Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Well, Oktoberfest as come and gone.  While we might not done everything on the vizen/field, we now know what the hoopla is all about. We went Oktoberfest a few times, walked around. And we looked the part.  We always seeing advertisements for trachen (traditional clothing) here and in fact people seem to wear them all year around. We bought dirndls and lederhosen but nothing else. The kids are already thinking about the improvements to their costumes for next year; the necklaces, the little purses, the shoes and the hats The most significant improvement will be shopping before the crowds in September!
Courtesy of an Oktoberfest tour led by an entertaining German man with a New Zealand accent, I learned a few fun facts about the whole thing. The whole Oktoberfest , ongoing for the past two hundred years, was originally a celebration of the wedding of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig, who became King Ludwig 1, toPrincess Therese of Saxe-Hidburghausen on October 12, 1810. The people of Munich were invited to the celebration and it became a sixteen day long party, the world's largest fair with over 6 million visitors from all over the world. There are rides, an agricultural show, sometimes a car show and of course the beer tents.

The beer tents are huge, some of which can seat 10,00 people at a time, and each has its own history. The Schottenhamel tent, run by the same family since before 1867, has the honor of starting Oktoberfest. Traditionally, Munich’s mayor opens the festivities in this tent by cracking a barrel and announcing “the barrel is tapped!” Schottenhamel’s other claim to fame is that Albert Einstein worked there as a light bulb changer, assisting his electrician uncle, back in the day.
The kids loved the old time amusements such as the flea circus, the last live animal show on the field and the witches swing, a ride that is essentially a cool optical illusion, that makes you feel as if you are flipping around despite only slightly swinging. Legend has it that witches burst into flames on the swing so long lines of boys are said to take their girlfriends on the ride prior to making a commitment. I rode the ride with Tori. While we both survived, I was surprised when teenagers on the ride said hello to her. Apparently, they were on the same school sports bus with her on a recent trip to Zurich. Though not flaming, teenagers talking to Tori is shocking (to me). Beyond the old time rides, there are tons of modern upside down rides. Royce followed Tori on one ride that rocked back and forth until it flipped them upside down and kept on rocking. Royce got off looking white and then grey. She didn’t ride anymore rides that day but started again on our next visit.

The whole thing was very fun, particularly on warm late summer days. Everyone said the crowds were unbearable and while it was crowded, it was nothing compared to Hong Kong’s Mong Kok. The kids liked the food, sausages and cookies. Prior to the whole thing, the kids had Oktoberfest safety assemblies at school and came home with papers telling them what to do if they saw drunk people (stay away). From all this Adam thought that Oktoberfest would be like the Hong Kong Sevens but without the rugby. He was mostly right. Oktoberfest is a big state fair with lots of great people watching. And if Adam would have come on my Oktoberfest tour he would have heard my tour guide pause at the end and say he now wanted to talk about his passion. My tour group waited a bit unsure at this point but all we heard next was a plea to support German rugby!

Monday, October 08, 2012

School Days

The new school year started a few weeks back and it’s back to the usual whirlwind of activities around here. While we had a nice quiet summer full of books and bikes, all kids were happy to go back to school. Despite still feeling like a new family here, we are not. We were happy to meet newer families and be able to give them a few tips. Tori was even chosen as a peer advisor this year, showing the newest kids around the middle school on the day before classes. Just before she was on duty, she figured out where the sixth grade (her new grade) classes and lockers were and went off to tell someone else.
The kids attend Munich International School here, the twins at the Junior School and Tori at the Middle School. Both are located, along with the Senior School, on one large sprawling campus, formerly a farm. Farms still surround the school and Adam plays soccer in a place called the Lower Paddock. While the twins have one main teacher and stay in the Junior School, Tori is more mobile. She has different teachers for every subject and moves around throughout the day. She actually moves a lot. We just figured out that her classes are rarely in the same room. For example, one day she will have English in Room 101 and the next day it will be in Room 202. There is no way we can keep it straight but she mostly seems to.
All kids have German most days, some days even taking in double German, back to back German classes. The kids have all embraced German, finding it much easier than Chinese. One of them had the idea early on that all Chinese people should switch to German to make life easier for everyone. After a few months, the kids can order food, understand things on the radio and ask simple questions. It helps that there is a lot of German language going on in the classrooms and on the playground. At the middle school, Tori is required to take two foreign languages. She has chosen French in addition to German. She continues with Chinese with a tutor after school, but assures us she will not grow up to be a linguist!
Going back to the 1800’s, Germany has a great back to school tradition of giving schultuetes. Schultuetes are large paper cones filled with school supplies and candy. As Phil’s family is German, we have also given the kids schultuetes no matter where we lived. We usually make a cone out of wrapping paper and throw in some new school supplies and candy. Here in Germany, we started seeing fancy store made schultuetes in early August. Our kids were so surprised to see other kids celebrating the start of school the same way they did. Despite the same last minute schultuetes, the tradition felt new and special, just like the first day of school itself.