Monthly Archives: June 2009

schon einen Monat?

Sorry it has been a week with no updates! 

Already a month? Goodness. Sometimes I really cannot believe how fast time can fly.  Four weeks ago I was sitting at home all nervous and exited and scared, but not really wanting to come.  Not wanting to miss another summer with my friends and family, miss my birthday again like I do every summer, miss the taste of chicago, miss 4th of july, miss boating and swimming and beaching, miss family camp… And there are times when I still wish I could be doing those things.  But the truth is, I would want to be back here after a day or so.  I will be ready to come home, because I will have to be ready.  That is just how the process/cycle of doing these trips works.  Transitions are hard, but beautiful and rewarding at the same time.   But it is a good feeling to have when you feel settled and content with where you are and what you are doing.  And usually that is a conscious choice that you have to make. 

Last week at work, things were interesting, for lack of a better word.  I finished up on the first leg of busy work in excel.  Which deserves some comment.  All the excel stuff I have been doing has obviously been in German excel.  Which you would think would be no big deal, except that all the words are in German.  So if you know anything about excel, there are command prompts that you can give, such as SUM or AVGERAGE or SQRT, and these have proven to be the most challenging to figure out.  Everything else I can pretty much figure out by memory (“ok, to view the page without all the lines was under the fourth tab, on the left hand side, two down, oh wait that did not work, maybe three down…” haha yea, the process pretty much goes like that in my head).  

There is a meeting this Thursday with the apartment building company, MWG.  I do not know the objective of this meeting, but I think it is a very preliminary decision meeting.  More informational for the MWG.  So I had to start writing “the report”.  I think that having this report finished and perfect before I leave is the ultimate goal of my internship.  Sylvia and I made a very basic outline of what it would contain.  I was to start working on the basic introduction of solar panels, how they work, different types, different parameters that affect the effectiveness, etc. So basic, general information.  What took me two days to produce in German would have taken me maybe two hours in English.  That is the prime example of how a company loses when they hire international employees.



Diane came up to visit on Saturday.  She got in at 11am, I met her at the train station and we walked back.  We ate lunch in the Mensa, met up with some of my American friends and decided to go play volleyball.  We spent the afternoon in this sweet park on the Elbe.  We played volleyball, soccer and danced in the rain.  Then all of us went to dinner at this little Chinese place around the corner.  It was crazy, we had 5 Americans there!  Hung out with some people at night, but called it early because we spontaneously decided to go to Dresden on Sunday.  There is another American girl named Jingyun, who is from Detroit, but goes to school at MIT; anyway, she lives on my floor and invited us to go with her.  So we decided, eh, what the heck, lets do it.

It was 8 hours worth of train riding for 5 hours in the city.  I think it was worth it; the city was beautiful and we actually had great weather.  The minute we got on the train to come home it started down-pouring!  Dresden has two parts to the city, the “Alter Stadt” and the “Neu Stadt”.  The old part of the city was completely destroyed after WWII and is slowly being rebuilt and replicated to how it was before.  So all the buildings are not the originals, but identical to them.  I think that’s pretty sweet!  In the new part of the city there was a mini “Taste of Chicago” going on.  All the restaurants and shops had little booths outside and were selling food and drink in small portions for cheaper prices.  It felt like we were locals just enjoying the festival.  We tried the famous local dessert, a eggy cheesecake thing called Dresdener Eierschecke, and had a Bratwurst to make us feel truly German.  Both were really good!

Today work was good, I’m pretty much done with the first leg of this busy work stuff.  I started doing a little bit more complicated analyses and at one point I was thinking, wow, I’m actually kind-of doing engineering.  Tomorrow I think Professor Neumann is supposed to come and check-up on me.  So we’ll see how that goes!

Here are some pictures from Dresden.


This first picture is me inside the ‘Zwinger’.  This was originally a palace, but now it has museums in each of the four wings.  Zwinger means the no-man’s-land running along the city wall, so this area was once totally empty.  The prince elector that ruled here in Saxony was also was the king of Poland for a while.  If you can see on the left, there is a huge crown.  On the crown there are 4 golden eagles, symolizing the Polish royalty.

Frauenkirchethe Frauenkirche or ‘Church of our Lady’, which when built, was the largest protestant church in Germany.

theater platzin the main square, called the theaterplatz.

furstenzugThis mural is longer than a football field and is called the ‘Fuerstenzug’ or the Parade of Nobles.

IMG_0686my lovely travel companions 🙂

end of week 3.

So I have four days of work behind me this week already.  Time is really flying.  Monday and Tuesday I was in the office doing excel stuff.  Wednesday and today I took pictures.  The work is fine.  Its easy and mundane, but I guess thats what an intern should expect.  The basic jist of this project, for those who don’t know, is the following:  There is a apartment organization that owns apartment buildings all over the city.  The name of this is MWG, which stands for Magdeburg Wohnung Genossenschaft [translation: Magdeburg Apartment Corporation].  The MWG is considering putting solar panels on top of their buildings. I basically do the exact same thing for every apartment building (there are 220+), which is filling out information in an excel table such as the area of the roof, what kind of roof it is, what the angle of the roof is, is there anything on top of the roof, will there ever be shadows, what is the orientation of the building, etc.  So it’s a lot of repetition, but somebody has got to do it.   If it seems feasible in the end to actually put solar panels on the roofs of a portion of the apartment buildings, then ITG [my firm] will put a bid on the project.


I got up this morning and set out to get my Aufenthaltstitel [permit of residence].  I was determined- nothing would stop me! They would just have to suck it up and deal with my American insurance!  It took alonnnng time, but I did walk out with my permit! Its pretty cool- its glued in my passport!  I had to get a special biometric picture taken (10 euro) and the permit itself put me back another 50 euro.  😦  Thats groceries for a month!

Anyway, today after I got back from 5 hours out on the town, I was just exhausted [and a little sunburned- which I was happy about 🙂 sorry mom].  After running 7 miles at a fast pace on Tuesday with Marc, a Canadian, william and elliotand Elliot, an American from Savannah, Georgia [he is on the right in the picture] putting in a full day of biking/walking taking pictures on Wednesday and dancing into the wee hours of Thursday morning, and then today putting in the 5 hours of walking… I was just tired!

I had heard that people sometimes would go up on the roof of the dorm- so I decided to check it out.  Sure enough, you just keep going up the stairs, climb over a gate/fence thing, and then crawl out a window and you are there. There was one part on the roof that was higher than the other parts, naturally I decided I had to be at the highest point.  Well in order to loft myself 9 feet in the air, I used a random chair that was sitting there.  And I broke the chair haha.  The seat just kinda collapsed when I put pressure there to jump. Whoops! I sat and finished my second book – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  Then I napped for a while in the late afternoon sun.  It was pretty great to say the least.  I looked around and started to notice a lot of windmills.  So I counted them- 108 windmills.  I could see 108 windmills from where I sitting on the roof! When it started to get a little windy I went back to my room and Marc, the Canadian, wanted to go running, so we went.  He’s very opinionated and I like ranting with him about politics and international relations.

Living in the dorms continues to be fun! I have found a nitch with a large group of pre-existing friends.  But now I am generally accepted, and if I dare say it, genuinely liked.  Sometimes I forget that they actually have homework and tests to study for… like we will be hanging out, and then they will start talking about school. So glad I’m not having to deal with that.  Even though the work ethic here I see is very low- I think these kids would have a hard time adjusting to the Calvin workload.  When I told someone that I only skipped class 3 or 4 times last semester, and that I have class 4 days a week, they were shocked.   So tonight there is some guys birthday party downstairs in IKUS [the international student program/hang-out place].   I’ll probably go for a bit, but my bed-time is early tonight.  🙂

Love and miss you all! I like getting updates about what people are doing back home- so send me an email!


dutch word of the day.

Schilderijzaal = Picture-gallery


anne frank is me in front of the anne frank house.

i amsterdamthe famous ‘i amsterdam’ letters.

sunsetsunset on the rooftop of our hostel.

rooftopsother view of rooftops.

skinny bldg.the skinny-est building in amsterdam.

bike on bridgeme posing with a bike over a canal.

typical bldgs.uh, i LOVE this picture. the boat house, the bright colors.

red-lightsa calm part of the red-light district.

bike in amsterdama sweet bike picture. might be my favorite of all i took in amsterdam.

i AMsterdam.

I learned a somewhat obvious lesson this weekend.  Never just assume, “Yea, I’ll meet you at the train station” will work for meeting someone at the train station.  Pick a place to meet.  Especially at train stations that are located in very large, industrious, capital cities of Europe. Like Amsterdam for example.  After an hour of wandering the train station Diane and I finally found each other.  It was a glorious embrace, light shining behind her as we run towards eachother, slow motion… Haha you get the picture.

Friday we just walked around and I seriously struggled with orientation.  If you have ever been to Amsterdam, I’m sure you know what I mean.  All the streets are in somewhat of a horse-shoe, or U, shape.   So its very easy to think you are going one direction, and then end up on the other side of the U, completely the opposite of where you want to be. But this is part of the fun and challenge of conquering the city.   We walked and walked and walked this city. Or feet and legs ached, but we walked.  Then we walked the infamous red-light district.

Saturday was the most perfect weather day ever.  First day I have been in Europe when it didn’t rain.  We went on a 4.5 hour city walking tour with a CRAZY tour guide named John.  He was Irish, started off the tour saying he was extremely hung-over and said we were going to have a great time.  His language was incredibly foul and his stories explicitly inappropriate.  But I loved it.  Every second.  I learned a lot of random facts about Amsterdam along with the basic history lesson.  He was so entertaining.  Probably because every other sentence I was thinking, ‘Did he REALLY just say THAT?’  In a couple weeks he is moving to Vietnam.

A Few Random Facts from John:

  • Girls in the windows of the Red-Light District have to pay 150 Euro to be in the window for 8 hours.  This may seem like a high amount, until you know that they often declare over 100,000 Euro as taxable income in a single year.  40% of their customers are from the U.K.
  • All the coffee-shops and the entire red-light district will be closed down in two years.  The city is already re-claiming windows and turning them into art displays.
  • Napolean’s brother, Louis Bonaparte, was put in charge of the Netherlands for  a while.  He didn’t know any Dutch, and in first address to the people of Amsterdam, he proudly declared himself as their ‘New Rabbit’ instead of their ‘New King’.
  • Two cars a week fall into the canals.  On schematic cross-sectional drawings of the canals, there is an official layer for bikes. That shows how many bikes fall into the canals.  The canals are flushed every three days, and the Dutch maintain that they are safe to swim in.

My big museum splurge was going to the Anne Frank House.  It was really cool.  Once you go through the bookcase into the space where they lived for two years… geez, it kinda takes your breath away.  Anne really was brilliant young writer.  When I left, I just felt all dark and sorrowful.  Like when I left Buchenwald (a concentration camp), only not so extreme I guess.  These places just bring the horror of the holocaust into more perspective.

Diane and I spent Saturday evening on the roof-top of our hostel.  We weren’t technically supposed to be up there.  But there was a ladder, and a hatch door at the top of this ladder.  How could we resist.  We had some sandwiches and watched the sun-set over the rooftops.  It was really cool to just talk and listen to the bustling city.   Overall, great weekend.  It was short, but sweet.  We are both on a tight budget, so it was the perfect amount of time to be there without feeling the strain on the wallet.

Pictures soon to come. 🙂


I spent the first half of my day running around trying to get my Aufenthaltstitel/Aufenthaltserlaubnis.  This is equivalent to a permit of residence.  So saying I can live here. Haha… probably should have done this earlier, not two weeks into my time here.  Oh well. The main problem is right now is getting some sort of document saying that I am insured, and that my insurance will cover me in Germany.  My flimsy little BlueCross BlueShield card was laughed at when I showed it to the mean German lady behind the counter.

I still haven’t had a ‘normal’ work day.  Something has always had to be done before I could come to the office, or I’ve had to leave early.  Once this Aufenthaltstitel is taken care of I’m pretty sure I’ll be good to go.  I still don’t really know what my hours are.  I’m assuming 9-4:30? Herr Ball said I could come in at 9, and everyone leaves at 4:30.  So that’s what I’m gonna do.  Martin comes in at 7:30 however, and he said that then he can have a half day on Friday.  I’m just gonna go with the flow.

Diane and I have been planning a weekend to Amsterdam.  She had off on Thursday for a Catholic Holiday (she works in the south, where most people are catholic) but up north in the good old evangelical section of Germany we didn’t get that day off.  I find this somewhat humorous.  I brought up the fact that I was going to Amsterdam this weekend with Sylvia.  I just flatly told her that the trains leave every two hours until 5pm, the train ride is 6 hours, and that I’d like to get there not long after dark.  She said that we’d have to wait and see , that she wasn’t sure. So today, Thursday, I still wasn’t sure of what my plans were going to be.  I hardly felt like I could bring this up since I haven’t worked a full day at the office yet.  But before she left, Sylvia came into my office, kinda closed the door, and said with a big smile on her face, ‘Tomorrow.  I talked with Herr Ball.  Take the first train.” I wasn’t really expecting this, but once I realized the permission had to come from Herr Ball, I wasn’t surprised.   We have hit if off well.  But then again, I do sit in his office, so maybe he just wants his office tomorrow haha…

So tonight, I am packing for my 9am train to Amsterdam.  The land of my ancestors.  Haha. Diane is arriving earlier that I am, so she will meet me on the train station tomorrow around 3pm.  I booked a hostel for Friday and Saturday nights.  I’m pretty excited!!

It is still cold and rainy and miserable here. I’m not really prepared for 50’s and rain.  If it wasn’t so gross outside, I’d be going for a run right now.

I’m almost done with the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I have absolutely loved every page of it.  Why is this book not a movie??  My mom said this book is normally a hit with older women… But I have found myself relating to a lot of the content.  Probably because I’m living and traveling alone right now, and so was she in the book.  I love Anne Lamott’s quote on the cover stating, “A wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight.” And boy it is.  I have to be careful where I read it though, I’ve teared up or randomly started laughing so many times.  Today while I was waiting for the train I was literally crying, sitting on my bench wiping tears from my eyes, haha… so embarassing.  I’m probably going to read it again while I’m here.


Photos Printed: 5 x $0.15

Card and Envelope: $1.99

Stamps: $2.00


Giving Katrina Joy: Priceless