Friday, February 26, 2010

America, Here I Come

It's official - my flight home is booked! I fly into Richmond, VA, on March 23 and fly out of Roanoke April 7. I will be visiting Richmond, Blacksburg, Atlanta, and HOPEFULLY Ohio to see Julia (REALLY crossing my fingers that works out).

While I'm away, the girls will be taking care of the dogs (a long daily walk since Alex works long hours) and Alex will be taking care of the Air Force. Unfortunately, he is too busy to come with me.

I am SO looking forward to seeing all my friends and family :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wurm Alert

Today, on our morning walk, Boston had some abnormality (I'll leave the disgusting details're welcome). Unfortunately, she has worms - that is for certain. The vet on base could not fit us in for over a week and to treat her, required a stool sample. Ew. I was worried about her going so long with medicine AND was not thrilled about the stool sample. I decided to take my matter to the Germans.

Went home, googled, “Tierartze Trier,” (animal doctor in Trier) and turns out, there was one only 7km away, a MUCH closer alternative to base. I called, only after looking up how to converse my problem. The tierartze spoke very little English - my extra work came in handy! I got my point across after speaking Gerglish (a conglomeration of English & German) and immediately went in to pick up the meds. No stool sample required – success! After a minor mix-up with Boston’s weight (I always give it in pounds, not kilograms), I learned it is pretty likely Riva has the same thing. I bargained the tierartze down to buy one, get one half off, something I could NEVER have done on base! So, not only did I get an immediate medication, I didn’t have to take Boston in for an appointment (no appointment fee – frei!), didn’t have to drive all the way to base, didn’t have to collect a stool sample OR pay for the testing of it. I am loving the German way more and more everyday.

Living in Blacksburg for forever, it's always been who you know. Here, it's a different story. It's not who you know, it's how much of the German language you know. While my skill-set is minimal at best, a small vocabulary learned mainly from Rosetta Stone and additional pronunciation practice and confidence from my German class, I knew just enough to make it through another German adventure. Keep ‘em coming.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tomato/Tomato, Potato/Potato, and other Pronunciation Frustrations

Pronunciation Frustration Einz: “Shootin Abend:” To make a long story short on how this instance even came about, a waitress taught me that it is not proper to say Guten Abend, when leaving a restaurant at night. Guten abend is the equivalent of Good Evening. Instead, she tells me, one should say, Shootin Abend (or so I thought). Me, being proud of my new German phrase, decide to use it the next night at dinner with Axel and his family (keep in mind I am with 3 Germans – 2 of which basically speak fluent English). As I’m leaving, I say, “Shootin Abend.” Laughs all around. What? What did I say? They have NO idea what I’m talking about. So I explain that the waitress told me to say it when I’m leaving, etc. More laughs. They inform me that she was just messing with me. HA! Okay, I can laugh as a good joke when I hear one, making fun of the foreigner, I get it. Funny. Axel finds this SO very funny that he is saying it over and over again, making fun of me! Picture this: Speedo-wearing Axel cracking up at my misfortune (or my mispronunciation – whatever you want to call it), cigarette in mouth, sticking out his feet, pretending to “shoot” them (SHOOTIN abend) with his pretend hand guns (Okay, okay, I admit it. He was not in a speedo, but that WOULD make for a better story). I leave that night thinking there is no such phrase as “have a good night” in German, joke was on me, funny Germans. Come to find out later, “Schönen abend,” pronounced SHOONEN not SHOOTEN abend, means have a good night.** My three German neighbors who almost all speak fluent English have NO IDEA what I’m talking about when I pronounce one consonant wrong. Hm. Really? Was this just a one time, fluke thing that happened? I wish.

Pronunciation Frustration Zwei: “Schitte Einz:” This last pronunciation frustration really threw me over the edge, hence the entire blog-post about the Germans and their particulars with pronunciations. For my German class, I needed a buy a certain textbook. The teacher assured us any of the bookstores in the city would have or order the book for us. After class, I went to the closest locally owned bookstore (buchhandlung), spoke with owner, and said, “Haben Sie dieses buch?” and pointed to the title and ISBN number. In German, he told me he did not have it but could order it and it would arrive tomorrow (morgen). Deal. I gave him my name (spelling it using the German alphabet pronunciation– proud moment) and told him I would see him tomorrow to pick up my book. Jump ahead 24 hours, I return to the same buchhandlung after looking up how to say, “I ordered this book yesterday,” in German (I like to think of myself as a thoughtful foreigner, trying to inconvenience people as little as possible), and encounter the very same man who helped me the day before. I sigh with relief and think whew, he will remember me, no communication problem, easy as pie. Wrong. I say, in German, “I ordered the book Schritte Einz yesterday. My name is Casey Rapalje.” He stares at me with an open mouth and says nothing. I repeat myself, pronouncing the book, SCHREET EINZ. Again, he looks at me as if I’m a complete and utter moron. Finally, after repeating myself for a THIRD TIME, he says “OOOHHH Schritte Einz, ja.” He pronounces the book SCHFRITT einz, not SCHREET einz.** Seriously? I was ONE VOWEL OFF AND HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT?! Really? I mean, cut me a break. I’m ordering an elementary school book to learn the German language! Can’t you cut me some slack? I pronounced only one vowel wrong. Finally, he gives me my book and I go on my un-merry way, absolutely steaming with frustration and very discouraged.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing has not happened only twice. My pronunciation frustrations are countless. Although I am currently unaware of any auricular anatomical differences that exist between Germans and Americans, it is now obvious to me, that in order for the Germans to hear and understand you, you have to speak perfectly. As Americans, we do the opposite and still wind up with a bad rap. Give me 5 out of 10 words in a sentence, pronounced wrong, and I can figure out what you’re saying. Americans are supposedly insensitive to foreigners? I beg to differ. Until you live in a foreign country, until you are a foreigner, and until you know how other countries treat their foreigners and their lack of language skills, you cannot judge the US of A. In actuality, we cater to those whose first language is not English.

** Note: I really wish, as readers, you could HEAR me pronounce these few words, my way versus the correct way. The difference is absolutely minimal, like tomato/tomato, potato/potato.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whatever You Want to Call It

The 3 Amigos dance at Fasching in Trier
Ryan and Alex
Sarah and I. Sarah and Eric dressed up as ninjas!

Carnivale/Fasching/Mardi Gras, or whatever you want to call it, all mean the same thing: party, Party, PARTY!

The Europeans celebrate a VERY done up Mardi Gras. In Bavaria it is called Fasching, Italy/Switzerland/most other European countries, Carnivale.

Kids are out of school, shops are closed, people are off of work for 5 full days of celebration - this is serious business. The celebration occurs in anticipation of Lent and involves lots of drinking, eating, dressing up, and partying.

Last year we celebrated in New Orleans, this year Carnivale in Venice, and Fasching Trier (not Cologne as planned - long story). As with most holidays, the Europeans WAY outdo the Americans. Venice's Carnivale has definitely been my favorite so far!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ciao, Venezia

Carnivale night #2
The girls - Kristina, me, Andrea
Carnivale night #1 - with Andrea and Zach
Andrea and I with matching face paint
Canal shot
Grand Canal
Carnivale night #1 - Alex in his doge's costume.

We just got back from an amazing weekend in Venice, Italy, for Carnivale! We heard mixed reviews going there - some LOVING every minute of it, others finding it too crowded. We made up our mind - so much fun! Venice is gorgeous on a normal day, but with all the costumes and festivities, we enjoyed it even more!

We went with two other couples, Zach/Andrea and Kristina/Cal. Andrea and I found a great little apartment online that we rented - perfect! The Italian who rented it to us was named Fabbiano (a typical lady-loving Italian man) and a professional soccer player!

We spent our days sight-seeing, shopping, and eating amazing Italian food (of course Alex had to stop at every place that served any sort of dessert) and our nights dressed-up for some great people watching and more amazing Italian foods! The first night we found a great little wine store and bought some cheeses at the market for our own wine and cheese party, then headed to San Marco square for the shows. The second night we went out for a Italian dinner with great pasta, wine, and bread, the Italian way.

Overall, a fabulous weekend filled with friends, fun, and food:) Venice for Carnivale is a must-see!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Melting Pot

Meine Deutsch Klasse has started!

The first day was completely overwhelming. Of course, I got lost and arrived 30 minutes late. I was already embarrassed and then the teacher felt she had to catch me up. She went over every question and answer she had already taught the class, in GERMAN (surprisingly, a lot of information). With the pressure on and my very elementary background with Rosetta Stone, I still managed to embarrass the Rapalje name. My pronunciation was terrible and I sat there with my mouth open for seconds trying to figure out what she was saying. Remember, no English, only German.

