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.