Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Matt Beck Thriving as Fulbright TA in Nürnberg.

Hallo Freunde!

As 2010 comes to an end, I'm writing to update you on my last few months. It's been a while since my last update, but I certainly didn't want to fill your email boxes with too many details of my everyday life (For example, teaching German students not to place 'for example' smack dab in the middle of a sentence). Quite a bit has happened in the last few months, so I'll start at the beginning.

At the end of October, my friend Alison, who was studying abroad in London, came to visit me in Nürnberg. This gave me a chance to do a lot of the touristy things that I otherwise wouldn't do. For example, I live a five-minute walk away from Hitler's colosseum and the Nazi rally grounds. Alison and I trotted over there, and after walking around and inside the colosseum, which is architecturally awesome, we visited the Documentation Center, a museum built into the colosseum. What I really liked about it was that it focused on the time leading up to the holocaust, rather than on the holocaust itself. Having known little about this time (about 1919-1939), it was an educational experience.

After a week in Nürnberg (and yes, you can experience Nürnberg in a week), we took a train to visit our friend Andreas in Vienna. Unfortunately, we only had three days to spend there. While Andreas worked during the day, Alison and I explored Vienna ourselves, visiting a couple palaces and walking around the city center. At night and on the weekend, Andreas showed us around other parts of Vienna.

November and December were focused on getting settled in and finding more to do. For some reason, the German Ministry of Education thinks that twelve hours of work a week is enough to keep teaching assistants occupied. It also sounds great on paper (Fulbright: get paid to live in Germany with no responsibilities!), but in reality, it leads to quite a bit of boredom. My resolution: I'm voluntarily working more at the Gymnasium (academic-track school) by teaching more upper-level classes and by helping to revise and evaluate senior theses. I've also been given my own conversation class and am planning a literature class for spring.

This past week, I went to Switzerland to celebrate Christmas with my roommate Filip's family. Although I was only there for a few days, my impressions of Switzerland are pretty positive. People seemed nicer than in Germany, and I love the accent (much softer and more melodic than the Franconian accent). The dialects, however, are a bit difficult for me to understand if I'm not concentrating.

Over the course of the next few months, I have quite a bit planned. On Friday, I'm invited to a Silvester (New Year's) party at the home of one of my colleagues. Next week, I'm going back to Vienna to visit Andreas again. In February, I'm hopefully going skiing in Austria with the 7th grade class. Following that, Fulbright has a week-long, all expenses paid conference in Berlin at a four-star hotel. Win.

In closing, here are some more bullet points about my life here:

* It took me three months for me to get a residency permit. In the end, the worker only needed to enter some data into her computer and print the permit for me.

* I got a library card so that I could read some German books, but I had to bring proof of residency with me.

* I've been apologized to by the manager of a bank and by the alien registration office for inefficiencies that delayed my applications. In addition, being apologized to in your second language is awesome.

*A few inches of snow disables Germany. Streetcars shut down. Trains stop. Department store floors turn into lakes. The snow removal systems that exist are minimal at best.

• On a more positive note:

* After four months of searching, I finally found someone to do an impression of an American speaking German. It was hilarious and educational.

* I've been trying to master the German r, which is pronounced only enough to be difficult for English speakers (in contrast to the American r, which is heavily pronounced.

* I'm improving U.S.-German relations (the real reason I'm here) by establishing a pen pal program.

* With my extra time here, I'm looking into starting a third language. The forerunners: Arabic and Turkish.

* With more friends coming to visit, I should have my tour of Nürnberg perfected by the end of the year.

Best wishes and a happy new year!