Mary’s summer plans


Our German daughter Mary really wanted us to join her when she has vacation time this year. As it turns out, we ran into some staggering expenses and simply couldn’t afford it this year.

Among her suggestions for a shared vacation: Oaxaca, Mexico, where a medical group was soliciting for people to participate in studies, all expenses paid. We all but begged her not to apply – this was when drug violence was really flaring up in Mexico earlier this year – and were relieved beyond words when she wrote and said she missed the deadline.

Then she started looking at Gulf Coast beachfront condos. That didn’t work out either. Thanks goodness. Can you imagine her disappointment if she had made a deposit before the BP oil spill?

She writes on the train:

“Booked three weeks in Tropea in Calabria, far down the [Italian] coast on the way to Sicily. I have three hours of Italian lessons, maybe some wind surfing, and in the third week a pasta and risotto cooking class at another school. The apartment is in the old city, up a hill from some of the prettiest beaches in Italy, probably jammed, but hey…I have a view of Stromboli from the balcony.…

“In Düsseldorf [where she works and lives part-time] I checked out D’dorf’s oldest building, a little Romanesque church, nicely painted inside, and the big church down the street from my apartment. Modern but nicely done inside; we will peek in next time.

“Have to leave the train, bye.”

Mary writes an eclectic letter. Here she’s referring to the large apartment in Gelsenkirchen where she and Rainer have lived for at least 10 years:
“We spent a week cleaning out and moving furniture, and then had someone paint the apartment. Looks nice; unfortunately we’ve both lost interest in cleaning and putting everything back, and I decided to do my taxes first, so it’s pretty disorderly. [Mom: ‘I just bet it is.’]

“We’ve had summer weather for a week now, so maybe it’s here to stay this time…I sat out on my little balcony and put up my sun umbrella for the first time, stuck it in the corner…where a gust of wind blew it away. Fortunately the housemaster next door went and got it; it was half over the fence to the next house….”

You may recall that I watched a man from the next building clean out a long-neglected back garden, cutting tall weeds, chopping out stubborn roots and dead bushes. When we were at Mary’s last fall, I told her to keep an eye on him and tell me what he planted there. She writes:

“My neighbor never got any further than the grass and circle of bushes that you saw. The remains of a long [New Year’s] firecracker lay there for two months. I could never figure out why it took someone until March to remove it.”

And finally:

“We are on our way back from Berlin. The Verdi Requiem in the Philharmonic was very good, and was packed for the third and last performance. But I suppose the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra always has a full house.

“A little rainy and windy in the morning, and it snowed from 5 ‘til we left at 7; my feet got pretty wet.

“Walked through the Jewish Memorial. I found it quite interesting. Just slabs of gray stone on end almost like tombstones, with narrow paths between, but what you don’t really notice from the side is that the grade level drops [in the interior], so the slabs on the outside are knee high, and in the middle 12 feet, creating a labyrinth.

“[In Berlin] we went to a huge museum, with paintings from about 1450 to 1600. Bruegel, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt, but also Botticelli, Titian, and others. After a couple of hours, we were running through the galleries.

“If it weren’t so cold and gray I think we would go back there before Easter, there’s so much to see – and hear. East Berlin is coming along, and the Museum Island (with canals around it) has several fine galleries that have reopened since I was last there. Still, there is enough to do.

“I hope your computer guy put in a freebie virus scanner and made sure the firewall is running. For Internet banking here you are required to have these safety checks. I have Avaast on one and Avira on the other notebook.

“Wanted to say my neighbor had weeds a foot high, although lots of dandelions, but he must have mowed over the weekend. On the edge to my side are big floppy yellow rose bushes, and some in red as well, but I guess they were always there.”

Her life is interesting.