Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Sounds of Silence

After just eating lunch with some friends, I've noticed that I have nothing new to say to people...ever. I told Alex how I felt and she's right; it's a complete overexposure to the people I am friends with because we all live together. Topic conversations are pretty much limited to the following:

1. Schoolwork & how much it sucks.
2. Your weekend plans.
3. How tired you are and how much you want to nap.
4. What you've already done for the day, what your plans are for the rest of the day.
5. Ideas for parties sometime in the future.

I think that's a pretty comprehensive list of topics. To be perfectly honest, I'd rather sit in silence and enjoy it rather than chit chatting about stuff that I'll re-hash out with someone else later. For example, this morning I was repeating stuff that I had told Elise already on Tuesday. I felt stupid, so just apologized.

I feel like that is one thing I learned while I was abroad. It's OK to sit in silence with someone and not have it awkward. Why is it that we're so used to constantly talking? Why can't we just sit and say nothing? I don't understand it. Elise also told me that every third word out of my mouth is "thesis," which she's probably right about, but I have nothing else to say except, "Hmm, I should go work on my thesis," or something along those lines. Nothing in my life is currently that interesting. There is nothing new to report to people, nothing newsworthy. I feel like I myself am just a boring person at the moment because all I do is eat, sleep, exercise, go to class, and do classwork. How monotonous.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Back in the U.S. (of A)

So I haven't updated my blog in awhile for many reasons. The main reason is that I left Berlin on September 3 (the Wir Sind Helden concert was cancelled and I was livid), came back Stateside, was at home in Jersey for a week, then came up to Middlebury. Since being at Middlebury, I've been thrown back into the world of academia, stress, and social obligations.

I'm actually only taking two classes (Reasonable Doubts, a.k.a. German course about the Enlightenment and reading classic texts like Faust and then my senior film seminar about Fellini & Antonioni) and my thesis. It leaves me a nice schedule with classes only on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as Wednesday evening. I work in the mailroom Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in order to earn money so I can get back to Berlin.

Speaking of which, I will be going back to Berlin in March for spring break with Alex. You may be asking yourself, "Already?" And the answer is YES. I still am not sure if I love it here as much as I once did, hence booking a flight already to go back. By "here" I mean the U.S. in general, but I also definitely mean Middlebury. Middlebury is not what it once was. It is no longer my home away from home. It is no longer a place where I feel comfortable as I had been. It has become a place where I have to be in order to continue on with the rest of my life. It is basically just a pause in my life, the life that I discovered while I was in Berlin and the life that I want to get back to. I am obligated to be back here, to get that piece of paper saying I went to college, to finish my studies.

Being back has also made me realize I am taking a new direction with my life. That direction is steering me back towards Germany. I feel like I was much happier there with the lifestyle and who I was, who I became. I don't like the people here as I did before I went abroad. Things have changed, people have changed, I don't know any of the underclassmen. (Not that I really care because I just go to the dining hall whenever I please, not caring if I'm alone.) Relationships have evolved: I see that people I once cared about, I now couldn't care less about, people I once barely knew have become better friends, and people I never knew seem to be better friends than those I thought would always be there.

Nothing really excites me about studying anymore. It makes me irritated to have to sit down and read a text about a film. I think the only thing I'm vaguely interested in is my thesis, only because it is my own project and I can do what I want with it. It's rather sad, but I suppose this is one of the changes in myself that has happened.

On a completely different note, my oldest sister Tracie got married a few weeks ago. That was a real jolt. I suppose it was a sign of growing up, of letting go. Tracie will always be there, of course, but "letting go" of childhood, of silly jokes, of immaturity. It's hard to explain because obviously those things will still be there, but it's not the same. Don't get me wrong, I love my um, brother-in-law, I think he's awesome. It's just strange to think Tracie as a married woman. (I think that's it: She's a married woman, not a girl anymore...who the hell is ever called a "married girl" anyway?)

But that is my life in a nutshell thus far. I plan on applying for jobs to get back to Germany. I hope that I will be there again someday soon. Right after college would be nice. But yes...getting out of Middlebury will be a great relief, as much as I will miss it. It will be a place that I will always remember, but right now, I am ready to move on.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Reflections on a Year Abroad

Yes, indeed, I haven't updated this blog in quite awhile. Between this entry and the last, things that have happened: I turned 21, went to Munich with Ashley, the World Cup came to an end (with Italy winning the title, unfortunately, but nonetheless, Germany put up a good fight), the end of the semester (had to write 3 papers, 1 exam), went to Croatia with Ashley for a week and tanned, and most of my friends have left for home already.

Due to the fact that hardly anyone is left (with the exceptions of Cam and Zoey who are both busy anyway), I have had much time to myself between research for my thesis and napping to reflect upon this year and how I have changed. For one, I am not looking forward to going home as much as one would think I would be. Instead, I think I'm more upset about the fact that I have to leave this wonderful city and go back to really studying (ie: classes meeting more than once a week for only 1.5 hours at a time).

This year has been a life changing experience to put it simply. I have learned much about myself: I am more independent than I thought so, my academic limits were pushed (writing academic papers in German, anyone?), I'm more open to new experiences (drum 'n bass, foods, beer), and I have a passion for Fußball (um, soccer). I think the independence factor is what surprised me the most. Looking back, finding an apartment was probably one of the most challenging things I've done, but look how well that turned out. I made friends through and with them, had tons of fun, learned tons of vocabulary (very useful stuff, too, like, "Es geht mir auf die Eier!"), and had help on papers.

I'm not quite sure what I will miss most about Berlin. Drinking beer on the street. The U-bahn announcement, "Einsteigen, bitte. Zurückbleiben, bitte." The annoying street musicians on the U- and S-bahn. The Turkish market on Tuesdays and Fridays. The dogs running around without leashes. The nightlife...And then there are the specific people and places that I will miss, like my roommates, the Oberbaum Brücke, Rosi's, crazy Julian (although I haven't seen him in awhile), Görlitzer Park, Wannsee. Going back to Middlebury will be a huge change.

If I had to choose ten songs to represent this year, I know what they'd be. Of course, many of them are World Cup songs, but it played such a prominent role during second semester. (Hence why I had to stress out at the end of the semester to finish my papers on time because I watched 58 of the 64 games) I would choose these songs, but not in any specific order:

1. Wir Sind Helden - "Nur ein Wort"
2. Sportfreunde Stiller - "'54, '74, '90, 2006" (or 2010, both versions)
3. Nena - "99 Luftballons"
4. Bob Sinclair - "Love Generation"
5. Seeed - "Ding"
6. Oliver Pocher - "Schwarz und Weiß"
7. Texas Lightning - "No No Never"
8. Tocotronic - "Meine Freundin und ihr Freund"
9. Farin Urlaub - "Zehn"
10. Franz Ferdinand - "Do You Want To"

In reality, I've actually made a playlist on my iPod like I do every year and it has 40 some odd songs in German and English. I know that when I hear these songs all together, it will remind me of the times I've had here.

