Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ohne Furcht und Ardel

For this New Years Season I decided to spent it at a Jugend Freizeit in Berlin. This is sort of like a camp for teenagers and young adults. It cost me 50 €, but was worth every cent. (Euro 1 cent coins aren’t called pennies)

Before my arrival I had what the Germans call an Angsthase (similar, in a way, to a scaredy cat, only, as I have heard it used you say, I have an Angsthase; literally a fear bunny). I wasn’t sure what I was playing at going to a camp full of German teenage kids who I had never met and who might not even speak English, and I sure don’t speak German well enough to be a fun guy. I remember thinking I should have shaved, or maybe packed trendier clothes, or learned more German. I was nervous, and part of me just wanted to stay home. But I went, and even though the first day I was too nervous to even ask for food at the dinner table, I ended up making good friends and really enjoying myself. First I talked to the leader, Dietmar, about how I knew a little German, but that I was nervous using it. So the next meal he practically made me ask for everything, which was really quite helpful. After awhile the kids got used to me and were eager to speak a little English outside of their school lessons, so we spoke a combination of German and English together. We spent alot of time playing card games like Phase 10 (which I lost without getting mad in the least), Elfer Raus, and a new German game (to me at least) called Ohne Furcht und Ardel (Without fear or Aristocracy). At first this game seemed to complicated for me to even dream of playing it, because it was in German and difficult to explain, but then I watched the other kids playing it and translated most of the rules, and finally started playing. It is now my favorite game, and will be brought to America.
For New Years Eve, we went onto a big hill in Berlin and watched as every Berliner there launched a stash of fireworks to rival even Thunder over Louisville. It also turned out to be a little dangerous as some punk kids started throwing fire crackers at crowds of people, and as drunk people began shooting of improperly grounded bottle rockets, which shot towards crowds of people and sometimes exploded a little to close for comfort. It was an interesting experience.
I had many good conversations with Dietmar and his Dutch girlfriend, but at the end of the week I was exhausted from translating German and having to speak simple and slow English. I was also a touch dissapointed that I couldn’t speak German as well as I wanted. But I kept with me the words of wisdom from Dietmar, ‚Self pity is like peeing your pants in the winter, at first you feel nice and warm, but then it gets cold, and you smell bad’ and also, ‚Concentrate more on what you do know, than on what you wish you knew.’ Dietmar was a cool guy, as was everyone I met on the excursion. I felt like part of the group, and instead of being the annoying foreign guy, I was more like the cool foreign guy. For example, when we were playing the German version of Who wants to be a millionaire (Wer Wird Millionär?) they would pick questions for me based on things I’d told them (like that my favorite German word is Edelstein, they picked a question with Edelstein in it) or questions about America. There was also one night that we went to a German comedy routine. Most of it I didn’t understand, but he made one joke in English, and all the people in our group looked at me with a clever smirk, and a look in their eye that seemed to say, ‚Our American understood that one better than anyone else here.’

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