The class is made up of about 10-12 other women from lots of different countries - Russia, Poland, Iran, Brazil, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, Iraq. The teacher speaks to us in German. Not many people in the class even speak English and I am the only American, so this is only fair.

We've had two classes so far and the teaching goes something like this:

Teacher: German jibber, german jibber, german jibber.
Class: mouths completely open, confused, having no idea what she is saying
Teacher: writes a frage (question) on the board.
Class: mouths open, still lost
Teacher: writes how she would answer the question on the board.
1/2 of Class: nods, gets it
Other 1/2 of Class: mouths still open
Teacher: tells us to write it down, in German
Teacher: Points to a random person, German jibber German jibber (telling us to go around asking the question we just learned).
Class: goes around in a circle, asking the person next to us, then answering.
Teacher: CONSTANTLY correcting our pronunciation.

After the first class, the teacher came up to me and said, ahhh an American! I just love English, let's speak in English! Turns out, she lived in Asheville, North Carolina for a few years for her husband's work (VW - pronounced in German "fow-vee"). Germans LOVE to practice their English on the Americans, but have very little patience with Americans practicing their German on them. Luckily, in this class, only German is tolerated, so I'll actually learn!

With heading to Venice tomorrow, I was worried about missing the class and being behind. Luckily though, it's a German holiday and class has been cancelled for both Friday and Monday - Fasching/Carnivale!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shut Down

When you move to Europe, you learn quickly to prepare for shut down on Sundays. While some major tourist attractions may remain open in larger cities as well as SOME restaurants, everything else excluding churches, is shut down.

This takes some major getting used to and most learn the hard way. Make sure your fridge is prepped before Saturday at noon, otherwise, you'll be dieting for the day. No grocery stores are open, the markets close, bakeries close, as well as all of the stores in the walking platz. The Germans make Sunday a family day and I've grown accustomed to it.

Just consider Europe closed on Sunday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

Our last portrait on the old couch:)
New set-up
And again. The love seat finally arrived!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hard Workin' Space Cowboy

'Working' in the French Riviera - tough life.

Alex is in the French Riviera, specifically Istres, France, this weekend for the NASA Shuttle Launch. He is with a team of about ten others, on call and ready, should an emergency landing need to take place. Of course, an emergency landing has never happened before, but hey, what a nice, free vacation he gets to go on courtesy of the United States government.

Interesting fact about the launch: the crew, after taking off in Florida, has 3 minutes to decide whether they will have to emergency land. If they decide to, they land all the way in France or Spain, within 8 minutes! I think it's crazy how far they go in such a short amount of time.

Short news article about the launch:

Friday, February 5, 2010

die Toilette Fakten

(The Bathroom Facts: What Everyone Should Know Before Visiting Deutschland)

  • The two key phrases everyone needs to know:
1. Wo ist die toiletten? (Where is the bathroom)
2. Darf ich die toiletten benuntzen, bitte? (May I use the bathroom please?)
  • Never, I mean never, spend your 50euro cent pieces. Save them all up for the bathrooms. The majority of the toilettes (gas stations, public toilets, etc) in Europe cost. Ladies, I promise, the price is worth it. Gentlemen, I can't say either way. But the last thing in the world you want is to really need to go, have no change to do so, and be unable to communicate (in German) the complete and utter emergency you are experiencing.
  • 'Dusche' in German = 'Shower in English.' This creates instant jokes for some Americans, including my husband, who now, as an insult/joke will sometimes call you a 'showerbag.'
  • When in the presence the Germans, or just Europeans in general, if you excuse yourself to the 'bathroom,' jokes will immediately ensue. To the Europeans, using the bathroom is using the actual bathtub. They will begin joking about how and why you need to bathe in the middle of dinner or whatever event you're in the midst of. Instead, excuse yourself to the 'toilet.' This will save you from being the butt of many jokes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag

Pizza and Bowling for Alex's 28th! Our friends Ryan, Micael, Marie, Sarah, and Eric, joined us!
Blowing out the 24 candles!
My birthday cake - VT shape courtesy of Anna Haley!! Thank you!!
My birthday dinner - Marie, Micael, Alex, Me, Ryan.