Archive for May, 2011

All Alone!

5-29-2011

 

It’s one thing to walk around Chicago or even anywhere in the United States alone, but walking around Munich, Germany alone is quite an interesting experience. Surprisingly I did not really ever get the feeling of aloneness or emptiness, rather excitement that I did not have any time restraints or anything other than the fact that my train was going to be leaving around 4:20 pm. But that gave me from whenever I woke up until then to site see.

 

I did, however, experience a very sad moment when heading to my first site seeing destination of the day: Dachau Concentration Camp. This was the first ever Concentration Camp in Germany, housing over 60,000 prisoners at it’s peak. The camp is now empty, of course, but some of the buildings were kept as not only as a reminder of what happened in those horrible years, but also as a tribute to the survivors and people who stood up against Nazi’s back in the early 1940’s. The housing for the prisoners were barracks, built by the prisoners, to house about 200 inmates. Well, at the Holocaust’s peak, these barracks were holding over 2,000 prisoners! Making my way around the camp, I felt like the dirt/rock roads never ended, and I was trapped in an endless loop of death and sadness. It was scary to think I was standing on the grounds where one of the world’s worst ever events. The only buildings that still stood were the main “office” building, two of the buildings used for the barracks, the crematoriums, a church, and a barrack dedicated for a museum for the Memorial Site. I ended up spending almost three hours here at the Concentration Camp due to all the reading material that went along with each stop in the camp.

 

Seeing all of the pictures of how the Jews were treated, malnourished, and beaten was a tough pill to swallow. How could something so sad and negative happen in such a quick time and affect so many innocent people? The most horrifying stop on the tour I took myself on, was the crematorium. There was a long row of “ovens” used to cremate any inmate who was not fit to work, too fatigued to work, or for behavioral reasons. If that was not bad enough, the next room was a concrete room depicted as a showering room. Back in those days, they would tell the inmates they were going to this wash room to be given a shower. Now, to them, this was a treat; finally, they could get clean for a few days. There was even shower heads installed in the walls to make the inmates believe it was a shower. As they would put the inmates in this room, they would shut the door behind them and turn open a valve. However, nothing came out of the shower heads. Instead, toxic gas was pumped through the vents and killed everybody inside in a matte roof minutes. The bodies were then taken to another room and stacked as high as the ceiling, waiting to be cremated. Then the room was washed clean with a hose to rid of the smell and to give the sight of water on the floor, further tricking the inmates into believing it was a shower.

 

The most positive part about the Concentration Camp was a huge marble brick with several engravings on it, and in English it wrote, “NEVER AGAIN”. All of the posters in the museum and around the camp focused on the fact that this was not the fault of Germany, but a power-driven man whose ideas had nothing to do with the country of Germany. Very few times would you even see Adolf Hitler mentioned, purposely. Speaking to several of the staff, they said that this way people will not remember him, think Germany as a blood-thirsty country, and to try and make people remember the men, women and children who lost their lives during this awful time.

 

As I sit on my train heading back towards Hamburg, all I can think about is all of the innocent people that had lost their lives during the Holocaust. A choosing of religion should not create war or any violence at all. Religion is just something to believe in, not something to kill for. On a more positive note, I am overly satisfied with the events of this past weekend. I was able to see one of my best friends and his father, see yet another part of Germany, and learned a little history about this country and the events that took place. Next weekend is road trip time! SO excited!

Munich!

 

5/28/2011

 

Finally getting the refreshing feeling of something that reminds me of home, was more than enough to get me going. I can’t even describe how nice it feels to be around people you care about and remind you of home. Even though Chicago isn’t my permanent home, it is still the United States. Just for this case specifically, it makes it all worth the trip down here to Munich.

 

Today started off early with a nice warm breakfast; then came the contemplation of what events and sites we wished to see in their final day in Munich. Just sitting there and talking about doing all of these things together really helped me mentally be able to make it through the second half of this study abroad. I only had one place I wished to go, and that was the largest bar in the entire world, the Hofbrauhaus! It seats 1500 people inside and 500 outside in the Beer Garden. But really, it didn’t even matter what sites we saw, it was good enough for me to just walk around and enjoy their company.

