March 02, 2009


Rachel Lucas' encounter with British salsa reminded me of our adventure eating at a "Mexican" restaurant in Germany. And those scare quotes are definitely needed. My husband ordered something like enchiladas and it came covered in European salsa, which he tasted and then remarked, "Um, this is marinara." I'll be darned if it wasn't. Straight up marinara on top of enchiladas. Oy.

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February 11, 2009


A friend sent me this article -- U.S., France discuss Afghan war, avoid troops issue -- and told me to pay special attention to the last paragraph.

I dare you not to laugh when you read it.

[French Defense Minister] Morin has repeatedly said there are no plans to add to France's 2,800 soldiers [in Afghanistan], which make it the fourth-largest contributor to the operation after the United States, Britain and Germany.

"France's effort counts for more than just the number of men on the ground, first of all because they are better than the others," Morin said at a joint news conference with Petraeus after their meeting.


Now is the time to quote Jed Babbin:

Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless noisy baggage behind.

OMG, how absolutely French is that?

I sure as shootin' hope he didn't include American soldiers in the "others" that the French are better than.

Hahaha. Oh France, you make my sides hurt.

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December 04, 2008


I don't watch American Idol or shows like it, but I happened upon a youtube tonight of the winner of the British version. Paul Potts is a real life Mr. Tanner, only with a happy ending.

This clip of his initial tryout for the show is excellent. You can just see the dread on the judges' faces when he says he's going to sing opera.

It is beautiful.

Why don't we get opera singers winning American Idol?

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November 07, 2008


A quote at the NYT from election night:

Indeed, for many who had watched this campaign from afar, there was a sense that the election was not just an American affair but something that touched people around the world, whatever their origin. "I want Obama to win with 99%, like Saddam Hussein," said Hanin Abu Ayash, who works at a television station in Dubai and monitored early returns on his computer.

Sweet merciful Jesus. I mean, that just makes me froth at the mouth and want to smash something.

I found that link via a thought-provoking post at The Volokh Conspiracy:

There are two versions of American exceptionalism. American-American exceptionalism is were richer because were better. European-American exceptionalism is youre better because youre richer. Both sides agree on exceptionalism, and just see different causes and implications. The Europeans expect us, on account of our wealth, to live up to (their) ideals, while we think that our wealth ought to prove to them that our ideals are better than theirs.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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October 01, 2008


Somebody send Sarkozy a copy of Basic Economics or Capitalism and Freedom. Apparently he needs a good economics lesson:

The idea of an all-powerful market without any rules and any political intervention is mad. Self-regulation is finished. Laissez faire is finished. The all-powerful market that is always right is finished.

I just keep reading that paragraph, open-mouthed at its stupidity. Or, as LT Nixon recently quoted, "What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

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September 17, 2008


Anti-Americanism in Europe Fueled by Ignorance

For another thing, statistics show that Europeans are not nearly as well traveled in America as Americans are in Europe. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, some 11.4 million Europeans visited the United States in 2007, which is roughly 2.5 percent of the European population. (By contrast, a record 13.3 million Americans visited Europe in 2007, or roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population.) The lack of firsthand knowledge of the United States is arguably the biggest reason why ordinary Europeans cannot discern fact from fiction when it comes to America.

From the comments section: "Some of my most heated conversations were with people who claimed to know everything about the U.S. even though they never came here. For example, did you know the U.S. has 52 states?" Ha, I had the exact same discussion in Sweden. A guy insisted that Puerto Rico was a state and refused to listen to me when I said it is not.

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July 28, 2008


In order to keep my eyeballs off the computer screen, I have been listening to Hugh Hewitt clips. But that's a bad idea because it just makes me come up with stuff I want to blog about.

I was listening to Dean Barnett and James Lileks talk about Obama's "citizen of the world" line.

I now puff my chest up and say that I was at the vanguard of this line of thought, having blogged about it two and a half years ago. (And getting exactly zero comments on the post, she adds, lest you think she really does hold herself in such esteem.)

Some commenter said yesterday that America's far left is Europe's moderate. I thought of that today in passing while reading Broca's Brain. I think people look at the world quite differently depending on how they classify themselves. If you think of yourself as an American, you see the world differently than if you think of yourself as a Global Citizen, as it seems most Europeans do. And if you think of yourself as a citizen of the universe, as Sagan does, you look at issues completely differently. Thus when Sagan talks of global warming, he thinks all humans should work together to prevent Earth's habitat from being like Mars. When an American talks about it, he typically thinks about what is best for the US first. I think the label you give yourself says a lot about how you deal with The Issues.

I agree with Lileks that when Obama calls himself "a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world," the emphasis is on the latter. And that it lacks any real sort of meaning and downplays his Americanness.

Really, there's nothing that turns me off quite as fast as when someone downplays his Americanness.

I am not a Citizen of the World. I live on this planet, but I am an American citizen. I don't really recognize this entity that Obama calls "the world," some sort of collective of human beings who all want the same things: peace, love, and kumbaya. I don't think that exists. I believe that human life patterns the Animal Planet channel, where each species vies for position and does what it takes to stay alive and get ahead. We accept that in the animal kingdom, but for some reason we think humans should all want to share and be humble. I wish we could accurately see human beings the way we accurately see marine life during Shark Week.

I am thankful to be a citizen of the greatest country on this planet. I wish Obama were too, instead of relegating it to second fiddle behind meaningless "We Are the World" tripe.

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March 07, 2008


Betsy Newmark quotes Michael Gerson today about anti-Americanism and how it's not all Bush's fault. It certainly is not. I lived in France in 1998-99, and lots of people hated Americans; French, Swiss, Croatian, Norwegian, Canadian, Swedish, and Russian students hated us alike. The Croatian student hated us because of Bill Clinton, because his family was in danger during the air strikes in 1999. And that wasn't unilateral cowboy tactics; that was NATO. I also lived in Sweden in the summer of 2001, before 9/11. People hated Americans, namely for Kyoto that summer. I blogged about the riots in Goteborg during the EU summit, in which protesters carried paper mache Bush puppets and chanted "Go home, Bush." This was before 9/11, before Iraq, before any of these lame excuses that we hear these days about why Europe hates us. They just do. They have for a very long time. Iraq was just the frosting on the cake.

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February 29, 2008


Victor Davis Hanson rips on Europe in an interview:

JF: What is it that makes the U.S. and Europe so different from each other? From the outside, the two are often perceived as a monolithic unit: the West. Does this unity really exist, or are we talking about two separate worlds? Do you think the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is made to last, or is it no more than an illusion?

VDH: We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time youve become wealthy given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

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November 09, 2007


On the monorail on the way home from the Pajamas Media party last night, I ran into a large family from England. The grandfather was left without a seat near the family, so he came and sat by me. We chatted and joked about Las Vegas and differences he had noted between the US and England and also Canada, where he lives now. And then he said something that he thought the US was a nice country, and then he did that speaking-out-of-the-side-of-his-mouth fake whisper thing and said something like, "We aren't really so fond of that president of yours, but other than that it's a good country." Then he went on to say how the rest of his family was happy to get rid of Blair since he was in bed with Bush.

I was immediately reminded of the boorish German that Tim met while waiting for me at the train station.

I mean, really, who does this? Who thinks it's appropriate to insult the leader of a country in the first five minutes of meeting someone from that nation? I would never dream of doing this if I met a foreigner, and especially not in his country! I hated every aspect of living in France, and still I would never start bashing the country to a Frenchman I just met. It took me three years to tell my French relatives that I had a horrible experience in their country. Telling someone you just me is just so rude it's beyond my understanding.

I didn't even bother saying anything back to this man. Overall he was nice and I didn't want to make the conversation any more uncomfortable than it already felt. Plus, if you hate Bush so much that you have to mention it during a discussion of how interesting it is that you get free drinks in American casinos, then you're beyond hope for anything I could say.

But honestly, all I could think about was, who does this?

Sadly, lots of people. I told my husband this story this morning and rhetorically asked who does this, and he said, "Well, Americans have taught this man that this is acceptable behavior." When Kirstin Dunst says she'd kill Bush and Michael Moore says our country is the worst, then foreigners think that all Americans talk like this. We have taught the world that it's OK to bash us.

What idiots we are.

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November 08, 2007


I wanted to make sure to post this. I heard clips from Sarkozy's speech yesterday during my travels, and I admit I got choked up. What an amazing turn of events.

And I liked What Broken Fences? a lot. (Via Insty, whom I hope to meet tomorrow...)

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July 08, 2007


Mary Katharine Ham has lots of jokes about an article on the French eating at McDonald's.

"We hate it and go to it. It's our paradox," a journalist for the French magazine Challenges, Alice Mrieux, said. "We're very anti-American in principle, but individually, if you're going to the movies and have to eat in 10 minutes, you go to McDonald's."

