Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where has Dana been?

I have been so absent from posting to this blog, we should probably change the name to "The Bryan Foltice Blog" instead of "The Foltice Family Blog."  I just checked and my last post was published on August 8, which means it's been a full 9 months since I've contributed anything but a few photo captions to this.  Sorry, but it's really busy having two kids.

My typical day is just a whirlwind of tasks and schedules and a whole bunch of things that have to be done by a specific time that leaves me with very small increments of downtime (like 15 minutes here, or  20 minutes there), which I usually spend zoning out to Dear Prudence columns, scrolling through Facebook, or if Dylan's being particularly pesty that day, binge eating chocolate and cookies in the corner of the kitchen.

So since Bryan has kept you up to date about what he's up to, here is a brief update about me and the boys.

Dana - My blood clot leg issue is getting better.  I'm no longer taking medication and in a few weeks I go back to the University Hospital for more tests to make sure everything is officially all better.

Dylan - Dylan loves his Kindergarten and is basically kind of bummed on the weekends when Kindergarten is closed.  He speaks pretty fluent German at school and can switch the languages on and off.  He tells me things like "We say entschuldigung at school but we say excuse me at home." I'm embarrassed to say that he sometimes corrects me when I say something wrong in German and one time he actually asked me to use English because he couldn't understand what I was saying to him in German.  He'll be 4 in June, by the way.  That's one smart cookie.

Brady - Brady is a huge, fat baby.  He's sweet and snuggly and always happy, but he's a beast.  He weighs 21 pounds (9.5 kilos) at 7 months old.  I have super ripped back muscles from carrying him around all the time.  We live on the 5th floor of our apartment building and there is no elevator, so I hike up and down an average of 20 flights of stairs every day usually either carrying a squirmy Brady or his weight-equivalent in groceries each trip.

I have no idea what he's looking at, but this picture always makes me laugh.

Dylan after hunting eggs on Easter morning.

Brady loves his Daddy.

Dylan goofing around, as usual.

Brady hates bibs.

Yup.  Oscar is still hanging around.  He'll be 10 years old this fall. 

At least one of our kids will wear a hat.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Waiting Rooms

“What’s the deal with waiting rooms at Doctor’s offices?  Why is this the only place where Germans are friendly?”  These two questions are best read using your Jerry Seinfeld voice, but have been a question that I have posed to many Germans.  I haven’t heard a sufficient answer yet. 
Whenever you go to the Doctor, you must address the group of people in the waiting room with a friendly Guten Tag or Guten Morgen each time.  At first I thought this was really strange, but waited to say anything until I had more experience in Doctors waiting rooms.  After many appointments with various Doctors in various cities, every time, people young and old address the others in the waiting room without fail.  Even more annoying is that when you are in the waiting room, you are obligated to echo hello back with the other ten people in the waiting room.  Dirty looks will be given to those who do not participate.
It is most consistently weird thing I have ever seen.  What’s more is that these are the same people who won’t even look at you passing by on the sidewalk.  In fact, you are much more likely to get an F-you stare down (they don’t actually say it, but you can read it in their eyes and on their face) than a friendly hello.  The Doctor’s office is the last place I want to be friendly and be obligated to greet each person, but somehow this is the place. 
The only explanation I get from other Germans about this phenomenon is that there is a sense of ‘we’re in this together’ in a waiting room so you should be friendly with each other.  While that may be true, the theory should hold for other venues where the situation is more dire, like riding the bus or train together on the public transportation system (those who ride each day with the Deutsche Bahn know what I mean.) Unfortunately, my experience with public transportation couldn’t be further from the truth.  For example, I took the same hour long bus trip from Borken to Münster with the same people for 18 months and never once talked to anyone.  Barely even eye contact.  The only way I knew them was by the nicknames I had developed in my head, such as the ‘Salty Russian’ and my least favorite bus driver, who I called ‘Clutch’ (named that way because he would always stall the bus when under pressure in heavy traffic).  
So, dear German readers, can someone explain this to me?  Maybe there is an old tradition or something that I would be really interested in hearing.  Any insight would be very helpful.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Totally Normal Things That Make You Look Out of Place in Münster

There are three things I do/wear on my daily train commute that consistently gets strange looks that are completely normal for me.  I noticed that part of the reason for the dirty looks (it is the default German look, even if it is not intended) is that I am in the vast minority compared to others around me.

I will rank these in order starting with what I feel is the most ridiculous:

Wear sunglasses.  When the sun comes out (it comes out for 4 days per year) I am virtually the only person wearing sunglasses.  This morning, I tested the validity of this on my 15-minute walk from the train station to work.  Out of the couple hundred people I saw (I would estimate 300-400), only one other person was wearing sunglasses.  So, it was me and a lady selling a bouquet of flowers on the street wearing sunglasses on a cloudless morning.  When we are in other parts of Germany (Munich and Berlin), I saw many other Germans wearing sunglasses.  Maybe it’s a regional NRW or Münster thing.  Somehow, by simply wearing sunglasses, I get long stares from people like I am some Hollywood actor or the town drunkard trying to disguise my bloodshot eyes.  Either way, I get strange looks all the way to work.

Drink coffee to go.  Occasionally, I bring a to go cup of coffee on the train for my morning commute.  I get so many weird looks on the train that I have to scan the train for the possibly there is a new sign saying that no drinks are allowed.  Last I know, they are allowed, but I still get looks.  Germans tend to be so organized that I think they view people who bring to go coffee must be behind schedule, so I must be a very disorganized (and thus weak and feeble) person.  

Wearing athletic gear.  I’ve tried this on a rare occasion on my way to the gym in the morning (my gym is right next to the train station) and people will literally go out of their way to avoid sitting by you.  I’ve also noticed this on the weekend when I am walking the dog in the morning in my warm-up pants.   Overall, Germans dress the same all the time, with very few exceptions:  Dark colored jeans, solid dark colored jacket (we are wearing jackets 360 days per year here, but I know there is a 99.2% chance they are wearing a solid dark colored sweater underneath), and dress shoes.  The remaining five days bring out the long board shorts with my favorite, socks under scandals. Nothing screams ‘I am German’ like socks and scandals. 

The old people around town take this dress up thing to a whole different level and are immaculately dressed to do their grocery shopping/errands around town.   I am generally very comfortable in my own skin, but I try my best to blend in with the other Germans and dress appropriately, though I haven’t tried the long board shorts and socks under scandals.   When a friend of ours saw my black dress shoes with jeans, he told me “You are dressed very German.”  I had to agree with him and I told him that this combination helps me blend in. 

In addition to wearing a speedo to the Freibad (a secret/crazy ambition of mine to do here before we leave Germany), I am also trying to build up the courage to do all three of the aforementioned things at the same time, though oddly enough, I am convinced that I would get many more strange looks seeing my athletic pants and sunglasses than my white thighs.   I had no idea that I would more be self conscious about the latter than wearing a speedo in a public place.