7.7.08

Now that I'm leaving, perhaps I should write something...

Well. I really blew it. I would like to make a public apology of my disappearance from the face of the earth. But instead of writing out a long, lengthy epistle full of tears and sorrow, I’ll get on the ball to bring you all up to date, starting with My two weeks of madness (which I’d been writing about a little here and there in a word document).

“2 weeks of madness: Luxembourg, Paris, Barcelona

I am starting this post before I go to Barcelona (yay, Msoft word), so that when I return I won’t have to type EVERYTHING up, just mostly everything.

On the 31st, as planned, we got on a bus at 6:30am and headed to Luxembourg. It is a really beautiful city! It really is a “burg,” an old fortress that just has city built throughout/on top of it. There are ancient towers and stone walls sticking out in random places, as well as wonderful precipitous battlements overlooking valleys and whatnot. There is also a series of tunnels that run through the city, but it cost money to see them, which my compatriots vetoed. We spent the day just walking around the city, and then exploring an amazing valley that runs through the city. This valley is a long park, and you can barely tell you are even in the city sometimes. We also visited an old stone church that is the oldest in Luxembourg, no longer in use of course. All in all, a wonderful time, and definitely turned me into a Luxembourg fan.

One of my favorite parts of Luxembourg though is the linguistic atmosphere. Luxembourg (the country) has three official languages: Luxembourgish, French, and German. Each language plays a slightly different role. French is the “service language,” and so almost all road signs or government related material is in French. German is the “media language,” appropriate considering the role of German in the invention of the printing press. Over 60% of the books published in the country are written in German. Luxembourgish is the “heart language,” the language people speak at home or together with friends and family. It’s the heritage of Luxembourg, a tiny country that borders both Germany and France, under one control or the other back and forth through the centuries. Luxembourgish is a real testimony to the history of the country, as it is really a sort of French/German Creole, just different enough from both to be hard to understand. Above all, I loved that there was almost no English in the entire city, other than a shop with the name “House of underwear.” For the first time being in Europe, I felt like I had a special mother tongue—not just some worldwide code—as my first language. And I got around using my German and what little French I had. Totally sweet.

Then I came back to Marburg for 72 hours of Church, classes, and a little bit of sleep. On Wednesday, I got up at the crack of dawn and headed to the Train station. At 10:30 in the AM, my plane landed in Charles de Gaules airport outside of Paris. After casting about desperately, I finally found an official desk-looking-thing and went up to it with a trembling “parlez-vouz anglais?” on my lips. Safely on the bus (I later found out, the more expensive one, alas), I settled down to snooze. About 45 minutes later, I saw my first vue de Paris. My bus stop was Gare de Lyon, which according to the merciful officer at the airport, was right near la Bastille, which was right near my hostel.

Well, it turns out, it was really only pretty close to la Bastille, which was only pretty close to my hostel. In any case, I was glad I’d opted to pack light enough to carry all of my belongings on my back. With the help of a magical map that Alex had given me before I left, I found my way to my hostel in about 30 minutes.

30 minutes of wandering through Paris, and it’s already captured me. The streets, the buildings, the little shops… The air was even cleaner, probably just due to the fact that no people group in the world except for maybe Russians smokes as much as the Germans :P I got to the hostel a half hour before I was supposed to check in, so I walked around for a little while, and contacted Rachel, Amy, and Amanda, to let them know I was there. We spent the rest of the day basically bashing around, visiting a graveyard with famous people buried in it, eating baguettes, and visiting the modern art museum of Pompedou.

Thursday was a whirl of the Eiffel Tower, Museum d’Orsay, eating in a café, getting lost in Paris at night, finding our way (via the Eiffel Tower) and then having a half-hour conversation with an Italian guy—Amanda speaking Spanish, him speaking Italian. pretty wild.
Friday we hit up Notre Dame, le Louvre, and that night went out to eat at a sweet little restaurant, complete with French wine and French onion soup!
Saturday was my last day, and we got up really early to get out to the palace at Versaille when it opened. It was a beautiful place, but HUGE, and by the time we’d walked around the grounds a bit, I had to rush to catch my train. So after running through the palace (I wanted to see that “on my way out”) I caught my train back to Paris, caught my bus to the airport, and flew back to Frankfurt.

all in all an amazing trip. Paris is really a city I would like to get to know more. Maybe I’ll be able to make a return visit someday…”

That’s what I wrote before I fell off the face of the earth.

Since then, I also went to Barcelona, which was also incredible, though not as organized as Paris. But that was nice; it was sort of a vacation, rather than a "tourist trip." We spent the first day on the beach, sleeping after an exhausting 12 hour trip from Marburg. The second day we actually got out and saw some of the city, and it was maravilliosa.
the verdict: I could definitely live in Barcelona.

That brings me to now, exactly 12 days until I leave Germany. In way of an explanation, a big reason I've not been keeping this blog updated is that the pace of life quadrupled between my last post and this one. After two weeks of Euro-tripping it, I came back to a University that was not the passive, lazy institution I'd become accustomed to. Suddenly papers and projects and was weiß ich* were due, and Exams were right around the corner. Also, suddenly my time in Germany was almost over, which meant it was time to do all of the things I'd been meaning to do. A word on the University facet though...

The European (specifically the German) University System is much different than the general form of Higher Learning in the US. First of all, homework is almost non-existent, and graded homework is unheard of, except by Professors who model their classes after a United States style. What does this lack of graded feedback mean for students? Two very important things. 1) You must be self motivated to stay caught up and learn things, because the Prof's job is not to make sure you are learning. Professors are information springs; it's up to the student to drink. 2) Get ready for fun at the end of the semester! If you though finals at US Universities and Colleges were stressful, you h'ain't seen nothin' yet. Imagine for a moment that your final exam/paper/project/whatever it may be is not only the final, and cumulative, but also the only thing that decides your grade for that class. Better pray you don't have a bad test day, because --even if you took amazing notes and learned more than you could have ever imagined in the class--if you blow the test, you blow the course. Have fun!

Anyway, so I've been studying like crazy to make it through these last two weeks of ridiculousness at the Uni Marburg.

Not everything was storm-clouds and plagues though, during that time I did do some fun things. Here at the castle, there were two pretty big parties: the "Schloß party 4 friends" and the Sommerfest, both of which were an absolute blast. For the Sommerfest, I learned a Hungarian folk-dace, and a bunch of my Schloßmates and I helped Zita, our Hungarian Mitbewohnerin** show off a very fun piece of her culture.

The other big event involving the castle was the "Sport-Dies," or "Sport day." It should be noted that "Dies" does mean "day," but not in German. It's Latin. I have no idea why they used it, except because they probably though it would be cool and classy. Which it is. On Sport-Dies, Fei, Patrick, some other Schloßites, and I marched down to the Fußball fields in full uniform. There we proceeded to play 4 hours of very intense Fußball against other thrown-together teams of Fußball-fähig*** Marburgers. It was really fun, even though we only won one out of 4 games, and I didn't even break my leg, though I was sore the next day.

While I'm on the subject of Fußball, I have to say that one of the coolest experiences I had was watching the semi-finals of Germany vs. Turkey, to decide who would go on to the final, and potentially, become the Europe champion. For those of you who don't follow European soccer (or soccer at all), Germany won. It was incredible. First, the whole room erupted into deafening cheers, then, when those died down, you could hear the entire city of Marburg going crazy. Cheering, singing, honking, it was pretty incredible, and very exciting.

Lastish, but not leastish, was our BCA group trip to Hamburg. It was a very good trip and a very bad trip. It was a good trip, because Hamburg is a wonderful, sea-going palce, and is full of amazing waterways that go through the entire city, and on which you can take many fun boat-tours. It was a bad trip, because it was too short, and because it was full of mishaps such as missing our train right off the bat, and arriving in Hamburg 3 hours late as a result, and then the next day, missing our ship, so that we weren't able to do one of the things we'd planned. Still, despite the setbacks, it was a great time, even though the whole city smells strongly of fish. My favorite part of Hamburg (other than riding in boats) was going to Balin Stadt (which you had to take a boat to!). Balin Stadt is like an Ellis Island of Germany, only instead of dealing so much with incoming immigrants, it had a lot of outgoing traffic. It was really cool to learn about the people who were leaving everything behind to try and get a fresh start, and especially neat to realized that my German was good enough to understand everything that was going on, and even to listen to some little recorded interviews of immigrants from years and years ago.

That brings us pretty much up to date. Now I am on the home stretch to leaving what has become my home behind. I'm sad, and excited, fearful, and a little relieved. Pretty confusing. I tried "practice packing" today, and I think I'm going to have to leave some of my clothes behind that I brought with me. That's no biggie, but it reminds me that I will be coming back home with a piece of Germany embedded in me, and I'll be leaving a piece of me here.

*was weiß ich = lit. "what do I know," used like "who-knows-what"
**Mitbewohnerin = housemate (fem.)
***fähig = able, capable

25.5.08

Entschuldigen Sie Bitte! Please excuse me!

Now that it has been just shy of an eternity since I last posted, I am updating this pathetic blog! Honsetly, I did try to write something around 2 weeks ago, about my birthday and whatnot, which I wrote in a Word document, and then saved, and never finished/posted. So here is that post first:

Wednesday, May 14th
Well, it has been 1 week and three days since I hurt my leg, and though it’s gotten better, it’s still pretty ouchy, and I still can’t feel my toes. I think I’m going to go back to the doctor tomorrow, and hopefully get some more advice. The good news is that if I can just figure out the bus plan, I won’t have to pay anything, because you only have to pay a co-pay once every quarter in Germany, which I already paid for my first visit.

Even though I’ve been pretty confined to the very near vicinity, my life hasn’t been all just sitting in my room—thank God!

On the Tuesday directly following my verletzte leg episode, I had my 21st birthday. It was just about as anti-climactic as possible, turning 21 in a country where everyone 16 and up drinks beer by the bucketful. Therefore, to bring the irony to its crescendo, I decided to have a 21st birthday party completely devoid of all alcohol.

So on Tuesday afternoon, Alex Becker, mocktail mixer extraordinaire, went to the local grocery store and cleaned them out of juice, soft drinks, and the like. That night, we had a huge shindig in my kitchen, followed by billiards, kicker (Fussball), and cards. All in all, a wonderful time, despite my hobbling.

The best part about Tuesday though was getting to open The Package. This was the package that had come a couple of days early, and that with great strain on my self-control, I had managed to avoid opening. In the package were a plethora of letters, a picture drawn by Mercy, and an amazing book. It took me about 40 minutes to open everything and read the book, and was just completely wonderful.

…………

That was the last I wrote, and now it is a week and a half later, and I am finally posting it. Terrible. In self-defense though, life has just become totally crazy lately, and so I haven’t had much time to write anything. Still, I apologize for the barren wasteland that my blog has become.

Since then, a lot has happened. Perhaps the biggest change since then is that I now have a new roommate. The David moved out into his own room, and last Friday, Yousif moved in. I must admit that at first I was sort of upset that David was moving out, because I assumed it was because he didn’t like living with me. I now know that is false. It’s actually been an interesting culture-comparison, how German students really don’t like living with someone else. Back at my College, the only people who don’t have roommates are RAs, don’t have any friends to room with, or are antisocial. Ok, so that’s an exaggeration, but the general thought process is that living with people is fun, and many people end up becoming great friends with their roommate(s). Here though, the most basic expectation for a room is that it is a single room. Double rooms are very rare, and usually only for married couples.

