11.26.2010

A Taste of Winter

The light snowfall I witnessed two nights ago through the windows of the little the classroom in which my German class is held did not pan out as I thought it would; rather, it was little more than a tease, a gentle nod to Winter's imminent arrival. This morning, however, was a different story, and when I awoke and pulled open my blinds, I was greeted  to a view of the white stuff laying atop the houses, tree limbs, and much of the ground in a thin dusting. It's not enough for serious snow enthusiasts, to be sure, but for me—who enjoys the first snowfall mainly as a piece of natural artwork and not as an arena for winter sports—it's perfect.

On a related note, I got my first glimpse of the Konstanz Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) the other night as I walked to greet my friends, and I must say, the city was unbelievably gorgeous lit-up at night by Christmas lights: it was very much like stepping into another world where it is always winter, always Christmas (think: the Christmas world in The Nightmare Before Christmas). I think I'm going to enjoy the cold season here.

LS

11.07.2010

Mein Zitronenbaum (Lemon Tree)

I just wanted to share with you a picture of the Zitronenbaum that sits on my windowsill. It was given to me by my good friend and Deutsch-mentor, Paula, and its persistence is a source of both pride and comfort for me—it's nice to have something green and alive in my room!
Because it's in such a small vessel, I don't believe it'll grow much more—I'm quite sure I'll never see an actual lemon on it so long as it's in my possession—but I'll definitely post pictures as/if it grows. 

Cheers,
LS

11.06.2010

Updates, Minor recapitulations, Thoughts, etc.

Okay, so I've decided to say "screw it" for now to any plans of a serious recap: I became quite ill a few weeks ago (I'll explain it in further detail later in this post), and remained so for over two weeks—currently, I am up to my neck in schoolwork and other obligations/distractions, so although I would like to do so, I don't think I will be completing the "Great Recapitulation" anytime soon... but it will happen someday!

So, what's new? As I mentioned above, I was really krank (sick) for over two weeks with a nasty little bug called "Gastroenteritis" (colloquially known as Stomach Flu, though not actually related to the flu except for some similar symptoms); as a result, I got seriously thin (I didn't really have any fat to lose in the first place, but the change was nevertheless quite evident in my face), lost a great deal of strength and muscle mass (I'm going to have to really work on this soon, as I feel old and decrepit waaaaaaay before my time), and basically fell into an antisocial, depressive state—perhaps unsurprising considering I spent most of my time alone and in bed. I was fortunate to have received some quality care in the first few days or so by my dear friends, Elena and Jess, who selflessly allowed me to stay in their apartment for days, closely monitoring my fluid-intake and even taking me to their doctor! Unfortunately, my illness proved too hardy even for their care, and I reluctantly returned home to stay in my own room (I felt I had overstayed my welcome, and I had some business to take care of at home) in the hopes that I would recover in a few days and be back to normal. Of course, as I've already mentioned, this proved not to be the case, and I ended up missing the first of school—thankfully, the first week is only a trial week, and there are essentially no repercussions for missing it.

I remained quite weak and with bad stomach, however, until last weekend, when I took a three-and-a-half day trip to Schweinfurt to spend a relaxing Halloween weekend with Anna Maria, whose parents were going away for a relaxing vacation of their own. I felt alright when I left Konstanz, but upon my arrival in Schweinfurt, my stomach began to feel upset again, and I spent the first night in roughly the same condition I had experienced a week earlier. Fortunately for me, Anna Maria and her mother, Ewa, have a plethora of home remedies for all sorts of ailments, and by the end of the second day (after eating lots and lots of good food, as usual) my stomach was essentially back to normal. It ended up being a fun weekend, too: Anna Maria and I cooked up some interesting and delicious Kurbis (pumpkin) dishes, including a fantastic Kurbis-Créme-Suppe (Pumpkin-cream soup) and a pumpkin cake of which, I must admit, I ate a bit too much. We also prepared a couple of fantastic Jamie Oliver pasta dishes, which were so good they didn't last particularly long. Many Halloween movies were watched, and we even painted our faces on the big day (which actually isn't so big here in Germany). By the end of the weekend I'd regained some of the weight I'd lost, my skin was a little less pale, and, in spite of having to say goodbye to Anna Maria, I left Schweinfurt in fairly good spirits.

For our Halloween Frühstuck (breakfast), Anna Maria carved some cute and funny Paprikum faces in place of the traditional pumpkin. I think you'll agree with me when I say they came out quite well:

The Frühstuck Table!

I arrived in Konstanz ready to return to classes, and my second week turned out quite well: I had my second ballroom dance class, which was WAY better than the first (my partner, Ruta, and I were mistakenly put into the advanced class... let's just say it didn't go so well for me), and attended my first Tischtennis (ping-pong) practice, which was great fun... I even won a couple of matches!

A couple of nights ago, a group of us went to a local Pfannkuchenhaus (German-style pancakes, both sweet and savory) for another new-student Stammtisch (a table reserved for a meeting). I ordered mine with baked bananas, whipped cream, and almonds, while others got savory ones with different meatsl, cheeses, and vegetables. Here are a few pictures from that:


Currently, I'm trying to get through all of my work for next week, which includes a lot of readings and a good deal of German Hausarbeit (homework), and I am admittedly feeling a bit of stress... a good thing, I think, when one hasn't done any real work in a long time.

Anyway, I hope this post is more of a representation of things to come, and I hope it was both informational and (somewhat) enjoyable.

Best,
Luc

10.09.2010

Essen!

I thought it might be nice to share with you some of the dishes I've cooked/eaten here so far. While I enjoy cooking for myself, I'm trying to organize and partake of more group meals in order to keep costs down. 

Pfifferlinge mit Zwiebeln, in Butter gekocht. 

Pfifferlinge

Camembert

Eier mit Wurst und Zwiebeln

Zucchini

Eier, Zucchini, Fisch (Note: I bought the fish pre-seasoned and pre-cooked)

Detail

Gemüse

Zucchini, Karotten, Zwiebeln

...mit Eier 

Detail

10.07.2010

The Great Recapitulation (Part 1)

Note: Before I get sucked into this whole "remembering" schtick, I'd like to fill you in a little on my current situation: I recently completed the September Course, a month-long intensive language orientation course at  Uni. Konstanz, and I'm now in the midst of preparing for my first semester as an exchange student. I'm looking at some really interesting lit courses for the next semester (all in English, except for one German course), and I begin my three sports—Lacrosse (I know, I know... Lacrosse in Germany? Blame my French friend, Thibaud, who wanted me to accompany him in a sport), Ping-Pong (Tischtennis), and classical ballroom dance—sometime around the 20th. Until recently, I wasn't eating particularly healthfully, nor was I exercising very much at all, but I'm starting to get back into the swing of things. Hopefully when sports start I'll get back into relatively good shape, and when I add to that my improving diet (almost paleo, but with a few European exceptions), I should be in a pretty good place.


Alright, here goes a whole lot o' somethin'!


MORE PRE-KONSTANZ

The rest of my time in Heidelberg was fairly low-key. With my energy restored from my long-night's rest, Garnet and I decided it would be a good idea to try and see if we could have our iPhone's unlocked by a T-Mobile employee (Garnet was quite sure that if he explained our situation clearly we would have no trouble getting the relatively simple procedure done); unfortunately, none of the stores we visited were willing to help us out, even as Garnet pointed out that stores in England and Australia currently perform the unlocking procedure gratis.

Feeling somewhat dispirited by the T-Mobile experience, Garnet and I returned to his apartment in the hopes that we would be able to unlock the phones ourselves. Unfortunately, the necessary software that allows one to crack iOS4.1 was—and remains to be—unavailable at the time, and I left Heidelberg without a functioning handy.

As we had done last summer, Garnet and I also cooked-up some tasty food this time around. While I don't have pictures of the deceptively simple but altogether delicious zucchini that we sauteed with shallots in olive oil (a meal, I confess, which launched my German love-affair with zucchini), I did manage to capture a video of some lovely zucchini fritters frying at Ellen's house.
video
Due to time constraints, my stay in Heidelberg was short-lived, and I left on Saturday for another familiar city, Schweinfurt, where I'd spent a good portion of my previous summer. While most of my ride to Schweinfurt was unremarkable, I had something of a frightening (though in retrospect, quite funny) experience at one of my transfer points along the way: as I walked up the stairs to catch my next train, I was halted by a police officer angrily yelling German in direction. I thought at first that he might have been calling to someone behind me, but when I pointed perplexedly at myself, he indicated in the same angry tone that he was indeed talking to me. As I nervously walked down the steps to the man, he yelled at me, "Passport! ID!" At this point I was a nervous mess, and I fumbled in vain for some identification, sure I had unintentionally committed some grave mistake and would never make it to Schweinfurt. However, before I could even finish blurting out the few German words I knew in an effort to save my ass, the officer unexpectedly shot out, "Wait, are you American? Never mind, you can go." Of course, I left in a hurry, and I don't think I've ever been more relieved to get on a train as I was at that moment.
Upon my arrival in Schweinfurt, I was relieved to see a familiar and ever-lovely face waiting for me at the platform—Anna Maria! It really was quite surreal seeing her again—the last time we'd seen each other in the flesh was a year ago as we said goodbye at Frankfurt airport—and even as we hugged each other tightly I felt as if in a dream. I was struck once again by how much time had gone by when I realized that Anna Maria had driven to get me; it seemed as if we had only just talked about her getting her license, and here she was—a real driver! She proved to be a good one, too, and the ride home was nothing but smooth-sailing. 

Back at the Malinowski house, we greeted Anna Maria's parents, Andrzej and Ewa, and their close friends, (and the other weekend guests) Tomek and Ania, a Polish couple who live in Britain full time and who, like me, speak very minimal German. When the greetings were complete, we rushed out the door to the nearby city of Dettelbach (I feel like leaving as soon as I get to the Malinowski house is something of a recurring theme—last year, we left at 2AM on my first morning in Schweinfurt to head to the Baltic Sea), where a vineyard-opening festival was taking place.
In Dettelbach, we greeted Roger "Rog" Bischoff—another very close friend of the Malinowskis—and the Herrmann family and sat down to dinner, wine, and some live music courtesy of a very good entertaining dance band. Here are some pictures from that evening:
The group meets
Dettelbach Street
We spent the next day relaxing, listening to music, and preparing a nice meal for that evening. When the night finally arrived, we reclined in the living room and waited for the last parts of the meal to arrive. Both Anna Maria and I took pictures with my iPhone, so the night is fairly well-documented... even if the picture quality isn't very high. 
Me
Photo: Anna Maria
Another Anna Maria picture
L-R: Andrzej, Ania, Me, Tomek, Ewa
Anna Maria
Andrzej & Ewa
Tomek & Ania
Me being freaky
Haricots Verts
Kartoffeln
Delicious Schweinefleisch courtesy of Ewa



***I'd like to add here that we listened that night to a wonderful Polish jazz album, Ewa Bem's "Be A Man". I'm sad to report that the album is almost impossible to find on CD, but if you can pick it up on vinyl, you will not be disappointed: Bem's sultry vocals are top-notch, and the band backing her is truly on form. Half of the album consisted of English jazz standards, while the other half was sung in Polish (this was my favorite half).*** 



The next day, we all sat down to a large and delicious "Frühstück" (German for "breakfast")—as seems to be the norm in the Malinowski house whenever I visit—and then Tomek and Ania prepared to depart by car for England, quite unwillingly, as the weather was not good at the time. 
Later, Anna Maria and I played around with my photobooth app while we attempted to find me a time and a ticket to Konstanz.

Classic
Super-Freaky!!!
Wait... how did we get to Times Square?

Of course, all good things must (temporarily, at least) come to an end, and a little after noon, Anna Maria drove me to the Hauptbahnhof  (Main train station), where, after a hug and a quick good-bye kiss on the cheek, I caught the train that would take me to my new life in Konstanz.
Up next: Arrival in Konstanz and getting settled...






10.06.2010

Intro to "The Great Recapitulation"

Because I feel I've really dropped the ball—hopefully not down a bottomless pit—on this whole "blog" thing, I thought I'd first apologize to those who've been looking forward to my blogging, then actually set about writing the damn thing so that I can begin to make it a part of my daily routine instead of just a random exercise in futility.

I'm sorry I haven't been as diligent as I should have been with this blog: I know some of you have been looking forward to hearing more about my experiences over here, and I feel bad that I really haven't kept my part of the bargain. The truth is, as much as I love to read and write, I'm also a lazy schmuck, and if I can find an excuse not to sit at my computer and blog, you can bet your sweet, sweet ass I'll use it. I'd also like to add that, for various reasons, I haven't taken as many pictures so far as I perhaps should have. Again, I'd like to blame laziness ("everyone else has a camera... why do I need to take pictures???") for that. I hope to do a better job of capturing my experiences from now on.


Thankfully, my year in Germany is only just beginning: although I've already seen and done a great deal, there is much, much more to come, and you can be sure I'll be documenting it! I hope you enjoy the following recap as much as I enjoyed living it!


Best,
Luke




9.17.2010

Better Late Than Never? (Part 1)

Hallo! Guten Tag! Hier ist der Lucas Sconzo, writing to you from the lovely city of Konstanz, and I apologize for being so damned late with this second post! Although I've been for here some weeks now, I feel as if I've already done a month's worth of travels and activities, and, unfortunately, sitting down and blogging wasn't one of them, though I've done plenty of writing and note-taking in my handy little journal. Without much further ado, then, I'd like to recap my travels thus far:


NOTE: The quality of my photos and videos at this point isn't particularly high, as lately I've favored the convenience and "handy"-ness of my iPhone camera over the quality of my Canon point-and-shoot, which, to be perfectly honest, isn't exactly a Leica or a Hasselblad—or even a good Canon dSLR—itself.


SAYING GOODBYE — DEPARTURE FROM JFK — ARRIVAL IN ZURICH


On Tuesday the 24th of August, after three difficult months spent shoveling sheep shit in Shushan, my days of nervous anticipation had come to end: about five nights earlier, at the incredible DISH Bistro and Espresso Bar in Greenwich, NY, my dad had organized a splendid little going away dinner for me and my good friend Sophie Varosy, who is herself spending a year abroad in Budapest, Hungary. About twenty-five close friends came (we wanted even more to come, but we'd already pushed DISH beyond its seating limit), and all enjoyed a delicious, mostly paleo-friendly buffet-style meal courtesy of the awesome cooking skills of Susan and Scott Garth (I think everybody agreed that all of the dishes went together perfectly). Many people got up to say a few words, including yours truly, but as it was a going away party, the mood was tinged somewhat with sadness, and sniffled-tears and loud guffaws easily mingled as the night progressed. After a tasty dessert, then, our friends slowly but surely left the restaurant, and my countdown to departure became all the more real.





Yours-truly, completely unprepared to address the room but doing so anyway (photo courtesy of Ian Creitz).




That weekend, we made a quick trip to East Hampton to visit some good friends, and I got to spend some of my final days in America soaking up some rays and jumping in the ocean—not too shabby, if you ask me! When we got back, I had only a day to finish packing my belongings before we had to leave for JFK. My close mate, Elliot, stayed with us on Monday night and came along on the ride to New York—it was definitely nice to have a good friend come to see me off, and I felt fairly ready to leave when the day came. On the way to the airport, we stopped in Brooklyn to say grab a bite and to say goodbye to my mom and grandma. Elliot took a picture of us standing next to my grandma's building:




Finally, we made it to the airport, and after what seemed like a blur of checking bags and chatting with other travelers, I quickly said goodbye to Elliot and my dad, and I was on the plane, getting ready to take off. The flight turned out to be mostly uneventful, save for one instance where a baby's crib fell off the wall and onto another child: both the parents and their children were understandably shaken-up, but, thankfully, there were no real injuries.

I arrived in Zurich to a beautiful sunny day, and after making some calls to assure friends and family that I had arrived safely, I was picked up by our good friend and my emergency contact, Walter; the two of us then drove the relatively short distance to Konstanz to get me a head-start on my bureaucratic proceedings. In Konstanz, we managed to drop off many of my things, open a bank account at Sparkasse, reserve my room, and enjoy a nice lunch. 






In the evening, we left Konstanz for Walter's hometown of Ettlishofen (near the city of Ulm), and after a small meal, I unsuccessfully attempted to get to sleep at some semblance of a normal time. The next morning, after a night of essentially zero sleep, I phoned my friends Garnet and Anna Maria to arrange visits to each of their cities—Heidelberg and Schweinfurt, respectively—over the next few days. I ended up buying a ticket to Heidelberg for that very day, and at around 12:30 Walter took me to the Ulm Hauptbahnhof to catch the 12:54 IRE into Stuttgart, where I then grabbed the 14:19 RE to Heidelberg. 

I arrived in Heidelberg completely exhausted from the night before, but I managed to keep myself awake as Garnet showed me to his new residence and then around the city, which, to my eyes, looked very much as it had the prior summer. After a long day of walking, Garnet and I settled-in with Garnet's host mother, Ellen, and a friend to a welcome dinner of stuffed peppers. It was a great first night in Heidelberg, and after a lot of laughter and far too much good food, Garnet and I headed back to his apartment for some much-needed shut-eye. As I don't normally sleep for more than seven or eight hours a night, I was shocked to awaken early the following afternoon to find I'd slept for nearly fourteen hours... just what the doctor ordered, and more than enough to conquer my awful jet-lag!  

MORE TO COME...