Category Archives: Travels

What a crazy winter it’s been!

RIP Winter 2011/2012 – We hardly knew you.

My first winter back in Boston full time, and nothing has happened! I am disappointed, but on the plus side, I had no problems commuting. Whenever it snows, the T gets even less dependable. Also I didn’t have to shovel much at all!

The downside to this crazy season formally known as winter is that I haven’t gone skiing nearly as often I could. Granted not having a car or a license did limit me, and by next winter I hope to at least be able to drive so I could borrow a car. But there is s commuter rail stop within a shuttle ride’s distance to one Massachusetts mountain, and the MBTA did run trains in the morning and evening with ski cars.

I did go up to Sunday River for my yearly pilgrimage over New Year’s Weekend. The winter up there had been so slow going, that over half the trails were closed. Yet because it was a holiday weekend the resort was charging $80 bucks a pop. At least the views were worth it.

So now with March already halfway done, I am heading back up to Sunday River for one last (and my second) trip. The days up there, according to the mountain, alternate between spring skiing days with potential for goggle tans and warmish winter, depending on the cloud cover. During the season they managed to get 100 days of snowmaking in, but for the past week or two have held off on the guns, waiting for Mother Nature to cool down. (I don’t think that’ll happen though)  The snow has been soft, which is great. I just hope there’s some left when I get up there tomorrow!

Tonight I’ll be dreaming of corduroy snow.

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Before I turn 26: Bucket List!

I’ve had several goals floating around my head of what I wanted to accomplish/experience by the time I turn 25. I should probably get them down in writing. I’m giving myself a deadline of my 26th birthday which will be November 7th, 2014 (at 7:35 a.m. to be precise) Originally the goal was 25, but considering I’m already 23 and just starting out on my career, I figure an extra year wouldn’t hurt. So either before or on my 26th birthday, I want to…

  • Get back to Germany. Spending five months in Munich nearly two years (already!) ago isn’t enough. I need to go back and really work on the language. Luckily I have family in Frankfurt so I could crash with them for maybe a couple of weeks. But wouldn’t it be nice to stay there longer than a month? I wonder if it’s possible to take a class in German and be able to get another visa like JYM set up for me before. The Germans have a whole program set up for foreign students called DAAD.  The question remains if I can still be counted as a student since Hofstra sent me my degree and whether I would want to dive into being a full time student so soon.
  • Visit Las Vegas during the Star Trek convention. The allure of “sin city” isn’t quite enough to entice me. (Watching 21! is enough of a fix for me) However I am a huge Trekkie, and the convention that comes to the city every August is the biggest (and most expensive) one. Tons of Star Trek stars make the trek out. I have several twitter friends who live on the West Coast and make a yearly pilgrimage to the con. So far I have only lived voraciously through their tweets and con reports/pictures. This August is a huge TNG event as the show is turning 25 in 2012. I think it would be great to see the stars of the show that whenever it came on, I literally danced in front of the TV. (I was born in 88, the show came on air in 87, meaning it was the 6th and the 7th seasons that I remember watching before bed)
  • Get published! I was lucky to get my short story in Font before I graduated. But Font is just on Hofstra’s campus. And unless you were an English major, or your friend was in it, odds are you didn’t pick up a copy. I had set that goal of getting into Font before I left and managed to achieve with a piece I wrote while I was in Germany. I’d like to do something like that again, but find a lit magazine that’s a step up from a college one. If I manage to pull it off, I’ll consider it progress.
  • Finish a novel. I seem to have stalled in my writing on The Luther Paradox. I either need to finish the story or edit and trim down the 50,000 words I have now. I had a lovely conversation with a stranger at Grendels on Saturday (I was on a bar crawl with a friend) who loved the idea that I pitched him, but helped me realize that my approach for my protagonist wasn’t the best way to keep readers engaged in the second part of my novel. I need to make him willing to risk his life to get back home. Right now he doesn’t have anything or anyone waiting for him, so why should he rush home, other than he’s leading the life of someone else? When I started writing this character I pictured him as a time traveling mercenary – available for the highest bidder so to speak. But as I worked through the beginnings of my novel, it turned out he freelanced on the side as he worked for the time travel agency. He’s still plenty jaded and doesn’t have much to tie him down other than his job and his “relationships” (if you could even call them that) with his boss and the tech guy at work. He doesn’t have anyone waiting for him when he finally gets back to his one bedroom apartment for the night. He eats or orders out nearly all the time because he hates cooking for one.
  • Get an apartment. My parents graciously let me back into the house after I graduated. Growing up the joke was “We don’t care what you do as long as you’re out of the house by you’re 25.” Well I wasn’t able to afford an apartment right after school. And the first priority on the financial stability list was student loans. So what’s next on that list? Cellphone, and then apartment rent. I’d love to stay in the Boston area, meaning I’ll have to find people to rent with, because this area is expensive.
  • Get a car/licence. While probably less expensive than paying rent/bills this is a bit harder I think. I did get my learners permit before I turned 23 (barely made that deadline) but have yet to start learning to drive because instead I started working/earning money. I think in the long run that was a better decision because I needed money to pay for said lessons. People are surprised when they find out that I have neither a  car nor a licence at 23. But growing up in the city, right on the T, I didn’t really need one.

