This evening I attended a performance of the Wright State University Chorus. Well, actually I attended the first half, leaving at intermission not because they weren't good but because I had an incredibly long day and was tired.
The reason I went to the concert in the first place is because my EDS333 professor, Dr. Patricia Renick, offered us extra credit to attend. Dr. Renick told us in class about how she'd never been able to sing, or so she'd thought until she joined the University Chorus and started learning. As the conductor of the chorus, Dr. James Tipps, pointed out tonight, the majority of the members of the University Chorus are not music majors, and some are not students (the chorus is open to members of the Dayton community as well).
However getting us to see her sing was not Dr. Renick's primary objective in encouraging us to see the concert. Instead she wanted us to notice which people with disabilities participated in the chorus, how they were included, what accommodations, if any, were made for them, and how it affected our enjoyment of the performance. The point of all that is that the University Chorus is an example of how students with special needs can be mainstreamed, not only for their benefit but to the benefit of all. I noticed two chorus members who use wheelchairs (in addition to Dr. In-Hong Cha, director of orchestras at Wright State, who uses a very sporty racing-style wheelchair), two members who use a cane or crutches, and one blind member. There may have been members who have less obvious disabilities, perhaps not orthopedic or sensory (presumably there are no deaf members).
The performance was very enjoyable. There was neither an announcement in the theater nor a notice in the program about recording being impermissible, so I went ahead and used my iPaq to record part of the performance. The first piece they did was "Psalm 117" by Georg Philipp Telemann, and I especially liked the third movement, "Alleluia," which Dr. Renick had mentioned in class as one she was proud no longer to get lost in. The second was a "South African Suite," arranged by Henry Lock, and its second part, "Siyahamba" or "We Are Marching in the Light of God," is a song we've sung at church. The last piece in the first half was a "Memorial Anthem" written by Robert H. Taylor, who was in the audience, for his father.
For the last piece the chorus had to step into the audience as the crew rearranged the stage to make room for the members of the University/Community Orchestra. The performance was held in the Concert Hall in the Creative Arts Center, and in the hall is a "1977 28-rank, two-manual Cassavant pipe organ" (according to this page about Wright State's keyboard studies program). The console to play the organ was wheeled on stage, connected to the organ's mechanics by a long digital umbilical cord. Not quite as elegant as seeing the NCR Mighty Wurlitzer rising from and descending into the orchestra pit at the Victoria Theatre downtown before summer films, but interesting nonetheless.
Today was the third annual Dayton Pride march and rally, complete with sunny weather, shirtless guys, drag queens, the Dayton Gay Men's Chorus and Mayor McLin. I took lots of pictures, which you can see in the galleries.
I know I said that March's dinner was the last COM101 TA dinner I'd ever attend, but actually tonight's was the last one. I was not a COM101 TA this quarter, but Dr. Pruett graciously invited me to attend. It was at his country club, Sycamore Creek, again.
This was his last COM101 TA dinner too because he's retiring after summer quarter, and summer quarters are the only time he doesn't use TAs but instead listens to and grades all the speeches himself. (That's how we met; I took COM101 in the summer of 2001.)
Here's some interesting gossip from tonight's dinner: apparently the dean has decided that the Communication department at Wright State will no longer use undergraduate TAs after next year. The TAs for next year are already hired, but after that Wright State's program will be like every other college in the state and use graduate TAs. Dr. Pruett says he's never had problems using undergraduate TAs, but I have to admit feeling fairly unprepared to teach COM101 when I started, and I was an adult who'd had experience working and thus doing some presentations, not a young freshman or sophomore who'd just taken COM101. Oh, well, nothing stays the same.
Have you heard of these facebook web sites that are apparently all the rage? Or perhaps have been all the rage for a while but have just made it to the Midwest? Well now Wright State has its own facebook. I got an e-mail about it on my Wright State account, and, wanting to goof off for a bit, I went ahead and set up an account. Well the true point of these places is to connect to as many friends as possible. The winner has the largest network. This being a new site, I didn't think I'd know anyone, but sure enough with less than 50 users so far I actually did know one person. So I clicked the correct link to connect to her and got an automated message saying she'd be notified and could then confirm that I was a friend.
Now this wasn't someone I see a lot of, not a close friend, but I figured enough of a friend to count as a friend on this site. And as coincidence would have it, I happened to have dinner with her this week. (Scroll down to figure out when.) I mentioned to her that I happened to see her pic online, and she laughed and said yeah, she got the e-mail. Well, now here it is a couple days later, and I still have no friends on the site, but if you bring up her profile, she does have friends. Yep, that means that no, she doesn't consider me a friend.
I'm not heart-broken, but I do think it's funny. If you bring up her profile, you see that she's involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, one of her hobbies is Jesus and she considers herself politically conservative. Do you suppose that she's concerned about people jumping from her profile to mine and seeing that one of my hobbies is gay rights and that I'm a liberal? LOL, who knows? I won't mention her name, but it'll be funny if she ever sees this. Love your neighbors and all that.
Today was the Pride Dinner in Dayton. I forget how many there have been, at least 10 years, probably more. This year's was special for two reasons, the first being that it was the first at which the Dayton Gay Mens Chorus, of which I am a member, performed, and the second reason being that it was the first held in the Winter Garden of the Schuster Center, a much more spectacular venue than the Convention Center. I didn't get to see all the drag queens since the Chorus held a final rehearsal during the parts of the show before us, but Dr. Bob was gracious enough to take pictures with my camera, so now you have visual proof that I am in fact part of the chorus.
|Starting with this entry, I'll be posting about my trip to Germany. Because I don't have reliable Internet access, I'm writing these entries on my laptop as I have time and then will post them when I can. I'm going to post them on the days they are about, not on the days I actually get connected.
I've traveled countless times before, on business and for pleasure and even once to Europe, although that wasn't quite the same as this trip. I don't remember the first business trip I took, so I can only assume that it wasn't very traumatic. Of course, while there are downsides to business travel there are upsides as well, such as expense accounts that cover phone calls from the plane, luxury hotels, drinks before, during and after meetings, etc.
Today in Detroit I had a brief layover, and so I pulled out my iPaq 3955 and stuck my SanDisk SD WiFi card in it to see if there was WiFi in the terminal. There was, but the provider wanted $7 for 24 hours of access. Now, if I were a businessman on an expense account, I might not think twice about that, but I'm a college student, albeit a privileged one, and so I did think twice. If they had wanted $1 for an hour's access, I probably would have gone for it. I guess they count on there being many more business people than students flying.
Technology does eventually makes its way down to the masses, however. The plane to Amsterdam featured individual seatback entertainment, an LCD screen with a remote control in the armrest, allowing each traveler to choose among channels offering movies, news, TV shows, music and flight information. Not quite bug-free though. When I first tried to access mine, it crashed, displaying a Linux boot screen. After it was up again, I tried one of the neatest features, a map showing the plane's position and various flight statistics; it froze when I tried to use the zoom feature on the map. However, two other pretty nifty features did work. One was a jukebox allowing you to select songs from many types of music, and another was a pretty good selection of movies which you could pause, rewind and fast forward. Some had soundtracks in multiple languages. I watched part of House of Sand and Fog in German, making me realize how limited my realtime German skills are. Of course improving them is what this trip is all about.
Although the plane landed in Amsterdam at about 6AM, I hadn't slept any because to me that was just midnight. Around 11PM EDT or 5AM in Amsterdam (and Germany, the same time zone) the flight attendants served a light breakfast, I suppose to trick our bodies into accepting it was morning, something mine wasn't inclined to do, despite seeing the daylight.
The Dutch immigration officials seemed very laid back compared to American ones. The guy who stamped my passport didn't even ask me anything. Getting through customs last December on St. Croix was much more of a hassle, and that was for an American citizen traveling from one American territory to another.
My layover in Amsterdam was two and a half hours, and while I was too jittery to sleep, I didn't feel like hassling trying to go the city and back. Instead I spent my first Euros, 1,75 € for a 75cl bottle of Evian, marked in both Dutch and French, I suppose for both Belgium and the Netherlands. Sitting at the gate for Berlin wasn't boring though. I eavesdropped as best I could on some German businessmen, and I watched a cute American kid who sat across from me and flexed his arms lifting his backpack up and down with his wrists.
The flight to Berlin was crowded but I was so tired I did manage to sleep a bit. At Tegel I was surprised to find that the baggage claim for my gate and its neighboring gate was right next to where we disembarked, very convenient. I thought about hassling with my luggage on a bus and the U-Bahn but splurged on a taxi (15,90 € instead of 2 €). The taxi drove past Kaiserdamm 82, however, and had to do a U-turn. I hadn't realized until then that addresses in Germany work differently than in America. Kaiserdamm 81 and 82 are next door to each other, not across the street from one another.
