Day 49-52 (3/5 – 3/8) // STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE!

Well the NSF project is coming along nicely, I suppose. We’re on sprint #2 of the project and the layout department has some responsibilities. There’s only 3 of us, so we have to divide up the tasks. It’s not a tough job, but the program isn’t something I’m really used to.

After class on Tuesday, we got to go to a movie screening for the first 3-D color feature, House of Wax, the original from 1953 with Vincent Price and Carolyn Jones and even a young Charles Bronson! It was full of 3-D gimmicks like a bouncing paddleball aimed at the audience, and overall it was a pretty great film.

Anyways, something weird has been going down all week that I would consider crazy and potential for mass chaos in the U.S. The public transportation workers are on strike! They posted warnings about it the day before on all the digital bus stop signs that I’m assuming said something along the lines of, “WARNING, STRIKE TOMORROW. FIGURE OUT HOW IN THE WORLD YOU’RE GOING TO GET WHERE YOU’RE GOING. OR JUST STAY HOME.” Something like that…

They even strip the ads off the buses so they’re all white except for an SWB ad which I think is required?

I asked my host mom about the strike, and, of course, it’s mainly because they want higher salaries. That’s great and all, and I support them 100 percent…BUT HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET TO SCHOOL?? Luckily, while talking to Beate, she mentioned taking me to school and picking me up. THANK HEAVENS :)

Wednesday evening, after getting picked up from school, we decided to get some Chinese take-out. Perfect ending to a crazy, rainy, confusing day.

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Day 42-48 (2/27 – 3/4) // Week 7

And we’re back in Bonn. (Okay so really, I’m back home in Texas, but just play along!)

This week marked the beginning of my Videography class as well as an optional extracurricular German class. I really think Videography will be entertaining, especially since it will be a hands-on, lab-type class, where we will actually get to work with cameras and lights. Monday was the first Videography class, and we jumped right into it. We took notes and learned about light, motion, cinematography, how we see moving pictures, and the parts of a film camera and a video camera. It was a refreshingly interesting lecture. Don’t get many of those…

Wednesday was the first time we met for the new German class. It’s meant for anyone that wants to continue their exploration of the German language and culture, so I thought I’d take a whack at it. I guess Class #1 was a culture night, because we went out to a bar and had the house beer, Bönnsch which is basically a spin on Cologne (or Köln)’s “Kölsch.” It was pretty tasty and it was served in these awkwardly crooked glasses. Oh, Bonn.

Because Videography is only a 2-week-long course, we met every day this week and watched a documentary called “Visions of Light” which focused on the art of cinematography (and featured one of my favorite cinematographers, Caleb Deschanel). It really was a great film, so much so that it inspired me to start a “Classic Films I Need to See” list. Some I haven’t seen, some I need to see again.

On Friday, we had another Maya workshop which went from 2 to 6:30. Sure, it’s interesting and everything, but these workshops are seriously exhausting. I prepped myself for the long afternoon with what I am pretty sure is the most wonderful concoction ever created:

// An Oreo Chocolate Bar. YUM.

Saturday was pt.2 of the workshop, from 10 to 2. I think it’s pretty obvious that most of us were so drained, that we needed filling up. We headed to the coffee place near the school and sat and chatted over cappuccinos for the rest of the afternoon.

Sunday was a pretty chill day. I decided to go into town to meet Thomas for lunch. We went to a place called Maredo. I had actually been to this restaurant in Frankfurt when I was there 4 years ago. Oddly enough, it’s a Spanish-style place and it’s really good! Afterwards we got frozen yogurt and headed home.

When I got home and plopped myself in front of my computer, I heard a strange noise outside. *clopclopclopclop*

Only in Germany. Ha! Over all, it was a pretty good week if you ask me.

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LAST DAY (5/13) // Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland.

