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I haven’t really felt much inspiration to blog lately - life here has kind of fallen into a nice rhythm, and not too many new things have happened. But, since I realize that even though I know everything that is currently going on in my own life, those of you back in the States or that live far away don’t have the opportunity to spend daily life with me! So despite my aversion to sitting down and writing my thoughts, here I am! (Also, David and I got our film scans back recently, so i’ll intersperse some of those in this post)
Every week, I feel like my German gets better and better. No huge jumps in my skills - just a slow and steady increase of understanding and usable knowledge. And whenever I speak to a German person in German, they always tell me how good my German has gotten in 7 months. It really is amazing how much information one can absorb in that short of a time when you just immerse yourself in learning and experiencing. Finally, the other day, I looked up a video example B1 level English speaker, just to be able to compare the level German I have with the equivalent in English, and I was surprised! Granted, there are differences that could make things sound different to each respective native speaking group (no English learner stresses over which “the” they should’ve used in the phrase they just said), but I’m still proud of myself for the progress I’ve made. I just took my officially recognized B1 level German test last Saturday, so that felt like an accomplishment. I not only felt prepared, but it’s a good feeling when you feel confident in your skills and performance on a test with minimal studying. To me, that makes it feel like all that information is really, truly in my head for good.
My most recent endeavor has been the ever-daunting job search. Already I know that job searching is not on my list of favorite things to do, only now, there’s been an added level of stress when it comes to language. Luckily, Stuttgart has proven to be home to many opportunities for designers, and also luckily I need no extra accreditation to work in the design field in a country other than the United States. My first step was to learn that Germany approaches applying for jobs a little bit different. Instead of the Resume (which I was told always needed to be one page long - no longer, and only with the most important details), here they use what is called a Lebenslauf - basically a selective timeline of my life since high school (of course only with relevant job to what I’m applying for - thank goodness there was no need to put my high school frozen yogurt shop job on there), personal details including hobbies and community involvement, and also personal details such as a photo of myself and my birthplace. And, mine ended up being two full pages, which here, is totally fine. Luckily, cover letters are approached in pretty much the same way, so that wasn’t so much a new thing I had to learn. I started out by writing my cover letter in English and sending that out with applications, but after not receiving as much response from that as I would’ve liked, David and I worked on translating my letter into German with the language skills I currently have. Once I began to send that cover letter out, I received a much better response, and this week I have four interviews with firms I applied to with both the German and English cover letters! I’m very excited to see how the interviews go, and what life in a German design firm is like! All best wishes and prayers for these interviews are most greatly appreciated!
After a bitterly cold spell a few weeks ago, and another bout of illness, it’s now beginning to feel like spring is right around the corner! You can see the birds in our yard daily gathering stick and leaves to build nests with, and every once and a while, you can see Crocuses and miniature Daffodils sprouting up in peoples front yards. Since January, David and I have been planning a vegetable garden for the backyard, and hopefully this upcoming weekend we’ll get to start working on it! I really can’t wait to start getting my hands dirty with the garden work - it’s a nice counterbalance to school and office work. Plus, we get delicious vegetables from the work we put into it!
I realized recently that I’ve only spent time in Germany between the months of September and the beginning of April - through a combination of my first visit here in March/April of 2009, my visit to Berlin and then Stuttgart in the winters of 2015 and 2016, and then the past six months I’ve been here. I’ve also never spent more than a few weeks outside of the Pacific Northwest during the summer, so I have a feeling that this summer will always be memorable to me because it’s my first one here in Germany, and it’s my first one in a completely new place in general. I’m already mentally preparing myself for a warmer and dryer summer than I’m used to. I guess it’s time for me to actually invest in some summer clothes??
While I’ve made many new wonderful friends while here, I’ve also had the privilege to have so many loved ones visit and plan visits to come see me! This fall and winter brought 8 friends to the Stuttgart area, and within the next few months, I get the joy of hosting my cousin Junia, then my parents, and then my best friend Naomi! As well as more meet-ups with other friends from Seattle! I have really been amazed at how natural it has felt whenever a friend from Washington has come to Stuttgart - like meeting up with friends 5,000 miles away from where you first met is a totally normal thing...
