Thursday, November 29, 2007

Concerts to the Max

This past week has been rather ridiculous with shows. In the past 8 days, I have to been four different concerts: Die Ärzte, The Donnas, Die Fantastischen Vier, and The Hives. Two weeks ago I was also at the Kaiser Chiefs, but I won't really go into that because I was by myself and didn't take any pictures. To say the least, they were all very different. So just a quick review and some photos (but you can see all of them on my Flickr page) from this week:

Die Ärzte (The Doctors) are a German punk band from Berlin. They rock. The show was in the ginormous Kölnarena, which holds about 40,000 people, I think. Despite the monstrous venue, it was still a fantastic show. They played a mix of their old and new songs for three full hours and no opening band. Granted that I do not know a lot of their music, I had a good time with Kari and her boyfriend who came down for the show. Unfortunately, our seats were way up high and pretty far back, but even so, awesome time.

On Saturday, I went to go see The Donnas with Christian at a small club called Underground, which has a capacity of 350 people. Quite the opposite of Kölnarena! I'd like to point out the fact that this show was my 50th concert ever (I think). If it wasn't my 50th, one of the 4 this week definitely was. The Donnas were amazing and the new songs are killer. Of course, I was the most psyched to hear "Take It Off" since Stiny and I named our radio show after it. It was weird because the Donnas would say they were playing something "old school," which meant it was from the album Spend the Night (which came out in 2002). They played nothing off any earlier albums and only "Fall Behind Me" off of Gold Medal. I was a bit surprised to realize that I am an "old school fan," but proud of it. Oddly enough, the majority of the people there knew only new stuff off Bitchin'. Slightly sad that they only played for about an hour and a half, but nonetheless, that hour and a half was fun. Definitely better than when I saw them perform with Jet on Halloween a few years ago, except for the fact that they played no super old school songs.

The following day, Sunday, was back in the Kölnarena to see the German hip-hop group Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) with David and Zach. They're pretty much the Beastie Boys of Germany. Anyhow, the show was definitely really well thought out with lights and background and well, just plain frickin cool. I knew way more songs from Die Fanta Vier than from Die Ärzte, so I think I enjoyed myself a lot more. Not to mention our seats were much farther down. Die Fanta Vier also played for a long time (about 2.5 hours) and played a lot of old songs, like "Geboren," "Der Picknicker," and "Hausmeister Thomas D." Favorite songs of the night had to be "Take It Back" and "Was Geht." All in all, I have to say that the show was so good, in fact, that I think Die Fanta Vier are definitely in my top 5 arena shows, definitely over Madonna. One encore they did had a stage come down from the ceiling and then three of the four came out and rapped on it. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Finally, to top it all off, I saw The Hives tonight. Now, I've seen The Hives before, and they rocked then, and they still do. I managed to squeeze my way to the front against the barrier, which was really fun, but at the same time, not super fantastic because I got super squashed. It is interesting, though, that I felt really old in comparison to everyone else there. All of the girls were really flat and not curvy at all, and a high school student hit on me (sort of). The other thing is that I wasn't in the middle of the action like I was 3 years ago. That's when you know I'm getting old(er), when I think to myself, "I'm getting too old for this shit to jump around with teenagers." The show, of course, was indescribably amazing. Pelle really knows how to work the crowd into a frenzy (literally), his brother Nicholas Arson has the craziest expressions (and yet somehow they are kind of sexy), drummer Chris Dangerous is way hotter than I remember him being, and Dr. Matt Destruction and Vigilante Carlstroem rock really hard. The first three definitely have the hot rocker thing about them. (The other two are just not my type) Unfortunately, I had to go to this show alone because nobody wanted or was able to come. (Hence the high schooler hitting on me...sort of.) Despite this fact, I rocked my ass off and must say, The Hives win for best show of the weekend/month/year.

On a completely different note, I don't have to worry about finding an internship anymore because I found one, woo! It's with a German company called, which is a subsidiary of RTL, the biggest entertainment channel in the country. The website is unfortunately inaccessible within the U.S. because it's blocked, but to put it simply, it's YouTube for Germans, with music videos from Sony BMG (they have a contract), some stuff that Americans would consider soft-core porn, etc. I'm really excited about it because it'll be a great opportunity to learn about new media, woo.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Christmas in Köln Kommt (You like that alliteration?)

Christmas in Köln (and the rest of the world) is fast approaching. One difference, however, is that Christmas goods have been available here to buy since about mid-October. At home, we have Halloween and Thanksgiving to keep the Christmas stuff off shelves a little longer, though not by much. The one thing, however, that makes Christmas here way better is the traditional Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), which are getting built up in almost every free space around the city. I've already been snacking on Spekulatius (ginger bread cookies), but soon I'll be able to enjoy Glühwein, the smell of baked goods, and Christmas lights everywhere in the markets. Here are some pictures of the Christmas markets being built around the city:

This will be the Christmas market in Heumarkt. Only on Sunday was it full of people celebrating the beginning of Karneval season (which I didn't go to because of the pouring rain), and soon it will be full of people looking for Christmas gifts, drinking Glühwein, and snacking on warm baked goodies.

Here is the Kölner Dom (Cathedral) with the Christmas market being built up. I wonder if it will beat the Berliner Christmas market around the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche for being pretty. The markets open up in about two weeks.

On a different note, the locomotive drivers (uh, conductors? Lokführer in German) have been striking on and off here since we've gotten here. The reason is that they want to get paid more, which I don't blame them before. Without going through a long explanation, it's been a little inconvenient for people who take trains everywhere, especially if they are living in the eastern part of the country. Today I went to the main train station here in Köln and it was a lot emptier than normal. For one, the platforms were almost completely empty, even though about 70% of the trains were running here in Nordrhein-Westphalia. For another, I only saw one train on the tracks. And lastly, the Service Point's line was a little longer than usual. I can only imagine what it's like in the east. And some pictures from the train station today:

This is the train station from the outside. Usually people are rushing in and out and the plaza in front of it is full of people. I went at around 2 pm, which is obviously not rush hour, but at the same time, is a pretty busy hour for the train station.

All of the trains that say "Zug fällt aus" means it was canceled. Luckily a lot of the trains in Nordrhein-Westphalia were still running. In the east, it's probably just lines of "Zug fällt aus."

Here you can see how empty the train station is. The platforms are usually full with people waiting and the tracks usually have a train approaching, leaving, or standing. It's almost like 28 Days Later, but just not so extreme.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Germans Are (Generally) Really Tall

Ok, so the title for this post might be a wee bit obvious. However, it pertains to the fact that I hate it when there are a bunch of really tall guys (and girls!) standing in front of me at a concert. I went to see the Kaiser Chiefs by myself and somehow, I wound up behind at least 10 people that were all 5 feet 10 inches or taller. I thought perhaps that my observation two years ago at the Franz Ferdinand show was just nonsense because we got to the show late. I thought, hmm, maybe all the tall guys are standing in the back because they're being courteous. No, that isn't the case. Germans are generally really tall, so it seems, or at least, the ones who always go to the shows that I go to.

To comment on the Kaiser Chiefs' performance, I must say, I was a bit disappointed in comparison to the last time I saw them. However, this probably has to do with the fact that I saw them my first time at the Stone Pony and that has a capacity of 775 people. The venue I saw them this time, E-Werk, has a capacity of 2,000 and I think the effect is that the lead singer did not have as much energy as in the smaller place. Not to mention, I went to the show by myself, so that always has an effect on how I enjoy it. Anyway, all that said and done, it was a very fun show from the aspect of the band and music.

On the other hand, there were some really annoying people in my area. If I were to make the rules for going to concerts, this is what they would be. Call me mean, but damn, I'm coming up to my 50th concert, so I have some sort of backing to it.

Concert-going Rules According to Me

1. Hey, tall people. It'd be nice if you stood all together and let the shorter people in front of you. I'm not necessarily saying that they should all stand in the back, but tall people should group together and fight it out which tall guy (or girl) gets to be in front of all of them. Then all the people under 5' 10" can stand in front of the taller people.

