Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1st & 10 on Muller Strasse

So we were supposed to register with the city (I think...could be the police...?) within our first week in Berlin. I think that everyone except those of us who are from (or have lived in) The Americas took care of this right away. Draw whatever conclusions you want, but we've been busy and Berlin's version of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has some pretty limited hours of operation. Imagine that.

Erica and I finally caved in and got it done yesterday. First, we followed VLB's directions to the Rathaus Wedding (city hall). Once inside, we found it very...not open and rather confusing. After an initial failed attempt in locating the appropriate room, I decided that we would wait for a human and ask directions. My human of choice was a very old German woman with a hunched back. I asked her where we were supposed to go in my best, bad German, and from her response I gathered that we were in the wrong building, we had to go outside, and to the right. I'm pretty sure that she said more than that, but that's what I got and it was a start. We started down the side walk and when I turned to look back, I could see the old woman waving me on like it was 1st and 10 in Lane Stadium. Guess we should keep walking. A few more steps and then Erica and I paused to contemplate whether or not the next building could be the right place. I figured the old woman was gone by now, but glanced back anyway, where I immediately saw her vigorous 1st down signal was now perpendicular, indicating that we had found the right spot. I waved back and we went inside.

Once inside we went to the information booth. I explained to the lady behind the window that my German was bad, but that we both needed Anmeldebestatigungs. She said that my German wasn't THAT bad and that we should get a WAITING NUMBER from the ROOM with the LINE COMING OUT OF IT. Erica asked me what the info lady had just said and once I told her she replied, "You mean we have to wait in line to get a waiting number?" Yep, just like DMV. An hour later, we were on our way and now Berlin knows where to find us if it needs us.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Touring Berlin...finally


I've been in Berlin for 25 days and have somehow managed to see almost none of the city until today. School has kept us pretty busy, and the last few weekends have been cold and/or rainy. But after the practical malting work today, I talked John and Erica into accompanying me on what ended up being a really awesome tour. Our tour guide, Barnaby, was hilarious and extremely informative. If you ever go to Berlin, be sure to go on his tour.

We saw (and learned a lot about) The Wall, Checkpoint Charlie (which is a joke and is not worth seeing), Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag, Hitler's bunker/grave (which frequently gets urinated on), an awesome memorial to Jews killed in the Holocaust, and more. I took too many pictures to display them all here, so I'll just cover the highlights...
1. West side v.s. East side. 2. Lola ran out of this bank. 3. Looking down into the World W/O Books reminder. 4. The Linden trees are all numbered (seriously). 5. Holocaust memorial. 6. Balcony where Michael Jackson dangled his kid, Blanket.

zuviel trinken, zu früh malzen


Friday night Felipe, John, Erica, Simon, and I attempted to meet at a Mexican restaurant, but it had closed, which made it pretty hard to find. It would've been really great if the directions we got from the internet had mentioned that the place had closed over a year ago. John and I are both dying for Mexican food, but since I haven't even seen a single Mexican here, I have a feeling that we are going to experience continued disappointment. After a meal at what seemed like the next best thing, we proceeded with phase 2 of John's mission to find some bar in Mitte that he really likes but can't seem to remember its location. Like phase 1, this resulted in lots of aimless wandering despite John's high degree of confidence that the bar was just around the corner.

The hookers were out in full force, and if that isn't weird enough, get this: They wear heavy winter jackets and then have corsets over top of the jackets to let you know who they are. This looks even more peculiar than you might imagine.

We ended up at very smoky, but cool bar with good music where I drank too much, accidentally used the (unlabeled) women's bathroom (some Germans were kind enough to tell me afterwards), and ultimately, very reluctantly returned most of the Augustiner that I had consumed, if you know what I mean. The bar was pretty crowded when we got there, but they pulled out some folding chairs for us, which was very nice and/or weird.



