Sunday, April 25, 2010


Granted, I'm not this young or this furry or this cute, but in fact I look a lot like this right now, which is why there is a blogging silence.
As some of you know, I've been ill for a long time now with an auto-immune disease that pretty much took me out of the picture, but I've been getting better gradually.
So last Monday I decided to walk to school again, and promptly fell down, and broke my arm.... which puts me back on the couch, only this time the typing is extra-hard,too.
But I'm still here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

At Home

My sister went to visit our parents on Easter.
I could not go because I am too sick to travel, but I asked her to take a walk with our mother along one very specific trail in the forest and send me lots of pics.
The first image she mailed me was this one, though, and it is such a perfect mirror of our childhood that it made me shudder a little.
What you see here is the apartment building where we moved after we had to leave the dreamy little house in the woods. And yes, you are right, what a culture shock. We came here when I was twelve or so, and my sister a pre-schooler, and moved into a two bedroom place on the 10th floor.
The view was spectacular.

In the far distance, the towers of Frankfurt can be seen. They are amazing and glamorous; it's not called "Mainhattan" for nothing. And still further away, in the distant blue haze, as it were, you can see the Taunus mountains. "Where The Rich People Are".
Everything in between is called "Offenbach". The Jersey of Frankfurt. Which is "at home" for my sister and me. We both attended this high school, the sis with great success, while I was kicked out in grade 11 and had to go somewhere else to get my graduation.

Of that, I've talked already. And yes, this is really a school building. Not kidding you. the arcades in the front? Washrooms. Seriously.

Did you read my blog about our time in Brazil? Here is a memory piece. I had not noticed it in a long while, but now that the sis photographed it, it brought back some memories.  It has been hanging in my parent's hallway for nearly forty years.

So after lunch, my mother and my sister went for a hike on that forest trail.
You may not be able to imagine it, but it begins right behind that monstrous apartment building.
As ugly as that concrete nightmare may be, once you step outside and turn left, you'll find yourself on a slope of grass that leads down to the little river. If you follow it upwards you will have to cross a street and a parking lot, and when you turn around, you'll see this:

I know. Ugly.
But look at it this way: Creativity needs pressure.
This was one of my favorite parts in "Brave New World", where the hero, a writer,  gets to choose where he will go into exile, and he says he wants a rough place, because a soft setting would not motivate him to write. Just maybe, between those beehives in the background and the concert venue in the front, my personal need for a fantasy world, in other words, making up stories.
At that time, a Canadian TV show was running on one of our channels that I loved very much.
It was about a hotel on Lake Huron, somewhere near Sudbury, and I wanted to be there, very badly.
Reminds your of something? Yes, I've come full circle.
Back to that forest walk.
We used to come here often.  From a very uninspiring dirt area, you enter a fairy realm. the amazing part is, it has not changed one bit since I was a child.

It looks a lot prettier in summer, when the trees are green and the ground is covered with those tiny white flowers of which I don't know the name and the path is dry and not a mud-slide.
The forest, once you have left the streets behind,  looks like this.

A typical, German forest in early spring, and my Mom in a red jacket.
To this spot my grandfather used to take us when we were kids. Here, the creek widens and is very shallow. You can't see it right now because of the leaves, but there is actually a kind of sand beach here. We came here for picnics and lazy, hot afternoons.

A walk of twenty minutes from that high rise, and we found ourselves in another world.

I find it oddly reassuring that this little part of the world has not changed at all. It is as if a part of my childhood, and a good one at that, has survived, carved into the stone of time to remind me of my grandparents and how life with them used to be.
A lot of things in Offenbach and Frankfurt have changed, many places have vanished.
The huge white mansion that was my birth clinic, a condo building now. Or maybe even torn down, I don't know. The center of town, taken over by dime stores and Turkish bazars, no longer a small German city center at all. Frankfurt, an international, cosmopolitan metropolis with all the famous designer stores and glitzy restaurants.
But this little corner of forest, curiously unmolested.
Not cut down for cultivation, not altered, nothing. It is just the way it used to be fifty years ago.
In my eyes, a small miracle.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Most Senseless Post Of All-Farmville

(This is NOT my farm. Mine is WAY prettier!!!!)

