Ada Abroad: Living and Working in Germany

An online journal recording two years spent as a Fulbright/Pedagogical Exchange Service Teaching Assistant at secondary schools in Germany. (2003-2004 I was in a village near Bautzen; 2004-2005 I will be in Nordrhein-Westfalen.)

Location: Münster, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

I'm an American living in Germany, working as a foreign language assistant at a secondary school. Future plans: getting my Ph.D. (probably in Germanic Linguistics), becoming a professor, living an ethical and meaningful life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

And How Close are YOU with Joe McCarthy?

Packing is pretty much done. The only things I haven't packed yet are my toiletries and a few other items that I really won't be able to put away until Wednesday morning.

Oh, since I forgot this in my last entry: Congratulations to my dad, who sold his first car on Saturday! It was a Big Stupid SUV (is there any other kind?), but we'll forgive him for that. After all, he just sold the thing, he didn't design it. --This is why I personally could never sell cars. A customer would approach me about purchasing a Yukon or some damned thing and I would say, "Do you realize how much your purchase of this vehicle would contribute to global warming? Have you considered just getting a bicycle?"

In other news, the Rotarians are stupid. Ok, that was a little too general. To rephrase, allow me to say that the specific Rotarians who passed up my friend KK for a scholarship award are stupid. Profoundly, criminally stupid. She was, if anything, overqualified for the award-- speaks fluent German (she wanted to study in Graz, Austria), outgoing, confident, a good student, etc. She even made contact with an academic there who was willing to work with her!

We think that they may have discriminated against her for political reasons.

In her interview, she was asked, "What would you like to see change in America?" So, KK mentioned improved funding for education and health care. A safe enough answer, so it seemed. But then, the Head Rotarian (a rich, old, WASPy guy) glared at her and asked, "And how are you going to pay for that?" To which KK answered, "Taxes." (This was the wrong answer. The correct answer would have been: "Bomb some countries in the Middle East back into the Stone Age and take all their oil.") So, the Head Rotarian asked KK just how close she was with Josef Stalin.

At the time she thought he was kidding. Now she's not so sure.

Anyhow, KK and I hung out for what will probably be the last time for ten months tonight. First we went to the batting cages so she could pretend that some softballs were Rotarians, then we went out for ice cream. I had a good time.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Preparing to Pack

I know that I said I'd be updating every day until I leave for Germany, and I didn't post anything either yesterday or the day before... I'm sorry. I've just been really, really busy. I hope that's understandable! Only two days left in Michigan now...

So here's what's up.

-I visited my friend IA at her house on Saturday. IA was a Fulbright Student back in the day (1987 I think?), in the pretty Hessian town of Marburg. She showed me a bunch of pictures from her Fulbright year, and offered me some very good advice: namely, to keep in touch with the friends I'll make over there!

-Finally finished with Das siebte Kreuz!

-Both of the Hostelling International youth hostels in Koeln are booked up for the four nights I'll be spending there... Apparently the other Teaching Assistants were savvier than I and reserved their beds more than three days in advance. So I'll probably stay at a private hostel instead, or maybe even a bed and breakfast (provided that's not too expensive).

And the agenda for today? Packing, packing, packing! As soon as my laundry is done I'm going to start loading up my suitcases. My friend KK (who spent a year as an exchange student in Hamburg) recommends "vacuum packing" my clothes in sealed freezer bags. I'll try that-- hopefully it will help me save some space. Now, if only I could find some way to make my massive Harper-Collins German-English English-German Unabridged Dictionary take up less room (and weigh less). Freeze drying, perhaps?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

More Goodbyes

I'm just about finished with Das Siebte Kreuz. Six more pages to go! Actually, I have finished the main body of the text, which I very much enjoyed. Now I'm working on the afterword. After that, I'll probably take a break from German books-- until I arrive in Germany, at which time I plan to begin Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. This will be a long project. It's about 800 pages long, and Mann's Der Tod in Venedig, which had only 110 pages or so, took me over a month to read. The nineteenth-century vocabulary makes it very difficult indeed.

I drove to Ypsi today to return some books that I borrowed from a TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) professor back in April. While I was there I thought I'd check to see whether my favorite German Literature professor (ID) was in her office, since they share the same building. Well, she wasn't in her own office-- but I did catch her emerging from a meeting in the other German prof's office! I had hoped to talk with her about my upcoming teaching assistantship-- ID knows something about Fulbright Teaching Assistantships in Germany, since she was a Fulbright TA in Bielefeld way back in 1990. Besides, she's the person who suggested that I apply to begin with and who guided me through the application process.

Unfortunately, ID was too busy to talk because she's frantically preparing a manuscript for publication. But, she did have time to wish me good luck and give me a goodbye hug. So it wasn't a total loss.

I'll miss ID. Whereas with my little brother I thought, "Who will I rip on now?", with ID I think, "And who's going to pick on me?"

After that I walked over to our campus' main classroom building to say goodbye to my syntax prof. (I looked for my other linguistics profs, too, but they weren't in their offices.) He was also extremely busy, but we chatted briefly. Unfortunately our conversation was repeatedly interrupted by blasts of horrible noise. The noise was supposedly caused by tests of the fire alarm system, but I suspect that they were actually testing those new sound-based weapons that the NYPD are planning to use against people who protest at the Republican National Convention...

Then I drove home and let my pet coyote out of her cage. She acted like she'd just been liberated from the Bastille.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Current location: parents' house (Canton, Michigan, USA)

The first couple of posts here (see below) were already published somewhere else; apologies to those of you who had to read them twice! At any rate, my preparations are still humming along. New developments:

-All locks have been purchased.

-I updated my resume, packed up the books I'm having shipped and took my photos in to be developed.

-I said goodbye to my brother this evening. My little brother (ok, so he's ten inches taller than me-- he's still three years younger, dammit!) left to go back to college tonight. (He's renting this truly hideous house in the happening town of Big Rapids, Michigan. It has multicolored shag carpenting in every room, kitchen inclusive, and wallpaper with brown flowers.) Since his classes start on Monday and he's working Saturday, it's very doubtful that he'll be coming home again before I fly to Europe. So I won't see him for about 10 months. (He says that he'll visit me in Germany if he can find a way to drive there-- the kid hates to fly. Also if I'll rent a car in my own name and let him drive on the Autobahn at 190 mph.) Jeez, that's weird. Who am I going to rip on?

To Do List:
1. Mend pants!
2. Pack!
3. Get mom's name on savings account for emergency purposes.
4. Finish Das siebte Kreuz.

On the surface this may look somewhat less daunting than my previous to-do lists, but the packing will be quite a major job.

Oh! A note on the time signatures. I have them set to German time-- I'm not a night owl, really. To determine what time I actually posted an entry (while I'm still in the US), subtract 6 hours.

Too Much to Do

This entry is essentially another Fulbright preparation update. I hardly have time to think about anything else, so I certainly don't have time to write about anything else!

It turns out that I don't need to buy insurance after all. My laptop and recording equipment are already insured through my parents' AAA Homeowners' Insurance policy. They'll insure my luggage up to $3,000. This is a relief!

Nor do I need to bring extra carry-on luggage. My laptop case counts as "personal item." As long as I can fit my purse into my backpack with my recording equipment (and as should be able to, since it isn't a large purse), I'll be fine.

Travelers' Checks have been taken care of. However, I'll wait to exchange my cash for Euros until I'm in Germany, since I'd get a better rate there.

I have a horrible case of insomnia. I've gotten less than 7 hours sleep each of the last three nights. I realize that this wouldn't be a problem for most people, but I'm epileptic. If I don't get about 9 hours of sleep per night I'm prone to seizures. --While I can't definitively say I know why I can't sleep, I'm blaming stress.

Stuff I Still Need to Do:

1. Purchase locks for my suitcases, a combination lock for Youth Hostel lockers, and a bike lock for locking my bags to the luggage rails on trains.
2. Contact the Linguistics department at U of O about reapplying; update my grad school application resume.
3. Organize books to be mailed.
4. Mend these pants I want to take with me that are missing a button.
5. Develop the pictures I took of my parents' house; arrange them in the scrapbook I'm making for my future students (to show them "typical American life").
6. Do a whole bunch of laundry.
7. Pack!

Fulbright Preparation Update

Friday, August 20, 2004

Just a quick update to let you know what's going on in the Fulbright Preparation world. Sorry I haven't been posting very often lately; as you might imagine, I've been very busy!
-My laptop has arrived. In fact, I'm typing on it right now! So far I'm quite pleased with it. I've already downloaded the Linguistics software that I need (IPA fonts from SIL; Praat; Bartek Plichta's cool phonetic analysis software Akustyk). Now I just need to play around with Praat and Akustyk a bit in order to familiarize myself with them before I leave for Deutschland!
-My winter clothes are "packed" in paper bags in the living room. My mom will mail them to me after I know what my address in Bautzen will be. I put my menorah and a box of Chanukah candles in the box, too, since I imagine such things are hard to come by in a country with a Jewish population of only 60,000 or so!
-PA and I tested out my field recorder and tabletop mic, and they both work really well. Unfortunately my lapel mic hasn't arrived yet, although I did get the battery pack for it yesterday.
-I got my hair cut to my shoulders yesterday. It looks pretty good! Since it's not weighed down nearly as much now, it's very curly-- I think that if I ever cut it as short as my brother's, it would be as curly as his! It feels strange not having to pull my hair back when I sleep. And my head feels so light, and my back is cold. (This is the first time I've had shoulder length hair in about 15 years.)
Things I Still Need to Accomplish in the Next 12 Days:
1. Get theft and damage insurance for laptop, field recorder, and microphones.
2. Find out how much Lufthansa would charge me for taking extra carry-on baggage-- all this electronic equipment needs to go on the plane with me, and I can't fit it all in one bag.
3. Get about 200 Euro in cash, plus another 1500 or so in Traveler's Checks.
4. Pack!
5. Arrange books that I want shipped to me in a paper bag, near my winter clothes.
6. (Hopefully) meet with IA and ID so the two of them can tell me about their Fulbright experiences, give me advice, and pick on me a little.
7. Put my mom's name on my bank account so she can withdraw money from it (for me) in an emergency.
8. Contact grad school about reapplying (as a formality. I know they'll accept me again.).
9. Update my resume and possibly draft a Statement of Purpose for grad school (again); get Letter of Rec forms to profs (again).
10. Get myself a raincoat.
11. Finish Anna Seghers' Das siebte Kreuz so that I won't have to take it with me.
There are probably other things as well, but mercifully I can't think of them at the moment.