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St. Louis Diary

My seventh week in Saint Louis


This is my seventh week in Saint Louis and by now I am already used to the American lifestyle (well, at least kind of). One thing I still don’t understand is the, to put it politely, rather generous use of all kinds of plastic packaging and wrapping material. Take the food court for instance, which is the equivalent to the German "Mensa". Let’s say you buy some meal for lunch, such as a burger with French fries or a slice of pizza. The burger is served in a plastic box that is stuffed into a plastic bag. The drink accompanying your meal is contained in a paper cup with a plastic lid and to cut your meal you use, guess what, a plastic fork and knife - bon appetite. After you finished your lunch you sit in front of a gigantic pile of waste, which not only covers almost the whole table but also makes it impossible to locate the people you joined for lunch. Has somebody here ever heard of limited resources? However, the standard argument is: "Yes, you are right. We use a lot of plastic. But everything can be recycled." But wouldn’t it be still easier to use metal forks and ceramic plates that can be washed and reused? The same goes, by the way, for the supermarket. Instead of packing your groceries in one heavy-duty bag, everything is double bagged in ten small plastic bags.

Another, yet more fun, attempt to get into the American way of life was my sign up for an intramural softball team. Every semester the university’s department for recreation organizes the intramurals. They offer a broad and diversified program of recreational sports activities that still are competitive. The intramurals consist of some 20 team and individual sport competitions, such as volleyball, soccer, basketball, and of course, softball. Softball is a variant on baseball that can be played by mixed-gender or mixed-ability teams. The most important difference between softball and baseball is the ball itself, which is bigger in softball and therefore does not fly as good as a baseball. Although one can play softball at a very serious level and in a highly organized way, it is also very suitable for recreational play. Once you got a modest outlay in equipment (one baseball bat and several gloves for the field players), you are ready to play in more or less any wide-open space. The rules are almost the same as in baseball - that means there are still hard enough to understand. My team, "The Indian Sluggers", is an all male team, mostly college freshmen, and the abilities of the members are indeed very mixed. Nevertheless, it is a lot of fun to play once you understood the basic rules and principles. We play every Wednesday night at an indoor stadium called "The Armory" and still have good faith to win at least one of the intramural games...

Another intramural event I joined, this time together with two of the other German LL.M. students was the "Mini Team Triathlon". Each team member had to choose from one of the classic (in this case mini) triathlon parts: 10 lap indoor swimming, 1.5 mile run and 8 mile cycling. Although we tried hard we only managed to reach the 4th place out of 8 teams - apparently our team name "The Teutonics" did not help.

Later, Nils