A Series of Lasts

07/31/2011

This week’s blog is coming to you, not from my room in the StuSie, but rather from the Uni library because, if you haven’t heard already, my laptop charger has been broken since last Tuesday and the replacement I ordered off ebay hasn’t come yet.

I didn’t realize how much I depended on my laptop until I didn’t have it anymore. The timing of this is both good and bad: good because it’s finals time here and this forces me to spend all the time I would have normally taken watching tv shows on “breaks” from studying, studying. However, it is decidedly bad timing because the last thing I need is more things to stress about during finals time. Also, because of decidedly non-finals related family things, this week was a bad time not to have access to skype. I feel somewhat bad about that, actually.

I should probably mention before we go any further, that there will be no photos this week, and for the first time this is not because I forgot to take pictures, but rather because I can’t upload photos on my computer until I get my charger. Sorry about that.

Tuesday was a long day. I went to the government office at 9:30am (for me, that’s extremely early) because my visa expired this last Thursday and I needed to get a special form to get through German customs next week. While I was there, I also unregistered my apartment. After that, I went back to campus and studied until 5pm, with only a break for lunch and a 1.5 hour class.

Wednesday I had my first final. It was for my class about the Freiburger Münster and I feel pretty alright about it. I mean, there were a couple things I wasn’t quite sure about, but I’m confident that I passed.

Mareike, the girl we met up with in Cologne was visiting some friends in Freiburg so we met up with her for lunch at Ligere. I got my wonderful eggroll salad again. I seriously love that salad.

Wednesday night, Yi Qing came over and we made hamburgers and went for a walk around the Seepark. It was a perfect evening to spend outside.

Thursday, besides picking up a paper from a professor, I literally spent the entire day studying for my Friday final. Thursday evening 11 of us met up for Yi Qing’s going away dinner. I was told a long time ago by one of my teachers to take a mental picture at big gatherings of friends and/or family because who knows when you may see them next. That’s the big thing about leaving next week; yes I’m bummed to be leaving Germany, but even more, it’s the fact that I’ll be leaving my friends that’s hard.

Thursday afternoon I met up with Danija. 30 minutes later, she had a tattoo. Unfortunaly I wasn’t allowed to watch, but it turned out nice. Don’t worry though, I would personally never think about getting a tattoo; piercings I’m alright with though.

Friday morning I had my final for my class on the UK under Margaret Thatcher and I feel pretty good about it.

I met up with Yi Qing after class at the Hauptbahnhof to see her off. We barely managed with her luggage between the two of us, I have no idea how she managed that on her own.

That made me think: 8 days from today, it’s going to be me standing on that platform waiting for the train to take me to the airport. Can anyone tell me where the last 11 months have gone?

Friday evening I met up with some friends for dinner. We decided that it’d be fun to dress up nice and go to a real restaurant. I have some really lovely pictures of us, but unfortunately I cannot show you yet. They’ll get up on Facebook eventually though.

Yesterday and today are and have been devoted entirely to studying for my last two finals tomorrow (Monday). It just so happens that they are also the two hardest ones as well. The first one is for my class about the Intellectuals and the second one is an oral exam about the Germans and Czechs in the first half of the 20th century. Wish me luck.

That’s about it for my second to last week here in Germany. This next week is going to be devoted to wrapping up as much as possible and enjoying the end of finals. But I’ll tell you all about it next week. And this time there will be photos.

Oh, and by the way, I might have a special surprise Blog on Wednesday, so check back then.

P.S. Since I’m writing this on a German keyboard where the Y and Z keys are switched, I tried my best to fix any typos, but if there is a random z at the end of a word that I somehow didn’t catch, that’s why.

Finals Time

07/24/2011

I’m in finals mode.

That’s right, we’re back in finals time.  I can hardly believe that this semester is almost over. It’s weirding me out.

As much as it is a bummer having it be in the low to mid 60’s every single day, it makes sitting inside and doing homework and studying much easier. Maybe it’s the fact that it permanently feels like September so my mind assumes I should be in school.

Alright, moving on to last week.

Sunday evening was the final game of the Womens world soccer cup and so a couple of us went to a bar and watched the US lose to Japan. It was a really good game, but the US team just couldn’t do it. They had so many chances to shoot goals and they messed them up. It ended up 2-2 in overtime, and had to be decided in sudden death. It was exciting.

