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Sunday In Germany: Snow, Fingers, The Kitchen, Green Cabbage, Speck, Foreign Language, eBay and Fireboats

By Ken Yeager

It’s Sunday Again!!!

Well, it’s Sunday again….funny how it rolls around ever week or so. North Germany is still being punished by snow with no let-up in slight…..We have more snow that Vancouver….I’d ship them some but the cost would be outrageous.

My wife, Gisela, who at the moment is only left-handed due to an infected middle finger and all bandaged up (and I thought she was just being rude), has allowed (do you feel the sarcasm?) me to take over the kitchen, with supervision, of course.


Actually, that isn’t true as she is still the main cook and thank goodness for that. I do breakfasts every morning while she is, in normal times, responsible for lunch (our main meal) and Abendbrot (translation – evening bread, but in reality, open-faced sandwiches). I help with the lunch meal by peeling, gophering, tasting, setting the table, etc. and I get to wash up afterwards. We tend to do things the German way (reason for main meal at lunchtime) which for the most part is fine by me….I’m not so set in my ways, leastwise, I wasn’t when she set out to train me 30+ years ago. What is odd is that north Germany doesn’t exactly have a cuisine like other areas of Germany. They have some specialities like Grünkohl (literally green cabbage, but it isn’t….closest think I know of in the U.S. is kale), various ways of serving and eating herring (as discussed previously), Birne-Bohnen and Speck (Pears, green beans and bacon (unsliced), Labskaus (closest is hash), and Koh roladen (stuffed cabbage leaves). North Germans eat a lot of fish since there is the Baltic Sea to the north and the Atlantic to the west. Grünkohl is a winter dish and eaten with sausages, kessler (kinda like thick sliced Canadian bacon) or speck. Gisela cooks the cabbage in a pressure cooker and adds the speck…OK, speck is like a chunk of bacon, but unsliced. It cooks in with the cabbage and the fat helps flavor the cabbage and of course, we eat fat and all. The meal is served with boiled potatoes (Germans love boiled potatoes). Birne, Bohnen and Speck is another winter meal also cooked in a pressure cooker. The beans and bacon are cooked together and the pears added later…great. I love hash but Labskaus has red beets in it and I find that a turnoff. Bread is a big deal in Germany and the breakfast of many families includes Brötchen (rolls but in great variety), jams, cheeses, cold-cuts, fruit, cereal, etc. They are not much into bacon and eggs to start the day. Almost all bakeries have prepared sandwiches for breakfast takeout. We only have Brötchen twice a week and eat healthy the rest of the week. OK, enough about food, but you can see where my heart lies…..

I’d be interested to know how many out there in SaigonKids land speak a foreign language. Now despite my profession in the Foreign Service, I am not a language person. I am of the opinion that a brain is like a sponge….it can only absorb so much. To introduce something new, something has to be squeezed out. Thus, I do not speak any foreign language fluently….I can dabble, but that’s about it. I have been married to a short-haired dictionary for 28+ years, but my German still leaves much to be desired (a much used website is BEOLINGUS). Prior to my assignment to Niamey, Niger (Africa, north of Nigeria, in the Sahara desert), I was required to spend six months studying French at FSI (Foreign Service Institute). Six hours of intense classroom study plus homework….a killer. The Foreign Service has six levels of fluency…0 = no speaky to 5 = native fluency. My wife has a 5/5 in German, of course (first digit is speaking, second is comprehension). A 3 level is considered adequate for work and for French and Germany a 3/3 is supposed to be possible after six months training….not for me. I managed with a 2+/2. After my final exam, I was convinced that I did NOT speak French, but on the flight to Niamey I sat next to a French lady and we actually had a conversation, in French. I understood, for the most part, what she said and lo and behold, she understood me. Then after three years in French-speaking Africa, I had to go back to the FSI for retraining, before being allowed to speak French again..picked up lots of bad African French. I have a 2/2 in German but never went to any formal training…just some hours at work (in Vienna), my wife in my ear, TV and just picking it up. I did have a German teacher here in Grosshansdorf for about a year who was very good but that’s stopped now. I can manage in most situations, but I do get myself into trouble occasionally. I lived in Baghdad from 1954-57 and can still count to 10 in that language. Seems like all of the Vietnamese I remembers is how to give directions to a cyclo or taxi driver…tai chai, tai mat, dee tong…sound familiar? Or am I wrong? Probably the latter. Also studied Chech for six months with my wife at FSI and got a 2/2 in that language, but then went on 6 weeks of home leave and promptly forgot it all. Dabbled in Chinese while in Guangzhou, but never got anywhere….too tonal, too complicated and I’m too stupid.

Do you buy and sell things on EBay? I buy and sometimes I get some good deals, sometimes just junk. I recently bought some saucers and a plate to fit in with our (my wife’s) china set. I managed to break a plate in the microwave and our housekeepers managed to do in a few saucers over the years along with glassware, etc. It’s a good source for motorcycle parts. What I haven’t done and don’t know how to do is sell. Of course, I want to sell here in Germany, but there is that language barrier (see paragraph above). Our basement is full of stuff we no longer need or want but I doubt if anyone else wants it either but who knows? One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or something like that.

OK, I know, you’re getting bored, but one more subject. Gisela is a part of a Nordic Walking group that meets Thursday and Sunday mornings (when the weather permits) and as a result, she met a couple and the man of the family is a retired fireman who is also part of a crew of a small, restored fireboat (helps put out fires).  The boat was commissioned in 1930, did its service and then was left to rot before being repaired and renovated and now does small tours in the Hamburg Harbor and goes to various boat / port celebrations with its retired firemen crew. A couple of years ago we did a one night, two day tour to Kiel through the North Sea canal which was great fun. Anyway, we are off on another trip in May. Just a short day trip and home on the train later in the day, but if the weather is good, should be great fun.

Well, it’s already time for lunch, but no, dear reader, I will not be cooking today…we are going out…no cooking, no dishes to be washed…just a good meal, an espresso, a calvados and than a nap….Ahh I do like Sundays.

Ciao – Ken

3 comments to Sunday In Germany: Snow, Fingers, The Kitchen, Green Cabbage, Speck, Foreign Language, eBay and Fireboats

  • Ken – I’ve traded on eBay since 1999. Primarily as a Seller, but also a Buyer. I’ve sold everything from useless junk collecting dust around the house to fine jewelry and gold bullion to digital products. I’ve been a Power Seller many times over on eBay (and other auction sites). You can sell literally anything on eBay. But, as with all things in life there is a *learning curve* to selling on eBay. Also, it takes a lot of time to put up listings on eBay and manage an eBay Store front. For just getting rid of stuff around the house I don’t really think it is worth all the effort and expense (depending on the value of the ‘stuff’ – LOL). After it is all done and over with it will, on average, cost about 20% to 25% of the sale price for various expenses to sell on eBay. So, for example, if you sell an item for $10 and it costs you $2.50 in fees/expenses that only leaves you $7.50 profit. It takes about 2 hours to list an individual item (without automated listing software) by the time you take the pictures, edit the pictures, write the description and terms of sale, upload everything to eBay, monitor the listing, reply to inquiries/questions, package and ship the item,etc. – which translates to making about $3.75 per hour for all your time and effort – why bother – LOL. On the other hand, if you sell an item for say $100 and make $75 to $80 profit – it becomes worth the ‘bother’ – LOL. $40 per hour for my time to clean out the basement and closets gives me a little more motivation – ha ha ha!

    Personally, anymore I only sell high dollar items with a value of at least $500 (at auction prices). Mostly tho I usually only sell items in the $2,000 to $5,000 and up range. It makes a couple hours of time and expense well worth it – 🙂

    The only exception is 999.99 Gold items. Anything 999.99 Gold generally sells at ‘above’ gold market rates within almost seconds. So when the gold market is ‘low’ and gold is selling at low prices, stock up on 1/2 oz. and 1 oz. 999.99 gold bars. Then when gold prices go up to right before they peak out … put them on eBay at the current days world gold trading prices. Buyers will bid it UP from there betting gold prices will continue to rise (sometimes the do, but most times they don’t – lol). The amount over the current days world gold price they pay you, will generally cover all of the auction fees, etc. (buyer pays insurance and shipping, of course). You make your money on the spread of what you paid for the gold and what you sell it at (i.e. – buy at $300/oz. and sell at $700/oz., etc.) – try it, it’s a BLAST of FUN! Not to mention, beats the heck out of what banks are paying in interest rates these days – LOL – 🙂

    eBay (and all the auction sites) are strange in a way, in that, you never know if something will sell or not – until you list it and pay the listing fees, etc. Sometimes you can list an item and it will sell within minutes or hours. Other times you list an item and it gets no action at all – so you relist it and get little action. So, you don’t relist it. Then a couple weeks later you relist it again, and wham bang – it sells within hours at more then you ever dreamed of it selling for – LOL. I’ve had one item listed on eBay for 4 years now, and only gotten a couple nibbles on it – I just leave it on there for the fun of it to see if it ever sells – LOL – as it only costs me 10 cents a month for the listing.

    Based on my experience with eBay and other auction sites, it is not really worth the effort and expense to sell low value items. But, high value items (say over $50) can make it rewarding.

    eBay has been going through many, many changes the past couple years. As a result, a lot of the Sellers have moved over to Amazon Auctions (or sell on both sites) finding they get more for items on Amazon with lower auction fees then eBay.

    An alternative to selling stuff yourself on eBay (and most auction site) is to partner with Sellers who specialize in *selling other peoples things* (for a percentage of the sale price, of course). There are many Sellers on auction site who basically function as “consignment sellers”. One advantage of working with them is that they have become ‘experts’ at selling on auction sites. Also, they know what sells and what does not sell, as well as, how much various items will sell for at auction. And, they do *all* the work. In fact, there are many places ‘off-line’ where you can take an item and they will sell it on eBay for you, including handling all the shipping of the item and everything. Also, there are many ‘consignment sellers’ online too. There is *no* learning curve to selling on eBay using this approach.

    For just clearing out the old stuff around the house I’ve found Craigs List to be a much better site – and it is *free* to list on (no listing fees and no selling fees). They are in Germany and your city. Check it out, ya just might like it! – 🙂

    I’ve sold thousands of dollars of stuff on Craigs List – used, new, everything and anything. And, since it is FREE you can leave it listed until it sells at NO COSTS (other then about 5 minutes time to repost the listing once a week). It is also a good place to advertise a Garage Sale (Tag Sale, Yard Sale – or, whatever they call those in Germany) to get a lot of people to come to your Garage Sale – without paying for newspaper ads, etc. In the past, I’ve sold “mystery boxes” on Craigs List – stuff that I can’t sell other ways (all the little things that if you held a garage sale you’d be lucky to get 10 cents to a dollar for) – I’d pack into a good size box and advertise it on Craigs List as a “Mystery Box” – Best Cash Offer takes it away! – LOL – It amazed me the first time I did this – people actually bought a box full of something they didn’t have a clue what was in it – LOL. I look at it as them paying me to haul my trash way (as I’d probably end up tossing it in the trash anyway if someone didn’t buy it) … LOL, sorta.

    Craigs List is a good place to buy stuff too. You can find a lot of really good deals on there, sometimes.

    That’s my 2 cents ….

    Rock Onnnnn … Saigon Kid 🙂

    Bob

  • Kevin L. Wells

    All,

    One little adjustment to Bob’s claim that “You can sell literally anything on eBay.” Not quite.

    See:

    Click Here

    for details.

    As to my eBay experience; I developed an antique sterling silver habit I just can’t seem to break. It started with sterling tea sets and got worse from there!

    The good news is that I have encountered no fraud, failure to deliver, or misrepresentation, including international sales.

    Try it, you will like it!

    Watch what you get hooked on!!

    Kevin

    • Kevin – thanks for the clarification for everyone about “literally” – LOL 🙂

      When I made that statement, it didn’t occur to me it could be interpreted as *those* kinds of *stuff* by some folks – LOL – words, words, words … we have to be sooooo careful how we use them … LOL 🙂

      I guess I should have realized this, having unknowningly become a black market U.S. Dollar – Piaster trader in my youth … LOL.

      I’ve had the same experience as you on eBay – all good with no ripoffs, etc. In fact, I’ve met and become friends with a lot of wonderful people on eBay.

      Kevin, you may want to consider getting into selling “Red Spot” garments on eBay. Ya know, to support your *sterling habit* – LOL – 🙂

      You could even have a Logo … a RED SPOT with the words “What Would A Saigon Kid Do?!” … LOL … Geezz, did I just say that? Hang my head in shame …. LOL

      Rock Onnnn … LOL

      Bob

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