I can say Bad Bank in Persian now

It has been 16 years or more since I last started learning a new language. And that was Spanish which is kind of close to French which I already knew so I am not sure if that’ll even count. So it was quite an adventure when I went to my Persian course for the first time last night. (“Wait, do I need something to write on?” I suddenly wondered as I got out of the door.)

“Do you have too much time on your hands?” my bonus co-worker asked me when I told him I had signed myself up for evening classes. I have all the time in the world!, I proclaimed my new credo. (And added, “And I resume work at night after the course”.) But yes, of course, it’s an additional committment and it is at night, starting first past 7:30 p.m.. Would I be able to stay awake and concentrate?

Turns out I can! Maybe it was because it was the very first lesson but I was kind of intruiged. Our teacher is from Tehran and speaks impeccable German with an endearing Persian accent. He also is a fan of Martin Luther. Or was. “The more I learn about him, the less I actually like him”, he informed us. “But he sure did the German language a great service”. In the first lesson, we learned that 60 percent of the language is Arabic words. Apparently, Persians say the Arabic word followed by the Persian synonyme directly after. A very interesting way of finding a compromise with your occupier.

From what we learned yesterday, I find Persian to be delightfully practical. If you want to say “Helen’s mom”, you just say “Mom of Helen”. If you want to say, “your car”, you just say “car of you”, meaning you don’t have to learn a new word for “your”. It gets even better: if you want to describe the car further, you just add the adjective with a connection-e, “maschine-bad” (bad means bad in Persian! How convenient?!). So now I am already very close to discussing investment banking: baanke bad!

We also learned that verbs are always placed at the end of the sentence. This means you never know what someone is doing before he’s done speaking. What a challenge for interpreters at the UN!

There’s a way of saying where you are which literally means “I am [place]”. Interestingly enough, German cool kids to that, too. Including me! I once texted a friend “I am fruit stand”. Now I wonder if this construction comes from Persian or other foreign languages that are spoken by third-generation-immigrant Germans or if Germans just created the same construction without any influence. Maybe I will be library to read up on that.

The tricky parts so far are pronounciation and the fact that written language and spoken language differ. (And I don’t even mean actual Persian letters.) You write naan but you say nun. If you don’t do that, the teacher told us, people think you are from the country side. And of course you want to come across as a cosmopolitan.

Today is Nooroz, Persian New Year. As far as I know, it’s the most important holiday. What a good day to start learning Persian! Nooroz pirooz!


The White House’s Haft-Sin table




It is 8:30 a.m. and I am on the way to work. That isn’t completely unsual (albeit a little earlier than usual). The unusal part is that I won’t be in the office before lunchtime at the earliest. My commute is 4 hours today.

I went up north on Friday to give a speech at the Economic Affairs Council in the city where my aunt lives. So I took the opportunity to pay her a visit. (Which was great! We saw “On the basis of sex” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, highly recommended.) Since I was already halfway to my parents’ place, I travelled further north to see them and be shown the progress on their new house.

At home, I almost obsessively listen to the radio news, A calls me “news addicted”. But when I am away and my routine falters, I eat Döner and disregard the news. This wouldn’t be a big problem usually. But it turned out to be yesterday when I had missed an important piece of information: a storm was coming.

I had decided to leave later in the day to be able to see my friend Jonna in Bremen which is en route home. When I got to the station at 5:30 p.m., I learned that no trains were running anymore. Had I left two hours earlier, I probably would’ve caught the last train going south. Now, it was just tons of passengeres stranded on the platforms. The storm had taken down trees and all train connections to North-Rhine-Westphalia had to be suspended for the entire day and night. “Shit’s really hit the fan down there”, the attendant on platform 8 informed me. “You can get to Osnabrück sometime today, but I don’t know when. What I do know is that you definitely will not get further than that until earliest tomorrow”.

There is no use fighting the weather, I figured. So I turned and got on the train back to my parents’ place. I was very lucky to be able to stay with them, I learned that other passengers with nowhere to go had to stay in the trains. All night!

So now I’m on the way to work again. Currently, I’ve made it as far as yesterday, Bremen. Things are looking better today though, my train has not yet been cancelled. I put “Inget stoppar oss nu” (Nothing’s gonna stop us now”, with the spot-on-line “You can forget Monday morning”) on my Spotify as an omen for me to get to my destination. Inget stoppar oss nu!

The year of couponing


For my birthday last year, my parents gave me a Luups coupon book for Düsseldorf. It’s meant to make you go out and explore your new city. I had lived in Düsseldorf for more than two years then but over this past year, I do think it really worked to acquaint myself with more things the city has to offer. Also, I made a point of using the book. Usually, I think, the companies behind these books make money because you pay for the book and then don’t use enough coupons to get your money’s worth. Not with me though, I totally got the most out of it. Here’s a review of the places I went:

Café Muggel
This restaurant is on the other side of the Rhine and thus a place I have only been three times. Two times because there is a cinema in the basement. Actually, that might be the more intriguing part of Café Muggel: you have to know it’s down there because there are no signs leading there. Then you have to sneak behind the bar, go down a winding narrow staircase to find the door leading to the tiny cinema room. For me, the whole secrecy feeling is part of the appeal. Also, the fact that they sell drinks and snacks inside the room is something I like. But the coupon was for the Café itself (its name, Muggel, also gives the place a magical air) and we got to enjoy a free meal that was quite nice. The café, however, is noisy and the service a little slow.
Spatz up
A lot of non-South-German people have trouble understanding the difference between Swabia and the rest of Southern Germany. To the South Germans, this is a stark difference. You don’t want to call someone a Swabian that is, say, a person born in Heidelberg. I also get substitutionaryly upset when someone calls my stepfamily Swabians. This might be because when I attended elementary school in Baden, that was merged with Swabia into one federal state, we were taught the Baden Anthem, instilling a clear allegiance to Baden, not the nation or the federal state, in us. Still, Swabians have some really good sides: they invented the Spätzle (and the Maultaschen, for that matter). This pasta is delicious and I do believe that eating it in Swabia, or at least Southern Germany, gives you the better experience than when non-Swabians try to cook them. But the small restaurant Spatz up in downtown Düsseldorf now solves this problem! A Swabian opened this eatery to serve real Spätzle outside of Southern Germany. I had Cheese Spätzle there. It was really good. It was so good I actually forgot which part was free with the coupon because I was so focused on the food. Which definitely speaks for Spatz up.

Yomaro Frozen Yoghurt
I have very fond memories of going to this place. It was spring, it was unexpectedly warm, and three of my younger cousins were visiting. When we got to the shop, the line was insanely long. The thing is, though, it always is. The only time I went to a Yomaro without waiting was at 9 p.m. in a non-central location. Because I was so excited we would get one frozen yoghurt for free, I convinced my cousins to get in line with me, making a pact that if we had to wait longer than 25 minutes, we’d leave. After 25 minutes, we were inside the store, close enough to see the delicious toppings and giving up was no longer an option. My verdict: it’s overpriced and the lines are too long, but if you have good company with you, it’s kind of worth it.
Covent Garden
This is one of the few places where getting a seat was very easy. I like that. Other than some people, I do not believe overcrowded cafés are a sign of the good quality of the place. Rather, it just annoys me. At Covent Garden, the interior was delightful and the owner was actually British. He was also very kind and gave us the discount from the coupon even though we did not order the coffee on the coupon but a hot lemon drink. I would definitely go there all the time if it was in my part of town, and I’d feel quite British hanging out there.
The cinemas
The coupons for the arthouse cinemas probably excited me the most when I got the book. Düsseldorf has five smaller cinemas that show lots of movies I want to see: Bambi, Souterrain (the basement one!), Metropol, atelier and Cinema. I am almost positive I took advantage of the second free admission in each of these. Since a ticket to the movies isn’t that cheap, only with that, I already got back what the book is worth. One time, I went with two friends and we could use my Gildepass (a pass you pay 10 euros for each year and get a two euro discount each time you go to one of the cinemas) and the coupon – we only paid full price for one ticket. (Geez I sound like such a penny pincher. Really, I was just excited to use the book so well.)
Picture People
The book offered a coupon for a photo shoot, you would get the first photo for a very much discounted price. The trouble is, I always let photographers talk me into at least a second photo. I had even brought my friend Anja to help me resist this, but to no avail. Now I have a photo that certainly looks nice but kind of only seems usable on, like, Tinder.
When I started stressing out in December because the book coupons are only valid for one year, I reread the book rules and was relieved to find they have a period of grace for those of us who did not manage to align their life planning and maximum coupon benefit in the set time frame: the last day to use the book is January 31 of the following year. So even when I got sick and we had to reschedule our trip to the planetarium, we could still claim our free ticket within January. Unfortunately, I had booked the wrong show but we nevertheless got the planetarium experience. I am not sure if I thought observing the two 14-year-olds on a date (how cool is it to go on a date in a planetarium as a teenager?) or me taking a photo as an astronaut was the best part of the trip.
While I did feel somewhat of an obligation to make use of the book, and put it very visibly in a place I pass all the time in my apartment, I think it is a great way to nudge yourselves into doing stuff. It gives you an automatic bucket list. It lets you explore new parts of town and gives you reasons to get together with friends (if you are not the kind of lone café visitor thinking deep thoughts type of person). So am I contemplating getting the Hamburg edition once I live there? I certainly do.