wok recipes in control systems class

Today in Systemtheorie und Regelungstechnik (my Control Systems class), the professor wrote “WOK Rezept” as the heading for the notes he was writing out.  That translates to “WOK recipe,” and I thought it was funny, so I drew you a picture.

wok recipe drawing

(please pardon the rushed handwriting and my mediocre art skills. The first I blame on taking notes in a foreign language. The second has no real excuse, but doodling in my notes is fun, so too bad 🙂 )

It turns out he was talking about WurzelOrtsKurve, or root-locus plots.  And here I thought we were about to get a primer in Asian cooking.  But the pun made class more fun and made the concept more memorable.  I love it when professors come up with good ways to remember things!



magic flute vs. studying

I’m pretty excited.  A fellow opera-fan from my exchange program and I just got free student tickets to go see Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) on Wednesday night.  I’ve wanted to see an opera–any opera!–in person for a long time, and now I’ll get to see one of my favorites.

But at the same time, it worries me.  I have an exam for Strukturdynamik (Vibrations) coming up on December 10, and I have heard that this exam is tough.  All the people in my exchange program are studying like crazy for it, as am I.  But at the same time, I want to experience the fun things Germany has to offer.

Being an exchange student is hard because you want to travel and go to the theater and meet people from the culture you’re immersed in, but you also have to study and do homework and go to classes.  All while there are cities to explore, tourist traps to visit, and Weihnachtsmarkts to shop at.

So I’ll do my best to schedule around The Magic Flute this Wednesday, but I have a feeling that after I get back to my apartment that night, I’ll do at least another few practice problems before hitting the hay.

sunday best: frankfurt christmas market

I went to the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt on Friday!

My friends and I enjoyed some good fair food (gebrannte Mandeln, aka roasted almonds, and Käsewurst, or cheese sausage on a bun).  We also partook (is that a word?) in Glühwein, a special spiced mulled wine served at Christmastime.  I generally don’t drink, but thankfully, my blood sugar was stable enough that I was able to enjoy a mug of wine without my blood sugar going crazy.

glühwein stand with heaters nearby.  the warmth was welcome!

This Glühwein stand owner was smart and had heaters positioned near the tables.  (Note:  Germany in November is cold.)

some of the weihnachtsmarkt by twilight.  pictures don't do it justice.

The Weihnachtsmarkt looked its best once it started getting darker outside.  The lights, the festive decor, and the general atmosphere turned Frankfurt’s usual historic beauty up a few notches.

the giant christmas tree in front of the römer, a well-known building in frankfurt

Most Weihnachtsmarkts have a giant Christmas tree somewhere.  The Christmas tree for the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt was right in front of the Römer, a Medieval building in Frankfurt.

There were a lot of different foods and products for sale at the Weihnachtsmarkt.  The selection was more commercial and touristy than what is available in the Darmstädter Weihnachtsmarkt, but it was still fun to walk around and look at things.  Here are a few of my favorites:

look to the left: beautiful chocolates.  now look to the right.  looks kind of like groceries, but it is candy.

This candy stall was selling beautiful chocolates (left side of picture) and candy shaped like groceries (right side of picture).  Click the picture to zoom in; the details on the food-shaped candies were pretty amazing.

stand selling candle pyramids, aka kerzenpyramiden

This stand was selling wood-carved Kerzenpyramiden, or candle pyramids (or, according to Wikipedia, Christmas Pyramids).  The candles at the base of the candle pyramid burn, and the rising heat turns the vanes at the top, which causes a cute little carved scene to spin around.

coolest way to cook wurst ever: giant 1.5-meter diameter grill that swings and spins freely hanging over a firepit.

This is possibly my favorite way to see wurst grilled ever.  The large 1.5-meter-diameter grill was suspended from the ceiling of the wurst stand.  Underneath this free-swinging, free-spinning monster of a grill was an open firepit.  Epic.  There was an even larger one elsewhere in the Markt, but I couldn’t get a good picture of it.

I hope you enjoyed my little tour through the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt!  Stay tuned in throughout December, as I plan on hitting a couple of other Weihnachtsmärkte this month 🙂

fun friday: thankful for tim hawkins and warm fuzzies

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  (yesterday!  oops!)

One thing I am thankful for is laughter.  If I’m in a bad mood or if I’m homesick, finding something to laugh about often puts me back in a more positive mindset.  If you are sad that the last of the 60-inch TVs at the Black Friday sale was gone before you even got to the store and need something to laugh about, here’s some Tim Hawkins hilarity for you.  (Tim Hawkins is a Christian comedian, for those who don’t know.  I credit my friend Lyndee for getting me to finally watch him on Youtube and my mom for encouraging me to watch even more.)  🙂

Tim Hawkins partying in the USA. 

Even Tim Hawkins needs to laugh at himself sometimes.  Oops.

And a bonus!  I am also thankful for cute fuzzy puppies.  Awwww.  

Well, I hope you enjoyed your laughter for the day.  I’ll be off at the Frankfurter Weihnachtsmarkt later today, so be sure to tune in over the next few days for pictures!

three months

Today I have officially been in Germany for three full months.  I’ve been taking my senior engineering classes in German, exploring Darmstadt and the surrounding areas, and adjusting.  I’ve made friends, found a church, and even gone on a retreat with Campus für Christus.  I’ve heard that a few months into an exchange is when the worst of the homesickness strikes, and I have been pretty homesick as of late, so I’m optimistic–I may be near the turning point where I can enjoy living in the moment in Germany despite missing my family and home.

The retreat this weekend helped immensely with the homesickness. Ironic, too, since we were in Mühltal, a little town half an hour from Darmstadt by bus.  It had little cell phone reception, and the building in which we stayed had no internet access.  But in the midst of the disconnectedness, I made some new friends.

It turns out that quite a few people in Darmstadt’s Campus für Christus group have already studied abroad. When I got homesick this past weekend at the retreat, the German students were willing to talk with me about what it is like to study abroad, how much the experience is worth it in the end, and the paradox of how it can be both fun and painful at the same time.

I met a girl who studied for a year in California (or “Cali,” as she called it) during high school.  We chatted about American restaurants we have both tried and the differences in shopping for clothes in American stores and German stores.  At one point over the weekend when I was especially homesick, she prayed with me.  And she even made sure to get my contact info so we could keep in touch.  🙂

I also talked with another girl who spent six months with missionaries in Brazil.  She knew how hard it is to feel comfortable talking to one’s new friends in the new country and how challenging it is to forge good, close friendships despite the language barrier.  And she completely understood the feeling I sometimes get here–the feeling that I’m so surrounded by German culture and German people and German architecture and German everything to the point where I wonder if America is even still there.

But one thing that I found most encouraging talking to the former exchange students is that they came back to their home country.  They went to the other country, experienced homesickness, experienced and enjoyed what the other country had to offer, and then they went home.  So often I feel as though I am expected to want to stay here in Germany forever even though I only signed up for a year.  I’ve met people who were exchange students and decided to stay in their exchange country, but now, having met quite a few students who studied abroad and came back to their home country, I feel like the exchange students who stay in the exchange country are the exceptions rather than the norm.

Both of the girls I talked to mentioned that the first few months in a study abroad go by very slowly and the homesickness is especially hard.  But after a few months, you get used to where you are living and the time goes by quickly.  By the time you’re sitting on the plane home, you wonder where the time went.

So for me, I’m going to ignore the expectation some people have of me that I’ll want to stay here in Germany forever.  I’m allowed to want to live in the same country as my family, and I’m only here for a year.  Having been here three months now, I’m on track to soon hit the point where my year starts moving really fast.  So I’m going to make the most of it.

the retreat

As I mentioned earlier, I went on a retreat last weekend with Darmstadt’s Campus für Christus group.  I was homesick during most of it, but that didn’t stop me from making new friends or having fun.  Here’s an overview:

this is the building we stayed in.

This is the building we stayed in.  Pretty nice, and large enough to host thirty college students on a retreat.

this is the main gathering room, as viewed from the stage.  This is where we ate, had worship services, did bible study, and played games.

This room is where we spent most of the weekend.  This is where we ate meals, held worship services, did Bible study, and played games.  We even attempted to line dance in here at one point, but the room was a bit small for all of us, so we all just ended up running into each other and laughing. But that’s fun too.

one of the games we played.  the organizers of the game times were very creative!

For the main game time, we were divided into teams, and each team sent one or two team members to compete with the other teams’ representatives in mini-games.  The winner of each mini-game activity got points for his or her team.  This particular mini-game involved a pair of pantyhose, a roll of toilet paper, and bottles.  With the toilet paper pushed all the way down to the toe of the pantyhose, the person playing this game had to put the panty hose over his or her head and use only the toilet paper roll to knock over all the bottles.  As you can imagine, it was hilarious to watch.

this was the view from the window of the room I stayed in.  beautiful town.

When the worship and Bible study and games were over for the day, we all went back to our rooms to sleep.  I shared a room with three other girls, and this was the view from the window.  Such a beautiful little town!

the view down the street from the retreat center

Another view of the neighborhood.

All in all, it was a good time.  It was hard to be so disconnected from home for a weekend–we had no wi-fi and we barely had cell reception–but I made a lot of new friends and got to know some other people better.  But I’ll talk more about the people I met tomorrow.

sunday best: christmas decor is coming to town

Walk anywhere in the city center of Darmstadt, and you are going to see Christmas preparation.  All over the place.

some decor near a little shopping area.  i think those are light-up reindeer antlers on the poles.

This is a little shopping square near the city center.  See the pretty lighting in the passageway?  Love it.  I’m a little curious about why they chose to put light-up reindeer antlers on the support poles, but hey, they look pretty, so I’m not complaining.

another passageway that leads from the shopping square above to luisenplatz.  those light-up christmas light chandeliers turn the festivity up to 11.  or at least higher than it was before.

Yep, those are chandeliers made of Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling.  This is a passageway that leads from the shopping square shown above to Luisenplatz, the city center.

more weihnachtsmarkt stands, plus a giant barrel

Speaking of Luisenplatz, here are some half-done Weihnachtsmarkt stands.  On Luisenplatz.  Yep, the Christmas market here is held both on Luisenplatz and Marktplatz.  And in-between.  Christmas is a big deal here 🙂

they do have christmas light reindeer here in germany.  also, check out ludwig's giant pedestal--there are Christmas lights on it!

This is a Weihnachtsmarkt stand with a Christmas-light reindeer on it.  Yep, they have them here in Germany as well. 🙂  Also, take a close look at the giant pedestal holding up the statue of Ludwig there (green statue, reddish pedestal).  ….see it?  There are Christmas lights hanging from the top going all the way to the base!  That is going to look epic lit up!

The Christmas market officially starts tomorrow, so soon I will have pictures of everything properly lit up!  Stay tuned!

fun friday: broadcast system test and melty-bead mario

I’m kind of scatterbrained today, since I’m doing last-minute packing for the Campus für Christus retreat I’m leaving on later today.  But I found a couple funny videos on Youtube that I can share.  They are both really random, but being scatterbrained right now, I’m posting them anyway.  🙂

The first is a test of an Emergency Broadcast System.  The song gets a little tiring after a while, but it’s fun for the first minute or two.  If you find the visuals annoying or offensive, I suggest you start this video to get the music going and immediately scroll down and start watching the video of a pretty screensaver below it instead.




The screen saver is included on all new Macs and is called Flurry, by the way.

I’m including this next one out of geekiness. It’s a stop-motion video someone made of melty beads.  Of Mario. Running around and beating Mario-game baddies in his/her house.  Pretty amazing, and I’m sure it was a LOT of work!  

Enjoy the videos and enjoy your weekend!


collecting travel ideas

I’m still homesick.  A lot of you have responded with encouragement and suggestions and new perspectives on my time here, and I appreciate that so much!  Thank you guys!  ❤

I’ll be going on a retreat this weekend with Campus für Christus, and I’ve been kind of low on blog-post-inspiration material recently, so we’ll see whether I can get anything together to schedule for while I’m away.  The retreat center apparently does not have any internet access, or at least not for guests.  So if I don’t post for a few days, maybe I’ll come back from the retreat with pictures or stories for next week.

For the moment, I just wanted to put up a request for all of you:  where should I visit this year?  I don’t know when I will have time to travel very far, since my classes aren’t easy and since the break between semesters is filled with exams, studying, and probably work on my Bachelor’s Thesis, but if I’m staying in Europe for two semesters, I at least want to get in some sightseeing before I go home for good in July or August of next year.

Questions I’d love to see answered in the comments:  Which sights and cities are worth visiting?  Which aren’t?  Any events I should try to go to?  Any places you know of in Europe that are particularly beautiful at a certain time of year?  I have a map of Germany on my wall and sticky notes marking places I want to visit, but it’s looking a bit sparse right now.  🙂  (Destinations outside of Germany are possible as well, though less probable.)


big blue test

I just participated in the Big Blue Test. www.bigbluetest.org. If you have access to a blood sugar meter, whether you are diabetic or not, please participate. Every entry helps people who can’t afford diabetes supplies to get what they need to live.

All you have to do to help out is test your blood sugar once, exercise for around fifteen minutes, and test your blood sugar again, and then go to the website and enter the test results. They are trying to get 8000 submissions by the end of today, and every one counts!

UPDATE: Apparently, there is a way for non-diabetics to participate without testing their blood sugar. If you have a few minutes, please go to the website and fill out the short survey to show your support! (Thanks for pointing that out, Mom!)