April 27, 2009

Crossing Over

Recently I have found myself thinking in German, translating my thoughts for practice just in case I get a chance to share them with someone. I don't know if that's a sign that I'm crossing over or just a sign that I'm going insane, in Deutsch. I started out yesterday with my German lesson, 90 minutes of discussion about hobbies and memories of grade school, and I rocked it (in an American -learning-German sort of way). Then Ben and I walked downtown and I got a haircut. There were no words exchanged in English. And the cut looks great, sans words, although she did ask me if I was on "holiday" in Jena. What I wanted to say was "Are you joking? Who would come to Jena for holiday?" but I couldn't conjure up the German words so instead I explained about "mein Mann" and the Max Planck Institute.

When we returned home I went to the basement to throw a load of laundry in the washing machine only to discover that it was filled with water. Again. I decided I'd had enough, I was calling the Hausmeister right away to complain, when I looked out the window and there he was, working on a door in the next building with the locksmith. They were working on apartment six, but also had the door to apartment seven open, the apartment that Joslin's folks stayed in and that Mark's family will occupy while they are here. Joslin still has the key and was worried that they were changing the locks, so we went outside to investigate. She said to the Hausmeister "All ist gut mit sieben?" to which he replied "Ya, all is gut mit sieben und all is gut mit sechs". Now, I am not a mind-in-the-gutter sort of gal, but I silently chuckle to myself when we say the number six in German because it sounds exactly like sex in English. And obviously I am not the only one, because the locksmith walked by me on his way to leave and muttered under his breath "Sechs ist immer gut", which translates as "Six is always gut", but which I'm sure he meant as a joke about sex. And I was so freakin' proud of myself for understanding the joke (my first encounter with German humor!) that I let his inappropriateness slide, because I'm fairly sure that after the brief exchange I had with the Hausmeister in my broken German, Herr Locksmith was pretty sure I wouldn't understand his words at all.

We're on our way to Berlin on Thursday to soak up some sights. The Berlin Zoo has a panda and I've been wanting to visit what's left of The Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. I hear they have a Starbuck's (gasp) and I'm planning to eat a jelly doughnut while I'm there.

April 23, 2009

Insert Title Here

Sometimes I put off posting my blog for lack of a title. It's true; I can be that much of a perfectionist. I go about my daily life just like everyone else. It's rarely filled with exciting happenings. I don't always have a story to share. It is however, filled with small and significant details that don't necessarily connect to one another but still need to be remembered.

Ben and Camille enjoying a very rare and quiet moment together, watching television on top of a wooden train at the shoe store.

My delight when I walked into my room and discovered that Claire had surprised me by artistically arranging the clothespins on the drying rack in rainbow order.

It may be old news to some of you, but for insurance that we will indeed return to America, Ben has decided not to cut his hair until we reach the homeland. It's fine with me, I really don't care how he chooses to wear his hair, but to make him feel like he has the power I occasionally argue with him to get a trim and then let him win.

Last week Julia and Camille came over to play and all four kids were peacefully working play-doh at the table. Claire asked Ben if he could please make an exploding sound, and he proudly accepted. Julia and Camille both commended him on how well he sounded.
"Boys have special skills that girls don't" was his reply.

Since our arrival in Germany, I have been collecting pieces of ephemera from our forays into Europe. I recently used them to cover a binder that will hold my scrapbook pages from our time here. I did break down (or get smart!) and buy a paper trimmer, and with snapfish.de for my photo developing, I am in business. Just words and photos on cardstock with a little ink and paint to tell our stories. I have enjoyed the challenge of working with minimal supplies and have been pleased with the simple results, but I won't lie. I'm itchin' to get back in my craft room.

April 17, 2009

Catching Up and Staring

It's raining today, one of those warm, drizzly, all-day spring rains, and I've got a pot of chicken cooking for soup tonight. The landscape from my third-story perch is green, green, green, dotted with the terracotta roofs so characteristic of Germany. It's a good day for catching up and staring out the window.

Or, you may enjoy having your nits picked by a subservient of the female species while lounging in the sun like this guy. Kim, Mark and I took the kids to the zoo in Leipzig yesterday, about an hour's train ride from Jena. The zoo was first started in 1878 and it's seen better days, but they're working hard on remodeling it. It had an excellent primate exhibit and we spent lots of time watching the baboons and gorillas and chimps.

The aquarium portion wasn't bad either. The part I liked best was riding on the train; I am grateful for the ease with which the Europeans travel and the beauty of their countryside.

Ahhh, Mallorca, and vacationing with the Germans. The weather wasn't very warm for our beach holiday, but the Germans really don't need warm weather for a vacation of this sort. We stayed in the Viva Cala Mesquida Resort, one of at least a hundred resorts on the island; it's what I would consider the Cabo of the Mediterranean. The place completely catered to kids and to the parents of kids who were tired and just wanted to have their offspring entertained for a while. And entertained they were, with an alien dog from outer space named BUFO, who appeared at the children's mini disco party each night at 8 pm sharp. Jonathan actually braved embarrassment and nights on the couch to ask if there might be a CD available of the songs our children learned from BUFO and the Viva staff. Here's a quick video to show the caliber of our entertainment venue. And just let me say that BUFO was amazing in comparison to the high-school-dancers-turned-strip-teasers they dazzled us with one night.

Each room at the resort was a mini-apartment with a bedroom for mom and pop and two neatly made day beds in the living room for the kids and a small kitchen. Meals were buffet-style at scheduled times and the food was not very good, unless you really liked french fries and ice cream, which covered at least half of the guests. It reminded me of a cruise. But, we could see the Mediterranean Sea from our balcony and drinks were included in our 7-day stay. We had a rental car and explored most of the island; the photo in the previous post titled "Vertiginous" shows just what some of the driving looked like, much to Mark's delight. And the clouds of the Mediterranean sky and the building architectures were fabulous; every once in a while I would look over at Mark or he would look over at me and say "Hey, we're in Spain."

My brother has finished his European tour and will be joining us again tomorrow for a few days, so there's bound to be some fun here this weekend. Yesterday marked our three-month anniversary of residence in Germany; today I can't decide if our stay has been long or short so far. Ask me after Prague.

April 15, 2009

Holiday, German-style

We reduced the number of photos we saved to 688. The island of Mallorca and our vacation there was a photographer's dream. Here's a sampling of our favorites; if you're interested in seeing more, let me know. I have the always-popular DVD sets of other people's vacations for sale.

By the Mediterranean Sea



Viva Cala Mesquida


Home of the polychrome Jesus in a skirt


Mirador de la Creueta


Walking the sentry path at Capdepera Fortress


Cap des Frea

Sand in my toes

There's lots of stories behind the pictures, but spring break isn't over yet and I'm up early to take the kids to the Leipzig Zoo. Stay tuned.

April 3, 2009

Goodbye Legos

This is how we were spending our time until about three days ago, when it became Spring here in Jena. We have retired our long johns, taken off our coats and gone outside. We developed a little sweat mustache walking up from the market yesterday. And the Germans are seriously working in their gardens, weeding and pruning and drinking beer, or sitting on a bench in the sun somewhere.

The view from our parking lot on a long sunny evening last week. The parking lot is the meeting place in the afternoons for moms and kids around our little Max Planck community. Germany just "sprang forward" last Sunday, so we're still savoring the long evenings.

As of yesterday, Claire is on spring break for 2 weeks. We are going to Mallorca, an island of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea with our friends Kim and Jonathan, our four combined kids, and lots of other Germans and Brits. The Germans are very serious about their holidays and made all of their arrangements many, many months ago, but not us. We waited until the last minute and were rewarded with a great package that includes airfare, a family hotel on the beach, and all our food and drinks for 7 days. We're leaving on Tuesday and Ben is so excited because they have AN INDOOR POOL!! Claire is excited to be with her new best friend for so long and they're already planning which and how much playmobil will be accompanying them to the island. I have no doubts that if it doesn't involve me having to make dinner and it does involve me with a daquiri and a book on the beach, this vacation will be just fine.

We took a walk downtown today and I remembered to bring my camera with me for a change. The kids have been bugging me to get a picture of them with what they call the "tippy stone." It's a paver that isn't sitting flush with the others on the sidewalk and each time we walk by (almost everyday) they must find it and jump on it. I wonder if this is the stuff they'll remember from our months in Europe....

When we got to the Galerie, T-mobile was taking pictures of people inside this snowglobe. No, I don't know why. There was a nice scenic print at the back of this plastic bubble and when you stepped inside and they shut the door a fan would begin blowing all these flower petals around you and you could act like a movie star. Of course the kids needed to go in and I couldn't resist taking some shots.

And today was some sort of annual wood festival downtown. There were hundreds of booths with crafts, yummy stands selling roasted bratwurst, logging competitions and heavy forestry equipment demonstrations. Musicians were playing in the streets and for once the Germans seemed almost merry. But this guy took the cake.

His bicycle, except the chain, was made entirely of wood. Love how the little girl is looking on while he takes a big proud swig of that beer. It's true what they say about Germans, the stuff is like water to them.

I've been making art. And so has my hubby. He's got a blog all of his very own.
Half Full
Stop by and say hello if you get a chance.