May 25, 2014: Learning the Ropes

Okay, I have been super lazy lately concerning my blog.  It’s time to play catch up again.  This is just going to be a brief overview of the past month or so (well, broken up into two parts and hopefully becoming more detailed.)  Things have picked back up lately seeing as I have been traveling more and doing more things with friends.  But the first week I am addressing in this post was a bit different.  I was not feeling particularly well that week, so I decided to be the courageous person I am typically not and go to the doctor.  As exciting as that seems (*sarcasm*) I am mainly bringing this up to talk about the differences between GP’s in the US and here in Germany.

 

Before going I consulted many people on the topic of going to the doctor here in Germany.  Most mind blowing of all was just how easy everything was.  You call and make an appointment, go and see the doctor, and leave after discussing the issue at hand.  And no, I’m not leaving anything out.  There is no co-pay when you get done.  There is no paperwork you have to fill out beforehand.  You don’t talk to a nurse and tell her everything on said paperwork again.  You just tell the doctor what is wrong and any relevant information, he asks you questions and does any sort of test necessary, and then you simply leave.  Now, I know that there will be some sort of charge eventually (sent by mail and usually around the 5 euro mark), but compared to a doctors visit in America, I found everything very stream-lined, thorough, and cheap.  It’s also work noting that the doctors don’t have several rooms filled with awaiting patients, but rather they are called into his/her office with everything necessary already there.  This is also pretty nice because you aren’t sitting there just waiting for the doctor.  So my overall experience with the German health care system thus far has been extremely positive.  This also concerns the health insurance aspect of it as well.  It really sucks that I have to go back to the American health care system for at least a year, but such is life.

 

So that leads me to my VDAC weekend trip to the beautiful Siegen, or more accurately, this little village about 20 minutes from Siegen.  The trip there, while long and a bit taxing, was fairly uneventful.  I had to change trains a least a dozen times and occasionally I had a bit of a wait at certain stops, but nothing too bad considering it was about 5 hours to get there.  I ended up meeting a friend there and we slowly made our way to the hotel.  This was much more challenging than it sounds considering there were hardly any signs pointing us in the right direction.  After walking around the grounds of some school for at least 10 minutes, we were approached by a man, who happened to be one of the guys in charge.  He then directed us to our corresponding rooms and we went on our way.

 

That night we went to Siegen and took one of those night tours you can see in most cities.  This involves a tour guide with a lantern and a sort of Mideval esque costume telling us about the town, but in a more historical context.  These tours tend to be pretty fun and interesting, but this guide was a bit weird.  His favorite thing was insulting and teasing everyone in the group and just sort of laughing it off as well all smiled awkwardly along.  I don’t think he had any ill intent, but it was a bit off putting at times.  As far as the city itself goes, it is a really nice town.  I really like the different architecture compared with all of the typical Bavarian/Franconian style buildings I am constantly surrounded by.  But the city was a bit sketch.  There were so many people sitting around and drinking beer.  The worst was on the church steps where we were harassed by some guys for about 10 minutes while the tour guide mostly ignored them.

 

 

City tour: this is how squabbling washing women were punished apparently

City tour: this is how squabbling washing women were punished apparently

 

And example of the architechture

And example of the architecture

 

The next day we did some team building exercises, consisting mostly of a high ropes course.  So back in the wooded area behind our hotel there were several ropes strung high in the trees, which we had to cross either by ourself but with the moral support of everyone, or with their physical help (this one in particular consisted of several small and moving platforms which had to be held steady by a person holding a rope on each side.)  Being on the ground was pretty fun and the one course I did manage was pretty fun.  What was not fun was having to jump down from such a height.  While there was no chance we would fall, our brains didn’t tend to think we would be slowly lowered down to safety, but rather we would crash into the ground of death with a splat.  This would be the primary reason I did not chance the other two courses.  But after a lot of convincing I finally went on the last course.  Everyone said it was really easy.  You had to walk across a rope but you had another rope parallel to it which you could hold on to.  As my friends gracefully glided across, I thought, “yeah, I can do that!”  Nope! Chuck Testa. After several minutes of struggling and almost falling, I finally figured out the trick and shakily made my way across and then down.

 

Holding the platforms steady

Holding the platforms steady

 

Proof of my climbing misadventure

Proof of my climbing misadventure

 

Then we went to another station in which we climbed up a tree using several pegs tied to it.  It was a pretty far climb, but everyone, again, made it look manageable, and some even easy.  So I waited and watched and when it came my turn, I was full of enthusiasm.  I made it up about three pegs before “falling”, or rather taking a large step down.  Feeling like I wasn’t giving it a fair shot, I tried again only to make it about as far up before stepping down again.  Oh well, it seems climbing is really not my cup of tea.  But on the plus side I did manage to do the zip line with no issues!  Sure all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride, but it was my only success on the ropes course all day.  And before I move on I want to talk about how cool this zip line was.  Essentially it worked like a pulley.  There was one person attached to the line on the end who would then be pulled up by four colleagues who ran the opposite direction pulling on the end of a rope.  I have to say, the trip us was actually faster and more fun than the trip down.

 

The climbing tree

The climbing tree

 

After that we took a 5k hike around a large lake and up a small hill.  It was a really good chance to talk to everyone and to see some of the nature surrounding the small village, but I was super tired by the end as I lagged behind most everyone else blazing the trail in front of us.  My legs ended up being fairly sore most of the evening, but not having any real lasting aches.  We then all got dressed up and headed back to Siegen for the club’s election dinner, where all the Americans were presented with their program completion certificates.  It was a really nice banquet with what had to be some of the best chocolate mousse I have ever had the pleasure of eating.  And the view from the dining hall was absolutely beautiful.  We were perched atop a large hill with a nice view of the town as the sun set over it.  I could have gazed out that window for hours.

 

UA picture at the VDAC Dinner

UA picture at the VDAC Dinner

 

The next day was mostly filled with travel.  But before we left Siegen we went to the city museum and poked around for awhile.  It was pretty cool, especially seeing the mines beneath the building and getting to actually go through some of them.  The view from the garden was also rather nice.  The museum itself was on top of another hill which overlooked the city below.  If you haven’t figured it out, Siegen is located in a pretty hilly part of Germany.  Then a group of us went to the town center and wasted a bit of time waiting for our trains to come by eating a bit of ice cream.  Considering many of us had to go through Frankfurt, we all rode together, making the time pass more quickly and having some great conversations.  Then we decided that since our wait in Frankfurt was nearly 50 minutes, we had time to give the only Chipotle in Germany a visit.  While it was not a far trip and we got everything To-Go, we didn’t manage to make our original trains.  This was very disappointing, especially considering the fact that we watched our train pull away as we attempted to chase it down, gasping and wheezing as it ignored our feeble attempt.  But it was overall worth it.  I only got into Erlangen an hour later than I would have sans Chipotle.  And Chipotle is just awesome.

 

Beautiful Siegen as seen from the museum

Beautiful Siegen as seen from the museum

 

And that is about everything I have to say about the first two weeks of my month long break from writing.  I will hopefully get around to writing about the last two weeks, which were much more action packed than the previous two.

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