02 October 2006

Meeting the Others

(Note: Disregard the stamped date. This was actually posted Oct. 4 at 20:17.)

Friday night I went to a bar with Charlotte and some of her friends. The girls talked too fast for me so I switched places with one to be next to the other guys in the group. They seemed more willing to speak slower for me and were very patient as I often stopped to think how to say something. Of course, when all else failed everyone at the table could speak English. I found out that German students begin to learn English in the fourth grade, so by the college level they can get along fine speaking it, although they all think they need to work on it. One of the guys told me a German joke that I think is true, unfortunately. If you speak three languages, you're called trilingual. If you speak two languages, you're called bilingual. And if you speak one language, you're called American.

Saturday I did some grocery shopping and encountered a few differences with grocery stores here and in America. For one thing, you must pay extra for the bags to put the groceries in, and then pack them youself. For another, in order to get a cart you must put a one Euro coin into a slot near the handle which unlocks the cart for you to use. When you return the cart you get your money back.

Sunday morning I went to church with one of Charlotte's friends, Maria or perhaps Marie, I'm not exactly sure which is correct. The church was the local cathedral, a massive ornate structure unparralled by my church in America. Singing songs in German was a new experience for me. So was having to wait on tourists to leave the church in order for mass to begin.

Sunday night I went to what I was under the assumption to be a sort of get to know each other meeting organized by the university for the international students. I got to the building fine, but there were no signs or other forms of actual organization. Finally I heard a group of people speaking different languages and asked them if they were here for the same reason. They were, and more people slowly showed up but no actual representatives from the university ever came. We determined it was a trick to get us out and meet people, and it worked.

Eventually the group thined out as people left, and those of us remaining decided to go to dinner. At the dinner table were three Americans, three French, a Spainish girl, and some Italians. Yes, there were times when each respective language could have been heard; however, since not everyone had a decent background in German, English was usually the standard. You may see a pattern developing here.

Monday morning all the international students took a placement test to see which level German and orientation course they should be in. I guess not all of them came to the meeting last night because there were many more students in the room today. The nationalities that I came across were American, French, Italian, Spainish, and one each of Romanian, Czech, Irish, and either Slovenian or Slovakian. Including myself, I only know of four Americans present.

One other observation that became almost immediately obvious to me: studying abroad must be a female dominated acitivity. There were probably about fifty international students present for the placement test. I counted five guys, including myself. Around 15, including 2 guys, of the internationl students will actually study and live in Ingolstadt when the presemester ends. It might be nice if there were a few more interantional guys for me to meet, but don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly fine with the guy to girl ratio. Perfectly fine.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the international students went to Coburg. It is a former boarder town between East and West Germany, and lies at the north side of Bavaria, the state in which I live (Bavaria also happens to be were most of the German culture stereotypes held by Americans can be found, i.e. massive beer consumption, lederhosen, living in the mountiains). It rained the whole, making for a very wet and cold tour of the city. One of our tour guides didn't even show up and we were forced to find other ways to spend our time in the city. The tour we did go on was completely in German, which dissapointed me because I really enjoy learing about a place and its history. I was able to understand that Prince Albert came from the city and married Queen Victoria there.

Coburg is also known in Germany for the Coburger bratwurst, which is basically a one and half foot long bratwurst with a 4 or 5 inch long bread roll wrapped around the middle. I did not have the privledge of experiencing this lovely looking hunk of meat, but I did partake in currywurst, my new favorite German food. Apparently is popular with Germans as well. Imagine a large bratwurst like sausage drowned in a thick, rich curry sauce and with a heaping side portion of pommes frites, or as we say in America, french fries. While on the topic of food, I also dined on some sort of choclate and cinnamon cake in a cafe with some French girls.

On the ride back to Eichstaett I sat next to some Spainish girls and talked about life in Spain, as well as my desire to someday run with the bulls in Pamplona among other things.

We arrived back in Eichstaett at around 8 o'clock at night and went to the student bar with the same French girls that I had the cake with. Two of them, Nawell and Amelie, are from Angers. I'm not sure where the other one, Marine, is from, but she can only understand English, not speak it. I don't quite follow that. We might go hiking this weekend in the hills by Eichstaett.

Today the orientation course took place as usual, so there's not too much to report.

The diverse mixture of the nationalities present fascinates me, as does the diverisity present from within each nation. For instance, if I wish, I can discuss life in Italy with Italians from Napoli, Genoa, and Milano. It still surprises me to hear of the number of views and opinions from one country about that country, and the multitude of subcultures within each land. It seems to me, that in America we tend to forget that a foreign country can vary in culture from region to region as much as one finds in the States. We have ideas of typcial Italian, French, Spainish, etc. life, but in reality they are each far more complex. When one say simply says "this" is Italian, or the French do "this," one must truly commit a griveous error.

