Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Frenchman's Bay, Maine

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's That Time Of Year

Things are starting to look festive around here! These photos were taken a few weeks ago in Colmar. The Christmas markets in Germany will be up and running soon, and I'll try and post more pictures then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Obama

On November 5th, I woke in Germany to our clock radio playing Barack Obama's acceptance speech for the presidency. Since I voted for Obama, I felt jubilant, relieved, and somber, all at the same time. Jubilant and relieved because I truly think he's the best leader out of the choices presented. And also, somber, because of the many challenges ahead for him.

Here's what Ginger (another blogger I read often) wrote after Obama was elected. Her words are thought-provoking:

"For me, the election of Barack Obama, more than anything, signifies Hope. And it's a hope that can get me choked up; it's so strong I can almost taste it at times when I'm reading through the news.

First of all, as for many, it signifies hope about race issues.

My first memory of race being something negative was when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I remember it vividly. My mom was driving us to church on the island where we lived in Malaysia, and Grandma was in the car. We passed a tourist couple walking along the road, a Black man and a white woman. My mother remarked to Grandma that interracial marriage was not a good thing.

"Why not?" I asked, curious.

Mama got tight-lipped. "It's hard on them and it's hard on the children," she said. "People have enough differences to overcome without dealing with racial differences as well," she said. "And the children don't know where they belong."

"They're just different on the outside, that's all," I blurted, suddenly angry with my mom. Her remarks seemed so unfair.

I don't recall her exact response, but I remember being very aware that my view was not acceptable to her. And I rebelled at that.

I never got over rebelling. I watched biracial kids in my classrooms in California, and they seemed to do just fine. Every example was tucked into my mental file to rebut what my mom had expressed. Somewhere down deep, I felt like it wasn't just the interracial issue, but an issue of my mom seeing Blacks as being of less worth. She never said it, so I don't know if I'm right or not. But emotion that has come out in her remarks over the years has been a curious thing, just as curious as the hot anger that I feel when she or anyone else in my family makes what I perceive to be a racist comment. (Even hearing my uncle refer to Obama as "O-baa-muh"--with the "bam" rhyming with "ram" and "Sam"--leaves me angry. Be respectful enough to pay attention to another culture's pronunciation!) And no, I don't try to correct them.

When I was teaching Social and Multicultural Education in a northern California college, I made the comment to my lecture hall full of students, "The sooner we all intermarry, the better. We've got to get over these racial issues in our society." To my surprise, a former student chatting with me on Facebook recently quoted that back to me, ten years later. "I never forgot that," she said. "I just married an Indian-American man, and I'm so happy with him." I found myself smiling wryly as I responded. I happened to fall in love with a white man, so I've not lived out my declaration. But I still believe it and I'm glad it was helpful to her. My point is not about racial intermarriage to make a statement, but my point is to not let racial issues deter two otherwise-suited people from dating and marrying.

So now we have a new president who is both black and white, "a mutt," as he terms it with no sign of rancor. He is an educated man who seems to be able to think from both identities. I find hope welling up that this will be a benefit to us all in making some changes in our dealings with race issues.

Second, our recent election gives me hope about foreign policy. I am a third culture kid; Barack Obama is a third culture kid. Third culture kids have grown up in cultures that are not those of their parents, and aren't really their own cultures either. They fit in nowhere and they fit in everywhere. Obama has had an opportunity to see what an "ugly American" looks like in other countries. He has crossed cultures and has developed the skills to be a cultural chameleon, to enter other worlds and function according to their unwritten rules and values. While it may look wishy-washy to some Americans, it could be very useful for foreign policy.

I have ached over the foreign policy of my passport (American) culture. When I was a child the United States was at war in Vietnam. I wondered why. When I was in college Ronald Reagan sent U.S. soldiers invade Grenada. My heart sank; I can still remember where I was in the cafeteria when I heard about it. We did, of course, make short work of it; it was the equivalent of squashing a fly with a wrecking ball. Since then I have seen us invade Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Several U.S. Presidents have seemed to consider us as some sort of righteous "police of the world," and it's something I can't understand. There don't seem to be any "righteous guidelines" for when we enter combat in another land, and when we don't. We have figured out no system for leaving once we're there, either. George W. Bush has been the most egregious in this, I believe. The mix of self-righteousness, bully and bouncer has been really hard for me to watch.

And so the election of a president who can see the world from various perspectives gives me hope.

Finally, there are many leaders who have gone through higher education, but not so many who think like educated individuals. For the leader of the United States, I think educated thinking is crucial. As I have listened to Barack Obama speak, I have heard the words and thoughts of a man who is not only Harvard-educated, but is also an educated thinker. Some have been put off by his cool demeanor; it's precisely that cool thinking that we want to have as chief of the military might of this country and leading in the negotiations made with other countries' leaders who may not be as reasonable. I suspect this guy intuitively knows how to play international chess and win.

I'm no dope. I recognize that Obama will say and do things that I will disagree with. He already has. And he may crash and burn at some point. But I hope not. We're asking a lot of him. I pray that he will remain physically safe, and that he will fulfill even a few of these hopes, for the sake of this country."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Now That's My Type Of Gathering

It has been pointed out to me that at New College of Florida, one of the student groups on campus is:

The Ben and Jerry's Devotional Society

Now that's my type of gathering.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Around Athens

This little girl and her Grandma had such fun feeding the pigeons. A nearby vendor was selling bags of old bread crumbs and the number of pigeons got to be a bit scary, I must say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

I found this on Lorna's blog (see-through faith).

Let's conspire together during Advent!

Olives Here, There, and Everywhere

In Athens, we visited the Central Market and sampled several of their wares. There must have been over thirty types and flavors of olives. I thought these green olives looked especially gorgeous against the container's blue background. The Greeks probably thought I was a bit loony, taking pictures of such a commonplace food, but in my defense, souvenir vendors even tried to sell me silver earrings in the shape of Kalamata olives. I just preferred the photos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Further Interesting Britishisms

British host to our daughter, who went with a drama group to Zurich International School for a weekend of workshops:

"What's this?" (when Anna presented her with a thank-you gift of a cinnamon candle)

"Oooh, it's a smelly candle! I do love smelly candles!"

**Until now, I'd always associated the word with smelly feet or smelly breath. Eau de pigsty?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Help Save The Children Of Burundi

When I walked into our front yard in Burundi, I'd sometimes find big squares of brown sack-cloth with coffee beans drying on top of them. And then later, I'd smell the coffee beans roasting. What a great aroma. I remember begging Mom and Dad to give me just one cup of coffee...please! They finally promised I could try it when I turned ten years old -- hoping, I think, that I'd forget their promise or eventually lose interest. But when June rolled around, I claimed my cup of caffeine, filled to the brim with strong brew and milk. Good memories.

Here's an easy way to help the children of Burundi while you enjoy a good cup of coffee:

“In Burundi malaria and malnutrition kill more than 23% of all children before they reach the age of five! World Relief is working hard to saturate a community of 243,000 people in central Burundi with simple health messages to prevent these senseless deaths. Volunteers are taught health lessons every two weeks, and they pass along the life-saving information to their neighbors. Due to a generous matching grant, your gift will be matched three times by another donor!”

Simply visit this Web site and purchase a couple bags of coffee. They’ll give 33% of your purchase price to “Save the children of Burundi” and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your coffee not only tastes good, it does good.

I'm thinking this is a good option for Christmas gifts. Yeah?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Made It

Well, I completed the Athens Classic Marathon this past Sunday! Walked it in 7 hours and 5 minutes, 30 seconds. My friends, Kelly and Jan, also finished, along with my other walking partner, Judy. I'll post more pictures later--Jan's husband Dave acted as "official race photographer and encourager."

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Reading At The English Bookstore

Hey, just to let you know, I'll read a few of my poems this Thursday night, 7:30 pm at the English Bookstore, Plöck 93 in Heidelberg. I'm participating as part of the Heidelberg Writers Group -- a group for English-language writers and poets. If you live nearby, come and join us!

Also, one of my poems, "Hyena Ridge," is out this month in Cicada Magazine for teens. Yay! You won't find my poem in the online version, though, just the print one.

Have any of you had good news lately -- writing-related or otherwise?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

French Pastries and Other Edibles

It's easy to visit France from here--less than an hour across the border by car. So last week, we took a brief trip to Colmar. French food is always one of the highlights, for me! Brought home some saucisse croquante (translation: crunchy sausage) from the butcher shop.

Vineyards were harvesting the last of their grapes. Each little village was filled with loads of tourists sampling new wine and snacking on tarte flambee.

But bakeries are the best part of any French excursion. In this photo, I only captured a third of all the pastries displayed. Works of art, all of them.