Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stage Ten - Spain and Italy

Greetings followers,

This week your leader has learnt first-hand a powerful lesson. That lesson is the pain that is comeuppance.

When you were all rugged up in August in the Motherland and I was gloating about my newfound ability to tan in the Northern Hemisphere, the thought of seasonal reversal did briefly cross my mind. However, I did a little victory dance anyway that was not quite in the spirit of being a good winner. I will have you know that I am still dancing, but now it is out of necessity rather than glee. I need these sweet sweet dance moves to keep warm. I just did a walking tour in NEGATIVE TWELVE DEGREES CELSIUS. I am practically an Eskimo. The fact that it snowed on November 6th should have been a warning to me. You are all immediately called upon to send your leader supplies; blankets, mittens, Milo etcetera. Ask not what your Stephanie can do for you, but rather, what your Stephanie will do TO you if you don’t do all you can for her in this time of need. The shock of this unforgiving climate has lead me on two adventures in recent months in search of warmth.

I firstly explored the landscapes of Madrid and Barcelona, and soaked up the Vitamin D heaven that was supplied by 25 degree days in October. Quite the improvement on two degrees with zero degree wind chill that we were already experiencing in Berlin at the time. To better research the tourists I subliminally recruit to our armed forces each day through my work in Berlin, I played quite the tourist myself. Walking tours, bus tours, tapas tours… that’s right, I found a tour that allowed me to drink sangria. I am currently working on integrating this into my tours in Berlin. Putting the FUN back in FUNdamentals of German history I say.

I then made a journey to Deputy Dave (my deputy named Dave - a cunning alias) in London, via bird murdering sustained through bird strike on my flight from Barcelona to the English capital, complete with emergency brace position. Exciting. I was somewhat alarmed to discover that London was quite warm in contrast to Berlin. You know you’re in trouble when the city you live in is colder than London. Phase two of world domination will involve large heating devices strategically placed around Berlin. These devices will also dispense sangria. Handy.

After two weeks back in freezing Berlin I said “proverbial this!” and fled to Milan. Milan was also playing host to my Cabinet, the All Blacks (minus Sivivatu - that guy can’t perform under the high ball. I’m not putting him in charge of anything in the Empire, except for maybe Citizen’s Rights or Leader of the Opposition). Luckily, I managed to get a ticket to the game a few hours before it started (thanks Renny and James! Free air travel, health benefits and harems for you two in the Empire) and got to enjoy the ABs from an exceptionally handy location. I remarked to one Italian man that Italian fans are the nicest, politest and most gracious in the world. His reply? “Nah, we just don’t care about rugby. Most of these people are only here for the haka.” Still, I found the Italians lovely. Apart from one. Yes, there is always one…

This *expletive* man wouldn’t allow me to enter the cathedral because I was wearing a skirt above the knee. And not too far above the knee mind you. Doesn’t he know God loves all his children, even those with cold legs? Now Italy is in the Empire that dude might find himself doing Cathedral line control in a BIKINI! Mwah ha ha. Seriously though, I felt like quite the whore being humiliated and refused entry due to my skirt. First Mary Magdalene, now me. Girl power Madge, girl power. We will have our revenge. Me with world domination, you with a film starring Tom Hanks.

My only criticism of Milan other than Skirty McHate-a-lot was the fact that I think the transit system is set up to confuse tourists. True story. Where does this tram go? How do I get to Stazione Centrale? Where can I buy a ticket? I spent two days searching out transit maps and wondering where the tram I was on stopped, to no avail. I strongly suspect that the locals have secret maps on them and hidden in password protected false stones on the walls.
“Hey, this train goes to Greco right? Let’s look at the map.”
“NO! STOP! For the love of skirt-hating God, there’s a tourist right there! Put it away!”
Perhaps the secrecy surrounding the public transport is to allow cab drivers to charge extortionate rates for the people who give up. Perhaps it is for the daily amusement that is confused tourists storming around Milan in circles. Perhaps it is because, to Italians, it’s jut not logical to be able to buy a tram ticket anywhere near the vicinity of the tram itself. I’m not sure. But every crime needs its punishment, and Milan’s is going to be having their public transport privileges revoked. Help yourself to that extra slice of pizza Luigi, because YOU are going on foot.

So back to Berlin we go, where public transport is so easy a retarded stick could use it. To celebrate the wonder that is Berlin’s transit system, and in conjunction with the 20 year anniversary of some bit of concrete that came down, allegedly due to David Hasslehoff’s magical pipes (good one Hoff), we had a bit of a shindig in the German capital on November 9th.

Seriously though, the Berlin Wall anniversary was incredible. I cried talking about it in my tours in the lead up to the anniversary. I filed into Pariser Platz in the freezing rain six hours before the event began to commemorate it. I detoured tours for like a week to accommodate it. And do you know what my reward was for bawling like a small child while losing feeling in my feet when they were discussing the beauty of unity during the event? Having to witness a giant map of the world (read: my world) going up WITHOUT NEW ZEALAND ON IT.

Stop. Press. You read that right. A deliberate slight against the new leader. Here is an actual account of my dialogue at this juncture.
“(Sob) it’s so amazing! (Sob) families put back together! (Sob) YES we can be as one together! (Sob) YES the way forward for the future is unity! (Sob) Well, maybe people won’t live under dictators in a perfect world, unless that dictator is me. (Sob) YES the world needs to work together as one peop- WAIT. Wait wait wait. WHERE'S NEW ZEALAND ON YOUR MAP YOU GERMAN ASSH*LES?!”

Colour me displeased.

It was almost enough to make me rethink a decision I made recently. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, subjects and limbless insubordinates, I am staying in Berlin an extra six months. In short, my book, entitled, “How to take over the world in 12 months by Stephanie Taylor,” has fallen behind schedule, and so TV3 and the ever more amazing Roger Beaumont have agreed to give me time to work on the reworked edition, “How to take over the world in 18 months by Stephanie Foxworth.” (Note the name change - I think it’s dynamic). The upside for you guys is that with this extension we should be able to add Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Holland and Croatia to the Empire by June next year! Ancient relics of marijuana-smoking, potato-eating, kilt-wearing… um, Croatians for all of us! Unfortunately it does mean that I will be away from the Kiwi Motherland for Christmas, but after the church’s recent slight on me and my skirt I might be abolishing that particular holiday anyway. I will however, be home for a three week dose of skin cancer in January and February, so like the reunification of Berlin and Germany, we will be reunified also. I will start asking you all now to begin work on presentations for new slogans for our empire. I have seen some cracker slogans this year, including the one for Welsh lamb (“Welsh lamb; from Wales”) so the bar has already been set pretty high.

Merry Stephanie-mas (take that Jesus - who‘s laughing at whose wardrobe now?) and Happy New Year to you all. Looking forward to hugs, kisses and submission beatings in January!

Stephanie the Cold xo

P.S. Those of you who are keeping up with my domination by recording which musical acts I have seen, I have a new one to add to your list. Thanks again to my beloved Tali, the other night I got to see - for free no less - the Backstreet Boys! Laugh it up, I’m not even ashamed. They were awesome. Anyone who gets the opportunity to see them in Auckland next year should immediately take it and wear your “I want you that way” t-shirts proudly. The attendance of this concert also had the additional benefit of finally convincing my work that it is NOT a good idea for a girl whose personal slogan is “proudly mainstream” to learn a tour called the Alternative Tour. The highlights in my hair weren’t quite enough to convince them, but seeing Nick Carter in concert was. Paris Hilton might not appreciate you Nick, but now I do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stage Nine - Scandanavia and Prague

Greetings followers,

Scandinavia and the Czech Republic - tick! That’s right, Sweden, Denmark and the Czech Republic are currently erecting giant monuments to me as we speak. But, just prior to informing you all about the newest colonies in Stephanie-Land, I want to talk to you about an internal threat to the countries that have already joined the Stephanie Union (like the European Union but blonder).


