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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Munich chapters have ended

If ever a story were to arise out of my adventures and misadventures, one thing would be certain: this week would mark the end of the Munich chapters and transition into my studies in Cologne.
Last Thursday, I completed a second month at the Goethe Institute in Munich, packed my belongings and took the Deutsche Bahn to Hagen where a friend from the Goethe Institute (Chris) and I stayed with my Aunt for the first part of the weekend. There we went spelunking in an cave found by a railroad worker who dropped his hammer into a hole in the ground.  Although lacking the sheer magnitude of Mammoth Caves or Carlbad Caverns, the cave was beautiful, as were the age-old stalagmites and stalagtites in their many drippy forms.
We also visited a physical science museum in a neighboring village which was very interesting.  Called the Phenomenta, the museum offered life-sized science experiments to try out. There was a section on making music with wind and electrical currents, which my uncle and I had lots of fun with trying to play "Ode to Joy" on the various devices.  Tons of other gadgets and gizmos kept us all entertained for a solid afternoon. 
Sunday, Chris and I took the train from Hagen to Cologne where we stayed with some old family friends for the first half of the week. I had never really played tourist before in the city of my birth and it was fun wearing the tourist hat for a few days. Chris and I climbed all 509 steps of the Cologne cathedral and tasted the local cuisine and beer, the Koelsch. It comes in a ,2L tall skinny glass and is not bad.
Friday I Ieave from my uncle's house in Marburg and head to Switzerland for a week of relaxation and skiing before I am back in Cologne taking classes at the university. 
I hope all is going well back in Dallas, South Carolina, NorthCarolina, Michigan and where ever else you all may be.  All the best and have some fun this year with April Fool's Day.

Friday, March 26, 2004


At 3:30 AM one March morning began a day I shall not forget. That morning we headed to the port of Niebla, thirty minutes away from the city of Valdivia, which is located in southern Chile. We were told to contact Don Osvaldo, who we could find at 4 AM that morning in the port, by a woman whom we met in the fish market of Valdivia. We waited for our fisherman to arrive, standing alone at 4 am on a dock staring at a gathering of about 12 medium sized fishing boats docked at the port. When Don Osvaldo arrived, with three other men, and invited us into his boat, we set off on a fishing journey into the southern waters of the Pacific. Fishing is the second most important industry of Chile, and we lived its significance through the yells and laughs and jokes and labor of 10 Chilean fishermen, who rise daily at 4am and dock nightly at 6pm after a ritual that sometimes pays off, and sometimes doesn't.

We set off into a dense fog fed by the darkness of the morning, having only instruments to guide us to the Pacific. We navigated the shores of Chile for close to 12 hours, lowering the nets in a wide circle and trapping a few tons of anchovies four or five times. The boat, large enough to have a small kitchen and hold ten men, was unfortunately not large enough to control the rage of the ocean. My stomach fiercely fought the torment of the pacific, and lost every single time. As we were rocked back and forth by a seemingly anxious ocean, ate beans and bread with homemade marmelade, and took intermittent naps on the roof of the cabin, I asked the fishermen why they fished. "Because my brothers, my father, my grandfather, and all my uncles fish," replied many. "Because it is all I know how to do," another told me. Some of them were saving their money for their children?s education, earnestly hoping for a professional degree of any sort. And many of them drank their earnings away nightly. The day left us exahusted, and as we headed back to our hotel that night, the fishermen waved goodbye as they went to unload their precious cargo and prepare for the next morrow.

Santiago went by quickly, spent mostly in universities and with researchers from the UN Economic Commission of Latin America, whose headquarters are in Santiago. I visited think tanks and government ministries, many times being amazed by the similarties found in the politics of Chile as compared with those of the US (never forgetting, of course, the much stronger left found in my country). Chile as a whole presented a less grim picture than Argentina, showing signs of a foundation built over decades of loss and struggle, yet made strong through difficult lessons and sometimes violent changes.

We then headed across the driest desert on earth, the Atacama desert, crossing what seemed like an ancient ocean frozen in the midst of a tumultuous storm, colored light brown and abandoned forever, and into Peru, Inca land of rich history and a more sordid present. We will soon walk the paths of the Inca empire, ascending to Macchu Pichu (chewing nonstop coca leaves to prevent altitude sickness) and crossing the height of the magestic Andes. And then to Lima, to see where history has brought the proud people of Peru, from a mystic greatness of the past to a more questionable today.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The days March onward

Greetings once again from the slightly-less-snowy somewhat-warmer state of Bayern.

I have finished a month and two weeks here at the Goethe Institute and have a fortnight left before I head off to Switzerland to go skiing and then to Cologne to begin my studies in Math and Economics. My stay here in Munich has been phenomenal thus far. 

Although trips outside still require layers and often a nice warm beanie, the blizzard snow and sleek, icy roads are now a thing of the past.  Since I last wrote, I have been to Cologne (a good 5.5 hour train ride from Munich), to Hagen to visit my Aunt and to Augsburg with some friends from Munich.

But the real excitement this past 21 days has been right here in Munich.  Each year the Germans in particular and some hooligans in New Orleans celebrate Karneval on Faschings Dienstag (Fat Tuesday).

I dressed up as a clown with a psychedelic hat, some outrageous polka-dot pants (thanks Clarisse!) and on oversized glitzy orange and yellow bow tie. My group of friends and I paraded around in downtown Munich near Marienplatz with hundreds of other highly-decorated individuals. Although when I got to Cologne the next weekend, I saw pictures of Karneval and found out that I missed the REAL party.

Quick history lesson: Karneval originated as a way to eat of lots of the meat that had been frozen over the winter that would soon go bad in the spring as the weather gets warmer. In addition, many Catholics choose to give something up for the month plus before Easter and often it is meat. Karneval is one last chance to get rid of the extra. Besides, the Germans, esp. the Muencheners would never overlook a chance for another big party :-)

In and around Munich I have kept myself busy in the last weeks as well.  From touring the BMW museum, to learning more than I ever wanted to know about Abstract Expressionism and the Blue Rider Movement in the Ledenbach House, to strolling around the old city center at night, I have had an eventful time. 

My night train to Paris, which leaves in just under two hours will deposit me at the Paris Est train station at 7:01 a.m. tomorrow morning where I will hopefully meet Matt, Sophie, her sister and Rabea.

Laura and Richard both know that if I am forced to try to speak French, I'm in trouble, n'est pas?

I hope midterms went well for those of you in that boat right now and everyone is healthy and doing well. But alack, it's getting late and I've a train to catch.  Bis dem Nachst.