Next up is New Year! Now I'm back in the right year, woo! Catching up!
We spent New Year's Eve at Nico and Andreas' house, just like we did for 2014 --> 2015, less than a week after I had arrived in Germany for the first time and where Hannes first told me, during the fireworks, that he loved me.
It's a warm and goodly house in suburbs that many of us would gladly mistake for a quaint village. You might remember the picture I took from the window of the house-sized apartment Nico grew up in, or the view from their very own window in the early morning. The sizeable brick homes there mostly have a spacious third-story loft, which I guess is the traditional style, and are separated from the rest of the city by meadows, fields, trees, and a river, all with the occasional deer hopping across or just staring blankly while munching as they are wont to do.
Except for the last one. Deer don't like standing underwater.
Charming af, right? They literally covered their tree in tinsel.
Even Hannes was like, "Oh man, who does that anymore?" but while smiling broadly and admiring how lovely it was.
Andrea and Hanna in the kitchen
Nico and Hannes' moms, also together in the kitchen cooking up what turned out to be a delicious spicy mango soup. I don't even realise Anke was stabbing Moni in the face with a fork until I zoomed in much later lol
Delicious spinach, cheese, and pine nut mini muffins Andrea cooked up especially for me!
They were actually super dense, and got a bit rubbery as they cooled. I could tell she wasn't satisfied, but gluten-free baking is legit hard and takes a lot of practice. The texture is always the most difficult part - they tasted great, were very pleasant to look at and hold, and were really filling, though!
There's that bright orange soup I was talking about - it was also really good, because everything in Germany is really good, especially when people who care about you go to the trouble to make it from scratch. That container of sweet potatoes, blueberries, and I think walnuts? was also for me.
Literally more cheese of good quality than any Japanese person has ever seen
at any party or event or supermarket ever
This spread was so damn impressive though, right? Look at the little sandwich rolls Anke made! They're spread with a homemade radish and dill sauce and the pink stuff inside is some kind of cured salmon! That really big container there is full of fresh potato salad made with tons of dill and pickles!
Oh, and tofu! That was the other thing in that interesting sweet potato dish.
The food setting on this camera is the best one; if you thought I was obnoxious about basic-bitch photo-opping food and drinks before, oh boy! Strap yourself in.
My mom enjoying the other tasty soup, all decked out in cute silver stars
This wasn't even all of the drinks. There was loads of wine and whatever else in the fridge.
Nico will remember fondly (lol not really) that I was way overly concerned about this, a split log just sitting on their patio right next to a large leafy potted plant and one of the wooden support beams of the house, being used as a light, merrily burning away. It was also very windy. He came and stared at it with me for a minute and gave it a little kick before saying "It's fine" and walking away hahah.
Two years ago they did a beef and potato stew in the cauldron, but this past year it was glühwein.
Told you that wasn't even all of the drinks. It was glorious.
Andrea gave me that lace choker, by the way. She always showers us with gifts.
Everyone - well, most everyone - gathers around the TV on New Year's Eve to watch Dinner For One, a short black and white film from 1948 produced in West Germany but in English, with British actors, that even my mom had never heard of before this. Everyone was shocked two years ago to find out that it's not a thing outside Germany, and they were sort of re-shocked this past year, because my mom knows a lot about classic movies, and she just stared blankly and shook her head when it came up, too.
It's hilarious, especially since it's on late enough in the evening that everyone's at least tipsy already. This wealthy old lady, Miss Sophie, is just completely daffy and senile, and therefore unaware that literally all of her friends have died and are not actually attending her annual dinner party, because her faithful butler James pretends to be all of them. Which means he goes through all of the courses of drinks he's serving - to himself - and drinking for several people. He's completely shipwrecked by the end of it and it's some of the best slapstick I've ever seen.
These little airplane bottle shots have maybe as much alcohol in them as Bailey's and come in lots of candy flavours. You're supposed to put the little cap on your nose like this and then toss them back with no hands, holding them between your teeth. Love it!
And then, of course, it was time to go out in the freezing wind and icy fog to set off fireworks!
There's a dirt road right outside Nico and Andrea's house leading into one of those large aforementioned fields or meadows; it's the one visible from their loft in that link from earlier.
As I said on Facebook, when that album dropping?
Don't worry fellow fire-paranoid Phoenicians, it is waaaay too moist here in this swirling mist-rain for even the driest grasses and shrubs to consider catching.
I'm seriously so happy about this camera, it's just what I've been talking about
wanting to buy for like ten years lol.
I didn't take any photos or videos during the firework climax, when for about an hour the entire horizon all around, in all directions, was full of sparks and colours. Especially in the blurry fog, which reflects more light back, it was so impressive. Much later Hannes mentioned (I think it was while I was explaining why people throw beans on Setsubun) that all of the bright and colourful explosions are symbolic of scaring or chasing evil out for the coming new year. I think it's really interesting that cultures the world over have such uncannily similar practices and traditions if you look closely enough.
