Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let the fun begin!

I am safe and sound here at the Harfst's house and thoroughly enjoying myself. Yesterday I spend the day following David and Samuel around as they did their street performing with their friend Dominik. It was awesome. I really enjoyed their music and even got to participate (that is, I periodically tossed the change from David's coffee into the guitar case in front of the crowd or bought a cd from the boys, which David bought back from me at home). It was really cold, however, and the runny nose that I was fighting against on the way down here triumphed so I am now constantly accompanied by a package of Kleenex. Today I went to church with the clan, helped decorate the tree (the tradition in Germany is to not set the whole thing up until just before Christmas), then went out with Samuel, his friend Peter, and Peter's American girlfriend, Michelle. Michell attends Biola and knows one of my old but dear friends, Hilary. This world just keeps shrinking. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk with Michelle and Samuel and Peter over beer and pizza at the Alt Gießen, which is, apparently, a German dining experience. The holiday officially starts in one hour over here, so I will bid Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Like a dirty shirt..."

"... I'm off." (as my Father would say) I leave tomorrow morning to visit the Harfst family for Christmas. I have not gotten enough sleep this week however, so this is not a formal update. Hopefully I will have more thoughts and things to relate on the other end. Until then, fröliche Weihnachten!


It is a German sink in a German house, so why is "made in Germany" written in English?

Monday, December 17, 2007

on Coloring and Drawing

The little-big man is sleeping and his sister is off riding horses with friends so I am taking this rare quiet moment in the middle of the day to finally share my observations on coloring. The theme has nagged the back of my mind for nearly five months now as the act of enlivening black and white pictures has again moved into a prominent position on the list of how I spend my time. Whenever I begin a picture I am laughingly reminded of how similar my style of filling in the white spaces is to how I live my life: very much between the lines. Whenever I begin a new section I carefully trace a broad line right next to the black to give myself a margin of error. I remember my older sister doing this when I was very young, although she did it for decorative purposes with the border being a dark line, and the enclosed area a tempered hue of the same. I do it so that I can fill the rest in quickly and not go outside the lines. I think that is why drawing has always been so difficult and so fascinating to me. There are no lines to begin with. You have to do all of your own thinking and most of all you must learn through experience where the lines fall to the best advantage. No wonder I find coloring so dull and drawing so frustrating. The one has little life in it while the other is a perpetual challenge. This is the time of my life that I am learning to draw. My pictures are often messy, beautiful only by chance or abstraction, yet every line I can claim as my own. That is the joy and the pain of artistry.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why I love Dickens

Ode to an Expiring Frog
'Can I view thee panting, lying
On thy stomache, without sighing;
Can I unmoved see thee dying
On a log,
Expiring frog!

Say, have fiends in shape of boys,
With wild halloo and brutal noise,
Hunted thee from marshy joys,
With a dog,
Expiring frog!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Hum-drum is Humming

Life seems to just keep skipping along. Perhaps the typical writer would use a more mundane adjective such as moving or plodding, but the realization that I have lived in this foreign country for over four moths justifies the use of a more sprightly temporal description. Another factor is the cheerful Christmas song written by a friend which is currently playing in my ears. Indeed, the season has hit in full force. There are several things here which celebrate the season in a different way. Most prominent of the differences in the celebration of the upcoming holiday is the bold declaration of, "Fröliche Weihnachten" instead of "Merry Christmas" splashed across innumerable signs and windows. Other notable variations are as follows:
1. No eggnog, instead there is a hot drink called Glüwien which can be found in both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.
2. The local notion of a holiday market is something of an outdoor festival which is set up in the town square in the beginning of December and continues until Christmas. It is also open every day instead of merely the weekends and features primarily Glüwein, food, seasonal gifts and a carousel.
3. Growing up, I was familiar with Advent and had even seen the countdown calendars--the ones where you open the paper doors and see the picture of a candle, an angel, or a Santa-- or the paper chains to further encourage the excitement of the season in smaller children, but from what I have seen here they go rather further. These are no paper window calendars. They are small gifts or daily chocolates depending on the version (mine is the chocolate version for which I am very grateful). That's right... every day there's a little package to open. Oh, and there are two Santas here. The first one is Weihnacts Mann and he puts treats in the shoes which have been cleaned and left out by the children on the evening of December 5th. Niklaus, however, gives the gifts of Christmas which is apparently celebrated on the 24th of December.
4. "Holiday spirit" as encouraged in the States (i.e. kindness, and generosity), have not yet appeared on my radar here, but that does not exclude its existence it could merely mean that I am in the wrong circle.
5. I have yet to hear the flood of Christmas songs we learn so quickly to loathe in the shopping centers. Although the street accordion player has added "White Christmas" to his repertoire, there seems to be a general consensus to moderate the repetitiveness of the holiday music.
As I have not fully experienced this holiday I have much to learn about how it varies from the one I have known so well. This must conclude my observations of the moment, however, because I am sleepy and fully intend to make an early start of things tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Signs of the Season

Today Sabine asked me why we say "season's greetings." You must understand that here they only have Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. What is it that we have at home? Football season, Baseball season, Basketball season, and the off-season? And then there's the holiday season. Starting sometime around Halloween and lasting until the advertisements for credit card holiday debt reduction ads finally go off the air around February. So in our twelve month year we have five seasons, four of which last three months with the fifth lasting almost five months.
This weekend marks the beginning of the Weihnachten Markt (Christmas market) here in Oldenburg. Apparently it's not just a weekend thing: the booths stay up and open throughout the week. The seasonal delectables are also appearing in full force. There are roasted almonds, hot spiced wine, gingerbread by the loaf, cookies, and of course the mandatory chocolate Santas. Hot chocolate, tea, and coffee are, if possible, even more present in my daily routine. Oh, and the biggest thing is that yesterday it snowed here. That's right: snowed. Granted, it didn't stick because the thermometer was barely tickling the zero mark, but I witnessed with my own eyes flakes coming down from the sky. It has been a very long time since I have seen snow in November, and I only hope this means that there will be a fair amount of snow, because the stuff just delights me. As long as I am not attempting to drive over it on my way through a mountain pass, or spend the night on the street, snow is a-okay with me. So here comes Christmas whether I am prepared or not (so far, I am not even remotely), and with it all the joys and headaches of the peak of the fifth season.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

At home it is Thanksgiving. Here it is Thursday.

I can only imagine the abdominal pain caused by the ample mirth which the Fates must endure when they compare my romantic imaginings and plans for a day with their omnipotent schedule. In it's entirety the day was performed with a larger than usual helping of charm, and yet it was a mere tarnished silver reflection of the day that I had intended. Not that I complain. No, it would be unusually ironic of me bordering on sacrilegious to be anything but grateful on this particular holiday, so I will content myself with a narration of the day's occurrences interspersed with accounts of my thwarted intentions.

It has been the tradition of my family, since our uprooting and transference to Oregon, to make our way to the Pacific ocean for a weekend together every third weekend after the first Tuesday in November. In light of the difficulty of attempting to prepare an entire turkey dinner in a strange kitchen with or without the proper means, utensils, crockery and assistance, my family has also forgone the fowl tradition and replaced it with a main course of ham. So to keep with these traditions of untradtionalism, it was originally my intention to spend the day on the coast of Germany, which fortunately is not very far; frolic on the beach, watch the sun set, enjoy a personal picnic, and return home fully self-satisfied.
Last week, (or was it earlier this week?) I was asked if I would be willing to look after the little man for an hour or so while his mother kept an appointment with a client. Her assumption was that I was going to attend my language school in the morning and go to the coast in the afternoon; a question which I had not entirely settled in my own mind trying to balance my desire to attend class with the urge to flee the city as soon as possible. So, ever the one to bend unnecessarily far to maintain good graces, I agreed to leave my class half way through to watch der Junger.
The morning went entertainingly; I had to run the last block or so to catch my bus, much to the amusement of the driver and a cluster of three or four ten year old boys; I was early enough to class to steal my preferred seat which is usually occupied by Essofa, who could pummel me for the offense were he not rightly afraid it would come off as ungentlemanly; according to plan I left my class unfinished and rushing to Sabine's office, I quickly weighed myself down with a Baby Bjorn containing the aforementioned child, and stepped out of the office to explore the nearby bookstores; finishing her appointment rather later than expected, the three of us drove home making a pause at the grocery store and bakery to complete my requisite picnic expectations. By the time I had loaded my backpack, eaten my lunch, donned the necessary layers of warmth, and made my way to the bus stop it was almost two in the afternoon. My late start was further delayed as I, for the second time in one day, ran to catch my bus, this time missing it by fifty feet or so. Since the next bus was not due for another half hour, I decided to walk past the next three stops until I arrived at the fourth stop on my route (15 minutes or so) which is the junction of two bus lines. Fortunately, I had only ten or so minutes to wait for the next bus, and arrived in one sleepy piece at the train station where, having missed the previous train by no more than fifteen minutes, I waited over a cup of coffee for my conveyance to Wilhelmshaven. The ride itself was marvelous, an opinion I have come to expect from myself with respect to riding the train, but I found as I watched the sky on my journey that I had yet again miscalculated, this time assuming that the relative latitude of my former and current homes were more in accord with each other. Unfortunately, they are not so similar as I had assumed and the sun was set when I arrived at my destination. So I found myself a corner of the harbor in Wilhelmshaven, sat on a pile of what once must have been concrete blocks but now more closely resemble a pile of discarded building materials, and ate my dinner of salami and bleu cheese brie on baguette. Although sitting there watching the moon rise did not comply with my earlier imagination of watching the sun set over breaking waves from a sandy perch, beyond the shared presence of water, it was a charming meal. When I finished it I resolved to walk until I discovered the actual North Sea instead of the half-full harbor I had been observing. I have no clear understanding of either the time or the distance that I walked, but my sore limbs tell me it was certainly far enough. When I eventually found myself on a promenade, I mustered the courage to ask a kindly looking pedestrian gentleman where I could go to hear the waves. He chuckled and answered that there aren't waves in the area because there is not enough wind, and where am I from? This opened up a pleasant although short conversation about how I found myself at the end of the earth, to use his expression. Following his implications as to the direction of the shore, I clambered across some moss and muscle beslippered rocks and performed some tame frolics upon the sand finally closing my performance with a solo rendition of "Be Thou My Vision" under what appeared to be very nearly a full moon. I continued my exploration of the town by following the promenade for some distance then doubling back through the city on a different route to the train station. Along this previously untraversed ground, I happened upon an old and majestic church which was further enhanced in its appeal by the audible token of an organist rehearsing on a large instrument, and a cafe which was snuggled in the corner of a Vespa dealership the primary decoration of the establishment being several of the revered machines themselves on display in the window. I arrived in ample time to the station and entertained myself by wandering through the adjoining mall cleverly named the Northern Passage and reading the famous papers arranged by Mr. Boz; which latter event likely accounts for my observation of the ironic and humorous this evening. Such was my real and my imagined day which I leave, as it finally closes, quite tired and satisfied. I only hope that your holiday also went well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What I Miss

It must happen to every inexperienced nomad, and the days of it's occurrence have become much fewer with more space in between, but today I had a lingering case of homesickness. I think one of the things I miss the very most is hugs. Everyone who has been in close contact with me for more than a few hours knows that I am a very huggy person. The difficulty here, is that I can count on three fingers the number of people I would even think about hugging; one lives in another town, one is doing an internship in Hungary, and the other one I only see on Sundays so far (I met her nine days ago at church). So the hugs aren't too plentiful. Other reasons would include the fact that I've been listening to home-grown music composed or performed by friends (especially Anna Sali's music) for the past day and a half, and something about it has been making me miss home and even Boise, which was something I thought impossible for the next several years. Beyond those two things, I'm not really sure what's triggering this wave of homesickness, but I expect to recover overnight. Partly because tomorrow is a busy day and I am going to language school where I always feel happier.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


In light of the fact that I post almost twice a week, I thought I would get that second post in today before a new week begins. Also I decided it was high time to fill in more details about what's happening in my life. First of all, last Sunday I decided to try a free evangelical church here in Oldenburg because I was finding that the time it took to get to Bremen was playing on my weekend laziness, and I wasn't going to church very often anymore. This new one is small (no big change there), and the people seem very friendly. I am also encouraged by the fact that my German has progressed well enough that I spoke with the people there almost exclusively in German (I had to ask one girl to help me with a couple of words), and I know that will help my language skills to continue to progress. I also finally got my official Au Pair visa last week. Of all the official photos that I have taken in my life, this one is the least flattering. Yes, it's the typical mug shot, but I'm pale and a bit sickly looking. I think that is because I actually was sick when the photo was taken. Oh well. At least I am now completely legal for the next eight months. My language classes also started again. We had enjoyed an entire week long break between the semesters, and now that we have returned, we added six new faces, including a guy from Wyoming named Brett. The first time I heard him speak German in class before I had officially met him, I could tell that his accent was American. He sounds almost exactly like Jan who was in my class at Gutenberg. I hadn't thought that I would recognize an American accent, but I certainly do. Beyond that, the health in the household seems to keep improving, although everyone seems to be following the winter tradition of coughing and sniffling. None of it seems serious, though. Oh, and in other big news: thank you mom for the care package. I'm wearing knee-high socks right now and have warm new pajama pants that I had thought I would drown in, but find instead to be comfortably loungeable.
Yes, and before I forget: Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Thank you

This is my 34th blog. I have been in Germany 18 weeks, so that is just under two blogs a week. Really, that doesn't seem too be much of a big deal because in our m0dern times blogging has often become an obsession with people, but for me it is remarkable. First of all, I have never in my life been a consistent journaler. I write things in spurts and then lose the book I was writing in, or merely lose interest until something in my life shakes things up and I have to record my thoughts. So the fact that I have written about so many mundane things and that I have written so often is something of a milestone. I named to blog An Occasional Day to constantly remind people that I was not promising frequent regular updates, but this has turned into something far more therapeutic. It has been a relief to write about my adventures and even occasionally my thoughts, and particularly encouraging when it provokes comments from you dear people. It's not in any was surprising to me that this has turned out to be a much needed contact with home, but I thought I would verbalize that for everyone who reads what I write here. Thank you for taking the time to read, to drop a note, and to think of me. It warms these cold and foggy times.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

About the Kitchen

I believe it was Meg who tagged me awhile back to share ten things about my kitchen. Since I have nothing else particular to say at the moment, I will finally share my ten. So here goes:
10 Random facts about my Kitchen
1. It's not my kitchen.
2. There's homemade brown sugar in the cupboard which we use for Coffee. Carolin and I made it one afternoon.
3. There are three clocks in the kitchen, all showing different times. The greatest difference between two of the clocks is an hour and nine minutes.
4. There is a personal soda water maker that is used frequently.
5. And yet there is no soda pop (which is fine by me).
6. Quark. It's a mix between cream cheese and yogurt only better and smoother. You spread it on bread with honey or jam and it's pretty good for you, but it kinda freaked me out at first. We don't have any at the moment, but it's generally a household staple in German homes as far as I can tell.
7. The refrigerator is only about 3' x 4', and there's no freezer attached to it. (The freezer and another small fridge are in the basement).
8. I, yet again, live in a house that boasts more mugs than glasses.
9. The bread in the drawer is super dense and slice only 1 cm or so thick.
10. There is no garlic to be found, but that's because I live and eat with a breastfeeding mother.
So there you have them. I hope you enjoyed and I'll write something more interesting another time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Okay you can stop the worrying

Just a quick update in our household. Today we all awoke exhausted, but seemingly sound. Well except for me. Before I got the nasty one day flu, I had struggled for over a month with a wicked cold which turned in the end into a sinus infection. It let up perhaps a day or two before yesterday. Then I was sick yesterday (which I've already told you about), and now I have another cold. I think I can only attribute it to my wandering so long outside in the cold Sunday afternoon. So I'm taking herbal supplemental stuff which tastes absolutely awful and hope to be completely healthy again soon.

Monday, November 5, 2007

And then it hit us all

Yesterday was lovely. Today... not so much. We had been forewarned because Carolin vomited Saturday, but we figured she was pretty much over it by Sunday. By the time I got back Sunday night from my weekend ramblings, Sabine and Felix had both joined Carolin in the category of people who have spucken. You see, if I use the German, it doesn't sound so graphic. Holger went down around one in the morning as I was off to brush my teeth, and I fell around six this morning. What a fun day. I'm a person who can sleep a very long time, but the only other time I have slept so long was when I was suffering from jetlag. At this point, I think (and hope) that all of us are recovering nicely, I don't think anyone has been sick in the late afternoon or evening. So wish all five of us speedy health so that we can all get back to what we are doing. Here's hoping that tomorrow returns us to lovely.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Air I Breathe

Weekend wanderings directed me today toward the Schlossgarten. I found a bench watching the pond and rested myself on fallen leaves and graffitied love. The lawn before my feet was still thick and green but spattered with brown, yellow and red tokens of the season. There in my wool mantel I watched in wondering numbness, my mind ambling from one thought to another as my eyes merely absorbed the charm in front of me. What a marvel that the leaves, who live in such understatement, bedeck themselves with such glory in their last days. Ahh the Autumn. Every year I watch the days change. The clouds reassemble in full strength after their summer of leave, the air barks its freshness into your face, and my spirits lose a bit of their perfect posture. It is not until the sun is obscured by the rainbearers that I realize how much I have love and need it. There are, however, cures which return my spirits to their former upright attitude; oh yes. These miracles consist primarily in warm beverages, good books, long walks, and the inspection of beautiful scenery, all things which are at amply at my disposal.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of winter and warmth

As I am a native of the northern portion of the United States one would reasonably assume that I have, before this my twenty-third year, acclimated to cold weather. Unfortunately, I adapt much more readily to the warmth of the summers and the readjustment which is necessary around the end of September is slow and painful if it happens at all. In previous years, I have worked and lived in an environment which encourages and even pesters one to consume as many hot drinks as possible throughout the day. Now that I am in a position in which I pay for my own coffee habit, I drink far less and find that I must fall back on the time-honored method of fighting the cold by bundling up. This past weekend I accordingly began to fill in the cracks in my winter wear. Sitting on top of my suitcase, where they are quickly and easily accessible are now three different scarves (I brought two with me) to suit the different levels of dressiness, three different pairs of gloves (one pair for bicycling which makes me feel very athletic), and a stocking cap. Inside the wardrobe which stands next to the suitcase is a gorgeous new wool Mantel. I use the German word Mantel because it describes a long coat (at least to the knee) and implies that without it you will be cold. So now I am up to 4 different coats here (not including hoodies or sweaters) and I am still fighting the cold. It's coffee in the morning, wine in the evening, thick socks, four layers at a time and hopping into bet as quickly as possible. I think that my next adventure will be teaching English in the Bahamas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I am officially spoiled

I realized today that one of the reasons I don't gush about Felix and Carolin is not because they aren't cute and charming, but because I have a very bad habit of comparing them to Will and Coal. Anyone who saw me on Thursdays last year has met Coal (and possibly Will as well) and can understand why this comparison would make anyone feel bad. Comparing is never flattering and often offensive, so needless to say, I try to stifle these tendencies. But I have to tell you something now about Will and Coal. Today I got a pretty large care package from the Taylor Family. On the top of the package were three paper airplanes and an invitation to Coal's birthday which was in August. One of the airplanes had instructions on the side of it telling me that if I opened the folds I would find "a bunch of bugs." I did as I was told and found a crayon picture of squished bugs! How entertaining is the mind of an eight year old. Along with pictures and even a couple of exemplary homework-themed enclosures I got some of the my personal favorites from home: coffee from Wandering Goat, Chai Tea, and popcorn! I won't list all of the things that were in the box because it would take too long, but I will simply declare myself delighted, overjoyed, and honored to know such wonderful and generous people. Every time I receive something from the people at home whether it is an email, letter, package, or even just a comment here it brings not just a smile to my face but one of those stupidly-big-showing-most-my-teeth-and-some-of-my-gums smiles. So thank all of you, for reading and for thinking of me. I am honored and spoiled by your affection.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Really, they are cute

I rarely remember to talk about my two children (just when you thought you knew me). Part of the reason is because it is often so stressful and exhausting to care for such young people that by the end of the day I don't want to have to think about them anymore. Yes, that is a bit callous, but remember, they are not actually my kids, and I have only known them for three months so the whole love aspect is still forthcoming. Besides all of that though, they are cute. Felix is the most adorable child I have ever seen when he is sleeping on my shoulder. He's not so cute when he's pulling my hair to distract himself from crying. Every week I notice that his face is getting older. He sits with us at the dinner table propped up in his highchair with a pillow and tries very hard to be as grown up as the rest of us (quite a feat considering he is only five months old) i.e. he whines or grunts until one of us give him a bottle or a spoon to play with because he hasn't mastered consuming anything other than breast milk so far. Carolin has her own brand of living and play. Most of her conversation ist total Quatsch (nonsense) and it is also virtually non-stop. But some of the things she says and the way her mind works is hilarious. Today she tore a kleenex in half (because we, as a good European household conserve our resources), and proclaimed, "Schau mal heir, wie stark bin ich!" (check out how strong I am). So really, as exhausting as they are, they're cute.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My week

When I began this blog I promised occasional updates. So far, I have been impressed with how often I have publicized my thoughts and the events in my life, but this week everything went blank. I suppose it is a sign of being settled in that I could possibly have such a bland week, but such has been the past eight days. I have been sick with a persistent cold at least since the beginning of the month, and have had a difficult time keeping warm here, but those two things have been of such duration that I would not consider them eventful. Really, that's all I have to say. Things here are going swimmingly. Yesterday Carolin called me Anja (that was the previous au pair) twice, and I took it as a very good sign that I get to be unconsciously associated with someone she so obviously adores. Beyond that, I miss news from home, so please, if you read this, give me an update on your life. I still miss everyone, and hopefully it won't be quite so long before I write again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


This evening brought me exquisite joy. There were very many things that made it particularly wonderful. I hadn't realized that Fate was so good at multitasking. I originally wrote this blog four or so hours ago, but the even got even better so I decided to change the whole post instead of posting again. To start my evening, I called my best friend on the off chance that she would be available, have her phone with her, and not screen the unknown number. I was in the deepest of luck. Most of my communication with all you that I love has been written either electronically or handwritten. This is an extremely efficient way of keeping up with the people you love, but unfortunately intonation and even some measure of personality gets lost in the transition to stale paper. Getting to hear her voice made me laugh like I haven't laughed much since I got here. While I was talking to her Over the Rhine was playing on my speakers and out the window was one of the most stunning sunsets I have yet beheld here in Germany. After a wonderful half hour of talking with her, I went downtown to retrieve my bicycle which I had left there a couple of days ago and decided to risk it and ride it back. You see, I don't yet have lights on my bike and that is illegal after dark, and apparently they fine you a nice little wad if they catch you, but I yet again eluded the authorities and arrived home ticketless. At home I packed myself a thermos of hot chocolate, an apple, bundled up, scoured the house for a flashlight (I found two), and headed down my tree lined path to find a clearing from which to watch the stars. After some minimal rambling I landed in a little courtyard near the soccer fields and laid down with some good music and and open eyes. I sat there for about an hour and a half. Quiet, gentle, freezing cold, I burned my tongue on the chocolate and lay there thinking about the fact that really Germany isn't too bad, that these are the moments in life that make it all seem like someone else's romanticized adventure, and that it had been far too long since I had watched the stars.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


They say that looking through a woman's purse is like glancing through her life; or if they don't say that, they should. I don't really have a regular purse at the moment, but today I realized that the contents of my pockets have reflectively evolved. Whereas I previously toted cash, a Full City card, my house keys, and a cell phone, these days the assortment is slightly different. I still carry my house keys (on the same old flip-flop key chain that I used all last year), because I really need them to get in and occasionally out of the house, but I also always carry a small stone. I found it over a year ago either on the shores of Lake Michigan or the Oregon coast, I don't remember beyond the fact that I was with my family in a place that I absolutely love. The stone is about the size of a fifty cent piece in diameter, but at least twice as thick, and worn smooth by the countless times I have fumbled with it. There's nothing extraordinary about the rock when you look at it (sorry family, it's not a petoskey), but it is a piece of home that I have with me always, and as such has become rather sentimental. It would be the perfect skipping stone, but I'm not ready yet to fling it away from me. The other interesting thing that has begun to make a semi-regular appearance in my pocket is a tissue. I know that this is common in pockets all over the world, but had someone asked me a year ago whether I would ever carry a kleenex in my pocket I would have confidently asserted that such would never be my lot. I remember that as a kid I noticed my grandparents always carried tissues in their pockets. This practice always disgusted me even if they were clean. Just the idea of putting...well, that... back in your pocket sent a spark up, and right back down my spine. This morning when I went to put my keys and my rock in my pocket I found the place already occupied by a kleenex. Even though I know it is purely practical because the weather here has me constantly in sniffles I found myself slightly aghast. I have skipped over becoming my mother and moved straight on to becoming my grandmother.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Comfort foods

Monday is my day to watch Felix in the morning as well as working the afternoon. I must say, the boy just keeps getting cuter. He makes the funniest facial expressions which are primarily comical because they mirror my own face. Today I decided to have lunch ready for Sabine when she got back from work... no mean task with a five month old on your arm, I find. The lad is getting sick, so he begs for a lot more cuddling and attention than usual. Anyway, I'm still not very comfortable in the kitchen in general and especially in one that is not my own so I decided to make something very simple. Yep. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Still, there is room for me to be proud of myself. Having been thoroughly propagandized by Campbell's, I had never made the soup from tomato puree. A little cream, a little milk, thyme and salt and it's not half bad. Grilled cheese I have had down for a long time, but guess what? not too much cheddar in Germany, so (read in a sarcastic "oh darn" here) I was forced to use Edamer. Yummmy. And today was a good day for that meal. It's been droopingly gray for a couple of days now, and things are just cold enough to justify that warm scratchiness that always comes as the soup slides down your throat. I served it up explaining that it is the quintessential American comfort food. She liked it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm in love...

Everyone told me to not fall in love while I am over here because I will never come back. Sorry. Too late. I am in love. He's a little bit defensive, but I think we can work through it. Yes, my friends, I saw another hedgehog. This time I petted him and even took his picture to prove that I saw one. This guy met me on a street corner in Lauf just after sunset. How romantic. Really, how could a girl not fall for such deep brown eyes!

Returned (the full story)

Yes, my dears, I am safely and sanely back from my travels to the charming land of Bayern (southern Deutschland). I arrived last night around 9:00, took a shower, looked over the emails that I won't have a chance to answer for another several days, answered one or two of them, puttered around some more and finally went to bed. So today, when I have barely more time, I will try to tell you all of my doings in Lauf and Nürnberg. Friday afternoon Holger, Sabine, Carolin, Felix and I crowded into their Volkswagen and began the eight hour drive to Holger's mother's apartment in Lauf. We arrived fairly late and I stumbled into bed. The next morning we awoke, had breakfast, met up with Sabine's sister who is visiting from South Carolina with her twins and her husband, and went to Nürnberg which is only about fifteen or twenty minutes away. Holger and Sabine bought me some gingerbread cookies, handed me my train ticket, and sent me on my wanderings about the city after having pointed the way both toward the train station and the castle. Yes, the castle. I saw my first real-live castle. That first day I toured the castle, climbed the castle tower (96 frighteningly narrow steps), walked through one of the three major churches, and had a traditional wurst, kraut, dense bread, and beer dinner in the locals' pub. Sunday I met Sabine's entire family and got a personal tour of the city's ancient water wheel from her dad, who headed up the restoration project, and an extensive personal walking tour of the whole town of Lauf from Holger's mom. I'm telling you, this is the way to do tours. I was utterly charmed by Lauf. Monday, I went back to Nürnberg and walked around, looked at another church, had professionally made European drinking chocolate, and did some shopping and reading. After all of that, I don't precisely recall the order of things that happened, but suffice it to say, I had a great time. Every evening when I got back from my wanderings I would sit down for a glass of wine with Sabine, Holger, and his mother and we would talk. This is a really good thing for me particularly since I have had a very difficult time feeling at ease around Holger and Sabine in a more equal environment, i.e. when I am not just the care-taker, but am a traveler, or a person interested in history or any number of the other aspects which comprise me-ness. All in all, it was a wonderful five days. I could get used to this whole travel around with nothing to do but take in the sights and go on tours!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Going down South

Well, I don't have very much to say at the moment except that it will be a little bit before I write again. I am leaving tomorrow with the family to spend five days in a smallish town called Lauf. It is near Nürenburg and about a six hour drive normally. Since we will have two kids in the car, it will likely take us around eight hours. Wish me luck because this could be an interesting weekend. I'll tell all about it when I get back. Until next time: goodnight, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you. There's a wish and a hope that every dream comes true. And so till we meet again... adios! au revoir! auf wiedersehen! goodnight!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

a meme...

Okay. I'm not entirely sure what a meme is, but Scarlettah tagged me for one so I assume that means that I just fill this out and curse another five people with the same task. I could be interesting, it could be embarrassing. So bear with me. I will post about real life things again when I get the chance. For now, enjoy!

My currently reading list:
"The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver
"Righteous Sinners" by Ron Julian
"Fear and Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death" (both in one volume) by Soren Kierkegaard
"Diary of an Old Soul"
Webster's German-English Dictionary

Total number of books in my library:
No clue, but if Scarlettah and Marianne both estimate 200 I guess I'm close to that as well because I rank close to them on the book collecting geek scale.

Last book finished:
I was dreading this question: The DaVinci Code (I hadn't read it yet). But the one before was Nicholas Nickleby.

Last book bought:
I think it was "Birthday Stories" by Haruki Murakami

5 Meaningful books: (Bible aside)
"The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck
"Practice in Christianity" by Soren Kierkegaard
"Plato's Dialogues" by Plato
"Righteous Sinners" by Ron Julian
The Dictionary

5 Favorite Books:
"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
"Concluding Unscientific Postscripts" by Soren Kierkegaard
"The Wise Woman" a collection of short stories by George MacDonald
"Till We Have Faces" by C.S. Lewis
"Seven Daughters and Seven Sons" by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy

5 others to tag:
Jim and Amy
It says to just tag five people, but I would honestly be interested in hearing what you are reading so leave me a comment.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What are weekends for...

...but to recover your health? Usually it is my mental health that I recover on the weekends, but this past weekend (even through today), has included recovering my physical health. Funny thing is that the entire family got it except for Caroline. How ironic that all of the adults around are feverish, exhausted and sneezing while the four year old who wants to be entertained is perfectly healthy and as active as ever. I often envy her youthful energy, but this weekend the discrepancy between our life-levels was almost astonishing. No wonder people have always been obsessed with the fountain of youth. They don't want it so that they can live forever, they want it so that they can stop being so sore and tired all the time.
In other news, I am taking a trip to Lauf (Southernish Germany near Nurenburg) this next weekend for five days, so I'll try to remember to take pictures and tell all y'all all about it (I just couldn't resist) when I get back. Now I sleep. Goodnight.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The rain pants work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why do I always move to places where it rains most of the time?

It has turned cold. Not that the half of the summer I experienced here was anywhere near what I would consider hot, but there is that definite change in the attitude of the weather which signals Autumn. Officially, the season starts in three days, but Germany lives up to its reputation of punctuality a little over enthusiastically sometimes. This morning after class I went and bought myself a pair of rain pants. Kinda. They're really just waterproof hiking pants, and they won't fit over any of my other pants very well, but I am determined to make due. Three days a week I roll out of bed and bike the eight or so kilometers to language school. Often this is a precious piece of my day when it is just me, fresh air, good music, and very tired limbs trying to wake up enough to get me to class on time. But on those days when it rains... Last week I came into class fairly soaked and quite cold. After that day I acquired a rain jacket. Then I realized I could really use some gloves: so I got myself a pair. Today it rained again so I bit the bullet and purchased the rain pants. As I am sure it will rain again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, I am sure that I will have ample opportunity to test them. My hope is that they exceed all expectations particularly since I have a slightly vicious sore throat which attacked me this morning that I am hope to shake off as soon as possible, and have no wish to add to its company and brand of runny nose, or sneezing or any other of the seasonal illnesses.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I know I've already posted twice tonight...

... but I saw a real-live hedgehog on the path in front of me tonight! It was such a cute little ball of prickles that I almost picked it up and brought it home, but I don't know if hedgehogs have rabies or anything like that, and I'd rather not die a miserable death just because I couldn't resist temptation.


Over a week ago I said that I would post pictures of Berlin. I also said I would talk about it, but we did so much that it is difficult for me to know what to say. I left Friday night and came back Sunday night, but in those 2 and 1/16th days, I went to a wedding, stayed in Haus Nazareth, played pool, ate white sausage, got the whirlwind tour of Berlin, went to an church service in a movie theater, went to Cafe Einstein, and had many very thoughtful conversations. I would put the pictures in a better order, but I don't have the energy to do that at the moment (this posting pics thing is still new to me).
This first one is of the Reichstag which is the seat of the German Parliament. In front of this building is a memorial to the members of Parliament who stood up to Hitler and were killed for their courage. This is one of Seanne's favorite memorials, but if I try to describe it I won't do it justice so you'll have to go see it yourself.

This second picture is the library of Humboldt University. This picture is only a fraction of this stunning ivy-covered courtyard. I can only imagine how distracting it would be to try to study there because I would be constantly looking at the beauty surrounding me.

Ahh yes, this is me and my three very gracious hosts, Frank (an excellent cook), Seanne (the person who first interested me in Germany when I was ten or so), and Daniel (who is hilarious both in German and English).

So there's Berlin in a nutshell. All in all it was an incredible weekend and just what I needed. Thanks Seanne, Daniel and Frank.

Reflections on trains and my future

Bicycles, footpaths, and trains. When I say that I love to travel, I don't necessarily mean visiting distant places. This evening, on my weekly train ride back from Bremen, I was sitting in my corner of the bench reading with the late afternoon sun pushing its way between two clouds to make its final inspection of the fields. Often either by the morning train or my return in the late afternoon I am struck with the romantic history of riding in trains. Countless hours of scenery punctuated by rustic roads and the occasional town; no wonder authors traveled so much, it seems to evoke creativity and reflection. As I rode my bike slowly homeward past the river, I found myself savoring the quietness of a cool evening on the waterfront. The sun was just about to set so I left my bike in the garage and took my usual (though of late not so oft traveled) path through the neighborhood and toward the nearby wooded footpaths. There is a particular place almost directly across a field from the back of my house where the trees on the footpath break and you can wander through this charming field. The adjoining field is usually a fenced emptiness, but tonight they had opened the gate and let the horses wander into it. I sat down to watch the clouds color that vivid pink which I despise in nearly everything but sunsets, and found myself crying. Not that today was sad or difficult in any particular way, or even generally overwhelming. The downpour of emotion had something to do with the kind curiosity of the mare as she ambled toward my seat and the incredible uncontainable beauty that I was observing on the horizon both of which made me feel a little lost and a little alone. In coming to Germany I, for the first time, took very deliberate and even motivated steps. I don't regret being here at all. But in those moments when I try to imagine my future beyond this year I get anxious and bewildered. It is not that I have an absence of dreams or hopes. They are there; but I am so quick to criticize my own dreams as unpractical, silly, or even overly ambitious. Then the sun set, the mare moved back to her mate and my tears dried. I don't know what I will do with my life, but I do know that I will continue to search, to create, and to love those people I love ever more deeply. I know that I will because these things I cannot help but do.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I'm back

As I begin this blog I realize immediately that I must apologize in advance for several things. First of all, I am writing on a German keyboard so that means that my Y's, Z's, upper case i's and apostrophies will be all mixed up unless I edit very carefullz, and since I think those mistakes are kinda funny, I will leave some of them in so that you know how difficult this is for me to write, the second thing is that I haven't updated people on my life since I left for Berlin last weekend (which was wonderful, and I will have to tell you about it next blog) because the internet connection has been acting like a spoiled 4 year old. I am also having trouble responding to e-mails at the moment, so parts of this will be directed to persons who aren't zou. I have gotten several requests for a picture of my daily life because I haven't given that yet, so here it is in a blink. Let me remind you, however, that I am working as an au pair, and as such, my life does not display the glamour of the expatriots like Hemingway or Gertrude Stein.

anywhere between 7-8: start grumbling at my ipod/alarm clock which is persistantly reminding me that time flies nearly as quickly as my to-do list grows.
8-8:30 realize that if I do not move very quickly, I will be late to sprachschule (language class), hop on my bike and start praying that it doesn't rain.
8:57/9:01-12:05 arrive at school, climb the four flights of stairs to my classroom, arrive slightly stinky from the ride, and settle into class for the next 2 1/2 hours with people from every continent but Antartica.
12:05-1:00 take my time getting home... dally along the way, sit and read for a spell, or stop at the store to replenish my supply of Ritter Sport.
1:00-1:30 eat lunch with Sabine, then take care of Felix while she fetches Carolin from kindergarten (wich is a German word for all who have forgotten / didn't know)
1:30-7:00 watch Carolin and Felix, which includes but is not limited to feeding, diaper changing, listening to a lot of quatsch (nonsense or gibberish) both in English and German, being chased around, trying to gently motivate Carolin to listen/obey/not get killed etc. (as a side note, Carolin can count to ten in English without help and loves to say 'oopsy-daisy' which comes out 'oopsy-lazy')
7:00-8:30/9:00 Holger and Sabine come home, we all eat dinner (pieces of bread with either meat or cheese on top... kinda strange but I'm getting used to it), Holger and Sabine put the kids to bed while I clean up dinner.
9:00-12:00 I check my email etc. read, watch Firefly, do German homework, or whatever and then bemoan how late I continue to stay up.
So that, ladies and gents, is a typical day. Weekends, I am up to my own devices, and that usually involves going to Bremen at some point which is a 40 min. train ride away.
Thank you Mom, Molly, Mari, Matt, Noah, Nik, Stefan, Teal, and anyone else I have forgotten for your postcards, letters, and packages, they have been such an encouragement. Yes, mom, my language skills are improving quite a lot, I can actually sign on to this blogger account without needing the homepage to be in English. I am also forgetting English words for basic things... I would give you and example, but I have forgotten the word... I am sure that forgetting English is a sure sign that my German is improving. I am on the cusp of making friends here, there are two girls in my language course who I am trying to meet up with for a movie this weekend; Iris is from Nicaragua, and YuChun is from China. So I think it is safe to say that I am just about as settled in as anyone could hope for. That said, it is always nice to hear from home, so feel free to drop me a line.
I hope that the internet will be working properly for me again next week when I hope to post pictures etc. from Berlin. Until then thanks for reading and good luck with whatever I should wish you good luck on.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Room to grow

Hi. You know my name; I have a compassion problem. Yes, that sounds all holy and glorious but it actually is a problem. I should probably give it a more horror-inducing name so that you will believe me. Tonight for instance, I, out of compassion for a mother who had worked all day, set the table, got the abendessen ready (dinners here are just open-faced sandwiches), and held the baby so that she could eat. No problem there. Later, I held the then wailing-to-bring-down-the-walls-of-Jericho baby for 15-20 minutes so that dad could put child number two to bed. Again, not a problem. When the father came back down and took the baby, I then proceeded to clean up most of the dinner and only stopped myself from starting to clean the kitchen. This is when it is getting to be a problem. All of those things are good in and of themselves, but when I put them all together on top of the homework, thinking, and reading to which I have dedicated myself, I find that I am wearing myself too thin. So what do I do? I turn to drink. Just kidding. (Sort of; I did have a quarter of a glass of this weird wine stuff) But even wearing myself too thin isn't the complete problem. If I must distill it down to a pithy assertion, I would have to say that it all comes back to my old habit of pleasing people, not because they deserve it, or because I have any objective interest in their approval, but because early in my life I chose the path of insecure servitude. A path which I am constantly trying to swerve from. So what is a poor lassie to do? I suppose I will just try to keep swerving and eventually I will learn to not work myself into the ground unnecessarily. In the meantime, I fully confess that I have a problem and need help (literally and figuratively).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I have resorted to using a German title for this blog because it is all about bubbles, and I actually want you to read it instead of skipping over to another entry. But lest there be any confusion, Blasen is German for Bubbles.
Carolin and I played with bubbles this afternoon. It has been a very long time since I have done anything entertaining with bubbles other than gallantly spit them toward the bride and groom as they make their soggy way toward the getaway car. Years, I think, since I have actually taken the time to observe them as they make their graceful way to the sky and then, with an understated *pop*, cease to exist. I was thrilled today with the reflection that it is one of the most beautiful things to watch that stately progress from the initial formation of the bubble to its gentle termination. They are all purity and delicacy. If one looks very closely, one can see the soap on the surface cluster and swirl and eventually begin to dissipate. Not that you should begin a campaign to stem the tide of untimely bubble death at the undersized hands of our youth, for yet another of the many charms of the bubble consists in the very laughter that chasing the glimmering containers of air affords.
They live the briefest and yet the most charmed of lives, and I will always be thankful to them for entertaining me and my companion for nearly a half an hour.
Ahh, how to end this eulogy? I can't think of a way at the moment, and alas, a moment is all that I have allotted to blogging for the evening. So there it stands. The End.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trying something new

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I am trying a lot of new things at the moment, but I will tell you about the ones I have in mind. First, I tried a little house church in Bremen that and it was great. I hardly understood anything, and the music was terrible (I have been told that it is usually better but the musicians were all on vacation), but they fed me and were very kind and friendly. I then spent the day touring the city with new friends (via Seanne), Tobias and Mareike, and got to see all sorts of amazing sights such as building that were built more than three, four, or in some cases, six hundred years ago, and the Bremen town Musicians, and a couple of clowns with very Irish accents from Belfast. But really the new thing that I am trying is to blog some pictures of that trip because Josh gave me a tip about a program, and so many people have asked for pictures and if this works, it might just satisfy some curiosity. So here goes.
The Bremen Town Musicians

These guys are not as big as they seem. The legs of the donkey are polished because you're supposed to hold one of his legs and make a wish. Mareike and Tobias didn't tell me if the wish is supposed to come true of if you're just instructed to make one for your own self-analysis, but I did it anyway. I'll let you know if it comes true, but I'm not telling you what it was unless it comes true, so don't even ask.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Of things that make me happy

Today was a bit like Christmas. Embarrassingly so. How could Christmas be embarrassing, one might ask. Well, the timing is slightly embarrassing. My four-month-early Christmas fell one day after my host mother’s birthday, and in all honesty, I got more and better presents (except for the digital camcorder that she got). So with that tantalizing trailer I will launch myself into the story. And the story starts on Monday. The funny thing about Mondays in Germany is that although they are not generally acknowledged to be the horror-inducing day they are thought to be in the US they are, in fact, just as Monday-ish. So Monday was a downer. I was beginning the last week all-day childcare and was feeling rather homesick to boot. But then came Monday night. When I checked my email there was one from Seanne, who I have known for just about as long as I can remember. She and her husband are going to be in Berlin visiting her old hometown, and she was going to call me the next day to work out the details of me hanging out with them for a weekend. That evening she also put me in contact with one of her close friends who lives nearby so that I can know someone here. Tuesday morning arrived and, it being Sabine’s birthday, we all slept in and I had a half day while the family went off to celebrate. Half way through my breakfast the expected call arrived from Seanne, and we ironed out the details of my weekend in Berlin, which included buying my train ticket. But all of that was merely leading up to the glorious today. Early this afternoon, after a surprisingly smooth morning, the postman arrived with a package from me. I opened it to find that Teal is one of the sweetest people that I know. She had sent not only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but also some Saturday Market honey sticks, and gifts that my mother had bought me from Michigan. It was so touching and exciting that I couldn’t stop humming (which is always a good sign). Then, not too much later, the doorbell again sounded its cheerful alarm and two other packages were delivered to me. The first that I opened was my much anticipated copy of the Trumpet Child from Over The Rhine (sixteen days before you can get it in stores, folks) and I immediately put it on the speakers for the pleasure of all. The second package was the soundtrack to the new movie Once, which my dear friend Matt Williams sent to me, and it is only out of great self control that I have deferred playing this second CD so as to spread out my enjoyment for another day. So what is the moral of this story? (Yes, this time I do have a moral) It is: surround yourself with good and kind-hearted people, so that when you are forced to leave them they will send things with or to you that will cause you to remember how wonderful they are. Thank you Teal, Mom, Josh, Erin, Robby, Heidi, Matt and Over the Rhine. You have made my month!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

update on my life

As I look back at my previous two posts I realize that it is extremely unlikely that I will be getting away with not posting anything about my particular doings for the past two weeks so I will attempt to give a brief update.
This past week was my first full week as the only au pair. Frankly, it was exhausting. Carolin is currently finding herself bored nearly to tears as she enters her third week of summer holiday from kindergarten. So instead of looking after the kids only in the afternoon, I pretty much make myself available as an entertainer from 9 or 10 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night. Don't get me wrong, this time includes meals and usually an afternoon nap during which I am not "working" but I am spending astronomical amounts of time with the two kids and Sabine at the moment. This will change when Carolin goes back to school, but for now, I must say that I treasure early mornings and late evenings when I am alone with myself and the weekend I spend almost entirely wandering about the city. For the most part Carolin and Felix are all that you would expect of a four year old and a three month old. Carolin talks incessantly and doesn't seem too bothered by the fact that I only understand a fraction of what she tells me. Felix has gotten used to my voice and in fact the easiest way for me to quiet him when he frets is to sing to him. I hate to admit it, but taking care of Felix has forced me to practice singing more than I ever did on my own, and I think the two of us throughly enjoy my mix of old jazz standards, Broadway and Over the Rhine.
I continue to read fairly voraciously in my free time and have already finished all of the Firefly episodes for the first time since I have been here. I take walks several times a week both in the city and toward the countryside and find nearly everything that I pay attention to either amusing or beautiful (I must not be paying very careful attention, because there can't be that many amusing things without a proportional number of ugly or stupid things, I just haven't been concerning myself with them). Oldenburg as a town is charming. I think most of the charm can be ascribed to the fact that nearly all of the buildings are either old or made of brick which lends itself to an old feeling. Downtown, where I spend most of my time, has an absurd number of cafes. Although it is not my intention to go broke visiting all of them, I have already found a couple that are quite nice, and tonight I had the best stracitella ice cream I have ever tasted in my life. Some of you will be annoyed to hear that I have not yet tasted German beer. The reason is quite simple: I have never gotten used to the idea of having a beer alone, so I am saving that experience to share with friends when I make some. I haven't yet started language school, so I don't yet have any friends. That is really a bummer for a loner-who-loves-people like me. But I have high hopes that as soon as people meet me they will be dying to know me better, and have only to start meeting people.
I hope this update will suffice to save me from abuse of those wanting to really know what is happening to me on this side of the world. If anyone has specific questions you can always email me and there is a slight possibility that I will respond. Oh, and for everyone who has been asking my address is:
Valerie W.
Suedweg 20A
26135 Oldenburg

of mosquitoes

The other evening we had a delightful rain shower that began just as I was getting ready for bed. I have always adored a real rain. When I say "a real rain", I don't mean the sort of drizzle that hangs about Eugene from September to May, or the misty sprays of sea-side towns: no, I mean a the kind of rain that if you happened to live under a tin roof would keep you awake all night with its pattering. Those rains which are accompanied by thunder and lightning are especially treasured by me. So on that evening this week when such a rain was promising a lullaby for my slumbers, I opened my window to better enjoy the experience. As fate, that malicious smirker would have it, drifting through my window along with the smells and sounds which I loved so much was a mosquito. Everyone who has ever camped in a tent knows that mosquitoes have a particular MO. It is bad enough that they are out to suck your blood, but their manner of attack is downright torturous. They wait until all light has been extinguished and your pillow is particularly soft and then commence their circling. As soon as you hear them close to your head you do one of two unsuccessful things: you either blindly clap in the dark trying to kill the pest, or you turn on a light so that you can see where you are clapping. The only problem is that as soon as you turn on the light you are blinded by is brilliancy and are equally unable to terminate the winged thing. So I spent the first half hour of my delightful-storm-slumbering time alternating between the two unsuccessful methods until I finally managed to adjust to the light and kill my nemesis. What is the moral of this story you may ask (fully expecting something profound and allegorical)? It doesn't have one. I just had mosquitoes and that was one of the big events of the week.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ten things...

...that I have discovered in my first two and a half weeks in Germany:
1. I need a new winter coat.
In Europe, even the overgrown paths through the woods have the remains of brick/cobblestone paving.
3. It is nearly impossible to fake laugh at a joke that you don’t understand when the joke is in a different language.
The reason we have stereotyped Germans as fat, wurst-eating, beer-drinking people is because when we come over here and start drinking their beer and eating their wurst we get really fat, and we want our friends back home to believe that everyone over here is fat so we don’t look so bad.
Whoever coined the phrase “sleep like a baby” had no idea what they were talking about.
McDonalds is everywhere, but everywhere people know that it is junk food.
7. Celsius and meters make more sense.
Mastercard was wrong: don’t leave home without your own coffee.
Don’t underestimate the value of uncarbonated water.
10. Nutella. The end.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A breath of fresh air

Today was my first truly glorious day in Germany. I hate to say it, but I think part of that is because the family left for Hannover for the day before I woke up. They had invited me to go along but I decided that a day to myself to reflect and explore Oldenburg was more important. Don't get me wrong: my family is very sweet, but I think anyone in their right mind would prefer a quiet day alone to one spent tending another person's children off and on. And it was really refreshing. I did all of the menial tasks that had previously seemed so tedious to the sound of Over the Rhine's new cd (you can hear it on their website and it is spectacular) and even went shopping with the current au pair (current for another three days, that is), Anja. I did laundry, and made myself some scrambled eggs, which I don't believe they really do in Europe, vacuumed my room, updated my mailing address, even made a few phone calls and bought three shirts for under fifteen bucks. So to all of you who have worried and prayed for me over the last week and a half thank you. Today reminds me that yes, I will be okay. I am expecting a difficult year but that is primarily because I see the need for a lot of growth in myself and as I am reading in The Road Less Traveled, to avoid pain is to avoid growth.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Caution: Long blog from my third day in Germany

If you have ever been in the Denver airport you know that although it is huge, it has nothing particularly spectacular to boast of. Sure, it has three different terminals and more ritzy stores than Oakway mall, but still it seems nothing out of the ordinary for an international airport. What made Denver airport amazing was it’s ability to make the most mundane, cliché and even annoying things sentimental to me. McDonald’s, where I haven’t eaten more than a dozen times in the last few years, found a tiny little soft spot where I could look at the glaring yellow arches and smile at American consumerism and inability to eat well. Then there was this poster with some East Asian monk on it which said something about having peace or making peace or something about peace, and I nearly burst into tears looking at it. To anyone who knows me well it is unthinkable that I would cry in a public place and far less a busy public place. I’m not entirely sure why these things seemed so representative of America to me, but knowing than my next plane ride would terminate in a foreign country made everything near to me dear to me.
At this point I have been in Germany for two entire days, and I am still attempting to get over jetlag. Trying to go to sleep during what used to be the middle of the day is very difficult to put it mildly. When I arrived on Wednesday I was exhausted from a long trip and had heard so much concentrated German that after a couple of hours of trying to speak to my host mother I was forced to tell her that I could understand no more German that night. Fortunately she speaks English wonderfully and was very gracious about how fast my head was spinning. I had never realized how isolating it is to not be around people who speak your native tongue. However, I do have several sources of comfort. For instance, when Sabine and I went to the grocery store today the radio was playing Phil Colins and I think perhaps James Blunt. I was also shocked to see Fructise shampoo by Garnier on the shelves as well as Head and Shoulders. I should have assumed that dandruff is universal, but frankly, it had never before occurred to me. And then there was Molly. Not in person, but for my birthday she told me that she would send my gift to Germany. I opened it yesterday, and there on my lap sat Mal, and Kaylee, and Inara, and Zoe, that is, the entire Firefly series. I haven’t opened it yet, but looking at it this evening it made me want to cry again. Good old laser-gun-shooting-cowboys-in-a-universe-that-doesn’t-yet-exist.
Don’t be misled: although I am clearly and naturally homesick, I am as optimistic as a pessimist like myself can be. My comprehension of German is improving by leaps and bounds and any misgivings I had previously about how much language I would pick up have been laid to rest. As the four year old that I will be taking care of told me earlier this evening: “you know only a little German, and I know only a little English; you will learn from me and I will learn from you.” Of course, I will also learn from the teacher that I will be giving my money to and I will also learn from the people on the street who don’t speak English, but it was a very cute sentiment. Yes, a year is a long time, and yes, things will be difficult for a while, but once I “get the hanger of things” (as my German teacher once said) and find a routine, things will be much better. Thank you all for you thoughts, encouragement, and prayers. It is almost one in the afternoon in Oregon so I must say goodnight! Guten Nacht.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

...and the coundown is getting down there.

I leave my country of origin in less than a week and, to be perfectly candid, the prospect is overwhelming. There is a dry-erase board attached to the door of my room, and one of my kindly hall-mates has started a countdown to when "my adventure" begins. I was really excited when the number in the little box was eleven, but now that it is under seven I realize more and more how many little things there are yet to be done. Things like figuring out which of my many coats I should bring with me. Do I bring my lovely wool coat? My adorable but rather chilly raincoat? What about my no longer water-proof nor fashionable ski coat? How many hoodies should I bring? Do I really own and wear this much black? Do I possess any t-shirts that don't have English plastered all over them? And then there are the teeny tiny little issues like: do I remember any of the German I have learned? or do I have the addresses of all the people that I need to contact as soon as I get there? and how many people have I mortally offended by not personally going out with them to say goodbye?
Even beyond and through all of the ponderings and erranding I catch those glimmers of excitement as I recall the fact that I am really hurtling toward my very own adventure (at something of a breakneck rate). Thank you to everyone who has helped me to get myself in this far. To those that I don't see again before I leave, know that I will miss you and would love to hear from you. I have an early breakfast in the morning, so a goodnight and a sleep tight and all the rest for now.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Welcome friends

Hello and welcome to An Occasional Day. This will by my adventure update for the next year addressed to all of you who are curious about my goings on in Germany. I will post at least once a month, so if you check in on it every six months you should have a nice bit to peruse. Thanks for reading and since you are one who reads this, I assume that you also merit my thanks for your interest and involvement in my life. Thank you.