Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kalli colored her hair.

Check it out.
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More pics ... picassa is soo cool.

Not sure where or what this pic is from.

Been meaning to post this photo for a while...

The Rhein or somet ype of river like that... haha.

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Engagements Scatter

Just testing out Picassa which is extremely cool. You can make collages upload to Facebook, and Blogger. Pretty neat stuff and easy to use.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kalli neat video.

This church is a beautiful Orthodox churc in Maceodnia not far from where Luke lives. Video taken with my little pocket sized camera.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New short term location.

Well... Not sure how things worked out so well. We have been completely spoiled with an apartment to stay in in Macedonia. We are thrilled to be here, only Luke could pull it off. We were just ushered in to our cozy place stocked with beverages. We have internet, a washer, hot water, and a 24 hour convenient store in our basement. All thanks to the courteous of Bronco; a good friend of Luke's and a new fan of mine:)

We're grateful it has worked out so well here an are looking forward to the experiences to come. If they are anything like the friendly faces we have already met, and the delicious pizza we have already indulged, we are in for a wonderful treat.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


It seems like it's been a while since we wrote about our goings-ons. Part of the reason is the internet is not so reliable here. Anyway, we've been seeing a lot of the big cities of Germany lately. And of all the Christmas Weihnachtsmarkts we've attended, Essen was our favorite. It was the prettiest and the biggest. We rode on a Ferris wheel there--Jacob can't pass up an amusement park ride like I can't pass up an old church. We spent our last 10 euros on it!

We also saw a church that was built in the year 835 AD. All old churches have a crypt where either priests or kings are entombed.
And we saw the Essen Vollverein Industrial complex, which is on the UNESCO world heritage list for culturally important contributions. It was not all that exciting to see:

We went to a German flea market afterwards and that was more entertaining. But we didn't buy anything because we are trying to keep things light luggage-wise.

In Mettmann we went to the Neanderthal Museum, built because a Neanderthal Man was found in the area, pictured below:

In Duesseldorf we went to Altstadt which is where all the interesting stuff is in the city. It was a beautiful day. Here we are in front of the Rhein:

We saw where Heinrich Heine was born. He's a beloved German poet (a favorite of Professor Kelling's) and I believe I've sung some of his poetry set to music. Of all coincidences, we happened to see his birthplace on his birthday.

A man? Or a statue?

We also stopped by Wuppertal and rode its famous Schwebebahn, a monorail which hangs from above the city. Wuppertal felt huge--so much crammed into such a small space. But then again, every city I see I'm amazed at the size of the apartment buildings. No wonder--with 82 million people in a country the size of Montana. Random tidbit: aspirin was invented by Bayer in Wuppertal. Also, Engels of Communist Manifesto fame is from here.

Our final day in Germany, after we ran last-minute errands, we met up with Daniela, my friend from high school who goes to school in Aachen. We hadn't seen each other since 2003 and it was wonderful to see her! She and I gabbed in German while Jens, her boyfriend, and Jacob waited patiently. It was amusing to see both of them always take Jacob seriously! I had to instruct them that everything Jacob says is never literal.
She and Jens had tried to drive out to see us a couple of nights before, when they got into an accident on the Autobahn! Can you imagine? Miraculously they were unhurt, and since it was the truck driver's fault (he rear-ended them) they will be compensated for the car. As they were then carless, we took a train to see them, and I really thought Aachen was a delightful little city. We saw a church that Charlemagne, known as Karl der Grosse in German, built, but unfortunately only from the outside because we didn't get to Aachen, the former capital of his empire, until late. Charlemagne, considered by some as the father of Europe, was interred here.

I found this on Wikipedia:

"In 1000 Otto III had Charlemagne's vault opened. Otto of Lomello, one of the courtiers who accompanied him, recorded the event, which is reported in the Chronicle of Novalesia, written about 1026. The account reads:
So we went in to Charles. He did not lie, as the dead otherwise do, but sat as if he were living. He was crowned with a golden crown and held in his gloved hands a sceptre; the fingernails had penetrated through the gloves and stuck out. Above him was a canopy of limestone and marble. Entering, we broke through this. Upon our entrance, a strong smell struck us. Kneeling, we gave Emperor Charles our homage, and put in order the damage that had been done. Emperor Charles had not lost any of his members to decay, except only the tip of his nose. Emperor Otto replaced this with gold, took a tooth from Charles’s mouth, walled up the entrance to the chamber, and withdrew again."

The next day we started on our 33 hour bus ride to Sofia, Bulgaria. We were the only Americans on the bus, which meant we got special attention every time we crossed a border. I got especial special attention because my passport has this really big water stain on the main page--I have no idea how it got there, but it makes me look suspicious.

I was so happy--they showed Home Alone on the trip! I've been wishing I could watch that movie like I do every Christmas. True, it was in Bulgarian, but the pictures and the music were still the same. We drove through Germany for most of the day, and Jacob literally slept the whole time. I'm jealous of his ability, because sleeping sitting up does not come so easily to me. He only got to stretch out like this for the first few hours; then it filled up:

Sadly, it was nighttime when we drove through lovely Austria, so I couldn't see a thing except that it was covered in snow. The next day we spent driving through Serbia. This is the saddest country I have ever seen.

All of the houses are unfinished. I wondered if it was like the polygamists in Arizona who get tax breaks for not finishing their houses. But actually I think the people just don't have pride in their country and they are too poor. There was litter everywhere, in plain view of the highway. Piles of junk which gathered in the rivers and in parking lots and in fields. Not just in one place in Serbia, but the entire drive. Saddest of all were little squat houses with laundry spread on the roofs. They looked abandoned, but cars and people and a couple of goats were there as proof that people really could live in such close and squandered surroundings. We saw not a single store in the ride, only barren wasteland and then, suddenly, huge and ugly mismatched and poorly built apartment complexes.

Our cleaning lady at the hotel came from Serbia, and when I asked her if it was pretty there she said no, and that there was no work there and no money. It's hard to believe there's a place like this here in Europe.

Then we arrived in Sofia where we were ripped off by a taxi driver. We confirmed the price before we left, (2.5 euros) and then when we arrived he said 10 euros and pointed at the meter. He maybe took a long route on purpose. Apparently we got in the wrong taxi. We were looking for OK taxi, and even the taxi name was a rip off (CK). Not sure we could have avoided that one... Some people are just dishonest.

But the hostel is cool-rated top 10 hostels abroad. Meals and must-see info included. And internet, of course.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Last Weekend

We got to see our first true world-famous sight this weekend, straight out of 1000 Things to See Before You Die (the book). The Koelner Dom, with the highest church tower in the world. It's Gothic and quite impressive. We were trying to meet up with my good friend Laura Yeck, which never happened, but hopefully we'll see her in London soon. It was an incredible sight! We also looked inside the modern art museum next door, and watched a dance that happened to be my favorite part of the day. It was a modern art dance and these videos don't do it justice. Basically I thought this lady had on an air body suit, but actually she just was naked and painted blue. She lay on the ground twitching for a while and then this guy came and started helping her up. He helped her into a wheelchair. Then he jumped on the wheelchair and started attacking her, and somehow she escaped and wheeled away into the distance. Any guesses out there on what THAT'S supposed to symbolize?

Jacob's favorite part of the day was the Italian fancy restaurant we visited. One day we will try to imitate the recipe for his spaghetti. The appetizers were green olives, which I've never enjoyed before but these were really tasty. We were reinforced once again that in Europe, you don't ask for water... you will get mineral water. Which by the way we are starting to both enjoy.

Next we went to the Christkindlmarkts, which are a bunch of stands outside with people selling their wares interspersed with nativity scenes and Tannenbaums.

Jacob also bought his first German book, Die Vier Stunden Woche. He had enjoyed the English counterpart, the Four Hour Workweek, and would like to read it again, auf Deutsch.

The next day we were invited over to a family's house for dinner from church. I think that was the first time we have been to someone's house here. The Wheelers are probably the largest family in Europe (they have five kids). They are going to stay here for about 7 years before returning to America (they both served their missions in the Duesseldorf area). Here is Jacob with their very affectionate three-year-old:

Most of the children are sooo blonde, helping them to fit right in with the all the other little German children. Seems like all Germans are blonde, and if not they dye it blonde...

