Monday, July 30, 2012

Life As I Know It

    Oy. Four weeks from THIS VERY MINUTE, I shall be on an airplane, US-bound. Well, Philadelphia-bound, at least. Not to pick favorites as far as airlines go (LUFTHANSAISTHEBEST), but oh boy do I wish there'd been a cheap flight with anyone other than US Airways...and to anywhere other than Philadelphia, aka my least favorite airport ever. But hey, that's life.

   Now since I have so little time left (AHHHH), I've, as I may have mentioned towards the end of my last blog, made it a personal mission to do as many cool things and have as much fun as possible before  the coolest year of my life comes to a close. Therefore, this entry will be dedicated to the coolness that is my life. (Yes, I'm trying to make you all jealous. I'll need something to cling to when I go back to the sad life that is an unemployed college grad in the US of A.) And since, you know, I haven't written a "normal" blog in about three months. Life kind of got in the way.

   And since life did that whole getting-in-the-way thing, and because tonight is not a night that is conducive to chronology and transitions and properly formatted entries, prepare yourselves for a bullet-point-blog.

  Though I will readily confess it did indeed take me awhile to find them, I have basically the coolest friends ever. Leigh, who is basically the awesomest friend in the world, has been more than obliging in my quest to be awesome this summer, and we have been tearing up the town like crazy (as much as two people with remarkably restrictive work schedules can, anyway). We meet nearly every day to try new cafes, go to bookstores, check out sales, or go relax in the English Garden. Yesterday we played badminton. Freaking cool. And Sarah, who began as my choir buddy, comes with too and we have group adventures! Like swimming! And Tollwood! And eating Mexican food after choir when all the students have to go study!

  In all seriousness though, these girls have made the last couple months. So, so grateful to have them here.


    Though I haven't written about it in ages, my choir has been chugging along! A couple of months ago we had the amazing opportunity to record Palestrina's Canticum Canticorum (Song of Songs) for Naxos with the Bayerischer Rundfunk (main Bavarian classical radio organization). We spent a whole weekend shut up in a teensy but lovely chapel in a woman's hospital (random, yes) in the southern Altstadt, recording about 15 motets and an additional 22 Gregorian antiphons (the alto soloist being yours truly!) with nothing but each other, the terrible breath of the woman next to me, and a bottle of port. It was exhausting but fun and with a far better result than I could have anticipated. The music is gorgeous and the takes we got to hear (pre-mixing) actually didn't sound half bad! The CD should hopefully be ready sometime in September!

Okay, the two ladies on the right are awful. But the rest are great!
   A few weeks later we had an intensive concert weekend, though due to circumstances beyond my control, I could only attend two of the three, but it was good fun nonetheless. The first concert was about an hour or so north of Munich at a cloister. Seriously. With monks and everything! It was a part of their summer music festival series. (Check out the facebook event! Coolest and simultaneously most disconcerting part: It was a Kreuzgang concert, meaning we sang, basically, in a weird back hallway. Picture a hall tracing a 90 degree angle, fill both sides with people, and put the choir where the two sides meet, and add a bunch of candles, and there you have it! It was pretty cool, and the free dinner at the Cloister's brewery afterwards was a lot of fun too. If I had to be a monk anywhere (not that that's too serious a choice to have to make), Germany would be the place to do it. All you really do is brew beer and drink beer. And pray every now and then, I guess. We had another concert that next Sunday at a church we've sung at before, and it was well-received and also followed by free food! I could get used to that! But alas, all good things must come to an end.

    Yesterday was officially my last day of choir. We sang for the service at a church in the city, then went out for breakfast at Augustiner just across the street. I even, in order to get the full effect of the experience (and take advantage of someone else paying for it!), ate the traditional Weißwürstfrühstück and all that implies: white sausages of mixed pork and beef dipped in sweet mustard, pretzel, and weiss beer. At 10:30 AM. Am I German or what? I also got a gift from my director: a philosophical history book entitled, "Die beiden Amerika: Kolumbus und die Folgen" (The Two Americans: Columbus and the Consequences), which my director was the editor of. Very kind, if probably rather complicated!

   One of the coolest things about my wonderful choir friends is how much they like singing. It's like being back in high school when everyone wet their pants in excitement every time someone said a certain E. Whitacre's name and we all tried to sing his music together. Except it's not Whitacre, it's Purcell or Dowland, we actually succeed in singing it, and no one wets their pants. That I've noticed. We actually sometimes stay after rehearsals or concerts to sing, and have even wandered through the streets of Munich searching for somewhere out of the way to go and look at the new music someone had brought along. It's been an incredibly long time since I've sang with people just for the fun of singing, without the stress of preparing for a concert, worrying about proper technique, in an attempt to get a role, but just because it's nice out, we have pretty music, and it's fun to sing with one another! After my last rehearsal, before we went out for drinks, we gathered to sing a bit and my personal surprise was them singing to me Dowland's "Now, O Now, I Needs Must Part" ( It was so sweet and beautiful and while I am so sad to leave this choir behind, it was probably the best decision I made as far as keeping me sane in Germany! Thank you, random Greek guy at bar, for introducing me to Sarah back in September!


