So it’s been a while since my last update: I’ve been colossally busy.
Namibia looms closer, and two conferences along with its associate work and socializing, not to mention the fact that three Scots decided to drop in last week, means that I’ve had hardly any time to cram in the odd article or two about hunter-gatherers, but I do feel like I’m getting somewhere, which is nice I suppose.
I’m currently in the process of designing/re-applying some social experiments to try out in the field next month, just to see if they work, as my supervisor secured some funding from a US university on the understanding that we help them out with the cognitive anthropology stuff they’re working on. Lots of questions about relationships with nature, and the conception of points of view in hunter-gatherer society. It’s interesting, and has a big literature basis, so I now feel like I’m trying to read everything on earth that was ever written, ever. I hope this works out.
On the learning German front, I’ve actually had a couple of breakthroughs. It turns out that before a week after your arrival, you are supposed to go and register with the city of Cologne at your local council office so you can get your papers with the scary eagle stamp on them.
I did that only the other week, but the civil servant I spoke to didn’t seem to mind. The main thing I got out of my interaction with her was that civil service offices are the same everywhere. We had a bit of a laugh about dealing with the public, but only after she asked where I was from, I said “Scotland” automatically, and she spent a good ten minutes wondering why my country wasn’t on the system. Whoops. I sheepishly corrected myself and said “Great Britain”. She then thought my passport made a lot more sense.
However, my actual breakthrough moment was just before this. Upon my entering the Stadt building, I went up to the receptionist and told her in German that I don’t speak much and was wondering if she spoke English. She didn’t. An earlier version of me might have left in shame, however I decided to press on. I said “Registieren mein Wohnung”, which I’m convinced makes absolutely no sense, but she fired off a paragraph in response in which I recognised the words, along with “new resident” and “take a ticket and wait to be called”. I indicated my understanding, thanked her and I’m pretty sure what she said in response was “See, we didn’t have to speak English did we?”
I was on cloud nine all day. And I have my papers. Dad says that this means when we play “Escape from Colditz” at Christmas I now always have to play the German.
I also went and got a haircut today. This does not sound like much, but is unbelievably nerve-wracking when the only relevant phrase you know is “Can you cut it short, please?”. I was steeling myself for the Evie from V for Vendetta look, however the nice woman cutting my hair decided the best thing to do was to err on the side of caution. As a bonus I got to find out what a professional stylist thinks looks good on me, with almost no input from me. I have mixed feelings about this. It’s not quite as short as I usually would get, and when she put stuff in it she clearly had something of the 1950s on her mind. Thankfully with the stuff washed off I do not look like a member of the Stray Cats.
So all in all, my German is getting better, and I am eternally grateful for this. There is so much more to learn, but learning your second language is no picnic.
Lastly, and with regard to the blog, you may have noticed my decision to put more pictures in my posts. Eventually, there will be more actual pictures of Cologne, however this relies on my owning a camera, which I will before I go away, hopefully.
I’ve told the university I need one, so fingers crossed. Academics really do live their lives on expenses. I shall post again before I go to Namibia. There may even be photos of Karneval. More to come.