Yep, I saw this in action. When I was in my French language class, a Hungarian, a Czech, and I did an expose on McDonald's. We went around our French town and interviewed folks about their thoughts on McDonald's. Naturally, they all thought it was a despicable place with disgusting food. And naturally there was always a line out the door and onto the sidewalk.

What I thought was especially interesting was that the Hungarian and the Czech didn't really get the concept of the difference between fast food and restaurant food. I had to explain to them that Americans do indeed eat at McDonald's, but we don't consider it Fine Dining. We actually do have sit-down restaurants that we eat at. For them in their home countries, the price of McDonald's was the same as the price at a sit-down place, so the distinction was lost on them. They thought we considered McDonald's the same thing as a fancy restaurant. So at least I can say that I dispelled one misconception during my year in France: I taught a Hungarian and a Czech that McDonald's is not classy.

Of course, this is coming from the girl who ate at Steak n Shake for her senior prom...

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May 07, 2007


I am so excited about Sarkozy's win in France yesterday. I loved this roundup of photos and ideas at Publius Pundit. But despite the surge of energy I felt yesterday, PowerLine left me feeling nervous today:

The U.S. has now seen the leadership of both France and Germany pass to figures who believe, as a general matter, that American power is a force for good in the world, and not something that needs persistently to be constrained. Let's hope that in 2009 the U.S. still has a leader who concurs.

Oh yeah, crap. Please let us weather 2008.

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April 13, 2007


I heard this story on the radio yesterday -- that British swans were turning pink and some American scientists found a cure -- and what struck me and made me laugh is that the swans on the Thames river belong to the Queen, because apparently in the 12th century the Crown claimed ownership. Ha! Royalty is so weird.

I'm reminded of my Swedish class; our teacher used to organize these debates about social issues, and they were always a lot of fun. But I'll never forget the time she tried to divide the class to argue for and against having a royal family. No one could think of a single reason to argue for it! So we ended up as a class debating the teacher. We kept asking her how a people who are so intense about equality and lagom could be content to pay up to 60% of their income in taxes while another family got a free ride. You see this dress Victoria is wearing? You paid for it! Our teacher clearly didn't understand our protestations, saying that Swedes liked the royals and thought it was a good tradition. But she didn't get any takers among the Americans to argue for royalty.

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April 11, 2007


I think the Pope should've chosen his words more carefully when he said on Easter that "nothing positive comes from Iraq." Tell that to the women Uday raped, the children who were released from prison, and the girls who are going to school for the first time. Noel of Cold Fury reminds us that the Pope was once a forced member of the Hitler Youth; maybe he'd do well to remember what American sacrifice can achieve. Michael Novak thinks that the Pope is having a hard time transcending his European outlook on the world, and writes:

The Coalition forces cannot oblige Iraq to form a successful, patient, slowly maturing democracy. But the Coaliltion forces are giving the people of Iraq the chance to do so a rare and precious chance in the Arab world of the last one hundred years. Maybe the vision will not succeed. But do not say that the vision itself was not positive. It was, indeed, noble, and carried out with much self-sacrifice, heroism, and devotion to others. Many Coalition forces willingly laid down their lives for the liberty and human rights of people who had earlier been strangers to them. Do not, dear European friends, contemn nor trivialize these generous sacrifices.

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January 18, 2007


I was listening to Neil Boortz on the radio the other day, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about something he said. He was talking about speed limits, and apparently he's a big proponent of not having any. He says

The next time you're driving on an expressway keep track of the number of times you have to change what you're doing on the road because of a fast driver. How many times do you have to change your speed or your lane because someone is driving faster than you are? Now remember ... we're talking just speed. You may have to slow down because someone swerves into your lane .. but how many times do you have to change your speed or anything else about your driving technique simply because someone goes by driving ten or twenty miles per hour faster than you are.

Ahhh .. but how many times do you have to change what you're doing because of a slower driver? You're doing the speed limit in one of the left lanes, and suddenly you're behind a minivan going 10mph slower than you are. You have to (1) slow down, and (2) change lanes. Then you (3) speed up and then (4) change back into your travel lane after you've gone around the bluehair. The slowing down and lane often creates a ripple effect though the other drivers on the road. One of them may be caught off guard .. and a crash ensues.

Someone called in to the show and said that he drives an old VW bus and that he typically goes about 65 because his car can't handle higher speeds. Boortz told him that he has no business being on the expressway then, and he should stick to two-lane highways.

I've lived in a country with no speed limits. That doesn't really solve the problem. What Boortz apparently really wants is speed minimums. In Germany you could drive as fast as your wheels could take you, but there was still a steady stream of Dutch campers in the right hand lane going 65. So if I wanted to maintain a speed of, say, 80, I was constantly weaving in and out of campers going 65 and Audis going 95. I think I did more lane-changing and swerving in Germany than I do here in the US. Eliminating the speed limit in Germany didn't eliminate slow drivers; it just made the disparity even bigger. What Boortz appears to want is no upper limits paired with enforceable minimums. I'm not sure how we can force people to avoid expressways as they drive across the US.

German driving reminds me of French handwriting. When I lived in France, I was amazed that every French person seems to have the same handwriting. Apparently their handwriting training is strict, and they get graded on handwriting far longer than American kids do. I was even told they handwrite their job applications so employers can do handwriting analysis to find out their habits and tendencies. That's intense. So with the strict emphasis on following the rules of writing, they all end up with very similar penmanship. Same with German driving: the rules of the road are higher stakes than ours are since folks think nothing of driving 95 mph. Germans learn the rules and are much more likely to follow them. The traffic might be going pretty fast, but surprises and bonehead behavior is less likely.

Americans drive like their handwriting: everyone's got different rules going on. I think stricter adherence to the rules regarding lane changes and so forth is more important than speeds. You'll still have the pokey folks going 60 mph in the right lane, but at least they'll stay there!

Incidentally, I don't speed here in the US. I was comfortable driving 80 mph in Germany, but what I'm not comfortable with is getting a ticket. I set the cruise directly on the speed limit and get passed by nearly every car and semi out there. So folks are already speeding, regardless of what the signs say. Following the rules of the road will do more to prevent accidents than speeds do. Boortz says as much on his website, but he was focusing a lot on speeds on his radio show, which didn't sit right with me.

Actually, getting people to get off their damn cell phones would be a big step in the right direction. The first rule of driving is to Pay Attention...

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November 08, 2006


I thought of something I really miss about being in USAREUR.


Yes, I actually said that sentence; I can't believe it either. But it came to me in a revelation while I stood in the grocery store with cow blood all over my hands: I really miss the vacuum-packed meat. What is the deal with going to the store and getting covered in chicken and beef juice? This plastic-wrap-over-styrofoam doesn't work, people! It leaks! Which is gross and slightly dangerous. It's not healthy to be walking around covered in raw chicken, right? I hate that. I miss the days of clean packs of meat in the commissary in Germany.

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October 25, 2006


CaliValleyGirl is back in L.A. after living nine years in Germany. And she just took a trip to another planet: Alabama. You must go read her post before you keep reading mine. Go on, git.

I went to college in rural Missouri, population 17,000. Interestingly enough, we had a pretty big foreign exchange community. And I had this exact conversation with a French exchange student. He was dismayed that our town in Missouri never showed any foreign films in the local movie theater, because the locals would benefit from learning about other countries. Our local movie theater had three screens. Three. I tried to explain to him that his idea was not a very sound business move for a rural movie theater, but he insisted that everyone in France is educated about the United States, so we should educate ourselves about France.

I asked him why he didn't study abroad in Finland. He got a little puzzled and said that he didn't really know anything about Finland. Well, don't they have a culture that's worth learning about? Why wasn't he interested in learning about Finland? If he wants rural Missourians to learn all about France, then shouldn't he spend some time learning about Finland? Of course it's a silly juxtaposition, but it made the point that Finland is out of his experience. Learning about Finland might be interesting in and of itself, but it does nothing to really affect his daily life or his future. He was in the US to learn English in order to hopefully get ahead in the business world. What would it help him to learn about Finland, or a rural Missourian to see a French film? Not much in a practical sense.

Everyone wants others to know about and respect his culture. It's his, right? So it must be worth learning about! But "middle America" -- Jesusland, Flyover Country, Red States, or whatever you want to call us -- are really out of the average Californian or New Yorker's experience. I can't really fault them for not knowing about us, any more than I can fault a Frenchie for not knowing about Finland, but we do make up a big freakin' chunk of the country.

I have never been to California or NYC. (Before my mom interjects, I disclose that I went to NYC as an infant, but that hardly counts for my point here.) All I know about L.A. and New York comes from TV, the same way Europeans learn about the US. The disconnect is that my entire US experience, the America that I know, comes from living in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and South Carolina. That's the US I know, and it's quite different from CaliValleyGirl's US (living in Hawaii and California).

