A Travellerspoint blog


Frühes Thanksgiving

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my first time in Augsburg with a decent handle on German. i am surprised and excited by how it went. with Leonie it’s especially wonderful and easy. we can switch back and forth between English and German pretty naturally, and i spoke more German with her than English. at our early Thanksgiving dinner i saw Nora and Vinz for the first time, and we didn’t schaf a lot of Deutsch; but the next day over coffee, Nora and i spoke quite a lot of German. then Nora said,

„see? wir können es schaffen.“ pause. „und es ist nur ein bisschen komisch.“

„was denn?“ fragte ich. „meinst du, auf Deutsch mit mir zu reden?“

„ja. nur ein bisschen.“

naturally she’s right – it is a little weird to speak German together, after two and a half years of English. but i’m at the point where we can do it. it is still hard to talk to more than one person; the conversation tends to run very quickly for me, and either i get lost or don’t have quite enough time to react. but it’s immer besser.

Augsburg is getting gussied up for Weihnachten (Christmas). on the way to catch my train back to Berlin, Leonie and i walked through the Christkindlmarkt. “Christmas always makes me not cynical,” she said. she is convinced that she’s generally cynical, but i don’t totally believe that. we had a really wonderful few days together. on Saturday we went to the Lamm (one of the few Aux clubs/bars) for a singer/songwriter contest and Mieze, who’s working with Leonie on her pop-theater-project AUXTSCH, won. we got up early Sunday to go to church in the little Dorf where Leonie’s Oma lives. the morning was foggy and cold (much colder right now in Southern Germany than in Berlin).

Posted by ctamler 06:19 Archived in Germany Tagged language holidays Comments (0)

Independence Day

rain 14 °C
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i had fully intended to celebrate a sort of personal Independence Day on 2. November. one year ago on that day, i left Pittsburgh. it was one of the most difficult decisions i've ever made. it has turned out to be one of the best. i meant to have a beer and oh, i don't know what else. but i just realized i forgot to watch Dexter this week, too.

i'm working on finding a rhythm; working on being motivated when i have so much unstructured time. i do feel -- good. like there are a lot of ideas in my head. a LOT. my Avant-Garde American Theatre class, while not a good influence on my German (i have to read way more for that class every week than all my others combined, and all in English), is a good influence on my brain. we've set up a system for creative production for Farms and Fables as an attempt to find our footing as a creative ensemble and to start to generate material. i did get some writing done today. i'm moving forward.

there are other things i want to do. start climbing at T-Hall. try to take part in this puppet workshop.

and things i need to do. like get my visa. still.

oh, procrastination...

Posted by ctamler 11:52 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Photos in Friedrichstraße

sunny 6 °C
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last night we saw the World Press Photo 2010 exhibition in the Friedrichstraße Bahnhof: some really stunning, often disturbing pictures. this is their chosen top photo of the year:


taken by Pietro Masturzo, it depicts women crying protests from a Tehran rooftop after a disputed election.

there are some awful things going on in the world, you know? i find it hard to think about how to even begin to contribute to a solution, because it seems to me such an obvious thing that, dude, you shouldn't kill people. not for religion, not for drugs, not for money, not for anything other than if they're trying really fucking hard to kill you. how do you argue for "it's not right to kill people" other than saying "it's not right to kill people"?

well, Daniel Kahn on Thursday was incredible, and his music made me feel like it could change you just by listening. i want to be that kind of artist.

Posted by ctamler 03:45 Archived in Germany Tagged photography Comments (0)

things i can do now that i definitely couldn't 2 months ago

  • call a theater and reserve tickets in German (thanks for helping me prove myself not 30 seconds ago, Hebbel am Ufer)
  • understand the basic content of a German movie/play without subtitles...even if it is super weird...though probably excluding highfalutin language
  • cook from a German recipe without much consultation of a Wörterbuch
  • have full conversations in German

weirdly, though, i often have trouble following the news...

Posted by ctamler 09:21 Archived in Germany Tagged language Comments (0)

Kürbiscremesuppe mit Ingwer

(pumpkin soup with ginger)

overcast 6 °C
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i just made this soup. and it is delicious. i used an extra onion and added some carrots and curry powder. i also used a fresh vegetable broth that i made today. hot. DAMN. and, now i can say i've cooked with one of the funny Kürbis (pumpkin) you find in the stores here (called, apparently, Hokkaido-Kürbis because it is "sehr beliebt" in Japan):


i love so many things about fall, and far from least is the food. pumpkin with its rich, velvety taste like a vegetable version of chocolate. things that are dark and rich with cinnamon in them, or ginger. appley treats. cookies. (cookies are so much better in the fall or winter than summer.) hot drinks: hot chocolate and coffee (oh god, coffee is to die for when leaves are falling) and peppermint tea and this year there'll be Glühwein.

the triumphant return of soup,
the special warmth spicy things bring,
the promise of latkes.

i am one of those lovers of seasons...i can't imagine living somewhere where i don't have sweaters and a blaze of colors waiting for me in October.

a favorite thing of mine about living someplace new is the new food rituals you develop: a mixture of local culture, your budget, whom you share meals with, and what the closest grocery store stocks. i have a Germany pattern, begun with Christina during our summers in Augsburg, modified by the last two months in Berlin:

Muesli, Nektarinen oder Pfirisch, Jogurt, und Milch
Kaffee (natürlich)

Sandwich mit Käse, Gemüse (Gürken und Tomaten), Butter, und manchmal Fleisch
was suß: Kekse, Schokolade...
oder essen in der Mensa

evenings are a bit more variable, depending on what the day's been like or what the night's going to be.

in a month i'm going to have fall's most exciting food adventure of all, in Augsburg, with Leonie: Thanksgiving. and, since we'll be celebrating a weekend early so that i can see Nora's play, maybe i'll get to have TWO Thanksgivings...i'm sure there will be one in Berlin.

going to see Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird tonight:

i'm pretty excited.

Posted by ctamler 07:58 Archived in Germany Tagged food music Comments (0)

Ich wohne seit fast 2 Monate in Berlin

(i've lived for nearly 2 months in Berlin)

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things like blogging and journaling have fallen by the wayside over the past months. call it my settling-in period. it's not for lack of interesting things to write about. i could have written about the struggle to find a WG -- ten days in Friedrichshain, and then getting bloody lucky and finding this fantastic apartment in Neukölln. i could have written about Oktoberfest with Nora, Vinz, André -- but i could also let this photo speak for itself:


i could have (and should have) written about language, as i've been learning it; the Vorkurs at the FU that i took for six weeks, all the Erasmus students i got to know. i did write bits and pieces in my journal.

I speak more and more German. With my classmates, my new roommates [...] I had a dream that P & C spoke German to me. Sometimes it comes out quite nicely and I can follow conversations just lovely and other times, it's all a lot of work. But whereas a few weeks ago I couldn't comprehend fluency, now it seems like an attainable goal. (26. September)

it gets better and better, my German. i'm still shit at writing in German, but speaking's coming along well, and i can understand most all of the theatre i go to see...except the super experimental stuff. and i know i don't have that ganz schrecklich amerikanische Akzent. "i can tell you're foreign, but i can't tell you're American."

i could have written about the Fulbright Orientation in Göttingen. how there are 3 other Fulbrighters doing theatre projects in Berlin this year. how all of the Fulbrighters are so damn interesting: a total mischung of recent grads and doctoral students, journalists and grad students; artsy types, nerdy types, teacherly types, sciencey types.

i could have written about some of the fun things i've done. the weekend of not coming home three nights in a row til 6am. the Warschauer Straße Party and the pierogies i made.


last weekend's trip to Berghain, "Europe's best club." or perfect fall day hike with Matt, Amrit, and Paul in Grunewald. but hey. i was too busy enjoying all that stuff.

