Friday, June 27, 2014

Week in Review

This week. Phew! I don't really believe in bad weeks because every week has something good in it, but this week, I'm just glad that it's over because it has certainly thrown me through all sorts of loops.

Monday started out strange from the get go when I arrived at German lessons to find no one from my group there. Turns out my class had been moved to the afternoon and since this week are my make-up classes and I'm not officially in the computer I wasn't contacted. So, I made the best of the morning by going to pick up a paper I needed and turning it into the bank. I picked up a few things I needed from Rossman's and then spent the morning tidying up, doing laundry, and relaxing a little.
I left the house a little early to stop at the library before picking up my kiddo, but it's closed on Mondays I found out. I had gotten a text about a forgotten bike helmet, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the house. It turns out we didn't even need our helmets though because kiddo's bike chain was broken again and Oma and Opa were playing tennis so we had a long walk home, for most of which I was pushing two bikes and trying avoid a stop every 5 seconds to pick flowers or fetch a snail.Two friends wanted to have playdates, but I didn't have either family's number, so I was glad when they both called us.  The afternoon was nice with friends and swimming and strawberry cake, and football in the evening.

Tuesday morning I was on wake up duty again. I don't mind the morning routine since I am up early anyhow, but there's something a tad bit trying about 15 minutes spent attempting to coax a sleepy little six year old out of her nice, warm, comfy bed.  After a rainy bike ride to the Sbhan station with water from the road splashing up onto the back of my pants, two consecutive announcements came on at the station announcing first a 5 minute and then 10 minute delay.  The fun continued when we found out that the train would be terminating in Pasing and that we all had to change trains.  Considering that morning, 15 minutes late and no coffee before German class was about as well as it could have turned out in the end.  The afternoon schedule ran fairly smoothly with only a few hiccups and the day ended with finding out about a dance class I could join in on the next day and a trip to a biergarten with the fam. 

I took one sbahn early on Wednesday morning and avoided being late for my last day of German classes. After a bit of a flight mix up a previous au pair who is staying with us while she finds a place and starts her job in Munich arrived in the evening.  I felt bad, but I basically had to say, "Hi, nice to meet you.  Chicken and rice is in the oven if you're hungry.  I have to leave right now to make it to my dance class.  See you later." Yeah, not exactly the most graceful introduction, but so were the circumstances and I really really didn't want to miss my dance class because I had been looking forward to it so much! I liked my dance class and it was nice to have a teacher who is from the States, so even though she speaks German about 90% of the time in the class, she can throw a little English in there too.  I told her that I would be back next week and she told me that she is always so happy to have someone from the States in her classes.  We are learning two kind of "classic" dances and a dance to the song "Happy" as well - love it! 

Thursday I FINALLY got to hang out with some new au pair friends, something that has been seriously lacking in my life and was the cause of a little breakdown Wednesday night.  In the afternoon we had an au pair/kiddo date at a cafe in Munich called Katzentemple where there are a bunch of cats you can play with while you enjoy your coffee and cake.  The girls were a little shy around each other since it was their first time meeting, but I think that they enjoyed it and it's good for both the kiddos and us au pairs to have some stuff to do together.  And the girls are really close in age, so it's perfect! 

The fun continued that evening with a meetup to watch the USA vs Germany game with  4 more new friends plus the friend from the playdate.  The US lost 0-1, but we were in such high spirits that it didn't even dampen our mood.  We continued our night out in the city and even sang karaoke together.  I haven't laughed so hard since I arrived here in Munich and I couldn't be more thankful for such an awesome girls night out. 

Happy Friday!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Castle Day!

Thursday was (once again) a public holiday here in Germany and after some plans fell through to take a day trip, I decided to make the best of the day and go on a little solo Munich castle tour.  

The first stop of the day was Schloss Nymphenburg, which is conventiently located on the route of the number 17 tram from Hauptbahnhof.  At the castle I was immediately impressed by the gardens and landscaping around the castle. Consequently I spent the first part of the morning exploring the gardens and also went into the Botanical gardens, where the lady at the ticket counter gave me the student discount, even though the sign said that it is only for students studying at German universities :) I bought an ice cream in the botanical garden because no outing of mine is complete without an ice cream. Eventually I went inside of the castle as well.  Even though a few of the rooms were clsoed for restoration I was still glad that I went inside to see the beautiful rooms with colorful painted ceilings and impressive chandeliers.

Schloss (Castle) Nymphenburg from the front

The castle was built from 1664 until 1675


Beautiful!
Botanical Garden

 
Inside of the castle


The king had a gallary of pictures of women he considered the most beautiful



After castle number one I went back into the city and bought a few postcards to send to some friends back home and then wrote them up so that I could send them right away.  After I had written the postcards I met up with Mario and we had ice cream (another ice cream, no shame) at this place by his university that makes their own ice cream and ooohhh how yummy it was!! Another cool thing is that you pick one flavor to have a normal scoop of and then they also give you a mini scoop of a flavor you would like to try.  I had a regular scoop of coconut and  sample of chocolate and Mario had the opposite. We walked around a bit in the city and the crowded English Garden. When it was time for Mario to get back to studying I made my way to the ubahn to head to castle number 2 - Schloss Schleißheim!

Getting to castle number two was a little more complicated.  First of all, it is one stop past where my ticket is valid on the sbahn. I tried to bu a ticket which would be valid just from the last stop within my zone until the castle's stop, but the machine said I could only buy that ticket at it's point of departure.  In the end I decided to risk it for one stop and thankfully there was no ticket control during that ride.
During the week there is usually a bus which runs from the sbahn station to the castle, but because of the public holiday it wasn't running. The walk is only about 10-15 minutes and there are helpful signs directing visitors to the castle, so I made it to the castle without a problem.  

To be honest I was losing a little steam by the time I got to Schloss Schleißheim. It probably had a lot to do with my poor excuse for nutrition (coffee and ice cream diet) and the fact that my shoes were rubbing some nasty blisters on my feet. None the less I push on because I didn't want to waste my day of exploring.  I visited the inside of the castle, which, unlike Schloss Nymphenburg, doesn't have many original furnishings and has most of the rooms set up as displays of art with a short description of what the room would have been used for in the days of its use by the royalty. The garden area was also quite beautiful and I spent some time just sitting on a bench enjoying my surroundings and the quiet time by myself. 

                                                    
                                                                                    Schloss Schleißheim

                                                                       

                                                        

By the end of the day I was pretty tired out, but I was glad to have seen two more of Munich's ''must-sees''.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

One Month in Deutschland!

It's hard to call it my first month in Germany considering all of the time I've spent here in the past few years, but today marks one month since the beginning of my newest adventure here in Munich, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to wrapping up month one!

4 weeks of Deutschkurs

Today is the last day of my fourth week, but because of the public holidays in the past few weeks I get 3 more days tagged on next week. The school, Evolanguage, I would definitely recommend. The central location near the Hauptbahnhof makes it convenient for both those living in the center and coming from a bit outside. And while I've heard some complaints of organizational issues, I myself haven't experienced any and the teachers themselves are absolutely fantastic.  Not only are they good teachers, but they are fascinating human beings as well. 

Countless s-bahn commutes

And the strange occurrences that so often come with this aspect of my life.  Last Saturday morning when I was riding the train home there was a guy across the aisle snoring loud as can be.  I couldn't help myself from giggling a bit.


7 books read

I've been a reading away during my month here, as that is often how I spend those previously mentioned hours on the train. 

1 tooth lost

Little munchkin lost a top front tooth about a week ago and the second top front tooth is hanging on by just a thread!

Dozens of successful conversations in German

I finally feel like my German is at a level where I can hold my own and it feels so good!

Zero weekends spent in Munich

Weekends which have otherwise been spent on

          2 weekends in Hilpoltstein

          1 amazing long weekend in Berlin

          1 fun weekend at the beautiful Chiemsee with the best host family ever


Month one, you've been oh so good to me! 












Friday, June 13, 2014

Week in Review

Friday- Monday: Oh sweet weekend you were four days of sunshine and summer heat and just what my heart needed.  Friday night we headed to Hilpoltstein and of course there was fun waiting for us there! Friday night we joined up with some friends to go to a party being held at the local high school. Wait what?! A party at the high school??!? With alcohol?? Yeah, that's what I thought too, but apparently this is totally normal and totally chill at the end of the school year in Germany.  It's put on by the graduating class who can, in Germany, already legally drink, but anyone can come.  We got there pretty late, so the party wasn't really so hopping anymore (plus the guys tell me that this group of students just doesn't know how to party), but it was a new experience for me and fun none the less.  Saturday my internal alarm clock had me awake by 7:30 despite the late night, which meant that I, of course, felt the need to wake Mario up as well ;) Mario decided to take a break from his intense studying to spend the whole day together, which meant I was one happy clam! It was already hot in the morning so we rode our bikes to Rothsee and enjoyed some sun and swimming in the lake.  Back at home we relaxed a little and then headed out with the car to continue our day of fun.  We wanted to find this mountain a bit north of Erlangen, but we only found the small town which it is nearby.  That ended up being better though because it was sooo hot and the sun so strong.  We ended up just walking around the little town and eating gelato. #noshame! Moving on to Erlangen, we came with the purpose of going to the Bergkirchweih (a summer festival something like a mini Oktoberfest). It ended up being so over crowded - I think every single student who studies in Erlangen was there - and that combined with the heat didn't make sticking around there for very long too attractive.  Instead we went to Nuremberg and chilled out at the so called "Sommer in der City", an artificial beach area set up in the center of the city and a nice place to be on a summer evening. Sunday and Monday were spent cooking, baking, jogging, biking, reading, studying German, and enjoying the sun while Mario studied for the majority of the day.  It was ok though because we still got to spend some time together and Mario's mom helped me with my German studying...she's definitely a teacher through and through :)

photo source 

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small town wandering

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Sommer in der City

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Mario's kitty cat
Tuesday: After a long weekend it was back to German lessons on Tuesday morning.  After I got my kiddo from kindergarten we went to the swimming pool since it was the sort of weather where outdoor activities should probably revolve around water.  A bunch of friends from the kindergarten ended up being there as well, so the munchkins definitely had a good time.  One set of siblings there has a sister who is about my age so we got to hang out together as well.  Not only is she a total sweetie, but she also is studying to be a primary school teacher! I told her that next time she is home she should let me know so that we can hang out again :) In the evening we had an exciting occurrence when my host kid lost her 4th tooth! The tooth fairy isn't really a thing in Germany, but she was quick to put it in her special little box.

Wednesday: Wednesday was a fairly normal day.  It was hot again, but we played with the giant chess set in the park after kindergarten and got a treat from the supermarket on the way home.  The rest of the day was spent playing, but I truly enjoy the time spent with my host kiddo, so nothing to complain about there!

 Thursday: Thursday brought the end of German lessons for the week and it was definitely a fun class.  I love my class and all of the discussions we have and the unique perspectives we each bring from our lives. Today we got on the subject of how German men are really bad at flirting compared to in the rest of the world and the way that society has built up that norm over the years.  The irony of this conversation, though, is that while waiting to meet up with friends to watch the opening game of the World Cup I got to experience some of this German charm first hand. As I'm standing there listening to my Ipod and minding my own business, I guy comes up and says something to me in German.  I only heard about half of what he said, but gathered that he wanted to ask me something.  I didn't want to talk to him, so I told him in English that I didn't understand.  Unfortunately that didn't deter him and he repeated his opening line in English.  Having given him the go ahead to ask me a question he blurted out, "I was wondering if you would like to go out withe me". Uhhhh...what?!? I smiled politely and told him that I was meeting up with some people, but he was persistent.  "Not now, some other time," he offered.  I'm pretty sure I said something super awkward like, "I'm sorry, I don't think so, but thanks anyway" (yeah, I'm extra awkward in awkward situations) to which he replied "Okay, enjoy yourself, bye!" Bahaha! Can't wait to tell my German class about that on Monday!
The soccer game was fun to watch, but we were a bit disappointed to see Croatia lose to Brasil, especially considering some questionable calls by the referees.  I myself am not a huge soccer fan, but I'll most likely watch the Germany matches and especially the German vs USA match in a couple of weeks.

