English was my favorite subject in school

Today I am somewhere upstate New York, so here’s another prescheduled one. Hope you like it. :-)

English WAS my favorite subject in school. As you probably know by now, even if you just got here, I am German.  Not everyone knows that I have been raised bilingually1, German and French.

In my fifth school year I started learning English, and having learned my first foreign language pretty much from day one, the third one came easy to me. I never really had to do anything to pick it up. I just listened, read, did my homework and learned it.

When you learn a language at school in Germany, you start with the usual basics. Telling someone about yourself, describing things and people, one adjective, noun and verb after another.

At some point you get to working with texts, fictional and non-fictional, and barring the occasional grammar lesson, you gradually transition into a sort of literature and culture class that is held in a foreign language.2.

Being a natural, I started reading English books for fun when I was around fifteen3.

Shortly after I began working funny stuff into exams, because…well, I don’t know, I just got inspired. One of the exams was about an interview that someone conducted with Aldous Huxley, and we were supposed to pick up how they viewed certain things differently on account of having grown up in different time periods. I had been listening to a lot of Running Wild at the time, so I used their song title “Prisoners Of Our Time” to describe the idea in a more colorful way.

In another exam about how language plays a role in George Orwell’s 1984 I used a joke I knew from one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels4.

The highlight of my English exam shenanigans was one of our last exams, about William Shakespeare’s Hamlet5.

It was our final year in school, we were a small class and our teacher was pretty relaxed and  didn’t pay much attention to us. At one point one of my best friends, Alex, turned around to me and said, proudly: “I just used the word vortex in my essay!”
I replied: “Ha, I can beat that!” and found a way to incorporate maelstrom into mine.

Philipp, sitting behind me, piped up: “What’s this going to be?  A competition?”

We wondered if our teacher would mention it upon returning the exam, but he didn’t. So we actually asked which of the two words puzzled/annoyed him more, and what can I say…it was close, but mine was more horrible!

Thanks to @CareyTorg for reminding me of this episode and inspiring me. Follow her on twitter, read her blog and be nice to her, she’s awesome! Also buy her book in December, ok? Thanks!

Footnotes
  1. my mother is French. In a way. That’s a story for another day, probably []
  2. in theory []
  3. I bought Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather on a class trip to Munich because I didn’t want to wait a year for the translated paperback []
  4. the one about the Inuit having 100 words for snow but none of them worth printing []
  5. see my limerick blog post for additional unrelated entertainment []

How my boss sent me to Rome, Italy

And here’s a preschedule blog on account of me being in…uh….Washington D.C. today. Woo!

One Monday morning in 2005 my boss said to me after the weekly department meeting: “Hey Olli, I have to talk to you about something.”

Of course the usual routine of “Oh shit, what have I done?” kicked in, but I couldn’t think of anything. Back in the office the following exchange happened:
Boss: “I’ve been invited by [partner company] to an event in Rome. Everything is booked, but I can’t be there. Would you like to go?”
Me: “Yes, sure.”
Pause.
Me: “When?”
Boss: “Wednesday.”

I took care of some things, my boss took care of changing all the bookings to my name. He gave me the e-ticket on Tuesday.
Me: “Um. Is there an agenda or anything? Contact data, adresses in Rome?”
Boss: “Nah, you’ll meet people on the way, and even if not, they’ll pick you up at the airport anyway”

On Wednesday morning my dad drove me to the airport in Cologne. I took my cellphone1 out of my pocket on the way, and when getting out of the car I totally forgot about it. I must have knocked it out of the car in the rain or something. Grabbing my luggage I waved to my dad driving away and entered the terminal building.
That’s when I realized I had no cellphone. I thought I just forgot it in my dad’s car so I didn’t even bother checking in the gutter of the street.
The problem was: I didn’t even have a wristwatch with me.
I walked up and down the airport but didn’t even find a shop to buy one.

Here I was. No cellphone, no watch, nothing but my luggage, camera and a ticket to Rome.

