Farewell Germany!

From yesterday….

So, my trip is complete – I have been blessed…or something by a homeless man on the train. Only me…where is someone with hand sanitizer when I need it. 

The Bremen airport reminds me of the buffalo airport…other than there is NOTHING once you pass security – no food, no shops…well, other than duty free. And…no way out. Other than to hope the guy at security speaks English. He did, and let me out, right back through the metal detector. Add that to the list of things that would never happen in the US, along with leaving your shoes on and curb-side parking. 

Security was an interesting experience, you basically wait outside the security area until the people in front of you go through. I, of course didnt know this and walked right up. I had no idea why the lady was yelling at me…once she realized I don’t speak German, she did apologize. Once it’s your turn, there’s someone waiting with a bin that helps you put all your stuff in it. Then you walk through a metal detector. It’s seriously the highest security person to passenger ratio I’ve ever seen. Not sure if the bigger airports are like this, or how they manage if it’s busy…if it ever is. 

And there’s someone asleep at the airport…not so crazy. Well, wouldn’t be so crazy if he wasn’t snoring. Loudly. Loud enough for people three rows away to be turning around. 

The highlight – I did see a guy in lederhosen that was not headed to a beer fest party. 

There was more going on at the Frankfurt airport (even though a lot of it was closed because its Sunday), which was good since we were delayed an hour and a half. And, apparently since I’m flying back on a US carrier, they have extra security at the gate. Like, you have to get a special sticker to be allowed to board. To get the sticker, you have to answer a series of questions…..

Some make sense, such as, where were you visiting and how long were you here. Others, like, ‘where did you pack your bag’ and ‘did anyone give you a bomb to bring back’, I can’t say I understand. Because, if you’re being shady, are you really going to tell them?  And, where would one pack a bag?  In a house or hotel, perhaps?  Nah…I hauled it all down to the train station and packed it there. 

After getting through the interrogation, I was able to board the plane…a little shaken, because if you don’t know interrogating everyone is normal practice, you might think something is wrong…

Once onboard, I realized why I don’t fly domestic carriers overseas…the seats are way closer together…and no TV screens in the seat, just a couple of big ones that I couldn’t see anyway. No free wine, really, no drinks of any kind at all after the dinner service. I’ll take the half broken screen on Lufthansa any day….

I had a window seat, which was good. Unless of course you want to use the bathroom. And the people next to you are sleeping. With their trays down. For the whole flight. Awesome. Then I get to SFO, and the restroom is closed. This is not my day. 

Of course US customs was the most difficult to get through, but I had a book and got to watch a movie about security beagles sniffing out oranges in people’s luggage multiple times. I don’t really know what day or time it is, but I’m definitely glad to be home. 

If I roll my ankle in the cobble stone one more time….

There’s a chill in the air that reminds me of east coast fall.  People have just started to bundle up in preparation for winter’s chill, but are still able to enjoy a beer garden in the sun.

Overall, the conference was a great experience.  It was a great opportunity to engage with people from across the globe – learn about where they’re from, what they’re working on, and share what I’m working on.

The conference didn’t provide a shuttle for those of us staying at the conference recommended hotel (interestingly enough, they did provide one back to the city….).  So a small group of us decided to walk back to the hotels, which was nice after sitting pretty much all day.  We ended up meeting later for dinner, same restaurant I was at the night I arrived, which I usually try to avoid, but was worth a second visit for some good dinner time conversation.  Very interesting to dine with: a new professor, raised in Kenya, but teaching in England, and a seasoned professor, currently teaching in Brussels, but has taught all over the world.  It was cool to discuss our countries and backgrounds with respect to university systems. politics, and cultures.

And the train…oh the train.  It continues to be an adventure, although today I did go the correct direction the first time.  And, I’ve mastered the ticket machine.  Having either the right amount of change, or small bills would have been even more helpful, however.  Not to worry, the convenience store at the train station was open (surprising, since it seems like nothing is ever open in Vegesack), and I am now the proud owner of a plastic bottle of gum and a bunch of change.  In time to board the train too!

