22.09.2014 - 26.09.2014 6 °C
After two weeks of classes, one might think that my life is calming down and/or settling into a real school-year routine. But in this case, one would be mistaken. I am definitely “settling in” to school in the important ways (e.g. going to classes, doing homework, etc.), but this in no way feels like actually being in school. I’m only in classes for 15 hours, four days a week, with very few other engagements. So I’m still able to do a lot of wandering, impulse outings, and reading in parks (although it’s starting to get a bit chilly here for that last one).
For example, I had the time to teach my South Korean and Taiwanese friends how to make chocolate chip cookies on Monday night. Baking is not a big thing in either of their cultures – Gabrielle is an amazing cook (I’ve eaten two of her dinners…), but she had never baked from scratch before, and Claudia had baked a couple of cakes in her childhood. So it was truly a new experience for them! They got to learn about the importance of using room-temp butter (of course, this step was forgotten ahead of time, so Gabrielle got to warm the butter with her body heat while Claudia chopped the chocolate bars).
They also tasted brown sugar for the first time and discovered that the raw batter is just as good as – if not better than – the final product! In the end, we had a great night and made (and ate a surprising portion of) a batch of wonderful cookies!
I had heard from multiple friends that there were other Nebraskans studying at the CLA, and I kept hoping that I would find them. Finally, I met them at the weekly international party downtown. (Side note: These parties are on Tuesday nights – further indication that my schedule is really surreal right now!) The other Nebraskans are actually both from UNO – one is from Plattsmouth and the other is from Omaha too! So that was really fun. I don’t know if/when I will see them again, but it’s cool to know that there are fellow Omahans in the vicinity!
Wednesday started out normally enough (aside from the fact that waking up after being up so late on Tuesday night was less than awesome). I ended up on the same bus to class as my friend Nicolle (the other American girl in my classes). We got off the bus about two blocks from the building (it’s actually kind of an office park, of which the CLA takes up about a quarter) where our classes are held, and when we turned the last corner, we discovered that all of its occupants were standing in the street, watching a cloud of smoke billowing from our corner of the building! It turned out to have been in the parking lot behind the building, but after we had been standing in the street for about twenty minutes and it was clear we wouldn’t be going in any time soon, classes were cancelled for the day!
So, finding ourselves downtown at 10:30am with nothing to do, Nicolle and I went in search of a post office for me and a lunch to go for her. She found this bakery, which is apparently hiring a patisserie apprentice. (Eva is making arrangements!)
After Nicolle bought her sandwich, we turned the corner and ran into four of our classmates sitting outside at a café. So we stopped, ordered coffee, and chatted for two hours! This turned out to be extra fantastic, because one very important thing that has been missing from my life over the past few weeks has been a good coffee shop. Believe me, there is NO shortage of cafés here, but it seemed to me like they are generally used for chats between two or three people or for meals (every café that I have seen is also a restaurant – but usually without a full menu, just the “plate of the day”) and I really didn’t want to commit a cultural offense by parking myself at a table alone for hours and just order tiny coffees. But I got the feeling that this would still be ok.
So guess what I did yesterday?! I had three hours between classes, so I went back over to The Green Man (the name is actually in English), and did exactly that. The place is really interesting; it’s pretty small, with maybe six or seven tables inside; it has kind of a rustic atmosphere and some really cool antique instruments for decoration; and the stairs down to the toilette make me feel like I’m in a castle!
Also, on an exploration of a new neighborhood, I came across a promising candidate for the ugliest apartment building in existence:
Language wins of the week:
1. Understood class lecture even through my dozing state.
2. Ordered a coffee (or three) like a total French person!
3. At the post office, I dropped a colloquial grammaticism that I that I have observed, and when I said that I’d need international postage to the US, he seemed genuinely surprised that I was American. (However, I have gotten the vibe that Americans are generally held to a lower linguistic standard than other travelers. Often in conversations where people know from the beginning that I’m an international student (that’s pretty much every conversation; it’s pretty obvious!) they are surprised when, later on, it comes up that I’m from the US. It’s pretty much a “Really? But you speak so well!” kind of thing…
Language fails of the week:
1. I passed a man in the street and said, “Au revoir” instead of “Bonjour”…
2. I continue to slip up and use the informal version of “you” with adults.
3. When I went to the bank to pick up my ATM card, the secretary explained to me that the transfer from my American account had not yet been received so my card was not yet active (I understood that part fine) but then she went on to say that I would need to come back to make a withdrawal in order to activate it (I thought she said that she couldn’t give me the card until there was money in the account, so I’d have to come back later for it). So I thanked her, turned around, and started to leave. I was at the door when I realized that she was trying to call me back. No – she was going to give me the card today, but I would have to come back later to activate it. To make things worse, this last part was in English. And then she apologized to me for her “bad” English…