Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Oh, happy day! We have heat!!! Yes, here on post you can't just turn on the heat when the thermometer and your ice cold feet tell you it's time. You have to wait for The Powers That Be to activate it for the whole neighborhood according to the calendar. The magical date was supposed to be October 1, but this morning I just couldn't resist--I had to turn the knob on the bathroom radiator and lo and behold there was heat! And it was good.

It will be a bleak day in spring when The Powers decide too early to take away my heat.

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Monday, September 29, 2003

I suppose we really should try to have a lousy weekend one of these days. I'm afraid I'm redundant, always writing "We had the most amazing weekend." But guess what? We had the most amazing weekend!

This was the second of Fred's 4-day weekends, and we drove a few hours north to visit some friends of mine from Stetson. Irena and Christian live in the Dortmund area with their 4 lovely daughters who range in age from 4 to 10. It was such fun to be part of a big family for a few days!

The kids had an absolute blast. They shot baskets, played with a really cool magnetic building toy, and even started learning how to ride a unicycle! I tried riding the unicycle with a lot of help from Fred, but it's much harder than it looks. I have a lot more respect for circus clowns now!

We ate a lot of really good food this weekend, starting with supper Friday night at a German restaurant. For breakfast, we had rolls with meat and cheese. That's when Mike and Annabelle discovered the pleasures of Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that they smeared equally on croissants and their faces. Saturday night, Irena treated us to her homemade chicken satay with peanut sauce. It was all so good! I'm amazed we didn't need a forklift to get us out to the car when it was time to leave on Sunday.

Today we have been busy running errands. We finally got tired of chasing the dust around with a broom and broke down and bought a German vacuum cleaner. We also went to Bauhaus and bought 136 bulbs (crocuses, hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils) that I now need to stick in the ground. I'm counting on those bulbs to give me hope to make it through the winter.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Cute math story: Annabelle was working some problems this morning and called me over to watch her use "math karate." "OK," she explained, "the problem is 67 plus 7. I take the 7 and . . . HI-YA! I break it in two. Now I've got 3, which I can add to the 67 to make 70, and then I need to put on the other 4, which makes 74." In case you're worried about the poor broken 7, don't be--she assured me that she tapes the numbers back together at the end.

We're enjoying our new TV with its capability to pick up German stations. So far we've watched Spongebob Squarepants (that's Spongebob Schwammkopf over here), Who Wants to be a Millionaire (Wer wird Millionär), Pokemon, and Arthur. Yesterday morning while I was at my drivers test, the kids watched Blue's Clues.

The commercials are especially interesting. I don't think I've ever seen so many ads for chocolate!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I accidentally deleted my quickie post from yesterday about Annabelle's discovery under her pillow. She ran down the stairs yelling: "Hey, Mike! I didn't get paid in money--I got paid in Euros!!" Seems 2 Euro is the going rate for teeth these days.

On a different note, today is a beautiful day for singing, so let's all sing together:

Bonnie, you can drive the car;
You can drive it near or far!
Bonnie, you can drive the car,
'Cause you have a license!
Beep beep 'm beep beep yeah!!

Yes, it's true! I finally got around to taking the test for my USAREUR drivers license, and I managed to pass--only missed one, in fact. I have no car (yet) and I have no desire to drive here (yet), but I do have a license. Yet another thing I can cross off my list of stuff to do.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

We've had a wonderful weekend, and it's not over yet! It's that lovely time of year where Fred has to USE or LOSE his excess leave before the start of the next fiscal year. This year he has 8 extra days, which he is burning in 2 consecutive 4-day weekends. (Sneaky, isn't he, taking 8 days of leave for an extra 4 days off? Well, that's Fred for you.)

On Friday we went to the bazaar at Ramstein AFB. There was so much to see (tons of Polish pottery, Norwegian sweaters, Steiff bears, etc.), but I was mostly in a looking frame of mind. I have lots of future purchases planned though for when Heidelberg does their big bazaar next month. Annabelle bought a few Beanie Babies, and Fred did a little Christmas shopping. I enjoyed the wine-tasting tables and wound up splurging on a $30 bottle of Eiswein, a super-sweet dessert wine made from grapes that have frozen on the vine.

On our way home, we stopped off at the base exchanges at Ramstein and Vogelweh. I just love visiting the Air Force! It's like visiting rich relatives. Sure they're part of the family, but they just seem to inhabit a different world. I'm fairly satisfied with the PX here (which carries 2 out of the 3 ink cartridges my printer uses!), but it's always nice to see how the other half lives.

At the Power Zone at Vogelweh, we scored a multisystem TV and a home theater system with surround sound. The theater system was to replace my poor stereo speakers from 1987 that got a bit banged up in the move. The TV--well, here's where I prove my prowess at rationalizing anything, anytime, anywhere. The TV is an educational expense. We couldn't get German TV with our old American set, you see, and watching German TV is going to be an integral part of our foreign language curriculum. Besides, I needed something to watch while I drink my wine.

I'm afraid we didn't get the new TV hooked up in time for the AFN premiere of Survivor on Friday night, so we had to watch the castaways on our old set. Next week though we will be able to enjoy the sniping and backbiting with surround sound.

Yesterday and today were fairly laid back. I planted more heather in the front yard, and we took care of general housekeeping tasks. Mike had a new friend sleep over last night, and they spent a lot of time at the skatepark. Annabelle lost a tooth tonight that she has been working on for quite some time. We are all eager to see if the German toothfairy leaves Euros.

Tomorrow we're planning a trip to someplace closeby--perhaps Darmstadt so Fred can show the kids where he lived way back when.

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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Just a quickie post to say that my cousin Julie has had her baby--welcome to the world, little Emma Laura!! I have no details, but I've seen the pictures, and she's a cutie!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Today the kids and I set out on yet another local adventure. First we took the streetcar to a part of Mannheim we'd never seen before. We were looking for a particular toystore (that supposedly carries a brand of puzzles we really like), but we got a little bit lost and never did find the store.

Instead, we returned to Mannheim's main shopping district and went to a HUGE bookstore that was recommended to me by one of my internet friends. Sure enough, we found just the book we need: Kind an Rhein & Neckar: Mit Mannheim, Heidelberg und Ludwigshafen (English title: "Things to Do with Your Kids When You're Tired of Beating Them"). It has ideas for all sorts of activities--from zoos to museums to art and music lessons. I hope that this will help me in my quest to find some German friends for Mike and Annabelle.

After browsing in the bookstore, we sat for a while at an outdoor cafe. Annabelle ordered her usual, an Erdbeerbecher, which is usually a HUGE strawberry sundae. Unfortunately, this particular cafe was all out of strawberries. Instead they brought her a sundae of mixed fruit (apples, kiwi, and banana), which was quite the hit. They decorate their icecream here like it will be attending the Oscars. This sundae came equipped with three little cookies sticking out of it as well as a large slice of kiwi and some sparkly stuff on a stick. Very pretty indeed.

After our snack, we set out for the Atlantis theater, which shows a children's movie every afternoon at four. I have been dying for us to go to the Kinderkino, as I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the kids (and me!) to listen to some German and work on improving our comprehension. The kids, however, have responded to this idea with repeated choruses of "Ugh! Do we HAVE to?!" Today (finally) my answer was: "Yes, you have to! I sat through at least 2 different Pokemon movies as well as the Digimon movie, not to mention the fact that I gave birth to you people. You owe me! Case closed."

Mike and Annabelle were very impressed with the theater itself. First of all, it was a very dignified, traditional theater--no stadium seating or drinkholders in the armrests. There was a balcony (we didn't sit in it) and a velvet curtain across the screen. They played music before the film, but there were no shots of cola-drinking polar bears and no cutesy tests of movie trivia. Just before the film began, an usher ran around distributing super-thick squares of foam-rubber for the kids to sit on. To Annabelle's great delight, there were no previews at all and the sound level was just perfect!

Today's flick was Pippi in Taka-Tuka-Land. That's the one where Pippi rescues her father, who is being held captive by pirates. A few random thoughts about the movie:

(1) Mike was concerned that the actors would be naked, as it supposedly takes place in the south seas (where people are, I suppose, naked) and he is aware of how much more accepting the Germans are of nudity in general. We see lots of magazine covers and even the occasional poster featuring bare breasts, and both kids were horrified at Legoland when kids their age started stripping down to their undies to play in the fountain. The only skin in this particular film was a shot of Annika peeling of her shirt to do the laundry on the pirate ship. Naturally, I had to elbow Mike and whisper: "I guess that's the naked people!"

