October 27, 2013: Uneventful Events and Mah Livah Brought to you by Poland

So this week kind of felt like just an ordinary week as opposed to the consistently interesting OH MY GAWD I’M IN EUROPE weeks I’ve been having. Not to say that this is particularly bad, it’s just a part of adjusting to the new home away from home. I’ve heard that culture shock comes in three phases: the honeymoon phase, where everything is great and wonderful. Yes even that dog shit you just stepped in because it’s by such a beautiful church and hey, it’s German dog shit anyway so yeah. Then there is the second phase is sort of the downer phase, where everything just sort of gets on your nerves, you start to settle down and things aren’t as exciting, and you are essentially homesick. This supposedly comes after about a month. Honestly, even though I feel like things are starting to quiet down, I’m not really homesick. I was a bit for about a week when I first got here, but since then I haven’t really wanted to go back. Sure, there are people that I miss, and I can’t even describe how much I miss this bundle of cute awesomeness every day, but as far as America itself goes, especially the South, I have yet to really miss it. Maybe I just have a longer honeymoon phase, or maybe I’m just jaded enough to see past it or maybe I just sort of skipped my second phase and went right on to the third phase, which is mastery. Anyway, the point being I am still pretty happy here. Also I think it helps that I have met some pretty awesome people here so far. Good company makes everything easier.

 

That aside most of my week has consisted of going to classes and not really caring about the assigned work. I know that these classes are not going to transfer and even if I wanted to take classes that would transfer, I’m pretty sure I would hit a wall pretty quickly in that process. Yeah, my university. It’s… well I can’t think of anything nice to say at the moment, so maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all so I don’t shoot myself in the foot later. But that aside, the classes themselves are either interesting, or a good review for my comps. Either way I do gain something out of it. Oh, and I get to practice my German, which really needs work especially since I speak English with so many of my international friends. And even when I speak German with them, I do somewhat feel like it’s a blind leading the blind situation. All of those years helping with the ESL I finally understand why it is so hard to talk to native speakers. It’s very intimidating, especially when they are with other native speakers and speaking in a dialect.

I also did a fair amount of acrobatics/hooping this week. I’ve been trying to learn several new tricks, but it’s a bit discouraging because they are all going so slowly. Juggling has been going equally slowly. I admittedly don’t work as much at it as I do my hooping though. I mostly do it after I’ve gotten good and frustrated with my hooping. I’ve also tried a couple of other acrobatic related things, none of which I’ve particularly excelled at, and all of which I managed to do something embarrassing within the first 2 minutes of trying them. Potato. I also managed to make my second hoop this morning. I don’t know why, but as soon as I got up I just felt like making it. And I found a website here in Germany that has all sorts of pretty hoop tape I can buy. I just have to save a bit of money for it because the price ranges from 5-10 Euros per role. Considering I am not sure how much tape a role includes, I may need several of one color.

 

So ramblings aside onto the highlight of my week (and subsequently this post): Polish Night! Where the vodka shots just keep coming. No really, we had three shots within the first 30 minutes or so of being there. They were not very big, mind you, and they were mixed with some sort of lemon juice among other things. Honestly I did not keep count of how many shots I drank, but it actually took awhile to get drunk. I guess you could say I was representin’ last night. The food was also pretty fantastic. Those girls really outdid themselves. We had homemade Pierogi, Bigos, and some sort of apple pie-esque cake, which was much more sour than apple pie tends to be in America. As someone who isn’t generally a fan of cooked apples, I have to say I really like it. I think it’s the fact that I don’t really like how sweet cooked apples tend to be so having them be somewhat sour just really made them stand out. There was also fun and games, my favorite of which was probably getting my Polish name (Ala Radwańska for those of you who were curious) and having to find someone else at the party based only on having their Polish name. There was also a Polish quiz, which I failed miserably at. But hey, I did get one question right, so that counts for something. There was also a lot of Polish music I didn’t understand, but something about San Francisco was said, and there was the chicken dance at some point as well. All in all I had a really good time with some pretty fun people. I left a bit early (at 2 and it’s only considered early because apparently the party lasted until 8 in the AM). But the good news is that I felt perfectly fine this morning.

