Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Last Day of Study Abroad 2014 Day 21 of 21

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Last Day of Study Abroad 2014 Day 21 of 21

Today is the last day of Study Abroad. Today is a great day! There is no alarm clock needed to wake us up. I can but imagine what is going on in all of the other rooms, but I will tell you about our room. I have been packed for days. The other five ladies in room 103 have either clothing on the beds or toiletries that need to be added to their luggage. One particular lady has a bomb of a mess lying on the floor that somehow she magically packed in two bags and she was ready to go just in time.
Everyone comes down to the lobby of Baxpax Hostel one by one; some still having their bags weighed to ensure they will not be over the 50 pound weight limit. Others are ready for departure but not willing to walk the street to the train station. Surprise! We have taxis arriving at 8:15 am to take us to the airport. After three weeks of hustling and bustling to and from train stations in three different countries it is really nice to get a ride to the airport. Mercedes Benz taxis arrive and actually help us load our suitcases. I love it!
Off to the airport we go. Four Mercedes Benz taxis travel through the streets of Berlin getting us to the airport. We ran red lights, listened to music, and rode in air conditioning. None of this mattered as long as we made it to the airport on time. I want everyone who reads this to know that this adventure was marvelous. I have been in three countries that are very different and very similar to my own; I enjoyed them all. They are different because of location and culture; yet they are similar in that the residents want the same things as Americans. They want to live their lives to the fullest and be all that they can be. No matter what, I am glad to be headed home to America.

Berlin to Amsterdam; Amsterdam to Atlanta; Atlanta to Nashville is the route we take to get home. I just want all of you to know that no matter where you go in life, no matter who all you meet, and no matter how long you stay away; for me: there is no place like home, no one like my husband and family, and three weeks was just enough time to make me appreciate everything the Lord has given me. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Berlin Last Day 20 of 21

All good things must come to an end; and it is true this has been a good thing. On my journey to Europe I have learned to appreciate my life. In Paris I learned to live with three other women who were literally strangers to me. I made it. In Amsterdam I lived with seven other women. This was challenging to me because I am a woman of order. I like things the way I like them; these other women had different standards of living that I was not accustomed. Clothes on the floor, make up all over the bathroom, hair products strewn from the front door all the way to the shower, and stuff everywhere. To move on to Berlin, my roommates were handpicked and we were a great fit. A diverse group of women from different background and standards grouped together to live and let live in Berlin.
Today being the final day in the city I took out on an adventure seeking my final information for my Independent Studies class. Today was like an expedition because I had several options from which to choose, but only a short amount of time to do it. The ironic thing is today was easy. I slept very well, awoke early, dressed, and was out a reasonable time. Oh, this was a great day. It is always good to be able to share a good day with friends and that is what I did as well. Tao and I ventured to the other side of town looking around and enjoying the local chow. I searched for the post office and it was hidden right at the foot of the train station. I met some very nice people on the street and one lady said it best. There are more strangers on the streets here than local people. She sounded like she was from Russia.

Strangers or friends it is good to have someone to talk to, to understand your situation, and most of all someone who is willing to let you be you. Music is good for the soul and today I met someone who made magical music and was just as glad to meet me as I was to meet him. A world renowned artist, Piano Rico, was playing in a shopping mall and no one was paying him any attention. I saw him and was drawn to him. He played a little more; afterwards we had a friendly conversation. It is good to know that even though we are different we are all the same. I had a wonderful day, a wonderful study abroad experience, and looking forward to a great flight home. 

Day 7---Berlin

July 25, 2014
            Today is the last day of this study abroad program. They will flight back to Nashville tomorrow. And for me, I will take a night train to Munich and continue my European trip.  I didn’t go to some museums because of the raining. I just went to the souvenir shops and went on the street to enjoy my last day in Berlin. Three weeks travel made me feel tired. I want to back to Nashville as soon as possible. But I had already booked the ticket, and no one knows what time will I come to Europe next time. So just keep going and enjoy the rest days in Europe.
            What I am thinking about Paris is that it is a modern fashion city. It is a kind of like New York. Many people caught their train to go to their destination in the metro station. People are always walking. The reason maybe that they have a lot of pressures of life, so they need to work harder and harder. Amsterdam is the city of freedom. People enjoyed their lives in such a free city. They can do whatever they want to do. Many store closed very early, like 6 pm. They want to quit work to enjoy their nightlives. Berlin is a complicated city. I don’t know why I like this city, but it is my favorite city among these three capitals. People in Berlin followed the rules seriously. For example, you made an appointment on 10 am. They just think that you should come here on 10 o’clock. Even they got there early, they still don’t see you until 10 o’clock. I think they have much more pressures than people in Paris. So they closed almost all stores on Sunday, even the grocery stores, they need a day to relax and enjoy the life.
            I don’t know what Munich looks like, but I am pretty sure that if you are interested in Germany football, Munich is the city that you can’t miss. So I am ready to go.
           Goodbye Berlin.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Berlin Day 19 of 21

Berlin Day 19 of 21

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Today was the first day that I have not had to run throughout the streets of three great European Capitals. No, I did not stay in all day, but ventured out for a sight visit to Transparency International. Dr. V did not run and we decided that he is not running anyway, but has a long stride that puts the rest of us short people at a disadvantage. I am glad that Dr. V has been here for our class of Independent Studies because he is a “native” of this area and knows the good, bad, and ugly of each city that we have visited.
Transparency International (TI) is a great organization that works to fight corruption. Corruption is not only taking money, but the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain. This organization does not impose fines nor does it pass judgments on companies that are found guilty of bribery. It was amazing to me that in Zimbabwe hospitals charge women $50 US dollars to have a baby. Marie Terracol, Knowledge Coordinator, said this amount of money is more than half a year’s wages for people of that country. Also, some corrupt nursed would charge women $5 US for every scream they let out during child birth. The thing is not only did these women have pay for having the baby, pay the nurses, but if they did not pay they would have to remain in the hospital until they did. This was no vacation as interest would accrue on that money and have to be paid on top of all of the other before the women could leave the hospital.
After our visit to TI, we had the best day. Today was not a free day, but it was a day that was liberating in that it was not too hot, not too cold, but just right in temperature. The sun shined a while after the rain this morning. Dr. V took us to a great place today: Galeria Kaufitof. We had sour choice of steak, Asian, vegetables, salads, macaroni and cheese, and even ice for our drinks. This was a great meal. We all had steak since we have not had many good meals in Berlin at the hostel. Notice I did not say they were all bad, but on average, they left room for something more desirable at the end of the night. Steak, mashed potatoes, slaw, beets, broccoli, and pineapple rounded my plate. I was in hog heaven. I ate all of my food and my mother would have been so proud of me. I had a small portion of steak that could not go to waste, so I brought it back to the hostel with me to enjoy at a later time. Yum Yum!  This meal made me forget that I have only one more full day in Berlin. I saw a clock today that was fascinating in that a person can tell what time it is all over the world at this one spot in Berlin. Home, what time is it there? I always know, it’s time for me to be preparing to be there. I was asked yesterday why I was ready to go home. My reply was when you have someone you love at home that completes you wholly; you have a void in your life that only that special someone can fill. My desire for the group is to gain all of the knowledge they set out to gain, but in the end, find someone as special and loving as I found over 30 years ago. My husband is my biggest supporter and I love him. 

Concentration Camp visit

7/23/14 I went to a concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. My expectations before going was seeing  where they slept and maybe a gas chamber. However that was not the case and it think in the end that was okay because emotionally I wouldn't have been ready to see a real deal concentration camp. The more I thought about it I'm glad the cabins and bunkers were not there and if it wasn't for history it all would and should be burned to dust. I cursed the hands that built them. 
As much as I feel for my African ancestors being taken away from my homeland  and put into slavery, and murdered, I have to say it; Europeans experienced the same. There was. A sign that said something like "Work and you'll be free." I could only imagin those believing in that. Working everyday to the bone, malnutrition and all. What Hitler and the Natzi did was horrifying.if anything should be seperated good and bad people should one. But I guess that's the problem everyone thinks there good. 
The stories I heard were terrible. Our tour guide said they would manipulate and toture and kill the Jews, communist, gays etc in the most sick ways. One form of execution the Natzi use to perform was pretending to measure them and when they turn around they would shoot them in the back for the neck. That's so cowardly of them. Too afraid to look them in the eyes before killing them.  
The way the world use to be is sick. It's really flaborgasting that the way our world use to be is just a little bit just as worst as it was today. As a normal citizen of any country you can speculate, and assume that our generation hurts the world. Honestly then isn't too far from now. 

