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Ich wohne seit fast 2 Monate in Berlin

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

View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

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
View Post-Grad on ctamler's travel map.

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)

der grimm show

wir haben einen tv-show für den deutschkurs gemacht

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

our final assignment for german class was to write/perform a skit auf deutsch -- we made this:

personally, i think the shitty quality merely adds to its charm. also, who has mad impromptu skills with imovie hd? that would be me. taught myself. not bad for 3 hours.

Posted by ctamler 16:06 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (0)

supermarkets and class schedules

rain 14 °C
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

one of the first things that i learned when i got to auckland (the driver who picked me up from the airport told me this) is that a lot of german students come to study here. there is apparently some kind of exchange set up between u-of-a and germany where students from either country can attend university in the other country and pay the fees they'd pay at home. this is very attractive for german students, who tend to already have good english anyway. kiwis don't take advantage of it nearly as often because of the language barrier.

well, this bit of information was proved quite accurate when at the international student orientation, the orientation leaders were asking the audience "who here comes from (insert country here)?" american students were easily the largest group, but the number of german students was actually not too much less – especially considering how far behind all of the other groups were.

the upshot is that i have fallen in with a group of german postgrads (a dangerous crowd, i know, but i am trying not to let them have too bad of an influence on me), so the german experience lives on. i am also officially taking a first semester of german here, and now i have guinea pigs, oops, i mean friends, to practice on.

i always find it interesting how much you can tell about a place from its supermarkets. in germany, there tended to be a very small selection of pre-packaged, pre-sliced bread in grocery stores. this is because germans love their fresh bread (and rightly so, it's delicious there). there are bakeries everywhere and every day or two you go to a bakery in the morning to get a fresh loaf or rolls or pretzels. in new zealand, i haven't seen a real bakery yet. in the foodtown supermarket there is a long aisle of pre-packaged, pre-sliced bread...none of it any good, either. two of my german friends here, juli and thomas, were comparing the breads they had made their sandwiches with and were in general quite sad about the bread here.

however, what they do have at foodtown is the largest collection of yogurt that i have ever seen. in containers of all sizes, flavors of all kinds. my yogurt proclaims that "it's the acidophilus and bifidus that keeps your family healthy!" they even have an aisle full of dry yogurt cultures so that you can make yogurt on your own.

of course, there is also a lot of fish here. the other night we made sushi and it was delicious.

on a different subject entirely, we've all spent the last week wrangling our class schedules. most of the other ies students seem to be taking the "easier classes, more time to experience the country" route, and while i considered it for a while, being the school addict that i am i just can't bring myself to do it. i console myself with the notion that an important part of getting to know a country is getting to know its educational system, and one of the main reasons i came here was because i could directly enroll in the university and interact with actual students. plus, my classes are exciting: a class called "literature and science," which couldn't be more appropriate; a history of science class; an upper-level drama class that seems like it'll incorporate theory and performance; and the aforementioned german.

in the course of getting approval for these classes (classes come in 3 stages here, and anything above a stage 1, which all of mine are except for german, you have to get approved for if you're a study abroad student – most of them have prereqs), i've met and talked to a number of professors. they've all been super friendly and helpful. the response i usually get to "can i sign up for this upper level class?" is:

"well, let's see. what year are you?"

"um, this is my fifth year."

"five? is that normal?"

"yeah, no, four is normal, but i have three majors, so it's taking me a little bit longer to finish – "

"three majors? well, i'm pretty sure you'll be able to handle this course."

this is a little scary, because i feel like my prior education is being put to the test a bit here. hopefully it is up to the task. u-of-a is ranked in the top 50 schools internationally...

other fun things that happened in the course of talking to professors: i learned a bit of trivia from one of them, talking about the crazy different point systems that schools have (at pitt, 3 or 4 credits is a normal class; here, 15 points is a normal class, but about equivalent to 4 credits for us, so we take 4 classes here). he said that the reason they do 15 points is that normally, you would take 60 points per semester = 120 points per year = 360 points in 3 years, the normal time here to finish a "degree." it's kind of like a sick joke on the part of the educational head honchos: you need 360 points to finish a degree, like the degrees of a circle.

Posted by ctamler 15:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged educational Comments (0)

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