Thursday, September 17, 2015

Day 35: Translation Problems.

A tour in Mauerpark
I want to begin today with a notice about tourism here in Berlin. I have laughed at the selfies in Venice and the Segways in Prague. I thought, to be fair, I should talk about the bicycle tours here in Berlin. I didn't see them at first, but now I can't NOT see them. They are in big groups (5-15) with a guide in the front and a guide rounding up the back. Their bicycles have yellow placards above the back wheel (I think designating the tour company).

There is at least one office down the street from us that advertises walking and biking tours. I've seen the groups touring around the Berlin Wall Walk and through Mauerpark. I'm not sure where else they go, but since this is my path in the mornings, this is where I seem them the most.

And yet, I don't laugh at them as much as I do the others. Why? I don't know for sure, but I think it's because bicycles here in Berlin are everywhere. Except for the yellow placards on the back, these tourists could blend right in. But, I thought I'd mention them, just to be completely open.

I have to say, it's hard for me to get up in the mornings. I commend Chris for doing it every day for work. I know his pressure to do so it more, but still, I admire his punctuality. In the beginning, I'd wake up before our alarms went off. Then to my alarm. Then I stopped turing mine on and would wake up to Chris' alarm. Now, I don't wake up until Chris is half way through his shower, or when he returns to dress. Maybe the sun is rising later and it's dark longer... or I'm just getting lazier and more comfortable with our routine that has established here.

In any case, I woke up this morning to Chris trying on his lederhosen. I thought I'd laugh harder, but they didn't look too bad. Side note: We're not understanding how they are supposed to fit. The legs are tighter and the waist is very loose. Maybe that's why there's suspenders? But still, it's not quite comfortable for Chris.

The kids and I went to a children's bookstore today (that's what it seemed from the window). We had walked by it a few weeks ago and I kept meaning to go back. I looked online to find children's bookstores and that one came up, so it's perfect, only a few blocks away. Turns out, it's an international children's bookstore, so there were books in French, Spanish, English... but I'm only interested in the books in German.

We browsed the shelves. There were a ton of great books, it was hard to chose. However, it was a nice shop, which means most of the books were hardcover, so that limited the number of books I was willing to buy. But, we came home with more than 10 books. As we were checking out, the woman said something to me and I responded as usual with how bad my German was. She switched to spotty English and asked why we were in Berlin. She also asked if the kids were in school. I said that they weren't and we are homeschooled. "Ahhh!" She replied, "That's why all the children's books! You will learn from the books?" I nodded. She said, "A good idea!" Well, thank you! I thought so, too.

Random side story. The walls in the building are concrete. Instead of plain drywall, or plaster, the walls are concrete. Some of it is made to look like bricks and other parts are made to look like panels. It almost looks like wood grain, but it's concrete. There is also foam between the concrete and the window panes and cork in the floors between "sections". We're wondering if any of this has to do with keeping the building secure by allowing expansion and contraction? The floors are heated. I'm not sure it'll ever be cold enough while we're here to use this feature, but I'll let you know!

Samples of the concrete walls in our apartment.

Later, Xander (who has officially developed a serious case of sniffles and coughs) decided to stay home while Venice and I went up the street to find a recommended hair salon. Venice has enjoyed her lightened/dyed hair and is interested in having a professional give it a go. So, we went in search of an English-Speaking-Hip hair salon. When we got to the salon, the doorway opened to a split staircase. Going up seemed to be a lounge-like area. Going down seemed to be to the hair-styling tables. There didn't appear to be a front desk. Only a gentleman sitting at his table (a hairstylist without a customer?) ignoring us completely. There was a female-stylist working on a gentleman-customer. I said my, "My German is bad..." She replied, "My English is too."

We tried to have a conversation, but it was difficult. The nice gentleman-customer was able to help translate a bit. The stylist seemed to keep saying that the pink in Venice's hair is stubborn and she wouldn't be able to dye over it. I asked if we could bleach her entire head, and the woman looked shocked and said, definitively, "No! Dunkle (dark)!" After a quiet whispered discussion, Venice and I decided to leave. I told the woman we'd think about, the man in the chair translated, the woman nodded, and we left. Dejected.

I searched online for more hair salons and found a few with some good reviews. There was one, just a a few blocks farther than the one we were just in. Venice was up for trying one more time (and going before the rain comes, because, once again, we're going with no jackets or umbrellas!)

This new place, has a receptionist! Yay! And she speaks English very well! Yay! She sat down with us and talked with us about what we were interested in doing. She gave us some ideas, some possible limits/obstacles (dark hair colour), and added, that in the end, it would be our decision. See, that's what I like! I don't like to be told no. Ever. I'd like to hear the "why this" or the "why that" and to be told I can make a decision with the information. But just saying "no" makes me frustrated. We have an appointment for Tuesday!

Funny thing about making the appointment. She asked for my phone number and when I started with an international code, she suggested email instead. Easy. But then her software wouldn't proceed without a phone number. She tried a few times, didn't work. She apologised as it was new software. So, she asked for the number again, tried it, but it didn't like my number (not the right number of digits like a German number? Who knows?) She clicked one more time, the window closed on her and put her back to another page in a browser. She gave the computer the finger and said, "F*@k You." Frustrated, but not loud or angry, just casual, as if everyone does this to their computer while working with clients. Well, we finally got it set up and we're ready for our appointment next week. Just in time for Oktoberfest!

Chris (far right) and (most of) his coworkers.
Speaking of Oktoberfest, Chris is out for dinner tonight. His office is all dressed up and ready to go celebrate. That leaves us alone for dinner.

On the way back from making Venice's hair appointment, we decided to get take away from our favourite burrito place. Venice Skyped Xander to get his order. We got the food. As we neared our apartment, Venice Skyped Xander, again, this time to tell him that we were just across the street waving to him. Seconds later, we saw him in the window waving back down to us! Love that Skype is allowing us to communicate when not all of us have phones! Perfect solution!

During dinner, we heard some kids playing in the shared backyard. Venice and Xander spied a little on the family out there. One mom and two younger kids (maybe 6 and , they think?) This is the family that we think homeschools, so we, hopefully, will meet them sometime. But for now, it's time to enjoy (as much as you can when the order is wrong) dinner.

After dinner (which by the way, mine came without the meat, dang it! Grrr.), we played a card game that Venice has created and is refining. We played the "easy version". I was ahead for a long time and then I crashed and burned. Xander gave Venice a run for her money until Venice triumphed.  Then it was time to get sniffly Xander into bed. Poor guy,

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