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?