Thursday, August 10, 2006

Vacations, Birthdays, Nostalgia, and More

Hello again from Chapel Hill!

We have been traveling a lot and entertaining visitors from Germany. Here is where we went:

Blowing Rock: A cute little mountain town in the Blue Ridge Mountains about two hours west of here. We were calling it the Garmisch of North Carolina, except that there are only 1400 residents as opposed to Garmisch's 26,000. And well, there were no Bavarian men with big beers and beards and no cows parading through town. The Blue Ridge Mountains were beautiful and the vistas from the winding hills, breathtaking. The vertigo I experienced the night after the winding was also quite breathtaking. It is always fun to hold onto the walls when trying to get your blind ass self to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Then we drove to Myrtle Beach, to show the Germans some REAL hard core American loveliness. And loveliness it was, I tell you. That little strip of old-school Myrtle Beach (which we kept calling the Altstadt much to everyone's amusement) was intense. Think Las Vegas meets redneck meets hip hop meets foreigners-working-in-a-beach-town-for-the-summer and you can start to get a sense of the place.

Then we headed north for a much more civilized beach vacation on the Outer Banks. This part of North Carolina is incredibly beautiful. When you drive out there, you get the feeling you are heading toward the end of the world, but a beautiful one...there is nothing out there...just signs saying "Beware of Bears," which is super comforting at 2 am with a quarter tank of gas and two sleeping bundles of joy in the back seat. But the car didn't break down, thank the good lord Jesus and soon we were seeing those cozy, comforting signs of humans again like Food Lions and outlet malls. We stayed for a week in Kitty Hawk in a big, old beach house. Sunning on the sand by day and playing poker at was heaven on earth, I tell you.

And now we are back, safe and sound, in Chapel Hill. The Germans have gone back to Germany, and I find myself nostalgic for Berlin these days.

It came to me (the nostagia) on my older one's 6th birthday last week and hasn't really left. We had a birthday party with about ten kids. I didn't (and still don't) know what the protocol for childrens' birthday parties here is, but I always had in mind that they were to be lavish and include things like clowns, rented blow up entertainment (of the jumping-on variety), beautiful dresses, Martha Stewartish theme coordination and hors d'oeurves and general Chucky Cheese-like overthetopness. Well, we didn't do all that, except of course the Martha Stewart part, since I am, as you well know, kinda like that lady, except a little bit more punk rock and socialist. We kept it low key...a craft (which all the sweet little Montessori trained girls sat peacefully and did in almost frightening silence), some old fashioned bingo, and a pinata which, since it was a million degrees outside, had to be done inside and therefore was quite scary with the broom stick and all. The birthday cake rocked, so did the snacks. All was running smoothly until present opening time. My daughter started to open them...present after perfectly wrapped present...big ones, plastic ones, colorful ones, noise-making was better than any flippin' Christmas we have had to date, I tell you. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I turned to another mom and said, "Wow, this sure is different from our birthdays in Berlin...." to which she replied, "Welcome to America."

After everyone left, my husband and I were trying to decide what to do about the presents we had bought for her birthday...should we save them for Christmas, had she had enough...? We decided to break down and just give them to her. But, despite the excessiveness of earlier that day, she was thankfully still her same present opening self that she has always been...that is the kind that takes days to open everything because she has to carefully inspect and fully interact with each and everything which can be pretty intense for the impatient onlookers.

And that night, as I tucked her into bed, feeling so American, so excessive, so plastic, we talked about being happy for what we have and for the nice friends we have and have made since we have moved here and how we are rich because we have love. I don't know what you think about all that sappy Communist stuff, but at least it made me feel a little better.

What else??? Oh there are so many things....where do I start....

Lets start with the weather. I hope you don't think all I do is bitch about the weather...In Berlin, it was tooooooo cooooolllld. And here, well, I think it is usually great, but right now it is REALLY FUCKING HOT. Mama Jens is sweatin' her ass off taking care of all those kids. Today, after I watched my 22 month old strip down, grab a magazine, and sit on her blue, plastic potty and before I went nuts and took out all my anger on a line of fire ants hanging out around my sink, I locked the whole lot of us out of the house. Among other things, I learned that our house is actually extremely difficult to break into. With my husband out of town, and all my kids going apeshit in the yard, I walked around and inspected all the doors and windows. Yes, they were all locked, just as they should be. Then I imagined myself on a super long ladder checking to see if the upstairs windows were locked too. Next, I considered finally introducing myself to the neighbors. And then, I called a locksmith. He came over, and then we watched him try every trick in the book to break into our house, all the while sweating our dang heads off outside in the 100 degree weather. Very enjoyable, to say the least. 2 hours and 75 bucks later, we were in, air conditioned, and happy, new locks and all.

And my Berlin nostalgia...I miss urban life you can't imagine. And today, after talking to a couple of different German businesses (an optiker and a florist) on the phone, again in my broken German, again with my sense of self-defense, I kinda felt a pang of love for those old guys. I realized that after all those years, I actually did learn how to deal with those interactions (which were always painful) quite well. I learned how to work my way through the mazes of "nos" and "its not possibles" in the way I needed to, and it is comforting now to be so many millions of miles away and to still be able to deal with it.

But what I really miss, much much more than the German businesses, is the closeness of the friendships I had there, something I have yet to really achieve here, something that takes years to foster. And why do those relationships seem so far away, when something like the internet makes the world seem so small? We look forward to spending summers there, which we will start next summer. I know it will be different, but I am excited to see the changes.

Okay, there is always more to say, but I will save it for another entry. If you made it this far, rock on. If not, I totally understand. Good night and much love,

Mama Jens