Monday, January 25, 2010

Neu Deutsch

I've been studying German in an intensive course for nine months now, but realized last week that I've been wasting my time. We've started a new chapter about the workplace and heard two dialogues about essential job skills. An important qualification is "Sozialkompetenz, oder so sagen wir auf neu Deutsch: soft skills." (Social competency, or as we say in new German: soft skills.)

That's right. New German = English. Not only that, but in our next listening exercise, half a dozen English phrases were sprinkled in: brain storming, mind mapping, etc.

On the one hand, I have apparently wasted my time. On the other hand, I had an interview last week for a job as an English teacher. Germans have also heard that the new version of their language is English, and there is a great demand for native speakers. And although I don't have a degree in education, I think that I could make a good English teacher. Sometimes I explain and correct the English of my classmates. Like the other week, Chila was talking about the new song by Akon, "Sexy Birch." She was pretty sure that was the name of the song, but I explained that a birch is a type of tree in English. Of course, maybe I am wrong. That would add another level to the lyrics.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sizing it up....

For Christmas and my birthday I was given gift certificates to the swanky mall near my in-law's house and to the Abercrombie & Fitch where my brother works. I hadn't been shopping in a few months and so I was very excited to pick up some new things. The U.S. has been hit harder by the recession than Europe and the sales post-Christmas were pretty jaw-dropping. But an even bigger surprise awaited me: I had magically shrunken!

All the tops I tried on were size Small. And I bought a pair of jeans at A&F that were a size 6. When I left the U.S. I was a size 10 or Large. "I have lost so much weight!" I thought. I rushed home and weighed myself. The change was not as drastic as I'd thought.

Reality struck when I got back to Frankfurt. We are going to a swanky dinner next week for the British Chamber of Commerce in Germany, and I needed something to wear. So I went with two of my classmates on Wednesday to hit some sales. I started with a size medium and couldn't get the zipper to the top! I checked the tag. I noticed it was printed for distribution in several countries, like this:

E/F: L D: M US: S

Yes, that means it is a large in Spain and France, a medium in Germany, and a small in America. Except by current standards it would probably be an extra small.

After this epiphany I started grabbing large and extra large, and eventually found a workable dress. My classmates, Angie and Bea, just came to browse, but Angie ended up getting three dresses. She has this problem: she is a semi-retired model. Every item looks perfect on her because it was designed exactly for someone tall and very thin. If everything I tried on made me look gorgeous, I probably would buy too much as well. It can be frustrating to go shopping with such a person; in fact at one point Bea and I did tell Angie we hated her ;) but I'm happy with how I look in my new dress, even if it is a size large.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Holiday Flying

Our travel plan for Christmas was the stuff of nightmares:
1. Frankfurt to Chicago, Chicago to Tampa
2. Tampa to Chicago, Chicago to Seattle
3. Seattle to Missoula
4.Missoula to Denver, and Denver back to Frankfurt

Comparing notes with our friends before the holidays everyone gave us the "you're going through Chicago twice? Are you crazy?" talk. But luckily for us, Chicago missed the massive blizzard that hit the entire Eastern Seaboard (including our other flying options: Dulles and Newark). In fact our only delay the whole trip was two long hours sitting on the runway at Frankfurt because the captain couldn't get the interior lights to work properly. We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago before flying to Florida, and we were watching our minutes tick by and estimating our odds of getting through customs in time. We cut it very close, but made it. Our bags came on the next flight and were delivered to my Grandma's house at 3am.

We flew United/Lufthansa for our transatlantic. They are partner companies, so when flying this route you don't know which you'll actually get. We had United flying west and Lufthansa flying east, and the differences are substantial. In my limited trans-Atlantic experience, I would rank the airlines as follows:

1. Delta. Best food and video options
2. Lufthansa, not as many video choices, but lots of bathrooms and a water fountain.
3. United-- zero legroom. I'm only 5'4" and I had leg cramps. I can't imagine how a tall person would cope.
4.Air Canada. No personal video screens makes Katy go insane.

In other flying news, nearly all American companies are now charging for any checked bags at all, and have cracked down on carry-on size. Ryan's grandmother arrived in Seattle dressed like a homeless person because she had to empty her carry-on to fit it into the new guidelines.

But MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE airline has to be HORIZON. They only fly in North America, but they allow plane-side checking, which is great for that big carry-on you don't want to have squashed between your feet all flight. Also they give out free booze. Even on the 90 minute flight between Seattle and Missoula. And take my word for it, two glasses of wine really helps with bumpy landings. Unfortunately Horizon partners with Alaska, who are not nearly so generous, and its often hard to figure out which plane you'll be getting until after you've bought your ticket.

Of course, the big news was the attempted Christmas Day attack outside of Detroit. What will this mean for airport security? We'll see. The TSA is employing more full-body scanners, or as I call them "naked scanners". But given the fact that the attempted attacker stashed the explosives under his family jewels, I don't know how effective this will be. Flying back there weren't noticeable changes, but I think flying into the US from other countries is going to get a lot more difficult.

I guess we will find out next year.