Saturday, August 29, 2015

Whoa, can I eat this right now?!

I was picking some blackberries today and some gangly, goofy teenage boys wandered by.

"Are those berries?" they asked me.

No, they're basketballs, I wanted to say. However, that would sound mean and I harbored no ill will toward the boys so I told them yes.

Super eager kid climbed into the berry patch and asked me if he could eat some berries, "like now."

I told him that if he was hungry, of course.

He dug in and gave some to his friend. "Whoa, this would make really good lemonade!" he exclaimed.

I tried not to laugh since lemons are what make lemonade and I think he really meant juice. However, to be fair, there is lemonade with other juices added, so why not.

"Thank you, ma'am!" as he left. As if it weren't already apparent, he's a military kid.

The kids cracked me up. You'd think they had never seen wild berries before! To be fair, maybe they haven't. Then I thought of my experience and realized that I've never really paid attention to them before moving here (where they're abundant; thank you Pfälzerwald!) so it's not as if I had really seen any either. I've obsessively researched edible plants in books and online in the last several months and I've learned much since then (with more to go!). We all have to start somewhere and it's fun to see people start to really notice the nature around them.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moo the kid

You know how (human) kids are sometimes riled up after guests leave and don't want to go to bed? Well, I invited a friend for dinner. She fed Moo a bunch of treats then left. Afterward he was riled up and mooing outside my door. Naughty kitty!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Starting on German B2

My next class for German won't start for a while yet but my tandem partner and I finally had the brilliant idea that we'll begin work on the B2 book. I hadn't thought to ask her to teach me before, but it's a great idea; she's taught a nephew German before and she teaches other subjects too. She is very educated, knows German grammar well, and speaks excellent hochdeutsch.

I was a bit worried that it might be asking a lot to have her teach me. However, she had a great idea and it makes the situation feel more equitable: after I do an exercise, she will then translate it from German to English. I'll help with the nuances and grammar in English so we're both learning. It worked great for us, and I even assigned her some homework ;)

As I was flipping through my B2 book, I was surprised that the material seems mostly be a review of what we learned in B1. It does go more in depth on some of the rules and I'll welcome the opportunity to review more before I take the B2 language exam.

So, for those who've completed B2 - what are your thoughts? Is it a lot of review or are there new grammar concepts?

Monday, August 24, 2015

My week: August 23 ed.

The theme of this week was: More Foraging! It was also an opportunity to introduce someone else to foraging since I had a house guest. I've foraged so many blackberries that my freezer is just about bursting with the fruits of my labor (har har).

I asked my guest what he wanted to do. I suggested foraging and a bike ride around town. He agreed and we grabbed my bikes, heading off to the berry patch. As a light rain fell, we picked berries. I told him how the other guys had climbed the tree to pick Mirabellen for me but I was a bit horrified, worrying if they'd fall out of the tree. He thought that was amazing so climbed up the tree himself to get Mirabellen! Not to sound like a nervous Nelly or anything, but I'd feel so guilty if anyone fell out of the tree when trying to help me.

All was well and we toured town with my bike pannier stuffed with fruit. My guest was absolutely thrilled; he kept thanking me for the wonderful night out in nature. That made me smile; not too many people get excited about dodging brambles in the rain.

I went on several other berry picking expeditions during the week, listening to the new Tunde Olaniran album as I did so (it is excellent). After picking the berries, I froze them in a single layer pan and then threw them into a bag in the freezer to keep them.

On the weekend, I joined my friend D on a trip to the Wildpark Betzenberg in the eastern edge of Kaiserslautern. It's exactly what it sounds like: a park, full of wild animals, in the woods. There is no entry fee and no gate, for that matter; just walk along the paths to the pens.

A previous coworker had visited the park and swore that the "wildcat" was just a house cat they stuck in a pen. For some reason, I thought that was hilarious, imagining that the previous wildcat died and someone said, "oh, let's grab our cat Karl and stick him in. No one will notice."

Yes, that's completely silly, but it is striking how similar the wildcats are to regular domestic cats. In one cage, there was a momma and her kitten. He teased her, pouncing on her tail. He was a cute little scamp! I grabbed a picture of momma cat.

I really didn't do a lot this week but I definitely enjoyed relaxing, foraging, and spending time with friends.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Is that Denglish for "beefy sizes?"

I stopped by Globus the other day. There are several other stores in the front part, including Adler, a clothing store.

There is a sign in the window, helpfully proclaiming in English the services that the store offers to help its American clientele. English is spoken, VAT forms are accepted, and there are "special sizes."

In other words, there are beefier sizes since the Americans may not fit into the German sizes. It's interesting the effect that the American population has had on the Kaiserslautern area.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

My week: August 16 ed.

I did quite a bit of lounging around this week because the week before was the huge event at work that I had organized. In between the lounging, I got out and foraged tons of blackberries. I have several patches that I visit and they're just bursting with fruit. My freezer is doing the same now!

-I drove to the Rursee this weekend, which is located in the Eifel region of Nordrhein-Westfalen, about 2.5 hours north of here. I visited a friendly acquaintance, B, and her husband M. I had been really looking forward to some boating and perhaps some swimming. We had some hot weather leading up to the trip but didn't it just figure that by the weekend, it was cold and intermittently rainy! I wasn't going to bring my jacket but grabbed it at the last minute, which was a wise decision. Don't get me wrong; I like cooler weather but it was such a tease during the visit where I had intended to make full use of the lake.

Upon my arrival, I met M, B, and two of their friends who'd been visiting. The friends were a German and American couple. I was excited to find out that the husband is an apprentice carpenter because I wanted to pick his brain about how to host one of the Wandergesellen, or wandering carpenters. It's an old tradition where some choose to wear Tracht and wander for a time following their training. They offer to do some work around a host's home in exchange for lodging and food. I thought that it was a cool idea and would love to host someone like that and hear his stories. B's guest didn't know anyone personally but mentioned that there are websites where one can try to find the wanderers along their routes. Maybe that will be one of my goals: to find one of these wandering carpenters so I can grill him learn about his travels in the pursuit of Knowing More Things.

After a pleasant lunch, the other guests left. B took me for a walk through the area. The Rursee and Eifel region is beautiful; mountains and lakes/reservoirs snake through the area and the Eifel was recently made into a national park. Opportunities for outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, bicycling, and boating draw people to the area. We visited downtown Simmerath where elderly Germans, kitted out in Jack Wolfskin and other weather-suitable attire, bustled by, using their walking sticks to propel themselves through the light crowds.

We even saw some Turducken Thingies! I had to tell my silly story of my first time seeing Egyptian Geese in Amsterdam. It dawned on me that calling them Turducken Thingies is not really accurate because they're more like Gucks or Dugoos since it's not incredibly apparent whether they're geese or ducks.

On our way back, we heard music and saw a beer stand set up in a courtyard of a kindergarten. I absolutely had to know more about this so B agreed to go inside. The Schützenverein, or shooting club, was having a celebration during the weekend. I drank some water and B had some beer. Neither one of us had to pay since apparently the Schützen König (king) was buying everyone's drinks that day. It's part of being king, I guess. I'd certainly join that kingdom!

The next day, we took a boat ride around the Rursee. Even though M and B have lived in the area for years, they hadn't taken it themselves yet. The ride ended at the dam, which was near a Dutch-held campground. That put me into a fit of giggles as I wondered if they had brought enough toilet paper and supplies from the Netherlands (or didn't ahead of time, and bought them in Germany since it's cheaper here). Thank you, Stuff Dutch People Like, for letting me know the ways of my kinsfolk.

A view from the dam. There were birds on the barrels but they weren't Turducken Thingies.
On the way back from our Schifffahrt (hehe - and isn't that a ridiculous number of f-s?), we came across a jolly good time at the Schützenverein's celebration and of course we had to stop. The brass band played, people drank beer, and people prepared to shoot a gun.

