Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!

This blog has been very quiet lately, but not for lack of stories to tell and a backlog of travel photos to share.  The silence in this space comes from a flurry of activity on every other front of my life.  Call it “moving madness”– boxing up and shipping out my worldly possessions,  crossing t’s and dotting i’s on the papers and accounts that anchored my life in Germany, last minute travels (spoiler: Barcelona pics to follow), finding temporary lodgings, comforting a confused canine friend, and managing the stress of a family in transition and saying goodbye to a fabulous sojourn in Europe.

Madness.  It sinks into the brain and the body, and shorts out all your circuits temporarily.  This morning, I’m coming up for air to post a photo from our last night in the old house on Jakobstrasse.  For two years, it was a crazy, quirky old friend, and we will miss it, despite its many flaws.

I hope to be back online soon and continue sharing bits of our travels and our move experience.  For today, I have only a stollen moment of web-connectivity, so I leave you with this one photo.  A bittersweet goodbye to the house one German man in the village told me they used to call “Villa Sunshine.”
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Boxing Up My Life– Round Two

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In May of 2014, I posted “Boxing Up My Life,” as we packed and prepared to ship our household goods to Germany.  And then I blinked and it was June of 2016, and I find myself, once again, knee deep in the boxing up process.  I am amazed, and a little dumbfounded, by the inertia of my life.  A body in motion tends to stay in motion– but that doesn’t make the move process any easier.

Nobody likes goodbyes– it’s hard to wrench yourself away from people and places that you love.  And for some of us, even the simple motion of boxing up our domestic goods brings on certain pangs.  It’s a hassle, to be sure, but it’s also a poignant process– the handling, organizing, and thoughtful packing of the things you accumulate.  It’s a time to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to remember why you’ve collected certain items in the first place.  Some objects are curiosities, others are fond memories, and still others are nearly totemic in their connection to the arc of your life.

The handling and packing of these things is gratifying in lots of ways– it’s like watching a retrospective study on your life– but it’s also maddening to ship these things out, in hopes that they will come back to you intact in a few months.

Here is my perspective from two years ago:

My material things don’t equate my life–let me just say that up front.

And yet.

I’m a magpie.   I collect threads and scraps as I move along, and they pad my nest.  No, that’s not exactly it.  They become the fabric of my nest.   The baubles I collect as I keep wandering represent my life. And it’s hard to watch them all be packed up, some to load onto a slow boat to Germany and some to sit in storage for a couple of years.  So many of my things feel like old friends, like artifacts of adventurous times, not like run of the mill stuff at all.

And, yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I have too much “stuff” too.  I’m not proud that among the boxes being packed up in my house there are “As Seen on TV” products, old DVD’s and VHS tapes of bad sitcoms, some dog figurines…well, it just gets ugly.  But let’s focus on the beauty here:

There’s the portrait of Teak, the first dog my husband and I owned–so beautiful and so smart.  He was the beginning of a small menagerie of children, dogs, and goldfish who share our life.

There’s the old dollhouse from England, bought at auction.  It’s a Tudor, half-timber design, handmade, and sporting a “Toy Town Antiques” sign over the door  and a little antique shop in the front room, visible through the window.

There’s the 300 year old walnut chest that may or may not house a ghost.  (We call her Emily.)

The church pew from the Ripon Cathedral in our old hometown of Ripon,  England  (legitimately bought, not carried out of the cathedral–thanks for asking).  It is quite beautiful, but impossible to look at without imagining the people who were there before you.  Brides and widows.  Carolers and clerics.  Young, old, rich, poor, inspired, and downtrodden.  A microcosm of life on one short bench.

There’s the  old pocket Bible from WWII that bears King George’s stamp and message to soldiers in the front cover, and is partially  hollowed out in the middle so the owner could hold cigarettes or pass notes.  It came from the estate of a former British soldier; he was a POW in the Pacific theater.

The Turkish carpet we bought from a man affectionately (?) known as “the one-armed bandit” in Kizkalesi, Turkiye.  He lived in a coastal town not too far from where we lived and knew our car the minute we drove into town for the weekend.  He’d flag us down, bring us into his home, close the curtains, and then pull out his stash of carpets, jewelry, and antiquities for sale.   All a little shady, but in a seductively  high intrigue way.  We felt like James Bond in Istanbul, wheeling and dealing.    And, yes, he  had just one arm. (No doubt, there’s an interesting back story there.)

