Ursula :)

Ok, I just have to share this :) It's too funny!

so, today I did some christmas shopping in the city (Copley and Prudential as usual) and I was contemplating getting lunch somewhere. It was already way past 12 and I was getting hungry but I didn't want to spend money on food and so on... Finally, I decided to try out California Pizza Kitchen. I've wanted to for a while, but I just always ended up at the Cheescake factory instead ;) So I walk into the restaurant and look for a place to sit at the bar (ah, the single life...) and there are two free chairs next to this adorable but grumpy old lady, so I sit down there. She comments on my jacket (that looks very warm young lady) and I notice her accent, so I decide to ask her "So, where are you from?" I kinda already knew she was from Germany, but oh well. Sure enough, she says Germany and I reply "ah, dann können wir auch Deutsch reden!" because, let's face it, her English is not very good... She lights up and replies "oh, sind sie auch aus Deutschland?" yeah, I am, believe it or not ;) she continues "Ich komme aus Hamburg!" I laugh. Of course she's from Hamburg! :) I tell her that I've lived there for a while and she lights up even more. Apparently, she is from Winterhude (which explains her fancy dress) and came to Boston for love :) *awww* so we keep chatting while I desperately try to check out the menue (I eventually gave up and settled for the first pasta on the list: Chicken Taco Linguine - delicious!) and we reminiscent about Hamburg and the Alster and the Elbe (I still get homesick talking about it, by the way) until eventually, we start talking about languages and she says "mi piache molto la lingua italiana" and and I say "anche io!" we laugh - I can't believe it.

It gets better :) so, apparently she used to go to Italy on holiday a lot. So did I! So I said "Northern Italy" and she said "there's this place.... Lago di Garda" Yep, there is this place where MY NEIGHBORS have a house and this place is Malcesine, Lago di Garda! Sure enough, her brother usually goes to Limone - right across the lake from Malcesine :) And we laughed some more :D I just... I still can't believe it. I can't believe it! She's from Hamburg, she loves Italian and her favorite place to be in Italy is Lago di Garda and she just happens to be living in Boston! And I just happen to meet her! *I love my life*

Oh, and then the whole Heidelberg story :) So she tells me about living in Vienna for a while and starts singing this song about Vienna (she wanted to be a singer) and then I say "Well, my song would be 'Ich hab mein Herz in Heidelberg verlorn' because I'm actually from Heidelberg" and she grabs my arm - again - saying "Oh I love Heidelberg! We were married there!" she was married in Heidelberg... Because the guy from Boston was in the military.... and because Heidelberg is so romantic.... oh man!

I'm gonna meet her again for lunch on the 12th (provided she'll remember) I can't wait! I can't believe it... Ursula! I'm so happy I've met you :)


Texan Thanksgiving!

And there goes another item on my bucket list :) Jaynelle invited me to TEXAS for Thanksgiving *yay*


I had such a great time in the Lone Star State! Jayne picked me up at San Antonio Airport on Thanksgiving to take me to her meemaw's house for their family dinner! My first thanksgiving *yay* I was so excited! The Stokes family welcomed me with open arms and I will be dreaming of Janet's sweet potatoe casserole for a loooong time *yuuuum* The whole athmosphere was just so perfect, football, lots of food and fun stories :) Believe it or not, Jayne's dad makes these cameras with which he can scan fragile documents and he just happens to be the guy who built the cameras they use to scan those old paper printouts of turn-of-the century movies they store at the Library of Congress! How cool is that?! (yep, still a nerd ;) ) Once I found out about that, John T and I talked about all kinds of techniques and he showed me some scenes from The great train robbery - the original! *very cool*

The next day, we went to their ranch in Thorndale to feed the horses :)
That's my kind of friday morning :D I made some new friends... Honey and Sammy are two adorable dogs and this buckskin? It's the perfect horse for me! we also had a bit of action on the ranch: the next door pony stallion got loose and ran around the ranch, harassing one of the mares (men...) since it's such a small, cunning pony, we had quite a workout tryingt to catch him again. Finally, his owner came over and caught him for us *phew* Janet's stallion would have killed him...

And then the girls took me to a Mexican restaurant... and they got the sombrero... yeah... the sombrero... :D But, hey, it's Texas! everybody needs a little Tex-Mex fun :D

That same night, we did some Black Friday Shopping and then went to downtown Austin where we had some great pizza. We asked the waiter for a nice little bar where we could continue our conversation and were sent to the tiniest bar in Texas :) so cute! AND I really liked their decoration :D SO true!

