Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lost clauses: finding one's way out of subordinate clauses in German

To the foreign speakers of German: do you ever get lost in German sentences? For example, if you are saying a sentence with subordinate clauses, splittable verbs, different tenses, etc., do you ever lose your place in the sentence?

I feel as if I get stuck in a sentence spiral and I'm trying to work myself free when I speak "Big Girl Sentences," which I consider anything other than a basic sentence. I seem to have two modes of speaking them. If I try to say the sentence at a normal speed, I tend to mess up the word order. If I stop, think, and say it correctly, I may as well hang up a Microsoft Windows hourglass in front of my face as I'm plotting the sentence in my head.

I suppose that I should be thankful that I have enough knowledge at this point to have the capacity (but not the speed) to form somewhat complex sentences. What has your experience been?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Buy and sell used bikes in Kaiserslautern on May 9!

Saturday, May 9, 2015
Bike Sale is 1100-1300
Sellers drop off bikes from 0930-1045
Located in the courtyard of St. Martin's Church
Spittelstraße 4
67655 Kaiserslautern
(courtyard is behind the church)
 Website with more information

The annual Terre des Hommes Fahrradmarkt (bike market) is coming up on May 9 in Kaiserslautern.  Individuals can drop off bikes and the organization undertakes the task of selling the bike, eliminating the need for the owner to stay all day. In exchange, the organization receives a percentage of the sale. Shoppers have the opportunity to shop among used bikes in one location. It's a winning situation for everyone!

Sellers and those who would like to take the bikes for a test ride must bring their IDs. There is a 2.50 euro fee to consign the bike and if it sells, the seller gives 10% of the selling price to the organization.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Moo is such a weirdo

I love having Moo the cat as a pet. He's friendly, soft, and sweet. However, he's also a bit of a weirdo.

He likes to smell my hand. Then he tries to shove my finger up his nose and trails his face on my finger so it somewhat catches on his lips. He ends up even wiping his teeth on my finger! None of this is aggressive in the least bit and it's not biting; he's gentle, but does get moisture from his nose and mouth on my hand and then I have to go wash it. Ew. I love animals but am not so into the slobber.

I have been reading about cats and learned that a lot of this is very friendly behavior. Cats have various scent glands around their bodies, including on the their cheeks. That's why they rub their faces on humans of choice; it's like saying, "lady, I own you so I'm going to mark you as mine with my scent. (Isn't that awesome?)"

On the other hand, it doesn't sound like Moo's behavior of trying to stick my finger up is his nose is normal cat behavior. I think that's where he failed in Cat School 101 and he might just be a bit dumb. I'm glad he thinks highly of me but I'd be cool if he just wiped his face on me instead.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Celebrating getting older in your birthday suit: free things to do in Kaiserslautern on your birthday

Last week, I spent part of my birthday in my birthday suit, and then part of it eating ice cream with friends. Both things were free and relaxing.

I found out that Monte Mare, the spa/swimming pool/sauna in Kaiserslautern, gives a free admission on a person's birthday. I showed my ID with my birthdate and was given an unlimited amount of time in the whole facility. Parts of the facility are family friendly, such as the area with a huge swimming pool, hot tub, and water slides. The other part, which is mostly the sauna area and some pools, is for adults only because it it is FKK/textil frei (in other words, no bathing attire is allowed). I went for a swim, sat in a sauna, and dozed in the cozy area for relaxing.

Following that, I met some friends for dinner at Papasote. I walked there and the three of them pulled up in unison, on their bikes. It was so cute! We enjoyed dinner and I received a free fried ice cream, a birthday gift from the restaurant.

All in all, it was a great day after work. I relaxed, spent some time with great people, and shared ice cream, for free.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

My week: April 26 ed.

-Following last week's party, I did a little bit more celebrating of my birthday, meeting some friends for dinner.

-I had German class and met with my tandem partner. I really want to up the ante so I found some additional tandem partners. However, I went a different route: I wanted to practice via Skype. My schedule is already jam-packed as it is but I want to put my German learning into high drive since I want to practice speaking 4-7 times a week. I was able to find three new tandem partners who are keen to try conversation via Skype. I figure that I can cram in about 20 minutes of Skyping before I turn in for the night. The nice thing is that they're local so if we can find a time that works, we can meet in person too. Who knows? Maybe we will become friends, too. I'm always up for more friends :)

I found myself with a small amount of "extra" time this weekend so I met with A, one of the tandem speaking partners. I keep telling myself that I'll always ask the speaking partner if we can speak German first because it's too easy to start and continue in English. I found that to be the case with today's meeting; we started with an interesting conversation in English and I hated to break up the flow so 3/4 of the conversation continued in English. We did get some German in too though and it was quite productive.

The clerk at the cafe recognized me and said that my German continues to improve. It cracks me up that I'm a "regular" after only three visits. Or, maybe it's an anomaly that an American speaks an intermediate(ish) level of German that I stick out? ;-P  I have to admit that I don't run across many Americans who are B1 level or higher so maybe it is a bit of a rarity; shame on us! Then again, I (somewhat purposefully) don't run with a crowd with a high composition of Americans, either, so perhaps my sample size is not valid.

-Moo had a Friseurtermin. In other words, he received his annual shaving. Both of us are relieved that he's not so hairy any more. The same lady who shaved him last year did it again this year. She really likes Moo and her husband does too but this year, the husband wasn't able to come since he was too tired. He was quite disappointed. I think that the Moo Fan Club continues to grow and grow.

-I went to the Maimarkt in Mannheim with my friend C. More to follow about that. This is the third year I've attended and it's always a great time.

-Things are going to get really crazy for me next week. I'm starting a new German course and it will run concurrently with the existing one for the duration of a month. I'm already really pressed for time and there are some projects I have going on that need my attention. (It makes total sense to take on more tandem speaking experiences, or not, huh?) I also have plans to travel for work. Yay! It will be to conduct in-person training, which has such a nicer, personal touch than the cold, sterile, and buggy experience of teaching online. I expect to be insanely busy until September as a result of all of this. Perhaps it will keep me out of trouble.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A giggle about Dialekt

This video cracked me up. The poor Pfälzisch guy just wanted to order some flowers for his Mutti but the store clerk couldn't understand him because of his dialect. He mournfully exclaimed that he can't speak Hochdeutsch. With the help of a CD to change his dialect to Hochdeutsch, he was able go back and order the flowers.

I visited Thalia, a book store in town. It's part of a chain but it does have a lot of books and gifts of local interest, including a lot about the Pfalz region (where Kaiserslautern is located). I can somewhat understand what many of the things written in dialect say, but I'll be honest: I understand it only slightly more than what I can understand in written Dutch. I don't know Dutch at all; I can only read bits of it because of learning German, if that gives any indication.

Friday, April 24, 2015

But what do you *do* there?

This summer will yield an exciting event: some family members will be visiting me! I'm thrilled, especially since I haven't seen them for two and a half years. We only get to spend a few days together but I've already started planning what we'll do.

When I talked to them about what we might do, it was rather obvious that my outlook has changed in the time that I've lived here. I recommended that we attend a wine festival since it's a great way to experience the Pfalz region and see what this area is really like with a minimum of tourists.

My guests wanted to know what one does at a wine fest. I happily explained that one can sample the local wines and cuisines, followed by a walk through the vineyards and/or the town, depending on where the event is held. Sometimes there is music or other programs. Basically, one can soak up the Gemütlichkeit and some wine too while enjoying the company of her friends.

I thought it sounded like a great idea until one family member exclaimed, "but we'll be flying the next day! I don't want to have a hangover!"

What? Um, I've never drank enough at a wine festival that I had a hangover. It's even rare for me to get tipsy. That's not really the point of these festivals so it hadn't even dawned on me that one would get a hangover from one. I haven't seen anyone slamming wine at them, but if anyone did that...I could imagine the possibility of an American doing so.

Then they wanted to know what one does at the wine festival. Hmm. I thought that I had explained it but I repeated myself, in case I had forgotten something.

No, what do people do there? What are the events, I was asked. I realized that our understanding of the event was different. I'm accustomed to attending with friends, more like a local would. My goal is to enjoy the company of my friends and to do some relaxed wandering with a bit of wine drinking thrown in; we usually attend on Sundays since everything else is closed then. Sometimes there is entertainment but other times the entertainment is just the company one keeps. I find myself identifying with the German idea of relaxing and really experiencing the activity.

I realized that I need to step back from my experience and reconsider the event through the eyes of my family members. They are here as tourists and have very little time during their visit. It makes sense that they would like to see some more famous sights since this is their first trip to Germany. We will probably end up doing some touristy sh**; we're definitely making a trip to Heidelberg, which I know reasonably well since my good friend lives there. Maybe while they visit the castle I'll have lunch with a friend. I might even make them go for a hike on the Schlangenweg and point out the house on the river where I partied for New Year's eve once. I'll point out Gernot Rumpf's signature little mice next to his monkey sculpture on the old bridge.  That way I'll slip a little bit of the "real world" of German living into the tourist trip.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Maimarkt starts on Saturday!

One of my favorite spring events (besides spring itself) starts on Saturday: the Maimarkt!

This is what I wrote about it last year:

Do you know where you can shop 'til you drop; try food and wines from all over the world; and see so much more? All of this is possible at the Maimarkt Mannheim, which runs until 5 May. Located near the SAP arena on the outskirts of Mannheim, it opens at 9 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to see as much as is possible; the Markt is huge!

The Maimarkt is almost 400 years old. Today, it's quite a sight to behold, with about 1,400 exhibitors. It is basically a trade show but is also so much more. Of course one can go shopping, visiting vendors who sell everything from kitchen gadgets to car insurance. If one is hungry, there is a huge international food court with wonderful things to eat and drink. Love horses? There is a show jumping and Dressage competition! There is even a neighborhood of houses at the edge of the fairgrounds. Does anyone live here? Nope; they're builders' model homes that are open for tours.

Adult tickets are 8 euros when bought at the Markt. Even better yet is to buy the ticket from a VRN ticket machine available at most train stations in the area; for only 1,20 euros more, one can also receive a round trip travel card in the VRN's service area (including Kaiserslautern) to use the train to get to the Maimarkt.

More information is available at:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Awkward German: the retirement version

I volunteered to pick up some flowers and a card for a colleague who is retiring. I bopped down to K in Lautern mall to buy both, squeezing in the errand in between doing some last-minute clean-up at home and continuing on to class.

I intended to speak German during all the transactions. However, I forgot to look up some key words: retiring and retirement. D'oh. I didn't have much time so I decided to wing it by saying what I did know:

"Gibt es eine Karte, für wann man ein Rentner wird?"

I imagine that it was a rather awkward way to ask but it did the trick and I left the store with a retirement card and some flowers. The clerk didn't switch to English either. Was it a small victory?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moo weighs in

Almost everyone who meets Moo inadvertently becomes a fan. He's an awesome cat; he loves meeting people, partying, and socializing. He even has been able to win over people who aren't sure about house cats (I run with a very international group, so some visitors haven't been around house cats before).

However, I have one friend who doesn't care for animals. I thought she was slowly warming to him because she asked if she could pick him up. I said sure; hold him like you'd hold a baby and he'll feel more secure.

Instead, she held him by his stomach, hovering him a few inches above the floor.

Moo is not super smart so he purred while she held him awkwardly and he played hover cat.

She set him down, pleased with herself.

"I was having a hard time estimating how much he weighed, so I wanted to pick him up," she said.

Did I mention that she's a scientist?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Week: April 19 ed.

-I had German lessons and my weekly tandem meet-up. I still need to speak German more. Wash, rinse, repeat, right?

-I was super busy with preparations for my birthday party. I had 15 people over and it was excellent. Everyone admired the pinata that I made even though it does have a strange shape. It was a mash-up between Tony the Tiger, a rabbit, and then mummified, I guess. Hey, I'm not artistic, so what can I say? We had a ton of fun whacking the pinata outside.

Moo and Tony the Rab-ata
Moo was excited to host what was, to him, essentially a meeting of the Moo Fan Club. He was lavished with attention, used as a pillow when he was sitting on the back of the couch, and used the same friend as a pillow right back. It's awesome to have a cat who loves parties!

We also enjoyed the Most Exciting Cake Ever from co-worker S and delicious cheesecake from co-worker C. The celebrations lasted until 2 a.m. I'm still smiling from the kindness and warmth of my friends. It is truly a wonderful gift to be around people who can make a foreign country feel like home.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Most Exciting Cake Ever: Or, Why My Coworkers Are the Best

It's my birthday soon and I wanted to have a few (well, maybe 15-20 or so) friends over for a party. The last few years I've had lower-key birthdays but this year I wanted something a little bigger, especially since I know more people now and it's always fun to party!

My coworkers are awesome. S asked me if I'd like a cake and offered to make carrot cake. That sounded awesome so I took her up on it, finding out that she made a Bundt cake. Of course that prompted us to watch the scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the main character's non-Greek future in-laws bring a Bundt cake to her Greek family, with hilarious results. We were in hysterics.

S decorated the cake in the style of the movie's cake but made it even ever so much better. I just about died of delight when I saw it. It's the most exciting cake I've ever seen! I love all the little chocolate bugs around it with the unsettling, anthropomorphic faces. The bunch of lollipops with happy birthday candles shooting out is very lively. She even wrote multiple letter As around the cake.  There's so much going on with this over-the-top cake that it is beyond fantastic.

Best. Cake. Ever. Thanks, S! It is such a treat to work with such awesome, thoughtful (and funny!) coworkers.

Is this not exciting?
Don't squash me! I have a human face! says the chocolate bug.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Everyone was excited about the new mall opening

It's been almost a month since the new K in Lautern Mall opened in Kaiserslautern. It was surprising how busy everything was, and how busy everything has remained. I took some pictures during the grand opening night, when the mall was open late and the shopping district offered special events.

The visiting researcher I hung out with last weekend said everyone at the university was talking about the opening too. She asked if there were anything particularly special about the mall. I can't say whether there is or not, but I can say that not a ton of "exciting" things happen around here normally so it provided a lot of excitement during its opening.

One of my favorites was the world's largest shopping cart (or so they said it was). It's one of those things that makes a person say, "whyyy?"

K in Lautern Mall entrance, Fackelwoog Strasse
(Supposedly) the world's largest shopping cart.
I recognize that light fixture from the Bad Dürkheim wine hike!
This sculpture had me rolling my eyes.

The Beate Usha store, which faces the mall, cracked me up. This store sells, um, things for adults. The mannequins were curious about the new mall, too!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I'm no Goethe

I had some blood drawn at the doctor's office. I'm not sure that I got the nurse who was the most talented at drawing blood because she had to try multiple times and I now have several holes in my arms. To be fair, though, I must say that I'm a difficult patient for blood draws since I have small veins that are deep, sideways, and prone to rolling. By the time she was done, I was feeling a bit giddy.

I also was almost overtaken by an attack of giggles, which certainly didn't help the situation much. The nurse asked me to "make a Faust." I must have been making a strange face because I almost lost it in giggles. I kept thinking, "I can't do that! I'm not Goethe!" I would just about get myself composed and she'd ask again. Even later during the day, it would come to mind and I'd get caught in giggles again.


In another literary note, I am starting another writing project, in addition to this one. My friend C and I will be writing something together that's completely over the top. I'm not busy enough with work, school, and social activities, it seems. It's been really fun though.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Das ist ein schönes Bild!

It's that time of the year again! What time is it? you ask. Well, it's the time where I register for German classes at the uni. As is the new norm for me, they will overlap with the Volkshochschule classes and I will learn German four nights a week. I will probably also be a bit worn out and grumpy feeling from the lack of free time, as is also the norm for me.

The uni registration form has a spot where one attaches a photo of oneself. I think that this is ridiculous; so many things require photos in Germany, including resumes (don't even get me started on how wrong and rife for discrimination I think that is), that I feel shouldn't. I'm not interested in having to give a photo to register for a class. It's a pain in the neck to go to a photo booth and shell out six euros for a series of photos.

Instead, I took matters into my own hands: I drew a portrait of myself in the Foto box. It was a smiling stick person me.

Mr. Uni Registerer of DaF Students was amused when I took it to him. "Das ist ein schönes Bild," he remarked.

I replied in Germish: "Danke. Ich bin sehr photogenic."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My week: April 12 ed.

This week was another week of vacation from German classes. I filled it up in other ways.

-I met with my German tandem partner. She shared humorous stories from her time on stage and we had a good laugh.

-A friend, Cl., agreed to show me how to make piñatas since I am having a party soon. We first went shopping for supplies, including balloons and wallpaper paste. It was a lot easier to make piñatas than I had thought it would be. Blow up a balloon and cover it with five layers of newspaper covered with the paste. I need to repeat this process when the first application of newspaper has dried.

-I met up with a visiting researcher and a uni student to give them a tour of town. We ate lunch and walked all over Kaiserslautern. We visited the Gartenschau; I took the opportunity to buy the annual membership offered at a discount through SWK (I wrote about the program here). Meeting up was especially awesome because the researcher lives in Freiburg, which I've been wanting to visit, and she invited me to come by. We really enjoyed each other's company; she was happy to have a tour guide and some company since she didn't know anyone here. I especially enjoyed getting a science "fix," learning more about some topics of interest. It was awesome all around.

On Sunday, we enjoyed a leisurely visit to Mannheim. I always want to giggle when I visit that city because Rick Steves, a widely known (in the US, at least) travel guide author, can't stand the city. I'm always wanting to say, "eat it, Rick Steves, because I like the city." I'm sure he wouldn't care and part of the reason I enjoy the city is because I experience it as more of a local (or regional, at least) visitor. I have friends there and favorite restaurants there. I can see where it doesn't appeal to tourists and that suits me just fine.

Anyway, we ate at Istanbul, which I prefer a bit more to Meydan (both are great though). We basked in the sun as it was quite warm (about 70 degrees) and lovely. We then stopped by Pasa, my favorite Turkish bakery. There were these confectionery roll "thingies." I asked the store clerk, in German, what they were. She smiled and said that they are like Turkish "Gummibärchen" ("little gummi bears"). This totally cracked me up and she laughed too. Of course I had to buy a piece to try it. It was a sweet end to our trip.

What the clerk described as Turkish "Gummibärchen."

-It's coming up on Spargelzeit, which is white asparagus and very popular in Germany. The article I wrote last year popped up on GermanyJa again. Check it out.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Unsettling sight in Prague

In 2011, I took a trip with my family to Prague and saw this ad in the Metro station. It's sooo unsettling!

Friday, April 10, 2015

What using an epilator is really like

What is an epilator? Is it something that shouldn't be discussed in polite company? Why on earth is ATW writing about this?

Here's the back story: sometimes I get Ideas. These Ideas are sometimes useful and other times they are trouble-causing. My newest Idea was that I wanted to have summer-ready legs (i.e. sans cheveux). My current bathroom set up is not at all conducive for someone who wishes to remove leg hair without potentially gouging herself and bleeding to death in the tiny, slippery shower.

I thought that surely there was some other way that doesn't involve nicking oneself with a razor and/or falling in the shower. Mr. Google delivered, as always. Apparently there is a torture device that is a rotating mass of tweezers that will painfully efficiently remove hair: the epilator.

It sounded great! Sign me up, I thought. Some people said it was painful. I agreed more with the people who said that it's slightly painful in the beginning but is easy enough to withstand. The other ones were a bunch of wusses, I thought. Of course it made perfect sense that I would form an opinion before using the torture implement epilator, right?

I ordered one online and received it today. Fridays are Lazy Days for me, which means that I am loathe to make plans. I'm usually exhausted after a week of work and lots of activities. It would be the perfect day to try out the epilator, I thought. I could relax, rip hair by the roots out of my legs, and bask in silky smooth skin afterward. Sounds great, huh?

This is how it really went down.

1. Unwrap epilator, plug it in, and turn it on to the slow setting.
2. Instantly feel a deep sense of foreboding because the slow setting blasts along at warp speed and looks quite threatening. I haven't had a heart attack yet so I turn it on the fast setting. Whimper. The things hasn't even touched me yet and I'm already afraid of it.
3. Tell myself to stop being a wuss and just get on with it.
4. Turn on the slow setting and (stupidly) start working on the area by my ankle.
5. After touching it to my skin, nearly hit the ceiling and immediately turn it off. Did it just cut me?! What the heck! It felt as if it cut me.
6. The shock wears off a little and I look at the skin. No, it didn't cut me, but there is a drop of blood from where it yanked out a hair. There are also razor burn-looking bumps too.
7. Take a picture of epilated spot and text it to my colleague. We had been joking that the movie name that would describe this event would be There Will Be Blood. There was indeed blood (albeit not a lot) so it seemed important to text the picture. She had wanted to know how everything turned out.
8. Go back and forth via text a little bit, being a total smart aleck. Think for a moment that it's really weird that I am texting my colleague a picture of my newly shorn leg on a Friday night. Don't normal people go out to dinner and a movie or something?
9. Plan to go back to the torture.
10. Get a phone call from R. just as I am beginning. Talk to him for a while. Mention that we were considering doing this as a party game and anyone who can stand it gets a prize. Then realize that it would probably be too germy for my slightly germophobic American ways and decide not to do it after all.
11. Finish phone call and get back to business. Wish I had been drinking some wine so it wouldn't be quite so painful.
12. Oh lawd is it painful.
13. Couldn't I at least have a bullet to bite to get through this? Seriously, how is it not cutting me but feels like it is?
14. Finish one leg. Oh, man. I have another leg to go.
15. Really wish that I had been drinking some wine.
16. Am a little smarter on leg #2 and do not start on the incredibly sensitive areas above my ankles first. 
17. Power through leg two and even do the sensitive ankle-ish areas.
18. Really wish I had been drinking through this.

Several hours later, I tried to admire my (mostly) hairless legs but instead can't help but notice the redness and bumps from the procedure. I also notice that I need to moisturize.

I can't believe that I'm saying this, but I am curious about trying this again. Next time, though, There Will Be Wine.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Bob by any other name would still be as spongy

When my younger brother, dad, and I visited Paris several years ago, my brother and I were lazing around the hotel room and watching French tv. We happened upon what we would call SpongeBob Squarepants.

We were delighted to learn that his French name is Bob L'eponge (Bob the Sponge). Doesn't that sound fancy yet descriptive at the same time?

I just learned his German name. Leave it to the Germans to come up with a name that sounds vaguely threatening or like a disease: Schwammkopf (Spongehead).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The menu of Eiscafe Rialto, Kaiserslautern

I took a photo of the menu from Eiscafe Rialto in Kaiserslautern (read my review here). I would have to say it's been my favorite ice cream store for how delicious the ice cream is.

When I order, though, I always get a little bit of the "no soup for you" vibe from the lady who works there. Just like Elaine, I don't care and order anyway.

Enjoy the menu. Writing the title of this blog made me think of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which has absolutely nothing to do with ice cream.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Easter camel at Cafe Krummel

I had brunch with some friends last week at Cafe Krummel in Kaiserslautern. As I was paying for my meal, I saw a traditional German baked good, in the shape of an Easter lamb. I was curious what it was made of; I wanted to try it. I had been speaking German to settle my bill but couldn't think of how to ask what it was filled with. My German friends with me, D and Cl., were cute; they chimed in and asked about it in German.

I was trying to pay, order, and concentrate, so all I heard was "lamm" and giggling as an answer. C had apparently asked what the Easter camel was filled with. The clerk told her lamb. I selected one and as we were leaving, I asked what I had missed, giggling too when I realized that Cl. had called it a camel and not a lamb, and it was not filled with any kind of meat. At 8 euros, it was quite expensive baby "lambel."

I told my coworker this story and it made us wonder: what do baby camels look like? Was C way off? Apparently she wasn't! According to Professor Google, baby camels' humps don't immediately stand up so the Easter lamb pasty could have very well have been an Easter camel baby.

The most important thing? The baby whatever-it-was tasted good; it was like the lovechild of a doughnut and cake, with a vanilla-y taste.

The traditional German Easter...lambel?

Monday, April 6, 2015

My week: April 5 Easter ed.

This was my week "off," i.e. with no classes and no language cafe.

-I met with my tandem partner. To practice English, we watched the episode with President Obama in Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. I didn't realize just how many idioms that we use in everyday English until I spent quite a bit of time explaining what the speakers meant. My friend also started watching the Ellen Degeneres show to help with her English. She made a good choice; the show is generally upbeat and the level of English is not too high. Plus, Ellen speaks Standard American English (which is or is not a thing, depending on what linguist you ask, I suppose).

-I hung out with some friendly dogs. I forgot just how slobbery dogs can be but was amused how they like to "smoosh" me like Moo the Cat does (i.e. sitting on me companionably).

-My friends who live in Neustadt came out to visit. I took them to the Ramstein Air Base because C had a hankering for Taco Bell. K never had eaten it before but liked it. They continued on to Saarland and to Luxembourg while I worked on some things at home. Later, they returned for dinner and we ate at Safari, an Ethiopian restaurant in Kaiserslautern. They agreed that it was excellent and we stuffed ourselves silly. I introduced them to the concept of a "food baby," where one eats so much that one feels pregnant.

We waddled back to my house; they were staying for the weekend because we were going to spend Easter together. I told them that they could allow Moo to stay in their room or not. They chose the Moo option and laughed about the experience the next morning. Apparently he purred in their faces as they were sleeping; walked on them; stood on C, stabbing him with his paws and trying to fluff C's side up like a pillow before sleeping on him; and laid on their feet. This is standard Moocat behavior and part of the reason that I don't let him stay with me when I sleep (the other half is that I'm too allergic to him). Despite Moo's demanding behavior, C and K were totally taken by Moo and are new members of his informal fan club.

-I cooked an American-style Easter breakfast of bacon, eggs, and French toast casserole (based on this recipe). K, who is Romanian, was curious about the French toast since she makes a version too. Her version is more savory, with bread soaked in egg and a pinch of salt and then fried in a pan. That got us wondering: is French toast even remotely French or is it just a name that was tacked onto it? Are French people out there, rolling their eyes? (I know that I roll my eyes at the German take on "American" sandwich spread, which they imagine as a tube of mayo streaked with ketchup, something we don't do.) Either way, C and K loved the casserole. I joked that we were going to have food baby twins.

-K shared a story about a Romanian Easter tradition, prevalent in Transylvania. On Easter Monday, the women clean their houses really well, dress up, and welcome male family and friends to drop by. The women prepare cakes and eggs. When the men arrive at the front door, they spray the women with perfume and give greetings. It has something to do with keeping the women from "wilting" and is refreshing for them, to bring luck. The women give the men cakes and eggs. K said it's amusing to see grown men going house to house, carrying their baskets or bags of eggs and cakes. It seems like a cousin of trick or treating!

Apparently the men used to pour water on the women but after much consternation on the part of the women, the men started using perfume instead. As someone who has allergies, I could imagine that could be overwhelming to be doused in perfume!

-After lunch, we hiked from the technical university to the Humbergturm, in the southern woods bordering Kaiserslautern. It's a nice, reasonably easy hike that takes about 45 minutes one way. C was teasing me, noting that we could have just driven to the Bremerhof restaurant and hiked from there, which is shorter. It never dawns on me to go that way but I like the added 10 minutes of hiking from the uni.

As we were walking through the woods, we were struck by the damage from Hurricane Niklas earlier in the week. Usually this area of Germany doesn't have severe weather but for several days, it was pummeled by rain and wind storms. Trees in the woods were snapped in half and the forestry service had been busy clearing the aftermath, as evidenced by the stacked rows of cut trees.

Large tree snapped in half, near the Bremerhof.
We reached the goal of hiking to the Humbergturm. The trails were quite busy; many locals were out enjoying the pleasant, sunny weather. C and K climbed the tower, took pictures, and we hiked back. I saw this cool wolf painted on a tree on our way.

We said goodbye after the hike and I wished them well on their journey home. It was a pleasant and relaxing Easter spent in good company.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Venezia, Kindsbach Germany

Pizzeria Venezia
Kaiserstrasse 58

I've almost given up the search in Germany for pizza that I enjoy. Most pizza here just isn't to my taste; the crust is often bland and too salty, the sauce tasteless. Once in a while I sample pizza in hopes of finding something tasty. This week, I was passing through Kindsbach, which is just west of Kaiserslautern. I read reasonably good reviews of Pizzeria Venezia so decided to give it a try.

I was warmly greeted by the waitress and picked a seat. As I perused the menu, I noticed a typical range of Italian dishes, including salads, soup, pasta, meat, and pizza. I decided on the bruschetta pizza and insalata mista (mixed salad).

As I waited for the pizza, I looked around the restaurant. It's located in the ground floor of a hotel. The entry way features a bar area and tables; additional tables are in the back. Outdoors is a garden area for dining during better weather. Parking is available in front of the restaurant.

The mixed salad was large, with fresh, varied types of lettuce accompanied by shredded carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It was covered in a vinaigrette that has a touch of a mustard-taste. It was a decent salad, though the dressing was a bit thickly applied (which isn't uncommon in Germany; ask for the dressing on the side if you prefer a thinner application).

I had asked the waitress how big the bruschetta pizza was and she told me it was large, but when I received it, I was still struck by how big it was; I'd say it was about 14" or so. It's composed of a somewhat thin, wood oven cooked pizza crust topped by a thin layer of pizza sauce and then with tomatoes in a sauce of vinegar, olive oil, and herbs. The tomato topping is added after the pizza bakes so it's room temperature.

I was very impressed by the crust; I think it's the best I've had so far in Germany. Coming from a wood fired oven, it was flavorful and the right combination of crispy and chewy. The sauce was a bit more sweet than I usually prefer but it was still decent. The bruschetta topping was very fresh tasting.

I would probably visit again; I'd be curious to try an actual pizza there as the bruschetta pizza appetizer was quite good. I paid 10 euros for the large meal. The waitress was friendly and efficient. If you plan to visit, do allow extra time for the meal as the wood stove takes longer to cook.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Osterbrunnen of Kindsbach

I saw several signs in Kindsbach (a suburb of Kaiserslautern) for the Osterbrunnen, or the Easter fountain. The Rosenverein decorated the fountain with eggs and greenery. Fancy, huh?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Signs you've gone native in the Pfalz

Expats moving to the Pflaz region of the Rheinland-Pfalz state in Germany might start out with one set of expectations when moving here, but as they become more native, they realize what's really up.

Here are some signs that show you've gone native:

1. People ask you about the beer in the area and you tell them about the wine.

2. You might have a dirndl or lederhosen to wear in Bayern, but you know it doesn't really have a place here.

3. You know that with the slightest excuse, there will be a gemütlich wine festival.

4. You say "jo" instead of "ja."

5. You know that Saarland is not the most awesome vacation place ever, as much as they'd like to think it is.

6. You giggle when you think of Helmut Kohl making foreign dignitaries eat Saumagen.

7. Heck, you've eaten Saumagen yourself (even if you may or may not be vegetarian).

8. You know that Flammkuchen is where it's at.*

9. You know that closing down the local highways during the summer means two things: wine + bikes.

10. You and the Pfälzerwald are besties. You might even have nordic walking poles just to prove that (even though you're more likely to use them on the flat paths).

*Even though it's grammatically incorrect.