June 2007


Monday-Wednesday: I was tired of sight seeing, so I just took it easy. Instead I spent my extra time working through Romans and studying my lists of vocab that I’ve come across in my 4 weeks. As I mentioned in my previous post, I started focusing on synonyms, so I also started to add some of those to my previous lists. After class on Wednesday, I went out to eat with a few other classmates.

Thursday: Slept in. I hit a couple of sights a fortress in Spandau (far West Berlin). While there I passed by the 1936 Olympic Stadium. This is the famed place where Jessie Owens won gold at the early stages of Hitler’s rule against his goal to show Aryan superiority. I also had dinner with music/missions/et al. guy at IBC Berlin–the church I’ve attended the past two weekends. He offered to let me into the church bookstore so I could get a few German worship CDs. I got three of the Feiren und Loben CDs. The music sounds a little late 80s (instrument-wise), though several of the songs are recent English translations. Paul and I had a great dinner and discussion. It turns out that we’re both from east Texas, and have a couple of mutual friends. It’s seems like a really nice church with some good missions work. It was definitely a great way to end my last full day in Germany with somebody I just met that day for the first time but who shares the same faith.

Friday: Headed home around noon back to the UK. KLM doesn’t get high marks for efficiency at the Berlin airport. We left a couple of minutes late, but the real problem was the time it took to check in at their desk. They only check in individual flights at a specific gate, and as when Heather flew out, they just seemed to have 1 too few people processing passengers. Not a deal breaker to fly with them again, but an inconvenience. I was surprised to have to go through Passport control in Amsterdam and Newcastle, England, as I thought all EU connecting flights were exempt, but I guess not. It was just a quick stamp each time, so no troubles. All that said, my trip back to England was uneventful. I was very glad to be home and see my family. Good times.

Saturday: My sons’ best friends across the street have a German father, so I got to practice my German on them. There’s just something a little less intimidating when you are talking to 5 and 6 year-olds. So I get a regular chance to practice.

Other than that, life is back to normal. I grilled (or as they say here ‘BBQ’d’) this evening. I think we’re going to host a July 4 BBQ as well.

The fourth week ended up being a short week–only 3 days. I thought it was going to be 4, but apparently the final test (if you want some official determination of your level) was Thursday and Friday, not Friday/Saturday like I thought. Anyhow, my teacher gave up the workbook so we could cover the subjunctive. I would say that wrapped up the last big piece of grammar for me. Not that I’ve got it all down, by any means, but we at least covered the major points–verbs (past, future, subjunctive), adjectives, and prepositions (esp, the daran, davon, womit, etc. constructions which I didn’t ever understand before). So now it’s a matter of mastering the vocab and becoming more at easy with German style–stuff that just comes with reading, reading, and more reading.

I made it through the first three chapters of Romans in German. There are quite a few words that I had to look up, and in that process I think I’ve just about mastered the new vocabulary process for myself. One of the biggest challenges for vocab acquisition is not just picking up new words, but it’s the multiple synonyms that are used (just like in any language) that seems to be the next hurdle after learning the basic vocab. So as I look up each new word I come across, I also look up the English word to see what the possible German synonyms are besides the definition. (I use a sheet of notebook paper folded in half. That way I can get 4 columns of german words per sheet.) This seems to work really well, because I’m either learning two or three German words at once and/or reinforcing connections between the German.

Only one in my class (that I know of) took the final. It takes several hours over two days. It will give you some official confirmation of the level you achieved. They also offered a short (2 hr) assessment test on Tuesday. We all passed that up, too, because it was only offered during class time, and it would have interrupted our subjuntive discussion.

As many of you know, Germans like to combine words together. Here’s the longest one that I’ve seen so far:

Vollmilchschokoladenhohlkörper

As in: ‘Gefüllter Vollmilchschokoladenhohlkörper mit besonders reichhaltiger milchfülliung’, or ‘Filled (with a toy) whole milk chocolate hollow body with a particularly rich milk (chocolate) filling’. This was the description of Kinder Surprise Eggs, which are chocolate eggs with a small toy inside. The perfect gifts to bring back to two boys who’ve been without their father for a month.

That’s 30 letters by my count!

Here’s a quote from my wife’s blog, that is so true of us both….

I guess after living somewhere for a while you tend to take on a little bit of that culture, right?

