Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Crazy Cabbage

I've been meaning to blog for ages; "meaning" meaning that the more I mean to do something the less likely it becomes that I will actually ever do it, and “for ages” refers to one whole week. One of the many methods to engage in my most beloved pastime procrastination is to make your pending tasks dependent on someone else’s actions and thereby avoid taking any action yourself: I’ve been diligently waiting for Zizz to grant me access to this blog. I finally decided to stop the procrastination, though (as Germans are anything but a procrasti-nation) and to log in with the LMF account. By the way, I highly approve of the user name - in 7th grade French, our most burning issue was to find out whether the French say le chou fou, la chou folle, le fou chou or la folle chou. Sadly, our French teacher did not understand why anybody should want to talk about crazy cabbages, and refused to answer the question altogether. Reminds me of asking a German what’s the article of Automobil - I knew perfectly well myself that people don’t actually use the word but rather das Auto, thank you very much. Why can’t people just stop questioning my sanity and answer my questions? For your information - it is also das Automobil and it is le chou, so I would guess le chou fou, but input from actual French-speaking people would be appreciated. 

Anyway, my learned helplessness turned out to be not so learned after all, as Google decided that I shouldn’t be in Bonn and I in turn couldn’t get past the security questions. The only action I actually took was somehow changing my Blogger  settings to Dutch. I would so not have gone to Rawenclaw. It took me forever to figure out the answer to the security question! The cake is a lie. Speaking of procrastination, though, I’ve been wanting to blog about my week in Estonia, but, as I never had time to sit down and write while doing all the things I wanted to write about, that post got postponed and therefore so did all others. Alright, my sentences are in fact too long. That’s it. I should start blogging in German. All my sentences in German are up to five words; I am just not capable of forming a longer grammatically more or less correct sentence. In general, speaking German (or rather having German spoken to me) has made me a very agreeable person. It is far easier to say okay and nod than to disagree and thus be forced to explain something in German.

I might someday write about my adventures in Estonia, but for now I will just quickly summarise the relevant observations. Going home is always somewhat odd, because nothing ever changes there (apart from the seasons, but I’ve seen them all before) and there is no other state of affairs that I would be so used to. I went to a class reunion and a classmate asked me how’s America. I paused to think for a moment because my first thought “Same old, same old” seemed wrong in Europe. I have now decided on a politically correct response: there are no mosquitos in America. First of all, I’m so used to Cambridge and MIT by now that I no longer actively realise the differences. Secondly, this also is the biggest difference! Estonian summers are great: the sun hardly even sets, days are long and there is no darkness for me to fear. However, they have one big problem, or rather, thousands of little problems - the mosquitos. In short, by the time I got there, the Estonian national sport of mosquito-killing was already very much in season. The worst part of it all is that I felt I was doing a good deed whenever I killed one. At least the blood on my hands was my own …

As you might have gathered from the past tense, my current location Germany has no mosquitos either. On Monday I took a bus to Tallinn for 2.5 hours, then flew to Weeze (it is actually pronounced very similarly to WC in German) with Ryanair for another 2.5 hours and travelled with Deutsche Bahn for 2.5 hours. I also spent a total of 2.5 hours waiting for the plane in Tallinn and a train in Düsseldorf. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t actually like travelling that much. I actually rather quite hate the actual travelling part. I spent almost a week fighting the jetlag and more often than not I need to wake up ridiculously early to go somewhere. Alright - I have now complained, time to move on.

Germany itself is very much what Germany is supposed to be like. Most of the things we were told at the MISTI training sessions have proved to be true (although, luckily for me, nobody says “Mahlzeit!”): the Germans do knock on a table instead of clapping (assuming they have one), they eat ridiculously fast and bagging your groceries is a pain. I expected to come back home to Europe, and although Bonn is (b)old and beautiful, Germany reminds me a lot of America. Namely, there is one very important feature that West Germany and the East Coast have in common: a lot of people. I suffer from a lighter form of demophobia (although I refuse to consider it completely irrational) and even the Medical School Sommerfest made me want to run and hide. West Germany in particular has obviously been under US influence, so the other similarities are also to be expected. Continuing with negative sides (I guess I’m not done with complaining after all), apparently smoking in public places is not verboten in Nordrhein-Westfalen. There are even cigarette vending machines everywhere (there is practically nothing else on the street where I live, but there is one of those machines next to the bus stop). People smoke. A lot. I have become a rather active passive smoker. The smell of smoke makes me nauseous, so I’ve been considering starting a public campaign myself to ban smoking in public.

Now some good things as well: public transport system is a million times better than in Boston. Every bus stop has a schedule! Moreover, most of the time the buses actually stick to it! Upcoming stop is always announced and very clearly, and there is even a screen displaying the next four stops. Of course, the fact that I can use public transportation for free in most of the state because of my affiliation to the university here only adds to the positive impression. MIT students are really on to something: free stuff is good. 

I need to go to bed soon, so I'll stop now and hopefully will get past the complaining the next time. Living in a dorm here, too, I do have one thing to say. Thank you! Thank you guys so much for doing your dishes and cleaning the fridges. Real dorm life is scary dirty and I am happy to have been pampered by LMF for the past year. 

Also, congratulations to all the fresh graduates! Although, if you plan to act on president Reif's words and make the world a little more like MIT, choose wisely. MIT has many awesome attributes, but some rather unpleasant ones as well. The world might not need more psets, and it does definitely not need more people hosed to depression. More clean sinks would be nice, though ... 
On My Way Home
Pretty German Small Towns or There's Rhein at the End of the Tunnel
Flooding in Germany or A Tilted Horizon
Schloss Poppeldsdorf
My Dorm
It's a Small World


  1. I got mosquito bites from Maine! :P
    i miss you :)

  2. I love how you observe things :)
    Although I will say America has plenty of mosquitos. I have spent the last week being discovered by most of them.

  3. Also, one of my most distinctive memories from my trip to Germany some years back was definitely the graffiti - it's so colorful, and it's everywhere! I guess it's a rather charming break for rule-abiding Germans?

  4. Well, then Cambridge is just a particularly pleasant part of America. :D I'm not complaining. I was talking to a friend about that and she suggested we need to have mosquitos to remind us that all of this is real after all and not just a dream. You know, like when you ask somebody to pinch you to make sure you're not dreaming. I just wish there were a few less of them so eager to remind me ...

    Yeah, there was an exhibition of German graffiti on one of the bridges in my hometown. Very random IMO, but apparently Berlin is the capital of graffiti. I am not sure, though - a lot of the graffiti is still very pretty and orderly, like the forests here. They are there, yes, but it feels like they have to have permission to exist. It's still, nice, though, a little bit of colour (after two semesters of seeing almost nothing but the grayness that is MIT, I'm rather happy).

    Miss you, too, Sumin! Have fun in California! Oh, and by the way, I have always thought that Maine was the Estonia in the States. It is only twice the size and has an even smaller population, plus the climate is sort of similar ... And, just like I somehow know most of the people in Estonia, Shaun knows the people in Maine. :)

  5. those communal bookshelves are really cool. :)