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Oh Bwunhiwda, you’re so wuvvwy…

So this semester, I’m taking a German Literature course, entitled Knights, God and the Devil.  We had our first class meeting last Tuesday and I’m completely enthralled by what we are currently reading: Das Niebelungenlied. Even though I majored in German, somehow I missed this seminal work of German literature.  It’s absolutely fascinating to me, about knights, kings, jousting tournaments, a magic cape and, oh, yeah, an incredibly strong female character named Brünhild.  This image of her is from an 1897 postcard by the artist Gaston Bussière.

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Before really studying Brünhild and the Niebelungens, most of what I knew about the story (which, admittedly, was very little) came from Richard Wagner’s operatic Ring Cycle.  His tale diverges from the legends; also, Brünhild and some of the other major characters like Siegfried appear in other Nordic sagas, but they don’t always play the same role.

In Das Niebelungenlied, Brünhild is a woman of astounding power.  She happens to be quite beautiful and she is a powerful queen in her kingdom (Island).  Long story short, King Gunther from the German city of Worms decides he wants to marry the powerful queen Brünhild.  (Why is it that the men always assume that they can simply choose their bride without consulting her first?  Is this courtly love?  I am sure I shall find out!).  Gunther consults his best men, including Siegfried.  Siegfried is a king from his own country but wishes to marry Gunther’s sister Kriemhild (once again, Siegfried simply decides one day that this is the woman he wants to marry.  Fortunately, when they see each other for the first time, it is love at first sight).  Anyway, Siegfried advises Gunther to take him along on the trip to Island, which is Brünhild’s land.  Siegfried has a magical cloak, a Tarnkappe, which renders him invisible.  How he acquired the cloak is another story that I’d like to read some day.  At any rate, Siegfried knows of Brünhild’s power and must help Gunther defeat Brünhild in three contests.  The men prevail, but not without fearing for their lives.

Brünhild agrees to marry Gunther and they travel back to his kingdom.  On the wedding night, Gunther, in his eagerness to take his bride, upsets her.  I love this bit: she, the ultra-powerful woman, infuriated by her husband’s behavior, removes her braided belt and ties him up, then hangs him on a hook in the wall.  Wow.  We weren’t assigned to read that far in the text, but I couldn’t help myself.  I just had to know what was going to happen.  What a gal, eh?  A rendition of the scene from the artist Johann Heinrich Füssli:

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Look at Brünhild, just comfortably lounging there in her white gown, while her newly acquired husband is bound and hanging like an animal. She lets him down…eventually.  He returns to the wedding bed but basically stays as far away from her as possible.

The next morning, Siegfried, knowing her power, discretely inquires how Gunther’s wedding night went.  Gunther, poor man, is completely depressed and despondent.  Siegfried decides to help by disguising himself with his cloak of invisibility and fights Brünhild in the wedding bed, then when it’s clear he prevails over Brünhild, he quietly slips away and lets Gunther take his rightful place as Brünhild’s husband.  And, once she and Gunther consummate their marriage, she loses her extraordinary powers and becomes like any other woman.

But there’s a whole lot of interesting ideas in that very fact: her virginity is what lets her keep her extraordinary strength and power; by becoming a married woman, she gives up her power.  I have a feeling I’m going to be writing about this for my class and I’m eager to do some research on it.

As I’ve been reading along, however, I can’t get Wagner out of mind and even more so, I can’t not think of the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, What’s Opera, Doc? which you can find on Youtube. Here’s Chuck Jone’s rendition of Brünhild, Bugs-Bunny-in-drag-style:

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Bugs Bunny isn’t at all like how our great queen is described in the actual text.  I mean, he’s a bunny after all.  But isn’t he just amazing – the winged helmet, the flowing golden braids, the pink eyeshadow and lengthy eyelashes, the golden Bustenhalter, the pink mini skirt?  And the horse!  You can’t forget the voluptuous horse:

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It’s wonderful.  Horribly inaccurate, but wonderful.  And clearly, the Looney Tunes artists are making fun of high Wagnerian opera.

On that note, I leave you with: SMOG!  If you know the cartoon, you’ll know what I mean.

 

 

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The newest photographer in the family

For Christmas, Rosebud got a new digital camera. It’s specifically for little kids because they can drop it and it won’t break. The camera also has a swiveling view finder so that they can take self portraits. I love the pictures she’s been taking so far. Take a look at a few of her shots:

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Guten Rutsch!

We hope that all of our visitors to our blog have had a Merry Christmas! It’s hard to fathom that is almost 2012 and we wish everyone “einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr” (a German expression wishing a good start to the New Year).

I resolve to update the blog more frequently in 2012. I haven’t written anything lately because of our move back to Indiana in the US and because I’m not sure which direction I wish to take for our blog. I have decided to continue writing about our family and also to write about issues relating to the German language and culture, and also teaching.

Briefly, here is what we have been doing for the past four months. We arrived in the US in early September. Very shortly after our arrival, I was offered a temporary teaching position in a nearby high school. A German teacher there was on maternity leave, so it was a perfect opportunity for me. I finished teaching at the end of November and loved the students, the school district and of course was thrilled to be teaching about the German language and culture that I love so much. I know that many of the students benefited from hearing about my experiences living in Bavaria. It also made me realize just how much I personally have learned from our three years in Bavaria.

In early October, our household goods arrived at our home in Indiana. We still have tons of boxes to unpack. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to unpack at least one box every week.

In November, besides keeping busy with teaching, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my side of the family. That was wonderful. Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday, one which I missed while living in Europe. It never felt quite the same in Germany, when it was essentially just us celebrating this unique holiday.

I also severely sprained my ankle in November. You see, Rosebud is now going to Samstagschule to keep up with her German. The Deutschschule is on Saturday mornings at the International School of Indiana, and the program is run through IUPUI (Indiana U.-Purdue U. at Indianapolis). On this one particular Saturday, I was asked to substitute teach Rosebud’s class. A few of the children got away from the group and as I was chasing after them, I fell and immediately realized I had probably sprained my ankle. My ankle is much better than it was, but it has made it a little hard for me to get around, especially at first.

Then, this December, we have been quite busy with the holidays. I must say, as much as I miss Christmas in Germany and the Christkindlmarkt (among other things), it has been so good to be home with family to celebrate. Even though we came home for Christmas each of the years we were living in Germany, it’s different when you are living in proximity to family and have less time constraints due to travel.

But I have fondly thought about my visits the the Christkindlmarkt in Bad Tölz, among others, and the beautiful snow in Bavaria that you get this time of year. It’s been unseasonably warm here in Indianapolis, and in that regard, it hasn’t quite felt like Christmas to me. I miss the delicious foods you can buy at this time of year in Germany, the simple and tasteful decorations and most significantly, the lesser amount of commercialism in Germany. I’ve really been struck by just how commercial the season has become here in the United States, and that bothers me.

Anyway, we are all doing well and looking forward to 2012. We plan to travel quite a bit. David and I will go to Palm Springs, California at the end of January; in March, I hope to go to Kansas with the children as our dear neighbors in Germany will be there visiting their family and then over the summer, I am eager to return to Bavaria to visit our friends there. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of Bavaria and feel at times like the language and culture are slipping away from me, so I feel like I must visit!

Best wishes to all of you and a very happy, blessed New Year in 2012.

You can take the girl out of Germany, but you can’t take Germany out of the girl.

view of the Alps from Sindelsdorf

Most of our friends and family know that our time in Bavaria is coming to a close. At the tail end of July, David was offered a new position at a company in Indianapolis. His new job begins on September 12, so we will be moving back home a few days before that.

When we first moved to Bavaria, we intended to stay here for awhile. Once we are back in Indiana, it will have been after three years here and I feel like the time has just flown by so quickly. Ultimately, this is a good move for our family as we will be near our extended family and friends back home. That is not to say I will not miss living in Germany and Bavaria, quite the contrary.

There have been many advantages to living where we do: we’ve loved all the hiking and sight-seeing spots that are so close by; we’ve enjoyed all the kid-friendly activities; we’ve especially loved living within such close proximity to the world-class city of Munich.