No, not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, but the actual flying stinging things. They have taken over Berlin, and from what I can tell, the rest of Europe in a way that makes those locusts look like they merely got confused for a second on holiday and then went along their merry way. Seriously, think nine wasps in my apfelschorler at one brunch (for those of you who haven’t received the press statement about the official drink of our kingdom, apfelschorler is half apple juice, half soda water, and is AMAZING! I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it earlier. Good work Germany. This will be the key contribution from Germany to the kingdom. That and an obsessive following of rules. This organization will not tolerate insolence). I have also witnessed the wasps here eating meat, egg and, I have heard rumours, they will even attempt a decent crack at small dogs. Constant vigilance against these attackers is key.

I had thought maybe they were only going for the Berlin I had claimed just a few months earlier, until I went to conquer Prague and a blatant attempt was made on my life by a wasp. One cheeky beggar flew into my eye. MY EYE. Seriously, it was near catastrophic. I was hopping around singing “that thing bounced off my eye! It hit my freaking eyeball! Are you kidding me?!” when Dave, not to be upstaged, got hit by a car.

It’s okay, it turned out not to be serious in the end. No damage was done, injury was minimal. We all left unscathed because it didn’t even sting me. Just flew in there and bounced off a little. Dave was of course, no help, trying to collect himself with a Mercedes, but the fear was real for a little while. I have never seen an enemy up quite that close before. I was of course, forced to deal with the fallout myself while Dave looked at the driver of the man who backed into him, and I even managed to interlude and shout a profanity or two at his careless driving skills while simultaneously recovering from the shock that an actual flying stinging machine had been in my eyeball (THAT’s what you call multi-tasking team), but this attempted coup was poorly organized, much like Hitler’s failed Beerhall Putsch of 1923, and the threat was over before it really even began.

No in all seriousness, Dave was fine too thank goodness. The idiot drove up the road, Dave went to cross, then he abruptly reversed without looking. I was no help at all, watching it all happen (out of one eye) in slow motion, yet only able to yelp something like “Mwgherasdaaaa!” before impact, but luckily he was going slowly and Dave just looked at him and walked away. The driver didn’t quite escape my vicious tongue so easily, but thankfully Dave was okay, and for the rest of his stay in Europe we would occasionally look at each other and say “hey, remember that time you/ I got hit by a car in Prague?”

Prague, FYI, was AMAZING and everything I dreamed it would be. It is a proud jewel in the crown of my empire. We took a walking tour with my new deputy in Prague, Isaac, who was hilarious. I laughed solidly for three and half hours, and thought that after my time here in Berlin I wasn’t easily shocked anymore, but still managed a sharp inward gasp when Isaac dropped the f bomb in a church (that’s the word f*ck for those of you who don’t understand subtlety) and then proceeded to deny doing so. Haha.

Also saw the Prague castle, went to a beer garden that overlooks the city, and even managed a bit of a pub crawl. We didn’t complete the pub crawl because I was slightly under the weather from a self-inflicted illness… Oh man, I guess I had better fess up and tell the whole story…

The night before we went to Prague (at 6:30am - ouch) I had been working in the bar. It was Twig and Sara’s 10th wedding anniversary so we decided that a few civilized after work drinks were in order. Next thing I knew I had drunk absinthe (legal here in Berlin), it was 5am and we were trying to get into a club, except had just realized Twig had no shoes on, so I tried to give him my sneakers (which were at least eight sizes too small) convinced that my ankle socks could pass for shoes as they sort of looked like ballet slippers. Then I had an out of body experience, realized I was marmeladed and I had to catch a train in 90 minutes, so I guess it is about that time I went home. I’m not sure because the next thing I remember is waking up abruptly on the train somewhere near Dresden, looking at Dave and having this conversation…
“Dave, oh my goodness, I think I’m still drunk.”
“Yep, probably.”
“Did I pack?!?”
“Think so. You have a suitcase here.”
“Did I pack clothes?!”
“No idea.”
“Did I pack underwear?!”
“No idea.”
“Did I pack my toothbrush?!”
“No idea. All I know is you brought your hair curler.”

The fear of finally unpacking when we got to our hotel in Prague left me with held breath, but I was pleasantly astounded to discover I had actually done a pretty amazing job of it. Dave was more than a little jealous that I had packed better than him. Unpacking my little suitcase and seeing what I had was like a mini Christmas, and there were many exclamations in similar vein to “Aw yeah! Shorts!” I was well pleased. Perhaps I’ll always pack while I’m blind drunk.

So Prague went swimmingly, and I even managed to catch up with my friends Alice and Dave while we were there! It was so awesome to see some more friendly faces from home, and to catch up on all the gossip from you guys in the media industry (tut tut some of you - haha, just kidding. Kind of…)

The next stop in the Dave and Stephanie adventure was a quick two day trip with Tom and his friend Adam to Nuremberg to see where Hitler had held his political rallies, and I have to say, this was one of the places that has affected me the most. I’m still not sure why. I spend my life going to Hitler’s bunker, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the old SS and Gestapo headquarters, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe etc, and although they all still affect me in one way or another, Nuremberg made me so angry. I actually almost threw my audio guide four stories off a building. It wasn’t that I was getting any brand new information, it just really upset me. There was really only one cure for it.


Wow, tenuous segue there Stephanie. The next day the four of us jumped back in the Volvo (being the only girl I refused to call it by the nickname the boys had given it. I’m sure you can guess) and headed to the Volkswagen museum which was AWESOME. My second car museum here in Germany and they have both been amazing. We took a tour of the factory and got to see robots building Golfs! Now I want a Golf. And a robot…

To round out Dave’s Stephanie section of his European adventure (I politely didn’t point out that soon it will be impossible to do a non-Stephanie section due to the fact IT WILL ALL BE STEPHANIE SECTIONS! Mwah ha ha) we made a trip to Stockholm and then a pilgrimage for Dave to Denmark by visiting Copenhagen. One of the other guides said to me before we set out, “Ooh, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Ouch. Hope you saved every cent you earned guiding this summer.” I rolled my eyes at the time. The same eyes which only a few days later would pop out of their sockets when I saw the prices in those two cities. I did actually seriously consider giving up eating for the time we were there, and that smug guide had the last laugh. I really did spend every cent. To give you a very brief rundown of what we saw (including of course, all the ridiculously beautiful people), I will revert to trusty bullet point fashion:
- the pirate ship that we stayed on in Stockholm - whoop whoop! Thanks Kirsty, yaaaar.
- the royal palace in Stockholm (way better than Windsor Castle, sorry Lizzy).
- the Vasa (I’m a Viking! YAY!).
- the Nobel museum (I’m going to win one of those. I cried three times in the museum. And if none of you think I am talented enough to get one, I don’t care. Remember team, soon-to-be leader of the “free” world. I’ll make my own damn Nobel prize, and anyone who protests doesn‘t get invited to the dinner).
- the really tall Church of Our Saviour in Copenhagen that Dave and I climbed the outside of (an inopportune time for Dave to discover a newfound discomfort with heights)
- the Little Mermaid!
- Tivoli (this should really get it’s own paragraph, but I’m busy and important, so in quick-fire fact form; oldest amusement park in the world, fastest ride in Europe hitting 5G, icecream so big I almost vommed, riding the rollercoaster four times, seriously romantic. So romantic Dave and I looked at each other a little uncomfortably until the silence was broken with “let’s go ride that giant freefall thing again!”)
- Shopping in the old Latin Quarter
- Sitting on the canals in Nyhavn
- Infiltrating a hippy commune (with my Fendi sunglasses and pink digital camera, haha)
- Meeting this guy who at first just seemed a bit weird, then turned out to be a neo-Nazi. Seriously. I was so disgusted I got up and stormed off. I think he was probably just more ignorant than really pro-Nazi, but I still wanted nothing more to do with him.

