Category Archives: Germany

You can call me ‘Princess Morgan’

Betwixt gorging myself on Dexter episodes and discovering that omelets are actually pretty easy to make, even for those culinarily challenged, it seems I have become a slacker (in the way of writing). There are verifiable and concrete reasons for this (new-found? no, probably not) slacker status, however, so don’t be too hard on me.

But anyways, without delving into those reasons–you’ll just have to trust me–there was something that happened in January that I’ve been meaning to write about for awhile…a simple incident of a day made better by someone’s innate kindness. Unfortunately, it was my day that was way crappy but thankfully, through cosmic intervention or something, I crossed paths with someone who bestowed upon me free hot chocolate and other goodies thus rerouting the entire direction of my day.

To make an unnecessarily long and complicated story short, my flight from America to Dresden included 4 different planes. The last one was supposed to fly from Frankfurt to Dresden and land me back in my modest and somewhat lonely dorm room around 10 am or so. Because of the terrible timing of a snowstorm, my flight from Frankfurt was canceled–important to note here, though, is that NO ONE TOLD ME. I sat sitting around the airport like a moron waiting for my flight until I got the idea 15 minutes before we were supposed to take off to, oh, I don’t know, ask why the monitors said nothing about my flight. Then and only then did I find out that the plane was permanently grounded until further notice. JIGGA WHAT!?

Morgan was unhappy and on the verge of tears (that’s just what happens after a million hour long stressful travel day ending with a canceled flight). After finally retrieving a piece of good information from the troll behind the counter, I raced all over the airport, without my luggage because it was still on my loser, grounded plane, trying to find the train station that was somewhere underground. I could take a train from Frankfurt to Dresden..AWESOME! It was just gonna take 5 hours. Eh…not so awesome.

After finally finding the god-forsaken train, I sat down and promptly put on my headphones to try and slip into a coma so I wouldn’t have to think anymore. A few minutes after the train left, a man tapped on my shoulder…he was older, wearing a blue suit and matching hat, and although my mind probably invented this last detail just because it would’ve been perfect and adorable, little white gloves.  It was the ticket controller and he was asking for my ticket, a routine procedure. I removed my headphones, pulled out my ticket, handed it to him and on impulse, decided to tell him that my name is Morgan. (“Wie ‘Guten Morgen’!” Translation: “As in, Good Morning!”…My name means ‘morning’ in German and it makes for a wonderful way of having people remember my name.)

You know how with some people you can just tell if you’ll get along? That’s how it was with this older gentleman…even though I was in a foul mood, his light-hearted manner put me immediately at ease and I just felt compelled to tell him my name because I was almost certain he’d get a kick out of it, which he did.

(Note: the following conversation was in German…well, broken German on my part, but I don’t feel like translating to and from German, so I’ll just write it in English.) Continue reading

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I sack-hopped like Santa Claus.

Dresden should be applauded for the incredible ways in which the Christmas season is celebrated. Why, you ask?

One word: Weihnachtsmannsackhüpfstaffelmarathon. No, seriously.

This is an event sponsored by one of the local student clubs, Bärenzwinger, that encourages members of other student clubs to take part in an annual Sack-Hopping Relay. Dressed as Santa Claus.

Starting the day bright and early at 9 am, the teams assemble in their respective clubs and begin migrating to the Bärenzwinger club in Altstadt, which is located right next to where the race is to go down. (Just as a time frame, sack-hopping teams start gathering around 9:30 or so and the actual sack-hopping extravaganza begins at 2. I’m going to reiterate here that this event happens in a park right outside of a student club…drinking is strongly encouraged and with so much time in between everyone’s arrival and the actual race, staying entirely sober isn’t often accomplished.)

In hopes of maintaining some form of grace in my mother’s eyes, I’ll assert here that I was not drunk for my sack-hopping debut…my stomach was already a bit unsettled and I don’t do well with alcohol before, say, noon. But I did witness everyone around me slowly, and in some cases quickly, drift off into oblivion (some of whom drifted so far off into that oblivion they were unable to finish their part of the relay on his/her own and had to be carried by hand and foot in order to pass the baton to me…I won’t name any names here, but it was Alex.)

Continue reading

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My Goals

My earliest memory of soccer: Recess. 9 years old. Stuck as the goalie. No kneepads or helmet (both of which are absolute necessities for any sport I attempt).

Because my team was actually sort of talented for fourth graders, the ball was kept on the other side of the field for most of the game–needless to say, I was bored. My solution to boredom was one that I still employ today: sit in grass, play with bugs, look for worms. (In that order.)

