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itttttaly!

Everything went very smoothly with checking out of Magdeburg.  I went to Berlin to pick up Andrea, we toured Berlin, and came back to Magdeburg.  She was pretty out of it – who can blame her.  We woke up, cleaned my room and had the meeting with the Hausmeister.   Then we headed to the train station in Sylvias car and I said my final farewell to Magdeburg.  I’m really glad Andrea was there, it would have been harder to leave all alone.

So we made it to Frankfurt, I checked my huge bag at the airport for the week.  Our flight to Milan was on time.  Dianes friend picked us up from the airport in Milan, and we went back to their house to spend the night.  They were incredibly gracious.  Today we are going into Milan and then heading to Venice by train!

So excited! Except for the fact that we are going to stick out like sore thumbs in the Fashion Capital of the world today. Hah.

Peace and Love!

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end of week 3.

So I have four days of work behind me this week already.  Time is really flying.  Monday and Tuesday I was in the office doing excel stuff.  Wednesday and today I took pictures.  The work is fine.  Its easy and mundane, but I guess thats what an intern should expect.  The basic jist of this project, for those who don’t know, is the following:  There is a apartment organization that owns apartment buildings all over the city.  The name of this is MWG, which stands for Magdeburg Wohnung Genossenschaft [translation: Magdeburg Apartment Corporation].  The MWG is considering putting solar panels on top of their buildings. I basically do the exact same thing for every apartment building (there are 220+), which is filling out information in an excel table such as the area of the roof, what kind of roof it is, what the angle of the roof is, is there anything on top of the roof, will there ever be shadows, what is the orientation of the building, etc.  So it’s a lot of repetition, but somebody has got to do it.   If it seems feasible in the end to actually put solar panels on the roofs of a portion of the apartment buildings, then ITG [my firm] will put a bid on the project.

aufenthaltstitel

I got up this morning and set out to get my Aufenthaltstitel [permit of residence].  I was determined- nothing would stop me! They would just have to suck it up and deal with my American insurance!  It took alonnnng time, but I did walk out with my permit! Its pretty cool- its glued in my passport!  I had to get a special biometric picture taken (10 euro) and the permit itself put me back another 50 euro.  😦  Thats groceries for a month!

Anyway, today after I got back from 5 hours out on the town, I was just exhausted [and a little sunburned- which I was happy about 🙂 sorry mom].  After running 7 miles at a fast pace on Tuesday with Marc, a Canadian, william and elliotand Elliot, an American from Savannah, Georgia [he is on the right in the picture] putting in a full day of biking/walking taking pictures on Wednesday and dancing into the wee hours of Thursday morning, and then today putting in the 5 hours of walking… I was just tired!

I had heard that people sometimes would go up on the roof of the dorm- so I decided to check it out.  Sure enough, you just keep going up the stairs, climb over a gate/fence thing, and then crawl out a window and you are there. There was one part on the roof that was higher than the other parts, naturally I decided I had to be at the highest point.  Well in order to loft myself 9 feet in the air, I used a random chair that was sitting there.  And I broke the chair haha.  The seat just kinda collapsed when I put pressure there to jump. Whoops! I sat and finished my second book – The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  Then I napped for a while in the late afternoon sun.  It was pretty great to say the least.  I looked around and started to notice a lot of windmills.  So I counted them- 108 windmills.  I could see 108 windmills from where I sitting on the roof! When it started to get a little windy I went back to my room and Marc, the Canadian, wanted to go running, so we went.  He’s very opinionated and I like ranting with him about politics and international relations.

Living in the dorms continues to be fun! I have found a nitch with a large group of pre-existing friends.  But now I am generally accepted, and if I dare say it, genuinely liked.  Sometimes I forget that they actually have homework and tests to study for… like we will be hanging out, and then they will start talking about school. So glad I’m not having to deal with that.  Even though the work ethic here I see is very low- I think these kids would have a hard time adjusting to the Calvin workload.  When I told someone that I only skipped class 3 or 4 times last semester, and that I have class 4 days a week, they were shocked.   So tonight there is some guys birthday party downstairs in IKUS [the international student program/hang-out place].   I’ll probably go for a bit, but my bed-time is early tonight.  🙂

Love and miss you all! I like getting updates about what people are doing back home- so send me an email!

mastercard.

Photos Printed: 5 x $0.15

Card and Envelope: $1.99

Stamps: $2.00

 

Giving Katrina Joy: Priceless

folk-dancing.

Chances are looking slim that I’m going to get a Student ID.  Which means no stable internet connection, no stable laundry, and no free public transportation.  This is a major bummer.   I thought this was something I had taken care of before I left, but apparently not.   It could be worse though, because I can have internet when my neighbor is here, I just have to do my laundry in another dorm or borrow someone’s ID, and continue to be a ‘Schwarzfahrer’ or just give in buy a very expensive train pass.  

I’m about to get picked up by Sylvia to go dancing.  I thought at first she said ‘Folk-dancing’, like western country style.  I was like, ok this is something I have got to see, Germans doing Folk dancing.   On the way home from work, Martin [the new guy], starting laughing and redirected my thoughts, that this was in fact ‘Volk-dancing’, like the Waltz.  Ahhhhh what have I gotten myself into.  I didn’t really want to go, but I figure if I say no, the invites might stop coming.  I don’t have a partner or anything.   And it’s in German.  I don’t know any German dancing words haha

***Edit: I just got back from ‘Folk-Dancing’.  Yes it was Folk/Volk… I don’t really know.  What an experience.  There were 8 of us.  We danced and twirled in a circle and threw our hands up in the air like we were love struck hippies.  For 1.5 hours.

