Monday, February 27, 2006

Rosenmontag

Today, for me, marks the end of my first Karneval. I had such a blast! It was fun and crazy. Imagine the wildest street party you've ever been to and there you have it, Karneval in Duesseldorf. I am too tired to write any more. Here are few pictures and you can click on my Flickr badge for all of them:



Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Ich finde Mexican Essen!

I know to those of you in North America, you're thinking, "Ok, James has lost his mind over there in Germany," but I have not had Mexican food since I left San Francisco on Friday, December 30th. It is my favorite food and I found a supermarket in Duesseldorf that sells Mexican food. I bought black beans, refried beans, jalapenos, chili seasoning mix, chips and salsa, corn and flour tortillas, and Tabasco sauce!! I know you can guess what we're having for dinner tonight. I even bought Kraft macaroni & cheese, Newman's salad dressing, veggie burger mix and microwave butter popcorn! I have been unwilling to buy ketchup because there are so many varities, but I just wanted plain Heinz ketchup and guess what? Yep, you guessed it: I bought some today! Now if I could just find a bar that makes a good margarita I will be all set. Bis spater...Oh yeah, I forgot to mention where I bought the Mexican food, just in case you're in Duesseldorf and want Mexican food too, it is in the lower level of Karstadt on Shadowstrasse.
(click photo to enlarge)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Germany has the most medals in the Winter Olympics!

As of Feb 20, 2006 2:37 PM (ET) Germany has the most medals at the Winter Olympics.
Click here for details.

The US is tied for 3rd place with Canada and Russia.

UPDATE: 1. Germany; 2. USA; 3. Canada

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Old Town and pre-Karneval festivities today

Today we went to Old Town for a stroll along the Rhine. The weather was the nicest we've had since we arrived in Duesseldorf in late December. It was rather warm and very sunny. I enjoy days like today. We discovered in Old Town today some festivities related to Karneval which starts this Thursday. It was fun to see some parades and festive costumes. Everyone was having a good day today. I can only imagine what Karneval is going to be like this coming weekend. Crazy days ahead! Stay tuned for the photos of Karneval starting Thursday...





Saturday, February 18, 2006

NRW-Forum: Vivienne Westwood

Today we went to the NRW-Forum's Vivienne Westwood exhibit. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon in Duesseldorf. It was an interesting exhibit. I have been learning more about her since going to the exhibit and I think she is a really great lady. She is involved in politics and you should check out her website to learn more. The exhibit featuring Vivienne Westwood is running until May 14, 2006. If you're in Duesseldorf you should check it out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Language and integration course

A week ago yesterday, Monday 6th of Feb, I received a referral letter from the Auslanderamt (the German government's 'Foreign Citizens Agency.) This letter now allows me to take German language courses for 1 Euro per hour which is subsidized by the government. That will cost me a lot less money than paying for the language courses on my own. They provided a list of schools in Duesseldorf that are approved and certified. Unfornately, the Sprachcaffe is not on the list. Remember the Sprachcaffe is the language school where I am currently learning German. If any one is searching for a good language school, I say choose the Sprachcaffe. The instructors are excellent and the classes are relatively small. My class currently has five students including myself: one Japanese guy, an English guy, a Thai woman and the American woman from San Francisco--she's now my lunch buddy. I am really going to miss her when she returns to San Francisco in three weeks. This is her last week attending classes.:( So back to the main point. I will have two more weeks after this week at the Sprachcaffee. Then I will be going to Berlitz. Berlitz has a good reputation and I am not too worried about it. In addition to the language course, Berlitz has the mandatory "Integration Course" that the German government requires of me. It consists of the Germany culture, history and government. I probably know a lot of it already. So I am not too worried about that either. It's just that I like the Sprachcaffe, but they do not offer the integration course.

