Saturday, October 25, 2008

A not-so-silent film review

This evening I donned my new polka-dot blouse, my platform heels and my Audrey Hepburnesque black raincoat, and strolled the three blocks between my apartment and St. Anne's Church to watch the silent version of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera accompanied by Larry Molinaro on the church's magnificent organ music starting at seven in the evening.
It was quite an experience. I had never seen a silent film on any screen bigger than my computer before so that in itself makes it memorable. For an hour and a half I, and a score of others, sat mesmerized (despite the discomfort of the pews) and entertained by the alternating sepia, black and white, and occasionally the red or blue images on the screen in front of the altar. To call the famous drama a comedy is perhaps a strech, but the composer/accompanies Larry Molinaro swept the story along with the beautiful-yet-not-to-be-taken-too-seriously score which included variations on the cancan and Pick-a-little as well as other famous pieces that I couldn't quite put the name to.
All in all it is the best movie I have seen in a long time due, in great part, to the surround sound and the fact that I haven't been to see a movie since my return to the States.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On Locales

Everyone knows about Townies and Bumpkins: those particular people who simply cannot live without __(fill in the blank)

a. neon lights shining down on their repose, the gentle lowing of taxi horns and uncontrolled radio decibels, and the company of those so rich that if they were a garden they could feed a small country and can locate planets with their very high noses.


b. crickets (and other creatures far too small to be able to emit sounds at the volume that they do) hosting raves, winds sweeping through the plains and the shutters, and the cracks around the door, a wake-up call performed far too early by the sun, and the company of quadrupeds.

Such categories as City Slicker and Hillbilly are easily defined, and those who fit into them are even easier to spot. But I fit into an entirely different slot. I am a Suburbanite. A Cul-de-sac-ee. One who was born at the end of the asphalt, but could look down the street and see one of the last pairs of horses actually kept within city limits. My family was made for this kind of life. There was the perfect "field" for us to play in, until the builders actually developed that two-acre plot. And there were trees that were climb-able as long as we weighed less than 50 pounds, but really, one shouldn't expect too much from a tree that was only planted twenty years ago. And then there was my family. We were made to live in a neighborhood. Large and friendly, we were absent-minded in that way which necessitates borrowing sugar from the clan next door because no one remembered to put it on the shopping list. The children of the street formed a docile gang whose dangerous activities included playing Uno in the middle of the street or a round of Truth-or-Dare which forced someone near the outhouse the construction workers had been using all month. When we felt particularly edgy, we would attack a house with rolls and rolls of toilet paper. Our logic was that we could trick everyone into thinking that we were innocent if we merely TP-ed one of our own houses. Of course the next morning we would have to clean up our own mess, but we never seemed to mind.
With this sort of background, it is no wonder that I have some trouble adjusting to life downtown. I've learned that between the loud talking or singing stumblers, the high heels on bricks which sound as though an old fashioned horse and cart is walking through my room, and the streetlamp perfectly positioned to shine like a very close and very unfortunately unmoving sun directly in my face, sleeping in the city is a skill. Fortunately my day expired around 2 1/2 hours ago, and so I will have no need to work particularly hard in order to sleep tonight. Right now, actually.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shades of rodents

We usually had some package of nuts to strew about the back porch for Chester. Why we named the fattest of the fox squirrels Chester, which to my mind is reminiscent of a floppy-eared dog, is beyond me. There was a whole crew of climbers who were unbelievably resourceful in poaching the contents of the bird feeder before dinner.
As I grew older, I slowly stopped noticing the squirrels. Sure, I noticed the chipmunks at the Grand Canyon, and the campgrounds, but that's because they were always so cute with those black eyes and the stripe down their back. When I went to Germany, for a time, I noticed them again. They were no longer that muted brown I had come to expect as the only acceptable dye-job for squirrels. These punks had red hair. And they weren't quite as long or fat as the American squirrels. Today I noticed these East Coast squirrels. They are like those pieces of wood that are faded to a gray by the sun on the top, but still show that living red-brown underneath. Except the squirrels scamper. The wood does not.

Friday, September 12, 2008

...Of Untamed Weather

Did I forget to mention that I got my very first "tropical storm day off" from work last week? Well, I did. They thought the town might flood, so Phillips told me to stay in bed, and I got some of my shopping done instead. I'm telling you: things are different here. There are fireflies, tropical storms, and unbelievably muggy days.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Moment... breathe. Just a moment. Well, an afternoon, that is. I have been rebuked countless times since moving to Annapolis for my laxity in blogging. At first I had no excuse other than laziness and jetlag for being so remiss, but I have, at long last come up with three good excuses which I will lay out in High School essay-like form.

In conclusion, I am now working three jobs (read approx. 6 1/2 days per week), one which occasionally requires my presence at 5:15 am, another which occasionally requires my presence until as late as 11:00 pm, and I am exhausted.

Or, as a more true explanation, I now work as a hostess at Phillips Seafood Restaurant, a barista-in-training at Starbucks, and a nanny for Charlie (who is just under two months old). As you can, I am sure, tell from the fact that I have posted twice today, I have the afternoon off, and am desperately trying to catch up with my life. So I'm off (like a dirty shirt) to get everything else done. Right now. Effortlessly.

Apostrophy s

Neither I nor anyone I know would ever quite call me an accessories kinda girl. I have only owned purses in succession, and they were generally of the sporty/practical variety. My criterion was that it be sturdy enough to be worth the money I had invested in it, it must hold at least one book and my moleskin, and it must be as inconspicuous as possible. Even when my hair was embarrassingly boyishly short, it was like catching caffeinated frogs to get me to wear feminine (large and dangling) earrings. I always marvelled at those girls who allowed their ears to droop from the weight of their ear decorations. Truly, the number of fashionable items labeled with my name and the possessive contraction were relatively few.
But like so many things in the past year-and-a-bit-more that has passed, this has been changing. I now own (and wear) not just my sterling ball earrings, but also multiple styles and colors of danglies which are large enough to be seen from 15-20 feet away, and shoes that go with outfits. My cherry-red purse is anything but inconspicuous and large enough to shelter a Boy Scout camp-out.
More important than all of these other accessories- vying with my music makers (ipod, guitar, etc.) for the role of the item that I cannot be without for more than a few hours- are my sunglasses.

How can anything so fragile and 50's looking be so important?
Well, if you had a pair you would understand their magic. The anonymity and glamour which accompanies this single article of wear is astonishing. Behind them I cannot simply walk: I must stroll, traipse, even strut. Even in the ratty cleaning/laundry day jeans, I feel that I must be that movie star or that author, or that singer who is just on the brink of being famous. That those I pass in the street just must be thinking to themselves, "hmm... I wonder if that's someone I should know about." Then I saunter past (leaving, of course, a wake of dazzle) and go about my daily life. And that is the power housed in my wonderful sunglasses.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Review

With a little encouragement from my sister, I decided to take the plunge and join to learn the art of review writing. So this is my first-ever anything published by anyone other than myself that I wrote all by myself. And yes, I realize that the mini-bio at the end is missing a couple of words, but I don't know how to fix that at the moment. Oh well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Home again, home again...

...well, not completely home. I'd say that I'm about 1/2 way there. At least I'm back in my own country. I have now been in Maryland for six days, and my first impression is that it is extremely hot and muggy. I boarded the plane in Hamburg with rain pouring down and stepped off in Maryland to be greeted with perhaps the same amount of precipitation in the form of humidity. To say that it's hot here would be more than an understatement. It is the kind of weather that makes you seriously consider joining a nudist colony.
Despite the temperature, things have been going remarkably smoothly here. When I arrived on Monday, I parked myself in Zeb and Sarah's apartment even though they had already found a room for me literally three blocks away. Allowing myself 2 1/2 days to begin recovering from my jet lag, and buy some work-appropriate clothes, I then walked just a bit further down the street to the harbor, talked to the manager of the local fancy-schmanzy seafood restaurant, and began my new job on Friday. My observations on the job so far is that once I have learned the system, it will be incredibly boring, and I have very strong doubts that I will have any desire to spend time with my co-workers in my free hours, but I am being paid well enough to survive, and hopefully even to save some money so I am simply thankful that I have income so easily and the resulting ease in financial pressure.
So that is the basic update. I am finally over the cold that I had carried with me for nearly the last two weeks that I was in Deutschland, I have a place to sleep, food on a pantry shelf with my name on it, new shoes, and wonder of wonders, I have begun to wear skirts.
I'm still working out my internet situation and I don't even have a telephone at the moment, so bear with me on my blogging schedule... it's all up in the air.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Goodbye Days

Considering the fact that my flight leaves tomorrow, and I have a multitude of things to do before that time, I am assuming that this will be my last post from Germany. It will not, however, be my last post about Germany; not by a long shot. After I recover from jet lag, I fully intend to post some pictures and stories of the last few weeks here, trying to fill in some of the multitude of gaps. With a little bit of luck (and perhaps a few reminders), this post will not go into the paving stone category with all of my other intended posts.
Tschuss, und aufwiedersehen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Days go by...

Everyone told me that Time's leaden feet of the beginning of my stay here would be transformed in the last days into winged things such as those which made Hermes so famous, and despite my doubts, the days are indeed flying to their close.
Siobahn, the new au pair, arrived Monday night.
I leave in five days, and have more plans for those hours than can possibly be realized.
Silke and I are visiting the Netherlands on Friday.
I still need to purchase obscene amounts of chocolate to bring home with me.
There is laundry to be washed and hung to dry in the corner of the yard where I run no danger of being embarrassed by the passer-by being able to see my undergarments.
Felix, seeming instinctively to realize that I am being somehow withdrawn from him, has become adorably clingy and kuschlich (prone to snuggle).
Photos of all the places I do not want to remember are still in need of being captured.
...Therefore, if you hear nothing from me for a week or so, don't be alarmed. I haven't been sold into white slavery: I'm just tired, stressed and trying to make it back to the states.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


My football fanishness came to something of a sad end on Sunday when German lost 0-1 in the final match against Spain. It was quite pitiful. We did not play well, and as a foreigner, it was almost comical to observe the almost silent procession of cars out of the city when compared to the uproar which followed the quarter- and half- finals. There were some fireworks (supposedly in honor of Spain), but it seemed to me more as though the boys had bought them supposing that we would win and then decided to set them off just so they would not go to waste.
The quarterfinal and half-final were something to see, however. The match against Portugal was just flat out an incredible game, and the excitement of the other players at the Public Viewing was thoroughly entertaining. The half final was against Turkey, and the politics of the game was quite interesting. Germany has a relatively high Turkish population and the foreigners are, unfortunately, rather looked down upon (often for what seems logical reasons). The very political message before, during and after the match was that everyone needed to be sportsmanly and that particularly means there should be no burning of flags or punching of the fans of the opposing team. I even received a notice from the America Embassy warning that although they expected a peaceful observation of the match, there was the possibility of riots in some of the larger cities such as Berlin. As I went to meet a group of German acquaintances at the public viewing I was very clear in my mind that the possibility of danger would come if the Turkish team one. Fortunately, the Germans won, and the town had a very long night of celebrating.
Having finished my night of revelry after the Halbfinale with a back ache from too much standing, I decided to watch the final not at the Public Viewing on the Pferdemarkt, but rather in a restaurant where I could satisfy my Radler (sprite and whitebeer) craving and general hunger. Today my friend Anna informed me that it is my fault that Germany lost the match because I did not join her at the viewing, and I was the Glucksbringer (good luck charm). So my apologies to all of you who were rooting for Germany. Had I known my power I would have endured my hunger and thirst and gone to the marketplace.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I just discovered...

... that I am a German football fan. To those who know me, this will come as something as a surprise considering the fact that the last time I was a true fan of a sport was when the Bulls were playing the Jazz in the Finals. Here in Europe the Europäische Meisterschaft is taking place in Austria, and Fußball fanishness is contagious. This evening I pulled all of the limited strings that I have here, and managed to get myself down to the Pferdemarkt (a large parking lot which is downtown and surrounded by official or important buildings) to join several hundered other fans in a standing room only observation of Austria vs. Germany. It was an interesting game. I stayed at Pferdemarkt for the first half but went to my favorite Irish pub for the second so I could sit down. Well, maybe just an entertaining game. One of our star players was banned from this game following a red card that he received during our game against Croatia, and before the first half was up, Coach Löw joined him up in the stands. That's right, not only the Germany national coach, but also the Austrian coach was thrown out of the game for arguing with one of the refs. Then, not too far into the second half, Ballack scored a penalty goal making the score finally look like something other than a pair of badly drawn glasses. Ironically, I missed the penalty kick the first time around because I was looking for a seat, but don't worry; I saw it plenty of times in the replay. So it ended with the German team advancing to the quarterfinals and all of downtown Oldenburg erupting into yells, song, flag-twirling, and a deafening amount of honking. So there I am. Officially a fan of the German National Team. Of course, anything else and I think I would be burned at the steak by everyone I know here. Except for Drew and Lisa. Sorry guys.

Friday, June 6, 2008


We all know that I am over-compensating for my extended absence from the blogging world by posting three times in one day, but I thought I'd just say what you're thinking.

Here is a dollop of randomness to close out my day:
1. The great thing about Germany is that you can buy two bottles of Guinness for 1.76 euros.
2. The moon is incredible tonight. If you haven't seen it yet (because it's daytime right now for nearly everyone who reads this), you need to look out your window tonight.
3. I am brewing homemade root beer (thanks mom, for the kit).
4. The government gave me money to stimulate the economy. They intend for me therefore to spend in such a way that it will pour into our economy, but ironically enough, I will be using it to pay my local taxes because I didn't withhold enough last year. So much for that plan.

Oh. There are only four items there. It seems ridiculous to start numbering items unless you have at least five, and I had thought I would have at least that many, but I have fallen short, and I'm not going to go back and take out the numbers because then you wouldn't get to enjoy this mini monologue if I did. Bis spaeter.

The past two weeks...

First of all, Carolin somehow ended up with Scarlet Fever, an illness which I thought had died along with the heroines of countless novels up until the 19th century. The main effects were that she was rather more subdued and not allowed to attend Kindergarten for a week.

Also, on Sunday I saw this incredible car...

...except that it was driving on the street, not through a mountain pass of ice and marble.

And this guy came to my house to clean the chimney and I forgot to shake his hand for luck, but I'm not sure I could have managed because my hand was already occupied with holding Felix (my goodness that kid is getting heavy).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The long-awaited review of Salzburg

For over a month now I have been intending to write about my mom's visit and especially our time in Salzburg, but I have been plagued by overwhelming stress and laziness, and so have not taken the time until now to do so.

As my time here in Europe is winding to a close, I decided that it was mandatory for me to experience a sleeper train. So at the end of April I took a Friday night train to Salzburg, slept in a chair that reclined more than the normal seat, but nowhere close to a horizontal position, arrived having lost my copy of The Mystery of Edwin Drood on the first and groggiest of my train changes, and met up with Drew and Lisa for breakfast. When I was last in Salzburg it was winter with a nice layer of cold on the ground and air which hurried you to your next destination in the hope of warming up again. Coffee was mandatory. This visit, in the early part of spring, was equally, but of course differently, stunning. From the minute you step out of the train station, the city is dominated by the fortress Hohensalzburg on top of a hill in the center of the city and green. Of the five days that I was there, four were warm and sunny to the point that I managed to get a sunburn and could constantly smell the sun on my skin.
I have utterly fallen in love Austria, and especially Salzburg. It is hard to resist the beauty and history that is Salzburg, but I think the thing that draws me so much to the place is the fact that it is a haven to me here in Europe. It has been a good year, but a very difficult one, and it has proven rather challenging to get breaks from my work here as an au pair. The fact that I live with the family I work for, in the very next room, has made it very hard for me to ever feel that I can completely relax and be on my own. I have not found here in Oldenburg someone with whom I can converse on the same level that I have been spoiled enough to hope for while living in Eugene, and there is not really anyone around who completely understands my perspective, not only as an America, but also as a Christian, and a not very conventional one at that. So when I get the opportunity to visit friends from Eugene, who live on this continent, I settle quite quickly into a feeling of deep comfort. It is not merely the fact that Drew and Lisa are from Eugene which makes them so dear to me, but I remember when I am around them what a rare thing it is to find people who are kind and thoughtful. Not thoughtful in the sense of kind because I'm not trying to be that redundant, but thoughtful in the sense of being people who actively think about things without even noticing it. That and Lisa's an incredible hostess and lots of fun to be around. And they have the most incredible marble-shower-with-three-different-sources-of-water-the-size-of-a-closet that I have ever seen.

Mom arrived on Sunday. I made the horrible mistake of being late to the train to pick her up which meant that I didn't know what platform she had arrived on (because the board had already moved on to the next batch of arrivals) and so I ran from one to the next searching for my mother while Drew waited patiently in his illegal parking spot until I found her surprisingly unfrazzled and brought her to the car. Poor thing though, it was her first trip to Europe, she was without my father (who has not only a former realtor's instinct for how to get where he wants to go in any town, which I think I might have inherited from him, but also that male courage which does not deign to find directions necessary) and although she had been guided through the basics of the European rail system by our friend Gabi, she was still on shaky ground with no one to meet her as she got off the train, no phone from which to call, or even a sure telephone number and only that vocabulary which is helpful in describing the color of cars in the native tongue. Her first look when I called her name was naturally one of relief, "Good. I learned to just stay put and when it gets dark get big, and someone will eventually find you, I'm not entirely sure that the method will work in a train station, but I had several hours before dark to figure that out." The next two days with Mom were a blast. By that time I knew my way around Salzburg well enough to bring her around to some of the highlights (most of which are sighted if you pay the 15 euros to take the Sound of Music Tour), and we spent our days wandering the town and country, talking and sipping coffee to forestall any caffeine withdrawal symptoms I might experience.

On Wednesday early in the afternoon, mom and I boarded an IC and later an ICE (those are the really nice trains where there are people in uniform who come by to sell you an overpriced cup of soaked coffee grounds), and headed back up to Oldenburg when she spent the next couple of days seeing my situation, my town and my life here, then I put her on a train back to Giessen with a tearful goodbye, and have spent the last month and a half trying to suppress my antsyness to see my friends and family again.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

First things later.

Truly, this blog should be an update of my adventures in Salzburg, and an account of my mother's visit, including pictures and clever descriptions of my surroundings and the astonishingly wonderful weather, but it will not be. Today was Carolin's Geburtstag. She has finally entered her fifth year. I use the word finally not because I have watched her since childhood awaiting this day, but rather because the number of crossed-off days on the countdown calendar that I made for her nearly three weeks ago directly corresponds to the excitement that she has built up culminating in a day of romping about, eating treats, and the general frufurie which accompanies the birthday of a child. Six were invited (if you discount Anja, the former au pair, Felix, myself, and Holger and Sabine), but Lena is ill today; so we will give her the bag of party favors at Kindergarten when she is feeling better. The games included TP the parents (i.e. use most of the klo papier in the house to make them into mummies), bobbing for apples (Josie bobbed for a bananna because she's allergic to apples), search for your hand-picked prize in the garden while the kids shout warm oder kalt, and generally play in the sand, sun and grass. Although by the end of the day everyone agreed that it had been filled rather to the point of stuffing with activity, it was quite a glorious day. I had forgotten what it is like to be five and having a birthday; those days when to run in circles is seen as a prudent use of energy and a galaxy of fun!

Friday, April 25, 2008


...has been witnessed in increasing proportions of the last few weeks, but only quite recently has the temperature cooperated with the trend toward spring in the area. This afternoon, as the entire family was away for a vacation, and I have not yet left for Salzburg, I reveled in the luxury of lying in the sun reading snippets of the introduction to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and dozing in an attempt to dispel the conviction that is being formed in the minds of my guest family that my skin is unable to show tokens contact with the sun. The only expression I can formulate for my gratitude that the sun has returned has already been formulated by Mr. Denver... "sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy; sunshine in my eyes can make me cry; sunshine on the water looks so lovely; sunshine almost always makes me high." There you have it. And now it's stuck in your head.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Abendbrot, the closing meal of open-faced sandwiches was surprisingly entertaining this evening. Of late, Carolin, Felix, and I have been the only consistent attendees with Holger and Sabine making appearances later or even after the fact. Regardless of this fact, the table gets set with three sets of adult dishes on a matching plastic plate and cup from Ikea for Carolin. After a tiring day of swimming and taking the bus back home, Carolin was quite tired and rather crabby. We had had a clash of will a little bit earlier which was magnified by the girl's hunger and exhaustion so I chose the orange set out of the cupboard to put at her place.
Carolin's favorite color when I arrived here ten months ago was pink. This girl has pink possessions up the wazoo. But then, for some unknown reason, a couple of months ago she changed her mind and is now all about orange. So it is not surprising that when I looked up from buttering my bread I was confronted with a tableau of orange. My natural response was to share my observation with Carolin in the hopes that we could be mutually delighted in the abundance of her shade of preference, "look at how much orange there is there. Your plate and cup are orange, you fleece is orange. There's orange everywhere." To which comment she replied in a manner quite understated and serious, "yes, I know. And my underwear is orange too."
A bit later, in a rather rare moment of explicit affection as we were talking about my name, she declared, "you are my only Valerie. There will not be another one, and I don't want another au pair, unless it's Anja again." (Anja was the au pair before me, who stayed with the family for two years, and still comes by the house every couple of weeks).
I just thought I would share with all of you the fact that as difficult as this experience has been for me, especially in my relationship with Carolin, there are still those sweet moments that give me a glimmering of a notion that it has been worthwhile.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


to my friends Colin, Summer and Indy, who welcomed Sabine Selby into their family yesterday. I'm excited to get to meet her and to hear more about how the family grows.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Silver and Gold

Well at least the first half of the phrase is spot on.
They say to, "make new friends, but keep the old..."
Yet I must contend with the rigid appearance of those minereal assignments.

The past several years proved the adage half false.
First glancing showed silver, but second showed platinum;
and that which I thought undoubtedly gold, was only the fool's variety.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Swimming and earphones

Today was the first day of Carolin's new swimming class. She's in the seahorse level at the University here in town. It was so strange walking through the locker room with her, Felix on my arm, and having memories from two very different periods of my life flash through my head. The older of the memories came from the days when I first started learning to swim at BSU in a class with my brother and my cousin. We would all shower in a group, then chatter out teeth across the slippery tiles to stand in the gutter next to the pool and await our turn to jump in to the waiting arms of the instructor and start swimming. Although I was even at a very young age a quite timid kid, I remember looking at the tall strong teachers and thinking they were the most wonderful people in the world, and swimming must be one of life's great accomplishments, because "hey look what I can do!" The other memory was from at least a decade later when I worked as a lifeguard at the YMCA and all the instructors were my buddies. In the break room we would compare notes about the fact that the parents where both horribly meddlesome in trying to tell the instructors how to teach their children how to swim, and appallingly negligent in watching to see that their children did not drown, when they were not in lessons. As far as Carolin's experience went, I think it will take her another session or two to fully warm up to the very sweet teachers Kristina, and Coco, but I imagine that after that she will have a marvelous time with all the other Seepferdchen.
As Carolin was in the pool area, Felix and I were banished to the locker room (they figured out the meddlesome parent problem over here), and I was trying to figure out what to do to keep him entertained. As I had my ipod for me, I decided to entertain him with what is now the ol' mouth-as-improvised-speakers trick, that I learned sitting around with a group of particularly bored Gutenberg students in my living room (i.e. Erin, Molly, Noah, and co) on the night of it's discovery. If you've never tried it, this is a fun experiment in itself as you basically end up using the resonating power of you mouth to amplify the sound coming out of the tiny earbuds, but today it was particularly hilarious because of Felix's reaction. He has heard me sing multiple times every single day, so the boy is very familiar with the range and style of my voice, but he was utterly confounded by the drum, guitar, and male vocals that were issuing from my mouth. I wish I had had a camera along with me so that I could have captured his expression, but just imagine extreme bewilderment on the face of an adorable ten month old, and you've got it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Okay, I do realize that in my very last post I stated that there was nothing big in the works and that all my plans were fluid, but all of that has changed; and quite quickly at that. I have not had a chance to introduce all of you to Carlton Schmidt yet. That is partly because I tend to keep the most personal things in my life quite private, and partly because I just met him last week. I have never been one who believes in "love at first sight," or instantly knowing that this person is "the one," but I have to admit, I fell extremely quickly and hard. We actually met on the train last weekend, and since that time I have gone out with him nearly every evening after I get done working (which makes me very tired in the morning). I'll tell you more about him in a later blog, but here are salient facts you all should know about him. He's 27, a linguistics professor at the university here in Oldenburg, born to a British mother and German father, he has lived in Germany most of his life and... we're engaged. We haven't set a date yet, or really made any other plans, but I'm so excited I couldn't wait to post something. So there you have it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The official news

I have been going back an forth for quite some time now on the issue of what the destination should be on my return ticket to the United States. Tonight I finally bought my nonrefundable-in-the-case-of-cancellation-ticket which sealed the decision I had already made to move to Maryland on July 8th for an indefinite period of time (read there: at least a year, and then I would have to earn enough money to move back to the West Coast). What will I do there? Well, that part of things is still uncertain. I am pursuing an opportunity to teach part-time, and am hoping to pursue music and writing more intensively. Odds are much better that I will be able to keep up with my German the closer I am to D.C. Don't worry, all you Eugene-ites (and Portlanders, and all the near-that-area-ers) I will be back to visit Eugene for my dear cousin's wedding in late July/early August, so if you are in the area at that time then please throw me a party so that I can see all of you. There, in brief, is my news. As the rest of my plans are at a liquid stage, and running all over the place, I will wait until they are a little bit more firm to fill you in on them. Don't worry, there's nothing too dramatic in the works. ...And now you know the rest of the story!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

For Amy

I just recieved an email from my dear friend Amy, in which she recalled a visit to Bavaria just before Easter. After reading it I realized that the festivities here as I described them can only be understood if you have indeed visited Germany for the holiday. So I decided I would include the only two pictures I remembered to take to commemorate the holiday. The first is the Easter egg tree which I described in my last blog (utilizing the proper, prettier branches), and my favorite of the eggs hanging from it.
My apologies for the poor quality, but it was midnight after a long cold day when I took them. I was the last one in the kitchen Saturday before Easter boiling two dozen eggs to devil the next morning my my church's brunch. I figured that deviled eggs would be something of a novelty here; which indeed they would have been if I had not forgotten them on the kitchen counter.
In other news, I have finally begun to make plans for my re-entry to the United States, and will disclose them in a blog devoted solely to news.
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy, but alive.