And then there’s the entertainment factor – there’s a lady in the seat across from me drinking a bottle of either white wine or hard liquor.  I’m not sure.  But she’s quiet and clean and chugging away at 8:30 in the morning.  And apparently someone else felt the need to bring their breakfast on the train…thank you, but I could do without the smell of whatever that is…

We took the train to Hamburg for the day for some post-conference sightseeing.  It was cool to see another city – bigger and with more people.  We took one of those hop on hop off tour busses, and spent most of the day at the port.  Had lunch at a restaurant that brewed its own beer, and toured a Brazilian Navy ship.  Pretty cool.  Wandered the largest mall in Hamburg….Germany….I can’t remember.  It was big, but not that big…

It was also great to spend the day chatting with my professor.  We discussed next steps on the paper, as well as ways to get more students involved in research and potential benefits available to them.  Who knew a quick hallway conversation would take me to Germany?!  She asked if I would come talk to a few of her classes, and try to organize a way for them to meet other MBA’s/International Business people through Gap.  We also talked about ways these types of conferences could apply to my work and how I could continue to be part of them and projects going forward.  There were a lot of practitioners there, so there is the possibility.

Once I got back to Vegesack (Veggie World ;)), I tried my hardest to find a store with a wine opener.  I found one on my way to the hotel from the train station – a convenience store, surely they had one.  Of course they did….but only one.  To open bottles someone happened to buy on the way to a party…their hotel….who knows.  I thanked them, and continued up the street to the restaurant I planned on going to.  I had run down said street earlier in the week and it was the most bustling place in veggie world….however, 8:30 on a Saturday night, and….everything was closed.  Awesome.

After giving up on the wine opener, I decided to try the restaurant I thought looked cool while I was running the other day.  The menu was half in english…and they had wine…and it was this small, really cool Italian/German atmosphere.  Pretty quiet – there were only two groups of us in there, and the waitress, who couldnt have been more than 18, was very friendly.  And well…while the food was fine, I was attacked by flies…fruit flies, real flies….good times.  I think I am going to have nightmares about flies for weeks.  I had a fruit fly swimming in my wine…a real fly drinking olive oil like a lush….I either picked the wrong seat or the wrong restaurant…or both.  Not much I could do since they don’t speak English…and I dont speak German.  Minor details…

After dinner, I crossed my fingers (and a couple of toes), that the little store by the hotel, the only one open in veggie world, was still open and I could get a bottle of wine.  And thankfully it was…wine is a definite necessity when dealing with facebook’s picture uploader.  I remember it being easier in the past…

Oh Germany….I feel like I’ve seen a lot, but not nearly enough.  I wish I had one more day.  Or Brian and I were going to stay a week and tour.  So much I want to see and do…but, I guess that’s what next time is for.  Until then, I will miss bringing up google and getting google Deutschland, and wishing I’d had the time to go to Berlin or one of the WWII museums.

Such a (large) small world

So much to say, and so little time….between the jet lag and the all day conference, I’m super tired. Today was….something. Full of moments where I felt proud of myself and definitely a few where I wished the ground would just swallow me whole.

Well, lets start at the beginning. I got up early to run, only to realize that it was still dark out. Awesome. So, I made up yoga in my room….that works, right?  Then walked over to the conference hotel to take the shuttle to the conference. It was cool to run into a lot of familiar faces from last night and have people to talk to.  As we boarded the shuttle, there were a couple of people on there already. Apparently, one of them was staying at my hotel and had gotten lost (once) the day before, so had the shuttle come special for her to a different hotel. On one hand, would have been great to know and saved me a walk….on the other, I did feel a little proud of myself for figuring it out on my own. Have I been lost since I’ve been here?  Of course….have I figured it out?  You bet, and really, that’s half the fun.

So we get to the conferee at Jacob’s University. Today, there are signs and people everywhere telling us where to go. And they gave us a neat little bag with a bunch of stuff and information in it. Wild have been handy to have the previous night, but oh well.  Then we had the morning sessions, followed by lunch and the poster session, which I was part of. Eeek…..

