31 October 2007

Coming and going.....

Train stations are such funny places! Teaching English Conversation in three different towns; Wolfenbuettel, Wolfsburg, Braunschweig; I find myself spending most of my free time waiting for the train, running to a train, and more infamously missing trains. But for a girl who misses more trains than I actually caught, I often find myself just watching people.

As a seasoned people watcher, I have always thought what is the other person's story. Why are they taking the same train I am. To go to work, heading on holiday, to meet a lover, to go to someone who is ill, to meet a friend, heading home; there are a thousand possiblitities. But no matter what the reason is we are all on that platform for same reason, to get to somewhere, whether you want to go there or not. We all have that in common. For me that is a refreshing feeling.

So I have been gone a few weeks, it's that time of year when it seems like everything needs to be done a once but nevertheless I have had time to have some fun as always. It is common knowledge that I have alot of Chinese friends. So a few weeks ago, Ling (the Chinese Language and Culture teacher I share an office with) asked me to teach her how to make cookies! Now we all know how famous or infamous of a baker I am. But we tried! We made sugar cookies with frosting (yes we made it). Seriously, turned out to be rockstar. Ling was so thrilled, I have never seen someone so excited when eating my cookies! She was my main mixer except she was so crap with a spoon, so I gave here chopsticks and she whipped that batter like it was going out of style. But in return, Ling and a few of her fellow Chinese students, invited me over for a night of cooking Chinese dishes and amazing eating. The Chinese just memerize me! They can cook wonderful in minutes! We made around 7 dishes, then they set them all in the middle of the table and we eat. No plates, no knives, no forks. Just you the food and my chopsticks. Yes I was proud I ate almost the whole meal with my sticks! But they are so welcoming, so generous and I am completely enjoying my Chinese friendships!

When I am not eating Chinese food or missing trains, I am trying to the best English Teacher I can as well as progressing as much as possible with my German skills. Both not easy tasks. I have a very interesting German class. It is composed of Ling (Chinese), Duccio and Antonio( Italians), Pedro and Ricardo (Spanish), Hamza (French Moroccan), Joao (Brazilian) and Me (American). We are all in the same place. Don't know any German whatsoever and are itching to learn as much as possible to make everyday life easier hahaha. But our teacher is so great, she is so incredibly patient with us and so supportive! I am making progress...I can understand what the Germans are saying to each other so I am excited! As for my classes, they are doing very well...the other day I had a class with 2 Spanish, 3 Germans, 1 French, and 1 Romanian. We played this game you had to created and design a Cafe. So I paired the Spanish with the Germans etc.... it was so amazing how they communicated with each other using English! As a native-speaker, its so fun to witness that English is really a Global Language, more often used between two non-native speakers as a common communciation ground.

"Speaking does not of itself constitute communcaition unless what is said is comprehended by another person."

I often feel another kind of emotion when I am usually waiting for my second train because I missed the first one! I love to watch people's emotions while on the platform. I see those standing by themselves, nervously pacing back and forth, just itching to get started with their journey. Those who want to be anywhere but where they are at that moment. Then you see the couples, the best friends, the parents, and the children. Embracing; hugging, kissing, laughing....they just make me smile but also so sad, because they are people being torn apart, leaving the people they care about just to jump on that train to somewhere else...Then there is me! I am more confused...with rapid, mumbled German blarring over the loud speaker. I can't never understand this and the dazed/fruststrated look that "I can't believe I missed my train!"

So when in Germany....make sure you are on time for the trains..because unlike Welsh trains, German trains are usually on time and they don't wait for the late people.

15 October 2007

Can someone say GPS...

So it's been a week since I got back from my first EuroStyle roadtrip! One German, three Chinese and me as the sole American girl traversed the Autobahn towards Bavaria. Destination: Munich. For what turned into a weekend of wrong turns, sleeping in the car, three castles and the most famous beer festival in the world!

We headed out of Niedersachan towards Bavaria with plans to see as much as we possiblity could in three days. Our first stop was supposed to be Eisenach, the east Germany town where Johann Sebastian Bach was born and home of Wartburg Fortress, the famous Burg where Martin Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German. Let's just say the Eisenach was not directly off the Autobahn but it was a surprising detour with spectualar views of the German countryside. Due to poor drivers and even worst navigation abilites, the long trip to Munich took seven hours in the dark, anything but exciting however at the late night hour when we finally made it to the South we were wired. The city was alive. With Oktoberfest in full swing, the town was buzzing with not completely sober Germans dressed from head to toe in 'traditional' costumes and singing folk songs to themselves.

Our energy was soon in short supply when we found out the friend we were staying with had not yet made it to Munich but was stuck waiting for a flight out of Dubai. Small Problem. That left us looking foward to one long night of sleeping in the car. Not sure how legal that was but for night we coped. The next day again found us on the road heading to Fuessen, a town not to far from the Austrian border but under the looming enchantment of some fairy tale castles. Literally fairy tale castles, Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Hohenschwangau. Yes, it was the castle Disney used to model the Cinderalla castle. Hilly terrain of the Alps, mysterious fog...sort of felt like dream. Pretty much awesome. 3 Castles, in a day and a half...yeah we had enough, Munich was calling us back.

We did the sights, saw Marienplatz, countless churches and universities, morning hiking around OlympiaPark, BMW Headquarters, the Allaniz Stadium (yes where they played the World Cup), and of course Oktoberfest!

So I don't understand something!?!?! Why isn't there more festivals like Oktoberfest worldwide! Ok imagine this....a ton of people..like thousands, one massive builiding/tent decorated in red, yellow and green closely resembling a circus. Now once you are inside its a chaotic atmosphere of polka style music, waiters/waitresses carrying beer by the liter to tables of people, usually dressed in the 'traditional' attire, cant remember what it's called! I will upload a picture! But the whole thing was just fantastic! Cheers to the Germans...they know how to create one heck of a party. Oktoberfest or "Wiesn" as the locals call it, attracted like 6.2 million visitors this year with some 6.7 million 'mass' consumed! Seriously best thing I ever saw!

But unfortunately, Oktoberfest was our last stop in Muenchen! So had to head back north. We did make a quick detour, yes this one was actually planned, at the Allaniz Arena, new football (soccer) stadium where Bayern-Munich plays and they played the World Cup. It's impressive! However again it was another long drive back, with several wrong turns....cant somebody say GPS next time! but overall what an amazing weekend, Munich, on my top ten favorite cities list now. I'm thinking nex time....I take the train

So when in Germany....never trust a German driver!

03 October 2007

Everyone Needs a Hug

So a good friend of mine sent me this link....www.freehugscampaign.org/...it's this movement created by a guy named Juan Mann. It's a call for all people around the world to give out free hugs to brighten up a strangers day!

Visit the organization's website, watch the video, read the story. It's such an amazing story, an amazing idea, an amazing concept. Yes, I cried after I watched this...made me so happy!

While not all cultures embrace by hugging, Hugs, I think are a very universal, international way of making someone smile, and it really is the small things in life that make it so sweet! No matter if its just one person...it's still a smile!

When in Germany...or anywhere...give out a free hug, and help someone to smile!!!