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Monthly Archives: May 2012

A weekend in the City, and job hunting

Hello everybody!

It is hard to believe that it has officially been a month since I arrived in Germany! It has gone by much too fast, but it is great to think that I still have so much of the summer ahead of me.

Perhaps it was not wise of me to wait longer than a week to update my blog, because at this point I am having a hard time recollecting what happened that long ago…I tried to look at my last blog post to see where I left off, and I have to say that the photo of a toilet was rather unhelpful.

However, I believe it was shortly after that last post that Sebastien and I had a pleasant evening out in the city. We went to see the movie ‘Project X’ – the movie was pretty good, and I was able to order our snacks entirely in German without asking Seb’s help. This may sound like a fairly minor accomplishment, but they do ask lots of specific questions about your order, such as if you would like your popcorn sweet or salty, and what type of drink you want. Ok fine, it still isn’t that huge of an accomplishment, but I was proud anyway! German theatres are a lot nicer than Canadian ones though…they’re quite clean, with assigned seating and people that come into the theatre before the movie and offer for you to buy ice cream. There’s also couples seats available, which are nice since there’s no pesky arm rest in the way. Makes it much easier to steal Sebastien’s popcorn.

The movie was at a theatre where they offer movies in English, in Potsdamer Platz. Potsdamer is actually one of my favourite places in the city, since there’s a lot of buildings that center around a main outdoor area…the people eating at the restaurants there can eat outside, and there’s a glass roof with light that changes colours. The roof protects people from the rain, while there is still a lot of fresh air going through the area. I always find it cozy, but there’s always lots of activity going on. I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of describing it, but here are a few pictures…first one shows as you enter the sort of circle of buildings in the day, and second one is it at night, when the lights are currently shining blue (they switch to purple too)

The bottom part of this photo shows the fountain in the middle of it all

Anyways, after this we walked around for a while, and walked by a few clubs in town that are rather high-end. None of them had large line-ups yet though, seeing as it was still the ripe hour of 10pm. At one point, when we were walking by a club, Sebastien said that he wasn’t a huge fan of it, seeing as it only had one floor. I think perhaps the Berlin club scene must be a lot spiffier than the one in Victoria…one floor was always enough for me! We then went for pizza at a little place that Sebastien visits often. We were able to get two fairly large personal pizzas for a total of 5 euros. Have I mentioned that Europe is amazing?

The next day was the Champions Leage Final in Soccer (of course I actually mean Football, but just to clarify). We went to Sebastien’s friends’ house to watch, and it was a pleasant evening despite the tragic loss of Munich. They lost to England though…so while I wouldn’t have wanted to say so that evening, I was happy Munich lost to that team as opposed to some other country. We returned home rather late that evening, but I always find it impressive that you can make it home from anywhere in Berlin at any time of the night, even if it does take a little longer than usual. A lot more impressive than Victoria, where the busses stop at basically midnight, and from that point on you better get a cab or walk. The biggest challenge in Berlin late at night is making sure you wake up in time to get off the bus at your stop!

I spent the following week doing more job searching. On Monday I took some resumes to both hotels and restaurants (although I was limited to only three of each, since the printer ran out of ink) that I had noticed on earlier adventures. While I started off rather intimidated by the whole process, I got a lot better at it. I’m pretty good at asking to speak with a manager and offering to leave my resume there. At one Irish pub I stopped at, the manager complimented my German skills, which I figured was a major break through!

I spent Tuesday at home, and then went out with more resumes on Wednesday. I had a very elaborate plan about all the places I wanted to go, and was able to make it to each of them with very minimal stress. The biggest mistake I made that day was wearing jeans…it was blazing hot out, and they did a good job of keeping in all the heat! It was a great day to be out and about, but I found myself searching for a clothes shop at which I could perhaps get some shorts. The most interesting part of this day was when I dropped off my resume at ‘The Pub’, which is a restaurant Sebastien had told me about. It took a long time to find it, since I had walked in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes before realizing my error and doubling back. I was very intent in my search, and didn’t give up despite the extreme heat. However, as soon as I dropped off my resume and walked back outside, I realized that I was standing right beside the restaurant at which I had eaten with my school band when I was in grade 11. We had eaten there about three times, since it was right outside our hotel when we were staying in Berlin. I visited this same spot a few times last year when I was in Berlin, and therefore I knew exactly how to get back to Sebastien’s house from this spot.

The yellow umbrellas show where we ate when I was in Grade 11 on tour, and there is of course the impressive tower visible above

On Thursday, I put some time into calling back the businesses I had visited on Monday. Luckily, I survived all conversations in German fairly well, and there was only one conversation that really baffled me. Later on, I received a call from ‘The Pub’ asking for an interview that evening. I met with one of the owners, and arranged to come in for a trial shift the next day.

This trial shift was a MUCH more positive experience than the last one. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and my beer pouring has improved drastically (although there were other people that were responsible for most of the beer pouring this time, whereas the other place had depended solely on me). I was told that I will be called back for another trial shift (paid this time) so we’ll see how that goes. My favourite moment of the night was when one table called me over, and a man began speaking to me in German. Unfortunately, I had no idea what he was asking me, and apologized and asked if he knew any english. At that, everyone at the table became excited, since they were actually from England and that man was the only one of them that knew any German. When I returned to their table a bit later, they asked where I was from – one of the group had figured I was Dutch based on my accent. It’s so funny to be somewhere that people find my accent puzzling!

At the end of the night, I got a bit lost trying to navigate where I would get off the night bus to get to Sebastien’s place. After getting off too early and walking around for a while, I was about to give up and call him to ask for help, when I spotted a green car that I had taken a picture of last time we were on a walk. Hallelujah!

This was the photo of the car I had taken during the day, and when I spotted the car at night I knew I was in the right direction to get home ūüôā

I was able to find my way home from there, and get a bit of sleep before we took off for our adventure the next day. Believe it or not, it was this adventure that I was originally going to focus this blog entry on, but as more memories of last week came back to me this post became longer and longer. I shall leave you with the suspense of getting to read about my weekend adventure soon! I hope you enjoyed this blog entry!

Bis später,

Robyn

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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And the Adventure Continues…

Hello all!

Updates from the world of Robyn! I’m trying to remember all of the note-worthy things that I have been up to in the last week! Hard to believe I’ve been in Berlin for only two weeks, it feels like so much longer!

The first, most culturally significant thing that has happened to me in the last week was attending a concert by the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Sebastien’s mother. It was an extremely enjoyable evening; Sebastien’s mom was extremely patient with my attempts to speak German, and the concert itself was fantastic. It was in the same concert hall that I was in when I took my band trip in Grade 11, so that brought back memories.

I was afraid about the whole taking pictures in a concert hall concept, which is why this is not a better quality photo :P                       

The 12 cellists consists of…well, 12 cellists, and while the specific people in the group have changed, the group itself still plays amazing music together. A singer accompanied the group for a few pieces, and at one point a trumpet player joined as well. It’s very hard to describe music using words, but it really was an amazing performance.

The concert took place on a Wednesday, and the following weekend was spent socializing with Sebastien’s family and friends. I brought Sebastien’s family some David’s Tea, since it’s my absolutely favourite tea and can only be found in Canada. We also played ‘Memory’, which I probably haven’t played since the second grade, but found it helpful since I had to say what the objects were in German. After that, we went to a friend’s house to watch the football game between Bayern-M√ľnchen and Dortmund (I’ve been scolded for referring to it as soccer). Everyone was fairly excited about Dortmund winning…I was rather pleased since their uniforms are yellow and I prefer that to red.

Between Monday and Wednesday, I both saw a great deal of Berlin’s train system, and read a huge amount while riding the trains. On Monday, I planned on meeting with Sebastien at his school during his break, so that we could hang up posters for my English Essay Editing skills. Unfortunately, I spent so much time reading on the train that I completely missed my stop, and spent the next 45 minutes waiting for the stop to be announced until I noticed it had passed by a long time ago. Overall it took me an hour longer than I had anticipated to get to Sebastien’s school, but we still had time for hanging the posters.

See? There's my ad in the center :)

After Sebastien went back to his classes, I had a much more successful journey home. Below is a photo of the view from outside Seb’s school…it’s close to downtown Berlin, so you can see the fancy radio tower in the distance, as well as a fancy golden statue. Based on my very accurate descriptions, I think it’s safe to say I would make a terrible tour guide.I apoligize for the photo not being better; it was taken from an island in the middle of the street before the little green man told me to go. The Berlin fancy tower can be seen between the blue P sign and the pillar, and the fancy golden statue is between the two pillars.

On Tuesday, I ventured to the headquarters of the few newspapers and magazines that are published in English. Each one involved different trains and busses, but I was able to find each place and remain unscathed. Of course each of them already have all the interns they’ll need for the summer, but I’ve been recommended to submit a freelance article if I suddenly have a brilliant thought about the world. Finding my way to each place was an interesting way of seeing more of Berlin…I enjoy that Sebastien’s house has become a sort of familiar place to me, and the rest of Berlin is open for exploring. On one sidewalk, I spotted this:

So it’s a representation of where the Berlin Wall once was. I nearly got run over by a bicycle while pausing to take the picture, but I still thought it was worth the tourist moment.

On Wednesday, I went to a restaurant for a trial shift, to see how I would be as a waitress. Unfortunately, drafting and pouring beer takes waaaaaaaaaaaay more effort than I thought it would! I intend on practicing that more between now and Monday, which is when I intend on walking door to door begging for a job at various places.

Yesterday was Men/Father’s Day in Germany, depending on where you are, and so Sebastien spent a fair bit of the day out cycling with friends. I took this opportunity to watch as many chick flicks in German as possible, including ‘Kokow√§√§h’, ‘Keinohrhassen’ and ‘Kebab Connection’. Before you become too impressed that I was able to watch these movies in German without subtitles, I should mention that I’ve seen them before and therefore understood what was going on.

I am going to conclude this blog with a photo of a very fancy sidewalk bathroom I used at one point this week, and another photo of gorgeous graffiti outside a train station.

             

Thank you to those that have read up to this point! I apoligize for the somewhat mundane update…I shall hopefully have much more exciting things to report soon! I hope that you are all enjoying your summers as much as I am mine! ūüôā

Bis dann,

Robyn

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Travel and Working Abroad

 

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First Week In Berlin: The Highlights!

Hello all!

Sorry for not having posted in a while! I’ve been up to a lot of rather mundane things, and decided a new blog would be best created when I had a number of interesting things to talk about. Perhaps I waited too long, and shall provide waaaaaaay more information than any sane person would want to read about in one post, but we’ll see how it goes!

So to pick up from where I left off, Sebastien picked me up at the hotel in Bonn. Yay! We decided to take the train to Köln, since he wanted to take a break from all the driving, and had never been to Köln before. Unfortunately the weather was nowhere near as nice as the day before, but it was definitely still endurable.

One of the first things that we checked out in Köln was a bridge. Along the bridge, there are tons and tons and tons of locks chained into the fence Рvarious couples will chain a lock there with their names on it, to represent good luck for their relationship. Since I am failing terribly at describing the place, here is a photo:

Anyhow, I had seen these locks with the WSP group the day before. Sebastien and I didn’t get the chance to purchase a lock, but I brought him to this same spot anyway.

I shall now tell a slightly cautionary tale…if a woman/man walks up to you at a popular romantic/tourist spot and tries to give you a rose, don’t take it! This woman had a huge stack of roses, walked up to us, handed me three with a huge smile on her face…and then hounded the two of us for money. And even after Seb gave her some, she continued to make a pouty face until we finally got rude and physically turned our backs to her. Another one came up to us shortly after, and even though we had our backs turned to her she tried to thrust a rose in between the gaps in our arms…I dunno if she was expecting me to grab it like a football, but finally she got the message and left.

Anyways! So after all of that, Sebastien and I now had three roses, so we decided to thread them through the fence with all the locks. Not quite the traditional way of doing things, but we figured it did the trick in a pinch!

Today, there were no concerts going on in the underground concert hall, so there were no security guards keeping the square clear. Sebastien said that one of his grandparents had been at a concert in there before, and the audience could hear when a woman with high heels walked around above-ground. After that, we went into the Köln Cathedral for a look around, before heading back on the train.

Once we were back into Bonn, we began the road trip back to Berlin…there aren’t a lot of exciting details for me to share about that, besides the fact that it was pretty cool being on the Autobahn again. While a lot of people think that the Autobahn is a very specific stretch of road, it really encompasses any German highway (as far as I see it anyway…Sebastien figured I should clarify that :P). There were a lot of construction areas, in which case there was a speed limit, but there were also some areas where you could basically go as fast as you wanted. Sebastien never went too fast for too long though – going at 160km/h makes the gas go a lot faster, and is very tiring for the driver since he or she has to stay extremely focussed. There are very clear fast lanes on the Autobahn – if you’re not going fast enough, you’ll have somebody on your tail pretty quick! Anyways, so we got to Sebastien’s house fairly late…it feels like not a lot has changed since the last time I was here.

Over the next few days, I didn’t get up to anything overly exciting…we got together with Sebastien’s family, and I played my pipes a little bit for his mom and sister. I think perhaps they were a bit shocked when they realized I wasn’t kidding when I had told them that bagpipes are loud! But I also reassured them that I will practice lots before playing for them again, so the pipes will be a little more warmed up and well tuned.

Sebastien and I also hung out with his friends a few times, including going out to party on Saturday night. I tried to practice my German a bit, but usually chickened out when it was taking me ten minutes to get a simple sentence out. Everyone was rather confused when I tried to say the word ‘sad’ (traurig) but accidentally said ‘traum’ (dream) and then corrected myself with ‘traube’ (grape). One of the many awesome things about being in Germany is the freedom to drink anywhere – not that I was drinking copious amounts by any means, but the group of us was sipping on drinks whie riding downtown on the train, and then when we were hanging out outside. None of this paranoia about having an open drink outdoors. Unfortunately, we discovered that arriving at a club at midnight is still ‘early’ in the evening…craziness! Since it was Cinco de Mayo though, there was a lot of latin style music.

Yesterday was my first day really walking around Berlin…I took the train to Fredreichstra√üe (sorry if I spelt that wrong!) since they have a ‘Lush’ store there. I bought a new shampoo and conditioner from there, since the bottles have awesome German labels, and I’m trying to figure out how to make my hair like German showers more. For some reason, my hair always feels quite oily! I tried to speak with the Lush employees in German, but as soon as they saw the confusion in my face they switched to English. I lasted almost a minute listening to the cashier in German, but then she asked me a question…she was offering me either a bag or else a sample, and since I wanted to make sure I answered correctly (bag: no, sample: hell yes!) I had to give in and get her to switch to English.

After that, I had another rather pathetic defeat. I went into Burger King, and asked, in German, for fries. Then, when she asked what size I wanted…geez, I really have to learn to not look so confused! She then instantly switched to English.

I then took the train to the building in which Sebastien was finishing up a class, and then we walked around and had some lunch. We went into his University merchandise store, and I was commenting on how it’s nice that they have slimmer shirts for women instead of just men’s sizes. Then the store lady came over and started telling me (in German!!!) about how they’re actually exceptionally small for women’s sizes, and how she had to go up about two sizes from what she normally is. She then asked if I’m an international student from Cambridge (since my hoodie has Cambridge printed on it) and I said ‘Nein, ich komme aus Kanada’. We then basically left, although I made sure to say Tsch√ľss on the way out. So that was my victorious moment of the day!

Anyhow, lots of little boring stories, but I’m loving my trip so far! I’m going to be seeing a concert by the Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchastra with Sebastien’s mom tomorrow, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s a concert to celebrate how long they’ve been playing together for, so it should be quite an amazing show.

Tomorrow is also the day I officially begin my job hunt…perhaps my next posts will be flavoured with constant rejection from employers, but we’ll see. Yay for adding a new cultural element to the mix of my European Adventure! Wish me luck! ūüôā

Bis später,

-Robyn

 
 

First few days!

Hello all! I have finally had a chance to add pictures to this blog! I hope you all enjoy! ūüôā To start at the beginning, my flight over was rather uneventful, but definitely not bad. I watched ‘Mary Poppins’ for the first time in about ten years, which was fun except for the fact that the songs have been stuck in my head ever since. I sat next to a middle-aged woman who was headed to Italy for an adventure with her watercolour painting group. Interestingly enough, she was from Nova Scotia, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember exactly where. I only got about 20 minutes of sleep on the flight, and ended up walking around the airport like a deer in headlights. I experienced a bit of panic when I thought my luggage was not appearing on the carousel, but then I realized that I was staring at the Istanbul carousel instead of the Calgary one, which was right behind me. So that was a relief. Then I had a bit of a hard time finding my WSP group…I walked by them about three times, and they kept trying to figure out if I was indeed that last person they were waiting for. Finally, I noticed the ‘WSP’ sign near the back wall and ambled on over as though all that walking by them had been an intentional build-up. I experienced a lot of flashbacks from my last experience at the Frankfurt airport, which was with my High School band. With the WSP group, I boarded a bus that was similar to that time in grade 11, except there were only 10 of us instead of 90. We each got a bagged lunch; the first thing I noticed was the two buns, one with cheese and the other with salami. Very simple food, but delicious, and at the time I was giddy at being able to eat foods I remembered from my previous German experiences. We then drove from Frankfurt to Bonn, and stopped for a walk at one point along the Rhein. One of the two men in charge of our group provided us with interesting information about the Rhein in German, and I figured it was time to begin studying my German vocabulary. It was a gorgeous drive though; lots of amazing little towns in the valleys by the rivers, and lots of long ships carrying cargo. The Rhein is used for a great deal of goods transportation.

Here is a quick shot of a town across the Rhein – the ship is one of the many that was transporting cargo

At one point I fell asleep on my purse, and woke up with a lovely dent on my forehead…luckily no one else in the group noticed as we all got off the bus at our hotel. We had dinner shortly after that, and then a group of us went to a park to walk along the Rhein. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and¬†it reminded me of Bowness Park in July. The rest of the WSP people came from all across Canada – ironically enough, I’ve never met so many people from Ontario that weren’t bagpipers before. There were five or six attending a University there, and the rest of us were pretty spread out from across the country. My German was a lot weaker than everyone else’s, but I feel like it motivated me to step out of my language comfort zone a lot more. On the second day, we began with a series of¬†different speakers, who told us more details about the program we’re a part of, and what we can expect while working in Germany. I think it was helpful information, but seeing as it was¬†in German, I’m not exactly sure. In the afternoon, after a session on various phrases and words that could be helpful in our various jobs, we went¬†into¬†the inner city of¬†Bonn.¬†It was, once again, an absolutely gorgeous day, and we¬†had a walking tour of the city. Our tour guide told us about¬†the history of Bonn, and how it¬†used to be the political center of¬†Germany.¬†We also got to see the¬†outside of¬†the house where Beethoven had been¬†born, which was pretty cool.

Our tour was mostly in German, but the guide gave enough information in English that I could get a sense of what was going on. After the tour, we headed to…anyone want to venture a guess? A¬†beer garden! Yay! It was outside, right¬†by the river.¬†We each¬†ordered¬†some pizza, and of course, some beer. Seeing as it was the last¬†day in April, we were offered the opportunity to go¬†and dance in the first of May¬†(tanzen in die erste Mai,¬†I believe). As tired and¬†jetlagged as I was, I figured I would have a fun time if I¬†worked up the energy to go. It’s not every day¬†you get to dance in the first of May! There was a group of about¬†eight of us, including two¬†locals who were leading us there.¬†It wasn’t too far of a walk¬†until we arrived at a big tent – I definitely had¬†a highland games flashback! We went inside and¬†ordered…more beer! Yay!¬† Then we found a place to stand and¬†talk¬†fairly¬†near the band. When they¬†started playing,¬†we¬†began dancing – they played mostly¬†German songs, but a few English ones too. We danced to it all though!¬†Sometime after midnight,¬†three of us walked back to the hotel while the rest stayed for a little while¬†longer. The next day began with another few lectures in the hotel, and more practicing¬†how to speak through awkward situations in our potential jobs. After lunch,¬†we went to a Museum in Bonn. The Museum was based¬†on German history from the end of World War II to the¬†taking down of the Berlin Wall. It was¬†fairly interesting, although it was hard to stay focussed when so much of it was in German and I was¬†so sleepy from¬†my dancing the night before. After that, we got on a train to K√∂ln¬†(Cologne). I fell asleep at one point, but was able to wake up in time to see parts of the city as we were¬†travelling¬†towards the city center. I’ve been to K√∂ln once before,¬†but¬†it was¬†interesting to enter the city¬†from an entirely different angle.¬†The station at which we got off was underground, and when we walked¬†up¬†the stairs and outside, the Cathedral was immediately towering over us on our left. Seeing as May first is a holiday in Germany¬†(I¬†don’t know about the rest of Europe though) there were a lot of people sitting¬†on the stairs watching performers. We walked around one side of the Cathedral, and¬†encountered a¬†square¬†that security people were keeping clear. Apparently, there was a concert hall directly below, and there¬†was a concert going on – people¬†in the concert would be able to hear if we walked over that square.

This is the square they were keeping clear, so that the concert was not disturbed. The Köln Cathedral is of course towering in the background!

We¬†walked by other various things, and then were able to spend twenty minutes in the Cathedral itself. It was neat to be in there again…although this time there were tons and tons of tourists, so it¬†wasn’t as peaceful as I¬†remember. After that, we went to dinner…and it was the same place we ate at when I was with¬†the High School band! I thought that was pretty cool, and it brought back a few memories. I missed the people I had been with at that time, but thoroughly enjoyed the company I was with this time too.

Place where we had dinner ūüôā

This time, we also were able to have a¬†beer – the restaurant brews it themselves. I personally didn’t like it as much as the beer we had the day before, but I don’t know a lot about beer. I also had a delicious schnitzel (I sure miss schnitzel when I’m in Canada!) with a creamy mushroom sauce. After that, we walked back to the train station and returned to Bonn. A few of us watched a German movie, but I headed to my room around midnight. This morning, we all had our last delicious breakfast at the hotel, and everyone except me left to catch their trains. I’m sitting in the lobby of the hotel writing this, and waiting for Sebastian to pick me up from Berlin! We may go to K√∂ln before driving back to Berlin, but I guess we’ll see what happens. The weather is unfortunately not as nice as it was yesterday, but I think it would still be nice to explore K√∂ln a bit more. I’m extremely excited for Berlin though! I can’t wait to see Sebastien’s friends and family again, and to figure out things such as my work and travel situation while enjoying the city. I think that’s probably enough text for now! Thank you so much for reading ūüôā Bis sp√§ter! -Robyn

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Travel and Working Abroad