Tuesday, January 27, 2009

And I thought the rec center was old.

Today, the kindergarten class went (with me along) on a field trip to a natural foods store. Not much to report there; it's pretty much the same as in the U.S., except for the bakery counter, which is like the ones in other German grocery stores. In short, full of yummy things.

On our way back, I noticed a "Happy Birthday R---------" sign, which was evidently put up in 1990. The village is more than a thousand years old.


Suddlenly the quaint little nineteenth-century church and the 1600's style buildings look shockingly modern.

They say that Europe is older than the U.S. I had never disbelieved this, but now, somehow, I believe it more.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coolness within R---------

I'm too tired to think of a made-up name for the village I'm staying in, so I've adopted the Victorian convention of starting the name with a letter (which in this case is not the correct one), and ending it with a line.

So. The little tram station that I wait at to go in to Frankfurt is a whole lot like the TRAXX stations in Salt Lake City, but because it is in Germany, it is cooler. Also, the trains are red, or at least the ones that come here are, and that makes it even more cool. And picturesque. I should take a picture, speaking of which.

The city library is so close to the tram station that it could BE the tram station if it were not the library. In fact, I'm not really sure why they have a library where by rights the train station ought to be, though I do know that there is a little counter where a man sits and sells tickets in person instead of by machine, in a little teeny building off to the side of the library. No, not phone-booth tiny. Garden shed tiny.

The local recreation center is currently celebrating a birthday over 100 years. They were selling commemorative t-shirts, which I noticed as we were going out after going to the sport-for-under-threes at said recreation center. Wow.

Conversation with a child in my class (the one I'm volunteering in) who shall be known as S:

S (giving me a puzzled, yet not unfriendly, look): Where do you live?
Me: Near the plant store.
S: I don't know where the plant store is.
Me: Well, then near the [here I struggle, and fail, to find the word for "train station"]. Or, the library. Do you know where the library is?
S: Yeah.
Me: I live at near the library.
S: But I've never seen you there.
Me: Ah, well, I only visit the library, and you only visit the library, so maybe that's why you haven't seen me there. I don't live in the library, I live in near the library.
S: But I haven't seen you there.
Me: [Not for the first time nor for the last, I have no reply that I can say in German.]


There is a word in German that means "to the contrary," and that word is "doch" (end it with a K sound, if you like; otherwise, end it with the same sound that J.S. Bach's last name ends with). I will not make any broad generalizations about how language shapes the structure of a child's understanding, but I will say that in this case, it maybe makes it easier to disagree about things. For instance, within my first week here, I had both of the following conversations with (different) young children.

me: Nein. [Pronounced like "nine;" means "no"]
child: Doch.
me: Nein.
child: Doch.
me: Nein!
child: Doch!

me: Ja. [Pronounced almost like "Yeah;" means "Yes," which is also what Yeah means in English, but here no one thinks the less of you for saying Yeah, because Yeah is not a slang word for Yes, it IS Yes.]
child: Doch.
me: Ja.
child: Doch.
me: Ja!
child: Doch!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Note: I have come up with "code names" for the family I am living with. Trying to write without using names was just getting too complicated.

The mother is Elinor. As in, Elinor Ferrars, nee Dashwood. The father is Edward (Elinor was pleased to learn that he was rich). The children, since they are twins, are Meg and Jo (as in March, but since they are Elinor and Edward's children, they are Ferars-- got that?), since Meg in Little Women had twins. Meg Brooks' twins (remember, she married too) had names I can't remember but didn't like much anyway, but everyone can remember Meg and Jo March. Who now have little Ferrars named after them. No one, so far, is named for similarity in personality to their literary counterpart, only for whatever tenuous literary connection I have come up with. The connection with Edward and Elinor is, of course, that Edward's identity had to remain secret for so long.

Whew. Now, on to coolness in Germany.

The first time Elinor took me shopping at the local mart (very similar to Reams-- they sell both clothes and food there), I was delighted to find that they have special carts to go with special inclined-plane moving walkways, so that you can take your cart upstairs without taking the elevator. Wow!

This morning, Edward showed me that their dryer has a water-collecting container at the bottom, so that you do not humidify your outside wall as you dry things. Very interesting. And cool.

The stupid internet kiosk at the airport which ate many euros and kept logging me out for pressing random keys had, hands down, the most sturdy keyboard I have ever seen. The keys were all metal. The keyboard itself is very cool, and I will show you a picture as soon as I know I am staying here and can have my parents mail me the CD that goes with my camera, which CD will allow me to download pictures. Well, that and as soon as I take a picutre, but they have the same kiosks in the Hauptbahnhof (train station), and I go through that every Thursday, so we're good.

Finally (there are other things, but I am trying to stay brief) the Kindergarten where I am making my practicum (read: short, unpaid internship-- but fun) is on Immanuel Kant Strasse! HOW COOL IS THAT! C'mon. It's cool. I am considering asking them if it might be possible to send something on official letterhead to the BYU philosophy department, because almost everyone there is completely enamored of Immanuel Kant. Maybe Dr. Gates. Last I knew he had-- six? five?-- children, and he is definitely a lover of Kant, so he would perhaps be the most likely to appreciate getting a letter from a kindergarten located on Immanuel Kant Strasse.

Of course, not-cool things exist as well, but I'm sort of still in everything-is-cool mode, so you won't get to hear about those other things any time soon.

By the way, to everyone who has been concerned about my not-warm-enough coat: the days have been warming up nicely, to the point that yesterday I shocked Edward by coming back from my walk without my coat even on. (I was pushing Meg and Jo in the double stroller and had been worried that I would get back later than I said I would, so I was hurrying; it wasn't surprising, to me, that I got so warm.) Nights haven't been bad anyway, but Edward and Elinor finally prevailed on me a couple of days ago to take a second blanket for my bed. Last night I forgot to turn my radiator any warmer than the little snowflake symbol, but only noticed it this morning, because I was so toasty with the extra blanket. Have no fear, global warming is here! (I mean, about me being warm enough.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sarah Soup

Approximately at the time I turned ten, I announced to my family that I wanted to learn how to cook. Accordingly, I got for my birthday an apron, a couple of hot pads, and a Betty Crocker cookbook. Looking back, I see that they were probably all bought with the help of Betty Crocker coupons which my grandmother had been saving since the dawn of time (approximately). Now that I think about it, ten is just about the perfect age to learn how to cook (my mother started learning when she was ten, too) because you are old enough to be left alone in the kitchen, but not so old that anyone expects you to cook for yourself OR them.

I tried some of the recipes. Few of them had less than ten ingredients, and many required complicated processes for less-than-fantabulous results. At this point in time, I am willing to do complicated, long recipes, but only if I know that the end result is going to be more than worth the effort; then, however, time was not so precious to me that I refused to whip egg whites for tuna-lemon puff casserole.

One of the recipes that I tried, repeatedly, was a soup recipe. I'm not quite sure what was in the recipe-- the ingredients took up two whole columns-- nor do I remember when I started leaving things out. (My mother's support for my cooking habit did not normally include buying ingredients which she would not have anyway.) By the time I was fifteen and cooking for the whole family on a very regular basis, it had slimmed down to what is now known, to sibling and neefling alike, as Sarah Soup. No, it's not. My sister calls it Sarah Stew. Sheesh. Doesn't matter.

I have been truly shocked, over the years, at how many people REALLY like this soup. It's so simple that I was embarrassed to tell people the recipe. I do play with it now and agian (I added the flour within the last couple of months), but when a girl needs something cheap, nourishing, not uber-time-consuming, and delicious, this hits the spot.

It is also, incidentally, the basis for two other soups that I make (borscht and minestrone) but I will save those for another day.

Sarah Soup

This is how much I made on Monday night, for two women, one man, and two almost-three-year-olds. Also, we ended up with leftovers. I'm so sorry; I have no idea how much this makes. Or how much you want to make. I am not the best person for exactness in recipes (except for salt in bread. That really matters.). It doesn't matter, tons, what the exact proportions are for this soup; I believe that if you put in more of what you know you like and less of what you don't, it will come out well.


  • 3 onions, chopped into relatively thin slices
  • enough oil, or melted butter, or margarine (careful not to burn it if it's butter) to cover the bottom of your pan (I think that any oil except maybe something strong tasting like sesame oil or engine oil would be good-- in fact, I never recommend cooking with engine oil, but that is another story for another day)
  • 1/2 lb chopped-up stew meat (Many people like more meat than this, but I don't, and I'm writing this, so there)
  • 2 T or so flour
  • Enough water to fill the stew pot (I think that I used at least 6 cups)
  • 4 peeled and chopped potatoes (1/2 inch?)
  • 5 peeled and chopped carrots (1/4 inch or smaller, coins).
  • Do not forget the salt. 1 1/2 T should start you off well, but many people like more. Ramen noodle seasoning packets taste great, but they have MSG in them, so I personally have stopped using them.

Fry the onions in the butter, oil, or whatever, until they are goldenish yellow. More oil means that they are less likely to burn, and if it is olive oil, then it acutally lowers the bad cholesterol in your system. Your choice, though. I take at least ten minutes for this, half an hour if I have time. Also, if you kind of burn the onions on the bottom, that's OK; people like the taste, and some people (not me) even do that on purpose. If you really burn the onions, though, you had better start over.

Add the stew meat and the flour. The flour browns and tastes nice and makes the soup a little more filling. If you use enough flour, it turns from soup into stew. Once the meat is starting to get brown, you can add the water. Since you are not adding the carrots or potatoes yet, leave some room for them in the pot-- maybe a couple of inches. Or three.

For various reasons, I always add cold water, so it takes a while for it to boil. I turn it up to high and then try to remember to stay in the kitchen so that I don't let it boil over (which it did this time). Someday-- maybe someday soon-- my exactness-in-cooking-loving younger sister will email me a chart that she found on the internet of how long it takes various amounts of tap-cold water to boil, but for now, I just try to remember to stay in the kitchen.

After it has boiled, I add the carrots and the potatoes. With the carrots smaller than the potatoes, they will cook at the same speed. If, by chance, you want to just use baby carrots or your dear one has chopped the carrots and the potatoes to the same size, then put the carrots in earlier than the potatoes so that the potatoes do not completely dissolve by the time the carrots have become soft. After adding the last of the vegetables, add enough water to top the soup off (try to stay away from the top 1/2 inch of the pan; life is much less messy that way) and let it boil again. Once it has come to a boil, you can turn the heat down to medium low, and then go make bread or something simple like that while you wait for it to finish cooking.

Oh, and do not forget the salt. Not that I have ever personally done anything like this. Taste the soup once things are soft to see how much more you may need.

Cook it until the carrots and the potatoes are soft enough to eat.


I love this recipe now. Despite how long it took for me to write it out, it really is outrageously simple to execute. I would even let a ten-year-old do it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Another letter for Mom

This may be the only kind of post you guys get for a while (although, I promise, I have indeed handwritten the first installment of a promised serial-story for Morrow). It is sort of generally written to everyone, but with my mother's concerns in particular in mind.

I am in a wonderful home, consisting of father, mother, and zwinnern (twins). My German is coming along beautifully because, blessed day, my hostess hated her English teacher in school and is perfectly happy to let me limp along in German all the time. I apologized a few times for how badly I speak, but she finally explained to me that she can understand me better than the girls (who will be three in April), so I shouldn't worry.

I get along with the twins beautifully, even though their everyday vocabularies are bigger than mine. I find that even a few words work great, and there are more universals to two-and-a-half-year-old human behavior than I had before considered (playing peek-a-boo, distractability, having lots of personality, and love of finger-counting in any language, among other things). Also, on a side note, I am no longer afraid of having twins. Carrying them still worries me, but the raising itself is just raising two human beings who happen to be the same age. (Both of my mother's grandmothers were twins, and she always wished to have some, but didn't, and now she wishes them on her daughters. There is, evidently, some sort of hereditary connection with fraternal twins, so it would not be so unlikely for her prayer to be answered).

We went up the local mountain today and I took some shots of the surrounding countryside, which was gloriously rosy in the light of the setting sun. It was VERY cold-- OK, for me it was. The car thermometer said that it was 26 Farenheit, or -1 Celsius (I think. Something close to that). Since the only coat I brought was my lightweight-but-dark-colored-and-therefore-I-thought-more-versatile-coat, I borrowed both a coat and a jacket from the family I am staying with.

Let's see. Mom was still concerned about my food situation. She need not be. No one has given me the "there is no padlock on the refrigerator, so if you go hungry it's your fault" speech (like Dad used to give), but I feel well-welcomed nonetheless. When I mentioned, on my second day here, that I kind of wanted a walk, the mother in the family took me with her to drop the car off at the mechanic's, and then we walked to the grocery store, where she said, "whatever you want, just point, and I'll get it for you" (she said this in German, of course). I had been craving salad. So she bought a head of lettuce and some tomatoes.

Not much more time. Um. I'm living a fairly ordinary life, just in German. And in Germany. And I have a new friend. Friends. I was feeling last night a very odd feeling. I was realizing that my situation-- opportunities, desires, interests-- is very unique. I felt almost as though Heavenly Father had been preparing me to meet and love this family from the time I was ten years old. Odd. Perhaps true. In one sense, indubitably true, but I'm not sure what-- I don't know how to say this.

Oh, and on the clothes front: if anyone tells you that it isn't possible to pack too light, THEY ARE WRONG. I'm just saying. I brought three outfits. This was simply too few. Aunt Joyce, I did not end up hemming that skirt, nor did I bring it with me, and I curse the day. I have two of my mother's t-shirts that she sent with me, almost against my will, which I have worn almost every day.

And on the other hand, of the things I could have learned by experience that it's not a good idea to do (kill people, break the law of chastity, lick stationary pieces of metal which are outdoors when the temperature is below zero, pack too light) this one isn't so bad.



Saturday, January 3, 2009

Dear Mom

Dear Everyone who follows this blog,

I'm in Germany! Also, I can read but not send email, and also my bank's computer went down the day I got here (meaning, I haven't been able to access any money through my debit card, which was the main way I had been planning to do so), so life has been... interesting.

That's why the following, seemingly personal message is being posted on a public blog. Go ahead and read it, everyone-but-Mom-who-follows-this-blog; it isn't THAT personal, and if it were me who had been reading this lead up to it, I would be dying to know what the message actually was.

Dear Mom,

I am at the youth hostel, which has the cheapest internet rates I have encountered yet (Hooray!). I had a hairy moment this morning when the guy at the desk said he could take your credit card number for the room rental itself, but he had to have five Euros, cash, for the room key deposit. Turns out, though, that there is a Western Union in the train station itself (not the one only fifteen feet away, across from the train station, but the one IN the train station) which is open on Saturdays-- hooray! Also, it turns out that this Western Union, with only one's passport and credit card, will allow one to directly purchase Euros-- no transfer fee, just what the bank would charge for doing business not with them. Who knew? (OK, now I do, and now you do too.)

With this beautiful internet access, I was able to check my bank account, and-- hooray! again!-- my long-awaited paycheck has come in. So, hopefully, I won't be using your credit card for anything else for some time.

The food issue is doubly resolved. They are having free spaghetti here, tonight; and with my newfound means of getting cash, I can go to the store and get some things to cook with tomorrow (they allow guests to cook in the communal kitchen where I have now witnessed a bottle of vegetable oil larger than anything I have ever seen in Utah. Really. I will try to post a picture as soon as I get my picture-downloading issues resolved.) Nevertheless, I will never again complain that your "lunches" will feed a person for days, because I have found out for myself, to my great benefit, that this is literally true. (For everyone else's benefit: thankfully, the price of my hotel included the price of an excellent (filling, nourishing) breakfast, so I was fed on something other than almonds, cranberries, and nature bars for one-third of the day. Woman can live by nuts and berries alone, but it isn't very interesting after the first twelve hours. I'm thankful that the interesting parts of my life have now balanced out: more interesting food, less interesting money situation.)

So. Alles Wohl. Indeed, as you had predicted, I am no longer filled with the desire to just turn around and come back to where I came from. Knowing that I have a warm, safe place to spend the night makes all the difference.



P.S. Whoever reads this first, could you please call Mom to tell her to look at it?

P.P. S. Also, please excuse any weird spelling; some of the keys on this keyboard are in different places than usual (most interestingly, there is a z where the y usuallzy is) <(Also, the shift key is smaller, with an arrow key where it usually is) and the spellchecker is not on, presumably because they have people emailing in many different languages from here.

P.P.P.S. I plan write up the whole-- no, the most interesting parts of the-- story of this interesting vacation, soon, but even at only one Euro an hour, one must be careful with one's interenet time!

P.P.P.P.S. This is absolutely the last one! To everyone who has been praying, or who has ever prayed, for my safety and well-being, a thousand blessings on your heads. Really. I am very, very thankful to you.

I have also resloved to take a more active interest in situations of homelessness. It is not right for a person who has not committed a crime to be worried about freezing to death on the same night that a person who has been convicted of one is sleeping safe, though confined, in a jail. And yes, there are completely innocent persons who are homeless, sometimes; I have been one, others I have been close to have been, and I volunteered for some months at a school in a homeless shelter. Those kids did not deserve that. Difficult problem, and one I will be looking at more over time.