Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bretts sunshine mid-week half-time report:

Hello, how’s the daily grind going? We all sometimes get sucked into our own predictable daily schedules: the 7:13 monkey suite parade, the 11:15 banana, and the 4:45 cage cleaning. I almost got lost in the circus, but now with even more acts to perform I feel that I have gained more control over my time; as its value just tripled over the past week. Wednesdays will now become my halftime breaks where I can relax in-between German verbs and French theorists and just appreciate the near kaleidoscopic hues of father time and the confusing smell of one hand clapping. Its funny how anything, after a while, can turn into the same type of passive registration akin to watching the box that you forget to think, or at least I forget to think. I mean the type of thinking that bridges two seemingly disconnected ideas together forming new concepts or the act of trying to recount a past event with some sense of arrangement. Yesterday my afternoon instructor, Hans Bauman, explained to our group of 17 students the difference between the American dream and the German dream, him being the only German and I the only American.

Hans with his deep booming voice and Gandolf like appearance seems to cast as many jokes and puns as he does grammar and history. The American dream is the rags to riches archetype, says he. The German dream is the life of a perpetual student who only approaches work when absolutely necessary. In one generation 60% of the German population will be retirement age, and since Germans are too smart for having noisy expensive children flopping around there book muffled abodes, very few actual ‘Germans’, in the since of both sides of the coins genealogy hailing from the mother land, will be around to make the rules or teach their interpretations of how things should be. And that is where I come in. I of course am not interested what anyone ‘should’ do with themselves, but only in the lenses through which people view their world and in the dismantling of what looks universal in order to revel its hidden controls of the consciousness. Plenty of opportunities in the future await with many exciting twists along the way.

Example, how will the language sound with a generation of foreigners taking over the pronunciation of the German ‘ich’, which involves a tricky back of the tongue maneuver to pull off, with their ‘ish’ like in ‘fish’. The large Turkish population here in Wiesbaden uses the ‘ish’ form. You can also spot a Turkish youth immediately by their mullet haircut, grey sweatpants, and black fanny pack. One of them told me that the ‘old’ German pronunciation of ‘ich’ is for farmers and the ‘ish’ form is the more modern form. I asked my morning instructor if this was the case, which produced a laugh and a sigh.

Example, Christian from my morning group comes from the Ivory Coast and like most of the ‘auslanders’ says ‘ish’ instead of ‘ich’. In order to get to know everyone in our groups we sing and dance in circles and play games, lots of fun. One such game is ‘ich bin die König’ or ‘I am the king’. We have cards with different adjectives and nouns, which need to be added into a sentence with what ever verb that the ‘king’ is holding. Christian was the king. ‘Ich heiße König’, he said, ‘Ich heiße....’ he couldn’t go any further since everyone’s chuckling spilt into laughter, but in a ‘laughing with not at’ type of laughter, as my mom would say. Since he pronounced his ‘ich’ with an ‘ish’ he was effectively saying ‘I am the shit king’.

In other news this Friday Maria and I leave for Köln to meet an old friend from Romania. The last time I was in Köln was in 2006 for Karnival with an old friend from WSU where we drank beer through horns and thought we would be 23 for ever. The massive rabbit cage is nearing completion and my moms package has now made two round trips to Germany and back, but that will have to wait until next weeks half-time report. Until next week. Viel Spaß!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, - a mere heart of stone. Charles Darwin

Good Morning!

For the last week Maria and I have been traveling through Germany to visit some friends in Leipzig and Freiburg, both incredible historical epicenters of culture and learning. Before our trip began we spent a lovely weekend with Maria’s grandfather for Easter where Maria and I spent most of the time in between banquet sized meals and church services constructing a rabbit cage for her rabbit ‘Robin’. I am starting a new blog-project that will confront topics of science, religion, history, and ideas in regards to modern and ‘post-modern’ thought and criticism so I wont go into the particulars of what I had the opportunity to witness on this site. Anyway I tried to give up eating chocolate for the two months before Easter along with Maria and her sister but we both gave up just a couple weeks before the big day, its those blasted Tobleroni’s.

