Monthly Archives: June 2010

No summer school blues

There may be a few crazy people in this world for whom “summer school” can actually be productive.

I am not one of these people.

As soon as the sun starts shining, the temperatures start rising and the water gets warm, schoolwork is the last thing on my mind.

With this knowledge, it was with a bit of hesitation that I signed up for study abroad.

Sure, I’d be spending my summer in Germany. But school is still school, no matter the continent.

Even still, I bit the bullet, packed my pencils and crossed the pond for a summer of school.

Immediately upon arriving, I realized that this wasn’t going to be any ordinary type of school.

Wine tasting with my professors? Check.

Cruises along the Spree in Berlin? Check.

Hiking in the Alps? Soon to be checked.

Field trip to Bonn to watch the World Cup in a bar.

Basically, this is a lot less “school” and a lot more fun. Best of all is that I’ve been learning more German throughout these past two weeks than I ever did in six whole years of structured classes.


Wandering for distraction, traveling for fulfillment.

Two weeks in Germany (almost) down, and I’ve noticed a few differences between America and Germany.

Of course, any amateur Sherlock Holmes would pick up on the contrast in language, landscape and lifestyle.

But me?

I pride myself on (beyond my great modesty) my sharp powers of observation.

Here is just a brief list of my discoveries:

  1. It is ever-so important to make the distinction between mineral water and tap water. The alternative is to learn to appreciate the taste of beer–it is almost always the cheapest beverage option.
  2. Always use the restroom before leaving the house. Public restrooms are either blocked off with a gate, requiring 50 cents to access, or are guarded by an sweet looking old lady, who courtesy also requires you pay 50 cents to.
  3. There will be somethings lost in translation. For example, when I was explaining to my host family that I like to cook, it came out as “I like cake.” We figured it out and had a good laugh. Still, it is always more appreciated to try and speak the other language than to submit to frustration.
  4. Finally, everything costs money. The bathrooms are just the beginning of it. The “complimentary” bread on the table? Don’t touch it, unless you are hungry for an extra charge. Down the non-mineral water before the food arrives? Be willing to dish out another couple Euro for another drink. Have a blog and want to update the world on your on-goings? The two Euro per hour at Dunkin Doughnut’s Internet cafe only goes so far.

The good news, however, is that I am settled into my host family’s house. That means free restrooms, unlimited water and, best of all, wireless Internet.

More updates to come, but here are a few pictures to whet your appetite:

Die Kolner Dom.

Marketplatz in Bonn.

Marketplatz in Bonn.

Wein!

Die Berlin Holocaust Memorial.

Question: What do you find to be the most difficult part about traveling?


A taste of home

A funny thing happened: After a two hour delay, a nine hour flight and a few quick-rail connections, I had convinced myself that I was pretty far from home.

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto..." Yeah, I said it.

I heard a lot of German, saw a lot of unfamiliar buildings and felt a cool European breeze.

First view of Holzkirchen, my home for the next seven weeks.

Then I bit into lunch on my first day, and it was like I was right back home all over again! Corn cakes, in Germany? Not the first thing I think of, but tasty nonetheless.

In fact, every single meal here has been absolutely amazing. I haven’t had many options as far as meal choices, but I have enjoyed everything I’ve been served.

I’m glad to report that there is also much more to Germany than good eats.

Thanks to the dangerous combination of jet lag and adrenaline, I was unable to sleep. Rather than stay restless in my bed, I went out for a 5 a.m. run.

The temperature was perfect, the breeze was cool and the hills were just challenging enough.

After returning to my hotel, I was able to get a little bit of rest before eating the best breakfast ever.

The remaineder of the day offered no rest for the weary, as my group was shuttled through orientation, my corny lunch, a village-wide scavenger hunt and then dinner.

Finally back at the hotel, I crashed onto my bed like a tree in the forest. Wanting to adjust a little to my new timezone, I made myself stay up a bit longer.

Tomorrow I take off for a whirlwind eight day tour of Germany with my group.

Wiedersehen!

*Disclaimer: I apologize for any incoherencies in my writing these next few weeks. Aforementioned sleep deprivation has strange, uncontrollable effects…


Hallo, von Deutschland!

After a two hour delay, a little jog to my international flight and eight hours of my poor rowmate suffering from food poisoning, I made it to Germany!

Throughout my life, I’ve traveled to the majority of states in good ol’ America. But, aside from a few jumps over to Canada, I’ve never been to another country. My travels through the states have kept the light of desire to explore burning fervent; there simply has never been the right time and right place to travel abroad before.

In addition to food and health, one of my other major passions is history (ask me anything about the presidents, I dare you!). With an Austrian heritage, I figured the best way I would be able to experience my own family’s history would be by immersing myself in it.

Enter studying German. I began taking German in eighth grade and continued through my junior year of high school, picking it back up in college.

Even with a good amount of knowledge of what I’m getting myself into, these first few hours have passed by as if in a dream. I feel myself walking the streets, but I hardly comprehend that I’m not looking through the screen of a TV… I’m actually here!

For the next seven weeks, this blog will take a slightly different course. Naturally, I will still attempt to live healthfully while I’m here. In doing so, I know I’ll be met with challenges, but also with new opportunities.

The blog will also feature a lot more details about travel. It’s OK, you can live vicariously through me!

Auf Weidersehen!


A final taste of America

Tomorrow is my last day in the good ol’ States before heading to Germany to study abroad for the remainder of the summer. I am have my bags (almost) packed, my language skills (mostly) sharpened and my wallet (partly) filled with Euros. Sounds like I’m good to go, right?