Lastly, a word on coming from Memphis. I will say this, I have encountered only a few people with whom I must explain where the city lies and how it is, or at least should be, known. However, for the most part people know of this city, but not merely for Elivs as you may think. No, they know of Johnny Cash, the blus, and rock n' roll from Memphis. The first time I turned on the radio in Germany, I swear to you the first song I heard was "Ticket" by the The Box Tops, a Memphis garage band of decades past. Here is a direct quote from Amelie regarding my Memphis origins:
"Everyone knows Memphis. Do you know how cool it sounds when you say you are from Memphis? I wish I could say that."
Those who hail from Memphis, keep this in mind. For if you find yourself on the other side of the world someday looking for a friend, stating Memphis as your home may be the best way to break the ice.


natalie said...

That's awesome about Memphis !

Oh yah way to be surround by girls, Nick. My uncle met his wife while studying abroad in Spain and she moved back to Memphis with him ;) ;)

Befriend the Angers girls! yay for Angers!

mc said...

Natalie, since you and Andrew are going to Angers soon, tell me a little bit about it. What region is it located in France? Why is that the place where you want to go?

Nick, it is good to read a posting. Let us know about the hiking if you go this weekend - I would like to see pictures if they can be posted. I bet the mountains are gorgeous.

Nick O. said...

Natalie: I forgot to write what one guy said when he found out I was from Memphis. He said, "You can't just say 'I'm from Memphis,' you have to sing it."

MC: Creating a post with pictures takes a little more time for the uploads than a normal post, and I've been fairly busy with other things. However, I promise that pictures are on their way.

natalie said...

We picked Angers because we didn't want to go to a huge city where too many people spoke English, but still somewhere famous for French culture. It's an hour and a half train ride SW of Paris in the Loire Valley - "the garden of France," home of the famous castles and wine vinyards, and is known as the area where the spoken french language is the purest in all of France. My internet search for photos party sold me as well... So, our goal was language immersion and beauty!
I just go the dates for the program and we'll be there from January 13 - May 30.
Nick- when do you get home?

mc said...

Well it is good you are busy with other things - I am glad you are busy! Looking forward to the pictures when ever they are posted.

Thanks Natalie for the info on Angers - I bet it is beautiful!

mc said...

Thought I would share some sad sad news that is happening this morning back home in Memphis. We are having buildings on fire downtown.....this started at the beautiful First Church on Poplar (First United Methodist Church). This started at around 3 or 4 am. Sparks have now ignited 3 other buildings - the Lowenstein Bldg, The Lincoln Atlantic and 100 Court Annex Bldg (Rhodes-Jennings). They interviewed the owner of the Lincoln Atlantic who was in the middle of renovations. The First Church fire has been put out but we are watching the Lincoln Atlantic Bldg still burning - the tower is too tall for any of the water cranes and is quickly approaching the coppola.

Now they are investigating a building on Nov.6 St saying that ambers have caught it on fire. No body has been hurt but so sad to see the skyline of Memphis a blaze.

mc said...

Correction to comment above - it is the Lincoln American Bldg (not Lincoln Atlantic).

Nick O. said...

MC: I've just read the article from the CA covering the fire. Being as I'm in the computer lab I've had to control my emotions. The Lincoln American Tower is one of the most beautiful buildings in Downtown, and renovation on it, as well as the other three, into a mixed-use center was set to start at the beginning of October. I wanted to live in one of those new apartments someday. The funding for the project took years to come through, and the director of the CCC said it would be a major project that could act as a catalyst for redevelopment of that section of Main Street. You must let me know if you anything about what the developers plan to do now after the fire.

Natalie: I will be in Germany until the beginning of August. You will arrive when I have a little more than a month left of my first semester. You will have to come visit me, and meet the Angers' girls. They'll be going back after the first semester, so you could already know some people there.

Mycroft Jones said...

man, that memphis thing is great. when i told my france friends that i was from memphis, all i got were a few terrible elvis impersonations from the lot of them.

another thing from our home region that's famous abroad - jack daniel's. i was talking to my french international roommate from last year, and every bar he'd ever been to in france had a bottle of jack behind the counter.

Anonymous said...

Remember, when we went to three bars three nights in a row (I don't remember the specific towns in Germany), and they played "Walking in Memphis" in every one of them?!

You take phantastic pictures! Include one with yourself every once in a while.

Alles Gute und viel Spaß!
Frau Penrod