they are closed on Wednesdays.

Fast forward to this morning, I had had an extra cup of coffee and blame that for my heightened confidence. I called again. Alone. Mer and Nate had gone to work, and I shortly regretted making the call.

Sprechen Sie Englisch? Nein, nein.

Oh crap. Now the rest is in German, but I'll just tell you in English. The words in italics were words in which I used English because I didn't know the German word.

"Do you speak German?'
"A little. Uh, yes, I'd like to make an appointment with one of the doctors"
"Do you have ----------?" (I have no idea what she said, I'm sweating and panicking at this point)
"Do you have -------?"
"Uh, what is that word?"
"12:00 Monday 27?"
"Yes, ok, good."
"Shera York" (I spell it)
"Telephone number?" (and I gave it to her)

And that was it. But no confirmation or anything, just the end. Then I hung up, cried and called Nate. My poor husband. Always calming me down.

I think I have to go find this place tomorrow and see what transpired in that telephone "conversation". I will not be calling to make appointments for a while though. I'm going to walk into these places and employ facial expressions, hand gestures and other non verbal communication to my benefit. Learned my lesson.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today we went to Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle that Walt Disney based his logo on. Total tourist trap. But we couldn't have chosen a more perfect day, it was cool, clear and fall's colorful foliage was beautiful. Unfortunately, after we got home, Nate discovered that the camera was on the wrong setting, (set for night pictures from our trip to Zurich), so all of our photos are a little grainy. D'oh!

You probably don't want all the history, it's a bit lengthy, but we had a full tour of the castle and then went on a hike up in the hills to see some amazing views. The tour is a bit bare bones, only 35 minutes, and you are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle or go anywhere cool--like the spires of the tower. Still, it was really beautiful. And we've decided that King Ludwig was definitely a bit of an odd one.

**The unknown guy in one of the pics is Nicolai, one of Nate's work colleagues, who was visiting Munich.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I rock

Why? WELL! Because I had my first breakthrough, I ordered coffee beans from the Dallmayr, all in German! Yay me! I am becoming the brave, relaxed and fashionable (if I don't say so myself, more on that later) woman that I know I can be.

It went like this:

Me: "Grüss Gott, Ich hätte gern 500 gram von Ethiopian Crown bitte." (Good day, I'd like 500 grams of the Ethiopian Crown please.)

Cashier: "In die Bohnen oder der gemahlene?" (In whole beans or ground?)

Me (after a slight pause where I was trying to figure out what she asked): Uh, in die Bohnen, bitte" (Uh, in whole beans please)

Cashier: "Beutel?" (Bag?)

Me: Nein, danke. (No, thanks)

Cashier: Ok, Auf Wiedersehen (ok, goodbye)

Me: Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye)

I'm celebrating the little things, right? It's been a good week. This has been my happy song and I'm singing it now. "Leeetttt the sun shine....leettt the sun shine...the suuun shine in....."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Zurich, Switzerland

Nathan and I spent this last weekend in Zurich. He had some meetings at the office there on Monday, so we decided to make a little trip of it.

It's a cute little city sort of reminiscent of Lake Tahoe with it's huge lake and the city surrounding. We basically just wandered around, ate fondue and Swiss chocolate and shopped. The weather was beautiful and the Swiss people were SO friendly. Maybe a little too friendly, apparently we stayed in a hotel near the nightclubs (oops! Shera's picks strike again!) and the sex industry seems to be a part of the norm there. I dunno, maybe that's just my experience.

Really though, the Swiss people were very nice. We met several people at restaurants just sitting next to us and they loved that we were from California. Everyone in Europe loves California it seems.

On Sunday we went to the Google office (the central office in Europe) for Nate to do some prep for work the next day, and I got to play (a bit). Not sure if you've ever seen pictures of this office, but it's a virtual playground. There's a huge slide you can go down to get to the ground floor, firefighter poles (which took me a while to figure out, "why do they have a striptease pole in an office???), a huge video game room and these little meeting rooms that are shaped like deep sea diving equipment, ski lifts and eggs. All equipped with phones of course. We couldn't take pictures, but you can go here and see some public domain pics.

Friday, October 10, 2008

On a Personal Note

I have had a tough time trying to communicate how I have been feeling about this move. The truth is that I go through ups and downs. I know a lot of this has to do with cultural differences and not knowing the German language. It makes me feel very vulnerable.

To be perfectly honest, I have no desire to learn German. Spanish and Mandarin I understand, those are useful. But, according to Wikianswers, only about 100 million speak German. And approx. 1 billion speak English. When we move back in early July, whom am I going to speak German with? And how much can I really learn in 9 months?

But then situations happen that require at least a basic knowledge of the language. When I went to go get Nathan from the airport, something happened with the trains, they stopped coming for almost an hour (very un-German, y'know?), people were upset, all announcements and information were in German and I began to panic. I had no idea what was going on and what to do. Do I try to catch another train? Wait it out? In retrospect, it's absurd, not even a big deal, but in the moment I was absolutely panicked.

So, know what I will be working on this year? Not mastering German, but learning to relax. To chill. Not panicking, staying calm, cool and collected. Realizing, I am NOT in control and being content with that. With my personality, this will certainly be a challenge.