After locating some noteworthy specimen and pondering the strength of their exoskeletons, I looked up just in time to notice a change in the direction of the ball. Its path was clear, as was my fate. I stared at the ball for a few seconds before realizing that I should at least try to block the shot but as I tried to stand up, I only managed to make it to my knees as the ball violently imprinted its Adidas logo into my stomach. Thankfully, I blocked the shot. I also unintentionally blocked my airway. When the ball landed on my lungs, all the air was pushed out resulting in an attractive and almost frightening display of gasping, typically reserved only for the finest films.

Anyways, I bring this story up only because today, my friends, was the first day that I played soccer since that chilly autumn afternoon in grade school. Was I any better? No. Did I try really hard? Absolutely. Did it hurt? Without a doubt. But the most important question…was it fun? And the answer is YES! A joyful, resounding, glorious YES! Betwixt my constant, “Sorry…” and “Oops, my bad…” and “You’re not on my team?” ‘s, I somehow managed not to completely irritate everyone on the field while having fun myself.

Maybe one day I’ll kick the ball in the intended direction, but for now I’m just happy because nobody made me be the goalie… 🙂 All in all, I’d say it was a successful day.

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the Gutz

The Gutz: (n.)  the bar that sits quaintly at the corner of Gutzkowstraße and Reichenbachstraße, contributing most to my ineffectual study habits while simultaneously improving my German (albeit with the help of Dresden’s own: Feldschlößchen [beer]). I also live in the same building.

This bar has witnessed many a terrible dart game involving myself and some poor, unsuspecting German who thought that maybe he would be able to play a real game of darts with an American girl. (Ever since my brother threw a dart in my arm circa 1994, darts have never proven to be a real strong point of mine, but you know, every throw of a dart brings me a step further away from that traumatic day…) This bar has also witnessed entirely too much of Morgan’s infamous laugh, which has also proliferated with the help of that special brew, Feldschlößchen, promoting entirely too much of what I like to call “Morgan-hating” by some of the “special” guys who work/hang out there.

As you can probably tell, this entry is going to be a tribute to the Gutz, specifically to two of the characters who, at the moment, have proved to be quite the comedians. To continue my “modus operandi” if you will, I will select nicknames for the two–I think it’s best to protect the identity of those I’m about to exploit. So let’s call them “Martini” and “Meatball**.” (I hope you two can figure that out.)

I think a great first story will be one from last week, Wednesday night. Our American group had just finished grilling out behind our dorm (YUM, BRATWURST) and Alyssa and I thought it a good idea to sip on a goodnight beer before our class the next morning. Our idea was to go to the Gutz and simply buy one, drink it, and be done with it. This never works. We knew this…but we ignored it. Actually, I ignored it. Alyssa was smart and left at a reasonable hour. I, on the otherhand, got sucked into the Gutz until entirely too late because of our dear friends Martini and Meatball.

Most of it was a fun, enjoyable evening. Laughter and smiles were had by all…but then my laughter, as it so often does, turned into snorts and that’s when “die Scheiße” hit the fan. It all seemed to happen in slow motion…Martini crinkled his nose at me, cocked his head, and busted out into one of those humiliatingly loud “earth-quake-of-the-body” laughs from behind the bar. I’m pretty sure he almost dropped the mug he was cleaning.  Meatball, who was sitting next to me, did the exact same thing except his face plunged into his crossed arms that rested on the bar and he looked like he was having a seizure as he struggled for air.

Seriously. Now, you’d think that this reaction was just a teeny bit unwarranted…all I did was inhale air differently while I laughed. Everyone snorts nowadays. At least in America. Apparently people don’t snort in Germany. (And women don’t burp here either, which Meatball reminds me of everytime I let one loose. “German women don’t burp,” he says. “I’m not a German woman,” I respond. It happens often.)

To make a long story short, Martini and Meatball would not let up. From then on it was all about my snorts–imitation after imitation after imitation. Ha. Ha. Ha. So obviously the only option for me was to hit Meatball (I couldn’t reach Martini, but I would’ve if he weren’t behind the bar). And thus started what I like to call World War III.

I hit Meatball. Meatball hit me. I hit Meatball. Meatball hit me. Etc. Etc. Etc. (Now I know a few of you will probably be angry at Meatball for hitting a girl, but it was all in good fun. It didn’t actually hurt. That bad. And…we’re all for equal rights here, I’m sure.) After that everything was pretty much a blur but from what I hear, I ended up “kicking” Meatball somewhere I shouldn’t have. I don’t remember doing this but I do remember him being a big BABY about it. Amidst his whines, I was inadvertently shoved into the corner of a doorway, later bruising my heel. I honestly didn’t even know that was possible…but it is. Just like swallowing, you never really realize how often you use your heel when you walk…like, all the time.

Martini watched this the entire time without intervening and without ceasing his laughter. Thanks a lot. I ended up pouting about my heel, Meatball was whining about his…you know, and Martini sat comfortably behind the bunker that was the bar. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty memorable night. The day after, I walked with an adorable limp and Meatball reported that his hangover really didn’t work well with his professor. Everybody wins.

I’m sure you’re intrigued about more of the goings-on at the Gutz, so I’ll  gossip as frequently as I possibly can. Be sure to stay tuned and you’ll be sure to stay entertained. Until then, my friends.

**Just as a note, when I say “Meatball,” I use the term affectionately. It has nothing to do with weight, body fat, or any other negative connotation. Just so we are all clear. In future entries, I might even consider a name change…we shall see.

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A discourse on notes (do re mi)

I am getting frustrated! The more I try to speak this language, the worse I become. Also the more I try to speak this language, the worse I get at English AND the stronger my tonsillitis becomes. Perhaps German is bad for my health…

But I will keep trying.

On the tonsillitis note, I’ve got it again. I went to the doctor yesterday to get more medicine because I don’t think I was given enough for my last bout, so hopefully this time I can destroy all the pesky little bacteria for good on a ten-day stint of some new antibiotic. It really sucks because I had to miss our excursion to Koenigstein yesterday in order to go to the doctor…so yet again, I’ve missed out and that makes me sad. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to go again when I’m healthy.

And combining the tonsillitis note and my frustration with the language note, it is SO hard to speak German with inflamed tonsils. I’m not joking or trying to get out of having to speak it, but seriously–German is such a gutteral language that produces sounds from, well, the gut, which then spout up through the back of your throat. But when the back of your throat has massive growths attached, those damn vibrations can be very painful. No good vibrations here. (Pun intended.)

On a more thoughtful note (I’ve got lots of notes today…..la la la la la), when we went to Berlin last weekend, Alyssa and I spoke about being foreigners attempting to learn a language. We concluded that native speakers of all languages are lazy. Why? Well, when you know a language, you tend take the easy way out in conversations because you don’t really have to try very hard to say what you mean because you already know how. As a foreigner, it takes much longer to digest sentences and sentence structure and verb forms etc, etc, so, obviously, foreigners must constantly be working to communicate. But while they are working so hard to communicate, they pick up so many subtleties of the new culture and language, which in turn are also working to aid communication strategies. I’m talkin’ facial expressions, hand gestures, breathing patterns, personal mannerisms…little things that a lot of people overlook whilst conversing in their native tongue. Perhaps this is common knowledge but to me, it’s somewhat thought-provoking. What if all native-speakers began to look a little closer at their language and tried to view it as foreign? I don’t mean it as a way to put oneself in the shoes of a foreigner, but just to see how many more cues and clues are available in his/her own environment. Just as a way to become more in tune with the surroundings. Just to be a little more observant.

I’m not saying that being lazy is bad. I’m not saying that being super-observant of your surroundings is good. I’m just attempting to track the process of learning a completely new language and so far, my surroundings have provided me much help as I’ve tried to dissect conversations I’ve overheard and glean meaning from them.

And on that note, I’m off to do my homework. Monday’s class requires that I give a presentation nur auf Deutsch about a painting of our choice from a museum we visited last week…oh Jesus. This should be an embarrassingly enlightening experience. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Bis bald!

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Back to School

I think my professors are trying to help me out with this blog by assigning us to write in a daily journal about our experiences. (I’ll spare you my [bad] German by excluding the weekly German summaries of the daily entries…) I hope I won’t bore you, but I’ll start with today’s activities and observations.

Today we had class with the professor who did not assign us this task of journal-keeping. He has a ponytail and he likes to ignore me. Being that there are only 4 students in the class (it’s our intensive German language class to get us comfortable before real classes start in October, so it’s only kids from the program) you’d think it would be fairly simple to spread the attention out. From what I can see, it is not. It doesn’t bother me though because it means less direct embarrassment when I have no idea what he’s talking about, which obviously happens frequently.

So anyways–class was productive and enjoyable. We talked about the different subjunctive forms and did some fun examples that I’m sure 5 year olds would scoff at. We always get a 30 minute break in the middle of class that I absolutely adore–it gives me time to contribute to my personal poverty and unhealthyness by allowing me to go to the bakery next door and buy a chocolate croissant, or in German, it’s pronounced “God’s gift to man.”

