Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

fairy tale

Driving along the Rhein last night, in the darkness, with great guy at the wheel, was a first for me…and I loved it. The lights of the small towns on the far bank reflected in the wide, dark river, and the dark hills on either side walled us in. And, every kilometre or so, the lights of a burg beckoned, “hey, isn’t this romantic?” Yup.

(side bar: great guy sits down beside me, looks over my shoulder and dictates…”za great river lies like a beeg, black mirror smoozly between za big, black hills”. I’m laughing. He’s on a break from cleaning the vacuum cleaner. Great guy is a very thorough cleaner.)

We were on our way to yet another birthday party for yet another nice friend of great guy’s-my life is very difficult here. All of a sudden we turned sharply left onto a narrow, cobble-stoned street and drove through a low archway; part of an ancient town wall built in 1344. Cool. It felt very ‘knight’s tale-ish’ and I expected my knight-in-shining-armor to ride by at any minute…oh, right, mine was in the seat beside me!

The town of Bacharach. A fairy-tale place.

(great guy interrupts me, saying “gleich kannst du saugen, augenblick mal (just wait, you can vacuum soon).” Oh my.)

Complete with a ruined chapel sitting high on the hill, called “Werner Kapelle” (in honour of my dad I’m sure, although I don’t think he was born until well after 1290), and wall towers, passages and, no doubt, a moat or two, this must be the place where sleeping beauty napped and rapunzel brushed her hair.

(great guy just started his super shiny vacuum cleaner, looked at me, and gave me the thumbs-up sign. he is in love with his vacuum cleaner…i bet she’s expecting a proposal any day now, but i have to admit, she is a pretty vacuum cleaner. her name is Kirby.)

Through the tiny streets, and up into the wine hills we drove. When we arrived at gerd und dora’s house, we were bombarded with their family merriment. It was a nice evening, complete with lot’s of laughter with great guy, a possible English-teaching job offer, and an awesome phone call from Kanada.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

prinzessin

So, I had kind of an interview the other night. It was to be a coffee meeting at 7:30 pm in a hip café in Mainz, set up by rock ‘n roller’s wife, jülchen and her friend, let's call her prinzessin (princess). I will call her that only because she said in her own words how she is longing to find a man who will treat her like a princess.  
 
Prinzessin is beautifully crazy…in a loud, lovely, very affectionate way. She laughs constantly, with great gusto, touches and hugs everyone, and yet, is this petite, beautiful, teacher. I met prinzessin at rock ‘n roller’s concert a few weeks ago and she decided immediately that she was going to help me get english tutoring work. She has tons of contacts in the school systems and would talk to some people. So prinzessin set up this meeting with a man who runs an organization helping students get connected to people who can help them further their studies (from what I can understand). Jülchen and prinzessin sms-ed (texted) back and forth all week and supposedly the time and date was set. 
 
Jülchen and I got to café Lomo early, I ordered tea and she an apfelschorle (apple juice with wine, I think, or maybe just sparkling water), and we talked and waited for prinzessin to show up. Finally, Jülchen called her, and when she explained that we were waiting at lomo, prinzessin just laughed and laughed (I could hear her through the phone, from across the table, in a loud café). Apparently, the time and date was set for this man and his boss to come to lomo on this particular evening to discuss whether they wanted me to join their team…not for me to meet them. I was mortified. I am not the aggressive, in-your-face, you-are-going-to-hire-me-or-regret-it, type of girl and so I wanted to split before they showed up. 
 
We quickly gulped our drinks down and slinked out of the café, hoping not to bump into them as they walked in. We made it outside and headed across the street to a little kneipe (bar), and relaxed with a round of cocktails. The evening turned out to be really fun, in a crazy sort of way, without the stress of an interview. Hopefully, that will still happen, and hopefully, I’ll be able to organize the time and date.  A fun night with fun girls.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

heavy

The pellet delivery man came yesterday, with great drama. First off, as he peered through our glass, front-door, he jumped back in fright as I pulled the door open, almost falling down the small embankment to the driveway. I guess, with all of the tree reflections he couldn’t see that I was standing right on the other side of the door. Of course, it didn’t help that I am about a foot taller than him…needless to say, I scared him.

He was frustrated, and proceeded to speak rapidly, in an accent which I absolutely could not understand, about something which happened to his truck on our little access road. Great guy created a road to the main house a few years ago, carving out a twisty, turny path with a bugger (digger) – sorry, the word “bugger” auf deutsch makes me laugh and laugh every time I hear it. The road allowed the tenants to drive up to the house and not have to park under the bridge and walk the remaining 50 meters. For some reason, on this occasion, delivery man totally wrecked his giant truck. He backed into the small retaining wall, tearing off a big chunk of the bumper, or some such thing (it was a 2 ft by 2ft, black, plastic thing – I didn’t understand, of course).

He demanded a saw from me. He said he needed to cut down a tree. That I understood, but had no idea what he was talking about. His tone began to change and he condescendingly started to talk to me like I’m a deaf child. That did not make me happy. Anyways, I got a saw, and watched while he sawed down a small tree growing out of the train tracks next to the road (seemed very random to me). Then, I watched as he got back into the truck and backed it up the small incline, almost driving straight off the ledge and onto the train tracks below. Oh my, that truck would’ve flipped right over.

Then rock ‘n roller and his wife, jülchen, came, at which point I preceeded to stop any further attempts of communicating with delivery man. Eventually the 3 large pallets of pellets were safely unloaded and all was well in our little world again.

Until…rock ‘n roller invited me to go climbing with him at a nearby climbing wall. I said that I’m not great at climbing and was trying to explain to them auf deutsch why that is. Rock ‘n roller interrupted me and said in English, “because you’re too heavy”. OH MY, you should’ve seen jülchen’s reaction! I thought she was going to divorce him on the spot! I just laughed and said he was right – my arms aren’t strong enough to lift the rest of my body (aka: my fat ass). She swore at him and he just looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “now I’m an asshole”. I told jülchen not to worry about it, great guy would’ve said the same thing (he just bought a bigger motorcycle seat so I can fit on it without crushing him – how sweet).

So, now my only goal each day, is to run 3 km, to try and avoid the pounds of erdnüsse (peanuts) we have in the house, and to dream of the day when I’m not too heavy to climb a wall or too big to ride on a motorbike.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

oprah

A few days ago, great guy wanted to watch Oprah.  It was, like, 11pm or something and he saw in the TV guide that Oprah was coming on.  He switched the channel, and said, “Ist das Oprah?” He had never seen her before.  Not a bad thing.  He had heard me talk about her, because surprisingly, she’s on in Deutschland in the afternoons at 2pm, just like back in Canada.  Unfortunately, this episode was, yet again, the one where Oprah interviews Janet Jackson, 9 months after Michael died.  I have tuned in to Oprah here about 4 times and 3 of those were this same episode. 

We watched for a few minutes, because he wanted to, and something came up about age.  Oprah was babbling about how great it is to get older, that with every decade she knows herself better and feels more confident and is less scared about relationships and her role in them, and I looked at great guy and said, “That is such crap.”  I continued by saying that I am much more scared as I get older because I know the bad the things which can happen.   Then I paused and said, “Or maybe I’m less scared now because I know that I can survive the bad things if they happen.”  And then, I started to laugh like I have not laughed for a long time.  Great guy, with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, stared at me like I was a lunatic.  Granted.  Oh my, I could not stop laughing.  One thing I know for sure, I am either less scared of loving someone, now, or more scared!  So funny.

I preceded to call one of my closest friends who understands my humour.  Her and I laugh together better than anyone.  We are the most hilarious people….but, unfortunately, only to each other.  We used to try to bring others into our laughter experiences but no one ever thought we were funny, just nuts.  Their loss.  Unfortunately, because of the time difference, she was at work and so I could only leave a very long message explaining how funny (and nuts) I think I am. 

This is the same friend who sent me a “Top 10 (well, actually like 14)” list of all the reasons she hates why I am now in Germany.  It was the best list ever.  Within the list, she mentions, "because you're gone" about 10 times - how amazing is that?  But, my favorite reason is #2:

2. When I feel something scratchy at my waist all day and finally check it out and realize that I have my leggings on backwards and the tag is itchy as hell, I cannot text you....because you have no cell phone!!!

and, #4 is awesome too:



4. I actually have no friends.  Really.  Ok, my husband is wonderful, but he works all the time, and he thinks my sense of humour is, well, kind of stupid.  I think it's quite brilliant.  This causes tension.  Damn.  You laugh at my jokes, I laugh at yours.  We are brilliant together.

ok, and #14 is super great:



14. I am so so so incredibly happy for you, my friend.  You are not here.  But you are somewhere that holds love, life, passion, possibilities.  I am so happy for you!

I can live without repeat episodes of german Oprah, but not without my wonderful friends, old and new, English and German.  Thank you, my dear friend(s).  Even though some of you I see often, and some not for a while now, you make me feel loved and happy; I am lovingly and happily living my adventure here.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

funeral


Real life, for me, is the wonderful, comfort of routine; the regular early evening naps, the goofiness of early mornings, feeding Pelletti every 3rd day, regular coffee drop-ins from friends, and watching a baby grow. But, real life also includes the not-so-wonderful. On Thursday, I went to the doctor (all is well now with me) and Friday we went to a funeral (all is now well for her). Great friend’s mom passed away on Sunday morning, while her son was away for 2 days working – maybe that’s the only way she could leave him.

So, on Friday afternoon, sitting in a castle (yup, that’s how they do it here in Germany), celebrating an incredible woman’s life, I was struck by how real life can be. Watching everyone circle around great friend while he's holding his 8 week old baby and seeing him smile and laugh - what a great thing and surely the only thing that his mother would want.

Her wish is that her ashes be strewn in the Nordsee (North Sea) where she was born and where her son loves to go surfing.  She said that in the summer when he is there, with das baby lying on the surfboard, he can tell her that Oma is swimming alongside her.  Beautiful.  It is a sad occasion to be at the funeral for someone you had really wanted to meet.

In the evening we went up to the mill, where she lived with her husband.  The sound of water rushing is constant, the stars were shining bright, and the baby was crying - lots of wonderful images of life.  We had a wonderful time, filled with laughter, as stories were told about this woman (she once backed her car up a snow covered pass, in reverse, cause she needed front-wheel drive...so smart!) and as we watched great guy bond with das baby (he actually introduced himself to her...so cute!).
A sad day ended with laughter.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

the romanian

Last night, great guy’s friend, the romanian, came for a visit. He works in Germany for months at a time, earning money for his family, and since the middle of December he has been back home. The romanian is a great builder and has helped great guy a lot over the years, with all of the house renos. He has dark features, laughs quickly and fervently, has warm, friendly eyes and speaks German with a heavy accent. Yesterday, I met his wife and daughter, who also made the 18 hour trip with him. Both are pretty and slim and quiet. And, I saw that those warm eyes of the romanian’s were shared by his daughter, Flores.

Communication was a bit difficult, in between broken German (mine), Romanian translations , and rock ‘n roller. Rock ‘n roller creates his own communication difficulties when he’s had a couple of drinks-sometimes it’s funny and sometimes not so much. Rock ‘n roller kept speaking English to the Romanians, never clueing in to the fact that I’m the English speaker, not them. Over and over again, I looked at him and said “Speak German!” He’s crazy. He was babbling, on and on, about the situation in Romania, but when the romanian actually intervened and said that things aren’t quite that way, rock ‘n roller just ignored him. He’s all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, which apparently means he also has no clue what he’s talking about, and no interest in listening to those who do.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

balu

Today I met a horse named Balu. Great guy’s friends, Alex and Jorg, who I met on the weekend, have this horse, along with an Australian Ridgeback, named Nero. This morning, I went with Alex to the stable on Laurenziberg (so beautiful) to meet Balu. She wants someone to help work and ride him, and since I currently have all the time in the world, I said that I would be interested. I am missing animal contact –sadly, great guy does not fill that need. He almost bought me a puppy for Christmas, but since we had only been in the same country for 4 weeks at that time, we thought that a puppy might be going a bit fast. So, for the time being I will hang out with Balu and Nero.

First of all, Laurenziberg, is a tiny, tiny village with maybe 20 houses. It sits atop one of the highest hills in the area, overlooking fields, vineyards, and towns as far as the eye can see. It is incredibly peaceful there. The riding stable, where about 30 horses are boarded, and where the owner breeds thoroughbreds, is large, old, rustic, compound of wooden stables, an outdoor riding arena, breeding stalls, fields and fields of paddocks, and awesome horse smells. Horses are everywhere, and yet, it is a very calm, serene place. I think it must lie with the owners. Calm people, create calm animals.

Balu is a 9 year old, golden Hafflinger, with a long, shaggy, blonde mane. He is very cute and very stubborn. I kind of fall in love with cute, stubborn animals…hmmm, come to think of it, maybe men of that nature too. Interesting. I will not continue with any further comparisons between the two, so please put that out of your mind.

After brushing the mud and gunk out of Balu’s hair, we took him into the riding arena and walked around with him a bit; putting him through exercises like, stopping instantly, backing up, and walking sideways (just to be clear, I’ve never asked great guy do that).

From atop the horse you could look over the arena walls (well, I could) and see the endless, green, rolling hills. Sorry Canadians, but it is totally green here, even though it is a chilly -1. Balu and I spent some time getting to know each other. I made him run around in circles and turn in all the directions he doesn’t really like to go-just so he knows that I’m the boss in this relationship. You know those stubborn horses, they think with someone new they can do whatever they want. Well, I showed him…but, I was really nice about it, of course.

The morning was beautiful with Alex, horse and dog, and maybe tomorrow we will do it again.

I think that my German life will include a horse named Balu.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

real life

Well, the ‘honeymoon’ phase is over now, and real-life is hitting me over the head like a 2x4. For reasons I did not expect, the language difference is really impacting me. I am missing the freedom, ease and comfort of being able to speak and understand everything…and I actually know German. I cannot imagine what it would be like to move somewhere where I don’t know the language at all.

When I moved from Alberta to Saskatchewan 3 years ago, right away, I got involved in a whole bunch of community activities; the library board, basketball, choir. It was easy and fun; asking questions, finding out information, getting to know people, creating a place for me in a new place. But here, I procrastinate every day, not wanting to speak to any strangers in my broken German. I am scared of sounding stupid, looking stupid, of not being able to express what I mean, of being misunderstood, and of not understanding. So, I haven’t really looked into getting a job. I haven’t really looked into taking conversation German classes. I haven’t really done much. And, I’m not feeling very good about that.

Basically, I have spent the past 6 weeks helping great guy make the new häuschen into a home ( it’s looking and feeling good), cooking, working out, writing and exploring a little bit. But, I really feel like I need to get ‘out there’ and get a life…a German life. I just don’t know what that should look like. What I do know, is that it won’t happen unless I try. I think I'll start tomorrow. Wish me luck.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

autobahn

Recently, great guy forced me to drive. I think that he has been worrying, or I should say, I know that he has been worrying that I am going to get bored living in this place, without good friends, without a job, etc. So, he kept encouraging me to take the car and drive around; to explore the area. I always said that I would, but inside I was kind of nervous to drive here. Everything is much narrower, faster, and more crowded here. So, he had to force me…almost physically, to get behind the driver’s seat, and drive.

It all turned out to be fine; the many traffic circles, merging on to the autobahn, driving through the narrow streets…and listening to great guy’s constant demands of “shift, shift!”, “left, left!”, “give gas, give gas!” And now, I drive by myself.

Last night, I took the great truck, an old Land Rover, out shopping. The first thing I did was put in one of my favorite CD’s and cranked the stereo. Oh, to listen to my music again! (I have nothing against German radio, but playing some current tunes wouldn’t hurt.) So, there I was, cruising down the autobahn, singing along with Sugarland and eating Haribo gummi bears (a German delicacy). Fun.

And, after a few wrong turns (the signs whizz past really fast when you’re on the autobahn), but refusing to bring out tom tom, I found my way back ‘home’. Great guy’s ‘driveway’ isn’t really ‘normal’, but more of a vehicle’s endurance test, and in the truck it feels like you’re riding a big, galloping horse and all you have to do is hang on. So, over the potholes, under the bridge, up and down the twisting hill, narrowly avoiding the steep bank into the river, I zoomed up in front of the house…just missing rock ‘n roller, who was standing there, all black-leather-clad, in the dark – how was I supposed to see him?
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

sauna-ing

Ok, Canadians, I experienced something yesterday which I don’t think happens much in Canada. I went to the sauna (spa). Ok, so that’s not unusual for Canadians – I’ve been a few times myself over the past years, but, here in Germany the sauna experience is, well, a bit more free-ing. Here, everyone is naked and everyone is together. There are no separate male or female steam rooms or showers, only the small damen and herren changing rooms. And, yup, it is free-ing and… interesting. Honestly, the part that bugged me the most, going into this, was the idea that we would be surrounded by gorgeous, naked women who great guy would be staring at the entire time. Ha ha ha, silly me. Nope, there were only really old, and less than attractive people sauna-ing yesterday, which was totally okay with me. But, it was odd…like being around a bunch of naked grandparents.

Once I got over the fact that I’m naked and everyone else is naked, I decided to just jump into the experience; kind of like parachuting…naked. The sauna is beautiful and luxurious and we spent 3 hours there. It is located in a big, conference-type hotel, on a golf course, and includes a pool (bathing suits required) with those cascading, waterfall-type, showers you can stand underneath. There is also a huge, quiet room with floor to ceiling windows filled with plush, over-size daybeds, where you go in between the sauna to read or nap. It was all kind of heavenly, in a naked sort of way, and I can’t believe that many people do this, here, regularly.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

red cat club

Rock ‘n roller played a gig last night at the Red Cat Club in Mainz. Along with his wife and her friend, I took the train into the city, walked through the evening streets, and headed to the little nightclub for the 10pm start.

We arrived outside of what looked like an apartment building, on a narrow side street. The only sign hanging outside was a bright red, neon outline of a cat – very cool. Through the door, down 3 flights of stairs, around the corner and under a low arch, we entered a low-lit, cave-like, room with a long bar on one side and a row of large, red, super-sleek, couches on the other.

There were 3 people in the club when we arrived and, it being a Tuesday night, hopes of a large crowd were dim. We said hi to the band members and settled in to a comfy, red couch with a beer, waiting for 10 pm. Slowly, the place began to fill up.

By the time the band started to play the intimate cave was full. Six musicians packed the tiny stage, along with their 6 instruments and sound equipment. Then the music started. And the place went crazy.

I think, here in Germany, and maybe elsewhere (although the term is foreign to me), the style of music is called Rockabilly. I’m not sure what that means, except I would describe what they played as a mix of old-time rock, some swing, with a hint of jazz or bluegrass. Whatever it’s called, it sure was fun and lively. The 3 of us girls did not stay still for the entire 2 hours. We danced the whole time, within the standing-room-only crowd.

Rock n’ roller, with his leather pants and leather vest, is a really good singer. I had no idea. Great guy and I relentlessly mock him for his ‘I can only play what’s in my heart’ speeches, but sing and play he sure can. On this occasion he was playing the stand-up bass, which, in my opinion, is quite the super-cool instrument. On top of his bass sits a gargoyle with moving hands and a tail, bopping along in tune, looking like it’s playing every note along side rock ‘n roller. I loved watching that gargoyle. There are also first baby shoes glued to the body of the bass, a giant spider, and some lucky dice hanging from it – probably all things improving the sound, I’m sure.

The band members were generous – giving each other lots of solo time; the ultra-talented, African American, army-guy, trombone player , the New York-trained sax player, the crazy, professor/electric guitar player, the wild drummer (don’t all drummers seem a little nuts – but in a good way?), and the steadily cool, but very normal-looking, harmonica player.

