halloween celebration at frankenstein’s castle

Last Friday night, some friends and I got to go to a Halloween party/haunted castle event at Frankenstein’s Castle in Eberstadt, which is a suburb of Darmstadt.

I dressed up as a Pac Man ghost. (Thank you, ThinkGeek!  Easy-to-pack costume for the win!  Though the shirt’s page has unfortunately been taken down.)

me dressed as a pac man ghost

<lawyer appeasement> By the way, I don’t own any rights to Pac Man or the ghost.  This is just a picture of me in my nice, easy-to-pack Halloween costume t-shirt. </lawyer appeasement>

The castle was decorated to an epic extent.  The picture yesterday didn’t show it as well as I’d like, and you really have to have been there.  But here’s another picture for ya.  (I say you have to have been there especially because I could not get many decent photos with it that dark outside.  But it was cooler in person than in photos, too.)

frankenstein's castle, lit up and decorated for halloweenThere were plenty of people running around in full-costume, some who were being paid to be there and freak out the guests.  Three separate times, a monster snuck up behind me, jumped forward suddenly–and mussed my hair.  So. Hilarious.  😀

And then this guy, who is taking a step up onto the sideshow stage…

costumed dude with horn who would honk the horn in people's ears


…would walk around in crowded areas and randomly honk the horn he has strapped to his chest right next to people.  Here, he is trying to get the sideshow audience to applaud on command.  (Again, sorry for the blurry pictures.  The light was bad.)

Some of the sideshows were pretty gruesome and took depressingly gory turns just when you thought the main characters would live happily ever after.  (Disclaimer:  the blood was fake and none of the actors got hurt.  The plays they put on were surprisingly death-heavy, though.)  But one of the sideshows, which I got to see performed twice, was really fun and had no gory details at all:

costumed characters dancing to thriller

A bunch of ghoulishly-costumed characters came out and danced for us!  They started with Thriller and moved on to some other nicely-choreographed dances.  Let’s see:  from this picture, in no particular order, there’s a zombie lady; a creepy clown; a mime in a jumpsuit; an orc knight; and a girl wearing ballroom attire, complete with mask.  I couldn’t figure out what the others were, and they are hard to see in this picture anyway.  But the dances were pretty sweet.

All in all, it was a good experience.  How many times in your life do you get to celebrate Halloween hanging out with Frankenstein’s Monster?

frankenstein's monster and me.  awww.

Now getting back to Darmstadt after the festivities ended was an entirely different story.  But the party itself was memorable, in a good way.


sun(down) sunday: halloween at frankenstein’s castle

Those of you following my Twitter feed may have seen that I went to a Halloween event at Frankenstein’s Castle on Friday night.  The event was a lot of fun, but I’m not planning on posting all the details until Halloween.  So until then, here’s a picture of some of the decor at the castle.  (Halloween at a well-decorated castle is pretty epic.)

decor at frankenstein's castleStay tuned over the next day or two for more!


There are a lot of things I miss about home and about America, but one I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the beach.  After seeing this post on Lynna’s blog, I decided it was time to write about it.

I spent two summers working as an intern in Wilmington, NC, and the second summer I was there, I truly learned to LOVE living at the beach.  I would head back to the apartment after coding all day at work, change into beach clothes and flip-flops, grab a snack and a book and head for my car.  I would drive the 20 minutes to Wrightsville Beach, park my car, grab my purse, and go relax.

I enjoyed walking through the sand and the shallows and watching seagulls fly by.  Eventually, I’d find a good spot to read and delve into my book, occasionally looking up to appreciate the quiet and the scenery.

view of figure eight island in wrightsville beach, nc


And I discovered beach sunrises.  One day, I decided that it might be one of the few times I could go to the beach and watch the sunrise without having to go on vacation to actually get to the beach, so I woke up early and watched the sun rise over Wrightsville Beach.  From that day, I was hooked.  Waking up to a quiet neighborhood at 4:30 AM, driving to the nearly-deserted beach while singing along with the radio, and then arriving and spending some time watching the majesty unfold.  Just God, the beach, the sunrise, and me.

sunrise at topsail island.  one of my favorite pictures from my time at the beaches in the wilmington area.I know I’ve posted this picture of the sunrise at Topsail Island before, but it’s one of my favorites, so you get to look at it again.  🙂

For the next ten months or so, I’m going to be living where the nearest beach is a long train ride away and is probably too cold to enjoy except during the summer.  But I’m so thankful for the memories of living in Wilmington.  And when I get back to the USA, I gotta plan a vacation.

cow double dot

In my last Strukturdynamik lecture, I was pretty happy because I was understanding the technical vocabulary used during the lecture itself and in the textbook. But while listening to the professor speak, some of my friends from exchange program and I noticed something.

