Last day in the States

I know how boring pre-departure posts can be, which is a great excuse for my not having made very many.

I leave tomorrow – August 29th – at 5:35 pm, New York time.  That’s GMT -5, +1 for DST.  In New York the weather will be sunny and hot, at about 90F.  I arrive in Munich, Germany at 8:20 am local time on Monday, August 30th.  There it is expected to be overcast, with a 30% chance of rain, and temperatures in the low 50s.  I have a 13 hour layover, and at around 9pm I fly out to Tbilisi, where I will arrive at 3:05 am local time on Tuesday, August 31.  That’s GMT +4, so it will be 7:05 New York time, which means assuming I’m reasonably on time, I’ll have time to check in with the folks back in NY on what is for them the evening of August 30th.  The best part is that the weather in Tbilisi will be 86F and clear when I get there.

Upon arrival, I will be met by some representatives of TLG (Teach and Learn with Georgia).  They will take my fate in their hands, but by September 1st I will almost certainly be in Kutaisi, where my 7 day orientation is taking place.  The bad news is that Kutaisi is freakin hot right now, with temperatures expected to hit 100F by Tuesday.  Those temperatures should go back to normal by the end of the week, but my first few days in Georgia are going to be scorchers.

I’m kicking around some ideas for my layover in Munich, or Munchen to the locals.  Munich is famous for its beer gardens and breweries, and it would be a shame to miss out on going to an actual German beer garden, considering that I used to run a German-inspired beer garden in Brooklyn.  It was called the “Gowanus Yacht Club,” and we served four beers on tap (including Jever and Gaffel Kolsch) and charcoal-grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and German sausages.  The “yacht club” name came from the fact that the decor was nautical kitch, with various nautical flags, life vests, and miniature wooden ships strewn about the place as though left there by a squall.

Anyway, I’m considering going to one of the biergartens, but there are several factors going against this plan.  One is that I’d have to leave the terminal, obviously, but that means going through German customs on the way out and German airport security on the way back in.  I don’t know why I have an image of Germans as very Prussian and militaristic, considering that all the Germans in my family have been relatively mild, especially compared to the stricter Austrians and Slavs.  However, I picture German security as extremely intimidating, so that’s a factor.  Another downside is that it would be relatively expensive – getting to the biergarten, buying beer and food, all on the Euro.  Another is that I’d have to carry a bunch of crap around Munich with me.  Another is that the weather there is supposed to be cold and dreary.

Also, apparently the Munich airport has is own brewery.  What?  No matter what I decide, I definitely want to try some Airbrau.

I mean, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m like, too cool for Munich.  I’m sure Munich is nice.  It’s just that there’s not all that much I can get out of being a tourist somewhere for just a couple of hours – and let’s say it would take about two hours to get off the plane, get my luggage, get through customs, and get from the airport to downtown Munich, and four hours to reverse the process since I have to check in early, that leaves me with 7 hours to kill on a cold, rainy afternoon in Munich, all the while worrying that something might go wrong and leave me stranded.  It just sounds kind of unappealing, even when the alternative is spending 13 hours kicking around an airport – especially when the airport has its own brewery among other amenities.  I’m not committed either way – I guess I’ll figure it out on the fly.

By the way, apologies for my massacring of the German language.  I know I missed a bunch of umlauts and whatnot, but I’ve got a little bit of special character fatigue right now, especially since I’ve been learning Georgian, which looks like this:

ნილ ზუპანჩიჩ

That’s my name in Georgian.  Actually, that’s my name approximately spelled out based on the Slovenian pronunciation of my last name, which is still theoretical in the sense that there are at least two highly plausible variations using the exact same base roman characters, of which the one I chose to transcribe into Georgian is the most common.  Also, Georgian consonants are kind of weird, in ways that I will talk about more once I’ve heard them spoken and explained by actual Georgian speakers, but suffice it to say there is more than one way to write several of the sounds in my last name.

Also, it’s always a decision whether to render my first name using one or two syllables.  Most people actually say my name with one and a half to two syllables, making it sound something like “nee-uhl” – basically, the back of the tongue drops to make the l sound while the vowel is still being vocalized, and it makes a sort of half-vowel.  It’s possible to say my name without doing it but for most English speakers it requires some concentration.  If you want to hear a really marked example of what I’m talking about, listen to Bob Dylan’s original recording of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and pay attention to the way his vowel transitions when he says “meal,” “deal,” “steal,” etc, but how it doesn’t shift at all during the “feel” in “how does it feel.”  There’s actually some variation between subsequent choruses – he shifts “feel” a little bit more in the third chorus, for instance – but it’s still illustrative of what I’m talking about.

Anyway, the point is, with the differences between English, Georgian, and Slovenian taken into account, and the various spellings and pronunciations that my name has in English and Slovenian, there are at least five places in my name where I could have made a different but still justified decision to use a different character or characters.  I actually just thought of a sixth – in English the last vowel of my last name is a schwa, which can be approximated in Georgian by not including any vowel at all.  So in “Neal Zupancic” there are decisions to be made on the ea, z, p, c, i, and c.

Anyway, I’ll attempt to update again from Munich.  Until then:
Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone (1998)

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1 Response to Last day in the States

  1. AmyAmy says:

    I hope your flights go well. I definitely get the uncertainty of what to do with the spare time in Germany; I’ve never managed to do anything useful with layover time. Heading back home in a week I’ve got seven hours in Amsterdam, but it’ll be from 11pm to 6am, so I’m thinking ‘sleep’ will be a key factor in my plans.


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