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