Tuesday, September 25, 2007

America's Next Top Model

Last Saturday night we participated in the grand spectacle known as the International Charity Fashion Show. Members of the APC, UN, and their friends collaborated to raise funds and awareness for children's charities in Germany, Kenya, Peru, and India. Under the white hot lights, models decked out in their home country's garb strutted their stuff in front of a sold out audience at the Bonn International School gymnasium. Suprisingly enough, not a single beat of Right Said Fred's catwalk anthem was heard the entire night. Go figure.
Katie modelled the finest in Wyoming cowgirl wear, donated by our lighting director Lisa. I was a member of the stage crew, which really meant that I ran around for a couple days trying to borrow socket wrenches so that I could work on the wood and metal catwalk.
The three hour event was a smashing success, and people shimmied and shaked their way through the night at the afterparty in the school cafeteria. During this time, I was in the gym breaking down all of the elements and wrapping cables, which was also fun in a different, final way.

Natural Environs

We ventured out last week to explore some of Germany's natural features. The Kottenforst-Ville Naturpark borders the western edge of our village, Bad Godesberg. A scant ten-minute bike ride put us at a dirt path, where we made a curvy ascent through the pines onto a plateau of beech, larch and oak trees. On top, we jogged through the network of crisscrossing foot paths and logging roads and looked for animal life, the largest representative being an unidentified raptor.
As with all places that have been inhabited by humans for a long time, the Kottenforst is a mix of old and new elements that are in various phases of regeneration (or degeneration). Where a 10th century circular wall formerly stood is now a ditch in a continuous state of erosion. Other areas that have been clearcut relatively recently are being repopulated by ambitious junior trees and their sapling cousins. Nearby, pyramids of cut timber announced their ownership with spraypaint: Schmitz, Lehman, Müller.
Wooden stands, rustic versions of the ones that the judges sit upon at Wimbledon, are also interspersed throughout the forest. One can either sit upon these and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, or take aim at a deer and dispatch it with the cool professionalism of a Forest Service employee, who are uncoincidentally the only people allowed to hunt in Germany. Being a new transplant in this land and not wanting to step on any toes, I opted for the former.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back so soon?

The Transatlantic Monthy earned its name this week as Katie scuttled back to Ohio to complete the last step in the ordination process: ordination. A generous benefactor from the APC gifted me with a last minute ticket to Dayton, so Tuesday morning I made my way across the pond to surprise Katie - which I did with a flourish, firstly by an unplanned appearance and secondly by hiding under a blanket in her parents' living room. Surprise!

It was certainly no surprise that Katie passed muster before the Miami presbytery, securing the majority vote to become a Pastor of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church USA. The following afternoon we had the ordination ceremony at Katie's home church and voila, instant pastor (just add 8 years education, 1 year as a Inquirer, 4 ordination exams, 3 month chaplaincy internship, 6 months church internship, a sermon, review by committee, and a final examination by an auditorium full of cranky Presbyterians).

We are now heading back to Bonn on separate flights. Truly, the whirlwind 36 hour tour is the only way to see the States. Time to board...

Monday, September 3, 2007

First Contact

It turns out that living inside our austere, tidy apartment building are austere, tidy tenants. Yesterday, I answered the buzzer at the door to find an elderly neighbor who immediately rattled off a complaint. I explained that my understanding of german was not great and she waved her hand in the air like she was backhand swatting a fly and said in german that it was "not a problem". As I followed her downstairs to the parking garage, she constantly repeated the The Complaint: a bike was blocking her garage and she could not get her car out.

We arrived downstairs and it became apparent I couldn't do much for The Complaint. The blue bike encroaching upon the white garage space was not mine (note exhibit A). Don't think that I got off easy, because after I explained to her that the bike wasn't mine, she said "excuse me" and immediately followed it up with the lecture intended for the perpetrator.

I feel good about this encounter. It is a reminder that the system is still in place, and compliance with its strict yet simple rules will leave one in the good graces of the others. Providing, however, one figures out all of the rules ahead of time.

Touchdown on Planet Körnerstraße

With the help of a few kindly souls (Blessiou, Hilary, Iosif, Steve, J. Martin, Andrea, Marian, Ulrike) we moved into our apartment on Saturday morning. To get a sense of the difference that appliances make in a German apartment, please note the before and after kitchen photos.
This is not the quaint Parisianesque loft that we had envisioned, but rather a carpeted, spacious four room Wohnung, fit for a troupe of Romanian tumblers. The bedroom and living room share the same porch platform but are divided by a wall. This is a good thing, because we all know the kind of porch-sitting that one does from the bedroom does not jive with living room porch-sitting.
After moving, we walked over to the international festival in the Rheinaue park. My hat's off to Vietnam and the Phillipines for their delicious food, but the grand prize goes to the Indonesia tent - a veritable peanut and garlic wonderland.