Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nein Mann, ich will noch ein bisschen tanzen

Dear Berlin,

I woke up this morning, in that first moment before I truly processed my situation, and I felt a wave of confusion as to why you weren't here next to me. Where are the unshoveled sidewalks and the Currywurst stands? Why don't I have a massive headache from partying until 8am? And most of all, why the hell can't i speak German and have people understand? I'm not talking about the full-blown language, but little phrases like Danke or Prost or random Denglisch adaptations of verbs. I find myself saying "Also" or "Genau" without even meaning to. Berlin, why don't you just move your ugly self to De Soto, Missouri, and never ever leave? That would make the world a whole lot easier, wouldn't it? The area could use a little spice anyway.

Our last few weeks together were tumultuous and emotional, but what can I say, that means it meant something. Sometimes I never wanted to leave you and other times I couldn't wait to hop on that plane and be greeted on the other side by huge grins, warm friendliness, cheese fries and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Nevertheless, alles in einem, I think we were a pretty good fit. Compatible enough that I might just have to give you another try someday. Maybe even sooner rather than later, especially if Barcelona just isn't my cup of tea. Just wait for me okay? Don't change, or maybe do change because that's what you are always up to. Forever progressing in some new direction and switching up the dynamics. That's why I love you because you are unpredictable. Just don't forget me, okay?

Liebe Grüße, Erin

Monday, December 6, 2010

All it takes is a little red dress to turn that frown upside down

Greetings from the land of snow and ice. I swear, my feet are permanent popsicles, and I've probably lost a couple pounds from the excessive amount of shivering I've been doing lately. The worst part--apparently Germany has no idea how to clean up snow. The sidewalks have turned into a dangerous slush of mud and ice that has almost left me clean on my butt quite a few times. I guess it would help if I any of my shoes actually had a miniscule bit of traction. Even worse are the roads. We were driving back from Göttingen last night on the Autobahn, and there was a time when I was sure we weren't going to make it back without slipping off into a ditch. It doesn't help that the Germans drive without a speed limit. Still, I would love to get my hands on the wheel here. Something about be able to put the peddle to the floor without consequences is extremely attractive.

Zwei Wochen mehr, and I still feel like I haven't fulfilled half of my shoulda, woulda, couldas, but honestly egal. I'm happy happy happy in more ways than one. I think I've turned on some sort of light bulb in my head and rid myself of a whole lot of worry. Life lessons, study abroad, life lessons.

So, about those Germans and how they continue to surprise jeden Tag. Probably the biggest thing, is that I've been getting a lot of crap lately for drinking the wrong beer/drinking it in the wrong way. And I'm not talking about older people who are interested in preserving the beer culture, but college students, that in the U.S. are happy enough to have a beer can in their hands, no matter what it tastes like. Apparently, you aren't allowed to drink Weissbier from a bottle because all of the flavor settles in the bottom, and if you buy beer in a plastic bottle or a can, people will call you a penner. Never realized there were so many rules for drinking...but hey, I don't discriminate. I think it is all pretty lecker.

So I'm going to see MGMT tonight. My first real concert since I've been here, sadly enough, but I'm pretty freakin' pumped. I'm totally ready to jam out to some Kids and Electric Feel and relic in a few memories from my Med-O-Lark days, when I was first introduced to their ingeniously catchy tunes.

More later. I'm got to go watch a german film--Deutschland '09. I hope it proves my ideas of German film wrong and is funny, exciting, with a generally light and bright outlook on life. But honestly, I highly doubt the wish will come true.

Tschüssie, Erin

P.S. Watch Naked Gun/Airplane in memory of Leslie Nielsen. R.I.P.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mal sehen, mal sehen

Guten morgan Berlin, du kannst so hässlich sein. Schwarz zu blau. Or maybe just grau.

I'm not sure, ever in my life, I've felt so conflicted with my loyalties. 3 weeks more. What does that even mean? Everything feels so temporary, so definitive. I leave my life that I've barely created and start a new one. I'm not sure I even have the energy to do so. I have to change my tongue, my comfort zone, my daily route through the hours. And then what? I find myself at another end and a new beginning.

I got my information for my host family in Spain the other day. Just one name, Isabella, and a mysterious address that I couldn't even find on Google Maps. I later learned it actually does exist, but only in Catalan, not Spanish. Someplace in an industrial district, with 1980s high rises and dirty streets and a somewhat long walk to the beach. I'm trying not to hold expectations because, seriously, where has that ever led me? Only empty hopes and unsatisfied eyes. Mal sehen.

