Monday, December 28, 2009

December 25, 2009

Christmas Sausage Party

Merry Christmas from Gran Canaria! We arrived here last Friday after a long drive from Dresden to Frankfurt first in a blizzard, then just in the middle of the night to catch our early flight. We flew on a scary old plane which didn’t sound so good on take off and had a rough landing (the first sign of scariness were the ashtrays in the armrests), but we made it, and hope to fly on a differentplane back.

It’s been an interesting stay, though slightly disappointing. We’ve probably already visited the best 2 Canary Islands, at least for our taste, so we are a bit spoiled: somehow Tenerife and La Gomera

have more character and friendlier inhabitants than Gran Canaria. Anyway, it hasn’t been boring, especially not today. But let’s start at the beginning.

Hooray, palm trees and mountains!

Oh no, el nublo and crazy streets!

We started by exploring the island a bit, with our first goal being El Roque Nublo. This is a cliff in the center of the island that is often enshrouded in fog, as the name says. As luck would have it, it was also rainy and foggy and we saw nothing of El Roque Nublo but its

mantle of fog. The drive was nice, though, as you can see.

I got to see my favorite Christmas decorations in the whole world (at least in the parts I've seen so far). These seem to be loved in each Canary Island we have visited, the Santas and three wise men who seem to be breaking

into many apartments in every town. As a child I always wondered how Santa got into your house if you didn't have a fireplace, or if there was a fire going, since we heated with a woodstove.

We ventured on to Playa del Ingles, a tourist town even worse than neighboring Maspalomas, where our dingy bungalow with a mean cleaning lady who throws things and curses is. From there we had a good view of the Maspalomas dunes and walked along the beach for a while.

There’s Hooters here too! For the uninitiated, Hooters is a bar with crappy food that is famous for the large breasts and skimpy clothing of its waitresses. The Hooters in Bay City, Michigan, has larger-breasted and skimpier-clothed waitresses than that in Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria, so we didn’t eat there in Gran Canaria.

We didn’t buy this bread, since there are some fantastic baguettes (but a massive lack of pan dulce, delicious

sweet bread which you can get in La Gomera, and which I had been looking forward to) available here, but I do love the name and the packaging. I wonder if they serve the burgers at Hooters on these buns...

Did President Obama decide not to send the inmates from the closed (or closing?) Guantanamo Bay prison to Illinois, but to sell them to Spain to be employed at this restaurant?

We drove to the north of the island by following the road around the west side of the island from

Maspalomas. On the way we saw lots of little waterfalls created by the thunderstorm the night before.

We also saw another result of the rainstorm: fallen rocks! That’s why there are signs telling you not to drive on certain streets in the rain.

Here’s the view from one of the most beautiful places on the island according to our guidebook: Mirador del Balcon. It was pretty nice, and there was a funny guy selling cake in the parking lot who yelled at everybody for parking the wrong way.

On the way we even did something cultural, we visited some caves where the early Canarians lived. These were pretty neat, unfortunately you can’t go into them as our outdated tour seemed to imply.

The last 2 days we’ve been out walking in the Maspalomas dunes. They are quite beautiful, rolling dunes, with a mix of black and light sand, and we had a fun time running around in them. But it got pretty interesting at the end of our walk today, when we wound up in the cruising area of the dunes, which is the area with lots of brushy plants. We were surrounded by naked men, all looking for love! We had read that there were meeting points for men somewhere in the dunes, but were surprised to stumble right into the middle of it (it's not several meeting points, but one huge area) and while trying to figure out which direction to go, to be suddenly and silently surrounded. We weren't alone, there was a couple jogging who jogged into the bushes and right back out... But it was clear to the guys that we (and the other clothed tourists) were there for a different reason, so we were left alone.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A good blog

I just found a funny blog, these kind people commented on Remember White Rabbit:

Scroll down to June 30, 2009 and read "German words for English Eyes" and you wil see why I was laughing so hard. Enjoy!
God Bless America! (and my German health insurance)

I just got my new travel health insurance card in the mail the other day, and while I was just now sorting out my mail and junk on my table from the week, I read the back of the insurance card. Here's what it says:

"Please inform our emergency service bef0re any hospital visits. This way you can avoid having to pay in advance. Especially in the USA it can occur that your credit card limit is exceeded."

Ha! It's not about having your hospital visit or ambulance ride pre-approved (good luck with that after you've been in a car wreck, for example) as you do on many American health insurance plans. The insurance company is actually warning you that you might have to pay some money out of pocket in a foreign country if you don't let them know about your treatment in advance. I like that kind of insurance! They are concerned about my finances, not just their own!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I live in a madhouse

I am becoming more and more convinced that we have completely lost our minds every day. What got me started thinking this was the birth of my son Friedrich, or more exactly, the way he views the world. He was born with wrinkles between his eyebrows, and he always looks very skeptical. I am sure he could hear through the womb that he was on his way to a darn crazy place, and once he got here, it was crazier than he had expected. Not only do I have a five week old who views the world with great skepticism, but I have a three and a half year old who sings the song "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails while sitting on the toilet. This evening while getting him ready for bed, I walked into the bathroom, and there he sat, singing "Hurt". He has very advanced musical taste. Actually, he listens to the version of "Hurt" sung by Johnny Cash, and can also sing other Johnny Cash tunes, as well as various Beatles hits, songs by Belle and Sebastian, AC/DC, Ton Loc, Coolio and Helge Schneider. This in addition to memorizing five Dr. Seuss books, just about every children's song he has ever heard and most of his picture books. So you see, he doesn't just hear grown up music all the time. I can't even imagine what kinds of fun times we are going to have with these two boys in about 10 or 12 years!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Funny Mistakes

Being a language teacher, and someone who is interested in language anyway, you have an ear for funny language mistakes that may have double meanings. I collect these mistakes. I heard a good one a while ago, and here it is.

