Ohne dich ist alles doof!

“The time has come” the walrus said…
June 1, 2010, 4:42 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , ,

Liebe Alle,

It has been quite some time since I last updated, and it will probably be quite some time before I update again. In fact, you probably won’t hear from me until after I get back to the states.

Life in Hamburg is going  beyond swimmingly. Last semester, though over all great, was difficult. People were hard to get to know, my german was mediocre, and it was cold cold cold wet wet wet and dark dark dark. Then I discovered couchsurfing, got to know people (albeit superficially) and learned german. My level of german is still not where i’d hoped, but I feel like it improves significantly with every small trip I take. And the last family I stayed with said they thought i’d lose my accent after living here another year. Others insist it will never go away. And still others insist I really must be french.

Now, with 2 months left, I find that I don’t even try to connect with people anymore, which could  be ridiculously awful, except I just don’t feel the need. Connections don’t just happen, but you also can’t force them. I’m fond of my tandem partner, there are some cool people on my floor, but there isn’t really anyone I’ll miss. People I’d love to see again, sure, but what I’ve really gotten out of this year abroad is a clear understanding of everything I’ve done incorrectly (in terms of friends etc), and everything I’d do differently in the future. I really do feel that, when I come back, I’ll be able to do everything 10 times more quickly. Make friends, travel, complete study plans, all because I did it so slowly before. It isn’t *really* that I did anything wrong, just that it takes a while to achieve a sense of place. I didn’t waste time, it just took a while to figure out how I wanted to give my time here meaning. And I’m so excited to go back to the US, engage in countless dance parties, do all the mcmenamin’s things you can only do after 21, and prepare for coming back to Germany in order to pursue all the little beginnings I made during my stay here. Such as? Hopefully working at the Alfred Wegener Institut on Sylt studying sediment transport (tidal flats and/or dunes), eco-tourism, and environmental education. (and then I’m thinking an apprenticeship at a sustainable winery somewhere in Rheinland-Pfalz).

Rheinland-Pfalz, second only to Ostfriesland, is my new favorite place in all of Deutschland. Last week, personally known as Abenteuerwoche, but more commonly known as Pentecost, I adventured to the small town (6,000 people) of Traben-Trarbach in order to drink famous wine, dance to crappy music, swim in the mosel, and sleep in the cold. There’s another camp in Vienna this weekend, and if it weren’t for my responsible (or rather school oriented) nature, I wouldn’t have even considered missing it. I’m hoping that the year after next (when I plan on living in Germany) I’ll be able to attend some of the camps I missed out on this year.

aka poorly cooked food. that's in now, right?

Our tent neighbors, plus random guy who does web design for ngos in the netherlands.

i think

The cute wine town we camped above

View of Mosel River Valley

postcards from italy?

Before we discovered the ticks...

A face you could eat


Late night eatings

Our hike the second to last day

yes, people did bring their ukeleles/guitars/melodicas on our +8km hike

View of shore during our boat ride back to t-t

As you can tell, I didn’t take any of these pictures myself, and the ones Liz took didn’t turn out, so I stole these from various Mont Royal Summer Camp photo pages. A lot of the people pictured frequent these sorts of camps, so i’ll (hopefully) see most of them again.

I then went to Sweden, where I attended a Eurovision party, witnessed Germany win, was assured that Germany would be a week long party as a result, and was sorely disappointed upon my return. I have decided that, nice though Sweden is, it also isn’t my country. Next stop (in the plans that live in my head) Sweden’s west coast, and then Norway. I will find my country eventually!

Now I really must be off to read about color, brecht, and le mepris (godard). Fun times.

Over and out until i don’t know when



Viva Colonia!
March 1, 2010, 1:15 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Greetings from the present!

It has been far too long since I have posted anything interesting, and as a result, there is far too much for me to say to even consider the possibility of posting it in an interesting manner. Letters home are almost always more exciting than life itself, because you get a free pass at leaving all of the boring stuff out. Look Friends! see how interesting my life is?

