Monday, December 20, 2010

A Very German Weekend

Few experiences are more enriching than cultural traditions completely unknown to foreigners; that is, those experiences die gehört zu den Deutschen (you see? I'm already thinking in German...), those experiences that belong to the Germans. Or the Europeans in general, I'm not quite sure. But, as for me (and I am really the only one who matters in my Blog), this weekend was my Germanstest weekend ever.

It began with Saturday: Inga (it would only be more German if Inga, typical German name, wore typical German long braids, wore the typical German dress [which is only worn in Bayern, btw...], and sang the typical German yodle... but she doesn't) invited us to a Handball Spiel. (A totally aside and pointless side-note to all Colombians reading this: The Urban Legends that we hear about the adventures of a pair of German twins more than 20 years ago in the Colombian highways are true!) To all of you unfamiliar with the rules of Handball, google them. I was there and I still have no idea what the heck went on during the two 30-minute playing times.

Here are the highlilghts, though: It's a sport played between two teams, Mannschaft (funny how "team" is always Mannschaft, never Frauschaft...) composed of six "runners" and a goal-keeper. It's like basketball, in that you play with your hands; but it's like soccer, in that you score in a goal (not a basket). It's like basketball, in that you can have extreme contact with the other players, and it's like soccer, in that you can run with the ball. This particular game was with the female team, THW Kiel, but, for instance, Hauke is the in the male handball team. Mareke plays too--in the girls' team, obviously. 3 out of 5 of the Siedenburg kids are quite sporty...

I don't know or understand much about the game. But I do know that Inga is the best goalkeep in the world. You don't believe me? Watch this short clip, portraying the beyond-human abilities of my Gastschwester:

The game was awesome. Unfortunately, the other team was really good. Like an old friend of mine used to say: I don't think we lost; I just think the others played a better game. It's an agressive game, the girls are all into each others' personal bubble. There's some hitting, punching, tackling; there's some falling, sliding, hurting... I could totally play that game. I'm going to wait until Inga reads this post and invites me to join her Mannschaft. I would be an excellent asset to them. Honey does not think I can do it, but he does not know the "amazingly-agile-and-invincible-sporty-Natalya". He only knows the "OMG-OMG-OMG-Natalya", and she is quite lame and weak. But I used to be awesome. Inga, I promise, I used to be awesome!!

The game was in Lauenburg (?), and we rode with the team in a bus. It was fun. On the way back, we were a little concerned, because Inga had said she would take care of our dinner--which I understood to mean that after the game, when we were back in Kiel (about 2 hours away from Lauenburg), we would eat dinner together. Well, we had had lunch at noon-ish, and by 8 o'clock, after the game was finished, Honey and I were, shall I say, famished. But as we began our ride back to Kiel, the ladies in the Mannschaft opened Tupperware containers of all sorts, sizes and colors, and unleashed the most awesome buffet. Dinner, as Inga had so cleverly said, was taken care of.

We were home at around 10 p.m., and went straight to bed. Sunday would be another very German day...

Very early on Sunday morning (anything before noon on a Sunday is very early), we went with the Siedenburgs to choose this year's Tannenbaum, more appropriately coined Weihnachtsbaum this time of year. We drove about 45 minutes outside of Kiel--the whiteness is overwhelming. The sky is white. The land is white. The lakes are white. The trees are white. The grass is white. The leaves are white. It's unbearably white. This monochromaticness is driving me crazy--but it looks so beautiful!!

The place where trees are "harvested" (are trees harvested? Or only grown?) is called a Baumschule--a school for trees. This was a Baumschule only for Tannenbäume (pine trees).

We all pitch in, we all give our 5 cents worth of opinions of which tree is better, greener, prettier, healthier... it was so cold! It was -6°C (for everyone on the Fahrenheit scale, anything under 0°C is below 32°F... freezing!!). I was wearing the following:

- undershirt
- wool long-sleeve shirt
- thick long-sleeve shirt
- fleece jacket
- Honey's thick, feathery winter jacket
- winter underpants (las pantaletas térmicas)
- wool pantyhose
- jeans
- socks up to my knees (ha ha, I wrote nies at first!)
- thick winter socks
- winter boots
- a hat
- winter gloves

...and trotzdem I was oh-so-cold...

But it was an awesome experience. The tree is selected on the 4th Advent, and then it is left up until the 6th of January. There was so much I did not understand. You see, where I come from (I would say, In my house..., but I'm not sure that we even have a tradition in my house to follow, so I'll just go with "my people" in general), the trees are usually up and lit on the 1st of December--if not earlier. And they last until someone has enough strength and a strong enough will to take it down... which can be as late as February. That is because our trees are plastic trees. Fake trees. No fun trees. Trees that don't smell good. Trees that are not natural. The German trees are brought into this world for the sole purpose of making families happy. What a wonderful goal to have: to make families happy. If I ever come back to this earth, I want to come back as a Christmas tree. I want to feel the joy and laughter of families coming together and being happy with one another.

The tree is selected based on a wide range of requirements: how tall or short it is; how leafy or how bleak it is; how many branches it has; how green it is; but also, how easy will it be to cut! You see, every family bring their own saw, and every head of the family cuts the tree--the fact that every German has a saw in their homes is a bit freaky to me; it seems as if there should be more scary movies based in Germany than in the States...

Ok, this picture is from last year... 
but I'm trying to make a point--and he looks so cute!!

Once the tree is selected, cut, and properly wrapped, we proceed to have a meal: Erbsensuppe. Pea soup. Oh, gosh, it is so delicious! And warm. So warm. We drink Punsch (the kids' version of Glühwein), eat cookies, talk, laugh, play a little in the snow (I lost two up-hill races against a 6-year-old...). And then we go home.

After much searching, and after much looking, and after much debating, we too chose a Christmas tree. I think that, in proportion to others' houses, and in proportion to others' trees, ours is a perfect fit for us:

It makes our house smell good, look good, have a little Christmas spirit... and it makes me happy. And I think I have established that it's just all about me.

It was a great weekend. And I accomplished a few of my End of Year Resolutions: I stayed offline almost all weekend, I took a shower every day, I spoke more German with Honey, I smiled and laughed more, I didn't purchase anything... but I did eat chocolate. All I have to do to become addicted to chocolate is forbid myself from eating it...

On an interesting side note, we're moving! Our new house has a huge living room, an awesome kitchen, big big big windows, and... can you guess what else?

Where am I? What is that? OMG--is it possible?

It's a tub! We're getting eine Badewanne in our new apartment! Everyone is welcome to visit. Make your plans! Who knows--we might even invite you to have a very German weekend with us.


  1. Es macht so viel Spaß, dieses Wochenende von dir erzählt zu bekommen

  2. Natalya,

    December 28th keep the evening avaiable for your first Handball-practice. Then but the OMG-OMG-OMG of yourself aside and show the tough girl!:)

    You are more than welcome to try out if this sport fits you!

    It was ablessing to have you and Gustavo on our tour. And we all would be very delighted if you join us again.

    Have a wonderful x-mas!