Friday, October 28, 2016

Well aren't you sweet, Aldi

It's now possible to pay with an honest-to-goodness credit card at Aldi, both in the US and in Germany. By credit card, I mean like a full-on Visa, Mastercard, and I'm sure a few others, and not just a German EC Karte.

When I received my credit card bill after shopping at Aldi, in the vendor name column, I saw this:

Cute, huh? The name is Aldi South says thank you. I thank you, Aldi, for finally getting it together and accepting credit cards.*

*Note: this post isn't sponsored, especially as evidenced by my not-so-commercial note.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My weeks: through October 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My week: October 9 ed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

What I missed from Germany while in Scotland

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Frankfurt Book Fair this weekend

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

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

Frankfurt Book Fair link with more information, in English.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

So convenient Scotland, compared to Germany

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

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

-Stores were open on Sunday. Yasss!

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

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

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

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

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

-FREE WiFi, all over the place.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My week: October 2 ed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My week: September 25 ed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 14, 2016

Moo insists on a sick day

I got sick this week, following a trip, and talked to my boss to get caught up on what I missed at work. During the phone call, Moo tried to hang up on him and then he also mooed right into the phone speaker. I guess Moo was upset that I was working a bit while I was sick?

Friday, October 7, 2016

In which my German skills are praised & we look like yokels

When K and I visited Bacharach, we had hoped to buy some neuer Wein. It's a fall special, beloved in the Pfalz, and is a sweet and effervescent drink made from fermented grape juice. The time window to buy it is short, as is its shelf life.

We decided to see if we could find some in Bacharach. Even though we were no longer in the Pfalz, we were in the Rheinland, a region of wineries, and even part of the same state, so there had to be some there, right?

When one buys neuer Wein directly from the grower, one can bring her own container. I happened to have a gallon jug in my car that I normally fill with water to take to work. Even though we didn't plan to buy that much wine, the jug would do in a pinch.

We walked through the wine festival downtown but had no luck finding a booth that sold neuer Wein. Giving up, we stopped at a gift shop so I could buy some postcards. In German, I asked the woman how much the cards were. She just about fell over, effusing about how wonderful my German was.

I held the postcards, shocked, then said in German, oh, thank you, but I still have a long way to go. She continued. I then told her I live here. She still gushed. Um, thank you, that is very kind, I told her.

It was definitely hyperbole, as kind as it was. I should be much more fluent and have better pronunciation, especially considering that I've been learning German for five years and practice with native speakers. If I had been a tourist, then yes, my German was darn good. For someone who've lived here almost four years, my progress is very slow.

I finally managed to pay her for the postcards and we moved on. However, finding no neuer Wein sellers, we came back and K asked her in excellent German if the woman knew of somewhere that we could buy it. Of course she mentioned the wine festival but we had no luck there earlier.

Then K held up the gallon jug and was babbling about how we live in the Pfalz and normally one brings a jug and buys the wine from a farmer on the side of the road.

The woman looked a bit horrified. I don't blame her, imagining drinking a whole gallon of neuer Wein. It's sweet as heck and would cause extreme gastrointestinal distress in such quantities. I also think we struck her as a bunch of redneck yokels who drank that thar wine stuff down in da Pfalz and we wanted to get our alky-hol on. Here the city was having a perfectly genteel wine festival where one could buy a glass of wine and it looked as if we wanted to swill it.

Oy vey. All we wanted was a glass or two each and it's cheaper to buy a whole liter than it is to buy a glass of it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

My week: September 18 ed.

This week, I spent several weeknights at home because I was worn out. Why am I worn out? I think that it was the usual suspect of poor sleep resulting from nighttime congestion related to allergies. I also think it was to do with work and learning.

Work is very busy right now and we've all been running in circles and working on multiple, simultaneous projects. At home, I have stacks (or should I say lists?) of (virtual) books to read because I'm trying to update my skills. For example, I really want to up my Photoshop, project management, online teaching, marketing, and video producing games (or in some cases, start them!). All of these skills are very relevant for my job, which is amusing because one wouldn't normally associate such skills with the type of job that I have. In addition, I'm working on my German almost every day and I hope to take the B2 test sometime next year.

It's starting to look as if my brain can't handle this so adeptly any more. Basically, since I've been 14, I've juggled a heavy load with education, work, and hobbies, and I could easily and quickly move among these. Several decades later, I feel about ready to come home and crawl into bed after a long workday that's been loaded with problem-solving. I love my job, no doubt, but man, have I been tired and a couple nights this week I just came home and read books in bed for the remainder of the evening.

I did meet up with my tandem partner A. and we discussed Redewendungen, or phrases and idiomatic expressions. This term, I'm focusing on higher-level German since I'm in a C1 class and it's a major component. Also, it will be useful for the B2 test. The middle and higher levels of German focus on language that one would see/use at work, school, or the news. It's becoming more academic as we move away from "hello, I'm soandso and my hobbies are..." to "I agree with the research, but I also think that further exploration is warranted." Okay, that's not exact, but it's the feel of what we're trying to do.

K came to visit for a girls' weekend and we traveled to the Rhein region for Rhein in Flammen, or "Rhein in flames," which is an event with fireworks along the Rhein River. It occurs five times a year from spring to fall in different cities along the Rhein. (More information here.) The celebration we attended was in Sankt Goar.

Along the way, we stopped and visited Burg Sooneck in Niederheimbach. We arrived just in time for a tour in German. The man giving the tour was very animated! I didn't catch everything he said, but K, although Romanian, is fluent in German and filled in the spots that I had missed. My favorite story was the one he told about a writing kit that was, as the guide put it, like the laptop of the 19th century.

Laptop of days gone by
After the tour, we visited Bacharach and found a wine festival in the town. We didn't actually drink any wine since we had been hoping for neuer Wein and there was only regular wine. The town is small, but beautiful. However, I recommend parking the car outside of the city walls, along the B9! We drove in to the narrow, one-way alley and I had to maneuver the car back and forth to go out another tunnel. It's not enjoyable.

Defeated in our quest for neuer Wein, we drove on to Sankt Goar. The town was crammed with people and cars in anticipation of the fireworks. We lucked out and found a parking spot about 3/4 of a mile from downtown. Even better yet was that we found a Weinstube and drank a glass of neuer Wein.

We continued the way down to the river and entered the town. There was freshly-made Flammkuchen so we shared one then watched the fireworks. There was an alternating show of fireworks in the river, from the castle on the opposite side of the river in Sankt Goarhausen, and from the castle in Sankt Goar.

K stayed the weekend so I made an American breakfast on Sunday. When I stay with her and C, they present an impressive German breakfast. Mine was not as varied but we had more than enough to eat. I made pancakes from scratch, using a recipe with an egg. This made them like a cross between a pancake and a crepe - quite good! I also made pepper and cheese omelets. I was very pleased that the one I made for K turned out well since I am awful at turning them over. I transferred it to a plate to turn it and avoided turning it into a crumbly mess.

K soon had to leave and I spent the rest of the day lounging around. It was just what I needed.