Allow me to briefly describe the past two weeks before expounding in greater detail the events of this weekend.
Class started. We took a placement test to determine our current level and were sorted into three groups. I’m in the advanced group with 13 other students. We are led at a breakneck pace through the intricacies of German grammar by a man known (and feared) by all as Herr Dörr.
What?, you say, disbelieving, You’re afraid of that guy? You skeptically eye my short German teacher and notice how the top of his head gleams and that his voice is soft and you wonder what on earth there is to be afraid of. Do not underestimate the power Herr Dörr, ye mere mortals. The man is incredibly smart and expects the students under his care to keep up with him. He’s a good teacher, too, which is good, else we’d all be stranded by now. I can tell you, as someone he called “the deception of my life” the other day after I delivered a wrong answer, that he takes is job seriously. Not so seriously that he actually means that I’ve crushed his dreams by arriving at a false conclusion, but serious enough that the atmosphere in class is occasionally a tad desperate. His sarcasm is a weapon of mass destruction, but at the same time he’s funny and (mostly) approachable and you can tell his main goal is to help us.
Help us with what?, you ask. Lemme tell you what: the DSH. Die Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang. A test designed to determine whether or not you’ll be able to cut it taking classes at the Universität. There are three levels someone can pass on, 1 being the lowest but proof that you should be able to survive in classes taught in German and 3 indicating that you’re a level 99 language mage (no, those are not technical terms). My goal is to place into Level 3, but I’ll be happy with level 2. The test is a week from Monday. I need to short out my confusion with tenses in Passiv Konjunktiv II before then and I’ll feel as confident as I can be.
All in all, class is fun. Intensive German grammar? Yes, please. All this more difficult stuff that I didn’t tackle in-depth before is a strain on the brain, but mastering it is the greatest feeling of triumph.
Otherwise, we took two class trips in the past two weeks. We visited the Hambacher Schloss and learned about the cradle of German democracy before spending time in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse that same day. This week we were supposed to visit a concentration camp in the mountains and then go to Strasburg to shake the depression off, buuuuuut it snowed in the mountains this week and the camp was closed. Thus, the trip to Strasburg was also cancelled. No one was very pleased with that. We went to Mannheim and visited the Barockschloss instead. It was still a good time, but now visiting Strasburg is rather high on the list of places to visit.
Ah, weekend trips. Last weekend my group of friends and I went to Ladenburg for the Flohmarkt (flea market). It was rainy and overcast but we enjoyed ourselves walking around. I snagged a couple jars of homemade jam and a CD being sold by street performers. The day after I went ate dinner with Biene, the lovely woman my professor introduced me to. We made Knödel (German potato dumplings) together. I’m adding them to my “things we need in America” list.
This week. Okay. So:
More grammar. The trip to Mannheim. And on Tuesday, my first Turkish class!
I owe a huuuuge shoutout to Pilar, one of the wonderful AJY Center workers who helped me register for a Turkish class at the Volkhochschule (community college). I was late to the first class because of bus difficulty (I’m working on it…), but it was okay because I already knew the material covered last week. I’m excited to improve my Turkish and delve deeper into the language…aaaand the class is of course taught in German. Turkish in German. I’m so pumped.
Aside from that, well, my crew and I went to Würzburg yesterday. The city is so pretty and the food was delicious. The train ride there was more thrilling than we expected—a group of drunken 20-something-year-olds was tormenting a mentally handicapped woman. Hannah, Tessa and I finally stood up. Hannah told the perpetrator off. His name is apparently Dennis. He went and sat back down. I sat next to the woman, hoping they would leave her alone if someone else was near her. Nope, no such luck. Dennis came back to bother her some more, so I approached them. The following scenario (in German) ensued:
Me: Hey, boys, knock it off. What’s so funny about that, anyway?
Boy 1: We’re just drinking.
Dennis: Wanna join?
He hands me a beer.
Me: taking it Huh, nah, thanks. Maybe I’ll throw it away.
I pretend to hurl the bottle, in reaction to which the group protests.
Me: No? You don’t like that? Fine, catch.
I chuck the bottle at one of them, who scrambles to catch it.
Boy 2: Hey, look!
My friend Katie has appeared in the doorway of the car, not having wanted me to be alone with them. Her face is red and her eyes narrowed. She looks royally pissed. The boys make a comment about the Hoffenheim shirt she has on. Neither of us can tell if they actually like Hoffenheim or are just making noise.
Dennis: to me C’mon, don’t be like that. You like vodka? Here, this is vodka. Try some!
Boy 3: Watch out, she’ll throw it away!
Me: I won’t. I’d just like to finish this ride in peace. Alright?
Dennis: Sure, sure, nice and quiet! Starts singing a drinking song. His friends join in. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and begins rocking back and forth, knocking me off balance.
So I punched him in the face.
The entire car went dead silent. Dennis glared at me and raised his fist for me to look at. He threatened me somehow, but either it was much less intimidating through the drunken slur or I was too dumb to be scared. Katie called for me to come on, let’s go, and I didn’t move until Dennis had listened to his friends and sulkily gone back to sit down. I informed him that he had a thick head and went back to our car with Katie.
Coming back to our seats, Hannah asked me what had happened. I contemplated my bleeding knuckle and stated simply, “I punched him in the face.”
Another small group of Americans in our car seemed cheerful about it. Adrenaline was still making my hands shake as the train ride continued. Suddenly, the singing and stomping started up again, and Dennis came climbing up the stairs to our car. He saw the empty seat next to me and moved as if to sit down, but I put my feet up in the spot and glared at him silently. He didn’t leave, and then one of the other Americans, a tall skinny guy with dark hair, put a hand on Dennis’s chest and told him to scram. Dennis cheekily repeated, “Nö, nö, nö,” until one of his friends appeared and dragged him back down the stairs. A few moments later we reached our stop and stepped into the pretty, sonny, relaxing atmosphere of Würzburg.
The fortress was lovely with a stunning view of the city and the mountains and the river. I could only breathe in the air and feel happy, remembering what country I’m in and what I’m here for. The Frankish food we dined on kept me full throughout the day, with of course just enough room for ice cream. All in all, yesterday was very good. If ever the image of the jumbled red rooftops and impressive Dome by the languid Main river fade my mind, I’ve still got the pictures and friends to remember it by.
I’m hoping I can go back to Würzburg someday to enjoy myself, and hopefully I’ll get there on a quiet train.