27 June 2011

Preparing for Your Trip

As you are preparing to come to Germany, Eutin is preparing for you to arrive! There is a lot of organization involved in meeting the needs of so many visitors and everything is now beginning to come together. Today I have some new information about a few situations that you have probably been wondering about: internet, cell phones, practice rooms, transportation, and what to bring with you. Some patience may be required with the organization of all these logistics, but of course if you ever have any questions or concerns, please contact me. Let me know if there is anything that needs to be addressed that I haven't thought of.

Internet: If you want to bring your laptop, you will be able to use the wifi at the opera barn. This is the same place where we will have our rehearsals. I have been assured that the wifi will operate at a normal speed, which means that any of you who are doing some kind of online class should have no problem. If you don't have a laptop or don't want to bring one, you have a couple of options. The first is bribing your friends (or asking them nicely) to let you use their laptop. The second is that you can pay for internet on the computers at the Eutin library. There are 6 computers at the library; it costs 50 Euro cents for one hour of internet. If you want to use the library internet, you will be confined to the library hours below:

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 9:30 am - 6:00 pm
Wednesday: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Thursday: 9:30 am - 7:00 pm
Friday: 9:30 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Sunday: closed

Cell phones: I know some of you have phones that you will want to bring with you. If they are relatively new they might have international capabilities, but I know nothing about this so you should probably ask your provider how that works. You can always bring your phone and see if it works and then if it doesn't there may be an opportunity to purchase one for a lower price than in a store. For now there are 30 cell phones available to be purchased for a very reasonable price to be used for the time while you are here.

Practice rooms: There is a room in the Bethesda Haus (the one about 30 people will live in) that can be used for practice, and stands will be brought to the house so that you can take them into the bedrooms and practice in there. For those staying in the hotel and the smaller house behind the hotel, practicing will not be possible in the rooms there because it makes too much noise for the other guests. However the Bethesda Haus will be available and is just across the street. Also there might be a little practice space in the opera barn. We are also working on getting practice rooms at the music school in Eutin. You don't need to worry about bringing a stand because there are plenty here already.

Transportation: There will be a bus for all of us to take from where we live to the opera barn for rehearsals and performances. If you want to go into town any other time, walking and biking will be the options. Eutin is too small to have a bus system but from where we live to the center of town is about a 20 minute walk or a 10 minute bike ride. We are also working on making some bikes available for people to use. However it would be very helpful if you already have a bike lock at home for you to bring the bike lock. That way everyone who rides a bike can use their own lock and everybody can just keep track of their own key or number combination. If you don't have a lock don't worry about it but if you do have one please bring it.

What to bring: I have a few particular suggestions on things that you should probably bring with you and things that you don't need to bring. Remember, people live here and buy everything they need right here. So if you forget anything, chances are there will be no problem finding one here. This especially applies to items like sunscreen or shampoo. You should avoid in your luggage because they could explode all over your stuff, and you can only bring up to 3 ounces in a carry on bag. Liquids are also heavy. So I would just plan on buying that kind of thing here. I would say it's better to err on the side of bringing less because there isn't a lot of storage space and it's easier to carry around your luggage when you have less of it.

In terms of the weather, it is just starting to warm up around here. For the past couple of weeks it has rained almost every afternoon. Hopefully this means it will not rain anymore in July or August, but I would still recommend bringing a rain jacket, an umbrella, and some shoes that you don't mind getting muddy or wet. In the evenings (and sometimes during the day) it can be chilly so you will also want to have some warm clothes with you. I would bring a combination of clothing for warm and cool weather. Last summer it got really hot in July but it's better to be prepared for a variety. And don't forget to bring some black clothes for the performances!

As I have mentioned before some people will be living in the hotel itself and some in a smaller house behind the hotel. These people will have access to alarm clocks and hair dryers, according to the hotel staff. I did not ask specifically about any other items and I haven't seen these rooms. By Wednesday the list should be made available of where everyone is living so that you can see whether you will need to bring these things. If you are wondering about hair dryers, I would not bring one because the voltage doesn't match and you might cause an explosion. If you can't live without it, you may want to just buy one here.

Speaking of which, there is a scene in Spaceballs in which someone can't live without a hair dryer. I would embed it but Youtube won't let me. I'm going to suggest that you just watch the whole film if you don't know what I'm talking about!

23 June 2011

Virtual Tour

I've finally been able to put together a virtual tour for you! Now keep in mind that only 32 of the musicians will live in the house I'm living in now (Bethesda Haus) and I don't have the list of who is living where. So you may or may not live exactly in this house. A few people will live in the hotel itself and a few more in another small house behind the hotel.

Location: All of these places are in the same general area, in Fissau which is right on the south side of the Kellersee. From here it takes about 10 minutes to get into town with a bike and longer to walk. There is a very nice path through the woods between Fissau and Eutin. There will be a bus to take everyone to rehearsals and performances but if anyone wants to go into town at another time it isn't very far on foot and it's quite reasonable with a bike.

Layout: The Bethesda Haus has a basement and three floors. In the basement are a kitchen, dining room, and laundry room. The first floor has a couple of common rooms, one of which has a piano and a small refrigerator. Every floor but the basement has a bathroom with the normal toilet, shower, and sink combination, as well as some bedrooms.

Basement: Here is the laundry room. There are a bunch of refrigerators in there now so I think there will be enough space for everyone's food and drinks. Speaking of drinks, something you might not anticipate is that there is no ice.

Some of the tables and chairs (there are more!) in the dining room.

The kitchen is full of our groceries right now.

First Floor: Here is a photo of one of the common rooms with the piano. It's been tuned and a string has been repaired. It's slowly going back out of tune but I talked to the tuner today and he may stop by again.

Bedrooms: Each bedroom is a little bit different. All of them have bed(s), a sink, and a closet / dresser. Some also have chairs and desks, as the room pictured below.

Outside: The house is pretty awesome, but hopefully there will be nice weather because outside of the house might be even more awesome than inside! There is a grill area and a playground. I don't know about you, but this is way better than TV. I think there is a TV in the house but nobody has tried to use it yet. 

The beautiful view of the Kellersee from a balcony of the Bethesda Haus at sunrise.
Of course if any of you have any questions as you are preparing to come to Eutin this summer, please feel free to contact me either through Facebook or by e-mail (andrea.brown.03@gmail.com).

17 June 2011

Community, or I really think this should be a reality show

It's amazing how quickly people can adapt and even forget how things used to be. I remembered today that if I weren't in Eutin this summer I'd probably be working at my old high school job and suffering through the humid Kansas weather. Yet I keep forgetting about this. It almost seems like I've always been here, which is difficult to explain. In fact, I don't understand it at all and I wonder if anyone else even knows what I'm talking about.

Even the small adjustment between living in a host family and living with the other interns in a house happened so quickly and smoothly. We were missing a few things that I would normally have taken for granted. For example we started off with no washing machine, no pans (which forced me to make my quesadilla in the bottom of a giant pot), no can opener, no knives other than a single bread knife. But somehow we managed to make things work without these items (since then we have acquired all of them and they will remain in the house for the use of future occupants, i.e. you, the musicians).

NOTE: As far as I know there are not yet bath towels. If you are living in the Bethesda house this summer you may want to bring one along. I am currently borrowing one from my host family but I don't think they have 32 towels to lend to all of you...although I am not sure if you all know which building you will be living in.

Communal living can be difficult even when there is an existing set of rules and structure. It was not too taxing at the beginning since we all knew each other already, but we had to figure out how to make things work, especially in terms of the kitchen. So we drew up a plan for dinners--we formed four groups of two and split up cooking and cleaning duties. For sharing the costs we decided to keep track of how much everyone had spent for groceries and such and then pay each other back, calling into service the Excel skills that I spent the last semester so carefully cultivating. So far this plan has gone almost seamlessly; at least we have had something to eat every night. Cooking was made slightly more complicated by the presence of two vegans in the group, which is one fourth of the total. That's if you count those of us living in the house. However we usually have to plan for a few guests to show up, which are our German friends and Mark Daly. It has been an adventure for sure.

And my apologies for making another post without photos, but my internet situation is a bit odd. I do have a complicated plan which involves my writing a post offline, bringing my laptop to work so I'll have it during the day, and then going to my host family's house for lunch and copying the post and publishing it with their internet connection. This plan is foolproof but it will not be able to happen until at least Monday since I'll be away this weekend again. This time: Hamburg tour with the interns and Ratzeburg to visit my host family from last summer.

10 June 2011

An Attempt at an Update

This is going to be kind of lame because I have no pictures still. Unfortunately my current home internet setup is slow enough that it would probably take all weekend to upload everything so I'm going to have to think of another solution to that problem. I will eventually make a virtual tour of the house.

But for now just a few small news items. First, the piano that I mentioned earlier has now been tuned and sounds better but still needs a few repairs. Basically it sounds ten times better but it could sound a hundred times better. I think the tuner was going to come back this morning and fix the particular string that had a problem.

Second, not all of the musicians will be living in the same building. Most of the group will live in the house I'm living in now, which has 32 beds. The rest will live in the main hotel or another smaller house owned by the hotel. I haven't seen these other buildings yet but I'm sure they will be fine.

Third, I'm going to Copenhagen this weekend. So I've got to go learn some Dutch before tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

08 June 2011

Open House and House am See

Here's the deal. I'm at the bank now so I don't have my pictures. I'm going to have to do another post in a row without pictures. I realize this is a pretty nefarious move, but I really have no choice. It's either this or skip my second breakfast with my coworkers so I can ride my bike for 20 minutes to get my computer. And it might even rain soon....

However, since it is still pretty early in the morning for most of you (or late at night, depending on how old you are), if I put pictures up this afternoon (my time) both posts will probably be up by the time you are.

Confused yet?

So, last Saturday there was an open house at the opera barn. We Americans were there to provide a musical surprise, as was listed at the bottom of the schedule. It turns out several of us doing the internship have at least some sort of musical skills, and a few played in a jazz group. The idea behind the open house was to reassure Eutin community members that somehow this is all really going to happen and to bump up the level of excitement for the festival. There was a full program, including tours of the opera barn, coffee and cake (which is sort of a standard thing to serve here), small musical performances, and the synopsis of Don Giovanni by Jörg Fallheier with a few piano excerpts to remind people what the "Hits" sound like... of course everyone seemed to generally be familiar with them already. This was done with the audience sitting on the bleachers on the open air stage, which has been added to since I last took pictures.

Another event of interest is that we moved into the house in Fissau that the orchestra will be living in starting in July. It seems as if part of the orchestra will fill up this house, which was recently acquired by the Hotel Seeschloss am Kellersee and used to house nuns, and the rest will live in the hotel itself. Most of the rooms aren't ready yet, but the ones on the first floor were, which is where we are all staying so far. It's a nice house with a very nice view of the Kellersee. Also, and possibly most importantly, there is a playground and a place to grill in the front yard. I'm pretty sure see-saws are about twenty times better than television. Just saying.

There is a piano, which I was initially excited about, although it's not as good as the one in the opera barn. Generally it's okay, but one of the keys doesn't sustain and several of the low notes are quite out of tune. This is okay if you avoid these keys but that can be difficult to do.

More pictures will be on their way.

06 June 2011

Himmelfahrt / Vatertag or a Baptismal Spaceballs Analogy

Spaceballs is one of my favorite movies ever. I´m not exactly sure why this is, considering that many of the people I force to watch it don´t necessarily like it that much. Especially when they aren´t native English speakers and can´t really pick up the jokes. Anyway, I was going to start this post with a particular set of words that reminded me of a Spaceballs quote. So let me begin with the quote first and then move on.

Dark Helmet: Before you die, there is something you should know about us, Lone Starr.
Lone Starr: What?
Dark Helmet: I am your father´s brother´s nephew´s cousin´s former roommate.
Lone Starr: What does that make us?
Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.

If that didn´t make sense to you, I heartily apologize and strongly suggest you watch the entire film so you can appreciate the context.

Now for what I originally meant to say. Last Thursday was Ascension as well as Father´s Day. I got to experience both in a way, which I would guess not too many people usually do. Let me explain. Ascension is celebrated by attending church. Father´s Day, which always falls on the same day as Ascension, is celebrated in Eutin mostly by young men who form groups, carry various forms of alcohol around in a wagon, and hike around the lake, ending in the Schlosspark (Castle Park) and generally making a big mess and a lot of noise. You can probably imagine that it would be unlikely for someone to actively participate in both celebrations, especially since the Vatertag stuff gets started as early as 10 AM.

Here´s approximately the conversation from last Wednesday night:

Juliane (host mother): Before you go to sleep, there is something you should know about tomorrow.
Me and Grace: What?
Juliane: My acquaintance´s friend´s daughter´s son is being baptized.
Me and Grace: That´s nice.
Juliane: Would you like to come?
Me and Grace: Sure.

AND if I wanted to take this a step further, I could also say: Last Thursday, my host mother´s acquaintance´s friend´s daughter´s son was baptized. How ´bout them apples? Speaking of which, the apple juice here is unforgettable. It´s like fresh orange juice in Florida.

I sang with Juliane´s choir in the church in Süsel for the baptism. We stood in the balcony where the organ is. I really enjoyed the choice of music: the first song was the Abendsegen from Hänsel und Gretel, which I passively already knew from playing in the orchestra, and the second song was an excerpt (Hebe deine Augen auf) from Mendelssohn´s Elias (Elijah), which we also performed this year in Lawrence.

Vatertag was another story. Grace and I had been wanting to ride our bikes around the Eutiner See, which is about 11 kilometers, but we hadn´t had a chance because we´d been busy and because there hadn´t always been such nice weather. We decided to give it a shot on Vatertag and thought it might also be interesting to see for ourselves how the holiday was celebrated. I think it probably took us twice as long to make it around the lake as it would have on a normal day because we would keep running into these groups of people with their wagons. Sometimes they would notice us right away and be all polite and move out of the way but sometimes they didn´t even realize we were there.

My favorite was a group of at least 50 people where one person saw us coming and literally screamed FAHRRAD!! (BIKE!!) until people got out of the way. The group was so large that not everyone heard so a second person screamed the same thing and then a third, and finally we were past the group. It was a very interesting experience, to say the least. But as my coworker at the bank (who has 7-month-old twins) said, once you are actually a father you don´t celebrate father´s day anymore. I may never understand this.

01 June 2011

A whole week! or Jetzt geht es wirklich los!

Well, there went a whole week. It's been pretty busy; I've been getting to know my way around and I've not really had a good block of time to spend writing other than at the bank, where I didn't have access to my pictures. At the bank there hasn't been a lot to help with but I have been looking into the internship project about Web 2.0. I seem to be coming to the conclusion that it wouldn't be that helpful for most of the companies involved in the internship program to use Web 2.0, mostly because they already have a defined set of customers (such as an architecture firm or a factory) or because of security reasons (such as a bank). Only one of the participating companies has a Facebook page, and everything on the page is also on their website, except that the website presents the information better and has more useful information. Other than that, I spend my time learning what I can about what goes on. It's nice sometimes to just drink my coffee and talk to my coworkers. Maybe next year I will be able to do an internship somewhat more related to my field of study...? But for now I'm just happy to be here.

Grace, another intern from KU, is staying in the same host family as me. They had to double up students in a few host families; I think it's actually pretty nice this way because there is someone else to try to find the way back home with. We cooked dinner for our host family tonight and then went on a walk to the horse pastures where they showed us a foal that was born this morning! During dinner the subject came up of how many English words are used in German, even when some of them are used in a different way than they are actually used in English. There is a song by the Wise Guys, an a capella band from Köln, that handles this theme in an interesting way. If you listen you may realize that you understand more and more of the song as it goes on!

Another song that's particularly relevant right now is Jetzt ist Sommer, which makes fun of the fact that summer weather in Germany isn't always so nice.

We had kohlrabi for lunch today. The German name was adopted into English so the vegetable is still called kohlrabi in English but roughly means cabbage turnip, because it sort of resembles a combination of a cabbage and a turnip. My host father Joachim tried to draw the plant to see if Grace and I knew what it was but it just seemed strange to us and we had no idea. I thought it was pretty delicious, at least in the sauce that it was served with. 

I don't want to make this post too long so I'll just link you to my photo album on Facebook instead of putting up all the photos here. It's been a lot of fun. All of the students from Lawrence including those who are doing the Summer Language Institute were welcomed officially at the town hall and we all signed the guest book for the city, after which we took a boat ride around the Eutiner See and I was able to see the open air stage for the first time. Later we attended a Rotary meeting where the organist of the church gave a presentation and played a few pieces and we ate dinner with the Rotarians after that. I had an extra banner from the Leawood Rotary Club which I exchanged for an Eutin banner, so now I can present the Eutin banner in Leawood when I get back home.

On the weekend, some of the other interns and I went to an open air concert in Lübeck and the last band that played was really good so now I have something new to listen to; unfortunately they sing in English.... but for all I know, my English needs a little help right now anyways. I keep having to erase words that I spell wrong like lang instead of long and garten instead of garden! On Sunday we went canoeing in Plön and luckily it waited to rain until we were under a roof grilling our wursts and our fleischs. (*inside joke*) After driving back to Eutin we Americans taught our German friends how to play ultimate frisbee in the Schlosspark. Hopefully more games will follow in the future because it was a lot of fun.

Grace and I went with our host sister Luisa who is just finishing high school to the school musical on Monday. It was Chicago with the text in German and the songs in English, and I thought it was really well-done. Other than that we spent some time preparing for this Saturday when several of us will be helping out at the open house at the opera barn which is meant to provide some excitement and a bit of advertising in advance for the opera festival. More on that will follow after the open house.