Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 200: Berlin calling and Vienna in the springtime

Hello readers! 

(How is it already day 200??!!)

Sorry about the lateness of this post--this week was rather busy, as I was in Berlin for the Fulbright Conference, where over 500 Fulbrighters from various countries in Europe and elsewhere met to participate in panels, discussions, and other activities. I'd been so excited to go, because I couldn't wait to meet other Fulbrighters and learn about their teaching and/or research projects, and while not all of the scheduled parts of the conference were as enjoyable or interesting as I would have wanted them to be, I did end up making some friends with some Germany-based Fulbrighters with whom I walked around the city on various days.

It was lovely to be back in Berlin for a few days in the spring after being there for Christmas--it felt like an entirely different city. Coincidentally, the hotel Fulbright put us up in was a few blocks away from the hotel I'd stayed in for my Christmas visit, so I was, of course, an expert on what to do in that immediate area, and how to take the scenic routes to the main part of Berlin--along the street that borders the embassies, or beside the river past the Bauhus-Archiv and Kulturforum. Another major difference between the trips was that I refused to take another ten-hour bus ride from Vienna to Berlin, so I took a short flight. More expensive, for sure, but it only took about an hour and not ten. I managed to catch a few winks during that flight, which is one of the few actual tangible skills I have noticed I've cultivated as a college student (or, rather: the ability to fall asleep anywhere given a relatively stable temperature and quiet environment). My handwriting might have degraded as a result of me typing more notes and papers, but my napping expertise certainly has grown by leaps and bounds.
Good morning, star shine. My nap went great!
Essentially, the conference activities fell into the following categories: larger assemblies/performances where people spoke to us about how great we were and how important the Fulbright program is; panels where people presented their research and then answered questions; and breakout groups, which we signed up for in advance. My breakout group was, unfortunately, not a really educational experience. While other groups used their time to discuss global politics, diversity within the Fulbright organization, and other topics I would have found interesting, my group, which was supposed to be about communication, essentially amounted to us meditating while standing for a good thirty minutes to clear our minds. It was, I guess, self-communication in that we wrote down a question at the beginning of the session and then waited to see if the answer would come to us after the meditation, but unfortunately, the meditation did not exactly bring me the clarity that would have been ideal. I did manage to clear my mind, which was pretty interesting as I usually have racing thoughts most of the time. The panels were more successful as a whole, because it was really cool to learn about what other people were doing with their grants. There was a Fulbrighter studying solar power in Spain, another grantee doing archeological research in Greece, yet another studying recidivism rates for DUIs in Finland--truly a wide range of projects in many fields!
Fancy evening welcome ceremony. I was hoping they'd give us medals or certificates or something like that. Sadly, we got no fancy tchotchkes, but we did get tote bags and pens!
The entrance hall to the fancy Berlin municipal building! I wanted to roll down the steps like a burrito, but that might have been more than a little painful.
Art installation in Bikini Berlin, the ultimate (only?) hipster mall.
This was a kind of kinetic sound performance with unconventional instruments, like velcro. It was pretty cool in theory, even if it didn't sound that fancy.
One of my roommates snapped this on the return flight because somehow I was seated behind her! Out of deference to her, I made sure not to kick the seat like a baby. I'm so considerate like that.
I went inside KaDeWe, which is basically the Berlin version of Harrod's, and had to try on this lovely fancy dress, because every time they let me try on the designer clothes I have to do it. In person it was a bit lighter, and while I would have definitely worn it to the Oscars or something, the color is a little bit too Statue of Liberty-y.
It's finally spring in Vienna. Of course, now that I have just typed this out, it's probably going to snow tomorrow, because the world loves irony. The sun no longer sets at four pm--now it's between seven and eight, a far more reasonable time. Every year I forget what walking around in springtime sunlight is like after spending so much time bundled up in sweaters during the winter, and so when I went for an afternoon walk around the city I found myself sweating in my jacket and shorts. I made my way over to the banks of the Danube and had a city-related Stendhal Syndrome moment--it was too beautiful to be real, just like much of Vienna was at the beginning of this journey. The trees were blooming along the water, the grass was green, people were lying out in the sun, jogging, biking--it was perfect picnic weather. Perfect weather in general, actually. 
Los Angeles should take a hint about how cities integrate rivers without filling them with concrete...
It's just too pretty. FAKE!
Walking around in the perfect weather did make me feel a little strange, though, because if it's springtime it means I have less than three months left of my grant. It honestly feels like I've been here for not that long, and now that I've gotten through the winter months, I have a sinking feeling that summer will sneak up on me before I know it. People told me that the Fulbright would change my life, and it has in certainly obvious material and physical ways, but I still feel like the same person I was when I left. I guess when I come home I'll feel different, but it's always hard to feel like you should have changed or developed and haven't noticed any real differences aside from the mental changes I've had to make to adjust to living in a foreign country. I will say, though, that when I come back home I'll sound so snobbishly European when I talk about "the states" and "going to university" and all the other tweaks I've gotten used to using in an Austria context... 
Younger than springtime?
Bonus photos of the week:
Spotted at some store in Berlin. Who thought these shoes were remotely allowed or okay?!
YESSICA HAIRCUT. One of Count Olaf's shabbier disguises. 
Thanks for telling me what the bag is for, H&M Berlin... really appreciate it...

I think this is a lamb-shaped cake?
This top combination is painful on the eyes and belongs in the early 2000s.

1 comment: