The Netherlands

Also, this will be a quick update .  Nels, Jenny, & I went to the Netherlands and visiting den Haag and Amsterdam (Shannon had two friends coming into town and Kallimonster went to visit Her-mannes – her boyfriend Johannes).  It was great – we didn’t actually do much in the way of touristy things, but it didn’t really matter.  It still was an incredible trip.  We started the weekend in Frankfurt on Friday with IUSP, then traveled to the Netherlands (leaving at 06:00).

In den Haag, we hung around the city center before then walked to the ocean, sticking to the beautiful canals for guidance and the scenery.  There were so many parks and roads bordered densely with trees it almost never felt like we were in a city of 500,000.

On our way to the beach, we walked in a bike lane so we could be next to a canal.  It was a beautiful walk and well worth the hour trek, because we suddenly reached the end of a street with only a beach and ocean left in front of us.  We hung around for a bit, had a picnic, and after a quick toe-dip into the North Sea and some public urination (to be explained in greater detail in a second), we headed back into town.

LEGAL public urination! This is the most amazing contraption in the world.  These should replace the porta-potty for guys!  Only in the Netherlands…

We got back to the city center around 17:30, and the rest of our time in Den Haag was spent eating, drinking, and generally hanging out.  The decision was made to go to bed early (around 21:00ish) so we could get to Amsterdam early the next day.  Luckily, there was a huge bus load of people arriving at the hotel when we got back, so it made our job of sneaking 3 people into a 2 person room all the more easier.  I don’t exactly remember why we were all so tired, but it was one of the best nights rest I’ve had since arriving in Europe.

Amsterdam!

The hotel was relentless in their screening of breakfast, so I opted to stay behind and listen to a podcast while Jenny and Nels went down to get food.  They were gone for a long time, but when they came bursting back in, it became clear why:  they had not only gotten breakfast for us, but they had managed to make something like 8 sandwiches for lunch/dinner.  Us – 2, Hotel – 0.

The train ride to Amsterdam was lovely, and we listened to a bunch of older women speak the ridiculous language that is Dutch (Ikka ikka mar mar mar).  Amsterdam was much cleaner and prettier than I had imagined.  We spent several hours wondering around the city, dropping in Cathedrals, cafes, and various monuments.  On a whole, I really really enjoyed the city and look forward to visiting it again in the future.

Amsterdam has really an absurd number of bicycles.  I don’t think it’s any more bike friendly than Den Haag, but it definitely has more of them.  Next to the main train station, there was a huge 3-story bike parking lot with a ton of overflow around it:

In my closing thoughts, I would like to introduce to you one of my new favorite words (regardless of langauge):  Drempels!  I means bumps, or something like that.  Here is a picture of the best sign in Amsterdam:

Let Op! Drempels (Translation:  Watch out!  Bumps.)

Well that’s it volks.  Sorry this took so long to post.  Wait…no I’m not.

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First Day of Class!

Today was the first day of class and it was frightening! I got the times switched up, so I was a full four hours early for class. I sat around and had several people come up and ask me (auf Deutsch) if I had internet and how I got it, wherein I had to explain that I didn’t speak very good German, but would still try and help. By noon, I had managed to successfully help 3 Germans get access to the Uni’s internet.

I ended up going home after awhile to eat lunch. When I returned, the butterflies set in. Class finally started, and as it turns out, the professor is Swiss. So now is not only hard for me to understand German, but I was faced with a Swiss dialect.

All in all, however, it wasn’t bad. I didn’t think I understood much, but I talked to my tutor (Jane) after class. Jane is pretty cool. She’s also 21 and spent a year in the US being an Au Pair. She seems nice enough and is unbelievably organized – and she’s expecting me to keep an organized notebook for her (woo hoo, gotta go get one of those).

Well, I’m going to grab a 6-pack of beer and head over to Fritz’s. We’re cooking dinner together and going to talk about Schwarz-Weiß. I’m going to help out at the bar for Halloween! Yeehaw.

Bis später.

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Pictures!

I don’t have any more profound thoughts about German bathrooms, but I DO have some pictures I stole from Shannon and the rest of the gang!

 


Marburg’s Schloss – Twice we’ve been force marched up here with quite possible the world’s most boring tour guide.


A canal in Den Haag.  More on the Netherlands later!

 

Alright, so here are three pictures…but I’m not done yet.  I have to go to class now.

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Micro Thought #2

Surprise, surprise, I never got around to posting another blog entry last week. Are we at all surprised? ’cause I’m not.1 <—-Ich kann HTLM, bitches.

Also, I’m half way through my last class with Joachim and it’s ausgezeichnet! Joachim is an awesome guy, but he is so freakin’ langweilig.  That means tomorrow is my last day of regular Sprachkurs, which is a little bittersweet.  It’ll be nice to move on to something a little different, but it also (English meaning!) means that six weeks have already gone by.  We only have a couple of months (+ some change) left!

We went to the Netherlands this past weekend, and I actually have that post half written.  I might even get it up before Pause is over! 2 Either way, I don’t have conversation course this afternoon, so I think I’m just going to blog.  I’ve collected everyone’s pictures, so I’d like to get those posted too.

So finally, here’s my observation for today:  There are always at least 3 rooms (sometimes 4 and once 5) in German bathrooms:  the sink room, the urinal room, and the stall room.

Joachim is starting class early…jerk.  Tschuss!

[1] To my defense, that stupid Internet stick is not working.
[2] Nope.

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Micro Thought #1

Today, I was standing on the bus on the way to the Lahnberge and thought of an idea to keep the blog updated more regularly: Micro Thoughts.  These will be little quips, quotes, or what have you.  I’m hoping that when Sprachkurs is done in a couple of weeks, it will become easier to put longer posts up more often (but who knows…I don’t think we’ll be getting that much more time).

Today’s Thought: The buses and the subways here aren’t plastered with ads like I remember them being in London for cars, coke, and chicken sandwiches*.  There was only one poster on the bus that was close: a list of upcoming plays at the Marburg Theater.  This experience struck me as odd, but in a good way.  It was so nice to enjoy my cup of coffee on the to class without being visually bombarded with advertisements.

*Is the BT like this in Blacksburg? I can’t quite remember.

In the pipeline:  “Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof, sondern ein Bahnhof:  Oktoberfest”, “Playing Catch Up:  Tales from my Early Marburg Experiences”

“Keine Ahnung.  Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.”
“No clue.  I only understand train station.”

Also, people need to comment so Nicky doesn’t feel so left out.  And no, I’m not going to remove it Nicky.  Sorry.  Oh yeah, thank you again for the slang book.  Fritz and Verra get a kick out the random things it has taught me to say.

Ciao.

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Short Update

I’ve done a rather poor job of keeping this up to date, but fear not!  I’m actively seeking to change that – currently we’re in the brainstorming process.  Expect to see results sometime in January.

I think I will begin with a general overview of my day.  Perhaps this will create some sort of frame of reference from which to make sense of the madness that is my life at this point:

07:10 – 07:40  Think about getting up
07:45 – 08:07  Actually get up; make coffee; shower/wash hair in sink; hastily pack bag
08:08 – 08:09 Run to the bus stop to catch the 08:10 bus
08:10 – 08:30 Ride bus to Hbf and do Hausaufgabe
08:37 – 08:50 Arrive at the Lahnberge (hidden far above Marburg in the trees) [1]
09:00 – 12:50 Sprachkurs
13:00 – 13:55 Try and find something to eat before Kulturkurs
14:00 – 16:00 [2] Kulturkurs (essentially an exercise in using Wikipedia to teach ourselves about German culture) or Conversation Course
Rest of the Day We usually go the library or sit around (often physically unable to do much else) after class.  Whoever is feeling the most motivated [3] will decide what we’re having for dinner and move everyone out the door.  We do the bulk of our shopping at Aldi because it’s super cheap, but they don’t always have what we want.  Luckily there’s a REWE and tegut next door to pick up everything else.  These shopping trips usually end in the wine aisle where the conversation often goes like this:

Also, is it a 2 or 3 bottle of wine night?
2 or 3? Are you serious? Why would we get anything less than 4?
4?! No, it’s definitley a 5 bottle of wine night.
6 it is! Let’s go eat something!

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is me.  Our dinner staple is usually some mixture of chicken, bell peppers, and onions in various sauces or cheeses on top of pasta or rice.  We’ve been eating pretty good, and we have a ton of things we want to make in the future (schnitzel, tacos, thai food, usw).  After dinner, it’s usually about time for me and Shannon to make our return trip to Wehrda.  Then it’s sleepy time.

Rinse and Repeat.

I might leave it at that for now.  I’m working on several other posts right now and hopefully they’ll be up soon.  I’m doing a massive recap on the first 3 weeks of the trip covering my arrival, trip to Berlin, and the first two weeks of Sprachkurs.  Also, (and that’s the English also, no the German also) we just got back from Oktoberfest today!  It truly was an adventure, and I’m so so so happy we made the trip.  On top of my own account, I want to interview everyone who went and compile a massive IUSP 2010 Oktoberfest Manifest.  We didn’t see any Americans the entire time we were there, so I thought it would be interesting to tell their stories too.

And with that, I think I’m going to end on a sentimental note.  I just listened to last weeks Moth Podcast, “Love is the Best Art of All” told by Joyce Maynard, and it reminded me how lucky I am to not only have parents who have instilled me with a sense of adventure, but also to have grown up with such a happy family.  Thanks Mom and Dad! Love you guys.

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Amerikaner in Deutschland, das Karaoke, und eine mexikanische Kneipe

Also

Last week, our conversation course teachers informed us about a mandatory outing that would be part of our grade:  Karaoke! [1]

We all met up at E. Kirche at 21:00 Uhr and waited around awhile for stragglers.  Luckily Savino had bought a six pack of Licher [2] and was, in a Savino-like manner, trying to give them away as fast as possible.  I got a free beer and some more practice at opening bottles with a lighter (a trick Raphael taught me while were in Berlin), so all was good with the world.  Eventually, we walked a whole 75 yards (it would have be nice to know we were this close) to an awesome little Mexican bar right next to the church named Mexicali.  A three Euro cover later, we were finally snuggled into our both with our complimentary beer.

Mexicali has a great atmosphere, and no one seemed to mind that 50 Americans had just busted onto the scene.  It was nice to be somewhere where it was socially acceptable to be as loud as possible – and we can get really, really loud.  I had a wonderful group around me:  Nels, Adam, Danny, Kalli, Jenny, Shannon, Chelsea, Kaleigh, and Savino with Tony directly behind me in another booth.  It became immediately obvious that pitchers were the way to go – 9 Euro for 5 beers – so Nels, Adam, and I started a pitcher buying cycle [3].

Two pitchers later, the Karaoke began.  The guy running the show came up and did an Elvis Presley song to get things started, then called up Taylor to sing Niel Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”  Taylor is so wonderfully goofy,jolly, and awkward, that I can’t think of a better person to lead off the festivities, and he definitely set the bar high.  He was so completely into it, and even though his movements were a little bit clumsy on stage, he sang wonderfully, and the entire bar erupted into a roaring applause at the end.  There are probably 10 different videos of his performance, so hopefully I can get a hold of one and post it up here.

The rest of the night went by with the same energy and excitement with everyone belting the lyrics along with the people on stage.  The list was amazingly campy and full of incredible singing songs like “Hey Jude” “Ring of Fire” “I’ve Got You Babe” “Friends in Low Places” “Holla Back Girl” and “La Bamba” just to name a few.  There were also a few German songs thrown into the mix (including “99 Luftballoons!”).  We were alone in our drunken debauchery though, as other patrons of the bar got up and sang along with us.  One did two spectacular renditions of “Black Velvet” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” while her dad borrowed someone’s cowboy hat and sang “Achey Breaky Heart” and received a standing ovation (well, from me at least).

Early on, I agreed to sing Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man” with Chelsea, so I started sucking down beers as fast as I could to prepare myself for humiliation.  When we finally got on stage, I feeling great, and actually (somehow) didn’t make an ass of myself.  I think it helped that everyone was singing along so loudly, that it was impossible to distinguish our voices from any others.

And so the night continued on like this until we all realized that the last bus left at 00:48, at which point we poured out into the streets in a matter of seconds, leaving the bar comparatively quiet and rather empty.  Luckily, we caught the last bus back to Wehrda and stumbled back up to our rooms to try and prepare ourselves for the inevitable hangovers we would have in the morning.

I obviously didn’t do enough preparing, as my head didn’t stop hurting until around 14:00, but I made to class and was an active participant (no worries Mom and Dad).  We actually had a 25 minute conversation in class about Karaoke in honor of my wonderful hangover.  My teacher said it’s something of a tradition that the IUSP Americans always come to class in pain at the end of the second week from Karaoke.  But that being said, we must go catch the last bus.  Tschuss!

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