Time running shorter I checked my baggage and went through the security  check before I decide asking random passers-by if they’d sell me their watch.

And bing, in the duty-free area there’s a Swatch-shop. I chose one that is neither pink nor 150 bucks.

Time to enjoy the comfortable part of the journey. Since [partner company] paid for a business class trip I got a whole row to myself, nice breakfast and whatever newspaper I might want.

Layover in Munich. I grab my stuff and head towards gates 43+, since my flight leaves from gate 50. At 48 I realize there is not gate 50 in Munich. Glancing at my boarding pass I realize I must’ve misread. U-turn to gate 20 it is. I arrive in time for boarding another business class flight across the Alps.

flying across the Alps

flying across the Alps

Just after noon we land in Rome. After a quick detour through the bathroom I head to the baggage claim and spend 30 minutes watching piece after piece of luggage pass by. Is that mine? No. This one? Nah. Hm, everyone has left and there’s only one…it has the same color…. I grab it, check inside. Oops. Mine.2.

I head towards the exit. Ok, there’s someone supposed to pick me up. Maybe holding up a sign or something. No. Nothing. Nobody. I walk up and down the two terminal buildings, clutching my luggage with one hand, fending off taxi drivers with the other3.

Nobody to be seen. No agenda, no names, no adresses no cell phone. I ask at the information desk, but all they can do is offer to call a taxi and tell me that there have been no announcements, the system is only for security. Well, duh.

I’m not panicking or anything, though. If anything I did laugh at myself and the situation a lot. Taking matters into my hands I buy an international calling card and try to call my boss at the office.

Danielle, our front desk girl at the time, picks up at the phone. I try to explain: “Hi, it’s Olli. I’m in Rome and there’s noone here to pick me up, could you please get me the boss?”
She replies, a slight edge of panic in her voice: “He’s not here, he’s on his way to a meeting somewhere.”
“Uh. Well, patch me through to his cell, the number is on our intranet.”

I explain to my boss, he tells me to ait 15 minutes and call another boss, he’d have information for me by then.

I do what any sensible person would do. I go buy postcards. 15 Minutes later I call the office again, and the other boss gives me the number of someone in Rome who should be able to help me. I call that guy, get passed to someone from the admin team who is more than puzzled but tells me to wait under the large clock next to the snack bar.

A few minutes later a girl comes in, looks around and finds me. We chat a bit4. She triplechecks her paperwork and we find the reason for the whole mess. The flight booking was changed. The hotel booking was changed. But the list of people to be picked up at the airport only contained my boss’ name. And the note “cancelled”. She tells me the name of my hotel5 and gets a driver to bring me to the venue.

In the evening the whole group has a luxurious dinner at the Palazzo Brancaccio, followed by expensive beer at back at the hotel and getting drunk with Norwegians on the roof.

I explore the city for most of the next day since my flight home wont leave until 9 PM

Fontana di Trevi / Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi / Trevi Fountain

when in Rome

when in Rome

Forum Romanum

Forum Romanum

But that wasn’t the end to the shenanigans. I still had to get home. Back at the airport I went to the check-in counter and handed over my ID and e-ticket. The clerk looked at both, entered something into his computer.and gave me a puzzled look. “Where do you want to fly?” – “Cologne, via Frankfurt…” I pointed to the ticket. He started calling various people with a mobile phone and landline at the counter. I was able to make out two words, repeated over and over. “Volo cancellado.” Hm. Volare, to fly. Cancellado. Interesting.
Finally another Lufthansa employee arrived and adressed me in German, to tell me my flight to Cologne had been cancelled. Well, you wouldn’t have needed a translator for that. They offered me train tickets and apologized a lot, it took some convincing to make them check my baggage for Frankfurt and just leave it be. Back in Frankfurt I manage to reach the last bus towards home and manage to borrow a cellphone to call my parents so they could pick me up. Yes, I still had that international calling card, but they didn’t pick up because they were busy renovating and had loud music on. Gee.

But I DID make it home

Footnotes
  1. one of those massive Nokia bricks []
  2. yeah, I’m dumb on occasion []
  3. even if I wanted a taxi, I wouldn’t have known where. I didn’t even know what my hotel was []
  4. mostly she apologizes and I grin []
  5. The Grand Plaza, 5 minutes from the Trevi Fountain []

every trip has an inside joke – @wacie – #gatortail

And it’s true. On pretty much all the trips I took with friends we had an inside joke of sorts.

Fun fact: I don’t think I had an inside joke on the trip I took with my ex.

One of the inside jokes I will always remember fondly is “Miss Death Valley”.

In 2007 I went to the United States for the first time.

The story of how I ended up going with one of my internet friends (we’d met twice in person before going on that trip) is funny enough on its own.

Here’s the short version:

Jess via IM: “Hey, what are you doing?”
Me: “Looking up offers for holidays, but the single room surcharge is kind of off-putting”
Jess: “Where to, and when?”
Me: “Western US, this summer”
Jess: “I’ll come with ya.”
Me: “Yay!”

Said and done, we’d synchronized time off, booked, met up at the airport, shared rooms, saved US$350 each and had a blast.1

We flew into Las Vegas and had a day off to explore while part of the group2 had booked a day trip to Death Valley.

At breakfast next day we overheard part of the group chatting.
“So how was Death Valley?” – “Uh, ok, I guess. A little boring. Nothing but heat, sand and rocks.”

We really did have trouble containing our…let’s say glee. And Miss Death Valley3 was born.

It still comes up in conversations 7 years later. “Remember Miss Death Valley?” – “Yeah, haha! What did she expect? Rollercoasters? It’s not called Death Valley for nothing. ”

For those who are still not clear about the subject here’s a visual guide:

Not Death Valley

Not Death Valley

 

Actually Death Valley

Actually Death Valley

The trip I’ll be starting tomorrow4 won’t have Miss Death Valley, but it will have gatortail. Yup. An Alligator’s tail. Battered and deep fried.
There’s not really much to it, I guess, if you look at it from an objective point of view.

But it is something exotic to me, and when @wacie promised to take me to eat gatortail, it became a symbol of my pre-trip excitement.

GATORTAIL!

Footnotes
  1. we had enough fun to do it again when I had to find a replacement to go on an already booked holiday with me instead of my ex []
  2. yes, it was one of those prebooked group trips, don’t judge me []
  3. who turned out to not be the brightest, but very entertaining at times []
  4. I’M SO EXCITED []

First Photography Friday! – FIRE

I decided to re-up with 52 Photos Project and conveniently enough the theme for the first week is an easy pic(k) for me. Or at least something where I have some choice from my archive to pick from.

Also I am going to disconnect those from my Wednesday schedule and decided to put them up Fridays, so there’s

BI-WEEKLY BLOG UPDATES NOW!

ZOMG and all that.

I’ll also skip the next few photography fridays because I am going on vacation NEXT THURSDAY! Woo!

Okay, this week’s theme is…

FIRE

I like taking action shots. Sports, music, jugglerss animals…everything that moves is something that fascinates me, photography wise. You can freeze a moment in time or show a movement in a still by capturing it with slower shutter speeds.

If light comes into play you got me hooked. Good for me to have friends involved in organizing reenactment stuff, medieval market festitivies and all that. Fire performers usually play a role at those things, and I got to take a few amazing pictures at such occasions.

Holy crap, that was 4 years ago.

Wow.

Double Dragon Firebreathing

Double Dragon Firebreathing

 

my travel bio – all around the world

I’ve been reluctant to put up a list of my travels, but I figure it’s handy for me so I can keep track of things or easily remember/look up if I need something specific. Also the way the extraordinary @outseide posted her list after asking for things to blog about, I guess I can at least return the favor.

Oh, by the way, if there’s something you’d like to know about me, or maybe even want me to blog about, feel free to comment/tweet/etc. Always on the lookout for ideas.

Travel has pretty much always been something I’ve done. In a way. Since my mother is French, my sister and I1 spent at least part of our holidays each year in France, so I won’t list those trips year by year. I’ve been to various parts of France and of course I’ve travelled a lot around Germany, for business or just to visit friends and relations. I’ve been to The northern and southernmost parts as well to the East, West and middle. I also won’t count Luxembourg since it’s about 10 miles away and I go there every other week to get fuel for my car since it’s cheaper there.

My first non-family trip must’ve been in 1995 or 1996 on a student exchange to Selle-Sur-Cher in France2

1997
the first trip of our school orchestra, our new headmaster was keen on working with schools abroad, so we went to Olkusz, Poland.

1998
-school orchestra trip to Alingsas, Sweden

1999
– school orchestra trip and my first commercial flight3 to Burgas, Bulgaria

2000
– school orchestra, Poland
– Tuscany, Italy with my graduation class

2001
-school orchestra, we started the day after my graduation and went to Poland again.

2002
– that might be the only year that didn’t take me abroad for a vacation, but I did go to Northern Germany with a friend for a week, between Military Service and apprenticeship

2003
– career school trip to Scotland
– a trip with an orchestra I played in, to a Belgian/Dutch enclave town

2004
– another trip to Scotland with a friend I’d made in career school

2005 (Italy-Year)
– I went to Rome (Italy) on a business trip and nearly got stranded there, I’ll probably tell this story some other time
– attended the wedding of an internet friend in Tivoli, Italy
– went to Edinburgh, Scotland. Hogmanay/New Year’s Ever party, saw Hayseed Dixie in concert

2006 (island-year)
– a business trip to Ireland
– vacation in Iceland
– visiting my cousin in Manchester, England4

2007
– business trip to Mallorca/Majorca, Spain
– a trip around the South-Western USA5

2008
– an uncle’s birthday in France
– Graspop Festival in Dessel, Belgium6
– visiting my cousin in Manchester again, breaking my toe and going to West Yorkshire and Wales

2009
– travelling around Scotland with a friend
– a “business” trip to Budapest, Hungary7

2010
– I’ve been to a zoo in France
– a week or so in Vorupor, Denmark, relaxing and driving around, seeing things and places
– gone sailing with my team at work in the Eijsselmeer, Netherlands

2011
– a vacation in Ireland

2012
– a trip to Switzerland with a youth orchestra
– another trip to the zoo in France
– business trip to Cascais and Lisbon, Portugal
– visiting various internet friends on a roundtrip in Southern England, seeing London and Stonehenge for the first time

2013
– road trip with “internet friends” through Belgium, France and England to Cardiff, Wales, so we could go to the Doctor Who Experience. Saw Stonehenge on the way back
– went to New Zealand and Norfolk Island8 with a coworker. Driving around the North Island with campervans on the first part, staying at an internet friend’s place

2014
– a trip to England (Milton Keynes, Oxford, London) with the youth orchestra I went to Switzerland with
– my great US East coast road trip from Jacksonville Florida to the Niagara Falls
– visiting friends and family in the UK

2015
– my US West coast road trip from Seattle to San Francisco with a few days in Maui on top.

So, yeah. I don’t think I missed anything, and even if I did…psh. Whatever. :-D I’ll try to remember updating this.

If you want to see pictures or hear stories about a specific trip, let me know. :-)

Footnotes
  1. and often our parents as well []
  2. so yes, I’ve been to France without it being a family thing []
  3. a Balkan Air TU-154 iirc []
  4. the time I had no boarding pass for my flight []
  5. Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Los Angeles []
  6. Dessel, Rock City []
  7. I got VIP tickets to the Red Bull Air Race []
  8. small island, South Pacific, descendants of the Bounty mutineers, lovely place []