Saturday, June 23, 2007

We're back...

It's been a while since I've given you, my faithful readers, the 411 from the Prickril compound in Kirchheim. Not sure exactly what happened, but I guess I was blogged out. Hasn't helped that I've been working like a slave and we've been taking it easy on the weekends since we got back from Disney (which means there's not too much to report).

Last weekend, we celebrated the American version of father's day. Since we celebrated German father's day some weeks ago, that just leave leaves Brazilian father's day in August. Would be nice to find an angle to make it 4 so I could be spoiled once a quarter. On father's day, we went to an outdoor public pool in Heidelberg called Thermalschwimmbad. B had been there a few times before and told me about it, but I was really impressed by the whole experience. The Neckar river runs directly behind it and it feels more like a country club than a public pool. It doesn't seem to get as crowded as the pool in Wiesloch and the "restaurant" area actually has waitstaff.

It's really funny to see people changing into their bathing suites in broad daylight in front of a few hundred of their closest "friends". German women seem to have a multi-bikini system that we haven't quite figured out. A fair number of women laying out topless is a nice touch as far as I'm concerned, and one of the easiest cultural adjustments I've had to make so far.

On a completely unrelated note, I got a bill in the mail a couple of weeks ago for public television and radio! In Germany, everyone that has a radio, TV or internet connection must pay for public programming. That would be fine by me but my understanding is that it's not the low budget experience you might expect. Since they show soccer games etc., my monthly bill comes to about 20 Euros. Absolutely absurd by American standards, but not quite annoying enough for me to start another blog preaching rebellion. Anyway...

Last weekend, the kids were keeping watch on the neighborhood from the "snack perch" in our kitchen when they spotted a pair of fraternal twins (boy and girl) from Robert's class at school. Turns out they were looking for our apartment so they could deliver the first invitation he's received to a birthday party here. A pretty big milestone in his assimilation as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of assimilation, B has started an intensive German course. So far, she's having a blast. She goes Monday through Friday from 9 to 13:00. There aren't many other fluent English speakers and no Brazilians, which I guess is a good thing. My German is coming along but long days mean I'm not studying as much as I'd like. My goal is still to be conversational by the end of the year.

On the family front, it looks like B's sister Marina will visit with some friends in July. An apartment full of 16 year olds should be the straw that finally sends me over the edge. Since the departure of our nanny a few weeks ago, life has not been the same. Luckily, it looks like Sandra will come back toward the end of the summer. If any of you care at all about our sanity or the well being of our lovely children, put a good word in for us with your higher power.

Incidentally, we had dinner at Sardegna, a really quaint Italian restaurant a few minute's walk from our apartment. Next time we go I'll take some pictures as we seem to like it more and more each time we go. The owners are currently in Sardegna (Sardinia, an island off the west coast of Italy) as their daughter-in-law is having a baby. Their son, now at his wit's end, is holding down the fort the best he can. For some reason, they don't serve meat while the folks are away. I therefore was unable to order a horse steak, something I've wanted to do since we first went there. In the next week or so, I'll let you know how Trigger tastes.

Hmmm, I wonder if that will finally generate some comments on this blog.

Finally, at an off-site (work) in Epplingen, a nice little city about 40 minutes south of here, I took another picture of beer. While some members of my family find it weird (and you know who you are), I really do find Hefeweitzen and the glasses it is served in beautiful. This place is apparently famous in the area and had the best Hefe I've probably ever tasted (with the possible exception of Zum Ritter in Schwetzingen). This one was taken at night under precarious circumstances from an exposure (and sobriety) perspective. Enjoy!

For those mulling over the idea of sending me literature for 12 step programs, I've actually almost completely curtailed what had become one of my favorite hobbies. It seems I've been bitten by the health bug and am actually running most mornings. As much as I love a couple of cold Hefes after a hard day's labour, it definitely puts a crimp in a guy's stride the next day. The bar across the street hasn't yet filed for bankruptcy but it was clear I was missed (or at least my Euros are) when I popped in there Thursday night. While I miss it, I must admit it feels good to be able go up a few flights of stairs without having to dial a preparatory "91" on my cell (which it occurs to me wouldn't help much as "911" in Germany {and much of Europe}is "112"!).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Disney threw off our groove...

I guess the Disney trip took it out of us. Last weekend was pretty uneventful. Last Thursday was a German holiday so we headed to the public pool in Wiesloch. We had though about asking Thomas and Luciana if they wanted to go, but weren't able to reach them by phone. As I was walking up to the entrance gate, I was almost run over by an Audi driven by none other than Mr. V himself.
The public pool in Wiesloch is really nice. It's pretty cheap and offers a large grassy area, at least a couple of pools, a basketball court and soccer field.

As we expected, the place was packed. We got there at peak time early in the afternoon. I waited about 10 minutes in line for a beer and gave up. Later in the evening the crowd thinned out and we enjoyed ourselves. After the pool, we went out for hamburgers in Wiesloch. When I figure out the name, I'll post it as this place has incredible food.

Saturday morning we headed to the Heidelberg zoo for the second time. Summer is definitely upon us as I believe the temperature in the sun was about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. After spending 3 years in Seattle, we have become a band of total heat whimps.

The highlight this trip was probaby the seal show. We saw the one at 11:00 and then got out of Dodge. We then headed to Pizza Hut near our house in Kirchheim. I ate about 2 pounds of salad and drank a gallon of Apfelschorle, the most popular soft drink (I believe) in Germany. With Sandra gone, we try to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. Sunday, we planned to head to a lake near Rot, but Emily wasn't feeling well. Turns out she has strep again. We spoke to her pediatrician who informed us that strep has had a hold on the Fatherland for years and years. Our kids seem to be magnets for it, swilling antibiotics like a compulsive gambler swills Maalox.

I ended up staying at home with Emily while B took Robert and Sophia to a pool in Heidelberg. B likes this pool much better, despite the fact that people change into their bathing suites poolside, making no attempt to hide their "bits and pieces". B's shock is exspecially funny given how many people think beaches in Brazil are full of naked women, a total myth.

Next weekend we plan to head to the lake and may spend some time in Schwetzingen. The brewery there beckons.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

First morning of mourning...

Yesterday, Sandra, also known as "Wonder Nanny" went back to Brazil. Although we've known for some months that this day was coming, we still weren't prepared. Not only do we feel like someone in our family has flown the coop, but B and I must now (gasp!) actually take care of our kids 24/7. When we decided to have kids, it never dawned on my that they would be so needy.

All joking aside, we survived our first day without Sandra better than I thought we would. The kids miss her of course but are handling it like troopers.

Today is a holiday in Germany (this time of year there's almost one per week it seems). We plan to go to a lake close to here and check out the southwestern German beach scene. This weekend I'm thinking about maybe going to Stuttgart. Stay tuned...