I posted my pictures from Heidelberg, at long last! It was a beautiful fall day that had been forecast as cold and rainy. I wore leggings, jeans, turtleneck, knit dress, angora sweater, my lightweight red coat, scarf...and then spent all day changing which layers I was wearing.

While we were at the famous Heidelberger Schloss (Castle), it hailed suddenly. It was lovely the rest of the day, though. After seeing the city from the castle, we climbed up the Heiligenberg, a mountain that overlooks the city, and took pictures from above some more. A LOT of pictures. It took me so long to narrow it down to about a hundred to post. Here they are!

(I have no time for blog posts, because there are less than two weeks until I leave for Munich for Christmas break. And that means a lot of work must be done.)

Speaking of views out my window:

Saturday morning it snowed. Saturday night, the snow stuck and in Studentendorf Stühlinger (student village Stühlinger) people were building snowmen and having snowball fights when we took a break from the three-course meal (not including apératif and digéstif) and went on a lovely walk along the Dreisam (Freiburg's river). Sunday morning I managed to get some decent pictures. Now I am going to spend two more hours online chatting with America (North and South) before going to bed. I wrote it like that because the timestamp says sometime before midnight, so it's like I'm seeing the future. It's actually 1:41 am. Guten Nacht.
P.S. There is a pirate ship for the small hippie children who live in the "commune" that is between my building and my Straßenbahn stop. When people come to Vauban, we say "cross the S-Bahn tracks, the parking lot, the street, and then walk between the giant old busses that people live in. My building is the one directly behind the pirate ship. Go to the second/third floor—first Obergeschoss!" And then people take the wrong stop because both mine and the one before it starts with 'p'.

I'm excited about life.

I see a lot of beautiful sunsets out my bedroom window and out the balcony off my kitchen. My photos never seem to turn out, but I love looking out my window and seeing how the trees' silhouettes have changed as we move deeper into fall. Somehow, there are leaves all over the ground beneath my building, although I thought we would have run out by now.
I took this picture while I was waiting for my train in Frankfurt, on the way home from visiting my aunt. That train was full of people headed to Basel and if I hadn't had a seat reservation, I would have stood for two hours. As it was, I was stuck in a corner with my purse, dictionary, and articles on ethnicity and the situation of minorities in Europa. All I wanted to do was go to sleep.
On the way to Aschaffenburg the Thursday before, I let myself read a book. It's the first German novel I've read, and I picked it out with no prior knowledge, but it's perfect. I can understand almost everything that happens, even understand what the woman with the East Berlin accent says. I'm exaggerating now, because her accent isn't that strange. But sitting down on the S-Bahn and reading several pages in the ten or fifteen minutes home is one of the best feelings.
Last night, I was almost late for the S-Bahn I needed, and forgot my book in the rush. After the movie I saw with my language tandem partner and her friends, all I had to do was think on the way home. About how lucky I am to have such a friendly tandem partner and how surprised I was that I understood a French comedy dubbed into German, with a large part of the humor based on the dialect. About whether or not I should compare the performance of Frühlings Erwachen to the original text in my essay, and how cool it would be to make more sense of the adaptation we saw on Monday.
When I got home, I started IMing my friends in German. Unfortunately, only one of them could understand me. For a few minutes, I struggled to stick to English for Ali, and German for Maraia. In the end it was all English, of course. Today I mainly concerned myself with money and cute bunny pictures and avoiding my homework, and when I skyped with my mom and she asked if I'm speaking a lot of German, I had to admit that I'm not. But I'm pretty sure that will come.

Schicksalstag = Day of Fate

I was aware that the ninth of November was an important date in Germany. I was at my aunt's in Aschaffenburg for All Saints Day, which is an official holiday in Baden-Württemberg (where I live) and Bavaria (where I was), as well as in many other Staaten. Traditionally, every family goes to the cemetery and stands at the graves of their relatives while mass is held at the chapel. These days it's projected on loudspeakers. I missed out on this, but we did visit the graves of my aunt's wife's grandparents, and my aunt mentioned that November 9th is also a day of remembrance.

When Maraia reminded me that it was November 9th last Sunday, I couldn't remember what that meant. Naturally, I went to Wikipedia and started scrolling through the events, looking for German ones. The first I saw was Nov. 9, 1989: the day the Berlin Wall was opened. Der Mauerfall (Mauer = wall). But I was astonished by how many other important things happened on this date.

Nov. 9, 1848 is considered the end of the 1848 Revolution. Robert Blum, a German politician, was executed for his participation in the fight for a democratic government. Fifty years later—Nov. 9, 1918—the Weimarer Republik, Germany's first attempt at democracy, was established.

Nov. 9, 1923 is the day of Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, when he and other members of the Kampfbund (Fighting Society), inspired by Mussolini's March on Rome, attempted to overthrow the Weimarer Republik. It was during the following prison sentence that Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Nov. 9, 1925 saw the founding of the SS (Schutzstaffel = Protective Squadron). It was originally established as a personal guard for Hitler, but later was given much more power, including control of the concentration camps.

Maraia had been reminding me of the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which is what this date is commemorated for. "Reichskristallnacht" was the Nazis' euphemism; now, it is more appropriately known as Reichspogromnacht or Novemberpogrom, at least in German. Germany doesn't celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall on the 9th of November because of the pogrom that took place on this night. Jews were arrested, deported to concentration camps, murdered. Synagogues were burned, homes and businesses destroyed. This is said to be the beginning of Hitler's systematic eradication of the Jews.

Because so many important events took place on this date, Nov. 9th is known as Germany's Schicksalstag—its day of fate. And if these weren't enough, here are a few that aren't connected to German political history:

1494: the Medici become rulers of Florence
1620: the Mayflower sights land at Cape Cod, Massachusetts
1799: Napoleon leads the coup d'état that ends the Directory government and becomes First Consul of France
1917: Stalin enters the USSR's provisional government
1921: Einstein receives the Nobel Prize in Physics

Apparently, Nov. 9th is World Freedom Day in the US. To commemorate the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Weird. (November 9 on Wikipedia.) Since the Mauerfall isn't celebrated, even though it would be cool to celebrate the reunification on the same day as the first Republic was founded, the holiday is Oct. 3rd, der Tag der Deutschen Einheit (Day of German Unity). This was the date of the formal reunification (Wiedervereinigung).

Yesterday, Maraia and I were working on our presentation for our German history class and typing in many dates, including Kristallnacht. In the German format, it's 9.11.1938. No big deal. But if we wanted to make a conspiracy theory, it would involve 11/9 and 9/11.

Sieg = Victory

The past two nights I've slept a total of seven hours...that's seven hours out of fifty-one or so. Sunday night wasn't too great, either. Procrastinating my homework on the nights before was dumb, but when I went to bed at 7 am this morning—and even when I woke up two hours later and had to get ready for class—I didn't regret the long night at all.

In my timezone, the first polls didn't close until midnight, but I wanted to see the night unfold. When I would periodically register what time it was (4 am, 5:30 am, 6 am), I was simply surprised at how fast the time had went. My brain didn't start to shut down and head toward zombie-mode and I didn't feel drawn to bed. For a while, it was just Maraia, me, and one of Maraia's German roommates, intently watching a German news station. Occasionally we would clarify something for him, but most of the time he knew what was going on as well as we did. We laughed when interviews with Americans were played at the same time as the interpreter's voice and you couldn't really understand either one. Maybe Maraia's roommate could, but we couldn't really process the German, despite its being louder, because segments in English would filter through and distract us.

Eventually we switched to CNN for more detailed coverage of individual states and maybe to feel more like we were part of what was going on at home. When the west coast polls closed and CNN called California, Oregon, and Washington even though 0% had been reported, I laughed. But it made sense. Then Andrew opened the Rotkäppchen (a type of Sekt, which is champagne that comes out of Germany instead of Champagne; it's named after Little Red Riding Hood) and there was a resounding pop and Sekt on his pants and a mark on the ceiling and we laughed a little crazily and I hoped we weren't waking the sleeping roommates. But I figured they'd understand if we did. They wanted this almost as much as we did, even if the election didn't hold the same emotional weight and pride for them as it did for us.

After Obama's speech the fatigue hit. We had to clean up the living room and set an alarm so we would make it to class in three and a half hours. But that was perfectly all right with me, because I don't feel ashamed of my country anymore—a feeling that is particularly strong when living abroad. America's future has become extremely exciting.

Happy Trees

It's supposed to snow in Freiburg tomorrow or Friday, I forget which. The month ends tomorrow (tomorrow is Friday in this context...). I feel like Maraia just pointed out to me that we'd been here eight weeks, but the ninth week is already over half done.
Classes are a lot of reading, which is a lot of work. There's also a lot to do, and a lot of traveling across the city. Tonight I decided to be social despite not sleeping enough last night, and then managed to miss the Straßenbahn by like a minute and therefore arrived home much later than I had planned. For some reason, now I'm updating this instead of reading/reviewing vocab/packing—tomorrow, after a four-hour block of class, I'm traveling to Aschaffenburg, where my aunt lives.
For now, I just wanted to reassert my existence and put up a few of my fall-y pictures from my trip from however many weeks ago, to remind the world that it's a little early for snow. Especially since my winter coat is with my aunt and I've been so cold! Life is good, but way too busy right now.
Photos: 1. View out the train over the Rhine in the Rhineland. I love trains.
2. In Köln.
3 & 4. In Bruges/Brugge, Belgium

Wahlkampf = Election Campaign

It's a good word.

Wahl = choice, or vote, or election.

Kampf = struggle, fight, combat

very worried = me

I just learned that my ballot hasn't reached Michigan yet.

Hausaufgabe = Homework

The Wintersemester (auf Deutsch, one word and pronounced like a 'v' of course) started on Monday. I'm not particularly confident about my class choices—decisions are hard, especially without tangible goals like careers or fulfilling a major with picky requirements—but I'm interested in the topics of all of my classes. Or at least am convinced of their usefulness (learning how to write German academicky things with proper grammar is practical, if boring). Mostly I'm with other AYF kids, which sounds extremely lame and is the main reason I'm indecisive about my schedule. No offense to them, but studying at a German university implies studying in German university classes with German students. Someone tell me I'm not lame, please! I'm learning how to succeed in a German university! Next semester I'll take so many real uni classes!

German students are terrifying. They have clear visions of what they want out of a class and are glad to tell the teacher that the syllabus is stupid and should instead cover this, this, this, and this. They protest when the teacher says the class is too big and some students have to leave. They take a vote, and the students win. They also make jokes about faculty members or other stuff I can't understand because they have all sorts of accents and speak so quickly. They make jokes and laugh loudly until the teacher has to shout above them. And they all already know each other.

I spent the day in my room. I ate, I bought groceries, I ate, I cooked, I ate, I read about the founding of the German empire under the leadership of Prussia. So far, two pages. My coursepack is labelled a 'course reader.' Where is the German??? It's also missing the third page, which has really held me up. How can I go on when I don't know the end of the sentence?!

In German, the Crimean War is der Krimkrieg [cream-kreeg]. I think it sounds cute. I barely even know what the Crimean War was.


The past eight days were incredible. I can't really comprehend that the trip took a specific amount of time, though, or that now I'm in Freiburg but yesterday I was in Belgium and once upon a time seven weeks ago my best friends were more than words on a screen (and occasional goofy Photo Booth pictures). This is the first real trip I've planned (with Maraia, natürlich), and it's almost as long as my trip to Munich was back in February. It was a vacation—between the half-vacation of taking German class in Europe and the beginning of the semester on Monday. But in some ways it was hard to think of it as a break from the ordinary and not just the next ordinary phase of my precarious European existence.

Having Freiburg as home base is hard to grasp. It's home, at least in the context of Europe, and I was content to be coming home to my computer and a foreign language that I understand. But I wasn't impatient like I usually am. Once a trip is over and we're heading back, usually all I want is to be home. Part of it is that plane rides and car rides and especially driving yourself are tedious and quickly uncomfortable. Train rides, on the other hand, are comfortable and still contain some novelty for me.

The bigger reason is that I didn't feel any need to go 'home.' Hanging out in bars or the hostel at night or on trains and in train stations leaves a lot of time for conversation. I spent 14.5 hours traveling yesterday, and our group talked talked talked. As we sat on our seventh and final train of the journey, waiting for it to leave the station, we started to talk about which physical possessions would hurt the most to lose, and ended up talking about what made home for us and where we would try to make our homes in the future.

Some people's home is in a specific location, with the people who belong there. Some people are used to moving and are connected to the people, not the place. I lived in the same house for over twelve years, although I count freshman year of college in that. That year, I'm not sure I knew where home was. But since then, home has been in Ann Arbor with my friends, in East Quad and then our house.

Ginny, Jeff, and Andrew met the rest of us in Bruges. Ginny and Andrew both said that they felt more at home in Bruges with us than they had in the Netherlands with old friends or actually in Freiburg but without us. Today I realized that was the reason I didn't look forward to returning to Freiburg. The important part of Freiburg was with me, and closer on the trip than when we're in our dorms, spread around the city. All that I wanted from home was my computer, and my connection with the world outside of Germany.

I guess by the time we were off the last train and waiting for the S-Bahn to take us home, I was looking forward to my bed as well. And now it's 3 am in Germany and I miss my bed. Distance is tricky—it's only four feet away but it feels impossibly far.

Knulp = der Landstreicher = Me?

Maybe you've been following my blog these past few weeks, or even months. Maybe you randomly clicked the link on Facebook while you were stalking me. Either way, odds are you don't know what der Landstreicher means. According to my Langenscheidts Wörterbuch (wordsbook—>dictionary), ein Landstreicher is a tramp or a hobo. According to LEO, it can also mean vagabond, vagrant, yegg, landloper, or rolling stone. (And rolling stone comes with a female equivalent, die Landstreicherin...maybe I should go for that.)

First, I would like to point out that landloper is very old, and very Dutch. It doesn't even come up on Merriam-Webster.com unless you have a paid account. But I guess that's okay. It means literally land walker, or a wanderer, vagrant, or adventurer. More questionable is yegg. Like seriously, what? A yegg is a safe cracker or a robber. Have you ever heard or seen that word before?

I am certainly not a yegg. (Hahaha.) Or a vagabond, vagrant, or hobo. Nor a tramp, in any sense of the word. I do, however, walk on land—who would have thought—and hope to consider myself an adventurer soon. There are so many places I want to visit, and also many I'd like to try living in, so it seems like a fitting title. I originally learned it with only the definitions tramp and hobo. I was trying to read Knulp, by Hermann Hesse, and after getting sick of constantly stopping to look up words, I tried a few pages without a dictionary. Then I got frustrated with not understanding all the words and I gave up. But the word Landstreicher really bothered me, because I thought I should have known it, but I didn't.

The word I had been thinking of was Anstreicher, which means house painter. Or in the context of what we read for class, the person painting the world with propaganda, aka Hitler. But when I looked up Landstreicher and read tramp, hobo I laughed to myself, because hobo makes me think of bum (even though they're not the same thing) and I call myself a lazy bum all the time. Later, when I was trying to come up with a German title for this blog, I remembered Landstreicher and decided it was good, at least for the time being.

Later on, I looked into Knulp and the word more, and decided that if I was going to use it as my title, I needed to know what I was alluding to. Plus Knulp takes place in the Black Forest, which is where I was headed, so with four days left in Ann Arbor, I checked it out of the library and read it—in English, because the German version would have required making a request and four times as much time. Knulp a novella made up of three stories about Knulp, der Landstreicher, from different phases of his life. The translation I read used tramp every time. I know this is long, but this the word's first occurence in the book, in a passage explaining Knulp's carefree, restless existence.

"Keeping his roadbook in order was indeed one of Knulp’s hobbies. In its dazzling perfection, his roadbook was a delightful fiction, a poem. Each of the officially accredited entries bore witness to a glorious station in an honest, laborious life. The only seemingly discordant feature was his restlessness, attested by frequent changes of residence. The life certified by this official passport was a product of Knulp’s invention, and with infinite art he spun out the fragile thread of this pseudo-career. In reality, though he did little that was expressly prohibited, he carried on the illegal and disdainful existence of a tramp. Of course, he would hardly have been so unmolested in his lovely fiction if the police had not been well disposed toward him. They respected the cheerful, entertaining young fellow for his superior intelligence and occasional earnestness, and as far as possible left him alone. He had seldom been arrested and never convicted of theft or mendicancy, and he had highly respected friends everywhere. Consequently, he was indulged by the authorities very much as a nice-looking cat is indulged in a household, and left free to carry on an untroubled, elegant, splendidly aristocratic and idle existence." (p. 9)

I recommend it. And I also would like to enjoy the untroubled, idle existence of a nice-looking cat.

Heading North

I wanted to write about Heidelberg, where I was last Saturday, but I haven't put the pictures up yet. I wanted to write about the excitement of how many options I have—travel destinations, classes...life. But it's 2 am in Germany and I have to be on a train before 8 am which means I have to be on the S-Bahn at 7:15 am which means I am going to be very, very tired.

Hopefully this all doesn't mean I'm going to get sick during my week of travel. Köln/Cologne for three nights, Aachen for a day, and then Bruges/Brugge (French/Dutch, and really it should be Dutch because it's in Flanders and they don't like French)...for four nights. I am so awake right now. Tomorrow I am going to be so tired. We're taking regional trains to Köln because they're a lot cheaper, but that means lots of connections and a long layover and an eight-hour trip. BUT!—

I'm going to the burial place of Charlemagne and the oldest major city in Germany and hopefully seeing old Roman stuff and then going to Belgium, a country I have never been to before.

The articles on the NYTimes talk about how Bruges stopped being important during the second half of the 15th century, when the river that connected it to the sea silted up. And since then, it has slept...until the first half of the 20th century, when its great potential for tourism was noticed. (But not until very recently for Americans.) One article said that, like Sleeping Beauty, Bruges awoke unchanged. And that what you notice is not exactly the past, but timelessness.

I guess I'm getting taken in by the Travel section trying to be poetic.

Fall and spring are apparenlty the best times to come, when the tourists aren't there. That article was written in 1986 so who knows if that's still true, but I'm hoping. And I want to follow the advice of another article...wake up early and walk the streets at 4 am, when it's totally empty and could just as easily be the 1400s. The article said that you would think Jan van Eyck was about to turn the corner.

The book I've been reading for the past month and a half (Niccoló Rising by Dorothy Dunnett) takes place primarily in Bruges, at the peak of its mercantile power, under the reign of Duke Philip of Burgundy. I'm halfway through the book, and my mom told me she wished I'd read more of it, so I'd have a better understanding of Bruges. Maybe after eight hours of travel I will have.

I'm setting another post to post sometime next week. I haven't decided when. And maybe I'll post from exciting places. At the very least, I'll be checking my email occasionally.

P.S. I just glanced at the Wikipedia link I put in, and saw the summary of this series. And I think I'm going to need more of them, pronto. He goes to Iceland! I wish flights to Iceland weren't so limited. With the super-low Icelandic Króna, now's the cheapest time to go. New Year's Eve?? In Reykjavik??

I am insatiable. Goodnight!

Gemütlich = Comfortable, Cozy, Snug, Homey

I arrived in Freiburg on September 1st. Today is September 30th.

I still don't really know what to say about it. When I moved to Ann Arbor for college freshman year, I don't know when it finally hit me that I lived there. I remember thinking sometime in October, this is a nice place I'm at, and I sure have a lot of homework, and my room is really cozy, but none of this really adds up to anything. It probably didn't help that I visited my family all the time. Sophomore year, East Quad was home immediately. There were a lot of people just a knock or a hallway away, and always easy alternatives to whatever I was(n't) doing. It was comfortable.

I take a long time to get comfortable. I can't decide if I've been here only four weeks, or already four weeks. Either way, it hasn't been long enough for me to add it all up. But that's okay, because there are ten and a half more months before I fly home. I hope they don't all go this fast.

I still feel like an idiot when I buy groceries, and I haven't figured out how to cook for myself constantly. Eggs, pasta, cereal, bread, and broccoli. Yum, but...even I need more variety than that. I don't know where I take the garbage. We haven't really divided up the storage space in the kitchen. Did I mention that my WG (Wohngemeinschaft = apartment-sharing community) is half empty? No German roommates. My room isn't totally set up yet, and my DVD player needs a TV and some friends who like pretentious films. I'm scared to ride my bike next to crazy German drivers, so it's still locked up outside my building. And laundry. Heh. Let's not talk about laundry.

But also, also, also—I am in Germany! Today I gave a woman directions and she told me my German was very good. Which was a lie, but kind. I gave a presentation last week and my teacher told me that I didn't seem nervous and it was interesting and really all I need to do is work on my German 'rrrrr.' Also not completely true, but nice to hear.

Here is one sum I've got so far:

Marisa + Germany = a lot of Milka
This photo was after two weeks.
Also, I need a haircut. Auf Deutsch...

Switzerland = die Schweiz = la Suisse
= maybe I should learn Italian

This is old news, but two weeks ago I took my first trip into Switzerland. Switzerland's not really on my to-do list, but Basel is within the reach of the "Regiokarte" I have for the month, until the new semester starts and I can buy the cheap semester-long regional transportation ticket for students. The Regiokarte is more expensive, because it allows its bearer to travel within five regions (instead of just Freiburg's) on weekends and after 2 pm on weekdays. By the time I had been in Europe for a week and a day, I had increased my number of foreign countries visited from two to three. Wait, Canada exists, so four. And I flew into Amsterdam just over three weeks ago...but that doesn't really count. All I saw were hoards of windmills from the airplane and then the inside of Amsterdam's airport.

Basel counts, though. We had to deal with the hassle of the Swiss Franc and learned about how the Basler Münster lost a lot of its colorful stained-glass windows when it became Protestant. Erasmus left Basel for Freiburg during the Reformation (much to his dismay–he hated Freiburg because it was a small town with a bad university). Despite that, Freiburg has a more impressive cathedral. The older, Romanesque part of Basel's cathedral was my favorite part.

(This is a medievel gate, not the cathedral.)

We also visited Basel's Kunstmuseum (art museum), because it's free the first Sunday of every month. It has "the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland" (thanks, Wikipedia) and although I was as impatient as I always am in museums, I think that it is what made the trip worthwhile. One painting I liked a lot is called "Die Nacht" (The Night), by Walter Kurt Wiemken. He was a Swiss Expressionist and then Impressionist painter and I'm not sure what else, because I don't have time to read the Wikipedia article auf Deutsch. But I liked it enough to buy the postcard of it so I'd remember his name, even though I had to deal with Swiss money. There were a few works by Paul Klee that I also liked, and two by Franz Marc that I would love to put on my wall right this instant. I saw this one, "Zwei Katzen, blau und gelb" (Two Cats, blue and yellow) and one with a cow in it, although I'm not sure which one. The cow was my favorite, and there are two paintings with cows—along with many more lively, colorful animals—on this website, which you should definitely check out.

If you want to see more of Basel, go here.

ich weiß nicht = I don't know

Now it is Wednesday in Germany, and I have ein Referat zu halten (a presentation to give). On Thursday. On Aachen, also known as Aix-la-Chapelle. Although it's emphasized that Charlemagne (we know him here as Karl der Große, Karl the Great) had no capital to his empire, this would have been it. In fact, he spent most winters there from 792 to 814 AD. And Aachen is the westernmost city in Germany. I just learned both these facts.

It's also where Charlemagne is buried, in the cathedral he had built. Last semester I learned that his throne is still there. I definitely want to visit Aachen and I have a break coming soon, which is why I picked this topic. But there are so many places I could go during my week and a half off and I'm not sure how close to Germany I should be staying. Maybe Aachen should be a weekend trip. Maybe I should book a flight from EasyJet and fly to Barcelona or Madrid for € 24, or Amsterdam, or Alicante. EasyJet ads are up all over Freiburg, because one of their hubs is the Basel-Freiburg airport. I don't even know where Alicante is. Oh, Spain's Mediterranean coast. Good to know.

Who knows where I should go. The choices overwhelm me. The point of this post is actually:

I uploaded the photos I have of Freiburg so far. You can see them here. I strongly recommend that you choose the slideshow option, because otherwise they will be stupidly small. Now I am going to bed, even though I'm going to end up lying in bed formulating different itineraries.

Schoko = The Best Prefix Ever

My respect for cereal has been growing in the past month or so, starting when I was at home on a Friday evening and realized dinner wouldn't be coming any time soon. I had a bowl of corn flakes with milk and sugar. And another one. Then I pretended to be patient and waited for the pork chops. In Germany, I bought corn flakes and 'Hoopy Honeys,' hoping they would be like Honey Nut Cheerios. They're not, they're like honey nut Froot Loops–big and hard and not as good. That was a disappointment. This week I decided to be more German and buy some Müsli (granola) instead.
I ate Schokomüsli (chocolate granola) at least once a day every day this week. I like oats and I like chocolate and what is better in the morning (or afternoon or at midnight or as dessert after my pasta and broccoli dinner) than some crunchy cereal with little pieces of real chocolate in it? And the fettarme (lowfat) milk is 1.5%. Mmmm. In one week, I've gone through an entire box of corn flakes and almost an entire box of Schokomüsli. I've drunk more milk than I usually drink in a month. I think. It's just so easy, so dependable, and so delicious. Maybe I'll get so used to milk that by the time I come home I'll be a milk drinker.
Maybe not.
In other food news, on Monday I tried strawberry jam for the first time since I was in France—I admit, this was a stupid achievement, seeing as I liked it in France and inexplicably refused to eat it during the intervening three years in America. I also tried Schoko Milchreis (literally milk rice) which was puddingy and tasty, except for that biting into pieces of rice was sort of weird. On Tuesday I ate Maraia's stirfry—broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, and seitan. Okay, so I didn't eat the mushrooms. But the other things!! Seitan was easier to deal with than the zucchini. Zucchini was just mushy. Bleh. In Alsace on Saturday I ate brioche for the first time in three years (mmmm) and also another bread that had thin almonds on top of the thin layer of icing. It was delicious.

Schnappschuss = Snapshot

Tomorrow I have one of my midterms for my 3.5-week, 3-credit class. Everyone finds this crazy, but I don't think it's that intense. Seriously, though, I did this for half the summer, and with Spanish it was all new. But a lot of the vocab for this test is new, and I don't know it that well.

die Bohrmaschine = drill I don't know when I will use this.
die Reiserücktrittsversicherung = trip cancellation insurance I managed to, step by step, guess this word in a Taboo-like game in class.
das Kehrblech = dustpan Haha, 'blech.' That was Emma's and my noise of disapproval and disgust in fifth or sixth grade.
das Partytier = party animal I was at the KGB Sowjetbar on Monday night, but missed out on Shot Night at one of the dorm bars tonight due to studying and exhaustion and not really caring.
der Last-Minute-Trip I almost went to Heidelberg on Sunday when the hike in the Schwarzwald (= Black Forest) was cancelled due to Saturday's rain. Instead, I walked around Freiburg and took this Schnappschuss, among others:

I really would like to talk about my newfound love for cereal—sorry, guys, haven't moved onto Wurst or Döner yet—but I need more time and energy for that. Instead I'll just leave you with this happy gargoyle from the Freiburger Münster.

"You'll need this for when the Prussians come."

I believe it was over Christmas break last year, when Emma was reading a history of sock-making. What she took away from that book was this theory: what is wrong with America's current war-waging is, clearly, that it lacks a unified aesthetic. Back in the day, women gathered and knit socks for the soldiers. Now, we do nothing that brings the wars home; instead, we forget about them. (For elaboration on the topic, visit her blog.)

Regardless of the validity of this theory, I am pro-socks, and I told her she should send me socks while I was in Germany. I think. It was a while ago. Anyway, we somehow got to the point where she was going to send me some and include the note: "You'll need this for when the Prussians come," which is clearly hilarious, because how are socks going to help against a well-trained army? Plus, Prussia is vorbei, as I think we say in Germany—past, over, gone.

We decided it would be a great blog title, but then I got confused. Prussia was in the north, but it did expand a lot, though I don't remember exactly how far. Freiburg is in the south and was part of glorious Österreich (Austria), not Prussia—as far as I know. My knowledge of European history past Napoleon is pretty sketchy. Side note: I plan to remedy that this semester with a class on Germany, from unification to reunification (1871-1990). I'm afraid that skips the whole Prussia-era, though. As for my blog, the information I'm imparting is about Freiburg, not Brandenburg, and if there's a Prussian military revival, well, my espionage work will have been in the wrong state.

Until then, though, just accept that I am preparing YOU—probably safe in the United States, far from German threats—for a Prussian uprising. For that reason, you need to follow my updates closely.

$ ≠ €

Like Mr. Pepys, I resent the euro. But I find them too valuable to eat.

The First Seven Days

My ex-boyfriend used to tell me I needed to do one thing that scared me every day. I tried not to. Now that I'm in Germany, it's hard not to, since I'm supposed to communicate in a language I'm far from perfect at. That's not everything, though.

Most of these things didn't scare me too much, and the first two don't even count. But still!

1. I've had two different delicious pseudo-Italian ice cream desserts since I've arrived, and my first gelato on Thursday night. It was delicious, mint chocolate chip, and only 0,80 €.

2. Yesterday, Maraia and I bought nectarines, but I couldn't try one because they're not ripe yet.

3. On the airplane I unhappily accepted the meal offered to me as "pasta" and ate it, despite the mushrooms that were in it. I ate around them.

4. At the cafeteria, I bought the Schnitzel and Spätzle. And even though I wasn't sure what was going on with the meat (apparently there was a piece of pear on top of it), and there was brown sauce on some of the noodles, I got it. I still don't know what kind of meat I ate—these days, Schnitzel's not always veal—but whatever it was, I ate it.

5. The next day, I cleverly left my wallet in my room and even though I could have borrowed someone's cafeteria card, I took that as a sign I didn't have to face the unfortunate choices that day. Later, I was starving, so Maraia had me eat part of her carrot-cake-flavored Clif bar. I don't even eat carrot cake! It was something to go in my stomach, and I was okay with it when Maraia was handing me pieces and I didn't look at it. Once I saw the orange pieces in it, I couldn't handle it any longer. But don't worry, I won't hold that against carrot cake. Someday, I'll try it. That evening, I turned down zucchini with the excuse that I'd already tried the Clif bar and it was enough for the day. My harasser was surprised that I would eat something that would gross normal people out, but wouldn't try zucchini.

6. One night, I ate a plate of gnocchi with pesto. Maraia: "But pesto is green!" That shouldn't have surprised her too much, considering...

7. ...that in Munich I—at long last—permitted myself to be coerced into trying a cucumber. I even took a few more unenthusiastic bites after the first one, but it seemed like a pointless thing to eat. Like watermelon, only without the sugar.

8. I did my first shot when one of the Tutoren ordered them for our table at a bar Thursday night. Afterward I couldn't open my mouth because I was afraid that would somehow make it burn more. I can't believe how hot my esophagus felt. I don't know what it was, but I was told it's "better than Jägermeister". It seemed like it was better than whiskey, but maybe that's because it was over more quickly. Plus, burning is preferable to the way whiskey tastes.

9. On Monday, September 1, 2008, my first day in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, I allowed PIZZA to cross my lips, for the first time in fifteen years. Complete with tomato sauce. It was the only option at the welcome reception, but it wasn't even that I was that hungry. There have been plenty of situations where I was more desperate. But now I'm trying to finally try my hardest.

Endlich = Finally

I'm in Freiburg. My room's nice, not that I have any time to spend there, or an internet connection (hopefully this will be remedied tomorrow). This whole week is just getting things set up: banks, cell phones, rent payments, residence permits...the list goes on.

I'm hoping to swim before the summer's totally gone, at a nearby lake. Tonight I went with some friends to the Freiburger Münster (the cathedral) to watch the water spew out of the gargoyles' mouths. Unfortunately, the downpour had calmed by the time we got there and they just looked like they were drooling. Tomorrow, I think our 'Tutoren' and 'Mentoren' (the students who lead our little groups around and help us do all these important things) are taking us on a Kneipetour (Kneipe = bar), because Thursday is the best night for students. Tuesdays are second-best.

Sunday we go to Basel, Switzerland, because the fine art museum is free the first Sunday of the month. Monday, intensive German classes start.

I don't know what I think yet. I'm content. But I'm trying not to think ahead too much—it would be too daunting. At least for now, I'm taking it day by day.

Unabhängigkeit* = Independence

It's starting to feel real.

The first time I think it really hit me that I would be gone for almost twelve months was at the beginning of June, when I said goodbye to Maraia's mom and we realized we probably wouldn't see each other again before Maraia and I returned from Germany.

Tonight I said goodbye to my three best friends from high school (and middle school and elementary school). They're the friends I never worried about leaving, because I know exactly who I am to them and that nothing can ever change that. But in the end, that makes it harder, because they are part of me and I am part of them. I'm used to only seeing Rachel every few months or so, because she goes to school out of state and spends summers pursuing her dreams in far-off places. The rest of us stuck close in college—roommate-close, even. The longest I've ever gone without Ali and Emma since we became friends is three and four weeks, and that was over two years ago. The farthest apart Emma and I have lived in the past nine years is the distance between South and East Quad.

For me, college was not as much about independence as I thought it would be. I took strange classes and made new friends, but not the way you do if you go to a college where you don't know anyone. A few months into freshman year, I started to realize that I felt cheated. I hadn't really taken any chances, coming here. Instead, I wanted a life of my own. Not me and Ali sitting in our room, Ali pining for her boyfriend or audiochatting with him, me wanting nothing and everything. Waiting every day for Emma to get there for dinner, because if we didn't wait for her there would be hell to pay. Sophomore year was better, more college-y, but it had its own problems.

I want to take a chance and get to know other people. See how I define myself without the people who know me best. Explore somewhere new on my own and make it into my home. Not our home, but my home. Sometimes I get sick of thinking in first person plural.

A year abroad is a less permanent way of getting a second chance. It's too late for the small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, and I like where I've ended up despite the things I would like to have done differently. But now I'm going somewhere where I can be me, alone, with strangers, by myself, being myself, but in another language, and with some friends and acquaintances from school.

*Edit: Maybe 'Selbstständigkeit' would be more accurate here. Less political, more personal?

keine Zeit! = No Time!

Today is the 20th of August. I leave the 30th. It's possible to get a lot done in ten days, but it's also so possible to do nothing. (Maybe that's true of any time interval, though.) My to-do list has been shrinking, but today my countdown changed from the format x weeks, x days to plain old days and I'm about to start panicking.

It's time to do my laundry and finish things, but all I want to do is to try to complete the movie and book lists I made for this summer and hang out with my friends. They, too, have realized how much we need to move on to the next phase of the year, so I think we're all starting to feel suspended, stuck in limbo for less than two weeks.

I can't freeze, though. I should probably never freeze, but right now I can't. I have too much to do. A huge part of me just wants the ten days to be over. Let's be at the airport. I will have packed just enough things—no more, no less. (This is a fantasy, I can dream.) We didn't get there late, didn't hit terrible traffic like when I was flying to Paris and we had to take Fort St...although that actually worked out perfectly. I hug my parents and Emma goodbye. My brother will already be gone, starting his first year in East Quad. My mom will start crying, probably, unless she holds it in until I can't see her, but that's unlikely this time. Maybe I'll cry too, but maybe not.

I'll be thinking about John Mayer's song "Wheel," so maybe I will cry. Except that we won't be saying last goodbyes, so the airport part of the song is kind of irrelevant. And it's an optimistic song. If you never stop when you wave goodbye you just might find if you give it time you will wave hello again, you're gonna be waving hello again.

Then I'll go through security and wait forever and get on the plane and be GONE! But I should stop fast-forwarding and do what I have to do right now.

Eine lange Zeit = A Long Time

Eleven and a half months.

I could have done a semester in Tübingen, at least in theory. That would have been about seven months. But I always want the best. I really don't like to do things half-assed, although I do, all the time. I want everything to be so thought-out and perfect, which is a huge task, so I freeze until the deadline sneaks up and I'm forced to do as good a job as I can with no time. In terms of my academic life, at least, my last-minute hard—or sometimes not-so-hard—work has been sufficient.

When presented with study abroad options, of course I went for the academic year. It's an opportunity to live longer in Europe—and it may be the only time I do. It doubles the time to get comfortable in a different language and a different culture. The danger is that when I finally get hit with the enormity of what I've gotten myself into, I'll freeze.

When I was in high school, I went to France for two weeks and spent five days with a family. The parents didn't speak a word of English and the daughter's English might as well have been, I don't know, Dutch. I understood their French well, but I felt like I couldn't express myself at all. Needless to say, I was miserable. I decided I would never, ever live with a host family ever again. Thankfully, with the Freiburg program, I've avoided that option entirely. But the problem wasn't the family. Okay, it was a bit. They were boring. Sightseeing from the backseat of a car and watching strangers entertain guests is boring.

The real problem, my French teacher told us, was that we only had five days. The first few days, you're sort of stunned, and can't even access all the words you actually know, let alone speak smoothly. She told us that six months was how long it took merely to "break in" to a culture. (I wonder where this information came from. I've held onto this fact for three years without ever looking into it.) Six months in, you're probably homesick and don't feel like you fit in. It's not until the second semester that you really start to feel like you're a part of things.

There was no way I was going to plan to leave right when I was getting comfortable. Of course, knowing how slowly I adjust, that will be eleven months in, but here's to quitting the cycle of perfectionism, fear, procrastination, and guilt! My German won't be perfect at first, but somehow, somehow, I will have to plow on.

Just A Glimmer In My Eye

In fall of 2006, as I was just a freshman not even trying to pretend to know what I was doing, I started to think about studying abroad in Germany. At the time, I was studying French poetry, but the programs in Paris weren't what I wanted and if I couldn't have Paris, I didn't want France. Switzerland was an option, but what looked really intriguing was Tübingen and Freiburg. They only required two years of German and involved starting something entirely new, something I would have a chance at doing right from the very beginning. I was discouraged because my French skills weren't at the top like they had been in high school, and didn't seem to be improving.

