Sunday, December 31, 2006

I always feel like, somebody's watching me

I spent the past week in D.'s office, doing a bit of work and enjoying being around people again.

I had my first run-in with a SNAFU or the Arbeitsagentur (I wasn't surprised - are you?). The letter requesting that I show up on the 27th turned out to be, as I suspected, a mistake and since I knew that I let the matter drop after two unsuccessful attempts to get a hold of the woman who had sent it. (I am not drawing benefits; I only came in to get my resume reviewed and ask a few questions only to have a letter arrive two days later asking me to return for "a discussion of my employment situation" - could they be vaguer?)

My in-law's house, where we are staying is a disaster area (our fault), but we are feeding the cat and keeping the "rolladen" rolling shutters in the appropriate up or down position. Check this out - Years ago, D. was house-sitting for his parents and neglected the rolladen in a half-bath on the first floor. The room is not used and I, personally, feel that it is the height of silliness to raise and lower the blind in a room which no one enters. Well, apparantly, when his parents returned from vacation, the neighbors informed them about the blind which had not been raised and lowered. D. no longer remembers whether his parents were annoyed.

I refuse, on principle to mess with this blind. It is bad enough that we are fooling around with the blinds in unused bedrooms upstairs, in some cases wasting electricity to accomplish this. Is this to American, too practical? That's not me in the photo, btw. I am not blond, nor are there palm trees here near the Black Forest.

We were running out to work the other morning when two neighbors way-laid us and made sure we put out the trash cans. I think one of the cans was actually empty - but I didn't want to argue. I am grateful; we hadn't looked at the schedule, but one definitely does have the impression that one is being watched. The grape-vine among employees of a federal agency where I worked and where we all lived together is small potatoes compared to small-town Germany.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Still working on a tight schedule here and technologically handicapped at my current location :),
so today I will just pass on to the 5 people who still haven't heard about it, a blog I got from Papa Scott's link blog yesterday.

I am tempted to complain that I wasn't warned, but being that he did write about the blog back in February when its author began writing, I wouldn't have a foot to stand on.

However, I am warning you. You may want to read it where you have some privacy and perhaps some kleenex. It might make sense to read chronologically starting in February, but I didn't. It's been a long time since I read something that really shook me as deeply as Dear Elena.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We have no tree; we didn't cook - how can we be stressed?

Oy! I am hoping that the kind folks who have been stopping by recently won't be too put off by my not having blogged the past few days.

Friday evening, it was off to write a cover leter (Anschreiben), so that I could send out a copy of my resume to someone who was expecting it. Really, (*joking*) my faith in eternal punishment/reward helps me deal with the fact that I can't actually do bodily harm to the person who invented the cover letter (*joking*).

Letter written and printed, we to our photographer to pick up wedding photos and then to the post office of last refuge (still open at 19:00). Then, like all other Germans we bought enough food for a week, what with not being able to go food shopping for 4 days and headed to the appartment - 20:15.

Then we packed up our lives to head off to the far-(20 km)-away countryside for 2 weeks of cat sitting. Arrival ca. 23:00.

Saturday morning was a flurry of baking and cooking and getting out to pick up the last presents and baking again for Monday.

Sunday morning was relaxed and Sunday evening was a delight - although I could have done without the drive home through some of the worst fog I have ever experienced -
German factoid - the Germans have, in addition to their hazards a special extra bright tail-light that should be used (and only may be used) when fog has reduced visibility to 50 m.

Not being at home, I have to work out how I am going to get some pictures of Strasbourg up - but
let at least lead you to Te Deum laudemus! for some beatiful pictures of a Rorate Mass and an explanation of this German Catholic tradition of candlelit Masses in Advent. I experienced this for the first time, quite accidentally, Saturday night. I am so sorry that I missed the other ones in Advent - It was soooo lovely.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Well, I have one more reason to be thankful this Christmas. I sent out one "initiativbewerbung" and I received an invitation to an interview. They aren't sure if they are looking to hire someone in the short or mid-term, but I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to interview and the office location and their project focus are a good match for me. And one more treat - the interview is to be in 5 weeks, which means that I a) have time to prepare b) have 5 weeks of hope c) have to do my darndest to get my other inquiry emails out pronto for more local companies.

Plus I am still working on the dissertation editing project and I have to bake something to take on Monday to D.'s godparents. (We were invited to dinner - and there will be small children, so Christmas won't be such a wash after all.)

Busy, busy. Which is very good (and apparently catching these days).

Three more qick notes before I am outta here for today (have to get a throw-away application into the mail).

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. My sisters and I got her a digital camera (that D. and I love - his mom has the same one.) I don't know if I have ever given such a big present before. I paid all kinds of extra postage so it would get there on time. That whole kerfuffle was another reason I was up half the night on Sunday.) It arrived Tues! so I could definitely have spent less. I am just so excited and I can't wait til tomorrow for her to open her present. yey.

Today is the shortest day in the year. If that is not a reason for the heart of an expat to swell with joy, I do not know what is. It's all downhill from here to June -ahhhh.

Thankyou, Thank you, Thank you to Megan at "Still here, still foreign" for her link to a collection of Christmas classics on-line. If I were home, I would rent them and all the right people would get their money, but I am far from the mothership and watching the Grinch movie with D. last night, letting him know their was a grinch world before Jim Carey, that was a special treat.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Attention, Attention

To read around the ex-pat blog world, many of my fellow bloggers (said humbly, being that all of them have been at this longer than I) are learning German. Without want ing in any way to discourage them, I am about to demonstrate that it might not be as rewarding as one might hope.

I watched the Hape Kerkeling live special on the weekend. Perhaps best known for his "Hurz" sketch ages ago in which he and a colleague try to pass off a bit of silliness as serious music, he has a full show, much of which is now on Youtube. So illegal, but yet, so useful.

You don't have to understand German to get this clip because I am about to fill you in on everything he says to set up this sketch.

Part I
Germans aren't necessarily well received in foreign countries. He attended an intensive communication course in the States last year and there the instructor greeted the course participants and then asked each of them to introduce themselves. . . .

Part II
There is now an announcement each evening in St. Peter's square in Rome in every language (No, there isn't; this is made up.) asking visitors to remain in the square to offer Vespers (Evening Prayer) together with the pope.

and now, without any further ado, I give you Hape Kerkeling

Monday, December 18, 2006

The moose that saved the Christmas cards

Last week wound up being surprisingly busy, which is wonderful for me, as the roller coaster of the past few weeks has involved
1. determination
2. reading through the want-ads and not finding anything appropriate
3. depression
4. renewed determination
5. reading the "How to Apply for a Job" books
6. depression
7. renewed determination
8. advice from all fronts in direct contradiction of advice from books and in some cases my own good sense
9. depression
all in all not leading to much progress whatso ever

I am editing the dissertation of a friend who is writing in English and that has put a lot on my plate. There are sections of it which are related to my field of interest, so the editing bears no resemblence to the process of correcting a materials sciences dissertation- I did that two years ago. There, all you can do is pleaed for a reduction in the number of times "thus" is used and make sure that the subjects and verbs agree and that tenses are uniform.

We were supposed to meet again this morning, and for that reason, I was up until 3:30 in the morning trying to work through more of her text. It should never have gotten that late, but our visit to my in-laws, a painful thing these days, dragged out much later than I had hoped and my anticipated brief call to my parents turned into a major production.

#1 daughter to the rescue. (If there is one thing I can do, it is beating files into submission. Maybe that should be on my resume. One learns doing groundwater modeling or GIS work, that data is a many-formated thing. And then there is Germany with ,'s for .'s Very bad things happen to comma delimited text files. )

In this case, it was getting my parents' Christmas card address list from MS Works database format onto another computer and into Excel. Not difficult, you say, and I agree, but talk a 76 year-old through the process some time soon and you will know that it is not an affair of two minutes. (Granted, this is a 76 year-old who addresses his Christmas cards using a mail merge and has for years, but still, I cannot get him to leave unused windows open on the desktop.) This never would have happened if evil Dell had properly installed the software that my parents paid for! Word 2002 is part of the Works 2004 Suite, but Dell installs a demo version of Office XP and didn't install the registerd version of Word 2002. The demo version of Word can only be opened 50x, which leaves them completely without word processing software. We don't know what installing a second version of Word on the computer would do and it's not the thing you clear up a week before Christmas as you are fighting to get you Christmas cards out.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Which Christmas Meme are You?

1. Eggnog, Cider or Hot Chocolate?

Eggnog. Cider is for October.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
Wrap - he has his own paper that doesn't get used for any other presents.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored at home with my parents. I prefer white lights outdoors. I have never had my very own tree.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
My parents put everything up very late. The tree goes up a few days before Christmas. We are big Advent people.

6. What is your favorite Christmas dish?

7. Favorite Christmas memory as a child?
Getting a three speed bike as a child. I was so excited because I initially thought it must be fore my mom. Two of my later favorite memories involve Midnight Mass in Denver - one year I went with my then boyfriend and it snowed and the next year I went with a buch of exchange students. Both incredible experiences.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't remember, but when my sister and I went around finger printing all the adults (graphite powder and scotch tape) and getting handwriting samples, my parents figured that the jig was up. This all decades before the advent of CSI.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No. Where I come from, you don't do that unless your family is Italian, which mine isn't.

10. What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him?
Whatever we've baked. We were always very good about the carrots for the reindeer as well.

11. Snow! Love it or hate it?
Love it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes. My parents brought my skates over with them when they cam or the wedding.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?bike - see above

14. What's the most important thing about Christmas to you?

15. What is your favorite Christmas dessert?
Pumpkin chiffon pie - Christmas is a great excuse to do Thanksgiving all over again.

16. Favorite Christmas tradition?
I already wrote about lovign the BBC broadcast of "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" and I enjoy Midnight Mass. In some years, I have called around to my friends, and I will be able to that again this year.

17. What tops your tree?

18. Which do you prefer--GIVING OR RECEIVING?
Receiving - let's face facts here.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
I'll be Home for Christmas always makes me cry
Religious English- O Holy Night, Religious German - Stille Nacht, O Du Fröhliche

Albums - Bing Crosby White Chrstmas and the Muppets Christmas Album

20. Candy Canes?

There are people who say "no"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

What we are doing for Christmas

a.k.a. Oh, we had plans.

I've been meaning to share what we are actually going to be doing for Christmas for a while . . .so I'm rushing to get it down with the intent to edit later (yeah right)

Two incredibly kind, attractive and intelligent folks I met while studying in Germany are having their religious wedding in the RB Venezuela very soon. We wanted to go, but in the summer we were completely overcome with wedding planning, and when we came up for air -
  1. None of the bride's closest friends from Germany were able to go. (I belong more to the aquaintance circle.)
  2. My Spanish speaking friends weren't going
  3. D. and I don't speak Spanish
  4. Caracas has not magically morphed into Zürich and you have to fly there to get anywhere else - and unlike the rest of the world, the airport is also a dangerous place to be. (I have heard nothing but good things about the city where the wedding is taking place. The residents are said to be very friendly, and to speak lovely Spanish. The region is said to be particularly beautiful. We had a friend just come back from that city and he has just raved about it. He, on the other hand, knows someone who was robbed at the airport and was able to arrange for a private person to pick him up .)
  5. We didn't have tickets yet.
It would have been extremely awkward, being the only non-Latinos at something like that, particularly since we can't manage on our own.

Then there was talk of going to visit D.'s brother in Africa with the rest of the family. I had minor misgivings that it might be a wee bit too much togetherness, but it never became an issue because D. doesn't have vacation at Christmas. He was visiting said brother last year, and he and co-worker with children trade off, it's only fair that we are here this year.

That practical aspect (and ticket prices) also meant that any last minute trip to CR where we have a very gracious invitation and I have more confidence that we could get by with English was also not an option. A quick trip to the States was also out.

So then I planned a trip to the Alsace. I slogged through incredible webpages, in French, mind you. With many pages, the info is considerably more detailed in French than in any other language (quelle surprise!). I wanted to spend 3 or 4 days and go to Colmar, and perhaps pop back over the Rhein to Freiburg before spending Christmas Eve and Christmas in Strasbourg.

Well, we are not doing that either because there is a cat, with no one to keep him company. So that's what we are doing - watching the cat. We are still going to Strasbourg for one incredibly long and in all likelihood exhausting Christmas Eve, because I do not want to miss this (see right), and because the Christmas markets are open in Strasbourg on the 24th after everything in Germany is shut down.

And I find it strangely comforting to be needed, if only by a cat.

Updates jeglicher Art

In the past few days I
  • Had a really nice time at my husband's office Christmas party. I used to work there, too and it was good to see my former co-workers again. I miss them!
  • Drank way too much Glühwein.
  • Have been a bit under the weather.
  • Slept til 1300 on Sunday.
  • Chatted with my neice. Sending the jumbo Adventkalendar wins you bigtime points.
  • Watched the paint bubble and peel in one part of the bath - on to plan B (as yet unknown)
  • Watched a Swiss version of Heidi. It was unspeakably darling.
The version we saw was on Swiss TV, so of course, Heidi spoke Swiss German, but apparently there is also an international version of the DVD. I can't imagine that is anywhere near as charming dubbed, but I leaned on the Hochdeutsch subtitles once in a while because I can only speak, to quote the tutor, "...Court German, the language of educated people".

I have not lived in Germany long enough . . .

to think that these are cool. And I doubt I ever will.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Then all the reindeer LOVED him . . .

Following Mausi's and Heather's lead, I took the Reindeer Quiz
You Are Rudolph

Sweet and shy, you tend to be happiest when you're making someone else happy.

Why You're Naughty: You sometimes stick that nose where it doesn't belong

Why You're Nice: Christmas would be a sad affair without you!

No one seems to think the results are all that accurate - and I could just as easily have answered chocolate as beer. But it would have to be good beer, and I like even bad chocolate.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Congratulations to Natalia

and the whole Torres family. Natalia is only 1 of three lovely and talented Torres Corral sisters!

Newspaper Article 1

Newspaper Article 2

Newspaper Article 3

Natalia earned a perfect score and the highest score in this year's admission exam to the university in Costa Rica.

Laura (sister #1) sent me the links last night. How cool is that!


How to explain this to someone who has never experienced it? There are lots of bathrooms in Germany and Austria that are outfited for baths and for seated showers. Yes, for seated showers. Here is a picture of one such set-up (unfortunately not our bathroom). To the right, it would appear as if this particular bathroom also has a regular, stand up like a grown-up, shower.

I have become accustomed to this. The places I have lived and visited in Austria had bathtubs like this and I have been in homes in Germany with this arrangement as did my first German WG. When in Rome. . . right? I sit myself down - one small step for integration.

Not D. The German claims that all this is new and exciting for him, that this is in no way the norm in Germany (It's not like they are constantly yelling at you to sit down for other things or anything). When he moved into his apartment, he proceded to bore holes in the wall above the bath and hang a shower head. He also installed a shower curtain with a telescoping rod. (Hint 1 - if there wasn't a curtain before, the bath might not be intended for standing showers.)

One of the aspects of the bathtub for seated showers is that the tiling ends somewhere before the height of what I will call the "standing shower splatter zone". (Hint 2 - If the wall is gettng wet above the tiling, the bath might not be intended for standing showers.) There was not only not enough tiling on the wall, but also, no caulking between the wall and the tiling at the top. The seam was only closed by the tiling adhesive.

So all hints to the contrary, D proceeded to use the shower as a standing shower for 5 years before I came on the scene. He also doesn't wear his glasses in the shower (smart lad), so he never really noticed the water problem at the tiling/wall interface. When it got really out of hand, I finally said something to him about it and he investigated, with glasses on. We have now cleared the seam of whatever material was wet or crumbly and put in a line of caulk. We are disgustingly proud of ourselves, even though it is far from perfect, and we are sanding and repainting the back wall. We are Bob Villa. (Wow, he is getting old.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Raindrops on roses. . . Favorite things about Germany

I love Bernd das Brot, just as I have a thing for Smokey the Bear and Kermit the Frog
(maybe it's the middle name) so when I came across this image, I had to have it.

There is a whole series of parodies of the "Du bist Deutschland" advertising at this flickr site.

One upon a time, Kika showed Berndt all night long and there are some truly classic clips, but I think you have to catch him at a regular broadcast time, or there is always Youtube.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Whiskers on kittens . . .

Another favorite thing about Germany. . .

J over a Germany Doesn't Suck decided that today would be the day, so here is my, to date, only Christmas Market picture, taken last Thursday night once we got back out of the horrible crush at our local market's opening night.

A subsequent visit proved significantly less traumatic, but the lines for langos were no shorter.

Unfortunately, the start of advent meant that the church I was planning to go to had changed the Mass time to accommodate a concert. ggrrr.

Painting in Germany

It has taken me quite a bit of time to wrap my head around some aspects of German living and the painting of walls is one of them.

Germans routinely commit the cardinal sin of painting, or at least, what I was always led to believe was the cardinal sin of painting. Thou shalt not paint over wallpaper. "Not so!", says the average German, well, actually, he would display his disagreement in German, but you get the point. The wallpaper must first be hung and then painted! And not any old wallpaper, but Raufasertapete (left). The image comes from a lovely web page on raufasertapeten from the Sendung mit der Maus, a highly informative kids show. (Wow - there is tons of material on that Maus site! After my sister returned from Germany bearing chocolate, my neices have decided that there is something to this whole German thing after all, so I will have to forward her the link.)

I have tried to explain to D. that we don't do this in the States, that we paint directly on the wall, and on Saturday, in Hornbach (yippee-yai-yai. . .) I learned yet another tidbit. The whole point of the raufasertapete is the structure of the paper. You repaper when enough paint has been applied to the paper over time that the structure of the paper is no longer visible - in other words, when you wall would start looking too American :).

My thoughts on the process.
  • It appears that raufasertapete is generally easier to remove than American wallpaper - that you can pull it down instead of always needing to rent a steamer.
  • The raufasertapete covers cracks in the wall pretty well. (We live next to a major construction site and there has been damage to our building as a result of the rather significant vibration.)
  • I haven't seen paint peel from raufasertapete (yet) whereas, I have seen it come loose from a wall with time.
I also seem to remember going into the paint store with my Dad as a child and picking out a color of paint, color X, from paper strips, and then pulling buckets of color X from the shelf and then taking them to the big paint shaker machine, where the buckets were shaken - but no colors were mixed. We did not receive a color cosultation and a recipe to mix our own at home. Ah, the good old days.

Here, there appear to be primarily huge buckets of white paint, into which one doses desired colors in desired amounts to acheive a certain color and mixes the entire thing one's self - well, one does if one is looking to save some money. Thank God, our little project of the moment only requires us to use white paint. It is more than enough for a start.

Here is a link to very basic information about painting in German. I just picked up a new vocabulary word or two - roller = walze.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Uncle Fritz wants YOU! "Draft", German Style

I uttered the words the other day (Sunday, a day which will live in personal infamy) that should strike fear into the heart of an Ex-pat in Germany. . .Es zieht. In my defense, with the draft, it was cold enough that I had to put my jacket on in the cafe which was doubly frustrating because outside, it was almost warm enough to take one's jacket off.

Every beginning German student thinks they have this situation under control, and yet German life throws a wrench in the works. Zugluft is not
Zugluft is a draft, of which Germans live in deadly fear. This position is bearable in all seasons except late Spring, Summer and Early Fall -the seasons in which the North American perceives a warm breeze as pleasant and in point of fact, preferable to non-moving air in the absence of any means of air refrigeration, i.e. air conditioning. For about half the year, the German and the Ex-pat can tolerate one another's mistaken views and live together in harmony.

Well sortof, in Winter, we encounter the whole Thou shalt not leave the house with wet hair. A professor was lecturing me about this in front of a classroom of students. A science professor! It is not a situation in which one can say, "Excuse me, honerable Mr. Prof. Dr.-Ing. H., but would you perhaps be open to having a quiet word about germ theory after lecture? I hear it is all the rage in scientific circles these days".

Then staying in the home of a friend of my mother's - Thou shalt not go to bed with wet hair. (I don't blow dry my hair so my only alternative would appear to be refraining from washing between Sept. and May, yech!) Aparantly one is also to wear t-shirts under one's sweater. I am usually cold and I don't like paying for dry-cleaning, so I do this anyway.

I have also been lucky enough to find and marry a completely a-typical German who bikes to work with his wet hair freezing about his little kraut head and who enjoys (Deo gratias) excellent health. He does have kidney issues, though - no one is perfect!

So thanks to PapaScott for getting me started and I will have to leave the Hörstürz for another day- I read this article and had a strong reaction to it. Yes, Yes I have experienced this, too! What is wrong with these people?! On the other hand, I don't deny that stress can cause a host of ills, so I guess I should be asking, why is it that people are suffering psychologically to such a degree that it manifests itself so markedly. Rather sad, actually.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Odds and Ends

If you´re looking for a little laugh, I suggest heading over to the Virtual Tapas Bar for the lyrics to a song about a meet-up of ex-pat bloggers. It was all I needed to feel less isolated this morning.

My limited hunting has failed to locate any American ex-pats blogging from Austria.
Anybody know of any? My European adventure began in Austria and I used to be a pretty big fan of pretty much all things Austrian. I am now coming to terms with the fact that my children will be "piefkes" and liking the fact that my accent is no longer that different than that of the people around me.

I will also be closely watching this discussion over at EuroTrippen. It is the never-ending ex-pat struggle.

My mom lived in Germany in the 60´s, and at the time, the only place one could buy peanut butter was in the "Reform Laden", which surprisingly enough is not a detention center or juvie or similar, but Granola Central, the health food store. In a fit of ex-pat-think, my mother went back to the health food store figuring that if they had peanut butter, they might also have another American product she was looking for - wait for it - marshmallows! She got a lecture on healthy eating, on Americans and their diets and on her foolishness generally before she was permitted to once again go on her way.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oh happy day. . .

it is the moment I have been waiting months for. Armin Assinger's "köstliche" commentary to the Olympic men's downhill in which the gold was snatched at the last moment by the French Deneriaz has finally made it to youtube where the whole world can see it. During the Olympics, the clip was only viewable in Europe, so I coudln't share it with family.

One doesn't normally see the sports reporters, but they showed this clip on the Harold Schmidt late night show and it became something of an instant classic. Even if one doesn't understand what's being said, there is nothing like seeing him covering his eyes as it becomes apparant that the Austrians won't be getting the gold. Assinger is a former skier himself, and he brings more dialect and color to the broadcast.

I can't get enough of Assinger's less professional :) approach to commentary and we always watch skiing on ORF instead of ARD.

One more time because it feels so good -
" Der Deneriaz foat wia a gsengte Sau ! "

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rainy Day in Süd Hessen

Ok, here's a second try at posting the pictures from last weekend's romp to the north! We had a lovely time visiting friends, and I very much enjoyed hanging out with Jakob, the 1 1/2 year-old, who thought I was pretty cool.

Job hunting, everyone is constantly telling you that you have to know what you are good at. My encounter with Jakob was both heartening and a little depressing. I am generally good with kids - individuals, not large groups and with people generally. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of thing you can write on a resume and the experience, like reading "What Color is Your Parachute" in German, knocks me for a loop because I probably invested my entire academic life in an area other than that in which my natural talent lies.

I always got ansers back assessment tests in high-school telling me that I should become a stewardess or something similar, and I often received comments from co-workers while I was a Park Ranger that I was really cut out for the job. (Interacting with visitors, mind you - - - I was definitely not able to make the grade physically in one park where I worked, but parks like that are pretty uncommon.) But when you are capable of "more" then you want to do "more", if for no other reason than that it pays better. Now I am in Germany, and high customer contact positions are no longer an option because my German won't ever be at the necessary level. I have the good fortune to have had a technical education so that some doors are open for me, but one still wonders at night. (Comfortingly, my husband has similar thoughts, so I know I am not alone.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Language barriers

Over the past few days I have been drafting emails to former professors, in the hope that they might pass on to me any job-related fliers that might pass through their hands. There are many positions that get "advertised" privately in Germany, which isn't all the different than in the States I suppose. D. has received emails at work from project collaborators looking for employees. Unfortunately, neither of the two positions were closely enough related to my field for me to apply. I am no longer living in the city where I studied and am working to reestablish some kind of network. (D. is strangely the only German I know that isn't a Vereinsmitglied of any shape or form.)

Back to the email - One of the emails won't be a problem because the addressee was at my wedding, and hopefully hasn't forgotten me in the past few weeks, but for the others striking a balance between reminding someone of who you are and German directness is hard to do, and every corrected email I get back from D. strikes me as too brusque, so it's back to the drawing board.

In the silver lining department -
I sent off an email to someone in the hopes of setting up a German/English tandem.
And here are some pictures of the flowers at my wedding. We left so much up to the florist - and there were aspects of her execution where it was obvious she had really listened to me when we met to discuss the flowers. (I love wildflowers, but I wanted the flowers for the Church to be more formal - she pulled it together so well.) Not everything went as well - see the very obvious hairclips - but I was thrilled with the flowers.

The bouquet below was our jumping-off point and we wanted to go more "autumn".

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Thank you for the encouragement to see that there is an opportunity to be taken advantage of for us this Christmas. I have been trying to think through what I have liked and not liked in Christmases past.

I do not want to end up in front of the TV or at the movies because I have the sense that there is nothing else to do.

I want to go to church where it isn't lame. Midnight Mass at 9:45 isn't Midnight Mass. I want an orchestra and darkness and candles and a sense of mystery. I would like it to be packed and I want to have to get there early to get a seat.

If you ever have the chance to spend Christmas in Denver, there is only one place to go.

But with Denver so far away, we might be headed to Strasbourg for Christmas - groovy Midnight Mass and Christmas markets before and after. I would miss out on my BBC Christmas Music though and I couldn't call home. A lot to think about.

Monday, November 20, 2006

This would not happen in the States

Our colleagues in the office put this present together for our wedding. Note the shirts, seat cushions, and curtains created from money, the tiny hangers. That throw rug, in front of the bed, was hand woven.

My mother-in-law wants to keep if for her grandchildren to play with. As long as she is willing to store it, I have no problems with that, but I cannot wrap my mind around the work that went into this. They hung our picture!! on the wall. I find it almost unsettling.


Chalk this up to "higher highs and lower lows"

My husband, who headed off to work with the digital camera, so I can't post photos of our adventures into southern Hessen yesterday, is one of the few people in my life with whom I can switch languages. There are times when I need to express an idea I can't translate, and he's now to the point where he can deal with it without missing a beat. (Borat flashback - It's niiiiiice.)

There are so many things that can make intercultural marriage difficult, so many things you take for granted that bite you in the butt, but it occured to me the other night that D. speaks such wonderful German. (I am in no position to know that he does. It's adequate, but he's no Goethe-thank God.) He has definitely complemented me on my English, which is in a sorry state at the moment.

Which has lead me to conclude that -
It's lovely that difficult things come with hidden bonuses, and that there can be someone who sees extraordinary talents in skills that are simply natural for you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Christmas Travels, Thoughts of Home

A sweet reminder of some of the more lovely things about home, if home happens to be Canada or the U.S., from the clever folks at The Typing Chimps

And my best wishes to all headed home (or to spend time with family) for the Holidays (i.e. Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa). Enjoy it!

Anybody have ideas for how to spend Christmas pretty much alone as a couple? (keep it clean!) Christmas has always been an extended-family holiday and I don't have too many ideas, and we don't have a fireplace.

NPR carries A Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols, and for the first time in many years I will be somewhere with a decent internet connection, so we can listen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lifesavers for the unemployed expat. . .

or another thing that gets me through the week.

I discovered this Fall that a number of US universities have lectures available as podcasts or streaming files. I can't tell you how many days this has helped me pass at home. It's worlds away from Arbeitslosenfernsehen. There aren't nearly enough for the non-computer gal, but let me at least point out the one's I've been listening to.

ANTH379 (Indians of North America)

This lecture gets off to an extremely slow start. Lots of talk of diet, etc. and I think Dr. Watson is a lecturer whose style you either love or hate. He strikes me as quite avuncular, and I find the subject material interesting.

Somewhere online there is a list that has all the Purdue Boilercast course numbers translated into real-people-speak, but I have lost the link to the page and have not been able to find it again. I'd be grateful to have it if anyone else stumbles onto it. Otherwise, one must listen to the first few minutes of the first lecture of each class or hunt for the university catalog online. Of course, the department name should be more or less clear from the course name.

There are also quit a few polysci letctures and sociology - I just never got that far. Maybe next semester.

And leading me to wish that I had wanted to go to college in CA like most of the other people in my class are the Berkeley course offerings.

I am a particular fan of European History from the Rennaissance to the Present. There's a video feed for this course, too. The professor uhh's way to much, but if you can get past that, the course is entertaining and I love his references to period art and music to illustrate his theses about historical trends. One gets the feeling that the lecturer has a profound sympathy with the people about whose times he is speaking - quite bluntly, he doesn't speak condescendingly about them, he seeks to explain their world view to the extent that you or I could set ourselves in their places rather than pitying them in their ignorance. And he speaks very knowlegably about Catholicism. There are a couple of points where I would have worded something differently, but generally he is really good. He's plenty critical of the Church in later lectures, but that is his "gutes Recht", and it definitely comes through that he has had more than a little bit of German. If I had moose hooves to award, this lecture gets all 4.

Also worth a listen, although I don't think I progressed much beyond the first few lectures was Geo 10 World Regions, Peoples, and States Even if you don't want to listen to the whole series, the second lecture in which he discusses an in class assignment in which students were to devise a plan for regionalizing the US for representation on a map was pretty amusing.

We've also been listening to Earthquakes in Your Backyard. I liked the Hurricane Katrina wrap up, although I thought it wasn't nearly detailed enough. Physics for future presidents also had a nice 9/11 recap lecture. The lecturer is a bit too self-congratulatory, but a lot of folks do that when retelling historic events. His retelling brought me crashing back to 9/11 because I spent the day with my ex-boyfriend who was visiting from Europe. He is an academic in the materials science field, so there was someone to fill in the missing pieces for me (temperatures at which steel begins to deform) very early on. We'll save all that for 9/11 next year and hope that by then, I won't have half so much time to blog!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Germany in the news. . .

I am something of a news junkie so I jumped when I read this German report.

Doctor Ordered to Pay for Unwanted Baby

Unwanted enough for this hideous lawsuit, but somehow this apparently healthy child was never put up for adoption. Hope he or she at least gets an Ipod out of the deal.

Ok, I am procrastinating. Checked out the "Fachmesse" yesterday and to my horror discovered that there were no lay people there checking anything out. I wonder if there was anyone there who wasn't a rep at another one of the booths. This is going to make it extremely difficult for me to go make chit chat with the reps of the two companies about which I would like learn more.

I also have to get all dolled up because I would otherwise be the only one there not in a suit.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Things that get me through the week

Huge fan of Grey's Anatomy and House - of course, I am not always at one with the writers' medical ethics, but I can't get enough of fast-talking tv, and Swiss tv, God love'em, broadcasts in dualton. And unlike the dualtone from ORF, we get the feed over our digital receiver.

And because I appear to be on a youtube jag this morning, here's a little taste of what we have to look forward to. Y'all have a good day!

Sunny day, sweepin the clouds away!

Who'd a thought some sunshine would have such an effect on my mood? I got practically no sleep last night (You know it's serious when my Hydromechanics text doesn't put me to sleep!!), but I feel great.

No Borat (yet) and I flubbed the business with the poetry night - that's not for two weeks. Today's adventures include attending a Fachmesse to scope out the situation before going to ask some strategical questions tomorrow. All part of the Initiativberwerbung process, where the fun never ends.

I do need to give a big "hats off" to the employee at the Denton County Animal Shelter.

(I am hoping that she meant "God's children" and not "Jesus' children", but she gave Borat what for and restored my faith in some people, anyway.) And her good behavior was rewarded with a trip to the cutting room floor and to youtube, so I suppose it's alright.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


So only two of us showed up. I trooped around a bit after arriving a few minutes early and found the right room. What I found inside the right room was the wrong group. It was a very formal meeting into which I stumbled. yikes!

I don't go in real big for embarrassement, and I found the experience embarrassing, although I was where I was supposed to be.

Downstairs, I encountered YoungAdult#2. We waited long enough to determine that no one else was planning to come and headed for home.

But while I was out yesterday, I thought a lot about things I have to be grateful for and as I am feeling much better this week than I did last week, I figure, I would list one or two.

1. Baden is gorgeous.

2. My family and I are in good health. (seeing an ambulance at the neighbors' will do that to ya)
3. My coffee machine made a great espresso today, even though the beans a friend brought me from Colombia were ground too coarse.

Tonight should be the English poetry group, tomorrow ballroom dance - but Borat is playing - in English and although I know I will wince through the whole thing, I am dying to see it. I think the point that much bigotry is the result of conformity (how often people just go along with him) is well-taken. The ones that really get into on their own are pigs, but, hey, we all know they are out there. I've read that there was some creative editing a la Michael Moore, which is disappointing, because a "warts and all" view should only show the warts that are really there. There are enough.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Anschluss Away

Off this evening to conquer new worlds and meet new people, or not. We'll see.

There is a meeting of young adults and my task for the day is overcoming my intial shyness enough to show up and try it out. I've had some rather strange experiences with these set-ups before (the young adults were way into their 40's) but now that I'm just looking to meet people generally and not "a guy" maybe I will have more luck.

Positive thought for the day - I have an extremely cool coffee machine that I got for Christmas last year.

Blogneid and more strangeness

After getting married and pretty much having little left that I should be doing other than the completely depressing job hunt, I began to feel lonely. I am no longer living in the city where I went to college, so my social network is pretty much non-existant. Work here was lovely and the people were lovlier, but the sensation that these people are my husband's aquaintences and I am encroaching has been growing the longer I am away from the office, months and months now.

In the quest for kindred-spirits, I set off through the world of ex-pat blogs. Whether that was a smart thing to do . . . I dunno. The blog is full of alarmingly clever, intelligent, well-smoken Americans forging their way intrepidly in foreign lands, but I have yet to encounter anyone like me.

First off, let me complement them generally by saying that their blogs are beautiful- particularly Heisse Scheisse. Love the name, love the grass. And Still Here, Still Foreign, might be a little too pink for my personal taste, but it's still nicely organized and her wedding pictures are to die for.

And now, the reasons for my sense of isolation, even in blog-land. . .

I actually do speak German, and fairly well. I was once at the stage where I couldn't say or understand anything, but even then I had years and years of German behind me. My German was latent, just waiting for the right opportunity to develop - which it did, but I am no linguistic genius and I don't know if my German will ever get much better than it now is. My mother lived in Germany for only 2 years and speaks German much better than I ever will.

I am not a computer programmer or a highly paid consultant jetting off from one country to the next. I am unemployed and desperately hopign that will change. My husband has a modestly paying job. He has a great job actually - intellectually stimulating, in a position where one is always building on one's knowlege and where the regulatory aspects of the job are still very much in touch with the science - but we will never be wealthy. The tax structure has changed, and we're a couple of years too late to get any support from the state for buying our own place. I worry that we might never be able to do it.

I don't teach English.

I am not pregnant. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!!!)

I do not knit, although I tried to learn a few times in my life.

I am not a journalist or author, I am just an Earth/Environemental Scientist trying to get a job.

I am Catholic, not raised Catholic or recovering Catholic or Catholic, but. . . I don't always go to church. I am not a good Catholic, but I generally believe what the Church teaches. - - - I have oodles of friends who are atheists, friends who are Muslim, a friend who is rediscovering her LDS faith and a friend or two who is Catholic, but those folks aren't here and there is way too much "religous person = book burner" attitude online.

I have tried to meet some expats here in town, but let me tell you, when someone introduces themselves as follows. . .
"My name is Joe. I am from California and I am living here in Germany because I am afraid of my governement . . . blah blah blah and they are the equivalent of the Nazis etc." - you get the picture.
. . . I just don't feel like there is any hope of really communicating with this person.

Do these people have any clue how offensive that is? I grew up in NJ. We have neighbors who are Holocaust survivors. I rather doubt they vote Republican (I have no party offiliation) but you can't compare the two without trivializing the suffering of persecuted groups in Europe during the second World War.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Know You've Lived in Germany Too Long When

. . .when you mentally substitute "Werktage" for "Tage" or days in ridiculous contexts.

Reduces wrinkles in 10 *work*days.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stranger in Strange and not so Strange Lands

At the moment, I have so much in my head that I'd love to get down in type, that I think I will post and rework the posts over the next few weeks. . .

So much of what others write about life as an ex-pat is true. It is endlessly stimulating intellectually. The constant opportunities to compare life as you know it and life as it now presents itself to you bring tremendous insights into human nature. A mirror is held ever before you, but this time it isn't the fun-house mirror you grew up with. It's a different fun-house mirror, in which you are both shown and distorted, but differently.

And it is so painful sometimes. All those little coping mechanisms you have developed for your own culture don't help you here. I am a "get along with folks kind of gal" in so many ways. If you make a mistake, you apologize; you let the other guy go first; you hold the door. And in the States, this approach tends to pay off. You give off a certain vibe - "I am an approachable, decent person, who will be nice to you." - and for the most part it's true. People respond to this, and I think, to my benefit.

But here, it's all efficiency and "I can't be bothered to say hello, even though I know you and although we are passing eachother in a hallway less than a meter wide". "Small talk is a waste of my precious time."

Thank God, I have encountered less of this in Baden, but it makes one so uncertain - it makes one distrustful of one's most basic behavioral instincts. My fallback behavior is perceived here as merely weak and stupid. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Election

I didn't vote. My experience last go around was horrible. The absentee ballot never showed up and desite repeated calls to the elections board, I had to find out from Washington that there is a standard federal form which could be filled out by someone in just my position. The office in Newark had told me that my only recourse was a personal appearance in court in Newark, NJ - or my parents could should up with an affadavit. (I only have to travel 2 hours to get one of those, and for a lot of American ex-pats in Germany, the distance is even greater.)

So the good folks in D.C. (wow, I can't believe I just wrote that) directed me immediately to the webpage with the pdf and I I mailed the form, but it's a) highly unlikely that it arrived on time and b) it wasn't close enough in NJ that my vote would have ever have been counted.

I decided that I didn't want to go through all that again, and let the matter drop, particularly in light of my ever-dwindling enthusiasm for the Republican party. I can still get a little excited about McCain, but I know he's not going anywhere beyond the talk show circuit and I am not a AZ voter. Other than that, Mark Shea was right that we had the Evil Party and the Stupid Party. But recently, the Stupid Party has been at minimum so tacit in their approval of evil, that I can't seem to get beyond the "a pox on both their houses" attitude.

Raison d'etre

So why all the secrecy?

A while back , I started up a blog in an attempt to keep up with my friends and family and to keept them posted about upcoming events in our lives. Two things happened. On the one hand, many, many people who needed the info I made available never read blog and I wound up sending the emails I was trying to avoid anyway. On the other, I got reactions from other relatives seconds after hitting the post button.

I had been trying to work out my frustration that the priest presiding at our wedding didn't want to give us any input on selecting the readings. I got emails from the German relatives pronto that the translation I had linked to was antiquated or that our approach to x,y,z was inappropriate. We offended people right and left without any intention of doing it.

My cover on that blog was "blown" from the very start, out of necessity, but with it went whatever hope I had of using the blog to blow off some steam. So here we are.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Wondering about Wordpress

I've been struggling so much to post in the last week, that I can't imagine wanting to go through this hastle, and I certainly don't want to change my address, but I am giving some thought to moving to another format. Logging in and out of my realname google account is a royal pain in the tookus. I use the GoogleReader as well, so the loging in and out is a on-going annoyance.

I ran accross this post at Is there no Sin in it? where the author expresses a lot of my concerns about potential mistakes and resulting loss of annonymity etc.

Unlike many people who have been at this for a while, I am the customer that the new blogger was designed for (i.e. completely incompetent). I can't even figure out how to get the darn spellchecker from German into English. You will not find me whinging that there are too many widgets and wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all just program everything in assemlby language or whatever. *Scarred by years of dating programmers*

I have a lot more to learn before I would consider starting all over again. Apparantly, new blogger accounts, which this is, don't transfer well either, and there are some fees involved in some uses of wordpress, but I can't seem to find much information on those either.

A project for another day - today, we are going to bring our brandy new carpet to the apartment!