I’ve had some people ask me if I’ve done much traveling since I moved here, and they’ve always asked, “why not?”, when I’ve said that I haven’t really done that much yet. Part of it has been due to trying to not spread my funds too thin and being in german class everyday of the week, some of it has been that the sheer effort it takes to integrate into a community and society can at times be a little exhausting (read: VERY exhausting), so also fitting in travel just seems too daunting to begin to tackle. But part of the reason is that I have to every once and a while remind myself that there’s no rush. There’s no need to have the “10 cities in 10 days” mindset, when I have the time to take it slow and just live in the moment, where I am now. And seven months ago, the thought of being here was “traveling”. I haven’t gotten sick of Stuttgart, and I sure don’t plan on growing weary of it anytime soon! There’s a certain comfort in knowing a city and in realizing that what was unfamiliar to you at one time, is now known and better understood.
That’s all I have for now! Sometimes the only hurdle in blogging is just sitting down and letting the words flow freely and not thinking too hard about a theme or worrying about how interested my readers will be. I’m a firm believer that normal isn’t a synonym for boring or unoriginal. So, thank you for reading!
Until next time,
A couple weeks ago, I gave myself a mental health day and skipped school. I was really feeling the weight of the growing stress around language learning and feeling like I need to performing at a certain level by certain points on a timeline that I was creating for myself. So instead of going to school and cramming more language into my already full and overtired brain, I grabbed my tea thermos, downloaded an audiobook, and took a really long walk through the fields around my town. Towards the end of my walk, I happened upon a little farm stand in Ruit that had a couple baskets of brussels sprouts, cabbage, and some leeks. I had about 70 cents in change with me, and knew I would want something for lunch when I got back, so ended up bringing a leek back home with me! In the end I settled on a recipe for potato and leek soup, based off of one of Julia Child’s recipes. It was so easy, and so delicious, that I actually made it again yesterday! I was feeling a little under the weather, and honestly I was thinking about all the chocolate I’ve been eating lately (good thing about Germany - great chocolate, bad thing about Germany - great chocolate) so I stopped by that same farm stand on my way home from school, but sadly, they only had one basket of brussels sprouts out, so I just went to the little Markthalle by the train station instead. Because of the ingredients I had readily available for myself to use, I tweaked the recipe just a little bit, and used some short cuts. This kind of simple recipe is so easy to curate to your own preferences - try out different herbs, add carrots or another vegetable to the potatoes and leeks, top with homemade croutons… the options are endless! I also 1/3 my recipe because it called for 3 whole leeks and 3 pounds of potatoes, so way over what I really needed! 1/3ed, the recipe is perfect for two full servings, plus a little extra, so great for a two person meal! (See recipe at bottom) Begin by slicing your leeks and your potatoes. I learned a while back that leeks always need to be washed before cooking, because they frequently will get dirt in between the layers as they grow. I’d recommend first cutting off the roots at the end, and then slicing the leek down the center, beginning at where the stalk turns into the leaves and becomes tough and thick, all the way to the end you just cut off. Holding onto the dark green leaves, start slicing the leek into even thin-ish slices (around a 1/4 inch thick). Then toss all of those into a colander and rinse them off. You also can make it easy on yourself and just wait until the potatoes are done and rinse those off in the colander as well. I find that sometimes the sliced potato can pick up some of the grit that gets on the cutting board when peeling them. Next, take your pound of potatoes (which was about 4 medium Spiesekartoffeln for me) and peel and slice them into thin rounds - these don’t need to be halved like the leeks do. Rinse them all off, and then let the extra water drain off them while you prepare your pot!