 

We went and saw the Olympic Field which consists of all the sports arenas required to hold an Olympics, which was here in Munich several years ago. However, we got the best view of Munich once we went up into the 200 meter tall tower that overlooked the entire city and it’s surroundings. Beautiful.

 

The Hofbrauhaus was as crazy as I thought it would be. I ordered a Bockwurst, which is sausage that is smoked until it is fully cooked with some home-made potato salad. The sausage was extremely juicy and the potatoes were fluff and extremely flavorful. Not to mention the fact that we were being served LITERS of beer. To translate into American standards, that is just shy of three whole beers! There were regulars there that the families had a table reserved for over 300 years! Not only did they have tables reserved, but the bar had a cellar in which they stored all of the steins. They had numbers on them like lockers! Can you imagine walking into a bar and sitting down at your RESERVED table, and then they bringing a full beer in your very own RESERVED stein. The Germans can surely drink, as these reserved folk were drinking as high as 9 or 10 of these liter beers. Three of them for me and I had a good buzz.

 

On a final note, it was very sad to watch my friend and his father leave tonight. I was just getting used to having them here in Europe, however, I can’t complain seeing that I got to see one of my best friends and his dad in GERMANY and not Chicago. They were also disappointed that they could not stay any longer and see other things in the city with me. Oh well, they gave me a few must-sees for tomorrow during the day while I am still here in Munich; so I now have an agenda for tomorrow! First things first, sleep!

The toughest train ride of my LIFE

5/27/2011

 

As I finally have taken a seat of this 6-hour train ride to Munich from Hamburg, traveling over 100 mph, I can finally take a deep breath of relief knowing I can sit for the remainder of this train ride. I was highly stressing out boarding the train in Hamburg when I was told the train was full and overbooked. First come, first serve, of course, with my luck. First hour and a half on the train was standing, sweating, and tiring from the heavy backpack I am carrying. Never did I think I could appreciate sitting in my life.

 

As I pass all the land between Hamburg and Munich, I find myself in awe at the beauty this country brings. There is so much land not inhabited by anyone except farmers. The fresh green grass and the bright blue skies add for a pleasant remainder of this long train ride. However, I am a little scared to get up and visit the food car, in worry that I will lose my seat. I might as well go once we get past the last stop before Munich, definitely safer.

 

All of the parts of Germany I have been in thus far have been primarily business-type cities and towns. Personally, I really like being around the business world, dressing up for work everyday, and feeling like I am somewhat important. I get the feeling of accomplishment when I walk down the street and enter my internship everyday. It is not like it is an internship where I just sit around and watch what others are doing. I AM doing the work required for the employers and I am also learning and training myself for the future. It gives me such pleasure in seeing the reaction of my employer when I complete a task that they did not know I had knowledge in, or that I could even bigger to start it. Kind of a boo-yah to the man with the stick, you could say.

 

I really don’t think I can describe how beautiful this trip is and all the beautiful landscape that is along the ride. Stayed tuned to the blog on Monday that I write about Sunday and I will have pictures of the train ride’s landscape (since I do have a window seat RESERVED :D). Monday’s blog will consist of pictures of Munich that I want you to see! Have a great weekend!

Gloomy Weather, Gloomy Thoughts


5/26/2011

 

Seems like most days here in Germany consist of colder mornings, sunny mid-days, rainy afternoons, and cold evenings. Not the type of weather to keep you cheerful. The events taking place are also making me a little under the weather. The frustrations continue into today with the cell phone company mistakenly telling me the wrong price for a call to the United States; stating that it would cost 50 cent Euro a minute and it ended up being almost 2 Euro a minute. Needless to say, all the money I had put on the card was then gone. As much fun as I am having right now, especially at my internship, it has been quite a few frustrating days. I am hopeful that the next week will be slightly more eventful and satisfying. It is a difficult adjustment being in another country where they do not speak a language you understand, and the culture is completely different than the United States. Nonetheless, it is an experience that will force me to learn things not only about myself but also what is needed in order to survive.

