Monthly Archives: February 2008

ok, ok, ok berlin

Bryant, how do you know Italian?

Berlin… i’ve been emailing like a fiend for what feels like forever, but i will do my best adesso:

I arrived in Berlin Wednesday, got off the train, jumped into Katie’s arms, and then prepared for what promised to be a happenin’ party. The Berlin Film Festival was going on, and that was the night of Madonna’s film’s premiere, and Katie’s friend Adam is a un fanatico di Madonna (no joke). He waited by the red carpet with Tara (another friend of Katie’s) for something like three hours, in the cold, standing. And according to him it was TOTALLY worth it, because they did in fact see Madonna at a very close distance. At this point, I think that I was eating a sandwich with Katie on some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. Here’s some news: Italian bread is far inferior to German bread, and this is a humbling realization given the post I already wrote about Italian bread (you know, it doesn’t come sliced…). This bread was covered in seeds of some sort, and it was made with really hearty wheat, and then it had whole hazelnuts throughout! Seriously incredible. I wish we had real wheat bread here. I wish that I could use footnotes here. I wish I didn’t love to digress so much.

So ANYWAY. Katie skips out on red-carpet-Madonna-stalking to meet me, but that’s no big deal because we’re all going to go Madonna-stalking at this swank club that’s throwing a Madonna party. Ridiculous? Maybe. Later I learned that Paris Hilton partied at this same club. Was I impressed in spite of myself? Definitely. The club was pretty absurd: it had an all-white interior, a flat screen projector thing playing only Madonna music videos, and exorbitantly expensive drinks. What was really cool, though, was the upstairs lounge that we found that I think was supposed to be reserved for special clients. It was all huge white couches with curtains that you could draw around them, and there were these couples just being obscene all over the place, and then there was us (the five youngish, clearly less-rich Americans just hanging out). That was pretty cool. Madonna never came, though, and after a while we realized that really it was kind of a wierd group of people to try to mingle with. It was kind of hard to tell, what with the club being dimly lit and everyone being German, but I think it was probably 90% men, 95% of which were gay. Regardless, the dancing was dangerous, so we left. We got a kebab, and a night bus, then we walked home and went to bed.

The next day was Valentine’s Day. We celebrated by making dinner with heart-shaped ingredients. I cut red peppers into hearts, and Laura van Gerpen (another friend of Katie’s from Macalester) cut potatoes into hearts we combined that and some other stuff into a soup. We also had an ice cream called “Erste Liebe,” which means first love. It had heart-shaped chocolate chips in it (niccccce touch).

FRIDAY we did a huge tour of ALL the sights (more or less). We started at the Marx and Engels statues, made funny faces, then walked all the way to the Brandenburger Tor. There were museums, churches, monuments, etc. along the way. The most impressive thing was probably the Neue Wache, which was for the innocent victims of war. It was large stone room-building — not quite a building, but definitely larger than a room — and completely empty except for this kind of blob-like statue of a woman in the middle. I’m describing it poorly, but it was quiet and empty and sad. There was also a memorial in the square where they burned books pre-WWII which was interesting. It’s underground, and you stand over a window that looks into it and all you see is a room lined with empty bookshelves. There’s also a plaque with a quotation by a famous German thinker whose name I can’t remember (and I’m sure I should, so if you know it please help me out) which says something along the lines of “Where they burn books, they will next burn people.” I know I’m off in the exact words, but that’s the gist of it. We also saw this CRAZY sculpture by an American inside a bank. I know it’s bad that I can’t remember the name of the sculpture, the artist, or the bank, but I was there (really), and it was cool.

I also drank a delicious milchkaffe (milk-coffee). It is have coffee and half milk (maybe cream) and lots of sugar. And unlike Italian coffee (strong but small), it came in a BIG mug. Oh, it was nice to sit and drink it slowly.

