When in Doubt, Eat

Wow! I have taken a looooong hiatus from my blog writing. A month in a half in internet time is like five years! You all thought I was dead!

…WELL, I WAS. I decided to spend my afterlife on the internet too. I mean, what else am I supposed to do? Frolic with the angels?

(Side note: This was the first time I’ve ever written frolic and it feels weird. Shouldn’t there be a K? Anyway.)

During the last month in a half, my computer broke (by ghosts, I’m not kidding this time!), and I moved from one tiny room in a popular part of town to one giant apartment in a less desirable part. Also during this time I created and nurtured a blossoming bouncing baby facebook group called:

Hamburg Food Enthusiasts: English

It’s important to note that it says ENGLISH, because even though I’ve lived here for over four months, my German vocabulary has only expanded to about 30 nonsensical words. Hooray! Burgermeister!

Within a week of starting this group, it grew with such determination I thought for sure that I was going to spontaneously combust. YES, I know my blog handle HAM IN HAMBURG implies that I’m a dramatic, normally socialized person who loves to be the center of attention. Well, the truth is I have a love-hate relationship with people that I battle with internally on a daily basis! SO! Love ya!

As it stands, this mutant I’ve created has over 230 people in it, and we go on bi-weekly journeys across Hamburg to try new and interesting cuisine. 10-20 people show up at any given time, and I have to…like reserve stuff, and entertain!

 

It’s been crazy! And I’ve met some wonderful, lovely people in the process.

(Note: Some of these people aren’t solely from the food group, but it felt important anyway to note how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know them anyway)

And the FOOD, the whole point of this process, has been mildly disappointing to amazing.

In some ways, this group has helped me connect with this city on a spiritual level (and by that I just mean being well-fed) and gain some friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to create. Thanks, internet!

Of course, there are some cons having to be the leader of a very active group. I’ve had to kick out a couple of people (one was a dude that was hitting on women, the other was a woman who called me a dictator! Cool!) and also orchestrating events is this crazy long process with a lot of hoops to jump through. I’ve also had to pretend that I knew a lot more about food than I do (I feel there is a long distance between “enjoying eating anything and everything” and an official “foodie” and I’m trying to breach that gap as we speak).

But it has been worth it. This group gives me the illusion that I’m popular which obviously has been my goal since the beginning of my life, it helps me orient myself in the city, and make connections/build friendships in a place that I knew very little people.

There is also nothing like being forced to go outside when you want nothing else but to stay at home in your pajamas eating oreos because you have literally 20 people counting on you to be there. ūüėÄ

In conclusion, I give this 4 out of 5 stars. Will try again. Sweet and salty with a tangy aftertaste.

Sarah the Burgermeister

P.S. In case you happen to be in Hamburg, the places we tried are: San Khao Thai Food, Paulines (brunch) La Quesadilla, and Ashoka Indian Food. ALSO JUST IN CASE THE INTERNET POLICE COME: The pictures are all taken from my food group and I politely asked if I can use their faces in my very, very popular blog that I assume only my mother reads. Guten Tag!

When in Doubt, Eat

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

The weather in Hamburg is seemingly unpredictable. Each morning I wake up, stare out of the window, check my phone, as if there is any comprehension in understanding what 80 degrees with thunderstorms mean. My friend sends me a link to an English news site; a tornado warning. How do you dress for tornado weather?

I check the time. I give myself ample amounts of time for the Hochbahn, a subway system that is meticulously on time throughout Hamburg. During rush hour, every train comes at exactly four minutes apart from each other, with only a few seconds of leniency. If you’re not there right when the Hochbahn arrives, you miss it. Some how people know when it’s coming, an every-4-minute schedule memorized, but I give myself¬†plenty of wiggle room. My morning routine is not down to the minute (yet.)

I step on the train. If I get on at 7:52, there is a huge crowd of people. Standing room only. You are forced against someone else (And oh, deodorant is often only a suggestion here), or huddling in the corner away from making eye contact. At 7:56 there is no one. A deserted landscape of dark red or dark blue fabric patterns.

hochbahn (hamburg.de)

Alas, I made it to the earlier train. People everywhere. Some are tired, they are closing their eyes while placing their heads on the window. Some are alert. They are staring intensely at each person for 3-5 seconds. Sizing them up, taking them in. Oh, the staring. When first arriving here, the staring was a slap to the face. What is wrong with me? Why won’t they smile when I smile? My American¬†habits of smiling while staring gets immediately put to bed. After two months, I have started staring back. People watching has become an Olympic sport!

I make it to the English school I’m teaching at¬†30 minutes early. This is common. Lesson planning is a never ending process. If you planned your lessons the night before, you must make copies. If you didn’t plan anything, you better hurry up. A grammar lesson is first thing.

In Hamburg, if you’re aiming to be an English teacher, unless you’re fluent in German, you’re teaching adults. Adults want full integration. I am put in a room with 3-7 adults. Most are older than me, and come from all over Europe and beyond. 2/3rds are of German descent, and 1/3rd encompasses people usually from¬†other countries near by. Turkey. Russia. Bolvaria. A beautiful kaleidoscope of accents and pronunciations.

A Russian woman with puffed up lips and a bedazzled dress robustly says, “YOU GO TO THE MOVIES?”, interviewing her partner. A 50-something German man with a round pot belly and half moon glasses at the end of his nose replies, “Yes, I’m going to see an action film starring Arnold Shwarzenneger.”

It’s nearing afternoon. I have a company class outside of Hamburg city proper, maybe 30 minutes if I’m lucky, 50 minutes if I’m not. Again, I need to give myself ample time to not get lost. I also need to eat something, desperately. The sliced lunch meats I grew accustomed to in the states taste different here and I can’t stomach them. I’m often at Dat Backhus, a chain bakery with assorted sandwiches and unknown desserts, which I partake in more often than not.

dat-backhus-mit-neuem-gesicht-in-den-harburg-arcaden

“Spreken zie English?”

Over and over I ask. Do you speak English? 82% of the time it’s a yes, particularly with the younger crowd, but less common with the older crowd. This time it’s a no. I enthusiastically point at a fresh looking mozzarella sandwich with sliced tomatoes. I then smile and nod at a white chocolate chip cookie. They love white chocolate here. Coffee (or Kaffee) is the same word, and is much needed. Standing in front of a crowd of students, presenting yourself and your persona over and over again is exhausting.

The company class has 2 out of 5 people absent. One is at a meeting, another is on holiday. British English is more common here, and I find myself saying “holiday” instead of vacation and “colleague” instead of co-worker more and more often. I give them a spiel about Donald Trump.

“The number one question people ask me is:¬†why do Americans like Donald Trump?”

Which is true. Germans are seemingly fascinated with a character such as Trump. Because they are B2 level (not beginners, not fluent, yet) I hand them a fairly engaging article about the reasoning behind why certain groups of people support the Republican candidate. They seem interested, and a discussion ensues.

It’s already late afternoon. My phone is running low on data (Monthly, pre-paid plans can do that to you, especially if you’re continuously lost.), and I have to try and find the bus that will take me back to the subway. Confusion sets in, and I just start walking towards the general direction of the Hochbahn station. It’s a mile in a half away. The app that tells you what bus to take but does not tell you how to get to said bus. Thank God for comfortable clogs I bought before leaving for Germany. Comfort of standing on your feet all day out trumps fashion.

I get home and the sun is thinking about calling it a night. She’s looking at me through hazy clouds, squinting¬†and rubbing her eyes. I feel the same. She pulls the covers over her head and a sudden downpour showers the streets. I forgot my umbrella.

When I finally get to my apartment (or is it flat?), my roommate, a 50-something glamourous woman is home, chatting with someone in German on the phone. It’s only 6:30, but I’m slipping into my pajamas, and disappointed I didn’t pick up something for dinner too. The European championships are on (soccer, or is it football?), and she is squealing at the TV. Germany is known for their exceptional soccer team.

She is a friendly woman, though perturbed that a late-20s girl isn’t out drinking with her friends, discovering the night life, or doing something more proactive than watching another series on Netflix. She seemingly, at 25+years my senior, has infinite more energy than I do. Walking around in her underwear, animatedly chatting on the phone, curlers in her hair. She and I have had many conversations in her underwear now,¬†and my American sensibilities have been constantly questioned.

Though I have lived alone for 7 years or so, it is seemingly impossible to get your own flat once you first move to Germany. The paperwork is neverending, and I found myself using an American Idiom more than once.

“What came first: the chicken or the egg?”

One cannot get a job without two letters of intent from prospective companies, that you have to meet in person. One cannot get a flat without a residence permit that can easily take 2-3 months to get. One cannot get a bank account without a place to live. Everything hinges on something else, and often I find myself asking, how did I get here? Where am I going? Will this ever end?

And then, gradually, it does.

The paperwork gets sorted. The clouds start to part. And the sun starts to set over Hamburg in an egg yolk yellow hue.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I have to plan on how to teach Present Perfect Continuous.

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

An Introvert in Germany

FIRST AND FOREMOST, I would like to tell you what an introvert is. Over the years, people label themselves this¬†as a convenient way of saying they are deep or insightful (just don’t.) Or¬†people use it as a¬†negative tool for calling someone anti-social and nerdy.

Who WOULDN’T WANT TO BE THE LIFE OF THE PARTY, sorry I didn’t mean to scream.

