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Seattle to Germany: The First Few Days

I was origninally supposed to leave Seattle on Friday evening the 8th, a combination of bad weather in England and a sick pilot pushed back my flight to Saturday afternoon on the 9th.  After a dull, if exhausting nine and a half hour flight to England and a two hour flight to Munich, I had finally made it to Germany, jetlagged but excited.  A cab arranged for me by the ESO took me to the office to pick up keys and then to my apartment in the middle of Garching, a town outside of Munich and very close to the ESO.  Unfortunately what I did not know was that on Sunday, everything is closed in Germany.  Neither grocery stores, nor anything else seemed to be open.  After wandering through snowy if picturesque streets for a few hours I gave it up as a bad job and went back to my apartment.  Right before I was going to go to bed (on my decidedly European couch/bed), my roommate Roberto arrived.  From Madeira, off the coast of Portugal, he is a graphic design intern at ESO.  Despite, or perhaps because I went to bed hungry, I woke up early the next day to take the subway (U-Bahn) to work.  Happily, it is only one stop away at the end of the line.  It took me a little while to figure out how to buy a ticket and then I couldn’t figure out how to actually get my ticket swiped or punched or otherwise marked since there were no barriers to the train and no ticket takers onboard.  I found out later the ticket machines are there and it’s just assumed people will use them, that was a real reminder of being in a foreign country.  New York, Boston, really any city in the U.S. such a thing would never exist.  I also noticed that locals wait at red lights before crossing the street, even with no cars in sight, and told me off in German when I crossed anyway.  Once at work, I took care of the more tedious aspects of Human Resources before beginning my actual work day with the morning meeting of the communication group.  Just as a side note, I took it as given that everyone there would speak at least two languages, one of which would probably be English, but of the many people I met, not one spoke less than four, and many spoke five or six.  Even the low clerk who did my HR work spoke English, German, French, Spanish, and Flemish, and I met a couple of college students who speak English, German, Spanish, Japanese, and French.  I’ve never felt so uncultured.  The morning meeting was standard stuff as was the general here’s the office, although the place is a real maze.  I met some nice people though like my fellow intern Claudia from Italy, Colleen, who works here full-time and is from Ohio, and several boss types from all around the continent.  Claudia and I were set to work on a story about black holes which was a good start to work after my big paper from last semester.  I finally got some food (turkey sandwich) which also improved my mood and energy.  After work ended, Roberto and I went back to our apartment and then out to a nearby grocery store.  Mostly it was familiar but there were some strange products and grocery bags cost 10 euro cents, not something I was a fan of.  Still, we got what we needed i.e. toilet paper, and went back to our place.  It turned out we had a third roommate who had actually been living there a while and just come back from vacation, Simon, from Germany/Austria.  Claudia, who lives a few blocks away came by, and since Roberto was tired, she and Simon and I decided to go out.  They were hungry so we went to a “Mexican” restaurant.  Between the nachos that tasted like Doritos, the techno mix of La Cucaracha, and the truly silly décor, “Lokitos” managed to hit every wrong note for a Mexican restaurant possible.  Still, I had fun with Claudia and Simon, talking about different places in Europe and discussing national stereotypes.  And the beer I tried was quite good too.  I eventually made it home around 11 and quickly fell asleep.  Once again awakening early, I got ready for the day and tried German lemon yogurt, it’s okay, but not the best.  I had to get a biometric passport taken (what a rip off) and then it was down to the train and off to work with my roommates for my second day.

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Categories: Germany, Personal
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