Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Take a wider view

So, as you might know I've studied some German on my own and I started an intensive course this past Monday, which meets Monday through Friday from 10 to 2:15. It's been an interesting experience thus far. It's at a language school called Inlingua, and it's taught entirely in German. There are ten people in my class and every one of us comes from a different country. It's moving fairly slow, but I'm hopeful it will become a bit more challenging in the weeks to come. I enjoy learning something new and having some routine in my days. It also reminds of how much time and effort is required to learn a new language, and how much time and effort it took me to learn Spanish.

Besides learning a new language, there are many other small things that I've learned and adapted to since arriving in Wuerzburg. For example, "bread" has a whole new meaning. What we think of as bread in the USA is called "American sandwich bread" here and it's not very common. Bread is bought fresh and not sliced. There are bakeries on nearly every corner, and surprisingly they are all busy. Germans are eating all different kinds of bread, rolls and pretzels (with butter). A typical breakfast here would be rolls with your choice of butter, jams, nutella, or cheese and salami. Delicious.

As for the rest of the food here, I'm not so convinced. Of course there are a variety of sausages (wurst), salami and even a strange German version of meatloaf called "leberkase", which to me tastes like a hot dog. Enough about that.

Let's see, what else is going on here? Well, the air ventilation system is simply opening the window three times a day for a few minutes, even in the winter. It was strange at first to be opening windows (no screens) when there is snow on the ground, but now I'm used to it. The heating system is different in that each room has an individual radiating heater (hence the need to open the window for air circulation).

Getting around in Germany is safe and easy with either the train or "car-sharing", which is a sort of pay your way carpool. The train can be expensive, and many times looking online and finding a car share is cheaper.

As for what's going on with me, besides the language course I am searching for employment options for myself here and trying to learn about applying for work and residence permits. I'm still not sure if I want to live here, but I at least want to know how I could make that happen. It's all been a bit discouraging thus far, leaving me frustrated and very confused. Hopefully I have some better news next time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

An attempt to 'catch up'

So, I guess I have been slacking on the blog posts since arriving in Germany. It's not because there is nothing to tell, but rather because Winter fell upon me as a dark blanket that I can't seem to find my way out of. Maybe it's because my last 'Winter' meant sun in the morning, rain in the afternoon (opposed to sun all day in the 'Summer'). Enough of that, now on to what is going on in Germany...

I'm not sure where exactly I should begin, but my first few weeks here were fairly uneventful. It took me longer than expected to adjust to the time change, in other words I was sleeping more than usual for my standards. I spent a lot of time with Thomas and when he was busy with school, I was finding my way around the city, reading, or talking with the couple Thomas lives with. Oh and how could I forget, eventually I started to search for a German course, but it was too late to start before the holidays.

The weekend before Christmas, we went to Munich to visit some friends. I should add that the main purpose of this visit was to make a short movie that Thomas's group of friends has wanted to do for some time. I was excited to meet the friends I had heard so much about and to see someplace new, but I quickly realized that it was too cold to enjoy seeing or doing anything.

Friday night, we went out with his friends and then Saturday. was the filming day. It was really entertaining to watch the whole process unfold, which began Friday night when Tino (the guy who provided the camera and lighting equipment) played with the lighting in the kitchen where the filming would take place. Then, Saturday during the day there was the discussion and writing of the script. To give you a better picture, the movie was about a group of coworkers eating a typical Bavarian breakfast together after completing a team building seminar. Imagine six guys sitting around a table all playing very thought out, specific characters with different dialects (or accents) from around Germany, with the 'boss' at the head of the table. The twist comes at the end when there is only one sausage left, the lights flash and the boss is chewing. Then, the lights flash again, the boss is gone and everyone else is chewing. haha. But really the funny thing was watching, even though I didn't understand everything. The filming started around 5 pm and ended almost twelve hours, 50 sausages, and many beers later.

Thomas and I came back to Wuerzburg on Sunday, and left on Wednesday to spend Christmas with his family in Immenstadt, which is in the very south of Germany almost to the Austrian border. I was a little nervous about the whole idea of meeting the family and not being able to communicate with them, but they were really nice and welcoming so I got over it. In the four days that we were there, Thomas showed me his hometown and the rest of the time his parents showed me photo albums of their vacations around Germany and other family albums. Haha, there is more to it than that, but really I did look through many photo albums.

Here Christmas is celebrated on Christmas eve, so Christmas eve we had dinner together with his parents and his brother before going into the living room to open gifts and enjoy an endless supply of Christmas cookies that his mom made. On Christmas day, we had another full day of meals together, and coffee and cake in the afternoon. Coffee and cake around 4 pm is typical here in Alemania. In between all the eating, Thomas and I discovered Scrabble and Backgammon.

On the second day of Christmas (the 26th), we went to a 'Russian BBQ' on the river with some of his friends. It basically consists of a few friends gathered around a small fire, and everyone has to bring meat to grill and vodka to drink. It's a funny concept and a good excuse for some friends to get together after all the family festivities of Christmas. Of course, it was really cold (hence the vodka, right?).

So, that was my first Christmas in Germany, in a nutshell. Another train ride and we were back in Wuerzburg for a few days before going to Berlin to bring in the New Year. Again like going to Munich, I was excited to see someplace new and hopeful that I would be able to explore Berlin while I was there. However, the cold (and snow) again got the best of my attitude the first few days there and I didn't see much of anything until New Years day when Thomas and I walked around some of the main tourist attractions for an hour or so in the afternoon. I say afternoon, which is ironic because it was around 4 pm and already dark outside. It was nice to see the Brandenburg Gate and such, but it wasn't really what I was interested in doing there. Plus, it didn't help that after walking outside for thirty minutes my feet were wet from snow soaking into my shoes.

I guess I wanted to see more of the alternative side of Berlin; I don't know if that is the right way to put it and I don't really like using the word alternative for some reason. Maybe it's better to say that I think you can get more out of visiting such a big city if you know someone who lives there and can show you something a travel guide wouldn't pick up on; and surprise, surprise I know exactly the right person for this. On the 2nd, Thomas went home, and I met up with my friend Nici (who I met in Guatemala last Summer).

We had a really great time catching up. I got to hear about the rest of her travels in Latin America and her new adventure in Berlin, and I told her about the road trip and what I thought about my first month in Germany. On Sunday, we wandered around a couple of flea markets (where I found a pair of dry shoes), she showed me a famous 'squat house', and later we went to an open stage night at a run-down but characterful bar. It was a great weekend and a great way to start the new year.

There is much more to tell, but I thought starting with the basics is necessary. Now, I am back in Wuerzburg, looking forward to start a German language course on Monday, realizing how fast time is going, and finding myself concerned for what comes next for me (seems to be a reoccurring theme despite my attempts to focus on the present). Now you more or less know what I've been doing since leaving Kansas, and I hope to post more of my thoughts about Germany, etc. soon.