Tuesday, 20 November 2012

T and Me in Berlin

Our daughter is visiting me from Bern again. I say me and not us, because Erwin is at this moment across the pond busy doing research at the National Archives in Washington D.C. Her husband is in Bangladesh doing U.N. stuff. BTW…interesting that one of them is five hours ahead of Berlin and the other five hours behind. So, instead of each of us being alone in our apartments while our husbands globe trot T, decided to hop on a train from Bern to Berlin so we could spend some time together. Fabulous idea!

True, that we had just seen each other at Thanksgiving, and the month before that she helped us settle in, and the month before that we met up in Heidelberg, and before that in Florence…Not to mention that she and H will be back here for Christmas. But, before all that it had been almost a year since we had been together. *sob* Even though Erwin and I have been empty-nesters, for six years now, I still really do miss my babies. I wonder where the time went. No, one told me kids grew up and move on. It’s thrilling to watch them grow into their own lives and following their dreams, I’m proud and happy for them. But it sucks the big one when that happens to be far, far from where we are living on The Rock. Skype and email and all that modern stuff only goes so far. Sometimes a mom needs to hold her babies not just in her heart but in her arms too. It’s been great that during our year here we are in the same time zone as at least one of our kids. That’s why the frequent visits.

Being close to Christmas, this visit has been especially fun. We get to shop!! Our husbands, like most husbands, aren’t fans of shopping. We understand each other when we shop. We have the ability to be brutally honest with each other about items we’re looking at or trying on, without worrying about hurt feelings. We can wonder from store to store, take our time, ponder and compare.  We can justify this because it’s Christmas of course, and we’re shopping not just for ourselves, but for others on our lists, including our husbands.

It hasn’t been all shopping; we’ve also done some touristy things, even though she’s been here before. Besides her visit to Berlin in September, Erwin and her came here on their own back in 2003, so it’s not all new. And, since she and her husband moved from Canada to Switzerland, she’s also been showing me how to manage to cook delicious meals in a poorly equipped kitchen with ingredients that are different than what I’m used to buying at home. Basically she told me “get over it mom” and “this is what you’re going to do.” She also reminds me to breathe when I get into one of my states. Gotta love her.

But, mostly it’s been about spending time together, laughing and talking, even just being in the same room together. Just mother and daughter.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Suburban Safari

Confession time. I’m wild about animals. Always have been. Maybe it’s because I never had a pet growing up because my parents believed that animals only belong on farms or zoos or places of that nature. Or maybe it’s because I early on discovered the charm and beauty that is the animal kingdom.  I even talk to them, much to the chagrin of those with me. Anyways one of my favorite activities has always been visiting animals no matter what setting.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium is of course no exception and is truly awesome. At nearly 170 years, it is one of the oldest zoos in the world and with more than 1,500 different species, is thought to be the world’s most diverse. They have it all from aardvarks and anacondas to zebus and zenaidas and most everything in between. Including insects. Yes, they have an insectarium. EEK! That’s the only part of the zoo I haven’t been through. Or will ever go to….again. I saw the first window, once (cockroaches), and that’s it. Erwin had to keep me from collapsing into a shrieking quivering heap. My favorite...hard to pick, but I'm partial to cats...from wee kittens born in my house to lordly lions with a roar that can be heard throughout the zoo and outside it's gates.

My first visit ever to this zoo was back in 2002 and now 10 years later each return visit still is as wonderful as the first. It’s my happy place.When we arrived in Berlin in September of this year one of the first things I did was purchase an annual admission. It’s already paid for itself.  When my head gets too full of all the artsy cultural stuff and my brain needs to breathe, I spend a day at the zoo. 

Here, set to music of course, are some of the images I've taken over the last couple of months.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Nine things I miss about home.

There’s no place like home….sometimes

We are just past the three month mark of our peripatetic year and I’m still loving every moment of it. But, as time goes on there are a few things that I have begun to miss. Such as…

9.) These…
Germans don’t do crackers,
at least not that I’ve been able to find, 
especially this variety.

8.) Fresh Newfoundland seafood.
            Having grown up on the prairies nearly a thousand miles from the ocean, you’d think this wouldn't be a biggy. But we've called Newfoundland home for the last six years and have grown so used to its availability and freshness that anything else pales by comparison. Cod, mussels, scallops, you name it, it’s all fresh, inexpensive (by comparison), and delicious. It’ll just taste that much better when we get back after not having it for a year, right?

7.) Hanging my clothes outside to dry.
            The clothes dryer is a great invention, but nothing compares to hanging your bed linens outside to dry, or everything else for that matter. Sometimes I swear it’s faster than the dryer, it’s environmentally friendly and the smell is fantastic. The crisp clean Newfoundland air with its almost constant wind results in many people, particularly those in out-ports having clothes lines. I use mine nearly all the time, unless we have a long stretch of RDF weather, and then I use the dryer. Here in Berlin I have a foldable clothes drying rack that I've tried to use outside, but it’s not the same and the air in downtown Berlin is not the cleanest, so sleeping on fresh line-dried sheets will have to wait until I get home.

6.) Clown Rounds
This is my alter ego “Sylly”.
I volunteer at the Health Sciences Centre (General Hospital) in St. John's as a therapeutic clown. It can at times be both mentally and physically draining, but I don’t care. It is loads of fun! 
Sometimes I don’t know who gets more out if it me or the patients.

5.) Driving to get groceries
I miss filling up the back of this thing, then filling my fridge, freezer and pantry, and not needing to go back to a grocery store for a while. Now I bring home what I or the two of us can carry, which amounts to maybe a day or two worth. Won’t that be fun in the winter through ice and snow?!

4.) My kitchen
            The kitchen here in the apartment is equipped pretty well considering. But it just has the basics with a couple of extras thrown in like a Martini shaker and espresso maker; though I especially like the induction cook-top and the self-closing cupboards and drawers. Whereas my kitchen utensils and appliances at home have been accumulated over many many years plus I have a very well stocked pantry with specialized items. We make do and improvise, and if all else fails there are literally dozens of restaurants of all manner cuisine within a stone’s throw.

3.) Peace and quiet.
            I grew up in a big city, have lived in one most of my life, and appreciate all that they offer but…. the place we've called home the last six years is a nearly 2 acre piece of property at the end of a dead end street in small town in Newfoundland. We love it for all sorts of reasons, but most of all its peace and quiet. We can sleep with the window open listening to the rustle of the wind in the trees. Ahhhh. Whereas here we live in the middle of the middle of constant downtown racket.

2.) Punky
My 15 year old cuddly cat and I have a routine. Every evening after I've settled in bed, she comes by, sits on my chest, and we spend a few minutes schmoozing and cuddling before I go to sleep. She also likes sitting on my lap while I’m at the computer. We also have a 1 year old cat named Stanza who we've trained to play fetch. I know they are being looked after very well by K & S (our house-sitters), but I miss them both and worry that they’ll have forgotten me when we come home next year.

1. Walks with M
            Most of all though, I miss my walks with my dear friend and hiking buddy M. We've gone on walks/hikes together along the trails and cliffs that are literally a few moments’ from our front doors at least twice, sometimes three times a week over the last few years, venturing out in almost all kinds of weather and trail conditions. Among other things, being a retired teacher, born and raised in the area she’s taught me a lot about Newfoundland and I in turn have taught her about what it’s like coming from the prairie. We walk and talk enjoying each others company and marveling at this beautiful scenery.

 This picture was taken on the last hike we went on just a couple of days before Erwin and I left. It’s taken at the bottom of Gallows Cove Road, looking out over the ocean towards Torbay point.

This picture was taken during that same walk, and as luck would have it, even a whale came by to wish me bon voyage. You can just make out his spout/spray near the center of the picture under the seagull.

M, I’ll meet you at our usual spot at the usual time on July 29th 2013, ok?