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.


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