So at the back of my mind that first semester was the growing idea of starting German, the language of my ancestors (although my Irish heritage beats the German 5-1). When I was younger, though, all I knew was that my last name was German, my aunt and cousins lived in Germany, my dad cooked us spätzle sometimes and said schlaf gut to me when he turned off my light and closed my door. I was German and someday I would speak the language and visit everyone I knew there.

Improving my French would have made sense. But after six years, I was sick of it, and when I had a gaping hole in my schedule for my first winter semester, I signed up for Intensiv Deutsch Eins (and removed Gen Chem from my schedule). I didn't plan on a German major then (just like I didn't plan on completely ruling out biology), but I did know that sometime in the next few years, I would live in Deutschland.

At the moment:

I can't
I can't
I can't stand waiting
I can't
I can't
I can't stand waiting!

(to the tune of "I Can't Stand Losing You" by the Police
over and over and over in my head)

P.S. What a hilarious song.

P.P.S. By tune I meant rhythm—there's not much of a tune.

Flugzeug = Airplane

When I was younger, we went to the airport to pick up or drop off my aunts when they came to visit. They came from New York, from California, and from Germany. As I got older, every time we drove past I would start listing places I wanted to go. To California a second time, to New York City, to Nova Scotia, to Europe. The billboard advertising unbelievably cheap flights with Spirit Airlines would contribute to fantasies where my friends and I went on spur-of-the-moment trips.

As time went on, making an escape became more desirable: I would buy a one-way ticket and never come home. But every time I was at the airport, it was to drop off or pick up someone else. After I'd bought my ticket for the trip to Munich in February, every time I passed the airport, it was with the satisfaction that next time, I would finally be the one leaving.

I have another ticket to Munich for August, but no return date set. Now, every time I go past the airport I get nervous. When I drive between Ann Arbor and Grosse Pointe by myself, I try to think of which landmark comes next to make the drive feel faster. After I pass Ypsilanti and the Willow Run Airport exit, the next one is the Detroit Metro Airport, which is a relatively long stretch of no landmarks, a relatively long time spent anticipating the airport. Before you can actually see it, you can see planes coming in or flying out. Last Friday one flew right over my car and its shadow covered the expressway for a few seconds, which was cool.

The last few months, airplanes have equaled anxiety for me. I've forgotten that they're actually exciting. You walk through that tunnel from the terminal to the cabin, find your seat, and sit for a really long time. When you get out, somehow you're in a completely different place. Plus you're FLYING. When my family went to California we flew over the Grand Canyon, which is the closest I've been to it so far. Our seats weren't on the right side of the plane, but we went to the other side to look out at it and it was breathtaking, even at such a distance. As we descended into Las Vegas, I was fascinated by the number of pools and golf courses, surrounded by desert.

On the way to Munich, I had a window seat. When it was dark and boring but I wasn't tired enough to sleep yet, I looked out the window at the twinkly lights from cities and just happened to be watching at the perfect time. I saw the way the city lights were clustering along a curve, how past that line there was suddenly total darkness, and I wondered if we were starting the trip across the Atlantic.

When I finally got the map screen to show up, I saw that we had just crossed over New Brunswick to the ocean. I was delighted that I'd deciphered it correctly and tried to take pictures out the window so I could show everyone I knew. They were too blurry to show the shoreline in the dark, but just remembering it now makes me excited about airplanes all over again—even if spending ten hours in one cramped seat is a pain in the ass (ha ha ha).

Was mache ich? = What am I doing?

I am studying in Freiburg, Germany for an entire academic year. In the German system, that stretches about ten months, but the foreign students come early for intensive German classes, bringing it to a total of eleven and a half months abroad. Lately, all I can think about is the vastness of that number and how impossible it is to comprehend. You can say that it's only a year, but then again—it's a YEAR.

When I occasionally am able to push the anxiety about time to the back of my mind, I still worry about the expenses, the loans I'm going be taking and the terrible exchange rate and the cost of travel. When I think about next year, it's money money money and time time time and stress stress stress. I think my friends will stop writing me letters and replace me, or that when I come back they won't like who I've become, if these eleven and a half months are as important as I think they will be.

Yesterday I was at my great aunt's 97th birthday party (I was disappointed; my mom had told me it was her 98th and I'd told all my friends and then I was wrong!). I told my relatives about my plans and everyone just talked about what a great opportunity it was for me, how lucky I was and how far I was going to go and just WHAT AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE A YEAR IN EUROPE WILL BE.

I mentioned I was sort of terrified, and everyone told me not to be. I'll see so much, learn so much, make so many friends. My cousin is convinced that within a few months I'll be fluent.

The thing is, I haven't even thought about language problems and total immersion being scary and the possibility of not making good friends in Germany. I'm too caught up in the people (and cats) who will still be in America, forgetting me more and more each day. I guess I need to forget about them forgetting about me, because it probably won't happen. Then, I need to start focusing on GERMANY. FREIBURG. Not gallivanting across the totality of Europe in nine weeks, not heading down to Africa, and not how I'm going to miss Christmas in the Krankenhaus. I need to remember that I decided to go to Germany for a year for good reasons.

Next up...perhaps I will expand on those reasons. Perhaps not.

This is a filler post that doens't really exist!

I will be in Germany for twelve months. It will be a long time. I will obviously think about it and therefore I will write about it. Manchmal werde ich auf Deutsch schreiben, weil ich deutsche Freunde haben werde und ich immer Deutsch sprechen muss. Aber vielleicht wäre es besser, wenn die neue Freunde mein Blog nicht lesen, weil ich wahrscheinlich frustriert mit ihnen werden werde.

But anyway, you will never read this, crazy world, because I am just trying to get a sense of what my blog LOOKS like because GOD FORBID anyone see it before it is READY.