We drank something and it was awesome 31.01.2012


So what’s up with all the bubble tea shops here in Germany?! Since I drank it all the time in Japan and in Korea too, I know how awesome bubble tea is (side note – I didn’t know it was called “bubble tea” until very recently. It’s called “tapioca drink” in Japan so I assumed it was the same..) but it seems to be the new It Drink.

Around Halloween, I was in the small shopping arcade between Galeria and My Zeil with my friend, when we saw people queuing up for over an hour to get some bubble tea. I had thought that it was only Japanese people who would wait in line for ages to get the new fashionable food or drink, but apparently German teenagers like to do it too!

During the winter break at work, I happened to go by the same shop again, and there wasn’t a queue so we went to see what all the fuss was about. The drinks were pretty yummy, and there was a wide range to choose from, from juice based ones to tea based ones, then you could choose what flavour “tapioca” (because, surely tapioca is tapioca flavoured.. it’s part of a plant… so these ones are fakes, right?!) You can even choose whether to have it hot or cold.

So – would I have waited for an hour for it? No. Not at all. But if there are no crowds of screaming teens then it’s worth popping over there on the way to other shops. It’s fun to drink once in a while :-) 

Online Music

Last week, the people in our office thought the world had come to an end. We didn’t know how we could go on, how we would be able to function in our daily lives with our loss. The German fun policing agency, GEMA, had stopped Grooveshark, the online music service. It was wonderful, you could (well, still can if you are outside Germany) listen to any music you like, for free, with no adverts cutting up your music. There were visual adverts on the page, but otherwise it was bother free, and completely legal.

It didn’t take long before the crying and slow rocking of my colleagues was unbearable and so I set about trying to find an alternative. Grooveshark itself mentioned Simfy.de.  So I went over to take a look.

Music-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s quite useless for Asian music but for Western stuff it’s pretty on the ball. There are some random artists and a small chart on the front page but it would be nice if there were more options to find artists if you don’t know quite what you want to listen to. But it’s quite good at recommending artists similar to ones you like, which is pretty nice.

The player it quite easy to use, and it’s easy to go round and make playlists. The player hides itself into the bottom of the page when not in use.

The part I like best is the radio feature. While Grooveshark itself was awesome, the radio on there was terrible. No matter what artist I chose, it seemed to want to plug the same random Russian pop to me, or it just didn’t remember that just because I was listening to j-pop, it didn’t mean that I wanted to listen to Berryz. No one ever wants to listen to Berryz. But on Simfy, I’ve not been disappointed yet. The only problem would be that it seems that as opposed to linking all songs and artists to the initial one you started the radio with, it links to the previous song (ie – above I started with Regina Spektor. They linked me to Vampire Weened, which is linked to Laura Marling, in linear links.) While not such a big problem, the other night when we had the radio on for a long time, it went on a tangent so big that we were laughing at the kinds of music it was bringing up.

I have joined the premium service so I can have Simfy on my iPhone too. It’s pretty good, but of course isn’t so kind on the battery. The basic service is good enough though and it’s a good replacement in our hearts for Grooveshark. Let’s hope GEMA doesn’t get its greasy hands on this one too.

I literally get literally wrong every time

How about a photo from Japan today! 

A few years ago, shortly after coming back from my year abroad in Japan, I was asked by my Japanese teacher to explain a few of the differences between how my UK university looks after our exchange students and how I was looked after by my Japanese university. The point was that in the UK, students were left to fend for themselves with little help from the university, but in Japan they hold your hand every step of the way. My teacher agreed with me, and marched me to the head of languages’ office to report my findings. I was feeling pretty important – my opinions were being taken into account, look at me go! So I stood there and repeated my observations, then added at the end to conclude my short piece “so, they literally wipe your bum for you over there”.

Oh dear. Yeah, I didn’t sound very big and clever. Bless my little cotton socks. To make matters worse, my teacher (who likes language tidbits like that) picked up on it and pointed out that Japanese people do not follow UK exchange students to the bathroom on a regular basis. Embarrassing.

I guess I pick up language changes quickly – I remember having the rising lilt in my accent like teenagers (and Australians!) do when I was at uni, I also adopted an American accent while in Japan. Language is a living, constantly changing thing and so when a word like literally starts being used in a new way, I think there is little we can do to stop it, we just have to let it be.

The Guardian has an awesome article today on the ‘misuse’ of the word literally. It’s not such a long one so take a look at it if you have the time - Literally – the much misused word of the moment. 

An effort to be good

It wasn’t a New Years resolution as such, but I have recently decided to not download stuff all the time and to do my best to start getting media through the proper channels. Up until now, my rule has been that if I am able to get it for real, with money, then I will do. This was great in Japan because nothing is available and so I was downloading everything from tv and movies to magazines and newspapers. Here in Germany, it *is* possible to get the media I want and so there is little excuse for not paying for it.

I’ve started buying real magazines from the international bookshops, and have rediscovered how nice it is to read it on paper as opposed to in a pdf. Sure, 5 Euros for one thin magazine is quite steep, but as a once-in-a-while treat, it’s ok I think.

As for music, I’m going back to using CDs. Whenever I’m over Mr’s place, he’ll have some cd playing in the background and I think there’s something nice about going off to your room, picking out a cd and then just listening to it in full. This, as opposed to having a mixed up playlist on iTunes. I’ve not bought a cd in… gosh … probably 10 years. It might have been Maroon 5′s first album. But yesterday I went into Saturn and despite the inflated prices, bought a gorgeous Regina Spektor album. It’s quite exciting to have it there in the flesh to put on.

Now for films and tv. I’m toying with the idea of joining LoveFilm. I go to Sneak Preview every week so I don’t really want to watch any more films, but I quite often sit and watch tv series. I’m revisiting The Inbetweeners and Gavin and Stacey with Mr, and it’d be nice to do so in a legal way. I started on Downton Abbey a few weeks ago since I was in Japan when it started so completely missed the boat. In the shops here it’s between 18 and 25 Euros – which I think is way, way too much for a 7 episode first series. On iTunes it’s 3 Euros an episode. Again, I’m not willing for pay that much.

I guess it’s very much a 1st world problem – it takes time and effort to get something legally  when you can just download it and have it there in minutes. But I think it is time now that I have the money and the means to do so, to really make an effort to pay for things properly.  And so far, it feels really good to be good.

Progress in German

One of the great things about WordPress is the stats feature. I love nothing more than having a blog and spying on the people reading it. What country are they in? How did they find me? What posts did they like? The post that seems to be the most popular is the one about my experiences with the German language in Frankfurt.

So, for those who are interested in my linguistic journey, I have some good news – I had a conversation in German where the German person replied in GERMAN and not English!! In my 6 months here, this is the very very first time, at least when I have been making an effort (not where they don’t know English and I try to speak in English to them).

So what was this conversation? Luckily I remember it well, so I can relay the epic-ness of it for you. Picture the setting – the foyer of a cinema, full of people buying overpriced popcorn and nachos. Enter a thirsty girl.

Girl – Can I have a medium 7-up please.

Cashier – Medium?

Girl – Yes please.

Cashier – You realise that’s a litre, right?

By this point the girl is so thrilled that the cashier replied in German that she has glazed over and has a big stupid grin on her face.

Girl – Yes please!

Cashier – [price] please.

Girl – Here you are. See you!

There, how epic was that. So, I walked away with my MASSIVE cup of lemonade, of which I could only drink 1/3 before I got home, the remainder of which sat on the side in the kitchen for a day before I sadly tipped my memento of that special moment away.

I made something and it was yummy 25.01.2012

When I first started dating Mr, he cooked me a wonderful meal using pesto that he had made himself. (Yes, he’s quite the catch). Not wanting to be left behind, I wanted to show my culinary skills (!!!) and cook him something too. So, I phoned my mum; “Help meeee! I want to impress this guy but he’s really good at cooking and I suck so what can I cook?!?!”

The recipe she gave me has become my go-to thing to cook, since it’s so very fool proof and can be adapted depending on what you fancy. Chicken, curry paste, ginger, garlic and curry powder make the base, then into that I’ve put mango, or apple and raisins (yeah I like fruit in my curries) or even some veg.

I decided to decorate our largely unused dining room and invite a few friends over for a curry. While slowly pickling ourselves with 2 euro Rewe wine, we chatted and played Apples to Apples (the best game ever) and fun was had by all.

And I felt quite grown up. Yay.

Game Review – Machinarium

Machinarium is a pc (& Mac – yay!) based point and click puzzle game that I was bought for Christmas. Your aim is to help the little robot build himself up, then get through the stages without being caught by the bigger, bully robots. You can click on items to hold, drag items together to make tools, and interact with various other elements around the robot in the game.

The visuals in the game are amazing. The art is out of this world – and so beautifully made. For $10 you are really getting your money’s worth of pretty things for the eyes. The game itself is also very good. I actually dislike puzzle games – where driving makes people have road rage, puzzle games make me have puzzle rage. But despite my anger every time I clicked on something I thought the robot should use in his mission, only to watch him shake his head and say “uh-huhh” to tell me he doesn’t want it, I actually enjoyed the challenges. It kind of reminded me of the retro game Hugo’s House of Horrors. Though, without the text.

It’s amazing that such a detailed and modern game can be played with minimal wording. Aside from the opening screen, there is no text at all used in the game, which is really quite refreshing.

It seems to be quite a hit with my friends here and there are quite a few people playing it. I hope I have more time to play the game myself.

You can play the free demo on the game’s website or if you have an iPad 2, you can play on there with their app.

If you have played this game, do let me know what you think of it! Hopefully you do not have puzzle game rage like I do!!

Make Up Monday – 23.01.2012

Though not technically make up, I’d like to talk about Garnier Roll-On today.

When I moved to Frankfurt and got my first Big Girl Job (being an ALT is hardly a job..) I noticed that I started to get bags under my eyes. I’d seen Garnier’s Roll-on for the eyes advertised on tv, and it said that it should make my eyes feel fresher, get rid of my bags and dark circles.

I’ve used this product for about 4 months now and I can say that it does none of those things. At the most, the cooling gel may cool down the puffiness under my eyes in the morning, but that’s about it. It feels nice to put on, but it takes a little while to dry. It’s advertised as something you can pop in your handbag and take with you, but it doesn’t really go on top of make up, so unless you have time to touch up your make up or put a bit of concealer on afterwards, it’s a bit pointless using it during the day.

Given how expensive it is (£9.99 in the UK, around $12 in the US) I think it really ought to do something other than a simple cooling effect. It’s not really something people would just buy to try out – for that item at that price people would consider it, and then expect it to work well when bought. Though I continue to use it (meh, I paid for it so why not) I would not recommend this to anyone else.