Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arrived in Dortmund yesterday!

My time in Paris & Barcelona is over. Once I get internet in my dorm I will be posting a ridiculous amount of pictures and a list of my favorite experiences that I've had since I left on the 18th! I've been in a 40,000 people food fight, seen the sunset from the Arc d' Triumphe, cried in the Notre Dame and got a tan on the beaches in Barcelona.

I guess somewhere in there I gained a little bit better sense of direction (Hey I can read maps now!), gained a lot more self-assurance and became more positive. I think I'm actually more relaxed now when small things mess up. So many things happened that could have made me upset but I learned I had to be flexible... I hope I keep that in mind. Also, people were SO NICE. I think a lot of people have the 'Ah Europeans hate Americans and french people are mean' stereotype. Which I didn't run into.

The train to Dortmund was strange. People kept thinking I was french or Spanish few people outright talked to me in English or assumed I wasn't from there. I am used to be slightly ambiguous..but that gets tricky when traveling. One Frenchman reprimanded me for not speaking French because he said I knew french because I understood a simple phrase the conductor used and didn't bother to ask him in English.

So now I am in Dortmund. when I arrived here yesterday I made it just in time to get on the train from Dortmund. Only 2 minutes before it left. But when I got on the train, they told me in was the wrong one and that it went to Dusseldorf. After going to the ticket counter they said it was the right one and the next didn't leave for half an hour. That one didn't come at all. So I ended up leaving an hour later. Turns out, if I would have gotten the first train I would have landed in the middle of a Neo Nazi demonstration and an anti neo Nazi demonstration form the Peace Festival that Dortmund was having. They had hundreds of police and riot squad at the station, some got hurt I guess. It was a crazy situation.

The student who met me at the train station stayed during the riot\protest so I wouldn't get to the train station and be alone. When you are an exchange student in Dortmund you get a Dortmund Double who helps you get to your apartment, find things, etc. Today we went out for lunch(with another international student from Missouri) and she helped me get to my apartment yesterday. My roommate is an engineering student from Taiwan and she has been so friendly and helpful. My room is fully furnished(even blankets and kitchenware etc), and my apartment complex has a bunny infestation! So at dusk and night you see them hopping around. Also I am right around the corner from a train station and bus stop so I can get anywhere so easy.

Orientation for my program is tomorrow. Then my german language program starts.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Au Revoir France!

I arrived in Europe on the 18th, and spent 3 days in Munich, Germany. I am about to leave from Paris, France after spending 5 wonderful days. It has been beyond amazing. Words cannot express how much fun I have had. It has been a huge learning experience for me to find the perfect balance between planning, going with the flow, and learning to just hop on a train sans ticket if your train breaks down and you have a guy screaming in French at you.

Munich, I spent mostly getting over the time difference. But I also had time to take a walking tour where I saw all over the city including Marienplatz and a glockenspiel aka huge clock with moving parts. I also visited the dachau memorial center (a concentration camp turned memorial). It was a very moving experience.
the gas chamber (it had a sign that said "showers" on the outside):


I will have a post about Paris soon! Also more pictures from Dachau and around Munich.This has been an amazing trip.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Packing up the apartment, part one: BOOKS!

I'll be spending the last two weeks in the country with my parents, and so I'm packing up my apartment a little early. I got a bunch of heavy weight book boxes from my job at Carmichael Library, so I decided I'd start packing those first.

Sealing up those boxes with tape ending up being kind of emotional! I've been a huge bookworm since I was old enough to understand what a book was. Probably even before, since my parents loved reading us bedtime stories.

Books are heavy, and hard to take more than 1 or 2 with you when you travel, but I did leave a few out that I couldn't bring myself to pack up yet. Maybe I'll bring one or two with me? Maybe I'll read some before I leave?

The books that I couldn't pack up yet:

1. The Pema Chodron Collection: The Wisdom of No Escape; Start Where You Are; When Things Fall Apart

"I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us...It was all about letting go of everything."
— Pema Chödrön (When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times)

This is a bound collection of three of the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron's books. It's the kind of book you could flip to a page and get something out of it if you just have a few minutes of downtime, but you could also spend a couple hours just immersed in her down to earth wisdom! A friend gave me this book during a rough patch in my life four years ago and I still read it all the time. She told me to give it back when I no longer needed it, or to pass it on to someone. Maybe I'll pass it on in Germany!

2. The Portable Henry Rollins

"Life is full of choices, if you have the guts to go for it.
That's why I get immediately bored with anyone's complaining about how
boring their life is, or how bad their town is. Fucking leave and go
somewhere else. Or don't."
- Henry Rollins

This book is amazing. It's a paperback compilation of a bunch of books he's written over the years in various styles and on various subjects. Some are more journal like, others are philosophical or just plain crazy. Another book you can kind of skip around in but be blown away. I like his travel philosophy.

Also, here is a fill-in-Henry Rollin's tattoos coloring page my friend Eden found:

You're welcome.

3. Oryx and Crake - By Margaret Atwood

"He doesn't know which is worse, a past he can't regain or a present that will destroy him if he looks at it too clearly. Then there's the future. Sheer vertigo."
page 147

Margaret Atwood is my favorite author and I have been meaning to re-read this for about a year. While I don't see myself taking this with me to Dortmund, I think It would be a nice book to read while I'm getting ready to leave and living at home. It's the kind of dystopian sci-fi novel that grabs you and sucks you into the story. A contemporary classic!

4. The Garments of Caean- by Barrington J. Bayley

"Back on Old Earth there was a saying that clothes make the man. But on the world called Caean this became literally true. On that colonized planet there was a material called Prossim. If your body was in contact with Prossim your personality changed. You became handsome, you had vast charisma, you had total self-confidence - you were always the power center of every enterprise.

So throughout the inhabited galaxy clothing from Caen was the sure key to success and men would kill to get such a suit. Peder Forbath was such a man, prepared to turn space pirate to get his hands on some. But instead he found that - at the risk of worlds - the very secret of Prossim cloth itself was about to open before his eyes..." (The back cover)

I saw this paper book at a used bookstore in Ithaca, NY. I haven't gotten a chance to read it yet. People who fight over pimp suits and gowns to gain control over the universe? I'm in! Maybe I'll read this one before I leave. If not, It's small enough to bring with me but with overweight baggage fees I'm starting to think I'm bringing way too much as it is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's All Happening

(click picture to enlarge)

My EuRail pass came in the mail last week! After considering different travel options for Aug 19-Sept 3 before I get to Dortmund (taking into account luggage fees), the 3 country select pass was my best option. I also purchased seat reservations since I only have a certain amount of days in each city and want to make sure I actually make it to Dortmund on time. I bought mine from, they have a very comprehensive website and if you have any questions you can call their customer service line. I spent a total of almost 5 hours over 4 calls getting some finer details ironed out. Of course the night train I need to Dortmund from Barcelona was being worked on until the day after I left. After not liking the problem solution one customer service rep gave me, I called back later that day and found a quicker, more scenic AND 30$ cheaper way. It's been really difficult deciding what to plan before hand, and what to just go with the flow on because I have limited time and funds. I already booked hostels, and bought my train tickets/reservation passes and a ticket to a group tour for La Tomatina festival, but other than that I'm pretty open to whatever these cities have to offer. I have a rough idea of a few things I would like to do but I don't want to have a day by day itinerary, more like a short list of must sees and just stopping to smell the roses along the way!

Here is a map of my travels through Sept. 3 along with a rail pass in case you (like me) have never seen one. The city I will be living in is marked with a shell (Dortmund Germany), and the cities I will visit are marked with stones : Paris, Barcelona, Valencia/Bunol , and Munich.

To use a rail pass you choose how many countries you will visit and how many travel days (34 hour period in which you can take as many trains as you want) you will need. You get the pass validated before boarding the first train, and then as you use the travel days you mark them on the pass and it will be checked on the train. It is a flexible option and also economic if you are taking more than two trains. Actually, I think one of my train trips was almost 2/3 the price of the pass. Traveling by trains isn't cheap if you are packing light try, ryanair, jetblue etc for cheap airline tickets or try buses. But with the pass, it ended up being the best option since I had a lot of trains I wanted to take.

Also, if you noticed the title of this post is from the movie "Almost Famous"... thanks :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's the Final Countdown!

August 18 will be here before I know it. Then I will be on my way to Dortmund taking the scenic route through Paris and Barcelona.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guten tag, y'all

I am an art major and McNair Scholar at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. I grew up traveling with my family because my father was in the Navy, and continued that family tradition with my first study abroad in 2009 when I studied art and Portuguese at the Universidade Federal de Goias for six months of 2009 in Brazil.

Now, I am getting ready to leave August 18th to be an art student at TU Dortmund in Germany

I made this blog to keep everyone back home updated with my travel planning, pre-semester travels through Spain and France, and my semester at Dortmund where I will be located until the end of February.

Thanks for reading, I'm so excited to get this trip going!