Friday, November 13, 2009

Playing Catchup

Last time I posted, I had not started university yet. Now I’m rounding the fourth week of classes. My schedule is finally set. I opted to take a competition law class on patents and trademark law. It is interesting, and the only textbooks I have are the Law. Everything else is from the lecture. The class is taught in the form of business school though. So it does not go into deep detail and does not dissect real cases, rather looks at practical usage in business situations. It is not exactly that challenging though. My most challenging class is by far Tonsatz (Compositional Technique). Not knowing anything about music theory going into the class definitely impeded my initial understanding. The course objective is to be able to hear notes or beats (so a song) and be able to reconstruct it note for note. It is alone difficult for most of the music majors to do, and even more so for me. I think it is good though, because the class demands me to keep learning and thinking.

Last Saturday was also my first choral performance in 8 years. That was a blast. We learned the songs in 3 hours over 2 weeks (practiced a bit at home by ourselves) and brought it onto the stage for the Uni-Ball (University Ball). All of the songs were in English, so that definitely helped me out. However, we have already started learning new songs for our next performance, in January. Our repertoire will be over 10 songs! Double digits! Back to the ball. It was really great. I bought a suit for 80euro (H&M), which totally rocks. The ball was in the historical concert hall. Absolutely beautiful. In the main room there were tables setup for people who had money for such things (professors and faculty). Along with that, there was a dance floor for standard dances, your foxtrot, tango, slow waltz, Viennese waltz and other ballroom have-nots. Live band with a great singer. Upstairs there were two rooms. One was a huge hall with a DJ. What was cool though, was that a woman sang over all the songs live. She did not change the songs; just performed them live to the music. Much cooler than just a DJ spinning just his iPod on stage. In the other room there was a big band: Stand-up Bass, Piano, Drums, Singer (lady of course). The all wore zoot suits. Wow. Great band. They played newer and older songs, all upbeat, and all with a big-band vibe. Unfortunately they had the smallest room and the largest crowd. Caught the last bus home.

Tuesday was great too. Went to Cologne for the night to watch the election. I stayed up with a bunch of Americans way late (I actually did not get home until Norbert [host dad] was leaving for work). Surely everybody has their own personal stories about election night. I spent mine surrounded by American ex-pats. It was weird, to be all so different and from such different backgrounds, huddled around one display watching results trickle in.

Ralph was one of those ex-pats. He has lived in Germany for 27 years. His accent is indistinguishable, a fact he holds slight bitter attitudes towards. He has a wife and two daughters. His wife is German with German citizenship, he American with American citizenship, and his daughters have dual citizenship. I cannot rearrange his thoughts well on the page, but he said he was struggling with the idea of identity. When he went home nobody would believe he was from Connecticut. And when he was in Germany there was still a cultural barrier he knew would be impassable. I do not think fathoming his dilemma is possible, but it was somewhat palpable.

Well, that is it for now. I will try to push a little more recruitment into updating. New pictures via Google web albums are available, however there are still more to put up. Hopefully that will come by next week.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Moving Day

Perhaps the title gave it away. But after two months, it is time to move again. I already did a farewell to Köln post, so no need to rehash old things. Tomorrow, the house will be cleaned, the dishes put away, and flowers will be laid out for my gracious host-grandma when she returns on Tuesday. My hair is two months longer (probably to the chagrin of my dad who paid for the last haircut), however my beard is trimmed - I even used a real razor to get a clean cut.

I suppose anxious could well describe my mood. I am going to move into a family’s house tomorrow, somebody I have never even known before. They are taking me in simply by the 1/2 page self-description I sent in half a year ago. If this seems like a leap of faith for Americans, a history lesson in German culture would lead into the fact this stretch is much farther for a German. I am grateful, and I have not even been witness to their hospitality.

Supposivly I’ll write and tell you how it all is, but I cannot promise that. Monday I have to register for University (Uni here), Thursday I have my interview / contract at my future job, and in just over a week classes start. So far I picked out one class: guitar songs. I have no idea what that means, and the course handbook is less than helpful: it does not even say when the class is. So this week will be like every semester at Berkeley, a frantic panic and overloading of courses to see which one I get into.

One step at a time though, tomorrow Martin meets the Fischbachs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

So it has been a while since I’ve posted. All is going well! I went and saw a show by Christian (and his band Skouch). His younger brother Hendrik also played (in his band Zeit für Plan B). That was last weekend, and it was a really good show in a run down old train station. Pretty cool. Best of all, Wuppertalers love Zywiecz, it’s a Polish Beer that is SUPER good. Other than that, went to Düsseldorf yesterday, it was okay. Not that much fun if you’re not shopping, but the night life was good, but then again that doesn't get going until nighttime. I’m learning a lot of German, basically honing skills and trying to repair poorly learned habits. Last week we went wine tasting, this week we went on the Rhein for a boat trip. We also visited the castle Marksburg. All in all though, still no set routine to jump into.

Other news: I’ll be living with a host family starting in October until at least January. I’ll be living in Remscheid, a smaller place outside of Wuppertal, and I will be going to University Wuppertal. Things are looking up.

Now if I just had my boots.. (really should have brought those with me).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A foreigner in America would probably think that the entire nation suffers from a collective water deficiency. Water in bottles are sold everywhere. Water is a necessity at any dinner. Hard pressed is the person searching for a university student without a water bottle. Dehydration plagues the American, we all know this.

Draft – of cold air – is the silent killer in Germany. When you think of a draft, the first thought is the window. But ever more present and dangerous in middle Europe is the air conditioning unit – A/C. My coworkers are likewise dead sure our A/C unit puts us in danger. There are weekly laments about the peculiar machine, and serious discussions about why somebody would build such a thing. Further compounding the issue, the unit is centrally controlled. The diligent gumshoe I am, the last couple of months have been unraveling the mystery of why blowing air so dangerous for this folk. Conclusion: cold air unequivocally leads to sickness. So do cold feet, noses, hands – anything – regardless of outside temperature. After a thorough whining when the unit unexpectedly goes on, coworkers proceed to bundle up in thick winter jackets. I usually get a look or inquiry because I do not pipe up about the horrible draft. This overreaction to drafts would seemingly help prevent colds. Contrarily, after a round of Googleing, Germans take more sick days per year than Americans.

To cogitate a fear of the A/C does not take long. Germania lies north, in cold weather for most of the year. Cold wind probably means cold weather, which assumedly leads to more sickness. Case closed. It is just funny to think that Americans have unfounded fears (dehydration) and the Germans theirs (drafts). It makes you wonder what silly superstitions other cultures have.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lately my California instincts have been deceived by angles, axis and mysterious alignments, all contributing to Dämmerung, the German dusk. Something about equator-distance-relation causes a sunset around 7:00PM, but an ever longer lingering dusk – last night until around 10:30PM. But New York is calling and within 27 days I will be landing in America again, 30 days in California. I suppose all this extra daylight is to help me reflect on this year. But the harder I try to formulate thoughts – about relationships made, mistakes and lessons learned, and personal intellectual growth – my mind creates a blockade, embargo against introspection. Perhaps it is a sign I should not reflect, yet. Time flowed in language school the first two months, at points froze during the university phase, and has rushed away during the internship. And when I grasp wind of changes at home, with the family and friend circles, I feel like an independent observer watching a globe trying to spin itself off a stand. And although glances turn to glazes by 2:00PM at work, my life is pretty fluid after business hours: meeting up with friends ends up wondering how the last weekday bus is already coming. Despite my reflection embargo, now that I have a calendar in my head, crossing off each passing day as my departure nears, I cannot help to shake the feeling that I need to catch some sort of Zeitgeist while I am still here.

New photos from Krakow are up. Link. Password: martybe