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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

waiting

‘Tis the season...for waiting. It is the first Advent and everyone is waiting; waiting for a holiday and a break from work, waiting for family, for presents, for the birth of a baby. I am waiting for snow.

It is the first time in my life that I am living somewhere where at the end of November there is still not a hint of snow…not even a whisper. In Alberta and Saskatchewan I don’t think it is even possible to miss snow. It always comes much too early and stays way too late…like an irritating party guest. And, now I am here, on the first Advent, wandering through a Christmas market, in a small town on the Rhein, on a +10 degree, sunny, dry, windy day. It feels much too early for Christmas.

Last weekend, great guy spontaneously said that we should go away for the night. Since he rarely likes straying far from home, I jumped at this opportunity to cash in one of my best western gift certificates. After googling and then booking, we started driving, and ended up…falling in love. We found our new fave place. This little boutique hotel, in Boppard (which sounds funnier and funnier the more times you say it as great guy was doing the whole way there), is nestled on the Rhein, and filled with family history and character dating back to the 1800’s. The wide, sweeping staircase with family portraits of the hotel’s former owners, enchanted me. I took photos, like a geeky tourist, wanting to remember these faces, and wishing I could hear their stories. They had names like Johanna, Lissy, Karolina, Horst und Jakob.

But, the elevator was by far the coolest. It was old (or should I say ‘antique’) and it was small. It had one of those sliding doors which you had to push open. And then, inside there was a blue, leather bench at the one end…a seat perfectly built for two. All the furniture in the hotel was so interesting. The famous furniture maker, Michael Thönet, who stems from Boppard, beginning in the 1800’, had original pieces displayed on each floor. I’m not that well-versed in my antiques, but the curved wooden armrests, the intricate workmanship, and the beautiful fabrics…it was all beautiful.

Great guy and I entered our quaint, cozy room and went straight onto the wrought-iron balcony taking in the peaceful view of the Rhein cliffs, the massive freighters, and the flowing water right below us. I tell you, lying in bed and looking out the window and being able to see the lights of the ships floating by is actually very cool. We sauna-ed and then went for a fabulous Italian meal, where I am sorry to say to any PETA fans, that I ate weinbergschnecken (wine hill snails) sautéed in garlic butter. I figured that since we are in wine berg country I should try these little creatures…isn’t it like eating Alberta beef when you’re in Alberta? Although, supporting the wine industry probably means drinking wine and not eating snails. Ok, so I’ll rectify that and pour myself a glass right now.

A little while ago our relationship came to a breaking point. We have now turned a corner in the direction of togetherness and, I think, we feel more solid and calm now than we have up to this point. We both made a choice…not just to keep flowing along, but to stay. This little hotel, in this little place, with time to just walk and talk and eat together without interruptions, helped a lot. We will be back…maybe when there’s snow. I am waiting.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

rude ducks

Last week, Germans celebrated St. Martins Day. I would describe it as Thanksgiving mixed with Halloween - does that paint a good picture? Probably not.

St. Martin was a knight, back in the day when there were knights, and apparently one wintry evening he pulled his steed to a stop to cut off a piece of his cloak, handing it to a coatless beggar on the side of the road. His fellow knights were impressed by his generousity. And, as with many of these simple, kind gestures the guy became a saint. I mean, didn't a guy named Valentine also just give someone he liked a card?

There is a very cool blog called kindnessgirl.com, in which a Richmond, Virginia woman encourages people to do good deeds, and shows by example. She does things like leaving sweet notes in library books, putting ice cream cone gift certificates into the pockets of new backpacks at department stores during back-to-school season, tying messages like 'It's going to be okay!' to a flower and leaving it in a public place, or leaving $5 Starbucks gift cards on bus stop benches. She should be nominated for super-sainthood! Is there a form or a call-in process for that?

So, back to St. Martin's day. What happens on this day is that all the kiddies, who have spent the week making lanterns, dress up warmly and wander together through the nighttime streets, following a guy on a horse (St. Martin) and singing their hearts out...'Ich geh mit meiner Laterne...'. Seriously, it's the cutest thing. I asked every one of my kiddie-English classes to sing this song for me (it's like 4 verses long) and they just belt it out, and sing and sing and sing. I'm going to start teaching them English Christmas songs because hearing kids sing is a great noise. Oh, there are also lots of Duck-eating feasts on St. Martin's day. Legend has it that after Mr. Martin became a bishop (because of his good deeding) he was giving a mass and was interrupted by a group of 'schnatternden' (a new German word for me, which sounds very funny) ducks. So, of course, now ducks everywhere have to pay for the sins of a few. Be kind (ducks and y'all).

A note: two quotes which helped me get through this particular week.

'If you fall down 7 times, stand up 8' – a good ‘ol Chinese proverb.
'When you don't know what to do, do nothing. Get quiet so you can hear the still, small voice.' - that one from good 'ol Oprah.
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

doctor love

I have a friend who has fallen in love with her doctor...her plastic surgeon to be exact. Okay,‘fallen in love’ is maybe too strong to say, but she definitely has a big ‘ol, badass crush. She has been watching online videos of him, trying to figure out if she can tell whether he’s married or single. She has rehearsed what she’s going to say when she sees him again at her follow-up appointment. ‘How do you get onto a personal level with a medical practioner?’, she asks me. He is so sweet and warm and friendly. ‘Do you think that he is like that with every patient?’ Hmmm, could be, could be.

Unfortunately, she went to her first two consultations with her husband. So, now there is the added problem in that she thinks that the doc thinks she’s probably not interested in something more, if the doc happened to be interested in something more, because he would think that she thinks that he’s just being nice. Do you get what I’m saying? It’s a conundrum.

In her first follow-up appointment, after surgery, he was very rushed…friendly, but rushed. He inspected his two new creations with warmth and good humour, but in all her anxiety about what to say, she ended up not saying very much. He did tell her that he wants to see her again, a week before Christmas, and so, that’s hopeful. She will dress all up, with an LBD and maybe some cute, kitten heels and tell him that she just happens to be coming from a Christmas party at work. Then she’ll slip him a card inviting him out for a drink. It’ll be her last chance. I mean, hoping that something goes wrong with her post-op recovery just so that she can see him more…that’s just plum crazy, right?

I wonder how many cards he has stashed away in his desk. On the other hand, I think I have read many a story in People and US magazines about very, happy celebs who have lived happily ever after (in Hollywood years) with their plastic surgeons, right? How weird is it to get to second base with someone you like without them knowing that you’re all excited to be at second base. The life of a doctor…uh, plastic surgeon.

P.S. I should say that I am proud of my friend, not necessarily because she had surgery (to each his/her own) but because she had an operation that was for herself and not for attention. I don’t think that there is anyone, other than those close to her, who would be able to tell that she had anything done. I like that. It was a private thing, between her and her husband…and her plastic surgeon.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

sick

I have been felled by the German cold bug and, I don’t think that it’s a relation of the Canadian cold bug…not even a distant cousin. This is a brash and persistent bug; it perseveres even in the face of extra-strength Echinacea and lemon tea. It’s hearty. It toils at its task and doesn’t give up. And, some might even call it unfriendly.

I haven’t had a cold in at least four years. I’ve been flattened by a host of other weird ailments; an infected skin duct, a nasty spider bite, a brutal infected blister, strep throat a couple of times, and a kidney infection. But, the unassuming, Canadian cold bug I have managed to avoid.

Now, for the past week, as I refuse to just lie in bed all day, the cold bug is hanging on. My head feels like a giant melon which might explode at any moment. I keep dropping things (and will need to buy more dishes the moment I feel better) and forgetting why I went all the way downstairs or why did I just put my coat on; where am I driving to? It's been a confusing time.

Not to mention, that the week before, great guy was taken completely out of commission by, what the doctor diagnosed as, wildsauunverträglichkeitsyndrom (translated by oxford, surely, as 'unabletohandlewildsowsyndrome')...I'm not kidding. We had eaten a lovely meal at friends', along with a little too much red wine (which great guy never normally drinks) and the doctor chaulked his 'illness' up to the poor little pig, giving him a sick note for the rest of the week. I'm pretty sure great guy forgot to mention the beverages we had had that night.

So, I will pull myself up by the bootstraps (good thing I recently bought a new pair of tan, suede boots!), like the good half-German that I am and will carry on with my work and play. Granted, working amidst tiny, snotty-nosed children each afternoon does not help, but I will not give up a paycheck for something as un-fun as a cold. Kindergarten must be where Germans build up their immunity to this hard-working little creature. Or…maybe this is where they learn…from the smallest role model. Is this another one of those mustard seed examples?
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