Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A couple surpises

1) I am coming home!
About 2 weeks ago, Melanie and I had a nice chat over our respective situations. The most crucial piece of information shared was that she had found a replacement for me who was ready to start asap. Finishing out November sounded like the best plan for both of us, so I booked my ticket for Thanksgiving day.
Happy day!!! I am so excited to see everyone so much earlier than expected! This is definitely a good thing.

2) I am not going to go to the Florence Academy in January. I loved the school when I visited, was acccepted (YAY!), and believe it would have been possible to get there at least for the first trimester (thanks for all of the support, fam and friends!), but just felt right about not going. I feel peaceful about the decision.

SO. AHHHHH! I have just over a week left here. It has been an interesting adventure - definitely a good experince, and I will certainly miss the friends I have made here very much. Still, I am very glad to be coming home.

I love and miss you all! See you soon!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

FLORENCE in 48 HOURS

Holy Hannah! This was the craziest adventure yet...and that is saying something.

Sunday night: I was talking with Mom and Dad about plans for painting school. I have applied to the Florence Academy of Art, but am waiting to hear back (about 3 weeks to go...cross your fingers!). During this time of serious suspence, anxiet, doubt, etc., I have looked into other options. We decided that I would be able to make a better informed decision if I were to see the school in person and talk to masters, students, admins, etc.
So, I booked a ticket.

Monday: Ran into Frankfurt and met up with a friend from church, Dani.

(I received a request for pics of me...that is an awkward thing to accomplish when you travel by yourself...but I finally got one. See? I really am alive and well!)

(View of Frankfurt - the only German city, apparently, with a sygnificant skyline...this isn't the best example of it. Sorry...)

She is wonderful! We spent the afternoon just walking around the city and getting me ready for my trip. Thanks Dani!!!

5:00 pm: catch the shuttle to Frankfurt Hahn Airport

8:20 pm: arrive...2 hours late! Just (JUST) in time to catch my 9 pm flight.

10:30 pm: arrive in Pisa. The youth hostel where I had booked a room was supposed to pick me up. They didn't. Through the bustle, I had managed things so well that I had none of my itinerary, addresses, phone numbers, time tables, available. All I have to say is thank goodness for internet stations and taxis. I got there. I slept. Can't complain.


Tuesday: No phone = no alarm clock. Eh. At least I got some sleep! :-)

10:30 am: I took bus then a train into Florence (memo to me: one must verify one's ticket using the obscurly marked little yellow box at the end of the platform before boarding a train in Italy...otherwise those checking tickets get mad...)

12:00 pm: arrive, wander around the narrow narrow streets, try to ask for directions, and eventually wind up at my rather shady hostel. Drop off the backpack and head off to try and find the academy!

1:10 pm: FOUND IT! But students just started their figure drawing session, so I could only talk to the registrar for a few minutes and was told to come back at 4 (without a timepeace, mind you).

Enough of the play-by-play. I got there. The school was wonderful! I made friends immediately with a few of the students who told be that FAA even surpassed their expectations. Great! That helps narrow down options...

After I left the school, I had the rest of the evening to myself to explore:




There were SO many stinking bridges between my hostel and the school - maybe 6? Italian architecture and city planning seems to be MUCH different than German: more solid and angular, somewhat more colorful, and more packed! It was beautiful!





Here are the famous Baptistry and Bell Tower. I still can't get myself to admire this style as much as I am sure it deserves, but it truly was an impressive sight.

.


Here was a shocking moment for me. I had studied the Baptistry doors cast by Ghiberti in art history. I had been so impressed. Then I walked up to the doors, and saw this. Lovely, of course, but I felt like they were hardly awe-inspiring...

Then I walked around the corner and, BAM!

Oops, wrong doors. :-) There is no comparison! Oh, I am so glad I didn't miss them! I wish you could see how detailed, how precise each panel is. Each composition was perfect, and look how complex the figures in high relief are! And this had to go through the whole laborious and inexact process of bronze casting?!? OH! LOVE!