We enjoyed getting to know their family--and randomly, they know Sis. Alyssa Madsen from Wisconsin! We think Alyssa must be one of those Connector people because it seems like we're always meeting people who know her.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A twist on Pepperoni Pizza & The Pizza Purist

I met a great friend recently and he took Kalli and I to his uncles pizza place. Well this place seriously has the best Pizza I have ever had. He is a turkish man but he looks italian and cooks italian pizza. His place is called "buena vista." Kalli ordered a pepperoni pizza they said that was not normal but they would do it anyways... well... come to find out that pepperoni is german for "pepper" so she got a pepper pizza. It was delicious. So delicious we have already ordered a pepper pizza again. The pizza there is really off the chain. This guy is a pizza purist. He lectured about how you never cook pizza in a pan etc. etc. Delicious.

Pepperoni Pizza a la Germany

Getting spoiled...

I had just learned that Kalli would no longer be working with the school, which was clearly the best thing for her. But the timing of this and what happened next is fairly remarkable.

First of all we were literally moments, wallet in hand kind of thing, away from committing to 3 months rent. Also I was about an hour away from purchasing a motorcycle. I waited for Kalli to have a very long conversation with her work and waited with the real estate agent to sign the papers.

Kalli came down and said we would have to wait and then explained what was going on.

I took a walk down main street, knowing we would want to find a temporary place but realizing that EVERYWHERE is at least a 3 month commitment. No furnished temporary havens for us. I was still just feeling very good, realizing that this was really best. The growing pains at the school make it not a very good place to be. But I happened upon a hotel and inquired as to prices. The gentleman and I spoke at length as he gave me a tour. I quickly realized that this place was over our head... It was a 4 star hotel and usually rented by businessmen. The rates were around $200/day. As we chatted a just felt good about what was happening but he asked me how much I expected to pay for a month. I explained that there was no way I could do a room here for a month justice, it was just too good for what we were looking for. He said he would make me a special deal he never made anyone. I told him we were trying to find a place for 400 - 500 euros a month but I realized, once again, that this was much more than we were looking for. I told him I could also help optimize his hotel website for visitors.

He then told me we could have the studio, a 2 bedroom suite with entertainment system, fridge, completely furnished with nice leather couches, a beautiful view, access to the sauna and hot tub, and 2 small packs of delicious haribo gummy bears all for 500 euros for a month. It was one of the most delightful and ridiculous things I have ever heard. I left the place literally laughing with joy for about a half mile down main street.

The same night we moved in. On a full stomach of gummy bears we slept on a bed that was actually meant for 2.

This same day I had thought already so much about how much we have to rely on people and how that need makes it somehow easier to make friends.

A video of our new place.

Here are some more pictures.

And more up to the new suite.

Up to the new suite.

OUR old roomate... Very very cool guy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A New Twist to Our Adventure

Well, after three weeks of misery, my boss and I have come to the conclusion that this was not what either of us expected it to be. Perhaps this was no surprise. A new school, a new position, and language and cultural barriers have caused great frustration on both sides that proved to be insurmountable.

My expectations were that this would be a dream job, that I would have free reign and independence to help the school become established in English while being surrounded by German culture. The reality was that I spent most of my time running small errands and trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing without getting yelled at. I learned a couple days into the job that every email I sent, every project I worked on, had to be approved and then viewed by Frau Mock at every stage of the work. This meant that nothing I did could really be finished for days at a time, even a simple 4 line email. The Germans are so thorough, persistent, and cautious that I realized why it took so long to hear back from them about getting the job--every email that was sent to me was probably weighed, discussed, saved, and signed for before being sent to me. I felt like my creativity and independence were severely stunted in this process.

So then every day when I got home, after spending nearly 10 hours a day at the school, I was too tired and emotionally drained to do anything but want to sleep. This stress of no system yet high expectations is experienced by all of the teachers and the school is a revolving door of employees. I witnessed one lady quit after working only 4 hours as a new secretary, citing that it was too chaotic for her taste. Another lady quit on her second day after Frau Mock told her that she should stop speaking like a farmer since this is a private school. Apparently Germans value frankness over tact... Anyway, that's the unfortunate news.

