Day One (and Two and Three)

I’m sure there are worse times to blow a fuse, but doing so out of sheer stupidity during your German host mother’s birthday party on the day you meet her seems to rank pretty highly.

Anyway, a couple of notes:

  1. I’m in Germany.  Successfully.  And after flying LAX -> ORD -> MUC -> TXL, I was 60% resigned to the fact that I wouldn’t be seeing my checked suitcase for a week or two, but it made it all the way with me.
  2. Because I’m in Germany, this blog may become more blog-like, i.e. an actual retelling of my daily/weekly/haphazardly updated life.  Just sayin’ it’s a possibility.
  3. And my host mother’s apartment currently has no internet, which means I’m not sure how in touch with the world I’ll be in the next week or two until this is fixed.  We’ll see.

The flights in were great — I watched three movies (including Up in the Air, which was quite good), read Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut, good but strange — ole Kurt writes himself in as an omniscient, omnipotent character), and slept for, oh, three hours out of nineteen or twenty.  Found a taxi at the airport, which was difficult not because they were scarce but because every single taxi is a beige Mercedes, and made it to the Stanford center, which turns out to be a mansion abandoned when the Nazis took over and is absurdly nice (surprise).  I’m told every spring a cadre of Swedish architecture students comes to Berlin to learn about the Stanford house’s rose gardens.  The next day I had dinner on the Bing dime, which felt oh-so-good believe you me, and my first Deutsche Bier — Pilsner.  Delicious.

I’ll end this post with the first two entries of what will probably become a running theme tese ten weeks:  Things in Germany that are Only Slightly Different and Yet All the More Terrifying for It.

First, German keyboards.  They’re almost identical to American keyboards except that a few brackets and semicolons are replaced with umlauted vowels.  Oh, and the “y” and “z” (excuse me, the ypsilon and tset) are swapped.  And none of the shift-letter combinations beyond capitals are the same.  And I still haven’t found the semicolon.

The second entry is one you might want to save until safely between mealtimes.  Fair warning.  German toilets have a “shelf,” which, apart from being exactly what you think it is, was apparently a Nazi invention to aid in the collection of stool samples.  Add this to another list of messed up shit the Nazis are responsible for, please.



  1. Oh come on. Where did you hear that BS story about the shelf toilets? They’ve been around for ages, since long before WW2. The only thing they have in common with Nazis is that what’s in them is coloured brown.

  2. Most computers should allow you to change the keyboard settings so that you type normally despite what the paint on the keys says. (I think I discovered this when I was planning The Game and changed my own keyboard to Dvorak.)

    And if it’s any consolation, the French keyboard (the AZERTY keyboard) looks like this:
    I had/have no idea how to access the second set of alternates on the number keys. And you can type a mu instead of a double quotation mark. But I guess the semicolon is pretty obvious (and easier to type than a period?).

  3. you have some pretty helpful fans – did you actually blow a fuse during your host’s mother’s bday party? why? i think that if it was important enough to mention, you ought to explain; i’m dying of curiosity!

  4. have you noticed yet that on quite a few toilets there are signs that ask men to sit while peeing?

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