Halloween Goes Global

29 October 2019

But curious things happen when you transplant a holiday

When I moved to Germany over 30 years ago, nobody had heard of Halloween. I had a hard time explaining why people get dressed up as ghosts, goblins, Shrek or a Superman and go from house to house asking for candy. Not only was there no Halloween, the jack-o-lantern pumpkins were not sold anywhere, either. When nostalgia inspired me to throw a Halloween party, my American girlfriend Ruth laughed her head off when she caught sight of my muscat pumpkin jack-o-lantern. Never heard of a muscat pumpkin? Me neither.

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An Intents Experience – My Oktoberfest Visit

30 September 2019

Beyond the beer, some surprises worth discovering

Summer is over. Germany is like Camelot – at least regarding the punctuality of the weather, not so much the bursting into song – so on September 1st it cooled off right on schedule. But here in Munich, there’s another sure way to recognize that fall has arrived. From one day to the next, men exchange their Bermuda shorts for Lederhosen, women doff their jeans for Dirndls – it’s Oktoberfest time!

I’m strolling through the festival grounds with my high school friend Susan and her husband Bill, who were looking forward to seeing the beer tents. That is, until I tell them about something far more intriguing than a bunch of drunks and a brass band covered by cloth on stilts.

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World War Window

11 July 2019

Marion’s desk is behind me, so I notice immediately whenever she moves. Just a moment ago, she got up and is now walking over to the window. My hearing sharpens and the hairs on the back of my neck start to prickle. I steel myself as my pulse quickens slightly and sweat breaks out on my palms.

Is she going to do it again?

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The Curious Case of the X in the Sock Drawer

24 June 2019

I am no stranger to the German sense of order and cleanliness – how could I be after living here for 30 years? After such a long time, I now take it almost for granted: the clean streets, the men who regularly sweep the sidewalk and others who walk around train stations poking a pointy stick into the garbage people have left behind (not sure what the poking will achieve, but it must have something to do with putting the trash into a superior state of orderliness). Still others can be seen washing street signs with long brushes on poles.

And yet, there are still surprises in wait.

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Of Planes to Spain Exploring New Terrain

13 May 2019

Here is a new benchmark for defining what it means to be old: when your daughter visits a country with an airport named after the leader who was in power when you lived there.

It just happened to me. My daughter Lisa recently left for a three-month stint in Spain to learn Spanish. This thrilled me, not simply because going abroad to learn a language is such an enriching experience, but because she went to Spain, where I also lived for a year. When ironing out the itinerary with her, I was jolted to discover that the name of the Madrid airport is called Adolfo Suárez, who was prime minister while I was there in 1979-80. It drove home the fact that this had been nearly 40 years ago.

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The Blossom Butcher of Bavaria

18 April 2019

One of the joys of strolling through Alpine villages in Bavaria in the summer is admiring the balcony flowers. Red, pink and white geraniums spill out from every window, lending color to the traditional   white and brown half-timbered houses that line the streets.

It’s enchanting! This beat the big yards with barking dogs and driveways from where I grew up – by a long shot.

“I can grow those balcony flowers, too,” was my first thought after moving here. “I’m from the suburbs; we had a garden. I know all about spring planting, weeding and fertilizing.” Tomatoes need to get a head start in little boxes inside the house before you plant the seedlings outside as soon as the last frost is past. Picking green beans in the rain will cause them to rust. I even had insider knowledge: The smell of a ring of chives encircling the garden would keep rabbits out.

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Rammed in the Tram

10 January 2019

How is it that Munich is the richest city in Germany but seems to have the worst public transportation system?

OK, neither of these facts is backed up by fact. But Munich does have the reputation of being pretty much “the” place to live and on visits to Berlin and other major metropolises I have never experienced as many hassles as I have in Munich.

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Roarin’ Retirees

10 December 2018

I still remember when my father’s boss retired. I was about 10 years old and could remember him talking about his boss Harry from when I was a little girl. Harry was a great guy and he and my Dad shared the same engineer DNA. They swopped jokes and talked politics and exchanged stories about their kids growing up. So when it came for Harry to retire, my Dad was happy for him on the one hand as he prepared to make his way to a shiny new retirement home in Arizona, but sorry on the other, knowing he would sorely miss him after having worked together for 15 years.

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Trains of Thought

15 November 2018

It’s a bright sunny day as my daughter and I hop on the train to go to Berlin, taking a regional S-Bahn commuter train to the main station. I contemplate how different Berlin is from relatively sleepy Munich. While the latter city only gained economic importance in the 1960s and was never more than the capital of Bavaria, Berlin was the capital of an empire and boasts sweeping boulevards and bombastic buildings reminiscent of Paris, Madrid or New York.

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Studying Here, Studying There

2 October 2018

It’s Fall. After a record hot summer, the evenings have gotten cooler and chestnuts in their spiky husks are falling to the pavement, hopefully, and not onto some unwitting passersby’s head.

It is also my older daughter Natasha’s first year at university. For her, a whole new era begins. For me, it brings back memories of my own university education.

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