31 December 2007

Sick again and again...

Sunday December 30: I have finally recovered from what was apparently a bacterial superinfection after the flu. The girls were out of school for one week, then they both went back for two days and in those days I went to two doctors, got a scrip for ten days of doxycycline and started to feel better a few days later. But on Tuesday Thing1 had what seemed to be a burn on her finger and that evening she developed an earache which got worse and worse as the evening wore on. Although she went to sleep, she woke up late in pain and the German wound up going to the children’s emergency at about 2 am, which definitely was not something that 1 wanted! The doctor there said that the pain was a result of a build up of fluid behind her sinuses and that we needed to get her mucus to loosen, so that was our next try, with a prescription nasal spray and an emphasis on blowing.

But of course I kept her home the following day and she went with me to my doctor. On the way home I noticed that she was limping and when I looked at the bottom of her foot I saw what appeared to be a wart, so that evening we called Dr. R and asked him what to do and of the two choices (cut out or medicate) we decided on medication. So, off to the Apotheke for wart medication. However, when I examined her foot on Thursday, the spot had blown up and no longer looked like a wart, but rather seemed like her finger, which we now decided was an infection rather than a burn. So, another call to Dr. R later, the German came home early and ran 1 to his practice. Speed was of the essence because almost everything and everyone closes down in Germany for the Christmas holidays. Dr. R decided to lance both and start 1 on antibiotics because of his concern that she might develop an infection over the holidays. So, antibiotic for the next 8 days and a second visit Friday morning to do a second lancing, just to be sure before the long holiday.
On Saturday we had hoped to take the children to visit the KinderWeihnachmarkt at the Citadel in Spandau, but it was too cold and raw, so we just cleaned up, packed up and had lunch before heading off to my in-laws for the next week. The German makes the trip far more tolerable because he manages to make it in an average of 3.5 hours, rather than the 6+ hours that it takes F. There is much to be said for the Autobahn when one lives in the hinterlands .

We stayed in the Sauerlands from Saturday night through Friday the 28th and it felt like a milder reprise of August in NY : our palette load had finally arrived and when picked it up at Bremerhoven three weeks ago, we discovered that all of the boxes had been opened and examined. Now we found that they had been left on the dock uncovered and there had been water exposure and damage. So we spent several days moving boxes, opening boxes, repacking boxes, examining boxes. We were clearly punch drunk toward the end of our packing in NY, because we actually sent a box of paperwork that we had planned on hand carrying and I was very grateful to see it.

We wound up staying through Friday rather than leaving Thursday because we needed to run to Ikea and pick up a bookcase and a double wardrobe to actually allow us to make a habitable area. The wardrobe was a hack for the German to put together, because the ceiling is low and he had to put it together standing up. Took some time but by Thursday night we actually were able to hang clothing up for the first time (there are no closets in Germany and there had been only a tiny armoire in the apartment). I also unloaded all my book boxes and filled two Billy book cases (we got the new black with white flowers design: pretty cool). Other than the packing and moving it was a gentle and relaxed vacation. F & G had a tree, which the kids liked looking at. They also had real candles, which I found strangely hypnotic to watch (as well as a strand of electric candles). We took a run into Soest to buy a humidifier and some undershirts for the girls and met C for a coffee and cake. We found all their Little People figures and most of R’s toys and games in the new boxes, so the girls were ecstatic. We had a traditional (sort of) Christmas Eve dinner of potato salad and bratwurst (although in this case they were a very untraditional turkey sausage) and on Christmas day Gerlind made beef for us (and rabbit for the others). On Wednesday, we all shared a raclette dinner. We socialized with sister-in-law G and her friend C, sister-in-law C and her husband E and their kids K and B through most of the week and stopped in to say hello to the German's uncle H and aunt U and their daughter C and her friend A.

Thing1 fell in love with their cat Shnurri (which means purrer). We came back Friday evening (December 28th)and unpacked and piled boxes everywhere (we brought a lot of stuff back with us- cake mixes, cereal, peanut butter, books, toys, 1's costumes, more winter clothes, etc). I was grateful that we had gotten the Mercedes R320TDI as our rental: not only is it a super car to drive in, with great handling and a wonderful ride, but there’s a huge amount of space in it, so we could load up.

Saturday morning we dashed out to the Kaufland and then to Ikea to pick up a bookcase for here in Berlin (we got a Billy and a Benno to hold CDs and DVDs). Then we stopped at the Post on the way back to grab a package (with an automated package retrieval system-very interesting and efficient) then ran back to unload and take the care seats out before the German had to return the car and grab the kids so that I could run to get my hair done. I finally got my hair cut (and colored) on Saturday for the first time since July- I feel like a new person! I know that I should be able to get things done on a regular basis, but with class until 1 pm and the girls getting home at 2:30 and then being sick so much, it’s been impossible and this was great. Maybe I will even be able to get my nails done some time! We put the bookcase and a Benno together and loaded them up with all my books and magazines and CDs and DVDs and the place is really beginning to be under control: I really can’t live for any period of time without having a bookcase available.

We weren’t able to get a babysitter for New Year’s, so instead we had booked someone for Sunday afternoon, which gave us the opportunity to have brunch at the local Greek place and then to walk around the Museum isle and look at a craft market. It was nice to spend a few hours with the German without the girls and it gave us the opportunity to check out our new babysitter, S , who will be watching the girls next week when we are at The Ring of the Nibelung over the next two weeks. The girls loved her, so we are pretty happy about it- wouldn’t want to worry through 24 hours of opera!

16 December 2007

Sick again...

Well, we are winding up another week of solid illness here. Sometimes I think that my in-laws might be plague carriers, but then I just acknowledge that we have absolutely no resistance to German disease at this point. So, first we get sick from the children that 1 and 2 are exposed to at school and get Berlin diseases, and then we visit or are visited by F and G and get all the Nord-Rhineland Westphalian bacteria that K and B are exposed to and we get even sicker from them. Hopefully we will develop some type of immunity before we leave Germany that will allow us to have just a single month without illness….

12/16 On Sunday morning Thing 1 developed a type of allergic rash that we thought might have been provoked by the pony ride on Saturday, but she had had a bath and had new clothes, so no. I gave her a bath and she seemed to improve, but after everyone left (the German needed to work, as he had a huge deadline this week) she blew up again and I got quite frightened. Her face was almost unrecognizable. I called the German to find out what to do, he called the pediatrician, and Dr. R came, on his motorcycle, on a Sunday, to make a housecall. Wow. So that’s what it was like in the 1950’s!
Thing1 is on an allergy medication and we need to see how it plays out before, perhaps, having her re-tested for allergies. Anyway, we have spent the week in the grip of the grippe. I haven’t had a real flu in ages and had forgotten how awful it is. Deep bone pain, intense head-ache, waves of heat and cold. The girls went in and out of high fever as well. It’s Saturday night now and we all seem to have reached, 6 days later, the level of deep, racking, phlegm-filled coughs and I alone have achieved the status of completely voiceless. We had hoped to go to a Weihnuka (Weinacht + Hanuka) festival tonight in Prenzlauer-Berg, but our babysitter came down ill with this same flu (which we almost certainly gave to her) and therefore we are staying home, coughing, eating carry-in Chicken Jahlfrezi and Sheekh Kebab and watching Blood Diamond. This is an absolutely horrifying movie about the murderous RUF in Sierra Leone and although I had known most of the background information, seeing it enacted was far more horrible than reading about it.

----We have had to just stop it, because Thing2 can’t sleep and the German is holding her and we can’t have her seeing any of that for at least the next 14 or so years, so An Unpleasant Truth is what we are watching now. Interesting movie.---- And back to BD…I am really impressed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He shows a depth of character (and acting ability) in this movie (playing a miserably greedy diamond dealer) that I find impressive. The movie was overwhelming. I can’t understand how anyone could bear to watch it in a movie theatre, because I could barely manage to watch it at home. I can see why Angelina Jolie adopts orphans, because when watching this movie, I wanted to adopt one as well. And she is seeing them in reality. Well worth seeing, but on the small screen, where one can pause to relieve the overwhelming nature of the subject and the sheer horror of its (accurate) depiction.
Well, at least in one way this movie has succeeded. Neither the German nor I will ever again buy a diamond that has not been certified conflict free. And I’m not certain I will ever want a diamond again. On to watch an episode of House. I can’t handle another serious movie this evening!

General News: While suffering through the worst illness he has had, the German managed to work overtime and on the weekend pulling through a major crisis at work. All went well and we have been extended here through March 31st, which we had been hoping for. Because we had been hoping for the extension, we didn’t give notice at school, or arrange for an integration course in the Sauerland or discuss start dates in Duesseldorf, about which I am very pleased. Germans don’t seem to do well with spontaneity or changing plans.

14 December 2007

Chanukah in Berlin

Today Thing1 had a party at school.

Although school is, to me, a black hole because she never speaks of what occurs there, this time I had guessed that there would be dancing because she has been dancing around the apartment for over a week. It was really sweet: the three different groups danced and sang. One section was water pitchers, another was candles and danced with flashlights, and Thing1 got her dreidal filled with cookies (which she kept and ate!) and I was given her Hanukiah (called a menorah, incorrectly, in the US), which she made herself!

