Hamburg

Catching up (c’mon, keep up!)

Hello readers! I know that most of you who have been following my blog for a while have gotten used to the rather sporadic posting. I think, before disappearing, I’d settled with a comfortable post a month. However, to go four months without blogging? Well, I can’t really say that I’m consistent (except maybe in my inconstancy). But I have to say that when the summer semester started at the Freie Universität, I got sucked into three seminars, a colloquium, and actual writing for the dissertation. Then my parents arrived for their yearly vacation in Germany and all bets were on that I’d barely make it to WordPress.

It’s difficult to summarize all the things that happened and the things I did and the posts I could write. Here are a few titles and photos for those imaginary posts:

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  • “How medical operations are like races”. I drafted something about relationships of the doctor’s appointments, pre-surgery clearance, getting high off anesthesia and feeling like crap afterwards to the reality of running something like a marathon (spoiler: the recovery is rough for both, but gets easier the more you do it!) but that post will have to wait. This post would have been in conjunction with another post that I may actually get to post at some point about having a craniofacial birth defect.
  • “Jagdschloss Gelbensande, or how all of Europe’s royal houses converge in a tiny little hunting lodge in Mecklenburg Vorpommern”

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  • “Hamburg revisited” Three years after studying in Hamburg, I finally visited with all three of my family members and was able to show them the part of the campus I studied at as well as the Speicherstadt and part of the Hafen.

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  • “Salt Life Baltic Style”

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  • “Let’s go see the river Marlowe also flowed down”
  • “Hogwarts: in real life” (these last two titles would be for the posts where I talk about my conference trip to Cambridge with a little detour to London).
  • “Germany’s super summer and bike tours that go wrong”. Seriously. If you think it’s a bad idea to try to go out for a ride when the temps are above 30 degrees centigrade, you’re probably right. It doesn’t help getting lost or flat tires without repair kits on you, either.

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  • “Four reasons why living in a big city is not so great”. To include the noise, the smell, and close-contact with people who don’t know their limits on drugs or alcohol. Bascially a college campus on the weekend, but on a larger (maybe more dangerous) scale.
  • “Revisiting old haunts with new eyes”. Despite traveling to the Baltic coast every summer since I was 4, there’s always something new to experience or something old to experience in new ways.

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  • And finally, “running through (west) Berlin”. Stay-tuned, because I’ll actually be posting this one!

In summary, I had a good summer. Mostly work, but also a lot of play. Hope you did as well and good luck to those getting ready for new school years and semesters!!

Cheers,
Dorothea

p.s. While being a goof off the web, WordPress celebrated my four years of being on their site. Yay. Happy writing anniversary to me.

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Hamburg versus Berlin

As probably one of the last official posts I will make for this site (since I am planning on changing up my site to reflect my new position in life), I wanted to present you with a side-by-side analysis of Berlin and Hamburg. I spent a good amount of time in Berlin near the end of my stay in Germany, because my mother was teaching a study-abroad group there, but obviously spent a year in Hamburg and really got to know it.

In the comments, I’d be interested to see which city you would want to visit first. Enjoy!

  Hamburg Berlin my verdict
Center With the impressive Rathaus, Hamburg’s center and downtown are easy to find and explore

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Known for being a patchwork of many small towns before it became Berlin the city, Berlin also fails to have one real center. For seeing the “what’s what” of a city by foot, Hamburg wins. If you have several days, however, Berlin can be more vielseitig, multifaceted.
Transportation HVV
S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Bus routes, some Strassenbahn, ferry boat from Hafencity/Stadthausbruecken to Blankenese
BVG
S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Bus routes, some Strassenbahn, ferry from Wannsee to Kladow and back
Since I was a student in Hamburg, and had to pay for each individual ticket in Berlin, Hamburg wins this round
Theater Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Thalia und Thalia-Altona, multiple other theaters
Musicals- you take a ferry… which pretty much wins Hamburg in this category
Berlin used to be the center of theater and the arts in Germany, and much of that cultural presence still remains. One can find it in the Berliner Enseble theater, the Deutsches Theater, and various others, most often small and private. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been able to take advantage of the Berlin theaters or so, but the theater presence wasn’t as strong for me in Berlin as it has been in Hamburg Hard to decide, but since Hamburg has both music and theater, they win
Museums Beautiful art museums, a fantastic anthropology collection A whole Museum “island”

