Posted on November 6th, 2011 by

Bears who speak German make me laugh

Halloween. Such a great holiday. Unfortunately, living in Deutschland it doesn’t get the attention it deserves like it does back home. As in, it didn’t get the usual attention from myself trying to come up with the perfect Halloween costume (whether it’s Dos Equis’ most interesting man in the world, Enrique Iglesias, or Kanye after he offended T. Swift at the VMAs). With that being said, I may not have gotten too into it, but I did get to hang out with some children who were loving the Halloween spirit. I was kindly invited to a Halloween party thrown by the Rislovs (a half German, half American family who I was put in touch with by my Gustavus family, the Jeremiasons). Seeing as my Peter Pan costume didn’t quite make the cut when I was packing my two bags full of everything I’d need for the next year, I simply wore some German soccer attire and called myself a German (weak game, I know). When I arrived, I was glad to see that they were going all out for this shindig. They had ghost and pumpkin sugar cookies, jack-o’-lanterns, and even those absolutely terrible Brach’s pumpkins which are laced with more sugar than Surge (the only thing worse is candy corn). By the time everyone got there, we had amassed a group of 12 young ‘uns. Apparently, being a vampire was the cool thing to do this year (I guess Team Edward wins this battle), because around half the kids were garbed in black with pale white face paint (hell, even the cute little girl who was dressed as a bear was wearing vampire fangs at one point). After getting a bit of food in the system, we went trick or treating. This was an interesting experience for a few reasons. First, there are a good percentage of Germans who don’t seem to have any idea what Halloween is. One such person who was caught unaware was forced to reach deep into the pantry and dole out some fruit to the kids. Another interesting point is that the doorbells are actually on the gates leading into the property of the house. So you wait until someone opens their door and then the children break out into song. Yeah, kids don’t just say “trick or treat.” They legitimately sing a ten to fifteen second song. It’s really quite cute and makes you feel like they earned the candy. Once back home, the children dug into the spoils of their night (I feel terrible for the parents who had to then put them to bed). I hung out with the cute bear who explained to me all about her Schwanz (the tail on her bear costume). I then told her I also had a tail after tucking a balloon into the back of my pants. She then chased me trying to pull it out and prove it wasn’t real. She was eventually successful. As the festivities wound down, I headed back home but not before being generously offered to join them again come Thanksgiving time. People are wonderful.

T. Swift with Kanye (circa 2009); "Imma let you finish" reading the rest now

I’ve been seeing apartments left and right this week. It has become slightly easier now that many students have moved in and are settling into class but there still are a ton of people searching out there. At one of the places, I even toured it with a couple of other Italian prospects. My favorite part of our interaction was them saying hello to me as they left (ciao in Italian means hello and goodbye; they missed the memo that hello doesn’t work quite in the same way in English). There was one place that got me excited that I really did have a good feeling about. It was a great location, beautiful apartment, and a really nice guy, but unfortunately, my charm didn’t work as well as I was hoping. All I can do is keep looking I guess. It just sucks that it takes me at least an hour to get to virtually anywhere in this city (last week my daily average on time spent in public transportation was around 4 hours…).

School has been interesting this week. We’re currently giving presentations on either health issues in our home countries or public health related projects that we’ve worked on throughout the world. Some of the things I’ve learned about have been truly eye-opening. Whether it is bride kidnapping in Kyrgystan (women getting abducted from their homes and then being forced to become the wife of their captors), female genital mutilation in Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, etc. (with 90-100% of the population undergoing this gruesome procedure), or the Insite center in Vancouver (a place with twelve booths where injection drug users are provided a safe place to inject drugs such as heroine into their system under the watchful eye of health professionals), they’re all incredibly interesting and mind blowing. I feel like I’m learning so much by vicariously living through these people.

A cow and Enrique (circa 2010); an obvious combo

Unfortunately, not everything at school is going smoothly. We recently started biostatistics and there’s been a lot of frustration in that department. Our professor is this sweet old man who’s probably been teaching this stuff since the 1950s. His teaching style though hasn’t gelled that well with a lot of my classmates. This has a myriad of factors from our administration not telling us we needed our computers the first day (6 hours almost completely wasted there) to the struggles with getting the R statistics program to work on everyone’s computer to the lack of any direction in how to study outside of class. This led to a bit of an intervention late in the week where our class all voiced our frustrations both with our administration, our professor, and even ourselves. For most of my class, this is the be-all end-all of their educational path and at the end of this, they need to be experts in the field of public health as that is their plan for the rest of their lives. Hopefully the changes being instigated will make things flow a bit smoother and keep from us having a mutiny on our hands.

Friday night I went out to a concert with a few people from my class. Upon arriving where we believed the club to be, the girl I was with and I were utterly confused as to where to go. There was a dark winding dirt alley that we could go down, but it was shady to say the least. Luckily, another girl arrived who had been there before and led us to a barn looking building in the back that had light radiating through the cracks in the door. It felt like heading into a juke joint in the Prohibition Era. On the docket for the night were two bands. One was named Fenster which literally translates into window and the other was an American band called the Vermont Joy Parade. The former sounded a bit like Modest Mouse whereas the latter was an interesting combo of blue-grass, swing, and rock (yeah, you aren’t going to be able to picture that). While there, we met some random Canadians, Spaniards, and Germans and danced the night away. After a quest for a greasy slice of pizza, I arrived home in typical Berlin fashion at 5 in the AM.

Hugs and hand pounds,




  1. The Meatballs says:

    So glad you got to spend Halloween with the Rislov family…they are wonderful! Good luck with the continued apartment search – frustrating, but character building. Remember that. We always refer to our toughest year (Jersey, circa 1995-96) as “A Character Building Year”. No regrets.

  2. Hasanga Samaraweera says:

    As I wander to and fro the city I’ll remember it’s just character building. But at the very least, I am getting to know the city better. Thanks for the note (and the German family). Take care.