Stone of Remembrance
So I really shouldn't be writing this post before I get around to writing the now month old News of my last Mainz trip but I'll upload this one second so it can be our little secret ok?
Today I made an extra trip north to visit the Common Wealth war memorial cemetery in Kiel, Germany and had the incredible honour of visiting my great grandfather's grave and the graves of the service men who flew and died along side him. My great grandfather, Sergeant William Robertson Sutherland, was a pilot for the Canadian Royal Airforce during the Second World War, his plane went down June 24th 1941. At just twenty years old he left behind a young wife and unborn child; my grandfather, who was born just one month later.
This trip has sort of been a dream of mine for several years, I was unable to make it to Kiel on my first trip to Germany so it was fantastic to be able to finally have that experience. It has been ten years since my amazing great grandmother passed. Those of you who know me well will recall the small gold ring I have worn on my left ring finger (the only finger it fits on) for years now. Its a ring that belonged to my granny. I was quite young when she passed but I held and do still hold her very close to my heart, I promised myself years ago that I would take her to visit him and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do so.
The commonwealth war memorial cemetery is the resting place of 983 soldiers of the british common wealth. It really is a beautiful, well kept sanctuary complete with a large ' cross of sacrifice', beautiful 'stone of remembrance', and detailed records of the soldiers commemorated there. The honour of being there alone is incredible, however it was certainly magnified by the personal connection. I cant even begin to describe the feelings and emotions of the whole experience, it was really surreal. I couldn't hold back tears as I laid the iconic Canadian remembrance day poppy on his grave (Thanks mom for sending them) and one upon the stone of remembrance for all those who lost their lives. As I added our family name to the plethora of other visitors in the guest registry my heart was full of gratitude, love and remembrance.
In very loving memory
Sergeant William Robertson Sutherland (pilot) age 20
and his comrades
sergeant George Bentley (observer/bombadier)
sergeant Anthony Frost (air gunner) age 19
Sergeant Thomas Jones (Air gunner)
Sergeant Robert Straughan (Air gunner) age 24
Lest we forget
Ok its a month late but Im finally getting around to it! I mean really when is a better time to write than 11pm, 5 hours into a 7 hours train ride?
About a month ago I made a second trip down to the lovely city of Mainz which happened to conveniently coincide with the week of Fasnacht festivities. For the many of you who don't know about German Carnival please check out this link http://german.about.com/od/culture/tp/Fasching-In-Germany.htm for a better explanation than I can provide cause Im not sure I fully understand it myself! Basically it is a very old Pre-Lent custom, now its a week of partying, costumes, and parades!
There really isn't any way I can get the idea across to you Canadian folk because there is really nothing in our culture like this. Basically imagine halloween costumes on steroids, lasting for 5 days, in a country where the drinking age starts at 16 AND where drinking in the streets is legal, now exchange trick or treating for a parade and you MIGHT be able to START to imagine. Costumes, music, parties, for 5 days straight! I needed a vacation from my vacation after!
Part of why Ive been procrastinating this post is because I don't know strong enough words to adequately explain it, I'd consider it a "Must do" life experience.
Between Thursday and Monday the earliest we were home was 2am. It really was a fantastic time, music and clubs and parties and the whole town out to have a good time! Ive never seen anything like it before. EVERYONE dresses up, its pretty much mandatory. The streets are absolutely covered in broken glass and tiny single shot bottles.
I'll sum it up like this
I had a LOT of fun, met a ton of really great people, laughed until my sides hurt and only had to punch one overly handsy gentleman in the face. (That particular incident became somewhat of a novelty and I spent the rest of the weekend explaining "I'm Canadian, and was raised by a football coach, if you do something I don't like I am more than capable of handling myself" every time the story was told). Some friends also managed to find a solution for my name, which happens to be very difficult to say if English isn't your first language. My Name here ends up being pronounced a lot like (see-da) and so a group of friends ended up calling me "Du-da" throughout the weekend, which happens to german for "you there".
Really the best way for you to understand fastnach is to see it so let me plug some pictures in here. Please note that those fantastic zebra costumes were handmade by my lovely friend Feli.
This street is clean, it gets 1000 times worse!
So before I bring this to a close I'd like to make an announcement, though many of you know by now. I am officially cutting my year down to half a year and returning home May 12th. The decision to come here was easy, the decision to leave was not. I have had a fantastic experience and love the people I have met and the beautiful country around me. Life is however filled with change, surprises and new opportunities and though I leave with a heavy heart I couldn't be more thankful for this experience or more excited for the opportunities that await me back home!
Thank you all for your love and support over the past five months
Weekends in Plauen and Bremen
Now Im beginning to feel like I'm in school again and not doing my homework. The only problem is I have no deadlines so theres no push in the wee hours of the night to get Blog writing finished! I am so incredibly good at procrastination it isn't even funny anymore. Let me see if I can catch up on the past few adventures since Christmas (yes I know it's March now :p)
The first trip was a family weekend in Plauen to visit my Host mothers grandma. Plauen is a town in Far East Germany just north of Bavaria right by the Czech border. It started with a three hour drive that included a lovely narration of the happenings on the autobahn with a bonus quiz of unanswerable questions such as "Where is the car in front of us going?", "why is that car blue?", and of course the ever popular "Are we there yet?". The chorus of questions prevented me from assuming my typical car ride position of sleeping against the window, now thats going to take some getting used to!
When we arrived I had the pleasure of meeting one of the funniest and sweetest ladies I've met; My Host mothers Grandma, or "Omi" as the children all her. Despite fast approaching her nineties Omi is incredibly fit and quite possibly keeps up with the little ones better than I can! On top of being all around lovely and inspiring she also happens to be an outstanding hostess, chasing anyone who tried to help out of the kitchen and always having tea and snacks ready. There are just some people who I am honoured to get to know and she is certainly one of them! Omi lives in a beautiful corner apartment with several bedrooms and a plant filled sunroom which I had the pleasure of sleeping in. With it's slated, window-lined ceiling couldn't help but feel like some kind of princess up in a tower!
Plauen itself is an interesting city though thanks to whatever virus I was fighting off that weekend a pounding headache kept me from seeing as much as I would have liked. I did get a good tour around on the tram and a couple brief walks which included a stop by the water to feed the many hungry ducks (one of my favourite activities with the little ones, their eyes always light as the bird swarm and run after crumbs). We also took the kids swimming which as I'm sure you can imagine is a three person job but was quite fun! We had an afternoon trip to the neighbouring
town of Hof which is just inside Bavaria. Hof has a nice central street lined with shops that we walked up and while snacking on Bretzel (which are apparently supposed to be best in Bavaria so I can cross that one off the the bucket list)
We ended our trip with a delicious Asian feast prepared specially for us from a local restaurant thanks to a lovely friend of Omi's! The next more after a round of goodbyes and thank you see set back out for another one of those oh so quiet three hour drives home ;)
A couple weekends later I had the pleasure of taking a trip to Bremen to visit one of my favourite Canadians! For the many of you who don't know my "uncle" Seamus, the relationship is a little hard to clarify, but in a nut shell he was a friend of my moms as I was growing up and I call his kids my cousins. A few years ago his life changed drastically when he met a lovely German Thekla while she was working in Canada. They fell in love and they had an adorable son together. Now they live in Canada but put aside a few months every year to spend with Thekla's family in the town of Lilienthal just on the outskirts of Bremen. Cause life is funny some times it's been about six years since I had seen Seamus and had yet to meet this new wife and son, I never would have imagined that would happen for the first time here in Germany. Full of excitement I hoped on a train to Bremen and oh my gosh actually wrote a blog post on the journey. Upon arrival I was welcomed with warm hugs (Seamus is one of those people that just gives great hugs!) and lots of catching up and getting to know the beautiful little family.
Upon arrival at Thekla's family home I was amazed to find a piece of farm land that has been in the family for centuries, and comes complete with a house and barn built in the 1800s(?), several horses, alpacas, cats and a pair of dogs (FINALLY got my doggy fix after three months of missing my furry baby terribly!) There was so many heart warming things that weekend, a wonderfully kind and welcoming family. A complete adorable and talented little boy, Ily, who at just four is fluent in both English and German (perks of having parents with two different native languages)! Aside from being a totally wild, nature and animal loving hippie child just like his big brother Ily's language skills totally blew me away. With Thekla and other Germans he only speaks German and with Seamus and other English speakers he only speaks English. We however had some very very interesting conversations as I regularly spoke to him in both languages by the end of my stay he would talk to me and switch back and forth between English and German several times in one sentence! I couldn't even repeat something that he said because I cant switch languages that quickly in my head, it was really quite astounding! It was really fantastic to get to know the little guy and his lovely mama while catching up with Seamus. Not to mention how absolutely fantastic it was to be with people I consider family again after so long away from home in a strange place,
The weekend itself included a day trip to one of the many little towns nearby the name of which I didn't write down and have of course now forgotten :< It was full of history and beautiful to walk through. We then had dinner at a delicious Mongolian all you can eat grill before heading out with Theklas sister for a night on the town. The next day when we all eventually got up we took a trip to Fischerhude another neighbouring town the was home to an artists commune on the early 1900's. Lucky for us Theklas mom is a big fan of several of the prominent artists from said colony so we got a private guided tour of the museum and gallery. While I'm not usually a huge art person I was really impressed by the work and history of the place. That little trip was concluded with a walk through the little woods for Ily who had so patiently come through the museum. (I tried to teach him to play eye spy in the paintings, but that never quite worked out) Monday started with a fantastic morning horse back ride on the families gorgeous Icelandic horses. Since my train didnt leave until much later in the evening we spent the afternoon in Bremen itself too see the important tourist spots. A walk through the Schnoor, the particularly old part of the old town, which was like walking through the pages of a fairy tale with its narrow streets and adorably colourful old rickety buildings home to unique little stores and scattered hidden alleys and passages. Next was the Town hall and cathedral which to my disappointment was closed so we could only admire from outside. The town hall was first built in the early 15th century with its "new" facade completed in 1612 and is a UNESCO world heritage site and I dont think I could get a single picture that did it justice. Then we went to see the Bremer Stadtmusikanten (the Town Musicians of Bremen, a story most are probably familiar with) because you cant go to Bremen and not see them. I have to admit I was a little surprised when we came around the corner of the town hall and attached to the back wall was a life sized statue of the animals I'd always pictured it bigger and in a place of more importance. None the less popular rumour has it if you hold the donkey's front legs and make a wish it will come true, we didn't pass up the chance to wish so lets all cross our fingers he's a lucky donkey. After a quick dinner we headed the train station and said goodbye and I was on my way back to Braunschweig.
There I finally did it! The two adventures are finally written down! Obviously I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and reconnect with so many warm, welcoming and lovely people. The next post which hopefully will be up soonish (but I'm not about to make any promises) will cover last weeks eventful Mainz adventure when I get around to writing that one!
Thanks as always to everyone for your love and support!
The Bremer Stadtmusikanten
A beautiful day and a beautiful view
So it has been a solid month and a half since I last got anything written and posted. Why is that you ask? Because I'm lazy and the queen of procrastination, though I'm certainly going to use "Blog writers block" (which may or may not be a made up condition) as my excuse. However as I am sitting on a train to Bremen I find the time, quiet and patience to write so I thought it was a good time to recap.
And then in walks a nun.... nope, thats not the punchline to a joke, a fully dressed nun just entered my train... oh and she just asked me what direction our train will be driving in. Thats the most interaction I've had with a real nun in my life, and possibly ever will. I guess every day really is an adventure!
Moving right along, what has happened in the last several weeks? Well I suppose you could say that life has settled into a rhythm and become relatively normal. I almost know what light switches turn on what lights and can successfully make in to and from town with minimal bus mix ups so I'd consider that a major success! Spending the day speaking German is no longer completely and totally mentally exhausting and I like to think I get along quite well.
The fact that I haven't written in so long is not in the least to say that nothing exciting has happened, just not necessarily things I could write a whole post about. These include...
A variety of illnesses including but not limited to a painful sinus infection, a serious cold and food poisoning. Its not much of a stretch to say I've been sick for almost half of my trip. I am however now on the mend, just in time for the start of allergy season!
Taking the kids skating for the first time, which was an incredible amount of fun! Now I pride myself on being Canadian and would like to say that skating comes to me as easily as riding a bike... For the most part thats trueish, I myself can in fact skate decently, I however do not know how to teach children to skate! It was a comical hour and I wouldn't be surprised if the kidlets went home with bruised bums!
Missing my father's birthday, my sister's birthday and celebrating that of my host father. This celebration involved making a Teflon cake with cable salad on top (black icing and a lot of twisted string candy) You should be careful what you wish for or you just might get exactly that!
A wide variety of crafting projects with the kidlets, the entire cast of the gruffelo books, painting wooden card stands and starting a couple great big canvas pictures for their bedrooms. I'm very thankful for my kids crafting program at work last summer, if I can craft with 18 kids, 3 is a breeze! There is also an amazon order for the 250 sheet package of Crayola construction paper that will hopefully arrive any day now and will be very exciting as finding such quantities of craft supplies here is proving to be a difficult task. Boy do I miss my Michaels discount!
This years season of Heidi Klum's hit "Germany's Next Top Model" has begun and of course must be watched Thursday evenings at 8:15. My Thursday evenings are now spent at a friend's house watching the show that is proving to be quite entertaining. Its just as silly and over dramatic as any american casting show with the amusing addition of Heidi Klum speaking in her native German tongue.
There has been relatively no new news regarding the German language course I'd like to take, still just waiting for next semesters courses to be posted and available for registration.
My typical week looks like this....
Monday- Morning off, pick up kids in the afternoon and do crafts
Tuesday- Bring kids to kindergarten, pick up, play at the playground until music class, pick up from music class
Wednesday- Bring kids to kindergarten, pick up, crafts or visitors
Thursday-Bring kids to kindergarten, have lunch at daycare, pick up, kids sports in the afternoon, Germanys Next Top Model in the evening
Friday-Bring kids to Kindergarten, pick up, games crafts or visitors
Saturday-Grocery shopping, kids activities, visitors or visits
Sunday-Nice breakfast, free time, visitors or visits, kids bath time
There is also the occasional trip to town and a couple of naps in that week plan as well. My evenings and free time are spend mostly writing mail, trying to blog (unsuccessfully) Knitting, crocheting or whatever small project Ive come up with at the time.
The two big trips that have happened up to now, one to Plauen and one to Bremen I think Ill summarize together in the next post. My train is driving backwards and writing is beginning to make me motion sick so i think I'll wrap up for now! I know this wasn't the most action packed post but its just a look into my life and to catch up due to my laziness. There are some exciting adventures coming up that will hopefully give me a few things to tell.
This coming Friday is February 21st which marks my first 3 months in Germany! Thank you all for your love and support!
So I have been contemplating how exactly to structure this post for all 24 days of advent and now I'm out of time so I guess I'll just start at the beginning. Ill try to provide a breif overview of what my christmas abroad has been like
Advent- The christmas season around here really kicks into gear December first with the first of advent. At home we all know the daily chocolate treat of an advent calendar that, if you were like me, you probably ate all the chocolate before you were supposed to. Here advent is a little bit more of an important time, though calanders still exist, with much better chocolate or in other forms. Some are filled by mom and dad, some have books or toys and a particularly neat one at our house has lego! (see the awesome lego santa!) Advent is recognized as the four sundays leading up to christmas, we have a small wreath with 4 candles and each sunday one more candle is lit. In a small community such as ours there is also a community advent calendar, each night at a different house or community place i.e kindergarten or firestation, people can get together, sing carols, eat cookies and have a hot drink. Though advent is a religous based tradition it is widely recognized and I really enjoyed the warm and love filed feeling it brought it the holiday season.
Nikolaustag- I have had the tune to the carol about this day stuck in my head for the past month! December 6th is Nikolaustag or Saint Nikolaus Day here which is another very old tradition with a confusing origin but let me explain what happens at our house. The evening of dDcember 5th the children put a plate (and/or a freshly washed boot, dont ask me why) on the front step and while they sleep it is filled with a gift from Saint Nikolaus (or in our case from oma and opa). Saint Nikolaus is a santa like character who if I understand correctly was once a bishop who delivered gifts to kids, BUT he does not bring the gifts on Christmas Eve like our Saint Nick. This day acts like a preliminary round to christmas and it was so exciting to see the kids joy and excitement in the morning and so sweet that I received my own Nikolaustag gift from oma and opa as well. Nikolaustag gifts typically consist of nuts, fruit, chocolate and small toys or clothes
Weihnachtsmarkt - This might by my favourite part of the holiday season, and having visited a couple different ones and the one here in Braunschweig on several occasions I consider myself somewhat of an expert ;) Weihnnactsmarkt translates to christmas market and is exactly that. In the city centre, usually in the market or cathedral square a plethora of booths are set up with variety of christmas goodies. Each booth looks like a little wooden house and is usually festively decorated with lights and garland. The offerings of the Weihnachtsmarkt include any variety of hand made art, jewlery and textiles, plenty of sweets and some traditional German food and drinks. The first thing one will notice about the Weihnachtsmarkt is the air smells of Glühwein a hot mulled wine drank specifically for Christmas. I can attest that while tasty this beverage is very adept at drying out ones throat and making talking over the noise of the crowded market a serious challenge. Other Weihnachtsmarkt favourites include a variety of warm drinks, both alcoholic and throat and child friendly, bratwurst, currywurst, you-name-it-they-got-it wurst, crepes and sugar coated almonds, gingerbread (though be warned this is nothing like North American gingerbread!) and roasted chestnuts. Other stands sell elegantly crafted wares such as candles, ceramics, woodwork and ornaments. There is also a couple of carousels and ferriswheels to entertain the little ones. The thing I came to notice after going through several Weihnachtsmarkts and not buying anything was that while the things in them are amazing, they are really things that no one actually needs. I think it is safe to say that most people go to window shop, socialize, eat and drink more than in search of things to buy. Regardless of how busy or how much the air smells of wine I still love the feeling of the Weihnactsmarkt, so much christmas anticipation!
