Tag Archives: Germany

Monday, December 19th, we celebrated Susan's Mom's 80th Birthday by going to Krefeld, their ancestoral town.

The Mother Chronicles 3 of 3

To Krefeld we go, the Stadtarchivs we go . . . hi-ho the dairy oh, to Krefeld we go!

Then it was time to get serious!

With our armor on (in the form of head gear), we set forth to Krefeld . . .


After our strenuous search in the Krefeld archives . . .

ends up our ancestors left the year BEFORE the archives were started! LOL What the heck, we had fun poking around anyway!

. . . we buckled down to celebrate my Mom’s 80th birthday!!! Yahoo! Happy Birthday Mom!

And . . . Happy Mother’s Day Mom as well as all you other Mom’s out there!

(including those with furry children ;-)


***Footnote: I feel compelled to write of the Sinti and Roma people. They were gypsies who tracked down and killed by the National Socialist Party (or Nazi Party). There’s a detailed site in German which discusses the small bronze figure, “Ehra oder Kind mit Ball,” by Otto Pankok which was completed in 1955 to represent the Sinti and Roma; it’s located on the Rhine promenade in the old city near the Film museum.

+Sj out

References   [ + ]

1, 2, 3. see cute doggie photo
. . . where mom cleans us up in gin rummy! Stay tuned . . .

The Mother Chronicles 2 of 3

From Nürnberg to Düsseldorf — with a card shark !!!

After a couple of days wandering around in Nuremberg, it was time to head to our ancestors’ old stomping grounds near Düsseldorf: North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

We had the good fortune of arranging a home exchange in Düsseldorf’s hip MediaHarbor district (oder MedienHafen). Mom was a good sport about the apartment with a view being a walk-up.

First stop? The pad for a round of cards!

A final stroll down the Rhine.

The Mother Chronicles 1 of 3

Mom arrives at the Nuremberg airport !

(oder Nürnberg auf Deutsch : )

In honor of Mother’s Day 2014, I decided to post these three entries called “The Mother Chronicles.” From my preceding post, you can learn the why and what fors.

Looking back on this now, I realize (even more : ) how darn lucky we were to be able to take this trip together. That we had the time, the funds, the place to stay, the health, the gumption . . . I could go on and on (but I  won’t : ).

Danke, mahalo, merci, grazie, gracias, aw kohn . . . suffices for now.

So without further ado, here are shots from the first part of our trip together (after a brief visit to my sister’s for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh) in Nürnberg, Germany — home of the infamous Weihnachtsmarkt, as well as many other things . . .


Carnival southwestern Germany style!

Germany 2012 comes to a close . . .

Bringing Things Full Circle

Part of the impetus of this trip was to explore the tiny town of Krefeld, Germany with my Mother.

Why Krefeld?

In 1684, Paul Kuster, an ancestor on my maternal grandfather’s side, left that area of Germany (near the Rhine river) for the “free world.” One of thirteen families, the Kusters were part of the original emigrants to Pennsylviana, best known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Why Pennsylvania Dutch and not Pennsylvania German? Not sure. I googled it and found a site with a l o n g explanation of all the why and what-fores. All I DO know is that my grandfather fought for the United States in World War I and did not want to be associated with Germans at all!

How would he feel about his youngest granddaughter becoming enamored with the German language? No idea. He died when I was 6-months old.

My hostess during this final phase of my solo-trip found me through homeexchange.com. She wanted to visit Kauai and accessed the site through her girlfriend in Freiburg who was a member (and who btw has this lovely family you’ll see in the pix below : ).

“Krefeld?” my new friend thought, “Who wants to visit Krefeld????”

Incredulous that someone wanted to visit this tiny town near the border of the Netherlands, she contacted me anyway. One thing led to another, and in December 2011, my mother, husband, and I found ourselves in her COOL apartment in the Median district of Düsseldorf.

If you want to experience the Mother Chronicles, visit: the next couple of posts. : )))

So . . . at the end of my solo-trip, I found myself staying with and getting to know this incredible woman who I met through exchanging homes!!!  A woman who shared her apartment in Düsseldorf, just minutes away from our ancestors old stomping grounds, making it possible for my Mom to have an 80th birthday celebration full of dreams fulfilled.  Lucky us!

Thanks Christiane for your generosity and hospitality!!!

