Ohne dich ist alles doof!


November (and then my thoughts turned to Dollhouse)
November 1, 2009, 3:20 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have officially been out of the country for 2.5 months. I wonder how differently we would experience the passing of time with fewer months, or if the twelve months in a year had more days in them. It’s so easy to ignore the passing of time so long as the name of the month is the same–but the minute it’s time for the calendar change–I can’t believe it’s November! Fall here is beautiful. Maybe it’s just my intense need for color, but every time I look out my window (or venture into the cold) my day improves. On my way to the U-Bahn (underground train system. we also have the S-Bahn–the surface system. funnily enough, both travel under and over ground. silly? silly.) I pass a small, sparsely filled children’s park. I don’t know if it’s something in the soil, the weather, or the type of tree–but every leaf in that park is a bright, glowing yellow. It reminds me so much of snow–not because snow is yellow, but because of the way the leaves deck the entire landscape. I feel like leaves get left alone more here, they’re allowed to just sit and be themselves. Decompose as they see fit. I’ve seen a few people sweeping them (yes! with a broom) away from their places of business, but i have yet to see anyone bring out a leaf blower. Yesterday the swingset was the only leafless thing in the park: both the play structure and the thing that you can spin around on (I saw one around the Alster that looks like Saturn) were covered. The ground of course was quite leaf squishy. It’s always odd when I see something and my first impression is that it looks too perfect to be reality. It requires a double take. Perhaps I have seen too many digitally edited movies–nature shouldn’t remind me of a fabrication.

Bonn was an interesting experience. It took 4.5 hours to get there, but once there, they fed us liberally. I think living in a youth hostel could be a wondrous thing indeed. Getting paid in food (and housing) doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing to me…The conference wasn’t particularly interesting, but I did discover that the DAAD will help fund a year of grad school at a german university. Something I hope to take advantage of. University is so inexpensive here! 1000 euros a year (and the students complain–it used to be free). In order to enroll sans exchange program, however, you need to speak german at the C1 level. I’m somewhere between B1 and B2 (A=beginner; B=Intermediate; C=advanced). By the end of the year, I’ll be able to come back and enroll, with or without DAAD support. It’s exciting–a permanent fall back plan. What, I have a degree and nothing to do? I don’t want to work with the conservation corps/in a bakery/as an au pair any more? I can just pack up and get a masters in Germany!

Halloween was actually quite an event here. Smith has had a study abroad program in Hamburg since the ’60s, and there are TONS of alums here, many of whom are still our age. Two of them threw a Halloween party last night, attended by Germans and Americans alike. The costumes were amazing! I felt so lame. I don’t have any make up, and all of my dress up-esque clothes are in the states. I whipped up an Alex Mack costume that was well received, but not particularly recognizable (the recurring comment, after being informed of what I was: that takes me back). Sarah was Cruella DeVille (fantastic), Liz was Pete from Mad Men (skin crawly), and the host was a spider (!!!). She had stuffed stockings and sewn gloves on to the ends, giving herself six extra arms that moved when her real arms did. It was a lot of fun, and unlike my last night on the town (i went out with my dorm last wednesday) I didn’t miss the last train, and I didn’t have to walk home. Success! (there was also a community party at one of the train stations: Dammtor. the decorations gave it a homey quality).

This week I’m starting a language tandem program (everyone is assigned to an individual who is a native speaker in the target language–for me: german; for my partner: english). They ended up giving me two partners–hopefully I hit it off with at least one of them. From emails, the girl Julia seems really outgoing and friendly. I can’t tell about Sebastian. He’s only sent 1 single sentence incredibly formal email. Still, looking forward to it. From what I’ve heard, most of the experiences are positive. Woohoo!

Bis Später,

Kassia

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This post will be a giant run-on sigh
October 19, 2009, 1:38 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Life here in Hamburg is crazy. Which is funny, because not much is going on. I shake my head at the ridiculousness of this. Supposedly, last week was Orientation week at the University, and I tried VERY hard to find my program. No information was available over the internet, no information was posted on the dept bulletin boards, and when I showed up at the Geography orientation, no one knew where to send me. We spent an hour going up and down Geomatikum stairs. Eventually, we ended up at an office, and the woman called tons of people (originally wrote ‘women’ instead of ‘people’–wow. this is my brain) trying to help me. The end result being–can’t help you, you’ll have to keep looking yourself. Also, she said a word I didn’t understand and then switched to English. I hate it when people do that. Getting someone to stick to german through a moment of confusion has become an accomplishment. I am not happy about this.

Anyway, end of story, I gave up and went to IKEA. Yummy hot dog and pizza pocket and apple schorle.

I thought this story was over, until I tried to go to class this morning. I showed up, only to find out that Geologie starts a week after everyone else, and THIS was orientation week. Now, I had a very good reason to think classes were this week–I asked a professor a week ago whether or not I could miss this thursday for a scholarship meeting in Bonn. He said no. Seems we both thought classes started this week (or he didn’t register the date I gave him). Luckily, I found a handy Orientation schedule posted. Too bad I read the Magister (master program) schedule. I went to the wrong room, they sent me to the right room, which had been vacated. My first clue was that, although food and drink were present, the drinks had been partially consumed. I then sought out a trash can, and found one–full of used cups. I found someone, explained the situation, and they sent me back to the same room. I waited for twenty minutes, eating cookies, drinking juice, and finally went down to the info booth. After stashing about 8 cookies in my purse. I am eating them as I type. mmmmmm.

Then another up this floor down that floor party commenced.

But there is good news at the end of this! There was a vacancy in the Bonn trip and… I CAN GO! YES! Free trip to awesome food land. Awesome FREE food land. I can’t wait.

So basically I have one class this week. I need to make sure that Chemistry starts this week…I’d hate to show up at a non-existent class again. I’d rather hit up (or attempt to hit up) the orientation.

On a more interesting, and slightly less hectic note, I went on my first ever Solo Adventure. Mom and I had an extra day on a eurail pass (long boring slightly bothersome story), and I took the opportunity to travel to Germany’s northernmost coast–The east side of an island called Sylt (zoot). It was a cold somewhat rainy day involving lots of walking and a little bit of self losing. Physical self losing that is. I fixed the losing of self by magically catching a bus back to a central location.

Sylt wasn’t exactly a woohoo hoo kind of trip, but it was worth the day, and I had a good time. i’d go back, even, if I could find a servas family to stay with. The island has its own language (I didn’t get a chance to hear it) and unique architecture. Everything in the town of Keitum looked like it had popped out of Snow white and the Seven dwarves.

The best part of Sylt was the medieval church–13th century. Beautifully kept up, simple. I’m usually not impressed by churches or cathedrals, but this one seemed to embody what a church/cathedral was originally intended to be. or at least my interpretation of what it should be–A simple beautiful place in which to honor a god. I liked the lack of thrills–there are times when I get annoyed by where church money goes. Not to say that church architecture is a waste–many European churches are incredible. I liked this one better.

And today I watched Dirty Dancing in German. Score! (Gay and Lesbian film festival this week. Hope to see at least one! Saw an interesting summary of one about a South Korean individual (born male) who starts wrestling with the hope of winning enough money to finance a sex change. shall ask the one german person i know if they are interested in attending).

Books I’ve Read in German:

Anne of Green Gables (Anne auf Green Gables)

The Magician’s Nephew (Das Wunder von Narnia)

Books I Currently Have Checked out from the Library and Am Going to Read:

Coraline

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Der König von Narnia)

Reading (and understanding!) books in German is very exciting.

Over and out. Exciting Bonn stories to follow? Perhaps.

(Ps, Berlin wasn’t that awesome. It was a fun time, tons of cool museums, but at this point I would visit for the Museums, not for Berlin).



I almost wrote a title in german…
September 30, 2009, 2:25 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , ,

Every one keeps mentioning that dreaming in another is the first sign of fluency. Having dreamt in German (Studying in my sleep, and then one dream that had smidgens of german in it), I can’t claim to agree. Last night I dreamt in gibberish. It was an odd thing to wake up to.

I haven’t been up to too much adventuring–schoolwork has been keeping me moderately busy. This week I have my first real presentation in German. It’s on censorship, and potentially quite interesting. Which means that either I am incredibly boring, or the vocabulary makes it difficult to understand. I’m opting for vocab–i’m not ready to admit selfhood defeat just yet. Before I had to do this somewhat important presentation thing–which is tomorrow, by the way–i went on a not too exciting but decidedly awesome adventure with Margaret. She hosted a German exchange student named Jonas (I think?) in middle school, and as a result has obtained a fantastically nice Deutsche Familie. We visited them for a weekend a few weeks ago, and while Detmold isn’t anything to write home about (har har) oh hey, it was a fun visit. We ate a ton of really good food, spoke with actual germans (this living in a dorm thing isn’t doing much for german interaction) and had an all around good time. I also saw my first Freilichtmuseum (outside museum)! Actually, I think I went to something like that once with my parents. It involved fire fighters, a black smith, and hair cross stitched wall hangings.

The Orientierungsprogramm is almost over. It isn’t scary to be done, but I don’t feel quite ready to start at the University. I’ll be taking 6 hours of mineralogy a week, along with chemistry, a threatre course, and grammar. We just had our second placement test–fingers crossed I tested into the higher level. The lower level has to continue with grammar next semester, and takes the place of an elective. I have to take 3 science courses next semester. An elective would be nice.

We head to Berlin this weekend, which should be great fun. Maybe I’ll be able to fit in a daytrip somewhere around there.

I’ve also started thinking about spring break plans. Never too early! Right now I’m thinking biking from Hamburg to Florence might be nice, though I hear I might have to cross this thing called the alps. That could be a problem. Good thing I have all semester to find a solution!



In Which Kassia, Liz, and Margaret (hooray for oxford commas) Set Out (and Return!) from a Very Great Adventure
September 14, 2009, 6:05 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday began slowly. We ran into Amy and her friend Stefan en route to adventure, and ended up spending multiple hours at the folklife-esque Kultur fest at the university. Imagine an area half the size of Smith, filled with multiple hundred of people, filing through aisles surrounded by food/craft stalls on both sides. With multiple music stages. And adolescent/early 20 year old boys attempting to breakdance to beat-lacking music and failing. Miserably.

It was hilarious.

And the food was so good!

And in order to explain my new found love of curry wurst, I must first explain the Altona-Rathaus incident.

Every other day (or so), we meet up with Sarah, a UH Student who did a year abroad at Smith last year through the American Studies dept. She shows us around Hamburg, attempts to elucidate certain cultural differences, and basically shows us a good time. Last week, we were supposed to meet up at the Rathaus for a tour. A very important tour-our professor was going to be there. Alas and alack, the morning was instantly doomed to failure. Step one: Meet Ali and Sarah, and learn that Ali has discovered a super fast way to the Rathaus using HVV (like trimet.org). Step two: get on bus 25. Step three: get text from Sarah telling us we need our passports and anmelden (address registration forms). Step four: take 25 in opposite direction and get forms. Step five: get back on 25 in what we *think* is the right direction. Step six: switch to 15. Step seven: get off and find Rathaus. Step eight: discover it is the wrong Rathaus. Basically we had to maneuver our way back to a u-bahn line, and take the route we had initially intended to take to the Rathaus. We were super late for our tour, didn’t have time for lunch, and had to get curry worst.

Think sweet and super yummy ketchup over sausage. Sooooooo worth it.

Any way! Back to our super awesome adventure! After eating our currywurst, we made our way to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and got on a random train heading in a random adventure. And where did we end up? Well! Crazy enough, I will tell you. At a super awesome Eintritt Frei (No entrance fee) Botanical garden, complete with pouty fish, North American conifers (speaking of which, I just heard the They Might Be Giants conifer song off of their kids album. educational music is so entertaining), and crocuses. Giant purple crocuses trying to find the sun. I feel like this is a constant struggle in Hamburg, as it is very often rainy and cloudy. One of my first weather experiences in Hamburg involved rain that turned into hail (huge huge painful hail) during our return trip from ikea. Lucky enough I had purchased a drying rack, which I attempted to hide behind. I achieved moderate success.

