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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Oh Österreich

My time in Europe is coming to a close, and while I realize I haven’t posted nearly as much as anyone would’ve liked, I figure my trip here in Bregenz was essentially like a novel you have to read for English class: I can give you the book, but we all know you’re going to head straight to Sparknotes for the abridged version anyway. No skin off my nose, I got to spend a month admiring the Alps and eating gelato while you sat in a classroom/office and YouTubed Jason Aldean songs wishing the adult world would pump the brakes. Sucks to suck!
I’ve found Austria and its geographic cohorts incessantly entertaining throughout my stay. Not just middle-school-humor entertaining (fahrt = ride, puppenhaus = dollhouse…I’m sorry, some things just aren’t worth the trouble of growing out of), but knee-slappingly, goshdarnit-they-don’t-know-how-hilarious-they’re-truly-being comical. Here are a few of my favorite incidences that made me want to plant a wet one on every unsuspecting Franz, Johann, and Wolfgang on the street:

People Assuming I’m British – “Kann ich Ihnen helfen?” “Oh, ich spreche nicht Deutsch. Spreche Englisch?” “Ja! You are from London?” ß I can’t tell you how many times this exchange occurred. I like speaking in a British accent as much as the next person, and on more than one inappropriate occasion an overzealous “’ELLO GOVNAH!” has escaped my mouth, but I’m pretty positive that at the end of the day and/or in typical conversation, my accent is made in the USA. It got to the point that even if I had been having an English conversation with someone and they finally asked if I was from England, I would switch to a British accent, if only for a sentence, to see if they would catch the change. If there were grounds for me to take offense to this, I probably would have, but their assumptions weren’t based off of terrible oral hygiene or lack of culinary ability so I’ll just chalk it up to my very articulate pronunciation and move on.

German-Speaking Asians – Asians doing anything cracks me up. That entire continent is fucking hysterical. Perhaps it’s the intense overpopulation or all that violin music that make them so wacky, but regardless, these people secured a special place in my heart long ago. One can only imagine my irrepressible delight when I overheard a lively conversation in German, turning to find that it was being held by two Korean men! I had died and gone to heaven! The blend of both accents was something I wish I could save to my iPod and replay for eternity because it was just that spectacular, and while I couldn’t quite understand them, I roughly gathered that they were in a disagreement about something, so obviously throwing a little fury into the mix REALLY set the whole scene off. It was like that Starburst commercial, it didn’t make a wee bit of sense but the situation was so satisfying in its own right that I couldn’t help but giggle a little. Put them in a Tyrolean hat and have them perform a Buchaechum and you just might have me weeping with joy.

Children with Accents – Anyone could tell you how much I love little kids. Whether it’s their adorable mispronunciation of the word “spaghetti” or the fact that we’re on the same psychological wavelength, I would take hanging out with a group of kindergarteners over the goons I currently associate with any day of the week. I also work with kids, so I’m used to the spontaneous shrieks of happiness and the nonstop chattering about nothing in particular that they tend to produce. When I was listening to the quiet hum of Bregenz from my window one day, I heard one such little girl rambling on and on and laughed to myself because once again I could barely understand what she was saying. Only this time, it wasn’t because she was going a mile a minute about their new Pillow Pet or the last episode of Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, but because the kid had a FREAKING ACCENT! Omigoshsocute. I don’t know how parents here discipline their children, because even if my future son/daughter were to tell me they had burned the house down, saying it with a precious spit-filled “ich” would make it impossible for me to get angry. I want to bring them all home and keep them in a little room that I can go into whenever I need some Austrian silliness in my life. I’m just not sure how I’d get them through customs.

German Banner Ads – Upon arriving in Bregenz, it took me about a week to get the internet up and running on my computer. When I finally did, I was met with a very interesting surprise: the ads along my sidebar were all entirely in German. German dating sites, German pet adoption, The Secret to Getting Rock Hard Abs (in German); if I didn’t know better, I’d think the Austrian internet provider was mocking my single life and admitted weight gain, but that’s beside the point. I’m not sure why this tickles me so, because rationally if I’m in another country, there will not be American ads plastered all over the place. Poor Wanda (my laptop) must be so confused. Seeing the ads for clothing stores I’ll never be able to go to and LivingSocial coupons I’ll never be able to cash in is a little disappointing, and a lot of the time the pictures in the ads are fascinating but reality quickly hits when I have no idea what they’re selling me on. Either way, www.Flirtfair.at sounds like it’s got whatever I need whenever I need it, so that one’s totally getting bookmarked.

