Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Bigger Day

I am about to leave for the lawyer's office. Today the German and I are going to sign the contract to buy a house. All of a sudden I feel very grown up. I have to admit, I think being a grown up is highly overrated. When we were at the bank last week getting the loan (and yes, my income still does not count, but they gave us a good interest rate none the less), I noticed how much paper is work is involved in "being a grown up." Seriously, we have binders for our taxes and income, binders for the various kinds of insurance that we have, binders about car loans and student loans, binders for lists to buy more binders. It was enough to make me want to curl up into bed and take a nap.

When we are young (i.e. 16), we race towards our destiny, dying to be a grown up. It will be so great to be free! However, the older I get, the less free I feel. Because with this adult "freedom," comes responsibility. Sure, I know a lot of people who shirk major responsibilities and live footlose and free. I often envy these people.

But as I look at my house and the future it holds, it is not a bleak as I feel. There is the possiblity to make some thing mine. To have a safe place to go to after a long day. To know that I will always have a home and no longer be a nomad. That is nice. It makes it even better to know that I will always return to my home and see the German . . . hmm, maybe responsibility is not all that bad.



Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bathroom Blues

I said I would be back Monday - just not which Monday. I noticed that my blog stats / hits have decreased over the past two months. I am sure that has something to do with my . . . ahem . . . irregular posting.

Any Mom and Dad-squared came and went. We had a wonderful visit! First we went down to the Rheinland and visited Oberwesel and St. Goar. The Rheinland is great for two things: visit old, romantic looking castles and wine. We indulged ourselves in both.

Mom and Dad-squared loved it here so much they are thinking of moving to Germany. Hmm. It would be great to have family here, but I think they should take some German classes and stay for more than a week, and then they might have a better idea.

Unfortunately, my mother had a few . . . issues . . . with the bathrooms.

Picture if you will a sleepy, middle-aged woman with a headcold. She has just gotten off the plane, and after 10 hours of traveling only wants a bathroom. After navigating to the correct place in the Frankfurt airport (not an easy feat for those that know the airport), she turns around to flush. Only - she doesn't know how to flush. After 5 minutes of standing, bending, looking, and pushing, she finally gets the toilet to empty.

On our way to the Rheinland, the toilet adventures did not stop. At the first rest stop, we entered a little cafe / convience store. We (my mom and I) walked downstairs. We were confronted with a machine and turnstyle that appeared to require money. 50 cents. Mom just starred at me.

I pointed to the slot in the machine and she popped in her coin. A ticket popped out. Mom starred at me again. "What do I do now?"

"You got me! This is my first time here, too! I think you take the ticket and go through the turnstyle."

"Do I have to give it to the guy on the other side?"

There was a man standing on the other side of the turnstyle who was observing my mother and I. He appeared to be getting upset by the backed up bathroom traffic behind us. "Go! Go!" He shouted. Mom went first and I behind. After I was finished I headed upstairs to the men folk. A few minutes later mom appeared.

"They let men inside the woman's restroom!! There was a man wiping down the counter!"

"Mom, he was just cleaning up. It wasn't like he saw you in your nickers."

A few hours later, nature sounded its call again. Both my mom and I asked the German to pull over at the next rest area. A few minutes later, the German pulled into a rest area that only had one small building. I knew that it would not be good, but I encouraged my mom to go anyway. The German looked at me curiously and asked in German:

"Don't you have to go?"

"Umm. . . no, I think can wait."

As soon as the words left my mouth, my mother came racing back. "There is no way I am using that! It smells like a 3 week old port-a-potty!"

I snickered. "I guess the man wiping down the counter was not so bad after all."

Friday, August 18, 2006

The big day

My parents have arrived safely in Frankfurt. Well, I am assuming. I have not seen anything bad on the news. In a few hours we will go to Bremen to pick them up. I am so excited! And strangely, terribly nervous. I hardly slept last night. All I could think of is, "Are they okay? Did they have enough to eat? How is my mom's head cold?" I feel like they are the kid and I am the parent.

We are driving down to the Rheinland tomorrow to see the Lorelei. I thought my parents should see something very German.

See you Monday!

(I hope with pictures! Blogger is still acting up. Anyone know why?)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

To buy or build

So, remember all the information that I collected about building a house? The German and I visited pieces of land. We went to trades shows and were completely overwhelmed by roof tiles. A German bank clerk told me that I don't count. Well all of that was for nothing.

A quick trip down memory lane . . . in April we decided to build a house and buy land from the city. The city told us that we could buy the land in July or August and start building in September. Don't worry; we will contact you when you can sign the contract. Great. So we waited . . .

In June the German (rightly so) started to get worried. In July he drove by the land, and there was a rapsfeld (canola flower field?). Hmm. Two weeks ago we went back to the city.