I am somewhat in the Christmas Spirit. There are Christmas Markets everywhere and the air smells like roasting almonds and spices. I visited the most famous market in Germany this weekend, in Nuremberg which is in Bavaria. The accent was thick but the atmosphere was sweet, and the city itself was quiant and beautiful, in a way that only old European cities are. I even found Reeses Peanut Butter cups at the American stand, in my opinion the most important American import that Germany lacks. I had my fair share of traditional Southern German cuisine, with Käse Spätzle and Maultaschen. Yummy but starchy like most German food, and a little bland without the meat that traditional supplements it.

The snow there was probably the most beautiful part. The area is full of rolling hills and dense forest, a perfect setting for a sprinkling of white snow to enhance. In that sense, I found myself wanting to be home with my family, eating a delicious Christmas eve dinner and sharing gifts with my family. And, of course, playing with little Oliver.

Oh Deutschland, I think we've become friends, and I think we'll have a lasting relationship. Your bubbly water and rude waiters, your direct citizens and harsh language, your crisp winter air and grey skies, are all slowly gaining a place in my heart. And as I've discovered more and more, it only takes time and you open your doors to outsiders, but it takes a bit of warming up. Nevertheless, I'll always be an American.

I think I'll take a little trip across the border this weekend and see what Poland is all about. Probably buy myself some cheap goods and smuggle them back in. Then, Berghein, finally? Or the Christmas slide in Potsdammer Platz that I've been drooling over since I first laid eyes on it? Who knows, that's what I always think. And really no one does.

Zu vielen Fragen, zu wenig Zeit. But no worries, these next three weeks will be pure fun. I'm going to live them up more than the whole time I've been here combined.

Love, Erin

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And the Danes live in Dänemark, with their blonde hair and bad drinking habits

It's 10:00 pm on a Sunday, and I should feel and be more accomplished than I am. I hopped off of the train from Flensburg via Hamburg at about 4:30 today, and I have somehow managed to squander away 6 hours with nothing more to show for myself than a slightly cleaner room. No big advances on my presentation or 6-8 page paper due on Wednesday. No, no, no. Apparently as soon as I crossed the German border, I became the laziest, lackluster student known to man. Well maybe that's an exaggeration. But seriously, where did all my Lust go? I'm supposed to love school and homework and tests and papers and all that jazz, but somehow, in the past 2 months or so, I flushed it down a toilet and decided on different priorities.

Don't get me wrong--I'm learning things, just not the kind of things you learn in a classroom. Language skills, cultural differences, personal discoveries--those kinds of things. I didn't even realized how much my mentality has changed since I got here, until last week, when I sat down to have a normal conversation with my host mother and the words and the tears just started flowing out of god knows where. Not in a bad way though. I actually think it's good. I'm growing up a bit and figuring out what's really important, and from what I can tell, it isn't a little letter on a page.

I went to Flensburg to visit Jules this weekend and talk about culture shock :-) It's been a while since I've been anywhere but a big city, and the simple idea that things actually close at a certain hour has totally gone out the window for me. We met up with Anke, our former T.A., for drinks, and we got kicked out of two bars because they were closing before we finally decided to hit the sack at around midnight. Still, the town itself is endearing and quaint, and I could definitely see myself living there. The harbor is also really nice and there is a beach nearby that would have been fabulous if it hadn't been ridiculously windy, cold, and rainy. Instead, the water was more tantalizing than enticing, only heightening my thirst for a warm summer day.

We also visited the Flensburg Brewery, which was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. Katarina, a former exchange student at Knox, was our tour guide, and she led us around the factory with a bunch of older German couples. It was extremely interesting to see how the whole process works, from bottling to recycling to shipping to brewing. It also made me want to drink lots of beer, which was probably the point. They were nice enough to provide us with as much as we wanted, as well as food, at the end of the tour. I think I'm finally acquiring a taste for what is good and what isn't A.K.A I am never drinking Keystone or Natty light again.

We went to Denmark on Saturday, which was more or less a random but memorable and educational experience. We wanted to make it all the way to Copenhagen, but seeing as we are both poor and have trouble planning ahead with all the freaking distractions, we only made as far as some random Danish town that I still don't know the name of. We used Mitfahrgelegenheit, also known as carpooling, and only had to pay about 6 euros total, which was nice considering the kroner was not in our favor while we were there.