So this Thursday is Halloween and we’ll just have to see how kind my liver is that next day.

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October 21, 2013: Coburg is just about the only Cool Thing I did this Week

This past week classes started, but as I have already said, I don’t really have all that many to worry about. Just five, which I know in America would be a full load, but here it just isn’t. I wasn’t able to register for any actual language courses like I had on-again off-again debated due to scheduling conflicts with my linguistics classes, which I would much rather do to be honest. As far as my classes this past week have gone, they have been pretty good. We haven’t actually gotten into the meat of the subject matter as of yet, but we will this week. As far as the students in my classes go, I really haven’t met anyone that I didn’t already know from studying abroad. I think the combination of me being somewhat antisocial/shy and them already potentially had some classes together means I usually sit alone. In one of my classes the teacher sort of pointed me out as being an exchange student, which was kind of embarrassing even though I know she meant well.

 

I have also continued to go to the acrobatics meetings, but really only the ones on Tuesdays. Last week I managed to juggle a bit better, but not by very much. I also brought my hoop along this time, but unfortunately the connecter I had ghetto-rigged was starting to fail, so by the end of the night I knew it was time to try something else. So I went back to the hardware store and bought the next size up, which in Germany means it’s way bigger, and therefore wouldn’t fit. So I had to really think about what I could use as a make-shift connecter. The original plan was the break the handle off of a screwdriver that was just laying around my dorm. Even though it is sort of a cheap screwdriver, it would not break no matter what I tried. So today I ended up buying a broom handle from the hardware store, sawing off a piece of it, sanding it down into a gradual slope, and using that. Combined with duct tape and all of the decorative tap, it seems to be holding up pretty well. I will see after tomorrow when it really takes a beating.

 

Outside of that and going out (which I think I only really went out once last week, pretty uneventful compared to the last time I went to this bar actually), really all I did that was interesting was I took a day trip with some friends to Coburg. It’s a small town about an hour from Erlangen by train, so not terribly far. We left kind of early and got there at about 10:30. Then I don’t know, the day just flew by. We slowly made our way through the town center and took about a million pictures. We totally looked like tourists. There was one old lady who kept stopping to give us directions. She was nice. We then made our way around and through a park and eventually up to the castle. It was absolutely gorgeous because the trees are still changing colors. And as usual, the castle was on a hill so there was a beautiful view of the town below as well as neighboring mountains/hills.

 

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Then we went to the museum inside the castle, which was only 1 Euro (about $1.25). It was pretty interesting. The first part sort of talked about the different rooms of the castle and what they were used for. It also had some common items from that time period like medals, hunting, clothing, etc. There was a room with a bunch of Medieval art, almost all of which was religious in nature. There was an exhibit which talked about glass, and particularly Venetian glass which was pretty interesting. There was also an exhibit on Martin Luther, which I sadly missed because everyone else was already done and wanted to leave to get something to eat. Also, I think the most interesting thing to note was the gun exhibition, which had different shaped barrels. There was a heart, rose, and diamond shaped barrel. The heart shaped one really makes me consider Cupid’s arrow in a new light.

 

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After that we went to a restaurant next to the castle. The menu was interesting because they had used somewhat Medieval type face and language. That aside, I ended up ordering some Coburg sausage (because it was what the travel website recommended) with sauerkraut. It was pretty good, but I really don’t think any of the sausage I’ve had in Germany so far has compared to the sausage in Vienna. I also had what they called green water. I forget what the translation was on the English menu, but I didn’t know what it was in English either. I really went out on a limb to try it, and it was surprisingly very good. It was probably my favorite part of the meal.

After sitting around and chatting for awhile, we decided it was time to head back. This took much longer than we had originally thought due to the fact that we stopped to take several more pictures and also because some of the people in our group wanted to try some sausage and ice cream. The ride back was pretty uneventful, except for the fact that we were getting on some of the other passengers’ nerves. Woops.