i have started to write about theatre, mostly to keep a record for myself of the things that i see. Christina, Patrick and i have started to put together a reading list. i Skype on Saturday with the OFAF artistic team for the first time since leaving Maine. i've put together a Lebenslauf and am starting to apply for Regieassistentin positions. this is the first week of school and i am very excited about my classes (Einführung in der Theaterwissenschaft, Avant-Garde American Drama, Deutsch B2.1, and Postmigrantisches Theater). slowly, i am emerging from this acclimation stage and starting to think about work.

i am no longer sure what my project's going to be about. i'll tell you one thing -- the "multiculturalism debate" is EVERYWHERE here. if you know me, you know how disconnected from politics i tend to be. now i am in fact making an effort here to stay a little more informed than usual, but honestly, i couldn't escape it if i tried. and it is very present in the theatre. Migrationshintergrund auf der Bühne...certainly there's plenty in that. well, i'm not in a huge rush. i'm trusting in the process of going to the theatre constantly/reading Theater Heute usw./taking classes/doing a Praktikum. what i want to write about will come up.

there it was, a piece apology, a piece catch-up, a piece speculation. hopefully more regular updates are now in order.

i have one last thing to say: Berlin is amazing, and i am having the time of my life. that is a phrase from which all meaning's been drained, a cliche to end all cliches, but it is really what i mean. this is something special, unique, a one-shot deal that so far has proved just incredible beyond all expectation.

Posted by ctamler 14:27 Archived in Germany Tagged educational living_abroad wg Comments (0)

Surfing Couches, Hunting Apartments

semi-overcast 16 °C
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day one in Berlin: after a restless sleep on the train from Augsburg (thanks, snoring man) and trekking all over the city since arriving that morning to look at WG-Zimmer after WG-Zimmer, i drag myself up three flights of stairs to Johanna's apartment. it's already nearly 10pm and my plan for the evening involves checking email and sleeping, not necessarily in that order. however, i'm intercepted by Jon and Jan, who offer me a gin and tonic. "what are your plans for tonight?" they ask. "i'm just going to stay in," i answer. i also say something about how when i travel, i'm usually only up for either running around all day long OR checking out the nightlife -- some people can do both, i guess, but not me.

six and a half hours later, we leave the last club of the night. hello, Berlin.

the WG hunt is interesting. there is a lot out there, but also a lot of people looking. after two days of it, i have a much better idea of where i want to live and what kind of rent i want to pay. it's looking likely that i'll end up in an apartment in Friedrichshain with a horoscope writer (or as she says, "writer of bullshit") for a month or two...cheap, one of the areas in which i'd most like to live, and that way i can take my time looking for something else to last through July.

balconies are very important around here. they always seem to be a bit of a selling point. bathtubs are also apparently important. in Berlin the street numbers wrap around. so on one side of the street the numbers are increasing in size, on the other side they're decreasing -- rather than odds on one side, evens on the other. individual apartments don't tend to have numbers; you just have to know the inhabitant's Nachname so you know which bell to ring.

everyone bikes. EVERYONE bikes. i need a bike.

the Freie Universität is a bit of a hike from the city. i knew that from visiting last year, but this morning was an emphatic reminder, as i left the apartment of the girl i'm CouchSurfing with at 6:45 and didn't get to the FU til a little after 8:00 (okay, later, because i got so unbelievably lost). but the distance is nice, in a lot of ways. there's a lot of green around campus. it's a change of pace from the city. i guess we'll see how i feel about that after six weeks of daily language lessons here. three hours a day. i guess i'll learn a thing or two.

here's my embarrassment of the week. i knew Jon was British; i'd never met Jan before, but the two had been chatting away in English, both with very British accents. so i assumed Jan was British, too. "what about you, how's your German?"

"well...i'm from Germany," Jan answered.

i don't feel too stupid over that, though, because even after i knew he was German i couldn't detect the accent, which is rarely if ever the case -- i've gotten pretty used to the German-British flavor of accent.

shortly i'll be finding out how my German is, thanks to some kind of intense placement test i'm about to take. (i'll give you a hint: the answer has the words "very," "good," and "not" in it, in some order.) then the language course starts for real tomorrow, and hopefully life will start to develop a bit of a routine. meanwhile, thank goodness for couchsurfing.org, Fabienne, and her ridiculously adorable bunny, Jimmy.

