Token Cheesy Farewell Blog Entry

As cheesy as it sounds, I can’t really believe that our last day in Dresden is already here. We’ve spent most of it cleaning, packing, and reminiscing. I can’t help but feel like I should have some feeling of finality or accomplishment, but in honesty I don’t. If anything, I just wish we could stay longer because I feel like I have so much more that I could learn by living in Germany. I’m hoping to study abroad in Erfurt next spring, so if all goes according to plan I’ll be able to spend some more time in Germany. I will be worried about getting homesick, though. I enjoyed my time here very much and I’ll definitely be sad to leave, but this is the first trip I’ve ever been on that left me feeling ultimately glad to go home. I’ve been to Europe several times before, but never for more than two weeks at a time. Living in another country for another month can be pretty exhausting.

 

In the beginning of the month I felt American tourists taking an extended vacation, processing Germany through an American filter. But over time, we began to live and think like Germans (which I’ve heard from several people is the best indicator of real progress in learning another language, so I’m completely okay with that). It may be a little strange coming back processing America through a German filter.

 

Learning more about the German culture really helped me appreciate certain aspects of American culture, such as how meals don’t need to take up an entire evening or how almost all restaurants have free Wi-Fi. I’m also really looking forward to seeing the sun again (it was cloudy every day except for our day in Leipzig and today—we’re definitely getting some much needed Vitamin D).

 

All in all, we had a great trip. We saw beautiful architecture, ate interesting food (not always good food—never, EVER order Pflecke if you value your taste buds), and made new friends. As fun as it was, we’re all looking forward to coming home tomorrow. Bis morgen!

Kiwi Lanier

Die Letzte Woche

–There is an English translation below this post for others.  (Specifically, parents). –

Wir haben eine Woche mehr, also, vier Tage, vor wir nach Hause fliegen.  Für drei Wochen habe ich Deutsch bei der Goethe Institut gelernt.  Für die ganze Zeit have ich mich an viele Deutsch Wörter wieder erinnert, weil ich keine Deutsche Klasse letztes Semester belegt habe.  Ich glaube, dass ich besser Deutsch sprechen kann und wenn andere Leute Deutsch sprechen kann ich besser verstehen.  Die Sprache ist sehr schön hier und es gibt Frohlichkeit wenn ich es verstehe.

In dieser letzte Woche glaube ich, dass wir viel zu tun haben.  Vier Tage sind nicht so viel Zeit und es ist fast wie wir nur ein bisschen gemacht haben.  Im Allgemeinen, kann ich nicht warten nach Hause zu fliegen.  Ich vermisse meine Familie aber ich weiß, dass wenn ich zu Hause bin, werde ich nach Deutschland fliegen wollen.

Ich kann nicht glaube, dass wir nur vier Tage in Dresden haben.  Hoffentlich können wir viel tun bevor wir nach Hause fliegen müssen.

The Last Week

–This is the English translation of the second-grade level German entry from above.–

We have one more week, well, four days, before we fly home.  For three weeks, I’ve been learning German at the Goethe Institut.  Most of the time, I’ve been remembering German words because I didn’t take a German class last semester.  I think that I’m speaking better German, and when other people speak German, I’m understanding better as well.  The language is beautiful here, and there is a sense of happiness when I can understand it.

In this last week, I feel we have so much to do.  Four days is not much time, and it’s like we have only done a little during our trip.  In general, I can’t wait to fly home.  I miss my family, but I also know that when I do get home, I’ll want to go back to Germany.

I can’t believe that we only have four more days in Dresden.  Hopefully, we can do more before we have to fly home.

-Bailey

Dresden: It’s Like Montgomery, But With Snow and Without Smiling

This German adventure has been the longest stint of my (Andrew’s) corporeal existence spent outside the familiar confines of Alabama. I’ve taken trips all over the eastern half of the good old USA, but never for this duration and never abroad. Besides the obvious differences of language and culture, I’ve noticed a few things that have repeatedly made me shake my head in wonder.

First, and most obvious, is the difference in attitudes towards snow. Last January, when I was taking an education class for interim, school closed for three days when it snowed in Birmingham. The city virtually ground to a halt as it clumsily puzzled through unburying itself from perhaps two inches of snow. Here in my three weeks so far in Dresden, it’s snowed at least three times – and no one batted an eyelid. I think maybe a few pedestrians opened their umbrellas, or perhaps put on pairs of gloves, but life in the city center was utterly unimpeded. Public transportation continued to run on time, and not a single class in the Goethe Institut was cancelled. I like to joke about how hot Alabama’s climate is, but this experience has made me think that I might need to step up the hyperbole.

