Saturday, February 28, 2015

More photos from the Staubsauger Museum

A small group of us really enjoyed our visit to the Staubsauger Museum in Bruchmühlbach-Miesau and wrote about it here.

I took tons of pictures; here are some more. They are mostly of old advertisements for vacuum cleaners. I was incredibly fascinated by the mechanical vacuum cleaners that used no electricity.

When I first saw this ad, I thought, gee, the guy's just sitting there reading a newspaper while his wife is busy vacuuming. How rude! Herr Steffgan told us that this is a patent drawing for a vacuum cleaner that is provided suction by the person rocking back and forth in the chair. Apparently the husband pictured isn't as lazy as I had thought.
Another interesting contraption. The woman creates suction by walking on bellows.
 This vacuum is activated by turning the wheel. The photo above it is an ad for this model.

Close-up of the ad.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Where did this come from?

My coworker and I were returning from Stuttgart and saw a decorative license plate on a commercial truck that caused us great confusion:

I did a double take. What the heck is a rebel flag license plate doing on a truck from Ludwigsburg?

I then did a quadruple take. What the heck did it say?

At first I thought it said something in German about "the dead." Then I realized it said "Dern Tooten I'm a Rebel." I actually couldn't understand it at first (sorry, I'm all about the correct spelling and usage folks, and I don't "do" redneck). Uhhhh...the only stranger thing was that the Michelin Man was to the right of that. What is going on?! Why are there weird Michelin Man-loving redneck Germans? Does the driver even know what this means? It's English dialect at a really high level, especially with the non-standard spelling, cultural references, and the flag of a side that lost the battle two centuries ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The other part of the German-learning circle

I was sad and moaning about my German.

The other side of the circle is that I heard some positive comments about my German speaking. I try to avoid being too extrinsically motivated but the positivity is welcome after feeling that I'm screwing up everything. I met up with a group of friends and one noted that I've really come along since he last spoke with me.

I also started a new VHS class and spoke with some of the other students. They asked how long I've lived here and said that they were impressed at my level for being here two years. I speak about the same level that they do and they've been here 8-15 years but are not fluent.

I plan to take another class that starts in May. That class will overlap with my current class for a month and it will probably whoop my tush; I've done it in November and December and I was quite frazzled with three nights of classes per week plus one meeting with my tandem partner (in other words, I had an activity every work night). Oh well; I hope to be done with B1 and then go on to B2 this fall.

It's my goal to be complete C2 (which is the highest level for foreign speakers) within two years. I would be able to get it done faster if the classes were offered more often. Each level has two parts, so for example, there is B1.1 and B1.2. The levels run from A1 (absolute beginners) to C2 (fluent speakers; native speakers are D level). The cool thing about these levels is that they are recognized throughout the European Union; B1 level in Germany would be recognized the same that it would be in Spain, for example. I need to do some research and see how it is recognized in the US.

Even after I've completed C2, I can imagine that cashiers will still try to switch to English on me. I'll just have to make peace with that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I thought I was hot stuff 'til I cooled down

I stopped by the bakery and spoke German with lady working there. I did the whole thing in German and she answered in German.

Whoa, I thought.

Maybe this is going really well. She hasn't switched to English. Rock on. Dang, I'm doing well today.

Then, as I was ready to pay, she told me that my German was good.  


She said that she wasn't sure if I wanted to speak English or not but figured that I must have wanted to practice my German so she continued in German.



Back to the drawing board class for me.

[Though I am thankful for her kindness and thoughtfulness, I am sad that my German is still so weak that people's first thought is to switch to English.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Creepy Cows of Weinheim

On our way to the Miramar saunas, my friends and I were greeted by a pungent odor at the tram stop. Cows! As we neared the large commercial dairy farm, the smell shifted. Our group broke into a spirited debate of whether it was silage or cow manure. I declared myself an "expert" after one animal science class at the agricultural university and broke the tie: the sickly sweet smell was silage (with a hint of manure).

My friend told me that she finds the cow statues at farm incredibly creepy; she doesn't like the giant veins on the cows. As soon as the statues came into view, I could see why!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Situations in Germany that make me frustrated

Living in a foreign country as an expat requires a certain level of adjustment. One must deal with different social norms and a new language. Sometimes it's not so difficult but at other times, one might experience frustrations.

I really enjoy living in Germany and constantly try to learn more about its language, customs, and daily life. However, there are certain things that have happened either to me or that I've seen that aren't so great. Let me be clear that these things don't happen all the time and that not everyone here acts like this but when they do, I admit: I get frustrated.

1. People waiting for a bus or train rush the doors as soon as they open and before the departing passengers can even disembark. They push and shove. It's ridiculous and would go so much more quickly if people weren't so impatient.

2. One time, I was in a super thick crowd of people at a festival. We were in a bottle neck and some dude with a huge belly behind me kept coming closer until he was shoving his gut into my back. Nope, dude, it won't make me walk any faster since there is nowhere to go.

What had me seeing red, though, was when people in the crowd were also pushing into a disabled person. They could have severely hurt that person had he fallen. I have also seen people shove past elderly citizens. To say I was ticked off would be an understatement. What the heck is wrong with people?!

3. People don't "do" lines so well here. It's often a big crowd of people in bunches and people rush up without waiting their turn. I've learned to stand with my hands casually placed on my hips. This sets up a bit of a barrier that says, why yes, I am indeed next in line and it is not nice of you to try to shove past me. I've also been pushed in the heels (purposefully) with a shopping cart from another customer while in line. There was nowhere for me to move farther ahead. Another time, apparently an elderly lady wanted to get past me. Instead of saying "excuse me" or tapping me on the shoulder, she grabbed me by the hips and threw me aside!

4. When I am concentrating on something, whether it's at the store, the art museum, or in front of a sign, I stand out of the way so I don't impede traffic or other patrons. The next thing I know, I have someone standing practically on top of me, trying to look at the same exact gosh darned thing. The person couldn't have waited a few seconds until I was done? Was the person even interested in the thing before I was looking at it? I won't lie: on a particularly frustrated day, I've put the thing down, sighed, and walked away.

I can understand that it's busy in grocery stores and there isn't always a lot of room to look at things. However, I was once in the middle of examining a painting in a gallery that housed twenty other paintings. The gallery was otherwise empty. Someone walked in and instead of looking at any of the twenty other paintings, stood on my heels and breathed over my shoulder. It completely blew my mind.

5. When it takes forever to pay at a restaurant. Yes, I know that restaurant food takes longer to prepare because it's not fast food, yada yada. I'm talking about the actual act of paying. It generally takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes to receive and pay the bill after asking for it. I kid you not; this has happened at many different restaurants, with different price points, and different levels of being busy (from us being the only customers to the restaurant being full). Does anyone know why on earth this is? I'm to the point now, if I have limited time, that I ask the waiter for the bill when he brings the food.

6. Customer service in general. I hope for mediocre to average service. However, I've had some really bad service, too. For example, I was asking for help at the Deutsche Bahn counter. The guy shrugged his shoulders and said he couldn't help with the situation. Not his problem. He didn't offer any alternatives. Grrreat.

Another time, I called Kabel Deutschland and needed help. I didn't know enough German at the time and asked if it was possible to speak with someone in English. Nope, they didn't have anyone there who could speak English to help a customer. I raised my eyebrows at that one (no one? really?). Okay, fair enough, whatever, it's a German company.

Imagine my surprise when I received a telemarketing call from KD and I told the lady I didn't speak German. She flawlessly switched to English to try to sell me tv service. I asked her to take me off the list and never call again. Why would I want tv service from a company that's willing to sell me the service using English, but if I had problems, they wouldn't help me in English? Fair is fair, after all.

7. People not cleaning up after their dogs, or...people who bag up the droppings and then chuck it under  a tree. At least it's not as bad as it is in Paris, but still! Clean up after your darn dogs. I'd love to follow these people to their homes with a pooper scooper and deposit the "deposits" on their lawn/sidewalk and say, "oh, you forgot this, so I brought it for you." Okay, I wouldn't actually do that, but it's tempting!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Week: February 22 ed.

Not much happened this week because I was as sick as a dog, as they say. Well, I wasn't eating grass outside and then being sick like dogs do, but I was indeed miserable. I even got to the point where I had the irrational feeling that I'd never get better. This was after four days of running a fever, even while taking antibiotics.

