Monday, September 24, 2012

Cakes & tears

One of my study participants baked me a cake today. She told me she was going to do it last week, but in my insane busy-ness, I completely forgot. She brought me a white chocolate cake in the shape of Hello Kitty, covered with pink icing and white star sprinkles. She wrapped it carefully as she knew I'd have to transport it all the way to my apartment, and she made me promise to share it with my kids. When she handed it to me, I immediately started crying. She thought it was sweet.

T-minus 9 days and at least a million sad & happy tears until we leave Germany. I have a few days in review to do before we leave though, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stolen moments

Stolen obscure snapshots can be like tiny peeks into another world. I adore a casual moment of magnificently unexpected candor, and try to breathe in these moments of fantastically complex humanity whenever I encounter them.

This morning I walked past a suburban construction site to find a lone worker holding a level as a microphone and singing along to the blaring music of Paula Abdul.

"Do do you love me?
(Do do you love me?)
Tell me baby."

Yes, yes I did love that moment.

I walked further, and saw a man standing in a suit in front of a yet-to-open bank. He was smoking, what I soon smelled to be a joint. He finished and lit a cigarette off of his joint. This was about 1 Km down a very busy street from the American consulate here. All I could think was how very Berlin that moment was.

I'm constantly collecting these small stolen moments in my memory, but more so now than ever before.

Countdown: 14 days until we head back to the Midwest.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lost in Google Translation

I recently got a piece of mail returned to me through the German postal service.  There was a stamp with an explanation of why it had been returned, but I didn’t exactly understand it.  Naturally the returned letter was my health insurance documentation that I had submitted for reimbursement, so I was more than a little peeved about it.  In situations when I don’t know a word here, I often first turn to the Google Translate app on my phone.  I carefully typed in the word on the stamp that I didn’t know and waited for my 3G service to call up the answer. 

The stamp said: “Annahme verweigert wegen Nachrufgeld.”

I didn’t know the word “Nachrufgeld.” 

Google Translate told me that it means: Obituary Money. 

Wait, WHAT?  My health insurance company returned a letter to me because of obituary money???  Do they think I’m dead?  Holy mother of Whuck!  What am I supposed to do now? 

Lucky for me, I have several REAL Germans on call for such matters.  My friend CW (of Bremen Fame) helped me out in this case.  He explained that it meant that the letter was refused for insufficient postage, and that the recipient had refused to pay the difference.  Now that was interesting.

Does this happen in the US?  I don’t remember anymore.  Isn’t that funny?  I don’t remember. 

Regardless, the message is this: Google Translate is a useful tool, SOMETIMES but definitely not ALWAYS. 

Countdown 17 Days until re-entry. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

We Will Survive

As of today, Andy has been gone for a whole week.  It hasn’t been the BEST week, but it also hasn’t been the worst week ever mostly thanks to the AMAZING Ruth.  I’m pretty sure that if Andy had taken the kids home with him to the states, we would ALL be going insane about now.    

I will be eternally grateful that:

-Ruth is here to help me take care of the girls and generally stay a little saner.

-Andy has a job at home in the states already, meaning we’ll also have health insurance upon our American re-entry.

-my in-laws are so generous to not only keep our things in their basement for the entire year we were abroad (while they also were doing a MAJOR remodeling job finishing it), but also to let Andy stay at their house indefinitely while we work out all the finer details of coming home (like figuring out where that’s going to be). 

-I’m getting the best and most compelling data for my dissertation research from the loveliest teenagers in Berlin right now.

This past week brought some interesting new challenges, but we’ll get through them.  We will survive, and maybe even thrive a little bit.  We all fly home in 19 days, and are going to be extremely busy between now and then.  Surely if we can get through all of this, then we will come out on the other side stronger and more determined than ever before. 

I’ll keep you posted.        

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Hippo Incident

This actually happened at the zoo to me this past weekend.  We were standing in the hippo exhibit.  The big hippo was swimming in the water and there was a crowd of people in front of the tank.

Mayzie looked at me and asked, "Mama, where hippo?"  

I said, "Over there sweetie."  

The guy standing next to me with his two kids then turned to me and said, "Sie ist doch zu klein...(She's too small)...[switched to English]...You have to pick her up so she can see."  

Naturally, he had a scornful judgy-look on his face when he said it like I was the biggest twat on the planet who doesn't actually understand anything about children and/or anything else in the entire universe.  

I stood there for a second with my mouth agape, approximately 2 feet away from him, giving him what I hoped was a seething look that would convey the words I dared not scream in front of my children lest they be repeated later.  Naturally, he didn't even see it.  

I did pick up Mayzie so that she could see the hippo.  She looked at it, exclaimed, "HIPPO" and then squirmed to get down.  That moment would have been completely tiny and inconsequential in my memory had it not been for the D-Bag who apparently thought I was a ninny.  

This is what I will NOT miss when we come back to the U.S.  I have a really hard time imagining any American parent ever having the gall to say that to me.  Maybe I just look smarter in America though.  Time will tell.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

One Day in Poland

One of those things we’d been thinking about doing for a while was a daytrip to Szczecin, Poland.  2 weeks ago, before Andy took off, we seized the day and took a two hour train ride over the border. 

FYI: Szczecin is pronounced like "stretchin" in Polish and the Germans say "stettin."  This is one of those border-ish towns that has a very disputed ownership, having been passed back and forth several times between the two countries.  Upon telling a German friend here about our day trip, he instantly got incensed talking about how the Poles STOLE that city and blah blah blah.  I find this very interesting, and have a hard time finding a similar situation in the US to even compare it to.  Then again, I'm not from Texas or California or anywhere remotely stolen or controversial.  I digress.  

From our house we took: 1 Bus, 2 S-Bahns, & 2 trains to get to Poland.  Are we there yet Mama?

We timed the train ride to coincide with Mayzie’s nap, which mostly worked out, though this isn’t where she usually naps even in the stroller. 

Hey wait, that's not German!  

 Here are the girls waiting for Dad to get back from the ATM with some Polish money.  

Because our visit was pretty spontaneous, we didn’t really look up what to do there.  We were however, very excited that almost all of the shops in the city were open despite the fact that it was a Sunday.  We still can’t quite figure out how atheist Berlin closes most shops on Sunday and Catholic Poland doesn’t.  I digress…

We walked around for a while taking in the city.  

 Naturally we had to get some coffee at some point.  

 Andy & I both liked the looks of this church, but Andy did not appreciate my commentary on his lack of architectural knowledge.  (For the record: I know very very little about architecture, but I think I fooled him because I can name more styles than he can.  Do I actually know what those styles are and what is indicative of each style?  Absolutely not.  Do I still have fun making him mad when I pretend to know more than he does?  Absolutely.)

This is a drug store.  All those things lined up in the windows are various different brands of lotions, lip balms, mascaras, etc that you then order from the window.  I found this amazing.  Andy shrugged his shoulders and said, "I bet it cuts down on shoplifting."  

We were especially excited about going in the grocery store, one of our favorite spots to visit in any foreign country.  Annika found a self-service barrel of sauer kraut!  

I got myself a lovely bottle of inexpensive (8 Euros) and tasty Buffalo Grass vodka and Andy bought a variety of different local beers to try out.  We were especially excited about the exchange rate, which for that day was 1 Euro to 4 Polish zloty.

I was also excited about finding a canned beet salad bearing the last name of my friend who just LOVES beets.  I knew she’d appreciate this one.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this yummy black cherry ice cream, but there is no way I could pronounce that in Polish.  Seriously, how do you pronounce Smietana z Wisnia?  I heard the guy say it at least 3 times and tried to repeat it, each time the people behind the counter laughed more.  It was fun...for them.  

 I did learn how to say thank you in Polish though, so that’s something I suppose.   

 Mayzie proved her clutzy roots by managing to have two gigantic parental-panic-inducing-silent-screaming moments.  The first came while we were waiting for Andy’s pierogies.  She managed to smash her head into one of those things (that happen to be made of iron), and prove just how much a 1mm puncture wound to the scalp and busted lip actually do bleed.  It scared us for sure, but she was really fine once we got her cleaned up.  Seriously, who put these painted iron pointy decorative things there anyway?  

Annika was very skeptical of the Polish pickle, but Andy really did enjoy his "Russian" Pierogies.  

At least there was a rainbow for us,  

and a nice big hill for our little fast forward to climb.  

We made our way over to a nice small beer garden, and in the 2 minutes it took Andy to pick up drinks from inside, Mayzie managed to get her leg wedged between the bench and wall of the barrel that made up our table.  It was rather impressive, as was the blood-curdling squeal that came out of her mouth.  Andy got her out, and we promptly attempted to wrap her in bubble-wrap.  Oh well.  

 We didn’t let it ruin our time there. 

All in all, it was a lovely day out of the ordinary.  It was also a little exhausting.  I'm glad we went, and I would do it again...if only for the cheap Sunday shopping. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

1 Month

Andy left this morning, and the house already feels empty without him here...or is that just my heart.

1 month apart isn't going to be so bad.

Its only a month.

Just 1 month.

As scary as a month without my husband sounds, I know we'll get through it.

We imported help!

Our angel for the month is our good friend Ruth, who flew all the way from the Midwest to help take care of the girls while I finish up my research.  We're calling her our "au pair" for the month, and hopefully she gets to have a little fun in Berlin too while she's here.

We'll get by with a little help from our friend...and Skype of course.

FYI: He starts his new job on Wednesday, so hopefully he can get over the jet-lag really quickly.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

So long, and thanks for all the currywurst...

Hi everyone, AMelch here. I promise Mama Melch will be back next time.

Well, my time in Berlin is winding down. As some of you may know, I have found employment stateside and will be returning a bit earlier than was planned. This post isn't about all of that; if you are interested in hearing about me, I don't do facebook.

This post is a quick reflection for me about the amazing time I have had here. I am actually going to limit the post to reviewing the last few weeks since that alone explains just how much there was to do, see, and experience. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of everything, and I'm sure this will not be as amazing as Mama Melch's posts (or as grammatically correct) so please lower your expectations before reading any further.

Note: for most of the entries, titles have been linked to either photo albums or related web links.

The Berlin International Bierfestival
Sorry no pictures for this event (I was drinking beer and enjoying the company of some friends from Cleveland), just a link to the webpage. What can I say hundreds of different types of beers stretching down 2km of Karl-Marx Allee.

Day trip to Krumme Lanke with the girls
It was a warm day in August so the girls and I decided to bike out to a nearby lake and cool off. We found our own private beach for the afternoon.

Another gorgeous day outside so the girls and I just had to get out and enjoy it.  I tossed the girls in the bike trailer and we trekked out to Britzer Garten.  The girls hated every minute of it.

Mama Melch and I decided to take the girls on an extended trailer adventure one Sunday.  Joining us were our Bike-Trailer-Adventure friends and their two daughters.  We headed down to Grossbeeren and stopped to swim and hang out at Wakeboard-Grossbeeren.  MM graciously offered to hang out with the girls at the beach while I went and water skied for an hour.  After a few hours there, we loaded back up and were on our way.  The next stop was a bier garten and playground in Diedersdorf. This was one great family day out.

The long night of Museums is an awesome bi-annual event put on in the city of Berlin.  Most of the museums in the city are open until 2am and the city runs shuttle service to all of them.  For the modest cost of 18 euros (12 euros for students), you can access any of the participating museums between the hours of 6pm and 2am as well as take advantage of the shuttles.  Since all of our babysitters had returned stateside, Mama Melch offered to stay home with the kids for the evening and told me to enjoy.  I managed to check out three really cool museums and enjoyed myself immensely.  
  1.  The Computer Spiele Museum was my first stop.  This museum is basically a history of video games; it contains many vintage games that are playable as well as many other interactive exhibits.  What guy wouldn't like this?
  2. The Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen was up next.  I took a tour of this old stasi prison/interrogation center.  Not the most uplifting of subjects but the tour was excellent and very interesting.
  3. I finished the evening at the Museum für Film und Fernsehen.  The layout of the museum offered amazing visuals.  Even though it mainly focused on German film and television, I still managed to find quite a bit of familiar works and had a great time.  
Now you may be asking yourself, "Is that all??" 

No!  I managed to play football twice a week as well as squeezing in the viewing of an occasional football match with friends at the pub. 
(Editor's Note: For our American readers, he's talking about soccer here. -MM)

Please hold the pity comments on the post.  I know, I know it's been a rough year.  

Thanks go out to my gorgeous wife whose hard work enabled me to take the year off and enjoy spending time with our beautiful daughters and this amazing city.

So long Berlin and thanks for all the currywurst! oh....those Döner are pretty tasty too!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

9/1 Berlin Bingo

2 fancy ladies spotted just this morning.
Both were dressed to the nines, and made me laugh.

The first came to feed the goats at the Kleintier Verein near us. She stepped out of her pristine white fancy Mercedes SUV with a bag from Lindtner filled with her fruit & vegetable waste. She proceeded to put on a latex glove from her pocket and call all the goats Millie as she fed them. She also sneered at my kids when they got too close.

The second fancy lady walked up to my bus stop and scoffed at the rude oak tree for dropping acorns in her vicinity. When the bus approached, she pushed her way past the 7 people in front of her to be the first to get on. As I boarded the bus, she was still standing at the front waiting for her change while the bus driver berated her for buying a ticket for €1.40 with a €50 bill.

I will miss these types of moments at home.


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