Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Claire's US Culture Tour 2007

Let's take a look at how my "to do list" is going.

1. Drink many lattes "to go:" Check
2. Yell at HUGE SUVs trying to get into my lane: Check
3. Go into store to shop and then promptly turned around because I was overwhelmed by all of the choices: Check
4. Sit with my coffee in the morning and watch Katie Meredith, Matt, Ann and Al: Check
5. Watch Billy Ray Cyrus on "Dancing With the Stars": (sadly) Check
6. Mindless chit-chat with the check-out lady (the German thinks this is stupid, I call it being friendly): Check
7. Don't stop talking about how 20 years ago the neighborhood and town had more trees but they keep building strip malls and taking down the trees: Check (seriously dudes, STOP with the strip malls)

Things still to do:

8. Go shopping at 10pm (just because I can)
9. Eat local food (including shrimp and grits, chicken dumplings, peach cobbler)
10. Go to Target to buy a ton of stuff that I don't need for my big 'ol house
11. Hit the beach

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

Travelling used to be one of my passions. Whenever I was off to a new destination, I could hardly wait to organize every detail. Because of my excitement, I would begin packing at least a week in advance. I would open up the suitcase and place it in the corner of the room. I would make lists of documents, toiletries, and outfits that I wanted to take. As the week progressed and my departure date approached, I would place things in the suitcase and check off my list as I went.

These days are gone.

Last Thursday (only about 20 hours before my departure), I was watching TV when Ch-ard turned to me. "Have you packed yet?" "Umm, no." At 7:45pm I went upstairs. At 8:10pm I came back down and announced, to no one in particular, "Finished!"

But I was not finished unfortunately.

When the German and I arrived at the Hamburg airport on Saturday morning, I realized all of the things that I had forgotten to pack: my ATM card and credit card for my US banking accounts, my US drivers licence, the stash of cash that I keep so that we can get coffee in the U.S. airport. Since we arrived Sunday, I have also discovered missing shorts and socks. Oops.

Personally, I blame the stress of the past few months. My attitude for the past two weeks has been, "Screw it. It will all work out." And, frankly, it usually does. During our trip, the German started to make fun of me and my forgetfulness. Do not worry, his head will not get too big. We paced the hallway in the Hamburg airport looking for our gate.

German: I am telling you, it is B19.

Claire: And I am telling you, there is nothing at B19. Let me see the tickets.

Claire: B19 is your seat assignment, dummy.

Ah, yes. I have forgotten how great travelling with the German can be.

As you may have gathered, we arrived in one piece, if somewhat tired. It was very long trip, but good. I must give Air France an "A" for in-flight service. The seats on the Airbus were slightly bigger. The food was actually good, and there was a lot of it. On my screen I watched three good movies (Casino Royal, Stranger than Fiction, Dreamgirls). There was not even that much turbulence. Unfortunately to fly Air France means flying through Pairs. Flying through Paris means that with 99.9% certainty your plane will be late and there is a distinct possibility that you will lose your luggage.

Since arriving I have done . . . absolutely nothing. Yesterday was the hottest May March 25th (Thanks, Dix!) ever in Charleston: 89 degrees (32 in Celsius?). The German called his mom this morning. She excitedly told him about the beautiful, dry 16 degrees they had had over the weekend. She had no idea that we could top that.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane . . .

. . . coming back in 14 days.

It just doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Tomorrow the German and I are flying to the other side of the big pond for some much needed R&R. In order to save money we usually fly into a major airport and rent a car and drive to the nearest parent, friend, or relative. This often leads to an insane 6 to 7 hour car ride after a 7 to 8 hour plane ride. This time we spent the extra 50 Euros and we are flying directly into the small airport in my hometown, Charleston. Well, it is not really "direct." Tomorrow I have a 24 hour odyssey from Hamburg to Pairs to Atlanta to Charleston. We will see if it was worth the 50 Euros.

Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us here in Northern Germany. After a week of beautiful spring like weather, it is 3 to 10 degrees again and gray. I was so happy last night to see that it is 27 degrees and sunny in Charleston. I packed two bathing suits.

Unfortunately, not everything is smooth sailing these days at the 'ol Manor. Mom and dad-squared are going through a rough patch. Not their marriage, mind you, but there is definite drama swirling around the house. Hopefully, none of it will stop my five days of sleeping followed by 5 days of beach time. Yes, that is all I want for my vacation.

I am worried about my family these days. As with the majority of bloggers, about 75% of my life never shows up on this blog. It is personal and private. I will tell you personally at 3am after cocktails, but not the entire universe. But it is definitly something on my mind and also a factor in my lack of posts lately. I usually blog about what is in my head that week, and this is in my head, but I cannot write about it.

Anyway, I will be blogging from the states, so don't worry, I am not going anywhere. In fact I am thinking of a re-design and maybe changing the name of the blog. I am worried that I will lose my archives if I do this. Anyone have any tips?

. . .

You did not think I would leave without a sofa update, did you? We got a letter last week from some furniture repair company. The letter indicated that we are their customer. Really? Don't remember signing up for that service. They "informed us" that they will be coming by the house to inspect the damaged love seat. They did not ask for an appointment. They told us they we coming by. Yes, of course they are coming by when we are on vacation. The German wrote a nasty letter "informing them" that we are not their customer, they cannot come by and they should give us a call if they want any information. Seriously, I thought the letter was a bit harsh, but the German is in fine fighting form. There may be no stopping him.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Beautiful Women with Balls

“There is truth in the words that we speak; these words from women.

We often know not the path that we follow, and yet every day we place one foot in front of each other in a determined manner. We are, in some way, certain about our path. There is an outcome. A resolution. It is our job to find it.”

I wrote the above at 4am on Sunday after many hours of chatting, eating and drinking. Forgive me if it does not make any sense. Also, the title of the post was HILARIOUS at 4am after many cocktails.

This weekend I met with 10 women. They were 10 VERY different women who share one common reality. We have left our country in order to seek to explore the unknown, and yes, this usually involved a man.

They were also beautiful and intelligent. Seriously, the plot to take over the world that we hatched is totally going to work. It was a ton of fun and it was also a bit life affirming to be around so many women who experience many of the same things that I do. However, I do think I shocked them a bit. Sorry, gals. Although my blog is rated PG-13, I am most definitely not.

You will find the cast of characters below. Next week I am going to be doing a little fiddling with my blog in order to add more linky love to these awesome ladies. Go visit their sites. Do it now!

I also finally met J! I am a fan of his site and one day will convince him to leave the beauty of the Rheinland for the . . . well, something . . . that is the Oldenburger Muensterland and teach for my company. Hopefully we will finally make it to that baseball game.

Christina G., The One with Child

Ann, The One who Gets Locked In

Maria, The One who Makes Fantastic Brownies

Tatiana, The One who Really Needed a Break

B, The One who is Hip

Jessica, The Young One (and fellow ND grad; you hang in there sweetie!)

Mausi, The One who it Always a Treat to See (Seriously, why don't we see each other more often?)

Kim, The One who Makes Me Want to be and do More

Jen, The Hostess with the Most-ess and who I might be developing a Girl Crush on

Christina W., The One Who Went from Philly to a place that Doesn’t Have DSL (it actually makes C-burg seem not so bad)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Signs That I am Getting Old

This past week my mother called for a friendly chat.

Mom: "So, then we went to Target to get "*&%ews" for the dog but I wound up spend a lot of money on other things."

Claire: "You went to get what for the dog? Jimmy Choo's??"

Mom: "No, moron. Dog CHEWS."


Commuting Stinks . . .

Literally, it stinks. We were blessed with the most unbelievable week here in Northern Germany. It stopped raining. The sun came out. The temperature reached that lovely point where all you need is a sweater and a light jacket. It was fantastic for five whole days.

