30. September 2013: Mexican Food Version 2.0 and Würzburg

I’m probably skipping over some less than exciting details because I’ve mostly been exhausted this past week, but I’ll try and hit the high points of what happened before my trip to Würzburg this past weekend.

Probably one of the biggest accomplishments of my past week was making my new hoop so that I can practice my hoop dancing this week. For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’ll post a link here for you to watch. Don’t get the idea that I am actually anywhere near that good though. I’ve only been hooping for a little over two months so I’m still working on my inventory of awesome tricks. And not to mention how long it takes for my retard of a left side to catch up and be comparable to my less retard right side. But anyway, I’ve been hooping mostly in the nearby park, sometimes also outside my dorm. So strangers get to watch me throw my hoop around and hit myself repeatedly in the head and generally look like a fool. But the plus side is sometimes I actually do the tricks right, and that’s a good feeling. Anyway, if anyone is interested or knows anyone who is interested (in Germany of course) I have enough material to make two more hoops that I’m willing to sell.

I also got a somewhat tour of Erlangen by a guy in my dorm I met while hooping. It was pretty interesting to get the low down on some cheaper places as well as good places to go out. Yeah, I guess there really isn’t much to say about that, heh.

Thursday night was also pretty fun. I did some Zumba in the Schlosspark with a friend and then we managed to find all of the necessary ingredients to make some Mexican food for dinner. That being said, there was a good amount of tequila that night as well. Probably my favorite reaction was when any German/generally European person ate my jalapeno filled salsa. There reaction: HOT HOT HOT!!! Mine: hmmm needs more spice… Put it was a nice evening of talking with friends and even meeting new people. I even learned some amusing Polish hand gestures. Let’s just say for now that it gives a whole new meaning to both the loser L and the finger as gun sign in America…

Aside from that my week mostly consisted of going to class and continuously being yelled at by our teacher for some reason or another. But tomorrow is the last day of class, and I am really happy because 1) Going to class every day is something I haven’t done since high school, and personally, I’m not a fan. 2) I really really have some issues with our teacher. But I won’t bore you with the details. She will get a very in depth evaluation from me though, and from what I understand, most of my class as well.

Now for the more exciting part of my week last week: my weekend trip to Würzburg as a part of my scholarship program. The students there consisted of both Germans who have just gotten back from their study abroad in America as well as the newly arrived American students studying in various parts of Germany. So I met some really interesting people and learned about some tricks to living in Germany. I also learned that I will probably play the “but I’m an international student…” card a lot, especially in the university setting (which is, by the way, much different than in America. There are many differences but for the sake of time and effort, I would probably say that they resemble graduate school in America, only instead of having little assignments, you really only have one big test or term paper at the end of the semester.)

We also took a tour of the castle (which happened to be on a hill, heh). It was interesting though, instead of being built to protect the city from invaders, the castle in Würzburg was actually built to protect the duke from the people. There were a lot of peasant revolts because the city was not free like some other German cities, which in turn, also stunted the growth of the city. The original castle was built in the Middle Ages and was later added onto giving parts of it a somewhat Renaissance feel. There was also the St. Mary’s church (which was extremely small and interestingly enough, was used in the latest film adaptation of the 3 Musketeers). It was directly connected to the castle later on so that the duke did not even have to go outside to get to church. There were also some alters, two of which had some old religious relics stored in them. One of the others was dedicated to the 3 Irish priests who came in the 9th century to Christianize Würzburg. Just as an interesting side note, they were successful, but they ended up being beheaded because they protested the duke’s marriage. Also interesting was the garden behind the castle which overlooked the entire city. It had two overlooks which gently sloped upwards at opposite ends of the garden and made the garden look like a gondola. It was positively gorgeous.

IMG_0890

After that we went to an awards ceremony for Dr. Werner Micheal Blumenthal for the improvement of German American relations. Most of the ceremony was either really weird or boring, but Dr. Blumenthal sounds like an interesting person and I would like to read his book. As far as his early life goes, (at least from what I gathered) he was 13 years old when his father was taken to Buchenwald. Luckily (I think) his father was let go and they were able to escape to Shanghai and later moved to America. He did eventually return to Germany later in life as well. As far as the weird parts of the ceremony goes, there were times when we would applaud a speaker or Dr. Blumenthal and people would begin clapping in unison, which I later learned is actually associated with the Nazis in America. There was also this pretty awful band, whose saxophone player not only botched the National Anthem, but they also proceeded to play really weird and sometimes mildly inappropriate songs, like “Ain’t No Sunshine when she’s Gone” and “What’s up”. But after the ceremony was quite fun. We socialized (actually we talked to one of the men there who worked in media for awhile about how the news media is failing to actually report news now) and there was free wine.

IMG_0908

The next morning we also got to listen to a talk given by a woman who went to college in East Berlin during the Cold War. I think most of her time spent there was during the late 1940s and into the 50s. She was a photographer over there as well and took pictures of the Berlin Airlift as well as the revolt against the communist government in 1953, which she brought with her. She told us briefly about the history of the Cold War and divided Germany as well as some more personal experiences and just the way everyday people there lived. She talked about how during the airlift electricity was rationed to only 4 hours a day and how she remembers doing homework by candlelight. She talked about all of the destruction and how people’s homes would be missing an entire wall, but they continued to live in their homes going about their lives until they could finally rebuilt the missing front. She talked about how Germany was rebuilt by women called Trümmerfrauen (lit. rubble women) who would go out and clean up debris after the war. It was a really great talk and I wish we had had enough time for it to be more in depth.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all talks, tours, and awards ceremonies. We also went out both Friday and Saturday night for drinks and more socializing. On Friday we went to this nice little Kneipe (kind of bar) and just sat around and drank beer/wine (This area is in Franconia, which is known for making wine). Then on Saturday, after walking around for about an hour and finding that most places didn’t want to seat 30+ people and then consequently splitting up, we found a Mexican restaurant/bar and relaxed there for awhile. Ordered some chips and salsa/queso. The queso was cold. It was weird. But the beer was good, so no complaints.

And that pretty much sums up my weekend in Würzburg. Met some nice people and some good contacts in Erlangen. Oh, and on a bit of a sour note, broke my camera (or rather Trey’s camera) which it is still a mystery to me how it happened to begin with… But anyway, until next time!IMG_0899

Advertisement

September 23, 2013: Non-Mexican Mexican Food and Nürnberg and Beyond

So as far as last week goes, the most interesting adventure would have had to be the search for Mexican food, which failed. Turns out Germany is not known for authentic Tex-mex. Fellow American Heidi and myself set out on Wednesday evening to try out the only Mexican restaurant in Erlangen to have positive reviews online. The name: Chiles (or at least something of that nature). Now, this is probably the most misleading name this restaurant could have. Not only was it not Tex-mex, it was not spicy at all. I’m not even just talking about how it was so mild it made the Cracker Barrel look like a bowl of ghost peppers. No, no cumin or chili powder. No peppers. Okay, well I ordered a burrito and it can still taste fine without all of this. It’s not like it is hard to make one: beans, meat (except not in my case because I went for the vegetarian option), cheese, rice, wrapped up in a tortilla and topped with salsa and sour cream. Well, I won’t go into the details but lets just say the salsa was actually marinara sauce and the beans, well they were of the green variety.

 

Not to say that it tasted bad. It really didn’t. It was just over priced not Mexican food. Basically they saw a picture of a burrito and then just sort of guessed on the whole ingredients part until they got something vaguely resembling the picture. Also, their menu was quite weird. There were random pictures throughout, and an entire section devoted to the epitome of Mexican food: the hamburger. If you didn’t catch that, it was sarcasm. There was also ice cream? Why, I will probably never know. Also, there was an appalling lack of flan on their dessert menu. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed eating there and making fun of their food the entire evening, it just really was not what I was expecting. The good news is I found almost everything to make my own Mexican food here and even got a legit recipe for salsa!

 

As for Thursday I had several options to hang out with people, but unfortunately I was not able to do any of them! The director of my program came around 8ish so I could ask her questions/try to straighten out more of my bureaucratic troubles and also get access to German TV. By the end of our meeting, what was merely a slight headache for most of the day turned quite nasty and I decided to turn in early. And just as a note, I didn’t have any medicine for it and no way to get any considering everything closes at or before 8 and even for over-the-counter medicines for colds and such have to be bought at a pharmacy and someone actually has to go get them for you. Bizarre!

 

Okay, I realize I have bored you guys enough with my meaningless notes on my day-to-day. So lets talk about my day trip to Fürth and Nürnberg (Americans say Nuremberg, and it’s where the trials were). Anyway, we took walking tours in both cities, Fürth being our first stop. It was a somewhat small town, but apparently older than Nürnberg. The reason why it is smaller is apparently because it used to be divided into three sections (tax wise) and it just never really grew because of that. (My details are not very specific because I did the tour in German). There were a lot of old buildings and houses and even some old factories. The neatest part was seeing how parts of the houses were tucked away in little allies, where the noise from the street was almost completely blocked out by the surrounding buildings in the courtyard. Also interesting to note was that almost all of the town had to be rebuilt after the 30 Years War in the 1600s because Fürth burned for 3 days. One of the few buildings remaining was their little church on the hill, to which people brought their valuables for safe keeping.

 

After the tour we ate at a Frankish (region of Germany) restaurant. I went with the knödel (traditional German potato dumpling…kind of) with gravy, pork, and sauerkraut. I enjoyed almost all of the meal, and surprisingly it was my first real time to try sauerkraut, and I think it may have been my favorite part of the meal. My only complaint was that the pork was so salty, I couldn’t finish it. I also met some new people and talked with/got to know some other acquaintances a bit more. It was overall quite relaxing and enjoyable.

 

After we were finished eating, we hopped on the train and headed to Nürnberg. Now Nürnberg is not a terribly large city in terms of German cities (14th largest), but it does have more citizens than any of the cities in Alabama (over 500,000 according to my good source wikipedia). That being said, I obviously did not see all of the city. However, we did take a walking tour of the walled-in Innenstadt, which is the part of the city built in the Middle-Ages. Nürnberg, as it turns out, was one of the most important trading cities in southern Germany/much of Europe for awhile. Accordingly there were many roads which led to the city. Of course every important city also had to have some sort of defense. So they walled in the city, with a castle sitting on top of the hill. Interestingly enough the wall around the castle was very high up, and while they had tried to fill it with water and make it into a mote, they were unable to. At some point in time they decided to stick some animals down in there and make it into a zoo. Sadly, there are no more animals in there today.

 

Again, this walking tour was in German and because I was quite tired by this point, I was not able to catch many of the little details. But we did pass by several churches, Albrecht Dürer’s house, and a number of other historically/politically important buildings. It’s also important to note that Hitler absolutely loved Nürnberg and held a lot of events in the Innenstadt. He also built a sporting complex in the style of the Colosseum; however, I don’t think he finished it. It is also interesting to note that most of the buildings in Nürnberg had to be rebuilt after WWII. More than 90 percent of the city was destroyed during the war. They really did a good job rebuilding though, because it is almost impossible to tell.

 

After the tour was over several people went their separate ways. We ended up walking around the market for a bit (on Saturdays the square right at the heart of the city is filled with booths and people selling all sorts of things. They had some really interesting things, my favorite of which was some porcelain china which was apparently Polish. We also managed to find some ice cream. After I finished eating I was pretty tired and pretty cranky, but I decided to go with some friends for a nice drink at a bar. However, I knew if I were to drink any beer I would immediately go to sleep, causing everyone around me to believe I was Narcoleptic. So instead I rode the train back to Erlangen with a Chinese girl I had met. However, finding the right train was another issue entirely. I think we asked four people before we found the right one. Anyway, we got back before the sun went down, and I proceeded to be lazy for the rest of the day.

 

And with that very brief retelling of my weekend, I must leave you, for I am exhausted once more.Image

Hoop!

Hoop!

