Saturday, March 25, 2006

Notes on German host families, German food, and racist Germans

In only one day I will be moving into another house with a “host mom” who is only 26 years old. Those who frequent this blog may remember that I posted her picture up here. For a reminder, click on the week of Valentine’s Day and find her picture; her name is Joseane. She’s young and likes to have fun (clubs, pool, and goes to the gym), so that automatically will make it better. Tiphane lives there also, which is just another benefit.

Now, those are not the only benefits. Don’t assume the wrong thing here, I really like Tiphane and we go out and have lunch or dinner together quite often and we talk a lot, and don’t assume that I may not like Joseane. Obviously, I just posted several good things about the two of them.

One benefit is that Joseane works and attends classes, and Tiphane has a class at a time I don’t. So some of you may be wondering, what exactly does this mean for me? Well, this means that I will actually have some alone time! Yes, that forgotten concept, a concept Brazilians are completely unaware of because of their constant need for reassurance that people know they exist. Finally, I will have time where I’m not constantly being bothered or hassled, and there is also a possibility that my things will actually stay in the place I put them. Because, you know, when I put things in a certain place I kind of expect them to be there when I look for them. This is usually referred to as convenience. I keep my alarm clock on the nightstand because, well, that’s where it belongs. But when I come in at night and look for it and after 10 minutes I find it in the third drawer on the left (right beside the wall) of a work desk… well, you get the idea.
Also, living at this house is Joseane, Tiphane, and one other student who is rarely there.

This means that there won’t be 300 people at the house at once bothering the hell out of me when I want to be left alone. Call it “culture shock” towards the friendliness and openness of Brazilians if you want. I call it wanting some privacy and the expectation that people respect that want. However, in this house, that just doesn’t happen.
Now, not all Brazilians are like this, naturally. I’ve only encountered one family like this, and unfortunately, it just happens to be the one I am currently living with.

These people don’t seem to understand that my “host mom” is not my real mom, nor is she my “aunt”, as they seem to call everyone here either “tio” (uncle) or “tia” (aunt). I hear people calling everyone this, but I am surely not going to go around calling someone I really don’t even want to see that often aunt or uncle. I also don’t need to be babied like I am some four-year-old child. I don’t need someone to take my plate from the table to the sink, I don’t need someone to wash my clothes once per day, and I don’t need someone to make my bed and fold my socks for me. I also don’t need my room cleaned every single day. And this cleaning is not some normal cleaning. It’s a move everything around and wax the floor and once a week change to new curtains and wash the old ones. I don’t need this.

Just tonight I watched as Mihaela, Miriam’s daughter, spill a little bit of sauce from the food on Midori’s, the Japanese exchange student, t-shirt; a black t-shirt at that. Well, it wasn’t a “oh hey let me grab a napkin I’ll clean it off my own shirt.” No, everyone made a HUGE deal out of it, and then Miriam and Mihaela took a wet towel and started to wipe off Midori’s shirt (keeping in mind she’s a girl, and she may not have liked two women’s hands and a wet towel going all over her chest and shoulders), talking about “ooh no get that spot get this spot.” Midori also is a 21-year-year old, and I don’t think she needs this kind of babying and coddling. She’s a woman; she can surely take care of this little problem herself.

Anyway, so that’s my little rant on that aspect of this host family. Summed up, I am 22, not 4, and I can exert some resemblance of independence if the need should arise, and I also like to have a little bit of privacy every once-in-a-while, as I’m sure everyone else wants and actually expects.

Now, we can safely move onto German food. It sucks, and that’s really all there is to say about it. I don’t like hot dogs cut up and cooked in some sort of pepper sauce then mixed with sauerkraut and some sort of huge ball of dough. It has flavor, unlike some Indian food I had here once, but the flavor is less than desirable. I hardly ever eat sausage, bacon, or ham in America, but here it’s practically all they eat.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind when I say here I am referring specifically to this house, not Brazil!

I don’t like this stuff, and it’s not going to make it any better by mixing it with boiled cabbage and pickles. And they can’t just leave some regular food that would normally be good alone; they have to Germanize it by adding something stupid like sauerkraut or whatever that crap is they put in everything. I don’t like my steak breaded cooked in a frying pan full of oil and then thrown on top of a pile of sauerkraut. No, I want my steak with Montreal seasoning, medium-rare if not rare, and practically mooing as I cut into the oh-so-tasty flesh of that newly killed cow. Mmmm, I can taste it now. And why can’t I get a regular ass hamburger? I don’t want a freaking x-tudo with cheese, ham, sausage, onions, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and a tiny patty of beef that is more than likely not even beef. I want a 3/4lb grade-A angus beef patty, topped with blue cheese, onions, and pickles with a huge side of curly fries. And I want that burger medium-rare, too, so please ignore the FDA rules on ground beef and just cook it that way, my body can handle it.

Seriously, when I got here I ate because it was like “hey food! Let’s try something new!” Now I eat once per day, and when I eat more than that it’s usually chocolate with coffee or cake with coffee; and it’s usually at 1AM when I actually can be alone and have time to myself. As you can see, this isn’t exactly healthy.

Therefore, all of you gooncampers who remember GC6 and were like “hey Zack I don’t recognize you where did the other half of you go”, get ready to see that same thing. One semester of school and a little German food may have taken its toll on me, but there is a gym one block down the street from Joseane’s and I have already checked out the facilities. They have an elliptical, a treadmill, a bench for bench-presses, and rack for military presses, and dumbbells. I have never needed anymore than this, and I didn’t need more than this to get down to 265 and cut. Give me one month and you’ll see in the pictures a 20-pounds less Zack, and the first place you’ll see it is in my face and chest.

Give me two weeks to be back up to benching 225 lbs fifteen times. I can’t wait. I actually sit around thinking “if there were a gym within 30 minutes of here I would be there right now, and I would stay there for hours because I do not want to come back to this place”. Okay that’s my piece on the food and how it’s unhealthy.

Now for the fun part: racist Germans!
(I'm aware that Germans don't have exactly the greatest track-record when it comes to race and race-relations. But let's give it a go. Disclaimer for this as well - the only Germans I am referring to in this context are the ones who live in this house.)
You know, growing up where I grew up, going to the schools I went to, and even going to the university I go to now, I have encountered racists and heard plenty of racist terms. The thing is, when you’re in America you think (I think) “Man, I bet things really aren’t this bad in other places.” Well, I was kind of right and I was kind of wrong.

In the US, you get racists against blacks, Mexicans, and the occasional French slur (not because they know any French people, but because French people smell bad and go against the preemptive attack policy of the US). And if you’re in any other region than the Northeast, Northwest, California, and the mid-Atlantic, you encounter racism against everyone. If you’re white, other white people hate you for having more money than they do. If you’re black, white people in Alabama hate you, if you’re in South Carolina and you’re black (or Mexican, or anything other than low-class white because South Carolina is the worst state in the US) you’re going to be hated.

Okay, well, maybe I was wrong and not at all right. People here (again, I only know this through the people I have encountered; mainly my host family) are exactly the same. After finding out that even though I am really not a practicing Jew, but do appreciate the culture and have great respect for these things, my host father proceeded to tell me, in a very non-joking way, how many of the world’s problems are because of Jews. He also likes to say the phrase “Deutschland Über Alles” a lot, and there are countless other things he has said regarding the evil ways of Jews and the affect they have on world society as a whole.

And then, in another one of the most blatant forms of racism I have ever witnessed, my host father was talking about Japanese people (this is when another Japanese exchange student lived here, Ónuki), and the internment camps the US used during WWII and about the “unsuccessful Japanese extermination” projects of the US (Hiroshima and Nagasaki for those not introduced to these things), and then went on to say, directly in front of this Japanese student, that Japanese people look like Rottweilers. Now, in my experience, you don’t refer to the looks of an entire race of people in comparison to that of, well, a German dog. It just doesn’t seem very respectful in my opinion.

I have enjoyed this program immensely, excluding the fact that I had a great deal of problems with the CELIN program, which I won’t go into here because I have already told the people that need to know, and also excluding my experience with this particular host family. I have enjoyed the people I have met, the travels I have taken, and the language and culture I have absorbed in what has honestly been a short amount of time here in Brazil.

I know this whole post may seem like one huge complaint letter, but it really isn’t. It’s just me expressing my dissatisfaction with several things that have happened while here, and hopes that after I also express these same things with the correct people, something will be done to possibly screen the families a little bit better to make sure someone isn’t being placed in family that is as, in my opinion, unacceptable as this one. Perhaps CELIN should choose a form for placement that has more questions than “name, age, preference for pets, preference for children, anything else, kthxbye.” Go into a little bit more detail next time, and you’ll at least have one student that had a much better experience with their host family.

Thanks, everyone have a great night.


Oh wait, one more thing. MAIDS! Now, I am very used to the fact now that everyone in this country has a maid. For some reason, it is impossible to clean the house from top to bottom everyday, wash at least 5 loads of clothes, cook three meals, clean the kitchen three times a day, take two showers a day, and get in that three-hour afternoon nap without the help of a maid. Someone, please tell me you picked up on this sarcasm.
I know you’re retired, but please for the love of everything in this world find something useful to do! All you’re doing is wasting water, wasting electricity, and wasting time with things that are significantly more important. Someone should find out what the opinion of the students is before placing them in a house that has a maid. I find this to be very antiquated, absolutely unnecessary, and in the case of many households, quite racist.
Not that there would be a significant difference in my thinking if the maid were white, but having a maid, who is pregnant, and who is black, come to me while I’m sitting there and take up my plate, then go wash it, then do the same for everyone else, and then, if there just happens to be enough food left when everyone is finished and she’s done cleaning, she is able to eat… I know that sentence is horribly structured but you get what I’m saying. This to me is archaic and the sooner people realize it here the faster this society will advance and move past it’s troubled history.
I do not like that a portion of my R$800/month goes towards a woman doing things that I could be doing myself, or things my host mom here could be doing since I thought that’s what a large chunk of my money was going towards.
So also, if anyone reads this with any influence before I speak to the appropriate people about this very subject, please please please do something about it and tell them that some people in the US are actually progressive and forward thinking people and DO NOT want to see the US go back to where it was in 1950. I know this isn’t the US, but it reminds me of that very thing.
Thank you,


Messiah said...

Well, at least it will get better now, with the new host family.

Terri D. said...

yeah, wow, why would they put a bunch of diverse people with an obvious racist? Maybe he was really good at hiding it. Crazy. Well, at least you get to leave now. Say hi to Tiphane, if you remember.