German Lessons Via Skype

Sj with her Mother making dreams come true. : )

Ah, nothing like the sunsets off Kauai nei!

Hamburg, Germany

A place to visit. Alone or with friends. Your call.

Here are some more shots from my archives.

Hamburg, Germany – 2012

Throughout the city are information placards which accompany actual segments of DIE Mauer, the wall. Germans speak of THE wall as opposed to the wall or a wall.

Berlin 2012 Photo Recap

Has It Been TWO Years Already???

Two years ago, I had the honor of spending some solo travel time in Germany. It was awesome. I was there to improve my German (i.e. increase my vocabulary).

But looking back now, I realize it was also about continuing to learn how to live in the present.

The NOW.

THIS moment.

I made Lightroom galleries before of my fav pictures from difference portions of my trip, but now I have access to a groovy plug-in that let’s me do it here. In my Blog Glob. Yahoo! I LOVE some plug-ins!

So, without further ado, the Berlin part of my trip. : )

Freshly cut hair on the floor

The European phase of the trip is drawing to a close . . .

Dear Friends,
Yesterday, while spending the day touring around Strasbourg on bike, I decided to get my hair cut. It was just time. As you can see from the above photo, it’s a lot shorter now than it was before.
What’s it look like?
Well, that will have to wait.
Not long after this photo was taken, the camera decided to stop working. Whether that was because I yet again accidentally dropped it on hard pavement or because I had just taken this photo, I don’t know. I’d been noticing for the past several days that the zoom motor was making an odd noise that reminded me of a person moaning while climbing steps, gasping while lifting a box of books, or panting after a slow and beleaguered sprint. It was tired.
Joan of Arc sculpture in Strasbourg
Joan of Arc
I do have photos to post from my visit to Geneva, Vincenza, Verona, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, and Strasbourg. They will arrive when the time is right.
Meanwhile, I’m off to Frankfurt today to meet a sorority sister from my college days. Tomorrow I’m going to Heidelberg (again with my friend’s bike in tow; so great how a person can bring their bike on some of the public transportation!) to re-enact the chicken dance that I learned there 30-years ago. : ) Care to join me? I think it’s going to be fun!
Saturday I’m bidding Germany auf Wienersehen and traveling to the land of fromage and croissants. I’m signed up to attend this cool dinner at Jim’s: http://www.jim-haynes.com/.  I’ll let you know how it is!
“Have I continued with my language studies?” you ask?
You betcha! The big surprise was that I’d use my French speaking skills to converse with people in Italy who don’t know English (or prefer to speak in French : ). And my current hostess has been so good about teaching me new words and phrases (and busting my butt to pronounce the ö correctly!  : ~ ) Today’s word? “stöbern.” Yes, that it had an “o” umlaut was handy indeed!
And a language thrill? Yesterday, when I asked for more cream for my large decaffeinated coffee (while in Strasbourg), the friendly waiter replied, “Prego.” (Italian for “you’re welcome”) I’ll take that!
And for now, I bid you all adieu. May your days continue to be bright, your nights peaceful, and your friends loving.
From your Zugvogel,
-s j
der Zugvogel = migratory bird.
My Berliner family gave me a new moniker. : )
Bedeutungen (meaning):
    [1] Biologie: Vogel, der die kalte Jahreszeit in warmen, meist südlichen Regionen verbringt, in die er im Herbst zieht. The only catch is that this Zugvogel did this in reverse by traveling to cold weather rather than warm weather!
Berlin cement sign

Berlin’s “Taylor Camp”

Last week I parked my friend’s bike under a construction platform* and went inside a corner restaurant that Tony and I had noticed in December. (At the time, they’d advertised a German language poetry reading; my husband in an I’ll appeal to her sensibilities frame of mind had suggested it as one of our evening activities; something else ended up rising to the forefront of our minds instead.) I ordered the Senfeier** and then struck up a conversation with the waitress as I asked her about the shadow theater that was taking place in the restaurant’s basement on the upcoming Saturday.