I can sum up the next couple days quite easily because all I did was go to class, study, do homework and get lunch with other people. I’m definitely in finals mode.

The thing about the history department here, is that unlike at home where you get told what to expect from the test at the end almost from the very beginning, they don’t tell you here until the week beforehand. It was stressing me out.

Now that I know what kind of shape my finals will be taking and roughly what kind of information I need to know, I’m a lot less worried than before. I can do this.

I have a final this Wednesday, one on Friday and then two next Monday.

It’s rather obnoxious though, because the final on Friday is during the discussion section and since we still have a class period afterward, we have 60 pages of reading to do on top of studying. I mean, really? Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

Thursday evening, like always, we went to Karaoke and this time, we actually sang a German song! We sang Westerland by Die Ärzte and a (very drunk) middle-aged woman dancing was so excited to hear the song that she broke a handful of bottles all over the dance floor.

Friday evening was very chill, I went over to my friend’s place and we watched a couple episodes of a tv show and then called it a night. I’m not the only one in finals mode.

The weather here has been ridiculous. It rains every day, and Friday it would rain really hard, clear up for 20 minutes and then rain again. The rainbow was a nice touch though.

Yesterday I tried really hard to study. I got rather a lot done considering the fact that Skype was being more of a distraction that usual. That’s okay though, because all in all I did a pretty good job of getting stuff done, it just took twice as long as it should have.

I met up with Yi Qing for dinner last night and had my Eggroll salad again. I seriously love that salad. Whoever decided to put mini eggrolls and salad together on the same plate was brilliant. I’d like to shake their hand.

After dinner we met up with some friends for a beer at Feierling. Normally when we go out for a drink I get a Radler, Feierling is the only exception. It’s really, seriously good.

Afterward we went to Uni Cafe, and because it was so chilly and rainy, we all ended up getting coffee or tea. I went home at about midnight because I have so much to do today, but I’m pretty sure they went on to some club. I just wasn’t in the mood to party.

Sorry my room is such a mess

Yesterday morning I made a trip to the post office to do something that only finalizes the fact that I’m going home in two weeks from tomorrow: I shipped a box home. For some reason, shipping to the States is a whole lot cheaper than shipping from there. For 9kg (roughly 20lbs), it cost 45 Euros which, in the scheme of things, really isn’t all that bad.

I got it there, no problem but not gonna lie, my shoulders are a bit sore this morning from carrying it.

I don’t know why my blogs have been getting so much shorter, but I honestly don’t have much more to say! Everything is winding down here, both at the University and my time abroad.

The thing is not that I don’t want to go home – I miss my family and friends – but I just don’t want to leave. I keep telling myself that I’m only going back to the states for now but I have a feeling that I’m going to end up doing my masters in America. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing history programs in the States, but I would love to be able to study European history in Europe.

I come home to a month of break in August, but it won’t be much of a break at all seeing as I have two 15 page papers to write, the GRE to study for and grad schools to research.

Sorry the title is so bad this week, I really couldn’t bother with thinking up anything better.

Finals start in a week an a half.

Let’s skip ahead to Wednesday this week, because honestly, the only thing I did on Monday or Tuesday that didn’t involve going to class or doing homework was going swimming in the Seepark Monday evening.

Wednesday was probably the easiest day of classes ever. Normally Wednesdays are rather rough simply because I have an awfully boring discussion section from 8:30-10 in the morning. This week however, we went to the library for a lesson on how to use their online databanks for research. Not only had I already done this same thing last semester, but the databanks they use here are the same ones we use at the UofM (although the U has access to far more). I somehow managed to get the only computer in the room that the instructor couldn’t see the screen of, and did my own thing for an hour and a half. It was lovely.

That afternoon we had class in the Münster. Basically, we just sat in the church and looked at stained glass windows for almost two hours. Even though it wasn’t the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, it’s rather cool to hear presentations about a building inside that building. It definitely makes it all easier to comprehend.

Also, we got to go into the part of the Altar that is normally corded off from visitors which I thought was pretty neat. I may still feel very lost in churches, but this class is definitely helping me to begin to understand it all.

Can you see why that was the easiest day of class ever? Love it.

