Sunday, November 16, 2008

Croatian: Part Two

I admit that Thursday night and about half of Friday I was feeling rather tentative and apprehensive. Sure, I had gotten used to not really understanding what was being said at the beginning of this semester, but least before I could pick up a few words at the beginning and at least get a hint of what was going on. Croatian sounds so completely foreign, the sounds and pronunciations seemed impossible. Lucky for me though, I had already developed the patience needed for someone who comprehends nothing.
Marin and had a strained conversation on the way from the train station to his home in Mala Buna, which is about twenty minutes away. My apprehension added to the already difficult communication. My nerves were soothed, thankfully, by his welcome demeanor, and I started too feel a bit more at ease. On the way back to his house, I found out that he had been waiting for me at the train station for four hours. I had no idea that we were going to even meet on Thursday, so I was stunned! He said he had gone to the hostel, to see if I had already gotten there, and had even tried to call my cell phone number. Of course, he thought it was an American cell phone, so he used the American calling code, instead of the German one, so he never got through.
When we got to his house, (which is rather large, but it would have to be considering he lives with his parents and his sister) everyone was still awake and waiting for me, minus the children. Marin's mother and his wife came out to the car to give me hugs, and I was not under any circumstances allowed to carry my own bag. Mind you, it was only a backpack. I was slightly overwhelmed, but very pleased. It seemed like a scene out of a movie, but then most of this experience felt rather like that. They took me inside and sat me down at the kitchen table, and tried to get me to eat. I was hungry at this point, having only taken a little bit of food with me on the train. I believe I had turkey and fried potatoes. I can never say no to potatoes!! The whole time I was eating, Marin's mother stood by to refill my glass with juice, should it become empty, while his father sat next to me, and patted me on the back every so often. I still think it was pretty funny that we would talk to me and look at me with expectation as though I might understand a bit of what he was saying. I wish I could have. It really would have been nice to talk to him. Even after I was full, Marin's mother tried to get me to eat more, but finally I convinced her I was stuffed and Marin took me to the upstairs floor of the house, where he, his wife, and children live. They already had a new pair of slippers waiting for me, so that I would be more comfortable in the house. Marin lead me to his daughter Marina's room, where I would be sleeping, as there was an extra bed. Marina looked peaceful in her bed, so we didn't bother her. We went into Ivan's room next, and Marin tried to rouse him for a minute, but he would have none of it. Luckily, he didn't seem to get as cranky as Sam does when someone tries to wake him up!! Then we peaked in on Martina.
Marin asked me if I would like to take a shower before I went to bed, and I was happy for that, as I was feeling kind of grubby. They had set a terry clothe bathrobe out for me as well, which was especially nice I thought.
But oh, this showering business was rather interesting. There wasn't actually a shower, but only a bathtub in the bathroom. Not only that, but instead of having a shower head mounted on the wall, it was connected to the main faucet. The tub was lacking a curtain or doors. This is seems to be fairly common in Europe, as I've heard from the rest of my classmates here in Germany, but so far I hadn't experienced this. So I prepared myself for a quick, crouching "shower". Rinse, turn the water off, wash, turn the water back on, rinse. When I was finished, I had lost a little bit of feeling in my legs, as I had been sitting on them, Japanese tea style. It's also worth mentioning that every bathroom I was in while in Croatia, was also the laundry room. I suppose the water hook ups are just placed in the same room. Here is a picture I found on the net, this pretty much sums it up. At least I'm only 5 feet tall, I bet this dude is at least 6 feet!
It was probably close to one or two am at that point, so I said "laka noche". You will never believe it, but I actually got up at 8 am on Friday! I have to say I was pretty proud. I was excited to meet the kids while they were awake. Unfortunately, by the time I had woken up, Ivan was already at kindergarten. I met Martina, who is two, and as cute as she could be, and Marina, who is 6 I believe, who seems to be a precious little girl. Of course I fell in love with them both instantly. I'm very glad I came with gifts, because this really helped them warm up to me. I gave Marina her white stuffed pony. I thought that Martina was a bit younger than she actually was, so I had bought her something a bit too young, but she seemed to still like it. Haba is a popular German toy company, and I bought her a cute little apple that the sections peel away, and inside there is a caterpillar with a rattle inside it. She still seemed to like it. She amused her self with it later on by trying to put things in the apple that would not fit...
Breakfast was interesting. I can't recall what the name of it was, but we had some sort of porridge, that tasted like it might have had corn in it. It was very rich, and didn't taste like anything I had ever had before. There was also something to put on top of it, which looked like some kind of oil with some kind of nut in it. It tasted VERY buttery and rich, but not a typical butter flavor. It probably wasn't butter, but that's the only flavor I can really compare it to. There was also bread, cheese, and salami, which also seems to be typical European breakfast food.
