29 March, 2008

The Days are Flying By

The days have flown by. I cannot believe we are leaving tomorrow.

Once again, I want to ask you all to wish us a safe and pleasant journey. Last time was a bit bumpy, so you’ve got to send more smoothing energy our way. Promise?

I have had a great time. Doing this trip with my son and daughter has been especially enjoyable. I have much admiration for their ability to enjoy new places and people and cope with strange settings.

For those of you interested in making collages with Photoshop, I’ve written my next posting. When I return to Luebeck and settle into to my routine again, I’ll fix up the layout somewhat. Then I have to work out how to make tutorials with Jing.

28 March, 2008

Completely Ridiculous

There is so much going on in our visit here, and just no time to write it all down. So, you will just have to take an occasional look at my son's photo slideshow.

What we have done often and well is find excellent restaurants to eat in. I am more the type of person that if I find a place I like, I'd go back nearly every day. My son, not. Each day is three new restaurants. There is such a fine selection of places in and around Greenwich Village, we have only had great food.

The two most ridiculous stores we did see sold: a) clothes for dogs, b) fur coats for Barbies. I kid you not. Can you imagine the bank managers' faces when they were presented the business plans for these shops?

Another highlight was meeting fellow blogger, Bindi, from Melbourne this morning for breakfast. She's here on a conference. She wrote a long account of her first day here, and then life got busy for her, and so, like me, she's been "living" the experience instead of writing about it.

27 March, 2008

Living Too Long In Germany

These last few days have been full of new ideas and impressions. That seems like a natural consequence of stepping into new territory. It is nice to occasionally test that tolerance bone; the one that has to cope with social change and behaviour.

I would be exaggerating if I said that my little tolerance brgan has only been a happy camper since arriving here. There are some forms of behaviour that really make me feel shocked, irate, or plum embarrassed. Here are a few that send tiny electrical shocks through me:

  • Many cars, pedestrians, cyclists do not pull over and stop when an ambulance is trying to drive by. The ambulance has sirens, lights, and is honking its horn, and often the ambulances have to stop for the traffic to flow normally.
  • Cars weave in-and-out and delivery trucks park in the BUS ONLY LANE. (Seems senseless to implement such a system and not enforce it.)
  • The waitresses and waiters take your dishes off the table before the last person is finished eating. (Yesterday, my daughter got her dessert before he brother was finished with his main dish.)
  • Many children do not act age-appropriately: 5-year-olds girls being carried around on the hips/waists of their fathers: 10-12-year-olds sucking their thumbs or pacifiers in public: 10-12-year-olds not able to use forks and knives when eating in restaurants (often using their fingers).

I’m not saying this sort of behaviour is wrong, just that my reaction tells me that I have been living in Germany too long. Before, such things wouldn’t have caused even a twitch. Now, they ensue a complex series of emotions that are hard to ignore. Not a good thing.

I don't want to leave the impression that everything his hunky dory back in Luebeck. That just isn't true. It is just other things that make me feel uncomfortable. And, for the most part, when I go somewhere new, I try to keep an open mind to the new culture and people. Which makes me wonder whether our tolerance bone needs more regular use with age. What do you think?

26 March, 2008

Life In The City

Since we are spending our days and evenings outdoors, I am astonished with the continual discourse going on; everywhere we go, people are talking. Am I wrong, or do people in New York talk alotalot? And, do many choose to talk loudly?

I have, willingly and unwillingly, overheard so many conversations these last days my mind is reeling. It is as if hearing these stories, out of context to the narrators’ lives, creates a kaleidoscope projection of “life in the city”. It is fascinating because each new conversational tidbit adds a new diamond-shaped coloured element to the image.

Where people’s looks here present an infinite variation of diversity, people’s conversation seems to be universally, uniformly concerned with existential worries and personal dramas.

25 March, 2008

NYC Slideshow

Easter Day Parade (no floats, but plenty of New Yorkers in funny hats)
Spent the early morning working on reformatting and selecting some of my son’s photos. Here is the slideshow. I’ll add new photos every day we are here.

Chris, if you want a gift from the Marzipan Fairy Godmother, please send me your mailing address at the email address in my sidebar. The offer only holds for the next few days.

Yesterday was spent on in the subway, on buses, on the Staten Island ferry, in a quaint café that has a WiFi hotspot, 42nd Ave., Empire State Building, but mostly just walking around … it is really getting all a bit much. My whole sensory input circuit is feeling somewhat overloaded.

Today is going to be spent around Bleecker’s Street and attending a podcast workshop at an Apple shop.

I miss reading your blogs. I took a peek at my Google reader list yesterday. Yeeks! I think I will have to just mark all as read and accept the fact that “gone on vacation” comes at a price.

