Friday, November 14, 2008

The Folly of Democracy

In this time of economic, civic, and military crisis, we need some unity going forward. Since the election everyone in Germany's been giddy for Obama. Except Ryan, who in his contrary nature is becoming more conservative everyday. Whenever we meet up with our Dems Abroad friends he has to contradict people. I'm sure they all think he's a closet Republican!

He did have an interesting observation the other day. Liberals lambaste Conservatives for refusal to believe in evolution and the general suspicion that the scientific community is not above sawing dinosaur bones together to make evolutionary fossils.

But our liberal friends in the same breath will go on about how they only eat organic foods because regular ones leave "toxins" or that vaccines cause autism.

So when it comes down to it, we're all pretty stupid. And we can vote!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Saint Martin's Day

One of the many benefits of living in Bavaria are the abundance of Catholic holidays. Last night we celebrated the festival of Saint Martin. It commemorates a Roman Centurion who saw a beggar in the snow (?) and gave him half of his cloak. The beggar turned into Jesus and Saint Martin gets the holiday.

At nightfall the family and I walked to the local church, the kids clutching electric lanterns. There was a pageant in the church yard, with Saint Martin hymns. The kids swung their lanterns and sang. Then we processed down the street to a nearby park, where St Martin rode around in a circle on a large "Icelandic" horse. We sang some more songs, the priest explained and answered a few of the children's questions about the horse. Then we processed back to the church yard for a bonfire and mulled wine. Mmmmm....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Night 2008

The Dems Abroad party was unexpectedly sold out last week, leaving Ryan and I floundering for plans. Everyone had blown us off for Halloween, I was not spending Election Night at home! With a bit of searching we found a bash at American-owned bar called "Die Registratur." There was a myriad of excited people: Brits, Yanks, Germans, and some crazy guy with an Obama balloon taped to a stick with leaves on it. No McCain fans to be found.

The bar itself was pretty cool, a converted auditorium of a Catholic girls school, decorated in the cheesiest bunting and miniature flags. Miller, popcorn, and hot dogs were on special. Ryan tried the Miller but realized once you go German you don't go back. We crammed into a booth with a bunch of others and had some interesting conversations. I met a Ghanian guy who went to school in Michigan for 6 years so as to avoid a return to Ghana. He was sitting with a bunch of girls who invaded and kept squishing us.

Our friend,Gwendolyn, brought her friends, a group of mysterious 20-somethings on a "permanent business trip". They're working for some law firm and were on and off their Blackberries buying beers on expense accounts all night. Except for one who was raging drunk, hit on Ryan, and when Ryan left starting talking to his friends really loudly about my "ta tas." I was miffed, but let it go. His friends were very apologetic and he had clearly drank away the last of his judgment.

He did get drunker and funnier as the night went on. At one point he was waving an American flag around saying "Jesus" not in a swearing way, but rather as a question, which apparently offended the Ghanian guy who threatened to take him outside. But drunk man's friends told the Ghanian that this was a bad idea, their friend was used to getting drunk and laying guys out cold. So he backed off.

While the drunks and political conversation was interesting, in the background they were playing CNN international. If you haven't been out of the country much you've probably never seen this version of CNN. Its what they play around the world to make it look like Americans care about international news, when we actually want celebrity rumors. Anyway, the commercials on this channel are strictly intended for millionaires "Invest in Poland!" "India: Business Central." etc.

Anyway, CNN international played us lots of clips of the global reaction to the election. I don't know if they play these on regular CNN, for the reasons I've listed above. However, they were covering big fancy consulate parties with lots of swank. Where was our coverage? I guess they're not interested in drunk Germans. But they weren't overstating international interest. Everyone I know has asked me many times about the election, electoral votes, the congress, etc.

But the best thing about this year's coverage was definitely the HOLOGRAM LADY. WTF? Pop-up congress building and hologram lady. This is not the way to make the election more exciting, CNN. In addition to this bizarre technology they touted weird vertical bar graphs that you couldn't read and TWO teams of people pretending to type on laptops.

Die Registratur had the bright idea to play viral videos during the dull parts of election coverage, but unfortunately they only had political rap. I should've been the one to make this list, I do watch You Tube obsessively. There wasn't even a "La Piquena Sarah Palin."

Because of the 6 hour time difference between Germany and the East Coast, things startled dwindling before we got our election results. We stayed for the frank discussion "McCain would have to win the West Coast to get enough votes at this point." But Gwen's mysterious business friends left, along with the Ghanian, his girlfriends, and our Germans. Drunky passed out on a sofa with no shoes on, and Ryan and I decided to quit around 4 am. As we arrived at our train station in Pasing, a TV in Yorma's cafe was showing the electoral tally for Obama over 300.

It still feels like a dream.

-After another drunk guy hit on me, we decided I should change the "Yes We Can" button on my shirt to "No You Can't."
-apparently Anderson Cooper is a gay icon. Who knew?

Quit your Halloween-ing, its time to quietly honor our dead!

Last Thursday I dropped the kiddos off at their grandparents and put myself on the train to the truly scary Oberschleisheim. After switching trains twice, missing my bus by 30 seconds, and then riding for 20 minutes and wandering through a hellish office park-scape I finally came to the mysteriously titled "Pozamt."

I had come for "Halloween Treats" sent by my mother-in-law. I expected something maybe shoe box sized, but the lady came around with let's say a television-sized box. (Not a big screen, but you get the idea). Then I was sent to another line where the woman in front of me was saying "I don't speak German. That's my box. Those are my hair products!" The customs agent eyed her suspiciously and opened the box, eyed its contents, and gave her a receipt to pay for his service. "Crud" I thought. They're going to sort through this massive box and charge me.

But I put on my best American smile and spoke a little German. He let me go without opening our giant box or charging me. The moral of the story: Damnit Americans, make an effort!

That night the kids were presented with massive Halloween bags and were delighted if baffled. They immediately began devouring candy eyeball necklaces and gummi bats. The Reeses were rejected, but hey, more for me!

My mom-in-law was also kind enough to include Chewy Chips Ahoy and Double-Stuffed Oreos. Delightful! We made our host-parents taste the Oreos and their reactions were so interesting. They kept trying to describe the flavors like "cake batter" or "English biscuits" and so on. I'd never thought of what an Oreo tastes like-- they are the Alpha and Omega of my childhood; I can't remember a time before them and they will surely outlive me.

Actual Halloween night was not too exciting. Ryan and I borrowed "Arachnaphobia" from the library and compared its actual contents to the nightmares we had about it as kids. Pretty funny. We ate too many Chips Ahoy and I attempted to drink a small glass of whole milk. Still can't do it. Though I am completely in love with mineral water.

Funny side notes:
-uber Catholic Bavaria has a law that all Halloween activities end by midnight since November 1st is All-Saints Day. Every year families quietly clean their loved ones' graves, place flowers and red lanterns, and have a ceremony where the priest blesses them. It is not meant to be joyful.
-my fellow au pair friend Gwen took one of her kids trick-or-treating. Some people are down with it, but others gave her a talk that its not nice to go begging for things.
-the above photo is A. marveling in his good fortune. Later photos include the tantrum once the candy was put away for the night.