Well, I said I’d keep my blog going, but I sure didn’t keep my promise!
I left off the day before my first day of work, many moonths ago. Since then I’ve become a real 8-5 office worker, with my own little desk and giant computer screen. Things have been slow going, but I’ve had smatterings of work to do here and there. A lot of the time has been spent studying German on my own during down time in the office, and educating myself on business terminology and some basic concepts. Every morning I take the bus to work, and every evening I walk 2 kilometers home. My colleagues are nice, but I’m still trying to figure out this Germanness I can’t quite understand. Sometimes I think everyone is cold and distant, but then a second later it doesn’t seem like it at all. Confusing for an effervescent American, to say the least!
Some facts about Zwickau:
-It’s got about 90,000 people
-It has 64 registered brothels (as told to me by our cleaning lady, because there happens to be a brothel across the street from our office. I can see all kinds of people going in and out all day from my office window…)
-It is located in old East Germany, an hour from both Leipzig & Dresden and about 2 from Prague!
-People don’t really speak English here, like in western Germany, but I’ve been told a lot of people can still speak Russian from learning it at school when they were young.
-Everything is closed on Sundays, except few restaurants (a federal law in Germany, apparently)
-German food consists mainly of….meat, meat, potatoes and meat. The meat section in the grocery shop is probably 3x larger than the veggie section.
Living here has been interesting, and still quite a big change after living in Beijing, a city of 20 million. My first few weekends I forced myself to go out at least once and talk to as many people as possible, to try to make some friends (or should I say, acquaintances, as the Germans take the word ‘friend’ rather seriously). I came across a little bar on the main square (Hauptmarkt), which had a few people milling around drinking beers who turned out to be pretty friendly. They learned my name and over the first few weeks I’d go back there just to dampen the loneliness of being in a new place. It really is a nice thing to hear a big ol’, ‘Hallo Aimee!’ when you start feeling alone!
The first weekend after I started work, my colleague and his girlfriend brought me to the Leipzig Zoo and tried to teach me animal names in German, but I promptly forgot all of them, except the word for shark (Hai), which sounds like the Chinese word for ocean (海).
The next weekend I went back to Leipzig on my own to meet up with a Danish friend from China who arranged a tour in Europe for a Chinese punk band called Demerit. At first I couldn’t find my friend, and I spotted some Chinese guys (easy because it was a a room full of German punks), and just started speaking with them in Chinese. It turns out they were the Demerit guys, so we waited for my friend to come back together. It was good to have a chance to speak Chinese again, and I forgot how comfortable I had gotten in China, and how strange Germany really seemed to me at the time. The show was good and in the end I met a nice guy from Iran and he and I went around to some other places, until I decided to call it a night, because in the morning I was going to get up early to go to one of the big Leipzig flea markets.
Over Halloween I went to see my good friend Sven in London. Hadn’t met up for about three years, so it was great to see him again. He’s probably the best tour guide anyone could ever have, because he knows everything about everything. We walked all over the place and saw some neat things. We also ate some British food that looked rather questionable, but tasted pretty good.
One of the following weekends I went out and met a new friend, who is pretty great and doesn’t live in Zwickau but comes there every weekend. So every weekend after that, without fail, we hung out until I went home for Christmas. He sells hot-dogs sometimes on Saturday nights so I went to sit in the booth, drink beer and badger the customers in broken German. We would take turns running into the nightclub and dancing for a bit then running out to sell hot dogs again.
After that, I went home for Christmas and stayed with my family for about 10 days. It was good to be home after a year and a half, and especially good to be there for Christmas, after 5 years! Went hiking with my little brothers, shooting with my dad, and lunch with Lulu and Erik, but mostly just hanging out at home with everyone. I went back to my high school to talk to some students because they have a Chinese language program and about 60 Chinese exchange students at the school. I wanted to sit in on a class and talk to the students about the things they can do with their life if they keep up learning the language. It was pretty fun and the students were great to chat with. Was nice to see my old school and teachers, too!
We had two of my old friend’s families come by one Saturday for dinner, and mom and I went wild with decorating things. I’m really proud of the mossy things I made, so I’ll post it here:
After the holiday, I was supposed to fly back to Berlin on Sunday, arrive Monday and fly to Copenhagen on Tuesday to see my old Danish roommate from China, however I stupidly bought the cheapest flight I could find. It was 20 hours including 2 layovers (Boston – NYC – Heathrow – Berlin). My first flight was cancelled and apparently although you book it through one carrier, they might stick you on another and claim no responsibility if it’s late. My first flight with American Airlines was 3 hours late into JFK, so I missed the flight to London. I was told that the next flight I could get on was British Airways about 20 hours from then. I asked if they would supply a place to sleep and they pointed to my fellow passengers hunkering down for the night in the warmest corners of the airport terminal. I went back and forth between the AA and BA counters for a while, got my ticket re-booked twice but not really sufficient to help me catch my flight to Copenhagen.
I found a spot under a giant Christmas tree in the departure’s hall and curled up next to a hairy blonde Norwegian family. I didn’t get much sleep so I decided to stay awake until the ticket office opened, where I could go badger the ticketing lady into giving me a better deal.
Finally around 5:30am I stumbled down to the ticket office, and the lady there looked around for me and found a nice flight at 3pm direct to Berlin. I thanked her profusely and skipped (tiredly) back to my spot under the Christmas tree and had a decent 2 hour nap. I went into the city for lunch and a beer with a friend of one of my friends in China.
When I finally got to Berlin, I didn’t make my flight to Copenhagen, so I got a ticket at the train station and hopped on a train going north. When we reached the Baltic Sea, they drove the entire train onto a ferry (!!!) and ferried us across the sea to Denmark!
I got to Copenhagen and went to meet my old roommate Henrik at his friend’s house. They were cooking a tasty New Years dinner of bacon-wrapped asparagus, steak, potatoes and soup. We devoured that, a bunch of beer and wine and went to a room we had gotten high up in a hotel overlooking the city. We hung out there until New Years hit, and looked out the window at the fireworks. They were all over the place! It was almost like Spring Festival in Beijing, with people setting off fireworks wherever they wanted to on the city streets.
The rest of the week was spent in Holbæk, my old roommate’s hometown, hanging out with him, his girlfriend, his sister, her boyfriend and his mom and their two dogs. It was pretty fun, lots of chatting over beer and food. We made Korean BBQ one night, and had Greenlandic Coffee [check out how to make it here] after dinner. That Friday we went into Copenhagen again and got Chinese food, which was the most authentic I’ve ever had outside of China….I ate so fast that I was too full halfway through the meal and couldn’t barely take another bite.
They went back to Holbæk that night, and I got a bed in a hostel and went out that night to find a Finnish and a Canadian that I had known in my university days in Montreal. They were both in the city at the time so we made loose plans to meet up. I briefly ran into one of the guys randomly, which was pretty neat, I guess Copenhagen isn’t all that big! But moments later I lost him again, so took myself around to some different places that night. The next day I got up early and walked around all over the place, bought some boots, saw Nyhavn, ate smørrebrød and had a generally nice day.
That night I went to meet up with my Finnish friend from university and his girlfriend and we went around to all kinds of different places and had a disgusting beer that tasted like drinking a smoked ham. I went home around 5am and caught my flight back to Berlin at 10am. Finally got home to my own bed that afternoon around 4pm and promptly fell asleep for 12 hours straight! It was a good trip.
Oh! And just before I went home for the Christmas holidays, my boss told me that I’m to move to DUBLIN in January or February 2014! So, goodbye Germany, it was nice, but off to Ireland now! It’ll be nice to live in an English speaking place after 9 years!
I suppose after I make that move I’ll try to write another bit about life in Ireland!