Tuesday, January 29, 2019

In the News - 29. Jan 2019

I'm one of the hold-outs who still subscribes to the local printed newspaper. Some poor soul drops it off around 4:30 each morning, and M brings it in before he heads to the office at 8:00. There is so much in the paper every day that is useful, helpful, and informative, and I know I would miss out if I were only relying on online news and headlines that look click-worthy.

Our paper has four sections during the week (more on Saturdays with the extended job and want ads plus a special general knowledge section): Main news, sports and economics, Horb-area news and Sulz-area news. Each section is 8 or 10 pages long. There are no coupon or store ad inserts in the paper; those come separately once a week and usually travel straight to the Altpapier. There are also no cartoons (except for one nation/world political cartoon and one local one). Almost every day there are articles related to history and/or culture, gardening tips based on the season, and notifications or articles about local activities, lectures, and presentations.

For heavy political news from the English-speaking world I tend to look to the internet to read about what's going on in English, so the articles that most catch my eye in the local paper are German politics, little quirky ones, plus topics I'm otherwise interested in: Immigrants, hunting, what German reporters have to say about the clown show going on in the U.S., wildlife, history, facts and numbers about life in Germany...  I am not interested in celebrities or sports (except for equestrian news involving Michael Jung), so I use the sports section to line the Biomüll container.

These are the articles or blurbs that caught my eye today.

Kopf oder Zahl?

There were 3.34 million flights in Germany skies in 2018, more than ever before. For the past five years the number of flights has been increasing and topping that of the previous year, and flights across German airspace from other countries also increased by 4.6%.

Vier Milliarden Euro für Kaffee

In supermarkets and drug stores between the beginning of December 2017 and December 2018, Germans spent 4 billion Euros on coffee. That's almost €50 per person and doesn't include the coffee they drank in cafés and restaurants.

I contribute to that with 1-3 cups a day, and M probably drinks 4-6 cups between home and the office. Coffee is one of the five things this household never runs out of.

Na sowas: Safer Sex

I love how this blurb starts: "Safer Sex sieht anders aus." (Safer sex doesn't look like this.) At the wheel and while the car was in motion, a 70-year-old man and a 34-year-old passenger in Duisburg were reportedly having sex. They crashed into another car at an intersection where the traffic lights weren't working. Figuring out what happened was complicated, according to police, especially the question of who was driving. The 34-year-old said she was sitting on the lap of the driver, and they were sharing the duties of steering, braking, and shifting gears. Neither of them had a driver's license, and they were fined for endangering road safety and driving without a license.

Dänen lügen nicht

Apparently that's a line from a deutscher Schlager (80s-style music), but I don't know the song. The point of the article is that Denmark has begun building a fence along its southern border to Germany. I can't wait for the tweet when the potus gets ahold of this news! What he won't realize is that the fence is not a barricade against migrants, refugees, foreigners, or brown people, but rather against Wildschweine (wild pigs). There's a frequent danger in Europe of ASP, or Afrikanische Schweinepest (swine fever), and Denmark wants to reduce the risk of infected pigs crossing the border into their country. The measure is controversial, though, because many say the expense is not worth the small gain it might bring. It won't do anything against, for instance, the people who bring the virus over unknowingly on their hiking boots.

Another source referred to it as a boarder wall.  Hehe.

Jeder dritte Flüchtling hat einen Job

"Every 3rd refugee has a job." A new study shows that integration of the refugees who came to Germany in 2015 from Syria, Afganistan, and Iraq is going better than expected. The IAB and Bamf interviewed several thousand refugees in October 2018 and 35% of them were employed. Nearly 75% are taking or have taken language and/or integration courses. A third of those interviewed speak German well or very well, another third speak at a middle level (my guess is A2, equivalent of 2 or 3 years of American high school German), and the last third speak very little or no German. 

The hurdles immigrants and refugees face include: PTSD, insufficient basic education (from their home country), lack of German language ability, and uncertainty about their prospects of being able to stay in Germany. In families with young children the integration of their mothers is more difficult, though efforts are being made to support and encourage more women to participate in courses.

Betrunkene Lkw-Fahrer erwischt

This is a bit scary. Police controlled/checked 1200 truck drivers on Autobahn rest stops in Hessen (state to the north of Baden-Württemberg) and discovered 190 of them had alcohol in their systems. Several had more than 2.0 Promille (I've forgotten how Americans say that - "2.0 blood-alcohol level"?). 79 of them had a high enough blood-alcohol level that they were not allowed to continue their drive at 22:00 on Sunday evening at the end of the Sonntagsfahrverbot (trucks are not allowed on the Autobahn on Sundays until 10:00pm).

The police went through parking lots where trucks were parked to wait for the end of the Sonntagsfahrverbot and knocked on the cab doors to check the drivers. Many drivers and their trucks were from other countries.

I have to admit, I like to think the truck drivers 
on this road are all sober; this is the sidewalk 
I use to get home from the butcher.

The law in Germany for car drivers says they are allowed up to 0.5 Promille. It's not actually illegal to drink a beer while driving - as long as your blood-alcohol level doesn't go over 0.5 Promille (but it's a very bad idea, so don't do it). But for drivers at the wheel of Lkws (trucks & semis), the law allows 0.0 Promille. They are allowed to drink during their Pausen (breaks), of course - but only if their BA level is back to 0.0 when they drive off again. The 79 drivers mentioned above had a level too high for it to sink back to 0.0 by 10:00pm that evening, so the police issued them a Fahrverbot and slapped on the wheel clamps.

The good news from the article is that accidents involving Lkws don't happen often. But they followed that with saying there were 22,700 accidents in 2017 caused by Lkws! Of those, "only" 382 involved truck drivers who were drunk. They also mentioned that those were only the ones involved in accidents who got caught - not all the Lkw drivers who have too much alcohol in their system while driving. Thank you, Debbie Downer.

I don't even want to see statistics for drivers of cars.

Lust auf das "grüne Abitur"

Interest in obtaining a hunting license in Germany is growing. There are more and more signing up for classes and pursuing the "green Abitur," including an increasing number of women.

[The Abitur is the graduation test in Germany that a student must pass in order to be eligible to study at a university. There are written and oral components, and I've seen the English test. Only about 4 students I can think of from my 16 years teaching English in private schools in Wisconsin would have a shot at passing that portion of the test. It is serious business.]

The "green Abitur" is the test for earning a hunting license. I've written already a bit about this test, so I don't need to repeat it here. I'll just share some info from the article in today's paper.

In 2018 20,060 candidates sat in Jagdkursen (hunting classes) around Germany, twice as many as ten years ago. A quarter of those were women. Hunters have their own special language, the Jägersprache. There is a list of about 400 terms future hunters need to learn (only 400?!? It looks and feels like many more to me! There are at least 5 different words for "tail", depending on which animal is wearing it!) The class and test cost about €2000. And one in every five examinees fails the test.

I will not be one of those "1 in 5," damn it!!
My Schwiegermutter gave me the Wörterbuch Jägersprache in the photo above for Christmas. That is a dictionary of German hunter's terms and phrases explained in layman's German. Yep, because the German language isn't already difficult enough.

So then, that's what caught my eye in today's paper. What news has come across your radar lately?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Life Lately and Money Diaries Part 2

Money Diaries 21.01. - 27.01.2019
Part 2: Thursday-Sunday

Click here for Part 1.


€178,80  AirBnB

Heaven help me, I didn't leave the house today either, but I still managed to spend some money. I reserved my accommodations for the second and third weeks of my hunting class, and the above is my down payment for the Dachwohnung (flat) I've booked for early July through AirBnB. I'll stay at a hotel in the nearest village during the third week, and although I've reserved that room as well, I haven't had to pay yet.

On days I don't leave the house, I don't just lie around all day. I do laundry and dishes, dust and/or vacuum, tidy up and clean, prepare dinner, and study for the Jägerprüfung, but I also spend too much time on the computer: emailing, checking Facebook for new videos of Poldi, working on exchange programm stuff, writing a blog post, and checking U.S. news. I really need to get out more, walk more, move more.


€35,46   Real  (€42,81 - €7,35 Pfand (deposit))

Today's errands were making an appointment with the local Notar so that we can write (handwrite - required in Germany) our Testamente (wills) and Vorsorgevollmächte (living wills) and going to the Supermarkt (yes, I remembered the cheddar this time). The Notar's secretary gave June 11th for the next available appointment. We'll have to work extra hard to stay alive until then.

The rest of the day involved translating information sheets about our exchange students to send to the organizers in Sheboygan, reading a little from the February issue of Deutsch Perfekt, a bit of cleaning, an aborted nap, a call to my mom (who is still alone while my dad gallivants around Iceland searching for the elusive northern lights), and several emails.

Look! He found them!
For dinner we had steak (€15 of the above bill) and mashed but lumpy parsnips-n-taters. Since I had spent nearly the entire damn day on the computer, I took some time after dinner to study while M watched the new "Grand Tour" episode.



My friends and former students, Mohammad and Hassan, had invited us to Mohammad's place in Tübingen for an Arabic meal this afternoon. They served Frikeh, Kebab mit Aubergine, Tomaten und Pilze, Tabule, and Schakria. It was all very delicious, and we had a nice time and good conversation.

We brought them Kleinigkeiten (small gifts one brings when invited to someone's home in Germany), but they were things we already had. I have a stash of Wisconsin- and Sheboygan-themed gifts for such occasions, because I like to give people things from the homeland.

We were home by early evening and had a quiet Saturday night.



Here's the thing about Sundays in Germany/Swabia: Everything is closed. Unless we go out to a restaurant or tourist attraction, stop at a gas station mini-mart, or shop online, there's no way to spend money on a Sunday. We generally stay home, watch Sendung mit der Maus in the morning and grumble if it doesn't end with "Shaun das Schaf" (it did today - Bitzer the dog had to wear the cone of shame and the sheep first laughed at him, then felt sorry for him), I read, nap, or study and don't have to feel guilty for not cleaning because one shouldn't work on God's holy Swabian Sunday.

We ate up some leftovers for dinner, which meant no new expenses and no wasting.

Therefore my grand total for this lazy week is: €408,06.

But then I opened my wallet (purse, for my British readers) to get Euro bills to take the above photo and found only a 50. M was also no help, so I donned my hat and boots and stomped to the Geldautomat (ATM) to get the bills I needed for the photo. If I add that to my total, it comes to €558,06. Then again, I haven't spent that yet, so I'll stick with €408,06.

During the coming week I will be taking the train to Esslingen (€11,90) for several meetings, and I will also need to fill the gas tank (€75?). Not because I used the car so much (because I didn't), but because M will be driving to Esslingen and back to replace his mum's laptop. I clearly have much more spare time than he does, and since a new Aral has opened right near Real, it's no trouble for me to pop over and fill up. 

I think I'll do this again, though I don't know if I'll blog about it. The original Money Diaries (I linked to them in Part 1) are much more interesting than what I've written!

What do you spend in a week? 
Are you willing to keep track and find out? :-)

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Life Lately and Money Diaries Part 1

One of the blogs I read is Adventitious Violet, by a Canadian living in Scotland. SCOTLAAAANNNNNDDDDDD!!!  Oops, sorry. Recently she wrote a "Money Diaries" post explaining her expenses for a week, and I thought that could be interesting and different. I decided to combine it with a kind of update on what I've been getting up to lately.

In the interest of transparency, I should admit I'm not actively working at the moment. I'm on call at the VHS to fill in when a teacher is sick or has an appointment, and I still lead the conversational English class with M's employees once a week. But other than that I'm on sabbatical. Yes, I'm officially a "lazy bahstud," a term we use affectionately. M says he likes having me home, though (in a definitely non-chauvinist kind of way! Remember, he does most of the cooking...).

Since it's winter I'm also not traveling much. I even cancelled a trip to Esslingen this week after realizing I would bring no "value-add" to the meeting I'd planned to attend - otherwise I would have at least been able to report a train ticket. In the end this was not a very normal week, and I should probably try this again in a warmer month when I am more active. Or when I have to fill the gas tank!

If you're hoping to see from this post what it generally costs to live in Germany for a week, I'm afraid this won't help. Any food we already had (like Tuesday's pizza and almost everything for Monday's dinner) doesn't figure into this week's total. I'm not including utilities or bills - just what came out of my pocket (or debit card).

Right, enough excuses. Let's try this.

