Monthly Archives: August 2010

wir lieben lebensmittel

Understandably, grocery shopping in Germany has been a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, my German skills are slightly high enough to know what (most) labels say. However, that’s not the issue.

As a grad student with little money and even less time, whenever I do manage to go grocery shopping I need to maximize the experience. I start at Aldi, the cheaper grocery store, and get as many things as I can there. The only problems are that 1) Aldi doesn’t believe in handbaskets (and I refuse to get a cart for under 10 items) and 2) Aldi seems to hire the fastest cashiers on the planet. So not only am I walking around the store aimlessly, trying not to squish my bread or drop my apples while I browse 55 cent cans of soup and mystery lunchmeats, but then I’m expected to bag my own groceries at the speed of light. Thankfully, there’s a table just past the cash registers where I can get myself situated after everything has been shoved haphazardly into my canvas shopping bag.

I didn't take this... but maybe you can imagine my stress based on the judgemental face of the cashier.

From here I go to Edeka, next door with slightly higher prices and better quality, and it’s almost a pleasure to fill the gaps in my shopping list left by my scarring experience at Aldi.

I hope that after 11 months of shopping like this I eventually come up with a way to deal with this newfound grocery store stress. The tradeoff is that my favorite German cookies can be found at Aldi so… at least its not all bad. And I can get 400g of cheese for €1,59.

Excitement the first day I found 'seed cookies' in Hannover.

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where I live

I found myself with some downtime tonight (no class tomorrow, just some team-building activities, most likely to be held in the rain.) I’m guessing whoever it is that reads this is probably interested to see what Hannover looks like.

As an (I’m sure) avid reader of this blog, you will know that I’m not good at remembering to take pictures when I’m out and about, but I did manage to snap a few on our tour of the city last Friday.

The new town hall and some pretty sky.

The Marktkirche, church in the old part of town

Another view of the Marktkirche

Contender for "World's Most Boring Tour Guide"

wäscheständer

I’ve been here almost two weeks, which of course means that I have started running out of clean clothes. Despite my attempts to air out everything I only wore for a few hours and pack as much underwear as possible before I left, I knew this day would eventually come.

When I lived in Maryland I had a washer and dryer not 10 feet from my bed, and even then I loathed laundry day. So you can imagine my disinterest when the laundry room is down a long hallway and two flights of stairs. Nevertheless I forged ahead, figured out the complex German washing machine to the best of my abilities and waited one hour for my wash cycle to complete. Because I was unaware of the timeline, my laundry process also included four separate trips to the Waschmaschineraum before it was done.

After all that, I decided my best bet was to hang dry everything, lest the dryer take a proportionally longer amount of time to try (also there are two washers are one dryer… for a building with 6 floors.)

Success

I can only hope that my clothes smelling like fresh Niedersachsen air will contribute to my daily goal of being mistaken for a German woman.

bribery

I haven’t been a student in over 2 years.

Additionally, I have never taken a single business class, save for Statistics in college, which I did poorly in, assuming I would never need it anyway.

Because of these factors, I’m having a difficult time re-emerging into the life of an academic. I only have class until 12:30 daily, and then the remaining 11 hours or so until I go to bed are free for me to do my homework.  Currently, it’s really not that much work. However, here I sit at 9:30pm with not much accomplished considering I arrived home by 3.

This is where the self-bribery comes in. Being the American that I am, that bribe usually comes in the form of food.

“If I make some toast, then I’ll eat that while I read this chapter.”

“I’ll just munch on these pretzels while I analyze this data in Excel.”

“I’ll whip up a quick pot of Old Bay popcorn and then calculate the interquartile range of this data.”

Being the good Maryland girl that I am, I brought Old Bay to Germany for emergency situations.

However, this is going to lead to many problems I’m sure, not the least of which is the oil and spices that are currently covering the touchpad and keyboard of my computer.

