Kevin arrived safely (if a little tired) from Hamburg today. He's going to take a nap and "might" come to wine-tasting tonight. Somehow I doubt it's going to happen.
how nice it is to have an actual reliable high-speed internet connection again? Halleluja!
Yes folks, I am back in the good old U.S. of A. The journey back was uneventful (except for the fact that I was able to twice walk through the metal detector without setting it off--hmmm) and Scout arrived a little dehydrated but otherwise okay. She did spend about 10 minutes
barking at lodging a complaint with Grandpa about her mistreatment, but has settled right in on Grandma and Grandpa's her waterbed which has been made even more appealing by the addition of a memory foam pad.
As for me, I'm enjoying the sunny California weather. Europe saw me off with rain and I can't say I was shedding any tears about the weather at my departure. While driving to Amsterdam we went in and out of rainstorms the whole way. At one point it became very, very dark, which Kevin commented on. Based on my Midwest Tornado experience I said "This is Tornado-dark. When it turns this dark at noon, you can look for a funnel cloud." A few seconds later we were hit by such a deluge we had to nearly come to a stop on the highway. No funnel clouds in sight, but anyone who has ever lived in a tornado area would recognize the weather pattern.
And because so many of you have been asking, we spent the night in Amsterdam in a hotel quite near the airport and not at all in the downtown area, so no, we did not get high and go whoring like we wanted to.
For now I'm just relaxing. My car insurance has been reinstated so I tooled around in the Miata for a little bit. I had root beer with my lunch--something I've sorely missed. I've been reading How to Buy a House in California which has been extremely helpful (very good book. I recommend it to anyone who is, well, buying a house in California). The book includes handy forms for determining your housing priorities (must have: backyard, nice-to-have: backyard already fenced in) and lots of financial worksheets. I'll be all ready once Kevin arrives on Friday to jump into househunting fully.
Well here it is, my last entry from Germany. Tschuß!
No blogging until Tuesday at the earliest. Think good thoughts for all of us!
Last night we visited the summer Dom--a carnival held 3 times a year for the last 666 years here in Hamburg. We also went to the winter/spring (more winter than spring) Dom earlier this year. The summer Dom was bigger than the winter one. We rode the roller coaster and while it was fun, it really whipped you around and I think the winter coaster was better. We also rode the log ride and got completely soaked from the waist up. Good thing we didn't ride that one in the winter!
I can't believe it--today is my last full day in Germany. As negative as I've been toward All Things German lately, I have to say I'm wistful and a little sad. Living here has been a great experience and there is a lot I'm going to miss. While I'm excited about returning to the States, I'm nervous and antsy too because of all of the packing we have to do here as well as how busy we're going to be once we get back. But I'm pointing both feet forward and keeping a good attitude.
Apparently this summer is a perfect time to travel, according to everyone wanting to fly from Frankfurt to Los Angeles. By the time we decided to go back (3-4 weeks ago) all of the nonstop flights from Frankfurt to LAX were totally booked. Scout and I will be going together with Kevin to follow on the 30th, and Scout needs a nonstop flight to minimize both her stress and the possibility of ending up in some other destination. So we have to fly out of Amsterdam. The driving time from Hamburg to Amsterdam is about the same as Hamburg to Frankfurt--about four hours--and we decided it would be easiest to leave Hamburg tomorrow (Sunday) and stay the night to catch our Monday flight. It's unfortunate that Kevin will have to drive both ways rather than drive one way and take the train back as he could in Frankfurt, so I this is going to be a draining trip to everyone. But I think the overnight stay will help a little.
Today we're going to Blankenese, a ritzy area of Hamburg right on the beach. We've been meaning to go for, oh, 6 months now but have to cram it in on the last day. Believe it or not, there are a couple of things I wanted to do here (visit the zoo, tour the Rathaus, and spend more time in Berlin for example) that we never got around to, but it's too late now. Oh well. As long as Kevin keeps working for the Germans I suspect we may be coming back here for short visits, so that gives us something to do then.
We all love to take little quizzes every now and then. Come on, admit it, you do too. So here's another one for you. But there's something different this time--I wrote it! So don't miss this quiz, and tell your friends!
You're a Riesling!
You're a refreshing white wine. Hailing from
Germany, your high acidity balances out your
sugars and act as a preservative. In fact the
oldest tasted wine was a Riesling from 1540,
tasted in 1961 and still in drinkable
condition. You're floral and fruity and are
perfect for sipping on a summer's day. You're a
real sweetie and go well with rich foods.
