Wednesday, January 21, 2004

life of buddy don, chaptur 98:
skool daze amung the germs

by time we wuz eggspeckted to git down to the johann wolfgang goethe-universität n cummence a'takin classes, we had dun been thru a lot n twuz ackshly rite hepful on a counta we had larnt a lot more german than we had cum over a'knowin. so we tuck our walk down leipziger strasse to whar ye register fer classes, n rite away we found ourself facin more cultchur shocks, only these wuz a lil easier to take.

fer one, we wuz at a big university, witch i wurked my applicayshun fer a fullbright thisaway:

  1. furst i picked the best skool they had over n west germany, witch fer whut i wuz a studyin, twuz a place name of eberhard karls universität in tübingen. (did ye notice how i larnt to git them two lil dots to stay over sum of the vowels without makin a mess of my page? i reckon i'll go back n fix em all direckly.) thang is, even the bes west german students wood have truble gittin in thar n i knew i wuznt as good as inny of them on a counta they wuz much better at the lingo than i ever wood be. but ye gut to set yer sites hi, n thats whut i dun.
  2. nex i picked a place that wood be the mos beeyootiful of em all ifn we wuz lucky a nuff to git in, witch thatn wuz ruprecht-karls universität in heidelberg n fack is, thay aint a hole lot of settled placed thats as beeyootiful as heidelberg. but they dint have a verr big skool, so i knew my chantses wuz slim of gittin in thar.
  3. so i picked me a big ole university that wuz in the middle of a big city n i figgerd thar wuz whar they wuz mos lackly to have a exter place fer sumbidy frum amurka, n corse that wurked out.

as ye know, i gut a d-a-a-d in sted of a fullbright on a counta that treaty we had with west germany n best thang about it wuz how we wuz paid in marks. as ye mite recolleck, the economy in amurka wuznt all that good in late 1979 on a counta the oil crisis n inflayshun n the hi interst rates, witch seem lack they wuz knockin on the door of 12%, so twuz a bit of luck to be paid in marks on a counta how the dollar wuz droppin. whenever virgil wuz stayshuned in west germany, thay wuz gittin dm4 fer thar dollar, but he wuz thar in the early 70s. by the time we gut thar, ye wuz gittin maybe dm1,70 fer yer buck, so everthang ye bought with dollars seemed hi.

innywho, we larnt a lot our furst day thar. fer one thang, emily wood be able to odd-it all the classes she could stand, witch that meant she could sit in but woodnt half to do no wurk. i figgerd she wuz lucky till i larnt that i woodnt half to do no wurk neethur on a counta in them west german universities, ye dint have a lot of the thangs that ye gut in amurka: (1) ye dint half to take no tests till ye had dun been thar two years, when ye wood half to take yer zwischenprüfung, witch that means 'between test' wurd fer wurd n fack is, we dont have no such thang in amurka; (2) nobidy wuz takin attendance; (3) ye dint half to buy no books lessn ye jes wonted to; (4) ye dint half to give no presentayshuns, lessn ye wonted to; n (5) ye dint half to rite no papers, lessn ye wonted to. fack is, ye only had to commit to doin wurk in four of yer classes the furst two years. then when ye tuck that zwischenprüfung, ye wuz spozed to know everthang ye had sined up to study by then, speshly the four classes whar ye had earned yer schein, witch i reckon thats a grade or such lack, proof ye tuck the class n rote a paper n give a talk of sum kind.

twooda dun me sum good to know all this rite frum the gitgo, but i dint, so in one of the classes i wuz takin, witch twuz a class name of linguistisch und philisophie, witch the meanin of thatn is purty easy to suss n the mane reasons i sined up to git a schein in it wuz (1) twuz a subjeck i wuz innnerested in studyin, (2) the teechur, a greek name of perfesser mourikis, couldnt talk german much fastern i could, so it made him a lil easier fer me to unnerstan, n (3) i wuz thonly student in the class who had ever read inny of them greek flossofers, witch i had dun read everone i could git my hands on n the furst six volumes of frederick coplestons histry of flossofy, witch that meant readin bout all them greeks on a counta they gut the hole flossofy thang started n that meant they purty much tuck the furst volume or so.

i also sined up fer a class on heideggers zein und zeit and one on materialistische dialektik, witch that means dialectic materialism n tiz mosly bout them communists. but i figgerd twood be innerestin, n thay wuz a lease one innerestin moment, tho it dint have nuthin to do with the class. i reckon ill cum to thatn direckly.

thay wuz a nuther class i sined up fer, witch twuz a class on sittlichkeitsgefühl, technologie und philosophie n witch that means 'morality, technology and philosophy.' it feetchured a verr poplar teechur n wuz held in a big auditorium so i only went a cuple of times. but i do have two strong memries frum that class. fer one, the teechur wuz verr poplar on a counta he tole a lot of jokes. as ye mite know, ifn ye ever larnt ye a forn lingo, the hardest thangs is jokes n fone calls, on a counta them jokes is built on everbidy knowin insider dope on thangs n on the fone, ye cant see the person yer a'talkin to, witch ye git a lot of meanin by seein em say whut thar trine to tell ye. but i noticed that ever time that teechur tole us a joke, the hole class wood laff n i gut so i wood be laffin too, even tho i dint have the lease idee whut he wuz a talkin bout. but twuz sumthin bout how the crowd wuz a'laffin n purty soon i could tell the perfesser wuz bout to deeliver a nuther punch line, n shore a nuff, i wood be laffin my hed off lack i knew whut twuz all about. twuz a moment when i could planely see how thars sumthin powerful in a mob.

tuther thang i member bout that class wuz whenever he wuz splainin conflick n how ye kin git to grater evil as ye git more technicull power. fer instunts, ifn all ye gut to fite with is yer fists, thays a good chants bof sides mite give up befor eethur side wuz ded on a counta ye could git wore plum out befor ye had killt yer enemy. once ye git to the point of pickin up rocks n usin sticks, thangs gits easier, but ye mite still quit befor ye had killt yer opponent n mayhap ye wood negosheeate sum other outcum. once ye git to the point of havin a long bow or a rifle, ye kin kill with a bare squeeze of yer fanger. n once ye git a hole army wurkin fer ye, cumplete with cruise missles, ye kin sit in a room eatin yer dinner n order a hole peeple to be deestroyed. fack is, ye git to a point whar ye mite kill the hole planet off jes by miss take.

twuz sumthin the worl used to wurry bout a hole lot on a counta how amurka n the soviet union wuz loded with weppons pointed at each other n everbidy else fer good meashure. corse nowadays we dont have that problem, but we have cum up with new ones to wurry bout, lack whar is all them weppons gone to? or even the stuff ye use to make em?

corse, when all them students dont have to do much in class, they have plenty of time to do thangs outside of class. whut they dun wuz a real sprize to bofus. fer one thang, thay wuz a slew of communists thar n all of em bleeved that the amurkin empire wuz about to fall. thang wuz, they wuz much more innerested in arguin twixt thar ownself than in cunvintsin innybidy that dint alreddy bleeve in communism. so ye had two big groups a fitin all the time, one of em the communists who figgerd stalin wuz rite n tuthern the communists who figgerd twuz trotsky, witch that mean them stalinist communists lacked leonid brezhnev n them trotsky folk lacked chairman mao.

i used to watch em frum a place i found to sit n rite up in the mensa, witch means 'cafeteria' wurd fer wurd but stands fer lounge n twuz whar all the students used to hang out when they wuznt in the liberry or in class. twuz a big buildin with a lower level that had couches n tables n such. the upper level wuz filled with desks, but it only went round the edge of the buildin so ye could sit n look down on the furst level, witch thats whar they pitched thar battles. i couldnt see how innythang wuz ever accomplished in them fites on a counta how they wuz set up. ye wood have all them on one side lined up behind thar mane talker with all them on the other side facin em but set up the same way. then them mane talkers wood git to hollerin, only dint neethur side listn to tuthern. they jes hollerd loud as they could at each other, thar noses jes inches away frum each other.

corse they had other thangs they lacked to do, witch one of thar faverts wuz to march agin amurka. we gut stuck trine to cross one of them marches a time or two, witch we noticed the mane events wuz (1) burnin a big jimmy carter doll, (2) burnin the amurkin flag, (3) shotin slogans n (4) scrapin swastikas on all the mercedes benzes. they also lacked takin over abandund buildins, witch they called 'squattin' n holdin 'teach-ins' bout how awful amurka wuz, witch ye mite wood thank they wood wonta use german wurds fer them events. a nuther thang they lacked doin wuz gittin a hole bunch of em in a cirkle down in this underground mall they had thar called a einkaufscentrum. they wood cart in sum drums n tamborines n maybe a guitar or two n they wood git em a beat a'goin n cummence to screamin bout the thangs they hated bout amurka. i member one time the leader wuz callin out in german how muzak wuz to musick whut macdonalds wuz to food n other insults. thang wuz, near ever one of em wuz wearin levis n they mosly looked lack leftover hippies frum hate ashbury.

tuther groups that lacked to fite in the mensa wuz the iranians, witch they had em a slew of iranians thar. they wuz divided up into two groups, witch one wuz them that wuz follerin that ayatollah khomeini fella. tutherns wuz them that wuz wonted iran to have modernizayshun, but neethur side had inny use fer the shah. ifn they found the battlefield free, they wood git thar battles goin, n they wood use the verr same method, ceptn ye could tell which side wuz which on a counta the khomeini folk wood have thar women wearin hed scarfs, ifn thay wuz inny women with em, n lots of the men wuz wearin lil hats that looked lack they wuz made out of lace.

since i had lots of thangs i wonted to rite, i spent a lot of my time up on the second floor of that mensa. i wood rite letters n wurk on trine to git a new novel a'goin n rite in my diary n yew name it. sumtimes emily wood cum along, but she had her own classes to take, so we wood generly go home once neethur of us had no classes.

ye mite thank how emily wood study german histry on a counta that wuz her major n she wuz halfway thru her masters, but twernt to be. she wuz takin classes whar they talked in english, thangs lack the histry of english in amurka n theory of the novel n amurkin literchur. i hate to add mitt it now, but this led to a bad fuss n fite on a counta i had figgerd we woodnt be trine to talk no english but only german on a counta how else wuz we a'gone git good at it? also, wuznt she spozed to be studyin germans n thar histry?

corse, thar wuznt no reason fer us to be fitin n turnt out to be one of the luckiest thangs of all that she wuz takin them classes. fer one thang, she found out thay wuz a liberry with jes english books in it, witch that saved us a lot of money. fer a nuther, in one of them classes, she found the mos preshus thang they gut in west germany: a german friend.

i dun mentchuned how folks in the ex-pat communty used the term 'germs' to refer to the local folk in west germany. i been usin the term up to now on a counta when i recolleck them early days in germany, we felt lack we had been let loose in a land of germs. but fack is, i dint larn the wurd till i cummenced a'goin to skool thar. n once emily made her a friend, witch twuz a gurl name of frieda muller, we dint thank of them folk as germs no more.

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