Greetings. My last post ended with me going to sleep on Sunday night. Since then, I have engaged in many delightful adventures. On Monday we had our first classes. The first class of the day was German. At 8:30 AM we departed the apartments, hopped on a tram, connected to another tram, and then got off at the Nordplatz (North Plaza) stop. We walked about 2 minutes to the building where our class was, met the director of the institution where we were taking classes, and then we were introduced to Frau (Ms.) Smars. Frau Smars is a nice German lady who, though she is fluent in English, doesn’t find it necessary to communicate to us in English while teaching us German. On the first day of class I learned my ABC’s, and I even learned an ABC rap! After German class we returned to the apartments and had classes in the various flats. Monday evening is family night, as we are calling it here, and so we had a time of worship and discussion, dinner, and then we watched a film about Berlin.
Tuesday and Wednesday were much the same. I got up, went to class, came back to the apartment, did homework, and went to sleep. As part of our International Studies class, we have to do 20 hours of community service. I have been assigned to the Ronald McDonald house here in Leipzig. We toured it on Wednesday, and it is awesome. The house serves as a free of charge place for parents whose kids are in the hospital. A volunteer staff does all the housekeeping and another staff cooks dinner for the parents. I am going to be doing house cleaning on Wednesdays, and two evenings sometime in the semester we will cook for the parents. In fact, the director of the house asked us to do a Texas Barbecue. Talk about STOKED! On Wednesday we also got a tour of the University of Leipzig’s library main branch. This building is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I have lots of pictures of it up on Facebook. We also got Library cards, which means I can use the library whenever I feel like it. Also on Wednesday (busy day) we had dinner with our German Mentors, which was awesome.
On Thursday we went to German class and I saw the increasingly militant Frau Smars for the last time until the next week. After class we went to the train station so that we could catch a train to Berlin for the weekend. Sounds simple, right? But no, the train was late. The lateness, for some unknown reason, prompted Ron to go get coffee. While he was gone, the train showed up. Janine told us all to get on the train. As we were getting on the train, the doors closed. Trey and I were still on the platform. We knocked on the doors in vain, but the conductor looked at us and seemed to say, “you poor fools, perhaps if you were not idiotic Americans, you would have known that you should force your way onto the train without thought to order or politeness.” At any rate, the train left and Ron showed back up with coffee. He then discovered that he had all the tickets, which meant that the seven people who did make it onto the train were stowaways. But the miracle of technology and Ron’s persuaisive abilities came to our rescue. Ron managed to communicate via cell phone to Janine the numbers on the tickets, which seemed to be enough to satisfy the conductor on the train. Ron next turned his gaze on the ticket booth. Ordering Trey and I to go into a nearby coffee shop, he went forward to do battle. He appeared twenty minutes later holding tickets for the next train to Berlin. He had even convinced the lady at the ticket counter not to charge for additional tickets. Sweet!
We got on the train, had a restful ride to Berlin, got off in the train Station, and stepped into the biggest press of people I have ever seen. Talk about crowded! I guess the conductor who had looked at us so piteously was right, if we did not learn how to watch out only for ourselves, we would end up like Mufasa, trampled by a heard of gazelle, or was it wilder beasts?. It was in the Berlin train station that I learned one very valuable lesson, when going somewhere with Ron Morgan, you must learn to walk extremely quickly. Used to a more leisurely pace, I got off the train and started looking around for signs that would point us to where we wanted to go. I then looked around me, and saw that Ron had jumped through a time and space matrix to a point across the train station. Flying into super mode, I charged after him and spent the next twenty minutes keeping the back of his head in sight. Eventually, after a couple of transfers on the Berlin Underground, we made it to the stop nearest our Hostel.
Our Hostel was run by a man who needs to be shot in every joint with a gun point blank. He was loud, obnoxious, and unbelievably prejudiced against students. I swear, he had to be drunk and high and insane. This was not just a one time thing; it was constant. He spent 45 minutes telling us where our rooms were and how to use a key, it’s like he thought we were clever chimpanzees who, though we had learned basic sign language and share 97% of our DNA with humans, were nevertheless incapable of anything but mimicking human interaction. The other thing about this man is that he was absolutely convinced that every college student comes to Berlin in order to get blindly drunk and stoned. He spent large chunks of time telling us where the nearest bars were and where we could find pot. Every time any of us would leave he would loudly demand to know whether we were going out to get drunk. He always laughed knowingly with us when we would deny his accusations. Another oddity about this man was that once he discovered that we were from Texas, he became convinced that Drew was related to Bush. He never referred to any of us by our names, but he certainly called Drew “Mr. Bush.”
Thursday evening we took a bus through the city and viewed the sights. We stopped off at the Reichstag, which is the seat of the German Parliament. We went in and took an audio tour of the city by walking around the circular ceiling and looking out on the city. It was pretty neat. I was able to see the Brandenburg Gate, the red tower (where the mayor chills), a rebuilt Jewish Synagogue, a number of embassies, the allied victory tower, and a bunch of other ancient buildings. Afterward we were freezing and starving (it was ten degrees in Berlin), and so we went to this German restaurant and all had Schnitzel. We made it back to the hostel, yelled at the insane man that we’re not drunk and have no intention of getting drunk, and went up to bed.
Friday we got up, had breakfast, avoided the liverwurst, and headed out to Museum Island. It was way too cold to do anything outside, so we hung out in museums all day. The first place we visited was the Berlin Cathedral. This Cathedral was built in the late 1800’s, but it was built in the tradition of the Baroque period. It was built at the order of the Prussian King in order to glorify the royal family. The Prussian kings are buried in the church and the lectern is in the shape of an eagle, the sign of Prussian Royalty. I took lots of pictures, so check them out on facebook in the album entitled “Berlin.” We also visited the antiquities museum and saw lots of Roman, Persian, and Egyptian stuff. Nefertiti herself was there, which is pretty cool. I also have lots of pictures of this museum as well. The final museum we went to was the German Democratic Republic museum. The GDR was the government that existed for 45 years in East Germany post WWII. It was pretty lousy, but then again, the GDR was pretty lousy. We went and got dinner, hung out for awhile, and then went to sleep.
Saturday we woke up, told the man to shut up and leave us alone, and then went to the German History museum where we spent 4 and a half hours. This Museum is amazing. It details, and I mean details, the history of the Germans from the pre-Roman era til 1994. I could have easily spent another few days in the museum. We left Berlin at 5:07, but it was a close call. Once more Ron made a mistake. He had forgotten that our metro passes had expired, and so we had to spend time buying new ones. But, thanks to my own efforts (I spotted the platform we needed to be at), we made it with five minutes to spare. We arrived back in Leipzig yesterday, got dinner, and then came back to the apartments. Then I slept.