Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This is How I Look When...Pjesa e Fundit? office asks for the twenty-seventh time if we could use just a teeny-tiny bit of money from the grant to make our office nicer, like just buy a gallon of paint, Meri, no one will notice:

..."Wait, the money goes when you go? We have to finish the grant before you leave?"
(note: we have discussed this literally ten times at least):

...when I see someone I know out in public and I don't want to stop and talk with them, like, at all:

...when I shake an old guy's hand and it lasts waaaaay too long: goes on and I have to make big girl decisions and I have no idea what I'm doing:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spaetzle & Singing Hills

Last summer I decided that taking an awful, expensive, giant, difficult test for fun was a good idea. So I registered for the MCAT and decided it was a great excuse to spend even more money that I don't have and be surrounded by people who are taller and blonder than I. Thankfully, Megan survived her holiday travels (the last three days of which were so awful I'm trying to get her to write about them and post them here so you can all commiserate with her), and off we went to Munich.

We arrived in the city at midnight, bedraggled and run-down versions of our normal selves. I hadn't left Albania for over six months, was surprisingly anxious about a test I swore up and down I couldn't care less about, and hadn't eaten in two days - so, basically, the perfect travel companion. I needed this vacation so bad. ("So bad" I have to butcher an adverb to express it adequately, for shame.)

We had a full day on Monday before my exam on Tuesday to revel in drinkable tap water, stores stocking pants in our size, and proper city waste management. We had pho and sushi for dinner (thanks for making me actually eat something, Meg!) and turned in for an early(-ish) night.

I left in the wee hours of the morning to get to my exam before sunrise. As unexpected was my previous anxiety, so too was my eerie calm as I attempted to pass the first test (trying - and failing, for a good ten minutes - to find my way into the testing center). I felt light as a bird, and about as focused as one, too. But the test was on Messerschmittstrasse, which is the name of the street to my house back home, so I took that for super mega good luck.

The test proctor asked me if I was related to those Quandts and I felt right at home (not only could she pronounce my last name, she recognized it! Not in Lushnje anymore!). (Also, not related to those Quandts.) After my exam, I scarfed down a cheesy pretzel and passed out for a nap until Megan got back from her day trip to Dachau. After our less-than-super-happy-fun Tuesday, we woke the next day for our walking tour bright and chipper and ready for some fun!

The weather didn't agree with us, though, so we spent most of the tour dashing from awning to door stoop to overhang trying to stay dry in the icy cold sleet pestering the city. 

Our tour guide, a sweet American-turned-German girl, told some awesome stories about the crazy history of this city. Most involved beer. For example, the cross of the spire of St. Peter's Church (gorgeous interior above) faces the wrong direction. The story goes that it fell down during a storm a few centuries ago, and none of the monks wanted to climb the steep roof to put it back. Where do you find someone willing to do something so stupidly dangerous? Why, a local beer hall of course! So they found a man foolhardy enough to attempt the mission and up he went, cross in one hand, beer stein in the other (sustenance for the climb, of course). Miraculously, he managed to replace the cross and raised his arms to cheer...and dropped his glass stein. It rolled down the steep, tiled roof and hit the cobblestones four stories below - and managed not to break. This being the Catholic church of the middle ages, they decided this was a miracle sent from the Lord and thus kept the revered cup in a special display case at the church, where it remains today.

Jewel-encrusted skeleton of St. Munditia, a "Holy Martyr of the Faith" - you can read all about these (and see better pictures of) bejeweled skeletons scattered across Europe here. 

New Town Hall

The famous Rathaus Glockenspiel, which has put on a show at least twice a day for over a century, depicts a wedding and jousting ceremony from the sixteenth century, as well as the cooper's dance dating (allegedly) from 1517.

We didn't take many pictures. The weather = gross. Also, we were having too much fun just going with the flow, instead of trying to document every. single. thing. 

The sun came out for a striking sunset, which made all the buildings of the Marienplatz glow in a way impossible for a camera to capture.

We spent a few days wandering around churches, museums, and beerhalls. Then, on a whim, we decided to take a cheap local train to my new favorite city in Europe, Salzburg. Yes it was beautiful. No, I did not sing "The Hills Are Alive" like I invented it the whole time I was there. Yes, I wanted to.

Mozart Square

Mozart's birthplace!

Behold: the Alps!

Behold: The Nonnberg Convent, home of Maria before meeting the Von Trapps!

Hohensalzburg fortress, started in 1077 (so, literally a thousand years old), one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Never been conquered and totally still habitable! (Unlike Skanderbeg's castles up north, which are nothing more than stones and grass...) 

After we returned to Munich, we had one last morning before departing for Tirana. What a great trip to finish off my international European adventures! As always, thanks to Megan for being an awesome travel buddy. Je e mrekullueshme, moj. <3

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Procrasti-blogging and Other Pursuits of Distraction

I'm taking the MCAT in 65 hours, so instead of taking another practice exam I'm going to "add another chapter" to my dad's favorite book, cuz that's how he described my blog and isn't that the sweetest darn thing you've ever heard?

Thus, a review of 2014:
Remember when I wanted to read 75 books this year? Oops, read 95. I did Goodreads "Book Challenge" and they're like, naw, 75 ain't good enuff do more do more you lazy bum. So I did. I didn't hit all the books on this list, but I did pretty well:

1. A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking (50% done) (although after this book it's hard to believe in something as simple as numbers.)
2. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
3. The Brother Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
4. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
5. A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
6. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
7. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
8. Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather 
9. Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
10. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
11. Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes
12. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
13. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
14. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
15. The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton
16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou 
17. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
18. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (2% done...)
19. The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
20. On the Road - Jack Kerouac la la la I don't see you why did I even put you on the list....
21. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
22. Oryx & Crake - Margaret Atwood
23. The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir (50% done...I can't rush this book, it's definitely one to savor!)
24. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
25. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (halfway done!)
26. Slaughterhouse-5 - Kurt Vonnegut
27. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
28. The Stranger - Albert Camus
29. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
30. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
31. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
32. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
33. Middlemarch - George Eliot
34. A Book of Memories - Peter Nadas
35. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
36. Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
37. War & Peace - Leo Tolstoy
38. Siddhartha - Herman Hesse
39. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
40. The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
41. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
42. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
43. The View From Castle Rock - Alice Munro. (Basically, anything by Alice Munro.)
44. Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
In 2013, I hit up five new countries. In 2014, I only hit two (oh, poor me, right?): Rhodes, Greece in April and Venice & Florence, Italy in July: