Sunday, July 17, 2011

Crummy Weather

We have been having a tough time getting out to do anything lately.  It has been a combination of things, really, and it has been rather frustrating.

One part of it is that Ursula has been getting over being sick since we've gotten home from Germany.  It started as a cold, and for nearly three weeks now she has been coughing, although she is feeling a lot better these last few days.  I have also been very busy working.  I am helping to teach a course for high school teachers that is intended as a "research experience"; they essentially do a lot of heavy math to get an idea of what it looks like to be a researcher.  This has been a Monday through Friday gig, and I typically don't get home until around 2:30.

Well, I know 2:30 is not especially late in the day to go and do something, but this brings me to the most annoying factor: the damn weather.  For a week straight now, we have these nice warm days; then I get finished at school around 2 and drive home.  Without fail, the clouds have come in by 3:00 and we get pouring down rain, thunder and lightning, and who knows what else.  There have been flash flood watches for three days in a row now.  We ended up losing power the other night for about 6 hours.  Trees have been falling over in the neighborhood, and we even got hail the size of silver dollars.

Ursula's video of the hailstorm.

Today, finally, we had a nice day.  We got to check out some yard sales, which was a good excuse to just cruise around town.  We had a little rain and thunder in the evening, but not enough to spoil the day.  Hopefully we are through with the ugliness and finally have some sunshine headed our way,

Saturday, July 9, 2011

International Traveler

That's me, now! Okay, I've only been to one country, if you don't count the airports in the Netherlands and France (and I don't). Still, it's way better than having to sheepishly say, "I've sort of been to Canada, but only Vancouver."

One observation:

Watching Germans get on and off the trains made me realize that it's really not that hard to, as a society, be nominally courteous. Although the disgorging of people from the train and loading of people from the station needs to be accomplished quickly, Germans waiting to board stand aside until all the people on the train have exited before getting on. This includes people struggling with bags or strollers, old people with canes, families with small children. The only thing it didn't seem to include were people who realized belatedly that this was their stop and therefore were getting off after the initial group had already left. Other than that, though, it was the same every time: doors open, people exit, people enter, doors close, train leaves. Easy as could be, without any frustration, shoving, running into each other, chorus of "excuse me"s, or anything else besides silent efficiency.
You notice how the people who just disembarked are
all blurred and the people who are getting on the train are
just starting to move? This is how it should be done, people.
I honestly can't remember the last time (or if there was a time) when I managed to get off an elevator in the US without someone getting on nearly barreling into me the instant the doors opened. I guess we're just culturally incapable of understanding the concept of taking turns.

Next time, I'll tell you about my crash course in practical German.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happily Home Again

Well, we have made it back to Denver in one piece.  Travelling has been so much fun, but it feels incredibly good to be back in our own house, in our own country.  We spent 25 hours up and travelling, making our way through 8 time zones, and arrived totally exhausted and jet lagged.  It was a crazy trip, and got to see and experience so much.

Munich was a beautiful city, with lots of old churches, gates, towers, etc.  Ursula took some great pictures, and I'm sure will be posting a lot of them over the next week or so.  But a big part of the experience was the culture;  this was definitely a place where things were done differently than what we are used to.  The feel of the sidewalks was the first major shock.  These were dangerous places; people move fast and purposefully, and will mow you down if you are in their way.  I walk quickly, but I still had to watch out.  Plus there are bikes.  They have their own sidewalk lanes, but they haul ass and will weave in with the people.  Last but not least are the cars.  Yes, on the sidewalk.  I lost count of the times a car drove up on the sidewalk to get around an obstacle in the street and nearly took us out.  We really learned to pay attention to everything around us; it was a matter of survival.

The other major difference was the restaurants, both in terms of the service and customs, and the food that was served.  At most of the restaurants, you are expected to seat yourself.  We did not realize this on the first night, and were basically treated as if we were stupid when we asked.  After some awkward moments, we found ourselves at a table and ready to order; we had a little food glossary to figure out the German menus.  When that turned out not to be enough, we got an English version of the menu.  I ordered a beer from the menu that I thought I would like.  The waitress looks at me and asks if I know what it is;  I thought I did, but all of a sudden I wasn't so sure.  She struggles for a minute trying to explain what the deal was, then basically says if I don't know what it is, then I don't want it.  In other words, "very special Bavarian" beer, language that seems to be used frequently to mean "it's gross but we like it; you won't".  After ordering a normal beer, we both ordered pork to eat (it was either that or veal; if you are vegetarian, fuhgidaboudit).  So we got to choose if we wanted red or white sauerkraut; then she pauses and asks if we want it at all, or if we even like it.  I've got to say, I've never had red sauerkraut but we decided to give it a go.  It was actually pretty interesting; sort of vinegary, sweet; not like what I picture as sauerkraut.  We couldn't eat the whole bowl, but the waitress seemed impressed that we ate it at all.  It was like magic, suddenly she was friendly, and offering us some apple strudel.  And damn was that shit good.

Pork, dumplings, and sauerkraut.  A true Bavarian supper.

And some serious fucking strudel.
All in all, it was a very cool trip.  Dealing with the different culture was exhausting after a while, as was the Bavarian food.  I probably won't eat pork for a month after all of that.  We are happily back in our own apartment, cooking for ourselves, and the next adventure can wait for a little while.