While I was chatting with her teacher, S, Thing1 disappeared and when I tracked her down, she was playing with Thing2. N, 2's teacher, says that she frequently stops in to play with her and that it makes 2 very happy. I am so glad that they can be together like this. I took heaps of pictures (even a small movie on my camera!), so I hope that I will be able to get one on here before I send this off.

My friend J asked if there were differences between Chanukah here and at home. The major difference is that Chanukah is really a private thing here, that the Jewish community is really tightly knit, because it is as if Jews don’t exist. In a nice way, I guess. It’s just that not a single store has a Chanukah card, or wrap, or books, or info. That the only place to find anything relating to Judaism is in a Judaica store, at an extremely high price. Which I also find really annoying because there is just no reason for things to be priced so high as we are so close to Israel here. I went to the Chanukah bazaar at the Community Center, but it was disappointing. Also very expensive and not much Judaica- a startlingly large amount of ordinary stuff and the interesting looking book display was all in Geman, of course, and my reading comprehension, although better than my hearing and speaking, does not run to “real” books.

11 December 2007

Opera News

We went to Die Zauberflaute on December 10th (feeling quite ill, but couldn’t exchange the tickets on less than three days notice). C watched the children and I met the German at the Comic Opera. It was interesting, but a real disappointment. I have been trying to see The Magic Flute for years but this version was a bit of a stretch from what I had expected. It was perverse, with currents of sado-masochism and perversion evident. In addition, perhaps someone can tell me whether there should have been an undercurrent of paedophilia present in the characters of the Three Boys? For me, the last straw was that the character of the Moor was played in black-face. I understand that this may be a tradition in Germany (see St. Nicholas’ Black Peter) but I just found it too offensive, particularly since it wasn’t even mentioned in the program as being an artistic or historic choice. Ah well, the music was lovely.

Our other Opera news is The Ring of the Nibelung cycle. I had been quite disappointed to miss the cycle at the Metropolitan this year, so I was really pleased when we were extended here and I saw that we would be able to go see it at the Deutsche Opera, where I am hoping for a much more traditional setting than at the Komische Oper. It’s funny: I asked the German for the tickets as our holiday gifts to ourselves and said that we couldn’t get them until we were certain that C and her cohort of partner babysitters could cover the days. After he got the tickets, he said that he wasn’t certain why I was so concerned as it was only a few hours per evening. That concerned me, since I knew the cycle should run about 20 hours. Turns out he only looked at the time for Das Rhinegeld and didn’t notice the three other 5.5 hour productions….The strangest thing was that although the tickets were only purchasable as a set, we were not able to buy the same seats for each show or even stay in the same price category. Why wouldn’t the company sell you a set that was the same seats for all the productions?

10 December 2007

Domain Dahlem

In the morning, it wasn’t raining! The reason that deserves an exclamation point is that it has rained every darned weekend basically since we got here. And being cold as well, it has been hard to do things with the children. But on Saturday, the sun was shining, so we bundled everyone up and went off to Domaine Dahlem, a working farm here in the city which also holds markets on the weekends. Rebekah got to ride a pony and was pretty excited. We also ate some traditional German foods (in my case, a plate of new potatoes with a side of herbed quark- a dairy product similar to sour cream in taste but with far less fat and more taste) and the others drank Gluhwein- I donated the majority of my glass to the common cause because I am just so slow at drinking hot beverages.. Before we left, we spent about 15 minutes watching a fire eater. His patter was very funny and Rebekah loved it.

We had hoped to go to Masters of Gregorian Chant on Saturday night, but they were sold out and when we looked for scalped tickets, we could only find one. So we had a really good dinner instead (Ernst’s parents were in for the weekend and had given us a night of babysitting as a gift for his birthday). We went to a Tibetan place around the corner from the Passionskirche (where the concert was) in Kreuzberg, and it was delicious. The appetizer was momo balls and they were so good that if we go again I think I would choose to have them for dinner. Our meals were also very good (my curry chicken was quite spicy) but those momo balls! After dinner, we visited a Weihnachtsmarkt, a holiday market of which there are what appear to be hundreds here!

We were aiming for the Nostalgic Weihnachtmarkt opposite the State Opera, but we got off at the wrong subway stop (or left the station from the wrong side) and instead wound up at the Gendarmenmarkt, the city’s most famous and posh market. It was very nice- I will definitely head back with the SLR to take pictures and purchase some things.