A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about living abroad

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)

international criminal

a random story or two

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

last night kirstin and i went to fire spinning night again. sundays are in mission bay. it's a short bus ride from the city, from quay street, a shoreside suburb with a high concentration of ice cream shops and a color-changing fountain. we ended up riding through it twice on the bus. because we missed it the first time.

it has a fun atmosphere, but soda is more expensive there. by nearly a dollar.

the fire spinning crowd was small, and mostly huddling on blankets, cold. kirstin got up the courage to light her devil sticks eventually, and she looked like she was having fun. i sat and talked to rebecca for a bit. then we went to catch the last bus.

except the bus schedules were confusing -- as always. the public transportation system here might be even worse than pittsburgh's. eventually we figured out that a bus was coming in about twenty minutes, so we got some burger king and sat at the stop.

familiar orange and blue of a new zealand police car pulled up. the same colors as aeroflot, or something james would wear.

"are you girls okay?"

"yeah we're fine -- just waiting for the bus."

"oh yeah? where are you going?"

"back to the city center."

"...you want a ride?"

hell yes we wanted a ride. in the car we learned they have nothing better to do than drive around the city all night. they even dropped us right at our gate.

story #2: yesterday morning, i spilled water all over my bed. last night, it was still wet. LAME.

story #3: i was supposed to talk to sara this morning. however, (1) i forgot that she is in chicago and used the pittsburgh time conversion, and (2) nobody reminded me that it was daylight savings time there today. so i was two hours early.

Posted by ctamler 11:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

fire poi

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

rebecca, who twirls fire, had mentioned the twice-weekly fire circle: tuesday nights in a park, sundays at mission bay. so last night, kayleigh, her flatmate, kirstin, sam and i ventured out across k'road, beyond to a district i'm not terribly familiar with -- past the "legalize cannabis" bus, where we began to hear strains of music. crest the hill and down in the valley of the park, mostly within a circle of boulders, were dark figures surrounded by whirling balls of flame: fire poi, which apparently originated with the maori in new zealand. there were other fire toys: sticks for juggling, staffs for tossing and twirling, fans for fanning, a hoop for spinning...later, a flaming sword and even a flaming jump rope.

it was really cool to look at. sam took some pictures, and when i acquire one from her, i'll post it. (EDIT: here's one.


sweet, no?)

a chill hippie vibe pervaded the park: spectators snuggled together on blankets, drank beer, drummed, strummed guitar. rebecca spun a couple of times (she does poi), and she was great to watch. she's only been doing it about a year, but she has some quite complicated moves and a certain style to her body while she does them that a lot of the other spinners didn't have. to watch her is to watch a dance with fire.

marc-andre joined us, and eventually, after the evening chill got to us, we left the spinners for the wine cellar on k'road, a place i didn't know existed: down some stairs, underneath thrift stores we visited a few weeks ago. they have a back room for gigs where the seating is all couches and chairs ripped out of automobiles and benches -- a cool, dirty, converted-garage feel. kirstin, marc-andre, and i split a bottle of plum liqueur. with it, the bartender gives you a bowl of ice and a bottle of soda water, and you put a bit of liqueur over ice and top off with the bubbly and it's delicious, tastes like italian soda. two random drunk-but-not-intolerably-so dudes, charlie and chad, came over to make friends with us. we stuffed chad's t-shirts into a pitcher. charlie was talking to kirstin:

"so how long are you here for?"

"um, only about another month, and then i go back to the states."

"oh. wow." pause. "like a soldier."

Posted by ctamler 14:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

by special request

dedicated to charles franklin, who complained

all seasons in one day
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

things have been slow on the travel front since mid-semester break, thanks to school, but the weather's improving and people's moods (mine included) with it, which has made auckland a more pleasant place to be. last weekend cody, kirstin and i did make a trip to ruapehu for skiing and boarding, but unfortunately, the weather wasn't in a friendly mood. saturday we had to quit after lunch because we could no longer see, and sunday the pouring rain meant all the lifts were closed. we had a good time at the uasc ski lodge with other uni students, though, and learned some excellent new circle of death rules, including:

1. boxhead.
2. the game card.
3. the forehead-on-the-table-if-you-swear rule.
4. paddling.
5. a modification of "four floor."

additionally, there was a game involving dice and cups which was also choice.

my lingering illness has made the last week and a half not quite as excellent as it's had the potential to be, but i think i am finally kicking it in the proverbial balls.

the weekend prior to the ski trip (i'm jumping all over the place here, and you will just have to deal with it), i went to work with prayas, an indian theatre group, in mt. albert. i'd seen them perform in an original production jointly created with another local group, called our street, a few weeks ago; again, had the experience that i was learning far more about local culture and issues in that hour and a half of theatre than in almost all the rest of my time here put together. the piece was set on a particular street that most of the people in the cast live on or are very familiar with, and there were a lot of projections showing the street, characters based on people who live on the street, and so on. the big, boisterous audience clearly had a large contingent of non-regular theatregoers, family and friends of the big, boisterous cast, and it was absolutely charming to watch them get excited to recognize themselves and the place they call home up on the stage.

i sent one of the organizers an email afterwards, not expecting anything to come from it, but nearly a month after the show i got a call from sudeepta, prayas' secretary, asking if i wanted to come in and volunteer with them. so, that was my sunday september 28: five hours with prayas.


