Friday, December 07, 2007

This performance will knock your socks off, and I'm not just saying it because these guys are my friends.

(If you don't see the video, go here:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

If you go shopping from today until the end of the year, these are the kind of crowds of remote-controlled beings you'll be dealing with.

Where do I even start? Today we started with the most innocent plans of spending a nice day in the city, doing some fun things (going to breakfast and to the aquarium) and doing something useful, like getting Willy a new warm coat. Breakfast was really, really good, and the aquarium was fun. After breakfast we wanted to show Willy the trains in the central station, and were then warned by a train station worker while looking at one of the high speed trains that we might not want to stand on that particular platform because a train full of football fans from Berlin would be arriving there shortly. We thought this might be funny, if only we could find a place to observe from out of reach of the rowdies. Noticing all the police officers in riot gear, we tried to discern where the rowdies would be going. Unfortunately, there were no riots, or we missed them, and so we continued on our way. We had a nice time at the aquarium, though it was a bit crowded, and I really can't stand a crowd. I guess this should have been a warning to go home and take a breather before going shopping. The real riot was just about to start.

Anyway, we ventured into the city, because 1) I wanted to buy some sweets, and 2) because Willy needs a new coat. We walked about 5 steps into the store where I could buy some sweets, and decided to take the quickest route back out. It was just full of people. Packed full, like a can of sardines is packed full. And I don't give up so easily when it comes to candy. Then we thought we would venture into the store with coats for kids, because we really do need this coat. It's cold here. We got about 10 steps inside when I had a complete meltdown and started swearing loudly in the middle of the store because people were literally pushing me, my child and my husband. Swearing loudly in public is generally not my thing, but this behavior I cannot accept. Is it not just good behavior to leave a little bit of space between yourself and the next person, especially when you don't know them, in a public space? A few minutes later I had another meltdown because some stupid jerk (and I really mean stupid jerk) pushed past the stroller and jumped over one wheel just to get past us. I cursed once again, loudly wondering what all the pushing and shoving was about, but of course no one cared. This really put me over the edge. I left the store, went across the street and waited. I felt pretty aggressive.

It got better. After leaving this area, we still had to make our way back to the car. On the way, we saw women dressed in clothing that made them look as though they were for sale, exposing amounts of skin that really isn't acceptable in the cold and holy Christmas season. The greatest was, however, a mother of a small baby in a stroller who actually rammed her stroller into ours and DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE BECAUSE SHE WAS TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE. Or she just didn't care, which is actually even more likely. Oh, yeah, then some guy tried to run us over with his car, just because we were walking on the SIDEWALK and he wanted to turn into a parking garage. I should have spit on his stupid station wagon. Or kicked it and really broken something.

The point of this is how incredibly pointless it is to get all wound up and just forget all good manners when December rolls around. This time of year is actually all about love and togetherness and all that jazz, right? I'm not even religious and I know that much. So why all the pushiness and aggression? If it's all too much for you, and you can't handle buying presents for so many people or whatever, then don't do it. Your relatives will probably thank you, because they don't like your presents anyway! They think about ways to get rid of them after they receive them! Just stay home and let normal people shop in peace for things they really need, like a warm coat for their kid.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mmmmm, delicious deer

If only I could shoot this majestic whitetail deer relaxing in my parents' backyard...

It's true, today is the first day of deer season in Michigan and I'm missing it. To be more exact, it's the first day of rifle season, meaning you can blast away these animals with something like a canon. Up to today, you could only hunt with a bow and arrow during bow season. But starting today, like every year, you can go out and blow these beasts away with a gun! The kids have a day off from school, and some people even take a day off from work for this. Oh, man, I wish I was there. I miss all the Rocky Smiths with their beer cans and cowboy boots and rusty trucks. I especially miss hunter orange, the only fashion choice for fall. I miss the mailman's car getting accidentally shot by hunters and I miss not being allowed to wear a brown jacket because hunters could mistake me for a deer. I miss waking up to the sound of rifles being shot and people ringing the doorbell to ask if they can enter our property to search for the deer they hit, but which continued running and got away. Mmmm, I miss the smell of my brother butchering his deer at our house. And I miss the smell of sweet deer meat, or venison, frying on the stove. Deer season, I wish you were here. Well, not really.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The latest culinary delights from my kitchen

Well, I don't mean to turn this into a cooking blog or anything, but as the latest news is coming from my kitchen, that's just the way it is right now. Tomorrow is a holiday here in Germany, Day of German Reunification, commemorating, you guessed it, the reunification of East and West Germany. Since I don't have any students today or tomorrow, I thought I'd just proofread my latest translation then call it a day at around 10:00 this morning. So I had some time to cook something delicious: Chocolate Fudge Pudding. The choice was easy, I just looked for something chocolate-y for which I also had all of the ingredients already. Here's what you need:

50 grams or 4 tablespoons of butter, plus some extra for greasing the baking form
6 tablespoons of brown sugar or raw cane sugar
2 eggs, beaten
350 ml or 1 1/4 cups of milk
50 grams or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
40 grams or 1/4 cup white flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa
confectioner's sugar and cocoa for dusting

-Grease an oven proof dish (it should be able to hold one liter)
-Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs
-Stir in the milk and nuts
-Sift in the flour and cocoa powder
-Pour this into the baking dish and bake at 180 C or 350 F for 35-40 minutes
-Dust with confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder and serve

As usual, I did some substituting: ground hazelnuts instead of walnuts, just because I didn't have any walnuts on hand. This is bafflingly easy and crazily delicious. I thought baked pudding would be much more complicated to prepare, that's why I was always hesitant to try this recipe, but it's really quick and simple. We let it cool for a half hour or so and then Willy and I tested it. It definitely passed the Willy test with flying colors: it not only got applause, but also many "mmms" and requests for more. Thanks to Ed and Dana for this recipe, it was in the cookbook you got me for my birthday last year!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Pumpkin!

Somehow I'm fully in fall mode with my cooking and baking, maybe it's because I'm pretty much housebound. But the knee is getting better as a result, I get physical therapy in just 2 weeks and can walk normally again soon (I hope)! Anyway, we picked up another pumpkin on the weekend, and because I'm turning orange from all the pumpkin soup lately, I tried something new: Pumpkin Bread.

1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (1/4 L) pumpkin purée
1/2 cup (1 dL) olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup (1 dL) chopped walnuts

(metric measurements in parentheses)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts. Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a straw poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Makes one loaf.

I also found this recipe on the internet. This is kind of like banana bread, just with pumpkin. I used whole wheat flour and only half the sugar, and it turned out super good. Not extremely sweet, but deliciously spicy. Once again, I substituted walnuts with almonds, due to a lack of walnuts in my household, and once again, it's incredibly delicious.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Real deer really in Beaverton (Township, anyway) approaching the pumpkin patch at my parents' house.

This is what we call a squash, a buttercup squash.

Here in Germany, everything that we would call squash or pumpkin in the United States is only called pumpkin, Kürbis. They just have one word for both things. Well, somebody must really love me, because he knows my love of these big, round vegetables and bought me one yesterday from a little roadside stand. I was so excited about this pretty green squash that I immediately cut it open and started working away, making soup, cookies and roasted seeds. Mmmmm. Usually when I chop open a pumpkin, it's cold inside (this time of year in Michigan is already pretty cool), and when I reach in to take out the innards and seeds, I imagine cold brains. But this one was warm! It had been out by the road on a table in the sun all day, just waiting to come to my kitchen!

For dinner, we had "season your own pumpkin soup." I made a very basic pumpkin soup, first boiling half of the squash cut into chunks and 3 or 4 small potatoes. When it was all soft and squishy I drained off most of the water and blended the vegetables until they were smooth and soupy. Then I put this back on the stove and added some cream and a big, fat pat of butter, and once that was all warm again and mixed, we put our soup into bowls and the fun began. I put ginger and sea salt in mine, and this was a delectable treat, another variation was with nutmeg, paprika and salt. Usually when I make pumpkin or squash soup I make it with onion, garlic and curry.

Since I have never succeeded at making a good pumpkin pie (how very un-American of me...), I made pumpkin cookies instead. Here's the recipe:

(Submitted by Francine T. Ryan)
Fran writes: "The Great Pumpkin Cookies recipe has been one of my favorites for Halloween. The neighbors are sure to know that when Halloween rolls around I can be counted on to have bags of these wonderful mouth watering cookies at hand. They even prefer these to candy. What a compliment."
2 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine or butter softened
1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar (dark or light)
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Libby's Solid Pack Pumpkin
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or M&M's candies
1 cup raisins
1 cup nuts (any kind)
Preheat Oven to 350° F. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Cream butter, gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. Stir in morsels. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet; spread into shape using a thing metal spatula. Bake at 20 to 25 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly browned.
Note: You can double the recipe if you use can pumpkin, since you usually have a lot left over.

I got this recipe on the internet, and have never followed it exactly. For example, I've never included the chocolate. Usually I use walnuts for the nuts, but yesterday I only had some slivered almonds, and this was super, maybe even better than the walnuts. I also only used half the white sugar that the recipe calls for, and the cookies were still quite sweet. One final note, I obviously didn't use Libby's solid pack pumpkin. This time I took a chunk of squash, skinned it and put it through the food processor with the grater. It worked like a dream.

And what, you may ask, did I do with all the squash skin left over from this culinary adventure? I gave it to Rosie and Rocket, of course! I knew that deer like pumpkins, so I figured bunnies should, too. And this morning nearly all of it had been eaten in the night!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rosie and Rocket had a great summer!

Look at how well we can share!

Rosie and Rocket visited their friends Merlin, Mimoe, Najimo and Luna in bunny paradise this summer when the people were in Tenerife. If you'd like to see their vacation videos, go visit gluecksmari on YouTube. It looks like Rosie and Merlin are in love!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Advantages of Having George W. Bush in the White House

I'm no Republican, nor do I really appreciate any of George W. Bush's work as President of the United States of America, but I like to look on the bright side. Reflecting on his years in office, they have provided at least me with some advantages.

1. He's a good reason to leave the country.

2. He kind of looks like a monkey, and who doesn't like monkeys?

3. He says lots of grammatically incorrect things, making him a gold mine for teachers of English.

4. For better or worse, he's always a source of conversation material.

5. You can always make a joke about him. Today at my knee checkup for example, I threatened to call my "Uncle George" if my knee doesn't heal properly. The doctor, nurse and computer guy who was there to fix the network all liked that one.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hmmmm, should I become German?

I just took a test very much like the German citizenship test, and passed with a grade of 76%. That's actually a bit shameful, considering I've studied German at a university and lived here for over 4 years, but anyway, even with just 76% (which equates to a C-"average"- on the American grading scale), I could become German. That is, if I passed the real citizenship test with such a grade. Considering that I'm married to a German, have a German child, pay taxes to the German government, well, why not? I don't know. I think it's just not really who I am. Dual citizenship might be nice, I imagine, but I don't really know if that's an option. I'm happy with my American passport, and it would feel pretty strange to have to get a visa to visit my family and my hometown. So I think I'll remain a white bread, corn fed American girl.

Here's the test if you want to give it a whirl (in German): Einbürgerungstest
And here are some things that make me not German (also in German): Five Reasons why Germans are Strange

I like it here, don't get me wrong, and I like Germans. Otherwise I wouldn't be teaching people here my language! Nor would I have married one, let alone produced a German child. But there are times when I just don't understand what's going on. But really, that's not so different from living in the United States!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The advantages and disadvantages of breaking your kneecap

Let's start with the disadvantages:

-it really hurts
-it's scary, because who knows if the doctors will need to slice open your knee to fix it?
-all the things you were looking forward to after finishing that 260-page translation (like long walks, trips to museums, hours at the playground with your child) just got cancelled!
-you have to give yourself shots in the belly or upper thigh against thrombosis (blood clots)
-you can't really help yourself by just jumping up and getting another cup of coffee or running to the store and buying some chocolate
-it's hard to sleep with an elevated leg

The advantages (though they are few):

-you get good painkillers as long as you're not pregnant, breastfeeding or have kidney or liver problems
-you suddenly have the time to read all those books you just ordered on Amazon
-if you're lucky, you have good friends who come and cook for you and do loads of helpful things (like getting you chocolate) so you don't have to worry about them yourself on your crutches or somehow sliding around on the floor on your bottom
-you can lie around all day like a cat and sleep at will

In my case, fortunately an operation isn't necessary, I seem to have fallen in such a way to break my kneecap in the best possible way. We'll see what the friendly doctor says on Monday, but I hope to be back in action soon. In the meantime, I'll continue reading all those bilingual childrearing books I just bought, listening to "This American Life" and thinking of ways to look good in a leg brace for the next six weeks.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Forest Fire!

The smoking island on the left is where we were on vacation just a few short weeks ago. I'm glad we saw it with trees! And this is just another reason to follow my "Tenerife Travel Tips."

For more information, go here (if you know German):

Friday, July 20, 2007

Top Tenerife Travel Tips

  1. Heed the recommendations of the tour leaders. They are there to help you. For example, you really shouldn’t leave the city or town you’re staying in, and better yet, don’t even leave the hotel complex. Natives may be lurking around the entrance or the edge of the city to steal your cash, car and clothes from your body.
  1. Only go to restaurants that offer national specialties from your country of origin and have servers from your home country. You wouldn’t want to get the plague from the locals or have them steal your identity.
  1. Scold the natives if they don’t speak your language. I mean, if they have international clients, they should speak international languages. You’re on vacation, and shouldn’t have to have the stress of trying to communicate with your hosts in a language that is ultimately nothing compared to your language.
  1. Don’t waste your time sleeping at night. Then it’s cool and you don’t have the hot sun beating down on you. Stay up all night, drink as much liquor as possible, and go to your free hotel breakfast unwashed and with squinty eyes. Your fellow hotel guests will be jealous of your exciting life.
  1. Complain about the screaming children of other hotel guests audibly at breakfast. This has special impact in combination with number 6.
  1. Leave lost villages lost. They are lost for a reason. This reason could be that the inhabitants all died on the way to said lost village because of bad road conditions.
  1. Better yet, find lost villages (see 6) by accident the next day while on a completely different road in a place where the lost village is not shown on the map.

8. Don't forget, vacation is a fashion show. Whether for bikinis (or just bikini bottoms, as many bathers were guilty of), fancy dresses, short shorts, and incredibly low cut shirts, get it all out there! And shake it! This is the one time of year when your neighbors, coworkers and boss aren't looking!

Brought to you by your guide, Sarah, seen here enjoying her vacation to the fullest.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I come here to get away from you.
...or what Jeff Tweedy said at the Wilco concert.

Jeff Tweedy, the singer of Wilco.

Walking into the Alter Schlachthof this evening, I felt that I had been instantly transplanted back to the United States. There were so many Americans around me, speaking real live American English in accents I haven't heard in a long, long time that it made me somewhat uncomfortable. Just this morning over breakfast I had commented that I haven't met any new English teachers lately, and was wondering what was up. Well, apparently they had all been holed up just waiting for the Wilco concert to come out of their undisclosed locations.

The concert was good, and I mean really, really good. Wilco is a band that I have quite liked for a while, after someone gave me a tape of theirs. I've always thought of them as a nice, relaxed rock band, with a kind of country rock sound that can't really be categorized, but it's somehow correct that they are from Chicago with this sound. And lately they've been working with Jim O'Rourke, who is one of my favorite musicians. He's in Sonic Youth now, he's also from Chicago, and despite his own fantastic sound that can't be copied, he's very humble about how good it is. I met him once at a bookstore and he seemed very surprised when I told him how much I liked his new CD. Anyway, Jim wasn't there tonight, but if you took the Wilco CDs and intensified their sound and energy by a factor of 10, then you might come close to what this concert was like. It really blew me away.

The crowd was also very enthusiastic, and gave Wilco a wild welcome to Dresden. Jeff Tweedy stated that they enjoyed their day in Dresden, and someone yelled "What did you see?" Well, the cover of the Americans was blown by this guy. He replied "You're an American, aren't you?" and the crowd exploded. People got really excited and started yelling out their home states and cities, and this is when Mr. Tweedy stated "I come here to get away from you! And I mean that in a really true way." Later on in the concert, he asked "What are all of you Americans doing here, anyway? Setting up hedge funds?" And some guy screamed out "Teaching English!!!" with more enthusiasm than I knew anyone could have for their career. Mr. Tweedy replied "I pity the fools." Thanks guy in the audience for making us English teachers look like a rowdy bunch who can't be respected! Then he dedicated a song to the Germans in the audience, and only the Germans.

This surprise at being confronted with sheer, untethered Americanism so far from America is something I face on a regular basis. Sometimes it's refreshing and I feel like I'm a little bit closer to home, but most of the time it's unsettling, because all of these loud, rowdy people are exactly the types I have always wanted to escape from my whole life.

Regardless of the loud Americans, I hope Wilco stops in Dresden again sometime. It was a great concert and I would definitely go again!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Frog Tunnels and Forest Bridges

You've got to love a country that has an amphibian protection system in place. When I first heard of this years ago, I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn't April Fools' Day. Don't get me wrong, I adore frogs, but the government actually spends money building walls and tunnels so that frogs don't hop onto the street and get smashed by cars? This is truly fantastic. Here's how it looks:

The froggy fence.

Careful! Frog migration!

It's a pretty good idea when you really think about it, because during frog migration so many frogs cross the street that if cars ran a good portion of them over, the street would get pretty slick with the little froggy corpses. So this is both for amphibian protection and our safety.

The forest bridge is another interesting German thing, but in my research of this topic, I found out that these not only exist in Germany, but also in England and Canada. This is a bridge, in Germany going over the Autobahn at various locations, that animals can use to get to the other side of the road without getting hit by cars. So that they use the bridge, high fences are in place along the highway giving them only one option of crossing the street: either use the bridge, or stay on your side of the street. And apparently animals really do use these. It might take a generation or two until the old animals who knew life before the bridge die out, leaving young animals who remember no other way of crossing the street except using the bridge. It's also animal friendly, planted with grass, so that no one can confuse it with a street. See below.

A forest bridge. This one's in England.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

New Bunnies

Introducing Rocket...

and Rosie!

Since a house is not a home without a pair of bunnies, I had to get myself 2 new ones. Rosie has been with us for a while now, and following Waboose's death, I found it sad to have her live on her own. After much consideration, I chose Rocket as her new friend and living companion. At the begininning, the two ladies didn't seem to like each other, but shortly they began cuddling and enjoying each others' company.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Goodbye, Black Rabbit

More bad news from the bunnies. Waboose, my black rabbit, died suddenly yesterday. This is a great shock, as up to that time he had never been sick and seemed healthy and strong. He was only three years old.

Waboose came to live with Wee and I when he was about 3 months old. He was in danger of being donated to the zoo as crocodile food, and for the price of 7€ I was able to save his life. The people I bought him from thought he was a female, and I was surprised to establish that he was a male after he came home to Wee. So he had to take a trip to the vet to be sterilized, because there are plenty of bunnies in the world who don't have good homes, and I didn't want my guys to contribute to that.

Wee and Waboose's relationship was very rocky for about a month, because they had great difficulty establishing who was dominant. Wee was successful however, following up her initial reaction of peeing on Waboose with a long campaign of dominance. Over the years, Waboose tried to topple Wee's regime, but never succeeded. After their first month of living in separate cages, they independently decided to move into the big cage together, leaving one cage unoccupied. This was a surprise to their human, because up to that point they hadn't seemed to like each other, but it was also a welcome change, as it freed up a good amount of space.

Wee and Waboose were the best of friends until Wee's death 2 weeks ago. This seemed to be a terrible shock for Waboose and he started behaving differently, being a bit more scared than usual and not eating as many treats. Previously, he would eat many treats in rapid succession, often stealing them from Wee, but without her company, he would only eat one treat, then return to his house, refusing more. He seemed to be mourning and lonely. When his new wife, Rosie, arrived last week, he perked up, quickly dominating her and cuddling a lot with her. He even started to eat more treats again.

Then yesterday, after behaving normally in the morning, he started acting very strangely between 11 and 11:30 and was very weak. We started on our way to the vet, but Waboose died on the way.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Remember White Rabbit

Yesterday morning when we arrived home from Willy's Friday morning appointment, I noticed that Little Wee was lying strangely on the bunny rug. She didn't react to me at all, and upon closer inspection, I discovered that she'd passed away while we were out. Thinking back, she had been behaving differently in the past few days, like sitting in the corner and looking at the wall, rather than out into the room as usual. And she'd been sitting a lot in the bunny house, which is usually Waboose's domain, being the scaredy cat that he is.
Little Wee was only four years old. I'd had her since she was just a tiny baby bunny, and she grew into a pretty white rabbit.

But at six months of age she came down with a case of tilt head, from which she never completely recovered. Sometimes it was better, and sometimes it got worse, but all in all, her quality of life was good, though she was the butt of many jokes. She always played and fought with Waboose, ate, drank, and was also always happy to meet new people, even if they did say mean things about her tilted head. This illness was probably the cause of her early death, because even with a good quality of life, the disease does shorten a bunny's life expectancy.

Wee leaves behind her human family and her bunny husband, Waboose. They didn't have any children, because Waboose was neutered as a young buck. Wee did try to have a baby with a previous boyfriend (Najimo), but that pregnancy resulted in a stillbirth.

Now we have to observe Waboose carefully, because he's never lived alone before. Before I saved him from a certain death in the jaws of a crocodile at the zoo, he had lived with his mom and siblings, then he always had Wee for company. Even when Wee was away for a matter of hours at the vet, he always showered her with attention when she returned. This could prove to be a very difficult period for Boose.

Goodbye, Little Wee.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

If looks could kill, I'd be a murderer.

I just saw my least favorite neighbor a few minutes ago, and it seems he's moving out. But even in moving out he's made me so upset that I am shaking. The trouble is, he parks his trashy, rusted out car right in a place where it's impossible to enter or exit my house. If he parked one meter farther in, it would be no problem. But no, this exceptionally clever brain surgeon of a man manages to park right in a place where it looks like maybe you can get past, but, no, you can't. Complicating this problem is that I and several of my neighbors have children whom they transport in strollers, we also have a neighbor who uses crutches all the time. For us it's an especially irritating conundrum, leading to yelling and very angry people.
On Sunday, after returning from a shopping trip at the supermarket in the train station, which is upsetting in itself because it's the only supermarket open on Sunday, and is therefore full with lots of, um, interesting characters, I could just barely squeeze through the entrance to my house with my bike because of this parking primadonna. I dawdled around near the door to the house, waiting to see who this person is, and sure enough, it was the usual suspect. Due to my trying trip to the supermarket, and my lack of anything to eat that morning, I flipped out, telling this guy that that's a stupid parking spot, that there are people here with strollers who need to go through, and that it doesn't matter if he's leaving in "just a minute" as he claimed, it's a stupid place and is just not acceptable.
And just now, I arrived back with my stroller, and who is parked in exactly the same place yet again? My genius of a neighbor. This time I just demanded that he park in a different place, which he did, and said no more, just giving him the dirtiest look I could muster. And boy, when I came in the apartment and caught a look at myself in the mirror, I frightened myself.
Then who was lingering around the yard just a moment ago? Two of my neighbors with their babies because they can't leave. I went out onto my balcony and suggested they take a nice full diaper and smear it on his windshield. I, unfortunately, don't have any on hand at the moment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chicago smells like chocolate!

Today while out for a walk along the Elbe in the summery March weather that we are having, I was listening to my favorite radio show, This American Life, on my headphones while a certain someone was taking a nap in his stroller. I was listening to the episode "In the Shadow of the City", and in the third act, a speaker started talking about a bridge in Chicago that smells like chocolate! This really made my day, imagining walking through town being trailed by the smell of chocolate...when they reported that someone in the city actually complained about this smell, causing an investigation into the chocolate factory which releases the cocoa powder, and ultimately leading to trouble for the chocolate factory due to fine particle pollution from cocoa. You can read more and see a picture of the chocolatey bridge here.

Here in Dresden Neustadt, we have a toothpaste factory that also causes certain streets to smell minty fresh sometimes, and at the most interesting times: occasionally in the morning, when you should have fresh minty breath anyway, once in a while later in the evening, which can really refresh you and wake you up better than a stiff cup of coffee if you've just been out for a heavy dinner. I used to live directly adjacent to this factory and I loved sometimes opening my windows to be met by a wall of minty freshness, I can understand the speaker on "This American Life" who said it was like 1000 little stabs to the heart to know that the chocolate smell would be gone in the future. But is this toothpaste factory perhaps the cause of some of the fine particle pollution that we have here? Could it be that a limit on the number of automobiles in this neighborhood would do very little to no good in reducing the fine particle pollution here, when the real problem is a toothpaste factory? Maybe they should just move the fine particle testing station away from its current location on a busy street to the park, as one city did, and the pollution would probably drop dramatically all by itself!

Here are a couple articles about the smelly chocolate factory:

An End to a Sweet Smell in Chicago

Chocolate Smell On EPA Hit List

Thursday, March 08, 2007

"I'm not vegan, I'm an orthodox."

Patrick F., 2007

Frauenkirche, 2006

This is a real comment, and a real comment from the best day of my life. People say your wedding day is the best day of your life, but I disagree. Although I can't really say, as I haven't yet actually had my wedding day. But anyway, today was pretty good. I taught this morning, translated this noon, and the whole afternoon I prepared my exhibition. My art exhibition. I have never had an art exhibition before, and maybe your saying, "Sarah? She's not an artist, she's a teacher!" Okay, you're right, but I did study art as well as German and teaching, and I like to draw and paint and all of that, and finally, I had the opening of my first exhibition. So maybe now you're saying, "She studied art and never had an exhibition? What kind of studies are those?" Those are American studies, and as an art minor, you don't need to exhibit. But I must say, it was pretty fun, despite me being so nervous that my work was bad or uninteresting. To have many friends, acquaintances and students arrive to look at my work and socialize after hours and hours of solitary work was very gratifying. It is also a really great feeling to organize a full evening with readings, music, food and drinks and to have so many happy guests. So, thank you to everyone who came, and especially thank you to the people who helped me get everything ready , supported the exhibition and publicity, and helped with the entertainment this evening! If you couldn't come, you can still check it out until mid August!
Dear Students,
Please avoid using online translating machines. I know it seems like an easy way to get your English homework done quickly, but really, you just end up sounding silly. Please read this article if you have doubts about my advice:

In English

Mexico city - which Mexican Manuel Uribe, one of fettleibigsten humans of the world, has after five years for the first time its house in the northMexican city San Nicolas de loosely Garza left. In a steel bed with wheels Uribe was pulled by the roads, which he had so for a long time not been able to enter, because he had become heavy 550 kilograms and any longer move could not. He announced to create a donation to the assistance from over-weighty patients to. The trip to fresh air had become possible, because Uribe 205 Kilos abgespeckt and only 345 Kilos on the balance brings. In presence it gave itself its family with a radiating smile convinced to learn to go still before the end of the yearly again. It will remove further 100 kilograms among other things with the assistance of the foreign medical profession, in order to reach this. For the donation "Manuel Uribe" he asked for support from the entrepreneur shank the region and the population. "I would like to help those, which do not create it from own strength, because they do not have the financial means and also not the information", said Uribe. "the Fettleibigkeit is an illness and its treatment is expensive." Humans would have to learn, how they would have to nourish themselves, in order to be able to live healthy. Uribe, whose case admits country-wide is, is treated for one year with the support of the health authorities of the Federal State Nuevo Leon. Also it is treated by the Italian physician Giancarlo de Bernadini, who removed for it among other things fat bulge at the legs (dpa)

Translated using a copy and paste translator on the internet from the following German article:

Okay, if you don't speak any German, this can help you get a general idea of what this article is trying to say. But when you really read it, it just sounds crazy. You are constantly distracted by the strange formulations and this can't be taken seriously, though it's a serious article.

Sincerely, your teacher,


Thursday, March 01, 2007

I'm begging you, please don't take me so seriously.


Eine Ausstellung von Sarah Reader
Fotografie, Zeichnungen

Ausstellungsdauer: 8.3.2007-16.8.2007
Vernissage: 8.3.2007 / 18 Uhr


Könneritzstr. 31, 01067 Dresden

Mo-Do 8-19 Uhr
Fr 8-17 Uhr

Okay, you can take it seriously that I'm having an exhibition from March 8th to August 16th, and that the opening is on the 8th of March at 6 pm, and that it is at this school and all that, but this picture, well, I hate to be so overly clear and possibly insult your intelligence, but please don't take it so seriously. It's meant to be a bit ironic and sappy and funny. I mean come on, don't you laugh when you see a typical Bavarian saying clashed up against an American flag? Not to mention an American wearing a striking pink ensemble jaunting through the image?

This is a real, original photograph, I did not alter it at all. It's not a collage, I found this place exactly this way in Frankenmuth, Michigan, USA. But don't think I feel all patriotic or anything, this picture doesn't particularly warm my heart, I really just find it funny. I think it is a curious juxtaposition of what could be seen (and often is seen) as "typically German" by Americans, and, well, a truly typical scene from Smalltown, USA. That's all. This is not some statement like "let's all go to Oktoberfest!" or "God Bless the USA!". It's an observation of a somewhat strange scene, cliched as it may be, but again, not meant to be taken so seriously.

I guess I should have told this to the person at the shop where I wanted to leave some cards. I asked if I could put out some cards for my exhibition, and she wanted to see them. So, I showed her the card, featuring the above photograph, and her eyes got all wide, and she started shaking her head dramatically, and she said "No, no, sorry," quite emphatically. Huh. I was a bit dumbfounded, and went back outside where my friend was waiting with Willy, and my friend asked, "What's wrong? Why is your face red?" and I recounted this story. Oh well. I guess this is just my first experience as a misunderstood artist! Now I can be all dark and moody, because people just don't understand me. (Don't worry, you don't have to take that last sentence so seriously either.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Crazy Day at the Consulate

Last Friday I had to take care of some paperwork at the consulate, and fortunately I could do this in Leipzig, which is just an hour away, as opposed to Berlin, which is 3 hours away. But even though I got to go to the little consulate and not the embassy, I got full star treatment!

First of all, the consulate is on some little tiny street in the middle of the city that the Leipzigers don't even know. I attempted getting help from various people on the street and at tram stops, to no avail. Most looked at me strangely, as if this street is not in Leipzig at all, but somewhere far, far away, like Bonn or Flensburg. But fortunately, one lady looked at my map, and said, "Well, it looks like it should be in that direction, near the city hall."

So I climbed into a tram and was on my merry way. Upon getting out of the tram, I felt dangerous, like I was jumping into waters unknown, which I really was, since I'd only visited Leipzig once before, and that time was with a group of students and our teacher. But, by following my trusty map which I printed from the internet I found the consulate. It was hard to miss, with all the fencing and police tape around it. I knew I had found the right place not by the street name or the address, but by the little American flag flying among a sea of fence, chain, and police. Stuff like this makes me feel much more like I am in danger, not like I'm safe, and so I approached the Portakabin housing a couple of police officers slowly. There was also one standing outside, and I asked if this was the consulate.

"Yes. Do you have an appointment?" the officer wanted to know.

"Well, I called, and was told to come between 2 and 4 pm today. "

"And what's your name?"

I told him, and he told an officer in the Portakabin, who in turn telephoned with the guards in the guard-house (who were strangely enough only about 5 meters away, he could've shouted). As soon as everything was cleared up, I was given further instructions.

"Okay, you have to go back out and around and into the middle, and I'll open the chain for you."

This was not some heavy protective chain, it was a red and white plastic chain, much more symbolic in its purpose than anything else. So, I got through the chain, and walked the few meters over to the guard-house, where I had to turn over my passport for inspection. One guard inspected, while the other androgynous guard held open the door for entrance, before the passport inspector guard had decided that I was not a threat. Basically, I could've run in and wreaked havoc had I wanted to. But no, I followed the rules, walking through the metal detector, first with stroller, then without, and letting my bag be scanned and searched, and finally turning over my cell phone, camera and MP3 player for safekeeping while I went inside. You'd think they were going to fly me to the US after all that. During my wait, I noticed that I got special treatment, as other visitors to the consulate also had to turn over bottles of water and all liquids, because I was with a baby (or what appeared to be a baby, haha) I got to keep all of my liquids! Not that they really came in handy, though I guess I could've doused the giant photos of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice which were hanging in the main building with scalding water from my thermos instead of using it to mix up a bottle of baby formula later. But that would've been too much trouble to waste on them, because then I would've had to get more boiled water somewhere else later, because acts of protest alone don't nourish a baby!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Kriminalpolizei Peine, Schneider* ist mein Name..."

Yes, it's true, yesterday we were stopped by the German version of the FBI on our way from Leipzig to Lüneburg. As if the background of the journey itself isn't interesting enough, our drive increased in comedy tenfold as a black Mercedes passed us and flashed a hand-held, lit "Stop" sign out the window, and motioned for us to follow them off the Autobahn. Schneider's partner swiftly reached out the window and slapped a blue light on the roof of the car, and they continued to a gas station parking lot, with us obediently following. After all, we knew what this was all about.

"Good evening, FBI Peine, my name is Schneider," the incredibly television- detective-show-looking officer said. I'm talking Columbo quality here, this guy was incredible. Black leather bomber jacket, some sort of mid-eighties half-mullet and a shaggy walrus-style mustache. I nearly cracked up. Then he flashed his keychain (as pictured above) as ID. This time I really had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

"I'll tell you what this is all about," Schneider said. "You have no tail lights. The back of your car is completely dark. Please turn on the car and I'll show you."

Of course we acted surprised, but unfortunately this is a routine problem with the old Ford Scorpio. The light switch is on the fritz and the dashboard lighting and tail lights go out sometimes. This was one of those times. The switch has been changed a few times, and a new one has been ordered yet again. So, Schneider showed us the problem and recommended we call roadside assistance for some help if we couldn't get help in the gas station. After all, as an FBI officer, he can't write any warnings or tickets, he's really out to get the bad guys. Since we knew what the problem was and that we couldn't get it fixed before a new switch came, we gave them a good head start and continued on our way. Amazingly, on the return trip from Lüneburg, my driver had the idea to hit the switch with his fist to see if it helps, and the lights suddenly went back on. After turning the car off, the lights didn't come back on, but by punching the switch again, they did! That's a much more cost-effective solution than ordering a new switch every 2-4 weeks.

But back to this keychain as ID thing. I guess in Germany this is enough, flashing your keychain as some sort of secret code saying "I am legitimate", but somehow in the USA that just wouldn't cut it. Either people would speed off laughing at you, or you'd be shot by someone who can't stand the police or anyone who dares to act like the police. Really, no one would believe it. This officer was a true work of art, and in that, he was convincing, but that, in addition to a keychain, would still not be enough in the United States.

Another part of me, despite the fact that I am so sceptical of the keychain, really wants one of these. On one hand, it seems so mysterious like I'm a double agent leading a secret life, and on the other hand, it would be a great conversation piece. Every time I got out my keys I could tell this story, and that would be incredibly pleasing.

*names have been changed to protect the Kriminalpolizei Peine and their fine work protecting us

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"The worst case is hitting a moose from behind."

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Him can't eat no tater chips, him's just a baby!"
"This is the year of parties that cost more than I can afford."

Friday, January 05, 2007

My bathroom, a Gesamtkunstwerk

The work is going very slowly, but I am surely getting my bathroom painted with water scenes. The waves are finished, and the sea creatures are coming along nicely.

To add to the flair, I also got a really great new shower curtain for Christmas!

Things I learned on Christmas vacation

1. American homes are full of delicious treats, against which I cannot defend myself. This is supported by the fact that during my vacation, I gained 5 kilograms.

2. German cars are really small, and American cars just keep getting bigger.

3. The term "SUV" means "sport utility vehicle". I prefer to call them "super useless vehicles" because they are big beyond the point of being sensible or useful, and are incredibly wasteful in terms of gas use, but...

4. ...gas in America is cheap! We filled up the car when it was empty for under $40. Compare that to a fill-up in Germany (with the same size gas tank) for around €80.

5. You really don't ever need to learn how to walk, as long as you can use your feet well enough to drive a car. America is designed so that you drive everywhere and walk as little as possible. You can even borrow a little motorized cart to drive around inside some stores, completely eliminating the need to walk!