In other good news, the bar used my favorite beer glass in the entire world (the Willibecher) and we had to be at school at 10:30am Saturday morning for our first practical work malting session. As much fun as it was to weigh out some barley for 5 minutes and load it into a steeper (which wasn't even going to get water until the last group got their barley in), I can think of a lot of times other than 10:30am on a Saturday when I could have/would have preferred to do this, but whatever. I'd like to thank Simon for ensuring that a Kebab found its way into my barren stomach before I began the journey home early Saturday morning, and Erica for navigating said journey. Otherwise, I surely would have faired worse than John Smith in Spain.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

DAY 24

After the first week I thought this course would be a breeze, but now that we’re in the thick of things, it’s a different story. It’s been 7 years since I’ve been a full time student and some things just don’t come as easy as I thought they would. I used to be able to think, absorb, and focus faster/better. The good news is that I’m learning things that I want to learn, and that makes all the difference. I do wish that I had taken some college level chemistry before coming here – I think that would have made this infinitely easier. I’m learning it now, but it’s a tough way to learn and makes learning everything else that much more difficult. I keep hearing that everything is going to come together at the end, and they’re probably right.


We compared a bunch of different yeasts in micro today. Two top fermenting and one bottom fermenting beer strains, red and white wine yeasts, Champaign yeast, yeasts that multiply by fission instead of budding called Schizosaccharomyces (get it?…SPLIT personalities…eh?), and a contaminant that is impossible to distinguish from lager yeast by microscopy (Saccharomyces diastaticus). I took some pictures of the lager yeast (plus a couple of Calcium Oxalate crystals) and some ale yeast (with pseudomycelium) for your viewing pleasure. (You’re welcome.)

Today, we had an unintentional long lunch that almost made us late for our Hops class. We went to an Indian restaurant where the only employee waited on us (and the other tables), poured and served our beers, and cooked and served all of the meals. He didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry. The rest of the staff showed up just before our food was served at 2pm (We ordered at 1:05). The food was good, but speed walking (you should’ve seen the link I decided against) to class after the last bite was not. Here’s a picture of a hop we analyzed in class with a pretty serious amount of lupulin (the yellow stuff) inside. It has nothing to do with Indian food…unless you get the really spicy kind…you might want some hoppy beer with that.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Grüne Woche

So here are some of the beers that I've tried since I've been here. Not quite - that's actually part of a display from the German brewer's association, showing the 5000 beers produced in the country. On Sunday, VLB took us to Green Week (a HUGE week long fair). The brewer's association booth also had some great advertisements, such as: "Beer is good, ask a doctor." "Who drinks beer, helps the farmers." "Beer doesn't make you fat! Beer contains fewer calories than apple juice or red wine. Beer activates metabolism and contains hardly any sugar." "Beer promotes milk production."
The fair had exhibits for everything from knives and vacuum cleaners to hot tubs and cheese. Nearly every country was represented. The American showing was pretty weak. There were countries that I've never even heard of with larger exhibits. We had one booth and here it is...seriously?

Oh yeah, and most importantly there was an organ grinder in the subway. (Cue the circus music again: "RENT-DENT-den-na-da...")

Friday, January 18, 2008

DAY 18

This week's lab entailed density and extract measurements. First we used a Pycnometer (quite a process), then a Biegeschwinger, and finally the trusty Hydrometer. Turns out I have been reading hydrometers incorrectly for the last 7 years.

