Thursday, September 29, 2005

Take Me Home

I think those John Denver songs whipped up some good apartment-hunting karma, because we've found a place to live! We think. We're ironing out the details and will post photos etc later on. I'm especially looking forward to signing the contracts, which are all in German and I won't understand. Ignorance is bliss!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rocky Mountain High





Yesterday we drove to Munich and spent several hours at Oktoberfest, Germany’s version of the state fair only with gallons of beer instead of boring needlework exhibits. I feel a little bit bad that the first photos I’ve posted depict some of the most stereotype-enhancing images in the country, but I was living the stereotype too as a tourist wandering the food booths and pointing at pretzels and litres of beer. I did surmise a couple of things:
-"Take Me Home, Country Roads" is Germany's informal national anthem. The hordes in the beer halls leapt to their feet whenever the bands began to play this song. And they all sang along, word-perfect. I wonder if they know where West Virginia is? Let's face it, many US citizens barely know where West Virginia is. I remember that my fellow exchange students from Latin America really loved that other John Denver song, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Maybe he was the David Hasselhof of the seventies – international superstar?
-People here really do wear lederhosen. I estimate that roughly one-tenth of the revelers at the 'fest were wearing traditional garb. I loved this, since I'm all about costumes. It made me want to rush out and buy a cute dirndl to wear next year. I'm not sure I have the (ahem) assets to pull off the d├ęcolletage part, but I like the slimming nature of the full skirt and apron. I'm serious about loving it - I can respect a culture where traditional garb is still a tradition. Like cowboy boots in Montana, maybe?
Now that I’ve seen the Disneyland of German beer fests, I’m looking forward to the smaller, more regional versions that will take place next summer in the villages throughout our region. By then, maybe I’ll find an appropriate outfit?

Thanks to those of you who are keeping your fingers crossed for us as we hunt for an apartment. We’re still working on it, but I remain optimistic. I used to spend a lot of time in hotels for my job and I did enjoy it, but I’ve realized that the enjoyment lasted because I knew I had a real home to return to at the end of each trip. Right now, we’re still searching for a place that feels like home.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Spoiler Alert

I've just returned from a triumphal visit to the English-language movie theatre in Nuernberg. Triumphal because I drove there myself and got lost only once, which resulted in a scenic detour toward Wurzburg. Triumphal also because I found the theatre on the first try and the car wasn't towed while I watched the movie. And triumphal especially because I saw "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which I wasn't sure I would get to view on the big screen since I hadn't managed to see it before we left the States. Jeff refused to see it with me because he says Oompa Loompas give him nightmares. I will watch anything starring Johnny Depp since I think he is dreamy. Though Willy Wonka is a decidedly asexual role, but he was still fetching and entertaining and interesting. Perhaps I'll start stalking him now that I live nearer his home in France.

Because I am self-centered (only child trait rears its ugly head), I related to almost every character in the film, including the bratty kids (ahem, only child again) and even Willy Wonka. At one point he pulls a grey hair from his head (don't worry, this won't ruin the movie for you, and besides you already know the story, don't you?), realizes that he is mortal, and that he'd better start thinking about the future. I think it's no coincidence that just as a preponderance of grey hairs began springing forth from my scalp this year, an opportunity for a life change appeared. This move to Germany is my very own Chocolate Factory (yes, I've twisted the metaphor). Living outside my home country was something I'd always wanted to do, but it took a few grey hairs and the realization that I'm not getting any younger to make me pursue it. That and an adventuresome spouse whose job generously worked out the finances for us. A good reason to be thankful for the next grey hair I pull out of my head.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Learning

The week we left home (our old home, that is) our nephew Jack began his first week of pre-school. Jack is a friendly, outgoing kid who likes to talk and play with trains and chase his cousins around. He is lucky that he's spent most of the hours of his life when he happens to be away from his parents with his grandparents or the myriad (almost twenty!) aunts and uncles that surround him. So heading off to pre-school was a big deal and very different than his everyday experiences. On Thursday night, the night before we departed, Jeff's family got together for a late-summer barbecue. Of course, there was plenty of discussion about our departure the following day, and promises to visit us, and plans for our first visit home. We also heard about Jack's first week of school - his backpack and his cubby, the teddy bear song, and learning how to criss-cross-applesauce. Much of this narrative was prompted by his parents - "Jack, did you take your backpack to school? Where did you put it when you got there? Did you learn a new song?" At one point during the evening, he piped up to his grandpa, "Today at school, I cried." Like dutiful aunties and uncles, we immediately began to tell him it's OK, and he shouldn't be scared, and think of all the new friends and snacks. "But sometimes when you try new things, you cry," he replied to us. And then he resumed gleefully screaming and chasing his cousin around the yard.

I've thought about Jack's piece of wisdom (and I suspect that I should attribute it equally to his wise mother) during the past few days. Change is hard. Spending time in a place where you don't know the rules or even how to ask what the rules are is difficult. Last night we walked down the street to eat at what we thought was a typical biergarten. We were expecting sausages and potatoes. Instead, after missing the main entrance and being scolded for entering the restaurant through the kitchen, we found a menu that included buckwheat crepes, spare ribs, and Mexican food. We haven't slept well in four or five days, so we decided to eat the crepes (they were fine - inevitably better than the Mexican food, we hear) and get out of there and go to bed. We were exhausted but after going to bed, we both spent most of the night tossing and turning and trying to be quiet in case the person across the bed had somehow managed the miracle of sleep. At about 2:40 am - the third German 2:40 am I have experienced in my four nights in this country - I wanted to cry. But I was too tired. So instead I thought about Jack and realized that today, Tuesday, he will go back to pre-school even though he cried last time, and he will learn some new songs and probably make a new friend. So today I hope to learn some new things (where to find a decent bratwurst, for example; hey, I'm aiming low) and if I'm lucky maybe I'll dream my way through 2:40 am and get up in the morning and make a new friend.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We're he-ere.

We made it. We're in Deutschland. We've had our breakfast of hard rolls and ham and cheese, and we've already tired of CNN International. What the H-E-double-toothpicks are we doing here?? We're paying for internet access by the minute (wi-fi, yes; free, no) so I'll write more offline and post it later.

Friday, September 02, 2005

My Bookies

Just to prove to you that our room at the Residence Inn is not a complete intellectual wasteland, I'm going to shoot out a couple of book reports at ya:

I just finished The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, one of those books that tells a story that feels nice and cozy and small but when you talk about it sounds big and epic and meaningful. Like Middlesex (which you really must read even if you've heard it's about transsexuals and that seems a little 'edgy' for you), it taught me something about cultures within cultures and integrating without really integrating. Yes, I'm making notes to self for future reference. And it had good food descriptions which always moves any book up a few notches on my personal rating scale.

The Sparrow and Children of God are two of those books that few of my book-y (vs. bookie) friends seemed to know about but which are devoured by everyone who picks them up - people who like to read, people who only read USA Today, people who hate science fiction, people who refuse to read about religion, etc etc. I don't think I'm about to become a sci fi junkie but if I start receiving invitations to Trekkie conventions, we'll know why. And just shut up about that link to Wil Wheaton's blog and the X-Files and Buffy addictions. That's different.

I'm feeling melancholy book-wise, probably because Monday was my last appearance at my book group. There are those who label book groups as an excuse to seem intellectual while actually just drinking too much wine on a weeknight and gossiping about "The O.C." (which has been known to happen) but along with the gossiping we've squeezed in some great conversations about spirituality, culture, sex (no, not specific instances of sex, so all you significant others out there can just calm the heck down), education, and art. Plus I've made some groovy friends who sometimes think I'm neat. Movie Stars, I'll miss you.