Zuhause = Home

One thing I had a lot of trouble with at the beginning in Germany was groceries. All the brands were new, the apple varieties were different to some extent, and I didn't know exactly what words were being used when I was asked if I wanted a receipt or not. Buying your food is such a basic part of life, but I didn't have a routine or the vocabulary for it in Freiburg.

We talked about reverse culture shock at the beginning of the year, and as the AYFers started disappearing from our lives in waves at the end of July, news of culture shock would filter through on Facebook. I don't think I experienced culture shock coming to Germany, really. Of course it was different, but it wasn't that different. I thought coming home would be the more earthshaking event of the two, because not instinctively knowing how basic things work in your own country, city, house would be so alienating.

But by the time I came home, we'd already spent a fair amount of time in Freiburg brainstorming the mundane things like light switches and doorknobs that are so different than in Germany. In Frankfurt, there were two men letting us onto the tunnel-hallway-thing to the plane and they both sounded like Detroit. Nine hours, two bad movies, and one good one and we were on solid ground again. Signs were in English. My family was with me. We got on the expressway.

My instinct was to order my lunch-dinner-post-plane-meal in German, so I tried to get my mom to order for me but ended up doing it myself. Sitting in the Secretary of State at Alter and Mack felt really exciting to me despite the long lines or maybe because of the crowd. The way the clouds are so fluffy and expansive in the wide Michigan sky continues to amaze me. Being able to drive is so convenient, and being able to buy alcohol legally in America feels cooler than I ever would have expected, considering I don't really like it and could buy it legally all year in Europe. The sentimentality for farmland and the history of immigration and the frontier and proper (Great) lakes and so many things American that grew while I was away hasn't died down since my return, although it does not extend to parts of Ann Arbor like the masses of drunk football fans in awful yellow shirts or the unnecessary air conditioning in so many of my classrooms. I also feel a little out of things a lot of the time, like I'm in a fog and don't really connect to anyone or anything.


Mainly, though, I feel like I came back to the same place I had left (except with Obama stickers on basically every car in this city now), nothing really has changed (even though plenty has), and Germany was probably a dream that never happened. Most things seem normal. But the grocery stores here are a problem now. I can't handle this Kroger which is not organized like the one I grew up going to and does not sell the food I ate in Germany. It feels so foreign and yet not, and I hate it.

1. Double rainbow to the east of the city, viewed from my street. Our German friends got great pictures of it over Conner, on their way from I-94 to our house.
2. Huron with a heavy blanket of clouds.

Morgen = Tomorrow

Morgen also means 'morning.' My morning starts so soon, because I have to be on a train at 5:52 am.This photo is from my last late afternoon train ride for who knows how long. I was in Aschaffenburg and then Berlin and I saw great movies and ate delicious things and saw the gates of Babylon.

Now I'm in Freiburg and tomorrow I'm in Michigan.

Roh-Rohrzucker = Never What I Want
Because raw cane sugar is not brown sugar.

This is what life is like right now.

You decide to make cookies, because you want something to eat while you work on your paper, and why buy them when they're only going to sell you six in a package? That's ridiculous. So you will make 60 cookies with your almost-exactly-the-right-amount of flour. And you will do it right, which means buying new brown sugar even though you can't possibly use that much sugar in the next 3 weeks. But the store is out of brown sugar, not that brown sugar in Germany is actually proper brown sugar. So you buy the fair trade brown sugar cubes with "typical caramel note" and figure, typische karamelle Note, maybe these are actually brown sugar!

You leave the butter out when you get home, because, again, you're doing this right for once. You let it get soft. You make dinner. You enjoy your bacon, even if the mashed potatoes seem a little too milky and you are sick of eggs. You think about how you will miss the Danish bacon but not the stupid, ridiculously thin other bacon. Then you start the cookies.

And you learn that brown sugar cubes are very difficult to crush. Very, very difficult. And the sugar is still harder than brown sugar at home. Packed. Ha. Impossible.


The cookies take so much longer than anticipated. The day is gone. And you're out of foil, and baking paper, and the overdone cookies stick to the baking pan you used as a cookie sheet.

So much for good planning. This is what life is like right now.

I was hoping German had a crazy word for 'entropy.' I was disappointed.

My room is impossible. No, that's not true. I've cleaned it two or three times in the past month and every time it is, to me if to no one else, the pinnacle of organization and neatness, even if there are little fly corpses hidden at the corners of my desk and the dust bunnies under the bed have gone rabid. But I tidy it: my papers become two or three manageable piles, the clothes return to the closet, rugs and blankets become flat. For a few days everything goes back exactly where it belongs, but soon I just have to leave my sweater out on the chair because I'll wear it again tomorrow and then there are bags on the floor and dishes on the desk and my adorable stuffed guinea pig from IKEA is dangerously close to falling prey to those dust bunnies.

I'm not going to eradicate the dust bunnies (or Wollmäuser = wool mice I think) because in just twelve short days I move out of this room, so I might as well wait till all the junk's out of the way. I cannot wait for all the junk to be out of the way. I look around the room and immediately start cataloging: this goes home, this was sold to a next-year-student, this isn't worth my precious transatlantic weight allowance, this book should probably be shipped, and these papers. These papers. They have to be sorted and recycled or else packed away and there are library books in stacks that I need to read, or reread, or not read. I have to finish this schoolwork, but the walls are starting to close in and seeing all my things safely in bags and boxes would leave more room for me to breathe.

Somewhere along the way, the way the sun works has changed and the sunlight never really spills in my solitary floor-length window all the way to my kitty-corner bed anymore. My desk is stuck in the relative dark and my room never feels warm but when I run to catch the Straßenbahn I realize it's summer, even if it rains every other day and even if my eyes are chained to an increasingly misbehaving computer. I think it needs a break from the Lower East Side, from German spell check, from lolcats and Wikipedia and taking me to so many websites while simultaneously fighting with Microsoft Word to keep its consciousness. It's really acting out: if I want to work on my desk (and I do!) the only way it holds onto the internet is at a neck-stiffening angle.

I ran out of peanut butter this week and have been debating whether or not to buy another. There's not that much time left—but in that time I will eat many more apples that would benefit from some protein. I will miss these tiny peanut butter containers decorated in American stars and stripes that are so easy to bring when you travel, even for just one person. I think life is easier for just one person in Germany, or at least groceries are. Living alone is harder here for those of us who are appalled or frightened by bugs. You have to open your windows and there aren't any screens. There's no one here to capture or kill for me so I have to mount a solo attack on the bigger flies every night. They've got nothing on the bugs I faced last summer. Those were too big for squishing.
Meerschweinchen = little sea pig
(And if Russia is Egypt, America's the Promised Land, and the Lower East Side is the desert between, World of Our Fathers is something like the Torah of secular American Judaism. Or maybe that's going too far.)

eine Theorie = A Theory

Over the last year (though this problem has also plagued me in the past) I have become convinced that

computer screens

keep you

awake.

Lately, awake forever. Even after the computer's off. I can lie for hours in the dark and become more and more awake. Maybe it's not just the computer. Probably it's something to do with 33 pages of papers to go, 20 days till I'm out of this room forever, 5 weeks and 1 day till I reenter the US of A, 1 more year of college and then everything's real.

But computers. Overstimulation by the LCD. The dangerous paradox of trying to make time stand still and also speed to the end of the countdown. A combination of the two.

I'm exhausted.

P.S. I posted my photos from Spain! They're on my Picasa site. I love Spain. Time for bed.

P.P.S. And then the guy in the next WG started playing his electric guitar.

There are no cats in America,
and the streets are paved with cheese!

A friend of mine is worried that next year back in Ann Arbor is going to be a lot more boring than this year in Deutschland. I think everyone is. But let's look on the bright side:

My current sleep schedule will have me going to bed at 9 pm and getting up at 6 am. Imagine the possibilities!

Gas stoves! Being able to turn down the heat and have it mean something instantly!

We won't have to measure butter in measuring cups and get our hands all greasy or use complicated fraction methods involving grams to sticks and then ending up just eyeballing it—because butter is marked! With tablespoons!

There are so many cats in America!
(Sorry Fievel, it was a lie. Thank God. And thanks, Mommy, for making that song stuck in my head whenever I think about Jewish immigration.)

Unfortunately, the cheese is much better here, the parmesan is cheaper, and the only problem cheese-wise is that cheddar isn't ubiquitous.

BUT THE EASE OF BAKING. Real brown sugar. Not having vanilla brought across the ocean.

Come on, guys, it'll be all right. And maybe in a few years Ryanair will finally work out the £6 transatlantic flights, which will make Greece or any other place serviced by a budget airline only like £36 away on a good day. Plus getting to New York City first.

Paris At Night

= a poem by Jacques Prévert, who is a French poet that I like. And took a whole class on. And some of whose poetry I performed on stage.

Paris At Night

Trois allumettes une à une allumées dans la nuit
La premiére pour voir ton visage tout entier
La seconde pour voir tes yeux

La dernière pour voir ta bouche
Et l'obscuritè tout entière pour me rappeler tout cela
En te serrant dans mes bras.


=


Three matches one by one struck in the night
The first to see your face in its entirety
The second to see your eyes
The last to see your mouth
And the darkness all around to remind me of all these
As I hold you in my arms.


For the record, this trip to Paris was less romantic than last time around, although that doesn't say much (see said goodbye to my boyfriend of 5 days, slight pining was involved). But this poem has an appropriate title, if not appropriate content, and night! pictures!

1. Le Louvre, mon préféré.
2. La Seine from a bridge.
3. La Seine from la Tour Eiffel, Sacré Coeur in the distance.
4. Requisite shot up the towers' legs, with twinkly lights (seizure-inducing when on the tower as they go off).

I love Paris (in the rain)

Four years ago today, I got four stitches in my finger, said goodbye to my boyfriend of five days, and left for France for two weeks. It was my first time in Europe and the most expensive thing I'd ever bought (with money I didn't have yet). Most of the numbers have gotten much bigger since then.

Four years ago, grey skies couldn't take the sparkle away from Europe. This may sound rather spoiled of me, but grey skies and constant rain ruined Prague—and the stupid, creepy man in the hostel, but that's another story. Looking at my old Paris pictures, I realized that the first day was cloudy. My pictures of the Louvre had terrible lighting. And yet the Louvre was my favorite building in Paris and I would have happily spent hours in its courtyard.
I don't remember if I decided Paris was my favorite city while I was there or after I came home. I do remember deciding with my friend Kitty that we should come back in two years (with our boyfriends) and enjoy Paris all over again. It never once occurred to me—nor has it yet—that I wouldn't go back. Because I would come back somday, there was no rush to experience everything. Napoleon's Tomb and the Musée Rodin? How about a picnic and a nap in front of the Eiffel Tower instead. Versailles? Next time!
I loved the fancy metalwork outside the windows (I always want to say 'balconies' but that is clearly wrong), and the trees against the buildings, and the history. The way so many buildings were lit up gold at night. The convenience of the Métro. I still love subways, although Paris' is more complicated and older than others I've been in since. The buildings are still lovely, even if after so much time in the stucco of southern Germany, the grey and tan stone seems rather cold.

It's funny to think how much I loved the view out my hotel window—mainly because it was my view onto a Parisian street and how exciting is that! Watching this video I took as it rained on my last full day in Paris, I love the view all over again.
video
Yes, I did go to the trouble of holding my iPod headphones up to the camera speaker to get Regina Spektor's song in the video.

I really didn't mind that rain, despite my lack of attractive rain jacket (17-year-old self, why have we not remedied that?), because it meant I could now sing along and mean it. My brother John was actually disappointed for the same reason when none of the rain forecast for our weekend showed up.

I wasn't. Loving Paris in the sun is nice too.
1. Me, age 17, from a video taken in the courtyard of the Louvre.
2. Les Champs-Elysées from atop the Arc de Triomphe.
3. Paris in the rain, July 4, 2005.
4. The café from Amélie, June 14, 2009.

Overbooked

Yup, that's me. Overbooked and overwhelmed and overworked—maybe overworked is stretching it. Maybe underworked would be more accurate. I am exhausted because I've been traveling and I am overwhelmed because I haven't worked enough and too many things are due on Wednesday, the day after my birthday, and then on Thursday I catch a train before 7 am to Paris.

Paris! Of all the cities I've been to, it's still my favorite. Maybe that's because it was my first trip to Europe and everything was amazing and I was sixteen and ready to fall in love with things. Hopefully I still think it's great, because if I get up at 6 am on my post-birthday weekend and I am not blown away by the beauty of everything, I'm going to be disappointed.

My brother John is still here. He spent a week in Freiburg and then accompanied me to Munich, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and all 7.5 hours back to Freiburg. He is sick, and he is tired, and lately we are only in Freiburg in between the long weekends and the breaks. Only in Freiburg for my classes and my homework and my presentations and essays.

I'm really thrilled with Freiburg right now, as I'm sure you can imagine. (No! Get me away from all this responnsibility!) At the same time, I don't want to go anywhere else for a while, unless it involves staying in one place and doing next to nothing. At least I still like trains. I really like trains. And Paris! Plus, after Paris, I have no hostel reservations and no train tickets (except for the accidental SECOND Freiburg to Frankfurt Flughafen ticket I bought for John...anyone need to get to Frankfurt Flughafen from Freiburg between June 16th and July 15th??? Only thirty Euro!). I have nothing set in stone until I get on a plane on August 17th and fly home.

Plenty of time to relax. Or, uh, write 30 more pages auf Deutsch.

Hund = dog

= please can I have one right now?
I am 100% devoted to cats. Seriously. But in Europe, there are dogs everywhere: on the streets, in the parks, along the rivers, and in the restaurants. (Usually on the street, but still.) They're well-behaved, they don't need leashes, and they accompany their owners so many places.
Most importantly, dogs are basically always happy! Look at him:
So cheerful. Even though he's ugly, he's adorable. I want one. Not this one. But come on, life would be so happy.
Eleven weeks from now I'll be at home with my dog. Or at the Secretary of State, getting a new driver's license. Or at the dentist. Hey Mommy, did you ever make me an appointment?
Point being: Dogs!

Schönes Wochenende

Ein Schönes Wochenende is a great weekend. Also a type of train ticket you can buy on weekends good for up to 5 people for one day of the weekend and until 3 am or 6 am or something the following morning. The catch is that you can only use regional trains—no ICEs (InterCity Express).
My brother John and I had ein ganz (= totally) schönes Wochenende, though we took ICEs (and a TGV from Karlsruhe to Stuttgart!*) on the way to lovely München on Wednesday morning, where we spent our time with family friends who live there. We drove down toward the Austrian border near Salzburg and spent two days near Königssee and Berchtesgaden (hey! I read about that when I was writing a term paper on the Anschluss of Austria!). AKA Alps! I have no time for being awake right now. So, pictures!
*I was excited because we always learned about trains de grand vitesse ( = high speed trains) in French class but ours was switched to regional on my France trip after 11th grade to save money when the dollar took a dive and our trip got more expensive. It was not very exciting, though.
1. The Jugendstil (= Art Nouveau) Münchner Volksbad on the River Isar, and bathers along the shore.
2. View out of my room at the bed and breakfast in Schönau am Königssee, complete with Watzmann mountain.
3. Post breakfast on the sunshone terrace—a birthday concert.
4. Yellow!
Edit: The full photo album is available here.

die Grüne = the Greens

I live in Vauban, an area south of Freiburg's city center. Out my window, I can see a parking lot between two buildings that I've been told are a "hippie commune." I figure that's a little judgmental, but it's probably close to the truth. The parking lot is full of large vans that people live in.

Last week, Maraia, Ali, and I accidentally walked down the other side of the hill/mountain we were "hiking" on and into another valley. On our walk back to my apartment we ended up walking alongside a protest on Merzhauserstraße, the main street in Vauban. It was a parade of large vans and old delivery trucks moving slowly down the street, blasting music, and stinking up the air with exhaust. The endpoint was the other parking lot between my building and the Straßenbahn track.

I'm not sure what they were protesting, exactly. There were signs about how there should be more Wagenplätze (spaces for vehicles? a parking lot is a Parkplatz) in Freiburg, I guess so more people could park their large vehicles and live in them. That's what made sense to me. They were also against the Green Party, I think, which is odd because Vauban as a neighborhood supports the Green Party. They were looking for areas without laws, I think.

The reason I bring this up, in my convoluted way, is because it sort of relates to the real excitement: there's an article about Vauban and "suburbs without cars" on the front page of the New York Times today*! It's maybe embarrassing to admit this, but I never noticed that Vauban was an area without many cars, at least any more than other parts of Freiburg. I live in the vicinity of two parking lots (although they are mostly occupied by the large, inhabited vehicles that don't usually contribute to traffic) and my building is right off the main street, which is full of cars as well as the Straßenbahn that I love.

I was surprised when I clicked the link for this article and my home showed up. Especially two (?) days after the Style section featured an article on Grosse Pointe, where I grew up, and its 'blues.' I found that article irritating.

(Is it weird that I instinctively wrote "Grosse Pointe and her blues'? 'Pointe' is feminine en français.)

*I saw it online in the early hours of Tuesday in Germany, when it was still Monday at home...and it came up under science, so I figured it was from the science section, which is what I originally wrote here. Several people have told me otherwise. The front page is so exciting!

NYTimes Travel

I often wonder why I bother reading this section. I guess there are occasionally nice pictures and sometimes interesting perspectives on places. (I like this short blog post about traveling with an RV in the Southwest. Of course, I also desperately want to go to the desert, so maybe I'm biased.) But my god, New York Times. Europe for Every Budget my ass.

They have 10 cities with save or splurge options, and I noticed that I'll be going to two of them in the next few months (and have been to five of them already, great, now I feel like I need more of an imagination). So I clicked Paris, because I haven't booked a hostel yet, and it's my favorite so I thought I'd read it first.

The first section is On $250 A Day. So I scrolled down. The only other option is On $1000 A Day.

Ha. Every budget. How about under €50/day? Although I'm going the weekend after my birthday, so I might have to go shopping.

P.S. If you want to see what my duvet cover and pillowcase look like (if you are crazy like me), go to the save or splurge article on Madrid and click on the 4th picture!

Recap

You might be wondering—where have I been?
The answer—going crazy. In my room. With my computer. And the internet. If I were you, I would be unhappy with me for not utilizing my internet connection more productively. Actually, as me, I am unhappy with me. Are you starting to see the craziness? You probably aren't actually unhappy with me because whatever, blogs.
I haven't gotten much done, other than labeling all 8 million photos from the trip on iPhoto and actually weeding through the first two weeks' worth. Mostly I've been busy researching the percentage of times I can successfully log into Wolverine Access and attempt to register for classes for next fall—not that I know what I want to take. The result? I'd say about 90% of the time I cannot access my account from my own computer. The one time I did, I realized that the class I was going to register for required teacher approval, so I couldn't actually sign up for it yet.
I've also learned that my internet connection is total crap and that Facebook has a lot of trouble with its scripts, whatever that means. They stop responding about 50% of the time I am on my Facebook homepage.
Oh no! Now you think I'm lame, as well as insane. Since I wrote here last, I also:
Went to Inis Mór, largest of the Aran Islands!
Tried a Guinness (gross)!
Tried a Bulmers cider—much better!
Saw Ireland's only fjord!
Went to quiz night at one of the Irish pubs in Freiburg!
Watched 5 episodes of Battlestar Galactica! (Is that helping the not-lame? I vote yes.)
Ate at Kartoffelhaus ( = potato house ) for the first time!
Baked a soufflé with delicious Irish cheddar for the first time since I was in Michigan!
Watched the sun set on a hill above Freiburg and roasted marshmallows!
Rode a gondola thingy up a mountain and was above Freiburg again!
Cleaned my room!
Started Sommersemester classes.
This is what Ireland is like. Plus sheep.

In County Clare

I'm in western Ireland right now--the town of Lisdoonvarna, a spa town and home of the Matchmaking Festival in September, in the area known as 'the Burren,' which isn't far from the famous and beautiful Cliffs of Moher. Which I saw today!
Tomorrow Jeff and I return to Galway, which is good since we haven't really seen it yet, but sad because I'm really into the late afternoon view from my bed in the hostel here. I have a bottom bunk and I can sit at the foot of it with my book on the windowsill and the sunlight on my head and book and the heater against me and read for hours. The sun seemed to move so slowly across the sky as I read at least half of the romance novel set in Northern Ireland that I obtained at the hostel in Nice. The sky was blue and the grass really is so green here and there are dandelions and daisies sprinkled across the lawn outside the window as well as little birds. Somewhere not too far away there are bound to be horses and sheep and lambs! and cows and calves, and I don't think I want to leave the Irish countryside yet.
In romance novels women are always going to little towns in Ireland (or things like Ireland) on holiday on whims/to solve grave family mysteries and end up staying and staying--often without quite knowing why, just for a feeling. Or their detective work. Or, although they don't want to admit it, for the irritatingly captivating man down the way. You know.

Lisdoonvarna is the home of the Matchmaking Festival, although that would be a long stay (4+ months!) for just a feeling, waiting for the irritating man, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to be wedded to the land of western Ireland, even with all the adorable livestock. The afternoon view from my bed remains tempting, but sunlight isn't exactly something you can count on here.
Photos added after my return to a sedentary lifestyle.

la Méditerranée = the Mediterranean

( = das Mittelmeer, but I don't think Germany really has much to do with it.)On the beach in Nice.
Lately, I've felt like every post necessitates a picture, but one: I don't want to take up too much space on Picasa double-posting, two: my camera is downstairs and plugging it in is a lot of work, and three: constant pictures take away the excitement of pictures maybe?**

All I want to say is that I love large bodies of water, and walking on big rocks that head out into the sea, and getting wet and feeling the wind and the Mediterranean is my favorite part of this trip to France. Besides the bread. But good bread is old news, and the Mediterranean is not.
Marseille's harbor from the basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, which crowns the city.
Also, I've been reading the Niccolo Rising series by Dorothy Dunnett since I came to Germany in September and I just finished (and also basically started) the third one in Avignon last week. Even though it was set primarily on Cyprus (but also in Bruges! I've been there!), there was lots of voyaging across the Mediterranean and Genoese merchants (I was in Monaco yesterday! it was originally a colony of the Republic of Genoa) and Knights Hospitaller (there is a fortress of theirs on Marseille's harbor) and I'm ridiculous and found this all super exciting. The previous book took place in Trebizond, the last outpost of the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Constantinople... Unfortunately, I will not be making it to Istanbul this year, let alone farther east along the Black Sea. Or to Cyprus. Or Greece. Or any more Mediterranean after Monday, probably. Which means no swimming. Unless I swim in my underwear or clothes in the next three days. Sad sad sad.

**Edit: Nope. Pictures are good. I added them. Here's all of the South of France: Lyon, Avignon, Aix, Apt, Arles, Marseille, Cannes & Antibes, Monaco & Èze Village, Nice.

Un Longtemps = A Long Time

Hello, World. Sorry, I, uh, was (free)-internetless in several places, and apparently not inspired in others. Maybe I should admit that I forgot I had a blog for a fair amount of time. I did, however, take a lot of pictures! It will be a miracle if I don't run out of space on my 6 gigs of memory cards.Le Pont d'Avignon from atop le Palais des Papes.
I'm currently in Avignon, Provence, France, as I have been for almost a week, eating fresh French bread and butter and sleeping in. After Sevilla we were in Madrid (by way of all-too-sunny Cordoba), and it was really big. Before I got there and was then inspired to Wikipedia it, I had no idea it was the third biggest city in Europe! We spent exorbitant amounts of money on ice cream without batting an eye, saw a ton of art (also without batting an eye...no, no, a lot of it was really cool). There was just soooo much of it, and after three weeks of walking our feet didn't have a lot of patience.
Barcelona and the sea from Parc Güell; you can see the spires of Gaudí's temple la Sagrada Familia poking up on the left side.
Barcelona was beautiful. I was just as tired as I had been in Madrid, but Barcelona kept me excited and we saw a LOT the first two full days. And the first day, which was not full, saw a pretty thorough tour of Barcelona's hospitals. And the overzealous removal of Maraia's cast at the hands of a Catalan doctor. The last two days I was sick, sick enough that visiting Gaudi's Park Guell felt a lot like a chore, and sick enough that I went back to bed after breakfast the last day, which was sad, considering that Barcelona was the coolest place of the trip so far, and there were so many other things we could have done.
Then we flew to Lyon and COUCHSURFED for the first time! It was great, but now I'm getting bored. And this French keyboard is a bitch. Tomorrow we move on to Marseille. Also, it's raining and it's just so weird! I haven't been rained on since the day we went to the salt mines in Poland, and barely even then. Rain. Who knew it still existed.
**Photos added after my return to a sedentary lifestyle. The fuller Spain story, in photos: Sevilla, Córdoba, Madrid, Segovia, Barcelona.**

Platz = Trg = Piazza = Plac = Square

German, Slovenian/Croatian, Italian, Polish.
Where I was before I got to Spain.
Marienplatz, decorated for Fasching (Carnival). City center of Munich. Monkeys on the streetlamps...why?
Prešernov trg, Prešeran Square, Ljubljana, Slovenia. This Baroque church (Franciscan Church of the Anunciation) is so pink! There's a monument to France Prešeran, who is considered Slovenia's national poet.
Sv. Marka trg, Zagreb, Croatia. The roof reminds me of Legos. Those threatening clouds never rained on us. Thank goodness.
Piazza Unità d'Italia, Trieste, Italy. Largest waterfront square in Europe. Or Italy. Depends on what you read. Hazy sky over the Adriatic.
Rynek Główny, Main Market Square, Kraków, Poland. The largest square in Europe, at 200 x 200 m. This is the view from our hostel door--it was so convenient!

Unglaublich = Unbelievable

This is where I am right now:
Well, more precisely...in a hostel in Sevilla, Spain. This is where we ate breakfast, on the roof of our hostel:
I have never experienced weather like this. Palm trees. I think I'm in another world. Sunburned, sweating, skirts...in the first half of March! On to Cordoba in two days.

Nachtzug = Night Train

Trains are one of my favorite things about Europe. In the back of my mind somewhere I miss the convenience of having a car, I guess...but not really. I do miss being able to sing along to CDs in the car. But a car wouldn't help me in Freiburg, where I grocery shop for one person and can carry everything in one bag, and the grocery store is five minutes from my building. The freedom to drive anywhere at any time is gone, but trains make up for it by being so easy. You buy a ticket, you don't miss the train, you get in and sit down and hope you don't miss your connection. But there's nothing more to do, besides not let your stuff get stolen.

The train ride from Ljubljana to Vienna was relaxing--barring the moments where we worried that we secretly had to switch trains. We had a 6-person compartment to ourselves, so I sat facing Maraia one seat over and we both could stretch out our legs. We had enough food to last us all night (in case we couldn't sleep and there was nothing else to do), and so we ate and talked as Slovenia went by and the day came to an end. We saw castles on hilltops, an alarming number of small fires, not all of them tended (maybe it was leaf-burning day in Slovenia?), and eventually crossed the border into Austria. As soon as the signs switched to German, the ground switched to snow-covered, and we concluded that not only Italy had centrally mandated weather. Or maybe it had something to do with the Austrian Alps. (But Slovenia has Alps too!) Eventually we watched a movie on Maraia's iPod Touch, and I thought about how my brother should have given me his free one. The five hours went pretty quickly.

In Vienna we switched to the night train that would take us to Krakow. There was a fair amount of fear involved, because the guidebooks expressly told us NOT to take night trains to Poland, and one of the studetns in our program had his camera stolen from around his neck on one. But we had a private, 2-bed compartment, so we hoped we would be safe. It would probably lock.

It did. And wow, what a compartment we had. It was like a tiny motel room on a train! Two bunkbeds, a little closet, a counter, and a cabinet that included (complimentary?) prepackaged chocolate croissants and mineral water. There were four settings for the lights (one was off). We went to bed almost immediately, and I slept almost all the way 'til 6 am, only waking up twice. At 6:30 we arrived in Krakow and got to sit around waiting for things to open.

We're taking a night train from Krakow to Berlin on Friday, and it is a lot cheaper. Yeah, Vienna-Krakow was expensive, but we had no option besides private rooms, so we had to. It's probably the only time I will enjoy a night train that much. We'll be in a sitting car all the way to Berlin, with strangers and probably no locks. And two hours after we arrive in Berlin, we have to be on a plane to Spain...

Stress doesn't help make things go faster/better on trains (or really anywhere), so I'm going to try to enjoy being at least half-awake for an entire night, before getting on one plane and then on another one and then landing in another country whose language I don't really speak. (That is a key difference from in Poland, though, where I absolutely don't speak the language.) But I wish we had another private compartment.

1. Top bunk!
2. Closet, viewed from bottom bunk.
I guess that tall people wouldn't find this quite as exciting/comfortable as I did.

Kraków

I'm in Krakow, Poland for the week. Since I appear to get comments about travel destinations occasionally, I thought it would be wise to post about this BEFORE I was gone, in case any cool suggestions were to show up. So, here goes:

I'm in Krakow! I saw St. Mary's, and Wawel Castle (from the outside, it was apparently closed today), and walked around Kazimierz, and am going to the salt mines. I'm aware of Auschwitz's proximity. The Gallery of 19th Century Polish Art is being renovated, so I didn't manage to get in (is there a temporary location? I can research this myself.). What else should I do?!

I'm also really excited about the giant mall by the central train station. Maraia and I felt strangely at home there, even though I hate malls in America. And it was open after 5 on a Sunday! Open on a Sunday period was CRAZY after being in Germany for so long. We were surprised by how much open stores on Sunday surprised us.

But oh man. I have needed new shoes for so long. And my jeans are ripping in a very bad place! That's what I get, only bringing one pair on a 7-week trip.

I have to sleep. Good night. Salt mine tomorrow!

Edit: Krakow photos here.

Where all of Europe meets?

So I made it to Munich. And through Austria to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Then to Zagreb, Croatia and even Trieste, Italy--each for a day. I wanted to post pictures, but USB cords etc. were too much work for these super slow, NOT free (false advertising!!) computers.

Anyway, we'd planned on going to Piran, to see the Adriatic Sea and enjoy an old Venetian city without actually going to Italy, until Emma suggested we actually go to Italy. Trieste is closer to Ljubljana but mixed information tried to prevent us from a fourth country in 10 days--fifth, if you count Austria, which was all in a train. (I guess this proximity is the reason Slovenia claims to be the place "where all of Europe meets." One map said Ljubljana was the capital of the EU, which is so not true.

The point is, first we read the train took ridiculously long time, then that the only bus was at 6:25 am. Eventually we learned it was easier to switch buses in Koper, 30 minutes or so outside Trieste but still in Slovenia. Then we missed our bus due to misinformation.

But we didn't give up! We held onto our illogical belief that if it was nice in Florence (we'd heard it was), it would be nice in all of Italy--because of the centrally mandated weather.

We expected disappointment, but it was significantly warmer in Trieste than in Slovenia. The Adriatic was beautiful (if hazy), the sun was warm and bright, and the gelato was delicious. Mmm three scoops on two visits to one shop. We also pondered the existence of centrally mandated pizza quality, and even I ate one. It was pretty tasty, despite all that tomato on it. (There wasn't that much...but for me it was a lot.)

It's kind of weird to connect central mandates with Italy, though, considering the whole city-state, not-unified-most-of-the-time thing. Also, Trieste was Triest (Deutsch), southern port of Habsburg Austria--not even Italy!

I think it's so funny that Captain von Trapp (Sound of Music!) was no longer in the navy in the thirties BECAUSE AUSTRIA HAD LOST ALL ITS COASTLINE. Maybe that's not actually hilarious. Whatever. It's one of the important things I learned while researching (not-researching) my history Hausarbeit.

I probably don't have enough readers for this to be enlightening...

Hello, World.

I just want to know—what books would you recommend for someone who is traveling to Slovenia, Kraków, Sevilla, Córdoba, Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona, Avignon (and all around Provence), Marseille, and Nice (and all along the Riviera)?

They could just be good books. Or books about one of these places. Or travel books in general. Basically I just want to read! At this point, I'll be looking out for titles in used book stores, because I won't have time in the next 24 hours to hunt down English books. Although Munich has a large bookstore, and I'll be there first.

I like fantasy, I like historical fiction, I like contemporary fiction. I like classics, I like trashy novels/chick lit (what an awful term), I like sci-fi. I like animals. I like young adult books. I even like Gossip Girl (the books).

Help!

Kraków, you make my packing plans difficult.

After Slovenia and Kraków, Maraia and I are in Spain and southern France for a month. They won't be hot, but they also won't require wool sweaters, and wool coats would look downright stupid.

But I just read, about Kraków: "Bitter cold mixed with fog and snow dominates every day until March." We arrive in March!

March 1. 6:30 am. It might be a little bit like February.

I only want to bring two sweaters. One has become misshapen and irritating, and the other one... I can't pick which it should be!

I leave on Friday. Decisions must be made.

Color Crisis

This is what I was talking about.
My mom picked out the rain jacket when I was in seventh grade. She loves this color. Once she tried to get me to pick out glasses that were a more toned-down version, because, she told me, I was lucky enough to be able to pull it off. Instead I got tortoiseshell. (And they were Flexon, which meant I could bend the nose piece all the time, which was cool. Except by 'all the time,' I probably mean occasionally, since I can't see without them.) I thought the jacket was okay, if too large. She always made me buy gigantic things.
Then I bought the cardigan because it's a little fuzzy and it's a cardigan and I wore it all the time with my purple turtleneck OH and it matches a sundress from H&M that I left at home for the year. I also have some socks that are a light version of this color. My mom wouldn't let me bring them because I was packing too many socks. Then I made the pink, green, orange, and black necklace two summers ago. The green matches. And I have a bracelet to match.(If you want one, I know where you can get them. Necklaces too, and lots of other resin jewelry of different colors.)
What else? There's a shirt under the cardigan. This summer, new Nalgenes that supposedly don't cause birth defects came out, and red? blue? Too normal. This was the third option. (Although I miss my bright pink one that always smelled like bleach near the end.)
There's the mascara (obviously the mascara is black or black-brown or something, but I picked it because it was a cool case...) and the nail polish! The nail polish! Then my mom made me fingerless mitts to wear when my fingers were cold and mailed them to me in Germany, two years after she'd promised them to me. Oh, and I have beautiful glass earrings that you can barely see in this picture that my mom also made.
Whatever, right? It's a color that I like, but I obviously don't wear it all at the same time. The problem is that the RAIN JACKET and the NALGENE and then the NEW, BEAUTIFUL CAMERA CASE I BOUGHT YESTERDAY all match. And are definitely going traveling.
I had intended on bringing my cardigan. But I don't think I could handle it. And although the nail polish and its slight gold sheen is a perfect match for the camera case...well, it'll be too cold for sandals.

Hausarbeit = Term Paper
= Sleep-Deprived

Hello, World—I just wanted to say that I am not dead and have successfully completed my first German Hausarbeit! And by 'successfully,' I mean 'completed.' I probably won't know how successful I was until April when I come back from SIX WEEKS of traveling, and by then I won't care.

Oh wait. I don't care too much now, either. That it's done is what is important.

Next up: the color crisis I expect to experience during the Epic Trip. Gute Nacht!

A Piece of Advice

Let's say you need to take at least three classes, and would really rather only take three. You know one that you definitely want, but then there are three others, and they all sound interesting and worthwhile in different ways, and you've been going to each of them so you can figure out which one to take.

But you can't decide! So you take all of them.

Maybe this is a good decision if you are fascinated by all three and almost everyone is enthusiastic about the subjects and the reading is exciting and you feel like you're getting a lot out of all of them.

However, if you can't decide which one you feel most ambivalent about, THIS IS A BAD SIGN. Drop one, regardless of which. Because in the end, you will have to do the end-of-semester work for all three, as well as for the class you knew wanted to take.

I suggest dropping whichever requires the most writing.

Auf meinem Herzen ≈ On My Mind

1. During the day I enjoy walking in the cold air and taking new streets and looking at the mountains in the distance, and I think about how beautiful Freiburg will be when it's spring and summer and warm. I think about how I will hate to leave.

As soon as the sun starts going down, I figure another day has gone down the drain and I haven't done enough homework, and then I start to get lonely and then think I would rather be at home. This is only at night, though. I hate night.

2. Researching Germans in America for my presentation two weeks ago, I came across this old 'On Language' column by William Safire. Doughnuts came from Germany (irrefutable evidence that the German culture was a huge influence on America), and the Amish were the first to put holes in them! Also, I think William Safire was funnier back then. I thought of this article again because...

3. ...I was on nytimes.com again looking for evidence that a German-American identity still exists (Do societies and Oktoberfest and traditional dress make a culture? Now I get to do it.) and I found an article on the Idaho potato. I seem to have lost the link, which is a shame, because someday I'd like to read all five or six pages on the challenges that face the Idaho potato, and the people who grow it, today. I've found myself in this argument a couple times recently: Does Idaho have anything? Why this is a concern, I don't know, but I will always firmly answer, "Yes," at least as long as Idaho potatoes remain, because I was taught by my grandfather (possibly really through my mother) that they are the best potatoes in the world. And I love potatoes.

I also learned that Idaho's license plates say "Famous Potatoes," which is probably the funniest (or at least best) license plate ever, so I searched them on eBay. I found one for 1988, the year I was born, which was sort of cool. I think if I were ever to become the type of person who would buy used license plates and put them in prominent places, I would buy a Famous Potatoes license plate. Some of them say "World Famous Potatoes," but that isn't as funny, although this one, which has a picture of a baked potato on it, is hilarious. Also, there was a mountain goat Idaho plate. Pretty sweet.

While on the topic of license plates: I wish Michigan hadn't made such stupid new ones. The white text on blue was classic and simple and nice. The blue on white is no easier to read, because there wasn't a problem with the old ones, and it's boring. And ours used to say 'Great Lakes.' They were automatically cool, because the Great Lakes are so great! Now they just say www.michigan.gov. Why anyone would want to go there, I don't know. It's a hopelessly ugly website.

Thank goodness my parents have an old, proper-looking license plate in the garage, from the time they had to pretend their license plate was stolen so they could get a new one and stop having problems every time they crossed the border. The government was convinced that some criminal had that license plate number. For me this means that I can be kitschy and have a nice Michigan license plate someday if I want.

4. I'm doomed! Doomed doomed doomed homework oh my god oh my god oh my god. Goodbye!

Minderheiten = Minorities

This has been bothering me for a while:

Why are the German students in my ethnology class so loathe to grant the minorities in Europe that we've studied the status of having their own culture? The Sorbs live on the border with Poland and are a Slavic minority—a national minority, which is always an important distinction to make, because that means they have lots of rights—and anyway, we were learning about them one day, and someone raises her hand. "Do traditional clothing and parades for Easter really constitute 'culture'?" she asked. "Do the young people care about any of it?" was also an implied question. I'm paraphrasing; it was months and months and months ago (please, semester, END ALREADY!). And it's true, traditional clothing doesn't make culture. A dying language doesn't necessarily unify a people. But they are so quick to jump to the conclusion that a group doesn't have a legitimate identity. (And therefore doesn't deserve government money; I think that was mentioned at least once.)

It's the same with the German minority in Hungary, that migrated centuries ago and never left. They have German-Hungarian societies, they have activities for the children, and they try to encourage the German language. I'm not sure how effective it is. But the students, they went on about how these people were not Germans, could not be Germans, they had been gone so long. No, they aren't—but German-Hungarians are still different from Hungarians if they see themselves that way, aren't they?

I'm aware that this is what my math and social studies textbooks liked to call 'critical thinking.' (My least favorite type of question.) My 9th grade civics textbook called it 'thinking critically,' which I always found stupid sounding. Just like civics class. But thinking critically is important, I understand. I just don't understand why they are so skeptical about minorities' authenticity.

This week, we talked about the Kurds, focusing on Turkey. The article we read tried to define who makes up the Kurds and how they've tried to achieve nationhood. It turns out that it's impossible to concretely define 'Kurd.' There are two main dialects among many, there are people who speak other languages but have traditionally considered themselves Kurds, there are Sunnis, there are Alevi, there are even Christians. I'm missing lots of different groups. There are tribes and there are urbanized city dwellers. They are spread across four countries.

One guy in my class continued to raise his hand and say how he could not see them as one minority group—which means he could not see them as a nation, because to be a nation, you need a shared language, history, territory, economy, probably other things. He would not believe that the Kurds are really one minority. And many others agreed that it was a difficult question, and yes, it is. There is a huge range of diversity and the lines have changed over the centuries. But as my teacher pointed out, shared identity, the shared feeling that you are a part of the group (and not part of the majority), is also a huge part.

I guess it's important to make sure people aren't just wanting to take control of a bunch of land and make another country just because. Or an autonomous region. But it seems to me that in America, as long as you're not white, you're part of a minority. Maybe the difference is that the only minority who could have tried to claim some of our land—wow, I just typed it that way—who could claim they were a nation and had a right to their own country is the Native Americans. So maybe it's easier to throw the term 'minority' around. Or we're just used to minority groups. Because I always thought a minority was just a group of people smaller than the biggest group. And 'minority' isn't 'nation' and isn't 'culture,' but still still still—I still think that the German students think about this differently.

P.S. I have to write 10 pages about Minderheiten in Europa by next Tuesday. And by next, I mean less than a week, and by Minderheiten in Europa, I mean that I'm actually writing about Germans in America, which is not the same thing.

My October story wasn't over yet.

So eventually we ended up in Bruges, and met up with three other friends, and I remembered that large groups of people get on my nerves. And that it was fall! It was beautiful mid-October and the sky was big and blue and the land was flat and the houses pointy—and made of brick. I was so glad to be away from all the stucco on these pseudo-old buildings that were rebuilt after the war and say 1325 on them but really are younger than the majority of houses in Grosse Pointe. And the newer houses that, I realized, look like Playmobil houses to me. (What a surprise. Playmobil isn't German or anything, is it?)

When I think back on Bruges, I first remember the waffles and the fries and the pancakes. Waffles with white chocolate gelato, with powdered sugar, with chocolate, with whipped cream. Warm french fries with nothing but salt, that looked too pale to be delicious and yet somehow were the best potatoes I've had in Europe. (Probably.) And french fries with meat sauce stuff on them, yum. Pancakes by the kilo. Oh my god. Pancakes and brown sugar—real brown sugar! I have not had real brown sugar in Germany.

In Bruges, I spent a lot of time walking and not a ton of time sightseeing. While we walked around, the others got into conversations about religion and relationships, while I, distracted, squealed inside every time I saw a particularly nice fall tree. But I got caught up in the serious mood too, and thought about walking beneath fall trees last year. A lot of us were remembering last fall—the people we were with then, and the people who are no longer with us. It had only been a month and a half since we'd arrived in Europe.

Now it's been five months. The semester that hadn't begun then is over in less than two weeks. I couldn't tell you what I was doing this time last year, besides counting down to flying to Munich. And actually, that's what I'm looking forward to right now. Arriving in Munich, exactly a year after I first arrived there—but with no midterms to come back to, no reading assignments hanging over my head. (Did I even read that book about subtitling films? I must have. I don't remember doing so, though.)

Really, though, my point was that Bruges equals waffles and pancakes to me. They were the best part. The other point was that I posted too many pictures.

Once upon a time...

...I went to Köln (Cologne), the fourth-largest city in Germany. (Sidenote: I have now been to three of the top four! Berlin, München, Köln. Next up, Hamburg? No, wait, I'm going to Munich next. If not to a tiny town in the Schwarzwald, but that's another story.) It was just for the weekend, and I kept having the feeling that I had no idea what Köln was really about. For some reason, we didn't use any public transportation, and walking everywhere got us pretty tired, pretty fast.

Not to mention all the museums. In Köln, I learned that I actually do like museums. I had a super long list of museums to visit, all of which sounded interesting, and in two days we saw four museums, which I think is kind of a lot. Especially if two days is all you have. That explains why we didn't see a lot of the city, or figure out how it all fits together. But I did get to know that cathedral. Our hostel was about six minutes from the train station, which is right next to the Dom, and we saw it by night, by dawn, by beautiful afternoon sunlight, by dusk, from the inside, from the outside, from across the Rhine, and during our layover in Köln on the way back home from Belgium, wearing my backpacking backpack.

Anyway, museums. And churches! Köln is full of old Romanesque churches. Everywhere you look, there's a steeple poking up in the distance. The Museum Schnütgen was a museum IN a church, full of medieval religious art. The tapestries and glass collection that I wanted to see were mysteriously not on display, but Maraia, Tabs, and I had a fun time looking at all the sculptures and things...although, godless heathens that we are, we didn't know what was going on a lot of the time. After three more churches, I realized I was getting sick of churchy things.

The first day, we went to a museum about the Gestapo in Köln and Nazis in general, and I learned that I was already getting sick of museums about Nazis and World War II and the Holocaust—and that was back in October. Mainly because it was an archive as well as a museum, and I couldn't read that much text auf Deutsch, especially not in that stupid blackletter font they used in the newspapers back then. (Edit: It's called Fraktur.)

Köln reinforced that waking up early to see the sunrise, although initially painful, is usually worth it. We walked into the cathedral before dawn and got to experience it almost empty and myserious in the dark. Waking up that early for trains, however, is not as worth it. Besides the whole not-missing-the-train thing.

I also learned, when I looked at Maraia's photos, that red tights with hiking boots look stupid.

After Köln was Aachen. There, I learned that gingerbread is delicious when you want to buy it, even if it has weird crunchy things in it. And things that look like they are covered in melted cheese are sometimes Reisfladen. And ordering four desserts for four people and sharing them is worth the disapproving looks from the waitstaff. Oh, and fancy mosaics are really, really cool. Also, there are a lot of pieces—no, little bits of thread—from people's loincloths in the most important ecclesiastical treasury north of the Alps. And by people, I mean saints. And gold! Lots and lots of gold!

On the way to Belgium, we hopped on a train heading in the same initial direction as ours, but leaving 40 minutes earlier. Why? I'm not sure. I got to use my terrible French and embarrass myself in front of everyone. But we still got to Bruges.

Sonnenlicht = Sunlight

It is the glorious part of the day where the sunlight streams in through my floor length window/door-to-nowhere, across my floor, and bathes my bed in happiness. No, seriously. Every time my room looks like this, I feel better about life. If it were this sunny more often, I would be a much more productive person. (Let's ignore the fact that the last time it looked like this when I was home was Wednesday, and I promptly lay down in the sun and took a nap. When I woke up, it was grey and already dusk. Discouraging, to say the least.)
Here is my large window. And my desk and my bowl of chicken noodle soup (Mrs. Grass' sent from home because God knows there must not be any super-plain chicken soup in Germany) and my bookshelf and my sweatshirt on top of my towel on my radiator. It is so bright in here; the picture doesn't do it justice. Oh, and there's a cake pan I borrowed from Maraia on top of my shelf, along with a tall stack of books on the Anschluss Österreichs. And the cable modem thing and the wireless router and a tangle of cords and a bowl on the floor full of water that is supposed to be on my heater, acting as a very cheap humidifier.
And here is the sunlight on my bed, which is usually made, just not today because I'm feeling sick and was reading under the covers—the fun, striped, flannel covers. I have issues with my bedside table. Really with all surfaces (including the floor). Papers just get out of hand.
I'd been avoiding posting pictures of my room until the day when it was not only clean, but also schön eingerichtet—a phrase that, I am afraid, I am incapable of translating. I know exactly what I mean, but that doesn't really help you. Oh, furnished. It means 'nicely furnished'. Not that I'm going to buy any more furniture. But someday, my TV will come. By which I mean, someday Maraia and I will get around to going ALL THE WAY TO STUSIE to get the TV someone from last year sold to Maraia. It hasn't been five months already, we're not lazy, shut up! Also, I want to have things hanging on my white stucco walls besides the giant, free calendar from the Bundestag in Berlin that rolled-up caused my backpacking backpack to reach its full height. The photos in it weren't worth it.
Now I have squandered the peak sunlight in my room taking pictures that don't capture the experience. Maybe it's time to get dressed and buy some bread.

Keine Panik! = Don't Panic!

Have I mentioned lately that it's STILL THE FIRST SEMESTER in Germany?

Sure, we didn't start until October 20th, but it's almost February. I have zero desire to show up to any of my classes at this point.

I have to write a 10-page term paper in the next two weeks. I think I'm going to write about how German immigrants to America held onto the German language, and when and why they lost it, and what that says about something. No, I have clearer plans than that. What I actually want to research is how the newer German immigrant groups, that came in the thirties fleeing the Nazis, integrated and/or assimilated, and how much of a 'German community' still exists in America. That's what my teacher really wants to know. So far, I haven't found much information on that, though. Maybe I need to search 'Jewish' instead of 'German'...

I have to add 5 1/2 pages to my history paper in the next two weeks. It's on the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, and whether or not there was really a resistance to the Nazis. Or to what extent. A question that is also strangely difficult to find answers to. So far I've got: the Kanzler tried. But he tried to buy time and then it was too late. The communists and socialists called for solidarity with Austria and the Austrofaschists against the Germans, because it's hard to create a communist Austria when Austria no longer exists. And there were supposedly resistence groups, but none of my sources said what they did or what they were called or how effective they were. My further question is: why so vague? I don't know that I'll be able to answer it.

And then, I get to add 5 pages to my essay comparing Frühlings Erwachen by Frank Wedekind to the adapted performance currently at the Freiburger Stadttheater. In the next three weeks. I've seen the performance twice, but I'm still not sure what its message is. All I can confidently say that the modern version is less optimistic.

I also have a presentation, article summaries, reading, homework assignments, and a linguistics test of some sort. Meanwhile, there are movies I want to see, photos to post, letters to write, people to see. I have to pick which courses to take next semester—as well as figure out which ones to take next fall. My registration appointment is going to fall sometime during my six-week trip.

Of course, this is when I decide that I need to come up with a concrete post-undergraduate plan.

Mitbewohner = "Cohabiter"...hahaha

My brother's visiting me in Germany for five weeks, starting in May. When we were booking the tickets and looking at travel dates, that seemed like a reasonable amount of time. It makes those plane tickets really worth it. As soon as the tickets were booked, I put the official dates into iCal, counted the weeks again, and started second-guessing that final week we tacked back on.

Five weeks of my brother? On my floor, in my room. My highly-dependent-on-other-people-when-in-a-strange-place brother. Without a cell phone. Stuck in my room. For five weeks.

That's not true. There are trips planned for almost every weekend and ten days to be spent in beautiful central European cities. And yet, I was worried. I need to do my homework, I consider myself to be a fairly private person...and what if I got a German boyfriend? (This whole concept of 'getting' boyfriends—ex: "My Mitbewohner tells me I just need to get a German boyfriend, and then I'll really know German."—is strange. But now I'm off track.)

Then I went to Berlin and forgot about my brother amid the excitement of vampire teenage romance movies auf Englisch, sparkly modern architecture, hatred for tour guides, and most importantly, POLAR BEARS. The trip home was almost the entire study abroad program in one train car. I was sick of them. When I got back to Freiburg, I was alone in my room again. Hours at a time. Almost days at a time. I was sick of myself.

I am so excited to have a roommate for five weeks. And he's my brother—I'm used to living with him, day in, day out, even if I haven't for almost a year and a half. He'll yell at me to do my homework (that won't help), but he'll also provide the necessary brief distractions that allow me to keep on working.

Plus I'll always have someone to hang out with. For five weeks, he gets to be my new best friend. I never would have considered myself a "people person." My friends probably wouldn't consider me one, either. But lately I am extremely aware of how much I need people.

Noch nicht = Not Yet

I don't want to leave Berlin. There's so much I haven't seen yet.

I've seen central East Berlin, but not central West Berlin. I've seen Potsdamer Platz, but not Alexanderplatz. I've seen Unter den Linden, but not Kurfürstendamm.

I'm unclear as to how everything connects above ground. I've seen the U2 and the U6 a lot, though.

It's cold and wet and above all, icy. I don't know how all the inhabitants have survived the cobblestones with their layer of ice.

I still want to walk more.

In Berlin

1. Potsdamer Platz
2. Piece of the Wall
3. Sony Center
4. Potsdamer Platz in the fog, viewed from the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe
5. Brandenburger Tor & the Reichstag, viewed from theMonument
6. Obligatory (Brandenburger Tor)
(last night)

Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr!
= Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that we're already a third through January.

Seriously? Even though I just realized it, seeing it written is something like a slap in the face. Which is maybe what I need.

To say "happy new year," Germans wish you a good "Rutsch" into the new year. A good "fall," "slide," or "slip" into the new year. I ended the year full of good intentions and positive thoughts about the new one, but instead of sliding well into it, I appear to have stumbled down a different path and onto my bed. My butt hurt last night, but no longer from skiing and snowshoeing. Instead, it's from sitting on my bed with my computer on my lap for more hours than I'm willing to admit.

But today is a new day, and initiative is necessary. So here's to not being a couch potato and internet zombie! Und ein besser (better) Rutsch ins neue Jahr!

It's been a while.

Over a month, in fact. Once I left Freiburg for Munich (and then Mijoux, France), my internet access was limited, and blog posting never seemed to be the top of the list. When I got back to Freiburg, my internet use seems to have been limitless, and yet I spent all my time on other things.

I am tired from all my computer use. Living in a room by myself, in an apartment with three other people who don't interact all that often, never seems to get better. If I want social interaction but am supposed to be getting homework done, I just sign online. And the computer screen sucks away my day.

The best thing about being in Munich was living with a family. We left the cereal out for each other at breakfast, discussed the day's plans when we saw each other, ate dinner together, watched movies, and said good night, sleep well. They were busy, but they were there.

At first, it made me more legitimately homesick than I think I've been. Usually I miss people, but I don't actually want to be there. Being around my mom's best friend, or maybe simply a family, made me miss my family. Seeing Rebecca with all her friends, many of whom study in other cities now and she hadn't seen in months, made me want to be reunited with the people who know me best.

And I got used to the apartment, and the U-Bahn, and Rebecca's grandfather's continual comments about film ("You know, that's not real. They can do anything in the studio!") and the weather (it was snowing a lot in the US, and there was no way Rebecca was going to make it to Lansing in time for her cousin's wedding). As my departure approached, I considered staying. Throwing away €90 worth of tickets and staying in Munich a few more days, and then buying a new ticket home to Freiburg.

In Mijoux, I missed Munich and the family I had left there. But in Mijoux, there was another family, in a chalet on a mountain belonging to the Jura range, which is north of the Alps. They have a moody teenager, 11-year-old twins, and adorable 4-year-old Florent, who usually speaks French but ended up using more English by the time we left. They have a cat, Blackness—which sounded like 'Loch Ness' to me the first time the daughter told me. I was about to tell Maraia that I wished I'd stayed in Munich, or had simply got off the train to Basel when it stopped in Freiburg, when the cat appeared. Immediately, everything felt better.

I'm glad I didn't get off the train in Freiburg. It would have been a waste of money, but more importantly, I wouldn't have met the friendly people we stayed with, or learned to ski a little, or snowshoed up a mountain. Or eaten couscous and shrimp and potato and carrot soup and lentils and delicious Galettes de Rois. (It's good for me, I guess...but I really only would regret not eating the cake.) And I would've had to spend hours on the computer planning a six-week trip after we got back to Freiburg.

Oh wait. I've still spent many, many more hours planning since getting back from France. The end of February is coming sooner than I'd like to think, and with it, two months off. Hopefully I won't want to be back in Freiburg so soon next time.