Dave and I then headed to London, where I was interrogated even more than I was the last time. Seriously, every time I fly back into that place they spend longer throwing questions at me at passport control. “Oh hi Dave, welcome to your first visit to London. You want to live here for five years? No dramas, have fun!” [Stamp.] Turns to me. Eyes narrow. “Stephanie. You’re back. You want to spend three days here? Why. What are you doing in London. What are you doing in Berlin. When did you leave New Zealand. When are you going back. What is your occupation. Do you have a boyfriend. Do you like Berlin. What is your mother’s favourite colour. Have you seen Grease. Did you enjoy the sequel” etc. She spent SO LONG that we missed the train and I didn’t get to Toni’s house until 3am. Then I got the same treatment when I came back to Berlin. Every time I leave or come back into this country I get interrogated a little bit more. But my time will come. Oh yes, my time will come. These customs officials’ names are on the list, and I will get my sweet revenge when they want to visit their mothers in Bristol and find themselves in the cold barren landscape that is ANTARTICA! Mwah ha ha. “Oh no, go to gate 23. Yeah, gate 23 is totally Bristol. Promise. Have fun!”

Sooo, London was awesome, as per, and seemed scarily cheap after the pricing fiasco that is Stockholm and Copenhagen. Got to see my beloved Toni, went to my first live football game (scary!), strolled around the Thames Festival, and even managed to sit in Hyde Park and do some writing. Wrote a poem too, which I haven’t done in years. It will probably only make sense to my happy band of Berlin orphans, but anyone who wants to read “Crying on the S-Bahn,” give me a holler.

Just before I quickly wrap this up and go back to my secret underground lair to figure out ocean currents (none of you need know why yet, unless I have got any takers for a dangerous yet rewarding mission to search out the magical properties of the mythical seaweed people), a very quick update on one of the many reasons I LOVE Berlin! This year, I have managed to see three of my favourite musical acts - Ben Harper, up close (amazing), Pearl Jam, up close but then pleasantly enjoyed from afar because one thing will remain universal across all geographical barriers - ‘90s rock fans are MENTAL (Pearl Jam also incredible), and then completely randomly, Jet. On Saturday, Tali (still my beacon of Berlin happiness - I’m going to set up a Tali cloning programme so that every city in the world will have at least one Tali for sad and confused new migrants) told me she had FREE tickets to Jet, so on Sunday I got to see them in the same tiny arena that Ben Harper was in. Right at the front of the crowd with plenty of personal space. I love this city! Apparently Fat Freddies Drop played here last week, and I sadly missed that bit of home, but the Black Seeds are due to be here pretty soon so I’ll get my taste of Kiwi music that way! Hurrah!

To entice you into reading what will be coming up in the next instalments, details of my impending visits to Barcelona and Athens, and more detailed information on how I visited the Pergamon museum here in Berlin a little while ago, which seriously is the best museum in the entire world (having been to all of them, clearly), but without the foresight of clearing my memory card. Oops. I had to delete pictures from the real Pergamon in Turkey to take pictures of the Pergamon museum in Berlin. I suspect that might be the new definition of ironic. Or possibly stupidity. I’m guessing it will cost me more than the five Euro Pergamon museum admission price to get back to the real Pergamon.

Hope you’re all well, safe, happy and healthy. You’ll need your health for the fun team-bonding exercises I have planned for us all upon imminent domination completion.
You’re glorious leader,
Stephanie the Wasp Conquerer

P.S. The other day, Tilda Swinton (that weird looking yet Oscar-winning actress) listened in on my tour at Checkpoint Charlie! She even did the “huh. Wow” head nod, although I guess it might have been more at the information I was imparting than my ravishing good looks. Maybe. However, having never seen a single film she has been in, I can now safely say that an Oscar winner has seen more of my work than I have of hers. Ha! And now I will never, ever be able to watch one of her films because that’s a fun thing to be able to say and I don’t want to ruin it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stage Eight - Berlin Complete

Greetings team!

It has been awhile - I have been a busy girl.

Firstly, I have been investigating this strange German landscape under the guise of being a tour guide. In this way, I get to learn all about the country and its history without arousing suspicion, and manage to simultaneously convince tourists to part with their hard-earned recession-defying cash. Mwah ha ha. Brilliant.

This plan is also inspired because it allows me to indulge my middle-child syndrome desire for love, attention and affection EVERY DAY! 40 people per day listen to me talk and think I am clever. Sometimes they even think I am witty. Occasionally they think I am charming. It is pretty much the job I was born for. For those of you who thought the hardships of traveling might bring my ego under control, WRONG. It has only accelerated it to near catastrophic proportions.

The other genius of this plan is that being a tour guide can, on occasion, be scarily lucrative. I have learnt four tours now, so am working almost every day, and I love it! And, not only am I making money, BUT there has been another development that has occurred as a result of tour guiding. An unprecedented, life changing development. I have managed to achieve a dream which I thought would always evade me. I had given up on this dream ever becoming a reality for me, but for some reason known only to the Heavens, this dream has been bequeathed to me and my years of dreaming and hoping have become a reality. My life has changed dramatically as a result, and I feel as though nothing can stop me in my quest for eternal greatness. Ladies and gentlemen…

I have a tan.

Hold. The. Phone. Shut. The. Front. Door. Back. The. Truck. Up. And other sentences that involve orders to perform actions with inanimate objects. A tan! A TAN! Like one of those things where the melanin in your skin makes it go brown in the sun. Followers, I had for many years believed I HAD no melanin. After the sunbed incident of 2001 where the sunbed company told me I was allergic to UV light, and therefore effectively sunlight, and had a wee chuckle at my expense, I have been cowering from the sun like Posh Spice from calories. So can you IMAGINE my delight when one day, while out for a run, I was about an hour in (that’s right, I run more than an hour. Impressed much? I’m a healthy leader, like Obama) and suddenly realized I had forgotten sunscreen. Panic set it. I returned home half an hour later expecting blisters, scarring and a trip to the hospital. What I had in place was TAN LINES. TAN. LINES. Well let me tell you, I almost passed out. Since this momentous, life-changing day I have been tan-tastic. Seriously, you should see the tan lines on my feet. They are actually embarrassing, but I am leaving them there to serve as a reminder of the unhealthy, see-through colour I once was. Someone even asked me the other day if my tan was real. For the first time in my life I was able to answer without a response that involved the words “Dove Summer Glow Moisturiser.” Unprecedented.

So, on that note, I have moved to the top of the world conquering agenda, getting some of this “oh-zone lay-er” pulled over New Zealand. Guys, we need to crack onto this. The joys of it are unbelievable. I still advocate sunscreen (there will be numerous ads about this in the first few years of the reign, and they will be much more intense than the current Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap campaign. Think that creepy guy with the wheel of fortune wheel in the look twice at intersection ads meets that sunscreen prawn who gets cooked on the barbeque. Holding a flamethrower and a Molotov cocktail. Ouch), but if you do forget sunscreen it’s not going to result in instant death like it presently does at home in Kiwiland. Even if I have to pick the country up and physically move it, we are getting our hands on one of these Ozone Layer things.

So despite the fact that I am leading tours about Hitler’s reign and concentration camps, life is pretty happy here in Berlin. I did actually cry in my tour the other day when talking about a particular group of Jewish men sent to a concentration camp, but I don’t think any of my tourists noticed, so phew. But as I already said, I love tour guiding and the rest of life here in Berlin is outstanding too. After the cry-fest that was my return from London, I found my new flat which I have just moved into. It is beautiful - one of my friends actually said it was the nicest one she has seen in Berlin. I’ll claim that - it is seriously gorgeous and in an amazing area. My flatmates are amazing too (even more so considering the clutches of the previous, creepy, alcoholic flatmate I escaped before I got to them). I have made some amazing new friends here in Berlin, who are all wonderful and have all been effectively PR-ed into making a visit to New Zealand (Mum, I have offered out the beach house for most of 2010. I hope that’s okay? Haha). I work a few nights a week in a bar too, with some exceptionally cool people, so I am pretty well stoked about that.

There is only one source of angst left in my life in Berlin, and that is the relentless accent hassling that I am subjected to daily. Such blatant insolence cannot be tolerated. For years people thought I was American or Australian (those accents being so similar of course). Now apparently, my New Zealand-ness is more obvious. The guys at tour guiding and the guys at the bar think this is HILARIOUS and relentlessly spend all day coming up with new ways to make me say words they think are funny. For example, Twig at the bar:
“Hey Stiff [I know, hilarious. Whatevs Twig], if I bought a Bicks [Becks] and a Carlsberg, how much would that cost me?”
Stephanie, sighs. “Six euros Twig.”
Twig, sniggering. “Haha. Sux.”
Or, “Hey Stiff, can you get that thing from downstairs? You know, that thing that you put drinks in and it keeps them cold? Not an Esky but a…”
Stephanie, again, sighs. “A chilly bin Twig?’
Twig, again sniggering. “Haha. Chully bun.”

To be honest, most of the other people I meet still think I am from somewhere else, but every now and then an astute Kiwi or Australian picks it up. Actually, funny story about those hideous children I taught for five and a half seconds; at least I managed to use my accent to mess up their English quests a little bit.
Stephanie: “Also Leute, was heisst Schlafzimmer auf Englisch?” (Okay people, what do you call a bedroom in English?)
Children, in unision. “Bidroom!”
Haha. Oops. Meh. Care factor zero.

Another downer on the Berlin dream is the marathon. I had a bit of a bad run where an old netball injury flared up and I couldn’t walk for a few days - not ideal when your profession is a walking tour guide. Then, a weird lump started growing where the injury took place. Scarily bone feeling. I decided this probably wasn’t a great sign, especially since every time I ran it got worse. So, I have cut the running right back, and will be employing Shoe Science upon my return to hook me up with some good shoes (and ACC if they fail) and will run the AKL marathon next year. Anyone want to join me? I’ll give you a small island if you do. Maybe the South Island, haha.

But, MUCH to look forward to in the next few months. Firstly, the impending arrival of Dave. YAY! Dave! Dave will be sharing the Berlin dream for one month from mid-August. Look, I’m going to be honest. It’s pretty clear to me that he has recognized my rise to glory and knows it’s only a matter of time. He has decided to get in early so as to be there from the beginning and negotiate a position of power. An astute plan, and although I’m not blind to his transparent aims, and will of course be carefully watching him lest he attempts to stage a coup, at this stage loyalty is fiercely rewarded. In this case, in the form of a couch and some free tours for a month. If any of the rest of you want to use a similar plan, all applicants for visitors to the Berlin lair will be considered.

As my current deputy, Dave and I have made some plans to investigate other nearby regions under the guise of a happily married newlywed couple on our honeymoon. He will go under the pseudonym Richie Cunningham and I will be his wife Oprah. Prague, Sweden and Denmark are on our to-conquer, I mean, to-do lists, as well as possible reconnaissance missions to Russia, Austria and Switzerland. For those of you unable to help with the expansion here in Europe, soon to be renamed “Stephanie and Dave’s Happy Fun Land”, remember, dwellings under the Ozone Layer will be given to those who start to make the necessary preparations at home for my triumphant return just prior to Christmas.

Time to work on this masterpiece I am creating - yes, the book dream is progressing slowly, but will be getting back on the fast-track now that I have finished studying for tours/ Berlin domination.

Much love followers,

P.S. For those of you who were wondering, Ben Harper on my birthday was AWESOME! Seriously, off the richter. He got moved to a tiny venue at the last minute so I got to see him from about a metre away. He got sweaty in his white shirt and all his Maori tattoos were visible. It was deeply moving.

P.P.S. Pearl Jam in two weeks - hurrah! I’ll send an update after.

P.P.P.S. Britney Spears was here on Sunday. I almost went except the tickets were 150 Euros! Not freaking likely Britney. If you’re that short on cash then shave your hair off again and sell it.

P.P.P.P.S. For those of you who are planning to visit me, I am drawing up a list of things you get yelled at for in Berlin. These include jaywalking, leaning on the Brandenburg Gate, riding a bike through Babelplatz etc. It will be detailed and comprehensive. I’ll also add in the new rules I yell at people for, like sitting right next to me on the U-Bahn when the rest of the carriage is empty. Why why why?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stage Seven - The Battle of Berlin

Greetings followers,

Wow, quite the dramatic title huh? Not to worry, I'm not leading you into the outbreak of doubleya doubleya three here in Berlin - unless one more person is rude to me for not understanding an INCOMPREHENSIBLE Bayerisch accent and I completely lose my sh*t. Seriously, if you insist on speaking in that dialect, stay in Munich where people understand you. It is an actual different language, I swear.

The Battle for Berlin has been a hard-fought battle, and I'm still fighting it, although I have made considerable ground upon the enemy (who is this enemy? Germans? Possibly. Ze Germans are coming! Etc). Let's start from the beginning (a very good place to start).

The most formidable and soul-destroying German enemy has actually been cunningly disguised as the least-threatening, but don't be fooled. A pint-sized enemy by any other stature would still make you wonder if you would go to hell for kicking it. I am talking, of course, about German children. I don't know if my wrists could sustain the RSI that would inevitably be induced by discussing this with you in depth, so I'm just going to outline some key "highlights" for want of a MUCH better word in bullet-point form.
1) Little girl of six tells other little girl of six, "I'm going to come over to your house while you're asleep, and I'm going to cut off your limbs, one by one, and then I'm going to cut off your head. Actually, no, I'm going to let you keep your head, because I want you to feel the pain and see the blood spurt out." Chuckie called little girl, he wants his bride back.
2) Little boy of three has a cold. Blows as much mucus into his hand as his little body could possibly produce in one day, and smears it on Stephanie's leg, then laughs hysterically like Eddie Murphy himself just told him a joke.
3) Stephanie is teaching emotions. "And what makes you happy little girl?" Little girl of eight: "Getting to tell people tragic news."
4) Stephanie walks into a room of four-year-olds that she has not yet met. "Greetings four-year-olds." Little boy (in Stephanie's face): "Hiissssssssssssssss."
5) Stephanie tries frantically to stop two little boys of five who are chasing each other trying to stab each other with scissors. Stephanie calls for peace. She gets it, just long enough for the previously fighting boys to collaborate on trying to stab Stephanie.
6) Little boy of five: "I love you English teacher, I want to have sex with you." Cue hysterical laughter from other little boys.
7) Little boy of four walks up with both arms outstretched. Stephanie thinks he is going for the double high-five. Wrong. **Squeeze.** Stephanie is molested by a little boy who probably hasn't even discovered his penis yet.
8) Stephanie: "And what's your favourite colour?" All German children (without fail): "Black." Of course. How dare I assume there were other colours in the spectrum?
9) Stephanie is teaching a substitute class, and tells off a little boy for pushing his classmate to the ground and relentlessly kicking her. Little boy, upon being told to apologise to possibly crippled classmate: "I hate you even more than I hate our normal teacher." Other classmates, aghast: "Not more than our NORMAL teacher?!"
10) Stephanie is trying to teach Ring Around the Rosie to children, and thinks it will be funny to make a dramatic fall to the floor for "we all fall down." Class of four-year-old German children have obviously been watching WWF Smackdown, and all instantly jump on top of her, and, in typical youthful German boy fashion, try to remove her clothing.

So obviously there are only three words I can throw in here, and they have the initials WTF (Nana, ummm, the answer to that is... ooh... jeepers... Well That's Forward!)

