Turks and Chaos

I have stumbled across free Internet at the Mayersche bookstore in downtown Cologne. While I am happy that I can go on-line for free, it is disappointing to find out that many sites are blocked, including my [now former] blog site at LiveJournal. Once I am back on-line where the sites are not filtered I will post this message there.

Mark had his first hockey practice yesterday, and the size of the rink is much larger than the rinks he has played on in the past. Could this be a standard European-sized rink, or one used for tournaments or international competitions? The rink is in the Eishalle, located far outside of Cologne, in the suburb of Troisdorf. We had to take a twenty-minute train ride there, then walk it (with hockey gear) for twenty minutes. Fortunately the team has a room all its own wherein they can leave all their equipment so they don’t have to lug it around town all the time.

After the practice the whole team went out to dinner and accompanying us was a woman who was a friend of two of our teammates. Her name was Erin, and when we were introduced she said to me that I looked familiar. She wondered where we might have met. I asked her her last name, and I was shocked to hear that it was Schipper. Erin Schipper and I used to work in the same Circulation Department at the Mississauga Central Library at its former location on Dundas Street West. She was a page and I was a library assistant. When the library moved to its present location on Burnhamthorpe Road West in 1991, Erin joined the Readers’ Den department. Erin asked about the staff at Central and we reminisced about our library jobs. Erin is returning to Canada after working in the Netherlands as an English teacher.

Saturday night was the Opening Ceremonies and I took part in the Parade of Nations. I brought Canadian flags with me and Mark and I waved them as we entered the stadium, which was filled with 12.000 spectators. Countries marched in in English alphabetical order and there was some initial confusion as to where we ought to go when we first entered the organizing area: over by the C’s for Canada or by the K’s for the German Kanada. After we paraded through the stadium the team stopped off at a kiosk and got cheap beer and I got a currywurst, which is eaten all over Germany. It’s cut-up wurst in a tomato sauce sprinkled with curry powder. I had to be extremely careful not to drip the red sauce all over my light tan shorts since the little container it was held in was overflowing.

Announcers in English and German introduced the nations as they marched in, and there was a moment of I-can’t-believe-he-said-that when the English announcer said:

“And entering the stadium now is the delegation from Turkey. …What? There’s only one athlete from Turkey? How come there’s only one participant from Turkey? Oh, I know: all the Turks are here already!”.

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I did not check the local papers to see if they reported on this controversy, but it seemed rather xenophobic.

The German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance, as well as the Mayor of Cologne gave speeches in English and German. There were performances by dance artist Agnes and the ceremonies closed with a concert by Taylor Dayne. Mark and I were too tired to go out to any parties afterward, and we were back in our room at the hostel, immediately across the street from the Messe-Deutz train station, before midnight.

Mark doesn’t speak German so I do the translating for him. I read signs for him yet I stop midway, each and every time. Mark wonders why I have suddenly stopped translating. The reason has to do with the German language. In every case I can translate the first half of a sentence right off the sign or the printed page, then I must read the rest to myself before I can continue, as German grammar in many of its constructions throws the verb at the end of the sentence. Thus I must read right through to myself, before I can continue with my translation for Mark. Long sentences usually require me to start my translation from the beginning all over again.

Today at 3.30 (six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) is Mark’s first hockey game. They play a team from New York City. The rink is warm enough in the stands so I don’t need to change into pants or to wear a jacket.

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