Sunday, March 15, 2009

"shoene tag!" "nein, danke"

The language barrier is still ever-present here. It's really funny to observe the different reactions you get from salespeople. Some people just start off in English and continue in it the entire time. Some, when they hear you speak German, switch to English (kiiinda a low blow, haha) and then some reel off some super fast German until they realize your eyes are glazed over and you have no idea what they just said. I suppose it will get better as interactions in German feel more comfortable for me. Until then, it will be an adventure! Before I got here, I heard totally mixed reviews ("People in Berlin don't speak any English! like the train operators and the food salespeople"-- man at Bloomingdales. "Everyone speaks English, so don't worry"-- my aunt Sara.) I am finding somewhere in between. I have mainly been interacting with waiters or waitresses, bartenders, and ticket takers. Perhaps my sample is a bit skewed, but I haven't had any big misunderstandings yet. The title of this post comes from when Dan, Krystal and I were at a cafe and the waitress took our cash and quickly said "schoene Tag!" ("good day!") and Krystal replied "nein, danke" ("No, thank you"), thinking the waitress had asked if we wanted any change...ooooh well. It was a good laugh afterwards.
I survived the first week! We had "IntensivKursen" aka 4 hours of German class every weekday morning from 9 am until 1pm. Due to my bare minimum level of German (5 semesters was required for this trip, and i finished my 5th semester right before coming here.) I was placed in the lowest level and I'm okay with that. Our teacher is named Jacek and his family is Polish but he grew up here. He makes class really fun! It feels a little like what German in middle school would be like had Parker offered German in middle school. He comes very prepared in the morning for an "Ubung" (the first "u" has an umlaut over it), which is an excercise. So we play fun games in order to review and actively use the themes we go over. On Thursday he had us split into 3 groups and gave us each a part of a song to act out. Our part was about walking home from a club at 6 am, and all the crazy things you see on the streets of Berlin (aka dead pidgeons, fights, passed out people, etc.) I thought that the song sounded too cool to be some random folk song. Nope! It was a rap song! It's called "Schwarz zu blau" (black to blue. discribing the color of the sky.) We also watched a funny fake documentary that had african journalists go into Austria and study the Austrian in order to parody the usual way of things-- white man goes in and interrupts African village, then completely misinterprets their behaviors. I couldn't understand all of the words, but I got the jist of it-- it was funny.
Thursday night, Annie and I joined some of our fellow IES people at this bar called the "Berliner Republik." It is arranged so that beer prices are similar to a stock market. The more people want Hefferweizen, the higher the price becomes. While we were there, the "stock market" crashed two times, and we reaped the benefits with super cheap beer, haha. As expected, the crowd there was about 99% men, and most seemed businessy. It was a lot of fun though! And a good way to get a cheap beer.
On Friday we had a "Stadtspiel" aka a "city game" aka a scavenger hunt. Because 4 people decided not to come to class on Friday, Jacek merged my group with another. The two girls spent the ENTIRE time yelling at us and disagreeing with us. I kind of know how those research "participant" dogs felt when the psychologist was studying learned helplessness... Anyway, after recovering from that, I came home and relaxed for a bit. I cooked dinner (pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes...easy and yummy!) and got ready to go out. Krystal, Annie and I pre-gamed at Annie's room (basically a studio apartment with no cooking appliances. She has two tables with 4 chairs each! It's as if it was a living room, and her bed was thrown in, haha.) We met the IES people at this bar/club/thingy called Cafe Zapata. It DEFINITELY had the grungy derelickt-you-dont'-want-to-touch-the-walls-without-Purell-nearby kind of look. It was kind of empty but the two DJs were wearing fantastic blonde wigs and Adidas track jackets. The music was a mix of techno and old school hip hop (both German and American.) It was really fun! the place filled up quickly, and we danced until about 2:30 am. Unlike Dane Cook says, when he's like "guys never go to a club just to dance", German guys DO! My GOD! It's a relief to not have to avoid predatory guys, but at the same time, they're in the dance zone! I will soon figure out how to meet them without interrupting them from their zone, haha. That is my next mission: meet some Germans!
Yesterday, Annie, Krystal and I were super touristy and enjoyed the 50 degree day by walking around West Berlin and taking photos of all the "must-see" places. I was happy to be able to use my nice camera and wear my leather jacket without the worry of them both getting soaked! (It's been cold, damp, and rainy almost every single day since I've gotten here....) I will post those soon!

Today's plan: review vocabulary, upload photos, clean my room, do my laundry (most people don't have dryers, so it will be airdry city for my clothes!)


The word of the day: "Rotkohl" = "red cabbage" as in "Ein Doenner ohne Rotkohl, bitte!" (Doenners are the turkish version of Gyros, and there are stands and restaurants for them everywhere!)

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