Unfortunately, the weather was also great for the farmers. Every farmer in the region seemed to use the weather to prepare their fields for planting. Out came the tractors and the shit machines.

My 20 minute commute from Cloppenburg to Wildeshausen, as well as my other daily treks to Damme, Essen-Oldenburg and Garrel, is filled with air borne land mines. As I drive down the highway the most awful and pungent odor hits me. For about 10 minutes yesterday I held my nose while driving.

Beware of the "honey wagons." You may see one from afar and think that you are safe from its stench, but about 3 minutes later after you have passed it, the stink gets to your car. This delayed reaction is something like lightening and thunder. I wonder if counting the seconds will tell me how far away the "honey wagon" is?


And Still No Sofa

Just a little update about the sofa story that never ends. The furniture company sent out a guy to repair the love seat on Tuesday, March 6. The guy shook his head when he saw the problem and the attempted to use some glue to repair it. That, as anyone can imagine, did not work. They could not fix the love seat at the house so they took it with them and promised us our love seat on Saturday, March 10.

Oh, yes, they did show up. Unfortunately, the "repaired" love seat looked worse than before it broke. The repairman pounded the piece in too hard and now you can see the peg underneath is sticking out a bit. Also, he used some sort of glue that left a spot on the fabric. According to German law, I have to give the supplier one opportunity to make it better. Dude, one strike and you are out.

The delivery guys on Saturday immediately called the office. They told us to keep the love seat and that someone would call us on Monday. We never signed the delivery notice. Of coarse no one called on Monday. The German called on Wednesday and they said we "might" get a replacement love seat. Um, "might?"

I spoke with my lawyer buddy and we now have enough reasons and documentation to break the "Kaufvertrag" (contract to buy the goods). Strangely enough, the German does not want to do this. He wants to stick with the company and see how long it takes to get everything correct. He is using our sofa sorrow as an example in his business economics class. I always knew that he was not right in the head.

Nobody at the furniture company returns our calls. I told the German that they do not take us seriously. I order to get real answers it is time to go to the mattresses. I suggested a letter on my lawyer buddy's letter head. We may give that a try.

My 30th birthday is in August. The goal is to have the furniture by then. Be sure to follow the updates!


A Weekend with the Girls

Jen is sponsoring a girls weekend down in Bowltown (see link below). In 8 hours I am getting on a train and heading down. The German was a little sad this morning, but I told him that 48 hours is a short time. He and Ch-ard are going out tomorrow night for St. Patty's. I doubt I will be missed.

Jen promised me lots of drinking. I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Saga Continues

In life, all of us have our cross to bear. For the German and I, it is our sofa. And it is getting damn heavy. In our last episode we saw how the evil furniture company, further thwarted the decorating efforts of our heroes by delivering the wrong colored sofa.

(Let me pause for a minute to say that the rust sofa is not THAT bad. However, it clashes with the other furniture and simply does not match. A few people have even said that they like it. However, I don't and it is not what I ordered, so it must go.)

I told the German to call the furniture store and tell them that I wanted 200 Euro off my total bill or else they could come and take it all away. Unfortunately, the furniture store finally returned our call on Wednesday . . . after the German learned about his Grandmother's passing and was on the way to his parent's house.

Evil Furniture Store Sales Man: I cannot possibly give you 200 Euro off the sofa. However I can give you a gift certificate for 2oo Euros. Keep the rust sofa until the correct one is delivered.

Weakened, Heroic German: Okay.

I could not really get mad at him, see. He was grieving. So, I figured, what the heck, we will wait ANOTHER 2 months. In the mean time, I will "accidentally" spill coffee on the rust sofa.

Friday morning we went downstairs to go to Oma's funeral. When I walked into the living room to do "the rounds," this is what I saw:

Please note that we almost never sit on this love seat!! It just fell apart. On its own. The German thinks that it is protesting . . . something.

Before we went to the funeral we called the store. The German said that they could come and pick everything up. We want nothing more to do with them. The salesman told us that he could not make these kinds of decisions and told us to come in and speak to the manager / owner. And so we did.

Saturday we went to the Evil furniture store. Sadly, we knew that we were in a weak bargaining position. Turns out that suppliers have more rights in Germany than buyers. Suppliers have a right to solve the problem. But, dude, seriously. They delivered late. They delivered the wrong thing. The furniture started to fall apart after two weeks. Three strikes and you're out.

When we arrived at the store they called out the manager / owner. I swear to God, I almost fell over. The guy who walked over to us had messy hair, blue jeans, and his button down shirt was hanging half way out. He shook our hands and we started to talk. This entire conversation took place in the foyer of the customer service department. I finally sat down in a chair and the dude did not offer us a cup of coffee or anything!!

We explained how disappointed we were. His explanation was:

"There is not much I can do about it. As long as humans produce things, then mistakes will be made." He stared at us as if to say, "What are you complaining about?"

Wow. That is the dumbest excuse I have ever heard. The next time I screw up at work, I think I will use that one.

For once, the German was the one about to blow up and I was the calm one. After the manager explaining to us for 5 minutes about how humans make mistakes, I finally interjected. "This is all fine and good, but I want to know how you are going to fix the problem."

He agreed to send someone to fix it Tuesday (i.e. today). "Should be real simple. No problem."

Claire (in her most reasonable teacher tone): "Fine. You fix the sofa. I want my correct sofa by mid-April. If these things do not happen, then I will no longer be amused and will have to take further action."

Manager: "Yes, I understand."

The repair man came today and looked at the sofa and shook his head. He could not fix it. No "real simple." They took the sofa away and we "should" have it back Saturday.

Seriously, how much more can this go on??

Monday, March 05, 2007

In Memorium

It was a very long week last week here at Euro-American Life. By far the most difficult thing was the passing of Oma on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Although her death was not unexpected, the pain and grief afterwards was nevertheless surprising.

Martha Schuette (born Dombrowski) was born on Nov. 9, 1931 in Kosken, a small village in former East Prussia and what is now Poland. Martha was the youngest of six children (Ernst, Heinz, Hedwig, Evert, and Max). She grew up happy on her parents farm and went to school in the village. But, as was the case for millions, the War came and changed everything. Her father and brothers were taken away to fight or work for the "cause," and she and her mother were left alone with her youngest brother, Max.

In 1945, shortly before the war ended, people in the village warned of the coming Russian army and so Martha and her family fled. After weeks of travel and witnessing horrible atrocities, Martha and her mother arrived in Wiefielstede. Life as refugee was not easy. After the war, refugees were as unwelcome as the foreign occupiers.

But Martha was never one to give up. She took a job cleaning in a private home and worked in the fields if needed. Because life was hard, she tried to enjoy the little things, especially dancing. Dancing was the one place where Martha could let loose all of her pent up energies. In the late 1940s Martha met a very quite man at a dance. Although Harry Schuette was very different from Martha in many ways, they fell in love and were married.

For over 50 years Martha and Harry were happy. They lived a quite life in Bockhornerfeld. Sometimes it was a bit confusing for Martha. Harry's entire family spoke only Plattdeutsch (the dialect Low German) and she did not. However, as with all things, Martha was quick to learn. Martha and Harry were blessed with three children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She was active in many different organizations, and if there was a reason to have a party, then Martha was the first to organize it.

In 2004, shortly after the German and I were married, Oma was diagnosed with cancer. For a long time the prognosis was good and in the summer we celebrated sunny days. In November another tumor was found; this time no operation was possible. We all knew that inevitable would come.

Oma passed away at home, surrounded by the family that meant so much to her. Although it was difficult, it was comforting to know that she is no longer in any pain. I so admired this woman who would not let the hardships of life keep her down. She will be greatly missed.