Friday, May 29, 2015

Paris gets tough on the love locks

French officials will remove the love locks from several bridges because of the damages they are causing, according to an article by in the Local.

Good, I say. I think that love locks, that couples use to deface "show their love" on public structures, should be outlawed. It is not right to damage public property. Don't get me started on those who carve their initials into trees, either, whether the trees are public property or not.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Budapest: Church figures holding buildings

I'm a bit obsessed with taking strange pictures of things as souvenirs. I can say that it's a cheap hobby as the pictures cost nothing.

My new(er) obsession is taking pictures of church figures holding buildings. I know it's supposed to be metaphorical but it's so over the top. Yeah, I get it; the person founded something or made the building happen.

Either way, I saw this relief in Budapest in the Buda castle area.

I imagine this exchange:

"Hey guys! Look at his! He's holding a building. Whoa, I wonder if it's heavy. Hey dude, cool building."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The afterlife of a Lebkuchen

I love love love having so many international friends. I mused in an earlier blog entry about what happens to Lebkuchen, the giant ones that one gets for one's sweetie at festivals, in their life following their initial gifting.

My friends, both Germans and expats from all over, told me the following, in an informal poll:

-hang it up
-"Either give it away, display it, or dip it in a nice chai to eat it"
-one friend he wanted to eat it but thought it might "kill the love" and also that they reportedly don't taste good
- "Girls will keep it for as long as they are in that relationship and afterwards they might through it away or it it. Boys will most likely eat it right away..... as they would probably not display it in their private appartement anyway!"
-Yet another friends said that she thought that they were never meant to be eaten but she had seen people eating them. She wouldn't recommend it though.

There you go! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Week: May 24 ed.

-I had German lessons X4 and a meeting with my tandem partner.

-I stopped by a nearby village to buy some garden tools because the garden is completely out of control. It was also the day of the Firmenlauf, which is when companies can send teams of employees to participate in a run through town. It took me 45 minutes to get back to my house. It should have taken 15 minutes. Sometimes I pine to live in a bigger city but when things like this happen, I'm thankful for my "smallish" Kaiserslautern since it's not too often to have really bad traffic here.

-C and I went for our last hurrah trip before she moves back to the US. It's both a sad thing and a good thing; she'll have a new experience but I'll miss my travel bud (and all around friend) for sure.

We took a short trip to Budapest for the Memorial Day weekend, leaving Friday night from Frankfurt Hahn and returning Monday night. I hadn't done much for planning the trip, which is not my normal style. I had already visited the city in 2010 and C and I both were worn out in advance of the trip; she from her upcoming move and I from being so busy with my normal activities. Plus, I'm three weeks into having four sessions of class a week. It's wearing me down.

Instead of rushing about during our vacation, we took our time and it suited us very well. We didn't arrive at our hotel until 1 a.m. on Saturday and ended up sleeping into 11:20 a.m. Whoa! The room didn't have a clock so it was disorienting to wake up and see that time on my phone. My phone hadn't been connected to a network so I thought that maybe the time was wrong. I checked the tv and it was correct. Oh well! It felt really good to sleep in.

After getting ready, we headed downtown to have lunch then explore. We had planned to try a different restaurant but Hard Rock Cafe caught my attention and I convinced C to eat there. I am not normally a fan of American food, but I love their nachos and haven't had good nachos in an eon so I couldn't help myself. The nachos were just as good as I had expected and the customer service was the best we've had in ages too. One of the waiters brought us our drinks and said "hallo Leute!" We ended up speaking German back to him and he was confused. He probably thought he was cool speaking to the Americans who couldn't possibly know German, getting it right back, and not understanding what we said because he doesn't actually speak it ;)

Following lunch, we stopped at the Grand Market Hall to wander around. It's beautiful and worth a visit to look around and also to buy some produce if one is sick of eating rich holiday food. Our next stop was the Hungarian National Museum, where we spent several hours.

Grand Market Hall
 A ride on the number two tram was the next stop. I recommend it as it's a good way to see many of the famous buildings along the Danube River downtown. We had the week pass so it was a great way to get some more use out of it.

Later we walked around some more then wandered into the nightlife district, selecting Vintage Garden for a light dinner for C and some delicious lemonade for me. It is a beautiful restaurant, decorated in a French countryside style with lots of flowers. C ordered a bread and spread sampler and a salad, noting that both were delicious. Our experience was soured, however, when we asked our waiter for the bill and he never brought it. We kept trying to catch the eye of other waiters since ours disappeared and they ignored us too. I finally called out "excuse me!" and caught someone. It took 35 minutes to pay and she never even came back to give us change! We were able to cobble together the correct amount so we didn't have wait another 35 minutes for change. I was not happy about this so I can't recommend the restaurant after that.


We had another late start, beginning with lunch at Al-Amir, a Syrian restaurant. Our waiter was very pleasant and attentive so that was a welcome change! We ate a variety of appetizers and some salads. It was a nice, lighter way to start the day.

The rest of the day, we stopped at St. Stephen's Dom and saw his famous right hand; toured the hospital in the rock on the Buda side, and took the cogwheel train up the Buda hills.


We wandered around the park surrounding the Szécheny baths, stopping at the Vajdahunyad Castle to see a toy festival and historical re-enactments (of what, I'm not sure). After a lunch at the restaurant in the park, we headed back to the airport and home.

Look! I have a wooden gun!

Dudes reenacting something. Investigative blogging at its finest.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Where the Lebkuchen Go

Lebkuchen, or giant hearts (often with cheesy sayings in frosting), are commonly offered for sale at German carnivals. Sweethearts buy them for each other.

I always wondered what happens to the Lebkuchen after the fair. Are they put on a shelf to be cherished forever? Do the owners risk their teeth and try to eat them?

Or, do they end up in a flea market, like this poor, unloved Lebkuchen did?

I then wondered: would anyone buy it and give it a second life? What would that person do with it? What kind of person buys used Lebkuchen?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A lowrider of a roadside candy machine

Low riiiiiiider...

here's a low riding candy machine in Nuremberg. It was about a foot off the ground. Is it marketing to children at its purest form?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pigeon tried to get his mack on

I was sitting outside while I was downtown and watched a male pigeon trying to mack on the lady pigeons. He got rejected despite his impressive show of fluffing himself up, cooing in a throaty way, and spinning in circles. He turned into a bit of a creeper, continuing to follow them even though they clearly weren't into the show.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's as if I have German bodyguards and translators

I speak enough German to get by in daily life. I can order in a restaurant, have a conversation about basic things (for 2+ hours, actually), ask for something I don't know much about in the store and receive a response in English. Hey, I lose some and I win some. That's cool.

The sad thing is that I don't usually speak German with my German friends, or for that matter, my expat non-German German-speaking friends, even though they even speak B1 or even better German. We usually have complex, intellectual conversations, sometimes about their studies and research (I hang out with a bunch of scientists and engineers and LOVE it because they keep my brain busy). I have no idea how to speak about that in German.

As a result, I think that it's not super clear that I can speak about an advanced beginner to intermediate level of German. Plus, I am embarrassed to speak to them in German. It was easier (well, slightly) for me to speak to a bunch of people in a local club when I hadn't realized that I was going to have to than it is to speak German with my friends. Go figure.

I've realized that my friends are a bit protective of me when we're out in public together. For example, when I was at the bakery with C and D, I was asking about a cake but couldn't think of the word. They rushed in, surrounded me, and supplied the word as well as the rest of the conversation with the bakery clerk. It was almost as if they were instinctively protecting me. From what, I don't know, unless it was the German language ;) Never mind that I've visited the bakery on my own in the past and have managed the transactions myself in the past.

I think it's actually a sign of kindness and concern that my friends want to help me. In that case it wasn't necessary, but I still found it cute. I was spending the weekend in another city with some other locals and told them the story.

I visited a cafe with the two new people (both Germans) and we were admiring the ice cream flavors. The employee started to explain the flavors but my companions had to stop him to find out if I knew what he meant. Instinctively, they flanked me, spoke to him in German, then translated the flavors. I was trying not to crack up. I could understand the guy perfectly fine; believe me, ice cream flavors are one thing that I have down pat!

