Wednesday, November 30, 2005

In der Schweiz

This last weekend I went to Switzerland with Urs and his family. We went to visit Urs’ godmother and her family in Bern. Right before we left Urs asked if I had brought my passport. Shut! That’s right, Switzerland isn’t in the European Union. I had completely forgotten. Urs just shrugged and said it would probably be alright. As it turned out, we weren’t even stopped at the boarder going in or out. Phew!

Switzerland is beautiful! Even though we didn’t do any sightseeing, just looking out the window was nice. Urs’ godmother and here family were so hospitable too. Shortly after we got there, we sat down to eat and his godmother said that she had presents for us. I thought she meant for Urs and Hans (Urs’ brother) but then she set a huge piece of Toblerone down in front of me, as well as a wrapped present. Urs and Hans got the same. The present was a mug with the Swiss cross on it. I love it!

It was also fun listening to the Swiss accent. There is a dialect in the Landau region and when I hear it, I just think that I am not understanding people speaking high German. The dialect still sounds German to me, but the Swiss dialect is completely different. It is something like a cross between German and Italian, at least the way it sounds. I don’t understand any of the words. The consonants are much harder and there is a dip in their voice when they speak certain words. At least when they speak in high German I can understand.

Here is a pic at Urs' godmother's apartment. From left to right: Urs, his godmother, Hans, Urs' dad, and another relative (I didn't really understand how she was related but she was also very nice).

I'm so tired. Last night I went with Mario (my new friend from my trampoline class) to his friends' apartment where we played guitar and sang. It was fun and I learned some new German songs. Tonight I'm going with Mario and the same friends to a disco party. I'm excited but all the staying up late is kinda getting to me. There are parties and get togethers usually one to two times a week and then on the weekends I usually go somewhere. I shouldn't complain... I'm having a blast but I think I just need a little down time... which I won't be getting anytime soon I think. Friday Urs and I are going to go visit Kira (exchange student to my town when Urs was there) who lives in Hamburg. I'm excited because I haven't seen Kira in over four years :-)

Monday, November 21, 2005


We did it! We pulled off Thanksgiving in Germany without grandparents, parents, or the U.S. system of measurements!

I made pumpkin pie and cornbread the night before, on Saturday, and stuffing, apple crisp, and squash on Sunday.

Kaija with the help of Kathy and prompting from a German friend (who said we should forget the turkey and just buy steak) managed to cook a turkey as well as wild rice, mashed potatoes, and a bean casserol. Everything turned out and we managed to feed almost 20 people!

Here are some pics of the evening. We hosted our event at Kathy’s apartment building because they have a large common area. We also figured Sunday would be the best day because we get no time off on Thursday.

Wow! I’m so proud of us!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pics of Landau

I went around the University and the town on Sunday and took some pics so everyone can see where I spend much of my time.

The first pic is of all the stairs I have to go up to get to my room! I am on the fourth and top floor. The second pic is of the building where I live (50b).

We have to walk through the woods to get to the university. Here’s a pic of one of the lecture halls from the woods.

Here is a picture of the market place where there is an open market set up here every Tuesday and Saturday morning. Festivals are also hosted here.

This is a pic of one of the streets where we go shopping. The shops put out their sale items to try to entice buyers... A good strategy!

On the agenda for this week: planning for Thanksgiving! Kathy, Kaija, and I have decided to attempt to cook a whole Thanksgiving meal. Wish us luck!

Vegan Pancakes!

Sunday, 13 November 2005
I finally located all the ingredients necessary for making pancakes and, this morning, I gave it a shot. They actually turned out well, despite not having a pancake flipper, and were quite lecker :-) The only think that was kind of annoying was that the soymilk I bought was vanilla flavored and it had an extreme vanilla taste. This made my pancakes taste a little too much like vanilla. Oh well, next time I’ll use more water and less soymilk.

Yesterday I hung out with Christina (exchange student to Coe, Fall 2004). She picked me up and we went to Neustadt for a little shopping. We then went to the Hamback Castle that is situated up on a hill just outside the city. I was happy that she suggested this because I have been wanting to visit the castle for a while. It is visible from the train between Neustadt and Landau so I have seen it several times. I’ve been curious. It is actually pretty small and not a fancy castle at all. It was still interesting to visit non-the less because there is so much history surrounding it. The whole inside has been modernized and turned into a museum/wedding chapel. I found out that the castle was owned, at one point, by the royalty in Speyer in the 1100s. Around the 1830s there was a protest held at the castle because of political unrest. Not just in France but all over Europe there was political unrest because so many people were being repressed by their governments. This Palatinate region (I think that is what it is called) in the southwest was under the control of France. The people were unhappy with this. They wanted a united Germany with more freedoms. The region eventually came under the control of royalty in Bayern (Bavaria) but the people continued to be repressed. On the 27th of May, 1832 there was a demonstration held at the castle called the “Hambach Festival.” Influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution, about 30,000 people gathered around the castle to petition for freedoms such as free trade and freedom of the press. They also desired a united Germany. Today the demands of this protest have been implemented as far as possible. Today Hamback Castle is remembered as a symbol of the development of democracy in Germany.

I also discovered the reasons for the colors in the German flag. The black stands for the black cloud of repression held over the German people. The red stands for the bloodshed, and the gold stands for the promise of a bright future.

After the castle, Christina and I went to Christina’s house and made Kaiserschmann. Mmmm... so tasty! I also met her brother (who is quite cute, by the way) and then we watched a movie. The day was really nice and Christina was so patient with me as I tried to speak German. She didn’t seem to mind stopping every two sentences to explain words to me. I hope we can get together again soon.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Live Germans!

Thursday, 10 November 2005

This week was so awesome! I made new German friends and I have something fun to do every week day in the evenings!

I am taking a British film class and as part of the class, we have to watch British movies every Monday night. This week was the first week we saw a film. The film was really good! I think this class will turn out to be very interesting and a lot of fun.

There are sports and different activities every day in the evening that are held by the university. A lot of people told me I should try at least one sport because of the new experience, plus it is a good way to meet people. They give trampoline classes on Tuesday nights so I thought I would go and check it out. Everyone takes turns jumping and learning new tricks on this huge trampoline. Geoffrey went with me and we had a blast!

Wednesday is choir, which is really fun. This Wednesday night the school put on a big party in the atrium or middle connecting part of a bunch of buildings. I thought there wouldn’t be too many people because it was a school night and all, plus there was a 5 Euro cover, but it was packed! There must have been about 500 or 600 people there. The highlight for me was meeting Geoffrey’s tutor and his tutor’s friend. They were both super nice, one even bought me a drink, and I ended up hanging out with them and Geoffrey for the rest of the night. New German friends! Yay! I even got kisses goodbye (in Germany the custom is two kisses, one on each cheek). I think I will go with them to another party next week. I also ran into a girl from my trampoline class and we talked for about ten minutes. I was happy she even remembered me, let alone to come up to me and strike up a conversation. Got back around 3a.m... so tired now! Lots of fun but so smoky... It was like a fog machine was running in there!

Today Tina persuaded me to go to a hip-hop class. I was pretty nervous about it but we showed up and it wasn’t too difficult. I had a blast! The dancing was really cool and the teacher was nice. I can’t wait to go back next week! I also tried out a “New Dance” class, which was ok. It was kind of like interpretive dancing and we did a lot of stretching types of moves. Not super exciting though so I don’t think I’ll go back next week.

Tomorrow I will have some bonding time with the library. I need to figure out a bunch of stuff for my classes and I should get a jump start on working on some of my term papers. Not too fun but it shouldn’t take me all day. Saturday I am going to meet Christina (exchange student to Coe, fall 2004) so that should be fun :-)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Auf Französisch?

More new classes today. Last Tuesday was a holiday so there were no classes held. “Ok, French at 10 and then a poli sci class at 12," I thought, "both at the Rote Kaserne, I don’t even have to switch buildings, I can handle this.” I have to admit, the prospect of taking a French history class (all in French by the way) scared me a little. “All the other students will probably understand much better than me (as they have started learning French around 7th grade or so) but that’s ok, I can just sit and listen since I don’t need credit for this class.” I have taken French for six years, impressive in the U.S. but in a class full of people who already speak English perfectly and are now learning their third or fourth language, six years of French isn’t such a big deal." I was pretty nervous walking to class and on several occasions, almost turned around, but I made it to the class and found a seat. So many people kept coming into the little lecture room and it became so crowded that finally someone asked, “Englisch oder Französisch?” Answer: „Englisch,“ another: „Nein, Französisch, oder?“ Much confusion and looking at class listings. Then someone said something in German about French not being in this room and a bunch of people got up and left. “Ok, just follow the crowd, maybe it’s on another day.” Everyone filed out into the hallway where I discovered there would still be class (darn it! just barely escaped!), just in a different room. The professor came and found us another room to have class. I found a seat and the professor began in French. “So, this isn’t so bad. I’m definitely understanding more than I would in an all-German class. Oh, we have to do a presentation? That’s ok, I don’t need credit for this class so I don’t have to do it. Ah, if we want credit we have to do a paper at the end. Alright, that’s the usual. Wait what? Everyone has to do the presentation regardless of whether we want the credit or now? What?? Ok, take a deep breath. Just wait it out, maybe I can talk to her after class.” Then she had us talk to the person sitting next to us and introduce him/her to the class. “Gulp, I have to speak. My French is so rusty.” However it did go over relatively well and yes, my suspicions were correct, all the other students spoke French very well. I started getting nervous. Some more lecture in French of which I think I understood about 70 percent or so, and then it came time to pick the topics for our presentations. “Yikes, I think this class might be too tough for me, I think I’ll just tell her the class is too difficult and not sign up.” I was about to bail when the girl sitting next to me said that I could be in her group. I could even just help them research the topic and not participate in the presentation. “What do I do now? I just want to leave, I’m too intimidated.” ...But instead I say, “um... ok... yeah, um... that would be alright... thanks.” “Gasp! What have I just committed myself to??? Oh, man.”

So that was my first experience taking a foreign language in a foreign language. There are several consolations to taking this class however, despite the stomach-churning, palm-sweating terror accompanied with sitting in a class hoping the professor won't directly address you or require a response to anything. One consolation is that I now have an opportunity to better my French speaking and comprehension abilities. I also have the opportunity to make friends with the three German girls in my group. And if those weren’t good enough reasons, there is a cute boy in my class, which is of course, always a good reason for perfect attendance :-)

I thought I had a poli sci class after French but it turns out it is actually on Thursday instead of Tuesday (Do not Di). Only one more thing on the agenda for today: I’m trying out a trampoline class tonight so wish me luck!

Here is a pic of Urs for those of you who are interested to see what he looks like. I managed to snap the pic, much to his chagrin, while we were playing pétanque in the park this weekend.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Halloween and Meeting Friends

Wednesday 2 November, 2005

A bunch of the exchange students and I got together on Halloween for a scary movie night. It was really fun and the movie wasn’t too bad either :-) Yes, of course I was scared through the whole thing, but it wasn’t so bad in the end. Hanane cooked and Kathy and Kaija brought a bunch of candy so it was a good time. Here is a pic of us all together. About halfway through the movie, the lights in Hanane’s room went out. We couldn’t get them to turn back on so a few people had to venture to the house master in the other building to ask him to help us out... he lives in the basement coincidentally. Well, he wasn’t there so we messed around with the lights some more and figured out that it was Hanane’s water boiler that had made the lights not work. There had been water spilled on it but when we unplugged it, everything turned back on. A pretty fun time for a Halloween night :-)

Halloween was also the first day of classes. British film is my first class on Monday. I also have Deutsche Als Fremdsprache but it didn’t meet this week. Tina (exchange student to Coe fall 2003 and also my roommate for that semester) is in that class too so I got to see her again for the first time in almost two years. She was really nice and she spoke German to me very slowly so I could understand everything. She invited me to come with her on Tuesday (yesterday) with her family and boyfriend, Jörg, to a beautiful park/zoo. It was amazing! The park was really nice and there were a bunch of different animals living there. There were some buildings like a zoo would have, with animals and fish and such. There was also an amazing teahouse that was made entirely from materials from China. Here's a pic of it. It was a really nice vacation. I would like to go back in summer when all the flowers are blooming. They have two cats and two guinea pigs. I’ll have to take a pic of the guinea pigs to put up online. They are so cute and Tina built the incredible three-story house for them. This pic is of Tina, Jörg, and one of their cats.

More classes today and tomorrow but free on Friday! I think I have almost everything figured out. It’s been frustrating trying to hunt down where all the classes will be and how to get a hold of the professors. Almost over though!