I manned our poster alone for most of the time because my professor had another meeting to go to – our poster that we put together wrong, but that’s another story, and it all worked out in the end. I talked to a lot more people than I thought I would, many of whom I met last night and wanted to check my stuff out. I thought it was cool that I could somewhat hold my own amongst professors ad Ph. D students from across the globe. Of course the presenter next to me was from Pittsburg, hence the small world. For the most part, people were polite, asked good questions, and had helpful feedback. And then it was almost the end…and I was charged by three men in suits. Somehow, I knew this wouldn’t go well. And….it didn’t. They had some questions about one of our case studies….some of the raw data I pulled from the company website, some information we got in one of the interviews, etc.  Valid questions, good callouts….but rather than make them and move on, they continued to drill at it, move away from one piece and then circle back to it. I did the best I could to answer their questions and continue to reiterate my points.  As I look back on it now, I’m more proud of how I handled the situation and could realize how much I’ve grown through school and work and experiences than anything else. But, I’m not going to lie, I really am a fish out of water at these things and sometimes it really does feel like it.

Then we had afternoon sessions followed by an evening event. It made for a really long day, and I was hoping to escape the evening thing, but there really wasn’t a way to do so. It turned out ok, there was wine…but I was promised dinner and given finger food. I’m hungry. And there were several more presentations before dinner, which were tough to get through until 8pm without food. Though, counting the people falling asleep was entertaining, I felt bad for the presenters. I did have a chance to meet some new, cool people, which I enjoyed, as well as reconnect with those I met yesterday. I’ve met a lot of interesting, diverse people over the past few days, and that’s been amazing.

Ok….it’s late and it’s once again an early morning. Even if I do plan to go late tomorrow….oops….

Exploring Germany…

From last night, since the wireless went down….

So, I started off the day with an, ‘OMG, I’m in Germany’, thought. After a little bit of rest, I couldn’t wait to explore. I didnt have anything for the conference until three, so I had most of the day to myself. 

The hotel breakfast was simple, yet filling. For some reason, I felt like I was doing something wrong and everyone was starring at me. Oh well, I’m sure it was just in my head. 

After breakfast, I went on a long three mile run – long because I stopped to take pictures every few steps. The more things I saw, the cooler I realized everything was. So much of it was exactly what you would expect to find in Germany, yet a lot of it was different. And, while there are tons of bikes on the road, I was the only one running. Maybe because it was cold and rainy?  Maybe because people here don’t run?

After my run, I got ready and headed into Bremen for a tour the conference was offering. I found a cute restaurant by the hotel that I wanted to try, but ultimately decided that I needed to get on the train and get to my destination first. This turned out to be a good thing, since of course I got on the train going the wrong direction the first time. 

I made to the city center for the tour with plenty of time to grab a quick bite to eat – cue German McDonald’s. which, was very similar to American McDonalds. Unfortunately, my inability to find the tour (the meeting spot was lost amongst a protest/demonstration – why wouldn’t there be one right where I needed to be…), had me wishing I had chosen a different restaurant for lunch. Oh well, I ended up making up my own tour, seeing lots of cool buildings, and people watching from a beer garden. While enjoying my beer, i did see two guys in traditional Chinese dress – I figured they had to be with the conference. I also wandered into a church that was open to the public. So cool and very pretty. 

Then, it was time to find the conference check in – that I needed to go to, in order to get my name badge and whatever else for tomorrow. Of course, I couldn’t figure out how to get into the historic building…I saw some people, but they wouldn’t let me in for some reason. Luckily, I walked around the back of the building at the same time the China Goes Global tour was wrapping up, so I was able to follow them inside. 

They had a nice reception with a few speakers, some wine, and finger food. It was a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world – China, Germany, France, Spain, and even Florida. If someone had told me two years ago that my independent study paper would land me here, I never would have believed it.

At the end of the reception, there was even a free shuttle to bring us back to the hotels so I didnt have to take the two trains to get home. The trains haven’t been bad, now that I’ve figured them out, but the ride was a nice touch. 

I found a restaurant with an outdoor pizza window (they seem to have a lot of those here) to grab some dinner on the way back.  Made to order as I watched – very cool. However, the town here (outside the main city), seems very quiet. Not sure if it’s because of the weather or that it’s the work week or what. 

And now the wireless is down…awesome. I didnt have anything I needed to look at for tomorrow, and I totally know where I’m going. Ugh. Well, off to sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s adventure. 

Planes, Trains, and I was really wishing I had an automobile….

