Monday, October 11, 2004

Oktoberfest *hic* (excuse me) and balloon animals

Every October for the past 5 years or so, a german colleague hosts a beer drinking fest for the rest of the employees. We had this year's activity a few days ago which also coincided with our colleague's send off party (he's off to greener pastures so to speak). Lots of german sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels, cheeses and other dishes with weird sounding names. And of course, free flowing beer!... :)

There were also a lot of activities. Beer drinking contest, armwrestling, a contest on who could pound a 6" nail on a piece of lumber the fastest (I joined this event and lost. I'm still convinced that the lumber was harder on my end that's why I lost.), and lumber sawing. To tell you the truth I was a bit skeptical with the authenticity of these games. I suspected that these games weren't really traditional games in Germany and that somehow our german host was just having a private joke at our expense. I wasn't too concerned however since it was all in good fun and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.

I was sitting in one of the back tables with a friend of mine. We arrived just as the food was being served and the program wasn't going to start until most have already eaten. Beside our table was another officemate and his wife. Family functions such as this is not that common and although I knew his wife's face, I just couldn't remember her name. So we spent the next few hours in polite conversation carefully phrasing our words to conceal the fact that we didn't know each other's name (It would have been strange to ask her husband outright and my friend was just as equally clueless). Fortunately, we were near the end of the room where most of the kids are playing. So to break this awkward setting, I would offer my friend's son (a toddler) some sauerkraut and blue cheese and watch him make these funny faces. That didn't last for very long though since he ran off to join the other kids playing with some balloons.

The decorations of the room included blue and white long balloons (the ones you could twist into silly animal shapes). The kids were tearing the balloons off the walls and soon I also joined in along with some fathers whose children are still too young to get balloons for themselves. I made a balloon dog and gave it to one of the kids. I went back to watching the activities (it was the women's armwrestling event) when one of the mothers approached me and handed me a balloon and whispered that the kids were fighting over my balloon dog and could I make several more so they won't fight. I began making balloon dogs, rabbits and bears much to the delight of the kids.


After exhausting all the balloons in the room I continued eating the rest of the sausages (I had loads of sausages on my plate and I think I may have overdid it a bit). I was examining a piece of bratwurst on my plate suspiciously since it sounds very similar to our cat's name for comfort, when my name was announced to participate in one of the events. As I mentioned earlier I lost that particular competition but it was probably the most exercise I had for the week. The next event was the sawing competition and turned out less exciting that I initially thought. Two contestants were on either side of a large piece of lumber who began sawing after a predetermined signal was given. Sawdust began flying all over the small airconditioned room where the party was held (did you think it was done outside in the open air?). A minute has passed... 3 minutes... they were still at it. So we just went back to eating and talking amongst ourselves leaving the 2 poor contestants to finish what they are doing for a couple of minutes more.

I knew it was time to leave when they fired up the video sing-along machine (videoke) and I saw somebody hold up a big sausage up the side of his face like a mobile phone. I wasn't entirely sure whether he was just making a bad joke or if he was really trying to communicate with the poor sausage. I too was feeling a bit tipsy. One thing that's a bit weird about this sort event is that although it is a beer drinking event, getting drunk is not such a good idea or at least it's something I would not recommend most especially if your boss is just on the other table. So I bade everyone goodnight (I think they planned to actually empty out the beer fountain) and hitched a ride to my flat (it was just about a hundred meters away so I just walked coming to the venue earlier). Never drink and drive!

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