Monday, April 29, 2013

Gleich geht's los...

Monday, April 22, 2013

In an effort to start the week off on the right foot, I went for a morning jog through Friedenspark. Running was twice as exhausting as swimming for the first time in five months after donating blood several hours prior. I ran into (not literally) Benni at the end of the run and was too exhausted to coherently speak. Yup, I'm slowly making progress.

I was still able to walk/jump without feeling sore at this point after the run.

Nonetheless, it was a positive start to a day in honor of Monica's 23rd birthday. Class was challenging as the professor sped through her powerpoint slides (and it doesn't help that I have to look at the board several times to see that I copied the word correctly, such as Wiederaufbauhilfen or Stabilisierungsmechanismen.) Following class, Amber, Moniek, Marco, and I surprised Monica with a trip to Dresden (for a later date) and Leipziger Lerchen (a Leipzig bakery delicacy). Monica's genuine expression was priceless. Later on, we met up at her dorm for some more cake from Romania. We were introduced to Monica's mother (also Monica), who was visiting for a few days. After devouring some Romanian sweets baked by Mother Monica and Monica's grandmother, we went for a birthday drink in town at the hopping restaurant, Spizz. My selection was milk and honey.

Leipziger Lerchen (exceptionally) prepared by Marco

Happy Birthday, Monica! :)
(Left to Right: Marco, Me, Benni, Monica, Moniek, and Amber)
[Benni ran into us - again - as we surprised Monica.]


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The travel bug has been itching for the past few days. With only two classes next week, it is a great opportunity to travel. Independent and eager to explore a new corner of Europe, I booked a bus to Vienna, Austria. Magda, a student in Vienna (currently in Leipzig), was extremely kind to offer her room for me to stay. I look forward to the upcoming adventure!

The rest of the day was business before play. Anastasia and I met up for our presentation about the Cold War - for several hours. The stress and anticipation of being ready to present has been slowly building up, but there is no major time crunch. I enjoyed dinner in the cafeteria with Amber, Moniek, Monica, Mother Monica, and Marco and some more Romanian birthday treats.

In the dining hall, I tried the "Hot Dog Pizza." It was a bizarre combination of wurst, pickles, and cheese. I thought it was a weird hybrid of two typical American dishes, and it was, indeed.

Once again, my Tuesday concluded in the swimming pool. It was a world of difference to swim with a full blood supply. We worked our legs, so I was happy to welcome anything but freestyle. At the conclusion of practice, I completed a 50m sprint (freestyle) in 30.1 seconds - a pleasant surprise. Of course, my day could not end in any mundane fashion. I got lost (on bike) to and from swim practice (I blame the Romanian treats because Monica always gets lost as well); nonetheless, it was a nice night tour around the Leipzig City Center that helped me make a more permanent mental note of where the swim pool is located in relation to everything else in Leipzig.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In Germany, a general rule of thumb for drinking is Kein Bier vor 4 (vier), or "No beer before 4." At my first seminar in the morning, the professor interrupted the presenter to confront students in the back of the classroom, who were consuming beer. She was so bewildered (as most of the class) that she had to comment that we should not smoke nor consume alcohol and drugs in class. The students did not have a plausible excuse, and it was not a typical start to a morning in university. The presentation went on, but the odor of beer seemed to linger in the classroom when I turned my head in the direction of the "beer academics."

Half of my classes were cancelled, which was a stroke of luck. It gave Anastasia and I enough time to prepare (about six hours) the final touches of our presentation. We prepared a Prezi presentation, an alternative to Powerpoint that zooms rather than uses slides. (Click on Prezi to view the presentation.) I haven't had so much fun in preparing for a presentation. Anastasia, a very confident and loud personality, has brought a unique dynamic to this Russian/American combo and presents a new perspective of the Cold War to me in a variety of facets.

Anastasia and I working on our presentation.

In the evening, Marco and I watched a Brazilian film (with German subtitles) - unfortunately it did not portray anything more than the slow boredom of a few hopeless romantics in a series of choppy scenes. On the other hand, I picked up quite a few words in Portuguese due to the similarities with Spanish. After the movie, we watched the end of the Dortmund vs. Real Madrid soccer game at a café - Dortmund ripped Madrid a new one, winning 4-1. The Champion's League is in full swing, and the semi-finals has two Spanish teams (Barcelona and Real Madrid) and two German teams (Bayern-München and Dortmund) competing for the title. (LET'S GO DORTMUND!)
It was a rather normal day, and for that and the people I saw, it was simply great. It was one of those genuine times where I truly was completely and content in the moment.

Fire Artist Performing outside the Café 
where everyone was watching the Madrid vs. Dortmund game.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It was time for the dreaded/nervously-anticipated presentation about the Werdauer Oberschüler. For around 20 minutes, Anastasia and I spoke about the events and political effects of this group of 19 high school students from Werdau, Saxony, who received heavy prison sentences (from 2 to 15 years) for their involvement in distributing and preparing flyers against the 1950 elections in the German Democratic Republic (from the perspective of the students and on a larger scale, the Soviet Union). I got a few laughs when I purposely spoke with a thick American accent, but Anastasia was plundered with some challenging questions on her part at the end - which was much more complex than what I presented. By the conclusion, the presentation did drag on (like the group before us), but the Prezi was a hit and it is a huge relief to be done!

Presenting the Werdauer Oberschüler 
(our classmate had fun with the "fish bowl view" setting on my camera.)

In the afternoon, Wiebke from the TCNJ/Frankfurt exchange confirmed her plans to visit in two weeks. I started a search for a mattress and in fifteen minutes, I had a guest mattress in my room. On the bulletin board in my building, I found an ad for an IKEA mattress - it was available and I took advantage of the deal! I was ecstatic to take care of business so quickly, and my friends are probably relieved that they won't have to sleep on the floor.

The evening went on and on from one good thing to the next! For dinner, Benni and I took part in a Sushi cooking course. I understood that we would be preparing the sushi and then sampling the results. Already starving at the beginning, the two hours of preparation were a test of my patience as I just wanted to eat. The sushi was extremely tasty (in part due to the food, and more that my hunger was finally curbed.)

The nicely prepared sushi. My attempt at making sushi fell into pieces.

Following the sushi, Anastasia and I met up at the Leipziger Fair (Kleinmesse) in celebration of our completed/successful presentation and as Anastasia says "our Russian/American Friendship." She came directly from a photo shoot, so we (rather Anastasia) were the center of attention - something this awkward kid is not used to. We laughed and screamed on a few amusement rides and enjoyed a few beers in between. The preparation time and celebration afterwards were certainly more fun than the actual presentation. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the time we invested in this project.

As the night was still relatively young, I met up with Marco, Monica, Moniek, Laurits (from Denmark), Magda, and Amber. When I arrived, Monica had already left to welcome her boyfriend's surprise visit (her mother left in the morning for Romania.) It was fun time as we chatted over a Tutti-Frutti flavored shisha (hookah).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Up early to welcome my first visitors to Leipzig (clarification: Wiebke will be my first overnight visitor), Svenja (from TCNJ/Frankfurt exchange) and Mike (from TCNJ) were more than punctual with the train that we jumped right into our tour of the Leipzig City Center. [For some background information, I met Svenja through the TCNJ International House. She met her boyfriend, Mike, at TCNJ, and after he graduated from TCNJ, he moved to Germany. For Svenja's birthday (April 26 - also my parents' anniversary - congrats on 27 years, Mom and Dad!), Mike gave her a trip to Dresden for the weekend. They planned a 12-hour layover in Leipzig, so it was very convenient to meet up.] We saw some familiar and new sites, including the university, the MDR TV tower, townhall, Marktplatz, Augustusplatz, and Karl-Liebknecht-Str. We had a delicious lunch and later, some ice cream on this peculiarly warm day for Spring in Leipzig. It was nice little reunion, as Svenja was sick for the most of the time when I was in Frankfurt in February.

I never saw this Golden Egg in Augustusplatz before!

Mike, Svenja, and I at the top of the MDR Tower

View from MDR TV Tower

Leipzig is known for its "Passages" - little shopping corners/ indoor alleys that intertwine through the city. Unfortunately the shopping opportunities do not cater to a university student's budget, but the window displays and artwork provide a pleasant stroll. 

Goethe Statue

St. Thomas Church
This church has two organs/pianos. In German, I said "Organ" (referring to the body) rather than "Orgal" (Orgel in German, the musical instrument) so Svenja had a witty remark, "What are they then...lungs, the heart?" 

Commerzbank Building

Johannapark

We found the American Consulate in Leipzig! Strangely enough, they do not provide any services, i.e. passport or visa help.
(I would need to go to Berlin instead). 
I have yet to see so many Fords and Chevy vehicles in one parking lot in Germany.

Around every corner in the Leipzig City Center, you can find a building 
with a unique focal point of architecture.

Albertina Library - a spectacular university library in Leipzig

 Uni Leipzig Bibliothek Albertina

Bundesverwaltungsgericht on Beethovenstr.
(Court of Federal Claims)

Leipzig has its own city tour bus. I chuckle each time I see the tourists pass by my window because I never expected Leipzig to have any sort of tourism.

Svenja was intrigued by the pedestrian crosswalk lights - 
a discrete reminder of the former East Germany.

I-House Reunion: Svenja and I on Marktplatz/ Market Square

Museum in der Runden Ecke
Stasi Museum in the Round Corner

In the evening, Benni invited a few international people over to his place. There I met Jessie, a friend of Benni that he met in Thailand - she is travelling on business from the Philippines, and Monica's boyfriend, Paul. He arrived to Leipzig in the most interesting fashion - he hitchhiked from Romania to Leipzig, Germany (about 720 miles/1,200 km). It was a fun and relaxing evening with pizza and soda. Everyone was pretty tired (from travels and an overall busy week); plus Benni, Jessie, and I had to be up at dawn for the trip to Dresden the next day.

