Tuesday, September 25, 2007
It's a Small, Small World...
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!"
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.