So, as I made my way from San Francisco to Germany yesterday, I decided to start blogging again.  And, maybe start one that I could keep going after this trip, since I seem to have a lot going on in life – whether it’s presenting a paper or a 100 mile bike ride, it seems like there is lots to write about.  And, with school wrapping up soon, I might actually have time to keep it up – we shall see.  Anyway…

I started my original blog last year when I spent several weeks traveling China and Japan.  I thought about continuing that blog, but in the end, decided to keep that one as is and start new one about life in general.  Anyone who wants to see that one, it can be found here: http://swimbikeruntravel.wordpress.com/

Ok, I digress.  Yesterday, and I guess Monday too, was an adventure in remembering how to travel.  The plane ride was pretty uneventful, which is good for a plane ride.  I thought the guy next to me was going to be crazy, since he decided he just wanted to take a different seat, you know, in case no one was sitting there.  In the end, he ended up in his normal seat next to me, but was actually a nice guy.  And, the wine was free…haha…love Lufthansa.

After what became a really long plane ride – I fell asleep too early, and then couldnt go back to sleep (ugh, but I did get to catch up on my movie watching), we landed in Frankfurt.  I had some time to kill between flights, so had my first German beer, because, what else are you going to do ;).  Then boarded a second plane for Bremen.

Arrival in Bremen was also non-eventful, and probably a good thing.  Customs really was too – I think I went through in Frankfurt, where they stamped my passport, and then again with my bag in Bremen, but no one said anything.  My suitcase was ready as soon as I got to the luggage carousel, so I grabbed it, and I was off…to somewhere.

The hotel had provided directions from the airport to the city of Bremen, and then from Bremen to the hotel in Vegesack.  Unfortunately, they werent the most clear directions for someone not from here.  That, and unlike what I remember from Asia, the train stations are not in English.  Oh well, luckily, the only train at the airport was the one I needed to take, and I figured out how to change the ticket machine to English.

So I board the train….and know I need to get off at the central train station.  Of course, I translate that to, center city….and get off in the middle of Bremen.  Great…I love an adventure, but not so much with a giant suitcase, in clothes I’ve been wearing for two days, and on two hours of sleep.  I walk about a block before realizing I’m in the wrong spot.  Luckily, another train isnt far away and the central train station is easy to find.  If only the next train had been just as easy to spot, but luckily there was a little booth selling tickets and offering help.  And even better, they spoke some english.

I had to go in the train station building to get the train to Vegesack (think commuter rail in boston type thing), and quickly find myself in the grand central station of Bremen.  Which wouldnt be so bad if I wasnt hauling a suitcase, etc, etc.  Someone else helped me buy the correct ticket and sent me to the right train track, only to miss the train.  And of course the elevator is broken – so after hauling the suitcase up the stairs, I got to haul it back down and find the next train to Vegesack.

I decided I’d had enough of hauling the suitcase, and attempted to take the elevator up this time.  But it ended up being packed, and there were two of us left outside of it.  I think I thought there were more people coming out, but they werent, and I really didnt know what was going on.  The other girl asked me something, but of course I didnt understand her, I think she was telling me to get in the elevator.  In the end, neither of us did – that’s the thing about traveling in Europe that’s way different from Asia – I look like I could speak the language here and just talk away at me.  In the end, I ended up hauling the luggage up to track five, and thankfully getting on that train.

45 minutes later I arrived in Vegesack, and according to the website, the hotel was only 250 meters from the train station.  Of course I had no idea which direction….but, I picked one and walked.  And got lucky because I ran into a map….and then the road I needed was right across the street.  Easy-peasy.

Check-in was uneventful, but then of course, I couldnt get the door to the room open.  So, some poor soul had to come bring another key and then it seemed like all was well.  I hung up my suits, got ready, and headed across the street for dinner.  I was exhausted, but knew 5:30 was a little too early to go to sleep.  I had dinner at a little beer garden, but ate inside since it was chilly and rainy outside.  I ended up with some pasta with some sort of egg sauce and a giant glass of wine – and it was the small glass of wine.  I’m a little afraid as to what the big one would have been.

After a nice dinner, I was definitely ready for bed, but of course unable to get the door to the hotel room open again….awesome.  Back down to the desk I went.  This is a fun game…..this time, I had them watch while I tried the door so I could figure out what I was doing wrong.  Apparently, I was supposed to pull it, then push it open.  Of course, why didn’t I think of that….haha.  I felt really dumb, but was really just thankful to be in my room and in my bed.  Until tomorrow…