Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Yes my friends. It is the German word for dentist. I went. How trippy is the waiting room? I felt right at home there; which is more than I can say for the hygienist's chair....Read it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

All In A Saturday's Work...

Make. Make. Make.
Talk. Talk. Talk.
Sell. Sell. Sell.
Shop. Shop. Shop.

The Holidays can be so predictable. Luckily, they are only once a year. I miss them when they are not around. I try to take full advantage of them when they arrive. The best way to do this is with an early start. (Man, this sounds like a bad pitch for Black Friday...or Cyber Monday...)

I'm not changing the subject here, but it is going to sound like I am......

What do police, riots, and soccer rivalries have in common with an artist's market? Nothing. Why do I ask? Because not only was today my first German bazaar in Fürth, but it was also the day (long time) soccer rivals Fürth and Nürnberg went toe-to-toe. As luck would have it; there is a violent history there, and the streets of Fürth were barricaded just in time for our market to open. The buzz around the bazaar was that the soccer game, or the avoidance of the soccer crowd, was going to influence attendance at the artist's market, severely.
The bazaar was in the Volkshochschule in Fürth. A Volkshochschule is a building of continuing education. Adults go there and take classes on anything from language, to cooking, to yoga. This school plays an active role in its city's community. So it would only make sense for the school to host a bazaar during the Christmas shopping season. Normally the event is well sought, and has many shoppers. In the past the vendors have benefited greatly. Today I think it was a bit different.
For me it was obviously a victory, as it has been a priority of mine to sell in a German bazaar. (It ranks up there with while we live in Germany I want to ski in the Alps, see Paris, and shop in Italy) I did it. It happened much sooner than I thought it was going to. The whole scenario was pretty normal; despite what I was anticipating. I had no trouble finding the venue; thanks to the GPS. Parking was annoying because it was in the city, but that is to be expected. I am happy it was as close as it was. I only had to schlep my merchandise two blocks. Many of the other vendors were chatty. This was great for getting more (culturally) familiar with my peers. I sold a handful of scarves too; not many, but a few. Could this have been better? Yes. I think my sales would have benefited from a better knowledge of the language. As you know, Katharina came with me, and she seems to differ in this opinion. She seems to think many Germans do not want to be engaged in conversation. They just want to look, and if they have a question they will ask. Maybe Americans like to shop more, and want to be convinced of their purchase. (or wooed) Whatever the case, I believe it was a great start to a relationship between me and the German handmade consumer.
My knowledge of the language got me farther than I thought it would. I spoke to almost everyone that stopped by the table. If I got confused Katharina was there to back me up. Do Germans love Florida? Yes. Have they been to Florida? Yes. Do they make the same joke that Americans do...that Florida is too warm for scarves? Yes. Do they, despite that fact think that my work is lovely, and fun, and colorful, and unique, and awesome anyway? Yes. I think my little scarf business is still in good company here in Deutschland.
I received two other invitations to participate in more handmade markets. I think I will refrain from anymore last-minute sales opportunities. I would love to get more settled in the culture, and more acquainted with the language, and then “sell my socks off.” (as my father in law would say)
Actually, now that I mention it. I did sell my hoodie off today. That hasn't happened in a while, but it is quite customary for someone to like what I am wearing so much, that they ask to buy it off my neck. I am always surprised, but I always say yes. So anyone that was familiar with my current hoodie (the blue one lined with the bright floral print, with sweater on one side and a fake flower brooch) It's gone, but not lost. It is owned by a lovely vendor from the bazaar who made very cute items herself (including little knitted rings with shiny buttons for gems.) Her work was pretty adorable. I hope I see her again at another market.
If anyone in this area is interested, there is something called the Oscar Selbstgemacht. Oscar Selbstgemacht is (obviously) a character that makes all of his wares himself, by hand. This character heads up a one-day, indoor, artist market that tours a couple of cities. It will be in Fürth on 12/8 and in Nurmberg in the Hauptbahnhof 12/15 and 12/16. You can find information at www.oscar-selbstgemacht.blogspot.com
The flyer is featured above.
Lots of people today were talking about www.dawanda.de. It is a place, on the German Internet for small businesses to set up shop. I don't know if my German is ready for this. But my point was to pass the info along to you, my German-American community, in the event you would like to check it out.

I continue to ramble on, about Germany, here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


This is looking back on a Thanksgiving past; just last year as a matter of fact. It is my husband Phil's tradition to grill the turkey. He loves it because it is an excuse for us to invite our friends over early; thus extending the festivities.
The holiday season is a time for family. If you are not living around the family you've always known, then I believe it is customary to build one. When we lived in Alabama we did just that. We had a six person family. (only the men appear in the photo) We were relatively inseparable for about a year, then the Army split us up. Two of us went to Germany, two to Alaska, and two to Japan. At the moment there is only one of us in Germany and I miss the other five like the Dickens.
Relationships that Army families build with one another is truly impressive. Just last week I taught a class called Expectations and the Impact of the Army on Family Life. (It is a class in the Army's AFTB program) It's quite an interesting and in-depth topic, one that could be covered for far longer than the 60 minutes I had. None the less, in the lesson traits of a successful Army family are covered. Words like Patriotic, Adaptable, and Sense of Humor are highlighted. At the end of this portion of the class we share some of our own words. Mine changes every time. I mention this because today I change my word again. It is now Helpful. It's not a groundbreaking word, but it means a lot. Everyone that I have met in the Army, so far, is incredibly helpful and supportive. I think we all know what it's like to need something whether it be advice, a ride, a tissue, a meal, a dog walked, a beer; the list is endless. I find that my community is never at a loss for people with helping hands. We have all needed assistance, and we are all happy to pay it forward.
More specifically, recently I needed a Christmas tree. Without boring you with the details I'll say it was an emergency situation and leave it at that. Guess how long it took me to get a tree. Less than five minutes; no kidding. I had a friend donate her tree to my cause, deployed soldiers, and asked for nothing in return. Describing it as plainly as I have; it may seem inconsequential. I however, was saved by it . I am still impressed with how quickly my situation turned from being a problem, to being a blessing.
I'm sure there are a lot of communities out there that are like mine. From the bottom of my heart; I hope you've got one. I see lots of people posting things on the FB that they are thankful for. As cliché as it sounds; I am thankful for my Army community.
That being said, I will (obviously) not be spending this holiday season with typical loved ones. I have been invited to celebrate with a new family of friends; who I am sure will be just as wonderful as my last. I am looking forward to experiencing their new traditions and sharing one (or two) of my own. Yes Sarah Jackson, I will be bringing your Bourbon Balls tomorrow. I am sad to report however, that I do not see any Hand Pies in my future.
For some reason this particular holiday has me reflecting more on my life, and friends and family, and being American, than any has before it. I have been finding it equally as rejuvenating to look back on how I've gotten to my current position in life, and remember to use it as a tool to enjoy now. If you are interested in a few amusing anecdotes from the now, click here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Whose Side Are You On?

As I continue to straddle the line between Army wife and new citizen of Germany it seems like the two sides will not combine. I was hoping my life would just start to flow, and black and white would mix together and create gray. It hasn't. At it's very best I can manage to turn a day into a zebra stripe, but never gray. This is true of my life and my career. I look at my schedule. As of recently, I am not so much at a loss for ways to contribute to my Army community. But, if I don't see any new adventures in Europe penciled in, then I make it so. My brain does a lot to assist in this divide also. When I need to shop I always think, “What do I need, and who has a better version of it?” I try to buy everything I can in Germany, as I will only have the opportunity for the next three years. Sometimes it's impossible though. Why are there no pinatas in Germany? I was forced to order them online. Also, the other thing that is challenging about shopping in Germany is parking. Their parking spots can be so tiny. If parking between me and my fellow consumers goes awry I can find myself climbing into my car from the passenger seat. I love American parking spots, and they abound on post at the PX. That being said, I have found a new, really fun, store recently. It's called ROFU, and it's a toy store combo'd with a craft supply store. Genius; I'd think so even more if I had kids. I'd liken it to Michael's, but less craft and more toy.

This weekend the families from my husband's Company are getting together to hand make Christmas decorations for a tree we are sending to the deployed soldiers. In it's balance I will also be attending a piano Jazz concert at a local gallery. This is just one example of my Yin-Ynag practice, but I hope to encourage it more for myself. I do enjoy however, the times when the two “zebra stripe” like when we (Army wives) went to the winery in Wurzburg and Katharina (German, not Army) and Melanie (German, not Army) came. The juxtapose only gets difficult when Army law, or German law, prevent the interaction.

This is no where more prevalent than with my work. As you well know I make things and sell them. As I have been finding German law sees me quite differently than American law. Getting legitimate can take a second. Selling is tough too. Many people in my position stick to only selling to Americans on base. Up until this point, that is what I have been doing. It has been very satisfying. My peers love my work and are very supportive. What I'm afraid of happening is the exhaustion of this sales outlet. I could travel to other posts and only sell to other soldier's families, and that would open me up to a larger market....but I want Germany. And as I've said earlier; I'm about to get it. I have my first local bazaar next weekend. The thought of selling in Germany, to Germans, definitely raise my blood pressure and makes my armpits sweaty. How much German am I really going to have to speak? Probably a lot. Are they going to enjoy my styles as much as the American girls? Who knows? Will they not want to buy stuff because I am not really a local artisan? Maybe. For support, both morally and culturally, I am bringing Katharina. I'm so thankful she wanted to accompany me. I think I'm even going to need her to help me figure out where I'm going on that day, how to park cheaply, and sign in to the event. The little details are as intimidating as the obvious ones. What ever the outcome I am happy for the opportunity; even if I'm too chicken to ever do it again.

The bazaar is 11/24, from 10:00- 16:00, at the Volkshochschule in Fürth, Hirschenstrasse 27/29, 90762. It's called the KreativMarkt. Anyone is invited to come and shop.
Just yesterday I had my final shopping event for the season on base. I went to our sister post, Illesheim, and sold my scarves at their Spouse's Club event. It was a fun afternoon. It's a warm, and welcoming community.I'm starting to recognize many faces and build a friendship with the other local vendors. I'm glad for this, since I will be here for a few seasons to come. I also met a new trio of vendors. They call themselves Sugar and Spice. They knit and crochet a barrage of accessories. I was impressed with their craftsmanship and creativity.I made a purchase from them. I enjoying supporting spouses as much as I enjoy being supported myself. It's an added bonus that these girls make their wares themselves. 
If you are interested Sugar and Spice has an FB page.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bali: The Adventure of Imitation

There's a Starbuck's in Ubud, but we didn't go. We went to the Kafe instead. They claim to have true espresso. I'll never know what that actually means. I think something just got lost in the translation. True Espresso must be an Indonenglish word. It's surprising to me how many Balinesians actually speak great English; and none of them claim to have learned it in school. Is my language really that simple to learn? Why is it the only one I know?
I'm having a beet-ginger-carrot juice and we are watching a dog fight in the street. We followed the juice up with another round of coffee. We're slow this morning. Last night we went to a restaurant called Casa Luna. I think there are three or four restaurants in Bali called Casa Luna, but we went to the one with bad martinis, no spare ribs, and over cooked chicken. It was the first dinner Phil did not enjoy. Ironically, this was a restaurant that chose to handout comment cards at the end of dinner. Phil wrote down his honest opinion. As if that was not a bold enough maneuver; our waitress returned volley by taking the comment card and reading it in front of us. I expected her to say something about it, in defense, but she didn't. She just walked away with the card and showed it to all the other employees that walked by. Despite the fact that we watched everyone read our critical comment card, then stare at us, we were unable to discern any emotional reaction. Did they care? They must have. When the waitress brought our bill we looked it over. Something about the math didn't make sense. There were two charges on the bill that were for things we didn't eat. We had the mistake corrected and left. Was that one last attempt to screw with us? Chuckling to ourselves about how uncomfortable the whole situation was; on the way out we thanked them for nothing.
That night Phil and I combed the streets of Ubud. I was talking on and on about how this trip was inspiring me to write my own guide book. I was listing all the things I would have loved to have known about Bali before I came; stuff that you'd not find in a typical guide book. I want a guide book that would entice me to travel, yet not send my expectations soaring. I wanna know if something might be dirty. I wanna know if a museum is going to be dark, dusty, and cheap. I'm still gonna go, obviously, I picked up the guide book. Actually, this is probably not something anyone would pay money for. If it were free however, like a blog online, then many people would read it.
Phil thought a movie would be better than a book. We had each other in stitches over our imaginations. We laughed our throats dry and had to stop for a drink. Luckily we found a cozy little joint with 5 for 1 shots. Isn't that the most ridiculous thing you ever heard? Of course not, we're in Bali. I couldn't tell you the name of the bar or what street it was on. At this point it wouldn't matter anyway. There are three to four other establishments with the same name and the street has a few nicknames too. I do remember however, that the band was awesome!!!!! I've got to try to paint you this picture. I hope I'm up for the task. They were (seriously, no lie) an Indonesian Guns and Roses, or Aerosmith. They were all incredibly skinny, wearing tight ripped jeans, some wore vests instead of shirts, and they all had stringy long hair that hung in their face. All but one actually; the guitarist had hair like Slash. It may have been a wig; Asians don't have curly hair. Two of the band members sang, but the one that sang (screamed) the loudest looked too much like a young (male) version of Yoko Ono. No kidding. They were such a spectacle. This band was one of the most intriguing things I saw the entire time in Bali. The songs they covered totally rocked. They had the sounds perfect.
This perfection actually got me thinking. They were the best cover band I have ever heard. How were they so good at imitation? Maybe it's part of their society. Similar to this music situation; I also found the Balinesian recreations of Western food to be spot on. They brew a great beer, but it's not traditionally their thing. And, unfortunately, every other shop on the strip was carrying bootleg goods; purses, sneakers, DVD's, paintings. Why not live music too? Damn it they're good.
Of course we stayed the night, to see the band. Between sets Phil tried to talk to the band. They sang in English so clearly, of course they'd be able to speak it. Nope. He complimented them, but received only a smidgen of an answer. He asked, “So man, what's your favorite band?” Literally the guy had no answer. Phil was definitely disappointed, but he didn't let it ruin his evening. There's not much that could spoil an evening of 5 for 1 rainbow colored shots.
That was our last night in Ubud. This is our last day at Hotel Puri Garden. Our driver from yesterday, Dewa, told us that it is the hotel owned by the current King's family. Is that why I feel like royalty every time I stare out the window at the serene rice paddies and scarecrows blowing in the breeze?
After breakfast we went to the infamous Ubud markets. The market is basically two-in-one. On one side you have the traditional market with food, snacks, home décor, and supplies. It's mostly for the people that actually live there. On the other side is every tchotchky and souvenir you can dream up, priced just right for tourists. As a tourist, you are welcome to go anywhere in the market you like. It is two stories tall, and absolutely overflowing. You want to purchase something just to make a dent in the merchandise. Haggling is the only sales technique practised in the market. The salespeople will, literally, give you an asking price of ten times the object's value. If you take it, no one has fun. You gotta ping-pong the price back and forth so you both feel you've accomplished something. This was the first time I actually witnessed Phil enjoying shopping. He had an absolute blast haggling and making friends. We laughed our way into being the proud new owners of fabric, bracelets, key chains, penis-shaped bottle openers, and puppets. It's all purchased at a very reasonable price; The Good Luck Price we say. At one of the stands we were the vendor's first sale of the day. He proceeded to touch all of the rest of his merchandise with our money. This was done to bless it with the same good fortune of the bracelet we bought. Totally awesome; I hope to remember to use this same practice at my next bazaar.
We had a late lunch that day, with some early cocktails. They were delicious; the cocktails. They had fresh fruits and vegetables in them along with liquor. My drink was fresh ginger, basil, cucumber and rum. I could have drank those beverages all day, but I refrained. The service in Balinese restaurants cracks me up. It is hilariously slow. You have to wait a long time for everything; and this restaurant was a shining example. Two hours after sitting down, after only one round of drinks I asked for the check. The waitress replied, “Not yet. In a little while.” Why does she get to decide when I pay and leave.? If she had told me that I needed to have another drink I may not have been too surprised. Oh well, it's all good when you're on vacation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obligations and Invitations

This hood is currently For Sale!

I think most of us feel like we are incredibly busy. I also think that when you enjoy life and make the most of it, you're going to have a lot to do. I tend to wear two hats; and recently it seems that no matter which hat I have donned, I am swamped...in a good way.
My life is quite full of opportunity. I am constantly finding new ways to impact my world. For me, it's exciting and I can feel myself growing. For the Army, and for Germany; it could be a blessing or a curse. I appreciate both of these entities for all the opportunities they afford me, for all the things they teach me, and for all the mistakes they allow me to make.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Saturday in Bali

Saturday was epic. We went exploring outside of Ubud with a private driver, Dewa. He was hired by the hotel for us; and he was perfect.
Our first stop was the Batur Volcano. The top is over 5,500 feet. Dewa set us up with a guide to hike to the top. You can not go without a guide. Most people make the trek before the sun comes up; so they can watch it rise from the mountain top. Phil and I weren't interested in waking up that early. In hindsight it was a decent plan because the trekking trail is quite crowded at predawn. Technically we got a late start, but we had the trail to ourselves. Mari was the name of our guide. On our way to the top Mari showed us a bunch of interesting bits; like eucalyptus plants, fresh mint, and other vegetation. The volcano is still active so we checked out a few steaming sulfur holes too. We accomplished 75% of the climb in 45 minutes. Mari said it normally takes 120 minutes. He claimed to be impressed by our fitness. This compliment motivated us to not rest for too long so we could get to the top and have more time with a better view. From the top you can see all three craters of the volcano. You can also see where the city was; that was covered in lava during the last eruption in 1968. It covered the city of Batur; which is how the volcano got its name. In addition you could also see to lake Batur with it's fish farming and boating. Tiny neighborhoods of workers dot the lake's beaches. After a couple of photo-ops we we walked back down the volcano. Mari allowed us to return down the back way; although it can be more treacherous. This route led us along the top of all the craters and down the side of black sand. It was steep. We had to run almost the entire way. If you stop in the sand to walk you just start slipping and falling. It was crazy. You could almost surf it. It reminded me of a previous adventure we had at the dunes in Arcachon, France. Although these sand piles were much bigger, steeper, and blacker. Once we reached the bottom we had to take our shoes and socks off to empty them of all the sand they had collected. As I said it was black, and very fine. We could shake it out, but we couldn't rub it off. The rest of the walk back to base was more like a leisure walk. We went through farms of tomatoes, pumpkins, and green onions.
After the hike we drove to a hot spring. Our hotel had packed our breakfast and we ate it in route. In Bali (and probably many parts of Indonesia) they have Jasmine tea in juice boxes. It is one of the most delicious beverages I have ever enjoyed. As we dined we asked Dewa a slew of questions about Bali and its customs. He was much more talkative than our driver from the previous day. He told us the meaning behind the flag, and the gingham. He also spoke of the shrines and temples, and daily life. A typical Balinesian wakes up at 4:00 to get his/her day started. The matriarch may return form the market as early as 5:00 to complete her cooking before she goes to work. I wanted to know what time they go to bed. Dewa said around 22:00. I was impressed. If I go to bed at 22:00, there is no way I'm getting up before 6:00. Dewa claims it's easy to get up so early in the morning because everyone looks forward to the Bali Special Breakfast. “What's that?”, we wondered; thinking it must be pretty outstanding for one to anticipate it as early as 4:00. “Coffee and a cigarette”, Dewa said. We all laughed.
The Hot Spring was nice, but maybe a bit of a tourist trap. It was $40 for 45 minutes; one of the more expensive things to do in Bali. The Springs had an absolutely gorgeous view though, and a delicious complimentary beverage. At the height of the day's sun, we sipped tamarinda juice from a swim-up pool bar, while floating in an outside hot spring, listening to falling spring water and birds, and enjoying a bit of people watching. It was terribly indulgent. But considering we hiked over 5,00 feet and back, with the sun beating down and under the attack of sand, we figured we deserved it.
On our way back from the hot springs we chatted more with Dewa about Bali agriculture; and in particular asked him about Bali coffee. That's when he asked if we had ever had Luwak coffee. Nope. What's that? He began to explain it to us, (as I will to you momentarily) peaking our interest in some nearby plantations. He offered to stop at his favorite farm, so we could get out of the car, maybe grab a Special Breakfast, and see local coffee and spice manufacturing. We accepted the invitation.
Dewa took us to Satria. It is a plantation, just off the main road, that grows coffee, vanilla beans, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, tamarind, turmeric, fruits, tobacco, peanuts, and raises Luwaks. Luwak, there's that word again. What are they? I'll get there. 
As soon as you arrive you are greeted by a guide. He takes you through the plantation and points out all the different plants, what they are called, and what they are used for. After the fields you get a mini tour of production. You go through the huts that are drying the nuts and seeds. Then you go to another tent with a massive mortar and pestle, an open fire pit, and a little old lady roasting coffee beans in an iron skillet over flames. It was an impressive sight; very primitive and romantic. I can't imagine that it is actually the way everything there is manufactured; despite the sincerity of our guide. I think it is just to impress, but I didn't care much. I loved it and appreciated the theatrics of it. As a visitor you can grab the huge mortar and grind beans in the life-size pestle. It was fun.
It is at this point in the tour that you can meet the Luwaks. They are small furry creatures that are only found on the island of Bali. They sleep all day. At night they wake up to eat. What's their diet? Coffee beans. They eat the coffee beans off the plants. The bean travels through their digestive system. They absorb it's caffeine and get their nutrition. The Luwak's body never actually breaks down the coffee bean. It passes it after using it for what it needs. What is left is a coffee bean with less caffeine, a full bodied flavor, and extra nutrients and enzymes from the animal. At the plantation, farmers walk around “cleaning up” after the Luwaks. The coffee beans are removed from their excrement, washed, roasted, ground, and packaged as the most expensive coffee in the world. In America Luwak coffee can sell for $50.00 per cup. Here at Satria it was $4.00. Would you drink it? We did.
After the tour you sit down for your tasting. Phil and I sat at the end of a long picnic table under a thatched roof; perched on the crest of a hill in the middle of a plantation jungle. A young woman came over to us with a large tray full of coffee and tea samples. I think there was probably about 15 (in all) for us to taste; coconut coffee, chocolate coffee, vanilla coffee, red rice tea, hibiscus tea, spice tea. It would be a miracle if I could remember them all. Of course in addition to all of these samples we ordered a cup of the Luwak coffee. Also on the table were large jugs of delicious fresh roasted peanuts covered in coconut paste and fried, fresh tobacco, and rolling papers. The girl that brings your beverages can also hand roll you a complimentary cigarette. Would you smoke it? We did. 
The way I look at it is if you're going to drink coffee from beans that were salvaged out of poop, you might as well have a cigarette to wash it down. You never know if you're going to have those opportunities again. Phil joked that we were actually able to indulge ourselves in the Bali Special Breakfast.
We were home by 14:00. That was plenty of time for us to continue winding down until dinner. We headed out to the spa for a 60 minute massage for $20; complete with hot tea and jasmine oil. Phil and I were in the same hut. The girls gave us a pre-massage pedicure with coffee grinds and coconut. For my masseuse it was just another day at the office. But Phil's masseuse; poor girl, she was working overtime. The heels on the feet of a soldier are no joke. (I think Phil would need a pedicure everyday to keep them normal.) It's in almost as bad a shape as the back of a pilot. Unfortunately for Phils' masseuse; he's both.The masseuse's torture was well worth it. We left there feeling like a million bucks.