Sunday, June 28, 2009

What I thought about at the Mozart concert

I have less stamina for museum-type things than hubby does, so yesterday I was wandering around a really delightful museum gift shop (I was being delighted, anyway - and also asking myself: why can I stand a gift shop longer than a museum? surely at least part of it is that I can handle the things, and I can sit down, - a lot of it is that I can handle the things and I can sit down - but it is also the fact that I know if I want to, I can buy it and take it home? does that make such a difference? - or do I just feel less pressure to ooh and aah? hard to say) and hubby called me on the phone to say he couldn't get into the Frauenkirche (lovely famous Dresden church) now because they were practicing for a concert, but did we want to come back for the concert itself at 8 p.m.?

Long story short, we did. I'm about as much of a classical-music goer as I am a museumgoer, but he said it was going to be short, and we were buying tickets at one entrance at about 2 minutes to 8 and had to go in another entrance and go up to the 5th level. But we got there, and I stole our seats back from the people who had nabbed them, and we sat - and could see nothing!

So we were alternately leaning way forward onto the balustrade, and standing up leaning back, and standing up leaning over the balustrade, and leaning back half-standing half-perched on the upturned seat (hubby more), and sitting down eyes closed seeing nothing, and then again leaning way forward from seated to see over but then tipping bifocals down (me) so it would be possible to see the musicians through the top half of the bifocals (the bottom part was useless for seeing them) - then I was afraid the glasses were going to go tumbling down to the level below.

Mozart. Can't tell you much more than that about the music. Soprano - lovely, wore different clothes. Most of the music sounded all the same. Quite lovely I suppose but the same over and over. A few times the soprano soloist did truly marvelous and surprising things, where listening to the music was pure pleasure. The rest of the time I was in various ways making the time go by.

The choir looked like they were standing in front of huge murals of big yellow schoolbuses. Given that we were inside this confection of pink, golden, and peach-hued Baroque church, though, I thought that was unlikely. Figured out my eyesight was flattening the vaguely schoolbus-colored bleachers they were standing on - there were a couple of unused rows behind them, and I made those into schoolbuses.

Hubby nudged me and through the glass doors high, high up over the musicians' heads, facing us and way above us even, there were tourists walking down steps from the bell tower. That happened a couple of times.

I looked around and tried to figure out how many of the concertgoers, like us, were tourists. Some were dressed very schlumpily. Probably tourists. All ages, all sizes, who knows.

The woman three to the right of me dropped something tremendously loudly. Local commotion in our part of the world. I was again glad I had managed not to let my glasses drop a few levels.

The choir members were matching in black robes with black folders and white music held in front of them. The chamber musicians were in black tuxedoes with white shirts (the men), whereas the women looked like they had a lot of leeway. (Not that many women, maybe two or three - aside from the soprano soloist and all the choir members.) The women got to have bare arms if they wanted to. One looked like she had a wild and crazy short pants outfit with long black stockings but I doubt it. Everybody, everything, black, but the soloist had a brown/white/black dress, strapless, completely different look. Oh, and one person (playing maybe a spinet harpsichord? just guessing) appeared - his/her ears seemed to be glinting so I deduced earrings and then that it was a woman - but then the person rose up somewhat and looked to be more of a man - but wearing completely different things than the other men.

Kettle drums in the corner. They didn't get played very often. 

I tried to remind myself that this music hadn't always existed. That somebody (OK, Mozart) wrote it at some point - that it was new and exciting and unknown. It felt (except for the cool and exciting things the soprano did all by herself a few times) worn, predictable, full of flurries and flourishes but that were somehow not exciting. Neither familiar enough to stir me and make me want to hum along and isn't this grand to hear the great old stuff again, nor different enough to make me perk up (but again, I'm not educated that way).

It sounded like they were singing in Lingala for part of the time. We didn't have a program at the time (I bought one at the end hoping for at least a little enlightenment).

I wondered what was keeping the people who came down those high-up steps out of the bell tower from falling down, down, down into the middle of the church floor many floors below, back before there were enormous panes of glass there.

I looked at my watch (OK, I don't have a watch - I looked at my cellphone, the ringer turned off) and the time went by. 

The seats were big and made of what seemed like fresh clean shiny Scandinavian wood - light and bright and very modern-seeming. Hubby pointed out the seat numbers engraved on the wooden balustrade in front of us were written in some olde font - 18th-century font or earlier (who knew). (Though, hubby notices, they used Phillips-head screws to screw in the planks on the floor - which was apparently not an option in the 17th or 18th century.)

After the concert we went down, down, down to the main level of the church and looked around. It wasn't like the big spread-out cathedrals with stained glass everywhere - very compact and contained and symmetrical on four sides, and inward-looking, and as I said pink and golden and peach-colored. And going up, up, up.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

briefly out of berlin

hubby and I are in dresden for a couple of days. we're not used to traveling together so there's that. dresden is wild and furry, the place we hung out night before last was much funkier than places we've been in berlin. then from there a short walk and we were on a bridge looking out at unbelievable old (in many cases, heavily restored) and grand buildings of different shapes and attitudes. It's wonderful to look at things above the water, the lights are reflected and the water makes it all shift and reflect and hide and be mysterious and reappear and multiply.

The water in this case being the Elbe. We were back the next day and in the daytime, in the gray, nothing was nearly as magical. Glad we had been there the night before. 

Hubby was in Krakow the weekend before with his oldest kindergarten friend. So he's walking around noticing and comparing this old East German city--which had centuries of history before, then was fire-bombed by the Americans and British at the end of WWII and then rebuilt, and then was an East German city with all the sadly boxy building that entailed, and now has all these really old landmarked buildings, standing empty, that are starting to get worked on and fixed up--anyway, comparing this old East German city with Krakow - I know I said all that about the buildings but really he was noticing the people - we saw here so many punked-up young people, and he said in Krakow, none of that. And we saw people of different colors - not as much as in Berlin, but still - and he said in Krakow, none of that. Outrageously homogeneous in Krakow, he said.

Also, last night we came home by way of the synagogue here - new synagogue - and I noticed: no guards! *Every*thing Jewish in Berlin is heavily guarded - I think I've mentioned - the kindergarten down the street from us, community centers, the Jewish museum, synagogues, schools, the Israeli embassy - everything. Policemen out front. Some of the places involve metal detectors as well. But here at the huge synagogue (which is a cool twisted-cube shape), with a big tree-filled courtyard connecting it to a community center: no guards anywhere!

(Which prompted another comparison with Krakow - hubby had visited lots of old synagogues and Jewish cemeteries - no guards - and he'd visited Auschwitz on the way back - no guards or security at all. Interesting.)

Anyway, what I really also wanted to say is that hubby has always laughed at me for comparing everything I see to Kinshasa. But what can I do? And as we were walking around and he kept thinking about Krakow, I kept thinking about Lisbon, and Addis Ababa - the two most recent places I have visited in a tourist-like capacity. Kind of weird I guess. But I don't know, there was something. One street, one view down one street, just brought back Addis Ababa to me - I can't really say how or why. And lots of things were making me think of Lisbon - the changing views from different high points - go climb some more stairs and find another view - the cobblestones, cobblestones, everywhere - and just being out and about and comparing this to our previous trip.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the Zwinger, which apparently used to be the location of part of the Dresden fortress - and at some point Augustus the Strong (late 1600s) came back from a trip and wanted to build himself something spectactular - used the location and built this lovely new thing - it's really wonderful, with vistas and elevated walkways across battlements and interior courtyards with surprising fountains - and a porcelain collection that shows glorious old Japanese and China porcelain and tells a little about how the Europeans tried, and tried, and tried to figure out the technique and finally did their own reverse engineering or figuring out (it was an alchemist who gave up trying to make gold and finally figured out how to make porcelain here) - and by the way what we call Dresden china is in German called Meissen porcelain (Meissen is a small town near Dresden where the china is made).

