Category Archives: Crossfit

Why Do You Want to Live in Germany???!!

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She tossed my file on the desk, and glaring at me through heavily-framed glasses, she asked me a simple question:

Why do you want to live in Germany?

I didn’t know I was being interviewed by immigration at the time (I thought she was some kind of social worker, benevolently helping me with paperwork). If I had known, I would’ve learned phrases like “mass shootings” and “frenetic pace of life” to help explain.

I had been warned by the experts that when I had my immigration “interview” (which for me conjures business suits rather than blue jeans), I should ALWAYS answer this question in any variation of the following ways:

  • I want to work.
  • I want to learn better German.
  • I want to work.

And unless you are an M.D. or Ph.D.,  answers involving the words “healthcare” or “education” are verboten.

I have two character flaws that make me both charming and dangerous:

  • I always believe the best in people
  • I try to look on the bright side of things

I’m not ignorant of the world. I mean, I did walk by a man bleeding to death from a stab wound on my way home one evening, but my first (and correct) assumption was: Nothing to fear. It was just a bar fight. 

Even though I do try to remember distinguishing features of people’s faces as I walk down the street, in case I need to identify them later, I’m not fearful about it–just aware.

While dealing with German bureaucracy has been a fairly consistent stress headache for the past eight months, I have learned that some things just can’t be translated.

I know by all the memes on facebook rife with logical fallacies, that political words are being grossly mistreated by people who don’t know how to handle them. These abusive wranglers hold the words ‘social democracy’ by the throat out of ignorance.

With all of these issues burning on the minds of people back home, I’ve been asked that simple question repeatedly, not by empire builders in their little cubicles, but by people who loved me before I was born.

Why do you want to live in Germany?

I know that many people want me to dissect the inner workings of the ‘ideal’ society, but the answer isn’t as simple as cutting the beast open and looking at its organs.

Germany and America are altogether different creatures; they have evolved differently, with different temperaments and motivations. And for those who think Germany is some sort of valhalla where schnitzel falls from trees and rivers run with Riesling, think again. Not all Germans are happy with their political system (my god, they have more political parties than beer varieties).

Yes, I like the Education and Healthcare here.

I admit it: I like that my kids can burn themselves with welding tools at school, rather than participate in mass shooter drills. I love that they are becoming fluent in another language, which will give them better opportunities. I love that they learn about the reformation by visiting historical sights in Nürnberg. I love that Catholics, Protestants and Atheists have their own religion classes in school. I love that if you get cancer here, you won’t have to sell your house to pay medical bills.

Now, some wise-ass is going to ask: Do you love the taxes?

My answer: Who the hell loves taxes?

You pay them according to your tax bracket; and unless I’m mistaken, everyone hates taxes equally. And incredibly enough, some people here still have money for Michael Kors bags and Hugo Boss jeans. Germany is not a prison block, where we all wear the same jumpsuits and dig ditches under the prying eyes of the tax man.

Frankly, I hate talk of politics: taxes, healthcare, education, war. These are important, but they create a vicious vortex of negativity, and, as your Emancipated Pollyanna, I don’t want to dive headlong into those things.

So, why do I choose this expat life?

I walk my dog in the park at five A.M, and give him a toy, so he doesn’t growl at the newspaper lady. The old man with his funny Franconian hat, smoking cigarettes in front of the nursing home says good morning to me, even though it’s still too dark to see his eyes. I walk the kids to school, not out of fear from attack, but because it’s our time to talk.

The sun shines through the windows of my apartment in the morning, making it brighter and warmer with its white walls and wood floors gleaming. I have a closet in the hallway that reminds me of my grandma’s.

I can’t walk to the cobbled corner of Neustadt and Rosenbad without greeting someone I know.

The kids come home from school, and when I haven’t spent the entire morning at the Ausländeramt, I have lunch ready, and we sit at the table on our fold-out chairs and talk about TV and music and good teachers and bad teachers and true love and sex and what the hell is the dog eating over there?