There are two honorable mentions for this list. I’m not quite sure either are the direction I want to go but they have a chance of happening within the next couple of years or so.

The first is to get a job in New York City. As a budding writer, I am lucky to live in Boston, where there are plenty of writing/publishing/editing opportunities. But New York City is obviously like Boston on steroids. Plus with the last semester of work I did at RecordSetter, I do have some professional contacts in the city, compared to almost zilch here in Boston. (Obviously I am starting to connect/network through my new job but there was a 7 month drought of professional contacts until I started working). And the four years of going to school at Hofstra are to my advantage because I already know I’d be able to live in New York. It’d just be even more expensive than Boston.

The second is some sort of grad school. I thought up until my junior year that I had it all figured out perfectly. I’d get my Master in Fine Arts in writing, preferably at Emerson so I could live at home. But then the real world invaded (it has a nasty habit of finding you in your ivory tower doesn’t it?) and I realized I still wouldn’t have a practical degree. (Not all Master’s degrees are created equal!) Sure I could teach, and if my writing improved I would probably make some industry contacts through professors and be closer to actually publishing. But as my cousin who does have two books published pointed out – you don’t need  to go to school write a novel. You need to have some basic skills, that I hopefully picked up in workshop classes at Hofstra, and then you need to live your life. The alternative is an education degree in Egnlish, or some sort of Divinity school. I’ve held off on any grad school decision since a) I’m so broke, and b) I clearly can’t decide which path of further education to pursue.

So on my bucket list there are some practical items, as well as some fantastical items. A pretty good mix. The question remain as to whether I can accomplish everything by the arbitrary deadline of 26. I already know I should not beat myself up if I fail to check everything of that list. But it’s nice to know I have a general outline, and had a little fun in thinking of ways to spice it up.

If you have read this far, congratulations and thanks for putting up with me. Maybe you have a bucket list of your own? Tell me about it in the comments!

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U-Bahn

When you look at this map, it looks daunting right? When we first came to Munich, several of my friends confessed to feeling intimidated by the subway system. I was not, as I was already accustomed to using subways back in Boston, and to a lesser extent, New York and DC.

However I don’t blame them. This map shows both the Subway (The U-Bahn) and the S-Bahn. It’s hard to find an exact translation/equivalent to the S-Bahn but the closest would be the Commuter Rail in Boston, or the Long Island Rail Road, if both systems went through the city and proceed to go out the other side. That’s what long thick strip in the middle of the map is – nearly all the S-Bahn lines.

Getting around is relatively easy, especially with a monthly pass. I had an id for the system that let me get reduced price on the passes. And I used the system nearly every day as the dorms were on one line and JYM’s office were on another. My commute took about 40 minutes, give or take, which is what I had during High School. But I’m not sure if I covered the same amount of ground in Munich as I did in Boston.  From Studentenstadt, where all the students live, I had to go down to Seldinger Tor and Transfer to the U2 and take it just two stops to Koinigsplatz. Or it’s about a 15 minute walk from Odeonsplatz which is on the U6. I never did figure out which way was quicker as I only walked a few times.  I suppose the only difficulty was going back from Koinigsplatz to say Marienplatz. It was only three stops, but it was a bit awkward because of the transfer. If it was just to get something to eat at Viktualienmarkt or something like that, then I found it easier to walk to Hauptbahnhof and take the S-Bahn instead of dealing with the transfer. I could have also just taken the U2 to Seldinger Tor and walked as it was really close to Marienplatz.

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Munich Philharmonic

Better Late than never.

One of my favorite memories in Munich was going to see The Munich Philharmonic. It was the “Uni-Night” meaning students got in for 10 Euros, but I got to go for free because I went with my culture class. One of the assignments we had in that class was to attend four different cultural events and write a report about them. I chose a movie, a reading, a festival held at our dorms, and the Philharmonic.

I have been fortunate enough to attend a few classical concerts back in the States, but the atmosphere around the Gasteig, where the Philharmonic play, was different. Even though it was student night, most if not all the guests milling about, waiting for the house to open, were at least dressed up a little bit. I was glad I decided to change into my khakis, but even then I felt slightly under dressed.  I’m sure it was possible to see the Philharmonic if you weren’t dressed up, because it was student night, but it looked like a lot of the students had decided to anyways. Back in the states, I remember seeing concerts on field trips and the whole hall filled with others who were obviously students, all dressed in jeans or something else casual. But in Munich, it was harder to pick out the student verses the regular Orchestra goers.

I was really glad I got to go because it was such a rewarding experience. The Hall itself was very impressive and modern (one of those designed for the best acoustics) while the music was interesting.

I fell in love with Frank Zappa’s Bogus Pomp. It was my first time hearing it and it was so… it’s almost indescribable because Zappa was a primarily rock composer and musician, who carried his style over to the orchestra. They used plastic as instruments (no lie) for a brief part of the piece. They also stamped and shouted occasionally as well. It was all in sync and awesome. Bizarre and awesome and the same time.

http://www.mphil.de/en/education/university-concert/

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Typical day as a JYMer

My time in Germany will be over in a month. Our program is putting a year book together. At first I didn’t think I would submit anything, then last week I remembered I had a blog post about globalization in Germany so that’s going to be in the year book. I also wrote a humorous piece about a day in the life as a JYMer. It’s supposed to be German and English mixed together.

Typische Tag als ein/e JYMer

0730 Aufwachen.
0745 Really Aufwachen. Why did I sign up for a 9 am course again?
0750 In the shower, trying not to think of how I need to clean my bathroom.
0820 Begin the 40 minute commute/ordeal to JYM. I base how my day’s going go based on how the Zugführer sounds when he says. zurückblieben bitte.
0900-1030 Advance German Language class aka Finding out how little Deutsch ich weiß
1030-1330 Mittags Pause. Ich suche Mittagessen. Mahlzeit? Mensa? Soll ich Hausaufgabe mache? Maybe.
1330-? Okay, signing up for zwei Kurse Rücken an Rücken the same day as the 9am one was probably a mistake, but I like them too much.
~1800 Freiheit! Another 40 minute hike zur StuSta
~1930 Getrinkladen. Billig (GUT) Bier. Trying to spend nur 2 5 Euro.
2000 Abendessen. Tribühne food isn’t mouthwatering, but it’s billig, and that’s what matters. As soon as I open my mouth, they can tell I’m American.
2100 Hausaufgaben.
2350 Quick call Home.
2430 Ins Bett gehen. Sich wiederholen am Morgen.

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Germany, Globalized

Well originally I thought it was Americanized. But my mom, who came to visit, pointed out that Germany is not specifically emulating the Americans, but becoming more Global.

You see, this was the third time we’ve been to Germany. The last time was almost 8 years ago. Since being in Germany I kept commenting on how much more American it feels. And no, Coco Cola doesn’t count. I’m not sure if they had saturated the German market the first time I was here (when I was barely in fourth grade and feel in love with Fanta) but I do remember ads for it when I came back after seventh grade. Back then the American ad campaign was something like Coca-Cola. Always. In Germany it was Trink which I thought meant always. But it really means drink.

Mainly it’s the retail stores that seem much more Americanized/Globalized. There are a ton of stores like New Yorker, Tommy Hilfiger, that I never noticed before. Granted, the last time we went to Germany, we were in a completely different environment than the cities I’ve been in this trip. As technology explodes, Germany has kept up. There is a chain of German stores equivalent to Best Buy, but with better DVD and CD selection. 🙂 There’s also Apple stores creeping up. The Ipad just hit Germany a few days ago.

But it’s also the people themselves. Germany feels a lot more diverse than it did my previous two trips. Granted it’s no where near the Melting pot that is America, especially the east coast cities, but there’s still a lot more different groups than just the two that we noticed before. Instead of “German” on one side and Turkish on the other (Germany has a huge Guest worker history and the largest group has been the Turks) Now there’s many groups that are in between. Partly that has to with the Turks and Germans finally mixing because there’s now a generation of German born Turks. But also because other groups of people are coming to Germany as well. The Catholic diocese offers Mass in 18 different languages around the city, and it’s not just for the several groups of tourist that swarm the city.

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Honors Blog

I have an opportunity to earn Honors credit while I’m in Germany, if I maintain a Study-Abroad Journal. Now I have an incentive to blog!

Here is the assignment page.

1. Everyday Life (Required): Describe your living situation and routine, and note 5-10 specific differences in everyday life practice between your experience there and the U.S., whether at home or at university. Elaborate where possible. This section is required and prerequisite to the others: students should make a dated entry at the beginning of their stay and again at the end, upon arriving and upon departing, and throughout the stay.

3.31.10

31.3.10 <– It’s how Europeans write the date.

  • Food/Eating

Generally, German refrigerators are a lot smaller than their American counterparts. It’s nearly impossible to buy a whole week’s worth of food like American families typically do. So Germans will go to the food market multiple times a week. The benefit is they can always buy fresh ingredients. German supermarkets themselves are smaller than the ones in the US. There are more of them spread around the area so, 9 times out of 10, it’s easy to get to one on foot. In my case, there’s two markets just a half kilometer from where we live.

Also until recently, Germans treated their lunch as their biggest meal of the day, while dinner was more like a packed lunch: bread and meats or cheeses. They call it “Brotzeit” which literally means bread time, but is translated as brownbag lunch.

  • Beer

Germans have the right attitude about alcohol. It’s not a taboo like it is in America. Kids grow up knowing what it tastes like because their parents let them try it at the dinner table. It’s possible for an adult to order their teen beer at a restaurant and not get in trouble, which isn’t the case back home. Even though I’ve only been here a short while, I haven’t seen anyone get “carded” like they do in the States.

  • Getting Around

I have never been in a more bike friendly city. There are devoted bike paths all over the city and at least 90% of them are right on the sidewalks so bikers don’t have to worry about drivers. If they are on the street, then the street is wide enough to allow for a bike lane by the edge of the street. People will put baskets on their bikes and bike to the store. Child seats or wagons are also common.

Germans also love to walk. If they’re not on a bike, odds are they’re on foot.

The Subway (Untergrundbahn or U-Bahn) here is really efficient, and clean. Most stations have display boards for when the next trains are coming. Something that I’ve never seen before is the doors will not open on their own. You have to pull the lever (or push the button on the newer trains) in order for them to open. It comes in handy during slower times and at slower stations. If not a lot of doors open, then the operator generally can leave the station quicker than if all the doors automatically opened.

  • Campus/College

There isn’t really a campus here in Munich. While there are University buildings all clustered together like in a typical urban campus, there aren’t any dorms nearby. Instead there are apartment buildings and dorms together in a Student City (Studentstadt) a few stops away on the U-Bahn. It’s also pretty hard to find any clubs like there are back at Hofstra. There might be some student groups that meet in the Studentstadt, but there aren’t as many nor are they University sponsored.

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