Monthly Archives: May 2009

ahlers.

Stayed up late last night writing my other blog entries and woke up today pretty late, after 12:30pm.  I was brushing my teeth and my handy rang. I swear this woman thinks she needs to adopt me.  She asked when I wanted them to pick me up, told me not to eat anything and was happy I’d slept so late.  I insisted I’d walk over because the sun was shining. When I arrived I handed her a birthday card I bought, and in return received a huge plate of food which was waiting for me.  I met her brother, sister in law and niece.  Elisabet was 12.  I mostly hung out with the kids all day.  We played Badminton, blew up balloons, played a Kareoke game, looked at pictures… Slowly more adults began to arrive, friends and cousins.  A man with three blonde, tall daughters showed up.  I don’t know how old they were, probably 16, 22, and 24 I think.  Everyone under the age of 40 went to the park, while ‘die Alten’ went for a walk along the river.  They all talk sooo fast.  If I really try I can keep up.  But it takes so much effort.  So I zone out sometimes.  I was intimidated  by these daughters for some reason.  

There was no question whether or not I was staying for dinner, it would have been rude to leave. And what a feast.  It started to downpour again [I swear I bring the rain], so the meal had to be moved inside.  By this time there were at 15 adults, none of whom I’d actually talked with, who sat at the grown-up table.  The kids [Linn(13), Lela(6), Elisabet(12), me, and the 3 blondes] sat at another table. I didn’t really say much, as my custom, until the blondes starting asking me some questions, the basic, uh who are you and what are you doing here type. They complimented me on my German, which was very undeserved since I’d not really spoken with them.  I’m not sure if I came across as rude, dumb, tired or just blissfully content.  I just try to keep a smile on my face. 

At 10:00pm, I decided I’d been there long enough and  if I didn’t make a move, I’d be there another 2 hours until one of the guests offered to drive me home.  It was still a little light out, so I told Linn I should get going and could just walk home.  Ulrike insisted on giving me her bike and apologized that she didn’t really talk to me the entire time.  I was like, please woman, this is your birthday! You should be spending it with your friends and family- not some American College student you have decided to take in.  When I was fumbling for my keys, she said if I couldn’t find them I could just spend the night.  Go figure.  She asked if I had everything set for tomorrow morning, as in if I had food to eat for breakfast.  Um, yes.  I have really landed a gem with this woman.   I am still baffled by her kindness and generosity. I must have really charmed her or something, because I can’t figure it out.

When I bike back tomorrow she is going to take me on a bike tour of the city center.  I also can’t forget my pants that she washed for me and put on the line to dry.  Naturally she offered to wash my jeans because they got so dirty from our bike ride in the rain yesterday. 

Met another Bulgarian on my end of the floor.  Our dorm has probably 40 rooms on each side of the hallway, so 80 total.  There are about 7 on each side, so 14 total, in my section of the dorm.  I’m the only American and there are no Germans.  I am on the very end of the dorm.  So I look down the long hallway and see all 80 rooms, which is kind-of nice because I’m somewhat isolated from noise and what not.  But our kitchen is the only kitchen that has a table and chairs in it. Therefore it is the most popular. Apparently it is against fire code to have these objects in the kitchen, but after a long battle with one of the students where the Resident Director of our Dorm would bring the table to the garbage, and the student would bring it back, the Resident Director gave up.  So the table sits. 

The other students are so nice! One actually let me use his internet, then another came and just offered to give me his connection. So now I have internet! Then they told me how to do laundry and how the mensa works.  A bunch of them are going to Stockholm this weekend and even invited me to go with.  There is no way I would go right after my first week of work though.  Oh, ‘Fatso’ just came in and said goodnight ‘Ciao baby good dreams’. Haha I love broken English 🙂

One more day before I start work!

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hospitality.

