Friday, December 14, 2018

Didn't you want us to integrate?

Over the years, I've gnashed my teeth about learning German. I'm finally to the point that I can attend an event that's fully in German, can participate, and understand about 95% of what's going on. This is thanks to continuing to take German classes, because meeting with tandem partners has dissipated as a result of lack of time.

One of my current classes is the last one that is typically offered by local institutions. Sure, one can take the next level at a city about an hour away, but remember the comment about having no time? Therefore I took matters into my own hands and started, years ago, requesting some upper level classes at institutions not so far away. One place was stubborn and said that I would have to provide the entire class of students, and it would've been more than a dozen. I didn't have so many contacts there any more so couldn't bring that to fruition without the class at least being listed, even tentatively, on their schedule.

However, currently I'm in a full class with a lot of highly motivated students (several doctors, computer programmers, etc. who all work for German companies and need a high level of German to reach their career goals). I floated the idea of asking the institution for the next class, which was met  with enthusiasm from everyone.

I took the idea to the person in charge of the classes. "Why would you want to take that level? It's not required. You only need the next lower level for most requirements," he asked in German, surprised.

I explained to him that we are all working professionals, and that we want to fit in to our community or perform work functions properly and speak/read/write/understand German to the best of our ability. We're highly motivated, especially if you consider that most people won't even study at our current level unless they absolutely need to.

I was thankful that he was open to the idea, though slightly skeptical, and a week later, he approved it after speaking to the future teacher. Yippie!

When thinking over this situation, I found it ironic. In pretty much any country, citizens express wariness about outsiders, especially immigrants. New arrivals are criticized for not knowing the language or not speaking it well enough or having too much of an accent or or or...but here we have a full class of expats, refugees, and people somewhat temporarily stationed here who want to go on to the highest level possible and the idea is met with surprise.

Monday, September 10, 2018

This did not put me in the Christmas spirit

but the subtitle could be: but it did make me laugh!

My lovely cousins send me a box of random, odd, and fun items for the holidays. Last year I received many different things, but the most odd one was a Santa Claus toy that excretes candies into a chimney*.

What was truly disconcerting, besides the idea of eating candies that Santa had "excreted," was that to set up the toy, one had to cut the zip tie off that attached his head to his body, remove his head, break open his "guts" from their plastic lining, then dump the contents back into his body. The whole time his head was shouting, "ho ho ho!"

I didn't know whether to laugh, or to scream in terror.

*There are so many things wrong with this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A questionable German-Turkish-Mexican mashup

In Heidelberg on the main street, there are two restaurants back to back. One is "Mexican" (or the owner's approximation of such) and one is Turkish.

They decided to make a  German-Turkish-Mexican mashup of questionable tastiness.

However, it turns out that someone I know had eaten a "burrito" from the Mexican side of the house one night after visiting the bars. He thought it was the best Döner he had ever had. Ha!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dutch stuff: the international food aisle in Michigan

Earlier this summer, I went home for an almost one month-long vacation. It felt surreal to take so much time off but it was excellent!

In addition to traveling to Boston, seeing old friends and coworkers in Michigan, and eating dang good Mexican food, I stopped by the local stores to bask in good ol' products that I can normally get in the US but not in Germany (which, ironically, usually entail ingredients from other countries or hippie foods -- think all of the wonders of Trader Joe's, because I am not into typical American food).

I took a gander at the foreign food aisle in Meijer, a giant superstore with groceries, and had a gander at the Dutch goods. Having been to the Netherlands, I can say that these products are familiar and similar to what they have in bigger grocery stores.

There are King mints, Hagelslag (my mom's side of the family eats this but I think it's not palatable - sprinkles on toast), and of course, the ultimately unpalatable drop (salted black licorice).

Friday, August 31, 2018

Store Review: K-Town Cupcakes

K-Town Cupcakes

Payment: cash only
Parking: paid, streetside

Need a sweet cupcake fix in Kaiserslautern? Until about last year, your only way to do so was to hope that one of the local bakeries made up a batch for fun, to place a special order for some from a bakery, or if you're in the know of the right Facebook groups, you could order a gourmet dozen from one of the military spouses in the Kaiserslautern area who bakes them up in her home (which I also totally recommend as there are some really talented bakers here!).

Last year, K-Town Cupcakes opened up a few blocks south of the K in Lautern Mall, on a side street.

It's a small, cute store with a few bistro tables and window seating. They offer both a display cabinet of cupcakes that can be eaten there or taken away, as well as custom orders.

 A variety of gourmet cupcakes are on display, as well as some meringue candies. Flavors when I visited red velvet, blue berry, strawberry, chocolate cake with cream cheese, raspberry, currants, and more. Additionally, vegan cupcakes are on offer, too. They're priced from 2,80 - 2,90 euros each.

So, on to the important information: are they good? Yes, they're decent. I find the frosting tasty but a bit crunchy/grainy as I don't think they have access to the same type of sugar that Americans use in our cupcakes. Also, since they have to refrigerate the cupcakes to keep them from melting in their unairconditioned store, they are not quite as soft as American cupcakes, but they're still good. If you're buying many cupcakes for a party, they can be a bit spendy, too.

All in all, though, they're good for a gourmet pick me up. Just beware that they don't always keep to their posted hours, which can cause frustration. If they sell out early, they close up shop for the day. This leads to unreliability but this isn't uncommon for small German businesses; call ahead if you're making a special trip.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My neck is fantastic, 'cuz it's made of plastic

Oh, thrift stores. They are a siren call, a place to find random, strange baubles. There is no rhyme or reason, especially among the stores that receive unsold commercial merchandise.

Check out this beaut'.

There's even directions on how to elongate the dude.

His neck freaks me out. It's so...well, it looks's just creepy.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Donut Kekse: American Week at Aldi

I was thrilled to see what strange wonders awaited at Aldi (Germany) during American week, as is typical with pretty much every other American blogger.*

Among the various ice creams, pre-made pancakes (why?? They are so easy to make from scratch), and muffins, I saw this amazing wonder: Mini Donut Kekse, and I just realized that they're coffee flavored.

So. Many. Things. Going. On.

Then I thought, dude, Aldi, stop day drinking. Coffee flavored mini donut cookies? Really?

However, we did have the cronut (croissant/donut) a few years back, spam sushi, sushi burritos (not sure why I keep mentioning sushi), and other mashups in the US, so maybe donut cookies aren't so off base. What are your thoughts?

*I do not claim to be unique.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sayings in German that annoy me

...and probably shouldn't!

Yes, this is completely ridiculous, but the following sayings always invoke a slight ping of annoyance* when I see them.

  • Hallo zusammen This is a common greeting for a group and the spirit of what it means is "hello everyone." However, the direct translation is "hello together," and people often write it as such in English and I think, no, no, no as it doesn't make sense in English.
  • Words that have an English origin but are used incorrectly in German: oh, let's see: Handy (a cell phone; normally it's an adjective in English meaning "useful"); public viewing; and so on

*I don't say anything about it, though, besides here, as really, does it matter in the long run? I'm sure I use German in silly ways too. I also feel annoyance when people use the redundant English expressions like Jewish rabbi; advance notice; new technology (oh, how we've debated this one in my family); circle around, and so on.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A German giggle at "German week" at Aldi USA

Grocery stores in Germany, especially discounters like Lidl and Aldi, offer special shopping weeks devoted to different countries, and feature foods from or in honor of those countries. For example, during Italian week, one can buy prosciutto, pastas, and sauces.

For myself and many other American expat bloggers too, we've had some good giggles at what's on offer during American week. I took some pictures and gave a commentary of some offerings here as well as here. The food is usually a hollow stereotype of what we eat, bizarre and way off (seriously, "sandwich sauce" with sauerkraut in it?!) but is usually good for a laugh. My favorite is the bizarrely named "McEnnedy" brand, which seems to be a cross between McDonald's and Kennedy, from what I can tell, and those are Irish and Scottish type names anyway.

Apparently German media has had a giggle about what Aldi stores in the US offered; Stern wrote an article called "German Week bei Aldi USA - Was die Amerikaner unter deutscher Küche verstehen" ("German Week at Aldi USA - what the Americans understand about German Cuisine"). I was delighted to read this in order to see things from the other side.

The general tone of the article was bemusement at the cliches that were present in the choices of food to sell that week; the author admits that there is no denying that Sauerkraut and sausages are a big part of the cuisine here. However, there's some consternation about other items because they're from other countries in Europe and not Germany, such as a Norwegian cream cheese that even has a Norwegian flag on it, or French pickles. I don't blame them! That's way off.

Just like the American sauce is off...we don't have "American sauce," or anything like it, Aldi, but hey, it's all in good fun :)