What will I miss most of all? My friends here, of course. I’ve been so touched by the kindness of my German mama friends and their families, and they’ve done more for me than I can possibly say.

As for this blog, I do intend to update it, as often as I do now (which is about twice a month – I’d like to update it more frequently than that, but having little kids affords me less time than I’d like to write). I will continue to write about the German-speaking world, as it is my passion. Without a doubt, I know I’ll travel back to Germany with Rosebud and Superdude so they continue to be exposed to the language and culture. Having them learn the language and appreciate that things are done differently is extremely important to me.

As I am a German teacher, I have plenty of contacts within the German community in Indianapolis. I hope to go back to teaching German, provided I can find the right position. I miss teaching more than anything; now that I’ve lived in Germany for three years, I can share my experiences and knowledge of living here with my students. For a non-native speaking teacher, that’s quite remarkable and something that will benefit future students.

Our daughter Rosebud’s German is really taking off, so I’m especially saddened that we are moving at this crucial point in her language acquisition. Fortunately, I have found a Saturday morning German language program for kids between the ages of 3-12. The program is offered by Indiana U-Purdue U at Indianapolis (IUPUI) and run by a colleague of mine. I’m very excited that Rosebud has at least this option to continue learning German and to meet other kids who will be learning the language with her.

So that is our family news. We have a lot to accomplish in the next three weeks. More importantly, there are some local places I hope we can visit before we leave. It’s a little strange to be doing things for the last time, or at least, for quite awhile before I can make a return visit.

Birthing Superdude, Part 2

Here is the second part of my story, Birthing Superdude, Part 2 post at Gen X Moms Blog. I’m so glad I got to share my story with everyone.

edited to add the text I wrote for Gen X Moms:

At around 12:30pm, the midwife broke my water and I had the urge to start pushing. The midwife then asked me to sit and brace one leg against her waist, and asked me to hold my other leg as the contractions came. At first I thought to myself, “are you crazy? I’m huge and barely limber and you want me to do what?” But I did as she asked, and it was a great position to give birth. It felt surprisingly natural for me to brace my legs that way so I could push. I was also feeling unbearably hot and flushed, so my husband used a damp cloth to wipe off my face for me.

I was in a lot of pain, but it was manageable, in large part because of how the midwife helped me with breathing and also how she had me positioned. She also gave me a citrus homeopathic nose spray to help manage the pain. My contractions started to get slightly irregular and some weren’t as strong as they needed to be, so the midwife first consulted my doctor (who was on his way to the clinic) and then she asked me if it would be okay to give me just a little Pitocin. I readily agreed because I too felt it would help. After the midwife administered the drip for the Pitocin, I immediately noticed the difference in terms of the intensity and regularity of my contractions. By this point, the baby was well on his way and things progressed very quickly.

My doctor had not yet arrived, so one of the other doctors came to attend to me until my doctor arrived. This doctor said to me, “Your baby is having a bit of trouble getting around the curve of your pelvis. I should also tell you that I’m known as the slightly mean doctor,” he joked. “I’m going to help you push your baby around the curve of your pelvis, by pushing down on him.” And sure enough, the doctor pressed down on my stomach to push the baby down; I believe that the midwife guided the baby’s head as the doctor did this. My husband said that from his perspective, it looked as if the doctor was trying to get the very last pickle out of the pickle jar! And it worked; our baby needed that extra little shove to get his head around the pelvis. If you’re wondering if this procedure hurt, I can’t honestly remember, but I can tell you I was both grateful for the doctor’s assistance and relieved because almost immediately, my baby reached the point where he crowned.

As the doctor guided my baby, the midwife told me she could see his hair, which gave me a little extra encouragement to keep working through the contractions. My own doctor had arrived to finish the delivery of our baby. I will freely admit that I was in a lot of pain, especially as the baby crowned. Knowing that labor would be over very soon helped me not think about the pain too much. As I had commented to the midwife earlier, the pain wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it served to help me know that my contractions were productive.

