Monday, August 21, 2006

Things I will miss

Yesterday while sitting next to my boyfriend in his car, and taking the familiar route to his post, I suddenly realized that all these things that are now familiar, will soon be just memories, things that I will grapple with, trying to remember the exact layout of places, etc. Before leaving his apartment, I took photos of every room, so that if I ever wanted to take a trip down memory lane, I would have it at my fingertips.

Germany is more to me than just somewhere I lived for a while. In many ways it is more my home than the US is. I haven’t really lived in the US since I was 18. So I know that I am in for some culture shock.

So I was also trying to think of all the things I will miss about Germany. Household6 and Allicadem started the list for me: good drivers and good food. And I was thinking of a few more that I will particularly miss:

1. Despite being a socialist country in comparison with the US, Germans have a better sense of personal responsibility and don’t play the victim as much as I think some portion of Americans do. I am sure there are many exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, overall, people seem to feel more in control of their own destiny than blaming others for their circumstances. A small example of this is, if someone trips on the sidewalk here, because a cobblestone is out of place, they don’t immediately screech that they will sue the city. Instead they just look a little embarrassed. Or I can remember another time, when a friend went to get a haircut, and the haircutter snipped his ear, and it was really bleeding. Maybe I am really showing my Los Angeles roots here, but the first thing I think of when I hear that is: “lawsuit”. But no, my friend just said: “wow, I am NEVER going there again!” Done, basta, you move on in life. There aren’t loads of frivolous lawsuits here. And despite many people saying that Europe is just 10 years behind the US, in the 9+ years I have been here, I haven’t seen any increased tendency in that direction.

2. The food. I will elaborate more on the food. I miss the fact that when you order something here, it comes out less processed than it would in America. I think it is sad that a whole generation of Americans think that Velveeta is cheese. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than a grilled cheese sandwich made of Wonder Bread and Velveeta, but there is nothing “cheese-like” to Velveeta.

Cheese is “a solid food made from the curdled milk of cows, goats, sheep, water buffalo or other mammals. The milk is curdled using some combination of rennet (or rennet substitutes) and acidification. Bacteria acidify the milk and play a role in defining the texture and flavor of most cheeses.”
I am pretty sure that hardly any of the above description applies to Velveeta, and much of its dairy cousins.

So, I will miss that when I order some food in a restaurant it will arrive pretty close to resembling its original form, and devoid of preservatives.

3. Dairy products
Just play a game here with me: go to an American supermarket, and try to find a full fat flavored yogurt. You will surely find 5+ different brands of yogurt, like Danone, Yoplait, and Co. and they will have pretty much every favor imaginable from Strawberry Cheesecake to Blueberry Pie…but I dare you to find something with 4% fat. Nope. Everything will be either 99% fat free or even just plain fat free.
To find normal flavored yogurts, like the ones Yoplait made when I was a kid, I have to go to Whole Foods.
Germany on the other hand, has a plethora of dairy products waiting to be had. Yes, they certainly have a few low fat products, but for the most part, they have normal fat content foods. And they taste good, and don’t have thickeners or emulsifiers, or guar gum, or all those other things that seem to be standard yogurt ingredients in the states.

Now this isn’t all I will miss, but if I were to write all the things I will miss, this post will go on forever. I am sure that once I get back to Germany, my "oh, how I miss Germany" posts will start in earnest.

But what struck me today, was that Germany will always have a special place in my heart, because it is where I met my boyfriend. So far, the stage for our relationship has been, for the most part, Germany. Most of the cherished memories I have of our relationship: the first time we met, our first kiss, sitting at that table, in that café, the train stations we picked each other up from, the post I went onto for his homecoming from Afghanistan, trips taken together, driving in the car, grocery shopping (yes, I am still at that la-la point in the relationship where the mere act of grocery shopping is a fond memory), cooking together, watching DVDs, etc, have all taken place here.

Places hold many memories for me, and I won't be able to revisit these memories with those visual cues anymore. I won't be able to stare at a bench, and see before my eyes, us, 2 years ago, having some silly flirty conversation. Or stand before the Cologne trainstation and remember observing him, before I knew who he was. Or sit in the Altstadt at the same cafe where we had some beers. Or go to the zoo and remember our date there.

And in less than 2 weeks, I will be leaving. Leaving to embark on a new stage, and create new memories, but also leaving behind good friends and good memories.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

One Chapter Closing, Another Opening…

The past week has been hectic. My boyfriend is moving back to the US next week, and we have been busy tying loose ends here. Anyone in the military understands how complicated this process is. In addition to having to move your things, and paying last bills, shutting off utilities and phones, having the final inspection on your apartment and organizing your travel, you have the added joys of shipping your vehicle, and then something that is called “Final Out,” where you prove to the military that “yes” you have crossed your t’s and dotted the i’s. This entails paperwork upon paperwork, and with the final days approaching quickly, and the short operating hours of the individual offices “Travel”, “Vehicle Whatchmacallit”, “Transport”, “Housing”, etc., not to mention since the German units have now all shuffled around, and my boyfriend had to drive to 5 different bases to complete things, it can sometimes be difficult to get things done. Plus, you sometimes have situations similar to Catch 22, where it seems like you need Paper A, to accomplish Step 3, but won’t get Paper A, until you do Step 4. This isn’t the case, but sometimes it seems like that.

But it seems like we are finally there, and can enjoy these last few days together.

There are a whole bundle of emotions. My boyfriend’s landlord actually cried when the Housing Inspector came here. He wanted to go through the apartment with her to check off all the things that may have been broken or damaged, but she just kind of teared up and told the guy: “he has been a great tenant”. The Housing Inspector had to basically pull her with him through all the rooms where she didn’t even look and just said everything was alright. She then disappeared for a few minutes downstairs, and came back up a little more composed a few minutes later to sign the papers. This morning they actually brought us up breakfast…such sweethearts. They have been like second parents to my boyfriend.

We also went to the Hail and Farewell from his unit, and it was bittersweet. We will definitely miss quite a few people. But I guess that is the military life.

On the one hand, we are both excited to go back to the States, we play a game almost daily of listing the things we are most excited about: Shops open Sundays, Customer Service, Pancakes for Breakfast, 24 Hours Denny’s (i.e. pancakes at 2am in the morning, if one so desires)…for that matter, going to Home Depot at 2am, cos, yep, in Los Angeles there is a 24 hour Home Depot. Television programs coming out of our ears, TiVo, hot weather for longer than in Germany.

We are both excited about the individual steps we will both be making in our separate lives: me: starting to work, him: going to a new unit, and furthering his training, buying a house.

And we are excited about all the plans we have together, but there is also slight trepidation about how our relationship will progress. Since he has been back from Afghanistan we haven’t gone longer than a week without seeing each other, and after saying goodbye at the airport this week, we won’t see each other for probably another 2 months.

I have just under 2 weeks in Germany after he leaves, and then I too, will be closing the German chapter in my life. I am sad, but I am also ready to move forward. And I am looking forward to being a real CaliValleyGirl again. Like, totally!

(I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months, but I expect that when I get back to Los Angeles, I will get back in the groove.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Damning Truth

In his movie An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore enlightens us mere peons on how to live more responsibly with regards to energy consumption. Turns out that he is more of a “do as I say, not as I do” type of person. How surprising.

This article is certainly quite damning to Gore, showing him to be pretty hypocritical. And the author sums it up pretty well:

The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Modern Technology

My mother wrote me an amusing email today:

I can remember when to turn a light on or off was a simple process - you either pulled on a chain until it clicked then hey presto - let there be light, or you moved a rocker switch up or down and the light came on. Well we now have switches that I don't know how to operate, they have a series of tiny indicator lights built into the switch plate and sometimes I get lucky pushing and tapping and gradually the lights brighten to full strength. Tonight I cam home and there was just a glimmer of orange (like when a flash lights batteries are just about worn out), and no matter how much tapping, massaging I did nothing happened.

Add to that that today I also got a new fax/copier and while I mastered sending faxes the copy function eluded me.

So I can now add the above two things to the Universal TV remote as being beyond my ability to operate.

I feel a bit like a customer I had many years ago who said that when it would be imperative for him to have a fax he would retire!

But I don't want to go back to candles.................

Well I guess that's my technology rant for the day.

Looks like when I move back home in a few weeks I will become the official TV remote/light switch/copier operator.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Flying on August 10th, 2006

Had a toasty toasty vacation in Cyprus.

It was a very lazy time, much lounging by the pool, reading magazines and some good books, and spending time with a great friend before flying back to the States.

Yesterday morning, when we got up, we turned on Sky News in our hotel and like the rest of the world learned about the terror plot at Heathrow. We weren't that worried about flying home that day, but it did affect our travel slightly. Our plane was late in arriving to pick us up, because its previous trip had been from New York to Düsseldorf, and it incurred delays leaving the US.

I saw one interview on Sky News that impressed me. It was an interview of a British man of Middle Eastern descent who was supposed to travel from London to New York on British Airways early yesterday morning. He recounted how as soon as he got onto the plane he fell asleep, but was woken by a stewardess a little while later. He said the stewardess politely explained that they had gotten word from TSA that all standby passengers would have to leave the flight that day, because of the elevated alert level. He said he complied, because he didn't want to make a scene on the plane, but it was quite humiliating, because he was the only one debording, and he was quite sure that he wasn't the only standby passenger on that flight.

And he said, “I must have fit the profile.” And the interviewer asked, “What profile? The profile of a terrorist?”

And the guy, still visibly distressed, and angry, replied “yes.”

But he re-iterated that it wasn't the airline's fault, and stressed that it was from TSAs directions, and then put it in a nutshell saying “a few bad people are making it hard for the rest of us.” By “us” I am understanding, the majority of British citizens of Middle Eastern descent. I felt really terribly for this guy, but I also don't think you can be safe enough during an alert like yesterday morning. I had expected the usual lashing out at racist profiling, and blaming the US and Britain for creating terrorist reactions. But instead I was pleasantly surprised by his dignity, and I empathized with his distress and his anger.