Friday, January 11, 2008

Simple touches from home

There are always things that remind people of home. Being away from home also makes me greatly appreciate and miss those things. American peanut butter, Take 5 candy bars, Panera, ranch dressing, Mexican food (that doesn't have carrots, yogurt sauce, or a salsa that tastes like marinara sauce) are a few examples. Those are some of my simple pleasures.

I have also been delighted to find out reminders of home can come in the most unlikely of places- like a letter or package from home. Julie just sent me a book about Munich from 1972 (when Munich hosted the Olympics). Complete with maps before the wonderful subway system was completed.

I also got a great reminder in the shape of real live people! People that know my hometown and that are able to understand where I came from. Suddenly when I mention a restaurant or store it is understood. You forget how nice that is not to explain things.

Imagine my excitement when one of my old co-workers said she had two friends who were moving to Munich. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays has died down I was finally able to meet Brock + Manuel. I think from the moment I met them we didn't stop talking. But it wasn't idle chat to fill a void, it was as if I had known them for ages. We walked around town and I showed them a few of my favorite places, like the secret place I buy books, and our favorite neighborhood restaurant called Memo.

Being able to share observations about the peculiar German oddities, that now seem a bit commonplace, is also such a delight. We see things through similar eyes.

This is one of my favorite signs, located at the Englischer Garten near the Chinesischer Turm. It says 'Don't bring your dog into the bathroom, leave it here please'.

We talked about- the shelf toilet, living in the most expensive city in Germany, the built to last mentality, buying your kitchen (even if you live in an apartment), the bureaucracy, and how Germans follow rules to a T. I hope they didn't get bombarded with information from me. I loved hearing about their experiences and I am so proud of them for tackling so much head on.

They also reminded me of embarrassing situations, where you realize you have to make an ass out of yourself from time to time in order to learn. It's always funny to look back and remember. And to remind myself I'm still learning a lot.

A few favorites:
Our early days in Frankfurt - wandering the city and simply stumbling upon things. I remember being so proud of myself for using German on my own at the cheese counter and getting what I wanted.

The 'trager' incident, where the lady at the grocery got mad at me for not knowing I had to pay for the drink carrier.

The shelf toilet, as mentioned above. Even for men the saying is 'nicht spritzen - sitzen' meaning if you don't want your urine to splash off the shelf, you must sit. I've yet to find one person who can tell me why they have shelf toilets. Some have water in the back, while others have it at the very front. You can read more about that on 'Spielboy' (literally translated to play boy, but having nothing to do with the US magazine.)

The his and hers bedding and even beds. And people wonder why the German birth rate is on the decline.

Setting off a sensor at another grocery, because my shirt had a sensor in it that I had forgot to cut out.

Buying dry baby wipes and thinking they were tissues. (In all fairness it was Kleenex brand and said with aloe).

Butchering German and telling Stephanie to say 'los' rather than 'zum mit nehmen' (move it, as opposed to 'to go', when ordering a coffee.) She said they were definitely talking about her and her coffee came in a mug, not a 'to go' cup.

I love having new people that renew my outlook on Munich and this German life, particularly when they are as great as Brock + Manuel.

It will be great to see what other surprises 2008 has in store!

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