Thursday, June 30, 2011

More stories about my not understanding what the Germans say...

The Problem with the German language is not the language per se - it's us, those of us who don't speak the language fluently, who think that everything in German is over-complicated... when it actually is quite simple.

Like, the food-processer that you more than likely have in your kitchen - what does that actually do? It's a machine that makes food smaller. That's exactly what it's called in German: der Verkleinerer. It's not a machine used to process food, it's a food-smaller-maker.

But my issues with the German language go way beyond kitchen devices. I have made a fool of myself many times, with help from no one.

While I was in the hospital last year, I kept trying to ask for a nurse who spoke English - even a little bit. The doctors kept telling me that my sick sister would come very soon. Nini (my sister) was in fact sick at that time (something with her eternal flu or something like that), but how did the doctors know that she was sick? And if anyone from Colombia was coming to be with me, why my [sick] sister and not my mother? I said, in my best attempt at speaking German, that I did not want my sick sister, I wanted a nurse. Nurse. Do you understand "Nurse"? Nurse! Nurse! Nuuuuuuuurse. Because when you say something, the same thing, three times, and then say it also really, reeeeeeally slow, then people understand you. Nope, they didn't. It was not until two weeks after I left the hospital that I learned that "sick sister" is actually only one word, a noun for that matter - Krankenschwester - and it means Nurse.

A couple of months later we went to Berlin. Luckily, Mrs. Siedenburg had already explained that the building that we were to visit, the Bundestag, was the name of the building, not the "day of the federation". So that was not a problem. When we arrived at the building, beautiful and magestic, by the way, she said, "OMG! Look at the snake!" WTF. I don't like snakes. I certainly don't want to see the snake. Please, let us just walk away. But then also Mr. Siedenburg made a comment about the amazingly long snake - which just kinda made me wanna go home. They both read my thoughts, because we started walking in the opposite direction. As we neared a side-entrance, they both made a comment, of how lucky we were to have avoided the snake. When we met with Mrs. Siedenburg's sister, she made a comment about the snake, and we (all of us, including unknowing me) agreed that it was in fact amazing. At that point I realized that I was surely misunderstanding what "the snake" was. I figured it was, perhaps, a sculpture of some sort, a monument or something. We reached the top of the Bundestag and as we looked down, again the snake came into our conversation. I looked down and saw a particular arrangement of bushes that, if you really, really, really use your imagination, you can assume they are placed in a way that kind of forms a snake. "Oh, there it is!" I thought, and politely made a comment about how pretty the snake was. No one really understood my comment; more than likely, I had declined a verb or an adjective or a noun (or all of them) wrong and thus made my comment unintelligible. It was not until about 2 months after that, that I learned that the word for a long line, as in a group of people waiting in line for something, is die Schlange, which is the same word for snake.

We moved to a new apartment in January. Given that the German Post Service offers mail forwarding for free for six months, I went to the post office (the central, main station, HUGE building filled with Germans) to request this service. I waited in the Schlange for my turn to come up, and when my turn came, I approached the lady and said, "I moved." She looked at me and said, "Ok?" I was expecting her to automatically give me the forms I needed to fill out - you know, old address, new address, etc. But she's a secretary, you know, she needs everything spelled out for her. And I had practiced my sentences for about 10 minutes, so I knew I was saying everything with perfect grammar. "I moved. I need the forms," I said. "What forms?" she asked. OMG. I had the dumbest secretary of all times... "I moved. I now live in a new house. I need the forms for the address change," I said, a s  s l o w l y  a s  p o s s i b l e.  She smiled and said, "Oh, you moved. Of course. here are the forms. You can deposit them in that post box." Dude, she said exactly the same thing I said. I smiled, hating her in my heart, and left. Later that day, I told an acquaintance that I moved. She said, "No, you moved." I said, "Yeah, exactly. Ich habe mich umgezogen." She said, "No, you should say, Ich bin umgezogen. What you're saying is that you changed your clothes."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Absolutely devoid of hyperbole (which is a hyperbole in and of itself) [Or not]

My friend Julie recently survived an attack from a horrible, enormous, human-eating sea creature while swimming in the Cayman Islands (to see the creature, click here). My friend Stacey also recently survived a terrible, near-death experience with a deadly cobra-viper-anaconda in her bedroom (to read about her experience, click here. Trust me, you want to click on the link).

That got me thinking that perhaps I have friends who are just too adventurous - you know, swimming in the open waters of the Cayman Islands and wrestling deadly black mambas at 4 a.m. But then again, that got me thinking that perhaps my friends are just freaks who can't really admit that they're ridiculously fearful.

Exactly as I am. Perhaps the reason why we remain friends to date.

So these past few days it's been really warm in Kiel. So warm, that I'm about to openly admit that there is actually summer in Germany. In Kiel, at the very least. So warm, that I've been riding my bike to University every day, without winter underpants, without pantyhose, without anything (barely panties... but that's another blog post!). So warm, that I don't wear even the lightest jacket. So warm, that I was on the brink of complaining earlier today. So warm, that we decided to go to the beach.

You see, I was born in the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. My idea of a beach is white sandy beaches with warm, clear, blue water (blue?). Also, my idea of a beach does not include particularly bathing in it, as my extremely brave friend Julie does, but rather getting my feetsies slightly wet and enjoying a good suntan.

I do that because bodies of water are deadly. Do you not know that the Lock Ness Monster now likes to enjoy swims on the coasts of the Baltic Sea? Do you now know that Killer Whales can, like, jump on the sand and eat you if you are too close to the water? Do you not know that sharks hide under lumps of sand, waiting for you to step on them so that they may "rightfully" eat you? Do you not know that merpeople are evil and they want to kill us all? And don't get me started talking about killer squids, and killer crabs, and killer fishies and killer plankton. And killer plants. Ok, they don't kill, but they sure are yucky!

But, in spite of all my warnings, Honey decided that not only were we going to the beach, but that we were also bathing. Both of us. Together.

My first reaction was to go along with it, thinking that once we got there, I could do something to distract him, you know, make him forget that he wanted me to die in the water with the killer animals. Then, my second reaction was to just ignore him. I mean, he can't make me... can he?

We got there, and I said I wanted to take a walk on the pier - it was, after all, my first day on a German beach. Looking down into the water, look at what I saw:

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking just the same thing I was thinking: OMG! A giant killer squid thingy! Don't patronize me, and don't you dare roll your eyes at me. Loook real closely - you can totally, absolutely see the colossal, huge, terrorificly enourmous squid thingy somewhere there. And if not, use your imagination. It was huge, with teeth and claws. And when it looked at me, it winked and smiled, as if savouring me. I bet its mouth watered when it imagined chewing on my Latina Flesh.

It looked like this.

But there was not only one. Oh, no. No no. There were so many, so many in fact, that Brave I-Fear-Nothing-Honey suggested we go to another beach. I felt triumphant, but said, "As you wish, Honey."

We went to another beach, which aside from a family of swans and a few ducks, was apparently animal-free.

After much debating and discussing, I ended up joining Honey in the water.

Let me explain something to you: when I wrote about the killer animals that lurk the beaches in search of ME to eat, I meant it. I have that fear. For real. I really do believe that merpeople are just waiting to come get me. I really believe there is a shark coming for me. And I really believe the Lock Ness Monster is not only in Lock Ness.


and here comes the amazing part...

... the water was SO FREAKING COLD, I totally forgot about the animals. And about the killer plankton, too.

That is, I forgot because my brain was frozen. And then I saw this little creature by my side, and all my fears came running back to me:

Ok, so this one here is a glass cage in an aquarium - yeah, forgive me for not having my camera at arm's reach when almost being devoured by a Natalya-eating creature and not taking a picture of it for you to enjoy.

Man, it was huge. Seriously. Tentacles exceeding 10 meters (which, in American = 300 million feet), a mouth filled with teeth, and claws in every - uh, in every... yeah. Claws everywhere.

I screamed, I yelled - I made such a scandal that I frightened the Lock Ness Monster and the Killer Whale and the Shark and the Killer Plankton away.

Honey came running to my rescue - running, mostly, because that gave him cart blanche to splash me and get me all wet with that frozen water. When he saw my attacker, he fearlessly took hold of it to save me.

He took hold of it. He's so brave.

And then he showed me this little, tiny, miniscule thingy, no larger than an inch in diameter... which was, btw, dead.

And that, my dear reader, was my near-death experience, and this tale was absolutely devoid of hyperbole.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Times change. People don't.

I had quite an adventure last week. Although, now that I find myself trying to organize my ideas to write down my awesome adventure, it seems that it was not so awesome, and also not so much of an adventure. In any case, what happened afterwards was cute.

The bus on which I was riding home last week crashed. It was a little scary and very, very stupid. It was not our driver's fault: the other bus actually came into our lane and broke the window of our bus with his side-mirror. Busses here are so long that the driver did not hear the sound of the glass crushing; thus began the most funny process of communication. "Hey, tell the bus driver he had an accident", said someone at the very back; "Hey, tell the bus driver the window's broken", said someone closer; "The window's crashed, tell the bus driver", said someone else.

OMG. The message was drawing closer to me. So I started thinking: Window = die Fenster. Broken = gebrochen, but a window does not break in German, it... uh... shatters. And "shattered" in German is... uh... no idea. But I did know accident = die Panne. So I could say "window accident"... which makes no sense. I could say, "bus accident, window broken", but that does not explain which bus had an accident.

The girl beside me must have heard my fear and concentration and went ahead to yell the message accross on my behalf. I thanked her.

When the message finally reached the bus driver, his reaction was very German: "Sheiße!", he yelled. And stopped the bus. He instructed all of us to get out of the bus and wait for a replacement. Ten minutes later the replacement bus arrived and I boarded the new bus. I found myself standing by an older lady whom I had seen in the first bus with me; it seemed as though she recognized me as well, because she smiled at me.

She made an open comment about what had happened, but she had not seen it. I had seen the whole thing: I was about 5 rows in front of the accident, and I was facing the back. So I told the whole story (very careful to make sure to decline those words that belong to the N-declination, and to make sure to use the articles in the proper case, and to make sure to use the proper preposition with the proper verb... OMG, I get tired just remembering it all).

By the time I was done, about 5 or 6 people were listening to me, attentively waiting for every detail. And probably sighing in despair every time I used the wrong casus, genus, tempus and what-not. They were all very polite, though, also patient and kind.

I looked at the old lady, who was smiling as if saying, "Good job, dear, bless your heart!" I said to her, "What an adventure, eh?" And she said -

ready for this? -

She said, "Yes! I'll have to write about it in my journal!"

Funny, I thought. I have to write about it in my blog.

Times change.

People most certainly don't.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What's my deal with being old?!

As my birthday comes nigh, I find myself trying to decide how old I will be between July 14th, 2011, and July 13th, 2012. For the past 4 years I've been 23 (which is funny, because when I actually turned 23 I claimed to turn 24, and when I turned 24 I went back to 23... so I guess I wasn't technically 23 for a little while, although it was the only time I actually was 23...), and I don't know that the fifth one's the charm. And turning my real age - well, that's just NOT an option.

In trying to stop thinking about what age to celebrate, I started to ponder, wtf is my problem with age? And I realized two things. First, I have ridiculously high standards as to what one should have done by the time one is my [real] age. As far as I know, only one person has accomplished what I wish to have had accomplished - but (a) he's 5 years older than me, and (b) he's about a million IQ points smarter than me. Damn Engineers. So, in normal-IQ-people-world, that leaves me to be another mediocre many-year-old girl. But then, the second reason why I have issues with age is because I refuse to be old. Worst part is, you're only as old as you feel, and I feel pretty darn old.

I feel old because I now wash my laundry when it should be washed, as opposed to washing my laundry when it smells so bad and looks so gross that it needs to be washed. Pearl knows exactly what I'm talking about. Sadly, so does her husband, Jeff. I feel old because I always have clean underwear in my panty-drawer, as opposed to the good-ol'-days, when I used to have to run to Walmart to buy new panties because the ones I had were all dirty. That, or run around commando.

I feel old because (in the same line of the laundry thingy) I not only notice that certain items of clothing should be ironed, but I also want them to be ironed. I think I am ancient now, because I am seriously considering  buying an iron thingy. Someone please shoot me if I actually do.

I feel old because I find myself appreciating wine, and I actually enjoy spending more than 30 Euros in a good bottle. I remember the days when I would drink anything with alcohol - I think I drank spoiled Eggnog with Pearl once. It was all going to come back the same way it went in, so why waste money? But now, I enjoy it, I savour it. When my ballgladder allows it, that is.

But I feel old because before I spend those 30 Euros in an unnecessary bottle of wine, I consider my choices and alternatives: Would that money be better spent in necessary clothing? Or in books? Or should it be left in my savings account? Or should I leave it in my checking account in case I have a shortage next month? Money is no longer a gift from my Daddy every month (it hasn't been for the past 10 years, which makes me feel like a dinosaur...), but the product of my hard work. And I realize that it might not always be there, looking at me, just waiting to be spent. So I better save up. Right? Yeah. I'm a granny.

I feel old because 20-something-year-olds drive me insane. Bare in mind, I am still a 20-something-year-old.

It's all about perspective, no? I guess I could just say I am a mature, well-brought-up Lady. And I've experienced some pretty cool stuff, even though I try to remind myself otherwise.

I don't know.

Maybe I'll just celebrate Bastille Day instead of celebrating my birthday. But don't forget we should ALL honor Bastille Day by giving me presents. A Wish List will gladly be sent upon request. Or contact Nini or Honey. They have a bunch of ideas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Let's wait to be discovered...

Everything I see that I like, I add as birthday or Christmas present to my wish list - whichever is closer. So far, my birthday wish-list (29 days and counting...) includes a squirrel, a cat, a dog, a garden, a bird with blue and black feathers (no idea what it's called), a full-grown cherry tree, cherries, strawberries, a liposuction (or better yet, the magical disappearance of my fat), skittles (I added those today, thanks to Irina), and my glallbladder. Yes, I'd like my gallbladder back, please.

Honey hears me say that I want something more on my wish-list and gets a little annoyed. He gets that some things are just a joke - or, well, things that I want, but that I don't really want. Like the full-grown cherry tree thingy: seriously? Who wants a full-grown cherry tree in a tiny apartment? I want the cherries, of course; but the cherry-tree is just me being Veruca Salt, you know?

Also, mostly, what I really want I purchase for myself, by myself. Because I can.

Honey, on the other hand, has a short but unbelievably expensive list of things he really wants. And he really, really wants them. His list, although shorter than mine, costs more than all my items put together. You see, he wants to fish in Germany. But in order to (legally) fish in Germany, you must have a license to do so; and in order to have the license, you have to take a course; and in order to take the course, you have to buy the equipment. All in all, you need about 500 Euros. Then, Honey also wants a motorcycle. Let's just pretend, for a second, for fun, humor me, that we have a super big bike downstairs, parked, waiting for us to use it, all paid up and in his name. In order to drive a bike in Germany, you have to have a bike license; in order to have the license, you need to take the course; in order to take the course, you need to register and pay, up front, 100 Euros. By the time you finally get your license, you will have paid about 1000 Euros. Yes, I did write one thousand Euros. That's a whole lotta dollars. But now Honey also wants to Kite surf - aside from the fact that the kite surfing equipment costs 1000 Euros (again, one thousand Euros!!), you need to take a course to have a license thingy.

My full-grown cherry tree in the living room of our tiny apartment seems like a good idea now, doesn't it?

We've been talking about his hobbies/wishlist as a joke for the past couple of days; all our savings are destined to purchasing tickets to spend Christmas in Colombia - any Christmas, because at the rate we're going, it seems as though it might be 2013... So really, we don't have spare savings for a kite, or a fishing rod, or a bike. Or a cherry tree, full-grown or otherwise.

But today I finally got the nerve to say, "At the rate you're going, imaginarily spending your savings, I can see I'll just have to buy myself a ring one day!"

He got it. He came close to me and kissed me. He smiled. His smile said, "You know, that might actually be a good idea..."

He quickly brushed that thought away, and proceeded to say:

Don't worry about a thing. We'll just wait until Red Bull discovers me. For the time being, I will buy a little lame kite-surfing starter-set, and one day Red Bull will discover me, kiting along in a remote island in the Baltic Sea, and then we'll be able to afford a really awesome kiting set. Yeah - let's just wait to be discovered.

I guess the only thing I can say here is, thanks for including me in your imaginary discovery, Honey!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sometimes, "You" is just enough

In many languages, such as Spanish and German, there is a formal and an informal way to address "you" (second person singular): tu and usted in Spanish, and du and Sie in German, respectively. The problem is, the pronouns for the formal voices are very similar (if not identical) to the pronouns for other voices.

Let me make the situation VERY clear with what I did yesterday.

In case my teacher is reading this, es tut mir SCHRECKLICH leid, wirklich!!

My classmates exasperate me. That's unfair, not all of them do. Actually, only two of my classmates (out of 12) exasperate me. Seriously. I want to hit them sometimes (but physical aggression is illegal here in Germany). They get into these absurd, pointless discussiones with false (and fake) arguments. Tuesday is my least favourite day, and at the very last class (tired, sleepy, hungry and cranky), they got into this discussion: The Police is Singular and Plural. Well, no, the teacher explained: you can't count police, like one police, two polices. You can count policemen, like one policeman, two policemen (the discussion was in German, but it actually works perfectly in English and in Spanish, as well, since the institution, the Police, is always singular). So here they are, arguing about this stupid, pointless issue, just being mean at the teacher and making her waste time... so, in order to avoid saying something rude (ha... that backfired) or mean, I just tuned out. At some point, my teacher addressed me to ask if I could (in English) explain why police is singular - since I was tuned out, I said (in German), "Excuse me, what? I just decide to not pay attention to them sometimes." In retrospective, that was extremely rude and ambiguous, because in German the previously underlined "them" could refer to "my idiot classmates" AND ALSO TO "my teacher". She looked at me, appalled, surprised, with a mixture between uncontrollable anger and sadness. Me, her best student, so inconceivably rude? No way.

To make things better (better for the story, worse for the situation), I proceeded to say:

"Manchmal sie sprechen nur shit, wissen Sie?"

Now, if you read that (and you know some German), you will COMPLETELY understand what I mean: "Sometimes they only talk shit, you know?"

But... if you only hear this (and you know some German), it is possible that you may have understood what my teacher understood:

"Sometimes you only talk shit, you know?"

Lesson Learned No. 1 - Natalya, keep your aggressive comments to yourself, in every possible language.
Lesson Learned No. 2 - Natalya, watch out for your yous.
Lesson Learned No. 3 - Natalya, wtf?

Yes. Sometimes, just one little "you" is enough.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tomato, tomahtoe

Honey was born in Bogotá, the capital of Colombia. Bogotá is 2600 m above sea level, on the Centran Andean Mountain Range. It's always cold in Bogotá; during the "winter season", it's like the stereotypical London picture: grey, muggy, rainy, cold, ugly. But during the "summer season", it's like perpetual spring: warm during the day (20°C/68 F) and cold at night (may go down to 10°C/50 F). There is no water, except for some lame water parks two hours away, and some cheap streams.

I, on the other hand, was born on the beautiful Caribbean coast of Colombia, in Barranquilla, Golden Gate to my country. Between the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River, and the countless country clubs, I can't actually remember a holiday not spent on the water. It's always wonderfully hot in Barranquilla: we have no idea what this "winter" word (or concept, for that matter) means. We have dry summer and wet summer. But summer in any case. When it's cold, the temperature drops to 24°C/75 F, and we wear sweaters and jackets. But when it's warm, you might be lucky if it's only 35°C/95 F in the shade.

For Honey, this winter was cold, but ok. For me, this winter was ungodly cold.

For Honey, it's been warm since February. For me, it has not yet been warm. The highest temperature has been 24°C/75 F. Pff.

It rained today. Electrical storm and all. For Honey, it's icky and muggy and yucky and humid. And it smells weird. For me, it's a normal wet-season afternoon, and it smells like nature.

Honey will more than likely not be able to sleep tonight, because it is too warm. I, on the other hand, will close my eyes and feel like I'm in Barranquilla.

Tomato, tomahtoe.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My European Lifestyle

This post is dedicated to my dear friends Cris, Cata and Luisa, who knew that one day I would adapt to the European Lifestyle - and stop wearing winter panties in German-Warm-Weather. It only took me 10 months!

My European lifestyle dictates that every day is a good day to wear a skirt. What I wear under the skirt depends on the weather. But also, every day is a good day for rain - so I always carry a European-style, fashionable rain coat.

My European lifestyle dictates that, when possible, riding my bike to and from Uni is not only environmentally-conscious, but also fashionable, sporty and sexy. Also, every day is a "possible bike-riding day". Also, as above, every day is skirt-day, and every day is rain-day.

My European lifestyle dictates that curls are in - because so few Germans have them. Also, volume is in, and the more the merrier. Since, as above stated, every day is rain-day, frizz and humidity beautify my voluminous curls all the more.

My European lifestyle dictates that hair dye is super cheap - and also, it's quite often on sale. For 1.99 Euros, I will gladly dye my hair any color my European lifestyle tells me I should.

My European lifestyle dictates that, when in doubt, dinner can always be something simple, quick, something like Paella, or a Schnitzel, or Bratwürstchen. You know, no need to work too hard to make lentils, red kidney beans or potatoes. Also, baking a cake is as possible as it raining - so every day is bake-a-cake-day.

My European lifestyle dictates that I wake up early and go to bed late - the sun is out, shining; the wind blows warm breeze (sometimes), and since I only get three months of this European-style-lovely-weather, I must enjoy it as much as possible. Also, my European lifestyle dictates that everything above 15°C is warm; anything above 20°C is hot; and anything (if ever!) above 25°C is just ungodly.

My European lifestyle dictates that I go to the beach during the warm spring/summer days - even if I have to wear a neoprene suit to avoid freezing to death.

However, my European lifestyle also dictates that I should have the unexplainable desire to catch a plane an go somewhere. That is when my Barranquillera lifestyle kicks in, and I just want to go home.