I'm still studying German on a daily basis...about 5-7 hours per day, between classes and homework....so, it's pretty much my full time job right now. I am currently in German B11 (pronounced "bay-einz-einz") at the Goethe Institut and will be enrolled in B12 (pronounced "Bay-einz-tzvai") by next Tuesday (that is, unless I totally flunked the test today). I plan to take the Deutsch Zertifikat exam at the end of November, upon completion of level B1 (B11+B12). This exam basically certifies that I can speak German with enough fluency to work for a native German employer. However, I've found that most Germans speak more-than-fluent English and even better within a business setting. This is how most of my conversations go with the German people:
Me: Hallo, wie gehts?
German: Hey, how are you? (they immediately switch to English after I mistakenly addressed them in the informal "du" form)
Me: Oh, you speak English?
German: Oh...not really. Just a little bit. I used to study English 12 years ago and I have not really been able to practice very well.
Me: OK, well...you sound great to me.
German: No...really...my English is just awful. It's a shame that I used to speak it so well. But without practice, it all falls away...
German: I guess I could try. I feel so ashamed that sometimes I cannot think of the right vocabulary. Let's try it out, and if I have problems...maybe, you could just fill in any missing words for me and we can move on from there.
Anyways, you get the point. I will be sure to fix my German faults over the next month...that way I can avoid any "extremely embarrassing" English conversation hereafter. In December, it looks like I'm taking a bit of a detour...
In September, Blue Man Group had offered me a spot on their national (U.S.) theater tour as a drum tech, starting Oct. 1 and lasting 8 months. At the time, I was having issues with the German Consulate getting me a straight answer on what happens to my Student Visa upon leaving for such a long period of time. The Student Visa covers a year and would allow me to take German classes without leaving to "refresh" my Visa status. Americans are initially covered under the Schengen Visa, which allows up to 3 months of continuous stay in Germany, so the newly acquired Student Visa was a much better deal for me and I did not want to lose that privilege. Eventually, the Consulate told us that the Student Visa could be suspended upon my leaving for a job outside of the country (although this is usually never done), and then reactivated upon my return. In the meantime, Annette and I had decided it was just too early to get up and leave Germany...and so I declined the offer. About a half-week later, however, Annette received an offer and she HAD to take the job...it was a reputable company and it would eventually lead to bigger and better things for her. But.....they told her right away that there was a very strong possibility she would be based in Frankfurt for up to 6 months, starting this January. The timing was comical! So, we had a good laugh about my possibly being in Munich alone for half a year, and then we decided to give Bman a call again. The spot had been filled...but, there was an opening on the Norwegian Cruise Line Blue Man production...doing the exact same job! So...I'll keep you updated...
In cat news...Gustav is doing much better! Not only does he love the new apartment for all it's running room, but he also no longer has worms nor the runs (seriously...he had mud poop for about 2 months straight...apparently this is normal due to the stress involved, according to the Vet). We bought him some toys finally, a scratching post, and a brush that he still doesn't quite get (he let's us do it, but mostly runs around with us chasing him to do so). I would like to tell you that cat toys and scratching posts are so worth it, but he seems to rather enjoy the basic things in life...bottlecaps, cardboard boxes that are still in use, new furniture for sharpening his nails, and sleeping on anything made out of woven polyester, such as luggage or drum cases (the Tuxedo kind). He also seems to think that every time I walk out of the living room, it means I'm on my way to his food bowl. He usually sprints out the door before me and hangs a right, only to see that I take a left towards the kitchen or something...and then he just gets pissed and attacks my ankles for the dirty trick I just played on him. Despite my trickery, I think he's still getting a good workout cuz he snores every time he sleeps...
