Dog Four Goes to Heaven

dogs4

Don’t be alarmed about the title of this post. No, we did not lose two pets in the space of a month. But having only one dog now, we were able to bring her along on our yearly visit to our aunt and uncle in Tyrol – a place I affectionately associate with heaven.

Dog Four made instant friendships with the two canine residents of the house – two equally friendly and much better trained dogs. She gets constant attention, several daily walks, top quality dog food, a bed in our room, and lots of playtime with her new bff’s.

She’s not going to want to go home again.

I’m not sure which option is better for her: a Dog Five? Or a repeat visit to heaven next year?

Connection Finally Made

 Berlin Postings – #4

 

The Wall came down and the two Berlins were reunited way back in the early 90s. As it turns out, it would take about another 25 years before they came together inside my head.

For the historically challenged, I will explain that the city got drawn and quartered after WWII by four different occupying nations. It was later re-stitched somewhat, but a big chunk was left off. Berlin became two cities, in two different countries, in two different economic and political systems. All the former streetcar lines and roads that had connected the two halves became mirror image dead ends.

European cities characteristically have an old center where the most awesome buildings congregate – the palaces, the opera house and theaters, the massive churches or cathedrals, the impressive museums, the renowned universities, the libraries, the City Hall . . .  When the barbed wire went up after the war this old center, “Berlin Mitte” landed in the East and was off limits to me in many of my earlier visits. Instead of all these magnificent structures, I pictberlin-mitteured East Berlin as a collection of non-aesthetic gray concrete blocks. But on Day 3 of this trip, we explored lots of the center on foot and those old false images got a correction.

 

Here’s a taste:

Gendarmenmarkt and the Neue Wache – a monument dedicated to the victims of war:

Bebelplatz which was the site of a huge book-burning in 1933 – I assume the first of many. There was a glass plate through which you can (normally) see an empty underground library – unfortunately the glass was so scratched and fogged up that I could barely make anything out:

Outdoor waiting lines made us decide to put off the museum for our next visit and the chilly air made us all crave a warm café and hot chocolate. On the way, though, we stopped at the Berlin Cathedral and ended up spending quite a while in there:

With a few hours to fill before dinner time, Ly’s sweetheart came up with an inspiration: American bowling. My daughters had never tried it and . . . (Warning! Confession!)  . . . I used to be pretty good at it – even had my own ball. It was a riot.

The final highlight of three excellent days was a “jam session” in a club where patrons were welcomed to sing or play along. The sweetheart finagled getting my elder daughter onto the stage by calling her “(Mitzi) from Chicago”. One line into her “Ain’t No Sunshine”, the crowd started enthusiastically whooping and clapping. Then they settled down and really listened. The musicians kept her up there for two more songs and then asked her to come again the next day. While it was going on, my guilty Raven Mother conscience (for bringing my underage daughters into a smoky bar) faded as my inner Stage Mom emerged full force. I turned to the stranger next to me, pointed to the stage and bragged, “MY daughter!”

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For going on twenty years now, I have been arriving at Tegel Airport and immediately handing over the reins to the world’s most gracious hostess (and, in later years, the sweetheart host). They drive me around, feed me, act as my personal tour guides. In recent trips, my family members have enjoyed this treat, too, along with sundry strangers from, let’s say, Kiel. In all this time, I never really had to know where I was – Ly had a plan.

For some reason, this time it occurred to me that I had no city map of Berlin in my head. So I finally bought one. I have studied it and located all the places I’ve seen and photographed . . .

That’s where I’ve been! What do you know!!

 

No Escape

 

Berlin Postings – #3

 

memorial

Day Two in Berlin began somewhat solemnly again as our walk through the center led us past the site of the Christmas Market attack right in front of Berlin’s iconic “Gedächtniskirche” – the bombed and burned out remains of the cathedral left standing as a reminder for the population of war’s devastation. But thereafter, things got happier and my biggest complaint of the day would have to be the peas in my tuna fish salad sandwich.literatur-cafe

We let the girls roam KaDeWe and Bikini Berlin with wads of cash in their fists while Ly and I toured bookstores (“Ka-ching!!”) and then went to the Literature Café for a light lunch. Fabulous place – except for the peas.

 

the-room-kopie       go-west-kopie

 

From there it was on to “The Room” – a live game with the theme of escaping from East Berlin in the 1980s. (My hubby made the reservations for us as part of our Christmas present.) We were given a short orientation and then led to a room. We entered. The door shut behind us. We had one hour to use all the clues hidden there to find our way out – the secret escape route to the West. If we failed, the East German Stasi (secret police) would break down the door and arrest us . . .

It was A LOT of fun, but unfortunately our teamwork and communication were a bit lacking. To make a long story short . . .

I’m adjusting to the Gulag very well.

Unhidden

Berlin Postings – #2

 

Our first full day in Berlin had a recurring theme. Bringing to light what once was intentionally not seen. Hidden treasures and hidden atrocities.

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Our first stop was the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. As usual my own emotional reactions came after a delay. While walking through the exhibition my focus turned quickly to my daughters and how they were taking it all. In the first building dealing with the rise of fascism, there was still some conversation, but we all got increasingly silent.

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Things got really rough at the “killing station” with its chilling matter-of-fact descriptions of efficient extermination procedures. Immediately afterward we weaved our way through larger than life-sized pictures of dead Russian soldiers. These images were printed on sheer cloth banners hanging from the ceiling. We had to zigzag through them and avoid their eyes. We were walking among ghosts.

