Honestly, I have been so crazy happy for so long now, I'm beginning to feel like I'm in a freaking television show. Everything is going right times about a thousand. It's weird. It's fantastic. I love it.
A History of Vanity
- ► June (10)
- ► May (10)
- ► 2006 (28)
Don't Label Me
Alrightie, now that we've bought a three-level house that features one completely renoed floor, and two floors in need of all new cosmetics, I am obsessed with learning about renovations. To begin, I know absolutely nothing. (Fortunately, Dave is the complete opposite of me - both handy and meticulous - or we never would've considered such an endeavour.) I can't stop watching HGTV. I am constantly googling things like "finish hardwood" and "environment window install". It's an obsession.
So here, in a very particular order, is our first year of renovation, which will result in finishing the second level of the house.
(1) Finish second level floors. Beautiful old hardwood needs refreshing in hallway, master, and guest bedroom.
(2) Master bedroom. Replace walls and ceiling. Paint. Gorgeous baseboards. New green-friendly windows and coverings of some sort (blinds? drapes? unsure). Light fixtures should be replaced, but still debating how to light the room. Maybe more little things like closet organizer and stuff, to be determined.
(3) Spa bathroom. Taking the second level third bedroom and knocking down a wall so it joins forces with its neighbour, the 1970s-looking bathroom. Gutting. Whirlpool tub. Glass shower. Vessel sink. That's all I know.
(4) Guest bedroom/office. Same steps as master bedroom, but smaller and less need to be just-freaking-perfect thus less time consuming. Will act as office (with sofabed for guests?) 'til the third level renos can take place.
With any luck, we won't kill each other, and it will be stunning. Hah.
Is it possible that the greatest value held by the brand is owned by the consumer, not in the commitment to quality or great prices or anything of the sort, but that it forces the corporation to act with some socially acceptable level of ethics, given that its behaviour will be felt by customers ' perception via its bottom line? Is it possible that this created value is a value now owned by society, dictated by consumers, and experienced by all of us?
Well, you know. It mostly just is.
(1) We bought a house - the deal was completed on my birthday, we move January 7. Never in my life did I think we'd have a gorgeous home downtown. Well, the first floor is gorgeous, and I've got two floors of cosmetic fun to work on. Whee!
(2) I finish my MBA coursework on February 10. Eeee!
(3) My job, which has been known to drive me over the edge on occasion, has settled into awesomeness. I am doing the kind of work I've always dreamed of - strategy! financial analysis! operations! - and I was right: it flipping rules.
(4) I get to hang out with the best boy in the world all the freaking time.
Labels: gushy gushy gushy
I know, I have completely and utterly sucked at keeping the blog updated since relaunching Hitched! It turns out it's a fair amount of work trying to keep that baby updated, and my writing time is limited. With that said, I am going to try for a weekly update again. So I shall return with a disgustingly uber-sincere post.
It's a few days 'til my thirtieth birthday, and I'm pretty excited about the whole thing. The last decade has been interesting and challenging, and I'm certain that the thirties will bring all kinds of new fun. I've always imagined this age series to be likely the best of one's life - old enough to feel a pretty solid sense of stability (no more quarterlife crises, no financial meltdowns, no state of complete confusion as to what one is doing with her life) but young enough to have lots of fun (minor obligations, easy disposable income to invest in silly things, dream vacations to pursue, classes to take just for fun).
I entered my twenties with a pretty solid list of things I wanted to accomplish: complete a graduate degree, achieve a certain level of career success, do some travelling, find a reasonable and sustainable level of health, and purchase an abode in some urban area or another. While I have a semester left 'til I'm done grad school, I can safely say I've completed all the objectives that I set out for myself. They didn't necessarily come as I'd anticipated nor did things really go according to plan while getting here, that matters not a bit. The point is that I set up the goals and achieved them. This feels darn good. This is also one of the reasons I suspect I have little to no regrets in my life thus far - I've been taking on challenges like a mofo and even the hideously poor choices have assisted in getting me where I needed to be.
Now that I'm entering my thirties, I feel like I need a new agenda. But what does that agenda entail? Here's the thing: I'm not sure. Sure, I'd like to achieve more in my work life, I'd like to travel to new places, I'd like to stay fit and active, I'd like to get a house downtown. And maybe someday I'll get an opportunity to do further studies as the dilettante that I am. But those are kind of just extensions of the twenties list. Is there anything unique I need to set out for myself in this round? Is there anything for me to pursue that is entirely novel and challenging? What will it take for me at forty to feel that my thirties have been a success? I am at a bit of a loss here. History has taught me that, being intensely goal-driven, I respond well to such things. But I don't really know what those goals are.
Pipe dreams? Easy. I'd like to be a consultant. I'd like to write a book. I'd like to work for myself. I'd like to see the world. There are a gazillion items to list here, but these are more fodder for my fantasy life than concrete objectives for which to aim. Sure, it would be great if any came to fruition, but I won't feel that I've let myself down if they don't in the next decade.
So perhaps rather than setting new and specific goals, the thirties objective needs to be as follows: keep moving positively along the very clear path I spent my twenties building and enjoy the ride. Accept that the hardcore goal-setting era of my life - while a certain necessity at the time, given my personality - has been successful and is now complete.
If you have a better plan, just let me know. I'm open.
Treava tagged me!
If I've tagged you, here is the deal: (1) Link to your tagger and post these rules. (2) Share 7 facts about YOU: some random, some weird... all devastatingly interesting. (3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them). (4) Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.
- My weirdest phobia is people putting ham on their faces. I think it reminds me of bizarro nightmares I used to have of people without facial features. AGH!
- I'm a closet introvert. In small groups, I'm highly outgoing, but in large groups I'm terribly unhappy. And I love, love, love being by myself.
- I have fantasies about being a spy 'til I think about the scary parts, thus am simply obsessed with spy-related movies and television.
- I prefer being an acquaintance to being a close friend with most people.
- I am a huge dilettante.
- I want to do a doctorate after my MBA, if at all possible, not to become a professor as I'd like to continue working, but simply to challenge the living daylights out of myself.
- Given my natural energy level, most people are surprised by the fact that I very rarely drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages.
So I will be talking about Darby here.
She is seriously such a smartie. After only two nights of crying, she learned to sleep properly (and in her kennel!). On her third day, she figured out that going outside meant doing her business and hasn't had an accident since. (To be fair, we have puppy pads down so, if she does have to have to go and can't figure out how to tell us, she can go there. No non-puppy-pad mistakes since the day those went down!) And she is learning not to cry to get on the couch. And she is sweet and cuddly and sleeps I'm sure sixteen hours a day.
Also, I must note that buying stuff for this dog is ridiculously fun. All the things are so cute, even the freaking kennel. No, seriously. There are paw cleaning things and leashes for jogging and, oh my god, you know those Ugly Dolls? Well, there are now pet editions. Hers is a blue cat that has an Xed out eye. And even this weird rope toy is cute - she carries it by the bar-looking part in the middle so the ends look like blue and white pompoms. Adorable. Anyway, I swear, every time I leave the house, I think of some new fun thing to get this spoiled creature.
That said, I am not getting her clothes unless she completely freezes in the winter. She's way too tough to be in pink or anything like it, and I'm pretty convinced that, being a dog, she ought to be well equipped to handle all seasons. I'm also terrified of becoming one of those downtown uber-yuppie types who have their animals in chichi carriers and Coach sweaters. Eeks.
But... I did just order this for the mutt:
Ahh! Click on it to see the whole thing. I picked the yellow one with dots. Sock monkeys!
Labels: cutest dog to ever live
Please visit and love it and tell your friends and all that good stuff.
Okay, so I am suffering in a crazy way right now with sore legs, ass, abs, and arms, but sweet lord above. I feel amazing.
After the thrill of yesterday's pilates class, I decided to venture all by my lonesome once again to give power yoga a shot. My mother-in-law (an avid yoga-babe since the 70s) warned me that, among all the related classes she's ever taken, power yoga was the one she never tried twice. Did this discourage me? Of course not, it indeed spurred my sick competitive nature forward. Besides, it's yoga. How freaking difficult could it be? I can run my heart out for an hour or more without thinking twice -- surely it would be stretching my body into unusual and challenging formations, but there was no threat of exhaustion. Right?
I arrived to meet the teacher and only one other girl in the class. The other girl was explaining that she'd done a headstand for the first time yesterday. Um. No big deal. Another girl arrived and I was pleased to discover that she too was new to the art. The teacher looked ever-so-slightly concerned, but it was time to start, so off we went to grab blocks and get going.
After something like eleven minutes (okay, exactly like -- I was checking the watch like a crazy person), I was convinced that there was no.flipping.way I was going to make it through.
By some miracle, I pushed. And I pushed. And I pushed more. And I breathed. And I shook like crazy. And I balanced in a seated position on one foot with my in-the-air-ankle on my floor-leg-knee. And I did it. Pose after quick movement to new pose after staying in some other pose for what felt like days, an hour and fifteen minutes was over. Sure I couldn't keep my heels on the ground for downward dog, and sure I lost my balance and knocked over my own block on some single-footed-other-foot-high-in-the-air thingo, but I did it.
Not just at being done -- though that miracle, in and of itself, was worth celebrating and feeling exceptionally tough over -- but at how great it felt.
In short: I am a convert. I can't wait to go again.
I love it.
My friend cancelled for ballet today as she was out really late last night, so I went to a second pilates class instead.
Between the two of them, I'm sore, but it feels amazing.
I have a two week pass for a nearby studio now -- they do both pilates and yoga -- and I'm hoping that I continue to love it. If so, I'm thinking that this can take over as the strength part of my workout routine.
Ballet is back to next Saturday for now.
And with all that healthy stuff done, I'm now ready to get going to the beer festival.
What is it? To try new things.
(1) Going to a pilates class on Friday.
(2) Going to a preliminary ballet class on Saturday.
(3) Yoga is next on the list.
(4) Signed up for a 5K run in September.
I'm relaunching Hitched.
I started the site four years ago and am finally going to properly market it and the whole shebang.
Between work, school, picking up my piano and trumpet again, and frantically trying to best design a memorable media kit, I am definitely not the lazybones I once dreamed of being. That said, I have August off from classes, so it's just a few more weeks of insanity. So there.
Oh, and before I go, in some random excitement, here's me playing live for the first time in nearly ten years (with Bellevue).
Anyway, wish me launch luck. See you in August!
So I haven't updated in way too long. It's been a crazy couple of weeks.
(1) Jen got hitched! Her wedding was absolutely fabulous -- her family is awesome and her friends were so super nice. I don't think it could've been a better day, there were a gazillion hilarious moments followed by a zillion touching moments. The charming and adorable Mr. and Mrs. Byck most certainly have many silly, happy, sweet years of loveyness ahead. Yay!
(2) We did some super fun work events. They've been a riot -- lots of craziness, but also lots of fun. I really love our team of girls, and am sad that our adorable Miss Bianca will be leaving soon (though still, yes, thrilled for her for going back to grad school, whee!).
(3) I got to visit my sister and see her house for the first time. I saw my Nani and Papa and my mom and it was awesome.
(4) I have developed an unholy fixation on Age of Love. Especially Mary's constant crying.Why does she have to leave?
(5) My piano arrived! I've been playing it pretty much constantly since. I kind of forgot how very amazing music can be. Le dreamy, dreamy sigh.
That's it. I am back on track now.
I am crazy excited. Today was my official three year anniversary at work. In addition to a delicious lunch with two of our owners -- risotto, appies, champagne, and dessert were involved -- I was thrilled to learn that I will soon be the proud new owner of my current obsession.
LOVE. I haven't had a proper piano to play in ten years after playing for sixteen straight. No, it's not a piano, but it's the greatest weighted-keyed and -- as my sister described it -- most perfect after-shaky-authentic-piano-sounded keyboard in the whole world.
It should be in my hot little hands in a week or so. I feel like the luckiest girl evah.
I am super excited. I got approved today to be a mentor with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. Some lucky young entrepreneur has no idea what's about to hit them. (Hah.)
I've been wanting to figure out some kind of volunteering to do for ages, but couldn't figure out what was meaningful to me. I mean, there are a million things that matter, how on earth do you pick one? Finally, I decided that it should be something business-related as that's pretty much what I'm good at and I really do care about economic development and communities and that whole story.
So recently, I started volunteering with MBAs Without Borders and now this. Both are a pretty minor time commitment, but it feels really awesome to be doing something that actually might help someone. When your day-to-day life circles around effectively selling people gadgets, it's pretty nice to think about doing something that doesn't.
Labels: social responsibility
Inspired by It's a Monkey, I've just won an imaginary $5000 shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman. This is my theoretical loot. Grand total? $4936.
Chloe Shirtdress: $1260
Michael Kors Sheath Dress: $1695
Michael Kors Jackie dress: $1495
Juicy Couture Terry Shirtdress: $101
Manolo Blahniks: $385
God, that was fun. Now you play and show me what you bought!
I absolutely love Fresh.
Today, my parents are traveling from Edmonton to Portugal for a little vacation and had an overnight in Toronto. We met up with them for lunch before they headed back to the airport. In my ongoing effort in forcing them to try new things, I suggested Fresh. (Actually, Dave originally suggested it, as it's near a guitar store he wanted to show my dad, but I ultimately agreed and suggested it to my mom, so it's still kind of my choice. Hah.)
In any case, if you haven't been there before, you must go. It's the yummiest veggie restaurant in town (and in any town that I've ever tried) and we had yummy smoothies, Thai burgers, sweet potato fries, and miso gravy (heaven). In any case, the thing that cracked me up about this experience was the waiter's introduction of Today's Special.
"For brunch today, we have scrambled tofu, veggie back bacon, and..."
I didn't even hear the rest, as I was too focused on quieting my internal laughter.
Everything I've ever tried at Fresh is clearly veggie. It's no veggie food trying to make itself out to be non-veggie food. It's all "Hey. I'm a big delicious salad. This is my buddy, big delicious bowl of rice and veggies and sauce and tofu. And, hey, I know my brother's name says burger, but that's just for format -- it's pretty clear that he's made of veggie stuff and soy and the like. Good? Good."
Scrambled tofu? Veggie back bacon?
Things I know about myself and my work:
(1) I love to study and research.
(2) I don't love going to meetings.
(3) I love being by myself.
(4) I don't love performing.
(5) I love thinking and planning.
(6) I don't love sameness.
(7) I love the old freedom.
(8) I don't love financial instability.
(9) I love the idea of making a contribution.
(10) I don't love the idea of being lost in norms.
Yep, that's about right.
I may be vain, but I am also all kinds of imperfect. It's okay, though, because I like to work on it.
(1) Not attributing actions/situations to people. It's a very, very bad and distressing habit and I need to get out of it, stat.
(2) Self-regulation. I used to be really good at this one, but in the last few years I have developed a tendency to VERY MUCH react to external factors. I need to chill the eff out, or at least keep it on the inside and process there before reacting. Ick.
(3) Tuning out. I am kind of impatient by nature and I notice that sometimes, when people start talking for a long time, rather than simply telling them that I'm busy, I instead tune out. I am trying to put my hands on my seat when people come into my office so this tactic isn't made all the easier by just stealthily staring at emails or documents I'm working on. So bad.
(4) And, as always -- I swear I've been working on it for a few months and am getting better at it, but still -- not interrupting people. It's again connected to the impatience.
I just saw a commercial for a show called Age of Love. This is the tagline.
"It's the cougars versus the kittens. Can you say catfight?"
I am not kidding. This is a kind of Bachelor-esque-looking show starring women in their 40s versus women in their 20s. They want to see who wins the man. They literally called it "the ultimate social experiment".
I am so skeeved, I don't even know where to begin. Not only is this grossly offensive, it totally objectifies women, and it manages to point out the icky superficiality of our culture -- all at once.
So this whole thing with Nestle baby formula and developing countries and tainted water has been going on for over thirty years now.
No matter what Nestle might do, I can't quite get my head around how they can possibly prevent tainted water from getting into the formula.
As much as I'd like to think it's possible, education is not the answer. They're dealing with people living in poverty, which implies a level of desperation. If you have the choice of whether to feed your baby possibly tainted formula or feed your baby nothing, I am pretty sure the choice is pretty clear.
And as much as I think they could theoretically supply pre-mixed formulas, that cost factor would have to be passed along (Nestle isn't a charity) and the people would likely end up either not buying it at all, or buying and diluting it with potentially tainted water.
And as much as I like the idea of them providing clean water, there's a cost to that as well, and Nestle isn't a market leader in the H2O business.
And as much as I like the idea of them investing in infrastructure, that really isn't where they have competitive capacity. (As a classmate of mine mentioned: when cars in a remote area of Venezuela start crashing because the country didn't invest in proper roads, nobody expects Ford to rebuild them.)
Thing is, I just don't see an alternate solution. Yes, the business has continued to exist there, so it's obviously profitable. But is it fair? Is it right? Does it promote long term social objectives? Is the corporation making a commitment to positive global citizenship?
I would venture to say no to all of these things.
So why the eff does Nestle keep selling its wares there?
Well, what about the mothers who are unable to breastfeed? What about babies who won't latch, who need alternate nutrition to thrive? What about the fact that illnesses like AIDS are rampant and can be passed through breastmilk? Where's the alternative? Isn't Nestle filling a legitimate need?
