Monday, December 19, 2011

Is it "fun" or "funny"?

Listening to people who know English as their second, third, or even fourth language is very entertaining; it’s fun and funny. It’s amusing to learn what words English-learners have difficulty learning or in what context words and their meanings change for us. For those who learn English as their first language (and this goes for any language) even if doesn’t truly make grammatical or logical sense, it still makes sense to us because we have nothing to compare it to. Some words in English are so close to others that I’m surprised people bother to learn it at all; I would certainly give up. For example, our host “mom” used the word “funny” today, where “fun” would have been the appropriate choice. The words are so close, and can overlap, but not always, and not in the situation she was describing. I wonder what words I have confused and no one has bothered to tell me….

Prayer works

God is good. Yesterday, we were waiting for our host family to pick us up at the train station, and they were late. I had emailed them the day before saying where we would be and at what time, provided they didn’t reply in opposition. Well, my internet stopped working shortly after I sent the email and I never had a chance to make sure the time and place would work for them. I trusted it would, but when they weren’t there at 3:00 p.m. I began to worry. Unfortunately, there was no backup plan and after ten minutes, I was debating whether I should find an internet cafĂ© to check my email; take the bus to Bodenseehof, get there number, and call them; or just wait. At 3:11, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place – pray. After a quick prayer, I told Jacob to do the same. Then I felt compelled to pray aloud; I reminded God of 1 Peter 5:7 and said I was casting my anxieties on him because he cares for me. I knew what I was going to say but before I had even finished reciting the verse a red car pulled up and they rolled down the window to confirm we were the right people to pick up. Prayer does work. J

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lessons Learned

I learned two important lessons yesterday as I toured Stuttgart and the Christmas market there. First lesson: It pays off to be friendly, nice, and to go the extra mile.

There was one booth at the market that had several little trinkets, including an interesting looking game. It was small, so I thought it would be a good traveling game if it wasn’t too complicated. I asked the lady how to play and she and a fellow customer spent the next fifteen minutes, using their best English, trying to teach me how to play. I still don’t know exactly how it works, but I was so impressed and blessed by their effort I bought the game anyway.

Second lesson: It’s easier to go straight and not get lost, but if you fear wandering, you might miss the whole point of the journey.

Yesterday, after two hours of driving from Friedrichshafen to Stuttgart, they dropped us off by the central hub for food and told us to be back at 5 p.m. sharp. I walked passed all the food into the Christmas market and spent the next hour and a half walking around. The market was bigger than the one we have locally, but I was unimpressed because it wasn’t much grander than the one in Friedrichshafen. Stuttgart is a big town; they should have a better Christmas Market! After my friends left to visit a different Christmas market in a nearby city (I’ll be going with Jacob next week and didn’t want to go twice), I left the main part of the market and continued browsing in the normal shopping area of Stuttgart (they are located in the same area).

Finally, one hour before we were supposed to meet to head home, I ran into a group of fellow students and shared my disappointment in the lameness of the market. One guy looked startled and said, “Did you really see all of it? I was really impressed.” I explained the area I had toured and he said, “Oh, um, walk that direction and take a right.” I walked the direction he was pointing to and within five minutes I was in the main part of the Christmas market. The place I had spent most of the afternoon was the food carts and remnant booths! I had been so afraid that I would get turned around and lost that I didn’t walk all over downtown Stuttgart exploring; I stayed on the streets that I knew with landmarks in sight. (my family knows how lost I can get) I learned that sometimes we have to get a little lost to experience the richness of life. Thankfully, I’ll be back there next week to show Jacob and I’ll know where to go!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

St. Nicholas Day

Yesterday was St. Nicholas’ birthday. According to a conversation I heard the other day, December 6th used to be the night when Christmas gifts were exchanged, but Martin Luther tried to change the custom to shift the focus from the saints to Jesus. Now, the Germans give the Christmas presents on the 24th, but the habit hasn’t completely died; one gift is given on the celebration of St. Nicolas’ b-day. Children are supposed to place a shoe outside their door the night before and expect a nice little gift the next morning. The Bode staff was kind enough to place a bag of goodies in the shoes of those who remembered to put their shoes outside the door.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What do you want to read?

I don't really know what people want to read about my life here in Germany, so I would love to know from you, my readers. Feel free to send me an email or facebook message and let me know what you would rather hear. And, while your at it, please let me know what is going on in your life. I miss hearing what other people are up to.

Travel Weekend

At Bodenseehof, we have one travel weekend per semester. This first one was November 10th through 13th, the next will be sometime in February. As you may know, for my first travel weekend I traveled to a town about a 20-minute train ride away from Stuttgart, Germany.
 According to my understanding, the actual place I went to was a village that belonged to a town that belonged to a city. The village was Ruit, and Ruit along with about half a dozen other villages makes up Ostfildern, which would be like a county to us. Several “counties” make up the larger area called Esslingen. If this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry; it still doesn’t make sense to me. I just spent 10 minutes asking questions and trying to figure out the exact translations into English, but I’m still not sure if I got all the right terminology.

In this little town near Stuttgart, Erika (my Californian roommate) and I stayed at Carolin’s (my German roommate’s) house. Carolin, nicknamed Caro, was going home for travel weekend anyway and after we all became friends, she invited us along. I’m so glad she did. It felt so good to be included in a family again. Everyone at Bodenseehof is like a family, but it is like 105 brothers and sisters, with a few older people making sure we don’t get into trouble. Being with a mom, dad, and only a few siblings was a nice change for a couple of days.

 The weekend was very laid back. Erika and I had the basement to ourselves, and we spent more time than we should have enjoying the fast internet and relaxing. Another big part of our day was eating. German families savor their food and time with one another more than American families tend to. Each meal (including breakfast) took a good hour to complete. Caro’s mom made almost each meal from scratch, and we got to dine on Caro’s favorite German meals. I have a recipe for the best potato salad I’ve ever had (no mayonnaise, mom!), and I will look forward to making it when I get home. All the meals were delicious, and I’m pretty sure I gained as much weight over again that weekend as I have since I arrived in Germany. J

 The best part of my weekend was being in an authentic German family, but the touristy stuff we did was fun as well. The first night, we shopped and ate dinner at an Italian restaurant Caro likes in Stuttgart. The second day, we went back into Stuttgart to the first T.V. tower to be built. For €5, we took an elevator to a viewing deck and saw all the fall trees and buildings. It was so cold and windy it makes me cold just thinking about repeating that experience, but I’m still glad I went. On Saturday, we went to the Ritter Sport museum, a 40-minute drive from Caro’s house. This was definitely one of the best touristy things I’ve done in my two months in Germany. It was nice to go into a museum that had interesting information (sorry if that offends anyone). We learned all about the history of chocolate, and then how Ritter Sport came to be. They had a large world map with lots of little lights in certain states and countries. At the bottom, there was a list of ingredients that they use in some of their chocolates (coffee beans, nuts, etc.). Next to each ingredient was a button, and if you pushed the button the country where that ingredient is imported from for Ritter Sport lit up. Ritter Sport imports both peanuts and pecans from Oregon, USA.

 Saturday night the three of us baked chocolate chip cookies. It was slightly challenging to find a recipe that used grams, but we did. Did you know that vanilla extract and baking soda are not common here? The use Vanillin Zucker to add vanilla flavor and baking powder is more common than baking soda.

 Caro was the first to scoop the spoonfuls of dough on to the tray. She put them super close together, and we had to tell her more than once to give them lots of room. She looked confused, but tried to separate them more. She soon found out why. After pulling out tray the containing a warm, gooey, amazingly-scented mass she learned that normal size American cookies are bigger than German ones. They are used to cookies similar to the size of store bought cookies – and not the big kind. Her mom’s first comment (after the delicious smell) was on the large size of the cookies. No wonder Americans are fatter! Germans eat bigger portions at dinner, but they don’t seem to snack often and their desserts are smaller and a lot less sweet. Can you believe it? This family had NEVER experienced homemade chocolate chip cookies. I used to think Germany was more civilized, but I’ve even had chocolate chip cookies in the Philippines! I spent a lot of words describing these few hours of baking, but it was really fun to bake with friends and unusual to bake in a different culture.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Welcome to Dorm Life

Squish your pillow down so you don’t notice the lumps. Swaddle the blanket around yourself, so you’ll stay warm during the night. Softly close your eyes, and think about what happened during the day. Soon, you’ll fall asleep like I do every night around 11 p.m., provided roommates aren’t talking about family, boys, lectures, or whatever other dramatic event may have occurred. Seemingly the next minute, you hear people jumping off the last rung of their ladder from the upper bunk and footsteps shuffling around, trying to avoid laundry baskets, shoes, and empty can of Pringle chips that got knocked to the ground in the middle of the night. At first, it seems someone is just getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, but then you hear more footsteps. Soon, a light turns on. “What time is it?” you groan. The clock is on the other side of the room, blocked by a row of bunk beds. “7:31,” someone replies. The covers shuffle, and you jerk yourself out of bed. “What! How could I miss the bell again?” You are awoken, or at least supposed to be, by a cowbell every morning at 7:15 by the bell ringer this month, Colin. Pulling your closet door opened, you blindly grab for a pair of jeans and something with a neck and arm holes – doesn’t matter what it looks like, whatever you can find first. You’re eyes are still trying to stay open, so you’re happy if you can just put it on the right way. The tube of mascara is sought; you need something to make you look like you care. You glance at your hair in the mirror, it doesn’t look too bad. Check the clock as you walk out the door to breakfast, it’s 7:36, that’s pretty good time. If you did that this morning, you did the same thing I did. And what I did yesterday, too.

Today, for the second time this year, we had an hour of “room prayer.” Instead of our first lecture, each person is to go to their room and pray with their roommates; however they decide to do so. The eight of us that were present (two are on outreach) sat in a misshapen circle and prayed aloud for whatever was on our hearts. Twenty-five minutes later, we said the final “Amen” and returned to our respective bunks. My bunkmate, Erin, has already given a few guys haircuts, and the other day I asked if I could be one of her next customers. With our remainder of time, she gave my hair layers (last time I Skyped my mom she said it was time to get some – thanks for watching out for me, mom!) Erin has not been formally trained, but with the experience of previous willing friends and armed with my Fiskar scissors, twenty or so minutes later we exited the Teekueche, my hair more balanced. It was time for lectures so I had to leave the hair in the room until the next break when I was able to sweep it. I haven’t had an opportunity to wash it and see what it really looks like yet, but I’m sure it will be good. Thanks, Erin!