21. If using buses, protect your stuff if its raining

The first time it happened, I wasn’t angry. I was just sad. After a sleeper bus ride from Hoi An to Nha Trang, arriving at 6 a.m., I got my bag out of the bottom of the bus and found it was soaked. Not just soaked. Sopping wet. Still, I shouldered the bag, moved my smaller day pack to my chest, and trudged toward my hostel, soaking my shirt all the way through.

After getting a few more hours of sleep in one of the hostel’s empty dorm rooms, meant for travelers who don’t get to check in yet, I opened my backpack.

It was the worst possible scenario. All of my clothes in the bag were completely soaked. Not just a little. I could literally wring the water out of each piece of soaked clothing. Worse yet, two of my prime camera lenses had been wrapped in the same clothes. They appeared to be undamaged by the water, but I knew I was going to be staying in my dirty clothes until the following day, when I could pick up my cleaned and dried laundry.

Before I go any further, what should you do?

  1. Wrap your clothes up in plastic bags if you’re worried about the rains
  2. Buy rain covers for your bags.

(Read the rest of the story after the jump.)

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13. Consider your shoes and a hat

I’m by no means a monster of a man but I do have big feet, by some standards (11 1/2) and I have a large head. This means it was nearly impossible to find shoes or sandals in Thailand, when I needed to buy some for walking in the jungle, because everything was just too small.

The same went for hats. Almost all the hats I could find were just too small for my head.

My take-away? Next time, I’m bringing my own hat (you really need it) and I’m making sure to bring a pair of amphibious sandals or shoes with me because I know, as a large footed man, I’m going to be screwed otherwise.

The other thing to consider about your shoes is, bring something comfortable to walk in that can also stand the heat. That may mean shoes with socks, or just flip flops, or, whatever makes you feel good.

Find all of the travel lessons curated here.

That's a polish guy up ahead. We're in the jungle. Honest to god jungle. Stepped in muck so deep, nearly lost my sandal. Bring some amphibious shoes/sandals. Please. And consider a hat for your big, non-Thai head. Taken on Dec. 13. 2015.

That’s a polish guy up ahead. We’re in the jungle. Honest to god jungle. Stepped in muck so deep, nearly lost my sandal. Bring some amphibious shoes/sandals. Please. And consider a hat for your big, non-Thai head. Taken on Dec. 13. 2015.

A poem

 

Sept. 22, 2014

La Puebla, New Mexico

 

I buried my cat today.

She died the night before but they told me today, late morning. I should not just write my cat, she she had and had a name outside my own existence. She proved she had her own.

Apricot. I buried Apricot today. I buried here at the end of the orchard, next to a corner. The ground was orange-red clay. I thought it was fitting with her fur.

I dug her grave first. I made sure it was plenty deep.

Then, I grabbed a box cutter and the box the vet gave her to me in and I walked over to her grave, with a polar fleece blanket she should sleep on, resting on my feet.

I opened the box, taped, with the box cutter. She was in a plastic kitchen bag.

I cried. But that’s a given, the bouts of bawling and tears and sobs. Tears, the by-product of the bawling and the sobbing.

I opened the bag with the box cutter and I took her cold body out. When I first touched the bag, I felt her. Frozen.

I moved the blanket, that I had brought, further under the cover of an overhanging tree and put my frozen cat’s corpse on it. I cried. I petted her. I observed her frozen tongue sticking out of the side of her mouth.

I laid her on her left side, the side of the vomit, the yellow liquid had frozen to her fur. I looked at her face and I did not know, I did not want to now, I do not want to know, how much pain she was in. Her eyes were almost completely closed. Just a silver open. I should write something poetic, about either her fair at the end, being in a strange kennel, or about her nature as a cat. I reject these.

Most likely, she died in pain.

The vet said she likely died of an infection, that she had a lot of fluids in her her body cavity, when they did the surgery, and she had an infection.

I did not know if anyone was there to check on her on Sunday, the day before the night she died. I know she died from an infection.

I saw her slightly bloated belly, her body still frozen, and I petted her a few last times. Her fur was as soft as ever.

I wrapped her in the blanket, put her in the grave (I do not want to acknowledge its nature as a mere hole) and put a few handfuls of dirt over her wrapping, of her and her front paw, where her IV line had been.

I noticed her back paw was dirty or bloody. Her body, slightly curved, a crescent or half circle. The former sounds so much more regal. Half moon. Her her coloring, a calico, white and black and orange. The moon on a normal night, the moon in a wildfire or engorged or close to us here. Orange. And black, the new moon.

I buried her proper, with shovel upon shovel full of dirt. I tried to keep the topmost layer of the orange-red clay dirt, in keeping with her own coloration.

I came to peace with the black and grey decayed earth, matching her own black. I raked her grave, and the area around, not to mask the intrusion, but to make it even.

Four bottles not mark the corner of her grace: one white wine bottle (clear), two green ones and a single stubby brown beer bottle. They are to represent her tri-coloration, her female caliconess. Clear for her white. Green for her orange. Brown for her black.

I’m still crying over her. I am in a shock.

My dad wrote me, the point is now how she was injured, or received her injury. The point is she is gone. (The point is she is no longer suffering.)

She will not come back; her body will thaw and decay, shielded only slightly by the synthetic burial shroud. Or, just, her blanket shroud, or her synthetic shroud.

In the early morning, she will not wake me with her her razor claws on my face, demanding attention. When I come home, I will no longer listen for the tell-tale sign of her collar’s bell or feel heartened as I watch her run to me.

She is dead, killed by an infection, following two surgeries. One done in the middle of the night, one done in the middle of the day. She is dead, killed by an infection, after something happened, causing an extreme hernia, causing internal bleeding and shredding her urethra between one of her kidneys and her bladder.

She was missing her collar when I saw her Thursday night. I suspect she had been lying under my bed. She came out and I found her distended belly, her extreme lethargy. (I have told his tale now many times, and I will tell this tale, of her finding, many more. My opinion of it is, as my dad wrote about the nature of her injury, moot.)

The last time I touched my living car, she was sitting in a litter box in a kennel, in “extreme amounts of pain.” She meowed, in anger or pain or acknowledgement at me, and I did my best to maintain my composure. The prognosis was good.

The second to last time I touched my living cat, my Apricot, she was in another kennel, lying on her right side against the wall, hopped up on pain medication. It was a better meeting.

My only wishes were to bring her some pain relief and, in that moment, be with her in her passing. In her dying moments and her death.

She died sometime Sunday night in a kennel. They told me Monday, late morning.

I picked up her body in a plastic bag, in a cardboard box.

I buried my cat today, and touched her for the very last time. A feeble, senseless attempt to comfort her in her already long-gone last moments.

I buried my cat today.

Apricot’s grave in La Puebla

 

Here’s the thing about being a journalist, at least, being a newspaperman.

I think about what I’m going to write while it’s happening. It’s not always pleasant. Most of the time, I’m sure it mucks up what I should be doing or feeling.

It means I look at too many things, and think, would that make a good lede? It’s not things I look at. It’s events, it’s actions, is components of existence. That is, a good first sentence, or more broadly, a good start, to my story? To whatever story I’m writing. To whatever story I assume I will write.

Although I try to avoid recording life (I will take pictures at parties, if that’s my delegated role) I often cannot help myself, often when alone, from thinking about how event, the idea, the moment and the feeling, will and would be written.

I buried my cat today. Really, I buried Apricot today. She lead her own life. But that’s not the point of this post. That’s the point of another post. This is the reporter’s notebook about how I buried my cat, Apricot, today, as NPR would put it.

That is, the bits of the story that didn’t go into the story, but still should get a little air time, get a little more personal. Which is not applicable in this instance, considering this is a blog post, and the preponderance of “I,” thematically, literally and in real terms.

I wrote something. Either a journal entry, or a prose poem, or maybe a story. Maybe a cross between the three, a story that is a little bit of a prose poem that I will eventually paste into my journal. (I write journal entries on my typewriter, then paste them into the journal itself.)

I wrote about Apricot’s death, about her burial, about what happened. But I left much out, as I came to my ending sentences, as I made my final structure.

Here’s the link to just it.

I left out the part, where I think about picking up her corpse at the vet, after paying the bill. ($230 something, roughly 90 percent less than the emergency vet at $2,300 and change) (The total cost came in around $3,000).

They hand me a cardboard box. It weights a little over 8 pounds. Maybe even over 8.5 pounds. I know they listed her weight on the bag-tag, (the veterinary equivalent of the toe-tag?) but I don’t remember.

I left out the part where the pretty vet who dealt with her abscess comes out, and touches my shoulder, and says they did all they could.

(The lady who takes my card asks my how long I’ve been working at the Rio Grande SUN. I’ve never spoken to her before this moment, where I’m paying for dead Apricot’s minuscule vet bills, the big ones having already been paid).

I likely did not respond, more than to say, thank you, or some other courtesy. One of them tells me, it’s always hard, it never gets easier, and this is the worst part about having a pet. That’s the lady I’d not seen before, who took the card.

I will write: the worst part about having any relationship, animal or human, is its ending, especially if the ending is done in death.

The vet, the cute one who came out to say they did all they could, tells me I should come in some time. They often have kittens needing adoption, and I seem like a good pet owner, like a good cat owner. I think she says this, partially, because the bill and receipt and invoice for Apricot’s emergency surgery were attached to the sheet. Everyone saw the $2,320 receipt.

(This comment strikes me something terrible, because it presses on the guilt I feel for allowing her to go outside in the first place, in my reasoning, allowing her to have her own life.)

I do not want a kitten. (I prefer cats, for various reasons). I smile. This is my social obligation. I want to say, what happened? Why wasn’t she on higher levels antibiotics? More intense ones? How much pain was she in when she died? If you knew she was going to die Sunday, if she was doing that bad, why didn’t you call me? I wanted to say one last goodbye, to pet her one last time, to have that kind of closure.  I believed, until I received that phone call, she would be doing fine: she would be coming home with me, if she and I were lucky, that day. I had just finished telling one of my co-worker’s that when I got the call. I want to ask, was anyone even here Sunday? To check her temperature? To see if she needed another surgery, or a change in her meds or even more pain medication?

(It appeared the entire veterinary office knew about her death).

(Shortly after the call, I went home, grieved, came back to work).

(In case it’s not clear, this, and the related posts, are also a form a grieving, although public by nature).

The orderly comes out with my frozen cat in a box. I fold the invoice and receipt, take the box, hold back tears and walk out the door. Once outside, I begin to cry.

In the car, I cry. As I drive away, normal speed, no theatrics here, I cry. I don’t stop until my co-worker calls me. He wants to talk about work. (He was in ABQ covering a trial for me, because I still thought my cat would be coming home with me that day, and require care).

Later, when home, my landlady asks me how I’m doing. I reply, horrible, but I’ll make it through. She is surprised by this answer, and comes over and she wants to talk about what happened to cause Apricot’s injury. She continues to speculate. I become more uncomfortable.

This is not something I want to discuss. She says, we can take a walk and look for the collar. I tell her, maybe in a few days, but I’m not ready for that.

We talk about a dog she had, beat up by other dogs. She footed the $900 in 1998 dollars vet bill. The dog got beat up again, and died.

I reply, thinking and hearkening back to my conversation with my dad about how much I was willing to spend on the cat to save her. I say, and mean, I would have been happy to spend $10,000 if she had just lived. I had told my father, around 10k was my breaking point.

This is the truth, and as I say it, I begin to lose it again. She tries to comfort me, puts a hand on my shoulder. I pat her shoulder in return. It’s the only thing I can think to do.

(I’m not particularly into being touched by people whom I do not consider to be close to me).

I think, now, a lot about the nature of bawling, crying, sobbing and tears. It is not something I do often. Once in awhile, a movie will make me shed a few tears. But full-on sobbing, that’s reserved for death or the possibility of.

I’ve lived a sheltered life, and a lucky, life. I might deal with death professionally, but I rarely must (as of yet) deal with death in my personal life.

When I received the call from my dad (I was living in Reno at the time, finishing up my degree, or maybe I’d already gotten it) that my cat, the one I left behind with him in Carson City, had been run over (and consequently she might die) I bawled my eyes out. (She lived). As I remember, I bawled pretty steadily. At 18, she’s going slowly, but steady. She cant jump well any more, but, she can still walk.

Now, for Apricot, the bawling comes in fits and spurts. Really, the bawling was limited to once I got home from work, after I’d got the call. Now, it’s the sporadic sobs.

Really, though, I’ll expand on that later. I’ll claim it’s all part of the grieving process.

When I got her cardboard box out of the car, I set it on one of the chairs I leave outside, while I went and dug her grave.

Thinking about it, I don’t think the disbelief has yet left me.

At the end here, I will include a picture of my dearly departed pussy cat. I put it at the bottom because I reduce the physical affectations to the bare minimum.  In doing so, though, I think about how I did not take enough pictures of her. I always thought, there would be time to take more. I was wrong.

It seems like a metaphor for everything.

I didn’t take enough pictures because I thought there was always more time. I was wrong.

Here’s to you sweetheart. I miss you.

Apricot 5 Small

In both shots, Apricot lies on the blanket I buried her in. This picture, in particular, hits me hard for two reasons. The first, she is lying in her splayed-turkey position, one of her favorites. The second, and more important, I see her as she was, and as I let her down. I feel guilty for allowing her to come to what would be her death.

 

Apricot 2 Small

Apricot’s grave

Santa Fe, NM — I already wrote about the actual driving from Reno to Santa Fe. It wasn’t particularly hard and my friend’s parents were gracious enough to host me for a night so I could make the trip in two days.

I’m always hesitant to write about my life, about the personal, about the “I.” No, I’m not hesitant. That’s some word-mincing. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of exposing myself, I’m afraid of exposing bias or some vulnerability or something I didn’t think would be a weakness but, in fact, is. Among other things, I’m always afraid (read: paranoid) something personal I write will then be used against me.

The truth shall set you free, that’s said, right? I don’t believe it, but I can want to believe in it.

I started on July 9, 2013 as the cops and courts reporter at the Rio Grande Sun, a weekly newspaper featured in a documentary I have yet to see.

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Note: This post originally ran on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany.

Part 1

Feb. 13, 2010

The trams had stopped running well before the city proper of Dresden started. Our tram conductor instructed everyone to get onto the awaiting bus to get us further in. Many of the occupants, seemingly normal Dresdners, ran the length of the tram, avoiding ice, jumped off the platform, climbed up the other side and into the bus. Most riders calmly walked.

The bus driver dropped us at the beginning of the meaty part of town and I walked, along with many other riders and various citizenry, down to the Neustadt. It was mid-afternoon and not yet hatefully cold.

The sky was overcast. Not a dramatic, steel-gray or gunmetal black. Rather, a slightly depressing every-day grey that one comes t expect after having lived through a winter or two in Dresden. It would have been seven in the morning or 3 in the afternoon or even the cusp of darkness. The sky offered no clues.

Soon after we’d started walking I saw the first sign. A tram, one of Dresden’s modern yellow-orange caterpillars, the feet concealed underneath its skirting, sitting on its tracks in the middle of the road, its driver missing. I kept on walking until I hit the first roadblock, blocked by police officers and military-grade police transports. I saw smoke coming up from behind the blockade and managed to get a look: a trash bin, its contents, a pallet and some kind of wooden thing with wheels had been set ablaze and were still burning, throwing up plumes of foul black smoke.

I took the side street with all the other spectators, walked for a block before having to turn left again because the APCs and cops were blocking the way. Yet again, behind them, laid burning trash. A helicopter hovered overhead – just hovering, adding the sound of its blades to the music, from somewhere far off and the sounds of our footfalls in the crisp air.

The police were not just the normal beat cops. Rather, almost all of the police were decked out in riot gear of one form or another, with dark blue uniforms, forest green uniforms. Police from Dresden and police from elsewhere.

A few of the punks, dressed in customary thin black hoodies and suspiciously tight black pants walked by with beers in hand. In Germany, the normal bottle of beer is a half liter, but looks just like its smaller American counterparts, when not placed next to a smaller bottle. And normal people, men in tweed suits, women in thick jackets and teenagers bundled against the cold walked by, all with open years. Even one man who’d shaken his beer before, the foam bubbling out the top.

Alcohol is allowed to be consumed on the streets in Germany, there are no open container laws. Which is nice but adds a surreal sense of party to the streets closed by heavily-armored police, filled with nothing but burning trash and snow. And the music playing from somewhere, as the folks walk around with their beers.

Neustadt literally means “New City” and is filled to the brim with bars, pubs, dives and clubs. During Bunten Republik Neustadt (BRN – a play on Bundesrepublik Neustadt – The free state of) the streets fill with people, over the brim. A crushing, congested crowd, carried by whims of movement. It becomes a literal fight to walk, with a solid stream of people, all pushed up against one another heading down the street like traffic.

The party comes to a head during BRN and keeps on during the summer months. When its warm in Neustadt, the people take to the streets or the Biergartens.

