So, over the weekend I went to the qepHom wejDIch in Saarbrücken.
I had found a good price for a flight there (just over €90 return including taxes and fees), so I picked that option—also because it was quite a bit quicker than taking the train and not much more expensive, so I wouldn't spend most of Friday travelling nor have to choose between leaving early on Sunday or arriving home in the middle of the night.
I got to the airport at 7:20, a bit more than an hour before my plane was supposed to leave; the airport had suggested to check in an hour before the flight left. (This meant I had to get up at 5:30 or some such unholy hour which I have mercifully forgotten.)
Normally, this would have been a good idea, since the queue in front of the Lufthansa counters was long—were it not for the fact that my flight was delayed 1:20 hours due to needing a new machine or something. Ick. Eh.
I amused myself for a bit by watching the display showing when various flights were boarding, and seeing flights change from normal to "boarding" before then disappearing from the display and making room for others. After about half an hour of that, I went to the "room of quiet" that the airport provided (in an out-of-the-way corner that people are unlikely to find unless they know about it or inquire specifically): basically, a small, generically-religious (though there are a few obvious Christian elements in it) room where you can say a prayer or simply meditate a bit or enjoy the quiet away from the bustle of the airport.
Finally, the status of my flight switched to "boarding", so I hurried down to my gate, only to see that the plane was not, in fact, boarding, and would not do so for a while: now, they were waiting for favourable information on the weather in Saarbrücken, since apparently visibility was very low there and the plane couldn't take off until conditions in SCN improved. Meanwhile, it was getting a little misty in Hamburg, too, though the weather had been fine when I left. Fortunately, I only spent about fifteen or twenty minutes waiting there before the good news came: we could board a bus which would take us to our plane: a small Dash 8-100 parked in a far corner of the airport, a turbo-prop plane that seated about 35 people.
The flight itself was uneventful, though there was the slight thrill of taking off in a propeller machine, since I had only flown jets so far except for one flight in California (from Fresno to San Diego via Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena, I believe).
Since the plane was a bit more than an hour late, I just missed the bus to Brebach that ran one hour later than the one I had planned on taking in the first place. However, another bus ran into Saarbrücken itself, not much later, and I thought I'd take that one instead. I wasn't sure whether I could use the same ticket on that bus as on the Saarbrücken busses, since it was a regional semi-express line, so I hadn't taken that line into consideration during my plans, but at that point, taking that bus seemed preferable to waiting for more than an hour until the next "good" bus ran, despite the possibility of "wasting" a ticket.
However, it turned out that the bus sold day tickets for the Saarbahn system, though he sold me not a ticket for Saarbrücken (€3.80) but for Saarbrücken + surrounding zones 1+2+3 (€6.00). But eh; it was a ticket I could use to get to the youth hostel, dump my stuff, and get back into Saarbrücken to sightsee before coming back in the evening, and it wasn't that much more, so I wasn't complaining.
I asked whether the bus stopped at the town hall, which seemed to be a large-ish centre for changing busses and a point where the 19 stopped, which runs every quarter of an hour and goes to the youth hostel where the qepHom would be taking place. The bus driver said no, so I inquired whether it went to St. John's church, which would have been the stop where I'd have got off from the Saarbahn, and he told me to get off at Landwehrplatz, which I did; one could see the church from there, and it wasn't far to the town hall, either.
I got to the youth hostel and said I'm with the Lieven Litaer group, but the lady behind the counter told me that nobody was there yet and that I couldn't check in. I inquired whether I could leave my suitcase somewhere and she told me not really; I should just keep it with me if I was waiting for the rest of the group. I said I had planned to go into Saarbrücken, so she grudgingly agreed to let me put the suitcase into the office, which was all she could do; the office was already full of other people's luggage, so I had to find a place to squeeze my suitcase in. I just took along some brochures (including one with a map of the city centre), my umbrella, and my camera.
I had a nice enough time walking through Saarbrücken. I took the Saarbahn, went over an old bridge that was still used, walked down the pedestrian precinct, ate lunch, visited two churches and had a look inside the town hall. At one point, I considered going to Sarreguemines/Saargemünd on the train since it would have been kind of fun to cross the French border just on a lark, and the ticket I had would have covered it, but I wasn't sure I'd be back in time, so I didn't. Maybe next time.
I went into both St. John's church (Protestant) and St. John's basilica (Catholic), and I must say I preferred the Catholic building. The Protestant one seemed so… stark, or austere, or something; the Catholic one looked much more like a church. There was someone in there practising the organ, too, which was a nice back-drop, and I spent a little time there just sitting in a bench and listening and thinking.
I finally went back to the youth hostel and found Lieven there, who gave me the key to the room I would be sharing with "Alexander Rozhenko", aka Frank something. I also rented some towels and picked up a change of linen to make my bed, which turned out not to be necessary since it was already made, so I made Rozhenko's bed instead. (I had nabbed the bottom bunk of the two-bunk bed.)
I met 'ISqu' again, and also Biörn X Öqvist, aka Zrajm C Akfohg, aka maHvatlh (who had created the little pocket dictionary that's popular among German Klingonists), and gradually people started dropping in. At seven, we ate.
(Incidentally, Akfohg's name comes from a cipher of his real name caused by replacing vowels and consonants separately along the scheme b-z, c-x; a-ö, e-ä; etc.: not a rotated alphabet but a reflected one. By replacing vowels and consonants separately, the chance that the results are pronounceable are much greater than if you just reflect/rotate the entire alphabet.)
After supper, Lieven started with a lesson. He said that last year, where he had not made any plans, the presentation of the language was a bit haphazard and those who did not know and Klingon were probably not helped very much, so he decided to make four small lessons this year which would teach some useful phrases, give some dialogue, and provide for practice.
On Saturday, I met MEEPS at breakfast; she had already been pointed out to me the previous evening by Rozhenko as someone who also spoke Japanese.
In the morning, we continued with lessons, and we also had an exercise where we each drew a piece of paper from a bag and had to form a sentence based on the word on that piece of paper. After everyone had a piece, Lieven went around again and offered a second word to those who wanted on. I drew "batlh" and "targh"; this is what I had to say about them:
- tlhInganpu'vaD potlhqu' batlh. batlh chIlmeH ghu' qab law', yIn chIlmeH gho' qab puS 'e' luHar.
- Ha'DIbaH 'oH targh'e'. Qo'noS Dab. rut Saj Da.
I was sitting next to Senara, who is blind, at that point, and decided to have a go at punching her words (qIb and pu'HIch) into my piece of paper in Braille with my PDA pen: I figured it would be blunt enough to make dents without tearing through the paper. However, without the benefit of a slate, the result was not particularly legible since my dots were too far apart on the first try and too close together on the second one and the letters ran together.
Later that day, she fetched her own slate and stylus from her room, along with some stiff paper she used to take notes on, and I had fun practising Braille; we wrote short notes to each other a couple of times, and I transcribed a couple of Klingon songs for her for fun and practice. After a bit of practice, I got a bit quicker at it, too.
I also found out that there are German Braille contractions, something which made sense to me but to which no page I had found in a cursory search had alluded. (For example, dots 3-4-5-6, aka number sign, means "ich" as a stand-alone character, apparently.)
qeSra became interested in what I was doing and asked me to send her information on Braille… I shall have to do so.
There were also some periods of chaos, as the class couldn't all concentrate on the same thing at once for long periods of time (not helped by the fact that some people were absolute beginners, while others knew a little or even quite a bit), and Lieven sometimes grew tired of trying to get order into the class. But I think there was probably more productive time this year than last year, on the whole. During one of those unstructured periods, a game of DIjchu' arose, which was a bit of fun. MEEPS' rendition of "airlock" remains in my mind….
In the evening, Snake tried to get his laptop hooked up to the television in the room to show some videos of past qetlops, but had problems with the colours: they were typically all in green, though hitting the television set occasionally caused them to turn yellow or sometimes red or blue. At one point, the picture was a well-visible black-and-white, but it never quite worked. Fortunately, Klenginem appeared in person and favoured us with some songs, including not only the well-known (well, it was the only one I had heard of previously :p) tlhIngan SuvwI'pu' qan tu'lu'be' but also such gems as tlhIngan DIDa (based on Fanta4's Die da).
Oh, and the evening was also the time for the group photograph: lessons ended at 17:30 or so to give everyone an hour to dress up and put on make-up and the like before the photograph at 18:30. (During this time, I practised prefixes, suffixes, and vocabulary with Senara, since neither of us was dressing up. She's really good; I'd estimate that she knew about 97% of the Level 1 vocabulary.) This was placed before dinner at 19:00 because experience had shown that it's easier to round up a group of Klingons before food rather than afterwards :) So we took a number of pictures of Klingons, most of them in full garb.
Supper that evening was something special: pizza in the form of a Klingon trefoil. I was impressed. Oh, and in preparation for that, we had learned some restaurant words earlier that afternoon, such as "Give me that!" or "Does the food taste good?" - "No; it's disgusting." I also learned that Klingons occasionally eat some light-weight fruit after meals, called naH tIS (which will probably only make sense if you know both Klingon and German :D).
OK, it's late, so I'll quit now; Sunday will have to come later. G'night!