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.