Fall Upon Me

I haven't blogged in a while, so this post may be a little overwhelming and scattered, but I wanted to post something complete.

1) Herbst ist hier!

Fall is here, and it has made its arrival quite clear. Berlin has had scattered showers for the past two days, and more to come. I'm wearing my peacoat during the day, and my scarves are serving their actual purpose rather than as just another outfit accessories (which they so often are).

2) Busy Bee

I had a really awesomely hectic/tiring week/weekend. Here's a not-so-brief outline:

Wednesday (9/23)

.Went to the Berlin Philharmonie. Beautiful building. Listened to a piece by Mahler. It was pretty good, but I more so enjoyed the building. The architect, Hans Scharoun, didn't think that right angles are harmonious with patterns of nature. The result is an angular structure that embraces entropy.

.I had coffee and a plum cake afterwards with Jenn. Instead of studying for a quiz, I decided to embody the European model of leisure and enjoy the company of good people and conversation instead.

Thursday (9/24)

.Visited the home of Bertolt Brecht, the father of epic theater. It's always such a surreal experience walking through someone's home, with remnants of their life hanging on walls, stashed in shelves, shoved into books, frozen in time... it's bizarre.

.Had my third Yoga session, and I must say, I'm really loving the class. After getting over the language barrier (I finally just gave up and told the teacher I spoke little German) and getting into the routine of movements, it has been really rewarding. I actually want him to come over and correct my form now. My favorite part: the 15 minute "nap" that we get at the end, where he hands out blankets and has us listen to this CD which consists entirely of a gong ringing over and over and over again. It's great. I fall asleep each time.

.Visited the Helmut Newton Museum with Leo. It's a permanent collection of Newton, all pieces of which he donated right before his death in 2002. Cool fact: he taught at Art Center in Pasadena. I really want to explore fashion photography more. Seeing exhibits of two masters recently (the other being Richard Avedon in SF) has made me thirsty for more.

.Went out to Cookies (shout out to jkunemund). It was great. Best part: being a girl and maybe perhaps not having to pay cover fees.

Friday (9/25)

.Went to the Wansee Conference House, which was thoroughly depressing. This was where the Nazis signed official papers regarding the systematic killing of Jews. The house has been turned into a museum that outlines the history and origins of racial oppression in Germany and Europe. Can you imagine that this document was discussed over drinks and food, as if it's just another topic of light discussion? The house itself is right next to a lake, and the juxtaposition of the beautiful scenery with what took place within is unsettling.

Saturday (9/26)

.Saw Bertolt Bretch's Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui on stage at the Berliner Ensemble. It's a satire of the Nazi uprising, and probably the most absurd theater piece of seen thus far. The first fifteen minutes consists of the main actor (who, by the way, played Hitler in Inglorious Basterds) panting and acting like a dog, his tongue painted bright red, running around on all fours, panting and heaving madly. The play was great, albeit I couldn't understand so much of it. It was mentally exhausting. The main actor was seriously phenomenal.

.Went to Maria am Ostbanhof afterwards with Arie and Jenn. It's a club by the river in this industrial building. Probably the most outrageous of places I've been to yet, and they probably had the best techno too. Outrageous because there was so much fog in that place that at certain points, I couldn't see anything but a gray haze. It was so disorientingly amazing. We also met some random locals on the bus that we ended up hanging out with for the rest of the night... Arie is way too friendly.

3) Gemütlich

This week I'm feeling wholly at peace with the ebb and flow of daily demands. Things are falling into place, and I'm just getting over the fact that my German sucks (for now, hopefully). But being here has made me so determined to master the language. I'm seriously considering taking more German when I get back to Duke, whether it be a conversational course or more.

Overall: I'm in a constant state of flux here. The contrast of depressing history and mind-numbing dancing and music. Berlin is so damn interesting because of all this historical tension needing to be done away with somehow, somewhere. In art, music, night life... it never ends.


What's Cookin?

I realize practically all the names for my posts are questions. Sorry if it's lame, but it's probably my subliminal way of connecting with the reader. Cheesy, I know.

I've completed three weeks of classes. Yay me!
I'm picking up more and more German everyday. I can make out some words when listening to public radio, but haven't yet gotten to the point to comprehend the sentences completely. Getting there.
I've experienced the unfortunate closing of the subways at night (they shut down from 1:00 am-ish to 4:00 a.m. ish). Because of that, I've successfully ridden the bus at 1:30 a.m.
Went to a Bauhaus exhibition today. It was quite good, and I want to learn more about it.

My biggest accomplishment thus far though:

I'm not the world's best cook, but when push comes to shove, I attempt to make something.
And right now, I'm being shoved with a lack of monetary funds and homesickness.

This is what I ended up concocting tonight...

Steamed baby bokchoy, penne pasta with basil tomato sauce with some parmesan and oregano, and bean curd soup. Don't get too impressed yet--the soup base came from a package. But still, I feel proud of myself. Creating a little bit of home. I enjoyed a quiet dinner tonight while listening to rbb (German public radio) and their jazz program.

Hopefully there will be more cooking to come, more German to be learned (and butchered), more fun times, more getting lost, getting stranded. More everything.



AIDS and... Hitler?

Last semester, I took a class called Discourse of Disease. It sounds broad, and the topics covered in the class even broader. We discussed everything from 28 Days Later to Chinese novels to AIDS campaigns. Mostly importantly, we talked about the language of disease and how the linguistic and artistic expressions affect the way we think about disease and its power through symbolism.

I came across one AIDS campaign in class that depicted a man/women having sex with insects and posted about it on my class discussion board. I'll relink the image I found here and here (they are French AIDS campaigns).

There are a couple others, but it's interesting to understand the visual/metaphorical connotations and whether the ads are effective. One of the main debates is whether the ads are depicting AIDS the disease OR the people with AIDS as filthy (or both). Do we see people with AIDS as victims or perpetrators? Of course there is no right or wrong answer, but asking these questions are important.

In the same vein, a provocative AIDS awareness campgian that is about to launch in Germany featuring a woman having sex with men notorious figures such as Hitler and Stalin. Check out the video here and an article about it from the Guardian here.

Note: I post this because the ad is related to Germany, but also because these types of compaigns would NEVER be allowed in America. This idea of America and our culture as being too "politically correct" has come up on several occasions in my stay abroad so far. Is it wrong to say toilet because adults are supposed to be refined? The Germans don't think so. These AIDS awareness campaigns make me think about what is acceptable not only from a visual/linguistic discourse but also from a cultural discourse. I'd be interested in seeing what others have to say.


Anyone Out There?

In my moment of frenzy and lightheadedness, I headed where any homesick and sick Asian person from California would go: the local Asian Supermarket.

Let's start with the fact that I am feeling a little lonely. Just a little.

Let's add another fact that I like independence. But only when it comes with the comforts of home and/or familiarity.

Let's add another fact that my body hates me and is getting so sensitive to food. I am a master at self diagnosis (and by master, I mean the ultimate abuser), and I have declared myself a victim of stomach flu and possibly lactose intolerant. If I'm not... well, we'll have to deal with that later.

Being hours from home and friends and people to vent to, getting sick so early in my trip has been slightly terrifying. I am incapable of feeding myself the food that is needed (where the heck am I going to find chicken noodle soup?!) and failing at providing my body with needed rest.

It's been a little over two weeks since I've been here, and I'm starting to miss bits and pieces of home. Take this Asian market, for example. It's nothing compared to 99 Ranch, but it's something (Berlin doesn't have a "Chinatown," and I'm quickly resenting it). At least I have some alternatives when I'm sick of cheese and bread and doners and schnitzel. And is it odd that I found it comforting to step into this store, while I was starving and tired, to feel some sense of community because the people that worked there spoke Chinese? It's bizarre, but being a minority has become more and more apparent to me. I'm sorry if this is all coming off as strikingly obvious, but I'm having difficulties describing how I feel. It's more of what I want to feel and having to substitute it with temporary things for now.

As I stepped out of the store with a bag full of instant ramen and Chinese crackers, I was more at ease. Even though I'm sick, at least I have my container of Instant Noodle King.


Wie bitte? Come Again?

I have my first German test tomorrow (!), but I'm taking a break. Note: Study habits in Europe are like study habits at Duke. Procrastinate, Stress, Procrastinate some more. I don't think I'm exaggerating when saying that learning a new language in a foreign country is exhausting. The work load hasn't been that tough, but constantly having to pay attention to new words and how sentences are formed is a struggle. I almost had a mini meltdown yesterday, but I think I'll be okay. Just need to stay positive!

Due to the nudging of a certain person, I'll update you on what I've been up:

1) Ein, Aus (In, Out)

I signed up for a six-week yoga course through Humboldt University. I love how education is subsidized in Germany, and this class only cost me 12€. However, the course is entirely in German. That wouldn't be so bad... if the teacher didn't like to go around correcting everyone's form. Note: I'm probably the most inflexible person you will meet. So I'm embarrassed enough as it is not being able to bend my body at a 45 degree angle, but this Yogi master has to come prancing around telling me what I'm doing wrong in German. Uhm, what? I open my mouth to say something, but realize it's better to just stay silent. To avoid being approached again, I try to close my eyes as to seem engrossed in meditation...

2) Bundestag (Reichstag)

Courtesy of http://www.feuerwehr-weblog.de/

We visited the German Parliament building on Friday. It is an amazing building aesthetically, and I find it crazy cool how I could literally walk up on a day that the Parliament might be discussing a piece of legislature and SIT IN on their meeting. Yes, to sit in with the Chancellor and Prime Minister at one of their meetings. That could never happen in the U.S.

Where meetings are held

Graffiti from the Russian takeover of the Reichstag after defeating Hitler's regime (mostly just names of Soldiers and the cities they came from)

Inside the glass dome

Top of the Dome

Basically, the building is probably the coolest government structure ever. We got a private tour thanks to Jochen, the Duke in Berlin Program Director.

3) Pretty Colors

My language partner, Agi, took me to the annual international fireworks competition held at Olympiastadium on Saturday. It was quite the spectacle, each country (there were three on Saturday) having to prepare a fireworks show coordinated to music that lasted around 15-20 minutes each.

Fireworks is one of those things I don't think anyone could get sick of. Granted, if I worked at Disneyland every night, it might be a different story. However, there is an imposing quality about fireworks that make them very special. Filling up the sky with sparkles seems too damn good.

But probably the best part of the fireworks was being able to hang out with some locals. Agi is 22 and lives not too far from me. I met her boyfriend and dad. We went to this American-themed restaurant called Route 66 afterward the fireworks show and met up with her friend. Apparently (or obviously), they are obsessed with American culture and are super excited to brush up on their English. What can I say? I guess good ol' USA is pretty cool.

4) Club Circuit

My first weekend out at... Week End, one of the top ranked clubs in Berlin. Not too shabby, huh? I shall start loving techno and trance.

Coming UP: Potsdam && more