Arriving home from Paris, where it was in the 40s and 50s, I entered a full wintry mix. Ice, snow, sleet, freezing rain. My lovely host mother drove the normally easy 40 minutes to get me in an hour and a half. The way home was no faster.
School started up again; it was good to be back. Classes now trust and know me, they raise their hands and talk, respect me when I try to keep them on task, and always say hi to me in the hallways. It is a great feeling to see what an influence, however small, I am having on their learning experience.
Down the street , past old brick farmhouses, cows, and corn, is the Schützenverein – a sort of “country club” where you can do some pellet gun target practice and play soccer. Claudia and I pass men playing Fußball (foos-ball) and step inside the newish brick one-story building. Inside, four kids ages 8-18 are working the bar; we order an Alster (half beer half sprite) each and walk across the tiled floor to the large room next door. I was quite surprised to find myself in what resembled a brightly lit church basement; it was not at all what I pictured a “shooting club” to be like. Continue reading →
While studying in Hamburg and taking a mix of classes at the university and also ones taught by Smith professors, I took a class called “Landscapes of Northern Germany.” The class was taught by Professor Kai Jensen, who, although employed now by Uni Hamburg, used to specifically teach the class for Smith JYA students. Kai also spent a year or two teaching at Smith in Northampton with his family.
Many love stories start out the way this one did. As I walked through the park this Sunday morning, I watched two dogs chase each other. The larger one ran just out of reach of the smaller, plump, couch dog as if to say, “Nah nah na naa nah!” The owner whistled, breaking my fascination with the dogs when I heard the same notes used by my mother. I thought about how I hadn’t been running, I hadn’t even walked through the park on a Sunday in many weeks. The bitter cold 25F/-4C temperature is not that inviting, but I’d forgotten all the things it gives you as it simultaneously takes away all your body heat. You see the families, the children shrieking, the runners, the dogs, the adults- all relaxing with nowhere specific to be or rush to.
Only in Europe would you see an acquaintance or new friend naked before you get their number. I have been taking a swim technique and training class through the university and have met more wonderful people there in one lesson than I have everywhere else combined. Maybe it is because you can talk during class, there are fewer people, or we have a common interest outside of the classroom, but I think it has to do with nudity.
Sunday: After a good night’s sleep and my first cup of tea down, I feel ready to tell last night’s story. I went out to meet two 2012 Smithies. One is American, graduated from Smith, and returned to Hamburg to her clinical job she had while abroad junior year. The second is a German native who came to Smith to study American Studies for a year as a graduate student (another one of Smith’s great programs.) We had a great time chatting about everything under the sun and trying Hamburg’s own Alsterwasser (a mix of beer and Sprite, quite delicious, yet to be determined if the gluten content affects me,) and reminiscing about Smith. We live off in the same direction and took the number 3 bus together, and I got off before them to change buses. I am quite familiar with the 20/25 that I was switching to and felt fine; I knew where I was. At the stop, I had over 10 minutes to wait and wandered into the Kiosk there. I bought a tin of Turkish loose leaf Earl Grey (drinking at the moment, not the best, still a cultural experience,) and then still had time and was freezing, so I went into the Döner (kebab) place next door for Pommes (french fries). Continue reading →
It is hard to believe it has already been nineteen days. It feels like ages ago that I was in Boston at the airport. The amount that I have experienced over these days is incomparable to any other experience. As a tourist, you still live in you own bubble. When you visit a relative or friend, they know the day to day tasks and take care of you. Here, I am doing it on my own; thankfully, Smith has such an amazing well-established program with wonderful teachers who care deeply about what they do. Last Saturday we took a day trip to the Hanseatic city of Lübeck. We had beautiful weather and it was great to be in a smaller city. It made me realize that because Hamburg is so large, it has made the transition for little country-bumpkin for me a bit bigger. On a guided tour of the city, we saw Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church). Built in 1250 this church has one of the largest organs in the world and contains over 8,000 pipes- the largest can fit a full grown person inside and the smallest is the size of a matchstick. It was the home church of Buxtehude and both Handel and Bach were guest students of his. (Click to Enlarge, See Full Album Here) Continue reading →
Sundays in Germany are unlike in the U.S. Everything is closed in Germany. It is a tradition that lives on, although many say it’s fading and won’t last. People are everywhere on Sundays though, they walk, bike, relax, window shop for when the stores are open. I have even seen a furniture store advertise that it was open, but only for viewing their items- It’s illegal to sell things. I got up around 9 and made a plan to go running. I couldn’t sleep past 10 even if I wanted to because the church bells outside my window ring for a good thirty minutes. I took the bus the 3 kilometers into the city to the Alster, a river that has been dammed into a lake, and started the 7k run around the perimeter. At 10 there were a decent amount of people, but as it got later, more and more and more walkers, joggers, and bikers piled onto the path. It was incredible. I stopped (more than I would have liked to, training-wise,) to take some photos and got very excited to come back with my real camera to get some great shots. After spending two hours around the lake and the city, I have a great appreciation for it and hope to be rowing and sailing on it at some point this year. Continue reading →
After a full week, I am finally able to process everything enough for an update. Multiple times this past week I sat down at my computer to write an update, only to be confronted with a scrambled brain, frazzled by English-German and German-English, and everything else unfamiliar. Continue reading →