Here is why, after my visit to Berlin, I think I may be a bit more British:

I actually looked the wrong way when crossing the street in Berlin. I am definitely used to people driving on the left now.
You have to know that ‘queue jumping’ (cutting in line) in England is like the ultimate sin. People are overly polite when you are at a bus stop. When the bus arrives, everyone tries to make sure that whoever was standing there first, even if you aren’t queued up, gets on the bus first. In Berlin, everyone just pushes their way on. It all seemed rather rude to me (and I’m not sure it would have if I had been visiting from America).
The rain didn’t bother me much…and it POURED the 2nd day we were there.
I couldn’t manage to say ‘cents’ in reference to the Euro. I kept saying ‘pence’.
It didn’t seem strange that I had to walk a few blocks, take a bus, take a train, and take a metro to get to the airport and then do that all in reverse when I got home.

It actually felt like home when I was crossing the footpath from the train station to the bus stop when I returned to Durham. Guess you can say that we have all adjusted well after being here for nearly a year. What a blessing!

A few of my own:
I kept saying £-pounds instead of €-euros.
I told Heather it was a short walk to the U-Bahn stop (she told me it was probably close to 1/2 a mile.)
It’s an adjustment to speak American English. (I heard that those who go back to the States sound like they are snobby or something by using the British-speak (words and intonation) they pick up. So I tried to shift back so as to not put the Americans off.)

I turned on the TV this evening to chill out a little and do some homework. My TV gets about 20 channels or so, and all the shows are in German. However, quite a few are American shows with voice overs–CSI, Law and Order, and the like. There are also US movies that are the voiced-over as well. So tonight when I sat down they had an episode of King of Queens, but unfortunately my German isn’t good enough to follow the conversations.

After that there was another good US show–’Ein Käfig voller Helden,’ or ‘A Cage Full of Heroes’ or you might know it better as ‘Hogan’s Heroes’. It just doesn’t seem the same when the prisoners have German accents as well. :) It seems that the Germans are good at looking at their own history, but it’s weird to think that this is popular enough here to show.

In the mid-mornings the Walton’s comes on a different channel. In the UK I can understand picking up all the popular US shows, but it’s interesting to see how other places do as well.

I submitted a proposal to the Paul seminar for the September British New Testament Society just before I left for Berlin. I got an email back saying that this year all the Paul papers were invited, so all the slots were filled. However, he sent my proposal on to the Hermeneutics section. And I received confirmation a few days ago that my paper ‘The Motif of Glory in Romans’ has been accepted. It’s a 45 minute slot, so I get 20-25 minutes to present and 20 minutes for questions. I think they say about 100 wpm reading is good–so that’s ‘only’ a 2000 word essay.

Before I submitted the proposal, I did some general writing on the topic to help get my thoughts together and think about key issues that should be discussed. From that I decided to focus on the timing of glory and relationship between righteousness and glory in the letter. The conference is in early September, so that gives me July and August to get it together.

I did a conference presentation back when I was doing my MBA but it was more informal–not a full paper but a summary of some financial analysis I did with regard to earnings management. I did it because it got me a free trip to Las Vegas for me and my wife from the school I was attending. Since another prof from my school was the one organizing it, I asked for the 8am slot on the first day hoping that I wouldn’t get much of a turnout. It was 10 or so people and one of them hammered me on the fact that I was using an old formula to test the results. In fact I knew I was, but it was the only one I could understand the math!

It is a little daunting to think about doing the presentation, but this is what academics do so I thought I should jump in as early as I can. This actually relates to my thesis topic, so hopefully it will move me along there too.

As requested here are a pics of where I’m staying and other major sights:

The apartment building I’m staying in. I’m in Friedrichshain, which is just east of the city centre, about 20-25 trip by U-Bahn to Goethe, which is in the former East Berlin section of the city centre or Mitte. The layout seems pretty standard compared to others–bäckereien (bakeries), restaurants, etc. on the ground floor with living space above.

But in my neck of the woods (former East Berlin) there is lots of graffiti–on all the buildings. This is just outside my door. Hardly any litter (like you would find in Durham) but lots of graffiti.

Me next to a piece of the wall.

Here’s Brandenburg Gate, over Pariser Platz. The Quadriga (Goddess Victoria) is at the top. So German ‘victory’ stands over the ‘Paris’ Plaza–kind of a poke in the eye to the French after Napoleon took the statue, at least that’s what my tour guide said.

