Friday, March 27, 2009

we are cooling not warming

i really got a kick out of this quote from Michael Steele, Republic National Committee Chairman this week. i won't go into how he looks just like my dad dipped in chocolate (who has also started voicing similar skepticism over climate change), but here it is:
"We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long."

you can read this article about how greenland and iceland actually got their names.
and with that, not counting 12 years of experience in the environmental science field, i can still say that i know a little more about this planet than Michael Steele does. thank goodness.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

my future ex-husband

there he is, the man of my dreams! he sells roast bratwurst on the corner of the friedrichstrasse every weekday. he has a jetpack with some sort of gas mechanism which cooks the brats, and a little frontal countertop with mustard and ketchup. an umbrella shields him from the weather. he is perfectly independent, portable, functional, unafraid of danger.
the initial attraction is quite strong, a match made in heaven! his business is my utter favorite tubular food. alas, i just don't see it working out in the long term. the empenada man i fell in love with in panama city, well he at least had a motorbike. at 1.20 € a pop, bratwurstman has many friends, but how will he support my recently fueled birkenstock addiction?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

oh it IS foul play indeed

i'm coming to this weird realization at the end of my stay that not a single german has initiated conversation with me. i'm not saying i haven't met anyone, i chatted with some real nice australians, english, french, scottish...but the germans keep their distance. and i'm not the only one to notice, ihave witnesses! there's something about me - is it my frenchy half jewishness? that automatically gets the cool stare. i've tested it, several times with friends "watch her reaction when i order a red wine" it's totally true. my colleagues try to say it's the german way, they are shy, don't want to bother someone who is reading their book in a restaurant (which is me almost every night) but would it kill someone to ask me how i'm doing? ask me if i want another drink? anything? ask me if i want change from the 50 euro note i just gave you? not even the restaurant staff are kind. it's a little weird i have to say. and don't get me started on my bike nemesis.

i parked my bike inside my courtyard again the other night. this is my NEW bike, the one that replaced the one with two flat tires. i took a mental picture, checked the pressure - these tires are fine - and went to bed. and the next morning, once again!! flat tires. i seethed with rage. i went back to my bike shop, got all the stares on the street from pedestrians thinking "what did she do to deserve that?" and this time, instead of getting a replacement bike, i repeated, sabotage! sabotage, ya! and simply pumped up my tires.

so what to do? i don't know how to write "why do you keep messing with my bike?" in german! so i drew a cartoon. it was the only solution.. skeevy person empties the air from my tires, i'm angry. what to do? call the polizei? purchase a pump? POISON?? well, whatever choice i have, they understood from it. my bike has been safe and sound without as much as a trace of a fingerprint. i guess that's how you show the germans what's UP.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

i suspect foul play

for college friday a.k.a. thursday i had planned on bringing mr. coffeepot (what i call the guy whose last name is krups) on a little bender in fredrichshain. it seems i already know this city a little better than him and have shown him quite a few hip spots he's never known about. our evening would start in a hipster karaoke bar and vaguely follow this lead.
going to friedrichshain is the equivelent of heading to crystal city, VA for a rager. it's a bit out of the way, you have to switch trains and stuff, so biking is really the only way to go.
but to my utter shock and horror, i find my rented bike, my wonderful city bike with a basket and lights, who has been calmly parked in my courtyard has not one, but two completely flat tires. this is incomprehensible. i have never, in my life gotten a flat, much less two [knock on FSC certified wood desk]. we had even been talking about flats earlier that day, and how i never get them. and i love my bike. it's a BBF brand, but i call it my BFF.
so what i'm most worried about though, is having to explain to east german bike dealer what has happened. i feel that he's going to yell at me, he already has. i nearly jumped out of my skin when he came up behind me as i was checking out my BFF and screamed "dis is dein klinger!!" and rang the little bell on the handlebars.
anyhoo, the night before my tires were fine - i biked to the berlin philarmonie. my colleague's mom gave me a free ticket, it was awesome. i showed up late, just after intermission and kicked some old hag out of my seat in time to hear famous pianist radu lupu play some bartok. i reveled in the sound, giggled at the 380 pound tuba player and swooned at the hottie young second violonist. who! on my way back home totally cut me off, on his own bike! he was pedalling in his tux, with his instrument buckled up in a baby seat. i would have caught up with him but he was too fast. and presuming he has a baby no longer made him interesting to me anyhow. i was on his tail for a while - do you think he laid down some defenses? some microscopic nails that would flatten my tires?? he wouldn't dare...
more recently though, i've come to the conclusion that my neighbors are simply jealous of my awesome BFF. but they will not stop me. oh they will not.

Friday, March 20, 2009

i make the perfect latte machiatto

so one of my favorite things about working in Germany is how serious they take their coffee. they don't brew one giant pot in the morning and let it sit around all day - that's uncivilzed. here, every floor has one (and sometimes a second super secret one) ridiculously expensive espresso machine.
this week i have been mastering my skills on the delonghi primadonna, which retails for 2,000 Euro.

what with its "patented autocappucino system" and "silent integrated professional burr grinder" i make a latte machiatto that would put your starbuck's barista to shame. i even started making personalized espresso designs in the foam, simply delectable. you should all be ashamed of your boring drip coffee with hazelnut creamer!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

drinking in public: it's the law

so it seems it's pretty much accepted, nein, it's the law that you must drink in public. here i am on my bicycle, the only one in this entire city who isn't swigging a beck's or a bottle of merlot. you know how much easier (and cheaper) my life would be in DC if i could drink my prosecco on the darn street instead of at some foofy wine bar?
adults, oldies, juveniles, people in uniforms, pretty much anyone has a drink in their hand when going from a to b. and especially on the train. it's become standard that after any out of town meetings, i get the pretzels or chips or chocolate and my colleague hits the beer store for no less than 4 litres of hefeweisen per 1.45 hour of train. only drag is that if you don't drink it fast enough, warm hefeweisen can make you pretty gassy.
if you happen to be late, or are waiting on the platform with someone kinda high up in the organization and so having your bag clink with bottles is sorta awkward, well then you don't byob, you buy your tall glass of draft weissbier in the train. it comes in the huge tall glass, just like in the bar. unfortunately, it seems we're always seated in wagen 1, and barcar is wagen 12, so you and a few unhappy passengers are wearing some of it.
so we take turns going on the adequately called "beer run." each time you buy one, the bartender guy goes, "please, please, please bring this glass back?" you mean this wonderful, sturdy tall pint glass that has a picture of a drunk monk named francis on it that would make the perfect souvenir? ummm...
so the train turns into a sortof 245km/hr bar. one day, there was a compartment next to us with 6 elderly beck-a-holics. they their own personal beer steins and traditional music which they complemented with loud raucus singing. when the ticket collector came, he warned us they would give them a good talking to. they greeted him with hitler-style salutes, calling him "senior secretary, sir!" whenever someone of the female persuasion walked by they would hoot, holler and cheer. when i happened to have to pee 2 columns of 3 vertical heads peered out into the corridor screaming "schmiiiiiidt! hallo, schmidt!" i couldn't figure it out. when i came back, and after round two of the weird schmidting, the annoyed looking gentleman to my right explained that schmidt is the most common name in germany, like smith to us americans. and so when they call me schmidt they are playing the numbers, hoping to get my name right and have me turn around and say hi. but they didn't have to call me schmidt, their throwing of beer caps and chanting and cartoon knee slapping, holwing, spinning and woowoo siren calling clearly caught my attention.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

how to tell an east-german from a west-german

so i've been getting a lot of pointers on who are the east germans. people love to point them out to me, i guess it's still a novelty after unification. my colleague will whisper during a meeting "you can tell she's from the east by her accent, and the weird words she uses that no one else does."
i can clearly tell by her clothes. it's either all grey, or a eye blaring mix of neons. or the mullet. or looks like they just woke up from a 20 year nap. eyelids half open, that sortof thing.

Monday, March 16, 2009

german american idol

the first thing i saw on tv was the german american idol. eyeliner, spikey hair, glitter..pretty much screams germany. and yes, he was singing Prince.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

on a shoestring?

so i'm in berlin now, and trying to dress the part. today i wore my boots, nice skirt, a smart jacket, necklace etc...i asked someone if i was on the right train to the haubenhof and the guy answers "so, are you here visiting europe on a shoestring?" and i was all, do i look like i'm travelling on a freaking shoestring?! i'm holding my laptop bag in one hand, the international times herald in the other. what a jerk. actually, i think i called him a weiner.

Monday, March 9, 2009

dinner a la frankfooter

tonight i got my first lesson in hessen. my colleague philipp and i walked around the old town a bit, tudor houses, cobblestone walks, that sortof thing before arriving at our dinner destination, some sort of meat and ale house. wood panel walls, loud bustling dining room where you sit at communal picnic tables. we ended up between a couple of guys in their 70s and a younger couple to my left. we started with a "small" pitcher of cider. philipp warned me "it's very, very bitter and may just clean out your stomach. it's ok to not like it." i can handle it, phil. i take one sip and feel like i've downed battery acid. then he tells me you're supposed to mix it with seltzer. i have had a least a gallon of seltzer since i've been here, btw. feeling like i've swallowed a beach ball is an understatement. it's a little better. i peruse the menu which has 11 different pork dishes, some "weiner art" many schnitzels, liver dumplings and words with the big Bs. i settled on boiled prime meat, boiled potatoes and green sauce, which the people are eating to my left, and looks rather tasty. tho they got the green sauce with 4 hard boiled eggs instead of the meat. 4 eggs. philipp orders the pork platter, which has sausage, bacon, pork chop and belly. totally kosher.
we gossip about work, and finally strike up a conversation with the old guys next to me. they're in town for the big bathroom fixture convention, which is why there are no hotel rooms downtown, and we're staying out in the middle of nowhere. so even though they barely speak english, philipp tries to translate without laughing, as these guys rrrreally like bathroom fixtures. they also love heated floors, villeroy and boch. i tell them how my parents just got heated towel racks, they are the best! the ony guy shoos me away with his hand and already knew what he meant when philipp says "heated towels racks have been around since the middle ages."
then come the fat american jokes. and the conversation moves towards them recounting the citizenships of all their girlfriends. "lichtenstein. never again! living in lichtenstein is like living in a prison!" "russian girls wear short skirts, even when it's cold!" that sortof thing. i go to the bathroom and find ads on the paper towels. brilliant! i come back to our table and our friends have ordered us a round of shnapps with a canned pear in it. you eat the pear with the toothpick and down the rest. yums. our waiter, whose name is wolfgang comes back and already, i've learned the words for "another round."

i hear germany is lovely this time of year

i have no idea where i am. i'm sortof in frankfurt, but more like a distant suburb. upon arriving my taxi driver pointed to a distant set of buildings and explained "frankfurt!" then pointed to a cluster of houses on a hill and muttered german jibberish. they say everyone here speaks english, but so far, people have only yelled weird angry sounding words at me. i think my taxi driver may be turkish or persian or something. anyway, he was the only taxi outside the airport, a nice benz, and i got in and pointed to the printed email i had. i sit back and think to myself, i wonder if we'll be riding on the autobahn? and next thing i know the driver is programming his GPS and the spedometer is racing to 180km/h faster than marty mcfly tries to get to 88 in a delorean. i can barely feel it, we are in the left lane, whizzing by everything and everyone. we come up on a VW golf gti like this is a video game, but instead of ramming him or shooting torpedos, he gently moves out of our way.
taximan yaps away pointing at things, he could be plotting to kill me for all i know. i think it would probably be better for him to drive slower - less gas, more time = higher fare.we go through a few small towns, and this is when i'm sure he's turkish because he's ripping me off with a big detour, but i'm getting a nice tour of these towns and so it evens out, little clusters of stucco houses, that despite being a sunday afternoon seem entirely void of people. back on the highway, we're flying by a bunch of BMWs when the gps starts yelling stuff and i realize we may have missed our exit. slam on the breaks, zip over 4 lanes to our right without even looking and here we are idling in the emergency lane. he's leering at his rearview mirror like he's plotting something. the exit is at least 1/2 km back. no way dude, you are not this ballsy. but he is. he slams into reverse and if you want to know what a stream of cars going 150km/hr honking at you while you're going 40 km/hr backward sounds like? well the net 190km of moving horns is like a WWII air raid or something. he pulls a parrallel park maneuver in between some barriers, waits just long enough and guns it. we find what we presume is the hotel. he gives me his number and tells me i should call him if i need a ride, and i'm all oh right, i need a taxi tomorrow (no way in hell i can just hail one in this deadzone), and so i spend 15 minutes trying to communicate this. monday. morgan? sure, i guess. 9:45 am. i'm pointing to my watch, he writes 8 am on a piece of paper. no, and so on. he shouts full german sentences and i have no clue what he is talking about. his name is mr. odzemir. maybe i should send him an sms just to be sure.
anyway, the hotel is entirely empty, has a dazzling view, a teeny tiny twin bed and a retro alarm clock built right into the wood panel walls. i'd walk around but it's pissing rain and...where the heck am i?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

why fly to asia when you can go to flushing?

last saturday despite a whole subway mix up we took the 7 train to the end of the line: flushing in Queens, yo.

first, click here, then go to file...print if you want to see what you're in for. once you're on main street you're fighting your way between guys pulling carts full of eels, people selling kung fu dvds, candies, rolexes and street dumplings, oh the street dumplings. first stop was the 4 for a dolla and a quarta pork bun place. YUM. i could have eaten 20. my friend christine tallied her monthly dumpling regimen to about 16-20. if i lived near flushing i would double that.
then go find the guy with the crazy big sign, and say "take me your masseuse!" he will give you one of his flyers and yell at you and point and you end up somewhere like spa world and get a cheap hour long massage. it was my first time getting one, and it was a rather positive experience. it took me a little time to try to not be tickrish while a series of chinese, or thai or singaporean (i couldn't tell and they couldn't tell me) touched me in places no woman has ever touched me. they also dug their knees into my waist, walked on my legs and stood on my feet (that's when i felt that we bonded) and it was excellent. the women only knew two words: "thank you" and "harder" which complicated things when i was writhing in pain, trying to get her to ease up on my shoulder blade. but in the end, i came out feeling like a newborn. i drank a ton of water and then we went into some underground mall thing and pointed and paid and ate. (i hear the mcdonald's has a big stick that you can use to point at the menu to order).
i'll take that and point was all you had to do. nothing was more than $4. and 'that' ended up being a delicious chinese chimichanga of some sort with scalions and egg inside. there were homemade noodles, super crazy spicey tongue numbing salads, lamb sandwiches and huge bratwurst like things. it was the greatest afternoon ever, topped with a mcflurry and some foozball. what more could you want?

mmmaybe some cabbage juice?