Rhein River Contemplation

I am sitting at the Rhein River this morning.  Here is my view:

Rhein River Contemplation


I would sincerely like to say that I have done this dozens of times since living in Germany.  But that isn’t true.  This is the VERY FIRST time that I have just come to the river to sit and contemplate, alone.  I planned my whole year to be one long contemplation!  Nonetheless I have spent countless hours taking care of Keogh and Wren, food shopping, checking emails, responding to and creating my own business responsibilities, talking on the phone, going to the post office, etc.  You see living in Europe is 99% like living in the US.  Its just that that 1% is one wild, adventurous, cool, exhausting and expanding ride.  Like today, sitting at the Rhein in Germany!  And writing, just sitting and writing.  This would be an expanding part.


Doing things like food shopping and going to the post office have their own element of adventure.  I mean postal employees all over the world have the same code of behavior that entails only providing information one knows enough to ask for.  And asking for postal information in German is a minefield of possibly incorrect (in)formalities, horrible grammar and painful pronunciations.  But it is incredibly satisfying when I get the information I was looking for.  Same goes for food shopping.  I mean how many Americans could ask for Agave at their local Rewe (think Associated, ShopRite, Stop n’ Shop, etc.)?  Now do it with a 22 month old single handedly dismantling the produce section and a 5 year old so intensely “reading” his comic book that he is walking out the front door of the grocery, into traffic, and not hearing his MaMa calling his name.  Pretty impressive that I get anything understood, right?

Wren jumping in a fountain while friends and lunch await us. Yes, she got soaked and no I didn’t have a change of clothes.


Keogh caught in his own moment of contemplation. The kid is deep. And handsome too, right?

And today I’m alone at the Rhein.  The weather is perfect.  A bicycle cab just rode by with a blissful bride and groom.  A couple is fighting down the bench from me.  I have head phones on but I can tell.  Folks are roller blading, jogging and riding bikes.  I’m sitting on what was once a dock and is now a leisure promenade.  I’m just north of the “crane” buildings.  Three buildings built in L-shapes suggesting large shipping cranes that overlook the river.  I love them.  The couple just kissed and made up.  Life is good.

Crane Buildings


The wheels are turning.  The water is pleasantly rippling by.  And my mind is working.  I sold a business about 18 months ago.  A business that my Mom and then me owned for nearly 25 years.  I spent my entire professional career growing that company.  And today I find myself reflecting on the fact that it is no longer mine.  That is not to say I wasn’t ready to let it go.  I was ready.  And I am not feeling regret.  What I am realizing is that my brain is fast while my heart slow.  Understanding and feeling are two totally different things.  I learned so much at that company about myself, my family, running a business, managing and leading people.  I made so many many mistakes.  And I had many many victories.  There are countless memories.  The many young women who bought homes because of their employment with my company.  A woman, then a young 40 something fairly newly employed with the company, who came to me in tears with her first paycheck as a stylist because it was the most she had ever earned in one check in her entire life.  The immigrant woman who came to the US with exactly $118 in her very thin pocket and five years later gave me a ride in her wildly expensive brand new car.  The young woman who would literally pass out when she had to speak in public and now presents (really she informs, teaches, and entertains these days!) to dozens of people.  And the countless men and women who grew and became more than they ever dreamed because of this little company.  Now don’t get me wrong there were plenty of haters and drop-outs and plain old bad shit that went on.  And the net outcome – I am sitting in Europe, writing a blog entry at the Rhein, raising a family and thinking about all the good things I’ve been a part of.  I am living a dream.  Perhaps it was all worth it?


5 Things about German Language Class

The intensive language class started the second week of October.  The class began with me, Pablo and Carlos.  Pablo is from Spain.  Carlos is from Cuba.  Pablo spoke a little english and Carlos spoke none.  Instead he wore these pants:

Pablo came to Germany to find work.  His career path is in the restaurant business.  His best days were when we talked about food.  He also did well at the restaurant role play.

Later Angie from Morocco joined my class.  And then I moved into a class with four young women.  My last group totally excelled and made me feel like a loser because they remembered all the crap that I kept forgetting.

1.  German is hard.

Germans who find out that I’m studying German shake their head and sigh because there is absolutely no way as adults that they would want to learn all the crazy articles and masculine, feminine or neutral identifications.  So I began realizing that it may be impossible for me to learn German.  I will admit that I thought I’d have a basic working knowledge after a few months of immersion.  I was naive.  I liked it that way.  Reality is a bummer sometimes.

2. Learning German is fun.

I will never know German.  I get frustrated and I feel very dumb sometimes.  But really, it’s just fun to learn something new.  I never imagined myself back in a classroom, listening to presentations, accepting handouts, and doing homework again.  And liking it.  So reality is also excellent sometimes.

3. Teachers really do make all the difference.

I recently read a research summary about education by Eric A. Hanushek orginally published in Education Week (April 6, 2011).  His research shows that a good teacher can dramatically improve a student’s performance.  And from my little perspective of the world – he is more than right.  My teachers were very good.  They improved my performance and earned my audience.  So even knowing that I will never actually learn German I still want to attend.  Insula Language School for Deutch and Spanish (www.insulakoeln.com) rocks.

4.  Valleys, Mountains, Canyons and Peaks

I’m a happy learner.  I’m smart and I’m focused.  I’m on time and aside from the zillion times my babysitter gets sick I’m always present.  And just like back in college, this isn’t so for everyone.  Not everyone is happy, most people are late and there are vast differences in people’s abilities.  This is a private school (read it costs money) and still people consistently show up late, get distracted or otherwise become unengaged.  And they PAY for it.  I’ve begun to deeply understand that learning is an ever changing landscape, and different for everyone.

5. Quitting

I quit German class.  One day Jonathan looked at me and said, “What the hell Sash, you don’t have to get a 4.0.”  I was fitting a 30+ hour commitment into my week and becoming so focused on that I stopped having fun in most other areas of my life.  Then I began working on a project for a real job and decided to train for a half marathon.  Now I realize I will never, ever, really learn German.  But I will love being in Germany.  I will do good work.  And I’ll be more fit than I’ve been in a very long time.  Oh and I had time to go to Paris!  Sometimes quitting is ok.

Sasha @ the Eiffel Tower. Photo by Beate Brownfield.

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