Start by putting in about 1 Tbsp of a neutral oil - canola oil or something similar - and letting that heat up on medium for a minute in the pot. Add your leeks and potatoes in and begin to let them soften and brown. Don’t worry if your pot feels a little full when you put the veggies in, the leeks will begin to soften and don’t take up as much room pretty quickly. Let them go for about 10 minutes, depending on how much bottom surface area your pot has (the bigger, the quicker it will go). I’ve found that it was helpful to add about another 1/2 - 1 Tbsp while they were cooking to help them not stick so much to the bottom. While they’re in the pot softening up, prep your veggie stock. I just used powdered veggie stock and added the appropriate ratio to the amount of liquid it called for. I also have noticed that when I use powdered stock here in Germany, I rarely need to add any additional salt because it already is so full of it!
When your veggies are nice and soft, add the veggie stock and bring it to a boil, then turn the temperature down to low and bring it down to a simmer. Cover and let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes. I also like to add a sprig of fresh rosemary from my garden at this stage, but make sure you take it out before the leaves begin to fall off! I made the mistake of leaving the sprig in too long yesterday, and whenever I got a mouthful with a rosemary leaf in it, I had to pull them out because they really are quite bitter and a little bit woody when you bite into them!
As soon as your veggies are nice and soft - almost to the point of falling apart when you prod them with a spoon, take the pot off the heat (or turn down to the lowest heat setting to help it stay warm). At this point, grab your immersion blender and go to town on your soup (don’t forget to remove the rosemary before this step!). When you have a nice smooth puree, add your cream (or as I like to do to make the soup a bit lighter, half cream, half milk), splash of lemon fresh juice, and voilá, you’re finished!
Ladle it into bowls, add a quick grind of fresh black pepper on top, and enjoy!
And, on a more positive language-learning related note, I had a really encouraging experience speaking German alone
yesterday! I had to visit the Visa office to hand in some paperwork to extend my visa, and was able to conduct the entire meeting with the woman there completely in German! It’s really easy to feel like you’re not making any progress, especially when you find your teacher correcting you every time you open your mouth, but then having experiences like that one yesterday make me feel so much more confident in my knowledge and understanding of German, and it makes me feel about 100x better that the money I’m spending on language school is actually taking me somewhere and making my life here in Germany a million times easier! It’s really easy to get into this complaining mindset when we have so much grammar to memorise and when you realize (time and time again) that you can’t expect German to just be a mirror of English, but with different words. It has given me a better understanding of the people of Germany, and a much much greater appreciation for those who move here knowing no German, but also no English.
Here are the ingredient measurements that I used, and also if you'd like the original recipe, click here.
Julia Child's Potato & Leek Soup
1 lb. potatoes
2 cups vegetable stock (can adjust depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbsp. neutral oil
1/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
I’m really not a huge New Years Resolution maker. I’ve never really felt like you have to wait until the beginning of each new year to resolve to change something about your life or the way you’re living. Why wait until January if you want to get fit, or eat healthy, or try new things? With the beginning of this new year though, I have been asked what my resolutions for this next year are, so I decided to compile all the things that have been rolling around in my head for the past few months and have been attempting to incorporate into my life. They seem to fall into two categories: what I want to do more of, and what I want to do less of. I’m not trying to go cold turkey on anything, or start up any new hobbies; I’m not really drastically changing my life with these things, I just want to be living in a way where I enjoy more of what is good for me, and pour less of my energy into what isn’t.
M O R E:
C O O K I N G
For the last few years, cooking is something I’ve really grown to love. First off, I enjoy eating diverse and delicious foods, so making them myself seems to directly follow! I also love being creative and I love being creative with things that I can share with others (e.g. a meal!). And lastly, a good recipe and a pile of raw ingredients is the best thing for a great de-stressing session by myself. Since moving to Stuttgart, David and I have gotten to spend a lot of time cooking together. It really is a great relationship building exercise for the two of us, since we tend to have very different approaches to cooking (him: “recipes are more like suggestions” and “let’s use as few dishes as possible”, me: “recipes ensure that the end result is the same as what was intended by the recipe maker, aka, thats what I want to eat” and “let’s use alllll the dishes”). We are learning how to let the other person take charge, and how to offer our own opinions only when its necessary and not just to prove a point. I also believe that making your own food, and choosing your own produce and grocery products brings us just a little bit closer to the very distant beginnings of the food that ends up on our tables. Food you buy at the grocery store is already so far removed from where it was grown or produced, that we lose the sense on how our food choices impact the world and our bodies, and when you go one step further and buy something like prepared frozen food, then you really have no idea what exactly you’re eating.
