Monday, September 26

Zum Geburtstag viel Glück

Today I am 22. Twenty-two... whew... I feel... rediculously young. This often happens to me on my birthay because I was usually one of the youngest in my class at school, but here in Germany I feel it even more so. They have 13 grades here, so most dont finish high school until they are 19, then most people take a year off, the boys often have to serve in the military for a year and girls often nanny or travel or work or something. Then they get around to going to University, few finish in four year and even after their studies they usually still have a couple year of Praktikum, practical training for their job before they are officially working adults. Gudrun was shocked to learn that in the US there are 22 year olds who can be teachers or can have real paying jobs. Everything is kind of fast tracked in the US. Partially because after paying $30,000 a year for school most american grads are in debt and need to make money, Germans pay little or nothing for University so they aren't forced into the workforce quite as quickly, although that will most likely be changing soon.

Anyway... about me... I can't think of everything that I've done since last time i wrote. I did meet some other exchange students here from all over Europe. I met one Italian boy last weekend, and he's in a language class and living in dorm so he knows lots of the other internationals. So friday? night I went out with some of them to eat Bavarian food and then one of the guys with us who actually lives here had a friend in an acapella group that was performing, so we went. Turned out the performance was called 'acapelle meets improve'. It was a very entertaining evening watching Germans singing acapelle songs and then a group of them did some improve games. Random, but fun. Saturday I went to the Oktoberfest for a little bit in the afternoon, this weekend was Italian weekend. Yikes... I was there at like 2 in the afternoon and there were so many very drunk Italian men. I decided I'd had enough of that pretty quickly, but I did enjoyed walking around soaking up the festive carnival atmousphere. There's even a flea circus there! Today I was out in the Englisher garden and holy nakedness... I guess the other times I went it was a either a weekend when its full of tourists or the weather was bad. But today was nice and sunny and it was the place to be if you enjoy full nudity. Lots of buisness people actually go on their lunchbreak and you see them there, lying on the grass, their suits folden very neatly in a pile next to them. Oh Germans...

Tonight Gudrun is making dinner for me and Frau S. and her family are coming over for my birthday, I think there will be cake involved. Its very sweet of them to do something for me on my B-day. I've been feeling a bit homesick lately, I guess after a few weeks the vacation menatality has worn off and its hitting me that I'm not going home for a long long time. I miss having people around who already know me well and I can just relax with. And people who speak the same language as me... BUT, Grant is coming on Monday! He gets a big prize for being the first to visit me :-) Other things to look forward to... tommorrow is a 'Wandertag' (fieldtrip) for the 5th graders and I get to go along to Schoß Nymphenburg here in Munich which I havn't seen yet. Wednesday I teach my first discussion class all on my own. Wednesday night I'm going to a synchro practice with the masters team here! Thursday evening I might to to a teahers Vollyball league :) Nevermind that I havn't played Vollyball since 8th grade! There are a few other pretty young teaching who are still working on their Praktikum to get their license an they are really nice, so I'm looking forward to it. Saturday... I get my own room... woo hoo! Today I went and got the rental contracts and found out that my room includes an internet connection, YES!!!

Good things. Happy Birthday to me :-)

Saturday, September 24


Originally uploaded by annieswims05.



Originally uploaded by annieswims05.

soooooooo many drunk people...


Originally uploaded by annieswims05.

Me with Linsay & friends slightly tipsy at 2pm in front of the Rathaus on Marienplatz. Like our cookies?


Originally uploaded by annieswims05.

Here I am at Oktobefest in the rain with Lindsay, another Fulbrigher visiting from up north

Thursday, September 22

Surfs Up!

I'm trying to download a picture to put on here... but its not working, so here's a link. Yes, surfing in Munich. What don't they have here? I was in the English garden yesturday and saw the a few guy surfing, its pretty crazy, especially considering how cold it is.