Everyone who has been to Europe knows that they have wonderfully efficient and comparatively inexpensive forms of transportation. My round trip flights from Romania to Germany through wizzair cost less then the gas it would take to drive from my hometown of Gig Harbor to Pullman and back, and a quarter of the time. Anyway Germany has this site called, which has made my travels through Germany in conjunction with couchsurfer an affordable breeze. There you can find people who will be driving to where you want to go for a 10th of the cost of a train ticket but this time we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to leave to Leipzig the day after Easter. Instead we found people who wanted to share a 5-person day pass, which made our cross country train ride a mere 12 Euro kick in the pants. I love traveling through trains anyway. Trains put everything into perspective as you sit watching the rolling hills and quant villages glide by like fast-forwarding through a parade of landscapes as you sit drinking coffee and remembering the smell you would be experiencing had you been in a Romanian train. Romanian trains give you a real feeling of a cold war escape through barreling mountains and pastoral countryside’s. On the way to Leipzig, the absence of the chance that the train might breakdown sort of took the mystique away and left me with a doctored feeling of going in for a routine check-up. I had many plans for my time in Leipzig since I had been studying about this historical city in my language course, so I ripped out the two pages in my workbook to take with me as a guide, much to Marias dismay. She thought that since I ripped these pages out I could no longer resell my workbook, how silly of her.

I will not bore you with all the happenings and whatnot that have taken place in this city for the past 1000 years, there is too much anyway. So I decided to make a quick movie of places that have no historical merit but looked interesting. Yes the oldest church dates back to 1017 when the Crusades and Feudalism were all the rage. Yes Bach turned 325 years old here last March. And yes Napoleons army was defeated here in 1812 but I won’t talk about these things for Leipzig is still a living city and the ‘now’ is what’s happening. We came to visit a friend who is studying psychology and Leipzig University, the very place that produced Wilhelm Wundt who is the ‘father of experimental psychology’, along with Nietzsche and Goethe and Wagner and blah blah blah. Leipzig is only an hour’s train ride from Berlin and shares the same fragmented identity and feelings of youthful unconventionality and boundless possibilities. But Leipzig is more a students city, it’s were you go to live as an artist who doesn’t want to constantly be swimming in between in the currents of ultra-reality and neo-punk Bohemianism. We visited the Spinerei, an 18th century cotton factory the biggest in Europe, turned modern art museum. In Leipzig after the reunification of Germany, many people moved out of the city, leaving more then 30,000 buildings that still remain empty, which one can now live in for free. This factory turned museum felt like an artists commune, strange entrances and doors led to even more remarkable artistic expressions, everything and everyone seemed a piece of the whole art project. Artists sleep in one of the free buildings and paint or draw and meet with others from around the globe who are in the ‘know’. I met an artist from Chicago who is having some of his work shown and we got straight to talking about post-modern impressions and about the ‘ultra-modern’ and the fragmentation of knowledge and the ways art is trying to express or critique it, I love artists!

Our time in Leipzig seemed surreal and soon a mere memory as we found ourselves crammed in a car heading for Freiburg, our next destination. Unfortunately when car-pooling you can’t chose the people who swim along for a ride, even when one lady takes the space of two but pays for only one. We arrived in Freiburg late from a 5-hour ride and walked along the ancient roads toward an old friend of Marias who was once a professor at my future university.

Freiburg was founded as a free market town on the Dreisam River, right on the western edge of the Black Forest. Again too much to say about this incredible city, according to statistics the city is the sunniest and warmest in Germany. I like this place because the people seemed to have always been forward thinking, respected education, and wouldn’t stand for anyone who tried to limit their freedom. In the 13th century, the local Count tried to raise taxes and limit certain freedoms, which resulted in the Freiburgers using catapults to destroy the count’s castle. The count complained to his brother-in-law the Bishop of Strasbourg, who was according to legend stabbed to death by a butcher named Hauri on July 29, 1299 for his subsequent interfering in local affairs. Freiburg was fed up with their lords and purchased their independence from them, but not from the Black Plague which ravaged the city centuries later. They now have the only Mayor who is a member of the green party and is known as an ‘eco-city’. It also has one of the oldest Universities in Germany, Albert-Ludwigs University, where I plan on attending in a couple of months. My meeting with the faculty went well and now I just have to receive my letters of recommendation and official transcripts, and that’s that.

I like Freiburg because in the historical center every nook and cranny is decorated with ornamentation from the cobble stone streets through the falkworkhouses and steel light stands up to the pointed peaked rims and fluted edges of every building. For the past few days this experience was added to music as every corner held some artist breathing fresh life into its ancient past. It’s from growing up in the absence of craftsmanship and ornamentation that marks ‘modern’ architecture that makes living in Freiburg so refreshing.

Well now we are off for one last trip around the center before our return to Mainz and Wiesbaden, a new semester awaits and sooooo much is in store for the coming months it will be hard just to keep it on paper. Have a wonderful week and enjoy the spring!