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The Annual Tin Foil Awards
It is that time of year again. The annual Tin Foil Awards are awarded to deserving people again. You have never heard of the Tin Foil Awards? Well,
admittedly, most people haven't. That has no impact, however, on the award's importance or prestige. Wasn't there a time when Henry Fonda told Shirlee Adams "They want me to receive some
kind of 'Academy Award'... but I never attended university"? Probably not! I think the Oscars were always huge. Nevertheless, I am rather certain that there are awards out there which
aren't quite world-changing, yet, but will get there some day: Why shouldn't the Tin Foil Award be one of them?
When I thought about leaving the US, and therefore the University of Michigan, I had this feeling... the feeling that I wanted certain people to know that they had a noticeable impact on my life. I guess everybody knows this feeling. Two years after you shared something on Facebook somebody walks up to you and tells you "Man, that thing you shared on Facebook two years ago... that was great, thanks"... and you had no idea! I think we tell our fellow human beings too little that we appreciate them and what they do, the way they do it. Why?
That's why I created the Tin Foil Awards. I don't have much (except some tin foil) but I want to show people my appreciation more often and 2017 seems like the perfect year to start doing that! So, here we go. These are the first annual Tin Foil Awards and the winners in the categories Best Advisor, Best Student Managers, Best GSI, Best Professor - Language, Best Professor - Communications and Best Professor - Overall, alongside a special award for Variety.
If you need some top-notch advising, Sarah is the person to talk to. She didn't just provide me with academic advise and support, but also helped me out a great deal on a personal level.
Some call her Michigan's Oprah Winfrey, and rightfully so, because it is very easy to open up to her. Once you did open up to her, she will treat your problems with respect and knowledge.
Sarah is a very deserving winner of the first TFA to ever be awarded. The committee wishes her nothing but the best for her future endeavours.
Best Student Managers
Always friendly and always in a good mood, Aaaron and Asma made working, well, not fun (you know, it's still work) but more than bearable. They kept the hierarchy flat and were as much made fun of as they made fun of their minions.
They had a special relationship to every single student and I was genuinely surprised by how quickly they remembered my name and the names of all the other workers. While I never really met them outside of work, they were thoughtful and talented managers for the past five months and seemed like the kind of persons I would love hanging out with if I didn't have to spend all my spare time on studying.
As a GSI, Amelia is responsible for the intermediation between professor and class. Not only did she work together with our professor very well, but also provided interesting alternative ways to think about the course material.
Very attentive to students facial expressions and body language, she often correctly evaluated the collective emotional state of her discussion sections to modify her way of teaching accordingly.
More than once, she lightened the mood with a funny anecdote from her own life. She successfully used this strategy to clarify complicated concepts, as well.
Best Professor - Language
Li Laoshi is very much like the first season of the US hit comedy 'The Office': Short, funny and teaches you a lot!
She managed to get everyone - really everyone - interested in and excited about the Chinese language and culture. She is what all language professors should be like. She can easily detect a student's strengths and weaknesses in order to address their individual barriers in learning a new (and very complicated) language.
While seeing her every week-day could have been a nightmare, she actually made students look forward to their daily dose of Chinese. I will keep taking Chinese in Germany, however, I am sad I cannot keep my teacher.
Best Professor - Communications
Best Professor - Overall
There are several reasons for why Brian Weeks won two of the most prestigious Tin Foil Awards:
1) His special teaching style gets students engaged with the course material in a way that promotes self-reflection, deepens the understanding of concepts presented in readings and connects theory to the students individual circumstances and experiences.
2) Students can actively engage in class even if they haven't had a chance to do the reading.
3) His presentation slides are carefully put together and allow students to write down the most important takeaway while still following the lecture.
4) The course material was fun, contemporary and presented in a way that resulted in the most frequent attendance of any class I have ever taken.
Considering all this, the first double-win in TFA history is well-deserved and something all potential TFA winners should strive to achieve.
Special Award: Variety
The special award for 'Variety' goes to my local Domino's. Never before has an individual or a business misspelled my name in so many - very creative - ways. Among my favourites are:
They really made an effort and deserve this extraordinary award.
Oh man, American college parties.... Beautiful! They never disappoint and they are always similar, regardless of what kind of party it is.
You always have the red cups, people who are already wasted when you arrive, you always have a keg of America's sorry excuse for beer, this feeling that you walked right into a movie, and you always have the smell-mix of alcohol, weed, vomit and - let's face it, this is America - food. Another thing American college parties have in common is the types of people you will meet there and how well they describe the social groups they are a representative of. Let me give you a brief introduction:
"OH MY GOOOOOOOD!" Is the first thing you hear from the well-but barely-dressed privileged white girl with blonde hair and as much brains as money troubles. She will scream these three words through the room like a cockatoo in search of a mate, regardless of what you might have said to trigger this reaction. It might have been "I'm an exchange student and I..." - "OH MY GOOOOOOOD", or "I study communications but actually..." - "OH MY GOOOOOOOOD", or even "Hi, I'm..." - "OH MY GOOOOOOOOOD".
In class, the Sorority Girl attracts attention by using the word 'like' about twenty times per sentence and complaining about the Michigan-weather being "much worse than it is at home in LA". A Sorority Girl is easily recognizable by her Greek-lettered sweater and her geek-splattered setter, who, most likely, is the next type of party attendee we will have a closer look at...
Known for his unparalleled and indispensable ability to provide alcohol to minors, the Frat Guy is an essential part of student life. He will be the one saying things like "Duuuude, beer pong is beer bong with a P, HAHAHA". He usually studies business (because that is something you don't need most of your brain cells for) and he'll be drunk 24/7.
Since he doesn't realize that nobody likes him - exept for himself, of course - he will greet you with a companionate pat on the back and a "Hey man! How's it hanging". If you decide not to answer, he will smile knowingly, give you a wink and disappear for the rest of the night. If you actually answer his question, he will say "Riiiiiight" or "Awesooooome" and disappear for the rest of the night.
If anybody brings his own alcohol to the party, it is this guy. Not good alcohol, however, but the red wine from the 7/11 that sounds the most French. He has
the applaudable ability to talk you through the essentials of Siberian Folk Art while giving you advice about whether real estate is the most promising investment, at the same time. He
isn't really sure what to study yet but prefers the European system of higher education anyway.
Openly showing the professor his discontent with his poor attendance grade, even though he notoriously came in late on his skateboard, is one of this type's specialties. The Pseudo-Intellectual is a subspecies of genus Hipster and is rarely found anywhere besides the depths of the library watching Russian TV sit-coms (because social patterns most visibly reproduce in popular art). If you want to have fun with this type, explain to him why you think Dostoevsky was primarily concerned with the homophobic representation of squirrel sex and he'll be following you around all night.
Probably most and most eligibly annoyed by the Pseudo-Intellectual, the Actual Intellectual is facing more and more doubts about his trustworthiness. At a party the Actual Intellectual is concerned with one of two things: Either, telling the new home owner that this other guy at yesterday's party wasn't right about real estate being the most promising investment just to have a drink shoved in his face alongside the sassy comment "One day it is, the other it's not... You intellectuals are not what you used to be".
More usually the Actual Intellectual is sitting in the corner, drinking bad (but free) beer, wondering why he attended the party in the first place, while looking at the crowd dancing to music they don't like, having conversations they don't care about with people they don't want to get to know. A cockatooesque scream will pull him out of his apathy-like physical and emotional state at some point, after which he will head home asap, so you might not meet this type if you arrive late.
The Nerd has undergone a metamorphosis of galactic dimensions in the past couple of decades. From being the least respected social group on most campuses before the digital revolution, they slowly but surely became more and more popular. Many Hipsters jumped on the train and exploited the concept of The Nerd for their causes (Nerd Glasses, etc.) but that is not the kind of Nerd we are talking about here.
Nerds wear clothing on the brink of becoming cleaning rags, they are socially awkward and usually smell like Doritos and sweat. They are probably the most likeable social group on campus... Oh yeah, and they are brilliant!
The Stoner is the guy with the red eyes you can smell from the moment you enter the party. Also, he doesn't talk too much. Just the occasional "You wanna go smoke?".
College party typology is fun and, for the most part, it is rather accurate. I enjoy the diversity at almost every party here but sometimes I could do without of few of the above.
Or should I call you MagiCus? Do you still want people to call you that ridiculous name only because you made a two-cent coin disappear on a school trip sometime? Everybody saw how you did it anyway.
Well, how are you?
You would like how I am doing. I've travelled a bunch of different countries, I made it to university (even though Mom gave up on you already), oh yeah, and I had sex. It is awesome! You're going to love it. I mean, you're practicing a lot by yourself, but people are right: It's just not quite the same!
Why am I interrupting your carefree rotation of online gaming, gaining weight and masturbation? Quite frankly, I'm not sure. I think it has to do with the fact that I'm living in the US at the moment - something you always dreamed of, remember? Of course you remember; it is on your mind right now. Going where they went in the movies, doing what they did in the movies, living a life like we saw in the movies... I've been living here for eight months now. Actually, I'll be leaving in less than a month.
You probably want to know how 'awesome' it is to live here. Whether it is like you imagine it to be. It is... different. Not necessarily worse, just different. It is not like living inside a movie. I can't do a lot of the things you are looking forward to: I can't go to a bar or a cafe every night, I can't spend all my time doing crazy stunts with my American friends and I cannot ride on the yellow school bus without being considered a pedophile.
I discovered that a lot of things are better at home: Health care, crime prevention, political structures, costs of living, environmental programmes, consumer protection, social services, to name a few. So basically, most of the stuff you don't think about yet, because it doesn't concern you all that much. It will someday... Oh, there is one thing that you do care about, though: The food. And the beer. You love German food and you don't like beer very much, yet, but you pretend you do, so your friends will still respect you. Don't worry, they're only pretending, too. But keep an eye on Christopher; he's at risk of turning into an alcoholic.
Don't think that I don't enjoy living here. The US has a lot going for it. I've made a ton of friends here, university is very fun and high-quality and the other day I was given a free pizza at Domino's. Right, you don't know Domino's... It's a fast food chain selling pizza (it's not as good as the Italian pizza in Germany, but you're going to be addicted to it anyway).
I've learned so much here: How to host a radio show (do you still want to become a radio show host one day?), how long a body can go without sleep (remember those 'sleep-throughs', which were basically just chilling in bed all weekend listening to audiobooks and shamelessly watching the sun fall through the blinds?), how to small-talk (you don't really comprehend this concept, yet... I wish you would never have to, but I guess that's the irony of time), how to speak Chinese (can you believe I'm actually doing that? Me neither!), where to buy cheap red party cups (party, however, will never be your area of expertise... you'll always prefer a small group of friends to a large crowd of faces), how to poetry slam (you will soon discover 'small-art' and you will love it), how to flash for beads (trust me, those man-breasts you are feeling self-conscious about right now will go away someday), that you meet the weirdest people on the Greyhound (road trips aren't as fun as they are made out to be in most five-minute road trip montages) and most importantly, that things aren't always like they seem to be (even you are not always like you think you are... you're going to learn that the hard way, but don't worry, it'll be for the best).
Excuse me for blabbering on and on. I know you want to rejoin your friends - do you seriously still call yourselves the "Bergheim Rangers"? - in losing most of your online games. There is just one thing I want you to know: You're doing great! Keep doing what you're doing and tell Mom I said it's ok. And don't be too hard on her... sure, she's annoying sometimes, but without her you wouldn't have achieved anything and I wouldn't have either. Say hi to Nathi and Kathi, as well. I really miss them sometimes... Don't worry, they didn't die! They are just... much too far away most of the time. Tell Dad that he's going to lose the bet about you hitting 180 cm before your 18th birthday... Actually, don't tell him. He'll find out! And he's going to be maaaaad. You'll see...
Enjoy your time without a worry, well, without a valid one, at least. You might think of low allowance as a valid worry now, but trust me, it isn't. 28-year-old me would probably tell me the same regarding some of my current worries, but what does that guy know, right?
Talk to you soon, you little prick!
PS: You don't know who Donald Trump is, but he'll be President of the United States in 8 years. Say whaaaaaaaat?
Here's an outrageous claim: In America, it is cheaper to own a car than to not own one.
That's a weird thing to say, right? How can paying for something that you don't really need be cheaper than to not pay for it. Well, the answer may come as a shock to you, but it's quite simple. Let me make my case:
To get to the bottom of this, we have to go all the way back to the year 1903. The young and talented Henry had just acquired a loan of $28,000 and was ready to start his own automobile company very close to Ann Arbor.
Detroit seemed like the perfect place to realize his vision of cars for everyone. After Henry moved his company from Mack Avenue to Piquette Avenue, where I had a
relaxing summer night walk not too long ago, things really took off for the Ford Motor Company.
Neither did Henry Ford invent the car, nor did he invent the assembly line. In general, Americans tend to not invent things, but they are ridiculously good at making things better: Bikes, weaponry, computers, Mexican food, you name it!
Ford did a great job at combining the two uprising technologies of personal transportation and mass manufacturing. This didn't only make the Ford Motor Company the Apple of the early 20th century, but turned a heretofore expensive curiosity into a practical conveyance. This conveyance had an unrivaled impact on the economic and social progression of the United States. Fords were the first American product to conquer the world market.
Only 25 years later, one out of six Americans owned a car. Nowadays, cars are considered a necessity rather than a luxury good with every second American owning one. The car is not only convenient but also a symbol of freedom and prosperity. National pride is very closely attached to vehicles, too. The sighting of a foreign car on the roads is a rare occurrence.
With this in mind we can tackle my crazy claim: In America, it is cheaper to own a car than to not own one.
Actually, let me tell you about the structure and arrangement of public space in the States first. This is only going to take a second and it's very important to my point. So, just when the first Fords hit the road at around 1900, another American phenomenon was in the makings. It would restructure and redefine the American way of thinking about consumerism and self-determination: The first department stores opened their gates. A department store is basically a massive shopping center with the purpose of keeping people entertained through shopping rather than selling groceries or similar necessities. With the rise of the department store and increasing wages, Americans started to buy for pleasure to transform themselves through the commodities they consumed.
As cities started to grow and space became scarce, these shopping centers were moved from urban areas like downtown New York to more rural areas like suburbs. The high supply of space kept the rents low and allowed to build huge 'shopping towns' we now know as malls. Lower rents meant lower prices. This is still true today, of course. It is still much, much cheaper to buy things a little outside the city. This is where the car comes in.
We established the social role of the car in America. Let's focus more on the practical aspects now.
This is where we finally have a look at why it may be cheaper to have a car here than to have none:
1) The prices for groceries in the city (Ann Arbor) are at least twice as high as somewhere a little outside.
You may think: 'Well, that's what public transport is for!' You'd have a point... But you would also reveal that you didn't read my article on public transport in the US, yet. Public transport is... not very good here. Just to go to a shopping center or supermarket on the bus will cost you about 1-1,5 hours. If you don't plan ahead very well - that's me and probably most other university students - you have to shop for groceries at least twice a week. That is three hours of riding around on a bus and waiting in the cold.
And this is a best-case-scenario. The general case would be a bus being late or not arriving at all because it's too late, too early, too rainy, too snowy, too
weekendy, too holidayy or whatever other reason the bus company might think of. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I spend about 3 hours a week just waiting for the bus. And
there we have the second problem:
2) If you want cheaper groceries, you're going to have to invest a lot of time to make up for it.
Just travelling from my house to the supermarket and back consumes more of my spare time than all my weekly showers combined - and I am not a quick showerer. It consumes more time than what I spend on eating my meals all week. You could watch any of the Lord of the Rings movies in the time it takes me to go to the supermarket and back. In a car, it would only take me about 20 minutes.
Ok, the article might be a little... 'out there' from here on out:
The question now, of course, is how much I usually spend on groceries. I'd say it all adds up to about $80 a week. If I'd buy my groceries in town exclusively that'd be $160. In total I would pay an extra $320 a month if I only shopped in town.
Is owning a car really more expensive than $320 per month? Well, the AAA says: Yes! Yes, it definitely is. In fact, they estimated the average expenses for a car to be about $725 per month, so about twice of what you would spend only shopping in town. They did not take into account, however, that cars are basically cash cows. How? I'm glad you asked. Let me elaborate:
We established that the public transport system in the US is subpar - and that's not 'super', dad, that means 'below the acceptable'. This creates a demand for transportation. There is a reason for Uber kicking off in the US. I could Uber around all day with hourly earnings of up to $25. 30 hours of Ubering a month would pay for my car. 30 hours are quite a lot, though. Luckily, there are other ways to earn money with your car. For example, renting out permanent storing space in the trunk or transporting illegal substances.
I think it is safe to say that I made a valid point here and proved that it is, in fact, cheaper to own a car in the US than to not own one. I have to admit, however, that I don't mind the waiting and the walking and the long bus rides. It is time I have to myself, time I am forced to enjoy with some music playing in my headphones or an audiobook. It is an opportunity to meet interesting people - and believe me when I say that I have made a lot of weird friends on the bus.
That's why I won't bother buying a car for my last couple of months here, even though I might have more money in my account if I did...
Colourful houses, a sophisticated pathway system and large common areas including a pool, a pond with a fountain, as well as a grill for relaxed breakfasts and tables to sit together. The authentic equivalent to vintage furniture (used furniture), welcoming people and the feeling that something's always going on. Our hostel was more of a little village than the typical hostel I was used to from travelling around New Zealand. Over there you had the community aspect, which was nice, but the hostels usually were a lot less beautiful.
Because they had someone cook every morning, our days usually started out with slightly burned pancakes and potatoes, an egg, naan bread and orange juice. Eating a homemade breakfast by the pool while in a shirt is something you enjoy after enduring 3 months of Michigan winter.
When we made our way towards downtown we had just one thing in mind: Relaxing. As I mentioned in Part I, our mid-term workload had pushed us to the edge and another day of sightseeing would have dragged us right over. That's why we had a quick look around the city center, bought a Praline (caramel with almonds and pronounced "Pwrählein"), got on a street cart and went all the way to Audubon Park.
Now, a quick word about the street carts in New Orleans:
1) I'm not sure whether it's street cart or street car.
2) It's the oldest operating street cart in the US. It's even older than the cable cars in San Francisco.
3) It's the cheapest way to get around New Orleans ($3 a day).
4) It's always crowded.
5) It is slow as hell.
6) There is nothing more relaxing than a nightly street cart ride with open windows and the fresh spring air blowing in.
In Audubon Park, we listened to music (and sang along), had a nap and did what every student now again wishes they could do: Absolutely nothing. You wouldn't believe how necessary this felt at that moment. Our Sunday was served off by our sensational waiter that night, somewhere in a small patio bar in the French District, where we grabbed some dinner. The waiter seemed to be some sort of professional dancer and swung his hip at us with every plate he brought to the table. Since we're students and not rich people we didn't thank him through a huge tip but rather with a big smile, which, I'm sure, he'll appreciate just as much, because what is more valuable than love?
The third day was sneaky. It appeared to be much shorter than the other days! After an awesomely mediocre breakfast, a street cart ride to City Park - here we had our daily nap again (man, I love vacations) - and a small picnic, we set off to the 'New Orleans Museum of Art' (NOMA), which is also in City Park. Inside we took some sexy pictures...
... and pretended to look at weird paintings with a sense of questioning appreciation of what the hell the artist could have thought of while drawing two blue stripes on a blanc canvas.
Cuban food is great! So, we had some that night, followed by what I can only describe as edible clouds. What the hell am I talking about? Well, there are these things called Beignets, right... they taste like clouds freshly harvested from right underneath St. Paul's sandals. Cafe Du Mond, quite close to the French Market, is famous for making the best Beignets known to humankind and I can assure you: I've never had any better ones!
Sitting in the warm New Orleans night, with busy people swarming around us, going places or staying exactly where they are, Katharina told me about this weird fear of hers... She's afraid of giving money to street artists. I looked over to the jazz band playing in front of the cafe and confiscated her Beignets. Since she was really craving those small, powdered bastards she went for it and overcame this fear once and for all and there is proof:
Our last day in town was probably, in its complete lack of productivity, the most productive one. A New Orleans trip without at least one sunset over the Mississippi river, isn't a New Orleans trip. And after a long day of lying in the Mississippi sun, doing Mississippi jack, the sun Mississippily set!
This would be a nice way to end this second article about our trip to the South! Later that night, however, Katharina met the love of her life in the streets of downtown New Orleans.
I just wanted to share this beautiful moment between Katharina and Frank with the world, and by world, I mean you crazy people who actually read my blog! It's not going to work out between them, for obvious reasons: The pig's underage!
Sin tu mirada, sigo
Sin tu mirada, sigo
Dime Sofia, cómo te mira
Dime cómo te mira, dime
Sé que no, sé que no
Sé que solo, sé que ya no soy oy oy oy
Sin tu mirada, sigo
Sin tu mirada, Sofia
"AHA!" the elderly woman yelled out as if she had the correct letters to spell a very complicated word in Scrabble.
"I cannot let you through with this bottle. There might be too much liquid left in there. You're only allowed to carry 100 ml." she explained while starring at the single drop of water that was running down the side of Katharina's drinking bottle, after we had drained it right before the security check.
"Yes, but you can see that this bottle clearly holds less than 100 ml right now." we tried to persuade her.
"I can't see that!"
Well, sure she couldn't see that. She looked like Abraham Lincoln's mom!
"Ok" we tried another approach "can we just drink the fluid that's left in the bottle right here?"
"Are you crazy?" she asked and I added in my very quiet angry-security-voice: "That would make the whole process of security checking much more convenient and less humiliating. That's not the way it's supposed to be!"
"What did you say?" she asked and looked at me.
"Nothing, isn't there any way we can circumvent going through the check again?"
"I'm sorry" but she clearly wasn't sorry "but the person whose bottle this is has to empty it outside the airport and come back in through the security check. And look, the line just got a little longer, I'd hurry!"
She smiled as if mocking us was her greatest wish come true and showed us to the exit. Her shaky hands with long, pink finger nails shoved our bags over to us as she turned around looking for her next victim...
You might be wondering why I didn't put out any articles within the last week. That is because I was on a magical journey, which started right here with.... let's call her Susan from the SS. No,
not the SS. The security staff! The combination of her thoroughness and her age, however, should have given us a clue about where she most likely completed her apprenticeship:
The other SS.
I said this journey was magical and you know my tendency to exaggerate, but it was actually very, very cool! I never would have considered New Orleans a place I needed to see or a travel destination in the first place. In Europe, New Orleans is mostly famous for how badly it was hit by hurricane Katrina in 2005. I started thinking about New Orleans and did recall that Louis Armstrong was born and raised in the "Big Easy". As we would find out walking through the narrow streets of the America-famous French Quarter (and I say "America-famous", because it really isn't known outside the US), we realized just how great of an impact music - and especially live music - has on the city.
But I'm jumping ahead of myself. Let's focus on the important, big things that happened and ignore all the small stuff, unless it's particularly hilarious. Do you want a sneak peek at the funny stuff? I know you do:
Let's dive right into the first day then:
Even though the security check was unnecessarily long, it couldn't scratch the bubble of good mood surrounding us. It was Spring Break! After two weeks of what every student will describe as "the most suicidal I've ever been", it was finally off to New Orleans for us. Why New Orleans? I don't really know. The trip was rather spontaneous. One day Katharina said:
"My roommate's going to New Orleans. Sounds like a fun place to be."
"Ok!" I replied and that was all the travel planning we needed to do.
Originally another German friend of mine wanted to come but he didn't have the money after blowing it all on rent and books and stuff... Ha, fool! That's how we came up with New Orleans, anyway, and two weeks later the Big Easy was where we were going.
Before we left we were told we could expect a bit of partying, since we arrived on the final and most intense day of Mardi Gras, a massive celebration with costumes and everything, very similar to 'Karneval' or 'Fasching'. This little bit of partying turned out to be a seemingly collective consensus that all rules of decency shall be disobeyed by everyone on this one, very special day.
