Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Christmas Market

Christmas has exploded in Wiesbaden. The downtown is decorated so beautifully with garlands, ribbons and lights on all the buildings and the Christmas market is the place to be every night. The entire market square is filled with booths of Christmas ornaments, nativities, nutcrackers and many drinks and goodies as well. The smell of the chestnuts roasting and hot cider makes me want to bust out in the "Christmas Song" as I walk around the market. In the park, there is an ice-skating rink set-up and I can't wait to try it out. I've only ice skated once and that was several years ago, so it should be interesting.

Each time I leave the apartment I find myself humming "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and I guess you could say that I'm definitely in the Christmas spirit. I've been enjoying shopping for Christmas presents the past few days and discovering new stores and shopping areas I'd never been to before. Although I am so very tempted to simply shop for myself, I have to remember that Christmas is about giving, not receiving (or something like that).

It's hard to believe that I will be in Texas in exactly one week from today on the 12th. There is so much to do between now and then, and I simply want to enjoy every moment I get to experience this picturesque Christmas setting. Jon and I are both performing in our Christmas play at church, (he's speaking and I'm speaking and singing) and have lots of rehearsals this week before the performance on Sunday. We also will be attending Jon's squadron Christmas party on Friday and I'm really looking forward to having an excuse to dress-up.

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and just remember - it's the most wonderful time of the year!

P.S. If you voted on our last poll (see right sidebar) the results for the Christmas card survey have been considered, and the picture has been taken. It should be a lovely surprise for you all!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Back from the Field

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Back to the world of running water, we find our heroes in the throes of a marathon viewing of the newly-purchased "Scrubs-season 6." Cabin fever has never been more fun to catch. Gone are aspirations of glacier climbing or Swiss heli-skiing, instead we capitulate into our own thrill of syndicated TV on DVD.
This time is really more important than we thought, but an excess of thinking we aren't. To the right you'll find the heated debate of the holiday here in Clough outpost East. Cast your vote with confidence for the Season's greeting you deem best.
Thank you,
Team Clough

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Leipzig and Liz

It has been three weeks and two days since Jon left on his exercise and I am happy to say that he will be home again tonight. Woo hoo! Although I've missed him greatly, of course, the time has gone by quickly and it's been fantastic to spend so much time with girlfriends. In order to have one last hoo-rah, I went to the east German town of Leipzig this past weekend to visit Elisabeth, a former exchange student at Baylor from last fall. Like all my 0ther visits with former exchange students, it was a fantastic reunion with a friend and I very much enjoyed visiting this new city.

I left for Leipzig on Saturday morning on one of the only trains from Frankfurt heading east due to the expansive train strike that is the largest in German history. This all-encompassing strike let up for two days during the window of time that I planned to visit Elisabeth, which worked perfectly for me. I arrived in Leipzig right on time and we immediately went to her apartment to drop off my bags and have lunch. It was so fun to see someone I hadn't seen in a year and reminisce about all the fun times we shared together, such as the Halloween party I had at my house in Waco last year. That is the only time she met Jon, however she doesn't even know what he looks like, considering he was wearing his Zorro costume the whole night and talking with a mysterious Spanish accent. Elisabeth spent the last spring and summer terms in northern Spain, so it was great to hear about her continuation of her year abroad.

Later we trekked downtown to walk around the city center and see some of the very unique architecture that remains. Of course, much of the city has simple architecture and abandoned buildings due to communist times, however the history of this city is quite impressive. The church to the left is the Thomaskirsche church where Johann Sebastian Bach taught music for several years. He is also buried in the church.

This is a statue of Goethe in front of a miniature palace that was actually used as a commerce and trading hall. Now, it is used for banquets, weddings, etc.

This building is the impressive old town hall located in the main square of the downtown. Presently, it is filled with booths and a large Christmas tree waiting to be opened and lighted when the Christmas Markets will begin in the next week.

After a tour of the town, we went to a dinner party at her friends house that turned out to be a very cultural experience. There were many Palestinian people there and other Arabic-speaking people, so the languages would shift from German to Arabic and English many times during the night. Other than Elisabeth, only a couple other people could speak some English, so it was the shot in the arm I needed in order to be motivated about learning German and sticking with my classes. Afterward, the two of us went downtown to have a cocktail. The nightlife was really great and there were so many young people around as it is a university town. I very much enjoyed my Leipzig experience, but most of all, it was great to reunite with another friend. I am so lucky to have so many throughout Europe!
On Thursday, Jon and I plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends by going to the dining facility on base. Last Friday, many of the wives from the squadron prepared dishes (I made sweet potato casserole) for our squadron Thanksgiving dinner. It was so great to have a taste of the goodness you all will be having this week, and I'm looking forward to having it again Thursday - even if it is cafeteria-style. I'm not sure what our plans are for this weekend, but we will probably end up traveling somewhere and will report about the adventures as always.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Baylor Gathering in Heidelberg

This past week was another busy one in the life of the solo Frau, as I stayed active with social gatherings and even a bit of work.

The week began with a bit of "rebellion" as I decided to finally stop merely talking about going brunette and actually coloring my hair a more "natural" color. The different hair color coupled with a big chop to the hair has been quite shocking for me, and I've experienced a variety of emotions this past week from absolutely loving the feel of a new look, to completely regretting the decision every time I looked at the stranger in the mirror. After having this new style almost a week, I'm very glad I did it, even if only to experience something new. So many times I get in a rut with my hair and never dare to do anything different, so it's nice to feel like I've branched out somewhat. It's funny how I have no problem being adventurous in other aspects of my life, such as moving to Germany, traveling on my own, training for marathons, etc., but when it comes to hair, whoa - now that's a toughie!

On Thursday, I attended my last recruiting fair this fall in the charming town of Heidelberg, about an hour southeast of Wiesbaden. The fair was held at the Heidelberg High School on base and although it was sparsely attended, the highlight was meeting other Baylor alums who live in the area. I had met two of the alums previously, as one lives in Mainz (near Wiesbaden) and the other, Rachelle, coordinated the Diadeloso Jon and I attended in Berlin earlier this summer. I arrived in Heidelberg early in order to meet up with Rachelle to have lunch and tour downtown Heidelberg, where she lives.

It is such an adorable downtown, and where Wiesbaden has a more generic European architecture, Heidelberg has the typical German architecture you would expect. Although the town is a little bit smaller than Wiesbaden, I feel the shopping is better as they have a university in Heidelberg, and therefore have a more young feel to the city. The town is situated on a river with hills surrounding the downtown area and a commanding schloss (castle) situated above the town. I very much enjoyed the town as well as meeting fellow Baylor alums who may have been out of college for quite some time, but still remember their days at Baylor so fondly.

The remainder of the weekend was filled with dinners with friends, and of course, some more girl time. Jon's birthday was Friday and he turned the big 2-8! I wish I could have celebrated with him, but we will do something special when he returns on the 20th. I think in all the years we've dated, we've maybe spent 1 or 2 actual birthdays together, as we've always had to celebrate before or later. Isn't it nice we can keep that tradition alive (he hee)!

This week I will try my hand at some more cooking as our squadron is having a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner on Friday, and I signed up to bring a sweet potato casserole. It should be interesting! Have a wonderful Monday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Solo Frau

It's been one week since Jon left for his 3-week exercise in southern Germany, but I've managed to keep very busy and feel I will gain new independence by doing the small tasks of daily living abroad on my own. This is something I haven't felt in a while, considering Jon and I have spent so much time together since we've been married. Of course this togetherness was very much needed, considering the distance we spent apart over the course of our dating and engagement. When I first heard about his 3 week stint away from me, I thought how awful it was that we have to go through this when we've only been married 6 months. But then I realized how many of the friends I've made here who recently had their husbands deploy for 8 months. Note to self - don't complain about Jon only being gone 3 weeks, because it could be much worse! Of course my time will come to go through a long deployment separation as well, but luckily, this it if not now and 3 weeks will be a piece of cake.

