Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wacky Week-end

Over a bridge in the city center.

Couchsurfing has taken over my life. There was a meeting in Maastricht on Friday and I thought I'd stay for 2 or 3 hours and then head back to Aachen the same evening because I had to catch a car-sharing thing to Düsseldorf early in the morning. We left the disco at about 4AM. I slept for 2 hours, got the bus back to Aachen at 7:15AM, and went to Düsseldorf as a very exhausted young lady.

Some items in the Düsseldorf Markt.

My drivers of my car-share (okay, only one was driving) were two young guys heading to some sort of huge business conference. What are they called? Similar to how those college things work with all the booths and smoozing. Well, basically I was surrounded by hundreds of businessmen for about the first 20 minutes of arriving in Düsseldorf. I felt a bit out of place because whereas all these men looked well-dressed and successful, I looked as if I'd been out clubbing all night. I'm not gonna lie, I reveled in the absurdity of it all. It was certainly a fitting feeling as it is reknown for being one of the poshest cities in Germany.

People being liberal. There's a campfire in the "R".

My Couchsurfing host was beautiful as were the two days I spent there. I sat on the Rein River, enjoyed some beer, ate good curry, then on Sunday a friggin' shit ton of vegan food at a punk potluck. Nipped a neat cookzine off it as well.
Kola made in Hamm, Germany. Real good. Taken at vegan potluck.

the very posh Konigsallee
There's plenty more where that came from on my flickr

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring in Liège!

I went to Liège, Belgium over the week-end for a Couch Surfing meeting and it was fantastic!!! Les Liègious did a very good job organizing. I drove there with a couple of Aachen CSers and a British man from Liverpool. I with the Brit and and Italian in the former's old skool ambulance, converted camper van. He told us that he'd done the back part for all of €50. Way to recycle!

I ran into a CS couple that had hosted me when I visited Brussels last fall. They'd been participating in this freeze thing in the Brussels central station. (Over 100 people!) There they ran into another CSer who was heading to Liège, so after it was finished, they hopped on a train and came along. I ended up going to dinner with them and the other Brussels posse before the disco.

Former host on the left. British woman from Brussels on the right.

There was a Disco party on Saturday night. About 75 people came, which made for some good fun. I had to leave early, though, because my host lived outside of Liège with her parents and her father had to pick us up at midnight. One of the organizers had paired me with her because I'm an experienced CSer and she had never hosted before. The organizer didn't know that we'd have to leave so soon, but I was cool with it. My host was sweet and only spoke French = plus on language skills.

I wish I'd been there for this...

... and this.

Some people did get dressed for the disco.

Midday Sunday we all went to the Liège market. There, you can find everything there from cactuses to peacocks and florecent underwear to fireworks. I'll post pictures of that when I get them.
Geese for sale at the market.

All of us after visiting the Sunday Market.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I can watch YouTube now

It's been months (it feels) since I've been able to watch that worthless nonsense and I feel satiated. On the other hand, it kept me from translating these French letters into English, which I told a friend I'd do. I suck.

Today in German class I got all angry and self-pitying for not being able to figure out this one excersise. And of course I have to project stuff like that out on others, so when the woman next to me tried to help, I just snapped at her. Poor thing, victim of my temper.

I bought a huge workbook after class today with new, brighter hopes of improvement. It's no less than 500 pages, I'm sure and will not be worth the whole €11.20 I spent on it unless I do every single last excersise. Maybe I should thing of it like: Every excersise is a step towards ex-patriotism, which is a step against Bush, which, of course, is a step toward gay and lesbian rights in the armed services... or have I lost track?

Going to Liège, Belgium this week-end for a CouchSurfing meeting this week-end. I'm asking this elderly couple to host me. They should be sweet and fun. For the meeting I'm supposed to dress up like a disco queen. I don't think that's happening. Week-end after I'll go to Dusseldorf for a vegan brunch and follow it up with a ballet! How cool is that?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wine Tasting

I slept over at a friend's last night so in the AM we could go join some people for breakfast. We woke up to rain and a walk to be made across the city. I didn't have a jacket. Breakfast was nice; it was followed by a wine tasting in the city center. A French friend got me and some other kids hooked up with free invitations. I'm pretty sure that I was sampling some €100 bottles as well as some very high quality mustards (including fig and beer flavored mustards!).

I mostly hung out with a Japanese girl, who was fantastically and unabashedly inquisitive. We chatted a bit with the sellers at several tables and they cheerily refilled our glasses. One of the brand promoters shared with us how he viewed different nationalities described their wines. The Germans: very precise and analytical. It has this much sugar content and this much acidity. The French: very philosophical. Like a taste is more of a fashion of perseption. The Italians: like a woman.

One particularly remarkable wine that I recall was something like an "oak fruit" or the like. Sort-of a nutty, berry taste? It was cool. At the sampling tables, I would be given a list of their wines and their descriptions, but they abbreviated the descriptive words, I think, so trocknen, or "dry," had... just something else by it. Basically a lot of fancy wine terms in German, so something I already knew little about might as well have been written in Chinese. I played tag-along and did a lot of, "I'll have what she's having!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I am so proud of me!

