Sunday, August 26, 2012

Packing Up My Suitcase...literally


     Well, faithful friends and readers, the hour has come. My family left about 6 minutes ago for their Italian vacation, and I am (deep breath) no longer an au pair. I managed to pull myself together enough not to cry when they left, at least! (Never thought I'd be saying that six months ago when I thought I wanted those little rascals out of my hair for good, but things change!)

    Okay, if we're on a full-disclosure dealio here, I wrote that first paragraph indeed, six minutes after my family departed. Then I got distracted by a bird or something, and now it's 26 hours later. Sorry. Moving on:

   At this moment in time, I have a terrifying 48 hours and 38 minutes left in Munich. I should probably be out soaking up the last of the city, but it's raining, I have to be somewhere at 4:30, so I'm timing my Ausflug (field trip) quite specifically to allow me good walk-through-rainy-Munich-maybe-buy-some-final-souvenirs time. Which leaves me at least a little time to try and whip some blogging out. (Can one whip out blogging? You tell me.) Speaking of souvenirs, any suggestions? I thought I'd be broke by the time I left, but I closed my bank account yesterday (which took an impressive waste amount of time. Long story short, I'd at some point loaded money onto the Geld Chip of my card (a chip on your bank card that allows you to use that money as sort of a gift card, handy for paying on buses and at vending machines (aren't multiple parentheses within each other exciting??)), and due to the fact that there was still 0.30 on that part of the card, they had to try and transfer that thirty cents to my regular account so they could give it to me. Which, apparently, would take four days. I eventually told them they could have the thirty cents as a present because I have places to be, people! (Yes, all that story told parenthetically! Don't you feel smart for having read it successfully? (Assuming you did...(more parentheses within parentheses!)))) and have rather more money left over than I'd anticipated! Sorry. I'm done, I swear. Anyway, I shall spend my remaining hours in Munich feeling richer than I have all year. It's nice.

    The last x days since my previous blog have passed in some kind of whirlwind or another, though while living them it was about the slowest two-ish weeks ever. I (clearly) survived eight days with just me and the kiddies, but it sure draaaagged while it was happening. I was saved mostly by the weather, which has been practically California hot and inspired my host parents to pick up a cheap wading pool for the back yard, which they planted the slide of the jungle gym in, leading to at least two/three daily hours of water fun (during which Au Pair Laura has nothing to do but apply sunscreen and make sure no one's drowning. Pretty easy to do whilst reading a book. SWEET.) Cliona and I were definitely sick of each other by the end of last week, but this week was a lot better with both kiddies home. They really do play well together (MOST of the time, but what siblings don't have their issues now and then?) Last Monday we took off to the other side of Munich (like seriously, an hour-and-ten-minute-long public transportation endeavor) to go to the water playground in Hirschgarten, Munich's (and Europe's! and maybe even the world's!) largest beer garden. There's a huge park surrounding it (the old recreational hunting grounds of the rulers of Bavaria, if I remember correctly; Hirshgarten means deer garden) and south of the beer garden itself, among the normal playground and meadows, is a water playground. And it's genius. It's basically just several slides set on a little brick hill, which some random ladders placed around, and there are several sprinklers continuously shooting the whole thing with water. It was the perfect thing for a hot day. There were tons of kids there, and Kilian and Cliona dived in with enthusiasm (though Cliona came running back sobbing every time she hurt herself, which was once about every ten minutes). We ended up spending almost five hours there, and when it was time to go, Kilian didn't even believe me that we'd been there that long. It was excellent, and I got to spend the whole time in the shade reading. Perfect. Poor Cliona did step on a bee at one point, and I mustered all the first aid I remembered (which isn't very much), and scraped the stinger out with my student ID and covered the whole thing with mud. However well it worked, she forgot about it long enough to play on the playground for another hour, though the pain magically resurfaced when we had to walk back to the bus, and she cried until she got a ride on my shoulders. Kilian was a wonderful little gentleman and carried my purse for me.

Conversation with Cliona the other morning:

Cliona (walks up to me eating my breakfast and climbs up on my lap):
Du kannst noch nicht richtig Skifahren! (You don't know how to ski yet!)

(She's very fixated on the sadness of me not being able to ski. We talk about it at least once a day and she tells it to everyone she meets.)

Me: Well, you're right, but I can do lots of other things!

Cliona: Was denn? (Like what?)

Me: Think about it.

Cliona thinks.

Cliona: Du kannst...Äpfel schneiden! Und...Banane abschälen! Und....laufen! (You can...cut apples! And... peel bananas! And...walk!)

My life's importance reduced to its bare minimum by a three-year-old.

   The rest of the week was pretty much just hanging out at home, with a few occasional trips to the park and to friends' houses. We played a lot of Monopoly Jr. (which I always win and therefore Kilian always cries) and Uno (which Cliona, surprisingly, almost always wins), read a lot of books (including all of the chidren's versions of Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver's Travels, which take about 45 minutes each to read out loud (in German, I might add)), and did some baking (on Thursday we made a chocolate zucchini cake and it was DELICIOUS, though the kiddies were very mistrustful until they got to lick the bowl out). Kilian was very sweet all week and gave me lots of hugs and told me how much he was going to miss me, and I did my best not to be sad! A part of me can't help but hate the new au pair a little, which totally isn't fair. Don't get me wrong, I hope she's good, just...not as good as me!

    Monday night we had a lovely dinner out in the back garden, with mini-quiches, salad, and baked peaches for dessert. And Anne and I made cocktails. Coolest host mom ever. Then Thursday we ordered in Indian and had a bottle of wine for my official last night as an au pair. And now, my family's gone! I can hardly believe it. It's weird still being in the house but knowing I'm not going to see them again before I leave. I never thought I would really get so attached to my family, but it's so sad thinking about not seeing them!

   Anyway, there was some other fun in the last couple of weeks. Last weekend, the weather finally arranged itself nicely enough to have a brilliantly warm and sunny weekend, so we took full advantage! On Saturday, Leigh came back up to Munich from her family's vacation house down in southern Bayern, and we went to meet the guy she's subletting from so she could officially take possession of her new apartment! I confess to major twinges of jealousy: it's such a cute little place and in such a wonderful location! Oh oh oh, how I wish I were staying! As the temperature continued to climb, we headed out to our main goal of the day: one last good English Gardens visit. We stopped to pick up some beers and snacks on the way, then camped out next to the river to enjoy the remaining sunshine.
    Unfortunately for us, our favorite spot on the river happens to be on the naked people side of the river. This usually isn't that much of a problem: you see your fair share of genitalia and breasts, but none of it gets too up close and personal, usually. But this time was different. I was lying on my stomach on my towel, attempting to find a crevice in the rocks to stick my beer into to cool it off (natural refrigeration ftw!), when suddenly I looked up, and lo and behold, was confronted with a penis a mere ten inches from my face or so. Its bearer was a pleasant-looking fairly young guy who we'd already noticed earlier (memorable due to his hilarious posture when in the river: behind stuck as far out behind as possible and chest as far forward as possible), and he quite kindly found me a place to put me beer. He continued to stand there right in front of us, conversing with me in German and flopping his junk through the river all the while (quite obviously). It doesn't help that the river is at a perfect just-below-crotch height. Leigh, the traitor, pretended not to speak German and rolled over the other way so she could laugh in peace, but I was stuck. Thankfully, he left to head back to his towel far on the other side of the meadow, and we were safe.

   Or so I thought. About an hour later, the same fellow, still birthday-suited up, came out of nowhere and sat down next to me and started talking. It was all pretty typical stuff that would have been a perfectly nice conversation (HAD HE BEEN CLOTHED): where are you from, how do you like Munich, your German's so good, have you ever been naked in the river...Okay, that one wasn't as normal. He tried to convince us casually for quite some time how nice it was to be naked in the river and we should really try it. After another brief dunk in front of us (this time with his attention focused on cleaning out his rear end properly), he left again. We watched him in terror, fearing that if he were watching us, as soon as we got in the river he'd come flopping running over to join us. I attempted to sneakily get in by sliding in feet first while looking super casual with my front half (pretty sure that didn't work), and we stood in the river for awhile while Leigh kept an eye on our naked friend, who kept turning to look at us. Having warned me she'd dive into the river if she thought it was necessary, after about ten minutes she shrieked and dove, floating off down the river, and I quickly followed. We swam just around a tree on the bank and got out to peek at him. He'd headed right to where our towels and bags were and put his towel down just across from them, and sat there expectantly waiting for our return. Not knowing what to do, we kept hiding in the river until we saw him disappointedly get up and head out to leave (walking right past us, of course; I jumped back in and floated right next to the bank, holding on to some plants to keep from getting swept down to where he was walking by the current). Then we headed back to our stuff, finally. I felt a little bad; he wasn't a bad guy and had the conversation been in any other circumstance, I would probably be writing about the lovely conversation I had with a German man the other week. But there's something about nudity that just made it all a little...odd. But let me tell you, I don't think I'll ever be awkward in a flirting situation again. Clothes are wonderful.

    Moving on, we spent a few more hours in the Gardens, then packed our stuff up and headed back to Leigh's apartment. Enthralled by the excitement of having a TV, we vegged out for a little while on a German Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-type show, then headed out to grab some pizza at about 10 PM, which we ate comfortably lounged on her balcony, enjoying the warm night air.

   The next morning, we arose, breakfasted on our leftover pizza, and headed to the train station to meet my friend Louise, where we boarded the S-Bahn to head down to Starnberger See, a lake just outside of Munich, where I'd planned with multiple people and at multiple times to go but was always foiled by the weather. But Sunday was perfect. It was about 90 degrees and we found a beautiful little private "beach" (no sand, but you get the idea) with a restaurant and bathrooms and docks to get in. The water was warm, the day was roasting (there wasn't even any pleasure in sunbathing; you'd just start sweating buckets as soon as the lake water dried off), and the food and drink were delicious. We spent the whole day fooling around in the water (best part was the huge logs anchored to the lake bottom) and eating ice cream, currywurst, and french fries. It was a wonderful day.

     A couple Wednesdays ago, Bavaria graciously deigned to grant its denizens a mid-week day of in honor of Mary's ascension to heaven (Maria Himmelfahrt). I'm personally of the opinion that every Wednesday should be a holiday. It breaks up the week quite wonderfully. If the US is as godly as a country as it claims, it needs to step up on its holidays. C'mon, who would say no to a regular two weeks off every June for Pentecost? I think it sounds like a grand idea. Anyway, to escape from my family for the day (after two full days with Cliona I was ready to hide), I hopped on the BOB and went down to see Leigh at her family's vacation home near Schliersee. Unfortunately for me, I chose the one time in probably all of Germany the entire year that the train chose not to function, and we had to disembark a stop before the one I'd get off at and take the bus instead. Grr. But we met up successfully and continued on the bus to the foot of Wendelstein, a large peak of the Bavarian Alps. We took a harrowing cable car journey to the top, where we could view the whole valley and the Alps surrounding us. It was gorgeous. We, of course, made time for a plate of french fries (with mayonnaise, like real Germans) and a beer. Because of the train situation, we couldn't stay for long (I had to be home to babysit and was worried the trains wouldn't be running to get me home on time, so I insisted we leave like two hours early), but it was lovely nonetheless. Greeted by trains that were working, we headed back to Schliersee for an hour to have an ice cream and sit by the lake, then I went the rest of the way back to Munich.

  Another 20 hours or so have passed, and it's now Sunday morning. I should be packing, but I've given myself seven hours to do it and I feel like that's way more than enough (famous last words, right?), so I'm going to put it off for a little longer and maybe even finish this blog. We'll see how that goes.

