Monday, November 28, 2005

Baking frenzy

If I never see another biscuit it will be far too soon- this country has gone biscuit (kekse) crazy and it's not even bloody December yet. My flatmate spent the whole week preparing for this weekend's bakeathon, she's making fourteen different sorts of biscuits, for everyone she knows I think, and the whole house smelt like butter and sugar all weekend. Then I was invited to a coffee and cookie afternoon which was lovely but oh so full of biscuits and this all comes on top of a week of stealing biscuits from work. I honestly don't want to eat another biscuit for at least a week. Even the thought is making me feel a bit queasy.

The weekend was the first advent, which is apparently the first of four sundays before christmas and so everyone lights a big candle, one of four in a wreath. Honestly, the fuss they make about Christmas here is amazing given that the rest of the time they claim to be so Protestant and non-ceremonial up here in the north. Although I have to admit the tradition of putting shots of Amaretto in mulled wine is something I have become extremely enthusiastic about in a very short space of time. Actually Amaretto in anything hot is good, hot chocolate, coffee, tea, milk. Or just Amaretto hot with cream.

Right now it's snowing properly for the first time (last time it was more snow rain) and I am extremely glad that my midday clas had finished and I am inside with the heating on. The view of the skeletal trees and rows of European houses covered in snow from my window is gorgeous- from here. All this cold weather is extremely romantic as long as you don't happen to be in it, and then you remember the christmas story about the little match girl who froze to death.

Last night I went to see the new HP movie and liked it alot, although of course I have my criticism. But I liked how much they stuck to the book, and I have grown to love th dynamic between the three of them, even if Daniel Radcliffe is a little wooden. It was great to be swept up in that world again, it made me want to read all the books again. I finally joined the library the other day and got out some great kids' books and some learning Italian books to see if I remember anything from my half a year of night classes. So far all I've learnt is that if you are in a public shower with someone your own age you can address them with the informal 'tu'. So that's helpful.

Friday, November 25, 2005


It’s snowing! The whole of Kiel looks like one big Christmas card, the streets are filled with lights and little stalls selling Christmas kitsch and mulled wine and the trees and rooftops are covered in white. If it weren’t so cold it would be perfect, but at least the cold makes the Glühwein taste that much more delicious. I am thrilled that I don’t have to take part in the Christmas madness and am escaping with Mum to warmer climes, but it is lovely to be here living the European Christmas. I have begun to eat at least six bisciuts a day, in the correct German tradition.

Yesterday was actually Thanksgiving and tonight Anne is having a dinner at her house. My first ever Thanksgiving! I haven’t really managed to work out what it means or if there is anything else involved than eating a huge Turkey but we will see.

This week I got told off for: riding on the wrong side of the road (all the Germans do it too I might add), riding in a pedestrian zone (ditto),and not reporting to reception at the bank where I teach every bloody week. I think that’s an all-time low.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Protesting the German way

This weekend I was lucky enough to fullfill two things on my wishlist: see the sun on Sunday and go to a protest in Germany. I was even up before midday on Saturday too, so I have had my weekly dose of vitamin D and don't feel utterly depressed at the prospect of a week of work (well, four days really but who's counting). Even though it was freezing cold the sky was blue and the landscape in rural Schleswig-Holstein is so pretty that it almost seemed sensible to be outside.

The protest was against the train carrying nuclear waste which is produced by Germany's many nuclear power plants and sent to France to be processed. It is then shipped back to Germany and buried in an abandoned salt mine near a small town near Luneburg, which is about an hour from Hamburg. It's supposed to be a temporary solution but they've been doing it for about twelve years and every year people protest against it and often try to block the train. Last year a French protestor died because he was chained to the tracks and the train couldn't stop in time. Horrible.

The train itself isn't there yet- it's due Monday night- but these was a big protest match scheduled for Saturday so we hopped in the car with Anne's friend Lars and drove down there. As we got closer we passed about fifty police vans and I started to get a bit nervous. Then twenty more. then twenty more. Apparently there were ten thousand police stationed on or near the railway line, which is this innocuous looking rural railway next to medieval farm houses and green field full of frost-coated, lettuce-like stuff. When we finally walked past the track there were all of these special forces standing on it just looking at us- it was like looking over the trenches at the enemy. Hundreds of men and women in black or green riot gear, with trunchens sticking out of their vests and huge bulges where their guns were, helmuts hanging from their wrists and big green shin-guards onm their legs, standing on a railway line in the middle of green fields with the sun going down behind them and the air all frosty and shimmering in the dusk. Utterly bizarre.

The people at the demo were a great mix of young punk, alternative types and families who live in the area, heaps of kids and older people. I even saw a guy who was proudly wearing his lederhosen, who must have been from Baveria. There were probably about four thousand people there, in this tiny town with one main street. It was amazing.

The other amazing thing was that after it was all over we walked past a free soup stand provided by the Red Cross, which apparently is connected to an organisation called the People's Kitchen. Why don't they give out free food as our rallies? There was, of course, also bread and cheese and in true hippie protestor fashion a vegan cheese substitute made from chickpeas.

If anyone is interested there is more info at:

After the protest we went to a party in Lübeck which I discovered to my horror is much prettier than Kiel because nothing was destroyed in the war. A couple of Anne's friends were Djing at a Leaving Las Vegas party at a punk venue which turned out to be a lot of fun. You could even "get married" at a chapel and for four Euro you got a ring, a contract and a polaroid of you and your beloved wearing a veil and a tie. Anne got married to a friend of hers and I couldn't convince her and Matt to marry me as one person. I can't imagine why.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy as Sven

This week has been rather nice, if exhausting, and I am feeling rather happy with my lovely students and regularish income. I am working a gruelling four day week and it is always a lovely feeling when it's over and I have three days of weekend ahead of me. Then after two days I get bored with knowing very few people and I look forward to work again- perfect.

I've had a lot of good feedback lately from the students which is just lovely- mostly just in the form of doing the homework I set or letting me know when they won't be in class. It really is so great teaching adults who are engaged and interested in what they are learning- even if the chances of them getting it are so much lower.

I finally gave in and bought a pair of warmer pants today as I just couldn't handle the icy winter wind whistling through my extremely thin rayon trousers as I pedal my way around Kiel. I really wanted to buy a couple of lovely shirts that were also on sale but I somehow found the strength to just say no. I just kept telling myself that I was not here to shop, a blatant lie but somehow it worked. Maybe also becuase I don't feel entirely confident that I will continue to be earning money.

It's really started to get dark now, it's getting dark at about four thirty which is just so depressing. The only advantage is that the night is longer which is kind of cosy.... but not really. Apparently the shortest day of the year is December the 21st and from then on it will get lighter.

I can't wait to go to Italy with Mum, but it occurred to me that I know next to nothing about the place, apart from the names of many brands of pasta which also happen to be cities.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Getting wiggy at Halloween

These are the pictures from the Halloween party at our house- my wigs were very popular as you can see. I was supposed to kind of be Cindy Lauper which everyone kindly didn't question too closely, and Matt is a football fan. My favorite wig didn't belong to me however- the platinum blonde bob cut. I am seriously thinking of cutting my hair like this.

These pictures were taken a week or so ago when the weather was still lovely- this is a beach in Kiel and I was hanging out with my Coloradoians Anne and Matt. This weekend the three of us went to Hamburg for a night to stay with some really lovely friends of Anne's and it was fabulous. Lots of Simpsons, hanging out and eating pastries.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Like dude, totally dude

I have discovered two terrible things in the last week. One is that I am allegedly getting an American accent, for which I blame my colleagues who say they can't understand me. The other is that Schleswig-Holstein has the least public holidays in Germany.

Again I ask: why am I here.

Last week was Halloween and I went to two Halloween parties, one at Matt's and one at my house which was much more fun because these were less cool and scary Germans and more daggy young students, and also we dressed up. I bought an excellent Brunhilda wig for myself and Matt had a punk mullet- it was like, totally awesome. Manuela went as the lady of the lake and Art went as King Arthur complete with a Monty Python coconut. Hilarious.

I love riding my bike here- I think I have mentioned this already. But it still gives me a thrill when I wobble my way around a corner and three cars wait patiently for me before they turn- I think German car drivers have just had it drummed into them that they must give way to bikeriders. There's even bike lanes on most roads, down towards the uni there's only one lane for cars and one for bikes and I have never seen a car in the bike lane. Amazing.

Another amazing German fact is that you have to pay to give back late videos and DVDS. I only found this out when I was returning some DVDs for my boss and I was running really late. I was halfway out the shop before the guy said excuse me, these are late. I looked at him like he was mad and said, I'm sorry I don't care they're not mine. Then it was his turn to look at me like I was crazy and he said, yes but you can't give them back. By this time I was utterly impatient and just snapped, was? Turns out I had to either pay the two Euros fifty or take them away again. I was so annoyed I just flung the money at him and left- my first real experience of being ruder than a German shopkeeper.

If they introduced a system like that in Australia there would be no videos in the shop. I mean what exactly is the incentive to give them back at all? Probably you have to sign your first born over to join a video shop here or something, but really, it's ridiculous. The concept of everybody playing by the rules has been so internalised here.