Okay, "author" might be a bit of a stretch. But as of November 17, 2011, I have an official publication listed on the Humboldt University in Berlin's website. It's a review of two books, Youth at War
and Schreiben im Krieg, Schreiben vom Krieg
("Writings in War, Writings from War") commissioned by one of my professors at the University of Tübingen. The books deal primarily with primary source interpretation
from the First and Second World Wars, so the material in them was helpful for my Fulbright research project. Writing the review was a challenging experience but ultimately very rewarding. I learned a lot about academic culture and of course quite a bit about my own field of Modern European History. The number of edits and rewrites was humbling, but once I got it "just right," the feeling was incredible! If you'd like to read the review (don't worry--it's in English), here's the link: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2011-4-120.pdf
Germany is a truly wonderful place to be this May. The weather is perfect, vibrant flowers are lining window boxes and peeking out behind garden gates all through town, and the sky is a lovely shade of pale blue almost every day. My home state of Missouri has been less fortunate this May, but I'm incredibly blessed to report that all of my relatives in Joplin are okay, even if their homes are not.
Last week, the long-anticipated "Jeremy in Germany" (say that five times fast . . .) adventure finally happened! The first half of his visit was spent in Munich on business with BMW, but I caught up with him at the end of that and we set off on a whirlwind tour of Southern Germany.
Our first stop was my beloved town of Regensburg, where I studied and lived for more than half of 2009. We spent Friday night running around with my best friends there, Johannes and Julia, plus a lot of other friends that I hadn't seen in a while.
The next morning, after a lot of breakfast and very little sleep, we hopped on a train to Friedrichshafen to visit my aunt and uncle on the Bodensee. Their hospitality is truly unmatched! I always have the best time visiting them, so I wanted to make sure that Jeremy got to experience that too. Saturday afternoon we explored a pottery market in their town and were treated to a lovely homemade meal of white asparagus and the most delicious potatoes either of us had ever tasted (of course they were from the farm just down the road, which might have had something to do with that). Sunday morning we went to Meersburg and took a tour of the oldest fortress in Germany. There were people in period costumes wandering the halls, doing various chores, and even cooking in the castle kitchen, which really added to the experience. In the afternoon, we went to Affenberg or "Monkey Mountain," a place I had very fond memories of from childhood but hadn't seen since I was six years old. I was worried that I might have built it up in my mind too much, but it was everything I had remembered and more! Basically it is a small mountain that has Barbary monkeys running around it. You get to feed them popcorn and observe them as they interact with one another. I even got involved in a quick game of monkey tag before one of the park workers shooed the trouble-making monkey away.
Sunday evening, my uncle made his famous Käsespätzle for us and then we took a long "Verdauungsspaziergang" (ridiculously long German word meaning "walk to aid digestion" or "after-dinner walk") along the lake.
The next day, my aunt and uncle drove us back to Tübingen, which was incredibly nice of them. On our way back, we stopped at Bebenhausen and did the audio tour of the monastery. We had lunch at the Tübingen brewery (Neckarmüller) and then said our goodbyes to Dieter and Bea. I thought the time we spent with them was one of the best parts of Jeremy's visit, and he probably agrees. Monday afternoon was spent showing Jeremy around Tübingen and then hanging out in the park with Dan and Lauren. The next morning, we got up pretty early and took the train to Ulm to visit my aunt, uncle, and grandmother, who had just arrived there from London. For the fifth time in my life, I climbed the tallest steeple in the world (768 steps). Jeremy was pretty impressed by the Ulmer Münster, and now I've got him reading Pillars of the Earth
, which is a fascinating novel by Ken Follett about cathedral-building in the 12th century. If you haven't read it, go do it! Now! After a nice lunch with the relatives, another Verdauungsspaziergang, and some coffee, we headed back to Tübingen for some grilling in the park with Dan, Lauren, and some German friends. We stayed at the park well after the sun had set talking about everything from neuroscience to unemployment, and then made plans for a farewell breakfast the next morning. Jeremy made it back to China safely, and I've spent the last few days getting caught up on my project before my grandma comes to Tübingen next week to help. Last night though, Dan and I rode our bikes to Bebenhausen (I know, it seems like I go there all the time, which is kind of true . . .) for a choir concert. It was absolutely the most beautiful choir concert I have ever attended. Ever.
The monastery was lit up with tiny tea candles, the sun was setting, and the music literally brought me to tears. The concert began with a lighthearted song
that I have actually sung in choir before, "Now is the Month of Maying" (hence the title of this post). The choir last night wasn't quite like this, but so you have an idea of what it sounded like:
The guy third from the left is by far my favorite.