Although I am leaving in 2.5 weeks, I know I will be back. I've already started looking for jobs here in Berlin for after college (if anyone knows of any job in the music or film/TV industry here, drop me a line.) and hopefully it will be just as much fun, if not more so.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

'54, '74, '90, 2010 + München

Now that the World Cup is officially over, it seems like I have absolutely nothing to do with my life. I'm estimating that I saw between 52 and 58 of the 64 games that happened between June 9th and July 9th. As you can see, I became slightly addicted (ok, "slightly" is an understatement) to football. To say the least, I now have a bigger appreciation for the sport.

In the quarter-finals, Germany beat Argentina in a penalty shoot-out after overtime. I'll admit it: I was pretty nervous the day of the game because I felt that Argentina had a better chance of moving on. After making all of their penalty shots, it felt like the whole country broke out into one huge party that would continue until the semi-final game. We all know how the semi-final ended. Germany unfortunately lost to Italy (who plays dirtier than flies on a pile of poo) in the last two minutes of overtime. If only they had held out, they probably could've beat the Italians in a penalty shoot-out.

Even so, Germany managed to place third after beating Portugal in a game that was probably better and more interesting than the final itself. Third isn't bad at all, considering there were 32 teams at the beginning of the World Cup. And the Germans have acknowledged that, praising their team, thanking Jürgen Klinsmann (the coach), and essentially, being a graceful third place winner. On the day of the final, the whole team came to Berlin to the Fan Mile in front of Brandenburger Tor to thank their fans. Ashley, Mike, and I went because we all have our favorite players (Podolski, Friedrich, and Ballack, respectively) and thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing. Indeed, it was, but it was hot as all hell.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Berlin, Berlin, Wir fahren nach Berlin

Unless you live in the United States or under a rock (or as they say in German, "hinter dem Mond leben"), you would be aware that the biggest sporting event in the world is currently happening right here in Germany. This sporting event is this phenomenon called the "World Cup" (Fußball Weltmeisterschaft in German, or WM for short). As an American, I never thought that I would get completely absorbed into the football culture outside our dear, dear country, but oh Lord. My life in the past two weeks has been taken over by football, football, football.

The opening game was June 9 and was Germany against Costa Rica. Since then, I have watched about 40 of the 45 games that have already happened. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Three games a day until this past Tuesday and living with Germans that are really into it...well, I've found myself wasting away in front of the TV. However, I'd like to point out that the Germany vs. Poland game was simply amazing (only goal made in the last minute of overtime? Awesome), the goal that Joe Cole made in the England vs. Sweden match was fantastic, and it's a pity that the US is out of the Round of 16. (But Beasley is still the man.)

Ashley and I have decided that we are in favor of Germany winning (naturally). We also have "claimed" German players...meaning, we've dubbed them hot. She likes Podolwski and I like Ballack. We've been typical women sometimes; we watch the games and comment on how hot players are. I do that with Heike as well, though.

The atmosphere here in Berlin is indescribable, but I'll try to explain it: Electrifying. Exciting. Loud. Energetic. Crazy. Chaotic. You get the point. There are fans from every corner of the world coming to enjoy the atmosphere, whether or not they have tickets to games. Every restaurant and cafe (or almost every) has a TV on which customers can view the games whenever they're on. And when games aren't on? Customers can still watch commentary on past games or predictions on who will win the next.

In addition to the excess amount of TVs everywhere (including huge Jumbotrons at major sites like Brandenburger Tor and Treptower Park), the German patriotism is unbelievable. I don't think I've ever seen this many German flags before in my life. They're on cars, buildings, shirts, people's faces, the U- and S-bahn. Everywhere you look, you can see Schwarz-Rot-Gold. In Der Spiegel (a magazine equivalent to Time), there was an article saying that the German flag is sold out nearly everywhere and production in China is having a tough time keeping up with the demand. Additionally, four times as many Deutscher Fußballbund jerseys have been sold as in the last World Cup in 2002.

I've been to various screenings of various games. For the US vs. Italy game, I went to the Brandenburger Tor Fan Mile with a few other Americans: Mike, Dan, Drew (visiting from Tübingen), and some of Drew's friends. We were in a vast sea of Italian fans who didn't understand Dan yelling profanities. However, Drew and Dan understood the Italians whenever they said anything about us. I also sat in Treptower Park and watched the Brazil vs. Australia game, as well as South Korea vs. France. Yesterday I went to see the US vs. Ghana and Czech Republic vs. Italy game there, too.

However, today was probably a highlight of the whole WM experience for me. I had tickets to the Tunisia vs. Ukraine game and Hugo came with me. It was pretty exciting and you could feel the tension in the air. The Olympic Stadium was completely full with the 72,000 spectators chanting, screaming, booing, and clapping. Unfortunately only one goal was made by the Ukrainians (number 7 Shevchenko) and the game could've been more exciting, but I can't complain. How many people can say they went to a World Cup game during their study abroad year? (Besides Ashley and Cam, I'm sure others can, but still...that's not my point.) I don't know what else to say, but it was definitely more fun than the hockey game I saw in Turin for the Olympics. (Even if I saw my own home team there.)

My support currently is with the German team for many obvious reasons. They play again tomorrow against the Swedes, which should make for a thrilling game. Tomorrow I'm also turning the big 2-1, but how anticlimactic since I can already legally drink here. I can even drink on the street! But even so, I think I will celebrate by watching some more football...

Lastly, "Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin" means "Berlin, Berlin, we're going to Berlin." The Germans keep saying that, but other teams have their translations too. I've heard "¡Berlin, Berlin, vamos a Berlin!" and others, which I'm sure is the same. Who will make the final? God only knows, and I can only look forward to July 9.

I will update this later with pictures at some other point...

Friday, June 09, 2006

"The Irish Sea is crap!"

It's been yet another long while since I have updated my blog, but Dan just recently made his big trip around Europe and came to visit. Before that, I was working diligently on one of my papers and have completed 10 pages already. Just another 2 pages and 2 more papers to go.

Dan got here to Berlin on the 30th. We didn't do too much before we left for a nice 4 day trip to Dublin. When people said that Dublin was expensive, they weren't lying. Even so, it was a nice break from Germany, German, and Germans. The first day we got there, we went to Phoenix Park, saw the Wellington Memorial, watched some Irish people playing football in the park, and went to the Guinness Factory. Everyone who visits the Guinness Factory gets a complimentary pint, and oh, did we drink it. We actually went and drank our pints first and then did the tour, only because the bar was closing early. My verdict: I still don't like Guinness. It's too thick and it's like eating a loaf of bread or more.

For dinner, we decided on this restaurant in Temple Bar serving traditional Irish boxties, which are these potato pancakes with stuff wrapped up inside. It was incredible and rather expensive, but completely worth it. As we were finishing up our dessert, a familiar face came up to us and said, "Hey guys, what's up?" It was none other than Mark Hemley, our friend from Middlebury whom we haven't seen since leaving the States. (So about August or so?) He was so casual about seeing us, saying, "I knew I was going to see you guys today! I thought I saw a guy that looked just like you, Dan, and I thought I would run into you." The weird thing was that Dan and I didn't know that Mark was going to be in Dublin, and he didn't know we were going to be, either. What are the chances that we run into each other in a little restaurant in Dublin? Dan and I were completely shocked beyond belief to see Mark, but he passed it off as if it were another day in Middlebury.

He and his girlfriend were just getting their dinner as we finished, so we decided to meet up an hour later. Mark's girlfriend didn't end up coming, so the three of us went to the nearest Irish pub, grabbed some pints (which were expensive), and then headed over to the Temple Bar. (The actual pub named Temple Bar) Mark and his girlfriend were only in Dublin that night and were travelling around Ireland after that, but it was nonetheless really amazing to have run into him.

The next day we went to the Irish Writers' Museum (well, we had to because of our Contemporary Ireland class!), took a tour of Dublin Castle, and then saw St. Patrick's Cathedral. Somehow it ended up taking up the whole day, but we also did a lot of walking. In fact, we didn't take buses anywhere while in Dublin. We just walked everywhere, even though we were staying rather far from places like the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. The weather was incredible and we figured we'd save a little money by walking. Not only that, but getting exercise is always good.

On Saturday, we took a guided tour outside of Dublin called "The Celtic Experience." A bit cheesy, I suppose, but it was a great way to see the Irish countryside. Our tourguide, Paul, was really knowledgeable and really had the art of Irish storytelling down pat. He was pretty funny, too. The best lines were when he said that the Irish Catholics are the "guiltiest people on Earth" and then compared Jesus to Communism. (Long story, but just think of how an Irishman might do it. That's how he told it.) He also informed us that on any day when you're looking out of your window, you can see at least 40 different shades of green in the Irish countryside. I wonder how many there are in Vermont?

The tour only had 14 people total and it was very private, very personal. We got to see a whole bunch of places whose names I can't remember, but that's why a digital camera is so useful. If you go to my pictures here, you can see the labels for each place. I took pictures of each place's name so I could remember because I know my memory sucks. There was a family from Texas there and they were so ridiculously Texan, but in a good way. It was kind of amusing since I've been away from Americans for so long, and it was really refreshing to just be with people who are so obviously American but not obnoxiously so.

The tour lasted the entire day and when we got back into Dublin, there were a bunch of rubber ducks in the Liffey River. The World Record Duck Race had taken place earlier in the day. Children and adults can pay about 5€ a piece for a rubber duck with a number. All of the rubber ducks go floating down the Liffey, and the one to get to the end wins a big prize of some sort. There must've been at least 100,000 rubber ducks and you could just see a sea of yellow. Because the race was done, people were collecting rubber ducks and throwing them up to people standing along the river. Dan and I each managed to snag one, although I told him I'll probably end up throwing it out someday.

Our last day in Dublin was spent at the Jameson Distillery, where, much like in the Guinness Storehouse, we got complimentary whiskey. We went a little early so we were drinking whiskey at about noon or so. My verdict: Still don't like whiskey much, either. Then we took a DART train out to Howth, which is this town that is still in County Dublin, but on the edge of the Irish Sea. There were beaches and steep cliffs, lots of Irish children running around. It was a really beautiful day to go out there and we climbed some of the cliffs, walked out to the lighthouse, and listened in on conversations. Our favorite, by far, was between an 8- or 9-year old boy and his younger 5- or 6-year old sister. You could tell that their parents had planned a weekend family excursion and the little boy just didn't really want to be there. On the other hand, the little girl was completely enchanted by it. This is how the exchange went:

Little boy: The Irish Sea is crap!
Little girl: No, it's not! It's full of sharks and stuff!

Yes, it's a short exchange, but imagine it with little Irish accents and the two of them just being very blunt with each other. Another good one was when a little boy, perched upon his father's shoulders, dropped some sort of lid for some snack he had. Here's that exchange:

Little boy: I don't need it.
Father: Well, you need to put it in a bin, dontchya?

Like I said, it was probably much funnier when we were there because of the accents. We also decided that the Irish seem to be very matter-of-fact with each other. But mainly, it was probably because of the accents.

We flew back here to Berlin at the asscrack of dawn (our flight left Dublin at 5:55 a.m.). The weather was not so great when we left: foggy, gray, cool. Paul had told us that we had lucked out because before we showed up, there had been about 3 months straight of rain. Dan actually had gotten sunburned on his face and I got a "driving" tan. (My left arm was tanned, while my right was not) Who would've thought in Ireland?

Our time here in Berlin was pretty laid back. When we got back on Monday, the Karneval der Kulturen was still going on over by Hallesches Tor. It was basically another street festival with all the minorities celebrating their cultures. Other things we did included going to the Museum für Naturkünde (Natural History Museum), but unfortunately they were restoring the huge dinosaur hall. Therefore, we weren't able to see the world famous brachiosaurus skeleton. On Wednesday, there was a huge fan party for the World Cup in front of the Brandenburger Tor and we went to that with Ashley and Dan. There was a country band from Mississippi that played a bunch of covers (including a country rendition of "Hey, ya!" but it worked). Ashley and I were having a lot of dancing but I think all the people around us thought we were completely nuts.

I guess there isn't much else noteworthy to tell...the details here are vague, yes. I really don't feel like writing every little thing, but if you want to see pictures from Dublin, I took about 200 or so. (Oh, the joys of digital) So, go to my Flickr page, check them out.

Today is the opening game for the World Cup with Germany playing against Costa Rica. Dan left today to go back home (with a short stop in London), so I will be going to see the game with Christian, Heike, and a bunch of his friends. It should be really exciting because Germany has a really good chance of winning, and well, it's the opening game. Opening game, host team playing...what could be better?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mein Neuer Zimmer (und Neue Mitbewohnerin)

As the title of this entry indicates, I have a new room and a new roommate. No, I didn't move out of my apartment. Instead, I switched rooms. On April 30, Valentin (aka Das Phantom) moved out, I switched into Valentin/Pablo's room (which actually belongs to Krischan), and Heike moved back. Here's the complicated story: I was subletting Heike's room because she had to go to Koblenz to do some sort of law course. Pablo was subletting Krischan's room, but moved out at the end of February because Krischan was supposed to come back from doing a semester abroad in Austria. However, Krischan got an internship in Bavaria (southern Germany) and didn't come back at the end of February. Pablo didn't want to stay, so moved in with his friend Julian, while Christian and I found another subletter, Valentin (das Phantom/der Vampir/Rasputin), for two months. We didn't communicate with Valentin at all, or rather, he didn't talk to us. Hence all the funny nicknames. At the end of the two months, so the end of April, Valentin moved out, I moved into Krischan's room, and Heike is back into where I was sleeping. And now the apartment consists of Heike, Christian, and me. Complicated, right?