Second is the tea. I haven’t yet found a single glass of sweet iced tea. The south-Alabamian’s taste in tea is singular: the word “tea” unerringly connotes “pre-sweetened iced black pekoe tea.” In most of the rest of the world, Dresden included, “tea” is a mass noun akin to “sandwich” – you can’t simply ask for one without being asked to specify what you actually want. I can’t really complain, I suppose, since the difference is positive: the German food culture is enhanced by the variety.

Lastly, and most personally jarring, is the difference between behavior in public. In the South, everyone is friendly at all times in public. I don’t intend to impute a certain saintliness and general love of people, but it is certainly a facet of our culture that people smile and greet each other, even if strangers. I can smile at someone shopping next to me in the grocery store, or ask a cashier how their day is going, and it’s perfectly acceptable and in fact expected. This is not so in Germany: I can count on one hand the number of people who have smiled back at me in public (I, of course, smile at everyone). During our first week here, I tried several times to greet shopkeepers with a meaningless but polite, “How are you today?” I soon stopped because the only replies were confusion and incredulous looks. In Germany, I was later told, one simply doesn’t ask such questions to a stranger; Germans treat them as serious inquiries rather than politeness and ask them only to personal friends. t don’t ascribe this to any national unfriendliness in the German character, but rather a sharper distinction between “friend” and “stranger.” With their friends, Germans can be as friendly as anyone else on Earth, but the studiously but civilly ignore someone to whom they have not yet been introduced.

Though I’ll certainly be sad when it comes time to pack my bag and leave this foreign land, I’ll jump for joy when someone finally replies with a smile and a pleasant, “Fine, how are you?”

Grammar and Culture – English Translation

For all the people who don’t know German, here’s a translation of what I just wrote. (Here you go, Mom.)

In my class we talk about almost everything! Every day we do grammar, writing, and speaking exercises. We even write hypothetical letters to our teacher and often read German newspapers and magazines. We often have to orally summarize the articles (which is harder than it sounds!). I wanted to study German in Germany so I could improve my pronunciation in the best possible environment. My  pronunciation sounds like an American girl trying to speak German. However, I want it to sound more like real German.

Sometimes the grammar exercises are a bit difficult for me because I haven’t really had much official grammatical training. But I have read and spoken a lot of German. I tend to follow the rules whenever I’m speaking or writing, but I don’t know the reasons behind the rules (and sometimes even what the rules are). I’m taking a German grammar class next semester so hopefully all of my questions can be answered.

Frau Peters tries to emphasize the culture as well as the language itself in class. She shows us words that you could never learn out of a textbook. Like “Klatschtante” or “Pedant.” A Klatschtante is normally a woman, which is why the end says “-tante” (aunt) instead of “-onkel” (uncle). Even if you’re talking about a man, you still say “-tante” at the end. A Klatschtante is someone who wants to know everything about everyone’s lives-they crave and create gossip. A Pedant is someone who has to have everything just so (and when they don’t get it their way, there’s hell to pay). It can also mean a person who needs to have everything very clean and organized.

It’s really worthwhile to learn these words. You can take German courses and you can do all the classwork correctly, but there are some things you just don’t know because you yourself aren’t German. Just like in America, there’s a cultural background that anyone who’s trying to learn German will miss out on simply by not being German. Now I sympathize a little bit more with people who learn English as a second language. In America there are plenty of stories, stereotypes, and colloquialisms that everyone knows and uses but we tend to take them for granted. When I return to America, I’m going to try to watch out for those things more just to see what happens.

-Kiwi Lanier

Grammatik und Kultur

In meiner Klasse sprechen wir über Gott und die Welt! Jeden Tag machen wir viele Grammatik-, Schreiben-, und Sprachaufgaben. Wir schreiben hypothetische Briefe an unserer Lehrerin und wir lesen oft von deutschen Zeitungen und Zeitschriften. Wir müssen sehr oft die Artikeln mündlich zusammenfassen (schwerer als es klingt!). Ich wollte Deutsch in Deutschland studieren, damit ich meine Aussprache in die beste Atmosphäre verbessern könnte. Meine Aussprache klingt wie eine Amerikanerin, die Deutsch sprechen können will. Aber ich will, dass mein Deutsch wie echte Deutsch klingen kann.

Manchmal sind die Grammatikaufgaben ein bisschen schwierig für mich, weil ich nicht so viel Grammatik gelernt habe. Ich habe viel Deutsch gesprochen und viel gelesen. Meistens schreibe und spreche ich in Befolgung der Regeln, aber leider kenne ich nicht die Regeln und die Gründe dafür. Nächste Semester werde ich einen Kurs in Grammatik belegen–hoffentlich wird alles erklärt.

Frau Peters versucht, nicht nur die Sprache sondern auch deutsche Kultur zu unterstreichen. Sie zeigt uns Wörter, die man von keinem Lehrbuch lernen könnte. Wie eine “Klatschtante” oder ein “Pedant.” Eine Klatschtante ist normalerweise eine Frau, deswegen sagt man “-tante” statt “-onkel.” Aber wenn man über einen Mann spricht, sagt man “Klatschtante” noch. Klatschtante bedeutet jemand, das alle über die Leben der Anderen wissen will- sie verbreiten Klatsch. Ein Pedant ist jemand, das alle immer nur so haben kann- und wenn es nicht geht, wird alles schlecht. Es kann auch ein Person, die alle sehr sauber und organisiert haben muss.

Es lohnt sich, diese Wörter zu lernen. Man kann Deutschkurse belegen und alles richtig machen, aber wenn man kein Deutscher ist, dann geht man ohne den Kulturhintergrund, die alle Deutschen als gegeben ansehen. Jetzt sympathisiere ich mit Leute, die Englisch als Fremdsprache lernen. In Amerika gibt es viele Geschichten, Vorurteilen, und gemeinsprachliche Dinge die wir jeden Tag benützen aber nie merken. Wenn ich wieder nach Amerika komme, werde ich vielleicht aufpassen, diese Dinge zu merken.

Kiwi Lanier

These photos are several taken from our first tour of the Altstadt (Old City) in Dresden.  Some of the buildings seen are the Frauen Kirche, the Semperoper, the statue of August der Stark (August the Strong), and the Catholic Church that August the Strong built while he was king.  The city is around 800 years old, but most of what we see now has been restored due to the bombing of Dresden during the WWII.

Food Culture Across the Pond

After working as a waitress at a German deli and bakery this summer, I assumed that the food in Dresden wouldn’t surprise me.  However, as I quickly discovered, I had more to learn than I could have imagined.  The food culture in Germany, and Europe in general, took me completely by surprise.

My first week in Germany, I barely noticed what I ate.  The days blurred in a sort of jet-lag stupor that left most food unappetizing as I struggled to adjust to the seven-hour time change.  When I finally became aware of my surroundings, I first noticed all of the bakeries that dotted the streets every twenty feet.

The Germans love their pastries and breads.  There is bread included in every meal.  Cakes and a variety of sweet pastries are baked and sold at an incredible rate.  I have a large sweet tooth, so on finding myself surrounded by bakeries, I decided to take it upon myself to try as many sweets as possible.  An Amerikaner, which I’m currently eating, and a Streuselschnecke, which is something Kiwi takes upon herself to buy almost everyday during our break between classes, are some of the simpler pastries that I’ve eaten.  As expected, they’re all delicious.

Beyond the sweet side of the bakery, there are the breads.  Bread is everywhere, and its popularity is obvious.  It is reasonably priced, and it appears on almost every dish in every restaurant.  Delicious?  Yes.  Does it get boring after a week?  Mmm… probably.

Bread, potatoes, and wurst (sausage).  All of these are the base ingredients of many dishes.  They’re very filling and tasty, but finding food that doesn’t include these three ingredients is difficult.  Most vegetables and fruits rarely appear in restaurants, and our group often goes to the nearby supermarket for apples, bananas, carrots, and yogurt.  However, despite the seemingly unhealthy diet, there is no problem with obesity here.

The Germans’ eating habits also caught me by surprise.  They drink beer with lunch and dinner, which typically consists of meat, potatoes, and/or sauerkraut.  As the stereotype goes, the Germans love their beer.  Almost every place we went to eat had their own microbrewery that allowed them to serve their own original drink.  After class, our group, along with several people from England, would go out to some new restaurant to eat.  Locals who stopped by would order their meal and a beer before heading back to work until closing time.  The Goethe Institut is even planning a field trip to a brewery.  Coming here, I just didn’t expect the beer-stereotype to be so completely supported by the everyday lives of the people.  However, I’ve found myself proven wrong again and again.