The course starts at Berlitz on March 6th. It starts at a slightly higer level than a beginner's level. I had to take a test yesterday to see if I could place into the course and luckily I passed! I will keep you posted about my transition from the Sprachcaffee to Berlitz. Bis spater...
UPDATE on March 16, 2006: The language course at Berlitz was postponed by one month. So I am at the Sprachcaffee from March 6th-10th & March 13th-17th. After that I will just study at home and allow some time for all the German I've learned thus far to sink in before I start at Berlitz on April 6th...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kaiserwerth today

We went to Kaiserwerth this afternoon for a nice stroll around the area. It is a cute little town near Duesseldorf. Here is a typical looking building:
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This is another typical building in Kaiserwerth:

This field is right along the Rhine in Kaiserwerth. It was so peaceful and the air was so fresh. It was a nice relaxing stroll for a Sunday afternoon:

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Duesseldorf protest a bust!

As you can see there weren't many people there at all...
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Friday, February 10, 2006

Protests in Duesseldorf tomorrow

I am not sure if this is making the news in America, but it sure is big news over here in Europe.
I am referring to the protests around the world regarding the cartoons...Well, M told me he heard on the radio on his way home that there are protests planned for Duesseldorf tomorrow. We live about a block from the US Consulate here in Duesseldorf so maybe I will stay in the house tomorrow....
Click here for more info.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke out about the ongoing Mohammed cartoons controversy, saying the media should not pour oil on the fire by reprinting the images. His words were justified, says DW's Peter Philipp......

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Google Earth, geotagging & Flickr

I recently discovered a very cool app that allows you to geotag your Flickr photos. It is called GETrackr. Then when someone is viewing your Flickr photos they can click on the link under the photo titled, "Fly To This Location." If they have Google Earth downloaded and installed on their computer, then once they click on "Fly to This Location" near the photo they are viewing on Flickr, Google Earth will launch and "fly" or zoom into the spot on Earth where that photo was taken. It is very cool. You should check it out. I only have three photos tagged with "FlickrFly" so far. You can search in Flickr under the tag flickrfly to see all the photos on Flickr so far with this feature.

It is very simple to add the flickrfly html code to the description section of your photo. It is just a matter of cut and paste. Go here for the code: FlickrFly. (you will cut and paste this code into the comments section of your photo on Flickr or in the description section)

If you have Flickr photos and want to do the same thing to your photos then follow these steps:

1. Download and install Google Earth. (if you don't have it already)
2. Download GETrackr. This will automatically become part of the Google Earth you downloaded or already have. The GETrackr app takes less than a minute to download. (By adding GETrackr to your Google Earth, it allows you to zoom to the spot on Earth where you took the photo. Then once you have the spot where the photo was taken in the center of the Google Earth screen you can click on the GETrackr pin and a pop-up window is displayed with the geotag information. You simply then copy the tags listed so you can then switch back to your Flickr photos and tag that photo by pasting it into the ADD tag field on Flickr.)

It is very simple and really cool! Have fun! I am going to go and update some more photos...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Last weekend in Amsterdam

Here are a few photos from our trip to Amsterdam last weekend for our mini-honeymoon. I am already looking forwarding to returning in the Spring. It wasn't too cold there, but I am sure I will like it even more in the Spring. If you want to see more of the photos from our trip to Amsterdam, click on the green Flickr badge in the right-hand column of the blog.

This is obviously the famous Flower Market (click on each photo to see a larger version):


Notice the seven bridges in a row down the canal:

This is a shot out our livingroom window. Today we had rain off and on all day:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Residence permit obtained!


