Monday, November 29, 2010

Bedtime thoughts...

Honey made sure to buy a desk for me, a work desk, so that I could comfortably sit there and, well, work. And write. He has been begging me to write again since that night we met in that bar 4 years ago. However, the desk is too tall, and the chair is not so comfortable, so I am not a big fan of the desk. Like Herr Siedenburg would say, the desk is not my baby. But I have found a new baby--a wonderful Ikea chair (donated by the Tunca family), set right by the heater, and facing the window. During the so-called Summer, I enjoyed the rays of sunshine. During the seemingly-year-round Autumn, I watched the rain incessantly drench the world. And now, during Winter, I delight in seeing the snow fall: first small, clumsy flakes, then slowly big, chunky bits of ice that dance like whirlwinds as they fall.

Perhaps the chair has been inspirational. Perhaps the reason I had not written in such a long time is that I didn't have an inspiring nest.

Perhaps the weather has been inspirational. The German weather, apparently conspiring with the universe to keep me indoors, has opened the doors of my imagination and has brought back my writing-mojo.

Perhaps time has been inspirational. I now longer have stress, or things to stress about. My greatest concern is, OMG, what will we have for dinner? And trust me, that is a huge concern. Perhaps having time to think, to meditate, to want to write has been inspirational.

Perhaps you have been inspirational. Even if you did not write a comment, or send a message, I can see that you are reading me (Blogger Statistics are awesome). And if you have written a comment, you have inspired me to keep writing.

Whatever the case may be, and it might just be all of the above and not just one, I'm writing again. I've given serious consideration to writing a book, you know? A novel. A real one. After I had my Thai novel almost finished, and lost it, I unconsciously swore never to write again. But now, now I feel like I must.

But, what about?

Some famous author (I really have to find out who he was) said that, in order to write, one must want to write, not have something to write about. When one wants to write, it comes. Das kommt. Lo que's pa'l perro no se lo come'l gato.

Ok... here I am. I want to write.

What now?

When my grandmother was in her last days, she was very fortunate to be lucid, and surrounded by her five children. The day revolved around her medicines. My mom and aunts and uncles were all very cautious to not be late, and so things were done--or not done--depending on when she had to take her pills. But, every time the pill was taken, or the shot was given, or the syrup was drunken; when that was finished, then came the biggest philosophical question: Y, ¿ahora qué hacemos? And, what do we do now?

Yes... what do we do now? When you do what you are supposed to do, what do you do next? When you have huge dreams and they have all come true, what do you do next? When you find yourself waking up from your dreams, because your reality is so  much better, what do you do next?

Genieβen, disfrutar, enjoy.

But you can only genieβen for so long... and then?

I have an answer for now: now, I wait. I wait until I get my Prüfung results; I wait for my acceptance letter at Kieler Universität; I wait for my Orientierungskurs to begin next week; I wait for my English lessons every morning at 10 a.m.; I wait for Honey to come home.

So, for now my life consists of waiting.

I guess, in a sense, we are all always waiting. And that's not bad. It's not bad, as long as we're not resting on our laurels just waiting. We must make the best of the waiting period.

In Spanish, the word for waiting is also the word for hopingEsperar. And then, one must wait, and hope.

I wait.

And I hope.

But for now, I'm off to bed.

The secret to BELONGING

I've had my fair share of foreign experiences. Nine years of experiences. I've lived in four countries, which means I've had to learn and speak four languages. Four cultures. Five cultures, actually, because the cachaco culture in Bogota is quite unlike the costeño culture of Barranquilla.

I've had to adapt--a friend of mine, Kat, sent me a wonderful present to Thailand after hearing me complain for about 3 months: Not home sweet home? ADAPT! 

I've had my fair share of adaptations. Ranging from silly things, such as clothes, to more important things, like food, and then to necessary things, like traditions and values. It's been fun, though. I think it's more fun to learn a culture than to learn a language--and I love learning new languages, so that's saying something.

I remember the first time I said y'all naturally. I remember the first time I bargained in Thai. I remember the first time I spoke in formal voice in Spanish. I will most certainly remember the first time I say moin moin.

You see, learning the language is only the first step to learning a new culture. It's very important to say, Hello, my name is, but in order to start adapting to the culture you must say it like they do.

Haah, y'awl, I'm Nattie. (**that was my best attempt at writing a real Southern drawl)
Sawat dee kah, chan chu Natalya-ka.
Buenas, me llamo Natalya.
Moin moin, ich bin Natalya.

After you learn the language, the real language, not that which you learn in school, you must learn their culture. What is important for these people? What do they celebrate? How do the celebrate it?

I know that, for Americans, Thanksgiving is very important. How do the celebrate it? They eat.

For Thais, Loy Krathong is very important. How do they celebrate it? They eat.

For Colombians, El Día de las Velitas is very important. How do they celebrate it? They eat.

For Germans, Advent is very important. How do they celebrate it? They eat.

Ok, so clearly festivities are not so difficult to learn and understand. When one is happy, one eats, regardless of what continent or hemisphere one lies in. I have clearly celebrated too many festivities.

But even when you can speak the language, and use it they way they do; and even when you can understand and appreciate their culture; and even when you can live they way they do, you won't feel like you belong. You will always feel like the foreigner. You will feel that your skin is not dark or light enough; that your hair is not straight or curly enough; that you are not tall or short enough; that you are not... well, just not enough. You are not them. You don't belong there.

And you might then be lucky enough to go home for vacations--but you will not feel like you belong there anymore. You see, you have changed. You have adapted. You have seen the world--and your family has remained the same. Maybe a few more gray hairs, maybe a few pounds more or less, maybe a few changes to your house. You may find that you no longer have a room. But your parents and your family are so happy to have you there, so eager to make you feel at home. But it's no longer home. It's the home where you grew up, where you lived, but no longer your house. You don't belong there.

Then you go back to your new country, and you feel more uncomfortable than before. The cycle does not end. It has taken me nine years to get used to it. My room is now the guest bedroom. Well, my sister moved into my room the very day I left, and then I was assigned the guest bedroom--I'm a guest at home. Don't get me wrong--I love going home! How I wish I could go back just a few days right about now (the weather, you know!). But I also made Augusta my home, and Lampang, and Bogotá, and now Kiel...

I will tell you my secret--my secret to surviving nine years away from home. My secret to surviving in 4 different countries. My secret to not going insane. My secret to having no regrets after all my adventures. And it may sound lame and corny and ridiculous and overly simple--but it works. Ready?

Friends.

But real friends. Not those acquaintances with whom you meet to drink a beer. I mean friends, those with whom you are not afraid or embarrassed to be vulnerable. Not those acquaintances with whom you meet to go to dinner once in a while. I mean friends, those with whom you share good and bad news. Not those acquaintances with whom you party. I mean friends, those with whom you sit down and just talk.

What makes a real friend? A person with whom you can relate. A person with whom you can sit down and be quiet, and not feel at all uncomfortable. A person with whom you can laugh until you pee a little, but also with whom you can cry until you fall asleep.

Augusta is, and will remain, the best four years of my youth, because of my friends. Friends who are reading this, in spite of being busy with husbands (most of them are married!), kids, work (teachers, lawyers, doctors, media people...), school... Augusta is my home because home is where the heart is, and a huge chunk of my heart stayed there. My friends were by my side every time I broke up with a guy (weekly, almost), and every time I got together with another. My friends where there when I spent all-nighters studying or at The Phoenix. My friends were there when I decided to move--all five times! My friends went to see me off at the airport the Monday after graduation. My friends were there to translate when someone spoke "too Southern", and were there to explain what I meant. They invited me to their homes, to meet their families. Their families welcomed me, too. They made me feel at home, they made me feel welcome, they made me feel good.

They made me feel like I belonged.

Lampang was a particular experience: although I never quite felt like I belonged, my friends, as foreign as I, made me feel welcome in our own tiny foreign circle. Three Japanese girls, Tomoko, Miharu and Naoko, made my 11 months and 20 days in Thailand bearable. Even though they don't believe in Christmas, they celebrated the holiday with me. You see, none of us belonged there--but by making our little circle, we created our own little world and somehow belonged. Tomoko was my traveling buddy, and together we went places no foreigner should go to alone. Every Monday our boss wanted to kill us, since the subversives had not done so.

My friends made me feel like I belonged.

Bogotá was a test: new life, new job, new career, new everything. I was home, in Colombia, but not home (not in Barranquilla). I spoke the language, Spanish, but I didn't speak with the right accent--or any accent whatsoever. I knew the culture, but didn't like it. I was quite apathetic. I didn't agree with the idea of life there. Then came Honey--and he made me belong. He made me belong back at home, back in Colombia. He made me belong in Bogotá. He introduced me to the wonders of my country, which I had been too arrogant to know. He showed me a life that I thought I did not deserve. He opened his life, his world to me, and welcomed me into every single corner of his life. His friends became my friends--real friends. His life became my life--but also, my life became his life. He learned to appreciate poetry, literature, art, wine. When I met him, I was desperate to find a home and stay there. When he met me, he was desperate to fly away. I guess we complimented each other right from the start. He became my best friend--

--and he made me feel like I belonged.

Now I'm in Kiel. You'd think 4 months is just not enough time to find friends, real friends. But my Frauen, my Mädchen, are just my favorite experience in Germany. You see, we have so many things in common, that it would be impossible to not be friends. We are all in Germany as foreigners; we are all here with boyfriends or husbands who are German; we all have the same level of German languague; we have all been here for 6 months or less; we are all arbeitsloss, and we all hate it; we all wish to further our studies; we all have temporary visas... you see? We are the same--only we are Polish, Ukrainish (?), Chinese, Chilean, Morrocan, Russian and Colombian.

I love Honey, and I love my German family--but my friends, meine Frauen, ah. They make me feel like I belong. And being so far away from home, it's very important to feel like you belong. Otherwise, the loneliness will consume you and devastate you.

Real friends are not collected; they are not those who comment on your facebook the most; they are not more than a handful. They are those with whom you feel the most at home. And when you feel at home, you belong.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Why I loooooooove Deutschland (so far)

A friend of mine recently sent me a copy of a Barranquillero's diary in Canada. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term Barranquillero, it refers to a person born in the Capital of the Republic of Atlántico, Colombia. Or, more simply, a person from Barranquilla.) It detailed his first experiences with first-worldliness and snow. After about a month of having nothing but beautiful things to say, he gets tired of all that stuff and yearns going back home. That happens to me every single time the temperature drops below 20°C... which is every day for the past 3 months, 3 weeks, 5 days, 11 hours and 10 minutes ;-) But I have managed to find little things to make me happy... of course raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are a few of my favorite things, but I have no rose garden and no kitty. So, I've managed to compile my own little list of reasons for WHY I LOOOOOOVE DEUTSCHLAND--so far.

1. Because I get to speak a language with almost no foreign influences. You see, although the Germans appreciate Latin and Greek roots, they are well aware that they have a very rich language, and choose to use their own words to describe their own things. Germans, for instance, don't watch "television", a device whose name is composed of the Greek "tele", meaning far, and "vision", meaning, well, to see. They watch Fernsehen, from the German Fern, meaning far, and sehen, meaning vision, or to see. The Germans don't have Craters, a word derived from the Latin term hole. The Germans have Erdloch, which means hole (Loch) in the earth (Erd). The Germans don't have dictionaries, which I think is derived from the Latin diction. They have Wörterbucher, or Books of Words.

2. Because I get to enjoy snow in November...


3. Because I get to wear ridiculous yet delicious warm clothes... like the following. In an effort to vindicate myself, I may have a wonderful mother, but MY SISTER is the one with the amazing ideas. Is this a coat? Is it a throw-blanket? Is it gloves with a cloak attached? I don't know... but it suuuuuuure feels good!


4. Because I get to go to Weihnachtsmarkts, and enjoy the beautiful German culture, and handcraftmanship (is that a word?).


5. Because I get to drink Glühwein... which I have discovered I don't enjoy much... but just the fact that I can drink it, makes it fun :-)


6. Because I get to wake up, every single day, beside the most amazing man in the universe... a man who loves me, takes care of me, spoils me rotten... and who puts up with me, every day.


7. Because I have a wonderful, and HUGE, German family!


8. Because I have friends... with whom I am forced to speak only in German!


9. Because I can use free, public internet service to write all these things, and be constantly connected, and send too many emails. And because I have friends and family all over the world who are often kind enough not only to read, but to reply.

10. Because I get to ride my bike--winter, spring, summer or fall... rain, snow or sleet... all the time... and that's good exercise!


11. And because I finally have enough TIME. Time to do all the things I have always wanted to do...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love vs. REAL Love

Love is when Honey goes to watch a movie he does not like because I like it.
REAL Love is when Honey genuinely enjoys the movie as much as I do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Letter to Natalya (translated for your enjoyment)

Dear Natalya,

I write you from the most remote corner of your being, where I have been since the day you left your home 9 years ago. You meet with your Conscience almost daily, and your Ego is constantly roaming freely around. But alas, poor me, I have been totally neglected.

It's been a while since we last spoke. I'd ask what has been going on, but I know the answer to that question. I'm well aware of all the stupid things you do (like crashing against poles embedded in the ground). And, although you might not believe me, I do have answers to all your questions. I know, I know I am not German, but being who I am has a lot of advantages. I was actually quite fond of Pearl when you two lived together; I remember her favorite phrase: Nattie, if you have to ask, the answer is yes. Why didn't you pay attention to Pearl? Because your Conscience was saying something else. Well, there you go.

So, now that I've caught you off-guard while you're in the mirror with your Ego, I take the opportunity to write you a letter. Maybe this way, you will pay a little more attention to me.

No, Natalya, you are not German. Yes, Natalya, you are going to be cold. No, Natalya, you did not put on enough socks nor winter panties. Yes, Natalya, you do have to wear a sweater under your jacket. No, Natalya, you are not dressed well enough for the weather.

Let's talk about your bike-riding skills. I know you think you are very smart. I know you think you are an excellent student, and a fast learner. If all of that were true, why the heck have you not learned, after 3 months of riding your bike almost every day, how to signal with your hand when you are going to turn?! Germans are very careful, and very, very good drivers/riders. But they are not used to incompetent drivers/riders--like you. They are confident that the other rider/driver has learned the same rules they have, and so will also follow the rules. Don't be such an idiot. Brake more often. But look back before you brake. People might be riding behind you, and you will cause an accident.

Let's talk about the rain. Natalya, sweetheart, water makes you wet. For such ocassions when water falls from the sky and makes you wet--also known as rain--Men have invented waterproof clothing. That means, the clothes do not get wet. Use it. Your little hat, you little gloves, your little scarf, all that little crap you wear made of non-waterproof material will get wet. If you get wet, you will get cold. If you get cold in this weather, you will get a cold. And seeing as you have become a weakling, if you get a cold you will also become unbearably whinny. Poor Honey.

Let's talk about food. Natalya, bless your heart: food has an expiration date printed in the container. I know Germans overreact a little and print an expiration date before the actual expiration, just to be sure. And I also know that you worked for three years in the regulatory affairs section of a company that dealt with products that had close expiration dates, and thus I know that you know that there is a little extra time after the printed expiration date during which the product is good for consumption. But, Natalya, sweetpea, can you please not eat expired food? And, please, can you not buy food soon to expire? By the way, just because you don't have a gallbladder does not necessarily mean you no longer suffer from gastritis. No one said you are "cured"; they just said that the particular episode that sent you to the hospital 4 months ago was caused by gallstones. Therefore, Nattie, darling, it is not healthy for you to eat so many citric foods. Just in case you unsure as to what "so many" means, six mandarines in 1 hora is so many. Too many.

Let's talk about your diet. Yes, Natalya, you are fat. Yes, Natalya, you have gained weight. No, Natalya, it has nothing to do with your so-called gallbladderlessness. Yes, Natalya, it has everything to do with the tons of bread you have been eating since you arrived. And cut the crap with the, oh, but it tastes so good. It tastes like bread. Bread is bread. Here, in Barranquilla, in Lampang, in Augusta and in Bogota. Stop eating so much. But Natalya, sugarbooger, "stop eating so much" does not mean stop eating. And that sillyness about the 2,000 calories--Nat, pumpkin, that works when one eats 2,000 calores in one day...not in one meal. It's cool that you go to the gym, but please watch your hydration. One little bottle of water a day is not enough.

Ah, Natalya, there is so much more that I would like to tell you, but you are soon to come back, and I don't want neither your Conscience nor your Ego to get in this letter. I will continue to try to be by your side in your everyday life, although you make it almost impossible sometimes. You are funnier without me, to be perfectly honest. But, my gosh, sometimes... sometimes I want to grab you and ask, WTF, hey?

Lotsa love,

Your Common Sense

PS: Your Ego says you should write more often, because there is nothing that your mother enjoys more than reading you; and your fans request that you do so, too.

PPS: Your Conscience says to be careful, because Vanity is a Capital Sin.

Carta a Natalya

Querida Natalya,

Te escribo desde el rincón más remoto de tu ser, donde desde que te fuiste de tu casa hace 9 años me tienes encerrado. A tu Conciencia la sacas casi todos los días, y tu Ego se mantiene en total libertad. Pero yo, pobre yo, estoy en el total olvido.

Hace mucho que no hablamos. Te preguntaría, ¿qué más?, pero ya conozco la respuesta a esa pregunta. Estoy al tanto de todas las barbaridades que haces (como cuando te estrellas con postes empotrados en el piso). Y aunque no lo creas, tengo respuesta todas tus preguntas--sí, yo sé, no seré yo alemán, pero ser Yo viene con muchas ventajas. Yo me hice muy amigo de Pearl cuando Ustedes dos vivían juntas; recuerdo la frase predilecta de Pearl: Nattie, if you have to ask, the answer is yes (Naty, si tienes que preguntar, la respuesta es ). ¿Por qué no le parabas bolas a Pearl? Porque tu Conciencia te decía otra cosa. Bueno, tome pa' que lleve. Ahí tienes. Como dice tu papá, más marica tu.

Entonces, ahora que te cojo desprevenida porque estás en el espejo con tu Ego, aprovecho para escribirte una carta, a ver si de pronto me paras bolas así...

No, Natalya, no eres alemana. Sí, Natalya, sí te va a dar frío. No, Natalya, no te pusiste suficientes medias, ni pantaletas térmicas. Sí, Natalya, sí te tienes que poner un saquito abajo de la chaqueta. No, Natalya, no estás suficientemente bien vestida para el clima.

Hablemos ahora de tus habilidades como conductora de bicicleta. Yo sé que tu crees que eres muy inteligente. Yo sé que tu crees que eres excelente estudiante y que aprendes rápido. Si todo eso fuera cierto, ¡¿por qué rayos, después de 3 meses montando bicicleta casi todos los días, es que no has aprendido a señalizar con la mano cuando vas a cruzar?! Los alemanes serán muy cuidados y muy buenos conductores, pero no están acostumbrados a incompetentes en las calles--como tu. Ellos creen que el conductor--de carro o bicicleta--ha aprendido las mismas normas que ellos, y que por eso las van a seguir. No te confíes. Frena con más frecuencia--pero mira para atrás antes de hacerlo. Es muy posible que haya tráfico detrás de ti, y vas a causar un accidente.

Hablemos de la lluvia. Natalya, mamita, el agua moja. Para estas ocasiones en las que cae agua del cielo que moja--también conocido como lluvia--el Hombre se ha inventado la ropa impermeable. Eso significa, que no se moja. Úsala. Tu sombrerito, tus guantecitos, tu bufandita, todas las bobaditas que te pones de tela son permeables, lo opuesto a impermeable... es decir, se moja. Si te mojas, te da frío. Si te da frío en este clima, te da gripa. Y para como estás tu de debilucha últimamente, ique porque no tienes vesícula y tal, si te da gripa te vuelves la más cansona del mundo. Pobre Honey.

Hablemos de la comida. Natalya, corazón de melón, la comida viene con fecha de vencimiento impresa en el envase. Ya sé que los alemanes exageran un poquito, y que ponen la fecha de vencimiento antes del vencimiento real, para curarse en salud. Ya sé que tu trabajaste por 3 años en asuntos regulatorios de perecederos, y sabes que hay un periodo de vigencia del producto luego de la fecha de vencimiento registrada. Pero, Natalya, cariño, ¿puedes por favor no comer comida vencida? Y, por favor, ¿puedes no comprar comida próxima a vencerse? Por cierto, el que no tengas vesícula no necesariamente significa que estés curada de tu gastritis--nadie ha dicho que no sufras de gastritis, sino que el dolor específico que sentiste ese día en que te hospitalizaron se debió a los cálculos... por eso, Nattie, darling, no es sano que comas demasiados cítricos. En caso que no entiendas qué quiero decir con "demasiados", seis mandarinas en 1 hora es demasiado.

Hablemos de tu dieta. Sí, Natalya, sí estás gorda. Sí, Natalya, sí te has engordado. No, Natalya, no tiene nadita que ver con que no tengas vesícula. Sí, Nataya, sí tiene que ver con las toneladas de pan que te has comido. Y deja el cuento que es que, ay, que sabe delicioso. Sabe a pan. Pan es pan. Aquí, en Barranquilla, en Lampang, en Augusta y en Bogotá. Deja la comedera. Pero, Natalya, mijita, "deja la comedera" no significa deja de comer. Y ese cuento de las 2,000 calorías--mamita, eso funciona cuando uno come sólo 2,000 calorías en un día--no en una sentada. Chévere que vayas al gimnasio, pero pilas con la hidratación. Una botellita de agua en todo el día no es suficiente.

Ay, Natalya, hay tantas cosas más que me gustaría decirte, pero ya estás próxima a volver, y no quiero que ni tu Conciencia ni tu Ego se me metan en esta carta. Ahí seguiré, tratando de acompañarte en tu vida, aunque tu me lo hagas casi imposible. Eres más chistosa sin mi, la verdad. Pero, por dios... a veces, ay, a veces quiero como sarandearte y decirte, WTF, hey?

Te quiero mucho,

tu Sentido Común

PD: Tu Ego te manda a decir que escribas con más frecuencia, que no hay nada que tu mamá disfrute más en el mundo que leerte; y que además tus fans te lo solicitan.

PPD: Tu Conciencia te manda a decir que pilas, que la Vanidad es un Pecado Capital.

Happy Endings

I like to know what happens.

When I get a new book, I always read the last 3 or 4 pages first, just to know how things are going to end. When I go into a movie, I like to know how it's going to end. Going into "The Sixth Sense", someone tried to ruin the movie for me, saying, "He's dead!" That made the movie so much better for me. Maybe that is precisely why I enjoy Gabriel García Márquez so much: his writing style includes always telling you how the story will end.

Do you know why?

Because what makes the story worthwhile is how it happens. How it gets to that point. What the characters do to make that happen.

I read a joke recently, about some guy not reading the Bible because he already knew how it ended: Jesus dies. Well, yes. He does. But the story about why he dies is fascinating. The Bible, from a literary point of view, is a magnificent work of art.

But then again, this comes from a person (me) who thinks Harry Potter is a brilliant masterpiece. You might not want to take book advice from me.

Or maybe, precisely because I find both books fascinating is that you need to take book advice from me. It's up to you...

But I not only want to know the ending of books and movies: I like to know how things will end in life. Such an exaggeration, no?

This morning, Honey made a joke about how attached the Germans are to the weather channel. (We are, too.) He said the Germans actually fix their lives around what www.wetter.com says (or whatever weather channel they tune in to). On Sunday, the Weatherman said it was going to snow today. Bah humbug, I thought to myself. It's Fall. It's November. Pff.

I knew this. I was warned. I was given my "ending". Happy ending, at that, because it's been five years since I last saw snow, in Korea, with Julie.

But as I said, it's not about what will happen. It's about how it happens.

And as I sat down to write this, by the window, next to the heater (as I always do), wearing too much clothes (as I always do), I looked out the window.

At first, it looked like rain in slow motion. Rain falls fast, in many little, tiny droplets. But this "rain", this was different. It was falling slower... almost as if dancing with the wind on the way down. And it was not tiny droplets, but rather big, fat chunks of frozen water droplets.

I realized, just then (just now, as I write this), that I had never seen snow begin. I have been snow fall; I've been in amazing snowfalls: my aunt Ofelia's wedding was during one of the greatest snowfalls the state of New York has ever seen. Korea also has great snowfalls (as I stood in the middle of the street, trying to eat snowflakes, an angry Korean woman scolded me--in Korean... apparently, Korea is so highly contaminated, that I was eating frozen dirt...).

But snow, baby snow, snow just learning how to dance with the wind, snow yet young enough to not amount to anything... wow. That, I had never seen before.

Of course I'm freezing. And yesterday, I had the brilliant idea of telling my student that I would go to his house, so that we could have the lesson in his house. And after the class, I have to go to the gym. And after the gym, I have to go grocery shopping. And after the groceries, I have to come back home and shower (that's another post...). And after that I have to go house-hunting with Honey. And after that we have a date with Harry Potter (his date is with Hermione, whatever). And after that we have to come home...

Life does not change because of a little snow. Life goes on.

But in my story, in my life, everything is changing now. Everything is different. Because although I was warned that it would snow, the experience of watching, in a front row seat, how snow is born... well, that has changed me forever.

For the first time, I will teach a lesson while snow falls. For the first time, I will ride my bike with snow (hopefully this will not be another post). For the first time, I will be in the gym watching the snow fall. I will shop while the snow is falling. I will be with Harry (and Honey and Hermione), but I will know that, outside, snow is falling. I will walk back home from the theater, holding Honey's hand, probably complaining and whining about how cold it is--but I will do all of this while snow is falling! Do you see what I mean?

Everything I do today, will be done for the first time with snow. The weatherman did not tell me that. He only said it would snow.

What I do with my life, with my snow, is my story to tell. And you already know my happy ending.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ich bin dankbar...

Liebe Familie Siedenburg, Tatiana, Fede, Honey:

Es ist sehr schwierig, da ich gerade erst meine B1 Prüfung gemacht habe und nun soll ich alles auf Deutsch schreiben und sprechen. Bitte entschuldigt meine Fehler…

1988 war mein erstes Jahr in der Schule (natürlich Kindergarten), dort habe ich eine schöne Sache gelernt: es gab einen speziellen Tag nur um DANKE zu sagen. Seitdem feiern wir in meine Familie, wie die Nordamerikaner, jedes Jahr “Thanksgiving”. Für uns war die Geschichte dieses Feiertages über “Pilgrims (Pilgerväter)” und Indianer nicht so wichtig. Es war ein Feiertag um Pute zu essen! Wirklich. Meine Oma macht nur zweimal im Jahr Pute: einmal an “Thanksgiving”, und einmal an Weihnachten. Das ist natürlich nicht genug Pute für mich.

Zu Thanksgiving kam immer die ganze Familie zusammen. Es gab keine Geschenke wie zu Weihnachten, aber wir saßen und sprachen zusammen. Es war immer sehr schön. Nachdem mein Opa gestorben war, haben wir entschieden, dass wir an diesem Tag DANKE sagen sollen. Jeder sollte ein paar Sachen sagen, für die er dankbar war und ich war immer für die Pute dankbar.

Ich versuche heute diese Tradition lebendig zu halten, aber ohne die Pute, weil ich nicht so gut kochen kann. Heute ist es zwar nicht der richtige Thanksgiving Tag, aber trotzdem möchte ich DANKE sagen.

Heute ist Honey ein Jahr in Deutschland. Ich sage danke an Deutschland, weil dieses Land Honey begrüßt hat. Danke an Herrn Süverkrüp, weil er an Honey geglaubt hat. Danke für Skype und Internet, weil wir für ein halb Jahr in konstantem Kontakt bleiben konnten.

Jetzt bin ich schon fast vier Monate hier…

Ich bin ganz dankbar für Winter Kleidung. Als ich in den USA gelebt habe, war es dort im Winter nicht so kalt, wie ich es jetzt hier in Herbst erlebe. Es ist mein erster richtiger Herbst und ich habe ein bisschen Angst vor meinem ersten richtigen Winter. Aber mit drei oder vier Winterunterhosen, bin ich sicher, dass alles gut wird.

Ich bin dankbar für die neuen Sachen, die ich in Deutschland kennengelernt und probiert habe. Ich hatte nie ein Apfelbaum gesehen und auch nicht ein Kirschbaum. Deutsches Brot ist besonders lecker und Bernds Marmelade ist wunderbar.

Ich bin dankbar für die Freundlichkeit der Deutschen. Ich bin dankbar, dass ich eine neue Sprache lernen kann. Ich bin dankbar, dass ich eine neue Kultur erleben kann.

Ich bin dankbar für die Familie Siedenburg. Es ist unglaublich, dass wir nach 24 Jahren immer noch in Kontakt sind. Ich freue mich, eine Deutsche Familie in Deutschland zu haben. Man kann sich wohl fühlen, wann man nicht allein ist. Und wir, Gustav und ich, sind überhaupt nicht allein hier.

Ich bin dankbar, dass alle Zeit und Lust für heute gehabt haben! Ich bin dankbar, dass wir so viel Essen haben! So viel leckeres Essen.

Ich bin dankbar für Tatiana und Fede. Es ist gut für mich, spanisch sprechenden Freunden zu haben.

Ich bin dankbar für Honey. Er ist das Beste, das mir je passiert ist. Ich bin sehr Glücklich, ihn in meinem Leben zu haben.

Ich bin für jeden Tag dankbar, den ich in Deutschland aufwache. Aber ich bin heute besonders dankbar.

Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Happens in Deutschland, Stays in Deutschland (Or, Gallbladderlessness)

I arrived in Germany late one Saturday night. On Sunday, I was invited to a "Willkommen in Deutschland" brunch. On Monday, after Honey went to work, I worked hard to understand, believe and grasp the fact that I was in Germany. OMG. On Tuesday we went out to dinner with a couple of Mexican friends Honey had made during the summer. As I ordered the food, I knew I was going to be sick.

You see, about 10 years ago (my gosh, am I old...), a doctor diagnosed me with chronic gastritis. That meant that I would have to be careful with what I ate for the rest of my life, and I would have to carry anti-gastritis medication at all times. That was no problem, it was just a simple pill. It usually worked wonders in just a few minutes. But as those 10 years went by, I would have to take about 4 pills in 2 hours to feel a little bit at ease.

I knew which foods would bring about these gastritis episodes. Too much lemon/lime, too much spice, too much pepper, food that was too hot (but that was no big deal, because I have never really enjoyed hot food)... also, when I spent more than 4 consecutive hours without anything to eat, more than likely I would feel ill. I learned to live with my condition, embraced it even, and so it was. Until that Tuesday evening.

Before the food came, I took a pill. A friend of mine (MD, MBA) told me that I could do that, as a sort of prevention for my attacks. I ate. It was good. Not particularly delicious, but good. About 30 minutes after we were done eating, I felt ill. But I knew this about myself. I needed only a little bit of water to take a second pill, and I would be well. As we walked to the gas station (closest place were we could buy a drink), I could barely hold myself up.

If you have ever had gastritis, you can imagine my pain. From 1-10, it was at about 8.5. For those of you who are lucky enough to never have had gastritis, let me try to explain it as graphically as possible:

Imagine a wall. Like, the wall of your bedroom. Now imagine that, hooked to this wall, are 1,000,000 little hooks (like those used to hang keys). From every little hook hangs a thread. Now take all the loose thread ends, and tie them together. You should have a big knot. Take this knot in your hands, and twist it. Twist it until you cannot twist it any more. Twist it to the point that you feel the hooks are going to unhook.

That was going on in my stomach.

I took my second pill, and it did nothing. I told Honey I had to go home. Usually I go to the bathroom and either poop it out, or puke it out. (Apologies for the TMI...) I tried both, succeded in both, but was still in unbearable pain. Honey was concerned. At about 9 p.m., I asked him to take me to the hospital. As much as I detest and am deathly afraid of hospitals, I knew that they would insert an IV and give me some make-me-feel-better-juice and I would be out of there in a few hours.

Wrong... I was there overnight. These German doctors want to make sure everything is perfect before they let me go. Because I had told them about my gastritis diagnosis, and because the symptoms fit, and because I felt better after the IV, they let me go on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

On Wednesday evening, I was in pain again. On Thursday, all day, I was in pain. On Friday I decided to go into the hospital again. My doctor was very concerned because she could not hear any movement or any sound in my stomach. I realized then that I had not been to the bathroom since Tuesday night. I was sent directly to a sonogram.

Bear in mind that, at this point, I have been in Germany for 6 days... and could barely speak German. This is what the conversation with the guy who did the sonogram was like:

Guy: lksjkhkdjkjldbvkjdb steinreich! (big smile)
Me (thinking to myself): stein... stein is stone... reich... rich? Rich in stones? WTF?
Guy: kshsghkjsbkjbs steinreich! kabfbjvbk operieren werden! (again, big smile)
Me (still to myself): Rich in stones... operieren.. ope--operation? Operate?
Me (finally out loud): Operieren? ich? [Translation: Operate? Me?]
Guy (in very slow English): Yes, you are stone rich, and you have to be operation.
Me (out loud): Oh, ok...
Me (to myself): OMG! WTF?

I was scheduled for immediate surgery. I was in such pain, I was not all too clear on what was happening. I was sure they could not operate without my written consent, because I have no official next of kin in Germany. Also, I had no idea why I was to be operated.

At some point during the afternoon, a doctor came by. He spoke only in German. It's not really his fault... every time he asked, "Verstehen Sie?", or "Verstehest du?" [Do you understand?], I gave my most convincing head nod and said, "Ja" in perfect, flawless, accentless Deutsch. He was therefore assured that my German level was quite above par.

At the end, he said, "Ok, did you understand everything?" "Yes, I said." "Ok," he said, "please sign here." I am very obedient, so I signed.

It was only when the anesthesiologist introduced himself to me that I reckoned I had signed the consent forms...

My operation was on Saturday midday. Something about more pressing surgeries and not so many doctors on staff and so on. When you come to Germany, make sure to get sick on a Monday.

When they came to prep me, and pick me up, I started to cry. Honey was there (he was there ALL the time), and assured me everything was going to be OK.

As I bawled my eyes out, the doctors assured me, in perfect English, that everything was going to be OK. Ah, I thought, NOW everyone speaks English! At some point I was told to think about my favorite thing about Germany, and I thought about cheese...

Then I felt pain. Real pain. I could not open my eyes. I had wires all over me.


A voice said, "Hola Natalya, soy (ah, I forgot her name... let's say, Rosa) Rosa, acabas de salir de una operación, y todo salió bien."

To which I replied, "Wo bin ich? Was ist passiert?"

To which she replied, "Natalya, soy Rosa, todo salió bien en tu operación, tranquila."

Me again, totally unaware of her Spanish and my German, "Ich verstehe dass nicht, wo bin ich? Bitte, wo bin ich? Was ist passiert?"