I'm happy she visited my version of the US. I'd like to visit her version someday too. I think it can help us establish common ground, which would be good for all 300 billion of us.

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July 28, 2006


We heard today on CNBC that Walmart is pulling out of Germany. Apparently it can't compete with Aldi on groceries and has lost about a billion dollars there. Yikes. There was no Walmart in our region of Germany, so I never went. Actually, we passed one once and were excited, but then we realized it was Sunday and thus it was closed. I should've taken a picture; have you ever seen a closed Walmart?

I also got a kick out of this description of why Walmart didn't work in Germany:

To American eyes, the new ethics manual is standard stuff. But when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. distributed the newly translated code to German employees a few weeks ago, it caused a furor. They read a caution against supervisor-employee relationships as a puritanical ban on interoffice romance, while a call to report improper behavior was taken as an invitation to rat on co-workers.
Rivals continue to chuckle about the customer reaction when, initially, Wal-Mart offered services such as grocery bagging. It turned out that Germans didn't want strangers handling their groceries. And when clerks followed orders to smile at shoppers, male customers took it as a come-on.

I still can't put Walmart and Germany in the same sentence without remembering that German haircutter who complained to my husband that she couldn't walk around in an American Walmart in just a bra. Hilarious. Some stuff just doesn't cross cultural lines; I guess Walmart and Germany simply weren't made to mix...

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July 09, 2006


We watched the World Cup game. France played better and deserved to win, but soccer is a game where nothing happens for 60 minutes and then a penalty kick means you're the best in the world, so whatever. But what on earth was Zidane thinking? What a bonehead...

Oh yeah, and I opened the "toys" box: it was scarves and hats and one lone coat hanger. Fun for the whole family!

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July 07, 2006


We've been having a blast trying to decipher the English on the outside of our boxes. I just found my cutting boards in a box marked "wooden plates," and last night we giggled to find that all our DVDs and CDs were marked "cassette taps"; we've decided that we're calling movies "taps" from now on. And I know I saw a box in our old house that was marked "toys," but I've yet to find it here in this house. I'm dying to know what we own that the Germans consider "toys"!

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April 11, 2006


As we get ready to move back to the US, I have started thinking about our European experience. Lots of people who live here put up photos of the places they've traveled. I started thinking about our collection of travel photos. My husband and I don't travel much, and when we do, we're always alone. We've gotten pretty good at taking our own photo. In fact, when we were in Prague, someone offered to take our photo and we turned him down! We've got quite a running gag going of us in front of foreign stuff. And so I present to you our travel photos.

First of all, us in front of our house, right when we moved here


Then Salzburg






Garmisch for R&R


our cruise


Mulhouse for the Tour de France


and finally Prague


I think it's hilarious that all of our photos end up looking about the same. I love that. I can't wait to add similar photos of us in front of places like Mt. Rushmore, the Redwood forest, and Busch Stadium.

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March 19, 2006


We went to Prague today.


Golly, I just love Europe.


Pertinent link: 17% of Americans view the US negatively

Anyway, I was just being snarky with my photo. However, I will say that my husband and I are two of the stingiest people you'll ever meet, which is part of the reason we hardly ever travel. So it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when we spend money to go to another country and have to see crap like this. We also went to the Museum of Communism, and while we were happy to see them tell communism like it is, I was extremely disheartened to see that some of the stuff in the gift shop made fun of the US and George Bush. This just doesn't seem very appropriate to me, nor did the other poster that said something like "Remember when the US stood for freedom?" I don't see why that kind of "joke" has a place in the Museum of Communism.

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January 16, 2006


Cold Fury articulates something I've been thinking for a long time:

If the libs want government health care, gun control, and cradle-to-grave nanny-statism, there are plenty of places they can go to get it — and planes, trains, buses, and ships leaving every day. But this country is the only hope for those of us for whom liberty and respect for individual freedom and responsibility is paramount. It’s time we reminded them of that. We might not be quite on the right track just yet, but we’re definitely at the station and heading for the ticket window.

There's nowhere else in the world as far to the right as the United States. If you want to live in a world that's further to the left, move to Europe. But we Americans who want a world that's further to the right have nowhere else we could go. We just have to hope our country doesn't drift left.


I read the first few comments and realized that it just wasn't worth my time to clarify. This morning there are double the comments, and it seems some people out there did understand what I meant.

If I were somehow the exact same person that I am right now, but I got dropped off from a spaceship and was told to choose where I want to live, I could only choose the United States. It's the only country that comes close to representing my value system. (My husband smirked and said, "Well, there's Hong Kong and Singapore, but then again we might get put in jail for dropping a gum wrapper.") However, for people who are strongly in the left camp, if they got dropped off from the same spaceship, there are perhaps several countries they could choose to fit their values: Canada? Sweden?

I never said "love it or leave it". However, I certainly respect people who do this. My good friend from college sold every belonging she and her family had and moved to France. They knew certain aspects of getting settled might be rough, but they wanted to be in France. And I respect and admire their determination. I applaud them for having the gumption to pack up and move to somewhere that better fits their way of life. It wasn't easy for them to disrupt their life so, but they did it out of conviction. Sadly, the experiment didn't work: a year later neither of them had found a job and they moved back to the US. Interesting that her French-citizen husband got a job much more easily in the US.

I admire this couple for giving it a shot. They're like the reverse of immigrants who came to the US a century ago looking for a better life. If I thought that there were anywhere on earth that would suit my values better than the US, I would do everything I could to move there. Show me Galt's Gulch, and I'm there. But the US is the closest we've got. That's why we on the right really worry about it shifting closer and closer to countries that already exist. We've got nowhere else to go...

I never said lefties have to leave. But they've got the option to if they want.

Posted by Sarah at 10:43 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

January 06, 2006


The other day, a few friends told me that the grass is always greener. After having lived in France, Sweden, and now Germany, I've grown into a person who thinks the grass is always greener in the United States. I don't see myself coming back to Europe ever again, unless someday we have a child stationed here (God forbid we're still in Europe that far into the future.)

That said, I know there will be some things that I will miss from time to time. I'll miss spatzle from Herman's, garlic soup, and all the other uniform German menu items that drive me nuts now but will sound so yummy when I haven't had them in a while. I'll miss calling my mom for two cents a minute. I'll miss going into a public restroom and knowing that the stall door locks will never be broken. I'll miss magpies. And I'll miss eating my weight in warm sugary almonds every Christmas.

Most of all, I'll miss the military community we live in. There's something about plopping a few thousand Americans into Nowhere Germany that brings people together. We might never live on another post again, and I'll miss knowing that all my neighbors are going through the exact same experience as we are. It might be a long time before I can show up at another neighbor's house with knitting and Bud Light and stay until midnight. I'll miss bumping into friends at the commissary (except I can't wait to stop bumping into some of those jerk high schoolers!) I also love how there's only about two degrees of separation between people here, so you're always finding out that the Jennifer your friend works with is actually the Jennifer who's your neighbor, or the wonderful experience of teaching an adult at the university and then finding out you're teaching her son in seventh grade.

There will be things I'll miss: I can't even let myself think about leaving Erin and Kelly. But three years here is plenty, and I'm proud to admit I'm homelandsick.

Posted by Sarah at 10:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 02, 2006


Mark Steyn: It’s the demography, stupid

Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?

This ought to be the left’s issue. I’m a conservative—I’m not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I’m with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant?

Posted by Sarah at 09:46 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 27, 2005


They're making the driver's license test easier in USAREUR. I wonder if they'll still have the question on whether the car or the man with the donkey cart has the right-of-way...

Posted by Sarah at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2005


I laughed into my pancakes this morning when my husband told me Johnny Depp is disillusioned with France:


Hollywood star Johnny Depp is so shocked by the riots raging through France, he's considering abandoning his home in the country.

The FINDING NEVERLAND heart-throb moved to Europe when life in Los Angeles became too violent.

He has since divided time between the two continents - but he fears France will be scarred permanently by the current troubles.

He says, "It's insane, that setting cars on fire is the new strike.

"I went there (to France) to live because it seemed so simple.

"Now it's anything but. I don't know how they'll recover from this."

Hahahahahahaha. Newsflash: life isn't "simple" anywhere.

Posted by Sarah at 10:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005


I realized after reading The French Betrayal of America that the divide between the US and France is even worse than I had thought. And these commemorative stamps just sicken me.

Posted by Sarah at 08:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005


I just think that this German political campaign is in very poor taste (via Oda Mae). I don't even know what else to say about it, other than to point out how inappropriate it is.

