bremen und cuxhaven.

It was weird being back in Bremen.   Certain benches, stores, corners, statues, buildings, bars, clubs – they all have memories from two years ago.  It was overwhelming to be flooded back with all these memories of a joyous past time. Getting off at the Hauptbahnhof and walking outside – it was almost as if I never left.  But then again, things are very different from when I was 18. I felt immediately comfortable and at home, proud that I still knew the city.

bremen teerhofOn Saturday, I met Diane at the Hauptbahnhof and we walked to where the group of sophomore Calvin students are staying.  These are all the boys that I had in my German 101 conversation groups this past spring; I love them and they are a great group.  We met up with Chris and Eric, two other Calvin seniors who have internships in Bremen.  A group assembled and we went to grab a drink along the river.  Diane and I went to see where Chris and Eric lived, grabbed some dinner, explored the city, went and got another drink along the river and headed to bed.

Our alarms were set for 6am for an early departure to Cuxhaven.  Cuxhaven is a city on the North Sea known for its high and low tides, which produce really cool mud flats.  It took us an hour and a half of walking to make it up to the mudflats. We went and played on them for a couple hours – walking about a half mile and the water getting no deeper than mid-calf.  Plenty of men in speedos, crabs and cargo ships were seen.

mudflats cuxhaven

The group was really fun, we had a good time; lots of laughs and good conversation. Solid weekend. Diane and I parted ways at the Bremen Hbf and realized that the next time we see each other will be in Venice!! It was really sad actually, I’m gonna miss that girl for the next 3 weeks.

a game.

Here is an update on my language situation.  In the dorms with all my friends, we speak English.  Only this is very poor, broken English.  In order to communicate, I think of what I want to say, then think of the dumbest and easiest way to say it.   And I have to talk slowly.  Doing this works, we are all able to communicate.  It’s really fascinating actually.  But this means my English is actually getting worse.  I will find myself using words incorrectly or saying things are grammatically atrocious.

My German on the other hand isn’t really getting practiced either.   My listening and comprehension is better from being at work, but I really don’t talk a lot when I am there.  So I would say that my speaking hasn’t really improved that much.  Which is sad.  Ok, I’ll be fair – my German is definitely improving, how could it not be, I am surrounded by it when I step foot outside of my dorm, but it’s not at the rate I hoped it would be.

So my English is getting worse and my German isn’t really getting that much better.

Here is the game.  A lot of the students here actually do have pretty decent English.  So when they talk in English, I try to see if I can express what they just said in German.   I usually can.  But then there will be some phrases where I really have no idea!  And then I get frustrated haha.  I think some people have seen me and been a little confused as why I am slow to respond to what they just said.   I just randomly started doing this in my head and then realized that I was doing it…  sometimes I think I am so weird.

and so it goes.

Right now I’m sitting on the roof of my apartment building.  I knew I was going to sit down and write a bit, so I thought, eh, why not go outside and catch the setting sun.  I hope I don’t’ ever get in trouble for coming up here.  I’m listening to Duets: An American Classic by Tony Bennett and feeling quite jazzy and romantic.  How could I not with Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder serenading me? The only thing missing – a glass of wine.

I’m at the point in the trip where I have settled into life and routine.   There aren’t going to be anymore huge surprises or bureaucracy that I’ll have to go through.  I’m perfectly content to be here.   And at the same time, I can’t stop thinking about excited I am for my last year at Calvin.  I can’t wait to start my classes, my senior design project, live with my girl friends again, figure out what the heck I’m going to do with my life…

Today is Monday, July 13.  It is my Grandma’s 87th birthday!  I called my Grandparents from Skype to wish her a Happy Birthday; it was good to hear their voices and words of encouragement.   I’m glad I actually got through and they picked up!

Work went by surprisingly fast today.  My workstation has been moved though.  Instead of working from Herr Ball’s office, I will be working in the conference room with this other new guy.   I’m not sure if he was hired full time, or is just doing some contracting work.  But he has been around for a couple weeks now.  It was crazy though – he didn’t take a lunch break I don’t think he ever went to the bathroom!  I am constantly drinking (they have bottled water and juice available) so on my third trip to the bathroom I was feeling kind-of ridiculous.   Working in there will add a little accountability to not get distracted.  And I get to see and hear more interactions between the engineers, instead of being so isolated in my old office.

As to the status of my project, I am pretty sure I am done with all the basic busy work.  Ok, anything to do with this project will feel like busy work because I have to do it over 200 times.  But the most basic busy work is complete.   In the next part I will actually be producing numbers, not just presenting background information and collecting data.  This excites me, mostly because I actually have no idea if this project is feasible.  As the CEO of MWG said to me when we parted, “What you are doing here is very important; it decides if we move forward with this project or not.”  Yikes! Pressure is on!  But as with every project, in hindsight I can see so many better ways to accomplish what I have done.  I feel like one trip to MWG could have provided so much information that I am merely estimating.  A week working with an actual MWG employee would have been so beneficial.   But all in all, I am fairly confident I will get this project done.