And it was supposed to rain all weekend but it barely has. Today, a little more out and about, then home to Berlin.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

some good news in Tanzania

I loved this article in the New York Times today about small orphanages in Tanzania (and elsewhere too) that buck the trend of orphans who have bleak prognoses in life because they get institutional care in the orphanage and later their village or their extended family doesn't take them in very well because the kids aren't attached to them and vice versa.

Instead, teenage girls (a cousin, a sister, an aunt) from the village and/or the extended family live in the orphanage with the babies and small children, taking care of them in a loving and personal way, learning caretaking skills themselves and often learning other things, like literacy skills, they might not have gotten otherwise, and then when the babies are old enough (3 or 5 or something) they go back to the village, along with their very connected teenage girl, and the outcome for everybody is so much better.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

fixing the calendar

OK, so the countdown really is on - or maybe what I should say is the reality is hitting - I just went into Google calendar where we keep the details of our social life/lives, and was checking to make sure I had all the many things in there for June and July that are lined up (friends visiting, birthdays, good-bye parties, - ah, that reminds me I was just told last night about a good-bye party for Felix's class I should still put in there) - and then I looked at August and did three things that made it all real:

1. I put in our flight home on August 2nd
2. I put in Felix's first day of school on August 13th
3. I erased all my ongoing things that had continued on to infinity - 9 a.m. Tuesdays meet my Weight Watcher lady friends to go walking / 10 a.m. Tuesdays end up back at the meeting place for Weight Watcher weigh-in and meeting / 7 p.m. Wednesdays play-reading group / 10 a.m. Fridays writing group - all erased! August is very wide open on the calendar right now! It's a different time . . . 

Kim - it was thinking about your visit that spurred me to do all this. Back to the calendar to put in Felix's classroom's good-bye!

Friday, June 19, 2009

And Amani!

You'd think I'd be smart enough, right about now, to realize I need to stop trying to name my readers. But I just can't not list Amani, dear niece who is a blog follower. Hi Amani, give my love to Kyle, be well and enjoy your summer in Austin!


So does this happen to any of you? You're unloading the clean dishwasher, and you put a couple of things on the counter instead of into the cupboard where they belong, briefly, for some reason, and before you know it you're confused and you're putting them from the counter back into the dishwasher - and then because you're loading the dishwasher now, not unloading it, you start putting other (dirty) dishes that are around into the dishwasher, and pretty soon you have a dishwasher full of a few dirty dishes and a bunch of others that used to be clean but are now contaminated by the drippage from all the dirty ones?

(No, me neither, but when I woke up this morning from my nice long sleep I had dreamt it so vividly I was quite annoyed with myself - the half that wasn't amused.)

I'm baaaack! and I had such a good night's sleep! (and happy travels to elenabella!)

Went to bed well before ten last night (tucked Felix in next to me - only good way to get him to go to bed early really) after blogging, and set the alarm for 11:15 this morning just so I wouldn't sleep ALL day.

Woke up, and I swear I looked at the clock and it was 10-ish, and I lay there and thought, wow, I slept a really long time - and I luxuriated in that, and felt stiff from all the sleeping, and thought about getting up, and luxuriated some more, and then I did get up: and it was 7:30! What was that all about?

So still, it was just about ten hours I think and now I just have to do some stretching, but what I really wanted to say was: how could I leave elenabella off my list of readers, elenabella who got me started and inspired me and whose aesthetically pleasing blog always pops up at me from the dashboard when I go to write my own? Who sends me little notes to say she's reading? 

Maybe it was just a little subconscious thing because I had just seen, starting from that very dashboard, that she was off to the continent I'm on and was leaving behind the virtual updates she is otherwise so reliable in maintaining. So Ellena Bellena, if you're reading this, have a fabulous trip - sorry we're finally not connecting but may all go wonderfully well! See you back in Bloomington! And everybody else, you can go read back posts at - I just watched the video of Obama swatting a fly (Ellen is waaaaay more technologically sophisticated than I) there, and I can see why PETA is up in arms. 

6 weeks to go and Judy Pennington's shoes, again

It's amazing - I say oh, I want to blog, oh, I want to blog, over and over, and it turns out all I need to do is open up and there I am - I mean here I am - and I'm blogging. It's amazing.

I do wonder who out there is reading. I know Kim is, and Cynthia is, and Susan Schneider are you still there?, and Mommy, and Ruthy but she's camping right now - and Anja surprises me every now and then mentioning she read - anyway I thank you all for reading. Hi and love to you all!

Now it's 6 weeks and a couple of days till we leave. Tonight, sandwiched between sis-in-law #1 and her family on one side, and my friend Bianca from Weight Watchers on the other side, I mentioned about the 6 weeks (as in: when we go there will be lots of clay and children's books and things like that for now-2-year-old Fanny to inherit, and in 6 weeks we'll be dismantling our household), sis-in-law Jacqueline and friend Bianca both said dismayedly - oh no! 6 weeks! Which is gratifying and sweet, and I think that too though of course I have home to go home to. But yes, it's weird to be thinking that.

I had a wonderful day Wednesday. In the morning, went shopping with my weight vest on and my book in my hand (Empress, by Karen Miller, book 1 in the Godspeaker series, a fantasy/science fiction thing - have I mentioned it before?) and even though I thought I'd got beyond looking funny, one of my neighbors said "Das sieht lustig aus!" which means "that looks amusing!" She said it very nicely (she's a lovely woman). 

Then I went to my office and sent and received e-mails and meetings like mad about the upcoming good-bye party at our institute here, for which I have so far been the entertainment committee though others are coming on board. And I worked on the 813-page manuscript. And after lunch there was an hourlong meeting with the other committees for the party, and then I went to the bus stop to take a bus clear across town to see my friend Susanne and Felix called to say he'd locked himself out of the house (I hadn't seen him since he'd come home from school; coming home very early while I was to be at lunch and meeting, I had left him money and a note and he'd very happily/gratefully taken himself to Subway) - so I had him run to the bus stop, barefoot because that was how he'd locked himself out of the house, and I nervously gave him my keys (I tried putting them in a plant box along the long street he was running up to find me at the bus stop but I couldn't tell whether he was seeing that was what I was doing), nervously because the bus was already overdue - but anyway we had a key handover and it worked out fine and we got to chat a minute [the office and the lunch room are a 5-minute walk down the street from our apartment; the bus stop is between them, but about 4/5 of the way to the office - i.e. 1 minute from office, 4 minutes from home].

Then off to Susanne, reading Empress on the train on the way there and up the steps to her house, tripping only once on the steps, and then a couple of hours with Susanne singing and playing the guitar! It was wonderful. Susanne is my friend from the gospel choir weekend workshop last October, and for a while we saw each other oh, every couple of weeks almost for a nice long walk, but it had been easily 6 weeks and maybe more. And we both had a wonderful time. Susanne was the one playing the guitar - she's a lot farther forward than I am though not completely confident. Then we put the guitar away and sang rounds. And she had a songbook and I had my Rise Up Singing songbook, and she liked some of what was in it and I left it with her to make some copies of some songs for her English class. (Songbooks in this country have LOTS of English songs in them; songbooks in our country--I hadn't even noticed but then of course did--not terribly many German ones, though in the Rounds section there were a couple.)

