Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And they are off!

The Academy Award nominations were announced today. You can read about them and vote on them yourself here. I was surprised and not surprised by several things. Just remember to never forget how boring and predictable the academy can be!

1) I was not surprised by all of "Brokeback's" nominations. However, I think it will only take screenplay, director, and best film. But, I suppose that is enough, isn't it?

2) I was surprised but also not surprised by the number of nominations for "Crash." I was not surprised because several weeks ago I started reading about the campaign that the producers were conducting and sending out DVDs to potential voters. The Harvey Weinstein-technique is guaranteed to get you some nominations, if not some awards. I was surprised by the nominations because . . . well . . . I did not like the movie. I thought that it was too over the top and moved way to fast. Some of the characters could have been cut down and a few plot twists left out. Frankly, I thought it was "showy." Of the best movie nominations, Crash was the only one I did not predict. I went with "Walk the Line" instead. But like I said, I should have known that the campaign was under way.

3) I was not surprised by Russell Crowe's no show nomination. Sometimes I think the academy does not really like him that much.

4) I was surprised by William Hurt's nomination. WTF?? I guess I have to see the movie, but in all the reviews that I read about "A History of Violence," I don't remember seeing his name. He is this year's Alan Alda.

5) I think Philip Seymour Hoffman will win best actor.

6) I don't think my secret celebrity crush, Jake Gyllenhaal, will win, but I CANNOT WAIT to watch him in tux on TV.

7) I hope Catherine Keener wins for supporting actress. She is awesome. And sexy. And over 40.

8) I wish they had nominated Steve Carrel's original screenplay for the 40 Year Old Virgin. It was my favorite movie last year and I would have loved to see him win and congratulate his wife. When will the Academy learn to laugh? Laughter is good.

9) Who will win the battle between penguins and Enron? Who cares? Grizzly Man was better and directed by a German, but the Academy said that it did not qualify. I think it is a bias against German cinema (see the title of my last post).

10) That said, I was so happy to see a German movie, "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days," nominated as best foreign language film. A lot of WW II movies have come out in recent years in Germany. Der Untergang (Downfall) which was nominated last year, is better. Bruno Ganz plays Hitler in a way that you have never seen. During the Golden Globes this year, they played a clip of Anthony Hopkins's Hitler. I was like, "You have got to be kidding me!!" Rent "Downfall." Watch it in German with English subtitles (you have to, the acting is better that way). Be amazed.

11) Glad to see that Batman Begins got at least one nomination. I think people forgot about that movie. It stars one of my other secret celebrity crushes, Christian Bale.

12) How did Star Wars not get nominated for visual effects. WTF??? War of the Worlds but not Revenge of the Sith?? No way. Even the German thought it was weird.

That is all I can think of at the moment. Trust me, I am sure that I will think of more before the big day March 5. For those of you not interested, you should probably skip those blogs.

After looking at my comments, I realized that I watch entirely too much television.

I wanted to say more about the cool things going on in my life. The career stuff I actually cannot get into because I am afraid I will ginx it, and I am not sure I am allowed to talk about it. But I can tell you that the personal stuff involves a house. The German and I are contemplating building one this summer. Next week we have to go to the bank to see about a mortgage, which makes me feel old. I will keep you up-to-date on all the details.

Monday, January 30, 2006

German Cinema is not all Angst and Expressionism

Tomorrow is a big day in my world. The 2006 Academy Award nominations are being announced. Because I have an opinion about everything (really, I do, ask my mom), I have some predictions to post. But before I get to that, I wanted to mention that in our usual weekend DVD rental the German and I did not rent a single English movie. We rented 3 German movies. We NEVER do that. And you know what . . . they were pretty good.

First, Maenner Wie Wir (Men Like Us) is the story about a gay soccer team. Ecki, is a 20 year old (or about), young gay man who inadvertently comes out to his soccer team. After being thrown off the team, he travels to Dortmund to put together a team of only gay men to play against his old team. It is a story of gaining respect and defining who you really are. It is also very funny.

Second, Kebab Connection Kebab Connection is about a young Turkish man (Ibo) who wants to make German Kung Fu movies (his pitch to a producer is hilarious!). When his German girlfriend turns up pregnant, he is faced with the prospect of having to "be a grown up." The movie presents many of the cultural differences between Turks and Germans, and how it can lead to tension and many laughs. The movie is a bit fluffy (it has a typical Hollywood ending) and the theme could be more fully explored, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Also, you will be singing "Everybody was kung fu fighting" for hours.

Finally, Barfuss (Barefoot) is subtitled: "How far would you go if you were in love?" I liked this movie the best. It was written, directed, and stars Germany's answer to George Clooney, Til Schweiger. He is very cute and a good actor. Til Schweiger spent many years in Hollywood but could not break into the American market. Unfortunately good actors with accented English often become "character actors." In Barfuss, Nick Keller (Til Schweiger) is kind of a loser who drifts from one job to the next and has broken contact with his family. Fate gives him a job at a mental institution. After he saves the life of a disturbed girl, Leila (Johanna Wokalek), she decideds not to leave his side. She follows him as he travels to Hamburg for the wedding of his younger brother. I thought this movie was cute, but a bit long. Some of the scenes could have been edited better. The German also like the movie, but I think that is because it also has his favorite secret celebrity crush, Alexandra Neldel. Alexandra Neldel also stars in a soap called "Verliebt in Berlin," which the German secretly watches.

My goodness, I have not even gotten to predictions, and I am already exhausted. Well, it is 10:49pm here and I have had a seriously LONG day. Some exciting things are happening career wise and personally (NO I AM NOT PREGNANT). So I tell you what, I will skip the predictions and go to bed. However, I will get up bright and early and respond to the nominations as well as fill you in on all the other happenings in the land of Sauerkraut and Mercedes.

PS I am saddened to read about the death of the amazing Wendy Wasserstein.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Just your typical Friday morning

Today we got up at a normal hour and I decided that since I have the morning free, I will go to the gym. I made some eggs in order to ingest some protein before I tortured my body. We sat at the table. Quiet. Coffee and eggs.

The German began to hum a song. What is that song?

Claire: Sweetie, I think that it is a little early in the morning for Black Sabbath.

German: Yes, you are probably right.

I actually made it to the gym. I saw Russian Drill Sergeant for the first time since December. I bow down to your superior abs. You are awesome. I even made it through the class! Although I am in a bit of pain.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Germans can do a lot, but they cannot do reality television

I am a lazy git. I admit it. I do have problems accepting it sometimes, however. Tonight I finished teaching at 8:00pm. As I sat in the car, I had two options: go to they gym or go home. What did I do? I went home, EVEN THOUGH I HAD A PACKED GYM BAG IN THE CAR. I feel like such a loser. Oh, well. But I am glad that I went home, because I once again able to observe Germany's television short comings.

Germany tries to be sophisticated by calling reality TV shows "docu - soaps." I suppose that "docu" might indicate some level of professionalism, but there is none to be found. Docu-soaps here are just bad, bad, bad. I think the problem is that they people who participate just don't get that into it. Perhaps Germans are more reserved than Americans or they are not exhibitionist enough. Despite this cultural obstacle, there are many docu-soaps on TV over here: The Super Nanny, Big Brother (they get a whole village here!), Frauen Tausch (wife swap), That's my Baby.

My favorite reality show in the States is The Apprentice. Yes, I have a favorite. I never claimed to be an intellectual, in fact I like my brain candy, thank you very much. I cannot explain my fascination with that show. Every time I hear that theme music (God, I love the O'Jays) I get positively giddy. I keep up with the show even here in Deutschland. Yahoo broadcasts about 10 minutes of the show and you can read summaries on Reality News Online.

They tried to bring The Apprentice here to Germany. It did not work so well. The first version was pulled after a few episodes, then it was reincarnated as Big Boss. Big Boss WAS The Apprentice: same music, same tasks, everything. No Donald though. They did have Reiner Calmund, who is well . . . big. It got through the season but has not come back. I suppose watching people get fired is not entertaining in a country where some places have over 15% unemployment. Go figure.

Anyway, I digress. As I sat down with the German (who is not 100% but is no longer in the bathroom every 20 minutes), I flipped on the TV. There is was. Germany's Next Top Model, staring Heidi Klum. Wow. Germany has some very thin women. It made my choice to go home and not to the gym look like a bad one. Did I watch it? You bet I did. While eating potato chips.

I am a super hero

The past two days have involved way too many trips to the doctor. Monday I made my last trip to the dentist, well for at least a month anyway. I got four fillings and HE DID NOT USE NOVICANE. That's right. I took it like a woman. I say woman, because the man I know best, the German, looked at me like I was on crack when I told him about my "powering through." "Well, that is just crazy," he said. It was not comfortable and there were a few moments when the dentist hit a nerve, but it was better without having a needle stuck in my gum.

So there you have it. In my warped mind, getting a needle stuck in your gum is much worse than having a drill taken to the tooth. I have to go back to the dentist at the end of February to get a bridge put in. I have a hole where a tooth is supposed to be. It is on the side, so you cannot see it. I am not sure that I want the bridge, as the gap in my teeth gives me a little bit of redneck street cred.

Yesterday, I spent two hours at the doctor with the German. On Tuesday at 4:30am the German woke me up to inform me that he had stomach / intestinal flu. I told him to take an immodium, leave me alone, and I went back to my snoring. At 7:30am I got up and realized just what bad shape he was in and also felt like a complete ass hole. I cancelled my morning English lesson and drove him to the doctor. Then I spent the rest of the day taking care of him. If I have kids, I guess I have to get used to this.

This stomach flu has attacked everyone in the family. All of my in laws have had it. On Sunday we went to my mother-in-law's birthday breakfast, and we think that the German caught it from his 4 year old nephew. I show no signs of being sick. The German thinks that I am an alien. How else can you get fillings with no novicane and not get the dreaded stomach flu? I am a super hero.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I may get defensive, but sea cucumbers are much worse!

I am applying for an English teacher training course. Although I have been teaching English for 16 months now, I have never received any formal pedagogical training. In fact all too often when someone asks me, “But WHY is it that way, Claire,” I usually respond, “It just is. Accept it and move on.” Probably not the best answer. As part of the application I have to finish a “pre-interview task.” This was the last question:

“Think about your own experiences as a learner. Think back to your time in school, or maybe you have been an adult learner. Please describe a successful learning experience you have had and what made it so successful.”

