Welcome to Mosquito Haven

aka My bedroom.

Over the past days, it has been unusually warm in San Francisco. We are talking 28°C (82°F!!!!!!!!!) and NO FOG. I repeat- NO.FOG. I know that the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has been indulging in hot sunny summer weather since..well..the beginning of summer. Good for you. Come June, Karl-the-Fog starts lingering over our city like a thick woolen blanket leaving us with zero chance of sun and a hundred percent abandonment of beaches. But not so this week. This week has been so close to being perfect- until I learned about the downsides of hot weather in San Francisco.

Unlike any other city in the U.S. that I have visited, San Franciscans usually don’t have A/Cs in their homes. Or mosquito screens built into their windows. Are you following the equation? Exactly, it gets freaking hot at night. The air in your house becomes stale and the only way to make it through the night is to leave the windows open. The cool air brings an unwanted visitor with it thought: the mosquito!

This has been the fourth night in a row where I have barely slept. I had killed about ten mosquitos each evening before going to bed but these little bastards are night active!!! Which means, they will hide in corners of your room you weren’t even aware of, only to come torture you with their F****** annoying “EEEEEEEEEEEW” that will get closer and closer to your ear the minute you switch off the lights. From here on, you have three options:

A. Ignore

B. Wave your hands like a crazy person, hoping to discourage the little bloodsuckers

C. Jump out of bed, switch the lights back on and furiously stand in the middle of your room, with a shoe in your hand,   
              examining every crack or dark stain on your wall.

The option you are most likely to choose will probably depend on the time of night the incident occurred at. From experience, I know that these freaking beasts tend to travel in groups. You are, and always will be, outnumbered. So, you will eventually decide to give up. From here on, you have two more options:

 A. Build a blanket cocoon, which ideally will cover everything except for your nose. You will sweat to death, but at least your
body
will not be the victim of a satanic blood cult.

B. Let the tiredness win and just sleep. Acknowledge that you can’t do much and wake up the next day with mosquito bites all
             over. All. over. We are talking about 50 in all sorts of places in my case.

I have been living off of espresso since the beginning of this week and I am not sure how much longer I will be able to keep going. My walls have blood stains all over (guess I won’t get that security deposit back…), my eyes have deep shadows underneath, my hair looks gross every morning because I basically spent 8 hours in a steam sauna and they are still coming in. It will never stop. They will never stop. I surrendeeeeeeer.

Sunset Viewing Spots in Bay Area

I love sunsets. You love sunsets. Everybody loves sunsets. But, ever since living here, I’ve come to realize that California sunsets put this amazing spectacle to a whole new level! So, here are a few spots that turn an ordinary sunset into an unforgettable experience.  So, if you are located in the Bay Area and got a car, time and a sense for romance and adventure- GO.*

*Warning: sunset viewing spots within San Francisco limits really only work if Karl the Fog is on your side…

1. The Touristy One: Marina Beach

Standing at the shore of Marina will give you a view straight onto the Golden Gate Bridge, behind which the sun goes down. If the bridge wasn’t already orange, it sure would be then!

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2. The filmography One: Alamo Square

Yes, yes, it’s the Painted Ladies from the Full House intro. And yes, they look even more beautiful and photogenic when the sun sets and taints them in a lovely rosé color. Head to Alamo Square for a nice picnic and enjoy the scenery!

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3. The Obvious One: Twin Peaks

You really cannot get around a hike up to Twin Peaks when visiting the city. Ideally, you hike up just in time to see the sun set over the ocean. That way, you will be able to see the city both in daylight and slowly getting ready for another night to remember.

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4. The Windy One: Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is where the sun touches the water and the horizon and it could look all epic and stuff…but it WILL be windy and, 90% of the year, it will also be foggy. If you are willing to pay a little more to view the spectacle in a warm, elegant restaurant, then Cliff House is your place. But for all those that scramble cents together for next month’s rent, just look at the wind as a way to clear your head! And, once the sun is down, you will be able to enjoy beautiful city lights (again, if it ain’t foggy that is).

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5. Around the Corner: Stinson Beach

Just over the bridge and straight on till the moooorning…or something along those lines. Stinson Beach is a great place to watch the sunset if you just wanna get out of the city and breathe and be by yourself and all that jazz.