At midnight the show had to wind-down, due to noise restrictions, so we helped the band pack up and schlepped everything out to their vehicles. During the dark, drive home, I was thinking how much fun it was to experience some German nightlife and meet some new people, but that it would’ve been even more fun if great guy was along – hopefully next time, the band will pick a weekend date. Who, other than the unemployed, under-22 or band groupie, goes to a concert at 10pm on a Tuesday?
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Monday, January 10, 2011

new yorker

Yesterday, great guy and I took a little road trip to Stuttgart. He had ebayed again, which seems to result in a Sunday outing to pick the item up. In this case the item, or items, were 2 black, sleek, fabric benches called ‘the New Yorker’ style – that’s how sleek they are. Great guy decided they would fit perfectly in our kitchen nook, to go with the oak table he is building, and he was right.

After sliding the benches into the back of the LandRover, and saying "Tchüß" to the shiny-faced man we bought them from, I squeezed into the back seat (the only space left for me) and we headed to the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim. This museum lies close to the autobahn, has all sorts of planes and fighter jets displayed on the its roof, and features a huge IMAX theatre. Great guy was very excited, and I thought that it would probably be fairly interesting (although I did bring my laptop, a book, and 3 magazines along).

We spent the next few hours having a lot of fun; wandering amongst the cool selection of cars, sliding down the crazy fast chute which takes you from the rooftop planes down to the museum floor, and IMAXing in 3D. Great guy also, excitedly, showed me his BMW motorbike which was on display. Later, best friend said, “Wow, you have things so old that they’re already in a museum?” Funny. During the IMAX film, about the wonders of deep sea life, I tried hard not to scream whenever a giant calamari or tiger shark swam out towards me. The children sitting close to me, looking hilarious in the oversized 3D glasses, had no fear, but were constantly putting out their hands in front of them, trying to touch the swimming creatures. Cute. I think there is something amazing and a little creepy about 3D movies.

The evening was spent back at home, sitting in our new kitchen nook. Best friend, rock ‘n roller, and his wife, came for a probe sitz (test sit), bringing along 2 bottles of sekt with which we christened the newest addition to the häuschen. And, along with discovering an english-speaking radio station playing the American Country Countdown, it all began to feel more and more like home to me.

A really great day.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

high water

The water is rising here from all the melting ice and snow, causing flood chaos.  Reports are that the Koblenz altstadt will soon be under water.  The Rhein is supposed to rise another 2.5 metres, from an already higher than normal level.  So, great guy came home yesterday, in a panic to save his fancy steg (boat ramp).  He grabbed some thick boating ropes, a hammer, a chainsaw and his working gloves, and I followed behind-in the pouring rain, and as always, not really having any idea what he is planning to do.  I decided, that the very least I could do is yell for help if he falls into the rushing water.

The river water is moving at incredible speeds.  All the ducks and geese are lined up on the far bank, staying on high, dry ground, watching the fast, milk-chocolate-coloured water rush by.  I think they must be willing the water to calm down, so that they can once again enjoy their playground.

We climbed down to the, now non-existent shore, standing on part of the crumbling walkway he built years ago.  Great guy tied the rope around his waist, handed me the other end, and then began to precariously cross the long, bendy plank on his hands and knees, pushing the equipment in front of him, out to the floating steg.  I went along with his plan, thinking, "no problem, I got this", as huge trees and stumps zoomed by us.  Then, after untying the rope from his waist (super) he secured it to the steg.  Standing, and trying to balance on the swaying planks, he took the chainsaw and cut down the overhanging tree branches, which will allow the steg to rise with the water level and not break apart when it collides with the tree (Smart guy-I wouldn't have thought of that).

I was paying attention to his work, honestly ready at any second to throw my end of the rope in to him, if necessary.  But, I was also fascinated by all the stuff in the water rushing past;  lots of trees, a beer keg, a baby bottle, a gas can, and for some reason, a whole assortment of balls.   How did they get in the water?  Really, if I had any guts I would have swum out (and proceeded to die) and collected the basketball, soccer ball, volley ball and beach ball, and would've been set for a summer full of fun!  Instead, I just watched, mesmorized.

