Thursday, December 29, 2016

Quoting my friends

I'm so lucky to have fun, funny, creative, intelligent, and wacky friends. Sometimes what they say gets me in stitches.

One friend said, "He's so awesome that I'd like to trade brains with him."

What a strange, but funny, compliment. 

Another friend, who has performed on stage, said "My favorite thing to do on stage is to die. I love dying on stage. I got married 10 times on stage and that wasn't as interesting. I'd much rather die."

This one slayed me. What funny things do your friends say?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Even more about the Weinachtsgurke!

On the eve before the eve before Christmas (don't get lost in that one), the New York Times even has published an article about the Weinachtsgurke. 

Go take a gander at the article; they even mention Frankenmuth, Michigan, just as I had. (I beat you to the story about seeing it there, NYT. I'm ahead of the curve!).

However you plan to spend the next few days, whether it includes a pickle or not, I wish you peace and happiness.

Monday, December 19, 2016

In which we violate societal norms & start a new holiday tradition

My lovely friends invited me over for some "wichteln," which was very enjoyable (but also a bit confusing, because of my understanding of German, or lack thereof). They had decorated for Christmas and even created a jaunty, if not lopsided, gingerbread house.

We ate dinner, played Dixit (my new favorite tabletop game, though it's certainly not new), and exchanged small gifts. Then something interesting happened. My friend had been joking (or so I thought) about eating the gingerbread house. Imagine our surprise when she brought it to the table on its tray and presented it to us, as one would a glorious turkey.

We actually ate the gingerbread house*! Do people actually do that? Where will Hansel and Gretl live**? Did we violate social norms somehow? Or is this not so unusual? Have you heard of anyone doing this? I did make a joke about Germany being really good about recycling so we were merely doing our part.

Despite it being slightly dry as a result of being displayed for 3 weeks, it tasted good. We knocked off the "shingles" (Haribo random gummies) and then started chipping off the gingerbread facade.

It was so enjoyable that we plan to repeat the experience next year. For some reason they want to build me a Barbie gingerbread house. Of course I had to tell them about the Barbie dreamhouse in Berlin and that whole story. Somehow we decided that we'll make a gingerbread house to eat in June so we'd have something to look forward to, and that it would be a Barbie beach house. I love my wacky friends.

*Not all of it, technically.

**Okay, so they probably ran for their lives or something like that after the witch tried to eat them, but still!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Two of my obsessions combined in a disconcerting Christmas scene

I'm a bit obsessed with roadside candy machines (if you are obsessed too, click the tag for them). I like them because frankly, they effect both curiosity and revulsion in me. I always wonder who'd be cool with eating the candy in them because the machines are outside and don't look particularly clean.

I'm also fascinated by a Santa Claus decoration I've only seen in Europe: a Santa who's usually tacked to the side of a building and appears to be breaking in. What the heck? Is it because many modern houses don't have proper chimneys for him to enter the house? Has he left his life's mission of giving behind and intends to become a burglar?

Imagine my delight when I walked by a Lokal (local bar) in Kaiserslautern and saw Santa using a ladder and a roadside candy machine to scale his way into the bar. He's like the high class MacGyver of home break-ins/or gift distribution.*

*Or he's a bit drunk after visiting the Lokal and doesn't realize that he's next to the door and could have used that instead.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I saw the Weinachstgurke!

I wrote about the time my German friend asked me about the German Christmas pickle, which she couldn't believe was true. I have one myself, and it's a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a pickle. Americans believe that placing such an ornament and rewarding the first child who finds it with a gift is a German tradition. Ask most Germans about it and they will exclaim in disbelief, "Hä?"  (or even better yet, "Das ist eine Verarschung!," as my friend said) and then tell you that it's not really a German tradition and they don't put them on their Christmas trees.

Imagine my delight when I visited the Pfalzbibliothek and saw the Weinachtsgurke display. The library hid a Christmas pickle in its Christmas tree and included a description of its legend (which might or might not be made up by Americans).
I translated the yellow sign and this is what is says: 

"An old custom is revived

Yes, you have read that correctly. Pickle. More accurately said: the sour pickle.
The “German Christmas pickle” is an old custom allegedly from the 20th century that is very popular with the Americans. The Christmas pickle is hung in the Christmas tree and must be found without touching the tree. The lucky winner gets to be the first to unwrap his gift.

This tradition allegedly developed in poor families who couldn’t afford gifts for all the children. Whomever found the pickle received the only gift.

The second historical story is based on a legend from the Citizens’ War. John Lower, a Bayerisch soldier, was taken captive by Americans. Completely weakened, he asked for a cucumber as a last meal. Amazingly, he regained his strength and every year after that he hung a pickle on the Christmas tree in thanks.

This area is mostly pickle-free, to the astonishment of the Americans. However, from year to year the number of families decorating their Christmas trees with pickles grows.

In our Christmas tree, one is hidden. Searching [for it] is wished."  (Source: Pfalzbibliothek, translated from the German by ATW).

I found it! Of course, I looked like a major weirdo looking for it, but oh well.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Haus der Nachhaltigkeit (near Kaiserslautern) Christmas Market Dec.10-11, 2016

My favorite Christmas market is coming up on December 10-11. It's only about a 15 minute bus ride from Kaiserslautern. With handmade and local goods and delicacies on offer, and set on grounds that abut the woods, it's a charming market.

Check out my more extensive guide that I wrote last year, with this link.

To experience fewer headaches with transportation, take the bus from Kaiserslautern. Driving there and parking are a nightmare but the bus is worry-free.

Friday, December 2, 2016

German class this semester

This semester, I'm taking a B2.2 German class. I remember the first class that I took at the Uni; I felt so lost on campus and nervous about attending lessons entirely in German, even though I had already earned an Associate degree in the language.

What a change there has been in the last two years! Now I know the campus reasonably well and have met a decent amount of students along the way. I can find the class and reasonably easily converse about the topics, make silly remarks, and even better yet, join the class's grammar debates.

Yes, you heard that right. Since we're an upper-level German class, we've moved beyond regular grammar and are learning about academic-level usage, as well as learning about bettering our writing and expression. Along the way, sometimes we get into debates about grammar, usage, and other topics. Since I love language and grammar, it's right up my alley, and reminds me of home (we've debated redundant phrases and the pronunciation of Spanish at my family's holiday meals before).

Sometimes our class conversations are downright ridiculous though. We were reading an article about food waste and one of the example sentences noted that the bananas had "Stellen," or spots. This word effected confusion and chaos because there are other definitions for the word.

Then we somehow transitioned to a debate about bananas specifically, what color they can be, and the fact that they cannot be brown, according to one student. He needed to be doched and so then I extolled the virtues of banana bread, an excellent use for bananas that have gone brown. The other students didn't believe me that such a thing existed. I then shut my mouth because I realized that I was inadvertently part of the hijacking of the class. Our teacher is patient about answering our questions and we actually are quite engaged -- maybe too much so!