Despite the fact that Saturday is not normally a holiday for stores and restaurants, the place looked like a ghost town when we arrived, and we finally settled on going to the movies to get out of the weather. After we found our way to a local bar, pointed out by some friendly Italians (why are southern Europeans always so friendly?) at the local pizza restaurant. We drank some black bird, which is apparently the local brew and got bombarded by a bunch of 40 to 50-year-old drunkin' Danes who really could not speak English. They were all coming from some festival called Bierfest, like a mini-Oktoberfest with Lederhosen and all, that I wish we would have known about while we were wandering aimlessly through the town. No wonder everything was closed.

All in all, I had a wonderful little escape to the small towns up North and a great weekend with one of my nearest and dearest. So much to come as well! Harry Potter on Wednesday, which is so exciting that I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, then probably Poland, and Berghein (the best club in Berlin)...Oh what a time I am having! Thankfully I survived mid-terms without so much as a scratch!

Kisses and hugs and love love love


P.S. I think I need a more German-sounding name. Maybe Helga?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

essen Essen in Essen

Once again, back in Berlin, and it feels like home. If I could talk to myself about two months ago, when I arrived in this then foreign place, I never would have believed it, but I actually feel at ease when I find myself stepping off the train into the hustle and bustle of Germany's capital. Maybe I'm not a city girl, but I can say that I have found one city that will never feel lonely again.

I spent the weekend in Duisburg with Aila and Marieke, two of my family's former exchange students. They both live in the region of Germany known as Nordrhein-Westfallen, a pretty industrial and tightly packed area of Germany, but beautiful nonetheless. Aila took me to the Landschaft Park the first night I arrived, which is basically an old factory that they used to produce weapons in WWII and later used to rebuild Germany after the war. It sounds bland in the initial description, but I actually think it is one of the best things I have visited in Germany so far. The factory is lit up with green, blue, and red lights and has a slightly eery feeling--think Gotham City in Batman. You can climb all the way to the top and get a beautiful view of the city, which we did but not without a slight fear that someone might pop out from behind some of the old machinery at any given moment. We ran into a woman who was policing the area, making sure no one was out graffitiing the place, and she said she works every night 6 days a week, just policing the area. I can't imagine such a job, especially in such a spooky, lonely place.

On Friday, I went to Gymnasium with Aila, which was quite an interesting experience. Her first class was English, and her teacher kept asking me to explain different words when no one else in the class would. She spoke with an attempted proper British accent and had a very interesting way of explaining and using certain words. But hey, who am I to judge, my German is still a long way from being fluent. In fact, I still feel like I can't open my mouth without sounding like some sort of idiot.

After that, she had Religion class, which was an interesting and surprising concept for me. I guess the idea of separation of church and state is not so distinct here. Still, I learned a few interesting things about Martin Luther and was happy to discover that I could pretty much follow every that was said.

Following a long day of school (which in the middle of, I copped out and walked to the local mall to buy the next book in the Millennium Series--SO GOOD!-- and sit in Starbucks), we went out to club with Aila's friends. To my surprise, it was decorated with all of the tacky Halloween decorations imaginable and they played a multitude of American songs that I had never heard before, but every German around me seemed to know by heart. The one disappointing part was that no one dressed up. I guess I have to make an exception for Germany and let one, and only one, Halloween pass without dressing up and eating lots of candy.

On Saturday, I met some of Aila's extended family and ate these funny potato things called Knödeln, which are kind of like dumplings but in some way totally different. To be frank, I'm not really down with the traditional German cuisine. It's not like it isn't good, but a diet of potatoes and meat just really isn't my thing. Thankfully, they have more ethnic restaurants in Berlin than traditional German restaurants, so I'll never go hungry. We picked up Marieke in the afternoon and then explored Düsseldorf for a bit, walking along the river and having a round of Altbiers, which are particularly famous in the region.

And, on Sunday, the most exciting part of the whole weekend...We ate Essen in Essen! It was quite lecker too. I had this yummmmmmy poppyseed, chocolate, cream, deliciousness cake, that was tasty of course, as all German cake normally is. We also visited the Vila Hügel, which is a bit out of the city up on a hill. It belonged to the big industrial family of the area and is quite beautiful in its own right. I actually liked it a lot better than a lot of the palaces and castles I have seen here because the decor wasn't over the top gaudy, just enough to be beautiful and give an indication of the family wealth.