It was just as well that I had used a cab because I would have been pissed to have walked from the U-Bahn stop to Hotel Pension Gribnitz, the offices for which are on the 4th floor (5th floor American-style; Europeans don't count the ground floor), only to find that our group was staying in apartments around the corner from the U-Bahn. The man who answered the intercom, even though I'd said I was with the Lüneburg USAC group, had me come all the way upstairs with my luggage, then told me where we were staying and led the way back downstairs without even offering to carry a bag. I'd been warned not to have more luggage than I could manage on my own, but this was the first sign of the different expectations Germans and Americans have for customer service.
Although we are to have private rooms in Lüneburg, in Berlin we were set up four people to a room, two keys per room. Not having flown on the group flight, I was the first to arrive. I took a shower and soon afterwards was surprised by people arriving, people who turned out to be June session students who were going on the Berlin tour. They were tired from having gotten up early to travel from Lüneburg but were not jet-lagged so they went off to explore, and I took a 4-hour nap before dinner.
Our Leiterin while in Berlin was Iris (pronounced auf deutsch like "ear-rhys") Heine, who is one of the German as a foreign language professors at Lüneburg. She's 36 and seems to deal pretty well with a bunch of college students, some of whom are used to Germany and want to head off in a million directions and others of whom don't have any idea what is going on. This evening, we went to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant down the street from the apartments. Our budget is 20 € per person for each meal, excluding alcohol which we must buy on our own, and that pays for quite a lot of food.
After dinner we took the U-Bahn and a double-decker bus to the Reichstag. Also part of our pre-paid tour package is a daily public transportation ticket, which costs around 5 € and is good for U-Bahn, S-Bahn and busses until 3AM the day after it's validated. Going to the Reichstag in the evening was good because it wasn't crowded, atlhough there were a fair number of people there. The security to enter the building was high, with X-ray machines and a series of double glass doors controlled by the guards. We were allowed only on the roof terrace, the interior of the dome there being closed for renovations. Up there we did what all the people there, German and otherwise, did, which is to take tons of photos.
Afterwards I headed out with a group of girls who were going to the Irish Pub to meet Donovan, one of my roommates, who'd already seen the Reichstag and had gone there to watch the England vs. Slovakia football game (part of the European football championships, apparently held every four years). I'd surrendered my room key earlier, since I was napping and others were exploring, and I wanted to be sure to be able to get back in easily, and also I still had enough energy to do some more exploring. We walked, going through the Brandenburg Gate, along the Unter des Lindens and down Friedrichstrasse for a bit, until we realized we were lost, waited while one of the girls who had a German cell phone called for directions, and finally took the U-Bahn and S-Bahn til we got to the right place, arriving in time to see the English score two goals and to get our pictures taken with a happy and drunken Englishman, after which the group decided to leave the Irish Pub and walk/U-Bahn some more back to an outdoor bar on Friederichstrasse which had a big screen TV. There I had some German beer that wasn't half bad, perhaps because it was laced with some kind of syrup.
|Today we woke up early enough to meet at the hostel's offices in order to eat breakfast at 7:45, crowded and European style but not bad. I had bread with cheese and a kind of bacon, bread with Nutella (a chocolate/hazelnut spread Europeans love that I last had in Belgium a few years ago), a hard boiled egg, and some strawberry yogurt mixed with Muselix. That may seem like a lot, but I burned those calories away on the walking tour of Berlin we went on next.
Our guide was not Iris but a English-speaking man who works for a company offering walking tours of Berlin and nearby sites. He was pretty cute, and I thought at first he was British, but he's actually German. Our tour was mainly in former East Berlin and included many sites of former Imperial buildings that either had been torn down by the Communists after World War II, had been or were in the process of being renovated since German reunification, or had been replicated or were being considered for replication. For example, the former Imperial palace had been exploded by the East Germans in the 50s, but now people want to rebuild it, although the government doesn't have enough money yet to do so. Another example is Museum Island in the Spree river, on which five museums had been donated to the German people by the Imperial royal family, heavily damaged during the war, left to languish for decades and now are being renovated. Among other things we also got to see the Brandenburg Gate (but were shooed off by police in preparation for a state visit by the Governor General of New Zealand), a short remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, and Checkpoint Charlie. Our guide told us of how as a college student in Berlin in 1989 he was part of the crowds of West Berliners to go out and greet the East Berliners who'd finally gained the right to travel to the West.
After the tour we lunched at Café Adler, by Checkpoint Charlie, and then went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which documents the story of the Wall and the many people who escaped over it or were killed trying. Afterwards, people split off to do different things. One girl and I went to Potsdamer Platz, to a Dunkin Donuts that had Internet access for 1 € per hour. I'd transferred pictures to a CD and to a CompactFlash card, hoping to upload from one or the other to my site, but we had access only to monitor, keyboard (German! in a different enough layout to be frustrating) and mouse, so I could only check my e-mail and send a few brief messages home. Later I figured out that the huge Sony complex in which we were in had free WiFi access.
This evening we all went to the Berliner Philharmonie, in a building near Potsdamer Platz which I (and others) thought was quite ugly outside but beautiful inside. The Großer Saal (bigger hall) in which the Philharmonie performed (and apparently also the Kammermusiksaal in which another performance that same night occurred) are unusual in that they have seating on all sides of the orchestra, including behind. Before the concert Kathryn, one of our June session students and a music major, gave us a small presentation about the two pieces to be performed, Beethoven's piano concerto number 5 and Schumann's symphony number 3. Tonight's performance was a Benefizkonzert des Bundespräsidenten, and the president of the Federal Republic of Germany was in fact present, giving a short speech and getting a standing ovation. In Ohio standing ovations are fairly common with Daytonians standing up for any and everyone. Apparently not so in Germany, since after the Beethoven, the Germans clapped long enough to recall pianist Radu Lupu back to the stage five (yes 5!) times but did not stand for him. Berliners, also unlike Daytonians, know not to clap between movements of a piece, something Kathryn specifically instructed us about during her presentation.
This morning's main event was a tour of the Jewish Museum, which of course does tell about the Holocaust but is really about more than that, documenting a thousand years of Jewish history in Germany. Jews faced discrimination since the time of the Roman empire, in which they were often forced to be the tax collectors, responsible themselves for paying any taxes others failed to pay. Later Jewish Germans had to pay separate additional taxes for the right to continue living in the towns in which they'd always lived. After unification the German emperor forced Jewish newlyweds to buy unpopular ugly China from his porcelain company. Finally in the Weimar Republic Jewish Germans received full equal rights, only to face the horrors of the Nazis and the Holocaust lass than twenty years later. Two parts of the museum, the Garden of Exile and the Holocaust Tower, were designed by its architect Daniel Libeskind offer visitors a glimpse of what was felt by those who escaped the Holocaust and by those who perished in it.
The weather in Berlin has been generally cooler than in Ohio this time of year but shares the feature of a lot of rain at unexpected times. Today being a rainy day, instead of proceeding directly to the Synagogue as planned, the group first went to an Asian/Indian restaurant, hoping the rain would subside. Meals in Germany take a long time, in part I suppose because Germans don't like to rush during meals and in part because the wait staff has no incentive to provide efficient service since tips are built into the cost of the meals. Since it was after 3 when we got close to being done with lunch and I didn't care to go to the afternoon's optional trip to the Soviet War Memorial, I ventured out on my own, wanting to go to the Schwulesmuseum (the gay museum). (Others in the group also went out on their own, to limited success; some tried to get into the Pergamon, which has fantastic exhibitions of Greek and Roman antiquities, only to be turned away because of the lines.)
Although it too gets a mention in Frommer's guide to Germany, the Schwulesmuseum doesn't even get close to the scale of the Jewish Museum. Instead of its own building by a famous architect, the Schwulesmuseum has a few sets of unconnected rooms downstairs and upstairs off a back courtyard on Merhingdamm in a poorer part of Berlin known as Kreuzberg. Downtstairs the museum did have an extensive exhibit on the French gay philosopher Michel Foucault, and upstairs some interesting works by gay artists were displayed, but the museum does not yet have the history of homosexuality mentioned by Frommer's. The friendly woman at the museum did explain to me that they plan an expansion by next June to include that history.
Having some time to spare, I went to Berlin's gay district, Nollendorfplatz, where I found a big gay bookstore, Bruno's, at which I bought some gay German magazines and some gay German books. I also found a nice bar/café with free WiFi, so I sat and enjoyed a große Coke while I uploaded my Pride Dinner pictures (it's hard to keep a blog updated with such limited Internet access).
As I mentioned earlier, football is huge in Europe, especially tonight because the Germans were to play the Czechs. Some of us had agreed to meet at the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz where people could watch the game for free on a huge TV screen. I got there at the agreed time, 6:30, and found a huge line stretched along the building. No sign of the others, so I got in line alone. Some of the others finally found me, we waited in line a bit and then decided to do what many Germans were doing, which was to leave the line, move to the front and try to push our way in. That wasn't very successful, and we were afraid it was going to start raining, so we left Potsdamer Platz and went back to the sidewalk bar on Friedrichstrasse where we'd been Monday, arriving just in time to get first row seats and missing by seconds a downpour. The service wasn't terrific, and I ended up with a Berliner Pilsner that confirms I don't really like beer instead of the sweet stuff I'd had before, but by blurting out that I also wanted a schnitzel I also got dinner half an hour before the others in the group who stupidly insisted on getting menus. We had a good time though, meeting some German businessmen hosting a couple colleagues from their English office. Everyone was happy when the Germans scored a goal, and then I couldn't keep from laughing every time afterwards the Germans had near misses, bouncing the ball off the side or top of the net. The Czechs ended up beating the Germans 2-1, ending German hopes for the title.
Today was our last day in Berlin, and so we had to have all our luggage packed, ready to store in one room while we went on our final outing, to the Schloss Charlottenburg. I also left my backpack in the room since it was rather full, inadvertantly leaving with only a 64MB CompactFlash card in my camera, which got full fairly quickly as I hadn't downloaded pictures yesterday to my computer. I spent some time at various points this morning reviewing and deleting some pictures to make room, but later, once we were finally in Lüneburg, I found no pictures at all on this card, something that's happened before when I've tried to delete pictures using the camera. Part of it is karma because I illicitly took some pictures at the Schloss despite strict rules against doing so.
The Schloss was built as the residence of the Electress Sophia Charlotte, whose husband Freidrich I after her death was crowned first king in Prussia. He and later their grandson greatly expanded the palace, trying to compete with the emperor in Vienna and with the kings of France. The palace was heavily damaged during World War II, but unlike its counterpart in former East Berlin was saved from a push to demolish it, instead undergoing renovations that continue to this day. The Berlin state lottery contributes part of its earnings to cultural organizations including the foundation restoring the Schloss. The foundation spends money buying on the art market pieces formerly belonging to or similar to those owned by the royal family, for example a few years ago purchasing for $1.5 million a silver mirror that had made its way to America.
After the palace tour, we had a little time to walk in the huge park along the Spree River behind the palace, and then we went to lunch at another Italian restaurant. Then it was off to collect our bags and take the U-Bahn to the Zoologisher Garten station, where we caught an ICE train to Hannover, riding first class because of some scheduling/overbooking problem. First class seats have individual seat-back entertainment too, similar to that on Northwest, but with fewer selections and technological gizmos. In Hannover we switched to a local train headed for Hamburg, back down to second class, which is a bit more crowded and has no footrests or TVs.
In Lüneburg our group finally broke up, each of us being met by buddies who brought us to our living quarters. I have a room in a Wohngemeinshaft (WG), which is a shared student apartment. My room's on the first floor, and my building's a block from the edge of campus, so I'm pretty lucky. Some of the other students are farther from campus or have fourth floor attic rooms. My WG has four women (five normally, but I'm staying in one woman's room while she travels this summer) and one man. Weibke, one of the women, was there to show me around and explain the rules. The first and most important rules had to do with recycling; garbage is sorted not just into trash and recyclables, as is sometimes done in America, but into five different groups! Other rules are that roommates share in cleaning common areas of the apartment, rotating by week, and in washing dishes, each taking a turn in washing all the dishes.
It was only about 9PM when I was left to my own devices. I had snacks and water in my backpack, a good thing because stores in Lüneburg close by 8 at the latest (I found out later that some other students either didn't eat til the next day or were offered leftover moldy bread; one guy did have a roommate who cooked for him). I did venture out to explore a little, but I came home fairly quickly, feeling cold since I didn't have a jacket. I'd expected summer, but right now in Lüneburg it's more like late fall in Ohio, cold, gray and rainy.
|Today was orientation day for the July session students. I knew that but hadn't gotten the exact time or place, expecting my buddy to tell me or that it would be in my information packet. However, it wasn't, and Wiebke had no idea about it either. She left a message with someone last night but apparently never heard from them. I got myself up by 8AM, got ready and headed over to campus before 9. I found the building in which the USAC office is and even used my German to ask a woman in the building if she could tell me where the orientation is, but she couldn't. I sat around for a bit, then went exploring some more, found the student union, bought a Coke, looked at bulletin boards, picked up some local and campus newspapers, went back to the USAC office, waited some more and felt generally frustrated. By 9:40 I was leaving the building, not quite sure where I was headed, when Eva Vosshagen, the program director, was walking up, a bit surprised to see me. Orientation was at 10 in building 16. We went back up to her office, and she gave me the orientation materials to look over while she checked e-mail. She was very friendly and told me I should call her "du" and not "Sie" (my roommates had also asked me to use the informal "du").
The orientation meeting itself wasn't particularly interesting, nothing earth shattering but just a chance to get to know Eva, to get our class schedules and to get our health cards and our university IDs, which get us free public transportation in Lüneburg. Mary, a June/July student who is working in the USAC office at the university, gave us a campus tour. It was rainy and cold, so I didn't take any pictures. We ate lunch at the Mensa (cafeteria). I got a salad and some meatballs with rice for a few Euro. The university has a decent library, which we may use but not borrow books from since it takes too long to get a library card. The university also has two computer labs, one Windows and one Mac, that are open weekdays until 10pm, Saturdays until 2pm and not at all on Sundays (a far cry from the plentiful and 24 hour labs at Wright State where most students also have computers and net access in their rooms or homes). On campus is a bookstore, that unlike American college bookstores sells only books, no school jackets or sweatshirts and no school supplies, which are sold in a separate store above the Mensa. The campus also has a bank with ATM (we checked, and our cards do work here, thankfully) and a small Aldi's.
We also took the bus downtown (it's only a 10 minute walk, but we were lazy). Downtown Lüneburg is full of shops and restaurants along pedestrian-only cobblestone streets. Mary went on to the train station to go to Bremen to visit a friend for the weekend, and the rest of us headed to Lüneburg's premier department store, Karstock. I bought a nice jacket with pockets and a hood onsale for 30 €, and another student got a cell phone for 50 € (including 15 €'s worth of minutes). I might get a cell phone too if I can find a somewhat better deal. With a cell phone in Europe you can receive calls for free without counting against your minutes, and you can send SMS (text) messages to each other more cheaply than talking. It's a good way to stay connected considering we don't have phones in our rooms. (Some of the WG's do have shared phones but the Germans can be somewhat sticky about letting foreigners use them as the costs are high and some foreign students have left without paying their share sometimes.)
We split up and went our separate ways. I walked around downtown for a bit more, buying one of the books I'll need for my literature class, and then took the bus back home to drop stuff off at my room and to transfer more pictures to a CD and a CompactFlash card before heading to the campus to do some stuff on the Internet. I had a little trouble finding the computer lab again, and a nice German professor, seeing that I was lost, tried to help, but to him "lab" means a place where a professor is giving a lecture, not a room in which students use computers on their own. Finally we got that misunderstanding cleared up. The Windows room was busy but had one computer left, but the reason it was left may have been that its Internet access kept disappearing after about 5 minutes. I rebooted it once and got access back but after the second time I gave up. I was about to leave with I saw the empty room next door full of unused iMacs (the original versions). However special characters such as forward slashes, at signs, and single quotation marks are not marked on German Mac keyboards as they are on German Windows keyboards and furthermore sometimes turn out to be in different places. Luckily I have some experiences with Macs so I could open the Tastatur (keyboard) control panel to figure out what was were. I checked and answered a few e-mails, and I uploaded some pictures, but I didn't have time or the energy to set up blog pages. An interesting man did venture into the Mac room before I left, perhaps because the Windows room was full and he saw me working. He asked if I could help him, and I said that I'd try but that my German wasn't very good, whereupon he switched to English. He's a native German who works in Texas but had returned to Lüneburg for his daughter's graduation. He'd never used a Mac before, but I was able to get him going in Internet Explorer. I can only assume he was used to German keyboards because he didn't need any more help.
My last stop was to the campus Aldi's, which closed in an hour at 8. I'd been clever enough to pack two empty plastic Kroger bags, which I'd brought with me this afternoon. I got inside the Aldi's, only to discover that carts were outside. However, they had a one-way turnstyle so I couldn't get back outside without going all the way around. I ducked under the bar for carts, drawing some stares, but I'm a stupid American so I didn't mind. I found the carts outside, each of which was chained up to the next, each locked with a device requiring 1 € deposit to unlock it. Luckily I had a single 1 € piece; otherwise I'd have been out of luck. I went back inside with my cart and selected various necessities, including cheese, milk, cereal, generic Nutella, jam, cookies, white chocolate, Goldbären (German gummi bears), spaghetti and sauce. I got in line, put my stuff on the belt, had my bags out, and then had to race to get everything bagged as the checker scanned it. She won and pushed the rest of my stuff into my cart. I paid and then moved over to the areas where the other slow shoppers sorted out their stuff and bagged it. (I never liked Aldi's in the US because they don't bag stuff, and I don't plan on using Aldi's again when I return to the US.) I didn't buy a whole lot of stuff, just 15 €'s worth, but I could barely fit it in my two bags. Carrying it was another thing. This stuff was heavy, and American plastic grocery bags are meant for lifting stuff from the cart to the trunk and then carrying stuff from the garage inside to the kitchen. The handles were quite stretched out, and I had to rest a few times on the way from Aldi's in the center of campus back to my apartment. I think next time I'm going to splurge and buy a few new bags at the supermarket downtown and take the bus from downtown home (luckily a bus stop is just opposite my apartment building).
Today we met Eva downtown for a walking tour of Lüneburg. Another gray and cool day, but at least not a rainy one. Saturdays it seems that everyone in Lüneburg comes downtown to go shopping. I got to Am Sande, one of downtown's main streets, in time to buy some bread and detergent, which I'd forgotten to buy yesterday, and a pastry for breakfast. Eva walked us around the perimeter of downtown, pointing out each of the three main churches whose steeples serve as landmarks and showing us particular shops and restaurants. We walked to the historic harbor, small but from which the salt that made Lüneburg rich was shipped. Most of the buildings in Lüneburg are very, very old, a rarity in German towns, most of which were bombed during World War II. On the edge of town, at the edges of the underlying salt deposits, many buildings lean one way or another or sometimes both ways, with windows and roofs made crooked by the slowly-shifting ground underneath. I took a picture of a gate whose two posts had shifted so much over the years as to bring the gate's two halves together. Lüneburg's town hall (Rathaus) is also unique in that instead of tearing it down and rebuilding it as each new architectural style came into vogue, Lüneburg simply added on new parts in each style.
The tour over, we were again left to our own devices, but Eva had strongly encouraged us to spend the afternoon and evening in Hamburg. I'd misunderstood about our student passes getting us free transportation to Hamburg (only in Lüneburg unfortunately), but a schones Wochenende pass good on slow (local) trains throughout Germany costs only 28 € and is good for up to 5 people. After some logistics (dropping stuff off at home, making minute trips to the grocery, etc.) we all made it to the Bahnhof (train station) and onto a train to Hamburg, a trip that took only half an hour. Right around the corner from the Bahnhof is the Kunsthalle, Hamburg's art museum, which was hosting a special exhibition of Max Liebermann's garden paintings (very beautiful and very popular). After the museum, we took the S-Bahn to the Reeperbahn, Hamburg's well-known erotic district, full of bars and shops and theatres catering to every sexual interest. We walked from there to the river and along the harbor, stopping to eat at a pub there. We continued on to the ruins of a church on Ost-West Straße. Then pretty much tired out, we U-Bahned back to Reeperbahn for a last look at Hamburg's seedy district, surprised to find many older German couples looking at the sites there as dusk fell. We returned to the Bahnhof, missing a train to Lüneburg by only a few minutes, which gave us the greater part of an hour to explore the train station. We got back to Lüneburg around 11 and started walking home by way of downtown (busses stop around 8PM, although you can call a flat rate taxi for 2,50 € per person if you're willing to wait 30 minutes or so). We ended up deciding we were too tired to hit any of the many bars or cafes that were still open, instead heading for home and beds after about a 15-minute walk.