The streets are filled with alcohol, little containers seemingly in every hand. During BRN, restrictions exist on glass bottles but the rest of the time, they’re perfectly legal. However, this is not a judgment on street drinking. As Major Colvin, a police officer in HBO’s crime series The Wire, tells his troops: “the corner is, was and always will be the poor man’s lounge”

As I said, alcohol is perfectly legal and normal on the street. Usually, there are no more problems than I’ve seen in the US with our open container laws. The folks do not run down the street, screaming bloody murder. Nor do broken glass bottles litter the sidewalk. Sometimes a broken sekt bottle lays strewn across the street but it is not overly-common, probably because of the deposit on glass (and plastic) bottles (called a pfand.) When the (beer) bottle is returned, empty, to a store the buyer gets his money back. Instead of seeing men with large tarps-turned-bags on their backs, searching through the trash for aluminum cans we see people with bags looking for beer bottles with a pfand.

Despite the lax rules on alcohol consumption and its all-night availability, (specialty night liquor stores stay open during the wee hours and various food joints, usually doner and sometimes wurst carts, stay on the streets serving food and alcohol until the morning) the Neustadt is usually pretty calm and safe. I feel safer, most of the time, in Neustadt at night than I ever did in Reno at night.

But it wasn’t the least bit warm as I walked and I found myself taking few notes, possibly due to cold fingers. And not many of the people seemed happy. Although there were a few people in the streets, it was sparse enough, with more than enough APCs and fully-armed, fully-outfitted police, to give me apocalypse-movie ideas (zombies, nuclear war/fallout zone.)

I kept on trying to make my way down town, having to redirect every few blocks to get around sealed off streets. Every time I caught a glimpse of the main street, I saw tram after tram, big yellow caterpillars stranded in the middle of the street.

When I got to Albertplatz, a roundabout/tram interchange near the end of the Neustadt, I made my way around left-screaming protestors, waving flags and chanting and listening to a speaker talk passionately about something.

I saw the main road leading to the Bahnhof Neustadt, cordoned off with fences, police and APCs. This trifecta was becoming a common theme. I should clarify though: I don’t mean a few police officers here and there. I mean, a veritable wall of blue, green and dark green.

I asked a police officer if there was some way I could get through to the train station; I said (truthfully) I wanted to see a friend of mine off. She was an au pair like me but unlike me she had to go back to her country. She was taking a bus back to Ukraine – she’d bought/accumulated too much stuff to bring on a plane. And the bus was going to leave from the train station.

The officer directed me down a side street, saying the way was open further down. He was wrong but I managed to get through.

I met Nadja in my second German course. She was an easily excitable, big, Ukrainian girl, not yet an adult with all the accoutrements but not no longer a teenager. She, as I, was working as an au pair with a German family. Unlike me, she had a relatively horrible family and children. She confessed to us, the Volkshochschule group, (long after the course had finished,) that she still spoke to her guest-parents in the formal tense of German, which is the same as the third person plural, “they.”

Nadja is a Ukrainian. I’d like to keep from making stereotypes or generalizations about a large group of people, but Nadja epitomized Ukrainian women to us. She was loud, in a boisterous kind of way. She was big, in a matriarch kind of way. She opened beer bottles with her teeth, in a Ukrainian kind of way.

Nadja was half my reason for going to the train station. I, along with our old teacher and a classmate, wanted to see her off. We weren’t sure of the next time we would see her, if at all.

The other half of my down-town-adventure reasoning was that I’d asked to cover the protests for the University’s newspaper, the Universitätsjournal. I didn’t even know the Nazis were corralled in the Neustadt train station – when I asked a police officer of how I could get there, to see Nadja off, he said this would be hard to do, but to ask the police at the barrier. I then asked which protestors were stamping their feet and yelling and clapping and waving flags in the middle of the street in Albertplatz. The counter-protesters, he said. And the Nazis? At the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station.

Note: This post originally ran on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany.

Break out the glühwein.
Glühwein!

Doesn’t that look like a great place to have a glühwein?

In America, we’re missing a bunch of things. And when I write that, please don’t take it the wrong way. I don’t mean it in a combative way, nor do I mean it to say my love for America has decreased any. (Notice: my cultural difference shows when I state that my love, love being the key, for my country has not decreased)

I mean it to say that we’re missing things. Often times it’s not just that we don’t have the culture of glühwein drinking or sekt drinking. It’s that we don’t have the culture of doing it and we don’t have the words. We have our own words and ours are inferior. By far.

