Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Big Move

I promise I'll get back to the Azerbaijan and Ukraine adventures soon, but for now, some other big news from Germany.

Saturday morning started early and was busy with the latest big adventure - moving! After deciding to take my new job, I was extemely fortunate to also find a place to live in this city which has a seriously aggrivating housing sitution.

After fetching my stuff from my host family's house, we headed into the city to get a bunch of Mario's stuff as well.  Needless to say, the car was completely stuffed!

Hmmmm, we probably could have done a better job of loading stuff in
There was a special surprise waiting for me under the Christmas tree at my host family's house - a saxophone!!! They rented one for me for a little more than half a year because they know how much I love music and that I miss having instruments to play here in Munich. Best Christmas present ever? I think yes!

A not so nice surprise waiting for me at the house was a letter saying that my Christmas package from America is stuck in German customs.  We were going to suck it up and drive the 40 km to where we could pick it up until we realized that it's Saturday and they aren't open. I should be able to send an email stating that it is a gift and the contents of the box and then get the package sent to me.  Let's hope that all works out!

At the house we met my landlord who also lives in the apartment during his 2-3 trips home to Munich each year and came to the conclusion that he is exceedingly nice - he even helped us bring the stuff inside from the car! After we had schlepped everything into the house we took a trip to one of the two grocery stores right at the corner and bought a lot of household essentials.

Mario headed back to Hilpoltstein shortly after, but I decided to stay in Munich so that I could unpack, settle in, and visit some friends in Munich for a few days.  I got to work organizing everything right away because frankly, things not being organized sends me over the edge.  I've already warned Mario that he better be prepared to live with the clean police.

Bedroom
Other side of bedroom and wardrobe
Living room 
Dining room
Kitchen
Bathroom
Saturday night I slept in the new apartment for the first time and by the time I woke up Sunday morning it felt like home. Here's to a new chapter in a cozy new home!

Winter Holidays 2014 - Day 1

Where we were:

Munich Airport
Vienna Airport
Baku Airport and city center!

What we saw:

Baku by night

What we ate:

Your typical airplane pasta meal

Döner en route to the city center

Azeri beers and Ayran for the boys

Memorable moments:

Running through the Vienna airport like mad to catch our connecting flight to Baku

The unaccompanied 11 year old flying to visit his granny for Christmas in Baku. He was clearly bored out of his mind and going crazy with the excitement of flying back to Baku and therefore a bit of an annoyance to the other passengers nearby. I chatted with him for quite a while in Russian, German, and English, but by the end of the flight even I was ready for a break from our new little friend.


The first night views of Baku. They were absolutely breathtaking (literally, as we climbed a bajillion stairs to a high-up viewing point).
Baku Flame Towers
Nighttime city view
The luxury of sleeping in a nice hotel - a big change from our usual hostel or camping style, but every once in a while it's worth it!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Third week on the job - updates and reflections

By the time you read this I will be in Azerbaijan with three of my favorite travel mates. And as if that wasn't cool enough, we'll be stopping in Ukraine on the way home! Kiev here I come!!!! I'm not even sure which country I'm more excited for, but I'm sure neither will disappoint!

In the past three weeks I have found more patience than I ever thought possible. Unlike my coworker who seems to think it's okay to speak to the non-german speakers in English instead of German, I abide by the rule of everyone stays in his or her mother tongue. And of course it's frustrating to say the same thing 100 times and be met with blank stares, but if they understand me the 101st time or the 1001st time, it was still worth it. There are days when I want to shout "just speak German!!!" but so far I've kept my cool.

I've also discovered how awesome it is to have an employee that pays for my gym membership. Such a great stress reliever to be able to go run a few miles after work! I can't wait until the location I go to is finished with it's remodeling and I can check out some of their group exercise classes (and embarrass myself in front of a bunch of German strangers haha).

This past week a teacher from another group has been helping out in my group and it has been oh so refreshing to have someone so positive around for a change. I think I love my job 100x more this week just because she has been there!

The benefits of working here, both at my job specifically and in Germany in general, are amazing. In addition to the gym membership I am fed for free (and really well!) at work and can have coffee, tea, and fruit throughout the day. I am fully insured by one of the public health insurances available here and signing up was just about one of the easiest things I have done. To top it off, I opened the mail to find an 80€ check from my health insurance! Win!

Speaking of health insurance, I'm sure I will need to make use of it before too long considering how much ick and uck is coming out of all the kiddos noses and mouths and what not. Just one of the hazards of the job ;)

Anyhow, three weeks in and I'm still happy as a clam.

I'm off to explore more of Azerbaijan and can't wait to share all the adventures when we get back!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thanksgiving in Germany 2014

This year when Thanksgiving came around I knew that I wanted to cook a special thanksgiving feast for my host family and a couple of dear friends. Since fitting it into the middle of the week was all too hectic, we pushed it to Sunday evening. It also just so happened to be the last day before I started my mew job, so they called it a "Thanksgiving and Thanks Chelsea" dinner - how cute!

I wasn't successful in finding a whole turkey, but I did find turkey legs and that's the best part of the turkey anyway. Also on the menu was mashed potatoes,  green beans, corn, banana bread, and chocolate mousse. We ate way more than our fill, shared lots of laughs, and exchanged some small gifts. My heart couldn't have been happier. 

Being able to share special traditions with the special people in my life here in Germany certainly helps keep the homesickness away! 

The feast

Mimi and I with the special matching USA bears I brought..also, I may have cried a little ;)

Looking at the Mimi and Chelsea photo book together


Sunday, December 7, 2014

First Week on the Job

Five days with some of the most adorable little kiddos you ever did meet and my first week at my new job has come to an end.

The school itself is beautiful and my classroom is spacious and full of light.

Nearly all of the kids understand English and can speak a bit as well, with a few who are quite fluent. And even those who don't yet understand much are eager to learn and great me every day with smiles and hugs none the less.

Sometimes the days have stressful moments, like when I have to keep some of my most mischievous little fellows from carrying out their sneaky plans or have to separate the boys tackling each other during play time for what seems like the hundredth time. But then I feel someone tugging at my leg and look down to see the sweetest little pair of big brown eyes staring up at me. Or a naughty little one comes to me with a sincere apology and a big hug. Or best of all when they are just so excited to speak English to me and I see that I actually can do this job. Those are the moments that make me so glad that I decided to take this job and that reassure me that being a teacher is where my heart really is. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Half a year in Deutschland

As I said in my post about my first month in Deutschland, it's hard to call it my sixth month in Germany given the scattered weeks and months which I have spent here in the last three years.  None the less, as of last week it has been half a year since my most recent Deutschland adventure began! Where in the world did all of that time go? For the longest time I couldn't shake the feeling that I just got here, although I was often the one among my friends suggesting where to go and offering my Munich advice.  I've come to the point now where I don't feel so brand new and I really feel like this is my home.

Here are some of the highlights of this past half year abroad!

Deutsch Lernen

I feel extremely blessed that language learning comes so easily to me.  I feel so bad for my classmates who really need German in order to find a job and start a new life here or who have been here for several years already and still struggle to find the words to express themselves.  In the six months that I have been here I  have gotten to a place where I am confident speaking German and understand the world and conversations around me.  My favorite game is "how long does it take for them to figure out I'm a foreigner" and this weekend I was told "I would never guess that you come from the US" - score! Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being from the USA and I love my home country and my native language, but the stereotypical "American" way of speaking German isn't exactly what I'm aiming to associate myself with. Unfortunately I don't speak nearly enough Russian now that I'm here, but I use Russian when I can.

Travel

One of the perks of living in Europe is the opportunity for cheap and nearby travel. Speaking of travel, that brings me to another announcement. In less than a month three friends and I will be visiting Azerbaijan! This trip has been a long time coming and I can't wait to explore everything this small central Asian republic has to offer!


Band

I'm still loving every moment with the band and am so grateful for the opportunity it gives me to make music here in Munich.  Christmas will be a busy time for us and I have a lot of German lyrics to memorize, but I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Internship and New Job

Since August I have spent at least two days per week in a first grade classroom as part of my teaching certification program. On Friday I said some very sad goodbyes to them and they melted my hearts with a bouquet of flowers and a class picture signed by them all.  I'm going to miss them oh so much, but starting next Monday I will have many new munchkins to teach in my new class. Also, taking my new job means leaving the job as an au pair which I have had since May. While I have enjoyed every day of this au pair experience, bigger things await and I had to make the difficult decision to do what is best for my future.

Going to miss my kiddos!

Autumn in Munich

Of all the times I've come to visit, never have I been here to experience the autumn.  The falling leaves gave the English Garden a carpet of red, orange, and yellow and after our rainy summer we had an absolutely warm and beautiful autumn.  It made for many long walks with good friends and hot coffee.
Long fall walks with an awesome friend!

Leaves, leaves, leaves!
The most unbelievable apartment luck 

Finding a place to live in Munich is nothing short of a nightmare! One can search for more than half a year and find little more than a broom closest kilometers from the nearest public transport for which one must give half of the month's salary to pay.  Let's just say, the place which has just fallen into my lap is neither broom closest nor in the middle of nowhere and has an unbelievably good rent price for Munich.  I'll be sure to blog about it when I move in after Christmas!


These six months haven't always been easy, but they have been 100% worth it and have taught me so much. So many doors have been opened since I arrived here in May and I can't wait to see what new opportunities await me and what my new teaching job has in store for me.








Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Musing

Today has been one strange day! Following a weekend of beautiful fall sunshine, we woke up to cold and fog and spent as much of the day as possible hiding inside.  Little one even turned down a trip to the grocery store to buy "sweeties" because she didn't want to have to go outside.

My Instagram account is mysteriously deactivated and their support team is yet to respond to my email requesting to know why my cheerful little account is being banned from the interwebs.

And munchkin told me today that over the weekend host mama said that she would like to throw me out of the window....yeah...I'm just as lost as you are on that last one...

Anyhow, all of that being said, kiddo and I had another wonderful day together, as we do basically every single day, and I am going to be very sad when I am no longer her au pair.

I will be especially sad because that day is approaching much sooner than originally planned.

In two short weeks to be exact.

Yep, that's right, two weeks from today I will have finished my first day teaching all of my NEW little munchkins.

I'm excited. I'm a wee bit nervous. And I still can't believe that it is actually real.

So for now, I'll just leave you with some pictures of the beautiful fall day we had yesterday and the carpet of colorful leaves currently covering the ground of the English Garden.






Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Paperwork and German bureaucracy are the only spooky and scary things filling up my Halloween day, but let me tell you - those are two things frightening enough to send anyone running away screaming in fear. 

In honor of Halloween, however, I wanted to share a few pictures of the pumpkin munchkin and I carved.  She picked out the design and was super enthusiastic about scraping the pumpkin's insides out, but left a lot of the actual carving to yours truly.  It was a fun evening together and she was darn proud of that jack o lantern! 

Pumpkin guts!

Our masterpiece ;)

All lit up!
Roasted pumpkin seeds made an appearance in the Brotzeitbox for a couple of days 
She's just the cutest little thing you ever did see!

Daily Diaries Link - up 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Scandinavia Trip - Day 6

When we arrived in Stockholm at 6 AM on Sunday morning, I was surprisingly awake considering that we had spent the entire previous night on a bus. We found our way to an ATM, ticket machine, and the metro system before heading in the direction of our hostel. Since we already knew that reception at the hostel didn't open until 8 we settled for some McDonalds coffee and a little waiting. Once we had changed our clothes and dropped off our bags at the hostel, we made our way into the city for our first of 3 walking tours that day. Yep, that's right, six hours of walking tours with action packed breaks in between. Let's just say Sunday evening we found ourselves two wiped out girls! 






Parade leading up to the changing of the royal guards

Changing of the guards




At one of the best viewing spots in Stockholm 




Walking tour number 3 of the day



One big perk of this hostel was the free pasta,  coffee, and tea for all guests which we of course took advantage of. Over dinner that night we met a nice little crowd of new friends and ended up staying up much later than we expected to considering our exhausting day.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Scandinavia Trip - Day 5

Day number 5 of our trip! We woke up in Oslo after sleeping in a little bit, knowing that we had a long day ahead. After checking out of the hostel and storing our luggage, we headed down to the Opera house. This Opera house is one of the most impressive buildings in Oslo not only because of it's design and location on the harbor, but also because it is built in such a way that allows visitors to walk out on the roof. It was spectacular! 


Oslo Opera House
View of the harbor near the Opera house





Inside of the lobby
Next up on our agenda was the Oslo Free Tour. Now, many of you may be familiar with the free tour concept. In many of Europe's major cities, young people work for tips, leading guided tours of the city's main sights while sharing cultural and historical insights. Many of the visitors to these tours are also young people, traveling on a budget, who give what they can in appreciation of the guide's work. It's really quite a cool concept. Oslo's walking tour, however, is a whole different ball game. It isn't run by a small organization of young people, but rather seemingly by one single guy who runs that show however he sees fit. 
Let me paint you a little picture! We show up at the designated meeting spot and shortly before the posted starting time a man appears in baggy pants and a sweater with a large black cloth draped over his head. When he asks us if we're here for the free tour we reply with a hesitant yes. "I can see you, but you can't see me," he tells us. Kayli and I exchange a look that is worth a thousand words as discreetly as possible as he explains that he is a street artist and therefore doesn't want to be recognized.  As the tour continues and he recounts the stories of his numerous arrests for various petty crimes, we begin to wonder about the real reason why his face may need to be concealed.  All in all the tour was okay.  It was definitely interesting to learn a bit about the underground culture of Oslo and to understand what some of the street art in the city means, but if you're looking for the more traditional tour of the city's historic landmarks with a guide who doesn't make you feel at least slightly uncomfortable throughout the duration of the tour, this tour isn't for you.  


At one point on the tour he took us up on a roof to look at the city from above a bit
Probably the coolest graffiti we saw

The rest of the day we tried to spend as normally as possible, visiting a few more of Oslo's parks and making sure we hadn't missed any must-see spots before moving onto our next Scandinavian destination.