30 September 2009

What I am reading: September 2009

  1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (tran. Lucia Graves): Wonderful book. I am so glad that one of my book clubs chose this. Very dense and reminiscent, strongly, of Dumas, particularly The Count of Monte Cristo. Particularly appropriate as it was set in Barcelona and I'll be there the first weekend of October.
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow: I thought this was a charming epistolary novel. It made me think of childhood and Daddy Long Legs (the book, not the movie!). A quick read and for my book club- I loaned it to a friend from Manx and she says that it was irrtatingly clear that it was written by an American, so I look forward to hearing why she felt so and how she felt it might have been done differently. I was glad to read it though, and can recommend it.
  3. The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt by Wilhelm Genazino (tran. Philip Boehm): Genazino has won several German literary awards and I'm not quite certain why. This book was originally called Ein Regenschirm fuer diesen Tag, or An Umbrella for this Day and it perhaps was more apropos when reading this lachrymose stream of consciousness novel. But it was extraordinarily tedious. 132 pages and it took me 5 days to force myself through it.
  4. Curse the Dawn by Karen Chance: Another in the Cassie Palmer Pythia series. Well done, no falling off in quality at all, imho.
  5. Spirits that Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: Another good Hoffman read. A "normal" freshman at college discovers that her roommate is a member of a clan with powers. But Kim is not exactly normal: as an extremely talented artist, she's been targeted by anoter of the races that share the earth with humans, one that feeds on emotions and has become unhealthily addicted to negative emotions. Lots of fun.
  6. Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce: A YA novel by a writer whose work I always enjoy. Done first as an audio book by FullCast Audio and written especially for that production, she later wrote the actual novel of the audio play. Enjoyable maturation story of a Sone Mage and a look at Stone magic and the threat of a volcano on an island. As I plan on seeing Pompeii next month, I enjoyed that aspect very much.
  7. Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce: I have waited for a long time for this sequel to Terrier and I wasn't disappointed at all. Second in the 'Legend of Beka Cooper' I am really enjoying theis (adult) series about the growth of Rebakah from the slums into the Hounds (the King's "police" force) and the exploration of the society she lives in. I hope Mastiff doesn't take as long to arrive!

23 September 2009

An Expat Meme...

Ian ran this meme and I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions as well. I won't tag anyone, but if anyone runs it, drop a line so we can check it out.

  • How long have you lived away from your home country? It's been 26 months now.
  • Do you still feel like you’re just visiting? Gosh yes. Although, I lived in NYC for years and sort of felt like I was still visiting as well. I am pretty comfortable now, and it has taken the two years to be so. But the lack of language skills and the behavioral differences will always let me know that I am not a native.
  • What do you notice the most has changed about your home country when you go back for a visit? The great recession has had an extremely negative impact on the economy. Lots of empty houses, closed businesses, sales at prices that my Euro accustomed eye find terribly low. But also more poverty and more visible poverty and decay.
  • If you were to move again, would it be back to your home country? Not sure. For family sake, perhaps, but there are many other countries I wouldn't mind being an expat in. Right now, we are here for the kids and for social interaction with my husband's family and it has worked extremely well.
  • Do you ever get homesick? Not really. When I run up against a really awful German interaction, yes. Generally (except for certain things, most importantly the food), I like it here. That's because I can watch American TV and movies and local news: if I couldn't, I think I would have failed at this.
  • If you read the news, do you read it in your native language or that of your host country? Watch it on my local (US home) station, read it in US (and UK and English language German) on-line papers.
  • What do you like the most about Germany? I love the social system. I admire it and hope the US achieves it. With that is the respect for children and women and their lives, as well as that shown for immigrants and minorities. This is exhibited though support to parents, to children, kitas, schools and universities, mandated vacation and quality of life regulations, integration courses and the medial and other support systems. I am happy to pay taxes to support this system and think it to be fair.
  • What grates you the most? The thing that bothers me most is the German desire to follow the letter of the law rather than to arrive at a conclusion which is desireable to all parties. That need to follow the rules, no matter how silly or wrong or resulting in the wrong finish, pervades almost everything. Which, annoyingly enough, is matched with the German way of finagling the rules through personal connection and rules bending. As an American, I find it unfair. I think my national characteristic has me exclaiming: That's not fair or equitable, while a German might cry: Das ist nicht in Ordnung!--- That's followed closely by my hatred of the Sunday shopping rules, which cause problems to those of us who would like to keep the Sabbath on Saturday, although it's much better than it was 10 years ago.
  • Did you speak the language of your host country before you arrived? Not more than 10 words.
  • How long did it take before you felt comfortable speaking the language? Although I will speak in it readily, I always know that I am doing it badly.
  • If people switch to English when you speak to them in their language, how do you react? Only folks of good will do that, and I therefore am grateful- may I note that Beamtors actually, rather than switching to English, appear to switch to a form of German that is even harder than the regular sort. Although Beamtors have no problem understanding my (admittedly horrible German), they appear incapable of helping me to understand them in any way. If I want to practice my German with the regular sort of nice folk, I have plenty of opportunity at my childrens' schools, where most teachers and parents speak German in dialogue. In fact, most folks I interact with, even if they speak English, will pretend not to do so, although understanding me when I fumble and throw some in. I think that goes to national character: they desire not to display a less than perfect command of the language. Perhaps my experiences are different because so many of the people that I come into contact with are not business people or Anglophone expats.
  • What has been the biggest change you’ve had to make in leaving your home country?Not going out to work, living in a world where I don't understand the ambient conversation, finding hidden pork in many products (e.g. jello-equivalent and Haribo), inability to speak to the general population fluently and understanding that general friendliness is considered a sign of weakness.
  • If there were a button to improve anything about your expatriate life, what would it say on the button?I'll echo everyone else and say-"Free trips home"- the cost(in time as well as money) of flying overseas to see family is very high. Or second best: University level Understanding of German.

12 September 2009

The unblogged period...

I've started several posts in varying stages of completion, but if I don't actually finish one, I think I could just stay there, in the never ending search for completion and perfection while life continues.

It's been busy.

  1. We came back.
  2. My younger daughter went back to kita and my older was allowed back, but I spent a bit of independent time with her.
  3. We went to the Olympic Stadium swim baths twice, the first time with both girls meeting a friend and her daughter, and the second time T2 was at kita while T1 and two of her friends came with me. That was an intricate juggling act, dropping 1 off, using a spare car seat and running 3 girls to the bathrooms and back. It was great and the weather has been absolutely amazing. The view in that link is from the diving platform and adult pool but there are two children's pools out of shot that are great, one shallower than the other. I had been a bit chaotic that morning, throwing everythig together and I wound up leaving my beloved spray on sunscreen at the kita after spraying T2. that lead to me obsessively slathering all three girls with cream sun block, but forgetting my own back: my first sunburn in 20 years and I get it in Berlin, land of perpetual grey. Amazing. We stayed for about 4.5 hours and it was great and exhausting.
  4. I had to purchase the 27 specifically (to the brand of the oil crayons and the color of the schnellheftes) required items for T1's schulranzen and find her uniform in local stores.
  5. T1 had her einschuling, followed by her first day and week of school, including her first trip to a sportshall.
  6. We are continuing our ballete and swimming lessons start next week, twice a week.
  7. We are also attempting to survive having to get up over 1 hour earlier. Poor T2 needs to be woken by me every morning and they are at school 1 hour plus earlier while I pick them up an average 1 hour later every day. T2 has been falling asleep i the car on the way back. On the plus side, although still a bit annoying in the evenings (crany from being over tired) she's going to sleep better and not annoying T1 with wanting to play after lights out.
  8. I had a bookclub (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon). It was fun to get out, but exhausting. The book came late, and I really enjoyed it, but it was long!
  9. I started another German class, this time at my local VHS. I took the placement test and we talked out whether I should go A1.2 or A2.1. I know quite a bit of grammar, but after a year without really speaking German or taking classes, it's clear that I am missing a real ground in my articles. So I started the same day as T1 in my new school:). Although I know the grammar already, I am being pounded with using it correctly, and with the proper grammar following from the correct articles, which is just what I need now. (although now the teacher is discussing whether I should move up to A2.1. It would be more challenging, but A1.2 is moving too slowly.)
  10. The German has been gone 9 of the last 11 days and I am not too happy with it.
  11. T1 had an allergic reaction to one of the school uniforms and we had to change some fabrics.
Maybe if I publish this, I will overcome my inertia enough to start posting regularly again...

11 September 2009


I spent today in class and dropped off and picked up the children without a single person seeming to remember the date.

It took me quite a while to get over my PTSD after 9/11, not helped by the waves of layoffs at PwC that caught me in their third wave.

When I think about it, I still feel the emotions roll over me in waves. Yet I lost no one personally, only friends of friends, a person met in training, people from my town and from my neighborhoods, co-workers a division removed. I commuted through there, worked there, had friends and loved ones who have also done both. The smell permeated my neighborhood for months. The loss is personal and universal and my remembrance is both visceral and involuntary.

I remember September 11, 2001.