Sonntag, 16. September 2007


Although my previous post is just a few days old, a lot has happened since then. Jenny’s game against SG-Unterrath went well. The Alts won 9-0, so they’ve still got a perfect record!! Jenny accidentally injured the captain of the opposing team, who had to be carried off the field and was out for the rest of the game. Woops! On Friday I babysat Andre, the pre-school-aged son of one of my dad’s work buddies. We spent the morning playing with paper airplanes and jumping on the trampoline, so we both had fun. His favorite game on the trampoline was a “fighting game” that he and his brother play. They fake fight and Andre swore that no one ever got hurt. I tried to convince him we shouldn’t play because I thought “he would hurt me.” His reaction to that was, “BRING IT ON!” It’s kind of funny when someone a quarter of your size says that to you. He didn’t want me to leave when it was time to go, so that’s a good sign!

Later in the afternoon I went car shopping using a mix of German and English. As if car salesman weren’t bad enough already. I was trying to get some more information for my mom so that we can get a car as soon as she gets over here. We need it now especially because Tim is back in the country and using the car AND I blew out the tire on the only bike here for me to use. Figures. It sounds like Tim had a good time in China. His first impressions were that there are lots of people there and that it is very polluted. I have to agree. He got to see the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the upcoming Olympic sites (since Ecolab will be servicing the Olympic Village). Here's a virtual picture of the "Bird's Nest" Stadium in Beijing. From one of Tim’s emails . . . “They plan on shutting down all industry within 60 miles of Beijing about 30-45 days prior to the Olympics so that the skies look clear during the games. They also plan to “seed” the clouds west of Beijing to make it rain prior to the games to cleanse the skies.” I thought that was pretty interesting. Tim was exposed to some of the different foods they have over there, i.e. pig ear, jellyfish, donkey, and snake soup. And he also included this in an email . . . “Believe it or not, our host (the guy who has my job in Asia…..he’s Scottish and lives in Hong Kong) had made arrangements for fun on Thursday afternoon. He had us scheduled to go to a shooting range….they give you an AK-47, unlimited clips, and you blast away at a variety of targets. He’s done it and says if you pay a little extra, they will give you a bazooka and tow a car across in front of you, and you get to blast away at it. Is that a Great Country, or what! You actually had to get a permit from the Chinese Government to do this, and he got one. Unfortunately, we fell behind on a variety of meeting topics and didn’t get to do it. This job is really starting to get in the way of fun, and it’s just not right! It’s probably just as well. I could see one of us blowing off our foot or something like that, and I’m sure their safety precautions are thorough as hell!”

Jenny had an 8th grade “New Students” sleepover in the gym at school on Friday night. It sounded like it was a bit awkward, but I would expect that. It’s especially hard when everyone doesn’t speak the same language. She only got 1 hour of sleep! On Saturday morning I woke up “early” (a.k.a. 9am) and went for a 16-mile training run. I’m still sore from it. But as soon as I got back we all, including Shadow, jumped in the car and drove 2 hours to Amsterdam!! We got a cute, old hotel in one of the canal neighborhoods and walked around for the rest of the day. Amsterdam is a great city to wander around in. There is great people-watching, window-shopping, and gorgeous houses, canals, and boats. There is every type of restaurant you can imagine, as well as your cafes and “coffee shops.” FYI, you shouldn’t expect to get coffee at any place that calls itself a coffee shop in Amsterdam. It is most likely a marijuana shop. We walked through the Flower Market and saw tons of gorgeous flowers. Oh yah, there is a wide variety of marijuana plants on sale at the market as well (as you can see in the picture). And then we visited the Anne Frank House. We actually got to walk up the hidden staircase behind the bookcase and go into the Secret Annex. I never thought I would do that!! The Anne Frank House and Museum were great to see, but were not the most uplifting part of the weekend. Afterwards we went to a great European-style restaurant, drank Heineken (not Jenny, of course), and enjoyed the live Spanish-style music in the restaurant. We went back to the hotel to grab Shadow and went out for Ben and Jerry’s. We walked through the very busy streets near our hotel and followed the sounds of rowdy rugby fans (the Rugby World Championship Tournament is currently being played) to a packed square with restaurants and street entertainers. There were so many exciting things to see! At this point we had spent a large part of the day walking around, Tim was jet-lagged from the return from China, Jenny was exhausted from the sleepover, and I was tired from my 16-mile run. It took us all of 2 seconds to fall asleep once we were back in the hotel.

