Moving on up

Over the past two weeks we’ve been working on getting our new apartment set up. Our container was delivered on the 15th, so we’ve been unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and building furniture ever since. – I think we are keeping Ikea and Hornbach (like Home Depot) in business! There was no storage space in the bathroom and a limited about in the kitchen, so we’ve bought shelves and drawers for the bathroom and a large shelving unit for the kitchen. This week we also bought a bed frame for the guest bedroom… now we just need to buy the slats (the beds here don’t use box springs) and mattress. Other big news (because I’m a dork) is we bought a washer and dryer. Thankfully they both fit in our apartment (washer in the bathroom and the dryer in the pantry) so we don’t have to walk down three flights of stairs to the basement to do laundry. We didn’t have much damage to our furniture on the container. One wood shoe holder snapped in half, but other than that it is just scratches to finishes and a few chipped edges. Morgan sent in pictures for our claim to his company (since the moving company said they wouldn’t pay us anything), so we’ll see what they say.

We’re getting used to the quirks of our new apartment – our dinner plates don’t fit in the dishwasher and the toilet is designed kind of weird – but over all we are really happy in our new place. We have painted the entryway/hallway and are planning on painting the living room, probably when we get back from the US in April. I was pleasantly surprised that the paint here doesn’t smell at all BUT it can be pretty expensive. Originally I had picked out a color that is mixed by the paint department at the store, but we found out that 1 LITER is €38… sehr teuer! (aka very expensive!). For the small entryway we needed 2.5 liters, for the living room we’ll need more like 6 or 7. Thankfully they had premixed paint that comes in about 30 different colors so for the entryway we just picked the premixed color that was closest to the color I had originally picked. This way we got 2.5 liters for €35 rather than 1 liter for that price.

Speaking of Ikea, I’m guessing you’ve all heard about the Pferdefleisch (horse meat) they’ve been finding in ground beef around Europe recently? I think I ate some!  If you click on this link it takes you to an article about horsemeat being found in meatballs in one of the meals at Ikea… I ate this exact meatball and mashed potato meal two weeks ago at Ikea! Yuck! We’ve talked to our German tutor about the whole horse meat situation, and she said that horse meat is actually pretty popular in Germany (and most of Europe). What people here are upset about is that the meat was claimed to be all beef and that it is horse meat from eastern European countries where the raising of the horses wouldn’t have been regulated as far as antibiotics and other medicines that they would have been given. She said the butchers at the famers market at the Dom on Saturday mornings would have good quality horse meat if we want to try it, but I don’t think I could do that. Horses are too much of a pet for me to (knowingly) eat one!

Tomorrow we head to Hamburg for a few days. Tomorrow night is a retirement party for one of Morgan’s colleges, so about 35 of Morgan’s colleges will be there with us. We’ll stay on in Hamburg through Wednesday morning since we are going to the Avett Brothers concert Tuesday night. We are both pretty excited to go on our first vacation over here! We’ll spend three of the days sightseeing in Hamburg and one day we’ll drive up to Lübeck on the coast.

Below are some pictures from the past couple of weeks! A few side notes to go with the pictures:

1. “Imbiss” picture – Germans love to eat while they shop! Pretty much all the big stores have a food stand in their parking lot, and a lot also have a restaurant inside. This one is in front of Hornbach.

2. Eggs aren’t refrigerated here! Kinda weird, huh?

3. Morgan is a speed demon – Yep, that is what a German speeding ticket looks like. Morgan had hoped the picture wouldn’t be clear so he could say it was me, but alas it is a crystal clear picture of my hubby.  Thankfully he was only going 11km over, so the ticket is €25. If you get caught going 20 over or run a red light, you lose your driver’s license for a month! I think they are more strict on speeding around town (most of Osnabruck is a 50 zone, but residential areas are 30) than they are on the Autobahn.


We took a break from unpacking/getting set up to participate in a Kohlgang that Morgan’s colleagues put together. The best way I can describe it is a 4 hour long walk down country roads playing a drinking game and you end the day with a pre-ordered family style meal made up of a few types of bratwurst, potatoes, and grünkohl (green cabbage). We took the train to Lemförde (the small town where Morgan’s office is) and met up with 15 of his work buddies. They already had the wagon full of two cases of beer and about 7 bottles of liquor. Everyone was given a shot glass (on a string around your neck) to keep your hands free for the game. We were divided into two teams and numbered 1 through 8. Taking turns, the ones went first (followed by twos, threes, etc), rolling the hockey puck looking piece of plastic (the center is metal) down the road. Then the whole group walks down the road until ou get to the point where the shortest roll went. If you accidentally walk past where the shortest roll went you have to take a shot (which was easy to do b/c it is white and there was still some snow/ice off the sides of the road). Also, any time you come to a cross street you have to take a shot and in between all the shots you drink beer. – I guess German’s haven’t heard of beer than liquor, never sicker!  It was such a cold day (-2 celcius) and snowing for the second half of the 4 hour walk. My feet were frozen!  I was so happy to make it to the restaurant. The dinner was delicious and was a great end to the day. 

Karneval in Osnabrück

This past Saturday was the karneval celebration in Osnabrück. Karneval is a period of pre-lent festivities that is pretty common in most of Europe and South America (traditionally held in areas where there are larger Catholic populations… because we like to have fun!)…. also similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The main event here is the parade that was held Saturday afternoon. Everyone wears costumes and sings along to “Schlager” music. As the floats go by they throw out bags of popcorn (Morgan was pretty sad he missed out on this), candy, and other trinkets like jewelry. When the parade is over everyone goes to city center where there was a DJ playing music as well as lots of stands set up by local vendors selling drinks and snacks. It snowed most of the day which was pretty, but also meant it was chilly!

Over all it kind of felt like Clemson on a game day (plus Halloween costumes).. people start drinking pretty early in the day, there are port-a-potties set up every where, the bars and restaurants are packed, and everyone is in a good mood!

Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth, SA was really nice. It is a town on the southern  coast in a large bay with nice beaches and beautiful views. We arrived Thursday morning after a short flight from Joburg. The place we stayed at is actually a b&b with a great pool and breakfast cooked to order. After checking in we headed to Jendamark, our machine supplier for my project, which is located in the industrial district of PE. After finishing up our project review meetings, we headed back to the b&b and then Ryan from Jendamark picked us up to grab dinner. We went to a great steak restaurant with a perfect view of the beach and ocean. The steak was amazing and very cheap compared to the states. After dinner we went back to the hotel and took a dip in the cold pool.

The next day we returned to Jendamark for more meetings and a site tour. Jendamark also builds catalytic converter machines which were very impressive. Since we finished a little early returned to the b&b and got changed for the beach. After a walk over to a small market we hopped in the Indian Ocean for a swim and some attempts at body surfing. Once again the water was quite cold but it was refreshing with the sun out. He water is cooler since much of it is coming from the Atlantic as well as being quite far south. After a shower, we went out to Cuban restaurant/bar on the beachfront. Once again I got a steak since the prices are so great. It was also a place that you could order a hooka (not sure on spelling) which came with a round of weak fruity shots. After dinner we went back for some much needed rest for our early flight today.

Dubai and South Africa

Monday morning Katie and I registered our new address and new car at the city building. After we grabbed a great breakfast at the Remarque hotel. Katie dropped me off at the main train station where I took the train to Dusseldorf airport. The train ride was nice and was pretty quick with only one transfer in Duisburg. I arrived at the airport and after a quick check-in I went to the Emirates lounge for some snacks and free internet. Afterwards, I headed down to the gate where I found the flight was going to be delayed about 20 minutes due to a security sweep that had to be redone on the plane we were to board. The flight to Dubai was relatively fast with good food and super comfortable seats (ones that lay completely flat with a huge TV screen). Landing in Dubai at night was really cool but the takeoff was even better since the pilot flew us around the Burj Khalifa (worlds tallest building I believe that was in the latest Mission Impossible movie). Dubai airport was really nice with a lot of high dollar shopping areas. Grabbed a shower, food and some beers in the lounge and worked a little while waiting for my next flight (4.5 hours later). I even got to talk to Katie via Skype which made it a lot better. On the way to the gate I stopped by the Starbucks to see if they had any gift cards that I could get for Marcel, my brother-in-law, since he collects them. Unfortunately they did not have any.

The flight to Johannesburg was also rather quick since I was able to sleep most of the time. Upon landing I cleared customs quickly (had to stand in front of a thermal scanner to ensure I did not have yellow fever). My boss’s flight landed about 10 minutes after mine (even though he left Germany about 5 hours later but booked earlier so he got a better flight via Air France). We picked up the rental car and headed on our way to the Green Haven Guest House in North Pretoria. The weather is great down here and it feels like a land based St. Thomas (similar foliage, weather/humidity, driving on the left side of the road, etc.)

The Green Haven Guest House is a great place to stay with awesome staff that really make you feel at home. Four huge German Shephards guard the house all day long but are super friendly when approached slowly (I was told that running around the hotel would probably not be the best idea). An armed guard out front also helped to feel very safe (even though at no point have we felt unsafe).

After a quick shower and getting our things together, Henning and I headed to the ZF Rosslyn plant. We worked there for the rest of the day on project topics and then headed back to the hotel. We dropped off our things and headed back to Pretoria where we drove around a bit (Henning was a great tour guide since he has been here a couple times) and visited the Union Buildings which have a great view of the city. Afterwards we headed to downtown Pretoria and grabbed some food.

Wednesday was filled with more project work at the ZF plant and afterwards we headed to the Voortrekker monument ( Unfortunately it was closed but we got to see it from the gate. A great monument to the Voortrekker (Dutch) colonists.

Today we got up early and flew down to Port Elizabeth.

Ta Daa!

Here is our new apartment!