Bring on the Bling

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

First full week in Germany!

I am hopefully now completely caught up with my adventures! I’m so excited to write about what’s been going on and I hope my fingers can type fast enough! Right now, I’m sitting in the Laundromat down the street from the dorms. Oddly enough, it’s pretty similar to the Laundromats that I had to go to in Utah. Well, except for the instructions, currency, temperature, the fact that you pay for everything at one station, and the huge drying hand crank in the corner…but I digress.

Saturday night, my neighbor Tom and I figured out the route to church…which would take us downtown for a transfer to another bus. Of course, by the time we got to the stop for the transfer, we realized that the little application we used didn’t give us the Sunday bus times, but the weekday times. We ended up having to wait for about 40 minutes for the 1 bus to come pick us up. Fortunately, the stop was in the middle of the local Flea Market, so we spent some time walking up and down the street, browsing at the shwag. There was quite a bit of it…and some that drew our attention more than others: magic cards, shoes, bikes, helmets, movies, books, toys…almost like in the song from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks…Portabello Road.” So great.

Vendors all over the place!

Tom and I were so happy that we found the church!
We got to church a little late, so we missed the first part of the Sacrament. I was sad because I wasn’t able to attend church the week before since I was on a plane. We walked inside the chapel and I was pleasantly surprised with how many people were in the ward. I didn’t really know what to expect walking in, but it was great to see all of the Saints up here in Kiel! We met the Bishop, who happens to be Sylvia’s cousin, Bishop Haak, and we also met the Labahns, whom I will talk about a little later. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. It was a great relief! I didn’t understand a lot, but it’s something to work for! I also got invited to a welcome home party for the following Saturday: Sylvia had been hosting a teenager from Kiel and his family, the Labahns, were having a party for him. I was so excited!

Monday was pretty cool: we had our orientation and walking tour of the city. Well, of Old Town Kiel. Up to this point, I still didn’t have Internet access in my room, so I ventured out early in the morning to a spot on the Fjord where I knew I could get Internet access. Getting from the spot to the International Center for the start of orientation proved to be a little bit of a problem. The bus system in Kiel is awesome, but sometimes the busses I need don’t line up the way I need them to. Monday was no exception: the bus was 1 minute later than my connection left, which left me no choice but to walk the 6 blocks to the IC. Thank goodness I had a better idea of where I was! To my dismay, I was 5 minutes late. I hate being late, but at least I wasn’t the last one to arrive!

Our training started off with some general information about the city, classes, busses, our excursions to Berlin and Lubeck, and then we headed off to the aquarium. The Kiel aquarium isn’t big like the places I’m used to: it’s mainly a byproduct of the students at the university with it’s highlight being their 5 seals. It was pretty awesome: we had a “backstage” tour with our own guides, followed by a demonstration with the seals. They were adorable, as to be expected.

Alexis and I with Jean creeping in the back...Love them!

Hunter and I just chillin behind the tanks...

After the aquarium and a short break, we headed into Old Town with a tour guide. He was very knowledgeable about the town and was pretty rad. We saw some cool statues, what was left of the Kiel Castle (90% of the town was leveled by bombs during WW2), and some pretty cool buildings/churches. Oh, and the red-light district. That was awesome. Since Kiel is a big port town, the sailors needed some…entertainment…when they would come to port. Awesome.

Not much to say...other than every other student has a picture like this...

Rathaus (Town Hall)

St. Nicholas Church
After the tour, we headed up to Schilksee for dinner. We were a little early, so we had time to wander around the beach and just relax…which was much needed. Dinner was awesome and it was nice to just sit and get to know some of the other students a little bit better, especially the ones that were in different classes. Up to this point, it was interesting to see everyone interacting: sizing each other up and seeing where each person fit into the group…testing each other in a nice way to see what kind of relationships were going to bloom. We are all so very different and unique, which makes it fun. After dinner, we took a huge charter bus home, which was so awesome…we totally thought we were going to cram into the bus together again! Sweet!

At the dock in Schilksee

The IC's boat...will get to ride this at the end of the program for a sailing trip!


Greg, Megan and I enjoying dinner...
I went to bed Monday night, excited and nervous for what the first day of classes would bring! Well, Monday came and we found our classroom, thank goodness. Our first teacher is Susann, pronounced like “Suzanne.” She is super cute and from the Berlin area. It was interesting to see how her style of teaching was going to be different from what I was used to. We didn’t really know how our lessons were going to be organized, nor did we know what type of material we would cover. We got a great introduction on the first day by going on a tour with Susann. How awesome! We walked around a few buildings and ended up in the Botanical Gardens on campus. They were so beautiful! While we walked, we talked with Susann, who happens to be our age. She taught us the names of the plants and bugs that we passed, joking with us along the way. If this was an indication on how the month will be like…AWESOME!
First official bus ride to school!