Rosa: "¿Hablas español? Soy Rosa, todo salió bien, estás en Alemania."

Me: "Wo? Was? Wo bin ich?"

Honey walked in, triumphant. Finally a familiar face. He explained everything... and I understood. My operation was over.

HOLY $H¡T!! I had undergone my first ever surgery! And survived. But, you know, for some reason I had always feared the anesthesia part... nah, that is not even noticeable. The BAD part, the WORST part of an operation is the recovery part. Oh, my. Getting off the bed to pee, lying back in the bed, trying to find a comfortable position... I remember I cried so much. I was so lonely. Honey worked, and could not be my side all the time. I had some visitors, every day, but I was too groggy to entertain them. I tried to read, but I was always so tired. I could not even talk to my mom on the phone--Honey did all the talking. I slept for 3 days. Then I spent two more days in recovery... and finally, that Thursday, I was sent home.

By that time, I had spent more time in a German hospital than in Germany. Maybe that is why I didn't get to enjoy the German summer: Not because there was no summer, but because I was hospitalized.

It was not until Honey walked into my room on my first day awake with a ziploc baggie with balls inside that I understood what had happened. I had had three HUGE gallstones (1 cm diameter each) for a while, and one of them had ruptured my gallbladder. Hence the pain. I had a colicistectomy (my gallbladded was removed) and the three stones were removed as well.



Four months later, I feel good. I have to watch what I eat. When Honey cooks, I can eat everything, because he cooks special for me (with extra, EXTRA love...). But I am well.

I guess when I finally end up leaving Germany, a part of me will always be here. Quite literally.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ode to Cold, Rainy, Winter Days in Autumn

As I was riding my bike up-hill, with the unforgiving wind blowing against me, in it-really-is-only-5-degrees-celsius-out-there-but-it-feels-like-zero weather (0°C = 32°F), the cold, hard raindrops hitting my face (and my eyes!), my fingers freezing, my nose running (why do I get a runny nose when I'm cold?), my cheeks--well, I don't know what was happening to my cheeks, but I was feeling pretty cold, and tired after a 1-hour excercise session at the gym and a 3 km bike ride to the gym, and a 3 km bike ride from the gym... As this was all happening, I saw a German family in a park (I'm assuming they were German; I can't imagine who else would be out in a park in that hideous weather. Maybe they were Scandinavians...).Two adults, I'm guessing the parents; two kids, maybe 10 and 5 (I'm totally guessing here. I have no idea what kids those ages look like, and I was quite far from them); and a dog. The dog was frolicking in the grass, he had a park all to himself, and he didn't seem to mind--or notice--the rain. The kids were equally happy, all wrapped up in bunches and bunches of winter clothes. I felt good not being the only clown around Kiel with winter jackets in autumn.

Anyway--the family in the park, yes. I could not help but think, WTF?! Why aren't you all curled up in bed watching a movie, drinking hot cocoa, or hot chocolate, or hot tea, or hot coffee, or an ice-cream (I have a thing for eating ice-cream when it's cold)? Why aren't you in your house, sitting beside the heating, with a couple of blankets on, writing in your blogs (like I'm doing right now).? Why aren't you anywhere where it's warm? WTF, people?!

But then, it hit me. Properly dressed, it really isn't that cold (and this is the moment when Hell freezes over--Natalya said something is not cold...). Really, I mean it! My problem is that I am seldom properly dressed. These people know what their weather is like, and they dress appropriately. Yes, of course the rain is a little problem, but it was only barely drizzling (I tend to over-use hyperbole a little sometimes). And you have (and by "you" I mean "I") to understand that these people live with cold weather 11 1/2 months of the year! 5°C is not bad; 5°C is not bad when the temperature will drop to -15°C in a few weeks...

I arrived in Germany in summer. Let me tell you something (and I hope some Germans are reading me, as well as Angie): The Germans are brilliant people; kind, loving, warm, very skilled in car-manufacturing and bread-baking. But the Germans have absolutely no idea what summer means. Summer does not mean "the weather reaches 20°C". No, sir. That is spring. Summer does not mean you get to wear only a light jacket. No, sir. That is autumn. Summer does not mean the sun shines. No, sir. That should happen every day, or so my friend Galileo said.

You know it's summer when you are sitting in the shade, and you feel a tiny drop of sweat rolling down your back. Summer is when you cannot think of what else to take off without ending up naked. Summer is when you drink water, and drink water, and drink more water, and you still cannot quench your thirst. My readers in GA know what I'm talking about. My readers in Barranquilla will now exactly what I'm talking about, especially because they are currently in one of the only three months when it is not summer.

Summer is when 36°C feels like an OK temperature to walk outside. Summer is when 40°C still feels OK... but in the shade. Summer is when a warm breeze brushes by and you yearn for more. Summer is when you feel like you are melting. Summer is when it is so hot you can barely keep your eyes open. Summer is heaven. Summer is wonderful.

But real summer. Not the German summer. Pff.

A friend wrote me recently, and he told me to take advantage of, and appreciate these last few days of autumn, because soon the winter will come and, as fun as the snow is, my enthusiasm--he says--will only last a couple of days. He told me to write about the wonders of the color changes, about the time change, about--well, about autumn.

But I cannot help but miss my home.

I know I've always said that "Home is where the Heart is", and my heart clearly is here in Germany. But, oh well, maybe I have to change my statement and say, "Home is where my Mom is", and my mom is in Barranquilla. Maybe that is why I love Barranquilla so much. Not because of the 9 months of summer heat, not because of the arroyos and rain that force people to stay indoors... but because of my mom. I guess, of all the places where I've lived--Augusta, Lampang, Bogotá, Barranquilla, Kiel--if I had to choose one, just one, to return to, it would be Barranquilla.

I cannot help but miss my home in this time of year. Yes, the color changes are out of this world. It is amazingly beautiful. The process of the leaves turning from green to yellow and red, and then falling, is awe-inspiring; the changed landscape with the golden leaves covering the ground is an everchanging, daily artistic masterpice; the cold wind making sounds as it dances through the naked tree branches, it seems to rock the day to sleep... the shorter days, the longer nights... the moon is bigger here, and the stars shine brighter. Yes, I see and I appreciate it all.

But if only I could go home, just for a little bit, and then come right back... well, that would be just perfect.

That costs an Egg! (Or, ¡Eso cuesta un huevo!)

The cachacos, people born and raised in the Colombian capital city, Bogotá, have very peculiar comparisons to eggs. For instance, when they want to say that something is extremely cheap, they say, ¡Eso está a precio de huevo!, that has the price of an egg. But when they want to say that something is extremely expensive, they say, ¡Eso cuesta un huevo!, that costs an egg. I think I have to ask whether in both cases they are referring to the same kind of egg; or whether in one case they are talking about an egg, that which is laid by a hen, and in the other case they are talking about an egg, one of two which hang in between mens' legs.

In any case, in Germany an egg costs an egg. Why must they be so expensive? And what is this whole 50 cent difference between 10 eggs from an egg-industry, and 6 eggs from bio-hens, which are free to roam about? (The latter is more expensive.) And what is with the whole dozen eggs concept, or lack thereof? Why won't the Germans sell me twelve eggs? A dozen eggs is a perfect count for one week. But ten? Ten eggs? What am I supposed to do with that?

I don't really like to complain about my new country--as I said before, I am a fervient believer in the "If you don't like it, move back!" principle. And I love it here. But eggs--man, what is your deal, German Leute?!

Aside from the eggs, living in Germany does not cost an egg. It is actually quite inexpensive (if you earn and spend in Euros, and if you shop in the cheap stores, and if you buy store brands). We bought one month's worth of groceries yesterday for 31 Euros. That was including my 10 eggs.

Another great thing about German cost of living, is that one's eating habits change as the seasons change. For instance, this is no longer cherry season (insert sad face), but Clementine (mandarin) season is just beginning! This is no longer apple season (again, insert sad face), but orange season is just beginning! It's actually quite interesting, because it keeps you craving for new fruits all year long.

Now that my course is over, I get to spend more time at home. With so much time on my hands, I've actually picked up cooking (and so far I've only intoxicated myself; I spoke to Honey two hours ago, and he is healthy. It might be my gallbladderlessness that is affected...) and I think I'm doing just fine. I've made a couple of Colombian dishes, and my next meal will be pork in mushroom sauce. Wish me luck. And with the price for food here, it will not cost me an egg!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nuestro Propio Sprache

(Apologies to my Non-Spanish-Speaking Followers... but this post just felt more natural in Spanish. Also, my Dad just might decide to read me... or not.)


Yo soy la primera en decir que uno tiene que adaptarse a la nueva cultura en la que vive, porque uno eligió irse a ese nuevo mundo. Si no te gusta, vete de regreso a tu país.

