Before we left Raleigh, I stocked up on some essentials like toiletries, paper goods, and favorite boxed foods. All of these were packed by the movers and shipped in the container on the long boat-ride to Germany. When our shipment arrived and the box containing the favorite foods was unearthed, I was never so delighted to see boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, Goldfish, Wheat Thins, Luna bars, and a single, giant box of my favorite, Honey Nut Cheerios. I know that makes me sound about 7 years old but I still love my Cheerios and had already tried the substitute over here and was bitterly disappointed.
So, the next morning, as I position bowls to pour the Honey Nut Cheerios for Nora, Jack and me, I notice a strong fragrance. It’s a good fragrance, but definitely not one that you want to associate with food. It’s floral and I realize it’s coming from my beloved box of cereal. I smell the whole box and realized it’s been doused with something perfumy. I say a prayer to the Cheerio gods, hoping the plastic bag inside somehow shielded the precious contents. After I pour the milk and take my first bite, I want to cry. It’s horrible. With a sliver of hope, I take another bite. Still bad. I look over the table at Nora and Jack to see if they’ve noticed. They’re eating it slowly but that’s nothing different. Ever since we got to Germany, they’ve been eating cereal slowly because they still don’t like the taste of the milk yet. I figure their sweet heads are thinking “this German milk even ruins our Honey Nut Cheerios.”
I take another bite and form my plan. I can’t bear the idea of throwing out a huge box of food, even if floral-scented. I decide to air it out for a few days and see what happens. In the meantime, I try to figure out where the fragrance came from. The movers are supposed to box food items separately from cleaners and other such things. After a few days, I run across the scented oil diffusers that I had purchased for shipment over here. As I unwrap the Gardenia one, I discover the source of my Honey Nut Cheerio misery. It’s Gardenia-Tuberose, to be exact. And, it’s making our front hallway smell really nice right now but I’m still cross with it.
After living in our house for 2 weeks, there are a few sounds that have become familiar. The first starts at 7:00AM with a crash. The house across the street, and over one, is being demolished and apparently noise ordinances end early in the morning here. A posse of blue trucks line the street to assist with hauling the demolition equipment and the debris. I heard this sound quite a bit when living on Duplin Road in Raleigh as we bought our house in the midst of a turnover–some houses around us were leveled to make way for new construction. From the smart-looking architect’s sign in the yard across the street, I guess we can also look forward to the sounds of a new home being built.
The “boom” I hear is very impressive. It is the sound of the regular thunderstorms that roll through our village, Königstein im Taunus. Our house is situated on hills right above the village at about 1300 feet high. The thunderclaps echo through the valley below us and bounce off the hills across from us. One early morning when Gary was out of town, I woke to the rumblings of an oncoming storm. So I rolled up the blinds (the blinds, like in most German houses, are built inside the walls), climbed back into bed and watched the storm come. Thin clouds whizzed by the castle on the hill across from us. Right above the castle, I watched the black clouds closing in. It was like a scene out of an old spooky movie. Good stuff. I hope I can do that again sometime. Here’s a peek of the castle from the vantage point at one of our village swimming pools http://www.kurbad-koenigstein.de/panoramabild-aussenbecken.
A day or two into our life here, I noticed what sounded like a trumpet heralding a single note. The noise came from our village below but the view is obscured by a forest so I couldn’t even imagine what it was. A few days later I realized it is the sound of the commuter trains that pull into the village station. And, the whole idea that a train could sound so polite and mild-mannered made me smile. At most, they sound like Thomas the Tank Engine’s big brother and so different from the bellowing freight trains that pass through Raleigh.
In a space of about 2 minutes, I managed to kill three pieces of electronic equipment. It all started when I plugged in my iPod stereo using just an adaptor and….it worked! So, using that scientific data, I figured all of our smaller gadgets would only need a plug adaptor and not a converter. So, I excitedly plugged in Nora’s CD player and her alarm clock, as well as Jack’s sound machine–both he and Nora (back in the day) have always napped to the “ocean” setting. And, to my delight, everything worked. Ok, onto the next project… and then, I smelled something kind of bad. Really bad. I looked over at the quiet CD player and then to the alarm clock, which had lost it’s electric glow. I rushed around to unplug everything and prayed I hadn’t torched the house too.
I will call in to my defense: myself. What would you do if every single item you own was just dumped out of it’s boxes and into your house? That’s the way the German movers do it which, on one hand, I like because you don’t have to mess with disposing the boxes and paper yourself. But, the initial stage after they’re done is complete chaos. After a few days, I was craving some sort of order and I thought plugging in those gadgets would be a quick fix. Sadly for the gadgets, it wasn’t.
We’d been waiting since March for the U2 Berlin show and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, if you’re thinking, “naah, I hate stadium shows,” lose that thought. If they’re coming to your vicinity, go get yourself a ticket. Get some for everyone and go.
I’ve been a fan for ages it seems but, didn’t fall in love with the new album so I wondered if the show would be worth the time, effort and expense. I’ve seen them a couple times before and thought maybe that was enough. But, I also remembered that U2 wrote many (maybe all?) the “Achtung Baby” songs while staying in Berlin. I knew this city was special to them and was eager to see the city myself. So, we left Nora and Jack home with a new babysitter and flew to Berlin Saturday morning.
