Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cooling effect

Just when I am starting to get my groove again to fulfill my academic duties after my wanderlast over the holidays, my momentum was broken just a week after our classes resumed. An extended break maybe, or a final hurrah.

Half of our class rented a cottage in Hinterzarten for the weekend. This other break has been planned long before the break, in celebration of Jana's birthday, a German classmate. Our faculty owns a cottage in a small touristy town, which perhaps is the resort-house capital of the state. I lost count of the hotels and resorts we passed by as we made our way to the cottage. The road was slippery from ice and snow once we started walking off the beaten track. As if a sign of ironic welcome, snowballs flew in all directions. One surprise met us though, one that I never thought I would see in my life: an igloo.
From the outside, the cottage looked weary, a far cry from the bath houses we passed by. The whole house is built on sturdy slabs of hardwood, dark and damp from the winter clime. Once I stepped inside nothing was special still until I reached the kitchen. A new gas oven on one corner contrasts the furnace across it. The furnace must have been installed as a fancy part of the house since gas heaters already align the walls. We put it to good use though, as we found out the electric line leading to our isolated hut had a short-circuit. Once the fire was up and warming, most of our troop snuggled and settled down, while the others took care of the connection. Before darkness fell, we were connected back to civilization.

I was part of the kitchen brigade preparing our dinner of spaghetti, the others were playing cards, and some simply found comfort in the warmth of one corner. After dinner, beer started to pour in. Jana served a surprise drink called Feuerzangenbowle. The drink is less complicated than how it is pronounced, but nevertheless amusing. Sugar cones are put over a grill, that is then placed over the gluehwein. Rum is poured over the cones, which is set afire. The sugar melts and drips to the gluehwein underneath. It brought out the arson in us when we found delight in pouring more rum over the cones and see it suddenly burst in flames.
Perhaps as the alcohol got the better of us, three of us decided to go out for a stroll. The evening was surprisingly not as cold as I thought it would be. There was no moon, but the snow covering the landscape reflected enough light to guide our way while discussing religion and values formation. This is what alcohol does to us. We opted to go back but met Jana who replaced our Belarussian classmate Pavel. We went on another round of walk, this time to discuss relationships and the laws of attraction.
We gathered inside the igloo, very much like how Eskimos did to conserve and make use of their collective body heat. After a few nudging, Pavel and later each of us sang songs in our native language. The pause in between each song caused deafening silence, which we later broke by reciting poems instead. The self-imposed language barrier among a French, Russian, German, and Filipino was difficult. I didn't get a thing in our little presentation, yet each was appreciated to share a little piece of our native land. This same barrier heightened our senses enough to see through each other. We were listening to random vowels. It sounded far but the sounds we made told our intentions, just like the stars sprawled over the clear sky that evening.

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