Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lots of Homework.

So, writing this brief update when I should actually be doing my homework...

Another week (or more) has now passed, and it is now February.

The course is good - I ended up in the top level of the language course, and the content is good. Most of the grammar I did get introduced to last year, but I have still far from mastered it. And every day we do a reading/communication exercise, which will always be challenging (new vocab, having to discuss a scientific concept in German, etc).

Literature and Culture are not nearly as much fun (mainly because the teachers are as good as Claudia, our brilliant language teacher), but we only have to do them twice a week. And I should get to do my presentation for Literature on the short story I wrote my essay on for German last year! :) Cheating perhaps, but yay!

Since I last posted, we have been on a number of excursions:
  • Sankt Peter, which turned out to be a beautiful church, with its associated monastery, where we got to see their amazing library (20,000 books, when books were expensive, with a small collection of poetry, very unusual for a monastery apparently), among other things. I have a lot of photos, which interestingly enough actually turns out to be forbidden, but the guide decided to be nice to the heavily cameraed group of foreign students, and didn't bother to tell us.

  • Colmar, a town in France, where we got a rather frustrating guideless tour of the completely french labelled Museum, but where I also got to take photos of the awesome wardrobes from the middle ages that look exactly like the Narnian one should, as well as suits of armour and a grandfather clock at least twice my height. The frustration of the tour resulted from the absence of one of the french staff - the provider of audio guides - which our tour leader had been relying on, already knowing the insane French approach to labelling... (There were a couple of things labelled in English/German: they said 'don't touch' and 'leave the toilets in the same state as you find them')
    The tour was followed by equally undirected wandering around in the old city, during which I lost everyone but one of the Brazilian boys, which led to an interesting and marginally uncomfortable experience of eating pizza as a 'couple'. Made all the more uncomfortable by the simple fact that neither of us spoke any French, and the waiter didn't speak any German, Portuguese or English. It was very strange. Every time he spoke (french), we just replied in German. Ordering was done by pointing at the desired dish and saying its (italian) name. However, it did result in a very lovely, cheap (we spilt a calzone style pizza) lunch, whereas everyone else paid through the nose for something 'French', and often cold. (And it was freezing enough, that there was no way I was eating something cold.).
    After lunch we met up with some of the others, and took a completely random undirected walk through the old city, luckily still managing to find the Venice-like canals, and taking some wonderful photos. We also through all of our Euro cents into one of the canals for good luck - given the number on the bottom already, it seemed like the thing to do. It's bound to be lucky, or at least healthier, because dragging a million 1 Euro Cent coins with you everywhere is heavy and damn annoying. The twos aren't much better. I can definitely see why we got rid of them. For the pleasure of not having to carry them around, I would happily pay $100 a year.

  • But after the excitement of Colmar, we still had one more task in our list of necessary tourist activities... Taking the (nauseatingly bouncy) bus into Germany, we stopped near the border for a visit to the Geldermann Sekt factory - the German equivalent of Champagne, in this particular factory made to the same standard as that in the so-named valley. After touring through the workings, and learning the process of making good bubbly, we got to try some of said product, and it was indeed the best Champagne I think I have ever tasted. How much of this was fancy, and how much actuality, I don't know, but it was good. I was also the source of much jealous, as we each received one small glass, but I was sitting next to Alex, a Brazilian non-drinker (rare, possibly endangered species, I expect), and thus managed to score a second glass. It definitely should be savoured though, because the end of the second glass, which I had to drink up, as we were going, was not nearly as enjoyable as the first.

  • Our most recent excursion was far less exciting - a trip to Freiburg's 'Uniseum' where the university presents its history... Nothing particular exciting to say about that, apart from the fortuitous coincidence that it was also Lynette's 21st, so we got to eat cake, and sing happy birthday (in 4 different languages - German, English, Portuguese and Spanish), in the room where the students used to sneak in and have parties.

  • Of course, because a day wouldn't be complete unless we tried to pack as much in as possible, then we went to the theatre. Kafka's 'The Process', with stage work that can only be described as magnificently Kafka-esque. The scene opened with a small steep stage, that the characters slid around on (with all but the main character, Josef Karl, being dressed in brilliantly eccentric costumes). This later opened up to reveal what I can only call a small lake - probably half a foot of water covered the entire back area of the stage. From this point on all the characters spend their time from moderately wet to saturated, and a lot of actions are expressed through splashing water at each other etc. At the beginning of the second act, we discovered that the column in the centre of the lake was indeed a waterfall - it was now illuminated, and the mist around the bottom of it, and the ripples could be seen, and the sound of falling water was clear in the stillness. I just hoped that the water was heated - it must have been, otherwise everyone would have be struck down with the flu after the first dress rehearsal. Freiburg in winter is not a good place for bathing in cold water.
    After the play, I headed over to the bar where Lynette was still celebrating her birthday, but ended up not going to the disco afterwards as I had developed a most curious eye-ache. (They felt as if I had been wearing my contacts too long, as if they were all dry and bloodshot, even though I haven't any lenses with me, and despite continued questioning, they apparently looked fine.

  • This weekend nearly everyone went away, as we had no planned excursions, leaving the whole weekend free. A couple of the other stayers and I went to the Saturday market in the plaza around the cathedral, and ate Bratwurst in buns for lunch. We also discovered that Saturday night was going to be a big Faschingesque party, with heaps of Narren (don't ask, I don't know).
    After a number of complications I ended up going alone, but it was definitely an experience. And freezing - I left the house wearing a singlet, two 3/4 tops, a polar fleece jumper, a mid-calf length jacket, a scarf, a beanie, knee-high socks, mini-socks, and warm pants, and ended up getting so cold, I came back home to put stockings on too. But it was worth it. The photos are quite bad (the camera doesn't like low light that much, and I wasn't exactly at the front of the crowd watching the procession), but the masks (mostly intricately carved wood) were excellent, as were the costumes, the flaming torches and the atmosphere in general. The characters were either monsters or witches, with a few other eccentricities thrown in for good measure. The pirates with the really odd wind instruments were a highlight. I also got to eat something tasty and warm whose name I have forgotten. It was a mixture of 'potato noodles' and sauerkraut, or so the man selling it explained to me. After that and a glass of Glühwein, I went home, because an after-party, by yourself, in the freezing cold, isn't much fun. I did have a good time though - hope to post photos sometime soon of all the amazing costumes!

So, apart from that, i haven't done anything much! The non-excursion days are filled with homework, preparatory reading for Literature, and wondering what to eat at the Mensa - whether paying 1,50 EUR is really enough reason to eat pasta with 'meat-sauce' for 6 weeks, or whether Schnitzel and Chips constitutes a balanced meal. And sneaking off to eat Döner (the german version of an Ali Baba roll) whenever humanly possible. (unfortunately, they don't cost 1,50 EUR, or there would be no choice at all!)

However, in my attempt to do the past days a little justice, it is now 10.20, and I still haven't done my homework for Language tomorrow. Better get onto that...

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