Julie's sweet little daughter Lucy likes to play "Farmville" on her Mom's facebook account.
Some of my fb friends play it, too, have done it for the longest time, to the merriment and ridicule of the "Scrabblers" and "Social City" or whatever gamers, and I have refused the temptation of any of those games for the longest time. At one point I even posted that no, I would not be drawn into the time-consuming insanity of these online thingies, and PLEASE people, grow up.
(Strangely, no one ever says anything negative about online Scrabble. Now why is that?)

A few days ago, when I was feeling really miserable with my sickness, depressed and hurting, I succumbed. And found out how pretty this can be.... all those nice trees and cute animals, and I'm really liking the rice paddies (if you decide to grow rice, that is) when you can still see the water.... so serene, especially if you surround them with cherry trees.
I'm a sucker for the trees. Honestly, farmville got me with the trees. The white Dogwood Tree? SO pretty. And the Bunyan Tree, I spent so many virtual coins for it, and then it is so huge that I'm having trouble placing it. But oh how I love the cherry and plum trees! It might be cherry blossom time in DC right now, but hey, the Basin is NOTHING compared to the blooming cherries on my farm!

Now here's the quirky part: after I had collected some animals, I started making up stories about them.
Right now, my two mares are really angry at me because I had to send on the "Wandering Stallion" who had got lost on my farm. Could not keep him, the Farmville Gods had not planned for that. So they went to the other end of the farm where they are now sulking. On the way there, they did their business into the duck pond, which set off the ducks and made them drive off the Ugly Duckling, who has a hard time finding his place in our community anyway.
The Sunny Ewe feels she is having a permanent bad hair day, what with those Easter eggs dangling over her ears, even though I tried to reassure her that it was the latest fashion (what WERE the creators thinking???).
Little White Bunny is sad because its sibling got lost in the transfer from Rula's farm. She is afraid it ended up in a strange place and might get eaten by a topiary.
Speaking of which.... the Green Calf complained this morning that the other, normal little calves would not play with him. He looked like a plant, they said. A friend of mine has the same problem with her Green Lamb, which has now bonded with a topiary sheep, and we are wondering when an animal therapist will be available in the shop.
Who could also look after the Pink Cow and the other critters that are slightly off center. That cow, btw., is a lot better since she adopted the orphan calves that had wandered into my farm, but she too wants nothing to do with the green one. Speak of snottiness.
Oh, which brings me to my pigs.
They are ganging up around the hay bales. I don't know why, but they have their snouts VERY close together, and they have been whispering all day long. Makes me think of "Animal Farm", and now I'm really scaring myself.
The goats are suspiciously quiet today, which is never a good sign. I need to keep an eye on them. They do this all the time: look innocent and breed mischief.
Which leaves me with my big wish: if only someone would send me a Percheron! I love Percherons, but I can't afford to buy one.... not for a long while yet.
So please, no more tomatoes, send me a horse. And make it a stallion so the mares will come out of their rooms again and talk to me!
Thank you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Peddling, And What They Get.

Nettie brought this on, I have to admit.
She posted a hilarious and wonderful blog on how she deals with sales-calls on the phone, and I must say, this is where it comes in handy to have a prolific fantasy.
It has stopped now, but for the longest time we used to get visits from people of the "Jehova's Witnesses" church, and from Mormon youngsters who were doing their duty overseas.
I don't like soliciting of any kind, but religious soliciting is beyond my tolerance.
You don't have a lot of time to come up with something original once the door bell rings and someone holds up a pamphlet up under your nose and intones, "The Lord be praised!"
Yes. Ma'am. I praise the Lord. But I don't need your help to do it.
There is a standard way. I don't look too German, and when I'm alone at home, I'm a t-shirt and sweat pants slobber.
So here is the easy version: clutch the hem of your shirt, knit it anxiously, and say (loudly; Turkish women have generally loud voices. At least here.) "HUSBAND NOT AT HOME! NO SPEAK GERMANY!! ALLAH IS GREAT!"
That sends them away. Every time.
The second approach is "The Stout Believer".
"I have my own faith, and you will not deter me. Amen. Go away." THAT will make them hesitate, but delivered in a stout manner, make them move on.

Now if I have a moment to prepare myself and I'm in the right mood, they get the "Alien" treatment.
It is a little time consuming, but worth the effort, and it goes like this.

Ring. Ring.
I open the door. Two young men, both in badly fitting black suits,  white shirts and ugly ties, their hair plastered to their foreheads, their chins shaved to an inch of their lives, and shining zeal in their eyes, a book in their hands, come up the stairs.
Not evil people. Just young Americans who do their duty for their religion and their congregation, but sadly come to my evil lair.
They are so polite and nice, and they try to tell me that there is only ONE way to find God and consequently salvation, and that is the bad part, because THAT I do not believe,
Never have, never will. Sorry.
I wring my hands and take a deep, painful sigh.
"It's so good that you are here!"
This confuses them. They are not used to pleas for help.
"I've been tortured by this question," I say, "And no one can give me an answer."
Expectant glances, a hopeful expression, and for a moment I feel like a pig.
"Do you think," delivered in a measured, breathless voice, "That Jesus also cares for the other planets?"
Bewilderment, and for a few instants,  silence.
So I go on: "Jesus. Is he only responsible for Earth? Or does God want him to look after all the other planets, too? Or is there a Son of God for every inhabited planet? Because, you know, that would keep God pretty busy, would it not, in the son-making department? I mean, just think of that "Alien" movie? Does Jesus look like an Alien there? One of those monsters with the ugly metal teeth and the acid  breath?"
And some more in that vein, Use your imagination, you can play it out endlessly.

They find excuses pretty fast. Every time. And they leave. I never get an answer to this one, sadly.
So this is my "how to deal with peddlers" story.
None of it is true, of course.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bonfire Night

This is our beach. Seriously. It is within spitting distance from our house. It's not on a lake or the sea, but on a big river called the Elbe, just downriver from Hamburg.
Without the fire and with a ship on it, it looks like this.

Our little town lies nestled into a wide, open country called "Marsch", flat lands that go on and on all the way to the North Sea, soft, rich meadows veined with little rivers and interrupted by copses of gnarled willow over which the wind blows without hinderances. if you find a place that is only a little higher up, like a dam, you can see forever.....

We moved here twenty-two years ago, from Southern Germany. The landscape there is so different.
There are forests and hills and mountains and rich fields with golden corn, and well, there are forests. Deep, dark, huge forests.
Here, there were none. Only these meagre stunted trees and the endless green.
And if ever a tsunami should hit this coast, it will roll all the way to our doorstep.
It was not easy getting used to this landscape, and to its people.
The landscape is rough, and the people are taciturn, gruff, with a very special kind of humor. They don't make friends easily, and they are not easy-going, either. On the upside, once you get to know them and they accept you, they'll stick with you for life. They won't talk a lot, but they sure know how to party.

Today is Easter Saturday. The one day in the year when the Marsh lights up with the fires.
In the morning, there will be no more than this: a big heap of wood, consisting of assiduously collected Christmas Trees and and garden cuttings. brought together by the local firefighters. Stands will be set up, and porta-potties, and a First Aid tent.

There were church services in the late afternoon, and now, after darkness has fallen, the fires are going up.
A ship  on its way upstream to the Hamburg Harbor will see our bonfire, and many others like it along its way, since the land is so flat.
These fires are a promise, and a welcome signal.
They promise us that winter is finally over, and they welcome the coming warmth and light of summer.
On a more mundane note, this are also the first official barbeque event of the year. The sausages are a little better smoked than normally, but they are delicious.
Right now, I'm sitting on the couch, in our living room, with the terrace door open to catch the scent of the fires, even if we can't see them.
The night is dry and not too cold. There will be a lot of people down by the beach, and many of them will be there to see the dawn.
Some of them will end up in the ER because they are drunk, or burned a hand, or fell into the water.
But in the end, once the sun is up, it will be Easter Sunday, and spring will be here.