With so many soulless tyrants running around, one must wonder where this behaviour stems from? Which brings me to the keeper of the German children, perhaps even more soulless and DEFINITELY less attractive (to quote a certain NZ celebrity on another certain NZ celebrity, "he's even uglier on the inside than he is on the outside"). When I last reported on my empire expansion in Germany, I told you I had got a job in the face of recession sadness and we all rejoiced, both here and at home in the Motherland (you better have rejoiced or there'll be consequences.) I also told you that, due to the recession, the 12 working hours upon which I had agreed to employment had been cut down to three a week. At least I believed this was due to the recession. WRONG. I was later informed that I was being punished for going to Turkey. That's right. Punished. I tried to explain the cultural and national significance of Gallipoli. When that proved futile, I tried the somewhat less passive tack of, "you know, it was a battle where my country lost a whole generation of men fighting in a war that a certain country started. You know, that first time the whole world got into a scrap because of what a certain country started? Not to be the last? You know?" But no, I was still "punished." However, when I began to understand the true horrors of German youth, I wondered if this perhaps wasn't such a bad thing. I did also, however, decide that three hours a week actually is worse than no hours a week as it stops you from being able to accept alternative employment, so I resigned. As I had been told that part of my "punishment" was due to them not wanting to disturb the children's learning (newsflash: these kids are already disturbed) by having a substitute teacher for one class each, I used this same argument to state that perhaps my classes, one of which I had yet to teach, should be immediately reallocated to avoid further "disturbance" (any more disturbed and these children would be sitting in a corner rocking in the fetal position repeatedly singing "hush little baby" in a creepy slow voice). Um, no, said the man who had not only got me to sign this contract knowing he was going to be cutting my hours down from 12 to three but not telling me first to ensure I SIGNED the contract, but also made me sign a form saying what religions I can and can't believe in. I think you tried that kind of recently Germany - outcome not so flash. He also refused to let me see the contract upon resignation - the contract which he gave me an English version to read and a German version to sign, stating after I'd signed it that the English version wasn't binding, only the German version was. I made work of my slither of Maori-dom by reconstructing how they must have felt upon figuring out that the Treaty of Waitangi was a crock. THEN, the man tells me that if I agree to a deal where I still work two classes a week until mid-July, he'll reallocate the other class and the substitutions I was meant to be doing, effective immediately. When I told him no, and if he can reallocate, why doesn't he do so to avoid the "disturbance" he's so worried about that he used it as an excuse to "punish" me, and he was like, "Ummmm, no." I then also told him I was sick, but the class which he could easily reallocate if I worked until July couldn't be substituted if I would only work until the end of May because I was sick. SERIOUSLY. He also goes on and on at his staff ALL DAY LONG about not being allowed to be more than two hours from email at any given time in case he wants to email them, and they MUST email back to say they got the email within two hours. But send him an email with something like a resignation, or possibly asking if he managed to get a substitute teacher so you don't give the children the strain of small pox you have managed to resurrect from extinction? Ummm, no. No reply email for you. ARGH! But the best is yet to come - he then threatened to sue ME. For what? I have no idea. Resigning, apparently. HE, who told me which religions I can believe in and which I can't, HE who made me sign a contract under false pretences, HE who then made me work out the conditions of the contract that should be null and void, threatens to sue ME. Welcome to Germany. Why don't more people take up this working holiday visa? I have no idea.

Anyway, I finished with the German terrors and to celebrate Tali and I went out for half-priced cocktails. This delicious yet lethal alcohol/ pricing combo saw Tali and I somehow end up at a party for the Hamburg Staat Embassy where we were seriously underdressed, and seriously over-intoxicated. Tali and I actually headed off at a respectable-ish hour, but Tali's boyfriend Jojo decided to stay a bit longer. However, when he tried to get inside his house and couldn't get through to Tali, he came to my house and slept on the couch. No big deal right? UNLESS you live with the world's STRANGEST man who seems to think that the ringing of a doorbell is grounds for a barrage of abusive text messages. Which leads me nicely onto my next point - the flatty.

Good news about the flatty - he is an aging hippy who doesn't believe in the Internet, so I can slag him off to my heart's content. Mwah ha ha. You know that story I alluded to but didn't tell it in the last blog because I felt bad? Bad schmad, I am so telling you all now. Public forum, yeehaa! I opened a seemingly harmless book while looking for something to read and a bunch of his home-made porn came out. So when I met him face-to-face I was thinking, "Seriously, that's not something you want to immortalise with photographic imagery." And then when I met his girlfriend I was thinking, "Wow, you've gained weight. Also, might be time for a wax." So in trusty bullet-point form, let's tell you about the flatmate.
1) About 45, but thinks he is 20. American, but lives on Great Barrier Island of all places six months a year. Precariously close to Matarangi. Shudder.
2) Has commenced Operation Seduce Younger Flatmate, and is walking around with progressively less clothes on. Summer might be on the way, but it will never be THAT warm bro. Also, a sit up might not go astray.
3) Despite appearance, has several girlfriends - this strange phenomenon is beyond me.
4) Carries around a photocopy of my passport to show people who he lives with (assuming they will be impressed that an old man lives with a young girl with long blonde hair. You're not Hugh Hefner buddy. If I had met you before I agreed to move in here I would still be living in a hotel).
5) I came home the other night, got into my bed and was like, "Hmmm, a man who wears the same tacky aftershave as him has been in my bed. Vom."
6) Came home one night to find him and girlfriend number two getting nasty in the lounge. Why the lounge you might ask when he has a perfectly good bed down the hall? I have pondered this myself. Anyway, in the morning, instead of doing the polite thing and pretending it never happened, girlfriend starts going on about it to me. Flatmate later tells me it is because she is jealous. WHY would she be jealous? I'm not competition for you love. And, if you are going to be the jealous type, best not to date a guy who has several girlfriends.
7) Calls me Diane. Go figure.
8) Has begun ditching girlfriends (and not telling them about it) so he can stay home, stop me from writing my book, and follow me around the house. Literally. Lounge to kitchen to bathroom to lounge to kitchen etc. One of the girlfriends has an actual mental disorder, so him standing her up to stay home with me is making me nervous.
9) Uses the bathroom (both numbers) with the door open while talking to me.
10) "I love the way you look in dresses Diane Angel. Can't you wear a dress every day?" "Um, no, that's impractical and I don't have enough dresses." "Well then allow me to buuuuuyyy you dresses Diane Angel. Won’t you let me buy you dresses? I love the way you look in a dress."
11) "Do you have a camera Diane Angel?" "Yes." "Well then let's use it and start taking pictures." Me, thinking, "No way in hell you dirty sexual predator," says in a far more diplomatic tone, "Oh, gutted, it's charging. Sorry." And then proceed to throw up in my own mouth.

Those are just some of the highlights. We could be here all day.

Anyway, in the absence of having my own war historian (all in good time) I hope I have done an acceptable job in outlining the battlefield upon which I am negotiating our empire expansion. If it was happening to someone else it would be funny, and because you are all someone else, I guess it is funny. Not SO funny when you wake up every morning and think the only thing you have to look forward to is an MTV reality show about bisexual twin sisters looking for love. Not SO funny when you find yourself on the way back from Turkey bawling your eyes out trying to tell some German students that you don't need any sort of medication. Not SO funny when you are sitting in your friend's living room in London the night before your return flight sobbing uncontrollably and saying, "Don't make me go back there."

But I am the fearless leader you elected me to be ("when were these elections?" I hear some of you ask. They were very early on a Sunday morning in winter. Did you not make it?) and I really believe that you are never put into situations that you can't handle. So, I am learning a lot about "inner strength," "self belief," and other stuff that would have Oprah crying and cheering for me, wrapping me up in her ample or not so ample bosom, depending on where she is in her current diet plan. On that night that I was sobbing in Toni's living room, I decided that I was going to make my life in Germany better. So, updates for you (in the bullet-point form fashion of the day):
1) I am currently studying for a job as a tour guide. It's kind of awesome because I get to work outside, meet tourists, and indulge my nerdy love of history. Also, 30 people have to look at me and listen for three and a half hours, and for a middle child, that is absolute bliss.
2) Relentless CV sending (each CV more ridiculous than the last, with more desperate reasons to hire me like, "if you don't and I have to go home because I can't afford to stay here and write my book then you are directly responsible for depriving the reading world of one of the greatest novels of our generation." Actually, that was one of the more rational arguments) has led to a breakdown from my favourite bar and they have finally relented to giving me some part-time work. Mwah ha ha. I have taken that battleground in the name of Stephanie and firmly driven my flag to the ground.
3) I am training for the Berlin Marathon. I think that the endorphins the training releases are good for me, and there is a sneaky side to this as well. One of my things to do before I die is run a marathon. So why not pick the easiest, flattest, fastest marathon in the whole world that most of the world records have been set on? If there is a lazy way to run a marathon, I have found it. I will also be calling upon you guys shortly for donations to charity for this effort, so if you don't want to part with your hard-earned recession-defying cash, I suggest formulating some sort of fake email bounceback that indicates your email address no longer exists.
4) I have found a new flat! I am so excited! It is in the same street I am in now, which is great because this really is the best neighbourhood in town, but WAY nicer, WAY bigger, WAY cooler, even a bit cheaper, and with lovely young Italian roommates. I don't move in until July, but once I do, I think Berlin life-turnaround will be complete.
5) I am planning more trips to more places, as these are the things that really get me excited. Turkey was incredible - I wrote it up for the online magazine NZ Girl, so if any of you haven't had enough of me by now at the end of this extensive update, you can get some more at Funny story about the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul; some of the pools have got heaps of money in the bottom of them, surrounded by swimming fish (this is how they could tell if the water was still good to drink - by how many fish were floating upside down). So we said to our awesome guide Sami, "Do people throw money in to make wishes and have good luck?" Sami's reply? "Don't know. Me and my friends are just trying to hit the fish." Hahaha. He was such a good guy. I recommend Turkey to all of you.
6) I have made a good plan for this year (I think). Continue slow but definite conqueration (conquerment? Conquerdom?) of Berlin until October, and then spend October travelling around Europe. Spend November in London talking to book agents about the masterpiece I am hopefully creating (man I hope it's not a crap book. It might be harder to make entertaining bullet points about your heart's desire and soul's work being "just a bit sh*t really"), maybe some skiing in early December depending on the fundage, and home for a month on the beach in late December/ early January before heading back to work. It's a tough life, I know. But you'll thank me for this strenuous effort when New Zealand becomes the capital of the all-encompassing Stephanie Empire.