Also, here’s a slideshow my wife put together…

Monday: Spent extra reading time, which seems to be the best way for me to build a list of words to memorize. For the last hour of class Goethe paid for us to get some Hagen Daz ice cream around the corner in honor of one of our classmate’s b-day. The teacher told us that we had a €6 limit! I was like, who can spend that much on ice cream. Little did I know–a 2 scoop bowl with a topping was €5.80 (~$7)! But is was good.

Tuesday: Meine hübsche Frau arrived from Durham this evening! We’ve got a couple of days together to explore the city without kids thanks to her grandparents taking care of them.

Wednesday: We took the opportunity to take it easy. I went to half of class while Heather went on the New Berlin ‘free’ (tips) tour. She was pleased…I caught up with them at the end, and Charlie did a little better than Per, but we’d recommend them without hesitation. We got dinner, and then went to the Reichstag–parliment building. It was practically unused once Hitler took power. In fact a fire set there was the flash point that he used to consolidate power as a dictator. After German reunification, a glass dome was added to its roof so the people can walk in and look down on their representatives. It’s a symbolic show that the government is for the people as it was intended. In fact the phrase from the original building still stands: ‘Dem deutschen Volk’ (For the German People).

Thursday: We went to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp (KZ: Konzentrationslager) just outside Berlin, with the New Berlin tours. It was one of the first planned camps (vs one that was just thrown together), and it served as the headquarters for the whole camp system. The experience is hard to describe. It was cool and rainy–seemingly appropriate to fit the mood. As we went from building to building, it just got more depressing. At first you hear they did A, and you think that is horrible. Then you go to the next building and you hear they did B, and it’s even worse. Then the next and so on. It’s all things I’ve heard before but when you are in the actual place it happened, it’s a bit more real. Eventually it just made me sick–especially when we got to the extermination part, where they perfected the way to kill people without harming the guards’ conscience. (This was a concentration camp–a work/prison camp–not a death camp, where they just killed people, but most there ended up dying from the conditions, though they did also just exterminate people as well.) I doubt I’ll ever go to a camp again, unless I’m taking a group or my kids there when they are older.

In the end, the thing I took away from it is that no matter what negative reprocussions that we think may fall on us, we must stand up for the rights of all. Most of the German people seemed not to know much of what went on in these camps at first (do we question what goes on in our prisons?). Then when the truth started to get out, they didn’t speak up for fear of being put there themselves. It really makes me question things like the Guantanimo detentions where civil rights are redefined and ‘limited’ applications of torture are used. Shouldn’t we distance ourselves from any hint of injustice and totalitarian activities against people? I’m also moving more towards a pacifist position. Maybe there are just wars, but I think more and more that we must be defensive with military force rather than offensive.

Camp Gates: ‘Work makes (you) free’ — a bit of a lie.
Arbeit Macht Frei -- Work makes you Free -- a bit of a lie

Soviet Memorial for all the oppressed socialiasts and communists. If you look closely you’ll see the red triangles at the top–they signify mark the socialists had on their prison uniforms. Others: Jews-gold, gays-pink, concientious objectors-purple, criminals-green.
Soviet Memorial

Most of the camp dormitories were wooden and have fallen apart, so they have these markers to show where they stood. Many have stones on them–a Jewish method of remembrance.
Building 40

Den Opfern des KZ Sachsenhausen, In memory of the victims of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. This is at Station Z, the extermination area.
Victims of the KZ

Friday: Dropped Heather off at Tegel Airport. They check you in there by flight–that is, you don’t just check in with KLM, you go to the flight checkin for KLM’s 10:15 flight to Amsterdam. It seemed a bit slower, and not the most efficient, but from what I could tell there were no delays with security checking. I did a little catch-up on homework before class, and just chilled at the house afterwards since I was tired from the last couple of days of running around the city.

Saturday: It was raining, and I was tired of sight seeing, so I just hung out in my room all day. Since I goofed off watching too much TV last weekend, I turned it off all day until about 9pm when Die Hard 2 was on (or Sterb Langsam 2). I got most of my HW done and read thru Romans 1 in German. All those sin words near the end of the chapter took on new meanings when I thought of the depravity of man with regard to my Thursday trip to the KZ at Sachsenhausen.

Sunday: Headed back to the International Baptist Church. I was going to visit a third church to see the differences but as I said I’m tired of sight seeing. I would rather go somewhere not new and where I already know there are friendly people waiting on me. Last Sunday I hear that I missed Jimmy (J.D.G.) Dunn speak at our church back in Durham. My wife said he preached on legalism and things that we do to add to the gospel. I asked Heather if he ever used the phrase ‘boundary markers’ and she said no. :)

I feel that my vocab is picking up–although what I’m learning is pretty context specific. Since I’ve been specifically translating through the news every day, lots of the words I’m picking up are either battle and disaster related (Gaza, Iraq), government related (EU, G8), and the like. But I can say that after doing this for about a week now, I can make it through the stories much quicker and have to look up many fewer words each day. I think in the coming week I’ll move to translating Paul’s letters. I’ve found it works well to just keep a running list of new words I come across, and regularly review those. That way I’m focusing on words that are actually used and ones that I see within their own context.

The class is good, but it is really beginning to wear on me. 4.5 hours a day in German is a lot, and I’m beginning to feel that sometimes my time just sitting and tranlating through texts are sometimes more helpful because I build my vocab faster. However, we’ve been working prepositions some, and it’s clear that I wouldn’t pick up the distinctive uses of auf, an, etc. from the English uses without doing it in class. In fact, even after going through it in class I’m still having trouble, so I decided that I’m going to record every time I see a preposition used so I can get a feel of which ones are used in which context.

My wife came for a 2.5 day visit, and it provided a nice break from the daily class routine. We did some sight seeing and I took a day off from class. When I came back on Friday, I felt more engaged.

Monday & Tuesday: Went to class as normal. I spent my extra time translating through the Deutsche Welle daily news website designed for Ausländer (foreigners). It has a paragraph about 5 or 6 major world events and 1 or 2 about stuff in Germany. The nice thing is that it also reads it outloud slowly so it’s easy to pick up the pronunciation while you’re reading it. (Click on the date for the text).

Wednesday: Went to the Jüdisches Museum. Unfortunately, the person giving the tour was not from Goethe and didn’t give that good of a talk. However, the museum itself seemed interesting. One of the most interesting parts was a room called Falling Leaves. As a memorial of the Holocaust, they have room filled with these faces over which you must walk. It makes an eerie clinking sound as the metal moves under your feet. Very sobering as you think that this only represents a portion of the people killed.

Thursday: Went on a walking tour of Kreuzberg with Goethe. It’s former West Berlin (south), right next to the East Berlin wall. It is a big student and artist part of town and now also has a large Turkish immigrant population. It’s a very ‘political’ area, with the Greens taking something like 60% (I think) of the vote in this area.

Friday: Went to the Pergamon Museum with Goethe. It’s very impressive. It has reconstructions from a large portion of an ancient Greek temple from Pergamon and most of the ancient Babylonian Gates from original materials from the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Both are about 2500 years old and show that ancient buildings could be both massive and ornate.

A portion of the Babylon Gates:

Part of the Pergamon Temple wall, which included scenes related to every god you could think of…
Here’s another perspective…

Saturday: Went on a tour of the Stadtmuseum (City Museum) with Goethe. It’s one of the only museums in the city not built in a neo-classical/Greco-Roman architecture. It’s a building designed to look like local churches combined with other buildings. They had 3 models of the city from it’s beginnings up to the 18th century. It was nice to get a perspective on how the city grew from a couple of local fishing villages to one of the world’s major cities. One interesting point I learned was that after WWII when the city was split between the east and west, the Soviets got all of the historical city of Berlin–the Berlin Wall started at the Brandenburg Gate, which was the western gate to the old city. However, the city had obviously grown much further west before that time, so it wasn’t like West Berlin had nothing, but all the historical museums, churches, etc. were in East Berlin.

I learned that the professor who lead the morning tour was also going to lead another Goethe tour after lunch about local art galleries. I like her tours best because I understand about 90% of what she says rather than 70% of others, so I went. It was mostly small private galleries with one major, modern art exhibit a piece. I started to get tired of walking and modern art doesn’t do much for me. But she did stop to show us these rather recent individual memorials for those who died in the Holocast–Stumbling Stones, ‘Stolpersteine’, see also here. I’m not sure how modern Germans process all these reminders of this mark in their history–not that we’d want anyone to forget what can happen. It is sobering to think of each one of the stones as a person.

Sunday: This morning I attended International Baptist Church Berlin. I can gladly say that I received the opposite extreme from the church I went to last week–the people here were warm and welcoming, and I had several nice chats. I also ran into a Campus Crusade group that is here in Berlin for a short-term trip to help get some campus outreach ministries going. After the service I also met the long-term guy who will be coordinating stuff. A right nice crowd, and a lovely outing. Lord willing, I’ll be going back there next week.

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