Unfortunately, it’s finally that time. I guess you could say it is both extremely unfortunate and fortunate. I’m excited to go home to the land of free refills, not having to pay for using the restroom, and going wherever I want to go without worrying about people checking my ticket on the way. While it will be nice to be in a country where everyone knows what I’m saying, I’m going to miss those deer-in-the-headlight looks and the, ”Wie, bitte?”s. I’m going to miss doing math on a daily basis to figure out how much something REALLY costs. I’m going to miss seeing words on signs in German and actually knowing what they mean. I’m going to miss hearing, ”Bonn Haupt-bahn-hof. Bonn Cen-tral Sta-tion,” on the bus every day. I’m going to miss waking up on a train to see mountains out the window. I’m going to miss saying, ”Tschüss!” so joyfully as I leave the Netto grocery store. I’m going to miss hearing, ”ESSEN!” every night at 7. I’m going to miss hearing, ”LAURA, GEHT IN DIE DUSCHE!” every night at 9. I’m going to miss beer I can actually drink. I’m going to miss the best coffee in the world from Frau Holle. I’m going to miss my professors being confused about our projects, not because they make no sense, but because of a slight language barrier. I’m going to miss saying things like, ”How much was the hostel again?” or ”When does the train leave tomorrow?” or ”I missed my bus. See you in an hour.” or ”BOWLING TONIGHT??” I’m going to miss my host family to no end. Beate’s delicious cooking and asking about my trips. Laura’s awesome traditional dancing and asking me to jump with her on the trampoline. Their fantastic English and their German conversations that I actually learned a lot from. Their constant hospitality and incredible kindness.

This semester has taught me so much and helped me grow in infintely many ways. I am so blessed that I was able to experience Germany for 4 months while still being able to travel and work on school projects. I know this experience will help me in the future as much as it is helping me in the now.

Thank you all so much for reading this blog. It really means a lot to me! If you just read my last post, it’s obvious that about 2 months didn’t make it on here. Don’t fret! I will be continuing my blog through the summer to have posts that cover all my travels and such, so STAY TUNED! Thanks again, and for now…Auf Wiedersehn.

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Day 38-41 (2/23 – 2/26) // Chocolate + Waffles = Brussels

We left Friday morning from Bonn via bus for Brussels. This trip was technically a school trip that was setup for us to be able to attend Anima, an animation festival that was held in the city that weekend. We mostly used it to explore, though. Friday, we wandered around our hotel and parts of the city. We stumbled upon the Brussels Botanique, a botanic garden right by our hotel. It was so peaceful and gorgeous.

We walked around for quite a bit and decided to grab a quick lunch before heading to the Atomium. We went to a healthy, vegetarian restaurant. I got a slice of quiche, some pineapple, and a slice of almond-chocolate torte. It felt sorta healthy? Weird change.

We headed to the Atomium only to find out that it was already closed for the day. So we turned around and headed back into town where we found the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. It was so pretty all lit up at night.

We made our way to a huge shopping area that was filled with awesome little shops. We found the street that was JUST chocolate stores and zig-zagged our way down, going back-and-forth across the street to go inside each shop. It was so wonderful. We practically had 5€ worth of chocolate just in free samples!

Then it was on to Belgium’s other specialty…WAFFLES. We went to a place that was recommended by our guides/maps called “Mokafe.” I got a traditional-style waffle with chocolate sauce. It was delicious.

Then we headed to the “Grand Place” to see the Town Hall and the King’s House. Again, incredible buildings, beautifully lit up at night. I could get used to this.

After making our way through a lot of the city, we decided to call it a night, so we headed back home, planned out our next day with our trusty maps, and munched on our Belgian chocolate.

On Saturday, we decided to hit all the main things Brussels has to offer that we hadn’t seen the day before. We started with a trip to Autoworld which just so happened to allow us to see The Berlaymont Building (HQ of the European Commission) and the Triumphal Arch in Parc du Cinquantenaire, which is where the car museum was.

This museum was unlike anything I’d ever seen. (I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot on this trip!) They had 2 floors with everything from Model T’s to Honda Civics. They had some sweet classic cars including some stuff I never even knew existed, and they were showcasing a Beetle Expo!

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost // 1911

Ford Model TT Motorhome // 1924

German VW Kübelwagen Type 82 // 1940    |    American Willys MB Jeep // 1944

Berline de Gala, Carrosserie Ehrler, Paris // 1852 – This is the coach that was used for Napoleon III’s wedding to Eugenie de Montije in 1853

Corvette Sting Ray // 1965

This museum was fantastic, and I want to go back someday when they’ve added a 3rd story of cars. We headed to a sweet little restaurant near the museum for some lunch. I had an omelet with ham and cheese, a salad, and apple juice. SO YUMMY!

We made our way to the Royal Palace. It was incredible! I loved the garden out front. I didn’t realize that it was just the beginning of a HUGE garden that extended a couple hundred yards in front of the palace.

It was so neat! There were a bunch of bust statues that surrounded a sitting area that had these vines weaved to frame them. I’m assuming that looks really cool in the spring. We got to the end of the garden and decided to head to the Grand Place to see it during the day. It turns into a little market area with artists painting and selling their works.

I feel like I could make that my life. Just chill in Brussels, paint some beautiful buildings, sell it to tourists, eat waffles all day? Sounds good to me. Speaking of waffles, it was about that time again. Kevan and I decided we wanted street-style waffles. We found a place that offered Nutella as a topping (which was a requirement for both of us), and got in line. I would just like to take this moment to thank Marisa for recommending the Strawberry + Nutella Waffle/Heaven that I got to enjoy. Oh my goodness. It was the most delicious thing I have EVER had.

As we delighted in our waffle heaven which we never wanted to end, we walked to the Mannekin Pis statue. We knew right where we were headed, but it was more like we stumbled across this little guy. And when I say little, I mean LITTLE! Honestly, if I hadn’t seen the huge crowd of people surrounding it, I would have thought nothing of it or that it was a fake of the real one. Of course, they had him dressed up in one of his many costumes, and people were taking pictures. So ridiculous.

We didn’t stick around the statue for too long before we headed to the Justice Building. We found it, but because it was under construction, it wasn’t very picture-worthy. I’ll leave you with this overlook of Brussels which we came across on our way there:

We started to get really tired really fast (walking all around the city is hard work), so we headed back to our hostel to take a quick nap before the animation festival that night. All of the tram stations had different themes and art in them. This was one of my favorites:

After we endured our “Nutella comas,” as nap time came to be known, we were ready for Anima! All of us went together and watched a screening of animations. A lot of them were really cool, and some were really weird which was to be expected. The festival went from 10pm to 4am, but most of us headed out around midnight. If we would have stayed the entire time, it would have been like watching a 6 hour movie with 200 characters. So we looked around a bit, saw some clay-modeled scenes of some of the animations and then headed back to the hostel.

We had Sunday planned as an “everybody-gets-to-do-something-they-want” day. We started the morning at Stephanie Square. I think it’s obvious who wanted to go. Sadly, it was kind of a let down. I think the crane says it all:

Then it was my turn with Hotel Pantone!! I think Kevan was pretty excited for this one, too. Pantone is a company that created a system for designers to use to color matching to get true-colored prints. It’s a graphic designer’s best friend. I had seen this place on Pinterest and decided that I HAD to go. Thank goodness for Pinterest, this place was amazing. EVERYTHING was Pantone-themed. There was a place downstairs to sit that had some colorful Pantone chairs. There was a little café that had Pantone tea. And of course, there was all kinds of Pantone merchandise. I got a Pantone mug and card. (I got the 7461 mug and the 572 C card for anyone that’s interested :])

Then it was on to something that everyone wanted to do–the Atomium! We made sure it was open before going and it was so cool! It was built for the World’s Fair in 1958 and it’s meant to represent an iron crystal. There was an elevator that took you to the top sphere and escalators in all of the tubes that connect them. The top one was neat because it gave you a panoramic view of the city–even Mini-Europe which we tried to see, but it was closed. View from Atomium? Close enough. A lot of the other spheres talked about it’s history and the World’s Fair. Apparently Liz Taylor was there when it opened!