“Do you do shadow puppetry?” she asked.***
“No,” I replied.
“But the theater? Are you involved with theater?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Ich auch,” she quickly stated.
“You’re involved in theater too? Kool. Do you know of anything going on over the next few weeks where I could help out?”
“Hmm,” she thought for a moment, “No, but my mind’s been preoccupied since I’m going to Barcelona next week; I’m going to stay for four months.”
“Oh?” And something made me ask, “Are you from there?”
It ends up that there’s a rather large community of people from Spain (particularly Barcelona based on my limited experience) who live in Berlin. Why? The cost of living is a lot less expensive. Many Spaniards do learn and speak German, but many don’t as well. How do they get by? Why with Englisch, of course! It’s the Latin of today’s world.*iv
“But oh,” she said suddenly, “there is something going on that you can participate in this coming Friday. It’s called Widersprüchliche Abend. Do you know what that means? It means that people contradict each other; that’s the focus of the evening’s activity. This week’s theme is: Ich bin nicht du.” (I’m not you.)
Sounds great, I thought, and with that I proceeded to ask her to kindly write the address in my little black book. She also wrote, “New Yorck.” Oh, I thought, that must be the setting of where one person isn’t another, New York.
My lunch came, and we ended our conversation.
Berlin egg potato mealBerlin eggs and potatoes
When Friday arrived, I prepared myself by using my new tried-and-true traveling navigation system, I googled the address, entered the corresponding “starting from” information and clicked “Route berechnen.” The next step, while in Hamburg, had been to write down the key direction notes on a scrap piece of paper. I then held it in my hand as I rode the bike from point A to B to C as the paper quickly became a wadded mess. Here, I have the extremely convenient privilege of using a printer. After making a few such print-outs, I’ve found that I usually simply need to make a note of the wheres and whens, using my new internal guide as the foundation to build upon.
Okay, it looked pretty easy, I thought. And with that I set off in the direction of Mariannenplatz 2.
As I rode up the bumpy Mariannestraße, I slowly became aware that I was entering a large circular complex of buildings. Number eight, six, four, two. That was easy! There was a crowd of people mingling outside smoking and laughing. Cool, I thought, looks like I’ll meet some more people.
But once I went inside, I only found a rather hip looking restaurant and the opening night of an art exhibition *v, but no one who knew about a Widersprüchlihe Abend.
Okay, I’ll just mingle for bit, I thought. I went into several different rooms and saw an assorted collection of all kinds of oddities: a completely dark room with LPs scattered along the floor (I could see them because someone gave me a flashlight to use so that I could see a little), a pallet covered with an assortment of video editing equipment from the mid to late 80’s when Tony and I began our production company (3/4” decks, Betacam tapes, etc. It looked like someone had gone into our studio and simply taken some of our machinery and put it on display!) Yes, a classic modern art type of exhibition.
Honestly, it wasn’t that compelling; so I bought a beer from a temporary stand set-up for visitors and continued to wander about in this massive two-story building. While upstairs in an empty wing, I happened upon two other people looking equally lost. Widersprüchlihe Abend? I asked. New Yorck, the female replied.
So in the way that people confidently set about to find an answer once they’re no longer alone, we proceeded to find a guard who directed us to exit the building at its main entrance, go around to the right, and there we would find New Yorck.
With beer in hand, I set out into the freezing cold with my new friends. The building was huge, so just around the corner took a good 2-minutes to reach. But lo and behold, there was New Yorck spray-painted upon the side of the building (along with all other types of things). We climbed the stairs and immediately felt that we were in the right place.
Tacheles art house Berlin
Inside the art house Tacheles
We had entered a world a million miles away from the yuppie vibe just on the other side of the thick walls. Graffiti covered almost every square inch of the flaking interior. There was a 3 Euro entrance fee which the kind waitress had told me about; it was being collected for the inhabitants of another building in the circular courtyard that had caught fire in December. Fortunately for the residents, that particular wing still stood, but the electricity needed to be replaced. Otherwise, I was told, Widersprüchlihe Abends are normally free.
In lieu of the standard stamp that one normally receives upon entrance to a paid event, I had the nail of my third finger painted a hideous yellow. “Wow,” I said, “That’s a first for me.”
“For me too,” she replied, as she held my hand and painted my nail. She then pointed to a pile of stamps in all shapes and sizes. “They’re all kaput. I just happened to have this polish on hand . . .”
Pretty innovative, I thought; though when I could clearly see the color later, I wondered how it was that she just happened to have this particularly hideous color on hand. And yes, of course she wouldn’t want to waste one that she really liked.
So what happened next?
There were maybe 20 people lounging on an assortment of dilapidated couches and chairs along the very wide hallway. A few feet further there was a bar where I later purchased a large bottle of beer brewed in Berlin. Just past the bar was a room where a video was being projected upon the wall. I crossed in front of about 10 people who were lounging on an assortment of chairs and stools and took a seat on what I realized must sometimes be the stage. As I got comfy and began to listen, I realized that the film had been shot in this complex. Hmm, it must have taken place in the early 70s, I thought. I recognized the hair and clothing style from when I was a kid. Intently following what they were saying (it was in German with English subtitles), I realized that the buildings that comprised the circular courtyard had been taken over by this group of young people (being interviewed). They were squatters who had formed their own community comprised of self-made rules and a practical system of organization for preparing meals, buying food, etc. It was essentially Berlin’s version of Kaua‘i’s Taylor Camp.
