Travel Plans

Trying to get out of Germany cannot possibly be as difficult as getting out of Poland, but I can try to make it so.

I have too many belongings. When I went to the house super at 7:30 this morning, I did not realise that I would have to move out to-day rather than to-morrow, and that I would have to clean my kitchen and bath before doing so. I thus was not able to effectively cull my belongings, and have several unwieldy bags and boxes of detritus, which I am sorting through gradually. Unfortunately, I have to drag these bags and boxes all over the map, because I can't leave them in the room that I no longer have a key to. The task for to-morrow is to winnow my luggage such that I can bring it in one trip to Jeremy's WG in Berlin.

So it turns out that when I got my visa, I unwisely set it to expire on the same day that my room was to pass out of my possession, assuming apparently that I would have no friends who might shelter me if I were to wish to stay slightly longer. It turns out in fact that I do wish to stay slightly longer, so I've been meaning to go to the town hall for several days now to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, I had a test Friday morning, the office is closed on Mondays, I was in Dresden all Tuesday, they are closed on Wednesdays, and I had to move out to-day. So I will finally be talking to them to-morrow morning at 9, on the last day that my visa is valid. I really hope that they will prolong my visa without an issue; I really could just have easily have set it to expire at the end of August in the first place. Again, I do not remember my thought process at all.

Anyway, the reason that I wish to stay longer, and in fact that I need to stay longer, is that I will be going on Sunday to the Univeristy of Tübingen in south-western Germany, south of Stuttgart. I'm going to do some work on a project there, and apparently it is important enough that I actually go to visit them that they are paying for my train ticket. I will arrive Sunday afternoon, and will leave Monday evening, arriving back in Berlin on Tuesday morning. (A side note: Tübingen might even have been a nice place to do my term abroad, except in that I would have had to try to teach everyone to pronounce Tübingen.)

On Wednesday afternoon at 4, I fly out of Berlin, through London, to Boston. I will get rid of my luggage there, and then the next morning fly home. I mean, insofar as I consider Akron "home," which is pretty far, actually. Akron really is like a second home to me, and I think a lot of people probably feel the same way.


An hilarious episode

I was in a review session for my test in language processing a week from now, and something wonderful happened. The professor told us that part of the exam would be to construct an experiment to test some aspect of some model.

A girl in the front row raised her hand: "I can't construct an experiment. I've tried before in the homework, and it just didn't work. If you tell me every step of a process, I can do it, but to think of something myself is just impossible."

I'm not sure if I have ever seen someone argue so passionately that they were incapable of independent thought. As I said, it was wonderful.

Sometimes you realise you're in Germany

We are all aware of the following stereotype about Germans: they follow regulations with a rigidity that only a deep-seated fear of chaos can engendre. Or, you know, they like following rules. This turns out to be true, but since I'm not an Italian or a Southern Californian, I don't usually notice it or find it in any way problematic. But then sometimes I do...

The first recent (or semi-recent) instance was at our Fourth-of-July barbecue. We set up on the bank of a river in Kreuzberg, get the charcoal burning (after a mighty struggle) and proceed to grill some delicious American-style burgers. Just as the second batch is coming off the grill, we see two people from the Ordnungsamt (literally, the "Office of Order"). They are going around to every group in the park, writing things on little slips of paper, and then tranferring ownership of the slips of paper to the poor innocents relaxing in the park. We brace ourselves. Sure enough, they come to us and ask "Who is responsible for this grill." Jeremy Lin fesses up, and gets his own little slip of paper. Apparently the riverbank is a "geschützte Grünanlage," or a "protected green space," in which, as you can see on the sign to the left, grilling is prohibited, along with loose dogs and all manner of other things. Seriously, this was the sign at the entrance to the park, which probably had something to do with EVERYONE IN THE PARK incurring some penalty for violation of the rules. Anyway, we transported the grill, still burning, to another park about half a mile away, and Jeremy got a 20€ fine later by mail (instead of the 50-100€ promised by the Ornungsamt people). In America, I think the authorities would take notice of the fact that no one in the whole park knew the rules, and let everyone off with a warning...but this isn't America. This is Germany.

Our next item is not really a big deal to me, but in the scheme of things it is a much bigger deal than the grill incident. In a sudden fit of pique, the agency governing rail safety in Germany seems to have issued some new regulations for how many miles trains are allowed to travel before undergoing some sort of maintenance procedure (with whose nature I am unacquainted.) The Berlin S-Bahn (a mostly-elevated rail network), which is a major part of the public transit system of Berlin (with 1.1 million riders anually, compared to 1.4 million for the subway), was apparently taken completely unawares by this new regulation. Therefore, starting yesterday, a full two-thirds of their trains are out of service. Regular service will not be restored until at least December, during which time the not-in-any-visible-way-defective trains will presumably just be hanging around waiting to be maintained. The main S-Bahn line through the center of the city has gone completely out of service, and every other line is running at half-capacity or less. I feel that, if this were America, we would take perhaps the worst 10% of trains out of service, fix them, and then begin with the second-worst 10%, causing mild interruptions in service for a period of several months. In Germany, they are doing things so insanely that mayor Klaus Wowereit actually called on all Berliners to show solidarity. Like it's war, or something. Ridiculous. To be fair, Jeremy reports that taking the subway to work instead of the S-Bahn is actually quite pleasant, but I think he's just putting on a brave face at the urging of Mr. Wowereit.



So, I realise I've been maintaining blog silence for some time. My life has been mostly just dealing with classes and hanging out inconsequentially with friends, so I just haven't been that interesting lately. But I am running an interesting experiment, so I thought that all of you who are still tuned in might like to hear of it.

I have suspected for a few weeks that one of my room-mates is using my soap. I keep it in a little orange container, and I am always very careful to drain all the water out. Yet, when I go to take a shower, I often find the thing with water in it. I thought maybe the soap was somehow leaking water, so I just kept my suspicions to myself, but then to-day the container was mostly full of water. So after my shower I took it back to my room, to see if water would magically appear. It didn't. *Edit*: The soap box lives in a drawer next to the shower. Water would have a hard time migrating to the drawer, I think.

Next experiment: I continue to keep the soap in my room, and I see which one of my room-mates begins after a few days to stink.