Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mail and the machines of the roadside

On today's episode of Roadside Candy Machines, may I take you to Sippersfeld, for no other reason than randomness?

You can mail a letter in the yellow box, buy a weird bead bracelet or mini soccer ball, or purchase some disgusting looking Bubble King with some sort of weird...growth on the machine containing it.

Num num.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Is it drawn on or cut off?

I'm fascinated by weird mannequins after a trip to Strasbourg.

During a vacation in Copenhagen this fall, I came across this guy:

At first I thought that his facial hair was drawn on. The more I looked at it, I thought that maybe it had been actually "hair" (okay, something synthetic) but for some reason someone had cut it off.

He also seemed a bit familiar. I wonder if he has an German Aussie cousin?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Germany: considering the environment

After a recent, long vacation (well, by American standards, anyway!) in which I generated a lot of waste and feel guilty about it, I've been reading about zero waste lifestyle habits. While I wouldn't necessarily dive into that lifestyle completely, I'm always interested in environmentalism and am taking steps to further reduce the resources I use (and to try to atone for the vacation's use of food in containers).

What I love about Germany is that as a whole people here do tend to show concern for the environment. The European Environmental Agency reports that Germany comes in second place for the highest amount of recycling in Europe at a rate of 62% (1). The country is moving away from using nuclear-produced power and is investing in wind and solar power.

As I've talked with some locals, we've had conversations about the environment and they've said how of course it's the right thing to do to recycle and to use less energy. It's not difficult to put this concern into action; groups like Foodsharing, help keep still-edible food from the garbage bin. Volunteers visit bakeries, grocery stores, etc. and pick up food that is still very usable but might be a day old or near its sell-by date and is still safe to eat, and then they give it away for free, especially concentrating on the needy (though often anyone can pick some of it up).

Some communities, including Kaiserslautern, offer Repair Cafes. Instead of throwing away a pair of jeans with a hole in them, or that appliance that just doesn't run right any more, attendees can bring their items by to see if volunteers (including electricians, folks who are handy with a sewing machine, etc.) can fix them. Items can find some added years of usefulness after a repair; the Cafe suggests a small donation for the work, which is much less expensive than taking the item to a shop or replacing it.

On the commercial front, stores do not automatically give customers free bags and shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags. If a customer requires a bag, the store charges for it.

Some stores have gone a step further; for example, the Unverpackt ("unpackaged") stores sell products unpackaged, or with minimal packaging. How does this work? One can either bring her own containers, or can buy reusable containers in the store, and can then select the amount of food from a bin. Usually one would weigh the container, record that weight, fill it, and weigh it again, paying for the merchandise but not for the weight of the container. I'm happy to see that there are Unverpackt stores within an hour or so of Kaiserslautern, in Mainz, Saarbrücken, and a future store in Mannheim.

All of these examples are just scratching the surface of what is done both locally and nationally in Germany to support a healthier environment. It's refreshing to see that there are options to help protect the environment, and that Germans see it as their responsibility to take part.

Work Cited:

1. Highest recycling rates in Austria and Germany – but UK and Ireland show fastest increase. (2016, June 03). Retrieved October 26, 2017, from

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's not stunning

I am stunned when advertisers etc. use the term "stunning" to describe things that are actually quite mundane, or at best, are interesting or attractive, but certainly do not warrant such a superlative. Or perhaps I exaggerate with the explanation of my response as I am more likely annoyed than just stunned.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

German efficiency myth

Germany has a reputation for running just like its kitschy clockwork, in an efficient manner. However,I find this to be quite inaccurate. German bureaucracy and business practices typically can be quite inefficient. Even the BBC thinks so; read their article here.

Take, for example, the A6 highway highway and bridge building project that spans above Kaiserslautern. When I arrived in the area at the beginning of 2013, the signs along the highway promised that the highway would be finished in 2016. At the end of 2016, the signs were changed to say 2018. I rarely see anyone working on the highway, and when they do, it's one or two lonely workers. This construction is very disruptive for people in the area and I doubt that it will be finished by 2018 as so much of it remains undone.

I think that many people think of German efficiency because of the automotive producers. Having visited the Mercedes plant, I did see much efficiency in use there. However, I don't see this as a German invention; I see it as coming from the Japanese auto producers, or at least resulting from their competition. Had the German and other international producers not adopted these methods and developed others, they wouldn't have been able to remain competitive.

In civil life, there seems to be no penalty for inefficiency so citizens and expats must resign themselves to long wait times and the possibility of slow, ineffective service both at government offices and in the business sphere.


Does this mean that I [metaphorically] shake my fist at Germany, or that I think that my country of birth is perfect? The answer to both questions is a very strong "no." However, I was surprised to experience the inefficiency for myself, as I too had heard that this is a very efficient place.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Representational Moo, disguised as cheesecloth ghost

You know those cheesecloth ghosts that bored crafters made several decades ago? (If not, go learn how. It's better than watching paint dry because you get to watch cheesecloth dry instead.)

Moo recently got crafty and decided to forgo the glue and shape a cheesecloth ghost out of nothing other than...wait for it...himself and a blanket.

Isn't he a creative kitty?

He was not amenable to me removing him from his artwork but I had places to go. He tried to convince me that he is a ghost but he was just too cat-shaped to be convincing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Souvenir roulette

If I buy myself a souvenir, usually it's something consumable because I have already enough stuff. My choice is usually to buy something interesting at the locale's supermarket, preferably either something I've never tried but read about in a foraging book or a foreign cookbook, or something that I have no idea what it is and even better yet, can't read the package. This purchase from Poland fits the bill nicely:

tea! I love me some herbal tea.

In this tea purchase, I bought some fennel tea, which I've had in some other mixtures before. There is also aronia (chokeberry) tea, which I recognize from books about foraging but have never tried before.

The last tea is chiang mai flower and I have no idea what that is so I thought, why not buy it to find out? Usually it's fun to buy things that are unknown. The only time it didn't work out was when I bought a mix for Hungarian goulash in Macedonia and couldn't read any of the various languages on it to find out how to make it and also realized that it probably involved using meat, which is not my thing. D'oh!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Finally, Germany does tortilla chips right

I feel that it is my duty as an American to tell folks looking for decent nachos in Germany to beware. Be very, very ware, if it were possible to be "ware."

Anyway, the German conception of nacho chips is something that is like a demented cousin of DORITOS® Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips. Please note that at least Doritos has the courtesy to note that the chips are nacho cheese flavored. Germany will just serve you "nachos" and fail to warn you that they'll be covered in some slightly-cheese flavored powder when you're expecting plain or salted corn or flour chips that are covered in melted cheese and other delectable toppings. Also beware if you go to a "Mexican" restaurant in a horse barn practically in the middle of the Bavarian nowhere because your "nachos" will be a Doritos knock-off and you'll get basically ketchup and a Cheez-Whiz cousin* on the side.**

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that Aldi had some nacho chips that were only "gesalzen," or salted. There was no mention of cheese, or any other dairy products for that matter, on the package. I had a hankering for some chips and didn't feel like driving to the commissary for some proper nachos so I took my chances.

They were good! The Sun Snacks brand nacho chips are crisp, salted just right (a good pinch of salt but not enough to make one feel as if she'd just been licking a salt lick), and inexpensive (about a euro or so). All they contain are corn flour, palm oil, and salt. I've seen them at Aldi over the last several months and hope that they're an item that will stay in the stores.

*I was surprised that they had access to something Cheez-Whiz-esque. Since I thought it would be unlikely they'd have that, I thought they'd at least use real cheese.

**Yes, I know, it's insane to order Mexican food in such a place. I'm glad that I set out with reasonably low expectations because they were met...or not met...or, well, you get what I mean.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A roadside candy machine done horribly wrong

I can't even...

or I guess I can. During a trip to Winnweiler, a suburb of Kaiserslautern, I came across a most horrible candy machine. It effected horrified and shocked laughter from me...

not because it was filthy and gross looking, but because one of the offerings. If you are a sensitive soul, read no further.

If you're bawdy, check out this awful humor:

In case you were not quite sure what they meant, they included another photo to drive the point home:

Oh my.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Understanding German public transportation: a guide

Germany has quite a decent network of public transportation and usually can get you from point A to B. However, understanding all of the various options, how they work, and even when they work is not always the easiest.

I've been using the system for more than five years and I am constantly learning new things about it. For those who are new to living in Germany, it's a steep learning curve.

Live Work Germany wrote a guide about using the trains, buses, subways, and street cars of Germany. It's very useful to help unravel the mysteries of the transportation system; you can read it here.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Not happy with Sicher German textbooks

I am relieved that the latest German class ended as I was running out of steam with it. We used a book that is, in my opinion, very poorly organized and difficult to follow; I was also very displeased with the same company's B2 book, both of which are in the Sicher! series. One learns the grammar that's spread out in tiny, nonsensical bits and bobs throughout the chapter then it's repeated all over the place in the back of the book in no particular order. At the end of the chapter, there's a short description of the grammar but it wasn't that clear.

It's the kind of grammar learning where the grammar is presented in use and the learner is just supposed to "get it"on one's own, to an extent. Yes, I realize that we were using the upper intermediate and advanced books and have higher skills at this point, but still...with some of these nebulous constructions, one needs much more.

I was so frustrated with the book and didn't feel that I learned the material well that I bought Erkundungen, the C1 book from the previous series we'd used before we were stuck with Sicher. With those books from Schubert Verlag, I felt that I learned the content well; chapters are laid out in a manner that makes sense and there are clear reviews at the end of the chapter that explain the grammar clearly. The book has a good flow and it's easy to thumb through it and find the particular thing one learned. Plus it includes an answer key, which Sicher doesn't. I don't like putting all the work into exercises without being able to check immediately if I completed them correctly in order to avoid burning the wrong answer into my brain.

I am either going to go over the Erkundungen chapters myself or see if I can find a teacher on my own before the Uni offers the next level of class in the fall. It's my goal to take/pass the C1 exam sometime next year or so and I doubt that'll happen if we keep using the Sicher books. It seems really difficult to retain any information from those books, and I'm certainly not the only student in the class who felt that way. It's ironic that we felt insecure after using Sicher.

The bane of my German-learning experience
Have you used the Sicher books? What is your opinion of them?

Friday, July 28, 2017


For those who are not German speakers, today's blog title looks slightly frightening, yeah? Do you wonder if it's something about not hassling the 'Hof (as in David Hasselhoff)?

It actually has nothing to do with that. Instead, it literally means "courtyard flea markets." In other words, it's a yard sale, German style. Since a lot of city dwellers don't have much room here, much less a full-on yard, people sometimes offer yard sales in the courtyard/parking area of their apartment building.

When I was visiting Nürnberg, a neighborhood hosted a sale and we bopped from Hof to Hof to see what was for sale. It was mostly your typical garage sale stuff, such as outgrown clothes, children's toys, and other ephemera. One particularly interesting Hof had prints from a photographer for sale, but all the other items were pre-owned.

Some cities even publish guides with the dates that the neighborhoods choose to host the sales as a group; Nürnberg is such a city, explained my newly made friend who showed me around.

Shoppers at a Hofflohmarkt
I didn't buy anything, but after the sales I did pick up Horst der Stinker (he is a toy) from a box at the curb, which is another, somewhat disturbingly funny story.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Richard the Lionheart Festival: Annweiler am Trifels 28-30 July

This upcoming weekend, there is a Middle Ages festival in Annweiler am Trifels, a bit west of Landau in the Pfalz. Its focus is Richard the Lionheart, who, although a 10th/11th centry King of England, spent most of his time in France. Richard had ties to Germany; he was imprisoned at the Trifels castle at one point.

I recently heard about this festival that is devoted to him. One thing that I love about it is that the mayor of Annweiler am Trifels is one of the costumed members of the festival. How cool is that? I can't personally go because I have another commitment, but maybe I'll make it next year.

For more information, check out this link:

Roadside candy machines of Nürnberg

Or Nuremberg, for those seeking an Anglicized version...

Several years ago, I visited the city after a work trip and was taken on a lovely tour by a local. We ran across several roadside candy machines and since I'm obsessed with them (or more likely the curious idea of who would actually buy things from them), I had to take pictures. My friends are accustomed to me screeching to a stop and whipping out a camera mid-sentence but I can only imagine what new acquaintances think. Then again, I'm slightly eccentric and make no effort to hide it so I think it's good to let them know early on what they'll be dealing with.

Anyway, watch out! Along came a sticky hammer, which reminds me of an overly hungry worker's tool kit after eating some cinnamon rolls (yes, I am always making very strange linguistic connections). This toy was accompanied by some boring ol' bubblegum.

The next one was partially filled with bubblegum but the other side was very exciting because it contained a "galactic surprise." Usually these aren't as cool as what seems to be promised but the illustration shows a car, a skeleton, a top, and a rabbit. Is it supposed to be something like space debris? It is unfortunate that I didn't find out.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

No one can agree

No one can ever seem to agree on how to say the food concoction "gyro." I've heard it pronounced like "jy-ro," "hero," "gear-o," and everything in between.

I saw this Arby's ad and it really tickled my funny bone. I think that's what I'm going to call them from now on.*

*actually, I'm more likely to call them Döner, even if they're not, because I've been living in Germany too long.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The current state of German learning

I took and passed the telc B2 German test this spring with a score of "gut," which is not dazzling but certainly acceptable. Now I'm finishing up a C1.1 class and had the thoughts below.

If you would have told me five years ago that the culmination of my learning German would be writing something like "Teachers stand in the middle of the ranking list, with an average of one third of the votes," I'm not sure if I would've done a *headdesk* or asked why I would even want to write something like this. Yes, I would like to attain a high level of German, but man, the advanced level (C1) is killing my soul with boring writing exercises right now. I guess that's what one gets when one is trying to pass a test that also serves as a fluency exam for admission to German-speaking university.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bike night with a German friend

My friend J and I had a perfect, imperfect night. We ate delicious Mexican food served with mediocre service then returned to my house to hurl insults as a team at my three broken bikes as we attempted to repair them. We both were flummoxed by the same cable and had moments of hilarity as he crammed his more than 6 ft. tall frame on a small folding bike with flat tires. We couldn't get the tools to work and cracked up as we realized that the fancy bike rack I bought is too tall for the basement. That's an excellent night in my book.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Extremes in expats bloggers' view on befriending Germans

It's an interesting experience for me to read expat bloggers' take on making friends with Germans. I've seen opinions originating ranging from the expat who's gone to one local beer festival so she or he thinks she or he's an expert on German life and culture but has no plans to learn the language or to delve deeper in contrast with the opposite, perhaps a person who's married a German, has joined a German club or association, has learned the language, and/or has plenty of German friends.

The latter usually says that Germans are just like anyone else (duh) and that some are more willing to make new friends and others are a bit more reserved about doing so (just as with anyone else). The other category of people who live in Germany but more what I'd call "on the surface" of it have said some...interesting things. To them, becoming friends with Germans is a source of fascination but  seems out of reach.

I've read things from them, as well as click bait articles from The Local, that posit that being invited to a German's home will probably never happen as they are way too private for that to happen. Well, maybe if you barely know the person, but in my circle of friends, we enjoy visiting at one another's homes. The only roadblock to this is that sometimes we're too busy or are traveling to get together as much as we'd like.

Another silly thing I've read is that it's almost impossible to make friends with Germans. They have their own lives and aren't necessarily interested in inviting new people into their circle. Again, I haven't found this to be the case. Will the random person you run into the street want to be your friend? That would be weird so maybe not. Frankly, I would find that a bit unusual in the US, too! However, if you're generally not a butthead of a person and you join a club or a social event and you put yourself out there, you'll get to know people and might even make friends -- which is exactly the same in the US.

So, if you'd like to make friends in Germany, the best advice I can give is to join a club or an association. Be friendly but not too pushy. Ask the person if he or she would like to meet up - and be ready to have a specific date in mind and for the first meeting, a public place is best! If you're American, don't pull our bad habit of being vague and saying "we should meet sometime" because the other person is likely to produce a calendar to immediately set up an appointment for a time convenient to both parties. Mean what you say and say what you mean; that's how things usually work here. If you want to make friends, be a good friend yourself. All of these things can be useful for making friends no matter where you are.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The German un-cabbage

The German language is fun, once one gets over how awful it is, at least as Mark Twain puts it.*

For example, you can make opposites of some words, especially adjectives, by adding the prefix -un. Okay, we can do that in English too so you're probably thinking, "so what?"

The cool thing about German is that this sometimes works with nouns.

Let me introduce you to a newly learned word that I enjoy:


This can literally mean "un-cabbage."

Unkraut: not this!

It actually means weed, as in the unwanted plant in one's yard.**

How fun is that? I'd like to start defining things in what they aren't.


*No, I don't think it's awful but at the beginning of learning it, I felt...lost.

**Although the more that I learn about foraging the more compassion I have for many weeds because they're EDIBLE in many cases!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don't be such a square, man

During a January visit to Halle (Saale), we toured the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg. Even before we reached the art, I was fascinated. The building has square toilets! Have you seen similar ones before? Maybe they're designed for Spongebob Squarepants?

Friday, May 26, 2017

This Kunstautomat is really arty

In January, my friend L. and I took a day trip to Halle (Saale). We had actually intended to visit Jena (the opposite direction) so obviously we were quite a bit off!

It was a happy accident, however. We bumbled through the city, visited their museum, and came across the Kunstautomat below.

It's an art vending machine and features local and regional artists. It puts the Automaten in Kaiserslautern to shame; or at least its colorful outside does! Even the money slot is happy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

76 Trombones...

Since I work for an organization with locations worldwide, teleconferences are ubiquitous for us. I prefer face to face communication but that isn't possible so I've learned to deal with teleconferences and to give trainings online.

They are certainly not without problems. During our last huge worldwide teleconference, someone put her phone on hold and the meeting had a soudtrack of the loud hold music...which was marching band music. This went on for about 5 minutes of the meeting. It was a new level of teleconference Hades.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Deutsche Bahn gives some mixed signals

On a recent train journey, the display on the train showed the message below as we were approaching the final stop.

Ha! It's very confused.

It says "Wir reinigen, - einsteigen!" -- We're cleaning, enter!

via: bitte nicht -- via please not

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

German public trash cans: what goes where

Non German-speakers, have you come across a trash can out in public and feel as if you need some sort of user manual to know that to toss where? Sometimes these trash cans are at least labeled in several different languages (usually in German, French, and English) but often they aren't. Sometimes there are graphics too, but they might not always make sense.

Let's take a look at a trash can together, why don't we?

So, meet Mr. Trash Can of the K in Lautern Mall. He has many cousins in the mall, too, and they're hungry for what you want to toss.

Now that we've made his introduction, let's take a peek at his three hungry mouths, why don't we?
Mouth #1, labeled Papier, is on the left. Can you guess what this is? Take out the "i" and you have "paper." Not too bad, eh? So, you'd throw paper in here, such as receipts, those flyers people hand you as you unsuccessfully try to dodge them during shopping, etc. 

Mouth #2, in the center, is for Kunstoff, which is plastic. It also might be labeled as Verpackung, which is packaging. This is where you can put empty containers. 

Mouth #3, on the right, is Restmüll, or garbage. It also might be labeled as Abfälle. In this Mr. Trash Can's case, you'd put whatever else doesn't belong in his other two mouths here.

A mouth not pictured here is one for Glas (glass).

There you have it! Before you throw something in, make sure that you pick the right mouth. You don't want to anger the rubbish gods nor those of the Germans who are just ready to get their Schimpf on.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Anger or the city hall?

In Naumburg (Saale), the city offers several destinations: Anger, the Rathaus, etc.

It appears that one can pick a state of unhappy emotion or the city hall. Perhaps if one visited the city hall and didn't find a desired outcome that could result in anger.

