Montag, 15 Juni - Dienstag, 16 Juni
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Monday and Tuesday were blurs. The magic of international travel is that time is really just... lost. Anyway, I saw the sunset from the dirty airplane window and got a solid 5 hours of sleep on the way to London from Vancouver. Luckily, I had 4 travel buddies (friends from the program) that made the experience more fun and less tiring. We arrived in Berlin around 4:30pm and hopped on the bus, then the U-Bahn, to finally check into the hostel. We all got settled and buzzed about with others from our program, then headed out to find dinner. Kendra, Mira, and I decided to get currywurst, a German specialty, and after fumbling with my German conversation skills for the first time in 3 years, the meat was ours. Perfect for after a long day of travel. We went back to the hostel and blissfully, wonderfully, fell asleep. (And then promptly woke up at 3am. Like I said, time is but a floundering concept when abroad.)
Mittwoch, 17 Juni
Wednesday was our first official day of the program-- we woke up early for breakfast and then went to Humboldt to go over program logistics and get acquainted with the university. A coffee break at a café around the corner was necessary, as we were all little sacks of yawns. We went to Cum Laude for lunch and got Flammkuchen (or tarte flambée), which was delicious. After that, Manuela took us on a tour of the area surrounding Humboldt and told us about the history of buildings and landmarks. In particular, we saw a memorial to the book burning events, which was really cool, as well as the Palace of Tears, an old checkpoint for entry/exit through the Berlin Wall. We got dinner at a pasta place, which was alright, and then met up with some other members of our group for drinks. We went to Madame Claude, a lounge/bar place, and fared marginally well at music trivia!
Donnerstag, 18 JuNi
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Manuela took us on a tour around Kreuzberg, where we saw an old guard tower from the "death strip" and some other landmarks, like a swimming pool in the Spree and a huge aluminum statue called the "Molecule Man." We walked around the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park, which commemorated the lives of Soviet soldiers lost in the fight to take back Berlin. This memorial was interesting, because I can't remember ever seeing a monument that documented the lives lost at the hands of the winning, and current, society. (For example, there is no memorial that recognizes the Japanese lives lost from the US's atomic bombs.) After our tour, a small group got lunch at Amar, an Indian restaurant, and then went to class at Humboldt. Mira and I ventured to get schnitzel for dinner, which was AMAZING, and then went to an international mixer at a bar in Mitte, where we got to talk to some cool people from the Czech Republic for awhile.
Freitag, 19 JuNi
Happy Friday! Today was an early day, and the group headed down to a high school to learn more about the education system in Berlin and in Germany as a whole. This school was cool because it had progressive goals for education and a really neat approach to circumventing the sometimes harsh and unforgiving educational system of Germany. A couple Americans and I visited an English classroom and spoke with the students in English, which was a fun experience! I liked the opportunity to be able to connect and talk to other teenagers. We got döner after leaving the school, which was, as always, amazing, and then went to a café to do some work with their wifi. Mira, Kendra, and I got spätzle for dinner and then Mira and I went to the Freiluftkino (open air cinema) and saw a German movie about a man in Berlin. The movie was alright, but the experience was awesome!
Samstag, 20 Juni
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Lots of things were happening this weekend-- and Saturday was full of walking and adventuring. We started off the day by going to the gay and lesbian festival in Nollendorfplatz, the "gay neighborhood" of Berlin. The festival was just getting started, so it was easy to walk around and see all the booths and stands. After, we got schnitzel and went to the Ritter Sport factory, where I died like 10 times over. We walked around that neighborhood, which was really posh and fancy, and then headed to Museum Island, where we scoped out some museums we thought we could return to later. Overall it was a really beautiful journey and really solidified my growing love for the city. After resting at the hostel for a bit, we returned to the gay and lesbian festival where we ate delicious bratwurst, and then Kendra, Mira, and I all got our noses pierced. When in Berlin, right?
I'm also finding that my German is not as good as I had hoped... though, to be honest, I didn't expect much. I knew I would be able to order at a restaurant and generally navigate simple conversations, but I soon realized that nothing is ever like the fake conversations we learn to recite in German class. A simple "Ich möchte ein döner, bitte" is not always followed by a price and a monetary exchange, but sometimes a further question or clarification that I wasn't expecting. So far, though, I've generally fared well at conversing effectively, and have done several conversations entirely in German without a hitch. I'm proud of this-- and even when someone speaks back to me in English, so obviously aware I am not from here, I still try my best to respond in German if I can. In another world, I would be able to speak German fluently and be able to move to Berlin... but for now, a month will have to suffice.