“Heidelberger” is the local brew, a kind of hotdog, and the term for the locals. I have drunk the pils, eaten the hotdog, and therefore consider myself a local of this humble town, although I’m not sure if the actual residents have accepted me yet. Now that I’ve been here nearly 4 weeks, enough has happened in my sedentary but not unpleasant German life that I can fill a blog post. (Warning: contains images of myself in a tank top and traces of China)
Pasta: After spending 10 months on a fairly hardcore rice-based diet, I’ve now switched to pasta as this is just about all I can cook in the hostel. Pasta with tomato sauce, pasta with beans, pasta with pesto, pasta with peppers, pasta with chicken, plain pasta. There’s been quite a bit of culinary experimentation as well. Pasta with melted Philadelphia and mushrooms, anyone?
Rice: I did actually eat some rice, but it was with a curry, which is quite different.
German skills: Have not significantly deteriorated during my year in China. A newly befriended German, Naele ( see below ), has even bestowed me with the honourary title of “Half-German”. I’ve managed to bring out several words which have impressed the natives, such as “ein Komplott schmieden” ( to hatch a plot) and “Windbeutel” ( someone who talks on and on, lit. ‘cream filled puff pastry’ ) and “Klugscheißer” ( know-it-all, lit. ‘wisdom shitter’ ). One guy even commented ( after a few beers ) that I had no accent whatsoever when I spoke German, although it was probably the pils talking.
Sense of National Identity: I’m not as ready to admit the fact that I’m British as I used to be. It gets a certain sympathetic and knowing response from receptionists, my teacher, students at church, waiters, travellers I meet in the hostel, Angela ( Merkel ), pretty much everyone I come into contact with. I suppose this is post-Brexit life for the European expat.
Tank tops: I have 7, and was planning on getting a lot of use from them. The weather has improved somewhat. Today was simmering around 30 degrees and I’m trying to decide if it’s OK to go to class in a garish red tank top that has “Vietnam Inn Pub Crawl” written on it. I think I will. In the meantime, swimming in the outdoor pool seems the only sensible way to cool off. Year abroad can be a real chore.
Friends: I can say with pretty good accuracy how many friends I have: 2. One is my main-man Emmett from Life Church, a Texan with a cheeky grin and a love for döner kebabs which rivals my own. And Naela, a scathingly sarcastic, “one-of-a-kind” Heidelberg native with a not-so-hidden poetic streak. Seems like these are all the friends I need at the moment.
No phone: I haven’t had a phone since I’ve been back, and the absence of mobile device is liberating. Once I got over the fact that I couldn’t pull out my screen every time I was in a slightly awkward situation or was just doing something on my own, I felt quite free. On the other hand, I don’t actually have enough friends in Heidelberg to merit a phone.
Life plans: “You study languages, do you want to be a teacher or a translator?” This is a fairly usual conversation, and I have no intention of being either. In fact, I’m not sure at all what I intend. Professional blogger and travel writer, perhaps?
Hostel weirdos: I am probably not the strangest person who has been in the hostel for a long time ( I think I’ll settle for second strangest ). There is a German guy who has been here much longer, and keeps telling me he is about to move out but doesn’t seem to have made any moves toward leaving. He showers with the door open and curtain pulled back, lopes around the hostel using the free computers and complaining about how expensive Heidelberg is. Is this what I have to look forward to?
Being trilingual: As I’m writing this I am switching between German with one of the other hostel veterans and Chinese with a tourist who is just passing through. I was worried that my newly acquired Chinese abilities were going to go the way of the dodo, but they seem to be holding up alright. Switching between languages isn’t always very easy, and often some linguistic abomination is born from my not-quite-native language skills.
Visitors: I have had Luke stay with me in the hostel for a weekend. He managed not to mention the war or anything else like that. This weekend I have Eve, who has left the UK in the middle of a heat wave to come to the humid and stormy south of Germany. At least there’s Currywurst.
Koreans: Are not just all over Beijing, but also all over Heidelberg. I’ve managed to impress with a couple of my very basic phrases. It seems that if there’s a language to be learned, then Koreans want to learn it. There’s quite a few in the school and a lot of Koreans have been coming through the hostel as well. Should have learnt that instead of Chinese.
China: Did I mention that I went to China?