It seems to me that it's not Nestle's obligation to fix the structural problems, per se. The company shouldn't take a loss to provide its product. But it also seems like it's incredibly irresponsible to provide what is effectively half a product to consumers, knowing full well that they're unlikely to have the capacity to safely obtain the other half. And the risk inherent to the second half isn't just a bad taste or an allergic reaction -- it's toxicity and death.
So what can be done? I think the answer is a partnership of some sort, but I'm not sure what.
I don't know if it's the transitioning back to my proper time zone, but my stomach has felt seriously empty since I got in last night. Nothing will fill it.
As for the rest of me, it's amazing how a small change can point out so many inconsistencies in one's life. Funny, that.
I'll tell you, I sure wish I could've traded returning my sad self home with importing my much-adored husband over there.
Just so I don't forget:
- Germans love spargel (asparagus). Every restaurant has a spargelkarte (asparagus menu) in addition to the regular menu. It's in season, and they just can't get enough.
- Germans love Lionel Richie. The Hoff is dead to them.
- No German person I met fit that loud-talking stereotype at all. In fact, I found them to be a rather soft-spoken group. I had to lean in to hear the professors speak at all times and had to be super attentive even in bars to ensure that I wasn't missing words.
- Germans love mixing things! The Radler is beer + lemonade (or soda pop or grapefruit juice or whatever, just a beer mixed drink). There are ten zillion schorles, i.e. apfelsaftshortle (apple juice with mineral water), kirschesaftshorle (cherry...), weinschorle (like a spritzer), and a gazillion others.
- Spundekäse is to die for, especially with pretzels. I will make it the next time people come over.
- Germans have a particularly hilarious sense of humour. They love to laugh and do so very frequently.
- If I could eat a ham and cheese croissant every day for the rest of my life, I would.
- The European approach to doing business is that numbers support concepts, as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon approach which suggests that numbers lead concepts. This worked incredibly well with my personal approach to strategy.
- Squirrels here have faux-hawks!
- German dogs seem to be cuter than dogs anywhere else.
- Comprehensive transit systems make the world a better place.
- The claim about Americans being highly individualist in terms of culture measurement seems to me to be false. No doubt a small portion is, but it seems to me overall to be highly inaccurate.
- The Red Cat rules.
- The European approach to valuation of business includes both emotional and financial figures.
- Learning languages is crazy fun.
- The education system here is seriously out of this world in terms of both accessibility and quality.
- If Frankfurt is truly (as reported!) the most dangerous city in Germany, the country is doing something very, very right.
I'm sure there's more but I must head out.
Three of the best weeks ever, no questions asked.
So at about 2AM last night, all adrenaline resources died within me. I nearly fell asleep at a bar WHILE DANCING.
I was not even remotely wasted, being entirely committed to water during the huge wine party so that I could make the most of my last night.
But yeah. 2AM. Dead to the world.
Anyway, regardless, I had to meet up with family friends for a day of sightseeing.
I think I fell asleep in their car on the way back. I seriously hope they didn't notice.
As I'm too tired to even write out all the hilarious stories from the last few weeks, I will just leave the pictures. Suffice it to say, I go home tomorrow afternoon and am already dying to come back. Not just the silly stuff, but not being in school daily is really going to be hard to switch off again. Ah, but it was amazing while it lasted.
This is a photo I took by the Kurhaus the night I arrived, and it's how my silly, dreamy girl-heart has felt the entire time I've been here.
Boo. Saddy sad.
Yep, I am really getting lazy with the titles now.
I haven't updated in days -- so much for this being my trip journal. In any case, I had kind of a wild weekend, so I want to remember.
Friday day: Last day of classes for the week. The afternoon was very slow. At the break, a few of us decided to head to Munich on Saturday morning. Last minute planning is very exciting! We eat pie, we finish class, we all head to our respective places with plans to meet up for drinks that night.
Friday night: The plan is to get drinks in Mainz with a few classmates and one of the doctoral students from the European Business School. I meet a few people at the main station, the three of us going to Munich get our ICE tickets, then we hit the train. We take the wrong one and end up way past Mainz. We call our administrator to call Jan to let him know. We're an hour late, but we make it and, good lord, do we want a beer. We start at a cute patio, head elsewhere to get some food, then hit a discotheque. Total insanity and awesomeness. David loses his glasses in a frenzied dance fit, everyone has a lot of drinks, and I get home at 5AM. We're taking the train at 7 the next morning. Gooood.
Saturday AM: I get to the station and can't find the two people who are supposed to go with me. I have their tickets. I wait. I drink coffee. I eat a ham and cheese croissant. I wait some more. At 9AM, I get an email on my Treo from David saying that he was basically out of control the night before and there is no way in freaking hell he can go to Munich. Okay, cool. But where is Sarah? I wait a while longer but at 10AM give up and head out myself to the Frankfurt main station. Checking my email on that train, there's a note from Sarah. She was AT the Wiesbaden station all morning as well, waiting for me and David. HOW DID WE MISS EACH OTHER? No effing clue. In any case, she's now locked out of her flat as her roommates headed elsewhere for the weekend and is kind of stuck. I email her back and tell her I've already left, but she should follow on the next train. She agrees, and tells David that if he changes his mind, he can meet her at the main station. She gives me her train number and I expect to pick her up at 18:04. I happily arrive in Munich at around 2, go to my hotel, take a long shower in the best bathroom ever, get prettied up, get a city map and a transit map, and head back downtown. There is complete and utter gorgeousness everywhere. I buy some super-glam stockings at this beautiful department store and feel very European. I think I'm in love.
Saturday PM: I arrive back at the main Munich station at 17:30, just in case Sarah's train is early. I wait at her arrival stop, watch everyone come out and soon realize she isn't there. I get a fruit salad, expecting she'll be on the next one. I am now emailing David on the Treo to see if she emailed him to say she'd come back. This is the first time she's travelled entirely alone in her life and I'm pretty concerned that she got lost somehow. The 18:34 train comes. Again, no Sarah. I get a latte and a croissant. The 19:04 train comes. AHA! Sarah comes out and the joy on her face as she sees me is palpable -- the poor kid has had a crazy day. She's thrilled that I waited for her and we head to the S-Bahn to get her settled at the hotel.
While we're waiting for the train, a lady comes over and tells us that some gross man is videotaping us. We look over and she's right. I ask her why and what we should do, and she just says "I just thought you needed to know." We don't confront the crazy man and get the train. The hotel people are great, Sarah gets ready, and we head out for a night of Bavarian food and beer downtown. We are navigating the transit with ease and are starting to feel like professionals. Life is good!
Sunday AM: We head out at around 10AM and go to Marienplatz for breakfast, which is to die for. Hours of walking and photo-taking ensue. We love, love, love this city. The weather is perfect, the people are fabulous, and the sites are one of a kind. We also stalk a few walking and bikind tours to learn for free. We feel scandalous. Sadly, there is no Sunday shopping, so our attempts to bring some Munchen fashion maven home with us are dead in the water, but we look just the same. We see monuments, the opera house, palaces and castles and a garden filled with nudists (I still wish I'd photographed that old man ass, meow). We eat chocolate filled croissants and drink kirschesaftshorle. We run into another European Business School doctoral student that we've met over the last couple of weeks near Karlsplatz in yet another totally bizarro coincidence. Of course, I capture everything on digi-film.
Sunday PM: School is back on Monday, so we head for the 18:56 ICE train. Now masters of transit, we arrive in plenty of time and nap for an hour each before chatting relentlessly for the remaining three hours. We get back to Wiesbaden, help a Finnish girl living in Mainz find a local bar, and head to our respective homes.
I could seriously live like this. Pictures to come!
So I ate, slept, ate, studied, and slept yesterday. Ohhhhhhh, the excitement!
Today was all classes with a nice lunch in between lectures. Not a ton of excitement, but I got to wear my cute new mini-sundress.
It's ridiculously short, I know. I should've gotten short brown leggings to go with. But I didn't, and I'm wearing it anyway.
Tomorrow we go business formal for our day trip to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. I'm bringing a change of clothes, as we'll be doing a city tour in the afternoon. More pictures, baby!
And this is how I looked on the train ride home after my flight this AM.
In the meantime, I did put up my long weekend photos. Because I know you're all just waiting with bated breath.
I'm going to get food and maybe sit in the park.
The day went on and I made an ass of myself once by knocking over this huge chair, but was otherwise darn good. A lot of walking and admiring and taking pictures of the Berlin bears and navigating the city and all that good stuff.
But! Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a strange man was kind of following me. I started doing a lot of moving around, changing, directions, etc., but he was 10 feet behind me no matter where I went. Though initially sure I was imagining things, after 45 minutes, I was pretty certain that I was either going to be mugged or taken hostage in some dramatic situation that my family would surely see on television tomorrow.
So! I rushed my vaguely terrified ass to a restaurant. He followed. I walked out. He followed. I went back in. You get the point. In any case, then I sat down beside a table full of middle-aged women, where I was pretty certain I would be safe.
And then he came right over and asked if he could sit with me.
My jackassed response?
"Nein! Nein, bitte!"
I think he was taken aback, as he repeated it. "Nein? Oh. Nein."
Perhaps, after all, he wasn't a murderer, but just another coffee date, going about things entirely the wrong way.
In any case, I remained completely anxious for an hour, while I had a latte and peeked around suspiciously.
Dude was long gone. I made my way safely to bus, cash and ID and bus pass safely in my possession, body parts and guts all accounted for.
I'm a loser.
In any case, I'm back at the hotel now and getting ready for another night out with Nils, Jake, and Heather. Last night was jam-packed with hilarity and I'm certain tonight will be equally fun. And, yes, I'll post a link to the album tomorrow so this doesn't look like I'm writing some kind of lazy man's novel.
Today I set no alarm, got up when I liked, and hit the streets at 11. I navigated transit, I read a map (!!), and I took a gazillion photos. People here are so much fun. As I'd never been to one in my life, I went to the famous Berlin zoo (Ich mochte gehen zum zoo!) in the middle of the city, and got to see the much-renowned Knut.
Germans. Love. Knut.
Since I've arrived, about 17 German people have told me that, when I go to Berlin, I have to see Knut. They adore him, they love him, they all tell me his life story. He is their baby, he is their little buddy, and he is a proud little adorable symbol of their nation.
So fine. I went to see Knut.
I waited in line for 20 minutes to get mein tageskarte.
I waited in a second line to get in because I didn't realize it was just a second ticket line.
I walked around for about half an hour trying to find Knut's zone, asking people for directions in German then forgetting them because I can barely even make that happen in English.
I found Knut's zone and went to the front, only to discover that I'd just walked past Knut's kilometre-long line.
But I'd already paid the elf euro!
So fine. I got in Knut's line. But I wasn't excited about it.
Then the line began to move! Oh, Knut! What excitement do you hold for me?
I get past the gate and... wait, hilarious sidebar. There is a security guard saying that adults go in one zone, but children can go to a special in-the-front zone just for them if they like. Adults keep trying to go in with their kids, but it's a no go. The security guard is clearly saying things like "WHY CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND? DO YOU NOT SEE THE SIGN? CHILDREN ONLY! IF YOU DON'T WANT YOUR KIDS TO GO ALONE, TAKE THEM WITH YOU!" though I'm not sure exactly, as I can't really understand everything. But I get the gist of it. In any case, another security guard shows the kids how to get the best view of Knut -- which is actually really sweet, he's this burly guy holding all of their hands and stuff -- and the guy at the gate is just getting more and more irritated, starting to make what appear to be sarcastic jokes. (I only guess this because the other Germans are laughing to themselves.) NUR DIE KINDER!
Anyway. I get past the gate and out comes Knut and his trainer. They do a five minute walk-about, and Knut is pretty darn cute. I take a few photos. Then suddenly, the entire huge group of people are being escorted out of Knut's zone -- even der kinder!
So yeah. After that, I navigated my way to the ausgang.
That was Knut.
Other than poor Knut -- who, again, was adorable, though kind of boring -- my day was filled with looking at streets and sculptures and shops and a hell of a lot of people-watching. I finished it up with an ice cream sundae in Potsdamer Platz, then headed back to the hotel, where I am now, letting my feet de-swell for a while before I head out to get some food and meet Canadians -- I forgot to mention yesterday that I ran into Jen's friend Nils at the top of the Siegessaule, which was beyond bizarre, but I am now meeting up with him and his friends -- for drinks.
In short: today was awesome. After the door incident, I met with Dr. Marfels, my former now-retired economics professor. We did the city in style -- and by in style, I don't mean fancy-style, I mean historic-style. He was born here, spent childhood and university life here, and didn't leave 'til he was offered a professorship at Dalhousie. He thus knows every historic site in the city. He drove us from area to area -- Berlin is apparently the third most geographically spread city in Europe, with Paris being the first -- and we walked, walked, walked for what ended up being about six hours. These are some of my favourite shots.
