Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A visit from the in-laws

Stefan's parents visited us for almost three weeks in May (20 days, not sure why they didn't make it an even 21). Stefan comes from a tight-knit family that is used to seeing him every day, so our move to the USA has been really hard on them all. He left Germany a year ago, and while he did get to see his parents for a few days in the Fall when he was in Europe for business, this was their first extended visit together in a year. They were really, really happy to see each other and be together again.

One thing I've learned from people visiting me over the years: when people say, I just want to hang out, we don't have to do anything, they don't really mean it. So I researched for days to have a long, long list of things to do, more than could actually be done in three weeks. But that was assuming there would be more than just two or three non-rain days while they were in Portland. It rained more than it didn't while they were here in Canby (though, thankfully, not during their week South), and that proved challenging to the visit. I got so desperate for things to do that at one point I posted to FaceBook for suggestions -- and every suggestion was something we couldn't do either because it was outside, because of the language barrier (movies) or just wasn't at all something three of the four of us would want to do (art museum, opera...).

Still, I came up with just enough to keep everyone from getting too bored. Among our various activities:
  • Clackamas County Master Gardeners Spring Garden Fair (within walking distance of our house! Next year, if we're still here, I'll be taking some of the free workshops there and buying some plants for sure)
  • Downtown Astoria (cute little city with a great view from the historic column above the city)
  • Evergreen Air and Space Museum (home of the "Spruce Goose", which I was beside myself to get to see in person; but I was weirded out that no mention was ever made that the majority of the planes at the museum were designed to kill people. The IMAX movie of the Hubble space station was The Awesome)
  • Ultra adorable downtown McMinnville (the day after the UFO parade, unfortunately; still so sad that I didn't get the job there)
  • Mount St. Helens (the highlight of the entire trip for me; astounding)
  • Mt. Angel, Silverton and Silver Falls State Park
  • Woodburn Company Stores (TWICE)
  • Downtown Portland, the Portland International Rose Test Garden, Döner Kebab on 4th street (where the owner happily spoke German with my in-laws)
  • Hanging out in our back yard on the rare two nice days (warm and cloudy, but without rain), grilling and playing corn hole (everyone was terrific but ME)
On their own, they visited Sea Lion Cave along the Oregon Coast, Lassen Volcanic Area, Lava Beds National Monument, Crater Lake, Salem, Bend, and the only hotel in Canby, California (which I think sounds like a great amount of fun).

Here are some of the photos from their visit. And here is me about to be crushed by a replica Apollo Command Module.

German wikipedia made this visit HUGELY better -- it could explain all sorts of things I couldn't (like what the "Spruce Goose" is, and why Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea are important and have monuments all over the place). I wish I had printed out several pages and put it together as a booklet for them.

Near the end of their visit, Stefan figured out how to stream the German TV station ZDF through his computer and onto our TV. His parents and he were all very content watching the German evening news. Wish we'd figured that out earlier... could have made a lot of evenings more enjoyable for them.

Albi loves Karin and Klaus. I can't figure out if it's because of how happy they make Stefan, or if they smell like Stefan and so she naturally likes them. When they left both times -- to travel South and then when they went back to Germany -- Albi went into mourning. When they would show up, she was beside herself with joy that they were back.

In the last few days of their trip, Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl; let's all say it together) started acting up. If my in-laws were going to be stranded by a raging volcano, I was hoping they would be stranded here in Oregon and not at their midway point in Chicago (though there are certainly much worse cities to be stranded in; I just didn't want them stranded at an airport).

Good thing I didn't try making a real Southern country breakfast for them -- they talked about the "disgusting" white sauce they saw at breakfast in a hotel one morning that had pieces of sausage floating in it, that they didn't dare taste. No Lynn's Paradise Cafe for them, I guess. We stuck with a traditional German breakfast each morning: fresh bread rolls, cold cuts, cheese and coffee. Except for one morning, when I dared to make an egg omelet casserole (thank you, Betty Crocker!).

I had to finally surrender my kitchen during the visit. I wasn't up for the battle for control of it -- I was doomed to lose. Positive statements were made for my pot roast, chicken in paprika cream sauce and various thrown-together suppers. But ultimately, my mother in-law wanted to cook, and I slunk away.

Sadly, Sureway decided to stop selling Pyramid Hefeweizen the week the in-laws came to visit, so we had to settle for Widmer Hefeweizen and Firehouse Hefeweizen for a few days until someone at Safeway ordered us the Pyramid. We also found out that a store in Mt. Angel sells imported Franziskaner, which was delicious, but made us realize just how lacking American-made Hefeweizens are. Stefan's boss sent us six bottles of wine as a peace offering for Stefan having to go to Spokane while his parents were visiting. So, in short, we had a plentiful supply of alcohol, and that was a good thing.

All-in-all, a good visit. They've been to the USA before -- to Miami (Florida is a hugely popular vacation destination for Germans). I hope they liked this visit as much (and maybe even more).

Stefan will probably get to see his parents again in just a few months, when he has to go to Ukraine for work (he'll visit them before or after Ukraine). They really want us to come for a visit in Germany, and it scares me because I'm afraid I'll go regret even more this move to the USA...

Let's hope that their next visit to the USA (probably in 2012) will be to a place where Stefan and I are both employed, own a home, and love our community!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Travel, baby, travel

All those who chanted "Drill, baby drill", report immediately to the Gulf Coast for cleanup duty.

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Details about the in-laws visit coming soon. In the meantime...

I'm obsessed with keeping my travel map up-to-date. I love seeing where I've been and I love even more thinking about where I'm going.

If you click on the map, you can zoom in closer and see much more. If you zoom into Oregon, it will look like I've already been a lot of places in Oregon, but I don't feel like I have been. I haven't been to Bend yet, or to the area around Crater Lake, or anywhere in the Eastern part of the state. In fact, since we've been largely underwhelmed by Oregon, we're setting our sites on traveling in Washington State, Idaho, Montana and Canada. And, as I have mentioned more than once, I really want to do a motorcycle trip through Chile in the next five years.

I feel so sorry for people who don't travel, particularly those who not only have never traveled outside the USA, but see no reason to. This is a comment today on Yahoo on an article about the importance of getting medical evacuation insurance:

"Stay in America. The rest of the world is jealous of us and want to hurt us. Only stupid people would travel abroad. If you go and anything happens to you, SHUT THE HELL UP. You knew the risk and you ignored them. Help save OUR economy. Spend your travel money here in the US."

This person is beyond sad. And I'm sorry to say I've heard statements like this from Americans more than a few times here since moving back to the USA. To me, this represents exactly why it's so important for more Americans to go abroad. It's also the reason why CNN International needs to be a part of every basic cable/satellite TV package in the USA.

We're really looking forward to getting together with fellow travelers at an upcoming Horizons Unlimited Travelers meeting (the one in Petrolia, California -- maybe Stefan can get his photo with Ted Simon autographed!). And Stefan's subscribed to RoadRUNNER magazine, which is focused on travel by motorcycle -- and showed us not only a lot of great potential trips in the USA and abroad (like we needed more ideas!), but that there are a LOT of people in the USA that think like we do (we just need to get together with them more!).

Oh, and I've reached my goal of putting more than 1500 miles on my motorcycle within the first year! I crossed my first state line on the motorcycle last month as well, riding 257 miles total in one day, my longest ride in a day ever. We road to Astoria, had lunch at the Wet Dog Cafe & Astoria Brewing Company (no brewskies though -- no drinking and riding!) and said hello to a group of women motorcycle rides -- the P.O.W.R. women whom I hope to ride with soon. I was NOT crazy about the oh-so-high Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River -- and I'm sure the people driving behind me weren't thrilled at my slow speed.

Getting to ride a motorcycle of my own has been the one really awesome thing about moving back to the USA. No ride is ever perfect or easy -- there are times it's downright scary and I feel like I'm in over my head -- just like I do when I travel! And I recently almost had a spill because I stopped too fast using the back wheel break. But so far it's always turned into a worthwhile ride, and at the end of a ride, I want to start planning immediately for another ride.

* * *
I've been living in the USA for a year now. How's it been? I wish I could say wonderful. I wish I could say I'm so glad I came back. But, as you know, it's been rough, and shows little sign of improving. We moved back to the USA because I couldn't find steady work in Europe, and I really didn't want to go into the field for months at a time anymore. And since we've moved back, more than 90% of what little income I've been able to generate has come from jobs outside the USA. I couldn't even get a temp job with the Census Bureau. We're so lucky that Stefan found a job. So extremely lucky.

So, what now? I've all but given up on the Pacific Northwest. I'll keep applying for jobs in the area, but I'm now also applying for elsewhere in the USA again. We're ready to move anywhere in the USA where we can both work, where Stefan can be a volunteer firemen, where it's good to ride motorcycles and where there is a feeling of community -- and that's turned out NOT to be Canby, Oregon. We also don't want to move anywhere that has ridiculously hot summers (sorry, Texas).

Here's Stefan's professional profile. Here's mine. Job suggestions always welcomed (just make sure you read our profiles first).

And if I don't find anything? Well... maybe we go back to Germany. It's a great place to be unemployed.

* * *
Twin Peaks is 20 years old! Geesh but I loved this show (at least the first season). I was living in NYC at the time and it was like the whole city was watching it. And then I moved to Williamstown, Massachusetts and it was like I was living it. In NYC, everyone was talking about it the next day after it was on. It was eerie.

If I ever go to a WKU baseball game, I may have to hope for a rain delay.

* * *
No, President Obama did NOT cancel the National Day of Prayer. Quit reading forwarded emails and watching Fox News and, instead, get the FACTS before you put something silly in your status update. You can still pray all you want to on that day or any day. Geesh. (and, for the record, as a secularist and an athiest, I wish he WOULD cancel the day, but as President Obama is a devout Christian, and always has been, that's not going to happen).