Once we got back to Erlangen some friends and I went around the city trying to visit some events for the “Long Night of Science”. Which it sounds pretty interesting, but I’ve never been so disappointed in what 8 Euros had bought me. Most of the events we wanted to go to were full, so we spent more time walking to different events and waiting to try and get in than actually attending the different events. We did manage to go to one event about labyrinths. Don’t get too excited. I thought it was going to be about labyrinths as in mazes. It was not. It was this really weird reading of one of Kafka’s works. It was not what we were expecting at all. We also went to a dialect event in which we listened to people talk about a particular dialect of German, which is kind of an isolated instance in Italy. It was pretty interesting, but again, not really what I expected. We tried to go to a Japanese Mythology event, but it was full as well. So overall kind of disappointing. We made it a bit better by going to get some Dönner and beer afterward. Then we just decided to go home and crash. It was a very long but fun-filled day.

As for this week, I’m not entirely sure what I will do. I kind of want to ride my bike to Nürnberg and back maybe Friday if weather permits. Also if my energy level permits since it is about 10 miles away. I will also be attending a Polish party this weekend and we will drink Vodka the Polish way, whatever that means exactly. I may not make it to Sunday heh. So until then!

Also, a special thanks to Ryoko, whose photos I used from Facebook since my camera decided Coburg wasn’t good enough to take pictures of…

October 13, 2013: Over the River and Through the Woods

So this was the last week before classes start here. I have signed up for five, which is a light load for Germany: Introduction to Germanic Linguistics (which should be fairly easy), Syntax of Present Day German, German as a Foreign Language, Applied Linguistics, and Morphology and Word Formation of German. I may also sit in on a Literature class just because I know that literature will be on my comps, but then again that would make my Wednesdays really long. I am also going to take another German language course so I can hopefully pass the Goethe Institute test I need to take to prove my proficiency in German. If that class doesn’t fall on a Monday or Friday, I will have four day weekends. Be jealous.

That aside, this week has been pretty fun but only somewhat eventful. On Monday I went and hooped in the park, but this time the much more populated Schlosspark. I sort of hid where there weren’t many people because I get kind of self conscious when people are watching me, which makes me mess up more. Anyway, I noticed this guy on a unicycle riding past and he slowly started to slow down. I was somewhat panicked when he actually approached me, and me being the awkward person that I am, I turned my back and tried to pretend he wasn’t there. Alas, I dropped the hoop and that’s when he stated his true intentions. He wanted to tell me about an acrobatics club in town! Pretty neat, but he told me in English, and sadly his English wasn’t terribly good, so I really wasn’t sure when they met. That is until Tuesday, when a friend of mine invited me to go learn how to juggle there. They had all sorts of fun things there to try, but since I’m not very coordinated, I stuck to either the hoops (which were too small so next time I will have to bring my own) and juggling. By the time we left, I was able to somewhat juggle three bean bags for about 5-10 seconds. But it was fun and I definitely plan on going back.

Wednesday was probably the highlight of my week, even though it got off to a bit of a rough start. I woke up fairly early and tried to catch my bus to Frankfurt. While I got there in plenty of time, I misread where the bus was supposed to pick me up, so by the time I figured it out, it had already left without me… So, I ended up buying a train ticket, which was kind of expensive, but it was better than not going at all. So I ended up getting to Frankfurt about an hour later than I had planned. Luckily my friend Verena, who lives there, was free all day and so it didn’t really matter. Then she showed me around the city for a bit and we ended up walking to a cafe, where we had coffee and I had a sandwich. (I was dumb and didn’t pack a lunch for the train). Actually, I had a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, but it really isn’t as good as they are in America. It was too sweet and there wasn’t enough of a pumpkin flavor. But, it was still tasty.

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After that it started to rain, so we headed back to her apartment for a bit. After some debate, she showed me her university, which actually has a campus. Interestingly enough it used to be owned by a company (I forgot the name and am too lazy to look it up) that made the gas used during the Holocaust. Despite their less than wonderful past, the buildings and campus were really nice. It has such a calm atmosphere even though it is in the middle of such a big city. She also showed me the old campus, which they were phasing out slowly in favor of the newer campus. It had a certain charm to it, even though it looked a bit run down and many of the walls were covered in graffiti. After that we went to a Mexican restaurant, which luckily served actual salsa instead of marinara sauce. It was also happy hour, so we got some cocktails to boot. Overall it was a pretty expensive dinner, but it was fun and it tasted good. It was definitely nice to catch up with Verena, especially since I didn’t see much of her her final semester due to comps.

So the next morning I got up super early to catch my bus, which left at 7:45. So sadly I really didn’t get to see much of Frankfurt, but this time I did catch my bus at least. After I got back I was pretty lazy and I think I even ended up taking a nap at some point. Then I decided to meet up with some friends and go to the bar in the basement of the dorm. Well, I decided it would be a good idea to pregame a bit, so I drank two beers (1 liter) before heading down. My original plan was to just have those two beers. Not the case. My two friends each bought a round (which I felt bad not having enough cash on me to return the favor), so for those keeping count, that’s 2 liters of beer at this point, or a bottle of coke at the grocery store. It didn’t stop there. Then we started talking to the bartender, who was from Poland and had apparently gone to America. He was pretty nice, especially since he gave use two rounds of shots. Still not entirely sure what they were, but they were tasty.

So it was about 2 when we left that bar and went to another place next to my friends’ dorms. I forget the name, but it was a total sausage fest in there. Anyway, we talked to several people there and were having a pretty good time, that is until the drunk Indian guy started harassing me and then one of my friends. I played it off and sort of got out of the situation. She, however, was not so lucky. Long story short, we were almost in the middle of a fight because this guy didn’t want to leave her alone. That’s about the time we decided to leave. It was also pretty late by then, so it sort of worked out.

Because I was out for so long, Friday was a complete wash. I laid in bed most of the day and watched German TV and talked to people online. It wasn’t until 8 that I left my dorm to go over to a friend’s place and watch the Producers, which is an excellent film. I think everyone enjoyed it, even though we watched it in English without subtitles.  We also spent most of the film hoping no Germans would walk in… Then yesterday I ended up going to a friends dorm to cook them some good ol’ Cajun food (red beans n’ rice) and then bake some cookies. The red beans n’ rice turned out nice, and was not too spicy for everyone, even though I had to douse mine in hot sauce, heh. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I also tried some random Polish things my friend had on hand, my favorite of which was probably the rose jam. The cookies, however, were somewhat more problematic. I could not for the life of me find some ingredients, so I had to wing it. The weirdest thing I couldn’t find was chocolate chips, so I cut up some Ritter Sports instead. They tasted fine, but they were really thin and kept breaking, so we more or less had cookie bits by the end of the day. But it was fun and hopefully I will get to cook with people more often.

As for today, I’ve mostly been kind of a grump. Not really sure why, maybe some built up stress? I don’t know. I went to the park for a bit to hoop, but really only managed to throw it around and at one point I hit myself in both the mouth and the nose with it. I really thought I was bleeding, it hurt that much, but I wasn’t. And with that, I gave up. Then a bit later I met with some friends and we rode our bikes on some walking trails that went through the woods. They actually go on for awhile back there. It was nice and relaxing, and we eventually stopped at a bakery to get some coffee and some food and have a bit of a rest. After that we went back and rode through the woods some more, this time providing everyone who passed us with entertainment as we were singing both English and Polish songs at the top of our lungs. Good fun. Now I am back at my dorm, procrastinating. I really need to start on my reading list for my comps again, but I just don’t want to. Sigh, stupid UA and your stupid reading list. I know, first world problems.

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

The Ferris Wheel

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

Entrance/exit

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

View from above

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

Inside one of the tents

Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest

October 6, 2013: Beerfest

So this past week my intensive German class finished up and I somehow managed to move on to the next level (so I probably will take another language class). Luckily that means no more of that awful teacher, but sadly that means the end of our awesome class (meaning strictly my fellow classmates). All in all though, I have been enjoying the free time by either traveling a bit or not doing shit. One day it was raining so I didn’t leave my room until about 5 and spent most of the day just watching German TV.

