So the other day I went to a meeting that our group had been invited to called AIESEC. It’s an international student leadership organization. I was the only American who went, but it was interesting to see and be part of German campus life. Apparently everyone knocks on the desk with their fist instead of clapping. Afterwards I was invited to go have a drink with some of the group. It was cool to get to talk to everyone. I met a few Spanish speakers as well.
When I left I walked across the street back to our building. I had to go to the bathroom pretty badly so I was in a hurry. I got on the elevator so I could go up to the room and get to the bathroom. The elevator got stuck. I have never been trapped in an elevator before and the first time it ever happens to me is in a foreign country and I have to pee really badly.
I pressed the emergency call button. The response: German. “Ich spreche kein deutch!”
Silence. A minute later someone comes back asking me the problem. Again I responded “Ich spreche kein deutch” They asked me what I speak and i told them English. They said they’d send someone to get me out.
While waiting I texted Gabby. By the time I had gotten free somewhere between a half-hour to 45 minutes later, many of my friends had heard about my incident. I hung out with everyone and Tasha gave me some delicious food she had made.
I now take the stairs if I have anywhere important to be. :)
Some pictures of Dresden. My dorm room and a view from my room.
So I’m starting up the blog again to tell stories of Europe so that I don’t have to tell everyone the same thing 16 times.
I arrived in Berlin after three flights. I planned to take a bus to Dresden from there. Waiting for my bus I realized that I was running out of time before it left, and the driver was not opening the doors, so I approached him and showed him my ticket. Not speaking any German, I couldn’t ask about it. He looked at my paper and said, “Das ist nicht der bus.” He then pointed down some stairs at another bus and pointed at his watch. By now I only had a few minutes to catch my bus! I made it on the bus and arrived in Dresden.
Dresden is a beautiful city, located on the Elbe River. Due to bombings in WWII and being part of the Eastern block during the cold war, parts of the city are still being rebuilt. We had a walking tour with Dr. Gommlich and the history of Dresden is very interesting with all the transitions and changes in the past century alone.
We’ve been out to Neustadt a few times. It’s the new portion of Dresden (historically at least, most of old Dresden is actually newer since it’s all been restored and rebuilt more recently). We got Dönner and Dümmur and then visited a few bars. There are many Turkish restaurants and the food is delicious. One night we went to a surrealism bar, which was… surreal. There was a lot of interesting artwork.
I was supposed to go on a hiking trip, but missed it. I was in the station on time, but had somehow missed the part about meeting platform 18. Although I missed the hiking trip, I still enjoyed a day of exploring Dresden. As it was Ascension Day (a national holiday) and also Mannertag (Man Day). So people were all over the city partying in the streets and buy the river. Also it’s legal to drink open containers in Germany.
So so far it has been a great and interesting trip. Just got back from Berlin. Will write about that later.
Today I went to a French Middle school and helped/observed/was stared at a lot. I saw an English class and also two Spanish classes. Tomorrow I get to see more. I was interesting to the students, just as any visitor to a classroom is except I was foreign and spoke little French which made me even more interesting. So, I got stared at all day. The English teacher had me help her tell the students when they were making errors on their oral presentations, which wouldn’t have been hard, but I didn’t want to cause the students to get lower grades by pointing out that they were making small mistakes. “The parents of Rose”, “Rose’s parents” same thing right?
Everyone was very nice in the school and it was interesting to compare methods between Spain (which tends to be stuck in traditional methods but desperately trying to become more current in their methodology), the USA (which is fairly good at their teaching methods so long as the teachers aren’t being relentlessly forced to teach to the test because of NCLB or being fired because of our obsession with accountability (none of which falls to parents, standards of living, welfare, hunger, violence in the neighborhoods, etc.), and France (which seems to be trying to use the communicative method and is doing so as the US does more or less.) The French schools also have a court or trial for disciplinary actions in which peers, parents, teachers and administrators decide the fate of the student in question! I also witnessed a Spanish teacher using the subjunctive with a group of second year students in middle school. Perhaps French subjunctive shares similarities so it’s easier to translate, or perhaps they don’t worry so much about presenting the language in chunks, but rather naturally as it appears.
One student sitting next to me today refused to pay attention and instead asked his classmates around him how to ask me questions in English. He asked me if I liked being in the school. I said it was interesting and so yes. He looked at me like I was crazy. When I told him I was in the school for two days he said it was good because it’s boring there!
I confused myself all day long as my language skills were put to the test. I’ve spoken French at home and a little with each teacher, English in English class and a little with the family, and Spanish in Spanish class (in which I could not make myself say “sí” and instead could only say “oui”.
I was surprised how little I was used in the classes. As a US citizen I had a decent amount of cultural information to offer and as a student who has studied in Spain for the past semester I could also have been useful for providing cultural information in that sense. In addition to this I could have been used to make natural conversation with the class. When do foreign language classes ever get to talk with native speakers?! Perhaps it’s just what I have done had I been lucky enough to have a native speaker in my own classroom.
Regardless it was a great experience for me! More to come tomorrow!
