Tag Archives: family

Family Ties

I, like all other women everywhere, have a notoriously bad sense of direction.  Joe makes fun of and, I think, dreads my tried-and-trusted-just-enough-for-me-to-keep-using-it “General Direction Theory,” in which, when placed behind the wheel of a car, I just feel the way to go.  It’s a very intuitive, almost spiritual practice, which you probably wouldn’t understand, what with your GPS systems and your maps.

This is why I was pleased to find myself placed, eight months ago (why isn’t my German better?!), in a small town practically made to be navigated by GDT, thanks to a plethora of prominent landmarks.  Need to get to the train station?

Ganked from Ross.

Just walk towards the river.  Need to get to the other train station?  Just walk towards the other river.  My favorite restaurant?  Right below that steeple.  My school?  Take a left at the castle.  My house?  Over the vineyard, and beside a second steeple.  I’m generally not the one to be trusted when your goal is to reach a destination, but with my family’s arrival looming, I was ready.  I was ready to impress them with my  knowledge of which cemeteries you can cut through to get to the Old Town, which windy alleyways and pedestrian tunnels you can use to get to the gardens, how I hand-picked our hotel thanks to its proximity to an ice cream shop.  “We have trained her well,” my parents would say to each other over very conveniently located ice cream.  “She is now ready to make her way in the world.”

Then we left Bingen.  Vienna is not like Bingen.  Plus, we had a car, which is not like a train.  The next two weeks, then, were marked by referencing and cross-referencing guide books (five of them), sorting through maps, guessing at what impenetrable street signs might mean, continually losing and finding each other, blind stabs at which way our restaurant might be, trying to follow the conflicting demands of both (both!) of our GPS systems, long train trips to remote city suburbs, trying to find a parking garage that always seems to be at the wrong end of a one-way street, and lots and lots of this:


I could wax poetic about how being lost is one of the best parts of travelling, life being about the journey and not the destination and all that, but eh, it’s not.  It’s really just sort of aggravating, not to mention time-consuming.  Still, it does have its moments; take Baden-Baden.

Baden-Baden is the town my family came from, and so when the whole crew (all nine of us) were gathered one night in Bingen, we made the decision over late-night conveniently-located ice cream to take a day trip there, guided by nothing but a sense of familial ties, hoping to find something.  I’m not sure what sign we were looking for – a statue to our great-great grandfather, clearly a town hero?  commemorative plaques?  our long-lost family, still dressed like Old World immigrants, unable to communicate with us but so pleased to find us that we’d spend a pleasant dinner together, and lacking conversation, we’d bob our heads and beam at each other over heaping plates of homemade schnitzel and spaetzle?

This did not happen, but what we did find upon our arrival (and after getting lost and hopelessly separated, and after weaving through all sorts of detours just for kicks) was a pristine spa town, too rich for our blood, which is probably why our blood left for America.  Once reunited, our GDT fully engaged, we headed off in the direction of the main cemetery in town, thinking this would be our best chance of finding some hint of a Binz.  Seven of us wandered through town and climbed single-file up the

Lacking a camera, this is the closest approximation I can get to what my family's search for our genealogical roots looked like.

long, steep hill to where the cemetery perched, lamenting in between wheezes that all our cameras were either lost, broken, or dead by that point in the trip, because it was gorgeous.  The cemetery was a  labyrinth of well-tended plots,  blooming with flowers I had never seen, the massive trees filled with birds, and with lovely Black Forest views.  My family fanned out in a blind search, part pilgrimage, part scavenger hunt.  We found nothing, and our hopes were double dashed when we talked to lady at the office who said that much of the cemetery had been reused to accommodate for those who had died in WWII, and furthermore, she said the cemetery was used largely for “how do I say this… high society.”  Not our family, being the implication.

So we didn’t find what we were looking for, but we at least found something new to contribute to family lore – we have the satisfaction of knowing that our family stretches back to a lovely little spot in Germany, and maybe we wandered the streets that they did, and saw the church they attended, and passed the shops selling Versace that they also couldn’t afford, and sat where they sat prosting with their own family, complaining about the same overpriced restaurants.

Prost!

Denglish Dines and Also Goes to Parties

Life here can be so weird.

Half a year ago and half the world away, I entered my house back in Little Rock one final time to a surprise send-off party.  Then, out of pure shock, I promptly exited the house.  At any rate, the life of the party was not me, oh no, but Kyle, who attended from Connecticut via video chat.  He said he felt like a dismembered child, whose limbless, digital state necessitated that mom carry his face around when he wanted to move.  He was especially lucky in securing a spot right by the cheese dip, so he could watch family members catch Velveeta dripping off their Fritos all night long, the lucky dog.

Ol' Legless also acted as photographer for the night, thanks to Skype features.

But oh, how the turntables have turned.  Saturday night was my chance to act the part of skyped-in dismembered family member.  This weekend marked my dad’s 50th birthday, so naturally a running-themed surprise party complete with personalized water bottles and race bibs was in order, and I would, of course, be doing a great disservice to my readership if I failed to talk about it, seeing as the partygoers make up roughly all of my readership (for you stray passersby out there, 1) you’re lost, and 2) to understand this, you have to know that my dad runs.  A lot.  So much so that in my mind, running ten miles sounds like a walk in the park, even though I myself couldn’t manage half a mile if pressed).

Now was my time to shine as Skype photographer.

And I may have been legless, but I wasn’t useless.  As the aunts prepared the house for my dad’s arrival, I got to shout out directives like “Look for birthday candles in the drawer!  No, not that one!  No no!  The one over there!” while gesturing wildly, if futilely.  And then I got to look at my younger cousins’ tongues in great detail as they watched themselves make faces at the camera.  Luckily for me, I was situated not by the crock pot, as Kyle was, but by the drinks, which provided ample opportunity to sneak pictures of priceless moments like this, my grandma sporting a sweatband pouring herself a glass of blush:

and moments like this one, my grandpa tickling my cousin’s baby, who I haven’t even gotten to meet yet:


and of all the people I care about most having a perfectly good time:

and of the men in my life, which makes me so happy and seem so conspicuously absent:

Happy birthday, Dad!  Wish I could have been there.

But things go on here, and I continue to devise ways to amuse myself, which brings us to the second installment of Denglish Dines. As I mentioned earlier, my life here can be so weird, and that extends to food too.  I came home from school yesterday to find that I had no staples – no bread, no meat, no cheese, no eggs, no vegetables – nothing from which to throw together a normal meal.  But like heck I’m going to the grocery store, and so I was forced to fashion something out of the hodgepodge of ingredients I do have, which turned out to be a dinner that, if submitted to Allrecipes, I’d call “Lori’s Tropical Dream Curry” or some such.

So check it:

I never claimed to be a food photographer. Just a skype photographer.

Rice boiled with coconut milk, garlic, and ginger (inspired by this chickpea curry); curry sauce made with yogurt, more coconut milk, and cinnamon (just be sure to turn the heat down way low or it’ll curdle); fried garlic and ginger crisps (inspired by this fried rice), and mango slices cooked until tender and slightly brown (inspired by the mango that’s been hangin’ out in my crisper).  Aromatic, slightly sweet, with just a bit of crunch from the fried sprinkling of garlic.  Why I have coconut milk and mango but no eggs, I cannot explain.

Just another part of life being weird here, I guess.