I might only update you every few months, but when I do, you definitely get bang for your buck huh? Hope you're all great and planning on what to send me for my birthday next month (better presents = better dwellings in the Kingdom. So far Ben Harper has agreed to play a concert in Berlin on my birthday and Pearl Jam have agreed to play shortly after. Get to work).

Lots of love, and don't worry, not too much chance of me falling in love with a German and not returning home. To be honest, I'm pretty keen on falling in love with me, so the happy couple will be returning to live under the long white cloud for sure.
Stephanie xx

P.S To all you people who keep complaining I'm not putting up enough images, quit your whining. I'm not your showpony. But, if you really do want more images, there are way more pics on Facebook, and for Turkey, lots of pics in the NZ Girl article. The images on here are of me, Toni and our new friend Claire at Gallipoli, and of Toni, me, Fiona and Sam in London last weekend. Oh, and a wine glass. Haha. Prominent. Fitting.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stage Six - Berlin

Greetings followers,

I have some sad news to report on the world domination front - someone got to Berlin and conquered it ahead of me. I normally quite fancy my chances in overthrowing local power authorities, but on this occasion, I’m not sure even I am up the challenge. This opponent is strong, muscular, and can apparently save any victim from drowning, especially if she has a large bust measurement. Of course, I am talking about David Hasslehoff.

The Hoff’s appeal in Germany is mainly due less to his red Baywatch shorts and more to his magical singing pipes, however, the pop sensation also has a historical place in the heart of Berliners, in that he claims it was he who brought down the Berlin wall. He sang a song regarding freedom, and a short time later, the wall came down. While some political and historical enthusiasts fail to see the link, Hasslehoff is completely sure of his part in the momentous occasion, and has been heard to explain so on many different outings.

There are other barriers threatening to overcome my attempts on this part of the world, including strange cultural observations. For example, every time you see a sweet, adorable, perfectly groomed miniature dog, you look up and are more than likely to see it attached to some sort of elderly vagabond; unkempt, more than a little bit drunk, and with a large stomach protruding from an old and much-too-small shirt. I am completely unaccustomed to this anomaly, and fear that if I can’t understand the people, what hope do I have of leading them to greatness?

On top of that, I have recently had several encounters that have led me to believe I may be too much of a prude for this town. Allow me to explain:
Venue: Volkspark, Fredrichshain, Berlin
Time: Approximately 2pm
Scene: The first fine weekend day in weeks, many people are out enjoying the sunshine in a local Berlin park. Families take picnics, children ride bicycles, fathers help sons with little remote controlled boats in the lake. A young tourist from New Zealand strolls through with her new English friend, taking in the pleasantries and soaking up the vitamin D.
"Stephanie?" asks the English girl.
"Yes Tali?" replies the girl from New Zealand.
"Is that man naked or wearing a very tiny wee red g-string?"
"Tali, I believe he is wearing a tiny wee red g-string. However, the elderly gentleman to the right appears to be wearing nothing at all, and judging by the way he is so attentively applying sunscreen to his genital area, I suspect he may be concerned about the effects of harmful UV rays."
"Yes Tali?"
"Shall we find another, more clad area of the park to retreat to?"
"Tali, I think that sounds like a wonderful idea."
A short stroll ensues, and the travelers are pleased to come across a somewhat more isolated area of the park. A few people sit on blankets, fully clothed, and read books. The two girls set down a blanket and begin to chat. A short while later, they notice something moving in the bushes.
"Stephanie, did you see that just now?"
"Yes Tali, I believe I did."
"What was it?"
"It seemed too large to be an animal didn't it?"
"Yes, it did. However, my attention has now been caught by the man behind us, who was once fully clothed, but now appears to be less so."
"I agree, I definitely think his genitalia wasn't in such plain view at the time that we sat down. Tali, do you suddenly realise that we are the only females sitting here, and all of the other park-goers in this area seem to be looking at us strangely?"
"Yes Stephanie, I have noticed that. What's more, I believe we may be in the area of the park where men come to solicite one another in the bush, during broad daylight, on a Saturday afternoon."
"My goodness Tali. What frivolity."

There are actually a few other instances that I wrote but have decided to edit out, upon learning that I actually really liked the people involved in them, so I’m going to leave you with just the one example. No use being modest about it; the edited pieces were actually literary and comic genius, so if you want to read them, email me. And yep, it’s hard looking those other people in the face after you have seen and heard what I have, but you just move on through it and block it out with sudden gasps of “Argh! No!“ accompanied by smushing your hands into your eyes with great force. And so, despite my inability to be all “when in Rome” about it and get naked in public, some areas of this domination attempt are going far more swimmingly. For starters, I have a home. Hurrah! In a great area of town, right near the fantastic Aussie bar that has the only Super 14 and NRL action in town. The bar is bliss, and has become my new home.

Finding the home also lead to finding a friend - hurrah! Tali, the aforementioned companion on my fateful visit to the park, is some sort of “Welcome to Berlin” fairy of happiness. Not only did she give me a home (she was moving out, so I took her room), she has also given me some company, advice, plenty of good laughs, and, tah-dah - a job!

That might not sound like a huge deal to all of you smugly employed people, but jobs here in Berlin are pretty hard to come by. Germany is apparently one of the hardest hit by the economic crisis, receiving much of its income from now struggling industries like car and appliance manufacturing, and within Germany, Berlin is the hardest place to get a job. Upon arrival, several people actually told me to give up and go somewhere else (ouch. Maybe they saw through my polite enquiries and directly into my ruthless pursuit of their hard-earned tax money upon domination completion). I heard many stories of people who took more than a year to find work, highly trained professionals now working for 800 Euros a month in unskilled jobs, and for anyone not perfectly fluent in German and English, imminent returns to their home countries. So, with thanks to an excellent lead from Tali, I am now an English teacher! Hurrah! Very few hours per week, but hopefully they will become more, and in this cheap-rent paradise, I hopefully won’t need to rape and pillage my bank account too much to fund my life of traveling and book writing. Everyone needs a Tali. Honestly. We have also made an ambitious plan to run a marathon in September! She has done one before (she’s so amazing. I love Tali. I‘m going to name my book after her), but I have only done a half marathon. So if you never hear anything about the marathon again, it’s because I totally gave up, and it would really be much politer if you never mentioned it again. Thank you.