After class the four of us went to the Mensa, or dining hall, and feasted on cheap pasta for 1.50. It’s quite a deal. You pick a plate, either large or small and then pile on as much pasta and sauce as you can for a fixed price of either 1.50 for the small plate or 2.70 for the larger one. Talk about a steal. I also enjoy going to this Mensa because it is a great spot to stare at all the good-lookin German guys who value eating like I do. TU Dresden is a great university because it is like…70% male. I’m a fan.

After lunch, I came home and lounged for a bit before going to Aldi, the nearby grocery store that I love so much for the simple fact that it is so unbelievably cheap. Today I bought some apple juice, iced peach tea, gummi bears, yogurt, and something else I can’t remember for only 3.50. 3.50!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me!? That’s outrageous!!! And awesome. And I approve in every way. I will support Aldi until the day I die. (Ignore the fact that the only kinds of cereal they have are called Honey Balls, White Flakes, and Chocolate Pieces…in this case, I will sacrifice selection gladly.)

On the way to Aldi, however, I noted a distinct similarity about Germany in relation to America–the construction workers have no inhibitions when it comes to young ladies walking by. They, too, find it necessary to display outward signs of masculinity, such as throwing huge wooden planks off of scaffolding and then grunting loudly to make sure you witnessed it. Think King Kong. The only big difference between American and German construction workers is that the German ones are confined in fences, making you feel safe as you walk by, like you’re simpy making a trip to the zoo and you’re watching the lions frolick. It’s fun to watch from behind the fence, but as soon as it’s removed you become a viable target. No thank you.

That’s been my day so far. After Aldi I came home and napped. I meant to start on my homework, but we all know that never goes as planned. As my friend Chris said on the first or second day of this trip, “You gotta sleep when you can, man.” I can dig that.

Hopefully this hasn’t been to dreadfully boring. Tomorrow should have some interesting stuff in it, as I think we’re going to this club called Flower Power tonight. We went there last Monday and it was incredible–two floors of straight up dancing. The first floor played only classic rock and oldies (my jamz) and the upstairs played only German techno (quite the experience) and outside there was a bier garten. Everyone is bound to have a good time here, so with any luck, I’ll have some juicy things to write about tomorrow.

Bis bald!

OH YEAH! Check out some of my pictures that I’ve uploaded on Facebook just last night, if you haven’t done so already. They’re pretty cool and entertaining too, I’m sure.

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Is tonsillitis different in Germany?

I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had it in America. Only in Germany. Right now. As we (or I) speak (or write).

It all started out innocently enough as a scratchy throat–tonsillitis can fool you like that. “It’s just the changing weather,” you think, “or the combination of beer and partying from last night–I’ll be fine soon.” Oh boy are you wrong. The next thing you know, it’s two days later and you can’t even swallow water because it feels like you’re pushing daggers down your throat. Yes–it’s really that bad and no–I’m not exaggerating.

I knew something was wrong when my throat felt like it was expanding and strange lumps began appearing. I skyped my dad and asked for his advice, which is always the same: fluids. Drink lots of fluids. So before bed, I drank 1 liter of water. Obviously this meant a midnight trip to the bathroom, which inevitably resulted in a bruised knee from running into my dresser and then a squashed finger from getting it caught in the door. Awesome, things are clearly looking up.

I woke up Wednesday morning with tonsils the size of ping pong balls, I kid you not. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life–just imagine: you open your mouth, look inside, and immediately you are confronted by a huge globular growth in the back of your throat that may as well be your long-lost twin. Scariest. Shit. Ever.

Next scariest thing: going to a German doctor. Thankfully, my wonderful RA went with me to translate because, unfortunately, I am not yet fluent in German. After waiting for what seemed to be forever (you never realize how slow time can go when you can’t swallow…) I heard the doctor bark my last name and Natalie and I shuffled into his office. After getting the basics of my general health down, he told me to open my mouth so he could check my tonsils. Natalie had told me beforehand that German doctors tend to under diagnose so as to not over-prescribe medicine to patients, so I was expecting a “meeh, not too bad” after my inspection. Instead, what I got was a, “Oh mein Gott. Das ist huge. You need a specialist.”

So we went to a specialist. She looked at my throat, immediately diagnosed it as tonsillitus, gave me my prescriptions, and sent me on my way. The German doctors here are quite efficient, there’s no denying that.

Currently, I’m feeling alright. I’m alive and for that I am thankful. I’d just like to know who in charge thought it would be funny to assign Morgan tonsillitis while she’s in Germany? Because seriously, it’s not funny. There’s not a whole lot to eat when you can’t swallow things, so I’ve been sucking on gummy bears and slurping some strange German version of applesauce for two days. Just a little while ago, actually, I was able to eat my first bit of real food: a döner (the German equivalent of a quesadilla or burrito, just with lamb and vegetables and a yummy yogurt sauce). I can’t tell you how delicious real food is, but I have a new found appreciation for it.

I’m not completely healed by any means, my throat still looks like a weird petri dish, but at least I can swallow. Tomorrow we go to Berlin for the weekend and I can only pray that my throat will heal and I can soon be normal. Well, relatively normal.

Bis bald!

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I fell asleep and missed the party.

It’s true. I’m in Germany for one week and I fall asleep before the party on the first Saturday in town. Sort of pathetic.

Here I am, it’s 2:20 am and I’m sitting in my room drinking a beer I just bought from the pub down the hall and I can’t find anyone. I really feel like I missed out…not only because they went to the Neustadt (newer part of town) for some bars and clubs and stuff but because there was a cute German boy from Munich with them who likes me. He’s leaving tomorrow to go back home. Dagnabit! I missed my chance.

If you want to hear a funny story of a conversation being completely lost in translation, though, I could simply recount our encounter last night…

So everyone is at the Gutz, the bar in our dorm, because it’s our new friend Denis’ 28th birthday and he was having a blowout birthday bash (Denis is a German visiting here for the week who used to take classes here at TU Dresden). First there was the grilling of wurst and pork, then came the ADVENTURETOUR! consisting of a guided (per Denis) tour of ruins from the DDR, the roof of a building with probably 5009 stairs, and then the trek to the top of a hill where we could sit on a monument and overlook the city of Dresden. It was awesome. Then we all went back to the Gutz for more drinking and what Denis called “dancingtime.”

Back to the lost in translation stuff…so here we are at the Gutz, dancing and drinking and generally having a good time. I’m eyein this cute German guy who looked like a Ken doll almost, fully knowing that we would have trouble communicating if it ever got to that point. Eventually, conversation was inevitable, as his friends concocted a plan to leave us the only two sitting at the bar. Fine by me, but how do I communicate with someone whose English is only a little bit better than my German? Uhhhh sign language.

We tried talking first. He tried to speak English and he actually did pretty well but was convinced that what he was saying was, and I quote, “there is a boundary and I am in it,” meaning he felt inhibited by the language barrier. Alright, I said. I’m here to learn German to let’s get to steppin, right? Well I tried but as soon as he said something, his accent took over and I could not understand a lick of what he was saying. I just sat at the bar in utter confusion as he looked at me, also utterly confused. Yet we were still attracted, so you can’t just leave that stuff hangin’, obviously. I began to speak pretty simple English and we finally got the semblance of a conversation going.

Note: When you speak with some Germans, you will see right away that small talk is a no-no. With this boy, we’ll call him Friedrich, I tried to keep the conversation going with small talk, but all I got for a response was, “I do not care.” It came off harsher than he wanted, I think, but it was still sort of hilarious to get a, “I do not care, why does that matter?” when I told him my ancestors were from 20 minutes away from Dresden. Because, obviously, that matters.

So that’s pretty much how the night went. He ended up thinking I was very funny and “sehr schoen–ist unglaublich,” so he kept talking to me and that made me happy. It was interesting having to deal with someone who thought that 88% of all that you said was unnecessary…but it was actually hilarious and quite flattering all at the same time. Sometimes when he didn’t know what to say to my sarcasm, he would just do one of those playful face touches…you know, the thing that dads used to do in the 50s to their sons. Or what Humphrey Bogart did to that chick in Casablanca towards the end before she left–the “here’s to lookin at you, kid” face nudge. It made me laugh because that has never before happened to me while being hit on.

To be real, I’m pretty sure he liked me only because I look kind of like the ideal German girl minus the Oktoberfest outfit…blonde, blue-eyed and tall, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. We were supposed to hang out again tonight, but as I said earlier, I fell asleep like a loser and missed all of tonight’s activities and I’m heartbroken. This man could’ve been my future husband! Now we’ll never know.

I guess I’ll just have to settle for the next Brad Pitt look-a-like German who comes my way. Ahhh missed opportunities are sad. But I have a feeling that in a city with, as far as I can see, way more males than females (and good-looking males at that), I’ll be just fine. After all, I’ve only been here six days and the city is very, very big. As they say, there are always more fish in the sea.

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