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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Monday, November 29, 2010


President Elect Barack Obama

In just one day I will be flying back to Germany.  I have had a lovely visit in the states catching up with friends and family.  I love my country and it's difficult to be so far away when changes are being made here and I later learn about them in a foreign land.  Germany is not a perfect country, but for the time being they appear to be stable and  seem to be making good decisions for their economy.

I'm less confident about the way things are going here in the U.S.  I have just watched the President on T.V. call for a two year wage freeze for federal employees. This is a good way to rein in spending and cut the cost of government, but this measure is just a drop in the bucket compared to the large deficit we have now.

We see it everywhere.  Employees are being asked to roll up their sleeves, to do more for less, and in many cases, to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the greater good.   Companies have downsized, gone out of business, and relocated overseas in an effort to optimize their profits.  All of this translates, of course, to lower wages and less employment.

I wish I could be optimistic and say that a federal wage freeze will make a difference, but I just don't see it that way.  To add to my pessimism, there is a very good chance that the Bush era tax cut debates will result in an extension,  further benefiting the rich. 

 Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, believes that the rich should be paying more taxes and it should be left to expire at the end of December.  He sees steady growth in 69 out of 70 of his investments (all but construction) making money.

Warren Buffet

 Those tax cuts for the wealthy did nothing to stimulate our economy.  It was industry that benefited from them.  Nor did the bail outs that kept big business from destroying the economy, sure, but still resulted in large bonuses for CEO's and more tightening of the reins when it comes to consumer lending.

Buffet says, "If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further.  But I think that people at the high end--people like myself--should be paying a lot more in taxes.  We have it better than we've ever had it."  Darn right they have.

Buffet thinks the economy has a long way to go before coming back.  My worry is this: just how many more cuts can the Americans afford to give?  

Gas prices and tuition costs are just a few of the expenses that are on the rise.  People are not borrowing, they are cutting down on expenses and in many cases struggling just to make it to the next pay check.  Many invested their money in stocks that are worth very little now, if anything.  Their homes are worth less than they purchased them, and this was to be their form of savings, their nest egg,  for their retirement.  Currently, even their pensions are in question and medical insurance is far beyond their means.  

Heck, at 50 plus years of age, they are no longer employable even though they ma have an education and experience to offer.  For them, who have worked hard doing what they thought was the right thing all of their lives-- they will live out their lives in quiet desperation.

New York Stock Exchange

I am also concerned that corporations are allowed to donate money, in undisclosed amounts, to their preferential political party.  Isn't our country for the people and by the people?   It was never founded to be run in the best interest of corporations who we all know do not have the best interest of our country's constituents at heart.  

They are only interested in lining their own pockets, come what may.

I know I share these concerns with many others in our country.  It's just that when I'm living day-to-day in Gemany, I don't feel the pulse of America.  I don't hear the guy at the gas station commenting to his buddy about how he can't afford to fill his tank or the elderly woman in the grocery line in front of me who is existing on §600.00 a month.  I feel that, for better or worse, life in another country alienates me from what my fellow Americans are going through.

Garfield Diner diners

I read the news and watch CNN and the BBC, but I wonder if it is media hype or reality.  It is so hard to tell these days. 

 I speak to my friends and family on Skype and try to sort out fact from fiction.  Here, in the rust belt where we come from,  the stories are never very promising and people seem to have a general malaise regarding their financial futures.  That, or they are putting their heads in the sand and crossing their fingers that things improve quickly.  It's hard to tell.


You hear words like recession, depression, budget deficits and inflation, but the restaurant parking lots are still full and people are lined up on Black Friday to get the latest techno gadget.  One wonders if these items are paid with cash or credit?  I would like to think that if there were any lessons to be learned from what we have gone through, it would be to not live beyond our means, to make wise purchases, and to save; because it looks to me like the rich will just keep getting richer and the poor will just keep getting poorer, as long as the corporations are calling the shots.

So tell me, do you feel the same?  Are we being governed by corporate America?  

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I am due to go back to Munich, Tuesday, after a long 6 week stay in the U.S. I was concerned that my niece would be induced, as scheduled, on Wednesday and I would miss the birth of her son.  But he decided to be a gentleman and come sooner so his Auntie Chris could meet him in person.

These photos were taken just moments after his birth at 9:30 am this morning.  He was 9 lbs and 9 oz and was 22 and three-quarter inches long.  Such a tired little boy and mommy was tired too, but she was also extremely happy to have delivered her son.

She went into labor yesterday around 3:45 pm and her mom (my only sister) and I took her to the hospital only to learn that she was 1 cm dilated. So, we decided to take her Christmas shopping and we walked the stores for four hours.  When we started, her contractions were 20 mins. apart. When we took her home after shopping, they were 8 minutes apart.  At 4:30 am this morning she was admitted and had dilated to 8 cm.  It took 5 more hours to deliver, but it was worth it.

