Saturday, December 17, 2005

California, baby!

I'm here, I made it, somehow, after the two trains, a bus and two flights, including almost missing my flight from chicago to john wayne but it had been delayed over an hour so I made it, awesome!

I was awake at 4:45am this morning from jetlag but I like my good problems.

Friday, December 16, 2005

6am on the dot

six in the morning police at my door
fresh adidas squeak across the bathroom floor...

here is my schedule today:
awake at 5.48am, 6.20, walk to tram, take a 6.52train, change after 30 minutes, take another train to strasbourg, france, bus to frankfurt airport, fly to chicago for 9 hours, fly to orange county, there 23 hours after I woke up.

California!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One more day!

10:12pm, back from a long day, but got some stuff accomplished. I gave Gregg his "Xmas gift", the photo called "Almost there" of the old lady in Lisbon from last September, had my first meeting with the group from ISW that will help me with my second exhibition which will be called "American Summer" and have one more day of work in 2005!!!

Let me say that again: I have one more day of work in 2005, I am a happy camper!

Now I'm gonna chill out.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

10:22am

Well, I've already "worked" a bit today, from 7:30-9am, but it was just like a Christmas breakfast with 5 students and they provided everything: 5-6 kinds of bread rolls, butter, margarine, 7 kinds of cheese, 4 kinds of meat, pickles, stuffed peppers with spicy cheese, nutella, 3 kinds of homeade jelly, coffee, tea, orange juice and apple juice.

Now I'm home for quite a few hours and have quite a bit to do: pack, because I'm headed to California in 4 days, and also figure out the situation where my tickets are and if I have to take a train to Strasbourg, France on Friday at 5:55am or can I take the 8:56am train direct to Frankfurt, finish up one of my mom's Christmas presents, do some writing on Selling to the Norwegians (I'm waiting for Assiyeah at the Oslo-Torp airport in the story), watch a move (Love, Actually with Hugh Grant and others) and hopefully even sleep a bit before I shower and teach two conversation classes this evening. Life is good.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Short but sweet

I slept until 12:38pm today, definitely on the top 10 list for sleeping in. Last night's party kicked ass, with two bands and people from a bunch of different countries wooping it up together. We got home at 3am and I'm feeling it today but I had a great time. Going to O'Kellys for NFL tonight, my last time this year and we've even convinced another teacher we know to come out tonight.

I'll be in California in 5 days, that me likey!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

16.817euro

That's it, my friends! Besides some private work which doesn't need to be recorded (less than 500 euro anyway!), 16,817euro is the amount of money I earned this year as an English teacher. Oh my god does that look small, eh but I'll tell you, earning the same amount next year would make me so happy, that'd be perfect! About half of that went to living expenses (includes beers and restaurants), another couple thousand as related to working and the rest I pretty much used to travel at will in 2005. Will 2006 be different? In some ways yes, but mostly no. Saving 2.500euro to have as a cushion will be the major difference.

So, if you know me and you are going to be reading this site from time to time, that seems like an awfully low number for the lifestyle I lead, doesn't it? That's why I love it here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas

I'm officially in the Xmas spirit. I bought two Santa's caps with bells for my girlfriend and I, my first Xmas presents (for the folks, and Assiyeah)and "Christimas Vacation" with Chevy Chase is on German tv. I know this movie inside and out and so watching it in German is great. It's like watching it for the first time again.

Tomorrow I'm going to have a university class in a bar from 3-6pm. We are going to watch a Simpsons episode and a documentary about JFK and discuss both. A bartender will be on duty.

ciao!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Typical Wednesday in my life...

I wake up at 7.16am, brace myself for the reality that I do indeed have to leave in 20 minutes for work, brush teeth and deodorize, put on clothes using hall light so as to not wake up girlfriend. Take the tram at 7.34am and after 4 stops get out and walk 8 minutes to one class. It is from 8-9.30am but I often end it a bit early because I have another class 2 minutes away that starts at 9.30. The first class is with beginners and it is a little like hearing fingernails on the chalkboard at 35 dollars/hour. You do it with a smile, but not your best smile. The next class is with lawyers who know their stuff. They still make the occasional mistake, like "what means punitive damages" and using the word "walley" instead of "valley" but it is generally an enjoyable time. Both places have free coffee and copy machines. I think walk up the same street 6 minutes to the middle of town to my 3rd job of the morning, an anomaly. I teach American and British history at a pseudo-university. The people there are pretty interesting, most have traveled some but they all think they┬┤re pretty cool but, as someone generally 7 or more years older than them, I have a better idea of what cool is. At least I think I do. Anyway, I peel away from there at 12.30 and with any luck, I might be on the 12.32 tram home where I have now have 4+ hours to relax before my night classes but I am getting ahead of myself.

Usually, I eat lunch with the girls when I get home. They have cooked some variety of pasta with sauce and I inevitably put lemon juice and hot sauce in it because that is the kind of stuff I like. The variable today is that I also have to do the dishes and clean the living room as part of my chore and yes, I am stoked about it. When I feeling on top of things and the weather is better than it is now, I will go running or work out and do some running in my afternoon break. Often I am already pooped from the last day and a half of work and I watch tv or a movie or some Simpsons and read for awhile. I may also do some writing on my "Selling to the Norwegians" travelogue. Anyway, sometime after 4pm the guilt machine starts getting me up and about and I get into the shower to look presentable for two business English classes from 6-9pm in a town that is 10-20 minutes away by train(depending on the train of course). I leave at 5pm for my 5.24train and I arrive at 5.44 where I have a 5-minute walk to the building. It is a quiet town, one that I do not enjoy so much time in but again, this money goes towards things like Black Crowes tickets, plane tickets to Paris and the like so I do not complain.

Business English is not my favorite thing in the world to teach but it all depends on the students. These students are quite a mix, ranging from rather boring businessmen to women who are from other countries (almost always Russia) and also speak German as a second language like me to well, other kinds of people. I use a lot of the same jokes in both classes, but only if it seemed to work in the first. Afterwards, I have a 9.14train that gets me to Freiburg at 9.34. I have a tram 5 minutes later that gets me home by 9.55. I am exhausted at this point and happy because my week is 3/4 over at this point. I usually watch some tv with the girls and read in bed before crashing out.

I tried to explain all of this without emotion. Often quite remarkable things happen, like hearing about cases about millions of euro which are not yet decided, or discussions about Iraq or having students accidentally say "I get off when I can". This is my job and I earn far more than I deserve but I am worth every penny. This typical day nets me 181 euro (210 dollars). When I tell you my rent and utilities cost 350euro, you can see why I put up with it without complaint but I wanted you guys to know what it is like to teach English in Germany.

I have to make some photocopies and discuss with my boss how we are going to teach Reconstruction. Ya know, that time after the Civil War when the South was destroyed and still racist, they had to install some northern folk to run the governments down there until the states agreed to pass the 13th and 14th Amendments. Wait a sec, you are not in my class!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

J. Edgar Hoover

I'm 2/3 through a book called "Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover" and man, what a doozy it is! Summed up briefly, it points out detail by detail how Hoover purposely refused to admit the existence of the Mafia because they probably had compromising homosexual photos of him and then later, after JFK's assassination, had to cover up and mislead the Warren Commission because it started to look like some of his own oil friends and mafia friends were connected to the murder. The man ruined other people's at the drop of a hat, for speaking to a reporter without having permission: sent to a backwater FBI office, or people who sent in complaints to LBJ about his foreign policy, FBI files were opened on them, or politicians could ask of free conscience because Hoover had compromising info on them. This was the secret police, the same kind we abhorred in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany and it was in the Land of the Free.

This is yet another reason why I feel distanced from America, the one the rest of the world knows. There are two Americas now, the one that is a feeling or ideology that has inspired greatness in people searching for freedom, and the other one, which has suppressed freedom and democracy with vigor so as to maintain a status quo among the wealthy movers and shakers who get people elected. Has it always been this way? Probably, but it just feels that people use the facade of freedom to perpetrate awful, horrible things. It's hard to believe, and it's upsetting because people in other countries see right through the facade and people in America not so much. You don't want to believe that your country is a "bad" one and while there may be good intentions about things like the "War of Terrorism", you all know what they say about the road to hell...

time for lunch!

Monday, December 05, 2005


Strawberry Fields, Central Park.


a view of a tram stop near my house, direction of the center of town.


An Amsterdam bike, February 2004


A view of my desk from April 2003. Notice the tonton above the desk. "And I thought they only smelled bad on the outside!"


A view from atop St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City


a view from where I'll be teaching at 7:30am tomorrow! This was January 2005.

The happiest day of your life?

While teaching superlatives today (ya know, the biggest, the smallest, the happiest), I happened to ask students about the happiest day of their lives. These people are computer nerds who don't really want to learn English but are forced to take some language classes to fulfill requirements by the school. The most (another superlative) I can get them talking is when it's about computer games, something I don't know squat about. You can imagine what the silence in that room in the mountains sounded like with the "What was the happiest day in your life" question. I've started enjoying the uncomfortable silences that happen in class from time to time. It makes me think how I'm getting paid for listening to silence, not something many people can say. It's difficult to encourage people who are unencourageable. Sure, sure, you try it a few times but after you realize that they are not going to have a normal conversation with you about anything, you just stick to the script. At this school we are given photocopied (read: plagiarized) scripts with grammar and subject-focus stuff, like today we learned about Bluetooth, a network link that solves the problems of connectivity (don't ask!) and in the other class about computing for disabled people. One of the students asked if it was nicer to say "people with special needs" and while I told him it was, it would be better to stick to the script. That way I can never be accused of not doing what I was told. CYA, baby! It's not as bad as this but it's good for you to see the other side of my reality as well.

Anyway, the happiest day of my life was May 5, 2002 at exactly 12pm. I know this because I was supposed to meet a girl at 12pm at the Temple of Apollo on the Greek island of Rhodos. She came. We were officially in love. We've now been together for over three and a half years. My life has taken the most radical (another superlative) turns since meeting her. I now have learned another language (German) relatively well, have a new career (English teaching and don't you laugh, MF!), and I have a relatively high standard of living for the small amount of money I make. I've learned to be more simple, to squeeze more out of the day and to enjoy simple things like going on walks and drinking beer in town while throwing the frisbee around. I have less and have accepted it and, as a result, have so much more, somehow, yanowotimesayin?

Sunday, December 04, 2005


almost the middle of nowhere northern Norway


Bergen, Norway, freezing our asses off but you can't see that in the photo!


Alesund, Norway


sunset at Salerno, Italy


the Blue Grotto, Capri

Monday, monday

Let's try and keep things in perspective. I have a great job and even could continue to be my career for quite a few years to come. That is kind of a shock to me but it is one of the things I'm best at, and I have the patience for it. I'm not too embittered after almost three years of it and that's a good sign. I think the money helps and though it's not a lot in the end, I'm still able to maintain a lifestyle that is plenty good for me. I could be making more money at home but wit that comes a lot more expenses and there is a feeling of trying to keep up which is impossible but here in Germany, the middle class is so large that believe it or not, I'm there somewhere. I am quite grateful for all I have though I may sometimes sound differently on the subject and those are just the brief moments where you forget that you are living in the top 15% of human beings (I figure I must be in the first billion or so, right?) and that I will not go hungry, there is almost (fingers crossed) hot water and toilet paper, I have a grocery store, two bars, a post office, a bakery and butcher and a tattoo shop within 50 meters of my house, that the Black Forest, where Hansel and Gretel came from, is a five minute walk from my front door, and that I am proud of living here in Germany, probably even moreso than the Germans because I am not from here. I'm sure the same thing must happen in America as well but we're talking about me here, right?

I don't have a car, or a dishwasher or even a dryer. I can't go grocery shopping at 10pm on a Tuesday because the Dodger game is rained out and I wanna get out of the house a bit. The beach is at least 6 hours by fast train (I'm talking 100mph friends!) and I don't even get Dodger games to watch. I do get the Rams now and then but they stink this year so that isn't much of a reprise. I guess the point is I have a lot less here but I feel like I have so much more. I give what I consider a small amount of output for all of the input I get and that is perhaps one of my favorite things of living here, along with the fact that I am constantly challenged in mind-bending ways, i.e., trying to understand the drunk soccer fans talking in the local dialect on the tram yesterday as they were going home and I was going to the Irish bar to watch football, like trying to figure out how to pay my taxes correctly so that I can continue to live here unimpeded until next year, or riding my bike places when the weather is good. Okay, riding your bike may not sound mind-bending but when was the last time you rode a bike on a Saturday night out? Huh?