I'd known before I left this morning that it was my turn to wash the dishes, and when I made it back tonight, there were dishes all over the kitchen. Mind you, I haven't yet eaten a meal in the kitchen, having used so far only a glass, but I figured, okay, I'll pitch in for international harmony, so I spent 40 minutes before bed washing everyone else's dishes. I wasn't sure whether to throw away the potatos and rice that had been left in two pots on the stove, ending up making an executive decision that it's not good to throw away other people's food. (The space allocated to each of us for food storage and respecting each other's food was part of the rules I learned the first night here.) I did feel some satisfaction after dishes were put away and I spun the indicator forward to Conny.
|Today has been a quiet day, the first in a week where I haven't had to set my alarm. I slept late, until about 11, and then got my dirty clothes together to do some laundry. I'd been warned earlier in the week to save my 50-cent pieces as they are the only that the washing machines will take. I ran into Wiebke in the kitchen and asked her to show me where the washers were. They're down in the basement and there are about eight of them, alongside one dryer and a lot of drying stands. Germans, environmentally and energy conscious as they are, not to mention thrifty, tend not to use the dryer. It costs 1,50 € to do a load of laundry, and the washer, a Miele Professional WS 5426/MC13, has a ton of settings unlike those on American models. Wiebke recommended choosing the 40 degrees Celsius setting. The washer first shows you the temperature of the water as it heats up, and then finally shows minutes remaining. After a few minutes, I knew to come back in 25 minutes.
I had 9,00 € worth of 50-cent coins, so I could have done three loads of laundry if I'd wanted. With whites and colors separated I had two loads, but having packed enough underwear for 10 days, I can last a couple more days on whites. Since all the drying stands were full of clothes left to dry in the damp, cold basement, I made the not-so-thrifty American decision just to wash the colors and splurge on drying them. I timed my third trip to the basement perfectly with the end of the dryer's cycle, opened the door, and found my clothes still rather damp, especially the shirt collars. Still I'm glad I splurged for the dryer because I can't imagine how long it would have taken my clothes to air dry. My shirts are hanging on a bit of extension cord I rigged up in my room, and the collars are still damp several hours later.
I've spend the day relaxing, working on these blog entries and doing some reading in German of the local Lüneburg paper, the university paper and the weekend edition of Die Zeit that I picked up at the Hamburg Bahnhof. Reading in German is a tedious process because there are so many words I either have to look up or just decide to make assumptions about. I did stop by the kitchen to fix a snack for lunch and was astonished to see the dish washing indicator had spun forward two people since my turn last night. If it gets spun back to me by tomorrow already, I might just have to call an MTV Real World-style house meeting and propose that we each just wash our own dishes. I probably shouldn't do that on my third day here, but I'm not going to spend 40 minutes every day washing other people's dishes.
I'm off to walk downtown. On our way back last night, we passed a café whose name I recognized as one I'd come across during my pre-travel planning, a place that is supposed to have WiFi access. If it does I will try to post this week's entries. Otherwise they'll have to wait until I can get on the Internet at school tomorrow. (It turned out that the place had an AOL Internet station but not WiFi, so I'm posting this Monday from school after all.)
Today was the first day of classes. I'd been a bit worried about being in Track IV, which is the most advanced, but no longer. I understand just about everything and feel comfortable talking. One of the other Americans seems to be struggling a bit. Beside Americans we have some people from Spain and Mexico in the class, so there's absolutely only German to be used, although the Spanish speakers do know some English.
My second class is about German government and is taught by a German grad student whose writing her doctoral thesis on American students' perceptions of Germany and how they are affected by participating in overseas programs. She speaks very good English, and the class is in English since some students are Track I (no prior German experience). The class is fun enough but very slow. Americans don't know anything about Europe.
Today was my first literature class, and unlike yesterday, I really feel behind. I'm behind on the reading (Die Entdeckung der Currywurst by Uwe Timm), and I don't understand everything the professor or the other students say. Reinhard Werner, the professor for the class, is very nice and does try to make sure we all understand (only by explaining in German though since again the first language of half the students is not English), but I'd be stopping the class too often if I asked about everything I didn't get. Luckily discussion today is not about the book but about why people read, what people should read and what makes a good reader, with a copy (in German, of course) of an excerpt of a lecture Vladimir Nabokov gave about what makes a good reader. (Real-time reading and comprehension auf Deutsch -- I'm starting to feel like some of my reading intervention students last quarter at Stivers!)|
|Today was a long day school-wise since I had three classes, compared to two most days and only one Thursdays. The most interesting was literature. I hadn't finished the second chapter of Currywurst yet and figured I'd get to the classroom a bit early to try to read more. Well as it turned out I was a bit late instead as one of the things I hadn't understood yesterday was that the professor had moved up today's class by half an hour. Still I was earlier than another of the Americans who also hadn't gotten that.
Still class went better today. Professor Werner led us through some key points, and I was quick enough to catch what he was looking for a couple times and answer correctly. "Sehr schön" he says whenever someone says something he likes.