And despite my desire to avoid doing so, I may in fact ‘blow up’ (thanks Sonny) before my return to America… all in the name of academia.

(I also bribe myself with time to write blog posts but… thats another story)

shutterbug

I’m not a photographer. Most of the time I forget to bring my camera when I go places, and oftentimes even if I have it, I never take it out of my bag.

Many of my classmates, thankfully, are not this way.

As we’ve been getting to know each other over this first week, there have been many group outings and adventures to bars, clubs, city halls and street festivals. The over-exubarance of the photogs in the group results in a spectacle like none other: a herd of 30-50 students from all over the world posing on street corners, building steps and bus stops while one poor soul takes the same photo on everyone’s camera.

My picture smile will be in full force this coming year, I feel.

Hard to say how many times we did this same pose.

(not-so) Handy

For the past 8 months I’ve been the proud beholder of a Blackberry Bold. Email, BBM, Twitter, Google search, all at my fingertips and available at the spur of the moment.  I’ve loved most of my time spent with this great pocket-sized piece of technology. However, the life of a grad student in a foreign country doesn’t lend itself to fancy phones and data plans.

Introducing: my ‘new’ mode of cellular communication.

Hello, Nokia 1662

A certain friend of mine (*ahem* LAC) thinks her phone is straight out of 1996. Well, dear friend, does your phone have Snake preloaded on it? I didn’t think so. Only a phone with the original cell phone game can be categorized as ‘old school’. Not only does this phone not flip, it also doesn’t have T9 capabilities… back to taking 10 minutes to type out one text message for this girl.

On the plus side, the phone does have a flashlight built into it and a great feature called “speaking clock” (take that, Blackberry).

So while I may not be Tweeting or emailing anywhere near my former capacity, just know that I may very well be in contention for the Snake Champion of 2010.

Things I Had Forgotten About Germany: A List

1: They recycle like fucking crazy.

Bins everywhere for “Restmüll”, “Altpapier” and “Bio”. For now I’m just putting everything in one bag and hoping no one notices I’m not recycling or composting.

2: Pillows are twicce the size as American ones.

I’m still trying to figure out if there’s an ergonomic reason for this, or they just like their pillows abnormally large and square. Either way, there’s no way I’ll be using the pillowcase I bought today anytime after this year.

3: Open Container Laws.

(Or lack thereof) I saw some people casually drinking beers outside the train station today, and that’s when I remembered why I love Europe so much.

4: Corny Bars.

Uncontested, my favorite German snack. Like a Quaker Chewy granola bar, only with a strange, more German flair (aftertaste?) to it. And of course I have to get the Corny Free variety (half the calories!), as I am apparently watching my weight now.

5: Many people actually do smell very stongly of B.O.

No elaboration needed… Smelling a person before you see them is never good.

6: Kids wear those square backpacks.

Though I haven’t seen many of them because it’s not the school year (right?) I have seen enough to believe that they’re still in style 4 years later. While they may be better suited to holding books (due to their boxy shape) I can’t imagine them being either comfortable or stylish to anyone.

7: No one wears flip flops.

And I mean no one. I guess my plans to fit in as a German were foiled when I put on my $1 flops from Old Navy before leaving the apartment this afternoon.

8: Eis is 1000 times better than ice cream.

I wish I felt bad that the first thing I ate when I arrived in Germany was one Kugel of Erbeer Eis im Becher [one scoop of strawberry ice cream in a dish]. But it was so good, I chalked it up as a prize to myself for arriving in Germany in one piece.

9: Bike lanes.

Though I haven’t been run over or gotten a bell rung at me yet, I’m sure its only a matter of time, as I’ve caught myself walking too far to the left of the sidewalk many times already.

10: Döner.

I haven’t had a taste of this Turkish-German delight yet, but there’s a restaurant a few blocks away, right across the street from the Eis Cafe, and cattycorner from the Strassenbahn station I need to go to to get to and from school everyday. It’s only a matter of time.