Back in Berlin

Posted on March 4th, 2012 by

The reason I can't lift my arms up anymore...

It looks something like this

Over the course of my travels, I wasn’t able to shave. Due to this, I was a bit haggard looking. When I returned to class the first day, I was greeted by one of my classmates asking, “Oh wow. Did you spend your week off in the wilderness?” Great slam. Since then, I’ve taken it to heart to really see how out of hand I can let my facial hair get. I’m not actually sure if what I have I can call a beard, but I’m trying. “Beard” will have to suffice for now.

School is starting to get really interesting. There’s no doubt that discussing tropical diseases trumps the things we were learning earlier like biostatistics, but now even the things that should seem boring are super interesting. For example, qualitative research methods. That, to me, sounds absolutely horrendous. But somehow, our prof has made it exciting. And it’s also good to feel feel like you’re learning practical, real world relevant things.

Another German language oddity. The word Mahlzeit. It literally means mealtime, but when I go to the cafeteria for lunch, it all of a sudden becomes something like a greeting. People will wave at you, smile, and say, “Mealtime.” How does that make any sense? When this first started to happen, I would give people an odd look and then walk away confused. After careful observation of the deutschers, I’ve now come to the conclusion that you can simply respond to “mealtime” by simply saying “mealtime” right back. Now I’m substantially less awkward when this happen. Two things though that I haven’t quite figured out yet is whether this is only used in the cafeteria setting and if it’s strictly a lunch thing. Because honestly, I’ve never heard it anywhere else. German, you confuse me.

I applied for a rent subsidy from my scholarship program, because living in one of Germany’s bigger cities, the DAAD gives you extra money for the higher cost of living. This process started in December when I moved into my place, and after sending the scholarship representative all kinds of different forms and contracts and things, it finally came to an end this week. And after all that, nothing. I was simply told that there’s been a “discrepancy.” Thanks for the great explanation. You seem to always win German bureaucracy.

It's March Baby

I’ve loved Kansas Jayhawk basketball since I was stomping around Washington Elementary. But being in Europe, I don’t get my college basketball fix like I once did (the seven hour time difference proves problematic). Last Saturday though, Kansas was playing the then #3 ranked team in the country, Missouri. It was on in the afternoon in the States, so I was excited that I’d finally be able to watch a game at a somewhat normal hour. I went with a couple friends to a place called Belushi’s which is an American style restaurant/bar/hostel. I was all excited when we arrived and then saw that they were showing North Carolina vs Virginia… nooooo. How could you ESPN America? Sad and dejected we went to another bar, which was a far cry from a sports bar. But on the bright side, it was a classy, classy establishment. When you walked in, it felt like you were transported back into the 20s. The place was only lit by candles and the darkness was accentuated by the dark cherry wood that covered the walls and ceiling. I half expected the great minds of the past to be sitting in the corner discussing high flown philosophy over a martini. Much different scene from where I had been expecting to be, but it was a really good time. With that said though, I am still a bit upset that I missed Kansas coming back from 19 down to force overtime and then win by one. Rock chalk.

The good ol’ US men’s national team went to Italy this week and came out with a one goal victory. Booyah. It’s especially nice when you have Italians in your class that you then get the pleasure of making fun of the whole next day. They didn’t appreciate my jokes or my jersey, but how often is US soccer going to take down a European powerhouse? Not often enough.

The reason I can't lift my arms up anymore...

My roommate revealed to me one of Berlin’s not so hidden gems this week. It’s called Volkspark Friedrichshain. Directly translated that’s the people’s park of Friedrichshain (the borough where I live). It’s unbelievable. There were people everywhere doing all kinds of crazy things. Some people were practicing sword fighting while others were juggling. Just whatever random hobby you can think of, it was being carried out there. But the big reason we went there wasn’t for the dog park or BMX course, we went to boulder. It was my first time ever climbing outside on real rocks rather than just grabbing handholds on a climbing wall. So sweet. The boulder is a massive U-ish shaped wall of rock that probably is only like 15 feet high spray painted with all kinds of random things (example: a mouse walking down steps). The goal is to move laterally rather than up to the top. This proves to be quite difficult. On my first try, I was able to go about five feet and then already ran into trouble. You slowly have to piece together how you’re going to get to the next section. Once I had completed about the first 25 feet, I came to what is now my arch nemesis. You’re on a ledge and your next foothold (if you can even call it that when it’s literally 3 millimeters wide…) requires you to extend your leg so far that I thought I’d pulled something in my crotch region. Then comes the ridiculous part. You switch all your body weight to your right foot (which, like I said, is supported on something that’s virtually nonexistent) and then have to bring your left foot around the back of your right one in a ballerina style move. This foot then tries to seek out another small ledge below you which you can’t see and must feel for. It never found it. I probably tried this one move for over an hour. Eventually, I just moved on to the next part which forces you to become some sort of contortionist (I really need to start making offerings to the gods of flexibility). In the end, I was/am horrendously sore, but it was a great way to spend a rare sunny Berlin afternoon. This may very well turn into my summertime hangout.

I applied for a job this week. It’s at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (the WZB for short). This place is a social sciences research center where I’d be working on some kind of political science research about communitarianism and cosmopolitanism. As fancy as all that sounds, I think I’d just be reading a lot of newspapers which sounds good to me. In order to apply, I had to write a cover letter and send in a CV. A German CV. This proved fairly difficult. Possibly because I’ve never actually written a CV before. I mean a résumé takes care of most everything in the States. Anyway, in order to do this correctly, a German friend of mine sent me her CV. I was immediately surprised by the fact that you need to both give your age, marital status, and other things that would never fly in America. There was a picture as well. Am I trying to get a date or a job? Ridiculous. Well, we’ll see if they come a-knockin’.

Hugs and hand pounds,




  1. AJR says:

    The Political Science department theorists want to know more about this communitarianism and cosmopolitanism research possibility. Well, I don’t know if Jill and Lori want to know more but I do.