Fancy dressing Angels?

When I saw the long line of people wrapped around the block, I naturally thought they were waiting for entry into one of the theaters that attract visitors to the Covent Garden area of London. However, as I rounded the block and did not see any Theatre marquee, I asked my local friend, “What are those people in line for?” Without even looking at the line, she quickly replied, “Angels, the fancy dress shop.” “Fancy dress shop?” I inquired. “Yes, for tomorrow.” she replied. “For tomorrow?” And then I realized what she meant: Halloween. Fancy dress must be a British term for costume. When we got closer to the storefront, I saw that, indeed the shop housed several floors of costumes, wigs, etc… It looked bigger than any costume shop I had ever seen in my life and I wanted to explore it, however, given the long line or ‘queue’ (as the Brits say), I made a mental note to swing by another day, perhaps after this Halloween and before the next.


If you are in London and looking for costumes, Angels may be the perfect place to check out.
Angels Fancydress

Rotterdam Gesloten (Monday mornings)

Imagine if more countries would be like the Dutch, who do not dub foreign movies. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch movies in their original language but with subtitles instead of dubbing? I am convinced that that is one of the reasons why EVERYBODY in the Netherlands speaks perfect English. And that makes my travels through the Netherlands easy and very enjoy. However, with the good comes the not so good: Mondays in Rotterdam are a rest day for plenty of businesses including museums, restaurants and shops. However, if you do find yourself in Rotterdam on a Monday, as I did, here are a few things you can do:

1. Walk across the Maas Tunnel, the oldest traffic tunnel in Netherlands.
The tunnel was built right before the second world war. As I rode the escalator down into the tunnel, I marveled at the wooden escalators and the fact that cyclists could take their bicycles on them. After you arrive at the bottom of the escalators, about 20 meters below sea level, notice that there are separate tunnels for cyclists and for pedestrians. The tunnel for the pedestrians are below the tunnel for the cyclists.

2. Walk around the Old Harbor and emerge at the curious Cube Houses Rotterdam, by Dutch architect Piet Blom.

3. Stop for a delicious lunch break at Spirit, an organic and vegetarian cafe, not far from the Cube Houses. Spirit is flanked by a whole-foods supermarket on one side and a lovely home/lifestyle shop called Vanbinnen on the other.

4. Sleep in and, after noon, go shopping along Meent.
I made the mistake of getting up early and going out, only to realize that Monday mornings in Rotterdam is like a ghost town. Most shops’ signs announced “maandag gesloten”. And the few that are open on Mondays open around or after 1300. Thus shopping on Mondays is possible only between 1300 and 1700 or 1800, if at all.

If you’re looking for unique, independent designers’ wares, head to object trouve, on Pancake Street. I was thrilled that the shop was open on Monday. It’s exactly the type of shop I seek when in a new city; but I am not always successful finding such treasures in the sea of chains, boring brand names and same-same, that is our current consumer market.

5. Walk along the many waterfronts and eventually end up on Witte De Withstraat, an artist area with museums, art galleries and cafes.
By the late afternoons, some shops and stores will be open. By evening, more restaurants will be open. If you’re craving good Italian, try Oliva, where delicious, seasonal dishes are prepared and presented by a team of attentive staff. Although only in Dutch, the wine list is easy to understand and reasonable. Even if most things are “gesloten” on Mondays, Rotterdam has much to offer, if you know where to look.

Rotterdam Gesloten (Monday mornings)

Guten Tag, Bonjour, and Xin Chao, without practice

When I thought about today’s challenge of a machine that I would create, if I could, two recent obstacles came to mind: 1) My increasing dislike of crossing time zones and dealing with jet lag and 2) my insatiable desire to speak foreign languages fluently when I travel.

I stumbled on this strange concocted ‘machine’ attached to a side of a skyscraper in Tokyo. The odd scene out of metal looked like a well-coordinated parasite attached to the streamlined facade of a high-rise office building. It immediately conjured up thoughts of the films The City of Lost Children, Brazil, Clockwork Orange and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all films I adored and enjoyed as a youngster.

One of the attractive attributes of these film is the ability to transport me to another place and time, without the ill effects of jet lag. I love to travel, but as I get older, I don’t want to deal with all the tiredness, headache and spaciness that accompanies jet lag. Perhaps I am less tolerate of inconveniences for the novelty of a new experience, and I am now more selective about what inconveniences I am willing to tolerate. Thus, I wish there was a machine that would transport me easily to other parts of the globe without forcing me to suffer the horrible time-zone effects. And to address my second problem, I would want the machine to be a real Babel fish, a la Arthur C. Clarke’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another favorite), from which I could speak and understand whatever foreign language I needed to speak and understand, without having to practice and spend unimaginable amount of time and effort (and frustration) actually learning it. A machine that could do both would definitely open up new travel opportunities.

Guten Tag, Bonjour, and Xin Chao, without practice

Weekly Photo Challenge: Juxtaposition or just odd?

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Juxtaposition

I saw these fans all over China. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how Haier’s marketing or logo department came up with two red boy, in briefs, arm in arm to present their company logo on these fans. What does it mean? Do all Haier products have these two boys as the company logo?

Weekly Photo Challenge- Juxtaposition

Der, Die, Das…Was?

