Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I've Been Moved....

 Dear readers and friends, for reasons I'm not understanding myself yet completely but I've been told are very sound and professional I have moved my blog to Wordpress.
This idea was Margit's, who suggested I do this so I can publish my blog as ebook there, which she highly recommends (she really thinks my writing is good enough for that, and in a weak moment I believed her... she is a professional editor and copywriter after all).
So I spend all day yesterday getting acquainted with Wordpress and exporting and importing and page building, and now I'm quite pleased with the result.
Wordpress is indeed easy to handle and a lot sleeker than blogger.

If you have enjoyed my blogging attempts so far and wish to read on, please visit my new site at wordpress, under the same title and name.


Here is the link for you! See you there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I Have This Friend.....

You know, Hollywood is nothing.
Hollywood tells us how our dreams have to look, they give us PICTURES.
But Twitter, it gives us ideas, and then we can make the movies ourselves, in our heads. For instance, I have this one friend, Lanny, and she is the nicest and friendliest person, but I have no idea how she looks like or what she is really up to.
Only from her tweets, I have made this up about her:

Image you are leaving Paris to go to New York. It's early in the morning and you have just arrived and left your taxi, still annoyed at the driver ( he could be an evil-mooded Frenchman who hates the traffic at this time of day, or an immigrant who does not know his way around that well yet and got lost a couple of times, while you rant at him because you are afraid you'll miss your plane), and you step inside Charles de Gaulle to find it fairly crowded. It's filled with that typical airport smell of air conditioner, a whiff of kerosene,  lots of coffee, some fresh bread and luggage, the sounds of people chatting in a million languages, the ubiquitous announcer that no one ever can understand, and a couple of irritated screaming kids. Beside you on the escalator is a family from somewhere in the Middle East, the man up front and the veiled woman a few steps behind with a gaggle of children around her, up ahead some American tourists discussing the sights they have just seen on their trip through Europe, and a group of very efficient business travelers, and more tourists.

Despite your disinterested cabby, you are in good time, and the line for check-in is not too long. There is time for a cup of coffee and a croissant.
At an airport of this size, there are of course a number of places to get that, so you pick one that is relatively quiet and where the girl behind the counter does not look too sleepy.  In Paris of course, you get wonderful croissants, and if you are clever, you don't order  French coffee but something more international, let's say a Latte (honestly, the Italians are a lot better at making coffee).
And while you wait for that waitress to get your breakfast, you see this girl:

She looks as fresh as the dawn despite the early hour, and hey, NO sensible traveling clothes for her.
Oh no, Lanny is much too stylish for that. And of course she has a little more luggage than that, but that is being transported (Louis Vuitton, you know) by an obliging service man.
Lanny glides past like a fairy, utterly sure of where she wants to go, she has been here millions of times. Her face shows a trace of boredom, and she radiates a sense of being gone already, as if her mind is ahead of her at her destination. She is the epitome of a traveler, not really here anymore, but not completely gone yet either.
With a brief glance at her watch she sits down in one of the rest chairs in the lounge.

And as you sip your coffee you watch her get out her notebook to send off some tweets.
Transient. That is the word that comes to mind, seeing Lanny.
She belongs to no one, and yet she is never really alone. There is always someone waiting for her.
It is quite obvious she must be either in the fashion business or at least working for a fashion magazine, there is so much natural elegance and style about her.  Who else could type on those small keys so fast with those fingernails and the softly chiming gold bracelets? And the way she manages to cross her legs, that is well rehearsed. Oh, and no one else could carry off that hat at this time of day with so much grace.
A waiter serves her a cup of tea, which she accepts with a slight nod and another quick look at her watch.
Your flight is called, and she rises ahead of you to walk to the gate.
Boarding the plane, you catch a brief glimpse of her as she is being escorted to Fist Class before you fumble past your fellow travelers into your miserable middle seat and try to get comfortable for the long trans-Atlantic flight, and no wonder she will look rested and glamorous when you reach New York.

A few days later, strolling down 5th Avenue, a Maple Walnuts ice cream cone in your paw, dressed in comfortable tourist clothes, you might run into her again.

She is where she belongs, no?
But get it right, my friend: the plane ticket to Rio is in her purse already.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Day On The Beach

This year, after many cool years, we at last have a summer that is worth its name, with long, hot, sunny days and warm, still nights. So we went to the North Sea to spend a few days.
This is my son on the day we arrived, when the weather was not quite so nice, and no, he is not trying to part the waters to walk to America, but those clouds barely gave us time to dip our toes into the water and get back to the car. The sea, by the way, is a lot warmer than it looks. It was nearly as warm as the Mediterranean and the sand clean and lovely.
Sadly, that day it rained.
The following days we returned, and we mainly did this:

which means. the Kid tried to fly his kite for about ten seconds, and then I unraveled the cord for the next thirty minutes.  Second attempt at flying, another half hour unraveling..... and so on, until dinner time. I tried to get him to ask the more "professional" kite flyers for tips, but he refused... and I had to unravel again.

