Just J-terming It

Posted on January 22nd, 2012 by

You're right, this was drawn by a fourth grader

Life these days is moving at a fairly leisurely pace (J-term-esque). I’ve got time to play sports, cook, read books that are simply for enjoyment, etc. It’s kind of nice, but I really should start figuring out my thesis stuff… oh well, in due time.

On Tuesday night I went out with a friend of mine and some of her Chilean friends. Quick side note: I’m not sure if everyone will be able to relate to this, but when I was in high school, it seemed like the cool way for tough guys to say hello was by punching each other in the arm. Other than thinking this was asinine, I hated it for the simple fact that it was always the massive football players who felt the need to do this (my slender, girlish frame doesn’t deal well with these blows). Who knew this culture made its way to Germany? As we are waiting at an u-bahn station, this super drunk Eisbären (Berlin’s pro hockey team called, you guessed it, the ice bears) fan came up to us with so much confidence that I’m assuming he knows my friend. As he gets within nearly arms reach, he takes a swing at me in what I’m thinking/hoping was his immature, high school, Macho Man Randy Savage gesture of hello. His aim is so off though that he comes within about two inches of clocking me in the face. He then giggles (not laughs, but giggles) and saunters off to go awkwardly linger around some more people who don’t know him. In those situations you can’t even get mad. Just shake your head and be glad you aren’t him. Anyway, that night made me realize that my four months living in Florence wasn’t a complete waste of linguistic knowledge. I was shockingly able to understand a fair amount of the Spanish conversation (thank you rudimentary Italian and one semester of Spanish). It also helped that the conversation would cycle through German and English as well. My brain is actually getting a fair amount better at making the switch between languages, but there’s nothing quite like the familiarity of English.

I watched a German movie this week. It’s called Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others). It received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2006 and lived up to the billing even though I missed some parts due to my insufficient German. A lot of what’s going on you can figure out from context even if you don’t know exactly what they’re saying. The importance of context never became more obvious than the time the main character was on the phone. You could tell that the man on the other line dropped a bomb of some sort but it wasn’t exactly clear to me whether it was good or bad (is he speechless because he just won an Academy Award?). They then cut to a funeral scene and I knew my answer. But all in all, I think I got the main gist of the movie, and if you want some entertainment involving the East German Stasi, I’d definitely recommend it.

German ribs are just an extension of their abs

My gym where I go bouldering has revamped all its routes for a tournament called Hardmoves (those Germans sure are creative when they use English). Twenty cities in Germany have to select their five best people to compete in the national tourney. The twenty people with the most routes done in the next month or so get to square off in some kind of tournament to determine who represents Berlin. It’s cool though, because I have every right to try these routes as the people who can actually complete them. There are essentially four levels (green, yellow, white, and black). I’ve now completed all the green routes (not a total rookie anymore). But the simple next jump to yellow is ridiculous at times. I’m really starting to realize why they call them problems. There are a fair number I can’t even fathom how one would complete them. Anyway, I look forward to seeing how many of these I can complete in the next month.

This weekend was the birthday of one of the girls in my class. To celebrate, we went out to Clärchen’s Ballhaus. If your memory is better than mine and you recognize that name, it’s because we went out there once before. At that time, I thought it felt like an 80s prom. Although it hasn’t lost that allure, it added the feel of a fiesta themed children’s party (minus the piñata and plus a whole lot of adults). Another thing it hasn’t lost. Rules. I’m talking with a friend while relaxing with my feet up after some hard work on the dance floor, and all of a sudden, I’m blinded. Someone is shining a flashlight in my eyes. After what feels like long enough to permanently damage my retinas, the flashlight is pulled away and replaced by a terrifying German man looking like he’s on the verge of a rampage. Once I eventually break his icy gaze, I realize he’s motioning with his hands for me to put my feet down. After I do this, I proceed to get one of the longest stare-downs I’ve ever experienced. Who knows what kind of damage I could’ve done to that wooden chair?

Watch your step, every step. Thanks Humboldt.

One of my dad’s friends came to Berlin this weekend while on business here in Europe. On Saturday we did a bunch of sightseeing. I know I shouldn’t complain about the weather when it’s like -85° back home, but there’s something truly awful about being on the border of freezing (mainly it’s the sleet that feels like glass shards trying to tear away your face). Anyway, we eventually made our way to Humboldt University where the likes of Einstein, Max Planck, and Marx all studied or worked. Typically, when you walk in the first thing you notice is the beautiful entryway. Not this time. Instead, it’s a balloon shark that is being flown around by a man in a wet suit and flippers. Then I also noticed the camera crew behind him. I’m still baffled as to what was going on, but I do know that somewhere out there, there is footage of me getting unwittingly attacked by a flying balloon shark. I should’ve popped the damn thing.

In other news, we started working in our problem based learning groups for the first time this week, and I have to say, I’m quite happy with my group. We work well together even with our wide variety of backgrounds (the team members are from Portugal, Ghana, Zambia, Taiwan, Nepal, and Canada). The module that we are currently doing is based on gender issues, so our input lecture is being taught by an interesting/slightly crazy German lady. Her introduction, “I am a German person unhappily teaching in Austria.” I’ve never heard someone proclaim to be unhappy in his or her first interaction others, but the honesty is impressive. I never took any feminism courses at GAC (maybe I should’ve taken Sex, Power, and Politics… apologies Alisa and Jill), so I’m not sure what these are normally like, but this was intense. She was undoubtedly captivating but scared the bejesus out of me. I’ll have to prepare mentally before our next class period.

My roommates and I have started a new tradition. It seems as though every Sunday one of us is going to make food from our home countries/any country whose food we know how to make. My French roommate made crêpes today which were magical. I’m not sure how long this tradition can and will last, but I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

Hugs and hand pounds,



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