Finally, a quick note about some of the wonderful people I have met so far in Berlin. There is the small issue that most of the people I meet are tourists and disappear again a few days later, but they are all still awesome anyway. Firstly, Tali (wow. I love Tali. Did you know I love Tali?), secondly the AMAZING Mark Kirkman, originally from South Africa, who was my total BFF for two whole days of wandering and sport-watching heaven, and who is currently being sucked in by my carefully orchestrated PR plan to get him to move to New Zealand (mwah ha ha). Then Summer from the States, Lucie from Scotland and Jenny from England. Hannah and Jade from Melbourne, were super fun and the three of us managed to gate-crash a stag party of Scotsmen, who were also great fun. I have come to the conclusion that Australians and Scots are the most fun people on the entire planet, and as a result, I will be giving them some sort of party-planning post upon completion of my domination attempt. Then there were Claire from Australia, Ildefonso from Mexico who is currently serving in Iraq (I’m planning on writing Obama a personal letter to get him out - I’m quietly confident I’ll be successful), and the beautiful and super sweet Germans Frauke and Andrea. Also, Eric from the States, Gary from Ireland (who actually lives here and also hangs out at the Aussie bar that I love, so I might be trying to win him in the stakes of permanent friendship with one of my legendary PowerPoint presentations. Stay tuned), David from Hamburg, James from Oxford, Jojo from Germany (or Mr Tali, lucky bastard) and my favourite new band Myriad Creatures. Check them out online - you will love them if you have anything close to resembling a soul.

And with that, much love to the team back home. Many thanks to all of you who picked up that at times I was DESPERATELY lonely and sent loving messages of correspondence, or even defied the current economic climate and spent the NZ$45 million to ring me. I really appreciate it. In other news, I am finally writing the book, and even have the first five chapters at a stage I am happy with. Hurrah! Heading to Turkey next Thursday (I don’t care what all those people said - John Key said it was cool to go and John Key is my hero/ object of the posters that adorn the walls of my bedroom, so I’m going) so will write something else after that.

Take care, and see you all the ticker-tape parade upon my triumphant return,
Stephanie xo

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stage Five - Germany (Part Two)

Dearest followers,

A small note to those of you who said I couldn’t handle small town life with small children: you sure showed me. Seriously, did I think a 36 hour plane trip (or a 12 and then a seven and then a six and then a nine and then a two) would change my entire inner being? I lasted approximately four and a half weeks before I packed up my unworn dresses and high heels and headed for Berlin. They say when you travel by yourself you get to learn all sorts of fun things about yourself. I learnt that I will certainly never be mistaken for Mary Poppins. Quick aside though, I was the other day, for the second time in my life, mistaken not for Mary Poppins, but for Barbie at the hand of a small child. The first time I was 15; 10 years on, I’ve still got it (“it” apparently being blonde hair, big boobs and a vacant facial expression, yet the blind ambition to become a doctor, astronaut, princess and “big sister.” Yeah right, FYI. I smell a cover up. I somehow suspect Barbie and Ken didn’t wait for Barbie’s Magical Wedding Day).

I am also back to a land of Internet, cellphones and landlines (so I have posted two old blogs I never got to get up - London in February and Reutlingen in March). Gerlinde and Axel, whom I was living with in Dornach, just out of Stuttgart, very kindly tried to upgrade their Internet before my arrival so I could have high speed access to all you kids in New Zulund (or Neuseeland). The result was a near Weapons of Mass Destruction proportion battle with Vodafone and Telecom trying to get numbers changed over and returned, and they were without phone or Internet from the day before I arrived to the week after I left. Cellphone coverage in their house is limited at best, so their endeavours to help me resulted in complete communication loss for all of us. Needless to say, I felt more than a little terrible.

So now I am in Berlin and have adopted a new slogan - kein Job, keine Wohnung, kein Problem (no job, no house, no problem). Many people said to me in the lead up to my move to Berlin, “No job? No house? No friends? Oh my goodness. What will you do?” My German teacher even used it to teach the class a new word - courageous (except I know she wanted to use ’stupid’). One other person said to me, “well, um, at least you have, um, ahh, a good attitude.“ I wasn’t at all stressed out about it until everyone seemed to be telling me I should be. But within five minutes of arriving here (and getting a chocolate heart that I won’t eat and a phone number that I won’t use from a German rugby player - a-thank you) all of my worries subsided. There is a massive abundance of cheap housing here, due to the fact that there is no industry, and that after the wall came down developers expected a massive influx of people that didn’t happen, so lots of houses were built with no one to fill them. The taxi driver also said to me that despite the recession, there is definitely work to be found here because the government pays the bills for all these people who can’t get work so lots of people have no incentive to try (sounds a little familiar). And that’s where I come in. Swoop! Job please. I saw an ad for a PUB CRAWL TOUR GUIDE the other day and just about cried at the perfection that would be my life if I got to write books in the day and get paid to party by night. I had already missed the cut off date for being in Berlin to apply (this was a pre-requisite. I thought I could charm my way around it, like the time I got my car fixed for free, but they were obviously like “dude, seriously, pub crawl tour guide. No shortage of applicants"), but I feel confident another dream job will come my way. Perhaps a vacation trier-outerer? Perhaps a professional puppy cuddler? Perhaps Boris Becker’s girlfriend? Haha. And then I will become leader of the (possibly free - play nice kiddies and I‘ll see how generous I‘m feeling) world and then I won’t need a job, because I figure the world will run itself. Right? And all of the cute little “haha”s I put in my emails and text messages will become “mwah haha”s. I will also get back the FIFTY EUROS I had to pay in excess baggage to get my new backpack filled with new books and new clothes from Suttgart to Berlin. Outrageous.

And now I must vacate the world of the Internet temporarily while I search for a new lair (underground would be ideal - then I‘d be a true evil genius with legitimate world domination plans) and source of income to fund said plans. And then finally I can be not depressed about how sucky the NZ dollar is, but extremely pleased that for every Euro I earn I could buy a small village back home. And the first child from each of you.

Will post a new update when I have a progress report on these important factors to the plan. Oh, and also, I went to an awesome castle with Axel, Clarissa and Leonard (the children) the other day and I think I’m going to move in. I want to be a princess! Crap, maybe I am Barbie… A picture of this castle is on the last post (Germany - Stage One).

Until next time, stay good, be safe and look after the world - because it’s mine.
Stephanie xo

Stage Four - Germany (Part One)

Greetings followers,

Apologies for the delay in correspondence from your fearless leader. I have been living in a land of no Internet, no landline, and no cellphone. But being the courageous crusader of the people that I am, you were never far from my thoughts, so I have written blogs anticipating time to get them up. Why not just go to an Internet café and write them you ask? A) because I am living in a small town that doesn’t have a café, let alone an Internet one and b) the computers in Germany have the z and y keys around the wrong way, no question mark symbol (that I can find anyway) and an o with two dots over it where the @ symbol should be. It’s all too hard.

Anyway, I arrived here in mid February and immediately proceeded to infect the entire family I am staying with with a nasty combination of bugs from a month worth of States/ Canada/ England hopping. Seriously, I have never felt so dreadful in my life. This mystery illness was worse than Glandular Fever and the time we thought waterskiing in Lake Taupo in July would be “ no biggie” put together. What’s worse, the children didn’t actually show signs of the illness until they got to their elderly grandmother’s house, and proceeded to infect her and her other daughter. What a first impression. I guess that’s one way to dominate a country - infect all the inhabitants and have them crumble around you. However, there is a chance Germany will get me back. Now that I am recovered, there is a nasty strain of rubella going around that is apparently immune to the inoculations we got in form two and then pretended we were too sick to go back to class having been infected with measles, mumps and rubella so ate cookies instead while lying down on the benches.

However, the happy news was that I did recover from my illness in time to investigate the custom that is Karnival and attend my first Karnival Party. Karnival is a week long shindig in Cologne where people get dressed up, anything goes, and the revelers chase away the Winter to bring on Spring. It’s kind of like the Wellington Sevens on crack. However, here in Dornach we did it a little differently - the party lasted two hours, the attendees were aged 5-9 years old, and we held it in the school hall, but still, I rocked Karnival!!!