"People are not dressed up like something in particular, they're just... dressed up!" Katharina screamed through the roaring ringing and screaming and singing, while walking down the main party route for one of the many parades. And truth is, they were. Everybody was just sort of dressed up, but all costumes had one thing in common: They were slutty.
Flashing for beads is a Mardi Gras tradition. For those not familiar with the concept of flashing, it is basically pulling up your shirt in order to publicly expose your chestal area. Originally intended for women - because let's face it, male breasts are weird - guys were doing it now, too, and I really have to say, that just made me... you know, it made me... want to join them right away!
After we had earned ourselves some cool beads (which we forgot to take home and are trying to recover at this very moment) we just strolled through the masses of crazy folks and party people. It was hilariously entertaining just to watch this city go nuts:
It was a fest of diversity and a contest of who could look the dumbest. I was doing very well in that contest and I wasn't even wearing a costume! We had a great time and agreed that this was probably the best day to arrive in New Orleans. In the following days, the city would make a completely different impression, but more on that later.
After a couple of hours of walking around without having food, we decided to have dinner somewhere. We didn't think this would turn out to be such a hassle, but after all, the Grasers, as we called them, needed food to fuel the party tank! So, we asked locals (just look for the ones who don't look like Elton John on crack). They recommended a very "fun" place to eat. It was called Mona Lisa and the entire restaurant was filled with... replicas and various versions of the Mona Lisa. While that might seem like a cute idea, it turns out to be intensely creepy having 60 Mona Lisas stare at you eating your pizza. The Grasers on the other side of the window took our mind off the creepiness, though. Many people were wearing much less than they should have and much less people who shouldn't have were wearing even less than that while some people who could have didn't.
Mardi Gras was a lot to take in, especially with half a day of travelling gripping us to the marrow. The logical conclusion was to calm our nerves doing something one of us hadn't done before. Somewhere in the craziness of the celebration, someone had tossed us frisbee. Since Katharina hadn't played with a frisbee before in her life - whaaaaaat? - we decided to have a go in the Louis Armstrong Park. When we saw it was already closed shut for the night, we just started playing in front of the illuminated entrance and thus, became part of many tourist's holiday pictures.
That was our first day in New Orleans and it was stressful. It also was very exciting, but Spring Break should be all about recovery. We had some of that in the following days but also cool other stuff. I'll try to squeeze all the rest into another article, but now I should really have some breakfast!
Here are some pictures from the beginning of our trip:
"Hail! to the victors valiant,
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes,
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the leaders and best.
Hail! to the victors valiant,
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes,
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
the champions of the West!"
Michigan's fight song will be stuck in your head for days and days and days after having attended a sports event, or just any event for that matter. This song is all around and people just seem to love singing it, as long as it's even slightly appropriate. Sing it on the bus and everybody will chime in. Sing it during an exam and your professor will give you an A. Sing it at your grandma's funeral and she might come back from beyond the grave to thank you. This song is inescapable. Undoubtedly, however, it is really catchy and cool!
In basketball, the stadium seems to be a bowl; a bowl you use to heat up Twizzlers in the microwave! Everybody just completely loses their minds when something happens and in basketball, there is something happening all the time. Basketball feels more intense than American Football, because everything is much more... immediate. The crowd is smaller but closer. Closer to each other, closer to the court, closer to ecstasy. The limitless lightshow, the sonorous sounds and the anomalous announcer... It's fascinating:
In my eyes, it still doesn't quite compare to football (soccer), but being from Dortmund, one of the capitals of sports and fandom, my standards are pretty high.
And when I say 'doesn't quite compare to football (soccer)', I still mean insanely atmospheric and fun!
We had an amazing time and Michigan won. It was their last home game this season, so everybody was extra hyped. They managed to beat Purdue (Indiana University) 82-70. It was an unexpected and great win and gave us something nice to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
We are leaving for New Orleans on Tuesday morning. Until then, I finally have some time to myself... hopefully!
Do you know this feeling? The feeling that you get when you have something you haven't had in a while and all of a sudden you realize how much you actually missed it?
Last Monday I realized just how much I had missed the sun. I hadn't seen it all December and just a couple of times in January and February, too. This week, however, completely took the cake. It was sunny and it was hot. I worked on my first tan lines and had a decent sweat walking to class. It was 18°C in the shade. In February. In Michigan. That is as insane as it is pleasant. On campus, you could really feel how much the sun had improved everyone's lives. Students were having picnics and started hammocking anywhere where there were two trees close enough to hang a massive Banana or, as the case for Lauren's and Chris' hammock, an enormous pea pod in between them. Especially during the mid-terms, every student seemed to have worked up an unhealthy hatred towards everything and everyone. The sun just burned their stress and anxiety away.
Several of my fellow students are now posting statements like: "This kind of weather in February? How can people still think that global warming isn't real?". While I can only agree with them, that it is an absolute joke to see people still questioning global warming, I have to point out that these were the same people who posted statements like these when there was snow in September: "To all those saying this snow disproves global warming, keep in mind that weather is still weather and does crazy things sometimes". Come on people, don't be hypocrites and make a better point!
“Don’t eat the glue, Marius”, “This looks horrible, Marius” and “Mrs. Lex, your son is utterly untalented… in an endearing way, of course” are quotes from my pre-school days I will never forget. Not because they described me very well, but because they shaped my stance on arts and crafts more than anything else in my life. My teachers concluded I was incurably untalented, after I had made a photo frame to give to my Mom for Christmas. While the other kids had garnished theirs with glitter and bedighted them with beads, I had glued uncooked noodles to my frame.
Even though I realized my teachers had clearly given up on me, I still tried to create something unique, every time we did arts and crafts. A feetless flamingo, a chiseled chestnut and many hours of whacky weaving later, however, I too accepted that I would probably never be good at this. Following this realization, I started, you know… eating glue and stuff.
In Chinese class I discovered arts and crafts as one as my hidden talents, though.
The art of paper cutting is China’s oldest and most popular art. Shortly after paper was invented in the Han Dynasty about 1900 years ago, and became more and more accessible to people, this beautiful folk art emerged. Over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, a variety of new techniques was applied and perfected by the Chinese.
In China, the paper cutouts or “剪纸 (jianzhi)”, are used as decorations, especially at weddings and childbirths. They are usually red and symbolize love and health.
Since no one in our class was pregnant or wanted to get married, we just crafted for the heck of it. It was hard, it was precision work but most of all it was fun. I was still horrible at it, because… let’s face it, it was still me doing it, but our Chinese teacher lied about it being “beautiful” … yeah, right. For the first time in many, many years I had fun arts and crafting.
Apart from the great weather and paper cutting the week was pretty stressful and not really worth talking about. I wrote a paper on the role tampons played in the
manifestation of new ideals of womanhood in the post-depression, pre-war era and received an A-. As always, I scored a 28/30 on my Chinese oral exam and have a good feeling about my other
mid-terms, as well.
WCBN had a fundraiser this week, which means that the station tries to get their listeners to call in and make donations to support the station. Since WCBN does not allow advertisement, it is the only source of income for the station. We collected a lot of money (well into the 5 digits) and had fun doing it.
Spring Break is upon us and we're going to New Orleans, so get ready for a couple of cool, sunny pictures from the very south of the United States.
Waiting for the bus...
In Germany: Annoying.
In Sweden: Why would you wait for the bus?
In Japan: What's a bus again?
In the United States: Your slow and painful death.
This is a story about me. It is about me waiting. Me waiting for a bus. Waiting for a bus in the USA. A story that makes me miss my unreliable, yet occasionally functioning car back home in Germany.
First off, I have to mention two things:
1. When I talk about public transport in this article, I don't mean the red line from downtown Manhattan to the Bronx. I mean buses in provincial areas, which, logically, make up most of the nation's public transport system.
2. Public transport is for poor people. Every self-respecting American who can afford a car, affords a car. Alongside the wooden house, the perfect front yard and the white fence it is part of the American Dream, the national identity, the very essence of what it means to be American. With 127,576,670 registered cars, the States easily top the list for most personal vehicles in a country. They exceed China, a billion-inhabitant country, by 200%. This might give you an idea of how important cars are to the American lifestyle. And it makes sense! This is a huge country. Nevertheless, you only ride the bus if you have to.
My only decent pair of pants had ripped in an unfortunate location. So, I had to get new ones. I was in a bit of a hurry since I wanted to make it to my 12 o'clock class. I checked Google Maps for the quickest route and arrived at the closest bus stop on time. After the obligatory five-minute-delay, the bus came by to pick me up and let me out at the mall about 15 minutes later. I walked right into the clothing store of my choice, tried on one pair of pants and bought them (I'm stereotypically uncomplicated when it comes to clothes). This is where the fun starts:
While I was buying the new pair of pants I'm wearing right now, it had started to rain. This might not pose a problem in an area where you have an adequate number of roofed bus stops. In the US, however, that is rarely the case. With my new pants in a plastic bag, I stepped out of the store. I knew my coat would protect me from the increasingly heavy rain for about seven or eight minutes before surrendering to it and soaking through. That was about the amount of time it would take me to run from the store to the bus stop, look at the schedule, run back to the store to seek shelter and then to run back to the bus stop again to catch the next bus. I exhaled one last time and my breath turned into a whirling wave of fog, levitating from the sheltered entrance area of the store out into the gray day, slowly dissolving in the thick curtain of rain. Then, I ran for it.
When I arrived at the bus stop, I felt I had done a good job escaping as much of the cascades pouring down on me as possible. A look at the shiny surface of my normally dead-black coat proved me wrong. My eyes rapidly darted over the schedule, which was pinned to the post of the bus stop. It didn't take long to find what I was looking for.
"Line 4, Monday through Friday, between 10 am and 6 pm, arriiiiives... approximately every 20 minutes? What the hell is that?"
The problems, of course, which this kind of schedule spawned were twofold. Firstly, I didn't know whether I was going to make it to my class in time. Secondly, there was no way for me to guess what time would be best to leave my shelter and await the bus in the rain. There was absolutely no way I was going to potentially miss the only bus that could take me to class in time; so, I waited in the rain. Let me walk you through this, very... memorable, experience:
After 2 Minutes: I feel the rain pelt on my coat. I would have already bought an umbrella if they weren't so ridiculously expensive...
After 4 Minutes: A fierce wind gets up. It's shooting the rain at my face like a very uncomfortable shower of bullets. My nose is cold.
After 6 Minutes: My coat is much heavier than usual. The first drops of rain make it to my shirt. I feel the cold touch of the water at first but forget about it as the drop's temperature seemingly adapts to that of my body.
After 8 Minutes: A sudden move of my arm (I tried to look at my watch) let's cold, wet air stream underneath what I mistakenly think of as my only hope to keep me warm. From the cold stickiness, the flow of air revealed under my coat, I conclude that I am soaked all the way through and my body is only losing warmth now.
After 12 Minutes: My shoes aren't waterproof; my backpack isn't waterproof, either; the only thing that's holding up is my phone. It's still playing music. It's wet, because I don't have any dry place to put it, but it's holding up.
After 15 Minutes: A raindrop is running down my back, all the way to the tailbone, disappearing somewhere in the depth of my underwear. This gives my already ice-cold body the chills.
After 18 Minutes: Where is that bus? What are the odds that it ran just two minutes before I got to the bus stop? Well, it's only two more minutes at most...
After 21 Minutes: I hate the lack of reliability in this country. At this moment, I would pretty much hate everything... like that kid over there on the other side of the street, waving at me from under its umbrella... Piss off, you little rainproof bastard!
After 27 Minutes: The last bit of energy, required to hate everything, has left my brain and is now focused on merely keeping me alive.
After 29 Minutes: Memo to myself: Never trust the word 'approximately' ever again. It will trick you and let you down! Where is this bus??
After 30 Minutes: YES! There is the bus! Finally, I wouldn't have been able to endure this torture for any lo... oh, nevermind, it's not mine...
After 32 Minutes: My suffering has come to an end...
...No, I didn't die. A bus arrived eventually. 12 minutes late and on a schedule, that forces you to wait out in the rain for god knows how long. This incident gave me a massive cold. I didn't make it to my class, either. I was just incredibly glad when I made it home, took off my clothes and just fell into bed to warm up in new, dry, warm, life-giving clothes.
What's the moral of the story? Well, for one, don't trust public transport in the States. It will try to kill you! But much more important are the positive aspects of this experience. You didn't see any positive aspects in the story? Think about it: I am never going to have a worse time waiting for a bus (which was proven yesterday when I waited out in the cold for my bus for over 20 minutes and really couldn't be bothered to care). I am going to appreciate any functioning public transport system much more from now on. I am going to appreciate my car much more from now on. I bought an umbrella (which isn't necessarily a good thing, but it's green and it brightens my days). And last but not least I had a day off for a change. Sometimes you really have to be forced into relaxing by circumstances you cannot control.
I am going to keep these positive aspects in mind and remember the bad ones as well, but I won't be thinking about them too much anymore, much less be upset about them. Because what good would it do if I was?
One reason for why living in the US is so expensive, is that there is a multitude of holidays. You have some sort of special day here at least once a month, some are more important and some are less important, but all of them usually involve spending a lot of money you don't have, on stuff that you don't really need, but which, admittedly, is nice to give. How many holidays are there? Well, a couple:
January: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day
May: Mother's Day, Memorial Day
June: Father's Day, Flag Day
July: Independence Day
August: Off-Work Season
September: Labor Day
There are a couple of holidays in there of which you might think "Sure, it's a holiday but it's not such a big deal". I thought Valentine's Day was one of those days. In Germany, it is not really a thing (yet), not as much as it is in the Sates, at least. The average spending here is a whopping $131 per person.
This got me thinking... How much do Americans spend on holidays? I did some research and found that the average American consumer's spending for the specific holidays is put
Super Bowl Sunday ($75), Valentine's Day ($131), St. Patrick's Day ($35.37), Easter ($146), Mother's Day ($172.22), Memorial Day ($220), Father's Day ($125.92), Independence Day ($100), Labor Day ($55.98), Halloween ($74.34), Thanksgiving ($50.11), Black Friday ($290), Christmas ($929), New Year's Eve ($200).
If we add all of this up and allow a $20 takeout and beer assumption for the holidays I couldn't find valid statistics for, we see that, with a total average spending of $2,664.94 per year, Americans really love their holidays and do not hesitate to show that by spending money on them. That makes it quite pricey to participate in the American culture.
What I also discovered about Valentine's Day and what surprised me quite a bit, was how old this tradition of showing your affection is. It can be traced back all the way into the 14th century, to Geoffrey Chaucer and the beginnings of courtly love. It wasn't capitalized on until the first half of the 20th century, though.
I, myself, am not a huge fan of this tradition, although I do understand why people love to do it. It is nice to be shown that somebody loves you. Considering my clumsiness around women, however, I do have reason not to participate in this holiday, because I would mess stuff up. Anyway, I wish everyone out there a great day. May your Valentine buy you stuff!
It is exam season again... The time of the term all students live for. When the average student's self-esteem hits rock bottom and the priorities in life shift from enjoying to enduring, time to relax is scarce. All of a sudden, you appreciate the distance from your desk to the bathroom, because the time it takes you to travel this distance is time you don't have to spend trapped in a cage of self-respect, your parents' expectations and your professors' goodwill which you just don't want to jeopardize. Many of the new-term-resolutions you so ambitiously set for yourself several weeks ago, have been disregarded more thoroughly than your computer's urgent update notifications. Why? Because you suck at prioritizing, or perhaps because you overestimated your abilities or maybe just because you're not good enough for this university? Haha, I'm just kidding, of course. I'm good enough for any university! It must be the prioritizing then...
If you do want to catch a break from studying, however, you must suppress the nagging feeling that you should be spending this time at the library instead of being out, having fun. And you have to make it count. Where to catch a more relaxing break than in a Jamaican restaurant in town? When Kathi and I went to have some dinner at the "Jamaican Jerk Pit", we were surprised by the quality of the food. Jamaicans really know how to prepare a nice and filling meal. That's probably because you don't want to be reliant on Taco Bell's sorry excuse for Tacos when you have the munchies.
Another surprise made the Saturday night off even better. Expecting some sort of thrilling mystery story, we set off to the Keene Theater. "A Dangerous Experiment" was the title of the play and luckily it didn't turn out to involve an unsettling history of human trafficking, as I had expected, but was actually about how co-education (education for male and female students) was introduced here at the University of Michigan in 1875. It was an empowering story which left me wondering which aspects of today's life people will find completely odd and revolting in 50 or maybe even 100 years.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot more to add. The sad tristesse that is my life during midterms makes even 'riding the elevator' sound exciting. Just wish me luck and send me happy thoughts. I can assure you, I'll send some right back!
It was Super Bowl Sunday! In the nerve-wrecking finale of the NFL season, the New England Patriots succeeded over the Atlanta Falcons in the first ever overtime Super Bowl. Since this event has gained quite a bit of popularity in Europe as well, I am excited to tell you that in the US this day is...... Pretty much like any other Sunday.
On Super Bowl Sunday Americans eat a staggering 1.33 billion chicken wings, 13,000,000 kg of chips and 3,600,000 kg of Guacamole. Pizza Delivery Services make a third of their annual earnings on this day and pain medication sales double on Monday morning. Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest food-related holiday in America, right after Thanksgiving. To run a 30 second commercial, companies have to fork over an impressive $5 million. That is $166,667 a second!
You might think "Wow, that sounds insane! Marius was so lucky to experience this madness", but I've got to tell you: It wasn't all that crazy. No special deals from pizza or chicken wing takeouts, no crazy amounts of merchandize in stores, no one coming up to you asking "Hey man, you gonna watch the Super Bowl?", no public viewing, no promotions, no huge parties in the neighbourhood... At least in Ann Arbor everything was much, MUCH more calm than expected.
I feel like in Germany this event is perceived as being much more crazy than it actually is. In the US, it's more like a nice occasion for a get together with friends, to eat as much unhealthy food as possible (and I'm not judging here, I love unhealthy food as much as any other guy and calm get togethers are much more pleasant than huge parties). In contrast, back home it is much more ritualized and hyped up than it is in the US. I guess that is because it's happening on a Sunday night and many people who want to watch it have to either take a day off from work, accept the fact that they are going to be unproductive if they don't have any days off left or - like I always did - be a lazy student. If people would have to stay up this late to watch the Super Bowl in the US... well, they wouldn't. Most of them, anyway. So, German American Football fans have to be a lot more dedicated and invested in this sport to watch the Superbowl. I just couldn't believe how little of a deal the Super Bowl was here in Ann Arbor, so I just had to check the numbers. How many Americans actually watch the Superbowl? Was it just Ann Arbor or were there other places in the US that just couldn't be bothered?
The estimated number of viewers for this event ranges from a little less than 120 million to over 800 million people. I am going to trust CBS Sports on this one: 118.5 million people watch this event in the US. Although, American Football has gained popularity outside the US, it is nowhere near being considered a 'popular sport' anywhere in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia or even in wide parts of Northern America. NFL spin-offs in other countries have failed miserably, as well. So, we can assume that the number of viewers outside the US is probably not as high as it is within the US. As it is very hard to get your hands on accurate estimations, however, let's just assume the US viewer numbers by two: That makes 237 million viewers worldwide. While I thought this number should be higher, having only experienced this in Germany, thinking that AT LEAST every American watched this event out of mere patriotism, 237 million seems - to be completely honest - rather flattering for the NFL, now that I have actually experienced - or much more accurate NOT experienced - it in its home nation. More Americans than expected just don't really seem to care too much about the Super Bowl.
Nevertheless, it is a great event and ticket prices are exorbitantly high. The average ticket price for the 2017 Super Bowl was $6,250, which is about $3,000 cheaper than in 2015, but still... crazy! People are taking another mortgage on their houses and cancelling holiday trips to the Carribean, that's how much they want to go to this 4-hour firework of highlights and celebrities. And who can blame them? I mean, if you had grown up, watching American Football with your dad every weekend, why wouldn't you want to go to the Super Bowl someday when you can afford it?
I myself am not the biggest American Football fan as you guys probably know, so I won't have to buy pain medication tomorrow morning. I do have two exams coming up, though, so wish me luck and have a smooth Superbowl Monday!
Ok campers, rise and shine. And don't forget your hoodies because it's cold out there today!
It's Groundhog Day, everybody. Most of my German friends will know this day from a movie Germans call "Und täglich grüßt das Murmeltier". The original title of course is... "Groundhog Day". I always thought that Germans were much better at naming things than Americans. For example, what Americans call "Secret Service", Germans have named "Federal Messaging Service", which makes sense, because in case of a Russian hacking attempt we want them to think our secret service was nothing but a mobile network provider.
Anyway, the groundhog has spoken aaaaaaand.....:
So apparently different groundhogs offered contradicting forecasts, but we've got to stick with the original one. The original groundhog could see his shadow... That means six more weeks of winter... The good thing about this, however, is that we can appreciate the spring and summer so much more, when - or more accurately 'if' - they eventually arrive!
In your minds I see confusion. I see a burning question, deeply seeded in your hearts. You are wondering what the headline means, right? Oh yes, I can read your thoughts! Call me Galadrius or something... Knowing my insolent ex-roommate, Lucas, he has probably already looked up what the headline means - because he's an unrelenting smartass - but for all of you who want to keep the suspense high or those who simply cannot work a computer and wouldn't know how to look up what the headline means if I explained it to them a thousand times (Hi, Dad!), I am going to reveal the meaning in the very last part of this article.
First, however, let's focus on the fun stuff in life: Fridges! Fridges are great, aren't they? They keep food cool. They keep beverages cool... That's what fridges do... Unless they don't work properly. We are worried about Fridgey McFridgeface - that's what we casually call our fridge - because it just overcools everything. If you leave hot soup in there for a minute or two it comes out a frozen block. That's why we have to store all of our food on the front porch with the squirrels... Freedom!
Look at that cheeky, little bastard in the middle, just waiting to nibble on my sausage... Anyway, Let's move on to the good stuff:
1) In my anthro discussion class we had a knowledge competition and under my professional lead my team won: Yay!
2) I just finished my first of only three papers this term (only three, can you believe it?) and I am ready for my two upcoming exams on Monday.
3) I found a one-dollar-bill under my pile of dirty laundry... here he is:
Yep... Worst. Pun. Ever. Moving on, tomorrow's groundhog day, so expect a funny post!
Now, let's get to the solving of the Chinese puzzle we've all been waiting for. The characters up there mean "New Year"
It was Chinese New Year on the 28 January, so we had a little get together at Gregory Co-Op House, studied Chinese and had some traditional Hot Pot (Hot Pot is basically a pot which is divided in two by an aluminum wall and you boil vegetables, meat and dumplings in medium hot broth on one side of the wall and super hot broth on the other side of the wall). It was prepared by one of our Chinese friends and super delish! After the Hot Pot we watched Mulan. You know... the Disney movie I hadn't seen before - god knows why - and which is absolutely fantastic! Plus my favourite scene from one of my favourite movies (The Lord of the Rings - Return of the King) was stolen from, and that is FROM not BY, Mulan. I am disappointed in you, Peter!
I'm a bad person! Or am I? Do you want in on my emotional conflict? Well, no matter whether you want to or not, you're going to be so be ready to read a heart-breaking story:
It all started in one of the many community halls. Students usually sit together and study in silence. I like this place, because it is quiet, I can concentrate and, much like most American facilities, it allows food... you know, because it's America! Yesterday, however, the lack of a rule prohibiting food in these halls turned out to be my demise.
I was studying Chinese for the vocab quiz I'd have that afternoon. Since it was around lunch-time, almost everybody was eating a snack of some sort. Most people try to keep the food they bring
light and as non-pungent as possible. Most people... but then there are also people like the girl who was just sitting down next to me.
Before her bag even hit my arm and ruined a perfectly fine Chinese character I had spent the last couple of minutes drawing, she pulled out a sandwich. She put it on the desk, sat down, pulled out a can of soda and unwrapped her sandwich. I was enjoying my well-deserved daily Frosty (soft ice-cream) only just until the smell of the girl's sandwich hit my olfactory organ. I have absolutely no idea what she put on there but it very much reminded me of the rotten cheese my Mom pretends to like so much, just to annoy my Dad. Everyone who has known me for more than one encounter with cheese, knows that I hate it just as much as I hate rotten stuff. The combination of both is the logical worst case scenario. In fact, if somebody forced me to either eat a piece of rotten cheese or to kill my hamster, I'd probably kill my hamster... That's how much I despise rotten cheese!
So when the girl was openly enjoying her rotten cheese sandwich, I obviously, wasn't! And most of the other students seemed to notice the strong smell, as well. Since everyone was much too polite
to say anything we just turned our heads away and kept on doing what we had been doing. For me that was eating my Frosty. Unfortunately, every bite of the sad highlight of my day now tasted like
a gouda which had been forgotten in the very far corner of the fridge, growing so much fungus, that it was closer to being alive than most ICU-patients.
Just as I thought it couldn't get any worse, the girl opened the can of soda. Do you know this very artificial smell of energy drinks? Well, imagine that times ten and you get an idea of the nail polish remover she was drinking. The fumes of the "soda" burned in my sinuses and brought tears to my eyes. If it hadn't been for the Chinese quiz I would have just stood up and left. But since I was working to a tight schedule, I did the only thing any courageous human being would do in this very situation, knowing that one person prevents everyone from working efficiently...: I texted a friend (Katharina, you know her from one of my previous articles) and told her all about the girl with the stinky cheese sitting next to me, annoying everyone. In the US I had grown accustomed to thinking that no one here can understand German, so I put my phone - not in sleep mode yet - on the table and realised, a little while later, that the cheese girl was starring at what I had texted to Katharina. To my very embarrassment, it turned out that she wasn't just starring at my text but actually reading it. I had found someone who understood German... yay!
She looked at me as if I had slapped her right in the face. Before I could mumble an apology she jumped up, threw her stuff in her bag and left the community hall. Everyone's eyes followed her on her way out, revealing that they were happy she was finally leaving, but I started to feel really bad for this girl. It would have been much nicer to just ask her to consume her food somewhere else.
Then again, you have to be rather inconsiderate of others in order to eat food with an odor this pungent in a community hall, in the first place. If I should ever come close to her again - and trust me I will know... I'll just follow my nose - I will apologize but also ask her not to do that again!
Six men were found dead near the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor last night. The police could only excavate their bones. They were probably killed years ago... Ha, gotcha! What looks like a serious crime scene, is really just our anthropology class. We had a hands-on skull-touching class, which was sort of freaky but also really, really cool.
Also, our guest lecturer on genetic diversity amongst hominoids, with a special focus on hominines (humans), was a professor from Harvard University who had interesting insights into this topic. Did you know that of the already very low genetic differences in humans (about 0,5% of the DNA), 85% percent occur within a specific cultural community? Neither did I... This means that we are more different from the members of our own community than the community as a collective can be considered different from any other community of homo sapiens out there, making categories like, for example, race an entirely cultural phenomenon - obviously.
Every Tuesday night we have a WCBN Sports meeting. Since we want to change our social media appearance, website content and podcasting frequency, we have a lot to talk over and discuss at the moment. It feels like we are really starting to change things that have gone wrong with this organisation in the past couple of years. I mean just look at these highly motivated faces and tell me "INNOVATION" isn't written on them!
Someone who should be a bit more motivated or who should at least feel bad is my pizza guys. Every time I go to get pizza - and that is a LOT - they get my name wrong even though I spell it out for them every single time! Instead of being annoyed, however, I came up with a plan. Every time they get my name wrong - so always - I'll take a picture of the hilariously fictitious name that's supposed to be mine. Shortly before I leave I'll make a collage or scrapbook or something similar and give it to them as a going away gift. This way they might realise just how special they really are...
Believe it or not, this weekend was actually one of those rare occasions where I had the chance to maintain my social life. I didn't have to do too much for uni and... Haha, who am I kidding, of course I had to do shirtloads of work for uni, I just chose to ignore it!
The University of Michigan's Quidditch-Team - yes, just like my home university in Tübingen the UofM has their own Quidditch-Team - threw a Yule-Ball, similar to the trimagic ball in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". We had managed to get our hands on a couple of tickets before they sold out and were absolutely psyched to go. There was a little problem, though... The ticket said "Formal Clothing" was required. Taking into account that I hadn't even brought long trousers to the US, you can probably imagine what my most formal outfit looked like... Exactly:
This meant I had to either buy or rent more adequate clothing. You won't believe how expensive renting a tuxedo is: $90 for a night... Jesus Christ! Here's just a short list of better ways to spend $90:
1. 168 bottles of beer
2. 84 bottles of good beer
3. Go to see Transformers 4 in the cinema six times (and as everybody knows, I think Transformers 4 is a shit movie, thus underlining how ridiculous the price for renting a tux really is!)
I decided to buy a tux instead. You may think to yourself now: 'Well, that just seems like another one of Marius' massively idiotic ideas, because if renting a tux is $90 then how much would you spend on buying one?'. And you'd be correct to ask that question. But in life - and I pride myself on having proven that repeatedly - the most idiotic ideas sometimes turn out to be the best ones... if you have a plan! So I went to the thrift shop, hoping the gay cashier who had given me a 75% discount on my Christmas decorations would be there one more time to safe my day. He wasn't. But luckily the elderly woman behind the counter seemed to be into me, as well, since I only paid an unbelievable $15 for this beauty:
My friends and I met at night in order to take our preparation shots for the ball and I was happy to see that they had dressed up nicely, too. We were ready to rock the Yule Ball! And good thing we had those shots before, because since the ball was on university territory there was... no drinking. The constant and omnipresent lack of alcohol in the US takes a lot of getting used to. I still haven't adapted. Since I am very awkward at dancing anyway - mainly because I am hilariously bad at it - and alcohol usually brings out the Jacko in me, I didn't dance too much. It was awesome to be out with Lauren, Caroline and Chris again, though. We had some good times with iced water, cookies, cake and later that night with a couple of drinks at Lauren's house with her funny roommates! The DJ even played unclean versions of songs, with curse words and everything... Cheeky! There were mainly freshmen around, because let's face it, which self-respecting adult is still a Harry Potter fan (except for all the good adults who are)?
The highlight of the night was meeting Boris Johnson's son, John Borisson, who had come out to the Yule Ball on behalf of his father to initiate a referendum for Slytherin to separate from Hogwarts entirely. He said he was not going to leave until the 'Sexit' was through, just to abandon the chaos he had created with no remorse whatsoever:
I'm just kidding this dude, of course! The fake Boris Johnson was a nice bloke and maybe even in no way related to the real Boris. Since we forgot his name, we will never know...
Sleeping in is great! So that is exactly what I did on Sunday morning! After a thorough work-out and a quick supper I met up with Katharina. She's an exchange student from the University of Tübingen, too, and discussing the world's most important and random issues with her is fun! After a cozy coffee and some serious Bigtalk we went to see a... well, I'm not sure how to describe it... It was a talk on the American National Anthem - very interesting, because patriotism - supplemented by live music performances of singers. Not just any singers but singers who were REALLY good. Their voices sounded absolutely overwhelming in the Museum of Art.
We grabbed a bite to eat afterwards and went home through the foggy night after the restaurant had kicked us out, because, understandably, they wanted to close.
I'm probably going to have to pay for refusing to do anything for uni this weekend. I'll either suffer massive sleep deprivation over the course of the week or do badly on one of the 3 tests. I'm glad I had a weekend for my social life, though! I don't regret anything...
What is it with me looking like a movie- or rockstar in the US? I look like Jesse McCartney, Ewan McGregor and lately I've been confused a lot with - believe it or not - Leonardo Di-freaking-Caprio. I'm not sure whether people are messing with me or whether they just want to pass me a compliment, but I've got to say... I LOVE IT! Keep it up, people!
I actually managed to get my hands on a morph-machine and had a look at what a mix between Jesse, Ewan, Leo and myself would look like. The outcome was suprisingly unsurprising... It would look just like us:
After I had proven to have the genetic potential of an Oscar-winner, I started doing weird stuff. Why? Because it's fun! Also, I was curious what certain combinations would look like, so here are a couple of the many, many morphs I did:
So... yeah. How did we get here? Oh yes! Someone told me I looked like Leonardo DiCaprio. Well, thank you... I know!
If you haven't already, be sure to check out the other blog I write for, as well! It is an art blog so the articles on there will always be somewhat related to art. Since I am only one of 15 writers on this art blog, you might find a huge variety of interesting articles, written by my very talented co-writers. I mostly include movies, music and literature in my texts. My latest article is on rain and why it will always be more romantic in the movies (Dad, you've got to click on the red "My latest article"-part in order to read it). Everytime I feel like it, I write for a third blog concernig sports. My latest entry for the WCBN Sports blog is all about the torturous lack of sports from Christmas through Mid-January (Dad, click on the red part again if you want to read).
From a pink gorilla on Monday to wine from my drinking bottle on Friday.
This was a very normal week. I got a LOT of work done but nothing exciting happened, really. So let me take you through a typical day of studying and uni:
I usually start my day at around 8:30 am. I have breakfast, consisting of four slices of bread (in Germany we call it toast, because it doesn't deserve to be called bread), and then I make my way to uni after having a quick shower. It's about a 20-minute-walk to the Michigan Union, where I usually study in one of the community halls. On my way to the Union I listen to music to start the day on a positive note - see what I did there? - and pick up my spirits. Depending on how I feel that morning I either dip into my "Have a Great Day"- or my "Chill Out"-playlist. If I feel really crazy in the morning, I might even start the day with my "Sing Along In The Shower"-playlist. In the community hall I sit down at one of the many long tables, which are already occupied by busy students for the most part.
At 11 am I have to leave the Union for my anthropology lecture. That's a good thing. The lecture is fun and my brain usually isn't up to speed in the morning, making one hour of studying more than enough!
After one hour of listening to my professor talk about human diversity (very fun, I can only recommend it), I usually walk back to the Union - listening to music, of course - grab a snack at the food court and reclaim my seat in the community hall which is even more filled up by now. That is fantastic, because the more people I think might be watching me study, the more focused I have to be on not letting them down in believing that I am a good student. I never waste a thought on why anybody would want to watch me study, but as long as I am productive, that's fine. Now I really have to get into Chinese. I've only got 2 hours and there is usually a lot to review, preview or prepare for Chinese class. From 2 to 3 pm we have our class.
Afterwards I usually have one hour until my next class, which is either my anthropology discussion, communication and advertisement lecture or communication and advertisement discussion. All of those are fun, but I tend to have to do a reading in the one hour I have before they start. Most of the time it's 5:30 pm when that class is over. Afterwards, I return to the Union to review the day's material.
At night I either have to work, write a blog entry for Arts at Michigan or go to a meeting of some sort (usually for WCBN). On average, I return home at around 8 or 9 pm. If I muster the motivation and self-discipline to go to the gym, which I usually don't, I do so. Not going is a shame, since the gym is super well-equipped.
If I actually made it to the gym, I just fall into bed at around 11:30 pm, after having a quick dinner and doing some laundry or writing for this Blog or doing some necessary paperwork for the German government. I then have a little time to extend my Chinese skills in a fun way. At the moment, I am watching a Chinese TV-show, I can only describe as an action-telenovela. It is quite interesting and it's a great way to learn the language and culture in a more or less fun manner. They have English and Chinese subtitles for it, so I can follow.
An episode is 40 minutes long, so when I'm done I go to sleep to get enough rest in order to kick ass the next day. And that's about it!
That is pretty much every weekday during the semester. On weekends I have time to go grocery shopping and sometimes even to maintain a social life. This weekend is a long one, too. It's Martin Luther King Day, so no class and no work on Monday. After missing out on Epiphany it's only fair that I get a freebie! In this spirit I wish America a happy Martin Luther King weekend and everybody else... a nice Monday. Hope you enjoy it!
What can you see in this picture?
A) A raging river
B) My way to school
Yes, you guessed it! It is B). The picture wasn't taken by me and not in Ann Arbor, but it perfectly resembles the current situation on the streets and sidewalks. The weather has been shit for a while now. Being from the most rainy part of Germany I don't mind getting wet. Also, massive rainfalls are not a real problem in most parts of Germany and the rest of the EU. Here in the US, however, many cities and states don't have the financial capacities to equip sidewalks and streets with sufficient drainage. That way, puddles as big (and deep) as swimming pools cover every last square meter of street that is not acclivous. The rainfall is nowhere near heavy at the moment. I am anxious (and that is anxious in the non-curious sense of the word) to find out what happens to this place if we ever do have heavy rainfall. This cute, little town will probably be washed away or devoured by the Great Lakes, making it the Atlantis of the Midwest. My pants look as if Ann Arbor was already burried under water, anyway (and this was after a five-minute-walk to the store on one of the nicer days...).
Adding to the rain, we have a lot of wind. A lot of massive wind. I have barely ever experienced any winds like that before. And the fact that the new semester started a couple of days ago forces me to actually go outside. It is intense! When I finally make it to Uni, wet and cold and happy to be alive, I am usually confronted with a professor, who will send me out to the bookstore right away to spend crazy amounts of money on readings. Let me give you a fun example:
The required reading for my anthropology class is over $200 if I want to get a new book. After I had recovered from that shock, the cashier at Ulrich's Bookstore (which you know from my Top 22 Places To Be In Ann Arbor) looked at me quite concerned and told me, in a voice that sounded like the voice of a mother who was just about to give her favourite child a huge lollipop, that she could sell me a used book for "only" $189. This time I was prepared for radical insanity in terms of pricing, so I found my voice a little quicker and told the cashier I wasn't going to pay $189 for a used book. She wasn't done yet, though, because she still had an ace up her sleeve. She finally offered me to rent the book... for $110. $110 for a used book... which I will have to give back after less than four months... I respectfully declined and turned my head away from the cashier. For a moment, standing there at the bookstore's check-out counter, listening to the cashier listing ridiculous prices, I wished I had been swept away by the river on the other side of the shop windows that was South University Street, to a place where a guy who receives free education, can actually afford his education.
Later that day my worries were poohed away by Winnie. It was actually the cheapest honey the store had. Lucky for me, because I would have bought Winnie, no matter what. His honey is delish!
I hope the weather is better wherever you are! Keep warm and save! Oh, and by the way, here is my weekly schedule for this semester. It seems pretty chill when compared to last semester's schedule but with work at the dining hall and for the art blog, with WCBN and exercise, with pre-studying and reviewing, this makes up a very busy week. I will try to update this blog as frequently as possible, though.
I added the lonely New Year's to the streak of sad experiences I am currently on - more or less involuntarily - making the last week of December a prime candidate for the most depressing week of my life. But why is that? I like to be by myself. Why not now? Is it more sad to be alone on one of these days than it is on any other? I don't think it should be. While my Dad now probably says something like: "Good, the boy has finally turned bitter" I have to turn your attention to the fact that there are many people out there who aren't as lucky as (even) me. As me, having a fantastic family and the most outstanding and most supportive friends ever, somewhere, waiting for me to come back and spent the rest of my Christmases and New Year's with. Some people are all alone and now I know how excluded a person who is alone feels especially in the last week of December. I don't want to be arrogant by saying I understand the pain these people are exposed to, because I don't! But in this last week I began to understand.
I don't think New Year's resolutions are worth the air that's needed to say them out loud, but as long as I am writing... If I had one, it would be 'always have someone there with you when the ball drops'. I don't know whether that is a selfish reason to maintain friendships, but even if it is, it certainly isn't the only one.
2016. A lot of unexpected stuff happened and a whole lot of expected stuff didn't happen. It was good, it was bad. It was fun, it was sad. It was boring, it was rad. What was 2016 all about?
It was the year the Brexit happened and Donald Trump was elected to become President of the US. It was the year nationalist populism extensively gained popularity for the first time since World War II. It was another year of heartbreaking pictures on the news from Syria, Turkey, but also Paris, Nice, Orlando and Berlin, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead and families torn apart. It was the year legends like Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Mohamed Ali, Gene Wilder, Alan Thicke, George Micheal and Carrie Fisher left this earth for good. It was the year doping and corruption scandals shook the world of sports. It was another year of millions of people dying due to hunger, lack of clean drinking water and exploitation. It was another year of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, even accelerated by the financial crises. It was the year planes fell or were shot from the skies, or deliberately steered to their fatal end. It was another year of thousands of refugees drowning in the Mediterranian Sea. It was the year Harambe was killed. It was another year that felt like bringing us even further away from world peace as the previous years. It was the year my phone broke, and my shoes, and my computer. It was the year I tore my ligaments. It was the year I had to give my favourite cat away forever. It was the year I was robbed. It was the year I spent a lonely Christmas. It felt like a bad year overall. But was it?
Let's take all this disappointment and all of this anger and sadness. Let's take all the bad stuff and put it in a bottle rocket. Let's light it up and let it explode high above to shed light on all of the great things that happened this year, as well.
Because this was also the year many people showed a magnificent reaction to the rise of hate and fear. It was the year that put an end to the civil war in Colombia. It was the year the number of endangered species shrunk down notably. It was the year of Pokemon GO. It was the year huge steps have been made in dealing with food and beverage waste, having Starbucks lead the fight with their recycling policy. It was the year scientists developed glasses which can make colour-blind people see the world without a permanent black and white filter. It was another year of decreasing child mortality and heart-desease deaths. It was the year nations started taking environmental protection in their own hands by setting limits to their own carbon footprints and putting laws in place that aim at guaranteeing the success of their plans. It was another year of Leonardo DiCaprio not winning an Oscar... oh no, hold on: He did win an Oscar! It was the year Bob Dylan did not die but won a Nobel Prize instead. It was the year many people in many countries are working very hard to help people less fortunate, live a decent life. It was the year I was selected to go to the University of Michigan. It was the year I met a lot of unique and amazing people. It was another year of making experiences and mistakes. It was the year we found out that failure can be a good thing if you let it and it was the year we all will finish together tonight. For 'together' is the word that can vanquish all distance and make people the best they can possibly be.
This was a year... This was the year... This year was as it was and no review or preview for the next year is going to change that. But as long as I am in it together with the people I care
about, I'll gladly get on the crazy rollercoaster called '2017' and I'll let it take me wherever it'll take me and I'll let it shake me up in the process.
Happy New Year!
Writing Location: Under The Tree
"I'm just gonna hand you this..."
"Great, thank you! Do you need me to sign something?"
"Nope. But may I tell you: You look mighty comfy in those sweatpants. You'd do good at starring in one of those porno movies, you see?"
"Ehm, thanks, inappropriately sexual pizza delivery guy."
"Call me Frank!"
"Ok, Frank. Anything else you wanna get off your chest?"
"Actually, yes! Are you spending Christmas with your family?"
"I'm not sure if I want to tell you that, to be honest..."
"Well, in case you stay in Ann Arbor, we will be here to provide you with pizza."
"Oh, ok great. As sad as that sounds, I really appreciate it!"
The worst about spending a lonely Christmas was not the actual loneliness but the way everybody reacted to it. Being pitied is not nice. That's why I refuse to pity people. People think that spending a lonely Christmas is sad and depressing. Well, they're wrong! Let me tell you: Spending a lonely Christmas is even more sad and depressing than people think! But I tried my best to make it as fun as possible.
So you guys probably know Home Alone, right? Well, just like Kevin, I had my concerns about the safety level of my house. I rated it 'unsatisfactory' and improved it schemingly:
Always a classic. As simple as it is effective. I added the blueberry muffin on afterwards, because it was the heaviest thing in the house.... Ah, haha, welcome to punsville, population: Me!
Everybody who has ever made their way through a dark house in need of a nightly release of bodily fluids or a midnight snack, will consider this their arch enemy. Taken to the toe, this trap inflicts excruciating pain on the intruder. Taken to the knee the consequences aren't much more pleasant. The intruder might dislocate their kneecap.
As the average intruder is rather primitive, they are easily lured into this unobstrusive Christmas-themed booby-trap. Once the highly filed mechanism is set off, the intruder is in for a bucket of pain.
If an intruder has made it this far, the Pitfall-Deathtrap will get him out of the house for good. Walking through a seemingly safe room, the intruder is distracted by this loaf of bread on the floor (because even thugs don't keep their bread on the floor). They keep on walking, focussing on the bread, and just as they look ahead, it is too late for them to evade the armpit put in place while the intruder was destracted. This trap requires a human being with low hygene standards.
Had intruders tried to invade the house, I would have been well-prepared. To be honest, though, I would have been happy if somebody had at least tried to breack in. I didn't see a human being in the real world for three days straight. Apart from back in the days, when I was driving my car through the lone landscapes of New Zealand, this was probably the longest I went without human interaction. It was not nice.
Why didn't I see people? There was noone around. I live in an area where many other students live and they were all gone. When I took a long walk through the neighborhood on Christmas Eve, there were just very few illuminated houses. I'm glad everything is back to normal now and I'm glad I made this experience. It helps me appreciate more what I have at home!
Last but not least, I want to thank you guys for sending me Christmas cards, presents and messages. I really appreciate all of it!
Writing Location: My Ironing Board Desk
Karaoke. It combines the thing I am worst at (singing) with the thing I like to do most (singing). Karaoke is Japanese for "empty orchestra" and when you are up there on stage, with 50 people
waiting for you to sing like an angel, you feel the pressure. There is nothing more important than somebody who can take that pressure away. Well, thank god I went with Caroline, Lauren and
You guys know Caroline. But I didn't introduce you to Lauren and Chris, yet. So, I met these guys independently from each other. Lauren was in my Chinese class and Chris was in COMM271. The first thing I thought when I met Lauren was: 'Wow, she is nice!' and the first thing I thought when I met Chris was: 'Wow, he is nice!' Little did I know that they were actually a couple. When I finally found out, I was surprised but I wasn't really. If I had to pick out two people on campus who just fit together, it would be these two. They are so incredibly nice and open to everything, I can count myself lucky to have met them.
We decided to go out to a karaoke bar last night (because we all love karaoke) to sing a song and have some fun. And sing a song and have some fun we did. We went for a classic, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen and we actually didn't perform too badly. I really hope that this is my stepping stone on the way to becoming a rockstar. But even if I don't make it to the top, I still feel like I am right there!
It was so much fun! We were followed by some guys who had the most amazing Christmas sweaters... The only act that could keep up with us (they performed "Bye Bye Bye" by *NSYNC):
Thanks to Robert for taking the pictures and thanks to us for... you know, being so... special... at singing!
Writing Location: Warm House Covered In Snow
As the massive glass door swung open, a cold wind blew a decent amount of little white snowflakes into the hall and right into my face. I smiled and stepped outside while my tongue, almost as if it was self-controlled, dropped out of my mouth to start eating the fresh snow. I always do that... I'm not quite sure why. Anyway, it had started snowing rather intensively and it seems like for the first time in about a decade I'm going to have a white Christmas. Bing Crosby would be so happy for me! Adding on to my excitement is the fact that I won't have to drive in these conditions. Walking through snow is fun, but driving through snow is a freaking hazard.
I had once been in a small snow-related car accident myself. Luckily noone was hurt and there were only minor damages. I just didn't make it to class in time. In fact, I was surprised I was even on my way to class in the first place, taking into account that I missed about two thirds of my High School 'career'.
Of course that made it even more fun to watch cars slide around on the streets. Of course only as long as no accidents occured. I didn't see any, so I had a good time watching the traffic while I made my way home through a thick, fluffy layer of white beauty. The next day it wouldn't stop snowing either...
... and not the night after that. It's cold, it's wet, it's dangerous or GREAT for short!
In the past couple of days the thermometer hit -15°C several times and with the growing layer of snow the inside of every brightly lit house grew cozier and cozier. Ann Arbor empties out as the last finals are written and gas station are the only places that seem to be really busy now. About half of Ann Arbor's population will stay here over Christmas, while the rest has already left or is just about to. Buses are empty, there are no lines at the supermarket and you barely meet anyone in the streets, even if you walked around the neighborhoods all day. As I went for a walk last night at 2 am the night was surprisingly bright. Not just the glow of the streetlights reflected by the snow, but the sky as well. Ann Arbor's last salute to the leaving half of it's population this year. See you next year, guys!
Writing Location: My Very Unique Ironing-Board-Desk
If exams had a colour they'd be of a grinchy green, because they are preventing me from spending all my time watching Christmas movies and singing Christmas tunes. To give you a short update: I handed in my second COMM271 paper on 12/06, held my final presentation in Chinese on 12/09 and only have four exams left now: My final pitch presentation for my Marketing Class on 12/13, my Chinese final exam on 12/16, my COMM408 final paper deadline on 12/16 and my COMM271 final exam on 12/21.
Speaking of my Marketing Class: Here's a picture of my group shooting the video for our project. I'll let you guys know how the video turns out.
After the exams I am pretty much free to do whatever. Since everyone is either going home because they are only here for a semester or on vacation (which I can't afford) I will most likely have a lonely Christmas.
Don't get me wrong here, that's not a bad thing. I have Christmas invitations, but I thought to myself: When will I ever in my life have the opportunity to spend a Christmas alone and experience the sadness that at least one character in every Christmas movie experiences (preferably the old guy). You know what I'm talking about, sitting at home, getting drunk, reminiscing and regretting bad life choices... I mean I won't have too much to regret, but I can still get drunk! I haven't decided on whether I'm going to do that but I am weirdly curious to find out what it feels like to live through the sadest moment imaginable.
To stay close to Christmas I can tell you... I've been a good boy this year. St. Nicholas brought me goodies on December 6th after I had put out my 'student's boot' (slipper) in good old German tradition.
To all Germans: They don't do that here... weirdos!
To all Non-Germans: They only do it there... weirdos!
Also, to the very delight of my roommates, I jacked up the Christmas decorations in our house a bit. I bought stuff at our local thrift shop - and it was fucking awesome - where the gay cashier gave me a 75% discount because he was into me. Now I know what it feels like to be a hot person at a club. I felt very flattered but also sort of evil. He just sort of fell for me - and let's be honest, who can blame him - and I can't return his love because I'm not gay. I hope that he finds someone to love before Christmas! Good luck, thrift shop guy!
My roommates are leaving very soon. Trent will even leave for good because he got a job at Bloomberg in San Francisco. To send him off we had a little communal drinking event which included enough pre-Christmas spirits to turn our glasses upside-down. It was great to meet you, man!
Writing Location: Coffeehouse
'Nope, nope, please don't come over, don't come over, don't come over... oooh, dammit!'
I don't know how the universe works and I certainly wouldn't comprehend it, if I knew. What I do know, is that all the crazy, drunken and weird people in the world (and that is "and", not "or"), are magically drawn to me. You might say now: "Well, everybody thinks that of themselves." But it is not just me saying it. Other people see it, too.
When Anny (who you guys met in the Chicago blog, remember?) and I were waiting for our Greyhound to take us to Detroit for a quick pre-christmas visit, we were approached by a very drunk and seemingly homeless gentleman. After confessing his love to us, he told us about his encounter with Jesus. He had seen him in person and talked to him and everything. I thought it was super cool to meet a prophet. I had never met one before and this guy seemed to be for real. I had no reason to doubt his story. I mean why would I trust the homeless guy drinking vodka at the bus station less, than the weirdly dressed dude drinking wine at church? After a while he was done and started complimenting Anny in an increasingly inappropriate manner, so we were happy to see the bus pull into the station just then to take us to Motor City.
"That happens to you a lot!" Anny said.
"Being approached by weird people."
"Uuuhm, I guess..."
"Remember in Chicago when that guy screamed at us about killing all the black people?"
"Yeah" I said and smiled "That was weird. Does that never happen to you when you're travelling by yourself?"
"Mmmh, that's strange."
"Seems like you're very harassable."
And "harassable" is probably the best way to describe it. I don't know what it is about me, that makes strange people want to yell at me but I like it... Makes everything more exciting!
In Detroit we walked around a lot, sucked in the christmas-feel and checked out the Institute of Art, which was really fun. But as always: Pictures say more than a thousand words.
Oh yeah, the christmas season has begun. The stores are packed with delicious treats, shiny lights are everywhere and christmas tunes make every day feel special. This is one of my favourite times of the year and I'm excited to be in the States for it. Making my weekend even better, I received this package from my very thoughtful and lovely Mum, containing christmas decorations, christmas treats and a whole lot of christmassy love.
Thank you so much Mum, I really appreciate it!!
Even though my workload for the last three weeks of the semester is huge, I am very looking foward to all the christmas-goodness ahead. I hope you guys are just as excited about it as I am!
First things first. Why did we name our turkey Brian?
Because of an awkward misunderstanding between me and my roommate Woitek, where he told me the turkey would have to be "sitting in the same brine" and not "no kidding, named Brian". While he was trying to explain to me, that the turkey has to sit in marinade for about a day, I thought that he had given him a cool name. As things cleared up, we had a laugh and kept calling Brian "Brian".
We took out the weird stuff, that came with - and inside - the turkey for free (the neck, the heart and something else that didn't look very healthy), and marinated Brian for a day. Thanksgiving morning, we took him out of the marinade, smeared him with butter and crammed seasoned breadcrums up his... you know. Finally, we let him stew for a good 6 hours. Here is our progress in pictures:
Preparing the sides was more exciting. Not because it is super fun to mash potatoes, but because we set the kitchen on fire in the progress. Twice. The stove caught on fire and that was enough to set off the fire alarm, which seemed to be even more annoying than german fire alarms. After we had smashed the device - because, why would it stop when you just take out its freaking batteries? - and our ears had stopped bleeding, we resumed putting out the fire, which had spread concerningly quick while we were busy taking care of the alarm. Unfortunately I only have pictures of the very early stages of the fire, because when it intensified I had to, you know... put the camera away to save my life and stuff:
The food was absolutely delicious. Woitek, who had taken care of making this Thanksgiving original, had outdone himself. We had a nice Thanksgiving for three after a very exciting day of preparation. And we will be eating left-overs for many days to come! Thanks Brian, for your final sacrifice! We will never forget you! Say hello to Harambe in animal heaven.
Thanksgiving was over, so now I had time to regroup, right? WRONG! This Friday was not any Friday, but Black Friday. Oh yeah, that means young guys pushing over old ladies to grab the last pair of support stockings for their grandma. It means mommies fighting over childrens' toys, while babies are crying in their buggies. It means capitalist anarchy.
When we arrived at the mall, much less as shoppers than spectators of this annual mayhem, we were shocked. We didn't see blood and chaos everywhere. There was barely any crying going on and the shoppers didn't seem to be less respectful than usual. The shops had stocked up very well and weren't even close to running short on items to sell. The prices were, for the most part, low but not super low and after 4 hours I hadn't bought anything. Caroline, who had attended this "crazy" event with me, was carrying a bag containing a few clothing items and Woitek bought a TV a little later for $89, which is cool, because now we have something to watch sports on (watching the major sports is free in the US).
The day was exhausting but fun. I didn't even take any pictures, because there was nothing to take pictures of. Maybe my expactations were too far off or maybe I was still on adrenalin from when our kitchen caught on fire, but I survived Black Friday and it wasn't as hard as I expected it to be.
It's been two weeks since my last post. The election sadness is gone and everyone is pretty busy with deadlines, project presentations and the end of uni-related stress approaching more quickly than Shadowfax on crack - watching Cocaine Cowboys after The Lord of The Rings last night wasn't the best idea I ever had. Anyway, in the vast, stressful landscape that is the average student's life at the moment, there is a gleam of relief. One place that's green while everything else seems gray. An oasis: Thanksgiving.
Yes, it's Thanksgiving break now. Three weeks prior to the end of the semester students get a glimpse of what freedom tastes like for a couple of days, just to be thrown back into the flaming hell of exam anxiety and mental meltdowns in December. Ok, maybe it's not going to be that bad, but I tend to assume the worst to be pleasantly surprised when everything doesn't turn out all that bad after all.
Let's cut to the chase, guys. You're probably wondering what I did in the past two weeks. The answer is: I went as close to Hogwarts as it gets. We went to see the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra perform the music from Harry Potter and they were magnificent. The Michigan Theater was decorated accordingly and with attention to detail. It was just a magical night (ha, see what I did there?).
Yeah, we dressed up, too! They even had a magician there. He wasn't very authentic, though. About a thousand nerds inspected his magical abilities thoroughly and came to the conclusion that he wouldn't be accepted into Hogwarts if he ever applied.
I, on the other hand, did get accepted. Not into Hogwarts but for this poetry slam/ storytelling event I told you guys about a couple of weeks back. I performed one of my texts last Thursday and it went great. Everyone there had a great time and I really enjoyed listening to the other speakers' stories, as well. The entire event was recorded but isn't uploaded to Youtube yet. I'll let you know as soon as that happens.
Apart from that I didn't have too much spare time for fun stuff on my hands. But Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we got our turkey today. We're going all out for my first American Thanksgiving ever:
What you see here is Brian's last time being on the wing. Yes, we named our turkey "Brian". Find out why in my next blog! Have a happy Thanksgiving my friends and always keep in mind: Be thankful to give, or give thanks thankfully... no, whatever!
The outside was like a huge tank of ice cold air. It was freezing, and sort of... empty. I hadn’t seen anyone in hours. But the past hours had felt like days. Like weeks. Sleep had been as absent from the previous night as hope.
I took a right and followed the sidewalk north. The colourful leaves danced around my feet when I walked past them and made me smile for the first time in hours. In days. In weeks. But just like the leaves my smile was carried away by a cold wind that now picked up.
From the distance, my friends had send me messages asking if everything was alright, but just like me they already knew that nothing had been alright for hours. For days. For weeks. And yet they wanted to talk about it, maybe hoping for some consolation, maybe to take their minds off it somehow.
My place of refuge was not as empty as the streets all around it. But it had suffered and you could tell. Classes had been cancelled. Students cried in the arms of their professors and people holding signs of tolerance and humanity stood in the cold; unheard and unseen, except by themselves.
The warmth inside was variegating. In here I could finally take off my coat. It had felt increasingly heavy with every step of the way. The faces were worried but not desperate. The voices were soft but not weak. Hugs spent relief from the emptiness for a short while. What seemed to vanish in here was the feeling of not understanding and not being understood. That felt good. The eyes were turned to the future in concern. For now a little sunlight started to break through the high windows again. After hours that had felt like days. Like weeks.
When I stepped back outside, the doors closed behind me, locking the remedying voices inside. Even though sunrays had broken through the intimidating grey cover above and had brought a little bit of light to the dark, I put my coat back on. It was still cold outside and I knew, that wasn’t going to change for a while.
In all this emptiness there was hope, though. The people holding signs were still where they were before, but now they were seen and they were joined by people they had never seen and people they will never see. The crying students and professors were gone. Bracing themselves and each other, they were slowly driven to the house and everytime they opened it’s doors the voices from inside resounded louder and louder through the cold emptiness.
9:30 pm: At the moment Trump is winning. It's Trump 128 - 97 Clinton.
9:37 pm: Trump won so far in North Dakota (3), Wyoming (3), South Dakota (3), Nebraska (5), Kansas (6), Oklahoma (7), Texas (38), Arkansas (6), Indiana (11), Kentucky (8), Tennessee (11), Mississippi (6), West Virginia (5), Alabama (9), South Carolina (9)
9:41 pm: Hillary won in Illinois (20), New York (29), New Jersey (14), Maryland (10), DC (3), Vermont (3), Massachusetts (11), Delaware (3), Rhode Island (4)
9:46 pm: Of course none of the States is done counting yet but those are close to certain estimates.
9:47 pm: Michigan, the state I'm in, is still on the tip but leaning towards Trump. Only 20% of the votes are counted though.
9:52 pm: The closest and most important States are Florida (atm. Trump 49% - 48% Clinton) with 29 electoral votes, North Carolina (atm. Trump 50% - 48% Clinton) with 15 electoral votes, Michigan (atm. Trump 50% - 45% Clinton) with 16 electoral votes and Virginia (atm. Trump 48% - 47% Clinton) with 13 electoral votes.
9:53 pm: Trump just won Louisiana (8) and Clinton won Connecticut (7) to make it an overall Trump 136 - 104 Clinton.
9:57 pm: It's hard for me to comprehend how Trump is leading overall as well as in percentage in the Swing States.
9:58 pm: Wow, the airline tickets to Germany aren't that expensive actually...
9:59 pm: Virginia percentage just switched over to Clinton (T 47.3% - 47.5% C)
10:01 pm: Trump won Montana (3) to make it an overall Trump 139 - 104 Clinton.
10:12 pm: Just emptied the dish washer but didn't miss anything.
10:14 pm: Trumps still leading over all Trump 139 - 104 Clinton... My mom will be so happy to see me this soon...
10:16 pm: Trump won Missouri (10) and Clinton won New Mexico (5) to make it a 149 - 109 in favor of Mr. Trump.
10:18 pm: Am I going to need all of the stuff I brought here or should I pack light to be able to run in case it get's close at the border?
10:26 pm: Clinton is getting close in Wisconsin (T 48% - 46% C) and extending her lead in Virginia (T 47% - 48% C). Trump is close to winning Ohio (18).
10:27 pm: Trump won Ohio (18) to make the overall standings a scary Trump 167 - 109 Clinton.
10:34 pm: Trump is close to winning Georgia (16), North Carolina (15) and in the very worst case scenario Florida (29). Hillary is about to win Minnesota (10), Iowa (6), Pennsylvania (20) and Maine (4).
10:38 pm: Still Trump 167 - 109 Clinton. Don't know whether to find this sad, scary or funny... It's kind of all at the same time...
10:40 pm: Clinton just won Virginia (13) to make it Trump 167 - 122 Clinton.
10:48 pm: What are you doing Michigan? Trump extends his lead in Michigan (T 49% - 46% C) and Wisconsin (T 49% - 46% C).
10:50 pm: As of this moment 38,561,857 citizens have voted for Trump and 36,479,770 citizes have voted for Clinton in total.
10:51 pm: Clinton just secured Colorado (9) to make it Trump 167 - 131 Clinton.
11:00 pm: I have a Chinese vocab quiz tomorrow morning, but I do want to see whether the world comes to an end tonight or not, so... better stay awake a little longer!
11:04 pm: Estimating California to go democrate (that's pretty safe to assume) and Trump winning Idaho (4) the standings are Trump 171 - 190 Clinton now. Trump is leading in almost every remaining state, though... This could be Brexit reloaded, just worse...
11:09 pm: Trump won North Carolina (15) to make it Trump 186 - 190 Clinton.
11:11 pm: Ok, I'm being serious now. It really looks like Trump is going to win at the moment. I thought: "Yeah, that's not going to happen..." but it's happening right now. I'm terrified!
11:17 pm: Clinton wins Oregon (7) to make it Trump 186 - 197 Clinton.
11:23 pm: I don't even know what to tell you... Clinton is losing Iowa (6) and even though she is about to win Nevada (6) Trump is going to win Utah (6) to make up for it.
11:24 pm: Michigan (16) is now equal at 47%-47% each.
11:28 pm: I'm going to go get a Twixx bar... hope I don't miss anything important!
11:29 pm: Nope, didn't miss anything! I'm super tired though. My day was packed. I had classes and meetings all day from 9am to 9pm. And I need to get up early in the morning... But it's a bad time to sleep at the moment...
11:34 pm: Everybody is looking to Florida (29) now. Since the results seem to clear up in all the other states and it's about a tie overall, Florida could make the difference. Currently about 98% of the votes are counted and it seems like Trump won that.
11:38 pm: Yes, Trump winning Florida makes the overall score Trump 216 - 197 Clinton and since Trump is just about to win Georgia (16) the score will go up to Trump 232 - 197 Clinton in just a second.
11:40 pm: Clinton wins Washington (12) and makes it Trump 232 - 209 Clinton.
11:51 pm: I cannot wrap my head around what is happening right now. Clinton's chances of winning are rather low now. I will go brush my teeth... I want to have at least one more night with the uncertainty about the United States and the world's fate.
12:12 am: Since everything is pretty much standing still now and I need to go to bed, here are my predictions for the night, based on CNN, WSJ, NYT and no understanding of or
experience with the American electoral system whatsoever: Trump is going to win Utah (6), Arizona (11), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16) and New Hampshire (4) giving him a total of 285
electoral votes, and making him President of the United States of America. He is going to accept the outcome of the election (because he won) and Clinton will be sad to lose to a blockhead like
Trump. America will soon feel that they made a massive mistake and will hopefully learn from this experience (even though I'm not sure whether half of the American population is
capable of that). As long as President Trump doesn't destroy too much while in office, this outcome was probably a blessing for the world... Plus Bill Clinton doesn't need to be First Lady!
Have a happy #TrumpDay everybody!
So my homeboy Barack is in town today. I wasn't let into the venue because I'm a foreigner! Ok... they said it's because I didn't register for tickets earlier but to me it felt like I was discriminated in some way. Or at least I told myself that to make it easier to miss out on such a major event. Ann Arbor is a very poor choice to rally the day before the elections, though, since everybody here is going to vote for Hillary anyway. But after eight hard years of presidency Obama probably just wanted someone agreeing with him for a change. Whatever, I don't even think he is the most powerful man in the world... Tim Wiese is! (If you don't know him, look him up) Anyway, this is how close I got to B.O.:
Not even remotely close. Who cares about Barack Obama anyway as long as we got Sasha? You don't know Sasha? Good! You do know Sasha? What the fudge is wrong with you? You've got to be German! Actually Sasha is a German... "artist"... who was born and raised about 30 minutes by car from where yours truly entered the world. I discovered one of his records at my local thrift shop the other day - while I was popping some tags - and just couldn't believe it... People know him? Do you need proof? I would have needed proof in order to believe this crazy story:
I am starting to overcome Barack's rejection already. I'm good at being rejected. I practice a lot! And as unsurprising as someone rejecting me is, there was something today, that caught me on
the wrong foot: It was daylight savings. And man, did I forget to turn back my clock!
I got out of bed an hour early, I showered an hour early, I left the house an hour early, I arrived at uni an hour early and I entered the classroom an hour early, just to find that there was a Spanish class in there before us, but at the time I realised that (I was still sort of tired) I was already halfway through the class and had everybody starring at me. I looked at the class, then at the teacher. The teacher looked right back at me and didn't say a word, obviously still in disbelieve over how rudely she had just been interrupted. I took the opportunity to dig deep in my Spanish skills from high school and slowly started walking backwards:
"Como se iama? Yo soy Sanchez, y tu? Si por la sombrero in una coche de ceso..."
I had reached the door. I felt for the door handle and made a quick exit screaming:
"Muchas gracias, senoritas, ARRIBA!!!"
So, yeah... that was a great start of the day.
I don't have too much time lately but I will try to provide you with a live commentary of the final stages of the elections. I will start at 8 pm Michigan Time and 2 am ECT tomorrow. I'll be watching TV and comment on everything that happens via my Blog. I'll try to set it up, but I'm not sure whether it will work out, so let's see!
The sun had set. It was getting dark outside. The green neon light flooded the place and crawled out of the tall windows into the night. I was hungry. When it was finally my turn, I stepped up to the counter and told the red-haired girl what I wanted.The guy who usually messes up my order must have had a day off. I don't mean that disrespectfully. He always asks me what I want, starts doing his job, asks me what it was that I wanted a couple of times along the way, just to finally serve me something so far from what I ordered, that I come here all the time just for the thrill of finding out what the hell I might get today. I was hoping that this girl had a similar angle to satisfy her customers adrenaline demand. But to my very disappointment she seemed to do everything according to what I wanted. She didn't grab the wrong bread, she didn't put the wrong meat on it, she didn't forget to toast it and she didn't toast it twice either. She only put on the veggies I wanted and then she sold me the sandwich for the correct price. Boring!
There are heaps of crazy pictures of this dude on the internet so I might have gotten carried away in the process of shooting pictures of myself that look like his photos:
To move on to stuff that's nicer to look at than Ewan's and my face (it's pretty much the same face anyway), I want you to see what autumn feels like in Ann Arbor:
It's nice. After a nice walk on a sunny autumn Sunday, there is nothing better than a massive dinner... And that's what we had: We ordered some wings, some waffle fries and watched a baseball match. How American is that?
If you guys haven't already, be sure to check out my weekly Blog for arts ink. It's an initiative from the student arts department of the University of Michigan and worth stopping by for. They'll post a new Blog every day, with me filling the Thursday slot. Here's a direct link to my first post:
Oh, you're still here!? It is a Tuesday, that's correct! You're wondering where COCK No.4 is? And you are right to do so. Since I had an important presentation today I couldn't do COCK No.4 this week, but COCK will be back next Tuesday for sure. (If you don't know what COCK is, check here and here for answers)
"I give it a D-!"
"Because I love America."
At least Woitek had given my costume a D-, so I thought it should be fine for the Halloween party I was about to attend. I knew that it may have been a tad controversial, but if there is one thing that's crucial to a functional society, it's critical thinking. And to me it seemed, that the United States in particular need to do that more frequently. Because Woitek had reacted so strongly, I was a little nervous about appearing at the party in a costume like this, but it turns out that my fears were without any reason.
Before I tell you about peoples' reactions, let's get a little into the components of my outfit: I was wearing an America flag suit, a plastic crown, 20-dollar-bill-glasses, a sign with a political message and worn out (at least) fifth-hand cowboy boots. In addition to that, I had a children's toy cigar - who in the name of the lord would encourage their kids to play with a toy cigar - which was sucked on and blown into by at least 50 people over the course of the night, so if you have an upcoming exam you don't want to take, I have just the right thing to give a serious case of herpes!
People reacted very well to the costume. Many times I was approached by Gandalfs and Marios and Harrys who expressed their appreciation for my costume and let me know that they felt the same way. A few dicussions about US gun laws and other political issues were unavoidable and actually pretty cool and interesting. The thing that surprised me the most was that nobody, even the people disagreeing with the message I was trying to get across, was upset about it, but rather accepted my standpoint and wanted to discuss the addressed issues. That's the kind of party I enjoy very much.
In Germany people don't really care about or celebrate Halloween. Some party people dress up just because it's another reason to get well oiled. If you do dress up, you choose a scary costume. Even though Halloween in the States isn't about dressing up in a scary fashion - haha, see what I did there? - I considered my costume to be rather scary.
Obviously there was a bit of alcohol envolved in this event, which lead to some great pictures:
Initially I wanted to make the Tootsie Roll my drink of the night (named after the candy it tastes like and popularised by the TV show "How I Met Your Mother"), but since my local liquor store doesn't sell liquor - for realz? - I only brought root beer to the party. Luckily the hosts (Luther co-op house) had planned for few people bringing alcohol and provided several kegs of beer. They had done a great job organising this event. There was live music, awesome people and no complaining neighbors. Thanks, Luther!
Scary decorations are everywhere, too. I walked around the neighborhood and tried to capture the atmosphere:
I hope you guys enjoy your Halloween as well and if you dress up, don't bother sharing your costume ideas and execution!
"You can't support the Yankees, though! They're kinda like Bayern Munich.", Jeremy said right before my first radio broadcast.
I had signed up to regularly appear on WCBN Sports (the sports division of the University's radio station) for studio events and live commentary. Because I don't follow, and therefore don't know anything about, american sports, the previous night was one single textual massacre in WCBN's group chat to recruit me to support a specific team. Everybody wanted me to support their team, so I was completely overwhelmed.
Jeremy, the Executive Director of WCBN Sports, had decided to resume this battle for my fandom on my first ever live radio broadcast. He and three other WCBN members made the studio feel more like an arena, when they started to make their cases. I have to admit, it was hilarous watching so many people fight over my support so intensely. The tension in the studio was more charged than at any of the presidential debates and people made better arguments, too. Fans even called in to try to push my favores towards their team. Naturally, all of this made my first broadcast a blast! I couldn't wait for Monday to be on the air again and again it was super fun. The studio looks just like you would imagine it to look like:
This is just in: COCK No. 3 happened today and for the first time people reacted. (If you don't know what COCK is, click here to find out) Many pedestrians looked at me quite intensely and with unconcealed curiosity. Some even laughed at my outfit, and rightly so: Today I was wearing cut up, colourful pyjama pants, a red shirt with tiny white flowers pattern and to top it all off, a doggy bow tie going along nicely with my blue and yellow skiing socks.
In class four fellow students told me they liked my pants (code for "why are you wearing those hideous pants") and I'll count that as a first success on my way to making uni a place away from home again!
Of course I had to look sharp for COCK No. 3, so I went to an authentic american barbershop before, to get the most american haircut of my life. I felt like I was back in the... when were barbershops popular? The 20th and 19th century? Certainly. During the civil war? Yes. In the wild west? Sure. Basically they were always popular. So I felt like I was back in always. Everything was so original and... sort of old. Even my hairdresser Frank:
He only knew how to do one hairstyle, but man, did he nail it!
After the barbershop I felt like a proper American for a while. So when I saw a mouse scamper through our kitchen a little later, as if it was just another housemate, I didn't totally freak out. I was american. I was brave. I was free. Unfortunately I wasn't mice-free, so I went over to the mouse to ask it to leave, but it just didn't care I was there:
To understand my excitement about this, you have to know that we don't have that in Germany. Rarely can a mouse make it into a house ever, since we build our houses properly. But I was told in the US it wasn't uncommon to have a mouse hanging out under the fridge every once in a while. Eventually we named the mouse "Brain" and threw it the hell out of our house... It can take over the world for all I care, but not my house. Start paying rent and we'll find a place for you, buddy!
In other news, I applied for a slot at a very exclusive poetry slam at the Museum of Art in November. I doubt I'll get it, then again I doubted being accepted into this university in the first place, so why not try, right?
With a little bit of luck I will have my own radio show soon, too. If everything goes well you can enjoy my strange taste in music on a weekly basis. And what's really cool about it: Because I'm a newbie, they'll give me a shift between 12 and 6 am. That means that my friends and family in Europe can tune in for a good morning show!
Also, my first blog for arts inc. will be out this Thursday, so make sure you check that out.
Last but definately not least, I want to thank Vera for her lovely postcard. It really makes my day when I can make your day and the front side helps me to remember the most important slang words I might forget while not practicing german. So thank you so much, Vera! And give Rico a hug and kiss from me, would ya?!
Guys, Halloween is just around the corner and as you may or may not know, it's a pretty big deal here. For the first time in my life I actually planned ahead and prepared a costume, parts of which will be essential to COCK No. 4 as well, so look out and be safe...
Let's pick the story up, right where we left off.
The second day started out great. After a quick breakfast we made our way to Chinatown. When you're in Chicago why go to Chinatown you ask? Well, our friend Hunter's family lives in Chicago's Chinatown. After having a look around all the asian shops and architecture, we visited Hunter's grandma in her retirement home. She was without a doubt the sweetest old, chinese lady I personally know and while that might not say too much since I don't know any other old, chinese ladies, I've got to tell you: She was absolutelt lovely. Even though she had difficulties walking, she was always on the move. Preparing some food for us, giving us candy and even providing everyone with three dollars to "get a soda". She was a full on grandma and reminded me of my grandmothers a lot. She and her husband only spoke cantonese, so we couldn't understand them (and my still very bad mandarin wasn't of any use either) but felt really close to the two anyway:
After this friendly encounter the day got even more interesting and more chinese. Much. More. Chinese. So chinese that I found myself about thirty minutes after leaving the retirement home at a restaurant somewhere in chinatown with two chopsticks in my hand and tucked between them a cooked chicken's foot. How did I get here? I don't know. Across the round, foot-packed (and turning) table, sat Hunter's parents. They had treated us to lunch and were excited to find out whether we enjoyed authentic chinese food.
As I looked down at my chicken's foot I wished there was something less weird in it's place. I'd rather eat a cow's intestines or something (and I was about to eat that just a couple of minutes later, I just didn't know about that yet). The other Europeans looked quite scared too, but when we finally took a bite, I have to say, it wasn't too bad after all. I actually took a second foot - I mean you can't stand on one foot - and so did the others. I tried everything on the table and most of the food was enjoyable! So thanks to Hunter's parents, I guess!
Leaving Chinatown we felt very full but also very satisfied. The remaining agenda for the day included visiting popular photo sights, eating at a very american restaurant and watching a jazz
performance in the hotel district. So basically being as tourist as possible. The only way we could have seemed any more touristy, is if we had taken pictures (especially selfies) anytime,
anywhere and of anything. Oh hold on, that's exactly what we did!
(Especially Ho, a korean friend... Look at him taking a picture of a wall there on the mid-left. And Anny wins "weirdest photographing position" for the picture in the very middle!)
Normally I try to be as little tourist as possible. Firstly to not annoy the locals and secondly to immerse myself into a culture more effectively. Although I have to admit, that being a tourist was fun for a change, I will go back to my non-tourist existence from now on.
We did visit several recognisable places throughout Chicago, though:
A huge bean-shaped mirror in Millenium Park. I guess this thing is the reason for Donald Trump doing most of his business in New York rather than Chicago. He might have to look into a mirror that's big enough for his ego and realise that he's a massive blockhead.
No idea what it is or why it's there but it looked photo-worthy. Plus, it was blue... a fountain... how weird is that? Right?
I don't know whether this is or was an actual ballroom, but it certainly looks like one. The ornaments and mosaics were stunning! This was a huge building, so it had an art exhibition as well. Definately recommendable, especially if it's raining outside.
Tall buildings, old theaters, impressive opera houses and a whole lot of people make Chicago's downtown a good place to be.
After having dinner at Shakes Shack (an american fast food chain I wouldn't recommend, because expensive and small portions), we went down to the riversite. The view from inside the skyscraper forest was breathtaking. It was dark and the moon and the citylights were the only thing we could see. A calm breeze blew through our hair and at that moment it felt like the world stood still.
A little later we wanted to proceed to the jazz performance, couldn't get in because we had minors in our group, so we just went on to a film festival at the AMC Theater. That was over when we arrived, so we decided to walk home along the lakefront and get up early in the morning.
How early exactly? That's the funny part: To see the sunrise over Lake Michigan. Funny right? Haha, yeah, if you had seen our faces when getting up at five in the morning you wouldn't have found it all that funny! It was scary, but eventually the subway shook and the morning breeze blew us to full consciousness on the way to the lakefront.
I rarely say this, but the sunrise was totally worth getting up early for. Check out the pictures:
Watching Chicago come to life on a Monday morning was a great experience but made us quite hungry, too. We decided to go for brunch and then, after getting on the subway that would take us away
from the (very good) brunch place, it was time to say goodbye. Ho and I had to leave the group, since we both had meetings in Ann Arbor on Tuesday. When the others left the subway and left us
behind to go on to the coach station, Ho and I looked at each other, quite sad that we had to leave. When we looked back at the window, we saw the others waving at us in a ridiculously
dramatic fashion. All of us had to laugh and so did a few passengers... We'd see the gang in Ann Arbor in a couple of days.
"Have fun, guys." I screamed as the doors closed and the subway slowly pulled out of the station.
To be honest I didn't get to do most of the activities I had planned on do doing. But that is absolutely fine. It was super fun to travel around with these guys and do stuff I wouldn't have done if it wasn't for them (eat a chicken's foot, for example). I am pretty sure I will be back in Chicago around St. Patrick's Day (they die the river green), so I'll just do all the things I initially wanted to do then.
Big thanks go out to Anny and Ho for letting me use a couple of their pictures for the Chicago blogs!
Had I learned anything from my first Detroit visit? Certainly. Don't set your expectations too high. For my visit to Chicago I wouldn't expect much. But I was wrong not to. Let's dive right in:
Our travel group was quite diverse as China, England, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, the Netherlands, Finland, India and Germany were all represented in no more than 11 friends. Obviously we were in for a lot of fun and man, did we have it.
On the six hour bus ride I was contacted by my friends who had already spent a night in Chicago, that one of their friends was on the bus as well. Since I didn't know that person, I looked
her up on Facebook and checked my surroundings by elevating my head over the forest of headrests. Before I could spot her my phone rang:
"Hiiii, I'm looking for Marius", a shrill voice screamed in my ear.
"Speaking." I replied politely.
"It's only three weeks until the elections and we're looking for people willing to support Hillary's campaign. We believe you gave us your phone number at an event in Ann Arbor?!"
"Yes, I did. I gave it to you at the Bernie Sanders happening and ticked the box to not be contacted via text messages."
"Exactly, that's why we're calling."
"Yeah, because people who don't want to receive text messages would rather be called instead." I responded increasingly annoyed.
"They do? But you didn't tick the box for not receiving calls." she answered snappily.
"Because there was no such box."
"Of course there wasn't. If there was one, you would have ticked it." she said slowly, sounding like she thought I was an idiot.
I sighed: "What do you want again?"
"We need volunteers to make Hillary president, so Donald Trump doesn't win."
"How do I put this?" I murmeled "Ok, so: Just because I hate aids more, doesn't mean I would go out on the streets promoting cancer. You know what I mean, right?"
"Heh?" the voice seemed confused.
"Sorry, I just have a lot on my plate right now."
Her confusion turned to desparation: "If we don't get Hillary elected you won't have anything on your plate anymore soon enough!"
"Ok, I'm hanging up now, thanks for the call."
After hanging up I had forgotten about the friend on the bus. I was reminded just a few hours later when another, less annoying voice said:
"Hey, are you Marius?"
Anny was super fun. On the way to downtown Chicago, where we would meet up with the others, I found out that she has a blog similar to mine. Actually we decided to write an article for each other's blog in the near future, so be on the look-out for that. She liked photography, could draw and might therefore be involved in another project I have planned for the future. And she too was one of the lucky artists to be selected to write for the arts ink. blog I was accepted for just a few weeks ago. With all the talking she got us on the wrong subway, just to find out that it was actually the right subway, after getting on another subway, which then turned out to be the wrong subway. It was fine, though, because we got a taste of the real Chicago as a weird black man screamed at us, that he was a "white man" and would kill all the "bad" black guys in "the ghetto", although he seemed to have a racial terminology rather different from ours and I refuse to quote him any further. So, yeah...
Anyway, we found the others quite quickly and after getting a piece of cheesecake, all of us went to Michigan Lake to watch the sunset. Unfortunately the sun doesn't set in the East . So we watched the nightly skyline instead and it was absolutely magnificent. I am 100% certain, that there was no better place to be in Chicago at this time:
After admiring this stunning view, it was pizza time. Not any pizza, though, but Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. And different from conventional pizza, the cheese isn't on top but inside. Sounds weird, looks great, tastes even better. And the place - very well known for their iconic pizza - was absolutely original, too. We did have to wait to be seated for about 40 minutes, adding to the starvation we had suffered through upon arrival already (cheesecake was looong ago), but I guess the best pizza ever will always be the one you enjoy at the end of an exhausting day:
It wasn't exactly the end of our day, though. We did go home and eventually ended up playing beerpong and king's cup - this seems to be a student night's inevitable outcome - at our Airbnb. Since we were a group of internationals, we had a few asian friends among us. During the course of the night the stereotype of Asians not being able to process alcohol as well as Europeans and Americans was successfully refuted. They could have two entire beers before drifting off into an intoxicated delirium, a few of them didn't wake up from until the next morning.
Since we were 9 people in a one-bedroom apartment, fitted with two beds and a couch, some of us had to sleep on the floor. Everybody who wasn't extensively wasted took that bullet in the first night.
Let me tell you about the second and third day in Frank Sinatra's hometown in a second blog entry, since I don't have too much time on my hands at the moment and there is a LOT to tell you. I'll post Part II as soon as possible, so stay tuned...
Exam time is over! During the last couple of days my nightly quantum of sleep had melted down from four to two hours and alongside this decrease my caffeine and pizza consumption reached unmentionable heights. So unmentionable really, that I believe I made friends with every domino's delivery driver within a ten mile radius. The exams went well and I'm ready to go to Chicago on the weekend!
But much more important than any exam or Chicago trip could ever be... COCK No.2 is here:
So how did peple react to this one? I received a couple of quick looks but nobody mentioned my ridiculously hidious costume. But why? I mean look at me. I look like a clown pimp! What's wrong with people? All tolerance aside, there is a point where not saying anything is closer to impoliteness than politeness. And that doesn't have anything to do with cultural backgrounds or anything. If someone had a booger on their face, would you tell them "I respect the booger on your face" or would you unobstrusively let them know that there is a booger on their face? Exactly! The same thing goes for outfits. The person with the metaphorical booger on their face - in this and most other cases that's me - will rather be grateful than offended... trust me. I know what I'm talking about on this one. Ok, before I mutate to Heidi Klum, filling some kind of void in my life by talking about clothing, I'm going to move on to stuff that actually matters:
International Relations! On Wednesday there was a huge "Study Abroad Fair" and the University of Tuebingen was brilliantly represented by Maria, a couple of other helpers and me. We even had our own Uni of Tue shirts. Besides Oxford University we were the only ones. We talked to hundreds of students and I really think I could convince some of them to come to Tuebingen. We'll see...:
In other news: American capitalism, right? Yeah. For this picture I don't relly have any words. I had seen stuff like this on the internet already, I just never thought I'd ever experience it in real life. But I did:
I went ahead and created a few funny meme-style images, since I fund this offer quite amusing (at that time I was suffering from extensive sleep deprivation, so don't judge me!).
Anyway, now two out of my three housemates have cooked dinner for me. A couple of weeks back I had nice italian food and yesterday Woitek prepared some polish cuisine. Combined with the PBR I felt like a complete Hipster but it was delicious!
I return to the real world from a place so far away and yet so close to all of us. I hear a bird singing a song so lovely, I would chime in if I wasn't drowsy still. I feel the 40% polyester/ 60% cotton bedspanner gently nestle up to my calves and feet. I smell a fresh autumn breeze wafting through my room. The warm sunshine on my face tells me that it's going to be a lovely day. What do I have to do today? Well, I have slept in for the first time in weeks. That was great. But there was something else... Oh yeah, we're going to Detroit today. SHIRT! We're going to DETROIT TODAY!! I grab my phone and take a look at the time. We are supposed to meet in front of Angel Hall at 9:30 as the bus will depart at 9:45. It's 9:33!
As you guys know I had been to Detroit before and found it quite dull and grey and boring. But this time, the city was a lot more colourful. Don't get me wrong here, it's still not a very nice city, but the second time there was much better than the first time. I thought to myself that if I kept going there every weekend, I'm sure Detroit would end up being about as lovely as Essen in the Ruhrarea by the time I left the US next spring. On the bus ride, Caroline - the frevil (french + evil) girl - and I practiced for our Chinese oral exam which would be held the upcoming monday. Before we knew it, we arrived at Detroit's Eastern Market. This market was beautiful. Hundreds of traders from all over the Detroit area came here and sold their products. I'm going to let the pictures do the talking for this one:
After the cute market, we were off to the historic museum. I had been there before but there was something new to see this time. The reconstruction of a small alley with a few shops and something that seemed to be unique to Detroit: Trees with power outlets! Now I start to understand this whole clean energy concept... We need some of those in Germany as well.
While walking past the exhibits, I talked to Michael, the slow australian guy as you may remember him, and he told me that my blog made him start writing a journal. Very flattered - that is the biggest compliment I can think of - I urged him to make it available to the world. He's thinking about it.
An hour after ordering our food, we were full. Full of food and full of regret for having stuffed our faces so recklessly. (As a sidenote: I didn't have food until about 24 hours later and even then I wasn't too hungry, but rather felt like I should eat again.) On the way to the Motown Museum, everybody almost fell asleep on the coach. But after funking it up we were able to get our systems going again with a nice downtown walking tour. We waved at Canadians near the border and I even got to fistbump the big guy:
In other news the UofM football team brought home the highest win in 80 years (78-0). They played New Jersey... Seems like Ted Mosby was right about New Jersey all along!
Also, it's autumn now. Of all the seasons, I like autumn the most. Why? The sun is actually warm and not super hot and you get to see scenes like this one:
As you know I had a lot of bad luck lately. Superstitious people may think that’s because I said that if Jesus had spent more time working out and less time walking around transforming wine into water, he wouldn’t have had such a hard time carrying his cross. Others might instead believe that god allowed himself a joke when creating me in the first place.
Fact is, I’m not too lucky at the moment. Why do I bring this up again? I lost my external hard drive. I lost my external hard drive and with it all of my data, including the extensive nude picture selection of myself, entitled “Nacktheit im Freien”. Ok, I’m kidding about the nude picture collection - it didn’t have a title yet - but I did lose all of my data’s copies. At least I still have them saved on several other devices. So to all of my Ann Arbor friends: Please be on the lookout for my hard drive. It’s the one that looks like all the other hard drives, so it should be easy to spot!
Oh yeah and one other thing concerning my luck… there are freakin’ armed clowns running around the States:
A few days ago they were first sighted in Michigan and last night there were two armed robberies right here in Ann Arbor! For all the people who don’t know me very well: "Terrified" doesn’t even begin to describe my attitude towards clowns. They are so creepy! Why in the name of the lord would you have to draw a smile on your face? The only reason I can think of is that YOU’RE A FUDGING PSYCHO!
Anyway, moving on to cuter, but equally as sad news. I miss our cat, look at him, he’s so cute:
Seems like he had just awoken from his afternoon nap. When I woke up the other day, it was time to start my world-changing, outrageous outfit campaign. I call it the “Certainly Outrageous Clothing Knockout”. If you don’t know about this or why I’m doing it, you can just read up on my previous blogs. I started off slowly, because there are a whole lot of Tuesdays to come. So here is COCK No.1, including Michigan hoodie, Michigan shirt underneath and, the highlight of this selection, checkered Michigan pyjama pants:
Nobody rated my clothing as being inappropriate. But I was prepared for that. They will start to recognize before they know it, because the outrageousness will only increase from here on out...
Great news at the end of the blog (the next one is going to be longer, since we go to Detroit on Saturday!). Remember when I applied for that art-blogging position? Well, I got the job. Apparently they liked my work and I can officially call myself a paid blogger/columnist now! How cool is that??:
Ok, guys. Two things first: Pain and pain. Oh yeah, I had to suffer through two completely different kinds of pain in the past few days. And also, I decided I
am going to see how far I can stretch the university’s tolerance for clothing in classes.
So as far as the pain goes I can tell you that after almost eight weeks without any exercise, going for a ridiculously long run to escape homework duties is a massively stupid idea. But since I seem to prefer those to ideas that actually make sense, I went for a humongous run a few days ago. My muscles were as soar as after that time I told my ex-roommate I could beat him at squats even though I hadn’t done any of them ever, whereas he had spent most of his adult life training – at least I like to imagine – for this particular moment. For the moment a moron challenged him. Long story short: He destroyed me. I thought I could never walk around without looking like I just had rectal surgery ever again in my life.
Believe it or not, eventually I did. Until a few days ago at least. After the run my muscles were so soar, the sensation of trying to get out of bed the next morning could almost compare to the pain I would experience the day after. The second kind of pain was different from the first one. It was emotional pain. My heart was ripped out and stumped on by noone else than BRITNEY SPEARS! What happened?
Well, I wanted a celebrity to promote my Blog, right? Obviously, I couldn’t ask a real celebrity because chances are they’re not going to reply. And naturally, when you think used-to-be-celebrities, you think Britney Spears. Or is that just me? Anyway, I sent her this message:
So why am I sad you ask? Guys, I don’t know how to tell you this but… She didn’t reply! Right? I was genuinely surprised, too. I would have thought she might find a couple of minutes between shaving her head and making bad life decisions to shoot me a message, right? It doesn’t seem like Britney wants to become famous after all. But probably she’s right. Probably being famous isn’t too cool anyway.
Speaking of cool: I want to stretch the limit. To be accurate, there actually is no limit… yet. What am I talking about? So we can wear anything we want in class. And my fellow American students tend to take advantage of that. Seeing toesies, sweat pants and very few bras in class, took some getting used to. But when one of the girls in COMM 408 entered the room wearing nothing but what seemed to be a child’s - and therefore a far too short – bathrobe, I was sincerely flabbergasted. By the bathrobe, but also by our professor’s reaction to the bathrobe; there was none. He didn’t care. And nobody else seemed to care either. In that moment, I decided I was going to make them care by wearing an increasingly outrageous outfit every week. I will go to the point where it hurts (I don’t know if that’s a saying in English, but it is in German).
But as we discovered earlier, pain is endurable and it will eventually weaken and disappear. Just like I’m going to overcome “Britney Bitch” betraying me, I am going to push through the pain of wearing ridiculous clothing to class. I mean I’m just doing it to make the world a better place, so… yeah.
Four quick things:
1. Yes, I watched the presidential debate and talked to a lot of Americans about it. And no, I’m not going to talk about it here. Not yet at least.
2. A couple of friends and me are planning a trip to Chicago at the moment. We’ll probably go there during our fall study break which is sometime in October. So Chicago will soon be on my Blog as well.
3. The weather turned really bad. I feel like I’m back home in Germany. It’s quite drizzly. This is the view from where I was sitting at my go-to coffee place while writing this Blog entry:
4. Thanks so much, Lucas, for sending me a postcard from home! It was a cool surprise which made my day:
Failure. Failure is part of life right? We don’t really have to be ashamed of it and yet we are. Failing implies trying. Why should we be ashamed of trying? As much as I don’t understand this, I too am ashamed of failing. This story is supposed to show you that failing isn’t too bad after all.
The story constists of two parts. Both are vital to understanding where I want to go with this blog. The first part is about my broken phone, while in the second part I will tell you about all of my failures at home and throughout the world.
Let’s start with my phone. Just a few days ago, I was walking down the street, enjoying some great music (I was listening to „Wonderful“ by Everclear, I believe) when – all of a sudden – the music stopped. Confused, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and looked at it. It had turned off.
‚Dammit!’ I whispered and stopped at a street light while turning my phone back on. I love walking. Firstly because it is healthy and (most of the time) solitary. Secondly because you can put on some good music and just drift off into wild fantasies, imagining images beyond imagination. When the music is gone, though, walking is only half as fun.
Luckily my phone turned back on. But before I could make walking entirely fun again, the phone broke back down. I tried turning it on one more time and when it wouldn’t, I just put it back in my pocket and enjoyed the sound of the squirrels burrying treats in front yards along the pavement, instead.
Unfortunately, at home it turned out that my phone wouldn’t turn back on ever again. That was pretty bad. Going to the US had strained my finances quite severely, so I couldn’t really afford new stuff. Markedly disappointed in Samsung, I sat down on the couch with an abundant sigh. In addition to my monetary shortage I was quite shy on time as well. Uni ate up my time as if it was a hobbit and time just a very enticing second breakfast.
During that thought I took off my shoes and realised I hadn’t taken off my entire shoe but just a sole. The rest of it stuck to my foot, thus offering a grotesquely artistic image. Great! First my phone, now my shoes... Was anything else about to break today as well? The answer was Yes. My computer did. A piece of plastic broke off the charging slot, making charging nearly impossible. At that point I had stopped adding up the expenses that were about to drill a massive whole into my savings. Now I was just focussed on making sure to get a new phone as quickly as possible. I had a spare pair of shoes and still half a battery of computer life left, but my phone was my only means of communication. My only connection to my friends and family.
