Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ich kann Deutsch sprechen, aber Bayern nicht verstehen


I walked Jon to work, and then went to Ostbahnhof where I bought, not a calling card, but a calling receipt with phone number and pin to use.

Then I went to the Internet café and paced outside until it opened at 10. I was really hoping for an email about my boys…and it was there! Yay!

It turns our Eric has a tummy virus and has been vomiting and having diarrhea. You can imagine this played further on my maternal guilt! I felt sorry for Eric, and even more sympathetic for Linda, who had to clean up the messes.

Es tut mir leid! (I’m sorry!)

Still, it was a long and juicy email about everyone’s activities, and I did feel better after reading it. It sounds like the boys are having fun and being spoiled rotten by doting grandparents. 

Linda said that both boys had exhibited some allergies, but have been taking Claritin for Children and seem to be doing fine in that regard.

Jon finally invited to meet him for lunch. (As I explained to him, what’s the point in having me as a trophy wife if he never shows off the trophy?)

When I got off the train at Campeon, I was on the opposite side of the platform, in a small neighborhood. I took a minute to fix my hair before walking under the tracks to find Jon. An old woman stopped me and said, “Sie haben die schoneste haar.” (You have the prettiest hair!) I was flattered! Pretty eyes and pretty hair! I should come to Munchen more often! I said “Dankeshon!” and this time, I didn’t worry about inappropriate flirting! She asked me if I worked for Qimonda, and I said, no, but my husband worked there and I was meeting him for lunch. Actually, I blanked on the word for lunch (Mittagessen), and I said “we’re going to eat together.” She said something and I had to ask her to repeat it. Then she asked if I was English. “Aha!” I thought, “She didn’t assume I was American! She heard my accent, and realized I’m not native, but apparently my German is good enough that she did not assume I was one of the swaggering linguistically imperialistic Americans! Woo hoo!” This, almost, was as nice a compliment as the hair!

I met Jon and his boss, Swen, for lunch. The Infineon cafeteria is large and the food was good.

(I should explain that Campeon, the site where Jon works, is a new facility of many buildings, owned by Infineon. Qimonda leases two buildings there.)

I tried speaking in German a little, but didn’t get very far. Mostly we spoke in English. Swen grew up in East Germany, near Leipzig, and he had to learn Russian in school as well. Swen also gave me excellent directions to the V-markt, a large grocery/department store that’s rather like a German Walmart. I went there after lunch and bought a fan and some ice cream to help combat the heat.

Swen did say a few things in German, kind of testing to see if I’d understand. Between Jon and me, we could mostly figure it out. Swen said that he can speak English, but it’s harder to write emails in English without making at least a few grammatical mistakes. I sympathize! I offered that he could send non-sensitive emails to me first, and I’d be happy to proofread! He said, “Maybe I’ll send Jon emails in German and just ask you to translate them!”

German construction doesn’t believe in air conditioning. Even at Campeon, a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility, they don’t have it. German windows come with different settings, which occupants use to facilitate airflow. This raises the…


Is it terrible that I am being a snooty, spoiled American? I expect even a low-end hotel in the States to have air conditioning and a middle-grade hotel also to provide some kind of Internet access.

At this hotel, and in most across Germany, they charge exorbitantly. I would have to pay 20 euros a day for access in my room.

I respect the European commitment to halt global warming. Very admirable. However, my room doesn’t even have a –fan-. Apparently the custom here is to crack windows a tiny bit during the day to allow minimal airflow, and then open them as soon as you get home. But this leads to my next gripe, which is that the windows don’t have a way to stay open! I have to use a heavy packpack as a doorstop.

I like and respect a lot of German customs, but, darn it, I am a spoiled American brat, and I am whining about certain conditions here! I am in Internet withdrawal!

And the hotel doesn’t have cable.

I try to speak the language. I try to respect local customs. I don’t eat on the train. I don’t plop down on the floor. I try to recycle my water bottles. I admire their efficiency, economy, industry, transportation system, window boxes, regional identity, and more.

But am I a terrible person for thinking that, in this, I am dealing with a bunch of Bavarian barbarians?

Go ahead, comment. Tell me what an ungrateful brat I’m being! (I am still thrilled to be here. Plus the fan from V-markt really helps.)

I will stop whining now. This concludes the Ethical Dilemma of the Day.

Regarding TV, I get three corny local stations without much content. I have no desire to watch German soap operas and German talk shows. One station seems a bit like PBS. I watched its “learn French” program for a bit, and it was pretty good. Low budget and corny, but effective enough. I could understand it quite well. I switched it off, though, because I’m trying to avoid language bleed-over. I keep catching myself using sign language. I was explaining to Jon about the verb “wechseln,” and I noticed I had signed “change” at the same time. Fascinating phenomenon, I’m sure.

Will (from church) met me at Campeon around 6:30. Jon still hadn’t materialized, so I walked into the main security/receptionist building at the front of campus and, in German, explained the situation and asked if I could call Jon. The receptionist kept grinning like she was trying not to giggle. She looked like…an amused parent when a two-year-old says something unintentionally funny. But she understood what I wanted! She looked up Jon’s contact information and called the office where he works, spoke to someone (we’re still not sure who) and said, “Is Jon Berry there? His wife is here waiting? Yes? Okay, thanks!” and then told me he was on his way. She smiled in amusement the whole time, but it was a friendly grin. Will, watching, said he was very impressed. “I had no idea you were fluent!” he said. “I’m not!” I answered. I explained that my German works only half the time. “So I’m due to look like an idiot if I try to order at dinner,” I added.