So, what else is new in München? not a whole lot I guess. I've been going to some more classes at my schools. I haven't actually done any teaching yet, just introducing and observing. I'm getting a little frustrated with the head teachers because they still havn't worked out a concrete schedule for me. As a result I usually get dragged along to school at 7am and then sit around until someone decides to take me along to a class that they don't really need me in.... arg. Hopefully they'll figure it out soon. The classes I have gone to have been kinda fun. Its basically about the same as american high school. I'm excited about the higher level conversation classes that I'll get to teach on my own. Today in one of the upper level classes we talked about oil prices and huricanes and racism... oiy. It's hard being the one American put on the spot, I feel like I should know way more about things than I really do. I also I guess should have more definite opinions on everything, but I can't very well speak for all Americans. I'm going to be getting a whole lot better at keeping up on current events this year.

I'm also getting a tad sick of living with Gudrun, the teacher I'm staying with. Like I said, she's nice and she cooks for me and its allright, its just annoying to have to tell her where I am and when I'll be back all the time, and she likes me to come home at 6 for dinner. Which means if I go into the city I have to leave by like 5 to get there. If I know ahead of time I can tell her I wont be home, but I never really know what I'm going to do. And she hasn't given me a house key. Yesturday I was going to the school she doesn't teach at and didn't need to be there until 11, so she had to give me a key to lock up. She gave me like a 10 min. lecture on how to properly lock the doors and how even though Munich is pretty safe there may still be thieves and how her key is registered so if it were lost it would be expensive to replace.... oh my goodness! She lives an hour outside the city in this little residencial town with mostly elderly people and young families. sheesh. Oh, and when she left in the morning she actually locked me out of the whole bottom floor of the house. She's a little crazy... But of course I am gratefull that she's letting me stay with her and am incredibly lucky to have a free room. I'm just anxious to get my own room and have a set schedule so I can get into some kind of rutine.

Ok, so enough complaining about me. other things going on in Germany.... Elections!!! I don't really understand how things work. No one really won the election, neither the SPD nor the CDU had a majority, but aparently Schöder (SPD) has formed a coalition with the Green party and the Leftist (comunist) party so that all together they will have the majority. I don't get how thing works out exactly, sounds like a lot of choas to me. I can't believe the comunist party is so big, the got something like 9% of the vote, and its mostly the eastern states that support it. One would think that they saw how poorly comunism worked the last time and wouln't want to go back to that, but Germans are very idealistic people I think. For the most part Germany is very liberal, except for Bayern which is an island of conservativism. I talked to Gudrun about the election a bit, she has a fairly pesimistic outlook on Germany's future. She said things will get worse before people realize things need to change, i think the same could be said of the US. She seems surpised in general that I would come here to Germany, she said young people are leaving here to go to the US, not the other way around. I guess thats true, but Germany is not exactly impovered at the moment, especially not Munich. But true, the economy is on a downward slide. I don't think I'd ever move here permanently, but there are plenty of things I don't like about the US too, there are always positives and negatives.

In other news, I haven't been back to the Wiese'n (site of Oktoberfest) yet, but I may go tomorrow or saturday. I did go to that Bavarian theater thing last Saturday with Gudrun and Frau. S, it was fun I guess. They were speaking in real Bavarian dialect, so I didn't really understand much and I definitely didn't get the jokes. Its amazing to me that a languange can vary so much from one little region to the next here. I also went to the big parade on suday which was HUGE. Its a parade of people wearing the traditional Trachten, costumes, it was at least 2 hours long of marching bands and groups from all over germany, austria and switzerland dressed up and walking through the city in the freezing rain, its pretty crazy. I couldn't believe how many people were in it.

Someday I'll be able to post my pictures, but at the moment niether of the schools I'm working at has a working internet conection. !!!!!!!!!! The're a little behind on these things at German high schools... hopefully they'll get it up and working soon so that I don't go broke paying to use internet cafes!

Saturday, September 17


... another bavarian greeting. I love Bavarians! Seriously.... why did I ever go to Northern Germany? People here are great. Since I last wrote... I wandered more, I saw the modern art museum. Yesturday I met up with Jen, another American Fulbrighter here and we hit up a biergarten in the Englisher Garten (big city park) and then walked around more. I bought a dirndle!! It's really cute. I'll post pictures when I can. Then last night I went to visit the relatives I have here in Munich... my grandpas half brother Hans and his wife Ilse. I was a little worried because they only speak German and I've only met them like once, but they were very nice and welcoming and I got to here some fun stories about Grandpa :) Their grandson, Martin, also came over. He's probable 30 or so and said I should call him sometime and he'd take me out. So I sat around with my distant realatives, speaking German, it was nice.

and today..... Oktoberfest! I met one of the other American Fulbrighters who came with some of her friends from Boston College. Unfortunatly its rainy and freezing outside, so I had to forgo the dirdle for today... maybe later, I have two weeks yet. Anyway, I met them there around 11, we sat out in the freezing rain because its impossible to get a table inside on the first day. beer starts flowing at 12, and we had downed our first Maß (2 liters) by 1:30 or so. We were feeling pretty friendly and not quite so cold by then. We met some nice guys from Ireland, I think they really just wanted to use our umbrellas... but they were entertaining anyway. It was far too cold and wet to sit outside and eat though, so we came back into the city to eat at one of the beer halls here. so we had some tasty and sobering Bavarian fare. Then they had to catch their train back, they're staying like an hour away because, well, thats about the best you can do around Munich for Oktoberfest.

And now... here I am in an internet cafe. I'm going to head back to the teachers house soon. She and another teacher are taking me out to some kind of Bavarian theater tonight. Such a long day.... drinking in the afternoon really throws me off. I'm ready for bed!

Tomorrow is the big huge parade through the city, yay parades! This is great... I still can't believe I live here.

Friday, September 16

bummeln durch die Stadt

bummeln is a great German word. it means something like rambling, or bumbling, or just wondering slowly through the city. So that`s pretty much what I've been doing the last few days. The U-bahns are not running at the moment because there is a strike, so I'm been walking a whole lot. I did get my Visa yesturday so I'm officially alowed to stay! I can't believe I'm really living here still. its a little crazy. I do like the city, its very pretty and there seems to be another monument or church or museum or park everywhere you turn. And yet it doesn't feel quite as touristy as I expected. I mean, there are plenty of tourists flooding in now before Oktoberfest starts tomorrow, but still when I'm walking around I feel like most the people actually live here. It's a nice mix I think.

I'm seriously considering buying a dirndle . There are second hand shops all over selling them. I tried one on yesturday and it was pretty darn cute if I do say so myself. I almost got it but then chickened out, but maybe today I will. I have to be prepared for the Oktoberfest after all...

So other than wandering I don't have a lot to do. I need to meet people very soon or I'll go crazy. The only person I have to talk to is the 50 some year old woman I'm staying with... She is very nice, I think she really likes having me there. I'm so spoiled having someone cook for me every night. And she bought me Ámerican' cereal yesturday, she said it was her nephews favorite kind, it's pretty much like cinimon tost crunch. I don't usually eat sugary stuff, but it sure is good and I just thought it was so cute that she got it for me :) Anyway, today I'm going to meet up with one of the other American fulbrighters here for lunch or something and then this evening I'm going to find my great half-uncles house to visit them. And tomorrow hopefull I'll get to the Oktoberfest! So I guess I'm keeping pretty busy.

Monday I´ll actually start going to classes. Frau S. would like me to plan some lessons about Germans in America. Immigration, what traditions are still visible today, things like that. Gesundheit, Kindergarted, and Kaput are mostly the words I can think of, and Oktoberfest parties of course. I'll find something I'm sure. Let me know if you have any ideas!


Wednesday, September 14

Grüss Gott

That's a very Bavarian greeting. I haven't heard to much Bayrisch around here, a few people with a little bit of an acent, but nothing I can't understand. But I'm in a big city and I guess it's like living in Minneapolis, no one has that thick MN accent and we all kind of make fun of it. I am begining to understant why northern Germans think people in Munich are a little snotty. Yesturday the woman I'm staying with was telling me about how great Munich is and that it is the most beloved city by Germans and that every German would certainly live there if they could afford it. This totally reinforces my comparison of Bavaria and California. If fact it sounds exactly like something a certain uncle of mine might say about northern California....
Anyway. Yesterday I saw my schools and met a ton of English teachers and then i went out into the city and rambled a whole lot. It's big! I saw the Rathouse and the Frauenkirsche. I havn't been in any museums yet, the big ones are so big I'll definitely have to set aside a whole day for each.
Today I'm out and about again and feeling pretty on top of things. I successfully matriculated at the University this morning! woo hoo! If you have any idea what German beurocracy can be like then you'll understand why this is such an accomplishment. I felt like I was in some kind of really boring video game. I went to one office and they looked at some papers, told me I needed something else, went to another office several blocks away, got more papers, went back to the first office where they could check me off to send me to another office which was on the other end of a huge building.... and so on and so forth. And of course there was a line to wait in at every office. weeeee. After that I went to another office and got my transportation pass that I get for free as a student so now I can use all the U-bahns! (subways) I'm mobile! I could get my visa today though because that office was closed. So there is still more beurocracy and lines and waiting to come. I also went and walked by the dorm I'll be living in. It looks pretty nice and is right accross from an U-bahn station. excellent. I am so totally on top of this whole living in a forigne country thing. no sweat.

