Archive for December, 2009

It seemed like the logical thing to do, officer…

December 26, 2009

Sogar die Deutschen Kinder sind fleissig. (Translation:  Even the German children are diligent.)

via Dave Barry’s Blog

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Fröhliche Weihnachten!

December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas, everyone!  The sentiment’s a bit late due to my sporadic internet access, but it’s sincere.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  I did.

At first my week was rather lonely and boring.  For once in my life, I genuinely, wholeheartedly missed being in school.  I always had such a good time conversing with my teacher and classmates, and with everyone I knew flying off in every direction to spend Christmas with friends and family, I felt rather deserted.  But I did what I always do:  I kept walking through my days (just like mom always told me to), completed whatever tasks were necessary, then cuddled up under my duvet with a movie or book.  And I looked forward to Christmas.

I was invited to spend Christmas Day with a family from the church I’ve attended a few times.  It’s a non-denominational Protestant church with an English service (thank goodness) called MICC (Munich International Community Church).  They paired you up with a volunteer family if you were away from home and didn’t want to be alone for Christmas.  You can always count on church folks to feed you, literally and spiritually!  But in all seriousness, I was very grateful.  They were so kind and hospitable to me, and the food was delicious.  So I had a merry and blessed Christmas, and I hope you can all say they same!

Becoming My Mother

December 21, 2009

Mommy, I finally understand what you’ve always meant by “managing your kitchen,” albeit on a smaller scale.  It hit me last night when I was taking a break from doing the dishes.  I was hungry, and normally when I’m hungry I think to myself, “What sounds good?”  Last night I looked in the fridge and instead thought, “What do I need to eat before it expires?”

Notes from Nürnberg

December 21, 2009

American exportation is everywhere.  It’s inescapable.  Every radio I hear blares American pop music.  Every train station I arrive at has a McDonald’s, a Burger King, or both.  The central train station in Munich has two Burger Kings.  Seriously.  They are literally within two minutes’ walking distance of each other.  Subway, Pizza Hut, KFC, Starbucks, they’re all here too.  It surprised me a little at first.  I knew these chains existed in other countries, of course; I just didn’t realize they operated on such a large scale.  Many of the Europeans I’ve spoken with say they abhor all these American chains, but someone must like them, because they’re booming.  So I’ve gradually gotten used to seeing the logos of American enterprises tucked in between the cozy Bavarian pubs, restaurants, and bakeries.  Then, just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by my own country anymore, I went to Nürnberg last Saturday and saw the very last American chain I ever expected to see:  a Sally’s Beauty Supply.  I stared at it as I walked by, thinking to myself, “What’s that doing here?”  I was a business major for Pete’s sake!  I took D 301 (International Business Environment).  It should come as no surprise to me that multi-national companies are so successful, but somehow it still does.  Guess I should have taken D 302 after all.  My professor is probably chortling somewhere.

At any rate, someone else can have the burgers.  I’m too busy enjoying all the excellent German food.  I had a fantastic dish at a restaurant not far from the Sally’s Beauty Supply.  It was seared turkey pieces cooked in a sherry-mushroom cream sauce and served with spätzle.  It was so delectable it would have been sinful if I hadn’t spent the whole day walking off the calories.  The flavor of the sauce reminded me of another dish I love.  My Peruvian readers may remember Grant Street Bar & Grill, which has sadly been closed for a few years now.  They had a seared fillet of beef in a brandy-mushroom cream sauce on their menu.  It was delicious.  So tender and flavorful.  Okay, I’ve got to switch topics now.  I’m making myself hungry.

As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, angst over swine flu is everywhere.  Upon arrival, I received not one, but two tip sheets from the school about how to avoid it, and what to do if I thought I might have it (See a doctor and don’t come to school.  Logical, no?).  Many restrooms now have pages of instructions on how to avoid it tacked on the wall, all with the same basic theme:  wash your hands.  One hopes people do that anyway, but maybe that’s being overly optimistic.  Anyway, not to be left out of this furor, the shopkeepers in Nürnberg are also taking appropriate precautionary measures.  See below:

Blog Business

December 20, 2009

Being new to blogging, I often find the various statistics and data accumulated by WordPress about my blog rather comical.  For example, you know you’re a little off-beat when the following search terms yield your blog:  “decoding yoplait expiration date” and “gumball machine statue liberty.”  Looking strictly at the words I type, it’s an entirely logical conclusion.  But looking at the topics I write about, the results are rather comically off-base.  The internet is a wonderful tool, but using it correctly can be tricky.

