Starting life on the other side of the world…

me stuttgart at nightI’m already disappointed in myself for taking thirteen days to update this fancy blog of mine.  I mean, really, in thirteen days time I could be up to anything, even deportation possibly, as life remains chaotic, though this time in a more exciting, organized version of chaotic.  I have no car, very limited communication skills and I can barely read a map, therefore I’m somewhat contained for the most part during the week…God, come to think of it, I’ve never used the word contained to describe myself in all of my 29 years.  Mmmm, i do not like the word contained. 

Moving on, wow, where do I begin?  So far, this journey has been quite amazing and my hands cannot type fast enough to give a good update, but here we go.   Last weekend was my very first weekend abroad and we kicked it off into high gear immediately.  After arriving on Thursday the 16th, compliments of Lufthansa airlines (great plane, btw, and they give you all the free wine you desire) I attempted to take two days to settle in, but that was a lost cause.  I spent the first two days meeting people, drinking and trying to stay up until midnight, my only real attempt to beat jet lag.  Jet lag won for the most part and it took me 8 days and about 40 movies (most viewed at 4am) to kick it.  The  Hamburg FishMarket festival I attended on my very first night was a solid attempt.  Yeah, a fish festival, one where the city of Stuttgart honors Hamburg’s love of fish and beer (clearly an obsession)– cooked any way imaginable, the fried version with garlic sauce clearly a winner in my eyes.  It was so fantastic, this festival in the town square, all Germans, drinking bier in steins the size of my head, sampling all that Hamburg has to offer (mostly pickled fish from what I could tell), laughing and being jolly in general.  The whole evening was a success, minus the part where I failed at ordering a sangria for myself.  I cannot get used to these people using their thumb as the number 1.  Therefore, when you hold up the pointer finger, you get two drinks, lesson learned.  It was also my first outing with the SRA crew that lives here.  What a fabulous bunch of new friends. 

Next exciting day was Saturday the 18th, the day we visited Delle, France to see Lance and the crew  Tour de France right by us.  I think it’s acceptable to use “Tour de France” as a verb now (clearly meaning biking by me fast), now that I’ve seen them all fly by within two feet of me.  The drive was three hours, the race portion we saw lasted 15 minutes, but by all means it was a splendid day.  We arrived in Delle around 9:30am and much to our surprise, nothing was open, not even for coffee.  It was probably about 50, whatever that is in celcius and it was drizzling…and I was the American wearing a tank top and flip flops.  So there we are, standing in the drizzle, me, Chris, Damon, Tracy and their two kids….We probably looked lost with no biergarten to immediately shuttle ourselves into.  Maybe that’s what prompted my new favorite French grandmother shuttle us into her house.  No kidding, really. 

Someone attempted to ask this old french woman if there was a cafe open we might be able to hang out in and we quickly realized she knew no English outside of using the word cafe, as she went on about everything in the town being closed due to the race, or at least i think that’s what she was saying….  At that point she pointed at me and my bare feet and shoulders in the rain, shook her head and made this “tsk, tsk” sound like I was some hopeless puppy, standing in the rain.  I gave her the, I know, I’m stupid, don’t tell my mom, look and then she went back to rambling in french.  Next thing I know, she’s waving all wild like, something about coffee and her house and all of a sudden, we’ve all fallen into line and are following our crazy french grandmother figure up the stairs to her tiny apartment on the top floor of an old apartment building.  Tiny old french woman came out of their doors to see who was shuffling up the steps, all speaking french and waving and there we found ourselves, in Memere’s apartment.

It reminded me of my Meme’s place, or my nana’s…tiny and filled with crocheted items, pictures of family members, hutches filled with china and serving trays.  She got to work immediately making coffee, offering tea and sugar cookies in metal containers that had been there, ready for eating, since 2003.  It was great.  We sat at her table, all of us unable to understand each other, trying through mime like gestures, lots of nodding and shrugging and smiling.  Smiles do a lot, by the way.  Smiling is a form of communicating here, or maybe it isn’t, but for me it’s worked when I need it to. 

She showed us her whole life through photos, pointing at sons and daughters and grandkids you could tell she doesn’t see often enough.  We figured out she was 80 something, not looking a day over 60, those french women know how to keep themselves looking young and fresh.  After a complete hour of listening to her and Chris try to chat (using his 6 years of high school/college french), and drinking her homemade cherry vodka (at 10am), we regretted telling our french memere that we must be going, we had to find our spot for the race.  We took pictures, exchanged addresses and promised her we’d write…which I think we will, whenever I get these funny pictures printed…..

Aggressive at Tour de France  And then the race.  Well, there were about 15 of us, lined up on the streets of Delle, anxiously awaiting our 15 minutes of Tour de Francing, drinking from bottles of champagne and warm, German beer, in cans, as we laughed and cheered on the little parade that kicks off the racers.  And then there they were, coming around the bend, 30 racers or so, Lance included.  We waved our bottles, cheered, screamed for Lance (perhaps inappropriately, after two bottles of champagne), high fived each other and in a flash, our portion of the race was over.  America was light years ahead of the pack, though we didn’t end up winning of course, but still…it was exhilarating if nothing else.  And I was in France on day 3.  Would could want more, no? 

DSCN1640Then the next day, we were at the Lenny Kravitz concert in Stuttgart, around 7pm that night.  We started in the beirgarten, per usual, drinking beers that knock you on your ass fast, or ones that just make you red in the face and talkative early.  We had about three, which I think might be like 8 Miller Lites ,except not like Miller Lite at all, clearly like a Heffeweisen, and off we went to the concert.  Now I don’t know much about Lenny, but now I do know he’s pretty bad ass.  Thousands of people filed into this place, we rocked out to songs about love, peace and happiness.  At least most people were happy, myself included, all until this one set of german wenches decided to get all pushy like with me and my new friend Caroline.  I don’t know why some of these girls think it’s funny to mock my lack of German, but they do.  And they push, even though we were in standing room right in front of the stage.  I mean, really, it’s not like I was keeping them from being drenched in the sweat of Lenny.  But they had to get all pushy on me and my friend, her mostly, and I was not going to get all submissive, whether i can speak German or not.  I tried merely turning around and giving a few nasty glances, thinking that might do the trick…the evil eye translates well, doesn’t it?  Apparently not well enough so I had to get a little bit aggressive right back.  Teach them a lesson about what I will and will not put up with.  After about the 9th time we were pushed and laughed at, taunted by a language that I can’t figure out yet, I had enough.  What to do, what to do that will translate well? I settled on the international symbol for choking (hand over neck, clearly) and asked “How do you say fuck yourself in German?” It’s not like they didn’t know English….Well, that worked, no more pushing.  And then I carried on, swaying in the masses, screaming “All you need is love”or something line I thought I knew and waving my lighter furiously in the air, fitting in, yes, fitting in…dancing and shaking up a storm.  Even got myself a fancy teeshirt for $60 euro (the equivelant of 8 million US dollars) and called it an evening…..

but there was more, there’s always more, isn’t there?  Well we went back to the biergarten area to get our car, I had to pee and swiftly, if at all possible.  I had into the WC (still not sure what that C is for) peed out sieban biers.  Of course next thing I hear from the door is hurry, hurry,  outside, outside.  (in a somewhat Gertman meets English translation)  I do not like to be hurried when in the WC.  But I did, I’m agreeable like that.  I went out into the hall and asked the politzi what what up and they said, you need to get out of here, there’s a bomb threat.  Oh, really?  Just a bomb threat?  Yeah, I mean that’s typical.  I usually get hauled out of public restrooms, mid-pee, to scurry off in case a bombs goes off.  Fitting, I mean, really.  Bomb threats in my first 3 days.  How very dangerous and fantastic.  Off to the car we went, our baby Prius, but not before we spied free furniture by the railroad tracks.  Those little bathroom shelves were to be ours, and off we took them, hauling furniture off in our truck at midnight…like thieves in the dark, except that they were free, so we technically weren’t stealing anything.  That was our night, we called it a weekend, my very first weekend in Europe. 

My weekly ativitities here have varied, my first two, and I tend to alternate between weeding, walking the dogs, drinking wine, writing, applying for jobs, drinking wine, reading in the front lawn with my feet up, drinking wine, sunning myself, cleaning the house, drinking wine, and cleaning up.  Last week I made a successful trip into Stuttgart alone, no small task for those of us that do not understand the *beautifully spoken language here.  (about as beautiful as the dead fish floating in the Potomac after a good rainstorm)  But success!  I did it!  I mastered the bus to the train, pranced around the city, ordered kaffee, bought postcards (which is weird, i am not a tourist), bought an internet card, watched people by the fountains, and made my way home.  The only real problem I faced was almost taking the wrong train, which would have sent me three hours south, but the nice Dutch kid I asked directions from saw me, pulled me off the train and taught me how to read a map…And that wasn’t so bad…not for my first attempt.

