Archive for the ‘Not Good’ Category

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.

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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.

 

How to Throw Money Away

November 3, 2009

Buy traveler’s checks, then come to Germany.

I bought $1500 worth of traveler’s checks, thinking it would be a safe and cheap way to spend.  A nominal fee up front on the American end (instead of the constant fees on both ends from using my credit or debit card), and cash them in over here when I need money.  It hasn’t worked out the way I thought.  I’ve only found one bank that will cash them, and they charge outrageous fees to do it.  I got back Euro 111 for $200.  I thought there was something fishy about that based on my knowledge of current exchange rates, and I couldn’t decode my receipt, so I asked my teacher to help me understand where the discrepancy was.  He explained the enormous fees I had paid, and also said that traveler’s checks are extremely unpopular here.  No kidding.  *sigh*  I emailed my bank to ask if I can bring the dang things back and have the money credited to my account, but since I had to “buy” them from the bank, I kind of doubt it.

Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention last time I was here (spring of ’07), but it seemed to me that traveler’s checks were pretty widely accepted.  I remember cashing them in a couple different banks and stores, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t charge much to do it.  I realize the economy has gotten worse since then, but the exchange rate really hasn’t changed that much, so I don’t understand why this has become such an ordeal!

A longtime fear realized…

October 24, 2009

You know how so many places (particularly airports) now have automatic flush toilets which (supposedly) sense when you stand up and then do the flushing for you?  I’ve always been afraid one would go off prematurely while I was still seated.  My fears were justified.  Thank you so much, Indianapolis International Airport.  Fortunately, I heard it coming and jumped up quickly, but after I sat back down, the dang thing did it again! At least the experience taught me that I still have fairly quick reflexes.  Here’s hoping Europe isn’t using auto-toilets yet.