This was hard! I also think it is a great question. I have posted my answer below. If you have a memorable learning experience, post it!

This was a very difficult question to answer, and I thought about it for an hour. I remembered many great teachers and professors, but I could not remember specific lessons. Mostly memories of great elementary school teachers flooded my mind. However, my 6th grade science teacher stands out the most. Ms. Salvo taught earth science in North Charleston, South Carolina (USA). Marine biology was the theme for the year. We spent every lesson talking about different aspects of the ocean and every week she read us books about the lives of marine
creatures. She would bring in seaweed and shells. We got to touch things and draw them. In the spring, 50 students were selected from all of the earth science classes to go on an over night camp on Seabrook Island, South Carolina. I was lucky enough to go. I will never forget the things I learned about the ocean during that week. For example, sea cucumbers spit out their stomachs when they feel threatened. Those types of things definitely leave an impression on an
11 year old! I also remember the smell of the mud flats as we walked through the swamp at low tide. It was not good. I lost a shoe in that mud. The entire year left a deep impression on me. Although marine biology could be very dull, the teacher used a variety of methods to make the ocean come to life. The trip at the end reinforced tedious facts by making science real. I often think of teaching English the same way. Grammar is boring, but I must make the language
come alive for my students.

PS: The camp was called Saint Christopher and it totally rocked! Also, the book that my teacher read was about a hermit crab that lived in a tidal pool. He is born and grows up and has a totally traumatic experience when he has to find a new shell. I cannot remember the name of it, but if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Me not wife. Me clean woman.

I like living in Germany. As a country, it has many things going for it, for example: good health care, 4 to 6 weeks of vacation, really good bread, no speed limit on the highway. But not all things are better in the land of Euros and Volkswagen. Somethings here are just as annoying as on the other side of the pond.

One of my English clients (wow - using the word "client" totally makes me sound like a hooker) cancelled this morning. Thinking that I should make use of the morning, I decided to get some Hausfrau stuff done. So far I have changed the sheets on the bed, done the dishes, and put in a load of laundry (have I mentioned that I do laundry all the freaking time!). I am pooped. It is time for a nap.

In the middle of changing the sheets, the telephone rang. The caller id read "anonymous." This is like an "out of area" call in the States, which means one thing - telemarketer. I normally do not answer "anonymous" calls, but earlier this week one of my English clients (once again I feel like a hooker) called to cancel, and his call came up "anonymous." So I took a chance.

There is an important German telephone etiquette rule that you must know. When you answer the phone, you must say your name. I do not like this. I am used to the American, "Hello." I still say that on occasion. Once . . .

Telephone rings at my house. I answer it.

Claire: Hello.

Angry, offended German: Who is this?

Claire: You called me. Who is this?

Anyway, today I decided to play by the German telephone rules and answered the phone with my name. The response, "Good morning. This is _____ with _____." Crap a telemarketer. Not just any telemarketer though. This was the telephone company. I knew they were calling because two month ago we switched our service in order to get a faster internet connection. I have not noticed a difference in speed, but the German has, and he is the expert in all things computer. The German has been complaining about the telephone company because they have called SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK EVERY WEEK FOR TWO MONTHS trying to get us to switch back.

I do not like to offend telemarketers. They are just people trying to do a job. Although I do not want any part of what they are selling, I do not want to give them a hard time. My mother just hangs up. One of my more morbid friends always says, "This is her mother. _______ died yesterday."

Today I figured out the perfect thing to say to a German telemarketer.

Claire: Hello. Claire ______.

Telemarketer: Is the man of the house there?

Claire: No.

Telemarketer: Is this his wife?

(I realized she had no idea who I was. I kept my name when I got married.)

Claire: No. Me no wife. Me clean woman. (in my best American accented German)

Telemarketer: I WILL CALL BACK LATER. (speaking very loudly and slowly)

It totally worked. Sometimes being a foreigner has its advantages here . . .


Oh, before I forget. My friend Carrie left a post on my last blog about how the Germans may be indeed out to get me. My husband read the comment and wanted me to respond, "Please do not feed into her paranoia, Carrie. She is difficult enough to live with as it is."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

No, Claire, they are not out to get you.

Before camping out in front of the TV last night (this morning??), I went to the dentist again yesterday. Yup, I kept my second appointment. But, I am not sure how much more this can go on. I was totally prepared for the needle but I am realizing that my dentist does not really have much Mitleid (sympathy). After he stuck the syringe in my gum just under my left nostril, he injected very fast. After a few seconds it started to hurt, and I started to wimpper and my eyes produced tears. I was hoping he would pause for a few seconds but he grunted and said, "power through."

The dentist commenced with his drilling and poking and filling. Things that I heard from the chair:

"Now, I don't like the look of that."
"Let's see how stable this tooth is." (then starts knocking on the freshly drilled tooth)
"You have sensitive gums. I need to wait 30 seconds for all the bleeding to stop." This one made my eyes almost pop out of my head. My gums are not sensitive. They just don't like crazy German dentists getting too close to them with a drill!

I have to go back next Monday. Sigh. The fillings are up next. "We have four fillings to do." Wait. I thought you said I have only one cavity. "Well, there are three smaller holes. And all big holes started as small holes." I asked him to plan to do them all at once. He eyed me skeptically. "Are you sure you can handle it?" Yes, you big jerk. I have been known to power through some pain. It would probably be easier for me if you were a bit more sympathetic. I did not say that but I sure as hell thought it . . . yup, definitely going to have to find a new dentist.

THEN, the German had a run in with customs yesterday. While we are in the States, we got martini glasses as a Christmas gift. We got 8 total, four from my mom and four from my best bud, Jess. Because we had no room in our bags or carry on luggage, I decided to pack it up and mail it to our Germany address. I wrapped those suckers in a TON of bubble wrap plus Styrofoam peanuts. We received a notice from the German customs office in a small town (I am not revealing the name in order to protect the not so innocent), requesting that we come and pick-up our package.

My beloved finally had time to do that yesterday. When he got there, he said that there was a sticker on the box from the Frankfurt customs office and it appeared that it had been opened. Nonetheless he had to assume the position. Just kidding. Maybe.

Bored German Customs Officer: What is in the box, sir?

The German: 8 martini glasses, a Christmas gift.

Bored German Customs Officer: Open the box, sir.

The customs officer then took everything out of the box to inspect it. Unfortunately one glass got broken. The customs officer then informed my husband that anything over $40 coming into the country will be charged an import tax - EVEN IF IT IS A GIFT FROM YOUR AMERICAN INLAWS. But because he thought that the glasses were not worth $40 and one of them was broken, he would let it slide. JUST THIS ONCE.

WTF?? In the 18 months I have lived here this has never happened. My husband said, "There were 6 computers and 6 empty desks, and I was the only visitor." "Yes, sweetie, they have nothing else to do." Personally, I think that the glass got broke when the box was inspected in Frankfurt. Why did we have to check twice? Then I had a thought. The dentist, the customs officer. The Germans are out to get me.

Time for bed. Oh my god! They are showing the Golden Globes again. This time they have been dubbed into German. And it is . . . bad. Watching a few minutes I am reminded of why I don't watch these with the German. He is always going, "Who is that? Why are they there? What movie were they in?" It can get a little annoying.

One last thought - were all of Drew Barrymore's bras at the cleaners yesterday? Sweetie, the twins need a little support. And you need an eyebrow wax. I know I am being critical and would not want someone to say that about me, but I DO NOT PAY A STYLIST! Seriously, someone said, "No, Drew, you like great." Drew - fire that person.

Observations from . . . My couch

I was going to write my blog while watching the Golden Globes last night, but I quickly realized that I was too tired. All though I did stay awake for the whole thing and dropped into bed at 5:00am, I just did not have enough brain cells going to write anything. However, I read some recaps and some observations came flying back.

In Germany they only do red carpet coverage for the Academy Awards. I think that the Golden Globes would get more play here. After all, Germany is foreign and we do have press. While watching the show, I kept thinking about how I rely on the Hollywood Foreign Press for my fix of movie / celebrity news. I did get about 10 minutes of Nancy O'Dell before the show started. I remember her when she was Nancy Humphries and she did the local news in my hometown.

After Paul Giamatti did not win, I was a little upset. However, Clooney's win did make a little sense. His films probably were not going to win anything else during the evening, and so they wanted to be like, "George, we like you and you did good this year. We cannot give you anything else, so take the Supporting Award." Also, I hear that he is pretty good in the movie. However, Giamatti gets screwed again because of the fear of screwing someone else. Also, I thought Clooney's acceptance speech was lame and insincere. I could have lived with out that.

Rachel Weisz's win was also a bit surprising. However, once again I hear that she was good in the movie. Seriously people, they need to start dubbing movies and releasing them a bit faster in Deutschland. So, congrats Rachel, but tell your make-up artist to lay off the black eye liner. It does nothing for you.

There were many inappropriate moments and some things that were just plain not funny. Queen Latifah's salute to MLK was a bit hallow. Chris Rock was funny, but I really do not think Mary-Louise Parker thought so. Did you see her face during his comment about Snoop Dog being the only one watching her show!! Geena Davis's fake story about the little girl tugging her dress was funny, her "This is so lovely," sounded very insincere and so, "I am above all this."

Some speeches were good though. Steve Carell was hilarious (or his wife's speech was anyway). The 40 Year Old Virgin was one of the best movies I saw last year, and I always watch The Office when I am at home in the states. He is very talented, and I also find him strangely attractive. Hugh Laurie's pulling names out of the hat was also hilarious. And I was very touched by S. Epatha Merkerson. "I am 53, and this was my first lead in a movie." (Applause). "I would feel like a 16 year old, but I am in the middle of a hot flash." Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman was brutally honest when he said, "I got the role of a life time." Yes you did and you did good. Enjoy it.

