Thursday, December 3, 2009

Luxembourg, Trier, Bernkastel, Köln and Fun with Andy & Jen!

This was easily one of our favorite weekends in Germany. We love traveling... but it was so nice to travel a tiny bit and still visit some friends who also live in Germany temporarily (they're moving back to the U.S. in June).

For Thanksgiving, we had to work. It's not a big deal... and surely we missed our families on that day, but it isn't required to have a big turkey meal to celebrate thankfulness. After work, we wanted to do something we don't normally do on a weeknight-- eat out in a restaurant. In our region, however, this task is tricky. Most restaurants are attached to hotels and serve primarily German cuisine. They are mostly "mom and pop" restaurants/hotels because the idea of "chains" here in Europe is not as common as in America. In our general area, we have an Italian restaurant next door and only a handful of other restaurants we haven't tried. But, we knew about a larger town (largest in our region of Nordrhein Westfalen--Northwestern region of the Rhine River) called Iserlohn that has lots of restaurants. We drove there and parked and began to walk around the streets when we noticed our first Christmas market! We are so excited to be here during this time.

We didn't end up having dinner so much as takeout Chinese (and it was great!) and then walked around the Christmas market and found this lovely item:

... and for about 2.5 Euro, it was ours.

Fast forward to the next day, "Black Friday" (which also doesn't exist here because they aren't insane consumers like we are in the U.S.)... we drove about 3.5 hours to Luxembourg. For a little history, Luxembourg is known for playing its cards right in history and maintaining its own identity being home to many rich folks-- it has the highest GDP in all of the world. It's pretty small, too.

Here's the Christmas market in Luxembourg we saw when we arrived on Friday evening.

We have managed to purchase something delicious from all four Christmas markets we've visited thus far. This here is essentially a "French" churro. There is a large French population in Luxembourg and it's their primary language. The border of France to Luxembourg's capital center is less than 15 minutes away.

So, this "churro" is called a "cruller" and is like a skinny, fancy, fried, sweet churro (minus the sugar/cinnamon) and served with warm milk chocolate. They sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Basically, perfection.

Some of Luxembourg's architecture. The capital city of Luxembourg (also called Luxembourg) has a large, deep valley in the center. Though you can't see it, that's what the dark bottom part of the photo is. Around the city used to be large beautiful buildings and a fortress. Due to a treaty about 120 years prior, all of the charming buildings were torn down. Here's a building that was re-built and finished in the late 90's.

A church... like most... under constant renovation.

Beautiful Christmas decorations started to appear this weekend. Just like in the U.S., they begin decorating this weekend, despite the absence of Thanksgiving.

That car seats TWO!

These two photos are of terrible quality... but I wanted to share what we saw. We were driving down in that deep valley in the center of Luxembourg and came across several ruins that survived the demolition. Since it was raining heavily this entire day, we didn't leave our car during this drive.

Just after we took a driving tour of the city, we headed off on another 1-hour drive to Ehlenz where Andy & Jen live. They were all Air Force Academy friends/grads and they are here in Germany for a bit longer. When we arrived on Saturday, they took us to this beautiful town, Trier. Historically, Trier is the oldest city in Germany. This city is older than the Roman Empire, centuries before Christ. The Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is believe by the Catholics to house the garment Jesus wore -- and I believe the nails -- from his death. They are only shown once every few decades.

This is the Porta Nigra (black gate) -- Roman city gate we walked through into the Trier shopping district.

Since our photos were taken in the rain, at night, perhaps you may want to visit websites with better photos: here & here

Just after entering the Porta Nigra we saw this on our right-- some musical entertainment.

I like this photo only for the surroundings-- not my scary face. Those are our friends in the background.

After our delicious Indian dinner, we headed through the Christmas market to purchase some Glühwein (aka mulled wine) and walk around. Here are Jen, Andy, and Ray with their wine.

The Cathedral of Trier-- the oldest Cathedral in Germany.

And of course... the desserts. They sell these huge "bon-bon" looking chocolate treats. A bon-bon is an ice cream treat in America, but a hard candy in Germany, btw.

Here's Jen trying to eat this huge chocolate covered marshmallow.

I was daring and went for the chocolate covered chili pepper.

Just before I took a bite and was still contemplating my stupidity, the Germans who sold me the chili pepper (for 1.5 Euro) were all staring at me over the counter. They probably thought this white girl couldn't handle it. Oh, how wrong they were... here I am taking the first bite.

... and here's the amazing spread of dessert treats and a closeup of those spicy numbers.

Fast forward to Sunday (the next day). We visited another gorgeous city called Bernkastel. This town is over 700 years old and located on the Moselle River. This town is well known in Germany for fine wines.

Old Castle on the hill. We know nothing about it! We didn't actually go up inside of it but thought it was beautiful perched on the vineyard hills.

The Moselle River and the vineyards in the background. I wish we would've bought a bottle of wine now that I think about it!

I love mosaics. This one is particularly beautiful.

Photos from the Market Sqaure in Bernkastel. This area is where they had their Christmas market.

Left: Spitzhäuschen built in 1416.
Right: Andy & Jen in front of the Market Square and a building with "advent" windows. I loved it.

The Spitzhäuschen (translates: pointy small house & spoken: spitsz-house-hyen)

We've been locked up!

Oh man. This was awesome. Cheese fondue and delicious brown bread. Can it get any better?

A little cheese fondue action shot!

Ray and one of the many sausages he's consumed in Germany.

Some festive music during Christmas market shopping.

We had to say goodbye to our friends... and as we drove home... we thought... since we're driving through Cologne, should we stop to check out their Christmas market, too? We will be going with our parents (and we've been there before), but the Christmas market will have ended by then. So, we added a couple hours to our trip and headed for the Dom.

And here's the Dom once again.

This was BY FAR the busiest of the 4 markets we've seen so far. It make sense-- it's the largest town and has well-equipped train connections and a reasonably large airport (the same one we fly out of to other countries). They also have not one, but SIX Christmas markets around the city. Four of the six are near the Dom (center). Anyhow, while blurry, it may give you an idea of how crazy the traffic was!

The Dom & the drink vendor.

We also went on this boat (located on the Rhine River). It housed another Christmas market where we donated 2 Euro/per person for UNICEF.

Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne. It's known for its "locks of love" -- like Rome. People engrave their names and the date (with their loved one) and lock in on the bridge. I read on a website that one woman visits her lock three times a week to clean it! I think that's a little extreme. In case you're interested, we do not have a lock of our own attached to this bridge... yet.

This one isn't engraved like most of them... but we thought it was fancy.

After leaving Cologne Sunday evening, we headed home (completely exhausted) to see lights on all around our small town of Neuenrade. Here is the main road around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Our street (Zweite Straße = Second Street) is the second street from the main street. Since it's Europe, there are shops and older houses located on inner streets, like ours. Germans often decorate their older buildings or old area of town for holidays. Since we live in an old building on this street, our trees were also decorated.

Here's the Christmas tree next to the Eiscafe Gelato place (that's closed for the season).

On Tuesday of this week, I headed with Sabine to her University in Bochum. Bochum is a large town about 30 minutes from our town. Sabine thought I would enjoy visiting her school and sitting in on some lectures. Since she is going to school for certification in teaching English, her professors all speak/teach in English-- so I understood everything.

I'm not sure if it's visible, but I saw an enormous migration of birds while we drove there. I took a few photos.

And finally, we visited the Bochum University auditorium. Recently, they have been rallying in here against University fees. Being a socialist country, fees are minimal/non-existent. Recently, the government is considering a fee increase for students and they aren't happy about it.

