Another busy week! Last weekend I made a quick trip to London and Oxford to meet our neighbor Claudia (on a business trip), visit Sasha and David (running the Hendrix in London program), and see Francis Warner in Oxford. I took the train, mainly because it's less hassle than flying. It's more hassle than I expected, however, as the security for the Eurostar (the train that uses the tunnel under the English Channel) is tight. The U.K. border guards are also tough - they wanted to see my German residency permit, which I don't have yet. I was a little worried they wouldn't let me through. I always take border security very seriously - you just never know, and they can deny you entry for any reason. On the Eurostar nearing the English Channel I wondered for a minute if there was a prison nearby, until I realized that the tall fences and razor wire are to keep people out of the tunnel. The U.K. may be connected by rail to the rest of Europe now, but they are still an island and don't want you to forget it!
In London I had good Indian food (a primary purpose of the trip, I'll admit) and was lucky enough to hit "Open House" weekend when one can tour buildings not normally open to the public. We didn't have a lot of time on Saturday, but visited the Guild Hall. Claudia and I also went to Evensong at St. Paul's and walked all over a good part of London. For sentimental reasons I went by Gail's school she attended for a few months in 2007. She was unimpressed that I had done so.
On Sunday Claudia and I went to Oxford and had lunch with Francis Warner. He then took us on a walking tour of Oxford and we went to Evensong at his church. They were singing one of Bach's cantatas, in German, and it was gorgeous. They served a cream tea afterwards, which was a nice opportunity to talk with some of the church members. Then it was dinner with the Hendrix-in-Oxford students at, and many of you will appreciate this, a restaurant called "Beefeaters." It was fun to talk to the students about their experiences so far and to hear their excitement.
On Monday I made the long trek back to Mainz via London, Brussels, and Frankfurt, stopping in London for some essential groceries: chocolate digestive biscuits and jalapenos (not to be eaten together).
The exciting news on Monday was that the Deutsche Telekom guy came to install our Internet and phone service, after a 3 1/2 week wait. Hooray! But not hooray - they hadn't sent us the super secret codes needed to activate the service. No one could give them to us - not the help line, not the people in the Telekom shop, nobody. Evidently there was some sort of computer problem that they couldn't generate the codes again. At one point, a person told Wayne that we should just wait and hope that a letter with the super secret codes arrived. Seriously. One of my classmates in my German class is from Bulgaria. She's also having problems and she told me: "In Bulgaria things can be hard. But not the Internet! Everyone in Bulgaria has Internet!" Finally on Wednesday we got a text with a secret code. We could then use that secret code to open a document sent by email containing three more secret codes (but only by ignoring their instructions and doing things a different way). And, voila, we have phone and Internet, only four weeks after moving into our apartment.
I had been feeling a little isolated, so am happy to be able to use the Internet freely and to call. On my first trips overseas, many years ago, having a phone and Internet wasn't even a possibility. I still remember, in 1988, a CNN cameraman I befriended on Red Square calling my family to tell them I was alive and well in Moscow. That was the only contact I had with them. And for two years I lived in a town in Poland with no international phone lines (and no phone in my apartment, anyway). To call out of the country I had to go to the post office, book a call, wait an hour or two, and pay exorbitant rates. I was thrilled to see a month-old Newsweek or International Herald Tribune. So why does it drive me crazy now to lack the amenities?
On another note, ahem, we have noticed in Mainz that the quality of busking (public performances for donations) is really good. The other day we stopped to listen to a tenor singing Nessun Dorma on the cathedral square, last night there was a woman doing this amazing bubble art show, and, believe it or not, there was a great duet with accordion and cello the other day. That's not something I would have sought out, I must say, but it was good.
Gail continues to do well in school and it continues to be difficult. Her bravery was praised by her history teacher for volunteering to give (and giving!) an oral presentation in class. She has another classmate who speaks English and they have been excused from regular English classes to create lesson plans on special days for the other kids, so they are plotting out a Halloween-themed lesson. She had her first violin lesson here yesterday and she liked the teacher. Her first clarinet lesson will be next week. We've definitely not been enforcing the usual practice time with everything else that's been going on.
This weekend I'm missing the Texas A&M/Arkansas game. Gig 'em! Too bad it's not shown on German TV. I'm sure I could find a bar near one of the American bases here showing the game, but I don't think I'm quite that brave, especially given the hour of the game!