My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

25 October 2006


Well, it's Friday and the second week of school is finally over. I have no class today, so my weekend has officially begun. Granted, I have a very long to-do list, but most of it can be accomplished at home, in my pajamas.

To recap this week:
  • In the course of class discussion one of my gender theory instructors wrote the following list on the board:
    I'm willing to overlook the fact they used the English/Latin "etc." instead of its German form "usw." for no good reason. What I can't ignore is their putting the word race in quotation marks. I had drafted a long explanation of why and how this was inappropriate, but I scrapped that, deciding it wasn't necessary after all. THEY PUT RACE IN QUOTATION MARKS! Enough said.

  • I have come to a surprising conclusion: German students are even more rude than American students. From what I can tell Germans are just as likely to have not done the reading and to eat and drink during class than their American counterparts. The key difference is in their tardiness. I know what you're thinking. Germans are known for their punctuality, but that trait appears to have skipped an entire generation. German students saunter into class ten, twenty, thirty or even forty-five minutes late without explanation or apology. One student came into my 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Walter Benjamin seminar at noon. Noon! (I'm not basing these assertions on one experience, either; this has happened multiple times and in every class.) I simply wouldn't put up with that in my classroom, but the Germans don't even blink.

  • I have spent a staggering amount on photocopies this week, since every class has a massive reader that is placed in a [random] copyshop somewhere in Berlin. Almost every day this week I hunted down a different reader in a different copyshop (Ooh, guess what the German word for copyshop is, go on, guess) and spent anywhere from €5 to €15 for copies of it. I miss electronireserveses, but I love that Germans have no regard for copyright laws. (Admittedly, I don't know what German copyright laws are; I'm just assuming they're similar to the laws we have in the U.S.)

  • I am finally a legal resident of Germany, having received my Aufenthaltsgenehmigung on Wednesday. I used the university's "visa service" (Yes, it's really called that, even though neither "visa" nor "service" are German words), which was definitely the right decision. It was difficult to surrender my passport for a month, but I've talked to people who are applying for the visa on their own who have to wait months for an appointment (One Fulbrighter couldn't get an appointment until December).

  • I have explored every single way there is to get to the university from my apartment. (There are many more than you might think, given the extraordinarily diverse Berlin public transit system, which includes buses, trams (streetcars), subways and trains (suburban rail).) The fastest way usually takes around thirty minutes (unless I have to wait) and involves a bus and subway. My favorite route takes much longer, though, since it involves walking most of the way. The advantage: I get to walk along a very pretty canal, across a former checkpoint and through cemeteryry.
Hmm, in reading this I realized it wasn't a very exciting week.



Blogger pat said...

I bet race was in quotation marks because it's such a starnge concept, and definitions are not agrred upon. SOme people think it is a biological category, when in fact it's a social construct--and not a very useful one at that. People confuse race with ethnicity, too, as you know. (Don't you hate it when people tell you what you already know? Drives me crazy.)

6:49 PM

Blogger Maureen said...

The instructors meant well, but I really don't agree with putting race in quotes. I think their reason for it was the one you mentioned. Race is a loaded term and I think their use of quotes was an attempt to acknowledge that and to head off any long, involved discussion about race. However, gender and sexuality are just as complex concepts as race. The question of how much is biologically determined and how much is socially determined is just as debatable with gender and sexuality as it is with race. And putting race in quotation marks makes it seem ironic, like how American use air quotes. You know, there's a big difference between saying "the 'literature' Stephen King writes..." and "the literature Stephen King writes..."

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