Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hiking in Little Switzerland: Berdorf to Echternach

Sonndeg, 27 September.

As you probably know, I've made no secret about how excited I am to explore Luxembourg's Mullerthal Region. After a wonderful hike with my housemates a few weeks ago, I decided to try yet another outdoor adventure this weekend!

This time, a few American Fulbrighters and I decided to try hiking to Echternach, which has the distinction of being the oldest town in Luxembourg. From the moss-covered rock formations to the stunning views to the incredibly personable city of Echternach, this hike has to be one of my favorite adventures yet!

Amazing, right?!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Saturday in Gaalgebierg

Samschdeg, 26 September.

Today was a beautiful day in Luxembourg and after a welcome brunch for new international students, I decided to get outdoors and explore a new corner of my city!

The municipal park of Esch-sur-Alzette, known as the Gaalgebierg for reasons I cannot for the life of me imagine, is located just on the other side of the train tracks. Although a lot of my housemates go running there, I had yet to check it out. (I can practically hear the surprise: "What? Elisabeth hasn't gone running in Luxembourg yet?!") So this afternoon, I put on my Keds, packed my bag with the essentials -- books and stroopwafels -- and headed out to investigate.

Lessons in Luxembourgish: Days, Weeks, Months

Samschdeg, 26 September.

Moien! I've been in Luxembourg for just over two weeks now and have managed to pick up practically none of the local language. (I have, however, mastered the helpless "I don't speak your language" look.) So today, I'm keeping it simple with a post about something you see every day on this blog -- the Luxembourgish days of the week! I can't think of a particularly practical use for this knowledge at the moment as I have yet to see these words written down in any sort of schedule, but why not?

Let's begin!
Monday: Méindeg
Tuesday: Dënschdeg
Wednesday: Mëttwoch
Thursday: Donneschdeg
Friday: Freideg
Saturday: Samschdeg
Sunday: Sonndeg
As before, these words bear a certain similarity to German days of the week; for example, Montag instead of Méindeg. (And like German, I can't help thinking that the system isn't particularly practical for work week abbreviations ... MDMDF? No thanks!) But as you'll notice in the following video, the pronunciation of these Luxembourgish words COULD NOT BE more different than their German counterparts.

Isn't that crazy?! I can't get over "Dunn-dunnsch" ... I mean Dënschdeg!

While we're here, let's move on to Luxembourgish months. In comparison to the days of the week, they're pretty tame; in fact almost all of them are basically the same as in English.
January: Januar
February: Februar
March: Mäerz
April: Abrëll
May: Mee
June: Juni
July: Juli
August: August
September: September
October: Oktouber
November: November
December: Dezember
I love how October was like, "Hey -- August and September were too normal. I'm going to shake things up and add an extra letter or two!" and then November was like, "Sorry 'bout him." As for what happened to the spring months? I have no idea ... but I have a feeling that I'll be super excited to write "Abrëll" every day for a month!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hiking in Little Switzerland: Mullerthal to Consdorf

Donneschdeg, 24 September.

If you've seen my Fulbright Bucket List, you'll know that hiking along the Mullerthal Trail was one of the things I was most excited to do in Luxembourg. (Rather inexplicably, I should note, as there's no love lost between me and outdoor exercise. Yuck.) Well, I wasted no time -- on my second full day in Luxembourg, I got the opportunity to cross the first item off my list! I spent the day hiking with four other international students from my residence.

We started our hike in the village of Mullerthal (after which the Mullerthal Region and Trail are named). The twelve kilometer hike took us along a portion of the Mullerthal Trail and to the town of Consdorf.

This gorgeous waterfall on the Black Ernz River is called -- wait for it -- the Schiessentümpel. (How fun is Luxembourgish?!) The waterfall is one of the most popular spots for hikers in Luxembourg and was even voted one of the world's most beautiful bridges earlier this year. (Or was it? The article is in German.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Teaching Teachers at Fulbright ETA Orientation

Mëttwoch, 23 September.

After a whirlwind trip to Brussels for Fulbright Orientation, I'm finally back in Luxembourg ... and still digesting everything I learned less than twenty-four hours ago!

The second day of Fulbright Orientation was reserved solely for the five English Teaching Assistants and focused on the challenge of teaching English abroad. Although we all have varying levels of teaching and tutoring experience, it would be a stretch to call any of us professional teachers. Of course, that's not the point of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship; if it were, they'd hire actual trained teachers instead of young people right out of college. Still, it's hard not to feel underqualified for the position -- especially when you realize that you're teaching more English Literature courses than you ever actually took.

That's why ETA Orientation was so important. It provided us with some teaching strategies and helpful advice and it reminded us that we're all are in similar -- if equally poorly-equipped -- boats!

Ready to exchange, explore, evolve and -- hopefully -- EDUCATE!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Touring Brussels with Fulbright Belgium

Méindeg, 21 September.

Hello from Belgium! I'm here in Brussels for my Fulbright Orientation -- a two-day crash course in living and teaching abroad. As part of our Fulbright Orientation today, we were given a brief walking tour of downtown Brussels. Since the vast majority of grantees won't be living in Brussels, this was a great opportunity to get to know the city while we were in town.

We began our tour in la Grand-Place, the historic heart of Brussels. This city square has been the center of the city since the twelfth century; in fact, the Hôtel de Ville (pictured below) was built as early as the fifteenth century!

I found it interesting that most of the square -- along with the rest of the city of Brussels -- was destroyed in the seventeenth century by Louis XIV of France. When the residents of Brussels decided to rebuild their city, they did so quickly, coherently, and with respect to the existing historical buildings. That's why, according to UNESCO, the Grand-Place is such a stunning example of a world heritage site.

In addition to the ever-impressive Grand-Place, one of the most impressive sights on our tour were the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (or Koninklijke Sint-Hubertusgalerijen), a covered shopping arcade built in the mid-19th century. The opulence and sheer size of the galleries serves as proof of the wealth of the city of Brussels. It's stunning!

The arcade contains three beautiful galleries, appropriately named the Galerie de la Reine, the Galerie du Roi and the Galerie des Princes. Nathan, our impromptu tour guide, informed us that back in the day, people used to pay for admission just to walk through the galleries.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday in Luxembourg: (Some) Words & (Mostly) Pictures

Samschdeg, 19 September.

Yippee for Saturday!! Today was a lovely day and I can't wait to share it with you all. However, I feel like I've been doing a lot of typing lately ... so I'm going to give my fingers a bit of a break and let the photos do the talking!

Saint-Joseph in Esch-sur-Alzette

After running to the supermarket this morning (and snapping more than a few photos of the houses and churches I passed along the way), I took the train into Luxembourg City with some girl friends from my residence. We intended to shop and see the sights, but ultimately just wound up taking photos of things we liked all over Luxembourg!

From the buildings...

... to the incredible views ...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Medical Exam -- The Quest for Luxembourgish Residency, Pt. 3

Mëttwoch, 16 September.

When it rains, it pours. I mean this both literally (as it is currently raining cats and dogs outside my residence window) and as a figurative reference to my ongoing registration process. Oh. My. Lord.

After yesterday's exciting visit to the CMS for my tuberculosis test, I imagined that the next step -- the medical exam -- was going to be tricky. At first, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it took a rainy walk to the train station and two train rides to get to the doctor I'd found online. And sure, I was starving and almost entirely soaked (despite my umbrella) by the time I arrived. But the receptionist was friendly, the town of Bertrange was cute, and the medical exam itself was over in fifteen minutes. (Literally, it took longer to walk to and from the Bertrange-Strassen train station than it did for the whole exam.)

See? Cute town, nice doctor's office ... it's all too good to be true!

In case you're as curious about the medical exam as I was before today ... the doctor asked me a few questions -- did I have any diseases? had I been hospitalized? was I taking any medication? -- before taking my height and weight. She then checked my throat, ears, lungs, blood pressure, and (rather rain-soaked) feet.

And then came the kicker. "Do you have your vaccination card?" the doctor asked. I looked at her like I'd never heard English spoken before. Vaccination card? I didn't have a vaccination card! Had I misread the list of important documents? Was there an email I had missed? (Turns out, no. I've scoured the internet and the whole vaccination thing is just a completely random fun surprise.) Luckily, the doctor assured me, she could complete the information if I just emailed her the dates of my vaccinations. Which -- thanks to some particularly thorough medical clearance paperwork for the U.S. State Department -- I already had in my email inbox!