Berlin wall at the east side gallery
The East Side Gallery: three-quarters of a mile of the Berlin wall remains near the Ost Bahnhof (East train station).
During the evening I also learned that the complex had once been a hospital. When the wall was erected in Berlin in the early 1960s, it crossed very closely to these buildings, which were located in East Berlin.
East side gallery wall in Berlin
The East Side Gallery wall.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Kaua‘i phenomena, you can read about it here: http://taylorcampkauai.com/.
Once the film ended, it was casually announced that the contradictory evening would continue shortly with some music and an assortment of acts. I parked myself on a comfortable chair, now facing the stage and where I’d previously sat. Three different musical groups performed.
First came a fairly standard trio with a male guitar player, female singer, and male noise maker. I really don’t know how else to label him; he had a collection of noise makers that he played. The singer’s voice was surprisingly powerful as she casually sat and sang. The songs were essentially folk songs in a variety of languages.
Then an intriguing duo performed beat poet type of songs. The female sang in English, German, and French—the pronunciation of each language was pleasant and authentic sounding. It was fascinating how confidently and with such skill she also played a rather large saw.
The final musical act consisted of one male vocalist. As he sang, I looked around to see how everyone else was reacting. They were simply listening intently and nodding their heads. The performer was singing in the style of a ridiculous Saturday Night Live skit. For real. I kid you not. He sang with such volume as he dragged his voice around a variety of pitches in an assortment of languages. Though I was tempted, I didn’t embarrass myself and laugh, not in a making fun kind of way, but in a “Wow, so cool that he’s having so much fun!” kind of way. There was something so absolutely freeing about his musical performance. I think the applause he received was even louder than that for two the previous acts.
One of the women who’d been tending bar came out to casually say that the evening’s entertainment would continue now and then. There appeared to be no set schedule, and it was also fairly evident that it was going to be a long night.
Next followed an assortment of theatrical performances. They consisted of two to three people who gathered at the far end of the wide hallway and simply did things like peel a banana, eat it, and sit in a chair.
Okay, that was interesting.
I went back into the other room and visited with a variety of people from Berlin and Barcelona. Nice. We talked about a wide range of topics including the cool restaurant/bar close to a Spanish couple’s home. Even though they can speak no German, they love how friendly they’re treated by the locals since they live in the “hood.” Again, nice.
Suddenly the crowd of people came back into this projector/video watching/musical stage room. A small man leapt onto the stage waving a stack of papers. “Volunteers! I need volunteers!” he called out.
Being a former Tennessean*vi and simply sj, I raised my hand. What followed was a rather disjointed performance by the 4 participants who read the dialogue provided. I was Frau Schmidt. I think it was supposed to be funny, but perhaps there were just too many foreigners there (like me) for it to be a success. Regardless, the audience politely clapped when we finished.
And what was the gist of the skit? Well, this one woman was waiting in the wings. My character repeatedly said, “No one’s there.” After the third or fourth time of saying that, someone was suddenly there.
Yeah, I didn’t get it either; the Germans in the room appeared to laugh.
And on this rather anti-climactic note, the Widersprüchlihe Abend ended for me. It was around 1 a.m., and I’d had the experience I wanted—to be in the midst of an “underground” community of artists in a graffiti filled building. That’s Berlin. : )
And what’s on the program for tonight? I’m going to see “Die Impro-Ladies.” Just today I found this site: http://www.buehnenrausch.de/spielplan_februar.html. (Eine Bühne is a stage.)
As I watch the snow continue to fall, the question remains: shall I go there by bike?
Until next time.
-S j
* This is one of the weird things that happens when one immerses oneself in a language; words in the Muttersprache or another Sprache often fall to the wayside. Scaffolding! It just came to me; that was the word that I was searching for in this brain of mine. And in that same vein, I initially typed, “to the wasteside.” Sounded right to me.  : )
** Senfeier is a typical German dish that Tony and I had often seen advertised on restaurant boards while we were previously in Berlin; we had even bought a can of it that we lugged with us in our luggage. The helpful grocery store clerk had seemed a bit amused when we asked on which aisle it was; apparently it’s the kind of dish that’s commonly made at home from scratch. She seemed genuinely surprised that the store where she worked sold it in a can. The can version of Senfeier (mustard eggs) was okay, but nothing to get excited about. I figured the real deal from a restaurant would surely be better; it was.
*** Ja, our conversation was completely in German.
*iv Somehow I’d missed this English language phenomena, which had taken place over the past 20-plus years while my nose had been buried in the world of video and deadlines and learn-this-technical-something and that-technical-something, and this, and that, and how about this, and now it’s time for that. I’d first noticed how English dominates the world while in Asia last year. Where had I been? I thought. Under a spell, was my own inner voice’s reply. But now “awake” I’m slowly “catching up” to this modern new world, happily choosing to ignore parts of it that don’t interest me in the least. : )
*v It was called SPECTRAL.
*vi Tennessee was named the “volunteer” state because a record number of people volunteered to fight in both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.
The wall outside a German pre-school.

I’m here to improve my German.

Pure and simple.

That’s my main goal during this phase of solo travel.

A few of you had asked. Hence the concise answer.
When it first came to me that I wanted to come spend some time in Germany to improve my language skills, I thought that I would pursue an Arbeitserlaubnis, or work permit. I’d been told that it’s difficult for a foreigner to find a job here, so earning a certificate for teaching English as a second language seemed like a good idea, a good way to get my foot in the door. It also fit a side goal of mine—to improve my English language skills. But there remained this nagging thought that if I were to do that, I’d be speaking English all the time (while teaching, obviously) and that I wouldn’t get to do what I really wanted to do, which is improve my German.
Okay Susan*, I thought, maybe you’ll just have to do that for the short term until you find something else. Okay, I replied, I can do that.
But after I returned home to Kaua‘i (after 5-months in Asia), I realized that I also want to spend some time on island just being and not working a zillion hours a day (on projects for other peoplelike Tony and I did for many, many years). What would it be like to have time to enjoy the island? (Yes, I imagine many of you have the very same question in the back of your heads.) So I decided that I’d stay in Europe for the 90-days allowed (without requesting a special visa).
“But what about work, sj? What about earning a living? Won’t you eventually have to go back to work?” you ask.
Well, I have faith that it will reveal itself in time. I’m on what I’m calling a sabbatical.
According to my computer’s dictionary, a sabbatical** is “a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year : she’s away on sabbatical.” I think it fits. At one point in my life I was actually on track to be a college professor. As far as the “paid” part goes, well, let’s just say that a surprise inheritance arrived at exactly the right time to fund this dream of mine. Yes, I am a very lucky girl; I’m also very, very appreciative.
“Okay, so you’re spending the 90-days allowed in Europe. You’re main focus now is to improve your German. How are you going about that? Are you taking classes?”
Yes and no. I’m not attending formal classes at a school, but I am doing lessons on a cool web site I found called babbel.com. My goal is to spend at least three hours a day (like I did in Lyon 3-years ago) doing some type of “focused” study. I’ve been fairly loose with this and am allowing it to reveal itself. For those of you know me well, you know that I’m the type of person who generally starts a project, sets her nose to the grindstone and doesn’t raise her head until the task is done. I’m doing that in an albeit freer way. For example, an hour of conversation with a German native can count as an hour, and no, I’m not literally timing it. I’m just noticing that it’s somehow getting done each day. Watching movies in German also “counts.” Yes, I’m enjoying myself!!! And why wouldn’t I? Every single day I awake with a smile on my face. I’m so happy to be here; I’m so happy to be alive and on this journey of life!
“Okay, so you’re having fun. Where all are you going?”
That too has slowly been revealing itself. I originally thought that I’d be staying in one place for most of the time. I initially booked a room for a month in Berlin. I envisioned that I would become part of a community; perhaps do some volunteer work with a theatre company. But I’ve slowly been realizing that part of this journey’s theme is variety. While in Asia this past summer, it dawned on me that I was learning to be completely “at home” wherever I was. We all know the expression, “home is where the heart is.” Well, it’s true, and as I live more and more firmly rooted in my heart space, I find that I’m always at home.***
As far as the specific places I’ll visit (or have visited), here’s an outline for the moment:
–       Düsseldorf – Tony and I exchanged our home with two different German families. After Tony returned to Hawaii, I was able to stay a few nights longer in both beautiful apartments. : ) Yes, nice!
–       Hamburg – So many people had told me that this is a beautiful city, and as you saw from my photos (http://tvjuice.com/hamburg2/), it is. I really enjoyed my visit and would go back in a heartbeat. A very nice lady I met when I went swimming even invited me to stay at her place should I return! Yes, the magic keeps happening.
