Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Trip to Germany, day one

We came to Germany a week ago and are already heading home tomorrow. As usual, we've taken way too many photos and I find it difficult to only post a few, so we'll see how many different posts it takes to cover just this one week! This one will just be our trip TO Germany and the first day. :-)

We got up at 3:45 a.m. and Jörn took six of us to the airport, then drove home and parked the car, and our friend Ken then drove Jörn, Jacob, and our luggage to the airport.

Sunrise over the Mediterranean as we took off from Larnaka--having missed it both Easter Sundays, I was glad to see it that morning.

Elisabeth slept most of the flight to Vienna and woke up cheerful, and then marched through the airport singing "Doe, a Deer". I wondered if anyone thought we'd been on the "Sound of Music" tour in Salzburg...

We made our flight just in time--the children had just sat down when I took this photo, and then while I was putting the camera away, the flight started boarding.

In Düsseldorf we were pleased that our luggage had not made it, because there was another flight from Vienna only an hour or so later, and then our luggage would be delivered. Yay! As we filed the report (with a VERY nice lady who didn't get at all weird about the fact that we have more than 1.3 children, which was quite a cool welcome to Germany), we joked that we'd better hurry up or our luggage might catch up with us and we'd have to take it after all.

We took the "Sky Train" (that is what the hanging monorail in the Düsseldorf airport is called) to the long-distance train station, enjoying all the green out the window.

Then we took a train to Wesel, had lunch at a little mostly take-away Italian place (we took up over half the chairs in the restaurant), then took a train to Hamminkeln and walked the less-than-a-minute to the Globe Europe headquarters where we were staying for most of our time in Germany. There's a gorgeous magnolia right in front:

It was great being here so early and the weather was extremely cooperative. The children played outside for hours, but the only photo I took was this one, of Helen on a "Laufrad". (I don't know what they're called in English, or even if they exist in English! It's a bicycle without pedals, which is helpful for learning balance and just plain fun. The family living upstairs has two little boys who just a week before we came both learned to ride regular bicycles, so they were happy to lend us this Laufrad for Helen and Katie to take turns with.)

About an hour after we arrived, our luggage was delivered: four suitcases (one of them only containing three more empty ones) and three car seats. Three suitcases easily contained everything we needed for the week, the others were for taking back to Germany some of our things that have been stored in friends' attic for the last three years, as well as the books from amazon.de and photos from kodakgallery.de that we'd ordered and had delivered here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter Sunday, take two

I knew that the date of Easter had something to do with when a full moon was after the Vernal Equinox, but not the details, and also had no idea why Eastern (Orthodox) and Western Easter don't usually coincide, so googled. This was the clearest explanation I found, although why the Eastern church uses the Julian calendar, I don't get. Before we moved to Cyprus, it didn't really make any difference to me, was just a vague sort of fact about which I knew very little. The first year we were here, the two dates were one week apart, and then both 2010 and 2011 they were the same day. This year they're one week apart again, and next year they'll be five weeks apart.

In any case, since celebrating Easter is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, which is true all the time, and some churches don't even have a special "Easter celebration" at all because it's something we celebrate EVERY day (or at least every Sunday--the fact that Jesus rose on a Sunday is the reason I've most often heard given for why most churches have their main worship service on a Sunday), it doesn't actually matter to me when we celebrate as a family. Most of us were ill at one point or another (or several) over the last month, and I was just so tired, that we opted out of celebrating last week. I did attend the Anglican church service, though, for several reasons: I love singing with a group (not that I could very well with my cold, but I tried); I love Easter music; the service is short; I wanted to take communion; I appreciate a certain amount of liturgy and tradition (once or twice a year); friends who don't usually go to St. Helena's were going that Sunday; and the service ends before Jörn and whichever children are going with him to the house church leave, so I could go without any children. All fairly practical and pragmatic reasons, really. It was okay, but I didn't get much music until I got home again. And for me, there were two brief moments of actual worship, but that's not too bad considering my attitude about institutional church in the last couple of years.

So last night after the younger children had gone to bed, I boiled and dyed a dozen eggs. (Yes, we sometimes do it with the children, and yes, that can be fun. If any of them had remembered on their own and asked, I would have done it with them. But they didn't, so I didn't.) I thought I had plenty of liquid food coloring, but it turned out that I only had green and blue. (In fact, thanks to hand-me-downs, three of green and two of blue. But no other colors.) I also had some powdered food coloring, which someone had given me and I haven't liked much how it works in frosting (frosting for birthday cakes being the only time I ever use food coloring normally), and I had no idea how it would work for dying eggs, but I figured I had nothing to lose.

 The colors looked fine, anyway. For purple I used red powder and blue liquid, but it was too blue, so I added red powder, which made it too red, so added blue liquid, etc...so by the time I put the eggs in, they were nearly black almost immediately. They were literally in for maybe a minute, and this is what they looked like:
 I left the others in longer. Red and orange also didn't take long, and after I added more blue (spilling a bit) to the blue bowl, they were also done, but green looked fairly awful no matter how much I added, and yellow just didn't get very yellow.

Here are the finished eggs. The "orange" one on the right was actually in the yellow dye along with the yellow one right below it, but it was a much darker egg to start with. Some of the eggs were from our chickens (the smallest ones--our chickens are still quite young), some from a friend's chickens, and some from the store.

I was planning to go up on the roof at 5:00 this morning to watch the sunrise, but  was less sure of my plan when I realized it was raining last night. I set my alarm for 5:00 anyway, because I did really enjoy the one time I did that before, in 2009.

Not that an alarm was necessary. The Cypriot idea of celebrating Easter includes a great deal of noise, all night long. There had already been firecrackers and bonfires at random times in the last few weeks, and a huge bonfire was being prepared at the end of our street. (The tradition here, not actually sanctioned by the Orthodox church, is to burn Judas Iscariot in effigy Saturday night.) By the time it got dark last night, the firecrackers and fireworks were almost constant. I went to bed early (well, for me...it was about 11:30), thinking that that would be a good idea if I did end up getting up at 5:00, but there was no hope of sleep. In addition to the firecrackers and occasional huge booms, there were a lot of voices of people calling to each other, and neighbors on two sides had parties with loud music going. At 11:50 the noises picked up and by midnight were so loud, I couldn't believe that the children were sleeping through it. I didn't even bother turning off my reading light until about 12:45, but there was still plenty of noise out there, as well as the smell of smoke from the bonfires. I still heard music around 3:00, and the last firecrackers at 5:30. (I've heard plenty more this afternoon, though.)

Still, at 5:00 I got up. I went outside to see if it was clear, and since it was, I got dressed, got a chair and the camera and my journal, and went up on the roof. (I have nothing against sitting actually on the roof normally, but it was wet from the rain, so that's why I took a chair!)

I miss my old Pentax K500 camera, which I bought when I was 11 and sold before we moved here, not having used it for nearly 15 years. With it, I could take photos that actually looked just like what I was seeing. There must be some kind of settings on our digital camera to override all the automatic stuff, but I don't know how to do that. This is of the tree in front of our house, with the moon to the right, taken at 5:18 a.m. East is actually slightly to the left of that, but there were too many streetlights to get any kind of decent photo while it was still dark, and even this one is with the flash. (I do know how to override the flash, but those were just completely dark.)

This next one was taken at 5:26 and it was actually quite a bit lighter than that. I still couldn't see to read, but light was definitely visible.

And this one, again, actually lighter than the photo shows, was taken at 5:33.

At which point Jörn called to me that Elisabeth had woken up, so I came down from the roof and went back to bed before sunrise had even happened.

Incidentally, while looking up on-line what time sunrise would be, I learned all sorts of new terms. "Nautical twilight" started at 5:16, so I was up there pretty much in time for that, but left again before it even got as far as civil twilight (5:47), and by the time of the actual sunrise at 6:13, I was long since fast asleep again. There is also an "astronomical twilight", which started at 4:44, but which would definitely not been visible with the city lights, and I would add the "avian twilight", which was when the birds started: 5:26. As well as the Elisabethan twilight (5:35) and the Helenic twilight (just before 6:00, I think, which is when Helen came to my bed and informed me that it was light now).

At 8:00 my alarm went again and I got up to make the Easter bread.

Braided to symbolize the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, and in a circle to symbolize no beginning and no end. No good explanation for the eggs, though.

Just before breakfast, I cut Jacob's hair, which wasn't a good idea, as I forgot that it takes approximately ten times longer than cutting Lukas's hair. (Lukas's hair takes literally about two minutes, maybe less. Jacob's hair is a LOT thicker.) We couldn't wait for breakfast, though, because Marie, Elisabeth, and I needed to leave before 10:00, so the only photo I took doesn't have Jacob in it as he was still in the shower after his haircut:
We had some checkered green napkins, which Lukas folded into flowers, and there were two small chocolate eggs for each person.

Elisabeth and I went to Grace Church today (dropping Marie off at LCC on the way), where I loved the music and most of the rest of the service, as well. I was even liking the sermon and was disappointed when Elisabeth made it impossible for me to stay for that, and got the most out of time afterwards for lots of hugs and chatting. Marie joined us then, as I'd thought there was going to be a shared lunch, but it turned out that that was last week.

And now it's after 4:00 and Jörn and the other four children have been home for 10 minutes or so, and we're about to head out for our biweekly Sunday afternoon/evening with good friends. :-)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday, take one

Last night Marie asked me if we were celebrating Easter today (Western Easter) or next week (Eastern/Orthodox Easter). When I just kind of stared at her, she then asked if we'd thought about it at all, or just forgotten. Actually, Jörn and I did talk about it briefly, so hadn't entirely forgotten, but I was kind of wanting to go to the service at the Anglican church at 9:30, which is somewhat early for our family. So...we more or less decided to celebrate next week, instead. (Our celebration consisting mainly of breakfast together, the only morning of the year that we do that.) Marie was relieved, as that meant that she didn't need to get up until 9:00. (The church she attends starts at 10:00 and the one Jörn, the boys, and Katie attend starts whenever, Jörn usually heading out around 10:30, so it wasn't a big deal for Jörn to agree to stay home until I got back at 10:45, so that I didn't have to take the little ones.)
So...as I spent most of the night coughing and didn't sleep much, I got up earlier than usual and was actually ready to go in plenty of time and was playing (with) the piano at 9:00 when Marie appeared with a frantic look on her face. She'd forgotten that she needed to be at church at 9:15, not 10:00, to practice a skit that the youth were performing. It was kind of cool to be able to say so calmly no worries, I was happy to drive her. She got ready in record time and I dropped her off at LCC and got to St Helena's in time to look at the book table and buy a book before going inside.

I could have done without the greeting from the greeter, who patted my stomach (yes, literally touched it--so much for the reserved English!!) and said something sweet about it being nice to see young people expecting. I suppose I should have just happily accepted the adjective "young", considering that I'm 41 and have three grey hairs, but I mumbled something like, "Um, no, I'm not pregnant." She didn't miss a beat, just responded, "Well, then I hope for you that you will be." I should have left that well enough alone as well, but didn't, saying, "No, I don't think so, I do have six already." (Like whether we have any more children or not is hers or anyone else's business!!! It's NOT!!!!!) I have to give it to her for composure--she just said, "Six? That's wonderful--God bless you!" I finally got my hymnal and service sheet handed to me and escaped.

It didn't help much that as I was squeezing into my skirt this morning, Elisabeth (Elisabeth! She is not quite 22 months old!) watched me skeptically and said, "No, Mommy. Too small." In my opinion, it fits fine once it's on, but obviously, my opinion is wrong.

Anyway, I was pleased not to cough too terribly much during the service and it was good to take communion, the one thing that I've been missing with not going to church much over the last 15 months. Because of my cold, I didn't drink from the wine chalice though, just dipped my wafer in it. I discovered that wafers don't soak up much. (We always had whole-wheat bread, made by my mother, in the church where I grew up. It soaks up a lot more!) The very best part of the service, though, was hugging Sue during the passing of the peace (or whatever they call it there).

The first song was one that I knew but apparently nobody else did with the tune that the lady running the digital hymnal had chosen, because after the first verse the vicar suggested we sing it without accompaniment, and the tune that everyone then sang was one I didn't know! There were four or five songs, of which I knew two pretty well and enjoyed, even though I couldn't sing much with my cold. One of them I only knew the first verse, so after the service quickly scribbled down the other three verses. (We only sang the second verse as it was, which I thought was a pity.)

However, we didn't sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today", so as soon as I got home, I looked that up in the Baptist hymnal. (I prefer Mission Praise, which mostly has easier arrangements, but Jacob had taken it with him to the house church.) I played that and a few more, appreciating that the Baptist hymnal has the songs by topic (Mission Praise is strictly alphabetical), and then discovered that the one I'd copied down is in there--I'd had no idea! So I played through that a few times and then took the words with me into the girls' room, where I spent about half an hour picking things up and throwing things away. (For the last several months, I've worked on their room most Sunday mornings, but I've either been to church or been sick for the last several weeks, so hadn't done anything for awhile, meaning it looked rather as though nobody had EVER tried to do anything with it...) Helen and Elisabeth are now singing the chorus with me and some of the verses. :-)

Then the three of us had lunch and afterwards I turned the computer on while nursing Elisabeth. No photos (not that there's really anything I would have photographed today, I guess) because I can't find the camera...hopefully we'll find that by next Sunday and I'll at least take a photo of the table set for breakfast, with braided bread (three parts, symbolizing the Trinity) and colored eggs (symbolizing nothing other than Tradition, really...) and probably pretty napkins. Last year Eastern and Western Easters were the same day, and I don't remember what we did the two years before that. The various Protestant churches here do different things, some celebrating one and some the other, some both, and some neither! Grace Church will be celebrating next week, as well as having a shared meal, so I might go there next week with the two little girls.