Today was good. I woke up setting an alarm so that I could meet Sylvia.  I was awake and expecting her at 9am, she sent me a text saying she would be there at 10am, and didn’t show up until 11am.   Not that I had anything to really be doing haha.  I cleaned my pollen filled room as much as I could with my antibacterial ‘wet ones’.  I also read over my rent contract looking up words that I didn’t know.  Then I read over everything about my cell phone, once again looking up tons of words I didn’t know.   Sylvia and husband showed up [he had a long pony tail and gotee, reminded me of a western cattle rancher/hippy] and dropped off a huge container with sheets, towels, water, coffee that isn’t really ground up [im confused at how it works], a coffee pot, two coffee mugs, a TON of silverware, a bowl, a pot for the stove and a decorative sign with a picture of a donut on it with a message that translates as ‘We could always share everything, but then we’d only have half the pleasure.’ I didn’t really know what to make of that. But anyway, what a dear! It was like Christmas.

Herr Neumann had given me a telephone number, actually a handy number, of one of his collogues daughters.  I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with this, do I call, do I not? Right after Sylvia left, I received a call from a Frau Ulrika Ahlars.  She explained that she was the colleague of Herr Neumann, and that Linn was her daughter who was 14.  She invited me over for lunch, dinner, and a bike ride… basically whatever I wanted to do.  I told her I wanted to explore around the city a little bit and then I’d give her a call back.   She was very nice on the phone, and I stood there thinking about all the hospitality I had received in the first 24 hours of being in Magdeburg.

I started out for the city center a couple miles a way, didn’t really know where I was going, it was kind-of cold out, and I suddenly didn’t feel like walking 4-5 miles in total.   Plus the city and campus is eerily empty still.  So I settled for the same store I went to the night before, which was only 4-5 blocks away.  There I bought a desperately needed garbage can, Kleenex, masking tape, a notebook, a dust rag, a some floor duster sheets, butter and cheese.  I carried all these things back in my garbage can bucket.

I got back to my room and decided I wanted to take a nap, which turned into an entire afternoon activity.  My floor was totally dead, I hadn’t seen or heard anyone all day.  I decided I should really make something of the day and called Ulrike back.  She said she’d be there in 15mins to pick me up and we could go have coffee, maybe go for a bike tour of the city.  It was 4pm.  We decided on a corner to meet and she asked how she’d recognize me, I said I was tall and had brown curly hair.  When I got in the car, she told me that was a perfect description haha.  In the back see was a 6 year old girl named Lela.  If I only had the fluency of a 6 year old.  This car ride was short, we swapped chit-chat, Lela wowed me with her English counting skills [even though she forgot 10], and within a few minutes we were at their house.

It is so interesting to me how much we supersize everything in America.  The house we pulled up to was a normal looking size house you would find in Oak Park or East Town in Grand Rapids.  Ulrike explained that they were only renters, and that the first floor was theirs.  They had only been living there since August.  I went inside to meet Linn, who was 14 years old, and Ali, the dad/husband.  As Lela was giving me a tour, I could tell that they had moved from a bigger place into this one.  But even so, there was plenty of room.  The girls each had their own room, a living room/dining room area, two bathrooms and a guest bedroom/office.

I could tell this was going to be like my host family experiences in the German Interim I had stayed at in January 2008.   Too much German for my brain to handle, too much good German food forced on me and repetitive denials of my offer to be helpful.  I talked in the small kitchen until the drizzling of chocolate on the dessert bars was finished.  It was clear that she really knew nothing about me, or that Herr Neumann had given her little details.  She assumed I was studying at the Hochschule were they both are professors.   Looking back, it still baffles me at how kind she/her family was to let a perfect stranger into their home for the night and be so generous with everything. We sat outside and had kaffee und kuchen [coffee and dessert].   She assured me that my German was very good, and that she was impressed because most Americans come here and don’t know the language at all.  But this still doesn’t erase the countless times when I understood everything that was said, wanted to make an intellectual comment and completely was at a loss for words.   I am very good at smiling though and that usually gets me through these moments.