Saturday we visited the capitol (everything's bigger in Texas - even the capitol!) and went back to Jayne's place to get ready for a night out in Gruene :) That's right, Gruene :) There are a lot of German settlers around here...

Gruene is soooo cute! Jayne took me to a small winery (see first picture) and we tested some of the local wines *yummy* Of course, I couldn't help myself and bought some more gifts for y'all (can't wait to see y'all again) we also had dinner at the old cotton estate (very stylish) and were browsing through the gift shops... I really enjoyed meeting some of Jayne's friends :) Uch, I'm just having such a great time down here!

Today, we spent some time in San Antonio. I learned something about Texan history at the Alamo and enjoyed the beautiful San Antonio river walk! So cool!

We met a couple of Jayne's friends at nice little restaurant called the Cove where they serve local and healthy food and soda. Best turkey sandwich EVER!  They even gave me a little potatoe heart *the small joys in life* I love Texas!


Things you should know about UMass :)

Ok, another one for future exchange students. Here's Carolin's Guide to the Campus :)

The most important part is orientation. The campus is rather small, so it's actually very easy. If you arrive with the shuttle bus from JFK/UMass T station (red line), you'll walk straight into the CampusCenter. As the name suggests, this is the building that holds all kinds of important offices, like the Office for International and Transnational Affairs (OITA) for example. This is where you'll find Lurlene. The Student Service Center is here, too. You should go there on the day of the International Students Welcome Event and get a Student ID card - you'll need it for the gym and the library. Also, they offer special deals on sports and theater tickets for students here, so you might want to swing by every now and then. The university bookshop where you can get all your necessary books for class and stock up on notebooks, pens and UMass clothing, is right at the entrance to your right! The main cafeteria is also in the CampusCenter. Breakfast is pretty good, but they only serve it till about 10:00 so be aware :) The bagels are available for a little longer, but if you want to enjoy bacon&eggs, you gotta hurry :) The CampusCenter is also the only building with a full ocean view - I spent a lot of time here :)

If you leave the CampusCenter and walk further into the campus, Weathley Hall is the first building on your left. I had all my offices in here (English and American Studies). I think it's mostly humanities and liberal arts, but I didn't really pay attention to anything outside of my institutes, so I wouldn't know... The next building on the left is the McCormack building. The gym is in here (in the back of the first floor). The gym's free, simply go there at the beginning of your semester and show them your ID, they'll put a sticker on it and you're ready to go! They have lockers and showers and everything, a couple of treatmills - the usual. They also offer classes, like yoga and zumba and so on. The times can be found on the counter in the gym or online on the umb website. McCormack also has a theater for school productions as well as guest lectures and readings. The entrance is on the second floor.

Pretty much directly across from McCormack is the Science Center where they hold all the science classes (surprise!) and the next building on the left (so right next to McCormack) is Healey library. If you want to check out books, simply stop at the info on the second floor and get a barcode sticker! In the back of campus is the Administration building, which also includes the walk-in clinic (Health services). You might want to stop by there and show them your immunzation pass, otherwise the office will send you an email later and ask you to come in or else they'll hold your accound and you can't get any credits.... They are pretty nice over there, though.

Every building has some kind of café and rows of food and drink automats as well as ATMs. The café on the ground floor of McCormack serves Starbucks coffee, the bakery in the Healey library is pretty good and the main cafeteria includes a Burger King and a Panera (best sandwiches ever!)

The wi-fi on campus kind of sucks - it keeps disappearing. And the whole structure is a little odd. There's a nice background story which I won't give away just yet :) Let's just say the campus is funny :)

There's always something going on, so make sure you check the bulletin boards every now and then! And get a "welcome week" booklet to see what kind of activities are offered in the first two weeks! (they usually have movie screenings, barbecues and stuff...)


Things you might want to know about Boston

Ok, this one is mostly for future exchange students: the things you might want to know about Boston, UMass and life in America - list :) I might have to make it two lists actually.... let's start with the city!

Sightseeing in Boston:
Boston is great, but it's actually smaller than some might think. A lot of things can easily be reached by foot or the T, even the popular sights! If you prefer to be driven around, there are a couple of city tours which will help you get a first orientation for the city. Here are my must-sees in Boston:

Harvard Square and Harvard University - come on, you're here, you might as well check it out :) There's always something going on at Harvard Square, they have everything you could possibly need and the food is pretty awesome too! They also have a little store with foreign specialties, so if you absolutely cannot live another day without Milka, check it out!

Copley Square and Newbury Street - two things that can easily be combined. Copley Square has two pretty churches which are always worth a visit as well as the Boston Public Library, which is a bit of a must-see. Right next to it runs Newbury Street, which starts out at Boston Public Garden as a bit of an expensive shopping street but eventually changes to more affortable shops and craft shops towards the end. It also has some nice little cafés and outlets that are worth checking out!

Prudential Center and Hayes Convention Center - not far from Copley Square is the Prudential, which is basically a small shopping mall on the ground floor of two big office buildings. They also have a scenic lookout on one of the top floors, if you're looking for the bird perspective. More importantly, they have a cheesecake factory as well as a food court, The body shop and a catwalk over to the Marriott hotel with more shops including GAP, American Eagle and Victoria's Secret :) I spend way too much time there! My personal favorite is the Starbucks IN Barnes&Noble (bookstore!) that serves Cheescake Factory Cheesecake *happy*

Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market - the place to be on a sunny day! There's always something happening, its nice to shop here and it's in the harbor area (yeah, I know, me and my harbors) so it's just right down my alley. Not far from it is Haymarket, where you should do your fruits and veggie-shopping since it's a LOT cheaper than in the stores! Haymarket is open on Fridays and Saturdays and its always pretty crowded but also a lot of fun! They also have some nice gift shops as well as little craft shops inside Quincy Market and you should check out Red Barn Coffee Shop in Faneuill Hall - my personal favorite!

The North End - not far from Haymarket (just across the Greenway, actually) is the North End. If you like Italian food, this is the place to be! (If you don't, you're weird...) needless to say I am VERY happy whenever I'm in the North end ;) Not only can you meet actual Italian people here, you can also follow the Freedom Trail and learn a lot about Boston's history! Plus the brickstone houses are just so pretty! AND they have Mike's Pastry :D

Boston Common and the Public Garden - right in the middle of the city are the two parcs Boston Common and the Public Garden. The Common is more... well, common and very open and perfect for a nice stroll between shopping springs, the Public Garden is a little fancier (SO pretty) and just absolutely awesome! A real oasis in the city! They offer swan boat rides here, which apparently are a hit with the tourists... Also, right next to the Common is Beacon Hill, which is always worth a tour, and there is city hall with its golden roof and lots of colleges and dorms around the parc, so even if you're just people watching, it's always fun!


(West) Springfield!

Not long after I got here, I found out about Equine Affaire, a horse fair that has annual events in different parts of the country. And one of them is in western Mass! So, I looked up the event and realized, that Mark Rashid was gonna be there. Naturally, I HAD TO be there, too :) And, guess what? I actually ended up working (well, volunteering) there! So, way too early on friday morning, I was back on I-90 moving westward :) Springfield!

I was late, the stupid Hertz office at the airport only had one person working at the counter when I got in at 6 a.m. and it took them 30 minutes until 3 (three!!!) other people turned up... But, the interstate was pretty empty and I made it just in time for my first shift at the collosseum. I helped set up a jumping clinic with Todd Minikus. Isn't that a nice little course?

I realized that I miss Sandro like hell when I saw all these beautiful horses jump over the fences - I would actually have been comfortable with that height, too. And, more importantly, I realized that Todd is a pretty cool guy and a great clinician! I thoroughly enjoyed his demonstration. There are some great horsemen out there.

Here's another one of those horsemen, Ken McNabb. He did a colt-starting clinic and look at that colt, isn't he absolutely adorable? I want that horse! I also realized it is unbelieveably hard to be at an Equine Fair without actually having a horse at home... made me sad.... But oh well, it was awesome anyways :)

I stayed with two couchsurfers in West Springfield, Randy and Andrew. I love them :) They were so nice and just absolutely awesome and they have this nice little house in a community and *hmpf* it was just perfect. I even had my own room!

