It’s the little things…

So today, my German tutor gave me a new vocabulary word:

Straßenverkehrsordnungswidrigkeitsverfahren

And she taught it to me as kind of a joke, but what struck me is that this word is actually NOT a joke and that it really, truly exists in the deutsche Sprache — I mean, this is 43 characters worth of words that could have made a perfectly good sentence, but for some reason unknown to this Amerikanerin, they grace the German dictionary with their presence as one impossibly syllabic word.

I don’t know whether to be impressed, intimidated, or both.

Anyway, the word means something like “a letter to notify you about upcoming construction in your neighborhood and the resulting road blocks and how you can get around them.”
(….actually, after typing all that, I have to admit that the German version is more efficient… so, ich verstehe…)

My praise report is that every day, my German language skills are steadily improving, and I’m able to get around pretty independently these days via the tram and intercity train systems, and I went to the German movie theater and watched a German movie and wasn’t totally lost! Wooo! It’s the little things…

But really — I’m happy, and things are coming together. I’m really enjoying taking voice lessons with my wonderful teacher here in Germany, learning new music, and preparing for the coming months. I’m excited to see what the future holds. Ich freue mich 🙂

Germlish

My weekend was full of my favorite new language, Germlish. Communication in a new language can be equal parts rewarding and confusing, and these days, my goal is for conversations to be mostly rewarding and just a little confusing.

My Germlish skills vary depending on the scenario and/or with whom I’m speaking — sometimes it’s basically nothing but English and the classic smile-and-nod, sometimes it’s a really “creative” German-English combo with sign language for extra clarity, and sometimes – the times I like the best – I manage to chirp out some German sentences with decent, or even clear, understanding of what the other person is telling me.

Friday, Jacco and I walked through the farmer’s market in Dresden and concluded the shopping trip at Karstadt, where I bought a postcard and some other touristy things. In an effort to “learn the money,” a.k.a. figure out which fancy coins are which in the Euro system, I checked out at the register without allowing myself to ask Jacco, “Ok, so can you find €7.68 for me?” 

I dug through my Katze-shaped coin purse for the closest change I could find while I stood in line. I could tell Jacco was watching my progress. The line in front of me shortened. I’m panicking. Honestly, it’s like I’m back in Kindergarten learning the difference between a nickel and a dime — except now I’m 23 years old and feeling extremely humbled by this ridiculous challenge. Finally, it was my turn to hand the clerk my merchandise and my exact €7.68. I smiled to myself and thought, “Nailed it.

Later, Jacco asked me, “Did you know the cashier at Karstadt was talking to you when you were in line?” 
Me: “What? No, I had no idea…”
Jacco: “Yeah, she told you to move up and use her register! You were so concentrated on finding your money, you didn’t hear her!”

Jacco apparently thought it was endearing and cute, but I was embarrassed. I felt like an idiot. The difference, I’m learning, between a second language and a native language is the active listening involved in the new language. Understanding German, at this point, is not without its effort. It takes energy and attentiveness — but that’s what leads to those rewarding conversations that I’m learning to appreciate so much.

Today, Jacco and I visited a friend and his wife who agreed to teach me German lessons this fall! I’m so excited. I can’t wait to turn my Germlish into actual, grammatically accurate, legitimate German!!!! 

Last night, Jacco performed with the Robert Schumann Philarmonie in Chemnitz for their open air concert, the beginning of this year’s season. The finale was “Themes aus Star Wars” — and someone put an incredible amount of time and planning into a perfectly-timed firework show, which had me completely geeking out. It’s great to know Star Wars and fireworks transcend all languages. 

Here’s to an awesome week of new experiences.

IMG_0788
Theaterplatz, Chemnitz

Home, Sweet Home

After a month’s delay… I’m finally back in Germany! It’s crazy how quickly plans can change and how much flexibility is necessary just to stay on track… life is a funny thing. I spent a little more time in the U.S. this summer than I had planned, but extra time with friends and family was much appreciated… and needed! And now, I’m back in Dresden, enjoying a cup of tea with my handsome boyfriend and musing about how things always seem to turn out just right.

Through a pretty thick haze of jetlag, I also feel a little homesickness settling in, though I’ve been looking forward to being here since the prospect of moving to Germany first popped in my head. Saying, “I’m home” here in Germany feels more and more natural every day, which leaves me convinced that home can easily be more than one place for some people. Today, I’ve felt homesick for the house I grew up in, the same house I stayed in almost all summer this year; for my undergrad friends and classrooms and campus; and for the school and city where I did my graduate studies. At the same time, I was so ready to finally be at my Dresden home while I was traveling 28 hours to be here, and I’m sure I’ll be homesick when I leave again. As a current continent-hopper, I’m actually getting pretty used to homesickness as being my emotional norm.

I don’t see this as a negative thing. I have this exciting, gezellig (MY NEW DUTCH WORD! Meaning: cozy, fuzzy, warm) feeling when I realize I’m lucky enough to have several wonderful places where I feel at home and can share time with people I love. So, in the midst of all of Jacco’s and my planning for the coming months… it’s really good to be home.