The good news is, Jacob and I plan to continue to stay in Europe and travel at our leisure, which was not possible with this job (I found out when I arrived that no days off could be taken for the first six months). We are blessed that our mobility and our financial stability with his online businesses makes this possible. Meanwhile, I will decide if I want to teach English and get accredited to do so, or perhaps find another job... this is still up in the air. We still want to become fluent in German, so for probably the next 6 months we will stay, with talk of maybe living in Vienna again... :) That would be fun. Then Asia, New Caledonia, and Buenos Aires are still on the horizon...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hiller Encounter #4

Not sure that is is really a Hiller encounter... Decide for yourself. I went to look at an apartment and the guy who showed me the apartment said his boss or "chef" was also named Hiller. Turns out it is the same Hiller from the other encounters.

This is kind of interesting about German real estate. Most people live in apartments which mixes things up a bit. Here's why:

  • When an apartment is unfurnished it is really unfurnished. No sink in the kitchen, no lights in the sockets, and no paint on the walls. Some of them have EBK, or a small built in kitchen.
  • Also real estate agents seem to focus as much on renting out apartments as they do on selling homes.
So because of this there is a sink store right on the main street. People are going to usually live in an apartment so they want things just they they like them.

Another housing note: You can get an apartment cold or warm meter. Cold means you pay the electric and water each month according to how much you use. Warm means that you opt for an average and take a steady monthly payment. We think we have found the place we want to stay at which has an excellent location, although it is small.


It's Thanksgiving in America anyway. Here we are having carbonated apple juice to celebrate, and tomorrow we'll have a dinner with all the teachers.

We're in charge of the potatoes. Jacob's going to make them, and he's very confident that they will be very tasty. He likes to mix milk and butter and taste until they're just right. Sounds good to me. I'm just going to show up.

So last night I had a turning point in my language learning. I dreamed in German. First time. And I know I dreamed in German, because I'm told I spoke out loud. I said, "Vielleicht" which is German for maybe. But the funny part is I didn't say it in a regular voice. Jacob says I said it exactly in the voice from Tales from the Crypt. Jacob thought I was awake and I was telling him something, and he said, "What did you say?" And I snapped awake and said nonchalantly, "Yes, I was talking to the Eltern (parents)."
An important step in becoming fluent...

More observations on the German culture:

A demand for order is everywhere, which as Jacob remarked, may be because there is a serious lack of order. The word "Ordnung" is one I hear every day.

A need for privacy. The Germans seem to keep to themselves and dearly value keeping personal information to themselves.

A different definition of helpfulness: Their "help with whatever you need" means referring you to a website. Punkt.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hiller encounter #3

So I was out looking for the weight room, which is where I had Hiller encounter #1. Then I noticed, near the same Hiller building, an entire business called Hiller. It happens to be close to where the weight room is so I just went in to ask directions. After she gave me directions I said, my name is Hiller like the business. The young lady said, I am also a Hiller. Then she introduced me to her mom who also worked at the business. they seemed excited. The older lady from before is the Grand Mother who lives neear the business. The weight room is right next to their business. So the Hillers can probably count on seeing more of me. It would be interesting to see if there was any relation (a long shot I know, but it's still fun to play). It happened to be a VERY VERY windy day and as I was leaving a bunch of their styrofoam stock was flying around everywhere, so I helped them gather it in the first snow storm of the year. Now snow stuck, but it was very very windy and extremely cold.

Katherine Hiller and I.

Hiller friends.

Hiller Stoffe (materials)

The Hiller Truck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Hey this is Kalli. Usually Jacob writes these cause he's the techno guy, but I wanted to explain more about my new work.
First impression: Didn't know if I could handle it--too disorganized. Ever since, though, I've enjoyed it, because I've never worked at a job with as much variety and flexibility. Plus, I'm learning new skills every day. Like making brochures, sending business letters, creating decorations for walls, starting emailing lists, fixing fliers with poor English, answering English phone callers, and speaking in limited German to visitors (although technically I'm supposed to speak English.)

