Thursday, August 31, 2017

6 Things I Learned in August

Taking Emily Freeman's lead to share things I learned this month - from the silly to the strange to the sometimes profound. I was surprised how much I missed doing this last month, and I've been looking forward to this all of August. Yes, I look forward to strange things.

1. Minions make me really happy.

I don't know if this is true in the states, but over here minions are everywhere. After I pointed them out in advertising for the umpteenth time, Mom said "I had no idea you loved minions so much."  Not sure if I love them or not, but they certainly make me grin whenever I see them. I think it's the yellow + the crazy + the happy.

2. apple cider vinegar + dish soap + water = fruit fly trap. 

Part of the cultural adjustment in moving to Germany is separating out trash - Germans are masters of recycling. I actually really enjoy having a separate bin for kitchen waste, but it attracts fruit flies like nothing else. I did some googling and found this simple recipe for a fly trap. It hasn't totally solved the problem, but we've gotten rid of quite a few of the nuisances this way.

3. The iPhone activity pedometer is totally unreliable.

I finally jumped on the iPhone bandwagon after four years of resistance. (A Target associate was flabbergasted right before I went to college when my dad explained his problem: he wanted to buy me an iPhone and I absolutely refused to get one.) So of course now I'm trying out all the new gadgets. The pedometer? It informed me after a 90 minute walk that I had gone just under 1 mile. Ha. No.

4. Pocahontas quotes the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.

I've been reading a survey of philosophy and discovered to my surprise that the line "you can't step in the same river twice" is actually not original to Disney songwriters but rather to Heraclitus. Somehow I missed this fact in previous philosophy surveys. You learn something new every day if you're lucky. (For the remainder of that particular day I had Just Around the Riverbend stuck in my head.)

5. Speaking of songs that get stuck in your head, there's a German term for that: Ohrwurm

Literally, "ear worm." How's that for a vivid image of that aggravating song that you can't get off your mind?

6. Project Gutenberg is a goldmine.

My kindle usage has skyrocketed since the move, and I've rediscovered Project Gutenberg. The newest gem I discovered on it is that they have all of the Anne of Green Gables books! (All, that is, except Windy Poplars. What's with that?) So many classics.

7. If you want to strike up a friendship, compliment the person's haircut

Bonus: Here's a picture of when we moved to Germany 11 years ago. We thought we were so old. And now I look back at my 11-year-old self and mentally pat myself on the head.

What unexpected things did you learn this month?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

sometimes it's the smallest things - springboards to friendship

Immediately after the congregation was dismissed, Mama leaned over and whispered, "I love that lady's haircut!!!"

Two things that are high on our list of things to find when we move: a church home and a hairdresser. We were close to settling on a church home, and Mama never hesitates to ask strangers where they get their hair cut.

As I gathered my sundries, Mom bolted out of the pew to catch the lady with the fabulous hair. By the time I got to them, they were deep in a conversation about hairstyling woes and fixes. Shortly thereafter, the conversation moved on as they swapped stories about how each ended up in Germany.

Before I knew it, we had accepted an invitation to lunch at an Asian restaurant. Jennifer and Mama had hit it off, and they wanted to continue their conversation. (Dad was at a conference that weekend.)

On the way out, Jennifer introduced us to another lady who is clearly the instigator of a lot of church projects. Her first question to Mama: "Do you run?"

It turns out that she's trying to organize a fun run to raise awareness for Compassion International. She's not a runner though, and wants insights on how these things go. My family has never organized a fun run, but we have participated in plenty, so before names had been exchanged we were in a pow-wow about how to organize a family 5k.

And just like that, we had two new friends and an "in" into this church community. All because my mom wanted to find out where a stranger gets her hair cut.

The moral of the story: if you want to make a friend, compliment their hair and ask where they get it done.

But actually.

Sometimes all it takes to make a friend is to compliment them on something they have a vested interest in and then ask them more about it. My mom cuts my hair, so I don't actually ask people about their recommended hair salon. But I've used the idea multiple times with people I want to get to know - I ask them about a project they've worked on that I appreciated, or a book they're reading that I love, and then I use that as a springboard to a conversation. Sometimes it's a two-minute conversation and nothing more comes of it. But sometimes we hit it off and I actually gain a friend from taking the trouble to reach out.

As I prep to move to a new city by myself, I'm keeping this maxim in mind to make me smile and give me the necessary kick in the pants to meet people instead of staying in my nice little comfort zone:

Make a new friend: ask where they get their hair cut. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Poetry Corner: "Happiness"

Because it's been rainy outside and this poem has been coming to mind. 

by A.A. Milne

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
Mackintosh --
And that
(Said John)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Wilkommen in W--

After a month in country, we finally moved into our new home this week! While I'll be moving to Munich for the next year (and who knows where after that), and Charlie is still in college, this is our family's home base for the next three years. And what a place. Welcome to W--. (See that dash? That's is me both emulating Jane Austen - because who doesn't want to do that - and preserving our privacy.) We'll start with the town.

The Town

For what appears to be a small town, there's a lot going on in W--. There are several restaurants, an Eiscafe (aka ice cream less than 5 minutes from the front doorstep), lots of little shops, and two churches (Catholic and Protestant). Our house is on one of the main streets, so we are only moments from all of these places.
The churches are right down the street from each other: these two photos were taken in the same spot. 

This marsh is just around the corner from the churches. There also used to be a synagogue, but it was destroyed in 1938. There's now a memorial museum commemorating W--'s Jewish community.

None other than the illustrious Napoleon Bonaparte was greeted with great fanfare in this square. Twice, no less - once in 1807 and once in 1808.

Bookstore! Over a hundred years old, and just around the corner from our house. 

This is the eiscafe, which not only serves yummy ice cream, but also hosts the German-American Stammtisch that is held once a month to connect Americans and Germans in this community.

Everywhere you look in this town is something photo-worthy. These are only the highlights.

The House

This is the front and back of our house. It's orange! It's a very happy house, not only because it's orange, but also because the landlord (who is also an architect and designed it himself) loves light. The windows are glorious, and the house is situated to capture as much light as possible at all times of day. For example, my room faces west, but there is a skylight in the loft above it that faces east, so I get amazing light both in the morning and in the evening. 

This is the view from my parents' room.

And this is the view from the laundry room. If the rest of the house wasn't so amazing, this would make the laundry room my favorite room.

The house feels kind of weird right now - the only furniture is what Dad had in Korea. While that covers the basics - living room, dining room, bedrooms - a lot of our knickknacks and furniture are still missing. This means the house is in flux.

Not pictured: the many empty cardboard boxes at the bottom of the stairs, Charlie's room, which is currently the holding place for anything random that doesn't yet have a place, and other sundry corners of the house that are not yet in a photo-safe state. Like I said, we are very much in flux.

Proof of this: the vignette on the right has since disappeared because Mom wanted these things elsewhere (the globe is now on display above one of the cabinets in the kitchen). But I like the picture so I'm including it anyway.

See the pottery dish between the lamp and the sink? That's where bio goes - organic waste that savvy gardeners would compost, but which also has its own separate trash can in Germany. We're happy to separate it out, but fruit flies are also happy to munch on it. We are currently experimenting with traps  composed of apple cider vinegar, water, and dish soap, with modest success.

This is my room. LIGHT, people. I love it. 

The next thing on my to-do list after finishing this post is to start putting up all the clippings that make a space my own.

The stairs lead up to a cool loft space. But we don't know quite what to do with it because 1) the stairs are so steep that it would be hazardous to try to take any furniture up them, and 2) you bump your head on the sloped eves at the top of the stairs. But I'm sure we'll come up with something ingenious. 

This is the evening view from my room...It's amazing every. Single. Night.

Speaking of views, this town is in the middle of a stunning area of the German countryside.

The Countryside

W--. It's a good place to be.