Monday, December 29, 2008

'Till Next Year!

I'm off to Berlin, y'all! I'm really excited and a little bit nervous. Okay, I'm a lot nervous, but it'll be good for me because I haven't made a big trip like this in a while (not since Lille, I don't think), so I need to pop my security bubble and go out to explore the big wide world. And it's Berliiiiin! Beeeerrrrlllliiiin! I'll try to take lots of photos. Promise.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Brain Dead

The last few days were kinda like you're talking to someone and they're talking about a future or past date in time and you're trying to figure out what today's date must be and you attempt to sneak your way around asking such a ridiculous question by asking for more details about this future or past date. All's I knew was that Christmas was Christmas, but it never felt like it, so that was confusing as well. Maybe this blog post will help me put some things in order; not necessarily the chronological sort.

On the 26th, all the stores in Germany are closed. Me and my buddy had to buy stuff for a dinner party that evening. Most specifically, we were on a hunt for tofu so I could have something "meaty" for the Raclette. Our first thought was Holland, but quite a-typically, the grocery store just over the border was closed. We saw many an unfortunate Aachen car also doing a prompt turn-around. "Hey, we could try Belgium," I wondered aloud. We scampered (as well as one can scamper while sitting in an automobile, which isn't much, but still good fun.) on over to my old town of residence. The GB was open and there I saw hilarious CocaCola products in mini form and multiple languages. Doesn't Dutch look silly? There was no tofu.

We've had some lovely weather today and yesterday. When I'm in Aachen and I see weather like that, I feel like I'm falling in love with the city all over again. Sometimes I feel a little inspired and I take a photo of my cold, cold feet looking over the balcony. Yes, I'm not ashamed to admit: I think that photos of feet look artsy. Look! It totally does! Ha ha. Made you look.

To recap Christmas, I wore my "I'm trying to look nice" outfit (pictured right) and the streets of Maastricht were calm, but festive. I would expect no less from the Dutch.

Oh! And I'm sure you're all dying to know what the vegan girl ate for Christmas! Well, we had a nice dinner with friends on the Eve. Everyone had roast while I had some lovely grilled, marinated tofu. We shared Grünkohl with tahini dressing and maple-mustard glazed potatoes and string beans. For dessert, I made sweet potato pie. I was a little worried about it because I had to make an insane amount of substitutions, but the results was super yummy. A great mid-zombie-movie snack, I might add.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Today was:
wake up late
debate how to spend the day
ride with timo and erin to Maastricht
walk through their christmas market
look for pommes frites
drink coffee
pretty drive
zombie movies

I hope your day was as nice and traditional as mine!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

I know the phrase of this blog's title from reading Little Women when I was about 11. My taste in literature hasn't changed, apparently. For Christmas I recieved a chic lit book from Lukas. It was very sweet of him, honestly. From "Simon" I got a photo of him in a frame that he decorated himself. I almost wish I didn't because when I leave here, I'll have a token by which to miss him more. From the parents, I got an H&M gift card. It was incredibly nice of them.

Then, I gave them all their presents. They were all incredibly happy and grateful when recieving them. Hell, I am too whenever I get a present. I've grown to not anticipate any gifts for Christmas or birthdays anymore. It's an unexpected treat to be thought of in that way. I made Simon a cape and attached it to a shirt to it. It was Amanda's idea. She found it on an etsy site. I sewed it ALL by hand. How cool am I? I got the parents movie tickets and offered to babysit whenever they chose to go. For Lukas, I got white chocolate from Belgium, Switzerland (you can buy Trobelone here in Deutschland) and some fair trade stuff. It's his favorite. His parents are going to hate me later when he's not hungry for dinner (winkey face).

Well, we basically just finished doing that. They just left for church and I'm here finishing another glass of champagne (we all had one together at the gift unwrapping ceremony) and eating Mon Cheri chocolates (vegan!) before I head off to get my train to Aachen!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stressful Holiday Times Inspire Cheezy Poetry

"It's a shopping catastrophe!"
One might well say;
I certainly did
As I picked out my way
Through the drones of people,
Swarming like bees to a hive,
To H&M for a T-shirt I dive.

I didn't need much,
Just a plain coloured shirt.
Still a bitch, though, to find;
Gave me a headache that hurt.
And then one other buy,
A dress shirt and tie,
Per request of the parents,
A last-minute present.

The one that they wanted
Hung high on a rack.
I glanced 'round for help;
A tall man, ladder or ... sack?
What with everyone focused on their own consumption,
I stood just no chance, not with all of my gumption.

I had to settle for less,
One lower down.
I couldn't quite mind
Because at the sight of the line,
I quickly forgot.
But we all should be happy
With what I just bought.

The photos are of gingerbread men that I stole from Isa's ppk blog. Top: punk. Bottom: minimalist

Monday, December 22, 2008


2008 seems relatively uneventful. I quit my job, was homeless and jobless (well, there was that stint in the traditional German restaurant), started a new job, changed cities, made new friends, my Dad came to visit, travelled a bit, fell into good habits, fell into bad ones, got lost, found things, learned stuff.... Okay, maybe there were some noteworthy things that came to pass. I think what makes the year seem a little strange overall is that I feel like I've been in limbo; not knowing where I'm going or what I should do with Life. There are some things that I want to change, though. Some realistic, some far-fetched, some easy and some difficult.
  • Firstly, and I've been really back-and-forth on this, I've decided to start school! I'm going to try to get into Heinrich-Hein Universität here in Düsseldorf. My host family offered to help me out with it and since that teaching job in Belgium didn't work out, this seems like a good opportunity of which to take advantage. I've got an appointment in the foreign office after the New Year.
  • I've moved 6 times in the past 3 years with two "nomadic" periods stuck in there somewhere. I'd like a little bit more security in place of that freedom, now, i think.
  • Save a bit more. Those that know me over here probably already see me as a penny pincher as is, but I could do better.
  • Go to an English-speaking country. I haven't been in one since I left at the end of March 2007!
  • Fly home for a visit?
  • Check out a Scandinavian country. Y'all, I wonder: If I hate the cold so much, why am I so interested in visiting/ living in cold places all the time? It's a paradox. Well, I hear that Oslo in the summertime is quite nice (winkey face).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Morning

Preface: I have a general rule to never get on the internet on the week-ends. But whatever. Today I'm making an acception.

I guess I tend to go places on the week-ends. I seldom hang around the house because it's just plain not interesting and I always end up "working" if I'm here. But today is pouring rain and I yesterday was kind-of a doozy, so I've been taking my time 'round here today.

I was downstairs in my room, rocking out to Neutral Milk Hotel, when I heard Simon calling me. His parents were out and his brother was still asleep (it was about 11AM). He walked in and asked, "Rachah?" (That's how Simon pronounces my name.) "Rachah? Can you help me make this? I can't do it on my own." It was a Gingerbread House Kit and I quite gingerly obliged.

It's always a battle for me, doing activities like this with a 5 year old. Part of me wants it to look nice and perfect, but I also know that I have to let the kid do most of the craft himself, alleine, so he can learn or whatever. It's really hard to avoid monopolizing the work and also to keep him involved and interested when I'm doing the stuff that he really can't do.

So, that's what we made together and then we followed that up with some Wacklepudding (Jell-O). I watched patiently as he stuggled opening the package, only offering him tips. And I did cringe as I watched him pour the liquid all. by. himself. into the Jell-O bowls, spilling sugary, sticky, red liquid everywhere. He was really happy and proud of himself all the way through; especially so during the licking his fingers, spoon and bowl parts. Simon was very "home economics" oriented today.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Impressing the Omnis

Today in German class we had our Weihnachtsfeier (Christmas party). Let me preface this by saying that at the begining of the course, an aupair brought a cake in on her birthday. Her host family had given it to her and instructed her to share it with the class. After that, every woman (because of course it's a class filled with aupairs and housewives) brought a cake in for her birthday. There seemed to be a lot of birthdays, actually. So of course I had to explain eventually why I couldn't take part in the glutony. When the Weihnachtsfeier came up, I felt I had to share something really good. I'm sure you understand why.

I made Gingerbread cupcakes from that cupcake book and crunchy peanut butter cookies from Vegan with a Vengance. The pb cookies were supposed to have a little big of yogurt in them, but at the store, they only had these big-ish tubs of it. I never liked yogurt to begin with and I haven't eaten it in so long that I wouldn't really know what to do with it, so I opted out of the yogurt. Maybe that was the essential bit because the cookies didn't turn out so crunchy and didn't hold together very well at all (sad face). I decided not to bring them to the course lest anyone try them and forever think ill of vegan baking. Lukas said he'll snack on them, but after that, I'll just throw them away. It's such a shame when I mess up like that. /vent.

The cupcakes, however, went over quite well. But because the course is full of housewives, everyone brought stuff and not all my cupcakes could get eaten. So now I've got way to many cupcakes and a damned waste of cookies on hand. Yay!

I also made some really forking awesome soup today. It's acorn squash, mushroom, rosemary, lime. Is that strange? I wasn't sure, so I conferred with that vegan forum that I visit. They gave some suggestions.... Well, I love it and it is for me after all and that's what counts. There ain't no one else to impress. Except y'all with my photo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Do I Go Places?

I often wonder this myself, but I'm sure that if you're my parent or another caring relative who reads this blog, you wonder this as well. I've realized over the extent of my travels that it's not so much the places you go, but the people you're with, the ones you meet and the friends you keep. But as a nomadic resident of the world, the keeping part is hard. There's a part of me that continues to ask, "What else is there?" And so I search.

Last evening I made a quick, emergency return to Aachen to say goodbye to a friend who is flying back to the States today. One might say that I was a good friend to make such a long trip for such a short visit at the very last minute, but to go was actually quite selfish. On my way there, I felt... so much; meloncholy, anger, fear, confusion, and a bit like my heart hurt. I left in order to get to the bottom of it.

I met her boyfriend first and we walkedd together to the café where we'd all be meeting. We could each tell how the other felt, and without touching on the matter too heavily, we said in our own ways, "Come on now, old chum. Bucker up." I couldn't say that our efforts were entirely fruitful, but we kept on truckin' on.

With the others plus the lady of the hour (well, my hour. the others had more time.), it felt just like the good ol' days, except that we all secretly wanted the undivided attention of Amanda, which proved a strain to split seven ways. When it came time to say my goodbye (far too early), Amanda agreed that it was a splendid idea for our friends to've come together on this evening; "I needed this," she said. I did too.

An ellipsis is not a suitable ending for a chapter. On this short trip I got to come to some conclusion.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Looong week-end!

I didn't have to work on Friday, so we road tripped it to Trier with a surprise visit to Luxembourg.

Amanda: Where are we?
Boys: no response
Rachel (just off the phone with her dad): Hey Amanda, where are we?
Amanda: I don't know. I just asked and they won't respond.
Rachel: Hey guys, where are we?
Boys: no response
Rachel: hey amanda, do you think we're going to Luxembourg?
Amanda: I don't know, but if we see the country sign, I kinda want to ask them to stop so I can get a photo by it, but I'm too embarassed to ask because that sounds so American.

we then approach a sign

Girls: ahhhh! omg omg you have to stop! stop the car!!
our car: screeeeeeeech.
other cars: hooooonk!

we examine the sign more closely.