Anyway, after taking a genuinely absurd amount of video that took forever to go through and stitch together into something worth viewing at the Chichibu Night Festival I was trying not to take so many fucking pictures all the time, but to enjoy things in the moment and on a personal level, instead of trying to capture them to share later.
The sheer number of photos and videos I have yet to post from our holidays in Germany and from the last three months back in Japan are evidence of how miserably I have failed in this quest.
Now, this I hadn't remembered from the first time around. Another German New Years tradition is to melt lead over a candle and then drop it into cold water, then use a little guide or your memory to read what the solidified shape is supposed to represent for you in the future?!
I liked how focused and serious Anke was about it, completely ignoring the ever-growing pile of confetti on her head
Look at this beautiful photo Mandy took of my mom!
Her lead melted into an impressive shape, that looked very much like a man with a huge snakey schlong. Earlier that night I had revived a running penis joke from my first party with these folks and, when I came into the room and was asked what I thought about the spectacular leaden shape my mom ended up with, I promptly decreed that "Ooh, he has a very nice schniedelwutz." and everyone erupted into drunken laughter and cheers.
My mom was pretty embarrassed. Haha, how the tables have turned!
If you're wondering, I also tried the molten lead game (which sounds horrifying, right?), but the spoon was totally scorched on the bottom and had grown too hot. I think it was starting to melt a little bit itself or something, because the lead just sort of became part of the spoon instead of a liquid puddle inside it. I ended up with what looked like little poops. When I tried again the lead sputtered over the candle flame because a little bit of water had gotten into it; so between the future full of little poops and the way a tiny spray of boiling water and liquid metal had sprayed my cheek and almost gotten in my eye, I gave up and walked away.
Our moms and some other people went home and went to bed after the fireworks extravaganza and sparkling wine on the patio, when we all made sure to say "Frohes neues Jahr" to everyone and kiss them on the cheek and/or hug them.
Those of us who remained played a drinking card game until 4 in the morning. It was the first time I'd ever played so I ended up drinking a fair amount, but that's okay, because while I had been drinking for maybe ten hours at this point, I was having stuff that was fruity and not too strong. Each number and face card has a different meaning, and sometimes you have to do some kind of secret motion or hand signal and hold it, for example, and the last person to realise what's going on has to drink. Obviously I missed the first two even though everyone was trying to help me out.
I threw Ivanhoe under the bus more than once when I got chances to toss a number card at someone and force them to take however many drinks it indicated, because he seemed to be in the best shape out of all of us. Everyone hated it when I got the card that allows you to set a new rule for everyone to follow until someone else gets the card, cancels it, and makes their own rule, because after laughing maniacally and thinking about it for a full minute I decided that everyone had to sing every time they said anything.
Andrea was game, but the guys were like, oh my god, this is terrible. Any time someone forgets the rule during game play they have to take a drink, but this very Disney movie-esque rule was so wildly unpopular among our exhausted comrades that we weren't particularly stringent about that. It went on for what felt like an absurdly long time and, deeply satisfied, I knew for a few hours what it must be like to have done something that people and maybe even society at large will remember you for after you've died.
Because it wasn't far and it would have taken between two hours and all eternity to get a cab at that point, Hannes decided we should walk home. Everyone was like, uhhh, are you sure? But since we didn't want to sleep there and he knew exactly how to get back, it was decided. Nico literally gave us a head lamp to help us navigate.
I tried to take pictures of that eerily dark, silent, cold walk back, but it was so pitch black that it was impossible. The best I could do was an ugly bright flash that illuminated the immediate area, like the kind you see in photos from remote wildlife camera traps. There was nothing that could illuminate the dark dirt road lined with scraggly trees from whence we had come. Every time I had enough courage or very-sleepy-drunk-not-giving-a-fuckiness to look back and appreciate it I could just hear Christina Ricci going,
her voice flimsy with abject terror.
It was extremely and genuinely Sleepy Hollow-esque. While it was pretty scary and Hannes kept telling me not to look back, it was really cool. I complained like a little kid because I was so tired, but that also surprises no one, and I actually really enjoyed it. He was right, too; it was maybe a 25-minute walk that felt a lot longer given our condition and the impressively black circumstances, but it wasn't far at all. Just over the river and through the woods.
The next day we obviously spent in the nearby and very well-known Hangover City.
This picture is actually from before we went over to Nico and Andrea's, but it captures the mood so nicely.
This one is also from before the festivities, when my mom asked if I wanted to wear her pretty headband that night but I said, "No thanks". Hannes was like, "I'll wear it" lol.
Marco cooked an amazing spread yet again, and it was so good to just be blob people after eating yet another amazing meal. I had never had Brussels sprouts before? But, uh, they're great with nutmeg?
He even made me my own special gravy yet again: this time it was curry gravy with fruit in it.
So. Good. I wish I could eat this right now.
2017 got off to such a strong start. It's been so great that I haven't even had a chance to post all the pictures and tell you about it, but oh, believe me, they are coming.