The list goes on.  And on.  And on.

Each item is its own story–some love stories, some comedies, some tragedies, some mysteries.  Inanimate objects?  No way.

Some of it is just stuff.  But so much of it runs deeper than that.  The artifacts of a life lived and loved.  Who could possibly fit that into a box? 

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Jedi Language Master . . . Or Not

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I wrote, but never published, the following post a few weeks ago.  My final German class has now wrapped, and my time in Germany is slipping through my fingers at an alarming rate.  I’m still a thousand miles off the shores of fluency, but I am still bouyed by a sort of wonder at the language.  Das ist mein Schicksal; this is my lot.

Call me Yoda.

I am not wise; I am not green; I am not cute and pointy-eared; I am not short.

But language I do speak,  in foreign and fitful patterns I do.  German is like that– its subjects and verbs bounce around depending on meaning, subordination, etc.  It sounds cute when Yoda does it.  And I actually find it enchanting when German does it–  infuriating, but enchanting.  But this doesn’t help my plight in language class.

We are rapidly moving into our final weeks here in Germany, and I’m still attending German class . . . but not flourishing.  I will make my excuses up front.  Let’s start with my teacher. (She is very nice, but just ill matched to my learning style)

I’m back with my original teacher who is all about book work and learning all declensions, conjugations, variations, grammaticalizations  . . . which is not a real thing, but you get the picture.  I’m stuck back in class with the engineers and their precision-cut cogs of language (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you are more sane than me look back at my past blog post–here).  This class doesn’t really suit the way I learn, but I’m hanging in there, most days.  (I have been known to play hooky a little.)

Still, the truth is that I am languishing horribly.

I like the word “languish,” it’s kind of visual for me.  I see a boat stuck on a windless part of the sea, which of course is just a few days away from disaster and decay . . .but let’s say the wind eventually picks up, and disaster is averted (happier story).  So, anyway, “languish” means “to lose or lack vitality, to grow weak or feeble.”  And this is me in German class right now, but it occurs to me that the word “languish” sounds like the word “language” if spoken by a drunk person. This somehow makes me feel better.  Like the word was specifically invented for my situation–as if it’s a natural thing to languish in a language when one is somehow lacking in mental power, for whatever reason.  A reason like stress brought on by an impending move.

Or like sitting in a book-learning class with my head down in a page, when I can only absorb words by speaking and hearing and bandying them about like a game. It’s a messy, garbled way to learn, but I’m a messy, garbled person.

I like language– I bloomin’ love language, honestly– but not because of its precision bits.  I love it for the most idiotic, but sonorous, reasons– like the fact that “languish” sounds like a drunkard saying “language.” That makes me happy.

And language makes me happy.

But today I sat in German class, having missed a few classes (for various reasons: some good, some bad, some worse).  I was lost.  And the verbs and nouns were jumping all over the place in sentences–like fleas on a dog’s back–for reasons I couldn’t quite understand.  But I liked it.  It made me laugh.

So there I was, some of my classmates scratching their heads and trying earnestly to grapple with the language, others following dutifully and expertly along, and me–the village idiot–just thinking how cool these slippery constructions were, although I understood them not one bit.

And then, at the end of class, came the best moment, the icing on the cake.  My teacher brandished her eraser and said, “I vill vipe die blackboard.”

My ears were in heaven!  While everyone else noted the homework and closed their books, I struggled to stifle my giggles.   The word-fleas jumped, the teacher “viped avay” at the board, and I just laughed.

danke Master, I am not.  Amused, I am.

 

Traveling Companions

You’re likely to find lots of photos of the when and where–the seasons and the sights–in my blogposts, but less of the who. My kids don’t like to be plastered across the internet, and I’m okay with that, so I don’t offer many photos of traveling companions.

Sometimes that seems radically at odds with what my blog is all about.  Nobody would ever mistake this blog for a travel guide or a treatise on “how to travel.”  More often than not, it’s all about “the feels” for me.  Did I laugh, did I cry, was I horrified or amused, or surprised or underwhelmed, etc, etc.  

But “the feels” and the way they linger in our travels are just as much about our traveling companions as about where we went, what we saw or did.  Right?  No journey is just  about the road you travel, the views you stop to marvel.    They are just as much about the companions we travel with.  It’s a simple thought, and it should be a simple post to write.

It’s anything but. 

Ollie and Bebe
Ollie and Bebe– the dynamic duo.

