Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vienna Day 2

Ok, so I'll admit I wasn't too...fresh for the bulk of the morning hours. That's all I will say about that, but I ended up with a good part of the afternoon free, so I picked out a castle, Schloss Schoenbruen, and we went. Perfect for my level of capacity, the sky was overcast but cool, so I was having a ball already.

It's one of those sprawling estates with about 80 gardens and statues and fountains and fake ruins for people in petticoats to wander about in, and we followed their lead, shuffling fall leaves over the green grass with our feet and chatting.

I think/hope this little Austrian was getting ready for Halloween.


Note the parallels

Aforementioned fake ruins

BE the statue!

Massive castle!!!!!!!!!

I think this is called the Orangerie

On our way out some hours later we ran into a wedding of some kind with what's the most pathetic bridal party car I've EVER seen.

That's it, a dish towel on the mirror and carnations
taped to the hood...Y'ALL!

Followed by another tour of the city, this time from someone who KNEW and not from his Norwegian-language guidebook, and then back home. That night I got a glimpse of Vienna's nightlife, which reminded me quite a bit of Houston's style, just sans the more indie brewery style/coffee places. A really cool evening.

Vienna: Day 1

Things about an airport at 5AM
-the bakeries in it are open and serving coffee (thank GAWD!) the airport...who knew
-people move more purposefully, no stopping in the middle of a hall to look at teddy bears in BERLIN! tee shirts
-it's really weird

So I landed at 7:30ish in Vienna, where I only had to wait for 10 minutes for Jon to materialize. Impressive! He showed up remarkable well dressed for a college kid early in the morning, but I still didn't feel too bad about my looks. A belle needs some time to get her face on, and I simply hadn't had it.

The spread when I got back was a tribute to hospitality, ear plugs included! Then I was left to nap to sleep off the trip while he went to school, which I eagerly did till his also insanely nice roommate woke me up, asking after my pillow situation with an almost impenetrable accent. That got me up, so I assembled myself for a stroll on the town, where I was inundated with historical churches and castles (ask me at a later time how I feel about THOSE) and tour guides in pantaloons and wigs. Amongst this circus I wandered, getting in good looks at the downtown till Jon got out of class, at which point we had a schnitzel

<-- Not exactly like at all

and got supplies for our Halloween party costumes

Get it? I'm the American economy!
The party was in what my Tuebingen friends might know as StuDo, a big apartment building whose ground floor had been taken over by exchange students from all over. There was even one from Bellinzona (see Ticcino) who went to Phil's university! The Ticcinan was so shocked that I knew his town, he kept asking "no,really,how do you know us?!?!" Then there were the usual suspects for a StuDo party, the few Americans, tall Dutchmen/women, the Nordics, even two rather unpleasant Germans!

Yes, Europe, two of the most promising futures on the may cry now

Spelling "Attitude" for the Halloween Costume: FAIL!

It felt like I was back in Germany in 2006, and that was nice, I'll admit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Numbers on the Calendar Correspond to Days!

So my tickets said I leave on the 24th for Vienna, and that's a Friday, but I somehow got it in my brain that it was a Thursday, so I spent the bulk of Wednesday kvetching about having to get up at 4 the next morning, till Jon mentioned
"and, one thing, you're coming Friday right?"
Planning FAIL!
So I had an extra chunk of time which actually proved beneficial since as of Wednesday my room was a mess, and NO clothing was dry (and visions of my night with Kiira blow-drying her sweater were flashing in my head). With all my free time I decided to go out, but people were not really available for a last minute beer, so I decided to see a movie. The film in question (translated) was The Art of Negative Thinking.

It's a rather funny Norwegian movie about--well--misfortune. I got there early, as is my way, while the projectionist was setting up. I sat in the very back and yelled "EVER DREAM YOU'RE THAT GUY FROM CINEMA PARADISO?" A muffled voice replied "Yeah, but the film isn't burning. You shouldn't sit in the back, the projector and all that plus the sound bouncing makes it hard to hear the movie" and we had a nice chat through the wall, complete with New German Cinema references, before the previews (which promising).

The movie itself was the greatest kind of dark humor, about the empowering feeling you get from laughing snarkily at look on the bright side philosophy, a movie it was high time that I see!

while you wait for picts to be uploaded, here's a little something!


-200 mosques in Berlin...4 in Arlington...think about it!

-there are wild boar hunts in Berlin city on a regular basis
not today, porky!

-protestantism is the basis for the great style Schism: Italy(indulgent luxury) to the south, and IKEA's stark but adorable egalitarianism to the north.

-Frederick the Great used to take tall, dangerously young soldiers into his--er--offices. As a result, the bars around the palace still serve cheaper beers (used to be free as a means of keeping the boys out of the palace)

Beer actually prevents the jay!

-There are American libraries all over Berlin...not saying you should go, but they're there

-American women "always wear so strange the shoes!" referring to my tan ballet flats

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Take the "ies" out of "cookies" and you have "cook"

Question: am I disappointed in myself for the decided lack of posting of late?
Answer: Yes

Therefore I will inundate you all with as many as I can manage before I go to Austrian on Thursday. I’ll start with last week’s BUW. I have to first say, that is probably the least like to be hilarious name EVER because it’s spelled “BUW” but it is pronounced “buff” by a bunch of teachers trained primarily in England-style English. Therefore I am met with questions like:

What is your schedule like in the buff?
Well, I’ll probably put on some clothes first, and then I won’t really be in the buff anymore, will I?
He's in the buw!

Ok, yes, maybe a SMIDGE immature, but…well, I’m Texan (this excuse works for EVERYTHING!). So I spent a goodly amount of time with these students, the Kate Army of Champions, and I decided that on Thursday I should do something nice for them.

Interruption—You might be asking yourself “why is Kate, who is usually emotionally semi-to-insanely harsh, being nice to these lederhosen?” Well, the life of a German high school student is one of INTENSE pressure surrounding this ending exam called the Arbitur which basically determines if you’re going to have a future or not, if you can go to university, and it’s not like the SAT where you get to take it a bunch, so these kids are taking a GOLDEN opportunity to skip school and sitting in a closet to work intensely on their English exam-taking skills for a week with someone like me who is probably equally scared that she’ll mess up and cost the little wurst-chens their futures, so they deserve something nice….
Like that, but more hoopty!
A COOKIE! I baked chocolate chunk cookies. That is no small feat and included

-finding vanilla (not easy)
-coming up with an acceptable substitute for brown sugar (sugar…teachers here told me they bring over bricks of brown sugar from the States, unbelievable!)
-doing metric conversions and hoping they were right
-chunking up chocolate bars (HARD!)
-hoping that the type of oven heat I had was right (that’s a whole nother monster because you can do like 6 different types of heating)

But I win at almost everything, and I produced pale (that brown sugar DOES make a difference) but respectable cookies, packed them up in glass Tupperware (I know, it’s wrong) and brought one in to my students and the other to the teacher’s lounge where I labeled them “Sweet, Sweet Cookies of Democracy.” They were appreciated, and within a few hours all the cookies were gone save one the student left. I asked “who’s eating this?!?!” and T., one of the girls, responded “we thought you should have it.” Awwwww! I hope I don’t screw up your education, kiddos! I’m starting to like y’all!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Enjoying a Fall Day

So for those of you who happened to catch me on Sunday you'll remember that the day was a bit rough; for those of you who don't know that, then you need not know any more than that. So today I went into school in a less-than-great mood. I had no real reason to feel that though because it's BUW! Block Unterrichts Woche (Project Week) wherein students prepare projects for their final exams. The schedule isn't really set out, and the students drift from room to room working half-effortly on workshops like "Biology!" and "Oral Exams: How to prepare." Guess which group I was working with? The strike of the teacher's union was making things even a bit stranger, so it ended up me and 4 students in the French department's airy supply closet with the door propped open, chatting about Snow Falling On Cedars (I'm hating less and less) and globalization...and whatever else we could think of in 2 hours. I have to meet them again on Thursday, and I think I might ply them with cookies. they were sweeties though.

In our trusty rusty teacher's room

I happened to run into a certain teacher I might have threatened with physical violence when he landed on my blacklist (like Ryan on The Office), but when he asked about my Sunday, I kind of let it spill and almost started crying again (LLLLlllloooooooonnnnnnggggg story) so he looked at me and said "I'll invite you out after school. I'll make good on what happened," so we met up after class.

It was a pretty fall day, rather chilly, but I was still comfy in a cardigan (even though I have sweaters now! YAY!) this picture, which I took a few days back!

He took me into Oranienburg where we visited the artists' collective you might have seen in Goodbye Lenin (it's when he's going out with the russian girl and they sit on this very ledge and smoke), but now it's much more of a simple hangout, and they put glass on the ledges where the two sat in the movie. It was beautiful though, wild and free and artistic and modern but somehow a throwback to a bohemia that may or may not have existed, a Berlin Christiania in miniature. It was refreshing to see all of that, relaxing in its own way and thrilling to be so close to that wild energy.
look familiar? like from A MOVIE?

Afterwards we ate fries German style...with weird things on them. He had mayo, ketchup and cooked onions (wtf) and I had curry. While we were eating we ran into a teacher from England who was visiting our school (and who has the same last name as me) and the English department head, out for an equally productive afternoon of wandering around (he's on strike). After that we had a mango juice, and he gave me the skinny on meeting people, on how it's hard at first, and how his wife went through the exact same thing, how I just need to keep going. This I had heard before, but from a German and the way he explained it it all just kind of made more sense. It was nice to hear, and just to have someone be friendly to me after such an icky Sunday was really like drinking a long slurp of mango juice on a hot day, thick and cold and nice. Long story short: my city geography is getting better and he's off my stabby-stabby list.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Just a Nice Saturday Afternoon in Ole' Berlin

Question: What do the Germans do on a pretty day?
Answer: Go for a walk.

And that's what I did today...go for a walk...with a couple thousand other people.

For the last few weeks I've seen posters that say "freedom instead of fear" and then something about a march on the 11 of Oktober, and I loved that idea, so as i was sucking down my coffee this morning, I said to myself that I should go, because--WARNING, THINGS ARE GOING TO GET KINDA POLITICAL--

my generation has lived the last 7 years under controls and fear, and I'm sick of it. I wish my generation as a whole would stand up and say "I'm tired of being afraid, I'm tired of the terror system always being orange. I want to live peacefully again, and it IS possible! I will NOT be a pliable part of this system of militarization, surveillance, and fear!"

Ok, so that's over, and I decided to go. I did not have a camera, but the good folks at flickr (it's a photo website) have several picts from today, so here they are with a little commentary.

First we were at Alexanderplatz where we stood around and chatted for an hour in the warm sun (a light cardigan was all I needed, and I actually got a bit tanned!!!), drinking beer, eating brats, and going from one party to another. One party was the "Pirate Party" (not affiliated with the Ninja Alliance!) for...well...piracy, but they were a bunch of computer geeks (adorable though), a bunch of Ron Paulers (Seriously, people?!?! GERMANS CAN'T VOTE FOR HIM!), tons of Green Party people, Leftists, and then a surprising number of libertarians (I don't get them...not even here...they confuse me, they get on really well the conservatives in government, but they are in principle liberal...huh). Then there were some speeches about government surveillance (know what the Stasi is? There were a lot of rather apt parallels drawn there), and then we went on the move.

Doesn't it look like a pretty day for a protest? No
joke, it was amazing. I even think I got a little sun!

Just your average Saturday afternoon!

At first all the riot police were really scary, I mean, there were TONS standing on the other side of the street from us, but after a while it was clear that we were not there to fight, and we didn't have any trouble makers in our ranks, so they were rather relaxed, though they still had their helmets and whatever, but they kept petting their dogs (seriously, like 100 German shepherds were there). This made sense, like, if you didn't have a dog and you were a cop, you were smoking and chatting up your cop friends; if you had a dog you had something more to pass the time with, and so one was scratching the dog's tummy, another was rubbing his face against the dog's, truly undignified police with the least threatening German shepherds I've ever seen (except for TUCKER!)

Isn't Tuckey A-DOOR-BELL?!

This was about as intense as it got, tourists on Unter
den Linden and cops leaning against police vans. I feel
bad they had to wear their jackets for so long, it was a
really GORGEOUS day

we walked for an hour and a half to the victory column, and then went BACK to the Brandenburg Gate for some speeches. I was walking with the green party, since I generally like their people, and they had some active politicians marching, and their mascot is a hedgehog, so CUTE. I chatted up some nice people, mostly from out of town, and since we were together for so long we got to really chat, about the issues, ourselves, stuff like that. There was Mathias, Kathy, and Joanna, and they were from Leipzig, physics students, and they were really sweet. It's not a real contact, since we didn't exchange numbers, but it's a step and it was friendly, and they might still find me on facebook, who knows. Additionally, I love it when people my age get politically gives me hope for the future, like we won't all be mindless drones who accept everything.

One of the leaders of the march speaking
at the Brandenburg Gate

Anyway, my feet were ACHING (the revolution needs to remind me to wear good walking shoes!), so we sat down in the park to listen to the speeches, where one leader yelped "We'll have no standing politicians speaking today unless it's the Interior Minister coming here to take back this surveillance bill!" Laughs and hoots all around. And like good Germans, we all were done in time to come home for the evening news.

ZOMG! I was right behind these guys!!
Go little Green Party Hedgehogs!

Some cool signs at the protest with approximate translations:

"Hey! Don't turn on my computer! Against surveillance,
State, and Windows XP" I guess they are Mac people.

"Hear all! See all! Say all?"

These are pictures of first the leader of the Ministry for
State Security (that's not translated right I don't think)
in the GDR, and then this Interior Minister of Today,
and the implication is "what comes next?"

"Do you now feel safer from terror?"

Demokratie = Democracy...I was like 3 signs in front of these guys

One last funny story, there was a group of doctors who made a float that was like about getting tested for AIDs (they were for testing and for it being anonymous), and they kept playing "gay friendly" music, so you'd hear political chants "WIR SIND HIER! WIR SIND LAUT! WEIL SIE UNSERN' DATEN KLAUT" (we are here, we are loud, because they steal our information) and then disco beats and "It's rainin' men!" So..well...certainly peppy protest music!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I'm a Prime Number Now!

So birthday weekend/kinda week is officially over, and I have had quite a nice time. Philippe came into town on Saturday evening, and we stayed in and watched a movie, because both of us are exhausted after traveling a while. We spent most of our time just wandering around town or sitting in coffee places doing work (he has conferences and doodling). On Monday I had to go to school for the first two hours, which means that I had to wake up INSANELY early and get going. Class was only 90 minutes though, and they were with me most of the time, and then I started asking around to the teachers "Will you need me to be here on Tuesday? Should I show up for 5th hour?" and my adviser got the hint and said "You know, I don't think we'll need you tomorrow, so you just don't have to come to work." YAY! Kate gets the day off! So Monday night Phil and I went out to Prenzlauerberg to hit some bars, and the next day we were going to celebrate!

So after breakfast on my birthday we came back to the house to work/write/read (I'm so into graphic novels right now it's a little wacky...but I heart Daniel Clowes) when this knock comes at the door, and there's a man with these:

aren't they pretty?

Jon sent me flowers!!! And they are SO pretty!!! So that was amazing. Philippe and I went off to Kreuzberg to get some lunch (Indian food) and returned for Philippe's homemade birthday cake. Observe:

It's a carrot cake, and I DO think he deserves to look
this pleased with his work. It looks amazing!

Bon anniversaire a moi!

After that we went to--and yes, I know it's dorky, and I don't care--the Museum of Musical Instruments attached to the Berlin Symphony. There were things that looked like boxes with mouthpieces, hybrid brass-violin things (gee, wonder why those didn't take off), and an organ that purported to have all the instruments in a regular orchestra...incorporated into the organ itself. Yeah, odd.

The evening was dinner at an Italian restaurant and then A-Trane for a concert from this Japanese quartet. It was rather sad, it being a Tuesday there wasn't a big crowd, and the leader, a student of Ornette Coleman, started off in his cute little accent with his tight tie and business suit "It is vehry good to play for this...packed house" awwwwww. But it was actually a great concert, with not one but TWO basses

This guy's name was Akiro, and he was
totally better than the other bassist

This is Soon Kim of the Soon Kim quartet/sometimes trio, rocking it

Of course, some people liked it...
...more than others
This was Kim's manager...totally asleep at the club

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Revolution Will Come with Alan Wrenches

So I needed to get some things to make my life here a little less crazy:

one box for letters, concert pamphlets, whatever
one small rug so my chairs don't scrape the floor (dang it, I'm getting my deposit back)
a few folders/paper holders for my papers
a lint roller

Where, I ask, can you get such things?


So I went off early on a Saturday morning to hit that sucker before she filled up. Happily enough, it's only 2 bus stops away from my house (yay!), and I was stoked for a breakfast. It was 9:45, who was going to be there?

Folks, I tell you now, it was crazier than the Evanston Target the day of freshmen move in at Northwestern. I went up to get some breakfast and BEDLAM! Apparently the cheap nature of IKEA breakfast coupled with its yumminess and being one of the few places in this country with free coffee refills has made it a hot ticket...for large groups of Germans to go...together.

Big groups of Germans running around spending un-German amounts of money

Worth standing in line for 30 minutes and being crammed in with people of questionable hygiene? I clearly think so

I got my waffle, mixed berries with vanilla sauce, and coffee (the breakfast here is different than in the states, though they're both supposed to be equally swedish...wrhuh?), and I sat down to identify the types of people showing up there.

1. Paerchens (little pairs)- Jon tells me IKEA breaks these couples up quicker than anything: first, you have to wake up EARLY, then pick a piece of furniture that suits both tastes, then go find it in the cavernous store, then drag your new Billy unit home, and then by the time it's assembled, they're changing their facebook status back to "Single."

2. Groups- usually these are large and crazy. Someone is moving and has harrangued their friends to help them pick things out. This leads usually to lots of joking around the bed and toilet areas.

3. Clueless b-stards- me...and old people...wondering why the line is so long with bags so weighted down their frail (or half-awake in my case) bodies nearly fall.

At my table sat a massive family, everyone from grandpa to grandchildren, but there were no single tables...unlike the IKEAs in the states, which apparently we aren't filling properly.

My time with them lasted a blessed 4 minutes (till I could chug the coffee without being burned), and then I had to wade into the fray, but I came out victorious and wanting very much to go home and take a nap, my short excursion stretching from a planned lean hour and 15 to 2, but let me say people, lookin for hannukah decorations? IKEA WILL HOOK YOU UP IN A MOST SURPRISING WAY!

Phil is in town now, having arrived in what I can only call a sleepwalking state. We watched The Fall and successfully managed stir fry and spring rolls without setting the place on fire. Not wanting to test my luck we're eating out for the rest of his stay!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Let Them Eat Currywurst

Well, today is German Unification Day. That does not mean this is the day when the wall fell...that day fell on an already troublesome anniversary, so they celebrate the constitutional reunification day instead.

I asked all my colleagues how the celebrate 3 Oktober, and I heard
"I don't celebrate it."
"I sleep"
"The foreigners go to the Brandenburg really shouldn't though."
and "I'm going to mow my lawn"

But I did choose to go, see what was shaking. Turns out the big festivities are in Hamburg this year, so all there was here was a street festival, which was actually rather good since I forgot to bring along my camera again. After searching the tubal-interwebs, however, I found some equivalents of the pictures I would have taken. BUT BACK TO THE FESTIVAL: It was...not really specific to 3 Oktober. There was currywurst a plenty, pretzels, baked almond stands, everything you'd see
Christmas market - the cuteness.

I'll take pictures at XMas I promise.

I had a piece of Hungarian fry bread and a cup of GERMAN coffee, which is unmistakable from the taste, and wandered amongst the crowd of non-berlin accents and other languages. The funniest part of the whole affair was that the victory column wasn't visible from the Brandenburg gate. Why? Because a kitschy Ferris wheel was RIGHT in the line of site! So I arguably saw the golden angel...maybe.

Not today, folks!

At the gate there was a stage, but when I asked around it turns out that a bunch of artists were playing.

Let me tell you all a little about why I didn't stick around for the concerts: the music is of a genre we just don't get. The music is neither good nor bad, but it's not music that we understand. Most Germans I hang out with are aware of the genre but take no particular joy in it, it's just something very GERMAN. I'm not a cultural imperialist, but I just don't get it.

What am I doing instead? Writing, reading a bit, tidying up, going out for coffee. Philippe is coming tomorrow, and I have a birthday coming up, so I'm trying to do more things that I like. That means movies, coffee, music (casual consumption), hanging out.

An entry is also in the works about my week, sorry it took so long to get that out.