Posted by ctamler 13:22 Archived in Germany Tagged language educational couchsurfing wg Comments (0)

From 'Burgh to 'Burgh to 'Burg

semi-overcast 18 °C
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i haven't blogged here this summer, because i've been helping to blog here: http://farmsandfables.blogspot.com/ -- try it. you might like it. it chronicles the Of Farms and Fables work exchange with Broadturn Farm, W. H. Jordan Farm, and Benson's Farm in Southern Maine. the work exchange will provide the basis for a play i'll be writing over the coming months, to be performed next season, about farming in Maine.

on August 20, we had our wrap-up party.

the Of Farms and Fables artistic team: Keith, Jennie, me, Claire

in standard form, i had no time for a relaxed transition or even a satisfactory "so long". i think it comforted us all that it was Aufwiedersehen and not goodbye. i left straight from the party, stopped in Boston to pick up James and Yarsky, and after a night of coffee, highwayside bathroom hunts, figuring out creative ways to play music in Mindy's amazing but radio-less car, coffee, sleep-dep giggles, and COFFEE, i pulled up to my old Murray Avenue apartment in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill around 10:30 the next morning.

two good days ensued. i saw my family. i saw most of my friends who are still around. Parag made delicious food. i felt less sad than i thought i would. an 8-hour megabus ride took me, Charlie, and Parag to NYC, where we spent my last stateside evening with Patrick and Christina, doing "American" things (eating burgers, enjoying a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, eating a second dinner of New York-style pizza), and then...well, that was pretty much it. Parag and Charlie took me to JFK and something like 13 hours later, i was in Berlin. got a German cell phone, had coffee with a friend-of-a-friend, spent the night at the apartment of another friend-of-a-friend (with whom i was proud to have a somewhat extended chat auf Deutsch over pastries), and in the wee hours of the morning embarked on train/bus/plane travel that brought me to:

that's right, folks. the reason i didn't have time for a relaxed transition? i'd decided i couldn't pass up the chance to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. i've wanted to go to the Fringe for years; it was the festival's last weekend; my friend Regina was still living there finishing up her M.A.; and some of my Augsburg friends were going to be there at the same time. the stars had aligned. i mean, duh.

despite the stress of getting there, it was totally worth it. we saw some awful shows and some fantastic shows -- one of the goodies was a Welsh group, Nofit State Circus, performing a piece called Tabù, and a troupe from Chicago, Baby Wants Candy, that does full-length improvised musicals. made me miss that city and its mind-blowing improv.

i also hung out with Regina and her friends. she's at the end of a year of studying abroad (though she may stay in the UK); i'm at the beginning. that felt like it made sense. hearing about her year made my year feel more manageable, less scary, more exciting. also, in Scotland, they love to fry things. even more than we do in the States. like, whole slices of pizza. i had a Scottish breakfast, because let's face it, i love breakfast. it included beans! and black pudding...which is actually blood pudding. but i liked it.

on Monday, Nora, Vinz, and i headed to my German home-away-from-home. i've spent a lot of my time here setting up appointments to look at apartments in Berlin. for now, i'm still feeling good about my decision to stay away from the student dorm route and look for a real WG (Wohngemeinschaft -- shared apartment) on my own...but there's no denying it is stressful and requires a lot of patience. this time of year is particularly nuts, since students are all moving around and into and out of Berlin before the semester begins. it's tough not being in the city yet, and i send a lot of emails that get no response, but i do have five or six appointments set up, finally. i may end up taking a short-term rental (Zwischenmiete) for a month or two, that'll give me more time to do a thorough search for a place to last til July.

