Monday, June 6, 2011


So I haven't updated in a long time. To tell you the truth, there's been so much going on, I kind of forgot about my blog. I guess I've been too busy living.

School is starting to wind down. I have six days of classes left and I've already had to say goodbye to some of my favorite classes. I've started the reregistration process (Lord, help me) and I've already done a bit of packing (to make sure it all fits!). I'm in this strange limbo of being excited about my next adventure, but at the same time not wanting the current one to come to a close. *sigh*

I doubt I'll go back and update all the adventures I've had between Fastnacht and now. I'll just sit satisfied knowing that this year was amazing, and quite possibly the best thing I could have asked for. I've been able learn a lot about myself: what I'm good at, my personality, what I want to maybe do in this world. I've grown up.

LG, Lauren

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


For one week out of the year, my beloved Mainzers go especially crazy. What we call Mardi Gras at home is celebrated in the Rhineland, specifically Mainz, as Fastnacht. This event is such a big deal, I had five days off of school.

The party starts the Thursday before Ash Wednesday with Altweiberfastnacht (Old Lady Fastnacht). This is pretty much 'ladies night' to the extreme. Women of all ages hit the bars armed with scissors. Men who dare to join the festivities are supposed to wear a tie, that a woman cuts off to receive a kiss (...or more).

Jill came down from Berlin to take part on some of the festivities, so we decided to try to find a place to get a drink that wasn't crazy. We wore our costumes and roamed Mainz in search of something not available on such an evening. We ended up on the hole-in-the-wall bar on my street, where we enjoyed a beverage before the bar keeper closed up at 11:30 (very, very early in terms of Fastnacht festivities).

Friday is kind of a 'low key' day with no major events, other than comedic shows and private parties around town. So Jill, Emily and I went to Ludwigshafen.

Saturday is the children's parade in Mainz. All of the kindergartens and grade schools in the area dress up in various styles and interpretations of Roman costumes and parade through the city. Except Emily's school: they dressed as construction workers, complete with a fake port-a-potty.

 Emily's School 

 Little Romans!

Sunday is filled with small parades in the communities surrounding Mainz. I went to Ingelheim to watch their parade. One of my teachers and I watched hand-made floats and decorated tractors by local organizations and school alumni groups. She dressed as a nun and I dressed as a witch. And lots and lots of champagne flowed. I saw some of my students and met their parents. It was a pretty awesome day.

Monday is the main event: Rosenmontag. The day starts and doesn't stop. The main parade starts at 11:11am on Boppstrasse, which happens to be where Emily lives. A group of us got together and watched from close to her apartment. The theme of the day is to be as crazy and silly as possible. And to say 'Helau' as much as possible.

Jessica, Emily, Me, Lori and Beth. Michelle took the picture!

The parade in Mainz is known for being very political. One of my favorite floats demonstrated the hate many Germans have for Google Street View:

 Not blog appropriate 

I also love that the floats throw out crazy things to parade-goers. A working list:
- candy
- popcorn
- chips
- chapstick
- sponges
- individual package of kleenex
- perfume
- plastic piggy bank
- packets of mustard, mayo and ketchup
- bread rolls
- fruit
- handkäse (a type of cheese)
- pretzels
- wurst [ps - we totally got one]
- left over chocolate Christmas Santas [yes, I know this is candy. But I caught one and thought it was more special than regular candy]

After the four hour parade, the party continues all night in bars and in the streets. The party mostly fizzles out on Tuesday and all partying stops promptly at midnight on Ash Wednesday. Then the Mainzers go back to their normal state and (im)patiently wait for next year.

Lg, Lauren

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Emily and I decided to kick off Fastnacht break in style and head down to Ludwigshafen and Mannheim to visit Jessica. Jill came down from Berlin for the weekend to get a taste of the Fastnacht madness and add to the fun.

Friday morning we took the train down to Ludwigshafen, then the day went as follows:

1. Eat Spaghettieis for lunch
Eating ice cream for lunch is always a good plan.

2. Take a tour of BASF
BASF is crazy. Everything we own has something made by BASF. Plastics, polyurethanes, dyes: everything! [BASF] This place is massive. A Chinese man gave us a tour (in German) of the visitor center, where he demonstrated various mini-science experiments that BASF performs, the type of stuff BASF makes and the history of the company. He was kind of hard to understand, but the tour was interesting none the less. The end of the tour is a huge room with displays showing the different ways BASF products are used. Our favorite was the describing the chemicals BASF produces for hair products where you can 'test' hairstyles:

  Bet you want to take this one home to mom 

4. Eat sushi for dinner
We went to Mannheim and had delicious sushi.

5. Go to Jessica's apartment
Back to Ludwigshafen to Jessica's apartment to eat cookies, drink tea, and watch Jessica pack.

6. Meet Jessica in Mannheim
Confused? The Fulbrighter in Germany from Hendrix last year, Jessica, was also placed in Ludwigshafen at the same school as (the current) Jessica. She lives in Mannheim with her boyfriend, is working on her MA and subs occasionally at the school. Both Jessicas are now friends. Small world. So the four of us met Jessica for drinks. We went to a cool bar with political posters and organic beer.

7. Onward to Mainz
We took the last train back to Mainz to sleep before the big adventure began.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Winter is almost over!

Remember when I was excited about the start of winter? HA! I am so ready to welcome spring.

You may have noticed, dear reader, that I haven't written in almost two months. This is, in part, due to laziness, but more that, after the Christmas Season, Germany becomes, well, dull. These past two winter months consisted of me waking up in the dark, going to school in the dark, teaching, going back to Mainz to run errands in the last hour of sunlight, and shutting myself in my apartment because it's dark. Occasionally I would go out in the evening with friends to eat, enjoy beverages, or play games, but mostly, I had no desire to go out past 4:30. Because it was cold. And dark. So my dear reader, I have not forgotten you, I just haven't had anything to write about.   

My class schedule was switched at the beginning of February, so now I teach mostly the Oberstufe (11th and 12th), instead of 8th grade. I no longer have 8f (the Teufelkinder)! I like all of my classes (some more than others), but due to a larger variety of classes, I have a lot more work in preparing lessons. But I'm liking it.

One of the only awesome things about winter I can look forward to is my birthday. Since it is at the end of February, at home it is kind of the start of Spring. Here in Germany, it is still cold (and NOT Spring), but the kick-off to having an interesting life again.

Mainz 05 happened to play Bayern on my birthday weekend, which made for an easy way to celebrate. On Saturday, Jessica came up from Ludwigshafen, Beth and Lori came in from Bingen, and the Mainzer crew gathered to watch the game and enjoy beverages at the Porter House. The game was awful - Mainz really lost - but we enjoyed ourselves. After the game, we moved on to Eisgrub for a Turm. Some crazy fan from Bayern talked (well, slurred) with us for a while, then invited us to his wedding.

With the Turm at Eisgrub (photo courtesy of Michelle) 

On your birthday you are supposed to bring food to school. I decided to bake enough peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies for every teacher. All 140 of them. Emily was gracious enough to loan me her kitchen/oven, and I spent all Sunday baking.

Monday was the big day. I hauled the cookies to school and had class like normal. I usually have 8D (my favorite!) on Wednesday, but due to some test they had to take, my hour with them was moved to Friday. Since I have the lesson they have on Monday free, I said I would come on Monday instead. I went to class, but was told that I had to wait outside. Then one of the students came out, blindfolded me, and led me inside to my surprise birthday party! The kids had baked cookies and brownies and decorated their classroom with balloons and streamers during the break. Frau Reisinger had told the students on Friday that it was my birthday on Monday, so they should be extra nice (not like they need help doing so), and they organized the party by themselves! 

And they made me a card! 

They sang 'Happy Birthday' and each student shook my hand. It was the sweetest, most thoughtful thing that has ever happened to me. I almost cried. They were so excited to throw me a party. And to eat sweets (but who can blame them?). 
The English department also gave me a card and a Schnitzel cookbook (over 50 varieties!). They've figured out that I enjoy cooking and thought it would be a nice 'German' gift. I had lots of sweet well-wishes from a lot of teachers and many requests for cookie recipes. After school I came home to flowers and cake from my roommate. This was one of my favorite birthdays, and certainly one I won't forget. 
But now we're in March, the beginning of the whirlwind adventure that eventually will lead to home. The days are becoming warmer and brighter, and far, far more interesting. 
lg, Lauren    

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Christmas Season

The Christmas Season, for me, means attending Christmas concerts. They are one of my favorite things. I was in luck that it is almost a guarantee that every church will host a concert on one of the Advent Sundays, or at least during the Advent season. The church next door to my apartment played Bach's Weihnachtsoratorium on the First Sunday of Advent. The place was packed (and it is a really big church)! I was amazed at the sound the small orchestra produced. They were quite good.

Second Sunday of Advent I met up with Beth, Lori, and Emily in Frankfurt to see the Messiah at the Alte Oper. We stopped by the Weihnachtsmarkt first, of course, for some Glühwein (another mug, check!), then found our way to the opera house. The Messiah is one of my favorite Christmas services. I've played it in some sort of orchestra every year since the tenth grade. I can sing along. And I did (ok, I mouthed along... and I mostly just ran the music line in my head and not the words :) ). The singers were amazing and every note was just as I remembered. But the concert wasn't miked! In an opera house! Everything was muffled and difficult to understand. It was a bit disappointing, but I still enjoyed it.

My favorite concert of the season actually brought on a bit of homesickness. It was that good. My friend Stephan's friend Florian is in a choir that gave a concert in Augistinerkirche, a huge baroque church in the middle of the Altstadt. The church is really stunning. The organist began the concert, giving the unmistakable first line of Once in Royal David's City, and I couldn't believe my ears. I quickly flipped through the program (which I hadn't read) to discover it was A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in the tradition of Kings College in Cambridge -- just like Hendrix Candlelight. My heart began to pitter patter when the choir proceeded down the center aisle, in the same white robes (but with no candles, sadly). Hendrix Candlelight is my favorite Hendrix tradition. Every year I attended with my family and friends, watching my best friends perform. Candlelight brings be an indescribable sense of joy and peace. And there I was, 5000 miles away, and experiencing it again. And as luck would have it, the program was going to have the readings in English. I even shed a few tears as the audience joined in for the last verses. I couldn't believe it.     

The concert was brilliant. It wasn't my friends singing, it wasn't Hendrix Chapel, and it wasn't Ansley on the organ, but it was beautiful. I left in a confused mix of giddiness and homesickness. I really miss Hendrix, but I am so happy to have had a piece of it here with me in Mainz.

My school also gave a Christmas concert, where all the choirs and orchestras performed. It was so cute. I think I'm moving up in the world with how much my student like me. I got a few smiles and even a few waves at the concert, and even met a parent (in contrast to their reactions at the Wine Festival, this is a big step!). On the last day of classes, my eleventh graders gave me a gift. I was so touched. I finally feel that I've settled in to my school. It really is a perfect fit.

lg, Lauren

PS -- Final Glühwein Mug Count: 9 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Going East, Again.

So remember that super awesome train deal that lead me to visit Dan? Well, I was smart enough to take advantage of this deal and made a grand return to Dresden to visit Jule and Sebastian for a weekend, December 9-12.

On Thursday I went to school as usual then took an afternoon train direct to Dresden. Germany has had INSANE amounts of snow, particularly out east, so my train was delayed about 40 minutes. I spent my six-and-a-half hours grading essays written by one of my eighth grade classes about "Spending Thanksgiving in the US". They were entertaining (one of my favorite essays explained that at Thanksgiving dinner they had whiskey, rum, vodka and cocktails... jeeze, I don't come off as that much of a lush, do I?).

We spent our first night in Gorbitz having a Skype Date with Jake Fluharty. Boy I miss that kid. General ridiculousness ensued. On Friday Sebastian had to work, so Jule and I visited a few Weihnachtsmarkt. We walked around the Dresdener Striezelmarkt, one of the oldest Christmas Markets in Germany, dating to 1434. Most markets are only decorated with lights, and therefore only pretty at night, but this market has a lot of wooden decorations as well, so it is pretty all the time. We met with Stephan and Katha at another market for Glühwein and then met up with more of their friends back at the Streizelmarkt for another Glühwein. (two more mugs, check!)

We met Sebastian at 3 to take a train to Zwickau, but the ticket line was super long and the train was too full (they kicked people off the train!), so we had to wait an hour for the next one. While we waited, I enjoyed a Thüringer Wurst (to make sure I had my three Ws for the day ;-) ).        

In Zwickau we made Feuerzangenbowle! 

Red wine, lemon or orange slices, spices (allspice, nutmeg) and the magic ingredient -- a sugar roll (giant sugar cube) over which you pour 54% rum and light on fire. The sugar melts into the wine making a beverage of excellence. Awesome to make, awesome to drink.  

On Saturday we were supposed to go to the Weihnachtsmarkt with Jule's mom, but she was sick. We had lunch with Oma and Opa Roscher (and I got to see Oma Roscher's awesome Christmas decorations. Beautiful hand- carved Weihnachtspyramiden and Räuchermänner. They are stunning - loved them.). Jule and I went to visit her dad in the hospital. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood, but the poor dear will have to spend Christmas in the hospital. We gave him good company for a bit so he wasn't so bored. 

Afterwards we went to the Zwickauer Weihnachtsmarkt. We enjoyed a Glühwein (another mug!) and browsed the Christmas goods. The Weihnachstmann (Santa) came and greeted children. German children sing poems to the Weihnachtsmann and I managed to learn one: 

"  Advent Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt, [Advent, Advent, a small light burns/shines]
erst eins, dann zwei, dann drei, dann vier, [first one, then two, then three, then four]
dann steht das Weihnachtsmann (Christkind) vor der Tür"  [then Santa Claus is at the door] 

The poem references the Advent candles that families burn in their homes. Each Advent Sunday, an additional candle is lit on the Advent wreath. The little kid at the market said Weihnachtsmann, but you can also say Christkind, because in some areas (heavily Catholic, primarily the South and parts of the West) the Christkind brings presents instead of the Weihnachtsmann.

 Zwickau City Hall and Christmas Market 

After our stint at the Weihnachtsmarkt, we went home and enjoyed Blueberry Glühwein and relaxed. On Sunday we made a mad dash back to Dresden, and I took the train back to Mainz. It was such a nice weekend and a greatly-welcomed change of scenery. I always enjoy my visits in Sachsen with Jule and Sebastian and I was sad to leave! I look forward to another visit in the spring -- after the snow has melted :) 

lg, Lauren 

PS - Germany's PopStars finale was during my visit and the winners released this beauty. It is quite catchy, but be sure to turn off you internal English grammar check:

Friday, December 17, 2010


One of my fellow Fulbrighters, John, had a Grand Proposal: an all-day trip around Rhineland-Pfalz, visiting Christmas Markets in Ludwigshafen, Mannheim, Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Food, Friends, and of course, Glühwein. It sounded like a pretty spectacular idea. A whole day of Christmas-spirited happy goodness and a chance to add to my collection of Glühwein mugs. And did I mention how much I LOVE Glühwein?!

December 4, 9am, our group of five Mainzer/Bingener Fulbrighters headed to Ludwigshafen to meet up with Jessica, the Fulbrighter stationed there. She picked us up from the train station and we hit the town for breakfast before the market opened at 11am. We had a nice, filling breakfast of scrambled eggs and brötchen with an assortment of jams. We hit the market shortly thereafter, got our first Glühwein of the day, and browsed the stalls. 

A nice (albeit a bit creepy) man took our picture!

  (L to R: me, Emily, John, Jessica, Lori and Beth) 

Then we moved on to Mannheim. There was a sweet model ICE train to ride (ok, intended for children), but the man at the counter wouldn't let me buy a ticket. hmph. So I enjoyed a mug of Feuerzangenbowle instead. Since we spent a long time eating breakfast in Ludwigshafen, our time in Mannheim was cut a bit short so we could catch the train to Speyer. 
On the train to Speyer, I started to get an unsettling feeling in my stomach. I figured it was just the combination of the large breakfast and the two large mugs of wine I had consumed within past hour and that it would soon pass. But buy the time we got to the Speyer market, I was sick. To prevent ruining the group's holiday cheer, I headed back to Mainz.  

*Cue worst two hours on a train ever* The only thing good about that train ride was buying a rose from a bachelor party dressed as Lady Gaga and her security guards. Brightened my mood a bit. (For those who don't know, before the bachelor party group actually parties, they collect money for the new bride and groom by selling roses and shots of alcohol in public places. The groom-to-be is usually dressed up, but this by far was the most hilarious and most creative I've seen) 

By the time I got home, I felt much better (for reasons I won't share here). I napped a bit and rejoined the group once they got to Mainz, though I didn't drink any Glühwein. 

So this got me thinking. Why on Earth would I get sick? Everyone else had the same breakfast and the same amount of Glühwein! I recalled the times I've got similarly sick since I've been here, and each time I've had eggs. So, new discovery, I have a new-developed sensitivity to eggs. Awesome :\ While I'm glad I know this now, I wish I would have found out on a different day. Oh well. 

Current Glühwein mug count: 3

lg, Lauren