Last week I hoped to share mannequin nipples with you. (They’re definitely a ‘thing’ over here, and I don’t recall seeing them in the States at all? Not that I look that mannequin chests all that closely? Or, perhaps I do?) I was motivated to check out grocery stores because I’ve seen some odd products and pairings here and there (think bananas and men’s shoes on the same shelf. I’ve seen that one.)
If I can figure out how to be more discreet about taking pictures of people, I’d like to show you head-to-toe matching couples, or the old women trend of pink hair, or the enigma of levitating street artists.
But, thanks to stomach flu, we didn’t do much spazieren (aka ‘walking,’ an important German pastime.) until Friday. By then I was eager to get out and capture our little suburb in all its quirky glory.
I’ve learned a few stomach-flu related German words this week. Diarrhea is ‘durchfall’ which literally means ‘to fall through.’ So logisch, this German language. “Kotzen” is to puke. Anyway, now you’re all set in case you visit and get sick. 🙂
We’ve all taken a turn with it since Monday and since I’ve been feeling so funky, my thoughts have reached out to other things that generally make me want to vomit. Like, canned green beans. (The fresh ones are fine.)
Another one that comes to mind is student teaching. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot, lately, and I’m not sure why.
At the time, I was twenty-four years old. Talking to a class full of students terrified me. And, you know, that’s sort of a thing you need to feel okay with if you’re in the profession.
The German word for walking is ‘spazieren’ and they’re really into it here. I know walking is a universal pastime, but Germans get all decked out in matching Jack Wolfskin outfits and use walking sticks to navigate the suburbs. It’s definitely on another level, let’s just put it that way.
In fact, on Monday I was waiting for my tram and a teenage girl and boy approached. They were reading an ‘Eppelheim Info’ sheet and the girl said (in German, obviously) “Look! There’s an organized walking group leaving from Cafe Creme tomorrow. Maybe we should check it out!”
I don’t know much, but for some reason I can’t imagine your typical teenager getting so hyped up to go on an organized neighborhood stroll. But, there you have it. (And I think it’s awesome!)
Since I’m on what was supposed to be a paid maternity leave this year, I do my own fair share of ‘spazieren.’ Every day Laken and I take at least one walk around the neighborhood. And, I’m always spying quirky things.
Asparagus is a great word. If I was a vegetable, I wouldn’t mind being called asparagus.
(I bring up asparagus—sorry, the word deserves a space in each of the three sentences I’ve written so far—because it’s in season right now. Just an FYI, the German word is ‘spargel’—pronounced ‘shpargle.’)
Not the most attractive vegetable.
The fact that it’s in season over here in Baden-Wuerttemberg might not seem like a big deal to most people reading this, but I’ll tell you what. It’s a big freaking deal. Germans refer to it as ‘white gold,’ if that gives you any idea of the value they assign it.
I was curious about why it’s known as ‘white gold’ so I did some intensive Internet research and learned that it all goes back to Louis XIV who decided he had a hankering for the vegetable. It was served to noble people at lots of fancy- schmancy dinners. And, for the longest time they kept it all for themselves and wouldn’t share because they’d claimed it as a rich person’s veggie, like the rutabagas or sunchokes of today. (I have no idea what rutabagas or sunchokes even are. So, I assume they’re reserved for rich people. Bastards.)
The German word for daycare is ‘Krippe’ which sounds a lot like the English word ‘crypt.’ This seems fitting, somehow. Both places are stuffy, confining, and full of the ‘unknown.’
Oh, and can I also say that both are scary?
I’m obviously going to have a really hard time in August. I’ve been with this baby just about every waking moment of her life so far. The idea of dropping her off all day long at a daycare center where she doesn’t even speak the language is terrifying. I know, babies pick up languages fast. I’ve seen it happen. Back when I worked at a daycare center a little Russian twelve-month old came in and spoke fluent English approximately five hours later.
But—this is my baby. Until we’re months in the future and I see she’s doing fine, I’m going to dread this whole thing.
The other source of fear comes from the fact we, um, haven’t exactly found a Krippe, yet? Oops?
It’s funny to think that exactly one year ago, today, I had an outie belly-button and constant Restless Leg Syndrome.
(Just in case you’re not familiar with RLS, it’s related to the nervous system and causes this constant urge to move your legs. Mostly at night, sadly, when all you want to do is relax.)
I’ve tried to explain to Todd what it feels like and the best I can come up with is this: imagine high powered fizz from a pop/soda rushing up and down through the veins of your legs.
The only thing that temporarily alleviates the sensation is to move. But, the moment you stop–that fizz starts back up. Slowly at first, and then gradually to a more nuclear fizz the longer you try to keep your legs still.
Pop fizz in the veins for at least four months straight. It drove me completely insane.
Quite a few people have asked where we came up with our eight month old daughter’s name—Laken.
I wish we had some super cool story with loads of meaning and an ancestor or two thrown in, but that isn’t the case (sadly!) To be very honest, I first heard the name when I was teaching in London. One of my colleagues was named Laken, and I fell in love with it the second I heard it. Any time she was mentioned at faculty meetings or in the hallway, I found myself rolling the name over my tongue again and again. It just had such a good sound to it—no matter whose voice said it.
Like all parents, Todd and I took our duty to name a human being very seriously. We wanted something that was unique and yet not impossible to pronounce or spell. Since that seemed a tad broad as a starting point, we added the requirement that it be Irish (for no other reason than just because Todd loves Ireland so much) and we both had to be 100% in support of it. Period. No compromises.
Todd’s initial pick for a name was Ireland. I just couldn’t give that big a tribute to the country, so we kept thinking.
Today a new friend came over, and I told her about this blog. (I’ve been keeping it relatively secret at the moment in case someone actually reads it before I’m ready to “go live.”)
She and I can relate to the topics I want to explore here on multiple levels. For one thing, she used to teach English at the school I currently teach English at. We’re the same age, we both came over to Heidelberg a long time ago with the idea that there was no other city on the planet we’d be happy living in, and now we both have children and very little chance of being able to move back to the States any time soon. I think we’re also similar in that this fact confuses us, emotionally.
It’s funny, this stage of life that we’re in. Both of us worked so hard to establish ourselves as long-term expats. But, now that we’re married and have young children there’s this whole new slew of questions, doubts and stress that accompany that. I think it’s a given that mentalities/dreams/etc. change when you have children. And, that’s true a million times over when you live 4,000 miles away from family in a culture that, no matter how long you’ve lived there, still isn’t quite your own.
Anyway, in our three hour, animated conversation an interesting question came up—what type of expat did we want to be at this point?