Now, sadly enough but in a way nice, I am back in Berlin where I belong, gearing up for another week of school. Hopefully, I can get myself a little more organized this week, instead of feeling like I'm going in five different directions at once like normal. That's the trouble with such a big, vibrant city. It never sleeps, and neither do you.

Peace for now! I love and miss you all!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Delightful Days in Dresden

It's a beautiful day today in Berlin. The air is crisp and the sun is shining, and I'm feeling like I have my bearings once again. I visited Dresden this weekend with my program, and I can't say I know exactly how I feel about the city. It's beautiful, no doubt, but there is something almost eerie about the place. The entire city, more or less, was destroyed in one of the last bombings of World War II, and even though most buildings have been rebuilt in their original style, it is somewhat lacking in authenticity. It feels a bit like Williamsburg, like a recreation of something that used to be, but only a memory or a ghost, not the real deal. In a way, it made me quite sad because I know that the damage could have been avoided, especially since Germany was already losing the war at the time.

Still, I did enjoy my time there, especially outside of the city. Berlin and the surrounding area is pretty flat and more or less geographically uninteresting, but if you travel the 2 hours by train to Dresden, it is geographically a whole new world. On Sunday morning, I paid a visit to this extremely touristy but extremely beautiful little overlook called Bastei. It overlooks the Elbe and these huge rock formations that are apparently great for rock climbing. Then in the afternoon we took a trip to a couple castles nearby and went for a walk in colorfully decorated woods. I don't think I could have asked for a better day (it was beautiful and sunny) and I've had enough of cities for a while, so it was nice to finally be out in the country air. Here's a picture of Bastei:,r:4,s:0

On Saturday night, we met up with some friends of a friend, and they took us to a club pretty far away from our hostel in a more dangerous looking neighborhood (although I'm sure it was fine). It was alright but not very many people were dancing, and I still think Berlin is one of the best cities for night life around. Still, they played "Single Ladies" by Beyonce so I was pretty happy for a while. I also met this guy who has lived in Dresden all of his life and speaks absolutely no English (great practice for my German!) and had a really interesting conversation with him about growing up in the GDR and what it was like when the wall fell. I feel like I've learned about the topic so much in the classroom, but I haven't actually talked to anyone about it, and I'm surrounded by people who have first-hand experience.

Beyond my weekend excursion, things are going pretty well here in Berlin. I feel like I am developing a much stronger relationship with my host family, and they are always so open and friendly and ready to give me tips whenever I need them. My host mom even gave me a bunch of pamphlets on this extremely famous choreographer Sasha Waltz, and I am now pretty anxious to check out a few of her shows. I also still need to find myself a dance class here in Berlin...It's a lot harder than it seems.

I got an e-mail the other day telling me I had been nominated for the Ford Fellowship at Knox, which is basically a research program where they give you money to get a jump start on your Senior Research. I am working on the application now, but I am having a hard time choosing exactly which direction I would like to go. I know I want to do the research this summer, that I want to deal with cultural linguistics, and that I want to do my research here in Europe while I am working on an organic farm. Not sure where to even begin, but a little more thought and a lot more research will probably lead me to some sort of vague decision.

While I've got to do some Film reading before class. Hope all is well all of your respective locations!

Love, Erin

Sunday, October 10, 2010

If only I could cook

Germany is getting a little too cold, too fast for my liking. Last night, I had on my winter coat and scarf, and my teeth were still chattering. I am really okay with winter, when the time comes, but right now, all I can dream of is rolling hills of brilliantly colored trees, crisp air warmed with sunlight, and jack-o-lanterns on every porch. I want a real autumn, with real autumn weather, but it seems that Germany decided to skip one of my favorite times of the year.

I did get out of the city this weekend, which was quite a relief. I went to Potsdamm, where the famous Schloss Sanssouci is, the German version of Versailles. I traveled there by motorbike (as the passenger of course), and although the ride was a bit chilly, it was absolutely exhilarating. I need to do things like that more often. The palace itself is quite beautiful, as well as the extensive gardens, but strolling through the yellowing trees, I found myself missing home more than ever, probably the reason for the previous paragraph actually. I want nature, but not just a park. I want to be in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of anyone strolling by. I want to gaze at the open sky at midnight and see the milky way. I want hills and open air and no people around to sour my day. I guess I'm just not as much the city type as I once thought. Fun to visit, but I think I am actually meant to live in the middle of nowhere.

Don't get me wrong, I am still absolutely in love with Berlin. I just think that after six weeks, the initial shock value has worn thin, and I'm now finding myself resenting the fact that I can go clubbing every night if I want. I'm tired, really tired. I've been having the time of my life and meeting loads of people, but I'm craving a steady, somewhat quiet lifestyle, similar to how I would work and live at Knox. I want a schedule and serious homework and tests. I want going out to be something special. So, I'll make some changes. Top two priorities, find a dance class to take (I'm going crazy without it!) and speak more German. Apparently I speak German with a French accent. Who knew? Let's just hope it goes away...

One absolutely random thing that happened to me this week: I met someone who graduated from Knox. Her name is Holly Oberle (if any of you might know her), and she graduated in 2004. I was at this conference for women in Security and Defense positions in the U.S. and Germany (which was extremely interesting. ), and we noticed she was American, so we started asking her questions, and that's when I figured it out. After my initial freak out, we gossiped about Roger Taylor a bit, and the German department. It was just pretty surreal because I never expected to meet someone in this gigantic city that had anything to do with my tiny school of only 1300.

I am taking this class called Portable Roots about immigration in Germany, and it is extremely interesting. There is a huge Turkish population in Berlin, and I finally learned why. I am also taking a film class that is coming from a pretty technical angle, so we'll see how that goes, especially auf Deutsch.

Okay what did I learn about Germany this week...

1. When you buy a recording of the National Hymn, there are no words, only music. If there are any lyrics, it is only the third stanza because it is now considered the only appropriate part of the German National Anthem, and even then, most Germans don't know the words.

2. There is actually a club in Berlin that is 21 and up. It's called Watergate. It the first time I wasn't allowed to enter a club here, but it made me feel like I was right back in the good old USA.

3. No butter on popcorn at the movie theaters, only salt. It was the saddest moment of my life when I discovered it. Also, there is a curtain for the screen and it closes between the previews and the movie.

4. Apparently the U.S. is actually far ahead of Germany in numbers of women in the military and Security and Defense positions as well as the Bundestag.

Okay, Hausaufgaben time.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fried cheese it is

Well, dear blog, it's been quite some time since we last met. So long actually, that I have no idea where to begin. I've been riding a wave of adventures, and I just came into shore for a short break. So, I left Berlin for the first time since I arrived in Europe and had one hell of a time. Incredibly hilarious, informative, and a little cold, but still great. First stop was Vienna, which rivals Paris as the most beautiful city in Europe. Everything is preserved, unlike in Berlin, and there is no ugly Soviet architecture to ruin its elegance. We visited Schönbrucker Palast, which was the summer home of the royalty of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and why it was only their summer home, I have no idea. The most beautiful part is the lawn behind the palace, which extends up a huge hill that provides a gorgeous view of Vienna, when you have enough stamina to climb it. It also contains the oldest zoo, but for 14 euro I passed on that opportunity.

We also rode bumper cars that night, which seems like minor detail, but was probably the most fun thing I had done in a long time. When you actually know how to drive, you can strategize and run into people full speed. I could not stop smiling for an hour after.

Next stop, Bratislava, Slovakia, which to me was a pretty random place to go. We took a boat on the Danube from Vienna to Bratislava and it only took about 90 minutes. I made the whole trip with 25 other Americans from my program and two Germans, who organized it for us. Bratislava was definitely the most entertaining of the three cities, but beyond that, it didn't have much going for it. It's pretty small, the hotel we stayed in came straight out of the Soviet era (15 floors, hideous orange carpet, and architecturally unsound). Our tour guide also talked in the best Slovak accent, made the best jokes, but mostly at the expense of "gypsies." She said, no lie, "Keep your bag close because the gypsies will take your money" as well as "The gypsies are all poor, have no jobs, and take all of the Slovak money." I have a feeling she was a pretty good representation of the standard Slovakian as well. Oh my. It is a different world I guess.

Finally, we made it to Budapest, which was quite nice. The last night, we climbed to a beautiful look-out spot, and although it was cold, it was definitely worth it. The best part was this ultra-touristy Hungarian restaurant, where they fed me fried cheese (apparently that is all they know how to make for vegetarians in Eastern Europe. I ate it three nights in a row....), and force fed us wine from this funny little contraption. All of the waiters were decked out it traditional Hungarian attire, and I even got to dance onstage with them. I then proceeded to buy a bottle of wine with my face on it, without even realizing it. I guess they took pictures of every one of us and pasted them on bottles of wine. What a great souvenir :-) We also went to a sort of ranch out in the country (again, ultra-touristy) that reminded me of home a bit. It reminded me of hayrides and thanksgiving at my aunt and uncles. I also won a free bottle of wine because I knocked over a bottle with a whip. Random, but great. Also, we got free apricot schnopps.