What Type of Wine Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
Well summer has finally reached Hamburg. In fact, it's downright hot. Just in time for us to leave. Yes folks, we're counting down the final days here. Scout and I leave on Sunday and Kevin follows on the 30th. I can hardly believe our German adventure is over. It definitely went by very fast. What a great experience. Although I am a little burned out right now, I'm sure I'll have nothing but fond memories. Well, mostly fond memories.
I did some final shopping today and paid with a Euro bill I got in Ireland. No problem, right? Well let me tell you, I don't know what the Irish do with their money, but where German bills are crisp and straight, Irish bills look like they've been carried around in the bottom of someone's shoe and got caught in the laundry a few times. The clerk looked at my bill dubiously and then got out the secret pen to make sure it was legit. It was, so she picked it up distastefully and put it in her drawer. I'm sure it will be pulled out of circulation tonight.
I've packed one suitcase and am pretty darned proud of what I managed to fit in there. We still have a lot of breakable items that I'm not sure how we're going to get back, but I think it will all turn out okay. We do have a large number of books that make our luggage quite heavy, but we're kind of stuck on that front. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Our luggage arrived unscathed and unmolested today. Actually that's not entirely true. At our last hotel in Dublin--quite a nice one--they had a great bottle of lotion I stuck in the suitcase at the last minute, and now it's gone. Beware! British Airways are lotion-stealers!
Scouter has also returned home, which she celebrated by immediately crawling under the bed and staying there for a while. She's out and about now and we had a little lovey session. It's good to see her.
Here's an Ireland story. We have a joke about an international Loaner Beagle program. This is where when you have to leave your beagle behind on vacation, the hotel would issue you a loaner beagle to pet and cuddle with. So far we haven't found any participating hotels (I'm beginning to suspect the Loaner Beagle program doesn't actually exist *grin*), but we came close in Clifden, a lovely little town in the Connemara in Ireland. We stayed at a great B&B, The Quay House (highly recommended), and the first thing we noticed upon our arrival was a little maltese who came to greet us. Lumbering behind him was a pudgy pug. I immediately went to the dogs, so to speak, and they were very friendly and accomodating.
Later we met a second pug, Babs, rounding out the collection. Winkie the maltese was amenable to holding and I got to love on him for a while, getting kisses in the process. Bunter, the other pug, did what looked like a very affectionate rubbing against Kevin's leg, until we realized he was really wiping his nose. It was funny--much funnier when it's not your leg. My dad loves pugs (in Germany the breed is called Mops) but this is really the first time I ever got to spend some time with them. And what they say about puggie's breathing problems are true. Babs and Bunter snorted and grunted the entire time. It was actually quite cute and reminiscent of our own breathing-obstructed hound.
I highly recommend Clifden and The Quay House. We ate at the excellent Marconi restaurant where I had a luscious roast duckling (I love me some duck). The Quay House's breakfasts were the best I've ever had at a B&B (although I have to say that B&Bs in Ireland tend to have really excellent breakfasts--or maybe it's just that I really like an Irish breakfast) and our room, the Blue Room, was spacious and wonderfully decorated. Paddy and Julia were impeccable hosts, not to mention Winkie, Babs, and Bunter.
Just so you know, I'll be posting details about our trip out of order (in other words, whenever the story comes to me). Clifden was the next to last stay on our trip. Stay tuned for more.
We have returned--sans luggage, but at least we're here. We flew from Dublin with a stopover in London and our luggage didn't make the transfer. I'd say that it was lost, but they know exactly where it is, so "left behind" is a better term. After standing forlornly at the baggage carousel, we approached a British Airways person and said that our bags hadn't arrived. "Oh, are you Mr. Hogan?" she asks. Uh, yes, actually. "They've already called about your bags. They'll be coming in on the first flight tomorrow." We then got some more information about when and how they would be getting to us. I have to say, that's one thing that's very nice about the new security--at least they know where your luggage is. We are currently lacking toothbrushes, but other than that it's nothing we can't live without until noon tomorrow.
Our trip was fantastic! We have about a million pictures and stories including how we narrowly missed sharing a bus with a drug-addled psychopath, our stay in a 220 year old manor house with about 40 fireplaces (now a private family home), saw an opera based on the world's trashiest television show, stumbled across a concert of one of Kevin's favorite folk artists, cuddled with two pugs with obstructed breathing problems, and drove past a lot of sheep. Stay tuned!