September 16, 2013: I have been Boring

So it’s been about a week since I have updated my blog (I have been incredibly lazy about it and I’ve been meaning to do it for the last three or so days). Sadly I haven’t done a whole lot except for start my intensive German classes and fall of my bike. The last day of my orientation was last Wednesday and I fell off my bike while going to said orientation. I must have caused a decent amount of laughs when I fell. See sometimes the German bike lanes go onto the sidewalk, and sometimes they go onto the road (and sometimes they just disappear so you have to ride on the road with cars creeping up behind you). Anyway the bike lane had just gone back onto the road and the sidewalk was slightly raised at this point. That’s when I realized, “Oh shit, I need to turn on this road!” Not realizing how much of a curb there actually was, I turned right into it. Now my bike thought really hard about going over the curb, but I guess since there was a big American riding it, it gave up on this endeavor and proceeded to fall. I somewhat managed to catch myself, but not before the bike fell on my foot and my knee hit the pavement. Hard. The worst part was that this elderly lady across the street saw what happened and came over asking what happened. In my stunned and rather poor German I managed to say I fell on the curb. To which she said, “Oh, so you thought someone was going to hit you?” Yeah, sure, that’s it. I’m not that much of an idiot. Potato. I probably need to take my bike to a repair shop now because everything sort of shifted to the right (I fell on the left side) and get my front brakes fixed. But the back ones work fine, so I might just leave it. Heh. Also, with all the bike related bruises on my legs, it kind of looks like someone threw me down the stairs. I still don’t know where the bruises on my right leg came from :/

 

Outside of that, classes have been okay. Most of the time I just don’t feel like going, but mostly because it requires me to wake up semi-early and ride a bike for about 10-15 minutes. It’s more of me being lazy than anything else. Plus I’m still pretty twitchy when riding my bike. Not because I fell off of it, mind you, but because I’m paranoid that drivers aren’t going to stop for me (even though they are really awesome about bikes over here). America has conditioned me to be terrified of drivers. Speaking of conditioning, Auburn has also conditioned me to fear being towed. This is going to sound crazy, but when I park my bike, I always freak out a bit that I’m parking it in the wrong place and that it will get towed. My mind is an enigma. Potato.

 

Another somewhat event was last Thursday (also the first day of class, which I couldn’t go to the second part because we had a sub and he could only teach the second half an hour later, but I had a prior engagement). I went to a coffee and cake event for the program that is sponsoring my stay here. So one of the members picked me up at my dorm and we rode together to Nuremberg. She was nice and apparently had lived in New York City in the 1960s for a couple of years. So we talked about that and we also talked about the differences between Germany and America. When I got to the coffee and cake thing I talked to several women (all of them fairly advanced in age, which brought on flashbacks of the DAR ladies at my high school…) Apparently the club (German American Women’s Club) was founded shortly after the war to promote German American relations, even though they were told to disband. Anyway, the coffee and cake was nice, and they also had two performers from Russia who played some American songs on violin and piano. Honestly I felt like these songs did not do their excellent playing justice and I wish I could have heard them play something which would show off their skill more. Oh well, it was still nice. Also they sent me home with some leftover cake, which the one I took with me is kind of a nutty cake with chocolate sprinkled throughout and some sort of glaze/icing on top. It’s been keeping very well, so I’ve enjoyed a small piece of it every day.

I’ve met a couple of people in my class, and oddly enough on the first day I managed to sit beside another American girl, who is from upstate New York. It’s nice to have another American to talk to, and especially nice since she has been living here for a bit and I can ask her random things like, where the f*** do I get some tortillas around here? There are also two guys from Argentina named Nikolas and Mario (I know I got them both slightly wrong, but those are my approximations). There are also three people from Poland named Sandra, Natasha, and Michal (who I had preciously met). There is one guy from Hungary named Aaron who happens to live in the same area as me. There is a girl from Barcelona named Helena (who I’ve also met before). She is really sweet and reminds me a lot of a girl I used to go to high school with, only in Spanish form. Then there are three Japanese girls named Yurina, Shio, and sadly the other girl’s name slips my mind but I want to say Ryouko or something similar to that. After class several of us went to the cafeteria to get some food and hang out for a bit. So I really got to talk to some people, and it was fun. I enjoyed their company and got to practice my German a bit. And the food at the cafeteria is really cheap/ not terrible tasting. For less than 2 Euros I got a big bowl of cheesy gnocchi with vegetables.

 

As far as the weather goes it has been nothing but rainy and slightly cold. Highs have been in the 50s or 60s most of the time and it’s been kind of windy, if not rainy. This is not the kind of weather where one takes a lot of pictures, but I do have one to share. It’s nothing special, but it shows my afternoon today: coffee, cake, reddit, and homework. Most days I’ve either ran errands (when it’s not raining) or stayed inside and read, or watched either QI, Once Upon a Time, or Community.

 

On that note, I may or may not post again this week, but this Saturday I will at least have something interesting to talk about/share pictures of, because I am taking a day trip with the Intensive German Program to Fürth and Nürnberg.Image

September 8, 2013: Deutschland parties hard, or at least harder than me

So it’s been a couple of days since I’ve shared what I have done, and most of it I would say does not fall into the most interesting things I could probably be doing, but they are still important. I finally have my German bank account and I am officially enrolled at the Friedrich Alexander Universität (FAU), both of which processes ran incredibly efficiently. All I essentially had to do was have my specific documents and passport ready, and sign a couple of things, and done. So in about a week I will receive my student information via snail mail, which I will then have to activate my account, and then, finally after another couple of weeks of waiting, I will have my student ID, also sent via snail mail. It makes me wonder why it takes so long to get all of this done. In America, one day is all you need and you don’t have to go in and change your password. It’s kind of annoying how we also have to wait forever to get our student IDs. How am I supposed to buy my student transportation tickets that my program says I need to buy, when I can’t prove I’m a student? And yes, my American ID won’t work. I tried. Also an important annoyance to note, I have to renew my student ID here every semester. For €42. Sigh.

 

So after we were finished with all of that, we had the rest of the afternoon to blow. Since we were both bored but not quite ready to eat yet, I ended up riding my bike around with an Irish guy named Sean. Sean was pretty interesting. He is studying law, so I really learned a lot about not only Irish and European law/history, but he also told me a couple of interesting things about the States. There was a lot of talk about politics, and the US’s role in the world. Surprisingly enough, he believes that the US feels pressured into policing the world by many of the countries in the UN, who won’t really do anything themselves, and he finds this unfair. Not what I expected to here from a European, especially when many Americans themselves feel like the US is doing this on their own accord and that we should really back off. It was fun. We ended up grabbing some fish and chips at Nordsee, which is a chain fish place here. They were pretty good, just wish they had vinegar.

 

That really wraps up my Friday. Nothing too eventful, unless you count finding some of the best tasting soda I’ve ever had as a major event. Most people don’t. (For the record it’s carbonated orange juice with some lemonade mixed in). Saturday I would say was much more interesting. I got up and did my usually random ride around Erlangen on my bike. I had no real goals, so I just explored various ways to get back to my dorm. Then I did some reading in the park and took a couple more pictures, which I posted some already. After that I went to the grocery store and picked out some dinner, which ended up being couscous with feta, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and vegetarian sausage. It wasn’t until about 8:30 that I actually left my dorm for what would be my first bar/club experience in Germany.

 

I met up first with a couple of people from another group, but people that knew Sean: a girl Jemma (sp?) from Essex, another girl Ella from Poland, and a guy Josef from the Czech Republic (actually his name is something else, but I couldn’t spell it if I tried and he told me I could call him Josef anyway). We talked for a long time waiting for everyone else to arrive. It was quite nice, even though we waited until 10 for everyone to get there (we had more than 25 people show up actually!) Now let’s see if I can remember everyone: Arielle (who I actually met on Friday) who is from Belgium and is one of the few people I know that thinks the French language is ugly, Marco from Slovenia, Micheal from Poland (I also technically met him on Friday), Marky (sp?) from the UK, Colm from Scotland (who I met Thursday but just last night learned his name), Helena from Barcelona. There were far more people who I met, those are just the main people I hung out with the rest of the night.

 

We started out by going to a nearby bar and having a couple of drinks. It was here that I learned a major cultural difference between Americans and Europeans, or at least Irish, Scots, Brits and Americans. I commented on the fact that they were talking about drinking shots when they were currently working on their second or third beers and how that would make them sick. They all turned to me with curious expressions on their faces to which I replied, “You know, beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” That was about the time they started laughing at my “song” and told me that Americans don’t know how to drink and that you obviously drink beer first. Let’s just say, I’m not convinced.

 

After awhile at the bar we made our way to a club. It was apparently ’90s invasion night, because many of the songs brought back fond memories from my childhood. The atmosphere was pretty good, but there were a lot of people down there. Yes, it was in a basement, which means no windows and certainly there are no ceiling fans in Europe, so there wasn’t even that comfort. The air was stifling and reeked with body odor and hormones, but it was still fun. There were several times where I pulled out my own fan and just fanned myself and others on songs I didn’t know. The biggest difference I noted was the way people danced as opposed to the way people dance in America. There was absolutely no twerking and there wasn’t a whole lot of grinding either. It was kind of nice, but then again I felt a bit out of place since I do ultimately dance like an American. It was also nice not having to worry about some stranger rubbing his penis all over your ass while you were dancing. That just didn’t really happen. Granted there were guys present within our group, but when one of the girls got hit on, the guy came up and talked to her instead of just rubbing his junk on her. It was nice. He also had the appropriate response to walk away when I pulled her away (don’t think I’m a cock block, she was obviously not interested).

 

So all of this is going on and we are having a good time and I was just thinking that it had to be close to 2 so I pulled out my phone and looked at the time, it was 2:30 with no sign on closing any time soon. I was starting to get tired at that point (one thing is that at least when the bars close at 2 you have a great excuse to head on home) but I decided to wait until someone else wanted to leave. I waited until 3:30 and I was still the first one to suggest going home. Not that they didn’t want to either, I just was the first to speak up. Finally after all of the good byes and the incredibly slow walking, it was about 4 in the morning. Luckily enough for me there was someone else in the group that lives on Hartmannstr. so I convinced him to walk home with me instead of ride his bike. So much thanks goes out to Marco for this. If not I could have easily stayed with one of the girls there, but I had my contacts in and no case to put them in to sleep. So then we had a 30 minute walk, part of the way we went we walked with Marky and they talked about America. It was kind of funny because they were talking about American stereotypes in Europe and Marco had some reservations telling me what he heard on some show about Americans, like I haven’t heard negative things about American before. I’ll give you two guesses what the main stereotypes were: fat and stupid. It was no surprise, especially since most Americans are portrayed this way in many many many European movies. The first coming to mind is In Bruges. Anyway it is interesting that so many Europeans have gone to America expecting everyone to be rather large, and are surprised to see that many are not.

 

So after getting home, with my legs screaming from all of the bike riding, walking, and dancing, I finally went to bed. I didn’t wake up until sometime after 2 and laid in bed until 3. I may have screwed myself up by going out last night, because I may be back on American time. Hopefully not. We’ll see. No real pictures to add to this post, but I may be able to find one that another person took on facebook and post it later.

Take 2

Take 2

The fountain from the back… or maybe the front?

FAU: Or at least the pretty part

FAU: Or at least the pretty part

Downtown Erlangen

Downtown Erlangen

September 5, 2013: Meeting People in the IGP (or Intensive German Program)

Originally I was going to wait until I had done something a little more interesting to write another post, since most of what I have been doing has been pretty mundane. However, today I met several interesting people, and I want to keep them straight because hopefully, I will see some of them again.

 

Of my group of about 20 or so people, I was the only American, which actually surprised me a bit. I’m sure there are probably other Americans in the program, just not in my group today. When I came in I sat beside a Scottish guy, who’s name I unfortunately did not catch. His accent was rather strong, but melodic. He came from the west side of Scotland, but I can not recall the town. Apparently, it is nothing much because when asked about it, he scoffed saying, “There are much better parts of the country than mine.” I know what you mean buddy. I know what you mean.

 

I also met three South Africans today. Unfortunately only one of the girls’ names sticks in my mind, Rejoice. Simple enough. The South African guy I met has a much more difficult name to remember. It sounded something like the way a Japanese person would say vanilla, so in my mind, he is Banira. I have no idea how close this actually is. The other girl told me her name, and I think it was simple enough, but I was so caught up in registering with the city, it did not stick. All three of them are studying Economics for the Developing World, and in order to get some classes not offered in South Africa, they had to come to Germany. What I found interesting was their apparent mission yesterday evening to find roasted chicken, potatoes, and a salad for dinner. Only after a very long and unfruitful search did they find the roasted chicken. We also could relate on how winter was going to kill us. I at least have the advantage of seeing snow a couple of times in my life. My thoughts are with you guys as winter approaches. Maybe we can all huddle together for warmth?

 

There are actually a surprising number of Japanese folks in the program. In my group there were four: Kana, Shiion, Kesuke, and the other girl’s name I didn’t catch. Two of the girls (I think Shiion and the other girl whose name I don’t know) are studying philosophy, while Kana is studying sociology. Here’s hoping I kept that straight. It was nice to talk to them, but I noticed something weird today. My Japanese has done nothing but deteriorate these past two years since I’ve taken a class. However, today, I was recalling things I no longer thought I could conjure up in Japanese. I actually heard from someone that when you learn more than two languages, you are actually basing your other languages off your second language (or the part of your brain that does second languages). Could my overexposure to German in turn also be slightly helping my Japanese? I don’t know, but sometimes I did find it easier to answer them in Japanese as opposed to German or English. Naturally, they insisted my Japanese was good. Naturally, it isn’t, they are just too nice to say it.

 

I met another guy today as well, who also lives in my dorm (so there was plenty of complaining about how far away it is and also about the lack of internet). Let me take a minute to describe Mattheius (not sure on the spelling), who in my mind today until I met him I called Rupert Grint. That should give you some idea of his appearance: tall, lanky, red hair, pale with some freckles. Every part of me hoped he was from the UK. He is not. He is actually from Brazil, which really caught me off guard, but then I think of my dear friend Jorge and suddenly it makes sense. Rupert, I mean Mattheius, is studying chemical engineering. He came here to make is German better, but his mother is German and so I am not really sure what sort of improving he intends on doing with his German. Probably the most interesting conversation we had was with Banira. We talked about all of the preparations for the World Cup/ Olympics. I pointed out that in ’96 Atlanta bussed all of their homeless people out to Birmingham as a way to clean up the streets so that they eyes of the world would only see the best part of the New York City of the South. That is when Banira piped up, “Oh yes, they did that in Johannesburg too. While the homeless were sleeping, they grabbed them up and stuffed them on buses. When they woke up, they had no idea where they were.” There apparently was even a wall which kept the slums hidden from sight. Mattheius quickly agreed saying that the homeless were not even allowed on the beach. That must be a real blow. No job and no home? Well you just earned a No Fun pass to boot.

 

Those were the main people I talked to within my group today. There were others who I talked with briefly, but I really did not get to learn much about them, so I won’t say anything more. Another thing I found interesting was people’s responses to where I am from. Anytime I told someone I was from America, they had a very positive reaction. Gasping or saying something like, “Oh, I’ve been there once!” or “Oh, I would love to visit America!” I am a little surprised given the recent events which have come to light (mostly Snowden). However, it was nice that they at least feigned interest in America. However, the response was not so positive once they asked me to be more specific. Alabama apparently has about as good of a reputation worldwide as it does in the US. I think they were disappointed that I wasn’t from somewhere more exciting, like New York or Washington. The guy from Scotland apparently knew a bit more than most people about the South, remarking on the massive amount of time spent with guns or around guns (hunting), to which I quipped about Alabama’s favorite pastime: cow tipping. At this his eyes grew as wide as dinner plates. “Is that a real thing?” he stammered. Apparently I need to work on actually sounding sarcastic when I am being sarcastic.

 

This about wraps up today’s post. Hopefully I will remember to bring my camera with me at some point and I can post some pictures. Until then, just use your imagination. It’s probably more fun that way anyway. Especially if you picture me paling around with Ron Weasley.

