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I'm a homeless illegal immigrant...?
The European Union
The Oldest City in Germany

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London Calling

London, United Kingdom

Made it!!!

I got into the London Gatwick airport last night at about 11:30. The train I had booked to get to London Bridge station got detoured or something (there were a lot of "urgent's" everywhere with new directions to places in London I don't know) and the ticket machine wouldn't recognize my card anyway (meaning I couldn't print out my tickets) so I just bought another ticket - this one for the Gatwick Express. Non-stop between Gatwick and Victoria.

The confusion led to me using up a fair amount of my newly bought phone credit (because i can't top-up outside of Germany) trying to get Steph to go to Victoria instead. Which worked. When I got to Victoria I was just putting my luggage down on the platform when AG called. Apparently Steph just didn't recognize me at first - I was wearing a coat (which I don't do at home), my hair was darker, longer, I'm paler, and I was on the phone with someone. I found this concept quite amusing - but it's sad that we hadn't seen each other in that long. :(

ANYWAY, so the weekend was spent in London. The wonderful part was that we didn't have a terribly concrete plan... except to find Banksy pieces. So most of the weekend was spent wandering and getting by (meaning we ate). And we did find Banksy pieces!!! I uh... may have turned into a giddy five year old girl... maybe.... We also found the 100 Club, which is basically the first venue in which punk music was ever played (that wasn't someone's garage or something) and meant to find a few other sites but never got around to it. We did find Platform 9 3/4 as well, which was really entertaining. It's basically half of a luggage cart sticking out of a wall. Picture time!

We met some really awesome people, too. The first night at the hostel was incredibly entertaining - the place is designed for "young backpackers" which I think just translates to party-ish. The place is right above a bar, at any rate. But there was a misunderstanding between Steph and the people there, so we only had it booked for 1 night. Fortunately we took so long trying to figure out the luggage storage place the next day (they said we could keep our luggage there during the day while we found another place) that we were right there when two people from the other hostel connected to the one we were in cancelled. So we shlepped our stuff all the way over, but it was considerably quieter there. Except for the French guys who played guitar and sang all day in the room next door. The guy who worked there was named Fernando and had a CRAZY upbringing: I think he was Portugese, but he'd lived in Germany, China, South Africa, and a couple other places. He was really nice and actually gave us graffiti-finding advice.

Pictures will come soon, I promise.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on March 1, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: I'm a homeless illegal immigrant...?
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Leaving Freiburg

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Well guys, I'm finally out of here. I got my paper, presentation, internship and packing all finished, so all that's left to do is hop on a plane and leave. My appointment with the Hausmeister was today at about twelve (I didn't sleep at all last night for packing) and I dropped some stuff with some friends to keep until I get back. Went to work because I had nowhere else to go, ran a few errands, and barely made my bus to the airport. So now I'm just waiting for my plane from Basel to London.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on February 27, 2009 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
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Model EU

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

We've had for the past three days our Model EU Summit.

Each of us is either a head of state or a foreign minister of a member-state of the EU. I was the foreign minister for Cyprus.

The foreign ministers and the heads of state each had their own conference room, and were given their own sets of issues. Heads of State dealt with expansion, the Lisbon Treaty, and something to do with Iceland I didn't quite understand (I find Turkey a more pressing issue than Iceland, but France set the agenda). As a foreign minister, I was an expert on Cyprus's positions on environmental and energy conservation and internal and external security.

It's pretty obvious that a summit of 30 students of the EU is not quite the same as an actual summit. Our decisions don't actually make a difference. In three days, though, it was practically impossible to get anything done. And thanks to parliamentary procedure (which I now hate with the passion of a thousand fiery suns) I managed to royally screw over Cyprus. It was one clause of a proposal on security that Slovakia had put out. J., the representative of Slovakia, put this clause in about involvement in frozen conflict zones SUCH AS Moldova (?) and Kosovo. Spain eventually proposed a amendment to reword it as "involvement in the frozen conflict zones OF Moldova and Kosovo." The speakers list was closed by somebody, and a vote ensued. Only a majority is needed to pass an amendment so, even though I voted against it, it passed.
So, now, thanks to the fact that no one got to me on the speakers list and I didn't get a chance to speak, the EU is not actually permitted to get involved in security issues on Cyprus, which is a frozen conflict zone. Half of the island is still occupied by Turkey. Awesome!

I don't know if I can grow up to be a politician. It's too ridiculous.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on December 6, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
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Islamic Center

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

We had a trip today for my course called Migration, Ethnic Minorities, and Multiculturalism to the Islamic Center of Freiburg today.

It was actually really cool. Our guide is finishing up his studies at Universität Freiburg and is half German, half Yemen, I think. He took us downstairs into the room used for children's Arabic classes and a sometimes-prayer-room, and we all sat down in a circle, and he basically explained the Islamic faith and practices to us. It was a massive question-and-answer session.

What I really liked was that we got more of an inside look at it. Like in America there are societal issues about Muslims more than Islam because we live in a post 9/11 world. In Europe it's worse, because the Muslim minorities are so much more populous, and a lot of socio-economic tension ensues anyway (about things like living conditions, wages, jobs, etc.) so it's much more intense anyway. Even though I, and many of the people I know in the program, have always been very wary of general statements about anything, we don't understand. It wasn't until I went into the mosque that I could really begin to understand it as a faith as well. Not that I didn't think it wasn't, or that it should be classified differently, it's just that I'd had minimal exposure to it. As had a lot of the students in the class. So it was really really good for me to be able to go in there and see not only what a mosque looks like (though it's really just a converted office building, not the stereotypical grand mosques with minarets and everything) but how people move in it, and speak, and treat each other. Overall I did get the impression, though, that our guide was sugar-coating things a bit. We asked about the presence (or lack of) of women in the mosque, and he kind of avoided an overall gender-relations-look at that relationship. He said that women were, because of their traditional roles in the house, not expected to come to the mosque 5 times a day for prayer. They learned to pray at home.

Then, at the very end, we got to sit in the back of the prayer-room and observe the 5th daily prayer at sunset. That was awesome. I have no idea what anyone was saying, because it was in old, poetic Arabic, but to actually see the ritual and hear these verses read and sung as they have been for years and years was really cool.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on December 3, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
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SDS, RAF, Kommune 1

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Okay, so there are a grand total of 6 people in the advanced German class. 3 of us have taken the habit of writing absolutely ridiculous essays.

Our German professor is ridiculously nice, but we can't figure her out entirely - politically, that is. Our entire class is composed of grammar lessons or discussions of themes including globalized media, immigration, diversity, German culture, etc. Things that can get politicized fairly quickly. We know that she hails from former DDR, but she doesn't express her own views very often (though we're all pretty convinced she's left-wing). But for 2 others in the class and for me, this has opened up a few possibilities. This mainly translates to the radical stances we take in our essays, or choose for our presentations, etc. The three of us leave class and joke to ourselves what our professor's reaction is when she goes through our work. Sometimes we think she loves it, but most of the time we figure she's got to think we're a little crazy. Which is okay by us. I think we've all become a little cynical about a lot of aspects of our program and of living in Germany, and the idea of being the radical kids kind of pleases us. In a mischievous 5 year old kind of way.

A. and I have been conspiring a little bit together about our Referats (a Referat is a spoken presentation, generally accompanied by a very short summary paper). We just watched "die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" (in English, the Edukators) because she had never seen it and it's one of my favorite movies, which spurred us a little bit on this anti- streak we've been on, and we both wanted to do similarly slanted Referats. She took direct inspiration from d.f.J.s.v. and flat-out presented yesterday her Referat on "Anti-Kapitalismus in Deutschland." She played Pink Floyd really loud too. It was pretty sweet.

I did mine today on the revolutionary movements of the 1960's era in Germany. Yep, I just presented on Revolutions. It was pretty awesome (it's been a while since I was so excited about a project that I did well on it simply out of wanting to work on it). It was over the SDS (in German it stands for Sozialistischer Demokratischer Studentenband, and was not directly related to the SDS in America but had similar goals), the RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion) and Kommune 1. It so happens that there is a movie out in German cinemas right now called der Baader-Meinhof Komplex about the RAF, so I got to show the trailer for that and a bunch of us might go see it together now. And I got to ask really fun discussion questions like, at what point is a revolution legitimized, at what point is violence legitimized, how do you define these terms, have these movements died out? kind of things. I had entirely too much fun.

It's all in German, so you might not understand, but I thought i'd include the link to the trailer anyway...

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on December 2, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
from the travel blog: The European Union
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Weihnachtsmarkt, marché de Noël, RATATAT

Strasbourg, France

So, what Europe does come Christmastime is set up Christmas markets all over the place. Almost every big city has one. Freiburg's is actually really cute. There are lots of booths, and some sell craft-y things and some sell games, or candles, or nativity sets and christmas decorations. And food. So much food!!!

Keep in mind that I really don't eat meat. But I decided I would try a Käsewurst because they're supposed to be really good. It's basically sausage, but it oozes cheese. And I love them! It's ridiculous, I don't think I've ever finished a sausage in my life until now. But there are also crépes and roasted nuts and chocolate-y things. I could eat so much there.

Another standard of Christmas markets, which we experienced at the Weihnachtsmarkt in Freiburg and at the Marché de Noël in Strasbourg (France) is essentially mulled wine. In German it's Glühwein (which means something along the lines of glowing wine) and in French it's vin chaud (or hot wine). But it's obviously hot wine, and they add spices and generally some citrus fruit like orange or lemon. It's so good. Our German professor took us to get some and showed us, in the Freiburger Weihnachtsmarkt, where all of the Freiburgers go for Glühwein. It turns out there's a little offset of the markt right down the street, and the wine they serve is actually from Freiburg. You can get red or white, and they're both delicious.

Anyway, we went yesterday to Strasbourg for two reasons: it was the opening day of their Marché de Noël which is one of the biggest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe, and there was a RATATAT concert. The market was HUGE and too crowded to be functional. It was impossible to stop at booths because you couldn't break through the crowds!

We also saw a demonstration (and we know I'm attracted to those like a moth to flame) on behalf of the Palestinian populations of Gaza and West Bank. We stopped to talk to one of the women there, and she explained to us what the pamphlets we'd been handed said (A. and I are both fairly function en français, and K.W. is practically fluent, but it would've taken us a while to know we had grasped it, and no one had a dictionary). It was a petition for the EU to apply pressure to Israel because of human rights abuses.

The EU is really big on human rights, on paper anyway. One of the stipulations in most of its trade and/or cooperation agreements is that all parties must respect basic human rights to everyone. Israel wasn't honoring that, and so the EU needed to apply pressure because both parties had already agreed to this contract, or whatever.

Then we made our way to the RATATAT concert which was completely on the other side of the city. When we finally got there, it was this awesome ware-house kind of thing converted into a concert hall. The concert was amazing.

Leaving the concert, we had to find the train from Strasbourg to... Offenburg, I think (as students we can travel to Offenburg for free). The train was, at 1:00 in the morning, quite literally two cars long. And it was one of the dinky white ones (there are three gradations of trains that we can see: the sleek white/silvery ones are the long distance express trains, the red ones are the standard, and the dinky white box-y ones are the ones you never want to have to take!). Everyone on the train was from our program, so we basically had a party on the way back. It was fun.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on November 30, 2008 from Strasbourg, France
from the travel blog: The European Union
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Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

Um, all I know is that Thanksgiving is not meant to be served in courses.

Our program was nice enough to reserve an entire restaurant so that all 60 of us students, plus all of the professors and staff workers, could have a Thanksgiving meal. It was absolutely delicious, but the proportioning was a little bit off (aka, too little stuffing and too much Turkey on my plate).

I need to keep in mind to figure out a recipe for pumpkin soup. It sounds weird, but whatever they served us definitely had curry in it, and it was the best part of the whole meal. Yum!!

Despite that, though, it was really weird not to be at home. And to have school. I can't wait until next year, when I have a real Thanksgiving.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on November 27, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
from the travel blog: The European Union
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should've been in London...

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

A. and I were going to go to London to se Sigur Ros, her favorite band. Unfortunately, she realized on the train to the Frankfurt airport that she didn't have her passport. UK's not Schengen, so you need a passport. Whoops.

It sucked. But we had our first snow here.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on November 22, 2008 from Frankfurt am Main, Germany
from the travel blog: The European Union
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Ahead to the Sea

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

I went with Mat. to a concert at this really cool little pub in Freiburg. The band is called Ahead to the Sea and it's a band from Freiburg. It was their last concert because one of the members is pregnant and going on leave. Of sorts. If there's an official maternity leave from being in a band.

Anyway, they sound kind of like Flogging Molly, but with ridiculously political lyrics. It was a lot of fun.

permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on November 20, 2008 from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
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Paris, France


permalink written by  lost_red_balloon on November 16, 2008 from Paris, France
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