Monday, May 28, 2007

An Open Letter

Dear Owner of the black Mercedes licence plate number &&& **-***,

I know who you are and I saw what you did. Actually, I did not but the women who work in my building did. I know that Smarty is small, and perhaps you may have not see her, but scratching my car while pulling out of your parking space and then leaving without even putting a note on my windshield is NOT OK.

Just because your car is bigger and more expensive does not give you special rights. I do a very good job parking. Because my car is so small, I fit well in the space and leave plenty of room for people on each side. When you pull into a space, perhaps you should do the same.

The damage was only a scratch; something in the paint that the German can buff out, but this is about principles. However, you are very lucky that my laziness is a bit stronger than my principles. I just don't want the hassle of tracking you down and reporting you to the police in order to collect 200 Euro. But do know, I could track you down if I wanted.

I am letting you off with a warning. But watch yourself. Some people need their cars for work. I drive 2500 Kilometers a month. Without my car I could not work. Next time I will not be so nice.

Yours Sincerely,


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tongue Twister (aka: Ch-ard Has Problems)

I have come to a rather upsetting conclusion. My life is boring. Very boring. I get up. I go to work. I come home. I eat things that are not good for me. On Tuesdays I watch Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. On Wednesdays I watch ER and Weeds. On Thursdays I watch Germany's Next Top Model . . . Yup . . . doesn’t get more exciting than Heidi Klum telling girls that they are inadequate.

Thank God, Ch-ard is here, because boy, he has some blog worthy stories.

Last week a Ch-ard flew back to the US on a top secret mission. (It’s his secret. If you want to know, ask him.) However, in order to save money, he booked a ticket leaving from Amsterdam. Getting to the Amsterdam airport should be easy given the great train connections around here (enter dark tone of foreshadowing).

A few weeks ago he went to buy his train ticket. Deutsche Bahn is getting very expensive, but the amazing station agent got him a great deal.

Agent: Now, this ticket is non-refundable and if you miss one of your connections, then you’re up the creek. And I’m not talking about Dawson's.

Naturally the agent didn’t actually say that, but in my version of the story he does. And naturally the Deutsche Bahn managed to be late and last Tuesday he missed his connection in Enschede. There he was. Ch-ard. Stranded in Enschede at 11pm and facing the distinct possibility that he would miss his flight.

He, of course, did what anyone would do. He took a 180 Euro cab ride to Utrecht to get a train to the Amsterdam airport . . . and you thought that you were having a bad day.

After a quick and daring mission, he arrived home on Monday. A few days in the States and massive jet lag will mess with a person’s head. Yesterday he went with me to Friesoythe to teach a class. He decided to go to the café and get A LOT of coffee.

Ch-ard: I’d like a Kaninchen (translation: bunny) of coffee, please.

The waitress grinned a mile wide.

The waitress responded, “I think you mean a Kännchen (translation: small pot) of coffee.” And then she proceeded to tell all of her co-workers.

Ch-ard’s language issues did not end there. On the way home from work we stopped at Subway for dinner. I ordered my sub and spoke with the man behind the counter in German. Ch-ard asked for a chicken sub. I have no idea why, but the man grinned and responded to Ch-ard in English!

Sub-guy then went through the steps our subs and the entire time spoke to me in German, but Ch-ard in English. We left the place a little confused.

I blame it on the fact that Ch-ard was wearing his white tennis shoes.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Exhibit A

Last night the German, Ch-ard and I watched the Eurovision Song Contest. Ch-ard and I love this event. No, not because of the music, but because it is often hilarious. Unfortunately, it also reinforces the stereotype that Europeans have terrible taste in music.

Exhibit A: Ukraine submitted this . . . um . . . "artist." The dude came in second!!! Ireland came in last and my Irish friends were a little embarrassed. Frankly, I think anyone who voted for Ukraine (or the UK for that matter) should be embarrassed.

This is my first attempt at posting a video clip. I hope it works! If not:

1. Go to "YouTube"
2. Search for "Ukraine Eurovision 2007"
3. Click on "Ukraine 2007 Verka Serdyuchka - Dancing"
4. Be amazed (or afraid)

Saturday, May 12, 2007


It is true. A picture can say a thousand words. It is slightly odd that a post with only a picture received more comments than when I almost had a nervous breakdown a few months back. But then again, nothing will boost your hits like a disastrous furniture story.