That was when we all felt it. We had taken in as much as we could handle and it was time to go. At some point both girls wondered at the reasoning behind showing all these things – as if it were a tourist attraction. We talked about the importance of seeing these things with your own eyes. Of knowing what happened, facing it, and then maybe recognizing the warning signs in times when it could happen again.

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That is all the words on this I have at the moment. For a moving and more detailed account, read Lyart’s blog posts “Sachsenhausen” and “Sunday Matinee

In the evening we went to the movies and saw “Hidden Figures” which did what it could as an antidote for the morning’s impressions. It wasn’t a perfect film, but this time it felt GOOD to see the once unseen being seen.

hidden-figures

 

2016 Finale

finale1As I type this post – on the final morning of both 2016 and my second year of blogging –  I am also following the commentary of the Dumb Brothers in the next room as they partake in the traditional blind wine sampling. The first bottle was first declared to be an older Styrian Merlot (2010-2012), then a young Cabernet Sauvignon, then a 2014 Blaufränkisch, and then a Burgenlandian Zweigelt, etc. etc. The next thing I heard was the plastic sound of the Blue Danube Waltz and I knew Barbie was dancing. (This happens when one of the Brothers guesses right – in this case she danced for the 2014 Blaufränkisch guess.) After bottle Number 3 or 4, the guesses will get wilder, including names of small villages in Tuscany or Valencia and whether the slope of vineyard was steep, which directionfinale2 it faced (south or southeast), and what type of wooden barrels the wine was aged in. Barbie’s dancing will become more infrequent. After bottle Number 5 or 6, the brothers will break for cabbage strudel and I will hear the clink of silverware on ceramic plates for a while. Chauffeuring wives will start appearing around 3 or 4 pm and another year of the Dumb Brothers will come to an end.

 

Every year it is the same – a highlight for the frat boys and a minor irritation for their families. There is something comforting about all the familiar sounds coming from the next room. About things not changing and about getting through another year with friends and family and traditions intact. 2016 sucked truly, but when I say that, I am talking about the world outside of my own home and community. Within our family and daily lives, it has been another nice year of fun travels, work satisfaction, musical acfinale3hievements, and general good health. All three of our pets are still alive, though one dog is on her slow way out and the cat is still possessed by the devil. (He lately discovered his new favorite place – a red basket on the staircase, up high enough that he can lord over and taunt Dog Three, safely out of reach. Can anyone recommend a good exorcist?)

Blogworld definitely didn’t suck either. Like the clinking of wine glasses and silverware in the next room, the ding of notifications always gives me a nice feeling – the comfort of knowing that things continue, that they are heading somewhere at an easy pace and unspectacularly. That the good stuff sticks around. I have made a resolution or two for 2017, both for my blog and my daily routine, but they are more like modest tweaks than ambitious life goals.

Outside in the real world, there were many times this year when I felt a deep desire to DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING! I ranted and shouted into the wind. I felt outrage and frustration and helplessness. And yet things kept plodding along toward the least desirable of all conceivable results. And here we are. Whatever incomprehensible convulsions the world is going through right now, it sure seems that no one is content anymore.

finale4So, that is what I have resolved for 2017. I am going to be content. No changes simply for change’s sake. That will be my quiet statement of protest to the world. And that is what I wish for anyone out there who reads this. Contentedness for all – and for each in his own way.

“Happy New Year!”

Vacation Ripe – (MYoM – Part 34)

 

My Years of Montessori – Part 34

 

(Monday evening)

urlaubsreif

There’s a great phrase in German – “Urlaubsreif”. It means “in desperate need of a vacation” (or ripe for a break).  It’s a feeling that intensifies as the holidays approach, peaking on the evening right before the last day of work before a nice long break.

That’s where I am at the moment. Despite coming home all energized from a fun day at school.

The 2nd graders absolutely loved “Green Eggs and Ham”. I read the book dramatically with lots of gestures and pointing, but using no German at all. From their comments and side discussions I could tell that they understood it – including the point. (Which is more than one can say about a certain senator from . . . let’s say . . . Texas.) From there it was on to the American history lesson with the 7th graders which included a lot of laughter as well. It started with a discussion about just how many States there are today. Ann said 50, Jerry said 51, and Kay said 52.  Each one was absolutely sure they were right and for the same reason: “I googled it!!” Later I heard that the American colonies declared their independence from King George Bush the Third and that the USA purchased Louisiana from some guy named Franz. (The same Franz who later gave us the Statue of Liberty. Generous man!) Still later, when I asked about the two sides of the Civil War, one student guessed that it was between McDonald’s and Burger King. (The German term for civil war is “Bürgerkrieg”.) At this point, I decided to end the lesson for the day. I’d figure out during the coming vacation how to undo the damage.

Once home, I immediately set out to get my prep work for tomorrow done, but then quickly reverted to my usual habits. I procrastinated with dog-walking, podcasts, making dinner, surfing, a load of laundry, blogging, light house cleaning,  and napping,  while continually re-revising my ambitious lesson planning ideas down to just one level above phoning it in.

So tomorrow, I will arrive at school and go into the 4th grade class with a folder-full of Halloween materials that I haven’t really familiarized myself with yet and I will improvise. And then I will monitor independent group work in our Austria project for two hours and I will improvise. Then I will have a parent/teacher conference to talk about a student I have barely noticed, so I will improvise. And then I will have a team meeting, during which I will look at the clock a lot. And then I will come home around 5 pm after a 10 hour day.

And then . . .

 

(Tuesday evening)

. . . nothing.