–       Berlin – When Tony and I were here in December, we stayed up late one night playing charades in a bar. We laughed so hard that our stomachs hurt. That night I met a wonderful group of smart and funny people; they’ve welcomed me into their lives. I’m currently staying at one of the gal’s apartment! She’s so much fun, smart (yes, I know that I used those very same adjectives already, get the point?), industrious, and she has sooo many books! And even a bike that she’s letting me use. Yes, I am one very, very lucky girl. : ) I’ll be here for 2-weeks for sure, maybe a little longer. Some more new friends may come to Berlin from Prague for a weekend visit; I’ll keep you posted.
–       Geneva – During World War II, Tony’s grandparents took in a young man from what was then Czechoslovakia; they considered him family and helped ensure that he got an education. He’s been a professor at NYU in the Physics Department for years and is now on a year’s sabbatial at CERN. He’s invited me to visit him. Yes, I look forward to seeing him again (he came to our wedding in Tennessee years ago and gave us an awesome flaming orange le creuset pot that we still use almost every day!).
–       Karlruhe – One of our home exchange partners lives and works in this town. She’s invited me to visit her and has said that I can join her as she drives to various places for her work. How cool is that !?!
–       Strasbourg – I don’t know anyone there but have just heard from so many people that it’s a wonderful city. I’d like to experience it firsthand. I imagine that I’ll find a wonderful place to stay through air b n b or another type of connection.
–       Paris – I depart for the continental United States from Paris; I plan on spending 3-nights or so there.
Years ago when I studied at the Uni Bonn****, I encountered very few people who spoke English. Granted, occasionally I met a fellow student who wanted to practice their English but that was exactly what they did, practice. Now, so many people speak English. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve recently realized that the skill of bouncing back and forth between languages is almost as important as being able to speak different languages. Once while Tony and I were at the Weihnachtsmarkt in Düsseldorf, we met a French family. I had so much fun speaking to them in French; we even ended up having dinner with them. So, as you can see, the above itinerary allows me ample opportunity to practice all of this: German, French, and the back-and-forth-language-bounce®, henceforth called baflb.
Returning to the topic of what I will do once I return to Kauai, I have BIG dreams. I want to do a variety of things. I want to continue to learn languages. I want to continue to improve the languages I do know (and/or am learning). I’d like to have a few Skype customers who I assist with their English learning. I’d like to write a one-woman play and perform it. I’d like to do more acting. I’d like to get paid for acting. : ) I’d like to do some translating from German to English (and get paid for it : ). I’d like to go sailing. I’d like to hangout with Tony and Rocket Girl. I’d like to biking, hiking, stand up paddleboarding, etc. I’d like to do an occasional sound job on interesting projects. Yes, I’d like to do lots of things.
But for the moment, my focus is on improving my German.
And with that, I bid you all auf wienersehen,*****
s j
* There’s been this gradual progression of my name shift. I’ve been called Susan since I was born. I always liked my name. Remember how at different times in life you’ve probably heard someone say, “I hate my name!”? I was never that person; I always liked the name Susan. Then, for various reasons, I wanted to start using my middle name too. I have a very good friend whose name is Mary Hunter. No, Hunter isn’t her last name, it’s her “middle” name. Friends call her “Mary Hunter” in one breath. Okay, I thought, people can say “Susan Jane” in one breath too. However, when signing emails, I found that I preferred to simply write “sj.” As I’ve gradually made new friends over the past year, they’ve come to know me solely as “sj.” I like the sound of it. What should you call me? Whatever feels the most comfortable to you. And as the saying goes, call me anything, but just don’t call me late for dinner! : )
** (noun) |səˈbatikəl|
*** When I returned “home” this past Fall, I had a most unusual experience (for me). As good as it felt to be on Kaua‘i, I also realized that I’d been “home” for a long while. When I think back on different places where I stayed while in Asia, I remember how comfortable I felt there, in my room, the space that had become my “home.”  Whether it was for several weeks or just a couple of nights, something had changed within me; I had truly found peace wherever I was.
**** Rheinische Friedrich Wilhems Universität
Uni Bonn
***** a nod to my husband : )
This owl talisman backpack first entered my life while in Düsseldorf. It's a backpack made for kids. : )