In the evenings, I meet the people who help me to be a better version of myself; and we lift heavy weights and sling kettle bells and run and jump and sweat and complain and laugh and complain again.

Sometimes, I Skype my son in New York, and his energy encourages me to keep working to live my dreams.

I sit on a quiet sofa in my meditative place, eating raspberries, while I churn out pages upon pages of my novel.

I know it's not a satisfactory answer, 

but the reason I live in Germany is because

it's my home.

That’s all.

I don’t have a magic pill to single-handedly ‘save’ America. I don’t hate America, in fact, I love my American-ness. It makes me who I am. But Germany is also a part of my identity now–and that German-ness can’t be pried away.

This is where I skinned my knees on bureaucracy. This is where I got my first job to require a masters degree. This is where I learned to drive the autobahn. My key fits in the door here. I grew up here. This is home.

 

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Thoughts on Camping, Crossfit and Culture: A Post in Which I Alienate Everyone

 

Camping

The kids and I have been in a tent in the Swiss Alps for five days, and this is the first day we’ve seen rain.

I feel thankful.

Last year was warmer, but we had the kind of dampness that crept into your soul, making you regret you put the words ‘Camping’ and ‘Switzerland’ in the same sentence, to the point where you contemplate trading months of marathon training for your own cozy bed.

This year is better.

While my nose freezes solid when the sun goes down, I learned that if I wrap my down jacket around my feet inside my sleeping bag, I will actually sleep the whole night through.

Crossfit

I am nervous about the race because I haven’t done as much long distance running as usual. I have been in the Crossfit Kettlebell program, training 5 days a week, so I’m interested (and anxious) to see how the kettelbell training translates into running 42.2 kilometers up 2320 meters.

I have more muscle this year, which while good, means I’m bulkier than the Nike-clad willow-trees jogging around camp. I’m hoping that my muscle and endurance will give me the edge once we hit the switchbacks.

Culture

Our first night in camp coincided with the American holiday weekend, which meant I could understand everything our neighbors were saying. It was strange, and honestly, kind of annoying. Sometimes it’s better when you don’t know what people are saying.

Little kids were running around screaming. Not simply using outdoor voices, which I totally support. Not simply calling to each other in play. But rather, the type of shrieking that should only be reserved for wounds requiring stitches, broken bones or abduction.

The shrieking lasted 3 hours.

Yes, I timed it.

But I couldn’t be too upset with them, because earlier in the day, I heard the father declare: “I don’t know why I had fucking kids anyway!”

He was serious.

In front of his wife.

In front of their friends.

In front of the entire camp.

In front of the kids.

*cringe

It gave me a little empathy for the shriekers.

On Monday, the Americans cleared out, and another family moved in. One man, two women draped in black, only their eyes showing, two little girls and three boys, who, when they weren’t playing soccer, were dutifully saying their prayers at the appropriate times.

I was curious about their family.

I automatically feel sorry for anyone involved in a strict religion–it doesn’t matter whether you’re covered head to toe in cloth or you’re a county clerk in Kentucky. I have come to feel that most religions damage more people than they help.

But I had the feeling as these women watched me camping alone with my kids in the mountains, they were sorry for me, with no man to look out for me.

Maybe I’m alienating every culture with this post–I don’t mean to. I respect the right of people to choose how they want to live, and sometimes I bruise myself trying to figure out my own way through life.

I just wonder how many people, whether they’re from the east or the west, are trapped in their lives, simply because they were born in a particular locale.

How hard is it to break from your culture, if you want to? How much of a choice does a person have? And how are we–any of us–brainwashed, rather than taught to view facts, experience life and think for ourselves.

How is the woman in the veil different from (or the same as) the cheerleader who marries the quarterback and brings Snickerdoodles to the church bake sale? Maybe she’s happy doing it, but maybe she’s simply playing a role that was written for her by someone else.

I know I have the typical Western mindset, but I think everyone should have the right to adopt a certain lifestyle/religion/culture or step away and question it.

I have the right to be myself.

And so many others don’t.

Or they don’t want to see that they can, because it seems impossible.

Because change, when you want it, is a lot of hard work, and sadly for many, it is dangerous.

For me, change means (among other things):

  • filling out paperwork in triplicate, three separate times, because you didn’t understand a phrase
  • thinking someone is angry at you, when they’re making a joke
  • telling people you’re warm and comfortable in your backpack, when you meant to say sleeping bag

Mostly, change means being uncomfortable at times, and yet feeling more at home than I ever have before.

The Marathon

Sometimes my life feels like a marathon. And maybe that’s why I run them. To free myself from negativity. To become attentive to the nature around me. To meet my real self along the trail.

The Ziel of the marathon is a high: someone puts a medal around your neck, a beer in your hand and everyone cheers; but it is not a finish.

It is a start.

The accomplishment is simply a mile-marker along the path of your life.

The life you want.

A happy life.

I wish that for every person.


City Life

Charlie 13 weeks

My dog isn’t fat anymore.

He nuzzles his velvety muzzle against my neck promptly at 05:36 every morning. When I tell him to go lay down, he wanders around briefly before jumping on my bed. By 06:00 we are getting our exercise.

Normally, I would say we are taking a walk, but really, I’m just trying to keep him from killing himself. He lunges at every moving thing, except for trucks and mopeds, both of which he is deathly afraid.

If a dog across the street stares at him, he dislocates my shoulder. If an old lady clutches her Yorkie more tightly, he jumps at her. I’ve started taking our walks earlier, and avoiding well-known dog routes, in the attempt to avoid lawsuits.

My labrador was raised as a lazy country dog, and as such, he is completely bewildered by City Culture. City life means structure and discipline, two things at which I excel when it comes to Crossfit and marathon running but fail miserably when it comes to puppies and children. I console myself with the knowledge that someday I am going to be the most indulgent (*awesome) Oma the world has seen–as long as my offspring make it safely to adulthood.

We have moved from a country house that was dark and secluded, to a city apartment that is both bright and quirky.

When my labrador drops a ball at one end of the hallway, it rolls down to the other end.  My daughter and I had a hell of a time trying to find the most symmetrical furniture arrangement in a room where each wall has a different length and angle.

I still don’t know how to hang the pictures.

Our new apartment gives you the slightly dizzy sensation of living onboard a perpetually listed ship. It is one of the charms of living in an old building.

It is home.

Something about the doors reminds me of my grandma’s house, or maybe it’s the fact that after nine years of living in Germany, this is the first place I’ve seen with closets. The spires of two churches and the warped red roofs of the Altstadt fill the frame of my window. Everything we need, and don’t need, is within walking distance.

Slowly, we’re adjusting to the ever-present traffic; the antiseptic smell of the dental clinic below; and the damn pigeons that defile our little balcony. It is a constant war against pigeon poop up there.

Garbage goes out more frequently in the new apartment, or we are swarmed with gnats. For some reason, forks are a scarcity in our house, and need to be hand washed after every use; and every person who calls this apartment ‘home’ has to remember their keys.

The one who has most quickly adjusted to our new life is our fluffy little dog. He prances perfectly down the street on a loose lead every morning and like clockwork, shits by the steps of the church, which is housed in the ground floor of our building. I’ve learned to bring two baggies with me, because he frequently likes to leave something extra in front of the liquid smoke shop.

City living means the kids have easy access to swimming and the mall (very important for summer). I went for five days without driving my car, and nobody starved or actually died of boredom. And we can spend time with friends, without a major road trip involved.

Discipline is hard. Structure is hard. But with those things comes a certain freedom. And like any worthy endeavor such as weight loss, exercise or good health, the rewards are worth the effort.

So, we will HTFU, as our coach says, and press on in this new city life.

Now if I can just explain it to Charlie, when I take him to Doggy Integration School.


Maintenance

A mealy bug fell from my running shoe, as I clapped the pair together. It made me wonder if my writer’s brain was also starting to decompose, due to inactivity.

With my integration course over, I’ve found myself with a 3 month backlog of housework.

When we rented this house, it was perfect for us: a big yard, nice countryside, enough compartments to stick each kid and canine into.

But I live in a place where you could play golf on the hay fields, and with my schedule, I’m lucky to get to the grocery store before they close.

So, we’re moving to the city where most things are within walking distance and our yard includes miles of trails, maintained by other people. I will have a small balcony where I can kill helpless plants, and each kid can escape to his or her own room, or with the threat of a new Paleo Lifestyle, downtown to the ice cream cafe.

I’m pretty sure it’s written in a book somewhere that matter decays over time.

Houses, running shoes, gardens, friendship, love. If you let something go unattended, nature will do its damnedest to turn it back to dust again.

Maintenance doesn’t always require a ball gown and makeup. Sometimes you have to wear rubber gloves and fight the urge to vomit.

You walk through messes made by other people, so you clean it up and open the window and breathe in the air and admire how fresh things look again.

Maintenance requires sweat and heart and soul.

Disrepair requires nothing.

But when you tend something truly well, it gives you an intimate look at the thing; and if you’re attentive, you can enjoy it in a way that fills the soul.

It’s time to experience the beauty of maintenance.

 


Student Teachers

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Someday this will be in German!

 

 

All teachers should be students.

It could be learning Chinese or basket weaving or handstand push-ups; it doesn’t matter, as long as you are acquiring information that has never before popped your neurons.

As teachers, we can forget things such as that deer-in-the-headlights reaction when your name is called or the maddening frustration of failure.

As students, particularly as students of a foreign language, we magically go from educated to illiterate when the bell chimes 08:00.

We make a thousand little mistakes that pelt us like freezing rain. It is hard and humbling; and it is perhaps the best lesson a teacher can learn: the art of failure.

Slowly, too slowly it seems, this gelatinous mass of information begins to take shape. Soon, we find ourselves making new errors, and so the learning continues.

As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than to see a student use knowledge you helped him acquire. To watch a student go from stuttering to eloquent in a matter of weeks or months, is perhaps one of the reasons many teachers love their profession and put up with the unpaid hours of work that go into it.

Students, quite often, are too steeped in their studies to be objective about their own learning. As students, we tend to see only our failures and not our triumphs. We look to the next area we can improve, rather than looking back to where we began.

Being a student has helped me to be a better teacher because I know exactly how my student feels when he uses the wrong preposition or gets hung up on finding the ‘perfect’ word, which he suddenly can’t remember.

Likewise, the best coaches are the ones who also train. Maybe they have years of knowledge and experience, but unless a coach is also in the trenches, respect is a little difficult for me to muster.

When I lived in the country, the village hunter would drive his little car along the dirt road, his dog running alongside. This was also the hunter who recommended I bite my dog’s ear, to get him to submit. These are not the teaching methods that inspire me.

I am not learning advanced chemistry or particle science here–it’s only German. I think millions of people probably speak it, and in time, I will too.

But as long as I’m a teacher, I want to be learning too. I never want to forget what it’s like to be illiterate or to be the person doing push-ups against the wall (yes…that’s what I did 2 years ago).

I feel like the universe is smiling at me when I make the same mistakes in  German that my students make in English. It’s amusing and frustrating, but it gives me a new way of understanding how I can help my students achieve their goals.

And now, my time is up.

I have to go to school!

 


Shoulders Back: Why Honest People are the Best

“Shoulders back, Keri!”

Immediately, my shoulder blades sprang back, as far as they were willing.

Where the hell had Johannes come from? It’s like he can instantly teleport himself from one end of the gym to the other–as if he has some innate awareness of when I have bad posture. It’s gotten to the point where, if I THINK I see him out of the corner of my eye, my shoulders fling themselves back.

He is the Pavolov of correct shoulder tension.

Damn it. Sometimes I just want to stand there cock-hipped and drink my water.

However, after two years of Crossfit, and at least a year of Johannes’ intensive Pavlovian Conditioning, I can finally do toes to bar.

