Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strickentreffen and other Knitting news

Sunday mornings in Tucson found me in Espresso Art (a cafe by the University) knitting with a great group of women. While I love knitting alone, I really like the social aspect of gathering to knit. I've noticed that I don't knit nearly as fast in these groups as I do alone ... but I love to see what everyone else is doing. We end up teaching and learning from each other and just sharing our lives.

Since coming to Germany, I've been trying to fill some of this void with my internet explorations. The knitting/personal blogs that I've been reading have been quite inspiring. I really like the knitting podcasts that I've been listening to. I treat these almost as I would a knitting group ... I put on the podcast and start knitting. But it is not the same.

I went into a yarn store here in the Fußgangerzone but the proprietress was so unfriendly that I didn't ask her if she knew of any knitting groups in town. I posted an ad on Craigslist -- Köln has a city entry but Bonn does not. I figured Köln is not too far away and perhaps Bonn people look at it. This would have the advantage (or disadvantage, however you look at it) of reaching knitters that speak English. But alas, I had no response to the ad.

One of the women in MPI suggested that I go to the Münster (the main catholic church right in the city center). She was fairly sure that they had a knitting group. So I found the Münsterladen (church store) and asked about this. The nun I spoke to (I started in German, but she switched to English) was very confused by my question. She wanted to know who had told me that the church did such a thing. After much explanation she said that no they do not have a knitting group. I should try the Protestants ... they do that sort of thing.

Well before I could go to Kreuzkirche (the big Protestant church in the center of town) I went into a different yarn store in town. This proprietress was very friendly. She responded to my attempts at speaking German by speaking very slow, simple, clear German herself. So I asked if she knew of a knitting group that I could join. She owns two stores and her store in Rheinbach (two towns over -- about 20 minutes by regional train) has a Strickentreffen (knitting meeting) every Thursday evening. I've gone twice now and it has been great. I get to listen and practice German ... but if I'm really confused they will clarify in English. It costs 5 Euro per week. I wish it didn't but if you think about it, I spent about 5 dollars each week buying a coffee in the cafe where I met up with my last group.

So now some postings of my latest projects:
Here is a scarf I made for my niece in California. It is based on the scribble scarf in Mason-Dixon Knitting. It is very lightweight and yet snuggly ... perfect for California. This was made with stash yarn. I think the blue is shine sport from Knitpicks and the white is boucle that I got in some super yarn sale Michael's had last summer.

I mentioned that I didn't like the washcloths here so I was knitting a few out of some cotton yarn I had in my stash. It washes nicely but after one use it is completely out of shape. I think I could get used to knitted washcloths, however, I like the feel on my face.

I finished Arlo's hat (Mütze auf deutsch) I like how the crown looks on his a little better than I like the look on mine. That's okay though since I won't see the crown of my hat when I'm wearing it. Although, I will be hard pressed to see the crown of Arlo's hat when he is wearing his.

Lastly, I finished my first knitted swap project. It is not due for mailing until December 1st ... won't my partner be surprised when she gets this in October. I knitted this 6 foot 2 inch scarf from the touch of whimsy pattern. I had never done an I-cord cast-on and cast-off. That combined with the double knit edging makes for a beautiful border.

I'm still working on the baby jacket for Isobel. I have the back and the two front pieces done. I'm working on the arms now. I would like to start a sweater for myself. I think I will go buy some more of the blue yarn that I used for the scarf. If I get truly bored, I could always knit one of these ... if only I knew a horse:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Internationales Frauenzentrum

These past two weeks, I have been incredibly busy with the Internationales Frauenzentrum (International Womens' Center). About a month ago, there were a bunch of organizations with tables in the Marktplatz. I saw IFZ there but did not have the confidence to try to speak with them (it turns out they probably could have spoken with me in English). I went home, instead, and looked them up on-line. While they have some information in English, most of the events are described in German. Through my poor translation I thought there was a meeting on the second Monday of every month to introduce women to the center. So I waited, then last Monday (the 8th, I think) I went to the center. It turns out that the event I thought was an introduction to IFZ was in fact a tour of the city and it is done on the second Monday of the month ... when there is enough interest. I.e. I needed to have called ahead.

I ended up speaking with the president of the organization who speaks Korean and German ... but very little English. There was a lot of pantomime and dictionary flipping ... but I managed to understand what was going on. So now I go to 3 classes a week and co-run another. I am taking a sewing class. It is a good thing I already know how to sew. Our teacher speaks only German and speaks very very fast. Add to this the fact that everyone else in the room is talking and she is usually sitting at the sewing machine with me behind her (not a good set-up for my hearing problem) and I understand very little. It is going well though. I am also taking an "Integrierender Orientierungskurs für Migratinnen" -- a course for immigrant women to help them understand Germany and integrate more smoothly into society. I missed the first class. Last week was a bit of geography, learning about the German states and capitals but focusing mostly on the state we live in -- Nordrhein Westfalen -- and particularly the Bonn area. The class is entirely in German but there were lots of pictures and maps and I got a lot out of it. Tonight and next week's classes will discuss Democracy in Germany and the following week will be on the festivals and holidays of Germany. I'm really looking forward to that last one.

The third course is Deutsch Konversationkurs -- German Conversation. I think this will be a really good class for me ... but I didn't like the last class very much. I will try again this week. The teacher kept speaking English to me. Oddly enough, she did this for words I understood. I kept telling her I was understanding fine, but maybe I had a puzzled look on my face. My father thinks that perhaps she wanted to show-off her English skills. Who knows.

The center needed an English speaker to lead the English Konversationkurs so I did that this past Monday night. There is a Kenyan woman who is able to lead the class some nights, but not every week. I brought in a Wikipedia article about the Western United States and we read and discussed it. The class seemed to really like it. The previous class, the text that was chosen was at a college level. Most of the participants were struggling to understand and so they were not getting an opportunity to practice speaking.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Perfect Fall Day

This past weekend we went to Braubach to see Marksburg Castle and had the most amazing day. The forecast called for rain but if you let weather make your decisions for you ... you might not see anything in Europe. I believe it did rain in Bonn, but in Braubach and Koblenz we only had a perfect fall mist. It was cool enough to be called crisp and have the changing colors of the leaves make sense, but not too cold to be uncomfortable. Braubach is a very small town and it was clear that the people all knew each other. Everyone said good morning to us and it was a great Deutsch speaking experience. In Bonn, if I have to ask someone to repeat or slow down, they almost always switch to English. In Braubach, however, people were unhurried so they were happy to speak slower and simpler for me. The tours of Marksburg were only given in German with a written guide in English (or a few other languages). The written guide was about 2 sentences long for each room and the tour guide spoke for 5-10 minutes in each room. While she spoke very quickly I was able to get a general picture of the information she was giving.

Here are a few pictures of Marksburg Castle:
The castle on the hill

The herb garden (along the battlement) has been continuously cultivated since medieval times.

These window seats show the thickness of the wall of the castle.
From the kitchen -- this may have been the item that most impressed Arlo. He loves how you can see the centuries worth of use on this butcher block top.

Here is the cute tram that took us up the hill to the castle.

We walked back along a path that was once a medieval road.

Where we could look down upon the old city wall and tower.

This Inn is just outside of what was once the city gate (for late-comers I suppose).

Here is a street in the Altstadt.

Today is German Reunification Day (a national holiday) so it is only right to end this post with a picture of some pieces of the Berlin wall. These are situated at the Deutsch Ecke (German Corner) where mother Mosel and father Rhein meet (Koblenz is at the confluence of these two rivers).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Funny Signs

So, we've come across many funny signs while here in Germany. We thought we should start photographing them and sharing them with all of you.

This sign is 60 meters from the river (the Rhein) in Bad Godesberg. The street has a bit of a downhill slope and ends at the crossroads of the pedestrian pathway along the river. There is a guardrail, but I guess they took artistic license and left that out of the picture.

We saw this sign in Braubach (a small town upstream and across the Rhein from Koblenz). It is in a garden at the old well. I think it should have been on a shorter pole if they want the dogs to be able to see it.