Friday, May 18, 2007

Starship Boxes

Well, it’s that time again (update time), so I suppose I should get to the updating part. Things have been going pretty steady this week, mostly on account that it was a 3 day work week. Yesterday was a holiday and so today is an unofficial holiday for me as well. I have to say, waking up this morning and knowing that it was only Friday sent shivers of happiness down my spine.

My holiday yesterday was spent listening to music. In the morning there was a music band from Chicago who played at the local theatre ‘Das Haus’. It was an interesting band, not what I usually listen to, but pretty good all the same. The people from the band were very nice and very American. This one guy was quite content to start talking with someone in rapid English, even though no one understood a word of what he was saying. Nice though. Really.

Yesterday was also the beginning of the ‘Jüterboger Spargelfest’. Spargel, for those of you who don’t know, is rather like asparagus, except pasty white in colour; and they have a festival for this thing. Back home we have a ‘Strawberry Festival’, but everyone likes strawberries! Spargel? You’d be better off hosting a ‘Broken-Needles-I-Found-By-The-River-Fest’, in my humble opinion.

After returning home from the Asparagusfest, Keith and I were dazzeled and amazed by watching one of the greatest young men movies of all time: Starship Troopers. Simply amazing to be blunt! In fact, we were so impressed that we went out today and rented the sequel, only to be horrifyingly disappointed. I had high expectations and I was caught unawares. Pity.

It’s funny how time seems to change things, especially when there are long distances involved. It odd how sometimes you can feel so close to someone and then all it takes is a little time to dissolve that friendship. I suppose I could make this more cliché by adding the traditional, ‘you think you know somebody and then...BAM!’ That seems to be the end result of most of my friendships at one point or another. I think I have something solid and then it turns out to be just another, I’m pretty stuck for a word here, so I’ll just, then it turns out to be just another empty box.

In the end it’s good to find the empty boxes, because empty means that there was nothing for me to get out of the friendship anyways. I’d most likely just end up with another ‘Christmas and Birthday Card’ friend. There seem to be very few genuine people who will actually tell me what’s going on with them; everyone seems so guarded these days. Odd.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TLDR....a very long post

Well, I’m sick. How sick you ask? Sick enough to throw up in our local Netto (grocery store), right while everyone seemed to be checking-out. A perfect ending to the perfect week. However, this does give me some time to do some writing, so not all is lost.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this week. Mostly to family, but also to the odd friend too. I’ve been trying to keep contact with the kids from Winnipeg. Sorry, I shouldn’t really be saying ‘kids’, as they are young adults. I’m only a whopping 3-4 years older than them, so I think that I’m not allowed to do that quite yet. It would seem as though Keith and I have become mini-celebrities within this small private school, or so they say. Hopefully it was the ‘this guy was practically the Fonz’ type of popular. I have to say that I’ve come a long way from being quite unpopular in my own high school to being recognizable in pictures to teens in a small private school in Winnipeg. I’d like to thank my family and my friends for all of their support.

I’ve just finished a book by David Sedaris, who is by all accounts a very talented and humorous writer. Most of his stories are about his life and his family, and something that I found very strange is the fact that I could really relate to the narratives. While his stories are, in a number of ways, highly disturbing, I could honestly really see the same type of stories happening to me and my family.

I’d like to say that my family is just ‘different’, but to be honest we are weird, and not in the sense of quirky weird (‘Oh, I bought crazy pants made out of sequins today! Isn’t that weird?’), but more like the kind of weird that people like to talk about in hushed voices. One of my sisters told me last week that she wants to move into a monastery with European monks. This was after she was talking about her friends from the French School of Circus Arts. We talk about these kinds of things regularly.

Family is such an interesting topic of discussion. When you talk to me the first, and most likely only thing, that you’ll learn from me is everything about my family. I take a large amount of pride in knowing that my family is not boring, and that my siblings tend to lead a life that is usually far more exciting than my own.

I had a family friend visit me this week, someone who is close with the rest of my siblings. Our two families have astounding similarities, so much so that we are even related on both sides of my family, even though my step-family. We have the certain members of the family that seem to correlate to each other; the nutty sister, the wild popular brother, the quite ones and then us. I wouldn’t presume to define my own role in the family out of fear that I would have a bias opinion of myself, but if I had to take a stab at it I would go with ‘the one who means well, and likes to dish out advice but rarely takes advice himself and seems too lazy to really make any sort of change’. That seems about right in my eyes.

I often find myself wondering how things are going to turn out in the future. I have a theory that the heavens will part and the stars will align and peace shall reign forth in our family when a child arrives. Once there is a baby to focus our small talk on, there shall be peace. Babies have this effect, even on those who don’t really like babies (I include myself in this pile, as I have a fear of dropping them).

I suppose family hostility is sort of a given. Like throwing up in the grocery store, sooner or later family fights happen, even if you really, really don’t want them to and there are lots of people watching. I am the oldest of 6 kids, and in a family like that (especially since we are all around the same age) you have to fight for what you want. What we needed was there for the most part, but if there was anything you wanted you had to fight for it. If there was a pizza pocket in the fridge, you had better eat that damn thing before someone else did. Even if you weren’t really hungry, it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t be there when you were.

I feel now for my youngest sister Natalie. She was the smallest in the house hold, and while she was the baby, she was also as tough as nails. As kids, it was common practice with us older kids to punch her in the head as a greeting. This eventually died off once she grew big enough to punch back, but it is still so much of a greeting ritual that we still tell her that we are going to punch her in the face when she answers the phone.

When you have younger siblings its hard to realize when they’ve grown up. By the time my sister entered high school I had already graduated. When you move out of the house and they are just 14, you have a tendency to remember them as such. Coming back you don’t realize that you are talking with an adult, to you it’s still someone with a curfew and a bedtime.

The last argument I had with my sister before moving away was about the fact that we were eating all of her snacks for her school lunch box meals. My mother rarely bought junk food, other than things she knew that we didn’t like. This was a sort of safety device that we all had developed. We developed different tastes so that only we could enjoy whatever it was we were enjoying. In high school I had a tendency to drink root beer and ice tea together because my father hated ice tea and my mother hated root beer.

If we bought food we would often hide it or write our names on it or do both. This in turn in would infuriate my step-father who would threaten to write his name on everything he bought. He didn’t like the fact that we helped ourselves to the food that we bought but did not return the favour, especially when it was a cereal that he had developed a taste for.

My step-father is a man of morals and rules. He liked to teach my brother and I lessons that often involved being tricked or doing something we really didn’t want to do. If we didn’t remember to take out the trash on garbage day, then he’d often give us the option of finding somewhere else to put the usual 6 bags garbage or sleeping with them in our room. I know all of the best places to dump large amounts of trash in the Markham-Stouffville area of Ontario.

He was always very good at tricking me. First, let me clarify that a prank is something that someone does on someone else that usually has funny repercussions for both people involved. A trick is when my step-father convinces me to do something willingly that usually has large short term negative effects for me, and long lasting positive effects for him.

One day my step-dad came home and told my brother that he was going to take us somewhere special and that we should get in the car and wait for him. My brother and I were thrilled at this special invitation. My step-father, in addition to being a man of rules, is a man of mystery. He rarely tells us anything about himself so to go somewhere ‘special’ for him usually means somewhere really dangerous and exciting.

After swearing that we weren’t just going to Giant Tiger (the local Stouffville dollar store) we were off on our adventure. My brother Tim suggested that we were going to a munitions dump, while I had a vision of a secret industrial junk yard. We were excited and my step-father drove us off into the night.

After several hours of guessing and disusing what we would do with our bounty my brother and I started to get cautious. We had jumped into the car rather quickly...almost too quickly. As we turned into an unknown building centre we both saw clearly that we were in fact heading to the Whitby Mental Facility. The horror of the situation instantly gripped us. We had been tricked into visiting our Aunt Dona, who is very nice, but very scary at the same time. We both clawed for the doors as my step-father sat back in the car seat and filled the small vehicle with is shrill high-pitched laughter. We were in the middle of no where. We were doomed to sit out every awkward moment of our visit.

In hindsight, this was a clear lesson learned about the importance of family. Having heard horror stories, I was not very pleased to be in Whitby to say the least. As it turned out, Aunt Dona, while still very lively, was also very nice. The lesson that family is important and deserves love no matter how weird they are was a hard taught one, but one that I’m glad I learned all the same.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It's not that I'm not the romantic type...

So time for a little update on the old blog. Keith and I just got home from seeing 300 in Berlin. It was a pretty good movie, very Sin Cityish. Seeing as I just got back from watching this film, I will only be giving you the very slim rundown on what last week was like.

So last Friday Keith and I went to Weirhof in Rhineland Pfalz for the German Trainee Spring Conference. It was really fun to see my good buddies from the program, we always have lots of fun together. We all took a day trip to Worms and I saw the Rhine River for the first time. Have to say that I was pretty disappointed; it wasn’t as scenic as I thought it would be. We also had a tour of the village we stayed in by the first trainee ever. It was really interesting as I am very interested in Mennonite history and he was the guy to go to. If there was anything else that was memorable in the weekend I forget. Oh wait, Debbie. I love Swiss people. Enough said.

After the conference a bunch of us went to say with the trainee who is staying in Enkenbach (also in Rhineland Pfalz). I got to hang out with my friends there, lots of Germans, Canadians and Americans (and a lot of very hard to understand Pfälzisch accents). My friend Hannah came on Monday and then the two of us left Enkenbach to go travelling.

Going on vacation was very nice. Hannah and I started off in the old city of Freiberg, which is right in the middle of the famous Black Forest. It was beautiful there and we both had fun. The weather was great and the meals were good too. Lots of just sitting and talking.

Next we went to the city of Basel, which is in Switzerland. It was one of my favourite cities I’ve been too. It wasn’t really touristy, which was great, and the people were really nice. Sometimes it was difficult as they speak Swiss German, but everyone could also speak High German too. The river was much more beautiful here, but the stores along the front were very expensive! Merci veil mals!

The last major city we went Strasbourg. Excuse me if I spelt it wrong, there seems to be a million ways to spell it. Strasbourg is said to be the ‘Capital of Europe’ and sits on the French side of the border. Another very beautiful city with very interesting architecture and nice people. Being in France, they spoke French, but I found my 9 years of French class to be very unhelpful. I guess I should have listened better, but luckily for me, the all spoke German. Learning German comes in handy when you live in Europe.

After France we went to go visit my friend Rachael in Karlsruhe. We had almost too much of a good time, if there is such a thing. Rachael and I made plans to go to Poland next month, so that is good too.

Then after all was said and done it was time to go back to Enkenbach, say my goodbyes, and then head back to Altes Lager. It was a good vacation, but I’m pretty tired now and I feel like I need another vacation just to rest!