In other news, my left foot has really been bugging me.  It started to hurt a couple weeks ago, but I just kept running and playing basketball on it.  Well I went for a run yesterday and had to stop because it hurt so badly.  I’m kind-of limping actually :/ I’m trying to take it easy for a while.  There is no way I am going to get tangled in the medical system here if I can help it.  I’m nervous though, because when I go to Italy I’m going to be walking a LOT.  I really hope it feels better in 3 weeks!

me on roof

And we have moved on to cello sonatas in my iTunes.  Now I’m feeling classy!  Well I’m going to read for a little bit up here.  I borrowed a book from a friend.  It’s Death in Venice and seven other short stories by Thomas Mann. It is in English, which is a cop-out since he is a fairly well known German author.  Gosh it is just so peaceful up here.   It’s nice to escape and be above all the hustle and bustle of the city.  The image to my right: windmills lazily turning above the tree tops with a hazy orange sky and a lining of clouds above them, and with a bright blue sky above the sun.

Thanks for keeping tabs on me.

shoemaker.

Last week I went into Berlin.  Just for Wednesday night to visit a friend who is doing some traveling with his Dad in Europe.  I took the train straight from the dinky little two platform train station in Schönebeck  to the HUGE, bustling, 5 story open air train station of Berlin.   After a couple hours I was there, ready to get see a familiar face and have some dinner.  Ben is a friend from Calvin and also the student body president.  I will be working with (for) him when I serve on Student Senate this coming academic year.

We walked around for a while before finding a cute little place for dinner.  I had fun talking with the man running the place (think: waiter/cook/bar tender/cashier/bus boy) in German, and we all had the infamous German Wiener Schnitzel because it was the special for the day.  Going out to eat in Germany is not a quick process.  So not surprisingly, after we were done eating and got the bill, it was already time for me to go!

me and ben dinner

me and ben schnitzel

Mine and Ben’s engagement photos – haha KIDDING.

göttingen.

Last Sunday I finally got around to visiting Liz in the town where she studies, Göttingen. She met me at the train station and we walked back to her adorable apartment that she shares with two friends.  One of whom, Michelle, who will be studying at Hope next year! So hopefully I will be able to connect with her back home. She gave me a tour of the little city, the university, we got ice-cream and met up with her friends for dinner.  It was a beautiful day outside.  But even better, it was so great to connect again with her! She’s great. Here are some pictures from the day.

main square goettingen

the main square in goettingen.  tradition is, once you graduate, there is a big procession and you have to come and kiss this statue and bring her flowers. haha i love it.

university square goettingen

a little square/garden that has univeristy buildings around it.  a favorite hangout place among the students.

pools cafe

pools cafe, where liz and i went for coffee and ended up getting ice-cream.

me and liz :)me and liz. 🙂

termine.

Ok, german word for the day:  Termine = appointments.

As I said earlier, I had an appointment with Herr Ball to go see some sort of Bio-gas plant.  Ok.  This ended up being a private hour and tour with the head of one of the largest bio-diesel plants in Europe.  I was shocked and flattered.  First, we [me, Herr Ball, and I don’t remember his name], sat in a conference room where he talked about the whole process, got out props, the specific plant, the problems and advantages of bio-diesel and the future of it.  He gave me some literature and then I got a private tour of the plant.  It was incredible.  It was hot, the machinery was fascinating, and the head of the plant [I wish I could remember his name!!] was really nice.   As I walking through, I was just thinking about how lucky and privileged I have been!!  And the fact that Herr Ball would go through all this trouble just to set this up!  I thought that he had some other motivation with this trip, like he had to check on something or talk with someone in particular.  But no, this was just for me.  Just for me to learn and experience.

MWGI thought we were done.  Earlier in the week, Sylvia had mentioned something about a meeting on Thursday with the MWG.  But then she said that it fell through, and was going to happen later on in July.  While we were touring the bio-diesel plant, Herr Ball got a call saying that MWG wanted to take a picture of me, like now.  For the MWG newsletter.  For an article… featuring… me.  As he was telling me this, I was kinda confused, but just went with it.  So we get to the MWG headquarters and head upstairs.  We end up having a meeting with the head of MWG, who was charming and would throw in random English words that he knew.  It was great.  He didn’t really know anything about me, and asked straight up, “Why is an American doing this project?” Haha I was like, good question. It was cool hearing Herr Ball talk/kinda brag about me, and describe how I came to find this project.  After he named dropped Professor Neumann, it was crazy.  The head of MWG immediately seemed to approve of me.  So apparently Professor Neumann is kinda a big deal around here.   I got the basic history of MWG and we talked about the difference between now and the DDR [typical].   He had to leave a few times and when he was gone, Herr Ball would crack jokes about him, saying he thought he was such a big-wig.  Haha I was loving it.  All this time I sitting here like… ok, once again, we are at a meeting, completely focused on… me.  His secretary brought in water, coffee and a bad of MWG paraphernalia for me, including a baseball cap.   Herr Ball was late for another meeting, so he had to rush out.  I was left with the head of MWG.

Then we got down to business.  It was time to take the picture.  So we went outside and took one in front of the big MWG logo.  Haha I could tell he felt completely awkward and I was eating it up.

Two things to comment on regarding these events.  Everyone is shocked, and I mean really shocked that I am an American and I know German.  Like the head of the Bio-diesel plant would tell everyone we ran into that, “She is an american- and she knows german!”  The second thing.  I have been to three outside field trips/meetings, and every time I am the only woman there.  And every time, someone has commented on my looks in a joking or sarcastic way.  I have gotten three different words, schoen, hubsch, und attracktiv, which all basically mean the same thing.  For example, one guy said something to the effect of, “Oh yea, Herr Ball always arrives with beautiful women”.  And the head of MWG made a comment twice that he didn’t want to be alone in a picture with such an attractive woman.  It’s like, ok, I’m flattered.  But somewhat inappropriate?  I assume it’s just a cultural difference.

delinquent.

Ok.  I know I’ve been delinquent.  I never even talked about last weekend and my description of work is pretty pathetic.  But I have some time now, so I’m going to attempt to remedy this.

Last weekend the plan was to meet up with Liz, go to Hamburg and see Frau.  Frau is my German teacher from elementary school.  I have not seen her for years.  She is leading an exchange program for a couple weeks with students from the public high-school by my house.  Well it turned out that they were not in Hamburg that weekend, but up on an Island in the North See.  It all just felt too pressured for some reason, especially since I had plans on Sunday that I didn’t really want to miss.   So we didn’t attempt to find them.  Saturday instead I went to an open-air Jazz festival for the evening with my friends from the dorm.  The picture below was taken there; Magda [Poland] is on the left and Andre [Brazil] is on the right.  It was really great, just lounging in the grass and talking, while all the locals buzzed around us.  The bands sang more than half the time in English.  andre and magda Sunday I got up early and went to Berlin.  Diane was going to be there with two of her friends and I wanted to join them for the day.   We went on the free tour, which was pretty much all we had time for.  I’ve seen everything in Berlin, but hearing the history over again is never a bad thing.  Plus I learned something new- that after WWII, Hitler was dug up from his bunker/grave, and his remains were kept in Magdeburg until 1971! After that, they put his body in the Elbe! Like 20 feet away from me.  Kinda crazy.  Anyway, I had to get back to Magdeburg in time to see the Conferdations cup – aka a soccer game.  Why you ask? Because it was USA vs. Brazil.  And I have make a couple of brazilian friends here, and needed to faithfully represent my country.  USA started off strong, had a 2-0 lead, but then Brazil kicked it up and won 3-2.  But we watched the game downstairs in the IKUS lounge, good to have everyone together.

This week at work has been kind-of ridiculous.  Never have I felt so unproductive and inefficient.  Sylvia has been under a lot of stress for another project she is working on, so I naturally take second place.  And I totally understand that.  That’s just how internships work- when the person in charge of you doesn’t utilize you, it can feel a little frustrating.   She has commented twice now that I am working faster than they thought I would be.  And all I’m thinking is, I just spent the last two hours looking up information about grad schools… I am clearly not being productive and you still think I am accomplishing things ahead of time.  I guess it is a tribute to my Calvin education [shameless plug for Calvin].

On Tuesdays, I have been playing basketball with my american friend Cody.  And lots of other people.  It’s a huge group and we play pick-up for a couple hours.  I have absolutely been loving it.  I haven’t played pick-up like this in forever.   It’s funny though, because some of the guys are such babies!  And it’s not like I’m playing that aggressive!! I box someone out, not even that hard, and the guy starts complaining about it.  They always call fouls on me too, it drives me crazy.  They make fun of me like, “oh, where are you from, Detroit??” haha.  It’s awesome.  But the boys are all so sweaty and gross, and since I’m not afraid to get a little more physical I get really nasty.  A shower has never felt so good as after those games.

Today is Thursday.  Herr Ball is picking me up in a couple hours and we are going to visit some sort bio-gas plant.  I think it’s different than the one I saw earlier.  I’m not exactly sure, but he offered me to come along and I jumped at the chance.   Anyway, I’m excited to go.  Plus I really like Herr Ball and he is rarely in the office.

Ok peace and love! I’ll try to be better at staying up to date.

XX