I missed work, which makes me sad since I actually like my job. It makes me even sadder because I think that I just blew through all of my sick time. I had to cancel all of my social engagements, which was especially unfortunate because I was supposed to lead a hike. My friends D and R came to the rescue and took over for me. What good guys!

I did recover enough that I was able to make a trip downtown to Tam Asia. I was feeling adventurous so I bought some yellow curry seasoning and coconut milk. Following the recipe, I made a curry of cauliflower, onions, bean sprouts, and Thai kale over glass noodles. It was easy and good; even better yet, it was vegan! I want to give credit to my tandem speaking partner because she inspired me to get a bit adventurous in what I cook; I've ventured forth on my own into uncharted depths (well, okay, whatever the curry packages tell me what to do). Plus, Tam Asia is an awesome supermarket because they have such an excellent assortment of Asian cooking supplies to try.

I ate dinner with a friend (and tried not to expel my lungs from coughing so much). He mentioned that our mutual friend calls him "her German friend in K-Town." That is really funny that he's like the exotic one here since there are so many Americans in town.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My burning hot northern German Valentine's date

Yes, you read that correctly, I had a burning hot Valentine's Day "date." It was actually literally burning hot. I'm not kidding. At one point the table was on fire. It was all in the name of some northern German fun so it all worked out. Heck, even my date was northern German (but from a different state than what was being featured).

There was a cultural night where a group was serving a meal and traditions from northern Germany. I asked along a friend and we decided to wear dirndls, which have absolutely nothing to do with northern Germany (they're more Bavarian). That's what I think is so awesome about this friend; she totally went with it, even as she was suffering major wardrobe malfunctions.

After stuffing ourselves into our dirndls (I realized that it's easier to put it on after unzipping the bodice first!), we headed up to the restaurant to join the group. We were pretty much the youngest ones there, by at least 25 years. It was a lively bunch and we were immediately greeted with glasses of sekt with rum-coated raisins. Now that's a way to start the evening!

We thoroughly confused our table mates since I kind of do/don't speak German and my friend is obviously fluent, but they didn't realize that she was German at first so they spoke English to her. Wearing the dirndls didn't help ease the confusion either (always keep people guessing!) but we were welcomed warmly.

Our dining companions soon directed their attention on the hostess, letting her know that they wanted dinner. She told them that it was still social time and dinner would start soon. I tried to keep a straight face because I imagined them devolving into children, pounding on the table, and chanting "we want food, we want food!"

The dinner arrived: boiled potatoes (Salzkartoffel), Grünkohl (kale, pureed and boiled), and two different kinds of smoked sausage. I ended up doling out the sausages to the other diners since I was in the middle. Some of the sausages were as big as the plates where I was dropping them, making me feel a bit risqué. The food was tasty. I don't normally dig German food much as I'm not really a meat n' potatoes type of gal, but this was a pleasant deviation.

This was the smaller of the sausages. Kid you not.
 As we were eating, the schnapps and spoons came out. Oh lawdy, was that something! We experienced Löffeltrunk, which was shots of schnapps taken from a special spoon. The last drink was Friesengeist, which was brought out flaming in little shot glasses carried in a wooden shoe (I was excited about the wooden shoe because my peeps are Dutch).

Even the shoe that carries the shots warns that it's "served burning."
Here's where the burning hot portion of the evening came in: one gentleman spilled a bit from his shot glass so the table started on fire. He nonchalantly blotted it out, grinning, and commenting, "happens every year!" We were also given special spoons to set on top of the shot glass to extinguish the flames. Our host said a nice folksy thing and then we all threw back the fiery drink. Oh my goodness, one could taste the fire!

The tools of the northern German (drinking) trade. We drank shots out of the spoons.
 Following the excitement of setting the table on fire, we then watched a slide show as our host talked about northern Germany. There were lots of windmills, ships, bicycles, adorable dudes wearing dark blue-striped shirts and captain hats, and wind-swept dunes.

Traditional male northern German outfit, with schnapps, of course! Isn't he great?

As the other guests left, my friend and I chatted with the hostess. She commented on our dirndls, saying that they were Bavarian and traditional northern Germans attire was like what she was wearing, a white blouse with some embroidery and a long black skirt. She also made a point to say that they wear their skirts to their ankles in northern Germany. I told my friend later that we probably looked like women of "loose morals" with our knee-length dresses and we had a giggle about that one. Everyone seemed confused about why we were wearing dirndls. We told them that we had just felt like it. They said, ah, it must be for Karneval. Um, not really, but if that's how they needed to compartmentalize it, that's fine.

