Bring on the Bling

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ich gehe nach Deutschland!!

Kiel, Germany
This past Friday, I received an email from the University of Utah Learning Abroad Office, notifying me that I had been accepted into the German program. I literally started screaming as soon as I saw it! I had been back and forth for months trying to decide if I should apply, weighing pros and cons, trying to figure things out. I can't believe it's finally happening. I posted on Facebook that I was going, and decided that I should probably explain a little bit about this life-changing opportunity...

Last year, I decided to go back to school to get a TESOL certificate, which would allow me to apply for ESL jobs internationally. One of the requirements at the U is to take a foreign language that we have no experience with. The purpose is to put us in the same situation our future students will be in learning English the first time. With my work schedule and other classes taking precedent, I realized my language class would have to be at night. The only classes that I could take were Arabic, Portuguese, or German. The only time available was M/W from 6-8pm. I was devastated. I had been singing with the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir since I moved to Utah, and would now have to leave the choir since they rehearse on Wednesday evenings. At first, I was against it. I loved the choir, the music, singing, my director, and being a part of something consistent. Plus, I had responsibilities in the choir. I spent many nights driving my friends crazy as I considered the class. Finally, I rationalized with myself and said, "Hey, it's only for one semester. This class isn't going to change my life." Boy, was I wrong!

Why did I sign up for German? 
1. Portuguese is WAAAAAAY too close to Spanish and I know it would give me problems...the same way French did.
2. I don't know any Arabic speakers that live in Utah that could help me practice.
3. I had access to at least 2 native Germans and a handful of RMs from Germany at work that could help.
4. My family comes from Germany.

I took German 1010 last semester and just fell in love with it. I loved most of the people in my class and just ADORED my teacher. Plus, she's a PhD student in Linguistics, so we had that in common. I worked really hard and earned an A in the class. As a part of our grade in any language course, we have to do "communities," where we interact with native speakers. I had some fun adventures diving in headfirst:
Swiss Days in Heber w/Kasia...quite disappointing!
Saving grace: Kerry Christensen playing his accordion!

3rd Oktoberfest...this one was in Snowbird with Cameron
Bought ourselves some Steins! Saw Kerry again! Love him!
Hanging out with a Reindeer at Christkindlmarkt
Towards the end of the semester, our professor's son came and talked to us about the study abroad program in Kiel. He had gone through the program a few years before and extended his stay because he loved it. I listened politely, but didn't think too much of it. I'm almost 30 and study abroad wasn't on my radar. Well, the semester ended and I didn't have any plans for taking the next semester: I thought I was going back to choir. That's what I planned, that's what I wanted...or so I thought.

During Christmas break/vacation, I did a lot of thinking. I also hashed it out pretty well with my coworker, and came to the conclusion that I really did love the language and should keep going. I love taking language classes and this was no exception. I signed up for 1020. And then cried. I really missed singing in choir. Church choirs are great, but I usually lead them and have too many other things going on. I missed just being a part of one. Then, the most amazing thing happened: I realized that I could join the German choir, Harmonie! I got so excited about being able to sing again! I learned that the choir sings all German songs, but the rehearsals are in English (thank goodness). 
First day with Harmonie!
Hilary, Kim, Jim, me
Now that I was enrolled in a second semester, the idea of going to Kiel to study was constantly on my mind...and my professor helped by mentioning it a lot. I found myself suddenly immersed in German: I was in a German choir, I started to attend a German LDS Sacrament meeting, I mainly listen to German pop music, I am learning German recipes, and even started a pen pal with a friend-of-a-friend in Leipzig. What was happening?? Every day, I talked about it to my coworkers and would talk about why I shouldn't go to Kiel. They would respond with the whole "you can make money later" and "it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." I was still worried. My family was getting ready to move to Vegas, my sister and her family had just moved to Provo, and I seemed to be the stable one, oddly enough. I just couldn't see how it would be a possibility to leave them. Plus, I hadn't told my family that I was looking into this at the time. I didn't want to have to answer a bunch of questions that I didn't know the answer to. 

I don't remember what happened or what triggered my decision. I had been praying for weeks about whether or not to go. Suddenly, I found myself saying that I was going to apply. At first, I didn't want to tell my professor because I knew she would be super excited and I don't like to get my hopes up. Well, one of my classmates let it slip and, of course, she heard and we started talking about it. She suggested emailing her son and asking him more detailed questions about daily schedules, fun weekend excursions, etc. I thanked her, but decided that I would wait until I heard if I was accepted. 

At this point, I decided that I should let my parents know that I was applying. I honestly didn't know how they would react. I was glad that they were excited. Mom wants to come meet me in Germany and do some family history in Suhl. SURE!! I told her I still had to finish the application. The application process was interesting. I had to write a few essays and applied for a few scholarships. One of the scholarship applications required a letter of recommendation from my professor. I asked her to write one and she sent me a copy. I cried as I read it...she was so sweet and made me sound awesome on paper! And yes, a copy of it is posted on my fridge.I'm still waiting to see if I will be awarded any scholarships. Regardless, I'm going to Germany! I will be selling my car to help pay for it (yikes), but it's worth it in my mind. The program starts July 4 and goes through mid-August. I will be in class Monday-Thursday at the Christian-Albrechts-Universit├Ąt zu Kiel. Our classes will be taught by a native of Kiel, but the students will be just from the U. I will be doing a "home-stay," so I will be living with a family instead of the dorms. We have a few excursions built into the program, with a weekend in Berlin, and day trips to close cities, such as Hamburg. Obviously with weekends off, I will be traveling: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are really close. Plus, we will be getting a bus pass with the program, so I'll hopefully get to run around a bit! Students can learn to sail and row on the rivers and fjords that surround Kiel, which is super exciting! 

So many things to think about and get in order! I can't wait!! Looks like I should email my professor's son and get the skinny...WOOHOO!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seattle!!

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring!"

Seattle City Center Monorail
I recently found that quote from David Bowie, and I think it is just amazing. It sums up what my life has become recently. People are always asking me what my plans are and what I'm doing next. While I love talking about my upcoming travel plans, I don't always have every LITTLE DETAIL figured out.  I've realized that people don't always accept "I don't know" as an answer. Sometimes, the unplanned details bring about the most amazing experiences.

I'm currently sitting at SEATAC, waiting for my return flight to Salt Lake City. Although I'm excited to be going home to my own bed and shower, I can't help but think of what an amazing weekend I just had. My girl Michelle wanted to go to her former roommate's wedding reception in Vancouver, Washington. She asked if I wanted to meet her in Seattle for a long weekend. How could I say no to that?? I've figured out that it doesn't take much to get me to travel...

I've got a few things coming up soon (more to come on that, once I get the official word), and my life has become extremely hectic...like the typical over-busy YSA that we hear about...too many good things going on in my life. But I digress...

I had submitted paperwork for a replacement passport (mine was stolen years ago), and was waiting to get that lovely hard envelope in the mail. Michelle and I talked, and we decided that if I get my passport in time for our trip, we'd make a pit stop to Canada...JUST BECAUSE I CAN! The time flew by and...no passport. Bummer. The morning that I flew out, I checked our mailbox one last time, and...

BAM! Just in the nick of time!! Canada, here we come!!

Michelle and I were super-stoked for a fun and low-key weekend. Well...low-key for me. We bought our tickets over a month ago (gasp!) and have been thinking of things to do. I didn't know a lot about Seattle, other than they had the Space Needle, a sub-par baseball team, and those stupid Seahawks. Oh, and that it rains a lot. A. LOT. Seriously, Seattle. What's up with that? You made our flights really uncomfortable, to the point where Michelle was delayed almost 1.5 hours from San Fran, and both of us experience sharp, sudden dives, which made the people around us vomit. Woof. Whatever, nothing can ruin my trip! I was originally scheduled to land 30 minutes before Michelle, but ended up having to wait about 2 hours in the airport. I didn't mind...I was able to get some homework turned in early and catch up on NCIS. Thankfully, Michelle's college friend has a nice house in Seattle and we were able to crash for free. Bonus? He lived about 20 feet from a major bus line!

Our stop...literally around the corner!
One of the things that was on my Seattle to-do list was to check out this market that everyone kept talking about. We went to Pike Place Market first thing Thursday morning, and were able to enjoy it without the crazy crowds. Michelle and I loved seeing the different colors of produce, the crazy fish they just caught, and all of the awesome crafts. We wandered around for a while and enjoyed not having an agenda.





View from the Market
 After wandering around for a while, we decided that it was time to grab some lunch. Before we left, I downloaded an app that a coworker suggested. It pulls up the restaurants featured on the Food Network close to your location. We happened to be close to one called The Crab Pot, and walked over to it.

Fried Fish basket...thanks Man vs. Food!
I was only able to put down about 1/3 of the basket. It was really good, but SO MUCH FOOD!! The basket had 2 sizes of shrimp, halibut, calamari, clams, and a few others. It was so nice to be sitting with Michelle on the pier, eating fresh fish, and just relaxing.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Seattle Underground Tour. My coworker, Nikki, suggested that we check it out. She went on it the last time she was in town, and just raved about it. I'm glad we took her recommendation, because it was so awesome!!

Hanging out in the saloon, waiting for the tour to start!


Old signs, rats, cobwebs...so creepy!!

We would go down one alley, and come up another - CRAZY!!

Hopping on the bus, back to Daniel's place!

Having some fun with selfies while waiting for the bus and other places...
On Friday, we decided to go get a car and drive up to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I was so excited!! We took the bus up to an Enterprise dealership a few minutes up the street and went in to get a car. The guy working the counter told us that they didn't have any cars to rent, even though there were a few in the lot. Whatever. I asked him where else we could rent a car, since we just got off the bus. He told us that there was another Enterprise dealership by the University of Washington. I asked him where exactly, and he told me it was about a 10-15 minute drive. I looked at him and said, "We took the bus. We don't have a car...which is why we're here asking about renting one." He said, oh. There's a Hertz rental around the corner. Michelle and I just died when we got outside. Needless to say, we went and got a car. The bummer was that the gas tank was almost empty. We had to go find a gas station, get some lunch and Starbucks, and then we were FINALLY on our way to Canada!

