Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome to Germany!

I completed my MBA (Marketing Cert.) at Northeastern University in August of '09, and after 10+ years of being in Boston and seeing no further opportunities at both of my jobs (HRIS Analyst at Northeastern University/Drummer at Blue Man Group), I decided to head to Los Angeles for a change of pace and to utilize both my degree and drumming skills.

Ever torn between the two worlds, I never quite got anything going in the year I was there, though I tried like hell.  I slowly watched my limited savings dwindle to nothing and didn't see any end in sight with unemployment at 12.3% ( and some of my best friends losing jobs.  The marketing field was cluttered in CA, with jobs that offered little to no pay and a constant influx of college interns all looking to "get in the biz" out there.  The music industry in Cali, I can safely say, was worse...

On July 14, I quit my $8/hr job at Guitar Center Hollywood and decided to move in with Annette in Munich.  We've been together almost 7 years now (I know...crazy!) and it was just time.  There were a couple bumps along the way (my van, which I subsequently sold for $300, broke down two days before moving and I rented a U-Haul, which also broke down in Bumfreak, Missouri) in the 3 day trip, but I made it to LaCrosse for a little over a day's stay with my brother Tony.  It was in LaCrosse that I left all my drums with the hope that someday I'll be able to ship some, or all of them here eventually.  Next, I made my way over to Milwaukee and flew out the next morning (July 31).

I arrived in Munich on August 1, and have been going full blast ever since.  I went to my German classes orientation at the Goethe Institut on the 2nd, and I've been taking classes pretty steadily since then.  Luckily, I tested into 2nd semester German, so I didn't have to learn the damn alphabet again.  The Goethe Institut German courses are broken up into three main levels (A, B, C) and for my "intensive" schedule, like this:

A1 (4 weeks)
A21 (4 weeks)
A22 (4 weeks)
B11 (4 weeks)
B12 (...)
Level C has the same subdivisions as B, and completion of C is considered "Profi" level (i.e. I could teach by then...)

I am currently in A22 (pronounced "Ahh-tzvai-tzvai") and will be enrolled in B11 (pronounced "Bay-einz-einz") by Oct. 1.  I technically only need through B12 to take the German "Work Test" and find work with any German-speaking company, however, I've talked to several people here that have taken French, German, etc. (this A, B, C system is a European standard...not only Germany) and they suggest completion of at least B22 so that fluid speech is possible.  So, my plan is to take courses at least until February 1st and though I'll surely look for jobs before then, I'll really hit it hard at that time.

Since arriving, it hasn't all been work.  We have been doing yoga every week, running when we can (the weather has gotten pretty cold lately), and got to go see Jason Sutter (sick drummer I met in L.A.) with Foreigner about 40 miles from Munich (in a town called Landshut...pronounced Lawntz-hoot).  I went to my first "all in German" movie (yes, no English subtitles either).  I'd like to tell you it was amazing, but it was just too damn early (the second week I was here...) and I couldn't understand a thing...haha.  I have eaten Schnitzel, Weißwurst, and Milka (my favorite chocolate) and imbibed a few Hefeweizens, Helles, and Dunkels.  For my birthday, we started with sushi/Thai, then strolled around Nymphenburg (a "Schloss," or "ground castle"...these are just really expansive 1-2 story buildings dating back to Ludwig II and such.  Think of your art history think of your art history book opening up to the Rococo section and vomiting gold and extreme ornamentation into a few rooms...then add the reflective pool leading up to the Jefferson monument in Washington Mall...then add a Vermont back yard...swirl that together, and that's Nymphenburg), and eventually we made it to a biergarten for bier und viele freunde.  Annette and I have also gone to a "Mexican Night" (which was really well done, but I was definitely missing the hot sauce), as well as an "Oriental Night" with another set of friends.  We prepared most of the food at the Oriental Night, but we were following recipes provided by the friend, and in the end...we found out it was "Mediterranean Night" (we made pitas, a dip with feta cheese, a dip with pepper paste, walnuts, tomatoes, and a dip with eggplant, sesame paste, parsley, and olives....I don't think there was anything oriental about it).  I also bought all the groceries for that night of cooking, going to three different stores and an alcohol vendor on my own.  It was interesting to negotiate in my limited German and most of the time it turned into seems I excel at acting out "dried fig."  Another highlight was a traditional Franconian meal with one of our friends.  Franconia is the middle part of Bavaria, about half an hour from Nürnberg.  There were many different meats, most of them jellied (and thus, not eaten by me), and tons of great salads/pastas/breads.  I gotta say I love the food here!

Gustav (my black cat)....he's had a hard time.  The guy traveled all the way to WI in a box...I couldn't take him out like we did last year when driving out to California...I just couldn't control him once he was out.  So, he stayed inside and yelled a lot...I mostly just coped by turning up the radio...somehow, I thought that to be more humane than sedating him.  Since then, he also has had diarrhea for about 7 weeks off and on (mostly full on!).  I took him to the vet once, and though we were assured a day ahead of time that the vet spoke English, it was not the most in-depth conversation I've ever had.  I indicated that he had major runs and possibly worms (just from reading online and freaking out like we all do).  She felt his stomach, said "lot of gas," gave me a de-wormer and some stomach-friendly food, charged me 70 Euro and said "Aufwiedersehen."  Germans don't mess around.

I have yet to touch a drum here other than with my fingers, in passing, while snooping around an expensive drum shop.  They're ALL expensive here.  I don't know how I'm going to get it all going again here...gonna take some time.  And shipping the drums from WI?  Well...that's looking like it would cost thousands, so I may just have to go with the local stuff for the time being.  At the same time, I'm still looking for any music avenues around here besides the opera or orchestra.  It must be some underground sect, getting together between "Fight Club" and "You Are A Messy & Late Person Club"...either nobody talks about it, or it doesn't exist in Germany.  Three days ago, I received an offer to join Blue Man Group on their national (U.S.) theater tour as a drum tech, starting Oct. 1 and ending sometime next year.  Problem is, I'm in Germany, and changing things now could come at a huge cost to our getting settled, my education, and perhaps my Visa status (my current Visa is invalid once I leave Germany for more than 3 weeks).  I'll keep you all updated...

Tonight we bought some Lederhosen for myself...something cheap (they are usually 200-300 Euro!)...because the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest is in 3 weeks!!!  I asked Annette last week if it was possible that I could just, you know...go in jeans or something, since I have few clothes...maybe my red shorts and a t-shirt....she responded with a "no way" and a look that made me laugh.  Americans definitely make too much fun of this tradition apparently.  It's not as jokey-jokey as you may think.

Tomorrow, we are heading to Annette's mother's place near Passau.  It should be a fun weekend, though I have a ton of homework to do.  I will definitely get some good practice in though...I'm feeling more confident with the language every day!


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