Job: Substitute teacher, English tutor, Hausfrau
Age: 50
Location: Really-small-town, SW Germany
Salary: €X000 + occasional earnings from substitute teaching (1 day/4hrs = €175)
Housemates: 1 (2 of us total)
Loans: Mortgage
Credit Card debt: €0  (paid off each month)
Health Insurance: €464,65 per month (just for me)

Money Diaries 21.01. - 27.01.2019
Part 1: Monday-Wednesday


€15,66   Real  (local Supermarkt)
€  3,65   Bäckerei Saur

Got up at 7:30, checked email and the daily damage report U.S. news, lazed around and read (finished a Krimi) with coffee, wrote emails to my parents and messages to my kids, showered, went to Real. On the way home I resolved to thoroughly clean the common areas of the house. Throughout the day I plotted my dad's current locations in Iceland on Google maps. He's on a photography excursion in search of the northern lights.

I tidied up a little, boiled potatoes for tonight's dinner (Bauernfrühstück), and tried to choose my next book. After lunch I made another cup of coffee and called my mom for a short chat. I call my parents every Monday afternoon (monthly flatrate add-on €8?). After that I read the first chapter of a nonfiction book about the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and remembered my resolution to clean. Sigh...Had a snack. Updated this post. Internet went down. This is good - forced offline time!! Vacuumed.

Read a bit, nodded off, daughter's message woke me up. I schnibbled everything for dinner, M came home and cooked the pork tenderloin, and while it rested in the oven I made the Bauernfrühstück. We watched "Big Bang Theory" and "Young Sheldon," then I watched the latest episode of "Outlander" and grumbled about it. Did the dishes, had a glass of wine. Went to bed at midnight.


€  6,36   Aldi (Bergkäse)
€23,00   Mustafa (Kohrabi, peanuts, eggs, Feldsalat, parsnips, red pepper, potatoes, apple, oranges, bananas)

Up for coffee and a bit of reading (including the local newspaper), showered. More reading, having switched books to A Walk Across the Sun, a novel about human trafficking originating in India (then Paris, then the U.S.). Made an egg sandwich. Started studying for my Jagdschein at 10:00. I'm focusing on the topic of Haarwild, or furry animals. I'm reading & highlighting, taking notes, making flashcards, reviewing...When M came home for lunch we finally made the decision that yes, I will sign up for the 3-week hunting course in summer. After lunch I made another cup of coffee and continued studying.

On Tuesday evenings Mustafa, our "vegetable guy," parks his produce truck outside our neighbors' house for 20 minutes, and I buy from him the fruits, vegetables, and eggs I think we'll need for the week. It's not local produce because he loads his truck from the Großmarkt, but it's better than from the Supermarkt, we like supporting his business, and it's so convenient for us! Today this was the only time I actually stepped out of the house. Don't judge - it was cold!

In the evening I read, watched a little TV with M, we discussed the incident in D.C. with the Native American and the smirky teen, and I filled out my registration form for the summer Jagdkurs.


€  21,15  Metzger/Bäcker
€  18,48  Real
€    5,50  Zeitschrift
€100,00  Jägervereinigung dues

After the typical start to my day, I bundled up and drove to the local butcher and then the Supermarkt. I'd planned pork roast, roast potatoes and Kohrabi for dinner tonight. Our favorite bakery delivers rolls to our butcher, so I grabbed two Laugenbrötchen as well as the roast, ham, and salami. At Real I picked up a few things and finally remembered apple juice, but forgot cheddar cheese and I'm dangerously low on that. Yes, I make a list, but I'd forgotten to put cheddar on it. On the way out I stopped at the tobacco & news kiosk and bought a hunting magazine.

I came home and emailed my registration form to the Landesjagdschule as well as my membership request to the nearest Jägerverein (hunting club - joining the club saves me several hundred Euros for the class). It's a real commitment now. Yikes.

My study materials were beckoning me, so I made a cup of coffee and got to work. Just kidding. I read two pages and fell asleep.

When I woke up I prepared the roast and boiled the potatoes. When M came home he found me studying, and then he helped me with the rest of dinner prep. The roast was delicious and not dry! I have finally accepted that I need to stop buying cheaper pork roast from the Supermarkt but from the butcher instead. There I get a good and durchwachsen (marbled) hunk of Schweinehals with enough fat on it to keep the meat moist and tender.

I cleaned up the kitchen and checked email, finding one from the woman who runs the Hofgut* near the Jagdschule. I have reserved the room she has available for the first week of class. I didn't have to pay anything yet or even give her my credit card info, so I don't have to reveal here what I'm paying for that flat. I think I'll look for a more reasonably-priced room for the other weeks.

Acknowledging that this post is already long and rather dull, I'm splitting the Money Diaries post into two. Click here for Part 2.

Total expenditures Monday - Wednesday: €193,80

*I have no translation for Hofgut. She and her family live there, they breed and raise Labradors and Chihuahuas, they keep other animals like sheep and Damwild (fallow deer), but it's fancier than a farm.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Revenge of the Duftkerze

I love Duftkerzen (scented candles). I'm picky about the scent and don't like them all, but in general I enjoy a gentle scent in the house despite the Feinstaub (fine particle polution). M hates them. Hates. He does not throw that word around lightly and would only use it toward someone who would do his family harm. And Duftkerzen

Some days after his lunch break I will light one for an hour or two, and when he comes home two or three hours after I've blown it out, I hear him open the door, walk over to change his shoes to Hausschuhe, and snort. He knows. When he finds and greets me he snorts again and asks, "Did you light a Duftkerze?" "Yes, but I blew it out three hours ago!" Still...he knows.

I know this about him and I accept it. But sometimes I still need to light one because they make me happy. Especially lavendar, rosemary, sandalwood...Natural scents, not fake flowery, soapy, or fruity ones. But to him it doesn't matter what they smell like. They're all bad.

Last week wednesday early afternoon I lit this lovely little candle in the bedroom. I blew it out an hour later and thought it just added a nice subtle scent. I waited for M to say something about it when we went to bed, but he didn't. Whew.

The next afternoon I lit it again but forgot about it. It burned for about three hours. Ok, fine...I blew it out when I remembered, and we had a good seven hours before bedtime so I opened the window.

We needed to be up earlier than usual the next morning because I had an excursion and M needed to drive me to the Park & Ride before work, so we went to bed a bit before midnight. Oh. My. God. The bedroom stank so strongly of that damn Duftkerze I feared retribution. I like its herbal scent! But it was still way too strong after seven hours despite the open window. It could have covered the scent of a corpse.

I got into bed before he did and pretended to be asleep when he opened the door. Then I lay there awake for three hours feeling guilty. Was the scent somehow meant to revitalize rather than relax? He couldn't sleep either, judging from how much he tossed around. I tried burying my face in my pillow, but I couldn't breathe. I threw the duvet over my head but it got too warm. I thought about fleeing to the living room sofa, but I figured I should suffer with him since I'm the fool who'd lit the damn thing and forgot about it. Sometime after 3:30 I finally fell asleep.

In the morning M wordlessly moved our air filter (which we normally turn on in the dining room after we've cooked tacos or fish) into the bedroom and turned it on volle Pulle (full blast). I returned from my excursion mid-afternoon, and by then the room smelled like worms on a rainy day. Probably the air filter was trying to kill itself. I turned it off and opened the window.

An hour later I went back to check things out, and the candle smell was back! OMG...I think it got into the walls and the bedding. I started pondering what to do. I could...

  1. light a different Duftkerze to counter this scent. Not willing to risk legitimate grounds for divorce, I thought...
  2. we could move into one of the guest rooms for a few weeks. But they are full of innumerable piles of my "I'll deal with this later" stuff. Right. Clearly, there's only one choice.
  3. We need to sell the house.
With M, Reason returned home while I was trying to figure out how many weeks it would take us to organize the junk in the Keller to get the house ready for showings, and he assured me we don't need to move. What we needed was proper Lüften! Open up all the windows and doors in the entire house and exchange the air. Force that heinous Duftkerze smell out. It was a damp evening, though, and that's more of an afternoon thing. We did some mini-Lüften and hoped for the best.

That second night was slightly better. At least we didn't lose more sleep. The next day we did our Lüften properly like good Swabians, and it improved some more. It took several days, though, before the stink of that discourteous Duftkerze faded completely.

I can tell you this - I have sworn on my dead Sheltie's soul that I will never light another Duftkerze in the bedroom again, and it will be a good long while before I light one anywhere in the house. I've learned that lesson well. To his credit, M didn't give me any more grief about it than I gave myself. A lesser man and most women would be rubbing my nose in this misjudgement for weeks, no pun intended.

By now the bedroom is back to normal, the Duftkerze was evicted right after its photo was taken, and I have banished all my other Duftkerzen, scented soaps and Christmas incense cones to the basement. 

All's well that ends well.