Viele Grüße,
Matt

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Immer mit der Ruhe!

"This has been an extraordinary week:  a week of shock, fear, anxiety, and relief, as we followed the news first of the bombs exploding in Boston and the carnage there, then the news of the manhunt, and finally its conclusion." 
- Dr. Benjamin Rifkin, TCNJ Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences

In my weekly message from the Dean, I thought, "Yep! That pretty much sums up the week at home in the USA." Fortunately my weekend dragged me away from the computer to focus on the sunlight and my international friendships.

Friday, April 20, 2013

In the mid-afternoon, I worked on my History of the Cold War presentation with Anastasia. In addition to shaping a clearer focus of our project's main ideas, Anastasia googled herself to show me that she had won Miss Saxony/Sachsen (Saxony is one of the 16 German states). Furthermore, she was a contestant in "Germany's Next Top Model" - the cut-throat modeling competition show with Heidi Klum as the host. I did not realize at first that I'm working with a mini-celebrity. Nevertheless, it has been fascinating working on this project as we have spent more time debating the Russian and US perspectives of the Cold War and how those stereotypes have carried over into the respective current-day societies.

It is a common thing that I feel the exhaustion of a busy week by the time Friday or Thursday rolls around. Well, this Friday took it a step further. I called it an early night by staying in my room and finishing my "for fun" book, Jesus liebt mich (Jesus Loves Me). It was a blissful distraction to expect the thoughts and concerns of the week - and it prepared me for a wonderful 11-hour sleep.

Saturday, April 21, 2013

The sun and my mood woke up and slowly started to shine. I plowed through a history book (in German, no less), our main source of information for the Werdauer Oberschüler - the topic of this much-anticipated History presentation (to take place on Thursday!)

Around the mid-afternoon, Sara (fellow AFSer and Uni Leipzig student) invited me to hang out in the park. (It was also "Hug an AFSer Day!") Ready for a break from "power-reading,"it was the most unique of afternoons after having combined an Italian, a Norwegian, a handful of Brazilians, and an American on a crisp, sunny day in a Leipziger Park. The light-hearted conversation made the time fly by, and it only got interesting as the Brazilians presented "circus tricks" (human pyramids, handstands, etc.) that required the entire group's participation.

Into the evening, I met up with Marco for coffee. (Fun fact: I don't drink coffee, so I feel awkward using the term "coffee." Usually I have an alternative to coffee such as hot chocolate or tea, but I guess it's easiest to say "tea time" - if you're English - or KAWFEE if you're from Joisey. Can you tell I tend to think too much?) Afterwards, we joined up with Moniek and Amber for dinner at their place. Together, we prepared Fajitas. With their advanced culinary experience, I gladly assisted and washed the dishes as necessary. We began to eat with growling stomachs, and it was absolutely delicious! I think I overdosed on food (fajitas and salad) after two hours. Later on, Monica and Laurits brought the party to dinner...that quickly settled down.


Fajitas, Nachos, and Salad - YUM!
(Photos from dinner by: Amber and Moniek)

Dinner preparations
 


Sunday, April 22, 2013

Sara became my new neighbor by moving to Straße des 18. Oktober a few days ago. A few buildings over, I stopped by to check out her new apartment. Equipped with an oven (the jackpot of student-dorm living in Leipzig!), we enjoyed breakfast with some freshly baked bread along with honey, fruit, and cheese.

Later that same day, Sara needed to pick up her bicycle from her old apartment (on the outskirts of Leipzig.) The journey turned into quite the adventure - we biked around a nearby lake, enjoyed ice cream in the sunshine, and scooted through sections of Leipzig that were completely new to me. We went to Grünau (a quiet and residential section with many supermarkets), explored Plagwitz (a more urban and "grittier" section of the city), and made our through Clara-Zetkin-Park, the green lung of Leipzig. Thanks to this day, Sara expanded my knowledge of Leipzig threefold! Plus, it was AWESOME to take advantage of such a beautiful day on this 12-mile bike adventure.

Prager Strasse

Ice cream in Grünau

Nutella, Mint Chip, Vanilla flavors while soaking up the sun by the lake. 
(Only the northern coast of Germany has salty seas, so most Germans settle for the nearest lake.)

I was concerned my sun-deprived, white-as-heck skin would already get sunburnt.

Water sport was already in full throttle.

A friendly duck.

Biking around the lake

Sara and I - in case my sweatpants didn't spell it out for you already. ;)

Plagwitz Canal

lt has really been the difference of a year that I NOW find street art/graffiti to be just way too cool.



 Further along the Plagwitz Canal

Colorful Bridge in Clara-Zetkin Park

Clara-Zetkin Park

Härtelstr. (nearby Uni Leipzig)

Karl-Liebknecht-Straße (or Karli) - the street with all the nighttime fun!

Strasse des 18. Oktober - where I call home in Leipzig
(with the new townhall visible in the rosy skies.)

May this week be full of smiles, happiness, and less stress... Viel Spaß und Glück!

Alles klar,
Matt