Here is, I believe,

1) Pont Verochio. A bridge lined on both sides with narrow shops, all/almost all of which sell ridiculously beautiful and outrageously priced jewelry. Would't expect have guessed that from the outside, would you?
2) Pitti Palace. I was too late to go in and see the gardens, but the square in the golden light was worth the walk.
3) Just a view from along the River Arno.




Narrow streets; inside a neoclassical church: more narrow streets.
I would just like to assert that I WAS in Italy, despite the random British flag which might lead you to believe otherwise. Odd...



The lonliest part of my trip was eating by myself in an empty little Italian restaurant. But it was calm, quiet, and warm, and the food was great - tortelinni with a lemon cream sauce. Mmmmm!



Along the river again. I fell in love with this arcade that lines the river side of the street right before you hit the Uffizi Galleries.

And here is the terrace on top of the Uffizi. Sorry, they don't let you take pictures of the interior, but believe me, the museum was AMAZING! That was my Wednesday activity. I got there when it opened and left just in time to catch my train back to Pisa, but could have done with a few more hours.

And below are views from the train:



Here is a marble quarry! Just randomly looming over a little town. Incredible!

Almost home. Though the list of things I like about flying has steadily dwindled over the past few years, I still have to say, I LOVE looking out the windows and seeing the world from a above.
This is Germany from some tens of thousands of feet above. Grandma, you were asking what the terrain was like. This pic is for you. See how organized and manicured even the forrests are? It is somewhat strange to see and very difficult to describe coming from the 'wild wild west' with our untamed landscape.


And clouds. How can something so unsubstantial as a cloud appear so...substantial? :-) Seeing layers of landscapes - earth, lower clouds, higher clouds - all at the same time is incredible - surreal even. I finally got over my self-conscious lameness (it's a little awkward taking pictures in planes...not sure why) and took some pictures.

9:00 pm: Home.
The end.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nephs

So, Nephi, this post is for you.

I've run into a number of ridiculously nice cars recntly.
For one, I drive a Mercedes van. Weird.

But then again, they are everywhere. One day, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the Mercedes symbol on the bus in back of me. I took a pick for you:



Then there was the lovely SUV I was dirven to church in be Melanie's mother - did you know Porsche makes SUVs? CRAZY - it just doesn't seem right! But, incase you suffered the same incredulity as I did, I made sure to take a pic for you the next time we visited her mother. Here you go:
(the car pic I took was lame, so here is a better one: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porsche_Cayenne)
But my pic here is what caught my eye - I couldn't figure out the make...until I looked at the back and saw PORSCHE. I don't get it.




Then there are nutty dealers for Bently and Lamborghini that Sam pointed out on the way back to Bad Homurg from Frankfurt.




That's all. I just thought you would have had fun seeing them if you were here. I love you, and I miss you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Typical Week - incase y'all wanted to know. :-)

Doot-dooo-do-do-doot.

Life is starting to fall into some sort of pattern. FINALLY! Oh. my. goodness. I have discovered that schedules and routines are absolutely essential for my general peace of mind. Who'd have thought?

So here is a typical week in Emilydom:

Mondays/Tuesdays: death days. I am with the kids from 8 - 7:30/8. I get the kids fed/dressed and run Filippa to kindergarten, pick her up, play with Fritz (current obsession: railroad building), pick up toys with Fritz, put Fritz to bed, run Marietta to guitar and back, play some more, pick up some more, go on walks, make dinner, get kids ready for and in bed. Sounds simple - except when your companions are constantly fluctuating between tantrums and wild rampages of delight. If I were queen of the world, I would provide all mothers with means to take a midday nap. Too bad I am not queen of the world. Bummer...

But, after Tuesday, life gets much better!
Wednesdays, I have class from 9-12. After Frtiz's nap, I have the kids till bedtime.
Class is a lovely social outlet, though I am a little disappointed in the intensity of the course...because it just isn't. Whatev. Living in the language is intense enough. I'm still happy. :-)
With so much time to myself, Wednesdays seem to be shaping out to be pretty peaceful days.

