Tag Archives: crazy

German grimness

Sometimes it’s a good idea not to worry so much. But even when we really shouldn’t, we kind of always do. You see we Germans are pretty good at a lot of things, or at least we hope we are. We build some rather nice cars. We play soccer as an actual team sometimes. We have the best beer. We have a really good rail network. Wait what?

Yeah, you got that. Someone actually saying the Deutsche Bahn is doing at least a more or less decent job. Half of you will probably stop reading now – but not so fast, please. The last time I took a train outside of Germany thirty-five kilometres took seven hours on a Chinese train with British train tracks. I say that, because the Chinese didn’t quite get their measurements right and the ride was incredibly bumpy. There was also a mouse (or quite possibly mice) hiding somewhere under the floor and occasionally a branch hit someone through the windowless carriages. But guess what? Everybody on that train was really happy. For a country where the GDP per capita is a good three percent that of Germany, I find that quite fantastic. On the last train I took in Germany, half the people looked unhappy – me included. After all, that 5-minute delay really was heart breaking.

So lean back, relax and maybe try not to worry for the next one and a half minutes it will take you to read this.

First, there’s our school system. Every three years, the “Programme for International Student Assessment” (PISA) does just that and assesses our school system somewhere, somehow. In the end, everyone is disappointed and nothing changes. I’m sure there’s a PISA inspector somewhere that hopes that Chinese students acing all their exams are incredibly happy and that all those poor lost souls playing football and having fun are really unhappy that they didn’t come top of the world in the test.

Besides, there’s the weather. It’s either too hot or too cold and when it’s just right, you’re far away on holiday and its either too damp, humid or sunny there.

Apart from that, those of you who are not privately insured will surely have sat in a waiting room before. And yes, our system is quite silly. But no, don’t tell that to anyone in the United States who just got a medical bill for fifty thousand dollars. He’ll probably wish the snake had been more poisonous.

Another thing is statistics like the unemployment rate, which is a mere 3.8% and yet if you ask any German for their first impression, they’d likely say it’s way too high. Tell that to the Kenyans, where not even half the people are employed. And yes, that might be a rather lousy comparison, but our next-door neighbour France’s rate is closer to ten percent. Ask them, and they’ll say it’s not too bad. And they’re not wrong. Compared to Kenya’s, it really isn’t.

Looking at someone’s face in a posh restaurant in Germany when they have to wait longer than the five and a half minutes, they expect their apéritif to take makes you think people in Africa die of anger – and not starvation.

So yeah, maybe next time think about how happy others would be if their situation was only as bad as yours. And then just relax – it really can’t be that bad.

Sweaty Palms

Have you ever been in a situation that made you wish you could just vanish into thin air? I bet you have. I bet it was something really embarrassing, something that just went wrong in every conceivable way, with you at its centre. Well, I’m not in such a situation. But that feeling… Yeah, it’s there.

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Keeping your head down

I’m fidgeting. I guess it’s a physical response to me being tense and it’s probably supposed to help, but it’s most definitely not. What it is doing is make me stand out even more than I already am. I can feel people burning holes in my back, wondering what’s wrong with me. I can’t see them doing this, of course. I mean, half the people in here probably haven’t even noticed me coming in, but I can feel it. I need a different strategy. Run away… No! Don’t be stupid. Hide in the restroom... Dude! Look uninterested… That could be something.

Quick check of systems.
Face: let’s call it relaxed.
Body language: non-existent.
Inner-voice: screaming at the top of its lungs.
All ready.

The art of looking uninterested

I let my eyes wander across the room. Slowly, but not too slowly. Lingering is only permitted on objects, not on people. Lingering on people falls under the category of staring and staring is not only impolite – worse, it’s awkward. The established way to deal with such an emergency situation is to still linger, just not on the person, but something slightly off to the side and behind the person. That’s also awkward, probably just as much as staring at some random stranger as if you were trying to start something, but in my head – that’s the important part – it feels like it might be less awkward.