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6. The Warmer One: Santa Cruz

Just about about 70 miles (100km) south of San Francisco lies Santa Cruz, a beautiful surf town. The beach has a pier that offers everything from rollercoaster rides to, wait for it, deep-fried Oreos and Cheesecakes…ooooh ‘murica…
It is often much warmer in SC than it is in The City, so go there on a summery day and enjoy the sunset by the lighthouse!

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7. The Magical One: McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Ok, this one is quite a drive and really halfway between SF and LA. But, it is also the first sunset that has moved me to tears with its beauty. There is a beach, a waterfall, the ocean, amazing colors and this very very intense sunset. I swear, I am not a super emotional person, especially not in public. And still, I stood there watching the sun go down and was totally overwhelmed with the realization that this moment is as perfect as it gets and that I’m happy and incredibly lucky to be able to experience something like that. Truly magical.

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Kitchen Adventures: Summer Drinks

Okay, it is seriously HOT outside. Much too hot to be cooking, actually. I just made pasta – big mistake. The kitchen feels like a sauna now. What are you going to do in this heat except laze around all day and sip ice cold diet coke?

I’ll tell you. Put the coke down and try one of these summery drinks instead. All of them are healthier than diet coke, and way more delicious! Here are my top three summer favourites:

1. Water with Lemon, Mint & Cucumber

I’ve seldom had anything more refreshing. It’s super easy to make, too, you just have to plan ahead a bit, because it needs to refrigerate overnight for best taste. Here’s what you need:

  • half a lemon (or more, depends on your tastes), sliced
  • about 10-12 fresh mint leaves
  • ca. 1/2 small cucumber, sliced

Put all those ingredients in a tea pot and add 1 l of water. Use cold water! Boiling water makes the flavours absorb faster, true, but it supposedly also kills all the vitamin goodness in the lemon. Then put the pot in the fridge and leave overnight. In the morning, you will have a deliciously cold, absolutely refreshing drink that is apparently also a detox-wonder. Enjoy!
(P.S.: If you’re watching your waistline, you’ll be pleased to know that this drink basically has no calories. Like diet coke, but so much better for you!)

lemon mint cucumber water

2. Banana-Coffee-Smoothie

This one is perfect if you’re a coffee junkie like me, yet in this heat you’re not really up for your standard Americano or Latte in the afternoon. Here is my adaptation of a recipe I found on Pinterest some time ago:

  • 1/2 cup cold coffee (just make a bit more in the morning and then save some in the fridge until the afternoon!)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use 1.5% fat because that’s what we usually have in the house, but full-fat or skim should work just as well)
  • 1 small-medium sized banana
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  • if you’d like the smoothie a bit sweeter and the coffee-taste less intense: 1-2 teaspoons of honey (sugar also works)

Just blend everything together, and if the consistency isn’t quite right, vary the number of ice cubes and the amount of milk a bit – it will depend on your banana, too 😉

3. Sparkling Water with Elderflower Syrup

This one might be a little tough to come by depending on your location. Where I’m from, elderberry juice and elderflower syrup are traditionally home-made, so this drink is actually something my grandmother would have traditionally prepared during summer time. If you can find elderflower syrup, this recipe is absolutely foolproof. You need two ingredients exactly:

  • elderflower syrup (if you’d like to try your hand at making it, Jamie Oliver has a recipe for it!)
  • sparkling water

Mix about 1 part syrup and 5-6 parts water – personally, I like my drinks a bit less sweet so I just use about two tablespoons in a big glass of water, but that’s really up to you. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite summer drink? I’m always on the hunt for new recipes to try!

Thoughts on Living for the Moment

About time I posted something new, I think… you may have realized by now that my summer is not quite as exciting as my roommate’s. It’s been mostly working, and then enjoying my free weekends, and then working again. But of course, stuff always happens when we least expect it, so I’ve had quite a few reasons recently to contemplate the concept of “living for the moment”.

Being the literature geek that I am, I always look for quotes to help me express what I think. So I went and looked up what famous and semi-famous people had to say, and this is what I found:

“Nothing is worth more than this day.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God’s.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

“We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“Nothing ever gets anywhere.  The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere.  The moment is the only thing that counts.”  ~ Jean Cocteau

I could go on for a bit, but I think you get the idea. It goes hand in hand with the realization that change is the only constant thing in life… I heard this several times before but I always found it a difficult idea. What do you mean, nothing is constant? Don’t I get to have friends, family, people that are always going to be there, no matter what? Can’t I settle down at some point and have my life be at least sort of constant? But the thing is, even if I have a constant relationship, say, with a friend or a sibling, that relationship continues to evolve, to change, to be renewed, and both parties have to be there and keep making an effort to keep the relationship alive, to keep it meaningful. So everything always changes, even what appears to be constant. And most things in my life don’t even appear to be constant at the moment… besides my friends and my family, my life is rapidly changing, and it will keep changing for a while. Some of that was expected… some was not.

The part that was so unexpected, the part that makes me think about these things is a very personal story, but suffice it to say I have been given an opportunity to practice the art of living for the moment in the last few weeks… and got to thinking that it’s really the first time in my life that I have embraced this concept fully. I tend to overthink things. I have a difficult time letting go of the past, and a difficult time not worrying about the future. I am not saying I’ve suddenly become an expert at those things. They are still difficult for me. But I feel that in the last few months, and especially the last weeks, I’ve made some important steps. Right now I am enjoying my summer in full consciousness that everything will change drastically very soon. A month from now I’ll be on the other end of Germany, two months from now I will be in Nairobi. But right now, I am where I am, and I am living these days with the consciousness that they are a gift, that I should be thankful for every single one of them.

And when the summer is over, I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life, but I won’t live in them… I will move to the next chapter of my life and I’ll be so much richer, because I’ll have all these memories and experiences. Someone once said to me to live as if “the mug is already broken”… I can’t exactly recall the context of that conversation but it was about how you shouldn’t save something like a beautiful mug for a special occasion and then end up just never using it because you’re scared it could break. Instead act as if it were already broken… then every moment you have it and still get to use it is a gift, a bonus, something more than you needed or expected.

With that in mind, I’m going to go make tea now, and I’m going to drink it from my favorite mug…  which is special, of course, because Ariane brought it for me from London… but as I just said… that doesn’t mean it should just sit on a shelf and never be used. (Although, honestly, I do really hope that it doesn’t break because no matter how Zen I am feeling at the moment, that would be really sad.)

I hope this wasn’t too philosophical, by the way, but well… this is how I’ve been spending my summer. You asked.
(Actually, okay, you didn’t, but Ariane asked. So there you go. Comments, philosophical or otherwise, can be left on the blog or, for those of you who actually know me, also on facebook of course.)

Hi, I work here.

There’s something really strange about working where you normally study. Suddenly people who you collectively referred to as “admin”, become Nancy from Accounting, Tanja and Bianca from Housing and Hilke from Purchasing. I mean, of course you knew the people from career services and the financial aid department, but when does a student really interact with the people in charge of purchasing? I like purchasing requests, by the way. You put these ridiculously large amounts of office supplies on a list, add up ridiculously high prices and then just give the form to someone else, and miraculously, stuff gets delivered and paid for. I’ve been considering smuggling in a few extra items I might need for myself… no, just kidding, of course.

My team is great. I mean, seriously amazing. Within three weeks they went from random faces to people I laugh and joke with. My boss invited me to a painting class the other day and my office mate complains whenever I am NOT playing music on my computer. He also brings me coffee, even though he likes to tell other people that it’s the other way around. All in all, I almost feel like I’ve been part of the team for a really long time, even though I’m an intern and even though I haven’t worked there for more than a few weeks. I’ll be a bit sad to leave in five weeks, really, even though that will also mean I’m finally going home.

I don’t really love the fact that campus has become so quiet with the start of semester break, but working eight hours a day is surprisingly tiring and while during the semester I tend to be most active in the evenings, now I generally just watch TV and then go to sleep early. So it’s okay… not perfect, I’d prefer my social life to be more… well… existent. It’s only for two months, though.

Anyways. I have a few more things I wanted to write about… I went to Berlin and Hamburg for work, for college fairs, and that was quite fun… but right now Criminal Intent is on TV and I’m gonna go watch that, drink tea and doze off… early day tomorrow!

Made in Harlem…

…will be tattooed on the back of my foot if I survive the next two and a half months here without getting mugged or worse. JUST KIDDING. Although it would be kinda cool. But also kinda painful. So, its not gonna happen, don’t challenge me. Jupp, I am living in New York. A dream coming true. However, Harlem is not quite the New York that you picture. Its not Times Square or 5th Avenue, its not SoHo, not even Little Italy. It still got Charme, Charisma and Character. You gotta be careful of what you’re doing. Going out late at night is not really advised. Being kinda a minority here, as white girls, is unusual and something I have to get used to. But Jess and I learned not to look like tourists. We got our “bus faces” on. You know, showing the world: “You bedda NOT mess wid us DUDE!” and it works-so far. Our apartment is cute. Its nicely furnished, our room is just big enough for two (since we are on a budget, Jess and I have to share a double bed- which gave us quite interesting looks from our French roommates in the beginning). The Frenchies are pretty cool and we are getting along with them very well. So, its definitely a nice atmosphere and something great to come home to….if you actually had to leave the apartment. While Jess has actual work hours for her internship, I can do a lot of work online and hence don’t have to come into the office a lot. Interning for an NGO gives your work very much a touch of “don’t worry, be happy” kinda thing. You know, all of them are very relaxed and happy about you working motivated. Anyway, being at home means being super flexible. Most of the time I am chilling, sometimes I go and explore something in the city- either on my own or with the friend of ours that just joined our group of NY interns. His apartment is SICK! Its a three-minute walk to Times Square in one direction and three to Central Park into the other. Hence, he lives CENTRAL but has less of a neighborhood feeling. Soooo…there is good and bad even in a $3000/month apartment in Central Manhattan. BOOYA!

So, its been 2 weeks into my little adventure and I have already seen so much that I am starting to regret not having posted stuff here earlier. Oh well, little summaries will have to do.
Jess and I had our first shopping-for-food experience on the very first day. Being on a budget makes it hard living in New York- especially since there is so much tasty, fat, unhealthy stuff for little money. Like…McDONALDS STRAWBERRY MILKSHAKES. Are you KIDDING me?! this stuff is so much better than it is in Germany. Or…STARBUCKS CHOCOLATE CHIP FRAPPUCCINO ICE-CREAM! its like made for me. Or…Ben&Jerry’s in any possible color or flavor. AmAzzzInGGGGG. The people that were in the supermarket around the corner that day must have had such a fun time listening to me running through the aisles like a little kid, shouting “Look Jess, the Ice-cream choice, can we buy the Mint one….oh wow, all of these are Oreos?! AND OH.MY.GOD…there is an ENTIRE aisle just for CEREAL?!” and it went on like that for several minutes. I felt like the Eastern Germans must have felt in 1990 when they went to Hamburg for the first time. So, we invented the Treat-of-the-Week, which allows us to buy one American awesomeness from our weekly budget. Its usually either ice-cream or oreos or donuts. And once every week, we eat dinner out, so that I get to know the American fast-food culture. Sometimes, this ends like this: 

Every once in a while thought, we cook healthy and German for our Frenchies. Successfully:

I also love Americans. They are so friendly. Except for one day, when Jess and I went to Times Square. They have little red foldable chairs there you know, where you can sit down at little red tables and just soak in the atmosphere…if there are free seats. So, trying to safe us a spot, I walk up to this man who was sitting on a table with one chair, folded together and leaning on the table. In Germany, this would mean that the chair is free. I friendly ask that mean: “Excuse me, is this chair free?” and the man just starts yelling: “What does this chair say?!” Confused me thinks he is stating the obvious and am attempting to grab it. That drives the man nuts. He shouts: “WHAT DOES THIS CHAIR SAY, STUPID?!” Jess grabs my arm and drags me a few meters away from this guy. A few seconds later, the man’s friend comes back and sits down while the man starts complaining about my stupidity in a loud voice, emphasizing how plain ignorant, impolite and STUPID he thinks I am. Finally, I cannot bear it any longer, astonished about HIS impoliteness and ignorance. I turn around and just: “Excuse me, I am standing right next to you, I can HEAR you! What the heck is your problem? Its a sunny day, we are in New York, you still got your chair…relax a little!”. BAM. Me for the win. Just a few days ago Jess told me that, while this incident occurred two weeks ago, she is still frustrated about not having defended me and is now just waiting for the moment a random stranger is yelling at me. She got her words ready now. We still got happy shots on Time Square:

I am also getting more accustomed with our neighborhood. Harlem is doable as long as you keep certain rules in mind. However, this one time, I really got scared to death: It was the middle of the night, our window was open but the security bars closed. Suddenly, a loud noise wakes me up and it doesn’t take me long to realize that it comes from the fire ladder outside of our window. As if either heavy wind was shaking it or as if a person was trying to pull it down. But there was no wind that night…
I freaked out but the only thing that Jess had to contribute to the situation was a sleepy “Dafuq?”, which didn’t really help. In the morning after, I slept in late (it was a weekday but…flexible work hours, remember?) but again got waken up by sounds from the fire ladder. I was close to a break down. Judith knows how jumpy I am, how easy it is to freak me out. And this time, I actually heard heavy steps climbing up the fire ladder. I wanted to grab for the pepper spray on my night table but realized quickly that I had never unpacked it and would have needed scissors to get it out. No time for that. Paralyzed I sat in my bed listening for any sound that could tell me more about the situation outside. Eventually, a male voice goes: “I am down here and I am coming up now.” I FREAKED. Inside. Didn’t wanna give myself away. After a few more minutes I collected all my left over courage and sneaked to the window to look down. What I saw? A cable guy repairing my neighbors TV. Oh well…

Apart from that, Ive done a lot of sight seeing already. The touristy stuff. Last weekend was awesome, we went to NJ to visit a college friend of ours. Spending a day at the beach? Best decision ever! Underestimating the sun and not putting enough sun block on? Stupid as *peeeep* Now I am red as a crab and every single part of my body hurts. Actually, it currently starts itching. Next will be peeling. Hmmmm, attractive. But the day was so good, it was worth it…kinda. I also tried to learn how to skim board but that *peeep* is *peeep* difficult. Gave me a few nice blue stains. However, the waves in the Atlantic Ocean are so much fun. They are huge though and sometimes you just feel like the ball in a basketball game between one wave and the other.

On Sunday, Jessi, I, the friend with the midtown apt, one of our frenchies and another girl I am interning with went to Brookyln via Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. great pictures:

We also had a late-night pick nick in the Brooklyn Bridge Park with a view over the Manhattan Skyline. More and more of great, breathtaking pictures!!!

What shall I say? Its only been roughly two weeks and I am already convinced that this is my city. I love this place. And I can say that this summer for sure will give me an other side of New York as well- the part that isn’t glamorous but poor or on the edge, where people dont wear Prada but carry PathMark bags. I still love this city. With all its up-and downsides. I love the people, the atmosphere, the contrasts. This is where I belong. And I am so, so glad that there is still more to come. So much more to come (hopefully).
Now, I really hope this makes up for my past weeks of absence. Its just been to many impressions coming at once.

P.S. Sunshine2091 doesn’t have that random of a number choice…think hart Judith, I am sure you will find out 😉

Ain’t no sunshine…

… when she’s gone.

My roommate, the awesome person you know as Ari or sunshine2091 (and yes, I have tried, and failed, to figure out what the numbers stand for… date of birth being the obvious guess but then the month is missing?), has left. In about 18 hours or so (I didn’t actually calculate so this might be way off) she’ll be boarding her flight… right now she’s on a train to a friend’s house close to the airport. She checked out of her dorm room, the door is locked, I am alone. And I’m staying here until the end of July. She’s coming back next semester just in time for me to NOT see her before I go to Kenya for several months. So… the person that I have spent anywhere between 10 and 24 hours per day with is just gone. It’s a bit like missing a limb.

Plus, it’s raining, so there is literally no sunshine.

Anyways, this separation of ours was the whole reason for this blog… because we don’t actually care so much whether YOU read it, we just kind of wanted to keep each other updated, and do it in a way that makes us look like the cool, technologically savvy, gadget-wielding hipsters that we would so love to be. (Don’t tell me blogging is SO yesterday. Have you ever seen a long-distance-roommate story on Instagram? Exactly, me neither.)

So anyways. Since the Long-Distance-Roommate thing (can I abbreviate this LDR, please? I’m a lazy typer) is kind of the reason for the blog, we won’t bug you (or each other) too much with how much we miss each other. Instead, we’ll tell you about all our amazing adventures in New York City, Germany and East Africa. Just not today, because the most exciting thing that happened to me today was that somebody told me they were going to sponsor my dinner from their mealplan.

See you next time!