Example of what a stall at the Weihnactsmakrt looks like. Those three Glühwein drinking young gentlemen in red crashed my selfie shortly after this photo was taken.... an adventure in of itself!
The Christmas tree is an important part of the German Christmas tradition. It's been a long time since I've had a real christmas tree and I certainly never had one with real candles on it! But here that's the normal here and it's beautiful and traditional. Strangely though, tree skirts don't seem to exist, I think I'll be sending one to my host family from home next year!
We have being baking for Christmas since the last week of November and it seems that every time we visit someone we are gifted cookies! I'm certainly not complaining about the variety of baked goods, it's interesting see how different each families recipes are. Missing our families recipes I made snowball cookies and Nanaimo bars with the kids, which both went over very well!
Now that I think about it there is a general lack of lights and yard decorations around here as well. It seems that while the holiday season is long and full of excitment the holiday itself is much less commercial than in North America, it really does seem like a time to spend with family and friends.
Our candle lit christmas tree!
December 24th, 25th ,26th
So everyone at home is used to Christmas Eve, Christmas and Boxing Day but here things run a little differently.
December 24th is the day Christmas is celebrated thought it is not technically a public holiday. The day is typically normal with the celebration beginning in the evening. At our house we have Bratwurst and potato salad for dinner as a tradition symbolic of what people in the past had at this time of year. That's certainly different from the North American turkey filled feast! After dinner the children are sent upstairs to play while the Weihnachtsmann delivers presents. The Weihnachtsmann is essentially German Santa, though he is a lot less magical than our North American Santa and comes in the front door instead of down the chimney. When the doorbell rings it means he's come and gone and the children run to the tree to see what he has left. He might not have elves or reindeer but the children's faces still light up with the magic of Christmas when they see the presents under the tree. After that it's your typical flurry of wrapping paper and toy building long past bedtime!
December 25th and 26th are both public holidays here, apparently Boxing Day isn't a thing and everything from offices to bakeries are closed. The days are spent eating yummy food and cookies and visiting family and friends. For us I see a lot of Lego building and book reading in today's schedule.
Lego was this years exciting gift!
Being 7659 kilometres from home today is certainly a strange feeling, but I'm so thankful to have a fantastic host family that has welcomed me so warm and lovingly into their home and family. I'm also thankful for Skype that lets me join my family for their Christmas morning <3
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas however it's celebrated at your house! Thank you all for your love and support on my exciting adventure!
So I am currently sitting on a train back home to Braunschweig after an adventure filled weekend in Mainz! On a train that might I add I almost missed! But let me start at the beginning.
Friday morning I set out on a train to Wiesbaden to meet with my Au-pair program for the day, This meant a 4 hour train ride with one transfer along the way in Frankfurt. Along the way to the station my host father warned me that the Deutsche bahn has four conditions it cant handle , spring, summer, fall and winter and trains are often late during any and all of these seasons. As it turns out it is currently winter, which resulted in my train being 15 minutes late arriving in Frankfurt. This was challenge number one. Had my train arrived on time I would have only had 9 minutes to get to get to my connecting train. This meant by the time I arrived I was too late and that train had left.... Now my task was navigating and figuring out the next train in to Wiesbaden in one of the busiest train Stations in Germany.
Let me quickly explain what Frankfurt Main station looks like, the first level level has 24 tracks that primarily service long distance ICE and CE\ trains. Two levels under ground is where the regional S-bahn (subway type train) arrives and departs. From the first level one there are several entrances into the the lower tacks, but each one only goes to a 2-4 of the many underground stops. This meant reading AND understanding the day's train schedule, then locating the correct entrance and finding the correct track. Unfortunately I could do neither of those things. After twenty minutes of rushing around back and forth with no idea what to do or where I needed to go I learned, much like on my first bus adventure to Braunschweig how those things work. After of course missing two trains I could have taken to my destination. With my new train found and my shaken confidence sightly restored I set out to face challenge two... Arriving an hour later than the meeting time of my program in Wiesbaden.
A phone call to my agency informed me that my late arrival would mean I would have to take the bus alone from the main station in Wiesbaden to the skating rink where our group of Au-Pairs was to spend the early afternoon. Now in my grade 11 year I spent 3 months on an exchange in Mainz, which is right across the river from Wiesbaden and really not much further than going from the South shore to North shore back home in Kamloops, but I was only ever in Wiesbaden once, and I really had zero orientation there. With the instructions "You take bus number 4,7,12, 23, 24, or 47 to the stop called Kleinfeldchen. The ice rink address is 38 Hollerborn Straße." I set out on my way. Thankfully public transit here is pretty user friendly and taking a bus in an unknown area isn't too difficult since each stop has a name, is announced and displayed on a screen for all too see so getting to 'kleinfeldchen' wasn't too difficult. I stepped of the bus and looked in both directions, but no ice rink. So i walked to one end of the block to check what street it meet, not Hollerborn. I turned and walked to the other end, again not Hollerborn... I saved my self the stress and asked in the post office how to get there and as it turned out I just hadn't walked far enough down the side street as the rink was just around the corner.
When I arrived I met my group outside the rink just in time to catch the end of the little getting to know each other activities. We consisted of 11 Au-Pairs and 2 women from the agency. I am the only Canadian with my program, the other girls all come from Mongolia, China, Russia, Ukraine and Albania. Everyone is very nice and the multiple language barriers make our interactions quite interesting. We set out to skate, something I haven't done in years and as a result I am now sporting a lovely baseball sized bruise on my knee. However by some miracle it didn't take long to get steady on my feet again, thankfully. Many of the other girls had never skated before and apparently, being that I am Canadian I should be an expert on the ice (oh stereotypes eh?) and was quickly asked to try to help teach. Now that was an adventure all on its own, but I'll spare you the details! Part of our afternoon was later spent at the Christmas market in Wiesbaden where we exchanged small gifts and explored a little before setting on our way home, or in my case to Mainz.
My partner from the aforementioned exchange lives in Mainz and Saturday was her Birthday so it worked out to be the perfect weekend to visit! Crossing the river to Mainz was a wonderfully feeling since it is the only Germany city who's lay out I have a fair knowledge of since I only know a few blocks worth of Braunschweig so far. It was so nice to see familiar streets and buildings again!
Friday evening was spent enjoying a night on the town catching up, saturday preparing for the party my friend was hosting for her birthday, (I could write a whole post about just making the punch so I'll save the stories for another time) and the evening celebrating. I had a fantastic time and managed quite well to mingle in German, however that was a mentally exhausting process. When everything is loud and in German it becomes much harder to understand and requires a lot more energy. That brings us to Sunday, today, The morning was spent cleaning up from the night before and the afternoon a short trip through the Mainz christmas market. Of course this included a quick stop at the Mainz Cathedral, which so far is my favourite place in Germany, both for its beautiful architecture and the feeling of peacefulness inside that I can never seem to put into words.
Before I knew it, we were back at Mainz main station to catch my train back to Frankfurt. This is when I learned fire is also a problem for trains. About 3 stops after leaving we came to a halt a a station and were informed that there was a fire, thankfully not on our train, but somewhere in the station and we were unable to drive through until further notice. Knowing I had half an hour in Frankfurt this time I wasn't too worried about a short delay. As the minutes slipped by and a second announcement informed us they still didn't know how long we would be waiting the panic began. Thankfully just Moments later we began to move again and made it to Frankfurt with 10 minutes to catch my train! Thus concluding the adventure since this train is peaceful and about to arrive on time.
Once again thank you to everyone for taking the time to read about my silly adventures and for your love and support during my time away!
An extra happy 18th birthday to my former exchange partner and friend! Thank you for showing my your wonderful country and leaving the kind of impression that made me want to return :)
Don't worry, it's cool guys, I found the Starbucks!
Today's post is brought to you from a bus stop with very cold fingers. Why you ask? Well apparently as much as I complain about public transportation back home, here it runs well, but is a bit more confusing!
Today I had to take my first solo adventure into the city centre for an appointment at the immigration office to extend my visa. That meant taking the bus from our neighbourhood into town. There are two ways to this, with a direct bus that runs once an hour or a bus AND Tram that also runs once an hour. Unfortunately the direct bus meant I was an hour early to my appointment. Being too nervous to connect with the tram on my first trip alone I settled on killing time. Everything went perfect and I made my way to the office and got my bearings. With an hour to kill I wandered through the city centre for a while, trying to make a mental note of landmarks and become familiar with the area. I wandered a few streets with no particular purpose, passing bakeries and coffee shops and spotting a few places I'd seen in Mainz. I made up my mind to go one corner further before turning back and just around that corner was.. A Starbucks!! It was like it had been calling my name guiding me right to its door. With only three in all of Braunschweig I was thrilled that I managed to stumble upon one by accident when I easily could have taken a different street and missed it entirely. With a chai latte in hand I felt empowered, I mean if I can find a Starbucks in Germany without even trying what can't I do?
(apparently not read the schedule well enough to catch the fastest way home, but I'll get to that!)
With my spirits lifted I headed to extend my visa, which turned out to be much simpler than applying for it the first time around. Having accomplished that with no trouble I decided I was confident enough to take the tram and bus home. And that's where the problem began. Realizing I'd have to wait 30 min for a bus I noticed that the tram I needed was coming in 5 minutes, perfect right? Yeah as it turns out the tram runs a lot, like every 10 min. So feeling proud and accomplish I arrived at the bus stop... To find no bus.... And no mention of the bus on the electronic arrival board (which may I add is the most convenient thing ever!)
By the time I figured out from the posted schedule that I'd now have to wait just over half an hour for the bus, the direct bus from the city centre was leaving. With now deflated spirits I sat down in the most sheltered bench I could find and settled on writing my adventure. Thankfully twenty min into my wait my bus arrived and the kind bus driver let me wait the remaining fifteen on the bus sparing my numb fingers the pain. Thank goodness it wasn't at home or I'd really be frozen by now. However the lovely storm that recently hit canada has now made it's way across the Atlantic (according to the weather man) and is just beginning to reach us here, though temperatures are currently still above zero :)
Long story short. Lesson of the day - read transit schedules more carefully, trams run more frequently than buses.
But I found the Starbucks so all in all it wasn't a bad day!
Well it seems I have survived the first 9 days here in Germany! Not only that but I have adjusted to the 9 hour time difference, registered as a resident, and am slowly recovering from the abuse the foreign germs have put my immune system through!
I am very thankful that this is not my first time here in Germany or the time reunited to adjust would be much longer. The trickey part about going overseas is that every little thing, and I do mean very little thing is different (even the light switches are backward here!). I am very glad I am not as naive as I was the first time around so the small things are not so overwhelming. Another fantastic part of being here before is that I already have the confidence to actually speak German! Most of my day is spent in German and many of the people I meet are surprised by it. That's certainly not to say it's anything close to perfect but it is very helpful in asjdusting and provides a level of independence I didn't have the first time around!
This week has been a busy one. Aside from slowly getting to know the neighbourhood, the way to kindergarten and daycare ect. I have had many small adventures.
After a day or two of adjusting my Au pair responsibilities began. Such things as taking the children to kindergarten in the morning, picking them up in the afternoon and general helping around the house. I am very thankful I found such a welcoming family as I did, my responsibilities certainly don't seem much like work and the children are fantastic.
The beginning of the week was spent doing all the important required things such as registering as a resident, extending my visa, setting up a bank account and ordering a SIM card (though that now means a small battle with telus, but what else is new?)
I was also welcomed by a swarm of foreign germs! With all the kids being a bit sick there was no warding off the inevitable fever, and head cold that followed.
Other more exciting adventures included a lovely day trip to a neighbouring town, grocery shopping (which in Germany really is an exciting adventure!) and a fieldtrip with the kindergarten class! On Friday I joined my eldest charge and his kindergarten group on a trip to the elementary school
--- side note ---
*Children here go to kindergarten from age 3-5 and it is seperate from elementary school, which begins at grade one*
After the adventure of packing 27 kids onto a city bus, we arrived at the school to find it a buzz with Christmas activity! The whole school was open for crafts and waffles. Each class room had a different craft and all the children were free to rotate through and make as many crafts as they wanted. The main hall was filled with mothers standing over waffle irons, sprinkling icing sugar and passing waffles to eager little hands. With a Christmas tree and all the atmosphere was fantastic and the morning was so much fun! Personally, I am greatly enjoying that everything is Christmas and not 'holidays' here, it's not even the first of December and it's already beginning to feel very merry!
