Sunday, November 30, 2008

Luck of the Irish

Well we didn't kiss the Blarney Stone, but we were blessed with sunny, RAINLESS days in historic Dublin this past Thanksgiving Weekend. Zev and I flew with budget airline "Ryan Air" to Dublin and learnt some interesting lessons from our first true budget airline experience:
1) There are no assigned seats. First in, best dressed, so be sure to move swiftly if you want a seat next to your partner;
2) Bring your own food and drinks. And be prepared for the fact that your seat does not recline back at all during the flight;
3) Try to pack all your belongings for the weekend into your carry on luggage, in order to avoid paying 40 Euro to check in your luggage. We saw some interesting "examples" of carry on luggage- let's just say that probably 70% of the passengers had carry on luggage as their only baggage and a lot of these mini suitcases/ bags were busting at the seems....
Although Dublin was as chilly as the rest of Europe at this time of year, what we discovered was a youthful, vibrant city, full of good restaurants and pubs and friendly people. We did a lot of walking around the city, on both sides of the River Liffey and enjoyed walking the grounds of Trinity College, Gordon Street and O'Connell Street, Temple Bar and of course, touring the historic Guiness Factory and Jameson Whiskey Factory. We even squeezed in two movies (the new James Bond film, "Quantum of Solace" and the new film with Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"-both excellent films, which was a special treat because we only have one English speaking movie theatre in town and it's on the other side of town....) Some of the highlights of our trip included eating quail and lamb dishes in a very interesting and rustic old wine cellar in Temple Bar, and enjoying the view and the warm sun from the Galaxy Bar at the top of the Guiness Factory. For now we are planning to enjoy the various Christmas Markets held in Stuttgart and Esslingen and settling in to life in lovely Deutschland. Hope all are happy and healthy! Zev and Fi xoxo

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mr. Table and Other Cultural Eccentricities

So it goes like this... Settling into about our third week in our house, Veterans Day, about 10.00AM, and Fiona and I are enjoying a lazy morning, no work and a second cup of coffee. We make the rookie mistake of opening the front window shutters which--I now know means--we are open for visitors. So anyway, about mid-sip the doorbell rings and I panic, knowing it must be our neighbor/landlord. He has probably been up for 6 hours, raked the yard, swept the driveway and changed the filter in his furnace. As I start swinging the door open, I become suddenly aware I have bed-head, a three day growth of beard, and I am still in my Homer Simpson pajamas.

I decide to play it off like normal, use all the German I know in the first few sentences, and he will be so impresed with what I learned so quick, he will never even notice I am still in my pajamas. My conversation with Mr Haussler went something like this;

Open door, imediately forget all 12 German words I know as he eyes me wearily from fuzzy slippers to hair--at least he didn't look at his watch;

Zev: "Guten Morgen Mr. Tisch, Wie Gehts?" (Translation: "Good Morning Mr. Table, How are you?")

Landlord (probably wondering why his new tenant was at home on a work day, still in his pajamas with cartoons at 10:00 in the morning and calling him a piece of furniture): "Ah yes, good morning Herr York. I just came over to see how you are doing and to drop off instructions on the recycling procedure here in the neighborhood......You have recycled before, right?"

Zev: "Oh yes of course."

Landlord: "So you know what to put in the Blue bin, the Grey bin and the Yellow sack"?

Zev: "Ah..well we're not sure exactly what goes into this Yellow sack"

(At this point the landlord walks over to our Yellow sack and starts pulling stuff out like empty yoghurt containers or empty aluminium cans and shows us exactly what does and doesn't get recycled and then says):

Landlord: "Don't you recycle in America?"

Note: Google "Recycling a teabag in Germany" for some interesting nuggets on the recycling protocol in the land that gave the world Mercedes Benz and precision engineering.....

Then we talked about the various gouges in the starway wall and foyer corner from the movers. At least only one tore the wallpaper. Did I mention he is a painter and he and his son spent three days before we moved in painting every square inch on the inside of our our house from top to bottom? Did I mention he has eagle eyes and can see a finish flaw from 20 meters?

So once again I am backed into a corner. I figure now is the time to tell him about the chunk of w0od missing from the main door frame right about eye level. Freshly panted too and--I am pretty sure--mahogany.

Zev : "About the front door.."

Before I get much further, Mr Table says : "Yes, I know...what do you expect with so much stuff coming into the house?"

So, it kind of went downhill from there. Well, not too bad. The landlord and his Frau are actually very wonderful people and have really tried to take care of us. We are very fortunate they are so understanding as the "auslanders" move into their freshly-remodeled, someday-to-be retirement house. Boy, I sure hope I don't back into his Mercedes one of these pre-coffee, blurry eyed mornings.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

We're baaaack!!

Well after what seems like an eternity that we last updated our blog, we have finally been set up with Internet and phone at home (just yesterday in fact!) And yes, we will be emailing all our family and friends our contact details shortly. So much has certainly happened since we took our little trip to watch the cows coming down from the Alps in Austria. Watching the American elections from Europe was a strange but interesting experience! We cast our vote early by absentee ballott and this was an extra special election as it was Fi's first election as an American citizen! We have moved into our lovely home in the historic town of Esslingen (we can hear the church bells from our front balcony and it is certainly an experience, especially on Sundays!) Zev is working hard at work, and Fi is working hard at home to help Zev relax and de-stress when he comes home (we have been enjoying our evening bike rides through the woods- our bikes have front and back lights and going for a bike ride after a long day sometimes makes life all the more better!) Fi has been taking German classes every day at the local "Volksochschule" (adult community college) through this intense German course ("for "schnell" or fast learners- every day for three hours a day). The class is kicking Fi's butt (lots of rules and the need to know whether an object is feminine, masculine or neutral- let's just say that your table is male, your car is neutral and flowers are feminine- but of course!), but she has made some lovely new friends including sweet Adele from France. We are actually having Adele and her husband Romain over for dinner tonight. We thought we would share some of our culture with them so we are serving them Mexican food- TexMex style. Help yourself to Tacos kind of thing. This may even revolutionise the way French people each! Who knows. We are looking forward to our visitors in the new year and pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We will be able to update our blog more often now that we have internet connenction. Until the next update, take care, God bless and keen smiling! Zev and Fi xoxoxo

Moving Day!

Oh we love to move. No seriously, even though the military is gracious enough to move us every couple of years and one would think that it would grow old after a while, Zev and I enjoy the adventure of settling in to new surroundings; getting to know new neighbors (and we have been extremely blessed with excellent neighbors in every move that we have done); and in using our imaginations as we figure out how to configure our stuff in our new houses. Moving day was interesting for a few reasons- the movers had to come up with imaginative ways to get our bigger furniture like our couches and mattresses in through the balcony of the main bedroom, and we discovered that we had more stuff broken than previous moves which really wasn't a big deal- just like the Bible says, don't get too attached to the things of this world! It's the non-material stuff that matters!! We really like our new house in Germany and love our neighbors and little town. We have a little baker, butcher, florist etc all within a 5 minute walk. We think we are close to figuring out the recycling protocol- basically there are different days allocated for different types of recycling- in addition to regular garbage and paper recycling. We must use a special yellow plastic bag for things like packaging and aluminium cans and Fi had a fun time tracking down where to get those plastic bags in downtown Esslingen! Our current favorite thing to do when we are at home is to go on a bike ride through the woods behind our house, and ride up to the top of the mountain where we have a spectacular view of all of Stuttgart.

All Four Seasons!

I (Fi) have a new found appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the four seasons. Growing up in Australia and then living in Alabama and Louisiana, I never really witnessed the changing of the colors of leaves in the fall or the beauty of a fresh white snow cover during the winter. Zev and I have really enjoyed going out on our bikes or for runs and enjoying the beauty of nature, and the evolution of the seasons. God created such a beautiful Earth! Today we had snow that stuck to the ground for the first time. Zev is educating me on the joys of watching out for icy patches on the roads or properly rugging up against the cold! He mentioned something about shovelling driveways but I don't see our driveway getting that covered in snow.......time will tell! The historic town of Esslingen that we live in is renowned for its "Burg" or "Fortress" and the beautiful cobblestoned streets around old half-timbered houses. There are so many wonderful little shops, cafe's, restaurants and pathways downtown and we love to ride our bikes or run into the Altstadt (Old Town) and just soak up the history and beauty. Esslingen is known for its annual Medieval Christmas Markets which start this coming Tuesday! They last for a whole month. Can't wait! Apparently they have jousting on the grounds of the castle too!

Lovely London

Fi traveled to London in late October to celebrate Lisa's marriage to the wonderful Jim from England. Fi had traveled to London back when she was 20 but she was able to appreciate a lot more of the culture and history of London this time round! It was lovely to catch up with old friends from Down Under, including Troy, Kristen, Corinna and of course Lisa and Jim!