Making a Haus a Heim

I have a simple excuse for not writing this week: words fail me.  Really.  I don’t know enough German to communicate in any meaningful way, but this constant straining to remember German words pushes those pesky English words into some unknown recess of my mind, thus suspending me in some strange language limbo.  But then again, I suppose I knew this would happen weeks ago when I named this blog, so I can’t complain, I just have to deal.  And pretend like I know what’s going on, and hope “Ja, hoffentlich,” answers whatever question I might be asked.  It’s a funny feeling to understand only the gist of what’s happening around me – and I don’t want any, “But Lori, you’re oblivious in English-speaking countries, so you should be used to this, wocka wocka wocka” crap from you.  Another excuse for not posting: I don’t have internet.

But bypassing orientation in Altenberg (it was fine, albeit exhausting) and moving full-speed ahead to Bingen:

I have a dreary little flat.  There’s no other way to put it: one light bulb encased in a cheap paper shade suspended from the middle of the ceiling; two windows in the back too far out of reach to open all the way and too high to see out of; no heat source as far as I can tell; a kitchen faucet that doesn’t always turn off (which is admittedly better than my original predicament, which was that my kitchen faucet provided no water); and as of yet, very little furniture.  No furniture means no surface area, no surface area means clutter, clutter means an unwelcoming little space.  This, furthered by my lack of means of communication, makes me feel like hermit in a cave – worse, a squatter in a cave, seeing as I have had no contact with a landlord, and have not so much as glimpsed a lease agreement.

Still, in an impressive display of optimism, I know this phase too shall pass.  I cooked breakfast for myself for the first time today (an aside: did you know eggs are not refrigerated over here?), and even as I ate it on the floor, I knew that eventually, I’ll be eating on a table.  I turned on a pre-downloaded episode of This American Life (an aside: did you know that “download” is also a verb in German, and can be conjugated as such? The past participle is downgeloadet.  Same goes for “google.”), and knew that eventually, I’ll have internet, and my little flat will soon be filled with familiar and comforting voices: friends and family and boyfriend via Skype, Ira Glass, Click and Clack.  I’ll get a bike, get over my cold, find a grocery store/laundromat/post office, and figure out where that gosh-darned key to my mailbox is, and everything will be coming up roses, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

And this place does have quite a bit going for it.  I’ve started to get to know the area, and it is very, very beautiful.  My half-hour walk from my

View of Bingen

neighborhood, Büdesheim, into Bingen is an enjoyable one: the majority of it is spent walking between the river Nahe and an impossibly steep slope covered in vineyards.  The Bingen Innenstadt, the inner city, is a pedestrian-only zone full of friendly little shops and open squares perfect for strolling

Bingen Innenstadt

around while eating hazelnut ice cream.  This area opens up to the Rhine and an extensive boardwalk, where you can watch the ferries and the barges pass on the river, and the swans flap up to you expecting you to fork over whatever food you might have on your person.  This area was especially boisterous this weekend, as there was a wine festival going on, and so in the evening, it was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with Bacchic revelers bobbing to bands playing music you might hear on your local “80’s, 90’s and today” station, or to my personal favorite, a band playing “Bluegrass Musik.”  There was a row of carnival rides too, many of which showcased murals of poorly-rendered airbrushed Disney characters and paintings of risqué women, showing entirely too much derriere for a kid’s bumper car ride (why I suddenly have this ominous feeling that the next hit rap song will feature the line “Girl, back that bumper car up,” I don’t know).

Büdesheim itself is a residential little area chock-full of crazy architecture (see below) and awash in seemingly unnecessary commercial space: if you’re ever in need of a choice of travel agencies, shoe makers, or the HairFree Institut Bingen, boy, have I ever got the place for you.

The nutso house across the street

And that, for the time being, is all the news from Bingen, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children speak German way, wuh-hey better than I do.

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11 responses to “Making a Haus a Heim

  1. I love you, and I love this post. We need to visit soon. Props on the NPR references.

  2. Eggs are a funny thing. In America, we have the notion that eggs need to be refrigerated. Even in the natural food stores, they keep them there. But when I was in Thailand they kept them unrefrigerated. In fact, when you walked into a grocery store there were pallets-PALLETS of eggs with thousands of eggs in the middle of the aisles. Crazy. I wonder how many other countries do this?

    If your German is bad, I can’t wait to get to Germany!!! With the trip only a few months away, I have just an itsy bitsy understanding of the language. Bern keep pressuring me to learn more… and I guess I’m going to have to get on it!

    The wine country sounds wonderful! I was just talking to a guy from Northern Germany about where you were… I’ve been looking at pictures of all the estates, and I’m eager to go! Huzzah. What did you try at the festival. I read that Germany’s best red grape is the Pinot Noir…but it’s not called that there. I think it would be really rare to try one in in America… so I’ll have to find one when I’m in Germany.

    Have fun, I hope the wrinkles smooth out for you. Get some furniture 🙂 (Do they have Craigslist in Germany?)

    • Whatevs Jeremy, my German is going to be pristine next time we meet. I haven’t had too many wines – mostly novelty wines, really: Eiswein and weinschorle. I did try one, a Kerner (which I had never heard of), and really enjoyed it.

      I do have a desk now, and believe you me, it is so, so nice to have a surface. A room with a view has nothing on a room with a table.

      (craigslist.de… it exists.) 🙂

  3. I, too, was taken aback by the eggs. Also, while baking the other day I cracked 5 eggs from a supermarket carton and 4 of them (FOUR!) had double yolks!

    Miss you, hope for your sake and ours that you sort out your Internet (and all other necessities) smoothly. Sounds like an adventure already xxx

  4. No heat source? Ok, this worries me a bit.

  5. Refrigerating eggs must be a weird US thing. They’re not refrigerated in South America either.

    Who needs heat? That’s what peppermint schnapps is for.

  6. Glad you have Ira to keep you company for the time being!

  7. Hey Lori – hang in there. I’ve told about a million people that my daughter is in Germany trying to teach English to German students. Maybe I should say it sideways and say my daughter is trying to learn German while teaching English. Mom and I spent the first summer after we left college with folding lawn chairs in the living room. The scenery wasn’t nearly as pristine as what you’re got. We had crows and mosquitoes instead of swans. Good luck with the furniture. Do we need to ship you a coat yet?

    • I’m hanging, Dad – and if it’s any consolation, my furniture isn’t any better than folding chairs, and you probably had a better kitchen. Plus, you had mom around, which makes things a lot easier. 🙂 The language thing is definitely a two-way street; several of the teachers have told me (in the nicest way possible) that they’re only going to speak to me in German, which is both scary and necessary. Coats aren’t necessary quite yet, but it won’t be too too much longer before I’ll need them, if it’s not too much trouble. Thanks for everything! Hope we can talk soon!

  8. Today I stopped by Boulevard Bread and bought a can of San Pellegrino Lemon flavored water. I was hoping it was the same stuff we conned our MSM classmates out of in that restaurant in Italy (it wasn’t). You know, before you and I ate that chocolate cake that nearly did us in?

    Sounds to me like refrigerated eggs and multiple light bulbs are just icing on the passport cake.

    Fingers crossed you find some internet!

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