Yes, you read that right: the Verein was having a shooting tournament in the courtyard of the kindergarten. For the record, school wasn't in session and the gun was an air rifle, mounted on a stand and directed at a (reasonably) well-insulated target on a stick. It didn't seem as if too many things could go wrong, despite the drinking.
A target on a steeeeck!

I wanted in.

I'm in no way into guns but in a relatively safe environment with a gun that would cause minor damage, I was cool with that since I believe that it's important to embrace new experiences. I also don't drink beer so that makes things slightly more safe. I signed up to shoot and took my turn with the others. I was the odd one out because I wasn't drinking a beer in between the rounds; it seemed as everyone else was, and once in a while they'd put forth a jolly prost-prost-prost type of cheer. I always love me a good party atmosphere and this was perfectly wacky enough. I mean, the Schützenverein is located in the basement of a kindergarten where they shoot inside during inclement weather, for goodness sakes! Who thinks that is a great idea?

Look at all that flair!

I did think that everyone's uniforms were cool. They had all sorts of pins and medals and stuff (S from work called it "flair"). I've been to an actual Schützenverein lodge in the Pfalz forest by my house once. It was kind of not on purpose (okay, totally not on purpose; R and I got lost on a bike ride) and there was a creepy jackalope on the wall and a general Deliverance type of vibe as we purchased our drinks. Despite that, and despite my feelings of ambivalence bordering on not liking guns, I have to say that I'm a bit intrigued by the concept of a Schützenverein. Since they wear unusual costumes, prance around, listen to brass bands, and shoot at pieces of wood, I must admit that it's a bit intriguing.

With these thoughts swirling around in my mind, I soon said goodbye and thank you to M and B for the lovely weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

When learning German gets real

Learning a foreign language is a multi layered affair, taking one from the beginner's pleasantries and introductions to more meaty topics of discussion as one attains a higher level of language proficiency. My progress in learning German has been much the same but some of the progress has been jarring.

For example, in the early lessons, we learned to say our names, where we're from, and what is our favorite animal (duh, Katzen!). As we learned more, we were able to order from a restaurant, describe a layout of an apartment, make an appointment, etc.

I knew that stuff got real when we got to the chapter where we had words like "poverty," "war," "unemployment," etc. In my coursebook at the American university, it was a really jarring chapter. The previous two chapters dealt with finding an apartment and watching tv shows. It was happy-go-lucky. "Klaus, how many bedrooms does the apartment have?" "What is your favorite tv program?" "Do you like Tatort?" (Note: I have yet to find a German who doesn't like that show.)

Then, boom - pun intended: homelessness and war appeared in one of the last chapters! Uh, what? Wait a minute, let's go back to Klaus and the apartment. Nope; apparently the authors decided to douse us in the cold reality of everyday life and the depressing vocabulary from the chapter. At that point I knew that our German learning just got real. We were past the pleasantries and Quatsch; we were ready to tackle conversations about serious, pressing topics.

In the Volkshochschule, we learned another important skill to have in Germany: how to schimpf someone and how to respond to schimpfen (how's that for some Denglish for you?). In other words, we learned how to scold and how to defend oneself from scolding.

That was so quintessentially German to me that it cracked me up. Loads of expat bloggers loooove to wax poetic about the German love for scolding. If I don't read some offhanded blog entry about how people are "always" getting schimpfed for crossing during the red pedestrian light, I'm almost surprised. For the record, though, this has not happened to me (yet).

The Volkshochschule book taught us how to tell someone when he's doppel geparkt (double parked), how to scold him, and at which point one should break out "Ich werde jezt die Polizei anrufen!" which has a different meaning from "Ich werde die Polizei anrufen." (The first is a warning about calling the police and the second indicates that one will actually do it.)

I've taken the schimpfen lesson to heart. I was just about ready to declare the following to those whose dogs have taken a dump in my neighborhood and are about to leave without cleaning up: "Sie haben etwas vergessen." (You have forgotten something.)

My problem is that I'm not quite fluent enough to respond to sarcastic retorts. Back to the books for me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Kaiserslautern Tauschbox is back!

The Tauschbox is a community project where one can drop off unwanted items (usually clothes, books, and small things) and pick up something too. There had been a Tauschbox formerly located in the Stadtpark area but after vandalism issues, the Stadtteilbüro now houses a smaller version that can be rolled into their building during closing times to protect it. Here's a link to what I wrote about the original edition.

This is the new(ish) Tauschbox; see the flash of yellow? That's it.

Interested parties can visit the Tauschbox during the Stadtteilbüro's opening hours; check out their website for more information.

Stadtteilbüro Innenstadt West | Königstrasse 93 | 67655 Kaiserslautern

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My week: August 9 ed.

Whew! That was one heck of a week. I was responsible for a training event at work for our staff members from all over. I coordinated more than 12 different speakers for the event, found us a free place to have it, made the arrangements for everyone's travel documents and lodging, and basically took care of everything. The hardest thing about this wasn't any of that, though: it was the bureaucracy of just getting the event approved. I have been working on this for six months; no joke! It was astounding how many layers of requirements that must be met to pull this off. We even had the person in charge of our entire program worldwide come in for the training. Everyone was really happy with it; I am both relieved, pleased, and exhausted.

-I took our visiting colleague to Heidelberg this weekend and saw the castle ruins for the fifth time. It was too dang hot and I was still tired from the training so I tried not to droop too much. It's easy for me to take people to Heidelberg because I know the city well and it's atmospheric. I have to giggle, though; people who visit from the US talk about it reverently and get so excited about visiting it. For me, it's just where C lived and I like visiting it in an everyday type of way.

After our jaunt in Heidelberg, we met up with my friends C+K (a different C from the Heidelberg one) in Neustadt on the way home for dinner together. My colleague really enjoyed meeting them and commented on just how lovely they are. It's true; they're so sweet!

-On Sunday, I met up with C+K in Dahn for a hike along southern Germany, about 20 miles from the French border. It's a beautiful part of the Wasgau area with trails through the forest with random large sandstone formations jutting up. Along the way, we stopped at Burgruine Altdahn, the castle ruins. We climbed up the crumbling former castle as lizards scampered ahead of us.

The day was rather humid and as we completed the last third of the hike, things started to heat up. I usually don't have a problem keeping up but I was lagging that day with the heat and lots of ascents. Seeing the parking lot at the end was a relief!

We followed up the hike with Flammkuchen at Brauhaus Ehrstein in Hinterweidenthal and had a view of the Teufelstisch, which is a rock formation named for a "devil's table." I look forward to that hike in the future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

If Moo fits...

...he ships!

Luckily enough for me, he doesn't fit, no matter which way you cut it. Moo doesn't agree on that count but he won't be shipping out at any time soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My week: August 2 ed.

I'm settling into having some more time since my classes are done. It's been relaxing; I've been using the time to go foraging wild foods often. One evening I was at peace in the blackberry patch for an hour as I picked a quart of berries. This activity is quite soothing; unless one wants to get ripped up by the thorns, one must concentrate, move slowly, and act deliberately.

-I received my test score for the test from the German class I took. I got a 73%, which is apparently "satisfactory." If it were a normal uni class, I would think that is quite a bad grade but I was in the top four scores of the students taking the test. None of that even matters since I only take the classes for funsies and general knowledge at this point. I had a major difficulty on the test because two of the recordings were so garbled that no one taking the test could really understand them and on another section, the instructions were very unclear. It's frustrating to do poorly on a test because of problems with the test design, not one's lack of knowledge. Oh well.

-I rode the Autofreies Lautertal path today; it's where the B270 closes between Kaiserslautern and Lauterecken for bikers and roller bladers. I went with a new acquaintance and we enjoyed the ride. I did have to convince my companion that we should take the train back with our bikes. The route was 34 kilometers just one way and I didn't have a lot of steam left to go back the way we came. I'm not sore tonight after the ride so I'm crossing my fingers that this theme continues tomorrow.

-My friend from Munich surprised me with a nice visit. We went out to dinner.