(2) Tommy and Annika wear socks with sandals throughout the film. Mike commented: "You can really tell this is a German movie. Look at their feet!" Actually though I believe it was a Swedish movie, but I could be wrong.

(3) Captain Longstocking has a parrot. Both Mike and Annabelle were amazed that the parrot spoke German. "Wow, how did they get that bird to speak German?" they both asked me at different times. For some reason, this totally cracks me up.

Unfortunately, our sunny afternoon ended on somewhat of a down note when we returned to our streetcar stop and discovered that somebody had taken Mike's helmet off of his bike. Our only hope is that perhaps Mike was coming down with a case of head lice and the thief will suffer accordingly.

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Monday, September 15, 2003

You'll have to pardon any typos in this post. I just returned from afternoon tea at the Dorint hotel, and I'm afraid that my pinkie finger is permanently extended. It was all so teddibly, teddibly lovely!

The German ladies from the German American Women's Club host the tea every year, and it's quite the event. I would guess there were at least 100 women there. They had a trio of two singers and a piano player for the entertainment portion, and then they turned us loose on the Kuchenbuffet: Picture a salad bar, only instead of lettuce and tomatoes, it's 12 different kinds of cake; and instead of salad dressing, there are 2 enormous bowls of whipped cream.

I was one of only 2 Americans at my table, so I got an opportunity to remember how much German I've forgotten over the years. More than once I found myself wishing I had a bigger purse so that I could have dragged along a dictionary and maybe my copy of 501 German Verbs. But it was a very congenial crowd, and the conversation flipped back and forth between German and English, so I was lost only part of the time.

It's strange though, typing in English after several hours of trying to force German through the wiring in my brain. I have to be careful--otherwise I will surely like this be talking. And if you that kidding I am think, then one more time your Mark Twain read you should.

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Sunday, September 14, 2003

What a terrific, low-key weekend we've had! We opted to stay home instead of taking off on a new adventure, and while at first I was hot to go to, say, Luxembourg, I'm really glad we had this time around the house. We managed to hang half of our family photos in our stairway before we ran out of nails. I got the office area in the kitchen halfway tidy (which, for me, is pretty darn tidy!). And because of the AMAZINGLY nice weather, we were also able to do some work outside.

Fred mowed the grass and washed his Blazer. He also trimmed the out-of-control shrubs on either side of our walkway into slightly smaller egg-shaped plants. Still not exactly our style, but at least they don't make you claustrophic now when you walk between them!

We had another shrub right by our front door that he tried to trim. It was this really ugly pine thing that had grown into a huge twisted knot. When he finished trimming, it looked slightly smaller but still very ugly. So while he was off on the side of the house, I set about "fixing" it with a pair of clippers. And a handsaw. To save the plant, it was necessary to destroy it, which I did quite thoroughly. Fred got a shovel and dug up the rest.

Yesterday Fred and I went to Bauhaus and got windowboxes for all of our first-floor windows and 36 pansies to go in them. Then today we went to the PX and bought 9 heather plants for the flower beds. I'm still probably 9 plants short, but it's a start. I also want to plant bulbs, as I think that this year for the first time in my life, I'm actually in a place where bulbs might do something other than sit there and die.

My van should be arriving in Bremerhaven soon. I believe Friday is its scheduled arrival date, and then it will take a couple of days to get it off the ship. Fred will take leave, and we will go up on the train and drive the van back.

OK, so Fred will drive back. I have yet to take the test for the USAREUR drivers license, and don't know when I will. I flunked my American drivers test the first time I took it (happy sweet-16 birthday to me), and I'm in no particular hurry to relive the horror 20 years later.

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Friday, September 12, 2003

I've been doing a lot of shopping in the past few days, and boy are my fingers tired! I've ordered a few things for homeschooling (Handwriting Without Tears and Callirobics for Mike, as well as a language arts text for him, and Singapore Math for Annabelle, along with book 4 of the D'Nealian handwriting books) from various sources. The local PX carries only 2 out of the 3 ink cartridges that my printer takes, so I have ordered the third from OfficeMax and expect it to arrive just about any day. The strangest thing I've ordered so far is 4 cans of tomatillos. I even have a website bookmarked for when the pickled okra cravings get too intense. Now if only I could find an online source for the Fritos Natural Cheetos!

