Friday, April 20, 2007

Jüterbog wird 1000.

It has been, if you haven’t noticed, a long time since I have written one of these things. Like many of people who have seen or even just heard of the South Park movie, I blame Canada. But in the case I have recht. (the right) (or to say the whole sentence in German: In diese teilung habe ich recht.) But now I’m just showing off. Heartfelt apologies. For those of you who know Spanish or another foreign language now is the time to use it in order to curse me under your breath. Or over your breath for that matter as I won’t understand it if it isn’t German. All that aside, I have much to talk about, so I probably won’t get to all of it.

Perhaps you are asking yourself: ‘why is he blaming Canada?’ Well that much is easy, you see, a group of Canadian kids (and by kids I mean, of course, Teenagers) came to Altes Lager for a couple of days on a missions trip. It was a great time. I can say, with Ernst, that Gary and I both enjoyed their visit. It was cool to speak some English with them, but it was even cooler to get to translate for them a little. The leaders from the Canadian kids were cool people also. Two of them had lived in Altes Lager before, so it was neat to hear their perspective on this place, and to see the nostalgia on their faces. It is a feeling I know I will have. It is really a special place. The other two leaders were Science people, which was very cool. Everyone involved with the group was really nice, and it was a lot of fun to just hang out. It was so much fun, in fact, that I didn’t have time to write any blogs for the two weeks they were here.

The matter was made more complicated when I went on vacation a mere week after the Canadians left. I visited 3 countries, and each was cool in its own way. I suppose I should write about those at this point, and then get to the more recent stuff, which really isn’t much.

So, on vacation I visited Gary’s brother, Tim. He is a student in Norway at the moment, so he lives in Oslo. On Norway I have this to say: Everyone should visit Norway at one time or another, especially people who have never visited Scandinavia. This is because you will have your mind blown by currency. When you step off the plane and ask for a train ticket to the city centre, the cashier will ask you for 86 Kroner (Crowns). If you’re like me, you will mentally panic for a second while your brain converts that to something less formidable. 86 Kroner is like $14 US, 11€ or, I think, $16 Canadian. In any case, it is still a lot of currency to disseminate on a train ride that only lasts about 7 stops. It costs me 10€, for example, to ride the train to Berlin and back. So visiting Norway is a rip off as far as money is concerned, but it is a nice looking country. Mind you, Oslo isn’t the prettiest city, but it is right on the ocean, which is a nice sight. There is also part of Oslo that is on a ‘mountain’ which is also very nice. The farming towns outside of the city are rather quant, however, and seem nice and peaceful. My friend Tim described the people of Norway as seemingly cold; it takes a lot of time and effort to get to know them. That is true of most Scandinavians, at least in my experience. This isn’t to say they aren’t nice people, and I know of a couple in Oslo that were very friendly to me, it is just to say that people there are slow to trust you, or so it seems.

From Oslo I flew to Scotland, where I visited a friend I made at a camp I worked at. It was a good visit, namely because my friend ended up paying for just about everything, but it was great to catch up as well. Scotland is a cool place and I saw a lot of it from how to make Tartans, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh in general, Ayr, the town of William Wallace, who never wore a kilt or blue face paint, to partaking of Haggis, which is quite tasty. I also found it cool to be able to understand everything without conscious effort. (Though the currency was a bit strange at first, I got the hang of it.)
From there it was back to Oslo for a stretch. There I mainly hung out with Tim’s friends and lazed around. Then we drove to Sweden. In Sweden, we stayed in a castle (though in Swedish and German, there is only one word to mean both Palace and Castle, so I can basically say that I stayed in a Castle.) It is used, currently, by a religious community. We were there to visit with this community, and it was interesting. It was a very peaceful and sunny stay. We chilled on balconies, soaking up the sun and playing guitar. We hiked around the grounds. We even found time to play floor hockey with some of the Swedish teenagers there. It was a nice end to a very relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

Since then I have been back in Altes Lager. Not much has really happened. I upset my 5th grade friend, Christina, by grading her paper and, as I didn’t see her name (which was on the back of the paper, apparently) I wrote: ‘Name?’ on it. She took offence to this apparently. Though, as is my habit, I made it worse when her friend, Maria, asked if she got a 1, which is an A, and I said yes, and then, as a joke, said: ‘Christina would have gotten a 1, but she didn’t put her name on her paper.’ I guess it was a bad joke, but not really. Girls act made about jokes sometimes even when they aren’t. Or maybe they really get mad, but eh, she’ll forgive me eventually. If not, she won’t have to see me again after too long. In general the kids were very good this week. They could be tired from the nice weather, which allowed them to play outside a lot and get out their energy. I also had a really strange dream last night. I remember mostly that it was strange, and not so much how it was strange. That is about all the news I have for this edition. Next time it will be a shorter blog.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Left My Voice in München. Ich last meine Stimme im München.

As I write and you take no notice of your precious working vocal chords, my poor voice is wandering German wilderness in hopes of hitching a ride towards Berlin. I guess I left it underneath my pillow in the hostel I stayed in, because it was certainly with me before I went to sleep (though, in my defence it was giving out on me a little before that). I guess I will explain a little, no, I will get to that, first I will go over a boring point to point of my train ride to Munich (aka München).
It started at 7:30am and ended around 13:45 in the München HBf. I could tell you it was long and boring, but it wasn’t really, it was quite enjoyable to relax and have no responsibility whatsoever. Getting to München, I was expecting a bigger city. Or at least to see some mountains in the background, but I guess chalk that up to my ignorance. I walked around the block a few times, and by block I mean the one around my Hostel because I had to wait until 3 to check in. It was dotted here there and everywhere with strip clubs, which was odd. I kept an ear out for Bayerisch because I had heard on many occasions that it is so different from Hochdeutsch that no one can understand it. I didn’t hear any, but I did see some postcards with it on them.
Finally I got into my hostel, set down my bag and got out my trusty but extremely outdated guide book. It told me of a good walking tour that started at the HBf, which was really close to my hostel. After searching for the place for about 30 minutes, I decided to check the HBf floor plan. I found the place I was looking for on the map and made a bee line for it, only to find that it had been replaced with the Starbucks I had walked past about 15 times. I decided just to take the subway someplace cool and walk around. I ended up at Marienplatz, home of the Glockenspiel and whatnot. While walking I heard quite a bit of English. I even helped a couple find something, though I only pointed as to be mysterious and possibly German in case they wanted to tell their kids about the nice German guy who understood them.
I finally ended up back at my hostel, hoping to be caught reading an English book and thus implored for English conversation. It finally worked and I met a college kid I will call Steve, though I think his name was like Eric or Paul or something with four letters. We talked about various European cities I should visit and about how Steve was in college and a business major. The lounge was pretty loud because there was a rock and roll band playing. Also the lounge area of my hostel was a bar. Well as soon as the rock band quits playing a flashing orange light graces the air. This was embraced with loud cheers and amplified by a person in a moose suit. A miracle? No, it was just the Jägerettes. But now I can at least report that I have been to a Jäger party, even though it was really quite lame. A few free Jäger shots later I found myself pretty tired, and sat down. I was then invited to join a conversation by having half a beer slammed in front of me with the order ‚You, Drink this!’ shouted at me. Not wanting or able to cause a scene as the background noise deadened my voice almost entirely, I decided to just take the mug and at least hold it. What followed was a German conversation. A short one, but at least I understood what was going on.
The next day I slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore, which was around 9AM. I was planning on meeting my friend at 10, so I had a good hour to kill. I walked to a park and read a little, knowing I would see a bit of München that day with a proper tour guide. I was only slightly bored. Meeting my friend was a bit more difficult than I imagined, Marienplatz, where I was to meet her, is a busy place for one, plus I didn’t remember exactly what she looked like. After a couple of phone calls I was able to find her. It was an enjoyable time. I spent most of it just talking to my friend and she showed me some of Munich’s best sites. I know this because we kept running into bike tour people. The first thing I did with her, though, was to eat Weißewurst, which is apparently the Bavarian thing to do. It was okay, but I was more impressed with the mustard.
After my friend left I was hit with a wave of lonliness that didn’t quit until I was halfway finished with my dinner of falafel. I decided at that point to meet some people at my hostel. I stormed the lobby and found some English speakers. There were a pair of Canadian girls on a random tour of Europe. A couple of English people who were living in Germany working on German skills. And the most interesting, a married couple from Chicago which consisted of a Packers fan from, of course, Wisconsin, and his wife from China. I ended up talking so much that by the next morning I had a sore throat.
On Sunday I had to check out by 10AM, which gave me about 5 or so hours between that and when my train left. I check my stuff at the train station and headed out to the Deutsche Museum, which was amazing. I spent my whole 5 hours there, though admittedly I was tired of it after about 3 hours. I had no where else to go really, and I paid 8 Euros to get it, so I was going to see every dang thing in there. My favourite were a few movies about Ginkgo biloba, and a gigantic model of the inside of a cell. Sorry if you don’t like Biology, but I am a big fan.
On the train ride home, I had a seat reserved. So I found it and settled in for a long haul to Berlin. A problem arose when a mother and her 3 year old daughter got on the train. They had also reserved tickets, but the good old Deutsche Bahn didn’t deem it necessary to seat them together. The 3 year old was next to me. Luckily I did the noble thing and switched with the mother. This put me beside quite a fateful passenger: An English speaker. An American. It was a woman from Arizona that was teaching English in Berlin. We had a long conversation about the specifics of English teaching. I ended up talking the rest of my voice out (which gave me a day off of work, because you can’t teach without talking). It was cool and I got a contact in Berlin, though, I have yet to email her. But things have been busy, which is, of course, another story.

PS Sorry this is really late.