Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the road again

...or not!

The travel fairies have turned into something more like travel monsters. We are almost 40 minutes past our scheduled departure time for our New Years trip to Amsterdam, our friend is waiting to be picked up, and we, in our infinite wisdom, have dropped the car key down the elevator shaft of the hotel.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Didn't We Just Ask?

I'm sure there is a lesson here somewhere...

Yesterday, Husband and I decided it would be in our own best interests to break our 3-day voluntary shut in at the hotel, so we ventured out for some dinner and fresh air. Feeling a bit indulgent, we made our way to an Indian restaurant, which was one of the few places open on the double-whammy of German store closings (Sunday, and the day after Christmas), and found it sparsely populated but inviting. An American dude sitting in the first booth greeted us as we came in and recommended the buffet- apparently he's a regular. How could we resist the recommendation of a regular? Of course we couldn't, so we seated ourselves, fanned away the offer of a menu, and promptly ordered 2 buffets and 2 Coke Lights. Mmmmm, Coke Light.

As a side note, have I mentioned that there is rarely any kind of host or hostess in German restaurants, sans the very fancy ones wherein we have not yet dined?  You are expected to just seat yourself wherever you like, and if a restaurant is full, it is not uncommon for people to ask to sit with you at your table, if there are extra seats. That was a good lesson to learn on Day 1 in Germany, as it spared us what would have surely otherwise been frustratingly long or indefinite waits to be seated paired with mutual grumblings of poor service and bad manners. Additionally, tipping isn't always necessary, and should be no more than 10%, lest you send the message that you think the waiters job is too low paying and you should supplement his income. 

But back to the story! After ordering our meals and confirming that the buffet would be full (at the time there was only salad, curry potato balls and those hard bread things with sesame seeds in them), we loaded our first plate with the available fare and settled into jolly conversation. Ten minutes passed, twenty, thirty, and we were getting more than ready to move on to the next course. One can only eat oh-so-many potato balls, after all. But no food came! A few other people had come into the restaurant, and they had already recieved their meals, but the buffet remained mostly empty. We were beginning to be irritated and grouchy in a way that only hunger can manifest, and began staring pointedly and wistfully at the pristine serving spoons and covered hot spots on the buffet just waiting to be filled.

Forty minutes, then forty five and I got up to check the sign by the buffet stating the times it is available. We were well within the window! I caught the eye of the waiter and gave him a look of starving desperation, yet he did not respond. On my way back to the table I caught out of the corner of my eye a billowing cloud of steam coming from the buffet, so I went closer to investigate, but everything was the same as before. Then, a stroke of genius. I lifted up the shiny clean silver buffet pan lid, that I thought would reveal nothing but some simmering water underneath to keep its future tenant warm, but to my surprise and slight embarrassment, found instead a platter full of rice! Unbelievable. The buffet had been full the whole time, but appeared empty as we were the first to order it and none of the covers had been removed.

To abate my rapidly increasing realization of my own stupidity, I laughed it off, made a grand show of shaking my head and throwing my arms up in a "who'da thought" motion, and called Husband over to fill his plate. His red cheeks and louder than necessary guffaw made it clear that I wasn't the only one suffering from mixed emotions over the discovery. To rub it in, the waiter came over and asked if everything was ok, and Husband and I quickly bust into a tag-team explanation of why we hadn't been eating for the last 45 minutes. I think our verbal assault and maniacal nervous laughter may have either put him off or perhaps was too spirited for him to understand, as English appeared to be at best a second language, and he walked off after slower and calmer assurances that everything was in order, and we happily piled our plates high with curry.

The food was delicious.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good Cheer

Christmaaaas Christmaaaas tiiiiiime is heeeere. Tiiiiiiime for joooooy and tiiiiiime for cheeeeer. Name that tune!

Ah yes, the joys of the season! I am such a holiday fiend, it drives Husband crazy. Think what would happen if the Ghost of Christmas Present, Santa Clause, the Abominable Snowman, The Three Wise Men, Tiny Tim, feelings of goodwill, a Christmas Tree and the abstract idea of Holiday Cheer all found a way to mate (yes, cross-species mating seems awfully challenging, particularly when all the subjects are male and some have no bodily form to speak of, but do try to use your imagination). Whatever moral abomination would spring forth from such a festive union- yeah, I can identify with that.

Being in a hotel for the holidays was not really as bad as I was anticipating- in part because I was anticipating horrors so depraved and lonesome and devoid of all joy that man has not yet obtained the mental capacity to experience such tragedy, but also because the staff at our hotel has been wonderful. They've come by with all kinds of cheerful trinkets, my favorite among them were the chocolate-filled Advent calendars and the creepy Santa and Nutcracker cylinders holding dark chocolate covered squishy gingerbread cookies. What could be better!?!

I'll tell you what could be better- a real, live(ish), free, piney Christmas Tree all a-light and festive. We had no real intentions of having a tree this year for several reasons, chief among them the whole "being in a hotel" thing, but Husband and I decided to enjoy the very last day of the German Christmas Markets yesterday in downtown Stuttgart, and as the vendors were packing up and tearing down when the market closed, we noticed vendor after vendor throwing away loads of pine branches and trees and things that they had used for decoration. Brave Husband gets bonus points for pantomiming some kind of "Can we please keep your trash" message to one of the German vendors, and we ended up with an honest-to-goodness Christmas tree. It's about 4 1/2 feet tall and is just absolutely the most wonderful thing I've ever kind of a Charlie Brown Christmas kind of way. 

Oh! Ho ho! Hold the phone! Check the time! I can't believe it slipped past me so quickly, but alas, it is officially Christmas! Well, Merry Christmas everyone, and remember that all of this is all because God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son. What a beautiful thing to celebrate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowflakes in Stuttgart and Frostbite on Faces...

I did not come to Germany appropriately dressed.

I should say, being from Indiana and experiencing the worst snowfall in DC history last year, you would think I would be better prepared for a German winter. Nope! I have learned nothing. It snows here as often as the wind blows and these crazy Germans seem practically impervious to the bone chilling cold and freezing rain. The other day I counted 8 individual souls of what must be questionable mental health riding BICYCLES in the snow. On the road. With traffic. At night. Half of them weren't even wearing gloves. I catch a chill just thinking about it.  

I must be of less hearty stock than I originally thought as I must pile layer upon layer just to walk 15 minutes to catch the bus. Two pairs of socks, leggings under jeans, camisole, long t-shirt, turtleneck, scarf, gloves, hat, jacket. All completely necessary. And I'll pass by Germans on my same route with nothing but a light sweater and a decorative scarf. Where do these people come from???? Well, Germany I guess.

It's been fun living in a place where people walk around a lot though, regardless of the near constant threat of hypothermia. Husband and I have braved the cold every weekend to go to outdoor Christmas Markets and festivals and such, and while our little toesies and noseies practically shatter with frostbite, the experience has been pretty cool so far. Almost worth it! We are headed on a day trip with the USO tomorrow to visit Prague, and the high temperature is expected to be a balmy 18 degrees. That's Fahrenheit people. Lets hope they have hot chocolate.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One potato, two potato...

Guess how long it took me to connect the dots between the delicious sunshine-yellow potato concoction housed just underneath the lettuce in every single salad I've had in Germany, and the aptly named GERMAN Potato Salad we are so accustomed to in the U.S. Ha ha! Can't slip anything past me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

They call me Hausfrau

So, housing is fun. NOT. NOTNOTNOTNOT. It is NOT fun. Rainman couldn't even say it enough.

After three long days of a harrowing battle between I, the beautiful and courageous damsel quite distressed, and mine very own enemy, the monstrous entity best known as the Housing Office (::shudder::), I have come out mostly victorious! Tragically, a call to my sister was fatally lost in the fray, but I knew there would be causalities going in to this battle. The call, RIP, was just an innocent bystander, bless it's little dial toned soul.  May the memory of the call-that-was-not forever linger in our hearts and minds. Amen.

I'm not even was that bad.

Since Husband is off being the sole breadwinner these days, which is the whole reason we came to Germany, I'm taking on the temporary title of both Hausfrau and Personal Assistant/Secretary/Life Coach. Basically, while Husband is spending his long German days laboring for the establishment, I am taking care of pretty much everything else, sans finding the new parts we will need to make our very American car speak German. I'm all like, "So, what's the difference between a hubcap and a rim?", and at that point Husband found it prudent to stage an elaborate coup on our daytime-responsibility hierarchy and immediately usurped my car-part-purchasing power. Little did he know, the whole thing was a ruse to skirt responsibility on the issue anyway- I definitely know the difference between a hubcap and a rim. Hubcap is two syllables and rim is one. So HA. 

The most pressing "quality of life" issue I'm working on now is find a permanent place to live. We are currently staying in a delightful all-suite hotel, but the constant immediate proximity of Husband and I in the room, coupled with lack of American stimulation- like TV- and compounded by sharing one overworked laptop, has brought us to a point of nervous exhaustion. Luckily, we are still extremely in loooooooooove, a mere 4 weeks past our wedding, so we haven't yet succumbed to the bitter crankiness and personal sabotage that may test more established couples. Good thing we are doing this now while on our best one-month-anniversary behavior than years from now when we might be more wont to lash out in ugly and vengeful ways.

I have 2 appointments set up to see apartments and one more in the works, so hopefully there is an end in sight to the madness. And hopefully that end involves heated floors and a vista.

X-Rated least PG 13

There is a town around here that people keep suggesting as far as locations for potential permanent housing. It is spelled Böblingen, and pronounced something like Burb-la-gen. However, you know how I feel about German pronunciation- you kind of just have to slide right through the "R" in the first syllable. It needs to be more like just the passing idea of an R instead of the actual sound. Like right before you said the word you were ruminating on how R has wronged you in the past, and you just can't get it out of your mind or out of your vocabulary. Like you and R have some kind of foul history together and it's just getting under your skin. Maybe R slept with your girlfriend, maybe R owes you some money, maybe R got drunk one night and told you what it really thinks of your new haircut, and now you don't know if the relationship will ever be the same. A mild R. R-Light if you will.

Will you?

Husband and I have spent a totally unnecessary amount of time trying to master the subtlety of the fancy ö, and when it comes down to it, we actually prefer to refer to the area as "Boob Lickin'." Kind of sounds like that too. Minus the R. Plus some American.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Being Flakey

The snowflakes here are unbelievable. It's like God practices his winter arts and crafts right over Germany, and as well all know, Gods needs no practice with his art or craft. They are perfect- just like drawings. Husband and I got honked at the other day stopped at what turned out to be a green light as we were mezmorized by the perfectly formed flakes hitting the windshield. It was so wonderous a site, we considered just letting the people honk while we continued to gaze.

In other news, it snows like a mo-fo here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Roll roll roll your R's....deep inside your throat.

I'm trying to learn a little German each day. It's been kind of fun, and a little successful, and at first I thought it was somewhat easy until I really started to listen to how Germans actually pronounced their words. Do you know how to roll your R' the back of your throat? It's a little trickier that way.

I have been rolling my Spanish R's for years now- I'm practically a pro thanks to my elementary school education which included (truth be told) exceedingly remedial second-language instruction. The esteemed teacher, you know, Senora, really always seems so proud of her perfectly rolled R's, and we practiced them ad nauseum. Sometimes I think she rolled her R's even when the word did not require it, just to prove her skill at the matter. Show off. But the Germans, oh the Germans (!), they have such a way about them when it comes to matters of the spoken word. Everything is pronounced about 3 1/2 inches farther back in the throat than what I'm used to, which is quite impossible. They roll their R's in a way I'd never dreamed of, and believe me, I'm nothing if not a dreamer.

So, imagine a rolled R. Just go ahead and roll one for me now. Go ahead. Out loud. Rrrrrrr. Maybe even throw out a cat claw with a wink while you do it. Rrrrrrrrrrr. Now, take that sound and push it to the back of your mouth until your uvula starts to vibrate and your tonsils buzz, and THAT is the German R. I don't see how they do it. I've already started to gag twice, and I'm only trying to pronounce frau.

My strudel isn't German

Before I get chastised for inappropriate use of dessert pastry imagery, I will say that after an exhaustive amount of research (a google search) I realized that the strudel was not originally a German confection, but is rather native to Austria.

Well, so what.

It's such a fun word to say with an insultingly thick German accent. Struuuuudel. Strrrrrrruuuuudel. Sssstrrrruuuuuudeeeel. It's perfect.

Guten tag, Guten Strudel!

I got married a month ago. Three weeks ago my husband and I moved to Germany. So....that was fun. No stress there! Since we are both highly organized and efficient Type A personalities, we were totally prepared for not just the wedding but also the move, and felt completely in control of all of our circumstances.

Bah. Hahahaha.

Edit: By the Grace of God we survived without going or getting mad, and are now working on starting our lives (for the next few years) in beautiful (read: cold) Deutschland. Lets see if I can't do a proper job of chronicling these exciting times. Guten Strudel!