Monday, August 27, 2007

Fun quote of the day

From the free Calendar I received at one of the first faculty meetings: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."

-- Herm Albright

So, keep smilin', y'all!!

Ok, ok

I've been bad about blogging. And I don't have any good excuse, really. But just so you don't go entirely stir-crazy waiting for me to put up more pictures, you can check out pics from my trip to Asia at Wes and Annette's travel blog.

They didn't choose the most flattering pictures of me, but it's a fun summary of our time together. And though I did pass on the fried scorpions at the Night Food Street Market, they were pretty cool --- and HUGE.

So, enjoy. And I promise I'll have things back up and running here soon!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hello from Hong Kong!!

Well, after a delightful stay in the Yotel during my 9 hour layover in London (I popped in for four hours -- it was worth every penny of the 25 Pounds!), and a 12 hour flight over eastern Europe and Asia, I arrived in Hong Kong tired, but ready to do some sightseeing. Annette picked me up at Hong Kong Central Station, and we first came back to Annette and Wes's very cute apartment in Sheung Wan. Then she and I headed out on a walking tour of the city, starting with the Temple of Literature and War (Temple to Literature and War?) - the Man Mo Temple. We were intrepid sightsee-ers in spite of the rain, and ended our day with a great view of the daily musical lightshow from the Avenue of Stars. Ours was enhanced by a pyrotechnic show, which made it extra fabulous. They will apparently be doing that on Saturdays in the month of August.

View from the Airport Express on my way into town.

My little welcome package at my favorite Hong Kong B&B: Chez Wes & Annette

Annette admiring the local decorative arts in Man Mo Temple.

A street market in Central.

The View of Central from the Avenue of Stars. The buildings in the background light up in time to a peppy musical show. The added pyrotechnics were a delight for young and old (everyone oohed and aahed).

Thursday, August 09, 2007


It's been a really nice last day in Berlin. A bit hot at the outset, but gorgeous weather tonight. It makes me sad to leave! I'm never quite ready to go, even though I'm ready to get on with the next adventure.

Of course, I also wish I could just snap my fingers and appear at the next place, rather than going through the whole airport/security/flight/baggage claim hooha.

Among other things, today I:
* found an excellent pair of 7.99 shades.
* went to the DDR museum for the first time
* saw the Nikolai Kirche for the 10th or 11th time --- but I never get tired of the Nikolai Kirche
* saw the last snippets of a free live performance of "Dinner for One" (A German Tradition!!) at a lovely outside theater
* had authentic Bavarian food (and Apfelstrudel!!)
* had authentic Turkish food (and Mint tea!!)
* mailed almost 10 kg of books back home (fingers crossed that everything makes it!)
* caught a bit of a reggae concert
* heard live modern jazz
* saw fire dancers
* saw fire dancers drop their twirly bits and almost set a gaggle of tourists on fire
* paid for a Benedictine monk to use the loo at the main train station (80 cents)
* found out that the incredibly overpriced internet stations at the main train station won't let me look at my blog because it contains "inappropriate content" -- that was the result for every single "blogspot" site I tried. Are we all really so bad?
* hung out in Dussmann -- the happy book place :-)

It is now 12:57 a.m. and I haven't started packing yet (surely no one is surprised?) My travel time will be about 27 hours door-to-door tomorrow, give or take a few minutes. Can't wait to see the Middle Kingdom :-) --- and to travel around without charges for a few days. The Engineer and the Cute One have cleared out a closet for me to sleep in, and have all sorts of adventures planned (right?)

"The same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie?" -- "The same procedure as every year, James"
And as to my packing at the last possible minute? Well, that's the same procedure as every year as well.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's almost the end...

... of quite a summer. We returned from Poland today and are back in Berlin, staying in Prenzlauer Berg at a pretty cool, inexpensive hotel/hostel: Hotel for You(th) [a tiny "th" is at the end of the name -- tricky!]

I'm sorry I haven't had much time to blog or share with you about some of the interesting, wonderful, horrible, "cultural" things we've experienced.

Poland was quite a mix of highs and lows, a combination of a little too much togetherness, the fact that we're at the end of 10 weeks together, and the experience of travelling in a country that is in the process of being renewed and refurbished after years of letting buildings and streets (and streetcars) go without much care.