For glühwein we say “mulled wine” or “hot mulled wine” It doesn’t do it. It doesn’t carry the connotations of steaming into the cold air, of being held tightly by gloved hands as a measure against the cold. It doesn’t look good on large heating/serving containers for vendors.
It doesn’t work.

Sekt is sparkling wine. But sekt is good, sekt is worth drinking. Sparkling wine seems childish and a improper substitute for champagne. Which sekt is not. Because it’s a matter of nomenclature and the Germans have it right and have some better drinks as a result.

I say to you, freezing in the cold on the slopes, freezing in the cold watching your kids game, freezing in the cold at some event, at some (god-awful) outdoors party, at some thing, think of glühwein. It’s wonderful.
And think that it takes all of us, together, to bring glühwein and sekt into our culture, to properly propagate them. Because they’re worth it. They really are.

Both images taken during my ski trip with the family in the alps

Note: This post was originally supposed to run on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany. This particular post was in the drafts folder, but appeared completed.

It’s always important to take a step back and look. To look at one’s self, to look at one’s country, to look at one’s culture, one’s taboos, one’s stereotypes, one’s reference frame. A few people living outside of their mother country (not necessarily where one’s born) may nod in agreement at the previous sentence. Because it’s oft true.

It’s also nice, sometimes horrible, to see what other people think of one’s mother culture. Oft it’s horrible to see how stubbornly misinformed some people can be. Bavarian guy on my plane from Paris to Germany? That’s you. Berliner boy I traveled with for two weeks during my summer vacation? That’s you.

But, to hit a mean streak: stubbornly misinformed is not harsh enough. It’s not negative enough. It does not carry the correct connotation, even though the denotation may be correct. (Amazing how complex language can be.)

Hatefully misinformed? Hatefully ignorant? Rudely stupid? Hatefuly stupid? I lack the term to properly describe these people. These people refuse to understand, to listen, to be cleared up. They prefer to not just tell you you’re wrong but to tell you you’re wrong and they know better and they know your own country better than you even though they’ve only been there for a maximum of three months and have never studied anything over it. These people exist. I swear. And they’re horrible. They make bile invade the throats of anyone unfortunate enough to hear.
Wirklich. (really) (Yes, I’m one of those who uses a word now or again in another language, in this case German. But, when another language shares the responsibility of one’s dreams and thinking, the game changes.)

But that’s not the reason I wanted to write. Nor did I want to write over my kiddo’s temper tantrum today (and as of late) or our big conversation over him being a big boy now and throwing it back in my face. No, I wanted to write over a worksheet my kiddo’s English teacher gave to him, which I corrected (the teacher has at points terrible English) and asked the kiddo to give back to the teacher.

The kiddo said the teacher gave it back to him (the kiddo) and said I was wrong.

But I wasn’t. So, I not only lost respect for his teacher but also (see that? I can use pseudo-complex English!) tasted a bit of how the German language system, manned by Germans teaching foreign languages, can work.

That’s not to say our system is better. Because inevitably a German gets angry when I write that sentence. It is to say: having a majority of teachers in higher level classes that aren’t native speakers is profoundly detrimental (Think you know that word, Mr. German English teacher? I don’t think you do. Because I’m spiteful.) to the education of the children. If he can’t take the time to learn the difference between usage of who and whom (I know many native English speakers don’t but they’re not also English teachers) while coming from a language that has three cases, then, I don’t think he should be teaching. I think another mistake, shortly outlined below, further discredits the teach. Plus, the teach uses German diction when writing. In English, we have things, we go on things or we do things. We very rarely “make” things.

Thank you very much.

Whose car was broken in the holidays (what did he/she do after that?)

Maybe the teach is just a bad writer. But I don’t beleive it. I beleive in incompitence in English.

Broken has to uses: broken into, aka, someone tried to steal things out of the car or steal the car outright.

To break down is yet another meaning entirely, it means the car no longer functions. Or, it ceased to functiona and continues to not go.

But, to write, “was broken” confuses both meanings. It has a connotation of broken in, aka, “My car was broken into while I was on vacation in Japan”

The other meaning is the car broke before vacation and continued to be broken during the entire period of summer break.

