Saturday, June 30, 2007

Juni Wrap-Up

Well, June is coming to a close and we didn't travel one bit the whole month - excluding my daily trips to Mainz during my last course module. That means no new photo albums! So I have put up a short one of photos from this month to prove we really were alive, kicking, and experiencing Germany during June. Enjoy.

*Photos removed...running out of free space!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tidbits Resembling Brain Bubbles

* We saw a HUGE slug on our terrace. This was the biggest slug I have ever seen, I am sure. Fewer slugs, more snails, please.

* And speaking of the terrace, there's a bit of mystery out there. The first are the bulbs that were left in our windowbox. One of them is finally going to bloom and we will see what the heck they are! Maybe irises. The second is the disturbing black'n'oozy animal poo we found out there yesterday morning. Now I only took scat identification once or twice in school on trips to the forest, but this one doesn't look like anything I can identify, and I don't think the thing that left it was exactly healthy. I am quite disturbed, wondering what is prowling the deck (and how I'm going to clean it up). A German blackpoo fox? A very ill and potentially deranged feral cat?

* On that vaccine I was fussing about a while back: there's a long waiting list to actually get it, so, there goes that worry. I can just say the decision was made for me, eh?

* What do they put in the bottom of juice boxes to make them feel like they still have some juice left in them even though they are empty? We keep hopefully putting empties back in the fridge.

* Today after bombarding my brain with the Macro from Hell in SAS, The Postdoc I Work With (TPIWW, pronounced, uh, tee-pyoo) left me to my own devices. Rather than continue to pound myself with the macro I did a little homework. Go figure this was the first time he ever came back to check on me! Then TPIWW decided to bring up something he thinks I really need to decide pronto: Whether I want to try to continue on in the department as a Doktorandin - a doctoral student. Let's just say I was hoping I could put this one off a little more. When I started out, jumping straight into a PhD wasn't an option because I didn't have enough background. Halfway through my master's now, I could probably go ahead. I have wavered over and over about whether it is worth it. Of course, if the cards are all in my favor and I can do it with minimal trouble here, and definitely faster and probably cheaper than in the US, then it seems I might as well just get the degree - why not? So what if I'm overeducated or never get to use it? But committing to continue on here means another few years in Germany beyond the current solid plan. We might stay anyway, but we don't know now, and it's quite a lot of pressure thinking that I might force us to stay longer for a degree I'm not 100% I will make use of. Not to mention actually deciding on a career path means I'm shutting down all the other possible ones. Kind of like ...not being a kid anymore. Oh lawdy.
TPIWW didn't seem too happy with my wembling. Maybe it's a little insulting when someone isn't jumping to follow your path instantly. Maybe it seemed like I didn't like the work we are doing. I really do like it. I tried to explain that overeducation is more of an issue in the US (epidemiologists are desperately needed in Germany, on the other hand) but I'm not sure he believed it. I don't know him well enough to have even started to dive into the issue of being a woman who hasn't ruled out having children.
I've got a few song lyrics for these situations.

"Everyone is going fetal! Just get down under your desk, it feels like your mama's nest!" - Eels
"In the days, the golden days, when everybody knew what they wanted - it ain't here today." - Portishead
"I am disabled by fears concerning which course to take, for now that wheels are turning, I find my faith deserting me..." - Dead Can Dance

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slipping in Some Tidbits

Woo, almost done with my last core module! Then I have only elective modules remaining, which are one week long instead of two weeks - for only half the commuting madness!

* I spend Monday and Tuesday home sick, unfortunately. Whatever I had two weeks ago probably just never really went away, then with all the lack of sleep from class and commuting, it surfaced again. Yuck. A couple of notes on this:
(a) German tissues are so vile and abrasive. I have tried 4-5 brands and had no luck finding anything remotely soft. I remember when we first arrived we bought "Softis" because of the name and discovered they weren't soft at all. Even crueler, though, was discovering that of all the other brands were even less soft. I miss you, Puffs Super Duper Ultra Mega Plus Aloe Extra Soft tissues. (Yeah, okay, even most American brands are too harsh for my nose-blowing sprees.) With all the nose-blowing from these sandpapery things I now have cold sores all over my nose, which happens every time I get sick....unless I use the Puffs Ultra Mega Aloe Cushion Angel Cloud Soft Super tissues. Puffs is not paying me to say this. But if they are reading this and decide they want to, I will accept payment in cases of Puffs Softy McSoft Mega Aloe Feather-touch Heaven tissues.
(b) My wonderful husband went to the Apotheke to find something for the congestion. (I won't take Sudafed because of heart palpitations.) They found out I had a sore throat too, and sent him home with not just some freaky nose-spray device (these give me the willies!) but a bag of sage tea that I was supposed to gargle (not a talent of mine), some throat drops that resembled giant Sucrets, and a variety of little samples of things with lots of herbal drawings all over the packaging. They are herbal-crazy here. Damon gave me one of the cough drops and I just stuck it in my mouth, not thinking anything of it. I was quite surprised, then, when my tongue started to go numb almost immediately! "Er...what's in this?" He checked the package...Benzocaine! Cough drops containing anesthetic! Man, it was weird. I was afraid I would lose all feeling in my tongue and accidentally swallow the thing.

