Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Blind Leading the Blind

Today is Christmas Eve. In my family Christmas Eve was never that big of a deal. We always put up our tree around Dec. 15 and on Dec. 24, we usually just sat around watching TV and drinking hot chocolate (kind of like what I am doing today). However, Christmas Eve in Germany is the BIG DAY.

Germans have a whole ritual of traditions for Christmas Eve. Although there are some regional and family differences, I discovered many similarities while talking with my students this week.

On Christmas Eve, the parents lock the children out of the living room and put up their Christmas tree (although some families do this together). The children play and then the family sits down and has dinner together, which is usually potato salad and sausages. During dinner, the Christ Child comes and places the Christmas presents under the tree. Then a bell is rung and the children race into the living room to discover their tree and rip open their presents.

I heard another variation of this tradition, in which everyone goes to Church after dinner and when they get home the children discover that the Christ Child has been there and the presents are opened.

Regardless of the order, it is important to note that today the Christ Child brings presents, which are then opened on Dec. 24.

I find this highly illogical. I tried to discuss it with the German.

Claire: It just makes no sense. Someone is in the house, while you are there AND awake. How are kids supposed to believe that?? The American tradition is much more logical.

The German: Seriously? Americans are logical?

Claire: Yes. We only have one person, Santa (aka St. Nick, Father Christmas, etc., Germans have St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 and the Christ Child on Dec. 24). It makes a lot more sense that we cannot see Santa because he only comes when you are asleep. It is a lot easier to believe and is why opening Christmas presents must be on the morning of Dec. 25.

The German: (smirking) A fat guy in a red suit breaks into your house via a chimney, and you are telling me that is logical.

Claire: Hmm, I see your point.

________________

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Making Me Oh So Proud

Last Saturday the German and I went to his soccer team's annual Christmas party. This year the team met at the Christmas Market and then went to a restaurant for dinner. As I had gotten tipsy at my company's Christmas party the night before, we decided that the German could drink and I would drive.

Everything was going well until about 11:00pm. The coach of the team gave little speech and then said, "Every year we like to honor our newest members by having them preform a little task." Uh oh. The German was the only new member at the dinner.

"German, you have 30 minutes to find yourself a festive Christmas costume and then come back and sing a Christmas song for us. You cannot buy anything, but you must find it."

I looked more panicky than the German. Of coarse, I was the only sober person in the room. "Seriously guys, you don't want him to sing. Animals cover their ears when he starts up." But my protests fell on deaf ears. The German was actually happy, and a bit intoxicated. He jumped up ready for the task. The Goal Keeper stood up and announced that he would help the German.

One hour later I began to worry that the Goal Keeper had stolen my husband. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. In walked my husband wearing a soccer jersey, a blue Santa hat (about 2 sizes too small) and he a garland with lights draped around his neck. Sadly, the pictures did not come out. He looked utterly ridiculous, but also very happy.

He then proceed to sing a song that he had just written in his deep, but off-key, voice. The team thought is was fantastic. There were cheers and whistles. Although I fell in love with him a bit more that night, I made him promise never to sing in public again.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

One Man's Christmas Tree

I thought for sure that I was not going to have to work this week. Seriously, who wants English lessons the week before Christmas? Surely people will spend the whole week standing in line at the post office. It turns out that almost all of my customers wanted lessons. Although I had Monday and Tuesday off, I have 10 hours of lessons today, 4 tomorrow and 5 on Friday (Friday?!)

In order to make my lessons more festive I have injected some Christmas fun into the mix. I do a little worksheet with some Christmas vocabulary. We do a listening activity involving the song "Santa Baby" and writing letters to Santa Claus. We also fill out a chart about the differences between German and American Christmas traditions. This has caused a bit of a problem.

Last week we talked about the differences in Christmas trees. Whereas, Americans put up there trees as early as Dec. 1 and cover them with colored lights and balls, Germans put up their trees on Dec. 24 and use red balls, white lights, candles and maybe straw stars as decorations. Americans usually take their trees down on Jan. 1 but Germans wait until Jan. 6. Last week, I spoke quite affectionately about some of the decorations that my mom used on our tree when I was a child. One student screwed up her face and sat back in her chair with a look of disgust.

"Well that is just tacky!"

I usually don't offend easily. However, at that moment I felt like all of my childhood traditions had just been spit on. Instead of being a good teacher and counting to 5 and letting it go, I arched my eyebrow and starred out her.

"Seriously? Red balls and white lights? That is totally boring."

It was her turn to be offended. I should not have said it, but really, although you might find some one's Christmas traditions a bit loco, doesn't mean that they are not very special to that person. So in the spirit of acceptance at Christmas time, I will put on the red ball and white lights that the German so loves. However, some color may find its way on the tree in the back.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Same Procedure as Every Year

I consider myself a fairly intelligent woman. I am capable and learn fast. However, I cannot for the life of me send a Christmas card out on time. You know that saying, the road to hell was paved with good intentions? Well, this time of year, I think it should be, the road to the post office was was paved with inept Christmas card senders. By the looks of the post office this morning, I am apparently not the only person who never learns.

One week ago I woke up and realized that Christmas was two weeks away. I did a mental note of the gifts I had bought and the cards I had written. Hmm, that would be zero. In the past week, I have finished my shopping for the German, my parents and parents-squared, my sister and her children. I have even gotten something for my mother-in-law. Unfortunately, buying is but the first step for the ex-pat shopper.

This morning I stood in line to send out my 30 Christmas cards. People are grumpy when standing in line at the post office. And the guy behind me smelled a little bit. The postal employee was actually quite nice, but smirked and said, "You know if you send them the first week in December, you can beat the rush!" Gee, thanks for the tip.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Claire's Christmas List

The Christmas holidays are just around the corner. I know this because German radio stations have played Wham’s “Last Christmas” so many times, that if I hear it one more time, I think my ears will start to bleed.

I have not done any of my Christmas shopping, so it is time to get serious! Time to pull out the German’s credit card and surf the Internet.

I was talking with Mom on the phone last night and she asked me what I want. I was not sure, so I decided to make a Christmas wish list. This list is to help my parental units and the German, as I am pretty sure that he has not gotten me anything yet and I do not want to chance opening a vacuum cleaner on Dec. 25. (I must give the German a little credit, he already knows that if you can plug it in or use it in the kitchen, then it is not an appropriate Christmas present.)

For those who are interested, I think that the list is a little more insight into me.

Claire’s Christmas Wish List (Click on the links. They take your right to a picture of the item.)

Jem T-Shirt (pink, Jr. XL) (It is in stock! Run now!)

80stees.com

Martini and Rossi Poster for my dining room

art.com

The First Season of Charmed (It’s a guilty pleasure. You know I have never seen the first episode. I cannot play DVD’s from the U.S. here in Germany! Any order would have to be from amazon.de. )

amazon.de

Perfume: Pure Poison by Dior (Those who know me will be shocked to read this. I have used only one perfume since I was 16: Beautiful by Estee Lauder. However, I am ready for a change and a friend of mine wears this and it is divine.)

Perfume Emporium.com

The New John Grisham Novel (also a guilty pleasure)

Amazon.com

Amy Sedaris’s Book: “Hospitality Under the Influence” (Sounds like my kind of hospitality!)

Amazon.com

Banana Republic Fitted Blouse (Ice Blue, L) (Because a gal can never have too many fitted blouses. There is actually a great skirt at this site, but I don’t buy pants or skirts on the Internet. Too risky.)

Banana Republic

Hoop Necklace (Because a gal can never have enough jewelry.)

Banana Republic

And, finally, and most important, I wish there were more people in the world like this.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Reindeer Games

I saw this on Mausi's site (she is cupid, by the way). I tried it out. I am not sure if it is correct, but it did make me giggle.

You Are Dancer

Carefree and fun, you always find reasons to do a happy dance.

Why You're Naughty: That dark stint you had as Santa's private dancer.

Why You're Nice: You're friendly. Very friendly.

A Surprising Confession

I just posted some pictures of the outside of the house over at my Euro-American Home. That blog has been even more neglected than this one. But things are kicking into high gear with the house this week, so I finally decided to post some pictures. Also, I realized why I was neglecting the house so much.

Truth be told, I do not like the house. I remember very distinctly the day we signed the papers. As I sat in the lawyer's office, this overwhelming feeling of dread came over me. All I could think was, "Let me out!" I wanted to jump out of my chair and run away. There were two reasons for this. First, I wanted to build and not buy. I thought the house was a bit ugly and it was really hard to picture myself living there.

Second, the house represented my permanent presence here in Germany. I have realized over the past few months that deep down I really thought we would move to the States. However, once that 30 year mortgage was signed, I knew I was not going anywhere. And that was scary.

My in-laws (actually just about anyone) have strong opinions about what to do with the house. And as I have so often demonstrated here, Germans are not afraid to give you their unsolicited opinion. Everything from the flooring to the color of the walls has been a big debate in the family. Frankly I think the only opinions that count are the people who have to pay the mortgage.

The best example of this was a window. Yes, a window. Please see Exhibit A below.


The brown, lead glass window separates the dining room from my office. In my opinion the window had to go. As I will be teaching in my office, I did not want a window into my dining room. However, and more importantly, I think it is ugly. Brown, lead glass my have been very "in" in 1960s Germany, but I am a American woman living in 2006.

Well meaning German: "It is such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship!"

Claire thinking: "But it is still ugly."

Well meaning German: "Just think of how expensive and hard to get something like that is!"

Claire thinking: "So it is expensive, hard to get ugly."

The more people told me to keep it, the more stubborn I got. This window actually caused a huge fight between the German and I. I thought they were dragging their feet about taking it out because they wanted me to keep it. Turns out that we weren't really fighting about the window. We were fighting about how unhappy I was with the entire situation, and that I had no idea how to express my unhappiness.

Of coarse I won. The window no longer exists. We are going to sell it on E-bay. And slowly, over the past few weeks, I have made peace with the house. The kitchen was delivered and the walls in the dining room have been painted. This weekend we will finish the dining room and my office. Last week, I went over on Wednesday afternoon. I bought a deli chicken and some cake. The German and I sat down in the kitchen and had dinner. Just the two of us. In our house. And for the first time it felt like my home.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's my Blog-Anniversary

Well, actually, yesterday was my one year blog-anniversary. However, the German and I decided to drink wine and watch TV together, so this post is a little late. Oh well.

I began blogging a year ago, for several reasons. The most important is that the Internet has turned into the primary way that I keep in touch with my family. If I don't post for more than a week I always get emails from mom and Grandpa wondering what's up. My family knows more about me now than they ever wanted to know.

However, after reading about other blogs, I thought that this might be my one way to get my creative juices flowing. It has and I have actually started a book. Well, drafted an outline for a book and written the first chapter. Unfortunately the creative part of the blog has taken the back seat over the past few months. Just no time.

Now it is time to take stock. It has been a very busy year. It started in December / January with my wild two week trip with the German through America. In February I discovered that you can buy almost anything in the Internet, except a t-shirt that I covet.

In March, I started my own business and discovered the expat blogger community, which has been very nice to me. In April I participated in the Lost Blogs Project and thought about building a house. In May, I had the perfect day, followed by the longest day. I also took a trip to Poland . In June I worked too much, but the World Cup soccer tournament helped assimilate me into Germany

In July I went to Hamburg to become a better teacher . In August my parents came to visit and I bought a house. In September I watched my crazy friend get married and I started working too much (a trend that has not yet ended). In October I quit my job at the university. In November I took a few mental health days and cooked one kick ass Thanksgiving dinner.

Wow, I get tired just thinking of all these things. A look at My-EuroAmerican Life by the numbers:

13,820 Total Page Visits
43 Visits Per Day (I peaked in April/May and it has been downhill since)
162 Posts
1 Additional Blog (dude I have new pictures of the house and will finally update that page on Sunday!)
Wrinkles discovered: 1

Cast of Characters at My EuroAmerican Life:

The German: my wonderful husband
Oma: the German's Grandmother
Dad-squared: my step-father
The New Yorker: my business partner
My Crazy Married Friend: Carrie, college buddy
My Crazy Single Friend: Aoife, Irish buddy
Chard: Peace Corps volunteer and supportive friend
Media Man and Lawyer Guy: people I share office space with

If you are new to the blog, welcome. If you are a regular reader, then you must be my grandfather. Thanks for the love and support everyone. I appreciate it.