Posted by Sarah at 11:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005


We got a very good deal by buying our dog here in Germany: normally in the US a Tibetan runs around $1200. I don't know if we'll ever be able to afford one again! However, I really wish we were in the US for veterinary services. So far Charlie has been to the vet twice, at two different places, and he needs a third visit at a third doctor. Our on-post clinic is closed because the vets are deploying, so I have to find a German vet to get Charlie his last set of shots. I called some places today and had a hard time communicating. It's frustrating dealing with something very important and new to me -- caring for a living creature -- without having one consistent vet I feel comfortable turning to for advice and services.

Posted by Sarah at 03:16 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005


It's funny: it was easier for me to keep up with Red6 when he was Iraq than when he lives five miles away. Since he and my husband aren't in the same unit anymore, we don't see each other that often. We try to get him over to our house once a week for dinner, but he's a busy, busy man.

Anyway, I was excited to see this exchange he had with a French reader, which led me to a cool blog in French. Herve runs Le Monde a L'Envers, which more or less means "the world in reverse or upside-down or inside-out or something". It's always good to see we've got French support.

When I went to France a year ago, the main thing I wanted to do was return to St. Avold cemetery. We got there right at closing time, which didn't give me much time to linger, but I did go into the caretaker building. I wanted to sign the guest book, and what I found brought tears to my eyes. So many people from all over France had visited the cemetery and written encouraging comments. I found so many attaboys and gratefulness for my country. People said that the US was the best or that they stand by us. Often it was just a triumphant USA!! written on the side. I was so touched by that guest book, and I'll never forget the words I read that day from our individual allies.

Thanks for your blog, Herve.

Posted by Sarah at 04:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2005


My husband and I haven't made it to Berlin yet, but it looks like we might not get to see this Checkpoint Charlie memorial site. Apparently it's being bulldozed this 4th of July. I certainly don't understand why memorials to the Cold War are supposedly turning Berlin into "Disneyland". It's funny to me that it seems many Germans want to forget the past...while Americans are busy trying to build a why-they-hate-us at Ground Zero.

Posted by Sarah at 06:46 AM | Comments (4)

April 13, 2005


You know what I want more than anything in the world? Shoelaces.

I've had this pair of brown shoes for many, many years, and the laces finally wore out and broke. I checked all over post, and all I could find was black and white laces. I tried to hit some German stores, but I could never figure out where to get shoelaces. I gave up and sent the broken lace to my mother, hoping she could find something similar to what I need. And every day I open my closet, wishing I could wear that freaking pair of shoes.

I'd kill to go to Walmart right now.

So many friends and family have been emailing us, wondering when we're moving back. I guess since the husband is home from Iraq, they assume we'll be moving soon, but we still have over a year left at this duty station. What's even worse is that now that deployment is over and stop move will be lifted in about a month, all of our friends are getting orders to leave. Nearly everyone we are friends with will be leaving this year, and some are leaving as soon as May. One close friend was telling me about everything that will be near her new home at Fort Shelby, including two Walmarts and a big mall. I am getting so anxious to go home.

We leave for our vacation on 1 May, with a week in Florida and a week on a cruise. It will be the first time in the States for both of us since Christmas 2002, and we're both getting quite antsy. I'm just ready to go somewhere where we know what everything is. We know what food is at the restaurants, what stuff is in the stores, and how far it is to our next destination on the map.

And maybe I can get some freaking brown shoelaces.

Posted by Sarah at 03:49 PM | Comments (5)

April 05, 2005


I'm trying to get into the swing of things by reading blogs again. CaliValleygGirl has a funny tangential story about going to see Team America in Germany. Today is the DVD release date, and if they have it here, I'm buying it right after school.

I remember plenty of jokes about "American endings" when I lived in France. Europeans derisively called anything that worked out too perfectly an American ending, but we Americans like these stories. Our movies are modern day fairy tales where the good guys always win and the guy always gets the girl.

I'm also convinced that Flight 93 would've crashed into the White House or whatever its destination if the passengers on board hadn't been raised on good old fashioned Hollywood movies. If these men and women had never seen Passenger 57 or Air Force One, they might never have thought that they could've overpower the hijackers. One of the men on board even had a Superman tatoo; they were steeped in American culture and taught from day one that they can do anything they put their minds to. I honestly believe this is what brought Flight 93 down in a field instead of in D.C., and I'm ever grateful for the bravery those passengers showed.

But would they have had the guts to do it if they hadn't seen Wesley Snipes do it first?

Posted by Sarah at 01:31 PM | Comments (9)

March 05, 2005


VDH is good this week:

Our cousins abroad cannot figure out why a crass nation of former European rejects, led by a cowboy from Texas, is wealthier, stronger, and more willing to sacrifice for principle than a more venerated, cultured, and aristocratic civilization.


Posted by Sarah at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005


Reason # I-lost-count why I hate our so-called allies.

Posted by Sarah at 07:14 AM | Comments (2)

February 27, 2005


A warm welcome for President Bush in Slovakia.

Posted by Sarah at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005


Good to go's jerk comment here made me think of something else. We do "depend upon [the government] for everything." The military is socialist system. Health care is free, housing is free, most services are free. And that's the worst part about being with the Army. Health care is free, so there are long lines at the doctor and forget about making a dental or eye appointment. Housing is free, so if you turn down the house they offer you, they take you off the list for 90 days. And services are free, so when we moved here, our flight was delayed for six hours and they put us on a plane with no overhead compartments that didn't have enough fuel to make it across the Atlantic. The movers also forgot to ship our belongings until after we arrived here (and the Army also forgot to pay us for two and a half months).

But all of this stuff is free, so you can't complain. Often the people who provide these services don't have much job pride or customer-oriented goals either, because what are you gonna do, take your business elsewhere? I live a socialist lifestyle, and it ain't pretty.

Posted by Sarah at 05:19 PM | Comments (5)

February 17, 2005


I just noticed this comment by PAC tonight and I wanted to address it. It's a very normal point of view for a European to have, the same point of view I've found in most of my European friends. It is, I believe, the biggest dividing factor between Americans and Europeans and the source of our value differences.

It's also related to Bill Whittle's social vs. individual responsibility.

When I was a senior in high school, I was trying to decide whether I should go to a public or private school. I really wanted to attend this small private school I had chosen, so my dad decided it was time for a lesson in economics. He knew I wanted to be a teacher, so he made me figure out how much of an average teacher salary would go towards paying off $50,000 in student loans. He asked me if it would be worth going to this school to pay perhaps half of my monthly income towards loans. I agreed that it would not and decided to go to the public school. Only once I had started school did my father say that if I had believed that it would have been worth $50,000 of my own money, he would've helped me go to the private school. But since it wasn't worth my own money, it must not have been that important to me.

That's an awesome lesson that my father taught me, one that I personally think applies to my American worldview. You spend your own money far more frugally than you do your father's, and certainly far more frugally than you do the government's. People are simply more responsible when they have more responsibility to take care of themselves. We saw that with today's link about sharing: you end up with more Hershey Kisses if you're in charge of your own.

The biggest difference between Americans and Europeans is responsibility. In the US you're individually responsible for far more (and not nearly enough, in my opinion) than you are in Europe. I was responsible for paying for my own college, so I chose wisely and finished quickly. In many European countries, you can take as long as you want to get your degree; it's someone else's Hershey Kisses. I wish we were in charge of our own Social Security in the US, because I could do a much better job of managing it than the government can, to where I could pay for both medicine and travel. Me, myself, paying for it, not the government.

When my husband and I met with a financial advisor, he asked us how much money we wanted to set aside for our children's college funds. We slowly looked at each other, looked back at the advisor, and sheepishly asked if "nothing" was an acceptable answer. We both paid for our own college educations -- he through ROTC, I through academic scholarships -- and we expect our children to do the same. I don't plan to pay for my own child's college; there's no way I would want to pay taxes to make it free for everyone. I don't even like thinking about the tax dollars that fund the Pell grant.

PAC's opinion is completely understandable, given his background, but completely incomprehensible given mine. I can respect that he feels that way, but I certainly don't want my government emulating Europe in that manner.


Response to good to go above.

Posted by Sarah at 10:46 PM | Comments (9)

February 13, 2005


Amritas mentions the French nickname for McDonald's: MacDo. Once when I was in France, my friends and I were walking to the McDonald's, laughing and talking to each other in the parking lot. A man pushing a baby stroller passed us and began yelling at us to speak French or go home. "This is France, we speak French here!" We were dumbfounded, and as he walked away, we noted how ironic it was that he had just walked out of the biggest symbol of American soft power -- where he had likely uttered the words un Big Mac et un Sprite s'il vous plait -- and he had the nerve to tell us not to speak English. Can you imagine that same scenario in the US: going to a Mexican restaurant and yelling at patrons not to speak Spanish?

Ahh, the French.

Posted by Sarah at 09:30 AM | Comments (5)

February 12, 2005


Amritas pointed me towards John Ray's response to an article about how much better Europe is. Hud has an interesting post on Europe's stagnant economy. Both of them made me think about my friends' jobs.

Some jobs here on post are German contract jobs, and the only two Americans I know who have these jobs are my friends who work for the quartermaster here. When soldiers have TA-50 that needs to be laundered, they bring it to my friends. My friends sort it, tag it, and bag it for when the laundry trucks come. They don't actually launder anything; they are just the middle men for the operation. Some days they're quite busy, especially at the end of a deployment. Other days they see very few customers. If no one is coming in, they can do whatever they want: homework, quilting, knitting, watching DVDs, hanging out with Sarah.

Remember, they're employed by the Germans. For this job that a monkey could do, they get paid 10 Euros an hour (which is $13 right now). They work only 20 hours per week each but get six weeks of paid vacation plus Kindergeld (the child allowance the German government gives you just for having a child). They know that they have it good; if they did this same job in the States, no doubt it would be minimum wage ($5.15 per hour, not $13), and there would be no benefits since it's just a part-time job.

I'm glad that my friends have such a great job, but I simply can't understand it. How can the Germans afford to pay them so much for a sinecure? They make more than I did teaching English for the college! I think part of Europe's problem is that they pay way too much for jobs that require no skill. I don't know how they'll continue to give lavish benefits to the monkey jobs.

(No offense, girls: you know I'd love to get paid to knit.)

Posted by Sarah at 09:19 AM | Comments (4)

January 22, 2005


This article seriously makes me want to puke.

Posted by Sarah at 06:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2005


A quote from Toren, via Amritas:

.. [T]he fact is that if you speak any other language than English, and then learn English, you can go practically anywhere in the world and communicate since it is the second language of choice nearly worldwide. So the motivation value is high and the rewards substantial, plus, many countries teach it to children at an age when they can soak up an extra language with ease ...

It's just that if you're raised speaking English, one of the primary motivations for learning a second language is nullified.

Americans get a lot of crap from Europeans for not learning foreign languages. But seriously, which one should we learn? I spent ten years learning French and two years learning Swedish, and they do absolutely no good here in Germany. I still hear the joke all the time about how "a bilingual is someone who speaks two languages and a monolingual is someone who is American." Even if Americans worked hard to learn Spanish, the obvious choice in the US, they still would be looked down on everywhere but Spain. There's simply not an easy second-choice language for us, like English is for every other freaking country in the world.

If I had known when I was 15 that I would be living in Germany, I could have taken German in high school. But when you're in high school, German and French seem about equally as useful (read: not at all). And when we do come here to Germany, and we try to learn German (our beginner level German classes are always packed), Germans just roll their eyes at us and reply in English when we try to use it.

My husband came upon a poster in Iraq that was put up by the Honduran troops. He started translating the poster when one of his Hispanic soldiers said, "You can read that, sir?" My husband said that he had taken five years of Spanish and could muddle his way through the poster, but he could use some help. The Hispanic soldier looked my husband in the eye and said, "Don't look at me, I don't speak Spanish." The former-gangbanger from L.A. with the uber-Hispanic name doesn't speak a word of Spanish. I guess English works just fine for all of us.

Posted by Sarah at 12:16 PM | Comments (11)

December 15, 2004


When I sat down at our office Christmas lunch, I immediately remembered that I don't like any of the people I work with. I ate with a bunch of looters. Two hours of conspiracy theories and "health care is a right" and all sorts of socialist nonsense from people who have chosen to remain in Germany as squatters, mooching off the Army. The table conversation would've been funny, I suppose, if it didn't make me want to throw up. One woman was complaining about health care in the US and about how much better it is in Germany. She said that German doctors weren't motivated by money like American doctors and that they earn the same salary as schoolteachers. "Then what's the incentive to become a doctor?" I asked. She got all flustered and condescending. "But that's thinking like an American! You can't think like that!" "But I am an American," I responded. "I'm an American to the bone." "But life isn't about money!" she whined. So here's where the fun began. "OK," I said, "then since we all work equally hard in our education center to help soldiers, why don't we pool our money and all get paid the same salary?" "Oh, but that's different because we work under the American system..." she trailed off. Different, really, how? Oh, because she makes $61,000 a year and I make $12,000. It's her pocketbook now, so it's different. "Germans aren't motivated by greed like everyone is in the US," she continued. Her mental gymnastics were simply stunning: this is the woman who gets an outrageous housing allowance from the American government, illegally rents part of her house out, and uses the profit to buy up property in Germany and re-sell it. I suppose she does all of that out of the goodness of her heart and not for profit or anything.


On the way home, I tried to convince myself that I had just had a lovely lunch with Bunker, Deskmerc, Amritas, Fad, and CavX.

A girl can dream, right?

Posted by Sarah at 02:31 PM | Comments (8)

December 12, 2004


The husband finished Atlas Shrugged the other day; I still have a couple hundred pages left. But what I'm noticing as I'm reading is a sad parallel between what's happening in the book and what I've been reading on blogs lately. Take this gem for example: In Britain, if you want to replace a broken window or rewire the lighting in your house, you have to ask the government's permission. Bureaucrats have to come and make sure your home still meets Kyoto regulations. Of how 'bout this from the Netherlands: The government would pay artists with taxpayers' money to create art, which would be stored in a warehouse, just so that people could have a job.

So how do people react to a society of "each according to his need", of government control of everything, of forced multiculturalism? They want to leave:

"Van Gogh's death was a confirmation for them of what they already sensed was happening," he said. "They're accountants, teachers, nurses, businessmen and bricklayers, from all walks of life. They see things going on every day in this country that are quite unbelievable. They see no clear message from the government, and they are afraid it's becoming irreversible, that's why they are leaving."
Ellen, 43, a lawyer and banker who votes for the free-market Liberals, said the code of behaviour regulating daily life in the Netherlands was breaking down.

"People no longer know what to expect from each other. There are so many rules, but nobody sticks to them. They just do as they want. They just execute people on the streets, it's shocking when you see this for the first time," she said. "We've become so tolerant that everybody thinks they can fight their own wars here. Van Gogh is killed, and then people throw bombs at mosques and churches. It's escalating because the police and the state aren't doing anything about it.

"There's a feeling of injustice that if you do things right, if you work hard and pay your taxes, you're punished, and those who don't are rewarded. People can come and live here illegally and get payments. How is that possible?

"We didn't think about how we should integrate people, to make sure that we actually talk to each other and know each other, instead of living in ghettoes with different rules.

Is life imitating art, or did Ayn Rand predict all of this?

(But don't forget that our country isn't immune to ridiculous government spending...)

Posted by Sarah at 09:13 AM | Comments (13)

October 17, 2004


I've talked to Europeans in the States who hate feeling rushed at American restaurants. I'm so deeply American that I can't really feel their pain, because I really don't like lounging around in restaurants all night. Even people here will applaud the slow pace at German restaurants and say that they enjoy not being rushed out the door right after dinner, but I still haven't gotten over the feeling of "wasting time" during a German meal.

I read, with intense envy, Varifrank's details of his weekend. I was beside myself as I imagined an evening of a Mexican restaurant, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, and a grocery store. All after 1800 -- that's madness. But the timeline for his dinner struck me. They arrived at 1830 and got out of there at 2100, and because they had to wait so long, their dinner was free. Hoo boy. I go to dinner here every Friday night at about 1830, and we never get out of there before 2100. Usually there's only one or two other tables occupied there, and there's never a rush. Except for on my part: I usually get up and go get the menus myself.

Now before Oda Mae feels slighted, since she's one of the people I eat with every week, I must say that it's not that I don't mind the company. I enjoy talking with friends I only see once a week. But I always feel this feeling of stress about wasting time. I feel like we're waiting too long in between Necessary Dinner Actions.

Back in the States, I have on occasion paid the bill and sat there for a while longer. That's enjoyable, because you're done with all Dinner Actions, but you've decided you're not ready to leave yet. Here, as soon as we pay the bill, it's like I can't get out of the building fast enough, because we've already waited about 45 minutes to pay the bill. I feel like we wait an eternity to Get Menus, Place Orders, and Pay the Bill. I'm constantly trying to flag the waiter down so we can pay. It's not relaxing for me. I don't feel like we are in charge of our eating pace, the restaurant is, and so I feel enslaved to the waiter's time schedule. (The word "enslaved" sounds pretty intense, but I can't think of a better way to express the feeling of impatience and frustration I feel trying to get a German waiter to notice me.)

I know there are plenty of Americans who enjoy this type of eating experience, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But it drives me crazy. One night my mom suggested we go "grab a bite to eat" when she was visiting, and I cracked up. There's no such thing here, and I always feel stressed when we spend hours at the dinner table.

And don't even get me started on Varifrank's midnight trip to the grocery store...sigh.

Posted by Sarah at 09:53 AM | Comments (7)

October 14, 2004


We often get soldiers from different countries around here because of the training area. Right now there are a bunch of Belgians here on our post. I was surprised to hear French in line behind me at the commissary, but I wasn't surprised at their purchase; they were stocking up on the two things you can't get in Belgium: peanut butter and barbecue sauce. Hilarious.

Posted by Sarah at 10:04 AM | Comments (1)


Mr Kehoe said that work to uncover graves around Iraq, where about 300,000 people are thought to have been killed during Saddam Hussein's regime, was slow as experienced European investigators were not taking part.

The Europeans, he said, were staying away as the evidence might be used eventually to put Saddam Hussein to death.

"We're trying to meet international standards that have been accepted by courts throughout the world," he added.

These are the people we're supposed to worry don't support us? I would be ashamed if they did approve of us.

Toddlers clutching toys. We did the right thing.

Posted by Sarah at 09:57 AM | Comments (6)

October 13, 2004


I've you've ever had a conversation with a European, you'll appreciate reading The Secret Weapon.

Posted by Sarah at 11:11 AM | Comments (10)

October 02, 2004


I love when the bias is so ingrained that people can't even see it. My German co-worker said yesterday that the German media was reporting that Kerry had won the debate. I said that I hadn't seen the program, but that everything I had read had called it a draw. I said that people who like Bush generally gave him the edge, while people who like Kerry said that he had won. She said that Germany didn't really have a preference in the American presidential election, so they were just reporting objectively. I wanted to laugh my fool head off, but instead I casually mentioned the polls that show overwhelming German support for Kerry. And I printed this out for her. How can she not see the elephant in the room that is Europe's love for Kerry?

Posted by Sarah at 07:33 AM | Comments (3)

September 30, 2004


I told you Italians are cool...

Posted by Sarah at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2004


I found common ground with a porcelain artist in Nove, Italy.

You all know that I love my identity as a military wife, but the worst feeling in the world is that split second right after you have to answer the "Why are you living in Germany?" question. You never know what to expect from your European questioner. Most often you get that "oh", that bit of surprise that you're not here to bum around Europe "finding yourself" by getting drunk with Australians. Sometimes you get that recoil, and you feel the mood of the conversation change. Sometimes you get the look of pity, like it must be so miserable living under the thumb of the New Hitler.

And sometimes you get the, "Sure, I know where you live. I used to train in Grafenwoehr when I was in the Italian military."

Mom and I had a wonderful talk with this porcelain artist, and we could find enough common ground to really try to understand each other. He confessed to full support of the war in Iraq -- he likes the flypaper concept -- but admitted that he doesn't always think President Bush is best for the world. He he thought that a president who would kiss France's butt a little would be better for other countries in the EU. I can see where he's coming from: As an American, I don't give a flying leap what France and Germany think, but I can now see better how the smaller EU countries do have to play the cooperation game, even though this Italian man rolled his eyes and agreed that it was farcical. Mom was extremely forthright and asked him many questions to which I feared the answers, but we learned a lot from him, and hopefully he from us.

So I didn't get to meet Serenade, but we met his kindred spirit.

Overall, I found Italy to be quite pleasant. All of the people we met seemed to be genuinely happy to meet us Americans, and one of them even went on and on about how much she loved Wisconsin. Really. I've never heard a foreigner speak of anywhere but NYC, LA, or Vegas. The loving way she spoke about Wisconsin was quite touching.

The Italians also seemed thrilled that I had spent a day teaching myself a bit of Italian. All I did was teach myself a bit of non parlo italiano and quanto questa, but I guess the effort went a long way. I found the language to be quite easy to pick up, albeit on a superficial level. I crutched on my French and guessed by saying the latin root with an Italian accent a couple of times and managed to get along quite well. I also had a not-ugly-American moment when we wanted to ask a shopkeeper a question and my Italian simply wouldn't do: we asked if he spoke any English, and he shrugged apologetically and said, "Non...Deutsch." Well then, I thought, and asked the question auf Deutsch. Heh. And I speak two other languages that didn't even enter into the picture, buddy. Now go tell your friends that there are Americans who aren't monolingual jerks.

The Italians loved pointing and whispering about my American-issued license plate, I ate the same pizza at the same restaurant three nights in a row, it was that good, and I burned a ton of gas driving up and down those mountains. What a week.

Posted by Sarah at 10:38 PM | Comments (1)


In a normal week, I drive perhaps 15 or 20 miles. This week I drove 1300. In a normal week, I do three things: work, knit, and blog. This week I didn't do any of those activities. It was a week of doing things that were out of the ordinary.

I painted my fingernails. That may not seem so exciting, but I realized that I hadn't made the time to do that small task in nearly a year. I read 500 pages of my book. I worked obsessively on this puzzle. I went to see this man. I bought a set of these. And when I walked out of our residenza, this is what I saw.


We went to a ski resort in September. There was no snow, there were no people, and there was nothing pressing to do. The resort owner seemed embarrassed and apologetic that we had come at such a boring time, but it was exactly what I wanted. For me, a true vacation is about doing nothing. I did a lot of nothing this week; it was wonderful.

Posted by Sarah at 08:41 AM | Comments (4)

September 17, 2004


Amritas weighs in on subtitling Fahrencrap 9/11 into Farsi at the screening in Iran. I started emailing him but then decided to post my thoughts here too. When I lived in Angers, there was one movie theater that didn't dub movies, and that was the only one we ever went to. I saw some pretty interesting movies with French subtitles, and I can certainly say that there were numerous jokes that went right over their heads. Often they didn't even bother to try to translate stuff. Some movies just don't translate well: The Big Lebowski, Buffalo 66, and Smoke. The subtitling for these movies was pitiful; there's no way the European viewers got even half of what we got out of the movies. We would be cracking up, and they'd stare at us like we were nuts. And that's just the actual dialogue; the culltural references didn't make sense, even to the English-able Brits. There's one scene where these gangstas come by the store, and the Brits were laughing at them: "They don't look so tough; I bet I could take that guy," they said. An American friend dared them to come to her neighborhood in the States and roll up to a character like that!

On the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, there are snippets of dialogue from the movie. My French roommate in college borrowed the CD from me and was visibly shocked when she heard the diner dialogue, you know, the one with the "sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie" bit. She made me play it over and over again, repeating the dialogue more slowly so she could understand, and she swore up and down that she had never heard that in the French version she saw. She claims that the exchange never even happened, not even something similar to it. I've always wondered what the French version of Pulp Fiction was like, but I've never seen it myself.

Maybe on the next trip over the border.

Posted by Sarah at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

September 09, 2004


Blackfive points to an op-ed called A European Conversation. I've certainly been there and had that conversation, and I sure wanted to bust their chops too. He also points to an article about how one in five Germans wants the Berlin Wall back. I know of at least two Germans who blame all their country's economic troubles on the former East. I can't say if they're representative, but they make no bones about how they feel towards the former East freeloaders.

Incidentally, I thought Europeans in general were against walls. I guess they're only against one of them.

Blackfive ends by pointing to a Kim du Toit post about how warmly he was received in Paris. Many of the commenters echoed his sentiments; I wish I had been as lucky as they were. I majored in French and studied it for 8 years before moving to Angers. I won all sorts of awards in high school and won French Student of the Year in my college. I placed into the top level of French study when I moved there to study abroad, and I found the French to be quite rude to Americans. They would pretend not to understand me, even with the simplest sentences. (How hard is it to figure out that I'm asking for stamps when I'm in the post office?) Our teachers would praise the Taiwanese and Japanese speakers and then cringe when the Americans spoke and say things like, "Oh, you really need to get rid of that horrible American accent." Some landlords even banned English in the home, even when three English speakers lived together. Once when four of us Americans were walking down the street, a French person started yelling at us for speaking English to each other, telling us to go home if we wanted to speak English.

My experience with my extended family is the only thing that redeems France for me. They have never been anything but kind and encouraging. I wish I had met them first instead of the awful people I met in Angers.

Posted by Sarah at 08:18 AM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2004


When I was 18, my grandmother gave me an address for a distant relative in France and asked me to write to him. He and I corresponded for two years, and then when I lived in France, I went and met him and his brother. I returned a few months later with my mother and uncle, at which point they rolled out the red carpet in our ancestral village and we drank champagne with the mayor. After a disappointing year of study in France, I came home, changed my career goals and really felt bitter towards all things French, even my distant family. However, I wrote a month ago about how this kind man passed away recently and how I regretted letting politics get in the way of family. So Mom and I packed up and went.

First of all, I can't believe it takes five hours to drive across an entire country. My husband and I lived five hours apart while we were dating! Mom and I traversed all of Germany and crossed the border to find a freaking plethora of roundabouts. I had forgotten how much the French love their roundabouts. (Unfortunately, on the way there, Mom and I took three lefts off these roundabouts and ended back up in Germany!) We made it safe and sound back to see the family I had neglected for so long.

And the reunion was a wonderful one. My French was a little rusty, but one of my "cousins" had worked for a year in the US, so he helped with the translations. We ate, we chatted, we met even more extended family, we ate some more, we hugged, we laughed, and we ate again. They invited me for Christmas, and I just might consider it.

I swore I'd never set foot in France again, but I'm glad I went.

Posted by Sarah at 09:19 AM | Comments (3)

August 21, 2004


Medienkritik defines multilateralism.

Posted by Sarah at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2004


My co-worker said that the German radio is announcing the base closures and that our European-based soldiers are not even returning from Iraq, but instead are heading directly back to the States and all family members will follow them and bases will close. For almost a year, we've been hearing that this absolutely will not be happening, and GEN B.B. Bell even made a series of commercials assuring family members that their soldiers would be coming back to Germany. Weird that the Germans are announcing something totally different than what the President said.

Developing, as Drudge says...


Just to make sure we're all on the same page: I believe GEN Bell ten thousand times more than I believe the German radio. I think what they're putting out is ridiculous misinformation. I'd love to beat your two weeks for outprocessing, Deskmerc, but I know it ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Sarah at 08:29 AM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2004


Another reason why I, as a military wife, don't want to vote Kerry: I want to go home.

Posted by Sarah at 08:29 PM | Comments (6)

August 10, 2004


Chrenkoff also digs up more evidence that Americans don't have a monopoly on dumb, as most of the world would like us to believe.

The other day my German co-worker was talking on the phone with her friend and saying how my other co-worker and I were glued to the computer looking for news about Iraq. "Hrumph," her friend said, "can they even find Iraq on a map?" My co-worker came to our defense and said, "They know their geography of Iraq better than they do of Germany!"

I get so tired of the "Americans can't do geography" junk. Sure, I've met an American who thought that the Ayatollah ruled Liberia, but I've met uninformed people in Europe too. I personally have had to explain where Afghanistan is to a German, and I've also had to teach a Canadian where the Berlin Wall was (she thought Berlin was in Russia). I've even had a fight with a Swede over how many states there are in the US (he kept insisting that we have 51, and the fact that I live there still wouldn't convince him otherwise!)

People all over the world are bad at geography and history, not just us.


Heh, when I read back over that, it looks like I'm saying Canada is in Europe. I know for a fact it isn't. The Canadian, however, was in Europe when I asked her, "Didn't you watch any TV at all in 1989?"

Posted by Sarah at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2004


According to Justin Vaisse, a French historian:

"Europeans are surprised to hear that John Kerry is talking about America the same way as George W. Bush does," the paper said. "They are amazed that at the Democratic Convention in Boston, he saluted like a soldier, one hand up at his temple. They would prefer not to hear it when Kerry promises that he would never hesitate to use force in case America is under threat. They are disappointed."

QandO has the rest.

Also check out what GEN Tommy Franks says about the Mission Accomplished banner, and how the AP takes Kerry to task for having vague plans on Iraq.

(All hat tips towards the Instapundit)

Posted by Sarah at 02:53 PM | Comments (0)


Fascinating article via Ambient Irony, Hating America, about how Europe views the US through the lens of caricature. It's really long, and there are a million passages I could quote, but this made me chuckle:

Though fewer than 14% of Frenchmen have visited America, “most have strong views” of it; indeed, “Europeans who have not been in the U.S. . . . have the strongest opinions” about it, and malice toward America is inversely proportional to the amount of time individuals have actually spent there.

Conversely, I loved France and everything French until I actually lived there.

(And if you see the text as a mess of question marks, follow Pixy Misa's advice for changing the encoding.)

(P.S. I finally had enough time to sit down and read Pixy's post on Thought too.)

Posted by Sarah at 01:12 PM | Comments (1)


I just finished reading the gloomy and foreboding article The Terror Web (via LGF). If you can read that article and not think that the terrorist threat is real and frightening, then we have no common ground at all.

One passage from the article struck me in particular:

And yet, according to Spanish police officials, at the time of the Madrid attacks there was not a single Arabic-speaking intelligence agent in the country. Al Qaeda was simply not seen as a threat to Spain. “We never believed we were a real target,” a senior police official said. “That’s the reality.”

Where's the 3/11 commission report in Spain? Where's the Fahrenheit 3/11 movie to expose the ineptitude of Spanish intelligence and law enforcement? Where's the outrage that "The goverment lied; people died!" when Spain continued to blame the attack on the ETA long after they knew it smelled of Islamism?

Oh wait...nevermind.

Posted by Sarah at 09:06 AM | Comments (5)

July 26, 2004


My German co-worker has insisted on several occasions that my American co-worker and I are much better off living in Europe than in the US because in Europe we're away from all the crime. Nevermind that my co-worker hails from Phoenix and I from central Illinois and that we've managed to steer pretty clear of crime. Nevermind that her view is skewed because her experience in the US is from living in Detroit. And nevermind that "the US is full of crime" is another one of those lore statements that people toss around. In fact, England is pretty much screwed. (If you just want the money quote, head to Rishon Rishon; the full set of articles can be found at Steyn Online.) And nevermind that the most dangerous place I've ever lived was my neighborhood in France, where kids threatened to rape us in the phone booths and public masturbation was the norm. Creepy stuff.

Posted by Sarah at 05:17 PM | Comments (8)



Posted by Sarah at 08:34 AM | Comments (2)

July 22, 2004


My friend saw this here on German television, but I can't find any American news sources that are reporting on it. Apparently this question was posed to Kirsten Dunst:

Gefragt, was sie machen würde, wenn sie Spider-Mans Kräfte hätte, antwortete sie: "Bush töten!"

What would you do if you had Spiderman's powers? Her answer was "Kill Bush." Apparently the fact that Spiderman doesn't really have any "killing powers" is lost on Dunst.

Does this statement come a little close to threatening the president? I honestly don't know what the grey area is with that, but I sure know enough never to make a "kill the president" joke.


I also think it's funny that many people are lauding Spiderman 2 as a parable for our time and making connections between Parker's dilemma and President Bush's. Irony is so ironic.

Posted by Sarah at 05:48 PM | Comments (8)

July 13, 2004


Oh, and what's the deal with the weather? Last summer we had a heat wave that killed thousands of French grannies; this year it's the Ice Age. It's currently 54º in my neck of the woods. I am still wearing sweaters and knee socks. In July.

I told my husband today that it's a shame we can't average his temperature (currently 93º at midnight) with my 54º and have a nice happy medium.

Posted by Sarah at 10:03 PM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2004


GIs and Germany: A long love affair may soon be over was in the Stars and Stripes yesterday.

Posted by Sarah at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2004


You know my interest in all things Swedish, so I found this comment on LGF very interesting. I'd be interesting in hearing Anders' view. Is Swedish "multi-culturalism" actually this rampant and extreme?

Posted by Sarah at 08:09 AM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2004


I'm probably the only person who's thinking about Pim Fortuyn today, but something in Between War and Peace got me thinking. In 2002 my Swedish teacher was from the Netherlands, so when Fortuyn was killed it actually registered with me. I didn't follow it closely (this was back when I was fingers-in-ears), but I at least knew the basics of Fortuyn's controversial politics. Today I started trying to find out more about him and what happened. I read lots of stuff on this Pim Fortuyn Forum and also read that -- surprise, surprise -- Van der Graaf killed him "for the sake of The Netherlands' Muslim population". It's no lie that everywhere in the world that there's conflict, Muslims are somehow involved.

Posted by Sarah at 03:47 PM | Comments (16)

June 07, 2004


Why didn't Erik and Ray invite me? Now that would be a reason to go back to France.

Posted by Sarah at 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2004


Tim found a humdinger of a quote today:

I think all Americans would love their country if they had to live abroad for a while. -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Amen. While living on a military post in Germany gives us Americans a taste of what Europe is like, there is no substitute for actually living the European life. And getting garbage thrown at you on the public bus. And having young boys threaten to rape you. And having your director of study abroad repeatedly tell you she hates the United States. And being banned from speaking English in the apartment you pay for by the couple who chose to host an exchange student. And being singled out and ridiculed by your teacher for daring to raise your hand and try to participate in class with your ugly American accent. And did I mention the garbage and the rape?

There was no day I loved the United States more than the day I left France.

Posted by Sarah at 10:28 PM | Comments (6)

May 02, 2004


You know, I really should read Davids Medienkritik every day. It's a great blog. But the truth is, I can't stand to read it. I can't stand reading the bias and sanctimony that comes out of the country I live in. The country where my country pays rent, hires their citizens, and buys their goods and services. It makes me sick to know that we're still here when I read this and this. We need to go home as soon as possible.

Posted by Sarah at 04:00 PM | Comments (2)

April 30, 2004


I don't know exactly why reading this at Medienkritik triggered something in my mind, but it did. Back when I was in my Swedish class, our teacher was trying to briefly explain the Swedish political parties to us. She drew a sort of spectrum line on the board and put the various parties along the line from left to right. Someone in our class asked where our American Republican and Democrats would fall on the Swedish spectrum; our teacher put the Democrats on the far right edge of the spectrum and said that the Republicans would be located in the next room. We all laughed.

But it's something to keep in mind. There's no such thing as my sort of thinking in Europe. Well, there are some Americans Born Elsewhere, but for the most part, everyone is to the left of me. My Swedish friend just this year met the very first Swedish person in her life who supports the death penalty. The very first one she's ever met. She's 25. In contrast, we were making a sample outline in my ENGL class the other day, using the generic topic of the death penalty as a sample, and when I asked if they wanted to make the sample as for or against, they shouted For! in unison. No question in their minds. On questions of the government's role in health care and social programs, no one can touch how far right I go. There's just no such thing over here, at least not that I understand (correct me if I'm wrong.)

On a related tangent, Tim wrote the other day about patriotism and flag-pride in other countries. While living in France, we bought the same Swedish friend a Swedish flag patch to sew onto her bookbag. She wore it while she was in France, but she said that it was a little weird to sport it in Sweden. I can't say if she's representative of other Europeans, but I can't think of any other country -- besides flag-drenched Canada -- where the flag means so much.

Our flag means so much that people everywhere burn it. That says something.


Awesome. A blog in Sweden! With links to other blogs in Sweden. Fantastic -- now I have a way to prevent my Swedish from being completely eaten up by my pathetic German. I'm having tons of fun going through his posts -- did you know that Hans Blix participated in a WMD joke on a Swedish talk show that sounds quite similar to the scenario that Bush got ripped a new one for? Dude, he's so blogrolled.

By the way, he says that there are right-leaning folks in Sweden, but they are even deeper in the closet than I am.

Posted by Sarah at 10:31 AM | Comments (8)

April 20, 2004


So the first quote that I pull from Mexifornia has nothing to do with either Mexico or California. But it relates to something that happened here yesterday:

Europeans who drive their safe government cars to the beach, work seven hours a day, enjoy six to eight weeks off yearly, and have nearly all their medical problems, tuition, natal care and rest home worries taken care of by a maternal government see us as impoverished. Yet Americans find Europeans' tiny homes, solitary small cars, single televisions, and outrageously expensive food, clothes, entertainment and gasoline a real poverty that restricts the individual's ability to satisfy his cravings.

I honestly don't have that much interaction with Germans. I go to restaurants occasionally, but usually to the same ones over and over, and I have some German friends, but they're pretty Americanized (it's hysterical to be with a group of German women who are trashing Germany mercilessly.) I have never really had any run-ins with Germans, so I'm fascinated by the stories the Conflicted Reservist tells. He started working for the Germans about two years ago and has thus lost his support from the US military. He is engaged to a German and owns a house here and for all intents and purposes is living the German life. And he faces deep troubles with Germany and her citizens.

His neighbors won't let their kids play with his daughter because she's American. He tried to help a neighbor jump start his car once, and the neighbor refused his help, saying, "You're an American." Two weeks ago he had his motorcycle tires slashed by a German biker who growled "American" in his face. This Reservist is trying to fit in to the German world, and he's facing shocking opposition.

When we first moved here, my husband went to get his haircut and had to listen to the German barber go on about how the US doesn't have any real freedom because once she was at Walmart and wanted to try on bras in the middle of the store; security wouldn't let her, thus we have no freedom. Europeans might have more freedom to take their clothes off whenever they want, but there are other realms I'd rather have freedom in.

The Reservist's fiancee just had a baby last week. They went to get their new daughter's birth certificate, and they were told they cannot name their child what they want. First of all, the Germans wouldn't let them give the child the Reservist's last name since they're not yet married. Second of all, they won't let them name their daughter Haley Amber because it's not German-sounding. So their child doesn't have a name yet. Legally, the Germans can tell you what to name your children -- an appalling governmental control, in my opinion.

Just as we define poverty differently, as Mexifornia shows, we seem to cherish different expressions of freedom. The Germans may look at our inability to tolerate boobs in the Walmart as being one step away from a police state, but I see the inability to choose a child's name as a more important freedom that's being denied to this Reservist.

So the Reservist is fed up; he's moving to Spain.

Posted by Sarah at 07:53 AM | Comments (4)

March 15, 2004


I had other things I wanted to write about this morning, but then I saw the results of voting in Spain. Via LGF I went over to Daily Kos and found this:

While I very much agree with Meteor Blades, that Stirling is providing the best stuff on the web about Madrid, I do disagree that this is a potential pattern for the U.S. In Spain, 90% of the populace opposed the war in Iraq as they, like the majority of Europeans, thought it would increase terrorism not decrease it, and the bombings confirmed this interpretation. In the US, alas, the majority still see Iraq as part of the war on terror and if a similar event happenened before the US election - god forbid - I think the response would be just the opposite, the need to intensify the fight and rally around the flag and vote Bush. Look what happened to Dean when he told the truth about Saddam's arrest not making America safer.

This commenter sees this as a bad thing, but I see it as the fundamental difference between Europe and America. Europe believes in appeasement and collectivist internationalism; the US believes in kicking ass and taking names. The Lefties at Daily Kos and many people my age are horrified by the US's "get 'er done" attitude, but I see it as the only way this fight will ever end.

I'm saddened to see one of our strong allies disappear. I'm sad that if they leave us out to dry in Iraq, I won't be visiting their country, and I'm a huge fan of southern Spain. But Spaniards have shown their priorities, and they don't jive with mine. Though, as Belmont Club said today, "Although many commentators have excoriated the Spanish electorate for its capitulation to terror, we must never forget that the slightly smaller half decisively rejected it. These we honor and the rest we pity."

Any future-Americans among that slightly smaller half?


Read Nelson Ascher.

And Porphyrogenitus and I have a cyclical back-patting going on. He's right, if I may paraphrase, that some Americans grok 3/11 like some Europeans grokked 9/11, but the vast majority just don't care.

Tom reminds us that this is what the electoral college is for.

Posted by Sarah at 07:30 AM | Comments (7)

March 07, 2004


Bunker links to an article called "Why we still don't get it, one year on" by Mark Hertsgaard. He pulls out the more pertinent quote:

But the world doesn't hate us, the American people. It is our government, our military, and our corporations that are resented. To anyone living outside the US, this may seem an obvious point.

But to many people living inside the US, especially those who are proud to be American, this is not obvious. This ticks us off.

Being American is a choice, in a way that being French or Chinese or Norwegian never could be. It is a state of mind, an espousing of an ideology, and a label that defies race and ancestry. There are many people with US citizenship that aren't truly American in their thinking, and many people in other countries who are Americans waiting to happen. Being American has nothing to do with being born in a certain country, which is why Hertsgaard's quote makes no sense to me. In my mind, being American means wanting to be American and wanting to represent what our country stands for.

I know a woman here of Turkish descent who is the third generation in her family to be born on German soil. Her grandparents and parents all lived here in Germany. She's probably close to 30 years old. She just got her German citizenship. Third generation, finally recognized.

I also know a soldier from Paraguay who moved to NYC in 2002. He arrived knowing no English whatsoever and enlisted in the Army one year later. After Basic and AIT, he headed to Germany where he enrolled in our American History course at the education center. His desire to get an education and become an American has brought him headaches and tears, trying to read a chapter in the history book when he's taught himself English in 18 short months, but he works hard at it nonetheless.

Is this woman a German? She's known nothing but Germany her whole life, but she's obviously not been accepted as a citizen until quite recently. Is this soldier an American? You bet your ass he is. He might not have all the paperwork done yet, but he wears her flag on his right shoulder and he carries her spirit in his heart.

I've met soldiers with all sorts of accents; off the top of my head I can recall South American, African, Portuguese, Haitian, Polish, and Algerian. They've all made the choice to defend America and all she stands for, to proudly wear her uniform, and to accelerate their application for citizenship so that they can live and work in her cities. Would they bother to do this if being American had nothing to do with "our government, our military, and our corporations"?

When I was young and naive, I used to try to reason with people like Mark Hertsgaard. I tried to understand why the Swiss guy hated the USA when I was the first American he'd ever met. I tried to placate the Croatian who said he didn't want to speak to me anymore because we were bombing his hometown. I tried to understand how other Europeans could talk such trash about my country and not expect me to get offended. "Hey, it's not you we hate, it's your country; can't you see that?"

If you can look at these soldiers and not see how precious the USA is, then you don't grok. If you can't see that being American means making the choice to work with all different walks of life to make the best country we can be, then you don't grok. And if you can't see that Americans are who they are because of "our government, our military, and our corporations", then you truly don't grok.

Posted by Sarah at 10:19 AM | Comments (5)