Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day in Oelde

There's a hot debate going on in Germany right now about who has the slowest internet connection. Many voices are heard and there are thousands of candidates, but a consensus is emerging: it's me. I have the slowest of the slow. This has been going on the entire year but I've made a point of not getting into it here at Forschungsjahr. It's like the elderly woman I spoke with yesterday in Oelde said: "There's too much complaining today!" So, even though my internet connection is genuinely lousy, I'm resisting the urge to complain.

I was minding my own business in Oelde, a small town on the eastern edge of the Münsterland, when the elderly woman approached me with her walker. She squeezed by me and I said "Excuse me," as I tried to make room for her. She paused, looked at me and said (more or less) "There's no need to excuse yourself. There's plenty of room here. I'm not a complainer, like so many people today. Everyone would be happier if they went through a World War as I did." She followed up in a slight Polish accent, giving a quick summary of her daily schedule during the war: up at 5am, milk the cow so her little sister would have something for breakfast, and so on. She was a hot ticket and we traded world views for a minute or two before she headed off for the town center to do her shopping. "I'm blind as a bat and the only way I can get home is by counting the buildings as I go by to keep track of where I am," she said. "Aller Achtung!" said I.

I thought that was it, but as she inched away she caught sight of my bike in spite of her near total blindness. "Affengeil!" she said. A direct translation would be something like, "Monkey horny!" Not the kind of comment I expect from a woman who is clearly well into her eighties. Technically geil means horny, as in lustful, desirous of sexual activity, but really it's a slang word expressing impressed approval. When I was a kid we said "wicked!" Some kids, not me, said "boss!" which I always found ridiculous. Later, when I was in college, people started saying "bitchin'." Not much of an improvement. Today, my students mostly say, "awesome." But this old gal in Oelde says "Affengeil!," which I think is rad.

And another thing that's pretty geil: last night I saw fireworks, Fourth of July Fireworks, ON THE FOURTH OF JULY! In the States, Fourth of July Fireworks are generally set off on the 5th, the 6th, the 8th... Any date will do, so long as it's not the 4th. I'm a pretty conservative kind of guy and I think we ought to celebrate the Fourth on the 4th. Or not at all. Why the City of Essen decided to celebrate American Independence Day at all is a mystery to me, but they did a fine job of it. We sat in our darkened living room and had a great view of the sky over Gruga Park where the rockets' red glare silhouetted the houses and trees across the street. This is the kind of display I'd like to see in Logan, Utah and I considered writing a letter to our current mayor about it, but ultimately decided, there's too much complaining today. When I want to see a decent fireworks display on the Fourth, I'll just come to Germany for a visit.

1 comment:

Em said...

4th of July fireworks in Germany. Curious. rad.

You saw more than I did on the 4th. And no, I'm not complaining.