October 17, 2004

STRESSFUL DINING

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.

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October 14, 2004

PURCHASES

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.

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MASS GRAVE

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.

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October 13, 2004

INDEED

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

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October 02, 2004

INGRAINED

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?

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