Hang-en cave

Hang-en cave
(credit: National Geographic)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wine and Rhein

My first weekend here, and my first Monday, have already wrapped up. Sunday involved 100 degree weather, sleeping, breakfast with a friend, church in a beautiful cathedral, and some thunderstorms, but other than that, nothing terribly eventful happened. All of the shops here are closed on Sundays except for restaurants and cafes, so there isn't a whole lot to do besides homework and be lazy on Sundays. So I was lazy--I did a bit of reading and cleaning as well.

Saturday was rather more eventful. First thing in the morning, I got up to go to the bike sale and succeeded in procuring a serviceable bike complete with basket, lights, bell, and adjusted brakes and seat using ONLY charades and a few basic English words. I was pretty proud of myself, but I do have to say, I can't wait until I can actually say useful things in German--I feel horrible when someone asks me for directions or something similar and I can't do anything but shrug helplessly. But that will soon come, I hope. Anyway, after the bike sale I went straight to our intercultural workshop that taught us about typical German customs and the German people, and that lasted until the early afternoon. Then, later in the afternoon, we went rafting on the Rhein--like in a rubber, whitewater boat without the whitewater. It was absolutely beautiful out, and so hot, so it was perfect for rafting and the inevitable splash-fights we got in. I got so preposterously wet (I literally could have jumped in the river and been drier) because our guide would steer us in toward the side of the other boat, so the two front people (one of whom was me) would be the only ones able to defend our boat and the ones who took the brunt of the water, while the entire side of their boat (which was larger than ours, by the way) was able to attack. It was fun, though, and it felt so good on such a hot day. After we finished rafting, which took about two and a half hours, we walked to dinner at a Biergarten on the Sieg River; almost everyone got wienerschnitzel, which is either veal or pork that's pounded really thin, breaded, and fried, and apple strudel for dessert, so it was very typically German and all-around awesome.

I had my very first German class early this morning. It was, in a word, amazing. The teacher, Britta, is very enthusiastic and spoke almost exclusively in German, and it seemed like everyone started picking up on things pretty quickly. Granted, it was really easy material, like verb conjugations and pronouns (there are far, far less than in Latin), the alphabet, and questions like "What is your name?" "Where are you from?" "What does it mean?", etc, etc. Though, like I said before, I can't wait until we learn the really useful things, like what you need for shopping at a fruit market or giving directions to someone. After class, I went shopping AGAIN for all of the things that I kept forgetting to get, like butter and sugar and hangers and trash bags, while everyone else went to their labs--I had the day off so that my supervisor could get appointments arranged for me to be checked out by occ. health and for a workshop for the FACS machines.

I also caved and bought a bag of Haribo gummi bears. They're incredible. I'll be bringing a lot back.

On another note: I don't know how many of you follow German news, or if this made the international news back in den USA, but Horst Koehler, the president of Germany (not Angela Merkel, the chancellor; the president is essentially a figurehead, according to the people that I've talked to about it) recently resigned right after being re-elected due to criticism of Germany's presence in Afghanistan--he said something about the troops being there also to secure trade routes for Germany ( “My estimation is that, on the whole, we are on the way to understanding, even broadly in society, that a country of our size, with this orientation toward foreign trade and therefore also dependence on foreign trade, has to be aware that when in doubt in case of an emergency, military deployment is also necessary to protect our interests, free trade routes, for example to prevent instability in a whole region, which certainly have an negative impact on our opportunities via trade, jobs and income.”), and he got criticized by the media since there's a clause in the German Constitution that states that German troops may only be used for defense of the country and nothing else. So it's a really interesting time to be over here--there's no real political unrest, and I get to observe a different government system. Here's a link to an article about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/10207180.stm


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