Oct 24, 2010

Two months in

It is hard to believe that I’ve been at UMaine for two months already. What did I do; where did the time go?

Before trying to recount what was going on in my life since my last post, I thought I’d recapitulate the last two months. First thing that everyone is wondering about: how do I like it here and how am I doing? I still love it at UMaine and in Maine in general. I cannot even begin to describe how lucky I feel to be here and simply to have the opportunity to live in the States for a year. 

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that there are also things that I am not too happy about. The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I am not a fan of American food. But thanks to my kitchen and my cooking skills, I’ve still managed quite well so far and I prefer looking at the bright side of things. So I’ve more or less accepted American food culture (even though I still like to complain about it from time to time).

One of the things about UMaine that I really appreciate is the library, aka the place where I’m writing this blog post right now. Unlike the library in Salzburg, Fogler Library is open every day and, except for Friday and Saturday, it is open until midnight every day as well. Since I live in a dorm where it is rather hard for me to study, I usually study, read, and do my homework in the library. And unlike the library in Salzburg, you’re allowed to bring all of your stuff, meaning your laptop and something to drink (and illegally also to eat). So it happens quite often that I end up spending at least half my day in the library. I get a lot done here and there’s a cafeteria in the building which comes in handy when I need to recharge my batteries.

Another aspect about UMaine that I really appreciate, especially because it is so contrary to the university at home, is that the university (or certain university organizations) organizes trips all the time. So far I’ve been on a two-day kayak trip, a day trip to Camden on the coast, and a three-day trip to Canada’s Capital, Ottawa. Those trips are usually very well organized, heavily funded (and thus quite cheap), and always a good way to get away from campus.

Camden, Maine
The last point that I’d like to mention today is that the reason why I feel so much at home here is largely due to the group of international students that are here. We were kind of “forced” to hang out from the beginning because of orientation for international students. However, we ended up being a fun group that loves to do stuff together (like going to Canada). The group is very diverse, consisting of students from Germany, France, England, Ireland, Belgium, Canada, Australia, and some Americans that could actually pass for international students. I always avoid using too many clichés (I actually just read some homework about that) but sometimes clichés are true. So to come to an end with this blog, I’ll post a couple of pictures because a picture can sometimes say more than 554 words of a blog post.

Oct 8, 2010

A Seakayaking Trip that Was None

Since I don’t keep this blog updated as much as I had hoped, I will write about current things that are going on and in between write about my first couple of weeks here. I don’t have the intention of sharing every single event anyway, so this should work out fine.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a weekend seakayaking trip with a couple of friends and fellow international students. After looking forward to this trip for a long time, we finally went kayaking on Saturday morning. However, things turned out to be quite complicated at times and plans changed several times before and over the course of the weekend. The first change was from the expected SEAkayaking to normal kayaking due to flood and storm warnings on the coast. Instead, the Kale and Nate, the two guides that should take us (i.e. a group of six international students), decided to go to a lake in the northeast of Maine.

On Saturday morning, we were all more or less ready to go at 7 am but we had to wait for the van for way too long, meaning I could have slept for another two hours. Anyways, after some basic kayaking instructions indoors, loading the van, and some more complications, we finally left campus. Like the last couple of weekends, we were very lucky with the weather. After a quick and very necessary coffee stop, we drove north for almost three hours. On the way to Pocumcus Lake I saw my first moose! It was only for a short time, but everyone in our group got really excited and we took it as a good sign.

Kale + our kayaks
We still drove quite a while longer before we finally arrived at our destination. Such a long car trip makes you hungry, so we had lunch before we packed up our stuff and left in our kayaks. Things had been a little complicated before, and from the beginning of actually kayaking, it was very windy which made it very difficult to navigate through the water, not lose each other, etc. My last kayak trip had been a while ago, so I wasn’t too surprised when I “stranded” in shallow water and needed the help of Nate to get out again. Realizing that things would not work out the way we had hoped (again), we decided to just go along the shore until we’d find a good place to camp.

For that we didn’t really have to go very far. We found a beautiful secluded beach on an island (the beach was literally an island itself) where we decided to spend the night. Since it had gotten pretty warm and the wind had died down, our group of international students decided to partake in one of our favorite pastimes: swimming. We didn’t actually swim a lot, but just went into the water and enjoyed the warm water and the sun. Then it was time to build our tents (which we didn’t, our guides did) and start preparing dinner (ditto). But we all went to look for some fire wood and that just made me feel like a child again – in a good way.

For dinner we had pasta with vegetables which was quite nice and, as a surprise, a highly praised dessert: grasshopper pie. It was…disgusting! However, the guides were really surprised to find out that we didn’t enjoy it. Luckily, they went to bed early and we stayed up for a long time, enjoying the fire and watching the stars. There was no light from any civilization nearby, so you could see an amazing amount of stars. After the fire died down we finally had to go to bed, i.e. our sleeping bags outside. I didn’t really get a lot of sleep because temperatures dropped to around zero that night.

In the morning, the sun more or less woke me up, and after a quick breakfast, we headed out again. For a while we went along the shore again and simply enjoyed the beautiful weather and the amazing landscape. Towards noon we turned to head back to the van to go back home.

Nothing really interesting happened after that. The most exciting thing that afternoon was a coffee break at Reggie’s along the way. Classic.

Back at UMaine we still had to unpack and clean everything before we dragged our tired bodies home to have a quick dinner and go to bed early.

With my roommate Yuna

With Mark