// Overseas travel blog
Into the apartment drifted the people, in wafted the cigarette smoke, and in bounded the dogs. Last night was GHL’s birthday bash, and a big one because it was a 50th.
I arrived home yesterday afternoon to find her in a flurry around the kitchen trying to prep dinner for an unknown number of guests. So I offered to help and was soon peeling eggs and chopping kilos of potatoes and apples. This was useful as I picked up some new vocab like how to say ‘eggshells’ and some common schimpfwörter to use when you break a glass bowl. My housemate and I had bought a little birthday gift and some alcohol earlier to contribute, and my housemate also cooked a delicious spicy Korean dish to share with the guests.
The first guest to arrive came half an hour early. He was a charming old man in his eighties, and was to become my buddy for the evening. Or I was to become his infatuation or something like that. Then a few more people came, and more again: a young couple with a one year old who barely stayed an hour, GHL’s brother who walzed in with a loud singsong voice, knuckling the dining table a few times to announce his arrival to the people, most of whom he’d never met. His 55kg dog came racing in behind him. An arty/nerdy-looking lady also came wearing high trousers and a well-tucked, red lipstick, glasses and a few additional kilos. A middle-aged couple who lived across the street introduced themselves to us and explained that they sometimes see (watch?) me at my desk in my room. The lady soon clouded the entire apartment with plumes of smoke from her chain-smoked cigarettes.
My housemate and I were called to have dinner once everyone was sitting around the circular table, but when we sat down we saw that no one else seemed to be eating so I didn’t grab any food. Then we were prompted to start and told that usually people have tea and cake before the main meal, and they were still on their cake. So we served up and thankfully everyone soon followed suit as we all piled up our plates with a very authentic and stereotypically German array of: potato salad one (with meat), potato salad two (without meat), potato something or other three, crusty white bread with a tasty homemade beetroot dip, sunflower bread (Sonnenblumenbrot makes a comeback - refer to Bread Ban), some other bread, and the Korean dish.
Whereas we’d be three beers or wines deep at this stage in Australia, no one had yet begun drinking so it was high pressure when I had to introduce myself across a quiet dinner table with eight or so people, answer questions, and generally try and keep up with the German conversation. One guy had a super deep radio-voice, and also spoke quicker than most, so after a failed attempt at comprehending a couple of questions I had to apologise and publicly flag him as unmöglich zu verstanden, and tell him he spoke to quickly for me. To which he replied: ‘Is English better?’ And while the answer was obvious, I took the high road and told him in German, ‘No thanks. I need to improve my German.’ He was more awkward about it than me and thereafter we maintained a complete abstinence of conversation for the duration of the night. Finally, with impeccable timing, the first glass of Sekt was poured.