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:


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…

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