September 4, 2013: Still Stuck in the Early ’90s…

As the title may suggest, I am still without internet. Not that I absolutely could not have access to the internet in a public setting if I really needed to, it would just require my credit card number, something which I feel a bit uneasy giving away so freely abroad and for something I will soon enough have access to. Yes, I can only create a wifi account on Thursdays. Not any sooner, I tried. Until then I have been endlessly trying to busy myself with a very limited number of activities (because let’s face it, I could not pack all of my hobbies and take them with me, even though I had some spare room in my suitcase and endlessly wish I could have somehow brought my hoop with me). Most of these activities have included reading (both Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane and Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void. Next on my list is The Great Gatsby,) playing games on my Kindle (solitaire, sudoku, and mahjong) and listening to all of the NPR podcasts I luckily downloaded before the trip. Without all of these things, I might have already gone crazy.

 

That’s not to say I haven’t gotten out and explored Erlangen. I have. Unfortunately there is only so much bike riding and walking my legs will stand for in a given day, so I have mostly ventured out for no longer than an entire morning or afternoon. Sometimes if I decide to punish my legs for whatever reason, I go out a second time. When I come back I’m going to be built like Lance Armstrong, only without all the steroids. Mind you my expeditions to the inner part of the city have been nice, just not very fruitful. I mostly browse around shops or maybe read in the Schlosspark (which is very nice and regrettably I forgot to bring my camera with me today to take a picture. It was absolutely stunning there, surrounded by trees, flowers, and in the middle a huge fountain. In the background are some historic looking buildings, which I have not further investigated as of yet.) Sometimes I just ride or walk around to see what is there. Today I found the Asian market, which I’m sure I will end up visiting sooner or later. Now I just wish I could find a Mexican market, or really just any place with tortillas and salsa.

 

As far as food goes, I haven’t really gone out to eat, unless you count the bread and pastries I got at the bakery, which I personally don’t (but are nonetheless quite tasty). There are two main reasons that I have been cooking at home. 1. I am trying to conserve on money since I still don’t have my scholarship money to use. It is in my UA student account, but it does not do me much good since I am technically not a student at UA this semester. Naturally I was going to email them when I got here to ask, but well, still no internet. The other reason is that I have not really met anyone here to go out to eat with. I know that no one is going to be knocking on my door or lined up down the hall waiting to be my friend. I know that I have to take an active role and actually talk to people, but that’s hard enough for me to do in English. The moment really has to strike me. Plus when I am nervous I tend to spout utter nonsense in German, and I am not too keen on looking like an idiot just yet.

 

Speaking of looking like an idiot, I took my placement test for the Intensive German Course (Sprachkurs in German) yesterday. It was rough and being a student of linguistics, I really felt that the test was not a good gauge of language proficiency. It was a 40 minute test on the computer. There were 8 parts and all of them were the same. I had paragraphs to read and several words were left incomplete. The number of remaining letters I had to fill in was given, but that was the test. It tested what is probably the worst aspect of my German: vocabulary. Mind you there was a little bit of grammar as well, but it really was not as much as I would have expected. No writing. No listening. No speaking. No reading comprehension. Just complete the word. It is either right or wrong. No in between. Terrible. After filling in all of the easy ones I took a stab at some of the harder ones, sometimes just putting a suffix that had the appropriate amount of letters. There should be extra points for being able fill in letters past 5. I really expect to be placed in too low of a level because I can’t conjure up parts of specific words. Not to mention that the test is completely artificial in nature. There is no way I would ever be asked to use German like that in a normal context. Give me a writing prompt and a couple sheets of paper. Give me a 20 minute presentation on Lutherdeutsch (Luther’s German). I can do that. Filling in words. Nope. Done.

 

As for tomorrow and Friday I will be doing a good deal of boring stuff, which always has to be done when abroad, such as registering with the authorities, opening my German bank account, registering with the university, and so on. So that about wraps things up for this week, and hopefully by tomorrow you can read this post and the one I wrote September 1st. If not, I may go crazy. No really, I’m running out of things to do without internet or even television. And I miss people. And hopefully you guys haven’t forgotten about me.

« Older entries