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The vast number of different museums, usually very accessible for tourists and non-tourists alike wins Berlin in this category
Tall buildings/ landmarks Fehrnsehturm, St. Michaelis, Elbsymphonie Fehrnsehturm, Funkturm, Siegessaeule, Brandenburger Gate Hamburg has a cooler skyline
Green spaces various parks, Volkspark, Altonauer Park, Planten und Blomben Gruenewald, Tiergarten, various other small parks

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I actually liked Berlin’s green spaces more, maybe because I walked around in them more?
Water the Alster, the Elbe

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Spree, Wannsee Hamburg, all the way.
Sports HSV, St. Pauli, both in danger of downgrade

The HASPA Marathon!

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Hertha BSC, in slightly better shape than Hamburg’s teams, but not much better

The Berlin Marathon (where the world records are always made)

Eh. I don’t really care
Any last words? I called it home for a year, and it’s the second largest city in the country Capital of the country Both are definitely worth visiting

Things I find myself doing that remind me I’ve spent a year abroad

I’ve only just gotten back from Germany, so clearly I will have a bit of jet lag (six hours time difference). But there are other differences in my behavior that make me stick out from other U.S. Americans like a sun-burned man in Ireland.

  • I write the date as day/month/year versus month/day/year
  • I use 24-hour time when telling people when to meet
  • I bring a shopping bag to stores and get weird looks when I use that instead of a cart or a basket, and I don’t go to get a cart because I don’t feel like looking for a coin that fits in the slot to release the cart from the cart in front of it.
  • I look for a way to stop the flow of water during the flush of the toilet. In Germany, there’s usually a way to raise the lever or push the slab used to flush a second time to make the water stop when the waste has gone down; it’s an effective way of saving water.
  • I want to separate my trash into paper, packaging, or waste. Thankfully, this is something the U.S. (at least public administrative buildings) are getting better at accommodating. It shocks me how much is thrown away here, much more than it did before I left.
  • I get confused when the teller or cashier is talkative or friendly… it’s almost overly friendly.
  • I need a dollar and start looking for a coin (at least, those do exist. Conversely, there is no such thing as a 1 Euro bill)
  • I avoid going to a public restroom because I think I’ll have to pay, and I don’t have any money on me. Not having to pay is something I appreciate!
  • I say “Tschüß” reflexively when saying good-bye to people. I may keep that.
  • edited to add: after finally getting used to the German keyboard, it seems that I’ll have to learn to get used to the English one again… especially when typing in German.

These are just a few things I’ve caught myself doing, but as the week goes on, I’m sure there will be more. Hopefully, nothing too embarrassing!

10% Left to Go- Nearing the end of my VDAC Hamburg stay

Coupled with Thanksgiving, yesterday’s Independence Day marked the second day where I, without a doubt, would rather be in the U.S. than here. But that’s all okay, since there was a performance night at my dorm and people were partying. I also had a paper to write, and that can be done here as well as there if I can’t go out anyway.

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July 1st marked nine months in Germany. Ignoring the possible metaphor I could set up with conception and birth of a baby, let me just reflect a bit on what this means. First of all, it means 10% left. November 2014, I wrote a post about my first month here, and the things one should have done during one’s first month studying abroad. I noted how weird it is to divide one’s time into sections and grant it value based on which section it was, but I stayed true to my word and managed to metaphorically put the last eight months into one dazzling piece of uncut, multifaceted mineral. I did a lot of very exciting, life-affirming things, had a few rough spots (it ain’t living if it’s perfect all the time), and overall really enjoyed myself while being here.

