On Halloween we had three trick-or-treaters, which means the holiday is becoming wildly popular here in Germany! (After all, that’s three more trick-or-treaters than we’ve had other years.)
I was curious about when Halloween was introduced to German culture so I looked it up and, according to Der Spiegel, celebrations began in 1991 (reason being, Carnival was canceled due to the Gulf War.) So. it’s only taken about twenty-five years for things to get rolling in our Heidelberg suburb.
Nevertheless, Todd and I were well prepared with three jumbo-sized bags of American candy bought from the commissary on base. After all, you never can be too prepared.
When the trick-or-treaters arrived I opened up, mixing bowl filled of goodies in hand, and the kids dutifully chanted, “Suesses, sonst gibt’s Saures!” which roughly translates to, “Give me something sweet, or else you’ll get something sour!”
A man was waiting for me behind a tree.
I didn’t know this, yet, as I unlocked my bike after watching a World Cup game on a big screen outdoors at Marstallhof with friends back in 2006. I had no idea what was coming as I rode along the Neckar River and followed the curve of the bike path over to Bergheimerstrasse. It was reaching 9 p.m. and it was June, so there was still some daylight refusing the hug of encroaching nighttime.
I remember that I rode fast, and even stood up on my pedals as I crossed over a bridge—like a child—so that I could rise above my handlebars and face the wind head-on. I looked to the left, over at the distant hills, and then below the bridge where the train tracks were. I saw fluorescent lights, the clean platform, a few ICE trains like long white bullets resting on the track.
There’s so many bike rides that I forget. Even now, I ride my bike home to and from work every day and often get so lost in thought that I barely remember the journey from point A to point B.
But, I’ll never forget this particular ride.
Last week I went to visit my doctor (Dr. Sieben, or “Seven” as it means in English) for a preemptive cancer screening. The week prior I’d been summoned in to have blood drawn so they could test my thyroid, and this was my sit-down with the doctor to discuss the results. (They’re all about preventative health care here, and I appreciate everything about that.)
After he called me in to his office, one of the first things he asked me (after the reassurance that my results were fine and my blood pressure, may I just boast, was “perfection”) was about cancer in my family. In other words, who had it and what type did they have, etc.
I told him about my aunt’s breast cancer and then moved on to my uncle.
“Er hat…” I hesitated, “Schildkroete gehabt.”
Even as I said Schildkroete, I knew it wasn’t the right word. This happens a lot when at doctor’s appointments, simply because new vocabulary (in the form of symptoms or illnesses) come up all the time.
I was searching for the German word for ‘lung’ and it only occurred to me after ‘Schildkroete’ came out of my mouth that the word meant ‘thyroid.’
I’ve been living in Europe, now, for the better part of sixteen years. And yet, it was only this summer that I experienced the phenomenon of realizing I was more in tune with how things work in Germany, my second culture, than I was with how it’s done in America.
This wasn’t really the case before now. I’m wondering what it was about this summer—I mean, I hadn’t been away from America for any longer than normal. I’m not even immersed in German language or, let’s be honest, German society as much as I could/should be?
So, is sixteen years away from where I grew up my own personal magic expat number? Is this the specific amount of time it took me to feel more integrated into one culture than the other?
Example Number One of a Time I Was Super Confused in America
Last week I fell off the blogging wagon. I’m not sure why–all I can say is that every time Laken went down for a nap and it was my usual writing time I either suffered from writer’s block or found something incredibly important to do.
But this week I’m ready to be back on track, and I have pictures to share as part of my definitely-not-regular feature called ‘The Weekly Spazieren.’ I think by weekly I meant ‘taken throughout any given week of walking’ and not ‘I promise to post this every single week, as in I’m making a definite commitment to you right here, right now.’
I’m not normally a commitment-phobe, but am becoming one as of late.
In fact, on Monday we’re leaving for the States and I’m already wondering if I’ll be able to keep up the blogging habit while we’re gone. Todd and I tend to be pretty decadent while we’re on vacation. We’re prone to eating at restaurants three times a day (I mean, it’s the States–can you blame us?) and filling in the gaps with beer breaks in the backyard. I might be too stuffed/drunk to feel creative. But, I’m going to try my very hardest to continue writing on a weekly basis. After all, I love doing it. And, at least in my world, all it takes is one little break and it becomes a lifestyle. Story of my last six years.
So, let’s go spazieren, shall we?
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 do love me some quirky.)
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.)