The professor was referring to a displacement of a beam being analyzed in an example as the variable q. As in, when the beam was pulled down, the end of the beam moved downward q centimeters. Similarly, the velocity of the movement of the beam was the time-derivative of q, often referred to as q-dot because it is written as a q with a dot over it. Acceleration, the second time-derivative of q, is q-double-dot.

Now’s a good time to mention that the letter q, in German, is pronounced very similarly to Kuh, the word for cow.

As soon as we realized why the professor kept talking about cows, we all started cracking up every time he mentioned q as a displacement variable in an example problem. And we did a lot of example problems.  Cow, cow, cow-dot.

In a break during the lecture, I drew you a picture.

derivative cows, inspired by my strukturdynamik class

As a translation, Kuh = cow, Punkt = dot, doppel = double. And µ is pronounced “mu,” for those of you who aren’t up-to-speed on your Greek pronunciation.

We noticed a few other funny pronunciation things, but the comics for those either aren’t drawn yet or didn’t turn out as well. But I may never be able to keep a straight face in Strukturdynamik again. 😀

to-do lists on my desk

I am still so thankful to now have a regular schedule.  I’m definitely still homesick, and I definitely still miss my family and friends at home.  I still feel some pressure from the people who live here to decide to stay here in Germany for grad school, but I’ve already decided that when this year is up, I do not want to live somewhere where there is an international border between my family and me.

But for this year, I’m still, of course, dealing with homesickness.  I’ve heard it gets better after a few months.  And now that classes are started, I actually have things to do to keep my mind occupied.  I have notes to study, practice problems to work on, paperwork to collect and photocopy for my student visa interview next week, and tons of other little administrative things to do.

In addition, I’m working on figuring out how to take the GRE, a test I’ll have to take in order to apply for grad school in the USA.  But to take the GRE internationally with accommodations for diabetes still involves sending a bunch of paperwork to New Jersey with a doctor’s note.  Sorting out those details, on top of my classes, language learning, and the research I’m doing to decide which grad schools to apply to is definitely keeping me busy.

I’m stressed from all the to-do lists covering my desk and filling my mind, and of course more stressed nervous that I may forget to add some little important thing to those lists.  But I’m staying connected to home through chat and email, and I’m understanding my lectures a tiny bit more each day, and I’m getting more accustomed to life as a student here in general.  I’m still not fully adjusted, and at the moment, the day I will be fully used to life here seems very far away.  And the day I go home again to stay there seems even further away.

But those days will come, and in the meantime, I’m making progress.  Slowly but surely.

2 months

I’m having a busy week so far.  It’s the second week of classes here at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, which means that some classes are only just starting and some have yet to be scheduled.  And there are other administrative or general meetings to attend.  My weekly schedule is starting to work itself out, but slowly.

But I’m thankful to finally have a schedule. Something to keep myself busy on most days.  Some reason to wake up at a certain time (even if the reason is an 8:00 AM class) and some reason to do productive work.  Having free time is great, but I find myself happier when my schedule is full.

I’ve been here in Germany for two months now; today is the 61st day since I landed at Frankfurt Airport.  I’ve heard that four months is the typical time it takes for someone to fully adjust to living in a foreign country, and that certainly seems to be true.  I still get homesick, but I’ve figured out that I can love my family and miss living in America and still love America even if I find some aspects of Germany that I like.

This week, posts may be sparse, as I’m still figuring out what lectures and practice problem sessions I’ll be attending, and things will be a bit crazy.  And once things settle down, I may be posting more mundane stories, since I won’t have as much time to travel.  But the study abroad experience is about learning to live in a different culture.  Yes, it is partially about travelling, but after visiting a few cities, the cities start to all look the same; it’s who I get to know and what I accomplish here and what I learn about myself that matters most about my experience.

I’m making friends and starting to understand the German in my classes a bit better.  And it looks like both of those things will continue to improve, as I’m meeting new people nearly every day and getting in plenty of German practice.  I’m still very definitely homesick, but for two months, this isn’t a bad start.

sun sunday: karo5 and darmstadtium

sunrise about to break behind karo5 and the darmstadtiumLast week, I woke up early for a class that started at 8 AM.  Except the class didn’t officially start until this week, so I just ended up wandering around campus for a while around the time of the sunrise.  This picture is of the sunrise about to show behind Karo5 and the Darmstadtium.

