Wednesday, December 14, 2011

DEAN 4- Munchen mag Dich!

Hello Everyone! I am writing to you from my room in Koblenz, listening to Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia," enjoying the lovely weather, and reminiscing about my fantastic trip to Munchen!!!!! I felt a little bit like a celebrity when I got to my hotel. The company who would be providing training for me was immediately informed that I had arrived, and told me they would be sending a taxi at 18:30 to take me to dinner. I then checked into a hotel room that was approximately half the size of the 5-person apartment I had during university.  If the extra deep bathtub, bar, living room, and floor-to-ceiling closets weren't enough there was A KITCHEN hidden behind one of the doors. I then met a group of fantastic people from the Czech republic, France, and England who were all there for the same training. At 18:30 we were taxied to this absolutely UNBELIEVABLE Italian restaurant. I now understand what pizza should taste like, and learned that it actually originated as an appetizer!

The training was rather informative, and on the second day at 5:00 pm we were taken on a walking tour of downtown Munchen!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


So I was watching my favourite film of all time, "Le Fabuleux Destin D'Amelie Poulain", and there's a bit in there about the simple pleasures in life. It talks about the little things Amelie finds beautiful or fun in life like skipping stones, cracking the crust on creme brulee, and reaching her hand into barrels of dried beans at the grocery store. I invite you all to share yours in the comment section! Here are some of mine that I discovered in Europe!

1. Breaking Milka chocolate bars into squares before opening the packaging
2. Scented facial tissues from companies like Tempo
3. The way bakery windows look like a scene from a fairy tale first thing in the morning...and the fact that they show up what feels like every 10 feet
4. Brushing your fingers along 100+ year old stone walls, which are everywhere.
5.  The adorable mini-crates that come with bottled water. The bottled water and mini-crate system: you put a deposit on the crate and bottles and then just buy more water. This encourages recycling.
6. The way your feet slightly shape around the cobblestones as you walk on them.
7. Old keys
8.Small grocery stores where everything seems to have been intentionally selected to be there and the single-serving packages most things are available in.
9. The smell of the Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas market) and the way it immediately whisks me back to childhood memories of Opa and the Feuerzangenbowle (spiced mulled wine). The way it feels like something out of a Narnian land of Christmas.
10. The way the roads caress the city instead of the city structures yielding to the roads (ok, I admit this bit is a tad annoying when trying to find your way around initially, but trust me it becomes charming)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DEAN 3 - The Art of Language

Hello All!!

 I am writing you from my first class window seat on the train to Mannheim and then Mϋnchen (Munich). The Rheinland countryside is absolutely stunning. Last weekend I went to Kӧln (Cologne) and spend most of the time with a fixed expression of awe and disbelief at how impressive the Kӧlner Dom was (pictures to follow!). On the topic of German pronunciation though, did you all note that in the two cities I just mentioned there was an English version since we can’t pronounce the name the natives use? This is a small testament to the trials and tribulations of learning German :P. I think my favourite “learning experience” so far was when my supervisor told me (in German) he couldn’t get a hold of the Über-something-something-something. He was pointing in the direction of a series of desks so I figured from context that he must be referring to someone, and the giant word I didn’t understand MUST be a job title. I then asked if he or she was sick or just on vacation. When my supervisor burst out laughing I figured something had gone wrong. He replied that an “elevator” couldn’t be sick or on vacation, but he’s thrilled by how much I was making him laugh that day. Earlier that day I had expressed my surprise that all the songs on the radio were in English. My supervisor’s reaction was basically “umm…of course!” and for some reason he found my “when-a-North-American-goes-to-Europe”-type question rather entertaining. Another favourite topic my two supervisors find amusing is the different legal drinking ages in North America. In Germany, you can basically start drinking legally at 16. When I was asked how old one had to be to drink in the USA, the reply of “21,” made my coworkers start laughing hysterically, especially when it was discovered that you could sooner join the American army and die for your country before you could have a drink.
My next language faux-pas also involved the fateful elevator.  During my first few days of work something unimaginable happened- for 30 minutes I was basically the only one in the lab. This would not normally have been a problem if only I hadn’t been asked for directions. I was sitting in the office studying my notes and trying to memorize all the new protocol steps, equipment names, and random instructions that I had received concerning what I would be doing when a rather rushed, out of breath woman walked in with a giant box of samples and asked, “Wo ist der Aufzug??”. After 12 years of Saturday morning German school, and a lifetime of speaking German with my grandparents I should have been able to break it down and figure out what Auf(up)zug(train) could have meant, but in that moment my mind was nothing more than a blank screen periodically flicking through images of the 30+ machines I had seen in the lab, madly wondering which one could possibly be the one she needed. After a few seconds of wide-eyed silence she began energetically lifting the box up and down in the air saying, “Aufzug? Aufzug?? Aufzug?!?” My mind grinded to a halt, time stopped, and I suddenly blurted out, “Ich bin aus Kanada!” (I’m from Canada!), as if being Canadian was a completely reasonable argument as to why I would have no clue what on Earth was going on. Apparently it worked, because she said, “Ah! OK!” and proceeded to look in the lab herself. A few seconds later the clouds cleared and the proverbial light bulb in my head lit up like a lighthouse through a perfect storm. “Ah! the ELEVATOR!”, I cried and rushed to assist the poor woman. Ever since this incident she has been very kind and made sure to speak v…e…r...y….. s…l…o…w…l…y with me ;).
Overall, I make my coworkers laugh a lot, and am learning tons! I find that every day it gets a little easier to express more complicated ideas in German, but I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t think there are going to be more slip ups to come. When they happen I will let you all know ;).


Tuesday, November 15, 2011


It only took one week of living in Germany before I found myself asking my boyfriend questions like, "So, is there ANY way you could you ever see yourself living in Europe?" 

I LOVE it here. I love the sound the car tires make as they rumble over the cobblestone roads, and the fact that even my walk home through the downtown area is stunningly picturesque. I love that in European kitchens, while riffling through the cupboards looking for plates you can go, "Oops, that's a refrigerator," and I love that until now I thought we had public transit in Canada. We don't: in comparison to Germany we have something akin to Star Trek's annual medical checkups to remote and desolate research colonies. I'm also a huge fan of how cheap cheese is, because let's face it folks- cheese is a little slice of bacteria-metabolized heaven <3. 

My work in the medical lab is really interesting. I'm helping develop new tests that will determine vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiencies using tandem liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. The extra fun part is that my bosses have decided to send me to Munchen for 3 days to get private training on the machinery I need to use!!!!!! Apparently they REALLY don't want me to break it!!!! I am so excited!!! (pictures to follow)

Stay tuned for my upcoming lists of hilarious-for-people-who-aren't-me language mistakes! Apparently "Aufzug" is not a random piece of lab equipment....