So now I have a roommate from Yemen (for those of you who didn’t take Doctor Thomas’ ethnic music class and had to memorize a map of the world, Yemen is a country in the Middle East, right under Saudia Arabia, and right next to Oman). The first day, he asked me which direction was West, which I was only able to tell him because I remember taking a picture of the sunset from my bedroom window a few months ago, and I remembered which building got in my way. He is Muslim, and five times a day, he roles out his little prayer rug towards the West, while I sit on my bed and pray for him. It’s a pretty interesting situation, but a really cool one too, and really awesome, considering I am leaving Germany in July to go to London to learn about missions to Muslims. I get a pretty phenomenal boot camp, I guess.

In other news, my classes are picking up, and I’m starting to panic looking at the month of June, because my workload is now enough that I actually have homework that takes more than 30 minutes to do, and I have a 5 page paper coming up. the problem is that I am going to be in Marburg a total of 6.5 days between June 1 to June 14. I will be traveling all over the EU, to Luxemburg, Paris, and Barcelona. It will be a blast, but also really intense, and my paper is due on the 17th. That pretty much gives me this week to get it mostly done. Eek.

That’s pretty much the summary, except for the Party. Friday night we had a party here in the Schloß. Each person who lives here was allowed to invite 5 people. I invited Alex and Ali, and then David, a (different from my old roommate) German student from my Fencing course who Alex and I have become pretty good friends with. He is pretty awesome, and the only German I know who doesn’t drink, because he doesn’t like the taste of beer. So it’s nice to hang out with him. Elias, one of the Italians from my Sprachkurs also came, which was nice, since I really haven’t seen him barely at all since the end of March. Luckily for me, my guests were tired out by like 1:30am, and went home, so I could go to bed. The party went on for another 3 hours or so, which would have made it hard to sleep, if I hadn’t been totally whooped.

Oh yeah, I guess I should give an update on my poor leg. Well, it’s better, but not all the way, which is worrisome. I tried to go back to the doctor on Friday to get it checked up on, but German doctors are lazy (ok, probably not really, but I’m bitter) and he wasn’t in, because it was a “Bridge day,” which means that since Thursday was catholic holiday, for which everything was closed, the ol’ Doc decided to not go to work on Friday, thereby having a 4 day weekend. So I’m going to try to go tomorrow morning and have him look at my leg and give a verdict.

My verdict is something may be wrong, because it’s been now exactly 3 weeks since I had the misfortune to come between an American who thought he was supposed to be playing rugby and the Fußball goal, and exactly 11 days longer than the doc said it would take for me to be back on my pins and feeling fine. I can walk without crutches now, and even scamper across the street if I need to avoid insane German motorists, but I scamper with a limp, and after a long day of walking, my leg hurts a lot. All that, and my pinky toe is still asleep, which can’t be a good sign. I would say it is no longer asleep, maybe in a coma or something. My main hope is that I don’t end up with a lame leg for the rest of my life just because I misunderstood a German doctor.

That’s all for now, though I will try very hard to do a better job at keeping this thing up to date. I also have some photos, which I will be uploading for your viewing pleasure.

Now I’m off to try and write a 5-page paper on a book I haven’t finished reading, and which I fully intend on leaving unfinished. Still, the paper must be written. Ah, the life of a student…

7.5.08

From Frankfurt to the Doctor's office in 3 easy steps!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written, so I think the best way to go about this is to do this post as summary of the events, with dates in for clarification.

Almost 2 weeks ago, I went to Holland. Since then I haven’t gone on any other long trips. Last Saturday (the  26th) Kelsey, Ali, Fei, and I went to Frankfurt for the afternoon. It was really nice. The weather was so beautiful, that we didn’t want to go inside, so we just walked around the city, ate a typical wurst for lunch, followed by some Italian ice cream. We did walk into some really pretty churches, as well as the church where the original Unified German State was born (or at least I think that was what it was, if I understood correctly).

We window-shopped for a nice “Deutschland” t-shirt, but all of the tourist-type shirts were in English, so we didn’t buy one. We walked down by the river, and then decided we should take a nap in the sunshine J an hour or so later, we made our way to a place that was supposed to be very well known and popular for it’s Apple wine. We thought we would be good tourists and try some, so we went. Sadly, the service was horrible, and the Apfelwein was pretty gross. But we tried it, and now I know that wine should definitely be made out of grapes, not apples.

That was the last really big adventure until recently.

This weekend was absolutely crazy. I’ve been trying to go somewhere every weekend, since we have free access to the public transportation anywhere in the Rhein valley, but this weekend I on purpose stayed home to prepare for a very scary event: teaching 40 minutes of class in my Theoretical concepts of Foreign language learning class.

Unfortunately, come Saturday, I still had a lot of work to do preparing for it. This was because I helped out with a coffee/tea/cakes/sandwich sale that the Collegium Philippinum put on for a theology symposium in the Alte Uni (the old university). It was a really neat time, because I got to hang out with some of my housemates for about 10 hours when it was all said and done, which I don’t get to do very often. Fei and I worked a lot together, and it was just a fun time where I could feel useful even though my German isn’t perfect. Plus, the more I hang out with Germans, the better my German gets. I definitely wish I could just live with a family instead of taking classes at the University. My free time spent just goofing around with Germans is infinitely more profitable than my courses at the University. Oh well, I guess I have to pull the ol’ wool over the System’s eyes somehow…

Another really neat thing about helping out with the sale is that I got to see the inside of the Alte Universität, which I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, since I don’t have any Theology classes. It is a gorgeous building, which used to be a monastery until Duke Philipp became Protestant and kicked the monks out to start a protestant seminary. Anyway, it’s absolutely gorgeous and old, and I totally understand now why there are so many theology majors here. If went here long term, I would definitely switch to theology just because then I would spend all my time in the beautiful Alte Uni instead of the hideously ugly Humanities building. Seriously, there is no way to describe the difference. I should just take some pictures and post them; that’s the only way to get a really clear understanding…

On Sunday, I played vollyball with a bunch of BCAers and Fei, and then Patrick and I left to go across town to play some pick up Fussball (soccer) with some other exchange students. It was the start of a rather intense adventure, full of peril and injury.

We were a motley crew of students, from all over the place: Britain, Ireland, Finland, Peru, Spain, the USA, and more. I ended up on a team with all Spanish-speakers, which definitely put me a little at a disadvantage as far as knowing what the rest of my team was doing. But with a mix of German, Spanish, and English, we managed ok. Well, except that we stunk. We were getting hammered, partially because we had one less man than the other team, and partially because all of the Spanish guys could play decent offense, but pretty stinky defense, and goalkeeper not at all. Finally, I decided I should see if I could dig up some of my past goal-keeping experience from back in Junior high, and I stepped in to the box as keeper. It actually went a little better from there on out, plus we gained another player, and I was doing a better job at blocking the shots that were getting back to the goal. Then, it happened. One of the players on the other team, an American, ironically enough, got a break-away chance, and somehow made it past the offence into the 18-yard box. It is an important detail that he was American, because he was neither a good soccer player, nor a lithe personality, and made up for his lack of speed and skill by being extremely rough. He attempted to score, and failed. However, in the process of failing, he through his entire mass into my right leg, with me promptly collapsing with the ball in my possession.

At first I thought my leg might be broken, it hurt so bad, but I thought I would give it some time, “walk it off,” like coach always told us to back in the day. The problem with walking it off, is that in order to do that, you have to be able to walk, a skill which I had somehow managed to unlearn during my violent interaction with Uncle Sam’s chunky nephew. After about 20 minutes of trying to “hobble it off,” I decided that it might actually be a better idea to try making my way home, since with a bum leg it was sure to take a long time, and the sun was already getting sleepy. So I bid the boys, chicos, and Jungen fairwell, and began the long limp home.

Marburg on Sunday is dead. No shops are open, and, unfortunately for our wounded protagonist, there are apparently also no buses. At 8pm, after crawling up 139 steps almost on my hands and knees, I arrived back at the Castle. The trip that usually takes me 20 minutes walking took me over an hour to make. At this point, I was absolutely exhausted and in a fair amount of pain, so I crawled up the stairs to my room, and went to sleep, hoping that it was just a big bang injury, and that it would feel better in the morning.

The next morning, I woke up and could barely stand up. That’s when I realized I needed to go to the doctor. After showering using a pilfered broomstick as a crutch, I called the BCA director here in Marburg, to get information about doctors and such. Hanging up the phone, I was armed with information, but not much else. I knew what I needed to do, I just didn’t think I could do it. I needed to find a phonebook (no clue where one of those would be) and look up “Arzt,” the german word for doctor. Next, look at the addresses with a map of Marburg in one hand to find out which was the closest. Then, I needed to call a taxi (in German) and have them take me to the doctor. Then, I needed to find out what was wrong with my leg, and if necessary, go to the hospital.

In all honesty, that would be hard for me to do in the States, in English. I was overwhelmed. I probably would have just tried going back to sleep, in hopes that more sleep would = magical cure, but my leg hurt too much to ignore, so I sat there on my bed, trying to gather my thoughts, and take action. That’s when my roommate woke up.

Just a side note, I would like to nominate David Bethmann for the Nobel Peace Prize. I would also like to thank the entire Collegium Philippinum for just being absolutely amazing.

When Dave heard of my plight, he jumped into action like a New York firefighter. First, he ran next door to Christian, who came over with a pair of crutches that he let me have. This made it possible for me to actually move around semi-independently. Then, Elena, my Romanian neighbor who is studying for her MD, came over and assessed the leg, giving me a little hope in her diagnoses that it almost for sure wasn’t broken. Meanwhile, David was running across the parking lot to the Repetent, Herr Warnemann, who then came up and offered to take me to his personal physician in his car. 20 minutes later, I was on my way, with a bevy of well-wishers waving goodbye.

We arrived at Herr Warnemanns Hausarzt, and I went up to the desk and gave them my handy insurance card, which everyone who comes to Germany to stay for any substantial amount of time gets. I paid my €10 co-pay thingy (which I only have to pay once every 4 months or something, regardless of how many visits I make to the Arzt) and then sat down in the waiting room to, well, wait. Just when I thought I couldn’t wait any more, the lady called my name, and off I hobbled into the maze that is every private practitioner’s office that I’ve ever been in.

No, seriously: why are doctor’s offices so impossibly laid out? Is it so the patients can’t get cold feet and escape? I know I would die of starvation before I every found my way out of that aMAZEing labyrinth.

After waiting some more for the doc, he finally came in, and I began my first ever doctor check up in a foreign language. It was an adventure, to say the least. I managed to convey what had happened, and show him where and how it hurt, and then I think I even understood everything he said.

The result is that I know for sure that the bone isn’t cracked or broken. The reason it hurt so bad is because the muscle had swelled up so much that it pinched the nerve in my leg, giving me a very intense version of the nasty un-comfort you feel after you’ve been driving in a car for about 8 hours. The swelling had also pinched some blood vessels which explained why my foot had been asleep for about 8 hours.

He gave me a prescription for some magical soothing salve—called “pain salve,” ironically enough, and sent me home gimpy, but happy.

Now I am on the mend, and able to limp around with the help of one and sometimes no crutch, and things are looking up. The swelling has gone down a lot, so that my leg doesn’t hurt unless roughly disturbed, though my foot is still asleep. So the next goal is to get the swelling to go down enough that I can be rid of the odd rubber mass that seems to have taken the place of the right side of my right foot. I miss my pinky toe, dang it!

And that is the end of the Saga of my leg and experience with the German healthcare system.

Well, this has become and obscenely long entry, so I’ll leave it at that until later.

This is Gimpy, signing off.

 

 

23.4.08

New Pictures!

For your viewing pleasure, there are 4 new albums up, entitled:

-Scheveningen and Keukenhof
-Hike to Spiegelslustturm
-Schnee im Sommersemester
-Wien!

Viel Spaß!