Monday, August 15, 2016

A Week In!

Well, things are going well here! It seems like we've been here longer than we have been, because we've done quite a lot in our short time here, but although it's been a whirlwind, it's been great too. 

Language Classes
There are four levels of German language classes for the Fulbrighters. I'm in level one, Carson is in level 2. There are ten students in my class, 10 in Carson's, 4 in level 3, and 6 in level 4. Our class is the beginner class, so we're learning things like numbers and the basics of verb conjugation (I really wish I'd kept practicing that with Russian because it would have made it a lot easier to remember how to do it in German), and singing songs, while all the other classes are entirely in German and everyone's struggling to understand what's going on. I have two teachers - Ilya (who is Russian, but lived in England and learned English there and now of course lives here) on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Agata (who is Polish but grew up here) on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. 

We have language class Monday-Friday from 9am-12:30 and on Tuesday and Thursday we have additional language classes in the afternoons from 2-4. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we have "culture class" which has so far not been in an actual classroom, but has given us a taste of the city and culture by doing things like registering with the city and going on a tour of Marburg.

We are enrolled as students in the university for language classes, so with our student fees (paid for by the Fulbright), we received bus tickets that are good for anywhere in the state of Hessen. We can go on buses and trains anywhere in the region and that's been fantastic! We ride the #7 bus everyday from the bottom of the hill to our classes at Elizabethkirche, then back to the top of the hill so we don't have to go up that steep hill at the end of the day (we walk up enough hills that it's worth it to skip this one). We are figuring out bus routes and actually it's not far at all if we wanted to just walk to and from classes each day.

This is the walk back from the top of the hill

There's a grocery store down the hill from the dorms. You have to walk up a really steep hill to get back, but the distance itself is pretty short. The prices are really a lot cheaper than I anticipated, and we haven't been spending a lot on food. 

The focus on the environment is big here. We have to bring our own grocery bags (or you have to pay for them)! Another thing the grocery stores have is a machine that takes bottles and gives you money for them. You take an empty bottle (wine bottle, soda bottle, water bottle) and put it in this machine. It reads the bar code on the bottle, processes it (flattens the plastic ones), and spits out a receipt you take inside to the cashier to get your 25 cents or so back. Each bottle has a code that's worth a different amount, and most stores take bottles back. If people see a bottle on the street, they usually pick it up to recycle, which is pretty different. 

The white building you can sort of see through the trees is our dorm, if you were wondering what the elevation climb was like. This is from the parking lot of the grocery store. 

We've been going to the Mensa (cafeteria) for a cheap lunch most days, but a few times we've gotten out and had other foods. We found a cheap gyro place with the biggest gyros I've ever seen. We had the leftovers for dinner. There are lots of international foods here and everything looks pretty good. I have not been disappointed in the food, and to my surprise, I haven't seen (or sought out, as I'm sure it's there) a lot of what I'd consider to be "German food". I mean sure, there are lots of bakeries and sausages and pretzely things, but it's not ONLY those foods and they're not sneaking sauerkraut into everything (or if they are, they're doing it so well that I haven't noticed!).

We went into a cafe on break one day and the Olympics were on! It couldn't have been live, unless Michael Phelps is swimming at 2 in the morning, but we saw him win a 200km race!

The building to the left is where my classes are. The one on the right is the big church you've seen in a lot of my pictures (Elizabethkirsche, or Elizabeth Church). 

Tour of the City
We went on a walking tour for one of our cultural experiences and it was great. We got to tour the church and hear the history of it. It's beautiful and pretty old (13th century). 

We walked next to the old town, and heard about the architecture and history of the older part of the city. These homes are incredible (and no, I don't think they're currently single family homes).

The Brothers Grimm lived here for a few years while attending the university (the same one we're attending, so that's pretty cool) so there are tributes to them all over the place and statues of different things from their fairy tales. These flies are from "The Brave Little Tailor".

We kept walking UP... it feels like all we do is walk uphill!

I think there were 154 MORE steps when I took this picture.

A pig water fountain! Oh yeah, the tap water here is super safe to drink and very clean. There aren't any typical American water fountains that I've seen, just every once in awhile, we'll come across something pretty like this, or we will fill our water bottles (I left mine behind in the States like an idiot) in the sink wherever we are. 

The castle! Information on its history here!

There's the restaurant we ate at on our second night of orientation! And that's Cinderella's shoe, another Grimm nod.

We got phones! We chose Vodaphone as our new provider and actually got SIM cards for our existing phones so we have German phone numbers (it's a +49 country code if you get a text from a weird number!).

This wall (I think I had a picture of it before but I didn't know what it was) is for the story of the Wolf and the Seven Goats

Here's Carson walking home from the stop at the top of the hill! There are lots of trails behind the dorms, but we haven't explored them yet.

There's a random cat that shows up and cuddles with us when we're at the student center. Some previous students named it Kitler, which is not a nice name because it's a nice cat (for a cat). Someone was saying yesterday that the cat climbed into their empty backpack for a snooze while they were studying. 

We did laundry! There are two washers and a dryer, but to save money we hang dry our clothes (there are other people's clothes also in this picture). Towels that have been hung dry feel sort of crunchy and aren't my favorite, and I do miss the luxury of our own washer/dryer. 

 Oh, I have had German food! I forgot! I had schnitzel on a sandwich and it's pretty good! I had the caffeine here (I've been sticking to water mostly) because I was exhausted!

We registered with the city, and then found out that we needed an original copy of our marriage license, which we did not think to bring. Eeeek! We still registered, but we will need it within the next few weeks so that I can prove that I belong here with Carson. We have 90 days from the time we enter the country to register, so it's not like things are dire, but oops!

It's been all over the place for weather. You may have noticed the variety in clothing! One day I was in shorts, the next I brought out a jacket and scarf, and by the weekend it was really hot again. Checking the forecast every day has been key!

We're enjoying it so far. It doesn't feel like we LIVE here yet, probably because we are living in a dorm with all kinds of students from all over the globe, and are speaking English more than German because there are 30 Americans who are all here for the same reason. We're in more of a tourism phase right now, but I think it's going to be a better transition than if we had gotten here and then immediately been immersed. It may not be better for immersion, but I like it for my state of mind :)

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