Friday, June 30, 2006

Never Give Up

You should never give up. Keep going. Even when you feel like quitting and think you cannot run another step. The game is not over. It is not over until you finish it. Never give up.

The German National team did not give up today . They kept going, even though many of their fans were about to give up. I was watching the game with some friends. After Argentina scored their goal, the Germans shout, "I knew it! It is over!" This negative, the world-is-going-to-end mentality is "typisch German." But not for the players . . . not on this day.

The stadium got eerily quite after the Germans fell behind. I wish I could have been there. I would have brought a little ND spirit.

Now the streets of Cloppenburg are full. I had to drive home. No one obeyed the street signs. VW buses full of 20 year old freak fans with flags flying in the wind drove through the streets. There were station wagons with families; fathers sharing this once in a life time moment with their children. I honked my horn and waved at perfect strangers. Strangers were hugging and kissing. It was beautiful.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Safe Sex?


To round-out the day: A picture post

Seen in Hannover last week at the Mexico vs. Angola game.

I don't know who did it, but it is hilarious.

Opening Day

Yesterday the opening of my new business was the social event of C-burg. Well, not really, but it did go well. About 30 people came, including our current customers, friends, and "support people," such as our accountant, graphic artist, and web designer. A local reporter was there, but the mayor could not be there (he had to go to a funeral). However, the man in charge of business development for the city came and presented my business partner and I each a very nice bouquet.

As you can see, the office was in top form. The cake went over well. Germans like Betty Crocker. On the other hand, I went easy on the icing. I did not want any of our customers to go into sugar shock. I made 2 cakes, and only one was eaten. The German took the other to his continuing education class today, where it was also well received.

I did not take any pictures of the guests because I was busy meeting and greeting. Also, I do not want to post pictures of people without their permission (well, except my unsuspecting friends). Super German was in good form, filling glasses and washing up. All-in-all it was a success.

When I got home last night, I was finished. My entire body felt like it was sinking into the floor. I feel asleep while watching France beat up Togo. Unfortunately, when I got up this morning the migraine was back. I spent the majority of the day lying listless on the couch. I have no idea why this is happening. I have had migraines before, but never anything that lasted several days. I hope it goes away by Monday as I have a very long week ahead of me.

The Germany football win pepped me up. I have a new love. His name is Philipp Lahm. He is a quick little defender for the German national team. Super German thinks my crush is very amusing. I was talking about this with some people at the party yesterday. One of my friends protested, "Claire! He is so young (22)! He is fresh out of school!" I smirked. "I know. And they are usually so eager to learn at that age."

However, my love is fleeting. Lahm plays for Bavaria Munich, and it is a major point of contention between us. If Super German has taught me one thing, it is that Werder Bremen is the best and Bavaria Munich is evil (think of them as the New York Yankees of the German soccer league). Sigh. It is always something, isn't it?

PS Blogger is not letting me post pictures. Damn it. I will try again tomorrow.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And then came the migraine

The human body can only take so much. Be good to your body, otherwise one day it will let you know when you have gone to far. Mine let me know yesterday that it was time to slow down.

About 12:00, in the middle of my training seminar, I began to notice that I was getting a headache. Normally, I take an Excedrin Migraine tablet at this point to prevent things from getting worse. Unfortunately my "stash" ran out several months ago (NOTE TO MOM: please bring me some in August.) When I drove home at 3:00pm, a full-blown Migraine had come on. After getting home and getting sick, I laid down for a couple of hours. I had to get up at 6:00pm however and go teach. I started a new group and did not want to cancel the first lesson. For the first hour I was okay, but I cut the lesson short 15 minutes because I realized that my body had reached an end. The group was really good about the whole thing. I was also a little disappointed, as they are a pretty fun group and I think I will enjoy teaching them.

I had to go by the New Yorker's house to drop some things off and as I was standing outside, I thought I might feel better. But after I got home, I walked in the apartment and the smell of the food that the German had lovingly cooked knocked me to my knees. I ran for the bathroom and then laid in bed moaning.

That is when "Super German" appeared. He brought me a cool wash cloth for my head and went to the after hours pharmacy for some medicine. 12 Euro for 2 tablets!! Well, they were worth every penny. After 2 hours I actually began to feel human and could go to sleep. I now call them my "little blue friends." Super German then cleaned up the kitchen and made a cake for my party today. Best . . . Husband . . . Ever!

I feel better today, but kind of like I have a hang over. Note to self, be kind to your body. That glass of wine and bag of chips is not an appropriate dinner.

Good things should happen today. The New Yorker and I are celebrating our official opening (which is why the German made the cake). The mayor may make an appearance and the local newspaper is covering the festivities. It will be the talk of C-burg. I will have the camera, and will post pics this weekend. If you email me, I will send you the link to our new, improved website. No, I did not do it. We paid a professional.

A note about the cake . . . I special ordered Betty Crocker yellow cake and chocolate frosting. I think it is totally yummy and American, but I am sure the German reaction may be a bit different.

Tomorrow is Saturday. I have planned a day of rest, full of "extreme couching." I may add some "extreme blogging" to the list. Bis dann!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Into the depths of hell

So, my bad Tuesdays have turned into bad weeks. Getting up at 5:30am and working straight to 9:00pm is getting old. FAST! I feel like I am slowly sinking and I am not sure how to get out.

Sometimes in a job interview, the human resources director will ask you, "What is your biggest weakness?" I would definitely say that my biggest weakness is that I feel the need to be all things to all people. This leads to me never being able to say no to someone in need of help. My second weakness is my controlling help, which results in my reluctance to accept help from others. I am sure you see my dilemma.

My blogging has not been so "faithful," as Grandpa pointed out. It is certainly not because I am not thinking about you all. I have also only been "skimming" the blogs I normally read. I have noticed, however, that many of the Expats are MIA lately. There is one simple explanation. We are all watching soccer (um, football?).

This has been the highlight of my week. Last Friday night, the German and I went to Hannover and saw Mexico vs. Angola. Here I am all decked out for my WM fever, including Angola T-shirt and beer.

The arena was huge. And sold out. 43,000 people. I think about 40,000 of them were Mexican and / or Mexico fans. Have you wondered what Hannover would be like with half of the population of Mexico? One word. Fun! Everyone was friendly and chatty. The game was terrible (a 0-0 tie) but the atmosphere was definitely a once in a life time opportunity.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cloppenburg Q & A

Faithful Reader: Claire, you have mentioned that Cloppenburg is very Catholic. Is there anything special about their religious observances that you can share?

Dear Faithful Reader: Yes, they are very religious here in Cloppenburg. They also like to put the joy of their faith on display for the rest of the world to see. If you take a bike ride around Cloppenburg, the majority of the farmers have a crucifix outside of their house. I can only imagine that it also appears to be a sign of social status. That is, the richer you are, the more elaborate the crucifix that you have. I think this family must be at the top of the ladder.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Assimilation

Last night the German and I watched the opening game of the World Cup with some friends and co-workers. Germany beat Costa Rica 4:2, but the headlines of the German papers focused primarily on the dismal defense. Unfortunately, when it comes to football, the German media can be a little fatalistic. I thought the Germans played well, and Mausi was convinced it was because of their very nice looking legs. She may not be wrong.

The best part of the game was that 3 of the German goals were scored by players from the German's favorite football club, Werder Bremen. Although I would have preferred a cocktail, we drank many beers to Werder Bremen last night. Sadly there were no reports of hooligans in the area, but a few of the cows did get a little rowdy.

My assimilation into German culture made a giant leap forward last night. Big D, a friend of mine and a football fanatic, lent me some of his gear to take this picture. I was even able to use German referee insults correctly. Assimilation, indeed.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Fussball Fieber (Football Fever)

My "break from blogging" the past week was not entirely intentional. It started innocently enough last weekend. I decided to take two whole days off. In the spirit of actually taking time off, I did not even turn on my computer. This proved to be a fatal error in planning.

Although Monday was a public holiday here in Germany, I spent the entire day in front of my computer working, because I knew that a hell-ish week was on the horizon. This week I started teaching a training seminar for the unemployment office. Now, everyday I get up around 5:30am and leave the house around 7:00am. I get home around 7:00pm. When I get home, I usually eat, watch my soap, and then get back to work planning lessons, editing my professor's book, grading papers, writing offers . . . well, you get the picture.

Blogging may take a back seat for the next few weeks until things let up. However, I am going to try to stick with it, because it is a really great creative outlet, and the best way to procrastinate.

So, now on to the day's news . . . .

It's here! It's here! The way people are acting today, you would think that Christmas had come early. No, it is not Christmas, but today marks the beginning of the World Cup soccer (um, football?) tournament, which is taking place this year in Germany.

Football (um, soccer?) is taken VERY seriously here in Germany. Almost everyone has an opinion about the coach, players, strategy; hell, they even debate the quality of the grass. For example, this week papers have been critical of the captain of the team, Michael Ballack. Seems that Mr. Ballack is injured and cannot play in the opening game tonight, a tragedy somewhere on the same level as . . . well . . . I am not sure. There are grumbling that Ballack has not been properly taking care of himself.

