Child soup and other German adventures


My B&B in Mannheim was super-luxurious after the hostel grossness in Amsterdam, and was even relatively conveniently located.  Mannheim is an industrial city in the south-western corner of Germany, and definitely not on the tourist trail.  It’s actually the only place I’ve been in the country, despite best intentions of making it to several festivals or to go and party with friends in Berlin.  I went there to go and see a performance by the band the Guano Apes, who had been my theme snowboarding music for the preceding season (oh my god—ripping it down the slopes in NZ to ‘You Can’t Stop Me‘?  Freaking amazing!).  It was also conveniently on the way to where I was going in Italy.

I was actually going to the concert that night, and with the help of the lovely B&B owner, figured out my bus to where the concert was happening (though, naturally, didn’t bother looking at how I would get back).  I rocked up my outfit and headed off.  When I got there, I fetched myself the first of several wodkas (seriously, I can’t not laugh—I get that ‘w’ is ‘v’ in German, but I like to think that everyone says ‘wodka’ instead of ‘vodka’, like a country of extreme lisps).  And oh my goodness, I was so happy to be there: every time I’m in a crowd of people whose first language is not English, I get stoked, because I feel like there’s still things to learn, and still parts of the world to explore.  So I was having a lovely time having a little dance in the crowd, while making the observation that I don’t look German at all.  Haha I point this out, because it’s usually peoples’ first guess as to my heritage (which isn’t actually the case).

The support act, ‘Alpha Academy’, was super-fun, and then it was time for the GA.  They sing in English, but obviously I had no idea what they were saying between songs: so I asked the guy next to me whether he spoke English.  His name was Christian, and he and his friends were actually super-helpful.  He translated (insofar as he could) what was being said.  To be fair though, after another visit to the bar I wasn’t paying that much attention anyway: the bar-guy gave me a truly terrifying amount of vodka.  He was practising his flaring technique, so first poured normally, then over the other arm, then behind his back: by the time he’d finished, I had a big cup of vodka.  Wodka.  Giggle.  I also bought some chocolate, for dinner—health ftw!

Германия (1 of 13)

After the gig, Christian offered me a lift home, which I obviously accepted.  I was in the middle of freaking nowhere, with no knowledge of German and no clue (in general).  It was pretty entertaining: I was listening to the GPS and learning some new vocab, while C’s two friends were talking in the front seat.  They had very, very limited English, but had figured out that I have a limited passive understanding of German, so were completely fucking with me.  Think horror movie script (but with more giggling).  Haha I’ll never forget them talking about ‘child soup’ then looking at me surreptitiously to make sure I’d understood.  *Eye roll.*

The next day started pretty hilariously, with the owner’s receptionist-son snorting with laughter at how badly I pronounce even ‘I don’t speak German’ in German.  He derisively laughed that I’m as bad as his American mother.  I did feel like pointing out that if he’s half-American, his English should really be a damn sight better, but I pretended to be nice instead.  The day was then spent wandering around taking photos and doing work on the tender for the law firm.  I did make the observation that there are an inordinate number of phallic-shaped buildings in the city (and judged it worth texting my friends in Aus about, while obviously giggling my head off.  Maturity!).

Aaagh, I just remembered, I did the stupidest thing!  There’s this tram which goes about the place in Mannheim, and so I figured I’d get on it and do a quick loop: it didn’t look like that many stops.  I also decided to do this before having had any food that day.  Freaking two hours later, I was way out of the city and starving.  I’d not had a meal in a couple of days, and that’s when it finally hit me.  Worst, tram-ride, ever.  I saw a McDonalds (not something I usually eat), jumped off and ate everything.  Then another hour or so back to Mannheim.  An angry, angry hour or so.  Gleugh.  Oh well, I spent it watching the sign announcing the next stop, and listening to the PA to understand how each letter etc sounds in German (I really am obsessed with languages).

Apparently at some point during the day, C had driven back to my hotel and left a note at reception saying how awesome it was meeting me and offering to show me around the place, but I didn’t get it until I’d already left Germany the next morning, on my way to the Italian Alps to go snowboarding.  Hells yeah!

Clean Hands

I am extremely in Germany right now, and I have so many questions.  For example, what does ‘oder’ mean?  Secondly, there is a gigantic Ronald McDonald plastic monstrosity sitting on the chair behind me which keeps creeping me out, yet people keep coming to have their photo taken with it.  Why?  Why?!  I am too tired for creepy yellow clowns.  Then again, I think I probably always am.

I don’t really understand how I ever actually manage to make any of my flights.  It’s just ridiculous.  I mean this time, I thought I was ready–I really thought I was ready–but here I was, 25 minutes after I was supposed to leave for the train, still throwing stuff out and putting random assortments of things in bags.  I ended up just scooping the remaining items into a bag I had handy, and booking it for the train station.

This time I’d looked at my flight time the night before, so at least I knew what time I was leaving.  I didn’t bother checking when I needed to be there though, because I am an idiot.  So I was having a look at this while on the train into the city, therefore not realising I’d actually reached Central until the “next stop, Town Hall, followed by Wynyard, then all stations to, North Sydney, then all stations to, Chatswood, then all stations to, Hornsby” announcement came on.  This led to my quickly jumping out with my vast array of gear, breaking a nail in the process and also dropping my stress ball onto the train lines.  Now, this stress ball was bright yellow with a big smiley face on it, and my tax driver to the airport in Bogota gave it to me after I knew the local word for ‘awesome’.  So if anyone happens to see it at the southern end of Central platform 16 over the next few days, feel free to break the law and grab it for me 😉

Making it to the airport, it was time to weigh things and continue repacking.  I figured I had to be around 15kg over.  But what do you know?–the scales were broken.  Given that I was now tight on time, I decided just to check in and ask them how much I had to throw out.  Happily, thanks to Etihad being awesome, and moreover the lady on check-in being my hero, they let me travel with all of it 😀  (In the end, it was only 8–9kg over).

There was a really nice guy going through security, who had a look at my coat (breaking news–yet another group of people has stopped to have a photo with el creepo McDonaldso!  And now some lady is trying to sell me Christmas goodies, and does not seem overly convinced that I am not in fact German and do not in fact understand the bulk of what she’s saying to me.).  He laughed at how massive it was and asked whether I was going to “Russia or the North Pole?”.  Little did he know that I had meta-coat going on, stuffing one inside the other so that I could smuggle them through in carry-on.  My baggage allowance was out, and coats are heavy, okay?!

The flight itself was fairly uneventful: Sydney to Abu Dhabi (gosh I’ve spent a lot of time at that airport), then Abu Dhabi to Düsseldorf, where I’m sitting at the moment.  I did however get a bit overly experimental with the game of “what goes in Laura’s mouth?” on the way over: there was an extremely mysterious package in the food bag thing.  I opened it carefully and it smelled really good.  I figured ‘oh, hey, hand sanitiser’ and poured some onto my hands.  Then it smelled so good that I started to figure that maybe it was dressing or vinaigrette or something instead.  Coming to this conclusion, I carefully put some in my mouth to check.  Nope, it was definitely hand sanitiser.  And in case anyone’s wondering, it does not, repeat does not, taste good.

So now here I am, (oh shit, I can see a police officer on a segueway whats-it called machine, and it looks freaking ridiculous!) waiting to check in to my flight to Manchester, where Tilly will pick me up to take me back to Liverpool.

Man do I need a nap.

Douche Душ Dusche

Sometimes English is weird.  There is, of course, the example of ‘pineapple’, which manages to be called ‘ananas’ in all the other languages: informs me that the word ‘pineapple’ comes from ‘pine’ + ‘apple’ (really helpful there), which still makes about zero sense.  I’ve just done a similar search for ‘shower’ (because isn’t etymology fun?!) after realising that the German word for ‘shower’ is Dusche.  Much as it’s douche in French, and душ (‘dush’) in Russian.  Why don’t we have the same word as the French or German?  Interestingly, I found that ‘shower’ comes from the proto-Germanic skuraz/later German Schauer, being like a rain shower.  I can see how this would fit with the English mentality of having one’s own personal rain-cloud following one around :p

I’m now in the UK, and as usual, refusing to believe in jet lag.  This is the seventh time I’ve moved hemispheres (Australia-UK-Australia-UK-Australia-Russia-Australia-Europe), and I’ve travelled between the two more than that of course.  I’ve left the UK on a Saturday and been at work in Australia on the Monday several times now, and done the same the other way around as well.  I even have a vague recollection of going straight from the international airport in Aus to work.  Apparently refusing to believe in jet lag works out for me, and I blame it all on my system flying over.  I generally fly Etihad, so it’s all about staying awake for the first 10 or so hours of the flight then having a 3 or 4-hour nap; cleaning your teeth, washing your face and changing your socks in Abu Dhabi to feel human again; then sleeping immediately once you get on the plane for the last  8-10 hours.  That’s pretty much what I did this time, apologising to my poor body as I took a sleeping pill once on the plane in the UAE.  And hey, it’s worked: I stayed awake all day in Germany, went to bed at 19:45 that night in the UK, slept through until 6 the next morning, then stayed awake with two micro-naps until nearly 23:00.  Haha in saying that, I was pretty seriously confused for the first few hours yesterday, and I woke up just now needing to throw up.  My poor body doesn’t know what’s hit it!

After my bonding experience with creepy Ronald in Düsseldorf airport, I went on a mission to check in for my flight.  I’d managed to get a business class ticket for only 15 euro extra, and as if it wasn’t totally worth it to spend the day chilling in the lounge!  Now, if my prior ridiculous behaviour in Russia, Finland, the UK and Greece didn’t give it away, I don’t take airports very seriously.  At least this time it was airline staff rather than border security I was taking the piss with: I went to check in and the guy said “I need to see a passport”.  I replied with “just any passport, or did you want to see mine?”  He laughed then looked at me disbelievingly and asked “why, how many passports do you have with you?”  “Obviously a bagful,” I replied.  Haha asking ‘concept checking questions’/CCQs unfortunately comes with the English teaching territory I’m afraid—if you say something ambiguous, or use the wrong word, I’m 100% going to fuck with you.  I’m sure it’s never annoying..!

Little else entertaining happened in the airport—one guy asked me rather indignantly why I didn’t speak German, which made me laugh; I had silly conversations with a lot of randoms; and then I wound up in the lounge.  Sadly (!) the business class lounge was closed for the day, given it was xmas, so I had to put up with the first class lounge.  Lame, am I right?!  So I ate lots of delicious food and had a shower in a gorgeous bathroom (hence the pre-occupation with the word for ‘shower’), and generally had a good time.

I flew into Manchester later that day and waited for my friend Tilly for an hour or so, then she picked me up and took me back to Liverpool, where I am now.  So far it’s been very chilled—yesterday we pretty much hung out, ate chocolate, watched Netflix, and watched snow fall on the skylight.  What’s a bit weird is that I can’t stand how early it gets dark in the northern UK: when I lived in Manchester it used to really get to me, and it was dark well before 4pm here yesterday.  Yet when I was in Russia it was night all day, and I kind of loved it.  There’s just a different feeling about it here.

One last burst of entertainment, because I’m well aware I’m absolutely waffling right now.  One of my friends and I were talking about going out, and they said that they couldn’t, because “actually I’m out on bail at the moment”.  I pause, as I know they’re staying with their parents at the mo.  So I go “out on bail?  You mean, from your parents?  From your friends?”.  My friend pauses.  “Well I was arrested.”  Hahahahahahahahahaha.  Actual bail.  Bail from the police.  For partying-related offences.  Hilarious!

Apart from that, i’d forgotten how hard it is to understand scouse accents.  It was only slightly more difficult to understand people speaking German, so a completely different language, than it is to understand people here.  The different words and slang don’t help, but the accent is just insane.  Priceless.