Mixed messages

I have the suspicion that fidgeting combined with looking uninterested – or however I’m looking at the moment – makes people think I need help. She certainly seems to have gotten this idea. A moment ago she was still standing on the other side of the room. Then we accidentally lock eyes for a second – yeah, I messed up there – she has a charming smile on her face and starts walking in my general direction. I mean, I sort of do want her to come here, but not right now! Doesn’t look like I have much of a choice, though. Oh yeah, that looks like determination. I’m looking uninterested. Not sure it works if you can’t even manage to convince yourself, but I sure as hell am trying. And she sure as hell ain’t changing direction. Doesn’t she see that I’m uninterested?

Just kill me!

She doesn’t. Or at least she doesn’t care, as is evident by her standing next to me, ready to take my order.

“Hello! What can I get you?”
“Uh… Number seventeen please.” What’s with the pause? Forgot how to speak?
“Sure. And to drink?”
“A… glass of water?” She does the asking, you the answering, dummy! And what’s with the pause?
“OK. Anything else?”
“I’m fine.” What’s that even supposed to mean?
“Great! I’ll be right back with you with your order.”

I didn’t say thank you… God damn it!

Text & Pictures:  Andreas Böhm | Video: exurb1a

Things that happen on the tram

Monday, 7.40 AM. Fog pours into the streets and the square starts to fill up as another workday has just begun. People are accumulating on the platform, ready to fight. Yes, fight. Some of them are quietly staring at their smartphones, but expectation is hanging in the air. Then there’s a light chime. With its awaited, growing rustle, the tram appears at the beginning of the platform. The heads turn and follow automatically that cable-driven truck, everybody hoping to be the lucky guy who finds themselves in front of the sliding door. The tram stops. Time stops. The doors open and the melee pushes inside, grumbling and trying to reach the most longed goal at that moment: a free seat. After less than a minute of catch-as-catch-can each passenger has found their place in this little ecosystem on rails.

Equilibrium principlestram2

More than any other ecosystem, the tram needs to maintain a certain equilibrium during its urban rollercoaster ride. The public transport in Augsburg (aka AVV Racing Team) provides a unique service of balance training, thanks to sudden accelerations and abrupt braking, no matter if you’re sitting or standing. Grasping on to any possible object in the tram is the basic rule of such peculiar environment; it could be a pole, a strap or…another passenger. The latest extreme example of savage desperation to find the right equilibrium was a short woman who leant against another one’s breasts during the whole ride to Kö. No, the two women didn’t even know each other.

Fighting without referee

As we’ve already seen, the tram is a very “physical” space. A place where all kinds of dangerous studs-up tackles and nudges will never be subject to a yellow or red card. But not only body parts are involved. The most life-threatening weapon in this case is the backpack. These self-propelled bags are kind of their own life form, with the owner apparently not knowing the real bulk of what they’re carrying. Thousands of victims suffer on a daily basis: innocent noses, shoulders and backs which can’t even seek justice as what happens on the tram, stays on the tram!

tram1Riding into freedom

In some ways this is the secret beauty of the tram: anyone is free to do what they want during the ride. You can listen to a wide variety of languages spoken by passengers, whether they are tourists or foreign inhabitants, or you can turn on you MP3-player and pretend to be in a music video. You can chat with interesting urban philosophers or chat on your smartphone, keeping an eye on your neighbor who is probably craning his neck to snoop your messages. You can look out of the window or steal a glance at other passengers… Oh no. That old man’s wearing tight shorts…Without underpants… I must get off. “Ding dong. Next stop: Cathedral”. Thank God!

Author & Pictures: Veronica Armellini

A whole zoo at university

This term in class we’ve been observing different types of students’ behaviour. This might be of special interest to those of you who are going to become teachers. Of course, we don’t want to dissuade you from becoming a teacher, but it’s always good to be aware in advance, right?  And please don’t feel offended! The descriptions are slightly exaggerated and/or ironic. So have a laugh  – with us, at us, at yourself  – and have fun!

Word_CloudThe chatterer

Yeah, you all know them – those students who can’t keep their mouth shut for one minute. They just have to talk all the time, usually not about the topic being discussed, and in the case of a language course, not necessarily in the language in question!

The “churchmouse”

Church and university are different, of course, but a “churchmouse” is the opposite of the chatterer: a student who doesn’t say a word in class, at least not voluntarily.

Teacher’s pet

If teachers don’t have a pet at home, they may well have one in class. The so-called teacher’s pet hangs on a teacher’s lips, always does the homework and maybe even some extra reading, knows the answer to practically every question in class, and, naturally, does well in the final exam (grrr!).

The show-off

This is a student whose hobby is trying to impress fellow students, but especially the teacher, by either asking super-intelligent questions or permanently challenging the other students’ comments.

The techie

Jodel, Facebook, WhatsApp and whatever… the opportunities provided by modern technology are highly recommendable to all those students who love to distract themselves in class. Fortunately, the documents on Digicampus are still available after all, so there is yet another excuse to use technical devices in class…

The distraction seeker

How can students avoid boredom in lectures, without using any technical devices? Some are quite creative, and think of great activities, maybe taking a low-tech step back in time: writing poems, translating song lyrics, knitting or whatever else they might do to keep themselves busy while (more or less) pretending to listen to the lecturer.

Of course, the list could be continued endlessly.  Recognise yourself? Or is your type of student still missing? Maybe you can think of others. Observe your fellow students – we promise that it’ll be fun (certainly an entertaining activity for distraction seekers – maybe this was how we got the idea of writing this article in the first place)!

Authors: Anita Hauzenberger & Philipp Soballa
Picture: created with tagul.com

Brazilian road trip in a VW Kombi

I’d like to tell you something about my beautiful country, Brazil. In fact, we’re heading for Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland area, in a Volkswagen Kombi, attached to which is a 1966 Willys jeep. On top of the Kombi, you can see a kayak and two bikes. Everything’s set for an unforgettable family road trip with lots of adventures!

It was March 2016 when we set off from São Paulo heading up to the state of Mato Grosso, where Pantanal is located. We drove a total of almost 1,600 km, and spent two days on the road and a few hours of sleep in a cheap motel somewhere. The amazing caimans welcomed us; they were everywhere and we could see them the whole time – what a feeling!

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The local road is called the Transpantaneira. It isn’t asphalted, so the cars struggled in the mud caused by the previous day’s rain. The trip along this road is 147 km long and has 120 wooden bridges in an extremely poor state of maintenance. Yes, the rickety constructions play a big role in this adventure, because going over them is a very risky business, as you can see below. ponteBut the reason why using up so much adrenaline was worthwhile was meeting so many amazing creatures. These guys impressed me quite a lot: giant otters. Seeing a pair of them right in front of me was a dream come true; I didn’t know if I should take a picture or step back a bit and be sure I was safe. Giant river otters are extremely cute and are innocent-looking, but they’re very dangerous and are capable of attacking and even eating a caiman! Take a look yourself and see how photogenic they are – one of them even looked into the camera! How adorable is that?

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The next lady is very special, a seriema, a large, long-legged terrestrial bird, which had me enthralled because of those eyelashes. Girl, you look fabulous! (I’m not sure whether it’s a “girl” at all, but I wish I had these lashes. Don’t you girls?) _REH7504 We also saw anacondas, blue macaws, toucans, southern crested carcaras, capybaras and lizards. The only animal we didn’t bump into was the gorgeous jaguar. Maybe we’ll be luckier next time, on another road trip around Brazil. Until then, let’s keep an eye on the natural world around us and enjoy it as best we can!

Author & Pictures: Gabrielle Pinheiro Machado Rehm

Let’s walk with King Julien

Since 2008 visitors to the zoo in Augsburg have been able to walk with a ring-tailed lemur. This lovely creature will accompany you in one of the most beautiful experiences in your life. These creatures are really friendly with people, they jump and run free and, with some luck, they will land on your back or shoulders. But don’t try to touch them! As beautiful and smooth as they seem to be, they’re wild animals and can bite.

lemurThe origin

These animals are part of the family of strepsirrhine primates and are extremely vocal and have unique calls to warn about predator species, for group communication, for location, feeding and being lost. Their vocalizations consist of meows, clicks, yaps, screams, purring, squeaks and moans: as you will see in the zoo, the Augsburg lemurs are very communicative. They spend a lot of time sunbathing and playing with the other members of the group. Unfortunately, their conservation status is considered endangered by the IUCN Red List (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11496/0), the main threat to their population being habitat destruction.

The origin of the name and popular legends

Their name refers to the Latin word lemurum, meaning spirit. Because of their name, they play a part in legends in Roman mythology. People believed that the animals were the restless spirits of the undead. They thought proper burial of their loved ones would help to prevent this. Seeing a lemur was often viewed as an omen that something terrible was going to happen. It’s also because of the popular origin of such stories, though, that their very existence is threatened, as villagers hunt and trap them. They also take money from hunters that come for the thrill of killing the legendary lemurs of Madagascar.

Ring-tailed lemurs become famous: the film Madagascar

These little animals have become familiar to us after the film, Madagascar, which introduced the figure of the lemur, King Julien. After this, many people began to be interested in the creatures. Then a big research project worldwide about these creatures came into being, and in many zoos in the world you can walk with them and study their behaviour as if they were in the wild. Therefore, although these animated films are fun and delightful, they don’t depict the true nature of lemurs, of course, but, if seen in combination with other animated films and documentaries, they’re a useful tool for educating people about the needs of the species.

Author & Picture: Althea Mandelli

Time flies when you’re in the air

Shortly after my seventeenth birthday my father and I decided to approach one item on our bucket list we’d both wanted to tick off for a long time; learn how to fly. So we booked a paragliding course. The basic class we participated in, took about four days and aimed to teach every student to fly by themselves. The requirements were pretty simple: we should be able to run in a straight line and – of course – not be afraid of heights. And the equipment was provided by the flight school.

Learning to fly

Our course began with a bit of theory and school introductory course videos on the mechanics, equipment and paragliding techniques.  We learned how to understand local weather forecast accurately and how to decide when to fly and when to stay at home. For our first practical exercise, we moved to the training hills to practice inflating and controlling our wings on the ground, learning to take off, land, and steering skills. All these exercises were simple but also very exhausting, as they consisted of running, stopping and running again for nearly an hour.IMG-20161228-WA0000

On the third day, it was time for our first training flight. We launched from the side of a hill at a height of nearly 200 meters, we had to run downhill until the chute would open and lift us up in the air. In the meantime, the teacher gave us instructions from the ground through a walkie talkie. One of these training flights lasted around a minute and a half but it felt much shorter. Time just flies when you’re in the air!

In order to be prepared for the final flight on day four, we had to start at least 15 times from the practice launch site. What didn’t sound like too much of an effort at first definitely became the hardest challenge on the entire course, one reason being that the full equipment weighed around 15 kg and we had to carry it 200 meters uphill on a small path, which the instructor fondly called the “channel of sweat”.

Reward for the hard work

On the last day, we were ready for the first flight completely on our own. We started from the top of a 900-metre mountain. For a change, we didn’t have to carry our chutes to the top because there was a special lift installed. We flew for nearly ten minutes, enough time to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscapes from above. Everybody reached the landing zone safely and the course ended there and then.

Altogether it was a memorable weekend and if you haven’t put paragliding on your own bucket list yet, make sure to note it down immediately.

Author & Picture: Philipp Soballa