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.