Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Döner macht schöner

Döner macht schöner
Döner macht schöner,
originally uploaded by coyotetrips.
As Stefan says on his description of one of our photos from yesterday, "The worlds best Döner is still in Bonn-Bad Godesberg/Germany, but this one in Portland. Oregon is not bad at all (515 SW 4th Ave.)." The place in Bonn-Bad Godesberg has ruined us both for all other doener, but, indeed, this one is nice, and I hope we can go back. Interesting that this doener Kebab restaurant promotes itself as offering "German cuisine." But I guess the doener kebab has become the German national dish. I can't believe doener hasn't really caught on here in the USA! This is me posing with the cover of the menu -- nothing like those cartoonish stereotypes to smooth over relations with different cultures. I guess there aren't enough Turks in Portland to be outraged.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Holiday Update

At left: our Flying Spaghetti Monster tree topper. It didn't take long to make (and it shows!). It's made with off-white yarn (for the noodly appendages), brown yarn (for the meatballs), scrap paper (for the eyes), tape (holding the scrap paper together) and Elmer's glue (holding everything together).

Yes, all that time in Vacation Bible School making crafts finally paid off.

Stefan and Jayne wish you Happy Holidays! Ramen!.

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My dear friend Anne is flying up from San Francisco to spend Christmas with us. So excited!

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Stefan said that, among the many new Christmas decorations that had been inflated on a neighbor's yard was a "Big Evil Christmas Bunny." We went to have a look. It was The Grinch. I don't think I did a good job of explaining who The Grinch is. I hope it comes on TV soon.

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When someone says "Happy Holidays", they are wishing you "Happy Holy Days," acknowledging the many HOLY DAYS celebrated by our wonderfully diverse country, *not* trying to deny your specific religion. So: Happy HOLIDAYS: Happy Saturnalia, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Happy Christmas, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Day of Ashura, Happy Sunday, HAPPY HOUR (the last is my favorite).

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If I am in your liquor store and ask you for your selection of Kentucky Bourbon, and you include in your list Jack Daniels, I have every right to be condescending, as you have just insulted my culture *and* my taste.

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I want a pith helmet.

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I wish someone would subtitle the movie Fidder on the Roof in Dari and Pashto and show it in Afghanistan. Yes, I know it's about Jews in Russia, and Afghanistan is a Muslim country, but the reality is that SO MUCH of it is THE SAME:
  • First of all: it's a musical. Afghans LOVE musicals. Bollywood is huge in Afghanistan.
  • Secondly, the big men's dance number in the bar. If that's not an Afghanistan moment, I don't know what is.
  • Thirdly, the themes of the movie -- tradition in a time of change, preserving your family and honor, toleration without losing your values -- they all HUGELY resonate in Afghan culture
  • Fourthly, religion permeates the lives of the main family, another thing that resonates hugely with Afghans
  • Fifthly, the women are all covered at all times.
Come on -- the film was a hit in Japan where its themes struck a chord on a profound level with the locals. I'm telling you, this would be bigger in Afghanistan than Titanic (and that movie is HUGE in Afghanistan). And would bridge a lot of gaps in understanding the world outside of Afghanistan. Ofcourse, any kisses would have to be edited out (are there any kisses?).

So, when I win the lottery, you now know one of the things I'm going to do...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Post-Serbia blues

Hope you all enjoyed my blog and my photos from Belgrade, Serbia. Considering I had only one day for sight-seeing, I think still I got a real taste for the city. I so needed that trip, personally and professionally. If you want to know more about what I did there, professionally-speaking, email me -- I have all my training materials online, but not linked from anywhere (I give away too much for free as it is).

Stefan and I got to spend a whopping 30 hours with each other after I got back, and then he was off to North Carolina for work. He got stuck for half a day in Atlanta, which Mom claims is part of his American initiation. I pick him up tomorrow. We were supposed to be gone at the same time, which sent me into a frenzy to find someone to take care of Albi while we were gone. But, luckily, Stefan's trip changed, so one of us has been home with her this whole time.

Albi's fine. Delightful as usual. We're going on a morning walk that's just a little shorter than our morning walk back in Germany. We're finally meeting other dogs more regularly, which she lives for. She's bored with them within 60 seconds of meeting them, but she REALLY wants to meet them.

Several of you have asked about the weather. While I was gone, it got freezing, and below freezing, in the greater Portland area. Now, it's just wet and gray. There is a lot of snow all around us, but not here. It's not all that different from a German Rhineland winter, so far.

No, Stefan's still not a volunteer firefighter in the USA. My prediction is that he won't be until we get out of Canby. We plan on being here for a year, maybe for all of 2010, but it's not where we want to buy a home. And, no, he still doesn't have a title for his motorcycle. We will know if that's happening around my birthday.

I'm still volunteering with the Girl Scouts here. Well, with the leaders, anyway. There are several women who refuse to use email, let alone any other online tools. Some are my age or younger. I'm stunned at their resistance to email. It makes communications extremely difficult.

Since the vast majority of Christmas traditions precede Christianity by at least several hundred years, we decided we could decorate for "the season" and not be hypocrites. So far, all I've done is put a wreath on the door (a practice that probably originates from ancient Persian cultures), and I think it looks better than the inflatable stuff on everyone's lawns. We still need to get a Christmas tree (did you know the Puritans banned Christmas trees because of the pagan origins?). Can't wait to use my Han Solo ornament! I need to work on a Flying Spaghetti Monster tree topper.

Anne of San Francisco will be joining us for Christmas, which I believe I've mentioned before, but I'm so thrilled hat she'll be here!

I have taken a break from sending my grandmother's postcards. For those of you receiving them, I hope you are enjoying them. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: while cleaning out my paternal grandmother's house for her move to the swingin' senior home "in town", I found a massive stash of postcards she bought during her travels following the death of my grandfather that she never sent. My sister-in-law said I should send them to all the grandkids as though I were traveling to those places. I've ended up sending them to some of my friends as well. It's been a lot of fun from my end, and my friends have had a good laugh about them as well (Mamaw has very interesting taste in postcards). I've sent some to Mamaw too, and she's enjoyed remembering all the places she's been.

This photo of Stefan and me has had more than 1000 views. Why? I don't have 1000 friends... do I?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Airport Blasphemous Blawging

Greetings from the Seattle airport (free Wi-Fi is a Christmas present from The Google. I've never been to Seattle. I don't really think the airport counts as a visit, though. I have an incredible view of the snowy mountains from where I'm sitting. I'm here way early but didn't have much choice re: flights from Portland. From here, I'll go to Paris, and then to Belgrade, Serbia.

A North Carolina fan and I just tried to take over a TV in a restaurant in this terminal, but one freakin' football fan wouldn't budge. In addition, when I initially asked if we could change the channel to CBS, the waitress chirped, "Oh, there's no game on CBS." I said, yes, UK was playing UNC, and she said, "Oh, basketball..." It's soooooooo hard living in a region that's got American football so far up its bum. Oh, well, I'm sure my alliance with the Tarheel would have splintered as soon as the game came on.

The woman at the Delta desk for my flight to Paris keeps coming on the intercom, and I could listen to her beautiful Caribbean French accent all day... si beau... By contrast, the high pitched perky newscaster's voice on the nearby TV is making me insane. Attention women TV newscaster's: talk in a deeper voice and stop the uptalk. Or speak with a Caribbean French accent.

I would love to take a photo of the Tai airline stewardess having their pre-flight orientation because they look so freakin' adorable, but I just know I'll get in trouble for it for some reason.

In 2007, I lead pilgrims returning from Hadj through the oh-so-confusing Frankfurt airport to make their connecting flights. Today: I lead a woman from Japan through the oh-so-confusing Seattle airport terminals to make her connecting flight to Baltimore. So, I've now got Islam and Buddhism covered re: airport karma.

Here's why I'm going to Serbia. I'm thrilled to be going -- I've been to most of the countries around it, but not to Serbia. And I have another consulting job in Australia in March. But so far, I haven't gotten even one gig because I've moved back to the USA; every little gig I've had I either got while I was in Germany or got because of a connection elsewhere. So, moving back to the USA has yet to pay off for me at all. Except for learning to ride a motorcycle.

Still no title for the Africa Twin; our guy checked the wrong box on the paperwork, and had to resubmit it all. That means another six weeks of waiting. Sigh. All I want for Christmas is my husband to get something back that he's loves so much...

As soon as I figure out how, I'm making this my cell phone ring tone. It is AWESOME! (Here's how I found out about it).

I cannot stand Snake Oil Salesman Deepak Chopra, and this blog by Phil Plait explains why. Religious/spiritual people out there: please don't tell me what I do or don't believe as a skeptic/atheist. Don't tell me how I think. You truly have no idea.

Speaking of me, and of atheism, how weird was it that I defended Islam the other day? Someone had made one of those classic "All Muslims think such-and-such" statements and I went off. Not that I don't believe in criticizing religion; I can do it, as most of you have know! I just loathe the "My religion is enlightened and peaceful while yours is violent and dogmatic" argument I've heard Christians say against Muslims. Islam is just as nuanced as Christianity or any other religion. Yes, there are large factions of Muslims who believe some rather dreadful things and engage in some horrific practices regarding women -- and there are factions of Christians who do the same (look at the forced child marriages in various Christian cults throughout the USA, the shootings and bombings by Christian fundamentalists at least every year in the name of God, the hate spewed by people like Mullah Pat Robertson, the insults non-Christian students often endure from classmates and their parents, etc.). Heck, I defend Scientology when someone attacks it and they admit to being religious themselves -- how is it really any different than any other religion out there? Having been exposed at length to a variety of Christian and Islamic cultures, I can sincerely say that they are much more alike than different. Having read the Bible cover to cover (twice, actually) and the Koran, I can also sincerely say that the former is a heck of a lot more violent and horrific in how it defines appropriate treatment of women than the latter.

Imagine no religion... I'm trying, John, I'm trying...

Just saw that Kentucky won! Hurrah! It's God's will! Go Big Blue!