Being a Tourist, Traveling

Gravity is Weirder and Scarier in Kansas City

Kansas City is one of my favorite US cities. Because it’s a fun-filled land, my boyfriend, Ben, and I decided to visit it over the holidays. We stayed there for a week and had a lot of adventures that centered around:

-developing my coffee addiction at coffee shops like Parisi, Quay, and the Roasterie
-sailing the high seas of fine cuisine at restaurants like Cooper’s Hawk, Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, Thai Place, and Gram & Dun
-getting our smarts on by touring the Boulevard brewery, the National World War I museum, the Nelson-Atkins art museum, and the Science City museum.

As you can see, there are lots of great things to do and see in Kansas City. One important thing you may not realize about this town, though, is that there are some spots where gravity exerts its will on you in strange and terrifying ways. This sounds frightening, but lucky for you, Ben and I have located most of these locations, and I am here now to tell you where they are so you can beware.

IKEA is the first of these places where you should watch out for weird gravity. In IKEA, you will find a world of wonder and magic and inexpensive home goods, but you may also find danger! At first whiff, you might think that the danger lies in the scent of hot cinnamon rolls that fills IKEA and the four-mile circumference around it. They call out to you and say, “Buy me in bulk and put me in your belly and then groan in stuffed misery forevermore!” But, as it turns out, it is possible to resist these siren rolls.

Ben will be the first to say that you will have a much harder time avoiding the real hazards: IKEA’s curbs. These monsters are in cahoots with gravity, and they have combined their evil forces in an attempt to destroy you. If you don’t stay on your guard and keep your hands away from packs of gum, these curbs will trip you up so fast that your body will be horizontal in the air and your face will be one foot away from the concrete sidewalk before you even have time to ponder the physics of free-falling objects accelerating through the air at 9.8 meters per second squared. If you are watching this horizontalization from the sidelines, like I was, you will actually see the person’s life flash before your eyes. Ben, let me tell you that your life is shaped like an apple and filled with billions of bike rides and coffee beans and home brewed beer. It is also narrated by Carl Sagan.

The other place to be mindful of gravity’s tricks is the Science City museum. At first glance, this place seems like your average children’s museum. There are games about DNA, light-up floor tiles, and even LIVE CHAMELEONS. But once you reach the heart of the building, you will realize that you have found a place where gravity will have its mind-bending way with you if you let it.

The center of the museum has an exhibit called Skybike, which is a bike with a 200-pound counterweight underneath it. This counterweighted bike is attached to a one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground. It sounds simple enough, but when you actually strap yourself onto the Skybike and pedal out onto the one-inch cable twenty feet above the ground, you will be reminded of how much you love the good solid terra firma that you just left behind. The whole point of the exhibit is to learn about counterweights, so you are supposed to wibble wobble your way along the cable, letting the counterweight of 200 pounds worth of bricks interact with your own pounds worth of body mass and rock you back and forth.

My problem with the Skybike was that my brain bubbled over with fear, overheated, and shut down the entire time I was out on the cable. This did not put me in a good position to science. Therefore, instead of wibble wobbling, I rode that bike as if I were on a tight wire, keeping my spine, the bike, and its pile-of-bricks counterweight as upright as an airplane seat during takeoff and landing.

After my straight-laced dance with the Skybike’s center of gravity, Ben tried it out too, and told gravity that it wasn’t gonna play cruel tricks on him again, oh no not this time. He rocked and swayed and had a jolly old time, showing me that gravity has a kinder side too if you trust it just the right amount. But all the while that I watched his merry counterweight dance, I knew the truth: gravity felt bad for nearly splatting him into non-existence the day before and wanted to be friends again. What a capricious friend we have in gravity!

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Behold the stately wibble wobble of the counterweight. Trust it as much as you dare.

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Adventures in Arkansas, Free Advice from a Novice Expert, German Living, Traveling

Epiphanies in a Foreign Land

When you live in a foreign country, you have lots of epiphanies. Most of them are focused around realizing how very little you actually know about absolutely anything in the world. Like for one thing, did you know that there are other languages floating around out there, and people actually speak them, and they are not English, nor do they require English to exist alongside them in order to be understood? People just speak these languages to each other and their children and their pets, and everyone seems to understand everyone else just fine without translation dictionaries or friendly roommate interpreters or flailing hand gesticulations.

At other times, you have epiphanies about how wonderful the magical foreign land is that you’re living in. I mean, let’s be real here: Germans have recycling (the Pfand!), beer (Augustiner!), chocolate (Ritter Sport!), public transportation (Deutsche Bahn!), and outdoor adventuring (Alps!) figured out. Germany is great.

But sometimes your most significant epiphanies are related to what you value most. Mine personally came to me about seven months ago, when I started thinking about what it is exactly that I care about in my life. I love traveling, going on adventures, and experiencing new things, but I also love all my family and friends. As I considered these many loves, I realized that the first set of loves, all related to adventures and foreign lands, will always be waiting for me, ready and rearin’ to go. My family and American friends, however, are doin’ their thangs and livin’ their lives, and the moments I miss when I’m seven time zones away can’t always be explained over FaceTime or illustrated in a 10-second Snapchat picture.

Because of this epiphany, I decided to come back to America at the end of July.

When I made this decision, my German roommate, the Queen of Culinary Delights, got really sad and threatened to lock me away in her apartment dungeon so that I would never leave her ever. I was also very upset with myself for deciding to put such a great distance between myself and my personal live-in chef and interpreter who made homemade pizzas with me every Sunday night, who welcomed me wholeheartedly into her friend circle and helped me make lots of new friends, and who made me snortlaugh by pointing out my vast ignorance of German, especially when I would buy things like heavy cream with a shelf life so long “that you can take it with you to Mars” (I’m still convinced this was her subtle way of telling me to go back to the planet where I came from).

I was also afraid that when I moved back to America I was going to regret my decision and want to go immediately back to Germany. The second my plane lifted off German soil, I mentally confessed my love to Germany and promised to come back as soon as possible. But now that I am back in America, I feel like I made the right decision. I miss all the delightful adventures and fun of Germany, but I have realized that there are plenty of delightful adventures and fun to be had here in America as well. I also miss all my lovely and wonderful German friends, but I have promised myself that I will go visit them again as soon as possible. Of course, this is only assuming my dear roommate will host another four-hour long brunch in my honor. I am a demanding person when it comes to breakfast feasts, and accept nothing but the best.

So now I am back in America, still singing the praises of Germany and occasionally trying my hand at cooking German cuisine. I’m also still learning new things and going on adventures all the time.

From here on out, this blog will still be all about me learning new things about the world and making a fool of myself along the way, but most of the goings-on will occur in America instead of Germany. I hope you’ll stick around for more fun as I continue my adventures, because I sure do like sharing them with you!

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This is me saying, “Hello America! I am back in the world” to the passport control camera in the airport. Are you supposed to smile for these things? I look like I just got busted for all the chocolate I stuffed into my suitcase and smuggled into the country.

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Being a Tourist, I Had a Dream, Traveling

Where to Go to Find Picasso

I am obsessed with Picasso. You probably already know this because I wrote about him a few months ago when I talked about the Museum Berggruen in Berlin, and also because I am also obsessed with two things related to Picasso: modernism (the cultural period in history from roughly 1914 to 1945) and World War I. Since going to the Museum Berggruen back in August, I have seen Picasso all over everywhere. These are the places where I have found him:

  • The Pinakothek der Moderne: here in Munich there are like a thousand art museums, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to say there are four major ones. The Old and New Pinakotheks have really old artwork and not-so-old artwork, respectively. The Museum Brandhorst has some modern art. The biggest collection of modern art, though, is in the Pinakothek der Moderne. They have like three Picasso paintings, some Kandinskys, and lots from German modern artists. Oh, and their first acquisition was a gorgeous Matisse still life with geraniums. It’s called Still Life with Geraniums. It was one of only a few paintings from the museum to survive the Second World War, and it is lovely.
  • The National Gallery: I visited London about a month ago and went to this museum for the first time. There are all sorts of paintings here from the olden days up to the newen days. Of course I focused my viewing efforts on the modernist section, and of course I found several more Picassos here. There were also other things, like van Gogh’s yellow and wonderful Chair and Seurat’s giant painting of some dotted people hanging out at a dotted river.
  • The British Museum: while wandering around this museum, which is not an art museum, I found two small rooms in the back that had art exhibits. One had some post-WWII German artists’ works on display, and I swear my Picasso radar is getting just perfectly honed because THE OTHER EXHIBIT WAS PICASSO. The works were two linocuts the museum had recently acquired: one a portrait of one of his 47 million lovers, and the other a still life of a lamp and some fruit.

Now that you understand my infatuation with Picasso and modern art, you will not be surprised to hear that last week, when I visited America for a few days, I had a dream that I went to Fayetteville and visited its modern art museum that was on a train and was shaking and quaking like trains are wont to do. While I was in the museum-train, I was like, oh museum-train, that makes sense and is an excellent idea. It can travel around and visit different towns and everyone can see the beautiful Picassos and Matisses and van Goghs and such. But then I woke up and realized I was not on a museum-train, but that instead the bed was merely doing its best impersonation of a museum-train because of my sister’s quite violent tossing and turning.

After this dream, I was devastated by the reality that Northwest Arkansas doesn’t actually have a modern art museum. BUT THEN I learned today that Crystal Bridges has a temporary exhibit on modern art! And some of the works are from Picasso! It will be there until July 7th, so all you NWAliens, get yerself over there real quick-like, yeh hear?

The moral of this whole story is that I am slowly turning into a prophet, so if you want me to sense the seemingly unknowable connections in the universe for you, just let me know and I will make an appointment to take a nap on my sister’s museum-train-bed.

Picasso's linocut of a lamp and some fruit. Don't tell anyone I took this picture because it was probably illegal and they should just be thankful I did this instead of touching it with my grubby paws like I really wanted to do.

Picasso’s linocut of a lamp and some fruit. Don’t tell anyone I took this picture because it was probably illegal but they should just be thankful I did this instead of touching it with my grubby paws like I really wanted to do.

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Traveling

Create Your Own Skiing Adventure!

Yesterday I went skiing in the German Alps. In order for you to understand what my experience was like, I need you to do the following things:

  1. Go to the quietest room you can find. It needs to be entirely silent except for some distant rumbles of white noise in the background. People talking or dogs barking or abominable snowmen stomping will be just fine. Once you are in this location, put like conch seashells or something over your ears to hear that sound of hollow quiet openness. Then project an image of a vast snowy mountainscape in front of you using whatever technology is most readily available. A movie theater’s projector is obviously ideal. Stare at it until you feel like you are in heaven, then keep staring.
  2. Find a rather large pile of something. Any pile will do, but bigger is obviously better. Put on a helmet, get a running start, and plow headfirst into that pile. You should try to get up your speed to at least 25 miles per hour before you and the pile begin your intimate rendezvous. Spend the next half hour trying to climb out of the pile and put your shoes back on. There is a bonus point opportunity here if you lose one or more of your personal belongings to the tender embrace of the pile.
  3. Locate a wide, tractionless, and downhill highway. It needs to have at least 20 lanes for traffic. Gather a group of about 100 people, each driving a car, and ask them to work their way across this mile-long stretch of slippery steep road. Before they start driving, tell them there are only two rules of the road: first, their driving patten must zigzag back and forth like exaggerated versions of NASCAR drivers on a caution lap; second, they should just like please try to be aware of the people around them. They will then start their engines and take off down the highway, every man for himself. Some will go slowly and cautiously, some will ignore rule number one and drive in a vertical line, and others still will drive with all doors open and only two wheels on the ground. Some people will crash into the sides of the road, some will crash into each other, but everyone will have a good time.
  4. Find another rather large pile of something. Near this pile, there needs to be a large rotating clothesline with two-pronged over-sized grappling hooks dangling from it. Put on roller skates and grab onto one of these hooks, placing one of the prongs behind you so that it is like you are sitting, but really you are still standing. Let the hook pull you up towards the pile. As you approach the pile, think about how fun it is to stand and not walk but still move, like on an escalator, or a Rolltreppe. Once you get near the pile, try your best to say goodbye to the grappling hook. Just be really earnest about it. The grappling hook will unfortunately be jealous of the pile and your obvious fondness for it. It will thus become angry and aggressive, and will buck you off itself and fling you head-first into the pile. You should still be wearing your helmet, but do feel free to shout out any words you can think of that rhyme with “buck.”

Once you do these activities, you will have basically experienced life on a ski slope. Just don’t forget your helmet.

Here is a picture to use for step one if you are unable to locate your own.

Here is a picture to use for Step #1.

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Traveling

Plane Ride Snuggles

I flew back to Germany this past weekend, and I’m pretty sure that, thanks to jet lag, my sleep schedule will never be right again.

On my international flight, I sat next to this French soldier dude who kept muttering things that I think I was supposed to respond to. I could never understand what he was saying, though, so after fifty Whats and twenty Huhs I finally gave up and fell back on my standard just-smile-and-nod response. After a while he also gave up on trying to have a conversation and fell asleep. I tried to sleep a little too, and came as close to sleeping as you can in an upright position with a flimsy fleece blanket and six inches of leg room.

When I woke up an hour later, I found myself in some quasi-cuddlefest situation with French Soldier Dude. Like we weren’t actually cuddling, but his legs were all splayed in my general direction, and our heads were awfully close to touching. I tried to quietly and nonchalantly get out of Cuddle Time without Soldier Dude noticing, and mostly succeeded. Until Soldier Dude’s head flopped over onto my shoulder and began the era of OMG This Rando Dude is Laying His Head On Me Okay Just Act Natural He is Asleep Wait No He Just Lifted His Head to Cough Oh Okay Nope Still Using My Shoulder as the World’s Boniest Pillow Why. This era lasted somewhere between three and forty days.

In order to distract myself and assuage my Why Are You Sleeping on Me Mr. Stranger sensibilities, I created a playlist from the plane’s music selection. Here is what I came up with (links to Youtube versions in song titles):

  1. Royals by Lorde: this gal is exactly who I want to sound like when I’m sixteen. Also, my hair aspires to her hair’s heights of I Didn’t Even Try to Make My Hair Look Like This It’s Just Naturally Perfect. And by the way, if you haven’t listened to her album yet, the whole thing is amazeballz.
  2. Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding: this song makes me feel happy because it is just a lovely-sounding song. Also, for about five minutes in July, I had decided that I was going to shave the side of my head so that I would have the same hairstyle as Ellie, but then I realized that there’s no turning back from a shaved head, and maybe I’m not ready to be bald just yet. Also also, I’m noticing a pattern in my life involving singers and my hair.
  3. Comeback Story by Kings of Leon: Kings of Leon is on the tip-top of my list of all-time favorite bands evar, and this is my favorite song on their new album. When I listen to the album, I stop on this song and just let it play on repeat for about seventy times.
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen: one time I decided that this is the most perfect rock song ever written, and I still stand by that conclusion.
  5. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke: don’t even act like you don’t love this song. My confession here is that this song and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky have been best able to conjure up a visceral homesickness in me while in Germany. It is what it is.
  6. Come and Get It by Selena Gomez: I had no idea Selena was amazing until I heard this song.
  7. Demons by Imagine Dragons: I heard this song for the first time over Christmas break, and the line about where his demons hide seals the deal for me.
  8. Cups by Anna Kendrick: Because clapping and hitting cups is fun to sing along to.
  9. Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey: the new Great Gatsby movie with Leo DiCaprio! Have you seen it yet? Stop what you’re doing and watch it right now if not. This is important.
  10. Closer by Tegan and Sara: if my sister and I were actually twins and could also sing really well, we would probably be able to compete with this singing duo. But we’re not and we can’t, so I’ll let them win this time.

I now see that 78% of these songs could be construed as me promoting cuddlefests with strangers on planes. But in my defense, I was jet lag drunk when I made it.

After all the head-on-shoulder shenanigans were over and French Soldier Dude woke up, he leaned over and apologized profusely. Somehow that made everything a thousand times more embarrassing and awkward, so I’m just going to pretend like he leaned over and said, “Yep. I totes meant to pass out on you. You’re welcome.”

Obviously it was difficult to get an actual picture of the cuddlefest, so you'll just have to take my word for the veracity of the story.

Obviously it was difficult to get a picture of the cuddlefest, so you’ll just have to be satisfied with this not-cuddlefest picture and take my word for the overall veracity of the story.

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German Living, Traveling

Searching for a Place to Lay My Head, Part 2

The Sunday after my first two forays into the world of apartment-touring, I looked at my third potential apartment. I had found out on Saturday that Mustache and Curtain were not as impressed by my rock-paper-scissors skillz as I had imagined, and that I was therefore not the winner of the Alps-view room. But obviously the third time’s a charm, because the gal in the third apartment liked me a lot and picked me as her new roommate. I was going to be able to move into her apartment on October 23rd.

This was all fine and dandy, except that I had to move out of my living-room-house on the 19th, which left a gaping hole of four days of homelessness. So I decided to do what any self-respecting cheapskate would do in my situation: I booked a bed in an eight-person room in a hostel.

The hostel was named Wombat’s. I don’t even really know what a wombat is, but the room was cheap enough to satisfy my penny-pinching ways, so I didn’t ask any questions. Their website says that “[a]t a hostel you can meet people from all around the world, share stories, wonders and of course be part of the adventure of travelling.” This is all true.

Here are some of the characters that I met during my hostel adventure:

  • A Spanish-speaking family: At first I thought that it was just a young dude staying at the hostel, and that his mom was dropping him off. But then the dad showed up later and I realized that they were all staying there and the dude’s mom wouldn’t be dropping her son off at a hostel anyway. Because this was a hostel, not freshman move-in day. The three of them laid on the same bed, talked nonstop to each other in Spanish, and played on their smartphones until about one in the morning. They were also the first ones up and at it the next morning.
  • An American dude: This guy was from Georgia and had just graduated college. He was touring around Europe because that’s what you do after you graduate college. His previous stop was Vienna, where he ate like an elephant’s trunk or a possum’s carcass or something, and he was in serious gastro-intestinal distress because of it. Every thirty minutes he took up residence in the bathroom, where he turned on the shower in a futile attempt to camouflage the obscene noises reverberating in the toilet bowl.
  • Two Romanian dudes: These fellas were trying to find jobs as construction workers in Munich. One of them spoke English and the other one didn’t. The English-speaking one was friendly and the Romanian-only one acted fidgety and nervous all night long. The fidgety and nervous one ended up stealing money from the hostel’s front desk and making a run for it.
  • A German gal: The day after the two Romanians started their life on the lam, a girl who lives near Nuremberg moved in. She teaches elementary school in Munich, but apparently doesn’t like the city enough to officially live here. So instead she lives in her home near Nuremberg on the weekends and stays in the Wombat’s hostel during the week. This gal got up at six am to take a shower and get ready for school, but the American dude had just taken up his bi-hourly bathroom residence a few minutes before her alarm clock went off. So she huffed and puffed the whole time the dude was in the bathroom and I think wanted to blow the door down, but instead she knocked loudly on it when he finally turned the shower off. Then she told him angrily, “I have to go to work!” when he escaped from his stinky prison a few minutes later.

All of this goes to say: I don’t think I’ll be staying in a communal hostel again any time soon.

(In this video, the American dude is on the left, the English-speaking Romanian is in the background, and a fairly normal British dude who doesn’t understand Ylvis is on the right.)

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German Living, Learning German, Traveling

Eighteen Caustic Groaning Squirrels

Here is an important announcement, brought to you by the CIA (Center for Important Announcements):

I have moved to Munich.

This past week, while I reconfigured my life and transitioned into Bavarian culture, my friend Dirk graciously let me stay with him in Regensburg. Did you know that Pope Benedict XVI taught theology at the University of Regensburg in the 70s? And that the part of the town called the Altstadt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being the largest authentically preserved medieval city in Germany? And that unicorns roam freely in the streets? Two of these Regensburg facts are true. Choose your own reality.

Of course I had to take full advantage of this time staying with an authentic German to learn more of the language. So Dirk taught me how to garble out this tongue twister: achtzehn ätzend ächzende Eichhörnchen. For those of you unacquainted with the German language and/or Google Translate, this means eighteen caustic groaning squirrels. Since Germans talk about eighteen caustic groaning squirrels quite frequently in their daily conversations, it’s really important for me to get this phrase down pat.

Click here if you want to hear the robot German version of this phrase.

Or just watch this video if you want to hear my flawless pronunciation:

In other news, this week I learned that Bavarian food is the most delicious in the world. Like, now that I have eaten Käsespätzle, I can never again be satisfied with macaroni and cheese. I also found out that the ultimate dream of most Bavarians is to canoodle with Knödel. Because who doesn’t want to cuddle with a giant blanket made of fresh bread or potato dumplings?

Squerrrl is how Americans pronounce squirrel, obviously.

Squerrrl is how pirate dinosaurs pronounce squirrel. Obviously.

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