Thursday, February 24, 2005

Swollen Head

24 February 2005

What a rush I’m having over these past few days in Cologne. I think that I've got a swollen head, and it ain't from the! No fewer than four times since my stay I have been generously complimented on, not only my German capabilities, but also on my dialect. Whomever I’m speaking to will usually stop me and ask where I’m from because they can’t quite make out my dialect. When I tell them that I’m American, they are surprised.

When I checked in at the Intercontinental in Cologne, the woman at the desk initially spoke English to me. When I responded in German, she then said that I must now speak German to practice and that she would only speak to me in German. They aren’t like that in Frankfurt. If they even hear a bit of English out of your mouth, they don’t have the patience and will mostly reply in English.

The one guy proceeded to tell me with graphical facial expressions why my speaking was nothing like most Ami’s (the German nickname for Americans pronounced Ahh-me). It looked completely silly the way he was contorting his face with this explanation. From my understanding, I have a somewhat distinctive Rheinische dialect from Niederrhein. There are worst things that I could be told. I suppose that it was from living in Kalkar all those years and learning to be a parrot in my effort to “fit in” with my German friends and at the German gym that I belonged to.

What has also been great for me is that I’m finally thinking in German first and not translating from English to German and back again. Things seemed to come to easier too since my last trip to Europe and speaking the language was only about seven months ago. The dreaming started about two days prior to my departure from Baghdad. Must be the mind’s way of preparing.

The weather here has been mostly clear with some snow flurries. I have forgotten what being “chilled to the bone” felt like. Actually, it is a bit invigorating to feel that full-body shiver and have your teeth chattering. Reminds you that you’re still alive in a way.

Starbuck’s has been my life-blood since arriving here. I’ve also been eating well. I may end up back in those 33W’s sooner than I wanted with all the beer and food here. When I got to Camp Doha last week, I needed jeans and found out that I’m back in a 32W. Don’t worry, the food is still good, I’ve just been watching my boyish figure! :) Tomorrow I’m on my way to Elst, Netherlands. I will take the train up to Arnhem and then over to Elst from there. It will be great to see them again. Only wish that I’d had more days to spend with them. ‘Nuf for now.
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