Tone-deaf Austrians – Have you ever been sitting on the steps leading into Lake Constance and heard a familiar tune far off in the distance, but were unable to determine what said tune was because of some unrecognizable hindrance? Have you determined that, for once, the obstacle was not the heavy German accent accompanying the tune? Have you finally realized that the tune was Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” but just barely because the person was so off-key that it almost rendered the melody unlistenable, and you actually questioned the message of the song in relation to your current situation because the performer was so terrible that the deafening foghorn that drowned her out moments later was actually preferable to suffering through to the sound of dying cat that was ringing from her vocal cords? I have. Twice.

Old School Pop/Rock Music – Every morning, my roommate and I would sit at breakfast with our host parents, who I affectionately named House Mama and House Daddy, eating yogurt with muesli and homemade bread with Nutella or cheese. Life was good. Life got even better when the radio was turned on and Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do (I Do it For You) started playing, followed by the Eagles’ Desperado. Each and every song that played was some kind of pop or rock song dating back to the 70’s, with the occasional polka thrown into the mix for a cultural reminder. The best part? House Daddy knew every word! The man can hold a conversation in a wonderful mix of German and English (Germenglan?), yet he recites every line of Springsteen’s Born in the USA perfectly? This place is just too fantastic.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colmar Calamity

Let's discuss my birthday weekend in Colmar, France.

We began the trip at 7am on Friday, and with two connecting trains and a hotel stay about 10 miles outside of town, we figured our weekend would be a smidge eventful, but nothing too severe. Oh that I was so young and naïve.  
We arrived at our first train stop in Feldkirch, Austria with just three minutes to connect. I was never very good at thoroughly following directions in elementary school, so naturally, I read our travel itinerary wrong. Instead of departing from platform 3, we were supposed to be at 4A, which sounds close but was actually across a set of treacherous-looking tracks. We scramble to get there only to find no train in sight. We still have a minute before it takes off, where could it be? That can't possibly be it all the way down the platform at 4D, can it? That can't possibly be the conductor sounding the whistle, can it? That can't possibly be our train pulling away from the station, can it? Oh, it be. Remaining calm is the name of the game, so after finding a new connector and sitting around for a while, we were back in motion.

After a smooth transfer in Zurich, we arrived in Colmar. First order of business was finding a place to eat and pee – in no particular order, but for sanitary reasons, preferably not simultaneously. Now I obviously assumed that people in a small French town wouldn't speak much English, but the train station info center girl? She should reconsider the occupational skills section of her resume. French people like to tell you “yes” to your questions even when they really mean “I have no idea but this will probably get you to go away faster,” so after a good 10 minute discussion that achieved nothing but absolute confusion, we finally just lied and said we completely understood and headed out in the general aimless area which she had described.
Wandering through the upscale suburban neighborhoods of town was a lovely experience, but at this point we were starving, and considering we only had an address and a prayer to lead us to our hotel, we decided it would be smart to find it before it got dark and the creeps came out to play. We stopped at a random bus stop to reevaluate our lives when a cute old woman dressed in all white (helloooo symbolism) took pity on us and tried to help. She barely spoke English, so after a lively exchange of pointing at maps, nodding, and pronouncing things in all kinds of wrong ways, we ended up following her along the bus route until we ended up at a point where we assured her "We can take it from here." Wish it were that easy.

Our hotel was named Fasthotel Colmar-Houssen, so logically, taking the bus into Houssen and getting off at the stop named Houssen Centre made us feel like masters of the French public transportation system. Unfortunately, this was incorrect. Albeit adorable, this place was a ghost town, and there wasn’t a sign for our hotel (or anything else, for that matter) anywhere in sight. Minor anxiety mixed with fatigue began to set in. It was at this point that I asked myself “What would Bear Grylls do?” but then I realized he’s a jack of all trades and probably spoke French, so that was a bust. We moseyed around, we used our go-to phrase "Parlez vous anglais?", we almost got attacked by a lumber yard watchdog, we were summoned by a cute yet suspicious character in a black BMW, we trekked through a corn field, and after nearly 4 hours and 10 miles almost entirely on foot, we arrived. Cue immediate pass-out.

