Monday, August 22, 2011

Living in the German Suburbs

So I live in Kleinmachnow, a short bike ride from Zehlendorf, about 20-25 minutes from Berlin center. I'm definitely not in the center of all the action. Okay, I'm actually in German-yuppie land where all the rich families live, but I've been coming up with a list of pros to this. Namely:

One - I can get all my awkward biking skills up to par before all the cool people in Berlin see me. Two days ago I almost hit a dog on the bike path and had to come to a screeching halt. Yesterday I almost hit an old German couple because they didn't hear me yell "Entschuldigung!". I should probably buy a bell.

Two - I can become a runner before all the cool people in Berlin see me being lapped by little old grannies. I've been meaning to start running for awhile, but saying that I am currently more of a walker with short running breaks, I did not want to make an ass of myself in Northampton this year with all the crazy running people who run even if it's thunderstorming outside. Yesterday morning I took a path through the woods that ran along a river, past horses and chickens. You can't really go wrong with that. We'll ignore the fact that many middle-aged women and an old couple lapped me. You win some, you lose some. I will try to keep it up and get better. When I came home I immediately chugged apple juice and ate bread with vegan nutella smeared all over it and my host Mom and her friend laughed at me. The bread had WHOLE wheat berries in it…healthy!

Au-Pairing is definitely an interesting job and I've been very up and down with it. Sometimes I love it and think I'm doing a great job, other times I feel like I'm fucking everything up and the host family hates me (Example A: Setting off the house alarm and having the host Mom discover a pile of puke in the house because I let the dog eat grass during a walk, all within a 1-minute time span). I imagine that's normal though. The kids are generally very good and the oldest often helps me with the others and explains how things work. I'm learning how to deal with the five year old, as most of my experience is with older children so I have NO idea how to work with the little ones. He already shot me between the eyes with a nerf gun, smacked me, called me a man (which I didn't even realize until the Dad yelled at him), hit me in the eye with a foam sword, and tried to rip my clothes off in front of his parents. I never knew getting someone to go to bed and brush their teeth could be so difficult, but this will hopefully get better once he stops testing me. I hope I learn quickly how to deal with him better, as it is a bit embarrassing having a 5-year old own me on the daily.

Yesterday I was taking a shower and all of a sudden I hear someone saying "Hello! Hello!" I turn around, completely naked and in the midst of shaving, and another one of the kids is staring at me. I either didn't lock the door correctly or they have a key. Regardless, I'm not sure how that meant "Come in!". My German also doesn't work in panic situations, so after yelling "Close the door! Close the door!" I just got a blank look and more extended seconds of awkwardness, but eventually I got to continue my shower, albeit a bit shellshocked. So yes, the kids have already seen me naked and it's only my fourth day.

Other fun moments involve me putting my shoes against the wall neatly and finding the dog spooning one of them twice in the same day. Also, a conversation with the oldest (12 years) that went something like this:

J: *blah blah blah things in Berliner Deutsch I don't understand*
J: Die waren Berliner Schimpfworte. Du weisst keine Schimpfworte auf Deutsch.
Me: Weiss ich doch, aber ich kann kein Berliner Deutsch.
J: Ich weiss Englische Schimpfworte…"Fuck You"
Me: No, we do NOT say that.


I was really afraid my German would be horrible when I got here as I haven't spoken any German all summer, but it came from some crevice of my brain and I've basically been speaking German from when I wake up to when I go to bed. For the first time I actually notice myself remembering conversations in German, which is interesting as earlier even if my conversation was in German I'd remember it in English. I feel like I'm learning so much everyday and am much more comfortable speaking it, even to new guests that come in the house and the kids' friends, etc. The only time it's difficult is when I'm trying to disciple the kids and their grammar is better than mine.

Starting in October I'm beginning a C1 level German class that meets four days a week from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 1pm. Holy crap. It might kill me, but one of my priorities really is to become fluent and I should be able to finish all the classes this year, thereby finishing all the levels. It's crazy that I took French 8 years and can't speak it at all, but German a bit less than a year and a half and I'm conversing with my host family solely in German. I'm going to have no life when it starts, however.

Currently sitting at Goodies in Berlin. My host Mom had work in Berlin today so she drove me in with her, which was nice. I need to buy a monthly ticket though as I've already spent a fortune on tickets for transportation within Berlin. Already stocked on on instant noodles at the Asian supermarket and am maybe going to the vegan store in Kreuzberg later to get some more essentials to bring back to the suburbs. Nom!

Bis bald!

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