Other observations: Was it just me or did Joaquin Phoenix look REALLY uncomfortable? Was it just me or was Hillary Swank REALLY thin? Someone give that girl a cheeseburger! Was it just me or did Marcia Cross NOT LOOK HAPPY when Mary-Louise Parker won? All of the other Housewives stood up, but not Cross. Was it just me or did Charlie Sheen look a little rough and / or sad? Is it just me or is Scarlett Johansson a total hottie? Also - the girl can act! Dude, where was Jake Gyllenhaal??? He is my current secret celebrity crush (tied with Joaquin Phoenix) and he got no TV time. Was he not there? (It is okay to have a secret celebrity crush. The German was into Kelly Ripa for a while, but now finds her too thin. He currently likes Jennifer Garner. I think he has good taste.)

I am getting a clearer picture of who I think will get nominated for what by the Academy. I will post my predictions on nominations next week. But for now, I am going to take a nap. I got four hours of sleep and then had to go teach English. Try teaching the present perfect on four hours of sleep. Good times.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cinderella Man

Award shows are one of my odd obsessions. However, I am actually particular about them; I only go for the "high class" shows. That means that I could care less about the Nick Teen Choice Awards and I prefer the Grammy's to the Billboard Awards. I have been watching the Academy Awards for as long as I can remember. They are an "event" for me. I read up on all the latest predictions, and I usually join or start a betting pool, which I usually win or split. (I know, I know. I am such a loser) Since I got my own car, I have also tried to see as many of the nominated (or I think should be nominated) pictures before the actual ceremony.

This last task has proved pretty daunting since I moved to Germany. The majority of the movies in the running this year have not even been released over here yet! Before my American Christmas Extravaganza I made a list of about seven movies that I wanted to see before the awards season kicked into high gear. I got to see ONE! My lone flick was "Walk the Line," which was pretty good. Reese Witherspoon is totally going to get an Oscar nomination. The other movies I wanted to see were NOT EVEN PLAYING in Summerville, SC (they include Munich, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck; hmm . . . is it really any wonder that these were not playing in my parents' southern suburbs?)

This weekend the German and I rented some DVD's and I tried to catch up on my list (the Golden Globes are tomorrow! A girl needs to do some catching up!). So, we got Cinderella Man.
It was . . . Okay. Actually, good but not great. I would give it 3 out of 4 stars. Paul Giamatti was his usual fantastic self. I loved the scene were he is trying to negotiate the fight. On the outside he is all swagger, but his eyes betray his desperation. I think he will win tomorrow and get an Oscar nomination. I agree with a lot of critics that could be considered a "do over," which so often happens with the Academy. That is, "We made such a bone head error last year by not recognizing you for Sideways (awesome movie!), please take this trophy as our apology."

Russell Crowe was also good but not award great. I think Joaquin Phoenix was better in Walk the Line. I think the best actor Oscar will come down to those two and Heath Ledger for Brokeback and Philip Seymour Hoffmann for Capote. Because of all the "buzz" (God I hate that word sometimes) for Brokeback, I think Ledger has the edge, but can the academy forgive 10 Things I Hate About You (actually not a terrible movie) or A Knight's Tale (which was terrible!). I have liked Hoffmann for years and I am dying to see Capote, and the clip and trailer I saw on Yahoo, make me REALLY like his performance. On the other hand, I left Walk the Line thinking about Phoenix for days. Maybe it is because he was so hot . . .

Anyway, there is an interesting end note to our Cinderella Man screening. When I teach American politics, the topic of political culture and culture comes up a lot. I realized that Cinderella Man is a good example of those values important in American culture. Notably, that anyone can make something of themselves if they work hard enough (and use their head as a punching bag). The concept of individualism runs heavy in this movie. It is sometimes at odds with the main characters feelings about the government. Crowe's character mentions FDR several times and thinks that it is good that a government can "help a man when he is down." So, although he seems to appreciate some sort of social programs, you had best pay it back when you can. I was not sure what cultural image trumps in this movie. Or maybe I am reading to much into it . . . Although I try to reflect on films and NOT let myself be emotionally manipulated, there were two scenes when I totally cried (when he promises not to send his son away and when the neighbor is buried) and I leaked a little at the end. I could not help myself. That is when I realized that my attachment to American culture runs deep. On the other hand, I also cried when I saw Seabiscuit. I know, I know. If you did not think that I was a loser before, you are thinking it now.


I am going to write my blog while watching the Golden Globes tomorrow! It will probably make no sense because I will be writing between the hours of 2:00am and 5:00am. Just love that time difference.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Check This Out!

I was reading some of my favorite blogs yesterday, and I found the link below.
I found it on Mighty Girl, who got it via Andrea. I am a little fuzzy on the etiqutte / citation rules for bloggings, so forgive me. It is not in my MLA handbook.
Anyway, check out this clip!!! I loved it!

Listen to the Wombat

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reason 179 That I Love the German

Reason 179 that I love the German:

Every night the German stops what he is doing to watch my soap with me, "Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten" (Good Times, Bad Times). This show is beyond bad, I mean American soaps should get Oscars. But I love every cheesy, terrible moment of it. I started watching it in the winter of 1997 when I was an exchange student living in Kassel, Germany. My German at the time was not good, and I had a television in my dorm room. That television and my soap improved my German by light years! See, soaps do have a reason to exist.

Anyway, the German actually knows the story lines now! Prof. Dr. Gerner (think of him as the JR Ewing of German soaps) found out that his a fiance may be pregnant with another man's child (don't you hate it when that happens?). Tonight, he hired a criminal to kidnap her and torture her a little and then set her free. Although Isabella knew who the guy was, Dr. Gerner said that she was just is in shock and thus made her look crazy.

The German turned to me and said, "If you slept with a young dude and got pregnant with his child, I promise to never hire someone to kidnap you."

Isn't he sweet!?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It was one of those moments when I REALLY wish the guy spoke English

Today I did the thing in the world that I hate the most. I went to the dentist. I hate the dentist. I have nothing against the profession, and most dentists that I know are pretty good people, but the sound of the drill on my teeth is like fingernails on a chalk board. I used to say that I had not been to the dentist in so long (over 3 years) because I had crappy health insurance. Well, that excuse is now gone. I had managed to make it a whole year (actually about 16 months) before my in-laws sufficiently shamed me into going. I went in December for a "check-up," and well turns out my teeth are fucked up (sorry, Grandpas).

Now, I don't want to brag, but I always thought I had pretty good teeth. They are straight and for the most part white. I have never had braces and only two fillings in my 28 years. Because I have two baby teeth still in my mouth (the adult teeth never formed, and it is not as weird as it sounds, my dentist says that it is not uncommon), I take care of my teeth. However, I am missing a tooth on the side when I cracked one of my baby teeth on a hard bagel. I was SO NOT GOING TO HAVE A ROOT CANAL ON A BABY TOOTH, so they pulled that sucker out.

In December the German dentist made me several appointments, but I was not clear why. He makes it sound like my mouth is going to fall out at any minute, but I think it is fine. However, the dentist did find a small cavity and I want to get a bridge for the big hole in my mouth. Today, I thought I was going in for the filling. WRONG.

My dentist is concerned with the discoloration between some of my front, upper teeth. Yes, I should floss more often, but I did not think things were that bad. Today he said, "We must do something now or your teeth will fall out tomorrow!" Ok, Ok, do your thing, dude. Then the dentist said something like "Blah, blah, blah und yadah und so on. Ok?" Once again, I don't like to brag, but my German is pretty good. I have spent a lot of time in Germany and the German and I speak German about 70% of the time, and I have even received compliments on my language skills. But, unfortunately, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THE MAN SAID TO ME. So, as is my custom when I don't know what the hell someone is talking about, I shook my head and said, "Ok." MISTAKE.

The next thing I know, he brought a very large needle towards my mouth. I screamed. I am not exaggerating. I did. I think I scared the hell out of him. I looked at him and said in something resembling German, "I am afraid of needles. So can you explain to me again slowly exactly what you are about to do." "We are going to drill holes into your teeth to take out the brown stuff and then fill it all in with a white substance. It will protect your teeth and make them look better." Um, okay.

One hour later, I could not feel the right side of my face, but for the most part it was pretty painless. Nevertheless, my knuckles had turned white from gripping the arm rest in fear. The dentist was pretty pleased with himself and said, "That looks much better." He handed me a mirror and I swear to God, THERE WAS NO DIFFERENCE.

As I picked up my purse to go home, he said, "I will see you Monday morning and we will do the other side!" Um, okay.

The lesson of this story, dear readers, is that if someone is coming at your face with a large needle, MAKE SURE THEY SPEAK YOUR MOTHER LANGUAGE.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Play Time (and Addressing Important Questions)


It is 11:58pm in Germany and I am wide awake. Two words - jet lag (or is that one?). So, I am playing on my blog a bit. I am trying to figure out the whole picture thing. Let's see if it works.


Wow! Look at that! That is the German and I on our wedding day, July 22, 2004. During the American Christmas Bonanza I got many comments on the blog from my family, well from those who read it anyway (which is not enough! Use some peer pressure people!). One of them kept asking, "Why do you call him the German?" Well, he is a teacher, and I do not want him to get fired for anything that I might say on this site. Plus, I think it adds a certain charm. But in case you are wondering, his name is Matthias. Isn't he cute?

Another comment I got from exactly two people. Both of my Grandfathers do not think I should use such bad language on the site. They think that such language is not becoming to a lady and that only "uneducated" people use such words. "You are better than that." Hmmm. I think part of this may be because my grandpas still see me as a six year old, which is okay. We see people the way we want to see them. But, I am not that young and while I might certainly have a lot of education, even I need to say s*** and f*** on occasion. Sometimes no other word will do. Also, I consider this blog a vent of sorts. It is a way to put out my thoughts and ideas and give the world my 2 euro cents, therefore I do not want to censor myself. I watch Survivor and the Apprentice and read People magazine. I may be "educated," but I am certainly not an intellectual. So, in the future I will put up the "Grandpa Warning" sign at the beginning of a post if there is bad language involved. If you are offended by those words, don't read it!

Anyway, time to play so more. God, I love the internet!

Home Sweet Home or Something Like That

I was trying to kill time on Saturday in the airport. I wrote the following before I got on the plane:

"I am writing this from the Chicago O'Hare airport. The German and I are
finally on our way home. It is amazing. At times this has been the
trip that would never end, and other times it was the trip that I wish would
never end. Phase 3, which took place in Racine, WI, was a lot of fun. My
aunt and uncle have the coolest cats ever, Dweezel and Lulu. The German is
NOT a pet person and it a thorn in our marriage, but even he was taken with
Dweezel, a large, orange cat. As I sit in the airport and examine my fellow
travelers, I am actually pretty pleased with our trip. Remarkably there have
been no major screw-up this time around (KNOCK ON WOOD). Sure, we had to run
for our plane in Paris, but everything after that was okay. I looking
forward to my smooth re-entry into German society."

Certainly, God or Murphy or some other being who manipulates my life laughed and decided that I should regret that statement. Sure, the German and I got home in one piece, but the German's luggage did not.

The only thing good about Air France was the plane. It was a nice, fairly new Airbus. It was fairly quiet and a smooth ride (for the most part, more on that in a minute). This confirms the German's feeling about anything with a motor: if it is not German, it is crap. (He has never actually said this, but I know he thinks it.)

The flight from Chicago to Paris was okay, but it took off over an hour late. This was not due to something being wrong in Chicago. No, the plane was late getting into Chicago. In fact, all of my flights with Air France landed and took off late. I wonder if they work in a different time zone? We met a nice girl from Berlin on the plane to Paris. Because of the delay, she missed her connecting flight. She was able to get on a plane three hours later, and the people from Air France gave her a voucher for a free cup of coffee at the coffee shop. Wasn't that nice of them?

On the plane, the food was not much to speak of. I was very disappointed because I thought, hey, the French make great food. Unfortunately, they make terrible airplane food. The smooth flight turned turbulent off the coast of Iceland. It was shaky for about 30 minutes but that was enough to send so many butterflies in my stomach that I did not sleep for the rest of the flight and made me physically ill. (I will stop there because my Grandfather told me I should not talk about my bowls online. I do not want to offend anyone with stories about how stopped up I get, but I am sure anyone with a nervous bowl system, like myself, can understand.)

We landed in Paris, and once again we were confronted with tight hallways and unfriendly people. I gave the people in Charles DeGaul a break on Dec. 22 because I thought that the Christmas rush is enough to put anyone in a fowl mood. However, they were just as unfriendly on Jan. 8. Our plane took off (late) and when we landed in Bremen we were VERY happy to be back on German soil. Unfortunately the luggage did not make it.

We were not the only individuals to loose luggage. 10 people stood in line with us to report missing luggage. Is it just me, or is that a lot? All of this is enough to convince me of an important travelingg tip for all my friends: NEVER FLY THROUGH PARIS!

My "smooth" transition back into German life is going okay. Smarty was a little angry that I left her for over 2 weeks. Her breaks were a bit squeaky and her heater took awhile to get going this morning. I have already committed several social sins: laundry on Sunday and taking a really long shower.

I went to the supermarket. I over looked how annoying it is to pack my own groceries. In Germany you have to bring your own bags with you or you have to pay for them. Then you have to pack them yourself. Instead of annoying this was some how "quaint." However, what surprised me, was that for a culture that is often described as reserved, many Germans have no sense of personal space.

As the young woman was ringing up my groceries, the man and woman next in line came right up beside me. The woman was standing thiscloseto me, and her husband was right behind me. It was unnerving, especially as I was typing in the code to my check card. I really wanted to say something, but here that is considered rude. I don't get it. Why is it okay for someone to stand so close to me that she could reach into my purse, but I cannot tell her to back off?

Welcome home, Claire.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

976 Miles and Still So Far From Home

In a few hours the German and I will be departing the warmth of South Carolina for the 3rd stop on our American Christmas Bonanza - Racine, Wisconsin, home to my Grandfather and lots 'o cheese. We decided to squeeze in a visit to my step-father's family because eventually we will fly back to Germany from Chicago, and Racine is just a hop, skip, and toll road away.

I am REALLY looking forward to going home to Germany. It is funny . . . That is the first time that I have ever considered Germany home. But I miss my bed . . . My shower . . . My friends . . . My job . . . Smarty . . . My privacy.

It has been great to see the family, but all of the travel does take a lot out of you. When we leave on Saturday, we will have put over 3000 miles on the gas guzzler, I mean rental car. The German and I never want to do this again. Visiting family is NOT a vacation. Not only is this stressful and not at all restful, but inevitably you offend someone by not spending enough time with them or failing to drive to see them. To those I have offended, I am sorry. I have spent over $2000 and traveled 6000 miles (driving and flying) in 17 days. I could not visit everyone. I need a vacation from my vacation.

Because we rotate Christmas, 2006 will be spent in Germany. I am trying to convince my mom to come over in December 2006. Not only is it Christmas, but she could spend her 50th birthday with her daughter in Germany. How cool is that? If you know my mother, send her an email telling her to visit her daughter!

Christmas 2007 will be spent in the States again. I am already thinking about it and getting nervous. As we were walking on the beach this week, the German had a fantastic idea. "Why don't we rent a house with lots of bedrooms on the beach for two weeks? We will stay there, and who ever wants to visit can come to us." That seems pretty reasonable to me . . . and very relaxing.

Before I hit the road, I have to make a post in honor of my best girlfriends, Jess and Mere. We were chatting last night about the blog and some of the culture stuff I have confronted (food, work, laundry) and others that I have yet to mention. One of the best is clothing. So here is a list of fashion, culture "give a ways," i.e. when you someone in this it is a total give away what country they are from. This list is not exhaustive. Post a comment if you have others.

U.S. Fashion Give Away
White Tennis Shoes
Khaki pants (especially with white tennis shoes)
Flip Flops
Baggy Blue Jeans
Shirt Hanging Out

German Fashion Give Away
Orange Pants (especially on men)
REALLY tight, short shorts
Sandals with Socks
Tight blue jeans
Tucked in Shirts

I also have another post for the Cheap/Expensive File:

Vitamins: U.S. = cheap Germany = REALLY expensive
Prescription medication: U.S. = expensive Germany = cheap

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bowl Me Over, Part II

I did not post yesterday because I spent the entire day in front of the television watching college football. I have always liked football, but now I love it after I was indoctrinated when I attended a certain Catholic college near Chicago. “My team” lost yesterday, however, as a Cubs fan I have learned that there is always next year (or the year after that). But as I sat on the couch eating chili and yelling at the television like a complete idiot (because the coach can hear me), I realized how much I miss college sports. I definitely prefer the NCAA to the NFL, even if the BCS often seems like BS. College football is full of interesting stories and the vast majority of students will never play in the NFL. So why do they do it? For the honor of their school or for the love of the game, perhaps? This often gets lost in the money of professional sports. Although one example of a college feel good story gone bad - Maurice Clarett.

German universities have something like intramural sports, but they do not play each other in an organized fashion. It think this is a shame. College sports provide a sense of identification with a school that German universities could benefit from - especially financially.

German universities are suffering from a financial crisis. They do not charge students fees (they will start this year though), and rely on the state government for funding. Because of state budget constraints, German universities have often gotten the short end of the stick in past years. As a result, there has been less hiring and more firing. Departments are getting smaller, or just disappearing all together. As someone who is looking for a job in academia in Germany, I have personally felt this crunch.

Although students are sitting on the floor in some classes and often complain about “service” at the university, they have fought hard against the introduction of student fees. I have to admit that they are somewhat right. Students in Germany will send their checks directly to the state government, which will then redistribute the money at their discretion. How do you know where the money will go? Germany has announced that they want to establish and support “elite universities.” This is really nice for “elite” students, but what about the rest? How do you know if your fees will go to your university?

This is where college football (or soccer) comes in. By introducing intercollegiate sports, German universities could establish a sense of identity among the student population. Proud students become proud, donating alumni. I donate to my university every year. I do not do this because I am wealthy, but because I want to get into the alumni football ticket lottery. German universities are trying alumni donation drives. A certain administrator at the University of Duesseldorf has admitted that their drive has not been as successful as they had hoped, mostly because Germans do not identify with their alma mater the way that Americans do.

I am not saying that intercollegiate sports are the solution to the financial problems of German universities, but it is an interesting idea. If it did not work, well, there is always next year.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone!! I got up this morning and immediately started thinking about resolutions. Remarkably, I do not have a hangover so I can write this with a clear head and will be held to my resolutions by my husband. I thought about the regular ones: lose weight, get in shape, save money, quit smoking (I actually did the last one two years ago). I always make these resolutions, and I NEVER keep them. So this year, I decided to make a couple of resolutions that I think are worth keeping.

I resolve to BE HAPPY.

We all get caught up in the "Grass is greener on the other side" mentality. If I just had that car or if I could just get that job. Her life must be so easy. This is all a lot of BS. I do it all the time myself and I forget to see and appreciate the things that are right in front of me. I have a wonderful husband, great friends and family, a nice apartment, and a job that I like about 80% of the time. And yet, I always think about the things that "might have been." Once I start down that road I tend to get depressed and it can last a couple of days. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to be happy and appreciate all that I have.

In the spirit of appreciation . . . I resolve to BE NICER TO MY HUSBAND.

The German is a great guy. Although we live in Germany, he helps me find the money to visit the U.S. when I am homesick. He puts up with my moods and supports my dreams (even if they are crazy). Seriously, I should be nice to him.

I resolve to KEEP IN TOUCH WITH MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

I have a lot of emails sitting in my in-box. I will get to them this week, I SWEAR! My friends have always been important to me. I actually sent a Christmas card to most of them, although I only got two Christmas cards myself. But this is not about me, but about bringing happiness to others. Don't you get excited when you see a letter or postcard in your mailbox? I love that feeling, that someone has thought about me. I should bring that feeling to others. I think this blog is a pretty good start, but getting actual snail mail is better.

I resolve to GIVE MY ALL TO MY JOB.

Sometimes we just sleepwalk through our day. For many, this may be a result of being unhappy with their job. But, I actually enjoy my job. Teaching (whether English or politics) is fun. It is great to see someone understand. Things are going to be changing career wise for me. I will keep you all up-to-date.

2006 is going to be a big year I think. There are a lot of things the German and I want to do. But through it all, I am going to keep these resolutions in mind . . . and maybe lose a few pounds.