Or, it could just be that in German, "Anger" means a square/green. I guess it depends on the mood of the viewer.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Spring at the farmers' market

In Germany, the land starts to wake up and spring shows its face in about March. At the farmers' market, typical spring offerings start to show up in April. 

Bärlauch (ramps, which taste like a mild garlic), Spargel (white asparagus), and strawberries make their debut. 

Early in the season, Spargel and strawberries, especially that grown locally, is expensive. As the season progresses, the prices come down a bit. I wrote some more about Spargel in another blog entry, here.

Soon it'll be pick your own strawberries season, and if you'd like to learn more about doing that in Kaiserslautern, you can can read about it here.

Enjoy the flavors of spring!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Kaiserslautern Stadtteilfest: May 13, 2017

On Saturday, May 13, the tenth annual Stadtteilfest will occur in Stadtpark in Kaiserslautern. It's basically a city festival in which community organizations set up booths in the city park. They are available to answer questions about what they offer. Some sell food, books, or rummage sale items as a fundraiser. Gardening enthusiasts will find a plant exchange. Bring a plant, take a plant.

Where: Stadtpark Kaiserslautern (Pirmasenser Strasse 62 is a nearby address)
When: 1100-1800

1900: concert with Shaian
2100: open air movie theater showing Paulette

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My week: April 2 ed.

During the beginning of the week, I was in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a beautiful town at the foot of the Zugspitze Mountain, among others. I was actually there for work. It was so "difficult" to work in such an enviornment. Or maybe not ;) Plus I was able to work with some colleagues for whom I regularly provide support but very rarely see. I really enjoy that aspect because sometimes it feels a bit stiff and cold to conduct everything by email or phone call, especially when it's a support issue that's so much faster when addressed in person.

On the train ride home, I finished watching Heimat. It's a tv series that follows the lives of a family in the Hunsrück region of the Rheinland, which is somewhat northwest of Kaiserslautern. The first series covers the years 1919 until 1982. For those curious about how life in Germany was during this time, this series covers it reasonably well, at least from what I can tell from my studies in history. For example, one can see why National Socialism would have been attractive to some Germans at the time because of the promises it made during shaky economic times. The series is slightly twee and nostalgic but it gives a decent rundown of German history for this time period.

When I got back to Kaiserslautern, I met my tandem partner and we practiced more for the German telc test that I would take in April. Can I just say that test preparation sucks the joy out of learning German for me? Okay, maybe it's not so dramatic as that, but reading a controversial editorial or findings of a research study and expressing my opinion about it gets old. In the next German class, C1, it's going to be even more intense because that is the level that is required to get into German-speaking unversity programs.

During the weekend, I met some friends at the palace in Schwetzingen. I've been wanting to visit for years but the palace itself had been closed for renovations. It was finally open again and even better yet, the cherry blossoms were still around.

Spring showers bring...cherry blossom flowers, and cherry blossom flowers bring...cosplayers! I bet that you didn't see that one coming, huh? (hehe) Our group, including my friend and her partner (who's also my friend), their child, and my other friend A. gathered under the trees for a picnic and some great people watching. Ladies wearing steampunk-inspired gowns primped and posed under the trees. The majority of people showed the peace hand symbol (can that just stop please? Seriously?).

We shared quite a laugh because J thought that a security guard was cosplaying. Heck, I laughed really hard because initially I thought that she wasn't really a security guard, either, just someone in a costume. However, her body language was very police-like and I later saw her in the security office.

A. and I bought tickets for a tour of the castle. It lasted about an hour and traveled through one set of apartments. The guide asked everyone not to touch the fabric or furnishings in the rooms and even showed us a sampling of the fabrics and those we were allowed to touch. Of course people still touched the fabric in the rooms. Gah.

Later we toured the grounds and ran into literal forests of Bärlauch, or in English, ramsons. They are a cousin of chives and have a mild oniony and garlicky taste. I had been looking for them in other places and so badly wanted to find some. It was definitely a tease to find so many of them at the castle; I didn't dare pick any of them, whether or not there was a cosplaying (or not) guard around. Below is a picture of the Bärlauch at a farmers market and some of it on the castle grounds. They are a major symbol of spring around here and people go nuts for them. You can even find them for sale at times at the grocery stores; my friends saw them at Lidl. Local restaurants cook soups and other dishes with them.

Passing wistfully by the Bärlauch, we visited the back part of the palace grounds and came upon the mosque. It was built in the Turkish style during the late eighteenth century. A examined it and pronounced, "I hope you do not think that this is how mosques really look. This is not accurate."

That cracked me up as I saw this building, while beautiful, as a European vision of a mosque with its mysterious, lovely, undulating designs and Arabic. It was probably not meant to be accurate as it was constructed for a Christian ruler who wanted an exotic building on the grounds. A. squinted at the Arabic on the ceiling. She is an Urdu native speaker and can sometimes read Arabic. This script was too difficult because of its stylized nature.

After leaving the non-authentic mosque, we continued to visit the lake and ran across what I call a "turducken thingie" and of course had to explain my excitement and the backstory.

I found the castle worth a visit, especially during cherry blossom time. It's beautiful and definitely has some interesting flora and fauna.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Preparing for the telc B2 Deutsch als Fremdsprache test: describing a book

I've been preparing for about two months to take the telc test for the B2 level of German as a Foreign Language. While that sounds like a long time to study, keep in mind that it involved much procrastinating, gnashing of teeth, and metaphorically lying on my side in vocabulary defeat. The actual time spent studying is thereby diminished.

This is a little ditty that I wrote. On the telc test, one must describe something. I prepared a book description in case that came up. My friends kindly edited it for me because I still make errors and it drives me up the wall. Any remaining errors are my own.


Ich werde das Buch “The Math Myth” von Andrew Hacker beschreiben. In diesem Buch geht es um das Thema Mathematik im Amerikanischen Bildungssytem. Der Autor meint, dass nicht alle Schueler und Studenten in Amerika fortgeschrittene Mathematik brauchen.

Er fragt sich z. B., warum zukuenftige Englisch Lehrer Trigonometrie lernen sollen. Sie wuerden sie nicht unterrichten. Es faellt vielen Amerikanische Studenten schwer, die obligatorischen Mathematikkurse an der Uni zu bestehen. Deshalb fallen viele von ihnen im ersten Jahr an der Uni durch.

Statt unnoetige Mathematik zu lernen, schlaegt Herr Hacker vor, dass Studenten passende Mathematik lernen. Manchmal ist solche Mathematik nur Arithmetik und Logik. 

Meiner Meinung nach ist diese Idee perfekt. Ich hasse Mathematik und es ist mir schwer gefallen, gute Noten in diesen Kursen zu bekommen. Ausser in diesen Kursen bin ich eine gute Studentin.
Als [insert name of my profession here] benutze ich wenig Mathematik. Haette ich Buchfuehrung gelernt, haette das genuegt.


If you can understand German and/or just stuck this in Google Translate and want to read my...rant (?) about math:

When I describe this book, most of the people to whom I describe it become incensed and argue with me about its validity. Part of the reason for that stems from my lack of ability/desire to debate and effectively present this material to people who are touchy about the subject because they love math. The other part is that I'm mostly surrounded with scientists, engineers, computer scientists, linguists who are heavily involved with computers, etc. This pitiful English major won't find a common outlook in this group because math is their lifeblood. For me, it's painful and useless Kryptonite.

I very much agree with the author of this book and I think that the US's practice of forcing advanced mathematics on most, if not all, students is keeping those who have interests/abilities/and future studies that have nothing to do with math from reaching their full potential. Oh, and please don't just say that all it takes is the right teacher. I had an amazing teacher in high school for the two of three years of math that I took. I very much liked her and appreciated the effort she put into teaching and the enthusiasm that she showed. Despite that, I only received middling grades (in my other classes, I earned As) and instantly forgot everything after the test. My brain is not a math brain and frankly, there is no good reason for it to be as such anyway. I've had a good life and decent career without math.

Don't even give me the line that learning math teaches one how to think critically, either. I am good at problem solving and I am absolutely horrible with/absolutely hate/and find no use in my own life for math. I learned problem solving through other means, many of which include much introspection. For problem solving that deals with other people (whether they help solve the problem or they unfortunately contribute to it), I've turned to my studies in Sociology, Psychology, and Management. Figuring out how a bunch of numbers fits together doesn't prepare a person to work through an issue with a living, breathing person, for example. For many problems, using a style of reasoning gained from math study is just too cold and calculating.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's almost Mannheim Maimarkt time again!

The Mannheim Maimarkt is one of the many things I always look forward to in the springtime. If you're somewhat close to Mannheim, it's definitely worth a visit. This year, it occurs from April 29 to May 9.

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 goes through the end of this weekend. 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 1,70 euros more, one can also receive a roundtrip travel card in the VRN's service area (including Kaiserslautern) to use the train to get to the Maimarkt. 

More information is available at:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

So they made a list about Germany

and howdy-hee, it seems rather right on!

Plus it's not annoyingly chirpy.

Take a peek here since gosh knows I probably won't be writing anything of substance for a while. It's busy as can be in ATW land.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's not that enticing

We randomly received a magazine that tries to entice retired military members to make their new home in Alabama. One thing that the publishers believe that makes their state attractive to retirees is an event where one pokes poisonous snakes with sticks. They even included a picture for illustrative purposes. Oy vey.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The TV Show that just keeps on giving

I was on German TV a while ago. I thought that no one would see the episode. Hoo-whee, was I wrong. My neighbor's mother recognized me on it. I've only met her one other time.

Even crazier yet is that my friend J said that his parents, who live in another German state, called him to ask if his friend (moi) had recently been on TV.


I have never met his folks before.

I asked him how on earth they knew it was me. His response was that, statistically speaking, it was likely to have been me because of my demographics as well as the idea that Americans don't normally (always) try too hard to integrate here, especially those in the military community.

I'm working on achieving the level of Integrated As Heck, so that can stick out sometimes, it seems.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Week: March 26 ed.

This week, I was still dealing with the fallout of the car accident. My car was beyond what was economically feasible to repair so my insurance company paid me out for it. I was then left with the need to sell it myself. The insurance company had found a bidder but he had offered such a low price that I decided to sell the car on my own.

I found a seller through a business card someone had left in my mailbox. He’s an exporter and quickly decided to buy the car. We conducted the entire transaction in German; thank goodness for finally being fluent enough to do this! He asked me why I spoke such good German. Ha!

I also finalized buying the replacement car. The experience wasn’t optimal because it was somewhat of a high pressure situation, but the car was a good price so it worked out.

Holy heck, though; this week was stressful. I slept much better but my body was unhappy with me for all the stress (and eating salty food). I had no time to exercise or eat good food and was plagued with headaches; it doesn’t help that it’s high time for allergies. Basically, all I could think of was taking care of the car stuff and there were a lot of projects at work going on. If I felt this way all the time, I’d be really, really unhealthy. I can see why people who are constantly in a state of stress are more prone to heart attacks!

Beyond the stress, I did enjoy myself a bit too. I met with my tandem partner and we continued with some exercises in preparation for the upcoming telc test. I also visited the German class.

A group of us went out to dinner one evening and met some new people. I’ve recently read The Math Myth: and Other STEM Delusions by Andrew Hacker and was talking about how he thinks math is overrated and there is no need for most general people to take such high levels of math. It’s keeping otherwise talented students from reaching their goals and it doesn’t make sense to make someone who’s going to be an English major take Calculus, for example. Even engineers only use a fraction of the high level math that they’ve learned.

It was definitely the wrong group of people to tell this opinion; members included a PhD in Mathematics; a computer science masters student; a theoretical linguist; a nurse; and an economist. They believe that learning math allows one to think critically. I disagree; I am absolutely horrible with math and hate it. Yet I’m a very logical person who’s decent with problem solving (as long as it doesn’t include numbers or telling what side of the stupid cube comes next!).

I invited A over for more pizza and Moo time. My pizza is so much better than the local offerings, if I do say so myself. It’s way more flavorful and has an adequate amount of sauce. A is always happy to eat it and Moo is always happy for extra attention from his adoring fans.

During the weekend, I traveled for work reasons. However, everything was not all work and no play. I stopped in Munich to visit a friend I made the last time I was there. He’s a big Moo fan, too, and is completely obsessed with cats, which is totally fine by me as I’m a fan of CCDs (Crazy Cat Dudes).

We had a weird weekend, which also suits me. L. had bought me an awesome tie-dyed shirt with cats printed on it. I convinced him to put on his shirt like mine and we wore them out and about in Munich. He says that Munich is so conservative and it drives him nuts that people are such Judgy-McJudgersons about what people wear; he normally wouldn’t wear his shirt in public. He liked visiting the US because people don’t care if one wears a crazy tie-dyed cat shirt. I told him the key is to just not care what others think and that one should wear tie-dye more often. We weren’t doing anything illegal or immoral; it was just amazingly tacky and awesome.

Dressed as weirdo t-shirt twins, we met with one of his friends, took hammocks to the park, and hung out for a while and ate candy which reclining in the hammocks. We also pet some neighborhood cats, visited the cat café where we had met before, and then went back to his apartment and I cooked rajmah masala.

The next day, we met a bigger group of his friends and visited the local Sikh temple. As we entered, we removed our shoes and all of us covered our heads with scarves, out of respect. I was trying not to giggle because we looked like a very weird gaggle of pirates. We washed our hands then sat down in the main room and were served tasty vegan Indian food, pakoras, chutney, and some sort of fried bread.

Members of the temple welcomed us warmly and took us on a tour. They even invited us into their worship area, advising us that we would sit on the floor and mustn’t point our feet toward the altar as that would be disrespectful. They answered questions about their religion and offered us a type of dough to eat; they believe in sustaining one’s body as well as one’s soul. In fact, anyone is welcome to come by at all times, and they will also feed the person if he is in need.

We learned some tenants of the religion, such as one should not remove body hair as it’s a living part of one’s body and that god had made a person already perfect so it would be disrespectful to remove it. Cutting one’s fingernails is okay because fingernails are dead. Equality, personal rights, and living a simple life are other important aspects of the religion.

It was definitely an interesting and educational experience to visit the temple. I didn’t know much about the religion beforehand. The members’ hospitality was very kind and they were happy to answer our questions without being pushy.

Saying goodbye to the group, I then headed to downtown Munich. I had a couple hours before I was supposed to travel to Garmisch so I wandered downtown for a while, stopping by a sculpture museum. Afterward I grabbed some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. They’re delicious and naturally sweet.

I had also stopped by the tourist bureau and tried not to crack up at some tourists, an American couple. They saw a travel agency’s sign that said “make America günstig again” and wanted to know what it means. The staff member told them that it means “make America cheap again,” which in my mind is way better than what the other, similar catchphrase implies. I think the tourists wondered if it meant something sinister.

I had heard another pair of American tourists at the U-Bahn and was trying not to smile then. The lady, in a loud and bewildered voice, said “I don’t know, how do we get there and what is a ‘glees’ 1?” She was referring to the German word for “track” or “platform” and it’s actually pronounced so that it rhymes with “ice.” I was smiling because we’ve all been there as tourists before becoming familiar with Germany. L and I were already climbing into the train; otherwise I would’ve asked if they wanted help.

As I departed for Garmisch on the Flixbus (which at only 6 euros prebooked, is way cheaper than taking the train), I reflected on the weekend. It was unusual, relaxing, tasty, and friend and cat-filled (not relating to the tastiness!), which is just fine in my book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My week: March 19 ed.

This week was stressful, friend-filled, warm fuzzy-filled, with another dose of stressfulness.

The week before, a German lady hit and totalled my car. She was the one who almost immediately asked where I learned to speak such good German. Looking back, I can admit how absurd it was that this was about the second thing she said to me. We then had some conversations about how we were like a tv program for the obnoxiously nosy bystanders as we waited for the police. One nutty woman even came nearer for a better look at the crumpled cars then walked away, smirking. Oh, for Pete's sake!

Anyway, I spent much of my week dealing with the car issues but on top of that my calendar was full. I felt a bit frazzled but not full-out stressed (believe me, I've been way more stressed than this before and made it through everything). Despite not feeling that mentally stressed, I couldn't sleep well; I was getting about 5 hours a night and felt as if I was going to get sick. I was thankful to catch up with sleep on the weekend, which seemed to reset everything.

I met with my tandem partner and she had put together more practice activities for the telc B2 test. Can I just say that the test's speaking components are so boring? I am getting sick of reading an article about a touchy topic and then explaining my opinion about it. I'm fine with conversations in German but I don't enjoy making a presentation. Despite this, I do greatly appreciate that my friend is willing to help me practice with these exercises because they must be boring for her, too, and it's a great help to prepare for the exam.

In addition to my other activities, I decided to join a club in the German community. It's all German speaking, all the time. Actually, the leader did have a side conversation with me and very kindly offered to speak English. I politely declined, since it's a German club, and feel that it's only right to speak German there (if I weren't fluent enough to grasp mostly everything going on, I wouldn't have joined). Man, if I had two hours or more of speaking full-on German a day, I'd be up to C2 reasonably fast.

I mentioned a Really Big Idea I had and some members were interested. It's an idea developed by a community group in Australia and it helps protect the environment, reduces waste, saves money, and unites the community. Obviously it's right up my alley and the other women were very interested, too. I'd like to work on the behind-the-scenes planning and have the other club members be the official face of the program because I don't really want to be on tv again after my five minutes of fame. Plus, I think I've embarrassed myself enough by speaking halting German in front of the whole (local tv-viewing) world. I've already been thinking about other community groups we could include, as well as stores and sponsors. Press your thumbs for me that we can pull this off :)

German class also met as usual, but I had such a hard time concentrating because I was stressed about the car. I had taken some time off to go car shopping and visited about ten car dealers. They were polite and helpful but it's not something I enjoy.

I met with another club and participated in some of their activities. I'm hoping to pull them into the Really Big Idea too as it fits their mission well.

During the weekend, I looked at cars some more but had already mostly decided on a particular one so was able to back off the search.

Another group was offering a cooking class so I joined that and enjoyed myself. The funny thing was that I didn't eat any of the main dishes that we had cooked. I really don't care for fish, and that was in most of the dishes. I was happy to learn about another cuisine (even if it doesn't appeal to me personally :) and destress with some company and cooking so I didn't mind only being able to eat mashed potatoes and a carrot salad. The organizer was sweet; when he found out that I didn't eat most of the stuff we were making, he was worried that I wouldn't have anything and wanted to know what he could do. I told him I'd have no problems eating the potatoes and salad and not to worry.

Some friends and I met on Sunday to wander around downtown Kaiserslautern for the advertising association's event "Kaiserslautern in Bloom" (KL blueht auf). Marching bands assaulted the city with their raucous, fun-loving tunes and the city was awash with people. My friends W and M from an hour away made a quick appearance and we shared some good laughs (and our elbow sidehugs). Plus, A and I finally caught up. Normally we hang out quite a bit but we've both been busy and/or traveling. After the downtown events, I invited her over for homemade pizza. We chatted and hung with Moo, a peaceful end to a stressful week.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Poland: a Katowice and Krakow Trip, day 1

In February, my friend A and I took an extended weekend trip to Poland. We caught a low-cost flight on a Saturday night from Frankfurt Hahn and before we knew it, we were in Poland.

We hopped into the shuttle we had the forethought to book with our plane ticket and within 30 minutes, we had arrived in Katowice city proper. We asked the driver where the bus station was because we were going to use that to navigate to our hotel. He asked our hotel name and offered to drop us off because it was on our way back. Awesome! It wasn't a super long walk, but it was late and cold and we were tired so we welcomed the good fortune.

We stayed at the Novotel Katowice Centrum, which is near the university, and even better yet, the main part of the Silesian Museum (though sadly we had very little time there during the trip). It's about a fifteen minute (easy) walk to the heart of downtown and the main bus and train stations.

It was one of the less inexpensive hotels to choose for our flight package and it suited us just fine. Actually, it offered more amenities than I had expected (yes, I'll admit, I was in a hurry during booking and didn't look at too much). A pool, hot tub, and even a casino are available. We didn't have any interest in any of those things but were happy with our room, which included a refrigerator. Had we wanted to buy snacks, we would've had a cold place for them. Since we normally stay at hostels, it was also quite a luxury to find ample towels, nice soaps, free coffee and tea with a corresponding coffee pot. We were living the high life, I tell ya! 

My initial impressions of Katowice, which are not entirely to be trusted after arriving late and shivering, was as follows:

-Oh, this city is way bigger than I had thought; there are quite a few apartment blocks and even some skyscrapers with shorter buildings tucked in.

-The air smells...uh, polluted, like sulfur. I later read this article from Well, That Was Different, and it explained a lot. I wish I had read it ahead of time.

-Why is there sand all over the sidewalks? Wow, there is a lot of sand. Finally my duh moment subsided as I realized that it's probably used instead of salt to deal with icy or snowy pavement. 

-Where our hotel is seems really deserted. Actually, the whole city seems rather deserted, especially for a Saturday night. Yes, it was late, but I thought we'd see a few more people.

-I'd like to explore downtown more. It reminds me of Detroit because the mix of new(er) and older buildings were in various conditions; some were abandoned, some beautiful historical buildings had been spruced up, and others were in rough shape. A renovated, central square with benches around a water feature would probably make an excellent place to enjoy some drinks with friends during summer; this is totally a foil for Detroit's Campus Martius. As someone who likes Detroit, I see it as entirely positive that a city that's been run-down is revitalizing itself but is not completely perfect.

Note: I am not affiliated in any way with the hotel, nor do I receive any compensation for my review. All thoughts are mine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Illinois people describe Michigan dialect

Illinois people, are you cannibals? Geez, we'd NEVER eat fudgies. Ew. Gross. Post "lol" in the comments if you get this.

The video shows a lot of things we say but the IL folks don't quite get it :)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday in Germany: a cartoon

I'd say that this cartoon video is a reasonably accurate portrayal of Sunday in Germany, shown through a bromance.

(Though not everyone goes to the sauna.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What 11 euros buys at Aldi

First of all, this isn't a sponsored post for Aldi. I can't imagine that the company would agree to sponsor some of the (true) things I'm going to say about it. So there's that.

Anyway, above is a photo of what about 11 euors (technically it was 10.79) buys at Aldi. It includes: 2 packages of Muesli; two one liter packages of milk (not actually for the Muesli, for the record); a package of onions; 3 Pink Lady apples; and a 3-pack of garlic.

I thought it might be interesting to share how much it costs to shop on the German economy. Even though I can shop at the Commissary, I try to avoid the produce section there at all costs. I've bought items there that went bad the next day. Even worse was when I bought a packet of produce and the majority of it was already bad. I could've taken it back, I guess, but I didn't want all that work. Instead, I know better now and buy fruits and vegetables "on the economy," as people here say. They're fresher and often cheaper than buying them from the Commissary.

Anyway, the fruits and vegetables I bought on this shopping trip were a good deal. The more expensive part of the trip was the Muesli. However, as Edith Piaf said, I regret nothing.

I wanted to illustrate how Aldi in Germany is very different from the Aldi (of the past) that was in the U.S. When I grew up in Michigan, I visited Aldi several times, but it wasn't a store we'd really use for shopping. At the time, Aldi was, well, gross. I don't mean that the store was dirty or anything; I mean that the food offerings weren't palatable-looking.

The majority of the goods were composed of frozen, low-quality convenience food. For example, there were tons of sketchy-looking frozen pizzas, frozen fried potato concoctions, etc. The non-frozen food was mostly packaged junk food of low quality. Plus, there was the weirdness of bagging your groceries yourself and not being given grocery bags. Aldi just wasn't for us in Michigan.

When I moved to Germany, I was pleasantly surprised by Aldi. Yes, one still must bag one's own groceries and pay if one doesn't bring her own bag, but that's better for the environment, allows one to pack the groceries as one wishes, and the food is so much better here. It's one of the cheapest places to buy decent produce. The store's offerings are basic, but I can usually find what I need there. Weekly specials sometimes offer gourmet food from other countries.

When I was back in Michigan last summer, I wanted to buy some inexpensive wine and we were near Aldi so we decided to stop by. I had heard that Trader Joe's and Aldi are now part of the same company in the US, and was pleasantly surprised to see what that means for Aldi now. The store is still basic but the food offerings are things that I actually would -- and did -- eat. There were organic, gluten-free, and Basic White Girl offerings (read: hummus). Plus there was plenty of fresh produce. Good for you, Aldi, for not being so gross any more!


I showed great restraint as a Michigander and did not call it "Aldi's."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My week: March 12 ed.

This was a week of studying and practicing German, along with an (unwanted) encounter with real-life speaking skills.

The unwanted encounter was with a German woman and it wasn't my fault and it's been dealt with, so at least there's that. Just about the first thing out of her mouth after the incident was "Where did you learn how to speak such good German?!" I almost started laughing because it was completely absurd; out of all the things she could've said, I wasn't expecting that one. She was also relieved because she doesn't speak the best English.

During the meeting with my tandem partner, she asked me a question from the telc test preparation site: what do you think of pre-nuptial agreements? Well, I can't form an opinion unless I know what the existing legal protections are for Germans, so I had to ask what the divorce rules currently are, whether Germany has an equality-based concept of divorce, etc. I then related it to Michigan laws. 

At the end of this, my friend said that she wasn't sure that's what the testers were looking for because instead of giving my own opinion, I quizzed her on German law and took her on a tour of Michigan law. Haha. I can't help it that I think like a lawyer and can't give an opinion until I know what I'm dealing with. I'll need to get it together for the test though.

I spent several hours during the weekend studying German. I also practiced a bit more in real life during a lovely brunch a colleague hosted. She invited some German neighbors.

About two weeks ago, the weather here started a minute shift from winter into not-so-wintery: the sun peeked out a bit; it started raining like crazy; and it's been warming up. This weekend was glorious, with sunny skies and wam(er) weather. I took a leisurely bike ride along the Lauter and only wore a light sweatshirt. I love spring time.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dear Kaiserslautern: you really need this

Dear Kaiserslautern:

can I just say how disappointing it is that so many of your bars/restaurants allow smoking inside them? For the most part, smoking is not allowed inside but thanks to special interest lobbying, there are a ton of loopholes that allow certain establishments to have smoking areas.