It took a little bit to get the two girls into some clothes suitable for going out, and then we headed out to the car. It was of course a stick shift, as is every car in Europe. We dropped off Stephaja ( I think that's how it's spelled.. Marin's wife) and Martina at the grocery store and then headed into Zagreb. It takes about about 20 minutes to get there, but it seemed to pass fairly quickly. We went and picked up Marin's dad from his office (he is an electrician) Then we stopped and parked somewhere, and walked to another building, where we caught a ride with someone who I think works with Marin's dad. The only thing I could figure out, was that they wouldn't be able to find a parking space or it would be too expensive where we were going, so we had someone drop us off. They didn't explain it, and at the time I didn't really think to ask.
We were taken to the upper part of old Zagreb, which I think is a bit of a "hike" to get up there...very hilly I suppose. And it was raining and icky so I was not going to say no to a free ride! First we went to what I think was the old courthouse. There was a small art exhibit that we looked at for a little bit, and that was pretty interesting. It looked like silk that had been kind of tie dyed, almost, except there was a definitive image to it rather than just shapes. It was pretty interesting. We headed up to the next level of the building and saw where some of the government meetings were held. One room had the strangest interior decorating I have ever seen in my life. It was kind of cool, but honestly it was kind of scary. Not like, wow that's so hideous it's scary. It actually kind of scared made me think of alien abductions or something. And I used to have a huge thing about aliens when I was little.. so yeah.
Then we went in an older room that was more of what I would have thought of as a court room. We took some pictures of course. We looked outside the old glass windows that were so old that it distorted the view and saw the Church of St Mark. It is remarkable because of it's tile roof bearing the coat of arms of Croatia, Dalmatia, Savonia, and Zagreb. We would have gone inside, but it was under repair, so we couldn't. Surprise, surprise. You can't go anywhere in Europe without seeing some scaffolding. You may as well just expect it. Speaking of which though, some of my friends went to Neuschwanstein castle (which is what almost all the Disney castles were based on) and it was totally covered in scaffolding and some kind of protective plastic or something. So I was lucky, because when I went, it was completely refurbishing free!
We peeked inside some other churches, but most of them were closed for the day. Then we went to what I believe was a special building for the Mayor of Zagreb. He wasn't there, but a very nice woman who could speak pretty good English met us to give us a tour. I think maybe she is the mayor's assistant or something like that. Turns out, most people will never see this building, so it was really special that I got too. Trying to impress the American, huh? Well, it worked! The interior of the building was very very Baroque. I know a lot of people think it's over done and gawdy, but I liked it. I especially liked the light teal damask wall paper. And the red Australian ( or maybe it was Austrian.. but I don't think so) turtle shell table. Very expensive. It also looked like there were some huge Ming vases. Or they were just Chinese, but they were impressive. Unfortunately, I still didn't quite understand just what the building was for exactly, but my brief understanding was that this is where they bring cultural ambassadors to impress them and schmooze, I guess. So you normally have to be a pretty important person to go here. Guess that makes me important, eh?
At the end of the tour, the woman took us into the mayor's ( I think) office, where there were four glasses of juice waiting for us. Europeans REALLY like their juice, as far as I can tell. She also had a few souvenirs for me. A "virtual postcard" that has a special DVD that has maps and sights of Zagreb" and one of the Gingerbread heart necklaces Zagreb is famous for. It's not really made of gingerbread at all, but I suppose it was originally. It's a bright red heart with white "frosting" decorating it. Here is a photo to give you an idea. I have a TON of them now though, so don't worry!!

Next we stopped to get out of the dismal weather and get a bite to eat. Marin's father stayed behind to get us a table while Marin and Marina went with me to look in a souvenir shop. I think everything was overpriced, but that didn't stop me. I bought a decent amount, and it is probably very touristy stuff, but who cares. I try to shy away from the souvenir shops in Germany, but I knew I wouldn't be here long enough to really find the good stuff, so I looked around here. I was actually pretty pleased with what they had, but then, I haven't seen 1,000 other stores just like it, like I have in Germany. I really had no idea how much I was spending, and I still don't, but whatever. It was worth it. I got some neat stuff!! I'm still hoping I can go back before I come back to the states, and maybe then I'll have more of a chance to find the little off the beaten path shops.
The three of us headed back to the little cafe and sat outside, under a veranda, thankfully. The food got there very quickly, and it reminded me a bit of gyros, only without the cucumber sauce. The meat was on a skewer, and I'm not entirely sure what kind of meat it was. There was also a fluffy and delicious pita pocket type thing, and onions. Just plain, uncooked onions. It's a good thing I like onions.. maybe it's in my blood!! I've always liked super hot onions :) Not so good for the breath though.