Cuando vivía en Estados Unidos, me aseguré de que mis amigos fueran sureños de verdad (no damn Yankees for me), aprendí a que el y'all me saliera naturalmente, y me adapté a la comida de la región... y me engordé. :-) Cuando viví en Tailandia, aprendí el idioma, el sawat dee kah (con reverencia y todo), y comí grillos, y pasta de pata de ganso, y sapo. Cuando viví en la capital de mi República (por si las dudas, Bogotá), aprendí a hablar de Usted, aprendí a poner todo con diminutivos (agüita, tintico, pancito...) y aprendí a apreciar al Transmilenio.

Ahora que vivo en Alemania, no me voy a quedar atrás. Confieso (sin miedo y sin pena) que el orden me encanta. En realidad, es lo que me ha mantenido viva (literalmente... tienes que leer el post sobre por qué los alemanes no me atropellan). Además, nunca he sido fan de la impuntualidad y el desorden que como Latinos nos caracterizan. El idioma me encanta--es una maravilla filológica, y tiene gran lógica (lo que pasa es que es complicado de memorizar). La gente tiene su encanto: yo he tenido la suerte de sólo conocer a los amables, entonces para mi todos los Alemanes son súper.

Pero volvamos al idioma. El alemán es genial. Tiene muchísimas palabras, entonces uno puede expresar exactamente lo que quiere decir, cómo se siente, lo que desea. Y tiene muchas posibilidades de composición estructural (mientras que el Verb esté in der zweite Stelle, oder am ende). Pero Honey y yo hemos decidido crear nuestro propio idioma. No es que nos hayamos sentado a discutir el tema, simplemente pasó.

Una conversación normal entre Honey y yo puede ser algo muy parecido a esto:

Yo: ¿Qué quieres de Abendessen?
Honey: No sé, ¿qué te parece Abendbrot?
Yo: Lecker. ¿Tenemos Frischkäse, oder compro?
Honey: Ne, aquí hay genug. Mejor ven schnell.

O...

Honey: Nos vamos nach Hamburg.
Yo: ¿Quieres que nos veamos en el Bahnhof?
Honey: Vielleicht. Yo te llamo y te digo.

Pero no es sólo eso. Es posible en alemán convertir un verbo en un sustantivo, o un sustantivo en verbo--igual que en español. Verbo: conducir --> Sustantivo: conductor.  Sustantivo: transferencia --> Verbo: transferir.

Honey yo también hacemos eso... sólo que convertimos un sustantivo en alemán en un verbo en español. A continuación, el más común:

Sustantivo: Überweisung (transferencia)
Verbo: überweisungear
Conjucaciones: yo überweisungeo, tu überweisungeas, él/ella überweisungea, nosotros überweisungeamos, vosotros überweisungeais, ellos überweisungean.

Posible conversación:

Yo: Honey, ¿me überweisungeaste?
Honey: Sí, entonces ahora puedes überweisungear al colegio.
Yo: Ayer überweisungeé para no demorarme tanto.

Es interesante oírnos hablar. Es fascinante cómo nos entendemos. Es genial que más nadie nos entiende.

Tanto como creo que es importante--vital, más bien, adaptarse a la nueva cultura, al nuevo ambiente, al nuevo mundo, también creo que es igualmente importante crear ciertos nichos privados que presenten oportunidades de sentirse en casa, zu Hause. Nosotros tenemos nuestro propio sistema. Y funciona.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gone with the wind...

For the past week or so, I've been trying to think about something witty to write about the wind. Since I've come up with nothing so far, I'll attempt to explain my current situation as best as possible.

You see, we've all experienced a windy moment. Maybe you've been on a cliff and felt the wind push you back; or maybe you've ridden in a convertible and you've felt the wind make your face-fat wobble; maybe you live in a windy city and you've experienced the wind push you sideways...

I live in a windy city; and it is currently windy season in this windy city... can you imagine how windy it is? I continually experience this aweful, mean, unfair wind pushing me back as I try to ride uphill. It's terrible! And I've always wondered, if there is wind pushing me back, holding me back, that is, there must be wind blowing not against but with me, and thus propelling me forward. I kept asking about that wind, and wondering whether or not it existed.

Well, the Wind Gods got tired of my questioning of their will and powers and showed me, up close and personal, what a propelling wind feels like.

Leaving our apartment, I have four choices: downhill to what I consider to be south, downhill to what I consider to be east, downhill to what I consider to be west, and no-hill to what I consider to be north. (Of course, coming back home is not the most pleasant of experiences... it is only made bearable by the fact that Honey is there, and more than likely is waiting for me with the heating on.)

I'm always cold. I won't go into that again. It is only automn, and I'm already wearing Honey's winter jacket (about 5 sizes to big for me; oh gosh, am I sexy or what!?), and of course I wear rain-pants because windy season also implies rainy season (although it seems to be always rainy season here). I look so ridiculous, my student actually pointed it out.

Not that I want to diverge from the Wind Gods story, but this was actually an interesting exchange:

Student: Ha, you look like a sail.
Me: (a little offended) Do you mean I look like a seal? (I thought he was comparing me to a fat, lazy walrus.)
Student: No, like a sail, like the boats have.
Me: What?
Student: Yes, like a sail, a little wind will come and you will blow away...

So, the Wind Gods. On my way to his house, down-hill east, I met this crazy propelling wind. It was terrifying! With the wind that pushes against you, you have to be strong and keep on. With this wind propelling you, you have to try stop, and more than likely, if you're me, you won't achieve it; you have to be careful not to move, because if you move, the wind will catch one of your "sails" and blow you away. I don't know what's worse now, which wind I am more afraid of. Even walking I feel like I just might be gone with the wind...

In any case, my classes are over, so I don't have to ride my bike to school every day. I don't go back until the 6th of December. I do, however, have to teach my English lessons. Maybe I will ask him, a strong Handball-playing German, to come to my house. I bet he can handle a little wind.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deutschland for Idiots (or, Letter to Angela Merkel)

Dear Angie,

You're awesome. And your country is awesome too. I am so grateful that you, personally, took the time to evaluate my visa application and decided to approve my request. I think it's super that you have this tremendous girl-power and that you single-handedly manage to run this amazing country. A country so rich that can close every single store on Sundays, and throw clients out of stores when the clock indicates closing time. I don't say this in a pejorative way, not at all. I am actually quite impressed that your economy is so strong that you really can manage to close every single commercial establishment for one day, every week. That is, 52 days a year; that is, almost two months. In my country, we not only open every day, but we stay open until late and when the clock strikes closing time, we prefer to lock customers in until they buy something--never kick them out. Maybe (in retrospective, and from an outside perspective) your country is so rich because it forces people to rest and spend time with family once a week, 52 days a year, almost 2 months.

But back to you--because this is about you and your nation. As I was saying you're awesome. And so is your country. Maybe you're awesome because of your country. How can a country where Hamburgers are born not be awesome? How can a Hamburger not be awesome? Because hamburgers are awesome too. (I'm hilarious, I know.)

I admire the order of your country. I find it amazing that all your Germans are well trained and educated. German drivers, for instance, are super well trained. Honey was studying for the driver's license test for over 3 months, and it was hard. I helped him a couple of times, and really, it's hard! But that is exactly why all Germans drive so well: because they learn the rules. If they don't learn the rules, they don't have a license. It's that simple.

Another thing I love about your country is it's rules. So many things are forbidden, and that makes for better living. It's forbidden to smoke in public places, it's forbidden to throw trash on the streets, it's forbidden to make too much noise... and so people live better! (And maybe because they live better and rest once a week is why your economy is so awesome... I hope my President, Juanma, is reading this, he could get a couple of good ideas...)

But, you see, another great nation is the US of A. Oh, yes, the wonderful United States of America, where I spent the best four years of my academic life. What makes America so great? Well, definitely not the fact that you can't buy alcohol on Sundays (or is that only GA?), but the fact that America understand that it is a land of immigrants. So, America makes everything for idiots. When you buy a cup of coffee in McDonals, it actually states Beware, you Idiot, this is HOT! (Ok, not literally, but it does warn you about how hot the coffee is.) America has signs and flyers and books and manuals and handbooks and instructions for everything--and everything is for idiots. I'm not saying Americans are idiots. On the contrary, I'm saying the rest of us are. Those of us who were not raised there, and who don't understand and don't know their rules. And so, when we move there, we become educated idiots, and we quickly learn to do everything the American way.

In my country, ignorance of the law is no excuse--but since almost everything is allowed, we don't really have to worry much about that. In your country, ignorance of the law is also no excuse... but I need to learn the law in order to follow it!

This is why I suggest you write a "Deutschland für Idiots" handbook. It should be in German (not only because I need to practice, but also because I strongly believe that if you wish to live in another country, you must learn their language), and it should tell me straight forward what I can do... since I know that I can't do much...

For instance, I have four garbage cans  outside: a yellow one, a blue one, a brown one, and a dirty one (I think it's black). Where do I throw what?

I wake up at 6 a.m. every day, and I want to start my day that early. Can I turn on the washing machine? When can I vacuum? When can I turn on the music? How loud? Can I sing? (This is a lousy question, because Honey hates it when I sing. But if you give me permission, he'll just have to stand me. It's the law...)

When should I have insurance for my house? When should I have liability insurance?

How do mobile phones work here? How about internet?

I prefer to ride my bike on the sidewalks because I am not too skilled at the bike-riding thingy, and I fall often. But the other day a Polizist scolded me (auf Deutsch) because I was on the sidewalk... When may I, and when can I not ride on the sidewalk?

When I ride my bike (on the street or on the sidewalk), must I follow the flow of traffic? Or do bikes have different rules?

I really think you should make everyone have a bike-riding license... I could use the lessons.

How do the Deutsch react to Public Displays of Affection?

And your public transportation--my gosh! Would it kill you to explain how that works!? Where do I pay? Whom do I pay? How much?

You see... this is necessary. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but availability of the law (in a simplified manner) is necessary to make the law known. I was not born nor raised here, but I want to adapt to your culture, to your rules, to your people. I want your people to be my people. I want to be your people! (Mein Orientierungskurs fängt in eine Monat an.)

Please help me. I will more than gladly write a first draft for you. You don't need to give me any credit.

In any case, at the risk of sounding repetitive and ass-kissy, I really believe you're awesome. And I love your country. And your people. My people.

Sincerely yours, mit freundlichen Grüssen, ttyl, hugs and kisses,

--Nat

PS: If you could also do something about the weather... make it warmer... hotter, if at all possible... that would be totally awesome. And please ask the people in the weather channels to stop saying, "The weather will be such, but it will feel like such." That makes no sense. Anything under 20°C is winter and feels like winter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I can ride my bike with no handlebars

There are a lot of things I can do, a whole lot of things I can do very well, and a specific number of things I can do quite above average.

For example, I can sew; but I can type very well; but I can edit your paper quite above average. It actually irritates me to read facebook posts, because I'm always correcting them in my mind (except for one friend whom I always publicly correct. I don't think he likes it that much...).

Another example: I can cook (stop laughing, I can!); but I can understand and follow a map very well; but I can read quite above average (faster, and with better reading comprehension skills than most).

However, this is not a post about what I can do, but rather a post about what I cannot do. Especially while riding my bike.

I ride my bike every day: three kilometers to the gym, then about 300 meters to my school, then 3 kilometers back home (with the occasional stop for groceries 300 meters from my home). When I leave home, it's daylight (not bright and shinny because it is fall in Germany, afterall); when I come home, it seems like it's midnight. That's how dark it is at 5 p.m. these days.

I've mentioned a couple of times that the Germans are very strict about bike rules. They have only-for-bikes streets, and only-for-bikes traffic lights, and only-for-bikes directions. It's awesome. I actually was scolded in German by a German officer in Germany (that was on purpose...) because I was riding my bike on the sidewalk, which is only for pedestrains--Fuβgänger--and I should be auf der Straβe. When riding a bike, a person has to follow all the traffic rules he would follow in a car. For example, signaling when turning left or right. Which brings me to...

THING # 1 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
I can't signal. I can't signal because I can't take my hands off the handlebars. If I do so, I will fall. And having fallen several times before, and knowing how unpleasant it is, I try not to fall. Therefore, I don't take my hands off the handlebars to signal. What do I do then? I come to a full stop at the corner, look both ways, and then continue. I lose a lot of time doing this, and I must also add I interrupt bike traffic behind me.

THING # 2 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
I can't stop or brake properly. I blame it on my German bike. I've mentioned a couple of times that I'm too short, and that my feet hang everywhere I sit. This includes the toilet and, of course, my bike. In order to come to a complete halt, I must brake, brake, brake, brake, and then proceed to jump off my bike so that my feet touch the ground and finish the braking process.

THING # 3 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
Because I can't take my hands off the handlebars, I can't scratch my nose while riding my bike. It's a bit of hassle, to be honest. No matter where I am, or how fast I'm riding (please read THING # 5), I have to evaluate the severity of the itch: Can it wait until the next light, hoping it's red so that it forces me to stop and allows me to scratch? Or should I move aside and stop NOW and scratch it?

THING # 4 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
Again the handlebars thingy.... I can't talk on my cell phone while riding my bike. I tried it once. But it brought about the "Patético II" poem incident. If you're not familiar with it, e-mail me and I will gladly share my embarrassment with you. If my phone rings while I'm riding my bike, I am again forced to evaluate the importance of this call: Should I pull over, jump off my bike to brake, and answer the call? Or can this person wait until I return the call? Will they leave a message? Will it be an international call? Honey has his own ringtone, and he knows exactly when not to call me...so it might be my mom or my dad, the only other two people who call me (because my sister is running for "Worst Sister of the Universe", and is close to winning...)...

THING # 5 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
I can't ride fast. And I should. People actually ring their bells at me (I would say "honk their horns", but bikes don't have horns, rather these cute little ding-ding-ding bells)--and remember, making noise in Germany is illegal! I have a couple of nice down-hill routes I could take, but that includes gaining speed, and speed means accidents, and accidents mean pain, and horrible bruises... so I take the long route. Uphill. I don't understand why I'm not skinny.

THING # 6 I CAN'T DO WHILE RIDING MY BIKE
I can't fix my hat, or my scarf, or my mittens, or my jeans, or my shirt. Or my hair. Ugh! I can't get my hair out of my face!! I think I should have reduced a couple of THINGS to: I can't take my hands off the handlebars.

But things are slowly getting better. I haven't fallen in about two weeks. Now I have accidents while standing on my own two feet, against objects stuck to the groud. I guess I should have written that in "Things I can do well above average": harm and injure myself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Striptease

I take off my panties.

I wanted to start this blog in medias res, but I opted for the more Gabriel-García-Márquez-esque style of telling you exactly how my story will end (which, with a title such as "Striptease", really is no surprise...) just to entice you to read the whole story.

What's interesting about my Striptease is that it lasts about 15 minutes--not because I'm so sexy and all, but because I have so much clothes on! Poor Honey. At first he is into it--quite into it.  But after the first 3 minutes of watching me take my layers off, like an onion, he turns on the TV and channel-surfs. Not that I blame him. Usually I myself get so bored, that I start either talking about my day or I turn on my computer...

So, here it goes. Try to read it using your sexiest voice, and try to hear the "bow chiki wow wow" strip-type music. Or a hard guitar strum, "da da da da daaaa". Whatever floats your boat. Or whatever rocks your boat. And if you don't have or don't like boats, then whatever suits you best. Yeah--like the Cachacos say, "se le tiene".

*cue sexy stripper music*

I take off my hat.

It really is Honey's. His mom made it for him. I know I shouldn't wear it, but it REALLY feels so nice and warm and cozy!

I take off my rain jacket.

That alone takes about a minute, because I have to take out the keys from one pocket, my iPhone from another pocket, and make sure that I don't take off my other two jackets while taking this one off.


I take off my scarf.

Also made by Honey's mom. She is so skilled at the knitting thing. Of course it matches my hat. His hat.


I take off my first sweater.

Here I have to make sure that it is not in-side-out, and hang it properly on the coat rack. Otherwise, there will be more clothes on the floor than floorboard tiles in our room.


I take off my second sweater.

My hair is a mess... and I'm quite hot. Not hot as in "sexy", but hot as in I-just-rode-my-bike-for-three-kilometers-uphill-while-wearing-five-layers-of-clothing-and-the-heating-is-on-max... I wonder how many of my non-metric-system-friendly-friends will have to use a converter to figure out how much three kilometers is...


I take off my shirt.

I'm so totally sweating by now... I smell it. Yes, Pearl, I have not changed much. The veredict is always the same: must be washed.


I take off my undershirt.

Finally, a little skin is showing... I failed to mention earlier that my face is totally red, not only because of the aforementioned temperature and exercise thingy, but also because apparently the cold wind burns my face. Oh, yeah. I'm so sexy...


I take off my tennis shoes.

For some strange reason, I always seem to forget them. But I must immediately place them on the shoe-rack, otherwise I'll be thinking about them all night long.


I take off my socks.

Usually fucsia, purple, green or blue. Because during this winter weather, a girls needs a little bit of color in her life. Even if no one else can see it.


I take off my pants.

You'd think you're getting close to the good stuff here... but by this time, Honey is completely immersed in whatever show is going on. His latest guilty pleasure is "Bauern sucht Frau", a show in which Farm owners publish ads on the newspapers, saying that they're looking for a wife. I am astounded and absolutely aghast to see how many women actually respond to this ad! The men are usually ugly, or stupid, or old--or all three, in one particular case. I did NOT have that idea about farmers. I thought they were strapping young men waiting to sweep me off my feet or something like that. 


Are you bored yet? Have you completely forgotten why you started to read this? Yeah... that's how Honey feels.


I take off my winter panty-hose.

I'm short. That's my reality. My dad sometimes jokes about my height... a joke too inappropriate to share with the world... but somewhere my sister and my mom are laughing. Honey too, most likely. Anyway: I'm short. And I'm OK with that, even if I can't place my feet on the ground when sitting on any German chair... so, I buy "S" sized panty-hose. "S" stands for SMALL. (Si me estás leyendo, Sandra, te estarás muriendo de la risa... esto lo escribí por ti!!) However, apparently for the panty-hose manufacturers, all Small-sized women are also incredibly skinny. So my panty-hose are OK length-wise, from my toes to my crotch area, but way too tight on my thighs, and WAAAAAAY too tight on my stomach! Yes, all you women reading this totally understand what I mean, right? Since they are so tight, I can't really stand on one foot and take off one leg at a time, I must fumble a little (while trying to be sexy. Remember, this is, after all, a Strip Tease!) and then finally give in and sit down... to take off one leg at a time while complaining and whining.


I take off my winter underpants.

Did you seriously believe that was all? Ah, you have much to learn about me. Cris and Catalina are probably frustrated with me now, but you must remember: This is my first REAL winter! And it's not even winter yet! And no, I have no idea what I will do when the real winter starts. Anyone have a spare plane ticket to Barranquilla?!? My winter underpants have hair inside. Cris, I bet you're rolling your eyes at me now! They are so wonderful. Remember that teddy  bear you used to looooooove touching? Maybe it was your little brother's or sister's, maybe it was yours, maybe you just felt it once in a store one time... that soft, hairy feeling... ah, that's how my legs feel all day long. Again, size S... again, too tight.... again, must sit to take off... 


Honey is falling asleep... 


I take off my undersocks...

I take off my panties. And my bra.

Whew. I thought that was never going to be over. Unfortunately, my romantic-erotic evening was completely shut down, re-scheduled, canceled even, because it just takes too damn long to undress! 


In any case, my classes end this Friday; on Saturday I take my B1 Prüfung, and hopefully my life (and schedule) will change. I'll keep you posted. Not TMI posted, but enough to keep you interested. ;-)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lost in translation

It is amazing that I can perfectly communicate in what I consider to be flawless, fast, correct German with my classmates (from Morocco, Argentina, Chile, Ukraine, Philippines, Poland, Turkey, Albania, Holland, Thailand, Hungary, Brazil), but seem to be speaking and listening to a completely different language when I try to talk to a German...

Maybe the Germans should join these Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as a Foreign Language) courses to be able to communicate with me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's the end of the world as we know it

I do believe that the end of the world is neigh.

Craters are popping up--or rather, making holes in Germany and in Guatemala. Our world is falling down, quite literally. I wonder if these peep holes into The Underworld are tearing apart all the myths, stories and ideas about Hell. I really don't see all the levels of Hell Dante has described... that may mean that either I'm not looking closely enough, or that the holes aren't that deep after all.

I mention this crater thingy specifically because it amazes me; but we are all well aware of the other environmental issues affecting our world. What's funny and sad about all that, is that we CAN do something about it, but we choose not to.

However, our socio-economic-political environment is also changing--and quite drastically.

Argentina became the first Latin American country to legally approve gay marriage. Although I have to admit I am scandalized, I salute and congratulate the fact that a person's choice of life partner remains precisely that: a person's choice. No law should tell me who I can or cannot spend the rest of my life with. My view on marriage is quite simple: If you are lucky enough to find some idiot who is willing to put up with you and all your crap, PLEASE marry him/her! Colombia is slowly moving forward with this notion: the Mayor (?) of Chapinero, a locality in Bogotá (yeah... I have no idea what that means) got married to her life partner this week. That one can choose whom to love, and whom to spend one's life with is a basic right, just like the right to live. I am pro-choice, btw...

Eighteen countries in the world are led by women--the most recent election was held this weekend, when Dilma Rouseff was elected as the first female president in Brazil. Not only a woman: also a former guerrilla member, Rouseff spent three years in jail and is quite the liberal. I guess she has everything against her--or on her side. I salute Rouseff for having a clean campaign (as far as I could see in the German news), and for having a campaign slogan better than "I'm a woman, so I deserve your vote", unlike our past presidential candidate, Noemí Sanín. Just because you're a woman, does not mean you're entitled to something--especially not the presidential office. (We are entitled to chocolate, FYI, just because we're women)

The dollar and the euro are constantly fighting; the yen fell after oh-so-many-years of leading the markets, China and the devaluated yuan are taking over the world, the Colombian peso is gaining weight and strength...

My President and Mr. Chávez are in agreement; we actually signed agreements and all.

Americans (or Californians, rather...) voted to see whether or not the recreational use of marihuana should be legalized... it wasn't. Or it didn't pass... I still haven't made a decision as to what I think about this, both the attempt to legalize marihuana and the not passing of the law. But I am glad that Americans are reacting to a serious problem in their country--which in turn affects a whole lot of other nations. Mine, for instance.

The end of the world is neigh.

And to be honest, I can't wait for it to come soon enough! Because the end of the world as we know it is coming to an end.

Finally, the end of the world where only men and women can get married. The end of the world where only men are capable, apt and fit to lead a nation. The end of a world led only by two coins. The end of a world where Presidents/Dictators (I'm referring to one veeeeery specific person) aid guerrillas and terrorists. The end of the world where the people are not asked but told what to do.

If only we could fix the environmental thingy, it would be awesome.

But I am anxiously awaiting for this new world to come along.

And that's why I eat chocolate: becaue when I'm anxious, I crave. :-)


PS: I realize I made several grammatical mistakes, quite unlike me. I should not start a sentence with a number, and no sentence should end with a preposition. But I'm late in going to the gym, and if I don't go NOW, I'll lose my momentum... I could pretend to be testing your English skills, and just say, "Can you find my five grammatical mistakes?" Yeah... let's go with that one. :-)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Deutsch Idiosyncracies (because the rest of us don't have them)

I love living in Germany. It sounds a little lame, because this country is soooo unlike me. But really--I love it.

The Deutsch (the Germans; pronounced doh-itch) will always say they don't speak other languages, but they will understand every word I say in English. Sometimes even in Spanish. We actually had an interesting event in a train a couple of weeks ago, when we were speaking Colombian and Mexican (because only the Spanish speak Spanish, of course) and a white, blonde, green-eyed, perfect-stereotype-of-Heidi German girl said, "¿Hablan español?" Yeah... watch out what you say in front of the Deutsch.

The Deutsch will park their cars anywhere--in any corner, on any sidewalk (I do mean "ON"), dark, lit, safe-looking or what-the-hell-are-you-thingking type of alley... But their bikes--oh, gosh, don't get me started on their bikes. The Deutsch will park their bikes in bike racks, and then they will tie two or three knots (I initially spelled "nots") around the bike tires with their 30-60 EUR bike lock. Don't mess with a German's bike. Really. Their car, meh, that is not that bad.

The Deutsch are insane about security--Sicherung. And thus, are also insane about insurance--Versicherung.  They are also insane about liability insurance--Haftpflichtversicherung. (Clearly not so insane about expanding their vocabulary to more than prefixes...) Everyone has this. Of course, I have one too. This means that for anything that happens to me, or for anything that I make happen, I am covered. If I'm riding my bike and accidentally crash against someone, I'm covered. (That, by the way, is so likely to happen, it's a bit scary...) If I cause any kind of damage to our apartment, or my classroom, I'm covered. If I'm at a friend's house, drinking, and accidentally break the glass, I'm covered. Seriously?!? Must one REALLY, ALWAYS be covered? What about spontaneity? What about a simple, "Dude, I'm really sorry... I'll totally repay you..."?!?!? What about just living life one day at a time?

The Deutsch are so attached to the law, it's even a bit ridiculous. The Deutsch don't run me over not because it's not nice, but because it's illegal to run someone over. The Deutsch don't laugh out loud in public because it's illegal to raise your voice over a specific decibel level in certain areas. The Deutsch don't damage public or private property because it's illegal to do so. On the other hand (or the same one... just the other side), the Deutsch recycle because the law says you have to recycle. I think I need to read their constitution--I bet it also rules on sleeping, eating and having sex.

But really--I love this country. The Deutsch are kind (I bet there's a law about that, too), polite, discrete. They are also TALL (I can only see my forehead in most mirros, and my feet hang everywhere I sit... including the toilet), and WHITE and BLONDE. And they all look alike. Just like all Chinese-Japanese-Koreans look alike, and just like all us Mexican-Speaking-People look alike.

I love their seasons, but not their weather. I love their food, but not their calories. I love their language, but not their grammar. I love their time-management, but not their strict, no-time-for-pee-pee-stop-because-we'll-be-late attitude. I love their rules, their order, their properness. But they need a little Latino in them. That's why they love us so much. Or me. That's why they love ME so much.