Thursday, January 28, 2016

Everyday Life in the Wolf

Because I suspect some of my friends and family wonder what I do all day every day, I decided to write a post about my typical day here in Wolfenbüttel. So welcome to my routines! I must say, after traveling so much in October and November, it has been a welcome routine of predictable days and familiar faces!

During the week, I get up and eat breakfast (usually consisting of fruit and yogurt, or bread and various jams) before heading to the office at the Anna Vorwerk Haus. I always stop at the full length mirror in the hallway to make sure I'm looking good before heading out, because I don't have a full mirror in my room... The walk from my flat at the Feierabendhaus to the office only takes about three minutes, and takes me past several charming half-timbered homes.

I usually help myself to coffee in the kitchen at the AVH (Anna Vorwerk Haus) and then go to work in my office. Our workspaces are shared, and my office mate is Sunne. He is an earlier riser than me, so he is usually already in the office by the time I get there. Our office connects to another room where Jonathan and Sophia have their desks. We have a great work vibe there-- sometimes we all work in silent contemplation, sometimes we all chat and laugh, and other times we all talk to ourselves while working through complex research questions. We all work on different topics, so there is a nice variety.

At 1:30 on weekdays, all of the fellows and guests and library employees meet for coffee. This is a time to chat with friends, meet new arrivals, discuss our research topics, and (for me) practice German. If you listen carefully during coffee you can hear conversations in German, English, and even Italian. This is an important ritual because it brings everyone out of their offices and away from their work for thirty minutes to an hour, which is a necessary break to stay sharp and fresh. It also builds a great sense of community.

After coffee, I sometimes go to a cafe for lunch or just pick up a sandwich from a bakery and bring it back to the office. The most common vegetarian sandwich in bakeries includes a slice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber on a "brötchen" (literally "little bread") which is a typical white roll. Rather than mustard or mayonnaise, these sandwiches usually have either butter or remoulade. I usually opt for butter because I find remoulade totally gross and eggy-tasting.

So during all my hours at the office, there are a number of things I work on. This week, I wrote an abstract for a conference in August. I chose one of the topics that will be in my dissertation (the embroideries from Kloster Lüne in Lüneburg, in this case), did a little reading and brainstorming, and wrote an abstract about what I'd like to say.

I spend a lot of time reading far and wide about my dissertation topic, and this includes slowly working through books written in German. It's slow work, but the more words I look up in the beginning, the fewer I have to look up as I go. It's been a great way to build up my vocabulary and get a feel for grammar.

I am also looking at some of the medieval manuscripts they have in the library here. I can go to the reading room in the Augusta and request to look at an actual medieval manuscript in person! Some of them are digitized on the library website, but there is just no substitute for turning through the parchment pages of the original! They have several manuscripts that were written or illustrated in the convents near here, so those are the ones I find most interesting. There is one in particular with an embroidery on its cover; I was able to look at this one very closely, and even talk to the conservators about how the binding was made!

I usually take a late afternoon coffee break to get out of the office and perk up. There are several places in town, but my favorite is a roaster down the street called Treccino. Many German coffee shops use fully automated machines-- the espresso is quite weak and the milk is too thick (most don't have a skim option). Treccino roasts their own beans, uses a manual machine, and makes strong espresso! They also have chai lattes, which is one of my favorite things.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take a German class from 4:30-6:30 at the Volkshochschule in town. Volkshochschule doesn't really have an exact American equivalent, but it's basically a community center/night school. During our German class, there are also community art classes, children's music lessons, and a "Silver Sneakers" exercise class. Sophia, another American fellow at the library and one of my office mates, told me about the class and we go together. It's a pretty small class, so there is plenty of individual attention. The class is entirely in German, and the other students come from all over the world! We have engaging discussions, learn German, and get to know different kinds of people.

In the evenings, I make myself supper (more often than not it involves pasta or potatoes and an assemblage of whatever vegetables I picked up at the store or market). With no microwave or oven, my limited cooking skills are often challenged. But so far, I am managing to not starve. I don't have a dishwasher and only a limited supply of dishes, so I basically have to do dishes immediately after eating. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Jeremy and I usually Skype while I eat supper and he eats lunch, so it's convenient that the times match up! It took a while to get into a routine, being eight hours different, but this has really been working. This is also the time I would normally skype with Pam or with other friends.

At night I plow through Netflix, sometimes watching in German to practice and other times just binge-watching various American shows or movies. As always, I stay up later than most people... But eventually I go to bed, so I can get up and do it all over again the next day!

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