September 28, 2010

Self-Directed Intervention, Working Hard (Or Hardly Working), What Music Sounds Like, and The Color Purple

It is official. Right at this very moment in time, on a Tuesday evening at a quarter after seven, I am finally feeling defeated by the great German beer festival known as Oktoberfest. I thought I would be resilient, that I could make it through to the end but I’m already so tired. Maybe Oktoberfest is the kind of place you need to visit on vacation… not the festival that is on your regular daily train line. Don’t get me wrong – I love German beer and I love the revelry and spirit of the festival – but I don’t love being so drunk that I turn into a lush, that I fall down and bruise every part of my body, and continuously lose really important things like my keys and cell phone. No, I am not an alcoholic but yes, I realize that I’m drinking a lot more than I ever have before. And I am going to make a conscious effort to control myself. Oktoberfest is almost over, thank God, and once all the people are gone and the festivities are over, life will slow down back to a normal pace. It’s getting colder here in Munich and once winter sets in, I have a feeling I’m going to be going out a lot less. Plus, I need to start saving money for all kinds of stuff – debt and holiday travel, a language course. Staying in every other weekend or spending time NOT going to bars and clubs will be so beneficial and I’ll probably like myself a whole lot more come Sunday evenings.

Believe it or not but I do still work while I’m here in Germany. My life has been centered around Oktoberfest a lot since it commenced but I’ve also been taking care of the girls. It’s just so uneventful that I haven’t felt compelled to write much about it. They’ve started school so our schedules been pretty consistent and easy, at least for me. I wake up everyday at about 6:30 am and help with breakfast and getting the girls out the door. Then I’m free until about 4 or 5, depending on the day, and usually I stay in. I’ve been so sore from all my recent injuries that I can’t be bothered to move around much so instead of going out for a bike ride or a walk in the English Gardens, I lay in bed on Facebook and watch Sex and the City and write stories about vampires. I know this is bad behavior which creates bad habits but I’ve always been a pretty lazy person. No excuses here. Ha. The girls are loving school though. Today Eenie multiplied by tens, it was awesome. The downside is that I hardly spend any time with them anymore seeing as the Frau does most of the work – takes them everywhere, picks them up, drops them off, etc, etc. This coming weekend I have them overnight so we’ll probably get some good girl bonding time.

This past weekend was a really nice escape from my responsibilities (not that I have very many) as two of my friends from England, Alison and Helena, were here visiting. I’d missed them way too much. I had so much fun seeing them again. It was like being on an extended day off at Camp Cayuga and we were instantly transported back to the memories of our summer  in Pennsylvania just by being in each other’s presence. The first thing Alison says to me when she gets off the airport shuttle: “I haven’t heard an American accent in so long.” Haha. We obviously care about the most important things. I am so blessed to be so close to them now and I hope that a reunion like this happens again and soon! I’ll see them both over New Years in England and I am stoked for this vacation. Let’s hope I can save money and do it right!

DSCN6318Me, Helena, and Alison – reunited and it feels so good!

Oh, one other thing that happened this weekend… I fell on my ass. It wouldn’t be a drunken weekend without me falling over, would it? Alison and I decided to go on a spinning swings ride at 9 pm after drinking entirely too much beer and it was pouring rain. With the combination of my drunken grace and the wet slicked everything, I fell down the stairs of the Star Flyer and hit my butt pretty hard. It hurt more for the first few minutes than it did at any other point. But I could barely sit down the following day. I was miserable. The discomfort has gone away now but I’m left with a pretty gnarly looking bruise that I’m afraid will never go away.

There was one other monumental occurrence this weekend. I traveled out of Germany for the first time since I got here! I went to Salzburg, Austria on Sunday with Alison, Helena, Helen, and Sara. We did it in kind of an unorganized, last minute kind of way but it was fun. That city is beautiful! And it made me want to watch The Sound of Music so I downloaded it and did just that!

DSCN6404 DSCN6401Mozart was born in Salzburg, you know.

DSCN6444Gorgeous statue in the city

DSCN6506   Cityscape


Right now, I am going to bed. For having slept all day, I am so ridiculously tired. All that I want to do is finish Sex and the City season 5 and then sleep deeply all night. Which is pretty easy to obtain these days. Oh, the life of a college educated au pair!

September 26, 2010

How To Waste Your College Degree

On May 22nd, 2010 I graduated from California State University Monterey Bay after five years of higher education with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, a minor in Child Development, and a cum laude honors distinction for a consistently stellar GPA. With this degree I can work in a preschool as a teacher or in a high position at a child development center. I could even go on to grad school and earn a teaching credential, a Master’s degree in Early Child Education or child development, and eventually teach the subject at high school or college level. All of these things I’ve considered as possible options for my near and not so distant future.


However, I chose the path less traveled and chose to go abroad. I’ll call it my gap year – between where education ends and real life begins. I’m postponing reality for a little bit and, instead, I’m living inside of a dream. Being an au pair is a wonderful thing. I’m decidedly overqualified for this position seeing as most au pairs are fresh out of high school, 18 or 19 years old, with little experience in child care but a strong desire for some good cultural renewal. I have ten years of experience and I’ve worked professionally as a child care provider for more than five years of those. Even though my learning emphasizes on education, it’s safe to say that I have a degree in child care. I am, simply put, an au pair extraordinaire.

My au pair position requires little responsibility. I tidy up, empty the dishwasher, make snacks and dinner, play card games and puzzles, sing songs, and go on bike rides. I’m free everday from 7:30 AM until about 4 or 5 PM. And the day ends around 7:30 PM. It’s a charmed life, to say the least. There is little exercise of my college education and even though I’m working with children all the time, there’s not a lot of developmental aid going into our time together.

I am truly wasting my college degree.

I’m not complaining. I love what I’m doing here. These kids love me and I’m giving them something meaningful, even if it’s not an education or a lesson in their proper development. And I’m experiencing something new, something I never would have been able to do if I’d gone right into the working world. I’m learning a new language and making new friends, building my character and my perseverance. I am, however, afraid that when I am ready to go out into the working world – I’m going to have forgotten everything that I need to know to be a professional, working adult in my field of choice. I could easily order some child development and education text books and keep my mind fresh but that’s expensive. Eventually, I’ll get around to this. But for now… this is what I’ve been doing as a graduated, college educated 20-something adult:

  • Blogging. This is the most obvious of my recent past times. I love doing it. It’s therapeutic in a way that only a blogger could understand. It’s less of a stigma than it used to be so I have no problems bragging about my interests and addictions to blogging. I love being able to share my experiences with friends and family members and anyone else who is interested in my crazy life. I bet that even when I do become a professional adult, I’ll probably blog about that too. Diary of an Ex-Au Pair: How My Year Abroad Prepared Me For My Life Ahead. Or something like that…

  • Pirating. It’s probably dangerous for me to say this on here because it’s most likely illegal but I’ve become quite the pirate since I arrived in Germany. It might have something to do with lack of English television exposure and a financial inability to access movies and music but I’ve taken to downloading whatever I want. I’m not selling it to anyone, my iPod is the only one who benefits besides myself. If I want to watch a movie, I just download it. New music, okay. Dexter Season 4? You got it! Harry Potter DVD marathon? Kein problem! My iPod is readily stocked, my computer slowly filling up with illegal contraband. This is how you use your college degree to the least of your ability. Let’s just hope I don’t end up in jail.


  • Reading. I’ve read so many books since I first got here that I can’t even keep track. This is a worthy past time, of course, since reading is one of the best things in the world. Especially when you happen across a really good book. I’ve read a few good ones – The Time Travelers Wife and Handle With Care being two of my favorites. Right now, I’m starting in again on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation for the seventh movie which releases in just a few months. I got the UK version of the novel from a used bookstore here in Munich and I love it.

  • Writing. Once upon a time, it was my secret dream to someday be a published novelist. I did try – numerous times – to make something of myself but I always fell short with lost and forgotten plotlines, dead ends, writers block, lack of time or interest, and Hanson fan fiction. You don’t get anywhere writing fan fiction. I don’t think I am meant to be published. It’s a fun hobby though. I haven’t done much of it since I arrived here but I think I’m going to try again and I’m going to start small, combining my love for fiction and blogging and write a ‘blovel.’ I have a few ideas. One that involves vampires. I know, so cliche, isn’t it? So, if I really succeed at wasting my degree in education, I can just become a writer and make millions of dollars and never use my education, anyway.

  • Movies. Another thing that I’ve been doing. I brought a few DVDs with me. And the Frau has a small collection. Plus, what I’ve downloaded and the few that I’ve seen in the theaters. I’m making my way through the second series of Everwood (kind of of on stand-still at the moment) and the Sex and the City series and I have to say that I am in love with the latter. I can’t believe I never watched it before. I probably wouldn’t have understood it or related to it. Now, every few episodes, I think, “Oh my God, I know!!” Haha. It’s so addicting, I’m absolutely in love with them. After S&theC, it’s on to Desperate Housewives. In the in-between I’ve watched Nanny Diaries, (500) Days of Summer, Jurassic Park, Shutter Island, The Time Travelers Wife, Jennifer’s Body, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. In the theaters I’ve seen Eclipse, The Karate Kid, and Inception. It’s a hard knock life, ain’t it?

  • Alcoholism. Okay, that’s a joke. But since half of my family thinks I’m headed down this road, I’m making a joke out of it. Everyone in Munich is an alcoholic. Social alcoholics, galore! Sure, this city is pretty amazing and there is a lot to do but it’s so much more fun when you’re enjoying delicious German brew. I can’t make you believe me about how good it is until you’ve tried it so until you do, take my word for it. The bier here is worth becoming an alcoholic, trust me. Ha. That’s a joke too, but seriously. If there were a college degree for beer drinking, I’d be suma cum laude for sure!


  • Music. I don’t consider this a waste of my anything because music is kind of like my life blood. Without it, life would be so much less worth living. It all started with Hanson and the Spice Girls back when I was buck-toothed and all gangly and awkward. They sparked an interest and then it grew into something wild. Now, all I ever do when I’m out on my bike or traveling by UBahn is put on some tunes and rock out. Lately it’s been a lot of Angus & Julia Stone, Ray LaMontagne, David Gray, Jack Johnson, and Maroon 5. But it’s always something new, something different. I can’t even listen to it all, there’s not enough time in the day. But this is definitely a worthy way to spend my “gap year.”

  • Sleeping. I definitely did not get enough of this in college so why not catch up on it now – when I’m free most of the day and before I have to join the working world of 6 am mornings and 9-5 days. Okay, I’m already waking up at 6 am now that die kinder are in school but at 7:30, 8 o’clock I usually just go back to bed – sometimes until 2. I’m not going to get to do that when I start using my degree. So, I’ll take advantage of it now.

And last but certainly not least…

  • Facebook. It’s taking over the world. Why shouldn’t I let it take over my hard earned education too? Seriously, ask any one of my friends here in Germany and they’ll tell you that I’m on Facebook all the time. My life is just that. Facebook. Or so it seems. I’m not really doing anything substantial either. Just stalking people, pretty much. Uploading pictures, posting links, you know… the usual stupid boring Facebook stuff. It’s amazing how much time that usual stupid boring stuff consumes. And because it is all consuming, in the near future, I will be combining an aforementioned past time (movies) with this past time (Facebook) and will go see this movie:

And that, my dear readers, is how you successfully waste your college degree.

September 23, 2010

Oktoberfest, Wiesen, Ass-Kicking Bier Festival… Whatever You Want to Call It

Munich is alive and well with Oktoberfest celebration and I am feeling incredibly blessed to be here for such a momentous occasion. I know that I’ve blogged about it already (kind of…) but there is so much more to say. And it hasn’t even been on for a week! I could try to explain it to you but I think it’s impossible to get it just right. It’s something you have to see to believe. The midway part of Oktoberfest is fairly predictable – amusement rides, games, food stands, and souvenirs (I bought a keychain for 6 EUR!). Of course, it’s bigger than any fair or carnival I’ve ever been to. The walkways are packed with people – thousands of people. There are horse carriages pulling giant beer kegs and horse poo all over the ground. And located between all of this are the beer tents. This is what makes Oktoberfest so incredible.

Imagine yourself in a massive beer hall packed to the four walls with people. Hundreds of tables, each one full of up to ten or twelve beer drinkers, the surfaces covered in massive 1 liter beer steins. There’s a band stand in the middle and when they’re putting on their show, it’s likely that everyone is standing on their benches, prosting to each other, spilling beer all over their friends, singing along, reveling in the excitement of a festival of beer and good spirits.



Oktoberfest officially celebrates the anniversary of the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810 (thanks, Wikipedia, for giving me the right spelling of that one!). And a massive horse race that they organized there. The field where O-Fest is located (and where all this history happened) is called Theresienwiese, and O-Fest is affectionately nicknamed, Wiesen. “You’re going to Wiesen today? Oh, me too!” There’s also a massive celebratory parade that trails through the city – one on the first Saturday and another on Sunday. Jessica, Ana, and Susie and I went to the one on Sunday and definitely enjoyed the long procession of marching bands, horse drawn carriages, and costumed Germans.

(Oh yeah! My California friend, Susie, was in Germany visiting her ma in Garmisch so she came to Munich to celebrate Wiesen with me on Sunday! It was so much fun having her here!)



Sunday was my first official experience with the beer tents. On Saturday, Jessica and I had explored the grounds but hadn’t really interacted with the festival. But on Sunday, we got started around noon and were drunk off one Maß by one o’clock. I already posted about how the day turned out – it was messy but fun. I was drunk for 10 hours straight and must have had at least four Maß. That’s a lot of beer. I’m amazed that I was able to get home without any problems! My college friend, Kate, from California, was passing through Munich that night with her friend Kari so I was able to see her. That was surreal but it was so much fun – even if I did wander away in drunken confusion and never saw her again. Haha.

DSCN6089Happy Wiesen!

I went back to O-Fest on Tuesday with my au pair family. The four of us – me, the Frau, and die kinder – all had our dirndls on and we met up with the Frau’s friend who has two boys and their nanny, Jill. The six of us just wandered around for most of the day – going on a few rides and once, almost losing a child. At around six, the Frau let me go off with my friends and I met them at the Löwenbräu tent where I got into celebrating right away. I only had one Maß this time but it was enough to have a good time. Fio broke her Maß when she prosted – it was kind of funny, even if a shower of beer rained down on top of Clare’s head. But no glass in anyone’s face or serious injuries! We met some crazy Australians who entertained us for the evening.

The best part of the night was when the beer tents closed and Jessica and I took our new Australian friends down into the midway for some rides. This is a bad combination with drunk people who are uncoordinated and slightly confused. We went into a fun house and met our demise in the spinning barrel. Drunk people CAN NOT walk through these things and instead, they take one step in, fall over and tumble around blindly, elbowing, kneeing, and knocking into anyone who is nearby. Twice (no, I didn’t learn my lesson the first time) I tumbled through these things sustaining minor injuries. I walked away with a large knot sprouting from my right knee and with deep, purple bruises all over my body. As painful an adventure as it was, it was just that – an adventure. Even if Jess and I gave the tourists a pretty interesting show as we tumbled together like mentally retarded hamsters in a wheel, we had a blast. And walked away looking as if we’d been beat up.  Today, two days later, I can hardly move without wincing. The stairs are my mortal enemy and I’d prefer to just stay in bed and not ever have to get up. My entire body aches in every place imaginable and I discover new bruises every few hours. It will pass – it always does – but I’m actually kind of amused by the whole event. Oktoberfest definitely kicked my ass.

My friends from England are coming to visit TOMORROW for the entire weekend and I am so excited to see them. Helena and Alison worked with me at Camp Cayuga – Alison in 2007 and Helena in 2007 and 2008 – and I haven’t seen either of them in two years. We’re going to have a Wiesen filled weekend and even after my crazy adventures, I’m not ready to stop quite yet! There’s still eleven more days of this festival! Bring it on, Oktoberfest! You have yet to defeat me.

September 21, 2010

Oktoberfest: Part I

Oktoberfest has left me with this….

  • Blank spots in my memories of what happened on Sunday evening.
  • The ability to say that I’ve officially been drunk for ten hours… straight.
  • A dirndl that smells like cigarettes and men.
  • Lost keys and a 12 AM wake up call for the Frau.
  • A bike that is stuck - locked at the UBahn station down the street.
  • The almost sobering realization that my $400 camera is no longer in my bag.
  • The washing relief feeling of finding out that my camera is actually with Eric.
  • Two pairs of sunglasses. Where did this other one come from?
  • Oh yeah. Swapping sunglasses for a camera.
  • A felt hat with a lion on top and a sexy tail. And it’s missing Velcro beer stein.
  • Ridiculous videos on my camera that are mostly just yelling and swearing.
  • The blessed chance to see my beautiful, California girl friend, Kate.
  • A hangover that had me sleeping in the shower and kept me in bed until 4 PM.
  • Best friend bonding over bier and Bavarian music.

Let’s do it again! I’m going back today – once with the family and then in the evening with my friends. And then this weekend Alison and Helena will be coming to Munich from England and we’ll spend the WHOLE weekend at the fest. Party on, dudes!


September 18, 2010

This One’s For You, Ma

I wanted to post this one for my mom because I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately and missing her and I know she’s been feeling sad missing me, too. She reads this and so I know it’s a surefire way to get her straight in the heart. This missing her thing, it’s not a debilitating, aching feeling but it makes me feel lonely in the way that only missing your mom can do. I’ve been really grateful that I haven’t been very homesick since I got here. As much as I want to miss my mom a lot, and everyone and everything back home, it’s not healthy for my experience here and I’m glad that it hasn’t consumed me. Not to say that I don’t miss those things but I just don’t let it take over my days. But it’s really hard not to miss home when your mom says stuff like this to you on Facebook chat:

“You are the best thing in a lot of lives, Heather. I'm so proud of you.”

Leave it to Ma to make me feel like I’m the single most important person in the whole world. My decision to come to Germany has been one of the best that I’ve ever made. I’m so happy here – happier than I’ve ever been before. I love my life, my friends, the city – everything. But knowing that my mama is proud of me and that she misses me, that is better than all of those things. I love you, too, Ma! And I miss you! Especially our mother-daughter dates and you playing with my hair until I fall asleep. Believe it or not, but I even miss the way that we frustrate each other. It reminds me that we’re imperfect and human but that we’re still strong enough, together and separate, to love each other despite our imperfections and because of our differences. You’re the most beautiful and loving mother I could have ever asked for and no matter how you much you doubt yourself as so and even if you think you’ve failed a time or two at being the best mother to Tim and I, I assure you that nothing you have said or done - past, present or future - will ever make me love you any less than I already do. You’re the best mom in the whole world because you’re my mom!

003  It’s a motha-daughta thing!

And it’s not just my mom. I miss you all, I promise. I think about you all the time. I’ll come back to you someday. Whenever I can afford to buy a plane ticket back, anyway. Ha.

P.S. Look what my mom got in the mail and scanned for me!

viewerMama ain’t raised no fool!

September 15, 2010

Blessed Shout Out, More Oktoberfest Excitement, and the History and Wear of the Bavarian Dirndl

I really appreciate all of the comments that I have been getting about my blog recently. Everyone keeps telling me how well I write and how much they love reading my posts. It’s really made me feel good! I appreciate your support and interest and I hope you’ll keep reading, even when I don’t have anything that exciting to write about. I figure that as long as I’m still here in Munich, living this crazy life, I’m going to have something to say so I hope you’ll stick with me through it all! Plus, Fio’s suggested that I write for my friend Laura’s new up and coming newspaper here in Munich. That would be cool! I’ll let you know what Laura thinks once she reads this. Ha.

Coming up soon… OKTOBERFEST!!!! I have a million and a half people to meet up with who are visiting or who live here already and I’m so excited to enjoy this massive bier fest with good company. And also… in style.

I am now the proud owner of an authentic, traditional Bavarian dirndl!


  Me and some random handsome fellow in his lederhosen

Basically, I’m doing this thing now where I look up the history of all these fun things I’m taking part in so you can understand why it’s so cool. Like the dirndl. It’s a Bavarian/Austrian dress that goes side by side with the lederhosen – which is much more popular and recognizable (e.g. yodeling). (Fun fact: Lederhosen were really popular among men in Bavarian and Austria but, ironically, a Bavarian named Levi Strauss came up with this crazy denim “jeans” idea and emigrated to California during the gold rush, taking his idea with him. Thus the birth of jeans!) Dirndls were originally worn by working women in the 18th century and were called dirndlgewand (maid’s dress) but the term is now shortened to just dirndl. Eventually, it was adopted as fashionable by the rich people in Austria and Germany after a Kaiser made it cool to wear. Now, the dirndl (and the lederhosen) are worn mostly for festivals (especially Oktoberfest) and in biergartens but it’s not uncommon to see them on many different people throughout Bavaria on random, unimportant nights. A lot of waitresses at Bavarian restaurants wear them too. Dirndl’s display national pride and can be worn in all kinds of colors and fashions complete with a dress, blouse, apron, and sometimes, a petty coat underneath. They’re actually designed to flatter the female figure with a tight bodice and low-cut front and they make any woman’s boobs look amazing. Of course, dirndls have gotten shorter, sexier, and flirtier (apparently that’s a word) and that’s okay because they work.

Fio and I went out in our dirndls last Saturday night and we had the best night ever. Both of us couldn’t stop laughing all night. Everyone stares at you but you know it’s for a good reason and people were actually taking pictures of us. We felt like celebrities or something. It was awesome. Plus, we got hit on significantly more than we ever do wearing normal clothes so that was, in and of itself, awesome. Except when a table of fat, balding middle aged men from the northwestern States were hitting on us at Sausalitos and wouldn’t go away. Maybe that had something to do with Fio feeding into it because, “they own oil companies!” Ha. Eventually we just befriended guys in lederhosen and went home, feeling successful as newbie Bavarians.

This week my girlfriends and I (and Eric in his lederhosen) fully intend to break out into the city in our dirndls. Kind of like a test run for Oktoberfest. And then the madness begins this weekend. Seven million extra people in Munich? Millions of liters of bier? Insanity? I think so! Pictures will be posted.

September 14, 2010

Back to School – The German Way

As of today, Tuesday September 14th, the girls have officially started school. We call it grundschule around here – which basically means that it’s primary or, also, elementary school. Before this they were going to kindergarten which has a different purpose than it does in the United States. Kindergarten for us means that it’s the first official year of school and it’s a mandatory part of our education. It’s after preschool but before elementary school. It’s kind of like a buffer – getting kids ready for reading and writing. A pregame to the big party. Woo!

Here in Germany it’s a bit different. Kids go to kindergarten (kind of like an extended preschool) from the age of 18 months until the summer of or before they turn six. And it’s optional. Parents don’t have to put their kids in a kindergarten. Most of them do but regardless, it’s not obligatory. After kindergarten, German kinder go to grundschule where they mingle with the big kids and where some serious learning starts. The twins had been going to their kindergarten since they were very young so I was able to witness their separation earlier this summer from such a beloved place. There were a lot of gifts exchanged, picture books given, parties planned and enjoyed. Fortunately, the twins are now attending grundschule with many of their friends from their kindergarten so there will be some friendly faces at their new school.

The coolest part about sending a six year old off to grundschule is the German tradition of the schultueten. It’s a tradition that celebrates the child’s ‘graduation’ from kindergarten to formal schooling. Each six year old carries with them to their first day of school this massive cone filled with presents, school supplies, candies, and other fun stuff. The children create and decorate them when they’re still in kindergarten and it’s a chance for their kindergarten teachers to kind of send them off with pride and adoration as they help a great deal in the creation of the schultueten.

DSCN5749Ready with their backpacks and their cones.

It’s a big deal to start school around here, not unlike in the States. Back home, however, kindergarten is just approached with excitement (and/or caution) by teary-eyed parents and terrified yet eager five year olds. Of course, the similiarites abound but since I can’t remember my first day of kindergarten being celebrated lavishly, I think it’s safe to say that grundschule  is kind of a big deal and I can live vicariously through my au pair charges.

Take this household, for example. The Frau has been preparing for this day since long before I even arrived. She was telling me about it on the phone in November, just before she officially offered me the job. Mostly so that she could make sure I would be willing to wake up before seven every day but hey, she was planning ahead and working her au pair around the girls’ school schedule. Smart! She’s been back and forth to IKEA buying (or thinking about buying) school desks and chairs and other stores for various school supplies and utilities. She’s asked me at least four times over the course of the summer if I think that the girls will have a lot of homework. The extent of their homework will be coloring learning pages and writing their letters. Hopefully I’ve assuaged her worries with my extensive knowledge on primary school homework loads. Ha. She also bought them fancy school bags. And about two months ago she made reservations at Seehaus for lunch on their first day of school. When she told me about all of this – I was kind of confused, “Why is she making such a big deal? It’s just school. I didn’t get to go to lunch on my first day.”  Now that the day has passed and the excitement is over, I get it.

The girls had their first day of real school! That’s exciting. It’s all new to them – it’s the beginning of their formal education. We celebrated with a delicious and extremely fancy lunch at Seehaus. I had pork medallions with roasted mushrooms, carrots, squash, broccoli, and spaghettini. It came in at 21,50 EUR. Mr. Frau ordered a beef fillet that cost almost 30 EUR. A six year old alone had a 22 EUR wiener schnitzel. This place is ritzy. I sneaked a peek at the final bill – nearly 300 EUR for the nine of us (plus two sets of Oma’s and Opa’s). Fancy pants! And delicious! I am really living the life. I bet my parents took me to Dairy Queen after school. $2 for a hot fudge sundae and a pat on the back. “Good job, Heather. You passed preschool!”

I’m so happy for and proud of die kinder. They had such a fun day and got a lot of fun stuff. They now have the weirdest most unattractive European Ken dolls I’ve ever seen and more candy than they need to consume before bedtime tonight or any night thereafter. After lunch, the four of us (me and the Frau and the twins) took a paddle boat out on the see (AKA lake) and Eenie and Vee spent 80% of the time fighting and crying over who was peddling first or faster or too slow. You know, the usual fun. (Also, note to self: those paddle boats are a good date idea should I ever find a handsome German boy to take me out. Heh.) Their special day is over and I have experienced yet another milestone with the girls and now we move on until the next exciting thing. From now on I’ll be waking up 6:30 everyday and showing them out the door at quarter to eight. Then it’s back to bed for me.

I love back to school season. :)

DSCN5768Me and my girlies and the cracked out Ken doll

September 13, 2010

Tierpark Hellabrunn (Otherwise Known As “the Munich Zoo”)

Last Monday I took die kinder to the Munich zoo and we had fun. This zoo is incredible. Eric blogged about it way back when – before we were BFFs – and ever since I heard about his zoo adventure, I really wanted to go. I’d been suggesting it as a good activity for the three of us but it just never worked out. Finally on one lazy but beautiful blue sky Monday (after I’d rolled in the door at 4 am, bless my party loving heart, and was running on 3.5 hours of sleep), I was able to sell the zoo plans to the Frau. I knew I couldn’t stay in the house with the girls all day. I needed to get out and be doing something to keep from crashing. So, the three of us headed out with money the Frau gave us and we took the UBahn to the tierpark and walked across the massive bridge over the Isar with the other thousand people who were on their way to the zoo.

It was only 14 EUR for 1 adult and up to 8 kids so for the three of us, we got in at a pretty good price! We got a map and started off towards the left, at the suggestion of the Frau. The zoo is divided into 15 sections – mostly just by continent. They have the animals from Europe, America, Asia, and Afrika and then they have other things like “Orangutan Paradise” (seriously, this zoo has about 80 different kinds of monkeys – exaggeration but there’s a lot!), and the aquarium. They have this crazy exhibit where you go into the bat cave and the bats just fly around you. It’s so creepy! I love that there were so many monkeys though because I love monkeys.

We visited everything, all of it – and spent about six hours there. Eleven am until five. We had lunch at the biergarten and the girls played in the massive, super awesome playground that they have there. I absolutely adored this zoo and I can’t wait to go back!

DSCN5464My little monkey girls

DSCN5482Baby gorilla – so adorable!

DSCN5492Gorillas – Incredibly amazing animals.
The mama monkey is just looking right at me.

DSCN5508Orangutan whose only joy in life was to play in this blanket.

DSCN5509Sleepy baby monkey.

DSCN5516This is how I felt that day, too. Haha. He was sleeping like this. I love it.

DSCN5515I like to move it, move it!

DSCN5526Lion – the other one was sleeping.

DSCN5535Baby baboon.

DSCN5537Love monkeys.


DSCN5548The polar bears were my favorite part. So damn cute.


DSCN5559The most beautiful cat in all of existence. I wish I could have a tiger as a pet.

DSCN5575Brown bear from America. I just love the way he’s sitting. Haha. 

     DSCN5573The totally sweet playground and biergarten where we ended our trip.

September 12, 2010

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Last weekend I visited the Dachau concentration camp memorial. I promised that I would blog about this trip and now I’m finally delivering. Between my busy social life, hanging out with die kinder, and catching up on Dexter season 4 (I love streaming internet video!), I haven’t really been thinking much about blogging. But finally I’m getting around to it.

My trip to Dachau deserves it’s own post (and the zoo, as well, but I’ll do that later) – it’s an incredible historical location.  It was the first official concentration camp built in Germany during World War II and was originally meant for political prisoners. After the Nuremburg Laws and Heinrich Himmler and measures of war, Dachau contained much more than just political prisoners. No one is a stranger to the purpose of a concentration camp. To be honest, all that I knew about Germany before I arrived here had to do with Hitler and World War II, mainly the Holocaust. Seeing Dachau was very surreal. You don’t realize how powerful history can be until you’re staring it in the face.

The memorial site is about 30 or so minutes outside of Munich and you can get there just by taking the S-Bahn. Eric, Catherine, Harry, and I journeyed out to Dachau around 2:30 or so and then had two hours to explore the memorial before it closed at 5. The first thing that you notice is how somber and melancholy every thing and everyone is. Nobody is smiling, no one is really talking. We had a quick lunch at the cafe in the visitor’s center and then journeyed out to the actual site.

DSCN5276 DSCN5283 DSCN5284

Visitors to Dachau have the choice of touring it alone or with an audio guide but we decided to go at it alone. We had Eric there who knows his stuff so he told us a lot about everything that we were seeing, plus every area includes signs written in German and English. I wish that I’d paid more attention or learned more about the history of each area. I think I just wanted to see it all in the short time that we were going to be there so I was rushing through most of it. Eventually I’ll go back for a proper tour but for now all I have is my own interpretation of and reaction to what I saw. And a lot of pictures.

DSCN5286The prisoner’s personal accounts of their time in Dachau were heartbreaking to read.

DSCN5288View of the barracks foundations

At the back of the memorial site, behind and to the left of the barracks, you come to the incinerator building where the soldiers would burn the bodies of prisoners who had died. Also in this building was the gas chamber – where they could murder up to 150 people at one time. This building was horrific – I remember walking into this plain, unadorned, empty room and not really knowing what it was for until I looked up at a sign and read that it was the room where they would keep piles and piles of corpses. I couldn’t stand in that room anymore and I had to step away – it was overwhelming. Even being there it’s hard to imagine what happened in this building but being that much closer to it was so surreal. I can’t believe such horrible things happened to these people.

DSCN5299  The ovens where dead bodies were burned.

DSCN5302The gas chamber where the prisoners were told they would be taking ‘showers.’
This was, by far, the most disturbing and heartbreaking room in the entire site.

DSCN5306 DSCN5307
After we visited this building we went to the museum – which is located in the maintenance building that the prisoners built as a part of their labor work in the camp. The museum is incredible and has accounts of everything from the back history of Germany and the Nazi party during World War I up until the end, when the American soldiers liberated the prisoners at Dachau and killed some fifty SS soldiers in the Dachau Massacre. The museum itself is very, very cool. Again, I didn’t retain much of what I was looking at it but I enjoyed browsing through all of the old artifacts and information.

DSCN5318Old film propaganda

DSCN5320Neus Rathaus during the 30’s with a Nazi flag displayed

DSCN5321Memorial to the prisoners who committed suicide by throwing themselves
onto the electric fence that surrounded the camp

Overall, I thought Dachau was amazing. It’s incredible to be able to see this history up close and personal and I am so blessed to be able to visit places like this, to really understand and feel how history unfolded. I really want to go to Dachau again and get a proper tour. I want to really understand the full history of this place. Learning about World War II and Hitler’s reign in Germany was one of the most interesting parts about my history classes when I was in school and I look forward to being able to learn about it from the source – the country where most of it took place. 

September 10, 2010

The Simple Things

Today I asked a six year old this question:

If you were a princess and you had a thousand servants to make you any food in the whole wide world, what would you want them to make for you?

And she answered: “Macaroni and pancakes.”

There are two things that I love about this answer. One, I’ve converted her to being a Mac & Cheese lover (is it really that hard?) and two, that is the most awesome combination ever.

September 8, 2010

500 Photo Weekend, Leaving Things, and Oktoberfest Beginnings

It freaks me out how fast time goes by here. One day it’s a Tuesday and I’m meeting Eric at the Ubahn so we can go to Shamrocks and sing Beatles karaoke with Chris. Then, all of a sudden, it’s Tuesday again and I’m on stage at Shams singing I Will Survive with Fio. Wednesday is laundry day but I feel like I’m always doing laundry because it comes around so often. Someday, when I’m getting ready to leave this place, I’m going to write that I can’t believe how fast the entire year has gone by and these menial weeks will seem like nothing compared to that.

Unfortunately, this weekend was somewhat bittersweet, as, Harry, one of our close friends here, was leaving Munich and going back to England for school. I suppose for him it was more bittersweet than for us because he was looking forward to going home again but was reluctant to say goodbye to his life in Munich, too. I know this because we asked him this question at least five times. And I can definitely identify with that sentiment. Sometimes I miss home -  A LOT – and although I’d love to go back,  I would probably cry if I had to leave Munich. And that’s how I feel three months into this adventure – imagine how much harder it will be next summer when goodbyes are actually on the horizon. I am willing myself not to think about this. Unfortunately, the alternative is not much better because, still, dear friends are leaving Munich, one by one. Do I have any choice but to be sad about this? Within our little social circle here in Munich we’ve become very close and so all of these summer internship situations really suck because a lot of our good friends have either left already or will be gone by the end of the month and any absence in our group is definitely felt throughout. There are quite a few of us that are going to be here through until next summer but that does mean we won’t miss the others everyday.

Anyway… back to this weekend. We sent Harry off in style. We had a wild dinner party on Friday night – complete with the weirdest combination of food (pizza, at least 5 lbs of spaghetti, french fries, hashbrowns, and tofu) 20 bottles of Spaten, at least 10 bottles of wine, Kings Cup or “Ring of Fire” as some of us have affectionately renamed the drinking game, naked Greek playing cards, a dance party, and drunken conversation about the individual values and morals of sex. We definitely know how to party, don’t we? Haha. On Saturday we had a bit of a melancholy day but can you blame us? Harry, Eric, Catherine, and I went to the Dachau concentration camp memorial in the afternoon and in the evening, Laura, Fio, and I stayed in and made dinner and watched the Beatles movie, Help!, with German subtitles. On Sunday, we had a BBQ on the banks of the Isar river and grilled chicken and sausages, tomatoes, and sweet corn. We shared our BBQ space with a leathery, sunbathing, panties-clad old German-French man and his beggar of a Labrador. AFter the BBQ we went to Jaeger’s Hostel for one last Maß drinking adventure with Harry. We ended up playing “Ring of Fire” – twice? – and then decided that we wanted to go to Killian’s Irish pub for karaoke since Harry had never been with us to Shamrocks. We definitely had an incredible evening of drunken fun – complete with a strange new friend who made dinosaur impressions all night and kept yelling, “Jesus Christo!” in Spanish. On Monday night we had dinner at Harry’s apartment, one last get together, and just sat around talking and listening to music. (Sideshow Steve? Seasick Steve? We will miss your random music selection, Harry.) And then we said our final goodbyes and went on our way. You will be missed, Harry. Until next time!

DSCN5417Me, Harry, Eric, Jessica, and Clare


This is completely unrelated to my social life but on Monday morning I took the girls to the Munich zoo, also known as the Tierpark Hellabrunn. It was a beautiful, sunshiney fall day in Munich and the three of us had so much fun. We were there from about 11 until 4 and we saw everything. This zoo has about 8,000 different monkeys, polar bears, bats, tigers, lions, elephants, brown bears, giraffes, rhinos, penguins, snakes, you name it. I’ll put up a separate post about it later but all I have to say is that the Munich zoo is badass. I am definitely going again soon.

(And between all of the parties and trips and nights out and the zoo – I took almost 500 pictures! That’s a record, even for me!)

You know what else is badass? Oktoberfest starts in 10 days! The Frau has given me 120 EUR to spend on a dirndl as an early birthday present and I am so stoked to have my official, authentic Bavarian beer drinking dress! Lauren and I tried some on the other day and I’ve picked out the perfect dress – we’re going back to buy it tomorrow! Pictures will be posted, I promise. I swear to God, I’m going to wear this dress every Halloween for the rest of my life.  It’s that awesome. Plus, my friends and I are going to regularly have dirndl and lederhosen weekend nights so that will kick ass. And not only am I excited for the madness of 5 million extra people in Munich, 16 days worth of bier drinking and sexy drinking dresses but so many people are coming to celebrate with me!

A dear and near friend of mine, Susie, from Monterey is visiting her mom, Kathe, in Garmisch from the 11th to the 20th, I think, and so I’m really excited to see her and fest together! Kate, one of my best girlfriends from college, is passing through Munich during her European vacation with her best friend, Kari. They’ll be here on Sunday the 19th just for the night and we will rock that Sunday night so hard! From the 24th until the 28th my friend Alison, who is from England, will be here in Munich and that will be our super Oktoberfest weekend. Nothing will be off limits. I’ve tried convincing my friend Graeme, who lives in Scotland, to come visit for the festivities as well so hopefully that works out. He is, hands down, the most amusing drunk person you will ever meet. I haven’t seen Alison or Graeme since August 2008 so it will be nice to see them again. And hopefully, Helena will be here too! Get your plane ticket, girl! Also, Jordan, a friend of mine from Monterey who I worked with at My Museum will be here for the same weekend, visiting Oktoberfest from Milan, Italy where she is studying abroad. It’s going to be one hell of a party!

Now I’m back to having no money (except what I’ve budgeted for bills and will probably have to break into – budgeting FAIL) and am spending the day at home – the girls have had a play date since 10 am, two sisters Lena and Fannie, and I’ve pretty much been rendered useless in this situation. I did a lot of productive things though. I finally put my last name onto the mailbox so my mail will stop being turned away. The Frau and I made lunch for the six of us – white rice, lemon butter sauce, and fish – and then I vacuumed the kitchen. Now I will do laundry. The twins are going to the same girls house for a sleepover tonight so I’m done with the kids at 4. The Frau is having a Sex and the City dinner party (we love that show around here, okay?!) with her girlfriends so I imagine that I’ll be helping with that. I fully intend to stay in tonight and catch up on important things like postcard writing, sleeping, blogging, reading, and calling people in California.

I absolutely love my life. Have I said that much lately? I really do!