Deutschland and beyond

Living in Germany

Berlin seminar

Apologies this post may be a little sporadic (and without pictures for the moment) but I’m really trying to stay caught up here (even as I write from my hostel in Malta). SO at the end of March the Fulbright Commision hosted all English Teaching Assistants, Research scholars, and Professors abroad in Germany at the Park Inn Hotel in Berlin (along with a few other Fulbright guests from other European countries). Before I get into the nuts and bolts of it,  I have to say I was really blown away by the seminar as a whole, and it left a much better taste in my mouth as compared to the  Teaching Assistant orientation back in September.

I actually headed up to Berlin a day early (the seminar started Sunday) because I wanted to see Potsdam, a nearby town to Berlin. Luckily, my friend John (from BC, research Fulbrighter) happens to live in a section of Berlin that’s about halfway between downtown and Potsdam, so I got to crash there. Potsdam was really nice, a cute town with a beautiful castle and gardens (like any good German town has). We had a great dinner at a Vietnamese/Cambodian place and then went out first to a very Bavarian-like brewery (a bit of  Sehnsucht for John who studied abroad in Eichstaett, in Bayern) then to a very typical Berliner bar: smoky, small, great vibe, interesting characters. All in all, a successful night.

Brandenburg Tor

Seminar started up Sunday with a great welcome dinner and free wine (until it ran out) at which point we naturally moved onto a bar. But I’ll pat myself on the back for my ‘networking’ abilities (dad will be proud) and the fact that I broke out of my comfort zone and mixed not only with the other Americans I knew, but also got to know Germans as well. The Germans were there for the first 3 days; they’ll be going to the US next year for a year of study abroad through the Fulbright Commission. Monday’s opening panel discussion proved much more interesting than I anticipated. We had two highly esteemed panelists, and while I’m not usually one to enjoy political debates, I really enjoyed this discussion about the future of Europe, and America’s role as well as the current conflicts in Northern Africa/the Middle East. I will say, living over here has made me much more politically and culturally aware. After the talk, Nadiya and I went to the DDR museum which was really cool (mostly because it was interactive and we could act like 4 year olds and mess with everything) but also helped me understand a little bit how the mentality was effective. Then we had a meet-n-greet with Germans/Americans from the same geographic area (supposedly based on hometown but I was put in a group with people from New England) which was followed by a few lectures: one from the current US Ambassador to Germany and one from a former; I really enjoyed both speeches.

Tuesday we dont have any mandatory lectures so Nadiya and I take the day to enjoy Berlin- we’d both been there before but it was full of the ‘rush around and see all the important things’ usual touristy things so this time we went to quite a few museums.

The Infamous Checkpoint Charlie sign

The first having a really amazing and provocative photography exhibit, and the next day we went to Museum The Kennedys (yes, that’s its actual name) which had great pictures as well as an exhibit on Obama. Tuesday night ended with the Fulbright music gala and I’ll just say we’ve got some extremely talented musicians. Wednesday morning I had to myself and took the opportunity to go to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. If you haven’t been, go. I’m not the worlds biggest museum person (though by this post you wouldnt know it) but this museum is well worth the time and money- I was there for 2-3 hours and could have easily spent another 2-3 there. Made it back to the hotel for the closing panel, which was a little disappointing. Each man seemed to be on his own soapbox about certain topics and neither really answered the questions at hand. But in the end, I really enjoyed the seminar (and the structured free time helped as well)

In other more recent events, we have 2 weeks off for Easter break, and last weekend was my first full-fledged lacrosse weekend. Another girl from the team drove with me out to Erlangen for the boys double-header on Saturday (they won both!) and then I played with the Kaiserslautern team on Sunday in Karlsruhe: 2 games, back to back, no subs, and I played midfield. Safe to say I felt like dying on the train home, but the weather was beautiful, they won their first game of the season (against Karlsruhe, 6-5), and I scored my first goal in the German lacrosse league (which naturally resulted in me having to buy my home team a case of beer but hey, I’m not complaining). The next few months look to be filled with more lacrosse (yes!) and hopefully we’ll finally get a partner team and uniforms!

The boys... girls team pic coming soon!

Alright, I’ll add in pictures once I get back home (to Wuerzburg), but for now Happy Easter from Malta!

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April 23, 2011 Posted by | Germany | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debates, Stars, and Copenhagen

Okay so a lot has been happening in the past few weeks including the Fulbright seminar in Berlin, a weekend trip to Copenhagen afterwards, and lots more around Wuerzburg. I’m going to save the Berlin seminar for a separate entry since I want to do it justice. So I’ll work backwards and start with stuff that’s been going on around here then go onto the Copenhagen trip. School’s been going really really well lately. I kind of fell into a funk in February where I was a little bored with my schedule, wasn’t really feeling challenged, and was wondering if staying for a second year was a realistic option. But since I’ve gotten used to my new schedule for this semester, it’s been great. The kids are so talkative and I’ve had some really great conversations in my classes, especially with the 11th and 12th grades. They’ve watched An Inconvenient Truth in class and we had a great discussion about global warming (right up my alley), and in practicing for the oral exam at the end of the year, the students have shown themselves competent in current events knowledge ranging from Gutenberg’s resignation due to plagiarism to the earthquake in Japan and debating about nuclear energy. Also on that topic, at least for the past two Monday’s there have been rallies in town protesting the use of nuclear energy in Germany. Chancellor Merkel did temporarily suspend activity at a few plants after the earthquake in Japan, but people speculate it’s only for political reasons (especially since the greens just took power in Baden-Wuerttenburg, traditionally a conservative stronghold). But the debate on nuclear energy hasn’t been pushed to the back burner yet here, and people are adamant about reducing the amount used since the waste poses such strong potential danger. It’s been interesting to witness the reactions, especially since I get the feeling people are more directly politically involved here than back home.

Lacrosse has had its ups and downs. We’re in the semester break right now (school doesn’t start back up again until May 1st. Crazy, I know) so attendance has been low at practice. But in the past week we’ve gotten a few more new players, so it’s nice that I can devote my time and energy to them at practice instead of worrying about running practice and teaching the game. Our team is looking into ordering jerseys (!!) and I’m still trying to organize practice games. I actually get to play this weekend which I’m so excited about! I have a friend who plays for Kaiserslautern, and they won’t have enough players this weekend so she asked if I could play with them. (Since I’m not officially registered with a team, it’s not a problem for me to get a player pass through her team). We have two games in Karlsruhe on Sunday against Karlsruhe and Munich II, my former team! I’ll be heading out to Erlangen on Saturday to watch the men’s team play so hopefully I’ll have lots of good news to report after!

Last weekend we had an international film festival here in town, and my Canadian friend and I went to see an Italian film (with English subtitles) about four guys who travel across their small island by foot to reach and perform in a music festival. It was pretty entertaining. Afterwards we went to Hettstadt, a nearby town, for an astronomy viewing night. My friend is doing her PhD in Astrophysics, so there was no shortage of knowledgeable scientists on hand to explain the constellations, planets, etc.

Pretty much what Saturn looked like through the big telescope

There was one HUGE telescope and about 3 large ones (all bigger than any I’ve ever looked through). We could see the moon up close, craters and all, and saturn with its rings! I loved the astronomy unit back in the 6th grade- 6th grade science was the best, what with that, anatomy, ecology, a frog dissection, and we were still young enough to watch Bill Nye in class. Awesome.

Me and Nadiya at Nyhaven

The weather here has been amazing, bordering on summer, which was a really really nice change from Copenhagen. I dumbly didn’t realize just how far north it is, and it was definitely still winter when we were there (last weekend in March). Nadiya and I headed up there from Berlin after the seminar and spent Thursday-Sunday in Copenhagen. I liked it, but if I ever go back it’ll have to be in the summer months. I just got the feeling that there’s a lot more to do/the city’s more enjoyable in warmer weather. But we still made the best of our time there. We ate a lot of traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches, though I didn’t go so far as to have any with raw fish on them. We went to the Royal Palace and watched the changing of the guard, walked along Nyhaven (the part along the canal with all the colored houses) and took a boat tour of the city. We also visited quite a few museums but I’ve got to admit I really enjoyed all of the exhibits. My favorite were probably the motion of light exhibit, the best photographs of 2010, and the Picasso exhibit out at the Louisiana Museum. It was unbelievable and had so many of Picasso’s famous works, as well as information about his life.

Our last night there, Denmark was playing Norway in a qualification match for the European Cup in 2012 (this is soccer we’re talking about here) so we asked at our hostel where a good place would be to watch it and found ourselves in a small, crowded smoky pub where we were the only tourists. It was awesome. The Danes speak English better than probably 70% of Americans (it’s unreal) so we had no problems communicating and quickly made friends at our neighboring table.

They take changing of the guards pretty seriously

We played some strange dice game after the game was over (if you watch Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s the dice game they play in the second movie where Will tries to win the key from Davy Jones), and after we all moved on to a bar to celebrate one of the guys birthdays. I made it to the train station the next morning in time for my train and promptly fell asleep (as I do on any means of transportation) only to be woken up about 3 hours later by some woman telling me to go upstairs. Our train was stopped in what looked like a lit-up tunnel and there was almost no one left on the train. Groggily, I grabbed my bags and followed the last few passengers up these stairs only to find out that we’re on a boat. Our train had driven straight onto a ferry which was now carrying us across to Germany. What?!? I was pretty confused/astounded for the first five minutes, but eventually got used to it. When the boat landed in Germany, the train was already lined up with the tracks and simply drove off the boat and on to Hamburg.

I’ve got the next two weeks off for Easter (yippee!) so I’ll be updating a little bit more regularly (although there probably won’t be too much to update on). Bis dann!

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Germany, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment