Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holy F@#$%&* Shit!

The new Snoop Dogg single "Vato" is out on video here. And they don't edit anything. I've never heard that kinda dirty talk on TV before! I was a bit shocked; it was awesome. You get to hear Snoop and B-Real say motherfucker at least 20 times and shit, bitch, fuck, and even the n-word are on a constant loop. Go liberal German programming! Oh and yesterday there were bare boobs on TV before prime time. You bitches know you are so jealous!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Munich Reloaded

We finally made it back to our favorite city this weekend! Eric had a trainee session this past week, and a group of his fellow trainees planned a trip together. Of course I had to come along! We had a blast, but here are a few things to note for future trips...

1. Never let a young, cheap German guy choose your hotel. We knew as soon as we drove up we were in trouble, since we were in the only bad part of the whole city. Hotel Daheim had the cheapest rooms in the city... 52 Euros gets you clean sheets, a 12 inch TV, and a view of the street full of cars, motorbikes, and yelling, even at 3 AM. The bathroom in our room smelled like a frat house, and I saw a mouse in the lobby.

2. Always have your camera at the ready. We had to make a stop at the famed, but totally lame Haufbrauhaus, much to our chagrin. There is one other American trainee, Matt, and his girlfriend Lisa had never been to Germany before, so this spot was number one on their list of things to do. The beer is bad and it's full of tourists, but you just have to go once. Lisa sat on the lap of an old angry German dude in lederhosen. He looked pissed. And I have no photo.

3. Learn to bob and weave, or carry a red umbrella. The crowds were big, even for a Saturday, thanks to the 60 degree weather. Eric decided to take the lead, and ran through the swarm like a bloodhound on crack. We had a group of 8, all trying not to lose him. It got messy. Several old women were shoved and two children were injured. But we got where we needed to go.

4. Savor nice surprises. We had dinner at Asago Steak, and were thrilled to discover that it was really nice. We had good service (shocker!), we didn't have to wait long, and the food was fantastic. We had our first steak since leaving the US. It was perfect. Thank God for big cities.

5. Don't go to strip clubs in the dirtiest part of the city. Eric and I opted out of this plan, because even with a few drinks, we are still logical. Everyone else ran in. Twenty minutes later they were back. It was "Black Sunday" at the club even though it was only Saturday. That meant no entry fee, but no one dances, unless you pay for a private room. The Eastern European girls just lounge at the bar, looking for a stupid American to marry for a Green Card. And the drinks cost more. What a bargain!

6. Take advantage of good weather. We spent Sunday afternoon in the Englisher Garten with Eric's friends Doreen, Andreas, and HP, who rock, as you may remember from the earlier Oktoberfest post. A few of the trainees tagged along before we all had to catch a train back to Friedrichshafen. The day was beautiful and still warm enough to sit outside at the bier garten, so why not drink a liter at noon? Everyone else is doing it. I was so tired from the sleepless night in the Turkish rat hotel that I got buzzed off one beer and later fell asleep on the train.

Overall, this was an excellent trip, our first without injury or accident. It's possible we have turned over a new leaf!

p.s. you can click on the above photo to get a better look at Assamkirche, by far the gaudiest, coolest church in Germany!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Spreadin' the turkey love

Happy Thanksgiving!

Until this week, I'd been feeling a bit down about Thanksgiving this year. It would be the first holiday spent without my family, I might have to work all day, and Eric would be away at training all week. I was afraid I would spend Thanksgiving in Germany alone! But, luckily, I had an epiphany. I know people! I can cook! Why shouldn't I have my own Thanksgiving?

So, having recently quit the lovely Thursday job, I didn't have to work at all. I invited the two girls from my German class for dinner. The most international Thanksgiving I can imagine hosting. Cibele is Brazilian and Alia is Canadian. She brought her boyfriend, a German with a sweet farmer connection, so she actually got her hands on a butternut squash. That sounds weird, I know, until you go shopping here and can't find anything for a traditional American turkey dinner. No whole turkeys, no cranberry sauce, no pie crusts, no pumpkins, no squash...

I improvised. I made two huge turkey things. I say things, because I have no idea what part of the turkey it actually was. I made my aunt's famous party potatoes, stuffing from a foodtv recipe, and pear tarts from frozen pastry in a box. I guessed when I bought it since I couldn't read the label! I even made cranberry sauce from scratch. That was a feat in and of itself since you can never get cranberries here. I did a litle dance when I saw a one lone bag in the produce section. I know, I'm a loser.

Dinner was lots of fun and it was nice to be able to have a real conversation! Sarcasm! Jokes! Cultural references! Cibele's English is great, and Ralph lived in the US for a long time, so we could actually talk. Eric even got to sneak away from training for a few hours at the end of the night, which was a big surprise. He got to meet the girls I talk about constantly, and it made me feel good to be able to host a party. I love entertaining, and haven't done it once here! It also felt nice to be able to have an evening with my own friends and not Eric's friends. Don't get me wrong, I love the guys Eric knows here, but it's cool to have made my own friends. Sometimes a girl just needs girls around...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm not really that bitter!

Wow. Reading those last two posts made me realize that I need to post more often. Taking a month off gave me enough time to let my thoughts bubble over into a bitchy, critical stew, which is exactly what this blog was meant to avoid in the first place. To make up for it here is today's good thought...
Today as I walked to my German class I had to wait at a crossing. Across the road was a guy about my age, carrying a backpack and a staff as tall as he was. He was also dressed in black Lederhosen, complete with tassled stockings and a big hat. I had to bite my lip to avoid laughing out loud. As we passed each other a moment later, he tipped his hat to me and I smiled all the way to class. Now where else would that happen?

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's all a front

One of the biggest stereotypes I heard before moving to Germany was that people here are very efficient, orderly, and in control. This idea leads Americans to believe that things are wonderfully in order in Germany, as long as you follow the rules and fill out the paperwork correctly. Not true. They want you to believe that this place runs smoothly like the well-oiled machines for which they are famous, but it's all bullshit. A few examples:

- You can't get anyone on the phone. Try to call an office of any type. The Post, a bank, even the U.S. Consulate. You will get a machine. If you are blessed enough to get a human being, he/she will transfer you to a machine. When you call again and get that same person on the phone, they will not remember having spoken to you moments earlier. And then they will tranfer you to a machine.
- Having no luck with the telephone, you try to visit said office in person. It is closed. It opens at 9, closes from 12 until 2 for lunch and then closes for the day at 5. This requires that you take time out of work to make it during those short hours of operation. But surprise! There are also various reasons why the office could be closed for the entire day, such as a state holiday you have never heard of or seen noted anywhere, a spontaneous outing made by the office manager, or a flash flood. If you do happen to find the office open, the person with whom you need to speak will be out on holiday until January.
- Everything is closed on Sunday. Clothing stores, grocery stores, drugstores! You'd better not get sick on a Sunday. And you had better plan ahead. Don't want to have friends come to visit with no food or drinks to serve. Otherwise you'll have to go out to an overpriced cafe for lunch... hmm, I sense a plot.
- If you do take these friends to a cafe, be careful what you say. If the waiter hears your foreigner's accent, he may pretend that he can not understand you, preferring to say, "Wie bitte?" in the snottiest tone imaginable while making you repeat yourself three times. Even if all you are trying to say is "Cappucino, bitte." Even if he figures out you are American and he speaks fluent English. He wants you to speak fluent German, and until you do, you won't get a coffee from him. All of this makes for a very long and tiring cafe experience, which leads me to my next point.
- Food and beverage service. Now I know that as an experienced server, I have many biases, but give me a break. You will wait 20 minutes at a table to be acknowledged. Your food will take 45 minutes. No one will ever return to the table, so pray that you get what you ordered, and if not, eat it anyway. Prepare to be at the restaurant for 4 hours. Bars are no better. One little Mexican place in our neighborhood has a happy hour for one hour every single night. It is always packed. They only have two bartenders and two cocktail waitresses working. And if you sit at the bar you get to watch them prepare a drink: crush ice, pour alcohol, slice lime to garnish drink, smoke a cigarette, add soda, argue for ten minutes with cocktail waitress while smoking another cigarette, place straw in drink, notice ice has melted and toss drink down drain, begin again. Better not complain though, they will know you are an American! The Germans accept and love this, because waiting gives them the excuse to talk more shit about you while you look uncomfortable and thirsty at the bar.

The point is that Germany is just like any other place with annoying bureaucracy and red tape, with human beings who are flawed and have prejudices, with a system that doesn't always work the way it could or should. All of that would be fine if not for the attack of (dare I say it?) propaganda to make us think this is not the case. Everyone I know here talks about how organized and efficient they are! Efficient my ass. Hey, America is full of bullshit, but at least we can admit it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"We like American Music best, baby"

I first noticed this issue back in RI, when watching films for my German summer course. Every one of the twelve or so films screened for us was written and produced in Germany, with German actors, directors, etc. However, we all noticed immediately that at least 85% of the songs in these films were performed in English. Not always American (although Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" was in two films, and the original version by Leonard Cohen was in another), but English language. We thought it was strange, and none of the Germans in the program had any explanation. That in itself was unsettling, because they always had an answer for everything.

Now it is several months later and the same phenomenon is popping up everywhere. Every day when I watch TV, most of the commercials and programs feature music with lyrics sung in English. And I'm not talking CNN Asia here, I mean German programming. I find this weird. There are many talented German musicians, and I would think the media here would want to support them by using their songs. Guess not.

Translation on TV is odd, too. I can't for the life of me figure it out. American films are ALWAYS dubbed, but some TV shows are not. "The Simpsons" (called "Die Simpsons") is dubbed. A huge mistake, because most of the humor is lost and it makes a classic show into a boring waste of time. MTV shows usually have subtitles, like "Date My Mom" and "Pimp My Ride International." Yet, other shows like "Made" are dubbed. I don't know which is more ridiculous: the fact that someone takes the time to dub such shit programming, or the fact that German kids are reading furiously to see which Mom says the worst things about her daughter.

They change titles indescriminately also. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" becomes "Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens," a literal translation. However, "You, Me, and Dupree" becomes "Ich, Du, und der Andere" or "I, You, and the Other." Some titles are left in English, and others renamed entirely. I don't really care, but the inconsistancy is confusing because, hey, this is Germany. For a country so bogged down with nit picky laws, officials, and stacks of paperwork, I thought for sure there would be regulations for this kind of thing. I can't even pick up my mail without opening it in front of customs officials now. So nobondy send me anything that could be percieved as a threat, or I'll be arrested.