From the Land of Sand, Sun, and Burittos to das Land auf Wald, Schnee und Bratwurst.....

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Longest 24 Hours…

I headed up to an eastern corner of Germany over the weekend to a place known as the “Grüne Hölle” or “Green Hell” to Auto Racing fans around the world. This part of Germany is known for its beautiful landscape, erratic weather, and especially for the longest race track in the world at 25.5 km (15.9 miles), the Nürburgring.

This is where I met up with an old friend Spencer Trenery, that not only has a passion for travel like myself (he just got back from a year long solo trip around the world), he also has been racing cars as long as I can remember. He invited me to an experience that is a common event for him throughout the year, but it proved to be one of the longest and most exciting days of my life.

I am not a racing buff to the most minuscule aspect, but I am one that likes to experience the intense, in your face aspects of life. My time at the 24 hour race was as intense that I imagined it to be x 10. This proved to be more than a 24 hour event for me as I arrived at 10 in the morning on the 7th and did not leave until 5pm on the 8th. That was OK though because right when I got there I was greeted by old friends and my all access “Teilnehmer” or participants pass.

This pass allowed me to view this race from the perspective that the average fans get to see. Not only did I have available to me the facilities in place for the paying guests, but I also had full access to see the cars up front and center in the pits. I spent a lot of time here checking things out as the cars came in and out to fill up with gas, change tires, and fix repairs of everything from busted fenders, to blown up engines.

In being that Spencer was racing for a Honda team, we had full access to a 24 hour long complementary food / desert / cappuccino / beer bar hospitality tent. Having worked in the catering business for a few years in college, I would guess that this thing cost between 1.5 and 2 million dollars to operate.

Thanks Honda!

As the race went on the drivers drove in stages of 2 – 3 hours. Between the driving stints this gave them a chance to eat sleep and do whatever else that they needed to do. The length of the race gave me a chance to check out the whole of the facilities, and also wander over to the famous camping areas that are set up right on the sides of the race track. This is where the real fans come out to play. The hard core guys get out there on the Monday before the race so they get a spot as close to the track as possible. I applaud these men and women that were out there during this week for the weather was a mixture of rain, hail, snow, wind, and sun for the whole week. I went and had a few beers with these guys, and saw the motor oil running through there veins.

Well, out of the 2 cars that were raced by Spencer’s team only one made it the whole 24 hours. Both were in many accidents through the course of the race and sequentially had to be repaired with the likes of the ultimate fix all, Duct tape. The Honda Civic that Spencer drove stopped rolling in the late half of the 22nd hour after the engine exploded. The Integra that his Father was driving was actually the first one across the track after the 24 hour clock had lapsed, but unfortunately, he was 17 laps behind the leader. This is an amazing feat, because this car was actually in a bad accident in the first hour of the race!

If you are interested in seeing the fast cars, the duct tape repairs and a behind the scenes perspective from the race, check out the link to my photos.

Tschüß!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Clock goes “Tick Toc”

Well the days are finally upon me. Not the days of new, the days of old, or the days reckoning, but the days that will determine whether this chapter of my life is still being written, or if the plot will soon return to it’s familiar ground of California. As of today I have only 6 weeks left on my visa here in Germany. I have been searching for work for the past few months, but there has yet to be any luck on that front.

The economy is not great here in Germany, where unemployment has increased every quarter since I have arrived to a now post WWII high of over 12%. Not the best conditions to find a job here for any recent graduate, let alone a Yankee. An even deeper problem lies within the availability of jobs within the field of Marketing. The market is was oversaturated here in Germany with new graduates with Marketing as their major subject. Most of my fellow German interns here within Marketing have been forced to stay unemployed or take jobs in other fields of the business world.

What can I do you may ask?

No answers as of yet, but I am making a last dash attempt this week to find employment before it is too late to plan my voyage back over the Atlantic, away from the lush green landscape of Deutschland, to the warm dry hills and valleys of the San Francisco Bay Area.

I will keep you updated on the search…

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

von Deutschland nach Tschechische Republik, und zurück…

Well as said before, I was fortunate enough to have my Mother Barbara here in Europe with me for 10 days. It was very good to see her, and better to get to show her what my life is like here. She came to visit me when I was in England, so it was not her first time on this side of the world, but it was the first time she was in mainland Europe. She arrived on the 25th of March in Frankfurt.

We rented a blue Ford Focus C-Max with a Navigation system and headed south to Karlsruhe, where Anke lives. This was a Friday, but not any ordinary Friday. The south of Germany it is very Catholic, and the Easter Weekend is a four day holiday, with Good Friday and Easter Monday both being paid work free days. You might be getting to stay away from work on these days, but that also means that all of the stores are closed, and it is very quiet the whole weekend. It is essentially viewed as a family weekend.

On Saturday, we went to Anke’s family home and enjoyed the next two nights with Rheinhard and Hanne, Anke’s parents. They live in a town that is strangely similar to my hometown of Martinez, but of course, in a German kind of way. Both nights, we had dinner that went on in the typical European fashion. We ate multiple course meals, with desert and lots of wine. So much wine that in the morning, Anke asked me if my mother thought her parents were alcoholics. We sat around the table both night for 4 plus hours.

Our next destination was the Neuschwanstein Castle. If you have never been to Germany to see this castle before, I can almost bet you have seen the famous replica with your own eyes. Walt Disney used this castle as the inspiration for the Princess castle that stands near the entrance of Disneyland. After a tour through the Castle that showcased the life of an insane King Ludwig II, we headed to Munich to start a tour of this great Bavarian Capital. I have been to Munich probably about 15 times so I gave my mother a tour fit for a local. Of course it included a trip to the Hofbrau House for a few beers. Believe it or not (I have pictures to prove it) for you that know my mother, she actually drank a few beers here in Germany!

The next stretch in the car took us to the capital of the once before communist country of the Czech Republic, Prague. After exchanging some Euros into Crowns, and buying our permit for the freeway, we were shortly in a town that blew our minds with the amount of history and old buildings. While there we took a river cruise which provided breathtaking views of the city, ate the local (and not very tasty) Bohemian specialties, I drank a lot of world famous Czech beer, and my mother did more shopping here then in the rest of the trip combined. The Czech Republic is still fairly cheep by Europe’s standards, so we got a lot for our money. I had never been to Prague before so it was especially a treat for me!

We spent the last few days touring the local area of Lohr, and with a drive through the Black Forest. We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Würzburg, and many villages in between. In Würzburg, we went on a tour of the wine cellars of the famous winery Bürgerspital, where we got to see the oldest bottles of wine in the world, from 1570!

All in all a great visit! I have posted over 100 pictures that you can click through as you wish. You can reach them from the right navigation panel under “My Photos”.

bis später!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

March Madness…

I am not talking about the basketball tournament that I am not getting to see at the moment. I am referring to a more natural theme in my writing. The environment has been doing strange things here in old Europe over the last two weeks. After having three straight weeks of sub-freezing temperatures, Mother Nature turned the Spring switch on last Tuesday and now the birds are singing, the shorts are coming out of the closet, but most important of all, the local Biergarten is now open. It has been getting up into the mid 60’s Fahrenheit, which will sound like a cold day to you back in Cali, but this is a warm March day for this part of the world.

I have been keeping pretty busy lately, and it dose not look like it is going to get any more relaxed until the end of May. I have been so busy, I have not had any time to even sit down and write you a story or two. Lets see, to be brief:

I went skiing in Austria, which was some of the best skiing I have ever done. I hurt my foot because of the stupid rental ski boots and I am still limping around today.

I had an “Assessment Center” for a job within Bosch on March 10th. This was a day long interview / activity day with 60 participants coming together for two positions. All in German. It was a very interesting experience, and to say the least, my German just was not up to par.


I celebrated my birthday in Munich with my friend Adriane and his basketball team at a very LAish club.

And this last weekend I went to visit a few friends at a private university in the Reihngau region of Germany, which is basically Germany’s Napa Valley. It was absolutely beautiful!