Overpaid city official: "Yes, seems that the people selling us the land were having some difficulties. It has all been sorted, though, and we are preparing the lots now."

Frustrated possible home owner: "So when can I build?"

Official: "Well . . . the contracts can be signed in November and you could start in December."

Angry possible home owner: "But the building company won't start then. They said not until March. By then the value added tax will have increased, and the house will be like 8000 Euro more expensive than we planned!"

Official: "Yes, I know it is frustrating. What can you do?"

Not build a house for one thing. So, the German and I started to explore other options last week. We went to a real-estate agent who showed us a few houses, one of which was pretty nice (and the price even nicer!). Today we signed something like a letter of intent to buy a house so that paper work can get started.

The house is HUGE! It has two floors and a complete basement. Also, the lot is really nice and because the trees are older, none of the neighbors can see into our house. (I was going to post pictures by Blogger is acting stupid and will not let me. Maybe I can post them later.)

There are some disadvantages though. The house is 40 years old. The bathrooms and kitchen must be completely torn out and renovated. Also, all the floors have to be re-carpeted and new windows installed.

Suddenly, I feel like a grown up. However, it is like I am being pushed kicking and screaming into adulthood. On Sunday, some of the German's family laughed when we told them about the house. "Well, Claire you have one year left until you are 30. You have a job and now maybe a house. All you need is to get pregnant and everything will be good to go" (wink, wink).

I have single friends of mine who complain about how frustrated they are by society's expectations that they get married. However, if you are married, you are faced with a complete different set of expectations. It is always something, isn't it?

But for now, I am about to become a homeowner. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of those Time Life Books about house renovations? “She who lays tiles” is soon to be my new name.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beautiful

I have spoken about Oma before. She is the German's 75 year-old grandmother and most DEFINITELY the head of the family. She has been battling cancer and things did not look good in June. The chemo had taken a lot out of her.

However, after a month of rest and good eating, I am happy to say that Oma is in good form. She came to my birthday on Saturday and the German's nephew on Sunday. Frankly, I think she is beautiful.

From the Domestic Goddess Files II

First, let me say thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes. I complain a lot about my birthday, but in the end it is never as bad or as dramatic as I make it out to be. It is now even better now that I know that Haddock has the same birthday! (By the way, the Feastday of St. Clare is also August 11, but this has nothing to do with my name. I was named after my grandmother. However, it is an strange coincidence . . .)

Last week I got a lovely email from Grandpa (he who lives in the land o' cheese, i.e. Wisconsin), who wished me a happy birthday and speculated about why I am not posting more now that I am at home. One, perhaps nothing interesting is happening. Or two, perhaps I am very busy.

It is a combination of both really. There really is not much going on in C-burg. The heat finally let up and the rains came, so you know . . . your typical north German summer.

Also, business is going really well. You should check out our company website (warning, it is only in German). But I am also in the midst of preparing for the "Big Visit." Mom and Dad-squared land in Bremen on Friday. So I am trying desperately to get my house in shape.

I am taking a top-to-bottom approach. I started with my office - which frankly was a disaster. Because it is upstairs, we tend to just throw stuff up there when we have company. As result, stuff has piled up over the past year. I had papers from dissertation lying all over the floor. Last week, I cleaned it all up.

6 hours, a trip to Ikea, and 90 Euro later, I have a decent office. Behold the fruits of my labor.



Sure it does not look that impressive, but consider that a week ago all of those binders were on the floor! I believe there is a correlation between the number of binders you have and how smart you are. Wait . . . or is it how crazy you are? Now that I think about it, the number of binders only demonstrates that I cannot throw anything away!

If you look at the top picture, the shelf on the right contains binders only from my dissertation. Or as I like to call it, 6 years of my life that I will never get back.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Birthday Rituals

Yesterday was my birthday. I have to be honest. I am not really fond of my birthday. It is usually forgotten and / or something bad happens. (This year something bad did happen, I learned that our family dog, Sadie, the dumbest and most lovable basset hound on the planet, died.)As a result I tend not to celebrate. However, in Germany, you are often forced to celebrate whether you want to or not.

If you work in an office, you are expected to bring in treats for your co-workers, and maybe even bring in some Sekt (sparkling wine). It is also fully expected that the family will be invited over for coffee and cake.

Today, my in-laws are coming over. Although I did not want to celebrate, I find myself facing 6 guests. I spent the entire morning cleaning my apartment and making cake. I know it is probably not nice to whine, but if I had said, "Nope. Claire's not celebrating her birthday this year," the entire family would have been offended.

To make matters worse, I found my first wrinkle last week. I was blowing out my hair when I noticed a small line under my eye. I looked closely. I am confident that the line is not there because of lack of sleep. These days I get about 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Nope, it was definitely my first wrinkle. I called out for the German.

He came into the room and looked at my distressed face. After I pointed out my wrinkle, he examined my face carefully. "Well, I think you have one there, too," and pointed to my neck. Needless to say, he ran out of the bedroom pretty quickly.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Road Rules

The city of C-burg gave me a lovely welcome home present yesterday – my very first parking ticket. Although the city is nice enough to provide centrally located office space for my new business with cheap rent, there is no free parking around the building. When signing the lease for our office space in February, the New Yorker and I were concerned about this. However, I figured that it would not be a problem for me because I bike to work most of the time.

Yesterday, unfortunately, it rained for the first time in weeks, so I took Smarty to work. I shoved a Euro into the meter, and stuck the ticket in my window. An hour later, I was sitting in my office working away. I could not really be bothered to get up, and did not think 30 minutes would matter much. Well it did! The meter-maid posted the ticket 10 minutes after my time expired. I personally think she was scoping out my car.

The price for my illegal deed . . . 5 Euro. I just paid it on-line. The German laughed and laughed. However, I would like the entire world to know that as far as tickets go, this family currently stands at 2 to 1. The German got a speeding ticket in B-town while going to work, and a warning / speeding ticket in the U.S.

Picture if you will the dark South Carolina night (dude, seriously, it was like 10:30pm, so it was dark). October 2005. After a long flight from Amsterdam, the German and I arrived in the Atlanta airport. We were so anxious to make the 5 hour drive to mom’s house that we jumped in the rental and sped-off. The German drove away from the airport and said, “Which highway do you think it is?” “Got me!” So off we went. Only after 15 minutes did we realize that we were heading for downtown Atlanta and that we were surrounded by the craziest drivers on God’s green earth (I have been to Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and San Francisco, I do have some comparison material). The German yelled at me frantically, “Which way do I go!?”

“Sweetheart, I have no idea!”

“Where is the map?”

“In the trunk. Where you put it!”

As you can tell, it really only was a matter of time before one of us got a ticket. Several hours later, outside of Columbia, we were both getting a little tired. Suddenly I looked in the review mirror, and there were those blue lights flashing.

The German’s eyes got big. “What do I do?”

“Pull over.”

The German pulled over. The police woman walked up to the car.

“License and registration, please.”

I knew once she saw his German passport, license, and the rental car registration, that we would have to do some explaining.

“Where did you all come from?”

(I did all the talking) “We just flew into Atlanta and rented this car there. We are driving to visit my parents. He is my husband. He is German. I am American and from South Carolina.”

“Why do you live in Germany?”

Although question often irritates me, I thought it best to stay cool. “Because we like it there.” (Big smile from Claire)

“Can I see your license, Ms.?” I am not sure why she wanted mine. I mean I wasn’t driving.

At this point the German decided to pipe up. “What is wrong?”

“Sir, you were doing, 80.”

“No I wasn’t! The cruise control was set at 78!”

I snapped my head to look at the German. Through clench teeth I whispered, “Don’t argue with her!”

The officer went back to her car. She came back to us a few minutes later. She handed us all of our identification. “I will just give you a warning. Just be sure to slow down now.” Then she was off into the night, seeking out more law breakers. I looked down at the ticket and realized that the address was written all wrong. I started to chuckle, because I am quiet certain that the only reason we did not get a fine was because she could not read the German’s license.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I can get of my parking ticket by saying that I cannot read German. Some how I think the people around here are on to my German speaking capabilities.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm baaaack!

Back in C-burg that is! And I am lovin' it!

I am loving that I don't have to take a 45 minute bus to work. I am loving that I don't have the homeless guy who drinks boxed wine from the PennyMarkt starring at my legs as I go to the bus station every morning. I am loving that I can walk from the bank, to the post, to my office, to the bakery, without having to start training for a marathon.

I'm tellin' ya, manure never smelled so good.

On the other hand . . . I am not really loving that there are only 3 bars open on a Saturday night, and they all close early! I am also not loving that C-burgers have not discovered the beauty that is iced coffee. Seriously, it is 96 degrees outside. Why would I want a hot beverage?

Hamburg was a beautiful city. I highly recommend it. The German and I had a lovely 2nd anniversary, even though there was no air conditioning. We went to a swimming pool in Kellinghusen / Eppendorf, and it was fab. We ate lots of food and did stupid tourist things, like visit the Hamburg Dungeon, which is not scary, but managed to creep me out, as I am a scaredy cat.

My course went really well. I have gotten the results yet though. One criticism that I kept getting was about my voice. Apparently, I . . . talk . . . too . . . slow . . . and enunciate too much. Who knew that proper speech would be harmful to my career as an ESL teacher? I have tried to speed up, but I grew up in the South. I cannot help myself.

Now it is time to go back to my "normal program." No more insane hours and the return of my DSL! I am going to go visit my blogger friends tomorrow. It is enough to make a girl giddy.