    As kindergarten-related activities are starting to wrap up, we've been treated to some fun kiddie stuff lately. Last Friday, Cliona's dance class gave a performance (in the very loosest sense of the word) for parents and siblings (and au pairs) to go watch, and it was hilarious. Cliona, of course, laughed like a drunken farmer the entire time, and it was the funniest thing. Though not dancing so much as playing movement-related games while wearing a pink tutu, she loves it and it is so much fun for the kids.

   Kilian has had all kinds of football tournaments lately, none of which I've been to (at 7:30 on a Sunday morning? No thank you!), so I made up for it by taking him to football last week. I haven't watched him play since last October or so, so it was fun to see how much he's improved! While, okay, even at six I can tell you he will never be any sort of talented footballer, he at least runs and sometimes even kicks the ball. It's adorable.

   We have also been doing a lot of baking lately. Okay, by "a lot," I mean twice. But that's plenty, trust me. The surge has come because I have American goodies I need to use up! We celebrated the 4th of July by making Funfetti cupcakes and decorating them American style. (C'mon, what can be more American than Funfetti?) They also helped me make real American chocolate chip cookies last week, with imported chocolate chips! (Imported by my mother, that is.) They were great until Cliona decided to lick pure raw egg off the counter. Oops.

Hard at work
Finished products

     I love the ways kids' minds work. Okay, to be honest I have no idea if that's kids, plural, or just mine. But Kilian is freaking awesome. His mom came home from work one day a couple months ago and said to him, "Hey Kilian, there's a circus set up in the park! Do you want to go see?" His answer? An instant, terrified, "But I haven't practiced!!!" I just love, so much, that his mind translated that as him being a circus star performer.

   Despite not being able to read yet, he really is such a smarty pants. He just got a new world map to hang on his wall, in preparation for school starting in September, and we've been having a lot of fun looking at it and studying it (most frequently when he's trying to put off going to bed). Naturally, Lake Titicaca has garnered probably a lot more interest than it necessarily deserves (brief pause while I go listen to Ernst Koch's Geographical Fugue:, but we've talked about a lot of other stuff too. We talk about different continents, and how scary is must have been for Columbus to sail out into nothing, and how the first people came from Africa and spread out through Europe and Asia and then much later went over the Bering Strait into the Americas (based on his question of though the Europeans didn't know America was there, did the Americans know Europe was there?). We've also talked a lot about the weirdness that in America, most people are lots and lots of different ethnicities, as opposed to Germany where most people are strictly German, or half German and half other-European. And he gets all this stuff! If he were a grown-up we would totally be best friends and have epic conversations all the time. Okay, we do anyway. And indeed, when I put him to bed that night, he gave me a hug and said, "I'm glad you came here instead of someone else." Me too, man.

And Cliona's Quote-of-the-Week, just for kicks: "Ich mag keine dicke, fette Kiwi, weil ich so traurig bin." (I like no fat kiwi, because I am so sad.) Umm, what?


KulturStrand. Possibly my current favorite place in Munich. (For non Deutschophiles, the name means "Culture Beach.") There's an island in the middle of the Isar (the large river that flows through Munich) where the Deutsches Museum sits. Across from the museum, surrounding a fountain, they cart in 104.4 tons of sand and make a beach there! There are beach chairs, umbrellas, a huge sand-filled canvas worm type of thing to sit on or lean against, a DJ, and, of course, a bar, with delicious summery cocktails that Germany does so well (for some weird reason). I've been there twice so far, once with Sarah and Leigh during the day, then once last week with my host mom and a couple of her friends--we rode our bikes the 13 km into town after work and hung out drinking cocktails. All the fun of sitting on the beach with your toes in the sand--plus, you can DRINK! (I realize I sound like an alcoholic. I'm not. I promise.)

The Summer Tollwood Festival is the summer equivalent of Frühlingsfest and Winter Tollwood, which in turn are all baby versions of Oktoberfest. But dude, they are fun! Unlike the other three, Summer Tollwood takes place up at Olympiapark, the huge complex built for the 1972 Olympics in Munich, containing a swim hall, a stadium, a lake, and facilities that originally hosted the boxing, hockey, gymnastics, and volleyball events during the Olympics. The park as a whole is really cool, and we've been there several times, which will be later addressed. Or earlier. I told you, I'm not super into the chronological thing today. Anyway, I took on the festival a couple times during the three weeks it was here, once with Leigh and once with Leigh, Daniel, and Sarah. It's a much smaller festival than its compatriots, with a much more laid-back vibe. It's kind of like a US market night, except with random beer tents and no laws against walking around drinking. There's also a music festival as part of it, with people performing like Lou Reed and Lady Antebellum. We had a great time both times just walking around, looking at the souvenir things to buy and enjoying the atmosphere.

Olympiapark is super cool. I'd, embarrassingly, never been there until about a month ago, when Sarah, Leigh and I went there to swim. Though those Olympics were forty years ago, it's still pretty cool to swim in that enormous pool (and see for myself how freaking high those high dives really are). And I sort of feel like the spirit of the Olympics transcends geographic borders so maybe I sort of have swam with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte...? Anyway, we had a great time swimming around and jumping off the (smallest) diving board, then spending some time out in the sun gossiping and being girly and it was just so much fun. Did I mention I have wonderful friends!
   Leigh, Paulo, and I also continue fairly regularly to go up there to play tennis, which has been fun to get back into, especially since we're all enough of a level that we can play together pretty well. Though I do drive people crazy with my slices. Muahaha!
   And finally, Leigh and I went one night to the Kino am Olympiasee. Munich has a wonderful tradition of open-air movie theaters (something I wonder why on earth California doesn't do more of; the weather is so iffy here it seems risky and they do it regardless!), and literally every night there are movies at several different locations to choose from. So we took our beach towels, blankets, and lots of snacks up to Olympiapark and bought 6 euro apiece picnic seats. It was way too much fun. There's an enormous inflatable movie screen that gets set up around 9:15 or 9:30 (once it gets dark enough) and you get to sit there and watch the movie. It's something entirely different than a movie theater experience to get to sit outside sprawled out on a blanket with birds and bugs and air flying around you. It's wonderful. And our excellent selection of refreshments did not hurt one bit.

    I've been lucky enough to go to a couple of great concerts lately with my friend Paulo, who has a very useful talent of being able to get tickets to pretty much anything. We saw a wonderful Rachmaninov/Walton program back at the beginning of July at the Gasteig, home of the Munich Philharmonic, then attended a Sunday morning performance of Bruckner's Mass No. 3 in the Herkulessaal at the Residence Palace, and finally one of the best concerts I've ever been to, the closing concert of the Munich Philharmonic with Shostokovich's Symphonies 11 and 15, with Valery Gergiev conducting. We lucked into orchestra seats, a mere nine rows back. It was incredible. Shostakovich symphonies are loud and fun and in-your-face, and it was such a cool experience. And followed by Indian food--even better!
Leigh and I at Herkulessaal
   I went a couple weeks ago to a ToyTown event (ok, not a place, but whatever). It'd been ages since I'd gone, but a new friend was trying out a new students/interns meet-up and asked if I'd come along. It ended up being really fun--a nice Canadian bar with the most delicious house-made hard lemonade ever  and about ten people actually having conversations instead of just the speed-dating type of chatter that tends to haunt ToyTown events, at least the ones I've been to. Most of the evening was spent listening to a New Yorker elaborate on the downside of American healthcare (but in an intelligent way, at least! I'll give you that, Dillon.) and the two of us attempting to explain the oddities of America as a country to some Brits and Danes. It was a lot of fun.

   Leigh had some friends in town a couple of weeks ago and we took them down to Starnberger See, a lake south of Munich. I'd actually never been there before, and though the day was less than ideal, weather-wise, it was beautiful and peaceful and I need to go back there to swim before I leave!

That's Leigh walking. She went swimming. She is brave.

   Okay, you obviously have heard me talk about the English Gardens, but I have to share this just so other people can feel the pain that's been heavy on my heart (and inner eye) this week. Leigh and I had an idyllic morning on a hot Thursday last week lounging and dunking in the river, eating sandwiches, and reading German gossip magazines, when we were treated to quite a sight. Remember how you're allowed to be naked in the English Gardens? Well, this is nothing new, and you see naked people pretty much every time you're there. But only rarely do they choose to set up their towel a mere THREE FEET FROM YOUR HEAD AND LIE THERE WITH THEIR GENITALS STARING YOU NOT-SO-SUBTLY IN THE FACE! The "they" there, if you were wondering, was one particularly determined middle-aged German fellow, who...erm, displayed his personal parts more blatantly than I would have thought possible. It was definitely not crowded. There was no excuse. And now, I am for the rest of my life entirely satisfied to see no more elderly German testicles. I'm sorry. I had to say it.

   I feel like that's an appropriate note to end on! You've done well, readers. Hang in there for 28 more days and we'll be home free! Then I can tell you about my life in person.

   And ten extra-credit points to the people who noticed there weren't actually any bullet points in this entry.

Kilian's surprise for me the other day. All by himself! Yes, I know the spelling is far from perfect, but still the sweetest thing ever <3


  1. yay for an amazing year in germany!!!

  2. Luv, luv reading your blog! So glad u & lee-lee found each other in Munich- what awesome memories u have made! You two r very brave, adventurous women!

    When u r back in the USA unemployed (which I'm sure won't last long;)) I would luv to have u babysit or at least come visit us- I luv your geography discussions with your kiddos- hunt & hayles would eat that up:) and in Seal Beach we have movies & Shakespeare at the park & everyone respectful wears clothes (so you would be very comfortable).

  3. the universe does have a sense of humor, sending my half-way across the world to find a friend who's a lifer (like it or not). and personally i find killian's spelling to absolutely logical. could not have said it better myself.

  4. Fab blog!! You should stay! ;-)