Our last night we went to a club somewhere in Budapest, and it was actually quite good. I was surprised because every other night we hadn't been able to find much night life, but this place was large and packed and they also played all of the American pop and rap music I had been craving, namely the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.

Well, I start class on Monday, so I guess back to reality. Tonight I'm going to a fake Oktoberfest in Alexanderplatz. I wanted to go to the real one, but poor planning yields poor results. Oh well, better for me to rest up I think.

Bis später!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Schokocroissants, cinnamon toast, and döner kebabs

What do I say now? It's strange to me that my mind and body and spirit are now accepting this place as my home. Some initial shock has worn thin, and now I have stopped questioning what once felt like a dream. Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments when I feel like asking someone to pinch me, but mostly, I'm here, I'm living and breathing Berlin, and I am realizing that if you try hard enough, you can find a home pretty much anywhere.

This past weekend was wonderful, minus the losing my camera part. Wednesday (yes my weekend started on Wednesday) we went out to an Indian bar, and I had my first mai tai (which was on fire!) and my first taste of naan. I don't know why Indian cuisine has mysteriously been missing from my diet for the past 20 years, but we are now best friends and hope to stay that way. Thursday, I met up with a guy from Mexico to go salsa dancing, which was muy bien. I spoke German, he spoke Spanish, and when things got way too confusing, we just resorted to English. I guess it is his job to travel, so he's been pretty much everywhere and has pictures in front of Mexican restaurants all over the world. Kind of like the gnome thing, but better. We are going out for the best Mexican food in Berlin this week, and I can't even explain how ecstatic I am. If I miss anything about De Soto (besides my family and Nemo) it would have to be Señor Nacho.

On Friday, after visiting the Pergeman Museum, where heaps of ancient Greek ruins reside, we went to Club Weekend, which was classy and nice (although it ate my camera and was definitely on the teuer side) and was on the twelfth floor of a building, so it provided a beautiful view of Berlin. Els, you will definitely appreciate this next part. I met some Belgian guys there and proceeded to tell them the one Dutch phrase I know (Watch out for the flying squirrel!), and they actually understood me! I stopped there though because I wasn't about to sing the Bob the Builder theme song in Dutch. That would just be embarassing...

Samstag Abend it was my 21st friend's birthday, so everyone hung out at his apartment, and then ventured out in separate directions. I ended up playing Uno in a bar until about 2, and then hungrily consuming a vegetarian döner (sooooo yummy) and meeting two Bolivians who, once again, indulged me in speaking Spanish/German and going dancing until well into the morning. Oh, I love this place. In fact, I think somebody made it especially for me.

Sunday we went to the Flohmarkt im Mauerpark. That place is amazing. You can buy anything you can imagine for extremely cheap (piles of clothes and everything goes for one euro!) and they have mass karaoke. Definitely my new Sunday hang out spot.

We are leaving for Eastern Europe on Sunday. Sadly, that means no Oktoberfest for me, but it also means I get to visit three new awesome cities (Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest). Hopefully, I'll be able to understand Austrian German, although I've heard that it sounds quite funny. Maybe I'll at least learn how to imitate it.

So, in conclusion, what, what, what do I find interesting this week about Germany?
1. Germans rival the French for the best bread for sure. Also, when they make sandwiches (like all Europeans) they put butter on them. I thoroughly appreciate that.
2. McDonald's has veggie burgers! But, you have to pay for mayonnaise and ketchup...
3. There are definitely as many problems with immigration and integration here as in the U.S. I knew that already, but it's easy to think that everything is better in Germany. I'm doing a presentation on immigration, and I'm realizing that we are not alone in wanting to keep everyone out.
4. Germans seldom say sorry/excuse me. Actually I think that's a Berlin thing. You just gotta make sure you don't get in somebody's way.

Tata for now. Time to work on my Referat!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

"People are just people, they don't need to make you nervous, people are just people like you"

What an unproductive day. We went out last night to Club Nacht. Viel Spaß, but I now know to never wear those gorgeous red heels I bought from H&M again, or at least not when I'm going to be dancing and walking that much. My feet are a wreck, as well as those heels. One club we went to was right on the canal, and my friend and I went swimming. Fun but very very cold. Once again, we didn't get back until the sun was up, and then I replaced the day with the night and slept until 5:00. I need to get myself on a better schedule or this semester is going to be really disorienting.

I talked to my parents today, and I guess this letter to the editor that I sent to the Leader got published. It was about the Mosque they are trying to build in New York, and my dad said it was the talk of the town, although he's quite the exaggerator. Apparently when all of my Grandma's friends are calling her up and talking about it, it's big news. Either way, it makes me happy that I'm putting my writing to use again. I really miss writing, especially since I don't have much spare time when I'm in school. I'll have to change that.

So, disclaimer on the last post, I am not stereotyping Germans, just recording my observations. I know that not everyone who belongs to a certain culture fits in a pretty little box. Still, it's fair to say that most things I've said seem to be true across the board, especially in Berlin.

We went on a city scavenger hunt on Friday for class, meaning I finally saw some of the touristy things in Berlin. It was a pretty ridiculous assignment though because we had to ask people on the street different questions and then take pictures with them, and no one wanted to stop and help us. City people are always on a mission it seems. Then my friend got a ticket for "schwarzfahren" (riding the U-Bahn without a ticket). It wasn't too big of a deal because she had a ticket, but not with her, so she only has to pay 7 euro as opposed to 40. Still, I hadn't been checked since I got here, and the one time some people are riding the U-Bahn without a ticket, they check us. Isn't it funny how the world works.

We went out on Friday night to a wine bar, where you pay 2 euro for a glass, and then pay as much as you think you owe at the end, meaning you can actually drink all the wine you want for 2 euro, if you're feeling stingy. The wine was really great wine too, but I think our huge group of Americans was a little too rowdy for the atmosphere. Still, it was a great time, and I spoke German with a lot of different people. We also met some guys from Latin America, whom I spoke Spanish with. It was a great situation because they spoke German too, so I would speak German and then they would respond in Spanish. Surprisingly, I understood most everything. Thankfully all of my Spanish hasn't flown out the window.

Okay, time for a few more generalizations:
1. Germans aren't very animated talkers. They don't use their hands very much, especially compared to southern Europeans.
2. Berliner Pilsner/Becks (in Berlin that is) are equivalent to our PBR/Keystone/Natty Light
3. Germans don't wear very many bright colors, therefore I stick out like a sore thumb
4. My host mother only buys food that is in season and local. I don't know if this is a common trend, but it seems really cool to me.

I'll post more pics to facebook.

Liebe Grüße,

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dickes B

Oh Berlin, I think I'm in love. With your crazy parties, good beer, rich history, and interesting customs, I'm not sure I'm ever going to want to leave. Although Barcelona awaits, and it does have a beach and warm weather...

So last weekend I was at a little convenience store in the train station buying a drink and like a good little German student, I spoke to the cashier in German. Still, I guess wanting to learn their language isn't good enough. The drink costed 2 euros 45, and I gave the lady 2 euros 50, which one would think would be totally fine, but boy was I wrong. She grumbled at me, told me that I must have a 5 cent coin (which I really didn't), and then swiftly informed me that she was not a change machine. Then the man behind me proceeded to tell me in a mocking tone auf English that I must learn the German coins. I glared at him hard and told him in German that I know them, thank you very much. Why again do people have to be so rude when I've come here, wanting to learn their language, culture, and history? As much as I love this place, Berliners are definitely not the nicest people I've ever met. Moral of this story, give Germans exact change.

I started class on Monday. I'm in the middle level class, which I'm fine with, probably right where I need to be. Still, I can't get used to this whole homework thing. Every night I come home and swear I'm going to break out the German book, but it never seems to happen. Still, I know that if I'm ever going to get any better, I'm going to have to review a few things. Speaking is still a battle for me, but hopefully, by the end of this thing, I'll be throwing down as much slang and idioms as Peter Fox (who we rapped along with in class today. What?)

I was going to go to this Berlin music festival this weekend, but the ticket price is a bit hefty. Still debating, but I think I'll do a club crawl instead. They have some good headliners though--Peaches, Fatboy Slim, LCD Soundsystem, Adam Green, the Morning Benders, Fever Ray. Still, not worth 60 euro in my mind. We'll see though.

We went to a Salvador Dali exhibit yesterday, which was pretty awesome, except it was severly lacking his famous clock paintings. I guess I never realized how absolutely amazing his mustache was. If only I could grow one of those...