 

It’s a funny thing saying to yourself, “What you need in order to survive”, but it is an obvious truth. Learning the dialogue and actions required to order a plate of food, a drink, a train ticket, the essentials in order to live a day to day life. This train of thought brings me to my weekend’s trip to Munich, or “Munchen” as the Germans call it. I begin to ask myself simple questions about whether or not I will be able to find the correct train to be on? Will I be able to find my correct seat and wagon number? All questions that if I understood the language a little better, it would help dramatically. This brings me to my main point of this blog: the language.

 

Even after only being here for 2 weeks now, I tend to gear towards the thought and wish that we had taken a course in the German language prior to being here in Germany. Even to understand the basics and be able to communicate is a better fashion than we do now, would be more than helpful. With just the basics of the language we would be able to ask where something is, what comes on this sandwich (big problem because you REALLY don’t know sometimes), how much is this sandwich, and so on. Yes, it is true, I have been able to adapt probably a little better than most; it is just a thought.

 

There are also things here that I had expected to be part of the culture but is absent. The Germans learn the English language throughout their middle and high school education, which allows most Germans to have a full, in-depth conversation with you. Not everyone can speak English, however, the most important ones being my instructors and co-workers, all do. What a relief that has been these 2 weeks so far. I could not imagine having to completely learn another language and not being able to communicate whatsoever if I didn’t.

On a final note. I am excited about going to Munich this weekend to spend time with my friend from Chicago and his father. It will be a nice change of pace to finally be around people I care about and can relate more to, as stated in my last post. I do not know if the hotel we are staying at will have internet, so if not I will check back with you Monday and update you daily on my endeavors! Cheers!

Mixed Feelings

5/25/2011

I apologize for not posting yesterday, it was kind of a change of pace, you could say. Interesting things happened; there is a fair here in Hamburg area and the hotel needs all of the hotel rooms, including ours. So we were basically kicked out of the rooms. Does not make very much sense to me that if you pay for an alloted time in a room, they  should allow for you to stay in your room. I got almost the feeling of abandonment when told we had to leave. I was somehwat scared seeing that we were finally getting used to being in the hotel, in a country we have never been to, no family oranything. Then we are told we must leave? Thankfully, the gentleman in charge of the foreign exchange program here is a very pleasant man and allowed us to stay in his home. He seems told always has his hand outreached for us whenever we are in need of anything. He definitely gives us a sense of comfort knowing that “Mr. Hamburg” as I call him, is always a phone call away from being sent in the right direction. It all started when we first arrived in Hamburg without our instructor. That was definitely the scariest start to any trip I think I have ever done in my life. When we left the plane, we had the feeling of emptiness and wondered how the heck we would get to the hotel, since we did not knwo the name or address of it. However, there he was, Mr. Hamburg; greeting us by name and asking about our trip. That really could not have been a better welcome than being greeted by name when not knowing what was going to happen or if we would have a place to stay for the night. I will forever be in debt to Mr. Hamburg as he has been the setting stone of our exchange here in Germany.

As much as I am enjoying my experiences here in Germany, I am very home sick. It’s funny because it is not even that I wish I was in Florida or even the United States, I just miss the comforting feeling of being in my own country, in a place that speaks my same language. It is very interesting getting to know another language. There are so many similarities in both of the languages, but you never know if I ever will work with or for someone who speaks German. This could be my way of breaking the ice! As much as I am home sick and get that lonely feeling, I am having the time of my life. There is something to be said about someone who goes to another country and is on his own to figure out living, food, and education arrangements; especially in a completely different language. I have grown more used to being in this country as the days go on. I am happy to say that I officially know all the good places to eat, drink and be entertained. The most entertainment of my day would have to be at work.

My colleagues are extremely pleasant and make a point to speak in English whenever they come into the office where the German student, and another co-worker are programming. How could I ever ask or expect anything better than that? Never would I have thought coming into this country that I would be able to work and communicate with all the other employees. What a pleasant surprise! They are all so eager to help me and educate me in different programming languages. Years ago, I did not think programming was my forte, however, being here and learning everything I can about it, I have fallen in love. I really feel that I have found my passion in life. What a comforting and relaxing feeling knowing that I am gearing myself to my career of choice! I have always told myself I do not want to work a day in my life, and I plan on doing just that. I feel that if you are doing something you love, you are not really working, just doing! As for doing… my lunch break is over, so it is time to go back to the programming world! Guten Morgen America!

Today was a much more productive day. However, the day did not start out as I had wished, but once lunch came, it was all better. I woke up a little late this morning and rushed to get ready but I did not have time to eat breakfast. I went down to the breakfast room, grabbed a roll, and headed for work. I made it to work on time just fine, but I was in dire need of a coffee and some more food. The food would have to wait, but the endless coffee machine in the “coffee room” was used quite often through the day.

My German student asked if I wanted to go to this delicious bakery for lunch and, of course, I said yes (I would have probably said yes to anything at that point, considering how hungry I was). So I went on with my day, researching and developing code and introducing myself to the .NetNuke Framework Environment. I read an article about a guy here in Europe somewhere who used a laser and transferred 25 TB of information per second. Pretty crazy.

After work, I decided it was time to purchase my ticket for my trip to Munich this weekend to hang out with my friend from Chicago and his father. I am really looking forward to spending some time in Europe with someone I am close to and can relate to more. I need to get a long-distance calling card for this trip in case the hotels do not have wireless internet.

The only bad thing about today was finding out we have to move out of the hotel for the next two days into the Foreign Exchange instructors home. Quite honestly, this is really annoying and makes absolutely no sense. If we have paid for the time we are here and have booked the entire 6 weeks, why are we getting the boot? If you could not handle us for the entire 6 weeks they should have said so in the beginning. Oh well, I am already packed so it is behind me at this point. Who knows, maybe it will be a really comfortable bed with more room to sleep better? Gotta stay on the positive side.

Towards the end of the night I watched my roommate from Chicago bowl for RMU in the collegiate singles competition. He made it to the final match, however he came up a few pins short from a National Championship. I am really proud of him, he bowled awesome this week. Well, it is not pretty late so I must be getting to bed….. until tomorrow. Cheers!

Relaxing & Reflecting

Well. today was not a tough day whatsoever. I woke up this morning and finally felt as if I had no evidence of any jet lag, I was ready for the day. I started my morning with some scrambled eggs, toast, and of course my usual coffee. The only other person I ate breakfast with was Mr. Nassar, but it was nice to speak with him and figure out some ideas for the trip we are trying to plan the first week of June. How it looks now, the cheapest and smartest route to take is renting a car and splitting the cost however many ways the amount of people come. This way, not only could we see Paris, but we could stop in Amsterdam, Paris and London. That would be absolutely amazing in my eyes; then we could see not only Germany, but three other countries! I really hope this works out for the best.

Talking to Mr. Nassar about this reminded me about needing to look into more information on a train to Munich this weekend to meet my friend Dan who recently graduated from RMU and is touring Europe for his graduation present. This weekend he will be in Munich, so it would be really cool to meet up with him down there. Then, it was time for my walk to work.

It was a little cooler out than most days, but it was refreshing to finally get a taste back of Chicago. I entered work doing my normal routine setting up my computer and such. Once everyone arrived the day started. However, me and the German student were left in a blank because several meetings needed to be handled before we could do any work on the software they were meeting about. I found myself watching webcasts and reading articles on different programming languages to keep myself busy. All of a sudden, it was 4:00 p.m and the meetings had just finished. The head of IT came into our office and gave us a run-down on what is expected of us and what the Executives want with this new software. We now have our agenda for tomorrow.

I stopped at the cheap, but dangerously good ice cream shop on the way home to work and decided I would take a night to do something I really enjoy. I spent the night playing video games on my computer, taking breaks reading and watching programming articles. The night ended up flying by and before I knew it the office downstairs was almost closed and I needed to go get my dry cleaning from them. With 5 minutes to spare, I am now ready for tomorrow morning and an extremely busy and successful workday. Check back tomorrow!