That night I met up with Jamele and Danija in town and then we headed over to the bar Tacheles to watch the US vs. France women’s soccer game. The women’s soccer world cup is going on right now in Germany and Wednesday was the Semi-final game. I’d never watched a full game of soccer (or football as I’ve come to call it like the rest of the world, writing ‘soccer’ looks weird to me right now) and it was really quite exciting. I’m glad we beat the French (3-1).

Tonight is the final game against Japan and we’re going to go watch it somewhere and cheer for the US. I’m pretty sure our friend Asumi from Japan is coming with too, which should be fun.

Thursday was Karaoke again and it was so busy that we only had time for one song which was too bad because we were going to sing “Baby got back” as our second. Next week.

Friday, like everyone else in the world, we went to see Harry Potter. It’s funny though, because though the film opened in the States at midnight on Friday, the theater here has been screening it in German since Tuesday. I’m not quite sure how that works.

We saw it in English (though they accidentally played the first five minutes of the German film before realizing their mistake and switching it) and it was AMAZING. I laughed, I almost cried a couple times and I left the film feeling like I had just watched my entire childhood come to an end.

As melodramatic as that may sound, it’s rather true. I have been looking forward to reading and watching new Harry Potter books and films ever since my mom read me the first chapter when I was 9. I didn’t want to read the book, but she read the first chapter out loud and then, already hooked, I took the book and finished it on my own. I’ve grown up with Harry Potter – the books were always published in a way so that I was always the same age as Harry in the books (book 7 was published in 2007 so both Harry and I were 17). And even though the books are far better than the films, it was very bitter sweet knowing that I was going to see the last film. On one hand, I finally got to see how they interpreted the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort, and yet it was the end of the series. That’s it, done.

For all my expectations though, I was not disappointed.

Yesterday was a good day too. I did homework for a couple hours, went over to Jamele’s where she tried to faux-hawk my hair and then went to a concert. I use the word “tried” very deliberately because for all the time (and product) that we put into my hair, it just didn’t work out. I came home and almost immediately stuck my head in the sink.

I found something out yesterday while Jamele and Danija were doing my hair: I have a gray hair. That’s right folks, my first gray hair at 20. I always knew that I was going to have the salt & pepper look when I got older (which I honestly rather like the idea of), but the fact that I have a gray hair at 20 surprised me. It makes me feel old.

For the last three weeks or so, Freiburg has been playing host to the music festival ZMF. We had bought our tickets while we were in England in March when July had seemed so far away. I remember thinking that when we go to the concert, my time here would be winding down.

The set up of ZMF is rather German. Unlike in the States where you buy your food and/or beer and then walk around, they had countless rows of benches lined up in front of the places selling beer. It was nice to have a beer in that kind of summer festival atmosphere, it’s really a shame that I won’t be able to have one at the State Fair this year though.

After hanging out for a bit, it was time for the concert. The band we saw is called the Baseballs. They’re a German band, but what they do is rather fun. Instead of writing and performing their own songs, they take songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna and others and then sing them in a rockabilly style. 

Though they weren’t the greatest live show ever, it was fun to go to a concert again. I feel like I go to one concert a year, and it’s always in the summer.

I don’t have much else fun to tell you guys about. Like I said at the beginning of the blog, my first final is a week from this Wednesday and I’m starting to get properly stressed out. It doesn’t help that they hardly even give you the slightest hint as to what will be on the final until just a week beforehand.

I have three more weeks here in Germany, and they’re gonna be some of the most stressful weeks I’ve had my entire time abroad.

I’m glad this week is over though, it was the first week since I’ve been here where it seemed to drag on forever. Looking back at it however, it was pretty alright.

Do you want to know where I’ll be one month from right now? Asleep in my bed in Minnesota. Can you believe I’ve been abroad for 10 months already? I don’t want to leave Europe.

But enough with that depressing train of thought, I have a whole new week to tell you guys about.

Monday, as I’m sure you all remember, was the 4th of July and even though it was still just a very normal day here in Germany, we had a little 4th of July party of our own. We all met up at Jamele’s place that evening and introduced all our European friends to some of the wonderfully American foods that I always just assumed everyone ate. Things like celery and peanut butter (unfortunately no raisins though) and Kool-aid.

My grandparents had sent me a little package with some patriotic tootsie pops and Kool-aid which I brought to our little party. It was rather funny to see some people’s faces after telling them that Kool-aid is simply sugar and water and artificial blue coloring.

