Martin has been harassing my class that we need to spend more time speaking German outside of class, so last Friday night Ryan and I instituted a half-hour of only German. We lasted about 10 minutes before we both started running into words we only knew in English. We kept it up for the full half hour, but since Friday have failed to initiate another practice session. Then again, on Monday and Wednesday Ryan has evening classes and we only see each other about an hour anyway, and I'd rather not sacrifice valuable catch-up time to sputtering about in German.
But yesterday I practiced with a real German! Normally I don't chat with people when I'm doing laundry or shopping, people are very formal here and don't generally joke with strangers. But yesterday the fridge repairman came (no our fridge wasn't broken, but the fridge light was finicky and our Hausmeister insisted that it run properly! Sorry Bonnie, but that's Germans vs. Brits.) Anyway, he was this heavily-mustached elderly man who puffed and complained the whole way up our 5 flights of stairs. I apologized that we have no elevator, but he just smiled and said "You are young, it is easy for you to go up the stairs."
I showed him to the fridge and explained that the light works sometimes. He said something I didn't understand then gestured flicking a switch, and said "ausmachen" which I just learned in class that morning. I guessed he meant the fuse box, so I took him back downstairs and showed him. He told me to go upstairs and yell when the fridge light went off. I did and he seemed to find the problem quickly. (I always wonder where and what I should be doing when there's a repairman over. I don't want to stand over his shoulder, but is it rude to go into the other room and go about my business?) So I sat at the kitchen table and looked over my homework. He asked me to flick the switch back on, and voila! Fridge light!
He asked me where I came from and I explained the whys and wheres. He said he'd never been to the US before then something I didn't understand and then said "Aussie" and I thought "maybe he's been to Australia?" So I said "Super!" And then he clarified that he's from the east, an "Ossie" not "Aussie" as in behind the wall. I didn't know what to say, so he asked if we intended to stay forever. I said "No, just for 2 or 3 years." And he said "You shouldn't stay here forever. Its no good here. Next year I'm going to retire and move to Norway."
I asked "Isn't the beer in Norway very expensive?"
"I don't smoke and I don't drink!"
"That is not typical."
Then he said something something "abend" which is evening, and then "do you understand?"
Then he said it again I realized he was saying "arme" which means poor. He proceeded to explain "Poor is when someone doesn't have much money. Rich is like a millionaire." Then he laughed and wished me a good day.
When the Hausmeister insisted on getting a repairman to come over I was a little irritated because I hate having to wait around for them, but now I see that I should break the fridge more often. If the fridge repairman came over once a week, my German would improve very quickly.