This means that one can't enjoy a drink with friends at a bar without choking on the smoke and smelling as if one has rolled around in an ashtray. Even worse, that means that the waitstaff can potentially sicken from lung cancer by proxy. In the meantime, they can develop asthma and other lung issues.

It is surprising how many establishments in Kaiserslautern allow smoking. I'm not exaggerating when I say that one would be hard-pressed to grab a drink at a bar without getting "smoked." Why can't the smokers go outside to enjoy their vice?

Oh, and I don't want to hear that there are the smokers' rooms and those are sufficient. Unless there's an airlock and separate HVAC systems, smoke from these rooms escapes into the main area and we still have to breathe that crap.

Hardrock-Cafe (yes, I see you trying to rip off the name of the real chain - lame!) doesn't even try to preserve the aura of the "smoking" room. We sat in the "non-smoking" room, whose door was left open into the smoking area (i.e. the bar, and where one enters the building). I asked to close the door because the smoke was entering but the staff wouldn't do it because they had to walk through. I ended up leaving because I couldn't breathe with the clouds of smoke hanging in the room.

Since most of the coffee shops and cafes close early here (you'd think we were a town of 10,000 and not a city of 10 times that), there really aren't many non-smoking options of somewhere to be cozy and hunker down with one's friends out in public for some drinks.

Consider this, Kaiserslautern: it would be good for everyone's health, and probably for business, too, to fully ban smoking. I've heard from so many other people who won't visit these places that allow smoking, either.

Signed, someone who doesn't want to choke on smoke

Friday, March 10, 2017

Apparently my "fame" has no bounds

I ran into a family member of my neighbor the other day. We've had some nice conversations in the past. When I saw her this time, she asked, "Were you on TV recently? I swear that I just saw you on the X show. I thought to myself, oh, that has to be ATW!"

Here I thought that I could go to the event and avoid the cameras; instead, everyone can see the embarrassing footage of me fumbling through German and people I know saw it too. Oy vey.

Yes indeedy, that had been me. She thought it was very nice, or that's what she told me at least ;) Can I just say that German folks I've met have been, overall, so sweet and nice?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My week: March 5 ed.

This was the highly dreaded anticipated week when I was supposed to go on the radio to promote an organization. I've never done such a thing before and I think my voice sounds dumb so there was some anxiety on my part. After putting together some notes, and even a quiz for the DJ to take about the organization*, I did some metaphorical breathing into a bag to compose myself, only... find out that our radio spot was canceled. I regretted this because there was some special programming that I wanted to highlight. Plus I had some rather dramatic feelings about the whole thing and I had finally screwed up enough courage and just wanted to get the darn thing over with.** How anticlimactic!

However, can I also say that I feel lucky to have opportunities where I get to move out of my comfort zone, promote topics I care about, and add new skills? Even if one such skill might only include trying not to sound like an idiot while being broadcast.

Anyway, many other things happened during the week, too. I met up with tandem partner #2; we hadn't seen each other since before the holidays because we'd both been so busy. We probably won't see each other for quite some time again because we are both having a busy upcoming month.

I also met with my original tandem partner. I'm preparing to take the B2 telc German test; this week, I described a book I've read and even timed myself. From this exercise, I learned that I really need to get better at this. I think I'm going to write up several reviews and try to memorize them because I'm so bad at speaking in German off the cuff in a more formal context.

German class met this week, as usual. An out of the ordinary activity is that I signed up to take the telc B2 German test. There's no turning back now! I had considered taking the preparation course too but now I'm on the fence about it. The telc test is already expensive enough (around 150 euros) and the prep course costs about the same. 300 euros to prepare for and to take a test that I don't officially need for anything is seeming a bit unreasonable at this point. Last fall, my VHS teacher told me that I could pass the B2 test even before I'd finished all the classes in that level and a month ago my Uni teacher told me that she thought I could pass it so maybe the prep course would be overkill. I've downloaded some of the free prep materials from telc and will see how those go.

For work, I planned a networking meeting with colleagues from various locations and organizations. One of the participants was talking about bringing a special exhibition to the area and expressed some interest in including it in the local community. I have met the leadership at two different German organizations and offered to make an introduction for her. My colleague is German herself and said that she can't believe how integrated into the community I've become and that she thought it was great that I know our professional counterparts who work in the German community. I told her that it's because I'm nosy as heck so I've had the opportunity to meet people and learn more. :)

This weekend was the annual Pfennigbasar (more about the sale itself here). I volunteered, as I usually do, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now that I'm conversational in German, I've hit my groove and experienced the sale more fully.

During my first volunteer shift, I was placed with two sweet French ladies, who spoke English in a lovely way. The only snag was that I was the only one who really spoke German, which is a bit unusual for an American to actually be (mostly) helpful in a foreign language, given that we're not known for such capabilities. For the most part I held my own, except for with the elderly German man who spoke Pfälzisch in a deep and quavering voice. Any part of that combination is difficult for me and when they're together, I just can't understand the person.

My next shift partner was a sweet Polish lady who spoke no English but did speak German. This is a great exercise for me because I couldn't be lazy and fall back to English. We enjoyed good conversation and a pleasant shift together.

I spent my last shift with some women I had met in another group for a cooking demo. They welcomed me warmly and were excited to reunite after our last meeting. I have decided to join their club too so it was a good opportunity to ask more about their activities. One of the women doesn't speak English so it was another good push to only speak German.

Can I just say (again) how cool it is, after years of gnashing of teeth, studying, and whining, to finally be conversational in a foreign language? Connecting with people, experiencing the local culture, and becoming active in the community are just so different -- and awesome -- now.

For example, I wouldn't have felt right trying to join their club if I couldn't speak German. They're a very nice group of women and I doubt that they would have been unwelcoming to a non-German speaker, but it probably wouldn't work out well to join the group because they don't speak English during the meetings. It would not really be reasonable to ask them to translate everything.

I also really enjoyed being able to be actually helpful at the Basar. If the German speakers had to leave the booth, they could, because I could manage on my own.

When I got home, I received a phone call from my friend R, whom I haven't seen in ages. He was in the area and stopped by. I cooked up a huge pot of gobi aloo from a recipe our friend A taught me. That was an even better way to end the weekend.

*I got the idea from listening to one of their radio shows where they answer quiz questions about music. I had no idea if the DJ would've wanted to answer my questions, but I prepared some anyway because it's the Girl Scout Way. Or Boy Scout Way. Well, I'm not entirely if it's any Scout's Way, but whatever. I like to plan for contingencies.

**For things that are anxiety-inducing or are Really Big, I of course have to consider them in great length, discuss my feelings about them/confer with friends, family, and perhaps post office staff (okay, not always the latter), then consider them a bit more. Once I've done that, I'll basically just jump into the activity, which may seem rather sudden if one doesn't know the backstory.