The concert moved from the courtyard to the monastery's chapel, where they sang two of the best choir pieces I have ever heard in my life. There were tears streaming down my cheeks as I listened to this song and read the text, which I've copied for you below:
When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more time
I want to feel the gentleness that changed my destiny.
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want your ears to still hear the wind,
I want you to smell the scent of the sea we both loved,
and to continue walking on the sand we walked on.
I want all that I love to keep on living,
and you whom I loved and sang above all things
To keep flowering into full bloom.
so that you can touch all that my love provides you,
so that my shadow may pass over your hair,
so that all may know the reason for my song.
Soneto de la Noche, Pablo Neruda (Translation by Nicholas Lauridsen)
I don't know whether it was being in that beautiful chapel, listening to the haunting music, reading those lyrics, the fact that I have been going through the last and saddest of the letters between my great-grandparents, or a combination of everything, but there were tears streaming down my face as I heard this song. I am not an overly sensitive person, but that was a very moving experience and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. So a big thank you is due to Florian's mom, Heide, (who was singing in the choir) for giving us the tickets!
This past week, my friend Gabby from college came to visit over her spring break. I think both of us would consider her first European adventure a grand success!
We started the trip out right with a trip to the Besenwirtschaft on Friday night.
Some local German wine and a huge plate of sauerkraut, meat and potatoes sure hit the spot after her long flight:
On Saturday morning, we headed to the Hohenzollern fortress
, about a thirty minute train ride away from Tübingen. What should have been a decent hike up to the castle (which was visible from the town when we arrived) became a rather more serious hike, as we got lost multiple times and even managed to climb the wrong mountain. In our defense, the signs and trail markers were extremely misleading. After a solid several hours of exertion, we finally did make it up to the top of the castle, where we were just in time for the only English tour of the day!
On the hike down, Gabby and I stop to revel in our victorious castle experience:
On Tuesday we went to the Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory, which is located outside of Tübingen in Waldenbuch. When we got off of the bus, the town smelled like chocolate. I kid you not. As we walked up to the factory, we began to understand why . . . The factory is enormous! But as far as tourism goes, there wasn't as much to see. Their exhibit about the history of chocolate and its production at Ritter Sport was limited to one floor, and the fact that it was filled with screaming American children made the experience slightly less enjoyable for us. We discovered later that there was a field trip to the factory put on by a group of homeschooling US military wives. The Chocolate Workshop looked pretty cool (Make your own chocolate? Do I?!) but it was only open for kids. Lame-sauce. The Choco-Shop, on the other hand, was an enormous open space filled with all manner of delicious Ritter Sport concoctions. And unlike in the US, where tourist destinations tend to jack up prices because they know that everyone likes souvenirs, the price of chocolate in this shop was actually reduced! Twenty euros, my friends, goes a long way in that place.
On Wednesday we headed to Lake Constance to visit my aunt and uncle. I wanted Gabby to see something other than Tübingen, and after we determined that Paris for three days would too expensive and too short, we decided that Central Europe's third largest lake would be a good alternative. Plus, Gabby got to experience warm German hospitality, and no one does it better than my family!
While there, we walked to an outdoor market, went swimming at a thermal bath, and visited the Birnau Basilica, a baroque church built in the 1700s. We also got to enjoy some of the most delicious German cooking I have ever had, including Käsespätzle made by my Uncle Dieter, and several varieties of cake made by Bea. Yum!
By the lake:
In front of the cathedral:
We spent Gabby's last few days in Tübingen hanging out with friends, checking out the castle and cathedral here, and doing a little shopping at H&M. Saturday night we made a great Mexican dinner for everyone complete with Lemon-Lime Cake
It is now Sunday, my day of rest. Or more like my day of clean ALL the things
! and work on my project before my parents get here tomorrow morning at 8 am.
If you know me, you know that there's no way I could be talking about basketball. (That is the right sport for March Madness, right?) But the month of March starts today, which marks the beginning of a crazy, fun-filled, slightly overwhelming six weeks of visitors and traveling for me. In other words, I am precisely in my element!
This coming Friday, one of my best friends from college is coming to visit for nine days. She's never been out of the United States, so I cannot wait to show her what Germany has to offer! The day after she heads back to business school at Wake Forest, my parents and little brother Joseph arrive in Tübingen. Joseph started learning German this year, so I'm excited for him to practice his skills at ordering some Käsespätzle or a bratwurst! The day after my family heads to London to visit my other brother, Will, I leave for a five day Fulbright conference in Berlin. My Tübingen friends are planning on coming to visit me in Berlin after that for the weekend, which brings us to the 27th of March. Things should be winding down, right? Wrong. There's more! The following Wednesday, Gwen and I will jet off to Barcelona for an eight day adventure in Spain. The Monday after we return from the beach, school starts again! And the day after school starts, my brother Will is coming to visit from London.