Pictures are on facebook! All my love,

Kassia



Settling in–I hope
September 12, 2009, 7:49 am
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I won’t officially become a resident of Hamburg until I receive my visa, but even more than that, I really need to get off my butt and go outside. When there are only 4 people in your dorm that you know, and you don’t want to risk going completely ape shit as you tire of their company, it becomes quite necessary to spend time alone. Time spent alone, however, does not always lead to fantastically awesome solo adventures. Instead it leads to time spent online, or wading one’s way through a kid book in German. Not bad things in and of themselves, but I’m in Germany, and there are way cooler things I could be doing.

The first week I got here (for the second time) I went exploring by myself through a fantastic park bordering a canal, and finally to the public library. I now generally know the parked area, the area surrounding hauptbahnhof and the library, and the area surrounding my dorm. Hey! I even have an inkling as to what one might find in Altona (there is a story behind this. It will be told later), But I still don’t feel like I know the city. Rather, my mental map consists of a few simple street lines, and is built on my knowledge of local buses and train lines. To get to the library you can take the 5, or you can go to Osterstraße and take the 4 or the U2. Best “pretend I have local knowledge” moment so far? Last night. A Smith Alum and 6 year resident of Hamburg needed to get on a specific train line, and was planning on going all the way to hauptbahnhof before switching trains, and then heading back in our direction. But! Because I had just made a better connection myself, I knew to switch at Shlump. Now to know the rest of the city that well. So! In the spirit of exploration, today Liz and I will be jumping on a random bus and having awesome hamburgian adventures.

Cool things you really ought to know about:

Alster fest. Star Trek cover band. AWESOME.

Wasserlichtkonzert: Nightly event in the Planten und Blomen garden. Water and light displays set to music.

Fire Dancing: Margarete got the good pictures of this, but I will see what I can do to upload mine. It was incredible. He lit his wings on fire, and played with all sorts of flaming batons. One of which flew sparks everywhere and startled/scared the crap out of me.

Socks!: I only brought 4 pairs of socks with me to save on packing space. Oops. I finally brought socks, and can wear close toed shoes again. (It has been quite chilly here, and wearing sandals every day has not been the epitome of fun).



Ah-ha!
September 2, 2009, 8:55 pm
Filed under: hamburg | Tags: , , , , , ,

I keep hearing the most contradictory things about Germany. One day, professors will go on and on insisting that the junior year abroad will affect the rest of our lives, and the next they’ll be telling us how unimpressive and uneventful it can seem. And how depressed we will be. Reminding us that the days are only getting shorter, and that any improvements in our German will for the most part go unnoticed–by us at least. And in an absurd, hilarious way, they are right. The depression hasn’t set in yet (and hopefully won’t), but I have begun to notice the interaction between the exciting and the mundane. Every conversation I have is a struggle to understand and communicate, and feels less like an accomplishment than an experience that is no longer unique. But as pedestrian as these conversations have become, and as sludgy/trudgy as they feel, in retrospect they are quite exciting. During, even. I am so excited to have more and more of these pedestrian and difficult conversations, about beer, spring break, carnival, and some place called Majorca that I still don’t understand.

I could go on. But instead I am going to bed. I am exhausted. Before I go, I will leave you with a list featuring only a few of the very awesome, and very common-place, things I have done so far.

Floor party!

Made Omelets!

Tested into the higher grammar class!

Eaten amazing food provided by Joe and Sue!

Tried a Berliner! (YUM)

Went to an Outdoor Flea Market thing and ordered a Crepe auf Deutsch!

Watched 10 Things I hate about you auf Deutsch

And most important of all–Have asked that my floor mates speak German to me, as it is the only way I will improve. Results so far–positive.

All my love,

Kassia