Friday, December 18, 2009


The locals are convinced on a strong link between inappropriate clothing and illness. Go outside during winter without decent shoes and you'll get a kidney infection. Leave a milimetre of neck skin uncovered and your lungs will shrivel up. Three days into this latest bout of cold weather Mads' eye gunked up. Perhaps it was because her tights aren't thick enough - whatever the reason I couldn't send poor old puss-eyes off to kinder like that so it was off to the doctor with us on Wednesday morning. Mum and dad decided to fill the time by going to the travel agent.

On the walk back home from the doctor's, it started snowing. Mads and I walked along with out mouths open, trying to catch snowflakes. When mum and dad arrived home we told them about the snowflake-in-mouth-catching and mum said 'we did the same thing.'

My dad is full of praise for Frankfurt ('I like the architecture! The people in the shops are very helpful!'), but my mum seems somewhat underwhelmed. I took her to H & M - a shop she'd been keen to visit and she was disapointed by their underwear range.
'What were you expecting?' I asked. It looked like a pretty standard range of underwear to me.
'Just something a little more cutting edge,' mum said.

I'm not sure where you need to go for cutting edge undies. Maybe Japan?

Last Sunday we went to the natural history museum, which has an enormous diplidocus and a t.rex model out the front.
'They're not very good, are they?' mum said.
'What do you mean?' I asked.
'Well, they're a bit cheesy, don't you think?'

Mum does approve of the local bread though. And the beer, which is not too fizzy.

Monday, December 14, 2009


There were a number of exciting arrivals last week. On Friday a bubbled-wrapped package from Hardie Grant turned up containing Tweenie Genie 2 with its pretty rasperry cover. Happinesss.

Then, on Saturday morning, there was an even more exciting arrival: Arma and Arpa. (They were not in bubble wrap but definitely well rugged up.) Mads and I got up at 5 am to catch the train out to the airport to meet them, and although we had a bit of difficulty finding the exit point we did eventually locate them. Mads dressed in her Sam Sam outfit for the occasion. It was a very joyful reunion and we may not let them leave again.

Up until this point it really hasn't been that cold in Frankfurt. But on Saturday, the wind started blowing from the north (that is, the North Pole) and things have suddenly become a whole lot colder. The weather forecasts all kept promising snow on Sunday and I had early reports from other families living just out of Frankfurt that there was enough snow where they were to make small snowmen. I was desperate for it to snow here, too. Sadly, we didn't get anything like that amount of snow - just a few flakes whirling around in a dandruff-like way - but still, it's the first time we'd experienced snow in an urban setting and it was exciting. Today's top is 0 degrees, but no snow unfortunately. Maybe there will be some by Christmas though.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Der Hund ist Lustig

For a long time Mads resisted using any German words other than 'kartoffel' and 'nein'. But gradually - so gradually - this is changing. I get the feeling that she understands a lot of what is said to her, especially when it's along the lines of 'do you want anything more to eat/drink?' as well as 'wash your hands and let's go outside.' She has also just recently started singing entire songs in German - I think some of the words aren't entirely right (I can't actually tell)- but it's still amazing for me to hear her singing away in another language.

Then this week there has been another big jump: she has started talking to other children in German. There is just a slight issue that what she says doesn't always make a lot of sense. I suspect that sometimes she is quoting lyrics from songs she's learning at kinder. Still, I'm so impressed that she's even trying. Yesterday for instance she bowled up to a small boy and said 'St Nickolas kommt heute Abend!' which was not strictly true but got a very positive response. Then she said 'Der Hund is lustig,' and the boy looked at her blankly, probably because we were in a shop and there were no dogs around, funny or otherwise. I guess it's lucky that she's still at an age where kids do just say random, seemingly non-sensical things. I remember a small kid coming up to me in a park once in Melbourne and saying in a very confidential tone; 'I'm wearing underpants.'
'Good work,' I said. 'So am I.' I mean, what else can you say?

'Tschüss!' said Mads to the boy, as we left the shop. 'Bitte aufräumen!'

Loser State

We seem to have lost Victoria from our Australia puzzle.

