Saturday, October 29, 2005

Glideschirm fliegen (parasailing?)! *contains photos*

As I sit at home on this beautiful Saturday evening feeling rather sick and doing absolutely nothing, I thought I'd post some pictures of one of the more exciting weekends of my life. It's all about finding balance.

These pictures are from our team-building weekend about a month ago, where I went parasailing. You're basicallys strapped into a rucksack and attached to a sail and some ropes... once given the cue to run, you have to run as fast as possible, and some people at the other end of the field reel in the ropes you're attached to... you then go soaring into the air. Once you're at a certain height, you disconnect the ropes and glide through the air.

Here, our flight instructor was giving me instructions and precautions.

You can see the rucksacks we wore during the flight in this picture... man, those things are bulky and awkward to run in! Once you're in the air, though, they serve as pleasant little bucket seats.

You can see the sails in the background here... this was right as we were given the cue to "RUN!!!"

This was the take-off... as you can see, my instructor was directly behind me... you have to have a special license to fly by yourself. Phew.

And, an aerial view!

Then, the post-flight-smile. :)

Last but not least, here's another team photo.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Floating, Falling, Sweet Intoxication...

(For those of you who don't know, the title of this blog is lyrics from Music of the Night... it has nothing to do with my mental state or alcohol intake).

Ah, the Phantom of the Opera. What is it about the music that's so alluring?

Yes, I saw the Phantom yesterday evening at the Colloseum Theater in Essen with a few of my co-workers, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was in German, but I was surprised at how similar it was to what I saw in Austin. The stage-setup, the effects, the positions and movements of the actors were are comparable, which was interesting. I thought there would be more of a creative difference between the American and German versions. Though the visuals and the general feel of the play were similar, the words, interestingly, were often not. Whoever translated the Phantom into German most definitely did not stick close to the original script. I've listened to the English music so often that I could sing along with the majority of the parts... so I noticed, of course, that the German translation differed. Interesting stuff.

There's nothing like hearing the music live... there really isn't. It was absolutely beautiful, and I love watching the conductor (though he has nothing on Peter Bay!). Especially beautiful was the introduction to "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"... they played a slightly different rendition than anything I've heard before. It was solely violins at the beginning... much lighter and freer than other renditions.

The man who played the Phantom was wonderful as well (Borchert?)... his voice and character had much more emotion, darkness and desperation to it than what I recall in the Austin Phantom, as well as Michael Crawford's version in the original cast (I have this CD).

The lady who played Christine did a great job... though I kept thinking how awesome it would have been to see Sarah Brightman in the role. Ah, well.

The guy who played Raoul was rather *ahem* cute. I think Constantine could make a decent Raoul. Or Phantom, though the Phantom role seems a little too dark and heavy for him. We'll save the Phantom role for TayTay. Maybe I could re-write the Phantom... the Phantom of Broadway, NY. Constantine could play Raoul, the hero, of course. Taylor, the bass player in Constantine's band, would make an excellent Phantom (think: manipulation, jealousy, empty threats, omnipresence), and... hmm... Hamboussi, the drummer in Constantine's band, could play Christine. Afterall, he himself admitted that he likes wearing high heels and fur coats. A true drag queen. Perfect. That leaves us with Joao, the guitarist in Con's band. He could play Meg. She doesn't say much, either. Just hangs out in the background, looks cute, and dances around. I can feel it coming together already!

Ok, back to reality. Yesterday evening really was wonderful; I'm so glad to have found some people who have the same musical interests... as we would say in German, "Klasse!" Classic. Great. Swell. You get the idea.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dreaming of a Texas Christmas (warning: includes savings lecture)

Though a White Christmas might be nice, I'd much rather have a warm, dry Christmas in Austin with my dear family and friends. And as of today, it looks like I'm going to be able to make it home for Christmas, after all!

I spoke with my boss yesterday, and the entire financial situation is looking much better, which is encouraging. Plus, I remembered that I hadn't drained out my US bank account... and lo and behold, I have more than enough to purchase a plane ticket home!

To my sisters and my friends who aren't "financially independent" (or whatever the term might be), let me give you some words of advice: save your money, and when you spend it, spend it wisely. Given my current situation, I am sooo relieved that I've tended to save in the past. If I hadn't, I don't know where I'd be today. Well, I'd most likely still be here... but stuck here. No coming home over Christmas. Not being able to purchase a car. Having to mooch off the company. Having to borrow money.

When you first start out on your own, there are so many expenses, especially larger one-time expenses (car, things for the appartment, insurance, travel, etc.). I've had a buffer zone, in a way, because I've saved so much throughout my life.

And the little things add up. I brought my lifesavings over here in cash (except for what I discovered yesterday in my US bank! MUAH!), and it's almost gone. My lifesavings. That's huge. Goes to show you what you need when you're launched into the real world.

Save, people, save. Be smart. Think about the future. Eternal perspective applies to money as well.

On a lighter note... I've started looking at flights! And it looks like I'm going to be flying Beatles Airways (aka British Airways) again... I love it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sailing on the Northsea (Nordsee) *contains photos*

These pictures are a couple of weeks old... but I finally found out where my dear coworkers had hidden them on our harddrive at work. So, here we go:

Our sailing instructor wanted us all to sit on one specific side of the boat, depending on which way the wind was blowing. I'm not exactly sure why... heh, that was, afterall, only my third day in Germany! Excuses, excuses, I know.

Ok, time for a poll... should I dye my hair blonde and chop some more off like my cute coworkers?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ben Who?

BENQ. Pronounced "Ben queue."

In case you'd like to see my new company's website, here it is:

I did a little research at work last week, and learned that BENQ stands for "Bringing Enjoyment aNd ('n) Quality." Hmm. Interesting name for a company. They're very focused on merging technology with fun and enjoyment, and there's a strong focus on the customer, and what the customer wants. It'll be interesting to see how things develop in the next several months and years.*

The entire situation with Siemens and BENQ is a pretty hot topic in west Germany at this point, and not just in Kamp-Lintfort, where I work. People don't know what to make of the situation, and, as a general rule, are sad to see Siemens mobile bought out by a Taiwanese company. But BENQ is larger and more influential that I originally thought, and I think they might be able to turn things around. They already offer things such as digital cameras and displays, laptops and computers, digital audio and video things, a limited number of mobile phones and miscellaneous networking and peripheral devices. In the past couple of days, my confidence in the company has increased. We shall see.

I hope the "enjoyment 'n quality", though, doesn't only apply to the customers. It's emportant for the employees as well... ;)

*disclaimer: Everything I'm writing here is information you can either read in the daily newspapers, hear on the radio, see on BENQ's website, or obviously conclude. I'm not sharing any information I've heard in meetings or heard from other employees.

Click here to e-mail me!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

My first car! *contains photos*

Here are the facts: 1991 Volkswagen Golf, 90,000 km, automatic (MUAH!), power-steering, sun roof, winter tires, automatic locking, light turquoise... yes.

The price negotiation was pretty intense, but I've always kind of liked that. I remember being in East Asia, where none of the prices are fixed... fun stuff. The listed price was 1,200 Euros, and the guy (it helped that he was about my age, I think... ya know... work some of that Texas charm in frigid Deutschland) told me he'd give it to me for 900. I originally had 800 in mind, but once I saw the car, and saw that there were a few damages, I decided to see if I could push it a little lower. Well, I ended up paying 700 Euros for it, which is pretty darn good. A couple from our church went with me, which was great because he knows all about cars, and he said that he was surprised that we got it for so little. :)

The pressure was definitely on... I spoke with my boss this past week and she said that since I'm an official employee now, and no longer in the transition phase, she'll have the company pay for the rental car for about two more weeks and then I'm on my own. Stress! But, once again, it'll all be good.

Here are some pictures... if you can't see them, click on the picture itself.

As you can see, not only does it match my blog background, but it also matches my favourite retro turquoise pants and the scarf I knit (shout-out to Jennifer for teaching me how to knit!!).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I'm official!!!!!!!

Today, we finally received the necessary signatures from Muenchen, so I was able to sign and receive my actual work contract!! I also have my own lovely BENQ work ID card, which is fabulous, as I, um, lost my guest ID card about two days ago. Not a good situation.

Things have really come together in the past couple of days...

1. I'm an official, legal employee of BENQ.

2. I registered with the Siemens Betriebskrankenkasse today, which means I now have health insurance.

3. Tomorrow, I have an appointment at the bank to relocate my account from Suedlohn-Oeding (where I was two years ago) to Neukirchen-Vluyn.

4. My crate of stuff from the States is going to be delivered tomorrow morning.

5. I bought beaters today, which means I can make whipped cream for coffee. Mmm.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Germany is a cash society. And it's not just any kind of cash... it's colorful cash, in different sizes (depending on the value), complete with gold stripes and designs. I was going through my wallet the other day to pay for something, and I had a €50, €20, €10 and €5... it's like a rainbow in my wallet. For some reason, I can't take Euros seriously. It's like monopoly money, or like a guy wearing a tropical t-shirt. It's simply not meant to be taken seriously.

Never in my life have I earned so little (we're talking NO income in the past month or so, as I haven't had my work permit) and spent so much. I'm not a finance major, but even I know that this isn't the best of all possible worlds, though Candide would argue otherwise.

Let's add my current financial system up:

Groovy Europoly Money + No Income + The Move* = CATASTROPHE, as Greek Kramer would say.

*meaning all I have is what I could haul over here in two suitcases and a backpack... and the consequential need to purchase absolutely everything.

It's also unsettling to realize that within another month or so, I'll probably have spent my entire lifesavings. Sure, it wasn't THAT much (Gig em', Aggies), but nonetheless... cashing my entire lifesavings and then spending in within two months or so seems rather disastrous. So goes the Game of Life, hmm?

Ah, well. We're waiting on a signature from a Top Muenchen Dog, and then I'll officially be a Siemens-BENQ employee... muahaha... and then I'll not only get paid, but I'll be reimbursed for some of my travel expenses.


Monday, October 17, 2005

You want telephone?? 40 Euros!!

Actually, 40 Euros is on the cheaper end when it comes to telephones.

This weekend, I wanted to pull my hair out. Starting on the 14th, I had telephone connections. I even have a phone. The snazzy little Siemens Gigaset I received as a departure-gift from my Bocholt department. But no... it doesn't work here. I would need two special adapters that cost 30 Euros apiece. So, it's actually cheaper to simply buy a new phone.

We have a little "Fuer uns Shop" ("For us shop") here at Siemens, but they're only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays... which means I have to wait yet another day, gah!! The whole thing is totally killing me. For weeks, I've been looking forward to having my own phone lines and being able to call home... and now that I have them, my phone doesn't work.

Rant, rant, rant.

Internet access is also complicated... I'm supposedly going to have connections in about two weeks... which I'm guessing means a month. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Serenity now!

Click here to e-mail me!

Cigarette Smoke, Paint and Chemicals (aka The Move)

These lovely scents will always remind me of my move. The lady who rented before me was a chain smoker, and I can't get the smoke out! I've never cleaned so much in my life... sure, I clean occasionally, but not on this level. We're talking intense cleaning. Between the smoke stench, painting (which was supposed to help with the smell) and cleaning, I'm on a constant spaced-out high.

Saturday night was my first night in the appartment, and one of the first things I did Sunday morning was go tearing to the balcony for fresh air. Hopefully between the cleaning, candle burning, cooking, baking and painting, things will improve. If not... maybe I'll just take up smoking myself.

Other than the stench, things have been going great. Bizarro Mom, her husband, her son (whose demeanour and expressions are so very eerily similar to the Son of Pamfucius) and another guy helped me move the furniture in. A family in the church just moved back to Germany from Spain and bought quite a bit of new furniture, so they gave me two brown leather couches and a sofa chair, a kitchen table and five little chairs, and a bed! Everyone has been so helpful and generous... a couple of other ladies in the church have gone through their kitchens and given me some things they don't use much anymore... so I'm definitely off to a great start.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I have my work permit!!!

Yes! I finally have it, and it's good until October 2008! :)

Which means I have to actually work now. Hmm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Things have started to pick up a little on this side of the world, thus the lack of writing lately... here are some of the major updates:

1. Appartment: Yesterday we finished painting it; Friday the furniture will be moved in; and Saturday, I move in! I'm excited that I'll finally have my own little place.

2. Work permit: I should have it by the end of this week, if all goes well. On Thursday or Friday, I'm going to the Foreignersbureau again to sign papers and get my visa stamped. By next week, I should be an official and legal employee. It's time to move beyond the coffee-drinking days.

3. Work itself: Work is going well; slowly but surely, I'm having more that I can do, which is nice. The past couple of days, though, I've taken half-days so that I can run errands and do renovations and such.

4. Computer: I finally found a plug that works... MUAH! Last night, I was able to turn my own computer on for the first time in over a month... man, it felt good. Can we say addiction? I was suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms. I still don't have internet access, but it should be up and running a little while after I get settled into my new place.

Sorry, no Helmut update this time around.

Friday, October 07, 2005

My own appartment! (well, the keys, at least)

It's official! I signed the contract for my new appartment on Monday and picked up the keys yesterday. It was exciting to see it, and envision it with furniture and people in it. We do have to do some painting and renovation because the previous renter was a smoker... but other than that, it looks fabulous. Bizarro Mom gave me an IKEA catalogue, so I'll probably go this weekend and pick up a few things. They're selling bookshelves for €20. MUAH! My own place!! You guys have to visit me!

Another exciting tidbit: I called the phone company today and ordered phone connections... so... in a week or so, I'll be able to call the US for about 1.6 € cents perminute. Talk about cheap!!

I haven't ordered internet connections yet because I still have no way to even plug my computer into the wall... plus... the telephone cable connections are different here, so I think I might have to go wireless... we'll see. I don't know. What makes it even more difficult is that I don't even know the English terms for everything, and how it all works in the States. So how the heck am I supposed to get things done here?? Ah, well.

One more week...

The other day at the store, I saw a bunch of Ravensburger puzzles... I love those things. I think I might get one for a house-warming gift. Seriously. There was even a cool Da Vinci one, but it was €44 and 5,000 pieces. Yikes. I could get two bookcases for that.

Lyric of the day: "You've gotta run with it... you've gotta take it slow... you've gotta say what you say, don't let anybody stand in your way..." (thanks to Oasis)

Click here to e-mail me!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I joined a choir and met a Helmut!

All in one night. Not bad, eh?

Things have been fairly adventuresome these past couple weeks, so when some friends from church asked if I wanted to join the choir, I decided to try it out. I don't sing that well, but I can usually sing in tune, so why the heck not? And let me tell you: it was a total blast!! I never understood how choirs work, so it was quite an interesting experience for me. I always thought that the harmony part was just kind of done by ear - you sing about a third or a fifth note below the main melody... whatever sounds best. But they actually sing the notes off the sheet music... like playing the piano, but with different voices instead of keys. Fascinating.

Man, I should have paid more attention to music theory, though. Naive.

And yes... I met a Helmut... an actual living, breathing, Schwäbisch-speaking Helmut. It was hilarious. Constantine officially has competition. I seriously don't know what's more romantic: my three-seconds of eye-contact with Constantine after the *ahem* concert or gazing into Helmut's eyes and listening to that lovely Bavarian drawl.

I hope no one reading this is taking anything I write seriously.

Lyric of the day: "Alle schöne Dinge dieser Welt wünsche ich mir an dich allein..." ("I wish you all the lovely things in this world...")

Click here to e-mail me!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Logistic Update

This isn't too too interesting... but I do have people (hi, Mom!) asking me for updates, so here goes:

1. I signed an appartment lease yesterday!! For a permanent place!! It was a little nerve-wracking... but Bizarro Mom is the renter, and I trust her, so I'm sure it'll all be good. I'm moving in on October 15th. MUAH! My own place. Sturm-frei Bude. :)

2. Work Permit Update: I'm still waiting for the "authorities" to get back with me on this one. About three weeks ago, they told me it would be four to six weeks. So... I should have it in one to three weeks. That's quite a few pots of coffee...

3. Dorm Room Update: Life in the dorm room is good. The lady I'm renting from is absolutely adorable... she's a widow, so I think she's glad to have someone living upstairs. About once or twice a week, when I come home, she'll have left a piece of cake or pudding or something shes baked for me. :)

4. Helmut Update: Sorry, gals, but I still haven't found my Helmut... though I've met a really sweet guy I'd love to introduce to my sisters (he's the son of Bizarro Mom, but too young for me).

5. Work Update: I'm officially, um, drinking coffee (not working, of course) for BenQ now... as of October 1st, the mobile division of Siemens has become BenQ. There are many unanswered questions and concerns... but that's a topic for another day.

Thanks for the prayers and positive thoughts!

The Kölner Dom, the Silver Man, and Lazy Sundays

Yes, I was finally able to visit the Dom in Köln last Sunday, and it was amazing. Very Gothic and overpowering. The architecture and sculpture had a strange mixture of religious and semi-mythological themes. On the one hand, there was a strong Biblical motiv... statues of various Saints, stained-glass windows filled with Bible characters and stories, complete with a bright golden coffin that supposedly contains the bones of the three Wise Men. Hmm. On the other hand, there were quite a few non-religious carvings and such scattered throughout... strange, mythological creatures, for example.

The feel of it all brought me back to Berlin, in a way. One thing I've always loved about Europe is the tangible presence of history. It's so much more than a mere thing of the past. And it stretches back thousands of years as opposed to several hundred, as in the US. The Germans refer to Köln (Cologne, in English) as a "Römmerstadt" - a city heavily influenced by the Romans, who were there, um, a while back. Scattered throughout the city are pieces of Roman history: buildings, wells, stones, carvings and even an ancient bathing area. Even in the parking garage we were in, there was an area blocked off that contained a huge chunk of what used to be a part of a Roman building.

The sporadic creepy architecture wasn't the only thing that caught my eye in Köln... right in front of the Dome, there was a man, completely silver, Charlie Chaplin-esque, standing on a pedestal. From a distance, you'd think he was a statue. He simply stood there, on his pedestal, completely still. A pretty large crowd had gathered around him... I obviously wasn't the only one who had never seen such a sight before. Beside the pedestal, he had a little silver goblet. When someone would put a coin in, he would smile, blow them a kiss, shake their hand, or give a small bow. It was one of the bizarrest things I've ever seen.

Nearby, another man was dressed up as Spiderman (not cute... note to men: please, do not wear tights. EVER.) who was trying to do the same thing. When kiddos would put a coin in his jar, he'd do karate moves. For some strange reason, I could see him doing well in Austin.

I do have one sad observation when it comes to the Dome... we visited on Sunday, so there was a church service there that afternoon. About 15 minutes before the service started, the priests/bishops/bell boys/whatever you call them came in and started shooing everyone out. "Gottesdienst (church service) is starting in 15 minutes... no more tourists... please leave..." We were shuffled out like cattle. As I was leaving the Dome, the sadness of the situation struck me. The church service was about to start, and here the priests were, asking people to leave. Shouldn't they have been inviting people to take a seat, to stay, to participate? But alas. Gorgeous, ornate, historically significant churches... but completely empty. Dead. The priests themselves ask people to leave.

The Dome really was beautiful, though... especially by night. As we were driving home, we crossed the Rhein River, and could see the Dome in the moonlight... I don't know why, or how, but the lighting was somehow different from the other buildings... it was pale, almost ghostly.

Interesting day.

Yet another reason for you (yes, you) to come visit me. :)

Click here to e-mail me!