Ulrike and I went on a bike ride.  We went through an area that was still greatly affected from WWII.  There were tons of empty, run down apartment buildings and an area where all the buildings were totally in ruins.  It was weird.  Then it started to downpour.  We decided to wait under this bridge.  We waited for over 30mins, talking the entire time.  I really liked talking to her because she speaks at a rate that I can fully understand, and when I don’t know a word is very good at explaining it.  Her daughters talk almost too fast for me to understand.   I had this same experience with two of my previous host families.   The rain still wasn’t letting up, so we decided to just go for it.  We rode a couple minutes in the rain, and then it stopped! When we got back to the house, Ulrike wanted to give me all new dry clothes, but mine weren’t really that wet so I declined.  My pants were however very dirty, and she insisted that I bring them back tomorrow for her to wash them.  I feel almost guilty accepting offers like this!

We had a great typical German dinner with all different types of bread and cheese, little tomatoes with mozzarella cheese on top, raw veggies, and strawberries.  And they forced a beer on me.

With the clock approaching 9pm, I assumed that dinner would be over.  But no, an hour and a half later with Lela in bed, we were all still talking.   Ulrike decided to start cleaning up, but insisted that Linn and I stay talking.  We did for a long time, but I was getting tired and feeling a little imposing at this point! Ali gave me a ride home, but only after another showering of gifts: an awesome map of Magdeburg, scissors, a sharp nice, two brötchen, coffee filters and ground up coffee.

Tomorrow it is Ulrike’s birthday and most of their extended family is coming over to visit and have lunch.  I am to call them as to when I want to get picked up and come hangout, and maybe go on a better bike ride into the city center.  The one we went on today was  mainly along the river and up to the Hochschule where she teaches.  If the weather is nice out, I might just walk.

Some of my floormates were around cooking dinner when I got back, so I stayed and chatted with them for a while.  I told them about this awesome family, and they responded it’s because I am American.  I was thinking, uh no, it’s because they are awesome and I guess Herr Neumanns word is solid.  They might be going to some sort of fabricated beach atmosphere/bar with a pool tomorrow.  Problem: I somehow forgot my suit? I don’t really know how though.  I want to go, but I don’t know what to make of this family gathering that I am expected to be a part of.

I stayed and talked in the Kitchen with ‘Fatso’ while we cleaned the dishes, and then we went to Fabio’s room with 5 other students and played the old school computer game WormsII, where you are a team of worms and you use artillery to kill the other teams worms.  I’m pretty sure they were all doing weed.   So goes it in Europe.

the journey.

Flight was rather uneventful. I enjoyed the movie (as did everyone else on the plane) ‘YES Man’, where Jim Carrey turns his life around by joining a covenant whose motto is, you guessed it, saying yes to everything.  It was dumb in my opinion. It got a few chuckles out of me I’ll admit, but at the end I wished I’d been reading or journaling.  The two women I sat by were also a delight, and we swapped emails at the end of the flight. One woman was chaperoning a swim team on international exchange in Freiburg (uh, how cool. Can I be that mom please…?), and the other was visiting her sister in a military base just outside of Frankfurt. For being stuck sitting next to each other for 9 hours, they were great company.

Made it through the Frankfurt airport to my train in record speed, had almost an hour to spare.  Customs was virtually non-existent.  I had been so worried about not having the correct papers, work permit/visa, etc., and no one even asked me a single question.  And I was so prepared at what I would say too.

Carrying 100 lbs of stuff around is no easy task, and I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I was very distraught when I weighed my bag to be 73 lbs! AHHHH! I managed to get it down to 65 lbs and just surrendered to paying the fine. I don’t really want to talk about it. Grr.

Train rides were going smoothly, until a 2.5 hour delay decided to enter my travel plans.  The electrical wire above the train had broken, and we had to wait while it was repaired.  I didn’t really know what was going on.  The conductor started making an announcement, but there are long announcements at every stop giving transfer information.  Due to my tiredness and hunger, I didn’t feel like trying to translate and tuned it out.  But when a maddening uproar of general frustration and anger erupted from the cabin I was concerned.  I borrowed a German woman’s cell phone and called my ITG contact, Sylvia, to inform here I’d be arriving at least 2-3 hours late.   She was short and formal on the phone.  But then again, so was I.

Had an awkward moment when I tried to transfer at the wrong station and had to sheepishly board the same train again.  I think the people in my car were confused.

