Archive for August, 2006

August 28, 2006

And so it begins…

I have been in Germany for almost two weeks now. Upon landing in Frankfurt I said good-bye to my parents and got on a train to Dresden. The owner of my apartment picked me up from the train station in Radeberg after a tricky transfer in Dresden with two huge, heavy bags. I felt bad for the poor old man who tried to be macho (or nice?) and carry one of my bags. He disappeared quite quickly once he got me up the stairs onto the platform!

I finally made it into Radeberg and to my first-ever very-own apartment. It is fabulous. A blue kitchen (how did they know I liked blue so much?), a small livingroom, and (the best part) winding stairs down to my bedroom. I have two toilet/shower cubbies that are tiny but functional and wonderful bay windows from floor to ceiling in the living and bed rooms.

After settling in in Radeberg, I ventured the trains with my trusty German Rail pass once more. This time to the Lake of Constance to my grandmother’s new assisted-living apartment. A trip that by car takes maybe six or so hours took over ten hours by train. I probably rode through most of Bavaria (which was new to me, and quite beautiful if a bit long). Arriving in Friedrichshafen I walked two blocks to Oma’s new home, right across the street from the Lake. It was really nice. We took walks along the waterfront and I went to the farmer’s market and bought my favorite bread in the world: Zellerbrot. It was delicious! Friedrichshafen, and the Lake in general, is a favorite vacation spot for Germans. Hotels are pricy, especially in summer, and we joked that I had a free “Lakeside Room” at Oma’s.

Friedrichshafen is beautiful: Switzerland and Austria are on the opposite shore, and on clear days you can see the Sentis, a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Ferries travel across the lake every hour, and you can take paddle boats onto the Lake as well. The coolest thing is that Friedrichshafen is home of the Zeppelin. My late Opa was fascinated with it. Shortly before he became sick, he filmed the whole scene as they launched the first modern Zeppelin. I really enjoyed watching the Zeppelin last week as it took its periodic sightseeing trips over the Lake. While Opa never got a ride in one, it seems to me like each time I see it, he’s right along flying with it.

Next stop was Tübingen to my parent’s apartment. It’s very nice – newly renovated – and the city is as lively and young as it’s ever been. It was really nice to go back there. I only stayed there two nights before I hopped back on a train to come back to Radeberg. Nine hours later I made it. I have learned in the meantime that it is almost as fast to get between southwest Germany and Dresden with local trains as it is the fast ICE trains. Insane. But, on the plus side, once my rail pass is used up, it means I can still get down there relatively cheaply.

Tomorrow I am off to Hamburg! In about twenty-four hours I will be standing in the Stadt am Wasser again. I’m very excited to see my friends and be back in the beautiful city. I had gotten so used to missing Hamburg that I was pleasantly surprised at how excited I got when I finalized plans to return.

Next week is the orientation program and the week after I begin teaching at the Humboldt Gymnasium. I’ve talked with two teachers at the school and they both seemed very nice and excited that I will be there. Of course, I’m quite nervous, especially since most of my teaching experience has been at the elementary school level. But Fulbright picked me for a reason and, if nothing else, I trust them that they know I can handle it!

August 10, 2006

A Home for my Cello!