Oktoberfest was a blast! I got to go a couple times, and I think it was enough until next year. Before going, I thought that these people going 3-8 times were just abnormal...but that turned out to be about the average for everyone in Munich. I can see why...the beer was great (beer served at Oktoberfest is exclusive to the oldest breweries in Munich....most of them starting in the 1300's....so you are not going to find Pabst, Old Style, Sam, Bud, Grainbelt, City Brew, Natty Ice, Hamm's, or Genessee Light here), the food was amazing, the beer tents were enormous and VERY different from one another musically (they each had a band in them). Being my first one, I wanted to make sure I did everything in proper German tradition, so I bought all the traditional clothes...only came out to just over $200 total...which is a steal for Lederhosen, leather shoes, traditional shirt, traditional socks, etc. A buddy of mine out here bought his Lederhosen for 1400 Euro....not kidding. They were custom made and ridiculously nice, but you can't tell the difference between mine (cowhide) and his from 10 yards away....or 5 liters deep. If you ever come to Oktoberfest, here are some tips:
1) Go during the week...and during work hours. The weekend (starting with Friday night after work-hours) is unbelievably crowded...my friend Tom and I waited for 40 minutes at the tent we went in, around 5:00 on a Friday...and we only got in because we were hand-picked from the crowd to replace some people at a table that was bothering the waitress. It was crazier than the Minnesota State Fair, I tell ya.
2) Go to the Augustinerbräuhaus. They are all cool tents, but this tent played a little more traditional music (besides John Denver's "Country Roads" and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline") than others I've seen. Some of the other tents play to the younger crowds, so you get to hear such favorites as "Angel" by Robbie Williams mixed with a complete Maynard Ferguson version of "Hey Jude"....I guess it depends on what you want. Also, the Augustiner tent has the world's tiniest guys bathroom, which must be experienced. There's nothing like the camaraderie of walking into a hallway about 4 feet wide, with troughs on both sides...so that your butts touch while peeing and guys are constantly pushing you into the trough to get by.
3) Don't be "oh shit" guy. If you start at 8 a.m., you'll most likely be done by noon, or perhaps even 9:30 because you'll be getting such exclusive service. I don't know how many dudes/girls we saw around 5 p.m. stumbling along just fine, but then their eyes got big and they frantically looked around for an open plot of asphalt...uh oh....uhh...oh shit....
4) Buy the most inclusive train ticket you can for the time that you are here. Yeah, it may look expensive at first glance, but you'll probably use the train 4 times/day, at minimum. Also, buy the train ticket at a kiosk where a person is there to help you. The free-standing automated machines are great and all, but the language on them is extensive and you'll only end up confusing yourself even if you know German.
5) Bring a map of the city with you. We walked part of the way home after the tents closed down at 11-ish. When we found that the entrance to the only train station to the Oktoberfest looked more like a crowd rushing the stage at a Milli Vanilla Ice-T concert, we made other plans.
5) Know how to get home. That being said, we were drunk. Maybe it's a good idea to do a dry run the day before.
More tips next year...
Other stuff we've been up to...
1) Blue Nile is an Ethiopian restaurant nearby our house. So good...features Honigwein (honey wine) and Banana Bier (don't do it)...and of course, great Ethiopian food. As I may have told you, this is where one can "ass mit den Fingern."
2) If you love art, this is a pretty cool place to be. The Alte-Pinakothek (old), Neue-Pinakothek (new), and Modern-Pinakothek (duh) are all on the same block (You can see them all in one day for 12 Euro, but if you're like me, you'll easily spend 2-3 hours in each...so that's a long day). The "Old" art museum features the biggest collection of Peter Paul Reubens in the world, as well as works by Dürer and Altdorfer. The facade of the building itself was destroyed in WWII and rebuilt with different colored bricks "as a reminder of what happened." The "New" art museum features Monet, Manet, Degas, Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Gaugin, and van Gogh. First time I saw "Sunflowers" was here. The "Modern" hosts many works by Picasso and a couple Dali's. The building itself is worth the admission. Also, the Lenbach Haus is nearby the other museums, and is basically an old rich person's house that was converted into a public collection, much like the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. It boasts quite a few works from Kandinsky. http://www.lenbachhaus.de
3) We took a trip to Essen and had a great time there. Villa Hügel, a castle in Essen, was mightily impressive. Definitely check it out if you get a chance.
4) I officially like Liverwurst. Never thought it would happen, but after it has been served at every meal I kind of grew to love it.