Monday, September 19, 2011

On a lot of stuff

Life has become somewhat too complicated to give a super in-depth update, so I'll settle for some highlights for this entry. (You can translate that as, yes, I have been meaning to update for like four days but have failed miserably. Oh well.) I've also been accused (falsely, of course) of copying other people's blogs, so I'll do my best to be completely original in this post.

Things of Interest in the Last Week:

Kilian started (and ended) fußball:
       Probably everyone who has any knowledge of soccer knows that it's basically a religion in Germany. Kilian's been looking forward all week to having his first football practice. He got his new schienbeinschützer (shinguards) and of course has been wearing them around the house every day. When Thursday night rolled around, however, Kilian started crying to his mom about how he didn't want to go to football because he wouldn't be able to score any goals and his team would lose. His mother of course assured him that it didn't matter, it was about having fun, and he was somewhat relieved. His dad came home early from work the next day to take him to his football practice (good father-son bonding, of course).
      Interesting comment: Kilian was very concerned all week that Cliona not be told about his playing football. (Her obsession with the ich auch coming into play.) Therefore, whenever anyone brought it up, Kilian freaked out, hissing "Not in front of my sister!!" and would say to her, "Nein, Cliona, not playing football! Papi and I go to the store!" Which is super cute but does rather encourage dishonesty...
     Anyway, off Kilian and his papa went to football while Anne and I stayed home with Cliona and made dinner. They returned about an hour later with a super grumpy Kilian who refused to talk about football except to say he was never going back. Michael explained to us that he didn't understand that in football/soccer, you had to go get the ball yourself because the other kids weren't supposed to pass it to you. He apparently just stood on the side the whole time, angry because no one would give him the ball. It was super sad. His parents are trying to persuade him to go back next Friday to give it one more try, but we'll see what ends up happening...

Construction continues:
      But I finally have a bathroom! It's lovely to not have to stumble up the dark, steep stairs to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I also got to take a shower, which was incredible (literally no shower in the house for three full days....ouch). However, the banging continues, and more than the banging, the drilling continues. They're really doing a full bathroom re-do: knocking down walls, taking out tiles and plumbing. It's quite an incredible job. Long story short, the kids are utterly terrified of the sound. (I admit I am a bit too; when it was in the basement it was bearable, but when it's on the second floor, it shakes the whole house. Working in the kitchen just under where they're doing the drilling is terrifying.) So Thursday, when I got them home from school, we made some sandwiches and went to have our dinner at the park.
        Interjection: These workmen are ridiculous. They arrive at the house promptly at 7 AM and often have to be asked to leave at 7 PM. Last week they finally left the house at 7:57 PM one night. (Bear in mind Cliona goes to bed at 7 PM, so this really doesn't work.)
        Anyway, park time. One would think taking kids to the park would be very straightforward, but it requires a lot of attention-giving. Cliona will fall down the steps at the slightest provocation, so I have to be there with a hand under her bum most of the time. The bad part about having a helpful au pair to catch you whenever you fall is that it's easy to stop paying attention. At one point I was pushing her up the slide (she insists on being able to climb up it but definitely can't do it herself). This slide is metal, quite steep, and about three feet taller than I am, so though I can push her up, she needs to hold on to the bars and pull herself up at the top. This isn't too much to ask; she's almost three and is certainly capable. This time, however, she got distracted by boys on bikes or something, let go of the bars, and fell backwards. Fortunately I grabbed her before she could hit her head, but it definitely scared both of us, and at that point I refused to help her do any more slide climbing, which made her shriek. She's quite an excellent noisemaker and the whole park stared at us. Awkward.

Cliona--tree-climbing girl!
         About ten minutes later, Kilian ran up to tell me he had to use the toilet. Public restrooms in the park? Not on your life. The house is about a seven-minute walk from the park, but he said he had to go now. So we retreated to the woods that surround the park, and I held Kilian by his shoulders and knees in my arms while he "macht Kaka." I tried so hard not to be utterly disgusted by it, but really, holding someone in your arms while they poo on the ground? I don't make enough money to do that. Oh my goodness.

Some experience with German bureaucracies and cafes:
       I went last Thursday to attempt to get my visa. I was pretty nervous doing this alone; my German's good but words like "residence permit" and "registration" and "health insurance verification" weren't really covered in my German classes. I made it to the place with no trouble, got through the first line to get a number to get into an office, and sat and waited.
       Germans are not only very efficient, they're smart. This office was incredibly well-organized, and about every twenty minutes and woman would come through the room with a cart of coffee, tea, soft drinks, muffins, and brezen (pretzels) for sale, at quite reasonable prices. Imagine if the DMV did something like that!
      When my number was called, I went to the room on the board, but opening it a crack, I saw people already in there so I didn't go in, assuming (sillily) that the machine was broken and the room number was wrong. My number kept blinking as I waited outside the door, and finally they called the next number, and a woman went in. I followed her in, confused, finally realizing that there were two desks in each room to attend to two people at a time. The woman looked at me frostily, informed she had "dreimal Ihre Nommer geruft" (called my number three times), and told me angrily to "Warten Sie draußen" (wait outside). I nervously sat outside the door for like twenty minutes, on the verge of tears (I am not a typical crier but being yelled at by authority figures sends me back to kindergarten), with visions of being deported from the country/denied a visa because the lady didn't like me. I was almost glad when she finally called me in and we discovered I was missing a form that my family needed to fill out. So I'm back to the visa office (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) probably tomorrow.
      Not wanting to waste a trip into the city, it being a beautiful day, I headed into Marienplatz to do some sightseeing. I wandered around a bit, looked in some old churches, and settled down at an outdoor cafe to have some lunch and enjoy the day. I was seated quite near the register, so figured it would be quite easy. The waitress brought me a menu, left for a bit, came back, and I ordered a cappuccino. My cappuccino arrived and I sipped it for a bit, assuming she would come back soon to ask about my food. An hour passes. My cappuccino is long gone and my stomach is growling. Every time the waitress comes by I try to catch her eye, but look back down at my book so I don't seem rude every now and then. Not sure if I was supposed to raise my hand? Call out something loudly? Other people were getting service, but I never noticed them doing anything to get it. Finally, the time drawing near that I needed to be back to pick up the kids, I got the nerve to shyly squeak out an Entschuldigung, kann ich einen Baguette haben...? (Excuse me, can I have a baguette?) Clearly there's still something I'm not getting.

College parties--the same everywhere:
       Friday night a friend invited several of us English-speakers to a party she and her roommates were having. She lives in a student housing area with mostly students, so it was a good chance to go and meet some people at any rate. I met the other girls I knew outside and we went in. Sadly, the news that it was a white-T-shirt party had gotten lost by the time it got to me, so I was the loser in a brown shirt. Awkward. The party was only about 20-25 people, mostly Germans, and the easy thing to do was hang out in the hall with the English speakers, but I awkwardly persevered, stood like a loner in the kitchen where everyone was for like twenty minutes, then finally got up my nerve to talk to some of the guys there. Before I knew it, we were all chatting away in German about college, music, choir, Munich, differences in German cities, anything. It was tons of fun to actually talk to people! Definitely the most German speaking I've ever done.
      Germans take their toasting very seriously. The traditional toast is Prost, which you've definitely heard if you ever watched "Beerfest." Which I highly recommend, incidentally. But toasting is nothing like in the US, when we haphazardly call out cheers and clink a couple glasses. In Germany, it's incredibly rude to not look the specific person you're toasting in the eye as you do it. (The legend is that if you don't, you'll be cursed with bad sex for seven years.) And if someone wants to toast with you and your glass is empty, you'd better find whatever is near you to fill it up. This happens very frequently. I see why Germans drink so much--they're just trying to toast properly!

Oktoberfest begins:
     No, I haven't gone yet. I will though, fear not. The madness started on Saturday with a parade through the city. Lots of Bavarian pride; the mayor taps the first keg! I, sadly, was on babysitting duty with some very crabby kids, angry they were being sent out of the house so their parents could paint the bathroom.
With the kids at the library (that's Kilian in the background)
I went into the city at about 1:30 to meet up with some new people. Had coffee with a girl from London, and it was one of the most boring experiences ever...we had nothing to talk about, whatsoever. The couple sitting next to us were fortunately quite nice and glad to practice their English on us, so that helped a bit. After that, I walked around a while, went to the post office, and sat down in the sun next to the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz to await the arrival of another girl I was supposed to meet up with.

Glockenspiel on the Rathaus in Marienplatz
     German weather is impressive mainly because of its variability. I woke up that Saturday to cold, pouring rain. By the time we were finished at the library with the kids it was warm enough to go get ice cream for them. And by the time I was reading in Marienplatz it was about 85 degrees and I was feeling like an idiot in my long-sleeved shirt and scarf. The Glockenspiel goes off three times a day, and one of those happened to be at 5 PM, when I was sitting there. From what I've heard, it's really a pretty boring Glockenspiel, so I didn't get up to watch, but it was pretty funny watching the crowds watching the Glockenspiel. They all ooh-ed and ah-ed everytime something changed and it was pretty funny to watch.  The city was full of people wearing dirndls and lederhosen (and carrying beer bottles, surprise!).
Jolly drunken dirndl girls
       The girl I was supposed to meet finally showed up at around 5:30 and we walked around for a while talking and then went to get a beer at a cafe right near the Frauenkirche called Augustiner am Dom.  The beer was delicious and the people there were hilarious and drunk, occasionally bursting into song, and we passed a lovely three hours or so chatting about au pair-ing and Harry Potter and boyfriends and Germany.

Good touristy photo
       After paying for our beers, we headed out to walk around. It seemed like it was starting to rain, amazingly after such a hot day. After a short walk we encountered some very drunk Argentines who wanted to know where the English Gardens were. After trying to explain it to them, we agreed to walk them there, and off we set on our mission. Feeling a little weird about heading off into the darkness with these drunken fools, we took a train up to a closer station to where they wanted to go, but when we got off, the rain had gotten a lot heavier. We walked about half a kilometer to where I'd thought the entrance was, but we went the wrong way...oops. When it suddenly started pouring, my friend and I looked at each other, yelled a goodbye to the confused Argentines, and ran pell-mell back to the train station, arriving out of breath, soaking wet, and laughing like crazy.
      The train ride home was fairly disgusting. Not only was it incredibly cramped, full of wet, sweaty, drunks wearing sodden lederhosen and chanting at the top of their lungs about FC Bayern, there was an impressive amount of vomit on the floor of the train, which mixed with the rainwater people tracked in to make really an impressive soupy mess on the floor. That was a long ride. Seriously.  

The pouring rain continues:
      And it's supposed to until Tuesday! Ouch. It's also about 44 degrees right now and I am cold. Headed to the movie theater today with a couple of friends to see "Friends with Benefits" (in English, fortunately). It was actually really funny, if you're looking for something to see/it's still out in the US. We then treated ourselves to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with another friend, and the fajitas and mojitos were actually quite authentic and delicious, accompanied by a mariachi singer who serenaded us throughout the evening. All in all, a lovely way to spend a Sunday. Now back in my pajamas, listening to the rain outside!

Have a lovely rest of your weekend, all!

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