Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

Hello my beautiful spring time friends!

I was going to write a long, whiny tale about getting my work permit, but ALAS, it hasn’t happened yet. I’m quickly learning that I need to not make the assumption that I’ll know what I’ll talk about next week because who knows what will happen in five minutes in this unchartered, highly populated territory.

So, this week I’m going to dive into more acute observations about our German brethren.

When I was at the subway stop (yes, I’ve somewhat mastered the subway system, which is such an achievement on its own I can’t even begin to describe the elation I feel in my heart. Here’s a picture below for your overwhelming enjoyment.)

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AMERICAN GENES?

ANYWAYZ, when one is at the subway stop, you get to people watch like never before. Remember, people openly and unabashedly stare directly at you here, so you get to do the same. It’s a little startling at how quickly I became accustomed to being creepy! Over time, I’ve started thinking creepy things like, “Oh, she has an American mouth.”

I would have never had guessed that someone could have an American mouth, but there it is. Even though people are REALLY white here, it’s a German white, a European white if you will, and there’s a difference. Who knew!

MAJESTIC TALL PEOPLE

Another interesting note, and it’s actually wonderfully poetic, is that people are tall here. I am a 5’8″ chubby gal respectively, and I was always taller than most of my female friends, and frankly taller than half of my OKcupid dates. Here, I’m on the short end of the spectrum. For the most part, everyone is 5’8″ and above, and probably average around 6 feet tall. Long and lean. The majority of people here in Hamburg, at least under the age of 50, have bodies of athletes and models. INTIMIDATING.

But the BEST part… is that every so often, you see someone a foot taller than the rest. When everyone else is 6 feet, there is a 7 foot tall person (men and women) parting their way through the crowd. They walk differently. They move slower. Their heads are slightly elongated. I asked my interesting and captivating Airbnb host, and she mentioned that Germans have deep roots from the old growth forests here. That some of them have tree-blood. I’m no scientist, but it checks out!

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I want to believe.

GERMAN DOGS

Okay, so, I have a long history with dogs. Who can forget the time one bit me on my left buttock when I was 8? Or when dad would bring home these mangy mutts from the golf course? And, rain or shine, dogs from anyone and everyone in America would jump up on me like a moth to the flame.

BUT IN GERMANY? SIMPLY NOT SO.

First of all, dogs 9 times out of 10 aren’t on leashes. They walk ahead of their owners with equal parts confidence and obedience written all over their faces. Like their owners, they STARE, but they do not even THINK about getting in my space. These are the most polite, well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. In fact, here’s a picture of a dog on a leash because of the sheer novelty of it.

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This brings me to my second observation about these dogs… a lot of them are DIFFERENT looking. I obviously have heard of German Shepards…but there are these wire-haired dogs of all different kinds here. Scrappy, well-behaved, diligent creatures! It’s baffling!

I want to pet a dog already but the dogs don’t want to be pet!

BABIES

Babies are abundant here. Maybe it’s because it’s spring, maybe it’s because people love walking here. I couldn’t say. The thing I could say is that I have seen tons of dads with strollers. Here’s a creepy picture I took of not one, but TWO dads with strollers walking down the street.

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It’s nice to see! I also heard that people get approximately three years of maternity leave here? THINK ABOUT THAT, AMERICA.

Also, people leave babies everywhere. Trying to get your pants tailored? Leave your baby outside. Want a quick beer before heading off? Leave your baby outside. We are not in Kansas anymore.

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Anyways, here’s an abundance of photos that I could not get around to writing about. Things from swan boats, strange squirrels, my bread baby and more.

Maybe next time I’ll have my work permit! Haaaaa!

Sarah

Ents, Obedient Dogs, and Dads with Strollers

Dazed, Confused, Bewildered, Amazed

Dear friends!

This past week I have been finding scraps of time to take observational notes, but for the most part I’ve been so fatigued and confused I genuinely don’t know if it’s settled in yet that I’m trying to make a life for myself in a new country. That being said, I’d like to talk about my first impressions of Hamburg, Germany. I think they will change…or I will change… because already the shock my system went through is settling down to a steady hum.

I’m determined! I’m forever confused by the government hoops I have to jump through to get my work visa! But, I’ll save that for another blog.