One of the ladies I met here whose husband is also working/studying abroad, sent me this "open letter" she wrote. It truly sums up how I feel. This is by Charlene Lam:

be kind to yourself
change is stressful. moving is stressful. moving to a new country is even more stressful.

it’s ok and it will get better

you may find yourself trembling before a meat counter,
stammering over the five words of German you know.
you may find yourself wondering, who are you here, anyway?
besides your spouse’s trailing appendage
are you a manager if there’s no one to manage? a teacher if you’re not teaching?

you may find yourself reduced to tears over everyday things like laundry and grocery shopping
your husband may come home to a rant about dairy products:
why are there so many kinds of yogurt, where’s the non-fat milk, what the hell is quark,
and why does it take forever to find the cottage cheese?

your friends at home may not understand your angst
they may point out how lucky you are to be in a foreign country
and you may agree that you are lucky,
but that doesn’t change the fact
that you can’t figure out how to get your laundry to dry.
and this is your life, not an extended vacation

you may find yourself waiting 20 minutes in line at the post office,
only to be humiliated by a grumpy old man
who insists neither he nor anyone at that branch speaks any English.
Lick your wounds, turn it unto a funny story, ask someone else.
It’s Munich, not rural China;
someone, whether a worker or a fellow customer, is bound to know some English.
it’s ok and it will get better

forgive yourself your embarrassments
and celebrate your triumphs, no matter how small
I broke out in celebratory dance when I finally tracked down hangers

identify your danger behaviors
the things you do to numb yourself
mine include sleeping way too much
pissing away the day online
and never leaving the house
so I set the alarm and get dressed at a reasonable time
instead of shrinking in, I make a conscious effort to reach out
– and find it’s often rewarded three-fold
I indulge myself sometimes, staying home all day to putter around, if it makes me happy
but I also take any opportunity to go out

identify what comforts you
I find comfort in familiarity
so I set up my routines
the same breakfast of muesli, yogurt and apple sauce
the same route to the grocery store
I was pining for my old routines:
wandering into Soho to have lunch with friends, getting tapioca drinks
my friend Jordana wisely advised me
to seek out the equivalent foods and experiences
unique to Munich
that I will miss when we move on
now I look forward to telling new friends about weisswurst
people-watching in the Englischer Garten
and exploring Bavaria by train

identify an activity that gives you a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment
it’s easy to forget that you’re a smart, competent woman
when you can’t even read the cooking instructions on a box of couscous,
take a class, go to the gym, finish a book
and one day you’ll find that, hey, I understood what that person said
and hey, I can read this menu
and you’ll be thrilled
I’m just reaching that point, and now I’m moving on
to another new place, another new culture
but I’m reminding myself:
be kind to yourself
it’s ok and it will get better

Thanks Charlene. Yes, it will get better. And each day is new and full of hope.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Die Zugspitze

Here we are at the Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. It's about 2,962m (about 10,000ft, so big whoop to those of us who've been to the Sierra Nevada, but still cool).

Quite a feat of German engineering though. It was super easy to get up there. Just take a cog wheel train up the mountain, then another ski lift-like tram to the peak. Beer, sausages and hot chocolate await you at the top. Now that's my kind of hiking. On the way down we decided to take the cable car. That was like being in a glass elevator--a vertical drop from the top. I had to keep my eyes on the horizon.

The border between Germany and Austria is also up on the Zugspitze, so you could easily walk into the Tirol region in Austria, as you can see from some of the pictures. It was interesting to be on the German side, where they just passed a law banning smoking indoors, then to walk to Austria; you could smell the tobacco even before you crossed the border. But at least it was warm inside!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things I Hate (or strongly dislike) about Germany

1. The meat - it may taste good, but WHAT IS it?? And I think I'm getting sick of sausage. Would you care for pork, pork or pork? Yes, I'm aware that meat made both lists.

2.The so-called queues (or lines) - Everyone here needs to go back to kindergarten and learn how to get in line. An orderly, straight line. It seems that when you are in a store, people just crowd you. They do not stand behind and wait their turn, unless you give them a look that rightly establishes you as the alpha customer. And no one seems to get out of the way after they've finished their transaction, they just stand there and make the "line" wait even longer. Very irritating.

3. (Almost) Everything closes on Sunday - what, do they think it's the Sabbath or something? :)

4. The weather - I now appreciate being born and raised in sunny California. A wise choice and 2 thumbs up to our European ancestors who picked up, moved across an ocean, decided the east coast was still too close to their homeland's climate and continued west until they reached the coastline! I become so jealous when I check the weather report and Munich's highs are sometimes Santa Cruz's lows in the evening! With rain! The precipitation never stops here: summer rain, fall rain/fog/mist, winter snow, spring showers. Hot, dry places are so attractive right now, maybe I'll try to plan a trip to Dubai.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Things I love about Germany

1. The beer- no explanation needed

2. The meat-ditto.

3. The beds - or what I like to call "How to Save Your Marriage" Separate mattresses, separate blankets, still together, no waking each other up because of thrashing. Brilliant, brilliant Germans! (Do you like our rainbow plaid sheets?)

4. Public Transit - My sister, Nate and I are all losing weight, and you will too with the German diet! Eat anything you want, fatty sausage, potatoes and beer and then walk it all off going to and from the U-bahn. Amazing!

5. Recycling - It's not foreplay, but still very important on Wednesday nights. We have 4 different garbage cans under our sink to separate compost, regular waste, paper/cardboard and glass/plastic/metal. Way to save the earth.

6. The windows - they are engineered to open/close 3 different ways. cool.