We drove into the Zentrum (city center) to a nice restaurant. Will’s car, a black BMW, has a really cool GPS system. I thought it was awesome; Jon was almost drooling. It kept saying “In 30 meters, turn right” and other helpful directions. Plus a map display. There are limits, though. When we arrived at the restaurant, it said “You have arrived at your destination. You are in a parking-restricted zone.” “NOW she tells me,” sighed Will ruefully, as he searched for side-street parking. The system also did not help us find the car once we were outside of it.

I had explained that we needed three separate checks, but when we arrived, Will announced that he would pay for himself and for me (Awww) and that Jon could just expense account his own meal. He said it was a kind of honeymoon present. It was very sweet!

Will has just started taking German classes and he practiced on us a little. He studied Italian in the MTC. Like me, he complained that in romance languages, you can almost always guess the article based on the pronunciation and spelling of the noun, but in German, its brute force memorization. I did tell him that the last morpheme of a compound word determines the article for the entire word, which he and Jon were grateful to learn. (In simpler terms, it means that any word that ends in “Haus” (house) will always be the neuter “das”.)

We discussed scouting and other topics and had a lovely time! We had a bit of trouble finding the car afterward, and I kept up a running sound track. “How long need we wander…” I sang as we tried another street. It was drizzling, so naturally I had to try “Singin’ in the rain…” We passed a cheerful riot at the Hofbrauhaus, Munich’s quintessential, 400-year-old pub. (“Eins, zwe, drei, vier, lift your glass and DRINK your bee-ee-eer…”)

I also tried reassuring both men, who were a little embarrassed by their minor navigational difficulties. “I know!” I exclaimed, “We are not all silly, it’s just the car has been towed!” Another time I teased, “You could always stop and ask for directions! Walk up to a drunk stranger and say ‘Excuse me, do you know where I parked my car?’”

Hehehe. It was an exciting adventure, and fun.

When we found the car, I sang “Hallelujah!” Naturally.

After we got back to the hotel, Jon and I had an FHE activity. We used the calling ‘card’ I’d purchased and called Idaho. Neither boy was very talkative, but we confirmed they were both okay. We talked to Linda a lot about what they’d been doing. After that I felt much better. 

This is not an ethical dilemma, but it is a difficult question. I want to have a dialogue, an open forum of discussion with you, my readers, about what I ultimately choose.

I sound like Hilary Clinton about her campaign song.

I have been inspired. It is self-evident that I must find a stuffed animal here, and bring him or her home with me. This animal will, naturally, speak only German, which means the boys will need to practice, or ask for translation, every time they interact. The question is, “What animal most represents Germany? Which is the ideal animal to rescue and take back to the freedom and democracy of the Papizan chair? An alpine donkey? A churchmouse? Bears are very rare here now. A dragon? (Of course, they’re even more rare, sad to say.) I saw a cute mouse in V-markt with a piece of cheese. I saw another adorable-looking mouse who made irritating yodeling sounds, which disqualified him.

I saw an adorable Krokodil in Hertie, a big department store downtown. Now, crocodiles are hardly indigenous to Deutschland, but I suppose I could fabricate a back story about how he was sold into slavery as a baby and needs to be rescued.

Make suggestions! Post comments! Vote!

I close with two cute Danny stories. Linda conveyed a message from Danny to me. He says that he is eating a lot and growing faster than Eric. Now, I know that Linda is a good cook. But anyone who can get my Danny to eat a lot is a miracle worker!

One morning Danny requested waffles and he wanted something on them. Linda thought it sounded like “mountains” but she couldn’t make it out. She said, “Danny, will you show me?” He nodded and walked to the refrigerator. He peered and looked and searched, and finally said, “I guess Mommy forgot to send it.” (Linda later realized it was margarine.)

I note with satisfaction that I am now caught up. I don’t know how long this situation will pertain, but I am rather smugly pleased for now. –ed

Also, Mom (Homer) – I noticed your post yesterday. Thanks. Jon and I are still discussing it and we’ll let you know soon.


Carrie said...

I find it highly ironic that you're complaining about the lack of air conditioning. You don't seem that far away, you're only in Germany after all, but it sounds like the climate is vastly different. It's never gotten above 70 degrees here. In fact, for the past week it's been about 50 and rainy. I had to buy a new sweatshirt to stay somewhat warm. In any case, no where in England has air condition either, but especially in the stone halls of parliament it feels like a refrigerator regardless! I would give ANYTHING right now to go bask in sweltering sunshine. I didn't know it was possible to get that seasonal depression syndrome in the middle of June, but it currently feels like early March in Bloomington, and I'm suffering.

Jon said...

You're on an island, Carrie. We're in the middle of the continent surrounded by mountains.

But, in answer to Gail's question, no it's not too much to ask for if they're charging so much. If they're not going to offer more than basic services, they should have more reasonable prices. Unfortunately, they don't really have much competition to encourage them to offer extra services. The Hilton is the only place I've seen A/C here in Munich.