However, I beleive the teacher meant “Whose car broke down during vacation?”

Really, people, really.

Who did a bike tour? (with who?, where, how long?)”

Really teacher? Really? Please. Who went on a bike tour. Who took a bike tour. Who rocked a bike tour.

Now, “with who?” What, were you raised in a barn? Did you never learn English? I know it’s an easy language but to not even see the simple difference between who and whom, that’s just lazy! So much like foreigners who conjugate all verbs in the infinitive (hint: English isn’t very conjugation heavy. Our most is for third person singular. Often times lazy people, my guest child included, try to conjugate the verb in infinitve/second/third person plural/plural first/first person.) With whom because you’re the one who went on the bike tour. You’re doing the action. Who does the action. Whom is the object.

Note: This post originally ran on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany.

I thought I’d post that picture, of one of the Communist statues in the post-Soviet statue park, outside of Budapest. Seen during my first visit to Budapest.

To the potatoes: Ferdinand degenerated during the latter-half of the day, after the parents had left (a little past 7) to go to a birthday party. We fought a little, I thought everything was OK. I asked him to start working on cleaning his room while I got ready to make a little something for dinner.
I came in and started working on cleaning his room, while he just sat there and moped. He had done very little whilst I was in the other room and had said he was done — not that he was put-a-fork-in done but rather he’d completed his work.
He seemed to sour before my eyes. I think this happened:
He formed an idea in his head, started repeating it and then started believing it, until he fully did. He told me he was upset because he’d thought he’d got to do NO fun things the entire day — that the whole day was consumed by un-fun things. He then proceeded to sulk and was pissy for the rest of the night. I think he even tried a mini hunger strike. He refused to eat more than one egg for dinner.
He proceeded to not talk to me for the rest of the night, at his dinner alone in his room, read in the room. I cooked dinner for myself, went upstairs and listened to Talk of the Nation. He came up around 8:10 and started to watch TV, not uttering a word to me. At nine, I asked him to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed. He turned off the TV, threw the remote down onto the chair and stomped down the stairs. He slammed the bathroom door. He came out after awhile (I was washing dishes) and slammed his door.
One should know: we’d play-fought for quite a bit, he’d talked with his mom and otherwise not done too many productive things for a large part of the day (he came home at 2:45 or so.) It was a huge struggle to get him to unpack and repack his backpack and he took a long, luxurious bath once he got home from soccer practice, at about 6:45.

Life is tough, isn’t it?

I really think he worked himself into a froth. I think he wanted to be pissy and angry and frothed.

As William Goldman wrote for the Princess Bride movie:

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

To round it out, a picture of a house in Denmark. From the sailing trip with the Kretzschmar family.

Note: This post originally ran on my blog from many years ago, wheeleringermany.blogspot.com. I posted to and updated it during some of my tenure as an au pair in Dresden, Germany.


I wish this post had some kind of better subject matter. But it doesn’t. I’m like that. I’m that way. I could talk about Halloween, or notes on what happens when one over beats cookie dough (such as my au pair child did) or other seemingly more interesting things. But to me, they’re are merely seemingly and never really.
Instead, I will write of mustard. That’s right, mustard. Because I love the stuff. It might very well be hard-encoded into my genes to love mustard — it may be a trait I pass down to my prospective children.
Mustard is to me what chocolate is to many other people. Yet, mustard is so much not-fattening. And so cheap! Which doesn’t exactly bring me to in any other than a superficial way to my subject: Bautz’ner Mustard, or in the native language, Bautz’ner Senf. (Senf is mustard in German.)
It’s a middle-spicy mustard, it’s slightly pale in color but is not a French mustard. Nor is it the incredible Sierra Nevada Porter & Spicy Brown Mustard, the best mustard in the world. That I’ve tasted so far.
But the German mustard is delicious. It is incredible. It does create an addiction to Wiener Würstchen dunked in the mustard.
It’s like crack, without the drugs, chemical dependency and an incredible taste. As seen in the photo above, the glass of mustard (for Europeans sell mustard [often times] in glassware that is meant to be reused — in France mustard comes in the much more useful wine glasses) features the, or, Unser Sandmännchen — Our (diminutive) Sandman. He’s a feature of German TV, especially East German TV.
And he’s not scary like the 3D talking piece of toast. Which is a nightmare for another day.