Passed through Gottingen, looking for any sight of Liz.  Slim chances, but hey you never know.  Made it to Magdeburg, found a payphone and told Sylvia I had made it.  She said she’d be there in 10mins to get me.  I read my book until I heard someone call my name.  Sylvia greated me with a yellow rose! I was shocked.  How thoughtful! She was great. We chit-chatted all the way to my dorm, where we got the key and headed on up.

The campus was absolutely dead.  I think I saw two students walking around.  But it is Pentecost, so I was aware this might be the case.  My room is about the size of my room at school, with a huge wall closet and bathroom connected.  I have a fridge in my room! And a bed, desk, desk chair and bookshelf thing.  Other than that nothing.  I noticed that I didn’t have towels and the sheets were kinda sketchy.  So naturally, Sylvia offered to bring some from her home tomorrow morning before she goes on vacation.  She also offered to bring me some dishes and silver ware. And she asked me whether I like coffee or tea.  So I’m thinking she will bring me some coffee tomorrow.

I also chatted with Professor Neumann on the phone with Sylvia there.  I was a little confused as to what is going to happen tomorrow, but he said he would phone again.  So hopefully things will get straightened up.  I think his collogues daughter is going to meet up with and show me around?  I don’t think he fully knew a plan either.  So I guess I’m not going to stay with him.  I’d love to go, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t be heartbroken.

I decided to go see if I could get my internet set up.  No luck.  So I started to wander around the main square my dorm and found an internet café.  Emailed my mom, but didn’t want to sit down to write this messy thing.  Plus I suck at German keyboards- they are all different.

When I got back it was almost dusk, and lo and behold I found I actually do have some neighbors! Across the hall from me lives ‘Fatso’, that’s what we call him. He’s Hungarian, so maybe that actually is a Hungarian name or something.  He friend Torrey(?) is also Hungarian.  Then there is Fabio from Italy.  They were super nice and we talked for an hour or so.  They were uber concerned about me; like oh what have you eaten, here have some food, need help moving furniture? They were heading to the grocery store around the corner and insisted I come to get some food.  They were nice enough and actually acted like perfect gentlemen the whole time, opening doors for me and showing me all around the store.  Got back and they offered me some of their dinner, pasta and this weird tomato sauce.  And then I found out that the 5th floor is the cool floor.  All these other international students surfaced to come have a beer and hangout in our kitchen.  I met a girl from Poland, a girl from Latvia, a guy from Savannah Georgia and his cousin, a guy from Japan, a German, a Spanish guy…  And then I realized that, oh, I actually am living in the international dorm.  Everyone is excited to practice their English with me.  🙂

At this point I hadn’t unpacked and they were trying to get me to go out with them, but I decided I needed to stay back and get settled.  Jetlag is having weird affects on me because its 3:22am and I’m not dead tired.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, except that Sylvia will be here at 9am.

Looks like I will be having to commute to Schőnebeck everyday… bum sauce.

a warning.

Just a forewarning, these first few entries are going to contain more detail that I will normally share.  But I know that my parents are dying to hear all this.  So I take no offense if you choose not to read everything.  I will not have internet for a few more days, but my neighbor offered me to just use his.  What a gent.

31 things.

I was restless and anxious last night.  I hate the night before a big trip. As I was lying in bed last night, I had a pen and paper to write down a list of all the last minute things to do today.  This list ended up containing 31 items. Most of them are short, so it shouldn’t take that long. My top five were:

  1. visit grandma and grandpa
  2. do nails 
  3. shower 
  4. print off train times 
  5. update blog

So here goes number 5. I have to be 100% ready by 3pm today.  This is when Jon’s prom craziness begins.  Prom is kind-of ridiculous if you ask me. Hundreds of dollars for one event that is supposedly the best night of your life… pathetic. I’m going to tag along, take pictures at Timothy, then his group is getting transported by a stretch Hummer [kill me…] to some park where we will take more pictures.  At 5pm my Dad, Elena and I will head to the O’Hare International Airport to send me away. 

