Category Archives: December 2009

Test Drive

Here, this will be fun.  Try these questions and check the answers in parentheses.  No cheating!

You are driving on a very narrow road and can see 50m ahead.  What must be your maximum stopping distance?  (25m)

You are traveling at 60 km/hr, what is your braking distance? (36 m)

Is a load allowed to project over the front of a vehicle?  (Yes, if the load does not project more than 50 cm to the front and is above a height of 2.5 m.)

A single-axle trailer has an actual weight of 600kg. What must be the minimum load on the trailer coupling of the car? (24kg)

What must you know about catalytic converters? (WTF)

So, now you know what I haven’t written much lately.  When I have free moments, I’m studying for the German driving test. Besides memorizing various formulas for this test, we are expected to know hundreds of road signs that often have complex and compound meanings. Check this site out if you want to witness the menagerie of signage they have here http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/zeichen.htm.  

How I wish I was an EU citizen and didn’t have to sit for this exam. Then again, I feel fortunate because my North Carolina license means I only have to take the written portion. It’s the hardest part but at least I don’t have to bother with a road test and a CPR course like my friend Charlene, who moved here from California.  Officially, we have 6 months from arrival to get this done but since Gary and I have pushed off this task until the last moment, we need to pass this thing or else.  I’ve heard several accounts of people failing it the first time.  The only test I’ve failed was in 5th grade History in Mr. Sisti’s class.  I had just transferred to a new school because my parents noticed that I was getting straight As at my other school without much effort. In fact, my teacher had me grading other kids’ papers. Enter Mr. Sisti who kicked my butt. So, that experience instilled the fear of failure which has propelled me to this moment. Anyhoo, don’t ask me if I’ve passed this.  I’ll let you know. And, if you see me logging onto facebook too much, shoo me back into my studies.

I must confess though. That’s not the only thing I’ve been doing.  I’ve fallen in love with Apple TV. Ever since Gary brought it back from a Stateside trip in October, it’s been a great connection back to the world of favorite shows and new movies.  We’ve had a marathon catching up on “Mad Men” and “Entourage.”  Besides that, we are not completely deprived here. There is an English language theater in Frankfurt which I’ve been to a couple times.  It’s a dump but good enough, if you want the theater experience.  I finally saw “The Hangover” there.  So funny, gross, and sweet.

One last thing about the driving test.  The owner of the driving school, Herr Brauer, who is handling all our bureaucratic issues with this (trust me, there are many) has stopped by our house a few times to pick up and drop off various documents.  I noticed his English was so good that he understood all of our slang.  I asked him how he learned English and “Frank Zappa” was his reply. Back in the day, Herr Brauer was such a big fan of Zappa that he decided he wanted to understand all of the musician’s lyrics. So he set forth on translating all of them.  “His language is quite complex,” Herr Brauer remarked.

Aaaaah, Christmas

Germany knows how to do Christmas very well.  Afterall, they invented the idea of the Christmas tree and haven’t stopped. Every city, village and dot on the map seems to have their own Christmas market or “Weihnachtsmarkt.”  Some markets last a couple days, others go throughout Advent. At this time of year, when daylight is scarce, it’s lovely to see the lights everywhere and to know that festivities are brewing. I attended my first Christmas market with Nora last weekend, in search of our first batch of gifts to send back to the States.  I found those gifts but first got derailed when we ran into friends from England, Steve and Tim, who introduced me to the Christmas market staple, Glüwein. It’s a red wine, warmed with spices that is the quintessential winter beverage through the ages, popular from here to Norway.   I look forward to visiting several more Christmas markets, including ours in Königstein and one of the most famous in Nuremburg.

My, They Change

A quick update on our favorite short people.  Nora is taking a tap-dancing class and has her first recital next week.  I’ve seen her rehearsals before bathtime at our house and I’m pretty sure this show is going to rock. Nora also has a case of the Madonnas. It’s much better than having swine flu but you just never know when she’s going to break out into a pseudo-English accent. The reason why this is happening is some of her classmates are from England, her teacher is from England, and her German classmates have also learned to speak English with an English accent. 

Jack turned 3 on November 21 and we celebrated pirate-style, since he seems to never be without a sword these days. I’ve gotten a spot for him in German kindergarten and he starts in January.  At a doctor’s visit the other day, our doctor noticed Jack was speaking in German, asking me to come look at something.  Once he starts German kindergarten, I’ll be hot-footing it trying to keep up with his language skills. Jack has also started singing with me at bedtime.  After prayers, I’ve always sung “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Rock A Bye Baby” to him.  Now he wants a duet which we do every night.

Jesus Liebt Dich

While we’re having a lot of fun here, the German attitude about things can still be glaring.  So, Gary and I have added to our arsenal.  I’m actually looking forward to my next unpleasant encounter so I can say “Jesus liebt dich.”  As you may have guessed, that means “Jesus loves you.”  I will say it with the drippiest sincerity I can muster.  It also has the benefit of being true, even for Germans.

Well, that sounds as if I don’t like Germans, doesn’t it?  There are several I personally like quite a bit and I think they like me. There’s just a particular brand of German that pops up in grocery stores and other places that you just want to smother with a pillow.

Skin Cancer Sucks

I’ve gotten a disappointment this week.  Some of you know that I have battled with skin cancer since I was 28. I had something on my leg that appeared over the summer and my new doctor and I didn’t think it was anything more than an annoyance.  So, I got around to getting it removed a couple weeks ago and didn’t think much about it until I got the stitches removed a couple days ago.  The doctor informed my the biopsy came back as a basal cell, my old nemesis.  As an added bonus, I have one on my arm too.  So, that’s #10 and #11. Half of those have been on my face so I’m trying to be grateful that it didn’t happen again there.  The last round I had was 4 on my face and I had to have 2 days of surgery right after Jack was born. 

Whenever it happens, I think about how I got here.  I have Northern European genes that were never meant to spend hours every day on the tennis court and swimming at places like Hilton Head Island and the beaches of Lake Michigan.  Not to mention skiing, soccer, golfing, and all the privileges my parents provided. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I only wish we had known how important sunblock was. My mom’s whole family has had problems with skin cancer and, so far, I’m the only one of 4 siblings that gets it.

So, my little public service announcement is: wear sunblock and don’t worry, you’ll still get some color.  Make sure your sunblock does not have any chemicals because they are actually cancer causing estrogens.  Only use sunblocks whose “active ingredients” are zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Any other active ingredient is a chemical so don’t use it.  Chances are good you won’t have my kind of trouble but at least you can avoid a few wrinkles.