2. Concerts are not a place to make out with your significant other. I don't care if your special song is being played live. It would be much appreciated if you did not make out and block my view or someone else's view. Also, stop grabbing your significant other's butt/boob/hip/etc. Think of it this way: It makes it that much easier for someone else to cop a feel.

3. If you have long hair and put it in a ponytail, be aware of what you do with it. Even if it's not in a ponytail, be aware of what your long hair is doing. I hate being at a show with a girl in front of me with long hair jumping around. I do not like having your hair in my face. How do I know you don't have lice or something crawling on your head? Also, a mouthful of someone else's hair is just nasty in general.

4. If you can't jump or clap to the beat of the song, please stop jumping or clapping. You're just going to screw up everyone else. Plus, you're just going to look silly jumping/clapping on the 1 and 3 instead of the 2 and 4. (If you know what I'm talking about, awesome. If not, hopefully you just do it because jumping/clapping on the 1 and 3 is just unnatural.) If the song is not in 4/4 time or you don't know what I'm talking about, just jump/clap to the downbeats and make it easy on yourself. Yeah, thanks.

5. If you push/kick/shove/punch me, you are fair game to be pushed/kicked/shoved/punched back. Simple as that. Just because I am smaller does not necessarily mean I can't push/kick/shove/punch back. Oh, and that goes for being a girl, as well. Everyone is fair game in the mosh pit.

6. Stop staring at me because I am the only Asian (or oftentimes just plain non-Caucasian) there. What's the big frickin' deal?

But yes, for now, I think this is a good list of concert-going rules.

Also, I'd like to comment on the fact that Germans love clapping. I've noticed that quite often at concerts or on television. Germans love clapping to the rhythm of the song, although tonight, there were a lot of people who didn't know how to keep a steady beat. Christian and his sister commented on this, too, but honestly, Germans will clap to anything, whether it's a slow ballad, an upbeat dance theme, a loud rock song, or Volksmusik. They will clap their hands off to a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. In the U.S., I feel like not so many people clap willingly. I know I definitely went through a phase in life where I thought, "Wow, clapping to this song is an old people thing to do." Maybe that's just me. But seriously. Germans. Clap. To. Everything.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ich bin ein Sonntagskind (but I was born on a Tuesday)

There's a saying in German that someone is a "Sonntagskind" (literally a Sunday child, or a child born on Sunday) because children born on Sunday supposedly have luck. I was born on a Tuesday, but I am definitely pretty lucky. Classes at the university started on Monday and to be honest, the fact that I am done with my bachelor's has made me care even less about picking courses. I am less motivated than when I was in Berlin and my motivation level here is incomparable to that which I had in Middlebury.

The reason for my Sonntagskind title is simple: I showed up to a class today where I could learn some practical, hands-on stuff for film. However, about 80 or so other people also decided to show up and it turned out that the class had only 15 slots. The professor handed out slips of paper where we wrote our names and put them in a bucket, then picked out the 15 people who would be able to take the class. At this point, I thought about leaving because my chances were slim and I thought it was a terrible system, but at the same time, forced myself to stay since I was already there. To my great surprise, my name was picked out. It almost felt like a Golden Ticket type situation like in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and many people went home disappointed. One girl showed up late and hadn't even put her name into the drawing. She begged and begged to be let in, but the professor had to say no because if he made an exception for her, all the other people would also want the opportunity. This isn't the only time that I've had my name picked for something so coveted, either, and that's why Christian said that I'm a Sonntagskind. (Another saying that he taught me about being lucky: "Die Sonne scheint aus deinem Arsch." Literally, the sun shines out of your ass.)

Another sort-of-lucky, but also educated-guess thing yesterday happened in this course, The Differences Between British and American English, which is taught in English. We were allowed to ask our professor questions and someone asked her where she was from. She had us guess and the first guess was "Arkansas?." That was wrong and the second guess was "New Orleans?," which was also wrong. Now, I have a good feeling that the German students made these guesses because the professor is black. So I finally just blurted out, "Washington D.C., but you've spent some time in England." I had to explain why I thought that, so with all 200 pairs of eyes on me (and I turned bright red), I said, "Well, you say certain things like a Southerner, others like a Northerner, but you definitely have a British accent thrown in somewhere there." It turns out I was right: The professor is from New York, but her mother is from Maryland and her father is British English, but she went to University of Maryland. Admittedly, I felt pretty good about myself that I had (educated-ly) guessed correct.

