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

Monday, February 28, 2011

birthday

happy birthday, mom.

if I could have called you today, you would have said, 'If only I was born on the 29th, then I'd be just a quarter of my age!'. you always said that.

if I could have called you today, you would have told me all about the things you did when you were here; taking a boat ride down the Rhein, playing bürg prinzessin in the castle, and hanging out with great guy's parents.

if I could have called you today, you would have asked about Chrissy and how they are doing. you always did that, even though you lived closer to them than I do.

if I could have called you today, i would have asked you to tell me one of your stories about carneval in Köln (Cologne). i would love to know things, like what you were wearing and what kind of craziness you experienced there.

if I could have called you today, i would have asked you to tell me how to make your mamaküchen (marble cake) and your cheese cake-just found out that that's great guy's favorite dessert-and you would have said that you don't really remember, it's just a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

if I could have called you today, I would have told you that I'm looking at my favorite photo of you, and you would've said, 'oh, you're nuts, that is not a good photo'.

if I could have called you today, I would have told you that when I was out the other night, I walked past an old man, and I swear he said, 'Karin'. people used to always tell me I look like you.

if I could have called you today, I would have asked you if you're hanging out with Lothar, and Lee, and Holger, and maybe even Hermann. i would've said, 'say hi from me'.

if I could have called you today, I would've said that I love you, and you would've said, 'you know that I love you and your brother too, you do know that right?'

if I could have called you today.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

job

So, the other day I started my new little job. Well, I thought I did. It turns out, shockingly, that I misunderstood the woman who interviewed me. She had asked a few people to come in and work over the past week, not just me, and yesterday she told me they've hired someone else. In the end, other than feeling so stupid that I thought she had hired me so quickly, I feel fine that I didn’t get that job. I will keep looking though, and in some ways this experience did improve my German-speaking confidence. I don’t think language was the reason they hired someone else, but I think they found someone who represented their clientele better.

The past two nights rock ‘n roller has come over, wanting to drink and talk, and last night I kicked him out after two hours. Unfortunately, Jülchen was visiting her parents otherwise she would’ve dragged him out herself.

He loves peppering me with questions without listening to what my answers are. Questions like; are you still in love?, are you bored? when are you finished with him?, do you know that he’s not a good guy? when are you leaving him? Great guy was sitting right beside me, focusing on the TV. I kept trying to cut rock 'n roller off, and finally, in exasperation, I said loudly, ‘I am not bored, I am not leaving him, I am going to Canada, but I am coming right back!’

He stopped, and said, ‘Are you coming back for me?’ Oh my. I said emphatically, ‘No!' And then, he said, ‘We will have to do so many fun things together when you come back. We’ll go for picnics and go camping.’ I actually started to laugh. I couldn’t help myself. He’s delusional, but I know that now, in the morning, he will not remember a word he said, and will just be the normal, nice guy that he is by the light of day.

Today, great guy keeps mentioning how much fun I will have camping with rock ‘n roller when I come back. Maybe great guy needs to move to Canada. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

friend

I have a new friend who I like very much. She is warm, funny, cares about me and is infatuated with a man who is not her husband. The first time this came up, was while we were walking to the train station, about to go out on the town. All of a sudden, she said, “Nina, today I asked a man to go out with me!” She said it while laughing, giddily, like a school girl with a big ‘ol crush. I was like, “What?!”

In the weeks since then, the ‘I-asked-him’ turned into ‘he-said-yes!’ And, a couple of nights ago, she showed up at our door, plopped her tiny self on the bench across from me, and said, “Oh Nina, I think I’m in love”. I knew she was not referring to her husband.

Her husband knows about all of this, but does not take her infatuations seriously. They love each other, and he thinks that’s all there is to it. He basically shrugs his shoulders and smiles when she starts talking about the other man she wants to see. (This situation created one of those ‘get-to-know-you-better’ talks, between great guy and I. I told him that there is not a chance in hölle (hell) that I would handle my partner talking about the other person he really wants to date! Thankfully, he said pretty much the same thing, except in German.)

And now, I sit here, wanting her to come by and dreading it at the same time. She sent me an SMS (text) the other day saying that she needs to talk to me, exciting things are happening! I like her a lot, but… I ran into her husband at the grocery store yesterday and he seems totally fine, and happy in his normal ‘I’m not-really-happy way’.

I have told her what I think – that she’s married, that she should definitely not cheat on her husband, and what would she do if her husband was doing the same thing to her? She said she can’t imagine that scenario because he never would. But, he also doesn’t seem to care at all about what she’s doing – that’s not really right either.

What to do, what to do? Am I supposed to do something? Or, can I just enjoy having a friend here who is interested in how I’m doing, wants to spend time with me, and who I can really talk to?
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

interview

I just came home from the fastest, strangest interview ever. It lasted approximately 8 minutes, after which the lady (Frau something or other – shoot, can’t remember her name) asked me if I wanted to start tomorrow to see if I like it. I stood there, not believing that my ‘first interview in German’ which I’ve stressing about, was already over. Now I’m officially in the German workforce. I feel like I should reward myself with a Volkswagen or a Beer. Oh, I already have both of those! Instead, I will buy myself a new dress…for work, of course.

The interview consisted of me talking to one woman who was actually still working while we were meeting. She pointed to the clothes. I said that they looked nice (not really my style, but I wasn’t going to say that) and of high quality (I couldn’t actually tell that because all of the bright colours distracted me), then I peppered her with questions (an interview trick which works every time – a lesson I learned from Jason many a year ago!) and she asked if I wanted to start tomorrow!

So, I will be a salesperson for a high-end, Swedish, clothing line in the Galeria Kaufhof (a popular department store), which I know will probably bore me to tears. I’ve done my time in retail, but at least I will be practicing my German and earning a little money. It’s a 400 Euro job (not exactly sure what that means) and so I’ll only be working one day a week. Not bad – that more than covers my Saskatchewan mortgage! And the rest of my days I will tutor/teach English…and will start writing that children’s novel I keep telling myself I’m writing.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

english

My, my, it has been a few days since I've written. I'm not sure why the days seem to be flying by so quickly! I wanted to send you a little update on how I've been filling my days of late:

-I've been cooking from Simply in Season...next to the Station's cookbook, it's the best and most beautiful book to cook from. And, great guy never complains!

-I started tutoring kids in English (a language which I can confidently say I know). So far, I have 5 students - a 12 year old boy, 3 15-year-old girls, and a 17-year-old girl. I like it, and so far I have been able to answer their questions...or, at least they've been polite enough to pretend that I did!

-once a week (that's the most I can commit to at this point in time, because it's still really hard) I run 5km. It's not super far, but it's a big deal for me! And, in between, I give myself a break and only run 3km. And, in between that, I eat...a lot.

-great guy and I continue to make our little place more and more cozy. We have been frequenting flea markets every weekend and are accumulating many cool, old treasures (aka junk). Today, he hung up my new favorite find from yesterday's market, a turquoisy, blue clock with a stainless steel frame from the '70's. It adds a little splash of colour to our kitchen-y area.

-this week we had a couple of great evenings with friends. Great guy knows some lovely people who are smart and funny and kind. They seem to be happy that I'm here (at least they make me feel that way) and for that I'm so grateful. I'm looking forward to a summer of hanging outside with these new peeps.

-on Wednesday, I have an interview. Not a big deal, I've had lots of successful interviews (because I don't ever stay in a job for very long), except that this one is in GERMAN! Oh my. I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter, that the worst thing that can happen is I don't get the job. And, then I will never, ever shop in that store again!!

-and, today...I started teaching English! Yup, that's right, you heard me. I know that you're probably thinking, "Oh my, those poor students -she is not a teacher!!" And, I was thinking that the entire time too. But, it actually went okay for the initial outing. I'm teaching great guy's friends, Gert and Dora (I call her that because she reminds of a lighter, more German version of Dora the Explorer - small and spunky). They want to learn English, from the beginning, with the hopes of someday opening a B & B in a land far, far away. So, English is a necessity. They are very nice students for me to have.

-oh, and we're still trying to win over the little katze with love, soft cooing and food!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

wirtschaft-ing

On Monday, great guy took me out for dinner at a historic wine wirtschaft (restaurant/pub) in Oberwesel, a picturesque town lying on the Rhein. The wirtschaft is the oldest fachwerkhaus (built with large beam/trusses) in the area and each dining room is named for the original room in the house. We had dinner in the living room, but the other options were the kitchen, the bedroom, and the dining room. In the stone-walled root cellar, aka the smoking salon, local art exhibitions rotate throughout the year, providing cozy ambience next to the high-backed, plush chairs, coffee tables, and standing lamps.

The wirtschaft is run by Iris, a tall, dark-haired woman, who is quick and witty, warm but business-like. I could feel that the atmosphere and décor were her creation. She brought us menus, which were inside large coffee-table art books (the coolest menu I’ve seen), served us wine in a terracotta jug, and brought us food which was the best I’ve had in a long time.

The whole ambience felt like being in a very cool, old villa in the countryside. There was a guitar on a shelf, books everywhere, candlesticks and jugs of wine on all the heavy, wooden tables.

For starters, we shared an appetizer of prawns nestled ontop of a bean puree, with a heavenly sauce we used freshly baked, rye bread to soak up. Then, for my main course I ordered zander, which I kept pronouncing like a Canadian would, zander, because it sounds like the coolest fish out there. Every single time, great guy corrected me by saying, “tsander”, very short and quickly. Whatever. Zander. And, he ordered the rumpsteak, which I don’t think is an English term – I can’t imagine. But, it was excellent beef none-the-less.

Since I thought this was a special occasion, I had to order dessert. Out came the most incredibly, moist, dark chocolate slice of cake, filled with nuts. It was not as heavy as a brownie, but more elegant and darker. It was served with a small kugle (ball) of chocolate gelato, slivers of kiwi and a variety of berries. Heavenly.

At the end of the evening, Iris brought us the bill, which was lying inside a heavy, wooden jewelry box. Great guy opened the box and music started to play. It was all just so beautiful. Valentino would have loved it.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

valentino

So, great guy said he thought that Valentine's Day was tomorrow...Valendienstag (valen-tuesday) instead of Valentin's Tag - nice try, darling.

Valentine's day isn't as big of a deal here in Germany as it (and every other hallmark holiday) is in North America. I like that. Here, there are subtle indications of Valentine's Day, without the onslaught of cupid cut-outs and giant red hearts everywhere you look.

But, I do like any excuse to give presents, especially when I can give things which I know the person will like. Great guy's jacket pocket was filled with a little bag of chocolatey and gummi bear goodness this morning, to which he said, "Scheisse, what is this?" From what I can tell, people don't really give chocolates and flowers and valentine's cards here. And, when I said, "Happy Valentine's Day", he said, "Do people really say that? Do we have to kiss now?" What a romantic!

It turns out though, that in a city not far from here, with the great name of Worms, there is a relic of St. Valentin. This year is the 700 year anniversary of the relic coming to the city and there will be a big celebration in St. Valentin's honour. But, I doubt that there will be cinnamon hearts, little dora the explorer valentine cards, or fuzzy, red heart pillows involved.

Before he left for work, great guy kissed me, and said, "Happy Valentino!"
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

news

The mail comes on Saturdays here, and I was very excited to open the box and see a)an envelope addressed to me, and b)no vegetables. My dear friend, Robert, had sent me the latest issues of our small town newspaper, back in what was my Saskatchewan home for the past three years.

This morning, with lots of coffee, I sat down and read through all of the issues (ok, it didn't really take that long) and loved every minute! It's probably the first time I've actually read most of the articles, because, well, this newspaper is more of a scimming read.

I was excited to get caught up on all the exciting happenings in town, such as:

-there was an accident and EMS attended the scene
-the nursing home fundraised to get a new lift chair
-the was a party ('party' is probably a bit of a stretch) for the 86 year old postal worker who is now retiring
-town council approved 2 horse auctions for 2011, while only 11 babies (human babies) were born in town last year
-there was a hockey game
-and, a curling tournament
-and there's lots of snow

In the classifieds I noticed, and mentioned to great guy, that there are a couple of jobs I could apply for...and probably even have a chance at getting hired for...or at the very least, I could get an interview. He just chuckled. He probably thinks I couldn't handle the commute.

Thanks Robert, for the great read, and thank you kiddies, for the beautiful Valentines which are now hanging on our refridgerator door.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

fire

Yesterday there was a real fire. I headed out of the house in the late afternoon to apply for another job, and I was instantly struck by the acrid smell of something burning. The air up on the bridge was thick with smoke, so I knew that the fire was near.

From on the bridge I could see that beside the church, where great guy was confirmed as a boy, the building was on fire. Flames were leaping from the windows and a crowd had gathered on the street. Firefighters were already high up in the sky, spraying water from an aerial ladder. The entire neighbourhood was engulfed in smoke and emergency vehicles were continuing to zoom to the scene.

Rock 'n roller, whose birthday party we attended last night and who had watched the fire for a while, told me that the building is a recently renovated student house, operated by the church. The newspapers said there are 17 current residents, from China and Cameroon, who weren't hurt, and that the cause of the fire is still unknown.

As I headed to the bakery this morning to pick up broetchen (buns), I went past the building to have a look. I was struck by the fact that such a huge fire was contained to only a portion of the top floor, and didn't even touch the house which is attached to it on the far side of the church. An old Christmas wreath hung from the balcony,3 metres away from the burned out windows, unscathed and still green, and the plastic blinds hung lop-sided from the fourth window, unmelted and still white. Firefighters are amazing.

P.S. Cucumber update: After 3 days I decided to remove the unclaimed cucumber from the mailbox and put it into the compost bin. I hope that doesn't constitute mail theft.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

a day

A cucumber was in our mailbox this morning. I went out to get our mail after the postman drove away, and there it was, without a stamp, along with 2 bills and the newspaper. A long, english cucumber, wrapped in cellophane, just like you'd buy in the supermarket. I took it out, looked at it, turned it over, and then put it back. It wasn't addressed to me.

About half an hour later, I came within 20 seconds of burning down great guy's great, new, little house which he's almost finished building. Yup, 20 seconds. I was making toast. Granted, the toaster is a dangerous toaster; really old and without the toast-popping mechanism. So, you have to really watch it closely, which I (almost) always do. Except, for some reason, not this morning. I checked my emails instead. 20 seconds and this place, which is filled with beautiful oak floors and pine walls, would've been up in flames...and I have no idea where a fire extinguisher is, or what the fire department number is! I will look into that right away.

The day eased into normalness soon after. I did some more job searching, released my inner-superman by throwing large trees over large buildings (well, I mean 'large branches over large fences) at great guy's dad's house, and I made supper. A day.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

katze

There is a black cat who visits us at night. He slinks around, darting into bushes when our headlights beam on him as we turn into the driveway, or running out from the shed when we walk by in the dark. He’s a little scaredy cat and so I have decided to win him over with food and milk. I want that cat to be our first pet and I am determined.

For the past few nights I have left out milk and catfood, like milk and cookies for Santa, and in the morning am thrilled to pieces when the bowls are empty. Now, I have even gone so far as to wake up repeatedly throughout the night, just to try and catch a glimpse of him while he eats. Pathetic? Maybe.

Last night, I saw him. At first, I couldn’t tell if he was there because he’s completely black and, well, it was pretty black out. But, at closer look, there he was, right outside our kitchen doors, hunched over the milk bowl. I knelt down and watched him, and when he looked up I waved at him from behind the glass. He just looked at me, trying to figure out what I was. Then, great guy came up behind me, made some noise and the cat darted away.

I quickly opened the door and started to softly say, “here miezi, miezi (little cat, little cat)” - unfortunately this is also great guy’s nickname for best friend, so one of these days I’m expecting her to appear instead of the cat, but ‘miezi’ is what I always called my cat back home and so that’s what I’m going to call this one, until he tells me his name.

The cat stopped and turned, sat down on the driveway and just looked at me. I kept speaking very softly, hoping to lure him back with my melodious voice (someone once told me I had a melodious voice…I think it means ‘so calm I’m going to fall asleep out of boredom’). Then great guy poked his head out, looked at the cat and yelled, ‘hey katze!’ Needless to say, we didn’t see the cat again that night. Doofi (dummy - I mean that in the most loving way). Where is Cesar Milan when you need him? "I don't train animals, I train people!!"
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

trees

Four big trees came down yesterday. We, along with rock ‘n roller and his son, spent the day at great guy’s dad’s house, chopping down pine trees for him while he’s in Spain.

Rock ‘n roller is a klettermeister (climbing pro) and tree cutter by day and a rock ‘n roller by night. Although that didn’t stop him from showing up yesterday morning, in his climbing gear, wearing a pink, zebra belt – I guess rock ‘n roll oozes from his pores all day long.

It was sad to see the big trees go down, removed because of fears that they will soon fall over on to the neighbour’s house, but the process of chopping them down was very interesting. Rock ‘n roller and his son, each scaled a tree, and began chopping off branches with their chain saws. Then they systematically sawed down each part of the tree with great guy holding on to it with a seil (rope) to make sure it doesn’t crash on to the neighbour’s roof.

