Tuesday, November 30, 2010

oh, Weihnachten...

First off, it is cold. Lets just get that out of the way now. There is a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground, the sidewalks are frozen over, and I am eating like a bear preparing for hibernation. I am fairly certain that I have gained at least 10 pounds in the past week. At this rate, I am going to need to purchase another seat to fly back to the states in 2 weeks. And I wish that were me being factitious.

I have also switched my keyboard over to the German keyboard, so it is easier for me to write things like ä and ß and ö. The problem now is that I cannot find other keys I once used. Like the apostrophe. Where the HELL is it? And the z and the y are backwards. My brain does not seem to want to process this. So I keep writing mz instead of my. Awesome.

But I will say this: despite the fact that it is freezing and despite the fact that my ass is now up for its own zip code, I love this time of year. Especially here in Germany. It is so beautiful. And the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets)? Dear America: take a clue from Germany and start setting these up. And get some glühwein. I feel like my life up to this point has been incomplete, and that missing piece was glühwein. I cannot even begin to describe the awesomeness that is this hot German Christmas drink. I wish I could bring some back home with me.

Last weekend we went to the Weihnachtsmarkts in Heidelberg, which is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I really want to go back in the spring when it is not freezing and spend longer than a day there. I will be putting pictures up soon in another blog, as I am far too lazy right now to upload and photo edit all of them. Yeah, I said it. But this weekend, we are going to Nuremberg, which has one of the most famous Weihnachtsmarkts in the world. I am pretty damn stoked about this. I am doing the majority of my Christmas gift shopping there. Hopefully I can fit everything in my suitcase.

In other news, I actually found a German who doesn't speak much English, and she doesn't mind talking to me in German, even though I am sure I make absolutely no sense. It is very nice for me, though, because most of the time, Germans do not want to wait for me to figure out how to say something in German, or if I do not understand, they start speaking English. But because Estelle doesn't speak much English, I basically have to figure out how to say what I want to say in German, and this has been awesome. I feel like in the past week Ive spoken more German than I have in the four months I have been here. Not to mention she is one of the only Germans I have met that I understand the majority of the time. If she says something I do not understand, she will explain it to me differently. If that doesn't work then yes, we use google translate. But given how shitty my German is, I am so grateful that she is so patient with me. I don't feel like a giant asshole when I talk with her, which has been my biggest problem here. Oh, not to mention, she is actually my age and she drinks like me. I have found my German twin!

And we have now reached less than 20 days on the "Sarah returns to America" countdown. I am so excited to see my friends and family. I have missed everyone so much. Lets hope I don't forget all the Deutsch I have learned.

Friday, November 19, 2010

aaaand...first quarter down!

Wow. As of today, I have been in Deutschland for three months. That's 13 weeks. Holy shit, that is 91 days. 91 days of living in Germany. It's a little daunting to put an actual number on it like that.

Incidentally enough, this milestone marker also came on a week where I got a rather, how shall we say, blunt wake-up call. A much needed wake-up call, I think. I went out Wednesday night with Alex and Julia and met their friends, Q and Nathalie. Wednesday I was sort of on German overload, so I always take opportunities to just speak English with people. And truth be told, I think there are some people who do not mind this, as I've found a lot of Germans want to work on their English conversational skills. However, this probably does nothing to improve my German. Probably? Ha. It doesn't. Okay, I admit that.

We went to a bar called Home, which was actually quite lovely, and the majority of the conversation was in German, obviously. I was the only one there who did not speak German. Julia would occasionally translate things for me, at least what I could not follow, and I would answer in English, because either I didn't know the words or I just didn't want to take the time to form the sentence into German. And I'm afraid I still sound terrible when I actually try to speak German.

At some point during this evening, Nathalie interrupted me as I was speaking English and said to me, "No more English. You speak German." I kind of looked at her funny and explained that I didn't know how to answer in German, and she responded "it does not matter. You are in Germany, you speak German. I do not come to your country and expect people to speak German to me. You Americans, you are so lazy. You expect me to speak English in my own country. I met a boy last week, an American, and he only speaks English to me. Because he is lazy. No. Speak German." I just kind of stared at her for a moment because, wow, I'd just met this girl and already she had ripped me a new asshole. She then informed me that I had until Friday to learn German.

Normally when someone is this confrontational with me right off the bat, I immediately go into defensive mode and get bitchy right back. But I couldn't. Because she was right. Oh my God, she was right. I was such a lazy American. The entire time I have been here in Germany, I really have not made an effort to speak German. If I find out someone is able to understand and speak English, I speak English with them. Because it is easier. Because I am, dare I say it, lazy. I'm lazy and I'm afraid of sounding like an idiot. I guess that is the type-A personality in me: if I'm going to do something, I wanted to do it perfectly immediately. And I just can't do that with language. I actually have to get out and talk with people and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, or I'm never going to learn anything.

So there it is. I do not think it is a mere coincidence that I met Nathalie on my three-month marker. I don't believe in coincidences. I believe this was something that needed to happen because good Christ, I'm in Germany! I have Germans at my disposal! It's not like at home where you're with your tight-knit group of German students and teachers (because really, who speaks fluent German in Boise? A handful of people, maybe) and you're forced to interact with them in order to improve you language skills. No. I'm in Germany, with real, honest-to-God German people, German television, German libraries, and German movies. I have to order food in restaurants in German. I have to buy train tickets and bus tickets and whatever else in German. I need to start speaking German to people. Even if I sound like the biggest moron. Even if I make mistakes and get my sentences backwards and basically make a clusterfuck of a once comprehendable idea. So that is what I'm going to do. Before I go home in exactly 28 days, I am going to speak German with people. Or at least try. I reserve the right to default back to English should someone not understand me at all.

So thank you, Nathalie. You may be one of my favorite people in Germany.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

my happy place.

Most days I have German class, I am there for a minimum of three hours. Usually around four, but sometimes I'm sitting there for almost five. Right around the fourth hour, I go to my happy place. For whatever reason, I'm just not able to deal with such an intense overload of German, and the fourth hour seems to be right about the time I start thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner or what movie I'm going to watch or what is going to happen on "Hand Auf Herz" at 6:00. Will Bea continue to sleep with her underage student? Will the girls get into another fist fight? Who the hell was the chick who overdosed on (cheap) vodka and had to be taken to the hospital? So many questions that are still unanswered and thus must be pondered while I'm sitting in Frau Grigorieva's Grammatik class. Unfortunately, Frau Grigorieva's class is not one I should doze in and out of, as she could be quite possibly the scariest teacher I've ever had. Now don't get me wrong: I've had teachers that are just mean, and I don't learn anything because of their abrasive and downright shitty attitudes. Frau Grigorieva is scary in a way that I find appealing--dare I say she scares me into doing better. I don't want to get anything wrong in her class because she might beat the shit out of me. I kid you not.

Anyway, this is all nice background to what happened yesterday in Grammatik class. I dozed out. I didn't mean to, but I didn't get to eat lunch, all I had were raisins, which I devoured in the first hour, and I was getting a little antsy. I guess at some point, Frau Grigorieva had said we wouldn't be having class on Friday. Either I didn't understand her, or I was daydreaming about Guidos pizza. I don't know. It was probably a combination of both. Anyway, I wasn't going to be in class anyway on Friday since I have my appt. with the city to become an official "German" citizen, so I went up to her after class to inform her of this. Since I still don't know future tense, I showed her the letter I received and explained to her that I wouldn't be there, in English.

As a side-note, I'm not sure which of my teachers actually speak English. Fluently. I mean, I think all of them have at least basic knowledge of English, but I'm not sure if any of them could hold a conversation with me in English (except for Frau Schmitt, who helped me to translate that stupid letter I received from the Munich police dept. Thank you, Frau Schmitt).

Anyway, she read the letter and asked me, in German, if I had been paying attention. She got that look in her eyes--you know, the one a lion gets right before it jumps on the back of a zebra and disembowels it with its razor-sharp back claws? The only thing going through my mind was "shit, shit, shit." And what is the first thing I say? "Oh, wait, that's what you were saying"? She looked at me like "oh my God, are you effing serious" and I just started laughing. I couldn't help it. I think she then asked me, in German, how much of the class I actually understood. I told her I was in my happy place. I don't think that translated well, especially because I could not stop laughing. She handed me back the letter shaking her head. But I saw her smile. I SAW IT. So at the very least, I may be an idiot, but at least she thinks I'm a funny idiot, yeah?

So now I feel it necessary to actually study some German tonight. I mean, I'm not going to see her again until next week, but I feel her leering gaze over my shoulder when I sit and peruse youtube videos. Dare I say I even feel her flick my ear repeatedly. So now I'm sitting here writing this blog and going over modal verbs. Which is NOT what I want to be doing with my Wednesday evening, ha ha.

Oh yes, and in other news, Sick of Sarah released their new cd yesterday. It is called 2205 and you MUST buy it. It is fantastic. I heart it.

And I bought Wir sind Helden's cd (kind of new--it came out in August), and we got our tickets to their show in Saarbruecken. I'm pretty damn excited about this. The one concert I wanted to go to (other than Die Happy) whilst living in Germany was Wir sind Helden. Their songs are introducing me to all sorts of new verbs and adjectives. I love it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sie haben Wal-Mart in Deutschland...

And it is called Globus. I had heard, since I came to Saarbrücken, about the gloriousness of Globus, but I had yet to have first-hand experience with what can only be described as a giant, German/French version of Wal-Mart.


If ever there was an homage to be paid to American consumerism in Germany (and this is, of course, ignoring what McDonalds is doing to Europe), it is Globus. I had become so accustomed to not seeing so many different things under one roof--like appliances, groceries, meat, restaurants, optical shops, florists, etc., that I almost had a heart attack when we walked inside. It was HUGE. HUGE! And they had, like, real food. Not the stuff I have been getting at the Netto! In fact, at this very moment I am enjoying my Blaue Weinbeeren (blue raisins), Italian saltine crackers with Kerrygold butter and some cheddar cheese. REAL FREAKING CHEDDAR CHEESE.

Oh, and of course, let's not forget the REAL tonic water I found, 7-Up and the bottle of vodka I purchased (this will be, seriously, my second time having vodka in Germany).

I kind of want to cry.

It is very strange--despite the fact that I still think the people here are quite rude (um, let's talk about what happens when you take a place like Globus and couple it with a bunch of German/French people all pushing each other out of the way and not saying excuse me. I was about ready to turn around and backhand the next person that shoved past me and glared at me as if my presence was an inconvenience to their existence. Douches) I am really starting to warm up to this place. Dare I say I think I am going to be very sad when I leave.

It's weird to start an entire new life someplace. The people you meet and the friends you make really don't know that much about you or your former life. It's almost like a chance to start over. I don't feel like I've changed all that much, but I'm wondering how different things will be in the next month. Three months? Eight months? Am I going to get used to being here right when I have to leave? Will I still talk with all the people I've met? I sure hope so. I like the friends I have over here. I like the stupid and strange adventures we go on. I'm going to really enjoy it when I'm able to actually speak some German. I'm trying not to get too frustrated (even though there are certain times when the ability to communicate would be extremely beneficial *cough* bakery girl *cough*) because I know that at some point I'll get it. This whole week, though, I've felt like there is a reason I am supposed to be here. I don't know what that reason is, but I feel like I am in the right place at this particular moment in my life, and that is an AWESOME feeling.

In the meantime, I get to go home in 36 days, drive my car, sleep in my own bed, see my wonderful friends and family and eat all the food I've been missing. And it will be a good break to get me through the 8 month long-haul.

In other news, I think I'm teaching other cultures certain idiosyncrasies that are not reflective of American culture. Case in point: today the lovely Korean girls in my class, whom I am particularly fond of because they are always so happy when I see them, asked me if it is customary in American for people to wave with both hands when they say hello or good-bye. I kind of looked at them funny and thought about it and said "no, I don't think so." The one girl then asked me why I always wave with both hands when I say hello to them. Ha ha, apparently I wave like a little kid with ADHD whenever I see someone on the street. So if any of you see any Koreans in America and they wave at you with two hands when saying hello, you can blame that one on me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

damn you, language barrier!

Okay, this whole language barrier and my inability to communicate with people is really getting in the way of my social life--more specifically, my ability to flirt with any sort of success. Here is the problem: Ich weiß die Worter in Deutsch, aber Ich kann nicht mit diesem Worter satzbildung . (Ha ha, because that sentence will be an indication of just how much I suck at German). So I'm amassing a ridiculous vocabulary of German words, but I can't construct them into a sentence that makes any sort of sense. German is backwards from English--the conjugated verb stays with the subject, but all subsequent verbs come at the end of the sentence. And there are all these rules for when you use conjunctions and the placement of the verbs, or whether or not words are in the nomativ, dativ, oder akkusativ. Basically, I want to tear my hair out. And throw my hands up and quit. Or drink a beer.

I mean, really...I've been here almost three months and I'm still having a shit time talking with anyone in German. I can write it just fine because I can actually sit here and go over what I've written to find my mistakes, but having an actual conversation with someone gets incredibly overwhelming. And that's of course assuming I can even follow what they are saying in the first place.

So yeah, let's be honest (I don't think my mom reads my blog anyway). I have a bit of a crush on the girl who works at the bakery I go to all the time (may be an understatement). And I'd like to clarify that I don't just go there all the time because she works there--their breads and pastries are heavenly. Her working there is just an added little bonus. Anyway, all the women that work in this bakery are extremely nice, and they deal with my inability to talk to them, which is awesome. I mean, how much vocabulary do you need to know to ask someone for a pastry? (Well, try to pronounce the word "Apfelkrapfe." I failed. And the woman thought it was hilarious. I sound like such an asshole sometimes, ha ha).

Anyway, yes, so I have a crush on this girl. And I know absolutely nothing about her. Why? Because I can't freaking ask questions in German because it takes me hours to say anything in German. I don't even know her name! I know she at least recognizes me because she always smiles when I come in, and recognizes the fact that I don't speak German because she helps me with my vocabulary (like today's awesome bout of charades when I couldn't remember the effing word for to cut, which, btw, is schneiden and a word I am entirely familiar with), but come on. I feel like this whole crush is entirely irrational and a bit pointless. I have no idea if she is single or in a relationship, or if the door even swings that way. And I don't know how to find out any of this information! I was determined today to at least find out her name, but I got so flustered trying to piece the rest of my German together when ordering my bread, that it was just a lost cause. I fail. I fail so hard. Jesus, at home if I am this hung up on someone, I can flirt like there is no tomorrow. I can be cute and smart and funny and all that shit, but not here. Not at all. I just come across as some dumb-ass American with an inability to talk beyond the level of a three-year-old. So I'm either going to have to buck up and learn some German stat, or watch my midsection expand for the next few months.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Topics after a bottle of wine...

Okay, I'm not going to pretend like we didn't consume a bottle of wine...each. That would be lying. And you all would see right through it. I'm extraordinarily good at lying, except when I drunk. I start to giggle, my face turns bright red and all is lost. Like right now. Except you can't see me laughing uncontrollably. The Internet is awesome that way.

Anyway, it's amazing the sorts of topics that come up when one has been drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Things that you would not normally discuss in every day conversation. Case in point:

In Germany, you do not buy your medicines at the grocery store or at your local Walgreens. You can get things like cough drops and vitamins there, but for most aspirins, sleep aides, etc., you have to go to die Apotheke. When you walk in, you're greeted by someone who I can only assume has some medical background, who proceeds to ask you why you are there. This was fine when I walked in needing a sleeping aide. I told her my problem, she pointed me in the right direction and low and behold, I found sleep that night with the aide of a non-prescription sleeping pill.

While this may sound like a wonderful thing, I can only imagine the conversation that would take place if one had, er, a...how shall we say? Blockage? Of the intestinal variety. THIS was the topic of conversation tonight. I was familiar with the protocol of the Apothekes in Germany, and contemplated for a good many nights before I left whether or not I should bring Miralax from home. Because I could not imagine walking into one of these establishments and proclaiming to the nearest person working there that I had a, er, blockage. I wouldn't even know how to say that in German. We decided tonight that the best phrase would be "Ich kann nicht Scheiße."


Let's all pause and think about the repercussions of such a statement. Because given my tenacity for truthful declarations of health-related ailments, this is EXACTLY what I would say to someone if I were looking for a laxative. Now imagine you are the person on the other end of such a statement. *sigh* Added to the list of things I'm bringing back to Germany from the states (including, but not limited to: Blue Cheese dressing, peanut butter and normal deodorant): Miralax.

I've also started to learn helpful conversational basics in Czech because we are going to be running the half-marathon in Prague in April. It's very difficult to track down an inexpensive Czech-German dictionary; it is nearly impossible to find one that is Czech to English. The weird thing is is that I can speak Czech really well, though I can't write it for shit due to their alphabet with 38...39(?) letters. Which is the exact opposite problem I have in German: I can write it just fine, but to speak it I sound like a moron. UGH. Languages, why do you have to be so difficult!

But I'm pretty damn excited about this half marathon, mainly because the only way my ass gets in shape is if there is a race looming in the distance. Though we didn't run tonight. Instead we went to the bookstore so John could pick up a "Deutsch als Fremdsprache" book and a Russian translation dictionary, and so that I could wander through the Penguin Classics in English. I picked up a copy of "The Great Gatsby" and "Northhanger Abby." Because I figured if anyone could help me regain my once stellar grasp on the English language, it is Ms. Jane Austen and her unwavering ability to use giant English words that no one uses anymore, except for pretentious English majors and assholes who think they are smarter than everyone else.

Okay, I think that is enough blogging for tonight. I must get to bed. Or tomorrow is going to be a ROUGH day.

But here is a video from one of the greatest bands ever. And if you don't laugh uncontrollably at this video, your sense of humor needs some fine-tuning!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Es ist Herbst in Saarbrücken

Today John, Brice and I went for a hike that was only supposed to be an hour but fell just short of three. We ended up in a town about 8 kms away from Saarbrücken called Scheidt. But I took a few photos along the way. The Stadtwald around Saarbrücken is absolutely stunning. Of course, I just kept picturing scenes from the Blaire Witch Project. This is Germany, after all; these forests were the inspiration for the Grimm Brothers fairy tales. You know those tales are based on actual events, at least somewhat. I'm sure there are a bunch of crazy witches that dance naked in the forest, conjuring spirits and eating little children or something.

Anyway, enjoy the photos!

I have a date with my oven when I get home...

One of the not-so-great things about living in the dorms (aside from sharing my living space with a bunch of kids that are at least 8 years younger than me) is that I do not have an oven. An oven is one of those things that you really take for granted; you don't realize how much you may utilize your oven until it is gone. I cannot make salmon. I cannot oven-fry potatoes. I cannot *gasp* make cookies. Or pizzas. It is a very, very sad thing.

Yesterday I was reminded of just how much I miss my oven when I posted my favorite recipe for my most favorite cookies ever: Hershey Kiss thumbprint cookies.

I make these cookies every year for cookie exchanges, gifts for the mailman, or just for me to eat with Tessa when she comes to visit, usually accompanied by a Baileys and hot chocolate and a "Bones" marathon. There's nothing quite like snuggling under a giant fleece blanket, watching television and getting drunk while consuming 48 of these magnificent little cookies.

I've tried dozens of different thumbprint cookie recipes, but I want to share the best one I have found with everyone. You can use any sort of Hershey Kiss in the middle, or even Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Because your ass will not get big enough with just the Hershey Kisses. :)

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. peanut butter (creamy)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together first 5 ingredients; then add remaining flour and mix until you form a sticky dough. Roll into small balls (about the size of a golf ball) and place onto a greased cookie sheet (I also like to roll the balls in some extra granulated sugar before I put them on the cookie sheet).

Bake 8-10 minutes or until just golden brown. (DO NOT bake any longer--they will get all burned and weird. Remove them IMMEDIATELY from cookie sheet and place them on a plate. If you don't, the bottom will continue to bake, aka, burn).

Place Hershey kiss (with wrapping removed) in center of each cookie, while they are still hot. You can move to cookie rack if you so choose.

Makes approximately 48 cookies.

I plan on making about 20 dozen of these cookies the Friday I get home. Vickie and I have already planned on stuffing our faces Saturday morning after the Christmas Run.

Anyways, everyone have a wonderful November--my friends in the states: eat lots of turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving and think of me...here...in the land of bratwursts.