Today was quite the day

I’m not normally one to complain (ahem) but today really took the piss. It actually started yesterday with monsoon-like rain all day, which instantly flooded the city causing major traffic delays, flooded U-Bahn stations, knee-deep water in some buses, building evacuations and, because it’s Berlin, people swimming down major streets and being pulled along in dinghies while drinking beer.

I’m not exaggerating

A storm in German is “Sturm” or “Gewitter” – a really bad storm is called “Unwetter” which, in English, would be unweather. Obviously this makes no sense at all as it’s actually ALL the weather in one go and not even remotely unweather. But hey, German…

This morning, expecting delays, I set off for my lesson a bit earlier than usual, grimly plodding through the drizzle. The bus showed up and dropped me off at the U-Bahn station. What should have been a simple ten-minute ride was made impossible by the fact that around six stations along the way were closed due to flooding. This was one of them.

So I travelled two stops, got off, got on the replacement bus and waited while another 100 people squeezed their soggy selves in. The problem with that is that the doors don’t close when people are in the way of the sensors so other passengers were yelling at people to get off at each stop; one man’s beer belly held us up for a good five minutes.

The BVG (Berlin Transport Company) representative had “reliably” informed me that the bus was going all the way to Zoo, one stop past where I had to go. But no, the driver stopped at another U-Bahn station along the way claiming that the U-Bahn was running again. She kicked us all off, down we went and no, stupid cow, the U-Bahn was not running.

By this time, I was already half an hour late so I had no choice but to cancel my lesson. I waded across the road and actually managed to squeeze into a replacement taxi. Yes, things were so bad that the BVG were transporting people using TAXIS. Then it was back on the U-Bahn, back on the bus and, finally, home. It had taken me almost 2.5 hours to achieve absolutely nothing and end up back where I started.

I wrote a scathing email to the BVG and consoled myself with the thought that I had a nice evening with my friend to look forward to – preferably with excess amounts of whiskey. Shortly afterwards, he messaged to say that he wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel. My opera singing neighbour started up and I contemplated justifiable homicide.

Still, I had to calm myself down as I had another lesson to go to this afternoon. I had carefully checked to make sure that the S-Bahn was running normally and set off. I got to the station right on time only to see the three words that every German dreads – Zug fällt aus. My train had “fallen out” and the next one wasn’t until 11 minutes later.

Argh!

A torrent of swear words, a bit like the torrents of rain, ensued. I sent my student a message telling her I’d be a few minutes late. She was actually happy enough as she’d ordered cake and would now have time to eat it. Nothing makes a German happier than coffee and cake.

After walking up the stairs (because of a broken escalator) and being accosted by a rude beggar, I eventually made it to the lesson. While I spoke flawless German, the barista insisted on answering in English – which resulted in him receiving a von Grady growl. It started raining halfway through the lesson and by the time I left, it was more unweather.

The town that I’d left just a couple of hours earlier was now a swimming pool. My boots weren’t quite up to the challenge and I squelched my way home, as engulfed in misery and self-pity as my feet were in water.

How it looked when I was swimming home
How it looked 30 minutes after I’d got home…

Grrr.

Manfredas: Hey, do you fancy dinner at the Surf Inn? 

Me: Yeah, sure. 

Manfredas: As long as it isn’t flooded. But I guess then we could “surf in”.

Me: Too soon…

A bum deal

I’ve been having a problem with very dry, itchy skin on my bum for a while now. When my self-thought-up treatment plan – scratching and hoping – didn’t seem to be yielding any results, I knew it was time to see a doctor.

While I’m a fan of men looking at my bottom in general, in this case, I thought a lady doctor would be infinitely better so I emailed a couple of Frauenärztin. Boom – I managed to get an appointment only a week and a half later. That’s practically five minutes in German time. I filled the nine days by scratching and sitting on one butt cheek – time well spent.

On the morning in question, I walked into the surgery where the jolly receptionist handed me a form to fill in. I took a seat in the waiting room beside a couple of terrified-looking dads-to-be and examined the form. Name, address, date of birth, how often and how long my period is – no problems there.

