Thursday, May 10, 2007

26 April: More German Stories

I have been walking with Evelyne and Eiko almost every morning for the past three weeks. Oda had her knee surgery two weeks ago and is doing well. I’ve been over for coffee several times, including this morning. Oda was home because this is exam time (called Habitur) and she only had one class today. We ate poppyseed cake, drank coffee, and talked about movies and languages and school. Evelyne and Oda think it is very funny that we say things like kaput, Gesundheit, and Kindergarten in America. Oda asked me if I might be able to help her find a place to visit in America for a couple of weeks this fall. She would like to attend classes at an American high school, so I think I’m going to try contacting my high school in California first. I suppose I could also check out Ann Arbor, but I think she would really enjoy going to California.

We watched an amazing event unfold this morning in Evelyne’s pond. First we saw the snake that Evelyne’s been telling me about – a Ringelnatter, about 3 feet long, mottled black-and-brown with yellow “half-moons” on its head. It was gliding around the pool, stopping now and then to bask in the sun. Then it wriggled in the water for a few moments and came out onto the grass. It took us a while to realize that it had a rather good-sized frog in its mouth! At first it just had the frog by one hind leg and we were sure the frog would get away (and it didn’t seem like the snake could possibly swallow a frog that big), but the frog just didn’t seem to be trying that hard to escape. It tried to pull itself towards the water, but then the snake got a better grip on it and pulled it back onto the bank. The frog let out a couple of plaintive, high-pitched screams (which, if you’ve never heard a frog scream, I can tell you was just awful to hear), and then, in a matter of just a few minutes, the snake swallowed it! I told Evelyne it was like watching a wildlife documentary – “Life and Death in the Pond.” (Let’s see…that would be Leben und Tod im Teich. Catchy!)

Evelyne talks a mile a minute (in German) and I hardly ever get a word in edgewise, but that’s okay. I think I can actually see my comprehension skills improving every day I spend with her. She always has some rant or rave or funny story to share – she talks about gardening, visiting her sister in Berlin (they were just there last weekend for a communion), her health woes, or the trials and tribulations of raising two teenagers.

The other day we we were walking past the gardens that line the Weg leading into the woods. I think I’ve mentioned these community gardens before – they are very common on the outskirts of cities and people who don’t have yards at home can rent small plots of property from the city. Sometimes they are quite elaborate, with beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, perhaps a small orchard of apple and cherry trees, a cute little shed with windowboxes overflowing with flowers, and usually an outdoor seating area or even a barbeque. It is not uncommon to see families gathered at their garden plots on the weekend, enjoying a cook-out. Several of the gardens along our path are quite overgrown and run-down, however, and Evelyne commented that it is a real shame to see these gardens in such a bad state when there are so many people looking for garden space. I remembered seeing a sign in Botnang that said Garten sucht (“Garden sought”), but it never occurred to me that there was a serious market for garden plots, let alone a garden shortage!

Cody and Eiko are good friends now and Cody always pulls when we are approaching Evelyne’s house, and wants to look in their gate even if we are not meeting them for a walk. He still whines something terrible at their house. I’m hoping he’ll stop that eventually.

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