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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hamburg 1st Impressions

***First off, for any who might have missed what it the world we are doing in Hamburg (read: Aunt Karen - though I'm sure there are others), I thought I'd do a quick (or not so quick) update.  So, a couple weeks ago I graduated with my Master's.   Well, technically I'm still a student until August, but I'm done with all of my classes and I walked at graduation.  One of the requirements for my Master's degree is to do an internship.  We don't really have to find the internship (although we can).  Instead, we give our preferences to the professor who heads the program and he finds one for us.  So, the one I got is working for UNESCO's institute of Lifelong Learning in Hamburg.  UNESCO = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  They're the ones who designate World Heritage Sites.  But, I'm working in the education sector where they do a lot of development work.  When I got my internship, Tom thought he might as well see if he could come along as well.  His first google search he happened upon an international law firm (I won't list which one just for internet privacy reasons, but if for some reason you HAD to know you could always ask).  He asked his dad if he'd ever heard of it (his dad was living in Peru at the time btw) and he said, "yeah, I was just at their Venezuela office yesterday!"  Turned out he was good friends with someone relatively high up in that office, who contacted the Hamburg branch and Tom got the internship without even so much as sending in a resume.  Of course, none of this is paid, but I at least get $3,000 from UPenn to repay internship expenses, so that is covering most of it.  There have also been other helpful parties (who know who they are).  So, there you have it.  We are doing internships in Hamburg until mid-July.  At which point, I will fly back to California for my bro's wedding and Tom will fly back to Philly, get all our stuff and drive it to Utah and then hopefully come out to the wedding as well.  We'll then be looking for jobs ANYWHERE and I haven't a clue where we'll be in a year.***

So, onto Hamburg.  Let me just say that I wasn't necessarily super excited about coming to Hamburg.  I was excited.  I thought it would be good.  But, my first choice was to do an internship in Africa somewhere and once I knew it would be Hamburg I was so busy that I barely had time to think about it.  Plus, I think I just saw it as one more move.  I'm almost glad that I didn't over-psych myself out for it, because it has made it all the more enjoyable now that I'm here and it's great.

Both Tom and I work in very nice areas of the city.  Tom's firm is downtown.  It's right next all the pretty things I took pictures of in the last post.  Plus, there are lots of European-looking cobblestone streets and toooons of shops.  His walk to and from work thus far has been quite pleasant.

My work is by the U. of Hamburg and is in an area with lots of very nice, posh looking houses and shops.  It kind of reminds me a bit of the area of D.C. with all the embassies.  In fact, there are a few embassies there.  So far I've seen the French, Venezuelan and U.S. embassies.  On thursdays there is a big food, grocery, flower market right under the auspices of this church:

There is a pretty large lake at the center of Hamburg and after work, I often walk down to it.  On my walk I pass the church above, many nice houses, such as this one, which always has intense classical music flowing out of it:

Little cobblestone street that leads to the park that's on the lake. 

Walkway to the lake. 
Park on the lake, looking to the North.

Park on the lake, looking to the South.

As you can see, the lake is wonderful.  The park right next to it is quite large and has beautiful and varied foliage, lots of walking paths and even pretty white chairs on the lawn.  People are there jogging, cycling, walking dogs, picnicking, etc.  On the lake there are sailboats, rowboats and tourboats.  There are lots of benches too.  I often walk there, read a chapter or two of my current book, then walk to the subway.  The best part is that there are also little ducklings waddling and swimming around everywhere with their mommas.

I really have lots of thoughts on Hamburg so far, but here are the things that stand out:

- THE FOOD.  I love it.  There are pastry shops everywhere with all kinds of delicious creations for relatively cheap.  There's a lot of icecream, lots of Indian food, and lots of kebabs and falafel.  We went to the grocery store for the first time the other day and I was so excited about what we bought that I took a picture of it:

Just a few highlights: the milk was 0.45 euro per carton, the Vitalis is a cereal I ate all the time and love in Romania and I've overjoyed to have it back, the oranges were juicy and tasty, and the yogurt is in a JAR.

Right after getting home I made bruschetta, but cutting (literally, with scissors because we have no knife) the French bread (which was still warm btw) in half, spreading it with olive oil, frying it (no oven), spreading a creamy basil pesto sauce we bought on it, then topping it with mozzarella (the ball cost only 0.55 euros!) and tomatoes.  Oh my.  It was one of the best things I've ever eaten.

I also love grabbing a pastry at the train station each morning on my way to work.  A different kind every day!  I could go on and on and on, but I guess I'll stop here.  I love food.

- Cyclists.  Hamburg is filled with them.  The sidewalks have a side for pedestrians and a side for cyclists and you better make sure you're on the right side if you want to live!  One time I inadvertently stepped through the bike lane as I went to cross the street and before I was able to take another step a cyclist whipped past me followed by about 3 more before I could even move!  It makes me really want to have a bike here though.  Fortunately, there are bikes for tourists scattered throughout the city.  They're free for the first 30 min and the stations are close enough to each other that you can just ride from station to station and keep going for free all day!  Haven't done it yet, but looking forward to it.

- There are flower shops EVERYWHERE and flowers are much cheaper.

- The lake + the River Elbe.  Work is close to the lake and home is close to the river.  I'll introduce it to you in another post.

- The area we live in is the richest/nicest area of Hamburg.  The houses are large and pretty and sometimes they're on hills with little cobblestone walking paths that wind from house to house and the River below.

- The parks/gardens.  I feel like I come across these everywhere and they are all stunning.  The one we went to the other day had to be one of the most gorgeous parks I've ever had the pleasure of walking through.  For another post.  I have a list of about 10 that I want to explore.

Well, I'm sure there's much more to say, but Tom wants the computer, so I better save it for another time.  Until then, auf wiedersehen!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Plains, Trains & Automobiles (and Subways and Busses and Feet)

Well, after packing up a few things and storing the rest, we departed our quaint little studio and hopped in the car. From there we picked up brother-in-law Bob, who drove us to the train station.

Then, we boarded a bus to NYC...

and took the subway to JFK.

Travel tip for those without iphones: take a picture of the subway map and then just zoom in to see the spots when needed.
We took a flight to London, where my Heathrow curse was broken...

1st flight through Heathrow: would be terrorist @ heathrow got caught.  Same incident that brought the dreaded liquid regulations.
2nd flight through Heathrow: fire in the airport.
3rd flight, this time to Heathrow: public transit went on strike making it quite difficult to get out of the darn airport.
4th flight through Heathrow: Never happened because Heathrow was fogged in.  My flight got cancelled on Christmas Eve.
allowing us to fly on to Hamburg. In Hamburg we took a commuter train, then a subway, then a bus. We used some random person's phone to figure out where our accommodation was and finally walked to our temporary "home." Whew. Do you feel tired now?

We found a b&b of sorts on It was supposed to include internet, but the internet stopped working right before we came, apparently. This is always a pain, but it becomes a crisis when you still have a paper to do that is due in about a day. So, instead of resting from jetlag and spending our first day in Hamburg blissfully exploring the city, we spent the first half of the day wandering from office to office on the U. of Hamburg campus trying to connect to the wifi. Finally, we found the right person and filled out the forms only to find that it would be sent to our address in a few days. Yeah, we still don't have an address. Instead, I ended up writing my paper signed in as a guest on the U. of Hamburg library computers. I got about halfway done before the library closed at 9pm. So, we went home and I wrote the rest there. Of course, I don't have a USB and without the internet I can't email it to myself, so what did I do? I went back in the morning and re-typed all that I'd written overnight onto the library computers. This is especially fun when you're using a German keyboard with extra letters and letters switched around. By the end of my 20+ references my hands were pretty much having a nervous breakdown, what with the z and y switch and the colon, quotes, underline, italics, etc. all moved around.

Finally, though, I finished!!! I finished my LAST school paper EVER and celebrated by exploring the city of Hamburg and eating a big, delicious, strawberry and custard pastry! Tom and I decided to walk downtown to his work and wherever our fancy took us.

Once again, when you don't have a map or iphone, you just take pictures of google maps.  Our b&b, the University and my work are on the west side of the lake.  Tom's work and our adventures during the blog post are to the south and slight west of the lake.  Our current accommodation (a hostel) and church are on the east.  You can see the beginning of our directions from the hostel to church.

I loved this guy.  He was playing music on that instrument and it just felt very quaint.  He looked really happy too.
Hamburg has a lake in the center of the city.  The lake is kind of separated into a smaller southern part and a larger northern part.  Tom's work is by the southern part and mine is by the northern part.  Both parts are gorgeous!  Here is a sort of panorama of the southern part:

The green roofed building in the background is called the Rathaus.  It is the city hall.  While it may not look THAT impressive here that is only because it's a bit far away and obscured by buildings.  Sadly my battery died before we went to explore it.  I'll do it justice later.  Tom walks by this everyday to and from work.
We came across this huge, imposing church.  The bells were tolling over and over.

Turns out they were tolling because of this wedding.  The bridal party came out right as we arrived.

After this we explored the Rathaus, which was having a big children's carnival in the square in front of it.  Then we walked through the park area alongside the lake and on home to the b&b.

I love Europe.

Monday, May 21, 2012


So, I realize I just posted a graduation post, but there were two!! This one won't be so long. So, the first post was about the graduation just for the Graduate School of Education. This one was for the whole school. First, we all lined up along "Locust Walk" (the main walkway of the school) according to our disciplines. It was at this point that I realized that only a few of my friends were participating and that it might be a bit of a bore to stay for the whole thing. So, I decided it would be best to do the locust walk procession, then skip out right before entering Franklin Field (football stadium where graduation is held). The procession was kind of cool just because there were a bazillion of us and it felt all pomp and circumstance-y. It also took forever because there were so many. By the time we reached the stadium I was totally ready to skip out. Tom wanted to watch the keynote speaker though and I realized I wanted to as well. ,Som we decided we'd take pictures, then I'd take off my gown and come back incognito in time for the keynote at the end. It was a good plan. We did just that. The keynote ended up being a really good one as well. It was by Geoffrey Canada. If you aren't familiar with him, you should look him up! Here are the pics: The procession (which I skipped out of):
The statue is of William Penn and the building behind it is one of two favorites of mine on campus. It used to be the main building back in the day and it is HUGE and gothic:
Aren't my parents cute?
Why, yes it is the ugliest building on campus:
Everyone leaving after commencement:
So, maybe it was still a bit long. What can I say - I have my strengths and my weaknesses! Next up........HAMBURG!!

GSE Graduation!

So I was horrible at blogging in Philly. Probably because I was REALLY busy. Definitely not because there was nothing going on or because Philly wasn't blog worthy. Philly may have been more interesting than anywhere else I've lived and I loved it! But, unfortunately, there was no time. So, the plan is that I'm going to start with graduation, get up to date (that was only like 10 days ago). Then, IF I have time I want to do some retro posts on Philly. By the way, I live in Hamburg, Germany now! Woot! So, without further ado.... I graduated! I have a Master's degree! Well, actually, I'm still a student until August and I had a paper due after I walked in graduation, but I'm done with classes and all I really have left is my internship. YAY!! No more homework ever!!!! So, a couple days before graduation, my parents came to town. Some really great people in our ward were very generous and let them stay at their apartment while they were here. That was so lucky, because it would have been very very crowded in our studio otherwise! It really did make the week because I think my parents were a lot more comfortable there. Some day, I want to be a really welcoming host to poor travelers. It's something I've been grateful for many times in my life and I want to return the favor. It can be so important and it just makes you feel good when someone is a great host. Aaaaanyway... So, it was great fun having my parents here, having good conversations with them, showing them what Philly is all about and just relaxing for a few days (even though I still had tons to do!). Some highlights were going to the Edgar Allan Poe museum (I love him!) and going to the zoo. Going to the zoo is one of my favorite things ever and my dad, in particular, really loves it too. We are kindred spirits on that. I just find animals fascinating and can stare at almost any animal for a looong time. My favorites though and the big cats, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, monkeys and especially the gorillas. Gorillas are my faves. Even if they're just sitting there doing nothing I just think they are soooo cool. We got some good looks at them this time and some especially good looks of the tigers and also the lions. Surprisingly the otters were great fun to watch because there were 5 or so of them that just kept chasing each other and roughhousing all over, non stop. So great. But anyway, then I graduated!!! Here are some pics:
This is me hugging my advisor, Ameena.
And this is one of my cohort members. Doesn't she look soooo happy to see Ameena looking for a hug at the other side of the stage?? Such an endearing picture. If you're reading this KZL, you rock!
Aw, this is me with my friend Kelly. We had a bazillion classes together and by the end just ended up sitting next to each other all the time. She's great. I like her. Yay Kelly!!
Aren't we cute?
This is my cohort. Looking at them all gets me just a bit choked up! They really made this year great. Best thing about the program by far. These are some mighty might fine people who I am proud to know. I like every single one of them. They are going to do great things. PERSONALITY! GO IEDP!!!