The final aspect of the food culture would be the amount of time taken to eat the food itself.  Dinner is at least a two and a half hour event, and that’s only if you pressure the waiter or waitress to bring you the check so you can pay.  It could possibly just be a European aspect of dining that I was just unaware of, but comparing it to American dining, eating at a restaurant is a new experience.

The server first arrives to take your drink order, which usually would consist of the table ordering a round of beers or something like that.  After returning with the drink order, the food order would be taken.  Not too different from an American restaurant, right?  Then comes the waiting.  Food takes longer to get to the table than in America.  Here in Germany, they aren’t trying to serve you food as quickly as possible, so they can fill up the table you’re occupying with the next customer.  They’re giving you plenty of time to order more drinks and chat with those you’re sitting with.  When the food finally arrives, you’re starving, and whatever was on your plate disappears at an alarming rate.

Then more waiting.  I sometimes feel like it’s a stand-off between us and the server.  The server waits for us to get his or her attention for more orders of drinks or dessert, and I wait for the server to bring me the check, which usually won’t happen unless  you ask.

In the end, dinner is a long process, and eating at a restaurant is a lengthy, though quite unique, experience.  This process gave us the chance to get to know the other students in our classes, who come from all over the world.  England, New Zealand, Brazil, and Argentina are just a few of the places where our classmates come from.  With all of the extra time at dinner, conversations pick up all around the table.  Our pathetic attempts at communicating strictly through German are patched with English and Portuguese, but we have fun, despite the fact that we only understand about 85% of the conversation.

Food culture here in Germany is unique and very different from America.  From the way the restaurants operate to the freshly-baked pastries, there is a sense of enjoying the food you are given, not just in taste, but in atmosphere as well.  Eating and drinking is a large social aspect of the Germans lives.  They don’t rush through a meal; they savor it and the company around them.   Perhaps this has something to do with the lack of obesity here in Germany.  It’s not completely what you eat, it’s how you eat it.

 

-Bailey

Skeletons in the Closet: Tolerance and Nervousness in America and Germany

The thing I like best about my class is that it not only addresses the grammatical aspects of the German language, but also that Frau Peters also educates us about German culture (usually by means of unintentionally long yet incredibly insightful tangents). She uses German newspapers a lot in class because it ties together proper use of German and information regarding current issues in Germany and Europe. There are four tables with three to four people each in my classroom. Each person would find an article to read and then tell the other people at the table about what the article had said. Frau Peters would wander silently and listen to the explanations, occasionally sitting down at a table to join in the conversation.

She came to our table as a thirty-something Brazilian named George was attempting to summarize his article to us. Frau Peters then proceeded to tell us about terrorism in Germany and its social consequences. What I found most interesting were her observations regarding German nationalism post-WWII. She told us that after the horrors of WWII, it was essentially taboo for a German citizen to assert his pride in his country. Germans were so ashamed of what they had done and what they had allowed others to do that they couldn’t openly talk about the positive aspects of being German. Only after the fiasco of the 1972 Olympics could Germans quietly compliment their homeland, since many people from other countries had traveled to Munich for the Olympics. Milena, a Brazilian university student that also sits at my table, asked Frau Peters whether or not Germans openly discuss Hitler, the Holocaust, and the German role in the war. Frau Peters asserted that Germans will openly discuss these issues but Austrians will not. She said that during the war Austria was much more enthusiastic than Germany was about Hitler and his plans. Asking about Austria and the war is an unspoken no-no in Germany’s downstairs neighbor.

Last week I talked about the differences between American and German culture and the impact of stereotypes. Germany’s attitude of the horrors of WWII strikes me as similar to the attitude of southerners after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and, more generally, in response to stereotypes people may believe about southerners. Although we grew up in different states, Bailey and I both remember having a very tolerance-heavy reading curriculum in elementary, middle, and high school.  Both the south (especially Alabama) and Germany are both trying to simultaneously erase their embarrassingly public acts of intolerance while nervously trying to build a more tolerant, rational future. And frankly, I’m glad. The cultural nervousness that emerged first in the 1950s in the U.S. as a reaction to WWII is showing up in increasing ultra-conservatism. Germany wants absolutely nothing to do with war of any kind (although it occasionally offers financial support) and openly displays anti-xenophobia commercials on streetcars. Understanding German and American culture as separate, differing entities is easy for both sides, but the similarities they share strike me as almost uncanny.

-Kiwi

Adventure, Week 2

This entry begins in German, and an English translation follows immediately below.

 

Hier will ich (Andrew) den zweiten Teil von meinem Abenteuer nach Dresden erzaehlen.

Klassen sind toll, aber heute muessten zwei von uns wieder nach Hause (ie, London und Moskau) gefahren. Es war ein bisschen traurig, aber wir sind noch froh, neue Freunde zu treffen.

Ich habe jetzt einen groessen Bericht von die Kultur Deutschland als frueher, weil wir viel letztes Woche gemacht haben.

Am Samstag gingen wir nach Meissen, eine Stadt mit einer weltbekannter Porzellanmanufaktur. Seit 1710 wurde das beste Porzellan der Welt dort gemacht. Wir haben eine Fuehrung gemacht, und die Arbeitern haben uns den Prozess gezeigt. Auch haben wir ein bisschen von der Geschichte Meissens gehoert. Die Stadt wurde am 10th Jahrhundert gegruendet, und dort gibt es ein Schloss, Albrechtsburg, wo es in den Mittelalter die Grenze zwischen Sachsen und die Slawen gab.

Am Montag waren wir in die Gruenes Gewolbe. Da gibt es viele verschiedene Sachen, das die Kurfuersten von Sachsen gesammelt haben. Es gibt viele wunderschoene Ringe, Tassen, und andere Schaetzen. Ich habe mich nicht so viel fuer die Gruenes Gewolbe interessiert, weil alles mir uebermaessig geschienen haben.

Am Donnerstag ging ich in der Oper. In Dresden liegt der Semperoper, ein vor der beste und bekannteste Opern der Welt. Ich und viele von meine neue fremde Freunde haben “Die Zauberfloete” von Mozart gesehen. Das war einfach ausgezeichnet. Mozart war ein Genie. Ich ging nie in der Oper, obwohl ich viele Male Opermusik gespielt habe. Es war sehr interessant, Musik in eine Fremdsprache zu hoeren: es gibt viele Sprachen, und ich kenne nur zwei, aber jeder versteht Musik. Ich konnte in Dresden, Alabama, oder noch Neuseeland sein; “wo” war nicht wichtig.

Das Musik erinnert mich, das obwohl es viele, grosse, und verschiedene Unterschiede zwischen die USA und Deutschland, wir sind alle nur Mitmenschen. Deutschland hat eine Kultur, davon ich nicht so gut verstehe, aber das Musik ist eine starke Verbindung.

Morgen fahren wir nach Leipzig, wo Johann Sebatian Bach gearbeitet hat. Hoffentlich werden wir ein tolles Abenteuer haben.

________________________________________________________________

Today I (Andrew) want to explain the second part of my adventure to Dresden. Classes are great, though today two of us had to go back home (that is, London and Moscow). It was a little sad, but everyone was happy to have met new friends.

Now I have a bigger report of the culture of Germany than earlier, since we’ve done a lot this past week. On Saturday we went to Meissen, a city with a wold-renowned porcelain factory. Since 1710 the best porcelain in the world has been made there. We took a tour, and the workers showed us the process. We also heard a bit of the history of Meissen. It was founded in the tenth century, and there is a castle, Albrechtsburg, where the border between Saxony and the Slavs was in the Middle Ages.

On Monday we went to the Green Vault, where there are many things collected by the Electors of Saxony. There are many beautiful rings, cups, and other priceless treasures. I was not particularly interested in the Green Vault; it all seemed a bit excessive to me.

On Thursday I went to the opera. In Dresden is the Semperoper, one of the most famous and best operas in the world. Many of my new foreign friends and I went to see “The Magic Flute” by Mozart; it was simply amazing. Mozart was a genius. I’ve never been in the opera, even though I’ve played opera music many times. It was very interesting to hear music in a foreign language. Many different spoken languages exists, and I only know two of them. Everyone, however, understands music. I could have been in Dresden, or Alabama, or even New Zealand for all it mattered: “where” was no longer important. The music reminded me that despite the many, great, and varied differences between the USA and Germany, we’re all human. Germany has a culture that I don’t understand so well, but the music was a powerful connection.

Tomorrow we are going to Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach worked. Hopefully it will be yet another great adventure.

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