My father has spent most of my life, and before (sometimes called “B.K.”), trying to find something equivalent to German bread in the States. After striking out in stores and bakeries, he began baking his own by using his mother’s recipe. For years I was the girl who had peanut butter and jelly with homemade bread in my school lunches. None of my friends really understood how I could eat “just” cheese on my sandwiches and no deli meats. It was a traumatic time. However, my dad struggled with keeping his bread fresh, making it crispy enough, and countless other problems. Each week he tried tweaking things a bit differently, but he wasn’t ever satisfied. After I had graduated and gone to college, he discovered a local man who built his own wood-fired ovens and was active in the community to get local organizations and restaurants to do the same. My father spent three months reading his book and planning to dismantle our beautiful “tree house” to turn the space into his bakery (the house was built on stilts, because although there were fifteen trees in our yard, none were sufficient to hold a house). Finally, he did it. It took him only three days, using clay dirt from our own yard, and it was done. A wood-fired oven. It has taken him another three years to become satisfied with his bread, and if you ask me, he’s still not. But, the bread is delicious and while I still can’t bring myself to eat it with peanut butter and jelly, it makes great Tillamook cheddar cheese sandwiches. Though the best is eating it fresh from the oven – it is an experience of delectable melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Out of this oven has come other wonders – including the quite black-looking yet still raw on the inside French Bread Fiasco (the oven was hotter than we thought). My parent’s first experiment in making pizza turned into what they baptized “Pizza Scramble.” On the flip side, we have made many an excellent Julia Child pork roast as well as baked string beans and many other casseroles and pies. By now, my dad has pizza down pat. So when our friends Libby and Jerry came down from Washington this week, we thought we’d invite one of my dad’s colleagues, Myles, and have a pizza party. And what a party it was! Myles, a rugby player, told us about how he loves cricket for the pims and the fact that rain causes a draw. He couldn’t understand why people respected the last batter who could stall for five hours. The only part he thought was worth watching in the World Cup was when Zenadine Zidan head-butted the Italian (“Finally there was action!”). He wants to turn my dad’s backyard oven into a pizza empire and sell “Bearcat Pizza” at the Willamette football games. He promised to be the bearcat mascot.

One of my first real interactions with Myles (besides being present at an Easter egg hunt in which he rooted for the three-year-old boy and taught him high-fives and cheers) was a cello jam session. My cello teacher, also a professor at Willamette, had arranged quartets for celli while in college at Oberlin and pulled them out once during my lesson. He invited Myles as well as a retired computer science professor and amateur cellist. It was a great time, and while I was by far the worst player in the group, I thought it was cool that I could have so much fun with people all of whom could by my father or grandfather.

A year or so later, as I was beginning my senior year of high school, Myles was at a barbecue at my house. It must have been the first day of school, and I already had pre-calculus homework. Math has never been my forté: I spent two years in Algebra II and distinctly remember as a child writing that I would be an elementary school teacher when I grew up but would get someone else to teach math. Naturally, I didn’t want to do my math homework, and I moaned and groaned about it enough that Myles picked up on it and said “It’ll take two minutes, trust me.” He coached me through my first pre-calculus assignment, and I remember him saying “The people who are going to go places with their lives will never stop until it’s graduation day.” That stuck with me the whole year, and kept me going many times when I wanted to give up and just let senioritis take over.

So when at this recent pizza party the cello came up as a topic, I jumped on the opportunity. I asked Myles if he’d be interested in babysitting mine and he kindly accepted. So, as he got back into his Ford Focus later that evening, my cello sat happily in the back seat on its way up to live in Portland for the year. As he was leaving he asked if I ever polished it. He said he polishes his every once in a while and would polish mine too. I know it will be in good hands.

August 7, 2006

Birthday!

My birthday was this past Saturday, the fifth, and thanks to everyone who sent me messages, postcards, ecards, and who were able to personally wish me well! It really helped me to have a happy birthday. It started Friday night when my boyfriend David and I went up to Portland to see our coworker Anton perform with his band, The Plastic Age, at the Towne Lounge. It was a great evening – we went with a good high school friend, Melissa, and her boyfriend. We stayed up way too late, but David celebrated my birthday at midnight by buying me a gin and tonic. Yum!

My actual birthday was bitter sweet. One of David’s best friends from elementary school through high school passed away in a swimming accident on the coast a couple weeks ago. His celebration of life was Saturday afternoon. It was a wonderful celebration with many of his friends and family there and sharing stories about a wonderful person. It reminded me that our lives are so much shorter and more precious than we tend to realize, and that what matters is nurturing the relationships we have around us.

In the evening I cooked dinner for some family friends, a small dinner party with carrot cake and cream cheese frosting for dessert. It was a wonderful way to end the day – good friends and good food.

Things are slowly shaping up for take-off in nine days. Time flies. Now, where oh where to store my cello for a year? Once I’ve figured that out, I will feel much more comfortable about leaving…