Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Short Note post Berlin and Riga!

Hello All.

I am truly sorry for my neglect of this lovely little blog the past few weeks. I am still really sick and that has just been putting a huge damper on life... :( No one (as in no doctor) can seem to figure out what is wrong with me. One lady even went as far as telling me that "it is all in my head; I am probably just homesick and depressed". No lady, I love Freiburg. I am not depressed. I am puking. And the only thing that I am all that homesick for at this point is a doctor that has a brain. And some god damn sympathy. That obviously wasn't one of my best exchanges with the locals...ha!

Although I am not prepared at this very moment to provide you with the sort of entry that my adventurous life demands, I did want to drop a quick note to update everyone! Since my last update, I have really started to get into the swing of things in my life here in Freiburg. This is an AWESOMe city, just perfect for me! On September 15th, we left Freiburg for a week long trip to Berlin, German and Riga, Latvia. While there we visited a number of monuments, government institutions, and lectures, all of which supplemented my study of the European Union in some way. The trip was a whirlwind, absolutely exhausting, but I loved it! I learned so much and got to see the highlights of both cities, which is pretty impressive considering the short amount of time we were there for! IES does NOT mess around when it comes to scheduling their field trips. I had approximately 4 seconds of free time the entire trip and I was forced to spend that time eating, pooping, and sleeping (Many of my compadres spent their 4 seconds partying...I like eating, sleeping, and pooping too much to waste my time grinding up on some sweaty Berliner who doesn't believe in deodorant.) Needless to say, I will be recovering from that trip for a while.

We returned from Berlin and Riga on the afternoon of the 20th. Since then I've been dealing with my perpetual sickness and doing homework 24-7. We started our full schedule of classes last Monday and it it pretty intense. This program is hard as hell. Im dying over here... I seriously think it is more challenging than school at home and I am NOT a fan of that. If I was going to sit in a room and read books and write papers all day long, I would have stayed in America where they have microwaves and 24 hour grocery stores. The good news is that I was elected as one of the members of student council this past week, so the administration is about to get an earfull from this girl. Just call me Congresswoman.

I think I'll wrap things up here. I have a monstrous entry coming your way soon, complete with awesome pictures and more details than you all would probably care to know! You are getting it anyway. I would love to hear from those of you who are reading this (all four of you...) so PLEASE email me if you feel so inclined! You can track me down at aferoah@aol.com.

Love to you all,

Ali

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Its Only Been Two Weeks...?!

So sorry that it has taken me so long to update this! Somewhere between San Diego, San Francisco, Reno, 4 different airports, a RIDICULOUSLY long plane ride, and Freiburg, I was attacked by a nasty little virus and it took me down for a few days. Luckily, I got some meds courtesy of German Public Healthcare and I am back in action! Since we started school on September 4th, things have been absolute MADNESS. IES packs our days as full as possible; it's sort of a joke. If we aren't in class, then we are in some sort of orientation session or meeting or excursion...EXHAUSTING I TELL YA! That combined with being sick has nearly pushed me over the edge into crazyville a few times... We are in our "intensive phase" (ya, no shit) which ends on Monday (tomorrow - thank you Jesus!), so I'm really hoping that they will pump the breaks on the madness post-Intensive Phase. I'll let you guys know...

Although I haven't been here for long, I have already experienced my fare share of "culture shock". I had heard of this so-called ailment, but refused to believe that it could/would happen to me! Well low and behold, I stand corrected. There are so many things that are different from home, little things that you would never think of until you go abroad. All of these small changes coupled with the fact that I desperately miss my mommy, my daddy, my boyfriend, my bed, and basically EVERYTHING about my home (this list could go on and on; if you are reading this blog, you are probably on this list...), I am having a pretty hard time with this whole being 6,000 miles away from home thing. I found myself at the ER yesterday because my disease just wouldn't lay-off, and as I sat in the waiting room with my blankie and my [awesome] roommate Moni, I cried. It's hard enough being sick, but being sick in a place where you don't know where a hospital is and even if you found the hospital, you couldn't tell them what the hell was wrong because you can't speak their language, well that is just about enough to break you. But don't worry! I managed my hospital experience and am feeling much better today!

Since we are talking about culture shock, here is a little list of some of my observations concerning the cultural discrepancies I have experienced thus far...

1. The toilet flusher handle is on the wall behind the toilet, not on the toilet itself. And said toilets have the flushing power equivalent to a small child pouring their juice on the floor. Basically, you better be careful of what you put in that potty and how much of it you put, because if not you are gonna be shit outta luck, no pun intended...

2. The sell local milk in glass bottles! This has become my latest vice. I could drink AT LEAST a bottle a day and still not be satisfied. This stuff is DELICIOUS! And extremely fattening I’m sure…

3. Their recycling/garbage system is outrageously complicated. I believe I have mentioned this before, but I am going to say it again because it is so intricate that it deserves a second mention. Here is a quick overview:

--You’ve got your Green Bins for paper, basically anything made of paper that hasn’t been soiled by…anything.
--Next is the Bio Bin. This is for organic kitchen and garden waste. Fruit peels, tea bags, flowers, etc. I generally don't make any of this kind of waste; I am not especially organic and I am DEFINITELY not gardening over here in Deutschland.
--Now there is the Yellow Bags. Here you put plastic packaging, composite materials, and metals. Personally I don’t understand why ALL the packaging, paper and plastic alike, can’t go into the chute together, but I guess that is why I don’t run this joint.
--Now outside of the house you will find the Bottle Banks and the Rubbish Bins. Bottle Banks are for anything glass (duh) and the Rubbish Bins are for anything that cannot be recycled (everything except bottles and cans in my opinion).
--I will only admit this to you guys: I have yet to actually partake in this system. All of my trash continues to go in one place, except the cans and bottles of course. I have been a little too preoccupied with trying not to lose my damn mind to put my tea bags in the Bio Bin (if you think that you are sensing some sarcasm here, you are right.) I am afraid to reveal this transgression to my German flat mates because I am pretty sure that they will be outraged. These people take this stuff SERIOUSLY, let me tell ya.

4. The keyboards in the computer room at school are ALL MESSED UP. There are symbols and letters that I’ve never seen in places that they don’t go. If any of you ever get an email from me with Z’s where all the Y’s should be, you now know why…

5. There are very few public trashcans around town. In the states, there is a trashcan every 20 feet. This is one of those things that you don’t realize how convenient it is until you are in a place with NO trashcans and you have to stash all your crap in your bag until you finally find one. I bet this is because all the Germans are waiting until they can go home and sort all of their said garbage into the various bins listed above…HA!

6. Nothing is open on Sundays. And I mean NOTHING. I don’t know what people do around here on Sundays! You can’t even go out and buy a take-and-bake pizza from the grocery store to keep you satiated and busy if you wanted to! I find this very annoying as I am used to being able to buy whatever I want whenever I want it at home, but I am sure I will get used to this. I don’t exactly have another choice…

7. Most people around here don't use a car to get around town. Although this is a small town, it is pretty compact and there is little room for lots of auto traffic. Most people ride bikes (I have never seen so many bikes!! When I first got here, I coulda swore I was in China...) and use the public transportation (Busses and Trams which go all over Freiburg). I can proudly say that I am becoming an expert at riding the tram; I take it to school everyday and I am no longer harboring a fear of public transportation. This Reno girl is Big City now! haha....

Well that concludes my list for today. I am SURE that I will have many more German quirks to reveal to you as my time here goes on.

My classes are going very well so far. As I mentioned before, we are in our Intensive Phase which means that the only classes we have started are German Language and EU Studies Integrative Seminar. I am in German 101 and have thus far learned little phrases that will help me get around town. My favorite one is: Ich mochte ein kaffee und ein strussel, bitte! Translating to: I would like a coffee and a strudel (DELICIOUS pastry) please! MY eating habits are the one thing that have not been shocked by culture; they are alive and quite enjoying German sausages, pastries and beer. hahaha. The Seminar class is all about the European Union. This program is based on the EU and learning about how it is organized, its legislative process, and how it fits in to the rest of the political world. I am really enjoying this course so far and am eager to see how all of our upcoming field trips around Europe illustrate what we have been learning in Seminar. Speaking of field trips, we leave for Berlin, Germany and Riga, Latvia on Tuesday! I am SO excited for this. I have heard from multiple people that Berlin is an AWESOME city and I cannot wait to experience it for myself. Riga is probably not one of the places that I would ever travel to on my own, so I think it will be great to see it while I am here.
Well I think that that is all I have for you for now. Enjoy the pictures!

Until next time,
Ali


Dinner with my buddies in my flat. I made pasta!
The view from my table at El Bolero cafe right around the corner from IES.

My AMAZING roommate Moni :)

My German vice. The milk is to die for. Please note the "3.8%"...WHOLE MILK!! Haha

The kitchen in my flat.

The kitchen in my flat.

View from the front door looking into my flat.

Our [bleak] little bedroom.

The town square.

Freiburg's famous Bachle, but this time it's my own photo!!

Fire troubles at our bar-b-que....

Standing behind the MENSA, the university cafateria. SUPER cheap food!

The anarchist commune...AKA- my neighbors :)


Moni outside our dorm. Unfortunately it is under construction, but it's a cute little place.

NO BUSH...NO NAZIS!!!
Germans are a little liberal, to say the least...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Beginning of the Adventure.

my visit with georgie on my way out

at the reno airport.

i love the window seat.

i saw sami at the frankfurt airport!!

the garden at my school in freiburg.

garden pt. II


I realize that this entry should have probably gone before the previous one, but I simply forgot! Here are some pictures I took on my trip over the Atlantic and when I first arrived in Freiburg.





Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jet Laggin'

A typical Street in Freiburg...So Cute!

Vineyards in a public park downtown. Freiburg is famous amongst
Germans for its exceptional wine and beautiful vineyards!

The Munster, Frieburg's Claim To Fame!
Good Evening Friends.

Today's blog will have to be quite short as I have not slept enough in the past few days (I have no idea how many...I have no idea what time it is, even) and, therefore, my intellectual capabilities at this time are extremely limited.

I left Reno at 1:30pm on a flight to Denver, CO on August 31st. Now of course THAT flight was late (45 minutes late to be exact) so by the time I got to Denver, I was in a bit of a panic thinking that I was screwing up my first international travel experience. I hauled ass (sorry for the language, Dad) through the Denver Airport, which is quite large. I made it to my gate as everyone was boarding and hopped on like a pro. My 10 hour trip from Denver to Frankfurt went very quickly, probably because I slept for about 6 of those hours and did crossword puzzles the other 4! (I get the super easy puzzles; it really boosts my confidence!). The food was yummy and I sat next to a really sweet German lady who helped me practice my German pronunciation and let me in on some little cultural secrets. I got off in Frankfurt and had to go through customs and cross into a different terminal to catch my short flight into Basel, Switzerland. I was nervous about having trouble getting through customs, but the seriously just looked at my passport and shoved me through. They’ll let anyone in these days! Haha. While walking through the FRANKFURT airport, I hear some call out my name. "WHAT!?" you say...."But you are in Germany!?" Yes, I know this. I was thinking the same. I turn around to investigate and see my friend Sami from USD standing there waving like a little kid. He just happened to be waiting to catch his flight to Madrid in the same terminal as me. I know, I know, so wierd! We grabbed a quick coffee and then I headed over to catch my flight to Basel.

The flight was just about an hour long so of course it was on one of those planes that is the size of an almond... I am really not afraid of flying at all, but the possibility of death always lingers close on those flights. Fortunately, death was not in the cards for me on the morning of September 1, so I made it to Basel safely, grabbed up my [oversized, HEAVY] bags, and got on the Freiburger Airport Bus. I think that the bus ride was about an hour, but I actually have no idea because I was totally comatose the whole time (I guess my jet lag sets in QUICK!). The bus dropped us off at the Freiburg train station and I took a 10 minute taxi ride to my school, The IES Institute. They immediately started me in with loads of orientation information and such; extremely overwhelming when you are too tired to form a sentence. The school is located in an old 19th century building which has been renovated very beautifully. The garden is awesome and the inside is brand new. Around 4pm I was shown to my dorm and allowed to get settled for like 9 seconds before the whole group left for dinner. The dorm is a bit of a ride from the school so I'll be taking the public transit to get there every day. It is a really easy system which is fortunate since I am a Reno girl at heart and public transpo just ain't our thang.

Not to be a complainer, but I got the short end of the stick in the dorm department (at least compared to all of my previous ones in SD). My building is a renovated French barrack from when France occupied the territory in the early '90s. It is clean but that whole military thing kinda ruins the mood for me. I'll put up some pictures soon, but trust me when I say that you guys aren't missing out on much. I gotta get some flowers in here ASAP; I am about to develop seasonal depression. On the bright side though, we get the privilege of sharing a flat with other German (and international) students that go to the university in Freiburg which is pretty cool.

There are about 35 of us in my program, which is referred to as the ‘EU Program’ since our studies are focused almost entirely on the European Union. We are mostly Americans but there are a few international students as well. We went to a pizza place where I ordered a 'Pizza Pepperoni' (a safe choice, right?). NOT. That baby came out with chilies all over it. Actual green chilies. Yikes! Well, of course I ate it (I am a Feroah, after all). Actually it was pretty delicious. There is a local brewery here called Ganter Beer and I had a stein of that. It tasted like metal at first (I was told that is because it's on tap...I told that person that I'd rather drink warm milk than suck on a quarter.), but after a few sips that ick subsided. The alcohol was clearly doing its job. Ha! I'll keep ya'll updated on my European alcohol adventures. As far as I can tell, most of the other kids in my program have hardly had a sip of alcohol in their lives (I cannot say the same, much to my parents' dismay) so this whole “it’s legal to drink" thing will probably get very entertaining for me as I watch them "find their limits". (Don’t worry Mom & Dad, I've already found mine. Let's just say that I won't be needing to spend a large portion of my money on booze since it only takes one drink to do the trick! I obviously have my mother’s tolerance for alcohol…).

There are so many little cultural quirks that totally puzzle/excite me! For instance, they recycle EVERYTHING here. Seriously, the system is more confusing than my senior calculus class. It's a joke. But hey, maybe I'll learn their ways and come back as a more environmentally conscious American (God knows we need 'em...). Also, Germans don't smile. Not in their conversations with one another and DEFINITELY not to strangers. Word on the street is that it's simply a "cultural difference", but I just think that their faces don't easily form a smile. Just a thought... We as Americans do it all the time, probably a lot more than we realize. I need to stop that right away for fear of tagging myself as a foreigner! Better get my nasty face on... :) There are so many other little things about this place that are so different and so interesting; I will log them as I think of them, just for the entertainment value!

I am currently sitting in my [bleak little] room in my PJs after an outrageously long day. It's 10pm on the 2nd of September and I will be crawling into my child-size bed shortly! I've included are some pictures to give you a better idea of my glorious reality! So much for that short blog thing...

Enjoy my friends.

Always, Ali

Window Sill in a French-Style Neighborhood.

Freiburg's new pedestrian/bike bridge and the Black Forrest in the distance!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Google's Version of my Future Home

Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany

The streams of water that run through the cobbleston streets of Freiburg. According to the locals, it's a right of passage to stumble through one of these on one's way home from a late night of debauchery. I'll let you know how this goes for me....

Arial view of the city. Freiburg is famous for the Munster, the large church in the center. Google it.


Incredible!


Look DOWN DOWN DOWN to the bottom of Germany...where France and Switzerland meet Deutchland...BINGO! Freiburg!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I am one lucky girl...


Ma Boy.



PB, July '09

Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me. Love, Quadia









A WONDERFUL AFTERNOON OF BRIE, BAGGETTES, BABY SQUIRRELS, AND DIET COKE... THOSE GIRLS REALLY KNOW WHAT I LIKE.
TO MA LADIES - INFINITE Xs AND Os

he's the Boss...