I was wary of the schoolmaster at first, because she yelled at Jacob even though he wasn't even a worker there, and she yelled at me on my first day for setting the wrong priorities, but she yells at everybody. Anyway, later, she told me she really liked my style and hoped that I would stay awhile. Everybody runs around here like chickens with their heads cut off and it's almost like they equate stress with efficiency. I decided on the first day, however, that I would not join that party. I'd rather work hard and stay calm.

But there is so much to do, another reason why I like the job. I detest jobs where you just sit around and attempt to think of something to do. This is the opposite; the list is long and you are always doing things that should have been done yesterday. Future projects for me down the road: Creating a yearbook with pictures from the year by Christmas, editing the curriculum handbook, and sending out a monthly newsletter to all the parents of the school.

Today some little girls said, "Wie heissen Sie?" and asked me how come I spoke such good German. I was quite flattered, and though my German is not so good, I hope to be fluent by the time I am finished at this position. Jacob is picking up German quickly. I read Vom Winde Verweht (Gone With the Wind) every day, and will one day start in on my German workbook.

I like the teachers at the school. They are all rather intense/extreme in their own ways, which may not be surprising considering the types of young people who travel and work abroad.

I eat breakfast and lunch in the school cafeteria. Who knew that I would return after graduating college to eating this kind of undelectable, yet healthy fare typical for school cafeterias? Today was Huenchen (chicken) cutouts, Broccoli und Blumenkohl (cauliflower), und Apfelmus (applesauce) und Schocolade Pudding. And, of course, Mineralwasser.

We are currently searching for an apartment. The dilemma is this: should we get a furnished one, one that is EBK (built with a kitchen) or unfurnished? Unfurnished means there is literally a hole in the wall for a sink. When Germans move, they take their sinks with them. Whoever came up with that idea I don't know. We also would like one fairly close to my work (I'm supposed to be there every morning at 7:30).

Jacob and I are sharing a bike. He is counting the days til we get paid in Euros and he can get a Motorrad. Right now he is headed to the court to play some basketball. Hopefully he can find it; he has gotten lost a lot this week. I think it's kind of cute how often he gets lost.

The food is delicious here. For me, there is crisp and tasty bread. For Jacob, there is flavorful meat like bratwurst and doeners. We go to the grocery store every day and eat at the bakery there.

Hike in the trail nearby...

There is so much here you need a motorcycle to see it all...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Just some random stuff

Pretty view... pretty girl...

"We're in Germany and all you want to eat is a donut?"  Yeah.. but they just seem to taste better here

A day in the office....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where we sleep now.

Uhh yep.

Hiller encounter #2

Later on this same day I was randomly in a bank looking for an internet hot spot. I ran into Frau Hiller again. I didn't recognize her only smiled at her as we passed then she stopped me with a big smile and said that she didn't understand me this morning, only understood that I said her name. Instead of telling her that I spoke in plain German and she had no excuse for not understanding, I explained I was a Hiller too from America and had never met another Hiller. She seemed happy about it and smiled, chirped something and went on her way.

Hiller encounter #1

I went for a walk this morning, it is very cold. I saw this image on the side of an apartment building. I looked at the name for one of the apartments and it was Hiller. I thought I might just knock and say hello. Silly really, I was just excited to meet the first Hiller that is not direct family. Well... the old lady who answered the door wasn't nearly as excited. I was really unable to get out, "I am from America, My name is Hiller too!." Her reply, "Yeah, so what." She was pretty ticked off. I said sorry and she swiftly slammed the door. So the good news is that I found some Hillers, the bad news, they hate me. Maybe I should try again tomorrow morning when it is a little warmer. She probably thought I was a mormon or salesperson knocking at her door.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We made it to Germany,

A nice little train not far from our temporary apartment.

First day in town... just checkin things out.

Here's Kalli, working away at her new job... jk

On the Train half asleep.

Cool church in town.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Getting Ready for Germany

A little going away gift for the parents. Ice cream maker. We have had a most wonderful time staying here.

Kalli and I are just getting ready to leave for Texas, and then Germany. Her job starts on the 14th of November. Packing with a smile.
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