And then came the (second) kicker. An email from the doctor in response to my listed vaccinations, politely informing me that I was missing a polio vaccine booster. Yes, POLIO. As in the disease that I was vaccinated against at age six and hadn't really thought about since because it has been eradicated in all but like three of the world's countries. But apparently in Europe, adults typically receive additional polio boosters ... or maybe they just make their non-EU visitors receive them! Either way, it wasn't the end of the world; I figured I'd make another appointment with the doctor for later this week. And besides, when it comes to crippling diseases, better safe than sorry -- right?

And then came -- you guessed it -- the (third) kicker. According to the website through which I'd booked my first appointment, my doctor didn't have any available appointments until OCTOBER FIFTH. As in almost three full weeks from now and wayyy past the day I'd hoped to finish my paperwork. (Reminder: the titre de sejour can take 1-3 months to process and you can't leave the country until you have it.)


I panicked. Like "used my phone to call the doctor's office at $1/minute" level of panic. And luckily, the crazily overpriced phone call was worth it -- I was able to talk to my doctor and arrange another appointment for tomorrow morning. (Phew.) In conclusion: it took a little while, but I am still getting the vaccine. I can still turn in my paperwork. All is well in the Grand Duchy.

Lessons learned from this adventure?

  • If you're moving to Europe, make sure you're up to date on your vaccinations (and then some). Don't forget copies of any important medical documents and if you don't have an international vaccine card, consider getting one from your doctor. (More information here.)
  • Texting and internet access are great, but life is a LOT easier if you can make phone calls.
  • If you come to Luxembourg, bring a BIG umbrella.

PS. Want to know the absolute craziest thing about this whole day? On my way back from the doctor's office, I decided to take the bus instead of the train back to Luxembourg City. As I was standing at the bus stop, I suddenly realized that everything around me felt strangely ... familiar. Molly and I wound up (accidentally) at this station back in 2013, when we got slightly sidetracked on our route from Luxembourg City to Brussels. Isn't that hilarious?!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Le Test Tuberculinique -- The Quest for Luxembourgish Residency, Pt. 2

Dënschdeg, 15 September.

Have you ever had a tuberculosis test? I have. In fact, I've had two. (Thank you, Fairfax County Public Schools.) They're pretty simple, as far as tests for Terrible Horrible Awful diseases go: you get pricked in the arm and come back a few days later to triumphantly display your lack of disease. Voila. Well -- as my smarting forearm and SERIOUS case of the giggles can attest -- it's not exactly the same in Luxembourg.

In Luxembourg, foreigners seeking a titre de séjour, or residence permit, must submit to both a medical exam and a tuberculosis test. In order to get tested for tuberculosis, I had to go to the local Centre Médico-Social, correctly navigate the tongue twister of a phrase "un test tuberculinique," and present both my autorisation de séjour temporaire and 20 euros. There was, just like last time, a perhaps unnecessary amount of photocopying and stamping. But before being taken back for the familiar arm-pricking, I was led into a small room for my chest X-ray.

That's right. A CHEST X-RAY.

According to WebMD (the fount of all medical knowledge), chest X-rays are usually administered if the patient has either 1) a positive skin test, 2) physical symptoms of active tuberculosis, or 3) an unclear skin test. I asked the technician in charge and apparently Luxembourg does not subscribe to this philosophy ... so in for the X-ray I went!

The whole process was relatively painless, if a bit awkward. (If you want to spare any uncomfortable intimacy with your X-ray technician, I'd recommend bringing along a tank top or light t-shirt. Whoops.) And after the unexpected foray into the exciting world of radiology, the tuberculosis skin test itself was remarkably unremarkable. Given my particular distaste for needles, I was pretty proud of how well I handled the shot -- no tears!! -- and of how easily I was able to chat with the doctor about my experiences so far in Luxembourg. As she looked at my forms and realized I was from the United States, she echoed a sentiment I've already heard expressed a few too many times over the past couple days: "Vous parlez français? Mais vous êtes américaine!"

For most of the people in this multilingual society, the stereotypical American speaks English -- and only English. Everyone who has mentioned this to me -- from professors to students to the staff at the CMS -- has been incredible nice about it: because they don't expect it, they're pleasantly surprised when I'm able to respond in French or muddle along in German and so far, they have all been more than happy to repeat or explain. However, it is a little bit disappointing to realize how low their expectations are. Given this less-than-stellar image of the United States, I'm beginning to understand the true importance of programs like Fulbright whose goals are to foster positive international and intercultural communication.

In conclusion: once I go back to verify my test results on Friday, step two in the quest for Luxembourgish residency will be complete! Up next? A visit to a Luxembourgish doctor in Bertrange, a trip to the post office for a money transfer that will surely be an adventure in itself, and -- the pinnacle of the whole quest -- a visit to the Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes himself. Stay tuned for more updates! ;)

Monday, September 14, 2015

"I HAVE ARRIVED!" -- The Quest for Luxembourgish Residency, Pt. 1

Méindeg, 14 September.

Moien! Today I made the first official step in obtaining Luxembourgish residency. (Well, apart from the whole "packing my bags and flying to Luxembourg" part.) I made my déclaration d'arrivée, or declaration of arrival, at the Hôtel de Ville!

Contrary to popular belief, the déclaration d'arrivée consists of more than just standing on the steps of the town hall and declaring, "I HAVE ARRIVED." It's an important -- though admittedly virtually painless -- process that must be completed within three business days of your arrival in the country. In order to make my déclaration d'arrivée, I had to show up to the Hôtel de Ville with four important documents:

  1. my passport
  2. my autorisation de séjour temporaire, which was mailed to me over the summer (and for which, I had to provide a copy of my passport, of my acceptance to the university, and of my criminal history -- talk about thorough!!)
  3. my contrat de bail, or housing contract
  4. the proof of my enrollment in the University of Luxembourg

Naturally, I only had three of the four.

So back to the house I went. And back to the Hôtel de Ville I triumphantly marched, contrat de bail in hand (as well as literally every other piece of paper I'd received, just in case).

I sat quietly -- still a little embarrassed about having forgotten the correct documents -- while the government official photocopied and stapled and stamped until the pile of papers on the desk had multiplied by three. In exchange for my documents (and a six euro fee), I received a certificat de résidence, or residence certificate, and a receipt of my arrival in Esch-sur-Alzette.

Lest you think that the quest for residency could be resolved in a day, let me assure you that this was but step one of a multi-step process in order to acquire an elusive -- but all too necessary -- titre de séjour. Next up? A tuberculosis test at the local Centre Médico-Social, a medical exam from a (hopefully English-speaking) Luxembourgish physician, and a trip to the Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et Européennes to hand in all my paperwork. Because the paperwork itself can take up to three months to be processed, it's best to get all this done as soon as possible. My goal is to turn everything in by Friday ... stay tuned for the results!

But for now, Äddi!

This post is part of a series. Click here to read more!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Moien, Luxembourg!!

Samschdeg, 12 September.

Moien ("hello") from Luxembourg! (Or, since we're being all international, from Lëtzebuerg ... that's Luxembourg in Luxembourgish. But I digress.) I am writing from my new home away from home, the Maison Koehlebierg in Esch-sur-Alzette. Although I have only been in Luxembourg for twenty four hours, there is already so much to say and so many stories to tell!

But let's start at the beginning...

Pre-departure photoshoot at Dulles Airport!

I flew to Luxembourg on KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, or Royal Dutch Airlines), the Dutch counterpart of Air France, and spent a few hours on layover in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Although the airport was lovely (and featured free WiFi, a perk whose importance simply cannot be overstated), I quickly realized that -- despite a few years of German and a relatively positive attitude toward the Netherlands -- I by no means speak Dutch. Luckily, in addition to their understanding of the importance of Internet access, the Dutch also all seem to speak English.

After a lengthy but relatively smooth layover in Amsterdam, I finally made my way to Luxembourg! My first glimpse of the grand duchy was from the air and I couldn't resist snapping a quick photo through the plane windows. Did it feel like Princess Mia's arrival in Genovia at the end of The Princess Diaries? Why yes. Yes it did.

After arriving at Luxembourg's much smaller airport yesterday, I went straight to campus to get my student card and room key (more on the fun administrative side of things later) and finally arrived in the southern city of Esch-sur-Alzette around dinner time. Dinner, however, wasn't in the cards; after unpacking about half my suitcase and struggling to keep my eyes open long enough to figure out the WiFi password, I went straight to sleep!! (Let me tell you -- jet lag is real and it is terrible.)

Today -- my first full day in Luxembourg -- has been a fun, disorienting whirlwind, full of walking, grocery shopping, and meeting new people whose names and native languages I'm not sure I'll remember. The fact that I am finally here after months and months of waiting has yet to sink in, but I have a feeling that Luxembourg will very quickly start to feel like home.

I'll write again soon and share more photos and information about my new life in Luxembourg. But for now -- Äddi!!