Monday, October 31, 2005

Landau ist so Schön!

Monday, 31 October, 2005

On Friday, Joanna, Kathy, Kaija, and I went to Neustadt. We just wandered around and went shopping but it was still fun. Plus, Neustadt has an H&M, something Landau doesn't have. I bought a sweater for 7,50 Euro. What a great deal! Here are some pics I took while we were there. The girl in the street pic is Joanna.

The country surrounding Landau is really beautiful. From my window I can see some small mountains over the building across from mine. On Saturday I went running just to the north of Landau (my apartment building is on the northern edge of town) where there are beautiful paths. This region is known for its wine so there are fields and fields of grapes. The people that own these vineyards must not mind other people on their property because all the paths around them are open to whoever would like to walk through them. To the west of the vineyards are trails that link the little towns in this region together. It is so beautiful, they put our bike trails to shame. Later on Saturday I went for a walk here with Joanna and Geoffrey (a French exchange student) and I took some pictures. The weather has been amazing here too. In the mornings it is usually overcast and misty, but in the afternoon the sun comes and all the clouds are gone.

The people here have been so nice to me. I am starting to feel at home here. For one, the exchange students are all awesome. Saturday night I invited Joanna and Geoffrey over for dinner and then we watched a movie. After the movie we just hung out in my room and talked until almost 1:00a.m. Last night Hanane, Geoffrey, Joanna, Ula (also from Poland), and I had dinner in Joanna and Ula’s room and then talked until 12:00a.m. They are so friendly and easy to get along with. The German students from Coe have been really wonderful too. I ran into Sandy (at Coe spring 2005) and she drove me to get my visa (the building was on the other side of town). Yesterday, Freddie and Kevin (at Coe fall 2004) took me to Kevin’s grandparent’s house for lunch and then to Speyer for some sightseeing. I took some pictures of this too. Kevin also is lending me his T.V. and DVD player so I can watch German T.V. and movies in my room!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Roommate Sighting?

Wednesday October 26, 2005

Last night I looked in my mailbox to see if I had any important mail that I might be able to reach in and take without unlocking the door (since my roommate has the key). I was surprised when I lifted the door to find that there was nothing in there. I had looked in there a few days before and there were several fliers waiting to be read but now it was empty! I went up to my room to find a letter on my bed about my new bank account. In the bathroom I found an extra bottle of hand soap, some cleaning supplies, and a toothbrush. I thought she might make an appearance later that night so I cleaned up our common area a little (the bathroom and the mini kitchen) but by 11:00p.m. she still hadn’t made an appearance. I went to sleep thinking she might just come in later and I would meet her in the morning. Around 8:30 this morning I heard someone talking on a cell phone right outside my window on the balcony. I didn’t know if it was my roomie or someone else, since we share a balcony with another double. I got up and went into our little common area but her door was still closed. So alas, we still haven’t met!

Here is a pic of Kaija, Kathy, and Joanna (from Poland) watching a movie in my room. We got together again last night to watch Before Sunset. It was fun to host a little movie party :-) Yesterday we also ventured to Wissembourg. We only went for about three hours but it was pretty cool... Everything in French! The town is pretty small but it has two churches, which we visited and then wondered around the streets. I think we will go back another day to see more things there. I forgot my camera but Kathy and Kaija both had theirs and they will probably post them up on their sites, so check them out.

To France!

Monday October 24, 2005

I am beginning to feel a little more at home here. There is not carpeting in the wonheim so it echoes everywhere. I also didn’t have very much stuff to fill up my rather large room so it felt a little lonely here. I bought a little rug and some honey hand soap (for dry hands!), along with a few towel which all made my room much cozier. I also bought enough food to cook a few things here. This is a pic of the first hot meal I made (the peanut butter on the bread looks a little strange because I needed to use a flash). I’m starting to get to know the other exchange students better as well. Tonight I had Kathy, Kaija, and Joanna (from Poland) over to watch a movie. It was really fun and Joanna is so friendly. After the movie I went to her room and we talked for about two hours, just about classes and foreign languages and such. I wish she were staying for the whole year but alas, she will just be here for a semester, as will all the other exchange students except us Americans and Hanane from France.

I feel like I’m picking up some German. It is getting a little bit easier to speak and Joanna told me she thinks my German is better today than it was even on Friday. I hope that is true! I don’t feel like I am getting better very quickly but then again, I have only been here for a week and a half. The obstacle to learning German here though, is that I am constantly surrounded by English. All the German students that I have met (and will meet) speak very good English. The radios are always playing songs in English and even the other exchange students have taken English as their second language. I think for most of them German is a third or fourth language. It is nice to have the other exchange students here though, because we almost always speak German together. Even though they don’t know every word in German, they are still very good (much better than me!) and they don’t use as difficult words as the natives. I can speak to them fairly easily in German and I usually understand a good deal of what they say. They are also very patient when I take a while to remember a word or figure out how to construct a sentence.

Tomorrow Kathy, Kaija, the Polish, and the Greek girls, and I are going to venture to Wissembourg, one of the only two French cities that are covered by our semester train pass. I’m so excited! I haven’t ever been to France before. I don’t think anyone knows what there is to do there but I’m sure we can look at the Banhof in Wissembourg and find some brochures for things too see. Plus it is another chance to know the other exchange students better.

My Second weekend in Deutschland

Sunday, October 23, 2005
The eight hour-long orientation was actually really fun. The two girls running it were really nice and helpful. We just played get-to-know-you games and they talked to us about adjusting to living here. Then in the afternoon we were put into groups for another game. Each group had a cooked egg, which we had to take out in the town and see if we could get people to change it with us for something better. Whichever group had the best stuff at the end got a prize. My group went around and asked people on the street but other groups went into stores. After exchanging with a few people, we ended up with a dirty napkin. We finally managed to find someone with a free flier and returned back. I think every other group went into stores instead because they ended up with some pretty cool stuff. For example, Katja’s group (who ended up winning) managed to score some stickers, candy, a cool hangy thing, and a sailor shirt.

Friday night all of the exchange students went to a pub (or Kneipe) where we all got to meet out tutors. My tutor is really nice. She’s actually half American and speaks English without a German accent. Pubs are really fun but ugh, so much smoke. I have to air out my clothes for a couple days before I can wear them again. I probably spent about two hours just walking on Friday (walk to the Banhof in the morning and then two times from my room to the town and back). I don’t mind the walking though (although later I think I might!). It’s good exercise and it’s nice when there are other people to walk with. I’m considering investing in a used bike though. There are some nice trails around and it would be fun to go by bike because you can see so much more. Also, getting around would take much less time and since we have to carry everything we buy, it would be nice to have to go shopping.

On Saturday I took the train to Urs’ house. Saturday night we went to Anna’s house for her birthday. It was a kind of dinner party. A bunch of the people there went into the kitchen and cooked and then we all ate together. It was ok but I didn’t understand very well. We got there at 7:00 and stayed until almost 1:00am. It was good to hear so much German but no one really tried to talk to me except one guy at the beginning and we spoke in English. I knew it was cheating but it was nice just to communicate with someone and it made me feel a lot more at ease because everyone else knew each other. I got kind of frustrated because I could understand a few words but no whole ideas. The only full idea I picked up on was when someone said to Urs: “Does she understand German?” Someone else said, “She understands when you speak slowly but we are talking too fast.” That was kind of awkward but I have to say, my favorite awkward situation is when the conversation goes something like this:

person one: DeutschdeutschdeutschdeutschdeutschANDREAdeutschdeutsch.
person two:DeutschdeutschdeutschANDREAdeutschdeutschdeutsch.
person three: oh ja, ANDREAdeutschdeutschdeutschdeutschdeutschdeutsch...
...and then everyone looks at me with a kind of half smile and an expression on their face like, do you know that we are all talking about you?

Oh well, it was kind of Anna to invite me, and I don’t anyone to feel like they have to entertain me. It was Urs chance to see friends that he hasn’t seen for a while, and that was the most important.

Today I am hanging out at Urs’ house and will probably head back to Landau in a little bit. Bye for now :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Eine Woche!

I accidentally locked Urs out of his apartment the night he had karate. He had given me his two keys: one to get into his apartment building and one to get into his apartment. He said he would be back around 10:45 or so, so around 9:30 I put my headphones on and was happily watching a movie when, around 10:30 I heard some strange noise coming from the front door. I leaned over to look at the door, which looked like someone was trying to look through the little part of window at the bottom of the door that was not covered by the curtain. I got up and opened the door to find Urs standing there looking a little exasperated. “I’ve been trying to get in the building for a half hour!” (he said in English). “Didn’t you hear me call or knock?” I felt pretty bad but I didn’t know what the bells sound like or mean. There’s a bell that you ring from the outside of the apartment building that calls the person upstairs so they can push a button to unlock the front door. I thought that was just the phone or something. He was let in by some people who were coming into the building but I didn’t hear him knock because of my headphones. We had talked about how I should get into the building but not how he was going to get in. Oh well, he wasn’t too mad. I owe him one!

On Tuesday I took a train from Kaiserslautern to Landau. At least I managed to do that without getting lost! I chatted with this nice German woman on the first train before I transferred to the train to Landau. My first night was a little chilly because I didn’t figure out how to turn on the heat until the next morning but now I’m toasty warm :-) Yesterday we had a five-hour orientation with some of the ERASMUS students. It was fun to meet the other exchange students but I didn’t understand very much from the orientation. In the evening Katja and I went to the little pub on campus (die Kneipe an der Uni) with some of the other exchange students. It was pretty fun except that I didn’t understand the drink menu. I ordered a cola and enjoyed chatting with some of our new friends. All in all, a really nice night.

Today I met with Jessika, a girl assigned to the three of us (Katja, Kaija, and me) to help us get all our paperwork done. That went pretty well, I just need to go back to a couple more places to finish some stuff up. We also made a stop at Walmart where I spent a bunch of Euros on stuff for my apartment. I got a bunch of dishes/pots/pans, etc... some food, a rug, bedding, and some cleaning supplies. I feel like I’m going through Euros like it’s play money or something, but hopefully I will be reimbursed for most of the stuff. The English department will reimburse us for things that we need for our apartment that we will leave here at the end of the year. That will be really nice!

Tonight I’m mooching off of Kathy’s free wireless internet (she lives in the ESG not the wonheim). Tonight was fun. We just watched a movie and hung out in Kathy’s room. Tomorrow we have an eight hour-long language orientation. Wish me luck!

Tag 5

The pics from my last blog weren't quite in order but oh well... I'm technologically challenged! I wrote this a couple days ago. Because I don't have internet access 24/7, I've just been writing on my computer and then copying it into my blog; therefore some entries will be from a few days before... Did I mention this before?

Deutschland Tag 5, Montag 17 Oktober
Now we are in Kaiserslautern, the town where Urs studies. We got here last night and tomorrow I will go to Landau because I have some kind of orientation in the morning. Last night when we drove here, we picked up Urs’ friends Frank and Simon. We had four people and all of our stuff in that little car (minus most of mine which we had dropped off at my room earlier). It was cozy :-) His friends are pretty cool except that I didn’t really understand anything that they said. Later that night with Simon’s girlfriend we all hung out in Frank and Simon’s room and watched a movie. I cheated a little then and spoke in English to them. Not so good but I had just spent two hours or so listening to them speak German and not understanding anything. It was nice to say something so they didn’t think I was mute! No, I did speak to them in German but only a very little. It’s kind of frustrating. Urs speaks to me pretty slowly and when I don’t understand, he explains it again in German. When I don’t understand other people, they just explain in English. At least people don’t seem to mind explaining things to me.

Ugh, I just went out for a walk and got lost. Urs has some sort of karate tonight so I have a few hours to myself. I decided after he left to go shopping for a bit and then walk around. Shopping was nice. I didn’t get too lost and I found a hardcover book of children’s stories in German for 10 Euro. It was the walking around part that got me. None of the streets here run parallel! I thought I would walk a while down one street and then go a street down and come back. The street actually went on a slight angle. I tried to walk to the first street that I was on but I didn’t remember its name. I got to a round about and picked a direction... and ended up somewhere. The wind was getting pretty icy and since it was almost seven at night the sun was mostly down. I finally found some buildings that I remembered passing before but I didn’t remember which way to go back from there. A few more loops around and about twenty minutes later I finally found Urs’ apartment. Phew! It actually wasn’t too bad until it started getting really cold. I passed so many Reisebüros (or maybe just the same one several times), which might have been very useful had they been open but oh well. Now I have some time to write this and read my book before Urs gets back. Bye for now!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Some Pics of Germany

The first picture is my bed at Urs' house. It was really nice of him to invite me for his house for so long. His dad asked if I would come back next weekend too He even did my laundry for me :-) The second picture is of Urs' car. I love the cars in Germany. They generally much smaller than American cars. When Urs came to pick me up from the airport, we had a little trouble getting all my stuff into the car. Neither suitcase fit in the trunk but luckily there was enough space in the back seat. The next pic is of my little kitchen and bathroom in my new room. I share this area with my roommate and then I have a room all to myself. The last pic is of a meal I ate at Urs house. He dad cooks like a chef! Urs' family is so nice. They feel like my host family here.

Monday, October 17, 2005

So Toll!

I’ve said that word so many times in the last few days, second only to was? (what?).
So far my visit has been great! I wasn’t very tired when I got off the plane and Urs (exchange student to my town 2001-2002) picked me up at the airport. It was nice to meet someone right away that I knew. Actually I should say about half of Urs picked me up. He has lost a lot of weight and looks really great. We went back to his house and after saying hi to his brother and father, went to go meet his friend Anna... and guess how we got there? via scooter! It was awesome! She is really nice, I just hope she didn’t think that I didn’t like her. I didn’t say very much to her but they were speaking in German and I didn’t understand very much. I did speak to her in German though, when I did speak. Yesterday Urs and I went to Landau and got the key to my room. My room is soooo nice! I have a roommate of sorts. We have separate rooms but we share a little common area with a tiny kitchen (with a very tiny fridge) and a bathroom. We also have a balcony! Kaija lives just around the corner, which is very convenient. Kathy lives downtown in the ESG but that’s not too far away, only about 15 minutes or so by foot. After getting my key, Urs and I walked to the library through the little woods by the wohnheim. We met Kaija and Kathy and ended up going downtown for a wine festival that just started in Landau. The town is so cute! All the shops open their doors and put things out in the street to entice shoppers. We walked around for a while and then sat down and ate some onion, quiche-like stuff. It was really good and it was sold everywhere. I bought a little package of apricots and dried apples that I thought was 2,50 Euro but when I went to pay for it I found out it was 5,90 Euro. Grr, oh well, I guess that’s not the most expensive mistake I could have made. Oh yes, I did make it to an ATM and managed to withdraw money without the machine eating my card (I was rather afraid of that happening). After that we went back to Kaija’s room and played cards. I think Urs and Kathy will get along pretty well but I don’t know about Kaija and Urs. Let’s just say they didn’t exactly hit it off from the start. Oh well, they don’t have to meet each other very often.

Today Urs and I went shopping for food. I had to talk to all the people at the market and ask for what we needed. I was pretty nervous about that but Urs came with and helped me when I didn’t understand. It was good practice for when I’ll have to do that on my own.

I also got a German card for my cell phone. I’ll try to put the number up soon on my facebook and send it in an e-mail so anyone who would like to can call me :-) Tonight Anna is coming over and tomorrow I think we will go to Kaiserslautern. Maybe I can go back to the library in Landau soon to use the internet. I can read my e-mail at Urs’ house but I shouldn’t spend too much time online because they have dial up and so no one can call.

On the Plane

Ok, I'm sorry I haven't written sooner. I don't have 24/7 access to e-mail so I've just been writing entries into my word program. Here's what I've got so far:
I made it onto the flight and with surprisingly little hassle. Air India is quite nice, despite what people had been telling me. I was able to check in quickly and get on the plane rather easily. We took off at about 7:05 and since then it’s been smooth sailing. The stewards are nice, the food was great (and Indian, yum!), and I had no problems getting a vegetarian meal (with a mint flavored toothpick I might add). The only discomfort is that I forgot my headphones in the bag I put into the overhead and to get it I will have to climb over the nice Indian couple sitting next to me, and the person sitting in front of me just reclined her chair into my laptop, which is making it rather difficult to type. I think I should try to sleep soon so I will be able to communicate entirely in German when I wake up. The lights in the plane just turned out and my contacts are happily bubbling away in their cleaning case which fits conveniently into my chair’s arm ash tray. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The night before...

I used to think when people talked about not being able to fit all their stuff into their suitcase, "they just don't know how to pack right. They're probably just bringing a bunch of useless stuff that they could leave at home. How difficult could packing be anyway?" And then...

I don't understand. My suitcases looked so big when they were sitting there waiting to be filled with my stuff. I was even hoping to have some extra space to save for when I came back from Germany so that I could bring everything back with me instead of sending stuff. Boy was I wrong! I put three sweaters into my biggest suitcase and it was half full! Ok, so it wasn't quite that bad but I definitely don't have any space left! One suitcase is 65 pounds and the other one is about 50. That includes a winter coat, hat, gloves, sweaters, etc...

I also got a digital camera yesterday. It's awesome! It kind of handles like an SLR which is pretty cool, plus it has at 10x zoom. It should come in pretty handy in the next few months...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Sister and Me

We took this yesterday with my sister's camera... She's making me want a digital camera! She just left this morning. I probably won't see her for a year :(