I MEANT TO WRITE THIS WEEK YOU HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO:
The most spectacular choir concert ever!
Last week I was in London, today I head back to Hungary for the first time in almost four years. Wish me well; I promise to tell you all about it when I get back!
Depending on your language, last Tuesday was Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Faschingsdienstag! Johanna, who works with our exchange program, invited us to the town of Tüßling to see how Fasching (also known here as Karneval, especially in Köln/Cologne where the big famous parades take place) is celebrated here in Bayern!
Tüßling is about two hours away from München and more than ten times smaller. We arrived at midday, before the streets filled up.
According to Johanna, each town in the area has groups that make floats, which are then pulled by a tractor in the actual parade. Every time a float went through the center of town, the announcer would describe it and then call out, “Tüßlinger, olle dabei?!” (People of Tüßling, everybody here?!) which initially inspired rousing cheers and then slowly dwindled down as the parade went on. The floats ranged from pretty simplistic to technically impressive, and most had a recent important event or scandal for a theme, calling to mind the old idea of Carnival being the one time that citizens could make fun of the people in power. This meant a great many about the current financial woes of the EU, but there were also floats about more local scandals like the story of Yvonne, a cow from the area who escaped and then apparently evaded capture.
This being a Bavarian celebration, there were plenty of indecipherable things said and plenty of alcohol consumed and, most importantly, a good time had by all!
For more pictures, please click here!
Okay, so maybe not daily, but this is awesome! The song is “Aufstehn!” (Get up!) by the band Seeed, with a guest verse by none other than Cee-Lo Green. I’ve been listening to this song on repeat and continue to be impressed/amazed at how well German and reggae can go together. (There’s an all-English version of this song by the band as well, but the lyrics are completely different and, trust me, the German is way better). Like I said: unexpected, but awesome.
The lyrics to the chorus are:
Baby wach auf, ich zähl’ bis zehn, (Baby wake up, I’m counting to ten)
das Leben will einen ausgeb’n (life wants to give us one*)
und dass will ich seh’n. (and I want to see that)
Lass’ uns endlich raus geh’n, (let’s finally go out)
das Radio aufdreh’n. (turn up the radio)
Das wird unser Tag Baby, (it’ll be our day, baby)
wenn wir aufsteh’n (when/if we get up)
*this is “one” in the sense of “defined something”; other people on the internet have translated this line as anything from “life wants to give us a drink” to (unintentionally hilariously) “life wants to donate a gift to us,” but I’m content with leaving it a little vaguer. 🙂
Wintersemester has concluded and my nine week (!) break has begun! So far I’ve been celebrating by finally cleaning up my room, baking an insane amount with fellow Americans Katy and Nora (cookies! layer cakes!), finishing some songs that I’ve been neglecting, and enjoying the fact that somehow it is still snowing!
It’s a little insane to think that I’ve already been here for five months. What’s even weirder is really taking a good look at what has changed during that time. At the beginning, I was terrified of being incomprehensible when I needed to ask people for directions, even though I knew I had the words somewhere in me. I didn’t really know how to buy groceries for a week’s worth of meals, let alone budget that from dollars to euros. Reading a novel in German seemed an insurmountable challenge, and forget writing anything of intellectual worth in this complicated, wonderful language.
Since those first exhausting weeks, I’ve read seven novels as part of my course work, written 5000 German words of literary analysis and 1700 more for an art history paper, joined a fantastic choir and a fun orchestra, seen some crazy theatre, had the opportunity to speak more Hungarian than I have in years, had some good beer, tromped around in some glorious castles, made some new friends who don’t hesitate to correct my grammar and who like to talk about real things, explored a new city, decided which libraries I like the best, and yes, managed to feed myself.
I’m looking forward to this break; next week is Fasching, Germany’s Carnival, and next month I’m adventuring outside of Germany; I’m going back to Hungary for the first time in almost four years and am also planning on leaving the continent to visit other LC people in London. After that, it’ll already be April and then three months of Sommersemester… and then this year will be perilously close to its end.
Right now that feels like not long enough as well as forever, which only seems appropriate.
(edit: Two seconds after I posted this the first time, a little box popped up with the tag suggestions “fellow americans,” “intellectual worth,” and “insurmountable challenge.” Oh WordPress, you crack me up.)
I’m currently in the middle of writing a German (read: frustrating, complicated, wonderful) paper about one author’s search for closure for an entire generation of Romanian Germans (or is it German Romanians? History is complicated!) through her novel, but I’ve been stalled by the fact that I am unable to find a word for “sense of closure” in any of my normal go-to dictionaries.
Is it possible German doesn’t have an exact word for this? Wikipedia doesn’t have a page for the psychological definition of “closure”, though English and French versions are provided (to be fair, it is Wikipedia, so I’m not reading too much into it). A forum thread on dict.leo.org discusses this at length, trying to find a fitting translation, though subtly different interpretations of the same snippet of text turn out sizeable variations. German has a word for “struggling to come to terms with the past,” for crying out loud (Vergangenheitsbewältigung), though to be fair that’s a very specific national past and a very specific struggle.
In my experience so far, German seems to be much more exacting than English. You can know a fact (German verb: wissen) or know a person (German verb: kennen). You study whatever you’re majoring in (studieren) or you study for a test (lernen). Class is taught simply by a professor in English, but in German it depends on gender: Professor or Professorin. And those are German 101 terms, that’s not even getting into the good/crazy stuff, like the aforementioned Vergangenheitsbewältigung or Geborgenheit (explained to me as the “sense of security and safety like when one is unconditionally loved”) or the much-loved Schadenfreude, so useful that we didn’t bother to create our own English word for the same idea.
Which makes me wonder: people always talk about words that don’t exist in other languages, but I’ve personally never come across a concept that can’t be conveyed. Maybe not understood and maybe not valued, but at least explained. With lexical gaps within one language, not even considering translation between languages, the ideas that fall into the gap are not absent from the culture, but are simply explained around (the estimable Hank Green has an excellent/hilarious/nerdtastic video which talks about exactly this, among other things). French may have a concise expression that means thinking of the perfect thing to say once it’s too late to say it (l’esprit de l’escalier), but English speakers still fully understand that concept; we just don’t have a similarly elegant way to express it. English in its turn has the wonderful word awkward, which has been fittingly uncooperative when I’ve tried to express it without further clarification in either German or Hungarian (though if anyone knows that this word does indeed exist in another language, please let me know! The Germans I know who speak English just use it as it is, which cracks me up.)
As far as a sense of closure and the exact meaning I’m looking for in my paper goes, I’ll figure it out; it’s only a matter of searching a little farther and nailing down exactly what I want to say and then, of course, returning to the dictionary and trying to make sense of what I find there. And then repeating the process as many times as need be.
To be honest, I’m much more impressed by the expansiveness of language than disappointed in its limits. The fact that we are ever able to convey anything accurately is pretty miraculous. What can I say: languages are crazy, but also really awesome.
(My favorite untranslatable word, by the way, is the Hungarian ügyes, which, according to the dictionary, encompasses able, clever, handy, and skillful, among 24 other possible English translations. Personally I would translate it as a combination of clever, bright, precocious, and good, as in a good child; it’s a fabulous adjective.)