The worries I had about being apart were not because I thought I would miss him too much, but because it's a different feeling to be on your own in a foreign country with no car and support system of co-workers or family nearby. I have been pleasantly surprised at how wonderful my friends have been and realized for the first time, what an incredible support system I do indeed have over here. And the driving predicament, that is something I aspire to overcome - to drive standard. A friend will be helping to teach me to drive Jon's car this week, and hopefully by the time he gets back, I'll be good to do, that is if I don't completely burn out his clutch. Already I've left my black marks all over the roads on base from my last lesson. Why does the whole clutch and gas balance thing have to be so difficult?

This past week has felt like the good 'ole college days when I would hang with the girls 24/7 with little responsibility. It was nice to have so much quality time with friends who also have husbands away and go to the gym, hiking in the woods, visiting the thermal bath, going to dinner together and even have sleepovers. I must admit I didn't get too much work done or my German homework completed, but it sure did make the week go by quickly and was a ton of fun! Last Tuesday was my first time to visit the famous thermal baths in Wiesbaden, which are spas that were built in here during the Roman times due to the natural hot springs in this area. The particular spa we visited was the Kaiser-Friedrich Bath or Roman-Irish bath. The artistic furnishings, paintings, reliefs and ornaments of the building remind me of the luxurious and magnificent buildings in ancient Greek and Roman times. The baths are thought to provide an oasis for recuperation and relaxation and even treatment for rheumatic illnesses. The spa is complete with a Stone Steam bath, Russian Steam bath, Finnish Sauna, Solarium, pools and hot tubs in varying temperatures. It was a amazing! Other than the first few minutes being extremely awkward, as you have to be completely naked when entering the spa, I got over that quickly when I realized every other spa-goer was about 30 years older than me. Luckily, I went on a ladies only day, so I didn't have to deal with the shock of naked old men. By the end, I felt so liberated to be walking around naked, knowing that it's completely normal to everyone else and to have the most relaxing evening I've experienced in a long time.

The other highlight of my week was a Halloween Party on Saturday night. My friend, Nancy, who I went with was going as Tinkerbell, so I decided to go as Peter Pan. The outfit was definitely thrown together at the last minute and some thought I looked more gangsta than fairytale, but hey, at least I dressed up. It was a really fun night full of dancing and even karaoke. It was so incredibly fun and I was so glad I was able to celebrate Halloween, even though my partner in crime was missing.

As for getting around, I've been pedaling my way all around town to go to church three times a week, the commissary, etc. Although my bike sure is pretty, the single-speed back-pedal-brake beauty sure is difficult when needing to climb hills. One thing's for sure, I am getting some good leg workouts! Today I have dedicated the afternoon to do my German homework for my class tonight. I am determined to at least be able to say a complete paragraph before I leave this country!

Happy Monday everyone!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Workin' Woman

The week of October 15th was my time to finally dust off my suits hanging idly in the closet and jump back on the professional train. Last week I attended three college fairs throughout Germany to represent Baylor to generate interest in the school and hopefully recruit some students. All in all, I sat at a table for 15 hours last week answering questions about admission requirements, areas of study available, scholarships, etc. And I loved every minute of it. In Munich and Berlin, I was joined by my boss, Mike, the Director of the Center for International Education at Baylor. It was nice to have some company during the long afternoons and it provided him an opportunity to see what these international recruitment fairs were like.

The Munich fair was on a Monday, so Jon came with me to Munich a couple days earlier to explore the city. The day before we left for Munich, we learned that the Munich marathon was going to be taking place on Sunday, the 14th. Although we weren't quite ready to jump in the marathon, we didn't want to miss the running excitement, so we signed up to run the 10K. It was a really great race as it was completely flat and the final 400 meters finished in the 1972 Olympic Stadium.

We hung around after the race for a while to have some post-celebratory beer and pretzel and to watch the marathon winner cross the finish line. This was definitely the highlight of our Munich weekend!