Thankfully, there was respite, with lunch, in lovely restaurants like this one.  Those fries look harmless, but they were more than excellent, and fresh made!
And should you wonder about the sock monkeys, please go visit our facebook page, the "Sisterhood Of The Mae Monkeys", for clarification.  All that needs to be said here is, thank you, Pea, for the wonderful idea.
Our hotel was this pretty house, right across from the restaurant.

The nicest house in the village. It really felt good to sit in the yard across the street and watch the many people who stopped and tok snapshots of it, and to know we were staying there.
This is the garden in the back of that house, right next to the path leading to the beach:

We used to sit in this place in the evenings and chat with the owner, and he told us stories about how the village was founded, and how people settled on the tine islands called "Halligen" just off the shore, and how they carve out a living there with their sheep and cattle, and how he and his wife bought the house twenty years ago and turned an old milk shop into a small but first-class hotel. We got recommendations where to go and buy the best smoked fish and homemade bread and which beaches to visit, and he told us not to think of buying a house there until we had visited the place at least ten times for vacation during  the different seasons, not that we had plans for doing that.
The beach is endless. You have to walk about half a mile to get from your car to the water, not a good thing for me right now with my broken back. And the public toilets are these houses:

I mean the one in the background, on the stilts. The stairs were NO fun.
Don't worry thought, there are pipes. The waste does not drop from up there into the water. It is quite clean. The bathroom, I mean. Oh, and yes, the beach and the water too.
There is another building like that a little further down the beach where they - supposedly - serve the best scrambled egg with North Sea shrimps and dark bread. Don't know if it's as good as the rumor, we never tried it. The stairs, you know.

Oh, one more thing. My son, age 15, tried his first ever coffee. And decided not to like it.

Can you see our hotel in the background?

We had to come home early because I was too ill for vacationing, but the few days we spent there was fun. And we'll try again next year. Maybe by then we'll also know how to fly a kite.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Because Ginny asked....

My dear Ginny, a wonderful facebook friend from Houston, after reading a "status" I had posted, asked if we rehearsed right up to showtime, and this made me think about a performance day really goes.
It also made me think of the little peak of iceberg others see when the curtain opens for my girls, of the many hours and weekends we put into it, and how "terrible" a show day is.
I'll try to give you a glimpse of the rest of the mountain.

This is what my troupe looked like 30 minutes before the show( photo courtesy of Fiona Ransom).
They are groomed, dressed, relaxed (more or less), well rehearsed and excited to take to the stage.


8am: School begins. For all of the kids, this is a normal school day. Which means they really don't want to be there at all, and MAN math is boring today, and can't we start rehearsals early? Do we REALLY have to go to class? Well yes, for a while, you need to. Sorry folks.
Generally, I'm in the teachers' room, getting the final copy of the CD and lyrics sheets ready ( you can BET someone forgot theirs). Which does not mean they will need them at night at all, but those papers are like a security belt during the day.

10.25am: the "big" break. A cluster of students outside the teachers' room, wanting to know if there's anything they need to know, do, change.... go outside, eat something, chill. Please.

12.00 noon: my technicians ( two 9th graders and two 5th graders) and I go over to the auditorium to start the set up. The school bought a really nice sound and light equipment for us, as far as schools go, a couple of years ago, and spent about 10k$ for it. And it is EXCLUSIVELY ours. No one else in the school is allowed to use it. And we have really, really good microphones ( the same brand Neil Diamond used on his tour in 2008.... made me feel very important!). The boys will do a sound check, of course, and I time how long it will take for our headmistress to show up and complain about the noise.... after all, the rest of the school is still having lessons. No matter. We like to announce that it is show day.

1pm: the girls start to arrive. Some of them have their lunch in hand and have to stay outside (NO eating in the auditorium!!!), the others use the stage as couch. The usual picture would be: four or five teenagers lying around on their tummies, cell phones or iPods in hand, sharing and talking about music.

1.15pm: the first pantyhose emergency.

2pm: rehearsals start in earnest. First nervous breakdown because someone forgot her lyrics and needs a sheet < why I was in school early and made new copies.

2.10pm: trouble with the microphone cables. Ildal throws a tantrum. Only a mild one, and it is over as soon as I hand over my own, privately-owned Sennheiser mike. For now.

