Category Archives: September 2012

The Magic 8-Ball

I considered renaming my blog to “Still in Deutschland” (and still enjoying it!) But, Beer and Pretzels just seemed more comfortable and homey. I say all this because we expected to be in Germany just three years and now we have launched our fourth. This is (gulp) home, for now. But, our German landlord has decided to put our house up for sale. Will it sell? Will we have to move to a new house here and then move again next summer to America? Or, will we move but still stay in Germany for another couple years? And, so on. Any answers to these questions would be like those uncertain Magic 8-Ball answers:

● Reply hazy, try again
● Ask again later
● Better not tell you now
● Cannot predict now
● Concentrate and ask again

The thing is, I’m not worried. Those questions occasionally pop up into my mind but are swept away with a shrug. My mindset is different now. Uncertainty is a way of life for an Expat and there’s no sense struggling with it. Just live, keep exploring, make some commitments even if you have no idea if you’ll be here long enough to finish them, and keep yourself and your family happy.

While some things change, others stay the same. I still love picking up my children from school because I hear true confessions, stories, and the occasional one-liners. My favorite so far this year is from Nora, said in complete exasperation: “Oh, I don’t know Jack! I haven’t spoken Martian in years!” I’ve also learned Nora thinks the lunch ladies working in the cafeteria are so annoying they should be replaced by robots. She’s serious and she’s had just about enough of it.

Voyage of the Crammed

What would European living be without at least one experience on Ryanair? For those who have never heard of it, they are the budget, Spartan-like airline with all the sympathy of a despot and the soul of a hyena. They are infamous for charging 60 euro for forgetting to preprint your boarding pass to 160 euro if your name is misspelled by even one letter. But the thing is, if you hit it right, you can fly really cheap and get to where you need to go. I’ve had the privilege of two journeys with them and I can honestly say it was all that I expected and even more entertaining.

Walking into the security line at an airport, one usually finds a particular type of Ryanair passenger. They are the ones wearing big coats with multiple pockets that they have to empty into multiple boxes to go through the x-ray. They also can have on a sweater or two and several scarves wrapped around them. They are wearing nearly their entire wardrobe for their weekend in Rome. Whatever you do, try not to get in line behind them! Otherwise you will grow old waiting for them to unravel themselves. This is all because Ryanair’s rather meager and strict baggage weight and dimension guidelines can bring out the hobo in the best of us.

Once you are through security, it’s time to find your pole position at the gate. If you had decided not to pay the extra 10 euro for an assigned seat or 5 euro for priority boarding, then put your elbows up and find your spot in the herd. Then, stick to it like glue unless someone ahead of you carelessly shifts position against their favor or, heaven forbid, goes to the toilet. Then you wait. Occasionally, the crowd, which is under duress, can get surly. I’ll never forget the sight of a 20-something Italian woman, who must have weighed 90 pounds soaking wet, throwing her body across a row of chairs, flinging punches at a group of 20-something Italian men across the way. Why, I don’t know. But, whatever it was, she was infuriated and lunged at least 4 times, each attempt being held back by her boyfriend who could barely grasp her. Nora and Jack stood pie-eyed at the whole thing. Good show! And, it was free–the Ryanair gate agents couldn’t find a way to stamp a fee on that.

Once you’re on board and are seated, the rest of the trip is filled with several commercial announcements and even a lottery. But, I feel like I have flown Ryanair in the bygone glamour days because now they are retrofitting their fleet with only one toilet per plane, so they can add 6 more seats. They also want to charge for your use of that one toilet and add rows for standing passengers, like on a city bus. These misers are genius.