Observation #1: Staring

People love to stare here. As soon as I entered into this city… the taxi driver, the people on the subway, the old men, the babies in their carriages… these people love to stare. Now, the American in me of course instinctually smiles when someone is staring (minus creepy people) but here, they just stare with no noticeable expression difference. It becomes unnerving. Overwhelming. The eyes of people that you cannot communicate well with are staring you down always 3-5 seconds too long and you have no choice but to stare back or turn away.

Here’s a series of stock images from Google so you can get a glimpse of what it feels like to be stared at relentlessly.

(I picked mostly white people because this city is in fact… filled with a lot of white people)

The Optimist In Me: This means of course, you can openly people watch. Which is in my top ten favorite activities.

Observation #2: Food

Everything looks and tastes slightly better. Brighter, even? I don’t know why. It could just be me, but I talked to my Airbnb host /hopefully new best friend 😉  and she mentioned that Germany has strict government regulations on how chickens are raised and eggs and stuff. I can’t argue with her, the egg yolks here are a bright sunset orange compared to the yellow we’re used to in the states.

This picture also comes from the internet to show you the difference. There’s lots of “controversy” about what the color means, but I’ve been eating orange eggs and can taste the difference.

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On a broader scope of the food situation. I just… I have been eating SO MUCH. There are really some attractive people here, tall, lean, European, aloof and graceful, and it’s been causing me to just eat on behalf of everyone. Eat and drink and eat. OH MAN, THE BREAD. THE BREAD DESERVES ITS OWN POST, But the strange thing is… I don’t feel bloated. I’m losing weight and yet eating more? I’m not a scientist, but my tight jeans are becoming looser as I stuff my face with croissants. Here’s a series of pictures of my food adventures thus far.

 

Buffets, giant bowls of Kaffee und Milch, best quiche I’ve ever had, weird veggies, nine pm gelato, stuffed seafood potatoes and so much more! Needless to say, I won’t go hungry. B-)

Observation #3: Quiet Charms

I think the most important part, through my haze of trying to live here, are the small moments of kindness and magic that I can STILL somehow see, even though I’m in this weird hibernation mode. The harshness of the staring paired with still nippy weather has caused me to feel a little unhinged, but through this unsettled feeling, I have still noticed some extreme kindness.

10 out of 10 times I have noticed people offering people with baby carriages or luggage to help them carry it up or down the stairs.

There are several Lake Alster swans that are lovely and forever startling. These birds are HUGE and magnificent.

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Tiny houses and tiny boat racing!

And so many undiscovered museums I can’t wait to get my eyeballs on.

For now, I feel like I made the right decision. It’s a honest-to-God challenge beyond my wildest dreams… in some ways it feels like you’re a child again. How do you make copies on a copy machine when everything is in another language? But I’m surviving. Not thriving yet, but surviving and that’s good enough.

Still getting my bearings,

Sarah

Next Week: Navigating the System: The Art of Getting a Work Permit

Dazed, Confused, Bewildered, Amazed

The seventh circle of hell looks like an airport

Hello, dear friends!

I was going to write a harrowing tale about my adventures in getting to Hamburg, but I’ve decided to be the bigger person and move beyond it.

Just kidding. Here we go!

Have you ever been to the Los Angeles Airport (LAX?) This was my first time in probably ten years and let me tell you: It’s not worth it. Just unpack your bags and stay home.

Look at how optimistic I was. I was so young then , 6 days ago.

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The Luggage:

My luggage limit was supposed to be 70 pounds for this particular venture and it was 72 pounds, naturally. Because I packed it so tightly (as one does when you’re packing your life in a bag), when I opened it to remove items from one bag to another, it was a piñata. Underwear was flying, I was sweating (that “casual airplane” jacket is wool. What was I thinking?) and I was less than thrilled having to pay 185.00 anyway because of the weird ticket I bought. No one wins!

Then, the lady hands me my luggage receipt and I put it in my pocket, assuming everything was squared away.

No, no, friends it wasn’t. Stay tuned!

The Line:

There’s not much to say about flying internationally at LAX except you have to wait in this weird, hot, Disneyland line that wraps around several corners. I was going to take a picture of the entire thing, but people were staring at me and my sweat, so I took a picture on the DL.