Day 6---Berlin

July 24, 2014
            Today is the best day since I have been in Berlin. The temperature is wonderful, the food is great, and the mood cannot be better.
            We went to Transparency International to learn a lot about the corruption. As our speakers, Marie Terracol and Katja Bechtel told us some basic theories about corruption, and how did the Transparency International do about integrity. It was really interesting. I also saw the ranking of corruption perceptions index, which TI gave to me. I noticed that the first place is Denmark, which has 91 score, United States is ranking 19th with 73 scores, and China is ranking 80th with 40 scores. As a Chinese, I know pretty much about the corruption in China. From a teacher to a politician, corruption is a serious problem in China. I think the reason maybe China is a developing country. Corruption is easier to happen in a developing country. Here I have a real story about that. When I was in High School, many parents left after the parents meeting. What they do was asking the teacher about their children’s behavior in school. Then they asked the teacher if she has a minute, so they could talk privately. They gave the teacher a shopping card with about 100 dollars. And guess what, this parent child was taken a good care from the teacher. This student was moved to the seat, which was really close to the blackboard. Meanwhile, the teacher always asked this student if he have a problem. If he had, the teacher would teach him very patiently. What would happen next? More and more parents came to give the teacher a shopping card.
             However, China had already noticed that the seriousness of corruption. The government began to pay more attention on fighting corruption. In my opinion, it won’t be eradicated, but the situation must be better and better. I love my country. I hope it can be better and better so that people who are living here can feel more senses of pride as a Chinese.


7/21/14 we went to Parliament. Being there helped me understand the political history in Germany. The way the city is now it's almost unbelievable how divided they were. Our tour guide was awesome he spoke clear English. I think that the German government system is more complex than the U.S. but the structure is more organized. I'm glad I've been to the capital in Washington D.C. because you see and understand it all better first hand and just being on the same soil as the ones I've read about as a child. Politics have never really been my thing because governmental corruption scares me. However I know it all isn't what it seems. I just want to be more opened and less ignorant to the world. 
This day was hot! Berlin has dry heat, I couldn't wait to get back to the hostel and just lay down a bit and rest. The one thing that tears me pieces being here is carbonated water and no ice! If you ask for ice they get mad, if you ask for tap or still water they act confused. I'm like what was it before you made it carbonated, and did you know ice is only frozen water? 

Berlin Day 18 of 21

Berlin Day 18 of 21

July 23, 2014

Today is Wednesday and I am on the countdown to time to go home. In the meantime, I have decided to make the most of it all. I ventured out with Ms. Davis’ class to Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, the former concentration camp. This outing was eye opening to me.  I have had the occasion to read some of the history about Germany and the Holocaust, but visiting this former concentration camp shined the light on the situation.
Oranienburg Concentration Camp consisted of 1,000 acres of land laid out in the shape of a triangle.  Prisoners at this camp were mainly male, Jews, homosexuals, and female prostitutes. Women and children were housed at another camp that was miles away from Oranienburg. In this camp everyone entered at Gate A and most ended their stay at Station Z. Station Z was not an exit, but a death chamber. Prisoners were executed by one shot to the back of the neck at the top of the spinal cord. There were horrendous conditions at this camp that everyone in this small town knew existed.  I wonder how people can think that it is alright to capture free people, load them onto a train, march them through town, imprison them, and make them work for free separating them from their loved ones all because they do not worship the same way as their captures. Also, people think that they are doing someone a favor by selecting prostitutes and gay men from the streets and making them slaves.
Today I realized that every single member of our group would have been captured and tortured too. Why you ask? Because none of us are pure Germans, we also have different religious beliefs, and some even African American. Furthermore, I would have been singled out as well because I have a gold tooth. Our tour guide, Nickolai, explained to our group that if a prisoner had gold teeth they would place a blue A on their chest. This would make them easily identifiable for guards to go back and retrieve the gold.

My father used to tell me that a hard day’s work never killed anyone. I beg to differ because there is a sign on the entrance gate that says “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”: this means work will set you free. It also can be translated to say that by working you can set yourself free. This was a lie because most of the people who entered never left alive; they died. 

Walking in Berlin

Today was another day of hard work with my classmates. We woke up, ate breakfast and went straight to work. We went to five districts in Berlin collecting data from bakeries, grocery stores and two star hotels, as we did in Paris and Amsterdam. The weather in Berlin is humid but it makes you want to work for some strange reason, or maybe that was my state of mind. My classmates and I worked as a team to do it all. First we went to Mitte district and walked around to find what we were look for. We ran into the Berlin Wall. I absolutely had to stop and take a selfie with it. I felt accomplished touching it. Not too many 21 year old females have been in my place. 
The Tiergaete district was the  next district we went to. What I loved most about it was it's architecture. That side of town was more modern. It also seemed as if they were still in the process of expanding. Kreizberg was the third, my team and I were still going. I just wanted to knock out everything as quick as possible. Schoenberg was the fourth and by then I was almost drained. It was extremely hot and my water wasn't cold. What I did enjoy was the graffiti art on the walls of the buildings. I have seen it everywhere. I was ready to get back to our hostel. Friedrichshain was the last district I went to I was so thankful that the grocery store and hotel was in the same building. So we only stayed in the area for about 10 minutes. 
The best part about the day was that the work got done! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 5---Berlin

July 23, 2014
            Today is a great day for me. I had enough sleep, finished my interview, and booked my hotel in Munich.
            When I did my interviews, I can feel the happiness they have. They are so proud of their team. They treated every player in the team as a hero. As a big fan of Germany football, I was also so happy when they won the championship. My favorite FC team is Bayern München, and my favorite national team is German. I watched the final game in the hostel bar of Amsterdam. I remembered that when Götze scored the goal in the overtime, I am so happy. But I didn’t act like I am so happy because there are some Argentina fans just sit near me. I don’t want to have trouble about this.  At that time, I want to come to Berlin as soon as I can so I can see how crazy in Berlin. Football is not a simple sport to German. It is a kind of necessary in people's normal life. You can see people wear their team jerseys everywhere. Bundesliga has the highest attendance all around the world. People become crazy for football.
As a Chinese, I wish I could feel this kind of proud for Chinese national team in the future. In China, people always said that the Chinese national team is suck. But when we have a match, we still support them loyally. What we need to have is a good system to operate the football market. If we have that, I think we will become better and better.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 4---Berlin

July 22, 2014
            Today is research day. What does it mean? A Tired day.
            As what we did before, we went to 5 neighborhoods. Unlike Amsterdam, Berlin is a big city. We need to take metro to all of these neighborhoods. We were leaving in the morning and did the research about Mitte. This is the closet neighborhood among these five. So we went back to have our lunch in the hostel. By the way, the lunch and dinner of today is really good. After we finished our lunch, we continued our work. I was glad that I bought a sim-card in Berlin, which means I can have data in my phone. So we will always know the way to our destination.

As I said before, I love this city. But I don’t know why actually. Maybe it is because of the history of this city or maybe because I am a big fan of German National football team. Actually, I love the feeling that when you walk on the street. This feeling you cannot use words to explain it. I want to know the name and history of all the buildings. I also want to try all kinds of foods in Berlin. It seemed like it is not you choose this city to visit. Actually it is the city chose you. Berlin wished you to come to visit it, to know it, and to love it. It is really strange, but I love it.  However, back to reality, there are only 3 days left for me in Berlin. I need to go more places, visit more museums, and know more histories in Berlin. I will leave Berlin on Friday night and head to Munich. This is the second city, which I want to visit most. So I hope everyday lasted will be wonderful.