After I took the picture of the chair and posted it two weeks ago, the German decided that HE HAD HAD ENOUGH. We drove to the furniture store with pictures in hand and fully intended to tell them to come pick their stuff up. However, the outsmarted us and pointed out that an upholstering service was coming to fix the love seat on Monday. "They can fix both!" the salesman said with a lopsided grin.

Monday came, but the upholstering service did not. The German called.

"Dude, what's up?"

"Dude, you never called and asked for an appointment confirmation letter."

"Dude, we spoke on the phone, who needs a f***ing letter?"

The German was much more eloquent than that, but you get the idea. On Wednesday, the German LAID DOWN THE LAW. He called both the furniture store and the upholstering service and gave them until 6pm this past Tuesday to fix the situation. He sited parts of the consumer laws that protect us. By some grace of God, the upholstering service actually showed up. And the dude actually knew what he was doing. He fixed the chair. Bam, staple, glue, done. He ordered the parts for the love seat and the dent in the sofa. He will be here in two weeks to make sure everything is okay. The German called the furniture store and actually got them to deduct a few hundred Euros from the price of the furniture. Can it be, Toto? Is there a light to the end of this tunnel?

This week our "decorator" finally decided to release the drapes that he had been holding hostage. Naturally, there was a small problem. They forgot to order the panels for the largest window in the room. He hung up what he had and promised to bring the others in a few weeks.

I must admit, that I did not like the drapes when I first saw them. They seemed old fashioned and a bit too formal. I had the feeling that my living room was turning into a farm house. But they are starting to grow on me. At least they break up the big yellow walls.

As you can see from the pictures, the living room is getting close to being finished. There are curtains and lamps and pictures on the wall. Now the German and I will have our final battle: The "Wandschrank" (Entertainment Center). All of this progress makes me want to have a party.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Balancing Act

On Thursday a friend rang me up. Two weeks ago I sent her an SMS on her birthday and suggested that she and her husband come visit the German and I in our big ‘ol house. She admitted to me on the phone that her birthday had not been that great and that it would have been nice to have a few more friends around. I understood exactly what she meant.

I have many friends; people that you meet for a beer and a chat every few months. We often laugh and say, “Why don’t we do this more often?” But we never do. And as a result they are not the kind of friends you feel close to. And often you feel like there is no one to call when you are feeling really down.

My friend and I tried to arrange a meeting time. I said that this past week was not good for me. On Saturday I had plans with the neighbors and Sunday I wanted to work. Next weekend is not good for her because she has visitors coming in from abroad. Before I knew it we were talking about making plans in June. It was all a little ridiculous in light of what she had said to me earlier.

Claire: “Wait. Why don’t you just come this Sunday for coffee?”

Friend: “Yes, but I don’t want to take you from your work.”

It dawned on me how often I push people away in the name of “work.” And I finally realized that I do not want to do that anymore. Life is a balancing act between work and fun. Lately my life has only been work. I have been falling off the balance beam for months.

Claire: “You know what; I think my lessons will be just fine. Come over.”

So this past weekend I decided to work on the fun part of my life. On Saturday the German and I went on a “Spargel Tour” with the new neighbors. The Spargel (a.k.a. asparagus) harvest is a highlight of the German spring. In the month of April the only thing to eat is asparagus with ham, boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce.

The German and I met 10 other couples from our new neighborhood. We biked 30 kilometers around Wildeshausen. It was absolutely gorgeous. Everyone was very friendly. We stopped outside a little village called “Small America.” They put the stop on the tour because of their new American neighbor. After about 4 and half hours we arrived back in Wildeshausen and ate asparagus and drank and laughed. We finally landed home and in bed around midnight.

My friend and her husband just left. They came over for a few hours. I baked a cake from a new recipe. We chatted and went for a small walk. It was really, really nice.

I realize that it is going to take a lot of effort to get back into balance. But you have to start sometime. Otherwise I will just keep falling off the beam.