That was really lovely and so much fun, and then we went for a short walk to the Spree, the Berlin river that runs very close to her house, and then I was zooming off on the train to Sabine's for Wednesday night play-reading. We sat outside on the balcony, it was me, Sabine, Anna my young undergraduate friend, and Sabine's 13-year-old daughter Ada, and for once we read in German not English, the first half approximately of Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Der Besuch der Alten Dame, the Visit of the Old Lady, a play I wrote about in these [pages? pixels? keystrokes?] a few months ago, if I remember aright. It's an amazing play! Several twists and several things that after they are twists just become fascinating and challenging things to work out. I do recommend it, again.

So yes, a very nice day altogether. 

And at Weight Watchers on Tuesday mornings I'm connected, I have three friends from there who I walk with and have done things with outside of Weight Watchers and even at the meeting (though I didn't go this week, working on manuscript), though it's lots of people, there's a wonderful atmosphere and people I'm now very familiar with and feel connected with, and they've let me know they'll miss me too. And I them!

Speaking of manuscript, I got through the end of page 813 yesterday. Hooray! I came home, took off all my clothes, weighed myself [bad news, too much editing and not enough exercise or sleep], put some more clothes on, and sat around reading Empress and maybe also some Proust with husband (I know we read some yesterday morning though we were both harried, which was very nice to do) - I am NOT an exclusively lowbrow person, I let some high culture in through a tiny crack in my armor sometimes.

Anyway. So many more nice things - Tuesday out to dinner with friends from the institute, it was a glorious night and a glorious dinner and a fun conversation (though I may have gone on a bit extra about my low-culture tastes and specifically my Saint-German vampire novels [which are not just any vampire novels I hasten to add]). Last Saturday hubby successfully turned 50, he liked the birthday book I put together for him with lovely notes from his oldest and bestest friends and family.

And now it's me and Felix alone at home tonight. Got to talk to my parents which made me very happy - no video chat because it wasn't working for some reason, but an audio one. Hubby left this morning for a long weekend in Krakow with his best kindergarten buddy. 2-year-old joy machine Fanny spent the afternoon with me and Felix, culminating at the school festival where, as I mentioned above, Bianca sat on one side of me and Fanny and her parents on the other - Felix played percussion in one song and electric guitar in another performed by his class band. 

Tomorrow night my fellow writing group members come for a sleepover, and Sunday we're running an all-day writing workshop (12 people have signed up for sure and there might be a couple more), so I'm a little nervous but I intend to go get some sleep right about now and spend tomorrow cleaning the house and making the beds for the sleepoverers, and then worrying about food for sleepover, food for writing workshop, and writing exercises for the workshop!

Oh and I've started riding my bike around more when I remember to. It's a nice way to get around, it really is. But I'm not going to completely abandon my beloved double decker buses and wonderful-places-to-read S-Bahn trains. Or my walking, with or without the weight vest, and with or without Fanny's stroller. (Today we went and looked at the ducks, which is a favorite pastime. And we sang "Hänschen klein" about 6 times - two with one of our songbooks, and two with the other, and once before we opened the books, and actually many more than once after we closed them again so it was more than 6 I realize now. Fanny likes to tease me by singing one of the lines from it to me, but wrong-ish, and then I correct her and sing it right, and then she laughs her head off while I sing the rest of that stanza and for good measure finish the song with the last two stanzas.)

I'm wondering - forgive me if I've already written this - if I should keep blogging when I get home, and if so, in what form? What should I focus on? Dailiness simply? Or something else, some other aspect? I'm just not quite sure.

It's a lovely evening to a lovely day. I do hope against hope those protesters in Iran can change something. Good night, good night!

Friday, June 12, 2009

we're still here!

Meaning that two ways, actually.

One, I still exist, though I haven't blogged in over a week. Please do keep checking back occasionally!

And two, we're still in Berlin. If I count right, we are here for seven more weeks and a day. Done lots of things I've wanted to write about but how to manage? Let me quickly start backwards and say a few things, then sign off to bike out for little breads (how do you say Brötchen in English I wonder? rolls I guess is the closest but of course that ain't it), marmalade, some melon - for the hubby turning 50 as soon as he wakes up this morning. 

Last night I dragged said hubby to a relay race, that is to say months ago we had both (or rather each - I was in the States on my March visit and he was here in Berlin and we responded separately to the invitation) signed up for a spot on the 5 x 5km relay race that his institute was participating in as an institution. Some of the fellows at his institute signed up thinking we each had to run only 1 km but like true troopers they trained - including a couple who are grandparents - and all finished and did fine. Hubby was very grumpy ahead of time and started the day before saying he didn't want to go, there was supposed to be rain, he wanted to e-mail around and see who else didn't want to go because only one person couldn't drop out but if 5 did they could just take out one of the relay groups entirely. I told him that was uncool. (I just want to say I totally did not dragoon him into it in truth: I had asked him several times in the months and weeks preceding if he was really prepared and wanted to do it and he always said yes - so yesterday then when he suddenly flipped I did kind of drag him.)

Well, the weather was outrageously changeable yesterday - every half hour changed from lovely blue sky to threatening threatening or even raining, dribbling or hard. But I bought a huge tote bag full of breads and fruits and potato chips and chocolates (Felix and other children were coming to hang out and be there), and we went off but the S-Bahn, unheard-of-ly, arrived and then sat and didn't keep going, and then there was an announcement that for an unpredictable amount of time it would continue to sit because of track issues at the next station - and finally we called Felix who was in a car with our neighbors and fellow fellows and their son Peter, his buddy, coming to the S-Bahn also, and long story short our neighbor Don drove us all there, dropped us off (his wife Cindy was also running) and went to park.

And longer story short, it never did rain, there was wonderful camaraderie, there were 5 teams of 5 in our group and the entire staging area was jampacked with people from lawyers' offices, hospitals, small businesses, huge businesses, who knows what else, who had fielded teams for this relay race, and the kids sat or stood on blankets and played and talked, and everybody ate food, and we mingled with the staff of our institute in a way beyond what we usually do, and hubby was glad he went and I was glad he was glad (last race as a 49-year-old; probably also first race since he was maybe 13?), and he did 5K in 28 and I in 35 minutes and then he, Felix, and I walked for maybe half an hour or forty minutes (my pedometer would say if I wanted to go up and get it -- it was miraculously found behind Felix's bookcase about 3 days ago one day after I'd finally bought a cheap replacement I wasn't happy with but that's another story) because all the buses were canceled in the area because of the race (Peter's family was going off in another direction afterwards), so we finally took a taxi driven by the grumpiest man alive at first who wouldn't answer hubby's thrice-repeated question about whether the taxi was available, and who forgot to turn on the taximeter for three or four minutes, but who finally warmed up and started speaking a mixture of English and German to us (which is what we were sort of speaking anyway) and was, if not positively giddy, at least a perfectly warm and friendly man by the end. When he belatedly turned on his taximeter and swore under his breath I thought: this taxi driver is so out of it - is he maybe high? And for an instant I thought how funny, but then I thought no, hubby, younger son and I are sitting in a large lethal weapon being driven by this man - how funny is that not?

We got home safely, the ride was quite a bit cheaper than it would otherwise have been (16 euros for the record including generous tip for around here; we occasionally spring for taxis, our theory being that we don't have a car and it's way cheaper to have monthly bus passes and occasionally spring for taxis when we really want or need them).

I have got to run! 8:04 and still my oatmeal to make and eat and get the breakfast things for the others so we can eat and get out in time to get lovely foodstuffs to serve the larger family (mother-in-law, sister-in-law, four more in sis-in-law's family, nephew, nephew's girlfriend) for a birthday lunch.

Love y'all, and I'll be trying to post on the countdown: 7 weeks and a day in Berlin to go. Should I sign up for the 10K run that's the evening of August 1st, given that we fly back to Bloomington August 2nd? Just wondering . . .

Friday, June 5, 2009

Judy Pennington and the magic running shoes

Actually, I think she might call them tennis shoes. Judy Pennington is the petite and put-together and ever-upbeat Weight Watcher leader who presided over year 1 of my weight loss in Bloomington (when I lost 80 pounds, as opposed to the following various 4 years, in which I gained 10, or stayed the same, or lost 5, or whatever).

And Judy has always been full of inspirational things to say, and as Boo-who-modeled-weight-loss-for-me always said, there's a *reason* they call them truisms! They're true!

But Judy also said a lot of things I'd never heard before, and told us stories from her life, and one of the ones that I think of most often has to do with her running shoes. She used to be a runner, then she gained weight and wasn't one anymore, and then she wanted to run again but didn't get going and didn't get going - and finally she started putting her running shoes right next to her bed at night. Then when she got up in the morning the first thing she did was put on the running shoes, and after that, how hard is it to actually put on the rest of the things and leave the house?

Oh, Judy, too true too true. And I use this for so many things. I want for instance to blog, just a little bit of blogging every day, and do I do it? no, of course not, as you so well know. But when I finally do get the blogging happening, what I do is: I just open up the dashboard - and then, and then, after that it's easy! So the trick is: I tell myself I'm just going to open up the dashboard and I won't write anything just yet. So that makes it easy to open it up in the first place, if you see what I mean. 

And likewise, to get to my editorial desk and actually start moving through the manuscript for the day, oh there are so many ways to procrastinate (thank you Susan, my Scrabble playmate), and yet at some point (which is surely going to be any minute now) I just put my body over there in the chair and tell myself I'm going to just start looking at the manuscript to see where I left off - or I'm just going to do one or two pages and then I'll see - and then, and then, I'm off and running.

See you at the races, thank you Judy thank you, and happy weekend everybody!

The dollhouse

Fanny's two today, happy birthday Fanny, and I got an old and big and roomy and wonderful dollhouse for cheap in a secondhand store, and some dolls and furniture too which are quite wonderful I think, and we just have to fix up the house - I got sandpaper, paint, paintbrushes, and screws today and we're going to fix it tonight and see Fanny tomorrow.

What fun! I'm so pleased, I don't really want to give Fanny the dollhouse, I want to keep it myself! (OK, not really, I don't begrudge it her at all but still . . . )

If I was clever like elenabella I'd probably put a picture of it here but I have no concept, so please forgive me. Maybe in blog 2.0 that will be something I know how to do. (Ask me if I can even text from my cellphone - or don't ask, just guess the answer.)

when we shall again be in Bloomington

I know I've written about this before, but I've been thinking about what it might take to recreate the parts of Berlin life I like, back in Bloomington.

Yesterday I thought: I was so happy and content in my life in Bloomington before we left, and so unhappy here at first, and now it's good here so what does that mean - I do so want to reconnect with my wonderful Bloomington friends when I get back, and at the same time I want to meet new people in Bloomington, do more new different things.

So yesterday's new thought was: I want to be in some groups in Bloomington that are open, to which I can invite new people whenever or wherever I might happen to meet new people whom I like. I think that is definitely one of the things making it all come together for me here right now. It's exciting to meet new people and fun to connect them.

And today's new thought, not an idea so much for a strategy so much as a recognition, is: I think that one reason I'm enjoying myself so freely and wildly here - which is, actually, heavily connected to why I was so lonely and unhappy here at the beginning - is that our family life is VERY different here. On the one hand we are intensely together sometimes, but on the other hand we are all and each more independent. 1. There is public transportation so children and adults alike can go off in different directions on their own and come home on their own; 2. We are in this hilarious and intense dormlike situation with families and people all around us with connections for each of us, so there too we have more options to separate out and each of us be engaged with others outside the family without involving the other family members; 3. hubby is I think way more constantly and happily and busily involved with other people (this is the part that was most about me being lonely at first and me being freer to bop around town now) - it's not like at home he was always begging me to do things together, if anything maybe even the other way around, but still somehow there was more pressure to be home; 4. the HOUSE, the house, the house is a bit of a millstone ain't it, whereas here we are in a little apt. that isn't even ours, so I think that there is just less to do, less to worry about.