Let’s begin with finals, which sucked. I studied so hard for my chem final, but hit that zone where I knew I couldn’t absorb anymore. Which would have been fine, except I completely forgot to discuss cis and trans isomers when drawing my different isomers of butane. So go me. If this were the US, it would be ok, because there would be another test where I could prove that I was only dumb in that moment, but that, when more moments are added to the sample, I am more often quite informed when it comes to isomers than not. Alas, alack, I got a 2,3. Although I can console myself with the fact that I still did better than perhaps 65- 70% of the class (who had way more chem than I did in high school), I still only got a B. Which is the worst grade I’ve gotten since starting college. So perhaps I should stop grumbling. Kristallography has yet to be revealed, and I felt like the test went well, which means whatever my grade was, it was either quite good or quite something I’m really not in the mood to talk about.

Today I started my chemistry lab! Communication at the university of hamburg is beyond depressing. The starting time in stine (uh’s version of moodle) does not correspond with the starting time on the web site, and although they specified the need for lab coats, they gave no indication as to where to buy one. (my fault on this one, though. I read the non stine version way too late to buy one, let alone to figure out where one could be purchased. the result was a very exciting adventure for exact change, and now i have a very awesome lab coat that shall either be shelved for the time being as dress up clothes, or shall be tye died and hence become daily wear 😉 )

Tess came to visit and we had an amazing time. Even if we’d had a terrible time together, it couldn’t have ended as anything other than amazing, because we discovered the awesomeness that can be Björk. That in and of itself isn’t that interesting, and I’m still not convinced that I like her general releases, but hey. Dancer in the Dark makes up for all of it. The only thing I cried more in was little women (time wise. i cried from the point where beth and jo are at the beach and beth is in the wheel chair to the point where jo marries sir boring) and Dancer was…I don’t know if I can say far more depressing, but it was definitely orchestrated to yank your chain. But the music was so good! The dancing could have been better, and at times the editing as well, but over all it was so good i really don’t care. This has only reinforced my love of scandinavia, and I am determined to see more Lars van Trier films when I get the chance. hey. One starred Mrs. Weasley!

Tess and I also discovered this cool video store about 8 blocks from where I live that shows movies for free twice a week. For some reason, the name Jim Jarmusch has come up a lot in the last year, but I still hadn’t seen any of his movies. Last week they showed Night on Earth, which wasn’t completely smashing, but the two comedic sketches were buckets of awesome. So funny. I know I’m not providing much of a description, but really. When we get back we can skip the slow segments and just watch the one in new york and the one in rome. (there were…6 segments? all involving people in taxis).

Oh, and we also went to Köln for Carnival.

I really don’t have too much to say about that. It was fun, but I was relieved to get back to hamburg. For one, I definitely knew what there was to do, and…for two? I could avoid the guilt that goes with lounging during travel. I could sit on the couch eating yogurt listening to music and still feel like it was  a valuable use of my time.

Because of the weather, Köln was a lot less happening than we expected it to be. Still, there were costumes galore, and ours were pretty rocking. Once we got the hang of it at least.

Our first day in Köln

Our servas host invited us to dance through Köln with a traditional carnival group. We were on our feet for over 6 hours. It was slightly excessive, way too cold, but worth it. I’ll link later to my facebook photos. The traditional group was dressed in altered 18th century garb. I definitely need to get myself a set.


We wore these costumes to the Rosenmontag parade, and to the official carnival party we went to later that evening. One of the more popular costumes was a giant animal suit. There were bunnies, mice, lions, etc. Tess said she’d make me a giant lion suit, and I am quite looking forward to it. I wonder. If they can kick little boys out of class for having distracting hair (too long), would smith make me leave if I wore a giant animal suit to class? Or could I just claim that it was part of a sociological experiment: how does an excessively liberal society react when we blatantly paint ourselves as the other?

There was a particularly hilarious bunny costume at the official carnival party. A guy in a tight black tee shirt with tighty blackies and a little puff tail and ears ( i think). So funny. Also? Practical. There was a beatles cover band (and other oldies) that was quite good and such fun to dance to. We did go out dancing one other night, and learned some kölsch, and some carnival songs. Hopefully I can get some and bring them back to the states.

Our host family was really nice, but we (surprisingly) didn’t spend that much time together. They generously let us stay the whole week, which saved so much money (though if they’d only let us stay a few days we would have gone to hamburg earlier).

In other news, I’ve started working on my DAAD project and am quite enjoying it! I really should have started it earlier, but so it goes. And I’m (hopefully) taking a class on the topic (generally) next semester. Landscapes studies in northern germany such and such.

Now I must leave you. Until next time I decide I have something to say.

All my love!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbCwVWB1KFg (kölsch carnival song. so funny.)

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=193872&id=509595464&l=641e62ae8b (photos)

A Trend…
January 3, 2010, 3:55 pm
Filed under: random | Tags: , , , ,

The Surpise:

I Killed a Fly

by David Ignatow

I killed a fly
and laid my weapon next to it
as one lays the weapon of a dead hero
beside his body—the fly
that tried to mount the window
to its top; that was born out of a swamp
to die in a bold effort beyond itself,
and I am the one who brought it to an end.
Tired of the day and with night coming on
I lay my body down beside the fly.
Remembrance 1:

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – (591)

by Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –
I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –
With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –
Remebrance 2:

If I live or If I Die

by John Vanderslice
little fly
your summers play
my thoughtless hand
has brushed away
and ended your day

am I not a fly like you
are you not a man like me
oh I dance and drink and sing
till some hand tears off my wing

if thought is life and strength and breath
and the want of thought is death
then am I a happy fly?
if I live or if I die

Result: Memory is linear?

~So was I once myself a swinger of birches~
January 3, 2010, 3:47 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , ,

Birches~Robert Frost


Procrastination  may very well be my favorite activity. In between actually getting work done today, I have 1) Read the new york times; 2) caught up on sociological images; 3) contemplated calling my family (too early in the morning); 4) investigated the adventures of one dr. mcninja. All in all, I have had a very enjoyable day. I also managed to study a bit of chem and krystallographie, in between my procrastinary awesomeness.

Happy New Year!

The only new year song that comes to mind (other than old lang syne) always strikes me as incredibly sad, at first, at least, until i hit the let’s go dancing chorus (so everybody put your best suit or dress on and we’ll pretend that something has just begun) so basically that’s the part that i dance to, and the rest, i don’t know, just relate to i suppose. don’t feel any different? check. resolutionless? check. Oh good. i could star in a death cab for cutie song.

Also. Because this is the song that i think of, i feel incredibly uncreative. Where are my stores of new years songs, readily available should i wish to call them to mind? hmm. Obviously, I have been doing too much studying and not enough musicing.

That said, I am just a little bit proud of the amount of work i’ve managed to get done, what with it being break, and dad visiting. I only managed a bit while he was here, but since he flew back home, i’ve managed two powerpoint presentations (one in german), half of the sorrows of young werther, and! the afore mentioned chem and krystallographie learnage. In between this productivity (as i’m sure my opening communicated) i’ve managed to have quite a bit of fun. New year’s was a smash (no flame to the 24 hour party of a few years ago–senior year?–which included a dance party, truth or dare jenga, a late night walk, toast-ing, a view of the sunrise, early morning coffee, a cuddle pile of sleepage, and long winters on the ride to the zoo station), finally saw frost/nixon. so much to say about that, or perhaps, so little. i bet i’d have more to say if we discussed it (my initial response was entirely composition based–let’s talk!)

New Year’s this year consisted of a party at a friend’s. We ate, discussed randomosity (this guy i met through the daad has a tendancy to bring up topics i know little about, but as of yet, it hasn’t been as much in an oh let me learn way so much as a gee i feel uninformed/incapable of engaging in conversation way. part of this has been because the last two times we met up, he had a friend there, who did know a lot about city planning. city planning i don’t feel bad about not knowing, but certain world events i should be better caught up on. if i were to make a resolution, it would be to stay caught up. but instead of resolving to do it, i’ll just put it into action). Then! We set off some fireworks. Now, normally, it would be enough to leave that statement at “we set off some fireworks,” but as this is germany, and they were not just any ‘fireworks’ it requires some clarification.

Here storebought fireworks are just a step short of professional fireworks in the us. They go up 2-3 stories, and explode the night away. Some only once, but they also have these boxes that perform an entire firework show, finale and all. We almost got hit with a few ground suckers on our way to Landungsbrücke, where the real party was. Landungsbrücke is a pedestrian bridge on the Elbe, hamburg’s trade center. Thousands of people were there, setting off fireworks before and after the new year. At midnight the boats in the harbor tooted their horns and set off fireworks, but the view down the bridge was much more impressive. I might have seen a kilometer of continuous fireworks. We left before it quieted down. Unfortunately, we also saw a ton of ambulances. What happens when fireworks are set off in a group of people. Oh. And when a shit ton of alcohol is involved. On the shore of a giant tidal river. But still! I didn’t see anybody carried off, only ambulances in transit, and some simply awaiting catastrophe. hopefully all injuries were minor.

So this is the New Year. In some ways I do feel different, but not in the oh look let’s turn a page on our calendar and look woah suddenly we’re counting differently and the world is new again ( Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,/ an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space./ I begin again with the smallest numbers.–Naomi Shihab Nye)! More in an “i’ve realized in which ways my time here has been dissatisfying, and have determined what I am going to do to improve upon it.” Most of that i decided months ago, and have been slowly (and successfully!) putting into action. Other things I’ve only decided over the break, such as, there really isn’t much point in going out of my way to socialize with my floor. Yes, i should spend time in common spaces, but most of them, i don’t actually want to be friends with. Some of them, perhaps, but the ones I’m interested in befriending are also the ones who have been more receptive of my oh hello let’s talk advances. So I just need to remind myself that shyness is never the answer, and to invite them to do things, trusting in my ability to successfully engage in conversation with an almost stranger. All systems go.

I’ve been missing my lives in smith and portland, and am reining myself in, refusing to rush towards homegoing. I am not here to go home.

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)

by Emily Dickinson

Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –
Frohes Neues!

Feuerzangenbowle 1/Feuerzangebowle 2/Zwischen-Klausur/Celle
December 13, 2009, 5:10 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , ,

Today I am obviously too lazy to come up with an interesting creative title. Instead, it shall serve as a reminder of all the things I need to remember to talk  about, and will hopefully keep me going in chronological order. My brain is already scrambling, because of all the connections between these chronologically separate topics. Here goes.

Feuerzangenbowle 1

As you’ve probably already noted, the term Feuerzangenbowle applies to (at least) two things: a german film from 1943 (nazy morale propaganda?) and a beverage typically consumed during december for Weihnachten (christmas) or Sylvester (new year’s). Last weekend my floor had its christmas party, and we both consumed a feuerzangenbowle, and saw the film.

I have seen the film twice now, and I still can’t claim to be completely sure about what happened. The recording is somewhat scratchy, and the actors talk somewhat strangely. That, and the fact that my german is still in the process of inching along. We’ll see how clear I can be in describing the basic plot, and more importantly, the basic atmosphere of the film.

The film opens with a bunch of old men laughing and serving themselves up some feuerzangenbowle awesomeness. They are wearing tux like suits, monocles, and are (i think?) teachers or professors of some sort. (the feuerzangenbowle is filled with hot wine, with a flaming sugar block on top). A new man shows up, and confesses that all his life he had been taught by private tutors, and had never experienced a german school. So the old men laugh, rub their hands maniacally, and decide that he must must must. Then there is a funny scene in which he suddenly changes his attire piece by piece, wearing what he thinks is a typical school outfit. He slowly becomes quite mischievous, and though he has received his phd and is probably quite old, he ends up engaged to a school girl. The point of the film (now at least) is not the plot, but the ridiculousness in which it is executed. It is the epitome of silly.