Height in metres: 

Um. No idea. I wasn’t sure that “the same height as Kylie Minogue” would be exact enough for a German doctor so I took a stab at it.

Weight in kilograms: 

Even less idea. 85? Sounds reasonable. Yeah, let’s put that down.

Why you’re here today: 

“Problem mit…” Was “Arsch” an appropriate word to use on a German form? Deciding it probably wasn’t, I hit up Google for some options – “Hintern” seemed to tick the boxes. In it went. I handed the form back to the receptionist and waited to be called. A diminutive woman in her late fifties or early sixties announced “Frau Ogg-rah-dee” and in I went.

She took one look at me and started chuckling. Could she see my Arschproblem just from the way I was walking?

Doc: Bah haha! I expected you to be a little bigger! Why did you write 85 kilos? You’d be like this… (imitates a fat person waddling around the room)

Me: ‘Cos I’m Irish and have no idea about the metric system?

Doc: Hee hee hee. What part of Ireland? 

Me: Dublin. 

Doc: My daughter went to university there – I love Ireland. 

Me: Great! 

Doc: So, I see you have a problem with your Popo. 

Me: Popo…! (keels over laughing) 

So, it seemed that Popo was the term favoured by German doctors. Fine by me.

She directed me towards an examination chair in the corner and I took off my jeans and knickers. Feeling a bit like a half-plucked chicken, I hopped up onto the chair, spread my legs and put my feet on the pads. The height of elegance. The doctor proceeded to poke around in my bumly quarters.

Doc: Oh, ganz schlimm, ganz schlimm… (Very bad, very bad…)

Me: Ganz schlimm? 

Doc: Oh ja. Ganz schlimm. 

Me: I wish you’d stop saying that. 

Doc: Aber es ist wirklich ganz schlimm. 

Me: Am I going to lose my Popo? 

Doc: Ha haha! NEIN! Aber es ist wirklich ganz schlimm. 

Me: Please stop saying that. 

Doc: Have you had any other medical problems lately?

Me: Well, I had very dry skin on my hands during the winter…

Doc: Could be related. (Does this woman think I sit around tickling my bum in my free time?) Do you eat a lot of oranges? 

Me: No. Oh, but I am having a love affair with blood orange juice.

Doc: Could also be related. 

Me: Huh, I thought that would be healthy? You know, Vitamin C and all? 

Doc: Yes. 

Me: Erm…

After examining whatever she had scraped from my Popo under a microscope and pronouncing it to be “ganz schlimm” and some sort of bacterial infection, she gave me a prescription for two creams – one to be used twice a day and the other whenever I felt like it.

Me: But is there a particular number of times a day I should use it? 

Doc: NEIN. Schmieren, schmieren, schmieren (smear, smear, smear), whenever and wherever you like. 

Me: So, maybe in the U-Bahn? 

Doc: Ha ha ha! Well, maybe not in the U-Bahn. 

Me: “Don’t mind me, fellow passengers. I’m just schmieren my Popo. Schmieren, schmieren, schmieren. Doctor’s orders.”

Doc: Ha haha! 

I was probably the most fun the woman had that day.

Anyway, you’ll be glad to hear that I’ve been schmieren away like a demon and my poor Popo is finally on the mend. And if I could give you a word of advice, remember that when it comes to your bum, schmieren is carin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking shit. Literally.

On Monday, I got rained into a bar – my worst nightmare, as you can imagine. However, I really did mean to stay for just one but then the heavens opened. Google had (oh so reliably) informed me that there was a 0% chance of precipitation that day, so I’d set off in a summer dress and flip-flops, without any of the all-weather paraphernalia the Germans are famous for.

While a lot of people might look at this as a fail on my part, these people clearly do not know me very well. First of all, it was a chance to confuse a whole new set of Berlin pub regulars with my intoxicating Irish accent. Second of all, a trip to the bathroom provided unexpected gold. (“Really, Linda? Toilets again?” I hear you groan.)

Gold.

Now, I’m all for “WC” signs throughout the establishment directing me towards the floodgate unleasher, but never have I seen a “WC” sign directly above the loo. Maybe this was the kind of pub where people got so drunk there was a chance they might mistake the sink/floor for the toilet? Or maybe the local clientele just weren’t that bright to begin with? There were no signs over the bin or the sink but I guess it’s not so important if you miss those…

Anyway, I figured out from the clever signage that the WC was, in fact, the toilet. I’m a smart cookie…

As I approached, I noticed the little picture on the toilet lid. I rubbed my eyes. Nope, the glass of wine hadn’t gone to my head – it really was a poo in a speech bubble. But what could it mean? I started coming up with some ideas:

  • Feel free to talk shit here?
  • Let your poo do the talking?
  • If I were a turd, what would I say…?
  • Poo has the right to freedom of speech?
  • A poo is worth a thousand words?

The only talking poo I’d ever seen was on South Park so this was a bit of a mystery to me. I’m shit out of ideas so does anybody else have any? Is this some kind of German thing I’ve never heard of? Answers on a postcard (i.e. in the comments below).

 

Pee-Pal

One night, Manfredas and I were sitting in the local bar. (I must stop starting posts like this…) Anyway, after a while, Ulf showed up and the three of us started chatting.

Me: (Something absolutely hilarious and witty)

Manfredas: I need to pee.

Ulf: Oh, so do I. You go first.

Manfredas: No, you go first.

Ulf: No, you. 

Manfredas: No, you.

Me: For the love of all that’s holy – why don’t you just go together??

Manfredas & Ulf: NEIN!

Me: Why not? 

Ulf: Because we know each other. 

Me: But that’s just stupid. So, what, just because you know each other’s names, you can never go to the toilet together? 

Manfredas & Ulf: JA! 

Ulf: It might be OK for women to go to the bathroom together but not for men.

Me: I never go to the toilet with other women but whatever. So, if you don’t know the other guy’s name, it’s OK? 

Manfredas: Exactly. You know my brother-in-law, Lamprecht?

Me: Yes…

Manfredas: Well, we could never, EVER, go to the toilet together. 

Me: And your dad?

Manfredas: NIEMALS! 

Me: But I just don’t get it. I mean, you shower with your hockey or football team and everyone has their dangly bits on display.

Manfredas: Totally different. 

Me: Erm… Because there’s nothing coming out of the willies at the time? Is that the rule?

Manfredas: (looking like he wants the earth to open up and swallow him)

Me: So, every guy in this bar is just looking at who’s going into the toilet so that they don’t accidentally end up in there with someone whose name they know? 

Ulf: Pretty much. Crap, Werner has just gone in. We’ll both have to wait. 

Me: Germans…

 

 

 

 

Do you give up or are you Hungary for more?

Eight Hungarian men have moved into my apartment block. Thankfully, the only hot one moved into the apartment opposite mine. He has a propensity for walking around half-naked which I find pleasing. We have mildly flirtatious conversations that I can barely understand as he only speaks Hungariman. They don’t seem to go to bars but, instead, enjoy knacker-drinking on the roof of the parking garage which is just below my balcony. I feel like a bit like Juliet some nights, if Juliet had had eight Hungarian Romeos, that is.

On one such occasion, they offered me some Hungarian moonshine. (If you want to know what that tastes like, go and swig some petrol.) We all ended up at a party in one of their flats and I immediately impressed with my one word of Hungarian – “egészségedre!” Where I could have picked up the word for “cheers!” in Hungarian (and around 15 other languages) is a mystery…

Anyway, on Sunday, I decided that a major blitz of my flat was necessary. I had amassed enough paper over the last year and a half to start my own recycling plant. Five sacks of paper and general rubbish (separated, of course) sat in the hall and I proceeded to lug them down to the bins one by one. On my fourth trip, I bumped into the Hungarian who acts as an interpreter for the rest of them. He looks a bit like Chris Evans, unfortunately not the hot Hollywood one.