Baby, mother & father are all doing well.  Like them, my sister and I could use some more sleep.  It's been quite a while since we've pulled an all-nighter like this and we're heading home for a long nap.

Thanks, Sis, for allowing me to be a part of your family's joyous day!  Our Ashley did well and now you have a beautiful, healthy grandson to dote on.  I look forward to my next trip to Florida and spoiling him too. I love you sis.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Can you feel my nieces pain?  She is overdue and will be induced Wednesday if her son doesn't appear this week.

As luck would have it, I leave to return to Munich on Tuesday!

I have offered to take her on bumpy drives over railroad tracks and anything else to get this show on the road.  Any ideas?

She is beyond uncomfortable and just can't wait for the birth of her son.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Time again to participate in Wednesday Hodgepodge with Joyce From the Other Side of the Pond.  Here we go:

1. If you had known what they knew then, would youhave boarded the Mayflower?
    Answer:  It would have taken about three seconds for me to think about that one; not on your life!

2. How far have you traveled on a boat and how do you feel about boats in general?
    Answer:  I guess Cruise ships don't qualify as boats, do they?  Well, in that case, I used to go walleye fishing with the family on a boat in Lake Erie and ride the ferry from Sandusky, OH to Putt-in-Bay.  Good thing I did too.  Met my Aussie hubby there!

3. What traditions have you kept, acquired thru marriage, and/or tossed? If you're single what are some of your family's favorite Thanksgiving traditions?
    Answer:  We are the United Nations of families.  Husband Australian, daughter-in-law Jordanian, and another daughter-in-law from Uruguay. It's a real "Hodgepodge," no pun intended. I think we are slowly assimilating our new family traditions to accommodate everyone, primarily in the kinds of dishes we serve.  It's very international.

4. What time is dinner and how many will be round your table? And what is the one side dish you cannot do without on Thanksgiving day?
     Answer:  I left my husband to fend for himself in Munich, Germany where we now live.  I am here in the states and leave my immediate family tomorrow to head to sunny Florida to be with my sister and her family for Thanksgiving.  My niece is due to deliver her second child this week.  Who knows!  We may have a new baby boy on Turkey day.
      The one side dish we cannot do without is my grandmother's  home made German noodle recipe.  It's a must every year.

Yes, I know it goes against all I believe in to ask for 'just one', but I made up for it by asking three questions here.

5. Have you ever used a fire extinguisher? Do tell....
     Answer: Yep!  When my 13 yr. old son tried to light the Weber barbecue with gasoline and the flames traveled back from the coals to the can of gas in his hand.  (To this day, I don't know what possessed him to start the grill with gasoline.)  He threw the flaming gas can under the car in a garage filled with paint cans and thinner.  

6. Tell about a situation that caused you dreadful trepidation and feet dragging, only to realize later it was a true blessing.
     Answer: Moving to China.

7. Baked, sweet, mashed, hash browned or french fried...which one's your favorite?
      Answer: Of those mentioned, mashed, but of course!

8. Insert your own random thought here.
     Answer: I hope that tomorrow, during my pat down at the airport, no one tries to "touch my junk."  :-D

Monday, November 22, 2010


While on Facebook today, I came across a posting and thought I would share it with you.  I love these kinds of lists related to good literature.  Having spent my entire career as a high school English teacher, I probably have read more of the classics than most readers, but I have a real void when it comes to current literature.  So, I will be focusing on reading the books that are recommended to me by friends and family as a way of rounding out my reading experiences in the future.  But this list isn't about classics and for the most part, it is rather eclectic. Still, I was surprised to see that I have read a little over half of them.  There are a few titles I would like to read and quite a few I have no intention of reading.

At the moment, I am reading two books simultaneously and hope to finish one tomorrow on my flight to see my sister in Florida.   I am loving When You are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris, an essayist for the New Yorker and heard on Public Radio International's This American Life.  I find myself in tears laughing at the quirky and unusual circumstances he finds himself in life and how he finds poignancy in the mundane.  The other book I am reading is Barbara Kingsolver's, The Laguna, that came highly recommended to me by a friend.  I've just started it and hope it is a good beach read.  

When I return to Germany in a week, I will host a book club meeting for the book The Other Hand, in the U.K., by Chris Cleve, or also known in America as Little Bee. It is an astoundingly good read and offers the reader life changing opportunities.  I would recommend it to you with glowing praises.  It is also being made into a film.

This rounds out my immediate reads.  I'm looking for the next good book.  Any suggestions?

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. 

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. 
Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!
Also amend this with an asterix if you've seen the movie/tv version.  

NOTE: The Lion , the Witch and the Wardrobe belongs to the Chronicles of  Narnia; Hamlet belongs to Shakespeare's collected works

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling*
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee 
6 The Bible
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller 
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot 
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens  
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath –  John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*
34 Emma – Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis*
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini 
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere*
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - William Golden*
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne *
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown*
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabrial Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins  
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martell
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen 
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love in the time of Cholera - Gabriel garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas*
66 On the Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding*
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville*
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens *
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker*
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson*
74 Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens*
82 Cloud Atlas - Charles Mitchell
83 The Colour Purple - Alice Walker*
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad*(Apocalypse Now)
92 The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams 
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare *
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*

7 Year Old Raps Ke$ha - We R Who We R (Cover/Remix) MattyBRaps


What are your plans for the Thanksgiving holiday?  Will you be with family, friends, or both?  Will you invite someone who is not with loved ones to join you at your table or have you been invited to join others?  Whatever your plans are for the holiday, I pray that you have a blessed one filled with laughter and fun.

As for me, I will be traveling, flying exactly, to Florida to my sister's in a few days to join her and her family for the festivities.  I am super excited because my niece is expecting her second child, a son, any day now.  I will be there until Nov. 30th, so there is a good chance that I will get to meet the little guy.  My niece isn't revealing his name until he is born, so "little guy" will have to do until we learn his proper name.  

I have been following the news regarding flights here in the U.S. during the hectic holiday season and I have to say that I don't know what all the fuss is about.  People are positively incensed about the scanners and the pat downs.  The pat downs have been proclaimed to be minimally invasive, but one thing is for sure, the TSA will not back down. They will be thorough, as it should be. Are there really people who are offended by this?

I have no problem with security checks. In my mind, they are a small price to pay for knowing that everyone on your plane is free of explosives or weapons.  I once worked in a prison and had to go through security checks a half a dozen times a day.  I knew then, like I do now, that it is for the safety of all that everyone comply. I didn't want staff, visitors, or family members bringing in contraband that might jeopardize my life or the life of others.  I became accustomed to it being just a necessary inconvenience that assured that I made it home alive each afternoon.

I make sure I am at the airport within the allotted time and I always leave enough time for unexpected events.  I think the whiners are all of those people who want to arrive minutes before and rush through security and hop on a plane right before it is ready for take off.  Those days are long gone and a new mindset is needed to cope with what will be delayed processing for anyone flying now a days.

So, I will leave an hour an a half early for a domestic flight and although they recommend a two hour advance arrival for international flights, I see that as two and a half hours at the very least what with the new scanners and pat downs that are required. 

 I want to arrive at my destination alive and if this is what it costs to assure that I do, it is a minor inconvenience.  Let the whiners drive, swim, or thumb it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Americans are facing rough times and it's about to get rougher for America's least able to survive economic strife.  Unemployed Americans have collected $319 billion in jobless benefits over the last three years.   This cost will be the topic of much debate in Congress in the coming weeks while they ponder whether or not to extend unemployment benefits for the 5th time this year.  If it is not extended by Nov. 30th, two million people will lose their benefits.

Germany, on the other hand, is riding high on a crest of economic good times.  Unemployment is no where near American numbers and because of good German engineering, goods are in high demand and account for their driving growth.  According to the "Germam Local:"

While the economies of countries like the US, Britain, France, Spain or Greece are still struggling or facing drastic austerity measures and angry street protests, Germany has weathered the global financial and economic crises well. There is no sense of a divided society here. 

It's all due to a convergence of contributing factors: the delayed effect of former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's labour market and welfare reforms known as the Agenda 2010, wage restraint by trade unions, the 'cash-for-clunkers' car purchase scheme, a relatively moderate stimulus plan, and propping up the eurozone by involving the International Monetary Fund. More than once, Merkel was criticized for any and all of these measures. But at the end of the day, she was always proved right.

Success breeds resentment, and it's no surprise that German opposition parties and certain nations are grinding their teeth, because the German example puts pressure on their leaders to explain themselves.

Although the Germans have managed their economy well, the U.S. Treasury Secretary urged that Germany's trade surplus' be capped (banned if they go over a certain level.)  I agree with the German indignation when faced with this suggestion.  Why should they be limited in economic growth because of the fiscal mismanagement of other countries, especially the U.S.?  The Germans think the U.S. and others are envious of their prosperity, and they could be correct.  I think if the shoe was on the other foot, we would have a hard time complying too.  

There is just no substitute for honest-to-goodness high quality and careful fiscal management. Let them reap what they have sown, I say.  We Americans would do well to emulate them rather than envy them.  Guess our leaders do have a lot of explaining to do.