Finally, at 1:53 pm, our baby’s head emerged and then I was easily able to push out his body. Since I didn’t have pain medication, I acutely felt the sensations of pushing out his head and his body. I liked feeling everything, despite the intense pain, because I knew I was in control the whole time during all aspects of labor. After our baby was born, the midwife quickly toweled him off and put him on my chest, covering him and me so we would stay warm. I was able to start nursing him right away and enjoy that intimate moment of meeting my little guy for the first time. I didn’t have this experience with Rosebud, due to health concerns, so I especially cherished this immediate meeting of our new baby.

My husband and I were in awe of our newborn, as all new parents are; during this first meeting, we switched to speaking English (prior to this point, we were conversing in German with the exception of some exchanges between my husband and me). It was only natural to greet our son in his mother tongue! During this time, my doctor delivered the placenta and massaged my uterus and my husband chose to cut the umbilical cord. A little while later, the doctor examined our baby to make sure that our baby was as healthy as he appeared to be. The slight pain I felt from the afterbirth contractions surprised me; with the previous birth of our daughter, I hadn’t noticed the afterbirth contractions.

After we had had a chance to bond as a family, the midwife then cleaned up Superdude, filled out a little card with his birth statistics (3580 grams – about 7.9 pounds; 52 centimeters long – 20.5 inches) and even made a footprint for us. Aren’t baby feet irresistibly cute? Superdude also received a t-shirt that said in Bavarian: I bin a Tölzerl Kindl (I’m a Tölzer kid/baby).

Many of my friends, having seen this photo, have commented on how well I look after having given birth. And it’s true, I felt amazing. I was relieved that everything went so well and proud that I was able to give birth without needing pain medication. I also felt grateful that I was no longer pregnant. Most of these feelings, of course, were due to that natural high a woman can feel after giving birth. I do think that not having had any pain medication helped, however, and my recovery was quick following our baby’s birth.

My stay at the hospital was relatively uneventful. Superdude developed jaundice so we stayed from his birth on Friday through the following Tuesday morning. Fortunately, he recovered from the jaundice without too much difficulty.

Once I returned home, one of the midwives associated with the clinic made home visits. This too is covered by the public health insurance with no extra cost to me. My midwife visited me seven times within three weeks. If I have any further questions or concerns, she will visit me again. During her visits, the midwife wanted to be sure that Superdude was recovering well from the jaundice and that he was gaining weight. She also ensured that I was emotionally and physically well. Had I needed breastfeeding assistance, she would be there to ask questions and solve any breastfeeding problems as needed (I nursed my daughter successfully and consequently have had no issues nursing Superdude). In addition to looking in on us, my midwife simply spent time with me and chatted with me about life in Bavaria. I really enjoyed our little chats, which has been good practice for my German. I could have really used this same level of postpartum care after Rosebud was born. With her, I had a rough start and had I received home visits from a compassionate and understanding midwife, things may have gone much more smoothly.

My midwife also offers an hour-long Rückenbildungskurs, or what we might call a core-strengthening and postpartum posture-correcting class. I will go once a week to this class once the postpartum period of six weeks is over. Not only am I looking forward to the exercise and to seeing the midwife again, but also it will give me a chance to meet other women who have recently given birth.

Although I received excellent care with my first pregnancy, I’ve been impressed with the health care I’ve experienced all throughout my experience with Superdude. Not all hospitals and clinics necessarily share the same philosophy as what I experienced. By and large, though, I think that the German healthcare system tends to treat pregnancy more as a healthy and normal stage of life for a woman, rather than as an illness.

Had I developed preeclampsia, I would have absolutely received the same type of care as I did in the United States. However, I know that the midwives would have done what they could to make the birthing event relatively normal. If there were any chance of us having another baby, I would want to give birth again at the clinic in Bad Tölz, because I had such a positive experience. I wish that more women in the United States would get to experience something like this, because I think there would be far fewer interventions and complications.

The midwives make a huge difference. They are there to let a woman experience birth the way she wants to experience it. I never felt pressured to make any decisions and I always felt like the midwife and my doctor truly respected my wishes. That is the way it should be, and it made for an amazing birth experience.

Tea Time in Munich

Munich, being a world-class city, has plenty of various restaurant offerings, not just the traditional Bavarian fare. A few weekends ago, Rosebud and I went to Munich with our friends Veronika and her daughter Lilly. We had hoped to go to the zoo, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

We thought about going to the Deutsches Museum, the German Museum, which is the Museum of Technology and Industry. It’s the largest museum of its kind, similar to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. In fact, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry was inspired by the Deutsches Museum. Unfortunately for us, we arrived a few minutes too late to gain admission to the Deutsches Museum – that will be for another day.

Instead, Veronika suggested we have Cream Tea at the Victorian House on the Viktualienmarkt. It turned out to be an excellent idea, as the tea house was fairly empty owing to an upcoming World Cup match between Germany and Australia. I tend to mostly drink tea, myself, so I was excited to have a proper Cream Tea. We ordered an Orange Pekoe tea and had some of the yummiest scones, served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Rosebud hadn’t tasted strawberry jam before. It was love at first bite.

Rosebud discovers her love for strawberry jam, on a scone with clotted cream

She liked the scone with the clotted cream, and enjoyed drinking tea with me. But the strawberry jam was definitely the highlight of Cream Tea for Rosebud. She kept asking me to put more on her half of the scone. It was very cute!

Cream Tea at the Victorian House, Munich, near the Viktualienmarkt

Veronika in the Victorian House, enjoying Cream Tea

The scones were the best I’ve ever tasted – but then again, I don’t think that the scones you find in the United States are quite like what are made in the UK. The scones were barely sweetened, buttery and absolutely delicious; the clotted cream was heavenly. The Victorian House has a sconery and tea to go location. I think the next time I’m in Munich, I need to find it so I can bring home a few scones. We now have some locally-made strawberry jam, so Rosebud will be able to have as much jam on her scone as she likes!

Planes, trains and automobiles

We are still in the process of getting our 2009 Toyota Prius certified by the German government. Here every vehicle has to go through the TÜV process which is like a vehicle inspection. It’s very extensive, and we were told that we would need to have our headlights changed to xenon ones, plus a few other modifications on the headlamp system to make it up to German standards. Xenon lights are expensive. Originally we thought the work would be done at the Toyota Dealership in Bad Tölz. The mechanic there said it would cost us around 4,000 Euro. That’s a lot of money! Fortunately, the mechanic said he would make some calls to see if he could get us an exemption.

He didn’t succeed in that, but the mechanic did manage to find a special TÜV office and mechanic, called US Cars 24 in the city of Wuppertal, who will do the required work for less than half of what we would have paid in Tölz, and in addition, not all of the modifications will be needed because this business has the necessary exemptions and exceptions needed.

Our car arrived in Germany in mid-February, but we haven’t been able to drive it apart from a few occasions. In order to receive our permanent license plates, we need to have the car certified, basically, and until we have the green light from the TÜV process, we are not able to get our license plates.

In order to have the work done, we needed to figure out how to transport our car to their business. It made the most sense for one of us to drive our Prius there. We decided that I would drive up to Wuppertal on Tuesday (yesterday), and originally I was going to take Rosebud with me. David was able to stay home yesterday and care for our daughter. This made things immensely easier for me.

Where is Wuppertal in relation to where we live? Wuppertal is 680 kilometers to the northwest us, or about 422 miles. That’s similar to me driving from Indianapolis, Indiana to Memphis, Tennessee. Wuppertal is in the German state of Nordrhein Westfalen, which has the largest population density in Germany. When you look at the map, you can see how many cities there are in that region, including Bonn, Köln (Cologne), Düsseldorf and Dortmund.

When I started my drive on Tuesday morning at 7:00 am, I actually didn’t have an address – when I had called the evening before to say I was driving there with my car, I think the office had already closed. All I knew is that I needed to drive to Wuppertal (my mechanic in Bad Tölz didn’t know the name of the company, just that they specialize in the TÜV process for American-imported vehicles). Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with the secretary during my first stop outside of Ulm. She gave me precise directions in how to get to their business, and indeed her directions were easy to follow.

It took me seven hours to arrive at my destination, in part because I stopped a few times and also because I don’t feel comfortable driving quite as fast as some German drivers do on the Autobahn. It’s true that in most places on the Autobahn, there isn’t a speed limit. But I would say most drivers seemed to go around 130 km per hour in unmarked zones. That’s equivalent to 80 miles per hour. I personally was more comfortable driving around 110-120 km per hour, around 68-74 mph. I didn’t want to go too slow, because it’s also good to keep up with traffic.

The Autobahn is like the US Interstate system, although to my knowledge there aren’t any toll portions. And like in the US, if you follow the signs, you’ll get where you need to go – with one caveat. In comparison to driving on a US Interstate highway, I feel that there is less time to change lanes if I needed to merge onto another Autobahn highway (like merging onto another Interstate highway). It wasn’t a problem, but I think that as an American driver, you just have to know that you need to react more quickly to information posted in comparison to driving in the US. One thing that is awesome about the Autobahn is how well maintained it is. As far as that goes, the roads are generally in much better condition that the US Interstate system.

I did run into a number of Baustellen – construction zones. Ah, yes – they’re ubiquitous. But because it was a Tuesday morning, the construction zones didn’t really delay me all that much. It was a little harrying on the A1 to Wuppertal, because the driving lanes were narrower than I like, but fortunately that was just a small part of my drive.

I was warmly greeted at UScars24 when I arrived. Also, I couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous vintage cars in the parking lot, including a blue 60’s era Chevy Malibu muscle car and what I think was a cream-colored 50’s era Buick of some sort. I am not a car person so I am sorry I can’t give more details for those of you who are into cars. And when I entered the main office, I was delighted by the lovingly decorated reception: 50’s Americana, à la Route 66. They also had a wall of US and Canadian license plates. I’m tempted to bring them our Indiana Environmental plate for their wall! Needless to say, with the warm reception and care I received, I felt no qualms whatsoever leaving my baby car with them.

Then one of the owners of the business drove me to the Wuppertal train station so I could catch the local express to the Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof (main train station), and then the express to the airport in Düsseldorf. On our way to the train station, the owner and I talked a little about the city of Wuppertal. It’s basically in a steep valley, with the buildings built up the sides of the valley. One of the neatest things you can visit in Wuppertal is the Schwebebahn, which is a suspended train that runs through the central valley of Wuppertal and is still used today for local transportation to get from one end of the city to the other. The suspended train is a beautiful structure and unique. I don’t know if there are any other trains like this in the world. The last time I visited Wuppertal was in 1994 when I was an exchange student, and we got to ride in the same historic train coach (or at least, a replica) that had been commissioned for Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Schwebebahn is definitely worth visiting.

It was a piece of cake to take the trains to the Düsseldorf airport (which is a lovely airport, by the way). My wait in the airport and my flight back to München were the most relaxing part of my day, actually. I had several hours to myself and actually got to do some reading! This was very exciting for a parent of a toddler who usually reads books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and The Going to Bed Book.

I arrived in the Munich airport a little after 20:00 (8:00 pm), and caught the next S-Bahn to the station where I needed to change trains to head back home to Bad Tölz. When my S-Bahn arrived in the train station, my train to Bad Tölz was at the next platform… just ready to depart. I missed it by a minute! And unfortunately that meant I had to wait for another hour to catch the next train at 22:00 (10:00 pm), and it was cold and windy in the station which didn’t have a place to sit, other than on the platform. But I got on the train to Bad Tölz with no difficulties, and arrived in Bad Tölz at 23:00 (11:00 pm). It was raining by this point, so it wasn’t much fun waiting for my taxi. I was so relieved when it arrived at the train station. I finally got home by 23:30 or so.

Such a long day of automobile, trains, plane, trains and automobile once again! It was really good that I didn’t have to worry about caring for Rosebud, because that would have made the day feel even longer. I was pretty wiped out by such a long, involved day – but the main thing is, our car is now on its way to being finished and certified for us, which will give us a lot more independence.