A Draft

November 28, 2010

Disclaimer: I hope that those of my German friends who are now reading my blog have read other parts of this blog and understand that everything I write about is tongue-in-cheek; that I only write about things and people that I actually really love deeply (well, unless I state otherwise in my post). So all my lovely cultural stories I share about your fair land are shared solely because they are things I find absolutely charming about your country.

Back to posting:
So next to personal packages of kleenexes, crossing the street only at the intersection (which now I learned something new about, which will be shared in another post) and putting on slippers – the next most important thing to Germans is the air in the room in which you are currently existing. I never knew that so many things could “be” with the air in a room. In my American life, air in a room is either hot, comfy or cold. Other than that, I’d never really thought about it. But then I came to Germany and discovered something – they don’t have machines that blow the air around the room – you know, like air conditioners and furnaces. There’s really no need for AC except for a couple weeks a year, and they rely on radiators for heat. So I have discovered the states of air “being” and will share the different states over the next few posts.

Today we will focus on – “Es zieht”

This has got to be one of my most favorite German combination of words, because it is said so often, and each time it is said, I snicker. Literally translated, it means “it’s pulling” but in reality means that there is a draft. I’m not sure if there is anything worse in the German state of air “being” than a draft. I mean, the instant someone feels a draft, you’d think the headless horseman was on his way and the only way to protect yourself is to shut the windows. I’m not kidding. Seriously.

I could share so many wonderful stories, because I have heard this phrase so often in my German life, but I will share my most memorable. It was 10 years ago, and I was singing with the Kammerchor in Dresden. I came into a rehearsal about an hour or so into it (don’t worry, I was excused!!!). It was the middle of Winter, so it was rather chilly outside so the church was shut up tight, snug as a bug against the grueling wind and snow. With great expectation and desire for warmth, I opened the door and was met with…the wonderful smell of stale human. I mean, I’m talking, serious stale human. You can imagine my disappointment. I thought I was gonna die. Both the lack of oxygen and the smell entering my nostils brought on an acute case of hyperventilation/suffocation. Fortunately, a break soon occurred and someone had the great idea to open a window. I was thanking the Lord profusely. I mean, these people were all about to suffocate, and they didn’t know it! So a couple windows were opened and the human aroma began to leave. I kid you not, within about 30 seconds of the windows being open, someone yelled, “Es zieht! Es zieht!” and I was like, “Yes!!! And that is a good thing!!!” But alas, the headless horseman was on his way – and all my hopes of stale human leaving and oxygen returning were dashed.


The Short Bed

November 23, 2010

I’m sitting at my computer right now on my “bed” which you see pictured above, contemplating my life. I am in Wiesdbaden. My voice teacher, Alan, has come into the country for an audition so I’m hanging with him to have a lesson and meet some folks. We are staying in a one room apartment which was advertised as having a pull out couch. Well, as you can see, the couch pulls out, but there seems to be something missing – because the only soft parts of the bed are the parts I’m laying on. The other part is solid wood. Something isn’t quite right. We’re guessing there’s a pad that needs to lay on top of this, but we can’t find it. So I’m sleeping on a bed that is the length of someone half my size in the same room as my teacher (who also happens to be a great friend) with a thin blanket over me pumped full of xanax and Ambien so I can get to sleep in this extraordinary situation.

And it is at times like this that I sit back and evaluate my life. I mean, I know no life is normal, but I could be back at my 2300 square foot house with a fire blazing in the fireplace next to my husband drinking wine and then moving into the bedroom where I have a king sized, soft bed and…well, I’ll leave that story there, but you get the picture. Instead, I’m in Germany living out of my suitcase, going from place to place not knowing what to except and ending up on a bed that is 1/3 too short!

And then I wonder, perhaps sleeping on the short bed implies the same thing as riding the short bus…

Another reason arts are crazy!