Thursdays are a bit more hectic. I run Filippa to school, then rush back so Melanie can take Fritz to a church playgroup that she runs. So, I am off-ish until noon. It's the afternoons that get harry with running kids to sports/lessons/to and from playgroups...Melanie and I play MOVING musical chairs between the three kids and two cars. It's brilliant - You should come play! I am off early - a bit after 6 - so I can go to Institute. Though struggling with comprehension is exhausting, Institute almost always gives me a boost.

Fridays are less predictable. We'll see how those go. But, as they come right before the weekend, they can't e too bad. I'm looking forward to this one! I have an appointment that I have procrastinated making for literally years in the morning and the rest of the day off! The ward/stake (I am not sure which...) is having their Gold and Green Ball in the evening. Goals accomplished, me time, and dress-up = an AMAZING day!

Weekends are weekends. Sometimes I am traveling with the family, and sometimes I am doing regular weekend stuff: church, errands, church activities... I looks like it will end up being about half ans half. Not bad.

I had my first normal weekend last weekend. The normal weekends are just lovely! Really. I biked over to Friedrischdorf to pick up my cell from Lonnie (miracle: Sam and Lonnie just happened to be walking out the door to go to the Friedrichsdorf temple when I called), then walked all over Friedrichsdorf and Bad Homburg looking for a fabric store (shocker, eh?). Never found one, but really enjoyed exploring. As that only took about 6 hours total, you can imagine how small these towns are. Then, I went to Frankfurt with a friend from church where we saw 'The Time Traveler's Wife' and got ice cream at - you'll never guess - McDonald's. Apparently, McD's is a treat for people here. BIZARRE!

Then Sunday. Hmmmm, I love Sundays. As I didn't have to give a talk or contribute much in Sunday School, it was particularly nice. I sit with the couple missionaries during sacrament meeting - they make me so happy! I love it!

And then we start all over again. There is always a little wrench in the works to add some spice to life, but now that I know that peace and quiet will come, coping with the crazy times has been so much easier.

Thanks to all of you who have listened to my venting and walked me through the adjusting - you have helped so much. I love you!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Come VISIT! $614 flights

I was walking through town the other day on some errands and thinking of how sad it is to experience this all by myself. I wished one of you were here to get excited over the countryside and peaceful scenes, the little quaint corners and little details - the adventure!

So. Here we go: there are round-trip tickets between Las Vegas and Frankfurt in mid october (several dates available) starting at $614. ... Just sayin.

If you come early, I can play with you as the family will be off in Spain for a week and a half, and I am pretty sure you can stay here with me - there are extra bedrooms up here on the third floor.

So. There you go. (Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

Come play!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Word of the Day

So, I started escuela today. I am taking an intensive German course - 3 hours every Wednesday and Friday.
Today, we focussed on a couple of things, but my 'homework' consisted mainly of practices with the following word:

TROTZDEM: regardless, nevertheless, yet, but

Example:
Ich bin krank. Trotzdem gehe ich zur Schule. (I am sick. Nevertheless, I am going to school.)
or
Ich bin krank. Ich gehe trotzdem zur Schule.

It seemed like a pretty sophisticated word to me, until I heard little four-year-old Filippa use it! Mother of Zeus!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Apparently, I haven't been posting often enough to satisfy you all (thanks for thinking of me! I love you!). AC has been good enough to give me a list of prompts as I had run out of things to report on. So here I go:

What I love:
I love the old architecture - a large majority of this town is in the Tudor style. I just discovered today a little corner of town that seems older/better preserved than the rest. SO charming with dark cobbled streets (slate? anyone know?), ivy and wisteria-covered walls, moss and lichen growing on any surface that will sit still for a second. The stone/moss/lichen color scheme made me so happy today! Plans for a mellow, organic, abstract painting is in the works.
I love that this little town is so quiet/peaceful.
I still love the green and all of the flowers. I don't think it will ever get old!
Ooo! And I love plumb cake. I know, it sounds awful, at least it did to me when I first heard of it. I am not such a big fan of plumbs in general, but the tart flavor of the baked plumbs with a light, mildly sweet cake underneath is fantastic! Florica, the Romanian woman who also works here in the house said she'd bring me her recipe tomorrow. Mmmmm...so good!

What I dislike:
I get frustrated with the social pressure here. These are just a couple of examples: One must keep quiet between 10 and 7 - not sure if it is a law, but it might as well be. The family is constantly yelling at or anxious about their dog - trying in vain to keep her quiet.
Then, apparently it is normal to have a birthday party for every kid every year - even for babies! The mothers in the neighborhood get offended if you don't throw your baby a party...I don't get it.
There is just more pressure to do what society prescribes. I can relate to it to a certain extent; of course being courteous is valuable. But there seems to be an underlying 'streamlining' pressure here that I find stifling.
Hm. I am getting a little tired of all of the starches and processed meats. It's true, the Germans LOVE their wurst. Of course it tastes good, but my tummy is a bit confused.


What is challenging for me:
Learning this dang language! It is a good challenge, and extra good when I can see progress, but holy moley! Imagine trying to understand someone mumbling...your mind strains at every sound as it tries to piece the few it catches into an intelligible idea. Then, try to respond to the mumbler with a vocabulary of about 200 words and only a vague idea of grammar rules. Yep. That's me whenever I have a conversation in German.
I am sure everyone who has ever learned a new concept has experienced this, and I have never heard anyone complain as much as I do about it. :-) So, I will try to tone it down...but Caite, you did ask... :-)
What else is challenging...
Oh, plenty.
It is a challenge trying to find my place in this family - navigating personalities, values (theirs and mine), routines/traditions, as well as communication expectations, frustrations, and even gratitude/affection. Leaving work at the office doesn't exactly apply here.
It's a challenge to set and accomplish personal goals. Of course, it is always difficult to do that, but, I don't feel master of my own time and so I can't adjust and prioritize on the same way that I am used to. I will have to figure out something though, because my mind is needing to play.

Who/What I miss in the U.S.:
I miss you all! I miss having family and friends who I don't have to try so hard to read. I miss hugs and cuddle time. :-) But I have made some sweet friends already, and I got to spend the weekend with Uncle Sam and Aunt Lonnie last week! Shoot, she even sent me home with peanut butter! Mmm...I miss brownies. You see, everything is more cakey and dry here. Good, but you really can't beat brownies. :-)

SMOOCHIES!!!
Caite said that if I didn't have anything to report, just send smoochies. Fabulous idea. If you are reading this, MWAH! I love you and miss you, and I would LOVE to hear from you!

I hope this will suffice at least until I find something new to post or until I get more questions.

Monday, August 31, 2009

10 minutes of doom!

AH! I have been asked to speak in church in two weeks!!! ...It's a German ward... I think I am going to pass out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hamburg

My Hamburg experience was brought about by a more somber circumstance: the funeral of a family friend (heir to what would be the Prussian thrown, actually....) I understand the services went well - everyone came back quite at peace, thank goodness.

The next day, I did some sight seeing - this time, I spent half the day with the family. Hooray!

Melanie had heard of this railroad exhibit, and none of us knew what to expect when we got there. It turns out, it was a HUGE (1.5 floors!) model of European and American railroads! I wished Nephi were there to see it - it was incredible!

The lights dimmed and brightened to indicate day and night. Here, we are at the Hamburg train station at night. This is a model. mind you. AMAZING!


This is more of Hamburg at dusk - and Fritz and Marietta.

With daylight came...ARIZONA!!! I can't tell you how surprized and how happy I was to see home - even at a 1/144-ish scale! Here is the German view of the 'Wild Wild West'.


And apparently we like to crash planes into the redrock...WHAT?



We split after the museum. I went on another city bus tour. I hopped off for an hour or so at the Rathaus (something like the capitol building, pronounced rat house...heh). Please bear with me through the pics! I just can't get over the architectural detail! Incredible!




Outside in the courtyard of the Rathaus.






On my walk around the same area.



And the train station - this time the genuine article.



We stayed the weekend with Felix's father. The house is about 30 min outside of Hamburg in a lovely, tiny rural town.

House.




FLOWERS! Mama, look at the dahlias! GroƟpapi (I never got his name, and that's how we referred to him with the kids...) had a lovely garden.

This was my favorite part. hey trained a pear tree along a wall. So lovely. Again - note taking. Disregard at will. :-)