She was making a dumb face, and I didn’t want her to be THAT mad at me, so I covered it.

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“Oh, those are neat statues….oh…they’re naked. Greeeeeeaaaaaaat.” 

Hello there! Long time no see. Between final presentations (both of which went splendidly, thanks for asking), the thesis, and Cary Beth’s visit, there’s either been no time for computering, or too much time that I’m required to sit behind this stupid thing, thus making me reluctant to spend more time behind it when I have the choice.

Cary Beth took a million pictures while she was here that will go into a beautiful scrapbook that she’s undoubtedly already started assembling. I, lacking her artistic eye, will leave the scrapbook to wow you visually, and I’ll rely on my preferred medium: the written word. Below you have a few pictures from our week, interspersed with quotes from Cary Beth, Nathan, and me to give you an idea of what transpired. Cary Beth’s observations will be in quotation marks, whereas mine and Nathan’s, having taken place on Google Hangouts, will be tagged with our names.

 

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Upon arriving at my dorm: “Oh, this is actually pretty nice. I guess I can stay here.” THANKS.

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This pretty much sums up the first day. And all subsequent ones.

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Kate Hardin: We biked 12 miles today. Now CB is icing her butt.

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“This isn’t vacation. I’m renaming this week fat camp a la Kate.”

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Cary Beth being burned by dragon fire at East Side Gallery. Unfortunately, she seems to have deleted the many other iterations of this photo. She kept complaining that they were too corny. OH REALLY?

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“My butt was just having an involuntary spasm.”

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“Ew there’s grit in my face. This must be what the Dust Bowl felt like.”

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“OH MY GOD this is not what my feet are supposed to look like! They’re normally very dainty.”

 

 

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Have you ever had Turkish ice cream? It contains a substance that makes it really stretchy, such that you can eat it with a knife and fork, should you so choose (but why would you?). Cary Beth thought this guy’s tricks (see video below) were HILARIOUS, and her laughter egged him on. And on. And on. And that’s the story of how I paid 2 euros for a stranger to put chocolate ice cream on my nose.

 

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Kate Hardin: CB has blisters. “Ow! It really hurts when I push on it. I wonder how much a cab would be to the train station? Don’t you want more time at the milk bar [in the morning]? What if I just gave you all of my euros?”

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This is a super kitschy (can you tell?) restaurant in Poland. There was only one other party when we were there, a rowdy group of maybe 8 people who were going through Absolut like it was their job (why Swedish vodka? Have they no national pride?). At one point, Cary Beth laughed out loud at their shenanigans, and they froze in their tracks to imitate her laughter. Because somehow we were still the loud ones.

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She calls the Polish currency (zlota, if you care) by a different name every time…

 

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…not that I’m much better.

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“OK, you go run through the forest like a little rabbit, and I’ll do the beach.”

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Don’t mind if I do.

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Nathan Bowman: this sounds like a fantastic way to spend a night in Rügen…drinking wine, watching the rain, listening to the ocean… Kate Hardin: with the dulcet tones of Kenny Chesney emanating from the sauna…

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Cary Beth took this creative picture…

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…but I prefer my version.

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Kate Hardin: well, we got the suitcase closed. But as I was explaining why we might want to saran wrap it shut, the zipper broke.

I was hunched over my (read: Cary Beth’s) bed streaming the game on my laptop, and the video started buffering just before Germany’s final penalty shot. So fireworks started going off, and the people in the building next door started cheering and stomping their feet in Teutonic celebration a full 30 seconds before Cary Beth and I actually saw the winning shot happen.

Cary Beth thought perhaps people should wait to celebrate until Germany’s actually won the tournament, rather than just having qualified for the second-to-last round. I pointed out that if they did that and then Germany didn’t win, the fans would have bought all those fireworks for nothing. “Oh God,” she answered, “What do they do if Germany loses? Hang themselves in the streets?”

