... and oh so true

Friday, August 24, 2007

Die Schule's out

Today was our final German class.

We'd signed up for an intensive language course, which it certainly was, though it had the concurrent and inevitable 'free gift' of being an intensive socialisation process too.

The things we've learned about each other through daily exposure every weekday for the past month. Seemingly innocuous at first, in retrospect, it's quite incredible what our little exchanges in broken, unconjugated, ungrammatical and incoherent Deutsch have revealed about each person: our schedules, backgrounds, where we live, what we buy at the supermarket, etc.

A hodgepodge of photos from today's very relaxed session:

Manjit and Nicolas with 'der Ball' ...

... Daniel and Ramon during the number-guessing game ...

... Lino rising to the occasion as game moderator and scribe ...

... Daniel (the Younger) and Elma holding up the Young Persons' Front ...

... und Alles zusammen ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

10 steps to unsere gastfreundschaft

What do we do when friends come a-visiting?

1. Welcome them with open arms!

2. Bombard them with 100 questions first thing in the morning after their overnight train journey.

3. Talk non-stop the entire afternoon. Stuff them silly with Swiss Delight (Sprungli's Luxembourgeli).

4. Drive them to the countryside and set them to work in the kitchen. Chop chop, we're already running late for dinner!

5. Photograph them with a 40 day old baby. Again ... and again.

6. Force-feed them schwarzwaelder torte (blackforest cake).

7. Wish them a good night's sleep on a (single) camping mattress.

8. Rouse them for breakfast at the crack of dawn so Ste can enjoy some airtime too.

9. Make them buy us lunch at a superb vegetarian restaurant in the city centre.

10. Send them off at the airport/train station ... but only after confirming plans for our next pleasurable encounter.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Road trip to Appenzell

After a morning of toil for Deutschkurs and the reluctant but pragmatic acceptance of 'that's just how it is though it doesn't sound anything like the way I think it should', we set off on our short road trip to Appenzell.

Ste, determined that Wifey should see more of his beautiful country, particularly when it is sun-kissed and not snow-ridden, cleared the way for a perfect afternoon. Map? Check. Guide book? Check. Partner who nods off in moving vehicles? Check. Nothing would stand between us and the pristine, rolling Appenzellen countryside. Certainly not cloudy windscreens!

The town of Appenzell is a show-stopping Dulux dream. Historical facades the colour of sugary bon-bons: pastel pink, yellow, salmon ... and the grander ones with traditional motifs rendered in painstaking detail, a clear indication of the original owner's wealth and status.

Peeping out seductively from between the rows of houses was the region's famous undulating landscape - it's hilly ... hills. According to Ste, the locals say that you can't put down (and balance) a bowl of soup anywhere on Appenzell-land. We opted for a cake and pastry snack anyway.

We wandered past the outskirts of town, beyond the public swimming pool with a tangle of kindercarts parked outside and fellow walkers nodding, "Gruezi."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The chapter which isn't written ... will never be written

August is upon us! This calls for a momentous monthly page-turning of the desktop calendar! Pa da dum ...

I bought the calendar in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in March. It wasn't so much the Javed Jafferji photography (Mzee J. is the Father of all coffee table books about Zanzibar) which called out to me, but rather the Kiswahili proverbs. One for every month of the year.

After all, I had it in my mind that the cadence of a foreign language often makes a person seem more knowledgeable. And worldly. Cultured. Well-traveled. Informed. Able to identify months and dates in a single bound.

So anyway, the thought-provoking proverb for this month (accompanied by an awesome photo of a dhow sailing into the sunset) is:

Nahodha wengi, chombo huenda mrama.
A ship with many captains does not sail properly.

The allusion seems fairly obvious, in a 'too many cooks spoil the broth' way. Though that pales in comparison to my favourite one, from April:

Nyani haoni kundule huona kundu la mwenziwe.
The ape does not see his own backside, he sees his companion's.

