Last Month stuff

It’s been a hot minute. Let’s rewind a bit and press play on a scene of standing on a bridge over the Cam watching the sun go down

The last thing I wrote for this blog was about the major events happening in Berlin in October 2018 that I experienced as a sort of Randfigur from the sidelines. And I ended with a slightly ambiguous note about changes.

some more magic

Potsdamer Platz likes to get dressed up around the holidays

It needn’t have been so ambiguous, since we are all changing all of the time, but the changes that spiral into other changes seem noteworthy, and those are the ones I would like to focus on today.

Truth is, this post has little to do with the changing of the guards that are our personal sentinels of each year . I’ve been thinking about it for a while and it’s only shortly after the new year, sitting in a plane that will take me back to Germany, that I have the time to finally write it. [edited to add: the time between drafting and posting was about 2 weeks]

sky above london

Sky over London

It’s not that I was slacking last year. A quick overview:

I finished up teaching the first class I completely conceptualized and designed myself at a German institution, completed my first year of the PhD scholarship program, had a minor lip revision to fix something left over from cleft-lip repair, presented at two conferences, despite not having presented since April 2015, and finished writing my first chapter for the dissertation.

The less perfect newsreel includes failing to meet the goal of writing two chapters by the end of the year, missing out on my brother for a few months despite us living in the same city, a few hefty debates with my family about the future, getting a speeding ticket on my way to the Darß marathon, not getting a BQ despite running 2 marathons and getting a PR (the Boston Athletic Association made the choice to lower the qualifying time a few weeks before my race), and living a perfectly single life for over a year now (but as they say, it’s better to be single and mostly happy than in an unhappy relationship). I think it’s worth mentioning the negative since otherwise I do present a heavily skewed positive impression of my year.

Now, contrary to the fact that I have been incredibly lapse with this blog, I am not planning on retiring or closing it, like I did with the running one. But I am reevaluating my goals and uses for it.

It’s been apparent for some time now that I have become more sensitive to differences in the US than in Germany, and I no longer find daily inspirations for things that might be interesting to a US reader, since everything I am faced with in Berlin has become more or less usual for me. Now, I experience counter culture shock when I enter a super Target and walk almost a mile around this single store, getting lost in the different departments.
That being said, I am still aware of the differences in mannerisms, traditions, and, of course, language. I also did a few things that I could have blogged about, but now I just think the ship has passed and I’m ready to move on (I’ve got the notes for my own personal reference, which I believe is very valuable to my own development as a scholar, runner, and person):

  • Attended the annual national conference for political journalists
  • Attended 6 Degrees Berlin– talking about citizenship and integration in times of increased migration
  • Attended a podium discussion about language change to reflect our more diverse societies.
  • Organized a workshop meant to help participants identify and understand other ways of being and belonging beyond nation, culture, and genes.
  • Visited cities of Hamburg and Erfurt during Advent
erfurt dec 2018

Erfurt in December

  • Ran (and was first female for) a marathon in the Grunewald, southwest Berlin
not the marathon win, but a winning combination of warmer weather and beach- Boca 10k Dec 2018
  • Came home to south Florida to celebrate Christmas with my family

The good news is that despite not having a lot of motivation anymore to write about my experiences in Berlin, I am in the middle of the start of another adventure. Officially, as of last Monday, I’ll be in Cambridge, England for two terms for research and writing, but I do also plan to see some more of England and Scotland, and therefore I should have enough new and exciting things to write about. The only thing that could get in the way of that are my priorities catching up with me, as by this time next year, I should be pretty close to finishing the dissertation.

a bit of magic

My Pegasus/unicorn is a PhD by summer 2020

So stay tuned.

10% Left to Go- Nearing the end of my VDAC Hamburg stay

Coupled with Thanksgiving, yesterday’s Independence Day marked the second day where I, without a doubt, would rather be in the U.S. than here. But that’s all okay, since there was a performance night at my dorm and people were partying. I also had a paper to write, and that can be done here as well as there if I can’t go out anyway.

2015-06-04 13.11.23

July 1st marked nine months in Germany. Ignoring the possible metaphor I could set up with conception and birth of a baby, let me just reflect a bit on what this means. First of all, it means 10% left. November 2014, I wrote a post about my first month here, and the things one should have done during one’s first month studying abroad. I noted how weird it is to divide one’s time into sections and grant it value based on which section it was, but I stayed true to my word and managed to metaphorically put the last eight months into one dazzling piece of uncut, multifaceted mineral. I did a lot of very exciting, life-affirming things, had a few rough spots (it ain’t living if it’s perfect all the time), and overall really enjoyed myself while being here.

However, 10% is the image on my TomTomRunner when I’ve set myself on course for a goal and I have 10% left of the time or distance I set out for. Usually at this point I kick into a high gear and elevate or hold through the end of the race. I suppose that’s kind of what I’m tempted to do now, with one month left.

I’ve got the academic end covered, with a hectic week of presentation, term-paper, and exam to complete. Once I’m left gasping for air on the shore of the first academic break I’ll have since Summer 2013, I’m going to take care of the last things on my list-a list I created for myelf, based on the suggestions of dozens of well-meaning Germans and people who know Hamburg, when I first got here. I still want to do some sort of water sport on the Alster, even if it’s just to paddleboat. I still haven’t been to the Heidepark (a sort of amusement park) yet, and I want to visit the Auswandere Museum. Seeing as I wrote my thesis on migration narratives, I think I should visit the museum that dedicates itself to the documentation of one of the largest points of migration in Europe.

That’s about it, though. I’m open to other suggestions, but I can honestly say that I think I’ve really taken advantage of the opportunity to live and study in Hamburg. That is not to say that I don’t notice or learn something new about the city everyday. Yesterday, for example, coming back from my run, I noticed the General Konsulat for South Korea. I’ve run past it at least four times a week for the past nine months, and the building is so inauspicious that I never noticed it until now. Things like that are welcome surprises. I also am in love with the roses in bloom all over Hamburg.

I’m trying to come up with some good things to talk about to close out the year here… but I’ll save those for after finals.

Hope everyone has a good week!

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.