they are writing a new play, based on stories from a book by an indian man who moved to canada, to which they are adding their own experiences as immigrants to new zealand. this was their first meeting to start to collect some of those stories, and though it was more sparsely attended than they'd hoped, the stories were fascinating to listen to. makes you want to visit india -- someplace noisy, dirty, friendly; someplace full of family, where you squeeze twelve people into a tiny toyota and drive down the street blasting your horn. where the food and the smells and sounds are strong, rich, and bright. the antithesis of empty little new zealand: huge, jam-packed india, with a sour note of social and gender discrimination, beamed on by bollywood's shimmery lipsticked mouth. these people are homesick for india in a way that can never be cured, because they themselves will tell you that they can never really go back -- only as a visitor. and you feel their homesickness and even begin to internalize it, make it your own, want to share in it.

or maybe it is just how much i miss pittsburgh peeking through.

for the last two hours of the workshop, auckland playback theatre came in and performed. cool to see, because i've never gotten to experience playback in action before. i left with an invitation to come back to the next meeting (tomorrow), the suggestion that i might be able to help them with the writing of the play before i leave, and the promise that the next meeting would have many more people with "lots of interesting boys" (mainly a comment on how female-dominated the group was on the 28th).

other than that, my life's been mostly about german, writing essays, and trying to plan a trip back to the south island. by the bye, i discovered this wonderful website that's enabled kirstin, zack and i to grab a free car for a week to drive around the south island and back to auckland. it seems like it's legit. i'll report back on that once the trip's successfully over (scheduled for november 4-12).

oh, and last night, we had our farewell ies meeting and dinner. gael warned us all about reverse culture shock and showed us some pictures of our first days here. i'm not worried about reverse culture shock (which i am now choosing to hip-ly abbreviate "rcs"). i've been places much more unlike the states (mongolia, anyone?) and didn't experience it. in fact i don't think i've experienced regular culture shock here, either. i think you have to just expect the culture to be different, and then there's no real "shock" to have. i'm more concerned about what everyone's lives have become, how i fit back into that six and a half months later. many friends have been great about keeping in touch. but even with the ones who're good, i've missed more than half a year of day to day experiences, and that is the kind of thing you can't remedy, should it be something that seems to need remedy.

it's almost time for life in pittsburgh to end for me, anyway, so maybe it's fine if i don't really fit back in to things easily. maybe it will make me more ready to leave at the end of next summer. it's not a good thing to feel too settled.

dinner was incredible: denise and i split appetizer (or entrée, in weird nz terms) and dessert, which meant crumbed mushrooms and pavlova, a very nz dessert and delicious, made of egg white on top of cream -- a melt-in-your-mouth meringue. for my main i had kumara gnocchi, which was basically one of the best things i've ever eaten.

afterwards i let denise, charlie, dbo and laurie take my ih virginity with a game of mafia (including a pile of other ih people). then a night that looked like it might be going to fizzle disappointingly ended up panning out: we actually made it to a sake bar just off of customs, where we broke five glasses doing makeshift sake bombs. hilarious. the first couple of rounds we tried to do them the "real" way, by laying chopsticks over the beer glasses and balancing the sake shots on them, then chanting and banging the table to make the sake shots fall in (which is how the glasses kept breaking). this didn't work particularly well as the sake shots kept falling in of their own accord, before we were ready, and you would have to chug the thing without sufficient mental preparation. this was, i repeat, hilarious.

it was a good night that ended up with us laughing our asses off at this video, still one of my all-time favorites:

in dbo's room; i passed out on his bed and later was transferred to brian's extra bed. so i didn't go to german this morning, following my usual trend of not skipping classes until the final weeks of a given semester, and then skipping. a lot.

i'll bring it all back home with a quote from last night: this is what happens when you say you're going to lick a butt and you don't lick a butt.

Posted by ctamler 20:31 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

new zealand slang

i'm beached as, bro

overcast 16 °C

for anyone who is curious about what new zealanders sound like, and to hear a bit of nz slang:

i guess you could also watch flight of the conchords...but that would take effort eh?

Posted by ctamler 15:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

rotorua, taupo, hell's gate, left-sided driving

adventures in adventuring

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

i am a thrill-seeker now, if you didn't know. i jumped out of an airplane last weekend (which was incredible)


-- and, what is probably more dangerous, i drove. probably for a total of 6 hours or so...now before you scoff please take a moment to remember that in this country they drive on the left side of the road. driving here is like learning to drive all over again -- especially because the controls are on opposite sides too...turn signal on the RIGHT. it's practically inconceivable. it's a damn good thing they don't switch gas and brakes (the only thing they don't switch...), otherwise accidents would definitely occur.

anyway, i was a rockstar, although every time i made a turn i had to keep telling myself "think left think left think left."

the left-side-driving thing has another interesting effect: people walk on the lefthand side of the sidewalk/other walkways here. so i am always running into people. but of course, the few times i remember to stay to the left as a walker, i inevitably come across other people who are for some reason staying to the right -- rebels? americans? idiots? who knows. walking here is hard.

my friend thomas fell into a river over the weekend when we were in rotorua. another friend zach jumped across it, and thomas wanted to do it too, but he jumped short of the bank by about a foot and fell in instead. it made me think of christina because my first reaction was to laugh hysterically at him as i'm sure she would have done too. let's face it, it was hilarious.

i saw a live kiwi bird for the first time, and one thing you should know about kiwis is they are much bigger than you think they will be from pictures. like the size of small dogs.

thomas, kirstin, zach, fabian and i went to hell's gate: a geothermal reserve near rotorua.


it takes its name from one of its thermal pools, christened by george bernard shaw, who named a lot of the other things there too. like "the infants," a spread of bubbling pools that reminded him of children at play. or "sodom and gomorra." at the end we got to carve little plaques. i love free souvenirs.

Posted by ctamler 15:26 Archived in New Zealand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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