Despite the dangerous drinks, we had a really good time and learned more about northern Germany. You can't beat that!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My week: February 15 ed.

This posting is rather late in its appearance, thanks to a plague of sickness that still has me stuck in bed. At least I'm to the point, after four days, that I can type something because my headache has somewhat abated.

So, back to last week:

-I finished up my German classes from the club. The teacher asked if I would be taking the optional exam at the conclusion of the class. I was under the impression that I had to pay to take it (which may or may not be true) so I said I was going to skip it. Since I was only taking the class for funsies and to improve my German, I saw no need for it. The teacher was really disappointed, saying that she thought I'd get a good score and I was the best student in class (oops, a little awkward, since other students were around, and really, I don't think that there's anything special about my performance other than I only missed two classes). I tried to make a joke about being the one who sets the grading curve higher but that joke failed because I have no clue about German mathematical terms.

At the very last class, she asked again and I said nope. The other students chimed in and it was practically a session of great sadness and gnashing of teeth in lament that I wasn't going to take this silly exam. I am completely flummoxed why they would care, but I guess it was cute. It also makes me think that I should have researched more fully the benefits of taking the exam! With my luck, it's probably required before taking the next class or something.

-I took on what I thought would be a simple favor for a friend, picking up her car from the repair shop. Instead it devolved into an incident that included security guards, men who were excited to do "manly" things, military police, the Pfälzisch dialect (oh lawd, I can't do anything with that), my ever-present worry about being electrocuted, being environmentally unfriendly (ugh), and surprisingly, a lot of laughter after the incident was resolved.

-I had dinner with a group of about 20 friends at my favorite restaurant. That was awesome, but I determined that my two smarty-pantsiest friends should no longer be allowed to sit together because they are just too much, combined ;) I was invited on a Valentine's Day "date" to a movie, but had to decline because I had already asked someone else on a "date" and I didn't want to be too much of a friend player. Of course the two smarty-pants guys got rolling on that so I didn't find out what the "date" offer was until later. A bunch of them (including smarty pants #1) went to see 50 Shades of Grey. They drank a bottle of champagne before entering but for me personally, I don't think that there's enough champagne in the world to make me want to see the movie.

-As I mentioned earlier, I had a hot "date" for Valentine's Day. I invited a friend to a dinner where our hosts were serving us traditional northern German food, which apparently includes copious amounts of schnapps, especially served in spoons and/or on fire. We were the youngest guests there, probably by at least 25 years. It was awesome. More to follow on that one.

-A bunch of us met up again for breakfast. I got several hugs, which I am not really into, but I'm to the point of saying, forget it and just let people hug me. For whatever reason, it seems to give huggers great anxiety not to hug and they seem to want to hug me even more. It won't kill me, I guess. I'm just not that into it. The breakfast was really fun as we crammed about 20 people into a one-bedroom apartment.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Things that are annoying about lists expats write about other cultures

Listmania has taken over the internet, it seems. Do you ever find yourself clicking on goofy links for things like "10 Reasons Your Cat Thinks You're Dumb?" and then start thinking, "wow, the fact that I clicked on these links must be one of those reasons!" In the expat blogging world, these lists reign supreme too. Since I am particularly interested in Germany, I often find myself clicking on links for things like "5 Things Germans Always Do" or "Things That All Germans Like," and so on.

When I first lived here, I lapped these things up like spilled horchata. I initially thought they'd be a great way to learn about how society operates in Germany. I read that it's hard to make friends with Germans, they're unfriendly/unsmiling, they get thoroughly ticked off if you jaywalk, everything runs on time and perfectly here, and they're the masters of sorting recycling and properly disposing of trash. (In my own experience, I found that these situations varied so widely that there's no way I could call them traits of all Germans.)

In the two years of living here, I've started to look at these lists with a more discerning eye. First of all, for whatever reason, I feel like a fool for being pulled into articles written like lists. I don't know why they exert such a psychological pull. Why is a list of something more interesting to read than an essay? Has my brain been ruined by Google* and the frenetic, distracting siren call of the internet? Am I too lazy or lacking in concentration to read something that includes paragraphs instead of bullets or numbers?

Beyond just the format issues, these lists can reduce a whole country of people into a bulleted list of cliches. Maybe current lists are more advanced than creating the lame idea that all Germans wear lederhosen and drink beer all the time, but they can still perpetuate the idea that everyone in a country is exactly like X, Y, and Z. That is hardly accurate.

It is important to realize that these lists are just the person's opinion. Duh, of course, you're probably thinking. However, can you honestly say that you've never been swayed by an article online? If you don't have a lot of experience with a group of people or a situation, but the few exposures you've had line up with what's written in the article, don't you start to think,'s interesting that other people noticed this too. I wonder if that really is a thing for Group X or Y?

Even though I already knew that these just-for-funsies lists aren't always accurate (duh), I really started to think about them more critically after the German as a Foreign Language classes we took. The wonderful thing about those classes are that one can learn so much about the cultures of people throughout the world since we complete exercises where we talk about things in our home countries. They are also an opportunity to discuss stereotypes.

One thing that really struck me during these exercises was when I was talking about my experiences an Indian student would say, "no, that's not what people do in the United States." I would turn around and raise an eyebrow at him. Considering that I am an American citizen, I grew up there, and have spent several decades living there, I was a little confused why he would know what Americans do and don't do. He didn't say it in a nasty way and I wasn't angry at him; I was legitimately curious why he felt the way that he did and we had a respectful dialog with the class. I learned that he was there a short time for school and has watched many American movies so he felt that he had a good handle on American culture.

I turned it around on him. "Do you dance really well, like they do in Bollywood movies?" No, he doesn't dance at all. I said, "well, after watching those movies, couldn't one think that all Indian people like to sing and dance all the time and they're all really good at it?" He acknowledged that movies and tv don't paint an entirely accurate picture of what life is truly like in a country.

This experience really resonated with me and highlighted the importance about thinking critically about one sees and reads. What an expat blogger writer believes about a culture is not necessarily always correct. Anecdotal evidence does not necessarily a truth make. We all have personal bias and merely putting it into text on the internet doesn't magically transform an opinion into an irrefutable fact.

On the flip side, just because someone makes generalizations and pops it on a click-inducing list doesn't mean that it couldn't be a trend with a group of people, either. The most important realizations that I gathered from this are: to take things with a grain of salt; form your own opinion after looking for the good and diversity of experience in others; and if need be, research things on your own, using appropriate sources.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go read an interesting article about the 10 Really Cute Things That Cats Do and 5 Foods that All Germans Eat.

*True story: I tried to read the author's book about how the internet is changing our brains and adversely affecting our ability to concentrate. I couldn't finish the book because I was too distracted. D'oh.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In love

Graffiti in Paris

In the wall
in love 
am I with thee
for thou remind me
of my favorite sculpture by Brancusi


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Staubsauger Museum, Bruchmühlbach-Miesau, Germany

Staubsauger Museum

Miesau Pfühlstraße 15
66892 Bruchmühlbach-Miseau
Museum visits are by appointment only. Call 06372-5090051.
Entry is free but a donation is suggested

About two weeks ago, some friends and I were searching for a bit of fun on a cold winter day. I enjoy visiting eclectic little museums, so I suggested the Staubsauger Museum in Bruchmühlbach-Miesau. It's a short drive from Kaiserslautern (about fifteen minutes) and made for a pleasant and local trip.

Entrance to the Staubsauger Museum
What is a Staubsauger? That is the German word for a vacuum cleaner. I was initially charmed by the fact that there was a museum dedicated to vacuum cleaners. As the tour continued, I was charmed by another element.

The museum is open by appointment only. When I contacted Herr Steffgen, the proprietor of the museum, he informed me that the museum is normally closed during the winter because the building was not heated. However, if we were willing to have a chilly visit, he was willing to accommodate us.

Since our group of friends is accustomed to hiking during the winter and spending time outdoors, we gladly took Herr Steffgen up on the offer and met him at the museum, which was previously a cow barn and is now a neatly organized and displayed collection. It had been my impression that we would just look at the museum but we were in for a treat as he took us on a tour. He said that normally he would prepare a customized tour based on the participants' interests, whether it's focusing on history or more on technology. Since we hadn't specified our interests, he covered a bit of both.

He started by showing us the vacuum cleaner that had started the collection. Shaped like a milk can, it is at first glance nothing that extraordinary, other than antique. However, as Herr Steffgan told us, the vacuum cleaner's back story is rather unusual. In 1993, an 83 year old man from the local community gifted the slightly rusty vacuum to Steffgan and told him about its history. The elderly gentleman had bought the used vacuum cleaner from his boss in the 1930s. He had used it regularly but during World War II, he had to evacuate the area. He couldn't take the vacuum with him so he buried it. After the war, he returned and dug it up, finding that although it had rusted a bit, it was still perfectly usable. It was so usable, in fact, that he continued cleaning his floors with it until 1993!

Pictured on the right is the vacuum that started the collection.
Herr Steffgan continued the tour, taking a historical approach. When pointing out the earliest vacuum cleaners, he even gave me the chance to try a few mechanical models, which had been introduced starting in the 1860s. Phew! They are quite the workout, requiring the user to pump the handle up and down in order to create suction.

When we moved onto the 1930-50s, we found vacuum cleaners that were more than just devices to vacuum. Companies had been developing the motors for the vacuums and found that these motors could power other appliances. One could change out the vacuum bag for a blender, for example! Even better yet? With the proper attachment, it is possible to turn some of the vacuums into airbrush painting machines. Herr Steffgan allowed us to "paint" a board with some water in one of the airbrush attachments.
A futuristic vacuum cleaner, ca. 1950s, that hovered above the floor when in use!
We also learned about the power of vacuum cleaners. Herr Steffgan demonstrated a board that can be held to the wall with only suction. To prove the power of the connection, he had one of our group members sit on it.
The seat o' suction. No worries - the suction holds the seat on the wall.
The tour lasted about an hour. I did find that my feet became quite cold because I hadn't worn my hiking boots, but that is definitely my own fault as Herr Steffgan had been very careful to communicate that the museum would be cold.

Herr Steffgan and the vacuum that started his collection

Despite the cold, our small group really enjoyed the visit. I had mentioned earlier that in addition to the museum, there was something else very charming about the visit; it was Herr Steffgan himself. His enthusiasm for vacuum cleaners is catching and it's clear that he loves sharing his hobby. I had never given much thought to vacuums before but was sucked into the fascinating stories and information that he shared. Both adults and children can enjoy the museum with its mix of history, hands-on experimentation, and enjoyment of one man's hobby.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sneaky Schnecken

I love a good, ridiculous and nerdy debate about things that don't necessarily matter. For example, in German class, we were talking about animals and got onto the subject of snails (Schnecken). All of a sudden the class was thrown into a huge debate regarding whether they were animals or not.

Some classmates tried to "science" and talk about the classification of snails. It would work...if we were in a C2 German class. However, we're all barely intermediate level speakers  (B1.1) and really, do we have such vocabulary? Our teacher settled it by saying that they aren't plants or minerals so for the purpose of our discussion, they are animals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Products that expats in Germany miss (as told in my Deutsch class)

While taking a German as a foreign language class, one not only learns German, but also about the culture and customs of the other expat students, which is an added bonus. One night in class, we discussed what products we missed from our home countries. It's interesting to see what products are a normal part of life in other countries.

Here is what my fellow classmates reported on:

-Spain: she misses a particular type of mop that isn't available in Germany.
-Indonesia: she misses a special rice cooker.
-India: a bunch of guys got together and talked about how they miss rickshaws.
-South America (he didn't mention which particular country): a certain kind of hammock. He even used a candy wrapper to fashion a model of it.
-Macedonia: a jar of flavoring used for cooking.
-United States (me): good burritos. The teacher and the gal from Spain are both native Spanish speakers and giggled because in Spanish, a "burrito" is literally a small donkey/burro. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ich beschwere mich

We had German homework where we must write a letter of complaint to a fictional company because they sent the wrong item. I wished to make the letter more interesting as I can imagine that our teacher must get bored reading these things. Therefore, I wrote the following (after looking up a few words I hadn't encountered before):

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren in der Snuggi Firma,
Ich habe im Internet einen blauen Bademantel ersteigert. Aber habe ich einen grünen Schlafanzug bekommen. Ich will keinen Schlafanzug! Meine Katze Moo und ich sind sehr wütend.
Wir werden einen Haarball herauswürgen und Ihnen schicken, wenn Sie den richtigen Bademantel nicht senden. Sie haben zwei Wochen, oder Sie werden einen Haarball bekommen. Ich bin ernst.
Mit behaarten Grüße,

Frau Wütend und Moo


The English version: 

Ladies and gentlemen in the Snuggi company,

I bought a blue bathrobe on the Internet. But I got green pajamas. I do not want pajamas! My cat Moo and I are very angry. We will regurgitate a hair ball and send it to you if you do not send the correct bathrobe. You have two weeks or you will get a hairball. I'm serious.

With hairy Regards,

Angry Woman and Moo

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Week: February 8 ed.

I spent part of the week sick so I missed a German lesson and a meeting with my tandem speaking partner. As soon as I was feeling a bit better, I jumped back into the social life.

-A friend had a group of us over to play more card games. Fun, fun.

-I attended a bicycle maintenance class. It was great! I've been searching for one for ages and was thrilled to find one that was both local and free. I took my guest bike, which was in desperate need of some care.

-I was invited to a nice dinner with an American family and their German neighbors. We were speaking Denglish all night and I did some clumsy translating. It was cute, though: we were offered ice for our drinks. I've gone so native that I mostly forget that it's an option.

-Feeling a burst of productivity, I rode the newly maintained bike around the neighborhood. I then opened up my folding bike and cleaned the chain. I am so proud of my new "skillz."

Art on the wall of the Neustadt-Böbig train station, not related to anything.

You know it's been a bad day when... depicted in in the painting, after just minding your business, all of a sudden you have seventeen people hanging off your tail...

there's random nudity, a person (dead?) on the ground, and even worse,

part of your tail has fallen off.

Seriously, you're just being a devil, walking around with a weird, non-effective pitchfork that is missing the middle tine and the villagers get all snotty and start pulling on you. How rude.

This is the painting "Les Parisiens tirant le diable par le queue" by Jean Veber and it's housed in the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. It's worth a visit, especially since it is free and has many entertaining oddities such as this painting.

The problem with such a painting is that it awakens a bad case of what I call "teh* curiosity." Who can't look at this and think, what the heck is the back story on this? Did the devil kill the naked person on the ground? Why did the villagers think it was a good idea to hang onto his tail? Is this some literary reference or was the painter just whacked out on paint fumes? Is it even possible for a devil's tail to be pulled off? Darn you, painting! You have awoken a deluge of questions.

*"the" is intentionally misspelled.

Friday, February 6, 2015

No, just no

I saw this at Siegfried's Mechanisches Museum (I wrote more about the visit here).

No. Just NO.

Definitely not.

For the record: the rest of the museum is quite interesting and not creepy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

In Italian

When I've gone to events with various groups here, I meet as many, if not more, other expats as I do Germans, so I have the opportunity to hear how they are settling in. As an expat myself, I find it interesting to hear about the experiences of other expats, especially those based in Germany.

When I was in Munich, I met several Italian guys at a gathering. One guy said that when he was calling German landlords about renting their apartments, everyone was saying "ciao" to him as they were ending the call. He thought that they were doing that because they knew he was Italian. We had a giggle over his revelation that it's actually a somewhat common way in Germany to say goodbye and it wasn't a special nod to his Italian-ness.*

*Okay, maybe that's not a word.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hilarity, milk, and German verbs

In class, another student and I were conversing as part of an exercise where we were to discuss what we buy at the store. I was surprised at just how much Schokomuseli he buys and we started talking about how we like to eat museli. He was surprised because I don't like it with chocolate pieces or with milk.

He then meant to ask me if I liked milk. Instead, he asked me if I tasted like milk. Our teacher was walking by at that time and we both died laughing. I pretended to lick my hand and said that I didn't.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

An opportunity to donate rummage sale items in Kaiserslautern

Every March, the German American & International Women's Club of Kaiserslautern hosts the Pfennigbasar. It is a giant rummage sale that serves as the club’s main fundraiser. The non-profit organization aims to foster German and American (as well as international) friendships and it is involved in both charitable and social works.

Here's your chance to get involved: you can donate extra items that you have at home. The Club will be hosting several collection days for items to sell at the rummage sale. I'll paste their information below and you can also visit their website, too.