And now I'm pretty exhasted, but I'm going to wander a bit more anyway and make my way home.

Bis Später!

Tuesday, September 13


here I am at last. I got in last night and was picked up by one of the teachers I'll be working with, Frau S. and her friend who I'm staying with for the next week, Frau G. She's very nice. Very German. She lives alone and is incredibly neat and clean. She seems happy to have a guest and wants me to speak english with her so she can practice, she teaches French and German. It's a little awkward of course, living with a stranger, but it should be fine. Germans are so funny... it cracks me up. She asked if I liked cold milk with my cereal, which, of course I do, then she told me that cold milk is bad for the stomach. Who knew? Apparently eating salad in the evenings is also bad for the stomach. Don't ask why. She made a very good dinner which was excellent and very much appreciated because the food in Altenberg was pretty terrible. I went to bed right after dinner pretty much, I was so exahsted. And I love German bedding :) The huge sqare down pillows and duvets. Mmmm.

Today is the first day of school so everyone is a little hectic. I'm teaching at two different schools. I went to one this morning, I'll call it School A (I'd rather not publish the names of the high schools) , there I got some paperwork sorted out and talked with my advisor teacher Herr N. It seems I'm going to be in very high demand. Frau S. gave me the impression that there was a little tension between the two schools in working out what days and times I'm going to be at each one. Now I'm at School B waiting to meet Frau G for lunch. After that I'm going to go out and ramble in the city a bit. The schools are kind of out in the suburbs, so It doesn't really feel like I'm actually in Munich yet. I'm excited to see all the famous tourist stuff :)

This coming weekend is the begining of Oktoberfest. Some of the other american Fulbrighters are planning on coming down so hopefully I can meet up with then and go see what all this hub bub is about.

Monday, September 12


whew. I'm back in Köln. We had our orientation for the last four days in the little picturesque city of Altenberg. It was.... I don't even know. I'm so wiped out right now. It was really great to meet so many people there. I didn't quite realize how huge this program is. There are about 120 americans here with the Fulbright thing and then there are also tons of British, Austrailians, Canadians, etc. Then there are also groups of French, Italian and Spanish teachers coming to Germany. Our group was only 1\3 of the english speakers. So it was pretty overwhelming. It was kinda like the first few days of freshman year, meeting everyone for the first time except that we all at least had a common interest in Germanness. There are a ton of Minnesotans in the bunch, all that German heritage I suppose. I ended up hanging out a lot with the two Canadians that were there.... Crazy Canadians. I made lots of friends with people who will be all over Germany, so I've got lots of travel buddies and places to visit. There are actually two other american girls in Munich.
The orientation involved a lot of meetings and group work. We had to do little practice teaching lessons. Of couse we also had some liesure time. The place we were staying was pretty neat. Its a church complex with big cool cathedral out in the middle of nowhere. We were locked in every night at 9:45, but they provided cheap beer and wine, so no one complained to much. Good times.
I can't think of what else to say about it right now, I'm sort of in a daze. We were supposed to wake up at 6am to catch the bus this morning. I overslept, there were going to leave without me, luckily a friend noticed i was missing and got me just in time. But I still have that feeling like I'm dreaming or something.
In a couple hours I'm off to Munich! It's about four hour train ride. Nap time for me! My teacher is picking me up at the train station. I'm really excited to get to a house with a bed and a washing machine.

