Saturday, November 21, 2020

Don't Forget to Breathe!

I have always liked the look and feel of Lederhosen. I don’t mean the kitschig ones you find in Bavarian tourist shops, but serious Lederhosen that are worn for real purposes.

However, he (my son) looked darn cute in these!

Many Jäger and Falkner wear Lederhosen, and when M and I went to die Hubert (an outdoor hunter’s trade fair) a few weeks ago, we found a stand called Only Kumar Leathers. The Lederhosen on display looked so fabulous, and fit the models perfectly, of course. We passed the booth twice and I finally inquired about trying on a pair. Kumar sized me up, grabbed a pair, and pointed me into the changing stall. As I went in he said something to me that sounded like, “If you can’t get them zipped, let me know.” Uhh…Right.

In the changing stall there hung a sheet of instructions in German and in French. It told me, if I can’t get the Lederhosen past my thighs, to wackel my Po and dance around a little. We women have plenty of experience doing this with jeans, so I was undaunted. Suddenly an arm appeared inside the stall attached to another instruction sheet, this one in English. Kumar had overheard M and me speaking English to each other. Nice gesture. A little pulling, a little wackeling, a little more wackeling… Ok! I got them up so that my Po was in the seat of the pants. However, ain’t no way those Hosen are closin’.

I stood there undecided and not a little dejected, loving the feel of the leather but knowing these Lederhosen would not be going home with me. Kumar inquired from the other side of the curtain, “How’s it going?”  I told him they’re on but won’t close. He said, “No, no, we’ll get them closed. Come on out!”

Now, when I tell you these Lederhosen wouldn’t close, I don’t mean it was close. I mean there's no elastic in that waistband and I had a good 6-7 cm of empty space between the button and the button hole.

I opened the curtain, he told me to hold up my sweatshirt, and he reached over, grabbed the open sides of the waist and said, “No problem.” I’m thinking, “YES Problem!!” He told me to suck in, he wrenched the waistline from left and right until…holy cats. He got them closed. What black magic is this?? He told me to zip them up, which I could now do.

Ok, super. Now that I feel and surely look like 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack, I start to wonder how long I should wait before I say “Thanks, but no thanks,” wiggle my way out of those pants and flee. Kumar then told me to do 5 knee squats. Are you mad?!?! If I even take a step, the snap is going to fly off and take someone’s eye out! He told me to trust him and do the squats. I did, and nothing broke. Those seams must be sewn with the devil’s sinews.

He told me to sit in the chair. Again, as any woman in tight jeans knows, standing is wiser. By now I began to trust that Kumar does, in fact, know what he’s doing, so I sat down. Still nothing burst. Interesting. Kumar convinced me that Lederhosen have to be tight at first. With wear they mould to your body and shape and end up fitting you like a second skin.

Skipping a bit here, we ordered a pair and they arrived the other day. They came with instructions for putting them on, and this is where it gets funny.

My translation:

So that the Lederhosen fit and sit well for the long haul, they need to be tight at first. If you don’t get the pants over your butt right away, wiggle your hips side to side, pull your gut in, and hold your breath (just like you do when you try on jeans)!

IMPORTANT: When you’ve got the Lederhosen closed, breathe again! If, when putting them on the first time, you did not break into a sweat, you have not found the right size yet! [Note: Apparently I had found the right size.]  Lederhosen will stretch with time in the waist about 2-3 cm and below the waist 3-5 cm. But only when there is tension!

After you’ve got the Lederhosen on, hold the waist snap and do 4 to 5 knee bends and notice how the leather gives. [Not feelin’ that just yet, Kumar.] Keep the Lederhosen on for a while even if you don’t yet feel good in them. When they take on your body temperature and stretch a little, that nice feeling will come by itself.  [Still waiting, Kumar.]


Armed with those instructions, I gave it a whirl. Although I got them over my Po with just a bit of effort, I definitely had to lie flat on the living room floor to let gravity help me get them snapped, hooked and zipped (another trick with which we women are well familiar). Not being a quitter, I eventually succeeded and was even able to get myself off the floor. Knee bends, sitting on the coffee table, walking around, all good. Relaxing on the sofa with a book, not so much.

Hey, they're closed. Gravity be praised.

The second night was more of the same, and I wore them for about an hour including washing the dishes and walking down the basement stairs to get some wine. The third night it was less of a struggle to get them closed, though I still needed the gravity trick. I’m wearing them now as I sit at my desk typing. And every now and then I do remember to breathe!

I do trust Kumar. These Lederhosen are not cheap (good leather never is), and he would not still be in business if he didn’t know what he was doing. They’re still tight, but there’s nothing like the feel of leather and I’m confident I’ll eventually be able to wear these Lederhosen in public.

M ordered a pair of hunter's Lederhosen from a different source at a more reasonable price, and naturally they fit and look great on him. HE doesn't have to lie on the floor to get them closed! According to Kumar and his instructions, though, M's Lederhosen are too big. Time will tell, I guess. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Expat Adventures

 Expat Adventures, Ep. #134

I don't generally go to the doctor unless the pain I'm experiencing has me in tears or I can't walk right. This means I've been to the E.R. or a family doctor - the former resulted in several referrals - twice since moving here eight years ago. I usually say in the U.S. we commonly avoid the doctor - many of us can't afford what it costs - but my daughter has informed me that this is yet another Midwestern thing - that we wait until things are serious because otherwise we feel we're wasting the doctor's time.

However, I messed up my trigger finger while - I kid you not - cleaning my gun. I was shoving a cleaning thingy through the barrel with M's carbon Putzstock (cleaning rod?), which broke at the handle, slicing through my finger and leaving it blackened and meaty. Unpleasant words were used. I've suspected a carbon splinter has been stuck in there since then, but I figured it would probably work its way out like a sliver.

It didn't, and I'm starting to lose part of the nail. So I called a nearby doc, whom I'd visited a few years ago when I had a gammy ankle. I was surprised to get an appointment for the next day (today).

He asked when this happened.

Me: "On October 4th."

Doc (raising an eyebrow): "That was six weeks ago."

Me (thinking, You know about health care in the US? We don't go to the doctor for a flesh wound): "Yes."

Doc (looking at the digit): "Yeah, there's a Fremdkörper (foreign body) in there. When was your last Impfung (vaccination)?"

Me: "Probably when I was five."  (I've never even had a flu shot.)

Doc: "You don't have an Impfpass (vaccination passport/record, which all Germans seem to have)?"

Me: "No, that's not really a thing where I'm from, except for children."

Doc: "Where are you from?"

Me: "The U.S."

Doc (wry grin): "Whom did you vote for?"  (I am not kidding)

Me: "NOT Trump. Most of my family did, though - except for my children."

Doc: "Really?"

Me: "Yep."

Doc (back to the business at hand): "Ok, you'll get a tetanus shot, and then I'll write you a referral to see the surgeon in Horb now."

Me: "Do you mean right now?"

Doc: "Yes, it would be best you go straight there this morning."

Seriously, you wouldn't go
to the doc for that either, would you?

It turns out I should have called first, but I have an appointment for tomorrow morning. The surgeon is apparently going to slice my finger open and dig the carbon piece(s) out. That should be fun.

seemingly random falconry-related photo

When the nurse came in to give me the tetanus shot, she asked if I'm right-handed, which I am. She said then she'll put it in my left shoulder. Hm... When I work with the falconer and his Habicht, the 1-kg bird sits on my Falknerhandschuh on my left hand. If an arm is going to be sore, I don't want it to be my left one. I asked her to stick it in my right arm after all.

I also made an appointment for next week to get my first flu shot. The nurse said I should wait a week after the tetanus shot.

So maybe I'll get my very own Impfpass now! I wonder if I can also find out what blood type I have.

Update (19.11.2020): They x-rayed the finger but nothing showed up. The surgeon says it's a cyst caused by the injury, and he'll numb the finger and cut it out in two weeks (first available appointment). He said I'll be krankgeschrieben (have a sick note) after that and might not be able to work until after Christmas. For a small finger wound? I think that's a bit much. 

P.S. The episode # of my Expat Adventure is totally random.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

I'm a Jungfalknerin!

The short version of this post is: I passed my Falknerprüfung and am now a Jungfalknerin!!

Falkner = Falconer

This has been one hell of a journey, and it's really only just beginning. 

In September 2017 M and I saw our first falconry show at Burg Hohenzollern and thought it was really cool to see hawks and falcons soaring free and returning to the falconer's glove. A month later we went to another one at another Burg and were equally impressed. They had owls as well, and having adopted a love of owls from my Schwiegermutter, we snapped many photos of them. Our third falconry show was at Burg Hohen Neuffen, and that one was our favorite. Music, costumes, big owls, little owls, falcons, hawks, a golden eagle...

The people working with the birds of prey and owls looked like normal people, and I started seriously wondering what I would have to do to work with these birds. This would be my first serious taste of what German bureaucracy has to offer.

Me: "Hey Germany, I'd like to work with birds of prey. How do I do that?" 

Germany: "How do you feel about gutting deer?"

Me: "Wait, what? No...birds of prey. Raptors. Owls."

Germany: "Right. How many different types of plants can you identify by fruit, flower, leaf or seed?"

Me: "No, seriously. BIRDS. Hawks and falcons."

Germany: "Uh-huh. Internal organs of a wild boar? Symptoms of illnesses you need to look out for in wild animals?" 

Me: "Come on, my German is not this bad. Why do you not understand me?"

Germany: "The 11 parts of an egg? Can you list those?"

Me: "Hey! We're getting closer! Wait. There are 11 parts of an egg? I thought there were 3."

Germany: "Legal minimum dimensions of a dog kennel?"

Me: "Oh, FFS. I don't want a DOG, I want a BIRD. Do you mean dimensions of an aviary?"

Germany: "Nope, dog kennel. In some states if you want to hunt with a bird, you need a dog."

By November 2018 I had spoken to some people and learned that I would indeed have to become a hunter first (earn my Jagdschein, or German hunting license), and then I could pursue falconry. I could do the hunting class (170+ hours studying 5 different subjects in comparison to the 10 hours of hunter safety required in Wisconsin) without the shooting bit, but it was recommended to me by two falconers to just go for the full Monty and learn to shoot as well.

In early January 2019 I visited the Landesjagdschule, and a short time later I was registered for the summer course. Those were a grueling three weeks that included many hours of studying at home, and M had to help me so much with the language and understanding guns and German hunting laws that he eventually went for his hunting license as well at a school in Saarland. I delayed my test until early March 2020 to give me the extra study time and passed two of the three parts (written and oral-practical). For the gun handling and shooting I needed more practice and with the help of our great trainers in Stuttgart, I passed that part at the end of July. With that, I became a Jungjägerin! M had passed his whole test in one try in June, so he had become a Jungjäger before I did. On to falconry...

We both signed up for the falconry class at the Jagdschule where M had taken his hunting class. This was a brutal 6 days of class! Eight to nine hours of classroom work followed by 3 hours of reviewing in the evenings every day for 5 days, one day at a Falknerei handling birds and watching a Habicht (Goshawk) hunt crows, and on the seventh day was the test.

At the Falknerei we all practiced tying the Falknerknoten (falconer's knot) with our faces centimeters away from the Weißkopfseeadler's enormous beak, we had Harris Hawks on our gloves, and we flew the Weißkopfseeadler between us a few times. At the end they flew for us a very annoyed Sperbergeier (vulture), answered the rest of our questions, and let us go for our final review.

The Falknerprüfung consists of four subject areas (law, ornithology, practice of falconry, and care of birds, hunting dogs and ferrets) and is oral-practical, which ultimately is four separate interviews where we are asked questions or given tasks such as tying a secure falconer's knot with only one hand. I did very well in two of the subjects: law and ornithology. In the other two I was not impressive, but good enough to not fail. The tough thing is that the test administrators are experts in their fields but not teachers, and we'd been warned that sometimes their questions are phrased rather oddly to the point that the student doesn't get what they're going for. 

During the waiting time, as the 20 of us aspiring falconers waited to hear our fate, we all paced around nervously. Businessmen and -women, 3 foreigners, a zookeeper's assistant, teachers...most well over 30 years old were all shitting ourselves wondering if we'd performed well enough. In the end we had.

In case this all sounds kind of fun and cool, I can assure you it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. As I've written here before, raising my kids was easier. I did that in my native language and there was no test in the end. College finals? Pffst. You read and learn for one semester and take a test. I have never experienced anything like this - as well as the feeling of accomplishment afterwards, which is only just now sinking in.

Now that the theory portion is behind us, we will take some time to gain practical experience and learn from a real falconer (our Lehrprinz!) before we decide about getting a bird of our own. We will eventually build an aviary (according to the dimensions required by the animal protection law of course!) and make or buy the equipment one needs to have a bird of prey. 

For now I'm going to enjoy a few weeks of not having to study, learn and review things like the parts of an egg and a feather, list of new- and old world vultures, weights, wingspans and breeding patterns of birds, which types of birds hunt what type of prey, and relevant parts of 15 different German laws and ordinances. 

It's been quite a ride so far!

a curious Harris Hawk