The "California" section in the Botanical Gardens...complete with Cactus, Poppies, and palms!
Our second teacher is Svenja, and she is so rad. She is from the North as well, but has a different accent than Susann…and it’s a little closer to what I am used to from Utah. And we’re pretty sure she used to be a Metal head. We don’t have proof, but some pretty good suspicions based on conversations with her. She started the class by asking us what we wanted to learn about. What? How awesome is that?! Of course, we opted for articles and cases, which seem to give all of us issues.

Both of the teachers are great and are very understanding and encouraging of us. We sit in a room around an oval table for each class, which is different (in a good way) than what I was expecting. My class has 8 students in it with varying levels of competency. Oddly enough, the 7 other students all had the same teacher. I was worried that I wouldn’t be prepared for these classes. I knew that the other classes in Utah met more frequently and I wondered if having their teacher from Utah here, as an advisor, would give them an advantage over my learning. NOPE. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remember and have retained, despite a 2-month gap between classes. Whew! SO grateful I was prepared for this experience! Now I just have to keep it up. My motivation isn’t for a grade. I don’t need the credits, but it would be unwise to waste this experience, especially since I paid for it without loans. I want to be able to speak with Germans back in America and not only understand what they’re saying, but to feel comfortable and confident when I speak to them.

Tuesday night was a pretty awesome night. We got done with class around 3:15 and took a quick break before the SEMI-FINAL World Cup game with Germany vs. Brazil! So awesome to be here in Germany when they play! A group of us headed down in the bus to the Mensa, when it started raining. Hard. Like, it was pouring rain and puddles were forming in the streets and on the sidewalks. When we finally got to the game, we were soaking wet with soaked hair. I mean, I was able to wring out a bunch of water from my short hair. Woof, I was a hot mess! Again. Anyway, I quickly realized that everyone else was drenched! We found our group upstairs and settled in for the game. It was so hot and wet inside the Mensa with little air ventilation. It was still raining, but we didn’t care! The game was awesome and I was able to capture some videos of the crowd’s reactions to the goals. It was a massacre! We felt bad for the one guy in the Mensa with a Brazilian jersey on.

Jean, Alexis, Megan and I found some shelter from the rain...totally drenched! 
Oh yeah, HOTT mess with sopping wet hair!
It's rare to see so many German flags being flown cool!

Alexis and I

Danny, Sarah, Alexis and I

The packed Mensa...standing room only

Sarah, Megan, Jean, Demi, Katie and I
 On our walk back to the bus stop, we passed this crazy party in an intersection. Apparently this is where the huge parties happen. There were fireworks, blowhorns, airhorns, music, dancing, you name it! People were hanging out of their windows, taking pictures of the passing crowds…sheer madness! Awesome madness! We fortunately made it back in time for a bus…I’m not sure I’d be able to do that walk again!

On Wednesday I attended Institute with Leisl and Andrew. One of the members, Anna, is becoming a good friend. She was so great and texted me the busses to take, times to get on, and met us at the last stop so she could show us where the building is. Cool story: my friend Sylvia’s mom helped build the Institute building after The War with bricks from other leveled buildings. I was so excited to see it: beautiful and full of character. We opted to not have a translator for the lesson, which was good and bad. Bad because we only could understand a little bit, and good because we were able to just listen to 30 minutes of straight rapid-fire German. After the lesson the group gathered upstairs for dinner. So awesome! We sat and met so many great new friends, including the senior missionary couple, the Cooks from Texas. As we were walking back to our bus stop, we marveled at how amazing the YSAs are here in Kiel. They work so hard to keep their programs going and to get people to come. They take nothing for granted and are genuinely excited to see each other. They know each other. They work together so well. I wish others could see how amazing it is out here. I wish I had pictures of the YSAs, but I didn’t take any…but I will next time! Thank goodness Leisl had her camera!

Andrew, Leisl and I
Leisl and I in front of the Institute building

Anna and I

Hanging out and having dinner after institute

Um...yeah so I played the piano for the institute class...
Thursday was crazy. We had class in the morning and then a 2 hour break before our “cultural training.” We’ve already beaten this topic to death amongst ourselves, but I will say this: it could have been better. We had an instructor from the university as our trainer, but it just wasn’t the best experience it could have been. 4 hours is a long time. After the training, a few of us headed out to find a local Donner place that one of our tutors recommended. I didn’t really know what I was getting when I ordered it, but it was SO DELISH!! Ugh, I found my comfort food in Kiel! Although very messy, it was so good! So sad there's no real translation into German for "messy..."
First Donner!
Thursday also happened to be Leisl's anniversary with her husband. Although he's back in Utah, a few of us went to dinner with her at this place called Santa Fe. The sign says "New Mexican" food, so we didn't know if it was referring to Mexico or the state. When we were inside, someone said the decor was more Native American...whatever the food was okay.

Putting our feet up with some yummy gelato at our new favorite place...and the benches we weird...