Jetzt geht’s los . . . oder . . .

I’m off! Back on my “solo” journey . . .

Was? Was meinst du denn SJ damit?
Well, I mean that after having a wonderful month at home on Kaua‘i and then two wonderful* months of travel with my husband, I’m now on my own again.
Where’d I go during that time, you ask?
Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with my sister and her family; Europe: Berlin, Prague, Nürnberg, und Düsseldorf, part of which we shared with my Mom.
Checkout the following links for photos of the Mother Chronicles:Mom,Mom 2, Mom 3, and Mom 4.
Tony btw wrote some kick ass copy damit (that means “with it” in this instance; there’s something a little bit goofy and fun when a person mixes several languages around in one’s head; some things just sound better in one language over another).
If you’re still hungry for photos and story time, Tones and I also made a you-tube slideshow for our annual holiday greeting card.
And finally, he also made a fun travelogue of his take on Düsseldorf. Bear in mind that my husband is one incredibly (and that’s an understatement : ), incredibly unique individual. That means that this is Düsseldorf as seen only through the eyes of Tonester.
You can check it out here.
If you normally don’t like silly, it’s probably not your cup of tea, but if you’re the type of person who loves to see things in a different light, it’s for you. : )
And while you’re there, why not also check out some of his JazzBug stuff? It’s loads of fun. He’s in the adding kind of mood; so you may want to include his link in your list of favs, so you can easily visit it from time to time.**
Alright, so now down to the nitty gritty of this phase of SJ’s Journey.
Back in Spring 2010 when I had a most memorable dream where a clock in my oldest sister’s bedroom (in my parents’ house) began to say in a goofy-ass, over-dramatic voice, “It  i s  time; it is time; it is time . . .” I knew that (alright, I won’t state the obvious : ).
But I knew that I’d been “coasting” for way too long, and it was, a-hem, time to get “back on track” to matters of the heart.
And for me, that includes travel.
Where to?
My first thought was Germany.
Years ago I began to learn German while in Junior High School. A month-long trip to Southern Germany at the impressionable age of 14 sealed the deal; I was hooked. What had seemed like a classroom game became very real when I found myself in a country where people really did speak this jawohl language. I soon found a way to return to Germany and work as a chambermaid for the summer; next followed a year at the Uni Bonn.*** After that, I managed to somehow jump from Phys Ed major with a B.S. to German Lit. major with a M.A.
That same sense of adventure also led me Hawaii where for 25-years I worked with my husband in our own video production company. Yes, I managed to keep the German language in my life somehow, occasionally reading a book or watching einen Deutschen Film, but I felt like I’d never reached the skill level I’d wanted to reach.
Which is why I went to Asia for 5-months.
Das ist doch Blödsinn! Was meinst du denn damit?
Yep, it was a little crazy to first go to Asia to improve my German, but the short answer to a long story is CELTA. That’s where I earned my ESL teaching certificate, which may enable me to live and work in Europe one day. (For those of you new to this glob, try reading earlier entries to discover how all that went down . . . )
So, here I sit on the train from Düsseldorf to Hamburg. After 6-weeks of practicing switching from English to German and back again (thanks Tony and Mom for the great practice!), I’m now in the “let’s stay in German” oder “nur Deutsch sprechen und denken” mode of the trip.
Not quite sure how much I’ll add to my glob during this phase of the journey, but I do think I’ll choose the following moto (spoken by a wise old man), “Don’t be afraid to be stupid!”
Tschüß for now mes amis!
*That makes 3 wonderfuls. My grandmother used to always say, “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.” We Hyltons all do our best to say, “W3.”
**The above ad was brought to you by makers of fine coffee.
***The official name is Rheinische Friedrich Wilhems Universität.