Sunday, October 29, 2006

Going Away for a While

So, I mentioned that if I don't blog for two weeks that you should worry . . . well, I am not going to blog for the next two weeks. Don't worry though! I hope to come out of the other end alive. This week I have 52 hours of English lessons. Yes, you read that right. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

My muscles started to spasm on Friday. I am assuming stress . . . anyway, it makes driving difficult when you can not turn your head all the way to check your blind spot.

I keep thinking that things will get better, you know lighten up, but they are not. If anything, they seem to get worse. Worse in a good way, I suppose. At least all of this means that my business is going well and I am making a little money. However, the downside is the bad back, never seeing the German, and not being able to blog! I haven't even read my favorite sites in 2 weeks!

I also have not helped at the new house at all. Trust me, there are rumblings by the in laws. However, sanding floors at 9pm after working all day just isn't happening. I can tell you that the windows were delivered and installed. I cannot tell you what they look like, as I have not actually seen them.

So, I am taking a little break but hope to be back in a few weeks. Then I will have all kinds of news about the Euro-American Thanksgiving I am having and a new door for the house, which I have seen.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Civic Duty

No worries. Still alive here in C-burg. I think that if I go two weeks without posting, then you should start to worry. I have been pretty busy the past two weeks. The New Yorker is taking a small holiday in New York to visit her family, which means that I am pulling double duty in the office and lessons.

However, I did find time to do my civic duty last week. I voted . . . by mail. I have to give "mad props" (I hear that is what the kids say today; just trying to keep up with the lingo!) to the clerk's office in my district. The send me my request for a ballot for every election! They even sent me a reminder this time. Seriously, these guys are on the ball.

I cannot tell you how I voted because it is a secret. But I will tell you that the ballot did not include any hanging chads. If you decided to vote straight ticket, there were little pictures next to the party names to help you remember which party you like. For example, there were pictures of JFK and FDR next to the Dems and pictures of Lincoln and Regean next to the Republicans. I have to say . . . these pictures were scary! Lincoln's looked like a mug shot and FDR looked like he had had one too many at happy hour.

I took my ballot up to the post. It was in a large brown envelope. It cost 3 Euro to send! I started to chuckle. "Boy, voting sure has gotten expensive!"

PS I have actually not been over to My Euro-American Home in almost a week, but the German tells me that a lot of progress is being mad. I will stop by today for new pictures. Check them out tomorrow!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Somewhere, hell is freezing over

Today I am writing words that I thought would never come out of my mouth.

The Detroit Tigers are going to the World Series.

When my Mo' Town Uncle was here in August, he told me that he was going to take the weekend of the World Series off. You know, just in case.

I laughed at him. I told him, "You know, Al Kaline left the building a long time ago my friend."

"Yes, but you never know," he said with a twinkle in his eye.

My Mo' Town Uncle has been a Tigers fan since he was a kid. When I visit my Michigan relatives, he always takes me by the corner of Michigan and Trumbull and tells me stories about the games he saw there. Mo' Town taught me what it was like to be a true sports fan. To support your team through thick and thin. And trust me, the Tigers have been through many a thin year. He also taught me other important things like the offsides rule in football and that the Yankees are evil.

He took me to Comerica Park a few years ago. Then, the stadium was half empty and the Tigers put the faith of even the most die hard fans to the test. Dude, they lost 119 games just three years ago. Man, was a difference a season can make.

It turns out that my Mo' Town Uncle was right. You never know. And he is the one laughing now.

Go Tigers! I will be cheering all the way from C-burg.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Favorite Month

I think that I finally figured out why I have had the blues lately. Unfortunately, it is because we have entered my favorite month, October. Yes, October is my favorite month of the year and it is making me sad. I realized this because all of the things I love about October are not here in Germany . . . but rather in the U.S.

Let me explain.

October is a wonderful time of the year. The air turns a bit crisp. You get to go out in a big sweatshirt and turtleneck, but it is not yet cold enough for a jacket. I love the feeling of the cool air on my cheeks. I can also dig out my favorite outfit: running shoes, jeans, sweatshirt and turtleneck. Sure, I love to get dressed up and put on my pretty shoes, but in October you cannot get me out of my favorite outfit. It just makes me feel so . . . Comfortable and snug.

The landscape changes and all of Fall's beautiful colors emerge. I went to undergrad in Radford, Virgina. The trees there turn this beautiful gold color. Sometimes I wanted to try and turn them into the bank for cash.

October is when school got into full swing, but not yet the pressure of final exams. I am a nerd. I loved school. New books. Sharp pencils. An empty notebook. It all signals possibility and things to be done.

October also means football. So my undergrad did not have a football team, but my grad school did. I loved football Saturday!! There is nothing in the world like my college town on football Saturday. I would sleep in and then be woken by the band playing not far away. I would get up and have breakfast and watch cartoons. Then I would wander over to campus and watch silly people in their silly hats who were having a glorious time. I'll admit it. I even painted my face a few times. After a hot dog and maybe a beer at a tailgate, it was time to watch the band march into the stadium. Then we would watch our boys battle it out for the next three hours. Most of the time they even won. Inevitably I would go to someone's apartment for pizza, beers, more football and a roaring "I would have called it different" debate.

The best part of October is always the last day. Halloween. Halloween is fabulous. It is completely for kids, and that is what makes it great. 5 years ago I moved into my very first apartment by myself. I rented the bottom floor of a house in a very old neighborhood. I sat on my front porch and chatted with the kids and passed out candy and felt like part of the community. Then I watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. (LOVE IT!) That evening I gave a most excellent Halloween party, which some of my friends still talk about. (Dude, the cops were called! Okay, so it was because of the people across the street, but hey, it is all part of the story.).

After Halloween comes my second favorite month and holiday: November and Thanksgiving.

As I think of all the things I love about October, I realize that I cannot have them here. I usually don't wear my favorite outfit because I am afraid that I will look like a foreigner. There are no Halloween parties and certainly no bands playing. I am no longer in college and instead of possibilities I only see obligations. I cannot even watch a game on satellite TV. The worst part is knowing that Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I am very far from my family.

This makes me homesick. I don't really get homesick anymore. Got too much stuff to do. Places to go. People to teach. But when I slow down in October, I begin to get a little sad. Although many of the things that I love are associated with the U.S., they are also associated with being young and in college, which is definitely a part of my life that is over now. Realizing that has been very difficult.

So, I am trying to make a few new memories. Create my own traditions. I already have my Thanksgiving Dinner plans in progress and the New Yorker and I are going to give a heck of an American Style Christmas Party this year. And maybe I will even pull on my sneakers a few times.

Friday, October 06, 2006

End of an Era

Yesterday marked the end of an era for me. Well, not so much an era, which is a really long period of time, but a significant period of time in this Euro-American life. And by significant period of time, I am referring to Claire putting up with frustrating people who make her completely insane. Yesterday, I quit my job at the university.

I have had enough ranting. I can do no more. I knew this was coming, and after today, I don't feel bad at all.

I got up at 6:30am on my DAY OFF (I want to emphasize this, because it is my last day off, i.e. no English classes, until Christmas; until then I will work Monday through Saturday) to go to the University yesterday. I had to turn in the left over grades from my seminar last semester. It took awhile, but I finally finished them.

Then I added up all the work from last semester:
Number of class room hours taught: 18
Hours spent in traffic commuting: 10
Office hours held: 10
Hours spent preparing lessons: 48 (usually 4 hours per lesson)
Hours spent grading: 8
Estimated total hours worked: 94
Estimated pay per hour: 6.34 Euro per hour

I was teaching teachers and potential political leaders for less than minimum wage. One of the topics I often covered in my class was Rational Choice Theory. After doing a cost-benefits analysis of my life, I decided that the University had to go. "Sebastian" left a comment on my last University post that introducing tuition fees violates the International Charter of Human Rights. He forgot to mention that my right to a living wage actually comes first in the Charter. But this is only a small detail.

This decision has made me very sad. Yesterday I went to the student union / cafe to have coffee and read the paper. Not far from me was a table full of American exchange students (speaking English with a Mid-western accent is a dead give-a-way). I was fascinated and a little envious of their new beginning and I thought back to my first time abroad. But as I watched the students, I realized that I was only clinging to the university because of all the memories it held. However, my life is now so far from that point, and it is perhaps time to move on.

Unfortunately, when you leave academia, there is no turning back. It is almost impossible to get another job and to catch-up on the literature. This career change is so difficult because I cannot help but wonder if my PhD was a waste of time. Am I throwing 10 years of education down the toilet? I hope not. I prefer to think of it as "moving over to another teaching challenge."

Early this morning I received an email from a former student who is unhappy with the grade I gave him last semester. I will now have to have a few last office hours (which are not paid) to explain myself. Suddenly all those doubts I had disappeared.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just your typical Tuesday night

A conversation in our house last night:

(Claire is standing at the window upstairs. The clouds part and a beautiful 3/4 moon appears.)

Claire: Hey, sweetie, come over here and take a look at the moon with me.

(German walks over and put his arms around Claire.)

German: Wow, that is really beautiful. You know there is a rover up there.

Claire: Do you think that the U.S. really went to the moon?

German: If they didn't ,then I have a lot of respect for Americans on being able to fool everyone for so long.

Claire: Doesn't it blow your mind to think that we are looking back in time?

German: What do you mean?

Claire: Well, the stars are so far away that the light they sent millions of years ago is just now reaching us. That star (Claire points to random part of the sky) could actually be gone now.

German: Cool, huh? I saw a TV special yesterday that said that the universe began as a tiny grain of sand and that it exploded billions of years ago.

Claire: But if the universe started as sand, what was the sand in? I mean what surrounded it before that? There has to be more than the universe.

German: There may be up to 9 different dimensions. Perhaps the universe that we know is within one of those dimensions.

. . .
(long pause)
. . .

Claire: Honey, do these pants make me look fat?

German: Not in this dimension, baby.

Claire: Gee, you give the sweetest compliments.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Day of Unity

Today is a rather odd holiday in Germany: German Unity Day. Every Oct. 3, Germany celebrates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. The Berlin Wall actually came down on November 9, 1989. However, November 9 is also anniversary of the Kristallnacht of 1938 (the first large scale Nazi pogrom against Jews in Germany). Thus, you can understand why they choose a different date.

I call the holiday odd, because most Germans do not know what to DO on German Unity Day. There are no big barbecues, no fireworks, and few German flags. It seems that "German-ness" and German nationalism makes Germans very uncomfortable. I saw on a television show the other night that only 11% of Germans said that they would hang their flag on Unity Day. (In case you are wondering, we are not hanging a flag. We do not even have one.)

Patriotism and nationalism are rather distressing words here. If you ask most Germans what it means to be German, you would not get an answer. For the longest time it was "bad" to be German. These taboos from the 1950s and 1960s seem to remain lingering in the German sub-conscious.

Only the World Cup this past summer seemed to change that. For the first time, in a long time, it was okay to be German. Germans are not Nazis. They are friendly, warm hosts who know a thing a two about beer, soccer, and building machines.

Nationalism is a double edge sword. On the one hand, I think that a certain amount of self-confidence is necessary, both in life, business and politics. Germans need to stop thinking that every thing is terrible here. They need to take a look around and be proud of what they have. (Seriously, other than terrible customer service, Germans have it pretty good.)

Unfortunately, nationalism creates a sense of "us," which can be abused by politicians. By creating an "us," you also imply a "them" that is diametrically opposed to who you are. "We" are better than "they" are. Through this "us" verses "them" mentality politicians have wagged wars and committed atrocities (Germans and, yes, Americans, too). So maybe, nationalism is not so good?

Perhaps, self-confidence and pride (both in the correct dose) are better words. Germans can be proud of the clean and functioning society that they have created. This country was brought to its knees in 1949. But it carried on (with some help from some friends). Against tough odds, it brought two countries back together into one. There are still large differences between East and West (such as high unemployment in the East). Today, Germany is the world's largest exporter of large machines. Even though it has higher unemployment than the U.S., it has a lower crime rate and lower poverty rate. See, not so bad?

What was I talking about? Oh, yes, German Unity Day. So, there is not much that we will do on German Unity Day. The German and my father-in-law are already working in the new house and I have papers to grade. Perhaps it is not the same as the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, but it is a day off from work (yeah!), and a moment to reflect on the thought, that hey, Germany Doesn't Suck. And they are showing Pretty Woman on TV tonight, so it cannot be all bad.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Birth of a Blog

I have given birth to a new blog!

Because the new house is going to be taking up a lot of my time, I have decided to give the house its own blog. I have linked it in the sidebar under "VIP." You can check it out at:

Here I will post pictures, updates, anecdotes, and links about this new phase of my life: home ownership. For example, yesterday the German and I found a hidden treasure under the horrid carpet in the dinning room. Happy Reading!