Less than a week ago, I was still in the United States, and thinking that I wasn't going to get to leave for Cologne for another three weeks. The problem was that the German powers-that-be were being slow with processing my working visa that I had applied for at the beginning of March. They said that it would take an extra three weeks to process it and get it sent to me. They were also holding my passport since your visa has to be issued with your actual passport. So the day before my flight was supposed to leave I was in Charlotte and got a phone call from the German Consulate in Atlanta that they would send me my passport overnight and I could fly the next day. (To change my flight was going to be over $800.) Apparantly my friend's father (a german with some political presence) had asked for a favor, and I would be allowed to enter the country. So the good news is, I saved $800, made it to Deutschland, and alles ist klar! The bad news is that I still don't have my visa, and have to wait a couple of more weeks without being able to work. Ok, so I am in Germany and can't work, doesn't sound so bad, but keeping myself from spending money while I am waiting for my visa is hard to do, and I have a negative income! But that is the story of how I was able to get into the country. My flight was alright, and my roommate's boyfriend was kind enough to pick me up at the airport. I feel really lucky that everything fell into place like it did!
So a little bit about what life here is like . . . I am living in an apartment just outside of the city center, with two others. My roommates are very very nice and very helpful with getting me adjusted to everything here. My first day here, I spent the majority of the day sleeping since I had not slept the entire flight. It's safe to say I was exhausted. The next day was the start of a good few days. Several of my roommates' friends came to the apartment to make a house party before going out to a kneipe (club). They taught me a little bit about German drinking culture, and more specifically Cologne drinking culture. In the picture, you can see the typical and popular beer here in Cologne, Reissdorf Koelsch. Koelsch is the type of beer that is specific to this region, and Reissdorf is one of several brands sold here. Those of you in Raleigh, if you go to the Flying Saucer downtown, they have Reissdorf Koelsch on tap, but I believe it is a good six dollars for a pint, and it is probably not served in the traditional Koelsch glass as seen in the picture. After having a drink or two, I also learned that it is NOT illegal to just carry your beer with you on the street. Upon leaving for the club, I left my unfinished beer in the apartment only to find everyone else just casually drinking theirs on the way to the "Purple Club" just a short one minute trek from our front door (yikes). When we got to the club, they had 200 liters of free Koelsch. I am going to stop the commentary here for that night.
It is important for me to mention that while I have been here, the commodity of speaking English has been refused to me. One of my roommates does not speak English, and the other roommate refuses to for my own good, and so do the rest of their friends. It is exactly what I need, and has been good so far. A lot of times I have to ask for someone to repeat to me, and hopefully communicating with me has not been too frustrating, but it has been a great learning experience, and I feel like every minute of the day I am learning something new and my German is improving. I never realized, however, how mentally tiring it is. All day long to comprehend, and try to communicate back, it takes a lot of energy, and I've never felt my thoughts feeling so tired before. Fluently speaking in language is a gift that we probably take for granted.
Well, I am already writing too much for one post, so I am going to stop here and continue with more later. I miss everyone at home, however, I am having a great time here as well. The first week is almost over, and I can tell that these six months are going to go very fast.