Der, Die, Das...Was?

Today’s daily prompt asked us to predict what we would be doing on July 30, 2014. While images of wine festivals, music concerts, or treks through the Alps flirt through my mind, the one thing I hope I will NOT still be doing is learning more German grammar. Der, Die, Das…Was? Calgon, take me away!

Der, Die, Das, Was?

Racist, bully, stupid, or all of the above?

As I was hurrying from the train platform to the station exit, an unexpected tug on my arm forced me to stop.  I looked down to see a little blond kid about seven or eights years of age looking up at me.  Although his lips were moving, I couldn’t understand what he was saying because ALT-J was blasting through my headphones. In that abrupt moment of interruption, my brain was reminded of India, where it’s impossible to walk through a market or street without a child tugging and begging for money. “India?” my confused brain thought. “But you’re in Germany. Kids don’t beg in Germany.” So naturally, my brain thought the child was lost or needed help finding his parents.

I quickly took my buds out of my ears and asked in German, “I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you; What’s wrong? How can I help you?”  He replied in German, “Can I listen to your music?” This non sequitur response surprised me; it was the last thing I had expected to hear, from him or from anyone who might have interrupted my journey through the train station. How many people accost a perfect stranger to ask if they can listen to what the other person is listening to? Not many, I think.

I inquired quizzically, “You want to listen to my music?” making sure that I had understood him. He didn’t respond immediately, so I thought I had indeed misunderstood. I asked him again what he needed and I realized too late that he had just gotten it: my undivided attention.

With my attention fully disengaged from my music and destination and fully on him now, he sprayed a slew of derogatory, racist comments, gestures, and then capped it off with a bunch of unintelligible sounds he assumed to be my mother tongue. It happened all so fast and, because I was so stunned at what was happening, I said nothing. After he realized that I wasn’t saying or reacting to him (I was quite literally in shock and speechless), he turned around to face a small group of boys behind us, probably his gang, who all broke out laughing, making similar unintelligible noises and pointing at me.  That’s when I found myself jerked back through time to when I was a little girl, walking home from school or standing in the playground, when a bunch of boys – it’s always a bunch of boys or girls and never just one boy or one girl – would descend upon me and shout racist comments, make similar efforts at languages they didn’t know, or bump into me intending to make me fall over.

In situations like this, especially when I am being harassed, denigrated or victimized because of the color of my skin, strong emotions alway surge to the surface. Angry emotions seem easy to justify against another adult, but a child? Because the perpetrator was a little boy of no more than 10 years of age, and even though he obviously had no reservations or fear about accosting an adult female in a crowded train station, my concern for the boy outweighed my concern for myself. I was so surprised by his young age that I didn’t have time to react – no time to get hurt or to get angry. I was just stunned.

Afterwards, after I had had time to reflect, I became angry. Not at the boy, but at myself.

I became angry at myself for allowing that “lucky” opportunity to pass by without incident. I became angry at myself because, by not reacting or doing anything I have allowed those boys to continue their ignorant rants to others after me. By my inaction and silence, I have given those boys permission to harass and bully others after me – a daughter walking home, a brother going to piano lessons, a father waiting for the bus, a mother going for a walk, a sister going to meet her friends, etc.

It happened to me today, but I will not let it happen again. I will be prepared the next time and seize the opportunity to affect change. I will no longer be silent.

Racist, bully, stupid or all of the above?

My learning style for languages: Interactive

No matter how old and not-SO-wise I became, the first day of anything fills me with equal parts anticipation, excitement and fear. The first two propel me forward, filling me with hope and determination; fear, however, only inhibits me and makes me want to flee.

Someone once opined that ‘life is too short to learn German.” Boy, do I know what that person meant. Although there are moments, reading a German menu (Bier, Brot, Wein) or reading signs along the streets (Kindergarten, Schule, Cinemas), when I feel confident that I can learn German, the majority of my moments in Germany are lost in a foreign fog (Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaen, Minderwertigkeitskomplex, Vernachlaessigugn). Learning a new language, at my more mature age, is more challenging than I ever imagined. Why didn’t I learn German instead of French in High School? Not that I can remember any of my French now. It’s lost somewhere with my Adam Ant albums and my mixed cassettes of favorite songs from OMD, Alphaville, New Order and Gang of Four.

After trying a few classes and teachers, I realized that I learn best from teachers who are passion about what they are teaching and who are well prepared. Duh, right? But the majority of the teachers seem to lack passion or even an ounce of enthusiasm for their subject or their pupils. It’s as if they think their role as teachers is to show up, select exercises in the workbook, ask the students to do them in pairs, and then escape to their computers at the front of the class. Really? Is that what teaching is? If so, then what value do we receive from attending a class? Couldn’t we just complete the workbook by ourselves at home and check the answers ourselves? The passionate teachers I have had usually keep everybody on their toes. We’re either standing up or sitting down, only for a sec, and either way we’re constantly engaged in speaking, writing, or interacting with each other. Whether that is to play vocabulary games, to write stories on butcher papers, or to present and act those stories out to our peers, passionate teachers engage us to learn in class by interacting with each other. Interactive learning. That’s my preferred method for learning anything, especially German.

Daily Prompt for 8 Jan 2014