Thursday, May 20, 2010

New German Word - Embarrassed (Sich Schämen)

As in, I was so embarrassed I could have died.  Ich habe mich so zutiefst geschämt, dass ich sterben wollte.

But I didn't die and therefore I blog.  Here is my shame for your enjoyment.  Schadenfreude at its best.  About once a year the water-meter-reader man comes around and checks our water usage.  (As an aside, do you think if you had to tell people that you were a water-meter-reader a thousand times you'd get tired of it?  I think it's mighty fun to say.  I'm a Water-Meter-Reader and I'm currently dating a lady named Sally.  She sells seashells...)

Anyway, there are no surprises here.  They tell you two weeks in advance and give you a time slot.  He comes in, checks the meter, writes a few numbers down on his clipboard and is off.  Our water meter happens to be located in our bathroom and looks like this.

Now, we've touched on my Hausfrau skills before and there is, to be sure, some improvement to be made.  But then there is also the practical side of me which said, "just clean the bathroom because that's all he'll see."  And that's what I did, or to be shamefully honest, that's what Thomas did.  The man who wakes up every morning at six to bring home the euros cleaned the bathroom before work while I lazed in bed.  As if there weren't enough reasons to adore him.  I seriously need to get on the scorecard soon.  But I had, really had, intended to clean the bathroom myself and indeed I did squirt the meter with a little Windex to make them all shiny and purty and whatnot.  I even ran a broom over the front entrance hall off which the bathroom lies. 

So the Meter Reader Man shows up and it's not one but two men in official looking work uniforms and they have buckets and toolboxes and a whole host of other stuff that generally doesn't interest me.  MRM #1 asks me (I can only presume because I really didn't understand him) where the water meter is and I point to the bathroom.  WRM #2 asks me to take him to the kitchen. The kitchen?  My kitchen? With the half-eaten frozen pizza on the table, the breakfast dishes (ahh hell, last night's dinner dishes) still in the sink?  The kitchen in which the wine and beer bottles destined for recycling are currently fighting each other for counter space? The kitchen with the spaghetti-sauce plastered floor that I really have been meaning to mop. Right after I do the windows.  That kitchen is right here, sir.

Turns out, it was sort of a whole water overhaul thing.  It involved wrenches and washers and water pressure meters and water run off - hence the buckets.  It also involved checking the thermostats on the radiators in every room.  Yes, that's right every room.  On a scale of 1-10 I'd say my house was on firm five footing which is to say that one need not fear for rats and roaches but if dust bunnies are your thing, well then as the iconic Bob Barker used to say...Come oooon down. Fortunately, I had made the bed in the bedroom because it was Wednesday.  And I make the bed. Every. Wednesday.

As he moved from room to room, my panic increased.  With every new door opened my stomach lurched deeper and my face turned redder.  Because, lucky contestants, behind door number three was this:

What no man (other than my husband) was ever meant to see.  As proof positive please find exhibit A: the closed curtains lest a nosy neighbor try to get a peek in. Now in all fairness to me, this is not the normal state of this room.  About three weeks ago, in a fit of spring fever brought on by a warm, sunny day, I decided to do a great clothes purge.  Change out the winter clothes for summer clothes.  Get rid of anything that didn't fit. Wash and iron anything destined for summer wear. Et cetera, et cetera.  Just one problem.  The sun disappeared after that day and hasn't reappeared since.  We've had the coldest, rainiest month of May in 20 years.  I think in the last 17 days the sun had appeared once just to taunt and jeer.  So, instead of tank tops I am still wearing sweaters on a daily basis.  Needless, to say, I couldn't really put away my winter clothes and I lost the momentum for purging and prepping my summer clothes so I just left everything in a state of tried on, didn't fit, threw it on floor, chair, bed, bookcase.  Oh, and the wet towel on the ironing board.  That was from this morning.  I took it out of the bathroom because I wanted the bathroom to look nice and clean.  Respectable-like. Bite, I'd like you to meet my ass.

I was horrified.  He actually had to climb over two huge plastic bags of too-smalls to get to the thermostat. I wanted to say, "I'm donating those," hoping he'd think I was generous, warm-hearted - any descriptor other than disgusting slob.  But I don't know the German word for donate and I thought he might think I was trying to offer my wrinkled crap as some sort of bribe for lowering our reported water usage so I just tried to look all cool and un-phased as he tripped over a giant dust bunny munching on a lone Converse sneaker.

So what have I learned?  It is important to have a presentable home at all times.  So, if it ever stops raining and the sun comes out for longer than a factory man's lunch-break, I will get my June Cleaver on and do some serious spring cleaning.  But until then, I'll just shut the door.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rainbows and Butterflies

Auf Deutsch: Regenbogen und Schmetterlinge. Regenbogen, okay. I'll accept that one as Regen is rain and Bogen is arch (or bow). So that sort of makes sense. But Schmetterling??? It sounds like something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe after using the public bathroom in the train station. I know. I know. Rainbows and butterflies are beautiful in any language and in any country. Still, let's just enjoy them silently, shall we?
 p.s. Yes, it is STILL raining in Munich.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back To School - Again

But not without a fight. No, not like me refusing to get out of my nice, warm bed and Thomas pulling the sheets off me while yelling, "We paid for this and you are going," (although that may or may not have happened on occasion). More like me having to defend my right to pursue further education. Who woulda' thunk?

Having taken five months off from school (yikes, has it really been that long?) I decided to continue German language classes at the Volkshochschule (adult education school). You have to register in person for anything beyond entry level classes so I headed out last week to register. I had printed out the paper with the exact information for the course I was interested in and also brought along the official certifate stating that I had passed my B1 level exam.

First stop lower level where I confirm that there are still openings for the class. Second stop, upper level where I have to complete the registration paperwork so that I once again can return to the first level to pay. All manageable. Or so I thought.

I hand the registration Frau the paper with the B2 course information and tell her I'd like to enroll and then I produce my B1 certificate. The woman starts shaking her head and tells me that "I can't enroll for the class because it is a B2 level and I am only at the B1 level. "I have completed the B1 level," I say as I point to my certificate. She tells me the certificate shows that I have made it TO the B1 level and I say (politely), "No, the certificate states that I have made it THROUGH the B1 level." I tell her that a friend of mine, with the exact same class experience has already signed up for this class. She remains unconvinced and says she has to check with a colleague and so gets up to call the presumed German Oz. After some discussion on the phone she comes back and says NOT "I'm sorry, you were right." BUT "I think you would still be better off in a B1 level course. I think this course will be too hard for you." Huh?

I'm thinking, I've said all of 20 words and I'm fairly certain I said them correctly since I rehearsed them, oh, approximately 800 times on the train ride into the city. What gives? I mean, I know I didn't wear a business suit or anything but it's not like I had on my stupid hat either. What's a stupid hat? This is a stupid hat - favored by Bavarians during festivals such Oktoberfest.
People who wear this hat are prone to doing stupid things like drinking out of it or even worse....

So, back on point.  I want to pay to voluntarily learn the language of a people who wear hats like this and I am being rebuffed?  By an adult education class? Would I have gotten farther with, "Guten Tag, I'd like to sign up for the Building a Better Bonsai class."? What's that, you say? You think this class may be too EASY for me and I should really consider Cement Chemical Composition: Creating a More Concrete Future? Thank you soooo much for realizing my potential.

At this point, She Who Cannot Admit Wrong launches into this whole spiel (which by the way is a German word from das Spiel (game) used in the colloquial sense as in "to blather") about how everyone always wants to be in the higher level and it's not fair to the teacher and the other students.  I tell her I did well in my other classes and I have no doubt I can manage this class. She waves her hands and says, "Oh, everybody always says that but the reality is very different."  She tells me there is a lot of difficult grammar and a lot of vocabulary in this level and I would really be so much better off reviewing the B1 level. I tell her I would rather have it be too hard than too easy.  She's not budging.  She says it is better to review than to be overwhelmed.  I say I have all day to study.  And on and on and on.  Seriously, do you think I want to learn your language so badly that I'm going to don my dirndl and jump into a quark-filled boxing ring to wrestle it out with you? Quite frankly, I'd rather wear one of those stupid hats. 
After ten minutes of back and forth during which my German skills plummeted to 3 year-old child tantrum level, I finally said, "Is there no way I can sign up for this class?" And she said, "I strongly advise you against it. I think you will be very unhappy and you will want to quit." Which is basically all I needed to hear cuz just tell me "no" in any language (Swahili, for example, "hapana") and watch me roll.

ME: But when you still have places free, which you do, and I want to sign up for this EXACT class, which I do, you cannot tell me NEIN, oder?
SWCAW: Stare that borders on a glare.  Shuffles papers.  Shrug shoulders.
ME: Also, gut. Then I would like to sign up for this class. Today. Now.

To conclude: she is not my new bestest friend ever.  School starts on Tuesday.

To update: day one down and I can tell you right from the git go, I ain't the dumbest muffin in class. And She Who Cannot Admit Wrong really needn't have worried about my quitting. I guarantee you I'll die of boredom first.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Time to Sow and a Time to Sew

It's been so nice to spend some time with my family this last week.  By far, the hardest part of living abroad is missing family and friends.  Email, hour-long phone calls, Skype - they are simply not a comparable replacement for sleepy kids crawling into bed with you, chatting over a cup of tea, Little Debbies with Dad and just time in the company of my family who always make me laugh and always make me feel home. Just home.

I'm loving all things Maine at the moment.  Spring.  Here for real unlike the teasing spring I left behind in Munich. The smell of the pine needles, daffodils waving in the late afternoon breeze coming up off the ocean, fresh cut grass and dirt.  Yup, dirt.  Dad and I spent yesterday at the community garden that operates as part of a 4-H summer camp for kids. It was so simple.  Sun. Sky. Seeds. I'm struck again and again by the strong sense of community in Maine. A bunch of people getting together to sow some seeds so that kids can learn that beans grow on vines and snap peas don't come wrapped in cellophane.

Onto sewing... I spent last week in NJ visiting the sibs and was able to spend most of Sunday sewing with my niece who is turning into quite the accomplished seamstress.  She's got a great eye for color and style and is a much better sewer than I was at her age.  This skirt is her latest creation from a tutorial you can find here. I'm proud of you, Paige.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Autobahn vs. Audubon

What's the difference between life in Germany and life in Maine?

Swans in the backyard = Germany.

Wild turkeys in the backyard = Maine.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Walk This Way (Or, the BFMF Virtual Tour)

Now that spring is here in fits and spurts I've been able put aside exercise DVDs and get outside to exercise.  So, screw you Tony Horton and all your P90X friends who invaded my cold, cold basement to mock me with your freakishly taut faces and cement-filled pecs and glutes. Perhaps, yes just perhaps, it's possible that I'm slightly bitter because after nearly three months of looking at this man's Grecian Formula dyed noggin I am still unable to do one pull-up. And how pathetic that my push-up prowess seems to max out at five (and if we are being completely honest, my form goes down the crapper after the second one).

Tony's motto is, "Do your best, forget the rest." My motto is, "Hey, it's better than nothing." You know that part where Tony breezily says (between his 29th and 30th pull-up) that most people give up waaaaay before they've reached their max burn?  Yeah, that's the part that usually finds me and my tuckus plopped on the sofa couch flipping through decorating magazines from the 90's.  Thanks for the tip, Ton hon, but I'll think I'll just sit this round out while you and your fellow aerial gymnasts slash aspiring actors slash brain surgeons slash Miss Utah runner-ups slash GAP models circa 2003 grunt out another set of one-handed, reverse spin pull-ups with a bench squat breather in between.  Hey, whatever happened to the stencil craze anyway??

I have a walking loop that takes me around both our lakes and is about 7 miles start to finish.  One foot in front of the other - that's an exercise routine that I can manage.  I even got a blister so do not get all up in my face Horton and accuse me of cowardice when faced with building core muscle mass cuz I limped my spare change back home like the true Nike geriatric advertisement that I am.

View BFMF Walk in a larger map

The loop starts at the southern tip of Lake Fasanerie and winds around past the swans...
to the northern tip where the retirees hang every day drinking beer and shooting the scheisse.
From there we knock off a few decades and pass the skate park which is basically a living testament to the gospel of Ed Hardy and Converse.

Then we get to the grilling area.  The accursed grilling area where my best intentions of living a healthy lifestyle filled with organic-cotton underwear and wheatgerm-garnished entrees is diabolically undermined by the aroma of charred flesh speared on metal skewers.  I am concurrently repulsed and yet drawn like a moth to a hickory-smoked flame.  Few people understand the woes of a vegan wanna-be with an Achilles heel for cased meats and lighter fluid-laced meat. Sigh.
Fortunately, the scent of shish kebab is quickly replaced by the nostril tingling odor of freshly churned manure. What's that you ask? Why, again, do you call it BumFeldmochingF*ck? Observe...
Past the cabbages and the turnips we hit Feldmochinger Lake.  Same procedure as Fasanerie except that there is an all-nude sunbathing area at this lake unlike Fasanerie which seems to top out at topless.  Yup, I peek.  Every. Time.  And I always think of my younger brother who was 14 the first time my family traveled to Europe.  While walking through a public park in Switzerland rife with topless sunbathers he suddenly and inexplicably faced a reoccurring wardrobe malfunction.  His shoelaces kept coming untied.  And untied.  And untied.  My father finally figured out that every time my brother bent down to retie his laces, he was sneaking a covert underarm gape. Clever boy.  Still works like a charm.

After my gawker stalker lap around Feldmochinger Lake I trace my steps backward until I end up here...
This is approximately 200 yards from my house.  It is a rescue / observation station that is replacing the old, small rescue shack.  It's big and my sinking fear is that there are plans to put a little snack bar on the lower level.  Which means cased meat. Grilled. Wafting. Waiting. Oh so patiently waiting for my triumphant return. Unless I go all Winona Ryder and glut myself to the point of puking on Farmer Fritz's five-finger discounted rutabaga, I could end the summer significantly larger than I started.  Looks like I'll be seeing you in November, Tony.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Swinging in Berlin

My friend Marika and I met in Berlin for a little 3-day yoga get-away.  We stayed at Aspria, a full service fitness club that also has guest rooms.  It's a pretty cool concept that lets you work out as much or as little as you want with all the benefits of an upscale hotel.  There are about 25-30 classes a day that you can participate in covering the full range: tae bo, pilates, qi gong, step, spinning, every imaginable yoga discipline and on and on and on.  Basically, you can burn off the breakfast buffet by ten a.m. 

We weren't quite so aggressive in our efforts choosing one morning to create our own sport called shopwalking which consists of putting on your sneakers and spandex, tucking a credit card into your waistband and then walking out the door of the hotel and hitting every cute boutique within a five mile (eeerr kilometer must think in metric) radius.  We did, however, partake in something called Antigravity Yoga.  I had my fingers crossed that I would emerge from the class with the legendary "yoga butt" that gravity currently oh-so-cruelly denies me. No such luck.  Instead, we found ourselves swinging in orange vertical hammock-type thingies. Seriously. It was like an audition for a Three Stooges themed Cirque du Soleil.  
 (pictures from Crunch Gym and Om Factory)

It was not pleasant.  First, you spend half of the class hanging upside down which means you spend the other half of the class fighting a severe case of head rush.  Second, wrapping your wrists and legs in cloth while swinging upside down carrying your entire body weight is not comfortable.  It's certainly not uplifting to have to dig a wedge of cloth out from the chubby slice of flesh between your abundant hips and overflowing thighs.  Thirdly, and most disgustingly, the hanging hammock thingies stunk.  Bad.  Like never seen the inside of a German-engineered Miele washing machine bad. At the end of the class you cocoon your whole body in the hammock and gently sway back and forth in a sort of swinging Savasana.  Let me tell you, being encased in a bacteria-infested, sweat-stinking silk scarf is not relaxing.  I must have looked like an alien baby being born as my elbows and knees frantically punched out my orange womb moments before my claustrophobic head emerged gasping for air.

Then there was the whole naked thing.  I just can't get used to it.  I can't. I'm American and you can fill in the blank when it comes to sexuality / body image here__________ but I was raised in the generation of women who never took showers after gym because there were no shower curtains on the shower stalls. The idea of other girls seeing you naked was just, well, horrifying.

So men and women, complete strangers, walking around sans clothing and sans self-consciousness is foreign to me. I just can't grasp it.  To me naked = sex or something in the vicinity thereof.  I'm not saying that's healthy. I'm just saying. I can't seem to grasp how in a spa or sauna or beach a clear line is drawn that says naked is natural not sexual.  I don't get how you can play cards at the beach with your neighbor and his wife and not compare his wife's goods to your wife's goods. And vice versa for the fraus. "Is it just me, Silke or do these Bratwurst look smaller than normal?" Wink. Wink. Protocol instructs that you are not supposed to look and you are never supposed to stare.  Not that you'd want to. Most of the bodies you would have to love to like but still... they're naked!  How can you not look?

Me? I admit it. I'm looking at the whole lot of you. Naked lady lying on the lounger reading gossip mag with one leg draped casually over your knee thus exposing all your girly bits. Yup, I'm looking at you.  Hot chick with Brazilian bikini wax and suspiciously perky Lady Janes. Yup, I'm looking at you.  Fat guy picking lint out of your belly button - I'm trying really, really hard not to look at you. When I see two cute naked guys step out of the sauna and run their hands through their glossy, damp hair I get all jiggly inside. Like I'm in high school again trying to choose between Ponch and Jon. Jon, he's so all-American. No wait, Ponch he's so dark and sexy. But Jon's so nice. But Ponch's smile. Ponch. Jon. Ponch. Jon. Hey, why not both! It's the eighties! And they're...they're...naked! When I call my husband later that night and say between giggles, "honey, I saw a cute, naked guy today and it wasn't you" I begin to think that perhaps I lack the maturity to properly assimilate into this country. When my husband's response is to ask in horror, "You didn't try to take a picture did you?" I begin to think I might not be the only one questioning my maturity.

Overall, it was a really sweet get-away.  Yoga, shopping, talking (in glorious, glorious English), great food, talking, massages, napping, talking, bagging expensive dinner out in favor of hanging in the hotel room with wine and cheese, talking, yoga, talking, more shopping, walking, walkshopping, napping, bagging second Hatha II yoga class in favor of more food, shopping and talking.  Yeah, all good.
p.s. I would have taken a picture of the cute, naked guy but I was naked and didn't have anywhere to put my camera ;)