November 22, 2010

Now, you’re probably wondering, “Why has Sarah taken a picture of a toilet and chosen to write about it?”…well, unless you’ve read this blog for awhile, and then this doesn’t strike you as odd in anyway shape or form (wuhahahahaha…you’re turning just as weird as I am!). I’m realizing that I have a fascination with toilets and things that go in toilets (for other posts on the subject click here, here, here, here, here, here. (Holy you-know-what, I write a lot about this stuff)) I know, I swore over a year ago I leave the subject, but this is just too good. Anyway, back to the toilet.

I must say, the Germans do many things very, very well. But I think something happened when the platform toilet was created (disclaimer: before my German friends bite my head off, these are old toilets. The new ones are not like this and many people have already traded them out). See, it’s a little difficult to see in this picture, but the vast white space is actually a platform that sits about 3-4 inches below the seat of the toilet (I could’ve taken a picture with something in there to give you a better idea, but I figured that would go a little too far). And the…er…anything that goes into the toilet sits as if on display on the platform. No need for details, because, well, we all have imaginations.

Because these sorts of things fascinate me, I have discussed the platform toilet with other non-Germans, and I have been given 2 endearing names for the German porcelain god. (if you’re not a fan of crassness, you may end your reading now)

From Bill, my dear Scottish friend: The SS Toilet – S#*t and Show
From my voice teacher’s friend: The Poo and View

And I think I’ll leave it at that…
Side note: first experience with such a toilet was at my host family’s house way back in the day when I lived here as an exchange student. I had just arrived and took a little visit to the loo…and almost fell over from laughter when I saw what would be my throne for the next 10 months. I won’t share all the thoughts and jokes and bad scenarios that went through my head…again, you have an imagination. But at the soonest opportunity, I called my brother about it (he’d been there 6 years earlier as an exchange student) because being a man, he was fascinated with all those types of things…and from that point on, it was always an inside joke…so now, every time I see a platform toilet, I think of my brother – and laugh. I’m sure he’s looking down laughing with me.

Why Opera Singers Are Crazy

November 21, 2010

You try looking for work every 3 weeks of your life and pay for the priveledge to sing for these people out your own pocket. Try being in a job where you are only as good as the last note you sang. Try being in a job where one person tells you you are the next big thing and then the next you’re told not to quit your day job. Try being in a job where you travel by train to Vienna, fly out afterwards to Hannover so you can take a train to Bielefeld and after that on your way to…wait… Where am I going? Who am I? What did I come here to do? What country am I in? Did I leave my phone on the last train? Whew…no. But I left my book in the taxi…with my German rail pass in it. What bed am I in? Who is waiting for me when I open the door today? Do I need to show my passport or is my driver’s license enough? Oh, the room I’m staying in tonight at the booked out hotel is a smoking room, and I requested a non smoking room because I have an audition tomorrow, but they can’t move me. Oh, the house you put me up has cats?…that’s nice…except that I specifically requested not to have cats because I’m allergic. Oh, thank you so much for making me breakfast of french toast and maple syrup. While I love it, I mentioned that I’m allergic to sugar and wheat so I actually can’t eat any of this fantastic food that you have just put before my grumbling belly. What friend can I call to see if I can crash at their place for a few days for an audition? Who haven’t I bothered in awhile? You get off an airplane in a country that does not have water fountains and are taken directly to the theater, and there’s no water to be found. Your bed at the hotel was a board with some fluffy stuff on top of it. The plane you booked is not the plane you thought you booked because your brain was running crazy with everything else in your life and you booked out of the wrong city. So a last minute expensive change gets you to where you are going 3 hours late. You stumble into your hotel room at 1 and hope that the notes that once lived in your body can still find a way out after that day. The eyes close…

…and the alarm goes off to start over again…

Fun in the Woods

November 10, 2010

Come join me beside the fire and come on a little journey with me.

I was in Karlsruhe and was on my way to an apointment. I had an address and directions. Should be easy. Ha! Famous last words.

So I have the address of this place, and it says it is in Karlsruhe. I have to jump on a bus and change buses and then walk. No big deal. I do this in cities all the time. I find the bus I’m supposed to ride for exactly 7 minutes (I love the Germans) before switching to another bus. The bus takes off and I’m sitting there taking in the city when suddenly I realize…we’re on the Autobahn…like, cars whizzing by Autobahn. Like, leaving Karlsruhe Autobahn. Like suddenly there’s no more city and there is around me is woods and villages. I double check the directions, double check the bus and the next stop, and everything is as it should be, so I stay put (not like I could go anywhere on a city bus driving down the Autobahn.). We get off the Autobahn and come to a stop in the middle of nowhere. It’s my stop, and since others are getting off, I get off too. Sure enough, it was exactly 7 minutes later and the other bus I was supposed to get on was pulling up. So I jump on. This bus continues to go to the middle of nowhere. And when I say the middle of nowhere, I mean I’m in the middle of the woods, going up a really steep hill. Again, I check my directions and check with the the lit sign on the bus saying what the next stop is. Sure enough, I’m still hot on the trail. Well, the bus stops in the middle of a hill in the middle of the woods. I double check AGAIN. Sure enough, I’m at the right spot and a bunch of people are getting off, so like the sheep that I am, I get off, too.

The directions say to look for a fountain and next to it I will find a set of stairs. I look around. I see no fountain. I see no stairs. But I do see a street that all the people are walking towards so I think, “Baaaaaaah. I’ll follow those people and maybe I’ll find a fountain and some stairs.” No dice on the fountain, but I do find the stairs. So I try the stairs. Now, when I say stairs, I’m not talking like a couple of steps, I’m talking 7 flights of stairs, climbing up the side of a small mountain type of stairs. I’m thinking, “I’m going to sweaty, stinky and disgusting by the time I find these people”. I get to the top of the stairs, panting and look for the next direction which is to walk straight for 10 meters. Uh, no way to walk straight. There is only woods. Only way is left. At this point I’m thinking, something is not quite right here, but what else am I supposed to do? So I go 10 meters to the left where I am supposed to find stairs going down! Down!?!? I just came up. But no stairs. Only a trail into the woods. At this point, I’m realizing I need help. No one is answering the phone in the office and I’m in the middle of a village in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain somewhere near Karlsruhe. It also happens to be 1 pm, so no one is outside. They are either eating lunch or taking their afternoon nap. It’s a ghost village. But as luck would have it, I come across a car with an elderly gentleman in it. My first thought is, “Oh goodness, I sure hope I can understand this guy” because, you see, I’m in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain where the dialect is so thick, many Germans can’t understand the locals. Fortunately, the guy realizes I speak proper German and does his best to accommodate, and I understand him just fine. Apparently, I am on the wrong side of the mountain and need to take the bus one stop further! What!?!? This is where I was supposed to get off! With an audible sigh, I thank him and take off back down the side of the mountain, down the stairs, to the end of the street and treck back up half the mountain to the bus stop…where I notice something quite odd. The bus stop sign is not the same name as what was announced in the bus! The bus was wrong!!! I had gotten off at the wrong stop in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain! Breathing a sigh of relief and knowing that I indeed would find my way, I wait patiently for the bus in the middle of the woods on the side of the mountain.

The bus appears like my knight in shining armor. I get on, and just as I’m about to sit down I hear, “Sarah! Hey! How’s it going?!” I’m like, I’m in the middle of the woods on the side of a mountain and someone on this bus not only knows me, but is American and speaking English to me. I turn to find 2 Americans who happen to live in the same building as my voice teacher in New York and who were at my concert in New York in July!

Can you say small world?!?!

So all the Germans are sitting there listening to us gab loudly in English, thinking to themselves what was that American doing standing in the middle of the woods on the side of the mountain?

I was wondering the same thing.

P.S. I did make it…eventually.

My dearest German friends, Kathi and Gunnar, live in a suburb on Freiburg which lies in the middle of the German wine country. Because of my intense love of wine, I decided to take a little walk through the vineyards and share some pics with you all.