Since my German class is only Monday through Thursday I'm enjoying a quiet morning at home this morning until my little monkey comes home from an exciting morning at the dentist with Oma and Opa.  This weekend I will again not be in Munich (that makes ZERO weekends spent in Munich since arriving), but will be going on a little trip with my host family.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend wherever you are in the world! (Yay alliteration!)

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Berlin!



A national holiday on Thursday and a bridge day on Friday meant that this lucky, lucky girl landed a four day weekend at the end of May! Even better, it just so happened to be my dear friend's last weekend in Berlin, so naturally a trip to Deutschland's capital city was in order!

Train tickets in Germany can be annoyingly expensive, so I was dreading a bit the idea of forking over 200 euros in transportation costs alone.  Browsing the internet, however, I came across bus tickets and was quick to snatch up those tickets for about 1/4 of the price and roughly the same travel time as the train.  Budget traveling for the win! The hostel where my friend was staying had plenty of open beds, so I scored a cheap, clean, and conveniently located place to stay as well!

I'm not even sure if I brought my camera out at all while in Berlin.  Sure, I snapped a few shots on my cell phone, but the thing about doing anything with my friend Ivana, is that I always know that she will take AMAZING photos. So, with her permission, this blog post will be filled with proof of her stunning and genius photo skillz.

And while you're at it, check out her photography website:


Better yet, book a photo session with Ivana Huang Photography sometime - I am sure that they will be the most beautiful photos you ever did see!

Arriving in Berlin I was initially a little overwhelmed by the relative complexity of the public transport compared to Munich and the overall stress of big city life combined with not being able to find Ivana (silly metro stops with a bajillion exits!), but once we had found each other it was all smiles from there! 

Friends!!!

Currywurst mit Pommes




The first night in Berlin I slept in a room with random roommates and got to hear all sorts of strange snoring and generally odd noises coming from my roommates. I was super thankful when the girls told me that they had an extra bed in their room and that I could just move in with them! 

Friday morning I experienced the hostel's breakfast feast for the first time and was certainly not disappointed.  We tried to sit outside in the sun, but within minutes of moving ourselves outside the weather decided to change its mind and back indoors it was.

The few minutes which we were able to enjoy outside

After breakfast it was off to TU (Technische Universität) and later a coffee meetup with a friend of my friends.  The evening was spent eating at an Australian restaurant at Sony Center and generally just being tourists. Ivana and I talked about how much we like being tourists, when your only obligation is to take pictures, see the sights, eat good food, and absorb the atmosphere of a new and exciting place. And this is why travel is just oh so addicting!

At TU


Friends at Sony Center

They tried Spezi for the first time!
                                                        
                                                                                             Ivana ate Kangaroo!


Jumping pic at Brandenburger Tor

    Reichstag 

Saturday we were up and out of the hostel by 6 AM for our day trip to Dresden! We were all fast asleep on the 2 hour train ride, which meant that the trip went by super quickly.  I was so glad that Ivana got to see a much more German city than Berlin.  She got to see even more ''real'' German life when our excursion out of Dresden went a little amiss and we ended up in the adorable little village of Königstein. 

Dresden!

Famous Mural 

Group pic with a view of the old town

 Königstein



Ivana is never shy about asking strangers to take pictures for us :)

Back in Berlin we spent one final evening in the city, complete with döner eating, of course, before my bus the next morning. Thankfully my bus wasn't too terribly early and we got to have breakfast together one last time.  Leaving Berlin was definitely hard.  Spending 3 days with a group of awesome girls forced me to think about my current lack of girl friends in Munich. The comfort of an old friend whom you know and who knows you so well is simply irreplaceable.  I'll be waiting for you in Munich, Ivana!!!

                                            

Friday, June 6, 2014

Week in Review

Today rounds out my third week here in Germany and I thought I'd give a little recap of what I've been up to this week.  Hopefully these weekly reviews can become a regular thing!

Monday: Monday was met with many hugs for my little munchkin, whom I had missed so much during my long weekend in Berlin (more to come on that later!).  Her and I were both a little sick, but a play date was arranged with a neighborhood friend and when she had worn herself out we cuddled on the couch with a movie. Monday also was the beginning of another week of German lessons with my super awesome teacher.

Tuesday: Another morning of Deutsch lernen followed by a döner in the city with Mario.  Tuesday afternoon brought all sorts of surprises.  Upon arriving at kindergarten I found out that my host kiddo's bike chain was tangled up beyond hope and we had to leave it at the bike shop near the kindergarten.  Then, since we were going to be late for tennis if we walked home and then walked to the tennis courts I needed to attempt to contact Oma to see if she could pick us up, a task which was made much harder due to my currently defective cell phone.  In the end everything worked out and all's well that ends well, right? :) Tuesday afternoon I also had an appointment at the bank.  So now I'm not only an official resident, but also the holder of a German bank account! More and more "official" every day!

Wednesday: Wednesday morning's sunshine deceived us when the skies darkened and the rain fell steadily on our heads as we biked to ballet.  Little munchkin was coughing a lot and was reluctant to detach herself from my leg in the hallway outside of the ballet studio.  About halfway through she also came downstairs to ask for another coughdrop.  While she is in ballet I chat with the other moms downstairs and even though I am obviously MUCH younger than them and, well, not a mom, we still have nice conversation and it's better than sitting alone for an hour. After ballet we played a bit, but around 7:30 my host kiddo fell asleep fast and hard on the couch and slept for the rest of the night.  I was thankful for the unexpected extra couple of hours to do some German homework and have a nice chat with my host mom when she got home from work.

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Collecting snails in the park 

Thursday: This week Thursday felt a lot like Friday.  For one thing, it was my last day of German lessons for the week. It also felt like a Friday though because I got to go into the city for a while in the evening.  Near the old Olympic stadium there are some super cool student bungalows. Each bungalow is a tiny  little apartment with really, just enough space for one person and his or her essentials.  They are split up over two levels with a small kitchen and bathroom downstairs and a little bedroom with a balcony upstairs. So cute and cozy! What's even better though is that they are surrounded by an awesome green park area and a big group of the students were having a little barbecue party.  I ended up sitting by and chatting with a girl who had done an au pair year in Ohio and a guy who had done a year of volunteer work in Michigan.  Something that I really enjoyed about the evening was that people were speaking to and with me in German.  Often here in Germany when someone finds out where I am from they switch to English more or less immediately. Since I'm in Germany and trying to improve my German I really appreciate any chances to practice :)

This weekend the weather is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, so I'm looking forward to lots of time spent outside in the sun!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A day in the life

As anyone who works with children knows, no two days are ever the same. None the less, here is an overview of what a day in the life of an Au pair looks like for me.

The time on my clock when I wake up begins with a 6 every morning during the week. There is something about Germany that has made me into something of an early bird. Usually I am awake before my host kid, but on the rare morning that she is awake before me, I'll be sure to know based on the strange animal noises outside of my room (toys, not real animals, of course). I'm usually not in charge of the morning dressing and grooming and such, but once in a while I'm on duty for that as well. Some mornings we are on our bikes and out the door just right away, while other mornings there is some playing and dawdling around before we head off to kindergarten on our bicycles. 

With my little one settled in at kindergarten I'm off to the city center for German lessons.  There are four of us in my current group, including an Italian, a Bosnian, and a doctor from Egypt, with whom I share coffee and girl talk during the break.  

After classes end I sometimes take a walk, run errands, or grab lunch in the city center, but most days I head straight back home.  I usually have at least a little time to grocery shop, tidy up, do laundry, or just relax a bit before it is time to pick up my little mouse from Kindergarten and take her to whichever activities she might have that day.

Other than that our days are filled with lots of playing, singing, dancing, and laughing.  She is such an adorable cutie with so much energy and not a care in the world. I can't even begin to list all of fun things we occupy ourselves with, but by the end of the day we are both covered in dirt and exhausted.

It's a good life!