I guess that's what I get for not speaking German with my friends and acquaintances. Again, I see it as a kindness that they're trying to help. I can always practice when I'm on my own, and if I ever get into a situation where I really need help with the German language, there are people who could help me. Not everyone receives the gift of friends who are pseudo-bodyguards and real translators.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My week: May 17 ed.

This was a fun week! It might be summed up as: learning German, traveling for work, celebrating men's day, hanging out with a sneaky Moo Doppelgänger, eating foraged salads and smoothies (and not dying, which is a mega bonus), the gaining of a new Moo fan without that person even meeting him, and seeing Nuremberg through the eyes of some locals. Oh yeah, and I also came to acquire Horst der Stinker.

-I traveled for work early in the week. The air conditioning was not functioning in the work vehicle so we drove for two hours with the windows down. I ended up with a mega headache, probably a migraine. I have heard from many Germans that having the air conditioning on in a car gives them a headache, but I'm rather certain that having air pounding one's ears while flying down the highway at 80 mph isn't so healthful either.

-After I rushed back to town, I stumbled through one German class. My headache was raging to the point that I could barely focus my eyes so I skipped class #2.

-I traveled again for work later in the week and decided to make a mini vacation of the trip while I wasn't working. I took my own car so there was no problem with air conditioning.

I stayed with three different hosts and had three very different, but fun experiences. The first family who hosted me live so far out in the country that their "village" is only about ten houses surrounded by farm fields. I arrived on the evening of a German holiday, which is both Ascension Day and Father's Day/Men's Day. The wife in the family told me that the men would be drunk when I arrived, but I was still welcome to stay. I was fine with that; it's not as if it's the first time I've been around drunk people and I've gone to other parties where I've only known a few people (and not even well) and had a good time.

Men's Day involves men getting together, going on "hikes," pulling a wagon of beer, and drinking the beer. They might get together for a grillparty afterward. When I arrived, the men indeed were in the middle of a grill party. They cheerfully boasted about their five mile walk. I asked how long it took and laughed when they said it took five hours. It must have been a very slow walk, I said. They replied that they had to stop at a bar along the way and played some soccer games with kids. That would explain why their pants were covered in grass stains, which they proudly (and tipsily) displayed. They even won one of the matches; they were especially proud of that.

It was an enjoyable evening; everyone welcomed me warmly and spoke English. They were incredulous when I said I could speak German too and kept switching back to English. That's fine; they were speaking the Franconian dialect and it is hard for me to understand it. One of the guys had studied in the US so we had a good chat about that. Soon, the Fraus returned from their own party and collected their men. I was trying not to crack up because it reminded me a bit of parents picking up their children from an eighth grade party.

After we cleared up from the party, my hosts and I spent some time hanging out, chatting amicably. I also met their kitty, who looks quite a bit like Moo looks and is friendly too. He's a sneaky little bugger, for sure! The next morning, I stepped out of the room and when I came back, sat on the bed but heard a weird noise and bolted upright. Then something fuzzy touched me. It was the kitty's foot! He sneaked in and laid on the bed.

It's like Moo #2! Gray, white, and friendly. That's how I like kitties to be :)
 -The next evening, I stayed with a different host, out in the country side again, but not so far out this time. I have been interested in foraging wild plants to eat but have always been afraid to try on my own. L, the host, is incredibly well-versed in plants and alternative health so she shared her knowledge with me for a lovely evening. We "shopped" her garden for our dinner. At first glance it looks a bit overrun with weeds. After all, many of the plants are indeed what some would consider weeds: nettles, dandelions, and others. However, her collection yielded a very edible selection that made a delicious dinner salad, complete with dressing made from other weeds. L told me that if people knew how healthful dandelions are, they'd all be picked and eaten.

The next morning, she made me a delicious green smoothie made again from plants from her garden and sent me on my way so I wouldn't be late for meeting the next host in Nuremberg.

-I then met R and her friend E in Nuremberg as they were just finishing up breakfast, inviting me to join in. I was still full from the smoothie so I declined. E had brought an extra bike by for me to use. R and I took the bikes out to explore Nuremberg while E left for home to finish studying.

