Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's wishing you all a wonderful day with family and friends!

As if to help us expats celebrate in style, Mainz thoughtfully opened the Christmas market a few days early this year and it snowed! The early opening had more to do with a televised Christmas opera (which necessitated a festive backdrop) than Thanksgiving, but nothing reminds you to go xmas shopping like snow!! And it is very pretty snow, too--very white and clean.

The snow and Gluehwein have pretty much inaugurated the Christmas season, so if you haven't started making your list, you had better get on it! And even better than circulating it among friends and family, you can send your Briefumschlag directly to St. Nick! You have a couple of options for this, depending on your particular beliefs concerning Santa's residence.

the North Pole: If you prefer an old-fashioned, hand-written note, here's the address for you: Santa, North Pole. On the other hand, if you have less time to spend crafting such a missal, you can also email him at any number of websites, including

Himmelpfort: or, "Heaven's Gate." Most German children address their letters to St. Nicholas at Weihnachtsmann, Weihnachtspostfiliale, 16798 Himmelpfort. In fact, St. Nicholas is in cahoots with Deutsche Post these days, so you can even find a personal note from him on their website:

Santa's Letter

And the best part about mailing a letter to Himmelpfort is that you are guaranteed a reply back. Santa, world traveler that he is, will respond in Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, English, French, German, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, Japanese, Dutch and Hungarian.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving here at Dotde gives us time to reflect on how rare sweet potatoes are in Germany. So much so that I, after being asked, spent several minutes in class today talking about the different ways to cook them into delicious meals. This mostly meant that I repeated "Uhh, whatever you can do with a potato, you can do with a sweet potato" several times because their practical knowledge of pie is still limited at these early stages of their language instruction. And I wasn't very equipped to draw a casserole on the board, nevermind ready to talk about the greater nutritional benefits of the sweet stuff.

But, apparently, sweet potatoes are starting to inch their way onto the German Billboard Vegetable charts (if you just happen to be interested in vegetables AND music, consider sweet potatoes right around the Billboard Music's rank of The Regis Philbin Christmas Album--a couple spaces below butternut squash).

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is as rare in Germany as the vegetable that makes this holiday a delight for us here at Dotde. However, that doesn't mean we can't wish a wonderful day for our reading audience in Davis, Phoenix, Portland, Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and wherever you may find yourself today.

Covet those SPs.

Monday, November 21, 2005

D's most recent "Street or Sidewalk" challenge reminded me of this photograph I took a couple weeks ago on the first day of Karnival--the first and only day Mainz'll have until lent. Hence all the trash on the ground in both pictures. Apparently there was quite a parade earlier in the day, or so I hypothesize. I took this picture not to share Karnival with you readers around the world. Rather, when I passed this location earlier in the day on the bus to work, I bore witness to an enormous duck gracing the Platz. Of course, when I reported the existence of this duck back to D, she didn't believe me. Much like she doesn't believe my armchair hypotheses about truffle-hunting dogs and the dominance of German architecture's use of steel and glass.

And yes, while I admit those are completely armchair, I do know when I see an enormous duck sitting in a city. And when I say enormous, I mean it towered up until the 3rd floor of the building you're looking at. Imagine yourself showering in the third floor bathroom and opening a window afterwards to let steam escape (so as not to establish a mold colony in your most frequented room). Now imagine, upon opening such a window, a gigantic duck staring at your sparsely towelled body...

Where has the bird gone? I don't know (it really couldn't fit in that truck, as much as it rhymes with duck). Maybe we'll see it again in the new year. Until then, keep an eye out for me. There's a certain D who finds this hard to believe.

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December Events:

For those readers based around the world, your correspondents at would like to let you know of events that are in the near future. T-shirts and signed portraits may be available at many of the locations listed below.

12/2/05-12/3/05 -- J! will be on the road in M√ľnster, playing in an ultimate with a local Mainzer team. Though he hears there are some great cathedrals there, he'll probably run around and sleep in a gym for two nights, only venturing into the parking lot on the way out.

12/7/05 -- Arrr, D's brother (and a pirate's favorite), flies in for a month in beautiful Germany. While destinations have yet to be selected, J!, D, and Arr might travel outside the Mainz vicinity, possibly to stay a night somewhere (gasp) else. This also provides a brief period of time when J! won't necessarily have the worst German in the country. Though this might not actually occur, if Arrr already knows "Bitte" and "Danke."

12/14/05-12/31/05 -- Again, Dotde's J! will travel back across the Atlantic for two weeks in Western Massachusetts. Check back during this period to read updates on his short reintegration into the English-speaking world.

12/23/05 -- The entire I family, including those T's (minus R-Co), fly into Frankfurt for a crip winter cruise up the Rhine. What will happen when natives of Phoenix mingle with icicles? How soon until one blurts out "Ich bin kalt!"? Revisit Dotde during this seven day trip to read up on their adventures, if, of course, D's fingers nimble up a bit to make this a possibility.

Yet another exciting installment of Street or Sidewalk!! This week's selection is a bit tricker . . .

(cue Jeopardy music here)

Things I Like about Germany, List #1

1. When I withdraw money from an ATM, I get a variety of denominations, instead of all 20s.
2. Everytime I go grocery shopping at Tenglemann's, the cashier gives me little heart stickers.
3. I can buy a bus ticket in Mainz for Berlin, which is 350 miles away.
4. Lebkuchen--xmas gingerbread cookies.
5. Xmas markets, with lots of spiced wine.
6. If I'm not home and DHL wants to deliver a package, instead of holding it at the postoffice, the carrier will deposit it at a "Packstation" and leave me a notice. I can then go pick it up whenever I want. I just have to flash the barcode in front of the scanner and a small door will mysteriously open, with my package waiting.
7. Apfelschorle. I can't figure out why they haven't exported this to the US, yet. It is like really good Martinellis, only not carbonated. Kind of. Plus, you can buy it in vending machines.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So, most towns and cities in Europe have what is called (in German, at least) the "Altstadt," or "old town." This city center typically consists of the "historic district"--that is, the oldest buildings, or alternatively, the oldest buildings which were reconstructed after one of the world wars. The historic centers are usually conveniently placed somewhat near the local train station (but not so close that train station undesirables get in the way of the tourists) and paved with cobblestones, thus giving the impression that the city must date back to at least the age of Charlemagne. In many cases, the Altstadt is closed to everything but foot traffic and bicycles--no buses, cars, trams or trains allowed.

Mainz has a really lovely Altstadt that has been well preserved, despite having been basically obliterated in the Second World War by American bombs. It is perhaps a bit ironic that neighboring town Wiesbaden, which was left mostly untouched by air raids, is now home to a large American military base. Local legend has it that the Americans in fact purposefully decided to leave Wiesbaden alone so that they would have a nice place to occupy after the war. One of the curiousities about the Mainz Altstadt, however, is that only some parts of it are "pedestrian only." In general, when walking around downtown, you have to keep a sharp eye out; you may believe you are strolling along what appears to be an ancient and deserted thoroughfare, admiring the soaring architecture and soaking up the culture, when in fact you are actually blocking traffic and infuriating bus drivers. To help you all to experience this vicariously, you can play a fun game called "Street or Sidewalk?" We'll start with an easy one:

Ha! you scoff! d, what are talking about? There are people milling all over the place! A man walks with his infant child enconsed in a large stroller. That woman in the black coat, with her daughter, strolls along with no intention of moving to a "curb." Why, if this were a street, would those large tents be placed along the edge of it, thus forcing passers-by into the "street" and congesting traffic? Besides, you might say, this is enlightened Europe, where people walk all the time--no city would place a major street so close to its historic district and central church, the lofty Dom in the background.

Actually, you'd be wrong. Careful observers will note the whitish concrete band that clearly demarcates street from sidewalk. Yes, folks, this is a street. If that woman in black had stayed in the middle of it for much longer, she'd have been side-swiped by the five buses that zoomed passed minutes later. In fact, this is such a busy street that J! and I had to stand there for about 10 minutes before we could get a photo of it without buses. Don't believe me?

Notice the pair of guys crossing the street, regardless of the fact that they are about to get squished between two enormous buses? This is another fun game you can play in European cities--Chicken. I always lose--the bus drivers here are by and large friendly and helpful, but it only takes one who has been driving all day in a bad mood to reduce me to a small American spot on a street/sidewalk. Besides, being hit by a bus would get my white coat all dirty.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Happy Birtday, Sister M!

Love, J!

(German treats coming soon (they wouldn't let me ship the alcohol!)--you'll be glad to know that you shared your birthday with *Sandwich Day!!!* here in Mainz)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Funny when someone from your new company signs you up for their early holiday celebration, and you have no idea what it is. You're driven out to the German countryside, and find yourself touring the castle-ish type residence of a coworker, having a glass sekt put in your hand, and then tasting seven or so of the thirty wines they make on site.

It's not like I could find my way back, nor have I the means or the means to do so. But it was a wonderfully disorientating and unpredictable trip.
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