Next, we headed down to the lower part of town, and visited the largest cathedral in Zagreb, I believe. My art history is really failing me, because on the outside, it looked Gothic, but on the inside, slightly Byzantine. Or maybe everything in Zagreb is just influenced by Byzantine artwork. I say it looked Byzantine because there was a lot of gold everywhere, and it was to dark looking to be Baroque. The blue ceiling was decorated with gold stars, which made me think of something I have seen before in class, but can't really recall. It was an impressive cathedral. At the main alter it looked as though there was a recreation of a tomb of some sort of bishop or something. There were pews all around it where one could pray, and Marin's father and I did so. I had to cut my prayer of thanksgiving short though, becaus my eyes started to well up, and I had to blink quickly to keep the tears from spilling over. I felt very overwhelmed, lucky, and happy to be there, and I didn't want to try and explain that the tears were from happiness. Since it was just Marin's father and I at that point, I thought that he would get worried and think something was wrong.
Next we went to another very decorated building on our way back to the car. Inside was a small exhibit of artwork and photographs from different theatre pieces. A lot of set design sketches, and some paintings and well. It was really interesting. There was some stuff from some Shakespeare plays, and from Bertolt Brecht as well. Those were the only two playwrights that I remember recognizing. We walked by a pretty park on the way here, that was filled with birch trees, I think. At least they had white bark that I equate with birch trees, but the trunks were a bit thicker than I think birch trees normally are. The rich colors of the leaves set against the stark white of the trunks was really stunning, and I'm afraid the pictures don't do them any justice.
We walked through the underground part that runs through most train stations I've been through in Europe, which are usually like mini malls. Marin's father really wanted to buy me a pair of boots. Expensive leather boots. Since I really didn't understand the conversion rate that well, and I had no idea how much they really were, I politely turned him down. I would have felt guilty, but I do admit, I kind of wanted to say yes! It was hard saying no several times too, ha. When we finally got back to the car, I was a bit happy. I was still feeling a bit anxious, for inexplicable reasons. When I got back, I felt quite a bit better. I was a bit tired, as I really hadn't slept that well on the train, and didn't have my normal 12 hours (haha, just kidding...kind of) of sleep. It doesn't take much to make me tired I'm sure you're all well aware of. They gave me a new pair of jogging pants to wear because the bottoms of my jeans were soaking wet. Marin's mother also took my shoes and stuck them in the oven, so they wouldn't be wet. I found out then that they have a wood burning stove on their first floor! It was adorable.
Of course, they made me eat a ridiculous amount. For lunch we had strukli, which is kind of like a dumpling pocket filled with some sort cheese. There was the obligatory salami and cheese, and there was also some breaded turkey. They looked like little turkey fingers... those were yummy. The richness of the strukli was again overwhelming to me. I didn't think it was a bad taste, just nothing I had ever tried before. Marin's mother especially tried to get me to eat way more than was possible for me.
After lunch, I was able to meet Ivan, since he had been at school all day. It turns out that the little cowboy figurine I had gotten was a perfect fit; Marin told me that Ivan has been asking him for a horse. Ivan was more interested in showing off and doing his Tae Kwon Do moves that he's learned. Marina got in a bit on this too, and then even little Martina was trying to do kicks. Mostly she just walked up to Marin and kicked him in the shins. He took it rather well though, I think. The rest of the day, she would walk up to different members of the family, wait for them to stick their hand out, and then try to reach her kick high enough to touch it. Her stubby little uncoordinated legs were just too adorable. All three kids vied for my attention the rest of the day as well. If I showed interest in one, the other two were soon trying to get in my direct line of sight and steal the show. Ivan of course was also trying to be the little boy that he is and pretend that he also didn't want my attention at the same time. It was pretty funny.
Also, after lunch, was when the real waterworks hit. First, Marin got out his notebook filled with all the emails that he had written back and forth from my dad, and then there were also a few from my mom, my aunt Linda, and my other aunt Melinda. He also had photos of our whole family, lots of old Easter photos, photos of Linda's grandchildren, photos of Marks three little girls. I had to point out a few people that he couldn't remember, (such as Jill's son Drew...he's getting huge now! I can't believe he's driving. I remember when I used to read animal books to him on Grandma's couch and he'd be wearing little footy pajamas. I suppose that makes me old too though...) I think he also thought that a picture dad had sent of Sam wrestling was a picture of dad when he was young.
Then Marin's dad when to get something. He came back with all the letters that had been written back and forth between Dad's grandmother Louisa, and her cousin that stayed in Croatia. There were lots of photos and Christmas cards. Even though it was all written in Croatian, and I of course couldn't understand what they said at all, it did not take long for the tears to come pouring out of my eyes. I was afraid it would be a little embarrassing, but it turns out the just took it in stride. Marin's father sat next to me and patted my back, but that happened before the waterworks came, so it didn't really make me feel uncomfortable. It just felt very surreal.. and I can't really describe it at all. But there I was, sitting at the table, tears sliding down my face. The kids looked at me with interest, but I'm not sure they really understood what was going on.
