Welcome to my new blog! Following many years of graduate study in musicology (see my bio if you don't know what musicology is), I am finally embarking on my fieldwork portion of my degree, spending one year in Germany. For all the latest updates on Music, Life, and Travel, read on, friends!

Saturday, April 27

Humboldt Study Tour, with a twist

Now, time for the post that was supposed to be awesome! A post that would rival the awesome randomness of my posts on September, during the introductory seminar of the Humboldt Foundation. But no, this post has a dark beginning and continues in a drugged haze of forced smiles and disappointment.

Our German Chancellor Fellow Study Tour began on March 3rd in Bremerhaven, on the North Sea coast. My fellow fellows and I were all looking forward to a busy two weeks filled with visits to Leipzig, Munich and Regensburg, among others, and spending time in museums, at farms, on brewery tours, etc. Instead, my tour was cut short, thanks to appendicitis. On the first day, I had an unfamiliar pain on my right side, and after trying to sleep it off, it was not going away. So, I checked myself into a hospital, settled in for a sleepless night, and waiting for a diagnosis, which resulted in surgery first thing on Monday morning.

I would not recommend having major surgery in a foreign land far away from family, but at least my appendix went bad in a country with good (and significantly cheaper than in America) medical care, where I also speak the language (although not much medical German), and that I was generally a good sport considering the annoyance and pain of surgery. So, after getting a quick visit by two of my Buka friends, my group left for their next city, and I spent three more days recovering in the hospital. Thanks to a willing friend of E’s, I made it back to Bonn by train, and spent a couple of days back in my apartment, doing nothing and thinking that I’d be well enough to meet up with the rest of my group just one week after surgery.

E visiting me in the hospital. I was sooooo glad to see her and S after my surgery - I could have cried, if I would had my wits about me!

German hospital dinner. Hospital food is the absolute worst. My first day I couldn't eat anything, then they gave me the most disgusting soups EVER. One I think was a milk soup (WHAT IS THAT EVEN??), another was a thick beef broth soup (only broth), another creme of something soup that I couldn't eat because it tasted too much like leeks, and finally a light vegetable soup - the only one I could swallow. Breakfast was the best -- good German bread with butter and honey. It's hard to mess up something like that.
My single room at the hospital. Not as nice as the hotels my friends were staying at.
I did indeed meet up with my group again, but thanks to a long bus ride, which lasted much longer than it should have due to a significant snow fall, and more walking and standing that I was expecting, I decided to leave the group one day early. I was mostly afraid that if something was going wrong with my recovery, I might get stuck in Brussels, where we spent our last days. I missed out on the best part of the tour, which included most of the places I’d never been before. I did, however, get to see some dear friends from my college days TWICE as they spent a week in Europe! I wish I could have spent much more time with them, though!

Here (and above) are some of the photos from the whole ordeal, from hospital to German Supreme Court. When I leave Germany after my fellowship is over, I can say that I have once again left a piece of my heart here, and a literal piece of my digestive system. I hope Germany enjoys my appendix. I will never forget what appendix is in German – “Blinddarm.” Oh the stories I have now!

Me at the German Supreme Court.

R and E, rocking the suits!

Our hotel in Kirchheimboladen. This was after the epic snowfall that extended our 150 km/2 hour bus ride into a six-hour affair. Instead of going to the European Central Bank, we had lunch at an Aldi's - not really a fair trade in my book.

T playing the Alphorn at our wine tasting night. There are some advantages to being a horn player - you can transition smoothly to Alphorn.

Our host at the wine tasting. This is his self-constructed Carnival instrument, the Teufelgeige -  the devil violin. Can you tell why this instrument has this name?

Friday, April 26

Easter, German style

March was pretty much a wash. I couldn’t do hardly anything, and I had a lot of intense pain, thanks to air in my abdomen. One wouldn’t think that air could be so painful, but it can! I was useless; I couldn’t carry anything; I couldn’t spend a lot of time outside walking; I couldn’t sing. Overall it was a cold, dark month. March was the coldest March on record for Germany, and that coupled with Germany experiencing its darkest winter ever, I just wanted to hibernate!

One highlight of the month was Easter. I tried singing with my more rigorous choir during Easter services, which mostly worked, even when I was spontaneously given a solo line I had not sung before. One fellow choir member graciously invited me to spend the day with him, his wife, and daughter. After choir we headed to their place and had a great time talking together and enjoying a delicious meal. In fine German fashion, we also took a Sunday Spaziergang, or walk, up to the Drachenfels ruins on the other side of the Rhine. Drachenfels is one of the best overlooks in Bonn, and visitors can reach the top of the hill/mountain by foot or by tram. We, of course, took the “granny” version up (the tram) because I was still not well enough to walk that much, especially uphill. We also visited Drachenburg, a 19th century villa/castle that sits half-way up the mountain. At the top we treated ourselves to a coffee and dessert, hiding out from the cold and snowy weather on the hill. Really, everyone in Germany had had enough of winter then!

I was so happy to spend Easter with someone! Easter has always been a holiday that seems to jump up on me. Usually I don’t even feel like it is a holiday; most people in the US don’t get any days off for it, and that has usually meant that I couldn’t be home to celebrate Easter with my family, and I have often been in the thick of some sort of university project. At least this year’s Easter stands out!

Drachenburg, with my three adopted family members for the day!

The Drachenburg grounds were beautiful, even in the chilly snow!

Gold deer, anyone? Probably too tough for eating.

One of the few remaining originally restored stained glass windows at Drachenburg.

Bear rug! Rawr!

This island in the Rhine has a high school located on it. Because this island lies on the border between two German states, the school has to decide which education mandates and school schedule it wants to follow. Also, when the Rhine floods, which it does from time to time, students have to help move books and other school items to dry ground. And, as you can see, there is no bridge to the island, so students take a ferry every day!

Drachenfels ruins - if anyone wants to come visit me in Bonn, I will take you to the ruins! Also, it probably won't snow when we hike up; winter is finally over here!

Carnival in Germany

It has been way too long since my last update. I have heard the cries of my (few) fans, and I think it is time to make it up to everyone by writing some more pieces.

First, I take you all back to early February – during the Mardi Gras/Fasching/Karneval celebrations in Bonn and Cologne. Cologne is known for having the best Carnival celebration in all of Germany. Throughout the entire Rhine region where I live, craziness begins on November 11th, at 11:11 am, and continues until midnight on Ash Wednesday. Most festivities really start in January, when singing rehearsals for specific Carnival songs begin, and many attend comedy nights, either dressed super posh or in costumes.

I started my Carnival celebrations on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. This day is known as “Weiberfastnacht” – basically, it is the ladies night celebration for Carnival. I attended the parade in Beuel, across the river from Bonn, and then a friend and I went to a drinking establishment to celebrate more. Basically, Weiberfastnacht involves lots of costumed drunk people consuming too much alcohol, beginning as early as 9 am.
Here is an example of the street craziness in Beuel. Adults and children alike collect sweets, or Kamelle, and flowers, Streusle, and the inside-out umbrella is a great tool for getting more goodies.

Me in my Carnival costume at the old train station in Beuel.

Here you can see more of the Weiberfastnacht festivities. There are a lot of great costume choices, including a group of 10 men dressed as scantily clad nuns.
 I had friends in from Bremen and Hamburg to help me celebrate during the rest of the weekend. The highlight of Karneval was watching the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne. We froze a bit, laughed a bit, got pelted by candy and flowers, and got pushed into the parade space by eager parade-goers standing behind us. I wish that we could have spent more time watching the parade; there were lots of great floats that critiqued the political and social conditions in Germany, Europe, and even the USA.

All in all, it was a great experience with great friends!

The beginnings of the parade in Cologne. It went on for hours! There was some good music to listen to, and plenty of unique costumed guilds to watch.

Percussion in the streets!

I love the big caricatured puppets. The figures on the floats were even better, but we didn't get to see many of them.