A band like U2 could easily get sloppy and lazy. Spectators know the songbook by heart so U2 would hardly even need to sing at their own shows. But, not these guys. They are absolute pros but with no sign of arrogance. They were just as happy to be there as the rest of us. And, they like surprising each other too which was fun to see. Of course, there was a plug toward the end for their “One” campaign but it wasn’t too heavy-handed preachy.
One of the best moments was hearing “Unforgettable Fire” one of my personal favorites that never gets much play. But, above all, hearing “(Pride) In the Name of Love” while in the Olympiad Stadion, home of Hitler’s 1936 Olypmics, was an amazing moment. Of course, savvy gentleman that they are, there was no mention of the dark past under der Fuhrer. But, being a newcomer, it was the first thing to pop into my mind.
After the show, we decided to hang out in the Biergarten for a drink, thinking we’d miss the surge of people getting on the U-bahn (train) out of there. Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have the same idea so we were shoe-horned into a train-car for the long trip across town to our hotel. Funny part is that particular U-Bahn line is called the “U2.” http://www.u2.com/news/title/berlin-show
It happens every time I have to go into a certain basement storage room. This room has Gracie’s doghouse and her bed which arrived with the movers. Because of those things, this room also has her scent. I always feel a wave a sadness when I catch that scent. As many of you know, I had my grievances with that dog. She was stubborn, hyper, and not very good with the children. But she also once was the puppy we adopted 12 years ago. I’m sad that she’s gone. Gary is even sadder still.
Some of you may not know, Gracie died on the day we were supposed to be flying together to Germany. It was sudden and very painful for her. After it was over, I realized we would see all of her things when our container arrived. And, sure enough, when I noticed the movers had set up her house in our backyard, I rushed over and asked them to dismantle it and get it in the basement. I didn’t want Gary and the kids to see it. I also searched for the huge bag of dog food and her bowls. One of the moving guys has a “hund” and he showed us it’s picture as if it was a newborn baby. We gave him the bag of food. I have Gracie’s collar hidden way back in my bedroom closet. I’ll give it to Gary.
I have some friends now that I’ve never seen. Like Maria, who is a friend of a friend here who hooked me up with her treasured overnight babysitter. She’s back visiting the States so I hope to meet her sometime. And, there are some friends I never knew I had. Like Patti and Robin (from the U.S.) who I’d never met, who dropped off sleeping bags and towels when the movers were a week late. And, Emma (from England) across the street who loaned us real mattresses, blankets, and champagne glasses for the chilled bottle she had for us. What kindness. What a blessing.
And, then there is Victoria. On a dreary morning, while I was trying to serve Nora and Jack breakfast on a cardboard box, Victoria showed up at our door. She is a friend of Emma’s and also from England. She had heard from Emma that our movers were very late and we were living in an empty house. So, Victoria shows up with a camp table with attached chairs, a rucksack filled with real plates and silverware, games for the children, a fresh baguette and more treats. Slack-jawed, I watched her set up the table, throw on a checkered tablecloth, and set up the goods. “I moved here ten months ago and I know how it feels,” she said. Then she offered to drive me to the home supply store called “Toom” to load up on trashcans, lightbulbs and other necessities. Perhaps it was a natural thing for her to do but it meant the world to me. It still does. And, it didn’t matter that it took us two separate trips to find Toom. The first time, she drove us in circles for an hour and I think I was so happy for a new friend I hardly noticed. Victoria came back a couple days later, with more precise directions, and we made it to the store and even had time to sit down for coffee and a pretzel.
We finally located the alleged six-year-old girl down the street. She exists! And, she and Nora have really hit it off. They are in camp together the next couple weeks and will also attend the same school. Pretty soon Jack will have a few two-year- old buddies too when he starts attending 2 mornings a week of preschool. In the meantime, he so happy outside on his scooter.
Some of you may laugh to hear I’m recycling because, I’m sure to some people’s dismay, I wasn’t always on the bandwagon. I love my planet as much as anyone else but my main opposition was that so much of the recyclables were being dumped in landfills because there was a downturn in demand. So, everyone was busy, busy sorting and it was being floated on a barge to a landfill in China anyway. But, a few years back demand increased so I started to recycle and am glad to do it. But, recycling in Germany kicks things up to a whole new level. They are obsessive about it here and it requires a whole new set of sorting devices and systems for one’s household. It’s truly painful but I’m getting used to it. Surprisingly, I’m seeing the wisdom in it too. But, here it goes….
1. One bag for plastics, metals, and coated paper. You must rinse everything off but since things still get stinky, you need to empty it daily into a larger one kept in the basement. When the large one is full, I drag it down to the garage until pickup twice a month.
2. Another bag for plain paper. Another large one kept in basement. When the large one is full, I drag it down to store in the garage until pickup once a month.
3. Another for trash. After all this sorting, our trash load is quite small compared to what we did in the States.
4. one bucket for glass items–kept in basement and then sorted and deposited into receptacles a few minutes from our house.
5. Another bucket for returnable plastic bottles, which you bring to the grocery store.
I’m going along with this and even trying to embrace it. Just please promise me, after all this effort, it isn’t floating toward a Chinese landfill.