sky barThis past weekend was successful as well.  We  went to Sky Bar, my most FAVORITE watering hole here yet.  It’s insane.   (see picture, no lie, that’s what it looks like, even though that’s not MY picture…but still, it’ll give you an idea.)  First of all, it’s sketchy as all hell to even get to this bar.  It’s through side streets, down alleys, up metal elevators to an unmarked floor and VIOLA!  You will find yourself standing on a rooftop at midnight, overlooking the city, your feet in sand, tiki torches blowing bright, and beach chairs to lounge in.  And beer, they have a lot of beer.  I’ve been twice and it’s going to have to be my go to.  The first night we went with Caroline, to meet some random, German sky diving body piercers.  Who knows where she met them, but it was fun.  The second time we went, it was a bunch of us, this past Friday, until it rained, and much like the real beach, game over in the rain.  There’s no roof, afterall….Instead, we took off for Biddy Early’s, the local Stuttgart Irish bar.  It’s just like any other Irish bar, and lots of fun, and that is where we wrapped up the night, until 1am, when I was in need of a donar kabap (kabob) and wow, do they make GREAT kabaps in this city. donar kebapI will refrain from posting too many pictures of food, because my goal is not to prove that I have an issue with the amount of sausage, cheese, kabaps, gelato, and homemade bread I can eat in a day.  Just making me think about my thighs expanding makes me want to go jump rope, or drink, one of the two….

Saturday we went to a cookout at Cat and Jeff’s house, our new friends here, though they came from Arlington, which is nice, because they can show us the ropes.  That and they have a GREAT house for bbqing.  Saturday night was low key, full of meat and salads, beers and conversation with the DIA crew, Carolina, Jim, Adam, Constantine, Cat, Jeff, and baby Jack.  You can never have enough friends here.  Especially ones that don’t look at you like an alien when you speak.  After the cookout, we headed home, ready for bed so that we could go to Lake Konstanz the next morning with the dogs.  It would have been nice if we made it home and into bed on time, but that never happens.  Instead, we pulled up our street and heard the sweet, loud thumping of rave music.  WHERE WAS IT COMING FROM?  You just can’t go to bed early if there is an outside rave going on in your town.  So like Nancy Drew and one of the Hardy boys, we got back in the car, driving around with the windows down, attempting to follow the sound.  I can’t imagine what we looked like.  Either way, we didn’t find it, the sound just stopped after awhile.  Guess we weren’t invited.  Where we did end up going, though, since we were already out, is our neighborhood bar.  (we only have 2 total, I think)  It’s at the bottom of our hill, conveniently, and one thing I learned quickly upon entering is that it’s no Cheers.  When we walked in it was like the music stopped, everyone’s heads whipped around, and there was plenty of staring.  I felt like I was naked, and looked down to make sure I wasn’t.  Nope, but I must have just been glowing red, white, and blue.  I get a lot of that…do I really look that American?  I think I might.  Whatever.  We sat down to discuss my start here, drank three beers, and watched them play Yatzee and dance together, out of the corner of my eye…clearly not the time to look nosey.  Who did look nosey, though?  The 80 something year old grandmother (who did not look fresh or youthful) who could NOT keep her eyes off me.  She was just captivated by something, and I wasn’t even looking attractive, not that I think she was checking me out, that would just be weird.  Anyway, who knows what sort of magic spell I had cast but sure enough, I go to the bar to get another beer and she is just gazing at me like I’m some cute little red panda, sitting in a tree at the zoo. (really, red pandas are just the cutest things on the face of the planet)  Chris thought this was amusing and I tried talking to her but we got no further than shrugging and blank stares when one of us tried to speak.  Oh well.  It was not a complete loss, though, because as I went to leave, I got myself a great big hug from my German grandmother, and kisses too, like it was my birthday or something.  I think I must have reminded her of a granddaughter or something.  That leaves me 2-2 with elderly women in Europe and the kissing….Who knew I’d be so popular?

Now lastly, because I realize this post is getting boring and long, as I have too much to update for the first time…

Lake Constance 1Lake Konstanz.  Hands down the prettiest place I have been since arriving here.  It’s beautiful, this lake, with all of it’s tiny little lake towns that pop out of each bend of the winding roads.  We stopped at Uberlingen, just past an hour south of us, and what a great day it was.  It was 80, sunny, with a cool breeze.  We took the dogs for a walk around the town, to a grassy spot at the foot of a hill, one peppered with apple trees.  We ate our lunch under the apple trees, alternating our gazes either up the hill at the church atop the vineyard, or across the lake, watching the sailboats, bikers, and people splashing about in the lake.  It was really a sight, and I hope we can go back soon.  What a great way to end weekend 2…

Alright, I must get back to all things domestic.  The grass is not going to mow itself and my lawn chair calls….

One thought on “Starting life on the other side of the world…

  1. Pam Weddle says:

    Heather – I am not surprised at all that you are being taken in by the European Grandmothers. Your charm and wit can cross many barriers, including language. As far as the wenches go, be careful! They are MUCH bigger than you. I know you are feisty and can handle your own but watch out. Love your blog and can’t wait to hear more. Much love…

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