The celery and peanut butter also got more than its fair share of skeptical looks, but even my friend Valentin who, if something is not from France, almost automatically dismisses it, thought it was pretty alright. Success.

We tried really hard to find some kind of fireworks to play with, but we couldn’t even find sparklers which was rather sad. The Fourth of July without fireworks is weird. At least my friend was able to find an American flag at the dollar store.

On Thursday I had time to kill before meeting up with a friend for lunch so I wandered over to Münsterplatz and saw that they had put up a huge sign in the entryway to the Münster welcoming the Pope. Apparently he’s coming for a visit in September, and they’re already really excited.

The Protestant/Catholic divide is still very much a reality here in Europe and Freiburg is, and has always been a hub of Catholicism.

Thursday evening we went to Karaoke after getting a small dinner at a cafe on the bank of the Dreisam river. The last couple weeks karaoke has been rather dead, but there were a lot of people this week and when Mari, Yi Qing and I sang Mamma Mia by Abba, people loved it. We absolutely killed it.

Friday evening my friend came over and we made Latkes. I had brought back a box of Manischewitz Latke mix and despite the fact that I’ve never had Latkes from a mix before, they were actually really good. In fact, just because Latkes are such a pain to make from scratch, I think I’ll stick with this mix from here on.

Not only did they turn out delicious, but they confused the hell out of me because my mind immediately assumed that since I was making Latkes, I should be lighting the Menorah and maybe, if I was lucky, I’d be getting a small present as well. My mind was about six months off, ah well.

Yesterday evening I met up with some friends at Augustinerplatz to chill and have a couple drinks. The Germans (and apparently other European cultures as well) do this thing where, as part of the bachelor party, they go around trying to sell drinks and snacks and making the groom-to-be do stupid things. There are always multiple groups on Friday and Saturday nights, and last night, it included a guy dressed in Lederhosen and a huge hat being forced to sing some Luxembourgish song to all of us sitting there. It was quite funny.

It was a really nice night, and despite the fact that it was supposed to rain, it was almost completely clear. It was nice to just chill outside for a couple hours and the atmosphere at Augustinerplatz is always really great. Its just a bunch of students hanging out with their friends drinking a couple beers. Love it.

Well that’s about it for this week. Since I only have a month left, not only am I trying to do as much as I can with my friends, but I’m also going to have to start really studying for finals and working on term papers. My first final is in two weeks and then 3 more the week after. I have two essays due next week and two 15 page term papers that I’ve only begun to research.

Things are about to get a whole lot more stressful.

As much as I love the German language and hearing it everyday and speaking it and all that, I’m rather looking forward to having all my classes in English again.

I’m doing one of my term papers on Theodore Herzl and the relationship between Zionsim and the Dreyfus Affair and so I read his book Der Judenstaat (in English: The Jewish State) yesterday. It was really fascinating to read the original outline of what would, in 50 years, become the State of Israel.

Did you know that the main reason I wanted to learn German was so that I could read texts from the Nazi era in their original German? This also means that because Herzl was Austrian, I get to read his texts in the original as well. The thought that I’m reading the exact words that various men of history wrote is fascinating to me. It seems so much more real than reading a translation, although there’s nothing wrong with that either.

I’m going to be so sad when I have to go back to the States in a month. I just got to think of it as only going back  for now, because I will live in Europe again. I have to.

Happy 4th of July! I’ll tell you all about my plans for tonight next weekend, now however, we have all of last week to discuss.

For the first time, I’m writing this blog not from my desk in StuSie, but from a table in Europa Cafe, the University’s cafe. I just finished my Monday class, had lunch, and am now writing from a table outside. The weather is wonderful today.

I have what will probably be the most colorful blog (in the literal sense of the word) that I’ll write while I’m abroad. First however, I just wanted to briefly apologize for the fact that this blog is a day later than normal but seeing as I didn’t get back to Freiburg until 10pm last night, it just wasn’t possible.

I don’t want to spend too much time going over what I did last week, just because I have so much to say about the weekend. However, last Wednesday I had two presentations for a discussion section, and while they weren’t the most amazing things ever, I didn’t leave feeling like I wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear into the floor. I have pretty low standards of success here in Freiburg, I’ve gotta say.

Thursday evening we went to Karaoke and Yi Qing and I sang Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. The thing about Karaoke here is that a lot of people sing rather slow, sad love songs and so we always try to sing songs that get people excited which is why Lady Gaga is always a good choice. If you have any good suggestions for songs (we’ve done beyonce, ymca and such) please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Friday morning I was up at 8am because I had a train to catch.

Yi Qing and I took a 10am train from Freiburg to Mannheim, and then another train from Mannheim to Cologne where we met up with a friend of hers from Mainz. It was hard enough trying to figure out how to get from the hauptbahnhof to our hotel, but once we finally got there, everything got much, much worse.

Don't stay here

We had booked a double room online because the picture showed it to have two queen size beds and since there was four of us, we were just going to share. Not so much. Not only did the hotel apparently not even have rooms with two queen size beds, they were very not happy when they saw that more than two people were planning on sharing a room. After about an hour of fighting with the front desk, we finally just ended up giving up and paying for an extra room. What was supposed to be 35 euros per person turned into almost 70 for two nights.

After putzing around with the hotel for so long, we finally made it into the city center at about 6pm. Perfect timing too, because that’s when Pride started.

That’s right folks, Pride. I thought that this year I would just have to suck it up and not go to a pride parade, but the universe was apparently on my side because not only did we get to go to the parade, but there was a street fair going on all weekend too. Good thing there was too, because there wasn’t much else to do.

It was freezing in Cologne. I had looked at the weather, and because it was supposed to be in the high 60’s all weekend, I just brought a sweater and assumed I’d be fine. Not so much. Luckily Yi Qing had brought an extra sweatshirt that she let me wear all weekend because otherwise I would’ve had to buy a jacket there. It felt like early October, not the beginning of July.

We basically just spent Friday evening bumming around the city center and then went out clubbing later in the evening. We ended up waiting almost an hour to get in, but once we did it was a lot of fun.

The club we went to was pretty much right next to the Cologne cathedral. This cathedral is ridiculously big. It’s so huge that there is no way to get it all into one photograph, it’s really rather impressive. We didn’t go in however, because as gorgeous as it is on the outside, all churches look rather the same on the inside.

Saturday morning we went into town, picked up Mari at the train station and then went back to the street fair to wander around. We had lunch at a small cafe, and because it was so cold I ordered the tomato soup expecting something resembling Campbells. Not so much. Instead of creamy soup, it was chunky and tasted pretty much exactly like pizza sauce. I couldn’t bring myself to eat much of it at all.

We bummed around and window shopped for a while (cologne has some amazing shopping compared to Freiburg) and then headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before getting ready and heading out for the evening. We met up again with Mareike who had gone to a church service and then went to go see what was going on at the main stage. It was an Abba cover band. Ever since I was in Mamma Mia in 11th grade, I’ve had a soft spot for Abba so I was more than happy to sing along for a while.

After a moment of silence for aids victims, we got a drink at a cafe and then decided to go back to the hotel and just hang out instead of going clubbing again. After so much walking all day, it was a nice break.

The whole two rooms thing worked out pretty well actually. Both rooms had two twin beds so Yi Qing and Mareike took one room, and Mari and I got the other. I wish I could have taken that bed back with me to StuSie; it was so freaking comfortable.

Sunday was parade day.

After locking up our luggage in the station, we went and found a spot to watch the parade. I’ve gone to the Twin Cities parade three years in a row, and while they are mostly the same, there were definitely some differences. First of all, the twin cities absolutely cannot compete with the amount of drag queens in the parade here. It was fabulous.

The outfits were also rather intense

Another big difference is that here, the majority of the parade wasn’t groups on foot or in small cars, but huge trucks blasting pop and techno music. Love it.

There were so many people lining the streets, it was insane. It seemed like a quarter of Cologne had turned out to watch the parade which made it even more fun.

I love pride parades, it’s one of the things I look forward to every summer along with going to the beach and the state fair. If you’ve never gone before, you really need to next year. It’s like no parade you’ve ever been to before.

We went straight from the parade to the train station where, after a quick coffee, it was time to head back to Freiburg. We managed toget seats with a table on our train from Mannheim to Freiburg and got to chill and play cards for most of the way. After all the walking we did over the weekend, sitting down for a couple hours was pretty nice.

I guess I’ll leave you with a very rainbow photo of us four that we took Saturday night. Between Mareike’s rainbow umbrella and my friend’s flag that she had bought for the parade the next day around my shoulders, we were pretty much as decked out as you could possibly be.