Indeed. And that is why I keep mine all covered up, out of sight and out of mind.

But seriously, there is much room for interpretation (and misinterpretation) of this particular proverb. My own sense of it is that it's far easier to figure out someone else's ... toosh, than one's own. Although ... that isn't necessarily the case if things unfold in the manner of Ste's phrase of doom - 'gone tits up'.

Looking ahead, I think November's is profound in its sheer simplicity:

Hakuna siri ya watu wawili. There is no secret between two people.

Now that is a winner.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Joy in many packages

This has been a regular weekend. At last! Exactly what we needed. Time to relax, catch up with friends and catch our breaths.

Saturday night we watched Gandhi (passed onto us by Daren) on our new telly and DVD player. That warranted a full TV dinner of crisps, pizza, cider and ice-cream. The film was compelling, daunting, tragic, stirring and inspiring all at once. There was anger, there were tears ... and heartened smiles. There was also plenty of action on screen.

Ste said I get too emotionally engrossed in epics. I was too emotionally engrossed to reply and jabbed him in the ribs - SHHH! Stop talking during the movie lah!

I contemplated having a bit of a lie-in on Sunday Morgen till I saw that the sun was out - it was an utterly beautiful day! We took a short walk to the Mobility car (a Swiss car sharing scheme) further up on Minervastrasse, then cruised slowly along the Gold Coast of the Lake of Zurich to Rapperswil. Lunch at Van and Wilfried's was a tasty Thai-Swiss affair: tangy veggie salads with rice and kartoffel gratin mit poulet.

Van and I met at Integrationkurs and have somehow managed to bridge the language barrier (our own Southeast Asian Roestigraben ... a Stickyreisgraben?) and foster enough friendly feelings to haul our spouses together for a group activity.

In the late afternoon, we made our way to Schindellegi, to visit the new little man of the Dhall-Mahan house, Siddarth. Or as Ste fondly refers to him, 'Sid the Kid'. Siddharth was on his best behavior most of the time, wanting to be where the action (and guests) were to show off his pacifier-sucking skills - very impressive for a 38 day old baby!

When he isn't exercising his lungs or refining internal bodily motions, the little Rocky Balboa subscribes to a vigorous regimen of push-ups, arching his head and body backwards when he's on his tummy, punching the air with sweeping uppercuts and hooks. We were extremely impressed ... though I couldn't get over just how tiny his training togs were.

Uncle Ste, with his nurturing side bubbling to the fore, couldn't resist carrying the adorable Baby Sid, impressing all present with his confident baby-handling technique. Not to be outdone, a markedly less self-assured Aunty Alicia posed next to Uncle Ste, artfully supporting his hand as it supported Baby's head.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Coming to terms at the start of term

German class started on Monday. It runs daily from 9.00am-12.50pm till end-August. And yes, that's the sound of my brain frying in the background. Ooh the heartwarming sizzle of gray matter. Leave off the salt, please.

My main motives for learning Deutsch (a.k.a why I show up every morning with homework done) are:

(i) to have a proper, un-aided conversation with Ste's Uncle Hansueli this Christmas. I think he's rather sick of hearing my jokes via proxy (or rather, Ste is sick of being the proxy) and I'm even putting some advance prep into it so none of the brilliant nuances get mired in translation.

(ii) to pressure Ste into bringing me for a karaoke session in Zuerich (my favourite hits at the moment are Herbert Groenemeyer's Ein Stueck vom Himmel and Du bist Die, plus Silbermond's Das Beste, all of which I've been struggling to croon to on YouTube (with lyrics palmed off the Net of course).

And now that we're at the end of the first week of Deutschkurs, I can add a third:

(iii) to figure out how it's statistically possible that nearly half the class is so unbelievably and embarrassingly good-looking (and I mean Calvin Klein photo ad model quality) while the rest of us mooch about like faceless extras on the set. As I look across the classroom at the beautiful and ebullient young 'uns, I'm floored by how much older I am ... than I actually feel.