July 15, 2001
Juana Alemánia

My Spanish co-workers keep coming up with nicknames for me. At first it was Juana Mariachi. And then, just because it rhymed, it was Juana Marijuana. Now, it's Juana Alemánia (Spanish word for German).

Sorry for the long break in reporting -- I have been traveling a lot and entertaining visitors and swamped at work (trying to take over the world takes a lot out of a girl!).

I have now been to Switzerland. Just the airport. Both on my way to and from the states. It is freaky to see the Swiss police standing around the airport with MACHINE GUNS. They aren't very big machine guns, but they are still friggin' machine guns. Jeesh. And, for the record, German customs agents treat people coming off a Swiss flight very differently than people off a flight from the U.S. In fact, there was no one actually IN customs when we got off the plane in Germany.

While in the U.S., I once again got told that I'd been picked "randomly" for a bag check. This happened to me alot in Austin. I fit some kind of profile, because, often, there I am, standing there with guys of indeterminant ethnicity, also getting their bags checked because they were picked "randomly."

Yet another Spaniard at work organized a girl's night out last month. I took my bike on the underground, then road my bike from the University of Bonn train station to the Turkish restaurant across the street from the Bonn Opera House (about five blocks). I was an hour late, but I knew I wouldn't be the only one. And I wasn't. The group was made up of co-workers from Turkey, Germany, Argentina, Ireland, and, ofcourse, SPAIN. Everyone but my Irish co-worker and myself speak fluent Spanish -- had the two of us not been there, it would have been all Spanish, all the time. I'm the only one of the group that doesn't speak another language, which makes me feel terribly awkward most of the time. It was a chilly night, but still so nice to be outside. Plus, the company was fantastic. Women can be so cool, they really can, no matter their nationality. If only we ruled the world... We all then went inside so our Turkish member could read everyone's coffee grinds. Well, except mine, because I didn't drink any coffee.

I road my bike all the way back to Bad Godesberg, half way with one of my German co-workers. There were quite a few people out, so I didn't feel scared at all. But, then again, I never do on my bike -- I feel afraid only when walking through parking lots and parking garages, day or night, or being approached in train stations by men who look like the guy from "The Vanishing". I sang part of the way back -- who the heck cares if Germans think I'm a freak. It was fun. And it didn't take any time at all to get home. I'm getting good at this. In fact, I'm getting quite good at balancing a variety of items on my bicycle. With the addition of my saddle bags, I can carry four bags of groceries at once. It looks goofy, but no more goofy than all the Germans doing the same thing. The other day I bought a shower rod, and as I road home, I realized I probably looked like I was jousting. Most recently, I managed to ride home with a clothes-drying rack. It was wrapped in plastic, and had a good gust of wind come up, I would have sailed home -- or backwards to Bad Godesberg, depending on the wind direction.

Two friends from Austin, Erica and Karen, arrived in Bonn while I was on my way back from a business trip; they picked up keys to my apartment that I'd left at the front desk for them at work, and were here waiting for me when I came in the next day (Erica was wearing one of my Biore nose strips when I came through the front door -- I will now forever associate these with her). It was so great to have visitors! We went out to eat along the Rhein, walked around Bad Godesberg, and we went to downtown Bonn so they could get their German bread fix, find super special German knives to take back home, and go to the house where Beethoven was born. It's now a museum where his musical instruments and personal mementos are exhibited. Some of the exhibits are a bit misleading -- rather than actual documents, they are copies of such, but they don't tell you that (it's obvious because the copies aren't very good). It's somewhat worth the visit, for the antique musical instruments. Whatever you do, DON'T try to take a picture of the garden outside the third story window of the Beethoven House, DON'T ask any questions, and DON'T tell them, if you buy something in the gift shop, that you don't need a bag. I think we're banned from going there now, because of our numerous indiscretions. Maybe the staff there actually doesn't want any visitors?

Because Deutsche Telecom decided to change my last name to "Travance," and, therefore, the postman couldn't find any mail box for me in my apartment building lobby and, therefore, my last phone bill wasn't paid, my phone service got cut off -- so we had to go to Bonn to use an Internet cafe. There is a really terrific one on the second floor of Arena Sports, with reasonable prices and a very helpful cafe manager (who found us highly amusing). I almost got us lost on the way home, by taking the wrong train and talking too much instead of looking where we were going (typical).

Also this month, I went to see Paco de Lucia with friends. He's a famous Flamenco guitarist who blends lots of different influences into his music -- Arabic and jazz were the most obvious to me. He brought seven other musicians with him, mostly guitarists, but also a dancer, a bongo player, a singer, and a guy that played a flute and some other kind of horn. It was a wonderful show. I think they only played 12 songs, but each song was 10 - 15 minutes long. It was an outdoor concert, under a huge canopy, out in the middle of two Museums (so it is, therefore, called the Museum Platz). The crowd *loved* it. Germans don't demonstrate their emotions much at concerts during the music, but at the end of songs, they go bazerk. The guy next to me was annoyed, I think, because my fingers or feet were always moving during songs, but I just can't sit still listening to music like that. The rhythms were intoxicating and hypnotic. It was a perfect night, not too hot, not too cool. Afterward, we hung out at the tropical bar right outside the back row of seats, drinking Cuban drinks. The bar was playing Spanish songs from the 70s, and most of my group were singing along. Sorry I didn't have the digital camera along for that...

Also this month was a summer party for everyone who works at "the castle" -- it was terrific to frolic in the sun, by a castle on the Rhein, with co-workers, drinking beer and eating brats...

Dog Update: They still love Germany, in a major way. The vet gave me some super uber oil that's kept the ticks off of them. They had to be in the Hunde Hotel for nine nights while I was on my most recent mission, but I think they did okay. Wiley is asleep right now in the living room with me. Buster is in the bedroom. Buster positively bounces around when we walk -- he's quicker and livelier than any video game around. I'm sorry to say that Wiley is really showing his age. He's lots a significant amount of his hearing, I'd say about 50%, and he's very shaky using his back legs at times. He's 14 and half, which is more than 100 in human years. Still, he's darned happy these days. Both dogs were thrilled to have Erica here, who spoils them rotten, almost as badly as my mamaw.

So many friends are posting pictures and essays from their travels, and this is my latest favorite: my friend Betsy's site regarding The Shack Up Inn in Mississippi. It's four miles away from Clarksdale's legendary "Crossroads," the intersection of Mississippi highways 61 and 49 where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil. I am adding this to the top of my list of places I'm visiting when I return to the states.

I'm getting emails from people stumbling on to the Germany-portion of this web site through searches on various subjects, so I guess most of these essays are getting hit by various search engine/directory spiders. Kinda cool. Thanks to everyone who has written.

I'll end with this -- the weirdest thing I've seen on the net in quite a while. You'll need Flash and a fast Internet connection.

More later...

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