Then we had one final meal before we left. Kevan and I decided to try the Kriek limbic beer which is a famous cherry beer in Brussels. It was so tasty! After lunch, we met up with the group and headed home. It was a fun weekend, and our exhaustion showed it.

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Day 36 & 37 (2/21-2/22) // Ashes to Ashes

 So this week marked the beginning of Lent and my attempt to give up sodas (stay tuned to see how well that plays out…). I went to a service (in English!) on Wednesday night with my friend, Thomas, and we got our repentance on. It was actually a really nice service, and we were even able to take part in the imposition of the ashes. Needless to say, I got some pretty weird looks on the way home. Hey, it’s all for Jesus :)

This week was also momentous because it was our last week of German class. We had our final exam (weird, right?) and there was an oral part that required us to talk about our families…in German. Here’s what I said:

“Das ist meine Familie! Das ist meine Mutter. Ihr Name ist Denise. Sie fährt gern Fahrrad. Sie hat ein Bruder. Er ist mein Onkel, Paul. Sie hat langes braunes Haar. Sie ist aus Texas.

 Das ist mein Vater. Sein Name ist Kyle. Er hört gern Musik. Er hat zwei Brüder, Kevin und Kelly. Er hat kurzes braunes Haar. Er ist aus Iowa.

Ich bin ein Einzelkind. Mein “Schwester” ist mein Hund. Das ist Zoë. Sie ist ein Jahr alt.”

Just incase you don’t speak German, here’s a translation:

“This is my family! This is my mother. Her name is Denise. She likes to ride her bike. She has a brother–my uncle, Paul. She has long brown hair. She is from Texas.

 This is my father. His name is Kyle. He enjoys listening to music. He has two brothers, Kevin and Kelly. He has short brown hair. He is from Iowa.

 I am an only child. My “sister” is my dog. This is Zoe. She is one year old.”

Pretty sweet German skills, huh? German is tough but it’s really fun once you learn some of the basics. My favorite phrase is probably, “Englisch, bitte?” which means, “English, please?” Of course, the best way to use it is with a deer-in-the-headlights look and a desperation to know what in the heck the person you’re conversing with is talking about. So…I get to use it on a daily basis.

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Day 32-35 (2/17 – 2/20) // Roamin’ in Rome

While I do think spending a weekend in Germany getting candy and dressing up sounds great, I decided to spend my time elsewhere…Rome, Italy, to be exact. Best (and easiest) decision of my life. I went with 3 of my friends, Kevan, Natalia, and Stephanie, and we had a fantastic time. We actually left at midnight on Thursday after celebrating Karneval all day (and packing and napping if you’re me) and took an overnight train from Bonn, through Switzerland and the west coast of Italy, straight to Rome. It was actually a really fun experience, and we felt like we were in Harry Potter. It’s like a little slumber party, and when you wake up, you’re in a different country!

Like I said. Kinda crazy to just look out your window and see the Swiss Alps. This was the portion of the train ride where I just sat in amazement of my surroundings and listened to my iPod. So chill. There was a dining car on the train where we grabbed some lunch. I had a panini–so fancy!

Before we knew it, we were in Rome!! We checked into our hostel, which was actually a pretty nice hotel, and then went exploring in the surrounding area. We had some pizza and wine for dinner–a must for a true Italian experience. It was delicious, of course.

After dinner, we “roamed around” (which you will see becomes a recurring theme during our trip), and saw a beautiful building which, come to find, made up the Piazza della Repubblica.

We stumbled upon a gelato place (which was my secret desire for the night) and got our first taste of the heaven-sent dessert. I ordered Stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate chips), and I can’t even begin to explain how delectable it was…

On our way back to the hostel, Natalia suggested we stop inside a building that a man was apparently about to close. He practically begged us to come in before he closed up shop, and we were skeptical. I mean, that seems pretty sketch to you too, right?? Well, we’re both in the wrong. The building turned out to be an extravagant church! It was so well hidden at night, it seemed like a hole-in-the-wall shop of some kind, but when we went inside, it was nothing of the like. There were gorgeous paintings, elaborate sculptures, and some wondrous relics. The most jaw-dropping was definitely the piece of the cross that Christ was crucified on. Woah.

