Friday, July 21, 2006

Have you ever . . . (also known as: Things that don’t happen in C-burg)

Have you ever . . . (also known as: Things that don’t happen in C-burg)

Have you ever gotten on a bus after working on the hottest day of the year when a fairly normal looking man gets on the bus and sits down next to you, but you quickly realize that the man smells like bug spray, so you move over a little to get away from the smell, only to have him move closer to you and then fall on you when ever the bus jerks to a stop, so you stare out the window in order to escape the smell and “go to your happy place,” and as you stare out the window you notice a man standing on his balcony in his bikini underwear drinking a beer and who appears to be fairly well endowed, which makes you laugh out loud, and then the bug spray man begins to stare at you as if YOU are the crazy one?

No? Maybe it is just me.

The German is coming up to H-town for the weekend. Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary. Two years ago I made this most life changing decision. The thing I remember most about my wedding day was how calm I was, and how very certain that I was doing the right thing. This feeling has not changed.

Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the worst hangover I ever had. My tips for people about to get married: do not have your bachelorette party the night before your wedding and DO NOT let the woman who was known as the biggest partier in your sorority organize it. Don't worry, she is getting married in September and I am organizing her bachelorette party. Revenge will be mine! On the upside, I did learn that Mountain Dew is the hangover cure all.

The German and I do not have any special plans for the weekend. I just want to sleep, watch TV and go swimming. I am crossing my fingers that the hotel we found will have air conditioning, however I will not hold my breath.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Havin' a Heat Wave

Hamburg is really . . . hot. And I don’t mean in the Paris Hilton hot-means-cool kind of way. I consider myself a good southern gal. I can handle the heat. I got married in Charleston, SC . . . outside . . . in July . . . in a big, white dress. I know what it is like to work in the heat. But this is challenging even me.

I have determined that the problem is the lack of air conditioning. Air conditioning only exists in large department stores, some trains and buses, and the imaginations of crazy ex-pats. Germans are opposed to most things cold, which is why they don’t use ice in their beverages and you should always wear a t-shirt to cover your kidneys.

But I grew up with air conditioning. It never made me sick. In fact, in the summer, they might as well put up a tent over South Carolina and air condition the whole thing.

I really wish that they would realize the beauty of air conditioning. Through no power of my own, I have sweated off a few pounds in the past two weeks. That may seem great, but it has also affected my teaching and my students. By 7:00pm, NO ONE wants to be sitting in a sweltering room, staring at a teacher-in-training.

Last week I fell on my face while teaching, figuratively speaking of course. I did fall on my face once literally, but that is another story. Anyway, last week I had the daunting task of teaching “passive causative constructions,” which is a fancy way of saying “to have something done.” That did not go well. Tomorrow I am teaching simple present questions, such as “Who pays Ron?” I am hoping it will go better this time.

It is going to be about 36 degrees (about 93 F) tomorrow. I wanted to teach in my bathing suit, but I have a feeling that would influence my grade about “professionalism in the classroom.”

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ordung muss sein!

The World Cup soccer tournament had many positive influences on Germany. For example, the entire country seemed really optimistic last month. Also, any dour mood was completely wiped away. But there are some things in Germany that will never change. One of them is the idea that “Ordnung muss sein” (there must be order).

Yesterday morning I was walking from my apartment to the bus station. I approached a cross walk just as the lights changed, so I stopped to wait for the little green man who gives me permission to walk. I was quickly surrounded by about 3 other walkers and two people on a bike. The light was really long, and there were no cars coming in either direction. All I could think was, “Any day now.” Suddenly, one of the bikers had had enough of waiting and crossed the street even though there was still a little red man!

I must tell you that you never cross a street in Germany when there is a red light. NEVER. Seriously, crossing a red light here is worse than wearing the wrong shoes when driving, and perhaps killing small animals. I have been yelled at by complete strangers for crossing at a red light. You can imagine the surprise of the people at the cross walk yesterday. We looked at each other in complete wonder and shock at the audacity of the woman. Then we sort of smirked at each other as if to say, “Yeah, she is going straight to hell.”

Last night I went out with some women from my English course. After a few drinks, I was very happy and did not care two diphthongs about the fact that I have to teach tomorrow (today!). However, I was about to miss my bus, so I ran across the street in the face of a red light. My friends called after me, “But it is red, Claire.” “I don’t care! See you tomorrow!”

As I sat on the bus, I felt a little bad. It was kind of dangerous. I did not even look both ways before crossing. This is why Germans adhere to the rule. As I walked home from the bus stop, I came to the same cross walk of the woman on the bike. The light turned red. I waited. It was almost midnight. There was no one on the streets. The light was really long. A man rushed by me and crossed the street. He looked at me over his shoulder as if to say, “Dude! What are you waiting for?” I just laughed. And waited.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So Close . . . Final Thoughts on the World Cup

Remember last week I promised to take pictures during the Germany-Italy semi-final? I was not able to do that, as my camera was sitting on my desk, next to my laptop. It turned out that was not a bad thing, as Germany lost and the "big party" turned into a long walk home.

It was amazing to be in Hamburg last week during the game. The entire city was quiet. The streets were deserted. People were glued to their TVs. After the game, there was more silence. It was strange. Everyone got up and went home and no one said anything. One young man was clearly devastated by Germany’s loss and he sat on the sidewalk, staring into the darkness. I must admit that I was shocked as well. Until the end, I really thought that Germany would win.

