Donnerstag, 30. Oktober 2008

Halloween I: Extreme Pumpkin Carving

90 pumpkins, 3 hours and a while lot of fun!

Halloween is approaching fast and Americans love this holiday!
Why else would they grow yards (pumpkin patches) like this one?

In preparation for Halloween I was able to witness an amazing event on Wednesday that is extraordinary even for American standards.
Jenna, a Fulbrighter from the area I had met two weeks ago took me to her cousins house where pumpkin carving is taken to the extreme!

A neighbor of theirs is celebrating her 90th birthday on Friday (Halloween) and what would be more perfect as a gift than pumpkins?

After watching Jenna carve a nerdy Fulbright pumpkin while making some pretty ugly pumpkins myself they were all presented to the happy almost-ninety-year-old.

As a little treat, I got to take one of my creations home. I named him Mowglie (doesn't he look like Mowglie?) and he will be my little bright friend for the next couple of days :-)

Mittwoch, 29. Oktober 2008

San Francisco

If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!

Last weekend I finally took advantage of the fact that my schedule only forces me to hit university on Mondays and Wednesdays and went to the City by the Bay!

Getting used to San Francisco's large population density I got myself in a giant IPod by Virgin America on Wedsnesday night...

... and hit Calfornia two hours later, where I would meet Leah.

Setting out for a long day of walking early next morning, we first hit the Presidio (huge park area), walked past Crissy Field (an old airfield) to the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Since the weather was amazing (84degrees of sunshine), we walked past the Golden Gate and took a walk along Baker Beach towards World's End and the other side of the bridge, which was even more amazing than the city side. The water seemed quite inviting and beautiful and I just can't believe such an idyllic sea would inhabit sharks but apparently it does.

From the beautiful shoreline we went to the Golden Gate Park and its cozy Japanese tea garden to relax and watch squirrels go crazy over Japanese crackers.

On our way back to the Leah's friend Kristen who's place we had taken over, we hit Haight-Ashbury, once center of the Hippie movement and the Summer of Love. There is not much left of the spirit of that time, but we nevertheless got our flowers and chanted hippie songs along the way.

The Bay Bridge took us over to Berkeley...

... where we met up with Stacy for dinner and walked the (admittedly not very interesting) University campus. To make up for that, we went out for some dancing...
... Getting up late the next morning, there was more stuff to check out. Fishermen's wharf at the waterfront which is mostly inhabited by tourists...

... and sea lions...

gave way to the cable cars...

...and finally we ended up on the highest point of San Francisco for sunset.
The first Spanish missionaries called the mountain "Los Pechos de la Chola", which translates to "breasts of the Indian Girl", obviously due to the mountain's shape. Today it is known as Twin Peaks and it has a great view over the city.

The day ended with another trip through San Franciscos Nightlife this time with Kristen as a guide.

The SFO nightlife is quite interesting. It certainly shakes your concept of gender categories. SFO is known for its large homosexual population and there were quite some interesting characters out there I was unable to put into anywhere even near any gender category.
We made a last stop at Vesuvio, a bar at which supposedly the Beat Movement used to hang out. Jackson Pollock, Allan Ginsberg and John Keruac have apparently been here to discuss their ideas. On the lower floor, people were actually discussing philosophy, so apparently at least part of SFO's spirit of the good ol' times hasn't been lost, although street sign and atmosphere suggested otherwise.

Saturday was my last day at San Francisco and it was devoted to the Museum of Modern Art. Although I did not see ONE picture of the famous Paul Klee collection SFMoma carries, they have some quite amazing pieces.

One of them is certainly Duchamps "Fountain" piece right here. For anyone who hasn't realized: this is art - and modern art can be made out of everything! That's the beauty of it!

Montag, 27. Oktober 2008

Traffic Series - Part II: The Evil Bridge!

Seattle is a city with an abundance of water both from the above as well as from underneath. On the nice and sunny days when the water from above has stopped pouring, it is well worth to travel around and take a look at what's beneath.

One of the nice watery areas where sea planes land and kajaks and sailboats roam is Lake Union. It runs along the University and from the North side, there is a beautiful view of downtown.

However, there is a limited choice as to how to cross the lake. If you don't want to get wet feet and don't have a boat available - take a bridge!
But it's not as easy as it sounds!
As Lake Union eventually runs into Pudget Sound and finally the ocean, boat owners use this opportunity to get from the Lake to the ocean.
Why that concerns me? Some of these boat owners have huuuge masts! Size doesn't matter? Well, it does for the bridges!

Ballard Bridge is one of the many bridges that can - on demand - be pulled up, leaving all those poor commuters waiting on the road for a good 10 minutes, while the lazy boat owners sail along on their luxurious rafts.

Study Abroad Fair

So, just to let everyone know that Mainz is the bestest University ever - I had a table at the Study Abroad Fair last Wednesday. Equipped with tons of information material (while an envelope the guys from Tübingen received contained one(!) lousy poster featuring their last president, I drummed up business for the JGU!

People from Universities all over the globe had little tables representing their home institution and the fair was surprisingly a very crowded place. With 15% of Americans being of German heritage, it wasn't surprising that we were swarmed and busy once the tables were set up (too swarmed to take pictures of course)