When I land in Frankfurt, it will be 11:10 Friday morning.  I will have to get through customs, hopefully without too much trouble.  I’ll take a train, well it actually will be more like 3 trains, from Frankfurt to Magdeburg.  If I’m very ambitious, the first train leaves at 12:47 from the airport train station, it would awesome if I could make that.  So thats an hour and a half to get through customs, get my baggage, and get my train pass stamped. It’ll happen maybe? If I can’t make that happen, the next set of trains leaves at 13:47.  

Frau Slyvia Westermann will be picking me up from the train station. She works for ITG.  I’m assuming she’ll take me to the dorms? I don’t really know.  I’m hoping to spend the first couple days with Professor Neumann and his family.  Professor Neumann is the contact that my Professor Roberts had in Germany. Aka he made this happen.  He generously offered to host me because it’s a national holiday, Pfingsten [Pentecost], and he didn’t want me stranded in the dorms.  What a dear.  I like him already. Prof. Neumann has two 20-something aged children, who are thinking of visiting home this weekend.  Hopefully I’ll make a good impression on them.  

Off to finish my other 23 obligations. Look, I’m already done with 8. 

german word[s] of the day.

Der Zug- Train

Der Flughafen- Airport

Der Flugzeug-Plane

first post.

I’m setting up this blog as a way to keep in touch with everyone back home while I’m in Germany this summer.  For background information: I have an engineering internship in Magdeburg, Germany, which is about 1.5 hours outside of Berlin.  I will be abroad 10 weeks this summer, working and spending one week in Italy.  I’m very excited to see what God has in store for me! I will use this blog to post pictures, tell funny stories and just update how my day-to-day life shapes up over the Atlantic.  

location.

A town called Magdeburg.  It is located in former East Germany.  At first there was some apprehension about this location, due to some people thinking the town is rough and there being bad neighborhoods and I quote, old ‘skin heads’ running around.  I had some reassuring to do, saying that I know the language, this isn’t my first time in Germany or former East Germany, and  bluntly, that I’m not stupid. 

Magdeburg

 

But it’s good not to be naive, and being aware of the towns perceptions is a good thing. But there is river flowing through the town and a huge University.  Magdeburg was pretty much destroyed after WWII, so most of the buildings were built up pretty poorly by the Russians.  More than that, I really don’t know. 

living arrangements.

I’ll be living in Magdeburg, approx. 2.7 km [1.5 mile] away from the Hauptbahnhof [train station] at one of the student dormitories for the local university.  I’ll have my own room and bathroom, with a shared kitchen down the hall.  I have been assured by dear friend Liz (See below), that these kitchens are indeed used by the students.  There is laundry in the basement. Well see how much I eat in the Mensa [cafeteria]. 

my dorm.

 

floor plan of my room.

 

internship.

Here is the website of the Engineering firm I will be working at-  ITG Plaungs und Energieberatungs GmbH. From the looks of it, they are a pretty broad consulting firm, doing projects that incorporate high-efficiency energy-saving designs into their building plans.  The main branch is located in a suburb of Magdeburg, called Schönebeck.  I’m pretty sure they have an office actually in Magdeburg, and this is where I’ll be working.  I received a two page project description, all in complex technical German.  The main gist of it is that I’ll be working with a group of other interns deciding if it’s worth it or not to start putting solar panels on buildings that ITG renovates.   

personal shout-outs.  

First, to my German professor at Calvin, Corey Roberts.  He has been an incredible presence this semester, basically setting up this experience for me.  All the phone calls and emails arranging this for me…. geesh, what a blessing.  And the countless emails reminding me what forms to turn in and documents to write.  And then the editing of these documents that were to be sent abroad.  I am eternally grateful. 

Second, to my grade school friend Liz Ludwig, who is studying abroad in Göttingen.  She has already been a great resource for my dumb little questions, and hopefully she will continue to be.  We are going to try and meet up sometime!

Third, to the Hekman Library at Calvin College, specifically the Theological Seminary Library.  The overwhelming support I have received from this department has been delightful.  I hope to make good use of the knowledge and resources they have provided me while I am in Germany. 

german word[s] of the day.

das Praktikum – Internship

die Praktikantin – Female Intern

Example: 

Ich bin eine Praktikanin. [I am an Intern]