Our Feuerzangenbowle was not as upscale as the one in the film, and probably contained 3X as much alcohol. The guy in charge of it kept adding more rum to keep the sugar cone burning, and as soon as a sugar cone was gone, he found another one and poured on more alcohol. At times everything was on fire–the cone, the liquid in the cauldron type thing, and the liquid in the drink ladle. Also, we did this inside.

We also did a Julklapp (gift exchange). I got a book of grisly poetry, and I gave a half naked santa glühwein cup with chocolates.

Feuerzangenbowle 2

The Daad has Daad Freundeskreise all over Germany, and I went to the university showing of FZB with the fk. For a while we didn’t know if the event was going to happen–the audimax where they show the film every year is currently besetzt, meaning that people are living in there, protesting Studiengebühren–paying for school. But! Because it is such a tradition they made a small exception for the film. before the film the read some statements and showed some pictures discussing the time during which the film had been produced, and its nazi history. A lot of people were impolite during this time, because they didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know how much that has to do with being tired of hearing about it, feeling that the history in the context of art doesn’t matter, or just being rude people who didn’t care at all about what was being said, just that it was keeping them from seeing the film.

The behavior of the audience (once the film began) reminded me a lot of the rocky horror picture show–people had brought giant alarm clocks that they brought out at specific points during the film, and sparklers.

Zwischen Klausur

Friday I took my first german university test, and I definitely passed. I’ve been studying for ages, and I really knew the material, but the test was only five questions, it was in German, and I barely had time to finish it. I was unable to check my answers. Fingers crossed I got at least a 2 (A-). We shall see!


Yesterday (a beautiful cold, and at times rainy, icy, and best of all SNOWY saturday) I traveled to Celle by regional train with the Freundeskreis. We toured a Schloss (castle) and then wandered around a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) eating Bratwurst and drinking Glühwein. the Glühwein in Celle was delicious.

I am currently at the Smith Center waiting for Tess to come online so we can talk. Golly Gee. She is an hour late (or, though, I suppose not truly as she gave me a window of time). But still. I want to go home and eat. After I finish this hot cup of tea.

All my love!

Also, I don’t know if Grandma Barbara got my message about the blog, but I promised her I would post photo links so she could find them without being a member of facebook, so here they are:

Celle: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=174872&id=509595464&l=9641cf9307

Leipzig: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=168721&id=509595464&l=3b14be5306

Sylt: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=159302&id=509595464&l=2247fea7a7

Hamburg 1: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151543&id=509595464&l=adfc4aaa0c

Hamburg2/Berlin: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=158461&id=509595464&l=edcb848ecb

My trip with Mom through Europe: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=145330&id=509595464&l=14fce2089c

Tada! All my love! I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas break.

Ode to a vanished snowman. Or happy thanksgiving.
November 26, 2009, 11:35 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags:

Achem–Below follows a symbolism laden piece of performance art, entitled: The Chronicled Consumption of a Very Tasty Snowperson (this is where I deleted a very long conversation with myself about the ways in which dominance functions by rendering itself invisible and how snowman/snowperson on one hand whatever, but on the other hey male should not be the default gender!  I decided that it wasn’t a necessary conversation to have with myself at this juncture. Hence the use of snowperson in the title, and snowman in the very important piece of performance art. it is a man, unfortunately it has no name.)  On to the very important progressive piece of performance art that if you don’t understand honestly people you just are not high brow enough. Ah! An alternative name! How high is YOUR brow? A quantitative analysis, beautifully photographed by the computer of one kassia r***.


In which the snowman and I become acquainted.

In which I realize that the snowman is not made of snow, but in fact very tasty marzipan.

I consume the head.

Well, part of it.

Snowman says "Oh noes!" Or perhaps it is the growling of my deliciously satisfied stomach.