Speaking of which, this information is rather late in coming, and I know it will be old news to most of you, but it’s come to my attention that some of my readers are first-time blog readers, and aren’t familiar with how commenting works, so I want to provide some general clarification.  At the bottom of every text I post, there is a little link that says “# comments” or “add a comment.”  You can click this link to leave questions, remarks or feedback of any kind.  You are all more than welcome to do so; the back-and-forth is a big part of what makes blogging fun (for me, anyway).  Just realize that when you make a comment, it doesn’t just go to me.  Anyone who reads the blog can see it.  This can also be great fun, because it can initiate discussion.  The process of posting a comment is as follows:  once you’ve clicked the link, you will see the comments that have already been posted (if there are any), and underneath there are four boxes for you to fill out.  For name, you can either use your real name or a made-up screen name, but if you are using your real name, it’s inadvisable to use both your first and last name for privacy reasons.  Your email address is private (only I see it), and it is required only so that the website can attempt to discern whether you are a genuine commenter or a spammer (online advertiser).  The website box is for people who have their own website or blog and want to promote it when they comment.  If you do, great, if not, simply leave it blank.  And the last box is, of course, where you type whatever it is you’d like to say.  When you’re finished, simply click the button that says “submit comment” to make your comment visible.  That’s all there is to it.  If you ever post anything by mistake and want it deleted, send me an email and I’ll take care of it.  So now that that’s clear, I hope we’ll get to hear from a few more of the blurkers.  I know you’re out there!  Don’t be shy!  🙂

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…

December 16, 2009

…and I’ve never been to confession.  Not in the Catholic sense, anyway.  I speak directly with the man upstairs when I’ve been naughty.  Like last Tuesday, for example.  Southerngirl, get the polishing cloth ready; my halo’s in the mail.  Time to ‘fess up and ask forgiveness.

As a rule, I generally try to keep my language pretty clean.  I’ll admit, I’m not always successful.  Swearing is a bad habit, and a hard one to break.  Sometimes when I’m frustrated (i.e. when I’m in traffic), the words just slip out, but I’m penitent afterward.  And if mom’s around, I’m also rebuked afterward.  That said, I’ve tried to behave myself in Deutschland.  I’m familiar with German swear words (as in the States, one hears them too frequently not to be), but I try not to use them.

Then last week I went to the Kreisverwaltungsreferat (try saying that three times fast) here in Munich to see about obtaining a visa.  The man in the office began rattling off a list of all the various things I needed:  statements from my parents and my school, a photo, an application, and…  Krankenversicherung (medical insurance).  Which I don’t have.  My coverage with my parents ended two years ago, and I was waiting until I found a “real” job to deal with that particular issue.  With that single word, the tower of frustration and stress that had been building for the previous few days imploded, burying my composure beneath the rubble, and the first words to come into my head popped out of my mouth with profound depth of feeling before I could stop them:  “Oh Scheiße.”

Fabiana was quite shocked.  Not at the word, just its source.  I couldn’t believe I’d said it, either.  Nary a bad word for 6 weeks, and then her “heilige” Beatrice came out with that one.  In the Kreisverwaltungsreferat, of all places, where I should have been on my best behavior, considering I was seeking their permission to remain in the country.  That’s the problem with swear words.  Once they’re in your head, they pop out when you least expect it at the most inopportune (and embarrassing) times and places.  Fortunately the man was very understanding.  Fabiana followed up my unfortunate exclamation with, “‘Schade,’ Beatrice.  ‘Schade’ ist besser.”  But the man just laughed and said I’d had it right the first time, then named a couple of insurance organizations I could look into.  So here’s hoping I can obtain a visa.  In the meantime, I’ll try to watch my mouth, and not to do anything to get myself deported.

A Fortnight and a Half of Miscellanea

December 13, 2009

Sorry for being MIA so long; it’s been a stressful week on several fronts, but I’m ready to get caught up now.  Over the years, I’ve gotten in the obsessively frequent habit of writing long notes and lists for myself to remind me of things I don’t wish to forget.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  I’ve been keeping a detailed list of things to blog, and it’s starting to get long, so now I’m going to plunge in and purge it all at once.  Here goes.

A Concert

A little over three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a classical concert.  The music was by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Bartók, and was performed by Die Münchner Philharmoniker, with piano solos by Alice Sara Ott.  It was unbelievable.  I’d had a rough day, and was feeling down on myself because I wasn’t picking up German as fast as I would’ve liked.  All things school-related have always come relatively easy to me with minimum effort, and learning German has proved to be something of an educational ego bruiser at times (which is probably a good thing).  At any rate, I felt much better after the concert.  The music was so powerful and uplifting, and the piano soloist was unbelievable.  She was only 21, and she played everything from memory with perfect precision.  There wasn’t a single key on that piano that she didn’t use.  She extracted every note, every sound possible from the instrument.  It was incredible.

A Castle, A Tangle, and a Pastry

The following weekend, I visited Schloss Neuschwanstein with a group from school.  I’d already seen it once in 2007 and, having forgotten how strenuous the walk up to the castle is, I decided to go back.  I was under the weather that day, having just come down with a sinus condition of some sort, and the mountain climbing required to reach the castle just about did me in.  I decided early on that my second tour of Neuschwanstein would very likely be my last.  But that aside, it is quite amazing once you get there, and I do recommend seeing it if you’re ever in Deutschland.  The train trip was two hours each way, but we had plenty to keep us occupied.  One of the students from Finland often knits socks during our train trips.  She had acquired a giant pink ball of discount yarn somewhere, and it had quickly morphed itself into one big knot.  I offered to help her with it, and three of us spent the entire trip down and back untangling it and rolling it into balls for her.  I told her afterward that she owed us all a pair of socks.  🙂  I don’t know why yarn and thread skeins are always like that, but whenever I do needlework, I seem to spend as much time untangling as I do stitching.  I was interested to learn that needlework is often taught in European schools.  Perhaps if I’d studied here, I wouldn’t have been considered such a nerd.  Oh well.  Speaking of balls, I also tried a new sweet that day, a specialty from Rothenburg ob der Tauber called a Schneeball (snowball).  It was basically a wad of pie crust about the size of a baseball with various flavored glazes.  I chose coconut.  It was interesting.  It tasted good, but as desserts go, it was a little on the dry side.  And messy.  I left a Hänsel-type trail of crumbs through Füssen.

Boys…

…will be boys.  Case in point, a recent outing in Augsburg, where the men of BWS enjoyed the latest marketing strategy from Vodafone.

A Random Act of Kindness

Late one evening I was standing in front of a ticket machine in the subway station, trying to figure out which ticket I needed to get me home.  You can purchase multiple types of public transportation tickets for various time frames and areas.  Normally I buy a weekly ticket for central Munich, and then I’m covered, but that week I hadn’t for some reason.  Anyway, a woman who was leaving the station asked me if I needed a ticket, and then gave me hers.  She’d bought one that morning which was good for a whole day of travel within Munich and outlying areas, and was apparently finished with it, so I got to ride home for free that night.  It was such a thoughtful thing to do.  I really appreciated her kindness.

Random Acts of Unkindness

With the notable exception of the waiters in Hofbräuhaus (who I think have spent too much time with drunk tourists; they all need vacations from the service industry), most everyone I’ve met in Germany has been infinitely congenial and good-natured.  Whether they be teachers, retail personnel, or random people on the street they are, as a rule, friendly, cordial and helpful.  Of course, there are exceptions.  The Monday after I arrived, my first day of school, I was standing in Sendlinger-Tor-Platz with my sheaf of Google directions, trying in vain to locate Hauptfeuerwache.  A young blonde twerp dressed “punk” style, perhaps 13 or so, walked by with another boy.  He ran his fingertips over my elbow and said “dicke,” and he and his friend walked away laughing.  Mind you, I didn’t understand much German at that point, but I knew what “dicke” meant.  Fat.  Not cool.  I was reminded of that incident on the night of the great gelatin debate.  As we were walking to the grocery store, we met two large, boisterous Italian men who were playing with a dog.  One stepped sideways to allow us to pass, then yelled something after us in Italian (which, as I later learned, begins with “b” and ends with “itches” when translated to English).  Fabiana threw some irate-sounding Italian back over her shoulder at him, then explained what had happened.  I have no idea what we did to irritate the man, but seeing as he’d just exited a pub, I imagine he was three sheets to the wind.  Or maybe he was just a jerk.  It happens.  But looking on the positive side, I’ve been in a foreign country for 7 weeks now and had only two unpleasant encounters, which are more than balanced out by dozens of pleasant ones.  Mercifully, the scales tip heavily to the favorable side.  I love it here.

Yet Another Grocery Rumination

I’m sure you’re all getting tired of reading about the novelty of grocery shopping in a foreign country (what is this, the fifth time?).  If so, feel free to skip this section, because I’ve found this subject to be a deep well of curiosities, wonderment and cultural contrast.  The typical American supermarket is a massive complex with infinite variety.  The choices for every product are endless (perhaps sometimes excessive).  Most of our grocery stores cannot be called “minimalist” in any sense of the word.  Even the biggest, most diverse grocery stores here carry only a fraction of the choices the average American could expect to find as a matter of course.  Products that have entire aisles all to themselves in the states (breakfast cereals, chips and baking products, for example) have only a moderate rack or a few shelves dedicated to them here.  Instead of fifty choices, you’ll have five or ten.  Or one or two.  But in contrast, there are also areas here which offer much more variety (and sometimes more quality).  Meats and cheeses, for example.  At home, we combine the two with a few inedible noodle salads and prepared foods and call it “the deli.”  In larger supermarkets here, meats and cheeses have separate counters, and they are massive.  Instead of two kinds of salami, there are a dozen or so.  My favorite example of quality and variety here is the chocolate.  Galeria Kaufhof has a section the size of Rhode Island dedicated to chocolate.  I reveled in this the Monday before last when I went shopping for an advent calendar.  There were dozens to choose from, and they weren’t the cheap, flimsy affairs with small lumps of milk chocolate one finds in the states.  Well, some were, but most weren’t.  Most were gourmet chocolates from well-known candy makers such as Lindt.  One calendar could cost up to 30 Euros.  I went with a middling one for 15.  Perhaps it was a little steep for what is, essentially, a glorified 24-piece box of chocolates, but I haven’t been disappointed.  Every new day reveals a little piece of sweet, chocolaty bliss.  Merry Christmas to me!  I may be “dicke,” but at least I’m jolly!

St. Nikolaus Cometh

Speaking of jolly, we must have been good students, because St. Nikolaus and his… umm… “unique” angelic assistant paid BWS a visit last Friday, and we all got some goodies.

 

We didn’t quite jell…

December 3, 2009

Fabiana and I went grocery shopping in Tengelmann last night, and I found something that surprised me a little bit: Jell-O cups.  They weren’t Jell-O brand, of course (Dr. Oetker brand Götter Speise, actually), but really, gelatin is gelatin.  I was tickled by this, and bought four cups.  Fabiana, on the other hand, was a little bit horrified, particularly when I suggested she try one.  She said she’d wait until I’d eaten one and see if I was still alive.  We ended up having a lively debate over the pros and cons of gelatin in the dairy section, much to the amusement of an elderly lady shopping for cheese.  Fabiana argued that the gelatin was made from chemicals, and was therefore unhealthy, and icky to boot.  My argument was that it was only sugar, water and gelatin (which is a natural product), and was therefore no worse for you than the average sweet snack.  In point of fact, it’s actually healthy in some ways.  Eating gelatin products strengthens your bones, teeth, and fingernails.  At any rate, we had to agree to disagree, so now I’ll let the majority rule, democratic-like.  Please do me the honor of participating in my first blog poll.  Gelatin: good or evil?  Cast your vote below, and Fabiana and I will “crow or eat crow” depending on the results.  Make your voice heard!

FYI

December 2, 2009

For those of you who don’t already know, I’ve decided to extend my stay in Munich.  I won’t be home until the end of January, and I’ll be remaining here over Christmas break.  When I began my course, I realized very quickly that two months would not be nearly enough time to learn as much as I’d like.  Three months probably won’t be either (one requires 30 years according to Mark Twain), but I’m going to run out of money eventually.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much there still is to learn, and I want to make the most of my time here.  I’ll miss being with my loved ones for Christmas more than I can say, but learning a second language is important to me, and this trip is such a wonderful opportunity.  So, when you’re carving your roast beast this year, remember me, and know I’ll be thinking of you.

Drat.

December 1, 2009

As my regular readers (I’m so happy I can say that!) may recall, I was informed a few weeks ago that I’d have to make a presentation, and I wasn’t wild about the idea.  After that, no more was said about it for a couple of weeks, and I thought maybe I’d dodged the bullet.  No such luck.  I’ve been assigned a presentation date.  My teacher had, in fact, forgotten about the presentations (permanently, I’d hoped), but he remembered last week.  I have to present on December 7th.  Bitte!  Nein!

Update

I’ve finally chosen a topic (until I change my mind, that is).  I’m going to talk about Handel’s Messiah.  I’ve had it stuck in my head for the last two days, and I regret that I wasn’t able to participate in the community choir’s performance this year.