That evening, we made plans to meet up with Mike and his wife, Nancy, for dinner. On our way, we spotted this statue of a catfish that Jon simply had to pose with. As a wise man once said...., "Smokin' Catfish!"

Jon and me at the Marienplatz before dinner.

At dinner with Mike and Nancy Morrison.

Afterward, Jon and I trekked to the infamous Hofbrau Haus which was still completely packed even though it was a Sunday night.
We were able to snag a table at the back of the restaurant amid some very rowdy German tables. In fact, the majority of the tables in the entire restaurant were quite rowdy, and it made Jon and I miss our rowdy friends very much. We look forward to coming back to the Hofbrau Haus when we can have our own beer-drinking song-singing posse!
The following day, I geared up for the College Day fair, and Jon decided to tour the city with the famous Mike's Bike Tour. He took some great shots of Munich below from the Town Hall Tower.

It was a fantastic weekend in the Bavarian capital filled with the competitive spirit of racing, a reunion with friends, and of course, partying German-style in the beer hall capital of the world with oompah music and pretzels. Prost!
The whirlwind of events continued when we drove back to Wiesbaden Monday night. I flew to Berlin on Tuesday for a Wednesday fair, and then flew back to Wiesbaden that night to gear up for another fair for military high school students on Thursday at Ramstein Air Base. The week was completely crazy and exhausting, but as I said earlier, it was wonderful to feel like a workin' woman again and be on-the-go.
Sunday night, our church performed a Gospel Concert to raise money for our missions fund. I sang a solo of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and it was quite a success! I've missed singing in a choir so much and the entire evening was perfect. I feel so blessed to have found such a great church with caring and supportive friends. It certainly helps being so far away from home sweet home.
The weather in Germany has turned quite cold and the highs have been in the mid-40s lately. It is entirely different than those Texas Octobers I'm used to, but at least the sun comes out occasionally, like today that is completely perfect.
Have a wonderful Tuesday, friends and family. I miss you!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Catlins and Cloughs

Greetings ye few, yet faithful. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events and during this hectic time we have failed to update our blog. We will try to be much better about this, and I feel that as we are now almost 5 months in to living in Europe, our schedules have become somewhat more routine, and therefore hopefully we can be a bit more organized about sharing our many experiences.

In an effort to be certain all events are covered, the most recent events will be shared before the big sha-bang of the two-week visit from my favorite mother and father in the world, Charmen and Larry.

After my parents left on Sunday (the 30th) morning, I packed my bags for my first business trip on behalf of Baylor, serving as a representative at a recruitment fair (or "College Night," as they are usually referred to). This was not my first recruitment fair, but it was the first time for me to attend a fair solely on my own. The event was in Brussels on Monday night, and I felt oh-so-professional taking the train to Brussels, staying in my business-like hotel and then heading to the venue later that evening to set-up for the fair. It was the perfect event to serve as my first fair, as it was a smaller crowd and mostly Americans (ex-pats and military families). I absolutely loved every minute of talking to the parents and high school students and sharing about my alma matter and can't wait to do it again and again. After the fair, I attended a reception, held for the presenters, and met several other people from all over the States and Europe and it amazed me how many people are in the growing field of international student recruitment in higher education.

The next day, I spent the overcast and dreary morning walking all around Brussels and was able to see the Grand Place, Mannekin Pis, Avenue Louise and much more. Although I was so grateful to travel somewhere completely new, one thing was for sure, traveling and sight-seeing by yourself isn't nearly as fun. I was glad to return home to Wiesbaden on Tuesday night and have a week to rest and recuperate before the next set of fairs (3) during the week of October 15th. It's great to feel truly professional again!

Now back to the fabulous two-week visit from the Catlins. After our back-to-back trips to Sweden and Ireland, we returned home again for one day to tidy up the apartment and welcome the fabulous Charm to our home on Saturday, September 15th.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Texas Reunion in Sweden

Over the weekend of September 8th, I fulfilled a lifetime dream of visiting Sweden, and a two-year dream of visiting some fantastic Swedes! At Baylor, I had the opportunity to work with some amazing foreign exchange students, but it was no secret that the Swedes were always some of my favorites. Beginning in the spring semester of 2005, I had the opportunity to welcome and befriend 6 students who studied at Baylor during my term as the Exchange Program Advisor. Each student became a true friend, and I vowed to myself that I would visit Sweden one day to have an outstanding reunion. And what a reunion it was!

I arrived in Stockholm on Thursday evening and was met by Maria, who I hadn't seen in almost two years. It was so exciting to see her again and she was so gracious to let me stay in her apartment for the weekend. When I saw her, it was as if no time had passed whatsoever, and I remembered how much I had missed over the two years and how special her friendship is to me. After meeting up with her boyfriend Jakob (who studied at TAMU for a semester) for dinner, we then headed to a Jonkoping International Business School (the university all the Swedes attended) alumni gathering that was held that evening.

While there, I met up with the first Swede I welcomed to Baylor, Peter. It was such a blast seeing him again and as he lives in Stockholm, I knew I would have more opportunities to see him that weekend.

Maria and I have many things in common, and a main pastime we share is our love for "running." We had many chats around the bear trail when she was at Baylor, and it was fun to be able to run on her turf in Sweden together on Friday morning. Afterwards, we headed to a restaurant to meet Richard (the other student at Baylor the same semester as Maria) for lunch. It was so fun to have the three of us together again and immediately we started reminiscing and telling stories of the "good 'ole days."
Afterward, we met up with Jakob and I received my own personal tour of Stockholm with three natives. We explored the Royal Palace, the Old Town and a fantastic ancient-looking underground bar where we had pre-dinner drinks.

The first pic at the beginning of this entry is a picture of the whole gang at dinner. We had to go somewhere that would be fitting for our Texas reunion, and no place is as more fitting than a restaurant called "Texas Longhorn." This is actually Maria and Jakob's favorite restaurant (they are true Texans) and it is truly quite good. They even serve Lone Star beer. At dinner, we were joined by Staffan, yet another former Baylor exchange student from spring '06, so it was a full "Texan" table. Afterward, we went to a very posh and hip bar and I had a great time looking at all the fancy Swedes. Believe it or not, though, they're actually NOT all blond-haired and blue-eyed (who woulda thought?). But, there are QUITE a few!.

While in Sweden, I knew one thing was for sure, I had to have authentic Swedish meat balls. I had assisted in making this twice before at Baylor's International Food Fest, and wanted to have the real deal. We went to a great typical Swedish restaurant and I had the most outstanding meatballs ever!

Saturday was a very overcast and rainy day, but I didn't mind as this trip was not about going and seeing every historical sight, but it was about being with friends. However, Maria, Richard, and Jakob insisted that we see something while I was there, so we went to the beautiful town hall. It is situated right on the water and has a gorgeous courtyard and garden area.

Afterward, we headed back to Maria's apartment to get ready for the party she and Jakob were throwing that night - and I was the guest of honor. The theme was USA/Texas, so they had USA napkins, chips, guacamole, queso, sangria, jello shots, etc. The song "I'm Proud to be an American" even played periodically through the night.
Maria and Jakob did a fantastic job preparing all the food and it was so cool to meet a lot of their friends and of course see the other Baylor kids there as well (Staffan, Peter and Richard).
Afterward, we headed to a fun outside bar in the middle of all the action and ended up closing it down at 3:00 a.m. We then proceeded to go to a club that some of the others had meandered too, but the lines were out the wazoo. It was so crazy to see soooo many clubs with lines around the block at 3:30 a.m. in the morning! Stockholm definitely has some major nightlife going on. After trying a few different places, Maria, Jakob, Richard, Peter and I decided to go to McDonalds for a late-night snack. It doesn't get any more American than that!
On Sunday morning, it was time for me to leave my wonderful Stockholm friends and head to Jonkoping in south-central Sweden to visit the most recent former exchange students, Malin and Kristoffer. After a tearful good-bye with Maria, I jetted off to the bus station. It's amazing how you can make such a connection with someone after only a few months together, and two years later, you realize how much you still care about that person. She is a true friend! I can't wait to have her, Richard, Peter, and Staffan all come visit me. They are the best!

I was met at the bus stop in Jonkoping by Kristoffer, and it really felt like it had been no time since I saw him, partly because it hadn't. Kristoffer and Malin were at Baylor beginning the fall of '06, so they were there to experience in person the most recent details and changes in my life. We walked to Malin's apartment, and then went to coffee so we could all three catch-up. Malin was anxious to know everything about the wedding, as she had to endure several wedding planning sessions with my family during the times she came home or to the ranch with me throughout her semester. She probably new more details about the wedding than most people IN my wedding did, but she was always so sweet about it and always acted very interested.

After coffee, we walked around the quaint, beautiful town of Jonkoping, and luckily it was also a beautiful day with perfectly clear skies. We went to the JIBS campus to see the school that all the exchange students attended at one point, and then headed down to the pier.

I absolutely loved this town and was glad to be able to experience small-town Sweden in addition to Stockholm.

Malin, her boyfriend, Kristoffer and I all went to a great dinner together for my last night in Sweden and made plans for them to come visit me later this fall. Everyone was such an incredible host to me and I feel so lucky to have been able to meet such wonderful international friends while in Waco, Texas, of all places. I will always remember this Sweden trip as one of the most special trips I've ever taken, as it allowed me to re-connect with some dear friends who have shown me the true meaning of kindness, graciousness, generosity and most importantly, a very special word - sjörövare.
I think that sums it up. COME VISIT ME SWEDES!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Final Days of Summer and our Salsa 'Bot

So, summer is officially over in Deutschland, as the past several days have turned quite cold (cold for September that is). But, before I describe the beautiful fall season that now resides in Wiesbaden, I want to reflect on the last days of summer at the end of August. Jon had a half day of work last Friday, and we enjoyed the beautiful afternoon by walking around our lovely town. Our first stop was at the Kranzplatz park where we found bizarre red and white lions covering every inch of grass. The lion is the Hessen state mascot, where Wiesbaden is the capital, and we later learned that this was an art exhibit. At the end of the exhibit the lions would be sold on a first come first serve basis. Well, of course we had to have one, and due to its strategic arm placement and the German's love for Salsa music, we decided to name our lil' lion a fusion of the two greatest dances; Salsa 'Bot (short for Robot).

We enjoyed the remainder of our afternoon and final day of warmth, by going to the Kurhaus park with a blanket and a bottle of wine.

The following are pics that we took on our walk around town.

View of Kurhaus Park.

View of casino at the front of the Kurhaus Park.

The largest cuckoo clock in Wiesbaden that actually chimes every year. This is a great tourist shop that sells numerous clocks, steins, and other German souvenirs.

The tree-lined sidewalk of Wilhelmstrasse (the main street downtown).

On Sunday, we went to the Taunustrasse Festival (yes, yet another weekend festival), with some church friends. Right as we were arriving, we saw a horde of folk-dancing Germans parading through the street in their flowered-out costumes. They performed several dances down the red carpet of Taunnustrasse.

After the Fest, we headed to Maldona's, a decadent coffee shop, for coffee and cake. Michelle is my fellow lady of leisure and we enjoy trying out all the cafes to see which is best, but so far, Maldona's takes the cake.
Our relaxing weekend in Wiesbaden ended with another trip to the Festival with the Grade's. Next on our agenda - traveling! I leave for Sweden tomorrow for a reunion with all the former Baylor exchange students. I can't wait to see them all! Then on Monday, I will meet Jon and the Grade's in Dublin for a 3-day trip of Ireland. After being in Wiesbaden for the month of August, it will be nice to get back on the road again and start exploring new places. I look forward to updating you all on our adventures after we return on September 14th!