All right, I'm going to walk across the street and meet 3 other teachers. We're going to drive 45 minutes up into the deep Black Forest where I will teach Information Technology for 3 hours and then drive 45 minutes home. This is the only time of the week that I am in a car. I will earn approximately 1/3 of my rent today and that's probably something that has allowed me to do what I want, that I can earn my rent from less than one week's work, the rest of my bills in another and have two week's money to play with. Next year I hope to save one week's worth when possible but that's hard because well, it's hard! But I'm trying! Ciao!


Assiyeah and I at the Philly City Hall Tower Posted by Picasa

A typical Sunday

I got home at 3am last night from someone's birthday party, slept til 11:30am, had a slow breakfast with roommates and then worked on my lesson plans for an hour, the bulk of it working on a Simpsons and JFK class I'll be doing at the university next weekend, then wasted some time on the internet because I didn't want to do my chore. Yes, that's right, I'm 31 years old and I have a chore to do today, welcome to Germany! I'm hoping it's the hallway and living room because I hate cleaning the kitchen or bathroom! Sunday's the day for these things. I'll call the folks about 5.30 or 6pm, we'll eat dinner and then I'll take a tram to the Irish pub in the old town and I meet up with a couple of other English teachers/speakers and we watch NFL football, like a long distance connection to home somehow, hard to explain but as real as anything else about my life here in Germany. I'll be home before midnight and then don't have to leave for work until noon tomorrow. Mondays are pretty cool.


that's me, just before I moved to Germany Posted by Picasa

The Crazy Season Has Begun

Well, well, well, I guess it's finally time to get involved in the blog underworld. I've been trying fruitlessly to keep my webpage updated but for some reason it felt like too much of a pain in the ass and I was only cutting and pasting to get new colors for the pages and I think this will be easier to use. We'll see...

So, the situation: I moved to Southwest Germany in the Black Forest nearly 3 years ago to follow the winds of love, or rather a German girl named Assiyeah that I met on the Greek Island of Rhodos in April 2002. I went back to California afterwards, worked my ass off in a microbrewery in Orange County, sold my car and in January 2003 headed off to Old Europe.

I wanted to be an English teacher, not from any burning desire to make the world a better place but compared to my other two choices (army man or computer guru) to getting a residence permit, English teaching took the cake easily. After determining this, I realized that Germany is a certificate-heavy country and so I went off to Brno, Czech Republic for a month to earn a certificate how to teach English. Did it help? Yes but it was also stupid at the same time. However, when I came back in March 2003, I had work with 6 weeks and now, 2.5 years, I guess you could say I'm succeeding. I have 7 different employers, including the university in the town I live in. I haven't saved any money since living here but have experienced so much and been exposed to so many cultures and languages that money could never provide me.

2006 is going to begin in a month and I'm thinking that this is going to be a breakthrough year for me, if nothing else for the productivity I plan to produce productively and for some travel adventures that get closer and closer everyday. Plans for 2006 include:

  • Writing my first play, entitled "Looking for Horst", about some German students interviewing people for a room they have to rent
  • Writing a travelogue about my 2-week experience in Norway in May earlier this year as I was carting around 120 copies of a 50-page book in Norwegian I had written trying to sell or trade them in order to make my trip as close to free as possible.
  • Compiling a book called "A Humorous Guide to Leaving the Country", taking journal entries for the past 3.5 years and showing people how I was able to move to a country that doesn't speak English as a first language and succeed on a level that people who I respect would find respectable.
  • Have my second photo exhibition, this one called "American Summer" and based on my 6 week trip to the States this summer, encompassing photos from LA, SF, DC, Philly, NYC and Boston.
  • Spend the summer (7 weeks) in South America with Assiyeah, taking in Buenos Aires up to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and hopefully Macchu Picchu.

So, you take all that mixed in with working 30-35 teaching hours/week and other trips to Paris, London, Berlin, Romania planned for the first half of 2006, it's going to be busy, hence the need for productive productivity.

The crazy season has begun. It's in between New Year's and Xmas, but for some reason I don't feel it here in Germany. The shops are closed on Sunday, the Germans are not great consumers and in a way that's what makes it crazy to me. I'm used to going to the mall and shoving through throngs of people buying stuff other people don't want. I'm not saying one is better than the other but still, different.

All right, this is just the first post but I have a feeling that this will be easier to update than the webpage. I'll let ya'll know when I get something worth noting on it!