Today I arrived in France! After arriving at the airport, I had an hour long car ride with Anne-Sylvie, or Mrs. Cartron. My French is pretty terrible, but between my bad French and her bad English, we were able to understand each other pretty well (which goes to show that ANY amount of foreign language can be very beneficial). Pacé is a beautiful little town and I’m supposed to go to Rennes later this afternoon. The whole family is very nice! They kept saying our home is your home :) I now am sitting in my room watching a french tv series and checking email and facebook. Héloïse showed me how to get the internet working. It’s very interesting to visit her in her country after 3 or 4 years without much contact. They had gifts for me too! :) I’ll be bringing them back to the states with me :)
For lunch we had fish and rice. They eat it with a bowl of melted butter and you just pour on however much you want! Chocolate, yogurt, and fruit come afterwards. So far it’s been great!
The following is just a brief thought that I had. Since I’m on the computer I decided I might as well post it.
We’ve been hearing and seeing more fighter jets than usual recently in Alcalá. Spain is part of the international force taking action in Libya. I thought it interesting that in the US when we see military equipment of any kind taking off it’s rarely on it’s way to be put to use in an actual conflict. Here though, I’m in a country in which the conflict or war is very nearby. The fighter jets that my friends and I have seen leaving the airforce base near Madrid could potentially be involved in Libya. In America whenever I see fighter jets it’s for a drill or practice or something.
It feels kind of strange to know that those jets are likely actually patrolling Libya. In the US, we’re fortunately very far from nearly every war we fight. Except for the rare occurrences of Pearl Harbor and September 11, the US hasn’t been attacked since the civil war (which still isn’t by a foreign country). But regardless we’ve never truly been invaded and don’t notice the impact of what our military does (for better or worse). If it wasn’t for the light press coverage that our military confrontations actually receive, we would barely notice we were involved in wars at all.
Perhaps we’d still know it, and maybe we do, but there is definitely a difference between knowing something as a fact you’ve read about or been told and knowing something because you actually see it happening. Europe has seen the biggest wars of the century first hand. In the US, unless you’ve been in the military, you haven’t truly had to live with the consequences of any of our wars or military operations. Especially after the draft was eliminated we’ve grown numb to the fact that we even have wars and a military. Even when well informed and conscious of our wars and military we still don’t truly appreciate what it means.
While we’re on the topic of differences between the countries, the other day my host brother showed me a peseta. Spain’s currency was completely different around 10 years ago. The idea that they had to change from a currency that was 166 pesetas to a euro, is hard to imagine. Try to think of the US changing from the dollar to a new currency that was worth about 166 dollars. Also try to think of the concept of not having money divided into cents. It’s difficult to imagine anything like that really happening. It’s just another reminder that the USA as a country has only been around for 200 years while many countries in Europe have a history with organized nation-states dating back to before the Roman Empire. It also reminds us that countries can change drastically. The US has remained fairly stable in it’s general policy over the past 200 years, but it is not removed from the capacity to change greatly (for better or for worse) :)
These are Las Fallas! An incredible celebration in Valencia where fireworks and firecrackers con all day long. The maximum interval between explosions nearby or in the distance is around 4-5 seconds. The crowds are so packed together at times you can’t move. The art criticizes and laughs at society. There are more flowers in one plaza than you’ll ever see in your life. And the fires are so big it feels like your face is melting.
a Ninot burns at las fallas! :)
Kapital, 11 of Marzo memorials, Milkshakes, and Real Madrid futbol game!
I have done so much in the past week or so. So many great experiences happened recently!!! First off we went to Ireland and I ate Shepard’s Pie and Irish beef Casserole! We also toured the Guinness factory which was very interesting. Ireland is beautiful. At night we had dinner in the Temple Bar district. There were musicians in almost all the bars and restaurants and performers on the streets as well. One very very drunk old man came up and proposed marrying Caitlyn. “I want you to marry me, but you have to do it tonight! We’ll have 15 children and we’ll take them to the park!” This was hilarious!!!
I got a haircut when I got back. At first, it made me nervous because I wasn’t sure how to explain what I wanted to get. The lady that cut my hair was very nice. They take your coat and help you put it back on, and the shampoo they used smelled wonderful! A very good experience :)
I went swimming finally! I was confused on how to enter the pool because they give you a card that’s good for 20 baños (20 swims). You have to put the card through a machine when you enter and exit. The lady who worked the desk explained it to me. When I got to the changing rooms, I couldn’t figure out the lockers. An old guy tried to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand him at all. A lot of times old people are impossible to understand haha. It was nice to finally get to go swimming! Definitely long overdue.
Kapital was amazing! I don’t even know how to describe it. 7 floors! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EatP3AsrLgY. this is a link to a video one of my friends took. It gives a pretty good idea of how awesome it was. At the beginning of the night there was a light show with the most epic of music. They have a floor dedicated just to mojitos. It was a fantastic experience! We met a group of Americans there and as we were talking to them found out that they were from American University and knew Maddy Brady! Small world.
Tonight is a futbol game. Real Madrid vs. Hércules. VAMOS REAL MADRID!!!! very excited! :)