Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Here in Germany there are many signs that it is Christmas time. There are the Christmas markets and the Gluhwein (mulled wine) and of course the Advent wreath.
However, yesterday evening there was the biggest sign of them all. I hear "Last Christmas" by Wham! on the radio. This song will be played over and over again until bad George Michael lyrics start spontaneously spouting from my mouth. I do not which is worse, the fact that it is played all the time or the fact that I secretly like it.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
A few weeks ago the New Yorker and I decided to take a road trip. Being in the office or teaching all day can lead to a bit of boredom and so we are always looking for a way to shake things up a bit. However, I am not sure that the Agritechnica was the best way to do that.
The Agritechnia is world's largest trade show for soil and tillage, including bio-gas and harvesters. It is held every two years in Hanover, Germany. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? I would not blame you for being jealous.
The New Yorker and I got free tickets from one of our clients who were exhibiting at the trade show. We decided to drive out to Hanover and make a surprise visit to our clients. Actually, we had 4 clients and 2 potential clients exhibiting. It was a perfect opportunity to get out of the office and network and also to see if our clients are doing well with their English.
Driving to Hanover proved to be easy enough. We only made a wrong turn once, and that was when we were trying to get out of Wildeshausen. It was a bit embarrassing that I could not navigate through my own town. Driving back was a bit of a different story. I swear they moved the signs in the night.
The trade show was HUGE!! There was a hall for tractor tires and a hall for spare parts. There was a hall for root vegetable harvesters and one for grain harvesters. We heard people speaking Russian, Chinese, German, English and a myriad of other languages. Frankly, we were a bit overwhelmed and a bit out of our element. The New Yorker used to be an accountant for a large Manhattan company, and I was a political science grad student. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to watch farmers negotiating with companies for the best prices.
The term "sex sells" applies to many different products and industries. I had no idea it also applied to tractors. At one booth, we saw a large poster of a naked woman draped over a grain trailer. It was full frontal and only the position of her hips and crossed legs covered her most intimate parts. "Does that really sell grain trailers?" I thought.
It got even better. One tractor producer had a huge booth. Its bright red tractors were displayed in a circle. In the middle of the circle was a raised platform. In the middle of this platform was the company's newest model, which I can only imagine does great things to pull vegetables out of the ground. The dais was turning very slowly and there was a singer with a guitar playing a rock song / jingle written especially for the new tractor. The pseudo-rock star was surrounded by female dancers dressed in tight black leotards and with black cat masks.
The show attracted quite a number of on-lookers who were taking pictures and video. My jaw fell open and I stared in disbelief. I looked over at the New Yorker. "But dude, it is just a tractor!?"
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday morning I was driving to work at 8:50am. The community center that I was driving to is 45 minutes away from my home. I was only about 15 minutes away when I started to worry a bit about the time. There was an animal food transporter in front of me on the two lane road and it was only doing 70 km/h in the 100 km/h zone.
I know that Christina and J have complained about the aggressiveness of German drivers. I feel the same way myself and usually try to stay out of their way in my little Smart car. However, I did not want to be late for work and decided to pass the truck in front of me.
I peaked out from behind the truck and there was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction. I went back behind the truck. After a few minutes I peaked again and saw that it was free and clear for several kilometer, so I decided to pass. Unfortunately, the station wagon behind me decided to pass at the same time.
A few minutes later I was pulled off onto the right side of the road and a little dazed. My first thought was, "Holy crap! What have you done!!??" I then looked over and saw the other driver getting out of their car, apparently uninjured. Everything looked okay on me and then I burst into tears. There was witness who pulled over to make sure everything was okay. He opened my door and the first thing I said was, "I am thirty weeks pregnant."
I got out and stood up and everything seemed normal. There did not appear to be that much damage to either car and I apologized profusely to the other driver. I did not want an ambulance and went into my little trunk to get a flare or warning sign. At that moment I felt a cramp deep in my left side, which almost brought me to me knees. I looked at the witness and said, "Please call an ambulance." Now that I think about it, I don't think it was a contraction but rather a swift kick from Little Dude to my kidney as if to say, "What the hell are you doing, mom!?" It was enough to make me panic and for shock to set in. For an hour I seriously felt like I had to vomit.
An hour later I was sitting in a hospital room. Thank goodness for the extremely soothing and friendly ambulance driver, nurses and doctors. I got my wits back about me and the nausea went away. I was really pale when I came in, so they put me on an IV. The doctor explained to me that they would do an ultrasound to make sure the "Mutterkuchen" was intact. I was not sure what this meant. I thought it was the cervix and looked at him in confusion. Why did they need an ultrasound to check my cervix? The doctor notice my confusion and started to speak to me in English. Turns out, he used to work at a hospital in the U.S. "Mutterkuchen" means "placenta." Yeah, that was a word I never learned in my German classes.
Everything looked good. Little Dude was moving around. They hooked me up to a fetal heart monitor and there were no signs of contractions. However, they decided to keep me for 24 hours to make sure that contractions did not develop. This did not make me too happy. I just wanted to go home.
From the accident I managed to call and cancel my lessons for the day. I could not get hold of the German and did not want to go to the hospital alone. I called my in-laws. They were there immediately. At the hospital they took my papers and made sure that I got registered. My father-in-law picked up the car and drove it home. My mother-in-law went to the shop and got me a jogging suit so that I could change my clothes. Seriously good in-laws.
The German did not get to the hospital until 8pm. Unfortunately, he had left his cell phone at home and had a really long day at work. Thankfully, he came and was also a calming influence.
I got hold of the New Yorker, who cancelled all of my lessons through Monday. She wanted to cancel Thanksgiving dinner as well. I would not let her. "The one thing this day has shown me is that there are many things to be thankful for. This could have been a whole lot worse."
The German picked me up yesterday morning and I was in very good spirits. We ran some errands and then went and hung out with the New Yorker and had our lovely meal. By the time I got home last night, I was pretty tired. Today I feel like a sack and am spending most of the day in front of the TV.
Last night I thought a lot about all of the things that I am thankful for in life. Of course my parents, the German, and my friends and business partner are always at the top of my list. This year I have to add two more important things.
First, Little Dude appears to be a really strong, determined baby and only when I was confronted with the thought of losing him did I realize how very much I love him, even now.
Second, my in-laws came to my rescue twice this week. They never questioned and they never complained. They gave me warm hugs and made me feel like their own daughter. Sure we don't agree on the color of the wall paper, and they don't understand why they should call before coming over, but they are the most important family I have here. I am very grateful to have them in my life. It makes Thanksgiving a little easier knowing that perhaps family is just around the corner.
Monday, November 19, 2007
This morning started off harmless enough. I actually got up on time, took a shower and got out to the car punctually at 8:30am. I walked to my car and looked in my purse. Garage door opener. Check. Office keys. Check. Car keys . . . wait a minute. Now where could those be? They are on my key ring with my house key of course, which at that moment was sitting in the hallway on the sideboard. I turned around and looked at the locked front door. I walked around the house and discovered that back door was locked, and the shades were down. Hmm.
Realizing that I had no way into my house and no way into my car, I knew that I had to call someone. The German was in the middle of teaching class, so he could not come home. Then I remembered that my in-laws have a key to the house, so I called them. Unfortunately, my father-in-law had just left for a doctor's appointment but my mother-in-law promised to come over as soon as he got home. I then called and cancelled with the New Yorker. And then I waited.
By 9am I was starving, so I walked into town and had brunch at a local bakery and then I did a little window shopping. I arrived back at home at 10:30am and sat in the basement, which I could get into thanks to the garage door opener. After going through my day planner and playing with my cell phone, my in-laws arrived at 11:30am. Thank goodness!
This has never happened to me before. I am happy to report that I stayed calm the entire time and then sent the German an SMS (text message). He called me immediately in a panic. After explaining the situation, he said, "We really need to put a copy of the house key somewhere outside." "Gee, sweetie, you think?"
Don't you just love Mondays.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
You're Babar the King!
by Jean de Brunhoff
Though your life has been filled with struggle and sadness of late,
you're personally doing quite well for yourself. All this success brings responsibility,
though, and should not be taken lightly. Life has turned from war to peace, from damage
to reconstruction, and this brings a bright new hope for everyone you know. These hopeful
people look to you for guidance, and your best advice to them is to watch out for snakes.
You're quite fond of the name "Celeste".
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
It all boils down to the fact good things will happen to you at the most inconvenient times. This can be said of my pregnancy. Giving birth in February should not be such a big deal, but it is turning into one. I wish I was giving birth in July. Do you think little dude could wait it out a few months? Probably not. Why July . . .?
In September I started to worry about my business a bit. Many of our company contracts were starting to run out and not too many people had signed up for our fall general classes. The general classes problem is my fault. I set the price-point too high. Setting a price on things so that is cheap enough that a customer will buy it AND you can still make a profit is not easy. Try it some time.
Therefore, the New Yorker and I were faced with finding new customers. Besides trying to get existing customers to pay on time, sales is probably the part of my job I hate the most. It really is an art. I have learned quickly not to take rejection too personally and that follow-up is the key to closing the deal. Unfortunately, I can spend months to a year (!!) chasing a client down.
We made a few calls and had a couple of inquiries and a few jobs started popping up. Then in October, the jobs started falling from the sky. We have had 5 new companies contact us and 3 of our old companies decided to sign contract extensions. Sounds great doesn't it?
However, the New Yorker and I are faced with a tough question, "Who is going to teach these classes?" We are interviewing new teachers now, but finding qualified native speakers is difficult in this part of Germany. (Ch-ard, please come back to me!!) This is where the part about my maternity leave becomes difficult. Turns out that "maternity leave" is going to turn into a brief "maternity pause/interlude." And that pisses me off.
Most women in Germany begin their maternity leave 2 months before giving birth. After giving birth a woman can take up to three years off and their employer must give them their job back. Now this three years is not paid mind you, but part of it is. If you are a civil servant your pay is even higher. The German says that when many of his colleagues at school get pregnant, you know that they will be gone well over a year.
Not every woman takes advantage of this. A good friend of mine only took six months off and then went back to work part-time. She did not do it for financial reasons, but because she wanted to get out of the house a bit and actually communicate with adults. For this she was shamed by many people (I have a whole other post about this).
My frustration has lead me to make a list of the things that I want, but are just out of my reach. Any help?
1. I want a qualified native speaker teacher starting in January.
2. I want to be able to pay my bills and stay home with my child for more than a week.
3. I want to go to Dresden this weekend and commiserate with other ex-pats.
4. I want little dude to stop kicking me in the stomach and giving me acid reflux.
5. I want to stop getting bigger in the back. (What is my body trying to balance itself out with the front??)
6. I want to stop feeling so anti-social (sorry to my friends whose emails I have not responded too) and start enjoying my friends again.
7. I want to be happier about my pregnancy than I really am.
See, frustrating isn't it? I sometimes feel like people expect me to be dancing on the ceiling about my pregnancy, which I am not. I worry about so many other things that I get distracted and frustrated.
Last night something did change. I had my first dream about my baby. In my dream, I held him in my arms and we rubbed noses. He was so tiny and had a head of dark, thick hair. I woke up with a smile on my face for the first time in weeks. Perhaps February is not such a bad time to give birth after all.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Hmm. This was harder than I thought, as I don’t think anything about me is weird . . . maybe that is the point. Here, we go.
1. I also don’t have a middle name. On my birth certificate my first name is listed as “Claire-Marie.” That’s right. I am a hyphenate.
2. I was called “Marie” until I was about 8 or 9 years old. However, I hated the name for a long time. There were three “Marie’s” in my kindergarten class who always picked on me. When my parents moved and I started a new school I took the opportunity to change my name and listed “Claire” on all of my forms and told people that was my name. I went home that afternoon and announced the change to my parents who were like, “Um, okay?” I still have aunts and uncles who call me “Marie.” I don’t mind it so much anymore.
3. When I was a little kid, I insisted that my sandwiches be cut on a diagonal. I believed that this made the sandwich bigger. Even though I have taken geometry and calculus, I still insist on eating sandwiches this way.
4. I always wear socks to bed, even in the summer.
5. The only class that I ever got an "F" in was spelling. (shocking, I know :-)
6. I will not let anyone (and I mean ANYONE) do my laundry except myself. When someone even touches my laundry, I can get very upset.
7. I did not get my driver’s licence until I was 21, almost 22. I had an accident when I was 15 and had a learner’s permit. It scared the heck out of me and I could not get behind the wheel of a car. When I graduated from college my mom gave me driving lessons as a gift. After about a month, I could not get what the fuss was all about. I cannot imagine my life without a car now.
Here are the rules which you must abide by if you are tagged.
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself: some random, some weird.
3. Tag 3 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.
I am tagging:
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Yes, it has been a while. Yesterday afternoon I got back to Germany in one piece, even if I am still not sure what time it is.
The past two weeks will definitely be on my list of my best trips back to the U.S. Actually both trips this year were really good. As you may remember, in March we visited mom and dad-squared in Charleston, SC and this time we visited dad and mom-squared in Ypsilanti, MI. The trick to these perfect trips: don’t do both cities at once. Driving from Charleston to Ypsilanti (and it is always a round trip) just blows and takes two days. Our trip was pretty uneventful. I did not write or talk to anyone except my family during the trip. I just wanted to enjoy my time away.
We spent one gorgeous day at the Henry Ford / Greenfield Village. Normal people collect stamps or coins. Henry Ford collected houses. You know, for fun. All of the historical sights and homes that he bought are reconstructed in a “village” outside of Dearborn, MI. It is a taste of Americana which includes the Wright Brother's bike shop, Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, and the Firestone Farm. The weather was perfect the day we visited: 68 degrees and sunny. We walked around for four hours and the German could not get over the beautiful colors of all the leaves.
Doing tourist stuff was not really high on our agenda. We spent our days walking in the park, visiting the mall, going to the movies, etc (not all in one day mind you). I drank one too many lattes and watched enough TV for a month. The German went to his first college football stadium. He watched UofM at the “Big House” battle for the Little Brown Jug. Unfortunately it rained the entire day. That evening we also went to a UofM hockey game. I am currently trying to deprogram him after his “conversion” to UofM.
We did take a small road trip down to my old stomping grounds. Although I graduated in 2005, my old university has changed a lot in 2 ½ years. They have built two new buildings and have started on extensions to the law school and engineering school. Also, they took out a major road through the university and planted a park and trees. The German has a mildly amusing video of my standing in the middle of the park, looking around and saying in a rather dumbfounded tone over and over again, “This used to be a street.” During the trip I had coffee with my old advisor. It was really nice. I often worry that I have disappointed my professors by getting out of academia. I told him that I felt like I had to choose between a career and a family and I choose the latter. He told me that I made the correct decision, which was reassuring.
Finally, we did drive to the Land o’ Cheese and visited my Grandpa (he who sometimes comments on this blog) and dad-squared’s family. As always, they are a pleasure to visit. As always, this trip was too short.
When the German and I left the U.S. on Friday, I was really sad. I could also see that my dad was sad. It was one of the first times that I have not wanted to come back to Germany. The funny thing is that I am starting to feel a bit disconnected from my life back in the states; my “old life.” There were times when I felt like I just did not fit-in any more. However, I often do not feel like I fit-in here in Germany either. These feelings are extremely difficult, and yet typical of the ex-pat experience. You have one foot in each country, which makes “home” a difficult place to define. Because of my mixed feelings about coming back, I have picked several fights with the German. I am not sure why I do it. I suppose that it is because he is the closest person to me and I cannot manage to keep my trap shut.
Life goes back to its “normalcy” tomorrow. Time to get back to work and pay the bills. Already the U.S. seems so far away.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
* Channel surfing through some 200 channels and they are ALL in English
* Watching my beloved, yet terrible college football team on TV LIVE while eating chips and salsa and drinking root beer
* Going to a book store full of English books
* Tacky Halloween decorations
* Tall, de-caf, non-fat latte - to go
* Being able to use my debit and/or credit card to purchase something under $10 (no shoplifting here!)
Oh, yes, I love being back in the States. But, seriously, the cars here are HUGE. Why does the petite little real estate agent need a Hummer? I don't get it. Two years ago the German asked me why Americans have such big cars. I responded that some of them are probably contractors or farmers or some other occupation in which the transportation of heavy items involved. Since we have been back in Detroit, every time we see an SUV he says, "Yup, there goes another farmer."
Saturday, October 20, 2007
|This past week I did something that I am not proud of. However, it seems that on occasion in life there are simply things that you cannot predict. Apparently shoplifting is one of them.|
Wednesday was another wet, miserable fall afternoon in our fair town. I spent about 20 minutes walking around in the rain going from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for a place to get my prenatal vitamins because my regular place was out. After finally locating them, I went to the grocery store to buy a few things. All I wanted to do was get some things to bake a cake for an English class I had the next day. Nothing more, nothing less.
I went to the check-out counter. As the cashier scanned my wares, I was putting my items in the plastic bag that I also wanted to purchase. (Note: In Germany you must either bring your own bags with you or buy them at the check-out.) As an impulse buy I had thrown a candy bar on the counter in hopes that the chocolate would lighten my mood, even if it does not lighten my weight.
My total was around 7 Euros. I pulled out my debit card and continued to pack up my items.
Lady at the Register: Oh, no! You can only use debit cards for purchases over 10 Euro.
Claire: Yes, but I don't have any cash.
Lady at the Register: Then buy something else.
Claire: But I don't need anything else. I just need this.
She stared at me. I stared at her. I was mortified. There was a line forming behind me. It was clear that I would have to leave everything there. I shoved everything towards her and kept mumbling, "I'm so sorry," as I tried the leave the store as quickly as possible.
Half way down the street I realized that I had accidentally put the candy bar in my purse and had not given it back to the lady at the register. I stopped in the middle of the street and stood in the rain and tried to decide what to do. Which is more humiliating, accidentally stealing a candy bar or going back to admit that you stole it?
I told the German the story when I got that home that evening. With a totally straight face, he looked at me and said, "You are a thief!" My mortification doubled. Then he started laughing. "What did you do with the candy bar?"
"I ate it. I figured that after all that trouble I deserved a bit of sugar." He laughed even harder. "I guess I will never be going to that store again," I said.
After reading this story, you might think that I need of a vacation. You would be correct. Which is why I am happy to report that I am writing this from . . . Motown! That's right; the German and I travelled to the U.S. yesterday and are going to spend the next two weeks doing absolutely nothing.
Our flight was okay but a little bumpy over Canada. However, when we landed in the U.S. two strange things happened. First, at passport control they looked over the German's passport and then mine. They asked the normal questions: where are you going, how long will you stay, why are the two of you together if you have different last names. Then the agent asked me if I had ever lived in Philadelphia. I was completely shocked. "Um, no." The agent then sent us to another line where a very intimidating man wearing a gun asked a few more questions and punched a lot of information into the computer. Then they let us go on. It all only took about 5 minutes, but was very weird.
German: What was that about?
Claire: I have absolutely no idea.
Then, for the first time ever, we were stopped at customs. They did not look in our bags but they did x-ray them. The agent asked, "Are you sure you don't have any tobacco or alcohol products with you?" I wanted to say, "Dude, I am 6 months pregnant, why would I have that stuff with me?" However, the one thing that I have learned from all of my international travelling is that you should NEVER make jokes at immigration or customs. I just looked at him as seriously as possible and said, "No, sir." Then they let us go on.
German: What was that about?
Claire: I have absolutely no idea.
The German turned to me and smirked. "Maybe they know that you steal candy bars."
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Part of my mood is definitely to blame on the pregnancy. I do not want to blame Little Dude because I do not want to give the kid a complex before he is even born. However, pregnancy hormones are . . . well . . . tons of fun.
Speaking of Little Dude, we are 112 days away from the Big Day and it is time to get serious about some baby names. This is the one issue that is proving difficult between the German and I.
There is one big requirement. The name must work in both German and English. This would seem to narrow the list of possible names and make the process easier, however, it does not. Everything the German likes, I do not and vice-verse.
The struggle for baby names is made even more complicated by the fact that there is a list of German approved names. I have never actually gotten my hands on this official German names book, but I hear that it actually quite thick. On the other hand it is also full of names I would never use (i.e. Adolf, Fritz, Siegfried). I knew an African woman of Liberian descent who wanted to name he son after her grandfather. She had to petition the government for permission and prove that it is an actual name.
We have decided on a middle name: Charles. This is a big name in my family, which is why I wanted to use it. However, the German says that Little Dude needs a first name that can be used in German schools. We are leaning towards a first name, but I will not reveal that just yet.
So, I am opening the floor for suggestions. What should we name our baby?
_______ Charles Sch. . .
Remember, it must be a boy's name (I am now 99.9% sure that it is a boy given the pictures in last week's ultrasound) that works in English and in German. Also, you should know that the German and I are pretty traditional when it comes to names. Let's see if baby's first lesson in popular referendum is a successful one.
Friday, October 12, 2007
First, although business is doing okay, money is very tight at the moment. My mom asked me the other day if I liked being self-employed. For the most part I do. I like being able to set my own hours and pursuing the projects I find interesting. I DO NOT enjoy the fact that some of my customers take their sweet time about paying. After a few discussions with a few friends (I know a lot of self-employed people / business owners), I began to realize that this is the biggest problem we know. Unfortunately, when you work in the service industry, there is no way to repossess the knowledge gained once it has been taught. Sometimes I wish I had a magic ray gun to suck the brains out of some of my non-paying students.
Not getting paid is starting to impact my attitude during my lessons. When a student gets a bit argumentative with me, I begin to wonder, "Why am I doing this?" (For the record, I have taught 100 hours over the past 6 weeks and have been paid for 10.)
Also, the physical strain of teaching is taking its toll on my body. When I teach, I am "on." It is like performing. The energy of the teacher can impact the entire lesson, so I try to keep my energy up and positive. Try doing this for hours on end with an extra 12 pounds strapped to your stomach, which starts kicking you in the bladder when you write on the board. Not fun.
Also not fun is climbing the stairs at one company, which does not have an elevator but lessons on the fourth floor. When I emerged out of breath on Thursday, I mentioned to the receptionist that they should get an elevator. She smiled and said that I should join a fitness class. I was soooo offended. "Sometimes when you are 6 months pregnant, you have no choice. You tend to get out of breath." I later saw the receptionist smoking a cigarette at her desk. No fun at all.
Pregnancy is starting to take its toll on my body. I only wanted to gain 25 pounds. I have already gained 18 and I have 3 months to go. My doctor told me this week to lay off the cake. Let me tell you, it did nothing for my mood. So, this week instead of cake I opted for cottage cheese.
Today I did not have to teach, so I went to the hair dresser (thanks for the gift certificate, Chad!!). Usually this brightens my mood, but I just sat there feeling ugly and fat. I went and bought a skirt at H&M that I could not afford. I bought it because I have a meeting with my most important customer on Monday morning and did not want to go in one of the only two pair of pants that I have.
While I was trying on clothes, I bent over and got a look of the back of my legs in the mirror. I almost sat down and started crying. The back of my knees are unrecognizable to me. I do not consider myself a "beautiful woman," but I was always pretty proud of my legs. They were my best asset. I put on my clothes and looked in the mirror and my grumpy, depressed mood filled the room.
So, here I sit on a Friday night. The German is playing soccer to release the stress of his equally crappy week and I am working. That's right. I am preparing lessons for the class I have to teach tomorrow and editing something a professor asked me to look at. And how was your week?
Sunday, October 07, 2007
It was Saturday night, and we stayed in (as we usually do when I work on Saturday). Of course there was nothing on TV except that good ol' German standard, Wetten, dass (Wanna Bet That. . .). This show is over two hours long and involves normal people who bet that they can do something "extraordinary," i.e. stupid. For example, last night a Swiss guy bet that he could put 5 large ping-pong balls in a basketball net using only the exhaust from his old timer tractor. The various celebrity guests bet whether or not this dare can be accomplished. If the celebrity loses, he or she has to do something. Last night Jamie Foxx had to yodel after losing a bet.
Wetten, dass is 26 years old and the "most popular TV show in Europe." Germans love it, including my German. Last night I decided definitively that I do not.
First, I find the host, Thomas Gottschalk, supremely annoying. After watching his wacky grin for two hours, I really needed a drink. He has weird hair and even stranger clothing. He is also known for putting his hands on the knees of his female guests. Second, I find some of the bets just dumb. Last night a girl could identify puppets blindfolded by just smelling them. Finally, it is too long. It can be anywhere between 2 and 3 hours with no commercials. Ugh.
When I announced my opinion of the show, the German looked at me with surprise. "But, it is the most popular show in Europe." "So, I still think it is too long and the host is annoying." I truly think that he was offended. I felt like I just destroyed some German national treasure. However, I am standing by opinion.
(PS The fact that the German and I were sitting on our sofa on a Saturday night drinking tea and eating fish sticks while watching "Wetten dass" is a definite indicator that we are a) broke and b) old.)
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
When I got married I actually received the latter book - twice; once in English and once in German. It basically says that biology and evolution explain the differences between men and women. It did not, however, have any good recommendations for those moments when I look at my husband and wonder, "Who the heck are you?"
Anyone who has read my blog before knows that I love the German. He is a dear man who does a lot for me. On the other hand, he does things that drive me bonkers. One reason that I am so committed to my marriage is to find out the reason for his quirks. Over the past week, a few of my favorites have popped up.
1. He does not turn things off before he unplugs them. This is mostly a problem with the hair dryer and the vacuum cleaner. Instead of turning them off, he just pulls the plug out of the wall. This leads to a little spark when I plug it back in the next time. Not only does it drive me crazy, but I also find it slightly dangerous.
2. He often leaves the TV and radio on when he leaves the house. The German loves to listen to talk radio in the morning with his coffee and toast before he goes to work. Unfortunately, I sometimes come downstairs after he has left, and the radio is still on. For a man so concerned with saving energy, I do not understand why he does this.
3. He leaves his dirty clothes on the floor in front of the empty hamper. I know that I am not the only wife that complains about this, but I just don't get it. The basket is there. The boxers are in your hand. What biological difference could possibly explain this behavior? Another version of this problem was the dirty coffee cup sitting on the counter next to the empty dishwasher. I finally broke him of that habit, perhaps the socks are not too far behind.
4. Last week he did something truly perplexing. I had left some clothes drying on a stand in the living room (no, we do not have a dryer). My thoughtful husband took the clothes down, put them in the basket, put away the stand and took the clothes upstairs to our bedroom. That evening I was very touched, even if he had not folded them. But as I sorted through the clothes I noticed that he HAD folded them, well his anyway. But he had not put them away . . . in the wardrobe . . . which was next to the basket. I almost took a picture of the laundry as I was so baffled. I went downstairs to ask why he folded his clothes but not mine. "Well, you get very touchy about your clothes and I don't want to mess with your system." Okay, so he is right. I am a little anal about my laundry. But, why didn't you put your clothes (i.e. t-shirts and boxer shorts) away. He just shrugged his shoulders.
5. My husband's hunter and gathering instincts must be really strong, because a lot of things find themselves in the inner depths of his office. Cell phone chargers, pens, the cordless phones, dirty coffee cups. Chances are, if you are looking for something in our house, it usually in his office. The hilarious part is when he asks me where something is. "Sweetie, have you checked your office?"
I suppose these are the things that keep marriage "interesting." I am not sure about that, but it does keep me on my toes.
Do not mistake me for a saint. I do things ALL the time that bother my spouse. He really hates how I wash the pots and pans under running water instead of filling up the sink with water. However, because he leaves the radio on, I think that makes us even in the wasting energy department. Also, I get pretty irrational and anal about the dumbest things. This is partly due to hormones. I admit it. I get hormonal. However, these hormones enable me to have his children. Sigh. Seems that you cannot beat biology.
I am afraid that I must report that I will not be able to attend. I teach an intensive English class on Saturdays. It was SUPPOSED to be finished November 10. However, because I am going to the U.S. in October, I have to make-up a few dates.
I am really bummed. This is what happened last year. I wish I could skip the class, but baby needs a new pair of shoes (and a stroller and a crib and a car seat and a changing table, well you get the idea).
I am wondering about a meet up in the spring; perhaps here in the north. That way, we don't have to wait until November again. Also, the north is very nice in April. Anyone interested?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Yesterday I had a sore throat and stuffy nose. I woke up at 1am so stuffy that it was difficult to breath and I could not go back to sleep. I wound up on the sofa with a cup of tea and watched Monday Night Football (which is Too Early on Freaking Tuesday Morning Football here in Europe).
I am tired. My joints hurt. My throat hurts. My nose is all stuffed up. And as a pregnant woman, I can take . . . nothing.
Seriously, can anyone help me out? Any good home remedies for colds in pregnant women?
PS None of this seems to bother Little Dude, who has been getting his groove on all morning.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I have noticed that some bloggers use their websites to write letters to their children. These posts often contain words of wisdom and touching moments of illumination. I have to admit that although I can provide fleeting moments of illumination, they may be few and far between. And right now, well, it is not one of those moments.
I am writing because we have a little problem. A few weeks ago I felt you move for the first time. Those butterflies in my stomach took flight and I was so excited to know that you are doing okay. Unfortunately, you have not really stopped moving around since. This is becoming something of a issue.
Do not get me wrong. I do not want you to stop kicking. It is a relief to know that you are growing. Also, Werder Bremen is in desperate need of a forward and your birthday just might save their season. However, I am hoping that we can come to some understanding about the time of the kicks. It seems that you like to get your groove on (with my bladder no less) when I want to go to sleep. This is bad.
Mommy can be very grumpy when she does not get the sleep she requires. Just ask daddy about his snoring. It is not pretty. So do you think that you could tone it down just for a bit in the evening when I want to go to sleep? I would really appreciate. I am willing to trade you all the kicking time that you want during my hour commute to work. Now that’s a good deal isn’t it?
With much love,
PS I really am very sorry about over doing it with the onions on Saturday. I know that they upset you like they upset me. But I blame daddy. He is such a good cook, I could not resist.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Wikipedia uses the following definition: “someone who has an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking of a sporting club, person, group of persons, company, product, work of art, idea, or trend.”
Wikipedia even gives us the following characteristics of “fans,” including internal involvement, the desire for external involvement, the wish to acquire (i.e. sports memorabilia, and the desire for social interaction with other fans. Although these definitions are adequate and sociological, what does it really mean to be a “fan?”
The German is a “fan” of the soccer club, Werder Bremen. Friday night we sat down together to watch Bremen play Dortmond. Honestly, I would have preferred to watch something else, but denying the German his Bremen game could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
It was not good; for Bremen that is. They lost 3 to 0. By half-time I had lost interest and was a bit bored. “Can we please watch something else?” I whined. “No!” he responded in a sharp tone. “Being a fan is like marriage. Good times and bad times.” He was very firm and stared straight ahead at the television. He continued to mumble “good times and bad times” intermittently but eventually even he noticed the lost cause and I was allowed to change the channel.
His comments provoked a thought. Being a true sports fan of a specific team is a bit like being married. You support and love your team. You say wonderful things about them to your friends. You have faith in them and hope that they will not let you down. When they do let you down (which frankly happens in all relationships), you feel betrayed and angry. For example, the German cannot look at a picture of Miroslav Klose (who was a great Bremen forward before transferring to archrival Bavaria Munich this past summer) without getting cross and mumbling, “Traitor.”
I was never really a sports team fan. Sure I enjoyed watching sports, and I followed a few teams, but I was never a “fan;” this despite the fact that I come from a long line of “fans.” My Motown Uncle went to the University of Michigan and has not missed a home game in something like 30 years. But the genes were always inside me, and then, one day, I enrolled at the University of Notre Dame.
My first home football game in South Bend was an Experience. There is an entire ritual surrounding the bratwurst, the band and the start of the game. When I sat down (actually stood up, which is what you do when you “sit” in the student section) with friends from my department, I had no idea what awaited me. There were specific cheers and chants that went with specific parts of the game. At one point, the band began to play the theme from “Star Wars,” and all of the students raised their arms and made a chopping motion. As someone interested in politics and sociology, I could not help but notice the “group think” that abounds at these games. I was a bit disturbed. By my third home game I was hooked.
Four years into my “Notre Dame Experience,” I was one of the converted. I taught the first year students the cheers and I ardently defended my school to the “haters,” who were just jealous of our traditions and victories.
Leaving the U.S. was difficult and now I can see that part of it is the rituals that I miss from my time in South Bend. I miss being a fan. I miss getting up on a Saturday and sitting in a parking lot and eating brats and drinking beer. I miss yelling at the opposing team, who always sucked even when we lost. I miss the sun on my face and the planes with really bad advertising overhead. I miss the feeling that I belong somewhere and that I am part of something.
Today the German and I watched college football on the North American Sports Network, NASN. Certainly the action was all a day late, but at least I got a glimpse of some of my favorite things. It was at half-time that I got the bad news. Notre Dame lost to Michigan 38 to 0, and are 0-3 for only the second time in their history. I feel like my spouse just let me down.
It is like mourning a loved one. There is denial, and anger, and finally acceptance. Well, I am not at acceptance just yet, but writing this post helps. These feelings have also made me happy. For the first time, I realized that I can still be a fan, even when I am so far away. The best part is that there is no one to throw my misery into my face. Perhaps one day I will even when the alumni ticket lottery and can go back to a home game.
Until that time, the German and I can comfort each other. With both of our teams playing poorly, it is only a question of whose pain is the worst. I patted my stomach this afternoon and told my son, “You have to be healthy, sweetie, because I think our teams our going to need you.” From the very start, he is going to be a fan.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
One question I often get is, “Where were you on Sept. 11?” It is a memory that will always be with me.
In September 2001 I was graduate student at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I was 24 years old and living alone in an off-campus apartment for the first time in my life, and I loved every minute of it. My morning ritual involved making coffee in my very own coffee pot and watching “The Today Show.” Because I was a poor graduate student, all I had was an antenna, five channels and a small television. However, I always splurged on the good coffee and creamer. A girl has her priorities you know. On mornings when I felt especially ambitious, I would get up and go to the gym on campus and then head to my little “office” (actually a broom closet with a window) and work. Life was good.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was not feeling very ambitious. I got up a little later than I expected and groaned. As a teaching assistant, I was expected to fulfill my office hours that morning and I had an oral presentation in my religion and politics class. I secretly hoped that no one would show up to my office hours so that I could finish preparing for my presentation. The gym would have to wait until the afternoon. I showered and grabbed my biggest mug of coffee and sat down in my bathrobe to catch the morning news.
I don’t remember if the “Today Show” was the first to cover the story. I do remember that it took about 5 to 10 minutes before all of the morning shows were covering it. The first tower had just been hit and they were broadcasting pictures of cascading smoke coming out of the World Trade Center. I will never forget how blue and perfect the New York sky looked on that morning.
There was some confusion about what had happened. Most stations were reporting that it was a small plane that had crashed; the kind that carry only 2 or 3 people. Someone called into the TV station to report that they had heard it. The plane was definitely bigger; a commercial plane perhaps. The moderators did not believe them. Neither did I for that matter. “What kind of idiot does not see a 100 story building in front of him on a clear day?” I thought as I slurped my coffee.
Suddenly another plane came into the picture. It hit the second tower. Live on my morning news show. I was shocked. This was no accident. Over the next hour I did not move from my chair, paralyzed with fear about what would happen next. I remember looking at the towers as they burned. They looked a little tilted. I turned to the empty sofa next to me and said to no one, “Those buildings are going to fall down.” When they did I covered my mouth, but I did not cry. It was all too unbelievable.
After the second tower fell, I looked at my clock and felt panic. I needed to get to campus. I needed to tell people what I had seen. Because I lived alone and my street was so quiet, I felt like I was the only person in the world who had just witnessed what had happened. I got dressed and drove to the library.
I sat in the library like a complete idiot for all of ten minutes. It was instantly clear that I was not the only person who had spent the entire morning in front of their TV and no one really cared about my office hours. So I decided to walk over to the student union, which has four large TVs. It was packed with students. I quickly found some students from my department and walked over. By this time there were rumors circling the room. There were three more planes hijacked. One plane was headed for the White House. Scared students sat on cell phones desperately trying to get through to family in New York and DC.
After an hour, an announcement was made that classes were cancelled for the day and that mass would be held on the main quad. I would not have to make my presentation after all. I was supposed to make the presentation with another grad student. We went to mass instead. The entire campus was there including staff, professors, students and every retired priest in the area. It was even bigger than a football pep rally.
During mass I looked to the sky. It was blue and perfect; just like New York. It was also very quiet. Notre Dame is not far from the airport, and there were always planes overhead or clouds of smoke crisscrossing the sky. But on that day there was nothing.
I went home to my empty apartment and turned on the TV. I called with my mother and chatted with some friends. Fortunately I did not have any friends or family anywhere near where the four planes came down. However I did go to bed early that night. I never knew that I could get so tired from just watching television.
Sept. 11 changed my life in a way. I began to think about those things that are really important in life. Over the next few months, I began to patch up my rocky relationship with my father. And in 2004 I would trade in my academic life for a family life. That day taught me that life is too short to walk around with regrets. I tell my German friends that ask about my political views, that Sept. 11 did not teach me anything about politics, but it did teach me about being human.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I went in for my check-up today at the doctor. I drag the German with me each and every time because I think it is important for him to be a part of everything. He protests, but I think he secretly likes it.
At 18 weeks and 3 days, every thing seems to be fine. My blood pressure remains normal, but I am still having some problems with my iron. The doctor says to keep taking the pills. I mentioned that my headaches have not disappeared. After some discussion, it appears that my migraines are aggravated by the low iron, tiredness and hunger. Which means I have to eat and sleep more - two things that I love to do.
The doctor took us into another room today and did a Doppler ultrasound. We got a very good look at the baby, who is currently "standing up" in the womb (i.e. feet down, head up). In the very first picture we got an excellent shot of the bottom of the baby and the feet and legs. The doctor smiled, and so did we.
Doctor: Do you want to know what you are having?
He did not really have to ask, and neither did we. The picture was pretty evident. We said yes anyway.
Doctor: Well, it looks like a boy to me.
It looked like a boy to everyone in the room, actually. I can never tell anything on these pictures, but there was definitely something between the legs. The doctor did remind us that nothing is 100% certain, and that we should have another look next month.
The doctor wanted to get some better shots and measure various things, however the kid was not cooperating. A few times, he whispered, "Settle down." This made me start giggling and seemed to agitate the kid even more.
The doctor did get his pictures and everything looks fine and the kid appears to be healthy. However, the doctor needed to get some measurements of the blood going into my placenta. At least that is what I think he said. For some reason, women's anatomy and birthing were not covered in my German class. The German did his best at translating.
The doctor printed out a 3D picture of the baby's face. He is very cute. So there you have it. I am going to have a son. There is a little penis growing inside of me right now. How science fiction like is that? On the way home, the German would not talk to me. I was worried that he was disappointed, as he thought it was a girl. It turns out that he was just annoyed that I was right. If anything, I think he is plotting our son's soccer career as I am typing.
Monday, September 03, 2007
For the past few weeks I have begun to notice that I am slowly losing my mind. I leave my keys everywhere. I often wander around the house from room to room trying desperately to remember what it was that I wanted to do in the first place. And of course it was my absent mindedness that sent the German and I on a 4 hour journey through Dublin last week. It is as if the baby is sucking the intelligence right out of me.
Today my "absentmindedness" reached another level. This afternoon I walked into a gas station to fill up Smarty. After pumping I walked into the station and put down my ATM card. (In case you are wondering, I have never seen pay-at-the-pump here in Germany.) The very nice man behind the counter swapped my card and indicated that I should type in my code.
I just looked at him. My mind was absolutely blank. He smiled. I got worried. And still nothing came to me. Now, in my defense I have 3 ATM cards: my personal account, my joint account, and my business account.
Claire: Um. I cannot remember the code. Can we try a different card?
The man laughed. I took out my personal account card only because I have that code written on a piece of paper in my wallet. The card went through no problem. I tittered a bit.
Claire: That is what happens when you have too many cards.
I then rubbed my now evident baby bump hoping that the man would excuse a pregnant woman's craziness. Thankfully, he was very nice about the whole thing.
The German has been supportive, but at a bit of a loss about my descent into the pregnancy fog. Because he cannot remember much either, it is a bit like the blind leading the blind. In our marriage there is a definite division of labor. I am the magical finder of all things, the list maker, the appointment reminder. You can see how the kid is going to create problems over the next few months.
German: Honey, where are the keys?
Claire: I don't know. Where did you put them?
German: I don't know.
Claire: Well, I guess we won't be going anywhere for awhile.
I just hope that when the time is right, we will remember where the hospital is.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Last Thursday we took the train into the city center and walked around Dublin. I believe that the key to traveling with a spouse with very different interests from yours, is to force your spouse to only go to one place a day. Thus, each person gets to see at least one thing that they find interesting. The German wanted to go to the Guinness Museum and I wanted to go to Christ Church. Actually I wanted to go to Dublin Castle but Christ Church was on the way to the brewery. Afterwards we walked to Grafton Street and looked at all the things that we cannot afford and then we met our friends in Temple Bar for a drink. Although I drank water the entire weekend, my Irish friends insisted that I drink Guinness because it is loaded with iron and good for the baby. Despite their very persuasive arguments, I passed.
On Friday we were both a little tired from our 5 hour hike through the city, so we stayed close to the house. My friend had mentioned that there was a shopping center only a 20 minute walk from the house. We decided to try it out. At 10:30am we set out, and as we left, I swear I heard scary music playing in the background, which foreshadowed the problems to come.
When we got to the end of the neighborhood, the German looked at me expectantly.
Claire: Okay, so she said take a right and then a left. Hmm. Or was it a left and then a right? Umm. Let's go this way.
The German had no idea, so he followed my lead. And we walked. And walked. And walked. 30 minutes later there was no sign of the shopping center in sight. We saw an older man walking towards us. We asked him for directions. He told us to keep going straight and to then turn left.
So we walked. And walked. After 5 minutes we realized that the older man had not told us WHERE to turn left. The fools that we are, we kept going straight. Eventually we came across an older woman. She gave us more specific directions (like we had missed the left turn) and reassured us that it was only a 20 minute walk. I had heard that somewhere else before.
We got to the shopping center at 12:15. Because I was starving, the first thing we did was eat. It was a nice little center and we even found a Borders bookstore with a Starbucks. At 3:00 I was beat and wanted to go home.
Claire: No walking! We will take the bus. I saw that it goes to the train station just around the corner from the house.
Finding the bus stop was easy. Unfortunately there were no maps, bus schedules or anything of the sort listed. How do people know what bus to get on? We were about to learn the hard way that the bus system in Ireland is terrible and only those native to the island seem to understand how it works. I decided to just ask the first driver I saw.
Claire: Excuse me, does this bus go to Clonsilla Station?
Driver: Sure. That will be 3.80.
I only had a 10 Euro bill and 3 Euro in coin, which did not make the driver happy.
Driver: Let me think. Nope that is 2.80.
I dropped in the 3 Euro and to my amazement received no change. He printed out a receipt with the tickets and for the change. My friends told me later that you have to go to the bus station office in the city center to get your change. Who actually does this?? I am sure that they make a killing off of the tourists.
We got on the bus and went to the top. After we passed Clonsilla STREET and the driver started to head for the highway, I started to worry. After we passed the Dublin city limits and I saw a sign for the city center, I knew we were in trouble. In no time at all (actually it took almost an hour) we were in downtown Dublin, which is no where near where we wanted to go.
The German suggested that we stay on the bus. "Eventually he will drive back around to Consilla." But I had seen the traffic already backing up. It was 4pm and everyone was trying to get out of the city. I saw the Tara Street Station and yelled, "We are getting off!"
We got off the bus and ran to the train station. I knew that the train would be much faster than the slow bus in getting us back to our starting point. What I had forgotten, was that the train would be even more crowded than the bus. We were packed in like sardines and had to endure the stuffy conditions the entire way home.
After the uncomfortable ride and another short walk, we FINALLY made it back to the house. It was 5:20pm. I was exhausted. My friend came out of the living room as we walked into the house. "How was your day?" he asked in a tone a bit too happy for my mood.
I headed upstairs and took a nap, hoping that sleep would erase the memory of our 4 hour (round trip) adventure. Fortunately, the rest of our trip did not involve public transportation and was uneventful; until we got to the airport,which is when we discovered how Ryan Air makes its money.
At the counter we only hand one piece of luggage to check in. It was 7 kilos overweight.
Check-in Tyrant: You can take out 7 kilo or you will have to pay 56 Euro.
Claire: What am I supposed to do with 7 kilo of stuff?
Check-in Tyrant: I don't know. Put it in your hand luggage.
Claire: We don't have any.
Check-in Tyrant: Well, then you will have to pay. I cannot check you in if you do not pay.
Claire: They did not charge us in Bremen.
Check-Tyrant: Well, this is Dublin. (She said in a very matter of fact, self-satisfied tone, as if this suddenly explained everything.)
When we got back to Germany were happy and tired and so excited to see a working, logical public transportation system.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Ryan Air , the Irish discount airline, now flies directly from Bremen to Dublin. Our tickets cost us 80 Euro per person round trip; a deal that we just could not pass up, even if it is Ryan Air. I have heard horror stories about them, but our experience yesterday was positive. I was worried that we would get to the airport late and have to pay a penalty, but we arrived to find the computers had crashed. All of the check-in agents had to prepare the boarding passes by hand. I felt pretty bad for them. The seats were definitly small, but the trip was only 1 hour 30 minutes, so I could live with that.
I have been to Ireland before, but this is the first trip for the German. By the time we went to bed last night, he proclaimed that the Irish accent is the best thing he has ever heard, even if the people talk so fast that sometimes he does not understand them. Frankly, I sometimes have difficulty myself.
I am very excited to be seeing my Irish friends again and at all of the English speaking possibilites over the next few days. Unfortunately it is a bit cool, overcast, with a chance of rain. However, we are from northern Germany and can handle it.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Last week I did outgrow almost all of my clothes. I have one pair of jeans and two pair of linen pants that I can actually still button. The rest I use a rubber band to keep closed. I outgrew all of my blouses and button down shirts about two months ago. I live in pull overs and polo shirts now. Because of this sorry state, I decided to go have a peak at maternity clothes. And what I discovered, was not pretty (both literally and figuratively).
First, I went into a shop that had kids clothes but I had often seen some maternity clothes in the windows. I found some rather nice looking pregnancy slacks. "These might be perfect for work," I thought. And then I saw the 89.99 Euro price tag and left them right where I found them. Second, I went over to H&M, which what my only friend with a baby recommended to me. I found a few cute tops and some more jeans. At only 29.99, I was more in the mood to buy. I picked up a pair in my normal size (42: hey sizes are different here!) and went to try them on. I could not even get them over my thighs. I got so depressed that I put them back and walked out of the store with nothing.
I would like to point out that at 4 months, I have only gained 10 pounds, which my doctor says is just fine. In fact, I have gained it all in my stomach and my chest (which is now huge; I am afraid of what is going to happen when the milk comes in). The German actually thinks that I have lost weight in my face, neck and arms. So riddle me this, Batman. Do pregnancy pants exist in a different universe where size means nothing?
I have also started to read extensively about pregnancy and childbirth. It freaks me out a bit. If I don't eat my vegetables one day, I panic that my child will have a neurological disorder. If I drink a cup of coffee, I am afraid that the kid will have ADD. After reading that sleeping on your back puts pressure on your circulation including your aorta (holy crap!), I did not sleep a wink.
The German is very good about calming me down and we both agree that if I continue to worry, then we might as well set up the therapy fund for the kid right now. Although, most of our money will be going to other things for the kid in the next few months. Because, what people don't tell you - kids are freakin' expensive! And I am not just talking about pregnancy pants.
Out of curiosity, the German and I went into "Baby World" the other day. Choices, choices. There are cribs and bassinets, strollers and car seats, play-pens and swings, changing tables and wardrobes. I saw a really nice stroller: 450 Euro. Yup, I will always pick out the most expensive thing in the store. Babies have start up costs equivalent to those of starting a company. Actually I think the start up costs for my company were lower. However, we are going to bite the bullet and get what we need (and I want). I was a hand-me down kid, and so out of principle I only want shiny, new things for my child. Don't worry, I am sure that will go away after the first 1000 Euro is gone.
PS I have registered a car before in the States. So, I do know what it involves. For those wondering, we actually DID have proof of insurance when we went to the DMV. It just was not the specific proof that they wanted to see. What we SHOULD have done was call our insurance agent when we moved. We got the damn Doppelkarte in the mail today and with it a list of stuff that you need to register your car. We are headed to the DMV tomorrow.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Although the German and I wanted to do as little as possible this week, we did have to get moving yesterday and today. When two work-oholics get married, they often have little time for the small, but important tasks that need to get done. These tasks often involve a German "Behoerde" and bureaucracy, which I always dread. However, it was all no longer to be avoided.
The first item on our list was my visa. Although I got my passport a month ago and I started the process to get my new visa, I had not yet gotten the final "okay." There were still a few pieces of paper work that needed to be brought in. Yesterday morning we made our way over to the county immigration office.
In order to get my permanent visa, the German and I had to sign a document that we are not involved in a "Scheinehe" (fictiousious marriage). We also had to produce proof of our income. This is to insure that I will not become a "Sozialhilfeempfanger" (welfare recipient). We also had to prove the size of our house and our monthly mortgage payment in order to determine if we can actually pay for it (all of this goes back to Germany not wanting to give me welfare). I have a lot of experience at the immigration office. I came armed with all of my papers.
Immigration Officer (IO): I need to see proof of income.
Claire: He is a teacher, a "Beamte" (civil servant). Here is his last pay stub. I am self-employed and own my own business. Here is the financial report on my business, which my tax consultant prepared, as well as a table breaking down the rest of my income from last year.
The IO looked it over. His eyes widened a bit. The German said later that the IO was probably shocked that a teacher earns more than he does.
IO: Um. Great. Now I need some proof about your living situation.
Claire: Yes, I was not sure what you wanted. So I just brought everything.
THUMP! I dropped my big "House" binder on the table. The IO's eyes widened once again. I flipped through the binder a bit.
Claire: I could give you a copy of the house plans so that you can see how big it is.
IO: Um. No, that is not necessary. But I need to see how much you pay per month on the house.
I am sure that the IO thought he had me with that one; I know that the German did. But never underestimate a man's ability to underestimate an anal woman's filing system.
The German: Oh, I think the credit / mortgage contract is at home.
Claire: No it isn't. [I flipped from the "plans" section of the binder to the "mortgage" section of the binder. I pulled out a copy of our mortgage contract.] Here you go. I believe the information you need is on page 6.
I gave the IO my best smile. Everything was in order. There was nothing else that he could possibly need. He asked us to sit in the hall. Five minutes later he called us back in. He had printed out my new visa and put it in my passport. I knew that it would be relatively painless because I am pretty well organized. Also I know the key to getting through German bureaucracy: simply bring all of the papers you have.
However, I had gotten smug too quickly. Our next step was to get our cars registered. Since we moved to Wildeshausen in February, we have not registered our cars in our new county. This is probably slightly illegal. But on the other hand, we simply have not had the time to do it. Thursday afternoon we walked downstairs from the immigration office to the DMV.
German: Do you have the "Fahrzeugbrief?"
Claire: Fahrzeugbrief? What's is that? I brought copies of the insurance certificate, the car registration card, the inspection report and the payment stub for this year's taxes. That is all I have in our files. What is a Fahrzeugbrief?
German: Oh, its the longer version of the registration. It is probably at home. We can drive quickly and pick them up.
Claire: Um. If you say so, but I know those files, and I am not sure its in there.
We drove back home and the German looked through my filing system. He did find the one for his car, but not for Smarty. I knew that he wouldn't as I had never seen the thing before. At this point the German panicked a bit.
German: Oh, yeah! I think it is at my parent's house.
Claire: [in a bit of disbelief] At your parent's house? 45 minutes away? You are with holding things from the filing system?!?
Thursday afternoon we drove to his parent's house to pick-up the Fahrzeugbrief. This was not so bad, as we had a nice time chatting with my mother-in-law and wound up going out to dinner with her.
This morning we went to the DMV for the second time. I got a number for the line and the German filled out the paper work. We only had to wait about 5 minutes and then we were in. We sat in front of the woman and she looked over our papers.
DMV Worker: [with a bit of a scolding look] You don't have the "Doppelkarte" (double card).
German: [a bit confused] Doppelkarte?
DMV Worker: [sighing] Yes. The Doppelkarte is a small postcard size card that you get from your insurance company when you move to a different county, which has your new address on it.
German: But is our insurance certificate not enough?
DMV Worker: Afraid not. But I am sure that there is an office for your insurance company in Wildeshausen. Why don't you go get one and come back. Oh, and don't forget. We close at noon today.
I swear, if looks could kill, that woman would be dead right now. The German and I were pretty sure that there is no office for our insurance company in Wildeshausen. We went into town to the place the DMW worker mentioned. It was a different insurance company. We went into the tourist info office and sure enough - the closest insurance office was in Bremen, 30 to 40 minutes away.
By this time it was 11:00. We drove home in silence; mostly because I was fuming. I found the entire episode utterly ridiculous. We called our insurance agent when we got home. They are sending us the card per post today. Hopefully we will get it Monday and can go back to the DMV again . . . for the third time. Let's hope that the third time is a charm.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I have a confession to make. It is not pretty. It is not uncommon, but it is most definitely NOT something that people talk about. I live away from my home country because my husband wants to live in his. Most of the expat women that I know in this country are here for the same reason. Either we fell in love with a German or we followed our husbands for work reasons. We are “love immigrants .” And although we come out of love . . . we are not always happy about it.
This is my confession. In the life of every expat who immigrates for love, a little resentment will occur. You may love your partner deeply, but there are often times (whether because of homesickness or culture shock) when you will look at your spouse and wonder, “What the hell am I doing here?” The better version is, “I left my country for you. What have you done for me?”
Webster’s defines resentment as, “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” For me resentment usually occurs during the holiday season. Why does he get to spend time with his family and I don’t have any time with mine? Sure, my family is slightly crazy and dysfunctional, but they are loveable nonetheless.
I firmly believe that these feelings are normal. In fact they often pass quickly, but there are some important things to keep in mind, so that this natural feeling does not become a major problem.
First, it is important to acknowledge the feelings and talk about them when you have them. Do not wait until later when you are feeling particularly down in the dumps. You may say something hurtful in the heat of an argument. Also, your partner is there for you. If you talk about it, they may help you work through your feelings. (This is part of my two rules of marriage: always fight fair and communicate.) As you talk about it, you may begin to realize how these feelings are really just part of something else; something else which can be fixed.
Second, feelings of resentment occur often because we do not see this foreign place as our “home.” Therefore, it is important to carve out a life of your own when you move to a new place. Find girlfriends. See them often. Go to an English speaking movie. Join a Stammtisch. It is okay to do things away from your partner. It will help you make your life in the foreign place more “yours” and not just “his.”
Finally, remember the love that brought you to this new place. When times are really tough for me, I try to picture what my life would be like without my German. As the years pass, it becomes more difficult to imagine. He is a part of me now; for better or worse. And that means excepting him and all of his German-ness.
I am no expert. There are just some thoughts I had based on my experience. If you have these feelings and they increase in occurrence and persist, then you should talk to someone about. Also, know that you are not alone. We all have our dirty little secrets.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
This show has a very simple premise. Every week 5 people from one city are chosen (they do apply beforehand, so they are not random people off the street). Every evening one of the 5 must cook dinner (appetizer, main course, dessert). At the end of the meal the other four contestants rate the meal on a scale of 0 to 10. At the end of the week, the individual who scored the most points wins 1500 Euros.
I have no idea why I am addicted to this show. Perhaps it is because I get new recipe ideas from watching. Perhaps because it is hilarious to see how some pompous idiot falls flat on his face. Either way, I enjoy it so much that I would like to apply to be on the show. However, the German has given me a very firm "NO" on that.
There is only one thing that bothers me. How do you define "the perfect dinner?" It is amazing some of the reasons that some people deduct points from each other. For example, one person thought that the table decoration was too much. Another person complained that, "Although the food was very good and I am full, it was not a complicated menu to prepare."
Does that mean that the perfect dinner has to be complicated? Last night that was not the case. A perfume maker tried to incorporate as many "scents" into his menu as possible. The result was overwhelming for many of the guests and he only received at total of 29 out of 40 points.
For me the perfect dinner involves a warm host (or hostess), lots of good food, and good conversation. I hate small portions and it does not have to be complicated menu. In fact, where I am from in the South, it would be considered pretentious to make something too complicated and terribly rude to not offer someone seconds.
After discussing this with the German, I realized that the perfect dinner may not always be the same thing in every culture. In fact in some cultures, "less is more" might be perfect; or perhaps even "over the top is better."
Although I will not apply to be on the show, I have created my "perfect dinner menu." It is called "Southern Hospitality."
Appetizer: Shrimp and Grits with Hush Puppies
Main Course: Pulled Pork BBQ with Cole Slaw and Baked Beans
Dessert: Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
I am very curious about this. Please post comments. I want to know, what is your idea of the "perfect dinner?" Do you think that the definition of the perfect dinner is the same across countries?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I have never made it to the meet up because I usually teach on Saturdays. This year we are going to the States for fall break, but perhaps enough people will vote for Nov. 17, and I can actually go this time.
Even though I have never been, I have met many of the participants, and they are all lovely people . . . even the German agrees. So, make your voice heard! Vote Now!
Monday, August 13, 2007
Claire: Come on! Ask me!
German: [sighing] Fine. How old are you!
Claire: I am 30!
We did not dance on the ceiling at the party but we did have a good time. I allowed myself a glass of sparkling wine, which upset my tummy. I think it was the acid and not the alcohol that did it. I was gleefully happy because two blogger buddies made it, Mausi and J. Besides a lovely wellness basket, they gave me the best birthday present - the opportunity to speak English for about 24 hours.
The German and I spent yesterday cleaning up and today I am happy to say that I am taking two weeks off for some much needed R&R. I still have some work to do, but a lot can be done at home and I will only go into the office twice.
The last two weeks of the kids course were difficult. The kids were okay, but my energy levels sunk with each passing day. By the last Friday, I thought I was going to pass out. Everyone kept telling me that it is "good practice." Yeah . . . right . . . I will never have 10 kids, so I hope I do not need anymore of that kind of practice.
I had my 15th week check up with the doctor today. I found out that my iron was low, which may be contributing to my fatigue. So it is onto the iron pills I go. He did an ultrasound today and we clearly saw our little one. There were definitely hands and legs and a big head and a strong heart and spine. It was actually very touching. The baby started moving its arms during the procedure. I cannot decide if it was waving or trying to suck its thumb. We want to know the sex but there was nothing to see. "Maybe next time," the doctor said.
I have been a bit slack on my blogging the past two weeks and I am really looking forward to catching up on reading, commenting and posting. Thanks to everyone for their birthday wishes. It means a lot to me. Bis dann!
Monday, July 30, 2007
First, teaching children is an entirely different type of work. It is more strenuous and involves a lot more activity. There is a constant up, down, worrying aspect that I just do not experience with adults. For example, the children get a 15 minute play outside period. During that time, I stand by the side with my ice handy in case someone accidentally gets hit while playing basketball. I have a new respect for elementary school teachers.
Second, I was in no way prepared for the amazing mimic ability that children have. Their accents are fantastic. I only have to repeat something a few times, and the students can soon repeat it on their own. In one week, they mastered three new songs. Also, the children understood some structures and functions in English much faster than some adults. After one hour, they could ask their fellow student, "When do you . . .?" and respond. I once had an adult student, who needed three weeks to master that structure.
Third, the children give back emotionally in away that adults do not. I become good friends with lots of my students, but none of them hugged my like the 9 year old last week, who wanted to know if we can have a camp in the fall break. It was also beautiful the way they showed their work to their parents, so full of pride.
Teaching children is something that we would like to expand in our business. Three weeks ago (July 8, 2007) there was a large article in Die Welt (http://www.welt.de/), "Why Children Should Learn English Early." In the article, the newspaper quoted studies that show that students who learn English at an early age (i.e. 4 to 5) go on to do better in all subjects in school, including math.
I am also interested in this topic because I would like to raise my child to be bilingual. I am already surfing through the Internet for books and tips. Uh, oh. I smell research coming on, which I just love. It is the nerd in me. I cannot help myself. If anyone has any tips or book suggestions, let me know.
I have a new group of kids this week. It did not gel as well this morning, but I blame the rain. I am sure it will get better. There is a third and final group next week. By that time I will most definitely need my vacation.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
I have also had several headaches over the past two weeks. Because I don't want to take anything, that has also resulted in my just sitting around, watching TV, waiting for the nausea and pain to pass.
Today I passed the time with some old friends, my blogger buddies. I have so many that I like to read that I forget to stop by. It feels good to catch up. I saw this meme over by Mausi and Stepping Stones. Thought you might enjoy learning a little bit more about me!
1. How many keys are on your keychain? Which one. I have two key chains: the school / office (which has 5) and my personal one (which has 4)
2. What curse word do you use the most? S*** (both the German and English forms)
3. Do you own an iPod? No, I don’t do gadgets.
4. What time is your alarm clock set for? 7:00am, but I usually get up at 7:30am
5. How many suitcases do you own? Too many. We always buy a new one when we visit the States because we always underestimate how much we will buy.
6. Do you wear flip–flops even when it’s cold outside? I wear flip-flops from May to September. I don’t care what the weather is like. It drives my mother-in-law crazy.
7. Where do you buy your groceries from? Marktkauf.
8. Would you rather take the picture or be in the picture? Take.
9. What was the last movie you watched? I watched “Where Angles fear to Tread” on TCM, but they cut off the last 5 minutes!
10. Do any of your friends have children? Some of my German friends do, but of my good friends from college and high school, I will be the first.
11. If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would buy? A house on the beach in South Carolina.
12. Has anyone ever called you lazy? Never to my face.
13. Do you ever take medication to help you fall asleep faster? I have tried it a few times on plane trips, but it never works.
14. What CD is currently in your CD player? Disco’s Greatest Hits (good driving music)
15. Do you prefer regular or chocolate milk? These days all I crave is fresh, white milk.
16. Has anyone told you a secret this week? Not yet, but it is only Monday.
17. When was the last time someone hit on you? Probably about a year ago.
18. What did you have for dinner? Bratwurst and potato salad
19. Do you wear hoodies often? I would say often. Sometimes perhaps.
20. Can you whistle? Yes, but not well.
21. Have you ever participated in a protest? Yes, in Germany during my stay in Kassel from 1997 to 1998.
22. Who was the last person to call you? The New Yorker. I left my keys at the office.
23. What is your favorite ride at an amusement park? I don’t really have a favorite.
24. Do you think people talk about you behind your back? It would be strange if they did not.
25. What area code are you in right now? 04473
26. Did you watch cartoons as a child? Um, hello, Jem.
27. How big is your local mall? There are no malls around here.
28. How many siblings do you have? An older sister . . . who I am not very fond of these days.
29. Are you shy around the opposite sex? Not really, and especially not since I got married.
30. What is your biggest regret? So far, I don’t have any.
31. When was the last time you laughed so hard your sides hurt? I cannot remember, but I am sure that it was at one of the German’s bad jokes.
32. What movie do you know every line to? When Harry Met Sally
33. Do you own any band t–shirts? No, but I have a very cool Rainbow Brite t-shirt.
34. When was your last plane ride? March 2007 from Atlanta to Germany.
35. How many chairs are at your dining room table? 6
36. Do you read for fun? Not as often as I would like.
37. Can you speak any languages other than English? German and a very little French.
38. Do you do your own dishes? Only the pots. That is why I have a dishwasher.
39. What color is your bedroom painted? Pale violet and bright blue.
40. Have you ever cried in public? Sure.
41. Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop? Laptop
42. Which do you make, wishes or plans? Both.
43. Are you always trying to learn new things? Yes. I feel restless if I don’t.
44. Do you shower on a daily basis? Shower, yes, but wash my hair only every two days.
45. Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoos? No.
46. Do you believe that the guy should pay on the first date? Believe it, no, but I do think that it is nice.
47. Can you skip rocks? No. (I thought this question said sip rocks, as in, “sip vodka on the rocks.”)
48. Have you ever been to Jamaica? No. And I must admit it is not high on my list of places to go.
49. What to snack on at the movie theaters? Dr. Pepper and Junior Mints, although they don’t have it here in Germany, which makes me sad.
50. Who was your favorite teacher? Dr. Sweet, my German professor
51. Have you ever dated someone out of your race? No.
52. What is the weather like? Sunny (thank you, God!)
53. Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos? No. I am married.
54. Do you have an online journal? You are reading it.
55. What was your favorite class in high school? Toss up between Geometery and Calculus.
56. Do you enjoy traveling via airplanes? Not any more. I can never get to sleep and I am nervous the entire time I am over a big body of water.
57. What personality trait is a must–have in your preferred gender? Humor
58. Have you ever been attracted to someone physically unattractive? I have been attracted to people who my friends questioned the attractiveness of.
59. When was the last time you slept on the floor? Probably college.
60. What is your favorite alcoholic drink? Cosmopolitan
61. Does your closest Starbucks have a drive–thru? There is a Starbucks in Osnabruck and Hamburg. Neither have a drive-thru.
62. Do you like your living arrangement? More and More everyday.
63. What is your mother’s hometown? You would have to ask her; but she was born in Tulsa, OK.
64. How many hours of sleep do you need to function? Before pregnancy 3; now with pregnancy 8.
65. Do you eat breakfast daily? Before pregnancy just coffee, but now I eat multigrain flakes, joghurt and drink orange juice every morning.
66. What was the last thing to scare you? I almost got into a car accident last week. Some idiot tired to pull out in front of me.
67. Are your days full and fast–paced? Most of the time, but not in the summer.
68. Did you ever get in trouble for talking in class? Whenever Jessica was in class with me.
69. What is your favorite fruit? strawberries
70. Do you pay attention to calories on the back of packages? No.
71. How old will you be turning on your next birthday? 30.
72. Are you picky about spelling and grammar? Naw;
73. Do you believe in life on other planets? I would not rule it out.
74. Have you ever been to Six Flags? Yes in Atlanta and Illinois.
75. Who was the last person to piss you off? Probably my husband.
76. Do you believe that God has a gender? No.
77. What was the last thing you ate? I just had a joghurt.
78. Do you get along better with the same or opposite sex? It does not seem to matter to me. Depends on the person.
79. What did you dress up as for your first Halloween? I cannot remember, but I do remember the year that my mom made me a unicorn costume and I was runner-up in the local kids costume contest.
80. How did your parents pick your name? Claire was my maternal grandmother, Marie was my paternal grandmother.
81. Do you like mustard? Yes, Dijon please.
82. What do you tell yourself when times get hard? This to shall pass.
83. Would you ever sky dive? No. I am afraid of heights.
84. Do you sleep on your side, tummy, or back? My right side, although my pregnancy book says I should lie on my left, but I find that uncomfortable.
85. What character from a movie most reminds you of yourself? Probably some kind of Meg Ryan character.
86. Have you ever bid for something on ebay? Yes, DVDs.
87. Do you enjoy giving hugs? Yes, whenever I can.
88. Would you consider yourself to be fashionable? I try. I really do. But some how it just never works out.
89. Do you own a digital camera? Yes, my only exception to the gadget rule.
90. If someone you had no interest in dating expressed interest in dating you, how would you feel? Guilty that I was not interested.
91. What celebrities have you been compared to? Susan Sarandon. I don’t get it though.
92. Who is your favorite Star Wars character? Han Solo.
93. Does it annoy you when someone says they’ll call but never do? No, because I am guilty of it myself.
94. What books, if any, have made you cry? The Lovely Bones
95. Do you think you’re attractive? Attractive? Probably not. But, I would consider myself pretty.
96. What are you allergic to? Nothing.
97. Are you a jealous person? Only when teenagers flirt with my husband.
98. What’s your opinion on sex without emotional commitment? There is a time and place for everything.
99. Do you ever feel guilty after eating meat? Never.
100. If you were born the opposite sex, what would your name have been? No idea. But I hope it was not Donald.
101. Is it lunch time yet? About two hours ago. It is time for a snack now.