*Toes to Bar: T2B: noun: to hang from the bar in pull-up position and quiver while other people actually bring their feet overhead and touch the bar. 

At the Box on Tuesday, my feet magically touched the bar. The mysterious connection between mind and body had finally been rewired, and was functioning.

I was giddy.

As always, I contemplate these little life lessons, and I realized that the best coaches, teachers and friends are the ones who are honest with you.

At first, it was humiliating when Johannes would appear from nowhere, like some phantom of the Box, and remind me of my sagging shoulders–especially when I thought they WERE back already.

I would get so mad at myself. But had he not said anything, I would still be dangling from the bar, wishing I could do a rep.

Learning German is the same way. Without Frau Hoppe, pleasantly, but firmly correcting me, I would never learn.

German is a frustrating language, and the basics have been sitting on a dusty shelf in my brain for nearly 15 years.

Sometimes I feel like I am the worst student in class–that I should just give up–that I’ll never learn all the damned articles and conjugations and how to forget my English grammar.

I often have to say things in German that would be completely wrong in English. It’s like I’ve stepped through the mirror and into a linguistic World of Opposites.

The Mad Hatter adding verbs to the ends of sentences and randomly adding gender to nouns.

Sometimes I make mistakes that make me blush–but it’s ok. The best friends laugh with me about it. If they never corrected me, I would continue offending people in German the rest of my life.

Life is like this too.

I have a friend, let’s just call her Tiger, who is the kind of person who will tell you if you have spinach stuck between your teeth. You don’t even try to lie to her, not just because she could beat the shit out of you, but because she can read your face like the front page of die Bild.

Because of these friends, coaches and teachers, I can finally see bits of light through the cracks of this shell I’ve put up. It fills my heart in a way that’s almost terrifying.

There’s nothing better than to feel comfortable in your own skin. To live your life. To take a risk and step out of the shadows. To realize your opinions matter.

Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone learns from them.

Learn.

And move on.

Every rep counts.

 

 


Pattraporn, machst du keine Diät!

*Achtung! Mein deutsch ist schlecht. Wirklich. Wirklich. Wirklich schlecht. Entschuldigung Sie mich bitte!

Meine blog post heute ist für meine neue Freundin Pattraporn. Sie ist eine schöne Frau aus Thailand. Sie ist lustig, freundlich und sehr intelligent. Aber, das Problem ist, dass sie immer sagt, ‘Ich bin fett. Ich mache Diät.”

Das ist falsche, Pattraporn. Du solltest nicht Diät machen. Nein. Du musst nicht Diät machen. Diäten sind für Menschen die zu Hochzeiten oder Scheidung Gericht gehen.

Das Wort ‘Diät’ macht mich wollen in einer dunklen ecke verstecken und essen eine ganze Schokolade Kuchen.

Auf Englisch, “Diet” ist gleich “die” was bedeutet ‘sterben.’

Stimmt!

Meine berate:

  • keine Diäten! du musst eine Art zu essen für dein ganzen leben finden.
  • du solltest viel essen: Gemüse, Fleisch, etwas Obst. wenn du hungrig bist, essen etwas gesundes, natürliche Lebensmittel.
  • manchmal, etwas süß essen: Geburtstags, Umzug Parties, Freitags:) und so weiter. Das ist okay.
  • Wirfst die Waage in den Müll: Gewichte ist nicht wichtig. Du solltest gesund sein.
  • Denkst du positiv–nie negativ. Jedermann kann ein gesundes leben haben, aber verändern beginnt in der kopf.
  • macht sport. Ja! laufen, Pilates, yoga, karate, wandern, windsurfen auf dem Brombachsee, einkaufen;) Crossfit (der beste)

Jeder Teil deines Lebens ist verbunden: deine Meinung, Körper und Geist.

Jetzt ist mein kopf leer. Ich gehe ins Bett. Am Morgen ich habe Deutsche schule (danke Gott! meine deutschen freunden sagen).  Ab Mai kann ich über meine ersten deutschen blog post lachen–oder es löschen.