Sunday, September 28, 2014
Starting with this entry, I am hoping to compile a series of blogs that highlight the gradual, exciting and interesting process of perusing a vegan diet as the centre of the balanced life I am seeking in Germany. These blogs will feature a lot of pictures so they will take a month or two each to come to fruition-- be patient and enjoy. Future entries will include: “Vegan Street Day,” and pictorials of my growing Vegan cookbook collection and the real food I make and eat on a daily basis, that entry in particular will be really colourful and great but take a while because I only cook three dinners each week.
A couple of things about me:
. I’ve been vegetarian for about 15 years. When I moved to Japan the spring/summer of 2008 I began eating some Seafood and never completely got out of the habit. I really dislike the taste of meat and always have so vegetarianism has always been easy.
. I am a great example of a vegetarian that was not a balanced vegetarian for a long time (think high school Samantha…a lot junk and white carbohydrates) and it has taken thus far four years and ongoing to lose weight.
. I’ve been interested in veganism for a long, long time but did not successfully begin eating vegan until July. I started by signing the 30 day pledge here: and doing as best as I could. During that timeframe I went to Ireland could not be 100% sure everything I ate was vegan.
. I am *not* trying to be super vegan or completely unifiable. I have seen that many vegans are hardcore and if you are not completely free of meat, milk and eggs at all times you fail and have no right to call yourself a vegan. Amongst this sort it also extends to clothing, makeup etc. As I have said to colleagues at work, who respect my flexibility amongst the dairy and meat eating German majority, I am not trying to be ‘vegan Jesus.’ I am currently aiming at 90% vegan in my food consumption. I have experienced success this way and my body really loves and this shows in the way my clothes fit and the endurance I have in my daily workouts (don’t ask me about weight because I am on a ‘scale fast’ until the end of October!) If we are really honest, all people who identify as Vegan, there is almost no way of knowing that every single thing you eat is free of milk and eggs; a common example here in Germany is bread.
.I love animals and will always stand up against cruelty when I see it. I can see in just in my purchasing habits alone, that 90% vegan makes a big personal contribution against the unsavory practices found in a lot of egg or milk collection for example.
. And the MOST IMPORTANT: when food is made for you, offered with love and good intentions if it isn’t vegan so be it. The ultimate aim of veganism for most people is to minimize harm done to animals through the production of their products, the benefits that fall from for our personal health and the environment are notable too. ..So what I don’t understand is why people are so militant that they turn off others from vegan possibilities. We love animals clearly but not always enough to tolerate and accept one another.
Anyway! Let’s go…
So when most people think of Germany and German food they think of something like this.
LOL at worst some of our grandparents or great grandparents cooked with stuff like this, “Rueckenspeck” or literally “back bacon.” Looks like lard! And indeed my Bavarian grandfather had stories of cooking with this and other scary stuff like eating ‘schmaltz’ or goose fat on bread.
For those of you wondering that is indeed my wonderful boyfriend of nearly a year, Thorsten.
Most people are big meat eaters, especially wursts of all kinds.This is not so foreign to me of course as someone who grew up in Wisconsin but perhaps some of you have not had much of chance to see the wide world of wurst.
…But something seems to be happening here. Veganism is very in at the moment. Check out this display I saw at a popular bookstore chain and it looks like a popular bakery chain and Starbucks are getting into it too:
Sometimes anything Vegan or health oriented can be quite expensive at specialty stores :
However lots of stuff is reasonably priced at normal grocery stories. That of course is all good and for people who cook at home about six days a week and still want a German flair or standard to their cooking there is an amazing array of traditional foods now made vegan or vegetarian. I for one absolutely love vegan salami sticks.
We are never lacking dairy alternatives here, off the top of my head there are at least five different brands and places to get soy milk, rice milk, coconut, hafer or oat milk. For those of you living in Germany my favourite brand after trying them all is the Vanilla Soy Milk from Rossmann. I also enjoy vegan margarine made from coconut oil when I am baking.
One thing I think is important to note, and I’ll talk more about this in subsequent vegan blogs is that I don’t eat a lot of these meat alternatives per week. Thorsten and I usually buy one and use it as a part of a dish that’s primary focus is fruit and/or vegetables. For example: spaghetti made with fake hackfleisch (ground beef,) or Jambalaya made with vegan smoked salami etc. Well over 90% of my vegan cooking uses fresh and clean ingredients---fruits and vegetables.
I hope you enjoyed this first Vegan blog.
Monday, September 15, 2014
I don't do too many Facebook statuses, yet, here is the one I've made for this very special day:
"Today September 15th marks a year! And I hope the celebratory fortune cookie message I got comes to fruition in the next: “Sie werden häuslichen Frieden, finanzielle Sicherheit und gute Gesundheit genießen.” My first year in Germany has been nothing like what I anticipated. I experienced a great deal of loss, disillusionment and uncertainty in addition to those bright spots of friendship, love and now optimism for the future. ..But I couldn’t have managed get this far without you Manuela and Thorsten .
— in Germany."
And THANK YOU too Spark friends, if you've read previous blogs you know exactly what I am talking about.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
I keep meaning to do an update to that very intense blog entry I did two months ago----and I will I am busy (even when sick) but here are two tidbits for those of you who are wondering:
The boss, who many of you rightly (but sadly) called a 'lunatic' is gone. She came down with a thyroid related condition, which could also explain the insane behaviour, and resigned after being sick for over six weeks. Our new boss is a nice lady who has inherited a difficult situation. Things are easier but still rocky.
When all was said and done we lost two kindergarten teachers, one therapist and our boss---all in the span since I started since February. I feel like a survivor.
Some of you might remember in October of last year the week of my 30th birthday and about a month after I came to Germany I came down with a lung infection. Painful but hardly a surprise this came after suffering in silence for weeks with a sore throat, congestion, insomnia, anxiety and being surrounded by sick children with 'scary' noses day in and day out.
What can be a troublesome cold for most turns into a lung battle royale for me. I call this lovingly 'kinder krank.'
About three weeks ago I felt that familiar congested feeling in my throat. After sleepless Sunday night I went to work thinking I was just tired and could tough it out. That afternoon I was told to go to the doctor because apparently I was even paler than usual and I thought it could be true because I just felt an nondescript awful. Later that night: throat pain, anxiety, congestion----I made an appointment the next day for my 'Haus Artzt' or GP.
My experience with German doctors has not been very impressive. The wait can be hours long, the appointments last less than 15 minutes---it seems that they are little more than a sick note writing service sometimes and as for having a good bedside manner I have been really disappointed. But---I had to go.
'Disappointment' could not exact how angry and ignored I felt leaving that appointment. I waited two hours to basically be shoo-ed away after the doctor listened to my lungs and checked my glands. Did he ask a family history? Take my blood pressure or temperature? Did he ask if I had had respiratory infections or problems before? NO, NO, NO. As if he couldn't be bothered and had no more time for me he wrote me off sick for a week and told me to go take Ibuprofen!
I told him that I was in serious pain, that I had a lung infection less than a year ago, walking pneamonia twice as a teen and was born three months premature. I was told I had a bit of Laryngitis and it would go away.
This was my second time with this doctor and the last. My boyfriend and I made an appointment with a throat, ears and nose specialist the next day. That appointment last thirty so minutes with very thorough checks of my throat, nose and lung condition(s) and wouldn't you know----I was confirmed with a lung infection and prescribed 1000 mg of antibiotics three times a day. I was told because I work at a kindergarten I was not to return for at least a week and that the pain I felt after doing seemingly normal stuff like light cardio workouts, walking and congestion waking up was REAL.
In the span of two weeks three other adults have come down sick. The staff to kinder ratio is low and for those of you have read about my kita that's a desperate situation. I saw this all coming weeks ago and I am not sorry---instead of having the courage to say NO KEEP YOUR CHILD AT HOME to parents who see us as babysitters; children who were clearly not feeling well and contagious were allowed to come in and their siblings too!
I was supposed to come in today but after still having discomfort after working out and in the mornings when I awake I decided to get a final clear from the specialist. This resolve was strengthened when I found out this morning the leader of my room---a person who is also into his fitness and really stubborn---is now out sick. Anyone surprised?
I also have four days, three times a day dosage, of antibiotics left and I am confused if I should take them or not, am I still at risk of illness or not? Is it safe for me to return to the children even though I feel 95% better?
Well, in classic my kindergarten fashion I called them this morning early and said I wanted final clearance from my doctor and they were MAD at me! Upset of course because they physically need me there to babysit the kids and let's face it I have not found caring or empathy to be a strength of most people for the last year I've spent in Germany.
I understand their feelings from a work perspective I do--- but what from a personal health perspective? I feel like I am making the wisest all around choice considering the health of my work environment and my own health history and susceptibility. What the hell good am I going do do the kids if I come back for a day and feel like scheisse a few days later? What if the lung stress I feel after an hour walk is not a lingering last little thing? What if I should stop taking the antibiotics, what if I should lower the dosage?
What would you do if you were me? Am I being too sensitive?
I know this blog probably seems like a rant and it is a little---but I am sure most of you can relate to the frustrations I am letting go of here. Teachers what do you think? Fewer can relate to the fallacies of German work and medical environments. There are good things: I pay a lot in taxes (about 45% of my salary) and much of that is towards national healthcare. I am sure those of you on the more conservative side of things in the USA (I might be a big ole Socialist to you :P ) are rolling your eyes----but at least now I feel like I am getting my money's worth. Seeing a doctor let alone a specialist would be unthinkable for me in the USA, I will say this though I have yet to find a doctor here with even half of of the caring attitude that I was accustomed to in the US. That's regrettable.
I am interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. A bigger update coming within the month, probably on my 1 year Germany Anniversary the second week of September.
Sunday, June 01, 2014
I have been gone for a while, after my work visa came through I began working---like crazy---and haven’t had time for much else.
However, I am finding it harder and harder to cope with my work environment and co-workers and need advice or if nothing else empathy.
I work at a kindergarten which should naturally be a supportive and kind workplace but it is nothing but. I didn’t know this until two months of working there but my organization has had about 29 members of staff leave in the last five years. In the almost five months I have been working there three staff members have left, one of which had a clear personal conflict with the boss and was in tears nearly every day of her last week. I have had the unfortunate experience of walking in on another colleague crying in a staff room.
Quality management has been at our location for around a month but seem to be completely oblivious to what the real problem is: gossip, constant one up-man-ship, the often deliberate withholding or refusal of information/training, harassment, lies and an emotionally unstable supervisor.
I am perhaps in the worst spot. I am relatively new and despite my proactive attitude, submitted work and good repoire with the children and their parents am largely regarded by my all but two colleagues (9 total two foreign and one male) as the ‘dumb American.’ I am constantly being called out for petty things such as using the wrong kind of plate for breakfast, my accent, not being ‘quick enough’ or being ‘too observant.’ If I try to express an idea or opinion at a meeting I am rudely cut off by the boss. During a time when it was thought I had gone outside to work, I even heard a group of colleagues including the boss gossiping about me and how ‘stupid’ they think I am. When my colleagues think I have done something wrong they never confront me about it but rather go straight to the boss. I believe they resent me for being non-German and being in a role that is very hard to fill by a German.
I myself have experienced a tremendous amount of sadness, stress and isolation and do my very best to cry away from work. My boss appears to have severe emotional issues and takes her anger out on everyone but especially me. She seems to have limited social skills and cannot even do “small talk.” She never smiles and looks constantly like she might have a breakdown. She has told me that I have ‘done nothing’ good so far. She makes promises (e.g for classroom supplies) and weeks later takes them back---four weeks ago she had an outburst at me in front of a new colleague when I called her out on this. WhiIe would not describe her as a physically aggressive person she even slapped my hand out of the way a few weeks ago when I was apparently in her way.
I have tried to talk to quality management about the struggles I have observed, felt and the gossip I heard but instead of listening they seem to insist that I refuse to ‘adapt to the German way.’ Every time I tried to explain an idea it was met with the sentence: “This is Deutschland!” I have been told to always ask questions but when I do I am met with “You should already know that!” There seems to be an expectation that I should be a mind reader…and obsessive compulsive.
If this wasn’t enough, we have frequent staff absences and others enwrapped in their own self important meetings---so I am left alone with the children. The environment becomes nothing more than maintenance and of course if there are any behaviour management issues it automatically becomes my fault.
I am sure most people reading this would think I am crazy for wanting to keep my job. The sad thing is I need to financially, I just began at the beginning of the year. I also went through the hell of waiting two months for my work visa and I am not sure if I could deal with this again. I am not sure how much more I can take of this bullying, it’s making me ill with toothaches, some weight gain (I workout a lot) and lack of sleep. I no longer look forward to work despite the lovely kids because no one can be certain about the emotional state the supervisor or colleagues.
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