Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My new running buddy

In preparation for the annual "Silvesterlauf," a New Years Day 10K sponsored by BMW or some affiliate, we hit the trails last Saturday to start training. It was so much fun, and it really wasn't all that cold. Can you tell?

P.S. Sorry the photo came out so dark. It's easier to see if you click on it for the larger version. And this is after I did some electronic light adjustments to the finished photo. Oh well.

What a week

A couple of weeks ago, we were both sick with a "very contagious" throat virus, but we didn't really feel very sick. Steve spent the week at home, too contagious to go to work, but not really feeling all that bad. We enjoyed our long hours at home with a very unstructured schedule... so this week completely caught us off guard. Definitely an increase in activity, but so much fun!

Wednesday evenings Steve has Bible Study, so that was fairly normal. Beth also had a late-evening (late for her, at least) meeting with a language partner.

Thursday evening, we toured the BMW factory in Munich. Outfitted in blue work coats, goggles, and earplugs, we walked the 3-4 kilometers in which several pieces of sheet metal and some wires are transformed into an automobile. So many people (and robots!) and processes -- yet both the quantity and precision are astounding. We watched the "stamping" of the huge sheets of metal, taken from the several-TON rolls of steel HANGING FROM THE CEILING. Yikes! We then watched the lifelike robots (well, maybe more like a carnival ride) put all the pieces together with minimal human intervention. The paint area was fascinating -- the multiple layers, climate control, and the shallow "waterfall" underneath that whisked away all the stray paint particles. The moving assembly line was next -- ladies and gentlemen riding the conveyor belts with the cars, under a gymnastic time crunch to crawl around and get all the bolts and wires attached before they reached the end of the belt. Beth thinks she would enjoy that job. : ) I'm not sure if we watched the engine being built, but at some point, we watched the "marriage" of car body to engine + electronics underneath that make it "go." Sure enough, the car body is lowered onto the "innards" of the car... and off it goes! Well, not really. It all has to be connected, and I guess it needs seats and stuff. At the very end, the cars undergo thorough testing processes, pushing the limits of speed, etc. The tour guide commented that the cars built for the American market would, in that room, have their first - and last - 180 km/hour driving experiences... or at least we all hope so. We were disappointed that no cameras were allowed in the facility -- it would have been great fun to get pictures of us in our blue coats and goggles.

Click here to link to a site that describes the very factory visit we experienced. I grabbed the above photo from this site -- similar to the ones in the brochure we received, but easier than scanning it...

Friday evening was Steve's office Christmas party. We met at one of Munich's many Christmas markets, then walked to a traditional German restaurant for dinner. Beth really enjoyed putting faces with many of the names she has heard. We sat at a table with a lady from England, so it was nice to not have the pressure of doing everything in German so late in the evening. The atmosphere was dark, smoky, and crowded, but it was neat to connect with co-workers.

Saturday night, we went to a "Gospel concert" that was organized by the Methodist church we've been attending. The group claimed that despite the color of their skin (they're all of western European descent), they could sing Gospel with the best of them. The tickets had a disclaimer about how loud noise could damage hearing, so we were a little nervous. We brought along our handy-dandy earplugs (left over from the BMW factory tour) and ended up being just fine. I must say we were prepared for the worst in terms of wild loudness, but we were pleasantly surprised. The group sang entirely in English (the songs were basically Black Gospel songs from the States), and did a great job of bringing in audience participation. We stayed for about half the concert -- plenty for us -- and are very glad we went. Apparently these Saturday night concerts are regular occurrences -- a neat ministry of the church.

We don't have a good photo of the music group, so here's a photo of the team that organizes the Saturday night events. It's a really neat group; we're so glad to finally have a German church home!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Christmas Markets

Germany is famous for Christmas markets. We visited one yesterday. There are a lot trinkets and dust catchers, but also some neat things. Some are very crowded. We didn't buy anything, but it was still fun to see something you hear so much about. This picture is of the one closest to our house--at the train station.