When he leaves on the 16th of April to meet up with his girlfriend in Amsterdam, I will probably need a little extra sleep. And some time to breathe, and read a book or something. Or, wait, I seem to recall something about some letters . . . ?
Just kidding. I've been keeping up with my research, and working a little bit harder even to try and get ahead before the madness begins on Friday. Yesterday, I actually finished reading the letters from my great-grandfather, which means that to date, I have transcribed well over two hundred letters from 1942-1943. Success! Now it's time to revise those transcriptions and lay the groundwork for the annotations and translations I'll be working on this spring. Oh, and the second collection of letters, from the 1970s-1990s, written by my grandmother about her experiences after her move to the United States. And I'm only here until July?!
A few weekends ago, I visited my relatives in Ulm for a day. Tante Irmgard found some more letters for me, as well as two incredible pictures taken in 1994 of four generations of women:
Of course, knowing me, it hasn't been all work and no play for the last couple of weeks. I went on a fantastic day trip to Zurich and found myself surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen . . .
My friend Kaelan from high school came to visit and we hiked up to Castle Hohenneuffen, located just an hour outside of Tübingen . . .
The German version of the Mardi Gras parade came to town and I tried not to run away in fear. Instead of scantily clad women, there were monsters running around the cobblestoned streets, chasing unsuspecting people and hitting them with brooms . . .
And this past weekend, my friends Johannes and Julia from Regensburg came to visit. It was so good to see them again, and the time passed far too quickly . . .
Unfortunately, those two weren't the only ones I had to say good bye to last weekend. My friend Sabine from Belgium ended her semester abroad here and headed back home. Sabine, you will be missed!
As many of you know, I spent the past month or so obsessing about the latest challenge in my new and important life as a Fulbright scholar: The Dreaded Lecture. I had to give a 20-40 minute presentation on the findings of my project so far to a room full of very accomplished professors and PhD candidates in the Department of Modern History here. As you might imagine, I was a little bit nervous. And that, my dear friends, is an understatement of epic proportions. You see, I did not actually study history. Ever. I don't know much about methodology, and my understanding of the intricate complexity that is the European past is often a bit on the fuzzy side. So a part of me felt like an impostor, standing in front of a class full of intelligent people under the grand title of "Fulbright Scholar," and presuming that I might be able to teach them anything that they didn't already know.
But to make a long story short, the presentation went better than I could have possibly imagined in my wildest (nerdiest) dreams. After the lecture, and over drinks with my professors, I learned that they will be putting me in contact with the National Archive in Ulm to help with my upcoming research, and that they are interested in having me write an article for the newspaper. Whether or not that actually comes to pass (my family is a bit sensitive about that idea, which I completely understand), I am flattered that they asked. And so, without further ado! You can read my lecture, in its entirety, HERE.
This past week, I decided to launch a preemptive strike against the dreaded Three B's of Germany: Beer, Bread, and Butter (read my friend Meredith's hilarious blog post about them here
). Together with my friends Sabine and Gwen, we made up our minds to take advantage of a few of the fitness classes offered by the university's sport program. Monday night was "Tai Do"--an extremely challenging but very fun combination of aerobics, dance, and kickboxing. That's definitely going to become a weekly thing.
Tonight, however, was a class of a whole different breed. The title ("High Energy Freestyle Aerobics") as well as the online description made it sound quite similar to the Tai Do class, so we decided to check it out. Words cannot even begin to describe the hour and a half experience that followed.
First, picture Voldemort from the Harry Potter film series. In case you need a refresher:
That is the instructor. The moves that this guy was doing . . . I really have no way of describing them or doing them justice. Suffice it to say that none of us could keep a straight face for more than three minutes during the class. At one point, as I was attempting to balance on one hand and one leg, bringing my right shoulder down to touch the floor, I managed to fall over three times in a row. Three times, people. Not to mention that I was in the middle of the room (full of about 100 people), directly across from the instructor, and causing a minor disruption by making Gwen and Sabine laugh so hard that they, too, fell over. Then I snorted. And things just went downhill from there.
To paint this picture for you as completely as possible, I'd like to end with a snippet of the eclectic musical selection Lord Voldemort was having us dance like maniacs to:
This past week was definitely the most eventful one I've had since I've been in Tübingen. It began Monday morning with a visit to the Department of Chinese and Korean Studies, which is located about a thirty minute walk past the university in an obscure but hardly subtle, mustard-yellow colored building. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. But when I entered, I was immediately greeted by a table full of homemade pastries (uh-oh) and some very friendly faces who were happy to direct me to the office of Frau Wu, the Chinese instructor. I stood quietly outside her door while she administered a language placement test to the girl before me, feeling my palms getting sweatier by the minute. Finally, I was invited into her office, where she magically already knew who I was (probably because I sent her an email three weeks ago that she never responded to). I briefly restated the contents of my email, which was basically just an explanation of what I'm doing in Germany and my desire to continue with Chinese, with the recent addition that I am considering applying for a Masters in either Chinese Studies or Politics and Society of East Asia next fall.
To be honest, who knows what I'll be doing after my Fulbright year is through. But I do really love living in Tübingen, and thanks to the public nature of German schooling and the government's socialist tendencies, I could earn my degree here for free. And that certainly has its advantages.
After I finished telling Frau Wu about my previous Chinese courses and my time in Beijing, she pulled out a textbook and asked me to read a few lines from a random page. I had expected something like this, and managed to read all the basic words without a problem, stumbling over a few that I've since forgotten. The end result was that I'll be taking 5th semester Chinese, which is the equivalent of first semester senior year Chinese class at Vanderbilt. In the spring, I'll take 6th semester, and at the very end, I'll take an exam. If I pass, I'll be automatically admitted to a Masters program in the department, should I choose to enroll. In other words: Best. Possible. Outcome. Chinese class started Tuesday morning at ten, and my classmates seemed very friendly. I feel only slightly intimidated by the fact that they all just returned from their semester abroad in China.
My second class is potentially the most helpful history course for my project that I could possibly have envisioned. It's called "From Original Text to Published Edition," and centers around the transcription of a diary from the 1800s written in the same old German that half my letters are written in. We spent the first day learning the alphabet, and I showed off my week-old skills of reading Sütterlinschrift
by answering every question correctly. Not to brag, but it was kind of
a big deal. Plus, the professor agreed to help me next week with some of the words I've been struggling with in the letters I've read so far.
The last class I wanted to attend for the week was on Thursday. I was pretty excited by the title: "What is cultural history, and why is it important?" I dragged my friend Meredith
along, who was visiting for the week from Flensburg, to show her the university. In typical Kaci fashion, we arrived thirty minutes early for the class and made ourselves comfortable in the back of a classroom that slowly filled up until there were hardly any free seats. At 4:15, the professor walked in and began class immediately. It took about three minutes of confusion and a word written in a foreign alphabet for us to realize that we were not, in fact, in Cultural History class. We were in Intermediate Greek. Once we realized our (read: my) mistake, we got up to leave as unobtrusively as possible. Unfortunately, our exit was less than smooth due to the fact that we were in the very back of the room, and were forced to walk along the windows of the classroom once we made it outside. Awkward.
I'm still not entirely sure where Cultural History actually met that day, because I did indeed have the correct room. But since I'm auditing and not officially registered in any history courses, I did not receive any memo about a room change. Oh, well. At least now I only have class two days a week . . .
Next Wednesday will be my first Kolloquium
for PhD candidates in the history department, which is the only class I'm actually required to attend by my faculty advisor here. I'm pretty terrified, considering I'm not a PhD candidate, nor have I ever formally studied history. Needless to say, this week should be another interesting one.
I'll keep you posted.
In front of the University of Tübingen.
For obvious reasons, I have never been to an international student orientation in the United States. And though I may not be very well-versed in how such orientations in the US are organized, suffice it to say that they must be very, very different than the one I attended today in Germany.
I can almost guarantee that they are more fun over here.
I registered this morning alongside many other foreign-looking students and was told to come back at 14:00, when the orientation would officially begin. At 2 pm, I was delighted to find that the hallway outside of our registration room was filled with tables of pretzels and pastries, sparkling water and coffee. I quickly found a group to slide into conversation with consisting of Sabine from Belgium, Kiara from Italy, Naomi from Hungary, and the slightly less exotic Dan from Pennsylvania. We chatted in English for a few minutes, enjoying our pastries and coffee. Then we were ushered across the street to the university's beautiful main building, where we were to receive our official welcome from the university. The room they chose was stunning, with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and portraits of prior chancellors adorning the walls. A balcony with flowers lining its edges took up one side of the room. Unfortunately, far more international students were in attendance than expected. Maybe they had heard about the free champagne. Yep, that's right. Welcome to the University of Tübingen, it's 3 in the afternoon, here's your glass of champagne. Awesome?
A very sweaty thirty-five minutes later, after we had been officially and extremely warmly welcomed to Tübingen, we headed back to the orientation building to break off into small groups. I left Sabine and the others behind, and quickly became friends with Gwen from New York and Paul from Russia, as well as Nick, Alice, and Daniel from England. We sat down at our seats, where a folder of information, some Haribo gummy bears, a chocolate bar, and -- wait for it -- a tiny bottle of fig-flavored vodka awaited us. Yes, people, they gave us vodka at orientation.
Just when I thought things couldn't get any more bizarre, our tutors walked in and announced that the way they would like to begin orientation would be to drink the vodka as a group. There is a specific way this is done: Take the cap off the bottle. Stick the cap on your nose. Put the bottle in your mouth, and, no hands!, look up toward the ceiling and drink the whole thing. It's no more than a shot, mind you, but still. Orientation was off to a very good, if surprising, start.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with ice breakers (we all had to name our favorite smells?) and with discussing the schedule for the rest of the three days. I've already registered with the city and done my immatrikulation at the university, so I don't have to be anywhere at 7 am tomorrow. Yes! But I do get to go on a tour of the university, attend an explanation of the library system (helpful), and go to a party tomorrow night. Oh, did I mention we are also meeting tonight for a little 'extra' orientation at two of Tübingen's best bars?
However, I'm most looking forward to the final event on Saturday night, which is a party in the castle that includes dinner, free drinks, and dancing. Did I mention it was in a castle?
It's official -- my blog is back up and running. Exciting, right?! Well, I'm excited, because it means that I'm not only back to my good ol' blogging self, but am also doing what I love best, which is, of course, traveling.
I arrived in Germany yesterday at eight in the morning, which meant that I had a very long day (I don't sleep during the day unless I am desperate; naps are the best way to prolong jetlag). Between connecting flights to Newark and Düsseldorf and a little layover time in there for good measure, it took a mere nineteen hours to get to Tübingen from St. Louis. Not bad, eh? Running on the one hour of sleep I got on the transatlantic flight, I spent the day getting acquainted with my new city, my new roommate, my new landlord, my new neighborhood . . .
Tante Irmgard (my grandmother's sister) and her husband Gerhard picked me up at the airport and drove me to my apartment in Tübingen. I'm living on the first floor of a three story house with Kay, a girl I knew at Vanderbilt who has conveniently been living in Tübingen for the past two years. The apartment is great! I have my own bedroom, and the two of us share a bathroom and kitchen. Other than some bright orange stripes of questionable taste painted on one wall, everything looks perfect. (I'm repainting tonight with the help of Kay and her boyfriend Peter.) We spent the day doing important things like buying a mattress, going to the grocery store, and getting to know each other. My landlord also took me to the German version of Home Depot to buy a ceiling light for my room, which I mysteriously had to pay for myself. Though I thought that was strange, at least I now have a light in my room, if little else. I crashed hard at about 9 pm and slept for the next thirteen hours.
I awoke to a phone call from my grandmother, who is also in Germany visiting relatives. The fact that it woke me up was cancelled out by the fact that it meant my phone worked, which was one less thing I had to take care of today. After breakfast, I headed out alone to explore the city and run a few key errands. I succeeded in getting quite lost in the rain for about the first hour of my exploration before finally finding the Deutsche Bank, which closed for lunch the moment I got there. So I headed in the opposite direction to the train station to sort out some business with my discount train card and to buy tickets for my orientation in Göttingen next week.
To make a long story short, I did not sort out the business at the station and the issue is far more complicated than I expected. It placed quite a strain on my rusty German. And without my discount card (which I don't have access to because I didn't pay a bill that I never received nor ever responded to angry letters that I also never received regarding said bill), the train tickets placed quite a strain on my wallet. Er, my dad's wallet. The rest of the afternoon went better; I set up a bank account without a hitch, and my German is now rust-free.
Now that I have the letters that my project is centering on in my possession, I am feeling considerably intimidated. There are so many! And the handwriting, oh the handwriting. I think I'll feel better once I have a desk. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.
Tonight I'm cooking dinner with Kay and Peter, and going to sleep early again. I'm already exhausted and it's only 5:30. Tomorrow, my uncle and grandmother are taking me to IKEA ,and then later I'm going with Kay and some of her friends to see The Expendables, dubbed in German. And from what I can tell, that might be the best (the only!) way to see it.