I would like to point out that showy displays of nationalism are frowned upon here in Germany (you know, the Nazi past and all). However, every four years Germans bring out their flags and Germany is awash in a sea of black, red, and yellow. I saw a car drive by yesterday with a flag hanging out the window, and the neighbor across the street hung his up this morning.

The German and I applied for tickets at the beginning of the year. We were not sure who was playing where at that time, so we took a chance in the ticket lottery. We applied for three games, but only got tickets for a first round game in Hannover. They came in the mail last month. We are the proud possessors of two tickets for that clash of the football titans, MEXICO VS. ANGOLA. A radio announcer has dubbed games like this "Mickey Mouse" tickets, i.e. not important, why go. However, I am pretty psyched to be part of the whole thing and look forward to seeing the stadium in Hannover next week.

The tickets also came with "fan information." The best part is the phrase book. It includes the very important phrases, "What team do you support?" and "Do you accept Master Card?" Also included are directional phrases such as, "I'm looking for . . ." and "Where is the nearest metro station?" It does not include, however, the words for left, right, down the street, etc. So, I guess it is important to be able to ask for directions, but if you want to understand them, you are on your own.

I think there are several important phrases that the book leaves out.

"Ref, are you blind, that was a foul!" : "Schiri, bist du blind? Das war ein Foul!"
"Ref, we know where your car is!" : "Schiri, wir wissen wo dein Auto steht!"
"What are you? An idiot?" : "Was bist du? Ein Idiot?"
"One beer, please." : "Ein Bier, bitte."

(PS: I had pictures to go with the post, but blogger does not want to cooperate. I will try again later!)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Part Where Strangers Think Claire May Be an Alcoholic

When you get married, you often loose touch with the friends you had when you were single. It is not something that necessarily happens on purpose. People expect that you and your spouse will always go out as a couple. Unfortunately, many of your single friends may not know you spouse very well. Thus, you get fewer calls from single friends. You, on the other hand, do the same thing because you do not want your spouse to be uncomfortable because they do not know your friends. This all leads to having to find "couple friends."

The German and I do not have many "couple friends." Do you remember on Friends and King of Queens, how Monica and Chandler and Doug and Carrie try to "date" couples, but no one likes them and they don't find any couple friends? Well, this could be the German and I.

Most of my single friends are spread across the world, so I have good reasons for not seeing them often. Most of the German's single friends are nice, but when we go out with them I usually have nothing to say because we don't have much in common and they start chatting about people I don't know.

In an attempt to expand our circle (you know from two to four), the German and I went out with a guy who teaches at the German's school and his wife. Let's call them Mr. and Mrs. X. Mr. X is a teacher and Mrs. X is a graphic artist. They have an uber-hip apartment in the city.

Everything seemed to be going so well. The four of us strolled to a cocktail bar. My eyes twinkled as this cocktail bar actually had cocktails that I know and actually use the correct ingredients. I ordered a Cosmopolitan. Other than the splash of grenadine (??), it was okay.

I saw a "Martini Cocktail" on the menu. Score! Now, everyone in the world (except Germans) knows that a Martini is gin and vermouth with an olive. When the waitress came over I told her that I wanted a Martini. "Sure. On the rocks or straight up?" "Huh?" I pointed to the menu. "Oh! You mean a Martini Cocktail." Whatever, dude, just bring me my drink.

Mr. and Mrs. X were confused. I explained that Martini is a brand of vermouth, and for some reason Germans like to drink it straight. Everywhere else we mix it with gin to make a "Martini." Blank stares. "You know, like what James Bond drinks?" They seemed to except my explanation but thought it was a little strange.

I decided that they needed a proper lesson about cocktails. "Usually you serve a Martini with an olive. If you use an onion, it is a Gibson. If you pour olive juice in it, it becomes a Dirty Martini." They were in awe of my cocktail knowledge, and perhaps just a little bit frightened. I am happy to say that despite the language barrier, my Martini Cocktail was delicious and they even gave me two olives.

I then went on to explain the roots of the phrase "bathtub gin." Mr. X asked me to make a cocktail recommendation. I hate making drink recommendations. Everyone has a different pallet. Some people enjoy fruity drinks, others sour drinks, others still want something sweet. I recommended a Tom Collins, one of the first cocktails and a classic.

After it came, Mr. X downed it quickly, but I am not sure he enjoyed it. Mrs. X tried it and wrinkled up her nose. "Too sour. Too strong." Sorry, but when you ask me to make a recommendation, you have to be specific about the things you like.

I am pretty sure that all my talk about making a proper cocktail scared the crap out of them. Mr. X dodged the German in school this week and we have no future plans with them. Sigh. I wonder if the couple down the street is busy this weekend. I promise not to bring up the topic of cocktails.