An acquaintance was shopping on American eBay, and found an interesting auction. The sellers had translated the sentence "We ship worldwide" into German as "Wir schiffen uns in die ganze Welt ein". My German readers are probably peeing their pants themselves right now, because what this seller actually said in German was not related to shipping, even though the individual words sound like it, but they really said "We pee our pants in the whole world". Even if they didn't get a good deal, the German-speaking shoppers looking at this auction will get a good laugh for free!
Massive lack of updates

I can't believe it, this is the first time in the life of this blog that I posted nothing for one entire month. October 2009 was a blog-free month! Yet it was a pretty good month. The first two weeks were rather taxing, as I was waiting for my baby to come, and after he didn't come for 10 days after his due date, the hospital took some measures to speed him up. My second son Friedrich was born on October 15! So I have been busy with other things, blog writing wasn't on the top of my list.

Friday, September 25, 2009

1083 McKimmy

Look at that, the house I lived in last year is up for sale! Not a bad place, on the water, and in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors (mostly), but I sure don't want to buy it! I think my favorite memory of that place is when the owners came to get the keys from us and the car was full to the roof with our belongings and we were about to head out on our road trip to New York to catch the plane back to Germany.
It's always funny when you've lived somewhere, and then it's for rent or sale again, and someone new moves in. When I see these places in Dresden, I always wonder "who is living in my place?", especially with my last big apartment. Even though I have a nice place now, I feel I betrayed my old place, with its grand hallway and big rooms, high ceilings and antique doors, by leaving for the new world last year.
Even though I don't feel any remorse for leaving McKimmy Drive, or as if I have betrayed that house (more like it betrayed me for stealing 10 months of my life with its dark walls and loud furnace), let's reminisce a little about the good times there. There were good times? Well, amusing times at least.

The bunnies
One of our favorite, and only, pastimes on McKimmy Drive was to go down the street to the west and view the bunnies. These were not just any bunnies, but bunnies escaped or set free from someone's bunny farm on the next street. They were precious dwarf rabbits, black, spotted, brown, cream, steel gray, and they had lots of precious bunny babies starting in early spring. The flip side of this coin, however, is that the neighbors loathed these bunnies. Often one would disappear, and we would hear sinister laughter and things like "Got 'im!" after a gunshot. The sad end of another bunny's life.

Crazy Dave
One evening we went to visit the bunnies, and were accosted on the way home by whom we later dubbed "Crazy Dave". Darkness was beginning to fall, and Crazy Dave ran out to the street and started talking nonstop to us in his drunken slur. He wanted to know everything about us, because he and his parents-in-law had been observing us for months, as neighbors will. He also told us all the details about his "f)§/king crazy" parents-in-law and his "beautiful" wife. Then he proceeded to take my husband to the barn on one side of the street to the men, who were drinking hard liquor and talking about cars or something, and me to the other side of the street to the house, where the women were having a party, because I "had to meet them". What kind of party were they having on this Friday night in rural Michigan? A sex toy party. Come to find out, Crazy Dave's "f)§/%king crazy" mother-in-law was practically a colleague of mine, working in the same school district. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Fish bread
While living in this house, we always saved old bread to feed to the fish in the pond across the street or in the lake. These bags of bread deposited in various places around the house came to be known as fish bread, and Wilhelm would seek them out, and we would find him gnawing on hard chunks of bread at various times of day. When asked if he would prefer some fresh bread, he would always refuse, insisting on eating the stale fish bread. Fish bread has come to be one of his favorite snacks, and is best when it is aged at least a few days so it is nice and hard.

Trailer Park Boys
It was during our time on McKimmy Drive that we first heard of the show Trailer Park Boys from Canada. We instantly became obsessed, got the movie and all episodes of the show, and watched them from start to finish a number of times. In a lot of ways, this show reminded us of our current situation, and for added entertainment value, we would sometimes go drive through Lakeview Village, Beaverton's trailer park. Watching this show was at least for me a way of forgetting that I had to go to work the next day, and a way of forgetting everything, just switching off and forgetting. I'm glad I don't need that show now any more, and that I can deal with reality where I am now much better.

And with that, I wish 1083 McKimmy Drive all the best with its new tenants or owners or whatever, and may I give them one piece of advice: tear the place down, landscape and build something new!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The brothel at the end of my street

Well, okay, to be honest, there is not a brothel actually on the street that I live on (as far as I know...) but there is one opening up at the end of the street you look down from my front windows. Heh heh heh.
The responsible, grown up, parent of (almost) 2 children part of me says "What's happening to the neighborhood??" And the other ridiculous, silly part of me is sort of thrilled to live so close to a brothel. Well, "massage parlor and escort service" is technically what it's called.
The thing that's really hilarious about the whole grand brothel opening is that it seems it is being done to spite someone. You see, the now brothel owner bought this little house and garden between a row house and some storage garages, fixed it up and rented out the front part of his garden as parking places to make some money. He built his parking places a bit too big, though, and crossed the property line to the property belonging to the garage owners. Garage owners tore out his paving stones and also decided to tear down the garages to build a new row house, a shicky-mickey passive house or low energy house. Little house owner's revenge on passive house builders? Open a brothel. According to inside sources, this guy has basically said screw those people building their passive house, we'll see how high the rent for those apartments is with a brothel next door! He has decided not to move into his little house, but has already put up a sign for "Candy's Massage Parlor and Escort Service". In German, of course. I love it.
In other brothel news, I heard a pretty funny story. Someone I know knows someone in the Czech Republic who teaches the ladies of the night at a brothel there English. First of all, the idea of an English class for prostitutes is just fantastic. But that's not even the funny part. This brothel in the Czech Republic is making a killing one day a week by offering men free or reduced admission (I can't remember which), as long as they sign a waiver that any and all acts that they commit while in said brothel may be broadcast on the internet.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


First, they stole my bike back in 2005. Now they ruin my freaking car. No kidding, car crash today with some Nazis. I have had enough. We had a nice day today really, went out to lunch at the hotel, sat on the terrace outside with a nice view of the city. Later we continued on to pick up a friend and go view some bunnies outside of town, then we went to the Polenztal, a nice, cool valley full of rocky cliffs and a nice little river, very cool on such a hot day. Then, on the way back to Dresden, it happened. We had planned to stop by and visit some friends on the way back into town, but the Nazis stopped us. We were driving, and came to a construction site with a big steel plate covering a hole or something. We slowed considerably to drive over the plate, not wanting to damage our tires, and the next thing we know there is a Mercedes behind us honking like a wild man and a crash. The jerk hit us. He came out of nowhere, and attempted to pass us in the construction site, but obviously had some trouble judging the size of his car, because he smashed up his front end on the right side and our rear bumper on the left. Or maybe he hadn't attempted to pass, but hit us out of anger that we were driving a foreign car that is nicer than his. I wouldn't put it past such a Nazi. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Mr. Nazi pulled off to the side of the road, we stayed where we were due to evidence. Mr. Nazi approached our car, we locked the doors and kept the windows up and called the police. You see, Mr. Nazi walked sort of like an ape, had a shaved head tatooed with none other than the devil himself, and some kind of old German script on the back window of his crap Mercedes saying something about the Sächsische Schweiz. Not only is the Sächsische Schweiz (where we were) a very beautiful place to go hiking and has been immortalized by numerous artists in many fantastic works, but it is also a cozy little Nazi nest. Mr. Nazi had a license plate from the area, so apparently he is a local, and the old German script on his rear windshield saying something about the Sächsische Schweiz sort of gave him away.
While waiting for the police, Mr. Nazi was telephoning an awful lot. Then the carloads of Nazis started rolling in. Car after car full of shirtless tatooed Nazis came and talked to Mr. Nazi and his girlfriend. Mr. Nazi also went to some people who had been sitting outside their house near the scene and told them what to tell the police. And here we sat, cozy in our air conditioned, banged up car, waiting for the police to come for 45 minutes while the Nazis had a little party surrounding our car. That was a bit uncomfortable. Finally the police arrived, and for the officer, Mr. Nazi was clearly guilty. Hello, Mr. Nazi! Passing in a construction zone! Hello, Mr. Nazi! Driving way too fast in a village! Mr. Nazi was also a bit aggressive, so it turns out to have been a very good decision to just lock the doors and not talk to him without police presence. And the whole time, the other Nazis were milling around, driving around, talking about the accident. Probably also trying to get a good look at us and memorizing our license plate number to enter into their database of people they don't like. You see, we've done some research on Mr. Nazi, since we have his name and address from the police report, and it turns out that yes, he truly is a Nazi. He was convicted of beating up some Vietnamese guys in another village in 2003, and threatening some refugees with a pistol. Super! Mr. Nazi has a gun! And his Nazi friends really do keep a database of names and addresses of liberals and probably anybody they don't like, so we probably are in there now too. Well, he doesn't have my name, but he has another name, and an address, but fortunately not an address we'll be using much longer. We are considering going to another undisclosed location until we can move into our permanent undisclosed location.

If you'd like to have a look at what kinds of nonsense those silly Nazis commit here in the area and read German, have a look here. It's an interesting chronicle of their little games. Maybe you'll even figure out who rear-ended us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

O, Nougat Bits, how I love thee!

Call me American for my extreme use of the superlative here, but I think this may possibly be the best cereal in the whole world! Mmmm, Nougat Bits, also known as Nougat Pockets or Nougat Pillows depending on which discounter you buy them from, are square cereal pockets made of wheat and rice, about one inch by one inch filled with nougat cream, comparable to Nutella, which you can buy in German supermarkets. I truly believe the discounter brands, as pictured above from the now defunct Plus Markt (Plus merged with Netto, so now there's only Netto in the ghetto!) are better than the name brands. The name brand Nougat Bits that I have had got softer quicker in milk or the cereal pockets weren't as good, or there was less creamy, chocolatey nougat inside. All highly disappointing factors. The best Nougat Bits I have had have been from Plus Markt (I can't speak for Netto, since I haven't bought them there yet since my return) and Kaufland (my current box).

Back before I was old and married and with child, there was nothing better than a bowl of Famili Nougat Bits when I felt I needed something sweet in the afternoon, felt a little down, or needed a quick breakfast. After 10 months in America, I had somehow forgotten about my youthful love affair with Nougat Bits, and only a few days ago did the baby in my belly start rumbling something about "Feeeeeed meeee Nooooooouuugaaaat Biiiiiiiits" I hadn't thought about this cereal in at least a year, but I agreed with baby, finding this a very good idea, and so sent out baby's valliant father on a quest for Nougat Bits. The quest was successful, we got our nougat fix, and I don't know when this nougat trip is going to end.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My childish sense of humor

"New from America! Penis enlargement without surgery!"

Call me childish, but this ad campaign cracks me up. Especially the "New from America" part, maybe it's because we now belong to the ranks of tuned-Ami-auto drivers in Germany. The really funny thing about this is that there is an online magazine catering to German Ami-car drivers, and they find this campaign truly disturbing and are upset by it. Loosen up, guys, and have a sense of humor. Sure, the joke is old, but the ad sure did get your attention, didn't it?

"New: Viagra for women."

I don't know about that, and I don't really care about Viagra. But still, call me a motorhead if you want, I would have nothing against driving one of those.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


We got it! This is our new place, yet to be finished. Apparently, a woman and her son lived there forever and ever, and our friend with the flower shop down the street said she always just stared out the window. It's being renovated right now, new flooring put in and all that jazz. And soon it will be ours! We were worried about some stiff competition to get this place, it's in a great location on a quiet street right exactly in the neighborhood we want to be in, and the garden out back, which is actually bigger than depicted, makes it very attractive to families and hippies who like this neighborhood. The front rooms are sunny and bright, the garden shady, quiet and cool, perfect for grilling, pet bunnies and playing children! Plus there are windows all around in every room, which was another very important factor for us. I have this crazy tic about letting in fresh air, and someone else has a crazy tic about having south-facing windows, and here we've got it all.
The really neat thing about this place is not only its proximity to the forest, the park and the new supermarket that people protested and smashed the windows of (and now all the protesters shop there, because it's kind of far and annoying to go to the other stores by foot from this part of the neighborhood-I know, I lived not too far from here for a while), but that it is an addition to a normal old row-house, and we have no neighbors upstairs or downstairs, and have our own separate entrance.
Hooray! I couldn't believe our luck this morning when I found out it's ours! Now I can have 3 bunnies!

Monday, August 03, 2009

I love Socialism!!

It seems like the buzz word on the lips of all the Republicans in the United States nowadays is about what a "socialist" President Obama is and how the evil Democrats want to take everything away from the rich people and give it to people who don't earn their keep and bla bla bla cry cry cry. It's a bunch of annoying bellyaching in my humble opinion. The hot topic at the moment is Obama's goal of instituting a national health care plan and, oh my God!!! What a socialist thing that would be! "A national health care system is something for whimpy Europeans!" they say. "We should be able to choose what kind of care we want and pay for it if we want." It would destroy the great expensive American health care system, and America has the best health care system in the world! We don't want to destroy that! I disagree. Tear down this system that doesn't work and leaves people out in the cold and build a new one from the ground up!

Apparently President Obama's plan would not involve instituting a plan to cover everyone, but a plan to make health care at least accessible to people who don't have it provided by their employers. This is a whole lot of people who work in capacities other than regular old full-time jobs, and a lot of people who are being laid off, fired or otherwise having their work or benefits reduced in these hard times. So there would at least be a reasonable, affordable option for people who don't have health insurance as part of their benefits package from their job, but people would also (maybe) have the option of choosing public or private plans, hopefully resulting in some competition on the otherwise ridiculously competition-free market of American health care. American health care is crazily overpriced. Even if you have "good" insurance as I did, you still pay an arm and a leg for things that are really not that involved or expensive in reality. My "benefits statement" from my health insurance in America quoted a price of over $500 for a prenatal doctor's visit that lasted maybe 20 minutes including an ultrasound. I had to pay about $50 out of pocket for that, which is still too much in my opinion. My direct comparison for this is my experience in Germany, when I was pregnant with Wilhelm in 2006. Exactly the same appointment cost about €50 in total, and the doctor listened to me and treated me like a human, not just scribbling stuff in my chart. And my insurance paid 100%. Another interesting fact: my American insurance supposedly cost my employer about $12,000 a year. My last insurance in Germany cost me not even €2,000 per year, including vision, dental and medical insurance, and 100% coverage, no ifs ands or buts, no fine print, no funny business, no runaround claims or pre-approved ambulances or any of that B.S. No insurance companies are going broke in Germany, nobody is declaring personal bankruptcy because they can't pay their medical bills. How can this be?

I had an amazing experience today. Since I am currently pregnant with number 2 and we just returned, we had to get our insurance situation straightened out before I went to the doctor. Not that I was particularly worried about the doctor's bills, we entered into this move with the knowledge that should we not get coverage, we can pay the bills out of pocket and still come out ahead of where we would have been in the United States. Anyway, we went to the (in the Republican's eyes) "socialist" health care company, got signed up for family insurance, and are all set. No problem. The pregnancy is covered, we are all covered, and will not see a single medical bill. Incredible! Is this socialism? Ha! It's a system that works, call it what you like. You pay into the system via deductions from your paycheck and are just covered. If you want, and you satisfy the income requirements, or are self-employed, you can opt out of the public system and insure yourself privately if that makes you feel better. That's where competition comes in. Private insurance pays the doctors more than the public insurance, and might pay for some additional treatments or a private room in a hospital, but by no means are publicly insured people being shortchanged. I was previously privately insured, and got great treatment, but Wilhelm was always on the public insurance and got the exceptional treatment that he really needed with his hard start in the world, including tons of tests and physical therapy, the whole nine yards. And we never paid a cent out of pocket, it was all covered! No one gets sent away from the hospital, no one can be denied care. I don't know what some people in America think, but here's a pretty good example: in Michigan when I was at my first prenatal appointment with baby 2 I asked about travelling during pregnancy because we have a wedding coming up in the German family in September. The nurse looked at me as if I had lost my mind, and informed me that they recommend that pregnant women not travel outside of their home state after the 25th week of pregnancy. Then she asked, "And who knows if a hospital in Germany would even admit you if you went into labor while you were there!" I looked at her and said, "I'm really not concerned about that. I could go to any hospital I want and pay for the birth out of pocket if I had to. Unlike here." I quoted some prices and told about some treatments I had had (acupuncture during pregnancy!) in Germany, and she was stunned.

In other news, I visited the doctor today to check on number 2. He was stunned that up to this point I had only had one ultrasound so far during this pregnancy. I am stunned as well, considering that I was receiving care in the country with the best health care system in the world, and the ultrasound machine was always just standing there in the corner, unused. Must not have been covered by my "great" insurance. But anyway, we got a look at the kid today, all is well, he or she all one piece and seems fine.

And this is why I love socialism, at least with the meaning that Americans throw the silly word around.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Her Maiden Voyage

The last time we saw the Sebring, in Newark, New Jersey, before she got put in a container with a Porsche Boxster and a Mercedes and on the ship to the old world. Too bad Porsche and Sebring didn't make any babies, they probably would've been pretty sweet!

Let me just start with this: Never before have I adored a car as I adore my Sebring. She is reliable, looks good, and drives so smoothly! It made me very sad, and pretty mad, when I hit that stupid deer back in April. Never before did I want to kill something like I wanted to kill that deer! I never thought I would become a person who likes driving a 6-cylinder or even care, but it really does make a difference. And for those of you tree-huggers who are thinking "A 6-cylinder! But you're killing the environment!" No, I'm not. This car gets the same or better gas mileage as our old Volvo, and way better than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which we sold not so much out of our wish to conserve gas, but more out of our wish to conserve our Euros.

Sebring arrived last weekend in Bremerhaven, Germany. All the paperwork was finished pretty quickly, and Sauer Kraut went to get her yesterday. Sebring arrived mostly unscathed, she got a couple little dings on the way, but no paint damage, and who knows, maybe the tiny dents were already there before she left the new world. Fortunately, Sebring did not suffer the fate of a Corvette at the same agents':

Ouch. Something fell on that car's roof! The owner was circling the car with a VERY sour look on his face...

Customs in Bremerhaven was no problem, we had all of our paperwork in order and since this car was brought as part of a move and we have owned it for nearly a year, we didn't have to pay any import tax. The first thing I heard about Sebring's maiden voyage: "It drives so much better than the BMW!" (S.K. drove a rental car to get the Sebring) The drive went well, Sebring likes the Autobahn. Then, later on, about 59 kilometers from Dresden, I got a call informing me that something metal just flew off the car and whatever it was couldn't be found. Maybe it was the antenna, the antenna broke off because of a crazy wind situation due to things attached to the luggage rack on the roof. Huh. About a half hour later, I got another call that the car quit on the A13 Autobahn. Excuse me? This made me kind of sad, thinking that this may be Sebring's first and last tour in Germany. I had to call ADAC and order a tow truck or a "yellow angel", the guy who comes and helps you when your car dies. So, the yellow angel arrived quickly, and I also received a call pretty soon: The car is running again! And guess what the problem was: the gas tank was empty. That was a pretty expensive fill-up courtesy of ADAC. Apparently, the gas gauge did not show that the gas was nearly out. Maybe it's just confused because the shippers had to pump out the remaining gas to ship the car. Or maybe they filled up the tank with contraband and forgot to take it out before giving us our car back. This really did happen not too long ago in Michigan: a man bought a used car, and the gas gauge always showed a half tank or so. Finally, he got the car checked out, and the gas tank was full of cocaine.

Today we had some things to do in Dresden, and it is just amazing how people stare at our car. For me, she's just a normal car, but for the Dresdner, it's something like a UFO. I think it's because she is lower than most cars, like Passats or even Mini Coopers, and she is long and sleek, so she has the essence of a race car. In the parking garage at the supermarket, some guys were staring at her, and got these goofy smiles on their faces as if they just fell in love with Sebring. Give me €10,000 and in a year, she's yours. Before that we'd have to pay some major tax for selling her. No, not really. I think I'll keep her. She's something special, not only good looking, but practical. You should see her trunk!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Numbers 9 and 10!

This whole thing is starting to puzzle me. This morning we went out for a walk, and on the sidewalk next to our current undisclosed location in Dresden, I found four leaf clovers numbers 9 and 10. First one, then the other jumped out at me. They are currently in the kitchen in some water, but I will add them to the collection of dry ones in my notebook soon. Why do I need so much luck this summer? Or does it mean we are doing everything right?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where did Sauer Kraut get his name?

This is just an informational post so that no one thinks I am being mean or abusive to my husband. There are actually 2 phases that relate to the history of his being dubbed Sauer Kraut.
Phase 1 involved my parents visiting Germany for our wedding. He was preparing some food in our kitchen, and it involved large amounts of sauerkraut, so there was a big bowl of sauerkraut on our counter. He pointed to the bowl and said "See? This is why we are called Krauts!"

Phase 2 came shortly before our departure from Michigan. We were not so happy with our situation right then, and some even came to believe we were somewhat soured by the whole experience. My brother informed my mom one day that he had had my husband on his sandwich. She didn't understand, and asked for clarification. He explained that he had had a Reuben sandwich for lunch, this consists of rye bread, corned beef, swiss cheese, sauce, and, you guessed it, sauerkraut. And hence, the title, "Sauer Kraut".
The most beautiful dairy in the world

This is an interior view of Pfunds Molkerei, also known as the "Most beautiful milk shop in the world" according to the Guiness Book of World Records. It is located right in my neighborhood, tucked in a little place on Bautzner Str. It's easiest to locate by following all the tourist busses on Bautzner Str., they are certainly headed there. Or to the brewery. Anyway, what's so special about this place is that it is completely tiled in gorgeous hand painted porcellain tiles. And they sell all kinds of delicious cheese! One disadvantage of this place: it doesn't smell very good in the summer.

Anyway, my Sauer Kraut had a little run in with the milk shop today. He was headed to the butcher shop with little Kraut in our latest undisclosed location, in the same neighborhood as the most beautiful milk shop in the world. On our current street, which is a pedestrian zone, he was stopped by an unsuspecting non-native English-speaking tourist. Sauer Kraut was in an especially fun-loving mood today.

Non-native English speaker: "Excuse me, where is the milk shop?"
Sauer Kraut: "Well, there are lots of places to buy milk around here, but it's 6 p.m. on a Saturday, so most of them are closed."
Non-native English speaker walks away with an annoyed look on her face.

S.K. was pleased with these results, and glowing upon his fruitless return from the butcher shop. You see, it was 6 p.m. on Saturday, so the butchers were all closed.
What a lucky day!

My new bunny looks something like this, only a much lighter gray, almost white. We stopped by a friend's house today after looking at an apartment (where I just so happened to find four leaf clover number 8 in the garden) to visit and see his bunnies, since I had heard there had been great bunny changes at his house. Wow, have they got bunnies! 2 litters to be exact, and at least 2 pairs of adult buns. One litter is 6 weeks old, the other litter is a little older. The precious creamy gray bunny is currently 6 weeks and will be available in 2 weeks! She was spoken for, but since the person who wanted her has gone bankrupt and left behind a really nice apartment on the top floor of my friend's house, she won't be able to take the precious bun. We would also love to take the apartment, but it is currently a bit expensive for us. But we will see if we can work something out. Precious bun is ours!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Did you know...

that in Germany if you find an empty parking spot on the street and your passenger jumps out to stand in the spot while you turn around to drive to the spot, it is legal for another car to come and slowly drive into the parking spot, making contact with the human standing in the spot and pushing him/her out of the way with the car? There have been court cases regarding exactly this, and the person pushing the other person out of the way in the car won.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We're baaa-aaack!

After nearly 24 hours of being in transit, from our hotel in New York to our temporary place in an undisclosed location just outside Dresden, then a couple days of lots of sleep, we have arrived.
Being away for ten months now just seems like a blurry memory, or a half forgotten dream. In our undisclosed location, our gracious hosts even unpacked some of our old furniture and Wilhelm's toys, so we really feel at home. And yesterday afternoon and evening, there was even a big surprise party for us, with a large number of the colorful characters who were a part of our daily life before and the whole family. Not to mention large amounts of very delicious foods.

Wow. It's kind of overwhelming, and neat to be back in this home away from home. It's different from when I came here before, it's not this prickly exciting new adventure anymore, it's a place I know better and feel far more comfortable in than my original home in many ways.

On another note, I found my 6th four leaf clover this summer yesterday in our undisclosed location. Number five was found at my parents' house the day we set off on our drive to New York. We must have used the luck of that one either for not having to unpack all of our belongings from the car at the Canadian border or for not getting shot in East Orange, NJ, while searching for our hotel, then deciding we'd better just look for something in a better neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New York City

That's the truth! We have been deprived of city life for too long. We drank in New York today like water for people who are dying of thirst. New York City is incredible. For whatever reason, it has the reputation of being fast, cold, harsh and unfriendly, but both times I have been here, my impression and experience has been exactly the opposite. If someone sees you looking at a map they ask nicely if they can help or if you're lost, if you've got a kid who needs a toilet, they will let you in wherever and comment "I can't blame you for not using the Burger King restrooms, they're pretty skeevy." Maybe the bad reputation is just a way of keeping people from absolutely overrunning this fantastic metropolis.

We took a great walk from Battery Park around the southern tip of Manhattan via the Esplanade, winding up in Tribeca. This frog was spotted in Rockefeller Park, just one sculpture from a jam packed little area of sculptures by Tom Otterness. For more, go here. All of the little guys around the bigger figures remind me of scenes from the animated film Fantastic Planet, in a way creepy, yet endearing.

We also went to Central Park, since I hadn't been there yet and really wanted to see it. It was way more than I expected. The landscape is just beautiful, it's full of rocks, trees, water and people people everywhere!

We also saw the Trump Tower, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (from a distance), and were in Greenwich Village, Soho, the Financial District, and the future site of the "Freedom is not free" monument, or whatever they are currently calling the former site of the World Trade Center. This trip has resulted in the decision to definitely take at least a week vacation in New York City sometime soon. Like our cab driver said tonight: "You could stay here for a month and still want to see more."

Our cab driver was full of wisdom. We mentioned that we were leaving Michigan to move back to Germany, and were just on vacation here for a couple of days, and he said "Michigan is like a ghost town. All they do there is build cars." To which I couldn't resist replying: "Not any more! Now it's just a ghost town!" This resulted in roaring laughter and 100% agreement. He also agreed that "Chicago sucks", confirming what I've heard before about New Yorkers disliking Chicago and Chicagoans disliking New York. This guy got a good tip, unlike the guy yesterday from New Jersey who was a total d!$% and did not even help lift suitcases into the trunk, just stood there with crossed arms smoking his Parliaments. Like I said when he called back wanting detailed directions to the place where he was to pick us up: "The address is XYZ, I see an exit called Fish House Road, there are no special landmarks, that's all I know. That's why I call a service to come pick me up." Why don't you have a GPS that works? And why are you driving a 300C and not a Lincoln Town Car like we ordered? You can get more luggage in a Chrysler Sebring than a 300C, that big, ugly, boxy car is a joke.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Taking leave of this place

We are on the road again, and, well, just about off the road. We dropped off the car to be shipped to a far away place and will be boarding our plane for a far away place soon. But first, here are some sights from our trip through MI, ON, NY, PA, NJ and back to NY.

This is a sight from somewhere in New York or Pennsylvania. There are just too many things about this scene that I love.

Fries Poutine. An eastern Ontario delicacy best eaten after drinking large amounts of alcohol, at least according to insiders. It consists of fresh cut french fries, warm cheese curds and beef gravy. Mmmm. I actually tried it, and in my hungry state, didn't mind it, though skeptical at first glance.

Big Turk, Canadian candy bar. Highly innappropriate by PC German standards. Very delicious by my standards. Inside German sources say it tastes like Gelee Bananen. We'll see about that when we arrive. My description: chocolate covered gummy bear in bar form. Mmmm.

Insert "don't" here. Sorry Michigan, but it's true. Some people have been known to say, and I quote: "The only good thing about Michigan is that when you leave, you know you can't be going anywhere worse."

Turtle crossing in Kingston, Ontario. On first glance, I thought: "How nice of them to think of the turtles!" Upon commenting on how I like their turtle crossing to a Kingstonian, I was told: "You don't want to hit one of those with your car! They're huge! They can do some major damage!" So I guess it's more to protect the motorists than the turtles, unlike Germany's frog crossings.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sauer Kraut at Harley Davidson gang run junkyard today: "I need a loud horn for my car. I'm taking it back to Germany and there people just walk out in front of you, and I need something that will make them jump out of the way."

Harley gang: "Why don't you just run them over?"

Sauer Kraut: "Well, I can't do that. I don't want any legal problems."

Harley gang: "We just put loud pipes on our bikes so people get out of the way."

Sauer Kraut: "I had loud pipes on my bike in Germany and lost my license for two years."

Harley gang: "Go out back, there are some old Cadillacs out there, you can take a horn from one of those."

Sign on the wall in Harley gang's office: "Wanted: old motorcycles. No Japs." Good think S.K. didn't mention what kind of bike he had those loud pipes on, they would've kicked him out. Or run him over.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What question could I have asked this 8 Ball one year ago during the planning of my move from Dresden to Michigan?
a. Will this move make me lose my mind?
b. Am I ever going to have more children?
c. Will we ever move back to Dresden?
d. All of the above.
Sorry to get all hocus-pocus on you and start writing about silly things like four leaf clovers and 8 balls lately, but I am feeling kind of hocus-pocusy. I guess being nearly six months pregnant will do that to you. Oh! That gives away one answer: b. could have been a correct question for that 8 ball answer. It's true, there is a baby on the way, and in honor of that, a baby joke I heard today:
Two babies were lying in the nursery of a hospital. One looks at the other and says, "I'm a girl!" The other says, "I'm a boy!" The girl asks, "How do you know that?" The boy says, "Come here, take a look" as he pulls down his blanket. "See! I have blue booties on!"
Ha ha ha. That one is from the Danish mother of a wife of a colleague, imported straight from Denmark.
Anyway, back to the hocus pocus. Along with all the four leaf clovers (see previous posts about my finding of 4 of them in the past week), all fortunes from fortune cookies at every delicious Chinese restaurant I go to have been telling me that prosperity is near, and soon you will be sitting on top of the world and stuff like this. Huh, well, we'll see. I quit my job today, so that won't be making me prosperous any time soon. It may be a surprise to some that I quit my job, but it really is for the best. You see, I feel like I am losing my mind once again planning yet another intercontinental answer a. above was also correct. I probably did lose my mind last year during intercontinental move #1. Big news for those not yet in on it! We are returning to Dresden! And now, a little Westernhagen (or is it Nena?) in honor of this:
"Ich bin wieder hier
in meinem Revier
war nie wirklich weg
hab mich nur versteckt
ich rieche den Dreck
ich atme tief ein
und dann bin ich mir sicher
wieder zu Hause zu sein"
I know my readers could probably all qualify as members of Mensa, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, so you've probably figured out that answer c. from above would have also been correct last year had I asked the 8 ball that particular question. And from the Dreck part of the song, you probably also figured out that we are returning to the Neustadt! Hooray! We're not there yet, so I can't smell the Dreck (dirt) just quite yet...but soon enough. July 9th, I will officially be smelling the smell of Dresden again!
Soooo, in all truth, the 8 ball could have just said "All of the above."
Things I can't wait for:
-delicious German baked goods
-going to the Plus Markt and having the cashier throw my purchases for me to bag them myself (I'll tell you what, that's a lot more efficient than the slloooooooww cashiers here, and I can deal with my thrown purchases much better when tired and hungry than with some friendly cashier chatting with me)
-giving people dirty looks for anything and everything (I've already been practicing, I am sick of all the niceness around here!)
-letting Wilhelm scream in the store and getting dirty looks
-did I mention sunflower seed rolls? Quarkkuchen? Roggenbrötchen? Kuchen? Any kind of Kuchen? Schokoladenbrötchen? Oh yeah, baked goods!
-my bike
-the tram
-delicious milk products
-Kartoffeln und Quark
-the smell of the bakery in the morning, oh my god
-the lack of fast food restaurants
-Neustädter Diechl!
-the playgrounds and all the über-moms there
-being sent to the butcher to buy some meat products I know nothing about and will not eat, looking and pointing at the totally wrong thing when placing my order
-mmm, the cheese! All the wonderful cheese!
-people outside walking, biking, running and skating everywhere, even in the rain!
-all of the sounds, the angry tram drivers and their angry bells, car horns honking, dogs barking, people talking, church bells, the music in the cafes...
I could go on and on, but it's getting late and we have a big day of packing the car and dealing with the debacle that that is sure to develop into tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Luck

I walked out the door today, and what was staring up at me from the lawn? Another four-leaf clover! The fourth one in a week. We must be heading for some luck, or needing some major luck soon...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's going on?

We must be doing something right, because today I found my third four leaf clover this week. How can that be? Are these things really lucky? Do I need all of this luck, or is it a sign that we are just doing everything right? Some very big decisions were made and finalized this week, then I started finding these! One on the 17th, one on the 18th and one today. And it's just when I am walking along, looking down at the grass, they jump out at me, I don't sit and search for them like I did when I was a child (when I also found several). On the 17th and 18th, I was walking from the car to the house, and there they were. Today I was walking over from my neighbor's garage, and there was one. Huh. The really funny thing is that I haven't found one for years, and now 3 in one week.
C'mon Dresden...

The whole world cultural heritage site thing is getting old. For those not in the know, Dresden's Elbe Valley, a nearly 20 kilometer long part of the Elbe River Valley (it's the red outlined part on the map of Dresden above), was declared a UNESCO world cultural heritage site a few years ago. Now the title is in danger because the citizens of Dresden voted to build a bridge at one point within this area. Indeed, the planned (and currently under construction) bridge is not a pretty one (see below), and its planning has some flaws, but how can this bridge lead to the removal of the title of world cultural heritage site?

By definition, a world cultural heritage site is a cultural landscape in a large city that has been used and formed by humans. I know, I know, the UNESCO has 6 criteria all written out in pretty language describing how this cultural landscape is to be, but basically, what I wrote above is what it boils down to. The criteria are written in such a way that one could understand them to mean that the new bridge in Dresden, just as an example, is acceptable or unacceptable (the architecture in the area unifies one or more significant cultural epochs) . It all depends on how you want to understand and view the whole thing.

How can one ugly bridge ruin 20 kilometers of an incredibly beautiful landscape full of architectural and natural treasures? There are other existing ugly bridges in the 20 km stretch of cultural heritage. Everyone claims how these incredible meadows that are so nice for picnicking, etc. are being destroyed. But do you know what? I rarely saw people picnicking or playing sports where this bridge is being built. You know where the people are picnicking? By the other bridges! People put cows out on these meadows to chow on the grass, and bale it up when the time is right, but that is still doable when a bridge is there. You can still go for a walk down there by the Waldschlößschen where they are building the bridge, it will just be a bit louder, but guess what everyone, you're in the city, and it's loud in the city. Should they close the Königsbrücker Straße in the Neustadt because it's loud and it stinks? NO! I live on a quiet road in the country right now, and I am losing my mind. Bring on the noise!

My main beef with the Waldschlößchen bridge is that I hear it has no opportunity for pedestrians or cyclists to cross. Also no trams. Please correct me if I'm wrong on this point, but I find this unacceptable and silly. Of course, that is just in my own personal interest, as a pedestrian and cyclist. In my current life I am forced to drive a car, but at heart, I am a pure pedestrian and cyclist, and would love to bike across this bridge to work or wherever I might need to go on that other side of the river. It would be much more convenient than biking over one of the other bridges and then rattling my brains out on some of those cobblestone streets they've got over there. Why not build big with space for pedestrians, cyclists and a tram that could be added later should the need arise (though the need is probably already there)?

Maybe the whole thing is just a set up, maybe someone in Dresden paid off the UNESCO to give them the title then threaten to take it away (even though they knew upon awarding the title that this bridge was planned) for publicity. I've got to say, if nothing else, this whole debacle is spectacular publicity for Dresden. No one would have even known that the Elbe River Valley in Dresden was a world cultural heritage site if it weren't for the title being endangered by the bridge. A lot of people never would have even heard of Dresden or thought about Dresden had this not happened. The only problem is that a lot of people are probably shaking their heads and saying "Those silly Dresdner!" about the bridge trouble.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Assorted stuff of late

Not a whole lot has been going on around here, but that's probably just the calm before the storm. We had some visitors, a couple of birthday parties, and lots of asking ourselves "What's next?"

I love this sign, it is posted near Beaverton on Dundas Road. Someone really wants to scare people off of their property. But, if you look closely at the lower right hand corner, you notice that this sign was ripped off from the city of San Diego, where, unlike in Michigan, they must actually have rattlesnakes.

My sailor friend pointed this out to me on a stop in Traverse City, MI. "Oh my God! Come look at this! You've got to put it on your blog!" All I can say is: shame on you, Mother Nature!

Wilhelm is only 3 years old, and on two of his birthdays, he has had hail storms. What are the odds of that with a late May birthday? On his first birthday in Dresden there was a sudden hail storm, and this year on his third birthday in Beaverton, there was a sudden hail storm. Weird.

Wilhelm's birthday wishes? Balloons and bunny cake. He got both, and the excitement was immense.