30 June 2011


nWell, today was a productive-ass day.  This morning I got up early to go to Hannover, where I had my first singing lesson in Germany.  I picked this lady because on the internet she sounded just like my voice teacher in America, and I was more or less right, she was really cool.  The only problem is, it's too expensive to take singing lessons and go to Hannover once a week, because the train costs like 25 dollars.  So I think I've got to find somebody closer.  Sigh.

However, fresh off this particular accomplishment, I decided it was time to face my fear of talking to people head on, and quit my anxiety-induced dry-heaving once and for all. I needed to get down to the barns.  So after much procrastination (and dry-heaving), I got on my bike and went to the riding club.  Instantly I liked it because it's so much like our farm.  The fences have all sat out in the rain one-too-many years, the property is not perfectly painted, the lawns are not perfectly manicured and the buildings were not built yesterday.  But the horses are beautiful.  Like, really, really, really attractive, clearly well taken care of, and very much loved.  A+!  And the best part was that everyone was sitting on the side of the ring drinking wine.

Unfortunately, I have the World's Shittiest Timing, I discovered, because the school horses all go on summer vacation starting Monday, where they sit out in a field until the beginning of August.  Which means no lessons. But I got to watch a riding lesson, and the lady made me promise to come back in August so they could put me on a horse, see me ride, and then figure out lessons.  Entertaining conversation with her:

Lady:  So, how long have you been riding?
Me:  Oh, quite a while, since I was 7.
Lady:  And you're now 13, 14 years old?
Me:  ...23.
Lady:  Oh, sorry, you look so young!  And you're from France, right?
Me:  No.
Lady:  North Africa?
Me:  The USA?
Lady:  Oh, sorry.  You look French.  Or North African.

Do you hear that, Sam Barry?  That counts for two of the six nationalities the bucket list dictates I be mistaken for.  And yes, I am counting "North African" as an ethnicity.

Slightly high off my extended-talking-to-strangers victory, I headed off to the barn down the street from me, owned by a friend of Host Mom's.  When I pulled up, THEY were all drinking wine at the ringside too, so...yes.  I met the guy who owns it (very cool), and his daughter (who is about my age, awesome and we're totally going to be friends), and learned lots of interesting things, like how the son works for the Landgestüt (the Hannoverian breeding place), and how they currently have, on loan from the Landgestüt, two three-year-olds, to put some training into and send back. Which they also hinted I could ride if they deemed me good enough/brave enough (and we all know I have nothing but experience with babies and things that try to kill me). So...that is amazing.

On my way out of the farm I spotted a seemingly empty stall, that, when I got closer, turned out to be occupied, but the pony is too short to stick his head over the door. The pony's name is Elvis, his sire and dam are Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, and among his grandparents, I found Doris Day.  Awesomeness x 100.  I can't remember what the rest of his grandparent were called, but I'll double check.  They were also famous and American.

Tuesday I head back there to watch a few riding lessons and Sunday they're going to throw me on a giant palomino thing that they fondly referred to as the Buffalo.  Just to see what I can do, hopefully.  If I understood correctly (no promises that I did), a new boarder is also looking for someone to take care of their horse a few days a week.  Pick me, please.

Finally, the pieces of my life are starting to come together.

Going to Göttingen with the family tomorrow, to meet the extended family and check out the city, which I am looking forward to.  Adios, friends!

28 June 2011

A New Occasional Series

I was trying to think of something to write about in this blog today, and I was drawing a blank.  Then I looked out my window, and instantly it was staring me in the face: my new occasional series.  Sure, there's always been Tina vs PPBs, which happened more or less accidentally, but I've decided we need a fresh Occasional Series up in this joint, considering I'm in a different place and all that shit.  So, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure, and some mortification, that I give you:

Is it Gay, or is it German?

