Monday, December 5, 2016

Haus der Nachhaltigkeit (near Kaiserslautern) Christmas Market Dec.10-11, 2016

My favorite Christmas market is coming up on December 10-11. It's only about a 15 minute bus ride from Kaiserslautern. With handmade and local goods and delicacies on offer, and set on grounds that abut the woods, it's a charming market.

Check out my more extensive guide that I wrote last year, with this link.

To experience fewer headaches with transportation, take the bus from Kaiserslautern. Driving there and parking are a nightmare but the bus is worry-free.

Friday, December 2, 2016

German class this semester

This semester, I'm taking a B2.2 German class. I remember the first class that I took at the Uni; I felt so lost on campus and nervous about attending lessons entirely in German, even though I had already earned an Associate degree in the language.

What a change there has been in the last two years! Now I know the campus reasonably well and have met a decent amount of students along the way. I can find the class and reasonably easily converse about the topics, make silly remarks, and even better yet, join the class's grammar debates.

Yes, you heard that right. Since we're an upper-level German class, we've moved beyond regular grammar and are learning about academic-level usage, as well as learning about bettering our writing and expression. Along the way, sometimes we get into debates about grammar, usage, and other topics. Since I love language and grammar, it's right up my alley, and reminds me of home (we've debated redundant phrases and the pronunciation of Spanish at my family's holiday meals before).

Sometimes our class conversations are downright ridiculous though. We were reading an article about food waste and one of the example sentences noted that the bananas had "Stellen," or spots. This word effected confusion and chaos because there are other definitions for the word.

Then we somehow transitioned to a debate about bananas specifically, what color they can be, and the fact that they cannot be brown, according to one student. He needed to be doched and so then I extolled the virtues of banana bread, an excellent use for bananas that have gone brown. The other students didn't believe me that such a thing existed. I then shut my mouth because I realized that I was inadvertently part of the hijacking of the class. Our teacher is patient about answering our questions and we actually are quite engaged -- maybe too much so!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blah Friday

Even though it's always a bittersweet experience to spend a holiday like Thanksgiving away from one's family and sometimes there's a bit of homesickness while being away, one thing that I did not miss was the whole Black Friday mess of consumerism and greed.

For me, the day after Thanksgiving is the antithesis of the Thanksgiving spirit. One can't turn on the tv or the radio in the US without being bombarded by advertising for store sales. In the past, stores were closed on Thanksgiving Day so families can spend time together. However, stores would also start with crazy sales at 3 a.m., for example, the day after, or more stores are opening the day of Thanksgiving too. Yuck. Can't we have 1-2 days a year of no shopping?

People have started to set up tents outside the stores, sometimes days in advance, in hopes of snagging some deals. Once the stores open, sometimes pandemonium erupts; people have been trampled as the crowd rushed in. In an equally ugly situation, fights have broken out among customers to grab the last of an item.

I thought that, having moved to Germany, I'd be away from such things. However, this year I've noticed extensive advertising for "Black Friday" or even in some cases, "Black Week" (which is not really what we'd call it though). I've seen it in Germany and in France, too, when I visited Colmar for the weekend. Check out the photo below from a Colmar storefront.


Ick. It's an American invention that I would happily do without in Europe.

--
A bit of irony: when I emailed myself this photo, I tried to type "Black Friday" on my phone and instead ended up with, thanks to autocorrect, "Blah Friday," which totally fits!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Some Denglish that is way off

I attended a language exchange meetup and was introduced to my friend's new roommate, T, a friendly chap. He immediately leaned in and said quietly to me, "I have something I really want to ask you."

Me, to myself: okay, so I'm just meeting this dude; what's his burning question? To him: "Okay, what is it?"

Him: "I need to know something important about American English. What do you call it when a bunch of people watch a sports game together in public?

Me: breaking into laughter because I know where this is heading: "it is certainly not called a public viewing."

In other words, Americans use the term "public viewing" way differently and our term applies to death and grieving. Actually, we'd just say viewing or visitation, which is another term for a wake, in which family and friends gather to say goodbye to the loved one before the funeral. Usually the coffin is in the room and sometimes it's open; other times it's closed. The most common term I've heard in my US region, the Midwest, is a visitation. 

In Germany, a public viewing means watching a soccer game, somewhere in public, such as in a town square, with the game being projected on a big screen. There is no visiting a deceased person during such an event.

This discussion with T led to him asking me what we'd call this event -- I mean the sports one. We don't really have a term for it; we might just call it "watching the game" or we may specify the opponents, like "I'm going to watch the Honeybadgers play the Sloths."

Generally, we don't gather in a town square to watch sports games, especially since the US is so suburbanized and our downtowns are not always so vibrant (though they can be). It seems that most of the time a bar or bar/restaurant will show a(n) (American) football game on their big screen tvs. Sometimes businesses will host Superbowl Sunday parties in honor of the big competition at the end of January. Since it is common for Americans to have big screen tvs, many people just watch the game from home, either alone or with friends whom they've invited over for a party.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It might be after Halloween but it's still freaky

I saw this poster and it brought back nightmares memories of Guillermo del Toro's film, Pan's Labyrinth. Freaky mandrake anyone?

By the way, the movie is excellent, highlighting the innocence of children and the horrors of war. It's not a comfortable movie to watch, but then again, it shouldn't be, either.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Dutch and peanut cheese

One of the joys of living in an international environment is that one learns about other cultures, and sometimes this includes learning about those cultures' food. I know someone who's Dutch and after a recent trip to the Netherlands, he brought back some delicious Dutch snacks.

I received three different types of Gouda cheese, including old, middle, and young. I liked the old the best because it's more pungent and flavorful. I also received stroopwafel, which has two cookie-like crusts with a caramel-like filling inside.

I was most delighted by the jar of peanut butter that he brought back. It's like a lovechild of creamy and crunchy peanut butter; it's mostly creamy in consistency but has little bits of peanuts, the best of both worlds.

Even better yet is what the Dutch call peanut butter: pindakaas, which means "peanut cheese." Another Dutchman told me that at the time when peanut butter was first being marketed, the word butter was protected and only meant butter. Therefore, the Dutch decided to call it peanut cheese because it was a savory topping. That's an interesting justification.

Stroopwafel, peanut cheese, and a lovely mountain of Gouda

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Important announcement

Dear readers: I would like to make an important announcement to you, especially to the European and German readers.

I would like it to be noted that:

-It was cold out
-I was still getting over being sick

-and-

the big reveal is:

I SAT ON A VERY COLD ROCK FOR MORE THAN AN HOUR AND DID NOT GET SICK.

Best photo editing ever
Not really a rock, more of a carving, with my disembodied hand, but you get the point. One of my body parts was touching it, it was cold, and I did not get sick. That's close enough to illustrate this story.
My friend and I had taken a walk and decided to sit for a while and converse. Since there is a dearth of park benches in Kaiserslautern, we sat on cold rocks. Our tushes froze. Neither one of us got sick from that.

I just wanted to share this important event with you, mostly because of this belief that I've heard from German friends.