It’s nearly half-way through my third world-wind trip. By Day 42, I will be heading to Beijing, to the other side of the great Eurasian continent. I’ll be meeting “mein Mann” Gee Kin there, where we will gather our senses for our flight to Ulan Bator (Mongolia). After a week-long private tour there, we’ll complete our Trans-Siberian Express train trip from last year. We’ll go from Ulan Bator to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, then over to Vladivostok to the East Coast of Russia. Our last stop will be Japan, but more about that later.
After a month in Berlin, I haven’t mentioned the many individuals and connections I have made during my stay here. The Goethe Institute has been my anchor. Students in my class came from Israel, Iraq, Sweden, Mexico, Hong Kong, and the U.S. Two of the American students are budding opera students, so it has been fun learning more about their world of opera that is so different from being in the audience. Other friends I have made included two German language teachers from India and Finland; two gentlemen from New Zealand; and another pair of Ph.D students, one from Sardinia in Architecture and one from Tennessee in German History.
Attending nearly every extra-curricular activity has given me the opportunity to chat with a combination of these individuals as well as others. The common question everyone asks is “why are you learning German?”. Most are learning for their current or future job prospects, but few have my intentions. I tell everyone I am learning to increase my understanding of opera.
Most people find that puzzling, but if you are an opera junkie like I am, some of the best translations of opera are subtitles in German! Reading dual supertitles in German and English at the Deutsche Opera put me in rhapsody. I get the chance to follow what is being sung (also keeps me awake) and get a German language course at the same time!
Coming to Germany for the past five years to see opera and hear music reinforce my interest in learning the language. In addition to a real, primary purpose to keep my brain exercised, I am investing in a much deeper appreciation of the culture through speaking, reading and writing. I am definitely going to continue this affair and make learning German a life-long pursuit.
For my GI (that’s Goethe Institute, not Gastro-Intestinal) friends, snippits of typical exercises we did every day are below. We shuffled the tags around in groups until they lined up.
The Institute’s last and final activity to Deutsche Welle was cancelled due to illness. I love watching the broadcasts in the US, so I was very disappointed. I made alternative plans to visit the Natural History Museum, where the Guinness Book of Records’ largest dinosaur resides. I wouldn’t have gone there, had I not been introduced to the dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum in New York City. Ross (David Schwimmer) from “Friends” played a paleontologist, and that always amused me.
The museum turned out to be a thrill. I didn’t realize that the tall head of the Brachiosaurus could only allow it to eat leaves from the canopies of trees. Dinosaurs lumbered around town due to their huge size and weight. It took a huge bio-engineering effort to move, nourish, and keep alive such a large mechanism.
Other dinosaurs in the same display could only eat things near the ground because they could not lift their heads very high. Their tails were needed as counter-weights for their elongated, skinny heads! You can read more about the Brachiosaurus and what they ate in the text below, for those interested.