Tonight I'm going to my first Creative Memories crop here in Germany. Before the kids and I arrived, Fred saw a woman in the PX parking lot who had a CM sticker on her car. Rather than slinking off into the shadows, he went up to her and not only got her business card but also passed along my email address to her! So I had a CM consultant before I even got into the country!

I'm taking my 3 Hawaii albums with me tonight. All the pictures are in (except for the ones from Fred's trip to Thailand, and I have space saved for them). I'm taking all my pens and about 4 packs of page protectors. I hope to catch up my journaling tonight and get the protectors put on so I can get busy on my TX albums. If we don't quit moving to photogenic places, I will NEVER get caught up with my scrapbooks!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2003

NEWSFLASH AGAIN: Even more photos have now been added! Fred stopped by the PX yesterday on his way home from work and picked up the roll of film I dropped off well over a week ago. The photo booth there is cheap ($6 to develop and print singles plus put all prints on a CD), and they do good work, but fast? No way. Anyway, you know the drill: look under "Photos" heading.

Another item of possible interest: I have fixed the timestamp feature so that posts will now accurately reflect the time they were written. No more daytime posts that appear to have been published in the middle of the night!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003

[Added as a post on January 30, 2005]

It seems we have moved into the ultimate gated community. Not only do you have to show ID to the guards stationed at the entry gate, but several times a day they send armed patrols to walk through the neighborhood. Nothing to make you feel secure like looking out your window and seeing a couple of scouts with high-power rifles!We have also seen German Polizei riding down our street on horseback. In fact, one of the horses took a dump right in front of our house! (How many people in gated communities back in the States can claim THAT?!)

The houses in this neighborhood are duplexes. They're old and pretty small compared to what we're used to (fewer than 1400 sq. ft., and that's including a staircase!). They're also rather boxy looking, but I'm impressed with what many of our neighbors have done with their yards. So I have hope that once we have some flowers and perhaps a gargoyle or two (my #1 souvenir quest after our trip this past weekend to Freiburg), ours will look a little less like a box.

Right now all I have are pictures of the outside. We're almost finished with our decorating though, so I hope to have interior pictures posted soon.

See, I told you it's a box. Our unit ends with the curtainless window on the left side of the ground floor. Can't you just see boxes overflowing with geraniums in all the windows and a stone gargoyle sitting just over the front door?

Here's the back of the house. Kind of boring right now, though we have set up the trampoline since this picture was taken. That adds a great deal of activity if nothing else.

And here is the view from the upstairs balcony. Not much to see in this picture, but we often see people walking their dogs and riding their bikes on the path just beyond our fence. The path is also popular with horseback riders.

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NEWSFLASH: Photos have been added!!! Check the links under the heading cleverly entitled "Photos."

The keenly observant will also notice that I've added a guestbook. So sign it already!

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QUESTION: What's faster than a speeding bullet?

ANSWER: My brand new DSL connection!!! High-speed internet access has never felt better, and it certainly has been a long time in coming. Now I don't have any excuses for not posting my photos, so be checking back in the next couple of days to see shots of our new home as well as our trip to Legoland.

I'm pleased to report that our second day of homeschooling was smoother than the first. Nobody cried this time, not even me, which was a major improvement. Annabelle finished her stamp game problems while Mike used the square root board.

For obvious reasons, European geography is a big theme for us this year. The kids are busy mentally putting the countries of the Continent into order, and I have found a couple of neat tools that help with this. One is a free computer puzzle that I downloaded. You drag and drop the countries and their capitals into their proper place, and you can work with or without a timer and with or without country outlines. I also have a cardboard puzzle of the countries and flags of Europe, which the kids seem to enjoy.

The only problem is that with all this talk of European geography, the word "Albania" generally comes up at least once per day. And then I am left with the following (sung to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In") running through my head:

Albania, Albania!
You border on the Adriatic.
You are mostly mountainous
And your chief export is chrome.

Quick! Who knows where that little ditty is from?

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Monday, September 08, 2003

Today was our first official day of homeschooling. I'm sure that seems really late for a lot of my friends whose kids have been in school since mid-August, but the kids here on post just started last Tuesday. I wanted to take a full two weeks to get settled in first.

We are trying as much as possible to use Montessori materials and methods. Both kids' teachers from their old school (and even some teachers who didn't have my kids in their classes) were so helpful to me before we left San Antonio. Thanks to all of them, Fred and I were able to make our own (inexpensive) versions of a number of Montessori materials.

We had a rather shaky start to our day today. Mike settled in quite nicely and concentrated on his math and German lessons. Poor Annabelle started working math problems using the Stamp Game (you can see computer versions of this and a few other Montessori products by clicking here), which was her #1 favorite math tool from last year. She got through one problem and then looked up at me. "The stamp game is nice and all," she said with a quivering chin, before breaking down crying: "But it's just not the same as in Miss Page's class!!! I miss Miss Page! I want to go back!!!!!" Ugh, I thought my heart would break. So instead of doing all the cool Montessori stuff that I had so carefully prepared, Annabelle spent the bulk of the morning doing miscellaneous other things that wouldn't make her remind her of Judson and make her homesick.

After lunch today, the kids and I took the streetcar downtown to the main post office to pick up the new modem that TKS sent me. Quite an adventure! We got sent around the side of the building where we wandered around a loading dock before we found a kindly maintenance man who took us through an enormous warehouse and into this eensy little office. Lo and behold, there was my modem (and it works, too, at least on the notebook computer!). Once I had my modem safe in hand, we spent a couple hours exploring our local shopping mall some more and then went a few stops further to find our local ice rink.

Miscellaneous note: I'll never forget the first time I saw a Mercedes garbage truck over here. Well, I had that same feeling today when I had the rare privilege of using a toilet made by Villeroy & Boch. I kept wondering if I could order one in their Manoir pattern to go with my china.

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Sunday, September 07, 2003

Several times every summer, the city of Heidelberg stages a mock burning of its famous castle ruins. According to my USO guidebook, "the illumination is a recreation of the actual 17th century destruction and burning by the French Army."

In June of 1989, Fred and I had our very first date at the burning of the castle. We met up with friends of his (a field artillery officer and a new JAG captain who were also on their first date and who also wound up married to each other, as well as the legal intern from Fred's office). We staked out a picnic spot on the banks of the Neckar River, ate cotton candy, and perused Fred's yearbook from his senior year at Stetson. ("Did you know So-and-So?" "Yeah, did you know his brother What's-His-Face?") That night Fred and I watched the fireworks as we huddled under one umbrella to stay out of the oh-so-convenient rain.

Last night we went back to where it all started to witness the final castle illumination for 2003. Rather than watching from the riverbank, we booked a cruise through the Mannheim USO. It rained again, though this time there was no romantic umbrella-snuggling. Funny how having kids along can change the mood, isn't it?

The food was good, though we wound up one schnitzel short in the end. When Fred and I went downstairs to order from the limited menu, I suggested that we get 3 schnitzels and one hotdog, figuring that Annabelle would eat the hotdog. We took the food back upstairs, where Annabelle promptly tore into one of the schnitzels as if it were the only thing between her and death by starvation. Poor Fred was stuck with the hotdog and not even that much of one after we all tried a bite and proclaimed it to be the best hotdog ever. So Fred went back below to get himself a schnitzel ("And a couple more of those dogs!!!" we hollered after him), but alas there were no more. So he had to make do with yet another of the world's most awesome hotdogs, and Annabelle ate more meat in one evening than she has had in the entire previous year.

The illumination itself was just wonderful. At around 9:30, all the boats on the river went dark, as did all nearby streets and buildings. Then, out of the darkness, the castle started to glow. A few moments later, the castle went dark and the fireworks began.

Through the miracle of modern technology, you can experience your own castle illumination right in the comfort of your own home. Just click here. For a daytime look at the castle (not my photo--still waiting on the DSL connection), click here.

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Friday, September 05, 2003

We now all have bikes. The kids brought theirs from Texas, and Fred bought one for himself soon after arriving in Germany. That made me the lone wheel-less one, so last weekend we went to our local Wal-Mart Super Center and bought me my first bike in at least 20 years.

We are surrounded here by miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers?) of well-marked, level bike paths. On Wednesday, the kids and I rode for a couple of hours, exploring the fields and woods behind our neighborhood as well as the town on the other side. Yesterday, we rode to the Burger King on post, where we locked the bikes up and continued on by streetcar for the rest of our explorations for the day. And today I went out on my own, riding first to the library and then to the commissary for milk and bread.

I felt strange in the beginning to be wearing a bike helmet. They are mandatory head gear on post though, so going without really isn't an option. Mike was amazed to discover that the Germans don't require helmets off post, though they do demand bells on bicycles. "They don't wear HELMETS, but they think BELLS are a safety device?!" He felt dorky to be putting something as prissy as a bell on his BMX bike, but I'm sure I felt equally dorky sporting my brain bucket. I got used to it though, and today I would have walked into the commissary wearing mine if I hadn't seen my ridiculous reflection in the glass doors.

Apparently it's true what they say--you never do forget how to ride a bike. Some things are different though. For one, I have no particular urge to give this bike a name and have yet to pretend it's a horse. I clutch the handlebars in a deathgrip at all times and have not tried riding no-hands even once. Most importantly, I don't remember my butt hurting this bad 20 years ago, which makes no sense as my seat has much more padding today (and I don't mean the bike seat!). One of life's mysteries, I suppose.

And on the DSL front: TKS (Deutsche Telekom) is supposed to be sending me a new modem. I'm giving them a few days to follow through on this, though I've been warned by the neighbors not to hold my breath. Yesterday I found out that there is an upstart company out of Heidelberg that can get its customers online in about 12 hours. If TKS doesn't come through PDQ, they're gonna be SOL, 'cause I'm gonna take my DSL and go AWOL. It's exciting to have choice in what's traditionally a monopoly here. In the words of Edward Albee: "Mutate or perish. Change your spots or maybe just your point of view." Mutate or perish, Deutsche Telekom!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Here are some things I can do in German:

(1) Order ice cream, preferably strawberry;
(2) Curse when I drop my new sunglasses over the edge of the walking path at Germany's highest waterfall (Mike rescued them for me); and
(3) Order Annabelle's spaghetti with the sauce on the side.

Here are some things I cannot do in German:

(1) Explain the theory of relativity;
(2) Solve the problems in the Middle East; and
(3) Hook up my DSL connection!!

As many of you know, my online time has been seriously curtailed since arriving in Germany. I have been accessing my AOL account through a dial-up connection, and every time I sign on, I get AOL's friendly "bend over and prepare to be surcharged" message. Needless to say, I remain online only long enough to download my email!

Getting my DSL connection up and running has been a trying (and thus far, fruitless) experience. As though the language barrier between normal earthlings and techno-computer-geeks were not big enough, I have the additional challenge of figuring out error messages auf Deutsch. My typical translating experience: "Please to connect the . . . um . . . hanging-tight-together device from . . . no, wait, to the . . . [insert sound of pages flipping in the world's smallest German dictionary] . . . chicken . . . ?"

This morning I decided to call technical support. My neighbor told me that I should select option 2 when the computerized voice answers, so that's exactly what I did. When the customer service rep finally answered, I asked if he spoke English. No, he said (in German, obviously). I should call this number and ask for an English-speaking rep. He gave me the number, which--ta da!--was the same number I had used to get him in the first place! If my German were good enough to say "But, sir, that number is answered by a computer," I wouldn't NEED to ask for an English-speaker at all. So I thanked him and hung up.

The day hasn't been a total loss though. After hearing it a couple dozen or so times while waiting on hold, I now know how to say "Please continue to have patience. The next available customer service representative has been reserved for you" in German.

I hope to get this straightened out soon. I've got pictures from Legoland and also a few of the house ready to post!

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Monday, September 01, 2003

[Added as a blog post on January 30, 2005.]

After we had been here about a week, the kids and I decided it was time for us to figure out the streetcar system. We walked to the nearest stop, bought our tickets, and set out for the Luisenpark, a beautiful park smack-dab in the middle of Mannheim. We had a particularly nice time wandering around looking at the animals. The kids were quite taken with the prairie dogs:

while I preferred the butterfly house:

The piranha was also very cool in his own ugly way:

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