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I timed it, the line took an hour in a half to get through. Ew.

The Plane Ride to London:

I think it’s cruel and unusual punishment to make the economy class walk through business class to their seats. We walked through these comfortable looking nooks, with their own large screens and fancy remote controls. They were already being served drinks. Their hair looked perfect (not related, but still noteworthy). They were just “Better” and everyone walking to the dark, claustrophobic back of the plane knew it.

We were served the usual “plane” food, but I am not going to complain about that. I’m going to complain about the turbulence. Oh LORD, the turbulence. The icky plane food sloshing around my stomach as I tried to watch literally anything on mini, short circuiting TV made me extremely nauseous. Eventually, desperate to focus on something, I grabbed my baggage receipt.

“London to Prague” it said.

What.

LONDON TO PRAGUE

What.

I thought my nausea was deceiving me. Was I having a nightmare? I’m going to Hamburg, yet my luggage wants to go to Prague? WHY, LUGGAGE, WHY. I went to the back of the plane to talk to a fight attendant. She said I need to immediately talk to a ticketing agent when I get off the plane so they can divert my bag. My life, my 70 pound bag filled with my life, was hopping to another country without me.

When the loudspeaker said “ten minutes until landing, fasten your seatbelts” I started sweating again. This time the sweat worsened into something else. I unbuckled and ran to the bathroom.

“Go back to your seat, ma’am”, the flight attendant said.

“I can’t,” I said, from the bathroom. Throwing up all over the place. My clammy hand grasped the tiny handle for dear life.

“Then you better hold on.” She said.

And that was the first, and hopefully only time I spend in an airplane bathroom when they were landing. Certainly is a candidate for the top ten worst experiences of my life.

Is there a happy ending?

Yes. My luggage miraculously made it to Hamburg. The lady just gave me some dudes ticket by mistake.

Alyssa found me and fed me and mercifully put a soft filter on her phone to show me safe and less sickly looking in Hamburg.

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Until next time.

Nauseously yours,

Sarah

The seventh circle of hell looks like an airport

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE

I think there’s several levels of exhaustion at work here. One level is just never sleeping quite enough (the energy of leaving, plus all of this damn sunshine causes me to wake up far too early. Thanks, Southern California.), another level is continuously saying goodbye to friends and family members with the weak hope that they’d come visit me in Germany. And the final level is material exhaustion.

HOW DO YOU PACK YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN A BAG?

HOW DO YOU DRESS PROFESSIONALLY?

HOW MANY BOOKS ABOUT ENGLISH GRAMMAR SHOULD I STUDY WITH ON THE PLANE SO IT LOOKS LIKE I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING?

These questions are haunting me any chance I get.

Regardless, I’m happy. This feels so right it’s almost alarming.

Over this past week I’ve collected a series of pictures that accurately describe my feelings of excitement, resoluteness, love, bittersweetness, fake-it-till-you-make-it bravery, and a dash of fear. Enjoy!

In regards to saying goodbye to my friends and family:

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In regards to my never-ending fatigue and stress eating:

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Jessica Warrick (artist of mermaid)

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In regards to this weird feeling of just not giving a rats ass anymore and just GOING FOR IT, YO:

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Pep talks to myself that it’s okay to be overweight, different, have a large personality and be exuberant. Being meek doesn’t suit me anymore. There’s enough room for me:

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Dreamy thoughts about the fantasies of Hamburg:

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Christian Schloe (artist)

I was about to show an image of my overflowing suitcase as the final picture, but it isn’t pretty, and I will have to reevaluate a few million items. Instead I found this lovely bag. Let’s just pretend I’m this dainty and whimsical instead, shall we?

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Travel bag for ladies, 1900 – 1930. Exhibition 2015. Museum for communication, Berlin

GUYS THE NEXT TIME YOU HEAR FROM ME I’LL BE IN GERMANY. DID YOU GET THE MEMO? I’M MOVING TO GERMANY. THE AIRBNBs ARE NON-REFUNDABLE.

Much love,

Sarah

 

BON VOYAGE AND FITTING MY STUFF INTO ONE SUITCASE