EXPATS AGAIN! Experiencing other cultures while enriching our global view.



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Munich, Germany
I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Friday, July 31, 2009


One of the many pleasures of returning home again is to reconnect with friends.

Le DivorceImage via Wikipedia

I can't speak for men, but my women friends are irreplaceable. After my divorce, almost twenty years ago, I realized that my old friendships (mainly couples) were just not what I needed, so I sought out other women who were going through a similar journey in their lives. It was during this special time in my life that I established strong relationships with a core group of amazing women. Today, I can't imagine my life with them.

A lot happens in twenty years. Some of these women have gone on and raised their families, accumulated degrees and better jobs, married and remarried again, and some have chosen never to marry again. But, one thing has always remained constant, their care and concern for one another. We used to laugh and say, "Men may come and go in our lives (and they did), but our friendship is forever." We didn't know it then, but that is exactly how it has played out.

So, during August, I will be able to meet with my dear friends back home. I will golf with one dear friend, celebrate a missed birthday with another, have coffee and chat with another friend whom I've known since grade school, and ride bikes and exercise with another. We will do dinner, movies, a festival or two, walk, and have cocktails. It is reassuring to know that just because I've moved, I haven't been replaced and my friends are still here for me, just as I am for them.

Another group of great friends are the ones I made while we, my current husband and I, lived in Shanghai, China. I didn't know i

Massage in Frankfurt, GermanyImage via Wikipedia

t at the time, but they were my "family" while my family was still in the states. We were all women whose husbands had jobs that included a lot of overseas travel so we were frequently left behind in Shanghai. These women, many of whom had been living overseas previously, were our saving grace. Together we traveled to exotic destinations, reveled in massages and spas, shopped Hui Hai Lu until we dropped, did lunch & dinner, played mah jong, took classes, golfed, and shared all our host country had to offer. At difficult times, we commiserated together about missing our children/sisters & brothers/parents/ and grandchildren. We planned holidays together and baked turkeys for a Chinese Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas. We made sure that the husbands or wives of traveling spouses had a place to come for dinner while their spouse was away. At times, we held one another hands in times of sadness or despair. These women are ever so dear to me as the ones I ma

martiniImage by wickenden via Flickr

de post-divorce.

'AImage via Wikipedia

A golf ball directly before the holeImage via Wikipedia

In two weeks I will be reconnecting with six of these remarkable women at the beach house of one of the Shanghai Expats. She has graciously invited us to spend a week at her house on the lake and has planned evenings of plays, casinos, theater, and entertainment for us as well. Since our fun-filled days in Shanghai, we've given up our drivers, cooks, and maids that were standard luxuries for expats living in a "hardship" country at that time. We would laugh at the word, "hardship" and say, "If only the world knew how so un-hardship it is to live here." Now, years later, we have resumed being full-time homemakers, workers, and retirees in many different parts of the world. Some, like me, have moved on to another country to experience yet another culture. However, for one week in August, we will revisit our lifelong friendship with one another.

One of my goals, upon returning to Munich in September, is to work towards meeting kindred souls in Germany. Soon after arriving, I will begin intensive language courses, join the expat group, a photography group, and an exercise club, just to start. Why, there is even an expat Blogger group that has invited me to a get-together. It is my desire to be able to communicate in German and not rely on English for all of my friendships. The friends I have made so far are wonderfully bi and tri-lingual. This is such a blessing, yet it makes it so easy not to have to learn German. I've heard that many expats never learn the language because most everyone speaks English. That may be so, but when you are with a group of people speaking German, you are certainly left out of the conversation.

Life is rich with new adventures and new experiences. But to fully enjoy all a new country or culture has to offer, it is necessary to form new international friendships, in my opinion. Living as an American in Germany has no appeal for me. I want to be able to try it the German way, first. It is my observation that too much of the world is being homogenized and westernized. The lines are very blurred and wherever you travel, you can recognize similarities. Sadly, the differences are vanishing. So, while we still have those vital differences in life, I want to know them and celebrate them. Hopefully, with the amazing women in Germany who I have yet to meet who I know will become lifelong friends.

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Since I began this blog, I've focused on our move to Germany, life in Munich, our travels, and social commentary about the United States and Germany. Today, I would like to veer off the above topics, for just a moment, and draw your attention to the man in my life, my husband.

sail boat on lake erieImage by allie mellinger via Flickr

When I first met my husband it was at a party island where boaters docked and basically partied all weekend. I went to Putt-in-Bay with my sister for the day, and we brought an elderly co-worker with us. Moments after first meeting my soon-to-be husband, I noticed that he had disappeared along with our elderly friend. It wasn't until they returned an hour or so later that I learned that she was diabetic and needed to eat, so he took her to dinner at a restaurant on the island.

His concern for a total stranger had a great impact on me. It was one of the reasons I later married him.

Over the years, his kindness, empathy, and generousity has never faltered. If he sees anyone in need, he is the first to offer his assistance. I have seen him seek out the elderly to help them with their luggage in airports, open doors, and stow away their bags on airplanes. I've watched him tote baby strollers up and down steps in train stations. I've even seen him, to my utter amazement, give up a business class seat to a harried mother with a crying baby in her arms.
He is selfless, always thinking of others; once again, the reason I married him.
I could go on about his significant acts of selflessness. How he has shown such generousity and caring for me, my sons, and now our grandchildren, but he would be very uncomfortable at my mentioning these acts of kindness. We all love him, so it is natural that we would want to praise his good qualities.

So, why do am I telling you all of this? It is so you will fully understand the next photos. Without the back story, you would only see a man holding an umbrella over a woman with a microphone caught in the rain while trying to interview a man for a Munich TV station.

What makes these photos so special is that no one asked him to shield her from the rain; he simply noticed a woman in need and without a second thought, offered her his umbrella. He even stood next to her during the interview so she would remain dry. That's my Sir Gallahad!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009


People, American women would not be caught dead in a German dirndl (traditional Bavarian costume once worn by peasants) on an American street. No matter what the occasion, you can bet your lederhosen, any self-respecting Miss from the U.S.A. would never wear such a dress out in public. Now, she might wear a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, ragged blue jeans, and her hair tied up in a scrunchie, but, "Nar a dirndl is worn in this here parts, by gum!"

In fact, in my entire life, I have never seen an American woman wear such a costume. (I've never heard anyone say, "By gum!," either). It's possible it could have been worn as a halloween costume or at the local German Festival, but that is about the only place it possibly could have ever been worn, trust me .

But, not so in Munich. It is so commonly accepted here that hardly a soul notices the dirndl wearer, except the expats, is my guess. Now, I have to admit that when I see a woman clad in a dirndl, in Germany, I immediately think she is a bar maid in a local beer garden eith

The Rathaus and Marienplatz from Peterskirche ...Image via Wikipedia

er coming or going to work.

However, I must admit, that if that were the case then Munich must have a large population of beer garden waitresses because the dirndl is very common on the streets, in the trains, and in the grocery stores. Women of ALL ages are seen daily wearing the dress. Even small children! It isn't just during beer garden season, either.
Furthermore, I reckon that the further away from the city, out in the small villages, for example, the more dirndl wearers you might find. It is only my hunch seeing as the villagers are collectively seen as more traditional and more conservative than the city dwellers.

Drawing a comparison between German traditional dress and American traditional dress is difficult. I don't see many American women walking about the streets wearing American Indian tribal regalia with beading, headress, and feathers. But that would be the equivalent of this costume, now wouldn't it? Or would it be the pioneer womans' ankle length dress with her white apron tied in back? Either way, we have nothing in our culture, that I can think of, to compare to the dirndl. Especially nothing quite so alluring and attention getting as the German dirndl! Ask any man!

Wiesn DirndlImage by DMWyllie via Flickr

However, while shopping in the Marienplatz just last week, I saw dirndils in the shop windows that would exclude most beer garden waitresses just by their price alone. These were not your everyday dirndls, mind you. These have been given pizzaz and style and are currently displayed in the department store windows outside of Max Ludwig in the Marienplatz, in the center of Munich. They are formal and meant for very special occasions; not your common every day attire. These garments have been updated to reflect the times and the fabrics being used are far from traditional.
Have a look on the left.

I like the hat with the feather on the mannequin to the left, and the long black lace gloves on the mannequin to the right.

Satins, silks, and taffeta are the new look of dirndls meant for evening wear.

It doesn't stop with the dress alone. Pictured on the left and below are the stockings that complete the picture. They are striking and jaw dropping. Heads turn as passers-by gawk at the amazingly gorgeous dresses in the many large department store windows. Oktoberfest is drawing near and I suppose these pretties are being displayed in the hopes of whetting our appetites for the festivities. If so, their marketing department has done an excellent job because they are stunning!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009


SkypeImage via Wikipedia

How did people do it before Skype? This is my most favorite invention and what makes it even better is that it is FREE! I can call my husband, for nothing, talk to him as long as I want (or with the 6 hour difference, as long as he can keep his eyes open), and see him at the same time.

Amazing! If you don't Skype with your loved ones and friends far away, you really ought to look into it. We bought all of the kids web cams last Christmas, but many of their computers already have cameras and microphones built into them. It is the next best thing to being with them.

The best part is that you can take your OWN photo with your web cam (like the one of me below) and download it into your computer for your own icon or to send to friends and family. In fact, I just recently realized that you can even make a short video and send it. Instead of a written email, your friend/mate/whomever can get the message from you in person. Now, how cool is that? I just love technology, don't you?

What is your most favorite technology? Leave me a comment at the end of the post and tell me what your favorite technology is.

Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000 webcam (without &qu...Image via Wikipedia

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

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Monday, July 27, 2009


200710 united airlinesImage by superciliousness via Flickr

I made it back to Ohio without any major difficulties. Actually, I got an upgrade from United and ended up flying back to America from Munich Business Class. Not too shabby. United, you are my new, favorite airlines, thank you! Business class has changed and now they have seats that turn into beds, for heaven's sake! It was fantastic! I watched three movies, ate fairly good food, and drank some great wines on my way back. All went well until we began to land and the pilot had to abort the landing because of the weather. He must have hit the throttle hard because we began to immediately increase speed. We must have flown around for another twenty minutes before he brought us down to a perfect landing.

Our house in Ohio looks wonderful, thanks to my son and daughter-in-law who are living here now. The gardens are abundant, the grass is green, and the house is in tip-top shape. They're doing and awesome job keeping the place up. We once rented our home out when we moved to China a few years back and it was such a disaster that we swore we would leave it vacant or sell it before we rented again. Then, upon our overseas move, the timing was perfect. The kids decided to relocate back into Ohio just as we were leaving for Germany. We are so fortunate to have them here and really care for our home. It makes living overseas so much easier when you know your property is cared for.
Our yard has been in the care of a local lawn service and it has never looked better. The cooler summer this year has done wonders for the grass. Usually at this time of year things have gone to brown for the lack of water. It is wonderful to see everything so green and in full bloom. The roses are bountiful, the daisys are plentiful, and the front perennial garden is overflowing with purple ballon flowers, black-eyed susans, hostas, iris', and many others.

The lilly of the valley are covering the gardens next to the house along with the hostas and as you can see, they are very healthy.

What is a bit strange is seeing someone elses' furniture in our home. We have taken all of our Asian furniture off to Germany with us and have added a few new things from Germany. I haven't broken down and bought a cuckoo clock, a beer stein, or a wooden carved plaque from Germany yet. We even went to the Black Forest where the cuckoo clocks were in every shop window. I held myself back! We're still enjoying the peaceful Asian inspired serenity of our furniture from Shanghai.

Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the ...Image by uteart via Flickr

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If we find that the day comes that we are driven to purchase a German traditional item, I'm quite sure we will consider selling our remainder of Chinese cabinets and tables. But what is really disorienting me is looking at my home with traditional furniture in it. I am home, but I'm not. Really, I'm in my son's home and that is ok with me.

Friday, July 24, 2009


The Wall Street Crash of 1929, the beginning o...Image via Wikipedia Wall Street during Crash of 1929.

I'm headed back home for a visit and it is with a mixture of anticipation and a dollop of dread that I return. The anticipation is for seeing my family and friends and sharing wonderful times together. The dread is for finding my country and my city
suffering. Each day I know that citizens are losing their jobs, their homes, and their possesions due to the current economy. I get a news feed from our local news station and I hear about the cut in wages, the downsizing, and all too often the closure of another business. Personally, I know people who have been asked to work with less hours, less pay, or foot part of their medical benefits just to stay employed. Fire departments, police, and teachers are all finding that their departments or districts are not able to meet the current payroll and must consider more cuts.

I also know of friends who have had to foreclose on property because they just were not able to make the payments. My heart goes out to these people because you just never know if one day you might be in their shoes. It's unbelievable the number of people I know who are facing difficulty in these uncertain times. We, h

Foreclosure - Impressive!Image by joelogon via Flickr

ere in Germany are not immune either. My husbands' company is in the final phases of downsizing staff globally by 30%. Being a new expat and having only been here for four months, my husband was waiting

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL- APRIL 03:  Richard McCull...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

for the bullet. We feel somewhat safe--this time. Should there be another round of cuts, who knows? There are so many variables that to predict what may happen to the world's ecomomy is sheer conjecture on our part. Speculation runs rampant and nothing is certain. It's a bit hard to see the effects of a worsened economy here in Germany. I haven't yet seen foreclosure signs or businesses leaving empty store fronts behind. But I understand that when the U.S. sneezes, everyone in the world catches cold so it is probably only a matter of time.

What makes it ever more stressful is that you know that our tax money helped bail out many businesses who just mismanaged their companies and yet we are giving them another chance. Who among us wouldn't like someone to extend a hand and bail us out of our deep despair and loss? I think it's the underlying unfairness of it all that I regret.

Families are already stretched to the limit and yet we all know that special services or maintaining the services we now enjoy will take more money. Where will it come from?

Returning home to boarded up businesses, homes that sit empty, and long lines at t

An example of a payslip from the John Lewis Pa...Image via Wikipedia

he job source center is not what I had in mind when I looked forward to my first return visit. Yet, that is the reality and I need to prepare myself for it. When I left, things were only starting to get worse--now, I have no idea what to expect. Northwest Ohio is in the unenviable position to have suffered immensely from the downturn of the auto industry. Auto workers make up a large percent of our population and I just imagine that they are some of the hardest hit along with their counterparts, businesses that supply the auto industry.

For these reasons, I am fearful of my return home. It won't be as it was or how I remembered it and the people whom I know and love will have been affected by it. Such is the way of the world at the moment. I wish I could bring something positive back for my family and friends, some happiness and joy at the very least, instead of souveniers and trinkets. This is all I can do for now. Hopefully, I can manage to make others forget about their life's burdens, if only for a short time.

So, although I am anxious and excited to reunite with all of my family and good friends, it is with trepidation that I do so. My mother was so right when she advised me as a young woman that the only thing to expect to stay constant in life was.... change.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


In just two days I will be going back to Ohio to visit family. It's been four months since I've moved to Munich and five months for my husband. In many ways, this is now our home and the idea of it being an extended vacation has vanished. In fact, it feels odd to say that I'm returning home (to Ohio) because without my husband there, it is no longer our home.

We are so comfortable here and have everything we need that we seldom say, "Gee, I wish I were back in the states so that I could....." The only thing missing is American TV and that is not missing a whole lot, if you know what I mean. We could get a satellite dish and we've discussed it, but with the summer here there is so much to do outdoors that we have decided to wait until winter. In the meantime I have bought boxed sets of "House," "NCIS", "Criminal Intent," and a few movies to tide us over.

borderImage via Wikipedia

We always have CNNNNN to fall back on. We call it CNNNNN because it is the only channel in English and we have it on most of the day to catch up with the news that just keeps being repeated over and over again.

More and more we are saying that we prefer Germany to the United States and Australia, our respective countries. The life here is just so civilized (Steve's analysis). It fits our lifestyle to a tee. Biking, outdoor dining, cafes on the footpath, quiet time during the mid-day, great wines, good beer, excellent shopping, beautiful vistas, and heaps of history and culture.

We are healthier, less stressed, and certainly more invigorated living here in Germany. I think some of that is due to the fact that we certainly are away from family and we don't always hear the day-to-day stresses that our family is dealing with. That can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. We aren't being stressed, but we do feel an information gap when we visit.
We feel healthier because the fridge is so small that I shop daily (no car so I walk or bike). Fresh fruit and vegetables and meats without hormones have helped us feel much healthier. The fact that we have refused to get a car means we walk/bike everywhere. And if we can't, we take the train, bus, subway, or trolley. In extreme need, we will either take a taxi or breakdown and rent a car. Usually that is on a weekend when we go to explore outlying countries in Europe.
This brings us to being more invigorated. There is so much to see, do, and learn about in Europe. We are so centrally located here in Munich that we can be to most of Europes' major cities in just hours by train, car, or even sooner by plane. Flights are cheap and you just can't beat it.
There is no comparison between travelling within the U.S. and within Europe. The distance may be the same, but you will not be hearing English and you won't be eating hot dogs and hamburgers. The language, culture, and customs are different in every country. While we live here, we intend to experience them all! In the last four months we've done a pretty good job. We've been to:







Not bad for four months! As a good friend once emailed to me, "It is as if the whole world is your playground." I would have to agree. What this life provides for us is a global perspective and a life rich with new experiences. It has re-charged our batteries, given us a quest and an appreciation for both the similarities and differences we share as a part of humanity. New friendships, hobbies, and ways of doing things make us appreciate our life here all the more.
One other thing I notice is that it has made us closer as a couple. We are sharing a life that is new to us and together we are noticing how living out of our comfort zone, where we know everthing about a place, is helping us to communicate more and rely on one another for help. We don't take one another for granted and we appreciate the little things we do for one another that makes our life here so enjoyable. As a couple we have grown and it has renewed us. It doesn't hurt that Bavaria provides much in the way of romantic spots that give our lives new excitement together. It's as if they designed this city with romance in mind. Green parks, window boxes filled with brilliant flowers, quaint shops, fountains, park benches, walking paths through fields and orchards, small bridges, wrought iron gates, lovely groomed hedges, cobblestone walk ways, antique street lamps, and a gentle climate all contribute to the romance.
But, Germany and Europe don't have everything thing we need. It has made our lives much better, but it can never replace being with our family. Because of this, it is less than ideal. For me, I miss my American family that I will be seeing in two days. For my husband, he will have to wait until Christmas to see the Aussie side of the family. Here are the faces I can't wait to see (in no particular order). I will post our Australian side of the family before our trip back to Oz in December!

Our Mr. Wadiah (Dido, 5) grandson

Our Mr. Elijah (Eli, 11) grandson

Our Eric (son) and beautiful wife, Gisela (daughter-in-law)

Our Miss Baila (Baila Boo, 9)
grand daughter

Our Mr. Jacob (Jake, 13)


Our Mr. Nicholas (Niko, 7) grandson

Our Mr. Waseem (Simo, 4 and a twin to his sister below) grandson

Our Miss Nardeen (Nee Nee, 4) twin to Simo above,

grand daughter

Our Mr. Zechariah (Wacky Zechy, 16) grandson

And last, but NEVER least, our Shane (son), and gorgeous daughter-in-law, Luna.

So, there you have it. In a nutshell. Wherever there is family, there is home. Get ready, family, for 6 weeks of fun. I've been waiting four months to see you all and I can't wait.
Mr. Steve, please hurry and meet us. Without you, life is not complete for me.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The Old Jewish Cemetery in Josefov, the Jewish Quarter or "Jewish Ghetto" in Prague, was created in the 15th century. During that time the Jews were forbidden to bury their dead outside of their own district. Since the area was very limited and space was minimal in the Old Jewish Cemetery, the bodies had to be buried one on top of the other. It is said that the graves are layered about 12' deep and consist of at least seven layers. This explains the totally haphazard and unruly collection of tombstones. There are over 12,000 tombstones dating back from the earliest one of poet and scholar, Avigdor Kara, in 1439 to the most recent, 1787, that are visible. Historians say that there may be as many as 100,000 burials in all.

Photo of the mishmash of tombstones in a small section of the Old Jewish Cemetery that are visible.

The tombstone of Judah Lowe with small pebbles and written notes left behind to commemorate his death.

Austrian Writer Franz KafkaImage via Wikipedia

Franz Kafka, the writer from Prague, used to go to the Old Jewish Cemetery to reflect. He is not buried there, but in the New Jewish Cemetery across town. The New Jewish Cemetery is half empty. That is because the generation that was to be buried there was transported to the Nazi death camps.

Before you enter the cemetery you are privileged to view some of the children's drawings they drew while they were imprisoned the concentration camp, Terezin, during WWII. While many of the drawings reflect the horrors of war, some project the childlike musings of everyday children worldwide. It is then that you realize the scope of the utter madness that obliterated the many lives of the Bohemian and Moravian Jews in Prague during the genocide of the Czech Jews.

Steve at a solemn moment paying respect to the thousands upon thousands of grave sites in the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Terezin as a ghetto and a concentration camp started with one thousand persons. Whole families from Prague and Brno began to arrive. By the end of the first year, there were 7,350 prisoners in Terezin. During the first half of 1942 there were another 25,862 persons deported from Czech and Moravian towns to Terezin and in the second half of the year an additional 28,366. Actually, by the end of 1942 three quarters of all the Jewish population was living in the ghetto. To fully understand what happened to these people you may want to visit the following link:

On the walls of the memorial building, before entering the cemetery, are the names of each of the individual deceased. Literally, a whole generation of Jews in Czech decimated.

The most prominent person buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery is the religious scholar and teacher, Judah Loew ben Bezaiel, also known as Rabbi Loew (d. 1

statue of clay golem depicting Prague Golem. (...Image via Wikipedia

609), who is associated with the legend of the Golem

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