This one. But less smiley.
(image taken from imdb.com)

He also likes wearing socks and sandals.

He kindly unlocked the front door for me and I trudged back upstairs. I was hoping he’d have finished his cigarette by the time I went back down with bag number five but no, he was still there.

András: Wow, so much rubbish. 

Me: Ja, heute ist Putztag. 

Luckily, he hadn’t seen me schlepping down with the first three bags. He opened the door for me again and then paused on the steps.

András: Em, Linda, can I ask you something? 

Me: Sure, (whatever your name is).

András: I’m looking for someone to practise my German with and I was wondering if you’d be interested.

Me: I’m not sure I’m the right person for that job. I’m pretty sure your German is better than mine. (Educating someone on the art of the Sitzpinkel does not make you an expert on the German language; it merely means that you have a rather unhealthy fascination with the peeing habits of German men and like talking about it when you’ve been drinking Hungarian moonshine.)

András: (peering at me intensely through his black-rimmed glasses) I’d like to try though. I can cook dinner for us. Monday? 

Me: Erm, no, I can’t tomorrow. I have a pub quiz. 

András: Tuesday? 

Me: Erm, erm… Maybe. I have a late lesson though so… we’ll see. Maybe. Byeeeeeee!

On Tuesday, I arrived home, put on my slippers, spooned some beans into a saucepan and started up my laptop. I hadn’t even had time to enter the password when there was a ring at the bell. Scheiße.

Me: Oh. Hi.

András: Are you coming? 

Me: Well, I’m really tired and I’ve just got in the door. (He lives directly under me so he had obviously heard me coming home.) Would you mind if we left it for another night? 

His face fell. More.

András: But I’ve already cooked. 

Me: I’m…

András: It’s 20 minutes out of your life and I’ve already prepared everything. 

Me: (Sigh.) OK, then. 

I then flopped around the flat, sighing loudly, sulkily taking off my slippers again and angrily bunging my poor beans into the fridge. I gave the bottle of wine in there a last wistful glance and walked wearily downstairs.

When I stepped into the living room, I was comforted to see that András had his laptop on and was currently browsing a website full of terrifying-looking knives.

Me: Em, what’s that? 

András: Oh, it’s a hobby of mine. I make knives. 

Me: … Cool? 

He then opened a cupboard and proceeded to show me his collection. Just in case I wasn’t convinced by the glinting blades, he then shaved a chunk of hair off his arm to demonstrate how sharp they were. Tufts of ginger hair floated lazily to the floor.

Me: (Hmm, I wonder if I should throw myself through the window or try to make an attempt for the door…) Um, wow, impressive. Oh, is that a photo of your family?

Immediate crisis averted, we sat down to eat. To be fair, he had gone to quite a bit of effort. He’d even bought wine. I tucked into the goulash while making what I felt were appropriately appreciative noises. We chatted a bit about his family in Hungary, his work here and the joys of learning German. He pulled out the book he was using. It was quite possibly the most boring book I’d ever seen.

András: I’m using this book. 

Me: (Say something positive, say something positive) Bah hahaha! That’s probably the worst book I’ve ever seen! It’s just table after table of conjugated verbs! It’s so dry! 

András: (Peering at me over his goulash) You think your books are better than my books? 

Me: (Say no, say no) Yes, for sure. They have pictures and dialogues and useful everyday German. I can lend you a couple if you like? 

András: OK.

I polished off my goulash and got ready to make good my escape.

András: I’ll get the main course.

Crap.

He set down a plate of grilled chicken and a pot of vegetables. I refilled my glass.

Me: Mmm, this is really good, thanks. 

András: You know, I don’t want to be… wait, I don’t know the word. 

He started typing the Hungarian word into the translator app on his phone. The German word appeared letter by letter:

g-e-w-a-l-t-t-ä-t-i-g

Me: (Gulp) Violent? You don’t want to be violent? 

András: No.

Me: And are you? 

András: I don’t want to be. But when you said you didn’t want to come tonight after I’d prepared everything…

At that moment, I knew exactly how Julia Roberts had felt in “Sleeping with the Enemy”. Door it was.

Me: Well, that was delicious but I really must be going now. Thank you for dinner! 

András: Next Tuesday? 

Me: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! 

I scarpered back upstairs and gave Manfredas the abridged version over Messenger.

Manfredas: Double lock your door.

Me: Done:

Manfredas: And your balcony door.

Me: Also done. I mean, he has a wife and kids, but then, so did Fred West.

The real tragedy of the story is that I never did get around to eating the beans.

Forlorn-looking beans

 

 

Throw me a bone

Me: I accidently hit on the right verb in German class – wegwerfen – to throw away.

Manfredas: Well done! 

Me: My initial thought was “auswerfen” – to throw out – but I thought, “No, German… It has to be something else.”

Manfredas: See? You’re getting better and better. “Auswerfen” is also a verb though. It means “to output”.  “Rauswerfen” is to throw out, like to throw someone out of a bar. 

Me: Huh. That will probably come in handy. Is “einwerfen” possible?

Manfredas: Yep, to throw in. Like to throw a coin into a machine. 

Me: Oh yeah! That’s on the washing machines downstairs. Choose the programme before throwing in the coin. Can I throw in my clothes after I throw in the coin? 

Manfredas: NEIN! That would be “hineinwerfen.”

Me: (Sigh) OK. Abwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, if you’re thrown off a horse, for example.

Me: Anwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to start something up. Like a machine. 

Me: Can I anwerfen the kettle?

Manfredas: NEIN! 

Me: Verwerfen? 

Manfredas: Yep. To reject or discard something. 

Me: Zuwerfen? I’m sure this isn’t annoying for you at all…

Manfredas: Zuwerfen? Yep, it means “to toss.”

Me: Can I zuwerfen a salad?

Manfredas: NEIN! Geht gar nicht.

Me: How do I toss a salad then?

Manfredas: You don’t. 

Me: Can…

Manfredas: Before you ask, no, you can’t use it for “toss off” either. 

Me: I’m offended. I would never ask something so crass…

Manfredas: Hmm.

Me: Vorwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to accuse or blame someone. 

Me: Bewerfen?

Manfredas: Yes, to pelt.

Me: Unterwerfen?

Manfredas: Yep, to subdue.

Me: Bet you wish you could unterwerfen me but I’m going to keep going. Hinwerfen?

Manfredas: To throw something down. 

Me: Zurückwerfen?

Manfredas: Yes. To reflect or echo. 

Me: …

Manfredas: …

Me: Huh. I think I’m out. 

Manfredas: (runs for the door)

A few days later, I was with a student. I like to share the misery around so…

Me: I’ve been having great fun with “werfen” this week.

Gundula: ??

Me: You know – abwerfen, auswerfen, einwerfen, hinwerfen, verwerfen, wegwerfen…

Gundula: Ha, oh right. Yeah, Germans never really think about that. Do you have “entwerfen”?

Me: NEIN! What does that mean?

Gundula: To draft something. 

Me: Man, is there anything werfen can’t do? 

Anyway, I will never throw in the towel when it comes to this language. Incidentally, that also works – das Handtuch werfen.

And now I’m off to toss a salad. So there, Manfredas.

 

 

Be careful what you click for…

Step number 59,248 in becoming a proper German is getting yourself a .de email address. Having noticed that a lot of Germans email me from a web.de account, that’s what I decided to go for. There are two things you assume when you sign up for an email account called FreeMail:

  1. You get an email account;
  2. It is free.

I like free.

Register free!
(image taken from giga.de)

You can imagine my surprise when, a month or so later, I received an invoice (Rechnung) from web.de for around €15. Assuming (clearly very dangerous in Germany) that it was a mistake, or possibly some optional extra that I was under no obligation to pay, I deleted it. A few days later, I received another one. About a week later, I got another one and, shock horror, the amount had gone up. It seemed they were serious about this payment malarkey.

Finding it hard to believe that every German with a .de account is paying for it, I emailed my old German teacher to ask if she was paying for hers:

What!? No, I don’t pay. Maybe you accidentally agreed to open up an account where you have to pay. They could have inserted some button that you can hardly see and pressed accidentally.
I heard a similar story from a friend. You should call and complain and tell them it wasn’t your intention to open up this account.
Crap. The one thing I dislike more than making phone calls in English is making phone calls in German. I decided to take the coward’s way out and, instead, replied to the email I had received and sent another message through the Customer Service page – not easy to find. I got a confirmation that they’d received my query and waited. When, after two days, I had got no reply, I knew I’d have to bite the bullet and call. Crap. (Again.)
The telephone number is buried somewhere in the site – I guess they hope that you’ll just give up and stump up whatever it is they’re asking for.
Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I!
They hadn’t bet on the intrepidity of Frau von Grady, however. I trawled every inch of that blasted site and eventually found what I was looking for. The first victory. Amazingly, the automated system recognised my nervous muttering of my contract number – when had I signed up for a contract? – and I was put through to an actual person.
I explained the reason for my call.
Herr Helpful: Ah yes, I see that you’ve sent us two emails about this. 
Me: (Grrr.) Why, yes, yes I have. Aaaaaaanyway, I didn’t sign up for a contract, I don’t understand why I’m getting invoices and I don’t want membership to anything. I just want the FreeMail account that I registered for. 
Herr Helpful: I see. Let me just check… (tap, tap, tap)… yes, it seems that on the (insert random date) at (insert random time), you clicked on a button that activated your premium account. 
Now, because of the way web.de is set up, with things moving around the pages, pop-up ads and various buttons that appear randomly, this is actually very possible. However, as I hadn’t handed over any bank details, given a credit card number or even double-clicked to confirm, I hadn’t given it a second thought.
Me: Well, that was a mistake. I didn’t mean to click anything. All I want is the FreeMail account. 
Herr Helpful: OK, I understand. I’m cancelling your “contract” now. You won’t receive any more invoices from us. 
Me: Great, thanks. But do I have to pay the previous invoices? 
Herr Helpful: No, you don’t have to pay anything. 
Me: (Phew.) Fantastic. WAIT! Can you please send me that in writing? (Because Germany…) 
Herr Helpful: Yes, of course. You will get an email shortly. 
As I sat clicking refresh and waiting for the confirmation, I contemplated how much entertainment value the staff at web.de would get out of my “recorded for quality purposes” German over the next 90 days. The email arrived. It was over.
Yeah, right. This is Germany. The following week, I received a “Mahnung” in my inbox. This is like a final demand before things get nasty. The next day, there was one in my letterbox.
Me: What’s “on the warpath” in German? 
Manfredas: Auf dem Kriegspfad. Why?
Me: Because I’m on it. It all started a month or so ago. (Approximately four hours pass…) 
Manfredas: (Snore.)
Unwilling to waste another second of my life on the web.de automated telephone system, I decided to go down the email route again. Two extremely harsh, most likely very rude and, even more likely, in hilarious German, emails were despatched.
On day three, I received a very apologetic email saying that there had been a mistake in the system, that everything was now resolved and that I wouldn’t receive any more invoices or demands. This time I didn’t bother with a reply.
A couple of days later, I received an email asking me to rate the customer service at web.de.
I printed it out and used it to wipe my Arsch. Maybe I should send it back to them after all – if I can find their postal address…
Flying To The Stars

Adventures in Space, Time, Polyamory, and Fishing

Linda O'Grady

English-Language Services in Berlin

Are You Happy?

Inese's Blog About Family Time in England

A Note From Abroad

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

MAPAS EN MANO

Es casi como viajar gratis.

Joshi Daniel Photography

Images of People Photoblog

www.KamalaThompson.com

"Where Business Meets Humanity"

Beasty Art

"Die Kunst ist eine Tochter der Freiheit." - Friedrich Schiller

Mommy's Martini: Make It A Double

A newbie mom's journey through the eyes of her twinados

polianthus

exploring the world