A group of us met up at another brewpub tonight. This time it was the very small, Eschenbrau. The brewmaster was on hand and gave us an in-depth tour of the tiny brewery. I have tons of pictures that I'd like to share, but you're going to have to settle for just a few as I'm still having difficulty with photo uploads. Notice the the beer stein lock boxes with pad locks on the wall. The draft lines are run in one of the biggest diameter copper pipes ($$$$) that I've ever seen. A very cool, tiny brewpub with great beer and personality.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

DAY 17

On the way to class this morning, Erica and I were waiting to cross the street at the only busy intersection that we have to cross to get to the subway. It was still a little dark and all of the cars had their lights on. I notice this motorcycle that seems to be swaying a whole lot. I can tell this because the headlight is jerking a bunch. I'm thinking this motorcycle is going to crash...possibly into me. As it gets closer I realize that things are not as they seem. This is not a motorcycle, but a bicycle that some guy had dressed up to look like a motorcycle. I stared at the guy as he pedaled by (which is why the handle bars/light were swaying so much) and he just stared right back, as if he were saying to me, "That's right, fool...I made my Fahrrad look like a Motorrad. What's up now!?" It looked like a touring bike. Like this one, but it was gold (spray paint), a lot less real, and had bigger saddle bags. I would have had a sweet picture for you had I not been completely dumbfounded at the time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DAY 16

When I got downstairs for my second installment of weekly Tuesday night dinners at Turnerschaft, it quickly became clear that this week was NOT like the last. Rather than the small, informal, pub setting, it was in a meeting hall room, with twice as many people, and a more formal dress code (minus myself, Erica, and 1 or 2 others). No one seemed to care that we weren't better dressed so we ate. After dinner, the plates were cleared and it was obvious that something was about to happen. What, I had no idea. I'm thinking, great this must be the Nazi part, right? Thankfully not. Instead, A woman (whom I think was from the newspaper or media of some kind) gave an hour+ lecture in German. I understood a lot of words, but only got maybe 2 or 3 complete sentences over the entire hour...one of which was accompanied by a gesture signaling me to sit back down when I tried to leave the room after the first 5 minutes.
I took some pictures in microbiology today. The first one is asbestos @ 40x, you can see why you wouldn't want to breath the stuff. Asbestos was used to filter beer years ago (and that is not a myth). Next, is diatomaceous earth (which a lot of breweries currently use for filtration). It's not great to inhale either, but looks a lot less severe than asbestos. I'll leave you with yeast cells, and my friends John Lane and Simon Siemsgluess "microscoping."

p.s. sorry, I have let a few days slip by...I'm having trouble uploading images.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

DAY 15

This is the mountain of training manuals that I have received (so far). I think it's safe to say that I'll be experiencing some weight limit issues at the airport (again) when it's time to go home.

Classes were great again today, but are getting more and more challenging. Most important thing I learned today: Never eat a banana around bees. Isopentyl acetate is (also in beer) what's responsible for the scent of bananas. Apparently, bees release ~1 microgram of it when they sting, in order to attract other bees to join in the attack. Now I have to go figure out how many carbon atoms are present in a typical bee sting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

DAY 14

There was poker at Turnerschaft last night. Any C-villians reading this will appreciate that I was first out...again. At least I'm consistent. The game reminded me of one of those serious poker movies where people have to be reminded to only speak English at the table...Because they did.

Today's classes were OK, although I think I'm somehow already struggling in Brewery Arithmetics, and the malt stuff is moving faster than the chemistry class, which makes it a challenge for those of us with little to no chemistry background. It'll be fine though...it's not supposed to be easy. Also, we learned some really cool info about cone slopes, repose angles, bulk flow patterns, and other malt handling stuff (Plant Equipment class), all of which is very pertinent to the grist case that I need to hurry up and design for Roanoke.

My German friend Simon forgot his transit card today, which resulted in him being detained by the police, having to watch a junkie strip, being driven to his house by the police to get his card, and of course showing up to class late. Good times.

My adventure of the day was less exciting, but more confusing. I went to the laundromat. It was a humbling experience, which reminded me how terrible my German is, took a lot more time and money than I anticipated/wanted it to, and made me happy when it was all over with. There was a slide in class the other day showing water consumption by country. Germany had the lowest and the US had the highest. The Germans really have got to be the most environment conscious humans. Most lights in this house have motion sensors or timers and we have an on-demand hot water heater. Even the escalators at the subway stations are on motion sensors. Most importantly for today, the driers at the laundromat use very little heat. I'm looking forward to having my own washer and drier when I get back, but hopefully this place will break me of my other energy wasting habits.

