Day 8 (Jan 12)
Our assignment for after class was to go on a “Stadterkundung”. They joined us with the next class up and put us in groups of 4 or 5 to go out to one of Leipzig’s districts and get information on it that we could present the next day. We were supposed to take some pictures, talk to locals, and see what we could find out about what kinds of people live there, what interesting places there are, and things like that. My group got assigned to a district named Schleussig, in kind of the southwest part of the city. It was a very pretty area, but not much around, and not even very many people when we went. We did find a church and we talked to a lady who works there. She told us that a lot of the people who live in Schleussig are families with children, so I guessed there probably weren’t any people out because it was near the end of the school day, and parents were probably picking up their kids. I think it was a good experience to go see a part of Leipzig I probably would never have gone to otherwise, but I was really nervous about presenting it, since everyone else in my group and both classes has better German than me.
Day 9 (Jan 13)
We had to present what we learned on our Stadterkundung. Each group spent the morning making posters with pictures of and information about the district they went to. One of our group members didn’t show up to present, and then we drew numbers and my group wound up having to go first. I don’t feel like I did very well, and I also feel bad because my other two group members had to talk so much more than I did. I guess there’s not much I can do about that, but I still didn’t like it. And then that evening, all but two of us went to Ms. R’s (our professor who came with us from the US) apartment for dinner. The view of the city from the living room window was great, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to sit down and get to know my group members a little bit better. I definitely like the small-sized group we have that allows us to get together all at the same time and actually all have a conversation all at once instead of always breaking ourselves up into smaller groups.
Day 10 (Jan 14)
I was definitely in over my head in the second level class, so I had asked to be switched down, and this was my first day in the easier class taught by Mr. A. I really enjoyed it and definitely feel like I was more productive and understood more of what was going on. I think that this class will still challenge me and help me improve my German a lot, but I won’t be constantly struggling and 2 steps behind. That evening we had another Stammtisch, this time at the Volkshaus on Karli Street. It was a very interesting experience. I wound up “talking” with the two Korean girls from my class, and the InterDaF assistant. Communication was a challenge. The Korean girls’ and my German is not very good, and even when the Korean girls do speak German, they speak very quietly and have strong accents. The assistant and the Korean girls also don’t speak very much English. And between the four of us, we covered the Korean, Chinese, and Japanese languages, with no overlap. I told a friend about it later, and she said that it sounded like it should be a skit… It really could have been!
Day 11 (Jan 15)
We had the entire afternoon and evening free after class. After getting lunch and dropping my school stuff off back at my dorm, I planned to use the time to do a lot of different things: buy some postcards, visit an old bookstore, go to a museum, see a movie. But in reality I wound up only getting through the first two… I spend way too much time in bookstores! Once I found the section on foreign languages and the boxes of sheet music, there was no escaping!
Day 12 (Jan 16)
In class, Mr. A taught us how to sound arrogant in German, and it was actually hilarious and a lot of fun! We listened to a recording of a man bragging about himself, and then we repeated it back using the same emphasis and pauses. Later, we had a cooking class. While I was waiting to meet with everyone, I visited another bookstore (I may have a book problem) and bought copies of a few of my favorite books in German. I’m not sure I can read them yet, but I like to have them and look through and see what I can pick up. The cooking class, though, was really fun. Usually, I’m not very good at cooking and don’t like it very much, but I had a great time, and the food we made was really good. It was certainly an interesting test for my German, too, since “Kitchen Utensils” isn’t exactly a unit in most German classes.
Day 13 (Jan 17)
We went as a group to the Stasi Museum. (Yes, I stopped at another bookstore beforehand. Yes, I definitely have a book problem…) Our tour guide was very thorough and informative, and it was fascinating to see and hear about the lengths that they went to to keep tabs on everything and everyone in East Germany. After the museum, Steve and Nate and I went to a café and then to the organ concert at the St. Nicholas Church. It was beautiful, and they chose a great program. My favorite pieces to hear were the ones by Johann Pachelbel. One of my favorite classical pieces is his Canon in D, but like a lot of other people, that’s the only piece by him that I know. I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear some of his other work.
Day 14 (Today, Jan 18)
This afternoon, I walked form my dorm to the Monument to the Battle of the Nations to meet up with my group. One of the routes that Google Maps suggested, and the one I wound up choosing, wound up taking me through a cemetery. It seemed a little strange at first, but I actually enjoyed the walk. The cemetery was very beautiful and peaceful; I liked it better than any American cemetery I’ve ever visited. The monument itself was interesting and impressive. I can see it out my window and tell that it’s very big, but I didn’t realize how big it is until I got up close to it. The view from the top of it is really incredible; I could see all of Leipzig! We were really lucky to get a nice, clear day. But I think the part of our tour that actually stood out most to me was the video at the beginning about the history of the monument. I liked it because there was no narration to distract from the pictures, video clips, and music that already told the story quite well. It was really well done.
I can’t believe it’s been two weeks and we’re already just about halfway done. This week I’ve definitely had some new experiences and had time to think about differences between the US and Germany that I like and dislike. Something that I really like is that at restaurants and cafés, when you’re ready to pay, they bring you the check and take the payment right away, instead of leaving it on the table and then taking forever to come pick it up. One thing that I have not enjoyed so far is the prevalence of smoking in public areas. I don’t mind if other people choose to smoke, but I don’t appreciate inhaling secondhand smoke at every tram stop and outside public places like the train station. Finally, I’m still not sure how I feel about the German obsession with open windows in the winter. I’ve taken to doing it in my room when it gets stuffy, and it makes it more comfortable, but it seems like every time they open a window in the classrooms, it’s freezing! Maybe I’ll get used to it, and when I go back the US I’ll question everybody as to why there are no windows open?