That night we met up with a friend of Renee’s from Wesleyan who is also studying/working abroad in Berlin this semester! It was a crazy chain of friends. Katie’s apartment is over the Shark Bar (the Haifischbar?), so we met there. We battled with some crazy German yuppies who were angry at us for taking their extra chair, then decided we were too tired to go out. Instead, we booked it over to the local grocery store and frolicked in the dairy section. I’m not kidding. My obsession with European yogurt is not a laughing matter anymore. Oh! And they had really strange but good kinds in Germany. One company rotates their yogurt flavor of the month, and February’s was almond-flower-vanilla-something. It was good. There was also this really sweet yogurt with puffed rice in it, which was good… You can also buy yogurt that you put little chocolate things in, but that seemed a little much to me, but Katie claims it’s good.

SATURDAY we went to a soccer game in the Olympic Stadium! The Berlin team is not very good, but the fans were still there and the atmosphere was intense. I can’t imagine what it would be like for an actually important game. Berlin ended up winning by a goal in overtime, so everyone was happy. I also learned there that German pretzels are not pretzels. They are bread-tzels. They taste like really good, crusty bread covered in salt. Then we walked around for forever, looked for food, ended up eating Chinese (not a good idea, I don’t know what it is but starting this fall I’ve been getting really bad headaches every time I eat it), went to a party, and then it started getting late and it became apparent that maybe we weren’t going to make it out to this monster-disco-club place and then Tara and I slowly but surely fell asleep in the corner while everyone else was hanging out. I woke up to Katie pointing and laughing. Then we decided to go home. It was un po embarassing.

I’m going to have embellish this last story later, but let it stand that Katie and I probably had the most hilarious conversation of all time with David/Dad/God on Sunday night. We spent the day walking around, seeing things that I had not yet seen, and ended up at this really cool building/place. It’s an abandoned factory in the middle of this neighborhood that’s kind of hip and they’ve let artists kind of move in and claim it for a huge, connected, colony-like series of studios. There were sculptors, painters, textile-type people, people making collages, and I think also a theater somewhere. Eve
rything was open for you to walk through and see them working and look at their art, the walls were covered with grafitti, and it smelled pretty strongly of pot in some places. It was really cool, but kind of eerie. Then we went to an Indian restaurant across the street. We stayed there for sooo long, talking and eating, etc. and we think that the waiter is coming to kick us out, but he tells us that someone in the restaurant has ordered us drinks. Yes! We’re all excited because we’re like “yeah, we’ve got it going on,” and then we find out who sent them. It’s an old, haggard, gross-looking American who says he’s traveling through on business, doesn’t speak German, and would appreciate speaking English for a while.

Ok, so we go talk with David for a while and pretty quickly it becomes totally obvious that he is crazy as can be (we’re talking seriously crazy). He tells us his life story, about his time in the army, his three wives, his four children, his thoughts on God, his personal philosophy… everything. He has a hamster named Domino who he loves (according to him) even more than his latest wife, Zaynib. He named her Domino because his favorite Kiss song is Domino and he wanted to name his daughter Domino, but his wife suggested that he name the hamster Domino instead which wasn’t a bad idea after all because he loves the hamster so much. He and Domino eat cheese together when he returns from his business trips. He puts a cube of cheese in his mouth and has her approach and nibble at it. This guy was WEIRD. Also, he was in business in Germany to meet his boss’ lawyer because his boss was in jail in Poland and they had to arrange a wire transfer of half a million euros to make bail? We were creeped out at first and were totally ready to book it, and then we ended up staying and talking to him for probably more than an hour because he was hilarious. We finally left because I had to fly back early early early and it was already late. He gave us his email, though, so we can go visit him in Turkey if we like. That’s when he told us to call him Dad. Then he said that God is Dad, and if we wanted to call him God it was alright with him, too. It was about then that we realized that maybe it’d be better if we ran away rather than walking. We then took a bus to the U-Bahn, which stopped running literally in the time it took for us to find a bathroom at the station. Then we trekked out in the Berlin night to find a night bus which never came. Then we took a cab home.

We got back around 2:30, I went to bed at 3, woke up at 4, took a shower, and was out of there by 5. Took the U-bahn to a bus stop, got a bus to the airport, took a plane to Rome, waited three hours for the bus to Perugia, and finally got back around 4:30. It was a long day.

There is more to tell, but I can’t do it now because I’ve been typing for forever! Germany is funky and cool, and I really like all the neighborhoods and the way they seem to have grown up independent of one another. They have really strange “antiquarian” (vintage/re-sale) stores, and even stranger open-air markets where they sell Soviet Kitsch and old shoes. I never knew that I liked sausage, but I do. Streusel is amazing. There’s always more to say…

with love from kate

quick update (back in perugia, headed to oxford)

ok ok ok i have so many things to say and so little energy!

i just returned from this crazy week and half long jaunt from perugia to berlin, back to perugia for a day (thank you umbra institute for making tutorials ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY i really appreciate it!!), and then to oxford and london. i went to berlin to visit katie who is studying abroad there right now and then i went to oxford and london with maura and juliana to see the sights.

here are some highlights:

  1. oxford: feeling historical, thinking about authors, seeing christchurch (yes! harry potter!), getting emotional about books. also, in the dining hall of christchurch there is literally the most hilarious portrait i have ever seen of anyone. it’s of john locke, and he has a big forehead, a receding hairline, extravagantly poofed white hair, very pale skin, and then smack dab in the middle of his face is the biggest shnozz to have ever existed. (schnozz?) i looked at that and laughed laughed laughed. then i remembered that his political theories were responsible in large part for our constitution, government, way of life, etc. and i respectfully left.
  2. london: we totally saw wicked. yes! i have seen it before, once, in chicago, but it was like seeing something totally new. the last time i saw it glinda the good witch stole the show, but this time it was all about elphaba (the wicked witch of the west). and rightly so, it’s kind of about her. so that was incredible. before that we had this monster tourist day of seeing sights and being touristy, but sadly i didn’t get to see the tate modern! i had some fish and chips, though, as well as tasty indian food. and the best hot dog of my life. after wicked, we went bar-hopping, although pretty poorly because we met this guys on the tube who were convinced that they were going to show us a good time and even though they were proper londoners they were far more clueless than we. so we spent most of the night walking from queue to queue, and then finally maura and i split this enormous sausage-hotdog-thing and it was… incredible.
  3. berlin: soccer game. yogurt. bread-tzel. currywurst! sight-seeing. etc.

i am so tired. i can’t write anymore right now, but hopefully soon.

oh, and postscripts, because i always have second and sometimes even third thoughts.

  • happy belated valentines! i got an in-cre-di-ble goody bag from friends at school. it made me so, so happy.
  • pretty soon it’s davidson spring break. i will be here, if any of you want to visit me… just throwing that out there.
  • katie comes to visit me mid-march, then april comes, and then i have only two months left, and time is passing so quickly! i can’t even believe it. really i can’t.
  • i am very, very, very happy here.

a berliner update… bars, clubs, and european yogurt.

so yes, this is a post, but it’s more of a cliff-hanger type. i’m being verbally spastic in public places, so clearly it is time to goooo ——

tomorrow i’m going to a soccer game, and hopefully to the museum of film and television. then clubbing! if we make it. tonight we were supposed to go clubbing all night long which was a little terrifying to me because i usually make it to about two in the morning before really falling asleep. fortunately, katie and tara (katie’s good friend) also became extremely tired around 11:30, which left us just enough time to go to the kaiser grocery store and buy out the dairy section, and the flavored yogurts in particular.

for those of you who don’t know, european yogurt is actually to-die-for. really and truly (proprio é vero!). then we made a night of it watching a television show in german and eating our yogurt with mueslix. beat that.

the television show, despite being in a language that i don’t speak or understand, was actually pretty good. the title, when translated, means “turkish for beginners,” and it seems to be the contemporary german equivalent of “my so-called life,” only this time teenage romance and angst is set against current ausslander-deutscher tensions! jah!

i have also learned some good new words, like “jah,” which you see above. “hallo” means hello, “grapefruit” means grapefruit, vodka is pronounced wodka, “hoegarden” is a beer and not a euphemism, and if you say “nauuur” after everything (and accompany it with some sort of head bob from bottom to top) you sound authentic. i’m working on perfect fluency at the present moment, obviously.

ok ok ok for real! more later. and good night! schönen tag!!

kate

“We knew it would hit eventually and it did.”

ok, ok, ok, for real, this is the last post of the day. here are things that are happening at davidson that are funny to be removed from and yet still know about.

  • Student Government elections (no, sorry, I won’t be at the debate, but uhh… good luck!)
  • Ice-Skating in the Union Atrium. Sara Kay forwarded me this announcement, and man do I wish I could see how they’re going to pull this one off.
ICE-SKATING IN THE UNION ATRIUM
Saturday 9P.M.- 1 A.M.
Get Pumped!
Hot Chocolate, Apple Cider and Cookies!
Brought to you by the Union Board
  • The Davidson Aviation Club? Seriously?
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company…
  • eCareers and the umpteen Resume Critiques that will be offered this week and every other.
  • Yearbook Picture re-takes.
  • Warner Hall. (confidential report: “One gem of a t-shirt read “we share our shoes but not our men” and had a picture of a pink stilleto on the front. An alarming number of girls loved it.”)

and that’s all, really.

the quotation in the title is from an email from one of our deans about a flu outbreak at davidson, which didn’t make the list because it’s not really funny. that said, “we knew it would hit eventually and it did.” (tee heee)

whooo!

that was a long one!

and for those of you who have written me a long, wonderful, satisfying email recently and to whom i have not yet responded, it’s coming. you know who you are! i know who you are! correspondence will commence pronto!!

and mom, dad: ahh!! phone tag = the death of me/us.

still.

k

follow up

to follow up on my last post, which may or may not have been incomprehensible…

So many things have happened in the last couple of weeks. Here are a few of them:

