Saturday, May 30, 2009

Zweite Tag

I don't know if I will update this everyday but I have some time right now so I figured I would write while things were still fresh in my mind.
Today we met up at 10 am with Professor Bohn who is in charge of the program. He talked to us for VERY long time, in fact few people could get a word in, and he took out to lunch at a German bakery for sandwiches. I had a nice crusty roll mit Kaese, Gurcken, Tomaten, und Salat (cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce). Es schmekt mir gut! Next Prof. Bohn took us to one of the few areas in Darmstadt that existed pre WW 2 (the entire city was vaporized during the war). It was a beautiful Catholic church that was built for the wife of one of the Hessian (Darmstadt is in the state of Hesse) leaders. She was Russian so the church was built in the russian style with the gold turrets. We also climbed the bell tower and were able to look out over most of the city and see Frankfurt. After walking around a bit more and getting fed more trivia and non stop chatter from Prof. Bohn we went grocery shopping again since the stores will be closed tomorrow since it is a sunday. We also found out that Monday is a holiday so we won't actually be starting work until Tuesday. I atleast am going to try and visit either the castle that Frankenstein lived or Heidelburg. Another plus I found out after meeting with Prof. Bohn is that we're getting paid more than I originally thought and we get meal money (which means I will be practically starving myself to save that money also). This just means more money for travel!!
After returning to the apartments, Mandy (another girl from the REU) and I decided to go running. We ran through a park nearby as well as through part of the city. We didn't get lost once and it was super nice out! I actually feel like I can get around fairly well on my own now. Later we went to the store to buy a frisbee and soccer ball but it was closed already. Tomorrow we are going to head to a nearby lake which I am super pumped about since I originally thought there would be no water nearby. Mandy and I are also going to go to a Catholic mass tomorrow and a church we found on our run.
Some more observations I had today: In grocery stores you must bag your own groceries and the cashiers are VERY efficient! You need to have everything bagged immediately when they're done checking you out. Also, you pay for grocery bags, meaning just one more incentive to reuse bags! Why oh why can't we do simple things like this in the states??? Also, we got the low down on recycling. You get 25 cents for bottle returns here and when you only pay about 50 cents for half a liter of water this is pretty good! Food waste is composted and there are separate bins for plastic goods (including all containers) and paper. This is all fantastic! Just another one of my frustrations with the states! I have only taken a few pictures so far but I will put some up soon of the apartment.

Friday, May 29, 2009

First day in Germany

Guten Abend von Deutschland!!
As all of you know by now I am spending the summer in Germany doing research at Technische Universitaet Darmstadt. I decided to attempt to keep a blog about my adventures. I arrived safely today (May 29th) after lots of delays! My first flight from Detroit to Newark was delayed over an hour but somehow we only arrived about half hour late. Then my flight from Newark to Frankfurt was delayed another hour because of bad weather in Connecticut. Right before we got on the plane I was able to meet up with three of the other REU students: Ivan from Pennsylvania but orginally from Bulgaria, Rebecca from Virginia, and Kris from Michigan also. I was able to sleep a bit on the plane and it felt quite short after my 16 plus hour flight to Tanzania. We arrived in Frankfurt an hour late and were greeted by Daniel, a grad student who spent a year at Virginia Tech, and now is finishing his masters at TUD (Technische Universitat Darmstadt). It was interesting getting around the airport lugging my three suitcases! Six of the REU students were on my flight so next we waited for the two other students who weren't on the flight from Newark to arrive. There are eight of us in total: 3 guys, and 5 girls.
After barely making the next bus from Frankfurt to Darmstadt (about a 30 minute bus ride) we stopped in the Darmstadt city center to buy city bus/tram passes for the summer. This took quite a while and was quite a hassle with so much luggage. The first thing I noticed about Darmstadt were the massive number of bikes. In the city center there were rows upon rows of bikes all full! It really made me quite happy along with the fact that all of our transportation taken was mass trasit. Finally, we made it to our apartment. There are four girls in one apartment and then one in another. One girl is nice but a little bossy so she just kind of got the one person apartment. I wasn't too worried and didn't see any reason to make a big deal about it. I figure I'll just go with the flow on this whole trip. The apartment is nice but VERY cozy. There are two rooms with two beds crammed in each one. The rooms are probably smaller than my freshman dorm. Our kitchen, however, is actually pretty good sized but the rest of the apartment is small and cozy. Everything about the place is very quaint and European. Getting to the apartment dragging suitcases along the very narrow cobblestone streets was probably a comical and quite a ridiculous ordeal.
Finally at 2:30 after quickly cleaning up a bit we headed to lunch for Doner (with an o umlaut) Kebabs. They are actually a turkish dish but are all over in Germany due to the large population of Turkish immigrants. I got a falafal doener and it was delicious. Three other students of our group speak German but haven't really used any of it which slightly bothered me. I was the only one who spoke German at lunch. So far I've understood pretty much everything that I've heard and I can read all the signs which is quite nice but my speaking is rather rough. After lunch Daniel took us to the store to buy German cell phones which turned out to be very complicated. Some people had phones that could work in Germany but needed new SIM cards. Daniel went out of his way to make sure we got a good deal which ended up taking a very long time. Then we went grocery shopping. Groceries are actually quite cheap here! We have a very small fridge so we only got stuff for a few days. I bought cereal, honey, cheese, and yogurt all for 6 euros. Then we went to the bakery and bought some DELICIOUS, thick, wholesome, crusty, and very FRESH wheat bread. . After that we went to the farmer's market and I bought strawberries and apples. Daniel spent the whole day with us until about 6 where he took off from the grocery store. It was really nice having him there to explain things and I felt really bad having him waste his entire Friday walking us around. Three of the other students and I navigated our way back alone. Already I've had to translate for people, so my German has definitely come in handy.
Back at the apartment I finally showered and then all but Mandy, and Ellen (two of my roommates) headed into town to check out this free music festival. It was very crowded but fun to walk around. We ended up buying beer and sitting in this nice park situated next to where the festival was going on. It was quite interesting and entertaining to just watch all of the young drunk Germans having a good time in the park. There is a bier garten there that is open almost all day! The festival is all weekend so tomorrow we plan on picnicking in the evening and listening to music.
Some more notes about Darmstadt: no big supermarkets in sight! Everything is small and there are places where you can just buy cheese, or just a bakery, or just the butcher. It's fantastic!! Darmstadt seems like the perfect sized city. It definitely has that german feel with all of the streets downtown being cobblestone and narrow. Everyone has been very helpful and friendly so far. Perhaps because we are in an area near the University and there are a lot of young people around it seems like people are more open and friendly than what I encountered in Koeln. This weekend we are planning a trip to Munich and then the weekend after that I will likely be in Madrid/Morocco. I am going to have a very hard time leaving this place!! Gute Nacht!