Monday, May 25, 2009

3 Things that will make you laugh...

We've been having a rather random and hilarious evening here, and I thought I'd share some of the joy.

1. Berlusconi quotes Did we ever think someone could top Bush?

2. Biz Markie. Just try not to dance like a fool.

3. Three Moon Wolf t-shirt Scroll down to reviews.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Acheiving Excellence in Lawn Maintenance Report, 2009

I volunteered to cut the grass at church again this week. Its a good excuse to get outside, and after the mental gymnastics of German class I enjoy accomplishing something that won't end up covered in red pen.

The last time I did this job I split it with another lady, and we spent a good two hours on a quiet Saturday morning. This time I thought it easier to come in on Friday, when the church is already unlocked for the "Laib und Seele" group that distributes food to needy people.

We have only a rickety old electric mower whose cord must be transferred around the church. As I finished the first 1/3 I moved toward the front of the church and began hunting a suitable outlet. As I scavenged the Narthex a volunteer woman approached me and offered to help. Her accent sounded like some sort of Cockney crossed with a cleft palate. She took one end of the extension cord and found an outlet. It didn't work. We tried a second outlet, and that didn't work. Now a group of elderly volunteer men began to gather and confer what the problem with the mower could be. I was pretty sure it was the extension cord, but the group decided to fuss with the mower.

I explained that I would get another cord, but then one man piped up "You're mowing the lawn, alone?!" I responded yes. He asked why I was mowing the lawn and I tried to explain that I was working for the church and we had a rotation set up, blah blah blah. The woman jabbed him in the ribs and told him "Speak English- she don't know no German" which was weird because we had been speaking German. The man asked me what my first name was (very odd in German culture) and I stared at him for a moment. The woman snapped at me "Name, what's your name?" I told them, and now they wanted my email address, I asked why. I told them I wasn't aware that me mowing the lawn on that day was a problem. The woman replied, "Well you can't be out here mowing by yourself, its too dangerous."

I tried to assure her that I had received training and had permission from the church to mow. She said "Our insurance doesn't cover you out here, not if you're alone or a woman." I found this very odd and reassured her that the Pastor had said it was ok. I thanked her for her concern, but she blocked my way.

"I won't have you out here alone. What if something happens? It doesn't look right, a woman mowing by'erself!" I made the mistake of playing into her illogical argument "Its really ok. In America even children cut the grass."

"But we're not in America, darling!"

Luckily, at that moment Angie arrived, who'd been scheduled to mow with me. "Look, I'm not alone, I have a helper." Angie apologized for being 90 minutes late by hugging me and offering rolls. She also brought her daughter who squealed "Katy!!!!!" and handed me a small flower. They gleefully picked up rubbish as I mowed. I was just getting into a rhythm when the mower suddenly stopped working. I tinkered with the power supply, emptied the grass clippings, and fussed about. No luck. I was considering getting out the screw driver and taking it apart when I heard a thunder crackle. A downpour ensued, and so I put the mower and cords away and left, lawn half-mowed. The old woman fussed at me for putting the mower away by myself and for not bringing a jacket or umbrella. At this point I wanted to sock her, but instead said "thank you." Its important to say thank you to people, especially if they are really unhelpful.

This morning I was embarrassed to show my face at church, having left the lawn 1/2 mowed and unable to get through to anybody else on our rotation about lawn mower repair. But the Pastor's wife, Margit, approached and thanked me for mowing. I blushed and tried to explain but she just laughed "This volunteer called me up Friday and said 'There's some woman mowing the lawn!'" Margit found it hilarious. I should follow her example. What's that famous quote? "Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people."-Angela Carter

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


This Saturday we went to the zoo. I love the zoo, but I have to say I do feel kinda like a creep going there without children. The place is swarming with children and exhausted adults, whereas Ryan and I just go to enjoy the animals. Or rather I go to enjoy the animals and Ryan goes to laugh at my hippo giddiness.

I do really like hippos, and the Berlin zoo lets you watch their feeding. I'd never watched a hippo feeding and assumed that this would involve a trainer hauling some hay or vegetables into their enclosure. But no! Instead they spray a hose at them, and when they get bored they fire bread at them. I swear they had some kind of bread cannon, but Ryan thinks someone was just throwing it from above. But they got good distance, and have you ever tried to throw a loaf of German bread? Its about the weight and consistency of a small bundle of bricks. Clearly, some sort of bread projectile system was in use. And when the loaves hit the water they made a huge bang, and I jumped and Ryan laughed at me more.

The German words for hippo are "Flusspferden" and "Nilpferden." (River horse and Nile horse.) That's just how German works.

I've come to realize that I no longer remember how to spell hippopotamus. I just spell checked that 3 times. I used to be a good speller until I learned another language. Apparently you don't so much become bilingual as advance in one language whilst simultaneously declining in another. Plus Ryan and I mostly speak "Denglish" to each other now, sticking to one or the other takes some concentrating.

In other news I'm getting more used to Ulrike's brusqueness, Ryan is back from France, and we're planning a trip to Frankfurt this weekend for apartment hunting! So I've been pretty busy and thus remiss in my blogging. Hopefully I'll have more interesting stuff to report in the next couple days. Bis sp├Ąter, I mean until then...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Boot Camp

Its been positively ages since I blogged! A brief update: Gwendolyn, our Georgian friend, came to visit. After she left Ryan came back, but this morning he left again on a fire-extinguishing visit to a problematic solar field near the French Riviera.

And I started a new German class. A course here is about 8 weeks, and having completed A2, I have been promoted to B1. Not only that, but the teachers decided to divide us into a "fast" and "slow" class. So I went from sleeping through a normal class to sweating through the fast class.

On Monday a posted list directed me to the top floor of the building. It was 2 minutes past, but the room was still dark and empty. A moment later I was joined by a black-clad, multiply pierced girl. Normal Friedrichshain morning. Then a taller girl entered, also dressed in black and topped off with loud clomping boots and a green military jacket. I scooted in so she could come sit by us, but instead she went to the front. This was our new teacher.

Corinna, my last teacher, was lanky and quiet. Her voice was the type that should read stories to children as they drift off to sleep. My new teacher, Ulrike, (funny side note, the night before Ryan and I watched "Der Baader-Meinhof Complex" a movie about a 1970s German terrorist organization with a leader called Ulrike Meinhof) is to Corinna as Che Guevara is to Snow White.

Every morning her voice booms "what is the proper case for this? And this? Explain why! No, incorrect! You, explain!" After the first 3 days my brain feels like its been through a blender. In my old class I wrote maybe 3-8 vocabulary words in my notebook every day, these days its more like 20.

Two of my classmates from my former class have joined me. Tony, a hilarious Catalan who, although often lost, always manages a joke; and Sara, also Spanish, who only periodically pops out of the fog she seems to live in. I don't want to sound harsh, she's very nice, but every morning she walks in and asks "What day is today?" and often seems genuinely surprised by the answer. "Tuesday? Really? But wasn't yesterday Thursday?"

The rest of our class is Ulrike's former class, 1 Spanish, 1 Peruvian, and 2 Italians, plus a brand new Dane. Up until last month I'd never met a Danish person and now I know four. Its a strange shift to be the only native English speaker in the class, and when things can't be explained in German they are often rattled off in Spanish, sending me diving after my dictionary.

But tomorrow I'm looking forward to a little respite. Ulrike is teaching our class 3 days a week, and Martin, one of my former teachers, is taking Thursday and Friday. His style is more relaxed, and usually slower. So hopefully we'll get some of that, not Martin sped up and drilling.