Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My weeks: through October 23

On October 10-11, M and I continued our trip in Edinburgh. I came up with some lists about what I thought was more convenient in Scotland and what I missed from Germany, for your blog reading pleasure.

I went back to work on Wednesday and had a horribly sore throat. I could barely talk and was eating cough drops, Ibuprofin, and ice all day. I really just wanted to go home but stayed at work because there was so much to get in order. I just had to do it mostly in a whisper.

The next day I was massively sick. Burning up with fever, I was dreaming/hallucinating that I was writing the abstract and conclusion of a scientific paper. What a nerdy way to be sick, especially considering that I'm not a scientist!

I eschewed visiting the doctor and getting antibiotics because I've been reading up on antibiotic resistance. Last time I got a sinus infection, I was mostly better in a day and a half without antibiotics. This time around, I was feeling miserable so five days later, I visited the doctor and she prescribed me practically a pharmacy's worth of everything and I was grateful for it.

Even though I visited the American medical practice, the doctor I visited is German. The German system can be a bit liberally cray cray about giving time off. Seriously, if one has a sniffle, one could practically get two weeks off. She was going to write me time off for the remainder of the week. Even though I felt horrible and sick, that just sounded too unreasonable to me because I had already missed two days the week before. I told her to write my return to work day as Friday.

I felt guilty about even taking that much time off, but I ended up needing it. I've been mentioning (whining?) in the blog that I've been exhausted the last several months. I think that my immune system finally gave up and crashed. I slept probably about 14 hours a day during the week.

I worked a whole day on that Friday but by quitting time, I was completely exhausted and went home to read in bed until bedtime. I'm still not feeling the greatest; I'm tired, congested, and coughing, but back to work I go.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My week: October 9 ed.

This week, I attended a travel talk in German. I'd attended a different one in the past and it was decent. This one was...well, it wasn't my style, let's say. It wasn't so much a talk as it was him showing a very long video of him on his journey, and some of the people he met along the way and joined for meals. Instead of interviewing them or providing some personal interest stories, it was more of a recitation of what happened, or just looooong clips of him and his friend en route.

I attended a language cafe and am still giggling about a conversation. I sat with a doctor and a med school student. We were talking about being tired after eating and in German the student told me it's because there isn't enough "Luft" (air) in the head. Huh? As far as I know, air shouldn't be rushing around in there. I finally realized that he meant Sauerstoff, which means oxygen. We had a good laugh about that one.

Afterward, my friend Ay. came over to work on some travel plans. We're going to visit Katowice in February. We're probably insane to visit Poland in the middle of winter, but it's inexpensive to go then and we haven't visited that country yet. Since I'm from Michigan and I like cold weather, it should be fine. I hope Ay. bundles up since she's from somewhere more temperate.

In German class, we worked on what I call "filler" words. These words add to the conversation and give emphasis but aren't integral to the sentence and can be left off (which is exactly my plans for these dumb things because I feel as if I'll never get them correct). We learned about eben, ja, aber, eigentlich, denn, ruhig, mal, and the one that drives me the most nuts, doch.

The latter is like the Swiss Army knife of German filler words (and I will recognize the irony of using something that's Swiss to describe something German). Anyway, doch can mean a seemingly contradictory bunch of things and often one must hear how the word is spoken to determine how it's being used. YourdailyGerman.com attempts to explain it and it takes several pages; you can read it here if you'd like to try to wrap your head around it. Our book in class only gives two sentences. Ha! That's a good one to try to explain something so nuanced. I hear the dang word all the time. I mostly hear it when someone contradicts someone else and it's somewhat like saying, nuh uh!

I was also relieved to learn that eigentlich is a filler word because I hear it all the time and it's been confusing me. In the context that I hear it, it usually seems to mean "really." My friend told me it doesn't mean that and Duden tells me otherwise. However, I've taken it to more mean something like "actually," "in fact," etc. So, can one use eigentlich like wirlich, or is it more like actually only? Leave a comment if you know, please.

After letting all that language learning percolate, the next night I stopped by Ay's house to work on more travel plans. She was cooking chicken biryani and invited me to eat some. I sampled the rice portion and enjoyed the spiciness. She later told me that when she served it to her sister, her sister was asking if I was okay because it seemed really spicy to her. I thought it was perfect. It was funny that the gringa liked the spicy food.

On Saturday night, M and I flew to Edinburgh for a weekend away. I had tried to visit Edinburgh when I was a study abroad student years ago and it was flooded. I was excited to finally see it, a decade later. More will follow...maybe.

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I missed from Germany while in Scotland

Earlier I talked about the conveniences I enjoyed while in Edinburgh. I forgot to mention the food - holy wow, was it delicious. I ate Mexican food cooked by actual Mexican people and it had NO curry powder or added sugar (I'm giving you the side-eye on this one, restaurants in Kaiserslautern). Apparently there is an enclave of Mexican people in Edinburgh. Who would've guessed? It was awesome, and yes, I'm one of those horrible tourists who tries the Mexian food everywhere. I usually feel pessimistic that it'll taste good yet remain hopeful. Edinburgh came through on this.

However, there were some things that I missed about Germany, too.

-Recycling: since we were grabbing convenience food such as salads and boiled eggs from the grocery stores, we were left with a lot of plastic packaging, but no recycle bins in sight to dispose of them. I felt guilty going through that much plastic. In Germany, there are usually bins readily available to recycle one's waste. In fact, Germany has one of the highest recycling rates of EU member states.

-Inexpensive grocery food: we loved the convenience of the supermarket food, but the prices were definitely higher. Germany's cost of food is quite low, especially at discount markets like Aldi and Penny.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Frankfurt Book Fair this weekend

The Frankfurt Book Messe (Fair) is being held again this week. It's the world's largest book fair and has many fascinating things for the book lover to see and do. I wrote about my experience visiting it last year; click here to read more about what I saw and did there.

The Book Fair will be open again to everyone this upcoming weekend,  22-23 October.

Frankfurt Book Fair link with more information, in English.

The Local wrote an article (in English) about the 2016 book fair. Read it here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

So convenient Scotland, compared to Germany

Although I love living in Germany, I sometimes feel as living here is "glamping," a contraction of glamorous camping. Germany is advanced in many ways but in other areas, it can feel a bit behind the times. For example, stores aren't open on Sundays and during the week, the ones open "late" usually close by 8 p.m. Sometimes one must pay to call customer service lines. Life is perfectly fine here, but sometimes it doesn't feel nearly so convenient as my life did in the US. Hence springs my feeling that one has what one needs here and then some, but it's not metaphorically like staying in a full service hotel; it's more like staying at a fancy campground.

During my visit to Scotland, I reveled in some of the conveniences and social conventions that reminded me of life in the US. Here are some of them:

-Stores were open on Sunday. Yasss!

-There was a 24 hour open corner store. Hecks yes. Other stores, like Sainsbury's, a grocery store, were open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. Fancy a late-night snack or need some toiletries outside of convenient times? There you go.

-If people even seem close to bumping into you, they say excuse me. If I had a euro for every time someone in Germany barged into me, I'd be rich. If you gave me a euro every time they said excuse me (or entschuldigung, sorry, or es tut mir leid)...I'd be poor.

-People actually know how to queue in Scotland. Germany, proper queuing does not mean: standing in a misshapen clump, barging ahead of other people, cutting, pushing, etc.

-People actually hold the door open for you. In Germany, even if the person entering the building is directly before me and I'm practically on his heels, I have lost any expectation that he'll hold the door for me and I'll most likely have it slammed in my face.

-We could pay with credit cards almost everywhere, even for small amounts. I hardly needed any cash.

-FREE WiFi, all over the place.

-Beautiful, cozy coffee houses (with WiFi!) that are open later. Okay, so I know that in bigger German cities, there are plenty of these, but Kaiserslautern's coffee house scene promptly shuts down at 1800 for the convenience of the owners. How I would love to cozy up at a coffee house, maybe surf the net a bit, and read a book later at night - in a place with NO smoking, as in 0, zilch, nada, nichts. (Technically, most places around here are supposed to be smoke free but because of a legal loophole, a lot of the bars and some restaurants allow it inside. Ick.)

-OMG, the prepackaged food at the grocery store! As a low-budget traveler in Edinburgh, I planned only a few meals out in restaurants. For the rest of the meals, I wanted to buy something quick, easy, and inexpensive from the grocery store. Yes, there are some things like prepackaged salads and others at German grocery stores, but you're more likely to have to build your own snack.

At the grocery stores in Edinburgh, we marveled at the convenience, prepackaged foods, many of which were healthful. Would you like cut up veggies and dip? Help yourself. How about a pack of boiled eggs for protein? Yep. They even had a cup of falafel patties. *Swoon.* It was perfect for a meal on the go.

Am I dissing on Germany? That's definitely not my intent. Some things are just more convenient in other countries. In the next entry, I'll talk about some of the things that I missed from Germany during my trip.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My week: October 2 ed.

This week, I cracked my tandem partner up. I told her about the Christmas pickle, which Americans believe is a traditional German ornament. The legend is that the first person who finds it receives an extra gift.

She asked me if Americans really believed that Germans do this. I said yes. She started howling with laughter and said, "Das ist eine Verarschung!"

Well, Americans think it's traditional, I told her. I had never heard of it until my friend visited Frankenmuth, which is meant to look like a German village in the thumb area of Michigan. My friend bought me one of these ornaments and it included a description that described it as a German tradition. Apparently it's not; A has never heard of it and apparently thinks it's quite funny, so there you go.

Source The unassuming Weinachtsgurke
Later this week, I provided an online training for everyone worldwide. I'm doing a lot more with training lately and I like that. I won't lie: it's certainly good for the resume to say that I train 70+ locations worldwide. It also gives me the opportunity to think that my undergrad degree perhaps was worth all the extra work (getting the teaching certification is basically like adding a second major, in addition to my two minors).

German class was a relief. I was moaning to the teacher that I wanted to take the B2 test but I needed to do so much more studying and I felt so behind. "Why?" he asked. "You could pass it right now with no problem." He said that some of the other classmates have passed that and even the C1 test and they still make mistakes, but I'm at least as good as the B2 student and there should be no reason I wouldn't pass. Yippie! By the way, I know it sounds a bit blunt about what he said about the other students. There was no malice in it and I see it as the German directness, which I like (outside of schimpfing ;)

I went on a "friend date" with M and we saw Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I had read all three books in the series and felt very conflicted about the movie. I think that if I had only seen the movie, I would have liked it. However, while it uses elements of the books, it makes some very major changes that are jarring.

One major change is that the main character's love interest is totally switched around. They took Emma's character and gave it Olive's talents. The original Emma can summon fire and even has a fiery personality. Instead, they gave her Olive's floating ability. In the book, Olive is a much more passive personality; for the most part, they use her as a lookout and sometimes they even forget her as she's floating above. Book Emma is very strong and independent and by her example, Jacob learns how to be courageous (or as I'd say, he stopped being such a wuss after witnessing her courage). Movie Emma is much more restrained. Boo!

Also, there is a very significant difference from the book and the movie regarding Jacob's grandpa. I won't write it to avoid a spoiler, but it is definitely not how the book went and the change in the movie would make Jacob's quest way easier. The whole point of the books is how he develops courage and loyalty (which isn't really giving away a whole lot, so no worries) through trying quests. The movie made it much easier for him. Hrmph. So, would I recommend the movie? If you've read and loved the books, it might be a bit disappointing. If you haven't read the books and don't plan to, then go ahead; if you like quest movies, you'd like this one then.

There has been criticism of the movie because it does not include any minority characters except for the main villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson. I don't have a problem with the main cast not being diverse because in the books, they're not, and it's not through purposeful exclusion by the original author. In the book, the majority of the characters are from England and Wales in the 1940s (or they were from earlier time periods too). There wasn't a lot of immigration at that time and therefore the population wasn't that diverse.

However, making the villain a minority is problematic because in the book, he's not. In fact, the movie smooshes together several villains into one so Samuel L. Jackson's character is a mashup of people, none of whom were a minority in the book. My main beef with his movie character was that Tim Burton didn't let what makes SLJ shine out that much. I mean, the guy's a bada** (in an awesome way) so why not let him be a bit more of one in the movie? Yes, I know it's somewhat of a kids' movie, but still. Kids can appreciate SLJ too.

In addition to the movie, I also attended a friend's birthday party on the weekend. I brought some egg liquor that I was trying to get rid of and a guy was drinking glasses of it, straight. I hope he didn't have an unpleasant following day!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My week: September 25 ed.

This week, I worked out, baked cupcakes for departing coworkers, met with both tandem partners, and traveled to the Stuttgart region.

My friends who live near Stuttgart invited me to a dinner party. Most of the guests were not only German, but they were also Schwäbisch, and they spoke that dialect. In other words, I could only understand about every third word that one of them spoke!

It was a lovely dinner but I made my appearance in a manner that is very rude in German culture: I was late. Not only was I late, but I was very late. Normally I'm on time but I just couldn't get it together. I had left a door unlocked at home and had to turn back to lock it. Then I had to fuel up the car. Even worse was that I thought that the party had started half an hour later than it actually had and I thought that it was a casual party where people stop by whenever.

It turned out to be a sit-down, dinner party. I was mortified to be so late, as I should have been, especially when I saw 3/4 of the dinner party finishing up the first course. I apologized profusely and was welcomed warmly despite my bungling of the arrival. The other 1/4 of the dinner party arrived 20 minutes later, so at least I wasn't the last person there, but still...!

I brought some neuer Wein, which thrilled K, especially after our ridiculous quest for it the weekend before. It went well with the delicious salad, bread, and soup dinner. There was pumpkin soup, which is a fall favorite in Germany (or at least the Pfalz), and then also goulash. I was trying to stifle a giggle as the Germans exclaimed how "hot" it was (spicy) because I hadn't realized that it had any spicy seasoning before they had said that. It wasn't what I would call spicy at all but most Germans are not known for the ability to tolerate spiciness in food.

For dessert, we ate a dulce de leche cheesecake I brought. Before one goes and thinks I'm a really fancy chef, realize that Nestle carried the weight on that one. I made it from a mix. It was delicious.

I already knew everyone at the party, since I had met them a year and a half before at C+K's garden party. That doesn't mean that I can understand the Schwäbisch dialect any better now, though ;) I mostly spoke with one lady, who was perfectly understandable and she was pleased that I spoke German, saying that I spoke it well. There is so much that I need to work on but I'm pleased to be able to converse at a dinner party.

I stayed over after the dinner party and enjoyed a lovely full German breakfast with C+K the next morning. They create such a lovely meal, with lots of bread, cheese, cold cuts, jams, cut peppers and cucumbers, etc.

After we had stuffed ourselves, we traveled to the Kloster (Monastery) Maulbronn. It's a world heritage site and a well-preserved group of buildings dating from medieval times and farther. We didn't have much time so we didn't pay to visit the museum but did stroll around the grounds. Afterward, we visited a festival being held farther along in the city, at the firehouse.

I had to hurry along because I was expected at a group event back in Kaiserslautern. I said goodbye to my friends and attempted to get home in haste. This doesn't happen in reality in the Stuttgart region, which has some of the worst traffic in Germany, as evidenced by a Stau on a Sunday. When I did reach the event, I managed to see most of my friends. At least this event was meant to have a flexible start time.