Karo5 is short for Karolinenplatz 5, which is the address of one of the main academic and administrative buildings at TU Darmstadt.  The Darmstadtium is more of a city-center conference center.  I’ve only been inside Karo5 and not the Darmstadtium, but the buildings themselves both look cool.  The HOTEL sign is for the Welcome Hotel, which I have heard is pretty nice.  (For future reference, people who want to come to visit me 🙂 )


study plan: zeil mall in frankfurt

My study habits are kind of odd.  I find myself best able to study in locations that have a lot of background noise but no distinctly understandable conversations. That would explain why I did much of my homework and studying at Virginia Tech in the dining halls.  But for final exams, a bunch of other people got that idea.  So what did I do?  I studied at the mall in Christiansburg.  It was a twenty-minute drive from my apartment, but I got a lot of good studying done in the food court there.  Weird, but it worked!

Here in Darmstadt, I’ve realized that the dining halls may not be so good for my study habits.  They are closed on weekends and only open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays.  And even when they are open, the tables are set up for large groups, not for individuals on study marathons.  And the mall in Darmstadt has lamentably little seating, so for a while, I thought I would be stuck studying in my room all the time.

But I found a mall in Frankfurt I think I can study at. Frankfurt is an hour away from my apartment by streetcar and S-Bahn, but I can study on the S-Bahn too.

The mall itself is on the Zeil in Frankfurt. The Zeil seems to be Frankfurt’s shopping district.  The mall was a bit small compared to American malls, but it made up for it in visuals:

the distinctive glass vortex, as seen from the inside of the mallThat giant glass cylinder makes this mall easy to spot from the outside, since it is the only building with a giant hole going from the front glass wall to the glass roof.

And the seating is rock-garden inspired:

rock-garden inspired seating.  surprisingly comfy.It may not be Virginia Tech, and I may have to carefully plan out when I’ll come out here to study, since it is a two-hour round trip.  But I will be able to study here quite happily, I think.  Good noise levels, good seating, and great views for when I’m sick of Strukturdynamik and need a break.  (Oh, and retail therapy is a good remedy for being tired of studying.)



campus crusade for christ in germany

Last night I went to my first Großgedacht, which is the large-group meeting time for the Darmstadt branch of Campus für Christus.

Campus für Christus is the German extension of Campus Crusade for Christ, a Christian student organization I was a part of for a couple years at Virginia Tech. The German version is just as much focused on God and Jesus, but has a somewhat different flavor.  Still a great time of fellowship and fun, though!

The worship songs we sang were in either English or German.  (Some songs translate well, others don’t.  And some are written originally in German anyway.)  There were also powerpoints of what missions trips some group members went on over the summer, as well as announcements for events later this semester.

The message was fantastic.  The speaker, who is the girl to the left in the picture below, spoke about the Armor of God in Ephesians 6.  And, of course, as she mentioned the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, etc., she had one of the leaders of the group put on “armor” that was comprised of fireman’s equipment, tin foil, and other found items.

putting on armorI would say that the blurring is to protect their identities, but I actually just didn’t get a very good picture.  But the guy has a tinfoil breastplate, fireman’s boots, a fireman’s helmet, a blue trash can lid as a shield, and some kind of toilet paper holder (I think?) as a sword.  Even with all the humor, the message was great.  It was in German, so I didn’t catch everything, but still great.

I am so thankful that God got me connected with this group.  Before I arrived, I was nervous that I would have a hard time finding students who shared my beliefs, but judging by the number of people in the room last night, I have plenty of potential friends in this group!

campus fuer christus people!

The group, right after the Großgedacht ended.  Yay friends, and yay God for bringing us all together!


Some condiments in Germany are packaged very, very differently than they are in the USA.

an american bottle of mustard.  yum

This, as you may recognize, is an American bottle of mustard.  (Thanks for taking this picture, Mom!  Yeah, I know it is weird to email home and ask for a picture of mustard…)

tube of german mustard. yes, i am serious, that is mustard.

This is German mustard.  Yes, really.  (Senf = mustard).  When I first moved in to this apartment and looked in the fridge we all share, I started to wonder why people were keeping their toothpaste in the fridge…

do not use as toothpaste. normal toothpaste is not yellow.

…but they weren’t!  Here in Germany, you gotta make sure that your toothpaste does not come from the condiment aisle, because this is NOT toothpaste!  The yellow of the mustard is a hint.  (Other condiments are packaged this way as well.  I think I could find a jar of mustard if I tried, but I couldn’t resist the funny packaging this time.)

In other news, my new favorite German condiment is Curry Ketchup.  Fantastic on fresh french fries from the street vendor in the city center, but also pretty good on sandwiches.  But I don’t happen to have a picture of it at the moment.

What’s your favorite condiment?  (Does anyone else go to Chick-Fil-A and mix Texas Pete sauce and ketchup for the fries like I do?  Oh, how I miss Chick-Fil-A… *homesick*)  Leave comments!  I love reading what you guys have to say!  🙂