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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

confucius says

"drink coke."

"keep painting."


better than a fortune cookie if you ask me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

paint

This is how I spent my Friday, in between some serious ironing, future planning, cleaning, cooking, a bit of errand running, lots of reading, giggling, talking, and general happiness. If I were a better photographer, you would be able to tell how awesome this is. But, since my vanity has officially been reinstated, I am a painter, not a photographer. I should get a picture of me doing my "I DID IT!" happy dance. Booyah watercolors! Boo to the yah!

P.S. Michigan has a Library Science program...I'm just sayin'....

good to know

engquist+hunger= ornery, irritable, unpleasant engquist

engquist+stomach eating itself hunger= psychotic, irritational, irate engquist on a tirade

engquist+lunch+cold bottle of coke+about a minute and a half= sunshine, daisies, giggles, and smiles

it doesn't make sense, it's just how it is.




Thursday, August 25, 2011

name game

The Czech has requested, and understandably so, a new nickname for this silly little blog of mine. Personally, I'm leaning towards Mr. F.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

where at least i know i'm free

"LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!" we hollered out as we reached the chorus of the tune John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt. It was about a fifteen minute walk from the bus stop to the cemetery and we were filling the moments with silliness. With every step along what appeared to be a not oft used footpath, the air grew more muggy. We had arrived in Luxembourg that morning and by eleven were walking from the bus on the southeast side of the city.
We came to the top of the hill and saw the golden eagles before anything else, forming the sides of a beautiful blue iron gate. They were high in the air, forcing the head to tilt upwards toward the heavens. We crossed through the entrance, flanked by the gilded sentinels. Without realizing, our giggles came to an abrupt halt and were replaced with a hallowed reverence. We had made our way to the U.S. Military Cemetery.

The Czech took his time at the visitor's center by the gate, trying to read as much as he could. I pressed on, knowing tears would fast be approaching and needing a few moments to let them fall. Directly before me stood what I thought to be a monument of grand size, with words on the side offering gratitude for the men and woman buried there, the brave souls who perished after the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944. I have always been interested in World War II, but since being with the Czech I have learned a vast deal more than ever before. I sat on a bench and thought about these men before going to walk amongst them. Many of them had died at Bastogne, months of mortar fire in the woods of eastern Belgium during the winter of 1944-1945. They could not warm themselves with campfires, supplies were limited, and the fighting endless. It was cold and they were freezing. But they stayed in their foxholes and saw it all through.

The Czech met up with me and we kept walking, past the monument that was actually a chapel and into the fields of crosses. We stepped onto the perfectly manicured grass and my tears flowed freely. We read the names somberly, curious about who these boys were and where they were form. California, New Jersey, Wisconsin. Two boys from Ohio and Michigan were buried next to each other. On and on it went. The Czech pensively examined his surroundings, soaking everything in, gratitude emanating from his stance.
The leaflet told us that twenty-two sets of brothers were buried side by side through the cemetery as well as several sets of friends. The crosses were so simple, as were the stars of David. I've walked through many cemeteries and have seen the most beautiful tombstones, eloquently carved with figures and images to depict the soul whose body lay below. These boys deserved such monuments, I thought. Each of them. But there they were in Luxembourg, on the other side of the world. Some of them were not even named.
I have been to several memorials honoring American soldiers and have even been to Arlington National Cemetery, but have never been so humbled. Nor so proud to be an American. There were a handful of other visitors meandering on their own course throughout the grounds. One set was a middle-aged daughter touring with her veteran father. He seemed so proud to be back around his comrades and she delighted beyond measure with all that her father represented.
My tears ebbed with the cessation of the rain, leaving an indelible mark of humility and the utmost thanks. I thought a great deal about my loved ones who have very recently passed away. Mental wishes for my two grandmothers to hug these boys were sent to the heavens. My time to hug them will come, too, but I wanted them hugged then and there.
We packed away the umbrella and made our way to the veranda surrounding the chapel. On our way we saluted the bloody bastards of Bastogne in the only way we knew how; we had a drink of Coke in their honor. As we left, we noticed the soft chime of church bells coming from the tiny on-site chapel. It took us a few verses before we realized what we were listening to. It was The Star Spangled Banner.
The walk back to the bus and the trip into the city center went far more quickly than our initial journey. Our hearts were full, but our spirits light. We walked and kept singing, enjoying the sunlight and warmth of a summer day in Europe, such a day the men buried two miles away would never know.

Friday, August 19, 2011

fountain

Dear Nana,

I just pulled out a piece of paper to write you a letter, very quickly realizing you weren't around anymore to write to. How strange that is! I hope you don't mind me writing to you this way, I still have letters unfinished for you. You left before I could mail them.

Today was one of those days, simple in its doings but beautiful in its results. I spent the morning at home working on a vast pile of laundry and working through some emails. Midday I realized that the fates were aligned in such a way that the laundry was in the dryer and the bus at the closest stop would be heading into town within moments of each other. Free from the laundry, I made my escape into town to wander and do a little "nest" shopping, as I've begun referring to it. I found a set of beautiful white linen place mats that I am eager to use. Someday the Czech and I will have a space all our own which will allow us to do so.

I wandered through the town, taking a few moments to realize that the sun was coming out and it was moderately warm. Since I had already been freed from the laundry, I seized the opportunity to enjoy the sun. I found an obliging bistro chair, ordered a cup of peppermint tea (in German) and sat. In the square where my little cafe is, there is also a fountain, nothing grand, but large enough to emit a steady stream of water. My sunshine was laced with the lapping sound of water falling into the basin of the fountain and wrapped in the delicacies of a faint breeze. I pulled out my journal and never before used pen and soaked in all I could of the environment.

It is moments like that when I feel two things simultaneously. First, European. To sit in the open air without any need for haste and enjoy a cup of tea is what it means to be European in my mind. Across the continent there are variations on this theme. The tea is replaced with coffee or wine. In Germany it is nearly always filled with a stout beer. Regardless of the beverage du jour, there is such contentment in a moment and enjoyment in a meal.

Secondly, peace. The Czech and I have been stressed lately about finding employment. Our time here ends in a month and we are as unsure as ever about where we will be when return to the States. My time alone has been filled with pining over the home we do not have. I'm not talking about a lofty mansion, but more a simple one to two bedroom apartment that we can call our own. We haven't had that since we married in March. Sitting on that bistro chair with my journal in hand, I could have cared less what the future held. Coincidentally I was working on a letter to family and friends trying to enlist them in the "Get Us a Job" cause. Letter written, I thought about the color of the sky and the feel of the wind, not about finances or employment.

The weekend is now here and I get to spend a few days with the Czech. We don't have any firm plans yet, but if the following days turn out like today, all will be well.

Have you played Canasta with Fern and Papa yet? Please give Grandma L a hug for me and teach her how to play cards. I'm mad at you two for leaving within three weeks of each other. I can barely handle one of you being gone, not both. Take care of one another.

I love you, Nana, very much.

your granddaughter,

engquist

P.S. my daydreams about returning to the States are filled with a Singer sewing machine waiting for me in a storage unit in Florida. I wish you were here to teach me how to use it.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

picnicking along the rhine

As a composite of fine weather, improved health, and suddenly realizing how close my husband works to the Rhine River, I joined him for picnic lunch. Blue sky like this has been a rarity in our short time here this summer, and we loved every moment of it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

home dreaming

It was raining this morning, so I stayed home, caught up on emails, uploaded photos, read the news, and stumbled across these.


These are dishtowels from Sundance and cost $20 a piece. I flipped through the thumbnails of all the available towels. (amazingly, not all fifty states are represented)



We don't have a home yet, but if we did, I would want these.


Who am I kidding? I still want them. At least one. But there's no way I can justify twenty dollars on a dishtowel.


Unless, unless... I could use them as art! Genius! Pick my favorite, find an inexpensive frame, bingo, bango!


Now we just need a wall to hang these on.... and the twenty dollars.

Monday, August 15, 2011

diagnosis: cabin fever

This one time, the Czech and I went on an Alpine Adventure, during which I got catastrophically ill. (Not really that bad, just liked the word. I couldn't breath though, that's for sure.) We got back to the Rhineland and I locked myself in my bed, emerging only to do laundry. By the end of the week, the Czech and I had date night and I felt so much better.

Then I woke up on Saturday and didn't leave the house again until this morning, Monday morning. Cabin fever is an understatement for what I was feeling. I needed air and exercise and a change of scenery.

During my incarceration, I read nonstop. We came abroad with a pretty sizable stack of books, but I'm running out and Germans really don't like English and the English library is closed for the summer to get the roof fixed and...and...I needed help.

So today, I got showered and dressed and left the house before I could realize how ridiculous my hair looked or ponder over how comfortable my bed really is. I took the bus into "town" and realized that my plan to find a cafe there wasn't going to suffice. I didn't want to go to "town", I wanted the city! In a spurt of adventurism, I took a tram I usually don't headed downtown in the pursuit of a bookstore I had barely read about that supposedly contained English books. It was a long shot, but I was out of the house and up to the challenge.

As a matter of luck and a couple of wrong turns, I found the bookstore. The only way to describe this place is a veritable maze of half floors constructed by the mind, I can only assume, of M.C. Escher. In a town where even large stores are relatively small, this store went on forever. I kept taking turns, discovering more books that I wished I could read. There was a cafe, a giant children's section, calendars, films, art history books, antique books, vintage prints, and so much more. I'm nearly positive that a staircase might have shifted a time or two like it was Hogwarts, but maybe it was just the magic of the place that made me believe it was time.

Around one mystical corner, I found a wall lined with English books. Once I got past the rather hilarious section devoted to the recent wedding of Kate and Will, I found a surprisingly healthy selection of books ready to be read. I perused and found a couple to my liking (i.e. I wanted to read and could afford them). Walking out of this store, I felt like I had left German heaven.

I wandered the streets of town again, past shops I had seen, ready to find a cafe and read. No ordinary cafe was going to suit me though. I needed character. Ambiance. In short, I needed nature.

I stumbled across a fresh market I never knew existed and past a home goods store, rounded the corner at the Ceramics Museum, and stopped at the river. This was it. Sunny day? Nice breeze? Bag full of good books? River? Done.

An obliging cafe had open tables on a patio along the riverbank. After being inside for so long, sitting along that river, drinking cocoa, reading and eating an absolutely delectable piece of cake, it felt like being at the ocean. The breeze was right, the surroundings peaceful, and all was well with the world. I read my book about Americans in nineteenth century Paris while listening to barges shuffle up and down the Rhine.

It was a long tram ride home, but there were fresh brotchen waiting for me at the bakery. I'm planning a picnic along the Rhine tomorrow, so long as the weather holds out. Sun and a good breeze hold magical healing properties.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

italian schnitzel

Have you ever been to Frankenmuth? It's the tourist trap to end all tourist traps about an hour north of Detroit, Michigan. It's a "Bavarian" wonderland, filled with lederhosen, chicken dinners, and decor fresh out of the 80s.

I love Frankenmuth.


Up until three days ago, I thought that as much fun as Frankenmuth was, there was no possible way Bavaria could actually be filled with that much pastel floral fabric.

I was wrong. Oh, boy, was I wrong!


The Czech and I embarked on an Italian adventure last Friday and ended up in Bavaria. I think we may be the only people to ever plan a trip in Italy and have more fun in the rain in southern Germany. Oh well....


We stayed in a charming village just on the other side of the Austrian border at a small hotel run by a German couple. The wife was no more than five-foot-three and did everything. Changed the sheets, served dinner, vacuumed the halls. And she did it all in the greatest vests. The entire inn looked exactly like Frankenmuth, which perhaps made me feel even more at ease.



After coming down with the cold of the century, this hotel was a blessing of mass proportions. I took a bath in a pink tiled bathtub while listening to rain pattering against the pavement and the gentle chiming of cowbells from a nearby mountain pasture.

This trip got off to a really rough start, but I am unbelievably grateful we got to go.


We drove though, what I am convinced to be, the greater portion of the Alps. Swiss, Italian, Lichtensteinian, Austrian, and German. There were rushing rivers, wildflowers, cows, hikers, cliffs, trees, tunnels, waterfalls, and bridges. Churches older than I can understand sat atop ledges that no mortal man should be able to reach. Ruins marking the reign of the Romans speckled the landscape. It was beautiful.


I sang a lot of tunes from The Sound of Music understanding full well why Maria couldn't help running into the hills. We walked through the rain to see the "Cinderella" castle in southern Germany. We survived the switchbacks along the shore of Lake Como in Italy and drove like a bat out of hell on the autobahn.


I have fallen in love with the Alps and for the first time in my life want to learn how to rock climb. The Czech and I are now playing the "What if?" game and saying to each other, "What if we got a job, could we save up and go camping in Switzerland one summer?"


It was a much needed hiatus for the two of us. It was the first time we had been on our own since our honeymoon. After who knows how many hours in the car, I still didn't want to send the Czech to the office this morning. I wanted to go on a walk with him instead.

We got home yesterday and all day today I have been in bed drinking tea and bonding with dayquil while reading and recuperating. The Czech is back at work and there is a pile of laundry the size of an Alpine mountain waiting for me. Tonight, though, I think I'm going to fall asleep to The Sound of Music and pretend I'm still on hiatus.


high on a hill was a lonely goatherd, lay-dee oh da lay-dee oh da lay-hee-hoo! 

Monday, August 01, 2011

rick steves' amsterdam

Okay, okay, I'm not even remotely close to being a travel expert, but I definitely learned a thing or two on this trip.

First, which I knew already, make friends! We stayed with my dear friend, the Dutch Egyptian who was house sitting for her aunt and uncle. She's currently studying in London, but it was cheaper for all parties involved for us to meet her in Amsterdam. Their home was outside of the center but gave us a fun feel for the rest of life in Amsterdam.



Trains are not for everyone. By this I mean, me. Unless you are traveling extensively across Europe in not a lot of time (i.e. all of Europe in two weeks), or actually know what you're doing, train tickets are not as cheap as the average American thinks they are. Sorry guys, it's a harsh reality, but it had to be faced sooner or later. Thanks to the Dutch Egyptian we discovered Eurolines, an international bus service. By train, our tickets easily would have been around 100 euro each, but by bus our combined ticket price was less than that. Trains are extremely reliable and run at very punctual times, which is something I quickly learned was not as applicable to the bus. On both legs of our journey we arrived nowhere near our "arrival time." That said, we did make it on average 45 minutes early. We saw a lot and were able to pass through a few towns we otherwise would never have seen, which was great. And really, I don't think it took us much more time than the train would have.

Beware of bikes. There are very specific lanes for bikes in the Netherlands, not just Amsterdam. There are few things more Dutch than riding a bike. Do not get in a cyclist's way! The Dutch are unfailingly kind, until you're a pedestrian crossing in front of their moving bicycle. 

The internet and dinner time are your friend. We made a rather brilliant discovery that you could buy tickets for the Van Gogh museum in advance, meaning we could skip the queue which would easily have taken an hour for us to get through. This was extremely convenient for us as we, a) had access to a printer, and b) had limited time on Sunday to tour the city.


The night before, we took advantage of everyone eating and made our way to the Anne Frank House. Now, this is the one museum I had seen in Amsterdam before, but I waited significantly longer in the middle of the day to get in. While there was still a bit of a wait, the line moved and we were inside in no time at all.

I would highly recommend both of these museums. The Anne Frank House is extremely humbling and puts in perspective everything from World War II. The Czech and I also learned a great deal from the Dutch Egyptian who shared stories about her grandfather who worked in the resistance. The Van Gogh museum was a highlight for me, as I missed it on my previous trip. Personally, I am a huge fan of collections that highlight one artist. Through them, you get to see the brilliant as well as the epic failure that got them to where they are. I think the Czech had more fun watching me be "in the zone" with Van Gogh than he really cared about the art.


Use the tram. The first time I went, my friend and I walked everywhere because we thought public transportation would have set us over our scant budgets. Due to our housing being a further out this time around, trams were essential. We were able to get 24-hour passes for a measly 7 euro each. That got us on all public transportation. It was so much cheaper for us to do this than buy single journey tickets each time.

Stroopwaffel. They're cookies. Two thin waffles with caramel in between them. You'll thank me later.

Hema. Dutch equivalent to Target. GENIUS!!

Wander the canals. Outside of the main shopping streets, the canals are lined with some of the coolest local shops and cafes I've ever seen. They can get pricey, but so worth a visit. We were able to pick up a reproduction historical map of the city for a few euros at a hole in the wall bookstore.

English is your friend. Unlike in other countries, the Dutch are more than fine with you only knowing English and not having a clue how to speak Dutch. As my friend, DE explained it, "We {the Dutch} don't expect anyone to know our language, who would? So we learn other languages."

Buy tulips. Take them back to your hotel with you. They're beautiful and so inexpensive.


And lastly....




stay tuned next week for insights on Italy