My roleplay with debt and poverty: The American way of life

Elmar and I have been waiting on our savings from Germany for two months. Our current salaries would be enough for us to squeak by while preserving our current, relatively non-consumerist lifestyles (especially by US standards for white, educated professionals). Except that we’re building a house.

Creative Commons photo courtesy flickr user Images_of_Money, found on

Creative Commons photo from flickr user Images_of_Money, found on

While we have great credit scores, our impermanent jobs in academia prevent us from getting a home loan. So we’re building ourselves. Continue reading

studying cacti and culture

A friend of mine from Dresden, Germany just arrived in Austin with his wife and their two daughters (ages: 2 years, 8 weeks). He’s a mechanical engineer researching the structure of cacti for his dissertation. So obviously his path led him to Texas. But it also brings my path full circle. Continue reading

Das Auto – ein mobiles Badezimmer, Esszimmer und Büro

An das Telefonieren und SMS-Schreiben beim Autofahren der anderen Autofahrer hier in Texas habe ich mich ja schon gewöhnt. Auch der obligatorische Styroporbecher mit Cola und extra viel Eiswürfel (manchmal sogar auch die umweltfreundliche Alternative, ein Thermobecher) gehört zum Autofahren hier einfach dazu. Continue reading

Boston Marathon still inspiring

As an undergrad, I played bass drum in the Boston University Marching and Pep Bands. In the spring, on Patriot’s Day, we played at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. What an inspiring event! I loved cheering for the runners with costumes or signs to raise awareness for a cause. Sometimes someone looked ready to drop from exhaustion, but if you yelled encouragement using the name or number they wrote on their arm, they would perk up and keep going. Anyone bold enough to wear Texas shorts up north got a rowdy drumline rendition of “The Stars at Night”. It was an amazing and humbling community experience.

2013. Two bombs. No answers.

One of those killed was a Boston University grad student. That student’s day-to-day worries about research, advisors, funding, and work-life balance disappeared. Senselessly. There was a memorial for this student and the other victims today at BU’s Marsh Plaza, where I attended a memorial for the victims of 9/11 back in 2001.

Photo credit, creative commons license

What strikes me the most in reading accounts of what happened is that people ran towards the explosions to help with anticipated injuries. People shared phones, gave away coats, signed up on a google doc to house runners and visitors from out of town.

Tragedies can illustrate the worst in human nature, but also bring out the best.

I love you, Bahston.

Don’t get injured until Sept. 1: thoughts on health insurance

Today, I played roller derby, a full contact sport. That’s me on the left, playing the “jammer” position. Jammers are basically moving targets for the opposing team.

TXRG Rec League scrimmage at the Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex, photo by Peter Voyvodic

My main goal today was to avoid injury. This is because my University of Texas health insurance kicks in starting next week. Continue reading

Ein Zweitauto musste her

Die ganze letzte Woche haben wir nach einem zweiten gebrauchten Auto für uns gesucht. Da West Lake Hills mit öffentlichen Verkehrsmitteln recht schwer erreichbar ist, mussten Devon und ich uns immer abstimmen, wer wann wohin mit dem Auto fährt. Das wurde uns auf die Dauer zu kompliziert und deshalb wollten wir uns ein zweites Auto kaufen.

Zweitauto, ein bischen Spaß muss sein.

Continue reading

Don’t mess with Texas AC

I have been commuting by bus from my cousins’ house in the suburb Kingwood to the NAFSA Conference in downtown Houston. First of all, I am positively shocked by the efficiency and comfort of the commuter buses. Riders line up to enter and sit silently for the morning ride. Seriously, I have not heard so much as a tweet, text, or update in the last 45 minutes. It’s like commuting in pre-mobile phone Germany.

As we approach the downtown corridor, the traffic starts to get denser. But not for us. Continue reading