After I had some time to get over my crying outburst, we kind of just spent some time together at the house. Ana and I were to meet her cousin Ivica (pronounced Ivitsa) and go to a little restaurant down the street. The restaurant is owned by Bacurins as well, and I'm assuming they are cousins of Marin. They live just a few houses down. I think it was maybe grandpa's uncle who had bought a large area of land and then divided it between the Bacurins, so a lot of the Bacurins live very near each other.
Ivica came and picked us up in his car a little while later, which would have been completely unnecessary if it weren't for the rain. The owners of the restaurant came and sat with us for a little while, but neither spoke English, so I had to translate through Ivica and Ana. Ivica's English was really very good, although he thought it wasn't. Ana's English was also good, but I think her biggest hindrance was her embarrassment and reluctance. I can definitely relate to that though! Luckily I've finally gotten over that when I speak German.
Then, the mother of the owner of the restaurant came to sit down and meet me as well. It turns out that she had lived in München for thirty years, so that was extremely helpful!! It was even a bit easier to get my point across when I could speak to her in German. Earlier I had been trying to describe my parent's occupations, but I think that Ivica and Ana hadn't quite understood me, so later, when I told this woman ( is it bad that I don't remember her name? Actually, I don't think so..they had me meet SO MANY people..) what my parents do in German, then she translated in Croatian and then they understood. I feel a little bad because I think we kind of dominated the conversation with our German, but at least she was sure to translate. It made me feel on much more even ground to be able to speak with her, with a little more understanding than some of the other conversations I had had so far. She was very sweet, and I told her the story of how I misunderstood my hostgrandma on the day I was supposed to go for lunch. She told me just to tell grandma, I don't understand!! It was funny, I liked her a lot. She also later told me that if I wanted to come back to Zagreb, she would come and meet me in München, and then ride the bus back with me!!
Eventually it got rather late though, and we headed back to Marin's house. The kids were just finishing up their baths, and I sat on the floor and played Legos with Martina while Marina and Ivan were washing up. Martina occupied herself by stacking the lego blocks on my legs. She looked so adorable in her little jammies with her still slightly damp hair. Soon it was time for bed though, and I was happy for it. It was a long day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Croatia: Part One

It's going to be hard to summarize my trip up in a few paragraphs ( or more than a few, I suppose). I think I could probably write a book about it. In fact, who is stopping me? Maybe I will. But not today ;). I realized though that part of my character hangs on the fact that I take a bit of time to make a decision. I like to hem and haw over things, but then once I finally make up my mind, I tend to see it through. Sometimes I'll try something out, before making the decision, and then decide it's not for me. I took some time making up my mind on going to Croatia or not. Part of it had to do with the unstable communications. Part of it was feeling unsure whether I would be welcome or not. Not so much welcome, but whether I would be able to be made time for. I didn't really want to intrude. I can't believe I worried over something so silly.
The first part of my week should not be excluded, even though it wasn't spent in Croatia. The few days I had just to relax were wonderful as well. I read, I slept, I paid attention the election, and I went for bike rides. Bike rides along the Donau have turned out to be one of my favourite things about Germany. But enough about Germany, I'm sure you are all very anxious to here about my trip.
Honestly, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing in general. Buying the ticket loomed in my mind like a big ordeal. But honestly, approaching a desk always tends to make me slightly nervous, and doing it in another language only makes it worse. That was actually pretty simple. It was a good start for the trip, I think.
I woke up on Thursday with plenty of time to get myself ready for the trip. But as always, I tend to find something to dawdle over. It usually tends to be the internet.. Big surprise. I wasn't late to the train station though, but I could have been a bit earlier. I found my platform to Munich, where I would make my only train change. The train from Munich arrived in Regensburg about 10 minutes. It wasn't a very encouraging beginning. The train arrived in Munich a little more than 10 minutes late as well, and surprise, surprise, I missed my connecting train. I had to go to the Munich trainstation desk and as about which train I could take to get to Zagreb. This of course was a bit of an ordeal as well, with the slight language barrier. I know my German has gotten ten times better than when I first got here, but I can't help but get nervous when I have to speak to someone official. This is my biggest downfall. I would probably be fine if it weren't for the nerves. We eventually understood each other and the lady at the desk gave me a print out of the next train I should take. She told me I should take a train from Munich to Salzburg, Austria, and then from there to Zagreb. I would have to wait about three hours though.
With that in mind, I went to grab myself a quick doner kebap, my favourite German fast food. It's actually Turkish though, as far as I have been told, and is very similar to the Gyro. Actually, I can't find the difference. But doner kebaps are always on hand in Germany, and for that I am very thankful. I also stopped by the Press & Bucher, a book store. Lucky for me, as the Munich trainstation is rather international, they also carry books in English. Of course, since it's a trainstation store, their selection is rather limited. I picked out the new best seller, Twilight, which is a series aimed for teen girls, about a vampire. I had heard that it was the next Harry Potter, and that the new Harry Potter movie had been delayed because of the fact that the film version of Twilight was scheduled to come out at the same time. So I thought, why not, and picked it up. It definitely kept me busy during the 8 hour train ride (one way..), for which I am very grateful. However, I was really not that impressed. I got pretty sick of hearing how achingly beautiful the vampire boy was, after, oh, about the twenty-second time, only five pages into the book. It still had it's marits.
The ride there was enjoyable enough. Lucky for me, I paid attention to the arrivals board, and realized that there was an earlier train to Salzburg than the lady had told me. Of course, instead of waiting three hours in Munich, I would have to wait two hours in Munich, and then one hour in Salzburg, but the break up seemed a little bit easier to consume. The ride to Salzburg was rather beautiful. It took several hours to actually see any of the alps, and then the gradually got higher and higher. I also just recently figured out what the "tiny houses" I have been seeing so often are. Because Germans tend to have such small yards, especially when they live in aparments, there are large plots of land divided up for Germans to have a small spot of land to grow a small garden. These small plots also have very small garden sheds. As I flew by the landscape, I saw many adorable old ladies puttering around in their little garden plots. Even their clothing looked like something that could only exist 40 or 50 years ago. I also saw plenty of livestock. Sheep, cows, horses, you name it. I was especially amused by the sheep, and I even saw a few sheep herders.
The later it got, the more I became disenchanted with the ride of course. By about 5 or so pm, it started to get dark, and I could no longer look out the window as a source of amusement. And I still had another 6 hours to go. I slept some, but I don't tend to sleep on the train that well. All in all, it was a relatively normal train ride. As we went through Slovenia and then into Croatia, the border patrol checked IDs and passports. Relatively simple.
Finally I got to the Zagreb train station. I believe I will put a lot more faith in my intuition from now on. As soon as I got of the train, I saw Marin. I had only seen a few pictures of him, but I immediately thought it was him. Then my logic decided to rule out and tell me that it couldn't be him, as we had agreed to meet on Saturday. I wandered around the station a bit, trying to find an ATM to withdraw from my bank account into the local currency. I couldn't find it at first, and tried to ask a lady at a newspaper stand. Of course, she didn't know any English. I pulled out my debit card and pointed to it and she said "Cash?". Ah. The universal language. I got some money, and walked outside to see if I could find the bus stop, which I was supposed to be taking to my youth hostel. As it was past midnight....the buses had stopped running. I noticed a taxi parked outside, but without a driver inside. I started to try and find the cab driver, but that nagging feeling I had expierenced earlier won out, and I curiously walked back to where I thought I had saw Marin. He was walking around near the platform, and it looked like he was waiting for someone. I thought for a minute, and eventually we neared each other, and I stopped and looked at him. Eventually it dawned on us, and we realized who the other was. I will probably never forget that moment, as he embraced me immediately as if we had known each other forever. Intuition is a much more powerful thing than I ever realized.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

If anyone happens to remember what my blog from my last trip to Germany was called, or the url, or anything...I'd really appreciate it if you could remind me!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Wednesday was of course our excursion day. I didn't write about last week's, because honestly, it wasn't that fun. We stayed in Regensburg, and went on a tour of the old court house and a Jewish ghetto that had been built over. I did have a really great lunch at an Italian restaurant that day though. This Wednesday was pretty cool. You've probably heard of the Vienna Boy's Choir, but it turns out, Regensburg has a pretty reputable choir as well. It's called the DomSpatzen, which means Cathedral Sparrows. I can't remember what age they said they start out, but they had boys that were as old as 18-19. The German school system is quite a bit different, so students don't go to college until they are about 20.
I think orange must be the school's color, because when we got inside the admin office, the floors were all orange, and several of the secretaries were wearing orange. Or else it was just a really strange coincidence, but we all remarked on it. When we got there, we were kind of in between classes, so we met some of the teachers in the teacher's lounge. One of the teachers, or maybe it was the headmaster, was really excited, and kept wanting to take pictures with us. It was pretty funny. The point of this visit was for us to speak with the students, as they are required to take English. We waited in the teachers lounge for a bit to be assigned to a teacher to go with. A female teacher walked into the lounge and asked us who would like to go with her. She told us she had grade 13, and that the boys were around 18. She also told us that they had specifically asked her to bring girls. (It's an all boys school) Another girl and myself offered to join almost in unison. I thought it would be funny to see how they would act. I was afraid they would be typical highschoolers and do nothing but joke around. They did at first, of course, but they actually were interested in asking us questions. Another one of the groups was not so lucky and got a group of trouble makers that weren't too interested. They asked a couple of silly questions, that I don't really remember, because they were mostly talking amongst themselves at first until their teacher said, "Come on boys, we talked about this yesterday...and you had a lot of good questions to ask". They finally settled down a bit, and I think one of the first questions asked was why we started to take German. We introduced ourselves, it was Kate,Ted, and myself, and told them our majors. They asked a lot of questions about the elections, and one kid in particular was really interested in Michael Moore's movies. I felt kind of bad because he seemed to be really into them, and wanted to talk about them, but none of us had really seen any of them. I think Ted had seen bowling for Columbine. One rather funny moment was when one stupid asked us what we thought of Obama, and the three of us agreed we were for him, and Ted said that he loves Obama. Apparently you can't say you love something in Germany unless you really mean it....because all the boys started to snicker. I explained to them that Americans say they love everything from their new pair of shoes to ice cream...but they kept laughing anyway. Typical boys. I asked them what they thought of as the typical American stereotype, and strangely enough, they really didn't hit us too hard. They all laughed when I asked the question, but the wouldn't really say anything too negative, I was impressed. I'm sure they had plenty of things to say!! And I thought Germans were really honest!! They asked us the same question, and I told them that a lot of my friends at school said I should be prepared because Germans are always mad, and everything they say sounds angry. I have to admit, from the exposure we get to the German language, I completely concur. Once you here it in everyday setting, and realize how infrequently you really hear anyone yelling, German is actually a much softer and subtler language than I had originally thought.
Sidenote...We were talking about movie dubs...and one of our professors, who is fairly young, said something like, when movies are translated into German, it just looses the punch of the English language. He said something about a bad guy in a movie being confronted by the good guy, by saying "MR Smith!!" Apparently he doesn't think "Herr Smith" sounds anywhere as strong as it does in English. Which is funny, because probably all Americans think Herr sounds much more strict and rigid. Anyway..
The first group of boys were pretty cool. One guy was really into music and asked a lot of questions about bands and stuff. It was pretty cool though, because he had been to the states, and had actually been to St! How is that possible. Kate is also from St Louis. Normally though, if a German has been to the States the have been to : Florida, New York, or California. Always. He asked us about Blueberry Hill, which is a cool bar in St Louis! He said he wanted to get in, but couldn't, as he was underage.
I wish I could remember more of the questions that were asked with the first group, but at some points, it got to be more of a discussion in general than questions and answers. The class ended for this group of boys, so the three of us headed back to the teachers lounge. We finished up before most of the others, so we went to another class. This time, it was a male teacher, and he told us he would be taking us to a group of..I think 5th graders. Most of them looked a tad younger than Sam though.
First, the teacher handed back the student's tests that they had taken a few days before. It was kind of strange to me though, because they were all pretty open about what grades they had gotten. It was funny to see them interacting in this way though...looking at each other's tests, some of them looked a bit disappointed, some of them looked pleasantly surprised.
Then the teacher asked us to come to the head of the class and we introduced ourselves again. He used our last names as a teaching method to show his students how diverse the US is. Ted and Kate's last names are both German, which he knew right away of course, and I had to explain to them that my last name is Croatian. He thought this was pretty cool.
Again, the first question one of the kids posed was what we thought about Obama. It was really strange to me to see how interested these kids are in our elections, and it was even more shocking when McCain's running mate got brought up, and one boy actually knew what her name was!! Of course, this was also the boy that asked us if it was the Lehmen Brother's fault that our economy is the way it is right now. At least, I think that's what he asked, because his English was a bit broken, but considering they had only been taking English for a year, I was really impressed. Hell, kids in the states don't know who the Lehmen Brother's are!!!! I Think he must have some very aware, and loquacious parents. That's awesome though. We got into a bit of a discussion about the economy, and I feel bad because I wonder how much they understood. At one point I felt like we were talking more to the teacher. I don't remember exactly how it got brought up, but he started to ask about our economical situation, and loans got brought up. Ted tried to explain the mortgage loan crisis, and credit rates got brought into the conversation. It was really funny though, because the teacher was like, "No, no, I don't think you understand the question. I'm not asking about credit. I'm talking about loans. Here, you have to have 30% cash to back up the loan you are asking for, otherwise you won't get it. Is it 30% in the States too?" I was, no YOU don't understand. That's why we're in the mess that we are!! And I explained to him that in a lot of cases, the loans that were given out were given to people who couldn't actually afford them and that is why they are all falling through. Somehow though, I think he still didn't quite get it. But then....neither do we. It's hard to believe we're in the mess that we are in.
There were of course some sillier questions as well. One boy asked us what was bad about the States, and the three of us just looked at each other like..........................uh? I tried to think of a simple way to ask him to ask a more specific question, so he rephrased the question, "What do you not like about America". The teacher laughed and said, you need to ask them something like, What type of foods do you not like in America, or what do you not like about the media, or something like that. Another kid asked us what was easier to do in the States than it is in Germany. We were all kind of lost on that question too. Then, somehow we got onto crime in the states, and I told them how in some neighborhoods in St Louis, it's a bad idea to stop at stop lights or stop signs. My host mom told me how they had gone on vacation for a few days and had forgotten to lock the yeah. I don't know if they just live in a good neighboor hood, but that's kind of how these kids reacted to my statement as well.
