I have been preparing for the end of the Summer Semester here in Mainz and I have to say, time is absolutely flying by! I have been here almost a 10 months now and my final days here are just disappearing. I don’t leave until the middle of August (giving me just about 10 days to organize everything for the beginning of of new UofL semester), as I will be working for my boss as a Tutor/Assistant for the International Summer German Course at my university. Not to mention that exams at most (including my) university don’t end until the middle of July.
Well, I have already managed to face two of my final exams: Wissenschaftssprache yesterday, and Christa Wolf’s “Kein Ort. Nirgends” this morning. The first was a course dealing with the construction and use of scientific and generally higher level German (everything from the dangers of over-fertilization to world population growth…). I had actually planned to take a additional German course this semester dealing with Business German, but unfortunately that course was canceled two or three weeks into the semester, but hey, that’s just life! Regardless, I am happy the exam is over, but it is just a step in the right direction for the rest of the semester!
This morning I took my oral exam over the novel “Kein Ort. Nirgends” by Christa Wolf (I believe that the title was translated at some point as “No Place On Earth,” in the off chance that you have read it). The course consisted of reading and analyzing the book while learning the historical figures and appropriate contexts (in this case, Heinrich von Kleist, Karoline von GÃ¼nderrode, Goethe, and of course, the situations surrounding the Author in former East Berlin etc. etc. etc.). Every week we would prepare about 8 pages of the text and work through the book line by line, every student analyzing and paraphrasing 10 or so lines in his or her turn, working our way around the classroom. The book was particularly interesting, as it takes place across the river from Mainz in the company of some very famous local early 19th century personalities. Though I knew what to expect from the final oral exam, as I had the professor last semester for a play by the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, I was still put on my toes for some of the questions: (keep in mind that this was, of course, in German) What similarities, if any, could be drawn between the opinions of Christa Wolf and Kleist in regards to their societies, respectively? This lasted about 15-20 minutes with a series of varying question and themes. WELL, maybe it wasn’t too bad… but you get the point, and to be fair, the professor is a genuinely great professor. And hey, I have nothing to complain about, I received a grade of 1.5, a pretty unusual grade… but that’s another story. Either way, a 1.5 is considered to be substantially above average (it is incredibly difficult to get anything ‘above’ a 2.0, as the German system is a reverse scale from 1-5, one being the highest), and I am especially happy with it!! It could end up a 1.7, depending on what happens next week, either way, I couldn’t be more pleased.
Otherwise things have been ‘normal’ here. I have just been busy with the usual day to day affairs, that we tend to take for granted (I will definitely think that next year when I am back in Louisville!). I went to Cologne a few weeks ago to meet up with a few teachers of mine from High School, who were on a trip through Europe with a group of students. I was actually on the last trip that my school went on 5 years ago! Talk about a flash from the past. It was great to see them again – one of whom, appropriately enough, is the German teacher. Nonetheless, it was great to see them!
I recently spoke with Michael and Heidi Boel, from the Sister Cities Louisville organization, and they were kind enough to invite me to come and visit with them as they are spending the summer in Germany! I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to visit with all of my exams, but I will certainly try to work something out.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Last week was Johannisfest here in Mainz – a huge 3 or 4 day festival celebrating the most famous Mainzer of all time (and the namesake of my university), Johannes Gutenberg. The entire old town was covered with stands, rides, book sales, stages and all sorts of other things. From Schillerplatz to the Rhine River (a very very large distance), the town was converted. One of the traditional activities for this festival is the ‘gautschen’ – the dunking of students who have finished studying book making. The students are lifted up and thrown into a giant cask of water on a stage in the shadow of the 1000 year old Cathedral while their names are announced. I found a video of this year’s ceremony:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DdU5dchW78 (notice that they took a beer break half way through… dunking students is hard work). Either way, this is really important step in the students lives, and it was a very culturally significant thing to see!