The next morning (BIRTHDAY MORNING WOOO), we woke up and showered in our cruise line-sized bathroom, ate our complimentary breakfast of yogurt, chocolate-filled croissants, and orange juice, and bussed it all the way to Colmar. Things were looking good. I’m finally 21! The excitement built up so much that when I hastily jumped off the bus, my shoe strap snapped. Awesome. Walking more than 5 steps proved to be impossible, so I decided to show the French how fashion-forward I can truly be and went barefoot. We quickly found a store and I dropped 50 euro (about 75 American dollars) on a pair of cute gladiator-esque sandals because it was my birthday and I can be broke if I want to.
The rest of the day consisted of gallivanting through the charming streets of Colmar – shopping, eating, people watching, and last but absolutely not least, taking a gondola ride through the canal which earned the town the nickname Petite Venise. It was exactly like the pictures I had Googled, which is very important to me because after a few missteps with misleading hotel reservations, I had become accustomed to the idea that what you see is definitely not what you get. We had been drinking wine throughout the day and decided to switch it up with a few Happy Birthday Heinekens, along with a surprise Happy Birthday Waffle brought out by the waiter. A little off the beaten path in terms of birthday traditions, but I love me some free dessert. Finally, we headed back to our humblest of abodes to watch our five channels of TV and sleep.

Might need to make this a regular thing...
 If you ever need a place to visit that is NOT Paris, I would highly suggest Colmar as a firm option. It's the quintessential storybook town and it took everything in me not to burst into a Beauty and the Beast sing-a-long on every corner. Of course that could’ve been the wine peeking through, but I heard that when you join the Legal Drinker’s Club of America, behavior like that is customary and in most parts of the world, encouraged. Joyeux Anniversaire à moi!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Playa Haters Ball

I’m not sure if anyone else is aware of the hip new trend sweeping the 18-25 year old male demographic, but I’ve made it my personal responsibility to make sure everyone is as up-to-date on the current events of our generation and this one’s a doozy. Don’t get left in the dark!

Now maybe I’m just downright special, but the frequency with which this new craze has occurred in my life over the past four months or so is simply amazing. Really, I have no idea how one girl could be so blessed. I’m referring, of course, to the number of guys who hit on me and/or ask me out WHILE THEY HAVE A GIRLFRIEND. Not only is this a major insult to my intelligence as well as my social circle, but with the advent of Facebook, I could receive a lobotomy from Michael J. Fox and still be fully aware of the fact that both the poor oblivious girlfriend and I are getting played.

Below are my favorite instances of this laughable behavior. Names have been creatively modified to protect the egos of the borderline retarded. Nice try, boys.

We’ll start with who I guess could be considered the most innocent of the group. Not really, but after being called out he admitted his faults and I’m assuming has kept his little buddy pointed solely at his girlfriend ever since. Happy Almost One Year, you two! I think you’re gonna make it! I met Dancing Machine at a Thunder over Louisville party this past April. Very nice guy, we chatted for a little and danced up a storm. He had to leave, so he asked for my number and told me he had a great time talking to me.
I’ll be damned if within the next 24 hours I hadn’t received 3 texts assuring me, “I’m not a creeper,” a friend request, and a message in my inbox again stating what a fun time he had with me. DM was apparently not aware that unless you make such things private, the phrase “In a Relationship” stands out quiiiite a bit amid such blatant flirtation. I immediately stopped replying, showed his Facebook to my friends, laughed about his stupidity, and carried on with my life.
The next weekend rolls around, he shows up to the bar I’m at. Through some undeserved spell of confidence, he sends the text: “What up girl” (oh, woo me) to which I respond, “Not much, might wanna go home and ask your girlfriend the same thing.” Aw shit. Dancing Machine tries to backtrack and explain but I’m not having any of it, and calmly advise him to just go home and be with her because ain’t no dancing be happenin tonight with me, girl. He left soon after with his tail between his legs, and has avoided eye contact ever since.

I have to hand it to Frat Pro, he really had me going for a while. We’ve known of one another for a little over a year, and when we started shooting the breeze about how our timing was always off with each other, I thought things were actually off to a decent start. I received drunk texts all through Spring Break, as well as sober messages asking when we could hang out, which we did for about two and a half weeks. He’s a cute guy, my type to a T, and I was pleased.
Then finals week rolls around, and I’m sitting off in a corner of the library so I can procrastinate without the judgmental eyes of the kids that actually have to study, when up on my newsfeed pops “Frat Pro is now in a relationship.” I search my memory to see if I missed anything in our recent hang-out seshes, because god knows I was definitely not in the market for commitment. Nope, all clear. So I sit back and decide to see if the situation is some kind of elaborate joke.
Two days go by, relationship is still going strong, so I shoot him this eloquent text: “Is this girlfriend thing legit?” After what seems like forever, he confirms it, to which I reply, “Well played, sir.” “It’s not like that,” he says. Oh, it’s not like you’ve been hanging out with at least two different girls over the past three weeks, one of whom is still completely unaware of it and is now stuck with a conniving douche for a boyfriend? My mistake. I basically told him not to try to pull off something like that ever again and we went our separate ways.
I will report that two months later they are no longer in a relationship, so she can go back to being the perfectly sweet girl I’m sure she was and he can go back to wearing Croakies and holding onto the memory of his once great body.

I have known Receding Hairline since my freshman year. I believe the nickname we gave him then was Faux Hawk because of his hot ‘do, which only amplified his already massive sex appeal. It goes without saying that times have changed. It sucked when he got a girlfriend spring semester of that year, but alas, we moved on, and unfortunately for her they entered the comfort stage way too quickly and now he lives as one of the top 5 inspirations for my previous post Fat Bottomed Boys.
But I digress.
Every time I’ve seen RH in my college career, be it while getting food or in the library, he’s been super friendly and juuuust teeter-tottering on the brink of flirting. Then you hand him a beer, and all of a sudden, the see-saw catapults him to full-on mackin and I calmly remove myself from the situation. Most recently, I pregamed with a few friends at his house. He was already drunk when we got there, best evidenced by the “Daaamn. Hey Skylar,” that I received upon walking up the steps. I caught a few more awkwardly forward glances being shot my way before we decided to leave. Thought of it somewhat, just because A) his girlfriend was nowhere in sight and B) they were going on their 3-year anniversary, but nothing to worry about.
The next day, one of my friends (who was not very familiar with him or his behavior) asked me what I thought about him, kind of like one of those notes you’d pass during social studies in 6th grade. Apparently, he thought I was “lookin good” that night and wanted to get hooked up. Yes, this is the affect Tiger Woods has had on young men. I immediately told my friend that he had a girlfriend and regardless of whether or not he dropped her or dropped a few, it was evident that he was a major asshole and could spend the rest of his life perfecting the art of the combover. It should be noted that Receding Hairline and Frat Pro are in the same fraternity. I’ll let you make your own conclusions.

Now New Years Kiss is an interesting situation. He doesn’t go to school with me, so after we met last summer, our contact has been limited pretty much to the random school excursion and occasionally on breaks.
I initially thought he was just your typical college guy (nothing spectacular in any direction), so I took everything he said with a grain of salt, and whenever we found out we’d be in close proximity and I received the, “So when can we chill?” texts I just brushed it all off. He never struck me as the relationship type, so when I found out that he up and got a girlfriend a few months ago, I was pretty surprised. Still, more power to him, she is very pretty and I heard through the grapevine that he had been after her for a little while so it was all gravy. That is, until I received a message the other day asking when we’d see each other again.
I’ve been the third wheel more in my life than is socially acceptable, so my confusion about this comment was laid on pretty thick. “Well my girlfriend’s not here all summer and won’t be here much next semester so I dunno…” Yeah, “I dunno” either buddy, but it sounds like you should break up with her and try doing things with a clear conscience instead of creeping around her back while she’s out of town. If the movie Old School taught us anything, it’s that true love is hard to find; sometimes you think you have true love and then you catch the early flight home from San Diego and a couple of nude people jump out of your bathroom blindfolded like a goddamn magic show ready to double team your girlfriend. I’m not saying this is anything like that, I just happen to enjoy that quote, but the point is, keeping me on the backburner whenever you get lonely is not the way to my heart. A bag of Milk Chocolate M&M's is. And the only thing that New Years Kiss has in common with that one true love o’ mine is that neither has nuts.

I make jokes about being a homewrecker and when I see a cute boy with a girlfriend, the phrase “Challenge accepted” definitely crosses my mind, but at the end of the day I respect people’s relationships.
Boys: stop putting me in an awkward situation, because your girlfriend will blame ME for your indiscretion long before she starts punishing you with withheld sex, and even then you all are still together while I’m labeled as a manipulative whore. Keep it in your pants, keep your eyes on your girl, and be thankful that I haven’t outed any of you. If it happens one more time, you’re all screwed. Spread the word.