It was such a great night of finding random, wonderful things, and this trend followed us throughout the trip!

– DAY 2 –

In the morning we went to the Vatican Museum and waited in line to get tickets. It seemed like it was going to take forever, but we got inside pretty quickly.

Once inside, we grabbed our student-discounted tickets and began our journey through the museum. It was incredible. The first thing you see when you start into the museum is a picturesque scene with beautiful trees and a huge dome, which just so happens to be that of St. Peter’s Basilica. Yeah. Ridiculous, I know.

After standing there in amazement for a while, we went into the halls of the museum. The art itself was unbelievably beautiful, but just going through every room was like having a surprise waiting for you around every corner. Each room was painted or decorated so elaborately.

They had an Egyptian exhibit set up on one floor. Although it was unexpected, it was nothing short of amazing. Seeing Egyptian relics, statues, and mummies was truly a sight to behold.

Finally, after about 5 hours of walking through the gorgeous maze that is the museum, we began to approach the Sistine Chapel. As soon as I walked inside, I actually felt my heart stop for a second. I just felt the world around me fade away and it was only me in this sacred place. I stood there in awe, looking all around in amazement. I saw the history taking place as I looked at each of the scenes. Everything was so lifelike and immensely beautiful that I couldn’t even blink, in fear that I’d be wasting time not looking at something. I sat down and focused on the ceiling, spending several minutes just staring at Adam and God’s fingers, praying. I think I experienced a whole new level of closeness with God. It was really tough to have to take it all in and move on. Because photos were not allowed, I encourage you to go to this link to experience the Sistine Chapel: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html We made our way to the exit and walked down the spiral staircase. I thought I was going to fall from the combination of walking down the widely-spaced steps and recounting everything I had actually just witnessed.

Afterwards, it was off to lunch. I had some really great ravioli at this little restaurant across from the Vatican wall.

Then we came across the BEST gelato in all of Rome. Old Bridge Gelateria. Of all the places we got gelato from, this was absolutely the tastiest! I got a huge helping of Nutella and Amaretto flavors. My two favorite things…in one cup!

We finished our desserts and made our way towards St. Peter’s Square where we immediately got in line to go into the Basilica. I took a moment to wave to the Pope :)

Mad props to Vatican city for getting the lines to move really quickly. We were at the entrance before we knew it and…

…ummm, yeah. It was BREATHTAKING. It was enormous, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much marble in one place in my life. For a second, I had to close my eyes because, on top of the Sistine Chapel and everything we had just seen in the museum, I didn’t think I could handle seeing anymore astounding–not to mention incredibly famous–works. I convinced myself otherwise, opened my eyes, and this was the first thing I saw…

You know. The Pietá by Michelangelo. Just chillin’. I mean, WHAT? How was I getting the opportunity to witness all of these things?! I tried to stay focused on continuing to breathe as I walked through the basilica.

We made our way outside and got in line to climb the 565 steps to the top of the dome. At first, the climb wasn’t so bad. It was refreshing, but as we kept going, the walls started to close in on us, the stairs got steeper, and it became tricky to climb. Once you reach the top though, it’s all worth it!

Seeing Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square from the top is an experience of a lifetime. I will remember that image forever. We walked down the narrow halls and spiraling staircases all the way back to the bottom, and meandered through the square.

We made a quick stop at Trevi fountain before getting dinner. It was beautiful all lit up at night. We all made our wishes and tossed in American pennies for good luck.

We felt like such tourists. Oh well, everybody was doing the same. For dinner, I had some roasted chicken and red wine. So perfect!

We then started the long venture back to our hotel, but wouldn’t you know it, we just happened to stumble upon the Guggenheim Museum! We had two hours before it closed so we decided to get our student-discounted tickets (yet again) and go on in.

The museum was like a dream–works from Pollock, Rembrandt, and even Lichtenstein were a nice deviation from everything typically associated with art in Italy. On the second floor, there was a special interactive exhibit on Homosapiens and the evolution of mankind. It was pretty sweet. I learned that our DNA is more in tune with that of a banana than other, more ordinary things.

Then, of course, we finished the night off with a nice helping of gelato. This time was mint chocolate chip & Stracciatella. Mmmm…

– DAY 3 –

We got up early and went to the Spanish Steps. It was the perfect morning for it–blue skies and sunshine. We walked all the way up and stayed at the top to soak it all in.

We continued on our way to the Piazza Navona, but as was common on this Roman adventure, we ended up somewhere completely different–the Piazza del Popolo. We got a little turned around :) It wasn’t on our list of things to see, but it was indeed a happy accident.

We crossed the Tiber River and then came across the the capital building. The architecture was astounding!

THEN, we were on our way to Piazza Novona to see the Four Rivers Fountain. There was a live performance by a traveling Commedia del’Arte Troop, and I think Kevan about had a heart attack. We decided that this was a perfect place to eat (and let Kev stay in his enthralled state), so we found an outdoor restaurant right next to the stage and had lunch while we watched the performance. I had the best Chicken Parmesan I have ever had. It was topped with fresh crushed tomato sauce and parmesan cheese, and it just melted in my mouth. Gahhh so good :9

We eventually made our way to the Pantheon. It was a LOT different than I expected it to be! I loved it. As we walked, there were countless tombs of incredible people including that of King Umberto I & Margherita of Savoy and Raphael!! Woah!

Before we left, it started to rain, and seeing the rain fall through the oculus in the ceiling inside was like a dream. It seemed like it was falling in slow motion because of the height and the way the light was catching it.

We grabbed a quick cup of gelato (did you expect anything less?). This time was just Amaretto.

We then made our way to the Altare della Patria, also known as the “Wedding Cake.” By this time, it was cloudy and drizzling. We climbed the slippery steps and went to the free museum inside. We walked all around the outside as well, and we were given yet another amazing view of Rome.

From the Wedding Cake, we spotted the Forum that led up to the Colosseum, and we decided to head that way. Of course, on the way we saw Trajan’s Column, a statue of Caesar, and ancient Roman ruins. Typical Rome.

Before we knew it, we were right in front of the Colosseum! It was gigantic and a bit daunting. We walked all along the outside on the old cobblestone paths, and stumbled upon the Arch of Constantine. I honestly totally forgot that that’s where that was, despite it being one of my favorite monuments. It was quite a happy surprise!

Walking into the Colosseum was quite an experience. I started thinking about the history of what I was witnessing and everything that took place, every inch around me. It was incredibly moving.

It was one of the best experiences I’d ever had. I hope to come back here some day. We said goodbye to our final sight in Rome, and grabbed a quick dinner and one last gelato (just Nutella) before getting on our train where we shared a giant Kinder bar and relived our trip before drifting off in our sleeper car.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend…

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Day 30 & 31 (2/15 – 2/16) // Karneval & Carmella

As if one does not obtain enough candy on Valentine’s Day, there’s a little celebration they have here in Germany called “Karneval.” Karneval is basically explained as Halloween meets Mardi Gras meets carnivals meets beer. You dress up and get candy like it’s Halloween, see some parades and get things thrown at you like it’s Mardi Gras (also, it’s celebrated before the Lenten season), make your way through streets full of clowns like it’s a carnival, and sing songs whilst drinking beer. And in Deutschland, it’s taken VERY seriously. I’m talking EVERYONE participating and getting 5 days off work/school…including us foreigners! ;) We spent our Wednesday getting our costumes ready for the week’s celebration (Yes, I was a Texan cowgirl). Thursday marked the beginning of Karneval, so we all met up at the school and headed across the bridge to watch the parade in Beuel. It was fantastic! I got a great haul of Carmella!

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