This summer, I packed my bags and moved from Lexington, Virginia to Cologne, Germany for an internship. It was only a short stay in Cologne (two months) but I was incredibly nervous about making friends. After my second week in the city, I came across couchsurfing meetups on the website and they singlehandedly made my average stay into a fantastic one. I met so many people-students, travellers, other interns, etc. who I made dozens of memories with-from exploring flea markets to salsa dancing, cooking indonesian food to hiking along the rhine, scoping out falafal stalls to attending local concerts. It’s been a busy-and unforgettable- two months (I head back to the states on Saturday). Thanks for creating a community for those of us who need one.
My last day in Germany was quite perfect. Jutta had a perfect carrying container for the kaffeekuchen and I was able to easily transport the cake to work. I spent the morning assisting Stefan in the solar furnace. (I have mentioned Stefan quite a few times thus far. As it happens, there are three different Stefans-and one Stefania-at DLR. I’d say that Stefan is one of the most common German male names, along with Christian and Christoph)
After lunch, I said goodbye to a few of my colleagues and then we had a mini-party with the cake and some cookies. It was an incredibly hot day so quite a few employees left early. Luckily, a good number stayed behind and I was able to say bye to them. Dirk was on holiday so I had said my goodbye to him on Wednesday. He actually told me to not bring in a cake as there are so many interns at DLR-if everyone who left brought a cake, there simply would be no time to work! However, after being asked by a half dozen colleagues whether there would cake, I decided to bring one in anyway. I ended up taking the same train as Florence and Garion back into town so I had a nice last trip through Porz and to Deutz.
When I got home, preparations for Ralf’s birthday were in full swing. I packed up the rest of my suitcase and joined them in the garden to string up lights around the backyard. I also met Ricarda, their eldest daughter, who was in town from Berlin for the party. We had a final dinner in the garden and it was a wonderful atmosphere:
I sat out in the garden afterward, ruminating about my travels and my time in Cologne. Ralf was playing songs and one of my favorites came on, “Dream a little dream of me.”
The next morning, I had breakfast with Ricarda, Ralf, and Jutta and did some last minute tidying up. Ralf and Jutta both dropped me at the Deutz station and waited with me for almost 40 minutes until my train arrived. They promised to visit in the next few years and I told them how thankful I was. My trip wouldn’t have nearly as perfect without them.
Thursday night, Florence came over and we played with the kittens and ate a delicious quiche that Jutta had made. I had asked Jutta to help me make a cake for my last day of work at DLR and she was glad to help. We ended up making a kaffeekuchen (a coffeecake). Jutta had made it several times before and I was a big fan-as it happens, the recipe was incredibly simple and we ended up finishing in less than half an hour (including baking time!) When I say that we made it, of course I mean that Jutta made it while I mixed the ingredients and cracked a few eggs.
It was actually Jutta and Ralf’s anniversary and they went out to dinner around 9 PM. After spending some time in their lovely garden, I told Florence that I wanted to drop by Raju and Erika’s home to say goodbye. We ended up spending almost an hour there. They are so very welcoming and warm-I love visiting them both. As it happens, Santi was also there, packing for a wedding, so I got to see her for a final time. Raju is incredibly funny. He asked me if I was now fluent in German. I responded “Ja klar!” (of course) This was evidently the wrong answer because he decided to tell us stories in German which I had a lot of trouble following. I only knew he was talking about a french man due to the often repeated name Jean-Paul.
Raju and Erika actually run a nonprofit in India, WeCanKimH and they were talking about plans for the next year. (I told them that once they get bigger-I would love to intern there) I have gotten really interested in international development and working with empowering women and children in less-than-ideal living situations and hopefully I will be able to go on to do an internship in that field for next summer. Keeping in line with my economics major, I want to specifically work in microfinance, making small loans to families to start businesses.
AT LAST, August is upon us. The summer fruit is plump and the sea is warm. You can almost hear the warbling melody of “La Mer”, Charles Trenet’s ode to the…
interesting article about working-hours in europe (as opposed to the states, in particular). i have definitely noticed an emphasis on leisure and holiday in deutschland which is not so present in the states.
german guys are obsessed with their girlfriends. no matter whom i speak to (especially at DLR), i know their relationship status at the latest-five minutes into the conversation. it’s strange-i never ask-they always volunteer the information up themselves. it’s as if their lives rotate around their significant others. i discussed it with caroline the other night and she agreed that germans were incredibly serious about relationships, moving in together soon after dating and thereby living in almost a married situation. there is also an almost unbearable amount of PDA (especially at events including alcohol-so basically everywhere). germans love showing affection. i think it’s great that you two love each other but please please take your love somewhere else.
yesterday, a friend of mine (david) was performing live music at a local lounge. florence and i decided to attend-after going to habibi first of course. on the way there, we had to change trams at neumarkt, where i noticed a tall bearded man subtly watching me. i managed to somewhat lose him and boarded the tram quickly-but when i turned around, he was right behind me. i was slightly confused/alarmed but figured that i was just imagining things.
as i talked to florence, he was listening in and eventually just interrupted me with, “are you from california?” “nope, but close! arizona,” i told him. apparently he was a freshly graduated masters student from berkeley who was touring central europe for a month! we ended up walking in the same direction after getting off at zulpicher platz and talked more about our travels, cologne, and of course-the good old U.S.A.
florence later told me that she too had been worried after realizing that this guy was eyeing me. the thing is-i can be creepy about americans too. i always keep an ear out for english speakers and i absolutely love meeting americans-someone with a similar upbringing in a foreign land. once i get back to the states, however, it will be quite the opposite where meeting germans will start the reminiscing about cologne, german food, and the ever-present genau (a word that means exactly. germans use it all the time).
an american friend of mine recently asked me whether germans eat a lot of chocolate cake. considering the very popular german chocolate cake, one would expect it to be a staple. however, in all my travels and tastings this time around (as well as my last two times in germany), i have never had chocolate cake. i have had plenty of fruit filled/topped cakes, black forest cake, coffee cake, cheesecake, tarts, pies, and cream-filled cakes-but absolutely no chocolate cake. i decided to look up the history of german chocolate cake just for fun and here’s what i came across:
Contrary to popular belief, German chocolate cake did not originate in Germany. Its roots can be traced back to 1852 when American Sam German developed a type of dark baking chocolate for the American Baker’s Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him.
german’s chocolate cake eventually became german chocolate cake- an american creation with a misconstrued backstory. that doesn’t mean that it’s not delicious though! find the recipe here.
yesterday marked my last mini-trip of my two months in cologne. florence and i decided to explore düsseldorf, the capital city of nordrhine-westphalen and the rival city of cologne.
the weather promised to be lovely but as we pulled into the düsseldorf station, it began to rain. after dropping by the tourist office, we ended up at königsallee, one of the most upscale shopping destinations in germany. landscaped with fountains and a picturesque canal, it was quite lovely. however, we were getting soaked and couldn’t admire the view and rather found shelter in an american apparel store.
we decided to hurry over to altstadt, the old town of düsseldorf and found a little cafe to have lunch at. as the rain was going strong, we ordered heiße schokolade after our meal. just as fate would have it, as we drank up, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it became rather warm. the altstadt borders the rhine river and there are plenty of things to do-shopping, restaurants, even a film museum.
we spent the afternoon walking around the city (rather well-off, the city is beautiful with statues, fountains, and really lovely old buildings and churches) we passed through a book festival,along winding alleys and busy restaurant districts, and even by the birthplace of heinrich heine, one of germany’s most famous poets. after all this walking (and with the sun beating down on us), we found a garden in the middle of the city where we just sat and talked.
after going to an eiscafe for some much needed ice cream, we caught a train back to cologne at the hauptbahnhof. unfortunately, we had narrowly missed taking the faster regional train and had to take the sbahn-which lacked air conditioning and took over an hour!
anyway, i was very glad to have company. (i actually wasn’t even planning to go to dusseldorf until florence told me that she wanted to go) hopefully i get to work with her again next week! i really am upset that we only met this past week when we could have been friends for the past two months! ah well, better late than never.
July 26, 2013 at 5:01pm
(pre-opening at herbrand’s)
last week on friday, i went to herbrand’s, a biergarten and club which plays salsa music on friday nights. i went with a friend from couchsurfing, alejandro. being from columbia, he was quite adept at salsa! later, his girlfriend and another cs member, lina joined us. before the club officially opened, they had an hour long lesson to teach us the basics. (we got there a bit late after getting hopelessly lost in ehrenfeld)
it was a really great atmosphere! unfortunately, i am not so skilled at salsa, having only danced it a few times. once the club really got filled up, it was hard to keep up! i danced with ali, from turkey, and he was a salsa-pro. after getting tangled up and being spun for a slew of songs, i needed a pause. i spent the rest of night with lina, talking and watching the incredible dancers. (when i later went out with santi, she told me that herbrand’s is not really for beginners. everyone there is a serious dancer.)
but it was nice to spend time with lina and alejandro. after talking with lina, i realized that making friends in a new city is a universal problem. she told me that for her masters and later, when she moved to cologne, it was always a problem to find people-not to necessarily become friends with, but even to just go out with. it’s uncommon to find someone-especially a woman-who goes out to a bar or club alone. but she said that she was so thankful for couchsurfing, for allowing you to rediscover your own city and meet up with people with similar interests. and i too am grateful for all the lovely people i have met through cs-i can’t imagine how boring my time in cologne would have been without it!
so i went to the rheinpark the other day, with jan, a guy i had met through a mutual friend. unfortunately this is the only picture that i took which doesn’t even begin to show 1/10 of the park. spanning 40 hectares, the rheinpark includes gardens, playgrounds, sports courts, bridges, an open air theater, a public bath, and a beach park. it was actually voted germany’s best park in 2007 and it’s undoubtedly a beautiful place. cologne is actually full of beautiful parks: i’ve walked through quite a few during my escapades in the city.