Jun 30, 2014

Five couples

My social life currently revolves around four couples:

The Mexicans- Rafa and his girlfriend Paola have an enviable loft apartment in a prime location- but its too expensive so they're looking for someplace new. We met them rooting with the Mexican fans at the world cup screenings in the schlossgarten, and they've hosted some wonderful dinners and drinks. Excellent cooks.

The Other Mexicans- are not really a couple. Alejandro and Alfredo are Mexican interns and roommates from Monterrey. If Alejandro had blond hair, he could almost be mistaken for German. His mom was a famous singer in Mexico in the 80s and he works part time as an instructor in her singing school. It's pretty obvious he's mostly here to explore Europe. With one month to go, his last day is friday before he takes off on a blisteringly fast tour of Europe. His itinerary reads something like this:

day 17: Prague
day 18: Prague
day 19: Budapest
day 20: Wien
day 21: Berlin

And he's mostly traveling by train, which means he's probably counting the hours he's going to spend in each city. I will miss him, he actually added a lot of fun to the office.

Alfredo met us at 9am sunday morning at his and Saori's office, somewhere between drunk and hungover. He mentioned something about eating two hamburgers around 4am after leaving the clubs. Alejandro had a Venezuelan friend in town, but Alejandro was sick, so Alfredo felt compelled to show their friend a late night on the town, regardless of the 7kilometer race we were all running the following morning. To our amazement, he ran with us, didn't get sick, and encouraged the knot of people running with us with random yells of "VAMOS!!!!!!!!" (let's go!) He is also a one-man crowd at the world cup mexican games.

It took me the better part of two months to figure out that the Tolli and Gio were the Greek couple one of my coworkers mentioned. They're two jaded Greeks about Saori and my age, and once I got to know them (they're actually really good friends with The Mexicans too), they've been delightful and Saori and I have gone over to their apartment a few times. At the last get together at The Mexicans they brought a greek dish called Mossaka which was like a meat lasagna made with bechamel and potatoes instead of noodles.

I've already mentioned Chandra and Shiva, my Indian roommates. When Chandra announced that he was moving. His family said "You don't drink alcohol and you don't eat meat. How will you survive in Germany???" Here I submit Chandra's recipe for "capsicum potatoes" a pretty simple dish which he referred to as a side, although you could eat as a main if you wanted:

-Slice into thin pieces 1 onion, 1 sweet pepper, and three peeled and washed potatoes.
-Pour into a large skillet enough oil to cover the bottom and heat on high.
-When the oil is hot, throw in 1 tsp black mustard seeds and 2 tsp whole cumin seeds. Give them about ten seconds to brown before adding the onion.
-Cook the onion on high heat for a few minutes and reduce to medium, stirring constantly to keep everything from burning.
-After the onion is sauteed and beginning to turn clear, add in the chopped potatoes and peppers, 1 tsp coriander powder, 2 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp chile powder, and 1-2 tbsp of salt.
-Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 10-20 minutes more until the potato is brown and breaks apart easily under a spoon.
-Serve with rice and butter.

Jun 23, 2014

Seriously tired

What a week! I'm wiped out. Between late world cup matches (and accompanying beer), opera, working last weekend and the weekend before, plus going out apartment hunting I am serious tired. Thursday was the last public holiday until october. Its going to be a long time until then, but I'm planning on taking some time off before.

Ive also had three weeks now of jumping into a competition with one week until deadline. At least I'll be able to rest Friday and read the brief on the new big competition they want me to start. It's a big 'un.

Also. World Cup: pretty exciting stuff although what does it say when a German crowd gets excited about Jogis boys drawing with Ghana?

Time for a shower. Huge bags under my eyes.

Working weekend

After World Cup fiestas, Saori's immune system decided it was hungover too, and Saori was sick the whole weekend. For my part, I gave thanks I'd drunk copious quantities of water before bed, so I scraped by with a light headache, and headed in to the office.

Yes, it was saturday. But I was on a competition team, and that's just what you have to do the weekend before submittal. Anyway, spent basically the whole day at the office and picked up some pre-made curry and flour tortillas for dinner. "Authentic Mexican Cantina Style!" Bubbled the $6 package of 8 tortillas. In México, a tortilla is about the cheapest commodity there is, in daily quantities which probably outnumber the population 10 to 1, with a street value of a few cents.

Actually, almost all 'Mexican' food abroad was originally marketed and produced by Americans, not even Mexican-Americans, but mostly entrepreneurs from Texas and California. Hence, the overwhelming abundance of red enchilada sauce, flour tortillas, and hard shell "taco dinner" kits.

Sunday, I went back to work again, missing the beautiful weather, and until I dashed out a little before 7 to meet Saori for the opera.

Jun 18, 2014

Friday Night Luces

It's been a busy week.

I was pulled into a competition a week before the deadline, so I ended up working a lot on that housing project, mostly drawing plans and then doing the renderings. Friday I excused myself relatively early and walked down the hill to the Schlossgarten Biergarten, where there was a big screen set up. It's become the de facto public viewing place since this year the Stuttgart government decided to not broadcast it in the Schlossplatz, a much bigger public space.

One cannot ask for more lovely weather for this event. Late afternoon sun, warm, green, and the park was filled with people bicycling, sitting on the grass, and simply strolling around.

I arrived just as Mexico scored their first allowed goal, and there was a small but vocal contingent of Mexican fans up at the front, right in front of the screen, which erupted into a jumping and singing crowd. It was there I found Saori, hanging out with Alejandro and her worker Alfredo, wearing a Mexican flag as a cape. I bought us plastic liter cups of beer and we settled into a Mexican victory.

After the game ended, we were invited to a nearby apartment for a houseparty and asado to watch the Netherlands take on Spain. We trooped along with Alejandro, Alfredo, Francois, Saori's French coworker, and a German woman who spent a few years in Mexico, plus a few others. Our hosts were also architects from Mexico, and they cooked us all grilled steaks and a mountain of chilequiles.

After the Schlossgarten bier we were pretty schlossed, but we had our own beer and radler as well, so we broke that our and our hosts also provided us with more beer (and much later, tequila y mezcal. All of it premium stuff. Where did you buy it?? Mexico. All imported.

Anyway, Alejandro invited Toli and Yanni, our two Greek coworkers, and they took turns chatting with Saori out on the small and crowded balcony. It was actually a really nice loft attic apartment, and Saori and I were really jealous.

It was very late when we left and Toli and Yanni kindly offered to give us a ride back to Saori's place. Five of us crammed in to their small car and hit the road. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a heavy policing night, so we were pulled over. Yanni was asked out of the car and they questioned him. It turned out he didn't have his German drivers licence (but he did have his Greek), and then they gave him a breathalyzer test. It was a nerve-wracking time for me in the back seat, I sat there thinking, shit, shit, shit. All this because they were kind enough to give us a lift.

So everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Yanni got back in and said that the test was 0.0 for alcohol. They just wanted him to scan and send them his German license that night. We ended up crashing in bed a little after 3am.

Jun 12, 2014

It begins

Tonight after work I saw another apartment, this one in a big hive of 1960s apartments. The slope of the site and the size of the building is so large, that although we entered at the ground level, and went down a level, the apartment had a balcony overlooking a green space a level below that.

Anyway, after the visit, I swung by Edeka grocery for some more beers and satay sauce and ice cubes before heading over to Saori's place. Saori had set up the laptop in the kitchen and was trying to stream the world cup opening ceremony, so I jumped in and figured out the german website while she cooked dinner.

She made us a simple vietnamese-ish dish, boiled chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, glass noodles, and covered with peanut sauce which she made from the satay sauce. (Interestingly, the label showed the sauce being used to season some kind of taco). It was really good, and we are at the table while watching the short ceremony and opening game.

Handy to be in Europe for a world cup.

Jun 11, 2014

Chhole recipe

It never fails. There's no-one around, and I bring down to the kitchen some pasta and sauce. No sooner than I strike a match to light the stove, when Chandra pops in and offers to cook some Indian food. Or I'll stick my head in the kitchen and Shiva and Chandra will be already eating and have food left over and they'll insist I join them.

Actually, I feel really bad about it because they're sharing the room next to mine, a much smaller room, and they're both basically interning at different companies here in town. So I've been making a conscientious effort to restock their shared lader with a bag of potatoes or cauliflower or onions now and then. And lots of bread. Chandra eats tons of bread. He sits beside the toaster and provides a continuous stream of toast which he uses to scoop and sop up the various curries. Apparently its the way they eat in his northern state in India.

Shiva, from the far south, prefers rice with his curries, so he mixes the curry into the rice and simply scoops it up with his hands to eat. We don't wash much in terms of flatware.

Anyway, today Chandra taught me how to make Chhole, which is a curry with chickpeas.

-cover the bottom of a large saucepan with vegitable oil and heat on high.
-While the oil is heating, chop up 2 tomatoes, 1 large onion, 3-4 indian green chilies, 2-3 cloves of garlic, and peel and shred/chop/grind two thumbs worth of ginger.
-When the oil is hot, add 1 tsp of black mustard seeds and 1 tsp of whole cumin seeds.
-Give the seeds abut 30 seconds to brown and add the chiles and chopped onion. Stir and cook until the onion begins to turn brown.
-Add in the chopped garlic and ginger and tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes.
-Add 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp garam marsala, 1 tsp corriander powder, 1 tsp tumeric, and 2 tbsp of chana marsala, stir.
-Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring. The onions should be carmelizing and liqueifying along with the tomatoes, and the entire sauce should getting thicker and more homogenous as the water boils off. Cook for a few more minutes until sauce is very thick.
-rinse two cans of chickpeas and add to the sauce. Mix well until the chickpeas are warm and well coated.

Serve with rice or flat breads.

Smells freaking amazing every step of the way.

Jun 6, 2014


Yesterday I got off work at a reasonable hour, and took the bus straight back to Camp Fox. Finally, we had a beautiful day- spring in Stuttgart means a mix of cold, rain, an hour or two of pleasant sun, rain, rain, cold, and rain. I threw my laundry in the machine in the basement, put on my sneakers and crossed the street into the forest.

I live at the 'A' pin at the lower right corner.

The forests here are lovely- dense, filled with old trees and underbrush, many types of birds, and the largest snails and slugs I've ever seen. Running through narrow track trails last evening, it felt like the Endor 5K. But it's still not so wild. There are trails everywhere, discreet signage and way-finding maps, I continually pass large piles of logs from harvesting, and there are no wolves, bears, or even wild boars out here. Probably the apex predators are the small scraggly foxes which sometimes venture down into the city.

It felt really really good to run. It's hilly terrain, so a good mix of workout, and it was great to clear my mind and de-stress a bit in the fresh air and sunshine. I forget sometimes as well what a recharge nature is for me.

Anyway, just off screen is a huge hunting lodge in the forest, maybe a bit over 6K from my house, and now I'm excited to get back in shape enough to be able to run there.

Jun 1, 2014

Pino's vacation

I decided to work most of the day Friday at the office since we weren't going anywhere and I wanted to save my days off, but I took off early and came back to Saoris to make guacamole for a dinner party.

Saori's Irish friend Davina and her Swiss friend Simone were both back in town for the weekend, and Simone's girlfriend, Pauline, wanted to surprise Simone with a reunion dinner. Pauline is a French violinist who lives in an enviable apartment a few doors down from my office, so it was a very familiar hike up with the bag of guacamole, beer, chips, and wine.

Pauline's apartment is small, one large bedroom with a couch and some moroccan poufs to sit on, and we ate dinner there. The guac was popular, but there was also a nice spread of Italian sausage, Lugano sausage (Simone's area), and a variety of olives.

Munching on the sausage slices, Simone told us this story which he used as a pick up in the clubs and bars before he met Pauline:

"When I was little, I lived in the countryside of Lugano, and my family had a little pig I named Pino. I loved Pino, I would play with him and feed him. Sometimes, Pino would disappear and go on vacation, but he always came back. But I noticed that every time he came back, he always looked a little bit different. Meanwhile, I loved to eat the fresh salami my family used to eat. It was years later before my family one day broke the news to me that I was eating Pino!"

At this point, the girl he was chatting up should be overcome.

Anyway, Pauline brought out the main dish of the evening which was a chicken tajine, a Moroccan dish of basically grilled chicken cooked in a big pot with onions and spices and herbs, and served over a bed of couscous. It was really really good. I've been thinking about trying to pick up some quick indian dishes, but the Moroccan fare is very very tempting. I need to learn both I think. And Mexican.

And of course she had to top off the meal with tiramisu, a bit of a sly jab at [Italian-Swiss] Simone. It was a little goopy, but what goop! The lady fingers were perfect though. The thing to do apparently, is to quickly dip the lady fingers in the espresso, flip it, and dip it again. Any longer and the ladyfinger can get soggy or disintegrate. Apparently it met Simone's approval (and the group's since we finished the pot. It was too good to leave behind).

After dinner, we caught a bus to stadtmitte and went to Mata Hari. Mata Hari is a bar which opens out to small street with some other bars. Friday and saturday nights, the streets and the bars are choked full of people, since the usual order of business is to fight your way into a bar, order a round of drinks, and wind your way out to the street and find your group where everyone is standing around drinking, bathed in the yellow light of the sodium arc street lights. It's a really bizzare bar culture, like the street is a jam packed club without music or dancing. And then people from the bar come around picking up glass steins and shot glasses, and poorer people come around with carts to collect empty glass bottles to return for money.

Beer, especially Wulle beer, is the drink of choice at these bars. Cheap, even for german beer, local, and not so bad. Actually, they have a Weisen (wheat) beer which is actually pretty good and may become my new go-to. I still haven't found a great beer though the search continues.

Anyway, at Mata Hari, I finally met the other Swiss friend of Saori's who is currently serving his compulsory six months in the army but escaped for the weekend. Vincent is kind of a wild guy who once stripped naked apparently and swam across the Fuersee, a small, scummy pond around a local church. We'd both heard a lot about each other so it was fun to meet him finally and we were both really curious about each other. We met up with some other people too, including very drunk Alfredo, roommate of my coworker Alejando, and we all went over to a club named Divina.

Downstairs, past the burly bouncers, it was a smoky dance club straight vintage disco. We danced a bit, drank some more shots, and then escaped before 3.

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende