Homesick

Man it’s hitting hard this weekend. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve had to stay in studying all day – or rather should have been studying.

Been listening to Jerry Jeff Walker and Pat Green sing about Texas all day – probably doesn’t help either.

I’ve gone out so much lately that it doesn’t appeal to me right now.

Called my Dad today, it’s been a while and he doesn’t have email. that was good. Sharon and Mom didn’t answer.

Not complaining, I knew it would happen at some point, just worse than I thought it could be. Even though I haven’t lived at “home” for several years I could always visit or at least call. It’s getting very difficult to do that now.

Thanks for letting me express myself.

Update, Oct 31st.  Things are going much better.  Classes help and getting out yesterday was good.  After this presentation is over I can do more things!

Weekend Regatta in Berlin

It all started Thursday night. To celebrate the beginning of the semester our school organized an event at a local dance club called Zapata. Well, pre-party action was on at the local Polish guy’s. I grabbed a bottle of Tequila, several lemons, and my cowboy boots. About halfway through the bottle Kuba turns off the music to call a friend of a friend.

Turns out, he’s got to leave for Berlin in the morning and was looking for a ride. I overhear the conversation and think to myself, “I’ve got nothing to do this weekend, let’s see”. Well, I spoke nothing of it to him, but was arranging my own plans.

So, we finished the bottle and several beers, and headed to the club. There’s only one problem, on Thursday nights it’s easy to get to the club, but returning is not possible. The trains and busses quit soon after midnight, and we didn’t arrive until 11. The club, called Zapata, again, is huge. There are 4 very large dance floors and several lounge areas, not to mention all the bars. I had had my share though and didn’t need any drinks. The entry fee came with one free drink, so I saved that till later.

Our group was one of the first from the International students, but there were plenty of Germans. Eventually everyone I know showed up and we danced the night away. It was 5:30 before we left and caught the first train home.

I hit the sack around 6:30 reminding myself of a possible trip to Berlin. If anything wakes me up I’m going. Well, sure enough 7:30 rolls around and my roommate is up for class. He’s noisy and wakes me up. Shower, pack, call Kuba. He’s not sure, but is glad I woke him; he is supposed to be 2 towns over at 8:30. Run to the train station, to the meeting place, and wait. The guy doesn’t show. So after a call we learn he left earlier but didn’t notify Kuba of his plans. DAMN

What now? I’m tired; so is he, but he’s got a sail boat race on Saturday that he cannot miss. His partner has already left Poland and will arrive that night. Kuba has a car, but didn’t want to front the entire gas bill – now I’m in for sure. We head back to campus, pack some more, and call everyone we know. Gonzo is supposed to meet the Chilean President, Carlos has class, Gosha has plans, Julian and many others don’t want to go. Finally Anais commits. She’s one of the few Venezuelans here. The three of us are going to Berlin!

It’s 700 kilometers, about 7+ hours, and we all stayed up late dancing. No problem. Kuba had a nap in the morning and drives.

((remember to click the thumbnails to see higher resolution photos))

It’s a long way to Berlin and we fill the time by singing and talking about things people from different countries talk about. We once stopped for Propane, his car runs on gas and LP. It was the weirdest thing: the place that sells LP also happens to be a porn shop. Outside we see the tank and this is it!

Inside I pay and see “booths” and videos and magazines. Let’s just say, children shouldn’t be allowed in places like that.

Continuing on, we arrive about 9:30 or so. The Polish teams had rented a big room at a local sailing club.

There were about 24 beds, more than enough. After dropping off our stuff we head into Berlin. Some guys from Spain had rented a car so we called them up and met them near the large TV tower.


We were exhausted but didn’t get to bed until 2 or so. The next morning came early at 7:30.

The competition started at 10. Kuba and his partner, Peter, had to set up the boat and prepare. He dropped Anais and I off at the train station and got ready. The two of us then headed into town for some sight seeing.

First we stopped at the Berlin main train station

Walking across the river we headed to the Parliament building.

We were there early but still had to wait in line.

The view from the top was amazing. We could see most of town except for the weather.

The two of us had plans to meet the Spanish guys and headed to the Gate of the city. It’s remarkable.

Something else remarkable is we found out about a free tour. Since I was with 6 Spanish people we took the Spanish tour. Well, to say the least I need a little more practice before I do that again. Good thing I’m taking Spanish classes here! We walked all through the old city, both East and West Berlin and saw many neat things. You’ll be impressed.

First thing after the Gate was the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. It’s not what you’d expect.

The blocks represent the slow loss of rights of the Jewish people in Germany. First is was no pets, then had to wear Stars on their clothes, then no work, etc. The blocks gradually get taller, and the ground drops. That makes the blocks even taller. Finally the peak at several meters high representing the loss of all rights. It was gradual, and no two blocks are the same.

Afterward it was a short walk to Hitler’s Bunker. It was 10 meters below ground and had 4 meter thick cement ceilings. He celebrated his last birthday and committed suicide there too. No bombs could penetrate it and after several months of bombing (if I understood correctly) it finally collapsed. Now, above Hitler’s dying place is a parking lot.

There were lots of neat things to see, check them out here !

Finally, we came to the Wall.

see them all here

It was a short walk to the famous place “Checkpoint Charlie”. A short history lesson, CC was the 3rd opening in the wall, thus Charlie for the 3rd letter in the alphabet. It was also the second closest the USA and USSR came to fighting. Of course in Cuba was the first. For some reason a diplomat was not permitted to pass through so he ordered tanks to be brought to the opening. Of course the other side countered. There was a standoff. If anything had gone wrong, war would have started. Finally both sides agreed to back off slowly a few meters at a time, until there were no more tanks there. War was avoided.

Checkpoint Charlie folks.

Then we had a beautiful tour of the small part of Berlin not destroyed during WWII. See it here!

A few highlights


This one here is the Berlin library, famous for burning 20,000 books including philosophy, science, and many more.

I didn’t catch the name, but in front of that library is a quote written by a German Jew in the late 1800s. It goes like this, “He who is capable of burning books is also capable of burning men”. It’s very sad that his prophesy came true.

A few more

This is the Tomb for the “Mother Without Child” a sacrifice that many German mothers had to make during the 20th century.

And the end of our tour.

We stopped by the large TV tower for some fun shots

And then headed towards the Zoo because Anais wanted to do some shopping and we needed to see one more famous landmark before heading back.

One more interesting thing about Berlin: after the wall fell the city reunited. Something about that though was each side had its own traffic lights. That doesn’t seem remarkable except that they haven’t been changed, and even today one can determine in which part of the city he is just by looking at a crosswalk. Some examples


The Russians had different ideas than the Americans how to cross a street.

Sunset on the lake on the way back


So, about that time Kuba had finished sailing and it was the ceremony. We headed back after a beer to find Kuba along with the other Polish guys enjoying the free meal and beer provided by the Yacht club. We were invited in and took part. After 3 races Kuba and Peter tied for 4th overall and took 1st of the Polish teams.

After dinner we were still tired, but some of the Polish guys wanted to go back into Berlin (the yacht club where we slept and ate is in Portsdam about 15 kilometers away)


So we headed back into town for some night life. Only we were too tired to dance (it had been 3 days so far and only about 7 hours sleep altogether)

This was one of the highlights for me. Since they had done so well and celebrated hard Kuba couldn’t drive. He asked me to. So, I got to drive a Mercedes in Berlin. It’s an interesting thing that I can discuss more later, but driving in Germany is different than the US. First and foremost they use Yellow before both Red and Green. You have to be careful 😉

We walked back to the Gate and passed this on the way. 9250 Turns out the Berlin wall wasn’t even remotely straight. Part of it even went through the river. I have no idea how it was guarded except by large manpower. Over 150 kilometers long, the Wall completely surrounded the Allies position. It separated families for nearly 30 years. Over 100 people were shot while trying to cross it. As you saw earlier, the wall is only about 2 meters high.

I snapped a couple more nice photos before we headed back. One thing everyone must do in Berlin however is stop and the Café Einstein for an ApfelStrudel with Vanilla sauce. It’s delicious.

The next morning came early again. We got only about 5 hours sleep again. It was now Sunday. Kuba had to ship his boat to Australia for the World Championships in January so they couldn’t take part in the competition again. Peter took off early.

I’m really pleased with how my pictures turned out from that morning.

For the last time, the 4th in 2 days we went back into Berlin. Kuba hadn’t had the opportunity to see much because of the sailing so we walked him around to some of the highlights.

The Sony center

the wall

Finally we were headed out. In Portsdam however there is a Castle. Anais wanted to see it, and I’m glad we did. It was really nice. And we got one more group shot

And then it was back home. I got to drive this time on the Autobahn. Quite a lot of fun. I kept it around 130kph or about 81mph (more than the maximum allowed on any US road) – and people were passing me like I was standing still.
After eating some canned soup for dinner I slept 10 hours. Went to class and took a couple naps during the day!

My Regatta in Berlin!

Hi everybody,

classes started today. I’m in Nuclear and Atomic Physics, Advanced Laboratory Techniques, Conversational Spanish, German 2, and Polish 1.

I might also take a TaeKwanDo class. We’ll see about that.

German classes are set up different and have no in class exams – only finals. The language credits don’t transfer for me anyway (to the MS Physics program), but Uni Stuttgart wants that I take more credits to keep my scholarship. SO, I take more languages. Spanish and German are obvious (there are more Spaniards here than Germans – so far) Polish for the same reason. There are many here to help me.

Plus I am going to Poland in a few weeks. Probably many times while I’m here.

It will be great.  I have Thursday afternoons off till Sunday night.  No class on Wednesday either.

The schedules here are really strange.  Tuesday is my tough day – 7 hours of Physics lab and then 2.5 of Polish.  I’ll be tired but able to relax and do home work the next day.

Long weekends – can anyone say Paris for 4 days?

Meine erste Brief.

Diese Wochenende habe ich gehabt viele Spaß. Am FreitagAbend ging wir, meine Freunden und Ich, zur jemand clube. Wir haben getanzt und bier getrunken. Danach, um veir Uhr gekommen wir noch hause. Dann telefoniert ich meine Großmutter. Ich schläft bis zwölf Uhr. Samstag war langsam aber in der Abend gehst ich zu Wasn. Wir waren spät und wir können nicht die Zelte eintreten. Am Sonntag weckte ich auch spät. Ich begann ein Buch lesen. Er heißt “Findet Nemo”. Er ist ein Kinderbuch, aber er ist in Deutch und schwierig lesen. Davor spielt ich einen ComputerSpiel. Ich habe gewinnen. Am Sonntag Abend schrieb ich diese Brief.

Interesting Conversation today with a girl from Baghdad

In my IntensivKurs there is a girl from Baghdad. I’ve waited until now – going into our 6th week – to talk to her. It was better than I expected. I had been afraid to hear what she had to say; most people I talk to aren’t happy with the US and have few good things to say.

Massrah as she is called was happy to talk to me about her condition. She was last in Iraq on the 23rd of August and told me what it was like. I wasn’t surprised. She told me that every day people fear for their lives. One can be killed just for walking down the street – or even less. There are stories of people receiving notes on their door that says they must leave or be killed. It’s common for this to happen.

What pleased me were her feelings toward American Soldiers. She actually is glad they are there even though so much trouble has come of it. When Saddam was in power there were cameras everywhere and informants for everything. One had to be careful with whom he talked or where he went. He ruled very strictly. It was bad, especially in the south. The northern part of Iraq has been under a different government for many years and is still a nice place to live, she said.

About the bombings: She says most are from people from other countries or supported by them. It seems Syria, Jordan, and Iran have a large interest in causing turmoil there. People in Baghdad are very poor right now, and many cannot even eat. People come from outside offering $1000 or so for a local to murder others, and he does it.

She is optimistic however that it will all pass. Her biggest concern is the poor government that’s been put in place. It seems they are there only for profit and don’t take care of the people. Also, the police and Iraqi military seem to be ineffective. That’s nothing new for us to hear. They’ve been trained well enough to do a good job but don’t. I didn’t get a reason why, maybe there is none.

Massrah really thinks the American Soldiers are doing a good job. She told me stories however that aren’t so happy. When a terrorist places a bomb in a car or building the Soldiers often kill everyone in sight. It’s for defense; there is no way to tell who is on whose side – better safe than sorry. She even supports that decision saying that they have to protect themselves first.

Her brother is an engineer and works with the Americans. He really likes them and they get along well. In all the people there are happy when they see Americans. They are there to help, and everyone knows it

Some things especially pleased her, the idea of being able to chose where you go without fear of prosecution. Even though she felt safer when Saddam was in power, for her life that is, she is glad to have him gone. Now, at home, she has to cover herself. Women have to behave differently than before, but it’s temporary and she knows it.

To be a young person in that country would really be difficult. There is so much hope for a future, but the dangers are great. I too would leave Iraq for the time being. Unfortunately she cannot visit the states. She is not allowed in, but she has heard great things from friends and family that have visited. She’d like to go there one day.

The last thing she mentioned before we returned to class was that when people are finally given freedom they don’t know how to handle it. They abuse their new rights. This sounds kind of familiar.