25 May 2009

Honesty Is for Suckers

Thursday was the first day of Katrina's half-term break, and we were to meet some schoolfriends at the pool. This was the first time I've been in a swimsuit since before I got pregnant with Annika.

"Ugh. This swimsuit fits a bit too tight since..." I muttered, about to finish the sentence with "since the baby."

But Katrina was too fast for me. "Since you got fat?" she said sympathetically.

well, uh, YES, actually. Thanks for noticing.

12 May 2009

Spiritual Growth

Dear Zondervan Publishing,

I recently bought my daughter your Kid's Quest Study Bible, which has, you say "Real Questions, Real Answers." True, there are quite a few (500, it says) of those little boxes with interesting questions and answers. The little cartoons that go with them are cute, too.

But I think you missed a few questions. Since I started reading Genesis to my daughter (who refused to start in the Gospels, but wished to begin on the very first page of the book), she has asked some questions that I think you should include in your next edition. You wish to include real answers to the questions real kids ask, right?

Let's start off with Creation. My daughter would like to know why God used Adam's rib to make Eve, instead of dust. She would also like to know if it hurt Adam and if he then was missing a rib the rest of his life. In addition, a map showing the current whereabouts of the Garden of Eden would be helpful. Oh, and an explanation of why God made mosquitos would also be a good idea. Bugs are always good for some cartoon magic.

Another question my daughter asked was why people in Bible times lived so long...Noah lived over 900 years! Can you add that Q&A to the list?

In Genesis 17, God tells Abram to circumcise all the males in his family as a sign of the covenant. I think you missed an opportunity to address an obvious question that kids would ask, and that my daughter did ask: "What is circumcision?" With that Q&A missing, I had to offer my own explanation. I'm surprised you overlooked that question. The closest section offering a Q&A was about whether angels could look human, which, really, Zondervan? Was answered pretty well in the text itself.

Also, if you are going to use the words "made love" instead of the rather more oblique "knew" or "laid with" about the prerequisite for making babies, perhaps a little Q&A box would help curious readers. My daughter has not asked what this means yet, but we're only at Genesis 21 and I'm sure there are many more references to come.

Finally, my daughter would really like to know why God asked Abraham to kill his son. As a matter of fact, I'd like an answer to that one myself. Maybe your editors could get on that.

Thanks again for your kid-friendly Bible. I'm sure I'll be writing again with more suggestions as we progress.


Katrina's mom

08 May 2009

7 Quick Takes--Typisch Deutsch Edition

I realized the other day that there are a number of little things about German culture and lifestyle that I have come to take for granted. After 4 years of living here, I find when I return to the States on vacation that the American way of doing things now seems foreign. So, seven quick takes on some everyday German idiosyncracies.

Two-toned hair. The genesis for this post was my cashier at the German grocery store last week. She was in her maybe her late forties and had short, tousled dark hair. Well, dark except for the wide streak of purple in front. Now, I've seen plenty of wild colors in hair in the States. Never on anyone over, say, 30, though. But two-toned hair is no respector of age in Germany. Purple is unusual, but I regularly see well-coiffed middle-aged and older women with blond hair on top and dark hair on the bottom. Or magenta. Or orangey. Yes, the bright red-orange colors are neck in neck with the blonde. When your mother has two-toned magenta/black hair, what's a young teen girl to do? Oh, yeah...bright blue or pink.

Driving. Germany is famous for its no-speed-limit autobahns (and for its legendary traffic jams on said autobahns). But it's the little roads through towns and residential areas that you really need the driving skills for. Whether because the roads were built before the age of autos, or just to make sure cars don't whip through residential areas, the roads are narrow. But that doesn't mean you can't park on them! So, narrow roads with parked cars on one or both sides of the street equals one-lane roads. When driving along this type of road, keep your eyes peeled for 1) cars bearing down from the opposite direction and 2) breaks in the parked cars so you can pull over and let opposing cars pass you. At any moment you may have to wheel into a gap and stop. Then manuever back out into the road and go on your way. This does not seem to be much of an irritant to Germans, who generally are happy to yield right-of-way and just seem more patient and cooperative while driving.

Until you're on the autobahn of course. Now you see why, once Germans get onto the autobahns, there's no stopping them.

Speaking of which, the main rule on the autobahn is: watch your rear. If you're in the left lane, you better be passing someone on the right. And if a car is, ahem, RAPIDLY approaching you from behind, get the hell into the right lane because it is not stopping or slowing down. This key traffic law differs dramatically from the States. There are very few cars puttering along in the left lane here. It's a matter of survival as well as law.

Fresh air. Many Germans despise air conditioning. They think it unhealthy and unnatural. Few public spaces have AC, not even malls or museums. Fresh air is the cure for all that ails you...and the key to preventing mold in your house. German houses are built with concrete blocks, so moisture does not escape easily. If you don't at least crack your windows frequently (preferably every day, no matter how cold it is), you invite mold and lots of it. The tenant's responsibility to open the windows daily is written into every apartment lease.

Also, the way to air out your bedding (Germans use duvets but no top sheets) is to open your window and fold the duvet over the windowsill, so that part of it hangs outside. And dryers are expensive and unnecessary when you can hang clothes outside. German washers have a very high velocity spin cycle, so clothes come out just damp and ready to be hung outside (when weather's good) or inside on a clothes rack. Many Germans do not own a dryer.

Restaurant service. It takes some getting used to, eating in restaurants in Europe. In the States, your perky server checks in with you at least once a meal, more likely two times or more. "Everything okay? Can I get you anything else?" In Europe (not just Germany), this is seen as intrusive. The server takes your drink order, brings your drinks, takes your food order, brings your food, and then goes away, never to return unless you flag her/him down. Eating out is a luxury and a leisurely activity. There is no concept of "turning tables" at any sit-down restaurant. If you reserve a table, it is reserved for the whole night.

Also, in Germany, the food comes out whenever it is ready...no hot lamps in the kitchen or perceived necessity to bring out all the food for a table at once. If you wait to eat until everyone is served, you will have cold food. If you order pizza and your companion orders steak, you could be finished with your pizza before the steak arrives. Believe me, I know.

Sundays. Everything is closed on Sundays. Yes, that includes grocery stores. Some bakeries are open on Sunday mornings. Restaurants are open, movie theaters are open, gas stations are open. Stores are closed. Car dealers are closed.

And, from what I have seen, a common Sunday outing is to take a walk and stop and look at the cars at the closed car dealership. I don't know why...no sales pressure? But whenever we're out and about on a Sunday, we see people peering into car windows and otherwise inspecting the cars on the outside lots of a darkened dealership.

Unless, of course, the stores are open. "Verkaufsoeffener Sonntags"--open Sundays--are very popular. A particular town will announce the date of their open Sunday a month ahead of time. And the town will be flooded with eager shoppers with nowhere else to go. Often, the open Sundays coincide with some special event, like a carnival (Kerwe) or market day (we went to the Landstuhl Mai Markt last week).

Spargel! "Spargel" is German for asparagus, and Germans seem to love it. In the spring, every restaurant has a "Spargel Menu," usually including spargel soup, spargel with hollandaise sauce, and at least a few other dishes. But this isn't your petite green American asparagus spears. German spargel is white and kind of looks like giant fingers. I'm not a fan of spargel (can't get past the "giant fingers covered in sauce" thing), but when the spargel signs start going up, you know it is spring.

It's Spargel! Who needs other vegetables?

See Conversion Diary for other quick takes.