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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 20: Back in Krut

I have a stomach ache. My stomach has hurt a lot here in Europe, it definitely and noticeably did last night and tonight. So I drink a lot of tea, and it doesn’t help my stomach one bit, but it helps me digest the pain. I think when I get back to the states, I’m going to do a reverse-elimination diet (or something like that, in concept my name is correct). A friend of my moms told me about it. You (meaning me, but who talks like that?) start off with a diet of ridiculously bland and inoffensive foods, like rice. Slowly, you add back in regular foods, starting with the second most bland and inoffensive, and working toward the usual culprits. I will probably find that I’m reacting to a.) bread, b.) cheese, c.) meat, or d.) German, which are all impossible to avoid here, and I’m not sure I’m willing to give up a-c. I’m willing to give up on German, but German is not giving up on me, not yet.

My plans and itinerary have changed, yet again. Nina is willing and interested to go to Hamburg with me, but it was too expensive to go this week, which was my original plan. So last night I called up my mother’s cousin Francis, and told her, “I’m getting on a train tomorrow, and it’s either going to Ingolstadt to visit you for a few days, or to Dresden.” She said I could come. I probably won’t see Dresden before Germany relinquishes its grasp on me, but I like these people, a lot, and they seem to like me! What’s a European experience without some Bavarian pig-farming in a town of 60 people? By the way, Georg plays accordian in a traditional Bavarian band. They wear lederhosen in the pictures, and have been at it for more than 20 years.

The train ride, for once, was not exciting. There was a lot of tunnel and fog, I didn’t even pretend to be paying attention to what was happening outside the windows. I did have a search for English books, having read the two paperbacks I brought. My first attempt only brought me a Sudoku book, which I may manage to complete the easy third, but I haven’t even finished my first puzzle yet. The second attempt, from a very small selection (two shelves in a tiny bookcase in the corner of a small buch & presse shop) yielded Slum Dog Millionaire, and A Most Wanted Man by le Carré, who also wrote The Constant Gardner. It seems to be a spy-thriller taking place in Hamburg, and I was expecting it to be written better.

The end of the train ride was eventful, I got in at 2:45 and Francis wasn’t able to pick me up until 3:30. I read in the sun, in what was originally a visible area, but people kept pulling up in front of my bench and leaving every time I decided to move. At 3:35 I started to get worried, given how on-time the Germans are, and saw Francis drive by without seeing me, looking worried. I ran after and waved my arms, hoping she’d see me in the rearview mirror, but she didn’t. Then began the attempts at communication. First, I hauled out my two cell phones (one with numbers, the other that works - in German). I looked her up by last name, and she wasn’t there! So I started calling all the numbers in my functional cellphone, which was amusing in and of itself. Finally I got a hold of my grandmother, who gave me her home number, wrong. When I went to program it in, I found that lo and behold, the information was stored under her first name! I called both home numbers, talked to Georg which didn’t really accomplish much, given the language barrier, but he called Francis who called me. She picked me up (now standing in a very visible location, in the shade) once she finished her impromptu shopping trip.

After dinner, Frances had to go to the equivalent of a parent-teacher meeting at Lily’s kindergarten. This left Georg, Lily, and I to fend for ourselves in three different languages. Georg taught me the Bavarian equivalent of catch-all “um” or “well,” it’s “mei,” pronounced, “my.” Lily had a few breakdowns and many banging-things-together impulses. When I tried to help with the dishes, Georg asked me to just sit at the end of the bench seat, effectively corralling her to a no-harm zone, but she immediately saw through that ruse and fussily tried to get around me. I finally let her free, and lured her to a different part of the house by playing, “Steal Lily’s ball and then let her chase after it,” a slightly modified version of, “Catch.” Georg came in a while later, visibly impressed that I’d gotten her to stop crying and leave him alone for long enough to be productive. Yeah, I’m that good.

When Frances returned, she talked about the dynamics of the meeting, which I never would expect to be good, but this sounded particularly bad. Given the small-town-iness of the region, and the low populations associated with such small towns, the kindergarten is shared between Montessori and non-Montessori. The Montessori teachers do not allow the Montessori kids and non-Montessori kids play together. The Montessori parents’ antics make McCain-Palin crowd seem reserved. The Montessori kids and the non-Montessori kids spend their recesses with their faces pressed against either side of the window, wanting to play. What the hell? I had always thought Montessori was the hippie alternative school, with imagination and colors and feelings and no rules, but what I’ve heard makes it sound like cadet school for the close-minded left.

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