Thursday, September 8


Hello all. I'm in Köln (Cologne) at the moment, but I'll be leaving for our orientation in Altenburg in a couple hours. The rest of my time in Münster was great. I'm so glad I went there first, seeing friends made me feel much less alone here in Deutschland! I got to Köln the night before last. I'm staying at a hostel and it's been a lot of fun. There are a bunch of us Fulbrighters here along with people from all over of course. I've had quite a lot of Kölsch (local beer) and seen some of the important sights. I climbed the Dom of course, I think it is still my favorite Cathedral ever. It's just so unbelievably huge!

Hopefully orientation won't be too bad. It's in a tiny dorf outside Köln. I guess we have to do lots of practice teaching and stuff. As well as filling out plenty of paper work I'm sure. There will be no shortage of Beurocracy :-P

I'm not sure if I'll have internet access or not while I'm there. At any rate I'll be off to München (now that I have umlauts I'm all about the German names of cities) on the 12th! I'm really looking forward to settling in somewhere and not having to worry about my ginormouse suit cases anymore!


Monday, September 5

Ich bin Münsteranerin

Here's a picture of the Asee Kügeln (balls), coincidentally, they were desigened by the same artist who made the cherry on the spoon in Minneaopis. How about that?

It's been so nice here! Last night Silke came over for dinner and then she and I went out for coffee while Eva stayed in to watch the political debate. There's an election coming up for Chancelor. It will most likely be between Schröder (Social Democratic party) and Merkel (Christian Democratic Union). Silke thinks Merkel will win because the economy has been so bad under Schröder. The CDU is more toward the right end of the spectrum. Merkel is a woman by the way, I think it's pretty cool that this seems to be a non-issue here, although Silke says she doesn't like her because she's ugly and mean looking! The Al Gore problem... Germany isn't quite so dominated by only two parties though. I've been seeing signs in the city for a Marxist Lenenist Party! Anyway, talking to Silke was much more informative for me than watching the debate I think. We talked about all kinds socio political economic issues in Germany and the US. She is such an interesting person to talk to, she always has a wordly kind of perspective on things, perhaps because she has grown up in the US and in Germany and sees the flaws in both systems. She also has had to fight had to get through University because her family can't suppot her. She knows that socialism doesn't always work.

We talked a lot about our diffent school systems and what the pros and cons are. In Germany kids are tracked after 4th grade into Gymnasium (college track) Haubtschule (usually go on to apprenticeships) and Realschule (the lowest level). In theory it is more fair because students are tracked based 'purely' on grades and test scores. Of course that doesn't always work. For instance someone with dislexia is pretty much doomed to be put in Realschule because they don't have special education classes. Also, immigrants from Turkey or anywhere else are most likely put into Realschule because they haven't learned the language well enough yet and the schools are not required to teach them. So, the system is flawed. But is it worse than our American system where kids are doomed simply because of their parents income and the school disctrict they live in? I don't know. There has to be a better atlternative.

Anyway, Silke and I had a nice talk over coffee. Today I went out into the city again, but today the stores were actually open :) I went to Deutschbank to see if I could still use the account I opened last time, which I can. I had -1 euro in it! But I deposited some money and got my account number and they'll mail me a new card. I was pretty proud of myself because I did this all auf Deutsch. Then I went to buy a Handy (cell phone) and the guy started talking about networks or something... I must have had a pretty blank look on my face because he asked where I was from and then spoke english to me. But I got the cell phone, so all is good. I did a little more shopping, made the mistake of going into H&M where I naturally wanted to buy everything, but I resisted when I remembered how heavy my backpack already is... I did give in and buy a new book though because I wanted a German book to read. It was so exhilerating to walk around the city when it was so busy. It's been a while since I've even seen that many people at one time... much less that many Germans! I went to a cafe to have a coffee and read.. and there was Silke! That's the nice thing about little cities... So I had coffee with her and her friend and we arranged to meet later by the Asee Kügeln, which we did. We sat on the grass, drank some wine, Silke played guitar and we sang some great Folk songs, a few German ones but mostly American of course. It was odd to be sitting with a bunch of Germans singing... 'West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country road...'

Oh, and Eva let me use her bike so I took the long way to the Asee... Weeeeeeeeeee... I miss riding a bike everywhere! How could I ever have disliked anything about this city?? Oh right.... rain... and Germans... :-P

Tomorrow I'm off to Köln! (I love having ulauts again! äöü)

Sunday, September 4


Hallo! I made it! I'm back in Münster! Getting here was about as fun as can be expected... long, tiring, blah. But when I finally got here Eva and Silke welcomed me with open arms. We had a nice late supper and then I went promtly to bed and slept until noon today. I headed out this afternoon and wadered around the city. It's so pretty! The weather is gorgeous right now and there were people out everywhere, window shopping, walking around the Asee, sitting in the cafes. I went to the Botanical garden behind the Schloss, it was gorgeous. I got some gellato and sat in the city center for a bit. There is a new Einkaufzentrum (shopping center) that they were building when I was last here. It's half done now and it's really nice. I thought it would be ugly to put a mall in the middle of such a quaint city, but it really flows well with the rest of the city. It opens up to the street in a few places. I actually almost walked by it all together without noticing, that's how well it seems to mesh. Leave it to Germans to make a mall pretty and practical. The rest of the city is about how I left it. I even walked by my old apartment building... I'm glad I'm not living in that anymore! I am a little sad to not be living in Münster though, as much as I was ready to leave it last year, I miss it now that I've been gone. But Munich will be a tad more exciting. Eva said I have to 'lick all my fingers' which I guess is a german saying refering to how lucky I am to live there. Bavaria is like the California of Germany, beautiful but way to expensive for most to afford it, housing is hard to come by, and it's a world of it's own with a whole different culture. I mentioned Oktoberfest and Eva said, 'Uhg, that's only for Americans, no northern German would ever go, it's far to Bavarian for them' Haha, I guess I'll have to see for myself!

I have a few more days to bum around and recover from jetlag here with Eva before I head back to Colonge. just thought I'd let everyone know, all is well !

Thursday, September 1

22 hrs to take-off

So how am I feeling on the eve of my departure? Pretty darn good overall. My bags are packed. I ended up with one more bag than planned. I'll still be able to get it all on the plane without incuring extra fees, but let me tell you its going to be reeeeeaaaally fun trying to get it all onto a train by myself... can't wait for that. Oh traveling... I love it and a hate it all at the same time.

Before I go I'd like to write down a few goals for the upcoming year that I can look back on at the year progresses.

1. Be a dedicated teacher. Stay on top of lesson plans, be creative, get to know the students and keep them interested. Impress the students and teachers with your maturity and confidence. And speak loudly enough for them to hear me!! Go above and beyond. Find a project you care about and follow through, start an after school club. Remember, teaching is the reason I'm in Germany!

2. Utilize free time. You are in Germany for goodness sake. Get out of your little dorm room and do something cool! Visit every museum, church, park you can. Walk, hike (in the Alps!) , ride a bike, get moving! Take interesting classes, do the reading, learn something! Travel as much as possible and travel alone sometimes. Try new things, be open minded and adventureous.

3. Meet people. Be outgoing, be confident. Make friends, but don't spend all your time with the same people, this is the perfect oportunity to meet new, different, and interesting people. Be open to anything and anyone (just don't be too naive).

4. Speak German! Don't spend ALL of your time with English speakers! practice, read German, take classes in German, study German, write in German. German, German, German!

5. Budget. Plan a monthly budget and stick to it. Make some extra money to use for traveling. Cook your own meals, don't buy clothes or stuff you don't need and can't fit in your suitcases anyway! Be smart, plan ahead.

6. Stay in touch. Send postcards, write e-mails, take pictures, write letters, make phone calls, blog blog blog. All that good stuff I can do to let you people know how much I love you even though I'm so far away.

I realize that these aren't the good kind of goals that you can actually measure, but at least it's something to look at if I'm ever feeling lonely, homesick, or just off track. Mostly I hope that I can have a great time, be happy, have fun, all that. And I hope that I can make it meaningful!

My heart goes out to all those affected by Hurricane Katrina and to those who are doing all they can to help. The images on the news are shocking and appalling, I can only hope that relief finds all the people stranded there as quickly as possible.