I’ve been writing a lot lately. Sermons and Bible Study. I’ve been neglecting the public diary.
1) We’re heading back to the United States for a quick visit. I’m now realizing too quick but at the time we booked the tickets we didn’t think we could or should be gone for a longer period of time. We are returning first of all for Elder Step-son’s graduation from Berkley. We are also returning for Beloved to attend an actuary conference in Vancouver, Canada. I’m going to go to Portland while Beloved in Vancouver to see my mother, daughter, and friends.
We passed the six month mark about a month ago. It seems too early to be heading back and we’ve been a little bit reluctant to think about or plan for this trip. We started talking about why that might be. I think one reason is that it has taken a lot of mental and emotional energy to get here and then get some bearings while being here. We’re just starting to feel like we do live here and yet, we’re going back already. Are we tourists? Residents? What?
It’s also odd to be thinking about the USA as the destination of a trip. What kind of cash will we need? Electrical plugs? Why look, all my “stuff” that I would normally think of as being in the USA is actually here in Germany. USA becomes the “not-home” destination. That’s disorientating.
2) one of the ways we are changing is how much we are living an unplugged life. We have a washing machine with a built in dryer but we prefer to line dry our clothing both in the laundry room and on the back porch. We don’t own an iron or a vacuum cleaner. We don’t have rugs so we’ve learned to wrap a floor towel around a mop and wipe the dust. My blender ring has been broken for several months and I’ve learned ways to work around it. I have a kitchen aid that I only use once in a while – basically for mincing or grinding with an attachment. We don’t own a car and our bikes plus public transportation have been great. We do still have a TV and more computers then necessary but we don’t watch TV very much any longer. We do have a dishwasher that came with the kitchen and I’m not too proud to use it but I’m not sure I’d buy one if we moved. We have an oven with a built in microwave which is also useful but I’ve lived without a microwave before and would be happy to do so again. Getting rid of used, old, broken microwaves is really hard. Personally, I’ve been losing weight without trying and I feel healthier.
3) Barvaria has a lot of holidays. More then the rest of the country. The extra holidays are Christian in nature, Catholic Christian to be specific. Take for example, Ascension Day. The day Jesus had a last little chit-chat with the disciples and then floated away on a cloud. This year it fell on a Thursday. No matter, everything including all stores, are now closed. Stores are closed on Sunday too. It really helps to plan ahead in this country.
Amusingly, Ascension Day is also Vater’s Tag. Why? I don’t know other then an attempt to connect it to Jesus’s return to God the Father. (Do you think Jesus was bringing back a tie?)
Vater’s Tag in Germany in general and in Barvaria (they have beer here, did you know that?) is taken very seriously as a day when men get together and drag giant wagons filled with beer bottle off to the countryside. The custom to celebrate their being a father or to honor their father is for men to abandon their families and go get very seriously drunk together in the woods. The newspaper has headlines warning about drunks on the road and road deaths going up toward the end of this specially family time. Maybe the actual goal is to go hitch a ride with Jesus on that cloud?
Mutter’s Tag is on the same day as the US but England has a different date. Earlier in the year I think. So, I wished my English women friends a happy Mother’s Day and they smile and say, “oh, we already celebrated it, thanks.” There does not appear to be any customs involving beer and the countryside for Mutter’s Tag but there does appear to have been a number of well dressed families taking Grossmutter (yes, gross is German for both clothing sizes for the “plus” size women and grandmothers) out for a drive for for brunch. I’m thinking there’s something of an inequality about this or at least a very interesting insight into gender parenting roles.
Next week comes not only Pfingstonntag but also Pfingstmontag. Pentecost Sunday is when Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit (see the Book of Acts, chapter 2). American protestant congregations may or may not make a big thing out of it. They may or may not all dress in shades of red and have fans turned on in worship. Its seen as the birth of the Christian church so many congregations haul out birthday cakes and sing the Happy Birthday song for the children’s sermon. Then everyone heads out to the children’s sports game or the bike ride or the lawn mowing or the shopping mall and that’s that. If an American government entity wants to announce that the swimming pool is open, they might say “May 19th” or they might say “Memorial Day Weekend”. They do not say “Pentecost Day”
Bavarian governmental organizations will say “Pflingstonntag“. Yeah, its an obscure Christian holiday but this city is kind of Catholic here. So you might be Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or spiritual-but-not-religious or none-of-the-above but no matter. If you live in Barvaria, you’ll know when it Pentecost or else you’ll be eating in restaurants for the weekend because Pfingstmontag is another public holiday. Going shopping for food on Saturday? Better plan through Tuesday then.
3) We’re moving into late spring weather which seems to involve increasing humidity and frequent thunderstorms. Big continental wind, rain, lightening and thunder thunderstorms. They are awesome. We’re enjoying being able to have our windows open. European windows open like a door and also tilt from the top depending on how you twist the handle. Opening from the top is very useful when it rains because the rain doesn’t come in. Unless the rain is being driven by the wind directly into your fifth floor bedroom window.
When we were here for a month in June, trying to decide if we wanted to make the move or not, I remember experiencing the humidity. And how much many Germans fear drafts. They’re fine with sitting out in the snow and smoking their cigarettes. (Have I told you my cigarette rant yet?) but open a window, any window and these windows are about 3 inches tall, on a subway car and half the riders will be staring daggers at you if not jumping over you to close the death trap.
But I digress. I remember that fans were great! Fans in the not-air-conditioned hotel (remember, drafts will kill you). We’re going to have to start making a buy of a few of those, load them up in our little bike carts and peddle them home from the German Home Depot (called Brauhouse and looks exactly the same. Globalization anyone?). Fans, washing machines, and (okay, you got me) dishwashers are the necessary exception to the Unplugged Lifestyle.
4) About a week ago we went off to the Rick Steves Germany Sacred Site of Rothenburg ob am Tabor. I can see the attraction. I continue to read my way through several European history books at the same time and am starting to piece together this long complicated story of this place. We go out for long bike rides (my distance has increased a huge amount) and we keep tripping over randomly scattered palaces and castles. Seriously, there is so much big, beautiful old old stuff that after a while I can see how folks might misplace a few of the buildings. We’re making progress in speaking simple German and accomplishing little tasks which is heartening.
And now we get back on the big plane (grossflug?) and go see family. Whom we have missed. And we get a chance to see how much we’ve changed in the last six months and how much we remain the same. Probably more the same but with a few more German words.