Upon full recovery of my illness I set about building a life for myself in this strange snow-covered landscape so I could properly investigate German family culture. I enrolled in a five week German course (of which I missed the first week and a half - oops) and also a fitness class. The town may have less than 700 residents, but imagine my delight to discover it does have almost the full range of Les Mills classes! Body Balance is my new favourite thing EVER! In my first class the teacher, who had been to New Zealand only a few months previously to become a fully-fledged Les Mills instructor, proceeded to tell the entire class that Les Mills classes were from New Zealand, and so was I! Wow! Everyone looked at me like I WAS Les Mills, and spent the first 40 minutes of the class watching me since they thought I would be an expert. If I had known the German to say, “I may come from New Zealand, but that doesn’t mean I can do this class any better than you can build a Mercedes” I would have, but in the end my inability to touch my shoulder blades with my feet did the talking for me.

German school was also an interesting initial experience. None of the other people in my class speak English, so it is really good for my German. However, some of them seem to be a little confused about where NZ is. The first man, from a country deep in Africa that I didn’t understand when he told me, nodded and said in, “Ahhh, NewZealand, high in the North.” No no, we’re quite far in the South, I told him. “No you’re not,” I was informed. “You’re country is high in the North and you speak Ukraine-ish” (also commonly referred to as Russian for those playing at home). I think I had just about convinced him I knew where NZ was and was fairly confident it was English we were speaking there when a 58-year-old man from Iraq told me he speaks English. “Ahhh. Umm, good,” I told him. And then he said to me, “How you see the Germany?”
“Um, sorry, what?”
“The Germany! How you see the Germany?”
“Um, with my eyes?”
“You! You no speak English! I speak English! I write, I write.”
He then proceeded to write down this sentence.
‘How you sie the Germany.’
“I’m sorry, I still don’t understand.”
I point at the word sie. “THAT’S not even an English word!”
To which he screwed up the paper, stormed off, and said, “YOU no speak English.”
I thought I had made an enemy for life until the next day he smiled at me, waved pleasantly and asked, “Stephanie, how you see the Germany?”

I also had an interesting experience when I walked in a bit late one day (following a frightening encounter with an Albanian bus driver who tried to kidnap me - seriously, it was terrifying and I made some high-pitched noises that would have put Mariah Carey to shame. I will explain in detail later, but at this stage I prefer not to re-live it. To my dismay, this would eventually become the first of many horrifying encounters with very pushy and very creepy men where I would be followed, watched, grabbed at and even drawn) and frantically unpacked my things, leaving my iPod on my desk. The man from Ukraine who was sitting next to me said, “iPod?” In a basic German conversation that I’m sure was still a crime against the German language, we managed to put together something along the lines of;
“Oh yes, um, it is an iPod.”
“Can I look?”
“Of course, no problem.”
He stared at my iPod with such amazement and wonder that I realized iPods are probably a bit of a novelty in Ukraine, and let him play with it until the battery went flat, feeling simultaneously guilty that I came from a privileged country where everyone and their grandmother have iPods, yet a little pleased that I could afford him this small enjoyment.
The next day he came in and smiled at me and said, “iPod?” I set about getting my iPod out of my bag for him to play with when he pulled out a brand new iPod Touch and said in what I suspect is the only English he knows, “You must upgrade.” While I thought he had been marveling at the wonder that is the iPod, he had actually been looking at an ancient relic of third generation Apple technology, wondering how this thing was even still playing music, probably while laughing at my shocking music collection.

Somehow, although my German skills are much weaker than I had thought, I managed to pass a test that put me at the equivalent of Bursary level German. So I am learning the stuff that I was apparently learning in seventh form, except this time I‘m trying to understand it instead of passing Alana notes about how in that dress Frau Badenhorst looks like a pig riding a donkey. But seriously, there are 20 different words for “the”, a bunch of random words that make all the verbs go to ridiculous places in the sentence in varying forms, and 20 variations of each word depending on which gender they are (EVERY noun is assigned either feminine, masculine or neutral, and you’re expected to just know them), whether they are occurring in the past, perfect, future or present tense, and what verbs they are being assisted by. Alana, how we ever passed German is beyond me. Thankfully, I have Heidi Klum on my side giving me weekly lessons with Germany’s Next Top Model. Heidi Klum; supermodel, TV host, singer, mum, wife, German teacher - is there anything that woman can’t do?

But the thing I am remembering most about being back at school every day is the physical, all-encompassing, soul-biting pain of when the teacher rubs off the blackboard but leaves the tiniest bit of a chalk behind. It’s a deep ache from well within my chest that urges me to jump off and rub it off, while a feat of superhuman willpower that someone manages to keep me in my seat. Also, remember how much we hated being told not to chew gum? Well, after sitting next to Yasmine, the Turkish I-can-chew-gum-with-my-mouth-open-using-every-mililitre-of-my-saliva-and-putting-all-the-muscles-in-my-face-into-it-so-that-it-drowns-out-everything-the-teacher-is-saying-and-makes-your-ear-explode gum-chewer, I totally understand, and would like to take this opportunity to apologise to every teacher of every class that I ever chewed gum in.

Finally, a quick word about so-called German efficiency. Example:
New Zealand, Sunday, 2pm
You know what? I feel like opening a bank account today. I’m going to rock into any bank in a mall that I like and do it. [Half an hour later] Look at me with my sweet bank account, Eftpos card, with the PIN that I chose, and Internet and phone banking all ready to go. Oh happy day.

Germany, Monday, 1pm
I’m going to go and open a bank account. Uh-oh, they are all out for lunch from 12:30pm to 2pm. How strange. I will come back tomorrow.

Germany, Tuesday, 2pm
“Hello, I would like to open a bank account.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Um, no.”
“We are too busy to help you” (FYI, there are 10 people working in the bank and no customers). “Please go away, ring us, and make an appointment.”

Germany, Wednesday, 9am
Ring, ring. “Hello. Can I please make an appointment to open a bank account today?”
“No. Come in tomorrow at 3pm.”

Germany, Thursday, 3pm
“Hello, I am here to open my bank account.”
“Come this way. Fill in these forms. Thank you. Goodbye.”
“Um, where is my bank card?”
“We send that to you in the post.”
“Oh. Can I register for Internet banking?”
Sigh. “Fill in these forms. Sign here. Thank you.”
“Thanks. So do I just go online and sort it out?”
Strange look. “No, we will send you a letter.”
“Oh, okay. Um, thanks.”

Germany, eight days later
Oh look, mail for me from the bank. It must be my bank card.
“Hello Stephanie. Here is your card. Please come back to the bank to load your PIN number. Within a few days of your visit you will be able to use your card.”

Germany, on Monday (because the banks are closed over the weekends)
“Hello, I would like to load my PIN onto my card.”
“Do you have your passport?”
“Um, no? Why do I need my passport? Your letter says nothing about a passport.”
“Please come back tomorrow with your passport.”

Germany, Tuesday
“Hello, I would like to load my PIN onto my card. Here is my passport.”
Gives me a letter. “Thank you, goodbye.”
“Wait, what’s this?”
Sigh. “Your PIN.”
“But I haven’t picked my PIN!”
Strange look. “You don’t PICK your PIN. We give it to you.”
“Oh. Okay. Um, also, I haven’t received my letter about Internet banking yet.”
“The letter takes two weeks. Goodbye.”

Germany, Friday
Oh look, a letter for me, it must be my Internet banking.
“Dear MR Stephanie Taylor. Here are your forms for Internet banking. Please sign them, bring them back to us, and then in a few weeks we will send you a letter confirming you have Internet banking, and 80 codes so that you can use it.”

This ludicrous inefficiency and lack of customer service will be immediately rectified on point of domination, but, in the mean time, I have conquered the banking system! I think... And I also have a cellphone number! (Similar drama, but we don’t need to go into that again). I’m at 004915227734471 for those wanting personal contact. German bank account, German cellphone number - ich bin ein Germaner!

German domination is going swimmingly. Will update you soon on progress, as well details on impending trip to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day.
Much hearty German love,
Stephanie xx
P.S This is a picture from a really cool castle that I went to, that I'll refer to in the next blog. It's too hard to figure out how to unattach the picture, and I put it on the wrong post. Ooops.