I really enjoyed talking to the younger kids...they were really funny. A guy in one of the other groups told me about some of the questions his group asked. He said one boy asked him what airline he flew in on, and he told them Lufthansa, which is a German airline, and they all cheered. He was so am I. I can't imagine a group of Americans getting cheering for Delta or something. He told the kids he was from Columbus, Oh, and one of them asked him if Route 54 goes through Columbus. There were a lot of really funny questions though, I wish I could remember them all.
There were some sillier questions too though.
We finished up with this class and then headed back to the teacher's lounge. We were then treated to a choir rehearsal for a very young group of boys. They sounded really good, but the teacher was very precise and stopped every few seconds to critique them. It was kind of funny to see the exaggerated faces they have to make to create the right sound with their vocal chords, but then I've never been too musically inclined. I'm sure my cousin Natalie (woo, shout out to my GURL!) knows exactly what I'm talking about. They were learning a piece of music in Latin, and I was pretty impressed.
We talked to the music teacher for a little while after the class was over, and we found out that a lot of boys come from all over Europe to study here, and that it's the only school in Germany that is both a boarding school and a regular school. The students who come from very far away live on campus. She told us that the boys are required to wear special indoor shoes, and that if they wear them outside, they have to pay 1 Euro, and that it normally only happens once!! We also found out that they students have a one year hiatus, during puberty, where they only study, while their voice changes. This excursion day was quite a bit shorter than every other one we've had so far, and we were finished around lunch time. We all decided we had had enough of Schweinehaxe and Reiberknödle and we wanted something NORMAL. So where did we go?? A Chinese restaurant. How Ironic. Their buffet was no where as big as even the smallest buffet in America. There wasn't as much to choose from, but it was very good. No crab rangoon though!! I got a terrible craving for Mandarin Garden, and then Allison and I argued over which Chinese restaurant was the best in Evansville. I don't know if I've mentioned that or not. Allison went to Sig School and is several years younger than me, so I wouldn't have ever really met her, but we know a lot of the same people. She goes to Murray State now though, but it will be nice to have someone to hang out with in E'ville again!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Minor disaster

I've gotten pretty adjusted to getting where I need to go by bike. At first, I was really intimidated by riding in traffic. It's not a problem for me anymore, in fact, I find it exhilarating. Riding a bike in the rain has turned out to be a problem in and of itself. On my way to school, I rode with one hand on the handlebars, my other hand holding the hood of my raincoat over my head. Surprisingly enough, that was not when disaster struck.
I went to the mall after school to look for something for Fabian's birthday which is on Thursday. As I started to brake, I put my foot out to help skid myself to a stop. Didn't work so well. It was so slick that I ended up slipping and falling on my ass, in front of the mall, in front of quite a few people. Well..what else was there for me to do but laugh it off? Strangely enough I actually cracked through a German's stoicism and someone came over to my rescue. All I could do was say between laughing at my self. "Nein, nein, danke, Ich bin Ordnung". That should mean I'm okay. Lets hope!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Still trying to fill in the blanks...

It's getting to be that time of year, folks. Midterms. Luckily they are a bit spaced out, for me anyway. Last week, I gave a 10 minute presentation, in German of course, over a 1920s German playwright, Bertolt Brecht. I think I did pretty well, but I haven't gotten a grade back on it. Then, that evening, I was able to go to his musical, Der Dreigroshenoper , The Three Penny Opera, with my host parents. It has been a bit reinterpreted for the times, aside from the dialog, so that was actually difficult given it was language from the 1920s, and they were singing. So I didn't understand a lot of what was being said, but I could understand enough from the action of the play. I really enjoyed it, but the rest of my class went to see it on Thursday, and I don't think any of them really did. I thought it was really cool, but a bit risque.
On Wednesday, we took two tours of Regensburg, but honestly, I wasn't really that into them. I'm not sure why...Allison and I went to this delicious Italian restaurant during our lunch break though, and that was great! It was great to having something other than brats and schnitzel.
On Thursday, we had an oral test with our conversation prof, which, of course, was a conversation. We had to come up with a topic to talk about. Since I had already talked about Bertolt Brecht, I figured I'd reuse it, and I could talk about the play that I had gotten to see. I got a 100% on this, so hopefully I did almost as good on the other speech..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More than a week late: Wednesday's Trip to München

If you've ever seen, read, or heard anything about München, you've probably heard of Marienplatz. It is the hot spot, and it's most well known for the Glockenspiel. The Glockenspiel is a set of bells, complete with marionettes, set on one of the spires of the München courthouse, or Rathaus. The verb raten means to advise, so there you have it. Every day it chimes at 11 am, and gives a short reenactment of two popular 16th century stories. One of the stories has to do with a Duke's marriage, and the knight joust went on to celebrate the marriage. Everyone cheers when the two knights cross paths. The other story harks back to the days of the plague. The plague really struck nchen pretty hard, as did the war. There are virtually no older buildings in München because everything was so bombed out, but they rebuilt over the older buildings, since they didn't have enough money to completely start over. München is definitely not one of the prettiest cities in Germany, because of the fact that everything is fairly modern. In all honesty, I think I prefer the quaint, cuteness of Regensburg. It was interesting to be here again, period, and I thought about my visit with Ray and Ben. I think I had more fun with Ray and Ben, but I might have learned more this time. I also remember where I had my first Fanta, in München, which is actually very close to this courthouse.
We ended up taking a tour with this strange tour guide. She had an interesting accent, and really liked to roll her "r"s. She was weird, but I think I understood her well enough. She took us by some strange stores, but I think maybe the stores pay her tour guide company to advertise for them. That would be my guess. She took us to this lingerie store, where you could buy "pretty little somethings". It was just awkward. None of us knew why we were there. She also took us by this gelatto shop, and told us it was the best in the city, but I wasn't that impressed. I can't really describe why she was weird, but everyone thought so. We ended our tour at a Baroque church, and we were all glad to be rid of her. Even Orlando.
The outside of the church was a bright yellow,
and re
ally Baroque, with lots of curves and swerves. I thought it was really pretty from the outside, but you would never guess what it looks like from the inside. Our guide told us before she left that it's known as the creepy baby church, or something like that, because all the sculptures inside have the proportions of a baby. She was right. It was odd, but I liked it. Normally Baroque churches have lots and lots of gold on the inside, but this one didn't. It was all completely white, I think something to do with the fact that the church was built in thanksgiving that some Duke or something finally had a child. Which is why everything looks like a baby. I thought was really pretty and different, despite the strange babies. A lot of people don't like Baroque art, because it's pretty over the top and a bit gaudy with all the gold, but I kind of appreciate it. The architects paid a lot of attention to light sources and made sure to put lots of windows near objects that they wanted to illuminate, to create an emphasis. They'd do this with a statue of one of the holy family, or a the patron saint of the church, for example. They still did this, but it was just a lot different since it was all white.

After the baby church, we all went to the HofBrau Haus for lunch. The München HFB is pretty famous, and we were excited to go there, even thought there is one in Regensburg, too. Well, we were all very disappointed by our visit. First off, we had a horrible waiter. After waiting for at least ten minutes before anyone even came to our table, our waiter walked by and literally threw some English menus down at us, even though we already had several German ones on our table. None of us needed the Englis
h menu. It took him forever to take any of our orders, and then we waited a lot time to pay as well. The food and the beer also wasn't that great. Even Orlando was really mad at the waiter. He told us the best beer was at the Augustiner brauerei, so we'll have to go there later I suppose. And then, Allison and I were looking for the bathroom, and we asked a waitress, and rather than saying anything she just stuck out her arm, palm open, and pointed in the general direction. All without saying a word. Germans are just weird sometimes. For example, if you are trying to go into a building, and someone else is exiting, people almost never do the courteous thing and let the other person go first. Someone always barges through. I just find it odd, and a tad annoying. Also, I don't think I've ever seen a man open a door for a woman, or even help her put on a her coat. Those are just standard occurrences in the US, but that never seems to happen here.
The next part
of the trip has been one of my favorite things we've done so far. We went to an exhibit over the influence of Europe over Walt Disney's work. I had never really thought about it, but whenever you talk to an American, they will say that pictures of Europe look like a fairy tale. Well, now I really understand why. Almost all of our experience with fairy tales has been dictated by Walt Disney, and he strove towards the beauty of the European landscape. It was really interseting to see other artwork that Disney took influence from. There were three works there that really just made my mouth drop open. Here's one most of you probably haven't heard of, but there is a artist named Piranesi that MC Escher also took a lot of influence from. I had just studied Piranesi last semester, so this was pretty cool for me. MC Escher is the guy who did all the tangram artwork.
Here is a work by Piranesi..I don't think this is the exact one that was on display, but I think it is a very similar study.

And here on the left is MC Escher, maybe you'll recognize it.

Next, I saw this, which I didn't previously known the painter's name, John, Grimshaw, but had seen his work many times on notecards. This photo is not very good, but the painting was absolutely stunning. It encapsulated everything that it should in regards to a fairy. The paint literally sparkled. It was breathtaking.

But then, as I was walking past some other paintings in the room with the above, I noticed a p
ainting in the next room that literally made my jaw drop. I didn't even bother with the rest of the stuff in the room I was already in. Lets just say, John William Waterhouse is kind of a big deal to me. I was in awe. I still can't believe I got to see one of his paintings. This photograph does it no justice. I stood in front of it for a good ten minutes. It was fabulous!

There was also some work by Edward Burnes-Jones, which I was excited about, but apparently I was just too in awe over the aforementioned, because I can't remember what it was. :) All in all though, it was a pretty great trip!