Week 2

Trip Start Mar 19, 2008
1
12
61
Trip End Jul 01, 2008


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Monday:
I'm going to have all of my non-German classes this week; finally, I can learn something in English. My brain was on the verge of exploding. Today, the morning class is European Union Culture and Institutions. It's taught by a fairly interesting man who we had all met previously. I enjoyed the introduction that he gave to us, and it should turn out to be a pretty interesting class. After this class was over, I just hung out with some people for a little bit, wandered home and just hung out for the rest of the evening. No German class today, our teacher had to have an emergency dentist appointment. She is honestly having the worst two weeks ever; first her kitchen pipes burst, flooding her kitchen. Then after the problem is supposedly fixed, her downstairs ceiling starts dripping water; to fix this, she has to hire someone to take apart her kitchen, open up a few walls, and do their thing. After moving around her fridge and what not, Dagmar (the teacher) inadvertently knocks her new, expensive fridge over; destroying the inside. And lastly, the emergency dental work. Good grief. Oh, and I also gained more animosity towards the French. The EU's  Parliament meets in Brussels, Belgium primarily, however; the damn French demanded that Parliament meets in Strassbourg, France for three days every month. This requires all the members of parliament, their assistants, translators, and materials to pick up and move. This is a huge waste of time and money, my instructor despises it. Also, all members of parliament in the EU are allowed to speak in their mother tongue, requiring all speeches and dialogue to be translated in the 22 other languages spoken. This requires hundreds of translators to be on the clock any time a government function occurs. Since all highly educated persons, and hence all government officials speak English, Germany suggested simply making English the official language of government in the EU. And who bitched the most about this rational and efficient suggestion? France. Wah wah wah, our language is the most important, bitch bitch bitch. (Even though German is actually the most commonly spoken mother language in Europe, spoken in Germany, Austria, and regions of Holland, Switzerland, France!, and Belgium). And get this, in non-official functions, such as parties; all of the officials converse in English! God damn French. Oh, and their workday is from 9-4. When it was 9-5, they went on strike! For Christ sakes, I never want to hear a Frenchmen call an American lazy; ever.
 
Tuesday:
Today was International Marketing. We'll have this teacher for Management Organizations also, which is nice because the two are loosely related. Our instructor is very enthusiastic, and genuinely loves teaching; which helps in the morning for sure. We discussed Coke's disastrous "New Coke" in the 80's, Wal-Mart's failures in Germany (HA! Eat shit Wal-Mart), and possibly something else, I can't quite remember. All in all, this is going to be a great course; and will definitely be a transferable credit as well. No German class today, again! Dagmar had something to do with her exploding house, I can't quite remember what it was. Last week she told Jessica and I "This week, I will forget." I think she's going to want to forget this week as well. I didn't do much after class today either. Hartwig walked some of us to a gym very close to my house, and began negotiations with their staff on allowing us to have only a three-month membership, thank god. I haven't worked out for three weeks now, and it sucks.
 
Wednesday:
Today was Management Organizations with the teacher from yesterday. He's just as enthusiastic about management, as he is about marketing. I'm also definitely looking forward to this class. After class, we had a tour of The Dom with Hartwig; and a bakery tour. It was a good day. I'm just going to rattle off some info I learned on the tour; The Dom took over 700 years to build; it was partially responsible for uniting all of the Germanic kingdoms into one nation; until the Eiffel was built, the roof of The Dom was the largest steel structure in the world; the bones of the three wise men are housed here (the cloth in the tomb has been dated back to 2000 years); a wooden crane sat on top of an unfinished tower for hundreds of years; much of the stained glass is actually original; nearly 600 stairs to the top of the towers; the difference in height of the two towers is only 6cm; the building is nearly perfectly square, only off by 2cm; it was hit by approximately 14 bombs in WWII; some theories on why it was spared, visual guide for bombers and pilots (they can see it when crossing English Channel), a prominent officer was a scholar specializing in gothic architecture, good PR, grace of god; 157,38 meters tall, 61,54 meters wide; built on top of Roman ruins and architecture; when the time came to finish the church, the original plans were found in France (the douche bags stole the plans when they invaded), and on a piece of sheep's skin being used as a vegetable drying surface in Bavaria; when the French invaded, they used the Dom as a stable for their horses (douche bags), they also stole much art, and even some relics; a state of the art alarm system was installed after some robbers broke in and stole some necklaces left in a shrine for Mary; the Swiss Guards did not accept my friend's turban, and tried to remove him from the church (they were later persuaded by Hartwig who is one of 70 certified church tour guides). After the church, we tasted many delicious pastries at a nearby bakery courtesy of Hartwig. God those were good. Too good. This day was awesome by the way. I milled about town for a while with Saibhang, waiting for the handball game to start. We got to the game just in time, and found out that we had floor seats! The cheapest damn seats were on the floor, man what a country. I was able to get tons of great pictures and video of the game from up close; I was actually crouched next to the court, less than a meter away from players at times. It was a close, high scoring game, but Cologne won 38-35 (Cologne v Berlin). Saibhang, Sam, and I took exited out the wrong door on accident, but continued on purpose. We wandered through the back personnel hallways, past security guards, team managers, important staff members; we actually even wandered past the Berlin teams locker room! Post game, everyone of them had black eyes, swollen faces, and they just looked pissed so we left very quickly. After the game, we just grabbed a couple beers, stood on the sidewalk, and talked about basketball (I just stood there, because I don't know jack shit about basketball). I would chime in with a retarded remark every now and again, but it was still fun.
 
Thursday:
I was tired all day today, I don't know why. We had International Negotiations and Conflict Resolution class today; it is going to be awesome. The subject manner, and the teacher are just amazing. I'm going to learn so much about my self, my own culture, and about other cultures as well (mainly the German culture). After class, I walked halfway home because it was actually a nice day, and it was warm. I took a nap for a couple hours because I was just damn tired. Then wrote this blog.
Friday:
I had International Negotiations and Conflict Resolution again today. This class is so interesting, I love it. In two days, I've gotten such a better understanding of how German and American culture evolved to become what they are today. Its amazing to see how events that happened 100's of years ago shaped how people in all cultures act, even today. Also, the vast majority of people (myself included) don't realize how stable all cultures are. We read articles printed nearly 100 years ago discussing American culture, and most aspects of our culture discussed in the articles remain true to this day. A few basic aspects of German culture; very reserved people, do not like uncertainty, pessimistic, extremely effective workers, teamwork is highly valued, and they regard safety and security very highly. The vast majority of these traits stem from Germany's very turbulent and violent past. Hundreds of wars occurred on German soil in Roman, and Medieval times; the thirty years war destroyed 85-90% of Bavaria's and Rhineland's population, towns, and infrastructure; Napoleon wars killed thousands; WWI killed millions of soldiers and civilians; WWII killed 3.5 million soldiers and roughly 3 million civilians, about 8% of their population; thousands starved to death in the post WWII rubble; post WWI money was worthless, as was post WWII. Because Germany has had such a turbulent history, they are constantly skeptical, wary of anything that could throw them back into chaos. Because their country was being continually destroyed and rebuilt, and they had very few natural resources, teamwork and extremely effective workers were required for Germany's survival. This also explains why they do not wish to engage in any modern war (their constitution also does not allow this). They have lost more than their fair share of people due to war in the past couple hundred years. U.S. culture is very optimistic, valuing individualism, with the belief that anything is possible being the one of the primary cultural attributes. This stems from living in a nation rich with resources, and void of large-scale wars. Total US deaths in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War, although catastrophic, come nowhere near the devastation occurring in German in any of their many wars. Because we have such an abundance of resources, individualism became the main social tendency, solving problems on your own; pulling yourself up by your boot straps. Ok, that's a long enough ramble on culture. After class, I tried signing up for a gym, but found out I need a damn bank account over here, bah. I'll try again on Monday. That evening Jake and I went out to this kick ass bar offering unlimited, yes unlimited beer for only $6. Awesome. The deal lasted only from 9-11, but we definitely got our money's worth. As soon as our free beer expired, we hopped on over to a punk bar next door and hung out with some foosball masters. I played one game and got my ass handed to me, it was awful, but still fun.
 
Saturday:
I woke up at close to 2pm, took my lazy ass time to eat a very late breakfast, and then took advantage of the nice day by riding my bike into town. I just cruised through Neumarkt for a while, then headed back. That evening Eduardo (the other exchange student living at this house) went out to a bar in town. Because he's from Brazil, the obvious choice was a Latin salsa bar. On our way to the bar, we came across dozens of police vans, and police equipping riot gear. In the words of Eduardo, "People get bored here, and then decide to hold a protest or demonstration in the street. Its ridiculous. At least they wear clothes here though, in France, everyone just gets naked for their protests." There were no signs, no posters, just a bunch of young people in the street playing drums and instruments, a couple people doing jump rope, and one crazy bastard dressed in a tinfoil robot suit. I have no idea what the hell they were demonstrating. We met up some of his chick friends at the bar, and just hung out and "danced" for a while. Dance is on quotations because we're both completely useless, hopeless even at salsa dancing. Christ. But whatever, it was still a lot of fun. I've been learning quite a bit about Brazil from him, and apparently he's not a big fan of his country. I didn't realize how large it was in population, San Paolo has 16 MILLION citizens, with about 1 million homeless! We left the bar around 3, 3:30 and head home. I'm going to preface the next event by saying that I was not drunk at all by the time I got home, drinks at this bar were expensive and weak. Ok, well, I was trying to get downstairs to get some food, it was pitch black, and I forgot where the stairs began. Well, I ended up skipping three stairs; I automatically stuck out my arm to brace my fall and dislocated my shoulder in the process. God damnit. So I got up, walked around a little bit, to try and walk it off or let the pain ease up. After about 10 minutes, I pushed my crippled arm up with my good arm, and popped it back into place. I popped in three Aleve and passed out.
 
Sunday:
I got up at around 11 today with a sore ass arm, and have just sat on my ass all day. I got some children's books from my host mother to help practice my German, and these books are messed up! I'll post some photos of the drawings in here. 
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