My mother is coming on Friday. We are going to drive all over the south of Germany, and then on to Prauge, Czech Republic. I am greatly anticipating her arrival, as you can imagine. We are going to enjoy the long 4 day Easter weekend. The whole country here shuts down for 4 days. I will be sure to return from this trip with a bunch of pictures for your enjoyment!

Bis dann,

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

-15° and Falling

Celsius that is. It was so cold on my walk this morning to work that I thought my ears were going to fall off. Maybe I should invest in a new beanie or headband or something? When we transfer this temperature into the completely illogical English measuring system this equates into 9° Fahrenheit. This temperature does not sound as shocking as the -15°, but believe me 9° is still dam cold for a warm blooded Californian!

It is today March 1st, which in California usually means that the flip flops are starting to fill the shelves at Rite-Aid, the girls are breaking out the short skirts, and the first trips to the beach are being made. But as far as I can tell, March 1st in Germany means that winter is still fully upon us. I am still in my scarf, gloves, thick pants and overcoat every time I have to leave the house, I have not seen any skin sense September, and beach?? Maybe I can find one in the middle of the forest that I live in?

SUCKS! But what can you do, it is all part of the abroad experience!

I have not wrote in a while because to be honest, nothing very exciting has been going on. Just living, eating sleeping, breathing, and walking like the rest of you. (Well I am probably walking more then the rest of you since I don’t have a car!) Life has become normal, which is just a nice way of saying boring and mundane. This weekend should prove to provide some excitement as I am going skiing in Austria at St. Anton. . I will clue you in on that next week!

Even though I am looking forward to the weekend in the Alps, I need a vacation somewhere warm!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Viva Colonia!

I pretty much knew what to expect when I stepped of the Inter City Express train in Colonge on Thursday. It was the opening day of the Karnival festival. This is a Christian festival which is celebrated in the week before the 40 days of fasting (Lent) prior to Easter, and is Germany’s version of what takes place as Carnival in Rio De Janeiro and Mardi Gra in New Orleans.

Karnival in Cologne is almost as old as the history of the city itself. Cologne was founded by the Romans around the time of the birth of Christ. They celebrated cheerful spring festivals in honor of Dionysus and Saturn with wine, women and song. The ancient Germans celebrated the winter solstice as a homage to the Gods and expulsion of the evil winter demons. Later the Christians adopted the heathen customs. In the Middle Ages, the celebration of Karnival often took on drastic forms. With people dressing up in wild, often deemed to be satanic costumes, and holding a week long party, it was understandable that this was to the displeasure of the city council and mainly the church. Bans and ordinances did little to help, the celebration was wild and spirited. Today it is still a controversial time as far as the church is concerned, but the city has an official Karnival committee that plans and promotes the festival all over Germany.

The first day is Schmutzig Donnerstag, or Dirty Thursday, this is a day where women are meant to have free reign over the city and run about indiscriminately cutting off men’s ties and committing other traditional acts of Carnival mischief. I arrived at the train station in preparation to meet the three British lads, Rick, Howard, and Anthony, that I studied with in Nottingham in 2003. They had never been to Germany before and no doubt had expectations of the prim and proper people that the Germans are known for being. However, this week of Karnival is the one week a year where Germans take their suits off, let their hair down, put on costumes of all sorts and commence in a very unique brand of revelry! Furthermore, most Kölner (people from Cologne) leave work early on Thursday only to return by the middle of the next Tuesday despite the lack of any official holiday. The cities residents have two choices, celebrate or vacate.

In being four blokes that appreciate a good party, we had no trouble getting involved and drinking a bit of the local beer Kölsch. I can pretty much sum up the weekend in one sentence. We drank Kolsch, ate sausages, watched parades, walked through the streets, wore completely awesome but hideously ugly suits, slept a bit, and drank more Kolsch. It was a great weekend, but a tiring one to say the least. I will leave you with the lyrics to the course of the official song of Karnival and it's english translation:

VIVA COLONIA!

German:
Wir lieben das Leben, die Liebe und die Lust
Wir glauben an den lieben Gott und hab´n noch immer Durst.

English:
We love life, love and lust
We belive in God and drinking way too much"

There are pictures of the mayhem to see from the link to my photos on the right.

Viel Spass, und viva Kolonia!


Karnival Information Website

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Stop, Collaborate and Listen………

Anyone born between 1975 and 1982 knows that these are the opening words of a song from an artist that took the nation by storm in 1990. The before mentioned artist was at the top of his game for about a year before becoming the pun of many jokes from the before mentioned age group still to this day. Even with that said, the dance floor exploded last Saturday night at the Karlruhe University Fruhlings Unifest (spring university party) on Saturday night. This party was a great example of a key difference between American and European culture, our conflicting views about Alcohol.

This is one of many university parties that I have attended since my arrival last May. The concept of an event like this is unbelievable from the typically conservative American standpoint. These parties are held on the campus of the university. The party last night was held in die Meansa, or the cafeteria of the university. This was a grand event that was planned and operated by the students of the university itself. All of the money made from this event go to cover the cost of the party, and any remaining goes to the student union. The concept itself is a great fundraiser for the significantly under funded university student unions. These events are something that the students thoroughly enjoy and actively take part in, and they help to fund future student related events.

But, this is something that is not possible in the United States. Alcohol and it’s abuse is a hot topic among Politicians and soccer moms alike. Thanks to this abuse, ignorance, and some good old lingering early twentieth century oppression, we have a drinking face in the United States that is repeatedly laughed at in my presence, upon engaging in conversation with just about every European I meet. They just can’t believe that our society makes such a big fuss over all things alcohol, and neither can I. An American University would never permit an event like this for one simple reason; it would be viewed by the public as promoting the use of Alcohol amongst the students.

If the students of SDSU were able to throw one of these fund raising events, lets say in Montezuma Hall, it would in no doubt of my, or anyone else’s mind, be a complete and chaotic debacle. The security at the front gate would be as strong as for the oval office, and there would be one cop for every 5 students inside. Students would not even be able to pretend to dance if the DJ put on a Vanilla Ice record for the fear of spilling a beer on a prick SDSU cop and getting arrested for “Public Intoxication.” The Fire Department would shut it down just before it started to get going for some bogus code violation, and then it would be criticized all over the local papers the next morning because some freshmen who used a fake ID to get in would get alcohol poisoning and have to be rushed to the hospital.

The above situation would happen due to the paranoia and over protectiveness of the police forces and the lack of education of the students. This issue of education is not one of such concern in Europe for the simple fact that children are well educated on the subject in the house from a young age, and will typically consume small amounts of alcohol starting at around age 12 with the family. This is opposed to the Reaganistic D.A.R.E. style “Just say No!” education that is stuffed down the throats of young Americans starting in Elementary school. In my opinion the education styles preferred by the ignorant conservatives which we Americans so grandly elect, make kids more curious to try alcohol at a young age, and make the law enforcement more aggressive to enforce these laws. Would anyone be shocked if I said I drank before I was 21?

I would like to be like Ice and say, If there is a problem, Yo I’ll solve it, but this is a subject that has little room, and way to much developed infrastructure for one mans words to make an impact. So I will just continue to enjoy myself (and my beer) at these German University parties, and check out the hook while the DJ revolves it!

Some interesting websites:

Legal Drinking Ages World Wide

No Liquor.us


Prohibition.org*


*Make sure to check out the “Values of the Prohibition Party“ page.



Monday, January 24, 2005

Well, well, well,

You never can tell what will happen on any given day. That is in my opinion one of the finest facets of life. Spontaneity has always been one of my most favorite attributes. As predictable as my girlfriend says that I am, I have always thought of myself as a “on the seat of my pants” type of guy. You know, the type of person that is poised to make decisions that are not always viewed to be the best considering the present situation, but contain that feeling of fulfillment, adventure, and sometimes randomness. Finding these simple ways to lead life away from that “perfectly coiled ball of yarn dimension” is what makes me wake up and start the kettle in the morning.

I can tell you that my life has grown away from this mindset sense setting my bags down in Germany. That is ironic for it was this individually accepted wisdom that got me here in the first place. Those moments that were oh so common through my years in Martinez and San Diego, have not come to pass as often these days. For example the most stimulating twist in my life today was the fact that I stepped of the train tonight in Lohr, only to be welcomed with a perfectly timed snow storm that accompanied me on my walk home.

My question that I asked myself on this fast paced walk through the cobble stone streets of the town, over the flooded river Main, and up the hill to my warm basement apartment, was “Does life get more predictable and unsurprising as you extend your years, or are these thoughts the child of a pace of life much slower then I am accustom to, and the onslaught of my coming 25th birthday?” I know, I know, most of you will say I am still a very young man in a place and situation that not most Americans from my generation will ever get to, or consider experiencing. I agree with this self thought out rebuttal, but still life just is not the same anymore.

I think I have a case of the post college blues…..

This is funny because I foiled a plan of my girlfriends to make my life more spontaneous this weekend. This was not intentional sabotage on her plan, but just one of those things in life that occasionally works its way into the events of the day that ends up throwing a wrench in things.

There is a band here called Die Fantastich Vier. They are a German hip hop act that I can only compare as to being the German equivalent to the Beastie Boys. As we walked through the streets of Karlsruhe on Saturday afternoon I spotted an advertisement announcing their arrival to the local concert hall. We tried to get tickets to a show last December but it just didn’t work out. Immediately after seeing the advertisement I proceeded to walk to the ticket office in a building down the street to inquire about tickets.

After Anke figured out what I intended to do she tried to convince me that she had already checked out the show, and that it was sold out. As in the fashion that I always tend to lead my life, I proceeded not to believe her and walked to the ticket counter to ask about the show. I have had problems with not believing people on simple facets of life since I was a little kid. My mom once told me when I was 3 or 4 that if I touched the stove while it was on that it would hurt, so in turn this was something I just should not do. Of course this made my interest in the stove increase ten fold and not being able to fight back the temptation, 20 minutes later I was screaming in pain after touching the red hot stove.

Upon arriving at the ticket counter I asked the Fabio look alike clerk about the show. Anke pushed me aside and tried to quietly convince him to do her a favor and tell me that the show was sold out, forgetting the fact that I understand quite a bit of German these days. Fabio refused to consent with her request and informed me that there was plenty of tickets left to the show.

At this point she broke down and informed me that she had already purchased 2 tickets to the show and intended to give them to me for my birthday. Boy, did I feel stupid. She did not forgive me for my over inflated curiosity for the rest of the day. Mabey next time when I am given a question about a subject of unfamiliarity to me I should just except it as the truth, and move on.

I just don’t see that happening.

I leave you with two pieces of advice from this blog entry: Don’t ever be hesitant to do anything that you want to because it dose not make complete sense, and don’t directly or indirectly EVER foil a plan of your sigificant other. Both actions could lead to a serious change in your enjoyment of life!

Quote of the day:

Nichts gewagt, nichts gewonnen! (Nothing ventured, nothing gained!)

Friday, January 21, 2005

Another day another pretzel….

Well back in Germany again, and back to wearing my shoes down. After a long flight through the wonderful city of Charlotte, North Carolina, (where I drank a Miller Light and watched NASCAR highlights) I arrived in Frankfurt on a plane that was, I would guess, half full of our boys on their way to Iraq. Feeling quite happy at that point that I was not on a connecting flight to the desert, I met with my girlfriend after walking through customs with not even a question thrown my way.

The flight allowed a bit of time for me to sit back and think about my coming months, and reflect on the past few weeks. As mentioned in my previous blog, I experienced quite a bit of reverse culture shock on my way back into San Francisco. For a week or so, everything was just weird. The strangest thing was that I had by far the worst case of jet lag I had ever experienced. The second was the fact that I had a car to take me wherever I needed to go, and gas that was affordable. The third through the hundredth shock waves would take just too long to go through. After a week of holiday parties, nights at Cue N’ Brew, long talks with my mom, and the usual rounds through Martinez, I was right back where I was before I left.

I became so comfortable in fact that I had feelings of confusion and sorrow as I stepped on the plane. I can honestly say that this was the FIRST TIME I have had these feelings when heading to a far off land. I understand these feelings now as I write these words, but they were a puzzle to me at the time.

The fact is that I finally realized upon going home how different my life is here in Germany. Here is an example that has entered my had at this moment. As I typed the word Germany in the last sentence, I actually typed the word Germanz, because the y and the z are reversed on the Germen keyboard I use at work. To team up with the keyboard, we have the fact that I walk everywhere here, I actually have started to read everyday, I wear a big, fat, thick coat everywhere, and I conduct my daily conversations in a language that sounds to Americans as if I’m choking on a cheeseburger.

But as many of you are thinking at this moment, not all of these things decrease my standard of living. If I make a list, which I wont, I can probably think of as many advantages to my life here as the disadvantages that make my daily life harder. If I were to start the list, which I won’t, the number one reason is that I get to see the love of my life, Anke Wiesmann, on a regular basis. And now that I think about it, the German pretzels aren’t bad either!

Well I will keep you abreast of my thoughts as my time passes here, and I hope to hear about what is going on back in the convenient land of California.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

American Groove

Well I have been home now for over two weeks and I have just gotten back into my American groove. This is not a dance move I use to employ down at the Beachcomber in college but the way of life that I had to get re-accustomed to during my vacation home. It has been a trip for me to come back to California after seven months away, these months being the longest stretch I had ever been away from home. These last two weeks have brought me back to my roots, and the reverse culture shock has surprised me

I spent six months in England in 2003, but as I look back on it this tour lacked in comparison to the change in lifestyle that I have experienced in Germany. I treated my time in England like a party time vacation, in contrast I have treated my new home as a place that I might be spend a couple of years of my life. Insert language and culture differences into my morphed mentality and you have a recipe for a new cultural aptitude. I was aware of the changes that had taken place within my body, head and routine but I was not ready for them all to come in front of my open eyes all at once.

I took the first step of the groove when I entered Safeway and was overtaken by the mere selection of cheddar cheese. After debating for several minutes between 10 different brands of mild, medium or sharp I returned home and realized that my family house currently has 3 inhabitants, but 5 cars. The list of conflicting cultural occurrences stretches on like the ballot for the last California governor’s race, and I could probably write a blog about every single one.

Well as soon as I am fully accustomed to this faster paced individually charged lifestyle here it is time for me to return on Monday. The days here have been great and I have spent most of my time with my family, but the weather has reminded me more of Germany than California. We have had over 15 inches (38 cm) of rain since I have been home. So much for going back to sunny California, now its back to beer and brats, and bitter cold…………

Friday, December 17, 2004

Weihnachtsfeier

Well I had my company Christmas party last night. This followed a dramatic day at work where I personally witnessed my boss pass out as I gave him a presentation of a project I have been working on. When he passed out on the opposite side of the table from me he hit his head on a cabinet, suffered a concussion and now will be out of work until after Christmas. I like to think that the reason he passed out was that my presentation was just so good and he became overwhelmed, but we cant just be too sure!

So without my boss we had our Christmas party. This was quite a more intimate event then I would expect from an American corporation. We started out with a torch walk. Yes, we walked through the hills in a neighboring town with our way lit by torches. It was about a 45 minute walk, stopping only in the thick forest to take a shot of schnapps. The schnapps proved to be a delightful wild cherry flavor and helped keep me warm in the negative temperatures that graced the air.

From there we went to a traditional Franken (the region I live in) hotel and had a dinner of Goose legs, meadow and forest soup, and keeping with tradition, beer. Our dinner concluded with an older co-worker playing Christmas carols on his accordion, in which time I lead the group in a traditional American tune, “Rudolf the red nose Reindeer.” Basically this consisted of the whole group singing the course as everyone listened to me singing the rest of the song in my beautiful voice.

Then St. Nick and Knecht Rupprecht came out and gave away gifts. Knecht Rupprecht is a man that in German tradition is basicly Santa’s evil half. He comes to give a bunch-of-sticks to the kids that were naughty. I was confused of the presence of this long white bearded man in a black hooded cap (he looked like a confused Klu-Klux-Klans man) at first, but it was soon explained to me his role. After the gifts were given out a few more beers were had before retiring for the night.

The strangest thing I found from this event were that none of the partners of the employees were present. It is not custom for wives, husbands and girl and boy friends to be invited to these events, and they are not held on the weekends as so to not interfere with employees free time.

Hope all of your Christmas parties out there have been just as memorable as mine!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Frohe Weihnachten

From the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market), to the Gluehwein, to the unbearable cold, Christmas cheer is alive in the air here in Germany. Christmas has been a whole new experience for me this year in the old world. It is a very happy time of year here that is evident from the masses of people that gather every night around the Christmas trees and glowing angels that decorate every city center. Christmas tradition dose not have any bias from towns big or small here, each has its own unique twist on this traditionally festive time of year.

Santa Claus, or the Weihnachtsman as he is called here, is not as major of a player here in this month of December. He in fact is only present due to heavy American influence on the German culture of today. As many of us Americans know, but not all, Santa Claus is was a creation of the American corporate world during the first part of the twentieth century, mainly from marketing campaigns by Coca-cola. The old world tradition that is practiced here in Germany is the arrival of small presents (normally candy and fruit) from Saint Nicolous, that are left in children’s boots that lie on their doorsteps on December 6th. These gifts come to the nice children, but the naughty children receive, comparatively so to disobedient American children receiving coal, a bundle of sticks. I just have one question to ponder over this phenomenon, why do wayward children in both countries receive things they can burn to keep warm?

Apart from this difference in the cultures the most different striking and welcoming tradition I have experienced here is the presence of the above mentioned Weihnachtsmarkt. These markets traditionally were the way for merchants to provide Christmas time related goods and services to consumers in the local towns pedestrian zone. It still serves this exact function, but with modern times has evolved into a way for the citizens to interact over a few glasses of Gluehwein.

The Germans put their steins of beer down for a short part of the year to drink this fruity spice flavored hot mulled wine. The people here love this concoction but to me its sweet but dry flavor tastes like a headache to me. I cant wait to get home and have a cup of my mothers eggnog and a few of my grandmas almond tarts!

Viel Gruss von ein kaltes Land!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Euro Musik

Well I had a good weekend away visiting Gieslingen an der Steige. This is my girlfriends hometown, and we went to stay with her parents, with the main activity being two parties I attend on Friday and Saturday night. The typical German party is a bit more civilized then I have come accustomed to in my young years. It traditionally begins with a meal of several courses followed by long conversation around the dinner table over the traditional after dinner shots of schnapps and many glasses of wine. This is a common theme in all parties I have been to here, even at a young age.

Of course it would not be a party without music, but the European party music tends to be a bit different compared to what we have back in Cali. Lets just say that if any man got caught listening to and enjoying some of the European party music that their sexuality would be questioned and also more seriously their tastes. This includes some of the music put out lately by the groups O-Zone (Romania), 3rd Wish (Florida), or Aventura (NYC based Dominicans). All of this music is a mix of guitars and techno beats, lyrics about love in foreign tongues, and a catchy melody that Euros cant get enough of. I happen to know about this Euro Music because one of the only two English based TV channels is MTv (the other being CNN) so I get to bathe in this crap daily.

If you aren’t into the European Scheiße-Pop you can go with some German hip-hop from the likes of Fantastisch Vier, Sammy Delux, or Sido. This rapper Sido has to be the most eccentric German rapper of all. He is never seen without a silver mask on, in one video walks naked women wearing dog muzzles and on leashes through a club, and in every public appearance is throwing 50 euro bills, or “fluffies” as they are called in Germany, everywhere around him. German Hip-Hop to say the least is, very interesting. If you have some extra time around the computer give some of the above artists a download to hear what my drums have been picking up lately. I am sure all of you at home will be amused, but strangely I think my ears have actually tuned into this crap.

One of the funniest things about the music here in Europe is that there is a large amount of American music that is very popular here that never gets heard in the USA. Have you ever heard of the two American artists I have listed above, or a guy by the name of Eamon (NYC) that has had a few number ones here? I know I never had.

Bis spatter!

Friday, December 03, 2004

First Post

Well my first post is regarding something that could not be more relevant to my life today. It is a little story about meine Verrucht Vermieterin (as I will call her), or translated, my crazy landlady. I think that just about anyone in my generation that went to college has had problems with there landlord / landlady. This is understandable (and I think in most cases expected) because when an 18 year old leaves the home for the first time and experiences true freedom away from the normal chores of endless yard work, daily bed making (I still don’t understand why this is important, but my girlfriend insists on it), and what seems to a high school student as unreasonable curfews, they tend to go a little crazy and thoroughly "enjoy" this new found freedom. To use myself as an example, in my first two years of life in San Diego I lived in three different locations and my roommates and myself tended to throw the typical college age blowouts with kegs, dj's bands and everything else that is on the typical house party menu. Understandable to me now (but occasionally not at the time) these type of actions on a regular basis can tend to make your landlord angry.

Well as all of those that know me well I have slightly matured at this stage of my life and have known since the last half of my college career that it is not in your best interests to have a party at your house. Big parties have been the only reason that I have ever had problems with a landlady / landlord, and these are not the nature of my problems. Not only have I never had a blow-out with kegs and dj's and all everything else that is on the typical house party menu, but I have never had more then five people in my apartment at the same time. I don’t even know enough people in Lohr am Main, Deutschland to consider having one of these events, and if I sent out an eVite to all of you at home I would be lucky to see a single face. This brings me to meine Verrucht Vermieterin. We will call her mVV for short.

mVV is the owner of a large house. I live on the second floor, she lives on the first. Since my first day here there has been something a bit strange about this 60 year old, single lady. First of all I think she only has one black t-shirt. Second, she has a 120 pound St. Bernard chained to the wall in her living room (I have never seen him off his chain in 3 months) that she feeds anything but dog food. Third, I don’t think she has ever thrown anything away for there are box’s pilled up from ceiling to floor in her part of the house. I could go on and on for ten pages about all of the problems I have had with her but I will keep it to a short summary.

Upon arriving here in September, mVV picked me up at the train station, helped me move in, took me to the supermarket, and informed me that I can do what I like in my apartment. I thought she was a nice old lady, but this is where her generosity ended. I was placed in this apartment by my company and they pay for all of the expenses. This is a common arrangement here in Germany that is called a Warmmeter, which translates directly to "warm rent", but plainly means that your rent includes your utilities. After a week in the apartment mVV threatened me not to use to much electricity and water, and did not turn on the heating system until mid October. Then she refused to fix things that were broken when I moved in, citing the fact that my firm dose not pay her enough money. Then one day I had FIVE colleagues over for Mexican food one Wednesday night until 11:00 pm. The next morning she called her contact at my firm and basically told them that I had a blow-out with kegs and dj's and everything else that is on the typical house party menu. Das war sehr komisch!

To top it all off she harassed me for my girlfriend being here too much (I think on the ground that when she is here there are extra showers and flushes the toilet too often), was charging me half of her connection fee for HER DSL internet for the last three months, and sent my firm a 176 Euro ($234) for two months of utilities over the Warmmeter that my firm was paying. The 176 Euro is funny because according to an unofficial survey that I conducted myself, none of my colleagues pay more then 50 euro a month for utilities in their HOUSE! I decided that I have on my hands here an common old granny theft.

After the above mentioned actions I have decide to move out and get a new apartment. The one positive thing that has happened through all of this I have learned how great of a company that I work for. The first day I started having problems with mVV, they asked me if I wanted to get another place, but I decided that I would stick it out because my apartment was nice, big and close to work. The ladies in the personnel department have been very supportive after having to deal with her calling on an almost daily basis to try to squeeze some more money out of the firm. mVV really did her self in though, because she bit the hand that fed her, and now I am moving out and my firm will never work with her again.

This has been a HUGE culture experience for me. From my speaking to other German people here in my town, and from my own experiences in the last 6 months, I have come to the understanding that the German people watch their finances closely. This is very different from the free spending lifestyle of California, but I think I will cover that whole topic at a later date. I have also learned that on a whole German people are law abiding, fair but stern citizens. I just happened to get stuck with this crazy old swindling scam artist of a women.

I will stop venting at this point so you can enjoy your day. I have three more weeks of cold and snow before I have a two week vacation at home in the Bay, hope to see you all there. Bis spaeter!