After studying with the girls for a while on Friday, I went out with my Alabamian friend to help her show her parents a bit of the city. They'd just flown over. They seemed like a pretty classy pair: the father, a southern gentleman with a hefty vocabulary in words that I would not share with my grandmother; the mom, poor thing, jet lagged and suffering from motion sickness, and Amanda, who was a little stressed for the remarkably calm girl that she is, trying to make it all perfect for them. I had a fun time, but later I realized that I shouldn't've spoken so much German at stores and whatever because Amanda had wanted to show her parents that she'd learned something. Woops. Me and my big mouth.

Everyone was outside today.

In the evening I went to a party where I spoke mostly German and some French, which I realized has really gone down the drain. There was beer and very nice people. It was good.

This morning I got up early and met some people to go to the Lindtt Factory. (Yes, I plan on mailing some souvenirs.) The nationalities were Indonesian, Polish, Turkmenistanish, and of course, yours truly, the not-so-typical American. We were all speaking terrible German together, but I'm sure it was good practice. Afterward I took the girl from Turkmenistan around. She seemed to be only interested in shopping, so I took her to some neat, small, expensive stores. Neither of us were intending to buy anything.

It was nice weather.

Now I'm home and I should probably go out again (A friend of mine offered to teach me some guitar today.), but I think I may just have a coffee, pull out Six Feet Under, (maybe!) study German, then perhaps have a walk before it gets dark. The fam is off in Dienslagen, so I haven't got a single worry!

In sum= Rachel+socializing+foreign languages= I have succeeded in something.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Basically searching for something to post about...

Today in my Deutschkurs we practiced listening to texts and answering questions about the text. We'll have to do excerises like this on the upcoming government exam. I did terribly bad. Well, a passing mark, but barely. I was so jealous of all these people that can't speak German worth a damn, but have lived here for 15 years or whatever, so they had no trouble with the questions. The woman next to me told me that it was "sehr leicht," or, very easy. She comes from Afghanastan, but has been living here for 13 years. A friend on my other side got all the same ones incorrect, so that made me feel better. This is the about the 50th time I've said it, but I really do need to get my ass down and study more.

Tomorrow I'm meeting a couple girls to study. One of them, from Turkmenistan, can't speak English, so that'll help us stick to German, which is always good. Another of the girls that will be joining is the aforemetioned Ingrid, from Mexico. It so rare to meet a friendly person in Deutschland; nice, yes, but friendly? Not so often. Speaking with Ingrid today was so refreshing. We southerners need to stick together.

Today is a gourgeous day. Another rarity for Deutschland and especially this area. I'm opening up all the windows and trying to get active. I need to....

1) Clean my room. It needs a deep cleansing.
2) Get my health and fitness into a better place.
3) Work on new job stuff.
4) Study German.
5) Sew some things.
6) Organize now and future financial status.
7) Find a place to live.

Honestly, what is wrong with my motivation levels? Right now I think it's the quiet before the storm. I ought to get as much as I can out of the way before it gets too overwhelming. Espically considering how much free time I have, it's really no excuse. Maybe now that I've blogged about it, I'll feel like I have to get something done.

And because I feel like there should be a photo included:
A flower arrangement I made.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

An Iraqi, a Mexican and an American walk into a bar...

This isn't a cheezy joke, it's for realz. My first day in my Deutsch course, we learn about these things called "Relativsätze." Basically you apply some nitpicky grammar to a case where you're talking about a thing indirectly, but the grammar is beside the point. Our teacher instructed us to practice the Relativsätze by creating questions for a quiz. (ex: "Who is the model that moderates Germany's Next Top Model?") We would form them on the subjects of geography, sport, gossip and politics.

I was grouped with two people that had not been in the previous courses that I'd taken at the school, so naturally I asked their names and where they were from. The girl answered with a smiling face, "Ich heiße Ingrid und ich komme aus Mexico." The young man, whose name escapes me, answered that he was from Iraq. Ingrid then took her turn to inquire as to what my origin was. I could feel my cheeks blush as I answered, "Von den U.S.A." I'm not sure if they felt that the following pause was awkward, but I did. I felt embarassed and hoped to goodness that they wouldn't think ill of me.

"Well," I started to tell them,"we're all together in politics, so we might as well start off with that." Ingrid laughed and the young man from Iraq said, "Good idea. Let's start with that."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I would not challenge me to a BBQ Tofu Contest

Do you know that song "Nuclear War" by Yo La Tengo? A BBQ Tofu Contest with me would be like that. At the end of it all, you could kiss your ass goodbye goodbye.

But this isn't about contests, is it? Now that we've affirmed the true victor, it certainly isn't. You all can make your own, less worthy bbq tofu as well. I got mine from a jar in our basement, but I had to check the ingredients first because bbq sauce isn't always vegan. It would've been tastier, though, had I made my own. If you want to DIY, just add about equal portions of molasses, vinegar (I'd go for brown rice, but apple cider would be fine too), tomato paste (maybe a little more of it than the other things), agave nectar or brown sugar... and flavor it up with some fresh herbs, garlic, salt, and a bit o' cayenne peppah.

Mmmm... globs of bbq sauce.... I feel like Homer Simpson!

I blanched some tofu, cubed it up, threw it in a bag with my bbq marinade, then let it sit for a while. I'd think at least an hour up to overnight. Then, take your tofu out of the marinade and toss it with some corn starch. Corn starch makes the outside crispy when you fry it. I'm sure that there are other, possiblly better things to do, but that's my old stand-by. I just pan fried mine until it was kind of charred. Serve it alongside a nice whole grain and a side of garlicy greens.

Too close for comfort?