Monday, September 12, 2011

On German children, Austria, and figuring out life

Well, everything's going well here in German-land. The bathroom construction continues (did I mention that? The bathrooms are getting redone.) and my bathroom is supposed to be functional by Wednesday. It will be very nice to have a bathroom on the same floor as me again!

Kiddos continue to be good as well.  Cliona seems to be getting into a bit of a diva stage, which manifests itself mainly at mealtimes, but all-in-all they're quite excellent.

Cliona in her pram on the way home from kindergarten
Kilian started today at his "Jack and Jill playgroup." He still goes to his ordinary one but every Monday from now on he attends this one where all the speaking is done in English, run by a woman from the UK, naturally. Whereas the kindergarten is a mere 1.2 kilometers from the house (3/4 of a mile, an easy 12-minute walk), this playgroup is down in Neubiberg, the next suburb over, and is 1.8 km from the house, so no longer that comfortably walk-able. (This makes me sound disgustingly lazy. I'm not, it's just that it's only Kilian who goes to this one and on his bike he's actually quite fast, and it would take a lot to keep up with him on his bike.) So Anne got out her bike for me so Kilian and I could ride together. Unfortunately for 5'4 me, Anne is about 5'11 and her bike is similarly sized. I am sore and I almost crashed way too many times, but I at least got Kilian to and from his playgroup!

And some sample kiddie-dialogues. I'm sure similar ones happen with American kids all the time, but these are my kids so they're cooler. And they're in German!

Bear in mind, most of these happen at least twice daily:

Kilian: Cliona, ich bin fünf und du bist zwei.    (Cliona, I am five and you are two.)
Cliona: Ich bin auch fünf!                                               (I am five too!)
Kilian: Nein!                                                                            (Nuh-uh!)
Cliona: Doch!                                                                          (Yeah-huh!)
Kilian: Nein!                                                                            (Nuh-uh!)
Cliona: Doch!                                                                          (Yeah-huh!)
et cetera...

Similar arguments take place when Cliona claims she is also starting fußball or also playing tennis. She cannot stand to have Kilian doing anything she isn't.

This also happens numerous times daily, sometimes with occasional variations.

Kilian: Ich hab' gewonnen!                                           (I won!)
Cliona: Ich hab' auch gewonnen!                             (I won too!)
Kilian: Nein, ich!                                                                   (No, me!)
Cliona: Ich auch!                                                                   (Me too!)
Kilian: Nein!                                                                             (Nuh-uh!)
Cliona: Doch!                                                                           (Yeah-huh!)

At which point Kilian, clever child that he is, will turn it into....
Kilian: Nein, Laura hat gewonnen!                        (No, Laura won!)
Cliona: Nein, ich!                                                                  (No, me!)            
Kilian: Nein, Laura!                                                             (No, Laura!)

Their parents think this is endlessly annoying but I think it's hilarious.

Cliona also successfully didn't "Kaka machen" in her pants today, thank goodness! Yesterday was the sixth day in a row, so clearly some regression, but today was better. She must have been thinking hard about it too, because she said repeatedly to herself in the pram on the way home, "I want not Kaka machen. I am a big girl. Not baby."

A quick review of this weekend: Saturday, went into the city to meet a few au pairs, one of whom I'd met before. We got coffee and walked around, ending up in the English Gardens. For those who don't know it, the English Gardens are basically Munich's version of Central Park in New York City, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Hyde Park in London (I'm sure I could go on? I just want you to be impressed by my worldly knowledge of parks).  It was created in 1789 and spans about 4 square kilometers. Doesn't seem like that much, but Wikipedia also informs me it has 75 km worth of paths, so perhaps that's why I was so tired. The gardens are gorgeous. The Isar River flows through them and there are people swimming everywhere. There's even a part of the river known as the Eisbach (ice-brook) where there are perpetual waves, and there's actually quite a sport of river-surfing. Google it. There are also teahouses, old-fashioned temples, an enormous Chinese tower, and of course, no fewer than three beer-gardens, the largest of which seats 7,000 people. The English Gardens are also famous for permitting nude sun-bathing. Yes, it sounds hot. But of the many nudes I saw, all were old, saggy, wrinkled, male, and did I mention old, saggy, and wrinkly? I've seen enough elderly German male genitalia to last me--well, a lifetime. And they love to flaunt it, too.

Sunday the whole family got up at the crack of dawn (okay, 7:15) and drove to Austria. The weather had been promising to be about 85 degrees, and the Germans are excellent at taking advantage of good weather. Our goal: a children's nature-adventure-land called Hexenwasser. On the side of Hohe Salve, one of the peaks in the Alps, it has a lot of cool attractions for children, having to do with mysterious witches that supposedly inhabited this mountain. There were little rivers to walk through, giant umbrellas, water troughs that flowed up the side of a hill, cool bridges to walk across, et cetera. The area is actually a huge skiing location in the winter, so we took the gondolas up to the children's area and then up another 500m or so to the top of the mountain, where there were telescopes, beautiful views, and of course, a beer garden. 

I sadly forgot my camera, but this is the area on the summit.
After looking at the incredible view (mountains in 360 degrees!), we headed back down and had lunch at another of the beer gardens with a great playground for the kids. Lunch was Kaiserschmarren, which is rather like doughy funnel cake with raisins and powdered sugar on it that you dip in applesauce. We then made the drive back home, hot and sweaty, with two super tired and cranky kids. The rest of the day was napping and grilling sausages, lamb, fish, and vegetables outside on the barbecue to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day.

Today I finally ventured in to take the Einstufungstest to see which language class I get to take via the Volkshochschule (people's school--community college-esque). I was supposed to do this like a week ago but kept putting it off, so today it was finally time to do it. I made it in to the location via bus and S-Bahn, waited in a looooong line, and took the test. It was disgustingly hard, but apparently it was supposed to be, as I got placed in the B2 level (these being GoetheInstitut levels, which range from easy A1 to C2, so I'm in the fourth level. Not too bad). Tomorrow I'm hopefully going back in to town to get my visa. 

A brief comment on European business structure: If there were ever a business in America that had ridiculous hours like Monday/Tuesday 9 AM-1PM, Wednesday/Thursday 2PM-6PM, Friday closed, Saturday 11AM-5PM, they would be booed. Or have tomatoes thrown at them. Here, that's totally normal. Even the government administration building I have to go to for my visa is ridiculous (and in fact even more limited than the above!). Silly. That's all I'm trying to say.

Now for a brief moment of introspection. The weirdest thing about being here is that there are no goals. I've been in school (with the exception of summer vacation, of course) for the last 18 years of my life (I'm counting preschool). There's always been something to be looking ahead to, be it a paper to write, changing classes, a choir concert, going home for a weekend, learning something cool. Now suddenly, not only is there no school, there's not even the familiarity of friends and family. My goals here range from keeping the kids from crying to ironing well to emptying the dishwasher to getting off of Skype before it's too late. Even goals related to better learning German are served best by going out and drinking with people, basically. It's a very new and rather shocking frame of mind for me. There's no reason why I can't go out every night (well, when I have friends to go out with, anyway). I think what I'm trying to say is that right now, I have no Purpose other than to hang out with kids and have fun. With that as my life's work after spending so long with the specter of a high school diploma/college degree hanging over my head, it's not so much refreshing as discomfiting.

Don't get me wrong, I'm having a wonderful time. It's just a lot of adjusting to be allowed to do nothing but have a wonderful time. I found myself wondering today if there were online classes I could be taking while I was here... 

And don't get me wrong, there are things I'm really looking forward to! Vastly overshadowing everything else is my boyfriend Nate's upcoming visit the weekend after next (!), but it will be great to have my own shower again, I want to see a beautiful fall season, the snow!, getting to know Munich better, starting language classes in October, and lots of other stuff. I'll get better at this whole unexamined life bit. Happy Monday, all!


  1. Look at you go! Love Cliona's self-admonitions about kaka machen (not). And good job on the German placement test, you! We're working on Grandy being able to read these, just via Google. Her homework was to try to do so today, so we'll see! Love you lots Laura Lou!!!

  2. Kaka machen made me laugh in the middle of German (appropriate timing) with Karen Gallagher...she wasn't amused. maha!

  3. Dad here: 'Twas another highly amusing blog-entry. It appears you're enjoying virtually all of your new life/role as manifested by your enjoyment of the kids' banter. Congratulations on your promotion to 4th level Deutsch! And the Youtube video I discovered on surfing in the English Garden was fascinating!

  4. I like your blog! glad the au pair meetup wasn't followed with "they were all a gigantic bore!" haha

    Also, I feel the same way sort of about finally being out of the school system and not having some concrete/definite next step in front of me.