Tomorrow is really the beginning of the Christmas season, the first of advent. (though the green grass and trees still holding onto leaves still says fall to me!)
Tomorrow's adventure includes a trip to a large Christmas market in a town an hour or so away.
No that everyone is caught up I hope my future posts will be more frequent, concise and interesting? but everyone said to stay updated!
In short, all is well, I am happy, healthy(ish) and loving Germany! Much more too come!
Much love to my family and friends back home, and those of you elsewhere. Thanks again for all your support! Despite the enjoyment I am missing everyone!
Did I mention they have cool fire hydrants?!
Well I tried to write this last night but after one paragraph jetlag got the better of me!
On Thursday after my unbearably long layover in Warsaw, I was more than happy to get on my last flight to Hamburg. I was even more happy when my luggage arrived at baggage claim. It had been checked directly to hamburg from kamloops and I spent the better half if my travels worrying if wouldn't make it! Then it was through the green customs door (there's no hoops to jump through at German customs). On the other side I was greeted by the five smiling faces of my host family. We all pilled into the van and headed on the two hour drive home to braunschweig. By the time we arrived it was late and I went almost straight to sleep!
When I woke up in the late morning on Friday the children were already in kindergarten and daycare so I had some quiet to settle in. After a shower and breakfast I felt almost human again! A tour of the house there after revealed that it is huge! Even by North American standards with: 6-7 bedrooms (1office), 4 bath, 2 kitchens, and 3 floors! Come early afternoon we walked through the neighbour hood to pick up the children from kindergarten. We live in a little community outside of Braunschweig and most of the other houses are very old, the one two doors down was built in 1688. It's an adorable little place.
The two eldest children took to me right away, wanting to play, asking me to read them stories and even granting me the honour of a birthday party invite! The youngest is not yet two and very shy, he is still warming up to me, but has begun to wave goodnight so we are making some headway!
What I also find surprising but very positive is the amount of German that I am confident enough to use already! Unlike my last trip here I already have the skills to get by day to day life on German. It is certainly making it so much easier to settle in and make friends with the children! The majority if the day was spent in German with only a few English words here and there. I had honestly thought I had forgotten so much more but it all came rushing back to me, I can't wait to learn and improve further!
The evening was spent unpacking and trying to find a place for all my things. My room has a wardrobe so big I don't thinking could ever fill it completely! It wasn't long after that the excitement caught up to me and I crawled into bed.
Now it's 8:00am on Saturday and Today will be filled with grocery shopping and an ikea visit! (Oh how I love ikea! It's even better in Germany!)
Much love to everyone back home!
Yesterday mornings view from the balcony!
My current view from the Internet hotspot in the Warsaw airport
As I am writing this I am sitting on a cold hard metal bench for hour four of my eight hour layover here in Warsaw. What this airport seriously lacks is seating and widespread wifi! After my measly half hour free anywhere wifi ran out the hunt for the nearest hot spot took me on quite the tour. Despite flying above the clouds and straight into one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen on the decent to Warsaw the weather on the ground is dreary quite dreary as you can see from my lovely Tarmac view
My travelling day began yesterday at 6am and won't be finished until noon today (home time). Aside from a few minor hiccups I.e purse zipper breaking, not knowing that Poland doesn't use the euro and well not speaking Polish my trip has been realitively uneventful (knock on wood!). After a little language confusion, a trip through every store in the terminal and 53 polish złotych I managed to find a travel bag to get me from here to hamburg. Buying coffee should be my next mission, but it means leaving the sanctuary of wifi!
I am still at least eight hours away from reaching Braunschweig and the place I will call home for the next year. I am also rapidly running out of ways to entertain myself/keep myself awake! I'm beginning to wish I was one of those people who can sleep in airports, or that intravenous caffiene was a thing!
A special thanks again to my fantastic family and friends for all your support and well wishes for the adventure ahead! All this idle time on my hands already has me missing home. I can't promise how frequent updates will be, but check back every few days for more news! Love you all