Month: September 2014

What I’m Packing for a Year in Germany

I’m just about entering “last-day” status, the mindset where everyday I’m here is the last one I’ll have of that day for a while. For example, this coming Wednesday will be “the last Wednesday in the States” – not forever, but for a little while.

Because I couldn’t take the stress anymore, and even though I still have at least fifteen works to get through (a lot less, now! the end is in sight), I packed over the weekend.

This is a good depiction of mixed feelings.

I realize the title is kind of misleading and that I’m probably making much ado about nothing, after all, millions of high school graduates set out for colleges around the nation and the world, and can only bring so much, so maybe I should label this post as “packing for college in another country.”

I need someone to knock me to my senses

The other issue is that I got lucky and my father gave me special status in Air Berlin world – I can bring two suitcases at 70 pounds each. This means that I’m not nearly as limited in what I can bring as most people are. It also means that whoever picks me up from the airport better have a big trunk!

ha ha, get it?

The other exception I am to the rule of studying abroad is that I get to come back home a few months after I leave. Anything I may not have brought the first time can come with me in round-two. This is exceptionally helpful, but also makes me very spoiled.

Anyway, here’s a list of what I’ve got packed:

  • All my warm-clothes. Seriously, all of them. I live in south Florida, so any clothes I own that are warm are coming with me. I am going to have to buy some warm rain coats and winter coats while abroad. Long-underwear too?
  • Some books I need in order to begin research for my thesis. German bookstores are some of the best in the world, but I don’t want to have to hunt down some of the ones I need, especially if they’re in English
  • Electronics! I-pod, I-pad, Laptop, Kindle, all the wires that go along with them, some rechargeable batteries. I also have some adapters already, so I won’t be worried about running out of battery before I can buy an adapter. I may invest in some German USB chargers, though.
  • Some dishes. Apparently, there are dishes in the shared kitchens in my dorm, but I wouldn’t want to have to clean someone else’s mac n’ cheese crusted plate before I could use it. I also don’t want to have to buy too much during my first days there, since I have a busy schedule the first week!
  • One set of towels.
  • Toiletries, a little bit of everything to tie me over for the first week until I can stock up on the things I need
  • My bike helmet. Seems silly, but I paid a lot for my helmet and would like to get some use out of it while abroad. I also don’t want to have to buy a new one that’s good. I plan on doing most of my travelling through the city by bike.
  • My tagesdecke. I am slightly OCD and the prospect of having my bed exposed for a year scares me. I need a blanket to put on my bed during the day, and I don’t want to have to buy a new one.
  • Soccer cleats, shin guards!! I’m going to play soccer again!
  • Running stuff including, but not limited to: the small amount of warm-running clothes I have, running hydration tools (I plan on doing a lot of nice, long runs!), and my shoes. I’m due for a new pair, but don’t know if I’ll have the chance to buy some immediately.
  • Some stationary. I’m going to be writing letters! Germany has great stationary, but I’ve collected such great, personal stationary over the years that I just have to bring it.
  • Photos of my family and some small mementos to look at while drunk and depressed when I start getting homesick (just kidding), but I do want to have a way to show my new friends pictures of my folks and my home.

That’s all I have for now. I can’t think of anything else. Any suggestions for what I may have missed?


Two weeks before departure

I had a dream last night, no, not that kind of dream, more like a nightmare.

Wait, is that what Anne Hathaway looks like? I thought she was always so pretty… 

Basically, it ran something like flash- forward through MA exam that I barely wake up in time for and have to take in boxer-short pajamas and without having washed my face, and then realizing that the flight I booked for Germany was actually the day of the exam, not the day after, and that I also had nothing packed, nothing prepared.

Well, the not being prepared part is probably the most real part of that dream. I am kinda prepared, kinda packed, but for all I am prepared, I might as well be leaving tomorrow–that’s how validated my stress is right now.

I haven’t even progressed to the get-everything-out-on-the-bed stage yet. (photo not mine)

Part of this sudden wake-up call comes from the fact that it’s the 15th of September, the middle of the month, and that I only have two weeks left. It seems like it may be a really long time, but it’s only 14 days. That’s not even halfway decent 5K training time!

So I dealt with my anxiety in one of the best ways possible, I made pumpkin cookies.

Inspired by one of the blogs I follow, that of 2write4health, I made some pumpkin oatmeal. While it didn’t come out quit as well as hers looked (too much milk, too much clove spice), I was glad I did it. I also made some pumpkin pie creamer. Basically, I took two cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a table spoon of pumpkin puree (imagine the accent over the “e”), a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (which I recently discovered is made of cinnamon, cardamon, all-spice, and nutmeg… sometimes with cloves), and mixed it all together. Comes out fairly smooth and pretty tasty. It at least made my cups of coffee extra enjoyable this morning.

But, after these two recipes with such small amounts of pumpkin puree, I still had a lot of the can left. Clearly, when life gives you leftovers, you make cookies.


This is what they look like coming out of the oven. Because of their poofiness, I decided to cut them in half and put the glaze inside rather than on-top. Beat this, Nabisco!

I followed this recipe for “Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Cookies.” I took

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

and mixed the bowl up (please, please be a reader who gets the reference. 😉

Anyway, the recipe called for sugar, but I made the cookies without sugar. Instead, I made the spontaneous decision to take the cream cheese out of the fridge that was almost expired (mine is the kind of house where we never have food in the house, but always randomly have the ingredients to put something together) and then mixed it with about 1.5 cups of sugar. I probably should have used powdered sugar, but I decided not to open the bag and leave it unused through what will likely be Christmas. Then, I patiently cut the 25 cookies in half and spread some of that sugary goop on the cookies (sounds appetizing, huh?) while resisting the temptation to lick the bowl, knife, or just eat the cookies.

photo (1)

Look at all that frosting remaining! I probably could have made a third of the amount I did. Oh well.

While I can’t vouch for how these taste (other than the cookie part itself, which was pretty good, I had two men in the house who tried one, and then had two or three more to take up to their desks with them. I call that a success.

Meanwhile, after I abated some of my anxiety with baking, I used the rest of my nervous energy to clean the house, something I would have had to do Wednesday anyway, and then settled down reading a bit for my exam. I didn’t actually do anything to relieve the travel fever just yet, but I’m going to start packing on Thursday. That gives me enough time, definitely.

Can’t believe it’s only two more weeks!

Guest-posting myself

Taking a Break- Trying something else

After yesterday’s race, I put my head into gear for thinking about what to do during the rest of this month. A lot of my considerations come from the fact that I don’t know what races I’ll be doing anytime soon (unless it’s a half-marathon in December). Since I am going away to Hamburg and entering a different university system in a different country, I don’t know what to be prepared for in regards to being involved with sports. Do they have a running club that helps fund my races in the city? Will I find some races to do there? Will I find the time to run consistently there? Ah! Kidding about the last one. Unless I’m injured, I’m always a consistent runner. What I can’t be sure about is whether I would rather play soccer every evening and whether I’ll try to weather the unusual (for me) cold and winter rain or just hop on a treadmill. 

These considerations aside, I know that I need to back off a lot on my blogging about running. I’ve been using this as an outlet to feel productive, when in reality I’m procrastinating on preparing for my MA oral comprehensive exam (and packing!). I also lost more time than necessary in preparing for yesterday’s race. While I want to continue running, I don’t need to run to the extent that I was… not that it was terribly much. And I can do less writing about it and move it to the back of the line as far as priorities go. I should be blogging more on my reading blog. So this post is a way to plan what I’ll be doing for the next month so that I don’t have to think about it (or blog about it) anymore. 

Consider this chart of the past weeks:

My home page on my runner's world training calculator. (I know it's not the best online logger... but it's my oldest running log....)

I haven’t really been doing high mileage weeks since my last injury (ITBS) a year ago. Then, I was doing 55-60 mpw that, compounded by some foolish timing of certain workouts, led to injury. 

However, now that my 5K ambition has been appeased for now, my ambitious self wants to consider training for a marathon again, and to do that I need to build a super-solid base. Now is a good time for it, because it means I have to do less fancy training and just worry about getting mileage in. The past two marathons I wanted to run were waylaid by injuries brought on by increasing distances too soon and intensity too fast. This time, I want to be patient and smart and just start building up my mileage each week with a drop (15-20% less of mileage) every fourth week. The best way to do this, I think, is to just go out and run 5.something miles each day, have a long run on the weekend and let that run make up the distance I need to be able to complete the mileage for the week. Sunday will be rest day. I’ll do weight-lifting every other day to get my core and arm muscles back into shape for longer distances–and everything that MYABR! 

The schedule will look like this:

September 8-13: 38 miles

September 15-20: 41 miles

September 22-27: 45 miles

September 29-Oct. 4: whatever I accomplish in my crazy week of exams and first days abroad! 

I’m going to return to my old habits of running in the morning and getting the run over with. That way I can use the rest of the day to study, something I desperately need to do. 

So, if you don’t see me for a while, don’t worry. I’ll be back- especially to post about how running around Hamburg will be! 

Have a good month. 

What a phone call can do- preparing for study abroad

Yesterday, I had a delightfully long phone-conversation with an alumni of the program I am studying abroad with. I’m normally not a phone user (I’m one of those people who gets bored talking to invisible people), but finding out some things about where I’m going, from someone who sounded like he wish he could go again, was nice. Of course, he had to warn me about a few things, like making sure I fulfilled my obligations and attended everything I was invited to (it’s what happens when you’re sponsored to study in another country!), but mostly, I was happy to listen to him tell me about public transportation stops, the university campus, what the dorm situation was like, and how to take care of things like insurance. 

Since first contacting this former student, I had already found out a lot of details, like the name of the main building I’d be studying in and how to get my insurance. However, I didn’t have the pleasure of really imagining myself in Hamburg yet, and talking to the guy made everything seem much closer, much more real. I can imagine myself there now and envision how I’ll store my dishes in the locked pantry cubby I get, or how I’ll get off at the station in the evening and walk to my dormitory. He gave me a lot of great tips as well about how to plan for meeting with other students going to other German cities through the VDAC, or how I can arrange to travel with a student I’ll have met to some of the seminars I’m going to. 

So the phone call was nice and I’m wrapping my head around the idea that I’ll be studying in a “foreign” country soon. 

Another thing I started doing this past week was looking up what classes I’ll be taking. Students can study language for free as well, so I’m excited to be able to work on my academic German and brush up on some Russian (even more vital these days than when I first started studying it five years ago). I was also encouraged by the local chairperson of the VDAC in Hamburg to look up the orientation schedule for international students and check out some events I want to go to. I can’t wait to find out about how I can get involved in sports like soccer while over there, or to take a tour of the Schanzenviertel by night. 

There’s a lot a phone conversation can do to get wheels that have been turning for some time now finally on the track. I have a little over three weeks now. Albeit, I have the very pressing matter of preparing for my MA oral comprehensive exam, but I also have started to get things together to put in my suitcases and I’m looking up warm, water-proof jackets for while I’m there. Now that this is September, the time before I leave suddenly feels much shorter than it did five days ago. It’s a bit stressful right now, preparing and studying, but it’s a good kind of stress because I’m beginning to look forward to the experiences that await me in Hamburg!