Cocooning in Sin City

Fall 2004

 
No travels for the rest of 2004. None. Zilch. I need a break. In a 12-week period, I went on a motorcycle trip to Norway, spent a week in Barcelona, found a new apartment, ran around finding things to furnish the apartment, went to the USA for two weeks, studied for and took a post graduate exam, nursed a very sick dog (more on that later), helped renovate the new apartment, packed my stuff and moved to the new apartment, helped renovate my old apartment, and stressed out non-stop over the Presidential election (more on that later).

Let me say it again: noooooooo travels for the rest of 2004. Not that I'm getting a huge break -- I have to finish unpacking (as of the end October, I still am not completely done), start my next course, finish my final contract at work, and finish the travelogues for Norway, in Barcelona and the San Francisco Bay area. Oh, and, yes, take Spanish classes (still at it). But I want at least a few weekends where I wake up and get the pleasure of saying, "Hmmmmm... what should I do today?"

For Christmas Eve, I will, once again, be in lovely Höhr- Grenzhausen, Stefan's home town, where I will be plied with an enormous amount of food and drink. No plans for New Year's Eve -- I think I would kind of like to spend it right here at home, and watch the fireworks from our incredible view.

So, as you all know, my contract at work ends on February 15, 2005. I'm spending my last several weeks there trying to get everything documented for the next sucker... er, employee, who follows me. Seriously, I really appreciate walking into a job and knowing what's done, and what needs to be done, instead of spending my first several months trying to figure that out entirely on my own. I may even get to leave at the end of January, if I have the vacation time to use up. After that, I'm hoping to take a few months off -- go back to Spain for another intensive Spanish course, finally take an intensive German course, finish my studies (I will be done, if all goes well, in October 2005), and see some places I haven't yet (Italy and France lead the list). But at some point in 2005, I do very much want to find some sort of employment here, although that's unbelievably hard and, therefore, I'm hoping for it, but not counting on it.

Getting ready to move, and actually moving, was crazy. In most rental situations here, unlike the tenant who is leaving has to prepare the apartment for the new tenant (painting, carpets, etc.). That's how it was for my old apartment. But our new apartment (described earlier) does it the American way -- the new tenant paints, etc. So I had to arrange to get two apartments fixed up at the same time. We spent our weekends buying carpets, ceiling fans (we're planning for summer -- and it took forever to find just two places selling such, let alone what we were looking for), shelves (remember, my place was furnished, so I had no furniture), closets (because German houses and apartments do not come with closets), a coat rack for the hall, a shower curtain rod that would twist around the bathtub (I can't even explain the bizzarro setup that had been there with the last tenants), a cart (to carry Buster down our driveway), and just on and on and on. Stefan's Dad painted the ENTIRE apartment, by himself, and put in the carpets. I can't believe all he did. He did a WONDERFUL job.

I knew the dogs were going to be okay here before we even moved here. We came one day to put together furniture, before we had moved in, and we brought the dogs to meet the landlord's dog, Busty (big black fierce-looking German sheperd mix that is almost twice as big as Albi and is a pussy cat in reality). We all walked along the Ahr River together, then headed up to the house (the landlady volunteered to take Buster up in her tiny SUV -- wish she could do that every day). The dogs all walked around the terrace and then finally settled down, so then we went into the apartment to do more work. Albi and Buster laid there and slept or just laid there and watched. They completely accepted their situation.

Since moving, the dogs have adjusted to the new city and new apartment here in Sinzig, otherwise known as Sin City (not), very well , and also to Busty, who may look mean while barking, but has turned out to be a WIMP. A total mommy and daddy's boy. He has eyes only for the landlord and his wife. I adore him. He doesn't really pay much attention to Buster, which is probably just as well. Buster loves to sneak into the landlord's apartment when Busty comes out, and Busty doesn't mind at all. I am, to say the least, thrilled that they all get along. Our landlord even built a little ramp so that Buster could go up the steps to the part of the terrace where the dogs are allowed to pee. And Buster CAN get up the driveway -- I bend over the entire way (which isn't that far, because the climb is so steep) and push his butt. He does not like going up in the wagon, but he's okay now about going down in it (it's the ONLY way to get him down safely -- he cannot walk it).

Stefan and I haven't had time to explore the town, really, so I can't tell you much about Sinzig yet. I can tell you that, so far, it's the weekends when I really love it here. That's when we take the dogs on long walks along the Ahr River, which we can see from our apartment (well, actually, just the trees that go along it). The Ahr is a very, very popular bike route, so in summer, I know we're going to be dodging a lot of bike travelers. Going West along the river, we cross a foot bridge and come to a big abandoned apple orchard -- as it's no longer attended to, you have to be careful that you don't get hit in the head this time of year. To the left off the bridge, about a kilometer away, is a "Tiergarten", a kind of petting zoo (except that you can't pet anything) called the Schwanenteich, which means "Swan Pond." It's right on the Ahr, between Sinzig and Bad Bodendorf, and is best reached by bike or on foot. There are approximately 50 different species of animals at the Schwanenteich, mostly birds (swans, peacocks, doves, turkeys, various kinds of chickens, all sorts of song birds) and also goats, a donkey, and ponies. Near this, away from the river, is a huge cemetary for German soldiers who died in a prison camp here in the "Golden Meile" after WWII. The Ahr is lined by farmland on one side and, like England, all farm land in Germany is open to walkers (and often bike riders too) on specially-built foot paths.

Albi has made friends with all of the "regulars" so far, and adores running at top speed through the orchard. The problem now is that she thinks ALL dogs are her buddy -- the way Buster used to. Even if the dog is snarling at her and ready to kill her. At least, unlike Buster, she can defend herself. But for some reason, she's afraid of small dogs that bark at her. Not big dogs that snarl at her. Just the little ones. Whatever...

Buster is, at times, positively bouncy -- he even runs a bit (particularly when Stefan is with us, because it makes Albi excited, and that makes Buster excited). He's had only one mishap -- Buster's back legs are very weak, and sometimes, he loses his balance. One day, he lost his balance and fell butt first over a ledge on the paved path near the footbridge. I nearly died, because I thought he'd fallen to the ditch about two meters below. Lucky us, there was a ledge of dirt right where he fell, so he didn't go far down at all, and was okay. But I had to get down half way in the ditch to pick him back up and put him back on the road. You will, no doubt, recall Buster's earlier tumble in Germany -- this latest tumble was nothing like that in geographic scale, but because of his age, pretty serious none the less.

I get up with Stefan at 6 a.m. each morning. I like seeing him off for work, but I HATE walking the dogs in the dark, which I did until the time change. Living this high up on the world, we have very, very long days in the summer (there is still streaks of daylight at 11 p.m.) and very, very short days (it's pitch black at 5 p.m.) in the height of winter. During the week, we just walk to the Ahr and back -- no river exploring in the dark.

My desk and computer are in the living room, overlooking the lovely Ahr Valley. Stefan's computer is in the back room, which serves as his office (and where you will sleep when you come visit). We're on a wireless network, through my Apple Airport -- I'm on a Mac, and he's on an IBM/Clone, and we're both surfing wireless, baby. Took a lot of work though (thanks again, Jens). So, if you don't know where we live, just get your Pringles can and drive around Sinzig -- you'll find us. And when you come visit, if you want to bring your laptop, and it has a wireless card, you, too, can surf with us!

If I haven't sent you our new address, contact me, and I'll send it. And I expect you all to come visit us in our new pad! The best times? Hmmm... March may be okay -- the only thing we have planned for sure is going to the 60th Anniversary of the Fall of Remagen (we're close enough that it will be a relatively-quick bike ride there). I may go to Spain for two-three weeks after that, probably in April, for another intensive Spanish course. You can come in May, but only if you have met Stefan, since he won't be here (he'll be on his month long motorcycle trip to the Western USA). June through September would probably be good times. But please give me plenty of warning, as I will be scheduling week-long trips to Italy, France, and at least one other country in 2005.

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Haven't been to the movies lately, both because we've had NO time, and because there hasn't been anything I'd like to see, quite frankly. I did go on a movie-buying spree, mostly used. I bought:

Plus, Kendra sent me seasons 1 - 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer . I avoided watching that show forever, and then, a few nights before I met Stefan in Ireland, all the way back in 2001, my friend Kirsty insisted I watched the first show and a couple more from different seasons. I fell over myself -- I had no idea it was so funny, so sharp, so clever -- but there was no way for me to see it here (except in German). I'm saving them for when my job ends.

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My best friend here, Alexandra, who you have seen in many photos here on my web site, is leaving my company this month -- her contract is ending (as mine is in February 2005). I'm in denial about it, for the most part. I just can't imagine my place of employment without her. She and two more friends, Kathleen and Brona -- we are the only four left of our original infamous group, went to a wonderful restaurant very near my house, called "Restauration Idille," in Bad Neuenahr. Harder than heck to get to (we accidently went down a bike-only path, then ended up on a road right out of the Blair Witch, then got to the restaurant 45 minutes after our reservation and couldn't figure out how to get inside). We were way too giggly for such a nice place. And, oh, what a nice place: hard wood floors, huge windows overlooking an amazing view, and absolutely wonderful food.

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Don't forget! Stefan is planning for his motorbike trip in the USA for May 2005 and he is still in need of some key information! Please read about the info he is looking for, and any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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Also, don't forget -- as of our trip to Norway, you have to subscribe to a special Yahoo group I've created specifically for the posting of photos, if you want to see pictures (including of the new apartment). First, create a Yahoo ID, if you don't have one already. to get one, go to www.yahoo.com and get one! You won't get "spammed" because you have a Yahoo ID. Then, contact me and let me know, and I'll give you details on how to join.

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The Destruction Continues

Listening to Air America Radio on November 3, a woman called and said, "I feel like I've been told by more than half of my country, 'Your ideas and beliefs are welcomed here. Shuttup.'"

David Gergen of US News and World Report (a magazine I've never liked) actually summed up my feelings very well on CNN this morning (well after midnight your time, I believe), talking about the conviction and passion and energy with which people worked on the left, and how he really does not know how those people are going to recover from this loss. As he said, this isn't because one side worked harder -- it's about a rejection/affirmation of very specific values. And all of these people who were mobilized on the Left cannot compromise their values. We cannot suddenly become less opposed to the invasion of Iraq and the horrific way the US is operating there; we cannot decide that, indeed, it's a great idea to take science out of science education and replace it with theology; we will never support a rolling back of laws that protect us in the work place, that protect our food, and protect the environment; we will never stop believing that the USA's dependence on oil is reprehensible and that we must place more money towards accessing alternative energies; we cannot become less Pro-Choice; we cannot start think that Gay marriage isn't such a good idea, and on and on. The Repubs control the House, the Senate, the Presidency and, soon, the Supreme Court, and that means our values -- the values of more than 50 million people -- have virtually no voice in the USA government. Gergen said that now, we, the Left, will be left even further out of the process. I believe him.

There's a very bitter side of me that says, hey, you know what, if the majority of Americans are that freakin' stupid, they deserve George Bush.

But, on the other hand, 54.4 million people voted against Bush -- that's the largest number of people voting against a US President in history. Kerry got more votes than Clinton, more votes than Reagan. I take great comfort in that. Some of the Left are already saying, hey, the Democratic Party should abandon those social issues, make them a states' rights issue and not talk about them anymore. Ridiculous things to say. I say that, if you gut our party, millions will look to third parties, and Demos will become even more powerless. Folks, don't let this happen -- get down to your next local Democratic Party meeting and get into the leadership roles (usually reserved for whomever shows up), and keep the Party on track!

The Repubs didn't unite behind Clinton either time he won. They did NOT put their differences aside and they never rallied behind that President. The only thing I know for sure right now about the future is that I will be doing the same -- I will never, never support this President. He's clearly *not* my President. I reject him as completely as he rejects me and the more than 50 million other people who feel just like me. And that doesn't make me any more un-American or un-patriotic as those die hard right wingers who worked every night and every day after Clinton was elected to get him out of office.

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I may not write for quite a while -- maybe not until 2005. Mostly because I don't think there will be that much to write about. I'm hoping for a boring next few months. I need it! So, it might be early, but -- Happy Holidays.

If you have read this blog, PLEASE let me know. Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing.


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