Anyway, here’s the best definition I found from UrbanDictionary.com:

“Opposite of extrovert. A person who is energized by spending time alone. Often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places, introverts like to think and be alone.

Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts are shy. Some may have great social lives and love talking to their friends but just need some time to be alone to “recharge” afterwards. The word “Introvert” has negative connotations that need to be destroyed. Introverts are simply misunderstood because the majority of the population consists of extroverts.

Extrovert: Oh my god, you’re so shy! You need to get out more!
Introvert: But it’s so draining – I don’t have a problem with going out; I just want to stay at home and read sometimes, y’know?Jesse is an introvert. He doesn’t mind staying home on a Friday night.”

This was written in the ancient times of 2007 and still rings true today.
I love people. I love talking to them, getting to know their horrible secrets, unfairly diagnosing them from my psychology degree, eating so much brunch, etc. But frankly? Once I’m done hanging out, this happens.
fatdog2
(fun fact, I sent this picture to my bosses the other day after being 45 minutes late because I got horribly lost!!)
People are lovely, but exhausting. I like ripping off my pants and taking a nap, every single time.
So during my time in Hamburg, I have been 100% exhausted 100% of the time. Not only am I constantly exposed to new people, but walking outside my door I am always getting lost.
I am also¬†repeatedly having to ask people if they speak English. And though most people do, there is a distinct language barrier from sometimes truly connecting and understanding. You say tomato, I say to-mah-to! By the time the weekend comes, I’m sleeping for 10 hours straight and eating my recently found Oreo cookies in bed.

Another Strange Development:

Being an introvert usually means I do not succumb to the normal “trying to fit in” schemes that happen in society. Not because I don’t want to, because I’m just too tired and lazy. How can I be cool when I’m trying to watch Lady Dynamite on Netflix?

I have never been fashion forward, never liked to party, and certainly don’t like to shop. But here’s a fun fact!!!

Hamburg people love wearing stripes. These are pictures from real Hamburg People, wearing real Stripes. (not really, this is a lie)

I don’t know if it’s because of the proximity to the harbot¬†that they want to wear some sort of sailor-jail like stripe fashions, but it is abundantly clear in every shopping center there are multiple choices of striped clothing.
Yesterday, I opened my closet and found these.
Some how THREE striped shirts manifested themselves out of nowhere. As if living in Hamburg long enough metamorphosed a Hamburg looking Sarah. I decided to pair these blouses with my new European old lady sandals and 2 dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep.
I’ll be honest and say I don’t know where this journey will take me. I’m still¬†unsure about the paperwork situation, unsure about my abilities to navigate myself successfully¬†throughout this city, and really unsure of how to¬†maintain balance as an introvert¬†in a job that is very fun but¬†totally exhausting.
Better luck next time!
Sarah
An Introvert in Germany

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

Growing up, I used to read National Geographic like it was a message from God. These were undiscovered worlds at my fingertips in Technicolor glossy pages. Once in a while, there would be a picture of the photographer or journalist, wearing khaki shorts or some such nonsense, and usually over looking the horizon. These people were adventurers. They were stony eyed and wild haired and had a look of determination that few people really can encapsulate.

(all images from natgeo)

Anyway, my point is, I’m not one of those people.

It took me two weeks to get over the fatigue of flying here. That’s two weeks of sleeping, slogging around, befuddlement, and an overwhelming feeling of not quite sure if I was dreaming or if this was reality. I was glad I remembered wearing pants during this time. I really had no idea where I was or what I was doing.

Once that was done? I got sick. Luckily, not FLU sick, but scratchy throat, eyes, sneezing, coughing, blah blah blah. Naturally, I had to go to a government office and wait six hours in a crowd of people as every hole in my face was leaking. Gross! Sorry!

And after that? Yesterday, I tripped and sprained my ankle. To add insult to injury, my face INSTANTANIOUSLY produced two giant red cold sores. Because, why not? I mean, this city only has approximately one trillion staircases and I only have to teach in front of a bunch of adults merely feet away from my face! WHY NOT.

So, no, some people are not meant to do some rough-terrain-snake-eating-majestic-looking adventuring. Some of us aren’t meant to be constantly photogenic, or always have something profound up their sleeves.

Some people have an¬†incredibly¬†hard time functioning in a place that is actually just a bizarro version of the city she just came from. We all can’t be graceful, alright? Please just love me anyway.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Today is my one month anniversary! I made it one month! (barely!) to celebrate, people threw me a giant festival.

AWH SHUCKS GUYS YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE IT’S NOT THAT BIG OF DEAL.

Just kidding, this was the Hamburg Port Birthday festival! 827 years young! They had giant boats, crazy fried foods and a surprisingly large amount of healthy foods, a cigarette stand…

Lazy robots, magical robots!!!…

untitled (74)

Some sort of bizarre dance troupe in spandex (the best part of this was that all of the people were just staring at them blankly and not moving as they were dancing their little hearts out)

And me enjoying a nonalcoholic beverage.

IN OTHER, OTHER NEWS:

I have finally moved out of my Airbnb into another temporary living situation in a new neighborhood. I have only slept here one night, but so far the grocery store a block from my house has fresh squeezed orange juice (YOU WATCH IT GET SQUEEZED IN A MACHINE) so I really can’t complain yet.

Much love, I promise I’ll be more optimistic next time!

Sarah

 

Some People are Graceful and Others are Not

The Art of Punctuality

Happy May, dear friends!

Here in Germany they celebrate “May Day” as a national holiday! The Germans are collectively sad that it fell on a Sunday this year otherwise they would have had it off. Rest assured though, there were several parties happening in the neighborhood with people dancing the night away. In typical introvert fashion, regardless of the country, I celebrated with a personal pan pizza and chocolate ice cream. I feel horrible this morning! Hooray!

Before diving into the main topic I wanted to talk about, I FIRST wanted to blow your mind with these cereal boxes. Are you dreaming?¬†Is everything¬†the same and yet somehow different? Here’s a side by side comparison so¬†we both know I’m not hallucinating.

GERMAN CEREALS:

13119759_10153515328215911_4636537833644054605_o

AMERICAN CEREALS:

Wait, didn’t cocoa krispies always have the monkey on it? And didn’t Cookie Crisp have a burglar dog?

I’M FALLING INTO A GERMAN VORTEX PLEASE SEND HELPPPPP

Anyways.

Punctuality:

These past couple of weeks teaching have been a fun, humbling, interesting blur. I have gotten to know some of my students fairly well, and we have started to build a rapport. I asked them gently if next time I could bring¬†in a list of “German Stereotypes” that we can debunk together and they agreed.

WORD TO THE WISE: I would¬†definitely not try this as an opener for people you just met. Some¬†of these lists you find online are a bit “judgmental”, and it’s taken me a while to understand¬†a different kind of humor in a foreign land.¬†But, I found a particularly good list right¬†here:

http://www.fluentu.com/german/blog/german-stereotypes/

As it’s complimentary,¬†written by a¬†German dude,¬†as well as “TRUE” so it’s relatable to a lot of people here.

What they said about punctuality:

“Being on time is considered a virtue in Germany.¬†They¬†would rather be too early than too late. Punctuality is seen as a sign of respect to the person you are meeting. It does not mean that every German is good about this, but they will apologize if they arrive past the agreed-upon time.

On the same line of thought, train and bus schedules are given in exact minutes and yes, people do expect transportation services to be true to their schedule.”

 

This has proven from experience and asking around to be extremely true. I found myself going into work too early in fear of disrespecting the students with my usual tardiness. Way to make me a better person, Germans!

clocks.jpg

(this image is from the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen. Because, of course Germany would have a clock museum! Tripadvisor.com.)

Last week was also my first time doing one-on-one tutoring sessions. I tutored a guy who worked in the car insurance business. I asked him about this punctuality stereotype and he related to me something his grandfather told him:

“If you’re too late or too early, you’re borrowing someone else’s time. If you’re right on time you’re using¬†the shared time you agreed upon.”

 

Yes, I completely butchered that quote, but that is poetic food for thought. Time is used as a sign of respect here, and I can’t say I disagree. I kind of like it!

Friends: remember when I was perpetually 20-30 minutes late? Well GERMAN SARAH is meticulously on time. German Sarah also eats giant loaves of bread every day.

Until next TIME heheeheheh no.

Sarah

 

The Art of Punctuality

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:

tumblr_o2qzqb2CYv1tq0wuto1_540tumblr_o2qzqb2CYv1tq0wuto2_540tumblr_o2qzqb2CYv1tq0wuto4_540

 

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

tumblr_ny19eyOyWx1r38w10o2_540tumblr_m8ou0qtOhb1r2m2dpo1_540tumblr_o0m996i6hg1sn4t3lo1_540

Jessica Warrick (artist of mermaid)

tumblr_n7szlqTCZs1rwpb29o1_540

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

tumblr_nve0bjBMbV1rr22hqo1_540tumblr_myl75lZGxg1r607aso1_540tumblr_ns4g52e5GH1tq11emo1_540

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:

tumblr_o1vlzck1XJ1qgrc3qo1_540

 

Dreamy thoughts about the fantasies of Hamburg:

tumblr_o4rqfnNBRF1qas1mto3_540tumblr_o4rqfnNBRF1qas1mto10_540tumblr_o4rqfnNBRF1qas1mto4_540tumblr_o4rql86xli1qas1mto3_540

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?

tumblr_ntv57s2EPw1rpgpe2o1_540

Travel bag for ladies,¬†1900 ‚Äď 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