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.