However, 10% is the image on my TomTomRunner when I’ve set myself on course for a goal and I have 10% left of the time or distance I set out for. Usually at this point I kick into a high gear and elevate or hold through the end of the race. I suppose that’s kind of what I’m tempted to do now, with one month left.

I’ve got the academic end covered, with a hectic week of presentation, term-paper, and exam to complete. Once I’m left gasping for air on the shore of the first academic break I’ll have since Summer 2013, I’m going to take care of the last things on my list-a list I created for myelf, based on the suggestions of dozens of well-meaning Germans and people who know Hamburg, when I first got here. I still want to do some sort of water sport on the Alster, even if it’s just to paddleboat. I still haven’t been to the Heidepark (a sort of amusement park) yet, and I want to visit the Auswandere Museum. Seeing as I wrote my thesis on migration narratives, I think I should visit the museum that dedicates itself to the documentation of one of the largest points of migration in Europe.

That’s about it, though. I’m open to other suggestions, but I can honestly say that I think I’ve really taken advantage of the opportunity to live and study in Hamburg. That is not to say that I don’t notice or learn something new about the city everyday. Yesterday, for example, coming back from my run, I noticed the General Konsulat for South Korea. I’ve run past it at least four times a week for the past nine months, and the building is so inauspicious that I never noticed it until now. Things like that are welcome surprises. I also am in love with the roses in bloom all over Hamburg.

I’m trying to come up with some good things to talk about to close out the year here… but I’ll save those for after finals.

Hope everyone has a good week!

I could always become a bartender

I’ve done so many things this past week, that I will need several posts to catch up. It’s a good thing today is a holiday in Germany and I have the day off to write; though I do plan on going out on the town a bit too. Some near-future posts will therefore include what it means to join a sports team while studying abroad, the most recent VDAC seminar to Kassel, preparing a presentation or essay for German university courses, discovering sections of Hamburg anew, and transportation options in the city.

This post, however, I’m dedicating to a short blurb about the things I’ve done from my role as VDAC exchange student.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am here through the Federation of German-American Clubs, and the particular club that makes my stay in Hamburg possible is the German-American Women’s Club of Hamburg. They arranged my participation at the Uni Hamburg, my stay in a beautiful dorm not far from Uni campus, and various events for me to participate in, as well as a good amount of other things and all the details they pay attention to blows my mind.

Hamburg AlsterThe most recent event was a sort of charity/donation event for German-American Friendship Day at the U.S. Consulate in Hamburg, right on the Alster. If you don’t know Hamburg, let me explain that the Alster is a lake type thing that comes off the Elbe, and anyone knowing something about real estate can imagine what it means to be directly on this beautiful piece of water. Of course, the US Consulate had a spot there.

The exterior of the consulate is impressive, with a mixture of classical and more modern architecture that I’m sure engineer students could tell me a things or two about. The interior reminded me of the pictures I had seen of the White House: stately furniture, deep red and blue rugs with golden edging. It was really neat to be invited into the building, even if the security was a bit extreme. This picture does not show the five meters of no-man’s land and the two security buildings one has to pass to get to the front door.  photo IMGP0047.jpgStill, it was a treat just to go in.

Of course, nothing is for free 😉 My fellow US exchange student and I were asked to help serve drinks at the night’s event. At first, I had no idea about walking around with trays in my hand and I was nervous about offering people something. But then, I ended up behind the counter of the bar, and I was surprised at how fun it was to sere people drinks, receive the orders from the other students helping that night, chat a few times with the guests (a surprising amount of people liked the rhubarb/water Schorle), and generally have a quick moving, but non-stress pastime. I figure that if the academic career doesn’t pan out for me, I’ll just become a bartender.

What was even more neat was working behind the scenes of this building. I was able to go into the kitchen and allowed to use the industrial dishwashing machine. Three minutes! It only takes three minutes for 40 glasses to get cleaned with one of those boxes. Why can’t my family borrow one around Thanksgiving or Christmas back home?

Several speeches were given that got me thinking about contemporary German-American relations, and the event had been very well organized by the club ladies. It was nice to see a few of them again, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the Charity Bazaar in November. My time is winding down while here though. It sounds strange, but I will be sad to lose some of these opportunities to take part in these events.

‘Twas the Night before the Race- HaSpa marathon

I’m starting to think that I only need one site, not three. The problem is, I will probably annoy everyone who subscribed to my other blogs (running and reading) just to read about those things. However, I’m getting to the point where I don’t care, especially for this post, since it is the juncture where Hamburg study-abroad meets my running passion: the Hamburg Marathon (more on that later in the post). In reflection, all my passions juncture with one another and I think I may be more successful (a term I define for myself in this context as reaching as many readers as possible) if I consolidate all my writings into this one blog to create a better platform for me to express myself.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately. There are creative writing projects blooming in my notebooks and I am about to complete my third marathon after a two year injury-healing cycle. I consider today a little like the day before my birthday, the night before Christmas where the anticipation slowly builds for what the next day will hold.

This poem from goneforarun.com comes to mind:

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Tomorrow, April 26th, while many runners will be getting ready for the London Marathon, I’ll be starting in Hamburg’s 30th annual marathon.When I signed up back in December, I knew I was heading into something big.

However, as January saw me plagued by bad plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and January and February were struggles to the death with my MA thesis, training fell to the wayside. I was still running, and I tried to get in at least 25-30 miles a week, but I wasn’t able to get long runs in.

Then, as the thesis fog cleared and my feet itched to get out, I slowly got into serious marathon training. The first few days in March I spent researching whether I would even be able to train in time (less than two months), but I decided to just get started and see how far I could get.

As opposed to the last two marathons I started training for, but got injured during training, I did not follow a plan and was extra attentive to the signs my body gave me. This time around, I also had a foam roller, ice packs, regular cross training, and orthopedics in my regular day-shoes on my side.

All in all, starting February (where I was doing regular 11 miles, so not completely unfit) my long runs progressed like this: 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 8… 26.2

It was a bit of a (read: a huge, what was I thinking?) risk jumping from 12 to 20 miles in five weeks. However, I only took the risk because I needed the confidence boost. Since then (two weeks ago), I have been extremely careful (ha ha, not really… soccer game last Sunday?), and very laissez faire. This past week, I’ve been feeling a bit run down, and I did not expect differently. I skipped the run I wanted to go on Thursday, and feel better about that decision. I realized at that point that pushing myself out the door was not as wise as just laying back to put forth my efforts tomorrow.

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Packet pick-up hub-hub

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It may be difficult to tell, but the row for the men to pick up their packets was twice as long as it was for the women (at the end).

Gah! Tomorrow? Yup, tomorrow, I run a marathon. Yesterday (Friday) the expo opened. Being the impatient dork that I am, I made sure to get there right away.

The best part about visiting a race expo in Hamburg is that I get to see two important corners of the city: the convention center (Messe) and the famous park (Planten und Blomben) that borders it. (the pictures I took were with my iPod,  Excuse the crookedness, please!

 Fueling with white asparagus (Spargel) in the days leading up the race. It's a customary German dish with potatoes and hollandaise sause (that has nothing to do with Holland) 

Fueling with white asparagus (Spargel) in the days leading up the race. It’s a customary German dish with potatoes and hollandaise sause (that has nothing to do with Holland)

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IMG_1108 Hamburg Messehallen (convention center)

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Blomben

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Some beautiful forehead wrinkles and tents set up for the race

I met up with a few fellow soccer players at the expo, saw a girl who is going to the U.S. next year through my same program (two VDAC students will be running!), and exchanged some nervousness.

