Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tower of Babble

Because I love paperwork so much I put off changing my last name immediately after marriage so I could fill out endless forms in not one but two different countries. If you thought filing for taxes in two countries was fun, imagine contacting every relevant government agency on both sides of the Atlantic. Anyway, to complete step 1 of 50 I picked up my new passport at the embassy this morning and made it to German class about 20 minutes late.

When I walked in to my classroom I didn't immediately recognize anyone- the class had doubled. At the beginning of the week we often get new students, though this was a lot. But I took my seat and listened to the rest of the introductions/discussions of what we did over Easter break. We gained an Italian, a Portugese-ee (?), two more Spainiards, and an American. The American was a well-dressed older man who introduced himself as Geoffrey, pronounced rather pretentiously (Juh-AHH-free). But everyone seemed nice.

We did a worksheet about Easter traditions and then had a discussion about different traditions in different countries. In Spain apparently they don't do eggs but have town-wide processions "morning noon and night" Carmen said as she rolled her eyes. Then the discussion turned to the US. I suggested that one normally eats ham, there was some debate about whether should include pineapple, and April mentioned hiding eggs. Then Geoffrey said that his family makes a ground beef crucifix, complete with dying Jesus, on Good Friday. He laughed and explained that he and his children were very anti-religion. Corinna said "ah how blasphemous" and instead of agreeing and shutting up he just kept going on and on about how it was his way of celebrating and enjoying his atheism and whatnot. I became pretty annoyed. I generally tolerate people making fun of Christianity, and I understand that the religion is in many ways illogical. But this guy was arguing so obnoxiously, as if we should all bow down to his superior intelligence. I'm of the opinion that if someone really is something, they shouldn't have to proclaim it. Like those t-shirts that say "sexy" on them. If you really were sexy, would you have to wear a shirt that said it? Wouldn't it just be obvious?

Anyway, on break I caught up with April and Carmen and was happy to hear that the other group had joined us temporarily because their teacher is sick. April noticed that Geoffrey had flocked to two of our former classmates who had both moved up a level: Else The Important French Artist, and Alex the Know-it-All New Zealander. They were no doubt patting each other on the back for being so special.

After break things only got worse. We read a passage and the teacher asked us if we had questions about the vocabulary. Usually this goes pretty quickly, but someone asked about the phrase "es hängt...ab" which Corinna explained literally means "it hangs on..." like something hanging on the wall, but in English it's translated "it depends on..." Simple enough. But then Geoffrey wanted to talk about different things that hang and then different things that something could depend on; on and on and on where he was finally asking such things as "in German do you 'hang' a door? What is the word for 'hinges' in German?" I think we managed to cover about 1/3 of our normal coursework today because of the inane interruptions which also included him making a joke about how some word was too simple and needed "an auf or something." He was the only one who laughed, so he felt the need to repeat himself several times.

The last few minutes Corinna gave up and we just played a vocabulary-guessing game. This is a speed game where the team describes a word to an unseeing teammate who guesses and then you must throw up your hands quickly and say something like "she said it! she said it!" There are usually several disputes about points and during one I was arguing that my teammate had been first and Geoffrey told me "You're manipulative, aren't you?" I wanted to say, "Ja, und du bist ein Arschloch" but I didn't. So that will be our German of the day. Das Arschloch = the asshole. Use it in a sentence. "Ja, und du bist ein Arschloch." (Yes, and you are an asshole.)

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