  1. I have eaten at least 5 noteworthy dinners that I could write essays about (seriously).
  2. I have made friends with people from Egypt, Sweden, Holland, and Iran.
  3. I have made plans to go to Berlin to visit Katie (Harger).
  4. I sang karaoke for the first time (ha!).
  5. I have started to learn indirect pronouns (major achievement).
  6. I went to Spoleto.
  7. I went on a date with an Italian! (albeit a short one…)
  8. bahhh!!! what else…
One of the more important things first: meeting people from different countries. I can’t even tell you what an eye-opening thing it is to be a student at the Universita per Stranieri. There are all ages, all nationalities, all walks of life — and while that sounds like a promotional advertisement for a college in the U.S., I don’t think I’m exaggerating.
I was feeling pretty homesick — enjoying myself and knowing that I needed to go abroad, but homesick all the same — until I started looking around and talking to the other students in my class and realizing how really and truly lucky I am to be here in the circumstances that I am. Meaning this: I was talking to Ibrahim, an Egyptian man, down at the caffe during “la pausa” (the fifteen minute break after an hour of class). He was asking me if I was going to stay in Italy after I finished this course and get a job, to which I was saying “No, no… it’s so hard to get a job here… I’m going to study and then go back home.” Ibrahim’s a pretty soft-spoken man and we were more or less only making small talk in the first place, but when he heard this he got mad, visibly mad, at me. What he said to me was this: “It’s not hard to find a job here in Italy. You don’t know what it’s like in other countries. Here, if you work, even if it’s ten, twelve hours a day, you can make enough money to survive. Where I’m from (he’s from a smaller city south of Cairo), you cannot find a job or advance or even make enough money to live on unless you’re from a good family or you know someone in the government. I speak Arabic, English, French, and now I study Italian, but I move here so that I can make enough money to eat.” Also, as a side note, he works in the tourism industry — with all those languages, he really should be able to find a job.
A little while later I was sitting next to two Chinese men in class, and one of them was telling me that he likes Italy but the other doesn’t. “Are you going to stay?” I asked him. “Yes, I have to stay and work for the next six years.” I couldn’t get the whole story because we were both speaking broken Italian at the time, but I think what I was understanding that he needed to work in a factory for about that amount of time in order to send money back to his family.
So I got a major dose of perspective. And with that, I started feeling more of what I had already known, which is that this is the experience of a lifetime and I am one of a lucky few who gets to do this for pleasure (and study) rather than survival.
So that was kind of heavy, but I really did want to put it out there.
THAT ASIDE (here’s the part where I talk about food), OH MY LORD the food is good. One night I went to this optional group program at a restaurant called Al Mangiar Bene, which specializes in local, seasonal, and (usually) organic foods. It was sooo good, and the owner ate with us, explaining every course — history, traditions, who grows it, what is in it, etc. It was so good. There was bread and cheese, a meat platter, two kinds of pasta, a stew, tripe!, wine, and then (finally) cake and a dessert liqueur. As I rolled on out of there, I felt really, really good.
Next was Kelsey’s birthday, which we celebrated with extensive eating. I bought her the long-sought-after tub of Nutella (which we had been trying to resist for our own sakes), then we made chocolate-chip cookies (what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets). Then we went to La Osteria del Tempo Perso (“The Osteria of Lost Time”). This osteria is run by only two women: one seats and serves, the other cooks. I had bruschetta, penne with gorgonzola, and tiramisu. There was also a crepe with funghi floating around the table somewhere… and gnocchi… mmm.
Then I went on my date with the really nice, really short Gian Luca, and he took me to this restaurant by Lake Trasimeno to have Torta al Testo, which is this very traditional type of huge sandwich… crispy on the outside, warm on the inside, prosciutto and cheese or salsiccia and cheese filling. Umm… yumm.
And then Juliana’s dad visited, and they treated Maura, Kelsey, and I to this amazing five-course meal with, of all things, a pasta with pistachios. This sounds unremarkable, but it may have been one of the best pastas I’ve ever had. And warm ricotta…
And then there’s gelato…
It sounds like all I do is eat, and that’s true. Thank you, Italy.
Given that, I have learned some interesting things about food and culture, etc. For one, there is no such thing as Italian cooking (“La Cucina Italiana”) per se. There is a distinctive style of food and preparation in every region, and it has been influenced by the history and character of the people just as much as the ingredients available for use. For example, one of the culinary hallmarks of Perugia is bread without salt. Why? Because a long time ago (at one point I was told the actual time period, but I have since forgotten), the Pope tried to exercise control over the area by taxing salt, which was one of the most important items for preserving meat and making bread. The Perugians responded by eliminating it from their bread, thus sticking it to the Church, which was pretty powerful and pretty corrupt around then. Since then, they’ve kept their bread saltless out of pride. Or at least, so they say.
Eesh. There’s more to say but I’m running out of energy. Tonight’s Carnevale in Perugia and my roommate Giuseppe is PUMPED. He invited me (and Kelsey, and Maura, and basically everyone) to go a Carnevale party this past weekend right outside Perugia, and I wisely bailed at the last minute. I was really tired already, and everyone was getting so dressed up that I realized there was no way that they were coming back at a reasonable time and knowing my ability to fall asleep pretty
much anywhere, I thought that I would probably be left behind in some city center, asleep and alone. I saw Giuseppe not the next day, but the day after, and he told me that he didn’t get back until six a.m. I went to Maura’s and talked with her and her roommate until 2:30, then went to bed. I would have never made it. But tonight, on the other hand…
Also, at some point in the future, I need to write the story of what happened in Spoleto, because it’s funny. I know I’m not having a conversation, so honestly it’s just up to me to remember and not you (the reader) to remind me, but when I’m writing this all down I kind of feel like I’m having a lengthy one-sided conversation with a couple of different people. I miss you! sheesh.
oh, and let’s talk about the yogurt here. for real.
with love from kate

bah!

this is going to be a short unsatisfying post (maybe for you, but definitely for me)…

so many things happen all the time. i feel like time here, the actual passing of the hours and days, moves so strangely between walk and run. the only time that so many things have happened in such a short time with such intensity is the first month of college, i think. everything is new and everything is novel and i want to be there and do this and meet those people and then itàs the end of the week and i could write a book just about the things that have happened!

that and… two mins remain at this cafe… but i have so many stories not just of the events that belong to me, but of the people who are in my classes. they are from every where, from every background, and i feel like every day my perspective opens just this much more and something i didnàt even know i didnàt know is important and thank you for sharing with me.

thirty seconds and iàm out…
more later, and love.
kate