Also, I was interviewed with the others by a German TV station (SAT.1). Who knows if they will use that excerpt? But how cool is that?!

Finally, I spent yesterday and this morning getting some excellent German carbs in my belly (if I do well tomorrow, then it’s only because German Broetchen are the best in the world).

One thing the Germans don’t do as well however, as I noticed yesterday, was that they don’t give away as many free things. The expo yesterday had one table with free alcohol-free beer (not bad stuff) and a table with free tasters of Cliff bars (I noted how US products appear and are promoted in German spaces), but otherwise the pickings were fairly dry. I’m too excited by other things to spend a lot of time thinking about that right now though. I just thought I’d note it.

In conclusion, I feel fairly well-prepared for tomorrow. I am very excited that there are many of my dorm-mates who will come out to support me, and that this time tomorrow I’ll hopefully be finishing (reach goal is 3:45). One obstacle I’ll still have to overcome is that I’ll have to think in terms of kilometers rather than miles! Geez… 42 sounds much scarier than 26.. but it is what it is. Cultural experience number five million.

All the best to anyone racing tomorrow!

Tl; dr: I am a little kid, anxious for race day to get here because I’m excited about all that it promises to hold. Also, I am merging my blogs. The end.

Cheers,

A touch of Hamburg on a spring day

I scored my first goal for my soccer team today! It was a swooping sensation that I’ve been feeling sporadically throughout the past weeks since being back in Hamburg. I can’t say whether it’s only because I am relieved of thesis stress, but I’m convinced that it’s also part of being in a space that I’m slowly turning into a home.

Sure, people can say that six and a half interrupted months are not nearly enough to claim identity, but if I feel like the person I am now is because of being here, then why can’t I say that it’s become part of my identity? And if I’m at home with myself, then I am home here.

Quite possibly I could not be more honored if others were to agree with me.

There are moments here that speak to me in ways that I guess are not as unique as I originally thought. I was surprised to see my thoughts written on the walls of Hamburg Airport with other names ascribed to them.

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The other day, I had to head towards the hub-hub surrounding the main train station and was struck by the straight edges of the buildings juxtaposed against the softer lines of s-bahn trains crawling into the station like caterpillars.

2015-04-13 12.29.47My intention was to receive a refund for the public transportation ticket I had to buy before receiving my official student pass in the mail. After the short exchange with the Beamtin who happily told me her name was the same as mine, I spent a contented hour wandering around the library, much more connected to the city than the university library. The building had two sculptures in front whose meaning I still haven’t figured out.

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That was Wednesday and in the meantime, I’ve been to Portugal and back (I seem like such the world traveler, but I’m not… it was the first trip I took outside of Germany since being here) and now I’m siting in my room, watching the sun enjoy one last glorious hour to end a rather perfect day. I was intoxicated by the sun today, as I think the rest of Hamburg was. Despite the intense soccer game this morning (did I mention, I scored a goal?) and reading I still need to do, I went for a bike ride along the dry streets and paths of south west Hamburg, enjoying the sight of families and couples who had come out into the sun to play games and enjoy time together. I think if there’s anything endearing about the Germans, it’s their urge to enjoy the sun and let it dance on their skin when the weather is good.

Small sprays of spring blossoms floated into my room through the open window, bringing their pastel colors and promise of trees with heady crowns (don’t get me wrong, they can still be a nuisance to clean up. I’m glad I don’t have a garden here).

I have good things planned for this week. I’m skipping soccer practice tomorrow to go to a slam poetry event some of the soccer gals told me about, visiting courses Tuesday through Thursday, visiting a race expo on Friday, and running a marathon on Sunday. If I feel tired this week, who knows what I’ll feel like in 172 hours. But I’m sure if the trend continues, I’ll be just as happy then as I am right now, maybe even more so.

Hope you’re having a good weekend, letting the sun dance on your skin, and finding moments to reflect and be grateful.