To make things simpler, I am in a new room and got a new roommate. I really like Heike and the dynamic of the apartment has changed completely from when Pablo was here. Two guys and a girl is very different from two girls and a guy. For one, I am no longer "self-made bitch" as Alex called me. Heike washes the dishes more than I do, probably cleans a little more than I do, and cooks as much as I do. She baked an Apfelkuchen (apple cake) for Christian's birthday while I did nothing. You can also tell the difference between our ages: She bought Christian a cookbook and I got him the new Chili Peppers CD. The apartment has skewed older now, too, (Heike is 30, Christian is 27, Pablo is 22), although Heike doesn't seem like she's 30.

I also didn't update about Tag der Arbeit (Labor Day) on 1 May, which is famous for demonstrations and riots. This year was no different. The day before, I went out with some friends and we just relaxed in Viktoriapark over by Mehringdamm. By "relaxing," I mean drank large amounts of alcohol while listening to people playing guitar, watching people play with fire, and enjoying the spring weather. I didn't go anywhere else really after Viktoriapark because I admittedly drank myself silly, but apparently there were other things going on in the city, like in Mauerpark in Prenzlauerberg (where the first stone is traditionally thrown) and Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain. (The picture on the left is our "Workers of the World Unite!" picture from Monday)

On Monday, 1 May, there was this huge street festival outside my apartment on Oranienstraße called MyFest. The festival went all the way down to Oranienplatz, extended to Mariannenplatz, and was also in Heinrichplatz and Adalbertstraße. I suppose this doesn't mean anything to those who have never been to Berlin, especially Kreuzberg, but it's a pretty sizeable area. There were bands of all types playing for MyFest, from traditional Russian music to hardcore ska and punk bands. The streets were full of people drinking beer, eating döner and falafel, singing, dancing, and enjoying the spring weather.

I went and enjoyed the day with Zoey, Mike, and Ashley. Mike was wearing a Blaumann, which are these bright blue overalls that construction workers and such wear, with an orange t-shirt. It was pretty ridiculous but made him it easy to find him in the crowds. We saw many bands, ate falafel, sat on the street and people watched, and sat in the park. It was a good day, but unfortunately I had to leave early to go see a film for my Taiwanese film class. When I came back to Kreuzberg at around 11 pm, the party was still going on. Apparently, the festivities went on til 1 am, but Christian and I didn't notice because we were watching Armageddon on TV til 2.Throughout the day, there were demonstrations going on for every little thing you could possibly think of: People against domestic violence, against the Iraq War, Communists demonstrated, there were some demonstrators for anarchy, etc. etc. I didn't partake in anything. Ashley, Zoey, Mike, and Dan were out very late at night while I had come home, and apparently the riot police were right outside my apartment on Oranienstraße trying to control people and a huge bonfire, according to what they said. The funny thing is that the next day, everything was back in order and it looked as if the previous day had never happened. Another reason to love Germany: Things get cleaned up fast after a huge party like MyFest or Karneval. And every day I still come to the conclusion that I'm so glad I came to Berlin for my year abroad.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sommersemester Woche 1, Drew Visits, & Die Wannsee

Whenever I don't update for awhile, one of two things usually happens. First, absolutely nothing happens. Literally, nothing. Orelse the time flies by, I've done so much, and I just don't know where to start. This time, the latter has happened.

To sum it up quickly, my friend Drew from language school came up to visit from Tübingen (near Stuttgart) last week. Last week was also the first week of classes for Sommersemester, which in English would just be known as second semester. On Sunday, Drew left and I went to the Wannsee for a picnic with Rob, Cam, Ashley, Dan, and some kids from Rob & Cam's program. That's the short version of events. Read on if you want to know the longer version.

Drew came up on a whim and didn't know when exactly he was leaving. So I let him stay. During the day, I would go to a few classes and then come back. On Wednesday evening, we went with Ashley to see Dropkick Murphys and Less than Jake in concert. It was pretty chaotic, to say the least. We were up front for Less than Jake and the crowd went wild. We were moshing and ska-dancing around, so much so that I basically pushed Drew over (even though he's at least 5 inches taller than me) and broke my bra. Yes, people, I broke my bra from moshing and yes, it was a first for me. Hey, it happens.

We moved to the back for Dropkick Murphys because you could feel the anxiety in the air to just go crazy. We were pretty beaten up from Less than Jake, and not to mention that there was a creepy bald guy trying to hit on Ashley and me by staring at us with a look he probably thought was seductive. (It was just plain creepy.) The acoustics were pretty crappy, but even so, I sang along to "The Workers' Song" and "Barroom Hero," amongst others. Stiny, if you're reading this: I wish you had been there! You would've had so much fun.

On Friday evening, I chose a club in Prenzlauerberg, Icon, to go to because I had seen an advertisement saying that one of the guys from the Propellerheads was DJing. Ashley and Drew came with me and the selection of music was pretty good. It was electro, so it was a surprise to see Pablo with his friends Alex and David. Sure, I had invited them to come with us, but I didn't expect them to go. Pablo always goes to drum & bass parties, which, unsurprisingly, he went to afterward. Anyway, that was basically Drew's visit.

Last week was also the first week of classes. I realized that I'm not as stressed out as last semester when I had to pick them out, and it's probably because I know the rules of the game. It was pretty funny today because Ashley, Cam, and Gergana (Mt. Holyoke student in the Midd Program) came to a Vorlesung (general lecture) that I went to last week. At the beginning of the class, the professor said that he had to speak to the one American student afterward. I was the only American student last week, all the others were Austrians. (Short digression: Can I just say, Austrians doing their 'abroad' year/semester in Germany is a little ridiculous? That'd be like Americans going to Canada for an 'abroad' experience.) Anyway, Ashley, Gergana, and I discussed writing a Klausur (written exam) for the course and Cam asked if he could take a 2 hour one. The professor said the Klausur would be around 45 minutes, so Cam can't take it (not enough for his program), and Gergana asked, "Wait, are we allowed to do that?" On the sheet we give to professors, it says the Klausur has to be 1 hour and a half long. I wanted to just nudge her really hard and say, "It doesn't matter!" I explained later that it doesn't matter because as long as we're writing a Klausur, the program director doesn't need to know the tiny little details. It'll say on paper that we did an exam and that's all that matters. It's learning the rules of the game.
Dan on the jungle gym at the Wannsee. No, he didn't knock little kids off.

I'm almost done choosing classes...I'm definitely taking Massaker in der Frühen Neuzeit (Massacres in the Early New Time), Das Kino aus Taiwan (Taiwanese Cinema), and Geschichte der öffentlichen Kommunikation: Der Nationalsozialismus und die deutsche Gesellschaft (History of Open Communication: National-Socialism and Germany Society). Das Kino aus Taiwan is actually a Hauptseminar, a.k.a. graduate level course. However, it's being taught by an American, so his German is actually really easy for me to understand. Even so, I'm probably crazy for taking a grad level course in German!

Last thing to mention is the trip to the Wannsee. Cam thought it would be a good idea to go out to the lake, have a picnic, play a little Fußball. That's exactly what we did. A bunch of students from his program came and Ashley, Dan, and I were there representing the Midd program. We played an impromptu game of Fußball (Ashley's shoes acting as one goal, two empty bottles of Beck's being the other), which was not too bad, considering most of us playing are American. The only Germans playing were Cam's roommates Anna and Joanna. However, some Turkish kids wanted to play with us, so we let them. They weren't half bad. It was really amusing, too, because Cam would urge them on, saying, "Ok, Ahmed!" and "Gut gemacht, Aqbar!" (however you spell it). Ashley thought he was being mean and making up names for them, when in reality, those were really those names. We also 'adopted' a German girl, Sammy, who was pretty brutal, and then a little German boy whose name I didn't hear. All in all, it was a very active day.

And this has to be the most scatterbrained entry I've written in awhile.

Oh, but here's a joke that Ashley told me that I really enjoyed. But first, the background story to why it's so funny to me. A lot of Americans I know here have been adopting German grammar. In German, you would say, "Kommst du mit?" in order to say, "Are you coming?" However, the literal translation of that is "Are you coming with?" What I mean to say is, many of Americans are just tacking on prepositions to the ends of sentences and questions, where in German it would work. Obviously, it isn't grammatically correct in English. And now, the joke:

There was a prospectus walking around the Princeton campus, admiring the buildings and wandering. He wanted to know where the library was, so he stopped a student and asked, "Hey, do you know where the library's at?" The student blinked at him and replied, "Yes, I do. In the English language, ending sentences with prepositions is grammatically incorrect. I know where the library is." The prospectus paused a second and rephrased the question: "Do you know where the library's at, asshole?"

Ashley and I found this joke quite humorous because we're ending sentences with prepositions now and we both have a small dislike for Princeton. The End.

Oh, and sorry for all of the pictures from the Wannsee. I just didn't take any pictures really when Drew was around. And I don't have any pictures from my classes, obviously.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A random assortment of thoughts

Not that I have much to write, but I'd like to say that I never know when holidays are. Because I never know when holidays are, I never know when stuff (ie: life sustaining establishments, a.k.a. supermarkets) is closed. For example, today. I thought, "Wow, it's a lovely day out! I'm going to bring back some of those beer bottles sitting in the kitchen." I stuck 30 bottles into a backpack and 20 more in two separate canvas bags. I walked around the block and to my dismay and annoyance, the Getränkmarkt was closed. Already feeling like a dumb ass, I noticed that the supermarket next door was also shut. At that point, I just wanted to drop everything, fall to my knees, and scream, "Nooooo!" I forgot: It's Good Friday. Translation for me: Good Friday = everything closed in Germany. (And Easter = some holiday about some guy named Jesus returning.) Unlike in the U.S. where everything is open no matter what (with the exception of Christmas, which is the only religious holiday I can remember the date of), everything shuts down here. All I can say is I hope that everything is open tomorrow, otherwise I will be sustaining on plain pasta, bread, tomatoes, and what little cheese I have left.

Oh, and just to let you know...that's actually an older picture of the bottles that accumulated in our kitchen. (I took most of them back in a two day period) They really do accumulate. After about 5 or 6 bottles per person per week (on occasion more if we go out), times three people (well, not with the new roommate, but that picture was taken before Pablo moved out), plus times we have friends come over (add on another 3 bottles per visitor, I'd say) adds up. Even if we didn't have people over, that's about 15 to 18 bottles per week, and I take the bottles back maybe once every month. Just to let you know, there are more than 100 bottles in that picture. Yup...100 bottles of beer on the floor, 100 bottles of beer...

Doug enjoying a Paulaner Hefeweißen Bier in Görlitzer Park...but out of a can! *gasp*

On another note, Doug and his friend Chris (and Chris' brother) were here last week in Berlin visiting. We met up for the day and I showed them parts of Berlin. (We took the scheiss Bus 100. How many times have I taken it?? It's not your fault, Doug.) It was such a lovely day out that we decided to sit out in Görlitzer Park near my apartment and drink some beer and soda. People were out and about because of the weather, walking around, sitting and playing music, enjoying a cup of something outside at a cafe, biking, running, etc. While we were in Görlitzer Park, you could see the colorful motley that makes up Berlin: punks (Punk is NOT dead by any means), hippies, hipsters, goths, students, Turks, fashionistas, fashion victims, old people, young people, gay people, straight people. Everybody doesn't give a damn what everybody else thinks of them and for this reason, I love Berlin.

The summer here is supposed to be extraordinary and you can tell that it will be. In addition to the World Cup (WM, as the Germans call it, short for Weltmeisterschaft), it's going to be wonderful to see everybody out and about enjoying the weather. Even yesterday when the weather was more on the downside (gray, colder, a little rainy), people were fishing along the Spree, walking dogs, or still biking. I myself went for a walk in Treptower Park, even though it was probably a better idea to stay inside.

In addition to walking in Treptower Park, I made a small trip to Platz der Luftbrücke, where the Berlin Airlift took place. In addition to a memorial to the Luftbrücke, Berlin's biggest airport, Flughafen Tempelhof, is also there. For those of you, like me, that are huge fans of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the airport where the zeppelin takes off and where Indy says, "No ticket!" is Tempelhof. Yes, I am a dork. I never would've thought of it, though, had Christian not said anything while we watched the movie. Of course, I had to take pictures. I'll actually go inside it when Tracie comes to visit me, since she's flying in there. (The thing on the left is the memorial to the Airlift, and the building behind it is Tempelhof.)

Lastly, classes (finally) begin on Tuesday. I have a list of about 15 or so to go to. I'm just hoping that my schedule works out advantageously like it did last semester so that I can travel on the weekends. My goal for this semester: München, Hamburg, Heidelberg, and Wien.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Spring break in Japan

I haven't posted in awhile for two main reasons: First, Alexandra was here in Berlin visiting. We had tons of fun imitating statues, imagining my new roommate as Batman, climbing the Siegesäule and getting lightheaded on the climb down, and eating lots of Kartoffelsuppe. If you want to see pictures (which I must say are pretty hysterical), go here.

The other main reason why I've been M.I.A.? This tiny little archipelago in Asia called "Japan." I was there visiting Dan for the week and we went to Tokyo and hung out in Kyoto. We made a pretty funny couple since everyone assumed that I knew Japanese, though the extent of my Japanese is "Arigato" (thanks). People would direct questions and comments to me, to which I would just stare at them blankly or just give a puzzled look, say, "Um, Dan...?" and Dan would answer in Japanese. I think we confused quite a few people. On the flight to Osaka Airport, the flight attendants assumed I was Japanese and passed me by when handing out landing cards, even though I raised my hand indicating I needed one. D'oh.

The first day I was there, we went to see a light festival that was being held in Gion. I was surprisingly not dying of jetlag and we walked all over looking at temples and shrines. It was really beautiful despite the fact that it was lightly raining. On Sunday, we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is this huge shrine with tons of torii (gates). If you've seen the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, it's the place where the little girl runs under all these orange things. There was a lot of climbing up stairs and hills, wandering on paths that took us through clusters of bamboo trees, and we got to see Kyoto from above. We wandered off a path a little too far and actually accidentally left the Fushimi Inari Shrine, so we had to climb back up a large hill and find the path again. It was a beautiful day and much walking/hiking/wandering was done. By the time we were done discovering the shrine, we were beat.

Sunday evening after the Fushimi Inari Shrine, we took an overnight bus to Tokyo. The 8 hour ride itself sucked because neither Dan nor I could really sleep and the bus was ridiculously hot. When we got to Tokyo, it was too early to do anything, so we ate breakfast in Tokyo Station (we found a McDonald's). Once the city began to wake, we walked to the Imperial Palace, which wasn't actually that interesting. We saw the big wall surrounding the palace and everything was closed. It was a bit disappointing, but Dan said that the Imperial Palace in Kyoto was far more impressive. On Dave Ly's recommendation, we went to Odaiba, this district near the Rainbow Bridge.

We went to Decks Tokyo Beach, which is this weird cluster of malls. Why weird? Well, we found Little Hong Kong on the top two floors of one mall. It was strange and a bit cheesy, but we managed to find a good Chinese restaurant. (This made me pretty happy, considering I can't find Chinese food here in Berlin to my liking.) We then went down a few floors and crossed to a mall that was directly next to the first. It was even more bizarre than the first; it was as if someone transported us to 1950's Tokyo. All the stores sold nostalgic goods or just plain strange Japanese things. For example, we found this store that sold all this crazy stuff with cats dressed up like humans (samurai, ninjas, students, etc.) Check this website out if you don't believe me. Although it was a bit strange and foreign to us, we enjoyed walking around nonetheless.

Tuesday was Dan's 21st birthday, but instead of doing the usual let's-get-drunk-because-you're-legal thing, we went to Tokyo Disney instead. We chose to go to DisneySea instead of the main Disneyland park and we spent the whole day there. You would think that it wouldn't be so different than Disneyworld or Disneyland in the US, but oh, is it. Besides lots of crazy little Japanese girls running around, the stuff they sell is different, everything is in Japanese (even the characters talk in Japanese, obviously), and the atmosphere is very, well, Japanese.

The rides there were pretty sweet. I was most psyched about the Indiana Jones ride, since I'd been on the one in Disneyland in California. It was pretty much the same, except Indy speaks in Japanese. (I definitely made a video of that.) Our other favorite ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth, which seemed a little boring ("What is all this colorful stuff?"), then suddenly there's this big ass monster ("What the fuck is that?!" was my reaction), and finally, a big ass drop and you zoom along really fast. I convinced Dan to go on Raging Spirits, a roller coaster that had one loop, and he actually enjoyed it. We also went on a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that made me claustrophobic and motion sick (it didn't help that the ride simulated being under water), a small roller coaster that was Little Mermaid themed, and some others that I can't recall. Of course, we also saw some shows. One was really weird and trippy (I fell asleep for a little) and the other was a live performance of Little Mermaid songs. The songs were in English, but when the characters spoke, it was in Japanese.

I'm not going to detail the whole day in DisneySea, but it was a really good time. Dan and I were both amused that we were kids for a day instead of being legal and getting drunk. We just had a beer each when we got back to our hotel. Oh, and I would like to say that I bought the best hat ever from DisneySea, which is super Japanese. I look Japanese. Here's a picture of me in it imitating a Japanese tourist:
Yeah. So the next day, we wandered around a cemetery and then went to Shibuya. Shibuya is the part of Tokyo with tons of bright lights and ads and tons of people. People will collect waiting for the pedestrian lights to change, and when they do, there are just swarms of people crossing every which way. It's a bit intimidating and chaotic, but at the same time, it's what you think of when you think "Tokyo." We met up with Dave for dinner to have shabu-shabu, which is Japanese hot pot. There is a small pot of water and sauce that sits on a stovetop on your table and you continually add vegetables, tofu, and meat. It was sort of strange because Dan kept saying, "More meat!" I suppose it was strange because the entire trip, I would hear, "More meat!" or "Mmm...meat" or something along those lines from him. Newsflash: Dan eats meat now. It was probably the weirdest thing that happened in the week I was in Japan. More so than the crazy Japanese people.

We left Tokyo on another overnight bus ride back to Kyoto and Thursday, we slept at Dan's host family's. At night, we met up with Dan's friends Sam and Mason, Sam's visiting friend Clay, and Mason's Japanese girlfriend whose name I can't recall. We had dinner at a sushi place that had a conveyor belt with all the dishes just rotating around the room, and yes, I did try sushi. However, I still can't get over the texture of fish, and thus, I still don't like it. But I tried it!

After dinner, everyone but Mason's girlfriend went to do some karaoke. We got our own room, had some drinks, and did tons of songs from Weezer's "Buddy Holly" to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" (Dan, Sam, and I were all about Midd Pride!) to Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" (Jersey Pride!). It was lots of fun. I even did Nena's "99 Luftballons" in German by myself. I'll admit that it's too bad I don't do karaoke more often, even though I think I'm pretty awful at singing.

My last day in Japan was spent with Dan wandering around near the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Tourists and ordinary folk aren't actually allowed within the walls of the palace, so we walked outside it. The cherry blossoms ("sakura" in Japanese) were starting to bloom and were extraordinarily beautiful. Too bad the sakura festivals are a little later. Nonetheless, I took tons of pictures. Dan and I sat under the sakura enjoying our time together, watched some mothers struggling with their children, and relaxed in the amazing springtime weather. We also went by his university where the Japanese students were starting second semester and then returned to his host family's house to have dinner. Dan's host mom cooked a Japanese feast of tempura and other goodies. It was pretty delicious.

On Saturday, Dan and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. so that I could catch a train to Osaka Kansai Airport. It was a good week all in all, we sorted things out, and we're still going strong. This trip was actually the first trip where I didn't think, "Thank God! I'm going back to Berlin!" When I got back here, all I could think was, "Hmm, I miss Dan, I miss the food!" I have nothing to do for the next two weeks before classes start up again except watching movies, planning my next semesters (this coming and fall back at Midd), and basically, just bumming around. Even so, I'm looking forward to relaxing and time alone since the past month has been filled with visitors and visiting. It's time to recover.

If you want to see more pictures from my trip to Japan, go here. I'm warning you, though, there's 283 pictures!!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Karneval & Prague

The lack of updates has been due to the fact that I was in Düsseldorf and Köln (aka Cologne in English) for Karneval and then in Prague. Ethel, my friend/supervisor from my internship at Fuse, arrived in Berlin last Friday, and on Saturday we flew to Düsseldorf for Karneval. Why Düsseldorf, of all cities, you ask? Christian had invited me (or us) to celebrate Karneval there with him and his friends since it's his hometown. I figured it would be a great experience, especially with a local. He and Pablo repeatedly told me that I had no idea what to expect and they were completely right.

After walking around the city, Ethel and I met up with Christian and his friends and went to their local pub, Schaukel Stühlchen. Everyone, from old couples to teenagers, was on the street dancing outside the pub to music blasting from speakers when we went in. We spent most of the night there, where Ethel and I (and everyone else) drank a lot of the local Schlösser Alt bier, although I had been warned to not drink it. (My verdict: Not bad.) The music was a mix between traditional German Karneval songs (which Christian and his friends all knew and sang along to), 80s pop songs, current dance hits, and indie rock. After a considerable time at Schaukel Stühlchen, Christian, his friend Sven, Ethel, and I went dancing at a club called Stone, where the music was mostly indie rock and German pop. We danced through the night until we got kicked out at about 4:30/5 a.m. and Ethel and I took a cab back to our hostel and tried not to wake up the other people in the room. It was a bit difficult for me because I was on the top bunk, and after having a lot to drink, let's just say it wasn't an easy task climbing up.

Sunday we woke up at 9 a.m. and working on four hours of sleep, Ethel and I took a local train to Köln to see the Karneval festivities there. I would just like to say that the cathedral (Kölner Dom) is probably the most impressive cathedral I've ever seen. Besides that, the festivities were quite obvious with costumed people lining up on the street to watch the parade. The parade basically was all the schoolkids dressed up marching around and it felt like it lasted forever. Ethel and I got tired of watching and were cold, so wandered the city in search of anything but the parade. That mission seemed to have failed, mostly because everything was closed. We did, however, sit in a Burger King drinking tea (since it was about the only place open) observing some teenagers drunk to the point of passing out. This was about 4 in the afternoon. Because we had partied late into the night before, we couldn't bring ourselves to drink the local beer, Kölsch, nor really party. We went back to Düsseldorf and went to sleep relatively early in order to be ready for Rosenmontag.

Rosenmontag is apparently the biggest day of Karneval and we spent it in Düsseldorf. We met up with Christian and his friends again to watch (yet another) parade. However, this parade was much better than the one we had seen in Köln because it was just float after float. Much like Jackie and Doug observed with their Karneval experiences, it seemed to be a day of not being politically correct. Then again, people were dressed up as Mexicans and Indians that would've given Middlebury College a heart attack. There was even one float of "Africans," a.k.a. Germans dressed up as Africans and wearing blackface. I was slightly shocked, but got over it relatively quickly. (There is, afterall, no real word for "PC" in German, except for "PC.")

Watching the parade was an experience in itself. Everyone was drinking beer, whether they had bought it from a stand or had brought it in a wagon, bag, etc. The floats that went by ranged from political humor (making fun of Dubyah or Angie), to local humor (which Ethel and I didn't get), to just plain fun. There were also several marching bands that made me really excited. By the end of the parade, everyone was ready to hit up the bars, and so, we did. We went back to Schaukel Stühlchen and continued to drink and party from about 4 pm to 9 pm or so. It was pretty much like Saturday night except for the fact that more beer was consumed at an earlier hour.

We left the bar to go to a club where there were not that many people there. It actually didn't matter at that point because everyone was pretty much drunk and having a good time regardless. At one point, a whole drum line came into the club and played some traditional German Karneval songs. It was a very good night and was especially great because we got to do as the locals did. My conclusion is that Germans really know how to party and we need to bring Karneval to the U.S. However, it would probably never work, just because there's such a stigma against drinking and we are always concerned about being PC.

On Wednesday, Ethel and I flew from Köln/Bonn airport to Prague. I'm not going to spend much time detailing what went down in Prague, because frankly, not much happened. We actually wanted to try to change our train tickets to come back a day earlier, but unfortunately, it wasn't possible. Prague is a beautiful city, unlike many German cities, since it was basically untouched during the World Wars. It is definitely beautiful in the sense of being a romantic European city and it made me miss having someone with me to just walk through the streets admiring it.
The people we met at the hostel all said the same exact thing: Once you see one thing in Prague, you've basically seen everything. In my opinion, this is true. A good metaphor: Prague is the beautiful woman with no personality. Berlin is the average-looking woman with tons of personality. We explored Prague Castle, saw the Franz Kafka and Toy Museums, and an Alfons Mucha gallery. (Not the museum) To make a long story short, I appreciate Berlin even more now and I'm glad to be back.

Ethel left this morning and I have five days to myself before Alexandra comes to visit me here in Berlin. We'll probably stay here in Berlin and then a week after she arrives, I leave for Japan (when she goes home). More adventures to come.

You can see pictures from Karneval here, but I warn you, there are many drunken photos.
You can see pictures from Prague here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

2006 Winter Olympics: Torino, Italy

This weekend actually started off here in Berlin when I told Pablo that I'd go with him and his friends clubbing on Friday. Apparently it was the best drum & bass party of the year at this club called Watergate, which overlooks the Oberbaum Brücke, and the entry fee was 10€. (Expensive by Berlin standards.) I'd said that I would only stay until 2, the latest at 2:30, because I had to wake up early to get to the airport. Well, go figure, I stayed longer and actually enjoyed the drum & bass floor more than the "mainstream" floor. To my complete surprise, I was pretty much dancing (or rather, bouncing) the entire time, whether because I wanted to, or to avoid some people (whose names will not be mentioned, but Alex, you know who I mean if you're reading this).

I left Watergate at around 4 a.m, walked home, got in the shower (couldn't go to sleep all gross!), and went to bed by 4:30-5 a.m. I woke up at 8:45 a.m. in order to eat breakfast, make sure I had all my things packed, and got to the airport. I had a layover at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and the weather was pretty crappy, but all went smoothly and I got to Torino on time where I met up with Hugo and his friend Elizabeth.

As soon as we got into the city, we rushed off to pick up our tickets and then rushed off again so that Hugo and I could get to our hockey game on time. When we got to the arena, the game was only 4 minutes into the first period and it was already loud, packed, and full of energy. Hugo and I kept exclaiming to each other that it was unbelievable that we were actually there in Torino at the hockey game. We had been planning the hockey game for over a year already!

The game was pretty awesome, mostly due to the energy from the fans. There were lots of, "Settle down, boys!," "Stop being so sloppy!," and "What the fuck?!" from the Americans. (I didn't understand the Slovakian fans) From me, I kept shouting in German: "Nein!!!," "Was macht ihr?!," and "Verdammt Scheiss!" (I concluded that it was much more expressive, and well, it just came out in German, except for the times that I was shouting, "Yeaaah!!") I have to admit, both teams seemed to be a bit sloppy, but especially the Americans. There were times when it seemed that players forgot they had the puck, just didn't look up to see a pass coming, or just passed it way out yonder or to the Slovakians.

Too bad there isn't a website "" (If you don't know what I'm referring to, check this website out now. It's hilarious.) At the hockey game, some of the best quotes included a guy on his cell phone ("Dude! Are you watching TV now? The US vs. Slovakia game? Yeah! I'm there, man! I'm AT the Olympics! I'm behind the American bench! Well, no, farther up. But I'm there, man!") and another guy behind us ("Um, I'm already drunk. It's only the first period, isn't it?"). I'm sure some of the stuff that Hugo and I said were pretty ridiculous. We tried doing some Middlebury cheers (Tiny Bubbles and the one when we win), but we couldn't remember all of Tiny Bubbles. (Beer = cheer, Gin = win, that's all we remembered).

After the hockey game, we went to meet up with Devin, except that it didn't really happen. Hugo got us really lost and we wound up near the Olympic Village for the athletes, when Devin was by the Sponsors Village. Two hours later than we had said, we finally met at the train station Porta Nuova. We were supposed to meet up with Hugo's other friends who were in 2 other groups, but that just didn't happen. Time went by rather quickly, and by the time we knew it, it was too late to get the last trains and too early to get the first trains out to Sangano, where we were staying with a family. I was exhausted and admittedly cranky since I was running on 4 hours or less of sleep. Hugo, Devin, and I decided to just sit and hang out in the train station for a little bit, then we met up with one group of his other friends. We finally got a train at around 5 a.m., got back to where we were staying and went to sleep at 7 a.m. (Yup, a 23 hour day for me.)
Porta Nuova, the train station, with the Olympic Rings

Devin and Hugo had said they were going to wake up early, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. We ended up getting up at 1 p.m. and getting into Torino by around 2:30/3 pm, where we tried figuring out train tickets out to Sauze d'Oulx, where the freestyle skiing was taking place. (It's rather close to the French border.) That took up more time than we expected, so instead of wandering the city as we had planned, we grabbed some food quickly and got on the train.

The ride out to Sauze d'Oulx was about 45 minutes, and then an additional 30 minutes by bus up the mountain. When we got there, it was snowing pretty hard, and when neared the actual venue, we were told that the event was postponed until 8:30 pm. We found a small bar that was relatively empty and drank some hot drinks, but then heard that the event was postponed even more. Finally, we actually got word that due to the heavy snowfall, the event was to be rescheduled for Tuesday, 21 February. It was disappointing, since Devin and I were flying back here to Berlin on Monday, and Hugo and Elizabeth had to go back to Ferrara for classes. Elizabeth and I trekked back down to the venue to see if anything could be done about a refund, where we got the last forms in English to get it.

Everyone had to leave the mountain since almost no one was staying there. It was rather chaotic trying to stay together and not get seperated, but we managed. (Devin's quote: "I think we just got seperated from our peeps.") The buses were boarded and people were in lines for the next buses to come, but nothing was moving. No traffic was coming or going. Word got around that the climb down the mountain was only 30 minutes. Devin, Hugo, Elizabeth, and I decided that we might as well walk, since the traffic wasn't moving and it didn't seem that we were going to get a bus.

First of all, the walk down was way longer than 30 minutes. It took us 2 hours to get walk to the train station. What we didn't realize was the mountain was 1,509 meters high (or 4,950 feet). Additionally, it took a little longer than expected because there was snow and nobody wanted to fall. The whole experience felt like a disaster movie with loads of people walking by stuck cars, or it felt like a zombie movie because there were points where there just lots of people walking in the dark. Then suddenly there would be one shining light, and everyone was just surprised to see there was light.

It was pretty beautiful walking down. The mountains eerily rose out of the darkness and were these huge gray masses with very little light. Looking up from where we had walked from, there were bright lights illuminating the whisps of cloud and outlining the crowds of people walking down. Additionally, we walked through one or two very small mountain towns that were very rustic and Italian. I have several pictures up on my Flickr account and you can view all my pictures from Torino as a slideshow, if you want.

So all in all, Sunday was spent trying to get an event that didn't even happen, but it still made for a fun experience. On Monday, we actually woke up early (7 a.m.) and got into Torino by 9:30 so that we could explore. We first went to go see the Shroud of Turin at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We had kept making jokes all weekend that this was the one damn thing in Turin that we had to see, and it had better not be a disappointment, like a giant piece of toilet paper or something. We only could see a replica of it with pictures of it x-rayed underneath, and then way up front, the Shroud was in a case of aluminum and glass lying horizontally. I could see how it sort of looked like Jesus, but as an atheist, I wasn't that convinced, though it was pretty remarkable to see. (I personally thought it looked like a big tablecloth with a big coffee stain on it that happened to look like Jesus. Not that I'm saying it's real or not. That's just my perception of what it looked like to me.)

After the Shroud, we went to go see La Mole Antonelliana, which was a synagogue at one point and is currently the highest point in Turin. Unfortunately, the elevator to the panaromic view was closed because it was Monday. La Mole is basically that thing that you see in all the Visa ads with a ski jumper going past it. Devin and Hugo kept saying that it looked like a large stump coming out of a dome. I suppose that's one way you could describe it.

La Mole Antonelliana

Next, we went and got some food near the Sponsors Village, where this huge plastic thing that Devin described as an Aggro Crag. (Yes, that thing from that show Guts on Nickelodeon.) I forgot to take a picture of it. After lunch, Devin had to leave to catch a train to Milan, where her flight back was leaving from. Hugo, Elizabeth, and I went into the Sponsors Village to see if we could buy anything, but it turned out that the huge Olympic store was in some plaza a bit farther out than I could go, since I had to catch a bus to the airport for my flight. However, we did see past Olympic torches on display there. The three of us departed at the Sponsors Village and I walked back to a smaller Olympic store closer to the Medals Plaza. I came to the conclusion that there wasn't anything worth buying, so I didn't spend any money.

I was actually awake for part of from Torino to Paris. The view from the plane was stunning and I had to take some pictures of the Alps. After that, I actually fell asleep so deeply after not getting much sleep in Torino that the only thing that woke me was when the plane landed. I had to admit that I was relieved to get back to Berlin, if only because the public transportation here is so much more reliable.

The view of the Alps from the plane from Torino to Paris

The rest of the week will be devoted to resting up from the Olympics and getting ready for Karneval in Düsseldorf and Köln. From what I hear, it'll be.....interesting.