Sunday, April 28, 2013

April Bible Verse Photography Challenge

This month's verse is:

"My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.'" Song of Solomon 2:10-12
 This is part of the reading we read at my great-grandmother's funeral, so of course my picture is of her.

Head over to Flowers Round the Cross for the other photos!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


I am officially healthy again, according to my doctor. I had three doctor's appointments in a week, and the three of them probably added up to half an hour with the doctor. German medicine is just so strange.

Speaking of medicine, I looked my medicine up on wikipedia, and my goodness! I am now convinced I had a terrible case of tonsillitis. The medicine I had has a black box warning in the US, and in the EU it's illegal for a doctor to prescribe it if he thinks a weaker drug will work. Since the US black box warning is that this drug causes tendonitis and potentially tendon tears, I am not doing *anything* active for a while. I have had enough tendon problems that I probably shouldn't have started it in the first place, but by the time I realized that, I was already halfway through and it didn't seem worth it to go get some other drug which would then cost me another 55E.

Well, anyway, I am now healthy and returning to normal life. I was super lucky in that I was basically out cold for a week, but I managed to time my antibiotic doses such that I only missed one class. (And quite frankly, that was a class that I basically have to do no work for, so I'm not terribly fussed.)

I have been experimenting more with gluten-free baking, and I am cautiously optimistic. I am going to try eating the fruits of my labors this afternoon, so we shall see how they taste!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

μετὰ λόγου

So I was thinking about nothing yesterday and I think I had an insight. Or possibly I just realized something that everyone else already knew.

Who are the three groups of people who are most likely to be killed or institutionalized in modern society? The answer, I think, is the unborn, the very old, and the mentally ill. What is one factor which is common to all of these groups?

A large percentage of their members can't speak, either properly or at all.

My theory is that we subconsciously have a hard time recognizing people with whom we can't communicate as human. On a large-scale level, we see people who cannot speak at all, like the unborn, as not human. On a smaller scale, we see people who have lost the ability to talk, or who never figured it out right, or even who speak a different language, as less human than us.

Even Aristotle might agree with this...sort of. He says that the proper function of man (the thing that man can do that other animals can't) is to act "in conformity with rational principle." (For those who care deeply: Nichomachean Ethics, 1098a, whatever translation is on the Perseus project.) What is the phrase "in conformity with rational principle" in Greek? It's the title of this post, μετὰ λόγου.  Now logos, as everyone has probably been told seventy times at least, is a complicated word. It can mean rational principle, but it can also mean speech or word. For Aristotle and all the ancient Greeks, the very concept of rationality is tied up with language!

Having said that, I don't know what the next thing to say is. I mean, clearly, as a Catholic, I think people who can't speak are people too. People who can't think are also people too. So I don't know that I have a point here, so much as an observation. Nevertheless, I would be interested to hear people's thoughts. First of all, am I missing a category of people who tends to be killed or locked away that can speak? Is not being able to speak is the reason, or is it something else? (The obvious one that comes to my mind is the weak, but I think--and correct me if I'm wrong on this too--that the physically weak are not discriminated against in the same way the mentally weak are.)  Any other thoughts, musings, observations of your own? Does some this suggest some change to public policy? Should it? What about our private behavior? I really have no idea what the answers to any of these questions are. So chime in with your own thoughts!

Friday, April 19, 2013

7 quick takes

1. I am sick. On Sunday evening, my throat started hurting. When it kept getting worse and worse, I decided to go to the doctor. He was nice and friendly, but as my first experience (that I can remember) with a German doctor, it was a little bit of culture shock as well. All those routine things like getting your temperature taken, getting weighed, etc.? He skipped them all. He examined me by looking down my throat and asking me if I had been running a fever (and then taking me at my word).

2. With that said, given the number of white spots all over the back of my throat and tonsils, I knew it was something that would require antibiotics, and indeed, it was acute bacterial tonsillitis. Whee.

3. Since there is a pharmacy about a block from my house, I was able to go pick up my prescriptions there. Together, they cost 65E. Ouch. Luckily, my health insurance will reimburse me for them. Annoyingly, they do this by mailing a check to my house, which is hardly helpful to me in Germany. Oh well.

4. The first of the two medicines is a homeopathic natural remedy which is basically like a cough drop but for tonsils. They are very into homeopathy in Germany, but the medicines do seem to work! The only warning label on this medicine is that if you eat an entire package of 100 or 200 doses, you may wind up with a stomachache if you are lactose intolerant. So basically they are completely harmless.

5. This is in stark contrast to my antibiotic, which has some of the scariest potential side effects I have ever seen. Apparently this drug can theoretically cause heart, liver, and kidney failure, as well as psychological problems including suicidal thoughts. Luckily my side effects have been limited to such "minor" things as headaches, exhaustion, stomach pain, and the like. I told a flatmate about how I was feeling sick, and she said, "Oh, from the antibiotics, right?" I guess the Germans just use much higher doses of antibiotics and deal with all the unpleasant side effects.

6. Having said that, the doctor was still concerned about me when he saw me today, and apparently if I'm not a lot better by Tuesday he is going to do a culture and blood test! So I must have a pretty bad case, if he thinks a full dosage of these strong and nasty antibiotics may not cure me.

7. I would be remiss if I didn't devote this last quick take to Kevin, who has been a perfect angel in taking care of me. He went to the grocery store to buy food and sports drinks, which are easier to get down than water, cooked me dinner, kept me entertained while I was too tired to do anything but lie in bed, and watched stupid reality TV with me.

Head over to Camp Patton and read some other, hopefully more cheerful, quick takes! 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Freiburger Münster

Münster, for my readers who don't speak German, means cathedral. (Digression: Do I have any readers? If I have no readers, do I have no German speaking-readers? Or do all of my readers speak German? Ok, I'll shut up now.) Anyway, from now on I am going to call this church the cathedral because I don't really want to keep typing that umlaut.

 I have been spending a lot of time in the cathedral, since I am spending one hour in a church a day for the Easter season. The cathedral has grown on me during the last two weeks. I still don't like the way it looks outside, but that's because I don't like churches with one large tower.

From the minute I walked in, I loved the stained glass. It is so bright and full of saints and Biblical scenes. Every window has a slightly different color palette--some lighter, some richer, and yet somehow it all works together.
I come during the day, usually, which is tourist time. Tourists are allowed in until 5pm, at which point they have Eucharistic adoration and then Mass. That's lovely, but also tends to conflict with dinner. On the whole, the tourists are quiet and respectful, and it's perfectly possible to sit there and pray or read while they are visiting. Of course, when there's a giant construction site in the middle like there was a few days ago, things get harder, but when your church is hundreds of years old I guess you do need to do maintenance sometimes!
Every once in a while the sun will shine brightly through a window and illuminate some part of the church. This picture doesn't do it justice at all!
See that round hole? Apparently, in the 14th century, they would tie the pastor to a rope and pull him up into the ceiling to celebrate Christ's Ascension into Heaven.
One of the sad things about living in Germany is how much of a post-Christian society it really is. Of course, the Christian calendar influences daily life much more (imagine what would happen if public schools in the US had a week long Pentecost break!), but religion is just not something that the young people have any more. Between the cathedral and St. Martin's (which cooperate together and often function as one unit), seven children made first communion this year. 
"And the light shines in darkness, a darkness which was not able to master it." (John 1:5, Knox) The comforting thing about being a Catholic, though, is that we do truly believe that Christ is guarding the Church. While we may be in a troubling period and under a lot of attacks, we will win. We as the Body of Christ will not, cannot, be comprehended and mastered by evil. If we cling to God and His Holy Church, we will come through this, just as we have come through everything else the world has thrown at us for the last 2,000 years.

Whoever made this window has a sense of humor, for sure--see how the ox is eating baby Jesus's diaper? I would like to know a lot more about the history of the cathedral. I know that the windows currently in it are post-WWII.
St. Catherine, converting the heathens and pagans.
I love pictures of St. Joseph with young Jesus. I've always thought that there should be more of them. Granted, I don't have children, but in my own life and the lives of my siblings, it's so clear how important fathers are.