Nora and Vinz are moving in together, and moving business is going to take most of our day today. then we'll pasta-party at Basti's, dance-party at the Schwarzes Schaf with Mareike, and tomorrow night i head to Berlin for real...

i've thought a lot over the past months about how giving and warm-hearted and wonderful my friends are. there's a song we sing at Passover, "Dayenu," which means "it would have been enough," addressed to G-d: "if He had brought us out of Egypt, but not split the sea before us...it would have been enough" -- and verse after verse to that effect. my friends and family are like that.

if Sara had given me advice and love and support during my Chicago move, but not let me crash on her couch for 2.5 weeks;
if Charlie and Mindy and Mary and Patrick and Sarah and Parag and Nicole and Alex had all taken the time in one way or another to help me through those first tough months in Chicago, but not all made it out to visit me;
if Mindy had given me her car for the summer, but not driven out to Chicago to teach me to drive it;
if she had taught me to drive her car, but not let me borrow it for free;
if Brandon had offered me tools to pack my bike in a box, but not spent 3 hours in the sweltering heat helping me figure out how to do it;
if Lauren and Ryan had helped me to move out, but not driven me to the train station;
if Mary had helped me put my bike back together, but not replaced my brake;
if Jennie had hired me to work on OFAF, but not let me live with her for free;
if Parag and Charlie had made time for me in Troy, but not met me halfway in New Hampshire;
if James and Yarsky had been super supportive friends, but not made the 10-hour drive from Boston to Pittsburgh with me;
if Parag and Charlie had made as much time as possible to see me during those 2 days in Pittsburgh, but not come to NYC with me;
if Patrick and Christina had spent an American Abend with us, but not let us take over their apartment for a night;
if Leonie had given me advice about coming to Berlin, but not set up a place for me to stay and keep my baggage;
if Regina had shown me around Edinburgh despite crazy dissertation stress, but not let me sleep at her place and made me oatmeal every morning;
if Nora and Vinz had invited me to join them for Fringe magic, but not been such wonderful hosts in Augsburg even during moving...

it would have been enough.

except my friends always, always go above and beyond. the big jerks. the world is a big and wonderful place, and moving around it is the greatest feeling, but missing such wonderful people all the time is a hard, hard thing. well, here's to my old good friends, and to a year of meeting new wonderful ones.

Posted by ctamler 21:14 Archived in Germany Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

wandern gehen

there are always glaciers

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our plays opened on thursday (http://yinzerspielen.wordpress.com). then, since the second performance isn't until tomorrow, we headed to garmisch for a long-anticipated camping and tramping trip: me, simon, parag, lauren, basti, christina, vinz, iris, and nora.

we weren't the only ones who'd had this excellent idea, so we hit a bit of traffic heading into the town. once there though it's beautiful, never mind how touristy: dirndl outlets and brezen fade into the background when you look up and see the german alps considering you from above.

we climbed and climbed, and then paid 3 euro each to climb some more. past a great glacier, of course, rained on by melting ice, glad of my accidentally-brought poncho, though it makes me look like frodo. at the hut at the end of the trail we lunched. nora, vinz, simon and i lagged behind on the hike down. basti taught the others a dirty rhyme game. in the car, i taught parag, nora, and simon the "one day as i walked through the woods" song. basti and simon stole wood.

at the campsite, parag terrified a biergarten full of people with his antics in the car. an asthmatic lady asked us not to build a fire. we said we needed to cook our dinner and that was that. later, some kids stole half our beer from the river where it was cooling. we found more wood after a long search, me dragging back two giant pieces of a dismembered fence (the "bastard logs"). no s'mores due to the woeful lack of marshmallows in this country, but steaks and sausages and delicious feta-vegetable foil packets. in spite of the stolen beer we managed well with four bottles of wine (one XXL-sized).

the stars were beyond incredible. simon kept saying he'd found "the horse," "the elephant," "the frog." turned out he was making them up. we tried to sleep four in a tent. we didn't sleep well. but we slept happy. the asthma lady whined. we slept on.

today before our drive back we stopped at a lake. freezing water that we nonetheless swam in, me holding my ground until simon and i spotted a water snake that i thought at first was a stick. sunned, dodged giant bugs. a shirtless sleepy simon drove parag, nora, and i back to augsburg, with sleepy hilarity along the way. we were all in fine fettle. and it had really been a glorious trip.

Posted by ctamler 14:40 Archived in Germany Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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