On a completely different note, I am finally posting pictures of my apartment because I finally took them and uploaded them. So here they are:

This is my room with the sun shining in. Christian's mom got me the bed and mattress from friends, Christian's old roommate gave me the TV, and Christian gave me the lamps, speakers on the floor, and the TV stand. I bought the rugs and the chair from Ikea, all for less than 50€. I also got a wardrobe (a "Schrank") for 30€ but that's not visible in this picture.

This is the kitchen. It's bigger than my kitchen in Berlin, but we don't have a massive cabinet here. However, it is nice to be able to sit in the kitchen and eat at the table. We had a table in Berlin, but our bread box, toaster, and water cooker thingie took up a lot of space. I wouldn't say that this kitchen is conducive to having Christmas or Thanksgiving here, but it's cozy enough for get togethers.

The bathroom is set up in an interesting way. The toilet and the sink are in one room together and then the bathtub/shower is in another room. It's pretty handy in the morning when one of my roommates wants to shower and I need to use the toilet or sink. It makes sense. Sort of like the bathrooms in the LaForce suites back in Middlebury, and unlike the bathrooms in the Atwater suites. Intelligent!

The last picture I am going to post is of the smalled Ikea that I have ever seen or been to. Christian and I went to pick my chair and larger rug up there because it was near his house and they had my chair in stock. It took us 20 minutes to find the chair walking through the entire store, pay for it, and get a little bit of food. I couldn't believe how small this Ikea was and that's why I had to take a picture of it.

Lastly, if you are reading this on Facebook, the spacing and everything is probably all messed up. So you should have read it on my blog.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

2 Months in Köln in a Nutshell

It's been a long time since the last time I updated due to a lack of internet. However, I moved out of my host mom's place and moved into a shared apartment (WG) where I have two 28-year-old German roommates, Volker and Stefanie. Both seem to be really friendly and do their own things (I hardly see Volker), so I've been cooking for myself.

Although I've moved into a WG, it's a bit sad because it marked almost everyone else's move from Köln to their permanent placements. The only people left here in Köln are Daniel, Greg, Jason, Aldous, and me, which I think actually makes up a really good group. However, there are other people who are not too far away, like those also in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Mainz, Wiesbaden, and Frankfurt. Hopefully I will be able to see those people once in awhile.

The past two months flew by and a lot happened. In order to condense everything so you can read it if you want to or skip over it, I'm writing a commentated list:

1. People had birthdays and a few of us discovered a jazz club. I don't have any pictures from Lara's birthday because Daniel, Kari, and I had no desire dealing with a large group and bounced. However, I do have photos from Justus and John's join celebration in Flanagan's (this Irish bar that caters to the international student population). However, Megan, Daniel, Greg, and I wanted to go to a jazz bar we had seen, so we did and had a really great time. The mood was perfect, the music was fun, and the beer pricey but worth it because the money went towards the musicians. We went another time and saw and old man from our language school who wound up buying us a round of beer and CDs from the performing group. I had heard from my teacher that the old man smoked cigars, so Greg ran out and got some to smoke with him. It turned out that the old man had quit smoking cigars two months previously. My face turned red not from beer but from embarrassment that I had been the one to suggest getting cigars. (How was I supposed to know?!)

2. Nine of us went to a friendly soccer match, Germany versus Romania. It was really fun even though we had seats stuck up in the corner and it was pretty much the B-team playing. We got to hear this cheesy song, "Viva Colonia" multiple times. This song is for the local Kölner soccer team, 1. FC Köln, but they played it at the national team game anyway. Who cares? Besides which, Lukas Podolski used to play for FC Köln. I managed to guess the outcome of the game correct; Germany won 3 to 1.

3. We all finished two months of "intensive" language courses and took tests for them. Pat and I had been in Level 8 in August, but passed the test at the end to move up to the next level. However, the Oberstufe (advanced class) consisted of people in Level 9 and 10, so we just did Level 10 stuff. In essence, Pat and I skipped a Stufe. ("Jaaaa!" is what Pat would always say) Now we can say we're supposedly fluent in German because we passed the Oberstufe exam.

4. I went to Brühl and Bonn on separate occasions. Daniel, this Korean girl from Tajikistan (Tajik?) in our class Lena, and I wanted to go see the Schloss in Brühl, but unfortunately the Deutsche Bank was holding an event there, so we couldn't go. Then our class went to Bonn on an excursion to the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) and the Beethoven Haus. It was really interesting and I will have to go back to the Haus der Geschichte. Daniel and I now have a joke that whenever we're in Bonn (or more like whenever Daniel is in Bonn), we're partying with Beethoven. (Daniel wants to do orchestral conducting and likes classical music, so it makes sense....Party mit Beethoven!)

5. I went to Berlin twice to visit Christian and we saw Wir Sind Helden. While in Berlin, I also saw Andrea once, but managed to miss Devin somehow. It was surreal being with Andrea in a smoky club in Berlin, but it was definitely fun. As for seeing Wir Sind Helden, they were really good and I enjoyed them, but I don't think I'd pay to go see them again. They played a lot of their mellow songs, which are nice to listen to when I'm at home chilling, but when I'm at a concert, I want to dance. Or jump. Or mosh. Ok, admittedly, everyone was jumping in sync when Wir Sind Helden played "Denkmal," but that was strange. Best songs of the night had to be "Heldenzeit," "Nur Ein Wort," and "Guten Tag." Well, I suppose "Endlich Ein Grund zur Panik" was good, too...any time the horn players got some good time was pretty much kick ass.

So that pretty much sums up the last two months. I actually updated my Flickr page as well, so there's a whole bunch of new pictures up if you want to see them. Hopefully I will be updating this a little more regularly, now that I have regular access to the internet.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Changes in Berlin

As I write this entry, I am sitting in Christian's apartment in Berlin. Last night, we went to a party in *gasp* Zone B from his coworker at the Canadian Embassy. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Berlin is divided into three zones (A, B, C) for public transportation. I can't remember who agreed with me, but someone and I said that if you live in Zone B, you live out FAR. Almost everything is in Zone A; the exceptions are the airports Schönefeld and Tegel. So we were only one stop further into Zone B, but even so, I still laughed. After the party, we went to Rosi's (my favorite club on Revaler Straße in Friedrichshain) and met up with Andrea, the German exchange student who was in Middlebury last year. It was rather surreal seeing her in a club in Berlin because Vermont is just so completely different. Not to mention she could smoke inside.

Today, Christian and I walked around the city and went shopping a little bit (but didn't actually buy anything). I noticed some changes in the city since the last time I was here in March with Alex on spring break.

1. There is a new big ass mall being built in Alexanderplatz that is absolutely ugly as hell. This mall is called "Alexa" and will be opened on September 12, 2007. Maybe when I'm back here in two weeks for the Wir Sind Helden concert, I'll go take a look. I mean, that IS the Jersey mallrat in me being curious.

2. There is a new big ass stadium being built across from the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain. It's being built mainly as an ice hockey stadium, but I'm sure there will be other uses for it.

3. There is a new (but not big ass) pedestrian bridge being built between the U- and S-bahn stations at Warschauer Straße. I guess this might make the walk between the two less hell-ish as Ashley always said. There was a party going on near the construction at 5 in the afternoon under the existing bridge. So Berlin.

4. The pedestrian crossing lights (the Ampelmann lights) are taking over in Kreuzberg and probably the rest of the city, too. Tourists find this light amusing and it had been used in East Berlin before the Wall came down. Now they are being placed everywhere in the city and not just the old east because the Ampelmann has sort of become an unofficial mascot of the city. It looks sort of weird in Kreuzberg, I'm not going to lie.

5. There are babies everywhere and really super pregnant women. It's like there was a baby explosion and everyone decided to get it on. It's probably due to the World Cup last year.