 

Anyway, as far as the Beerfests go, I actually went to two this week. The first was in a small town called Fürth and it’s maybe a 5-10 minute train ride there, if that. I went at night with my American friend and her German friend. Essentially, the fest was a carnival in America, but with booze. At the Fürth fest we mostly walked around though and also ate some food. I had a Nürnberger sausage and admittedly, it wasn’t as good as the ones I had in Vienna. Not that it didn’t taste good, mind you. Preemptive your mom as well as that’s what she said. Also, instead of having beer, we ended up just drinking some Federweiß (wine made of young grapes that also tends to be sweeter than most wine). All in all it was a pretty relaxing evening just talking, drinking, walking around, and looking at and endless amount of Lebkuchenherz, which since wikipedia has failed to give me an article, is a cookie that is in the shape of a heart and has some sort of lovey dovey message written on it. Then again sometimes they are kind of mean and funny. Those I like heh.

 

The second beer festival I went to is probably one that most of you haven’t heard of. And in case you think I’m serious, that was sarcasm. Friday I went with several friends to Munich and got to experience the wonder that is Oktoberfest. We left decently early at about 9 o’clock. However, the train was pretty packed. Luckily for me and my friend Ela, the lady sitting beside where we were standing left for some unknown reason, so we took her seat, meaning we took turns sitting in each others laps instead of standing for the whole 2 hour train ride. Others in our group were not so fortunate. Also interesting to note was the amount of people on this early train drinking alcohol and being totally hammered so early in the morning. Not that there is anything wrong with it, especially in Europe and especially for Oktoberfest, but sometimes I feel a bit odd about it.

 

Once we got to the festival, I was amazed at just how many people were there, and many being tourists from all over the world. We ended up taking a picture with several English guys wearing the most stereotypical lederhosen I think they could possibly make. And oh the boobs. There were so many girls wearing dirndls and as you may or may not know, dirndls tend to show off a lot of cleavage. And to top off the level of fun I had people watching was the sheer number of drunk people walking around, and some of them even trying to stumble through those cheesy fun houses you see at carnivals.

 

That aside we spent most of the day walking around. Sometimes my friends would decide to ride an insane monstrosity of a ride. I held the bags. No amount of peer pressure or alcohol made me decide it was a good idea to go on one of those rides. Anyone who went with me on the Black Mamba in Vienna knows why. Let’s just say I value my voice way too much to be without it for a solid week again. So after walking around for a bit we decided to try to find a table to sit and drink. This was almost impossible. We went into several giant tents, but there were no free tables to be had. We stood around in one tent for maybe 20 minutes and waited for one to open up even, but again, we had no luck. After watching the band play and some sort of play marriage ceremony/song, we went to some much smaller places and finally found a seat outside of one. Then we proceeded to drink a liter of beer. Each. And it was pretty strong beer. After I finished I felt decently tipsy. Then we walked around a bit more. My friends did some more scary rides while I noped my way on out of there. I did partake in some bumper cars later though.

Several pictures later and another crowded 2 hour train ride and I was back home. Fun fact, while it is better than standing the whole time, sitting on top of the luggage rack can get uncomfortable. Oh and drunk people will sometimes harass you a bit. Nothing bad, just kind of surprised at how many people tried untying my shoes…

 

As for yesterday, I ended up going to a bar with two friends and later to an ’80s dance party. Completely lost track of time and manages to stay out until 4 in the morning. Had a lot of fun though, but paid for a bit when I had to get up at 10 to go to a brunch at 11. The brunch was fun, but nothing like a brunch, or at least like one in America. There was no breakfast food and we ended up eating at 12ish anyway. Also, the finger food they had had some of the weirdest flavor combinations/surprises. I got what I thought was a cooked mushroom, but it actually ended up being a small onion soaked in balsamic vinaigrette. I won’t even try to describe the ones that were wrapped in bacon. Just note that bacon should never taste that horrible. Fortunately though, the soup and dessert kind of made up for it.

 

After that, sleep. And now, more sleep. Oh, and I will post pictures later because right now I have to wait for my friends to post them on facebook. No fun camera times for me…