Wednesday, April 27, 2011

German Road Safety

So here is something unshocking about the Germans: they require you to have all this emergency-preparedness stuff in order to register your car here. It is illegal to drive without a first aid kit, emergency triangle, and safety vest. If you have an accident or a problem, you must put the emergency triangle behind your car (there is a regulated distance but I cannot remember) and you must don the vest and stand on the other side of the safety divider.

I was telling Joon about all this, and how I have never been able to catch a photo of it while driving, and we were lucky enough to encounter some real live actual Germans doing the said safety activities... So I have posted the photos for your enjoyment.

By the way, a secondary is that often I see groups of Germans standing on overpasses watching the cars drive by on the autobahn. I can't help but think they are giving themselves lung cancer, breathing in all those fumes, but it's pretty damn entertaining watching the crazy people drive on the autobahn. (Sadly, this guy is alone. Usually it's a whole family hanging over the rail soaking up the carbon monoxide.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three Things

1. All the Pretty People by Ariel Gore.
I confess, I know the writer. (You may too- she started Hip Mama.) Right before I moved to New Zealand I took her class at the Attic Institute in Portland. I don't know why I signed up, and I felt like a fraud being there, but I eventually became comfortable enough in the class and really enjoyed it. So her book is a bunch of little stories (good for people like me who like to take reading breaks at work, or someone with kids, or a regular person too). The stories are both chronological and creative, and I could identify with a lot of the subject matter, as someone who grew up not traditionally pretty while wondering and trying to figure out what it would take to be considered attractive, and then led a semi-alternate adult existence. Ariel Gore has not led a mainstream life, but I think most people would identify with her thoughts. The book is not really about being pretty or not, but more about thought processes surrounding life events as she grew up in the SF Bay Area. (That's her on the cover.)

2. Listening to: Portishead's Glorybox.
Portishead: spooky, dreamy, artsy music. Perfect for intermediary life times, when the future is a black hole and a fuzzy dream at the same time. "This is the beginning of forever and ever..."

3. Weather & Life.
It's kinda summer here. 19C today. I ran the fields, hot and sweaty. It felt good even though I didn't want to go. The lame-duck-sitting-and-waiting thing that happens when your job is over but not quite makes me feel generally sluggish. I just want to sit and do nothing. Maybe with some chocolate. It's like I'm holding my breath until the end arrives. But it's a bit illogical. I should just keep living and enjoying my life as if it were going to continue, because it will, just in a different way. I'm not really waiting for anything.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lunchtime observations

[Sitting in the parking lot of the commissary.]

A round-bellied vet with shiny gold aviator bifocals walks to his black Mitsubishi station wagon next to me, toting a small white plastic bag. He looks sad for some reason. His wife is waiting in the passenger seat for him. I wonder if she is German. I wonder if they have lived here most of their lives.

A soldier in his early thirties with a black convertible waits as a bleached-blonde woman of the same age unloads his groceries into his car. He gets out his wallet to tip her, because the baggers work for tips only. It's one person helping another, even if he doesn't need the help.

For some reason, it seems like a lonely repetitive life, this life on the military post, even if you were with someone. The army life is predetermined and out of your control in so many ways. And much of it makes little sense, except that it is created to control a person, in all the ways possible.

I ran into my receptionist at the commissary. She was with two other people, one of them a nineteen year-old private, who's been in Germany for about 9-12 months. She works in our clinic. I noticed a bulge in her stomach and asked, "When did that happen?" She said, "October." As far as I know she is not with anyone. She was engaged but they broke it off a while back. Another story which I've seen over and over here. So young and unprepared and far away from home.

It's funny, when I run into friends on post I feel at home here. I feel loved. Yet I feel I'm one foot out the door. To continue this lifestyle is equivalent to standing still. Even though it's nice enough here, it would be choosing to be complacent. That's not me. I'm not meant to live the repetitive lifestyle.

So I'm looking forward to the next adventure leading me home, to be near my family and a relationship. It's not the straight and narrow path that I've taken, but I think my hopes and dreams are pretty universal-- to be loved and accepted and happy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I think Sylvia Plath & I are related.

But I'm not going to kill myself, no worries. (Maybe if I were born in 1932, it would be different, or if she had been born in 1976, it would have been better for her.) Somehow I've made it this far without really reading her writing, and what a jewel she was. In reading The Bell Jar, I found myself relating to a lot of her thoughts, and couldn't help but feel for her being born in a different era for women. I would love to read her later thoughts in life. It's too bad she didn't stay around to share with us.

Strangely, her life paralleled mine in a couple ways: her father dying at 8 (mine at 7), stating she never wanted to marry, then marrying a man in the same field who thought he was better, but then discovered that she was very talented and started womanizing on the side (oddly similar to my 5-6 year relationship with fellow optometrist Aaron).

A few things I liked from The Bell Jar:

"...I thought how strange it had never occurred to me before that I was only purely happy until I was nine years old."

"The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters. Besides, those little shorthand symbols in the book my mother showed me seemed just as bad as let t equal time and let s equal the total distance."

"The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end."

"And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a mans showered on a women before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard's kitchen mat."

"He didn't answer but reached over and put his hand at the root of my hair and ran his fingers out slowly to the tip ends like a comb. A little electric shock flared through me and I sat quite still. Ever since I was small I loved feeling somebody comb my hair. It made me go all sleepy and peaceful."

"Buddy sat down beside me. He put his arm around my waist and brushed the ahri from my ear. I didn't move. Then I heard him whisper, "How would you like to be Mrs. Buddy Willard?"

I had an awful impulse to laugh."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A reason to go home: little girls

This week, my baby sister Molly gave birth to her second daughter, Claire Elizabeth. Born April 6th at 12:43PM. With no medications! Molly did it all herself. I was quite proud. Claire is named after my Grandma Hazel Claire who died on April 6th last year (and I'm sure had a hand in this). Hopefully Claire has grandma's fireball spirit and generous heart.

Here she is shortly after entering the world:
And Molly's first daughter, Lily, being introduced to her new little sister. I hear that Lily is in love with Claire, and I'm not surprised. She seemed like she would be that kind of kid.

So, I'm stealing some of my sister's pictures, but I wanted to share the good news.

Family is so important to me, and this is one of the factors in my thoughts which are drifting more and more towards home. I would like to be there when my little nieces are growing up, and to hang out with my sisters, and my mom, and everyone else. Life is short.

Friday, April 8, 2011


In my fourth year abroad, I'm still feeling mighty disillusioned with our country, which appears to be less of a group of united citizens, than a land mass of separate individuals who care little beyond what is for their own personal gain.
I'm less than two months from unemployment most likely, joining the ranks of many of my fellow citizens (currently 8.8% unemployed, not counting those under-employed or in jobs beneath them). However, I'm in a place where it really doesn't matter, and I have the ability to drop back to student lifestyle at a moment's notice, or live out of my car if need be. No one is depending on me. This is not so for most Americans, whose unemployment strikes much deeper into their core way of life.
I could point and blame them for not planning for their futures, but that's not entirely fair. I had some step-ups early in life, which carried me along far and a really smart mom who taught us all about money management. Those in combination with no dependents leave me in a unique spot. Still nothing really prepares one for the shock of an email addressed to you and ten other professionals stating your job is finished in two months' time. And yet, they are going to be short of providers now in the health clinics here. All to save some money this period. They'll have to pay to ship us all back to the states and then pay to ship us back over or someone else. It's short-term thinking and not logical, but what's logical these days?
I'm disheartened at the recent budgetary issue. Not only because it impacts me, but it impacts so many people. And without passing a budget and leaving people without pay, will we be creating a worse economical situation. All the push-back against paying more taxes or becoming more socialised regarding health care from many Americans seems poorly thought out. It seems a lot of America's turmoil results from the fact that we have been living for ourselves in the moment, thinking of ourselves for too long. Most of my life I think this has been the primary goal of most Americans: How to get more for me. As I've paraphrased before, (I found this somewhere) when the goal is more, you will never have have enough. It wouldn't hurt to pay a little more taxes. It wouldn't hurt to have a few less wars. It wouldn't hurt to think of your neighbor and then actually do something to help out.
I know I'm not going to solve any problems. But some things really make me wonder what happened to my country, and what is the direction of the United States? What is it going to take for us to wake up out of our self-centered existences and start seeing the world for what it is: a wholly-interconnected universe where one cannot make a move without affecting another. When are we going to drop money as our god and start enjoying life for the sake of living? I'd guess it will take some sort of catastrophe for this to happen. I think very few people go out of their comfort zone without someone/thing else pushing them off the cliff. Then you learn to change and to fly. Because you will have to.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Colmar, France: a little direction from the universe

Colmar, France. I decided to go there after getting the email notification that my job was finished. I just felt the need to drive. And drive. So I drove to France. What a delightful little town, and what a wonder that the first thing I saw upon entering was the Statue of Liberty. Apparently the artist who designed it was born here. I checked into a hostel and spent the evening wandering the streets.

I love these trees. And the Aqua everywhere.

Everwhere there were Asian restaurants, of all sorts. More than I've ever seen in Europe.

And a street named after Molly (and Berthe).

The first thing I saw when the guy handed me the Colmar map was "Molly".

This is the coolest tree lighting ever. Someday I will do this myself.

And create a wall of photos with everyone looking blue. In front of my tree.

Another Asian restaurant.

I love odd old found things, like this shoe cleaner.

Everywhere is Sephora.

Waking up in the morning-- the hostel in Colmar. Super clean and friendly and 14E a night.

It is hard to know what to do when your life just suddenly goes up in the air, but with my trip to Colmar, I couldn't help but feel the fingers were pointing home. I am still in the midst of discovering my options and deciding what will happen, but sometimes you have to follow the call of the universe. And I think this opening is leading me home.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eyes wide open to happiness

"Happiness is a kind of openness...
     So choose the risky road of power and vulnerability.
     Be done with dull things.
     Take your life back.
     Free yourself from habits of anger and compliance- smoking self-destruction.
     Eyes wide open to the world as it is, we grieve.
     And in the midst of it all, we rejoice."
         -Ariel Gore in Bluebird

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tübingen, a university town in the Schwarzwald

This town was such a delight, I could live here. Especially with their offensive sales and chocolat shops.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Road Trip #2: Berchtesgaden and environs: The Alps.

Ok, this is documentation of a German Stau. Yes. People start getting out of their cars to chat with strangers. It was on my way home from work in Katterbach on Thursday but I had to share it. Now begins the roadtrip to Berchtesgaden, a little German town in the Alps, on the Austrian border. A perfect weather weekend, all around. This IS Germany. Not America. I know. Shocking. Bad Reichenhall, a little town just outside of Berchtesgaden. Super cute, and clean. I love aqua. Even just drains. Berchtesgaden.

Making wishes in the church. For happiness and peace mostly.

It was so quiet. I was the only one in there. They had nice music playing so I stayed a while and wrote in my journal.

In Germany they love Easter Trees. I might put one up next year in their honor.

In my pension, whic was 15E a night, including Fruhstuck. A totally amazing couple--- so sweet. The Frau had been born in the house and her sister still lived in town. We were able to talk a little about life and what's important (auf Deutsch) and it's funny how my German is coming along just as I am to leave.

View from my balcony.


In the morning, reflected in the door window.

I was quite enamored with my pension.

I am really going to miss Germany. It is part of my heart.

The Easter treee in my pension.

Signs of spring abound. It makes me happy to be alive too.

I am very happy hiking in the Alps. Near Ramsau. On Der Hintersee.

It was about a 3 hour hike. Pretty steep, but I loved it. My legs are bhappy. They like to work.

I got to the top and there were two 60ish year old ladies changing their shirts in front everyone. In their bras. I like that they have strange modesty levels here.

Sometimes it was really hard to see the "trail" but I did not get lost. My cell phone was dead so it would have been no use, but I figured you just go down, right?

My Frau urged me to go to Salzburg, so I did. It was my 3rd visit. I have not liked it yet. I don't think I will go back. But. No worries. Some places just aren't for everyone. But I like this sign. If I had my own shop, I would copy them.

Everything was under construction. And there were HOARDS of tourists.

I peed behind some trees here, in desperation.. I could not find a toilet.

Asian tourists always have huge cameras.

And this is why I don't watch TV.

I would likek to translate this when I have time.

Konigsee is uber-commercial. Sad.

But I liked these buildings.

Look, what is that? Not Natural. Luge tourist entertainment.

And so through the dark woods I walked home, happy, tired, feeling full of life and hope and wonder. And thankful for the experiences I've been given.