24 March, 2008

Finally, A Free WiFi Hotspot

Aaahhhhh, ohhhh, phew, we’ve finally found a café with free WiFi services. So, if all goes well, I’ll start blogging daily. We are having such fantastic sunny weather; it's a true pleasure to be outdoors.

We are off to the Hudson River promenade down the way from where we are staying. Then we will try and find a bus going uptown (or do they say downtown here?). Maybe take the ferry over to Staten Island.

On a previous visit, my friend, B., and I got so involved in conversation; we sat on the ferry all afternoon going back and forth.

A dear friend came down to visit with us this last weekend. She and her daughters are making their way back along the east coastline at this moment.

I am not so good at sharing my attention between different focus points. Thus, I have the feeling that until now I have had a visit with my friend, but I’ve taken in practically nothing of the city as yet. This is now going to change.

My son has been taking photos, so I will select a few and set up an album soon.

My daughter is anxious to go shopping, but as her brother pointed out, “That’s something to do on a bad weather day”. She is the only one of our entourage who is hoping for rain.

21 March, 2008

Safe and Sound

The flight over was, as my father euphemistically referred to as, “bumpy”. My best guess is that we had at least three or four hours where we were not allowed out of our seats.

On the plus side, this was the first flight I’ve been on with my own entertainment center; watched Enchantment, August Rush, and Michael Clayton. Nothing to write home about, so why I’m writing about this here, can only the fact it is two in the morning and my mind and body are confused with the time change. I slept between seven and midnight. Don’t quite know what to do with the rest of the night.


While sitting on the black plastic covered stools in Joe’s Pizza’s watching the flow of pedestrians rush by, I spotted three separate sightings of men with wooden plugs in their earlobes in the tradition of some of the African tribes. Strange because none of the fellows were of African origins. Didn’t any of these fellows see photos in National Geographic of old tribe people with their earlobes hanging down to their shoulders? Empty, because the skin tissue no longer was able to hold the ornamental rings or plugs.


A sullen looking custom officer actually made a joke in our company.

The smile on the man’s face and the warmth of his thank you, when I went chasing after his baseball cap that had flown away in the wind and caught before it reached the street.

The look of puzzlement on the waitress’ face when my kids thanked her and said goodbye before leaving the café (a German custom).

Rudeness shocker

The boss woman of the café yelling into the phone four seconds after she picks up the receiver “Just cut to the chase. What are you selling me?" I know telemarketing is a plague over here, but I wondered how the job must erode away the soul to the people doing the job.

A customer comes into the café and orders a double shot of whiskey. He downs the drink before the waitress even has a chance to turn around to the cashier and get the customer his change. He makes a polite comment about the weather, the waitress responds in like. He leaves. The waitress and boss woman start making disparaging comments about him the moment he’s out the door.

19 March, 2008

The Ultimate in Nonchalance

Well, the taxi is due to arrive in the next half hour. Nomad Son is not back from school and has yet to pack his backpack or eat his lunch. But, am I worried? Nooooo. The reason this is so, is that my dear daughter, fellow traveling companion, is in her room practicing her saxophone. My husband, stay-behind-limpet, has just placed a hot cup of tea on the table beside me. Is that the ultimate in nonchalance, or what?

I have been intending to write a post about why it is my children are my favorite people to travel with. It is not only that they are such personable companions, they are as reliable as hoot for being reliable, even-tempered, and wry humored. What more could a gal wish for.

Yesterday afternoon, as my daughter and I were talking about what she is to wear on the plane, I suggested she wear some super cute earrings she got for her birthday. The earrings are so fun looking they are bound to bring luck. My daughter objected because they don't match anything she is going to wear in the way of clothes. I felt that wearing lucky earrings is much more important than whether red matches with brown. My son comes in and asks what the discussion is about. We tell him; to which he responded that wearing any earrings while flying is impractical. Then he goes out of the room, only to return a few seconds later, commenting, "Do you realise that this last conversation sums up exactly how the three of us work?".

18 March, 2008


Mage and Alfia have asked for lessons on making collages with Photoshop. I decided to make up a blog, Creating Collages*, to help me do this. There will be links to excellent tutorials (videos, websites) and other websites that I find inspiring. Mostly, the site will explain my creative process for making collages.

I am not going to explain Photoshop techniques in any detail; there is so much good material out there waiting to be used. I am always on the look out for such tutorials, so, I will pass them on to you in the blog.

What I can do is, try to explain the creative process of making collages. That would be fun. I think I will use Jing for this purpose. We’ll see how things go.

So, if you have Photoshop and a yearning to make collages, please leave a comment at Creating Collages*.

* I’ll work on the layout of the blog on my return from NY.

Note: for those of you interested in a progress report about packing for tomorrow's departure... all I can say is that this evening is going to be a very busy evening. I've managed to postpone packing, once again, to the point of ridiculous. Will I never learn!

16 March, 2008

Preparation: Painting The Spaces Between

Sometimes preparing for a trip means preparing to leave your home behind and not just preparing for that to come. Granted, time is running along quickly towards our departure date and it might be a good idea to start packing. Even though we haven’t done very much concrete in the way of packing, we have done a few peripheral tasks: my dear husband bought us toiletries and I bought some marzipan to give to friends as gifts. OK, not a heck-of-a-lot, but it is a start. We’ll have to go from zero to eighty as of tomorrow evening.

Yet, I did spend a few hours today sorting through the mountains of paperwork that has clogged up my mind, depleted my energy, and made me feel like such an idjit these last months. I now have the sense that I can go off on the trip with a lightness of being that wouldn’t have been possible before today.

It is like that painting technique of painting the spaces between the objects and not the objects themselves. I’ve painted in the space between now and boarding the plane with a light golden background of paper order.

Need Some Help Here

I’ve just been offered a contract to give some occupational therapy students a ten-week technical English course. The goal of the course is to optimise their reading comprehension. Rather than try to teach them to speak better English, they must try to use their school English to their best advantage.

When the students become occupational therapists they will occasionally have to treat non-German patients, read English literature, or communicate with other professionals in their field outside of Germany. The course focuses on these three learning scenarios. Up until now, the person giving the course relied strongly on photocopied texts and question sheets for encouraging and testing reading comprehension. This has not been successful. The students remain unmotivated, sullen, and unwilling to participate in class. The teacher was not able to get the students to do the weekly homework, let alone work collaboratively with the other students or communicate with the outside world.

I would like to get the students to use the Internet to explore and communicate with outside sources. I want to see if the students could learn more about the world of occupational therapy outside of Germany than me.

My question to all of you is,

Could you refer me to any blogs, wikis, or websites dealing with occupational therapy in particular, or health and health care as a whole?

I’ve been told that overall the occupational therapists work a lot with children or aging patients. So, if you know any blogs or websites concerning these target groups, please send along the links.

I’d very much appreciate some starting points. Thanks.

14 March, 2008

What To Bring

The gods willing, we set off in less than a week’s time. I’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare other than check that our passports are valid. Thankfully, they are; since there wouldn’t be enough time to get new ones if they weren’t.
Bit uncertain about what to bring. Will it be winter? Will it be spring? In northern Germany, you can pretty well ignore winter: a relatively warm jacket, some mittens, and that-is-that. No boots. No long underwear. Just jump into a warm bus or building when things get chilly.

Well, the forecasts are for the high 40s or early 50s Fahrenheit. If I remember right this is sort of like low or mid teens in Celsius. So, that should be ok. But, I remember freak snowstorms on the east coast. Is that so far from the realm of possibility? It is only mid-March…

I suppose we could huddle down into our room at the B&B. I suppose I should stop worrying about something so ridiculous and worry about what we are going to bring instead.

13 March, 2008

The Comfort Chair

Instead of being smart and efficient and starting preparations for next week’s trip, I’ve been dawdling away, remembering my first journey to New York. This afternoon I remembered my flight over and sitting next to one of the nicest couples I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting.

They were Irish: in their late fifties, early sixties. He was a hospital administrator. She was a primary school teacher. It was their first time flying. They never thought they would ever fly, but their daughter was going to get married, and so… here they were.

We spent a fair time getting to know the skeleton information of each other’s lives, by which time, more than half the journey was over. Then the man starts telling family stories. Amazing family sagas. I wished to clap out in glee and swoon for all the twists and turns of his tales.

In one story, he tells about his great uncle running off to America at the beginning of the 20th century. This great uncle disappears for twenty years, only to write home and ask his parents to send him over a bride. So they send over a second cousin and her older sister (as chaperone). Thinking the older sister would come home once her younger sister was married and settled into her new home. Well, the older sister never returns. The three of them live in sin for forty years. And no one spoke about them since.

This was one of many stories this man tells me on the flight. His wife listens attentively, laughing at all the right places, prompting him on to tell one after another.
The last story he tells, before we land, is about the family’s Comfort Chair. The couple live with their children in a small house outside of Galway. When the family comes to visit, there are so many of them, they have to improvise with seating arrangements.

The most uncomfortable seating is the wooden garden bench they bring in and covered with a rug and a few pillows. At every party they hold, this is the first seat that is occupied. It is as if everyone feels it selfish to choose a comfortable seat. It is as if sitting on the garden bench is an act of humbleness.

The first few times they had a party, the couple try to suggest that elderly relatives sit somewhere else. Inevitably, the response would be “No, no. Wouldn’t think of it. This is as comfortable as can be.” So the family started calling the bench the Comfort Chair.

And then, the woman of the couple turns to me and with tears in her eyes says that all the best family stories have been told on that Comfort Chair. She didn’t quite know how her daughter marrying and living in another country, is going to be able to hear the stories any more.