R E A D I N G
This past year, I’ve been really glad to see myself setting aside more time for reading than I have in a while. Possibly it’s because I had more time since I was living back at home with my parents, and not in school (until this fall), so since I had luck in this realm last year, I decided to up the game a little bit and give myself a reading challenge. My goal for this year is to read 25 books. I considered aiming for a 52 book challenge, but knowing myself, I’d rather shoot a little bit lower and come out having passed my goal, than to be unrealistic for myself and not complete my goal. I really only have one rule for myself in this challenge - I can’t count any books that I’ve already read before. I do tend to have that habit - where I’ll reread books when I can’t find anything good to read, or I’m tired, or I’m sick. It’s easy to go back to your “comfort food books” (as I like to call them), instead of filling your mind with new stories and ideas. I’ve also created a Goodreads account on their app and am tracking all the books I do read this year so I don’t forget the books and only keep track of the number. If any of you guys have suggestions for me as well, tell me! I’m always looking for recommendations. For the past few months, I’ve also been getting into the habit of waking up nearly every morning with enough time to spend some time reading my Bible. I’ll usually read one chapter per day, and spend several minutes reading it several times over, and then thinking about what it means and asking God to reveal to me his intention and wisdom behind each passage. I’ve always found consistency in this a hard thing to do, and especially struggled to not make it a chore for myself, but to actually see it for what it is - a time to sit down and take my eyes off of my self-absorbed thoughts and look to and learn from my Creator. I’m still learning how to do this, but just starting is always the best way to turn that something into a habit.
G E R M A N
Tomorrow (!!) is my final day of the Deutsch A2 level! That’s four months of class under my belt! We had our once-every-two-months test today, and (fingers crossed) I’m hoping to get a “Sehr Gut” score on it! I am constantly surprising myself with how much I know, and really see this new skill of mine as an investment in my future here in Germany. This new year also brings the (slightly daunting) beginning of job searching here, and I know that my success in a career and future here really depend on the effort I put into my classes now.
S T A Y I N G A C T I V E
2017 was a very sedentary year for me. I was gifted a FitBit from my mom last Christmas, and boy did that show me how little I was walking or moving each day! Some days (and I cringe saying this), I would get home after work, and look at my daily step count only to find that I had taken less than 3,000 steps that day (that’s only about a mile!). Luckily, since I’ve moved to Stuttgart, I’ve spent a lot of my free time walking around the city and the area that I live, exploring and getting to know my new home. It’s rare when I finish a day with less than 10,000 steps! And even though I do have a gym membership here, I’m not limiting myself to only exercising when I want to go run on a treadmill or something. I’d really like to rotate my fitness activities to incorporate things like biking and walking and even weight training - variety always helps me keep from getting bored!
L E S S:
S H O P P I N G
Yes, I have a slightly guilty look on my face right now… I admit it, I do love to shop. But, I also live in a society that worships possessions and obtaining “things”. Things = status, and it’s far too easy to look at buying things as a way to make yourself feel better if you’re having a bad day or feeling unconfident in yourself (or when you’re feeling envious of people on Instagram). Even when I don’t buy anything, sometimes I’ll walk out of the mall and try and ignore the fact that I just spent two hours essentially wasting away my life.
Netflix… I love you and I hate you… I love you when there are new seasons of The Crown and when I want to kick back and watch a couple episodes of Friends, but hate that I end up mostly just scrolling through the pages and pages of things to watch while never finding anything that interests me. They aren’t kidding when they say “choice is the enemy of happiness”! I would like to, this year, spend most of my evenings doing other things that I enjoy, instead of always opting to turn my brain into mush while glued to the TV (except of course when I’m watching a new episode of The Crown).
W A S T E
This one is pretty broad, and fairly obvious: the way we live our 21st century, 1st world lives usually involves making a whole lot of waste. So, this year, I’d like to resolve to become less of the problem. This includes (but isn’t confined to) the following:
- always making sure to bring a reusable bag with me when shopping - for food (especially with buying produce) or for clothing, etc.
- eating less food that comes inside of a package (though, being recyclable does help)
- taking public transportation when possible
- using reusable containers for drinks at home and when out (no paper to-go coffee cups or plastic water bottles <— that one will be hard, and I guess it means I should replace the glass water bottle than I broke last month!)
- using toiletries and feminine hygiene products with as little non-recyclable or non-reusable waste as possible (and avoiding small sample sized containers which create more waste and less usability)
- Little things: choosing loose leaf over bagged tea, using a tupperware instead of a sandwich bag, not ordering so much online because of all the extra plastic and packaging…
So, these are my “kind of” resolutions. They’re not too drastic, not necessarily life-altering, but I think that continuing to make all of these things a part of my life will be healthy for my future (and everyone’s future!). And, since making resolutions seems to be the thing to do this time of year, I’d love to hear - what are yours?
Sometimes, complete sentences are just too hard to formulate. So here enters: lists + photos! That will have to do for today.
- My apartment (especially when I have candles burning and a good book to curl up with)
- Chilly weather
- Mugs from home (always give me a warm fuzzy feeling that’s the opposite of homesickness)
- David (<3)
- My new church family of IBC Stuttgart and the friends I've made through it
- Peanut butter (I’m always thankful for you 🙂
- Austrian slippers
- Video-chatting (genius, genius invention)
- English-German dictionary (What would I do without you?)
- Hand cream (my hands get super dry when it’s cold out, okay??)
- My Kindle (see next post)
What I’ve been loving lately:
- Agatha Christie mystery novels (I think I might read about one a week?)
- Vanilla-Aronia herbal tea (no idea what Aronia is, but it’s delicious!)
- Mandarin oranges (all day, everyday)
- The Ordinary serums (seriously, whats better? Low price + great products)
- Baking and cooking (and, important: a whole family of people to eat what I make!)
- Peanut butter (on everything)
- Mid-afternoon walks in the fields (I kind of feel like a part of some club when I say “Grüß Gott” to the grandpas and grandmas I always seem to be out walking at the same time as)
- Regional birds (is it weird that I kind of want to get into birding?? They’re all so new and interesting here compare to Seattle!)
- Neighbourhood dogs (and cats) I now know by sight (gotta get my animal fix even if its from afar!)
- My current notebook and folder for school
- Having David within a short driving distance from me (that’s the best thing by far)
What I have NOT been loving lately:
- Conjugating German ADJECTIVES (yes, you heard right… it’s not just the verb that’s conjugated here)
- Driving with Km/h (add that to narrow streets and unfamiliar places = lots you have to be conscious about while driving)
- Washing dishes (seriously… who ever likes this? And a fateful product of baking all afternoon)
- Netflix (is there even anything good on it anymore, or have I watched it all?)
- When people on the train sit in the aisle seat when the window seat is empty and the next person has to basically crawl over them to sit down
- Workers who stand at the doors of the S-Bahn and block them before they’re even closed so you can’t hop on at the last minute
- Pillow cases that are too large for my pillow from the States because they’re made for giant square Euro pillows
- So many coffee shops… so little $$
- Having to respond to German speakers in English because I just don’t know how to respond in German
- Breaking my glass water bottle on the pavement 🙁 very sad incident
- A serious lack of Kombucha in this city (I haven’t been able to locate a place to buy it yet and my craving for it is only getting stronger!)
What I’m excited for:
- Jenny, Catie, and Madi visiting in just a couple of weeks!
- Christmas in Seattle
- Eventually beginning to job hunt (also terrified of this as well)
- Christmas markets (next weekend!!)
- Thanksgiving (belated, but we’re still having a real Thanksgiving dinner this Saturday with family and friends)