Eventually, drenched and a bit cold, great guy got the job done.  The steg will be around for the boating season (I mentioned that I'll need to be here to have a boat ride, and he said, "ya, of course").  We saw best friend as we were heading in and she was coming home.  She is terrified of the possible flooding; certain that the house will fall apart if water gets in.  She lives on the top floor of the house and so, I think, the only thing she needs to be worried about is that the rest of us will need to move in with her!
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

waldfriedhof

This morning I headed out confidently into the streets, after feeding Pelletti his snack of 13 bags of wood pellets, and proceeded to fall flat on my butt.  It's a black ice day in Deutschland, or should I say, a Calgary-kind-of-day.  Of course, I was also carrying a bag of celebratory sekt and wine bottles from the past holiday weeks, to the recycling container.   After picking up myself and the armful of bottles and pieces of glass, swearing under my breath and possibly even out loud, I had to laugh as I saw 2 other people also wipe out in the same parking lot.  This freezing rain and ice business is very different from the land of snow, snow, snow which I'm used to.

Recycling finished, I headed through the streets and up the berg (literal translation: mountain - realistic translation: hill) to the waldfriedhof (forest cemetary).  There are many waldfriedhofs in Germany and the ones which I have visited are beautiful, peaceful places to visit (for a short or very, very long time).  This one is mostly in the forest, with a view of the Rhein and with large, looming pine trees watching over the gravestones and wooden crosses. 

I wanted to visit great guy's mom, and maybe borrow her grave to think about my mom too for a bit.  Back home, I did that fairly regularly; borrowing other mother's graves (who I knew) to sit and think and feel nearer to my own.  I never thought that those women would mind and I doubt great guy's mother would either.  As I lit the 2 candles, which I bought from the handy automatic gravelight machine (comes complete with matches), I thought about these 2 women who might have had more similarities than just being beautiful.

I had only met great guy's mom a couple of times, many years ago, but our mothers knew each other a bit and I like that a lot.  A couple of weeks ago, when great guy and I went to borrow some Christmas decorations from his father's place he wanted to show me some photos.  One album,when I opened it, had on the first page, a photo of my mom and his parents together.  It was so surprising...and surprisingly comforting; that our mothers spent some time in each others company.

I placed the candle for great guy's (and sister's) mom in the enclosed, bronze candleholder and immediately smoke began to stream out of the top; softly, peacefully, steadily.  I placed my mom's candle in the snow, beside the candleholder, and immediately, because of the rain, the flame went out.  Frustrated, I said, "Come on, Mom, stay lit for me!"  I lit the candle again...and it did not go out.  It was pouring rain, and the flame hissed and flickered and danced, but it did not go out.  Honestly, it reminded me of her; strong-willed, sometimes hissing, sometimes dancing, bright, stubborn, and yet very fragile, I think.  So, I stood there, wanting to wait until it went out again.  But it didn't.  Finally after 20 minutes, totally drenched, and having closed my tear-filled eyes for a few moments, I decided to leave.  Both flames burning bright.  Oh, how I wish for the chance to hang out with these 2 mothers right now.  How neat would that be?

I walked down the hill, and over to fit 'n fun, and ran 3 km while watching Beyonce videos on the big screen (predictably motivating).  And, with every step I tried to remember how fit and fun it was when I could run 10 (Remember that, Bob?  Seems like a 100 years ago, instead of just 2!).  Oh well, I'm on my way.

Some good things today.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

kitchen

We will be cooking in our little häuschen tonight!  Great guy hooked up the sink and the stove last night.  It's a big job building a kitchen, which I've only figured out in the last four weeks.  Back in Saskatchewan I had a wonderful friend help me renovate my little kitchen.  Ok, well, I watched while he did all the work.  And that kitchen looks great (hope my tenants are enjoying it!).  But, this project, in this little train building which great guy has converted into a house is much more complicated.  Everything that he has to do is from the beginning, and though he has had great help, I'm amazed by all that he does himself.  He just methodically figures it all out...and then it works.  Cool.

Four weeks ago, we drove to the Black Forest to pick up IKEA kitchen pieces which great guy had found on ebay.  In Germany, most people move their kitchen in and out of their apartments when they move.  I had never heard of that before, and so I wasn't really sure what we were doing until we got there.  We walked up the three flights of stairs (of course it would be on the top floor), met a lovely, gregarious couple who are moving, and began taking apart their kitchen.  Then we carried all the pieces and appliances down the stairs, packed the trailer and drove home - a 10 hour process.  Naively, I thought that we would get home and just plop all the pieces back together, plug the appliances in and, presto, kitchen.  But, great guy had much cooler plans in his head, and the kitchen already looks so much more interesting than I could ever have imagined.  His plans aren't finished yet, but when they are, I will put up some fotos (photos).

I think that tonight I will consecrate the kitchen with lentil sausage soup, my favorite soup recipe from the Station Arts centre - only the best for our little place.  Guten Appetit!
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Monday, January 3, 2011

binger wald

Sunday brought us a beautiful (kind of Canadian) winter day, complete with lots of snow, colder temperatures, incredible blue sky and blazing sunshine.  Great guy and I headed to meet great friend, girlfriend and das kleines baby (as her father affectionately calls her) for a walk in the woods outside of Bingen on the Rhein - the Binger Wald.  Great guy grew up close to these woods and so he has been saying, since I arrived in Germany, that we should take a walk through it.  Yesterday was that day.

We hiked, well no, we slid along the icy trails, marveling at the cool wood faces randomly carved into some of the old trees.  These carvings have been around for a eons, created by an old schnitzer (wood carver) from the area.  The expressions are hilarious; funny, crazy, happy, or just plain weird. 

After about an hour we ended up at the Gerhardshof, which is a quaint, old restaurant where people (lots of people) gather to eat or drink at the mid-point of their hiking day.  After joining other couples on a long, wooden table, we were served radler (for me) and apfelschorle (apple juice with sparkling water), jägerschnitzle and spätzle.  Yum.  A very good, traditional meal for a very good, traditional berghütte (hut on a hill).

This was a good day; filled with good friends (Max and Bärbel also came by in the evening for lachs (salmon)), snow, sunshine, and a new year.  I was very happy spending this day with these people...hope for many more like these this year.
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

new year

Frohes Neues Jahr (Happy New Year)!

Good morning new year.

Great guy and I spent a moving last evening of the year in the presence of someone who is at the end of her life and another who is newly at the beginning of hers.  We were with great guy's great friend, great friend's girlfriend, and das baby.  Das baby is brand new, 6 weeks new, and in missing my small friend's from home, I crave time holding her.  This small, new family is in the impossible process of saying goodbye to his mother.  Great friend's mother, from all accounts, is a remarkable woman who is dearly loved by her son, her husband, and many others.  That there are many people who are thinking about her and wanting to support this family was clear by the stacks of clean, Tupperware containers piled at the front entrance, each with a bright, yellow, sticky note showing the name of the meal provider.

Great friend's mother, lives with her husband, in an old mill, high up in the, currently, snow-covered hills.  Huge beams dissect the house at every angle, at every height and in every room, making people who are already prone to banging their heads, exercise extreme caution while walking throughout the house.  Looking at photos of the couple hanging on the walls, I found myself wanting to know this person, with the bright, warm eyes, but knowing that I probably never would.  She remained upstairs.

After a filling fondue together and precious baby time, those of us gathered at the dining table realized that the celebrations of the new year would be missing one guest.  She was too ill to partake in any way.  Throughout the evening I was continuously struck by the juxtaposition of a new life and an ending life playing out in this warmly lit house.  And it, even now, brings me to tears.  We all pass through these two extremes.  Why is it not easier?  Why so much pain on both ends of life?

Great guy and I left the mill after eleven, with hearts and stomachs heavy, and headed to an Adam's Family-themed party; though neither one of us was really in a party mood.  Great guy kissed me at midnight and said "Happy Birthday".  And, amidst the drama of fireworks and sparklers, surrounded by morticias, zombies, and other such costumed friends, we stepped into the new year.

Wishing you and your family lots of love, good health, and cherished experiences in 2011.

I leave you with an excerpt from the poem What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte:

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the waiting desk?
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