On Saturday I was able to watch the “small final” between Germany and Portugal in the comfort of my own home with the German. Germany won. After the game, I realized that there are several lessons to be learned from sports.

First, sometimes we have to be happy with less. Although winning the world cup is a wonderful experience, the Germans celebrated their 3rd place finish in a raucous manner. Never before had 3rd place looked so good. There is a lot of talk in Germany about pension reform and health care reform. The state provides a lot to its citizens. But it is starting to run out of money. Perhaps people need to be happier with less.

Second, never underestimate the power of sport to bring people together. This World Cup was relatively free of riots and fighting. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in Germany’s cities, without causing problems.

Finally, I think third place is better than second place. Just think, France was second and Germany third. At least Germany won its last game.

After the German turned off the television on Sunday night after the final, I looked at him. “What will we do now?” For a month, the world cup was the center of many things here in Germany. It awoke a certain pride in Germans in their country. People here became more positive and open. I just hope that it lasts a little bit longer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Day One of my training course was uneventful, but very long. I do not feel “pressure” in the way the tutors indicated, however I do feel very tired. The amount of information thrown at you can be a bit overwhelming. By the end of the day all I wanted was a cold beer and my daily soap.

But the room I am renting does not have a television. No TV during the week for the next four weeks! I feel like a junkie going through withdrawal.

Today is July 4th, which is significant in two respects. First, it is Independence Day in the U.S. No, not the really bad film with the very cute Will Smith, but the day American colonists said that they had had enough of British rule. I always loved the 4th of July; barbeques, fireworks, watermelon (okay, not so much the watermelon, I don’t like watermelon). Americans definitely know how to throw a party.

Today is also noteworthy because Germany will play Italy in the World Cup soccer semifinals. Will Germany’s dream run come to an end tonight? I hope not. The World Cup has put the entire country in a good mood, and I do not want that to end.

Luckily the directors of my training seminar recognize the importance of this event (the second event I mean; they are British and could care less about the first), and are letting us leave 15 minutes early tonight. I am not going to the public viewing places in Hamburg. Honestly, crowds that big make me nervous. There is a bar around the corner of the school I am attending, and I will head over there around 8pm. I will have digital camera in hand to document win or loss. I just hope I remember to use it!

So far the parts of Hamburg I have seen have been wonderful. Altona, Ottensen, and Eppendorf are really nice. I am reminded of all the things that I love about living in a city: public transportation, shops open later, a variety of food. But there are, of course, the things that I hate about city life: trash, crowds, people who walk their dogs but do not clean up after them. Seriously people, clean up after your dog!

Yesterday I saw an adorable Jack Russell terrier laying the middle of the pedestrian district. He was soaking up the rays and clearly did not care if he disturbed the humans on foot. Nope, he decided he wanted some sun and was going to enjoy life. I am sure there is a lesson for us in there somewhere.

I think may not be hip enough for my neighborhood. People here seem a bit more “arty.” They wear cool t-shirts with anti-establishment sayings and seem to walk to the beat of their own personal soundtrack. I tried being hip on for size when I was in college. It did not fit too well and I felt like a total poser. On the other hand, I do not think the people here notice me much, so I will try “Claire hippness” for awhile.

PS: I wrote this entire post in Word before connecting to the internet. Sniff. I miss my DSL.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Houston, we have an internet connection.

I made it to Hamburg in one piece, although with the German driving the good car, was there any doubt? I am staying in the Altona part of the city. So far everything is good. My room is nice and clean in an old, interesting building and my flatmate is nice.

Today is the first day of the course. I am very excited. I figure that the stay won't be too bad. Last night the German and I had some pretty decent Thai food while watching a punk band / street preformer (who was also pretyy decent).

And, yes, I do have an internet connection in my room. However, it is a dial-up. Man is it slow! I am spoiled. I want my DSL! But at least I will be able to post regularly over the next few weeks.

Later 'Gators!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Heading to Hamburg

I am leaving C-burg today and heading to Hamburg. I will be attending a training seminar in Hamburg for the next four weeks. At the end of the seminar, I will receive my CELTA certificate (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). I have been teaching English for 20 months now, but never received any formal training.

The certificate course is very "intense," and involves 8 hours of training everyday, including one hour of teaching a day. When I applied for the course, I was asked several times if I could handle the "pressure." As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, pressure is not a problem for me. All in all, I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn something new and to break any bad teaching habits I may have developed.

Also, I have put everything else pretty much on hold for the next month. No university, no teaching in C-burg, no new business contacts. It is almost a relief that for an entire month, I will only have to concentrate on one thing.

I am not sure what the blogging situation is going to be like over the next few weeks. I am renting a room, but I am not sure if I will have internet access. There are computers at the training center, but "lesson planning has priority." Isn't that always the way? I will scope out the situation and keep you up-to-date.

I have been to Hamburg a few times, but never spent that much time there. Any sight seeing tips? Better yet, any tips on where I can find a good hamburger and / or Mexican food? I am also looking for a good manicure place.

Seen around C-burg: My business's opening party was in Saturday's Muensterlaendische Tageszeitung. Unfortunately, the small article is not available on-line. But trust me, the New Yorker and I look great.