Sunday, January 31, 2010

The glamourous weekends of expats in small German towns

Weekends in the months of January thru May are the most dreaded time for ex-pats living in German towns.  It is quite possible on weekends that we will do absolutely nothing and see no one. This is because:

1. There are few people who want to meet on the weekends.  Most Germans reserve weekends "family time," and either travel home or plan events for their families.  Visitors are rarely invited/welcome to join family time.  Thus, the few ex-pats meet up (again).

2. Everything (stores, museums, etc.) close by or before 5pm on Saturday.  And nothing is open on Sunday (except the church).

3. It's too cold to partake in outside activities.  Outdoor activities, like walking, window shopping, playing soccer, etc., usually are my preferred weekend events in the summer.  However during the winter, it's often freezing and raining.

4. Travel in Europe is expensive.  If I budget well, I can afford a weekend trip once every 1-1.5 months (at best).  And in winter, travel to most European destinations isn't fun since it's cold everywhere. 

The typical winter weekend of an ex-pat living in a German town involves being a recluse.  We often arrive Friday evening at our apartment and don't leave again until Monday morning return.  Occasionally, we'll meet other ex-pats for dinner/drinks on Friday or Saturday evening (however these events are often cancelled on cold, snowy, slushy weekends like this one).  Usually we stay inside and watch online reruns of our favorite US TV shows (we actually celebrate finding a new website which doesn't limit the time that viewers are allowed stream US TV shows for free).

To sum it up, two ex-pats - who are both very social - have told me at separate times "It often happens that I don't talk to anyone for the entire weekend. No one has time to meet, no one has time to talk on the phone, and shops are closed so even conversations with shopkeepers don't happen."  What a glamorous life we lead!  I need to move to a city.

Small town parades provide great entertainment

It is not everyday that I have the privilege of attending a small town Christmas parade.  So what an experience it was to attend the Christmas parade of my hometown's. 

Many of the parade exhibits were utterly bizarre and unique to small town Colorado (pics below).  In addition, an impromptu karoake and dance session happened in the street after the parade.  And just in case you wanted to attend again, a repeat parade happened the next Saturday.  Who says small towns have limited entertainment?

On that note, please feel free to write a comment descirbing your most random parade experience.  I'd be interested to hear if anyone can top this...

Parade exhibits included:
Cars covered in quilts:
Llama's wearing reindeer ears:
The senior citizen clogging team: (looking impressively in-shape and slightly hilarious in stripper boots)
A red, white and blue dinosaur with stars and stripes.
The train on the truck:
And the walking advertisment for the Halloween costume store (Christmas is the perfect time for a costume!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Coming home for Turkey Day

2009 was the first year that I fully appreciated Thanksgiving.

As a vegetarian, the whole eating Turkey thing has never inspired me to jump for joy. In addition, I often got sick on Thanksgiving which greatly limits the full enjoyment of a paid holiday (a rarity in the US). When I wasn't sick on Thanksgiving, I preferred to enjoy the long weekend with a trip to Europe.

It was by default that I returned to the US for 2009 Thanksgiving. I needed a minor surgery for which I wasn't allowed to fly for 4-6 weeks after, so I decided to make that 4-6 weeks coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm glad I did. Being home reminded me of the best parts of Thanksgiving: spending time with family and friends (Thanksgiving is one of the few US holidays where most US residents have time-off from work to partake in the holiday, eating good food (pizza and Mexican are perfectly suitable vegetarian Thanksgiving food), watching the Macy's parade and football (go Bronco's!), and the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping specials (which have only gotten better with the invention of online shopping).

The only downsides for Thanksgiving were that I couldn't eat much (due to the surgery), had a bandage on my nose, spoke in a very nasal voice, couldn't go skiing (doctor's orders - no contact sports where I could break my nose again), and had everyone ask me why I didn't get a nose job at the same time I was having nose surgery (which was done solely to improve my breathing and not to change it cosmetically). I like my nose that way it is. :)

Overall, it was great being home for Thanksgiving and getting to spend time with family and friends. It was especially nice to spend it with my nephew, who shipped to Afghanistan only 3 weeks later. He deserved a good send-off.

Pic: The "after" picture of the Thanksgiving dessert table.

Back to Germany & back to blogging

I'm sorry about not updating this blog for a while. During the last 1.5 months, I was in the US. Most of my time there was spent working, enjoying a much-needed vacation, and catching up with friends & family. This left no time to update this blog.

Now that I'm back in Germany, I will have more time to update this blog. The blog storyline over the next couple of weeks will included events that happened over the last 1.5 months and some new stories.

Happy new year!