Frankfurt Fifteen

That early life phenomenon that so many American college students experience during their freshman year fueled by freedom, 2 am schmuffins from Sheetz, and a meal plan that just won’t quit is, I’m sad to say, not necessarily an isolated experience. The same rite of passage is common amongst those of us who fancy ourselves adults and live in Frankfurt (or any glorious European city) for two years. Much like the wide-eyed freshmen, we didn’t really have a choice if our pants would button after a year. First, Germany lures you in with the scent of delicious meats and candies at their festivals and markets promising everything from whimsy to enchantment. Who could resist? Then, after a short time, it becomes clear that wine is far cheaper than water and beer isn’t measured by the bottle, but by the stein – an ancient unit of measurement ensuring immediate pride in hoisting an arm for a solid “Prost!” If cheap beer and delicious meats don’t lure you into their caloric web, the travel will. A three hour train ride (in the cafe car, of course) to food and drink destinations like Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin… Every 3 day weekend was spent on a train or a plane to some fantastic European city where we’d eat too much and sleep too little. Tex and I hit Europe HARD during our two year post in Frankfurt. We stopped even planning vacations – we just bought train/plane tickets, booked a hotel, and showed up in a new city. Sort of like college students on a semester abroad – only, you know, with a pension, Roth IRA, and steady pay check. As it turns out we visited 25 places out of about 100 weekends in Germany. The List: **Brussels – mussels and beer **Strasbourg – fois gras and wine Aachen – flammkuchen Colonge – kolsch Budapest – goulash and stuffed cabbage Barcelona – tapas and wine Berlin – ginormous schnitzels Pula – truffles Warsaw – pierogies Reykjavik – minke whale Antwerp – mussels…again Tunis – lamb and couscous, decent wine Prague – fried cheese Innsbruck – garlic soup Basel – smoked beer *Dakar – shrimp and french fries Nuremberg – sausages Bamberg – strangely good Irish Pub Paris – need I say more? Amsterdam – bitterballen Heidelberg – beer and Marriott executive lounge abuse Ghent – I really like mussels *Edinburgh – haggis – an acquired taste for some, a delightful treat for those of us who like offal Bordeaux – wine tourism Malta – fish and wine So, there you have it – 2 solid years of food, drink, and travel. With such a rigorous schedule, Tex and I had little time to do anything else – like work out or write blog posts. However, now that we’re posted in Tunis, and I’m jobless due to this epic hiring freeze, I have all the time in the world to update the blogosphere on our wanderings and experiences…and hopefully tales of looser fitting pants.   Frankfurt Christmas Market Strasbourg, France Pula, Croatia Brussels, Belgium Mussels Warsaw, Poland Antwerp, Belgium Budapest, Hungary Budapest, Hungary Barcelona, Span Countless sausages 5 year wedding anniversary in Tunis Oktoberfest Prague, Czech Republic Frankfurt Christmas Market Paris, France Bordeaux, France Reykjavik, Iceland Antwerp, Belgium * These were trips I took without Tex – Dakar for training and Edinburgh for a gals weekend. ** We hit these destinations...

10 Awesome Things about Frankfurt- A Brief List

SSausage There is pretty much a sausage stand on every corner.  In fact, there is so much meat here that Tex and I are forced to limit our meat intake to special occasions to make up for the vast amount of sausage we consumed in our first couple of months. Cheese The volume and variety of cheeses at our local grocery store is both welcome and overwhelming. Recycling We recycle everything here – the local grocery store accepts bottle returns by machine, there are consignment shops everywhere, and people are pretty green in general. Festivals There are festivals just about every weekend, from street food to Oktoberfest. We accidentally run into them all the time. One time we were headed to a wine festival downtown and ran into a farm festival on the way. European and American clothing and shoe sizes H & M has about 4 locations downtown. It’s glorious. Air Quality We have generally exceptional air quality every day. Green Space The local parks are well maintained and plentiful.  People go picnicking and frolicking frequently. Regional Travel We’re planning LOCAL trips to Spain, Italy, France, Hugary… English Pretty much everyone speaks at least working English.  I’m putting an effort into learning some German, but people just talk back to me in English. Beer Cheaper than water. Our local, majestic park. Recycling books in a sidewalk library. Brussels is just around the corner. OKTOBERFEST! Need I say more? Delicious, delicious beer. Cheese plate at an Alsatian...

