Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!

April through May 2005

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Tribute to a Fallen Hero

Marla Ruzicka is an American who, in April, was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb. She founded a non-profit organization, CIVIC, Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflict, and formed survey teams to fan-out across the country and gather first-hand accounts of civilian casualties (something the US government refuses to count). A one-woman human rights movement, Ruzicka was instrumental in securing millions of dollars in aid for distribution in Iraq. Ruzicka had ten years of human rights organizing experience and, prior to launching the CIVIC project, she was did similar work in Afghanistan. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, noted while she was still alive, "Marla Ruzicka is out there saying, 'Wait, everybody. Here is what is really happening. You'd better know about this.' We have whistle blowers in industry. Maybe sometimes we need whistle blowers in foreign policy."

With passion for her cause and an unbridled capacity for having fun, she was remembered at her funeral as a force of nature, a cross between Mother Teresa and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, said Quill Lawrence, a radio reporter for the British Broadcasting Corp.

A lot of people complain about circumstances in the world and what others should be doing, but very few people actually put in the time and effort to do something themselves. Marla Ruzicka is yet another example that one person really can make a difference.

I'm just really happy she was out there helping to show the people in Afghanistan and Iraq that Americans aren't all the same.

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"she's not even half the girl she... ow..."

Speaking of Buffy, I finally finished all seven seasons (I think that's more than 140 episodes) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've been watching since February. I now owe a HUGE apology to all of you who tried to get me to watch the show for so, so long. And I resisted all those years. Now I know that you were all right and I was an idiot: it's absolutely brilliant. It is one of the best things on TV ever. I've been re-watching them all while Stefan is in the USA.

And, yes, I loved every single blessed second of "Once More With Feeling", and have re-watched it I don't know how many times. If I go to SXSW next year in March, and the Alamo Draft House is still doing the sing-alongs with "Once More With Feeling", I am going to be on the front row singing. Really loudly.

Albi liked it too.

I find it amazing that it took a show with vampires and witches to deal realistically with what it's like for a girl to come of age in the USA.

Oh, and to all you Emmy voters out there: shame, shame, shame on you. You totally suck. But what else should I expect from people who thought "Friends" was a good show?

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The funniest thing I've seen/read in years is America: The Book by Jon Stewart and the guys at the Daily Show on Comedy Central. I laughed out loud at least once for every page -- and you have to read it all, even the footnotes. It's hilarious. If you read only one book this year... well, then you need to be smacked up side the head. Really, buy this book.

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I returned to Avila the last week of March for a two-week intensive Spanish course in Spain with IEMA, where I also studied in 2002. I won't be doing a travelogue about Avila, since I wrote about it on my first visit, but I do have new things to say about Madrid and Toledo.

One of the things that caught my eye on this trip in Avila was a state-supported organization called Centro Internacional de Estudios Místicos or, in English, the International Center for Mysticism Studies. Unfortunately, I didn't go waltzing into the office while I was in Avila, because I wasn't entirely sure what it was -- I just wrote the web address down to look at later. Now that I've looked at the web site, I'm really disappointed I didn't investigate further while in Avila; it sounds like a wonderful organization. The ICMS was created in 1990 and "aims to contribute to studies on mysticism as an integral part of the history of humanity." The Centre has an international scope and plural, ecumenical approach, and its initiatives have included:

And here's a particularly interesting note: the Centre has formal ties with the International Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky.

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In May, three weeks after I returned from Avila, I took the initial level exam in the Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE). There are three levels -- I took the lowest level, ofcourse. These are the official accredited degrees for Spanish as a foreign language by the Instituto de Cervantes in name of the Department of Education and Science of Spain. The diplomas are recognized internationally and are considered sufficient accreditation of knowledge of Spanish for professional activities or education in Spain, as well as other countries. The exam was easier than I thought, thank goodness. After three years of Spanish classes twice a week over lunch, two trips to IEMA school in Avila, watching Como Agua Para Chocolate/Like Water For Chocolate I don't know how many times, and Shrek in Spanish twice, I certainly should have been ready for such. My favorite part turned out to be the part I had been most worried about: the verbal "exam", which consists of role playing for a few minutes, and then describing a series of cartoon scenes for a few minutes more -- 10 minutes total. My cartoon scene turned out to be of two people going to the MOVIES -- oh, how I talked and talked and talked... I made the examiners laugh during my speech, in Spanish, about why Alan Rickman rocks... or were they laughing at me?

I hope I can be ready to take the next level in November. I'm taking a break from studying Spanish, however, to finally take daily German classes for most of June. Then I'll go back to studying Spanish -- not sure if I will do it on my own or pay for private classes again.

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Speaking of Shrek: Stefan is Shrek, I'm Princess Fiona, Albi is Girl Dragon and Buster is Donkey. If you were around us, this would be obvious to you.

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No, I still haven't started looking for a job. I need to do that. But I am progressing on my final project for my Master's Degree.

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Stefan is off on his Western USA adventure. We had a really wonderful weekend before he left: after he completely stressed out on the Saturday before he left over lack of space in his luggage (so nice to know that men go through this too), we stood in the living room after sunset, drinking beer and watching the fireworks far across the Rhine for "Rhein in Flammen" (Rhein in Flames). It was lovely. Albi didn't care at all about the noise, while poor Busty, our landlord's dog, cowered and wimpered next door. Buster couldn't hear the noise, but was never really bothered by such when he could hear -- just wanted to see what all the commotion was about and if, perhaps, food was involved, ofcourse.

The next day, we went to Remagen to see what was going on for the anniversary of the end of WWII (there were not specifics anywhere on the web that we could find, including the Peace Museum at the remains of the bridge at Remagen, so we ended up being too late for the actual ceremony). Still, it was so nice. There was a German honor guard there in their wonderfully-spiffy gray uniforms and red berets (I am trying to find a picture of Stefan in his uniform from many years back, but he is not being cooperative). Soon after we arrived, I heard an American woman, who pushing her father, a veteran, in a wheel chair; they were standing atop a somewhat sharp hill, wanting to go down, and she said, "Oh, I just don't know how we're going to do this." I told Stefan to go help them (I'm so bossy), and then asked them if they would like his help, and they were soooo grateful. And while I watched Stefan carefully help the vet down, I thought, now isn't this beautiful, a young German, a grandson of a German soldier who fought on the Russian front, helping an American veteran, outside of a peace museum in Germany. I actually got tears in my eyes. As he helped wheel the gentleman down, I asked the other woman in the party where they were from (Pennsylvania), and in the course of our short conversation, she asked me "How did you catch a German?!" There were lots of vets at the museum -- Germans, American, and French, all very dressed up and often wearing their original military hats. There were also lots of young American soldiers in their very best dress uniforms.

The Peace Museum is even better now than it was when I visited almost four years ago -- We also went to a FANTASTIC Lebanese restaurant in Remagen, and as we walked through and out of town, saw various groups -- Christians, Muslims, anarchists, communists, old and young -- preparing to march against a group of Neo-Nazis. There were police everywhere. We never saw the bad guys, but saw on the news that there were around 100 who showed up. As we left town, Stefan said, "I hope the veterans have left and didn't see this." And my heart just broke for him and for the entire city. Have I mentioned lately how much I f*cking hate Neo-Nazis?!

Anyway... it was such a nice way to spend our last full day together before Stefan left for the USA. On the following Monday, I went with him to the Frankfurt airport. The taxi he had reserved the night before never showed, and the cab we called to get there urgently that morning never showed, so we had to drive in his car to the Sinzig train station and run. We made it with about 4 minutes to spare. Then, getting on the train in Koblenz, the strap to one of his bags broke, so it became difficult to carry. But actually, these two events took our minds off of the stress of being apart, and kept us from being sad at all during the trip to Frankfurt.. We got to the airport just fine, and I had to go stand away from him as he got asked security questions for the flight (I guess they are afraid I'll feed him answers?). Staff also went through his bags that he was checking, because he had so many metal tools (for his motorcycle). Then we had a long, leisurely lunch (we were there two and a half hours early, so once we were at the airport, we would never have to rush). Apparently there was an abandoned bag in the middle of the B terminal, which meant the area got closed off and that made it difficult for us to get to the bookstore so I could be the new "Der Spiegel" special edition called "The Germans" (you need to buy this -- it's really fascinating). Then we said our tearful goodbye...

I had a bit of a problem after I got back to Sinzig. I had to drive Stefan's car back to the house. No problem. It's a stick shift. No problem. Reverse is in a different place than on an American car. No problem. Actually putting the car into reverse -- big problem. It just would not go. I was going out of my mind, and beginning to panic. So I used my new handy dandy cell phone and called my Hoosier friend Lis, who is married to German, and he told me that I have to pull up on the rim underneath the nob on the stick shift, and that would release it to go into reverse. Nifty.

And so, for most of May, I've been all alone. And on the last Saturday in May, my landlord came over and told me he and his wife are leaving for two weeks (vacation in Portugal). So me and the dogs are all alone up on our hill... all alone in a foreign country... and none of us speak the language...

Help.

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The last Thursday in May was yet another holiday. Stefan's parents invited me for a bike ride along the Ahr -- at least that's what I hoped his Mother had said in Spanish when we talked on the phone...

It was a beautiful ride, 26 kilometers round trip. We went all the way to Ahr Weiler and back. I'd like to do the trip again, particularly in September, when the new wines are available. The Ahr river valley is the German red wine growing area, and it's really lovely.

Ofcourse, the next day, I shuffled around the house like an invalid...

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And speaking of chocolate, Europe has ruined me for American chocolate. I didn't realize it until someone gave me a Hershey bar... and for the first time in my life, it wasn't good. Not at all. At least M & Ms are still good.

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Yes, the comments from "Jayne in Germany" on CNN regarding George Galloway's Senate testimony were, indeed, mine.

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  Oh, yes, the new Star Wars movie is MUCH darker and so much more sinister...

as evidenced by "Darth Tater" product tie-in.

    "Luke...I am your Russet!!"
(the wit of Jennifer in Louisville strikes again)

Darth Tater is almost as good as my Darth Mol beanie baby -- the toy guaranteed to make your baby cry.

So, what did I think of "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith"? Okay, first, for those of you who have been living under a ROCK, I was the biggest fan a girl living in Kentucky in the 70s and 80s could possibly be for the original two "Star Wars" movies, and they remain in my top 10 list of best films of all time. I beyond love them. In fact, "love" just isn't a big enough word for how I feel about them, still, almost 30 years later.

I saw "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" with one of my two hoosier friends over here (Lis), on May 19. My feeling: it is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful FREAKIN' MESS. As gorgeous as the sets and special effects are, the dialogue and acting are just as horrid. At one point, Obi wan said, "I can't watch anymore of this", and I leaned over to Lis and said, "Neither can I." I can't tell you how many times I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud at ridiculous lines, or just sat there cringing over the dialogue or meaningless scenes. Other people were laughing out loud to some of the "serious" lines.

The special effects are completely over the top -- George beats you over the head with the special effects and set design in a futile effort to get you to forget that the story and dialogue and acting SUCK. Remember how AWESOME the light saber scene was in "Empire", how shadow and actual martial arts are used to build the awe and suspense and fear, how there are times you just can't breathe during that fight because you just don't know what's going to happen next? In "Revenge of the Sith", the light sabers are waving so fast and furious that you can't tell what the heck is going on -- so much for the "elegant weapon" line from the original Star Wars.

Just like episodes 1 and 2, "Revenge of the Sith" has NO sass, NO charm, NO chemistry between the actors, and NO fun (as did the original two movies). The story is beyond confusing -- I was totally lost the whole time. This is a movie that is only for die-hard Star Wars fans who want to see how the story is going to "end," or people thinking of hiring Industrial Light and Magic for a gig. Again, it's gorgeous -- it looks exactly how it should, for the most part, in terms of costumes and sets and machinery, and it is a total feast for the eyes. But it's sucky in every other way.

"Star Wars" has jumped the shark. AGAIN.

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TIME TO TAKE OUT THE EUROTRASH

I don't understand much German, but I do like some shows on TV here nonetheless -- one in particular. It's the German version of Cops . Part of it is because I am strange and really enjoy watching how people do their jobs. I find it fascinating, particularly if they have to deal with stressful situations. I even learn a thing or two that I can apply in the work place. I'm not kidding. And part of it is because I just can't get away from my white trash roots. But the German version of "Cops" is very different than the USA version because, ofcourse, Germans are very different than Americans: those the police deal with, including the people they end up arresting, are much more polite. And everyone is wearing shirts and shoes. And no one claims that the car "is my cousin's." It's so rare that something truly outrageous happens on the show. Germans only misbehave on vacations abroad, I think... and that's what makes the show fascinating -- the civilized way everyone behaves, for the most part, while being arrested.

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DOG UPDATE

Albi is not entirely happy about our ceiling fans. I insisted on getting one for the living room and another for the bedroom -- after the horror of summer 2003, I'll never live without them again. In May, I turned the one in the living room on (it was finally warm enough for such), and she stared up at it for a long while, with a very serious expression...

Albi also isn't happy at all about Stefan being gone. As a result, she hates it every time I leave, even for just a little while -- she barks and cries... She has been absolutely *cowering* around the landlady and people who want to pet her, as though she is afraid they will beat her, something she hasn't done since I first got her. She probably thinks it's her fault that Stefan is gone. Poor girl. I'm trying so hard not to baby her, because I think that might make it worse... but at least she's getting long walks almost every day now, and those she loves. She particularly enjoys chasing wild ducks and running like a crazy girl in the tall grass. I don't particularly enjoy picking the ticks off of her later, however. She likes the ponies and horses and the mule at the Tier Garten okay, but she HATES the goats and sheep. She wants to chase the chickens, but she pretends she doesn't see the geese. I think she was a farm dog once upon a time...

Buster has also noticed that Stefan is gone but, being Buddhist, accepts it and has moved on. He'll be just as happy as Albi when Stefan comes home, but will then, again, move on -- Albi will be really needy for at least a week more after Stefan gets home.

Buster continues to get a little worse every day as far as walking and moving goes. His back legs and hips hurt him, but he doesn't complain (that's the beagle in him -- they don't complain about pain). His medicine doesn't make him better like it used to, and the tip of his tail drags the ground most of the time (but it does still wag ocassionally). He has to go out and pee immediately after he gets up in the morning, no matter how late he went out the night before (it's a race to the back door for us both). He doesn't go on long walks at all now, not since February. In fact, I rarely take him on a short walk in the evening, because getting back home is such a huge chore for him. And not going on walks is really hard on him as well, because he just HATES being stuck up here all the time. Mentally, he really needs those walks. He gets depressed without them. The other dog owners miss him and frequently ask about him, which is so sweet... His eyesight is awful, his hearing isn't great, and sometimes it takes him a long time to get comfortable enough to lay down. And when he sleeps, it's a very heavy sleep, and it can sometimes take a while to wake him. He stopped using chew toys a long while ago because, I guess, his jaws are wearing out... But his appetite is voracious as ever, he still barks in his unique, demanding way when it's supper time, and I'm convinced that on his death bed he'll demand a dog treat. His personality remains completely in tact, he's still so thrilled when people come to visit, and he has a big crush on our landlady, and insists on going outside if she's out hanging laundry. He just looooooves people. I can't believe I've had him for 15 years in June -- we've lasted longer together than most friendships. Buster is at least 16 years old now. I hate the thought of losing him, but I fear that time is coming soon. I'm just really glad I can be home now all day for him.

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If you haven't yet, check out my new page specifically for friends thinking of visiting me. I've got details on how to choose your airport, and an overview of the many things you can do from our home (although I left out the option of laying around our flat, just drinking beer and enjoying the view).

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Your thought for the day:

"There has never been a settled, definitive version of the Bible, it has been an evolving book which has gone through many translations. Only fundamentalists think it came in a fax from heaven."
Martyn Percy, a canon doctor at Sheffield University

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Some things to check out:

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


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