25th Dec ’09

It was 25th Dec morning, and there I was at my friend’s place on Christmas. By the way I had a great sleep the previous night. So, I got up and went down and there was Mr. Klaus in the kitchen, wished him ‘Guten morgen’ (good morning) and went straight to the living room. The breakfast was ready on the table and we all took our seats. Let me tell you guys something about German food. For breakfast they eat all kinds of bread, very different to our country. I had many options like bread, chocolate croissant, and other types (since I cannot recall the names now) and variety of cheese. And for my surprise, people here love cheese and I mean it. They can simply eat a slice of plain cheese as it is and it goes with anything, some people love eating even with tomatoes (right Kate?). And top of all these, I need to maintain table manners also. Since I love chocolate, I took chocolate croissant and Klara’s mother was very courteous and gave me a cup of coffee. We all finished our breakfast, got ready and left the house at around 10.30 am. And guess where we were heading? I was accompanying them to their neighbor’s birthday party. Yes, you guys heard it right and I was as surprised as you guys who are reading this. I enter the house, feeling little uncomfortable, not know what to do and with whom to talk to in the party. But I must tell you guys that those feeling were only till I entered the house. And soon after a while I was talking with the people like I was one of them, who lives in their neighborhood. Parties in Germany are quite different than the ones in India. The first thing I talked was telling them which drink I would like to have. Though the options given to me were pretty new to me, I managed to choose one and the one I took was called ‘Sekt’, a very similar drink to Champaign. Oh! I just forgot to tell about the houses here. The houses I visited were so beautiful and clean; they were as good as brand new. One can find a good collection of books, a nice collection of glasses on wall units, a piano and few other musical instruments, a sophisticated collection of couches and tables in the living room. Coming back to party, I was there right in between people holding a glass of Sekt in my hand, talking German and enjoying my time. After an hour of talking and drinking, we left their place, came back to Klara’s house and by that time Klara’s parents had arranged for lunch as they had left the party a bit early. And as we took our seats for lunch there was couple of new faces for me who had joined us that afternoon, a granny, Klara’s uncle (I’m really sorry for not remembering their names) and Tobi, Klara’s friend. Before eating we all wished ‘Guten Apetit’ holding each other hands. Since I don’t eat non-veg, everyone took good care of my meals, especially Klara’s grandmother. She was very sweet and courteous and made sure I was enjoying my lunch as much as they were. And of course a glass of red wine was also served. There was also exchange of gifts after the lunch between Klara’s uncle and her family since he had arrived just before lunch. After the lunch we went back to our room to take a small nap because, later in the evening the plan was to visit Klara grandmother’s house.

Now, let me take you guys straight to her grandmother’s house. So, we enter the house and for my surprise there were quite a number of people. I don’t know how they all were related to each other, so I don’t want to try creating any new relationships. They all introduced themselves and got back to their seats. At the beginning I was really feeling uncomfortable. I think the main factor for that is the language. If you know the language one can somehow get into some conversation, on the other hand if you don’t know then it becomes like watching a tennis match (I think you people understood what I wanted to convey and I don’t want to embarrass myself by describing it more). The best part was that they had made separate seating arrangement for younger people (jünge leute) and for elderly people. Our group was big in number; let me try to remember how many were there though I can’t remember their names. And I think there were 6 of them excluding I, Klara, Lucas and Tobi. Anyways, the point was there were lot of them and I could not talk to any of them freely and the only reason being I knew very little german. Later we were served with tea and also there was cakes kept on the table in front of us. Immediately after the snacks there was music program and do you guys want to take any guesses on who lead the program? First guess would be Klalra’s mom and I would say na… Klara’s dad, na… by the way, he plays piano really well. And the last guess is Klara herself I think, but I would say you guys got it totally wrong. It was none other than Klara’s grandma. So, there was lot of singing and playing flute that was going on and Tobi was supporting them on guitar. I forgot to mention that, Tobi is a very good guitar player and he is in one of the rock band called ‘Audioenema’. The music went on for half an hour and it was wonderful to see the entire family getting together, singing and enjoying their evening.

After the singing was done, most of the elders started preparing for dinner. And in the mean time Klara’s mom invited me for a T.T match (Yes! they had a TT table in the cellar). We could play only for 10 minutes as the dinner got ready by then, but though it was short, I had lots of fun playing. Then we all came up and I grabbed a plate full of Kartoffel salat (Potato salad). And for the first time I enjoyed something made of potato after coming to Germany. Klara wanted to go to her house and take rest as she had headache. And all of her cousins also left after the dinner. Then it was just her parents and grandma, her aunt and uncle, Lucas, Tobi and I sat together to play a card game called ‘Rauf und Runter’. It was so much fun playing the game with all those people. To describe the game is simple words, it is a game of 19 rounds and who ever scores highest is the winner. In each round, card are distributed starting from 1 in the 1st round to 10 in the 10th and then coming back to 1 in the final 19th round. Let me not go into the details of it. The point I was trying to make was that whenever granny lost any round, one should see the expression on her face. She becomes so sad, like someone just snatched a toy from a child’s hand. And she used to do exactly what a child does later, complain about what happened. All in all it was absolutely fun. And after the 10th round we all took a small pause and had shots of Ei-liquor (Egg-liquor) in chocolate cups and then continued back with the game. I think I came 3rd in the game and they all were pretty surprised to see a beginner scoring well. We winded up the game at 10.30 pm and returned to the house. Wish I had photos to show you guys all these memories of mine.

As we all left the house I noticed only granny stayed back and frankly, it was very shocking for me know that Klara’s granny stays all alone in that house. After coming back Frau Mo served whisky to all. Then, Klara’s parents and Lucas gave presents to Tobi, while Klara was still taking rest on the couch. It was a long day for all of us and all that I remember is eating and drinking… along with getting to spend a wonderful time with Klara’s family and get to see Weihnachten celebration. And I requested Lucas for a group photo tomorrow as a remembrance. Since we all were tired, we went to bed soon after a small chitchat.

And next day we all met at 9 am on the breakfast table. As we finished our Früstück (breakfast), Lucas requested for a group photo and we all went cheese!

Morning Breakfast


A nice group photo

I had a train to catch at 11.45 am. Tobi, along with Klara dropped me to the railway station. Gave a goodbye hug and there I was back again in the train to Siegen. Thanks to Klara and her family for making me a part of their family and allowing me to be a part of their Christmas celebration. These 3 days are one of the most memorable moments in my life.

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24th Dec ’09

So, there I was in Siegburg railway station on 24th Dec in the afternoon. And it was very surprising to see Klara, waiting in the station to pick me up and I should admit it was indeed very sweet of her. We both get into the car and head to her place. It was like 15 minutes drive to her house and on the way she asked me how was I feeling about all these. And I was pretty quick to reply that I was looking forward to celebrate my first Christmas. Finally we reached and these are few thoughts running in my head at that moment… “How do I greet her parents? What do I talk with her brother? Should I remove my shoe or I need to keep them wearing? Should I give them the Wine bottle I bought as soon as I enter or should I wait?” I know I’m sounding little too crazy but that was exactly what ran in my head. So, coming back to the real world, we both stood in front of the door waiting for her mother to open it. She opens the door with a nice smile and greets me “Herzlisch Wilkommen” which means “Heartily Welcome”. I greeted her and went inside the house. Then Klara showed me the place where I can hang my jacket and also the place where I can keep my shoe (where one of my question was answered…). Her father and brother, who were waiting for me in the kitchen, shook hands with me, introduced themselves and then we were all set to have a cup of tea and cookies. It took me exactly 10 minutes to forget all their names. For which, later Klara wrote their names on a slip of paper and gave it to me, which may sound very funny but came very handy for me. When we all were sitting in the kitchen enjoying our tea and cookies, everyone started throwing their questions on me, which they were curious to find out. And they all were given strict orders by Klara to talk to me in German, because Klara thinks I know good German (Thanks Klara!!!). The discussion went pretty well, I also got chance to talk about Ganesha festival. Then they started me telling about how they would celebrate Christmas every year, which also meant that we would leave to Church in an hour. Adding to the thoughts I had in my head… “What do I do in Church?” was the main one so to say. Anyways I’ll get to that later. Before that Klara took me to show her place, which was very beautiful. And their living room was closed and the reason goes like this.

Christmas Tree with decorations

From many years her parents decorate the Christmas tree in the living room and used to lock the door so that Klara and her brother, Lukas would not get to see it. They get to see the decorations only after coming back from Church along with the exchange of gifts they had got for each other. Later she took me upstairs where there were three rooms, Klara’s Lukas’s and third one was a guest room, where I stayed for next two nights. Then we started having a small chat in her room and then she showed me her album, all the moments she had captured when she had been to Australia. It was really nice, but unfortunately I could not finish, as it was time to leave to Church. The Church was just couple of blocks away from her house. We all started walking and got there in 5 minutes. The Church was very beautiful, with Golden Jesus in the front and a group of singers along with a Piano sitting to the right on a elevated dais and the remaining place was filled with benches. A nice model of Jesus birth and the celebration was kept to the right of the entrance. Overall, the place was very quiet and so to say very different from our temples. The rituals went on for one and a half hours along with reciting of prayers in German and as well as in Latin. I would say it was very interesting to be there on the Christmas Eve. After the prayers got over, we all walked back home accompanied also by her aunt, uncle and grandmother. We all started sipping wine and started talking, by which I meant they started talking and I was listening to them. After few minutes, her relatives left and then we started cooking for the dinner. In the mean time I was confirming with Lukas on the relations of their relatives who had just come. And for his surprise, I was totally right in telling the relations. The reason why we started cooking before opening all the presents was because her father, Mr. Klaus loves food and he likes to finish dinner before exchanging gifts. And I being a vegetarian, her mother, Ms. Mo had to think what she should cook for me. I felt nice and home like, as even my food was taken care of. Finally the door to the living room was opened and I got to see the beautiful decoration on the Christmas tree. And to the side of it there was a small model of Jesus birth, very similar to the one I described earlier that was in Church.

Jesus Model

Dinner

Then everything was arranged on the table and we were all set to have dinner. There was salad, rice, carrot curry, and other sauces, along with a custom made and traditional arrangements to cook flesh, by the way, which are used only during Christmas. We all wished each other “Guten Apetit” and started enjoying our dinner. After dinner, time had finally come to open the presents. So everyone kept the presents on the sofa that they had got for one another and sat on the same place where they would sit every year. But this year there was this one small change, they had to make some place for me, as I was part of their family this year 🙂

Couch filled with Presents

Couch filled with Presents

I found it very amusing that how each one of them had got gift for the other person and that they actually sat down to open them and share how they felt. And surprisingly, even I had some gifts to open. So, one by one started opening the presents they had got, thanked the person who got it and shared a small story about why they ended up buying that gift. I really liked that gesture for two reasons, first, I got presents too and the second, sharing and bonding I got to see. That I got a big Germany map from Klara, a music CD from her brother, special Christmas cookies from her dad and a book on Christmas from her mom. I was totally overwhelmed and in return I just had this wine bottle to present them. So, finally I gave them the wine bottle and thanked them for inviting me. Then that day we started watching one of the CD, which Klara had gifted Lukas and it supposedly was one of their all time favorite comedy film. As it was getting late, we couldn’t complete the movie, so we all went to bed, with the remaining part to be watched on next day… The next day goes like this… movie-drink-eat-talk-eat and drink-nap-drink-eat-music-fun-table tennis-cards-talk-drink-sleep. More of it in my next blog “25th Dec ’09”.

Weihnachten Floor Party

Let me start from the day we had our floor Christmas party, 15th Dec ’09.  It was decided that everyone would buy or cook something along with a gift for one person. I though of cooking south Indian sweet called ‘Kesaribhat’ and for gifts I called up my friend to get some suggestions. So I went to the gift shop and bought one mug with Weihnachten cookies and along with them I bought three more small gifts just in case if I need them. In the evening at around 7:30 p.m. people started gathering in the kitchen. Few sat on the chair and started talking and few others busily baking and few others which includes me, who didn’t know where to go and what to do? One thing I got to know was the role of Language. If you don’t know the language, you can’t communicate and if you cant communicate you will not get to know the people. And fortunately or unfortunately there are 15 Germans out of 19. So, after everyone got settled, we all took our seats with lot of food on the table. For most part I felt the party was too formal and there was nothing happening as I was trying hard to figure out the meaning of the German words that were striking my ears. Finally the interesting part was here, exchange of gifts. What we thought was to play a game called ‘Uno’ and whoever wins will get to choose a gift from the lot. The first lucky one happened to be me and I was very happy about it. I picked one and unwrapped the cover and saw it was a card game called ‘Phase 10’. This went on till the last person. And then the party almost came to an end though the time was still 10.30 pm. People started going back to their rooms. I was sitting wondering to whom shall I gift the other three. So, the first one that came to my mind was Kate, the first person to introduce herself after coming to Engsbachstr 58. And in return she gave a big Santa Claus chocolate, which I still don’t feel like breaking and eating it off. And the next two were Lena and Klara. All three have been really nice and friendly to me. It was a good surprise to them and they were happy to receive the gifts from me. But Lena and Klara were feeling sad that they have nothing to give in return. I convinced them that it’s really fine, as I didn’t expect also. Then we all went back to our rooms.

The next day in the evening as soon as I came out from my room after a short nap, Lena asked me whether I’ve checked my post box. I did not understand at the first go, so I had to ask her again and again. Kate, who entered the floor just then translated to me and then I told them that I’d check it in few minutes. I go down to open my post box and I was totally surprised to see a Weihnachten Card for me. And inside, it was written that ‘we would like to take you for ice-skating as your present on 21st’ and ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’ though not in these exact words. And then below it said ‘from Kate Lena Klara’. I was very happy to see that card and their invitation for ice-skating. I conveyed the same to them and told them that I’m looking forward to come with you guys. So the plan was set to leave for ice-skating on Monday, 21st at 7.00 pm.

Kate, Pavan, Klara & Lena

Kate, Pavan, Klara & Lena

 

On Monday, I had class till 4 pm and after that I went out for shopping with my friends and I somehow managed to reach my room by 7 pm. They were all ready waiting for me near the door. I hurried up and kept all my things in my room and joined them. We went to the bus stop and waited there for 15 to 20 minutes for the bus. Let me take you ahead skipping all not so important part. We reached the city center where Lena and Kate went to withdraw money. That was when Klara invited me to her place for Christmas. I was so taken by surprise, for a matter of fact she had even talked it out with her family and they were cool about the whole thing. Let me come back to this later. After few minutes they both join us and we were all set for ice-skating. I wear those skates and managed to stand on them. But then as soon as I took my first step on ice, I figured out its not an easy task. But, it was very nice of them to help me with couple of rounds. I managed couple of rounds without falling and of course holding hands and taking support. But then, it was not too late before I started skating like a ‘Pro’. It was one of my best times in Siegen. And at the end of it I was really tired. Soon after skating got over we grabbed a cup of Gluehwein. Gluehwein is one of the very special drinks, typically from Germany and it is served only during Christmas. The specialty about Gluehwein is that it is served hot. Finishing our drink, we started walking to the bus stop and then we all decided we’ll get something to eat. The only place I could think of was Sub-way. Had wonderful sandwich and then there we were in the bus, coming back to our rooms. We all really had a wonderful time that day. I enter my room, switch on my Mac and there I get this message from Klara asking me whether I would like to join her family for Christmas. I was actually very excited that I get to be this lucky guy, who would be celebrating Christmas with a German family. And also that, my floor-mate was the one who invited me. So we had a small talk and then it was all worked out that I would be going to her place on 24th afternoon and will be spending some time with her family, followed by other activities. I was very happy and was greatly looking forward to this. And was bit nervous too…

Hang on…. cos’ the important things are yet to come…