Her name is Sheila, and she served us well!

Waiting to cross the border...got GRILLED by the customs agent!
One of the things that we failed to realized was that since Canada is international, our phones wouldn't work! Seriously, why didn't we think about this before!!?? We were going into another country without maps, without having the slightest idea of where were were going or what we were doing. Plus, it was getting dark. It took us almost 4 hours to finally reach Vancouver. I had talked to my grandma before we left and found out that she was raised in Vancouver. We were fortunate enough to drive by her old neighborhood. It was beautiful. When we finally chanced a quick roaming minute on our cell, we located a sushi place that I wanted to try. When we got there, we were turned away because all of their seats were full. We were welcome to try back 2 hours later. We ended up going next door to this awesome place, and loved it.




One thing that we needed to do while in Vancouver, was to get to Stanley Park. Our server at the restaurant was able to give us good directions. It was so beautiful to see the city lights.




Favorite story of the trip to Canada: Michelle's sister had her looking all over for a specific type of candy. Since we didn't have a map, we were just stopping at gas stations along the way back to Seattle. I was getting some Canadian chocolate in one gas station while Michelle ran across the street to another. She came back and told me she only found one bag of the candy. She said she gave the clerk a $20 (thankfully they took US dollars), and the clerk gave her back Canadian money. She asked why he gave her fake money. She didn't realize that we were in a different country. I couldn't help but laugh. A lot. She was like, what am I going to do with this money?? We decided to put it in the tank on our way out, hence the picture below!


Such a happy sight to see! Welcome back to the US!!

Saturday was the wedding, but since we weren't going to the ceremony, we didn't need to be in Vancouver, WA, until 7:00pm. We went to check out the Gum Wall below Pike's Market. It was gross, but so awesome!



Thankfully, I had a pack of gum in my backpack!

It was so gross! The gum was 5 pieces thick...

...but we made our mark!!



Awesome little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place we hit up for lunch in Pike's!


Love it!!
I've made it a goal to try a "different" food during every vacation. This time around, I went for some Uni! It was so good! I cringed a little bit, mainly because it looked like orange tongues wriggling around with some puss. I was afraid it was going to be a fishy flavor, but it surprisingly wasn't! I actually enjoyed it. The fish guys put some lemon on it for me. It was fun to be walking around the Market with the urchin in hand, getting curious looks from all the tourists.


Proof that I finished it all! And yes, texted my chef brother to brag!

Saturday morning at the Market!


We finally took off for the wedding. Of course, it was raining. Again. I drove for 3 hours in the rain, and we finally made it to the reception. Since I didn't know the bride or groom, I hung around and just was Michelle's Goose. They had one of those photo booths where you get 2 sets of pictures: one for you to keep and one for their sign-in book. We had fun dressing up and taking pictures.

Michelle looking all types of fly...


We decided that since we were so close to Portland, we'd just jump over the bridge and get some Voodoo Donuts. Portland was super busy for a Saturday night. As such, I didn't find a parking space close, so I dropped off Michelle and went to look for a spot. After parking a few blocks away, I walked over to the shop, getting offered drugs and sex along the way. Stay classy, Portland.

Entering Oregon

Soaking wet, but we have our Voodoo Donuts! Now, another 3 hour drive back...
Sunday morning came, and I found some time to myself. I went and found the Freemont Troll (after driving around a bit). It was really cool and weird. Oddly enough, it's holding a VW Bug in it's hand.



I heard about the Snoqualmie Falls and wanted to go check it out. On the way, I also decided to stop by the Seattle temple. The day was turning out to be sunny and beautiful, which was awesome!








So glad I had a sweatshirt!

Snoqualmie Falls 


After checking out the Falls, I decided to take a little drive further down stream and found the riverbank. I hung out for a little while, just listening to the water and feeling the chill of the air. It was so serene and secluded. It was just what I needed to clear my head.




Sunday night, we made dinner for Daniel as a thank you for letting us stay. Michelle made chile relleno, bean, and rice, and I made some pico de gallo. It was so good. That night, I had a few more things that I wanted to do before we left. I quickly hoovered my food and took off again. I wanted to see the Space Needle and ride the monorail. I also wanted to get a picture of the Pike Market sign at night. What I didn't know was that it was a pretty sketchy part of town...again offered drugs. Weird.




Getting ready to ride the monorail!



We had a few hours Monday morning before we had to get ready and go to the airport. We ran quickly to the Market one last time to get some fish and crab shipped home. I shipped mom 2 crabs as a souvenir. She loved them! Michelle sent her mom some shrimp and fish. 



We were the first patrons at the fish market and had some fun with the fishermen...and in my defense, he kept wiggling the fish and opening the mouth at me!


First Starbucks!!

Saying goodbye at the airport

This trip was so much fun! Although it rains too much for my taste, I decided that I need to come back to Seattle and revisit a few places!!