22 September, 2009

Expat meme

Ian did this meme the other day and since I'm lacking inspiration this morning I decided to jump on the bandwagon.

How long have you lived away from your home country? 17 years! (With one three-year period in which we moved to Michigan with M's job. Which was a funny situation because we lived there as expats and as the wife of a foreigner I was eligible for language lessons and culture training!)

Do you still feel like you’re just visiting? No. In many ways I feel like a foreigner when I'm in the US.

What do you notice the most has changed about your home country when you go back for a visit? The rise in the obesity rate-- it's shocking!

If you were to move again, would it be back to your home country? I wouldn't rule it out, but it's certainly not a goal.

Do you ever get homesick? Not really. We moved around a lot when I was small, and my parents and brother have left Florida, so there's really no place that I can go back to. I miss my family, and Florida's weather, but don't really have a home to get homesick for.

If you read the news, do you read it in your native language or that of your host country? I read the news online in English but that's about it. I see everything else as an opportunity to strengthen language skills, so any kind of literature, magazines, newspapers, etc. I read in either German or Dutch.

What do you like the most about Germany? It's clean and orderly. There's a lot of consideration for the environment. Lots of open spaces and woodland where we live. Abundant farmers' markets and organic produce. I walk or bike almost everywhere-- it's a very green way of living!

What grates you the most? The school system is very frustrating. It's preposterous to think that you can decide at age 9 if a child is capable of studying at a university later on in life.

Did you speak the language of your host country before you arrived? Not at all.

How long did it take before you felt comfortable speaking the language? To be completely comfortable? 1 1/2 years, but I couldn't have done it without intensive language lessons at the Volkshochschule.

If people switch to English when you speak to them in their language, how do you react? I HATE it! It's hard not to take it personally-- people usually only do that when they want to show off that their English is better than my German. Luckily it rarely happens anymore, but when it does I just stubbornly continue to speak in German. I need the practice!

(This has made me a lot more sensitive to this issue, however, and when the shoe is on the other foot I try to be very respectful of people who are trying to practice their English.)

What has been the biggest change you’ve had to make in leaving your home country? Funny, there have been so many spread out over such a long period-- no single one sticks out. Maybe just learning new languages. I've picked up three so far and have no intention of stopping any time soon! :-)

If there were a button to improve anything about your expatriate life, what would it say on the button?
"Cheap flights" It would be nice to visit my folks more often!

21 September, 2009

Need a laugh?

While we're on a Russian video jag I had to post this one as well. This has to be the worst cover ever made! I apologize in advance...

19 September, 2009

Tainted love: Soviet style!

Don't tell anyone, but I think I might like this version even better than the original!

(*Am I the only nerd who noticed that one of the guards is wearing a Russian army cap instead of a German one?)

18 September, 2009

Once for S and once for B and that was it...

A discussion with the kids yesterday evolved into a sex ed opportunity.

How can those two people have had sex? They're too young to have kids!

Well, you're right. Pregnancy can only happen if you've had sexual contact, but not all sexual contact results in pregnancy. Women are only fertile a couple of days per month and there are things you can do to keep from making your partner pregnant. And thank goodness, because otherwise you'd probably end up with thousands of children!

WHAT?! THOUSANDS?! Am I going to be having sex that often?

*groaning inwardly*
Well, not anytime in the near future, I hope. But between two people who love each other sex is a wonderful thing, and someday you will probably be having it regularly.

OK. I think-- hey. wait a minute! Does that mean that you and Daddy have had sex more than twice?!

17 September, 2009

Photo update

Here is a bunch of photos that I took last week.
Customized souvenir brought back from ItalySelf portrait taken while riding a bicycle
As long as they don't blind someone with that umbrella S and cousin S are ready for any kind of weather!This was the pictogram for the women's restroom at the campground. ???

16 September, 2009

The fastest person on the whole world! [sic]

My speedy little Dutch boy in his pajamas and crocs on the campground...

(S and B made and edited this themselves using S's mobile phone.)

15 September, 2009


Hi! We're back and are caught up in the maelstrom that is the first week of school. So far, so good, but I'm having a pretty hard time adjusting to the early-morning regimen...

Schmutzie linked to this video clip and I just can't get enough of it. It's simple, elegant, and manages to make me cry every single time I watch it for some reason... (Be sure to click on "Full Screen" for maximum tear-jerker effect!)

04 September, 2009

On the road again!

We're rounding out Travelpalooza this summer with a week-long camping trip in Holland with M's parents. Am packing the camper for the last time and it's bittersweet! We've had such a great summer and in some ways it's hard to see it winding down!

The boys go back to school on the 14th and are not sure what to think about that. It's probably a good thing that we'll be away next week so that they'll be distracted and have less time to get nervous.

See you when we get back!

02 September, 2009

The high price of cheap food

Schmutzie posted a link to this article and I read it with horrified fascination. The statistics, while not surprising, are scary and eye-opening. (and hopeless. unless something changes soon we're going to eat ourselves out of house and home...)

Here are some of the more titillating statistics, but the title links to the whole article for those of you like me who wanted to know more...

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can't even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy.

Despite increasing public awareness, sustainable agriculture, while the fastest-growing sector of the food industry, remains a tiny enterprise: according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically.
As the developing world grows richer, hundreds of millions of people will want to shift to the same calorie-heavy, protein-rich diet that has made Americans so unhealthy — demand for meat and poultry worldwide is set to rise 25% by 2015 — but the earth can no longer deliver.

According to the USDA, Americans spend less than 10% of their incomes on food, down from 18% in 1966.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit.

With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it's no surprise we're so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.

American farmers now produce an astounding 153 bu. of corn per acre, up from 118 as recently as 1990. But the quantity of that fertilizer is flat-out scary: more than 10 million tons for corn alone — and nearly 23 million for all crops.

When runoff from the fields of the Midwest reaches the Gulf of Mexico, it contributes to what's known as a dead zone, a seasonal, approximately 6,000-sq.-mi. area that has almost no oxygen and therefore almost no sea life. Because of the dead zone, the $2.8 billion Gulf of Mexico fishing industry loses 212,000 metric tons of seafood a year, and around the world, there are nearly 400 similar dead zones. Even as we produce more high-fat, high-calorie foods, we destroy one of our leanest and healthiest sources of protein.

The UCS estimates that about 70% of antimicrobial drugs used in America are given not to people but to animals, which means we're breeding more of those deadly organisms every day.
Since 1935, consolidation and industrialization have seen the number of U.S. farms decline from 6.8 million to fewer than 2 million — with the average farmer now feeding 129 Americans, compared with 19 people in 1940.

The USDA estimates that Americans throw out 14% of the food we buy, which means that much of our record-breaking harvests ends up in the garbage.