Busted At Blumenstrasse

It all started rather innocently enough. The flower street gang decided to host another May potluck party, this time Italian-themed with pastas, lasagnas, and make-it-yourself mini-pizzas, downing it with bottles of chianti and italian cream sodas, not to mention the tiramisu. As last year, it was an open invitation to all, and our apartment was soon brimming with people of all shapes and sizes.

It was quite lovely at first, really. Parties are always nice when there are people you know and like who attend, and when they all bring food and drinks to share, so that the kitchen does not go dry before midnight. There were also quite a few more Germans around, a good sign of a foreigner assimilating well with her environment. It was only after all these nice people began to drop out, around 12 or so, that it all began to degenerate into the tasteless and strange.

Because then news began to circulate throughout the flat about the girl who had locked herself in the bathroom and had fallen to the ground. I got up immediately to investigate, venturing out into the hall full of suddenly unfamiliar revelers (friends of a friend of a friend – transitive invites seemingly without closure), passing whitewashed walls dashed with red wine, and finally pushing through the crowd that had gathered in front of the door.

No one seemed to know who she was or what had happened, but everyone could just make out the girl’s form lying prostrate through the frosted glass window. Two guys started forming a plan to get her out: one fashioned a pick for the lock out of a wire hanger, the other tried coaxing her out with words. At one point, the pick was ready, but as guy A informed me, “that’s a human being in there, and she’s hurting, and we know this is your house and your bathroom, but we try to get her out using psychology..” I stood there, utterly mystified by this inane speech, thinking he could take his psychology and shove it… a good lot it’s going to do for a girl who was close to passing out and obviously needed medical attention (or a bucket of cold water). Eventually a friend of the girl showed up and convinced the boys to open the door, which they did in two seconds, and although the sight was not pretty, I left them to get her taken care of and home safely.

Then the police showed up. The German police. It’s funny, but ever since I got here, I always thought the German police were rather intimidating. They wear military-green uniforms which remind me of fatigues and concentration camps, and which I had always assumed was a throwback to the war. Cue two kindly policemen at our door. They told us rather amiably that some neighbors complained about the loud music from the open windows facing the street, and with a smile and twinkle in the eye, would we close them and lower the volume a bit? Turns out that original police uniforms were blue, but after the war they switched to green to appear more friendly to the people, and especially to distance themselves from the police forces that came before. Cue hilarity, and a warm, fuzzy feeling as we complied.

If I hadn’t been so annoyed by the girl who didn’t know her own limit with respect to alcohol, I would have invited them in for pasta and cream soda. And schade that I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture with them. At least we kept the pick-lock, and have been practicing unlocking the door ever since.

Mexican Night on the Chomsky Normal Floor

Mexican Night

For Cinco de Mayo, I decided to host a Mexican shin-dig at our flat to usher in the new semester. I think the turn-out was much more impressive this time than at Christmas.

Pina Coladas!

Perhaps it was the lure of piña coladas and tequila sunrise. Possibly it was the promise of home-made hot corn tortillas for tacos and tostadas. Certainly the cinnamon sopapillas dribbled with honey would do it.


Mexican Food

It was rather impressive pulling off a big dinner like that for so many people. The Mexicanische Abend was originally supposed to take place shortly after the new semester started; but since not everyone had quite returned and settled into their new classes, even after the first three or four weeks, we postponed it until the 5th of May as a good way to justify our need for a party. This also meant, however, that school and work and deadlines took precedence over party planning, so it was not until Saturday afternoon that the ball started rolling.

Two hours in Globus and a quick jaunt to Karstadt later, I was in the kitchen preparing dough for two kinds of tortillas and hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything at the store. I’ve never made tortillas before. If I had been in my right mind, I would have made them the day before, or at least several hours before people came. That, unfortunately, was not the case. Still, a gaggle of friends showed up at seven, exactly one hour before the party was supposed to start, and I immediately put them to work. The kitchen was suddenly full of people dicing, slicing, grilling and baking, until everything was magically prepared and ready for the masses.

Except for the tortillas, of course.

Has anyone actually tried making tortillas in a kitchen full of hungry grad students all clamouring to get started? Probably not. Because they know better. Luckily I had store-bought taco shells around to tide them over, because the tortillas turned out to be too thick and too hard to actually roll up all the good stuff we had laid out. I then remembered how my favorite Mexican place had a professional steamer to soften the tortillas after they were cooked. So I pulled out our big pasta pot and the broccoli steamer and there we were…

I ended up rolling tortillas and handing them over to be grilled until about midnight. I actually got pretty good towards the end, as I figured out how to use a glass dish to press the balls of dough flat and thin in a perfect circle. By that time, however, most of the lightweights were already saying goodbye and the crowd was thinning out. For me, that was when the real party started.


There is something so cool about having a whole house open and free with people you like all around and the knowledge that you are going to stay up all night with them. With more room in the kitchen, we danced to cheesy pop songs and sang at the top of our lungs. In one bedroom, we read German poetry (really); in another, there were lively discussions on gay lifestyles; and in still another, we danced salsa and tango.


By five in the morning, we could hear birds chirping and feel the sky turn a faint pink. The die-hards then decided to head out to the schloss (castle) along the Saar and watch the sunrise. I think they also went to a cafe in town for breakfast before teetering off to their respective beds, around 11. As for myself, I snuggled up in bed, flushed with the success of having thrown another great party, and confident that I would not be cleaning up the mess..

Many thanks to Matthias Bauer for taking such awesome pictures. You can see more of them here.

Christmas at the Xmas-bar Tree Flat

Last Saturday was our first annual Christmas potluck party. I was the main organizer of the thing and sent out an email to all CL students: Come join us for egg nog, cookie decorating, and a White Elephant Gift Exchange. It was a general invitation to all.

Perhaps I should have kept in mind the potential cultural disasters in bringing together Germans and the rest for North American traditions. I remembered the time my family had such a gift exchange. Everyone was told to bring a wrapped gift with a value of around twenty dollars to participate. For my family, it was a truly wonderful experience, not least because I happen to have a huge family and Christmas tended to be financially burdensome in previous years. And also for my family, Christmas games are a good way to neutralize family rivalries.

So, you can imagine how happy and excited I was with the idea. That is, of course, until I hit the ‘send’ button. I suppose I could have thought a little more carefully about the twenty euro limit, seeing as all the guests were students. And then there were all the questions like, “well, why would I get a gift when I don’t know who will get it?” Oh la, la, le stress. What if everyone hated it, or was offended by it for some reason?

And then there was the time issue. In my email, I wrote that the party started at 6pm. This was because it was a potluck and I felt that 9 or 10 was too late in the evening to eat dinner. However, when Germans write that there will be a party at a certain time, it means that one can come ‘anytime after that’, which means some might show up at 10, 11, or even later. Sure enough, all the foreign students showed up at or around 6, and the Germans showed up sometime after 9. Which meant that the early birds ended up milling about for an hour, gazing hungrily at the food, till finally I had to give in and let them at it. And anyway, not all of the German students seemed to understand the concept of potlucks. One girl actually wrote that she wasn’t bringing food since she will have already eaten… which, well, whatever.

I also tried to invite as many people as I could in order to see how many people would fit. In preparation, we bought bulk plastic-ware, removed all the carpets in the place, pushed all the furniture back and opened all the rooms.

And in the end… I think it was something of a success. Since I ended up pulling names out of a sock for the gift exchange, everyone was able to put faces with names, which made the rest of the evening very cozy. Since the kitchen was taken up with food and egg nog and glühwein, the cookie decorating happened in my room, which meant that eventually, small groups of people ended up in different rooms doing what they liked: playing cards, talking, and even dancing in the kitchen. Which, by the way, we now know that we can have dancing in our kitchen. Matthias again took some awesome photos, and I think we’re all looking forward to next year.

Warming up the house

Last night we hosted a small house-warming party in our new, finally furnished, appartment. It was surprisingly tame (compared to the bashes thrown by my French room-mates), despite the amount of alcohol we consumed. Not to mention the shisha – which took a delightful tumble onto the kitchen floor at one point – and the haze of strawberry that left some more mellow than others. In fact, we managed to make it out with only one broken plate and not a single permanent stain from the orange-juice soaked confetti.

Still, partying in Germany, at least for me, was something of a trying task. For the first two hours, I sat around the table with at least ten Germans, most of which I am certain spoke fairly good English. It was almost amusing, really, how their loud and boisterous conversations would suddenly come to a grinding halt as they realized, “hmm, maybe we should say something to that American girl..”, then they would throw wild deer-in-the-headlight stares at each other, trying hard to think of how to say it in English. I was much relieved when Gesche arrived, whom I had met the night before, and who was much more at home speaking English. In the end, however, the alcohol began to settle in, they became much more relaxed, and I had quite a nice conversation with Andreas about gay men and the disabled workers gewerkschaft.