Feb 192012

Too soon?
Sigh.  Yes, the car is dead.  Or, so they tell us.  David went down to pick it up- after it spent a week in the shop- and they informed him that the cost to repair it was higher than the cost of the car.  It is tough enough for us to figure out whether mechanics are messing with us in the states.  Here… haven’t the foggiest.  They said something about the engine body and head and, er, kaput…. David plans to go tomorrow with one of his co-workers to try to speak with them more thoroughly about it (he figures a native speaker will be a big help).  After that?  Well, it looks like we will need to invest in something a bit more reliable.  We are going to look into leases and other potential financing that may be able to gain us a better form of transport.  I am sure the process of watching us muddle through German Finance in German will be a fun filled circus for the innocent bystander, so stay tuned!

More on that later, but it does lead directly into:

I cried again this weekend- but, it isn’t what you think!  It wasn’t from the frustration of having the car die.  Or even from the compound hit of discovering that the valve on our new washer is leaking all over the laundry room floor, on the same day that we discovered that the fridge is still frosting over to the point it is uncloseable every couple weeks. Nor did it have to do with confirming that the voucher that the Cable company promised us to get the work done that should fix our television has still not arrived a week and a half after they promised it (we haven’t have TV in over a month!).  No no.  All of that was and is frustrating.  And, I suppose in the sitcom of our lives, it might make for an amusing anecdote someday.  But, today’s emotional outburst was truly classic TV.  I suspect a scene like this has been in most family comedies since Lucy:

Knowing that we will be needing to get a new car, in Germany; and further knowing that we currently have access to a lovely manual transmission VW for another day or so, I asked David to please teach me how to drive a stick shift.  Or, more precisely, to reteach me how to drive one, since my dad did actually teach me way back when I was 16.  The only problem now is that, well, I haven’t actually driven a stick since I was… hmm… 18?  That is about 25 years of muscle memory and driving habits to try to undo!

David was great and patient and really clear about the mechanisms and everything.  But, I must re-stress the fact that 25 years really is a lot of muscle memory to undo!  I believe any fly on the window would have most often overheard the phrase “the clutch, the Clutch!  THE CLUTCH!!!”  perhaps followed by something about remembering to use the clutch, the clutch being your ‘safe place’, using the clutch before doing everything else, and, of course, “remember the clutch”….  I think there may have been a bit of a theme going.  Somewhere toward the middle, any interloper would have been treated to big, wet, Lucy-worthy tears as an attractive mother of two sobbed out ridiculous things like:

       “I can’t” and
           “I suck” and

                          and who the HECK is that guy in the van looking at!” 

We were in the parking lot at Edeka, but someone stopped to take a smoke break– and watch the entertainment, apparently.  None of this is very flattering, I know, but I have vowed to keep this as honest as possible.  In any case, like Peter Pan’s shadow, my wandering composure was tacked back into place (with soap, since we couldn’t find a needle and thread), then the lessons continued.

David took both my ‘notes on teaching Stephanie’ (more praise, smaller chunks, fewer numbers!) and my rather stereotypical emotional outbursts in stride and patiently talked me through it all.  By the end, I am pleased to report, I was able to successfully start and stop the car, shift into first gear, drive around the parking lot without stalling, and then park.  We only had one major gear-grinding incident, where the stick somehow didn’t get into the right position and we both thought perhaps some workers in the distance had started using a chain saw! er, oops.  Otherwise, progress was made and I am convinced that should we have to get a car with a manual transmission, I will, with a great deal of effort and kindness from my spouse, eventually be able to drive it. 

So, on to other things!  For instance, Fastnacht!  Things are in full swing, though our car mishaps caused us to miss a few of the planned events this weekend.  At DS’s school, Thursday was a “party day”.  Most of the students wore costumes to school.  This is one of DS’s good friends in his outfit: 

We weren’t sure how seriously they would take it,
so we just sent DS with a hat, that way at least he was participating.

Half way through the school day, people dressed as witches and fools came to the rooms and led the students out.  They all gathered in the main hall and proceeded to have a little assembly, where many of the classes shared songs etc. that they had been working on (DS and his class sang one about a kid getting ready for school amid chaos).  More partying followed, but DS got called away for a rehearsal for Jugend Forscht.  That will be in Freiburg this week.  2 nights in a Youth Hostel with other students, train rides, bowling, a short speech in German, a longer one in English, judging, prizes, the whole works!  The car issues do complicate things, but, we will face that challenge as we get to it.  Next week we should have much to tell!

Hexen Essen
In the mean time, yesterday was supposed to be one of the bigger celebrations.  But, whatever was up, we largely missed it.  We got to the market as people were leaving in the early afternoon, then we noticed fireworks at night and got back downtown in time to see a few folks going to some party, but most people just walking home.  Ah well.  We did manage to see a few things:

Just hanging out
The Witches Camp- All the witches appeared to be men in various forms of drag. 
There were also folks in historic garb ranging from what looked like the mid 1700’s through
the early 1900’s
They were cooking over wood fires.  I liked the smell, but the smoke bugged the kids.
On the other hand, DS LOVED this- reams and reams of shredded paper in the middle of town

Kids of all ages played in the fun fluff
By the time we got there, many of the witches were off duty

But, this one kindly put his mask back on when he saw me taking pictures…
This style square head with the red kerchief is definitely the traditional Witch Form around here

Earlier this week, the severe cold spell we had been having finally broke, and with the higher temperatures came some very lovely snow.  It was still only a couple inches worth, but it was the most we have seen since we got here.  DS was, obviously, thrilled.  DD and David and I also enjoyed it, though.  Here are a few pics I posted on Facebook earlier, but those of you who only follow here may enjoy seeing them.

DS made a snowman with his tutor.  I love the nose!

DS, how did your hair get so snowy?

Aha!  Headbutting snowballs… that would do it!

DS took this photo of me outside his school

This is the look I get when I interrupt snow viewing with a photo request

Special shout out to Christian and Kim who helped us get DD’s phone issues straightened out.  Who knew that “roaming” was a GOOD thing in Europe!?

Next week: Car Update and Jugend Forscht Adventures!

  One Response to “What do Whitney Houston and our car have in common?”

  1. Happy to help anytime! –Kim and Christian

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