Friday, April 30, 2010

Sprechen mit meine Vermietern

Last night, I had a friend over for dinner. We sat on the back porch, chatting and eating, listening to the birds. Nothing special, just pasta slightly doctored and some cheap supermarket wine, which is usually quite tasty over here.

On the way out to the car (I had to go into the garage to collect my coffee mug off my bicycle for the dishwasher), we (ok, I) got to chatting with Ernst and Helga, who were sitting on their porch, drinking Beer (Bier hier), which Ernst gladly raised to me in cheerful German happiness, as we chatted. A young neighbor was over talking to them from the sidewalk.

Ernst and Helga are intrepid conversationalists with me. I would have given up ages ago and just smiled and said, "Hallo" but they continue on trying to chat every time I see them. Always seeming happy to see me, even if I sound dumber than a box of rocks.

Through my fumbling German, I communicated that yes, I was riding to work, and they asked, "Every day?" I said, "Hoffentlich!" (Hopefully!) Learned that washing dishes was "spülen" not "waschen" and shoveling was "schaufeln" and muscles "Muskel" auf Deutsch as Helga showed me hers from her frequent "schaufeln" activity in the yard.

Much later into the stumbling conversation, Helga announced that their young neighbor spoke English. I thought, a teacher! But Ernst stood up and said, "Englisch ist verboten hier!" I haven't heard that before, but it explains why they lure me over with English-speaking children, but only speak German. I said I didn't want to lose my house for speaking English. So I'll continue in my Deutsch.

I better be studying now.

(By the way, the title to the post is, "Speaking with my landlords")

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The dreaded brown lung of Bavaria!

Riding along, over hill and yonder, through the farmlands. Orange bicycle, lavender top, silver shoes. Like a princess on her ride. Sara does mean princess...

She feels her throat constricting. Is it asthma? No. Is it her bag cutting off oxygen? No.

The air is thick. With *Manure Particles*. The natural fertilizer.

It keeps going and going, as she pedals through the trees and nears her town. She would like to hold her breath but there's no way to make it up this huge hill without heavy breathing.

She'd heard of this, but speeding along in her Mini didn't get the full experience of the stench filling the air, blocking out the oxygen, starving her lungs.

And she's heard this is just the beginning of the season. It is after all, April.

But little brown particles won't stop her bicycle ride to work. She is hardier than that. Her mom used to make her spread manure in the garden when she was a kid in Minnesota. She can handle manure with the best of them. Perhaps it's in her blood. (At least she knows it's in her lung!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Should we all serve for a year?

After seven months working for the Army, I've had ample time to mull around ideas, observe soldiers, civilians, the workings of the military. I wonder, what could be done to make this better? It seems that there's left quite a lot to want when you look at our troops.

The military has become a posse of people who've had hard knocks in life (either through poverty, unemployment, or intelligence), those who played too many shoot-em-up video games, the guys who never want to grow up or true military-soldier types. It's not the mish-mash of the days of the draft, when you might have sensitive and macho working hand in hand.

Our society has become more and more stratified in the recent past, and so we communicate with people who are like us, imposing our values only on those who already agree, not able or willing to have conscious discussions with those who might be dissident to our ideas.

I find this sad. Who best to learn from, than those who are different?

I would be a proponent of mandatory military service. For at least one year. Everyone, regardless of life situation... I think it would force us to see some of the invisible people in society, to stop looking with disdain on the soldiers, to examine our reasons for going to war, whether they are worthy or not. And to appreciate our ancestors who went to WW1 and WW2, scared and unable to shoot, and yet, they did their job.

No one should be exempt from this. If we are willing to send someone else's kid to die, we should be willing to send our own. We should be willing to go ourselves. It's part of being American.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Back to Berlin (but most of the pics are still on Carrie's camera in Portland)

Mom at the Jewish Memorial

Potzdamer Platz- we had dinner here the first night I arrived, since it was within walking distance of our hotel.

The Lego Giraffe at Potzdamer.

A section of the wall that was painted.

The Brandenberg Gate.

A nice truck-- the driver stopped for mom to take this photo even though the light turned green!

Oh great, I'm forgetting now. I think this is the Dome of something.

Cool statues.

Where they had essentially a free outdoor museum on Berlin and the wall. In Alexanderplatz. Also some sort of Michael Jackson thing was going on. We were so lucky to hear, "Heal the World" at least two times while we were reading.

More another day, perhaps!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"To be free, you must see things as they are."

From Paul Theroux's, "The Elephanta Suite".
"Not a journey anymore, not an outing or an interlude, but seeing the world; not taking a trip, not travel with a start and a finish, but living her life. Life was movement"
In the last few days, I've been sipping the words of this book, a mind-holing read from Paul Theroux. He also writes non-fiction, travel accounts, but this was a fictional story set in India, a country which changed everything in my mind about life and travel, in the three short weeks I was there in 2005. This book feels India.

I've been sitting at home all morning, mostly on my orange sofa, with fresh French press coffee, beans from Stumptown in Portland, remnants of my mom and sister's visit. Reflecting on time and space, after finishing my read. Radiohead. Elliott Smith. Pearl Jam. Others on the Ipod. Sunlight streams. Pajamas remain.

"Life is movement." A perfect quote in this time of life. My family gone. My grandma died.

I am here. Still and quiet.

Wondering sometimes what it's all about. What is next. Planning trips. Istanbul? Athens? Tunisia? Bucharest? Three-day weekends coming up, plans should be made.

I've injured my foot. So the Prague marathon is a big question mark.

But life is movement, right? I am moving... even when standing still.
"You went away from home and moved among strangers. No one knew your history or who you were; you started afresh, a kind of rebirth. Being whoever you claimed to be, was a liberation."
Living here, in Germany, on my seventh month now, brings questions, only occasionally, what will happen next? Thinking about taking another year or two to travel when my contract is up. Or a change in career. How not to move back to the States.

That part about moving amongst strangers. No expectations. Maybe that's why I have the best relationship with my family when I am away. We are more friendly, less expectational.

Over here, I am free to be whoever I want here. It's true. I am more me than ever. Calm, free, peace.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A semi-traumatic ending to an emotional month of visitors

The good news is, Carrie and mom have flights out of Amsterdam tomorrow.

After watching flights, and realising that Nuremberg is still canceling most of their flights and the volcanic activity could continue, we decided that perhaps they could get to Amsterdam and then fly from there. So this afternoon, Carrie called Delta and was able to get my mom on the last seat to Minneapolis tomorrow afternoon and herself on the flight in the morning directly to Portland.

We'd looked at trains to Amsterdam, and there were regular overnight departures, so we figured they'd have to leave this evening between 5:30 and 7:00 after we celebrated mom's birthday.

At 2pm, they went to the Vilseck train station, where they are so good and so nice. The overnight connections would've required 6-7 train changes in order to get in early enough for Carrie to catch the morning flight. So the woman told them they needed to leave at 2:34, which was 20 minutes notice. They called me at my office phone. I was so sad not to be able to say goodbye, but I was in the middle of a family of four childrens eye exams.

I started to see one of the boys again, and then stopped, and asked the mom if she'd mind if I was gone for 20-30 minutes to say goodbye and drop some things off. She said, "Just go! You were so nice and didn't say anything when we were late."

So I sped off for the train station, and arrived about ten minutes later. They were still waiting. I ran up and gave them hugs. My mom said, "How'd you get here this fast?" We were all crying and five minutes later, they were gone.

I just hope they make their flights in Amsterdam. The Nuremberg airport is small, the planes tiny. And for the last few days, they'd just been sitting at home trying to figure out how to get on an earlier flight, and whether or not their flights would even leave...

So I came home to an empty house. A birthday cake with "H-ash-py Birthday Mutti!" and no slices out of it. Should I light candles and blow them out for mom?

It was a weird month... starting with Carrie and my crazy drive through Croatia war zone, to mom and Carrie getting so sick for a week, to Grandma suddenly dying, and then the volcano canceling their flights... Why was I surprised when they almost had to leave without saying goodbye?

I will just say I am so happy they came and spent a month with me. I am so happy that I was given my family in this life. It was wonderful to have them. I hope the rest of their travels go without a hitch.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Running thoughts... Grandma Hazel

I made it through 22 miles today. It was not horrid. It was not fantastic. But I'm done with my longest run before the marathon in three weeks. It is mostly a mental game. The first 13 miles were fine, then the last 9, I had to do a lot of self pep-talk. I felt ok afterward. Stretched. Ate a banana, some yogurt, broccoli. Hopped in the tub. Then felt like passing out and nauseated. Good times. Why am I doing this again?

One of the things I love about running is the time to think. To let my mind wander without course or worry. I think it's the mental health aspect of running that's one of the best benefits.

Today I kept thinking, "I can't believe Grandma's dead." Over and over. Earlier I'd received one of the nicest cards from Karen and Rick to share with my mom and sister. I think being away when someone dies allows you to pretend it didn't happen. This week (of course) I've had the urge to call Grandma. It's so hard to believe that I can't ever talk to her again. There's a DVD of the prayer service and funeral. I've been wondering whether or not I should watch it. But today I decided that it might help with closure and reality.

I've been remembering Grandma a lot this last week. Her generosity, her laugh, how she always asked, "How's your love life?" when I called but didn't really care that I wasn't married and had no kids. She was so accepting. How she had told me lots of little truths through the years on our phone calls. And sometimes we'd be laughing like idiots the entire call. I wonder how many people are lucky enough to have a Grandma like that?

She was the most generous person I know. And creative. When I graduated from optometry school, she found an old pair of her super-thick hyperopic glasses and doctored up the case and then taped two Ben Franklins to the inside of the lenses. It was the neatest gift I've ever received. I didn't even want to take the Ben Franklins out. So sweet.

When Molly called to tell us she died, I thought, "Now it's just us." Meaning my mom and sisters and me. Grandma always seemed like she was in our family of girls. She just fit with us.

It's hard to believe she is gone. No more hugs. No more sneaking in her back door to surprise her on our way through town. No more talks about life.

I guess I'll take Grandma's advice and be happy that I had her in my life for 33 years. And that we were so close to her. She was a treasure to have around and someone who I'll look up to for the rest of my life.

To Grandma Hazel, who danced on tables and laughed right up to the end, I love you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marathon-lasting exhaustion

I've been training for a marathon for several months, and now have had two horridly pathetic weeks of training and the third is off to a poor start, with lingering flu symptoms. I have to get this back in order or will risk limping through the 26.2 miles on May 9th. At 5:07PM tonight, I already felt ready for bed. Does it mean I'm a grandma? Do I need to get my pajamas on? Or is it just recovering from essentially 19 days of company, which I loved but was also difficult to keep up working full time and sight-seeing and visiting. I have hit the wall.

If I go to bed at 6:00, I'll surely wake up at midnight and beat myself up for crashing like an infant. So instead, I will prop myself against the couch and wait for the sun to dip in the sky. Perhaps I'll lay out my clothes for tomorrow so I can get up a little later.

I am soooooo tired!

A quiet house

Carrie and Mom were off this morning on the train to Praha. A few days in Praha (Prague), then to Krakow with a side trip to Auschwitz and finally to Berlin where I'll pick them up next weekend and we'll all go wandering about, returning to my little area of Germany on Sunday night. We'll have Monday to recover and then a jaunt to the airport for mom and Carrie to catch the 6:50AM flight out of Nuremberg on Tuesday April 20th. I'm sure time'll go quick as craziness.

We all nursed colds/flus/evil bugs for the last week and I sent them off this morning loaded down with vitamins, an emergency poncho and umbrella, 2 hidden money wallets (no more Spain experiences!) and some Czech cash. Hopefully they arrived intact. My mom sent an email from Nuremberg saying their train left 50 minutes late this morning so they missed the connection to Prague but I think it's only a couple hours later arrival. Hopefully they enjoyed the countryside.

We've had the weirdest weather- it was SNOWING this morning as we left for the train station. Happy 31st to Carrie, who knew that she would have snow again? It's almost like being in North Dakota.

I also had a mostly quiet day at work- all the military is off for a four day weekend. But, several smelly patients. Literally. I think they rolled out of bed after drinking and smoking for four days straight. They have four day weekends once a month. I think for most of them it must actually shorten their lives. One of my patients even arrived with a swollen eyelid, which he said was from falling off a bar. Good times. They continue.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Photo happiness from Carrie and Mom's trip

Advanced internet connection in Germany. Attach wifi stick to head for better reception...

Carrie practicing to look German. But smiling a little too much. You can tell Mom is not German at all as she is totally smiling like a crazy Czech. Tee, hee, hee.

Me freezing ass off. I swear it's really January.

Flossenbürg with nearby concentration/work camp right in the city now-days... they have a good exhibit there.

Kathy walking the castle hill in Flossenbürg.

Castle at Flossenbürg where we almost got frost bite walking up the hill to the top...

Nuremberg (Kathy and Carrie's photos from Nuremberg, sadly, I was WORKING!)

Church in Nuremberg

Church in Nuremberg with my sister Carrie the fashion plate, carrying the EnviroSax bag that I was accused of stealing in Vienna.

Kathy and Carrie sick on the couch. Note Vicks rag on mom's neck, and yet she still remains deliriously happy looking.

Helga's Easter Tree.

Grandma and Lily (I stole this off my mom's camera.)

Carrie and Mom's schedule

After a week of illness-induced home-boundedness, my mom and sister and I are all feeling a little better and plan to do a few small activities this weekend before they head off on a week-long train and bus trip.

It was a really weird week, suddenly losing Grandma Hazel while my mom and Carrie were visiting. I think I expected that she'd live another ten years. I hope that she's somewhere else now with the people who've gone before.

This morning in honor of Grandma and my dad, I got up at 7:30AM and vacuumed and cleaned out my car. They wouldn't approve of a dirty, smelly car. If anyone knows my family, they know we care about cars. Not necessarily fancy cars, but keeping them nice and caring about them. You know, loving your cars...

Today the three of us plan to find a Flohmarkt and then head to a crystal factory and perhaps a few other places.

Monday morning at 7:34AM, Carrie and my mom will hop the train to Praha, then Krakow and then Berlin, where I'll pick them up on Friday--- the three of us will spend our last weekend in Berlin.

Monday, April 12th is Carrie's 31st Birthday. I think we'll have to eat a bowl of frosting for breakfast in her honor. 31 is a great year. I know!

Carrie said "Yuck! Eating a bowl of frosting! Maybe 'Frosted Mini-Wheats'!" We'll see.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hazel Claire Schultz: August 27, 1926- April 6, 2010

"You can choose to be happy or sad, I choose to be happy"

It was on her fridge for as long as I can remember. A magnet. I read it every time I visited.

Grandma Hazel had lots of bumps in her life -- I think a lot of people might have not chosen to be happy, but she did.

Last night, my sister and mom and I sat in my living room, talking about Grandma Hazel. I pulled my pictures of her off the wall, the ones where she was dressed up as the Village People at my cousins wedding. And we remembered how beautiful her letters were, in words and handwriting, always telling us how much she loved us. I don't think she ever got over my dad dying- there is something wrong with your son going before you. Now I hope they are together somewhere, laughing. I think that's how most people would remember Hazel. Full of spunk and always laughing, that was my Grandma.

I will miss her greatly.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Road trippin' home

I think the grand finale. Perhaps.

Streetcar station in Vienna--- not sure how old... very cool.

Exhibit at the museum of applied arts, Vienna.

Museum of applied arts.

Ditto. Cool building. Free on Saturdays. Not really worth visiting, unless you are in the neighborhood or have nothing better to do.

The town of Melk, Austria.

Carrie in the throes of ecstasy at the cigarette vending machine. Note another just about 10 feet away. Also two more were withing about 20 feet of these. Insane.

Countryside of Austria from the car.

You can't see this! Top secret.

Look Elton's coming to town. Plus hot motorcycle dudes.
We had to get a photo of these cute ladies who were tailing us.

Marienplatz, Munchen.

Carrie at the hofbrauhaus post-30 minutes of Easter evening church service. We were so happy to have beer.

Posing. Looking sorta fake. Oh well. I couldn't quite finish my beer.

That's all folks!

Monday, April 5, 2010


Just to let you know, my mom arrived without a hitch yesterday and was picked up by my friend Bernie who is 66 and from North Dakota. Carrie and I arrived home from our roadtrip about 6 hours later. Alles ist gut.

Leopold Museum Photos

Egon Schiele's - Czech pic

Not sure who.

Reproduction of one of Klimt's Faculty works (for the University), which were not received well by the public because they were considered to be too dark in nature. In fact, he ended up purchasing all his works back and retreating into hiding mostly after that.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vienna photo time

Leftover from a cafe in Maribor, Slovenia.

Schonbrunn palace, Vienna

Schonbrunn Palace

MR timer photo

Wooden floor tiles at Schonbrunn.

Subway station in Vienna across the street from the very cool Naschmarkt.

Hunderwasser house, designed by crazy artist.

Riding the SBahn with looks of wonder.

Super hot tourist who videoed EVERYTHING.

Museum Quarter

Cafe with nipples

Who wants to eat at the Rectum? Me! Me!

Vienna Museum Quarter

Museum Quarter

Cafe in Museum Leopold

Ad for Museum Leopold by artist Egon Schiele. A very amazing guy.