So I took the bus to Costco, discovered that they didn’t sell any unlocked phones and proceeded to Best Buy. Unfortunately there was no bus route connecting Costco and Best Buy, so I had to walk the 3,5 miles there. Half way there, the very low average of four hours of nightly sleep for the past couple of weeks hit me. Exhausted, tired and in a mood I can only describe as a woman’s mendacious „There’s nothing wrong, I’m ok“, I arrived at Best Buy. They didn’t have any decent unlocked phones either. How I mustered the energy to walk all the way back home, I cannot recall. But what I can tell you is that when I arrived and slammed the door behind me, I would have been furious about having wasted this much time and energy on nothing, if I hadn’t been so unbelievably tired. The day was a complete failure.
We’re going to get back to this story later on. Let’s move to the second part of this story before, though:
So this part is about my failures. My big failures and my small failures. My important and less important failures. My hurtfull and mild failures. Instead of listing them – I fail with a mindblowing regularity, making even recalling all of them impossible – I will tell you about my experience of what failing means and why it isn’t all that bad.
So after I had quit my first job in New Zealand and was travelling south to eventually cross over to the southern island after seeing everything worth seeing on the northern island, I failed a couple of times.
First of all, I failed at calculating how much money I actually had. Then I failed at estimating how much money I would need to travel down to the south island and finally I failed at making wise decisions, which could have saved me a lot of the money I didn’t have. The details of this horrible story aren’t relevant to my point (even though I wouldn’t mind sharing them over a cup of coffee) but fact is, when I arrived in the south island’s first larger city I didn’t have any money left. I didn’t have a job either; or a room; or food. All I had was my car – which I had fitted with a mattress – and $5. I spend the $5 on printing as many copies of my CV as possible. I started walking around town handing out my CV to everyone. After countless rejections, I was finally granted an interview in a book store. Luckily, I ended up getting the job. By the first day of work I had already slept in my car for several nights and since I didn’t have shower gel and couldn’t afford to buy any, I had cleaned myself with toothpaste (yeah... toothpaste) for the time being. When I told one of my new co-workers about my situation, she immediately send me out to her in-laws’ farm to have a chat with her husband’s dad. When I did, he offered to host me for free... and I gratefully accepted.
And that is the story of how I met the Newton family. Anyone who I told about my New Zealand travels knows, that I developed a strong bond with them while living on their farm for 3 month. They treated me like a son and made me feel like I had a home away from home. And I still feel that way. Parts of the family even visited me in Germany during their Europe travels.
This story is perfect for pointing out how failure can be a good thing. Had I not failed so thoroughly, had I not been forced to look for work in Nelson, had I not complained to my co-worker about having failed so badly, I probably never would have met this amazing family who I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
Failures shape our lives. They are hard to endure, embarrassing to tell and difficult to overcome. But there is something good in every failure. Whether it is a motivation to act a certain way, or the opportunity to experience something totally different from what you actually intended. Or if it’s just life’s lesson of how to deal with three of your every-day gadgets breaking at the same time. Failures make you stronger. Failures teach you how to deal with life and that’s why I almost prefer failing to succeeding. I know this might sound a little bit over the top, but just try to recall the funniest, most memorable stories you tell your friends, your family, your children or your grandchildren. They almost usually involve failure of some sort. That’s because failure might be hard in the moment, but in retrospect it is the funniest comedian, the best storyteller and the most valuable teacher. I wouldn’t want to trade in failure for anything.
So it's been a while since my last blog entry. As expected uni hit me. It hit me hard, and in a very french manner. Have you ever been thrown under the bus by a french person? See, and it happened to me, too. Plus, I found dining paradise, which is great because being a radio host makes you hungry!
After the game last Saturday, Maria and I were quite hungry. We decided to stop by the dining hall, a food facillity provided by the university for students, who are are willing and able to pay the price. It is super expensive, but in one-and-a-half hours, which I can only describe as "my dream come true", I discovered why. It cost me $12 to enter heaven and man, was it worth it. They had everything. Pizza, burger, burritos, potatoes, pasta, rice, chicken, beef, pork, fruit, a salad bar, sausages, every beverage imaginable, soft ice, regular ice cream, various cakes, soups and even german "Braten mit Spätzle". Ok, I have to admit that the german food wasn't even slightly authentic, but thank god I can't afford this dining paradise. I know about my self-control - I know that I don't have any - so I'm certain that I'd put on more pounds than my body-building ex-roommate does in weight training when there's a cute girl around. Check it out:
And that was just our first course... As we sat there quietly, stuffing our faces with food, we watched a football game on one of the massive flat screen TVs, which were located in every
part of the dining hall. After a while of chewing noises and football-watching I said:
"Mh" Maria responded with her mouth half full "are Chicago the one's with the black and white stripes?"
I started grinning, which made most of the burrito I had just put into my mouth fall out, right on the table I wouldn't have to clean.
"Yes" I answered after a short while, but Maria didn't seem to notice the stupid grin on my stupid face "and they've got whistles, too. Look."
"Oh, yeah" she seemed confused and I had another slice of pizza.
Cut Maria some slag, guys. Did she have any idea of what football was about? No! But did she try to understand it? No! But probably that's not too important anyway.
Moving on to more shocking news, I've fallen victim to abuse:
I hadn't studied Chinese for Wednesday's class because I was so swamped with readings for other classes. When I told Caroline, a french friend (or at least I used to think so) of mine - I think I
already mentioned that she's in my chinese class in a previous blog entry - on Wendesday morning, she immediately started smiling. But it didn't seem like she was amused. It was more
of a completely unamused grin. The kind of demoniac grin the joker puts on before blowing something up... And she was about to!
I made nothing of it, so I was quite confident I could stay under the radar for this lesson. We learned new words and characters, we revised some content from previous classes and I was good and almost invisible, leaned back in my comfortable desk chair. As the last task of the day, we had to revise everything we had learned in a single conversation with a partner. Since the person closest to me was Caroline, we practiced together. Luckily she already knew I'd be shit at this revision - which I was. So she just smiled again. This time there was a little amusement in her smile and a whole lot of evil. But before I could really notice, she started the conversation:
"你好?" she said.
"你好" I responded "你叫什么名字?"
Getting in to the conversation, it became obvious that I should have spent more time studying and less time sleeping the previous night. But Caroline didn't seem to care. She just smiled all the way through our (very bumpy) talk. After a while our professor asked whether any team wanted to present their skills to the class. If this wasn't the case, she said, she wouldn't mind either since our time was up anyway. I was relieved that I had made it through class without embarrassing myself. I smiled and turned my head to Caroline. She smiled back.
"Noone?" our professor asked.
I gave Caroline a "Yeah-right"-look. To my very consternation, she slowly raised her hand from the armrest of her chair.
"No!" I whispered, now quite baffled, thinking she might have missunderstood my "Yeah-right"-look.
But the look on her face was now a grin, a grin so evil, it made me think Dolores Umbridge had just joined my chinese class. She definately hadn't missunderstood my look. She wanted to see me suffer. She slowly raised her arm and I understood. And I accepted my fate. Everybody was very amused by my demise. Everybody, except for me. This betrayal will not be forgotten!
Ok, let's face it. I will probably forget to get back at Caroline, but in case I remember, I'll let you guys know.
The other day I had to read a lot. Ok, I have to read a lot every day, but the other day I had to read a LOT. And I didn't want to spend all day inside. So I decided to read outside. I also decided I'd need a pick-me-up halfway through the readings, so I brought a spoon and my iPad to get to it:
A short trip to the supermarket and $3 later I had a pint of ice-cream and went to the park. I ate the ice-cream immediately. It was delicious and I was motivated to commence with my readings:
One problem with this park was, that there was a playground right next to it. And children are LOUD! I think I could have gotten more work done on a runway. Or at an Iron Maiden show. Or at an Iron Maiden show on a runway. Fact is, kids are noisy and I didn't get any work done. Next time, I have to pick out a more appropriate park for studying. Thirty minutes later I returned to the supermarket and bought a bag of chips. Don't judge me, ok? The cashier (the one who had sold me the ice-cream earlier) already did that rather intensely, looking at me, then at the used spoon in my hand and then at the bag of chips. He sighed and scanned my chips.
The day didn't end on that negative note, though. I went to a meeting of these radio people I told you guys about. I can start working there! I was excited. And I still am. I'm going to be a radio star. And I won't let video kill me!
There is a little video I created at the very bottom of this blog entry. If you are lazy you can watch it and get a quick impression of what game day is like here in one of the best college football towns in the world. If you want to read about the full-on experience just keep on going:
The Big House seats about 100,000 people. What that actually means is that the entire citizenry of Ann Arbor could go watch the game and there would still be empty seats left. That is
crazy and I think it brings about most of the unique atmosphere in the entire town on game days. Everybody is excited on Saturdays.
If you go to the store to buy some milk, the cashier is excited about game day. If you go to the post office to hand in an envelope, the postman is excited about game day. If you are stopped by the police for a document check, you're not, because the police is excited about game day. When everyone is excited about game day, it's hard for you not to be excited about game day as well, so when I pregamed - or tailgated or however you want to call it - with a couple of friends I was very excited! About game day!
Since I live very close to the stadium everybody came to my place to have some alcohol. And by some, I mean loads, because there is no alcohol allowed in the stadium - oh yes you read that correctly, NO alcohol in the stadium. If alcohol was banned from European stadiums the fat, shirtless guy on the barricade, telling the fans which song to sing would be pretty much non-existent, because what kind of sober person would want to sit on a fence for 90 minutes? Exactly.
Since the alcohol ban forces fans to get pretty much downright wasted beforehand, a few of them don't even make it to the game. Obviously I didn't get obliviously drunk, because I wanted to remember my first ever american football game. And man, did I.
We arrived at the stadium about thirty minutes before kick-off. There was no security check so we could walk right in and enter our section (28) in the student area. The student area is the loudest part of the audience. They exclusively use their seats to stand on and they scream their lungs out to drive the team to victory.
Upon entering the stadium, I was impressed. It was colossal. There were no barriers, so you could basically walk around the entire inside of the stadium. I'm going to make this short now, because there are plenty impressions to talk about.
As great as the students were at singing, they were completely dependent on the marching band - which was one of the greatest things about game day, by the way - to dictate the rythm. There wouldn't have been too much singing and cheering without the band. Also, the selection of songs was quite narrow. They added up to a total of about six simple cheers. Here's the best-known one. I mentioned this one in a previous blog already and the version below is the only one I could find with people actually singing the song, so don't be confused about the ice track in the background. That's NOT (!!) what they play american football on.
Beautiful! Moving on, there were commercial breaks, a lack of alcohol - yes I'm back on that again, because it really bugs me - and cheerleading, marching band and dancing performances. All of that made me feel like I was at a carnival rather than a sporting event. It really wasn't too much about the game. Especially considering that the game only takes up one hour of the four hour event. So why does the game last four hours then, you might ask. And you'd be right to do so. It's the interruptions.
The problem with the interruptions was not that there were interruptions. That's just the nature of the game. The problem was that the interruptions lasted far too long for no reason at all. The entire game could have been over in just short of two hours. Everybody would have stayed until the end of the game and could have had a fantastic time. Instead, the game was interrupted every thirty seconds for about three minutes. This makes the event depletively long and hard to endure in full length. That's why most people left the stadium at halftime or a bit later to watch the rest of the game at home, where there's food (so American, right? But who can blame them?). On an average game day only about one third of the audience will stay long enough to hear the final whistle. Considering the mentionable length of the pregaming, the entire day was kind of exhausting. On the upside, we had time to take a lot of selfies:
Michigan won by seventeen points (wohoo) so everyone was quite happy. I was even high-fived by a steward on the way out.
To make the atmosphere and energy in and around the stadium a little more tangible, I put together this badly edited video of my NCAA game day experience. I didn't have too much time on my hands
for this one, so don't judge me for the bad quality. I've done better in the past!
Special thanks go out to Zebrahead at this point for giving me permission to use their music in the video.
So what can I say about game day?
It's great that the entire town goes nuts about it and it is totally fun to be at the stadium! But there is just no comparison to a European soccer game. At a soccer game there is much more emotion, much more fandom there. But nevertheless, the football game kept me entertained for several hours. I didn't exactly expect that going in. I wouldn't pregame as much next time - if there's a next time - though.
If I can manage to get some cheap tickets I'll probably go again, but if I don't I won't really mind either. Actually, I think that is the best way to summarise my football experience.
As I stood behind the stage, all cameras pointed at me, the speaker started talking about the importance and bravery of the military. I inevitably thought of Donovan's "Universal Soldier" and that "he really is to blame, his orders come from far away no more" and that he's "fighting and he thinks he'll put an end to war this way". As my thoughts drifted off with the speaker still babbling along, my face did what it always does when my brain has to focus on more important things than controlling my facial expressions. It made me look like a human-fish hybrid, being annoid and offended at the same time. Just seconds after starting to look stupid, I was pulled back into reality by a steward hissing at me. I had done it. I had looked dumb on national TV yet again. As a matter of fact I have a talent for looking dumb anywhere, anytime and in any way but it mostly occurs when I am filmed or photographed.
Indeed, I had only been brought back here to cheer at everything Tim Kaine, member of the US senat and vice presidential candidate under Hillary Clinton, said. And I wanted to be part of the cheering squad so badly. As he finished his talk on the military, everyone cheered. Except for me. I just shook my head in disagreement and the steward who had asked me to come back here clearly regretted his decision already. He got ready to remove me from the cheering squad, but luckily for me, Kaine started saying things that made sense and I could agree to. I started to join in to the cheering and I went completely nuts. I mean: COMPLETELY nuts. The steward - who had shown signs of relieve when I finally started being excited - was blatantly unhappy with the poor choice he had made when appointing me part of the cheering squad.
But seriously, Americans get very excited about political rallies. It might correlate to their inexplicable admiration of celebrities. Maybe they're just better at showing their emotions and political attitude than Germans. I'm not sure, but their exaltation is quite sweeping to be honest. Accordingly, I had a blast at this rally. And so did everyone else:
I don't think the pictures gave you an accurate idea of how cheery these folks actually are, so I'll post a video below. In comparison to Germany it is absolutely mindblowing:
In other news, I had to self-pitch on Tuesday. What does that mean, you ask? Well, a pitch is telling a person or a group the most important facts about yourself, tailored to meet the person's or the group's expectations, or more accurately their requirements, in the shortest time possible, in a way that makes them listen to you. All students of Prof. O'Day's class - remember Prof. O'Day, the only professor on campus who dislikes exams and won't have them for that reason - had to pitch themselves in order to be accepted for the course and find a group to do their next pitches with. My pitch went... brilliantly! Check it out:
"Once you leave your home country you’re exposed to unknown traditions, new ways of thinking and shifted priorities. Agility, versality, and open-mindedness are crucial to survive in an ever-changing environment.
After more than three years of intense forging, the world has taught me these qualities to a certain extend and my pursuit is to improve them constantly for you can never master them. The world has started to make me an all-rounder.
Much like this cookie here *shows a cookie*. This cookie is an all-rounder, too. First of all it’s ALL ROUND. And just like me, it’s got all the important qualities of an all-rounder: It’s firm on the outside, smooth on the inside and once you tried it, you can’t get it off your mind.
I like to consider these small chunks of chocolate in here my small bundles of experience. Like Prof O’Day said, you don’t have to be super smart, or super cute, or super funny. And thank god he’s right because I’m neither of those things. But I do have a lot of chocolate chunks. And that’s what makes me a great all-rounder.
On the one hand I’ve worked for BMW, on the other hand I’m an unpaid Art-Blogger.
I strive to bring this variety of chunks to you, just like I’m going to bring these chunks of chocolate to you in just a second. But I’m going to need you to give me some of your chunks in exchange, so I keep on improving myself, to be as flexibly deployable as possible. If we combine our chunks and dough, we can achieve anything!
Because a little bit of everything is better than a whole lot of nothing.
To my very relieve my fellow students laughed and some of them - and I feel very honoured by this - came up to me after class to congratulate me on my pitch. Nothing could possibly ruin this day! Or so I thought...
Then came Buffalo Wild Wings or "B Dubs" how they call it out here. Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with B Dubs. It's just that sometimes I make decisions without thinking about the consequences. And at B Dubs I did it again. Maria, a few friends and I were just sitting at our table, having a drink and talking about student life. When the waitress arrived, everybody appeared to have decided on what to eat already. Because I hadn't even looked at the menu yet, I just ordered the next best thing. About thirty minutes later I would find out that that was a big mistake.
When the food arrived the waitress asked:
"Who ordered the blazin' sauce wings?"
My friends, who had been deep in vivid conversation up to this point, suddenly stopped talking to look around the table with a startled look on their faces, to make out who's order - or should I say who's mistake - this was. Alarmed by their looks, I reluctantly raised my hand.
Tears started filling my eyes as the vapour of the wings ascended to my face. Apparently blazin' sauce was somewhat spicy. How spicy? Well, you guys may or may not have read my travel journal about Malaysia, but the malaysian soup catastrophe from 2014 comes quite close to the pain I was about to experience.
Just to recap: In Malaysia I confidently ordered a spicy soup, even though the waiter had warned me repeatedly, that the soup I was about to order was EXTREMELY spicy, even by
"I'm fine!" I said imperturbably.
A few minutes later I tasted the soup. After I had swallowed a spoonful, my entire throat was paralysed, so pretty much all I could do to pretend I was fine, was to give the waiter - who had patiently waited beside my table to examine my reaction - a thumbs-up and go for a second spoonful. For the first time in my life, I would rather have had a smaller portion. After twenty massively painful minutes - the waiter had been nice enough to provide me with a stack of napkins and increasingly sympathetic looks - my bowl wasn't empty but I had reached my limit and swore never to overdo the spiciness again.
But it looked like exactly that had happened. But this time it wasn't the waiter who gave me pitiful looks, but my friends. I'm going to make it short: It wasn't as bad as the malaysian soup. But one thing surprised me. All of my friends tried the blazin' wings too and I whined the least, although asian people were present. I could take spiciness better than asian people... Awesome!
At home I was asinine enough to put my fingers - which I had washed a couple of times, by the way - into my eyes. The pain was indescribable. For about ten minutes I thought I could never open my eyes again, but as quickly as the pain had hit me, it vanished. After that it felt like I hadn't closed my eyes in days, so when I went to bed I fell asleep quicker than usual and I slept better than ever.
Until I was woken up by my freaking sorry excuse for a bed! As you know, an airbed was my budget solution for a bed. But here's the catch: Since I like to sleep with my windows open, cold air creeps in to the room at night, which isn't a problem unless your fudging BED IS BASICALLY PLASTIC-WRAPPED AIR!
I was awoken by my mattress sucking the warmth out of my body, right into it's greedy core. I had only once been awoken by the cold. Back in New Zealand when I accidentally brought a children's indoor tent on a three day hiking trip with nightly temperatures of 3°C (America, get used to the metric system already) and lower - you see how I do stupid things sometimes?
Anyway, it didn't feel too good, but I went out and bought a decent padded bedcover today, so that should do the trick.
I just remembered: I was given a chinese name by my chinese professor. A shanghainese friend told me it meant "bright and smart". Considering the past proceedings I mentioned in this blog entry, I should probably give the name back and request a more fitting one, right?
Alright, so this blog entry is going to be pretty much all visual. Since I feel you couldn't really get an idea of what the University of Michigan looks like yet, I walked around campus for a few hours and took a bunch of pictures just to give you an impression. There is absolutely no way for me to even get close to filling you in on all the university's buildings and places - because there are just too many - but I picked out a few special one's. These are my top 22 places around campus you should have a look at.
The Diag. A meeting point with cult status. It's the heart of campus. Depending on the time of year you can find absolutely anything here. Political gatherings, club meetings, art festivals, concerts, movie screenings, outside classes, rallies, buffets, oh yeah, and free hugs of course.
Are you exhausted from studying? Are you tired of reading books all day long? Nothing upper state street couldn't fix! Quite to the contrary, it's got your fix for all of your food, beverage or clothing needs. The range is wide. From quick lunch to classy dinner, everything is possible. The liquor stores are extremely busy here, because students can just pick up their party juice on their home from uni.
A very magnificent building. It reminds me of the "Neue Aula", the main building of my home university. I had a few introductory classes in here but Angel Hall is mainly appreciated for it's steps as seating accommodation.
Just like the picture, the Michigan Union isn't perfect. But it's certainly one of the prettiest and busiest buildings on campus. The president of the university works in the very top level of this building. Students rumour that that's the reason why all good restaurants are located in the Michigan Union as well.
The Museum of Art is part of the University of Michigan. Apart from it's surprisingly comprehensive exhibition, it's a nice place to get some work done.
The North Quadrangle Residencial and Academic Complex is one of four of it's kind. You can find one in every of the four cardinal directions. The North Quad is the largest, though. I've got three out of four of my classes here. The building is quite luxurious and sharing a room will cost a student up to $7000 per term.
Just like it's got it's own police force, the university has it's own bus system, too. The Blue-Buses will bring you anywhere close to campus and are driven by... students! Awesome! Guess who's taking the two week introduction to bus-driving this upcoming semester? Exactly, that's me!
Every student can tell a story about Ulrich's and it's probably always the same: You can't get what you need and they are completely unreasonable and rude about it... Might be bad for Americans but feels like home to me!
It doesn't matter where you are or where you want to go. There is always a small pathway leading you right there. It's very convenient and adds to the assumption that you can cross campus in less than fifteen minutes, which - trust me - you can't.
Spinning this cube or it's brother in Chicago is supposed to be good luck but nobody could really tell us why, so this place is much more fun when you bring ice-cream.
A campus isn't necessarily an ordinary prerequisite of a university. My home university doesn't have one. I've really come to appreciate the campus. It makes everything so central. It gives a face to the university, a structure, something familiar. People are in one spot, there a rallies and demonstrations. You can also chill out in between lectures or meet friends, since they are all around and not scattered around town.
I’m going to join U-Mich radio for some football expertise and squirrels use the crosswalk here.
When my last class of the week was over at 5 pm on Friday, I stumbled upon something so american on my way across campus, I thought I had walked right into a teenage-college movie. They call it Festifall. Clubs had put up their promotion stands and were trying to convince hundreds of students to join their organisations.
U-Mich has a total of about 1,500 student organisations so there was something interesting for everyone. From a Pokemon Union over the aforementioned Squirrel Feeding Club all the way to a Legalise Marihuana Association. There were sports clubs, academic clubs, charity clubs, religious clubs, cultural clubs and so many more. I was curious to find out how many people would try to win me over to their cause. I turned off my music, put my headphones in my backpack and started squeezing through the masses.
If anybody feels like they don’t get enough attention, they should be sent here for therapy. I hadn’t been approached so obtrusively since I told my extended family about my first girlfriend on Boxing Day a few years ago. I was molested, I was screamed at. It was like I was back at a malaysian flea market. I had my behind grabbed by a girl from the U-Mich Association for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment, just so I would notice her. I didn’t join but I bathed in the attention. I loved it. Everybody wanted a piece of the M-Dog!
At orientation we were warned not to sign up for too many newsletters since every organisation usually sends out two mails a week. If you were to sign up for twenty organisations that would add up to 40 mails a week or more than five a day. Hence, I was careful about what I signed up for. Eventually I left Festifall having signed up for six newsletters. I also filled out two applications for paid blogging positions and send in some of my work, so let’s see how that works out. They will let me know whether I got the job or not around early October! Last but not least I will join U-Mich radio soon, hopefully commentating several football games. I’ll keep you updated about that as well.
My first Chinese exam was due on Saturday. I had prepared myself and sat in front of the computer in our dining room. Just as I had commenced the online quiz on comprehension of pronounciation, Trent and a few friends entered the living room. You could tell they had had a few beers and they were absolutely excited to meet me. As nice as that was, I kept glancing at the quiz-timer running down while all of them came over to shake my hand. But before I could tell them about the test, they had already left again, so I could redirect my attention to the quiz. I didn’t do too bad. I scored a 12.6 out of 15 which is a B+. The fact that I was not completely satisfied with this grade is proof that by learning Chinese a little part of Asian mentality is transferred to ones value system. I’m afraid of ending up as the guy who goes into revision on his final paper because he “only” got an A. I don’t want to become an overachiever! Maybe I should add Spanish to my schedule then… I’m just kidding the Hispanics of course. But I really need to find back to my laid back attitude as soon as possible.
I could start that process by joining a sports team. I was invited to one by a buddy. Our team’s name is Man Chest Hair United. Seems like the perfect team for me. Not because I have manly chest hair – if only – but because my teammates would too have the sense of humor of a seven-year-old. Great! Later I found out that we were playing a lot of great and internationally acclaimed teams: Juventus Urin and Fake Madrid were only two of them.
On an unrelated note; did you guys know that squirrels are really tame here? And they’re smart, too. Here are several pictures of Maria – you remember her, right? – luring a squirrel over to her, just to jump up in fright when it actually responded to her efforts:
Because squirrels aren’t just smart but notorious for their deadly snuffle-attacks as well. Anyway, squirrels are actually smart enough to use crosswalks, which they do on a regular basis. For the second time this week, I witnessed a squirrel waiting for humans to approach a crosswalk, to then hop on over to the other side of the street once the traffic had come to a halt. I find that incredibly intelligent. Unfortunately I didn’t get that on camera, but I will try to and if I do, you’ll be the first ones to see it.
Just a quick update on my house: It’s growing together. We’re all getting along really well and we’re starting to form a proper community. We watch sports together, we discover each other’s preferences in music, film and politics and we talk quite a lot. I actually found out what the infamous american greencard looks like today. My polish housemate’s family moved to the US when he was 12 years-old and he didn’t feel like applying for a full American citizenship yet, so he still has a greencard. Check it out guys:
But that’s not what he looks like at all. Just to give you an impression… This is what he looked like tonight after a productive day at uni:
He is funny.
Well guys, that’s pretty much all that happened. It’s been an exhausting first week. Bring on the second week now!
The University of Michigan comes in on position 14 in the Times World University Ranking. That means there are only 13 institutions of higher education in the world better than U-Mich.This is very much owed to the fact that there's a lot... a LOT of money envolved. In a previous blog entry I already mentioned that U-Mich has an annual budget of more than $7 billion. That is $7,000,000,000! Just to give you an impression of how much that actually is I looked up the annual budget of my home university, the University of Tuebingen. It's $470 million. Even when taking into account that the University of Tuebingen facilitates only about 2/3 of U-Mich student total, that is a significant difference. Tuebingen's financial resources per student are less than 10% of U-Mich's. And it doesn't take long to notice the difference. Not so much in the University Ranking - Tuebingen comes in on a surprising 78th position - but in terms of facilities, equipment and educational quality. Let's dive right in:
I was approached by a police officer and burnt by the sun. Here is what happened in the last two days before the semester:
“Hey come over at 9” was the text message I received from Sam, a new buddy of mine who lives at the truth co-op house, at exactly 8:54. Obviously I didn’t make it on time because it’s a twenty minute walk from my house to truth but when I got there at 9:30 everyone was tipsy already. Americans tend to start their celebrational activities of any sort quite early and finish them early too.
“Hey Marius, man!” Sam said upon my arrival “We’re just about to leave for the block party.”
A block party is a popular night time activity in Ann Arbor. Several hundred students meet on a small section of a street and participating nearby houses provide alcohol and restrooms. Since drinking on public property isn’t permitted in the US, the police usually shuts down the party as soon as they can gather a sufficient number of officers, and then leave the party site just long enough for the party to pop up again. This procedure repeats itself a number of times until the police shuts down the party for good.
I was very excited to be part of the shut-down, rather than the party itself. When we arrived I hadn’t had too much alcohol yet, so we bought some and as I talked to some students just about 40 minutes into the party, the police arrived. I was excited and ready to run. I threw my beer bottle in a trash can – I might be a criminal but I’m still considerate of the environment – and scanned my surroundings for the most efficient escape route. Just as I had found a perfect fence to jump, someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned around and froze in shock. It was a police officer. Before I could even think about running she said:
“Excuse me, could you please leave the site?”
Perplex I answered: “Ehm, yes.”
“Thanks so much!” she replied and resumed asking people to leave.
Sorry guys, I know you enjoy watching me suffer but turns out the police doesn’t care about these block partys. They shut them down because they’re required to and they will arrest one or two underage drinkers but generally… they don’t give a shirt.
On Sunday I had to recover from my hangover. I mostly spent my time sleeping on the couch and sleeping in my bed. My italian housemate decided to make some proper pasta with tomato-basil sauce in the evening, which did a lot for me in terms of recovery. It was italicious:
Monday was Labor Day, resulting in me having some free time on my hands to spend the day kayaking with a group of international students. It was so much fun and so much sun. When we were done after about three hours of intens roasting on the sun-flooded river, I was baked and not in the good way. Actually I was so sunburnt that when I grabbed some dinner at Subway later on, a guy told me I had a nice sweater… I was wearing a red T-shirt!
Well I guess I’m going to pay for forgetting my sun lotion at home tomorrow. And I’m not talking about the inescapable pain of my irritated skin here. I could endure that. But my mom’s going to terrorise me relentlessly about making such a dumb mistake, when she finds out about this. And she will! (Mainly due to the fact that she reads this blog on a regular basis – man why did I tell her about the internet – but she has her ways of finding out anyway)
The semester is beginning tomorrow. Just in time for the commencement of the study season, I bought myself a nice and sturdy desk…
Ok, so originally it might have been intended as an ironing board, but you really can't tell the difference between this and a $200 desk, so I guess I'll consider it a bargain!
I’ve got a full-on 9 hour day to start with so we can finally get into the academic part of my journey soon! I’ll let you know how it went.
You probably noticed I didn’t have sufficient access to the interweb for the past couple of days. We figured it out with our landlord and recieved two pizzas as compensation... Well I am back and I have a lot to tell you! Let’s go for it:
Plodging through the newbie fountain made me the wolverine I am today, plus I will join the squirrel feeding club. Yes, that’s a thing!
So orientation started on Monday, right? WRONG! A completely new, unforgettable chapter of our life started on Monday. At least that’s what the presenters at our welcoming celebration told us over and over again.
After I checked in to the orientation programm and received all the documents and studying resources I would ever need, I went to pick up my M-Card. What is an M-Card you ask? It’s a piece of
plastic with a magnetic stripe on the back and it looks very similar to a german debit card. It’s just so much more. It’s my personal key to the University of Michigan. I can enter any building
at any time, I can ride the bus for free, I can get into sporting events for free, I can rent out books and DVDs for free and I can withdraw money on selected ATMs for free. I can even get a
“Saferide” at night, which means that I can call Campus Police and they will send a car to pick me up anywhere on campus and drive me home for free: Sweet! I’m going to use that everytime I’m
drunk. So never! (Love you, mum)
Because I am who I am - namely an idiot - I send in the most ridiculous photo of myself I have ever seen to be printed on the Mcard. I look like a prick:
Anyway, countless presentations on how to get around campus followed and the theatre group had even rehearsed a hilarious play addressing the issues an international student may encounter in every-day-life.
We had to learn the university anthem which included us singing the text and making the appropriate gestures at the same time. It was quite confusing. Especially for Germans raising your right arm while shouting out “Hail!” is kind of awkward. It felt wrong and it still does. Maybe time will get me comfortable with this sort of patriotic tradition.
A couple of U-Mich students showed us around campus later on and we had to walk through the fountain of newbies. Every new student does it and apparently it’s good luck! Of course I was the only one to get my shorts wet because I'm a clumsy baboon. By the way, should I be concerned about the looks that dude to the left gave me? Is he in love with me or is he just going to kill me and my family? Help me out, guys.
“So, what language do you actually speak in Germany?”
Michael, the slow australian guy, how he shall be called from here on forth, had outdone himself with this moronic question at the house party on Monday night. Naturally we told him that Germany was a vast landmass with a massive dessert in the centre of the country and a few people living around the borders speaking nothing but English. Unaware that he had just received a description of his home country, he nodded and had a thoughtful sip of his non-alcoholic beverage (he is underage so that’s why he was drinking cranberry juice all night long). This happened at my first american party ever!
I did some wasted virtual reality at some nerd fraternity, too. It was mindblowing! I don't know whether it was the alcohol or the game but it certainly was awesome:
Two more partys followed on Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s welcoming week in Ann Arbor and there are heaps of partys every night. The fraternities and sororities put up swimming pools, beer pong tables and one even had a bounce house in their front yard. As a quick note I’m going to have to explain the status of fraternities and sororities at this point: They aren’t as frowned upon as they are in Germany. That’s owed to the fact that they’re providing a service. They’re making it possible for freshmen, sophomores and juniors to party by giving them beer and liquor, since the legal drinking age in the US is 21. I don’t think I have to mention that this law is completely ludicrous, especially when compared to other laws. Let me give you an example: On your 18th birthday you can cross the street, enter a gun shop and buy a semi-automatic riffle. But should you be holding a beer while crossing the street to buy a gun, you’ll be arrested on account of underage drinking. What. The. Fudge?
On Tuesday I went to an arcade with Maria and her friend Cathy:
Arcades are immensely fun! I could waste so much money playing pinball und air hockey. Fortunately, we left before I went broke and decided to go for some karaoke. Singing “I want it that way” by the Backstreet Boys, much to my chagrin I realised that my sisters were lying when they said I was a gifted singer. They probably said it to prevent my heart from breaking but I ended up walking the earth thinking I was a rockstar which I am not! It was a fun night though.
The money I had spent in the arcade luckily didn’t hurt me too much because I didn’t have to pay for food for three straight days! There was always free food around. The university isn’t exactly on a budget. With more than seven billion dollars to spend every year, the University of Michigan is one of the best funded educational institutions in the world. Hence, a ridiculously high amount of free food! They have Subway, Wendy’s, Panda Express, Starbucks and a whole lot of other shops on campus and when me and a few friends were walking around campus one night, there was some kind of event going on and all the shops were completely free. You could just get loads of free food! I had a massive Wendy’s burger with large fries and a diet coke, because let’s face it, regular coke makes you fat!
On Wednesday I led my team to victory in the scavenger hunt the office for exchange students had planned! We won some sweet U-Mich merchandise:
On Thursday I moved into my permanent room! I share the small house on Woodlawn Avenue with three guys: Alessio, Trent and Woitek. Alessio is from Italy and just started his PhD programm at the U-Mich. Trent is American, just graduated Berkley and works in consulting now. Woitek is a graduate student in european history and originally from Poland but moved to the States when he was 12 years old. They seem like cool guys and I’m sure we’re going to have a good time once we get to know each other.
I bought some furniture for my room as well: I got an air mattress and some fancy pillows, bed sheets and covers. It almost looks like a real bed now. On the box of the air mattress it said that it contained a chemical which can be harmful to humans and might cause birth defects, but only the state of California had issued that warning. Good thing we’re in Michigan then, where the chemical apparently isn’t harmful!
Below you can find a few impressions of the house. It's much less dirty than it was in the pictures provided by the owner, it's still kind of rancid though, but I guess that's just american.
The University of Michigan and the whole of Ann Arbor are crazy about sports! They have one of the best college football teams in the states and they enjoy watching sports in general. They go absolutely mad when there’s a game in Ann Arbor. We were told that we’d be required to wear maize (a shade of yellow distinctive to the U-Mich logo) to all sporting events. And they were ridiculously serious about it!
“If you don’t wear maize, they might not let you in, you know” we were told. Their sudden seriousness was weird since they had been so chill about everything else so far. You guys know me quite well, so I’ll probably show up wearing a red t-shirt on game day or something because I forgot about the maize. But I’ll try to get into at least one game. Their football stadium – they call it the “Big House” – is the largest football stadium in the world. It’s capacity exceeds 110.000 seats.
The first game day is today but I won’t be going because ticket prices were getting out of hand. I’ll be pregaming though (that’s what they call getting drunk before the game). They start drinking at 7 am because the game’s at noon and people only go to the stadium after inflicting excessive intoxication upon themselves since there is no alcohol allowed in the stadium.
I’m going to end this blog entry right here because it’s quite long already. There will be a new one quite soon! Now that I can access my homepage again, it will be a lot easier to update it. I hope you guys enjoyed this blog entry. In the next entry I’m going to tell you how the U-Mich football team did in their first game of the season against Hawai’i!
Sex and sugar consumption were the pleasures which dominated my first 24 hours in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately I wasn’t part of any of them:
Apparenty I had just checked into the “Hoetel”. Before I had even taken off my shoes I heard a couple making distinctive grunting and moaning noises from behind the paper thin walls of my room. I mean they could have been working out in unison but I don’t think you have to agree as much as they did during a work out.
I thought it was a little creepy listening to them having sex so I went out to the huge outdoor shopping mall Arborland to grab some dinner. Food is a huge deal in the US and probably all of you think ‘Food’ when you think ‘America’. And that’s right. Food will be one of the biggest differences between Germany and the US so there will be a lot to discover. Let’s get into this for the first time then, ready? Here we go:
Guys, I have to tell you: We don’t need McDonald’s, we don’t need Burger King, all we need is…? Love? No! All we need is Five Guys. If you haven’t been to the US yet, you might find yourself wondering: ‘Mh, what is that?’. If you have been to the US, all you can do is agree with me!
Five Guys is a burger joint. You can put together your own individual burger and no matter how many ingredients you put on there – for free by the way – your burger will be huge. If you want to get fries with that you should! Even if you don’t want to you should! Five Guys fries are fried in peanut oil and the oil adds a weird but fantastic taste to it. I had a cheeseburger ‘all the way’, which means that I choose all available ingredients and when I was done I was DONE!
Let’s move on from food to food now. After I had spent a mediocre night at the hoetel - my neighbors were having sex again and to my very desperation my downstairs neighbors were at it too – I made my way to Target to get some groceries. Since all the obese people around where a great motivation for me to eat healthy, I decided to take advantage of the nutritional training I had received from my bodybuilding ex-roommate. For my 8 month in America I would try to follow these very simple rules:
1. No processed foods (Frozen lasagna, prepacked sandwiches, and so on)
2. As little industrial sugar as possible (that stuff apparently kills you)
3. Don’t eat too little and don’t eat too much
Obviously I can’t and don’t want to follow these rules 100% but I’ll try to obey them as good as possible and keep you updated about it.
Back at Target, I was looking around for a yoghurt. Many of the yoghurts seemed to be labled “low fat”. In fact, I didn’t find a single yoghurt which wasn’t labled “low fat”. Obviously I didn’t want a low fat yoghurt because usually industrial sugar is substituted for the fat. Indeed all yoghurts held at least 15 grams of sugar per cup. That is a lot! And some even contained up to 30 grams per cup. There was a tall sign stuck to the cooling shelf holding the yoghurts: “Choose well”. If I chose well I wouldn’t be choosing any of these death traps! What kind of nutritional education is that?
Anyway, why am I telling you this super lame yoghurt story? Well, turns out the yoghurt wasn’t the only good to fall victim to the exorbitant use of industrial sugar. Cheese, cereal, milk, tea… I was shocked when I couldn’t find ham (yes, I said ham) without added sugar. Eventually I found ham without added sugar, but it cost me $4 for only 200 gr. When I checked out, the cashier looked at me incredulously. I don’t think he had ever sold any of the items I had bought.
I don’t know if it’s just Target or all american grocery stores, but I will keep an eye on this sugar phenomenon.
Later I took the bus to Ann Arbor – the hoetel was a bit outside downtown – to meet a german friend of mine. Maria was going to be enrolled at the University of Michigan too. We walked around town, had a talk about everything that had already happened since we left Germany and we even tried on some rad U-Mich merchandise:
That was fun! A couple of hours later I took the bus back to another sleepless night in the Moantel – alright, there’s another one – and as I thanked the bus driver upon disembarking he said:
“Have a good one, Sir!”
I smiled back at him and answered through the closing doors:
“I’m not a Sir, I’m barely even a Mr.”
Tomorrow’s the start of our orientation programm. I’ll let you know how it went down!
Detroit is the most dangerous city in the United States. There is a murder a day and armed robberies occur over ten times more often than in the average American city. Although I didn’t really feel the need to - because I didn’t feel threatened in any way - I left everything I wouldn’t necessarily need for my scouting expeditions at the place I was staying. Within the first few miles I walked through Detroit I realised the poverty, the hopelessness I had experienced on my bus ride the day before. But more on Detroit and how this former industrial super city turned into the mess it is today a little later.
I decided to visit the iconic Fisher Building. Why is it iconic? It was left the way it was build in 1928 since there wasn’t any money around to renovate it. Luckily so, because stepping into the lobby of this huge skyscraper is like travelling back in time. Everything looks so antique. Dispite of it’s great location and it’s stunning architecture almost all commercial spaces inside the Fisher Building were… you guessed it: Vacant.
The Historical Museum of Detroit was my next stop. As I walked along the exhibits and read explanatory texts, something started to attract my attention. I read about Chrysler’s history in the automobile section of the museum. The text praised the entreprenuership and american values the Chrysler Company incorporated and still incorporates to this day. After reading this text you might have thought that the company was still in the hands of Mr. Chrysler and very American. Had I not known that FIAT now owns Chrysler I would have thought: ‘Wow, great job on continuing this great company, America!’
This may be a trivial example but now that I thought about it, I had encountered this sort of incompleteness of information quite often without even thinking about it. Let me give you a few examples.
In Baltimore I visited this ship from the colonial war, remember? Prior to it’s colonial endevours, I was told by the guide, it had been deployed for duty in the african region in the 17th and 18th century. Of course this meant transporting slaves over to America. If you know about slavery it is easy to make that connection, but by leaving out unpleasent details, kids and people who haven’t been taught this piece of history might have difficulties recognising the historical context, thus making them unaware of and insensitive to a pivotal part of the(ir) past.
I found the same thing in the entire Historical Museum of Detroit. The population growth in the tens and twenties of the 20th century was emphasised and explained extensively. But the massive population decrease after Ford and GM cut back on production in the late fifties and sixties was barely even mentioned. I had to look it up on the internet:
Detroit’s population shrinked heavily within the past 65 years due to Ford relocating their production overseas and GM facing bankruptcy. The population dropped by about 2/3 from over 1.8 million in 1950 to less than 690.000 in 2013 and is continuously decreasing. About half of the adult population is unemployed. 80.000 houses including massive skyscrapers are vacant due to the lack of housing demand. Companies have been moving their headquarters and production out of the city, leaving Detroit with a hugh pile of debt of about ten times it’s annual revenue. The crime rate is higher than in any other city in the US due to high the unemployment rate and an extremely weak educational system. The state of Michigan has tried to turn things around by implementing several expensive programms to make the city more attractive to companies and tourists but none of them were successful. Of course, all of that wasn’t part of the exhibition even though it is a very important and visible part of Detroit and it’s history. Because it is inconvenient. It is too negative. Instead, the great achievements of the past were thematised. It was a praise of the regional history while completely disregarding anything real. Of course you see this kind of denial in the American past and present a lot. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and Panama are just a few keywords I want to mention in this context.
I apologize for getting off topic a bit. I just wanted to let you know about this because I think that it’s an issue I’m going to have my fair share of discussions about in Ann Arbor. I will go into detail about this in a separate text which won’t be a blog entry. I don’t want this section to become too political!
Alright, but now let’s focus on the rest of my day. It was good, because now I can honestly say: At night, Detroit is quite alright to look at. Alex, an American teacher I was sharing my Airbnb flat with, took me and two other guys on a nightly cruise around downtown in his car. Alex had lived in Detroit for over 30 years so he knew his way around the city and showed us a lot of places we never would have seen if we had gone out on our own. He told us about a lot of neighborhoods which used to exist, which used to be very busy and important but were deserted now. For example Chinatown was completely dark and abandoned. Well, it was dark because 40% of Detroit’s street lights are turned off to safe money anyway but I mean Chinatown was EMPTY! Noone lived there anymore. Just to show you the difference of Detroit during the daytime and Detroit at night I’m going to put a few pictures and a video right next to each other so you can see what I mean:
After returning home from our cruise, we sat out on the porch and had a cold beer. The evening was warm and a light breeze tickled our skin. That was a side of Detroit I could come to terms with…
The next day I walked around the city… a lot! People were still smiling at me all the time so I knew I didn’t have a booger on my face the other day. They just were that nice.
I visited an old Ford production plant, I checked out the Motown Museum and stood in the exact same spot as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five and The Temptations when they were recording their superhits and I took a long walk through a nearly abandoned district. I didn’t feel unsafe at all, I just felt sorry for the city. It had to take a lot of crap in the past 65 years… Let’s hope things improve in the future.
When I arrived at the flat Mrs. Williams, our friendly downstairs neighbor, was “selling” her self-made gift boxes on the street right in front of our house. I put “selling” in quotation marks because she wasn’t actually selling any of her boxes. She just kept waving them at passing cars but none of them seemed to be interested. I did what any decent human being would do in this situation and told her the gift boxes were gorgeous. Instantly she started selling me one of the boxes.
“Oh my, yo mama’s gonna love these!”
And probably she was right. My mom loves horting garbage. I explained to her that my bagpack was too small to take a box with me and she understood.
“Alright, but they gon’ see me on the TV or the internet or som’ and everybody gonna wanna piece of this, boy.” she said, just as a shiny stick-on letter fell off the box she was pointing at, took another one down with it and the lettering on the box only said “ift ox”.
“Yes” I said and had to oppress a smile. “Actually I have a blog. Do you want me to promote your boxes?”
“Oh hell yeah, son!” she responded happily.
So guys I just found out about this awesome place today. They sell really cool gift boxes and you should definately buy one if you ever find yourself in Detroit, to support the local artist. She is called Mrs. Williams by the underground scene but nobody knows her real name. Rumour has it that she put all her energy and craft shop coupons into making these gift boxes:
Of course I kid Mrs. Williams. She is great and her gift boxes are definitely… something.
Tomorrow I’ll leave for Ann Arbor and I’m really excited about it.
I’m sorry this blog entry was kind of long and abstract. I’m always trying to keep it as short and funny as possible but I found it important to give you a little bit of background information on Detroit because the story and condition of the city fascinated me in a weird way. Do you like this kind of blog entry or do you prefer the short ones? Let me know in the comments!
On the Greyhound Night Express from Baltimore to Detroit I sat down next to Michael and behind Eloise and her little son Mason. I don’t exactly remember Eloise’s name so let’s just call her Eloise. We started talking because they noticed my accent and we quickly became a great travel team. I spend hours talking to Michael about his and my life, about his and my home country, about his and my attitude and opinions. We all totally hit it off. Michael used to be a soldier stationed in Japan and Spain but retired from his service because he didn’t like the overdone strictness in the military. He was now a construction worker travelling across the US to work wherever his work was needed. Eloise was a teenage mom from Pittsburgh and her son Mason was the cutest baby I had ever seen. He particularely enjoyed licking his hands before rubbing them against my arm. Probably he wanted to check whether my skin colour was just painted on and I was black underneath, since I was so good with him. The fifteen hour bus ride just flew by. I guess there is something like karma and if 20 bucks was the price I had to pay to meet these three, I gladly paid it.
Eloise and Mason got off the bus in Cleveland, Ohio while Michael and I used the 30 minute break to check out the city and take a picture of the Quicken Loans Arena, home stadium to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers - my ex-roommate’s favourite basketball team.
We got off in Detroit a few hours later and went for some lunch. Lunch was great and the restaurant didn’t only serve excellent sandwiches but also had a very special feel to it. A feel of oblivion, a feel of lostness. And everyone who’s had a closer look at my homepage knows that I just love lostness.
After lunch we decided to go sightseeing in Detroit but quickly realised there were barely any sights to see. Detroit is easily describable in three words: Vacant, dirty, dull. Sorry Eminem! If you don’t believe me, here are a few impressions of Detroit:
After Michael had taken his bus up to Minnesota, I made my way to my accommodation. I had booked a cheap room in a… let’s say… difficult area via Airbnb. I had stayed in a very bad neighbourhood in San Francisco before so I roughly knew what to expect. As the bus left the richer downtown district, the poverty and the effects of the long lean period at Ford and GM became abundantly clear. Abandoned houses, huge premises with nothing but trash and rusty fences on them. For about ten minutes I saw one condemned fassade after another rush by. Then, to my pleasant surprise, we reentered civilization. Cheap but habitable houses now lined the streets.
Suddenly the woman sitting across from me started talking.
“Did anybody ever tell you you looked like Jesse McCartney?”
A bit puzzled I responded: “Ehm, no, but I don’t know her, so I wouldn’t know whether it’s a compliment or not.”
She smiled. “It's a him. And it is a compliment. Do you know Leonardo DiCaprio?”
“Yes I do” I exclaimed quite flattered “He is one attractive son of a bitch.”
“Yes he is” she said still giving me that cheeky smile “You look nothing like him! But I hear he and Jesse McCartney are friends so… I’m just gonna show you a picture.”
I have to admit. I kinda look like that guy, just a tad more handsome. Check it out (and just in case you’re unsure; I’m on the right):
After thanking the lady and lying about her kid being cute in return, I got off the bus and walked to my accomodation. This was a poor district, I could tell. As I crossed the street I got yelled
at from behind. It was a group of drunk bouncers – at least they looked like it - sitting on their porch looking over to me.
“Where you from, son?”
“Germany, where are you from?” that one always earns me laughter. They laughed. The apprehension of me dying within the next two minutes subsided marginally.
“What you running through Detroit fo? And why yo have ‘dem broken ass leg?” I asked. Haha, gotcha! Obviously the bouncers had asked that.
“Well, I’m here on vacation and actually the leg is fine, it’s the ligaments which are ruptured.”
They quietly looked at each other. I was losing them. Hastily I added:
“And I wanna take some mean pictures of this awesome place.”
Affirmative whispering set in. After a while one of them said:
“Alright, but don’t take no pictures of us , cause we wanted fo murder!” They burst into laughter. I did too.
“Alright guys, see you around, have a good night!”
“Yea, man! C ya!”
After this incident nobody yelled at me anymore. But it seemed like everyone was smiling at me. So at least the inhabitants were equally as friendly as their city was ugly. Or maybe they were smiling at me because I had a booger on my face or something. Who will ever know? Fact is: I felt very welcome and that was all that mattered. My host introduced me to the old couple downstairs upon arrival. Mr. and Mrs. Williams smiled at me abcently and waved. Here are some pictures of the accomodation:
To my delight, the CVS pharmacy downstairs had my favourite american drink: Snapple! So I bought a few bottles, drained almost all of them, brushed my teeth and then – for the first time in over 35 hours – I went to sleep.
Guys, I just got robbed for the first time in my life. Was it dangerous? What happened? Read it right here, right now:
Alright, so I was waiting for the bus in downtown Baltimore. I was just about to leave for the Greyhound bus station to go to Detroit. I was chatting with this lady who had just gotten off from work and was waiting for her bus, enjoying a can of beer. As we were talking about the bus being notoriously late a handful of people joined our conversation. They too were complaining about the Baltimorean busses. I told them that german trains were equally as bad and we all had a good laugh. A while later, a man joined the group, greeted some of people as if he knew them and then asked me whether I could buy him a can of beer in the liquor store just behind us. He, in return, would have a look out for my bus so I wouldn’t miss it. He couldn’t get the beer himself because he was banned from the store, he said. As you may infer from the title of this blog entry, that's where all the trouble started.
“Ok, give me the money and I’ll be on my way” I told him.
He explained to me that he… I don’t even remember what he said because it didn’t make any sense but delighted by the nice conversation we all just had and since he apparently knew some of the people I was talking to, I went in and bought him a beer. Once I had given him the beer he asked me for change for a twenty dollar bill since the parking mashine wouldn't accept twenty dollar bills. Still none of the bystanders seemed to be suspicious and I wasn’t either. Looking back, they should have been. And I should have been, too. He really didn’t look like the person who had a car and he certainly didn’t know anybody around. I didn’t know that yet so I gave him twenty dollars in small bills. As I requested the twenty dollar bill he owed me, he said he would have to withdraw it real quick at the ATM around the corner. I escorted him there but after we had reached the ATM he just kept walking. I said:
“Hey man, we’re right here. Why don’t you withdraw my money?”
“No YOU withdraw money!” he responded.
“Me? Are you crazy?” I asked surprised “Why would I withdraw money?”
“So you have enough change for the fifty I’m gonna give you.”
At that point I slowly but surely realised what was going on. But it was too late. I saw my bus approaching it’s stop and I had to catch it, otherwise I’d miss my Greyhound and that would have meant another night in Baltimore. The guy just kept walking up the street, away from the bus stop telling me he’d get the money. I yelled:
“Give me back my money!”
Not a chance in the world. There was noone around and I had to catch my bus, so I turned around crunched my teeth and left Baltimore for good.
You may have a few questions now. I do too. I’ve never lost any money or had any stolen. I never fell for any scams even though I could have been tricked a couple of times, especially in Malaysia. Why did I fall for this scam? Why did I buy this guy a beer? Why did I give him money dispite of his obvious and lame pretense? Well, first of all I’m stupid. And mentally I was in Detroit already. But I guess the main reason was that I thought he knew the people I was talking to. They were good people and I thought if they didn’t say anything I’d be fine. I turned out to be wrong!
As aggravating as this whole affair was, I had to admit: It was kind of exciting too. It was the first time I’d been a victim of a crime. And it is distinctive that it happended in the USA. The
US is the country with the highest crime rate within the “modern” world and so it didn’t even take 50 hours for me to get robbed. But it was an important experience and I sure as hell won’t give
any money to strangers again.
May the guy use my money wisely instead of spending it on the rat piss americans call “beer”. Just a few hours later though, god or destiny or whatever you may believe in, made up for the whole misery....
The rattling of the train. Condensate running down the windows. The bright lights of billboards, a sports stadium and countless skyscrapers. The scent of oil and metal. A slight burning in the
eyes from the conditioned air.
Those were the first impressions Baltimore made on me. I rode the train downtown. It was already pretty much dark outside. I was suprised by how early the sun set. The high humidity hit me unexpectedly, too. As I got off the train at, what I hoped was the right station, I couldn't believe this was downtown Baltimore. There was absolutely noone except me. At 10 pm. Even though it was a sunday, I expected Baltimore's city center to be a bit more... alive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. There is nothing like a city to myself. I walked through dark alleyways and well-lit streets. There wasn't even a car around. I had walked for about ten minutes before I saw some people crossing the street ahead of me. and then a few cars and before I knew it I was at my hotel. I checked in and went upstairs and after a quick message to my family I fell right into bed and didn't wake up until my alarm clock made me.
After a good night sleep I felt revived and totally motivated to inspect Baltimore. But first I inspected my hotel room. I'm not a hotel guy. I don't usually stay at hotels but since I didn't find an adequate AirBnB or Couchsurfing option in Baltimore I allowed myself a hotel room. Seeing I don't know many hotels, I don't expect much. My room provided everything I needed: Inconceivably noisy air conditioning, a disfunctional fridge, a quarter of a role of toilette paper and the towels weren't exactly clean but at least they were whole...
... Oh wait... No, they HAD a whole, they weren't whole. But at least I had something to dry myself off with and that's good enough for me!
The breakfast was - as expected - a total disaster. There is no country in the world that does better breakfast than Germany. The bread alone puts it far ahead of every other country. While I was able to choose between 40 differently delicious kinds of bread only 20 hours ago, I now had the choice between white floppy "bread" and brown floppy "bread". I took a slice of each... they tasted exactly the same: Shit.
After the "breakfast" my mood could only improve. And it did. Baltimore is a cool city. It's not overrun and it certainly isn't too touristy. The weather is great and it's right at the sea. The city is diverse, it has many faces. You could walk miles and miles through Baltimore and you'd never be bored by the scenery. Of course I couldn't do that. I still had a full-on ligament rupture in my right foot to carry around so I had to approach Baltimore differently from how I usually approach a new city.
Usually I roughly know which places I want to check out and which direction they're in. But I don't plan a route and often I get to places I never would have gotten, if I had just gone to my destination in a straight line. Obviously, in Baltimore I couldn't do that. I had to plan the shortest route possible to get to where I wanted to go and no further. That's what I did and I did see a lot!
First off, I wanted to gain a first visual impression, an overview, of the city, so I went up the World Trade Center - built as a tribute to 9/11 - and enjoyed the view from the observation deck.
From up there I could make out all the places I was about to check out. After I went down the 27 levels in less than 20 seconds, I looked around two old battleships. One was older than the other
but both of them were in an outstanding condition. The first one was a submarine from WW2. I had never been in a submarine before so I was incredibly impressed by all the switches and levers,
whose purpose I couldn't make out. After only 12 hours in the country, the american love for guns became apparent. Two small children were placed on a massive missile in the submarine
against their will and their dad said to their mother:
"Come on, let's take a picture of the kids with the torpedo."
As I proceeded to the even older boat - a military ship from the colonial war - I arrived just in time for a colossal historic gun being fired off the top of the boat... Americans... I went under
deck and the ship was very cool. I felt like a pirate! As I checked out the captain's cabin, some guy come up to me and asked me whether I'd be okay with him taking pictures of me while I looked
at stuff. I was instantly reminded of the time I was interviewed in a colombian museum by two Colombians in Spanish even though I didn't speak a word of Spanish. In retrospect I actually can't
remember how that went down and why the hell those guys chose the only person in the entire museum without any Spanish skills to do their interview with. Anyway, the guy explained that he
needed the pictures for a photography course and that I was the perfect motive. Flattered as I was I agreed, when actually he didn't say which purpose I was perfect for. He could have made a
series of pictures entitled "Ridiculously ugly people look at things". I didn't care though.
Instead, I made my way to the next landmark on my route which was a kind of hugh chimney. After construction was completed it was the highest structure in the USA for 20 years and it had been built entirely without outside scaffolding. Holy pipe!
I took a short detour through little Italy, walked by the house which Francis Scott Key wrote the poem in which came to be the american national anthem and finally I strolled through Lexington Market.
As I returned to my hotel room I had been on the go for about seven hours and my foot was killing me. It hadn't forgiven me the detour through little Italy. I let it rest and put a cool towel on it. After my foot had swollen down a bit I went down to the pharmacy to get something to drink and I must sadly say: Softdrinks are incredibly sweet here. The diet ones are so sweet, you feel like you swallowed a pack of sugar. So I had to go for water and I had to pay the price. $5,35 for 2 liters of water when I can get 2 liters of Pepsi for $3. Water fuck?
Below are some impressions of Baltimore:
Spoiler alert: I made it to the US! It wasn't easy though. Here's what happened:
Right on time I arrived at the airport. I was going to Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) instead of Detroit, which is the closest airport to Ann Arbor, because a flight to BWI plus two nights in a hotel plus a bus ride to Ann Arbor was just as much as a flight to Detroit. So for the first couple of days I was going to be on vacation.
For some reason I wasn’t able to check in online so I had to do it in Frankfurt. I started typing my booking reference into the check in mashine. After I was done the mashine told me that my booking reference did not exist. A little confused I checked and reentered it. It still didn’t exist. The mashine told me to seek help at the service counter on the other side of hall C, so I did. The young gentlemen behind the counter told me to enter a different booking reference, so I went back over to the check in mashine and entered the new combination of letters and numbers. Like with my first try the mashine told me to seek help on the other side of hall C, so I did. The gentleman from before recognised me being back – god it’s nice to be recognized – and told me in a quite superior manner:
“No need to panic! I’ve got everything under control. You don’t need to panic.”
“Ok” I responded “I wasn’t about to, but ok.”
He told me to enter my name instead of my booking reference. I went over to the mashine, it didn’t work and I came back to the service counter. I told the genteman it still didn’t work. He started to panic.
“Ssshh,” I said “no need to panic. I will find a way to check in, I promise.”
“I can’t help you” he pitifully whispered as tears started to fill his eyes.
Altough I felt guilty for leaving the poor guy at the service counter like that I went back to the other side of hall C past the check in mashines to cue for the check in counter. By that time I had already walked a few kilometers. Taking account of my ligament rupture that was a considerable distance.
Fourty minutes later as I checked in I realised that there would be no rest for my injured foot anytime soon. Apparently my gate was kind of far away. How far? The lady behind the check in counter looked at my ticket and said:
“Yes, your plane starts boarding in an hour. You better leave for your gate right away…” and then alarmingly she added: “Hurry!”
So I hobbled through the entire terminal to reach my gate just in time for boarding. Luckily I was seated next to a young couple who couldn’t keep their hands off each other. And I don’t mean that ironically: The entire flight I had two armrests to myself! Unfortunately that was the only comfortable thing about it.
For entertainment purposes Condor had provided a whopping two movies and two tv show episodes which I couldn’t watch because I didn’t want to rent – yes: RENT – headphones. Quickly I realised that on this flight you had to pay extra for everything. Apparently you even had to pay for the stewardess to give you a smile and man had I not paid! Since I didn’t have anything to do during the flight I filled out Condor’s customer satisfaction survey provided – for free (!) – in the plebeian entertainment package. Condor came off better than you might think at this point. Fact is, Condor is incredibly cheap. They are the RyanAir of long distance travelling and they’re just providing budget travellers with a honed down to the bare bones option. So I didn’t trash them. Eventually I made it through the nine hours of boredom though, thanks to the baby a few seats behind me screaming all the way to Baltimore, which made me want to kill myself but took my mind off the lack of things to do and gave me an interesting insight into what it’s going to be like being a parent on vacation: HELL!
At the airport everything went much smoother than expected. At the American General Consulate in Frankfurt visa applicants are told to expect a thorough identity check and even emotionally prepare for the worst case scenario of not being admitted into the country by the Border Protection Officer. My BPO was Mike and he said two things. Nothing meaningful, he literally just said two things. When I handed him my documents he asked me:
“Ah, F-visa… Where are you going to study, my man?”
“At the University of Michigan” I responded, emotionally prepared for the worst.
“Woooohooo, go wolverines!” he screamed, slammed a stamp into my passport and called the next person in line over to his booth. Relieved that everything went so smoothly I approached the baggage carousel where I saw my huge bagpack right away.
As I reached the airport’s exit I got the weird feeling that the next 9 months were going to be very special. To my right there was a ticket mashine and stuck in it’s dispenser was a one way ticket. Probably someone had accidentally bought it and put it back in the mashine for the next person to take it. I took my free ticket and went outside to wait for the train. As I sat there I took a closer look at the ticket. Two words were printed on it’s front side: “Go Pass”
The last couple of days were as nice as they were tiring. It was from one birthday party to another farewell party to another family gathering. There was just a hell of a lot going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankfull for all the people inviting me over to say goodbye and hang out.
Since I’m not very good with emotions and expressing my feelings, some gatherings turned… kind of awkward. But it wasn’t always my lack of emotional availability that made things worse than they
were. One of these cases was my great aunt’s birthday celebration:
I knew I should have commenced drinking far earlier, when my great aunt started complaining about her denture paste being rubbish, going into further detail by even presenting us with medical pictures from the doctors one can not unsee. After this valuable insight into the horrors of being old and senile I had to laugh off semi-racist jokes for more than two hours before afternoon tiredness set in for the pensioners and I could sneak off without anyone noticing.
Of course I kid my great aunt and I wish her nothing but the best for her future. But seriously, as a rule of thumb you should wait until people have finished their cheese cake before telling them about your denture paste! At least, that has always worked for me so far…
Guys, I feel like I’m telling you useless stuff from my life. But I guess that’s what this blog will be all about… just telling you stuff I think of as funny and worth mentioning. If you enjoy this sort of thing, feel free to return to this page. I’ll try to update it every other day.
In a few hours I will set off into my next adventure and there are a lot of exciting questions ahead: What’s for dinner on the airplane? Will they let me into the country or do I look like a
sneaky, old terrorist? Am I going to find my way around Baltimore and Detroit before I get to Ann Arbor? What the hell am I going to Baltimore and Detroit for? And many more… stay
See you all in nine months!
I'm home now and doing some relaxing and preperation. On my way from Tuebingen I stopped by the US General Consulate in Frankfurt to hand in my passport and receive my visa. A few words about the
visa seem to be needed to say at this point.
When TTIP kicks in about one or two years from now, an american company will have the right to sue german citizens and german companies in Germany under american law within a heartbeat. For me on the other hand, it takes a total of almost three full work days, around 400 USD and about 400 km of driving my car to receive the permission to spend 9 months in the US. The whole process from application to receiving my passport with a valid student visa took more than three weeks. As outrageous as that may seem, getting a visa for the US used to be a lot slower until a couple of years ago but it was also cheaper back then.
Now that I have my visa, I'm quite relieved though. It was the last piece of the puzzle. Everything is sorted now and there is nothing that can stop me... America here I come!!
Of course I don't leave for another 10 days and I'll spend this time meeting up with old friends here at home. See you guys soon!
Moving out isn't as emotional as I thought it would be. I am leaving a room, a flat behind which I most likely will never see from the inside again. This is a first for me. I've lived here for 2
years and there a lot of great and unique memories connected to this place. In this flat I learned I can endure a stream of ice cold water for over two minutes, I learned that if you order half
ham, half ham as a pizza topping, what you actually get is half ham, half pepperoni and a series of disturbing mailbox notifications from the owner of the pizza place saying 'half ham, half
ham? That doesn't make any sense!' (this happened during a memorable halloween party). I learned that sometimes appearance and self-presentation is more important than what you say or do. I
learned not to leave my lasagna out while a hungry cat roams the flat. I stepped in hornets, I fell off of sofas, I slipped in showers, I hit my head, I stubbed my toe, I was either too hot
or too cold but never comfortably warm. So there are a lot of great and a lot of awful memories. But why are there so little emotions upon leaving this place.
So I stand here at 3 am ready to leave for my visa interview/home and take one last look at my empty room. Like in the movies, I turn off the lights and walk away. As I slowly lurk through the darkness of our flat I realise two things:
First, it was a bad idea turning off the lights prematurely just to set a dramatic end to a two year fairytale of flat-occupant relationship. I felt like a moviestar doing it but now it is hard to find the way to the staircase even though I found it a thousand times before.
Secondly I realise why I'm not as emotional as this flat deserves me to be. Thinking back, what made this flat what it was were not the rooms, not the floors, not the ceiling... Now that I really think about it, all the great memories were just great because I had beautiful people there with me when they happened. I remember Martin laughing at me, while I'm in the shower enduring a seemingly endless stream of ice cold water, Lucas breaking down in laughter after receiving a pizza from a very confused delivery guy telling us they cannot do half ham, half ham. I remember Martin teaching me about my fashion flaws (which I undoubtably had and still have to this day), I remember Eberhard enjoying half of my lasagna. I remember Theresa bringing me an ice pack for my hornet-stung foot, I remember Lucas, once again, laughing at me for falling off the sofa, I remember Martin laughing at me for accidentally banging my head against a wall, just to run into the very same wall just seconds later. I remember the topless summers and the snuggled up winters. My flatmates matter, not the flat itself. And as I'm sure that I will never see the flat again, I will see my flatmates again before I know it!
Yes, that's right. I just signed a lease for a room in a 4-bedroom house close to campus. I don't know my flatmates yet but I'm sure we will enjoy living together. My room is the cheapest
option available in the whole of Ann Arbor and it is 545$/ month. That is even more insane than Tuebingen and when I first moved there I thought home owners requesting 400€ for a crappy room
were nutballs. Considering the amount I'm going to have to pay in Ann Arbor 400€ seems like a reasonably fair price to me.
If any of you want to send me a postcard or something, this is my address:
909 Woodlawn Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
United States of America
Guys, you probably noticed something... mmmh, did the font colour change? No it didn't... Did Marius add a few extra tabs? I don't think he did. Oh wait, I got it! The blogs are in English now. Yes, after careful consideration I decided to keep you updated in a language which isn't native to most of you. There are several advantages to this decision:
1. I'm gonna be talking, writing and dreaming in English a lot and I'm gonna want to improve it as extensively as possible.
2. You can improve your English just reading my blog and following my life.
3. Since I've made friends all around the world everyone of them can follow my journey (and I do realise that almost none of them will want to but I'll provide them with the opportunity anyway).
Alright, so let's get started right away!
Am Sonntagabend (24.07.2016) konnten meine Kollegin Nici und ich, unser wunderbares Chefteam, Armin und Hani, mit einem bescheidenen Essen und einer furiosen Zeitreise zurück in ihre Studentenzeit überraschen. Vom geklauten Besteck, über Bafög-finanzierten Wein aus Biergläsern bis hin zur smoothen 90s Playlist, die sanft im Hintergrund dudelte, musste natürlich alles insoweit zusammenpassen, als dass nichts zusammenpasste. Das Vier-Gänge-Menü war allerdings perfekt aufeinander abgestimmt und befeuerte alle einige äußerst interessante Geschichten zum Besten zu geben. Ein rundum gelungenes Dankeschön für die Unterstützung, auf die Nici und ich immer zählen können.
Achja, das zügellose Studentenleben. Unsere WG-Abschiedsparty, die wir am Freitag (22.07.2016) im kleinen Kreise abhielten, um der Wohnung einen gebührenden Abschied zu gewähren, war ein unwahrscheinlicher Spaß. Abschiedsparty deshalb, weil wir alle auf einmal ausziehen. Theresa (links) beginnt im Oktober ein duales Studium in Leonberg, Lucas (2.v.l.) braucht einen Tapetenwechsel und einen kürzeren Weg zum Tübinger Nachtleben, Martin (rechts) zieht zur Vollendung seiner Master-Thesis an einen für ihn günstigeren Ort und ich... nunja. Heute wurde mir klar, dass ich nur noch 2 Wochen hier wohnen würde und dann erst wieder im Mai zurück nach Tübingen kehre. Und selbst dann werde ich nicht wieder in die einzigartige WG Jettenburg einziehen. So sentimental mich das auch gestimmt haben mag, so sehr liebe ich doch auch Neuanfänge und meine Mitbewohner sind ohnehin viel zu cool, um sie während und nach meiner Zeit in den USA aus den Augen zu verlieren! Achja... Es handelte sich bei den Feierlichkeiten um eine Kostümparty mit dem Motto USA, deshalb die elegante Verkleidung. Wir hatten auf jeden Fall eine Menge Spaß... Zumindest habe ich mir das im Nachhinein berichten lassen...
Momentan plagt mich der Prüfungsstress. Allerdings werde ich am 08. August zurück ins schöne Sauerland fahren, um mich dort auf meine Abreise in die USA vorzubereiten. Am 21. August geht es für mich dann von Frankfurt nach Baltimore, wo ich zwei Tage verbringen und dann den Bus nach Ann Arbor nehmen werde. Eine Unterkunft habe ich dort noch nicht, aber wer mich kennt weiß, dass meine Ansprüche nicht allzu hoch sind. Immerhin habe ich in Neuseeland schon wochenlang unter einer Brücke gewohnt, die sich im Nachhinein als beliebter Drogenumschlagplatz entpuppte...