End Scene.

I hope this piece touched you to the very depth of your souls. And that you are all suddenly very attached to the feminist cause. Or, for you masculinists out there (i.e. my brother) the PERSONIST cause! Equal rights for all!

Yes. This is how I am spending my time in Hamburg. The snowman was a take home item from a very wonderful thanksgiving dinner hosted by our advising professor and his wife. The food was killer. I still don’t like turkey, but I have come around to stuffing, especially covered with (sweet?) gravy. If only every thursday could be thanksgiving! (at smith it is 😉 )

Love you lots and happy thanksgivings!

PS I have my visa!

I don’t need an interlocutor and baby, you look a little cuter day by day
November 24, 2009, 7:57 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , ,


I have been off having wonderful adventures, and as a result, have fallen behind in the chronicling there of. I’m not really sure you can use ‘there of’ that way, but you can do it in German. Every time I speak english I realize just how useful that construction is.

The last few weeks have been filled with an equal share of travel and music. I spent four days last week in Leipzig, my first real expedition into East Germany. The girl I was traveling with seemed to think that it was a great example of the DDR, and kept pointing out what she saw as differences between east and west. I’ve been here for 3 months, but I don’t feel like I know East vs West enough to assume that the differences between Hamburg and Leipzig are a result of previous political lines. There were two clear differences–Leipzig has an older, more squished, seeming center, and a ton of square dilapidated buildings sprinkled throughout the city.

This past weekend was spent in Bremen with SERVAS hosts. Bremen also has an older, more squished feel than Hamburg (Hamburg feels very airy), and was a lot of fun. Our hosts took us on a tour through the town center the first day, and we stopped at a store and put two display puzzles together, and then walked along the river. For lunch we stopped at a fish cart, and I had Bratfish. Delicious. The second day we took a walk along the moors, and ate an amazing fish stew. I suppose I will have to admit to liking fish.

Now I’m sick. Not terribly sick, but bad enough that I missed school due to illness for the first time (that I remember) since I got food poisoning after Folklife in highschool (food poisoning not from folklife food, rather from some shop in pike market). I was not happy about it. Still, because of the swine flu (who knows if that’s what I have) I had to stay home. I missed out on a play for class, which was disappointing. I’d feel worse if I got someone else sick, though.

I’ve been to two concerts since moving to Hamburg. 1) John Vanderslice at Thalia Zentrale, 2) some british duo at the Pony Bar. I am in love with both locations. Thalia Zentrale is a rectangular room with booth like cusions, tables, chairs, a bar, and a small stage. There were about 30 of us, and the performance was amazing. I didn’t expect an encore (I saw him last semester in Northampton and he didn’t give one) but the one he gave ranks in the top two. He came out with his band and played acoustic versions of three songs with tons of harmony. And I basically stood next to him. And afterwards he gave me a hug.

The second concert was no where near as good. The duo (kyrstie mcgee, or something) has received some attention in England, and they were good, but unimpressive. It was alt-folk/country, and I got a little bored at times. Still, it was free, and worth attending. The Pony Bar stage area is a lot more squished, but super comfy with sofas and arm chairs. I am determined to find more such places throughout Hamburg.

That’s basically it. My classes are going well, my German is improving, I’m not officially in quarantine, but I’m not supposed to be leaving my room too much. I haven’t been diagnosed with anything, and it’s my theory that, so long as whatever I have remains a mystery, I can refrain from disinfecting everything with blue fluid and wearing one of those mouth masks every time I leave my room (there are many dorm regulations for the swine flu). If I’m still sick on Thursday I’ll go get checked out.

All my love!


Oh! Also, I’ve learned to play Canasta! It’s awesome! My new favorite game! And my tandem language partner is fantastic. This Friday we’re going to Hamburg’s Christmas Market and Dom–a festival in the St. Pauli district with Rose Festival type food and rides.

One of my new favorite songs:

(Grow up and marry me!/I won’t!)