Let me paint a picture for you.  Pretend you're me.  You're innocently on Facebook, trying to figure out how to explain to the host parents that a) Claire has booked a flight to come visit you (!!!!!!!), and b) you want to go to Sweden for a weekend.  You're mindlessly surfing the web while the banana bread is baking.  All of a sudden, you realize it's getting a bit dark out, and you decide your room requires some more natural light.  So you pull the curtain aside, and do a double take.  Because while there were many things you were expecting to see in the neighbor's front yard (trees, grass, flowers, dead animals,), the one thing you were not expecting to see was your very jacked neighbor, watering his garden in nothing more than really, really, ridiculously tight briefs.  That did not leave anything to the imagination.

So I pose the question to you that I already asked myself: is it gay, or is it german?

26 June 2011

My Life in Pictures

So, enough people have asked me for pictures that I finally got around to taking my camera out.  I'm putting all of these plus more on my facebook, but you guys can have the highlights.

 I don't know what this is, but it goes past my window every morning:

Talking lampposts shaped like old people:

Typical houses and things:

The french gardens:

The castle.  Moat more aesthetic than defensive, and no crocodiles to speak of.  Lame castle.

The synagogue, built in 17something.  When the Germans went through their Jew-hating phase, they burned down most of the synagogues, but they were practical enough to realize that torching a building solidly connected to the one next to it is a bad idea, especially when the entire block is made out of wood.  So this was spared, and I'm glad, because it's a lovely piece of architecture.

A fountain I found attractive.

The church!  You can pay to go in the steeple but I'm waiting for someone to visit me so we can all go together.

My family and I spent yesterday and today hopping around the area, checking out a couple outdoor art exhibitions that had been set up for the weekend.  The best one was today, in a tiny tiny tiny little village church, so little, it has probably never held more than twenty people.  The "art" consisted of all of us sitting in pitch blackness, while a dour-faced woman walked around turning a stationary flashlight on various inanimate objects while pop music overlayed on recorded conversations between teenagers overlayed on car sounds played in the background.  So now I can say, I have stared intently at a cherub carving while listening to Michael Jackson.  By the end of it, I couldn't hold back my giggles, but I was apparently the only one who found the entire concept both hilarious and not actually art.

Also, I drove the family around a little bit today.  It was both awesome and terrifying.

On language learning:  Objectively, I know my language skills must be improving because I pretty much only speak German, unless I'm dealing with the child.  But it's hard to be objective when everyone around you talks really fast and mumbles.  So I was feeling pretty down about my crappy american self, when my host mom started chatting with me, in English, because the charge was nearby.  I cursed my accent.  I cursed my stupid monolingual brain that was incapable of learning languages.  I cursed my college German courses that did not prepare me for this.  And then I eventually realized that the child was gone, and the conversation had switched to German a solid twenty minutes ago, and I hadn't noticed.  Then I thought: this is cool.

24 June 2011

Some Interesting Things I Have Learned Thus Far

In my first week in Germany, I have learned the following interesting things:

--Because the German birthrate is so low, as in, somewhere down in the negative population growth range, it is virtually impossible to domestically adopt a child.  There are too few kids in the system, and people wait years, and/or never get a child.  So where do they go for their babies?  We go to Africa for our black babies.  Germany goes to America for it's black babies.  I had no idea!

--I always found it interesting that on American tv, you could show female nudity (sometimes), but never male nudity.  Never fear, Germany does not share this sentiment.  I have seen more naked people in the last two evenings of watching tv than I have in the last year of watching American rated R movies.  And I mean all naked people.  Doing all sorts of naked things.  And it's just TELEVISION, for crying out loud, it's not even like I accidentally stumbled upon the after-midnight porn or something!  Jesus, my virgin eyes.

--Wicca is considered a cult.

--Nobody knows what hipsters are.

In positive news, I think my learning curve this time around is not as terribly steep as our last go-round.  For example, when random people yell at me in the street because I have done something wrong, it no longer makes me want to shrivel up and hide my face.  Perhaps it's because I'm used to it, or perhaps it's just because I'm older and hate more people.

So, I have my first German sort-of friend.  We went to an asian bistro (...I ate chicken wings), followed by ice cream yesterday, and we're going to go see a movie sometime next week.  The host mom, the charge, and I have also spent a lot of time the last few days hanging out with other parents from the kindergarten, so it's been a good language-learning experience.  The one mom today was very disappointed that my date yesterday was with a Hannah, not a Hans, and has now decided that I'm going to marry German and live next door to her for the rest of my life.

Favorite song of the day!  It's from the opera Hänsel and Gretel written by Engelbert Humperdinck.  Despite the author's highly unfortunate name, it's a beautiful song.  Don't judge me.

22 June 2011

A Peculiar Occurrence in the Center of Town

So today I was on the hunt for batteries, ice cream and envelopes, and had just gotten to the center of town when I suddenly heard a thousand teenage throats open up in hysterical screaming.  Immediately, my brain narrowed the list of plausible possibilities down to only the Most Likely.

I did my mental checklist.  Did I hear gunshots, explosions, or sirens?  No.  So no one had been assassinated.  Did I see fire, smell smoke, or hear buildings being crushed until gigantic, badly dubbed monster feet?  No.  So Godzilla had not come to Celle.  Which left only one possibility: Justin Bieber.

At this point, I was both intrigued and kind of excited.  Justin Bieber!  That would be a story for my blog.  And lucky me, I had brought my camera with the intention of taking pictures of the town, so wouldn't my sister be happy when I sent her Justin Bieber pictures!

When I got closer, I realized that everyone was covered in paint, and I thought: "Strange!  Not only do people throw their underwear at him, but they throw paint on each other!"  Then I realized that half the crowd was male, and I thought "Perhaps Justin Bieber has a lot of gay teenage fans that have converged upon this town." Then I finally broke through the crowd, and realized that there had been a fourth option all along, and I'd missed it.

I don't know whose idea it was to parade all the graduating seniors around in a dump truck conga line, but personally, I would have preferred Justin Bieber.

Don't believe me?  Here's a video, it's short because I was sad:


20 June 2011

A little bit of culture/panic

Culture!  Yesterday the family and I went to Hannover briefly, even though the weather was super shitty.  We walked around, found the neues Rathaus (new city hall), and took the crazy elevator all the way up to the top of the towers to see out.  The elevator tilted and slanted and did all sorts of fun things, and, needless to say, the two-year-old was not pleased.  Then we tried to have a picnic, but due to rain, wound up relocating to the trunk of the car, which was rather fun actually.

On our way back to Celle we stopped at Siebensteinhäuser (seven stone houses), which are the stone-age gravesites of Really Important People who were too cool for being dumped in the river, and instead got rocks put on top of them.  You can only visit on Sunday because all the other days the army blows shit up there.  I was super excited initially, thinking I could check "go to the British military base" off my bucket list, but as it turns out, only pieces of the site lay on the base, therefore, it does not count.  Apparently the site used to be the blowing-shit-up place of Hitler's armies, and now armies from all over Europe come there to practice the blowing up of said shit, as evidenced by the bombed-out tanks chilling out all over the field.  While we were there we ran into a few officers from some country, France, Belgium, maybe Luxembourg. At any rate, they spoke French, wore berets, and probably did not have souls.  But it was a pretty neat time.

I also learned that Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Anne Frank died, is nearby.  Sort of.  Because the British burnt it to the ground when they liberated it, so you can't actually see anything, but there is a memorial and an exhibit there, I think.

Panik!  So before I can start school in the spring, I have to take a German language test through my uni of choice, to prove that I can survive in the university setting. Unfortunately, the test is ridiculously hard, and you have to take a prep course or else you are generally screwed.  However, the prep courses are all really expensive, and located in Hannover, which would mean daily trips to the city, which are also expensive.  But I would make friends.  My other option is a private tutor which is not (as) expensive, closer to me, but minus the added benefit of coming with friends.  So I had a complete mental meltdown earlier this morning, about whether or not I even want to do this degree in the first place.  But I wasn't sure if I was intimidated by the language test, or really just having a change of heart.  Then I thought about my time in Konstanz, and came to the conclusion that I really do enjoy being a student, making friends, getting into trouble, and bitching about schoolwork.  So all is well again.  But I am not looking forward to this test, or the prep dafür.

After taking to the internet, I found a mini practice test for the easier of the two foreign language test options that I have, and decided to take it.  I scored a 66%, which I felt terrible about, until Host Dad pointed out that that's pretty good considering I only got here on Thursday.  Then both Host Parents took the test, and Host Mom scored an 88%, which made me feel better about my life.  HD, however, got a 93%, so maybe I should bribe him into being my private tutor.

In other news, HM has arranged for me to meet up with the daughter of a family friend on Thursday.  She's my age, and has offered to take me to a bar, so maybe by the end of the week I will actually have a friend.

In other, other news, I have made it my plan tomorrow to find the Hannoverian breeding farm.

In other, other, other news, Marina is coming to visit in two weeks, for the whole weekend, and I am beside myself with excitement.  Saturday we're just going to run around Celle, but Sunday, we are going to the nearby town of Hameln, where the Pied Piper is supposedly from, and where, every Sunday, they dress up like rats and reenact him saving the town.  Yes.  You can be jealous.

As a random sidenote, living in Germany is like being in some alternate universe where angry harpies have come from the sky and swooped up most of the population, leaving only the tall, skinny adults, and the children whose hair is so blonde, it's practically white.

18 June 2011

Tina vs. PPBs Round 1

Before I paint the PPB showdown picture for you, here are a few other interesting things that have happened to me:

1)  I found a shop called "Pimp My Style," which made me really happy.
2)  In the newspaper yesterday there was an article called "Gemeinsam Gutes tun: Workcamps verbinden Ferien und Arbeit," which translates as: "Doing good together: Workcamps combine vacation and work."  Considering the country I now reside in, I was completely scandalized by this headline, and have since come to the conclusion that by "workcamps" the Germans are not referring to concentration camps, else I don't think I could function.
3)  While biking in town today, I was approached by a group of guys about my age, the most striking of which was dressed as a nurse, complete with a terrible ginger wig and fake boobs.  They then tried to sell me condoms.  As I later discovered, it was a bachelor party.  Because apparently, in order to signal to all other women that you're getting married tomorrow, the most logical thing to do is dress as a nurse and sell them prophylactics.  Duh.

And now, Tina vs. PPBs, Round 1.

Today my family had over several of my charge's friends, and their parents.  I had previously met a few of the children yesterday at the day care, but this one child was new.  I walked outside, saw him, and gave him a big smile and wave, in typical Tina fashion.  Usually I find this gesture elicits at least a smile, and sometimes as much as a hug or an ass-grab.  But no.  This child fixed me with what I can only describe as the singular blackest, most frightening look that I have ever received, from anyone, let alone a two-year-old.  Even the kid's father said "Wow, he is really glaring at you."  It was so dark and disturbing it stopped me in my tracks for a moment.  But then I thought to myself, "Why, it's only a sweet two-year old who clearly hasn't gotten a solid hold on his facial expressions yet, obviously he doesn't mean it."  I took a step closer.  The sweet two-year-old stood up, and screamed, at the top of his lungs, "She is EEEEEEEEVIL!"  Then he drooled at me.

Tina: 0  PPBs: 1

The child eventually came around, and we were best friends ten minutes later, but not before he told me that I talked funny.  What can I say, kids are astute observers of the world around them.  Hold the evil jokes.

17 June 2011

My bags arrive, and other things of importance

My bags came!  Which means I have finally stopped damning Scandinavian Airlines to the deepest circle of hell, and officially finished unpacking.  

So the airplane ride was relatively uneventful.  My tia, because she is awesome, managed to pull some employment strings and somehow got me an upgrade to business class, where the food is better, the seats are big, and the movies are on-demand.  Awesome!  And that complete meltdown I have somehow managed to avoid over the last few months?  Don't worry, I had it around 5 am, somewhere over northern England.  It's done now.

After going to bed at a shamefully early time last night (9 PM, which hasn't happened since I was, oh...five years old), I got up bright and early to begin my first full day in Celle.  Also, random sidenote, I was not aware that I was far north enough for it to still be light out at ten pm, but apparently it is so.  This morning I took my bike and explored the town a little bit, and later on, we went to the day-care to pick up my charge from school.  He goes to an alternative day-care, where they don't believe in corners or plastic, and everything is painted in earth-tones.  It's actually awesome.  You have to take off your shoes before you go into the classroom.

In other news, my room is superbly awesome.  I didn't think any room could top mine in the US--say what you want about clown colors, but it is amazing--but this one gives mine a run for it's money.  Check it out!

When you enter, you come to a little sitting area thing...

Then there are these cool beam thingies that are almost like a doorway to the other room, and which are now holding my postcard collection...

The view from the window...

There's a neat little ladder...

...that leads up to a small storage room...

My desk...

Bed, table, and sitting chairs...

And the bookcase.

And that's it!  Adios!

16 June 2011

You go, Scandinavian Air.

Do you know what this is?  This is an advertisement by Scandinavian Airlines toting themselves as Europe's most punctual airline.  I would like you to know, that this is completely true.  In fact, Scandinavian Airlines is so punctual, that they somehow managed to land the plane in Denmark at the exact same moment as my connecting flight started boarding, and I had exactly negative two minutes to run through security and through customs.  Scandinavian Airlines is so punctual, I almost didn't make it. But I did make it.  You know what didn't make it?  My bags, which are still in Denmark.  A+ on punctuality to you, Scandinavian Airlines, A+.

On the plus side, my family is lovely, and when we arrived at the house, I was greeted by the sight of giant German carpenter men in traditional ruffled shirts and flared pants hammering things.  I am probably going to wind up sleeping in my airplane clothes, but I do know awesome when I see it, and that is awesome.   

15 June 2011

Last-minute madness

Said goodbye to all my barn folk yesterday, and I was fully prepared not to cry, until Rachael handed me a little bag and said "I made you a bracelet, I used Austin's colors and a few pieces of his tail."  And that was the end of the no-crying policy.  

Aaaand...that's about it!  I am more or less packed and just have to run a few last-minute errands.  But next time you hear from me, I won't be here!

America, it's been real.  Adios, and see you eventually.  


The Bucket List

So, right before I left for Germany in 2008, my friends created for me a bucket list of Things To Accomplish While Abroad.  The list was as follows:

1)  Speak German to a stranger and be completely misunderstood
2)  Get hopelessly lost and have no idea how to get back to wherever I got lost from.
3)  Stop liking horses (this was an old bet.)
4)  Beat up a German dude.
5)  Consume wienerschnitzel and wear lederhosen, and/or consume lederhosen and wear wienerschnitzel.
6)  Become a dachsund farmer
7)  Visit Dresden
8)  Learn to blow glass and sculpt them into ballerina figurines.
9)  Speak German to a stranger and be completely understood.

All things considered, I did not do too badly for myself.

However, Sam, Jen, and Claire have created a new bucket list for me, and this one is a) much longer and b) much more difficult.  But I am determined!  And I have a shitload of time on my hands.  And so, these are the things I must do this time around:

1)  Be mistaken for at least six different ethnicities
2)  Be physically assaulted by a PPB (which Sam has defined as punched, kicked, or slapped, which is a much better alternative to what I thought she initially meant.)
3)  Give a stranger a flower
4)  Start an English language trend
5)  Make a Tina video
6)  Wear blue nail polish and convince everyone that that's what Americans do
7)  Be/meet a German soap opera star
8)  Stall out my manual transmission in a highly inconvenient place
9)  Wear the German flag colors/wear a flag as a dress
10)  Go Christmas caroling
11)  Climb a German mountain (clothing optional)
12)  Get into a magazine (preferably a golfing one)
13)  Learn to sail
14)  Go to Iceland
15)  SHBF
16)  Discover the difference between Euro and gay, and be able to spot it at 90% accuracy.
17)  Meet Angela Merkel
18)  Go to the British military base
19)  Do the Deb voice somewhere, to someone who doesn't know what it is.

I believe I have my work cut out for me.

11 June 2011

The Domestic Travel Recap Post, Part 2: Indiana!

Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York, or Rome! Everyone I know needs to go watch The Music Man.

Domestic trip number two was to Indiana, for the third annual Ukulele World Congress. I may or may not have told most of the people I know that it was just a general music festival, but only because I am loathe to admit in person how much of a serious geek I am.  It was a ukulele festival.  It was also FABULOUS.  So sue me?

No seriously, it was the best weekend of my life that I can remember.  For starters, while we were still on our way down, we stopped at a CVS, where I found myself in line behind an old guy as he ordered pictures.  The cashier asked him for his first name, to which the old guy responded (in a thick drawl) "Well, my name is Maurice, but my friends call me Pete."  First thought:  What is this place?  Second thought:  This is fucking awesome.

And it truly, truly was.  I'm also at a loss for how to explain it, other than "there were a lot of people with ukuleles and everything was fabulous."  I used the word fabulous a lot over the weekend.  I got to see a lot of old friends and make a bunch of new ones.  I kayaked, and almost died in the process.  I went up on stage twice, and almost died in the process.  I dared Jon to pour a shot of tequila on his pancakes and he did it, and now I owe him money.  There were hot tubs.  There were bonfires.  There were marshmallows as big as my face.  There were bra-less dancing hippie ladies.  I drank bourbon, and I did not die in the process.  It was fabulous.

A lot of truly wonderful music came out of the weekend, and there are about a million videos floating on the youtubes.  One of my personal favorites was this video, which took place not on stage, but in one of our cabins.  It's an original song by Narciso Lobo, the guy in white, and I'm sitting behind the camera having my mind blown.

I'm also out of words, so here are some pictures, most of them courtesy of Colin (who, at the time of this posting, has not yet given me his permission to use them, but I'm just kind of assuming it.  Thanks Colin, you da best!):

In other news, today Jovanna, Patricia (two of my friends from the Bolivia trip) and I went archery-ing, or whatever you call it.  The point is, I got to shoot arrows at things (not people), and it was really fun.  Also really difficult.  I never realized it was so hard to kill someone with a bow, so I think, should I ever find myself in a zombie apocalypse or whatever, I will ditch the bow and just radio in the napalm, assuming the air force isn't already compromised.

In other other news, I am leaving on Wednesday which is...really soon.  I'm still waiting for the complete and utter panic to set in, but we're so close to take-off date, I'm beginning to think it might not come at all.  It helps that I have Red Lobster as my "Option 2 for Immediate Future," and that reminds me that I need to get the hell out of here, because Endless Shrimp is coming up fast.

In other other other news, I have had this song stuck in my head all week, so now, you can have it!


07 June 2011

The Domestic Travel Recap Post, Part 1: Nebraska!

Having just come back from my final domestic travel trip, I decided we needed a recap post, and since this blog is basically a dictatorship, we're doing a recap post.  Actually, two of them.

First up:  Nebraska!

Becca got married, Becca got married!  And I was a bridesmaid, which was awesome.  Omaha was fabulous as ever, mostly because Becca and her family live there, and I love all of them dearly.  The weekend started off with a Hellish Airport Experience, in which I spent nine hours in the Philadelphia airport, as flight after flight was canceled.  I wound up having to take a six am flight out of Newark the next morning, which means that, all together, it took me exactly twenty-four hours to get to Nebraska.  So basically, I should have driven because it would have been faster.

Friday we ran around doing last minute preparations, and Becca got her nails done while I wandered around Walmart taking pictures of Edward Cullen birthday cards and spelling out random messages for Becca to find later as she went back through her pictures.  For example:

And when all the last minute things got stressful enough, we laid down on the floor and pretended we were starfish.

Saturday was the wedding itself, so it was off to the hair salon, where I had half my scalp pulled out, but the end result was quite pretty.  Also, I wore make-up for the first time since prom.  The wedding itself was lovely, and I, being the graceful swan I am, tripped on the way back down the aisle.  I was hoping nobody had noticed, but then I saw Becca's mom in front row, falling over laughing.

Other things that were interesting:

--it was forty degrees out, so we bridesmaids were freezing our asses off when it came time for pictures.

--the venue had giant bronze cut-outs of cows in the driveway...so obviously, we took wedding pictures with them .

--I love Nebraska.

Congratulations, Becca and Seth!