Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One day to go

Yesterday I got told off by a very grumpy old guy for parking my bike for ten minutes in front of the building. Allegedly he couldn't reach the bell- which he had just pressed. I sweetly told him I didn't understand any German until he shuttup, but he tried for quite a long time to convey his wrath by shaking his fingers in the direction of the bell and snarling at me. Uptight? Not at all. It was extremely satisfying to stare at him bemusedly until he fucked off.

What a mad place this is- I'm really starting to like it. Spent the weekend in Hamburg catching up with family and eating a lot of cheese. My current cheese habit is now about three times a day, but it can get up to five if I'm really not feeling up to making any hard decisions about how to get a veggie friendly meal out of a German supermarket. I am also supporting a rather enormous bread habit- about five slices/rolls a day seems to be the average. It's not that there isn't other stuff to eat, it's just that it seems so normal to eat almost nothing but bread and cheese, and drink beer.

I was at the bank the other day waiting for my students to turn up and checking out the art on the walls. There was this series of coloured drawing about the building of the north harbour and one sentence was something like "and then all the town came to watch the new harbour being built, with bread and cheese and beer, and made a picnic".

Finally got to speak to Benjamin the other day which was lovely- he is going to Azerbaijan to teach English there which is utterly insane. On our trip to Hamburg Matt and I, who are still in mourning for Benjamin because he's not coming back, were sharing a ticket with two people, a guy and a girl. The girl turned out to be from Benjamin's home town and the guy was from Azerbaijan. Unbelievable. It's like his ghost is following us around.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I have four lovely packages to open- can't wait.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Butterflies in the Bundestag

Well it's been a wacky weekend here in Gerryland- the election is over and yet they have no idea who the government is. Both main parties are claiming victory becuase the other has no clear majority, and in fact the real winners are the Left party and the FDP, a kind of liberal democrat party I think, becuase they both stole vites for the main parties and increased their majorities enormously.

Yesterday I went to check out the voting booths, hoping for some action and excitiment or at least a bit of civilised shoving but all I got was... nothing.

Turns out there's an unwritten (or possibly written, actually it's extremely likely being as this is the buerocratic capital of the world) rule that the parties stop campaigning the day before.

I asked my students why they didn't campaign until the very last minute and they stared at me blankly until one of them said, they do: the last minute is the day before. Now I understand why the concept of Last Minute Holidays (that's what they call them here) has really taken off. They have discovered a whole new time zone that previously didn't exist in the German psyche.

I also visited the butterfly exhibition on Sunday, which was wonderful. One of the glasshouses in the Botanic Gardens was filled with all different kinds of butterflies, some even from Oz I think. The biggest one was about the size of two fists and had brown eyes on its wings. I got a lump in my throat when I suddenly came across a bottlebrush with five orange butterflies perched on one bloom- it was beautiful.

On Saturday I went to an arts and craft market where one of my students was volunteering. I was expecting bits of macaroni stuck on cardboard so was really thrilled when I walked into this beautiful light-filled hall filled with tasteful wood, metal and textile products. My favorite was a gorgeous toy of the Very Hungry Caterpillar made of green wool, with different shades all through it. But at sixteen euros it was a bit pricey. All the goods are made by disabled young people so I felt not at all guilty about doing some other shopping however. It was really cool to be in the sun, at a market full of kids and adults, just hanging out.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Went on a breakfast date this morning- was extremly odd. Turns out flirting in German is nearly impossible, especially when you are not really wanting to send out signals but don't quite know how to be nice but not too nice... Oh god I am so sick of inter-cultural communication, be it with Amis or Gerrys or what. Bring on the Aussies...

Spoke to Mum this morning- hi Mum!- God she is great. I was talking about how impressed I was that in my class the night before, all the Germans were agreed that you couldn't completely cut off someone's welfare benefits even if they refused to go to work or training courses, while in Oz that's just what we do. Mum:

Well you know darling they don't want to let people starve becuase during the war they really did starve while in Australia, well you could just go shoot a rabbit or something.


I'm going shopping. Fuck it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mobile madness

Today I slept until almost midday- a sign of my growing exhaustion with Germany or possibly just the fact that I got up to teach a class at quarter to eight and then had a forty five minute seesion at five o'clock- with nothing in between. Ah the joys of freelancing.
I went to Kiel Uni TKD last night and somehow ended up in the wrong room, with a whole lot of people in white TKD uniforms and a Korean black belt. Huh? It turns out there are two groups at the Uni, modern and traditional. I think I'm in modern, which seems to mean less attention to form and more hideous fitness work which I know is very good for me but is extremely disheartening because I have none (fitness). Last night we had to do this thing where we twisted around from our bellies to our back while not touching the floor with our legs. I was universally unsuccessful and mostly just groaned alot while dragging my legs along the revolting, smelly gym carpet floor. It was great!
My colleague Matthew is going to Amsterdam for the weekend and I am so jealous- but I have no money to pay the rent so I can't really justify it. It would be lovely though, strolling through the cobbled streets stoned and eating pastries...

I finally found out why no-one could text me- apparently because my mobile number is so ridiculously long some connections can't carry it- they have a maximum of forteen numbers. Soooo if you want to text me you have to just dial +49 and then drop off the first zero from my mobile number. Apparently to dial a plus on Nokia you press * twice.

Did I mention it is my birthday in two weeks?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Living in ignorance

This morning I had a group from The Bank- our most important clients- and we talked about the Australian economy. Who would have thought that I would be talking about a topic like this, which previously would have sent me to sleep in five seconds, with a bunch of German business people? They even sent me away with a bunch of questions about where we get our oil, how we generate electriciy and where the majority of our sheep farms are (!).

So, if anyone knows the answers to these questions could you email me... I have no idea.

I have discovered I am even more ignorant about the world than I possibly could have thought, yesterday I made the American husband of my colleague laugh in delight becuase I asked if New York was a state. Apparently it is. I really need to learn more geography.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Welcome to Kiel

This is now my third month in Germany and to date the longest I have ever been from home- I thought it was about time I set up a proper blog. Also, I have been universally unsuccessful at getting any of the digital images my flatmate thoughtfully provided me with to attatch to an email, so posting them seems the only way.

I am currently on the lovely Manuela's laptop- she is the aformentioned flatmate who is currently going at in on the stepping machine to the tune of the Beastie Boys Sabotage. An excellently bizarre combination and quite a good introduction to the weirdness of my small life in Kiel.

The photos above are of this lovely town and a cocktail party for the girl whose fantastic room I am staying in for three months. She is the tall blonde in the piccie with the two guys. They are my American colleagues Trent and Art, and just two of the team, all of whom are from the US except for the boss who is British. I am learning to say beer with an r in it so they can understand me- although I have already been drunkenly assured that "Nooooo yur accent is rally cuwt!" Tops.