February 13, 2004

These Are the People in your Neighborhood

Well while I was composing the last blog entry I lost my internet connection, so that’s why I didn’t post it this morning. Not like it matters to you Californians, for whom the difference is 2 am (then) and 1 pm (now). Well those in the Eastern time zone felt the loss, I just know it.

Bad news. Our elevator is broken. Did I mention we’re on the 4th floor? Yikes. And because it’s Friday afternoon I strongly suspect we won’t get it fixed until Monday at the earliest. We’ll see. I sure hope not, because it takes a lot out of me to climb the stairs.
Update: It's fixed!

I set out to go to the pen store. Actually it’s an office supply store that sells pens, which both Kevin and I collect. Kevin collects regular fountain pens and I collect dip pens, particularly the glass ones. I have some really pretty ones in my collection. I can’t wait to set up a real home where I can display them. Anyway, the directions to the pen store seemed pretty straightforward. Go down to the Gansemarkt, the shopping and food square near the house. Take the street on the right. Follow that down until I reach the first street on the right. Take that street all the way to the pen store. No problem, right? Well I couldn’t figure it out because I took two rights and ended up on Valentinskamp, which is the street where we live. So I backed up and went down the street a little more, and took the next right. This surely was right because I was walking for a little while. Then…oops, there’s Valentinskamp again! I knew I should have taken the map with me! Anyway at that point I gave up since I was a block from home and I knew I’d have to climb the stairs. Maybe tomorrow for the pen store. On the up side, I had some more pommes (fries—and I really need a better diet but that’s all I have to courage to order for now) and ordered perfectly: “klein pommes mit kase-sauce” (small fries with cheese sauce). Don’t worry, I also had some lunch at home. (as a note, just so you’re saying it right in your head, Valentinskamp is pronounced “valen-teens-kahmp”)

More below! Just click the link.

I turned on the fernseher (television) for the first time today. Looks like the only English language available is CNN World. Well I only flipped through about 10 channels and actually found two CNNs but I’m not sure of the difference between the two. I watched some German tv for a little bit, hoping that the language would sink in. My hope is that the more I expose myself, the more I will become familiar with it. I wish there was a German equivalent of Sesame Street. Anyway, a few minutes of that was all I could stand so I watched some CNN. It seemed like they spent an inordinate amount of time discussing Africa, football (soccer, that is), and African football. Oh, and the Mattel announcement that Barbie and Ken have broken up. Frankly I was glad to not get a dose of American politics. I’m so sick of that.

I did get to check out a few more stores and restaurants around the Gansemarkt. There’s a jewelry store (and the first beggar I’ve seen in Hamburg so far!) with some luscious stuff in the window. There’s also 3 pizzerias—Pizza Hut and two German ones (they’re still called pizzerias). I’ve heard that Germans like strange things on their pizza—like tuna, so I may be going American for my pizza needs. Pizza Hut even has their all you can eat pizza buffet for lunch, just like they do in the Midwest. Not that Pizza Hut is a much better alternative than the pommes I’ve been eating. There was a flower shop with some really pretty flowers set up outside. I didn’t realize that they celebrate Valentine’s Day here in Germany, but they do it just like in the US—with lots of red rose bouquets. There are 2 English language schools within a few blocks of each other. Must be big business. I know the German language school is nearby but I haven’t ventured over there yet. There was also an “American Bar” (that’s what it was called) which looked like a German bar to me. The sign gave it away—“Happy Hour 16:00-20:00.” No real American bar would be caught dead with a 24 hour clock (military excepted). There was another restaurant with “American” in the name, which I can’t remember offhand, but it purported to be a “Piano Bar.” I couldn’t help but sing Billy Joel—“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man. Sing us a song tonight.” We’ll have to check that out. I’m dying to see if they have a lounge singer.

Oh darn it, I just remembered that I’d intended to buy some fresh mini-baguettes at the bakery for dinner tonight. I knew there was something nagging me.

Our next door neighbors just walked by on our shared patio. It was a little strange because I have all of the curtains open and the patio is not large. It was a man and a woman and I looked up and the woman smiled and waved. I know Europeans have a different definition of privacy—they don’t care as much and aren’t as prude as we Americans. I like our apartment windows because we look out onto the wall and roof of the building next door, so I can keep the curtains open for the light and still walk around naked. Not that I make it a habit to walk around naked, but I can if I want to.

Frau Kural, my German teacher back at community college in San Jose, used to tell a story about German nudity and her sister. I know it’s true that in Europe people have a much more casual attitude about nudity. Any visit to a European beach will show you that. So anyway, Frau Kural’s sister was visiting her from Germany. Now Cupertino, where Frau Kural lives, is very much not Germany. Her sister had just gotten out of the shower and was changing in her room, curtains open, when the young Vietnamese gardener walks by. The sister, totally unclothed, throws open the window and shouts “Hallo!” Frau Kural says the gardener ran off and never returned. Boy, those Germans sure are friendly, hunh?

Posted by Shelby at February 13, 2004 12:17 PM

I love reading about your adventures in Hamburg, especially the experiences of you and Scout! I'm a beagle-owner as well and I can't wait to travel to Europe someday, so this allows me to live vicariously. Glad you're having such a smooth transition! :-)

Posted by: Annastazia at February 13, 2004 07:35 PM
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