Went for a run, came back, and found out my hair-dryer is fried.  I might cave and buy a European one. Birthday present?

Hopefully I’m going to get Friday off of work, and then Diane and I are going to go to Amsterdam and Belgium.  I’ll finally get to walk the lands of my ancestors.

hand ball.

So recap. I had a very long day of apartment visiting on Friday.  I was outside for over 9 hours.  Public transportation time was about an hour, so I walked for over 8 hours, first for 6 hours in the morning, and then feeling like I hadn’t accomplished enough, I went back out for 3 more hours.  It was rough.  And I don’t walk that slowly, so probably at least a 20min/mile pace.  So that’s what, 3 miles an hour?  Ok you do the math.  I don’t really want to think about it.  I came back to the dorms tired, my feet and legs hurting.  Thankfully Elena was on Skype, so I got to vent to her.  I ran into Juan Pablo and he invited me to come watch a movie with some of his friends.  I was thankful for the invite and showered and went to watch Fight Club.  First time I’d ever seen that movie.

Went to the Handball game on Saturday with Herr Ball.  It was great! I’d never seen a game of this sport before; it was so quick!  We had VIP like passes because ITG is a sponsor of the team, which let us go to in this back room with tons of food and drink.  I’m sure I looked like a lost duck in this room.  I stuck close to Herr Ball, he introduced me to a ton of people, and then his wife came.  She was very sweet and chatted with me, which I was also grateful for.  During the game, the woman behind me spilled her beer on me.  Literally down the back of my pants, and I was sitting on my jacket and scarf so they also got soaked.  Like LITERALLY my underwear and entire seat of my pants was wet with beer. Awesome. In an emotional and exciting game, Magdeburg won by a couple goals. Then after the game, we went back to this VIP room, had more food and drink, and all the players came in one by one.  I was kind-of overwhelmed and over-stimulated.  And uncomfortable due to my wet butt.

Also, apparently I was not expected to have conquered the whole city in two days.  But I’m back to the office on Monday morning!  Sylvia, who I’ll be working with, will be back from vacation.

There was a Spanish party last night in the basement, put on by all the Spaniards here in the dorms.   They prepared a limited amount of traditional Spanish cuisine, which I never got a chance to taste, and had made a ton of Sangria.  I’m starting to feel like I recognize more people.   Then I went Salsa dancing with Juan Pablo and a few other Mexicans and Germans.  One of the German guys heard me talking in German, asked where I was from, and when I said Chicago, he was shocked! He thought I was German.  I was thrilled.  Whoever thought I would learn to salsa in Germany… J

kampusfest.

Last night at the KampusFest I met Herr Neumann.  It was good to finally meet him in person.  We talked about how my first two days or work went, I expressed my gratitude for sending Frau Ahlers my way and lamented about my struggles of obtaining a Student ID.  He said that when I have problems its very important to tell him right away.  He was surprised that I was actually going to have to commute to Schönebeck everyday, and said he would talk to Herr Ball to see if I could just work at the Fachhochschule.  I feel like he is too important/busy to take on the responsibility of monitoring me, so I’m thankful that he actually does! I get the sense he is well respected.  He introduced me as an American intern to a number of faculty, and each asked, ‘Oh, she knows German?’, to which he would respond, ‘But naturally, yes.’  We met up with Frau/Professor Ahlers and then he had to rush off somewhere.   

I don’t know how to do ‘business’ here in Germany.  As in how formal to be over here.  Maybe it’s because I, myself, don’t feel old enough to warrant being addressed formally.  Once I great someone with a hug/kiss on cheek greeting, I assume its ok to always do that… In German, there is a formal form of you, ‘Sie’, and an informal form, ‘du’.  Adults usually decide when they will use ‘du’ with younger people.  For example, both Ulrike and Slyvia told me we could use the informal ‘du’ with eachother.  They told ME.  I don’t feel like I have the power to tell Herr Neumann and Herr Ball to use ‘du’ with me.  So they use ‘Sie’.  And its weird.  I don’t like it- it makes me feel awkwardly old/important, which I definitely consider myself to be neither in the scheme of things.  Another awkward moment: Me going in for the hug/kiss with Ulrike at KampusFest.  I assumed that’s what I should do, since thats how we had been greeting each other.  But she went for the handshake.  And I was already mid-hug.  It didn’t go so well.  Hahaha somehow we made it though.  However, I think the other professors watching thought it was cute. 

Ulrike sayed with me for an hour or so at the KampusFest and bought me a Wurstchen [small sausage] and Beer.  Always so generous.   She kinda cracks me up.  We just stood there as the band played talking with whoever Juan Pablo happened to know, and all of the Students would introduce themselves to her and just start talking like no big deal.  Then this guy working on his Doctorate came and randomly introduced himself to me and Ulrike.  He was nice, but in a creepy German sort of way.  When I got tired of listening to the German bands play, Juan said he’d walk me home.  Edgar [from Georgia] left with us.  It was a chilly 2 mile walk back.

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.