Like a Local

Trip Start Aug 31, 2009
Trip End Jan 08, 2010

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Flag of Germany  ,
Monday, September 14, 2009

Today was another beautiful day in Berlin.  After sleeping and lounging all day yesterday (Alex had a bit of a fever and wasn't feeling too well) we felt extra productive today.  We FINALLY located a coin-operated self service laundromat here, initially we were convinced the people of Germany either never washed their clothes or all owned wash machines.  Despite the fact that our apartment building used to be a hotel no laundry services exist here.  We had to take two bus rides toward the center of town with two bags of dirty laundry in tow, but we finally got it done.  And it wasn't too bad of an experience, either.  The laundromat had a little espresso area where you could order coffee (obviously) or beer and wine.  Unfortunately we spent almost 15 EUR on three loads of laundry plus another 70 cents for every ten minutes of dryer time so we didn't have a lot extra to spend on beverages.  Perhaps we'll try to find a less expensive laundromat for next time. 
I had my first class yesterday.  It was a typical first day, awkward introductions, receipt of the syllabus and books, etc.  However after the introductions I felt like I was easily the most under qualified person in the program.  Most of my "mates" in the program are fluent in at least two languages and have all kinds of professional experience.  I'm also definitely the youngest person in the program, although there are many that are probably only one or two years older than me, and the only American.  I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb: I have no accent (from my perspective, anyway), I speak one language, and I look like I'm 16-ish in a professional master's program.  I'm the minority for the first time in my feels weird.  This along with having several negative experiences with people being annoyed at my lack of German fluency gives me a small inkling of what US immigrants must feel and a new appreciation of how brave they are. 
Anyway, here are some interesting things we've learned about Germany thus far: they are HUGE on recycling here, there are receptacles for various recyclables literally everywhere!  You get money for going into any grocery store and using their plastic bottle recycling machine that scans your plastic bottles (presumably ensuring it's the right recyclable type?) and it prints a receipt for your bottles, usually 25 cents a bottle!  If they had that in the US I can't imagine how much more people would recycle.  Also, EVERY STORE is closed on Sundays.  You had better buy all your groceries on Saturday because you'll be ordering take out on Sunday if you didn't...a fun fact that only took us two weeks to learn.  Public transportation, while very handy, comes with drawbacks, specifically the drunk transient that sits next to you on the U-Bahn smelling of urine and cracking a beer mid-trip (at 8:30 am).  Berlin has so many awesome parks, we literally couldn't ask for a better place to live.  The Charlottenberg Palace (our neighbor - photos included in this entry) has a huge, lush garden area that has proven very pleasant for jogging around and through.  The parks here smell amazing...the city in general does not.  German is an ugly language, when two Germans converse it sounds like they are in the middle of a terrible fight although they're probably only saying "Good Morning, How are You?"....probably.  Each new experience, even the tiny ones, teach us something and everyday I feel more and more like a local.  I think Alex is even starting to warm up to the city, something that seemed nearly impossible at the beginning.
We're off to Munchen (Munich) this weekend for a little visit to Oktoberfest, we'll post pictures Monday!  I'm excited for my very first cross-country train ride!!
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