Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expat meme

Frankly, I don't really like memes, but here's one I find myself wanting to take. It's from the blog Letters home to you, who does not care for memes either -- that why I could call it a non-memer's meme:)

Ian (who is Canadian living in Germany) answers are in black bold. Mine are in red (German living in US). I'm surprised how similar some of the answers are!

How long have you lived away from your home country? Going on 20 years. 30 years and counting...

Do you still feel like you’re just visiting? All the time. I’m serious. Ditto.

What do you notice the most has changed about your home country when you go back for a visit? More American influence in media, language and culture in general. Ditto.

If you were to move again, would it be back to your home country? Without a doubt. Actually no, but I'd love to spend more time visiting, perhaps even a year-long sabbatical, but I'm not sure I'd want to live there permanently.

Do you ever get homesick? Only in the run-up to a holiday back home. You can tell right here because I start to write memory-laden posts about the old days. Ditto.

If you read the news, do you read it in your native language or that of your host country? English mostly, but German and French as well. I rarely get ahold of German reading material.

What do you like the most about living in your host country? The amount of free time I have. It’s something I value very highly. That and no Sunday shopping. One day a week where consumerism has to hit the brakes. I like the wide open spaces -- there's still wilderness left here.

What grates you the most? Whiners who bitch and moan about Germany but refuse to leave, offering up a dozen excuses for not doing so. Get the hell out if you don’t like it. What are you waiting for? Someone to decide for you? What grates on me is selfishness of Americans: the "why should I care about the world's dwindling resources -- there's plenty enough for me..."

Did you speak the language of your host country before you arrived? Not a bit.Yes.

How long did it take before you felt comfortable speaking the language? I’m still not completely comfortable unless I’ve had a couple glasses of beer. I'm very comfortable in English and am understood just fine, but beer still helps to get over being conscious of being different.

If people switch to your language when you speak to them in their language, how do you react? I like it! It means they’re reaching out for a connection, which is good, so I usually say something back in English to see how far it will go. I like it when somebody speaks German to me, but if pronunciation is poor and I can't understand it, then that's awkward.

What has been the biggest change you’ve had to make in leaving your home country? In Hamburg, I can’t go hiking in the mountains. There’s no skiing or mountain biking worth getting excited about for a thousand km, and I can’t just drop by a tennis court anytime and start playing. Food, culture, Gemuetlichkeit.

If there were a button to improve anything about your expatriate life, what would it say on the button? For free flights home, press here. Ditto, squared!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eldest is off to Germany

My dearest Eldest daughter!
You're off to Germany for a big adventure -- I can hardly believe that you're all grown up now, all finished with college, such a capable young lady full of promise!
You'll be getting to visit my quirky family of origin, and maybe now you'll understand your German mom a little bit better. You'll be experiencing so much -- have a beer for me at Oktoberfest: I moved away from Germany before I was old enough to go!

So here is a little bit of "advice" from Mutter to Tochter:

Sorry, can't help it, so I might just as well say it & be done with it: be careful!

Enjoy yourself: you'll have lots of fun with your positive attitude.

Expect different cultural attitudes: Germans are not just Americans in Dirndls and Lederhosen! If you approach them with an open mind, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you do find communalities.

The language thing will be overwhelming at first: your head will spin -- but before you know it you'll be an old hand ordering your Wurst und Bier vom Fass!

Germans can be gruff: don't let that get to you. They're not all bad, and you'll find that the bark is worse than the bite!

Germany is full of contrasts: I can't wait to hear your impressions. Regional differences are more noticeable-- there's a much stronger sense of place.

You'll have such a wonderful adventure -- wish I could come with you! I'd grab a Rucksack and hop on a train with you -- but having your mom along would cramp your style when you meet a good-looking guy! Just do me a favor, don't come back with someone named Horst!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Value of Education?!?

I couldn't believe how many kids were kept at home here in backwards Alaska on Tuesday. I guess their parents did not want their children to be exposed to President Obama's speech about this terrible socialist idea (namely the value of education,?!?!)
My son's High School history teacher didn't show it because it supposedly "did not have any relevance" -- what the @&F*%?
I had a school class on a fieldtrip at the Nature Center and the teacher said many stayed home because of the speech -- who knows, might we have piped the speech to them in the woods?

My daughter's 6th grade teacher taped the speech and showed it a day later -- good for him! Parents had the option of sending a note if they wanted to have their child to go to another classroom during the speech. I bet they would not have had to do that last week when our Republican governor spoke last week at a local school about the same topic...

SO, let me get this straight -- people kept their kids home to prevent them hearing Obama telling them to stay in school and work hard. I kringe at the message these parents are giving their kids: are they saying don't stay in school like Obama tells you to -- emulate Sarah (the Quitter) Palin instead...

Actually, come to think of it, there's one of those celebrity READ posters at my kid's elementary school with Palin in a dogsled holding a book, and the message is "READ A BOOK" -- how subversive!!! I better start writing nasty letters. After all, there's not many letters difference between Palin and Stalin! And if kids don't value their education, they may not be able to tell the difference...

Yikes, do they have any room in Canada...?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harvest time

There aren't many things that are as satisfying as harvesting your own food.
The blueberries are ripe now at the higher elevations, the rosehips are ready in our neck of the woods, and we've been eating lots of good stuff from our own garden now: zuccinis, carrots, kale, and even tomatoes!

It's the root crops that I find most intriguing to grow -- perhaps it's because we don't see the results of our labors, being hidden underground.

The carrots are truly sweet here in Alaska, benefitting from long daylight hours -- I could easily grow more next year. Beets are growing very nicely too, ready for Borscht soon. But the potato crop is my favorite. The plants may not look like much when they're growing in the garden, starting to turn a little pale-yellowish as the days get shorter -- but then comes the reward of the harvest!
I think of the Irish crofter, digging in the dirt, and each potato turned up is like a nugget of gold: it's the food that will sustain. I've read that as far as a poverty-crops go, potatoes (together with a few other crops like cabbages) are apparently fairly sound nutritionally.

Youngest and I have only dug up less than quarter of our potatoes and carrots so far, and they are wonderful. Sure, they're readily available at the grocery store and farmer's market.
But there's nothing better than that joy of watching my child serve carrots from her own garden plot at dinnertime: "I grew these!", and everyone agreeing that they've never tasted any better!

photo credit: