Hablo Español?
May 19, 2001

Robbie Fulks sent me two of his CDs. Okay, yeah, I had to order them and pay for them to get him to send them to me, but he DID sign them. I won't say here exactly what he signed, but I assure you that it was quite personalized. In fact, he's the first person that's called me "Sweet Jayne" in writing. Sigh.

I'm getting so many questions regarding the bees -- I had no idea that essay would cause such a stir. So, here's an update: by the next morning, the hives were restored, and I'm sure all bees were accounted for. At least that's what I like to think. Since then, I've seen the bee keeper about half a dozen times. He's exactly what I pictured: a middle-aged balding German man who rides a bicycle and doesn't speak English and who sometimes falls asleep in a chair next to his hives. He looks so sweet in that bee-keeper hat and veil... I wonder what he dreams...

My employer offers free classes in Spanish and French, but not German. It's a requirement that we all must already speak English, so there's no free classes in that. Most of the nations we work with have citizens or representatives that speak English, Spanish or French, so we are encouraged to learn at least one of those latter two languages, if we haven't already. I intend to learn German, I really do, but since I know a little (un poco) Spanish, and the classes are free... ofcourse, a few of you have already felt the need to make fun of me ("gee, next you are going to move to Japan and learn Polish").

Attack of the 50 foot inflatable German post office yellow cow

Okay, actually, it was not a cow -- it was a bull. And I have no idea if it was really 50 feet. But it was really, really big. It was a balloon, with the logo of Deutche Post on it, and it flew very, VERY low, right over me and the dogs while I was walking them on a recent evening. It was so low that I could see the face of the guy in the basket below the balloon, and hear the burst of the flame heating the air in the balloon. I kept telling the dogs, "Look up, look up" and I was pointing, but the dogs would just look in the direction I was pointing, not up. And bark alot. A whole lot.

There are many balloons and blimps here. I see them all the time, even more than I used to see them in Austin. But no traditional balloons -- they are shaped like all sorts of bizarre things. The big yellow bull is my favorite.

We've had a string of breath-takingly beautiful weekends -- warm, sunny, breezy. I've been riding my bike or walking the dogs as much as possible. One recent Saturday, I met friends at Pat's Pub, the only Irish bar in Bad Godesberg (and got waited on by Pat himself), then we went to this restaurant father south, high atop a mountain over Rolandswerth. It was a breathtaking drive along a single lane road that snaked its way through lush countryside. We parked in a line of cars in a field and walked down this long, curving cobblestone path that it completely sheltered by trees. We came to a small parking lot and, atop a very long staircase, was the restaurant. We sat outside with a gorgeous view of the islands of Nonnenwerth and Grafenwerth, and Bheul far on the other shore. I had just picked up pictures that morning that I'd taken last weekend, and one of them is of St. Klemens, on Nonnenwerth island, from Grafenwerth island, and just above the church in the picture, you can see the restaurant we were now at. The food was very good (yes, there are *some* places to get good meals in Germany) and, ofcourse, the beer and wine were excellent. Afterwards, as we drove down the winding road, we could see fireworks going off over far-away downtown Bonn. What a sight. I'm living in a dream.

The following weekend, Bad Godesberg had some kind of festival. I'm not sure what kind of festival it was -- there were lots of mobile food vendors, and two stages playing extremely bad American music (does every nation in the world have a Guns and Roses cover band, and are they all stalking me?), but no obvious theme that I could figure out.

Last Friday night, I took two visiting representatives from a Spanish university to dinner. As I sat explaining to them what the menu said, I was shocked to discover just how much German I know. I still can't speak it, but I can definitely find my way around a menu. At least if I order a steamed leather shoe by mistake, it will be served with garlic and cheese.

Random thoughts

My Nigerian co-worker asked me what I thought about the Shrub, the spy plane/China thing, the U.S. pulling out of the Kyoto agreement, etc. And, ofcourse, I went OFF, like a rocket on the Fourth of July. He stood there and smiled as I raged. Finally, I stopped. "Ah, Jayne," he said, "you are not at all like the other Americans I've met." I flew across the room and hugged him.

My sister and I are playing a very fun online game -- you go to freetranslation.com or to Babblefish (we miss you already, Douglas Adams) and type in the lyrics to a well-known song. You convert the lyrics into Spanish, then convert them back into English. Then you send the resulting lyrics to a friend and ask them to figure the song out. Hours and hours of fun!

The American School next door to where I work has this Polish/Canadian math teacher who shows movies in English (or with English subtitles) once a week. Earlier this year, I went to "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", which I'd seen before, and which lead to a very interesting conversation with a co-worker at Pat's Pub... and this last week, to "Il Postino," which is just about the sweetest most beautiful movie ever made -- if you are ever in the mood to just have your heart burst with joy and love, rent this movie. It's mostly Brits that are in the small audience but I always sit with the Latinos. Why is that? We usually sit in the tiny school library in large, comfy leather chairs. I'm bringing beer next time.

I ordered several DVDs, which all have arrived, but for some reason, I just can't stop watching "Excaliber." I so adore that movie. Not only is it an excellent movie on its own, but it's so much fun to insert Monty Python lines into it from the comfort of your own iBook.

I'm still pissed off that I couldn't see the Kentucky Derby over here. How I'm going to get through not seeing the NCAA basketball tourney games I'll never know.

I think it's time to listen to another Robbie Fulks CD... wasn't he cute in GQ this month?!

a change
May 19, 2001

I want to keep track not only of my adventures in Europe, but also, the changes I go through while I'm here. Everywhere I have lived has changed me in some way, usually for the better.

In Germany, the big change after being here three months as of this week: I've decided I'm against the death penalty.

Most of you probably thought I was already against the death penalty, being a good LIBERAL and all. But I haven't been, not for almost 10 years.

Not that I was ready to go load up the pick up truck and have a tail gate party in a Texas prison parking lot with a bunch of idiot A & M students. But I couldn't -- and can't -- deny that I do NOT believe Timothy McVeigh deserves to live, and that there is a certain asshole in prison in Connecticut that, were he be put to death as scheduled, I'll feel a little bit better about getting up in the morning on an Earth without him.

I didn't like being for the death penalty, but I was, for almost 10 years. But I kept trying to resolve the conflict, the undeniable truths that I did, indeed, want some people to die and that I did, indeed, believe some innocent people were being put to death. It also bothered me that the U.S. is the only industrialized, developed country in the world with the death penalty -- and we certainly don't have a crime rate that reflects its "effectiveness."

Some things haven't changed -- I still think Mumia is guilty, guilty, guilty. I won't mourn the death of the men who killed James Byrd. And I'm not going to go join an anti-death penalty group, because the celebration of murderers with web sites honoring their poetry and artistry, with no mention whatsoever of their crimes, disgusts me as much as the party-in-the-parking lot crowd. Ignoring the atrocities of these people is a slap in the face to those they harmed. And I'm one of those people.

But I have decided, indeed, that I am against the death penalty, for four reasons, in order of importance:

I still think certain people deserve to die -- but I also believe that humans are not smart enough to meat out that kind of justice. The feeling of hatred doesn't make me bad; the acting upon it does.

So, that's my big change in Germany. For now. Next, I'll stop shaving my legs.

Here's your parting thought:

More later . . .

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