Home Leave (me alone)

Like most individuals headed towards their first Home Leave, dreams of tacos, cheeses, and shoes that fit danced in my naive head for weeks.  I imagined Home Leave to be a 6 week vacation during which I would spend my days shopping in familiar environments and being worshipped by my friends and family while I regaled them with tales of Taiwan and my misadventures.  I ignored the warnings about finances, time spent with relatives, how crazy busy we would be, and exhaustion. Perhaps I should have listened. We did some of it to ourselves.  We planned a trip to Las Vegas on our way to Pennsylvania.  Do you know the worst plan?  I’ll tell you – getting off a plane in LAX after a 13 hour flight and DRIVING 4 hours to Las Vegas at night…on a Friday…during a huge electronic music festival.  We had fun, but it did not serve it’s intended purpose.  There was this thought that it would “reset” us in terms of jet lag and give us a chance to blow off some steam.  It did not. I was so jet lagged that I ordered a hotdog at a taco restaurant. The whole trip was a crazy whirl-wind escapade. We’re both excited to travel around Europe, but I can certainly wait another two years for the excitement of Home Leave. Farewell Taiwan! HellO Vegas! Road Tripping – our first in – n – out burger, not bad. Ah, experiencing the joys of America – one extremely useful product after another. Jet lag juice. Fires at the ranch. A trip to Boston to visit family led to this touristy decision… …and this one as well. POPCORN! A large bowl was usually awaiting me at my sister’s house. HellO Frankfurt! Things that were NOT awesome about Home Leave: Over planning. Jet lag. Spending twice as much while making half as much. Things that were awesome about Home Leave: Seeing people. Tacos. Sparklers. Lessons learned for next time: Don’t eat too many tacos. Get an Air BnB. Say ‘no’ twice as much. Plan some down time.  ...

English

I love English. I want to fill a bathtub with English and soak in it. When I walk into a restaurant tentatively prepared to speak Chinese and am asked in English “two people?” I can’t help but sigh in relief. Chinese is really hard, and my retention is pretty unfortunate, but it would be nice to retain a good chunk of what I’ve learned before we leave.  That’s nearly impossible because EVERYONE speaks English. I have said some really dumb things in Chinese: To the Chinese server at the beer bar in Beijing: “Can we live over there?” instead of “Can we sit over there?” To the guy at the fast food counter: “…and one bottle of handsome.” instead of “…and one bottle of water.” To the mean lady at the grocery store who was trying to give me something for free: “No! I don’t want that thing!” It’s just so easy to take the easy way out, not use Chinese, relish in the fact that most people speak English. I feel as though I’m not challenging myself if I’m not using the language that I’ve worked so hard to grasp.  However, when the Californian kid who just happens to have some Chinese heritage brings me my food says, “would you like more water?” instead of “blah, blah, blah shui ma?” I feel much more confident responding “yes, please” instead of violently shaking my head up and down like an idiot while saying something indiscernible. Perhaps I will have more luck with German.  Everyone says it’s easier than Mandarin.  I think brain surgery is easier than Mandarin, so the bar is set pretty low. Here’s to faster language learning – Prost!      ...

Kingdom of Wonder

Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder I wondered a lot of things on our recent trip to Siem Reap.  Most notably, I wondered how people survive on the food.  Also, I wondered if it could possibly get any hotter. It could. During the day we walked around at various temples sweating and taking in the sight of meandering elephants.  Our nightlife consisted of wandering through markets and restaurants on Pub Street. The entire town is set up as a tourist trap which sounds disappointing. Instead, it made everything super easy. Need a driver? Tour guide? Beer? Massage? Book it all through the hotel for cheap.  The downside of convenience was the fact that I couldn’t understand a word our tour guide said. “If you’ll look over here…blah, blah, elephant…blah, blah empire.”  Tex seemed to speak his language. He did follow us around and take a lot of photos though.  That was handy. In one of those ‘it’s-so-bad-it’s-good’ situations, we attended an ‘authentic’ Cambodian dance show.  It came with a buffet dinner of hot, wet Chinese food.  Of the HUNDREDS of Mainland Chinese tourists attending the dinner and show – there were 5 non-mainlanders – including Tex and me.  So, it was not geared towards us. Our tour guide was also obviously getting kickbacks from the local restaurants and businesses; including a scarf salesmen who tried to charge us $80 for a scarf we paid $4 for on Pub Street. I wonder who is buying the $80 version…   Angkor Wat Tex Big head…thing. Nightlife Temple Hidden statue Angkor Wat     The Pros: Amazing sights – temples, twisty trees, wealthy backpackers. Cheap massages, transportation, food and drink. Fast, easy, affordable tour guides and drivers. U.S. dollars used throughout Siem Reap. Decent tacos and fun nightlife. Elephants. The Cons: Hot as Hades. Mostly gross local cuisine. Tourist traps around every corner. Hot. Did I mention it was...

Ain’t missin’ you at all…

I’ve written a lot over the last eighteen months about how things in Taipei are so different from the U.S., how I miss certain things, how other cultures are great and all – but it ain’t no America.  However, as much as I love my country and can’t wait to go back for a hearty visit, there are some things that I DON’T miss about the good ol’ U.S. Body Image – As a woman who grew up in the United States, I’ve been bombarded with ads about how women ‘should’ look since I was born. They don’t do that here, or in a lot of other places.  When there is a car commercial, beer ad, or toothpaste poster in the subway it’s not of a scantily dressed ‘perfect’ woman selling the product.   Instead, it’s a picture of toothpaste – because they want you to buy toothpaste.  Body image problems are not completely non-existent here, but its a lot easier to wake up, put on a slightly tight pair of pants and say, ‘oops, time to cut back on the popcorn, Vegas.’ (It’s always worth it for popcorn.) U.S. political ads –  Holy cow.  I cannot tell you how relieving it is to go through an election season without hearing nonsense from every corner of the U.S. “Jane Doe once shoplifted from a candy store at the age of 8 – do you want THIS person to be your governor?”  Any of my Northeast friends will remember the horrendous Christine O’Donnell dramatic commercial starting with, “I am not a witch…”  I am VERY relieved to not have Jeopardy! interrupted with redundant political ads anymore. Tipping – Tipping culture in the United States is pretty ridiculous.  Instead of paying Denny’s servers a living wage and charging $1 more for a Moons over my Hammy platter,  it’s my responsibility as the customer to pay for my food and service separately.  If I don’t tip, I’m screwing my server out of a living wage.  Uh, what?  How did that one slip through the cracks? We don’t have to tip in Taiwan.  It’s great.  We tip on exceptional service or when the 10% service charge isn’t included in the bill. U.S. Sport Fans – I’ve never been a huge fan of sports, but I’m even less a fan of sports fans.  I recall several Philly sports fans being violent about “their” team.  I don’t miss those stories.  Also, Rugby is awesome – who knew? U.S. News – We have several international news channels in Taiwan, and they don’t feel the need to create a theme song and use dramatic language for every single news story that crosses their desk.  It’s informative and helpful.  Also, there aren’t a lot of ‘talking heads’ on international news screaming at each other and getting emotionally involved in every single idea. Daylight Savings Time –  Ugh, just give it up already.   Other things I don’t miss: digging my car out of the snow having to go to separate stores for beer (in PA) allergy...