It always amazes me how much I learn everyday. From cutting avocados and eating figs whole, to German sentence structure and Berlin's history, I have learned so many new things in such a short amount of time, yet I feel like I have not even begun to scratch the surface of what Berlin has to offer.
This past Saturday I visited Potsdam's Schloss Sanssouci with my host mom and her two little boys. In order to keep the little one's happy, we took a horse and buggy ride around the park, and I was amazed to find so many palaces in one small area! Potsdam has a completely different feel than Berlin, though I love them both! After walking around the park complex, we spent an hour or so just wandering through the streets of the town, which was quaint, quiet, and adorable! I would definitely go back to spend another day there.
Getting home from Potsdam was quite an adventure due to the nuclear power protests going on in the streets outside our apartment. The police were blocking off the road to any cars, and we were not allowed in to the area we live, so with some convincing from my host mom, and after she showed her US embassy ID, we finally got through. I then set out with two other interns and a Berlin student for a night of science at Berlin universities: Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften. From 6PM til 1AM, Berlin universities were open to the public in order to exhibit their student's work. We saw tango dancers, a Korean cultural celebration, a test of how music influences emotions, and lots of physics demonstrations!
Sunday I took a free walking tour suggested to me by a German friend, and it was great! I would highly recommend it to anyone, including Berliners. Starting at the Brandenburg Gate, we walked all through the center of Berlin, and after three and a half hours, we ended our tour at Museum Island. I learned so much, and the tour guide was great. There were about 20 people in our group, and there were 4 English-speaking tours that left at the same time. This same tour happens twice a day, every day, so if anyone ever has a free day in Berlin, definitely check it out!
After the tour on Sunday, I heard about an arts flea market at Schloss Charlottenburg, so I met some of the other interns there to check it out. It was great! In a beautiful location, we spent a couple hours meandering through rows and rows of little tents, each one selling its own unique art. There were jewelry, clothing, painting, musical instrument, toy, and hat stands, not to mention lots of food! I ended up buying a beautiful wool hat for myself, and a loaf of fresh bread to take home to my host family. I wish the US had more markets like that!
My host teacher was back at school on Monday after being gone last week to have her wisdom teeth taken out. She was very pleased to find out that we'd finished the material she left us to cover, and that I'd gotten lots of experience actually teaching the class! At lunch time on Mondays she offers extra help for students who need it, and since they'd improved so much this year, we took them to get ice cream at a fantastic ice cream shop next to the school! They loved it, and so did we :)
Monday night I had one of my most enlightening experiences so far in Berlin; I had dinner with four German university students and with three of the other Minnesotan interns. We all met at the apartment of our new friend, Maja, and the 8 of us made a beautiful dinner and ate while discussing cultural and language differences between the Minneapolis and Berlin. I learned a lot about relationships (between friends, parents and children, and boyfriends/girlfriends), food, education, music, and politics. Oh, and also about Germany's regional accents and lexical differences. These are the things I might otherwise not have learned while in Berlin, but they are also the things that fascinate me the most.
After a really great morning at school yesterday, my host teacher insisted I take the rest of the day off. Since it was so incredibly hot outside, I got some sorbet, put on a sundress, and walked through Tiergarten enjoying sun and nice weather! Just as I started to overheat, I got a call from another intern, Savanah, asking if I had plans for the day. We ended up exploring Hackescher Markt, cute shops and cafés connected by a series of beautiful courtyards. It was unlike any shopping center I've ever seen! When it started to rain, we made our way home, and I had a wonderful dinner with my host family, whom I love.
This morning I had the fantastic opportunity of visiting a completely different school from the one where I am teaching. After three buses and a train, I arrived at a gymnasium in Pankow, where I spoke for and hour and a half with an 8th grade class. I talked about my background and why I'm in Berlin, then I told them about being a high school student in the US. They had lots of questions to ask, and I was amazed by the ones they chose. We talked about differences in having a job while studying, owning a car, the drinking age, public transportation, career decisions, applying for a university, cost of education, and being involved in extra-curricular activities. Something I found interesting is that the girls wanted to know about pop-culture: celebrities, tv shows, and discos. The boys, on the other hand, were more interested in political topics. I was asked about Obama, America's reaction to Osama bin Laden's death, nuclear power, what America is doing to save the environment, and my opinions of Berlin. I also was asked whether young people are actually rude to adults, and also if most Americans eat lots of fast food. These clearly came from stereotypes that the students had heard, and I was happy to clear things up for them!
I headed back to my first and second graders for the afternoon, and my host teacher invited me out to dinner with her family for tonight. There is a long weekend due to Ascension Day, so I will have to find something extra exciting to do!