Tuesday, November 29, 2011

German Things that Make Me Giggle

Living in a foreign country is wrought with oddities and differences that sometimes leave me (Dana) shaking my head and other times just make me giggle.  I snapped some photos around town this past week so I could share some of those things.

This sign translates roughly to "Have a good trip" but seeing signs like this one around Germany bring out the middle-schooler in me and I always giggle.

Here's what I imagine the brainstorming session was like for the people at Simba when they created these trampy dolls:
Marketing Guy 1: Dolls these days just aren't slutty enough.  Let's give our new Mystic dolls goth chokers and mesh skirts.
Marketing Guy 2: Ohhh, neon fishnet stockings are really in right now.  Except lets reinstate the mis-matched, one-high one-low fad.
Marketing Guy 1: Yea, and they each should have a rabid, feral looking pet cat.
Marketing Guy 2: These dolls look good, but something is still missing.
Marketing Guy 1: I've got it!  A thigh tattoo!
Marketing Guy 2: That's sooooo hot.

This is a very literal translation to how I feel in the morning before I have my coffee.

Wall Street to Americans means the epicenter of finance and investing, but here in Borken Wall Street (or Wallstraße) is literally the street that has the town wall on it.

This is an ad for eyeglasses, but I'm so distracted by the dorky guy with the long red hair and full beard wearing tight red pants that I can't imagine this ad brings many customers into the shop.

Dylan was looking at the newspaper with Bryan and came across this article about a man who has more than 400 body piercings.  Always ready to state the obvious, Dylan points at him and simply says "Big mess."  Yes, son, a big mess indeed.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kicking Off the Christmas Markets in Münster

One of my absolute favorite things about living in Germany is the wonderful Christmas markets every November/December.  Knowing that the Christmas Markets are coming makes the cold weather and short days almost tolerable. And by the way, the days here are crazy short.  Way shorter than in Michigan or Florida or anywhere else we've lived. (Borken is 51 degrees latitude whereas Grand Rapids, Michigan is only 42 degrees latitude - we're almost 10 whole degrees further north on the globe which means 6 hours of day light in the winter and 18 hours of daylight in the summer).

Anyways, I've been desperate for a day where I can do some shopping just be out of the house by myself without dragging Dylan around with me.  Because sometimes I just really need some time where I can dawdle and peruse shops at my own leisure without having to bribe Dylan to sit still and be quiet with brötchen or Gummie Bears.  Bryan came to the rescue and on Monday night suggested that he stay home with Dylan on Tuesday so I can go to the Münster Christmas Market ganz allein.  I was so excited for my day away that I got to the bus station at least 20 minutes early because I just couldn't handle sitting around our house any longer.

I got into Münster around 11:30, just after the Christmas Markets opened up for the day, so I got a really good slow tour of all the booths without having to jostle my way through any crowds.  The booths featured toys, jewelry, Christmas decorations and lots and lots of food.  The one thing the Christmas Market was missing, however, was music.  It seemed really strange to have all these Christmasy booths selling Christmasy things but there was no Christmas music being played ... anywhere. And since I was there first thing in the morning, there weren't too many people around so it was kind of quiet.  But I did still prefer the silence to the usual constant questioning from Dylan of "Whatareyoudoing, Mommy? Whatareyoudoing, Mommy?" and "What's that? What's that? What's that?"

After I got my fill of the Christmas Market I managed to spend some time going into stores that I usually don't get to go into because they either have breakable things in them or they have women's clothes in them, or both.  The funny things about the stores in Münster is that they have names that either sound like clown name (Nanu Nana, Bibo) or they are a complete mouthful to say (Peek & Cloppenburg, Applerath-Cüpper) but are nonetheless fun to shop at.

By 3:30 I was wiped out and made my way back to the bus stop to being the hour long journey back to Borken.  I must say that after taking the bus to Münster there and back, I have a lot more compassion and empathy for Bryan's daily commute.  The ride alone is pretty tiring, and I spent the day shopping and lolligagging around town.  I can't image doing it every day for work.

Here are some photos from my big day out:

Love, Love, LOVE the Christmas Markets!

The market huts get so pretty at night (or when the sun sets at 2pm) with all the lights and festive decorations.

Most scenic street to shop on.