Oh yeah, and the guy at the top next to me is the other American named John. He also has a blog which you should check out. Yes, in America we are all called John and all have blogs. John and I nominated Göran for class spokesman/key holder. He accepted and won without a fight. We're just glad that we don't have to be responsible for any of it.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend 11-13

Friday we had Chemical-Technical Analyses, which basically just means that it's lab day. Our first installment was a basic intro to the lab, safety procedures, etc. followed by preparation of a normal solution (caustic) for a neutralization titration with HCL. VLB has some good lab equipment and so far I enjoy the lab work, although it is not my strong point. I think this course will help me to improve quite a lot.

Friday night Erica (Canada), Simon (Germany), Göran (Swedish guy pictured above), and the pair of American Johns met at Brauhaus Lemke, another one of the many Berlin brewpubs. They had what seems to be the standard line up of styles: Pils, Dunkel, Weizen, Seasonal. Not a bad lineup if you ask me. Their Dunkel, which they called "Original" was one of the best ones I've had here so far, so I drank too many of them. I hope to make something similar once I get back home. They also had some great schnitzel and sausage. It was a little pricey/touristy though, so after a while we decided to cruise to some other places.

I had to take a picture of this huge store we passed. It had nothing but sunglasses, which I think is funny since it gets dark super early here and this weekend was only the second time that I've really seen any sun. How this place makes rent in the winter is beyond me.

The night went by pretty fast (seems to happen here) and after a few different bars, we decided to call it a night. I'm not sure what time it was, but I'd guess somewhere in between 2-3am. Erica (housemate), John, and I needed the same first train. Well, we got on it, but headed in the wrong direction. After another wrong train, we found ourselves and a bad situation...cold, very far north of town, and not a whole lot of trains. The trains are MUCH less frequent at night. You know that you've left town when the usually digital signs are analog. After getting back on track, lots of waiting, a few transfers followed by the ~15 minute walk from the station, we finally arrived home at 5am!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

DAY 10

Today we had an introduction to the VLB pilot brewery where we will do some of our practical work. Seems like a very nice system to work on. Also, I was pleasantly surprised today to learn that we have an optional class, Process Control Engineering. In this class, we will not only learn the capabilities and possible applications of the process and automation control system SIMATIC PCS 7 (Siemens), but we will also receive and additional certificate upon completion of the course. And VLB has done something really cool - They have outfitted a small glass brewery (in the same building as the pilot brewery) with SIMATIC PCS7. It is here that we will implement and practice our programming and hardware installation. Very exciting! I'm getting more thrilled about the program each day as the classes get more and more interesting and we meet more of the professors. I can honestly say that I really enjoy all of the staff so far. They come across as both experienced industry experts and skilled teachers. I also think they are doing a great job of starting with the very basics of each subject. I think that in the end, even very inexperienced students will walk away with a sophisticated understanding as long as they apply themselves. I guess my knowledge level of microbiology at the end of the program will be a good barometer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

DAY 9

We had an organized visit to Brauhaus Mitte (local brewpub) after class today. They had Pils, Dunkel, Weizen, and the current seasonal, Zwickel bier (Keller Pils). We got a tour of the brewery and a tremendous authentic German meal. I wish I had a picture of the plate I was served. It was an entire boiled leg of pork that must have been twice the size of my own head. The brewery tour was pretty cool. They crank out A LOT of beer on that little system, and the brewmaster was very nice and indulged my endless barrage of questions.

My 7 day transit card expired at midnight last night, so earlier that evening I attempted to buy a "student" monthly card (much cheaper). I went to the subway (but it was the wrong one), got directions to the correct one, took a train, waited in line (everything seems to be a drawn out process here), and finally was able to present my student ID card and letter from school to get my reduced rate monthly transit card. I was then told that I also needed a photo. Who knew? That would have been helpful information that the school could have provided me with. When I asked where I could get a photo taken, I was told, "in the station." It was a big station, but after wandering a while I found one of those photo booths. I put money in, but it wouldn't take it. There were 2 people nearby promoting or selling something and I got one of them to look at the machine for me. He said it was "full for the day." It was after 7pm, and the BVG office closes at 8pm. He directed me to a "photo shop" around the corner from the station. It was closed, so I gave up.

So, I had to buy a daily pass for today. After Braus Mitte, I went to the nearby major station for another try. I found another photo both, but apparently I hit the wrong button because the photo that came out was a 4x6, not passport photos. Sweet...more Euros down the drain. Finally I got the right size which enabled me to present my student photo ID, my letter, and my new photo so that they could issue me a new BVG (transit authority) photo ID, which now enables me to by monthly tickets. I thought these people were supposed to be efficient..? If I ever get bored, I think I might take Erica's suggestion and try to present the 4x6 just to see what kind of reaction I get.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

DAY 8: SECOND DAY OF CLASSES

In Germany, apparently it's OK for a female janitor to enter a men's restroom at any time. I'm not sure that I'll ever get used to this. I first noticed it in the Frankfort airport, but it didn't hit home then as much as it did today at VLB. When I'm experiencing severe intestinal discomfort and need some quick relief, the last thing I want to see is a dainty German girl who has no intention of leaving the room. True story.

Other than that, today was great. Classes were: Barley, Chemistry, Water, and Utilities. More overviews on the new ones, but we're starting to dive into the others. I'm pretty stoked about 90 minutes of Water each week...it's going to be an extremely valuable course. The VLB staff is top notch so far.

Tonight, "FAX" (who is kind of the resident Dad and who is now listed in my cell phone as "Fax - HELP") cooked schnitzel and potatoes, which were fantastic. The house has its own "pub" (where dinner was served) downstairs with good beer on tap ("vom fass") and in bottles. You just keep track of what you drink in a notebook, which means I'll never have to go to the store. Beers are ~1 Euro (or ~$1.50). The other people living here are so friendly...they had coffee ready for Erica (my Canadian class/housemate) and I in the morning, helped get my new German cell phone functioning, and they all have a great sense of humor. There are a couple of old timers who came by tonight (I think a big dinner on Tuesday is customary) who are both very kind and have some good stories. The meal was much needed after a long day of 8 classes, bad cafeteria food (responsible for the aforementioned discomfort), and a hectic afternoon trying to make some necessary purchases...but that's another story.

Monday, January 7, 2008

DAY 7: First day of school

All the shops are closed on Sundays, so I couldn't buy a watch or batteries or an alarm clock. I downloaded some different alarm clock software programs and wasted at least an hour trying to make one work on my computer the night before. (by the way, day 6 was completely cold, rainy/sleety and uneventful.) As luck would have it, my computer had an "unexpected power down" during the middle of the night, so I woke up late. That's fine, Germans don't shower anyway, right...? Once on the U-Bahn, I experience my first "ticket check" from the authorities. I had purchased a 7 day pass last Wed, which expires at midnight on Tues, but the ticket checker apparently read my ticket wrong and started arguing with me (auf Deutsch) in front of everyone. I couldn't follow his German and said, "I'm sorry, my German is bad (in German of course)." He argued for a while that my ticket was invalid and then realized that he was wrong. He said, "oh...I am sorry." and walked away. The rest of the train looked at me and kind of shrugged their collective shoulders. I get to the class room, where class is already underway (only by 5 or 10 minutes), and inadvertently sit down next to the only other American (John from Tennessee). That's right, in American we are all called John. It turns out I'm also seated behind the only German (I thought there would be more than one) and in the same row as the Canadian woman who is also staying at Turnerschaft. Class was great. My classmates are from:
Turkey, Thailand, Venezuela, Turkey, Brasil, Brasil, Brasil, Canada, Thailand, Turkey, Laos, USA, Sweden, Thailand, Ecuador, Brasil, Japan, Laos, Brasil, China, Germany, Thailand, Liberia, Japan, Serbia, China, and China. There are 28 of us. We had a malting technology lecture (which largely focused on the shortcomings of the previous 2 years' harvests), a brewery arithmetics lecture (for which I must now go do my homework), an economics lecture, a basic chemistry lecture, and a plant equipment (malting) lecture. A lot of the lectures were sort of topic intros (no new earth-shattering knowledge), but it was very exciting to see where things are headed (good, I think). Afterwards, they had a reception which lasted for several hours to welcome our class and a Russian class, which also started today. Wolfgang Kunze was also on hand to sign copies of his famous text, "Technology Brewing and Malting." Apparently a new copy of the book was included in our tuition. I already had a copy of it, so after a couple of beers I thought it would be a good idea to have Kuze sign my new copy and dedicate it to a friend. Kunze had a little difficulty with the translation, but Kev (hopefully not reading this) will soon be getting a copy inscribed: "For Kevin, Major (Rather than 'May your') brewing adventures be successful. Be sure to listen to your friend John. He is smart now. -Wolfgang Kunze Berlin, 7.1.2008" Once I got back to Turnerschaft, I had a couple of beers with some of the members, one a particularly nice German who lives in Munich, was in town on business, and who's very recently ex-wife lives in BLACKSBURG! Small freakin' world!! By the way, I have several confirmations (from both outside and inside sources) that while, yes, some fraternities are associated with nazis, Turnershaft is certainly not one of them. Seems like a group of really nice people to me. Time for homework. Love you, Meg...Wish I had a phone.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

DAY 5

Today was very relaxing. The icon on my Google desktop showed a huge icicle and never went above zero degrees, so I almost never left my cozy new room. When I finally did so, to get some food, I found all of the sidewalks covered in a thin layer of ice. I somehow made it all the way to my destination and back without falling. There weren't many other people out, but those who were seemed fairly used to it and skilled at walking on the stuff. I found a nearby Italian place where I could get a mini Hawaiian pizza and a half liter of good local beer for 3.20 Euros (about $4.80) so that made me pretty happy.

Friday, January 4, 2008

DAY 4

Today was a good day. The sun came out briefly for the first time as I moved the big suitcase out of the Circus and into Turnerschaft. I saw a German Shepard on the U-Bahn (subway) and wondered what they are called here. After trying about 7 banks, it turns out that the Post Bank and Volksbank are the only 2 ATMs that like my FNB bankcard. This has made paying rent, deposits, etc. a challenge since they also limit how much you can withdrawal in a day. Liz Tenney (a friend and classmate of my girlfriend) put me in touch with some Berliners (Mike & Kathrin) whom she had met through school. Mike is currently on vacation in Canada, but Kathrin is here and I met her for pizza and beers last night. She is my first German friend! (even if we do have different ideas about what meeting "outside of the exit at the end of the train heading towards Pankow" means.) It was great to make a friend here. She even knows a lot of the people whom I have met in Meg & Liz's program, so we had lots to talk about. She does have me a little worried though, she told me that some fraternities (that's what Turnerschaft kind of is) have a reputation for being affiliated with Nazis. I don't think that's the case here, but it's something to be aware of. Not everyone who lives here is part of the fraternity, and the few people I've met so far have been very nice and all have more hair than me. There is a Danish guy in the room next to mine who speaks English very well and is currently listening to Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake. Clearly, not a Nazi. And supposedly a Canadian woman is moving into a room tomorrow. Oh, and more good news, my other bag was waiting for me when I got back from hanging out with Kathrin! Also, Kathrin confirmed that German Shepards are still called German Shepards here. Weird.

LAST NIGHT

The circus really earned its name last night, none more than Disaster Boy. I was the second one in the room to go to sleep. At some point during the night I woke up to a very loud one way conversation. I thought for sure that someone was talking on a phone, either in the room or directly outside of it. I recognized the voice immediately. It was the Australian (has a Chinese mother and a Japanese father) and he was telling someone not to come visit him if they were sick. The conversation lasted at least 1 or 2 minutes and was very coherent. Then he started singing. The singing abruptly transitioned into snoring. Sleep talker! And a good one at that. Several other rustling beds indicated to me that I was not the only one whom the sleep talking had woke. A few minutes later, I could see Disaster Boy get out of his bed and head for the door. (Thank you, Lasik surgery) One problem. To the right of the door was a tall mirror and Disaster Boy (who I now realized was very drunk) was trying to open the mirror rather than the door. I watched in awe, trying not to laugh out loud. Things stopped being funny really quick when after a 3rd attempt (which nearly broke the mirror) he gave up and decided to just use his current location as a restroom. I shouted, "hey! hey!! hey!!! that's not a door, it's a mirror. Left! Left!! The DOOR is on the LEFT!" (I should have been shouting "That's not a urinal!") He got the message either way and stopped. The sleep talking Australian got up and opened the door for him. Sleep Talker had to kind of shove him out of the door because Disaster Boy held on to him with a tight grip. A while later I heard some knocking at the door and realized that Disaster Boy was now locked out of the room. I quickly pondered whether or not I should let him back in. After all, he had just peed in the room in very close proximity to (if not on) someone else's bags. (Good thing the airport had lost my bags, otherwise it probably would have been mine.) I decided that I had probably done something equally as stupid/obnoxious (I turned off the comment feature, Chris Bernhardt) when I was ten years younger, and now it was my turn to be nice. Besides, at this point I wasn't 100% sure that the mirror pisser was Disaster Boy and I wanted to be sure. So, after more knocking, I opened the door. Identity confirmed. And the icing on the cake was that not 5 minutes later, the new guy in Disaster Boy's original bunk came home for the night. He offered a moaning Disaster Boy (who had just peed on or around his bags) help finding something with a flashlight and made sure he was OK before climbing into his own bunk. What a good Samaritan. I wonder if he would have been that nice if he had walked in a few minutes earlier. I can't wait to get out of here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day 3

Disaster Boy woke the rest of the room up in the very early morning with more rummaging before explaining that he had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t find his room key card. I told him to just just go and knock on the door if he got locked out. I woke up several hours later when his key card fell and hit me in the face during another fit of rummaging. I guess that's what I get for staying at a circus.

At least it’s cheap. Overall, today felt better. In the morning, I made my first trip to VLB to scope it out and drop off a photo for my ID card. I had a lot of trouble finding it, and therefore spent about 30 more minutes in -6°C weather than I would have liked. I am VERY glad that I moved my heavy coats into my carry-on bag during all of the rearranging. VLB seems nice and the administrator told me how I could get a reduced rate on my transit card, so that’s a huge financial relief.

Next, I found the location of the room that I had been thinking of renting. The room seemed like a good situation, so I move in tomorrow. Things are coming together. I’d like to revisit this whole suitcase situation. (My backpack is still missing, so the topic has been on my mind) Here’s the thing: You can check (2) 50# bags. You have to pay something like $50 for every bag over the limit, and even more if a bag is over 70#. So, my 94# suitcase would cost me something like $100 even though I was only checking (1) bag. By splitting the same weight into (2) separate bags (under 50#) there is no charge. So the fee doesn’t have anything to do with fuel costs or anything like that, otherwise it would be based on TOTAL weight. The only other reason that I can come up with is that it might be more difficult for a worker to lift a heavier bag. So do they give that extra $50 to the workers?

p.s. Disaster Boy moved to a different bunk.