29 September 2006

Wilkommen zu Deutschland Part 2

Ok, so, you know how I got here, let's go over what happened after that.

I arrived outside of the Eichstätt train station a little after noon and my tutor from the university was there waiting for me as planned. Now she's not really what we in the U.S. would think of as a tutor, more like a guide that the university assigns to international students to help them for the first weeks or so. Her name is Charlotte and she's only in her second semester here. She helped me with my luggage and we took a taxi to my apartment. By the way, she greeted me in English, so for the rest of the day that was our language of choice, even though I know I need to start speaking in German as much as possible so as to get use to it quicker.

My apartment is, well, a typical student apartment for the most part: small and worn. It comes with the basic furniture needed, a stove, and a balacony which I share with the as of yet unoccupied room next to mine. The buildings in the complex are of a modern design, so plain and ugly. How the people of this town could allow something like it to be built, when they have prime examples of Barock architecture in their city center, surpasses my comprehension. In any event, it's an adequate place to call home for the year, especially considering I should be doing the most of my actual living in the rest of the town. On the plus side when leaving the apartment I can see the castle on top of the nearby hill. Charlotte left so I could take a shower and do a little unpacking, but then I met here in another hour to find where I could cash some traveler's checks and possibly open a checking account.

After meeting back up we headed to the city center, which is a five minute walk from my apartment and another five minutes from the university. As we went from bank to bank to find the best deal Charlotte pointed out some of the important or good to know places. Walking around everything had a good feeling to it, like everything was going to be alright; however, going into the banks was another story.

First of all, the interior desgins of German banks are much differnet than their counterparts in the States, at least I thought so. Some had one counter, most had many, a few didn't have any.

Secondly, there's that darn language barrier. I followed Charlotte's lead the first time because of the confusion, eventually it became habit. We'd walk into a bank and Charlotte would start talking with the teller, I always caught the first part where she'd point to me and tell the teller I was from America and needed to cash some traveler's checks, but after that a very fast and seemingly unintelligible conversation would pick up. At that point I would stand there feeling rather helpless. I have to say that was the first time I remember having this feeling with such severity. As Charlotte and the teller would talk I couldn't help but wonder how I'd do this if she wasn't here to help me. Even as a little kid if I became seperated from my parents I could still ask someone for help, but here? I'm sure I could have done it alone, but probably much slower and with a lot more frustration. We eventually settled on one bank to cash the checks, then it was back to my apartment to meet with a representative with the management company.

This meeting went very similar to those with the bank tellers. The housing representative walked us through the apartment and the complex and went over the lease and rules as Charlotte translated for me. I know it must sound like I don't know any German at all, but I guess classroom teaching didn't prepare me entirely for native-speaker speed and local accents. And I wasn't as if I would have been completely lost without Charlotte, I understood a lot of words and the gist of what the rep was saying, so I would say she was more of my saftey net to prevent the potential for utter confusion. Everything was going fine until Charlotte said that I would have to paint the apartment when I leave. I thought surely there was something lost in translation, so I asked if she really meant every wall, or just the places with marks. After asking she said no, that wasn't it, every wall and the ceiling. Of course, there was nothing I could do so I smiled and said ok to the rep before she got mad over my reluctance. As I think about it now though, I guess that's not that uncommon is it? I don't know, I've never had an apartment before. Anyway, everything else went ok, but the rep seemed to overly stress a few seemingly mundane issues. For example, all of my trash must be organized, recycled, and placed in the proper bin, there's even a mandatory compost heap for organic garbage. I'm all for recycling to help the environment, but the seriousness with which she spoke of my obligations to do so made me afraid to do otherwise.

After the meeting was over Charlottle left, and I unpacked some more before running down to the store for some basic needs. I was glad I brought my messenger bag because plastic bags from the store would have cost me extra. Back at my apartment exhaustion settled in from my nearly 30 hour day, as did hunger from not eatting since arriving in Munich, but I opted for the bed and was quickly asleep by 7 o'clock.

I awoke today at 7, feeling much rested and better overall after my hectic two days cramed into one. I decided to go for a run up to that hill-top castle which was now draped in more fog. At the summit of hill, or maybe it's a short mountain, the fog grew thicker and created a very calm setting hidden from the town below. A run back down some step trails, shower, and breakfast I met with the study abroad coordinator at the university.

Later on today I'm supposed to meet Charlotte and her friend to go to the grocery store. This weekend everything closes and Charlotte goes home so I don't know what I'll do, but I'm sure I'll find something to entertain me.


Anonymous said...

Haha on Nick's first day he jogged up a mountain. Hahahaha. You nut.

Keep us updated on your language progress if you can because this is something I am very very concerned about...

(OH YEAH speaking of that, Andrew and I got accepted today to ANGERS which was our number one choice by far. It's a 1 1/2 train ride from Paris in the Loire valley. There is no way I can translate my excitement into a blog comment!!!)

love, natalie

Anonymous said...

Nick, if we ever feel the need to contact you, what would be the best way(besides this)?

Nick O. said...

That would be with email. But it could be sometime I write back, so don't expect a response the very next day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing me to your blog. I have enjoyed reading your entries, and I am glad you are settling in and exploring the area. No doubt, you'll be speaking and understanding the language better in no time. You already have a solid foundation I'm sure. It all sounds like a great adventure.

Don't be overly concerned about the rep's barking orders to recycle. When I was your age, I didn't even know what a compost was. Now I have one. The rep may have dealt with several students who didn't know or didn't care about recycling and was reacting to his/her experience.

Looking forward to keeping track of your trek.

Uncle Herb

Anonymous said...

hey nick,

i work with your dad...i will be monitoring your site to observe your progress while in germany. i wish you the best and hope your education is enchanced by this experience. keep in touch with your parents...


Mycroft Jones said...

i love the enforced recycling. at this apartment, there's just one huge dumpster for everything. i would walk to the nearest recycle center, but it's five miles away.

and that apartment painting thing is probably just a cultural difference, but there is definite scam potential there. you shouldn't have to paint anything unless you actually mark up the wall. it sounds like the apartment manager is trying to get a free touch up. if you have to paint over everything at the end of the semester anyway, i recommend breaking out some of those dormant art skills and painting the most outrageous things you can think of all over the walls. at least then you'll have an actual reason to paint over it.

and the language thing will be fine. you'll be lost and frustrated for a while, but one day you'll find yourself thinking in german and you'll realize you're more or less fluent. you don't really notice yourself improving; it just hits you one day. oh, and every once in a while in france, i had to wander off by myself because trying to decipher french isn't like listening to english, it's like reading english. it takes more concentration and just gets annoying after too much of it.