On the second day, I finally got to attend a Mark Rashid clinic. I was a little nervous, because who's to say he really is a great guy? For all I know, he could be a real jerk.... yeah, no :)

Everything he said just made so much sense and I kept thinking "exactly" and I kept wanting to ask him all these questions... I would LOVE to study with this guy, he's just amazing.... And then I went to see this other guy from Australia who's also pretty awesome... Guy McLean. He's horseman and showman :) He performed with five horses on saturday and trained a 3 year old on sunday (he's riding the 3-year old in this picture) He really loves what he does and I loved his compassion for his horses and his adoration for them. Hmpf.... I want a cowboy ;)

I also loved his bay, Aussi :) Adorable horse! And yes, I couldn't help it, I had to buy new boots... :D All that leather everywhere made me weak :D and they are soooo comfortable! AND red! And Ariat! And they were on sale! *yay*

Saturday night, the guys took me out for dinner :) We went to North Hampton to a little italian place where they make their own pasta. Oh my god... I've eaten a lot of Italian food in my life but very seldom has it tasted as good as their chicken masala... Oh my god... it was so good! And it was so much fun meeting everybody (we had dinner with five friends of Randy). The guys are absolutely awesome, I was dead tired but I had the best time! After dinner, we went to the tunnel bar for martinis :) *yeah baby* it was so cool! The bar, the guys, our seating setup (we occupied the entire entrance area with ten guys and me all sitting comfortably in one more or less open circle) It was just perfect! I could not have picked a more perfect pair of hosts!!!! I really hope I'll see them again, I wouldn't miss it for the world!

After the last day of the Fair on sunday (and after a long goodbye hug from Sally, the organizer), I drove further North on I-91 to visit the Yankee Candle Flagship Store (because Brian and Stephen both work for Yankee Candle and told me, I had to see it). OH MY GOD.... Do you know how in America everything is bigger and more over the top? Yeah, it doesn't get much bigger than that.... If you're ever in Western Mass, you HAVE TO go to South Deerfield and check it out! That store just never ends! I was in there for an hour and a half and I STILL didn't see everything! Amazing...

Of course, they have everything. From a candy store to a little bakery, kitchen supplies, all kinds of food, a mancave, a bavarian village, santa town and, oh yes, candles! In all colors and sizes and smells... oh, the smells... some of them (like red berries cedar) are amazing, others (like Schnitzel and noodles) not so much...  And I can't exactly say that they are cheap.... But, boy, you gotta see that store! I can't believe I didn't take my camera... I almost went back in with my camera to take pictures, but it was sunday, the house was crowded and I wanted to get back... So I headed up to Highway 2 and drove back east to my beloved Boston :) End of story? Western Mass is awesome :)

Freedom Trail and Fairy Dust

Now there's a title :) After Kristen's visit and Sandy (yes, Sandy actually delayed Kristen's flight back, but we were all curled up around the fireplace eating noddles with meatballs and listening to music, so we didn't care) Jen visited me last weekend and we went on a freedom trail mission :) Jen's big on history, so we explored all of Boston's historic sights - and boy, there's lots of them! We started in Cambridge with a little Harvard tour and I introduced her to some of my favorite shops on Harvard Square. Then, we went to the U.S.S. Constitution, which Jen toured while I chilled in the sun

Then we went through the North End, along the Trail, past the North Church and the Paul Revere Statue

Then over to Faneuille Hall and all the way up to the Boston Common and the Public Gardens along Beacon Hill.  We had dinner at Cheers (and no, I did not watch the TV show) and eventually ended up walking up Newburry street to experience copley square at night (the lights were pretty). We decided to return to Copley the next day and walk further up Newburry street, where we found this adorable little shop:

I just had to go in :) I'm pretty sure the owner is on drugs... but he does have some very cool (and very disturbing) stuff in his store! I might come back for some souveniers.... :) I particulary liked the Fairy door:

Come on, isn't that cute? :D The weirdest part is that the store is right next to the Firefly store (which I fell in love with weeks ago) and yet I only just found it last week! I don't know how I missed this... Or maybe it was the unicorn petting zoo that just wasn't open last time I was there... :D Anyway, our day ended at the Cheesecake factory :) They are taking all my money lately.... but, seriously, how can you say no to these Tacquitos????

I brought one back for Maureen (yep, can't even eat four tiny tacquitos....) and she decided we have to go to the factory together before I leave :) I second that! All in all, it was an exciting but also exhausting weekend in Boston and I now feel like I've seen everything there is to see... But hey, that's what I'm here for, right?