For a while I kept spotting it in odd places around the flat and a couple of time thought it was some food-based item squashed onto the floor. I even laughed about what an unattractive shape it is, once removed from its neighbours. It looks like something that accidentally went through the wash in someone's pocket. But this morning I couldn't find Victoria anywhere and I feel bad about it. Like a traitor. If it had been NSW that wouldn't have mattered so much, but to lose your own State, that feels unforgiveable.

It's probably just as well then that the grandparents are arriving on Saturday to give us a top up on all things Victorian.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

So, what happens if you leave your boots out on the 6th of December in Hessen? St Nicolaus comes along and fills them up. It's kind of like a early indicator of if you're on track for a good haul of Christmas presents - if you've been good, your boots are filled up with tasty treats. If you've been bad, you get sticks. We did wonder about this, because Mads is quite fond of sticks and we thought she might prefer them. St Nicolaus was onto it though and put in some pretzel sticks in with the lollies. Oh, what a humourous guy he is.

In other thrilling news, today I had my first ever German haircut. I've been putting it off for ages, worried that I might end up with something like this but finally I decided that I had to do it, to hell with the risk. Besides, I figured if it was truly terrible I could just hide it under a hat for the next three months.

So I went to a place around the corner that a friend recommended - no appointment, 12 euros. The most alluring part was that the hair dressers there don't speak any English so I knew I wouldn't have to engage in painful small talk. The result? A twelve euro haircut. Eh. Oh well. It'll do. My favourite part was that at the end I had the option of whether I wanted the hairdresser to dry my hair or if I wanted to dry my own. Of course I went the dry my own option - partly because I always hate the way it looks after it's been 'done' by a hairdresser and also because doing it myself meant I could get the whole process over with even quicker. It didn't lower the price however, which I thought was a little unreasonable.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Laternin Fest

In November there is a German celebration called St Martin's Day where all the small children walk around holding lanterns. St Martin was this guy who was walking through the snow with his lantern one day and came across a man, freezing to death. St Martin took off his coat, ripped it in half and gave half to the man. (I imagine it was a cloak, or some sort of wrappy thing because otherwise surely half a coat would be of minimal use to either man.) So St Martin's day is all about celebrating this gesture (although no one wears ripped up coats I noticed).

I suffered a certain amount of stress when instructed by Mads' kindy teacher that I needed to purchase a 'stick with a light bulb on the end' so Mads could hang her lantern on it. It's a strange thing, searching for something in the shops when really you have no idea what it is exactly that you are looking for. As it turned out I easily recognised the item I was searching for. It was the stick with the small light bulb dangling from the end. That was a relief, but there was further stress when I realised the stick needed batteries - two 'baby batteries' the instructions said. Baby batteries? Never heard of them. I sent Thieu out - he is the battery guy - and he came through with the goods. I'm still not sure why they're called baby batteries though. They weren't even small.

So at 5 pm the following evening Mads and I (Thieu was working) loaded the lantern up onto the stick and joined the other parent/child combos at the kinder. Then we paraded through the backstreets of Langen until coming to a halt outside the local, and rather drab, Langen pizza shop. Then, for some reason that is not clear to me, everyone began to sing a German song to the tune of 'Oh When The Saints Go Marching In.' Maybe we were begging for food? No food was forth-coming, unfortunately, and we all turned and marched back to the kindergarten.

At the kindergarten I bought some soup, a pretzel, some kinder-punsch and a gluhwein and staggered back into the kinder room to find all the chairs were occupied. A man saw me looking around, stood up and carefully lay his coat and umbrella across one of the seats, eyeing me with a look that clearly said 'this is my seat. Rack off.' Then he left the room, presumably to purchase food. So Mads and I stood and somehow managed to balance all the items in my hands without spilling very much at all. 15 minutes later the man returned with no food picked up his belongings and departed, seemingly oblivious to my hateful glares. Had he understood any of the St Martin's Day message of sharing and being neighbourly? Luckily, the gluhwein had kicked in by then and I resisted grabbing his coat and ripping it in two.

Next Hessen tradition: finding out what happens to your boots on the evening of Dec 6..