Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My First Field Trip

Currently watching USA men stomp Tunisia into the ground in basketball (60-107, 1:30 left in the 4th)

So you might remember way back when, my 5th graders won Noche Bohemia.  First prize was lunch at the mall and a movie.  After attempting to organize this trip a few times, it finally stuck.  Today I herded 14 5th graders around the mall.  What an experience.

This was the plan:  Bus pick us up at 11:30.  Get to movie theater by 11:45, buy movie tickets, eat lunch.  Movie starts at 12:30.  Movie ends at 2:45.  Be back at school by 3:15.

Of course nothing went to plan.

Around 11:15 I went to find the director to get the cash for the trip.  Well turns out she did not take out any cash.  After telling me this, she looks at me and says "did you call the bus?"  No... that was your job.  So luckily the office has some cash and they loaded me up with dough.  Then we wait until noon for the bus, since she had forgotten to call before.

We actually arrived at the mall around 12:15.  We waited in line for about 10 minutes to get tickets.  Then we go to the food court to eat before the movie.  This was the worst part.  The food court has a very small sitting area and it's nearly impossible to find seats.  So while waiting in line with some kids, I was sending others to sit at tables to guard them for us.  "You!  Go to the blue table, NOW!"  Since we had to wait in line so long, I was able to send kids out and get a few tables that were at least near each other.

It took us around 40 minutes to get the food and eat.  So about 1:10pm (remember the movie started at 12:30), I go to gather the kids to go.  Well a few still had some food left.  So I scooped it up and threw it in my purse to sneak into the movies.  The kids sure got a kick out of that and started calling me "Frau Food".

We went to see The Amazing Spider Man, which luckily has been out for a long time, so we had basically the whole theater to ourselves.  Which was good since the girls were giggling and chatting almost the whole time.  We were lucky that the movie had only just started.  We might have missed about 5 minutes.

We enjoyed the movie, and when it seemed like it was coming to an end, I went out to call the bus to come pick us up.  The movie ended and we ran for the door where the bus was waiting.  A few kids threw hissy fits because I did not allow them to go buy snacks.  But if I had let one, then everyone would have wanted to get snacks and then we would be even more late.

In the end, we got back to the school around 3:30, not that bad in my opinion.  And all the kids survived.  It wasn't awful, but all I was thinking was how much easier everything would have been had another person been with me.  Oh well!  We all made it back and that's the important part.

Now for more Olympics!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beer, Pretzels, Sausage

In my two week trip to southern Germany I met tons of family, all who were super nice to me.  One of my cousins* I met told me she read an article about what people from the USA think about Germany.  We think it's all beer, pretzels, sausage and lederhosen.  Stereotypical, sure, but in my brief time in mostly Bavaria, I found it to be completely true.

Germany was exactly how I always imagine it would be-- alpine houses made with wooden nails, cafes on the side of the street full of people drinking, delicious sausage for breakfast, pretzels sold at every corner, and yes, men in lederhosen.

Writing about my entire trip would be too much for you to read and for me to remember, so let me highlight.

My trip started out in Mainz where I stayed with a friend.  Mainz is a great little city that evidently has some banging parties that, unfortunately, are during another season.


Hanging out by the Rhine

After Mainz I took a train to Stuttgart where I wandered around and jammed with a few people to a great band.  This is where I met up with one of my cousins, Christoph.  He and his wife walked me around Stuttgart and we had the pleasure of visiting the Fischmarkt which comes down from Hamburg once a year.  We had a delicious smoked salmon and Humburger beer.  That evening I took a train and a bus (after being told it would take me exactly 33 minutes to get there, and it did!) to Schockingen where I met another part of the family.  We drank and were marry into the night.


Enjoying a beer

The next day cousin Sandra took me to Tubingen.  It's a cozy little town, and we had lunch at a brewery on a river which we later took a gondola tour on.  That night I went to Weissach and celebrated the 65th birthday of one of my grandfather's cousins (*this is how I'm related to all this family- they are my grandfather's cousin's offspring) with lots of food and schnaps.  Yum!


So cute!

At the birthday party

Another cousin took me to Heidelberg the next day.  This is supposed to be a really great city, but honestly, it was way too touristy for me.  Everything had been transformed into a tourist shop.  The castle was pretty from a distance, but once you take the 15 second train (which we paid 8 Euro for!  If you go, avoid this disappointing ride) and enter, you realize that everything has been converted to draw in tourists.  The old wine cellar was turned into a restaurant, and not a classy one.  It was less than what I expected, but beautiful in its own way.

View from the castle

The castle

I was driven to Munich the next day by another cousin.  She was like a walking tour guide.  We strolled through Munich and she showed me all the important spots and included histories, legends and myths.  It was great.  I visited the Deutches Museum while there, and it was totally worth it.  Only 8 Euro to enter and I spent a good 3 hours exploring the place, and I skipped an entire level.  My cousin tells me that if you actually walk through the whole place, you walk 14 km!  We also visited the castle.

In Munich

The Deutsches Museum

The Castle

My next stop was Nuremberg where I met my sister's friend, Stephanie.  For the first time on my trip, I didn't have a translator.  We made the best of it and went on a dungeon tour where a teacher translated everything into English which was nice.  We explored the castle and the cathedrals.  I ate lots of pretzels and on one occasion drank too much.  We also went to both the Nazi Documentation Center and the Nuremberg Trail Memorial.  Both are only 3 Euro to get in (for students, I used my Costa Rican driver's license and it worked just fine...) and are so loaded with information you could easily spend 4 hours in each location.  Both come with free audio guides which give 3-5 minute explanations about every single thing in every room.  We didn't listen to it all, it just got hard to pay attention after a while.  But anyways, both worth seeing, especially if you have a foreign driver's license that can be mistaken for a student ID.

Pretzels, sausage and beer

Hitler's "coliseum" 

The actual benches where the Nazis sat while on trial

With my sister still not in the country, Stephanie and I headed to Regensberg.  There's not a whole bunch to see in this town, but I really enjoyed it.  We would go see "a site" (the Stone Bridge, the cathedral, the basilica, etc) then get beer and food.  It was all very relaxed and on our second to last day there, my sister finally made it to Germany.  More drinking and eating commenced, and even though it might seem strange, we ate take-out Thai food two nights in a row.  It was just freaking delicious.

Breakfast spread

Stormy in Regensberg

Always trying new beers


Finally, the three of us headed to the Hauptbahnhof where we all took trains to our own destinations.  I went back to Frankfurt, Stephanie to Nuremberg, and Britta to Munich.  In Frankfurt I had a few hours to look around before heading to Mainz to meet my friend again.  I did a whirlwind tour before realizing how far away from the train station I had walked.  I made it to Mainz a little late, and then drank a few bottles of wine with my friend into the wee hours of the morning.

Quick romp through Frankfurt

Time to head back to the train station!

After very little sleep (because of worrying my alarm wouldn't sound), I managed to thoroughly mess up my easy route to the airport.  I couldn't buy a ticket with the machine, gave up and then got on the wrong train.  I went a few stops past the airport, got off and waited for the right train.  Once in the airport I wandered around lost for at least 30 minutes, needing to ask for directions multiple times.  In the end, I got to my airplane and watched four movies on my 9 hour flight to the USA.  The funniest part was I saw my coworker on my plane!  She also visited Germany and we ended up taking the same flights back to Costa Rica.  What a world, what a world.

Oscar had bought me my favorite flowers and I devoured pizza for dinner.  Perlita was happy to see me too.

(wow, that ended up being pretty long after all!)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just a little madness

It makes the world go round ya know?

Well yesterday I get an email from my mom saying that my flight to Germany was charged to her credit card FOUR times.  I immediately called my bank and come to find out the same ticket was charged to me SIX times.  I never noticed because I don't use my debit card for anything but big purchases (like plane tickets), for all other purchases I use my cash from work here.  After speaking with the lady from the bank on the phone, I call Delta.  I wait 10 minutes on hold then get someone who tells me I need some number from the purchases.  I call my bank again, wait another 10 minutes on hold, and get the numbers.  I call back Delta and after 10 minutes on hold, the man can't hear me (I was using Gmail phone which is free to the USA).  Finally, I use Oscar's phone and make a very expensive phone call to Delta, wait on hold another 10 minutes, and talk to a woman who asks for the numbers.  I give her the numbers and then she says "those are 2 number too short, it needs to be 13 numbers not 11".  I about slammed my head into the wall.  I pleaded with her "there must be another way to look up these tickets!"  She then transfers me to the online help people, and I'm forced to wait.. you guessed it.. 10 more minutes on hold.  In the end an extremely nice and helpful guy picked up.  It took about 30 more minutes (most of it on hold as he talked with his supervisor) but he refunded all the tickets for me.

*big sigh of relief*

I was quite proud of myself for holding it together while on the phone.  I mean we were talking about almost $7000 of wrongful charges!  Plus a constant phone tag, waiting on hold, and eventually a very expensive international phone call.  But, my mom always says "it's nice to be nice" and I was as polite as I could be to everyone who helped me.  I think that's why things went so smoothly.

I'm a little bit worried that they also refunded my plane ticket that I actually bought.  But when I go and check it online, it's still there and confirmed and what not.  I guess we'll see when I get to the airport tomorrow morning!

Speaking of the airport... there's currently a giant hole in the highway that goes to the airport.  Evidently it won't be fixed for another 2 weeks.  It's been causing huge delays and now we're trying to figure out a new route to the airport that won't take forever.  Luckily (sort of) my plane leaves at 7am so when leaving the house at 4:30 or 5:00am there shouldn't be much traffic.  But who knows!

Because of this hole, lots of ticos have gotten really good at photoshop.  This is one of my favorites.

And just because when it rains it pours, this morning I woke up with a scratchy throat and runny nose.  I assumed it was allergies, as I usually wake up with a little scratchy throat.  After 2 hours, I realized I was sick.  The day before I go to Germany!!!  NOOOO!  So far I have done the following:

- Gargled 4 glasses of warm salt water
- Ate soup
- Drank as much juice as we had in the fridge
- Drank 4 mugs of mint tea
- Ate almost an entire roll of Zorritone's (some skunk-based cough drop that does miracles!)
- Ate a clove of garlic, raw
- Took a 2 hour nap
- Took 2 fizzy Tabcin Gripe tablets (similar to Dayquil)

And I'm still feeling the same.  Ugh.  Hoping that I can sleep this off tonight.  Here's to hoping!

One final thing- I just realized I don't have an electrical converter for my camera and phone charger.  I'll have a good amount of time at the Frankfurt airport tomorrow, I'm sure I can find one for an outrageous price.  Maybe I can sell it when I get back here.