Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's a Small, Small World...

Hey all,
So, I had a pretty busy last few days. Class has been very challenging, especially since we're moving into territory that I certainly haven't covered yet. I'm beginning to think that my teacher thinks I'm a little slow, but he's certainly very nice about it. And, the tangents we have in class are certainly worth the hard parts. Take this afternoon, for example. We had an article about Oktoberfest. We learned little tips, such as bow etiquette. Women at the festival traditionally wear their "dirndl" (think Heidi, or any other kitschy Scandinavian mountain girl get-up) with a bow tied on. Apparently, if they tie the bow on the right side, it means that they're fair game. While if the bow is tied on the left side it means "leave me alone!" They're big into subtlety here. Another thing that we learned is that the barmaids that lug the liters of beer out (and that's the ONLY size available from about 7.30-7.90 euros per glass) don't actually get paid. They buy the beers from the vendors (for about 4-5 euros) and then sell them to the customers at the mark-up. Our professor knew a student who did it for 6 days and made over 6 THOUSAND euros. He said a lot of the women only work the 3 weeks of Oktoberfest and take the rest of the year off. However, this is an incredibly hard job. Sure, it's not hard to convince people to buy the beer but almost every woman had her hands bandaged (getting crushed by carrying 10-12 liters at a time).

Anyhow, the Oktoberfest conversation led the teacher into asking about all of our "festivals". The Irish said St. Patrick's Day, Greece has Saint days, France has some type of wine festival, we have the 4th of July...and Mexico takes the cake. Apparently, the whole month of April is the Festival of St. Markus. Ingrid (she had a German Grandmother...) explained auf Deutsch that they drink beer mixed with salsa in the streets, wine with fruit juices at the bull fights (but it's not Sangria) and whatever in the clubs. She said there were activities for all ages - even games for the kids. Then a slight misunderstanding happened. The teacher jokingly asked (in German) "Oh, but the kid's don't drink, right?" - to which Ingrid said "Oh, Ja, alles trinken!" (everyone drinks). There was a great look of surprise on our teacher's face and it took him a while to stop laughing. I asked Ingrid about it at the bus stop and she was a little embarrassed when she found out what his question actually had been. Then she laughed for about 2 minutes.

However, back to Oktoberfest. I'm afraid it might have been wasted on me. Now, one would think that it would be a great opportunity for someone of any age - but especially for those who are not technically of age in their own country. I know it made Eric happy, for example. But the whole "not liking beer" thing kind of gets in the way of that. Also, the day was very hot and while Beer is very accessible, water was not. We got there early enough in the day to get a table (around 9:30) and stayed there for a few hours. However, since no one really wanted to put in a long day of drinking and because meal prices were incredibly exorbitant we decided to go wander around in the milling throngs of people. On a typical weekend, about 500,000(!) people are there. This was the opening weekend, so I'm sure on Sunday there were about 300,000 people. Of course, there was more that just beer tents. There were tons of carnival rides (and even an old-fashioned wood slide that had been brought there for 70 years) and what seemed like an infinite amount of nut sellers (along with chocolate covered fruit, wurst stands, etc). I only went on the Ferris Wheel, and that's what the picture is from(which is only a fraction of the festival!). We ended up "catching" the 5:05 train (Russell flat-out sprinted to the train and held the doors open long enough for us to hop in). But I've saved my best story for last...

Right after we got our table that morning, a couple of women (obviously American) sat at the other end of the table attached to ours. They were quite friendly and started up a conversation with Russell, who was nearest to them. Eventually we did the state introductions and upon hearing I was from Minnesota, one of the woman exclaimed "Me too! Where are you from?"
Here's the conversation:
Me "Oh, from a little town named Walker"
Her" Oh, really? I'm from Blaine...you don't happen to know anyone in the health field in Walker, do you?"
Me "Um, actually, my Dad is a Public Health Nurse..."
Her "No kidding! What's his name?"
Me "Dave Munson..."
Her "Oh my gosh! I know your dad! We've talked on the phone before - I work with a Med Tech company (KCI) and I've given a presentation in Walker!"
Me "Wow...weird..."
Her"Yeah. Do you talk to your parents often?"
Me "Here and there, I've only been here 3 weeks so far, but I definitely have to call tonight though, this is too funny..."
So then she told me her name was Nichole and that next time she sees my dad (before I will, of course....) she'll have to say hi for me.
It's a Small, Small World.

Anyhow, I have to go grocery shop for dinner but look for another update at the end of this week or the start of next.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

At long last...and comment this time!

Hi all...
Ok, so I finally managed to not only remember my password and switch blogspot back to English, but I also (ooooh, ahhhh) FINALLY got internet. It took about a week longer than it was supposed to due my extremely helpful friend Eric. I needed my IP address and he was very proud to announce that he could find it for me - Even on Vista. Well, he did find the IP address - for the Wireless network. However, I have to use a cable and therefore I must register with my Ethernet IP address. So. Yeah. Viola, a lifeline to the world. Actually, I thought it was going to be a red-letter day and that I might FINALLY be able to find out the phone number to my phone since I signed my lease today. Or not. There was a phone number on the lease, but apparently it is not the right one. I DO, however, know my mailing address.

Steph Munson
Goldener Turm
Wahlenstrasse 16 Zi 304
93047 Regensburg, Germany

Oh, and don't try to send me playing cards, apparently this is verboten. What I would really like at this point is baking soda. Or cornstarch. Or coolwhip. Simply because they don't exist here. Weird, huh? Let's see...was noch. See, I'm slipping in some German here - because I think I can. Needless to say, my German class is maybe helping some. Actually, I have already seen my comprehension level sky-rocket, but this helps me only a little as I am surrounded outside of the classroom with people speaking Bayernisch.
This is a southern dialect and I get shouted at a lot in it. Mostly by bus drivers and people at the supermarkets. By the way, I have found a great irony in the German food industry. People shop here either every day or every few days. So, all their food has pretty short expiration dates. Thus I was shocked (and confused, because I looked through all the coolers) to discover that their "Milch" lasts for 6 months! They keep it in an "aisle" of stacked up boxes. I have already decided that the reason that all the old people in Germany are typically short (but cute) is because they didn't drink enough milk as a child. This is due to the fact that the milk tastes like....like....well, there is no equivalent in America because we have "happy cows" and we are not afraid the steroid the heck out of them. But, I digress.

It is amazing how full my days are. Every day I have class from 8:30 to 2:30/3 with a lunch break. I have an amazing teacher who enjoys going on any good tangents. We work on written skills, pronunciation and mostly on expanding our vocabularies. I seem to have a knack for remembering the most useless words upon first utterance. So, I know button, acorn, push and pull, strange and badger. Great. Anyhow, at least the food is edible at the "Mensa" - but just barely. I am now a hard-core Schnitzel fan (breaded pork...mmmm) and know to stay away from the vast array of "pudding" desserts offered. Anyhow, after class we (all 54 of us fun-loving internationalists) trek to the "Kaffee-stunde" coffee-hour and either do fun things like register as aliens or get tours of parts of the college. The former usually includes harassed-looking and usually cranky university employees and the latter consists of much milling around. However, I am now officially a German Alien. How sweet is that?

Today I went to my friends' Eric and Christine's apartment and made a birthday cake for Eric's girlfriend Claudia. Now, I did have to only use baking powder and had to cook the canned cherries to a gel (oh, no pie filling here either...) but it still tasted great - Sachentorte/Black Forest Cake. I am missing a well-equipped kitchen and larder though. I know that larder is an archaic term by our standards, but honestly, the more I try to think in German the less capable I seem to speak in English. I figure it will even out at some point and then I hope that German will take over. Soon.

Anyhow, this was my nice long and rambling post that I am sure you have all (more or less) been waiting for.
Anyhow, I'm coming down sick and need my sleep. And no, I haven't been dreaming in German, yet.

Hope everyone is well,

Monday, September 3, 2007


So, I survived my trip to Regensburg in one piece. I got 2 hours of sleep on my flight to Iceland and about another on my way to Frankfurt. The flights were ok, other than the meals took forever to serve - fortunately I had some dried fruit and gum to pull me through. Getting from terminal 2 to terminal 1 was a challenge though in Frankfurt. Note: I will NEVER EVER bring two large bags again...I have bruises everywhere and swear I got looks of contempt that are unmistakable to translate into English. Plus, I couldn´t pee. I mean, you can´t just leave your bags sitting out at an airport - that´s a good way to end up seeing the polizei or just begging someone to roll off with it. So, dehdrated from Iceland customs making me dump out my water, and unable to use the bathroom until the paranoia of leaving my seat on the train briefly wore off I was in a bit of a pickle. By the time I made it to the train station (too afraid to fall asleep on the 3.5 hour ride there for fear I would not wake up for the stop) I was SOOO glad to see my friend Eric and his friend\roommate Christine (pronouced Christina). It was a short ride to their apartment where another visiting friend (from MN, oddly enough...) had cooked a "traditional bavarian dinner". So, weiƟwurst and pretzels ( a white sausage...good with a sweet mustard) and LOTS of water. Also, fortunate for me was that the third appartmentmate was gone, so I even got a bed. I have already picked up all sorts of handy advice for living in Germany. For example: dont put your feet up on the bus, in fact, leave them FLAT on the floor. Or you get kicked off and threatened with a 30 euro fee...didn´t happen to me, but good to know. Also, you must ALWAYS buy a ticket, they have guys who are paid to camp out and fine the heck out of you - 50 euros at least. Lastly, bring your own computer - they switch the y and z places ´- along with adding all sorts of keys. Anywasys, my time is almost up, so goodbye and look for more info in the sometime near future!