Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flights and Orienteering

Today is Day 1.5 of orientation at a lovely middle-of-nowhere place called Haus Altenberg. It's a temporary settlement that I find very welcome after the 28 hours of travel on Sunday/Monday, including planes, trains, and automobiles. I got lost twice in Toronto and had to be rescued by two separate friendly employees and went through security three times (once for each airport besides my destination) and customs twice. The Canadian customs was much more thorough than the German customs despite the fact that I am working in Germany. I now have to go through a fairly complicated set of steps to get a bank account and residence permit here, starting Friday or Monday.

The Haus is comfortable and our orientation staff very friendly; the other assistants are rather chatty and seem to have made fast friends with one another. I find the whole thing a bit overwhelming and stretch my comfort levels every day by sitting at a different table and making conversation for meals.

There are, however, many good things about this orientation. My room is adorable and feels like it's under the rafters.

And I have a room key that reminds me of some Romantic European past. Or Cinderella's mother locking her in the attic. Egal.

The church that is connected to Haus Altenberg is lovely and old, with stained glass, stonework, and tombs. The inside is surprisingly plain and boasts a number of what seem to be tertiary altars behind the main altar, but which are neither decorated nor have any elements of the Eucharist. They look rather like they were forgotten.

It is both the Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Protestant Cathedral Parish of Altenberg. I think if I were the Protestant in Alternberg, I would have major church envy and try to join up too. Of course this beautiful church also rang its bells at 6am, which pleased me not at all.

The other thing happening in Altenberg besides the Fulbright orientation is an archeological dig aimed at preserving the monastery that used to be here. In the words of our head of orientation G√ľnther, we see a number of "academic looking persons scratching in the dirt" as we go from lunch to another session.

We have another day of orientation and then a very early morning on Thursday to have breakfast and head back to Cologne. I hope I've absorbed enough information to make this whole thing go well.

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