I was a bit wobbly on the bike; it was too tall for me, but that just made things a bit more thrilling all around ;) R showed me around, taking me to a retro/second hand clothing store that she likes. I liked it too; I picked out a necklace and shirt, which is Moo-colored (gray) and will join my ever growing collection of Moo colored shirts and sweatshirts (a bit of an obsession, perhaps?).

We then visited a section of town that was offering a Flohmarkt (flea market/yard sale) in the courtyards of building blocks. Apparently different sections of Nuremberg have them throughout the summer. One can find the sales by looking for a balloons hung outside the residences in the sections scheduled for the sales.

E met us up with us again and we hung out for a while at Eisdiele, which is a cafe, ice cream parlor, and art forum. I really liked the vibe there.  The ice cream was great, too!

R and I rode our bikes to downtown Nuremberg. I picked up some postcards then we stopped at the youth hostel in the former castle stables to see if an employee I knew was working that night so we could say hi. My brother and I had met him in September when we stayed there and he was super nice. Unfortunately he wasn't working but I did leave a note from him.

We biked back to R's apartment and she took me along the river. Whoa, it's amazing! There's a huge park that runs along it. People were grilling, playing games, and hanging out. R told me that there's a free festival under the bridge that's really good too.

After relaxing at home for a bit, we ventured out again to the supermART art exhibition at the former Quelle building. Artists set up their works throughout the building as music played and people sipped beer and wine. It reminded me of some of the art events I attended in Detroit; it had a homespun, alternative feeling. I really enjoyed it.

The next morning I was inspired by my earlier stay with L so I made a fruit/vegetable smoothie for R and it turned out well. We finished those up, I said goodbye, and drove home. I invited R to visit me and I talked up Moo so much that she's excited to meet him. He has a new fan club member already. We had gotten along famously and I hope to have her out to visit as soon as both of us have some free time.

It was an awesome weekend. People were so generous, offering access to their lives and showing me a really good time. Life is good.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Moo and the bubble wrap

I had a sheet of bubble wrap and I was absent-mindedly popping it. I set it aside and the next thing I knew, I heard more popping. Apparently Moo realized how relaxing it is to pop it too! Silly cat.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My week: May 10 ed.

-German class, 4 times per week. I'm not going to lie: it's eating up my time to the point that I'm tying myself in knots trying to get all of my personal things done. In other words, they're mostly not getting done. However, Moo care, work, and at least a minimal level of studying/homework for class are getting done and those are what count, right?

-I had a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant with my tandem partner.

-I had a free weekend day. Of course I ended up filling it up; I stopped by the Terre des Hommes bike market, the Stadtteilfest, Fairness (a thrift store I've been wanting to visit), picked up a few odds and ends for groceries, looked for henna to buy (with no luck so far),  cleaned the house, baked cupcakes, took a nap (definitely needed it after all the running around), and volunteered at the Tanztee. I was also possibly going to meet with another tandem partner to practice German but she wasn't able to. So much for a day "off," eh?

-My colleague graduated so our other colleague picked me up and drove us to the grill hut where he was hosting the celebration. It was a lovely event and we were happy to celebrate his accomplishment.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cold rocks, getting sick, and a friendly Frau

I visited the Terres des Hommes Fahrradmarkt in downtown Kaiserslautern yesterday. I wasn't really looking for a bike since I now own three of them, but I am nosy as all get out and wanted to write about it for you, faithful readers (it's cool if you cheat on my blog and read others too).

After I had looked around, I stopped by the Kuchen table and selected a lovely piece of rhubarb cake, so fresh that it was still warm from the oven. There was a table but people were hovering around it and I didn't want to do the awkward dance of seeing if I could sit there or not. Next to the table was a lovely, flat boulder, just the right height for sitting.

Perfect! I thought, and sat down to enjoy my cake. The crowd at the table departed and an older lady sat down. Seeing me, she became very concerned. I broke into the deer in the headlights look. You know, what those who don't speak German might think: oh no! She's telling me not to do something but it's in German so it's scary!

I then realized that, 1) duh, I can understand a decent amount of German so I needed to stop freaking out and listen to what she was saying; 2) she wasn't schimpfing (scolding) me; 3) instead, she was concerned for my health and welfare.

What was I doing that was potentially dangerous? I was sitting on a cold rock. She invited me to sit at the table to save me from the horrible fate that befalls those who sit on cold rocks. I didn't feel like moving so I said in German, "oh, thank you, but I will stay here." She was concerned, saying that I would get sick. I've been a bit saucy lately (aka assertive*, but not in a mean way) so I grinned and told her that it was nice of her to offer but I'm American and we don't seem to get sick from sitting on cold rocks;  I do it all the time.

I swear that I've written about this before, but I can't find it in my blog. There is this belief that I've heard echoed from many German women who are otherwise very scientific (literally, some of them are scientists): sitting on cold rocks is unhealthy and can result in illness. When I press for what can happen, I've been told that women will get bladder infections.

As someone who's sat on cold rocks and gone outside in the winter with wet hair (to the point that it gets ice crystals when it's cold enough) for decades and has suffered no ill effects, I have to call shenanigans on this one. Bacteria and viruses cause sickness, not cold rocks, and sitting clothed** on a cold rock would have no ill outcomes.

Following that, we had a nice conversation, mostly in German. She was there to find a new bike but she wasn't accustomed to bikes with hand breaks. She had been injured badly on a bike in the last year because she braked too hard. I wished her luck in finding a bike and told her about the Saarbrücken sale too.

Later it struck me as a little bit out of the ordinary that she'd speak with a stranger. Usually Germans aren't that into small talk with random people. This isn't to say that I haven't had it happen before. I guess what helps is that I (can) speak German (ish). The other way to get a German to talk to you? Be a woman and sit on a cold rock.***

*Okay, a bit of a feminist diversion here: why do women have to feel guilty about being assertive? Or, why is it, when we politely state how we feel about things and that we will be making our own decisions, it even gets labeled "assertive" but it's just the normal M.O. for men? This really isn't about the nice lady who was talking to me; she was being friendly and was concerned for my health, but my response started my thoughts about assertiveness and femininity.

**Not to be totally uncouth, but I guess there's a small chance that an unclothed person could pick up something from the rock, but it would have nothing to do with the rock being cold.

***For the record, the rock wasn't cold; I would say that it was slightly cool but that wouldn't have even registered had she not said something.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I was featured in Multicoolty!

A representative from Multicoolty contacted me invited me to write an expat profile for the site. It's a website that examines multicultural life in Germany, focusing especially on expats. Here's the link to my interview on the site and below is what I wrote.

Multicoolty Interview with Around the Wherever
From the American Midwest to expat living in Southwest Germany

What brought you to Germany?
I had been interested in living and working overseas since I had a semester abroad experience when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree. Quite a few years later, I found a job opportunity in Germany. I thought it would be a great way to do some good and to experience expat living.

What opinion did you have about Germans before coming? Has it changed? Have any of the stereotypes been confirmed?
Before my first trip to Germany, I had very little knowledge of the country and people other than what I had seen in movies. I alternated between wondering if people wouldn’t be very friendly or if they’d be farmers dressed in Tracht and drinking from huge beer glasses. I wrote more about it here:
I traveled to Germany and learned that neither idea was really what it was like here but I still didn’t have an accurate picture. When I found out that I would be working here, I read as many expat blogs as I could before I moved. From that, I came away with the idea that people would be scolding me for doing anything wrong (such as jaywalking) and that I would never be able to make any German friends.

I am thankful to find that both of those assumptions have been proven wrong! I have yet to be scolded and I have some wonderful German (and expat) friends who have been so kind and friendly.  I wrote more here:

What is it that you like/dislike in Germany?
There are many things to like about Germany. Personally, I like the quality of life. People seem, for the most part, secure. They have plenty of time off and know how to enjoy it well. They know that they can stay healthier since they have good health insurance and adequate sick leave in the event that they do get sick. I love that there always seems to be some sort of festival or event no matter what the time of the year. I’m a big fan of the big push for recycling and conserving resources.

Even though there are many positive aspects of living here, Germany does have some down sides, too. I have gotten so frustrated by people not respecting personal space. While in line at a grocery store once I was shocked when, without warning, a woman behind me grabbed me by the waist and shoved me to the side. Apparently she wanted to get by but an “excuse me” or tapping me on the shoulder would have been a much more polite way to ask!  I have also experienced people blatantly cutting in line or bumping into me on the street. It was definitely a culture shock for me because in America, people tend to be respectful of lines and apologize for running into someone.

What is your favorite thing to do/eat/etc. in/about Germany?
I live in the Pfalz region of Germany, which is a lovely wine growing area. I joke that if people ask about the beer here, we tell them about the wine. I really enjoy attending the culinary hikes and local wine festivals, where I sometimes try the area’s specialty, white wines.

I also enjoy some of the great outdoor opportunities available in the area. Since we’re in the Pfälzerwald, hiking is a popular activity. Additionally, I love to attend auto free days when the local two-lane highways are closed for bicycling and parties in the towns along the route. More about the car free bike rides here:

More about wine/culinary hikes here:

What would you say to a person who is thinking of moving to Germany?
Do research before moving here but come with an open mind and form your own opinions. Attempt to integrate yourself as much as you can; learn German (the Volkshochschule is a great place to start) and once you’re more fluent, join community clubs or organizations. Attend local events. Try to make some German friends, remembering that to have friends, it’s important to be a good friend (i.e. honoring your commitments, being punctual, and treating others as you’d like to be treated). Look for the good in others and in your newly adopted country. If you expect to have a good time, you probably will!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Places to buy used bikes around Kaiserslautern

I wrote an article for Germany Ja! about this. In fact, tomorrow, Saturday, 9 May, there will be a sale in downtown Kaiserslautern.

More about this sale and other places to buy used bikes in the article here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The joe that was too sloppy

Sloppy Joes, a messy and saucy cousin of hamburgers, are a part of American cuisine (if it can be called that). They include ground hamburger cooked in a tomato-based sauce (called, aptly enough, sloppy joe sauce; it's somewhat similar to BBQ sauce). The filling is served on a bun and is a common family dinner.

An American cafeteria* in Germany had vegetarian sloppy joes on the menu and I was intrigued. I ate texturized vegetable protein (made from soy) based joes when I was in college (and have since) and like them. I guessed that these would be something similar and chose them for lunch.

Imagine my surprise when I received a huge lake of sauce on a plate but no bun. I asked where the bun was and they said it didn't come with a bun. Um, isn't a sloppy joe a sandwich? I did finally manage to talk them into giving me a bun instead of a side of vegetables.

Things got even more komisch when I tried what was really just "sloppy sauce:" there was no "joe" in it. In the sauce, I found about a baby carrot sized amount of carrot shreds and about the same amount of onions. However, it wasn't enough to make it similar to a hamburg filling; it was more like a garnish. 

I was essentially served a plate full of sauce. By that time, it was everything I could do to keep from bursting into giggles. The situation was absurd; I ate a plate full of sauce for lunch.

For the record, it tasted good and I would have been thrilled if it had some sort of meat replacement in it and was willingly served on a bun. Heck, I would have even been cool with having lots of shredded carrots and onions as the "meat." I was a bit disconcerted about eating sauce for lunch.

I told my coworkers the story about this and we laughed so hard. When I explained the thing about the carrots and onions, S said that she imagined something like a population density map being used to demonstrate the ratio of vegetables to sauce. I started imagining how things can be measured by PPM (parts per million). Would the carrots be measured as PPS, parts per sauce?

*this cafeteria is American through and through, with American staff and American ingredients, so I can't blame the ridiculous situation on a misunderstanding of American food by those who are not from the US.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Oy vey, I understood Yiddish

I had a crazy moment this week: I was curious about Yiddish and pulled up some lessons. I almost fell off my chair when I could understand a good deal of it. Sure, I imagine that you, the reader, are rolling your eyes as it might be common knowledge that it is strongly influenced by German. However, where I come from, there aren't a lot of Jewish people and my overview of linguistics during college was very basic so while I knew it had European influences, I didn't realize how Germanic it was.

I was quite pleased that I could understand it. All this work I'm putting into learning German is yielding even more knowledge than what I had imagined it would :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Week: May 3 ed.

Phew! It was a busy (as always) week, full of adventures and German learning.

-My new German learning class at the uni Verein started. I had hoped to take B2.1 there since I am already taking B1.2 at the Volkshochschule right now but the Verein stuck me in the same level. I wrote to the leader of the program that I was placed in the wrong class and that I should be in the next class. Well, here's looking back to the February blog entry I wrote about finishing the last Verein class when I didn't take the test at the end of it and was wondering why everyone thought it such a shame I wasn't taking it:

"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."

Yep, my comment was prophetic: I had to take the test to get into the B2 class and Herr R wouldn't have it that I thought I should move on to the next class since I was already taking B1.2 at the VHS. So, here I am in B1.2 again. However, it's not all bad. My understanding is that the Verein's test is the same one would use to prove language proficiency in order to obtain citizenship in Germany. This will give me an additional opportunity to study and I don't have a deadline to finish all the classes to reach C1 or C2 level. The other bonus is that two of the girls from my previous class are in the new one and we sit together.

Taking both German classes does make for two very long post-work nights a week: I'm either in class or driving between classes for four hours, two nights a week.

-I went on a tour of the new K in Lautern Mall. I'm such an inhabitant of Nerdsville that of course I seized the opportunity to ask all of my burning questions about the mall. I even had my little notebook to record the answers and a blog post about it will follow. I'm sure you just can't take the suspense.

-I spent the weekend in the Stuttgart area with my friends C and K. I was invited to their Garten Party and stayed the weekend at C's parents' house. What a lovely time it was! I was thrilled to experience some very local German life.

C has been hosting this party for several decades now, since he was a teen, at his family's garden plot just outside the city. He invited the same friends who attended when they were all teenagers as well as some newer friends; I was the newest friend (we met in January). It was a lively night with a campfire, grilling, and good company.

I didn't want to crash the party too much so I decided that I would speak mostly German that night. I spoke German, but didn't understand as much as I had hoped that I would because of the heavy Schwäbisch dialects. One guy's accent was so heavy that I only understood about every 5th word! I did enjoy myself and spent a lot of time practicing listening. Their friends welcomed me and were friendly.

The garden. Everything is so beautiful and green now after the spring rain.
I spoke with H, who is African and is also learning German at about the same level where I am. She asked me why I wasn't drinking any beer. Well, the gardens have no official restroom facilities once the restaurant closed, so I didn't want to tempt fate. We were giggling about not wanting to be "Garten Pinkelerinnen.*"

We escaped the party unscathed and returned to C's parents' house. The next morning involved clean-up and then some time spent with R and G, his parents. They are absolutely lovely and welcomed me warmly the whole weekend. We had some nice conversations in German and English. They proudly showed me pictures of an American family who had previously been their tenants and they had befriended. It sounds as if they had become like family for R and G. I can see where they would have grown close, just based on how warmly R and G welcomed me into their home. When I was leaving for home, R hugged me and kissed me on the cheek, asking me to come back again so they could show me around the area more. G shook my hand and said that I was welcome back any time. It was a wonderful experience and I do hope to see them again.

*basically, it means garden (lady) pee-ers. I have no idea if it's really a German word; it probably isn't.

Friday, May 1, 2015

How Kaiserslautern celebrates Hexennacht

April 30 is Hexennacht, also called Walpurgisnacht. It's the night before May Day and the old belief is that witches met the night before to party, wait for spring, and do witchy things. In Germany, it's also a night of mischief for some.

I haven't noticed any signs of mischief in years past, but that's not say that there couldn't have been some. This year, I did see that someone had let loose with toilet paper and "decorated" some bike racks. There was also a dead pigeon next to it. I have absolutely no idea if it was meant to be part of the toilet papering or if it had already been there. Either way, it was disconcerting!