Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Autobahn (and Interview)...

On the way home from an interview today, I decided to make a video in an attempt to capture the Autobahn Experience for my dear Texas/US audience.

The interview went well... though the city is too far away... ugh, I don't know what to do. And half the time I feel less like an international professional business woman and more like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom's high-heeled shoes.

Anyway. Enjoy the video. :)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Questions. And. Weird. Punctuation.

Life. Is. Frequently. Bewildering. And. I. Have. Many. Unanswered. Questions.

Is it better to be bewildered or to be bored?

Is it better to be constantly challenged or to live in a comfortable status quo?

Do normal, sane people make drastic overseas moves at age 22?

To what extent is age relative?

Is it ok to play Christmas music year-round?

Does everyone have a breaking point?

How far can someone be pushed/challenged before they go into burn-out-mode?

If you love someone, does it necessarily mean that they love you to the same extent?

Does out-of-sight equal out-of-mind?

Why do things rarely run as planned? If this is the case, why plan at all?

If you could look into the future, would you choose to do so?

When will German grocery stores start carrying chocolate chips?

That's. All. For. Now. Think. Think. Think.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last day of work...

My last day of work (on-site, that is... I'm still technically a BenQ employee) was last Friday... and being inspired by the obnoxious press, I decided to take some pictures of my own to share with you all. Not too many people have lived through what I've had to go through, so I thought this might be of interest.

As always, click on the photo to make it larger.

This is the view when leaving the building... and as you can see, there are several people from the press waiting outisde to take our pictures as we left. Now, put yourself in my shoes for a minute: you've been crying with your co-workers all day because everything is so sudden and brutal... and when leaving the building (with a swollen, red face, of course) for probably the last time, people from the press are outside waiting for you and taking snapshots. It was harsh, to the say the least, and I wouldn't wish what I had to go through on anyone.

The press took pictures of me and my co-workers without my permission, so I decided to take some lovely snapshots of them. This is another one taken while exiting the building. It was funny... as I was taking the pictures, cars were stopping for me and people were treating me as if I were a professional photographer of some sort. Ha.

They're seriously so blatant and unashamed about it! This guy was crouched to the left of the entrance, taking pictures. I guess my taking a picture of him was, em, slightly blatantly unashamed as well, but whatev. It was my last day and I was ticked off.

Here's the entrance to the building...

Someone taped a piece of paper that says "Siemens" over the BenQ sign at the entrance. Yet another way of demonstration...

This says "Don't close BenQ" It sounds better in German, though, cause it rhymes.

This says, "If you throw the people out, the lights in Kamp-Lintfort will go out." Again, it sounds better in German. Or maybe I stink at translating.

Here you can see the tent that IG Metall, the Labour Union which is responsible for us, set up. Their red flags and symbols are all over the site.

It's hard for me to describe the last several weeks... very harsh, brutal, overwhelming and nasty. But I've learned a ton, am having to seriously trust God, and am being forced to re-evaluate what it is I want to do and where I want to be.

Last year when moving here, I wanted a challenge. If ever I've had one, this is it.

Monday, October 23, 2006


In Germany, when you apply for a job, you need a "Bewerbungsfoto" or an "application picture." Here's mine:

And here are some possible captions:

"Mary for President" (Thanks, Sarah!)

"Mary for Bundeskanzlerin"
(inspired by Sarah)

"Constantine's Dream"
(Thanks, Shelby... how embarrassing!!!)

"That's FRAU Barber to you"

"Professionalism at its Best"

"Insolvency Inschmolvency"

"The Barber Identity"

"Keep Exploring!"

"The Approaching Train Wreck"

"Taiwan gone Bad"

"Corporate Image!"

"Europe's Next Top Model"

"Das Leben ist... wait, cancel that thought."

I'm accepting more caption suggestions, in case you have any.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Youth Group Video!

If a picture's worth a thousand words, then what's a video worth? :)

This is so typical of what goes on with the youth at church. They're out of control and hilarious... and thanks to YouTube, my dear US Readers can have a glimpse of the insanity.

Ok, here's a recap of who everyone in the video is (see the List of Characters, as usual)...

Eleanor is the lady in the green shirt and orange jacket (she always wears orange or green).

Syd is in the red shirt to the left, observing as opposed to participating in such silliness.

The two girls on the couch on the right are Lizzy (brown jacket) and Annita (Syd's sis, in the yellow shirt).

The Little Rascal is the one in the green shirt and jumping around like a crazed monkey.

Mariposa is in the red jacket, trying to straighten up.

Yup yup. That's our little group.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Das Leben ist...

Though life can be brutally cruel, I've concluded that it's not a Jammertal.*

For every dose of Bitterness, there usually seems to be an equal, if not greater, dose of Sweetness. Or Goodness. Or Encouragement. Or Music. Or Beauty.

*Valley of Misery

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sozialized Healthcare saved my life (well, my sore throat)

I've finally found a system/organization in Germany that's not overly complicated, frustrating and downright aggravating on a very personal level: the Healthcare System!

Let's take a moment to applaud Sozialized Healthcare. *clap clap clap*

I went to the doctor for the first time since living here (that's right, folks, one year and one month without a doctor, MUAH!) and was dreading it. But it worked. All I did was pay my 10 Euro co-pay and let them scan my little insurance-credit-card-thing, and they let me in.

What I found odd was that they didn't give me a medical background questionnaire to fill out.

[Aside to my German friends: when you go to a new doctor in the States, you always have to fill out an extremely long and detailed questionnaire about your medical history. No, this information isn't passed on from one doctor to another.]

Today, all they did was ask for my address and phone number. Strangeness.

The doctor asked a few health questions, looked at my throat, then gave me some anti-biotics. It was that simple. And "free." And I didn't even have to strip and put on an uncomfortably awkward night gown.

No wonder so many co-workers go to the doctor and take off of work every chance they get. Hmm... it's actually not a bad idea...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Photo Recap of the Last Several Months...

Sunday was a lovely day... after church, Bizarro Mom and Mr. P. were nice enough to let me travel to the Center of the Universe* with them and spend the afternoon there doing nothing. Well, we read and took an afternoon nap. Then I played the piano and looked through photos while Bizarro sorted them into notebooks.

Looking at the photos reminded me that I haven't posted any here in a while... so... here are some older photos (I've been so bad about taking photos lately... need to start taking more again!) which have finally been uploaded.

To make a photo larger, simply click on it.

Enjoy. :)

Here I am with Lizzy. :)

Here are some of the crazy youth from church... they're fabulous! :)

This was taken at the Lake one lazy Sunday afternoon. As you can see, the trailor was parked on the edge of the of the overhang, providing a perfect platform from which one can hurl oneself into the water.

Here's Syd playing the piano (yay for overstating the obvious) at the Music Seminar in Wiedenest.

If you ever need an army of Lego Men, Köln is the place to go. This was taken at a Lego shop in Köln. I was disappointed, though, because there were some repeats. Cheaters.

And another Köln picture... as usual, Mr. P. and Syd are analyzing (or shall I say overcomplicating?) something.

Here I am with Biff on one of his strange tractor-like-lawn-mower-like contraptions.

A group of us from choir sang during the Easter and Baptism service back in the Spring. (Yes, I'm wayyy behind in my photo uploading and posting.) Eleanor and I tried to sing alto... but it ended up being a weird mixture (at least in my case) of alto and soprano.

This is our gymnasium-turned-auditorium, used for special/larger events. Similar to how we used to do it at Hill Country Bible Church.

That's all for now...


The Senile Woman and the Murderous Children

Today was interesting, to say the least. I took the day off to take care of some things and run som errands. La la la.

While outside the grocery store, this little old lady started talking to me. And she wouldn't stop. I seriously think she's senile and paranoid.

Lady: "Watch out for the children! They'll push you off your bike and beat you with sticks."
Mary: "Excuse me?"
Lady: "I was riding my bike through town, and the children came and beat me up. Look!" *shows me a nonexistent bruise on her face*
Mary: "Em..."
Lady: "I went to the police, but they won't do anything about it. The children are horrible. They're going to kill me."
Mary: "How do you know? Are you certain?"
Lady: "No one believes me! I tell everyone, and no one believes me. And they stole my bicycle, right out of the basement."
Mary: "That's terrible..."
Lady: "Then I was riding my bike over a bridge in Moers, and the children tried to push me off the bridge."
Mary: "I'm sorry..."
Lady: "They wanted to kill me."
Mary: "Is it possible that you've aggravated the children?"
Lady: "No! I just tell them not to scream and play in the street and they try to kill me. Be careful of them."

Ok. Sometimes when I write, I slightly fabricate the conversations. But everything I've written here - whether the lady said it or I said it - is true. I shortened and condensed what was said (she talked for about a half an hour...), but that's all.

I didn't know what to do or say.

And now I'm terrified that evil little children are going to sneak into my appartment and kill me in my sleep.

Friday, October 13, 2006

On Sex and Context

When people have sex in the wrong context, it makes them stupid. Incredibly stupid.

By "stupid", I mean lacking in judgement, inability to see see and think clearly, inability to see the other person and situation as it really is, placement of your own desires above all else, apathy and disregard for consequences, and a shirking of responsibility.

By "context", I mean marriage. Yes, I'm taking the unpopular, seemingly-prude, seemingly-old-fashioned stance. But I'm doing so strongly and unapologetically. So shoot me.

Sex is a binding, sacred and beautiful force, created to be shared exclusively between a man and a woman in the right context. But taken outside this context, it is dangerous and destructive.

Like anything taken in excess or abused in the wrong context, it will take a powerful hold on your life. And it will kill you. The word "kill" is neither exaggeration nor dramatization.

I've seen a lot. A lot of horribly stupid things that simultaneously break my heart and make me want to strangle people.

Let this be a warning.

*steps off the soapbox*

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Thanks, Bizarro Mom!!!

Thanks to Bizarro Mom, I'm going to take lessons in piano improvisation and maybe even the organ!!! I have to stay here. Absolutely have to stay here.

Anders gehts nicht.

*sniff sniff*

Work Update, 11.10.06

The drama is never ending. At work, we either have a ton to do in the sense that we have to calculate and turn in a number/report within a couple of hours, or we're bored. Today's more of a bored-day, so here are some articles from the past week I found to give you an idea of what's going on. I translated the titles into English, but the articles themselves are from German sources.

It can be a cruel, bitter world.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing written here is confidential; all information can be found in various public news sources.

1000 BenQ employees to lose their jobs (Source)

BenQ Confirms drastic personnel reduction (Source)

IG-Metall* calls Siemens to disclose BenQ contracts (Source)

Many BenQ patents are gone (Source)

Insolvency Administrator** brings hope for BenQ employees (Source)

Politics and economics put pressure on BenQ (Source)

BenQ insolvency: Klaus Kleinfeld's*** failure (Source)

As you can tell, there's a ton of drama, complexity and chaos on a myriad of levels between multiple high-powered-players. Players include Taiwan, Germany, BenQ Corp, BenQ Mobile, Siemens, CEOs on both sides, K.Y.Lee, Clemens Joos, Klaus Kleinfeld, Politics, the Bundeskanzlerin, the NR-W Ministerpräsident, the NR-W Wirtschaftsministerin, Economics, Siemens employees throughout Germany, the Betriebsrat, Insolvency Administrators... and that's all I can think of at the moment.

It's neither fun nor pretty.

* a Labour Union fighting for employee's rights and jobs

** Insolvenzverwalter, the new legal CEO

*** the current Siemens CEO

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Resume Post: Education

As most everyone knows, I've been working on my Resume in case something with my current job falls through. It's a long, rough process... and I'd appreciate any feedback. Here's the "Education" section. Let me know what you think.


Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA, 08/01- 12/04

- Major in International Studies with Minors in German and Psychology
- graduated with a “Distinguished Student Certificate” for academic excellence
- worked together with a cruel advisor from the pits of Hades
- organized and coordinated a hitman to deal with aforementioned advisor
- Member of the International Student Organization

Round Rock High School (public school), Round Rock, Texas, USA, graduated 05/01
- Member of Quill and Scroll, a nationally recognized Journalism Society
- Member of the Spanish Club
- Member of the “Students Happy to Get the *bleep* Out of Private School” Club
- received the “University Interscholastic League Scholar Award” for academic excellence
- Participant in car-egging activities and the promotion of banned books
- Features Editor of the School Newspaper

Thanks in advance for your help.

Coming up next... Professional Experience!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tunnels and Lights

There's definitely a light at the end of the Tunnel. Though I'm afraid I'm still too far away to determine whether it's an opening into a new, bright, sunshiny day or the headlights of an oncoming train about to run me over.

We'll see in a few months. Or weeks. Or days.

*shrugs her shoulders and continues venturing towards the light*

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Short Submarine and Music Story

Once upon a time, there was a yellow submarine that sailed beneath the waves in a sea of green. The crew was a very peaceful, content and musical crew. They loved their little yellow submarine, their music, their daily chocolate rations and their time together.

As a matter of fact, there was even a band on board, and this internationally renowned band played in harbours all over the world. The submarine, the music, and the chocolate had to be financed in some way, after all.

There was a slight problem with some of the instruments, however. A few were slightly out of tune or not up-to-date, and the band also had a Keyboard as opposed to a real piano, which was a huge disadvantage.* The submarine Captain, Sergeant Pepper, recognized the problem, but being the cruel, powerful, greedy creep he was, started secretly looking around for a new Sergeant.

Without consulting the crew or the band, Sgt. Pepper simply sold them one day and joined a red submarine that sailed the sea of blue. The new Captain, Sgt. Dai Zui Fan Xiang (English name: Bobby) came from a Land Far Away and promised that he'd help the musicians tune their instruments and maybe even invest in a real classical grand piano one day. Everyone was a little uncertain, but they didn't have any other choice, so they sailed away in the sea of green with Sgt. Bobby.

The seas they sailed were rough and the waves were wild. There was so much turbulence, in fact, that the submarine almost sank multiple times. Many crew members were sick; the instruments were broken; and the band slowly began to lose their motivation and strength. After a year, Sgt. Bobby, being equally as cruel and greedy as Sgt. Pepper, decided he'd had enough, so he packed up as many instruments as he could carry and flew back to his Land Far Away, where no one could find him.

By this point, the crew was livid. They'd been lied to and tricked, and decided to investigate. What they found was not pretty. Not only did Sgt. Pepper sell them, but he had given Sgt. Bobby 350 thousand mp3 music files and a brand new mp3 player as payment. Sgt. Pepper had also signed a contract stating that many of the instruments and the music that the band had written belong to Sgt. Bobby and not to the band itself. In addition, the band's music-know-how had been stolen: Sgt. Bobby had seen their sheet music, their lyrics, their technical equipment, and their new song ideas.

The crew went into panic, cancelled their upcoming band gigs, and hired a Private Music Guru to advise them what to do next. The Private Music Guru saw the following options: (1) find a new Sergeant for the yellow submarine, (2) find multiple submarine Sergeants who might be interested in buying certain parts of the submarine, (3) carry on as before, but with an unmotivated crew and broken instruments, or (4) let the submarine sink.

In the meantime, the crew will not only give up their music writing and practicing, but they might have to give up their daily chocolate rations for three months as well. Instead of practicing, singing, playing and scrubbing the decks, they're all sitting around sulking, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and trying to figure out what to do next.

story to be continued...


Story inspired by Yellow Submarine by the Beatles and life's situations

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Work Update, 04.10.06

The work atmosphere is horribly depressing. And. I'm. having. a. hard. time. dealing. with. it.

I don't usually get angry, but the current situation really puts me off. So, as usual, I'm coping by turning it into either poetry or a joke.

Anyway. I decided to call Uncle Dubyah today as a last resort.

*ring ring*
Secretary: "Thank you for calling the White House, how may I direct your call?"
Mary: "Hey, it's Mary. Is Uncle Dubyah there?"
Secretary: "Of course, just a second."
*click click click*
President Bush: "Buddy the Elf, what's your favourite colour?"
Mary: "We have a serious situation here!"
Bush: "What's going on, kiddo?"
Mary: "I'm really ticked off at Taiwan."
Bush: "Yeah, I never liked the Middle East that much... ya know, all those crazy Latinos."
Mary: *scratches her head* "Well, I have a new mission for you."
Bush: "Does it involve explosives?"
Mary: "Would you turn Taiwan into a parking lot? Or a landing strip? Or maybe a theme park?"
Bush: "Let me check my calendar..."

And we'll be checking the international news.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Never-never Land

Last night* I somehow ended up in a deserted mansion in Never-never Land. There was this ancient ornately carved wooden piano in the hallway that I unfortunately wasn't able to play, as Wendy, John, Michael and I were being hunted down by evil beady-eyed Taiwanese Business Men**. Fortunately we escaped, thanks to a Narnia-esque Wardrobe filled with mothball-laden clothes, perfect for hiding in.

Peter Pan showed up late... but instead of being a normal-sized human being, he was a little flying green Lego Man.

Tinkerbell was nowhere to be seen.

Life gets weirder by the day (or by the night, should I say?).

*in another bizarre dream of mine

**actually, by Captain Hook and the Crew

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Work Update, 02.10.06

Hmm... how do I phrase this to avoid losing my job today as opposed to in a couple of months? Let's just say that the drama and headaches are never-ending. And, fortunately, so is the love and support. So, THANK YOU!

Here are the recent interesting developments*:

- Jürgen Rüttgers, the Ministerpräsident of Nordrhein-Westfallen (comparable to a state governor), was actually at our site on Friday. That's a big deal. And I was ten feet away from him... though he's no competition for Tony Blair.

- The Works Council/Committee (Betriebsrat), IG Metall and some other local politicians also threw a well-deserved hissyfit for the workers and the press on Friday. Ah, riled-up crowds... they're interesting to observe.

- An Insolvency Administrator (Insolvenzverwalter) has taken over the company; all costs and decisions are in his control.

- My co-workers refer to me as Aphrodite. If the Taiwanese can pick out English names for themselves, then my co-workers and I can pick out Greek names, darn it. I originally wanted to be Artemis, but they thought Aphrodite was a better fit.

- Our salaries are guaranteed until December 31, and will be covered by the Employment Bureau (Arbeitsamt).

- Siemens announced Monday that they would help BenQ employees by paying for additional schooling that could be needed for a new job. Um. Thanks. But I'd prefer an actual job.


Two new projects have officially been considered and approved, and will be executed as soon as possible: Project Freak-Out Avoidal and Project New Opportunity Search.

Das Leben ist... em... manchmal ne bissl hart.

*everything I've written has also surfaced somehow, at some point, in the press. I'm not spilling any confidential information here.