Me and the Seigessaule:
Dr. Marfels by the original Berlin wall (the one that protected the city in the 13th century, not the one that separated East and West in the 20th):
It was awesome.
When I got back to the hotel, I was wiped. I facebooked, I emailed, I sent out pictures already on my computer to family and the like. I chatted with my adorable husband on MSN for hours. Then I treated myself to a fancy-schmancy dinner complete with aperitif, starters, entree, and wine at this beautiful restaurant in the hotel. I love eating by myself at nice restaurants. Like Heather Locklear, baby, I'm worth it.
Anyway, then I came back to the room, threw on the hilarious German TV (amazingly, Al from Home Improvement is nowhere to be found tonight, despite being overdubbed in German everywhere every time I turn this thing on), and just hung out. I am having a beer, relaxing, and will sleep late tomorrow before hitting the city again.
Ja, ganau, sehr gut!
When I got here last night, I came up to my room and discovered that, while the key turned easily, the handle didn't turn at all. I mean, it was solid-state (note: this isn't the right word, but I just mean that it's like the handle is a plain part of the door, like it doesn't move at all, it's solid-state, baby, stuck to the door, no turnsies). After five minutes of trying to figure it out, I gave up and went downstairs. The lady came up and opened it for me. I tried to indicate that I wanted to try myself, but she didn't understand what I was trying to request and left. Doh.
Last night when I got in after hotel bar drinks, same thing. This time a man from the reception helped me -- he spoke French also, so I tried communicating that way (it's not cheating, I am still only minorly skilled in this area). Unfortunately, my minor skills were again not enough. I tried to signal that I wanted to do it, but he too just opened it and left. Doh x 2.
This morning! I have my newly beloved fruhstuck (imagine that with umlaut Us, it's breakfast, and German breakfast is my new absolute favourite thing to eat) and return to my room after a successful conversation at the reception about buying three days of internet (no English!), I am again stuck with the frozen door handle.
I love this. So. Much.
People are incredibly kind and friendly here. The world rules.
That's right. Here's a quick overview of what's happened thus far.
Day one, Sunday: I arrive. I barely slept on the plane. Red eye. Tired. But the country smells good. Like fresh cut grass, but even better. My hotel room is the tiniest of the tiny, but it oozes charm and sustainability and sweetness.
The owners are incredibly kind, I can hardly believe that I'm here. I learn that I don't have the right power adaptor for my laptop and my stupid thing dies. I meet my exchange classmates, from America, Austria, China, Denmark, and Canada. I eat Che's Delight, which is delicious chicken with a creamy yogurt sauce, fairly Indian. I go to bed at 9:30, only to wake up at 10:30, convinced that it's the war all over again and we're being bombed. Turns out it's just mother's day fireworks that happen to be right outside my hotel, which I discover after frantically throwing on clothes and glasses and running outside. They're pretty and I take pictures, even though I'm mad. This is me before sleeping, all dreamy and happy and tired...
And here I am being mad about the wake-up call:
Day two, Monday: I discover classic German breakfast, which is possibly the most delicious thing of all time. Fresh buns, meats and cheese, a latte, and eggs however you like them. I am in heaven. I find my way to hauptbahnhof, the main train station, and learn about the German love of apfelsaftschorle, which is a yummy mix of apple juice and soda or mineral water. We study the EU political systems all day and I'm in heaven again. This is me being a little German girl in my sweet little room.
Day three, Tuesday: The butter with breakfast is so soft and creamy, it's like I've never tasted butter in my life. After classes, we go to a pub in Mainz and share metres of beer. I enjoy the brauhausschmauss for dinner, which is a classic German dish of ham, roasted potatoes, and eggs all mixed together. Sounds weird but is actually to die for. Spend the evening chatting with my professor's awesome girlfriend, who vows to be my German BFF if I ever move here. Ridiculous fun is had.
Day four, Wednesday: Very tired, but still thrilled by the learning. International business is fun. Figure out how to get to the main Frankfurt airport by myself for my weekend in Berlin. Have lunch without speaking a word of English, aber ich spreche nur ein bisschien Deutche. Am thrilled with myself. Encounter the Frankfurt airport and ignore all English signage, finding my way around entirely using minimal German skills. Feel extra thrilled with myself. Get off the Berlin plane to be encountered by my beloved undergrad professor. We share a beer at my hotel and make plans for tomorrow. He leaves and I chat it up (minorly) with the locals.
All my pictures are here if you are interested: