Friday, March 30, 2007

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Blog

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I finally ate a real, complete meal last night. Damon helped me with half of those dishes (isn't he great? :) ) and called his credit card. I am feeling much back to my normal self, and this blog needs to get back to normal too - wherein we answer more pressing questions than "Did CNHeidelberg puke last weekend?" - such as:

* What is up with contact lens solution? Damon ran out and I realized I didn't think I had seen it being sold in any regular old store. I asked my German teacher where we could buy it, and she said it comes, like the hydrogen peroxide, from the Apotheke. So, Damon went to pick some up there, and it was 10 EUROS for a bottle (the big size). Whooooa, buddy! That is way too much! There must be some secret other way of buying this stuff for Germans, because I can't imagine they would put up with paying that much for it every time. Then again, glasses seem to be more common here than in the US, perhaps because insurance covers them more often than contacts.

* What did we find when we put our new bathroom furniture in? The shelf that had been left in the apartment for us was an aging cream-colored hulk of disintegrating particle board, from some long-ago Ikea line. It couldn't stand on its own, and wasn't screwed to the wall like it was supposed to be, so it had been held up with two grimy ceramic upside-down flower pots. After we moved out the shelf, I picked up the pots, only to discover a huge pile of ancient white pill-bug exoskeletons. Oh lawdy. At the time I forgot to sweep them up because I was headed out to the deck to get the dingy pots as far away from me as possible and got distracted. Later when I went back in the bathroom I stepped in the pile. Oh nasty. I don't have any idea how they got under there, but it was quite disturbing.

* Is six months long enough to really know German? No, but it's long enough to conjure up a mean "Can you tell me the way to the train station?"

* Does Google Analytics decieve me, or did I finally, just now, finally get my very first hit from my hometown? And was it because I threatened not to have babies? ;) Sorry to scare you, Dad. Don't worry, biology will probably win this one.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rant Rant Rant!

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Finally well enough to peel myself away from the bathroom. Of course this means I must get my ass to work immediately because the time lost between having visitors and being sick means that I have to work something like 25 hours this week while still doing intensive German. No idea how that is going to happen.

My husband is usually wonderful during these sorts of things, and he mostly was this time too, getting me Powerade and applesauce and listening to me whine during what felt like death throes. But, he decided that it was my turn to do the dishes, so the dishes from Saturday night (we went drinking after dinner and I was sick immediately Sunday morning) were my job, no matter what. So, now fast forward to Tuesday, finally I am well enough to stand over the sink without puking in it...and of course since then every dish in the kitchen has become dirty. (Despite the fact that I've eaten nothing for two and a half days but a serving of applesauce and three crackers.) Niiice. I love recovering to a set of three-day-old spaetzle pans and six dirty mugs, six dirty plates, six dirty salad plates, six dirty big glasses, six dirty juice glasses...which will all have to wait even longer since I'll probably be working evenings this week to get all my hours in. ARGH, men sometimes.

This whole incident has also shown that I should really give up any idea of having children. First of all, there is no way I could tolerate the morning sickness or the labor, as proven by the wussiness I showed during this illness. Secondly, how could I take care of kids when I was sick, if I can't even do the dishes? Third, husband is work enough. He can't make a simple phone call to a credit card without my constant reminders, without me spelling out the number for him - so if I'm out of commission, not only do my things not get done, but neither do his because I am not harrassing him. How could we handle a family if all function ceases when just one person is sick? ARHHGHGHHG And fourth, the mere fact that I'm whining about this in my blog shows that I must lack the maturity to have children.
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

First Visitor!

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This weekend we had our first visitor in Heidelberg - finally! Stef was planning to come with her fiance Josh, but things didn't work out for him schedule-wise, so it was just the three of us. (Luckily all four of us will be together in London in just two weeks!)

Stef rolled in on the bus from Hahn Airport (really far away - not really recommended! But she got a great deal on Ryanair) around 6pm. We dropped her stuff off at the apartment and sat around chatting a bit, trying to work up an appetite for the Kulturbrauerei, our token German restaurant of choice. Strangely when we arrived there, the whole place was full and there was no seat! So, instead we ended up braving the rude staff of the Palmbraeu. (I'm not going to even get into it...but just be prepared if you ever go and your German isn't perfect...which is weird because it's tourist central and when we left, there were only English-speaking customers remaining.) They do have great free postcards by the bathrooms, but the food isn't nearly as good as Kulturbrauerei. We stayed drinking until nearly closing. I should also mention the weather was terrible - snowy and slushy - the most snow we had all year. This was hard after 3 weeks of spring-like weather and blooming trees.

On Friday we did the castle, including the guided tour which we hadn't done before. It was a pretty good deal - only 4 EUR adult (2 EUR student) for a tour that's at least an hour through areas you can't access otherwise. Afterward we picked up some goodies at a bakery. Damon and I had tickets for a concert in Mannheim. We tried to find Stef tickets, but it was nearly sold out and there were none to be had at a reasonable price, so we ended up going ourselves and she relaxed in Heidelberg.

On Saturday we had breakfast at Damon's favorite bakery, showed Stef a German grocery store (Rewe), and did the Altstadt tour. We ate lunch in a Thai place on the Universitaetsplatz. In the evening, we fixed white asparagus, spaetzle and salad for supper, which was great - accompanied by a bottle of wine from the Rheingau and some Asbach - then, drinking at the Kulturbrauerei! (This time not at all crowded!)

We had plans to visit Speyer today. I was really looking forward to finally getting over there to visit, and we were going with a group that was getting a tour, which sounded really great. Unfortunately, I woke up with diarrhea from hell which progressed to barfing (first time in six years :( ), stomach cramps the likes of which I don't think I've ever experienced for so long, and fever. So, no Speyer trip :( I couldn't even stand watching TV or reading. Stef and Damon went out for lunch and walked the Philosophenweg - luckily the weather was finally nice and sunny! This was Stef's last day here and I really feel badly that it ended like this, but hopefully we'll make up for it in London.

I've spent the day theorizing about where I might have picked up the bug, since Stef and Damon didn't get sick and we ate the same things most of the time. Current theory is the Thai place. Then I continued my fever-addled theory to consider that perhaps food poisoning is more likely in places where the restrooms only have a cold water tap, because it doesn't work as well as warm water (not sure if there's any evidence of that) and because the water is so painfully cold that people can't stand to have their hands under it long enough to wash up properly. Hence they do a bad job, then go touch the broccoli and a certain number of hours later, some poor sap like me is doubled over the platform toilet puking. If this is the case food poisoning would have to be more common in Germany than the US, because here one pretty much never finds warm/hot water available in restaurant, work, or other public bathrooms. (And don't get me started on the coworkers - IN THE EPIDEMIOLOGY DEPARTMENT - who don't even wash at all, not even in the sorry-ass cold tap.) This is all fever-induced rambling, anyway. Here's hoping Stef and Damon don't get it, and that I'm back to normal tomorrow.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wherein We Have No Electricity

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Yesterday morning I rolled out of bed late, even for me - not until 9:30. I was contemplating breakfast when the front door buzzer buzzed. Damon picked up the receiver to see who it was, but couldn't get anything but a little "Hallo", so he went down to the front door to see what it was. While he was out, the electricity flickered for a second. Then, it went out. WTF? Related to the buzz at the door? I figured Damon would have some info when he came back in, like that they were letting us know about some work that was going on which required shutting down our electricity.

When Damon returned to the apartment, I could see that the light was on in the hall.

Me: So, anyone down there?
Him: No, nobody. There was a Stadtwerke Heidelberg car parked out front, but nobody there.
Me: Our electricity went out. Is it on in the rest of the building?
Him: Oh! Yeah, I think so. Hmm, maybe it's a mistake.

He goes to check again. Nobody there, and now the car from Stadtwerke Heidelberg is gone.

In Germany we have something called "Nebenkosten". This is the amount of money one pays the landlord for utilities, and then the landlord pays the utility companies with this money and at the end of the year the difference is all figured up (kind of like taxes). Our rent is actually only 550 EUR but we give the landlord 730 EUR every month - 130 for the Nebenkosten, and 50 for a parking space (which we then rent out for 50 EUR to someone else). Our Nebenkosten even includes the non-necessary cable.

We start to wonder if the landlord knows anything, and maybe didn't pay the bill or something. So, we called him. He didn't sound like anything funny was up and gave us the name of another guy to call. Damon called that guy, who said he would contact our Hausmeister to see if he knew what was going on. No call back. In the meantime, we need to get to work. Damon decides to take some things down the trash room first while I make my lunch. On his way down, he runs into a neighbor, who says her electricity is working fine and shows him where the building's power box is. There's a tag on our apartment that says "GESPERRT". Translation: it's been shut off by the power company for nonpayment.

How? Isn't it in the Nebenkosten? Wouldn't the landlord have said so if there was a problem? Are we supposed to be paying it separately? If so, why didn't he or anybody else ever mention it? Why didn't this come up sooner? We've been in this apartment for five months. We never got a bill or a warning or any sign that we were supposed to be paying electricity. Even when they shut it off, they didn't say a word to us but "Hallo".

We are still clueless but waiting for a callback with explanation of what is going on. On the way out of the building to work, we see an envelope perched on top of the mailboxes addressed to one Former Tenant of Our Apartment. (By his name, of course, which I would love to smear all over the internet right now, but will only say he's a scientist who used to work in Heidelberg, but moved to Basel, is married with two small sons, likes to keep a greasy filthy apartment, sold us a washing machine with a broken foot and didn't answer any of our requests for further info about what might have happened to it or if he had it around somewhere, and whose first name is a variant of the Most Common First Name in the World.) The envelope is from Stadtwerke Heidelberg. First piece of mail we've ever seen from them. Even though it's not to us, we're pretty sure this involves our apartment, so we open it. It's a bill for over 300 EUR, including charges for shutting down our electricity, and charges for two past warnings about how it was going to be shut off.

Ah. So that's what happened. The bum of a previous tenant didn't cancel his account with Stadtwerke Heidelberg. Bills were either forwarded to him in Basel and he ignored them, or were sent back to Stadtwerke Heidelberg. Stadtwerke Heidelberg never tried to see if he still lived here, if we lived here, if anyone lived here. The GEZ found us before they did, and we're even registered with the city at this address. We thought electricity was in the Nebenkosten and it wasn't. It includes cable, but not electricity, of all things. It includes heat, and water, but not electricity. He didn't mention it because I guess it's supposed to be common knowledge. We never caught on because Former Tenant didn't cancel.

Arrrrghghgh.

I had to go to German class. Damon got a guy from his lab to come with him to Stadtwerke Heidelberg to straighten it all out. Even though a guy from my work thought the landlord should have more responsibility for this because he should have alerted them there was a tenant change, most of Damon's lab just thought it was a misunderstanding between us and the landlord. As for me, watch out dude in Basel. This would have been way less of a problem if you had just cancelled your damn service. We paid the back bill at the former tenant's rate, and set up a new account with them at our own rate (cheaper because there are fewer of us and neither of us stays at home all day). It's a monthly flat fee, then at the end of the year it's all figured up when they read the meter.

And we have our power back as of about 6pm last night.

A side note to all of this: as a result Damon actually got to talk to the Hausmeister for a couple of minutes, who we haven't seen around in a while. We had to pay him 15 or 20 EUR to change our name on the front door buzzer, mailbox, and elevator, or so we thought. Turns out the fee was only to put our name on the buzzer and mailbox, and some OTHER person has to change the name on the elevator, probably also for a fee. WTF?
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Painting Weekend

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We have successfully painted the living room. It took two days (let's just say we aren't early starters) but it looks much better without all the grime, grease, crayon marks, and mysterious black streaks left by the previous tenant(s). Removing the floorboards in order to paint was an educational experience - this apartment (like many in Germany, bless their draft-fearing souls) has a serious mold problem. It was horrifying. All we could really do was clean it up and stick them back on.

After the first and longer portion of the project on Saturday we were famished and in need of a drink. (Complaint heard during painting: "Damn, my hand hurts. I'm not going to be able to hold my beer!!") We wanted to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by going to the Irish bar down the street, but every other English-speaking expatriate in Heidelberg had the same idea and there were no seats. (We wanted food too! A burger! I really wanted a burger!) So we looked for another place and ended up at Hemingway's, across the Neckar. Best burger, fries, and Strongbow I ever had.

Now what our apartment really needs is a giant piece of art or two. We saw some at Ikea but couldn't really agree on any of them. To be honest this is actually a luxury we can't afford, but the place looks so stark. I guess we'll get used to it - but if anyone has any ideas for huge cheap art, let me know!
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday Entertainment

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This weekend we swear we're really going to paint the rest of the apartment. Yuck.
Here's some entertainment for the meanwhile:

Famous Pulp Fiction scene, and how true it is (esp: "And I ain't talkin bout no paper cup, I'm talkin about a glass of beer"):



Funny Berlitz ad:



An interesting game I found online, kind of like War, only with great disasters. I found this while looking for more information about the Eschede train crash. (You can see more info about it on the Eschede card.) Click "play" in the top bar of the screen to play the game!

Hazard Cards
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Expat Meme = Easy Cookbook Post for Friday!

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I got this expat-themed meme from J at Germany Doesn't Suck and am going to attempt it, though it looks pretty difficult!

5) Name five things you love in your new country:

1. Being able to get around town on a bike with considerably less fear for my life than in the US.

2. Being able to get around, even to small towns, on trains and other public transportation.

3. The sheer lack of fake people. The US, especially the midwest, is Fake Central.

4. Wine and food are cheaper! (In the case of wine, much cheaper!)

5. Lack of suburban sprawl between cities. Even cities close to one another have green space between them!


4) Name four things that you miss from your native country:

1. One-stop shopping.

2. Being able to talk to anybody - no language barrier!

3. Big apartments! Big kitchen sinks and big refrigerators! Big washing machines!

4. There are many foods I miss. It would be quite a job listing all of them.


3) Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:

1. Lack of social interaction at work - all the office doors being closed.

2. Two taxes in particular - the 19% sales tax (but at least it's included in the listed price) and the 17 EUR tax just for owning a TV, no matter what your income level.

3. Grocery stores aren't open on Sundays. (Both good and bad, but when I'm sharing the store with 10000 other shoppers on Saturday afternoon because we all have to get it done today, and there's no produce left and I can't get my cart past anyone...it's more on the bad side.)


2) Name two things that surprise you (or surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:

1. How expensive the trains are. Somehow I thought it would be less.

2. How reliant Germans are on cars. It's certainly nowhere near US levels of car-reliance, but they are still quite dependent.


1) Name one thing that you would miss terribly in your new country, if you had to leave it.

1. The relaxed atmosphere and reduced commercialism relative to the US. Of course if I next moved to another country that was also relaxed and less commercial than the US, maybe this wouldn't be a problem.

I think there are many other things I could have mentioned in all categories, but these are what came to mind this morning!

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Move Isn't Over Yet

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The actual act of moving abroad sucks, no two ways about it. (Or as my cranky cruisin'-for-a-heart-attack high school choir director would have said, "no three ways about it".) This wouldn't be a problem anymore if the whole experience would just get behind us...but no, it lives on!

When we left Boston, we still had no German address. We could not get our German address until we arrived here. So, we had our forwarding address down as Damon's parents. We figured this was not going to be a problem, because we had tied up loose ends in Boston and would be calling important places with our new address as soon as we had it. It was really a just-in-case move.

Of course, things didn't work out very well with this arrangement. First came the problems with Verizon. We still had work to do with them, because we were breaking our contract early and they needed proof that we had moved out of their provider zone and seriously couldn't use them anymore. And, they refused to send mail to a foreign address. So, we had to use the parental address.

The parentals decided this wasn't a very important job. We got communications from Verizon generally three months after they'd been sent. Guess what happened after a lot of miscommunication with Verizon and a lot of lack-of-mail-forwarding from Damon's parents? WE GOT SENT TO AN EFFING COLLECTION AGENCY. Damon was quite the cranky man last night trying to sort this one out. We had really, really good credit. Probably not anymore. And it's not just one of us whose credit has just gone to hell because....

My health insurance company and hospital screwed up as well! I certainly didn't expect any more mail from them because I paid all my copays happily and went on my merry way. Well, the referral from my PCP didn't match the claim from the hospital letter-by-letter. There were a couple of letters different, even though I did go to the correct place for which I had a referral. But the insurance company couldn't recognize this. So enormous bills and then...again...A WARNING FROM ANOTHER EFFING COLLECTION AGENCY were sent to my in-laws house. Just got the collection agency thing last night. I have already worked the whole thing out with the insurance company a while ago and yes, it was entirely their fault...but anyway, now my credit rating has gone to hell too. We are going to try to protest both of these collection agency things, but how many sob stories must those guys hear every day? I don't have a lot of confidence that we will get out of the damage.

So, whatever you do if moving abroad, ladies and gentlemen....leave your parents out of it. And if Verizon demands a domestic address and your hospital/insurance company screw up everything...well, I hope you have a good friend who can help you with your mail.

This came on top of Damon already being sort of cranky because his mom never calls him anymore. This has definitely been symptomatic of all our parents since the move abroad. I think we did the wrong thing, and they have given up on us. But with my experiences so far, I have a very hard time agreeing with them about this being the wrong thing. So, I guess we can accept a bit of familial rejection in return for the benefits of living in a new country :)
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mail!

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Those of you who have been having a lot of trouble getting your packages to be delivered to us may want to hire the lovely Sara to send it off for you! She seems to have a mystical ability to get things delivered, and fast! The awesome goodies shown to your right got here from Seattle in under a week. THANK YOU, SARA!!

I also want to thank Aunt Elaine and everybody else in my family who signed and sent us a big piece of wrapping paper from the family party that we missed! I meant to write about it when I got it a few weeks ago but it got buried in a whirlwind of work and class related stuff and I just dug it up while cleaning. It rocks! Thanks, you guys!

Speaking of digging things up, I just finally got all our pictures from our limbo period in the midwest (between living in Boston and living in Heidelberg, we crashed with various relatives for about a month) uploaded to my computer. They had been sitting on Damon's laptop.

I love white cake so I wanted to be sure to have some on the trip home. It's hard/impossible to find in Boston and I didn't know whether I'd be able to get it here either (haven't yet). Our awesome families got us white cakes, decorated all going-away-party-style. See below for the misspellings and questionable geography which resulted:
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Return to Ikea

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We were thinking about finishing the Great 2007 Apartment Painting Project this weekend, but we changed our plans when the wonderful Piera and Gregor offered to give us a ride to Ikea. Forget painting! We jumped at the chance to finally finish furnishing our apartment! The trip turned out much better than our previous Ikea experience. It wasn't as crowded (not sure if it was due to the timing or the fact that we were in Mannheim instead of Walldorf), we knew what to expect, and we didn't need quite so much stuff. Nothing came broken. We finally got our TV off the floor onto a stand, a rug in our bathroom instead of a towel on the floor, and a dresser in our bedroom instead of copy paper boxes on the floor full of socks and underwear. We also got a table and chairs for our terrace so that we can actually sit out there and enjoy it, and bathroom furniture to replace the rotting hulks that our landlord left in there for us. Our apartment is one step closer to being presentable to other people.

The whole thing hasn't been without its imperfections, of course. Damon put the backing for the bathroom shelf on backwards, so the unfinished bumpy brown side is exposed. Oops. I'm hoping I can find some contact paper or something to cover it up - I think trying to fix the mistake would just end in disaster, because the bathroom ensemble is the cheapest crap we could find (79 EUR for a tall cabinet, a short cabinet, an under-the-sink cabinet, a wall shelf, and a mirror - some of which we don't need but it was cheaper than buying only the components we needed). Ikea Kullen for anyone interested.

Speaking of stuff to avoid if possible at Ikea, add the Snille chair to this list if you plan to sit at your computer a lot in it. Ours is showing some serious signs of wear already. It looks cool, but I think we'll end up buying a new chair sooner rather than later, unfortunately. Rolling chairs are so expensive!

On the good side I was happy with the tall Malm dresser we got. I didn't even notice in the store, but it has a flip-up mirror on the top, and a little bit of space under the mirror that is perfect for storing all the jewelry that I hadn't been able to figure out what to do with. (It was sitting on windowsills and hanging from closet hangers - both not great.)

I was just thinking that this is probably the only time in our life we'll actually get to pick furniture we actually like. Previous to this we could only get cheap-ass furniture at Target, which doesn't have a great selection of styles. We also and probably will continue to in the future get most of our furniture as gifts from Damon's talented woodworking dad. It's really great furniture but not usually what we would pick style-wise. So, I guess we should enjoy choosing our apartment furniture while we still can :)
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Loreley

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Many of you know that the Loreley is a huge rock along the Rhein, where a siren is said to sit (also called Loreley sometimes) and distract sailors from the danger of the narrow passage, leading them to their deaths.

The Loreley is also the name of a Deutsche Bahn InterCity train, likely because the train's route from Stuttgart to Koeln takes it right through the region where the Loreley sits. This train comes through Heidelberg in the mornings and goes through Mainz as well, just in time to get my two fellow Heidelberg epidemiology students (and one fellow Mannheim student) and I there for class. See the photo at right to understand what is special about this train - that photo was taken in second class! Even the second class cars look like first class, with wide, comfy leather seats (only three seats across instead of four), adjustable headrests, and a nice cozy ambiance.

Somehow its poetic name just added to the fun of always making reference to how great the train was. We all hoped to catch it on its way back through Mainz after class one day, and any train that wasn't the Loreley was always a disappointment. Hence, we were all bummed on Monday morning when some other train picked us up in Heidelberg instead of Loreley. When the ticket controller came through, we asked him where Loreley was, but his answer was sort of vague. We started to wonder if they finally figured out they were spoiling us too much and moved the train to some other more worthy route. Tuesday and Wednesday morning were the same - no Loreley.

Yesterday, Thursday, was finally our last day of class. The schedule was even shorter than usual. Celebration was on our minds and it got all the better with the triumphant return of the Loreley to our morning commute! We snagged a nice roomy table and settled in, lulled to sleep by the comfy seats and sun streaming in the window.

Somewhere north of Worms, the train stopped. I wouldn't call it a screeching halt, but it was somewhere between that and a regular stop - enough to wake everyone up. We came to a halt just past a small town intersection and Bahnhof - the town of Osthofen. Then we sat quietly. There was no announcement. After about ten minutes, we started to see people milling around the train outside - firemen, rescue service, police. They were looking under each train car. Finally there was an announcement that there had been an "accident" and they didn't know when we would start moving again.

Well, at least we were in our comfy seats - but it felt ridiculous to have thoughts like that knowing that the people we saw outside the train were most likely looking for the remains of someone under the train cars. Was it a suicide or really just an accident? The trains do zip through these little towns without slowing down at all - it's pretty scary. Yet, jumping in front of trains is said to be a preferred form of suicide in Germany. It's quick, free, and there is no way you could accidentally survive. If it was a suicide, did they just pick any train? Or did they find something poetic in choosing the Loreley? Were they from Osthofen? If so, was life in a little wine village really so bad? Were they from somewhere else entirely? When a friend jumped in front of a train in college, she chose to ride 40 blocks away from school first and do it there instead. Who knows why. That was a slow Metra train in Chicago and they couldn't identify her without her ID. This person jumped in front of an InterCity - were there any pieces left big enough to find?