3pm: We did the setlist once, and there are no major flaws. The girls are getting nervous because they want to dress up. I tell them they have another four hours, and to relax. We call a break. Despite dire threats to life and general well-being two or three disappear to the church yard across the street for a cigarette. My hubby brings me something to eat and fresh coffee.
By now, my son Mario has joined us and gets sound and light properly rigged with the boys. Suddenly, the music sounds a lot better and the disco lights are working..... the auditorium is darkened, stage magic appears. The atmosphere changes, and the kids' mood with it.
This is a moment I love every time we perform, and it is very tangible.
Only a moment before, we were at school and rehearsing, now we are in a venue, and getting ready to perform.

4pm: our dressers show up. The performers retire to the dressing rooms below the stage to get ready.

4.10: second pantyhose emergency

4.30: lipstick and mascara emergency

4.33: another speech about how NOT to use perfume before you go on stage. Geez.

4.45: Ildal takes her second tantrum, this time worse and LOUDER!!!! than the one before. Her voice sounds especially dramatical in the basement hallway.

5pm: At least half of the teachers notice now that they did not buy tickets for the show and want some.
Which is distracting but nice, because it means they will come.

5.12: third pantyhose emergency, and first dress emergency. Frantic calls to older mothers and sisters, who show up minutes later with alternate clothing.

5.25: Ildal ( who is 18) and a couple of others who aren't need another cigarette.

5.30: fourth pantyhose emergency, because Ildal sat  down on a bench in the church yard and tore hers.

5.58: first bra emergency

6.00: box office opens. A couple of older brothers sell tickets and do security duty. Some 5th graders try to wheedle their way in without paying, which is sternly denied.

6.10: a brief warm up in the basement hallway. Chasing out some curious 10th grade boys at the same time.

6.22: second bra emergency. The safety pins and tape come out of my big bag.

6.25: Ildal throws her third tantrum, this time with tears and vows to quit RIGHT NOW. She is sent off for another cigarette with the admonition to return ASAP because her make up has to be redone.

6.30: the gates open. I'm not yet changed, sweaty and exhausted and near panic. And - uh oh - the mayor of our city walks up to me and shakes my sticky paw. That's just what I wanted. Well, he is also my boss, so he might as well see that I do indeed work for my money.

6.50: the auditorium is  filled to the last seat. The lighting and sound are working. Technic team are on their places. Curtain is closed. Both headmistresses have shown up, nearly all teachers are there. Reporters from local newspaper and from the big paper in Hamburg are present. Mayor and other politicians are here.

6.58: one last visit to the dressing room: the girls are serenity incarnate. We form a huddle. We hug. I cry a bit.

7pm: back in the auditorium and in my seat next to the nice headmistress. Soaked through, ready to drop, sore from shouting at Ildal.

The music begins, the spot light lights up, and the curtain opens: and yes, every minute was worth the effort.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

English: the living language

I'm going to be mean today.
it's graduation exam time, and the 9th graders who are about to leave school are studying for their oral English exams next week. They come to me for coaching,  hoping I'll be able to teach them everything they did not learn during their past four years in two days. But "That's not how it works," of course,  said with the wonderful words of my novel's female main character.
The first part of their test is an introduction of themselves and their families.
So I tell them to write it down in German first, and then to translate it, and then we do the corrections together.
Today, I was served this by a girl. She is 17,  her origins are Turkish, and she is one of the GOOD students. just to give you an idea. And a laugh. Go ahead. Don't think of the girl, think of the garbled language and enjoy. I'm going to copy it out for you. Verbatim.

About my family is that. I going with my parents often in the same shopping center.
On the weekend when the sun shines we go whole family to the same (the river is in Wedel).*
We grill there the whole family and play there a lot of things like volleyball.
Another thing is that we fly in the summer holidays in Turkey after Antalya. We stay there in the hotel stay for weeks and then 2-3. We then visit my uncle in Antalya and the other known in Antalya.
After we drive to Gaziantep the drive to G. takes about 14-15 hours.
When we arrived in G.for my uncle before bus station.  Our village is located about 60 km from the city. 
There waiting for us we are in our village verwandten. We then where all our well-known. Our whole town then come to us to say hello and we kiss and then left to right, Then come my friends and cousin to suit me hello.
In our village are only drive a bus stop where the buses at 6.00 in the morning and come to 2 clock will be so again. As the court is legally there great celebration. From our village  is a small brock which flows out to Eufirat. In this little brock there are 40 small also the pose from among the raussfliesst.
When we go the whole family for picnics.
We go there with the tractors but most of the few routes  to go on foot because the stretch is quite dangerous  because the ride is uncomfortable.
We stay 4-6 days in the village then we drive into town to buy something for the road home. Example, when accounting, baclava, pistachio and wider clothes.
So our adventure ends holiday in Turkey.

*The river here in Wedel is called "Elbe", not "same".

And no, I'm kidding you not.