* Last week we spent the better part of a day in class learning about the administration of questionnaires. We learned that those who plan to outsource their questionnaire-administration to companies that do this sort of thing had best be careful: fraud is very common. That is, the faking of questionnaire answers by interviewers just to get it done.
Today a guy came around to my classmate and I on the train looking to take a survey for the Deutsche Bahn. My classmate agreed to do it. The guy looked at his ticket, then asked him a few questions. Then he tried to get me to do it, but the classmate explained that my German wasn't really up to par. So the guy asked me to just show him my ticket. I did.
And where do you supposed my questionnaire responses came from, then?

* On the same trip, our train was delayed. The announcer came on and explained the situation in German, then in English. However, instead of referring to the train as "delayed", he continually used instead the word "delighted"!! I wasn't the only one in the car laughing!

Friday, June 15, 2007

It Was the Kind with a Curled House on Its Back

Anyone following the photos regularly might have noticed that I have a bit of a fascination with slugs and snails. So, I've found it really cool recently that there are snails all over on my walk to class in Mainz, and occasionally (not so cool) slugs.

I walk with a couple of classmates and during discussions about slugs heard them refer to the critters as Schnecke now and again (though generally we are just using English). More recently, discussions turned more to snails since they have been coming out in droves. Before I had called them snails, one of my classmates was describing a story about his son and a snail, in which he referred to it as a slug, but the "kind with a curled house on its back". A snail! Then later in a different discussion another classmate referred to it as "the type with a house".

I started to wonder about the German words for these things because of the reference to snails as slugs with houses. So, I checked it out. The German word for a snail, not a slug, is Schnecke. It seems that it's also used as a way to refer to slugs, though, since I have heard it used for them. The German word for a slug is Nacktschnecke - naked snail!! I like this concept that having a shell is the default, and it's not having it that is special. And to add to the cool language fun (I'm a geek), a snail shell is a Schneckenhaus - a snail house.
German is cool.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tagged for a Meme

Normally I try to keep every post somehow related to Germany and that fact that we are here. However, I have been tagged for this meme (by Martina of American im Odenwald - see link on right), so I will try it, although it's not completely Germany-oriented. Things have been quiet around here anyway - I have been nursing some little illness all week and am now dreading spending the next two weeks commuting to Mainz again. Brutal! Here is the meme:

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Fact 1: I grew up in a very small town. When other people tell me how they grew up in such a small town, waa, it only had 3 high schools and a Walmart and you had to drive 30 miles to the nearest gay bar, I laugh. We had three towns to one high school, no large stores at all, and you had to drive 30 miles to the nearest movie theater.

Fact 2: And I didn't spend a single day in college homesick for it.

Fact 3: I majored in Environmental Studies at the University of Chicago.

Fact 4: I never wanted anything so bad in my life as to go there. I've felt a little bit lost ever since meeting that incredible goal and completing it.

Fact 5: I'm studying Epidemiology now but I'm still not sure if this is really it for me.

Fact 6: In the end I'd probably be happier making stuff, but I can't peel myself away from the lure of academia. Being in it makes people think you're smart, and who doesn't want that?

Fact 7: I'm terrified of grasshoppers.

Fact 8: I am a first-name junkie. (Not a baby-name junkie. People have names long beyond their babyhood. And I'm not a baby junkie, either. In fact I don't really care for babies much at all, though I wish I did.) I have over 30 books on the subject of first names and shipped them all to Germany with me.

Honestly I do not know who to tag. I'm afraid of tagging people who are not interested.
If you are a regular reader of this blog and are interested in doing this meme, then please consider yourself tagged!!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hey Heidelberg Locals...

It's about time I found myself a doctor, general practicioner, primary care physician, however it might be called here. My previous background is patient safety so I know all too well what even the slightest communication problem with one's doctor can lead I am hoping to find a physician with very, very, very good English. Does anyone know one that they could suggest (via comments)?
Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Welcome to the American Way of Pizza


On Sunday Damon and I did something we haven't done since we got here: ate at an American chain restaurant. Come to think of it, we almost never did it in the US either (with the exception of Qdoba, which I miss very, very dearly right now). We were wandering down the Hauptstrasse when Damon was struck with a craving for Pizza Hut. So, in we went. I took notes of this unusual experience on a napkin ;)

Their motto, painted on the window, was "Welcome to the American Way of Pizza". Kind of sad to think that the world's vision of what pizza is like in the US might be based solely on Pizza Hut pizza, which doesn't taste much like anything else you can get in the US or anywhere. It did shed some light on a discussion we had in German class a few months ago though. The teacher asked me and the other student, an Italian, which we liked better: Italian pizza, or American pizza. I was really puzzled trying to think of what she might mean by "American pizza". New York pizza? Chicago pizza? St. Louis pizza? Domino's? Turns out the answer might be Pizza Hut. (In any case it was hardly a fair question, because there might be a similar question when you talk about "Italian pizza".)

We picked up a menu and noted that there were free pop refills! Just like the US! Except that if you want free refills, you have to pay 50 cents extra. How's that for free?
When our drinks came, they had ice in them! Not ridiculous US amounts of ice (ice with a splash of beverage) but just a monolayer on the top. However, no straw, which I associate with ice now since US = ice plus straw in your drink, and Germany = no ice no straw in your drink. Ice but no straw is a mysterious combination. Damon had ordered Apfelschorle, though, and his thoughts? "Ice in Apfelschorle?? Das geht nicht." (Literally, "that doesn't go".)
The menu had a whole page of desserts, including mini-donuts with chocolate frosting and sprinkles and Belgian waffles. No dessert pizza, though, which is the only dessert that I can even think of that you can get at a US Pizza Hut. Then again, like I said, I didn't go to these places that much and I might be a little out of touch.
The other thing they didn't have was breadsticks. This is really disappointing for me because that's about the only thing I really do crave about Pizza Hut now and again. Oh, sweet Pizza Hut greasy-ass breadsticks, how I miss you. (Hmm, I know where I'm headed next time I'm back in the M-west.) We did get an appetizer with our dinner-for-2 order, which included about 6 "country fries", 3 breaded mushrooms, 2 chicken wings, and 2 chicken fingers. Yippee.
And, the pizza. It was just like in the US. Nice crispy grease coating on the bottom. It's pretty disgusting, tasted pretty damn good.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Last night was the first Schlossbeleuchtung ("castle illumination") of the year. Heidelberg does this three times per summer - in June, July, and September. The castle and the ends of the Alte Bruecke are lit up and smoky to look like they are on fire, and then there is a fireworks show shot off from the Alte Bruecke.

We lined up along the Neuenheimer Landstrasse on the north side of the Neckar about an hour before the show so we could have a good view. Lots of others did the same, and the road was actually closed off for the foot traffic. There really aren't a lot of places to watch from, since the castle can't be seen from the other side of the river and the places along the river are a little limited by trees and such. We were pretty pissed when it became clear that tour boats full of people were going to park along the Neckar right in front of us only 10 minutes before the start, obstructing our view with not enough time for us to find another place to go. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the flag of the boat in front of us was right in front of the castle. Several people asked the boat captain to take it down, but to no avail. So you can see in the video above - the castle and bridge are on fire, but...the flag is in the way. So, a big hearty screw you to the captain and crew of the Alt-Heidelberg tour boat, and all the other tour boats who were obstructing the views of others. Hopefully next time we will find a better place to watch from. The fireworks themselves were pretty nice - it was neat to see some of the extra tricks they could do having a nice central stage like the Alte Bruecke. Most fireworks I've seen have been shot off from boats or parks. They had some going in waves and patterns up and down the bridge, and at the end in waterfalls over the sides. Pretty cool! If we're in town for the other shows this year we'll have to check them out from different viewpoints to find the best!