Friday came and with it was a group trip to the beach. I made the decision to leave my bathing suit at home in LA because it was taking up a lot of space in my bag and I didn’t know how much use it was going to get. I ended up just wearing a t-shirt and basketball shorts. I only put my feet in for a little bit and finished reading “Angels and Demons.” Why? There were jellyfish and tons of sticks. I’m sure if I headed out further it would have been better, but oh well. I still enjoyed it! Afterwards, Leisl and I headed out to get a German SIM card for my phone. I don’t enjoy playing the let’s-see-if-I-have-Internet game. Still figuring out how to get it to work with my phone. I think I have to register the card online before, which seems like a weird thing…what if I didn’t have my laptop? How would I have registered it? If I can’t figure it out, I’ll take it to the local phone store and hope they speak English because I will NOT try explaining this in German!

Leisl and I 
The little huts are called Strandkorbs

Best photobomb ever by AJ!
Saturday was the welcome home party for Lennart Labahn. He had been staying with Sylvia in Sandy for a year and was coming home. Stefan and Tina Labahn are so nice! They emailed me the bus to take and the best time to get on so I would be on time. Their house is so cute and in a more rural part of the city, which was really nice. I only knew a few people there, mainly family members and members from the ward. I again met so many nice people and had a blast! I had met Lennart back in December at an event in Salt Lake City. He was so adorable and eager to talk to me in English. People were so nice and translated for me when they could, but it was also nice to listen to them speak German. I am starting to understand a little more and get the feel for conversation again. Stefan grilled a bunch of meat and we had a few types of salad and bread. So awesome! Tina offered to take me home after, which was really nice. Anna came along and helped translate for me, since Tina knows as much English as I know German J. The Labahns are so nice! Ugh, I can’t get over it! So welcoming and warm. They invited Tom and I over for lunch the next day after church. Who can refuse such an offer?

Sunday came and so did another day at church. This time Tom, Leisl, Andrew and I went together. With the bus schedule, we figured we could either be 45 minutes early or 15 minutes late, plus walk time from the stop. We opted for the early route, which left us standing outside for a bit. We didn’t mind since we weren’t out in the rain! Again, church was amazing. Bischof Haak is freaking amazing! That guy is just so rad! I have never seen a bishop get up and play the organ! He rocked it for the 4 songs! And then again in Sunday school, and I’m betting in Priesthood as well. And he doesn’t make it into a big deal, which is such a good example. His wife, Denise, is pretty rad as well…she translated all of Relief Society for Leisl and I. Again, everyone is just so welcoming! I could totally get used to this!

Lunch was so great! We had a BBQ and some salads from the party and were just able to sit and talk. Stefan is awesome and was kind enough to speak in English for me a lot. We talked about back when the Berlin Wall was up and the differences he felt between now and then. We just asked question after question and were just eating it up! It was so nice to be in Germany, asking a German about German history from his perspective. Sure, we learn about it in school and I studied it in college, but this was something even better!

Almost done…whew! A lot has happened!! Sunday night was THE game. The FINAL for the World Cup, Germany vs. Argentina. What? How did we end up here in Germany at the same time they were playing for the title?? It couldn’t have been more perfect! We headed out for the game about 2.5 hours before it started, but it didn’t matter: the Mensa was jam-packed to the point that they stopped letting people in about 15 minutes after we got there! We were on the 2nd floor again, but a little further back, which made it difficult to see again. Oh well. We were getting antsy and the crowd was subdued until THE goal. So awesome! The party that followed was even MORE insane! I’ll let the pictures talk:


This one is hard to see...but it's a guy up a light post with flares

Monday was hard to get up for. Even though it’s bright outside at 5am, none of us got up easily. Our classes started later, thanks to our program directors, but it wasn’t enough. Our first class was shortened obviously, and we met Svenja at 12 at the local Farmer’s Market. How cool is that?? The first part of our class was spent going around the Market and finding food/items that started with each letter of the alphabet. Oddly enough, the letter “Y” was the one we couldn’t find! The second part of class was spent under an umbrella at a bakery. I love it!!

1st time trying a smoked sardine...didn't care for it...the meat was okay, but the bones bugged me...


Fresh eel

So good!

The lady asked me if I wanted to hold the eel that we were going to eat...might have had my eyes closed when she handed it to me...

Class outside in the rain at the bakery
After class, most of us went home to take naps. I fell asleep right away, only to wake up in a panic at 6:30. I had promised Anna that I would come to FHE last night at 7...and it takes about 45 minutes to get there with the bus transfers and walk. Thankfully I made it in time, although I was really sleepy on the way. 

Man, this is a long post! Shout out to those who made it this far! I just have a few more thoughts as I finish this at home:
1. I love Germany!
2. Don't'll get hit!
3. Internet here is horrible...
4. Euros look like Monopoly money
5. I enjoy taking the bus
6. Skyped with mom, dad, and Michael after class at a restaurant called Marmaris (another Donner)
7. I definitely need to do this twice a week...


  1. Love the post and the pictures! What's on a donner? And can we find those here?

    1. Hey Melissa! A donner is a Turkish sandwich stuffed with meat, veggies, and a bunch of sauces. I don't think they're available in the US due to health code issues b/c of the way the meat is cooked...