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Sunday, September 19

So Here I Am

Here in Germany. For a year. A whole fucking year.

Shit.

This is the first opportunity I've had sufficient time in to be able to write a worthwhile amount of material for here, so here goes nothing. I have a sneaking suspicion that it could turn into another one of those epic posts for which I am famed. Famed being quite a relevant word, having been mentioned again in a Sunday newspaper this week. Well done me.

Anyway, I suppose that I should start back at the beginning. It seems like the operative place to start, as it always does. I think that I wrote here about staying in the youth hostel on my first night here in Heidelberg, so I'll pick up from the morning after. You know how I like to keep myself chronologically ordered wherever possible.

After breakfast at the youth hostel (speaking of breakfasts, I'm quite enjoying the German way of doing them here. It's very much a buffet-esque thing, mostly based around bread rolls and various fillings. Warm bread rolls too, which is always nice!) (Damn it, an aside already. This is going to be a long post), I once again picked up my bulging suitcase and hefty backpack, and headed for the bus stop to go back into town. I could have got a taxi, but I didn't know if there was a taxi rank around, or whether the youth hostel could order one. I figured that I'd better check out the bus network anyway, since I'd probably be using it a lot.

I got to the bus stop, having avoided being run over by a few cyclists (Heidelberg has unmarked cycle lanes on many pavements), and stood around waiting for the bus to turn up. That'd be 10 minutes later, and the wrong bus. I was standing at the wrong bus stop, as per usual.

I eventually found the right one, managed to say some garbled German to the bus driver regarding my destination, and got my ticket. I arrived in Universitaetplatz (University Square, also known as Uniplatz), checked the oh-so-handy map that I'd been given, and headed for the Info Cafe International (ICI), which is the uni cafe / admin centre for foreign students.

I'd been informed that it opened at 9 every morning, and I arrived just after that. Of course (of course!), it didn't open until 10, which meant that the few foreign students there at that hour had to sit around on tables outside, waiting. And waiting, and waiting.

I started chatting to a random girl that was on the table next to me, who looked just as nervous as I felt, and turned out to be French. She claimed that her English was better than her German, so we spoke in English, occasionally dipping into German. I don't speak any French, you see? Languages have become a big factor in all of my conversations since, so they'll be popping up over and over again here.

There was a machine by the door, which dispersed numbered tickets to those who were waiting. Aha, I thought, that famed German efficiency has finally raised its head. I was so wrong. I had quite a low number, since I was one of the first to get there, and with the amount of people that arrived before 10, I felt quite lucky to be potentially one of the first to be sorted out once we got in there.

Alas, it was in fact chaos in there. We all had to hand over our Zulassungbescheiden (official university place offers), which were then handed back to us in a big folder with shitloads of information. This would be when 100 people are all trying to do the same thing at the same time. I miss the good old British queue! Everyone else just seems to push to the front at the same time. It's the little things...

Eventually, after handing over 550 (around ?380) in cash for my deposit and first month's rent, I was given the key to my room, and shown where it was on a map. I'd met and chatted to a few people whilst all of the administration was being, erm, administered, but nobody seemed to be in the same hall as me, let alone be in the same part of town! Never mind, I thought, I'll just meet even more people there. How fucking wrong that would be, I shall get to.

It was then back outside and onto a bus, hoping that I'd picked the route that went to the correct end of the street my halls were on. The building number was "2", so I was pretty dismayed when I got off the bus to find myself at the end of the street and opposite a house number 32. Balls.

It was a blazing hot sunny day, my suitcase was heavy (I can't emphasise this one enough. My suitcase was fucking heavy), and I was thirsty. I walked the length of the street, sweating approximately 47 pints of water in those 12-15 minutes, to find that there was in fact no number 2 to be found anywhere. Of course.

I asked a random lady who was passing by where number 2 was, once more in slightly inept and broken German, but she had no idea, even though she had lived in number 6 for a few years. Never mind, I said, I'll figure it out. Once she'd gone, I put my bags down and hunted for the paperwork that I'd been given that morning.

My halls are on 21 Humboldtstrasse, naturally. My own fucking ineptness led to that mistake, and now forced me to walk 3/4 of the way back up the fucking street! Oh, and it gets better.

I walked in the main entrance of the halls, saw loads of letterboxes and then a set of stairs off to my right. It was up 2 flights of stairs, once more with the suitcase, to discover that my room didn't exist. Balls. I came back down, carrying the suitcase, sweating, and getting really hot, to find someone in the entrance foyer. I asked if she (why has it all been "she"s so far? Meh) knew where my room number was.

Yes, she said, up the other stairs, which were hidden in completely the opposite direction. Unsignposted, I might add. Another two flights of stairs destroyed me, but at least my key worked! I flopped onto the bed, exhausted and with rapidly blistering hands I figured out the tap to get some fluids back into me. What a morning!

Yes, this entire tale has so far only been around 3 hours of my life. Shit, 1119 words on the first three hours; this is going to be an ultra-long post, even by my standards. Apologies.

I can't remember anything hugely exciting for the rest of that day. I did some things that needed to be done, like setting up a bank account and trying to get the internet sorted for my room. For the latter, I'll just put down here for the record, the guy in the university technology place talked German at me for a solid 20 minutes, at fairly breakneck speed. That's a good way to scare yourself concerning your knowledge of the language.

A similar experience happened on Saturday (Friday was a washout too, I just watched a film on my computer and went for a walk): I had to take a test. In German.

The language course that I was going to be attending started on the Monday, so we had to do a test on the Saturday to give them the opportunity to stream us somewhat. It was so fucking hard! I literally just walked into a room, sat down and was handed this fucking difficult grammar test. 45 minutes of hell, followed by 45 minutes of further torment in the shape of a writing test.

I came out of there feeling really, really distraught at the level of my German ability. I simply couldn't do half of the grammar exercises, and my writing was similarly terrible. I sat on the bus on the way home, feeling really sorry for myself, because my German was terrible, and because I hadn't made any friends at all in 3 days of being in the country.

I laid on my bed, possibly shed a tear or two, and fell asleep for an hour or so. I woke up feeling a little better, but still had nothing to do on the Saturday night. I toyed with the idea of going into town, but decided that sitting alone in or outside a pub would make me feel even more depressed regarding my being alone. It was once more time for Pringles and a film. Thirteen, if memory serves. Still brilliant.

Sunday was a whole lot better, but I'll get back to you on that one. For now it's time for bed. I have classes in the morning, don't you know?! And not hungover, for once. I shall recount the drunkenness of the subsequent week another time.


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