   Yesterday, after the bit of blogging I did, I headed into town for my last official day in the center of the city. The annoying thing about leaving on a Monday morning is that, as you may recall, shops are all closed on Sunday, so any shopping/souvenir buying/present getting I wanted to do had to be done yesterday. I somehow managed most of it, and then headed off to my adventure of the day: a Segway tour of Munich. This was my family's farewell present to me, which was really sweet, but I was a little nervous to ride a Segway. I'd chosen to do the tour auf Deutsch, as it made it seem slightly more legitimate (and I hate to perpetuate the fat American tourists on Segways stereotype), but after meeting the group I was going with and watching a safety video, I was a little worried (the video was super complicated and showed images of a little stick man falling about every five seconds. Eek!)

   But once I learned how to ride it it was pretty easy. The tour was a two-and-a-half hour ride through Munich, going down past the Isar, through some of the beautiful plazas, over the Oktoberfest meadow, and back through the southern gate of the city. It was actually really fun and I saw quite a few things I hadn't seen before, as well as learned some new information. I didn't fall the entire time (until the very end when I failed to get the Segway up over the curb to put it back in the shed! So close!) and enjoyed the lady who had ridden one before and was super cocky about it falling like four times, at every curb or hill. It is definitely an efficient way to get around, but to be quite honest, I would waaaaaay rather ride a bike. It's a little terrifying to be speeding around at 12 mph (which is super fast when you're standing vertically), and frankly, I felt like a mall cop the whole time. Segways are pretty conspicuous, and the reactions of people you pass don't really help (either clapping, cheers, catcalls, or just people pointing and laughing. Not really my style). But it was a blast, and we made it through the whole tour with practically no rain!
Bavaria statue
Soon-to-be Oktoberfest
   A couple days ago (yes, this blog is horrendously out of chronological order. That's what happens when you write it over a period of several days. Shh.), I met up with some buddies from my choir to have a barbecue on the Isar! I'd been told this was one of the things I most needed to experience before heading home, so I was excited. The weather didn't look too great, but we forged ahead anyway. Five of us met at the river, after picking up a plethora of food at the store, and proceeded, over a period of five hours or so, to successfully grill enough meat to feed a cavalry, on two teensy little throwaway grills we'd purchased from Tengelmann. It had a few false starts and someone had to bike back to the store to get some fire-lighting aids, but we managed impressively and had feast worthy of kings! We'd also, as choir kids do, brought a plethora of sheet music with us and even managed to get some singing done before the rain started at about 8 PM. Not willing to let the rain finish us off, we packed up our stuff and hopped on the U-Bahn to head back to my house, where we carried on singing and drinking wine until the wee hours of the morning, including a rousing rendition of Griechischer Wein that would have made my college German professor proud! (Listen here:  ) It was really one of the most fun nights I'd had in Munich--so nice to be able to have people over and just hang out with friends! I used to think it would be hard to really be friends with someone who had a different mother tongue than you, but honestly it makes not a speck of difference. We all go back and forth between English and German, because even if not everyone speaks the other language perfectly, pretty much everyone understands it well enough, and it's a lot of fun. My personal theory is that it even enhances communication to have the vocabulary and expressions of two languages to call on! Certainly keeps it more interesting, at any rate.

Beers cooling in the river
Germans learn how to do everything one-handed so they can always have a beer present.
How many Germans does it take to start a grill?

    There were a couple of other food-related adventures (okay, beer-related, if you MUST know. This is Germany, after all!), but nothing of great import to relate, other than some lovely evenings at beer gardens (Seehaus, right on the lake! and Chinesischer Turm), and some yummy dinners (sushi and froyo with Sarah! I don't need to go back to California now. I have found all the food I need here.)

Sarah showing off her German food

Chinesischer Turm by night
Favorite girls
    Okay, I should go pack now. I just took the first terrifying step and pulled my suitcases out of the storage room. Cross your fingers that the clothes and shoes I got rid of weighed at least as much as the goodies I'm bringing back! Someday soon (tonight, later today, tomorrow in the airport?) I'll write a farewell blog, but I won't do it now because I'll be too sad. I'll get there though. Fear not! And until then, well...have a good weekend! And start sending me good vibes for my plane flight of death tomorrow!

How I feel about leaving Germany

1 comment:

  1. i completely missed this entire entry!!! and today it made my day a little bit sad... thanksssss.