Sign: Luxembourg 1000m

we still had a kilometer to go. we got a photo as we drove by it in the car so as not to cause any more fuss.

top left: In Bitburg where they brew the world famous Bitburger beer. When you order a Pils in Germany, the default beer is that one. We were denied a tour of the brewery because we hadn't notified them far enough in advance (late the night before). We did get to see a movie, though, that looked like my buddy Timo filmed it. Or a drunk person. I sort-of got vertigo watching it. There were lots of mustaches involved as well.

bottom right:
A snowy scene in the High Venn in Belgium. We got out and played. I made a snow angle. There were cross country skiers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Quick One While He's Away

It's been nigh on a year that I've been blogging. I looked back on some of my older posts for the fond memories and with hopes that my writing may've improved. The memories have been warmed, but my soft skillz (the writing) ain't no better.

Here are some of my favorite memories from the year of blogging:
the aubergine tower
street art
the tampon story
the brewery excursion

do you have any?

to the right is some street art in Aachen

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bike Rides and High Fives

Due to popular demand, here are some photos from the bike route. Here, we have featured the Zed house, a place where you can't swim, a kayaking course, sheep, a goat, an office building that looks like a castle, a Georgia O'Keefe-esque photo, and a bridge. Even though I do complain about my job sometimes, it's really nice because sometimes I get the afternoon off and can go putt around on my bike until my feet freeze off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Goodbye Blue Monday

I keep having such fantastic week-ends that Mondays seem so ugh!

This week-end I had fun going out with Düsseldorf friends, then to Cologne for a Couch Surfing Christmas Market meeting (Why don't I ever bring my camera anywhere anymore?) and stayed up almost all night with a bunch of kids from Bonn. At the meeting, there was a sweet woman working on a radio exposé about Couch Surfing. I might end up on the radio, but I've no idea what station.

Sunday was sunny (a rarity for this region and time of year), so I woke up early and went on a really long bike ride. I should've brought my camera along then, too, because the route that I take (and deviate from) is quite lovely. Some dude showed me it and I greatly appreciate that fact every time I ride out there because I don't believe I would've found such a nice course otherwise.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Burn the Floor

Burn the Floor was a ballroom dance production that a friend took me to last night. I adore watching dance, so the whole evening was already a real treat for me and was compounded by the fact these dancers were of international caliber; unlike the many student productions that I'd seen before. Their energy in both their steps and their souls was entirely contagious. Most of the routines involved a group of 10 dance partners on the stage that was so spectacularly coordinated, I felt like I couldn't watch anything closely enough. It was exciting. The star-studded lighting, sumptuous costumes, skillful steps, and quick beats aided by two live drummers (it was like the Allman Brothers, man!) left me with grin as wide as a cheshire cat through most of the first half. There were also two singers that occasionally participated in the fun and drama, which added a bit of a cabaret kinda feel to the scene. I enjoyed how they moved through the different styles of dance and with it, depicting different eras through costume and song.

I was a tad underwhelmed by the second half of the show. The singers got a bit more involved and I felt they were kinda out of place. Also, there were a lot more slow dance numbers that I didn't find so engaging. I shy away from anything remotely corny (I laughed through most of Titanic, for instance.) and those songs were really filled with it. Another disappointing factor were the entirely too mainstream musical choices. It didn't match the uniqueness of the choreography. How many dance routines have we already seen to American Bandstand and Tainted Love? And finally, the ending reminded me of The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King (although I do love that movie): Is it over yet? Are they concluding now? To make matters worse, the crowd made a standing ovation at the second ending (I detest standing ovations. They're on my uncomposed list of top 10 petty things to hate.), so we were forced to stand through the very last number. And then people attempted to clap in sync with the music (and that's in my top 5 of frivolous abhorrences), but I just tried to focus on how much I loved the dancers' spicy movements. I did. I delighted in it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Games Me and Simon Play

This actually might be a cool German lesson for some of you. I'm not sure if that interests anyone, but there are some folks who understand German and read the blog. Maybe y'all'll empathize.

  • Thumb War: I translate the taunt: eins, zwei, drei, vier, Ich fange den Daumen Krieg an! (one, two, three, four, I'm starting the thumb war. I don't know the word for "declare.")

  • Hide-and-Go-Seek. (verstecken) I hate not knowing exactly where he is, though, so we rarely play this. There's a phrase that you say to indicicate that the person hiding should give a little peep, but I forget what it is precicely.

  • I Spy with My Little Eye: Ich sehe etwas das du nicht siehst.

  • Go Fish. I don't translate the "go fish" part. It's awesome. I don't know what the King, Queen and Jack are called in German, though, so we just say their German letters.´

  • When waiting for the bus, I've created this game that involves jumping, sitting, touching or running around a pole depending on what colour car we see. It makes the time fly and people give us funny looks.
  • Milles Bornes (1,000 miles). It's a French (or Canadian?) card game that I've recently taught him. He caught on so fast! But it's hard to keep track of his mileage as well as my own.

  • Ente Fuße (duck feet). It's not really a game, but it's something we'll joke around with in the morning. When shoes are put on the wrong feet, you call it "Ente Fuße," which I think is pretty much adorable. Sometimes Simon crosses his legs and pretends that he has duck feet and tells me that I put his shoes on incorrectly.

  • Lots of board games. Mostly The Game of Life (Spiel des Lebens), Sorry! and Monopoly Jr. He could handle the regular Monopoly, but I can't. Our Sorry! game is in English. If you don't recall, there are cards numbered 1-12 that indicate how many spaces you can go and other specifics. For example, 1 and 2 allow a piece to exit your starting place, but with 2, you're allowed to go again. He never has to be reminded of the rules, even though we don't play it very often, which I find remarkable.

  • Chess! (Schach) I taught him how to play. He's good. In my defence, I do suck at that game pretty hard.

  • Airplane. (Flugzeug) I hold him in the air above me so his stomach rests on the bottoms of my feet. It's really fun to play on the trampoline.

Above is a castle that me and Simon made for the Meerschweinschen (guinea pigs).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cherrybrook Kitchen

My pal Amanda got me this brownie mix from the states. The company advertises itself as being "allergy safe" rather than "vegan." That makes sense because they also manufacture everything nut-free as well. For those that are dairy and egg free by choice rather than necessity, it can be equally reassuring that the equipment on which the product is manufactured isn't shared with blood, puss and cruelty. And I think that we also deserve to bake from a box occasionally just like everyone else.

Product review: The company is small and family-owned. The packaging is damn cute. The Fudge Brownie Mix could not have tasted better had I made it myself. It did not, however, hold together very well. I think that it lacked a proper egg replacer. The package instructed that water, margarine and oil be added to the dry mix. My recommendation would be to add 2Tbs of well ground flax seed to the water or replace the water with non-dairy milk and 1tsp vinegar, let it sit for about 5min, then add it to the mix with the rest. I guess they were trying to be nice to those folks who are allergic to soy and gluten (rice has gluten, right?), which you'd find in non-dairy milks.

Thanks so much for the mix, Amanda. I'm sorry I didn't share it with you, but I'll have you know that it was shared with a very deserving aupair from Czech Republic.

Dream Job

I had more than a few guy friends in high school who were those kids with sooo much intelligence and potential, but only used about half an ounce of it for a passing grade. None of them had very high asperations when I inquired after their great wide futures. Back in those days I'd invisioned myself attending college, then grad school, then saving the world.... I'm not sure whether to laugh at or feel sorry for my childish optimism. Anyway, now I realize how sagacious these boys were. Or, at the very least, how much their dreams have come to be like mine.

Dream Jobs (in no particular order):
  • zamboni driver
  • grounds keeper (I'd really like one of those little claws that you can pick up trash with without having to bend over.)
  • forest ranger
  • organic farm worker
  • postman
  • clochard
  • cargo ship worker (this would be the most difficult to remain vegan at)
  • aupair (sorta. i mean, i do love my job.)

Honestly, I could persue any, some or all of these while trying to figure out how, why and where I should go to school so I could do something that might be cooler, but do not yet have the enthusiasm to do the work to get there. And look, I totally have the potential to make that last sentence not a run-on, but I figure I oughtn't squander what I got.