I feel ready to handle a few weeks of life abroad. I can do without the American sitcoms, the Midwestern humidity and the constant barrage of tabloid “celbutant” coverage.

However, the one thing (in addition to friends and family, obviously) that I’m really going to miss is the ability to bake/cook.

I want to go out with a cooking bang, but I am truly stumped on what to make.

Question: What should Emily Lou bake/cook? Suggestions? Challenges?


A new state nickname

I am a Nebraska girl, and proud of it.

[source]

I mean, how many people can say the cow population outnumbers the human population of their state?

As if that isn’t enough of a bragging right, Nebraska also has a little something else going for it: corn.

I don’t discriminate much when it comes to corn. I love it grilled, steamed or boiled. I love it in salads, salsas and stir-fries. But, more than anything else, I love it freshly popped, buttered and salted.

Popcorn is one of the greatest joys in life, and I almost never get sick of it.

However, even this Nebraska-girl needs to mix things up every now and then.

Yesterday I was in the hunt for a crunchy, chewy and slightly sweet snack. In a rare turn of events, popcorn just didn’t sound appealing.

What to do? What to do?

With a quick scan of the cabinet, my eyes were drawn to the corner of an upper shelf. Hidden behind some imperishable tomatoes, green beans and Campbell’s soup was a can of butter beans.

Immediately my mind started scanning the hundreds of recipes in my brain’s Rolodex. I remembered back to a savory, roasted chickpea recipe I had tried out a few months ago. It was tasty, but I was in the mood for something a little sweeter.

I flipped through a few more mental recipes, before landing on nut-butter crusted fries. That was also good, but it didn’t have the chewiness I was looking for.

Then it came to me: Why not try out a combination?

Half an hour later, I was sitting in front of my TV, contently popping my new creation into my mouth.

Satisfaction.

Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Butter Beans

Ingredients:

•    14 oz. can of butter beans, drained and rinsed
•    ½ T EVOO
•    ½ T natural peanut butter
•    1 t sugar
•    ½ t cinnamon

Directions:

•    Mix the EVOO and peanut butter together in a medium sized bowl. Pour in rinsed beans and toss everything together. Pour peanut butter coated beans onto a cookie sheet.
•    Bake for 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon with sugar.
•    Remove beans from the oven, toss with cinnamon-sugar and return to oven for approximately five more minutes, or until adequately chewy.
•    Enjoy hot or cold.

I am still just as much of a Nebraska girl, and corn will always hold a special place in my heart.

Even still, “The Butter Bean Roastin’ State” doesn’t sound too bad…

Question: What local ingredients do you like to cook with?


Talking about eating disorders: Part III

Recovery from eating disorders involves more than returning to a healthy diet. It requires reflection of other emotional, mental or physical issues.

Finding a comfortable dialogue with friends and family is one of the most important parts of healing. This is undeniably easier said than done.

In my journey to recovery, finding the courage to open up to my parents was one of the most difficult parts.

For a long time, I pursed perfection like it was my job; admitting that I was vulnerable was scary.

I was afraid to disappoint and I was embarrassed to acknowledge weakness.
Fortunately, my nutritionist helped me realize that I needed to reconcile with my fears. This required opening up to my family.

My nutritionist advised me to explain the situation to my parents, tell them about what I was doing to get back on track and then keep the conversation going.

I knew my parents would be concerned for my health and would have a lot of questions, especially since I was living a few hours away.

With the help of my nutritionist, I became knowledgeable about common characteristics of my disorder, so that I could respond to my parents questions. She also walked me through a sample dialogue with my parents.
This helped me feel more comfortable about filling my parents in, asking for their support and reassuring them that it was committed to recovery.

Even still, the initial call to my parents was difficult. They had been aware of my weight loss, but they didn’t know the extent to which I was restricting. As expected, they were concerned and had a lot of questions.

I explained the situation to them as best as I could. I also gave my nutritionist permission to talk with them.

Seeking the support of my family wasn’t an instant cure to my eating disorder. In some ways, it opened up problems of its own. For example, I had fears that I would be constantly monitored.

However, in retrospect, I believe that getting the support of my family was the major turning point in my recovery.

My family's willingness to listen, reserve judgment and be patient was an important part of my recovery.

After talking with my parents, I gradually gained confidence to open up to a few close friends.

My friends supported my recovery in a different, but equally important, way. With them, not every thing revolved around my eating disorder. We still enjoyed the same activities and interests. It helped me to take to focus away from myself and away from my struggles.

The most difficult person to open up to, even more so than my parents, was my boyfriend. We had only known each other since I had lost weight, so he hadn’t seen my progression. I was scared that he would feel like it was his responsibility to “fix” me. I was also worried that he would be overwhelmed.

I made the decision not to talk to my boyfriend until I felt like things were under control. When I finally opened up to him, I explained my history and told him about the help I had received. Naturally, he had a few questions. But, I was impressed by how supportive he was.

Now, I wouldn’t deny my history with an eating disorder if it came up in conversation. At the same time, I believe it is a personal issue, and that I shouldn’t bombard just any person on the street. I am content with the support I have.

I owe a great deal of credit to my nutritionist, family and friends for helping me with my recovery. Talking openly about my struggles, both with eating and with emotions, wasn’t easy—but it was necessary. I am now in a better place because of it.

For more information, refer to Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (FEAST).

This is the final installment of a three part series. Look back to parts one and two.

Note: I am not a professional and cannot offer any medical advice. My words are only influenced by my own experiences with overcoming an eating disorder.