I find that I must once again assert that I am alive. I have been rather busy the last couple of weeks celebrating Easter and welcoming Josh to Germany. Easter is not a small holiday here. That is evident in that they decorate the house in honor of the day. Not just with flowers and a pair of bunnies... they go to rather more trouble. First someone is sent out to collect green branches from which to hang the painted eggs that are often the result of years of collecting. Then there are the other easter ornaments that get hung all over the house. It was rather baffling for me to take in, and when Carolin and I were originally sent out to collect the branches, our mutual inexperience led us to branches that were more like small walking sticks than graceful decorations and a second collecting expidition was required.
Just before Easter, Josh arrived rather tired in Germany. After several somewhat chaotic days- in which we managed to all get sick, travel to the furthest edge of Niedersachsen to visit Goslar and see the Kaiserhaus (pictured below) where it was snowing, celebrate Easter, hear German spoken with a very thick Irish accent (a concert at the local Irish Pub)- we sent Josh on his way to Berlin and we have spent the rest of the week trying to get through all of our illnesses. It is currently nearly 1:15 am here, and my thoughts have been fuzzy for several hours now, so I am going to cut this very short, but I hope to be able to write more soon and more consistantly again. Liebe Grüße!
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not dropped off the face of the earth.

This is, as a matter of fact, where I was last week. Well, only for a couple of days which doesn't completely account for my blogging absence, but I am assuming that I will be forgiven so long as I return to the straight and narrow path of semi-regular correspondence.
"You sitting on a street corner for a couple of days? That sounds miserable," you might observe.
Well, I wasn't always on that street corner. The picture is merely intended to prove the fact that I was in Vienna last week. That large and rather ornate building is the Vienna State Opera House. The reason that there are not more pictures is that my computer is too old to handle the task of uploading more than one photo at a time, so I will have to verbally describe the sights and experiences of last week.
On Sunday (the 3rd, was it?), Sabine, Felix, and I all packed into the 5 seater Opel-that is a brand of car that we don't usually see much of stateside- and headed several hours south to Heidelberg. Sabine had a conference during the day so Felix and I were free to explore Wiesloch and Heidelberg for the three days. So every morning we would bundle up, I would fight Felix into the baby runner, and we would set off for the big city. Everyone that I have talked to in Germany has told me that the castle in Heidelberg is a must-see. It's 1/2 ruined, 1/2 renovated in the last century, and is amazing. Quite large, and situated on the hill overlooking the city, der Schloss has become rather legendary. In the days of Goethe it was already famous, and even Mark Twain visited and wrote about its beauty. The old downtown of the city was also charming with the typical cathedrals and architecture that have not yet ceased to stun me with their beauty. After three very cold and partly rainy days, Sabine and Felix dropped me off at the airport on their way north, and I caught a flight to Bratislava.
Arriving in Bratislava safe and sound, I took the shuttle bus 1 1/2 hours to Vienna and despite the fact that my cell phone slipped into a coma, managed to find my way to the apartment of my host family's cousin, with whom I was staying. The next morning I commenced my foot tour of downtown Vienna. Based on the recommendations of my host, I spent most of the day just wandering around the ring circle (downtown old city Vienna). It was amazing. Every time I turned the corner I was facing some new and beautiful building, or some statue of a famous person (I'm telling you, Vienna has a ridiculous number of statues), or a cafe. The first day I went to HausderMusik (a music and Vienna Philharmonic museum), a cafe, found the most incredible antique bookstores that made me drool as I got to hold a copy of Tacitus which was printed in 1799, sat in a cafe, and in the evening I got a ground floor standing place for the Opera. This was such an enchanting experience that I decided to return the next evening to see La Boheme.
After my 2 1/2 days I left Vienna with the feeling that I had barely scratched the surface of what that marvelous city has to show me, and headed back to Bratislava to catch my flight back to Bremen. By the way, Slovakia is rather a wasteland, in my opinion. Compared to the opulence of Wien, it seemed dirty and dumpy for the entire five minutes that the shuttle was in the downtown area. I have hear reports that Bratislava has vastly improved in recent years, but beyond getting to see the Danube, I was unimpressed. I will, for the time being, stick with Austria.
So there you have it. I am still alive and kicking. There are plenty of other things that I have to say, but this post has already run far too long, so I will simply have to blog in a more timely manner this week. Servus!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Valentine's Day

I am fully aware of the fact that the very title of this blog can be deemed pitiful when one looks at the calendar and observes that I am still ruminating over the holiday nearly a week later, but not one to be afraid (in this instance) of potential mockery, I will proceed to recount the events surrounding my celebration of the holiday. To understand the dramatic difference between my celebration of the lover's holiday this year and in years past, it seems beneficial for me to confess that I once started a club in preparation of the holiday. I was either in early high school or just finishing middle school in a time and community that walked high-nosedly past those poor lost children who dated on another to that higher calling of courtship, when I began this club. Adhering to the principles of courtship though naturally jealous of the attention and status that one attains in a dating relationship, I named the club the Valentine's-day-haters-alliance. I even typed up an invitation for select people to join this select number of people who would bond together in a group (as dictated by the rules of courtship) and commiserate our single fate (young as we still were). This year was entirely different. The personal tradition of the day that I did keep, was the tradition of not sharing the holiday with a boyfriend, but for the first time I was utterly unphased by this. I started my morning as usual power walking to the bus stop to avoid having to endure the humiliation of running and waving my hands to convince the driver to stop for my late person, went to school where I earned three pieces of chocolate by merely sitting there and being a fellow student, came home and cared for the kids, did all of my nightly routines and went to bed. This seems to be the end of the story, but no, the longest part of this tale is the beginning. The day before Valentine's day, thanks to the lovely and dangerously creative Tegan, I received a care package in the mail containing tea, popcorn ingredients (which anyone who knows me well could assert is a deep passion of mine which occasionally borders on obsession; particularly when I am unable to find Brewer's yeast), Sixlets, and most entertainingly, an entire entourage of my friends carefully rendered in black lines pursuing various activities. On Saturday, I was thrilled to receive another package, this time from the Taylors, jammed with deliciousnesses I have dearly missed such as Kettle Chips, Oreos, and yes, more popcorn, feathers (which are not included in the category of deliciousness) and a mad lib Valentine which I will include in the comment section. The weekend rolled around and I spend it with some fellow students, but along with Monday arrived yet another care package, this time from my mother. Hers included chocolate chips (which I believe I have already complained that of all the forms of chocolate in this country, chips is not included), Cheetoes, peanut butter filled pretzels (which happens to be nearly the only occasion that I enjoy peanut butter), and pajama pants! If this is the new standard that is being set for this holiday that I have so long despised and despaired before, then it might soon rival Christmas and I will need to over-celebrate a holiday in August or September just to spread the festivity a bit more evenly throughout the year. So that was my Valentine's days. Deepest, most heartfelt thanks to Tegan, Bryan, Ella, Coal, Will, and my Mother.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Days of tea and white paper

Last night, to end a week that seemed to move slightly more slowly than other weeks of my experience, I indulged myself and watched not only the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion (which novel resides on the top -rather small- tier of my hierarchy of favorite books) but also another of Mrs. Gaskell's novels brought to the screen called North and South. Charmed as I was and always am by these period romances, I find myself today in a corresponding mood where it is my occupation and leisure to sit at my desk with a deliciously hot cup of black tea to fortify myself against the chill which quietly enters through my open window, and write those things with pen and ink which are the creation of my combined imagination, reflections and romantic fancies, and which, I am quite confident, will not be admitted to the censure of any but myself in this lifetime. Still, I am quite contented to sit and write my ramblings to my imagined audience, as I find it a most soothing exercise for my soul and mind. These are the moments and hours so quickly forgotten, but which adds that richness and joy to the rest of our lives, and for them I am profoundly grateful.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I think it sounds better in German

Frauen sind wie Teebeutel. Du weißt nie, wie stark sie sind bis du sie in heißes Wasser geworfen hast.
~Elanor Roosevelt

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Kinder verteuern

This theme has been a natural background to my thoughts for the past nearly seven months, but has taken several steps toward the foreground in the last few weeks. I heard rumors that David C. formed many of his opinions about the way he wanted to raise his children while he was working as an au pair in France. I certainly have a different perspective now than I did before I came here. Previously, I assumed that I would be able to figure things out when I got there; that I didn't really need to work it all out right now; that of course, I'll basically just follow the pattern by which I was reared. I have also been theoretically aware that culture has a great and formative influence on our lives. This year is something of a cross between a training session, and an observation class in parenting, in culture, as well as in how the two interact. I have found the most dramatic representation of the difference between American and German styles of parenting can be demonstrated in the fact that spanking is illegal in Germany (as in many European nations). The reason I find this significant is because whether it is symptom or cause, it is representative of the German mindset regarding parenting. From what I have observed in both my guest family and other families I have encountered, German parents are very indulgent and maintain hardly any authority. Even the non-physical punishments that I have seen commonly applied in the US such as time outs, or revocation of privileges are virtually non-existent here. I find this harmful to both the kids and the parents because without authority and the freedom to enforce that authority, parents resort to trickery, manipulation, and yelling to coerce the children to obey. In turn the children learn to manipulate, trick, and yell. I awaken nearly every morning to the dulcet sounds of Carolin yelling at her mother because she doesn't want to do some thing or another; which sounds are generally repeated in the evening as Carolin fights against going to bed. Unfortunately, many of her sweet moments are also not particularly genuine because she has learned the art of manipulation is an effective tool in getting what you want, trumped only by crocodile tears. Really, it isn't spanking or not spanking that concerns me; the thing that is really saddening is the fact that I don't see the parents working to instill selflessness, kindness, and obedience in their children. It often seems that they are merely concerned with keeping them happy until they reach adulthood when they're on their own. All of these thoughts come at the tail end of nearly three quite difficult weeks and this space is severely limiting the scope and detail that this subject deserves, but nevertheless, I am learning to deeply appreciate you parents I know and see working so diligently to instill virtue in your children regardless of how difficult that task may be. Thank you especially to my own parents for working so hard and sacrificing so much for your children.


Chilled fingers fighting the keyboard, Tori Amos playing over the speakers, I am, on this very cold day with smatterings of snow, to be found in Woyton coffee shop. This is the most Americanized coffee shop I have found other than Starbucks. That is, it has couches, and all the employees wear the same maroon polo shirt, and I don't feel guilty for sitting here for hours on end taking up space for my writing, thinking, or reading, as my mood dictates. If you want a European cafe experience, skip right past Woyton, and go to Cafe Klinge on the corner where they have the "Taglich Kaffee und Kuchen Angebot," (daily cake and coffee special). Woyton is my destination today because part of its taglich Angebot is an internet connection. Yesterday, for confused and insufficient reason, Telecom discontinued our telephone and internet services at the house. The other factor which makes Woyton a justifiable place for me to visit, is the fact that it is one of the places that the youth of the city spend time during the day. Other than the few in my language class, I have begun to lose contact with people my age. My time is spend most often with people ten-twenty years on either side of my age, and proximity to my peers is, however superficial, refreshing. So this afternoon I am making my home in a corner of this coffee shop. With my greatcoat supporting my lower back, and hot coffee amply (though not necessarily economically) at my disposal, I have spent the charming hours hiding from the cold. It's not all that common, as far as I have been able to discover, to find snow in Oldenburg, but this afternoon we had an honest fall. Not the deceitful flakes that make you wonder whether you're seeing snow or rain, but the large clumps that would completely blanket the earth in a matter of minutes, were it as cold on the ground as it apparently was up in the clouds. Of course it snowed today only because Holger, Sabine and I were talking about the joys of spring and summer over what was my late breakfast and their lunch. Still, I am grateful because I still perceive snow as a rare commodity, and find myself thrilled every time I see it on the other side of the window enclosing my place of warm repose.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

...of rain

It has been months since I last visited what is quickly becoming my beloved Bremen, but today was the day for it. These January days are, to my mind, best used to travel. So long as the conveyance is closed and can boast a functioning heating system. After the normal greet and coffee drinking that characterizes the close of all the church services I have encountered here in Germany, I tossed my pack onto one of my shoulders and marched practically across the street from my church into the train station. Then it was off to Bremen. There is always this quick moment of panic as the conductor approaches to confirm my fare. I have no idea why, because free weekend rides to Bremen are one of the bonus features of my year long bus ticket, and I pat myself down multiple times on the way to both the bus stop and the train station every time; still those posted warnings about the illegality of riding without a ticket seem to have seeped into my innermost thoughts emerging to toy with my anxiety at will. Despite that moment of trepidity, I spent 40 pleasant minutes on the train and disembarked to find (na Klar!) that it was raining at my destination. To correctly understand the air of resignation I then forced upon myself, you must first understand my relationship to rain. It is of the polar persuasion. Born in the high desert, I grew up being more familiar with cacti and dry, cracked knuckles than synonyms for precipitation. On those delightful evenings when it actually rained it worked to make up in enthusiasm whatever was lost by its prolonged absence. When it stormed we got the whole show: lights and drums. At eighteen, when I moved to Oregon, my understanding of rain was quite altered. The rain started around September and didn't let up until June. It is the sort of rain that must have inspired Chinese Water Torture. I endure this sort of rain primarily by reminding myself that it is the source of the incredible green I am dazzled by throughout the year, but most especially spanning the entire summer. Without that constant reminder, and the frequent application of warm beverages to my internal organs, there is only a fraction of a possibility that I would have lived in Oregon as long as I have. Ironically, the area of Germany in which I find myself has precisely the same weather pattern found in the Willamette Valley with the increased discomfort of a slight general drop, and an increase in windiness in temperature. All of that is to say that it was raining in Bremen. Still, I acquired and partook of the aforementioned hot liquid, sat with my books and unfinished letters, and spend a delightful afternoon in the town next door. At the termination of my visit to Bremen I had another peaceful (although delayed ten minutes by an accident on the rail) train ride home where I now sit in a cozy corner writing a long-overdue blog, which I now close with the wish that you may soon find a moment of weather most particularly suited to your tastes or the ability to endure that which is instead set before you.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The hardest things...

...make us stronger, right? Well, there have been no monumentally difficult things such as me breaking up with a boyfriend, or family or friends dying, but rather the thing which has been continually difficult for me here is the solitariness. Not that I am alone. I am constantly surrounded by people, occasionally to my annoyance. No, the difficulty is having this "experience" that I know is forming my mind and life, and yet not sharing it with someone. If you ever move to a different country for a year, bring someone with you. I am at the point now that I am just looking forward to being home, hoping that things and people haven't changed too much in my absence. Will I look back on my time in Germany with a warm fuzzy feeling? Not immediately. I will always be grateful for what I have learned and experienced, but it has been a consistently difficult year so far. Six more months. Gestern bin ich alleine ins Kino gegangen, und das war ein bißen traurig. Das Film war toll aber ich weinte, weil neimand mit mir war. Experiences, both good and bad, are always enriched by being able to share them with others. That is partly why I blog, but it doesn't really scratch the surface of what I am doing here. So those are my thoughts which close the weekend, amplified by the fact that I watched a movie alone, and had my sister here for a couple of days two weeks ago; a reminder of how much I miss home, family and friends.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls I would like you to finally meet my charges:
Felix... bigger now,
but he looks just the same when he's sleeping on my arm.

...likes making messes when she bakes, and even when she doesn't

is in here twice because he's so cute, and I think this picture is funny

So now you have met them.

Photos von Urlaub

I promised that I would actually put up a couple of pictures of things here, so I will try to do that the next couple of blogs. My apology in advance, that my pictures with Katie and Matt haven't made it onto my computer just yet.

I last talked about my day with the street musicians. Here are those charmers. As you can imagine, there was always a huddle of 16-25 year old girls freezing themselves and listening. I found out later that Dave (far right) connected with his girlfriend while he was "busking," as street entertaining is called. They are (from left, just like reading): Dominik, Samuel and David.


Katie woo took this picture of me walking through the monument to the fallen Jews in Berlin. It's an awesome monument. Really solemn and yet really alive, with people usually running through it.

<------- On our one day tour through Berlin, I made Katie and Matt wander around with me until we found Fassbender & Rausch, Chocolatiers Am Gendarmenmarkt,
again so that I could buy amazing chocolate even by German standards. This is a picture of a model of two famous buildings in Berlin (I only remember that they're nicknamed the lipstick and powder box) but the whole model is made out of chocolate. They also have a model of the Titanic, which is probably 5 feet long. It's deeply tempting, but that little placard at the base says not to touch, and for some reason I tend to obey the placards.