This post didn't really have a point, I know. But hopefully it gives a little bit of a glimpse into my life here, and may still be more interesting than me complaining about coffee makers!

Friday, April 12, 2013


I have an explanation for my coffee maker.

It wasn't mine.

My new roommate has the same coffee maker, just waaaaay older.

I am appropriately ashamed and almost feel like I should apologize to her for having yelled at her in my head. Although, seriously, I can't imagine how that conversation would go.

"Hi, I wanted to say sorry for having been mad because you destroyed your coffee maker, because I thought it was my coffee maker, and I can hardly drink the coffee that comes out of your coffee maker, and no, you never knew I was mad, but I'm sorry anyway..."

Or not.

So, lesson of the day: if you think something has been destroyed, first look on top of the kitchen cabinets to make sure that it wasn't an identical copy that was destroyed.

7 quick takes

1. A priest alumnus of CUA just got awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously! Go here and scroll down to Rev. Emil Kapaun. He is also a Servant of God and up for beatification (although that link is from 2010 so it's kind of out of date). This is exciting. I hope I will live to see a CUA alumnus canonized! There's a Washington Post story about him here.

2. I went on a lovely hike with some friends from IES today. We tried to find some old ruins, but we took a wrong turn somewhere and by the time we figured out where we were, the ruins were very far away. We found a lovely cross on the mountainside as a monument to the first and second World Wars. It was what the Germans would call a "Mahnmal," which is a monument that also serves as a reminder not to do something again!

3. Kevin found me a recipe for gluten-free American-takeout-style sesame chicken. I have never been more excited for a recipe in my life. I am trying it on Sunday.

4. I am trying so hard to be open to this German apartment where I am living with complete strangers, but someone messed my French press all up. It is bent and stained and I seriously have no idea how someone damaged it that much in one morning. Also, someone who can't read the large sign that says to remove your shoes tracked dirt all over the bathroom, which, when combined with the water from her shower, led to mud on the bathroom floor. The real problem is that, since I don't know these people, I have a hard time confronting them. My poor French press is staying in my room from now on, and if I get a new one, that one is too.

5. My classes for this semester also got all confused and messed up. One of them got canceled, and one of them turns out to conflict with a bunch of mandatory excursions for another class. At this point, it looks like I will be taking four courses (not counting the German course I took earlier), but I am going to wait for a week or two to tell CUA this, just in case another problem arises.

6. The plus side of not being able to take my original schedule is that it increases the chances I can go to Greece, at least a little bit. Apparently it would be cheaper to leave Thursday night. Now granted I have a class Thursday night, but I think I could skip it once with no very bad effects, or possibly leave after it.

7. Even though these last few takes have been negative, I am having a good time. I can't wait to settle into a routine once all my classes start!

(Edit: I forgot to add the link to the rest of the quick takes! Duh! Here you go.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I now have three methods of getting around Freiburg. I have my student train ticket, my bicycle, and my roller blades. These all overlap somewhat, but I have them all, and getting rid of one of them seems dumb since keeping them doesn't cost me anything.

It certainly makes sense to have the train ticket. I crunched the numbers, and as long as I take one round-trip trip every six days or more often, the ticket pays for itself. So if I take the train to and from church, for example, I'm almost there. It also rains a lot here, and I don't really like getting wet.

The bicycle was a gift from my cousin. It's great because it frees me from the schedule and route of public transportation. Plus, it's knee-strengthening exercise!

The rollerblades are the silly overlap, but I bought them before I knew that my cousin was going to give me a bicycle. It's probably too late to return them, so I'll just use them sometimes. Maybe I can bring them back to the US with me, who knows? They weren't that expensive and it does seem convenient that I can stick them in my backpack and carry them along with me in a way I can't with a bicycle.

Now I just need to buy a bike lock and turn the pedals around so it's rideable, and then I can go anywhere I want, whenever I want!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Half marathon!

So, last Sunday I ran a half marathon. I will spare you the entire race report, which took up at least a page and which I emailed to the four people I thought would actually want to read it: my father, my twin sister, my little sister, and my aunt.

You get the short version, which runs like this: 13.1 miles, 2:26:32, and a whole lot of fun!

I have pre-race and post-race photos, but I checked my camera during the actual race (because trying to hold a good camera while running sweatily for two and a half hours sounds like a disaster waiting to happen). Here are some of the better ones:

My stuff all laid out the night before the race
Some people call me a control freak. On the one hand, I argue this name. On the other hand, I made a color coded schedule for the morning before the race. Your call.
Me and Kevin and another friend before the race.
Me after the race with my medal.
Of course, running is not without its dangers. My index toe on my right foot basically turned into a blood blister and it hurt even to touch it for a few days. Also, the weather was cold enough that I knew if I didn't wear a hat my ears would get cold and I would get a splitting headache. Well, running around with a hand-knitted hat on your head does not do good things to your hair AT ALL. Keep in mind when you scroll down to that picture that my hair is stick-straight. Every bend is because of the hat!
My poor toe, which is luckily feeling a lot better.
My hair. Such a mess I had to brush it before showering!
 It was a good race, and I had a very good time. I wonder when my next race will be? I'm trying to find one in Europe somewhere during the remainder of my stay here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

7 quick takes Friday

1. Happy Easter to all! I had a great Easter with four good friends. We had a lovely afternoon cooking, chatting, and hearing about the trip to Turkey that three of them had just taken.

2. In the spirit of Easter, or in a fit of madness, I have committed to spending one hour in a church every day until Pentecost. Usually I go to the cathedral, because it's always open, and spend some time just sitting in a pew and reading Jesus of Nazareth. It is a great book, and I am really enjoying it. If I go to the cathedral late enough, they close it to tourists and have Eucharistic Adoration, which is always wonderful. I haven't made it to a daily Mass yet, because they are all either much earlier than I feel like getting up, or right in the middle of dinner time.

3. There are almost exactly two days left until the start of the Freiburg Half Marathon. I am super excited, as well as a little bit freaked out. I am quite sure I can do it, since I ran 11 miles two weeks ago, but I am a competitive enough person that I am worried about my time, especially since I paid to have it engraved on the back of my medal!

4. Classes started on Tuesday. I have had two sessions of my German theater class. My medieval art class is once a week on Mondays, so the first meeting of that is on Monday. My other three classes are through the university and don't start until the 15th. I like my drama teacher a lot. Yesterday we picked our topics for our two presentations. I will be giving a presentation on costumes and one on the play Daniel Stein (which is based on the book by the same name) which is about a Jewish translator for the Gestapo who saves many Jews and then becomes a Catholic priest. I'm looking forward to reading it!

5. I finished my 1000 piece puzzle of Tuscany. However, it's missing a piece! This is probably a metaphor for something.

6. Since I share a kitchen with relative strangers, I wasn't sure how I felt about the prospect of dying Easter eggs with vinegar and food coloring the way I usually do. So I improvised! Behold Sharpie-decorated eggs! I think they came out quite well:
I made the first, third, and fifth ones (counting from the left). Kevin made the other three. Clearly, he has more artistic talent than I do. Between the six eggs, we have three different languages going on! The tricky part of decorating German eggs is that every egg has the region where it comes from stamped on it, which is not attractive, but can be tricky to cover.

7. Speaking of eggs, we got a box of free-range eggs from the open-air market a few weeks ago, and my goodness you can tell the difference! Keeping chickens in the cages PETA likes to complain about is illegal in Germany, but even so the yolks of the free-range are much more orange and the eggs have more flavor.
The eggshells are also much harder to break. I'm not sure why that is, but it's rather annoying. This week I bought the regular eggs from Aldi instead of the free-range eggs. The free-range ones from the market are more than twice the price of the ones from Aldi, which is a little hard to pay given how many eggs I eat. I will probably switch back and forth--it is more fun to buy local food!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bible Verse Photo Challenge

I'm linking up with Flowers Round the Cross for the Bible Verse Photo Challenge!

Here's March's verse:
"In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:78,79
This is one of my favorite verses, so I was thrilled when it was chosen. Here's my picture, of my candle from the Easter Vigil shining on an Easter hymn.
(Don't worry, I took this picture at home, not during Mass!)