Sweets, Carbs, etc.

Germans like their Nutella.

Other than the standard glass jar of chocolaty goodness (€1,60 at the Müller store), it comes as chocolate bars, chocolate filling for chocolate bars, filling for raised doughnut pastries, filling for croissant pastries (my personal favorite), topping for ice cream, pancakes, whatever. I made most of those up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was right. Kathy told me about the Nutella-injected, chocolate glazed doughnut she had one day, and I’ve become partial to the Nutella-filled croissants at the Discount Bäcker. It’s like Americans with ketchup or A1 steak sauce (which I suddenly really miss...). You can use it (Nutella) with almost anything, at any meal during the day. It’s the wonder topping of the century. Moving on.

Germans also like their carbs.

Discount Bäcker: Location and concept introduced to me by my Italian neighbor, who appreciated the bakery’s “self-serve” policy. You go in, put a plastic glove on your hand, grab a sheet of wax paper, a tray, and load on up. Pay at the cashier, ditch your glove in the plastic-trash bin, put your pastries in a bag (there are several bag-size choices, ranging from single-pastry purchases, several pastry purchases, loaf of bread purchases, baguette purchases), drop the tray in the crate, and off you go. This is not a second-hand bakery, nor a day-old bakery. If you want to stock up it’s crucial to go at the beginning of the day when the items are fresh and available. In all seriousness, if you go at the end of the day you’re lucky if you find ONE of your favored items. It’s nuts. But it’s so, so good, and not as pricey as other bakeries. Of course, their Berliner (jelly doughnut) aren’t as appealing as the Berliner at the café/bakery where we went that one time and had the not-so-good-coffee and not-so-good-torte. That bakery bakes Berliner by the billions, it seems, and instead of a cheap-looking powdered sugar, they use the granulated kind. They cost €0,80 a piece (or 5 for the price of 4, bwuahah!). But unlike jelly doughnuts that can be found in the US, these jelly doughnuts are mostly doughnut. So the filling is not overbearing or runny – it’s just the right amount, and properly jam-like. I actually have to put a stop to my own pastry-purchases. It reminds me of what happened when my cousin and I were in Germany for a few weeks last May. After a week in Bonn, eating Brötchen (bread rolls that come with many different pre-names, like Sesame, Butter, etc. They come with different nut or seed toppings, different shapes, but basically all in the same size. Good to buy fresh, and in not-so-large quantities, as they dry out rather quickly if left in the bag. Dry Brötchen are hard to cut, as I found out one night when my left middle finger attempted to end its own life with a paring knife, cleverly using a Brötchen as cover) with almost every meal, my cousin said “I swear, Kaija, I am DONE with Brötchen... I can’t take it anymore!” She was wrong. The next morning, at breakfast in our hotel, we sat down to a nice breakfast of granola, yoghurt, cheese and Brötchen. No matter how sick of them you think you are, you really aren’t. You can’t escape them, and they can be eaten with anything. They’re the perfect accessory to any meal. You can find bread products or noodles just about anywhere.

So I’ve established that bread is everywhere. There are at least two bakeries on every street, so you can get a variety of shop-owners if you like. It’s also nice because each bakery seems to specialize in baking one item. Some specialize in pretzels, others in Berliner and tortes, and still others in cheap yet good anything. Once again, moving on.

At the beginning of last week we went to the first ERASMUS meeting, where information on the University, city, organizations, and housing was hammered mercilessly into our heads. The majority of the group present that day was female, with one male student from Korea who’s not really in ERASMUS, because Korea, if you were unaware, is not part of Europe. Neither is the US, which is why in our applications we checked a box marked “Bilateral Agreement.” Which more or less means that they made some changes to let us be a part of the program as well. Oh, Americans. There are four women from Poland, two from Greece, one from France, one from Italy, and the three of us from the US. The meeting was boring, more of a Q&A dominated by, and unfortunately geared toward, the European exchange students. Most of the information was irrelevant to us, which was unfortunate. At one point we were given packets that have all kinds of forms and information on the University and the city, as well as a (in my opinion) poorly prepared “where can I find...?” phone list for generic needs. The packets also included sheets for credit transfer agreement somethings – which the three of us from the US did not have. The woman leading the meeting waved her hand at us semi-dismissively and said something like “Your school has already told you how things are going to work.”

As soon as she turned her attention back to the other students present we put our heads together and whispered how we really DON’T have any idea how it’s going to turn out. Our system is a hit-and-miss as far as credits go – we need to choose classes we think will count toward credits at Coe, and then write to our corresponding professor and hope to God that we’ve made good choices. The European students have a 15-credit system and have seem to know what they have to do. I am jealous.

Neither Kathy nor I went with the group to the University library tour, since we’ve either figured things out on our own, or learned that it’s okay to ask for help. I’ll write about the library later, pictures included. We also didn’t go on the city tour, because we’ve toured it. That’s why I wanted to come a month early, so I could find things for myself, and if not, ask for help and use my language skills to do so. It’s gone quite well, too.

On Friday we went to a communication workshop sponsored by a group called IPAS (Intergratives Projekt für Ausländische Studierende). Our same group of students was there, minus Sonia, my neighbor, and the Korean student, but plus one male student from Poland. There is also another French student coming, but the existing student didn’t know when he would be arriving. I really wasn’t looking forward to sitting in a small room for 7 hours in some kind of conversation workshop, because I’m self-conscious about my speaking ability as it is. I know it’s fine, and that I can speak German fairly well, but it’s still difficult to do so with other people. However, it turns out that it was a kind of “get-to-know-each-other” type of thing.

The first two hours went by reeeeeally slowly. I don’t like mixer activities unless I’m the one running them (think part-time jobs of Kaija’s past). It was hard to get points across – there was an interview activity, and I paired up with Hanane (French) and Ula (Polish). One of the questions was “what are you studying?” Hanane and Ula got by easy, but when it was my turn to answer, things got weird. Hanane asks me “Was studierst du?” (What are you studying?) and I tell her, literature, writing, and German (the language). She and Ula look at me for a bit, then Hanane repeats “Yeah, but what are you studying?” I repeat my answers. More blank stares. They understood me, I know, but courses of study here seem to be lumped into one category. There is no “Literature” or “Creative writing” major. You can pick which courses you want to take, but it’s all lumped. You don’t say, “I’m studying behavioral psychology as well as clinical psychology.” It’s “I’m studying Psychology.” I’m still not sure what happened at that question, but we got over it and moved on.

There was also a “fun” question, “How long would a plant live in your house?” I told them of the 15-year-old plant I have at home in my mom’s house. When I was five I had an eye-operation. A few days after the operation, we opened the front door to find a plant on the step with a “Get well soon!” card attached to it. A hospital that gives plants? Whatever. A year or two ago I was home on break and asked my mom what was with the plant in my room – I think I wanted more space for books or something. She says, “It’s your plant, YOU take care of it!” I say, “What ‘My plant’?” “That’s the one from after the eye-operation,” says she. I recoil in mild shock. 15 years later that thing is still living? Hanane and Ula were just as surprised. Hanane was greatly amused when I said that it was because of my indifference that the plant thrived. At times, if I had a bit of water left in a water bottle, I would shrug and dump it in the plant rather than in the sink. But now that I think about it... The past few times I’ve actually given it more water, and now it’s down to one leaf and seems kind of sad. Maybe I need to not care about it, so it gets mad and grows just to seek revenge on me. Silly plant. That night Sonia asked me to watch her plant while she goes back home for a week. I’m worried that if I take too much care of it, it’ll die to spite me. So for now it’s on the floor by my door-window with the curtain separating it from me and the rest of the room. I gave it a little bit of water last night.

The best part of Friday: we were split up into 4 or 5 groups, then sent into the city for an hour with a hard-boiled egg. Our task – to barter with shops or people on the street to see what we could get as a trade for the egg. We had to use our German skills and trade our items as many times as possible by the end of the hour. My biggest worry – what a fanTASTIC impression to give the people of Landau of exchange students. “Hello, people of Germany! What will you give me for this hard-boiled egg!” I went with Joanna and Ewa, also from Poland. I took them to Susi, the best chocolate store ever (the lady who works there is so nice), where we hit jackpot for our first trade. The woman, although not the lady I know, knew of the trading game, and gave us a bar of Lindt chocolate. I told the Polish girls that we should quit while we were ahead. Instead we went further, and our trades were as follows: bar of chocolate for a pack of GummiBears, GummiBears for a postcard, a blow-up beach ball, and a picture frame (back-up items, SCORE!). The postcard read “Ich liebe dich, du Aarsch” (my suggestion...). The Polish girls didn’t know what it meant until I told them, at which point Joanne (25 years old) said “What have we done...!?” I told her it was okay, just find a younger couple and trade something. Which we did (I win!). Trade continues: Postcard for a tiny thing of Lacoste cologne, cologne for three Thomas Mann pins (from the bookstore). None of us wanted to give up Thomas Mann, so we took out back up item number one: beach ball. The ball we traded for a pack of tissues from a very weirded-out and distant-like woman with twin girls, age 4. (I felt bad afterwards, but I thought we’d get a completely different reaction because she had to kids with her who might like the ball.) The tissues we traded for a pen, and the pen for an empty paper cup (stupid store). The paper cup was finally traded for HALF of a GOLD COLORED, PAPER BOX. OmIgOd WoW! I am never going to the store that gave us that half-box, ever again. Cheapskates. We really should have stopped at the chocolate bar. Or at least gone to the chocolate store and gotten the egg back (also my idea, laughed at, but not supported).

Later that evening we went out to “Friends”, a pub rather far out from the city center, but with a nice atmosphere. Other IPAS tutors met us there, we talked with the other students (in German, and a bit in English – most of the exchange students are either English majors or Psychology majors) and had a good time talking about books, films, etc. I finally tried the banana juice + beer mixture, then a cherry juice + beer mixture. It’s basically watered down beer with a very slight fruit after-taste. Two 0,3L glasses ≠ even the slightest buzz. So you’re thirst is quenched, but you’re not loopy. Even though there are some age differences between all of us (the two Greeks and the three of us are the only 20 year olds), we all have a lot in common. It’ll be nice to see some of them in classes and around the Wohnheim. Things are going well.

P.S. the market is not only on Tuesdays, but also on Saturdays. It’s good to know that I don’t have to wait an entire week to get cheap, fresh food. I bought a whole pineapple for €1. :)