 

Some months ago, our most loyal and loving traveling companion passed away, and I’d like to honor her in this blogspace.

Her name was Bebe, and she was a very bright light in our lives.  She passed away at 15 years old, and she loved every moment of life right up until the end.

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Yes, it’s unbelievable!

She was a rescue dog who came into our lives when my daughter was just a toddler.  Bebe was so full of love and personality– from the moment you met her it was clear that she was one of a kind.  Even her questionable breeding made her stand out:  she was a Mini Dachshund/Black Lab mix.    Just let that sink in for a minute.

We used to call her our “pocket lab” — a 20 pound version of those gentle giants.  She had no idea that she was tiny.  In true Lab character, she chased every frisbee you threw, and (if you threw them low enough) she caught most of them expertly.  Dragging them back to you was a little harder, as some frisbees were taller than she was.  But she was young, eager, and very athletic . . . and we quickly discovered soft, flexible frisbees (easier to drag, so problem solved!).

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Bebe was the first to kiss away your tears, the fastest to steal your breakfast if you weren’t vigilant (which we quickly learned to be), and the most eager traveler, always with her nose to the ground and leading the charge.   On a trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Bavaria), she sat at attention for a rickshaw ride and, I believe, enjoyed the experience more than our kids did.

It was inconceivable to us that she would ever not be in our lives and our travels.

But there is no life without death, and the unbridled joy of sharing life with a pet does exact the steep price of grief when they are gone.  Unquestionably a price worth paying.

Bebe changed our family is so many ways, and all for the better.  How did she change our travels?  When she couldn’t join us on the travels, she gave us a compelling reason to come back home when the trip was done– instead of grumbling that our trip was over, we cheered to see our pup again.  When she did join us, she reminded us to venture down each alleyway of a new town–and sometimes we’d find something unexpected and wonderful.  She reminded us to run full speed ahead when there was something interesting in front of us.  She reminded us to roll down the window and let the breeze greet us as we cruised into a new town, to stop in the parks and sun ourselves in the green grass, and to turn all of our senses over to a new place.  If we were in the French countryside and grumbling that there was no wifi to check our messages, she’d drag us out for a walk, or stick her nose in the air to say “Do you smell that?  There’s lavender, sunshine, and fresh baked bread– get up and let’s get moving.”  And she’d be right, every time.

There was never any lack of joy or openness to new adventures with Bebe– she was our better natures in every way.   We miss her terribly, but she taught us well.  And she left us her trusty sidekick Ollie to continue the lessons.

Have dog, will travel.  This is our motto.

I’ll leave you with photos of just a few of my traveling companions, past and present.

With baby in Zeugma, banks of the Euphrates (just a week before the town was flooded by the new dam. Interesting place--see links below if you want to learn more.
With baby in Zeugma, banks of the Euphrates in 2000 (just a week before the town was flooded by a new dam). Interesting place–see links below if you want to learn more.
With kids in Lindesfarne, Northumberland, UK
With kids in Lindesfarne, Northumberland, UK
With pups in Bremen, Germany
With pups in Bremen, Germany 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy riders, in the Yucatan Penninsula 1988.
Easy riders, in the Yucatan Penninsula 1988
With our first pup, Teak, in Turkey. 1998
With our first pup, Teak, in Turkey. 1998

 

 

 

Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey, 1998 or 99

Turkey, 1998 or 99

1998 or 99 --our neighbors, in a Byzantine cave church in the Ilhara , near Guzelyurt, Turkey
1998 or 99 –our neighbors, in a Byzantine era cave church in the Ilhara Valley, near Guzelyurt, Turkey
Cousins in Edinburgh, at Greyfriar's Bobby Memorial ,2007 or 2008
Cousins in Edinburgh, at Greyfriar’s Bobby Memorial ,2007 or 2008
Bashful travel companions, Salzburg 2015. My son came prepared to erase his identify from any photographic evidence.
Bashful travel companions, Salzburg 2015. My son came prepared to erase his identify from any photographic evidence–at 13 years old, he’s already a man of mystery.

 

*To read up on Zeugma–which I should get around to blogging about some day, it’s a fascinating place– check out these links

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/44-1211/features/252-features-zeugma-after-the-flood

http://www.archaeology.org/issues/44-1211/features/252-features-zeugma-after-the-flood

http://eu.greekreporter.com/2014/11/11/mosaics-revealed-at-ancient-greek-city-of-zeugma-in-turkey/