28 October 2012

kaffee oma

I've been experiencing some very real struggles during my past two months in Tübingen, one of them being blog-writing.  It's not that I'm not inspired or that I'm not doing anything exciting or not even that I don't have time to write blogs.  I have plenty of time, actually.  And I sit down and try to write...and try to write...and try to write... But the words don't come quickly enough.  Or sometimes I can't find the right word.  So then I try to think of a word that would be more fitting, and only after replacing the first word, do I realize that the "more fitting" word is in German, not English. And it's driving me CRAZY. Not being able to speak English very well isn't so bad.  I've never been very good at communicating verbal messages, anyway, so the struggle has just been mildly intensified.  But not being able to clearly express what I'm thinking or feeling in writing is totally driving me up the wall.

That said, please excuse any funny-sounding sentences or strange word placements.  They are bound to occur.

So what has happened in the past month/since my last blog post?  Basically, classes have begun, I've had a couple miniature adventures, and I've been in contact with many sharp objects.

Let's start with courses.  I'm visiting two lectures - European Economic Integration (in English) and An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Middle East (or, as the professor explained to us on the first day, "An Introduction to the Language, History, and Culture of the Middle East"... looks like I'm going to be learning some Arabic).  And that one is in German, which is fun because after the standard ca. 45 minutes of being engaged, I tune out and don't really hear anything for the second half of class.  So we'll see how that goes. Besides that, I'm taking a course about formulating arguments, having discussions, and making presentations, which I think will be really useful.  Also, I'm doing two studio art courses - portrait sketching and ceramic.  My ceramics professor told us that our project for the semester was just to make something big, which I dig.  Still trying to decide what I like enough to try to make into a two-foot sculpture.  In any case, I am very happy with my courses thus far, especially because they don't begin before noon, and I don't have any on Monday or Friday.  The mother of a wise friend of mine once said not to let school get in the way of your education.  I'm excited that I will have plenty of time to explore and discover in addition to my studies.

So what would a typical four-day weekend look like?  I hope that at least a few will be consumed by longer, overnight, perhaps out-of-country trips, but the most will probably be spent much like this weekend.  Friday, we decided to make a trip to see Schloss Lichtenstein.  This required taking a train for approximately 10 minutes, a bus for no less than 30 minutes, and then getting off at a bus stop in the middle of a field, wandering down a nearby path, and then hiking through the woods for about 1.5 hours with little to no direction before finally stumbling upon the majestic castle they call Lichtenstein.  No less than a hike, it was, but the beauty of the Autumn leaves falling from the trees and crunching beneath our boots proved to be an experience just as pleasing as seeing the castle itself.  After returning back to Tübingen completely exhausted, Loren and Charles threw a Raclette dinner party. There's something really powerful about it when friends share a very typical part of their life with you, when you experience it together.  Even after the simple Raclette party, I felt somehow closer to both Loren and Charles.

The next morning, I awoke to a freezing room, and when I turned my head toward my still-open window (also the direction of my still-off heating unit), my eyes were greeted by the sight of white, flaky sprinkles falling from the sky and powdering the roof of the building right next to ours.  It continued to snow the entire day on Saturday, but unfortunately almost none stuck to the streets of Tübingen (at least in the city itself).  In honor of Halloween, Chris and I invited a few friends over to carve pumpkins on the kitchen table.  I must admit, it was a little dangerous using kitchen knives as carving tools, but no one got hurt (yes, this is one of my encounters with sharp objects... I began to carve a bit hastily, but before I could cut myself, my dear friends encouraged me to stop).  We separated the seeds from the pulp and baked them, just like home.  I also bought small, cooking pumpkins and improvisationally made two delicious pies, one of which I took to Vittorio's dinner party that night.  Not that we needed any more food.  Vittorio, being the fabulous chef that he is, had already prepared a three-course meal, which was served in only the classiest of fashions, with the little garnishes that you aren't supposed to eat.  He lives a bit outside of Tü in a real house with a real table, real dishes, and real wine glasses.  I can't serve wine out of coffee mugs anymore.  It just doesn't feel right after that level of sophistication.  In any case, it was delicious food and wonderful company.  Vittorio and his friend/roommate told us tales about the Schwäbisch man that lives above them and sometimes invites them to drink with him outside.  Vittorio's friend said that even though he can't understand anything the Schwäbisch man says, the man is still his best German friend....and even though the man just drinks all day and shoots deer, he know's he's a good person because "he does it with a beautiful smile on his face."  It was a great night.

I got home at about 2am this morning and had to wake up at 7am in order to be at the soup kitchen by 8.30.  Not knowing whether the clocks were going to turn an hour forward or an hour backward (or if my phone would do it automatically...), I waited up until 3am to see for myself.  Luckily for me, they went backward (of course.), and I was allowed five hours of sleep instead of three. At 8.30 punctually, I was at the soup kitchen with my sleeves rolled up and ready for action.  It was fun to get to know the different characters in the kitchen and to listen to them yell at each other and speak in Schwäbisch.  There are a particular few that I found especially endearing.  

First: Gisella.  Gisella is the boss, the big man.  She likes to yell at people and tell them what they're doing wrong and how they should do it better.  I like her because she has everything under control, and she won't let anyone mess things up.  She yelled at me because I took the dishes out of the dishwasher too early by like five seconds.  She's really great.

Then there's Kaffee Oma.  I don't know what her real name is because I can't understand anything she says to me, but I call her Kaffee Oma in my head.  As you might have guessed, she brews the coffee.  She's super duper sweet and blabbered to me all day.  It went like this:  She would tell me to come over to her and then point at a dish or pot or pan or something, say something in Schwäbisch, and then look at me.  I would look back at her with an eyebrow up, look from side to side, shrug my shoulders, then try to finish whatever I was doing before.  Then she would grab my arm and drag me around the kitchen, showing me what she was doing.  It was really cute, and I decided that she's officially my best friend in the kitchen.

There are also a few others, who I would describe in short as Jan the Dish Man, The Evil Stepsister, and Lazy Linda Lou.  The soup kitchen was a little different than that which I once worked in in Boston, in that the visitors were served by volunteers because there was not a good setup for a serving line.  Also all of the food was homemade, which was definitely not the case back home.  There was even pumpkin soup, a little of which I got to bring home with me.  It was a very nice establishment, and I'm excited to go back next month.

Really, the only other mildly exciting things in my life would be the scar that's forming on my knuckle from breaking a wine glass as my hand was inside washing it, the glass bowl I dropped in the kitchen on Thursday morning, tripping over cobblestones daily, and almost getting run over by a few cars.  Luckily, I've made some really great friends that don't allow me to touch glass, pull me off the street when cars are coming, and turn on the light for me when it's dark in the hallway and I can't see.

It should be a fun year.