And the most important change:

There is now graffiti on Cam's apartment's door. Christian and I were walking along the Simon-Dach-Straße and I saw Cam's apartment door. It used to be so clean and new and renovated, but because it IS Berlin, it could not escape the graffiti that is everywhere. Ok, I'm kidding that this is the most important change and I know most of you reading this will probably have no idea what I'm talking about. But yeah, it just shows you that nothing can escape graffiti here.

The other change in Berlin is not a physical change on the cityscape. Instead, it is the way I view it and relate to it. Because of the fact that I have been living in Köln (Cologne in English, but get used to me saying Köln), Berlin somehow seems a little bit foreign, a little strange. I've forgotten some of the station names. The people seem different and I feel like I seem out of place, although that could never be true in Berlin. The U-bahn trains are louder, the S-bahn is wider, and there are just generally more people (which makes sense since Berlin is bigger than Köln). I feel like it's easier to be anonymous here and it's easier to get lost. I don't get nasty and funny looks for speaking English. I suppose that Köln has made me realize these things about Berlin, and why Berlin is Berlin. I don't love Berlin more or less. It's just that I see it differently and it's not the same. Could you say that this is somewhat like reverse culture shock? Is that even possible, even though both cities are in Germany?

Oh yeah, I also noticed that there are fewer people in wheelchairs here in Berlin than in Köln or Düsseldorf. I don't know why that is. Perhaps it's because Berlin is full of young people popping out babies. There are fewer babies in Köln, too, so it seems. Christian and I joked that it was because Köln has all the gay people and older people, so that might be the reason. Am I becoming un-PC?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet...

Well, I have internet because I'm at Christian's parents' apartment, so I figure I should update my blog. If you have been to Germany before, you will know what typical German weather is like: cloudy, rainy, unpredictable. I can't say that it has been any different, although, the weather has been good recently. Some friends (David, John, Becky, Maggie, Ben) and I went grilling in a park the other day. Of course, we grilled some wurst, I brought some corn and made pork burgers, and there was Kartoffelsalat (potato salad, very German). And the key point to grilling wurst in a park in Germany? Drinking beer with it, obviously. That's one thing I definitely had missed when I was at home: being able to drink in public, whether in a park or a walking beer. Then we all somehow became really amused jumping off rocks and taking pictures doing it...ahhh, Köln!

Another thing that I missed while at home was watching Fußball (uh, soccer). Today I went with Christian to a bar in Düsseldorf and met his friend Sven there. Today's Spieltag was pretty sweet: Werder Bremen (my favorite team) vs. FC Bayern München, Schalke vs. Dortmund, Hertha BSC vs. Stuttgart, Wolfsburg vs. Duisburg, and some others. Man, the Bremen/München game was ridiculous at a 0-4 loss for Bremen. I still don't like the fact that Miroslav Klose is playing for München now. He should still be in Bremen...But anyway.

On the same note, 8 friends and I will be going to a Germany vs. Romania game in Köln on September 12. Who's psyched?? I've also got tickets to go see Die Fantastischen Vier (they're like the German Beastie Boys) and then Die Ärzte (German punk band from Berlin) in November. And next month is Wir Sind Helden in Berlin, woohoo! (Alex, I'll be sure to take pictures and send them to you)

Lastly, does anyone know someone who lives in Köln that needs a roommate starting October 1? I get to look for my own apartment, but I have to live with Germans and my program needs to approve of it. I don't have any desire to do it really, but I know in the end, it'll work out. This year is probably going to fly by, especially considering that I've been here for 3 weeks. (Yeah, I'm not writing very clearly...I'll admit it...German television is distracting...)

Oh yeah, and check out my pictures here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Finally, a real blog entry from Köln

I typed this entry the other night at home because I have no internet, but yes. Enjoy.

I guess the solution to not having internet at home is to write my blog entries at home on Word and then copying and pasting it. And so, I write at home. Unfortunately, Flickr seems to load rather slowly when I attempt to upload photos. I suppose they will have to wait until I find a day when the internet is not so slow.

We arrived here in Germany on a beautiful day. The people with me, those who will be in Köln for the first two months of this program doing the language course, were all exhausted when we got to Bonn and saw the InWEnt headquarters. InWEnt is the company that runs the program here in Germany. We all attempted to stay awake, had a little breakfast, and chatted a little, eager to move on to our home for the next two months rather than listening to a boring video that was quickly putting us to sleep.

The ride to Köln from Bonn was tough; I tried not to sleep because I knew if I did, it would be difficult to wake up and not be groggy or grumpy. I managed to do so, although many other people took the time to take naps. I can’t really say what we did when we got to Köln because it all happened rather quickly, but at the time, it couldn’t have gone any slower. At around 4 pm, we were finally put in shared taxis and sent to our guest families.

My guest mother, Barbara, is a very friendly, 68 year old woman with two daughters that live separately in Köln. To say the least, she is a hippie. Not the let’s-smoke-up-and-believe-in-free-love type of hippie. The first thing she said to me when I arrived was, “Oh! How wonderful of you to show up! Let’s sit outside and enjoy the sun!” She’s more of a I-really-enjoy-life-and-do-everything-and-love-the-earth-and-wear-really-flowy-dresses type of hippie. She makes jewelry that she sells in the market on occasion, claims not to be a smoker because she only smokes by herself in front of the TV late at night and ironically smokes Marlboro Reds, and has lots of stars and moons all over the place. I think the best thing about living here is the lamp sitting in the window of the living room. Barbara turns this lamp on every night and it’s shaped like a goose. No joke. I will try posting a picture of it (as well as the rest of important bits of the apartment) on here. But it’s awesome. Especially because the apartment is on the ground floor. I’m sure anyone who walks by can definitely see it.

The language courses have not really begun yet, but we did take a placement test on our second day here in Köln. We got our results today (as I write this, it is Monday, 6 August) and out of ten levels, I placed into the eighth. I think there is only one person who got into a higher level and two other people, so I have heard, have also placed with me. I think I can safely say I have a pretty advanced knowledge of German. We will know our definite placements by the end of the week, so I may move up or down, as other people will, too.

In comparison to Berlin, Köln feels like a much smaller and more mainstream city. There are fewer punks and fewer people wearing crazy, colorful outfits. Köln also feels cleaner and less graffiti-ed, and perhaps due to this, appears less edgy. It is, however, full of gay people. When people say that Köln has a lot of gays, they weren’t lying. It’s pretty cool because the city has an air of acceptance about it, similar to Berlin, but in a very different way that I cannot put into words. Köln, like the German capital, is very multi-cultural (“multi-culti” as they say in German). Yesterday there was a very large game against two Turkish soccer teams and it seemed like all the Turks in the city and beyond were on my train (which goes to the stadium here). I have also noticed many more interracial couples, especially Asian girls with German guys. I guess that seems to be the thing…?

On a very different note, the people in my program are very diverse. There are those who don’t speak a word of German and have never left their towns, those who are on the intermediate level and have visited, then the more advanced who have lived here. Majors range from culinary arts, masonry, pre-law, business, and history. I’m the only person actually doing film, though there are some other people doing “communications” or “media.” I have gotten to know a good range of people that I am sure I will end up writing much about as the year goes on.

In addition to the people I have met up with, I have seen Christian twice. I went out to Düsseldorf and went to a party with him at his friend Stephan’s apartment. I surprisingly knew several people because I had been there during Karneval: Sven, Oliver, “Ossi,” and Stephan. The funniest moment had to have been when I was asking the difference between Altbier (the local Düsseldorfer beer) and Kölsch (the local Kölner beer). It is important to understand a few key points about this moment beforehand. First, Köln and Düsseldorf have always been rivals, much like the Yankees and the Red Sox, New York and Boston. Second, Altbier is closer to ale, whereas Kölsch is more pils-like, mostly because Altbier, like its name indicates, is brewed longer. Düsseldorfer do not like Kölsch and Kölner do not like Altbier. When this super old man from Düsseldorf was explaining the difference between the two beers, he claimed, “Lass ein Pils eine Stunde stehen lassen und dann wird es ein Kölsch.” Translation: Let a pilsner beer sit for an hour and it will become a Kölsch. I think this is only funny if you really know what I’m talking about. So if you come to the Rhineland, try both Altbier and Kölsch. For now, I prefer Altbier.

Being in Düsseldorf gave me the chance to see where Christian grew up. It’s a really cute town that’s actually a part of the city of Düsseldorf, but it has cows, sheep, and cornfields. You can look it up on Google Earth; it’s called Kaiserswerth. I also got to meet Christian’s parents, both of whom are very friendly.

If you’ve actually gotten to this point of this blog entry, congratulations. I don’t expect anyone to actually get this far, but so much has happened in the first week that I don’t think I can actually write everything. I also don’t want to bore you to tears, so I will stop here. But as I’ve said, I don’t have internet at home, so updating my blog frequently these first two months is not going to happen. I’ll try updating at least once a week. Until then…bring it on, Cologne!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Going Back to Germany

Another long period has passed when I have not updated my blog. However, I feel like it would be appropriate to do so now. The title of this entry, "Going Back to Germany" has two significant meanings: 1. I was in Berlin for spring break and 2. I am officially going back to Germany after graduation.

Alex and I went back to Berlin for spring break and it was a good time. We did everything we hadn't done, like finding the rest of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, going clubbing (Alex hadn't really done much while we were there), and trying to get into the Reichstag (Alex had also not done that). We even got into a slight brawl in the middle of Skalitzer Straße over by Schlesisches Tor. I kept bunching Alex and well, she took her revenge by taking me down. I was just so shocked that she was actually attacking me that I automatically gave in.

The weather was gorgeous while we were there, especially in comparison to the cloudy, rainy/snowy stuff we're having here at the moment in Vermont. We did a lot of walking like we used to. We even walked through Tiergarten with our iPods turned on, not talking to each other. (Yeah, it's a sign of our generation.) We also went to the EU's 50th birthday party in front of the Brandenburg Gate, although the party there did not even come close to anything that had happened during the World Cup. Oh, and we saw the polar bear cub, Knut, which was absolutely ridiculous. Germany loves its bears. Seriously. First, there was Bruno. Then there was Knut. And then the panda bear Yan Yan died. Oh, bears. Stephen Colbert would hate it.

Going back to Berlin was also a good time because I got to see all the people that I knew there before, like Christian's friends, Pablo (he came up from Köln for the weekend), and Devin. (Devin is still kicking in Berlin with her band, Italoporno) It was as if I had never left.

The second reason why this entry is titled "Going Back to Germany" is because I got a call this morning informing me that I was taken off the Alternate list for this scholarship, the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program (CBYX), and actually chosen to participate. It was rather funny because the call woke me up, which is also interesting since I never leave my cell phone on. Last night, however, I forgot to turn it off. Anyway, the call woke me up but as soon as the woman on the phone said, "There's an open slot for the CBYX program. Do you want it?" I was pretty much wide awake.

So that settles it. Next year I will be somewhere in Germany (I don't know where exactly yet) starting on August 1. I'll be studying for 6 months and then doing an internship for 6 months. I'm not allowed to travel back to the U.S. for Christmas or anything like that, which for me doesn't really make much of a difference, so that means everyone's going to have to come visit me. And now the senioritis can kick in for real.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I'm done with my thesis!

I am officially done with my thesis. Forever. I did my defense for it today, thought I screwed up, but Joanna (my thesis advisor) told me later in her class that they're leaving the grade as it was. The defense did not lower the grade in any way, shape, or form. What a process it's been...but I never once got stressed out about it. (Thank God I have time management skills in which if I do anything late, I am just incapable of doing anything at all, and hence why I work really far ahead.) The fact that I am done with my thesis defense now means that I can actually have a little bit of senioritis and not feel guilty. Well, not quite. I just have to maintain my GPA (should be easy enough) and maybe find a job.

But after doing the defense and knowing my grade is not going to change, this means that I'm going to be graduating with high honors (I think that might be magna cum laude, no?), hopefully. That is, if nothing gets screwed up. (Such as they suddenly change the GPA minimum on me or I fail miserably in the one class I need for the semester).

And now the job search begins...I actually sent out another job application today for my dream job (that is, if that included the fact that it's in L.A.). Hopefully I'll get an interview with them. We'll see.