Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Few Things

We've been in Germany for just over 4 weeks now and there are a few things that we've done/noticed/thought of that don't fit nicely into a picture-perfect post, but are worth mentioning nonetheless.

1. It's been really cold here. Maybe it's just this particular "Sommer," but we're both freezing pretty much all the time. Perhaps Germany, like Berkeley, gets summer from August through September (or, perhaps, October).

2. Learning German is really fun and we're getting much better at it. Or, at least, the Missionaries at church said so today. Truthfully, we're understanding quite a lot now and we're deciphering street signs and advertisements and parsing new words frequently. We've also checked out some 4- and 5-year-old books from the library; the 4s are a little easy and the 5s are tough, so we're about four-and-a-half. With non-zero balances in our bank account. How sweet is that?
2a. Further evidence that we're doing well in our language learning--they skipped us both a grade ahead for the next session. Instead of A1.2 We're going to be in A2.1! Maybe we'll be seven or eight before we leave Bonn. 

3. The food is hit and miss. What we cook at home tends to be really good, even though the ingredients aren't quite as good as we're used to in Berkeley. (There is a seemingly eternal Pflaumenzeit--plum season--which we're enjoying quite a lot.) Also, the prices are comparable with what we were paying in Berkeley at grocery stores. Restaurants are pricey but generally good, so long as we think really hard about what we're ordering. Then, the typical lunchtime snack "Imbiss" is really cheap and can be really good. I'm loving the abundance of greasy Turkish food and Döner kebabs, Sara could deal without the grease.

4. Public transportation here rocks. We've rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes for a bus for wherever we're going. The regional trains are efficient and relatively cheap--our day trips so far have cost around 35 EUR for both of us for the whole day. (Excepting the gondola ride over the Rhine--more on that to come!) And the DB Navigator app for the iPhone is amazing--up to the minute departure times, arrival times, station locations, and more for *every bus stop in the country*. Not only is it free, it's priceless.

5. This is a civilized country. We can pay tithing (a donation to our church) online! We can even set it up to deduct automatically from our bank account on the first of the month. Two years without thinking about tithing? Yes, please!

6. We've been put to work just a little bit at the church in Bonn: I played piano today in our first meeting (that seems to be the first test for every new person in church: playing piano) and Sara said the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting. I'm also playing piano for the next three Sundays in Sacrament Meeting. They're going to get something out of us before they send us off to Aachen. Of course, we're happy to help. We really like the ward in Bonn.

7. We're still excited at how old things are here. Seeing houses with 18th century dates and castles from the 8th century still makes us grin.

8. This is a completely uncivilized country. There are no drinking fountains*, and drinks are insanely expensive in restaurants. Of course, this isn't a surprise to us, but it still stings every time we think that getting two Coke Zeros while we're out will cost up to $7. How do these people stay hydrated? We've taken to carrying around our water bottles and, when necessary, using them even at restaurants. Hopefully it's not too rude. Certainly not as rude as demanding some tap water.

9. Sara really misses American pillows. Here, there are two sizes: long and skinny and huge and square. Neither fits her sleeping profile well. We contemplated buying a new pillow for her the first week we were here, but we still could only find European sizes and they were 60 or 70 EUR ($90-110). We've since seen ads for cheaper pillows, but how does a country function with $100 pillows? Do people not sleep?

10. We miss our friends at home. And an apartment, but mostly our friends. Hopefully both will be forthcoming soon.

*Unsurprisingly to those who know, the Mormon church in Aachen has a drinking fountain. We haven't found the one in the church in Bonn, but it has to be somewhere...


  1. Sara, did you manage the prayer in German? If so, I'm impressed! Perhaps we should have warned you about the pillows. We bring ours from home for this exact reason.

    Congrats to both of you on rocking your German courses. We'll continue sending good apartment vibes to you!

  2. Nope, I prayed in English. We had the elders over for lunch today for German practice, though, and we had them teach us to pray. Now we have a handy little German prayer cheat sheet.

    We actually got an apartment on Monday! So it wasn't so horrible after all; it only took three trips to Aachen. We're still waiting to get the contract in the mail, but soon it should be a done deal!

  3. You got an apartment! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

  4. Who are the missionaries in your ward right now? My parents still know almost every missionary in Germany, so they're extremely interested to know who you guys run into while there. Let us know!

  5. In Bonn we have Elder Reeve from Danville and Elder Rudin from Switzerland. In Aachen we met an Elder Palfreyman, but I think he's already been transferred.

  6. Hold the phone! You guys pay tithing ON-LINE!? (I just fell out of my chair) That is amazing and something I have been wishing I could do lately. Eric and I have been wondering when the Church is going to start letting tithing be paid online and now I hear form you that it is happening in Germany? What?! Why is it not happening here in the states? Needless to say, I am jealous.

    Also, that pillow situation sounds horrid. I am very particular about my pillows so I can see how not being able to find one you like would be most frustrating. I hope you find a good pillow and a good night's sleep soon.

  7. Hooray for getting an apartment!! Man, I need a German-prayer cheat sheet.

    By the way, a little tip about water, if you have DMs ( in your area, they often have a water cooler and little paper cone cups that you can use to get a drink...I suppose you can also fill up a water bottle. We know where are all of the DMs are downtown for when we're thirsty. :)

  8. Kimberly, of course! We go to DM frequently and we always have our water bottles. We'll put the two together. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Lady Steed: Apparently online tithing has been going on here for years. Each ward gives out its account information to members and you do online bank transfers.


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