12 March, 2008


As many of you know, one of my favourite blogs is Ronni’s Time Goes By. Ronni is one of the great people I have encountered over the last years. I find what she has to say about aging and how she says it very intriguing.

The idea of speaking out loud as a political movement is powerful. The fact that Ronni does this in a constructive, positive, provocative way is important. Even her alter ego, The Crabby Lady, does not rant without wit and intelligence.

Yesterday, Sharon wrote a story for the blog’s storytelling corner about a long wait in fogged-in airport. She writes about how one disgruntled person sitting in the waiting area seeped the energy of those around her, and how another group of happy people spread joy and happiness.

Reading Sharon’s story brought to mind this wonderful story from the Guardian. Please spend the time to read it, for we are all alternate from the receiving end and the giving end of such day-to-day encounters. There are lessons to be learnt.

08 March, 2008

Still Listening


Still listening to the Radio Ballads. By far my favourites are Singing the Fishing and Ballad of the Big Ships.

07 March, 2008

The Art Oral Storytelling

Just been lost in listening to Singing the Fishing. What a rich experience it is: the beautiful art of oral storytelling. The stories of these fishermen, the women doing the gutting, their families, from a generation past (1960s), are still so poignant.

(Note: the audio player says 18 minutes, but the stories carry on for 55 minutes)

Years ago, I sailed with my father the seas the fishermen are talking about. We had some poor weather, but thankfully good as well. It is pleasant to think that we might have been in the harbours with the very boats of fellows in this program; for the boats usually pass on from one generation to another.

Thanks to Matthew at the Crockatt and Powell Booksellers blog.

04 March, 2008

Subversive Art

Collage for Julien

When my son was in 5th grade (he’s now nearly 18 years old), he had to do an art project about subversive art. They students had a choice of writing a report about punk music, punk fashion, street performance, or graffiti. My son chose to do a report on Keith Haring.

He was attracted to Haring’s biography, as much as he was to his art. It was one of the first things that connected my son to New York City, even if the connection was a cerebral one. I decided to make up the NYC collage above for my son, incorporating his early interest in Haring.
When we were in Berlin last year, Julien took quite a few good photos of various graffiti covered surfaces. There is so much excellent stuff around. Sure, there is a lot of pieces that look like nothing but painted noise, but some of the other pieces really do grab me.
I realise that I am not a property owner, or even a resident of Berlin, so this admiration for the colour-filled surfaces populating this city, is purely from a visitors point-of-view.

Please watch this video in the New York Times reporting on the phenomena of Berlin being a graffiti haven.

02 March, 2008

Excitement Brewing

Another three weeks, and the gods willing, we will be on our way to New York City. I’m really looking forward to the journey. What a pleasure it will be to see my friends again. One friend is living around the corner from our B&B. She is our anchor, our guide, and a long time friend.

Another deardear friend is making her way down from the east coast with her two daughters to spend a long Easter weekend with us. We have had the pleasure of short meeting in NCY twice before, but, she and I have not seen each others’ children in almost ten years time. No longer small children, but teenagers, or almost teenagers… it should be interesting.

Another aspect of the journey that I am greatly anticipating is travelling together with my two children. We have done much travelling in the past, how could it be otherwise with family spread so afar, but we have not gone on many journeys just to discover a new city or country.

In preparation, I’ve decided to make a collage for each of us before the journey, and, if I so feel inclined, three for after the journey.
Sara’s collage

We are each going to make up a list of four or five things we want to do or places we wish to visit during our trip. So far, my daughter is most clear on what she wants to do:

Picnic in Central Park
Go and eat pizza at John’s of Bleecker Street (tip from Ronni)
Go to the Tender Buttons shop

My daughter is the planner, organizer, and all around secretary in our household. She remembers the stories from my previous visits to NYC better than I remember the experiences. This talent must have been handed down to her from her paternal family. In this sense she is truly mysterious being to me.

01 March, 2008

Touchingly Bizarre

Read a rather strange news bulletin in our local newspaper this morning... A large hamburger franchise (think of farmer’s name, ee ei ee ei oh) is reducing the diameter on the top of the lids of their ice cream cups.
Apparently, the present sized hole posses a danger to our little hedgehog population. The unsuspecting creatures crawl into the cup (for shelter, to lick the residues of ice cream, who knows?) and then they can’t get out and die. It’s rather touching that the company is concerned about our hedgehogs, don’t you think?

Still, it’s rather bizarre. Are there potentially so many hedgehogs in the vicinity of empty ice cream cups that it warrants the attention of the company’s quality control manager? How often did this unfortunate situation occur before this large conglomerate changed the whole production process of their cups lids? Does this happen only in Germany, or does the standard hole in the lid pose a global danger?