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!

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