At one point, great guy scaled one of the trees, with a climbing rope and chain saw, and pruned some branches…with his bad back and all. But, my role for the day was less glamorous and more mule-ish, aka: branch remover, and, let me tell you, I got pretty good at.

All in all, even with neighbours popping their heads over each fence, complaining that we missed some branches and that they want this tree or that tree removed, we had a good day and felt we accomplished some familial duties.

Today’s itinerary: more branch clean up, with a flea market or two thrown in.
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Friday, February 4, 2011

cleaning

After 3 full days of glorious sunshine, during which great guy and I went for walks and cleaned out more of his old wohnung (apartment), it is now back to Deutschland dreariness. Great guy is lying in bed, sick with grippe (flu), his back also wrecked from moving a huge, old tv. And, I have been busy (okay, ‘busy’ is a bit of a stretch) starting to tutor kids in English and creating spreadsheets; trying to organize the finances here.

As I have mentioned, great guy loves to clean things. And, for some reason, I find it very funny. The other evening we brought over his entire pile of CDs to sort through. Apparently, he has not bought a single one of them and so, most of them he doesn’t even know. Right away, I do the female thing and imagine they are all from ex-girlfriends and want to throw them all in the garbage. But, I relax, and we sit down and he starts going through them. But, not before he stands up, goes to the sink, and gets a damp cloth and a dry cloth. I look at him, but don’t say anything. He picks up the first CD and starts to clean it. I start laughing and say, “It’s CATS! Seriously? Why are you cleaning it, are you going to keep it?” He says, “No, but it’s dusty.” Right.

He picks up a booklet from the Doors Boxset, and says, "I smoked and did lots of drugs when I was young, I don't really need to read about him doing it, do I?" I shockingly laugh, and say, "No, but I will blog about you saying that!"

The entire evening, he sat there with his cloth, and wiped and polished every single CD, old VHS cassette and expired, medicine container which we threw away. I spent the evening rolling my eyes and laughing. Yup, these are our German evenings…were you thinking they would be more exciting?
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

red cliffs

First of all, I realize that I need to clarify something which I wrote in my last post. The bit about great guy dictating what I should write was meant to be funny. He did sit down beside me and talk in an over-exaggerated-German-who-is-speaking-English-accent, which he often does, and that is what I tried to convey. He does not normally sound like that when he speaks English...or German, for that matter.

And, now on to the really exciting stuff. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with rock 'n roller. Okay, that wasn't really that exciting, but I wanted to keep your attention. We did spend part of the afternoon together though, and it was nice. He had offered to show me some of his beloved nature, his liebling plaetze (the places he loves), and I kind of had to say yes. It was a nice offer, and since he knows that I don't really have a packed schedule, yes was the only thing I could say.

So, off we went, in his strange, red, 'klettermeister' (climbing pro), car, and headed out to the rotenfels (red cliffs). Since it was Monday afternoon, there was not a single person walking about. The sky was thick with a misty haze, and the air was chilly. At first I thought that the area looked quite dull, a bit like a vacant, CSI crime scene - you know the empty field where corpses always seem to found. Yup, that was what I was thinking as I walked all alone with rock 'n roller; his leather pants and converse sneakers leading the way.

But rock 'n roller is a nice guy. I kept asking him questions about the topics I know he loves; climbing, skate boarding, climbing, music, climbing, and music. He chatted away, and it was nice.

After about 10 minutes, the path before us cleared and all of a sudden we were overlooking a giant valley with the Nahe river below us, winding through the towns of Bad Munster and Ebernburg. It was a beautiful view. Rock 'n roller pointed out two burgs on opposing hills, and said that if the view was clear you would be able to see all the way to Frankfurt. I will need to come again.

We wandered along the cliff's edge, remarking on the various rock formations, and noticing the little heinzelmaennchen (garden gnome) which someone planted on a ledge half way down. At the point where the cliffs are the highest (I think he said 200m), with the shearest drop down to the river and roads below, stands a huge, wooden cross. Apparently, at this place, many people choose to end their life. Once upon a time there was an emergency phone here, put there with the hope that a person might call in desperation before jumping, but it didn't help. Rock 'n roller knew a couple who chose to die together, jumping while holding each other's hands. I guess there are worse places to die.
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