(says Kevin, posting as Shelby because I can never remember my own MT password ...)
... we're just in Ireland, with a brief stop-off in London along the way. We're having a lot of fun so far -- currently we're staying for a couple of days with friends at their manor house outside of Dublin. I'd say more, but I'm on their measured-rate ISDN line -- so suffice it to say for now that nothing bad happened to us, we're enjoying ourselves, and we'll be back and blogging after we return to Hamburg on July 18th.
(We both meant to make a "we're leaving" announcement before we actually left, but we suffered a home net-access outage on the day of our departure. Serves us right for not planning ahead.)
So the Greeks won, which worked out well because that's who we ended up rooting for anyway. Most of the bar was rooting for Greece and you know, I wasn't all that attached to Portugal so why not? Anyway, the game was great, the wings were good (not great) but the chips were awesome. One thing I thought was interesting was that when the game ended, some of the Portugese players and coaches wept openly. Now THERE'S something you'll never see in the U.S.!
Well you'll never believe this, but it's raining! I can't help but think about the summer (96) that my friends Sherri and Tiffaney spent working at a Girl Scout camp here in Germany. They said it rained the entire summer, every single day. I believe it. (I believed it then, but I still believe it now) So much for our plans to go to the zoo.
Tonight is the championship game for Euro 2004. Greece is playing Portugal. The hosting country happens to be Portugal so I'm root, root, rooting for the home team. Apparently both Greece and Portugal have been doing better than expected so it's nice that two underdogs are playing. On the plane back from San Francisco I sat next to a Greek guy, my age, and he and I chatted about the tournament. He said the Greeks are very excited about their team as they have never gotten this far in the tournament (and that was before they made it to this final game). Kevin and I are going to go to Down Under, Home of Wings--the Australian bar we went to on my birthday--and watch the game. I hope everyone else will be rooting for Portugal as it's always kind of weird to be cheering for the opposition in a room full of serious fans.
Another rainy day in Hamburg. Is summer ever going to arrive? At the rate we're going we'll be gone by the time it gets warm.
And speaking of being gone, the final decision has been made: we'll be leaving Germany at the end of this month. The financial situation worked out mostly, but it still required a large contribution from us, and that's money from the house fund. But the biggest reason really was that I changed my mind. I had thought that my trip to the bay area would have been reenergizing, but instead it made me really, really homesick. I came back and told Kevin that I didn't want to stay here. We have one more big trip left to London and Ireland and that should be awesome. Then we'll move forward into the next chapter of our lives. I feel much more at peace with this decision.
My internet connection remains poor. I think they moved the router and I can't get as strong a wireless signal. It will be nice to go back to reliable high speed connectivity.
Our book club will be discussing The Da Vinci Code on Tuesday. Kevin and I have been trying to participate remotely. I really wish we could be there for this discussion. It's sure to be interesting. Both Kevin and I remained unimpressed with the book (you can find his review here) but it sounds like some of the club members vary from liking it to really liking it. Susan, our other remote member, enjoyed it. So it will probably be a great discussion.
When Scout and I were on our walk an elderly woman came up to us and started chatting in rapid-fire German, petting Scout at the same time. I honestly didn't understand a word she was saying but I could tell by her inflection that she wasn't asking questions. I caught "Eleven years," "alone," and a word I think was "arm." She looked rather sad so I think she may have been telling me that she lost her 11 year old dog. I matched her sad look and nodded my head in what I thought were appropriate places. She seemed satisfied with my response(s) and gave Scout a final ear scratch before heading on her way. She really was quite nice, as are all of the people who approach Scout, I just wish my German was stronger.
And speaking of German, I missed some major lessons in my class. I was really lost during our discussion of prepositional phrases and I don't think I'll be able to catch up with that. We are supposed to have a test at the end of chapter 9, which I believe certifies that we completed the beginner course, and Matthias has stressed several times that prepositional phrases are a big part of the test. I'm not even sure I'll be around for the test anyway, but it sounds pretty tough.
There were only 2 of us in class yesterday--me and Lisa, the Indonesian woman. Lisa drives me crazy. She's quite young, around 19 is my guess, and is very dramatic. She pops up and leaves the room at least once per session (the class is only an hour and a half long) and makes it a big production to leave the room and to return. But the thing that drives me the most crazy is her voice. It's so high pitched she could shatter glass. It's like nails on a chalkboard. But my days there are numbered so that's all right.