Hmmm. Not sure at all how all this will translate but I'm thinking as hard as I can!

smalltown girl in bigtown place

Monday, June 1, 2009

Revisiting Proust

We're reading Proust again, and we've already gotten farther than last time.

The tricks:

1. hubby is reading in German (his native language) while I read in French (my second language which just happens to be the original for this particular text!) - we take turns reading to each other and following along and when one or the other of us doesn't understand something in one of the languages we can refer to the other. So far we're doing well.

2. instead of trying to read at the same time all the time, and/or a whole bunch at a time (you like how Proust's eloquence has already rubbed off on me?), we read for five or ten or fifteen minutes at a time, whenever we can, wherever we can.

So yesterday on the buses and trains going to meet our friends Anja and Alexander for a fabulous Vietnamese lunch on the far side of town, we read to each other. 

(Actually, we read on the bus, sitting at the front top of the double decker, and when we got off a mother said to her little kids - you can go sit there now! and I felt guilty - we really hadn't been even looking out the window! - and then we read while waiting for the train but on the train itself it was too loud and tricky. And then, on the way home, sitting down to wait for the fast S-Bahn train at Alexanderplatz, just when we would have started reading, hubby asked the man who sat down next to me about Nicholson's Baker The Mezzanine, which he was holding in his hand. So we talked to him the whole time waiting for the train and then on the train till he got off two stops or so before us - he's lived in Berlin on and off for 17 years and makes music for commercials and writes reviews and it was fun and refreshing to talk to him about being American [from the way he spoke I assume he's American but he never said just where he was from] and being in Germany and German assumptions about Americans and vice versa - he was himself what he called a "farbiger Ausländer" - a foreigner of color in this country - and we talked about German insensitivities as we perceive them [hubby later said that this man, Shawn was his name, and I were ranting together though I didn't see it that way] but also about Nicholson Baker, which he and hubby had very much in common.)

more small children!

Got to talk to my sister on the phone last night for a good long while - thank you, Ruthy, for calling! And we talked about those kids in the woods, and she told me something, and I told her something. 

She told me that reading my blog post about the unaccompanied kiddywinkles reminded her of all the times she'd seen five-year-olds (FIVE!) out along off by the side of the road, herding cows, in Ethiopia. Clearly, they managed. 

And I told her that yesterday, on my way back from yet another childless jog in the woods, I stumbled on childers in the cobbled dip between Winkler Strasse and Koenigsallee, the wonderful little walkthrough called Hasensprung, aka Bunny Hop, which I have mentioned before. It is fabulous because it hangs down low like a hammock slung between the two streets (Winkler Strasse as I have also mentioned before means cornery street and it does do that, turn corners; Koenigsallee is not named after any kings at all it turns out but Felix Koenig, whose dates I don't have in my head any more) - but a hammock paved with cobblestones and punctuated in four places by sets of two offset metal gates (to stop cars and seriously slow down bikes) and, at its lowest point, straight and walled by two bridge sides with long lean hares atop, looking out over the lake on each side.

So there I was at the lowest point in the hammocky pedestrian street and coming towards were two tiniest of children, each with a pug puppy on a leash and all of this being herded by a short adult. Smallness was of the essence here. And the little girl was I think at least watching the puppy at the end of her leash but the little boy was surely looking elsewhere, and every few steps the puppies just basically fell all over each other and tripped and rolled and stumbled, and then they kept walking as if nothing was (as they say here in Germany), and I thought: amazing. Why didn't we think of getting a pug puppy instead of a full-grown Rottweiler/Shepherd/Chow mix when we got Jesse - since poor Felix, maybe 6 at the time, was completely unable to walk our new full-grown puppy. 

Or, going back to the Ethiopian example: why didn't we just get a cow?