Sunday Snapshots: Mirror Effect

When a lake is as picturesque as the Weitsee…

Weitsee, 2015

Sunday Snapshots becomes a two-picture affair.

The first time we visited Reit im Winkl was more or less out of desperation. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite easy weekend escapes. If you want a chance of a day like this though, you had best go early in November. I just checked the village webcams and it is looking distinctly white these days…

Advertisements

Expat/Immigrant Qs

When I ran across this Q&A post earlier today on the very enjoyable blogs of Bev and Ami, I thought “that sounds like a good topic for a rainy day.” Turns out, it was a rather lovely day here but I’m home alone and have watched everything new… so there’s no time like the present!

Some people call me an expat, some may call me an immigrant, but either way I’m an American in a place that isn’t the United States. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

1. WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?

I was born in Menomonee Falls, WI, lived in Milwaukee until I was seven, then we moved to Eagle, WI. Eagle is mostly known for its smiley-faced water tower, and that’s about it. After a stint in Prague, I moved to Nuremberg in 2011, and eventually here to the ze Dorf outside Nuremberg in 2013.

Our village has a castle, and the castle has this cool gateway.

2. WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Floating in a sea of “what now?” post-college, I decided that my best bet to travel while still making money was to get a TEFL certification and try to teach English. I had no idea how long I wanted to do it for, and where I would end up going, but nearly nine years on I guess it has worked out okay for me.

3. WHAT TYPE OF REACTIONS DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MEET NEW PEOPLE AND TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE FROM?

This has definitely shifted in the last year and change. It used to be an “okay, cool, where in the U.S.?” and now it’s a decidedly less relaxed conversation, thanks to 45. Germans have been pretty used to an American presence in most places since the end of the Second World War, so we aren’t really anything that new and exciting here. I do find the reactions of military-affiliated Americans funny sometimes, in that they’re confused by what I’m doing here of my own volition.

4. WHAT WAS THE EASIEST/HARDEST PART IN ADJUSTING TO YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

After coming from Prague, a lot of things seemed really easy. The paperwork had some sense of order to it, whether or not everything was being done correctly, was something I wouldn’t get into trouble with for a couple years though. The hardest part was not being surrounded by a group of built-in friends right from the get-go. I’ve found people here but it took some time, and if you’re not the most outgoing, social person in the world (introverts unite! Separately!) making friends here can be tricky. The good news is that once you are friends with someone here, they are sticking around. To me, that’s invaluable.

One of the first girls I met here six years ago got married in June. It was lovely.

5. IMAGES, WORDS OR SOUNDS THAT SUM UP THE EXPAT EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD SO FAR.

In Prague it was the sound of the tram. My bedroom window overlooked a stop where six trams stopped during the day and four at night. The drivers ring the bell every time they start so that sound is inextricably linked with Prague in my brain. In Germany, it’s a lot of things… Red trains. Red trains for days. Alpine bells, or the sound of the rooster next door crowing. The smell of roasted almonds at the summer festivals, or that smell mingling with the scent of Glühwein at the Christmas markets.

Red trains > other trains.

6. YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD OR DRINK ITEM IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY

Käsespätzle is life. Not to mention a frosty glass of whatever local beer is on tap (minus Tucher, that is).

Kirchweih libations.

7. WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU SAID “YES” TO IN YOUR NEW CITY THAT YOU WOULDN’T SAY “YES” TO, BACK HOME?

Probably spending as much time on public transportation as I do here. First of all, where I grew up there was no public transportation. If I wanted to find a public bus, I’d have to drive 30 minutes in Waukesha, and get on a bus there. Doesn’t make much sense, really. I took a Greyhound one time in college and that was enough to freak me out on the Greyhound experience. The only times I can remember taking anything like public transportation was a shuttle bus down to the Milwaukee lakefront for Summerfest, a Brewer game, or some other sort of special event. Otherwise it was all cars, all the time.

8. ARE THERE ANY CULTURAL NORMS/PHRASES IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY WHICH YOU CANNOT STAND?

Sometimes I’m amazed that Germans are able to get anything done when they spend half of their lives shaking hands. I now know that if BV and I have to leave a family gathering, it’s necessary to start that process about an hour before we actually plan to leave, especially if we have to catch a train. Give me an “Irish Exit” any day of the week, because to me, that’s better than demanding people’s attention, interrupting conversations, etc. in order to have a formal goodbye.

Additionally, I’ve found that since a good deal of my classes have taken place in more technically-oriented companies, I’ve had to hear a fair amount of “women be shopping” sort of jokes (or half-jokes) from my mostly male groups. My usual strategy is to laugh it off and give them a bit of shit for that attitude, but I’m really not a fan. I have also tried out the tactic of switching the discussion to their hobbies because guess what? All that specialized sporting equipment, all those electronic toys and gadgets you have at home? Those are not cheap, buddy. Just because you only have two pairs of shoes does not mean you are a supreme example of fiscal responsibility. Most of these guys would say that women and men are equal in their companies, and in Germany as a whole, but they have a long way to go on a lot of things here.*

9. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST DOING IN YOUR NEW COUNTRY?

Any frequent readers of this blog can answer this one, I think. Get me south to the Alps and I am a happy camper.

Hiking in Austria this August.

10. DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER MOVE HOME FOR GOOD?

That is a question that I have a hard time answering. Never say never is usually a good philosophy for me, but the chaotic way that things seem to be unraveling at the moment makes me lean towards no way. If something should happen that means I do have to go “home” for a period of time, that’s one thing. But after nearly nine years gone? In those nine years, I think I’ve seen enough of this way of life to make me confident that this is what I want, and what fits the life I want to live best.

The water of the Eibsee is as refreshing as it looks.

 

*Not that the U.S. is doing much better at the moment.

Sunday Snapshots: Gourdy

Franconia, 2011

If you love a gourd, look no further than typical cafe decor at this time of year. If you want to bedeck your own doorway, it’s easy enough around here. Just drive out of any town and you’ll find farm fields with wagons of green, yellow, and orange Kürbisse ready to come home with you. Most of these places operate on the honor system though, so don’t you forget to put some cash into the box!

Save

Norway Road Trip 2017: Bergen in Color

Over hills and across water, another epic drive led BV and I into Bergen for our third road trip stop. We had booked a very sweet condo on Airbnb, which, while lacking a primo location (20-minute bus ride to the center and overlooking a fairly industrial area), it compensated with a real bed (not bunk beds), and a washer/dryer. This was a strategic choice on our part.

We figured on having two nights to explore the city, but after our morning in Vik and the long drive that followed, we were too wiped to do much on our first night besides enjoy some home comforts, do laundry, and watch bad movies on Norwegian cable. No regrets there.

Refreshed and relaxed the next morning we watched the bus to the city appear promptly at the bus stop visible from the apartment every 10 minutes without fail. Our hosts had left us tips on what ticket to buy, as well as a few sights to check out in the city, and armed with that information we were off.

Continue reading

Since Last Monday…

Well, if he gets lucky, a boy finds a girl

To help him shoulder the pain in this world

And if you follow your feelings

And you follow your dreams

You might find the forest there in the trees…

~Tom Petty

I feel guilty saying this, but last Monday was a really gorgeous day.

BV and I had just spent the first of our two nights in Reit im Winkl courtesy of the public holiday on Tuesday. Our apartment was darling, and if it had a flaw, it would be that we didn’t have any internet. Service in RiW isn’t particularly great, which meant no LTE, no 3g, and only sometimes E.

I managed to connect for a few minutes on Monday morning, just long enough to upload a picture, note that it seemed to be raining in every other part of Germany, and that’s about it. Not wanting to waste precious roaming data, I opted to take a book onto the balcony with my camera and coffee.

The rest of the day was spent hiking through a sun-soaked fall landscape that left me feeling incredibly happy and refreshed. After having to change our plans several times, it seemed that we had really lucked out. High atop a hill, I took a couple of shots with my phone, noted that I had LTE (!), and uploaded another picture while I had the chance. Then it was back into the valley, through pastures and forests, stopping at Alms for drinks and snacks.

Hours later, the clouds were starting to roll in and we were back in our apartment getting showered before dinner. While BV was readying himself, I scrolled aimlessly through the internet… bored enough to risk using that data. I saw the news about Vegas, put the phone back down, and picked up my book again. Not now, I thought.

BV and I decided on a restaurant that we hadn’t eaten at before, and settled ourselves into the cozy interior of the former blacksmith. The building dates from 1496, and from the first step we took inside, we knew that we were in for a treat. We were nibbling on our appetizers when my phone vibrated the first time. Then again, and again. I subtly checked my wrist and the Fitbit display showed me that it was my best friend writing. We correspond regularly, but rarely does she text me three times in the span of a few minutes, especially if I haven’t answered. She also happened to spend about eight years living in Las Vegas, and has friends and family there.

I apologized to BV, as we usually have a rule about no phones during dinner (especially at a restaurant), and told him about the news that I’d seen while he was in the shower. I looked at the messages, and sure enough, she knew one of the victims, and so did I. Barely, but still. It was a guy we went to college with, the ex of her first roommate when she moved out there.* A friend of a friend of a friend situation, yes, but still.

Back at the apartment, I tried not to look at the news.  I tried to concentrate on a book, mostly unsuccessfully.

Tuesday morning dawned gray and rainy. We had thought that perhaps we could do a small hiking tour before we left, but it was absolutely pouring down rain. Instead we slowly ate breakfast and packed up for the drive home. Trying to check the weather for the drive, I found myself wandering to social media again, and saw the news about Tom Petty.

NOT TOM PETTY TOO.

I’m sure it was a combination of factors, the most obvious ones being my sadness at having to leave the mountains  after such a short trip and the pouring rain, but at that point, I could have sobbed.

Back on network, I spent the whole drive home scrolling through the internet reading all the grisly details of what had happened in Las Vegas, and the beginning rumblings from every possible angle about how/why this happened. I couldn’t stop, even though I was exhausted by the thought of reading more.

That pretty much sums up a lot of how I’ve felt over the last months. The news has been so constantly, relentlessly insane that we haven’t gotten a break. Every day has brought some fresh new hell of insanity, defying logic, defying reason, defying the rule of order. It’s everywhere, it’s constantly breaking and sometimes it feels like it will break us before long.

I wish just checking out was an option, but in this world of 24-hour a day information, how realistic is that? Not very. Additionally, I teach adults, not kids, and you better believe, they are watching all of this too. They have questions, and therefore I should at least try to be able to answer them. It’s just exhausting sometimes.

Generally speaking, things are good here. I am generally happy here. It’s just been that kind of week, and those kinds of weeks have been more and more frequent these last months. It’s just hard to watch so much insanity in my home country from over here, and feel so helpless.

The world is a beautiful and amazing place, but I guess what I’m saying is that I’m having a hard time right now finding the forest in all of the trees.

 

*He’s still in the hospital, but seems to be on the road to recovery. Thankfully.