Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I survived!

Hallo! Germany is not very abundant with internet, so I apologize (mostly to my parents) that I haven't been around to tell you what's been going on.

The biggest things is: I'm in Germany!

Sunday morning in Detroit, I met up with my friend Cherice, and we traveled the rest of the way together, for which I am extremely grateful. We caught our first flight from DTW to JFK on Delta. From there, we flew Singapore Airlines to Frankfurt, and from Frankfurt we took a train to Freiburg. The travel went very smoothly. We got lost in both JFK (we got bad directions) and Frankfurt (we are bad at following directions), but eventually made it though each bit of the process. I was only able to sleep on the plane thanks to a few glasses of complementary wine (Singapore Air is wonderful), and only for about 3 hours. By the time we got to Frankfurt, it had been about 21 hours since I had properly slept, so my tolerence for getting lost was definitely lowered. But the Deutsche Bahn people were very friendly, and the train we took to Frieburg was awesome! Totally silent and smooth, and I didn't even get to enjoy it because I was fast asleep the whole time. So I felt worlds better by the time we actually arrived.

At the main train station in Freiburg, a table full of AYF program people were waiting for us. We got our room keys, signed some papers (Germans love their paperwork), and got an armful of pamphlets and maps to read about the city. Then it was onwards alone to my apartment via street tram, which I've grown to love very much. It's super simple and useful. The way it works is that you buy a train card, and then have it on you at all times, even though no one checks for it. And apparently for the most part, people do pay, even when you won't get caught. Anyway, the complex I'm living in, StuSie, consists of maybe 40 buildings in which about 20-30% of the student population lives. I'm in building 14, and I had to wander for a few minutes to find it. I'm on the 6th floor, which really means 7th floor. When I walked in, there was a skinny little staircase that winds all the way to the top floor, and an elevator with the words "Im Brandfall Aufzug nicht benutzen". The only words I immediately recognized were "nicht benutzen", which means "don't use". For fear of breaking rules even before I move in, I start climbing the stairs with all 80 lbs of my luggage. By the time I got to the 1st floor, I was tired enough to break some rules. But as I reach the landing, it finally dawns on me. Brand is a form of brennen, or burn. Fire. Fall means event. Zug is train, and auf can mean up. In burn event up train don't use. Don't use elevator in case of fire. What a relief! So I happily jump on the elevator and cruise up the next 6 floors without trouble. My apartment was dark and empty when I get there, but my room is extremely bright. Everything in my room is white, and there is a lot of window. I hung out for a bit and took a shower, but with still no sign of any of my 3 roommates, I headed out and explored the StuSie complex a bit. There's a big lake right nearby with running and bike paths, and an observation tower, and a cafe and a bridge and some boats. I have yet to explore much more than that, but it looks pretty great. I was disappointed about meeitng no roommates though. Many of my friends seemed to go home and be bombarded by Germans. Later this night I did meet one girl, from Latvia, and we spoke English. But she's leaving in a month. Apparenlty a German guy lives in the room next to mine, but he's on vacation til the end of Septembter (as the Semester doesn't begin until the middle of October).

At 7pm all of the AYF program kids met for pizza dinner in one of the houses in StuSie. I met loads of new, promising people, and I felt a lot better about the lack of roommates. Everyone seems to be really friendly. After dinner a group of us went out for our first German Bier in Fierling Biergarten. It was an excellent way to spend an evening, but we kept it short because we had all been traveling for so long.

Tuesday we opened bank accounts and got a short walking tour of Freiburg, which is an absolutely gorgeous city. I will one day soon take many pictures and share them with you. But in the afternoon we mostly shopped. The only two problems I've had since I've gotten here: on the plane, my watch stopped, which has been driving my crazy, because I don't have a phone to tell me the time either, and my nice expensive power converter doesn't fit any of my plugs. I purchased the correct shape, but my converter is a big box, and all the plugs here are round and inset into the wall by about an inch, which means my converter can't actually reach them. Finding a new watch was easy, but I couldn't find a converter. I settled for an adapter and banking on my laptop voltage adapter actually working. Then Cherice and I went grocery shopping. Everything here is soooo cheap! I got a tube of toothpaste for less than a euro, a bottle of wine for 1.30, spaghetti and sauce and a roll for less than 3, and 6 peaches for maybe 1.20. I don't intend to enumerate everything I buy all year, but right now I'm still super excited about it. This combined with such cheap rent makes living here extremely economical. Cherice and I made spaghetti for dinner, and it didn't turn out half bad. My kitchen is a bit, um, sticky, but that can be fixed.

Other than that, there are three things about Germany I thought I knew but have already been proven wrong:
* Trains are not always on time. My train to Freiburg was 25 minutes late.
* Germans cross the street on red lights. Not always, but it happens.
* There's litter here! Sure, there are also abundant, sorted trash recepticals, but I wasn't expecting this one.

I hate to admit it, but I haven't spoken much German yet. I hear and understand a lot, but the AYF kids mostly speak English (shame on us) and other opportunities haven't frequently come up. I can't wait to get a Tandem partner, which is a local German that wants to speak English with me in exchange for helping me with my German. And next week we start our intensive courses, so I'm sure I'll be speaking plenty soon.

I'm searching for a more reliable way to get internet. Starting in January I'll have it in my room automatically, but I don't really want to wait until then. Believe it or not, mail would be a much more reliable (albeit slower) way to communicate for now, so if you want my mailing address, please ask :)


  1. Hi Allison,
    So glad to hear that you got there safe and sound! Travel can certainly try your patience but it sounds like your idea to take a nap on the train was a good one.
    What a wonderful opportunity you have ahead of you. We're very eager to see your photos and to hear more about your exciting adventures.
    "Hi" to Cherice. Hope you're both having fun.
    Love & Miss you,
    Aunt Brenda & Uncle Bob

  2. Allison!
    I am so happy to hear that you made it to Germany and for the most part everything has been going well for you! Again, I am so proud of you, and I can't wait until you have more fun adventures to tell us all about. If you have the time I would love to have your address so I can send you cute cards and tell you how much I miss you. Good luck and have a wonderful time!
    Love you,

  3. Glad to hear that you're safe and saving money. Although Kroger value brand spaghetti is pretty cheap. Thought the red light part was funny, kind of reminded me of Ann Arbor.

    I didn't know that Cherice was coming with you! That's good to hear. New situations are great, but it's always nice to have someone familiar.

    Definitely want your address, and can't wait for the next post.


  4. Hi Allison, I'm so excited for you and this wonderful opportunity. Sounds like your getting off to a great start. I'm excited to read about all your upcoming adventures. Stay safe and enjoy!!!
    Aunt Lori


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