We rented a car and drove, which was pretty wild. The car had sensors at the front back and sides to let you know if you were too close to something, and at one point all of the sensors were screaming. We drove down windy, two-lane roads, staying with the traffic-flow (btw. 100-140 km/hr), but then coming to almost a dead stand-still behind trucks or farm equipment. Polish people think the pretty stripes on the road are decorative, more than anything, and occasionally I would look up in the rear-view mirror to see them lined up three across (two lanes, remember!), and then look through the windshield to see the same thing. More than once I watched a car whiz in front of a line of cars at the last possible second, escaping death (and a huge mess!), by mere seconds and millimeters. Motorcycles thought any space big enough for them to squeeze into was fair game, and the little old men on bicycles on the side of the road would let nothing bother them --- they were going to go at their own pace and take up as much of the road as they needed, no matter how many horns were honking.

Szczecin (German: Stettin), our first stop, was an old harbor town and former member of the Hanseatic league. It was also the seat of the Pomeranian dukes, which made it of personal interest to me. The last Pomeranian duke employed Christian Schwarz, Sibylle Schwarz's father. He (the duke) died in 1637, leaving Pomerania up for grabs. Part of it went to the Swedes, part to Prussia, and part to Poland. After WWII it ended up half in Germany and half in Poland, but entirely under the purview of the Soviet Union. Stettin showed signs of development, and they have begun to make the downtown area tourist-worthy, but it still bore the marks of years of neglect. As we drove through Poland, we went to cities that were more and more developed/tourist-ready.

Our second stop was Wroclaw (German: Breslau). We stayed in the Novotel at the outskirts of town (it had a swimming pool!! And it was about 65 degrees while we were there -- but that didn't stop people from sunbathing.) We visited an amazing Jewish Cemetary, which is one of very few to escape destruction by the Nazis. And we also visited the baroque University and several churches ... there were churches everywhere you looked!! It was great to step inside the Archcathedral (there was another Cathedral in town) and just rest and reflect for a while.

Our final stop was Cracow, spiritual heart of Poland -- we visited Wawel castle, the main town square (Rynek Glowny) and the Jewish quarter (Kazimierz). We also took a day trip to the Salt Mines, and another out to Auschwitz. We also spent time on Sunday at a prayer service in the Church of St. Mary on the main square. It is the most beautiful church I've ever been inside; and I've been in lots and lots of churches.

On our way back to Berlin, we spent a day and a half in Dresden. We went to the zoo and to see the "transparent" Phaeton manufacturing plant. Pretty incredible --- car manufacturing heaven. I really don't see how they can make any profit, even though the Phaeton is not cheap. To give you an idea: you can get a package deal of a Phaeton (made-to-order) and matching speedboat and trailer for 180,000 Euros. By made-to-order, I mean: they will make the interior out of any color/type of leather you would like. And the wood trim can be made out of the tree of your choice. Just pick a tree, and they will come out and cut it down and then they will work the wood into the car. The speedboat can have the same wood and interiors, and a matching color of paint. Oh, and as to the paint, they will match any color you would like ... just bring in a sample of what you want. And the workers? Very happy. 95% of the work is done by hand, not machine, but in such a way so that the workers don't have to bend over; everything is ergonomic. They have fancy-schmancy hydrolic lifts to move the chassis into the height and position desired by each worker for the job they are doing. The building itself is out of glass, letting in natural light, and the floor of the workplace is wood -- easier on the back. I could go on and on, but you'll be happier reading about it for yourself here and here. If I ever had the kind of money that enabled me to purchase a car in this price category, this is probably the one I would get. Their propaganda convinced me. It's all about the quality -- and the fact that they let you install your own steering wheel, if you want.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


So, I got an email today from my friend Cindy. She's been watching my apartment for me while I'm in Europe.

She checked my apartment this morning, and noticed that there were several empty apartments, that a lot of people seemed to be moving out, and that the bushes (beautiful bushes!) in front of the complex had all been cut down. Then she noticed a letter on my door, which relayed the following information:

It says that the Broadway apts were sold to a condo developer and the new owner will not be renewing any leases. It continues, "Please proceed with plans to find a new place to live. The new owner will allow you to move any time with a 30 day written notice. Return your keys to Metcalf's office. Please provide our forwarding address so we can refund your deposit.

If you need a rental reference, please call 879-2177 and press zero for the operator. We apologize for any inconvenience. Metcalf was not involved in the recent sale. The Oakley Group was the selling agent."

HA! Life is fun. Prayers are appreciated. Anyone who wants to come to Birmingham on vacation and help me move will also be appreciated :-). I'll provide pizza and beer!!

This is really just to let you know what's going on. Proof that God has a huge sense of humor. Lots of love to all of you :-).