The entrance to one of the larger markets in Münster

A view from above.  Yes, I did get strange looks when I barged into a restaurant, took pictures out the window then left, narrowly missing a big collision with a waiter carrying a full armload of food.

Yummy falafel sandwich

I thought these polkadot rain boots were cute, but they were 189 Euros.  Ummm, no thanks. This was one of those stores where everything was adorable in that thrift store / homemade kind of way, but nothing cost less than 100 Euros.  

My favorite little Münster street artist is probably crazy rich.  His Münster-themed paintings are really cool, but one of his little 10x10 centimeter paintings is 89 Euros.  He's always doing business, so I'm pretty sure he lives in a penthouse on the Prinzipalmarkt.

The "Occupy" movement has come to Münster.  The sign says the demonstration is for "Democracy, No Criminalization, Against Exploitation, Suppression and Fighting."  There were about 10 really cold looking people with tents near the sign.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dylan's "Cars" Obsession

Dylan is completely obsessed with the Disney/Pixar movie Cars these days.  When Bryan went back to the States in September he returned with the Cars DVD, which we watch in 30-45 minute installments with Dylan, usually during dinner time so Dylan doesn't interrupt us while we try to enjoy our meal.  The unintended outcome is that Dylan is bonkers about this movie and all its characters.

Since Dylan speaks 1/3 English, 1/3 German and 1/3 unintelligible-Dylan-speak, he references all things Cars as "Auto Movie."  I'm pretty sure if you said to him "Dylan, do you want to watch Cars?" he'd have no idea what you were talking about, but if you said "Want to watch Auto Movie?" he'd go completely bananas.  He also only refers to Lightning McQueen (the red one) as "Daddy Auto" and Sally (the blue one) as "Mommy Auto" which is just pretty darn adorable. The only character he gets right is "Mater" the tow truck.

Do you see the theme here?
He also does a really funny thing with his toy tractors after seeing the movie.  If you haven't seen Cars, the characters go tractor tipping (like cow tipping), which Dylan thinks is absolutely hilarious.  He now does this with all of his tractors:

He even pretends his Tonka Tow Truck is "Mater" from the movie.  
This is the scene from Cars or 'Auto Movie' that he is constantly trying to emulate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Martin's Day Lantern Parade

Last Friday, November 11, was St. Martin's Day (Martinstag) in Germany.  This was a completely new holiday for us to celebrate and we had no idea who St. Martin was and why we should celebrate him.  In fact, now that the holiday is over, our education about St. Martin and why the German Kindergarteners love to celebrate him is still a little fuzzy, but I'll give it my best shot at explaining.

St. Martin was a Roman soldier who was baptized as an adult and later became a monk and eventually the Bishop of Tours (whatever that means).  His is famous primarily for two things.  1) Cutting his cloak in half and giving it to a street beggar to save him from freezing to death and 2) not wanting to be a bishop so badly that he hid in a barn, but a bunch of geese made too much noise and he was discovered.  This is why Germans traditionally eat geese on St. Martin's Day, I guess, to eternally punish them for outing St. Martin's hiding spot.

I'm still not really sure why children make paper lanterns and go on a little around-the-block parade in the evening - maybe it's to symbolize the hunt for St. Martin while he was hiding in the goose barn?  Not sure. Martinstag is also the official beginning of Karneval season, so perhaps the children's parade is a precursor to the many Karneval parades in the future.  Maybe a German reader can comment on this post and clarify the reason for the parade and the lanterns.

Anyway, I was determined to take part in a Martinstag parade with Dylan, primarily so I could blog about it since I promised our readers for more frequent updates.  I didn't start out very well, though, because I completely blew the assignment to help Dylan make a lantern for his play group.  The day all the kids were supposed to finger paint their lanterns (two paper bowls that will be stapled together to make an orb) Dylan flat out refused to participate.  I guess art projects just aren't his thing.  So the teacher sent me home with the bowls and told me to get Dylan to decorate them somehow and bring them back to the next class.  Since I'm terrible at understanding German, I comprehended the "Get Dylan to decorate these" instructions, but missed the "and bring them back to the next class" part.  So when we got home, I knew the only thing Dylan was going to do with these paper bowls is wear them on his head and pretend they're hats, so I threw them away.  At the next play group, another mom asked me if Dylan's lantern was ready and I just looked at her blankly as she held up her son's two decorated bowls and then it dawned on me that I had thrown away Dylan's first-ever homework assignment.  They managed to find some surplus supplies and make a new lantern for Dylan, which he had completely destroyed along with the battery powered lantern light that I had bought him by 6pm that same night - 3 days prior to the actual Martinstag.

I still wanted to see what this parade was all about, so our local tourism office told me when the Kindergartens were having their parades, so one evening last week Dylan, Oscar and I just showed up to a random school's Martinstag parade and pretended like we were supposed to be there.  I'm pretty sure the other parents were whispering to each other:
"Who's that lady over there?  Why doesn't her kid have an elaborately decorated lantern like ours?  Is her son in your kid's class? No?  Mine either. That's really creepy to show up at a nighttime children's parade at a school where your kid doesn't even attend.  Let's move over here and get away from her."
The parade wasn't all that exciting.  There was a high school kid dressed in a red cape wearing a silver helmet who was supposed to be St. Martin, and there was a brass band that played music while all the kids and parents sang songs about lanterns. We then took a very cold walk around the neighborhood and when we got back to the school all the kids and parents went inside for refreshments.   I was tempted to crash the refreshment party too, but since I had Oscar with me I thought it would be better to just go home.  Here are some photos:

Here is Dylan eating pretzels in his stroller watching all the kids with their lanterns.

Everyone getting ready for the parade.

St. Martin in the red cape.

Parade of lanterns.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Back from Hiatus

Well, this is embarrassing.  It's been almost a month since anything new has been posted here, and definitely a month since I've contributed.  I wish that I could say the absence of blogging has to do with all of the awesome things we've been doing, but alas, that is not true.  Truthfully, the reason we haven't been posting much is that we just haven't really done much - but that's going to change!  We have a lot of things lined up from now through the end of the year, so stay tuned.

But until those things happen, here's a lame recap of what we've been up to:

Bryan is never sure what day it is - he is just working all the time.  He has school/work all day and basketball every night.  Starting yesterday, Bryan will go about 25 days without any days off.  Don't expect to hear a lot from Bryan.

I got a new Kindle for my birthday and haven't been doing much of anything now that I have an endless supply of books at my disposal.  This is probably the primary reason why I haven't been blogging.  That, and we were kind of broke in October and didn't have any money to do anything worth blogging about.  We saved money by becoming "Weekday Vegetarians" and we only ate meat on the weekends.  Bryan was so busy with work, he didn't even notice that he was a vegetarian.

Dylan keeps us occupied with his 2-year-old nonsense.  He's ridiculously fussy about his clothes and somedays just flat out refuses to wear pants altogether.  I bought him a bunch of new clothes recently because he grew out of all his old ones, but he will only wear about 25% of them.  I can usually find a shirt that he is willing to put on, but pants are a big challenge and it's nearly impossible to hold him down and force pants on him.  He's a strong little kid.

His favorite thing right now is anything that has to do with Disney's Cars movie, which he refuses to call "Cars" and instead calls "Auto Movie."  He goes around the house all day pretending to be a race car and saying "Ka-Chow!" over and over again, like Lightning McQueen does in the movie.

We're also working on potty training Dylan, which so far is going really well as long as Dylan doesn't have pants on.  If he runs around here completely naked on his bottom half, he will go in the "Big Boy Potty" every time and not have any accidents.  So his refusal to wear pants most days is actually working in our favor, unless there is somewhere that we really need to go.  In that case, his screams from being force-dressed are really brutal and our neighbors probably think we're torturing him.    

Oh yeah, we still have a dog.  I almost forgot.  We call him "Oscar Afterthought" for a reason - he doesn't get much of our attention these days, but all in all Oscar is good.

My little man in his all-time favorite shirt.  Tie-dye with tractors on it - classic! 

Dylan was learning how to use a baseball glove.  We've taken the baseball away from him, though, after he ran into a room where I was using the computer and flung it at me, nearly smashing the computer screen.  

This might be the first picture we've taken of Oscar since Dylan was born 2 years ago.

Running around the castle moat...

Dylan was very proud of himself to ride on the back of a Lion while wearing his Lion's sweatshirt.
I also took a photo of Dylan in the same spot as one from last year to see a good comparison of how much he's grown ... take a look:
Last year, October 2010

This year, October 2011