The Heat Is Following Me

When I was back home, it was +32C there and +10C in Prague. On the day when I’ll be in Prague, it will be +24C there and +10C at home. But the moment I go back, it will get hot there again.

I just can’t catch a break.

Shopping Opportunities, Food, and Politics

The problem with a conference organized by men is that they don’t realize that visitors need time for shopping. Male scholars brought their wives who shop while men talk. And I’m here alone with nobody to send shopping. Even if N were here, sending him shopping is like asking me to spend a week without reading.

Today we started at 9 am and finished at 9 pm with an hour-long break for lunch. I had to sacrifice lunch because what am I supposed to do, show up back home with no gifts? Besides, I got my compensation for the conference and the euros are burning a hole in my handbag the size of my head.

I was reduced to buying a packet of Putenfleisch – just the name is priceless – and eating it in rapid gulps in my hotel room.

At 9 pm people decided to go out for dinner but I frankly can’t stand any more human company. I mean, these are all amazing people but I can’t stand human beings in these quantities.

I also discovered that Apfelstrudel contains everything but Apfel and Strudel. It’s a huge ice-cream that floats in a sort of a compote with blackberries, strawberries, and elderberries. And there are two tiny bits of dough stuck in it. Please don’t blame this on my faulty German. I pointed the word out in a menu.

A German colleague extolled the virtues of the local schnapps, so I decided to try it. When I asked for schnapps, the waitress beamed, “Oh, schnapps, gut, gut!” and offered me a Bailey’s.

It was really funny when I asked a German person to explain the word Kurbis that appears everywhere on the menu.

“Kurbis! Halloween! Ummm, scary! Scary Halloween!” he explained. “American? You know Halloween! Many many Kurbis.”

Before you think the worst, it turned out to be a pumpkin. I didn’t order it because at this rate a pumpkin can turn out to be anything whatsoever.

Visually, though, Germans seem to identify me as one of their own and address passionate monologues to me in the streets. There’s an election on Sunday and different political groups try to attract passersby to their cause.

There is a lot of Russian-speakers but I wear neither sports pants with white stripes on the sides nor peroxide, which remains the invariable uniform of Russian-speaking women abroad.

The Mainstream

From a great article in The Atlantic:

According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.” Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.”

Yep. The national news cycle, let alone the online space, is being controlled by a bunch of freaks nobody cares about or supports.


I’m loving this conference because I’m learning real useful stuff. For instance, there is an explosion of crisis literature in Spain, right? But nothing of the kind in neighboring Portugal. Which suffered from the crisis as much if not more and has a similar culture, a similar language. What’s up with that?

Here at the conference there is a specialist in Portugal who explained that Portuguese writers don’t write for Portuguese-speaking audiences as much as they write for translation into English. So they don’t want to distress prospective Anglo buyers with graphic depictions of the crisis.


After the conference, we came back to the hotel and discovered a huge rock concert happening under our windows.

“It’s an anti-fascist demonstration,” the receptionist explained cheerfully. “And around the corner, there is a fascist one. It’s very tiny, though. We don’t have that many fascists.”

I was eager to run around the corner to catch a glimpse of real German fascists but the hosts led us away from the crowd. Later it came out that the fascists meant AfD supporters so I didn’t miss anything really major.


For the first time, I’m spending time with some actual Germans (as opposed to English-speaking Germanists). They are wonderful, fun people with an amazing sense of humor, a Spanish that’s almost as good as mine, and a lot of local pride.

“I love German food,” I shared with one of the German professors.

He gave me a perplexed look.

“But you just said you’ve never been to Bavaria before?”

“No, but I’ve been to Berlin.”

“But their food is horrible. It’s disgusting swill. The only good food in Germany is in Bavaria!”