Friday, October 20, 2006


I had a little bit a scare recently. But first let me back up a few weeks.

About two weeks ago, I started seriously considering ways I could get to London for a weekend while I’m here in Berlin. London is super expensive (thanks mostly to the fact that the Pound is worth nearly twice what the dollar is worth), so it was a little difficult finding ways that would make it affordable. But I found a cheap flight there and back (more on that later) and after some thought and planning regarding lodging, I had a realization: my sister has a friend who lives just outside of London. I contacted her, asking for any recommendations on where to stay or what to do while I’m there, and she responded with an invitation to stay with her and her husband at their house for free! This was unbelievable news to me, and immediately put the trip in my price range. I booked my flight, which turned out to be 50% off from the time I looked at the pricing before (now don’t think this is that good of a deal. The airline Ryanair lets you fly from Berlin to London and back for about $60.00 which is really good. But the way they do things is advertise the flight at $0.99 and then tax you the rest of the $60.00. So when they advertise that the flight is half off, it doesn’t mean the flight is now $30.00, it just means that the flight is now $0.49, with almost the exact same amount of tax. A brilliant business scheme), so I booked and felt great about going to London.

I had planned the trip for the time that Ben Kweller would be playing a show there, which I was really excited about. Tickets would have been kind of expensive—again, thanks to the terrible exchange rate—but still well worth it. I contacted my friend Sarah-Ashley, who has personal connections with Ben Kweller, to see if there was anything she could do about getting me on BK’s guest list, thus making the concert free. She immediately pulled through, sending me an email the next day telling me I was all set and on the guest list. I felt great. Things could not have worked out more smoothly, I thought.

But then just this last Wednesday, one of the students here was working on getting her visa because she arrived in Europe one month before everyone else did. As she was talking to the people at the Goethe Institut who were helping her with that, she mentioned that all 25 of us were going to need to get our visas taken care of soon too, which caused the Goethe Institut to panic. We all had an emergency meeting the next day, where we were told that we would need to give up our passports to the German government so they could get our visas in time, thus making it possible for us to get out of the country in December without getting arrested. This would have been no problem at all for me if I hadn’t already planned this London trip, booked my flight, arranged my lodging, and gotten on Ben Kweller’s guest list. As it stood, I wasn’t going to be able to go to London because I wasn’t going to have a passport on the day I was flying out and I was devastated.

All day I felt sick to my stomach. I went to the British embassy with my teacher and another student to see if there was any kind of temporary papers they could give me to get me into the UK when I had planned, but they said that without a passport, there is no way to get into the UK. I then went to the American embassy with another student to see what they could do. They were considerably nicer than the British embassy, but still didn’t seem too hopeful. The passport office was closed, but the man at the front desk told us that if we came back tomorrow, they might be able to get us a second passport, but they couldn’t guarantee it would come in time for our flights and we would have to pay for it. I was willing to pay a little bit for another passport, but I had no idea how much it was going to be. So we made plans to head back to the American embassy the next morning and see exactly what they could do for us.

I went back to school for the afternoon and had a pretty good class, but was still really bummed. Just before class was over, however, I got a phone call from my teacher, which I couldn’t answer. I went downstairs after class, though, and found him there with some of the other students surrounding him. When I approached him, he told me that I was going to be able to go to London on the days that I had planned because by some miracle the Goethe Institut was able to get the German government to release our passports (those of us going to London) just before we go, then we are to give them right back to the government when we get back to Berlin. Anyone who has ever had to deal with any government bureaucracy knows that this is a total miracle. I felt so good getting this news! So now the trip is back on, with only one minor flaw: I was planning to see Footloose the musical while in London because I grew up next door to the kid who stars in it now—Derek Hough. And I would have loved to see it, but it ends the weekend before I get there. That’s not a big deal at all though—especially considering the fact that for almost 24 hours, I was under the impression that I couldn’t go to London at all. But everything’s worked out now, and I’m so excited.

Thursday, October 12, 2006



My class at the Goethe Institute is going just fine now. I was really worried at first that five hours per day in the same room was going to turn out to be too much, but it goes by really fast, and I love the way my teacher talks, so it feels like the time flies.

There are people from all over the world in my class--Brazil, Cambodia, Spain, Turkey, and NORTH Korea (!). Everyone's very nice, but sometimes it's hard to understand people. It's different than taking a German class at BYU becuase often times, German is the only way we can communicate with each other; we don't have another choice. But I must say that it's interesting that a lot of the students will default into English when they don't know the German word. English really is where it's at. We have to work in parters a ton and I kind of get tired of that, but that's ok. Things at the Goethe Institute have worked out just fine.

The other day in class, we read a story about a kid who was a punk, wore punk clothes, and had a mowhawk and because of all this, he couldn't get a job. Then we had to divide into two groups--one saying that he is responsible to change his look and do what it takes to get a job, and the other saying that he should be able to get a job despite his look. There was another lady from America named Judith in our group (the one saying he should just change his look if he really wants a job) and as the arguement was getting way more heated than it needed to, she started saying something like, "well in America, you can't get unemployment pay...". Right after she said "America", the teacher was very quick to point out that we were in Germany. It kind of made me cringe to hear that student say that. And then I thought it was interesting that anyone else from another country could have said something similar to what Judith said, and I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it. It's weird that that's how things work.

I'm a little bit nervous about getting everything I need to get done done. We've got this major assignmet where we're supposed to see 100 examples of different kinds of architecture or art or objects and write a one page paper on each one. I've only got about 15 or 20 finished. It's going to be a busy next couple of weeks.

I sat in on a discussion with the missionaries tonight with a guy who is really close to setting a baptismal date. Naturally, I was pretty quiet, but I said a few things (some in English becuase he understood English), but I tried my best at German. It's still terrible, but it's getting better. That was cool to see missionary work in another language. I've only seen it in Spanish a few times before, so it was cool to see it in German.

It's really cool to be feeling more at home here. The my hostlady is out of town for a few days, but no big deal. She told us when she gets back, she will have a little more time and can cook for us. I'm excited for that.

I'll write again soon. With pictures.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Colder Weather

(This was written a couple days ago, but it's just now getting posted. It's still pretty up-to-date though)


It has finally become cold in Germany. The weather today was what I expected it would be like all of last month: cold and grey and rainy. I had an umbrella which made it really kind of fun. I’m really glad it’s become cold because I have not been able to get cool in this country up until a few days ago. It’s not so much the fact that there’s no air conditioning, but no fans even—no way to even move the air. My bedroom window faces into a courtyard, so wind isn’t really an option. But now it’s getting colder and that’s really nice.

I write this blog as I am sitting WITHOUT my little donut cushion! I am healing from my operation each day and it’s getting to the point where I can get around pretty well now. I have been seeing the doctor everyday so he can check the wound and redo my bandaging for me, but today he told me he wants to see me in two days—a pattern that I think will continue, which is nice. He says my wound is getting smaller and smaller and that it looks like just what he wants to see. So things are going really well in that category.

I went to the Goethe Institute (the place where I’ll be taking my German language classes) today and took a placement test. I did about as well as I should have, I think. I start my classes there tomorrow. As far as I know, I’m there from about noon till 5:00pm each day. That’s kind of a long time, but I’m looking forward to having more of a set schedule and to feel like a student again.

I went to the KaDeWe today. The KaDeWe is a super upscale shopping center with stores for Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel, Mont Blanc, and every other super expensive brand you can think of. It’s kind of weird because on one of the top levels, there is a super market where you can buy lots of American things: a Fifth Avenue bar (almost $2.40 per candy bar) or root beer (almost $6.50 per liter!). I was excited about the Fifth Avenue bar, but clearly that was way too expensive. As far as the root beer goes, there is one KFC/A&W in Berlin and it offers free refills, which is something totally unheard of here. It’s one of our favorite places to go for a cheap, filling meal.

A few days ago, we, as a class, went to the Technik Museum where we got to learn about printing. It was really cool because we got into groups and set some type and printed a little poster of whatever we wanted. I’m into that kind of thing. We’ve visited a lot of museums and seen tons of historical things. The museums we’ve been to have all had so many different kinds of exhibits, it’s really hard to soak everything in.

I have a pre-paid cell phone so that I can keep in contact with my classmates when I have to and so people can call me. When I bought it, I put some money on it and I thought that money would last me for quite a while, but just the other day, my phone told me that it was only good for emergency use. I couldn’t send txts or make calls, and I wondered what could have possibly happened. I was worried that the phone company was charging me for the incoming calls I’d received, which were supposed to be free. But just today, a friend from school told me that I had left a 10 MINUTE message on her phone. Then another friend said I called her during Sacrament Meeting last week and another friend said I called her earlier this week too. This was all news to me. It turns out that, because I didn’t know how to lock my keys, I was wasting all my minutes by inadvertently calling people from my pocket. I was kind of embarrassed to find this out, but glad to know the reason for my quickly-used minutes. I learned how to lock my keys today.

I’m really liking it here, and time is going really fast. I’m so glad to be healing faster than the doctors had thought (did I mention they originally thought that by Christmas time, I should be about healed!). I saw that Morrissey is coming eight days after I leave, but that’s ok—it’s on a Sunday anyway. Plus there’s a concert coming on November 30 that I’m looking forward to: Regina Spektor. I’ve met some friends at the institute (as in the Church institute) who are going also, so it’ll be fun.

Thanks to all of you for reading this and for your support. It’s really fun to hear from you. I hope everything is going well for you.