We slept in a bit on Sunday. I was woken up by Shadow’s wet nose in my face. He wanted to go for a walk. Despite the rude awakening it was nice to get out on the city streets early on a Sunday morning. Everything was quiet and we found some pretty parks and fountains. When Shadow and I got back to the hotel we grabbed Tim and Jenny and went out for breakfast. We found a small café with tables along the canals and had bagels and cinnamon buns. You don’t see bagels around here too much, so that was exciting. We wandered the streets some more and got fresh bananas, strawberries, and nectarines before checking out of the hotel. Our plan had been to go on a bus tour, but we couldn’t bring the dog. So, we walked around the streets some more, which was just as entertaining, if not more so, than the bus tour. We went into a delft shop, explored the quaint Jordaan neighborhood, and visited the House Boat Museum. Amsterdam has over 2500 moorings around the city for houseboats, and at the museum we got to see what the inside of a houseboat is really like. There was more room than I thought there would be. The constant swaying would take some getting used to, however. Here is a picture of Tim, Jenny, and Shadow on the back deck of a houseboat! Oh, some other random facts. Aside from there being a lot of houseboats around, Amsterdam has a ton of bikes as well. The population of the city is 750,000. The total number of bikes is 600,000 – they are everywhere, and they can get pretty fancy, too. Also, if you look closely at the canal houses you can see a large hook, or arm, near the top, which is used to move furniture. The old houses have tight, steep staircases, so the best way to move things in and out is through the windows. We even saw a move in action! After the houseboat museum we decided to rent a paddleboat. It was especially nice because we could bring Shadow with us. So, the four of us piled into the boat and paddled (slowly) through the canals. It would have been a complete success except for the fact that Tim’s glasses fell out of his pocket into the canal. They sank faster than I could grab them and none of us was about to jump into the murky, 10-ft deep canal to get them. Other than that incident, however, the paddle boat was very fun. We had a quick lunch in one of the canal neighborhoods before heading, exhausted, back to Düsseldorf.

I am definitely going to have to go back to Amsterdam. The feeling you get just by walking along the canals and being in the city is great – it’s up there on my list of favorite cities. It is one of the most diverse and eclectic places I have ever been. I would agree with Tim when he says that it is one of the underrated great European cities.

Donnerstag, 13. September 2007

Lately in Germany . . .

Not much has happened since my last post. Tim has been in Beijing, China since Sunday, so Jenny and I have been living by ourselves in the house, which is a little weird. At least Tim left us with the car this time so we have a little more freedom and it is easier to go to the grocery store (especially when it is raining). Right now, Tim is probably in the Forbidden City, about to go see the Great Wall, and eating dumplings. I'm jealous.

Let's see . . . Jenny has a soccer game tonight and an 8th grade sleepover in the gym on Friday night. She's been trying to teach me some of her Irish dancing steps, but it is a lost cause. Not because she is a bad teacher, but because I am a bad student, or not coordinated, or both. Earlier this week I went to a German language class in Japantown in downtown Düsseldorf. It was nice to hear German being spoken because I'm not getting any practice by living in a house with Americans who know very little German. Hopefully I can keep going to the classes!

Last Saturday was a marathon of grocery stores and soccer. In the morning we went to Real (kind of like a Wal-Mart). Jenny was extremely excited when we ran across the "American" section. It's nice every once in a while to have a few reminders of home. They had ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, and marshmallow fluff, along with other stuff. All very healthy. But what Jenny was most excited about was the Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix. The only problem was that they didn't have any frosting. Luckily I got a chocolate frosting recipe (thanks Kat!!) and we now have chocolate cake in the house.

In the afternoon Jenny had a soccer game against Hamburg. ISD won 7-0 and Jenny made one of the goals!! Their team is pretty good and hasn't allowed a single goal yet this season, but apparently playing the UK teams is going to be a real challenge. After the game we went to Edeka - the really nice, American-style grocery store in Duisburg (2 towns north of us). Lucky for us, Edeka was having some sort of "Italian Celebration Day," meaning they had tons of free food to try - bruschetta, fresh tomatoes and mozzarellla, prosciutto, and waffles with powdered sugar (didn't see how that fit into the Italian theme, but they were good anyways). It was my first trip to Duisburg. The only thing I knew about the town beforehand was what Jenny told me . . . "Don't go there. You will be killed." Just before I got to Germany there was an Italian mob hit in Duisburg. Six men were killed after 70 shots were fired outside a restaurant following one of the victim's birthday celebrations. Apparently this was a response that escalated after someone threw food at someone else's wife. What a well-thought-out, rational response. In the future, I will refrain from throwing food in Duisburg.

"A mafia family feud spills over"

BBC News website

The killing of six Italians in the German city of Duisburg has thrust into the spotlight the shadowy world of the 'Ndrangheta, whose tentacles have spread far beyond their rural origins in Calabria, in southern Italy.

Aside from the mob presence and Edeka, Duisburg also has a fancy recreation center with a bowling alley, gym, tennis courts (clay, of course), mini-golf, and a bar. I'm not sure there is anywhere you could go in Germany without being able to get beer. It would be a good place to watch a football game - there are big screen TVs everywhere.

Last weekend, we also took a drive to Zons - an old, walled city on the Rhein. It's amazing how many houses can actually fit in this tiny town. Cars can barely fit through the streets, which are kept amazingly clean. It is especially nice to walk through Zons at night when all of the lanterns are lit. Aside from houses, the town has multiple churches, guard towers, a windmill, bakeries, and more restaurants than you would guess. We went to a restaurant that Tim had been to before for business. It was an old house that had been turned into a very cozy restaurant and hotel. I was happy because they had Indian food. The fact that multiple weddings were being held in Zons the night we were there tells you that it's pretty nice.