That's the week in photos... now for the journaling:

Mittwoch 25.11.2009 (day 72)

We just finished such an amazing dinner. More on that later. The morning was fine, but a bit boring. I planned to get some groceries from the store, but I only had a 100 Euro bill. You just about get dirty looks giving a bill that large and expecting change when spending anything under 25 Euro. So, I decided to wait on that until later. I cleaned up the house and de-cluttered before Ray came home for lunch. We headed off to work and I hurriedly worked on transferring my nouns into my new notebook—in proper colors (color coded blue/red/black). This was part to help me study for the quiz I knew we were having today (argh) and part because my other notebook is just so cluttered that I have no interest in looking inside it because of the clutter. Sabine arrived a bit after 3 p.m. and we had class until 5:30. Our quiz was as expected… we didn’t know a lot of the words or the articles in front of them. I did better than usual (I think) because I have been transferring information into the new notebook which is helping me review. What I will do to study after the notebook is perfect, I don’t know! Ray was frustrated and I could hear him writing sharp dashes for words he didn’t know. Since the quiz began our lesson, we weren’t too excited throughout the rest of it since we started off on a bad foot. I don’t really understand the quizzes, but I don’t care anymore. It’s a bit like teaching… when I give my students and assessment they do poorly on (judge based on kids who always perform and give every effort), I take it personal that I didn’t prepare them properly… or that I shouldn’t be “assessing” them in this manner. I think there are many ways to assess learning… and giving quizzes that usually reap poor results does nothing for the student or teacher but develop low esteem in that area. Also, if the results are poor, I go about assessing another way, or re-teaching information. Because, as all great teachers know, assessments are only good to help the teacher provide better clarity in areas of teaching and to show which areas have been mastered. It shouldn’t be for students to get discouraged. Students have a hard enough job. But, if an assessment is given and the results are poor, it should be re-addressed (perhaps in a different fashion) since the first method wasn’t successful. Perhaps I’m too critical being a student and watching others teach. I’m stepping off the soap box… on a much more positive note, we came home and did another 30-minute workout video binge. This is day #3 and our hardest day so far! It was a good workout and we were sweating for sure. We planned to go for a run, but what a surprise… the blue skies we had earlier in the day turned gray and poured rain. Now, onto that dinner. Man it was good. When we were in the states about 1.5 weeks ago, I bought some corn tortillas (I’m glad my mother-in-law convinced me to buy them!) to bring back and make some dinners. You can’t find them anywhere in Germany. We stopped at the grocery store before heading home and I picked up an avocado and some lettuce. We made tostadas with fresh guacamole and they were amazing! By far, this was my favorite “at home” meal since we came here. It’s all about having the right ingredients. I paid almost $2 (U.S. dollars) for that one avocado, but it was worth every penny! Off to work on German homework to prepare for our 9 a.m. lesson!

Donnerstag 26.11.2009 (day 73)
I got up with Ray today and cried one small tear for not being able to sleep in. I’m just kidding. It’s not really a big deal. Personally, I think it’s nice to switch it up once in a while. We sat sleepily eating our PB toast and headed off to work for our 9 a.m. German lesson. Sabine was late, so we had a chance to catch up on some emails. When she arrived we had a lesson/discussion about Germany & U.S. differences related to work and our lesson was over around noon. We did not get our quizzes back in case you were wondering. Lunch at our desks (since we packed them for the day) and we worked until 5. Rephrase: Ray worked until 5 and I did German homework and I obsessed over the Internet to keep up with friends and such. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, since it IS Thanksgiving in the U.S. and our families and friends are enjoying Turkey and all things caloric, we figured we’d go out to dinner. We really wanted Indian, but we couldn’t find any restaurants in the general area less than an hour away… so instead we drove to a large town (the largest town in our region of Sauerland) called Iserlohn. I mentioned this town when I had food poisoning because we went there for Subway. It’s about 20 kilometers from our house and has the closest Subway to us. Anyhow, we set out to have dinner. We walked down a big walking street and ended up right in front of the Rathaus where there was a Christmas market. This is something incredible. I love Germany for this festivity. They come in all sizes and in various (larger) cities and have some music entertainment, a few small kid rides, and vendors selling delicious food and drink from cute wooden “houses” they place in city center squares just for the month preceding Christmas. They sell the traditional sausages and dinner foods, warm wine (I think yuck, Ray thinks yum), desserts: cotton candy, covered nuts, covered apples, licorices, crepes (with or without Nutella!) and the list goes on. It’s such a fun thing. We walked through this cute area and then off to find a restaurant. I wanted Chinese food, so as we walked down a street, we saw two people come out with Chinese takeout containers. In we went! Not exactly the “restaurant” Thanksgiving celebration I quite had in mind, but it was really good—and super cheap! I’ve had Chinese at 4 different restaurants in Germany thus far, and this rated 2 out of the 4. For being so cheap, it was quite impressive. We headed back to the Christmas market to get a chocolate covered apple and off to head home. We stopped off at a discount store to get some tape and Christmas ornaments. We don’t have a tree yet, but soon! It’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here! We’re going to another Christmas market this weekend with our friends Andy & Jen. And… in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I must say that I am thankful for our new experiences here in Germany. I love and miss all my family and friends. We’re grateful and happy on this day!

Freitag 27.11.2009 (day 74)
I’m 4 out of 5 on working out this week! We took Thanksgiving off, but I jumped right back on the wagon and kickboxed in our living room again this morning. That’s good because I most likely won’t carry on with that this weekend since we’ll be staying with friends. A little packing and lunch making… then Ray came home for our feast. Since we often go away on weekends, I hate leaving behind fresh veggies. So, we had more guacamole (delicious!!!) and salads. We headed off to work after packing up the car and stayed until about 2 p.m. We set off for Luxembourg after we left work and had a pretty nice drive. It’s been raining a lot here lately and it even hailed a bit today. When we arrived in Luxembourg, it was dark. It gets dark at about 5:00 p.m. here since it’s reaching winter. We drove in circles for about 20 minutes before finally finding the city center and parking. We experienced the Christmas market here which was bigger than the one in Iserlohn yesterday. That makes sense because it’s a bigger area. Luxembourg is a small mostly French speaking country. From the capital, it’s about 15 minutes driving to reach France. If we weren’t already planning a trip with my parents through France, we would’ve most definitely gotten credit for that extra 15 minutes. At the Christmas market, we bought these “French churros” covered in powered sugar with a side of smooth milk chocolate for dipping. Uh… yeah. Amazing. They aren’t actually “French” now that I’ve done my research. They’re called crullers and they sort of resembled the shape of a skinny, short, plain churro. They were first made by the Dutch and it seems they have made their way into other cultures. We weren’t sad. They were amazing. So much for that workout today. We had dinner after and looked around for Christmas ornaments since we purchase one in each country we visit (new country!), but most souvenir shops were closed and the Christmas markets only sold generic souvenirs. Back to our hotel which was a bit roachy. I might cover my pillow with a t-shirt tonight. This may be our first sketch hotel in all of Europe so far! The irony of that is this country has the highest GDP in the entire world. Richest country, 4-star roach hotel?!? Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad but we’re so spoiled! European hotels are usually really nice and accommodating and this one bottoms my list. Off to finish watching CNN’s Heroes program and hope they stop covering this Tiger Woods car accident story. I mean, I like you Tiger, but they’re a little obsessed.

Samstag 28.11.2009 (day 75)
We woke up early in Luxembourg and set out to the same area of town to find a Christmas ornament and grab some breakfast before heading to Ehlenz where our friends Andy & Jen live. It was pouring down rain and we drove around a bit to check out some more sights. Luxembourg, though pretty, is not as striking as we expected. Over a hundred years ago, treaties required they take down all their defenses… making a well fortified city something ordinary. But, you can’t tear down everything. Like all these old towns/countries we’ve visited, we’ve noticed small walls and various stones that tell a story of the past. We grabbed a couple rolls that were like cinnamon rolls, but rather than the frosting, they use marmalade. They aren’t gooey and sweet, but they were decent. Real cinnamon rolls are not found here. We ended up searching for an ornament and were disappointed at the selection… until we finally found one that was made out of tree bark and really neat. We bought that up and headed on the road to Ehlenz. The drive was less than an hour away and as we drove, we realized how small the area was. They have a single bar in their town and that’s about it. We arrived and were welcomed into their beautiful home. For a European home, this is something to see! They even have a one-car garage! While they’ve lived in Germany for around 3 years now, they are also moving back in June of 2010. We had Digornio pizza for lunch (I mention this only because it was real!) and Andy made me a cheese pizza from scratch which was awfully nice of him! We sat for hours talking and catching up. This was my first time meeting Jen and my second meeting Andy. Ray’s talked about them so much and I was delighted to have the chance to hang out with them and get to know them personally. Having all 3 gone to USAFA for their college experiences, they had lots of fun stories to reminisce about. Just before dinner time, we headed to a town called Trier which is huge! They had a huge Christmas market we walked through and then we headed down the street to find an Indian restaurant they’d made a reservation for. We couldn’t find it for awhile… and it was a bit nice knowing other people can get lost, too (we get lost SO much)! After asking about 20 people in various shops, we finally found it… and it was delicious! We finished dinner and went back through the Christmas market and the guys had glühwein (warm mulled wine). We carried on and headed back home where we had some more wine and talked until after midnight. It’s really nice having friends and being able to hang out with others we have things in common with. We miss that and can’t wait to find new friends in Chicago when we move there.

Sonntag 29.11.2009 (day 76)
We woke up in a comfortable bed and got ready for the day. We headed upstairs to have delicious American Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Man, so good. We had some Turkish apple tea (they bought from Turkey) and sat around for awhile before suiting up to visit the AF BX and Commissary with our friends. For those who are unfamiliar, the BX is a “Target” and the Commissary is an American grocery store for military. I had visited a few in LA before we moved while Ray was still in the AF. They sell products a bit cheaper and tax-free for military folks. While in the middle of Germany, they sell all American products just as a normal market in the U.S. would. It was fun to see a lot of products we aren’t used to seeing in Germany. It was like little America. We headed to the BX and headed back to their house to unload and grab our car. Our friends were creating care packages for friends, so we tagged along. Then, we headed back to their place. Speaking of their house… it’s adorable. What’s even more exciting are all the fantastic pieces they have purchased for furnishing. They bought these gorgeous wood table pieces from Guam where they were stationed before Germany. They’ve been to Thailand and all around the world visiting gorgeous places and bringing artifacts with them along the way. Some of these pieces are just incredible and so similar to our taste. The nicest thing is, the AF pays for the packing and shipping of their purchased goods from all over the world. In June, however, they’ll be heading back to the U.S. and leaving military live for civilian life—what neither of them have ever known in their adult lives. It was nice that Ray could talk with them about his experiences, too. He also left the military and had to adapt. After grabbing our car, we followed them to Bernkastel (it’s called that, but they also have a castle) which is a small town along the Mosel River. It has a very quaint walking area that we really liked. This was right up there with some of our favorite places we’ve seen in Germany. It was just so charming and had tons of crooked-house character. We walked through the Christmas market there and had cheese fondue (amazing), bratwurst (party of 3, minus me), and a pretzel. We bought a cute Christmas decoration and said our goodbyes. We hope to see them again before leaving Germany for a ski trip and Chicago visits. Many of our family and friends have never been to Chicago, so that will be something personal we can share with them. Everyone always shares with us… that will be our chance to turn the tables. We set off on our own and Andy & Jen headed back home, home. As we drove, we figured we really wanted to see the Cologne Christmas market, so we decided to stop by on our way home. We were driving through the city and it wouldn’t be much of a driving detour—just a time sucker. But, who cares! We parked really close to one of the six Christmas markets they have in the area and headed through. It was the largest and most jam-packed market we’ve been to so far. Rightfully so, it’s a large and frequently visited city. We also walked along the Hohenzollern Bridge where they have thousands of “locks of love”—literally, engraved or sharpie-d locks with the date and the two names on it. People get these locks engraved and lock them to the bridge, creating a striking site. We also visited another Christmas market on a boat in the Rhine River where we donated a few bucks each to UNICEF and walked around the “indoor” market. We bought our German Christmas ornament (special!) and carried on to get home before bedtime. We arrived back home shortly after 8 p.m., unpacked the car, decorated our apartment with all of our purchased Christmas ornaments from countries we’ve visited thus far… and relaxed on the couch. This was a fantastic weekend and we really enjoyed seeing friends and spending time just enjoying other people’s company. We’re looking forward to our Barcelona trip next weekend! Until then… work, work, work! Oh, and a little bit of German thrown in there too! (by the way: I am definitely feeling like I am understanding more and more in print as we visit places, shops, etc. It’s pretty fantastic. While I don’t expect to be perfect, I do think it’s great that I can coherently and intelligently piece together sentences, billboards, and advertisements.) Yay!

Montag 30.11.2009 (day 77)
I laid in bed this morning after Ray left for work just thinking of how great a time we had this past weekend! At some point, I got myself up, grabbed some oatmeal and caught up on the world before working out to 4 videos in the living room. After, I began laundry and got cleaned up before making lunch. Ray headed home at close to 1 p.m. because he was caught up in a meeting that was really important for his learning. We headed back to work and then around 2:30, Ray joined another meeting with some clients from Russia & Belgium. They communicated primarily in Spanish, however! This is something that clearly sets Europe apart from the U.S. International relations are second nature. It’s important we start seeing it that way in the U.S. in relation to business as well. I researched and planned meals and places I plan to take my parents for the first few days of their visit—in three weeks! It’s coming so fast and we’re really excited to share this with our families. Sabine showed up and Ray was still in a meeting. Of course. So, I felt bad, as usual and we waited until he came out. We had about an hour of class before she had to leave for the day and the company was closing its doors. We came home and Ray did the same workout I had this morning while I made homemade French fries and a semi-chili for chili fries. I threw in a little corn and lots of seasonings to two types of beans and threw in cheese for a relatively low-fat meal. Plenty of carbs, but I don’t care! I workout so I can eat such wonderful things. After dinner, our doorbell rang and it was our landlord. He came to turn on the Christmas lights. He wasn’t missing a beat! It’s not even December 1st yet. We understand his interest, however. Our little area is pretty festive. I don’t know if it’s done by the city, but since we live on a street mixed with businesses, restaurants, and residences, they decorated the trees lining our street with lights (including the one right in front of our place!) and they even have a huge, decorated Christmas tree right around the corner from our house inside the square near the fountain. It’s a fun place to live at this time of year. We’re enjoying the festivities so much. We also planned to buy a tree, but since we really have no place to put it (seriously—the living room is only about 8 feet wide!) and the area is already nicely decorated, we don’t feel so bad. We also would rather spend that money on a great German Christmas collectable that we can remember and bring back to Chicago with us than having to figure out how to manage a tree and pay that extra cost. I guess it’s a little sad, but we really want to invest in something we can bring back to the states. Plus, we are gone every weekend. We also asked the landlord to fix our upstairs heater for the master bedroom and he noticed that the heater wasn’t being provided enough pressure for it to work—so it took no time at all and it was nice and toasty! Good—now all the living quarters in our bitty house are going to be warm for our families. I am off to the Bochum University with Sabine tomorrow for 6 hours of lectures! I am a little excited to experience their system… but not sure about classes until 6 in the evening! Looks like Ray’s on his own for dinner tomorrow night.

Dienstag 01.12.2009 (day 78)
Today I got up with Ray and headed into work for about an hour before he drove me to Altena. I was meeting Sabine in a parking lot near the Autobahn so I could come with her to the Bochum University today. She is taking 3 classes in English on Tuesdays and she wanted to show me where she went to school and have me sit in on classes since she thinks they’re quite interesting. We had a fine 30 minute drive and parked easily. Since the education system here is socialist, the students do not pay for parking and have few fees to attend classes. That’s a world different than the prices of education in the United States. We walked in and were less than .25 miles from her building where all of her classes were. That’s so different than the mile or more I would have to park away from my classes when I attended university. There were about 5 or 6 very large 12 story buildings, an auditorium, a tutoring center, and a library in the general area of where we were. We went inside the humanities building and waited for one of Sabine’s friends and grabbed some coffee. Then, we headed into the first class, Linguistics. This class dealt with understanding types of sentences, social cues, etc. The classroom was miniature and there were about 25 students. The professor seemed so nervous that I thought she might cry at times. She would ask questions and after TWO minutes, not a single person would answer her. It was actually really uncomfortable and I wanted to participate because of that… but I didn’t. Sabine had a small presentation about an article she read and was to relay that information to the rest of the class. One of the guys was intrigued by me being there and asked for my assistance on their in-class group project. He even had be complete this paper they were to have an outsider fill out for homework. I was his outsider. They were scenarios where some dialogue was missing that I had to fill in an appropriate response. After that class, we headed to the second one—another Linguistics course. This one dealt mostly with court language and interpreting ways to speak to different groups (adults, children) and persuasion tactics. It was actually pretty interesting. The professor spoke is really great, and quick, British English. There was a lot of participation and I was interested the entire time. This is where I noticed the strangest thing—after a class, the students knock on the desks about 5 times each to indicate a “thank you” for a good lecture. The class before did not have a single knock! The third class also received knocks. After the second class, we went to the computer lab so Sabine could print something and headed to an enormous lecture hall that was 1/3 empty for the final class of the day. They have 30 minutes between each class—which I think is too much. This class was ½ interesting, ½ mundane and monotone. The professor was obviously knowledgeable about what she taught—British history past 700 A.D., but she stood there and talked the entire time with little movement. She had slide after slide and everyone just took notes. Sometimes I would perk up to listen, but most of the time I read Forbes Magazine hoping it would end so we could go home. She taught about many things I already knew since British history is also something we learn in our universities/high schools in the U.S. After class was over, more knocks came, and then we took a walk to the library and auditorium to check those out before leaving. We met Ray at the same parking lot. He had been shopping before he came to get me and had an orchid and a Bitburger beer in the car waiting for me! The beer was not cold, nor did I drink the sealed bottle in the car. The reason he bought that was because we drove by that brewery a few times this past weekend and I hadn’t tried it. He’s so thoughtful. I’m thankful for my wonderful husband and all he is. The rest of the night was traditional…

Mittwoch 02.12.2009 (day 79)
I started my day with a workout (or workout videos, that is). I’m not really sure if I have a routine down yet— and I don’t really care for one either. My goal is to workout when I can and not spend time obsessing about it. Ray came home for lunch and we had breakfast foods. I’m thrilled about having pancake mix (though no syrup) and I made some killer hash browns. Potatoes are a huge staple food in Germany and they sell them in huge bags. Every time we buy them, I feel like I need to make massive amounts for meals since I hate wasting food. The culture condemns waste of food and resources—and I try to be as German as I can by recycling (by separating every piece of paper, plastic, cans, glass, and waste products) for pickup, and by using all of our resources. So anyhow, we definitely have been having some potatoes lately! We had about an hour to finish up our German homework before our 2 p.m. lesson with Sabine. We had a 3 hour lesson today and Ray was interrupted in the middle for an urgent call from the states. So, lucky me… I got to continue with the lesson as he was gone. While some days I’m okay with this, other days I just want a break! Again, sometimes learning something that is difficult for me makes it less appealing, too. Today was just one of those days when I didn’t feel like I was grasping the language, so the extra time without Ray wasn’t fun. When our lesson ended, we headed home in another employee’s company car. He was taking ours to get serviced in Bochum (since he lives there) and we would be trading back in 2 days. His car is really nice! There are so many bells and whistles. Ray was really impressed with how “easy” the car shifted into gears since it was the second manual transmission he’d ever driven. Back at home, Ray did his workout and I got busy on dinner. The rest of the night was quite relaxing… except we planned another trip—but I can't write it here because I don't want my parents to find out-- secret! We’re very excited and finally found time to squeeze this trip into our schedule. So fun!