Can you believe it? I got married on Friday and the next business day, today--Monday, I received my residence permit in my passport. It is so wonderful that Germany is able to process a residence permit on the very same day. The whole process took about one hour. Including the German language test I had to take. I even have authorization to work in Germany now. Moreover, I did not even have to pay one Euro!!! I love GERMANY!!! I just hope the USA will catch up with the rest of the Western world and allow gay partners to sponsor each other for immigration purposes. I am just in "shock and awe." ;) And now a little about our mini-honeymoon to Amsterdam. We boarded our train from Duesseldorf to Amsterdam and departed the Duesseldorf Hauptbahnhof (main train station) at 08:40. We arrived in Amsterdam only two hours later. I tell ya, I love the train so much more than flying. If I can take a train, I will. You can reduce the stress level by about 98%. Any way, we arrived in Amsterdam and took the next tram from the Centraal Station to our stop, Prinsengracht-stop. We stayed at a gay-owned bed and breakfast, Hotel Amistad. It was nice and a very convenient location. I will skip all the details because I can tell ya it was GREAT! I now want to move to Amsterdam and open a bed and breakfast. The city is so cute. It is so interesting. There's so much to do. The coffeeshops, etc.

The government and their social policy is so right on. I think the rest of the world should adopt the Amsterdam way of life. I love it! Of course we visited some important sights, for example: The Van Gogh Museum, the Amsterdam Historical Museum, Dam square, the Flower Market, etc. Additionally, we took a canal boat tour. What a great idea. It is a good way to see the city quickly and easily. You don't have to walk too much and you can cover a lot of the city without worrying about riding a bike and dodging all the pedestrians. I did get a little sea sick when the tour boat went out into the harbor, but I recovered fairly quickly after we returned to land. Over all, this was a great trip and I highly recommend Amsterdam. I used to believe San Francisco was the best place on Earth, but now I am convinced it is Amsterdam. In my humble opinion, based on what I know and where I have been thus far, 1. Amsterdam, 2. San Francisco, 3. Montreal (in the summer,) 4. Vancouver, 5. etc....

I now I will attend the Sprachcaffee for this week and next. Then I will have to go to another language school because I received the list from the Auslanderamt today and the Sprachcaffee is not on the list. I am a little disappointed about this because I like my fellow students, the two instructors I have had thus far, the location, etc. However, I most likely will be going to the Goethe Institute in Duesseldorf at the Hauptbahnhof, right next to the U.S. consulate. The good thing is that I will be only one block from my new language school where as now I have to take the street car or walk for about 15 minutes. Additionally, the Goethe Institute has a good reputation and is even subsidized by the German government. Any way, enough for now. If you want to see photos of our trip to Amsterdam, click on my Flickr badge in the right-hand column..I will post some photos later to this blog, but blogger.com is having problems uploading my photos right now. More tomorrow...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

We're back from Amsterdam and we're going to the World Cup!

We are back from Amsterdam and I will upload the photos tomorrow or Tuesday. I checked my inbox and I received the following e-mail:

We are delighted to inform you that we have been able to allocate you individual tickets for following match as a result of a draw at the end of sales phase 3 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany (TM):

2 tickets for match no. 33 on 20.06.2006 in the city of Berlin.

YEAH! We got tickets to the World Cup game in Berlin, Germany vs. Ecuador!!!

Friday, February 03, 2006

We are now married!

Today is a historical day. My partner and I were married at the Standesamt in Duesseldorf! We are officially married in Germany. It is hard to believe, but it is now a fact. My next step is to go to the Auslanderamt on Monday to obtain my German residence permit. So now we are going to relax this evening and we are off to Amsterdam tomorrow morning until Sunday evening. Have a great weekend everyone. I will post photos of the trip to Amsterdam when we return.

Here is the Standesamt just north of the Hofgarten in Duesseldorf:

This is the foyer inside the Standesamt:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Konigsalle today

I went out shopping today to the Ko or Konigsalle. It was almost warm today. The weather seems to be getting warmer and the days seem to be getting longer--that I am thankful for! I wanted to share a few photos of my adventures today.

I like this shot and I title it: "Inter-species Interaction"

As I was walking down the Ko and on my way to the bookstore to buy Deutsch perfekt, I had the pleasure of stumbling upon this vantage point and wanted to share it:

This one is simply titled: "Die Brucke" (I have an American computer so no umlauts)

This was taken right after the shot of the elderly man feeding the birds. I love the angle of the sunlight beaming over the water:

What an elegant lampost. It seems as if a woman is carrying two lanterns.