It’s the end of my second week here in Leipzig, Germany! I would have posted sooner, but I couldn’t get my computer set up with internet until just a couple days ago.
Anyway, I don’t really know how I’m going to sum up the last two weeks in one blog post. My journal is over 9 typed pages already. So I think the best way to do it is to split it into two posts. Here are the highlights from the first week!
Day 1 (Jan 5)
After some lunch and a short orientation, they dropped us off at our dorms, and we were on our own for the evening. I was too tired to explore, so instead I unpacked and went to buy some kind of food just so I would have something to eat the next morning. While shopping, I learned that you have to bring your own shopping bags in Germany, or buy them at the register. I also noticed that the aisles were not quite as well-organized as I expected them to be. Some of the combinations didn’t seem logical, such as the drinks in the same aisle as the pet food. Also with the drinks, instead of having some items out for individual sale and others still in their cases for bulk sale like in the US, all the bottles were still in their cases, and if people didn’t want the whole case, they could just tear a hole in the plastic and take however many they wanted. I thought that was interesting.
Day 2 (Jan 6)
Ms. S picked up the 4 of us who live in my dorm complex and took us on the tram to meet the rest of the group at the Hauptbahnhof (train station). From there, Mr. A took us on a tour of the area around the city center. We visited the St. Nicholas Church and the St. Thomas Church, and he showed us were the Moritzbastei (a student club) and the cafeteria are. After our tour, we went to a restaurant for lunch, where I learned that in Germany, even just regular water comes in glass bottles and costs money. After that I went with Nate and Steve first to the bookstore and then to a café. When we were finished, we looked up the word for “check” (die Rechnung!) and discovered that we had to make a real effort to get the waiter’s attention so we could ask for it; they didn’t try to get us right in and out like they would in the US.
Day 3 (Jan 7)
They trusted us to get ourselves to InterDaF (the school) by 9am. We also took our placement test, and it was hard. It was multiple choice, but it was mostly grammar stuff that I’m not familiar with, so I guessed a lot. After the placement test, we went on another tour with Dr. B. We went to a lot of the same places that we went to with Mr. A, and a few that we didn’t, only this time everything was in German, and my group was split up and mixed with the other students. At the end of the tour, we met up with everybody else and all ate lunch together at Auerbachs Keller, which is a very famous restaurant in which a scene took place in Faust.
Day 4 (Jan 8)
The first day of class. I somehow placed into the second level class with Mr. S. Everyone else in there except one has at least 2 years of German; meanwhile I have only 1 semester. It was pretty hard, but Mr. S and my classmates were all very nice. For lunch I went with Nate and Steve to the train station (there’s basically a mall in there) where we ate some pretty good Asian food. Then we went back to the institute for our first session of our culture class, where we learned about Germany’s borders and had an introduction to Dresden. I went back to my dorm after that but then went back out around 7 because we had a Stammtisch (basically a social event where you reserve tables for a large group at a restaurant) at the Moritzbastei at 8. All of the teachers and a good number of the students were there. It was a good time.
Day 5 (Jan 9)
We had class and then a tour of the Bach Museum. At the museum, we had a really nice and enthusiastic tour guide. I thought it was interesting that the museum is not actually in the Bach family’s house, but rather in a friend’s house across the street. They had some old musical instruments, some interactive things, and even some of the original copies of Bach’s work. As a music person, I definitely enjoyed the tour! Afterwards, there was nothing planned and I didn’t do anything much; just went back to my dorm and prepared to go to Dresden!
Day 6 (Jan 10)
We took the train and got to Dresden in the early afternoon. When we got there, we went on a tour around the city where we saw some of the most famous locations such as the Church of Our Lady, the Elbe River, and the Opera House. Everything was so beautiful! One thing I learned that I thought was very interesting was that the Frauenkirche is Lutheran and the Cathedral is Catholic, even though they look like they should be the other way around. I also thought it was cool that even though a lot of buildings had to be reconstructed after World War II, people were able to preserve some of the ruins and incorporate parts of the old structure into the new building. After the tour was over, I went to the Church of Our Lady again to see the protest that was going on there. Recently there have been anti-Islamic/anti-refugee protests by a group called PEGIDA, but today outside the Church of Our Lady, there was a protest against PEGIDA. The crowd was pretty big, and a lot of people had small children with them, which I didn’t really expect. I wish I had been able to understand what the speakers were saying, but since I knew what the protest was already, I did have enough information to explain the general idea to an Australian man who stopped me to ask what was going on.
Day 7 (Jan 11)
We went to the museums at the Zwinger and the Residenzschloss in Dresden. At the Zwinger, they had an exhibit of Chinese, Japanese, and Meissen porcelain. All of the work was incredibly intricate; it’s incredible that it was handmade! Augustus the Strong’s porcelain “zoo” was particularly interesting. Despite all the animals being extremely detailed, some of them, such as the lions, looked nothing like the actual animal. I wonder what the artists’ sources were for the images. At the Residenzschloss, we went to the armory exhibits where they had armor and both practical and ceremonial weapons on display. Some of the weapons were so huge and heavy, but people back then were smaller on average. I can’t even imagine the level of strength and skill necessary to wield most of those weapons. Even some of the arrows looked heavy!
The first week was exhausting and amazing. I like Germany a lot so far, even though my German is still not so good. One of my favorite things is the tram. Not only is it really convenient, but compared to the Chinese public transportation that I’m used to, there’s so much space on it! Even when it’s crowded it’s not even crowded.
Something I learned this week that I didn’t really realize before I came here is how little the Soviet Union did to rebuild structures that had been destroyed during WWII. Although I know that things in East Germany weren’t great under the USSR, I did not know that they just left most of the ruins and damaged buildings as they were. I’m really glad they’ve started reconstruction work since reunification. But Leipzig’s old post office building, which is still empty, gives me a kind of inexplicable uneasy feeling. I wonder what they’ll do with it.