After 30 or 45 minutes, we were evacuated from the train by a ladder and some firemen. They told us that buses would come to take us the rest of the way to Mainz. Everyone gathered across from Osthofen's Bahnhof to wait. No buses came. Then, another announcement: There weren't going to be any buses to Mainz after all. An S-Bahn (a slower train) would come to pick us up in Osthofen and take us back to Mannheim, where we could catch the next ICE (super fast) train to Frankfurt, and transfer in Frankfurt to Mainz. "Ne, oder!?" complained the Mannheimer. We couldn't afford a cab all the way to Mainz though, so we piled onto the S-Bahn. It didn't move. Then another announcement: An alternate option was to take a bus to a small town two stops down the tracks, Alsheim. Then we could wait for an S-Bahn there to Mainz. They didn't know which way would be faster. We figured that because the second option was less complicated, there were less possible points for error and it would be better. We all ran back across the street and jumped on the bus marked Zugersatzverkehr - a word approximately meaning "train replacement service". It left straight away for Alsheim. Everyone looked back at the (crippled? not really - but what can you call a train that just killed someone?) Loreley as we left. We went through the flat plains full of vineyards toward Alsheim. There has been a lot of work going on in the vineyards lately. Then we were unceremoniously dropped off at Alsheim's Bahnhof.

The town seemed abandoned from our vantage point. There was no restroom in sight, and no opened business. No train, for that matter. We just waited. A train came going the wrong direction. Everyone thought maybe it had been sent for us. After all, the Loreley was still blocking the tracks in the other direction. Unfortunately, it had not - it was going to Mannheim. The driver seemed a little bewildered that in this little tiny town there was a huge crowd asking him if he was going to just turn around and go the other way instead.

So, the train would come for us from the other direction? Did they not think of this, or did it just not matter? We had to wait for the Loreley to move before we could go to Mainz. Eventually, it whizzed past, top speed, all empty and sad. Then our S-Bahn rolled in and took us to Mainz. Couldn't we have just waited on the Loreley? It would have been faster. Then again, maybe the idea of that is just too wrong. Did the Loreley go back to her regular schedule that day, or just zip through all the towns empty in order to get ready for the trip the other way?

We got to class two and a half hours late - though it was about half the shortened day it was still worth it to be there because there was a helpful review session. Afterward we had coffee and ice cream at a tapas joint across from the Mainz Hauptbahnhof, then rode home. The train slowed down through Osthofen, out of necessity or respect, we don't know. I never found anything about it in the news later, leading me to believe it really was a suicide, as an accident would have been more newsworthy.

I can't think of a fitting closure for this post.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Schriesheim, and Blogger/Picasa - You Suck.

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New photos from Schriesheim! Click on THE PHOTOS to the right. I had written a very long post about our trip there, as well as about all the fun on the Deutsche Bahn today and about some foods perceived as American. Then, when I tried to insert a photo using the photo insert option, Blogger posted the photo over my entire entry. The entry was lost. I tried "recover post" but it only recovered the new version, over and over and over. I think it may have been due to faulty photo album code I copied over from Picasa - I guess it only worked that one time. It will be a while before I attempt that again!

So, Blogger and Picasa are on my Scheissliste (is this a word?), and hopefully I will be able to rewrite the entire post, but you know it's never really as good as the first time. Bah! Enjoy the photos, though!!
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Monday, March 05, 2007

Food Finds

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So...exhausted...three days of class in Mainz left. Then it's back to the old work/intensive German drill. I need a vacation! I considered not doing the intensive German again right away after this class module because it is so exhausting on top of work, but I really need as much as I can get, and I don't know at what point Damon's fellowship will stop paying for me to take them. Once they stop paying, forget it - it's way too expensive for us to afford. I'm hoping it will seem relatively easy to go back to that schedule after this class module.

So, in the Rewe near my class building, they sell Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!! But, it's a package of three cups for 1.49 EUR. At the current conversion rate that's about $2. A little on the high side, but it's good to know Rewe is there for me just in case of extreme cravings. They also have a small section with taco shells and seasonings. The shells cost 3.50 EUR for 12 - or almost $5. Hmm, might only get those for a really special Tacoccasion. Or, maybe I will find them cheaper whenever I can manage to make the big trip out to the nearest Kaufland.

But, I'm pretty sure I'm never going to find Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls over here. Maybe for the better...
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