Okay before I go, some funny things about Germans:
1. They take their dogs EVERYWHERE, even on the trains, and they don't clean up the poop.
2. When you order fish, they give you the whole thing, eyeball and all. It's really cheap too.
3. They party until 8 in the morning, sometimes later.
4. Beer is cheaper than water.
5. They keep all of their doors in the house closed, have no dryer, and make you wear slippers in the house.

Tschüss for now!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Holocaust memorial
Polish president!
Cool alley art
Soviet war memorial
Holocaust memorial
Die neue Wache

My computer is going to die, so I'll explain more later

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Also woher kommst du?

So I'm here, safe and sound, and I have to admit, Berlin is amazing. The architecture is an interesting mix of old and new because a lot of buildings were destroyed in the war. It is also a cultural hub, with every kind of ethnic food one could imagine and more döner kebap stands than any other city in the world.

I live in Charlottenburg, which is pretty far from Mitte and where I take class, but I don't mind so much because my host family is super nice, and I live in one of the nicer parts of Berlin. I live with a mom and her daughter, and although I haven't spent much time with them because of orientation stuff and jet lag, they are very warm and welcoming and frequently give hugs, which surprised me at first because Germans are usually not the hugging types.

The other students are great and come from all over the U.S. Last night after we had a big group dinner, a few of us went out to a swing dancing bar because one girl in our group is really quite good. After a while we decided to go to a Mexican bar where, surprisingly they didn't speak any Spanish, unfortunately for me, although I can't even imagine speaking Spanish right now. Deutsch is enough for me. We met some Germans on the S-Bahn on the way back, and they took us to a really interesting club in East Berlin. It looked like an old factory with graffiti everywhere and great music, although the strobe lights were a bit overwhelming after a while. The Germans we were with said that the place isn't even labeled because they want to keep out tourists, so I'm glad we met them because we never would have been able to find it ourselves.

I have my placement test tomorrow, so hopefully I won't bomb it and end up in the beginner's class. So far, speaking German hasn't been too bad. I understand most things, I just have trouble speaking because I get flustered and then it all comes out in one big, grammatically incorrect jumble. I guess I just need to give it time.

One strange thing about Germany is that they have no open container laws, so people just walk the streets and ride the trains drinking beer. I guess it is more like soda or something to them, not something to be abused, but to enjoy. There are also very few homeless people on the streets, which surprised me. I guess "socialism" really does work. I like their mentality :-)

Well, ich müss jetzt schlafen, but I'll post pictures later and keep updating as much as possible.

love, Erin

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mañana es el día

My bags are packed and ready to go, and I think I am too. These past few days have been quite an adventure in their own right, but I'm still ready for a change of environment. I can only take so much of the Midwest--especially these sticky summers. The air is so thick and heavy with humidity that you might as well swim through it rather than walk, and today was no exception. I cannot wait for the 70-degree weather that the internet is promising me when I reach Berlin.

Thursday was my 20th birthday, and at around 6:30 am, the phone rang with tell-tale urgency--my sister's water broke. Giddy and nervous, my mom, dad, and I gathered a few things and drove the two and half hours to Columbia, hoping little Oliver didn't arrive before we did, but how wrong we were. A full 38 hours later, we found ourselves in the hospital waiting room, watching as they wheeled my baby nephew by in an incubator.

My brother-in-law before going into the operating room. Quite a fashion statement :-)
My sister was supposed to have a home birth with a midwife and all, and because I lived with her all summer, I knew more about the natural birthing process than I ever cared to know. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the endless hours of listening to her pain. I was awoken Friday morning after 3 or 4 hours of sleep by her reactions to her contractions. I rushed upstairs to join my mom, aunt, and brother-in-law in watching the midwife soothe my sister through the process. Still, the little boy just wouldn't come out no matter how hard Rebecca tried, so we eventually went to the hospital. After an epidural and some pitocin, and still no sign of little Oliver Bruce, they rolled her into the operating room for a C-section, my sister's biggest fear. Luckily both her and the baby came out all right. Still, I am never having children, especially not after that.

Oliver is still in the ICU because he had fluid in his lungs when he was born, but he should be out soon. I did get to see him before I left. Here are a few pictures I took with my brand new camera:

Well, I'm off to a midnight breakfast with my friend. Next time I update this I'll have jumped the giant pond, and hopefully landed on the other side. I'm nervous, but in a good way. Oh, let the games begin.

love, Erin