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I rented her a steed from a website that’s essentially the AirBnB of rental bikes. We went over to pick it up yesterday afternoon, but unfortunately got lost on the way. The owner had an Italian name, so I’d assumed that he’d be a young artist or similar lost soul from Italy (because this place is crawling with them).

When we arrived, I went into the courtyard and bumped hands with the owner (because his hands were covered in bike grease). He introduced himself, and then observed, “You’re late. Normally I would be upset, but today I’m working, so it’s OK.”

Definitely German.

 

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She’s a natural! (That’s The Very Excellent Velosiped, by the way–we swapped because the seat on the rental bike is a little (really) wonky.) To the right we have the Reichstag, the iconic government building. 

 

Details aren’t important unless I get it (keep your fingers as crossed as they will go!! You know I mean it because I used 2 exclamation points! Three! Four! Oh no, it’s recursive!)– for now the important bit is German forms of address, which are a little silly.

In the US, of course, you pretty much start out with Mr. or Ms. and keep that until it (sometimes) is replaced by Dr., at which point you stop. Not so in Germany. Here, you start out with just Mr. or Ms., but then you can accumulate more titles over the course of your life. In that way, they’re sort of like concert T-shirts. Or melanomas.

And that’s the story of how I wound up writing a letter to “Very Respected Herr Professor Doctor Doctor Pulvermüller.”

I imagine that at some point (which he is probably fast approaching), you have enough time while your name is being introduced at conferences and such to do a little of this:

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“Allow me to introduce our next speaker, Frau Professor Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Emeritus…”

 

 

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Traveling as an Anglophone is always stressful for me. Upon hearing our accents, people assume that we’re loud, superficial, ignorant, and insistent that things happen on our terms, as if the point of travel weren’t to experience the world on someone else’s. I’ve been railing against these stereotypes ever since my first time in Berlin, when my friends informed me that I was “pretty smart and thin for an American.” It took a while for that sting to wear off. But for all my defenses of English-speakers, sometimes I can’t avoid seeing how we got the reputation.

I knew the Liverpudlian in the bunk below mine and I would get along as soon as I finished asking her what her story was. She had hobbies, she told me–“mostly gluten-free.” Well, knock me over with a feather. I have hobbies, too. I like biking, playing music, knitting, and cooking. In fact, except for the baking and brewing (and possibly horseback riding), my hobbies are mostly gluten-free, too!

She (can I call her Pudly?) had already been in Rome for a few days and was curious to know my itinerary. I replied that I didn’t have any concrete plans and planned to spend the first day just learning the lay of the land. Then I asked her for a restaurant recommendation, since I’d been up and foodless for a few hours, and it was getting (in Nathan’s words) to stabbin’ time. She replied that she’d been sorely disappointed in the food in Rome (could that be connected to the gluten-free thing? Surely not.)–even yesterday’s English breakfast had been nothing but hot steaming disappointment, and how hard could it possibly be to fry an egg with some beans? I gave a sympathetic but noncommittal nod.

Although Pudly had been unable to help to quell my morning hunger, she was eager to suggest some activities for my day. I was only too happy to oblige, since the sum total of my preparation for this trip consisted of downloading a PDF map of the city on airport wifi, which I then–oops–deleted. I pulled out the map I’d received at check-in, and she smoothed it out on the table, furrowing her brows as she got her bearings. “Walk along here,” she said, indicating a broad thoroughfare, “until you get to this building. That’s the Coliseum.” She went on to explain that from there,  I could take the metro to the Pantheon and the Vatican, two other Roman points of interest.

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“My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome…”

As social norms dictate, I asked a follow-up question: “Do you know if they’re all on the same metro line?” She didn’t know, but expressed her confidence that I could figure it out one I got to the station. Leaning back over the map, she retraced the route with her finger. “Yes, Coliseum, Pantheon, and the Vatican. That’s it, really.”

That’s it? Really?