One of my favorite experiences so far had to be the staff trip. We went to a white wine vineyard in the Mittel Rhein region of Germany. The town we went to was called Oberwesel, and once again it was beautiful. It was the type of town that you can not see in America, it’s old. There are buildings that date back to Roman times, and ancient castles and cathedrals surrounded by forested hills. While I am not a wine drinker, I really did enjoy the trip. We hiked through the vineyard, and this was actually surprisingly difficult. Not a horrible hike, but more than I expected. The vineyard is maintained on the side of large hills, because that is the only way that the grapes can get enough sunlight. This means you have to walk up fairly large and sometimes steep hills, but all the views are certainly worth it. It was a great opportunity to get to know some of the other staff members. I really enjoyed the day, and it was a great way to kick off the weekend. Especially since we got out of school after the third lesson to go on the trip.

This is a short post but like I think the pictures will more than explain how worthwhile it was seeing Oberwesel and the Mittel Rhein region.

I don’t even want to think about how long it has been since I have blogged, at a month I know. Here is the first post to work through the missed time. Shortly after my last post, my roommate Meghan and I went to Amsterdam. We went there to meet up with another COST student who is currently teaching in Rotterdam. I only went for the day, because I was worried about finishing up some lesson plans. Anyways, Amsterdam is absolutely beautiful. The entire city is worth taking a picture of, so at some point I had to stop taking pictures. We walked around a lot and then took a short canal tour, that is where a lot of the pictures come from. The one thing about Amsterdam that really shocked me was the parking. Everyone parks their cars right along the canals, literally inches from the edge of a canal. It was shocking to see luxury cars and sports cars less than three inches away from the canal. Besides that, I really do not have much to say about Amsterdam, besides it is worth seeing. Unfortunately, since I was only in Amsterdam for the day, I was not able to see a lot of the famous sites, such as the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, or the Heineken Brewery, but I plan to go back for another visit to see these sites.

While I do not have a lot to say about Amsterdam, I do have a fun story about my train ride back. Like I already said, I had to leave Amsterdam the same day I arrived. However, my original return ticket was for the next day. This meant that I had to hope that there was a train back to Cologne on fairly short notice. With this knowledge I got in line to book my ticket back. The first time I went to the counter the lady told me the last train to Cologne was leaving in four minutes, so I had to run. I made it to the platform and there was a train, but just to be safe, I asked a conductor to see if this was the right train. She told me no, and that I had to go to a different platform. So, I ran to another platform, but this time I was too late. The train was literally pulling away as I got to the platform. At that point I was trying to decide whether I should go back to the hostel and just try to catch an early train back, or if I should get back in line at the booking station and try again. I decided to try again. I ended up at the same counter I had previously been at. The lady was quite apologetic. Not only had she told me the wrong platform for the train, but she had also found another train to get me back to Cologne that night. So with that I was able to head back to Cologne, although it was a long 6 hour trip with half the time spent on three transfers.

 

Let me just start by apologizing for the long delay between posts. Hopefully this will be the only time I leave such a gap between commenting.

Anyways, back to life in Germany.

I have been trying to figure out how I wanted to approach this blog post. I could give a simple run through of all the things that I did during my first week and a half in Cologne. However, I don’t know that that would make for a super exciting post. For the most part I simply have been living a normal life. My day looks similar to everyone else who has a job. While I have been able to do incredible things like visit the inside of the cathedral and sit by the Rhine, these things do not make up the large part of my life. Instead I spend most of my time simply living in another country. I go to buy groceries and rely on what the food looks like, because I can only make out some of the words. I have slowly improved my ability to order food at restaurants. The largest challenge for me to get use to was when they would ask whether I wanted the food for here or to go. I still don’t really know how you say “to go” in German, but I just listen for “here” and quickly respond back here.

One thing I have been extremely grateful for has been how friendly everyone has been. Despite some people not being able to speak much English, they have tried their best to help me. Whenever I say that I do not understand, which happens a lot, people try to explain things in English. While I am hoping to get to a point where I can do simple things completely in German, I can not explain how much people’s patience and good nature has helped me enjoy this last week and a half.

I know I promised pictures in this post, but I am having a problem uploading them to my computer. I managed to get a few on Facebook, so you can see them there. (I will type explanations for them as well) I think I am going to end this post here. I know its short, but I will try harder to post more often.

Hello from Germany,

I finally made it over to Germany. The second flight was on time and I arrived in Germany at 10:10 a.m. on Aug. 25th, that would have been 3:10 a.m. central time. The flight went by really fast. (I thought of using the terrible pun of the time on the flight flew by, but I decided against it) I think the main reason the flight went by so quickly was the fact that I got to watch three movies and some tv. Apparently flights now have tv screens in the back of every seat, and on our flight we had a decent selection of free movies and tv shows. I chose to watch Big Bang Theory, Hunger Games, Superbad, and The Five Year Engagement. The food on the flight was about what you would expect, tv dinner grade, but at least they provided something. Unfortunately I was unable to sleep on the flight, which made for a long first day in Germany.

Once Meghan and I got off the plane, we had to find our way through the Frankfurt airport. Fortunately, this was fairly simple as every sign was in German and English. Customs was surprisingly short, all they did was check and stamp our passports. I think there will be a more elaborate registration process tomorrow. We had to take the ICE, high-speed train, from Frankfurt to the Cologne Hauptbahnhopf, central station, there we met Evelin our coordinator and her husband Chris. The train ride was fairly short only about 45 min. It was crazy seeing the German countryside. We traveled through a hilly area with lots of old pine trees. Occasionally a picturesque German town would pop up. The mix of architecture was something I was not expecting. Like I already said, whenever we passed a town it was your picturesque white walled red roofed town; however, when you saw random houses in the countryside the architecture could vary greatly, and typically looked similar to an American house in a wealthy area with some type of modern architecture to it.

When we finally arrived in Cologne it took us about 15 min. to meet up with Evelin and Chris. They were both very welcoming and even offered to help Meghan carry her bags. This became quite amusing when they had to carry one of her bags between the two of them. They each took a strap and the bag hung between them. It looked sort of like a pink flowered covered battering ram. We took a quick tram ride, then walked to the school. Because it was a Saturday we were not able to go into the school, all we did was drop our stuff off at Evelin’s car. Then we went to get our tram passes. Surprisingly, the tickets required a picture i.d. This meant that we had to go to a little self-service kiosk. Not realizing I would not get change back I used 10 euros instead of the 6 the machine required, and of course the picture was spectacular, what with my lack of sleep, and shower after the plane. After we got our tram tickets it was off to lunch.

We ate at a bakery called Bastian’s, and the food was delicious. We ate a typical German breakfast of bread and a variety of toppings: salami, smoked ham, salmon, scrambled egg, jelly, honey, butter, and a mix of cheeses. We decided to sit outside in a little courtyard. The whole lunch was really pleasant, and it was nice to talk with Evelin and Chris about their experiences with the COST program. On a more random note I ordered water during the meal, and I definitely forgot my old German lessons about ordering water in Germany. Instead of getting a glass of tap water, I was given a bottle of seltzer water. Now this might seem strange, but I had learned in German class that this was the norm in Germany, so I was the one who should have ordered differently.

After dinner we headed towards the apartment. The apartment is in the southern part of the center section of Cologne, and the area around the apartment is surrounded by food shops and restaurants. I can’t wait to try all the different types of food around. The apartment is an old German style apartment with high ceilings, and it is a very nice apartment. Our rooms came fully furnished, courtesy of Evelin and our host Sabrina.

Sabrina had a friend over, his name was Christian. It was great talking to both of them. They were really welcoming, and helped make the first day really relaxing. They also introduced me to a really refreshing drink, Erdinger mit Sprite. Erdinger is a wheat beer, we used the alcohol free version, and they mixed it with Sprite; it looked to be about a 3/4 Erdinger to 1/4 Sprite. Anyways, it was a delicious  and refreshing drink to enjoy while getting to know Christian a little better. After finally moving our stuff in and relaxing for a bit, I was able to shower. This was a big deal for me, because I felt disgusting after the flight.

After showering all four of us: Sabrina, Christian, Meghan, and I, went out to eat dinner. Sabrina and Christian took us to a restaurant that I think was fairly authentic German; I say this because they had been talking about Mediterranean food for dinner, but the restaurant we ended up at did not seem to serve Mediterranean food. I ordered the Schweineröckensteak, ham steak, with mushrooms in gravy, french fries, and a salad. Christian also bought everyone a round of the traditional Cologne beer, Kölsch. The meal and the Kölsch were delicious. During dinner Sabrina and Christian also told us about the places we should try to visit while we are here. They strongly encouraged we go to Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and Prague. Hopefully I will be able to see all of those cities.

When we got back to the apartment it was already about 9 p.m., which meant it was time to finally go to bed. After being up for over 24 hours, 8 of which were spent on a plane, and a 7 hour time change, it was finally time for bed. However, my first day in Germany can be summed up in one simple word, incredible.

Lastly, I would like to apologize for the lack of pictures. I forgot to charge my camera before I left. However, I promise there will be plenty of pictures in future posts.

Aufwiedersehen

Well, today was a fun start on my way to Germany, the flight was cancelled at the last minute today, so I will now be departing for Germany a day later. The whole experience was quite interesting. I went through the entire departure procedure, and I was waiting at the terminal for Meghan, the other Eastern student teaching in Germany. When Meghan showed up we decided to get some food. We walked around for maybe 20 minutes. Then when we get back to the gate I notice that it no longer says Frankfurt as the destination; it now says Munich. Realizing this Meghan and I head to the board to see an update on our flight. My first thoughts were that we simply changed gates. Then I saw aircraft service flash on the departure line, and I started thinking, oh, so we’ll be delayed. One second later it flashes to cancelled. Meghan and I look at each other and say, “well, what does that mean?” I know it clearly means we aren’t flying out and the flight has been cancelled, but we had no idea what to do next, so we simply got in the customer service line with everyone else whose flight had been cancelled. Eventually a United representative came and took all of us back to the main terminal to reschedule our flight. It ended up with our flight being pushed back literally by one day, and getting a $150.00 credit towards a domestic flight within the next year. All-in-all not too bad, I figure that $150.00 will definitely be of help for possible interviews in the spring, or to crash on a couch in D.C.

Hello everybody,

So I have finally set up my blog for my time in Germany. While I will be student teaching in Germany, this blog is going to be more focused on my life outside of the classroom in Germany. I hope to share my experiences, challenges, and successes while overseas, so stay with me, enjoy the ride, and always feel free to add your own comments about my posts.

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