Reminiscing About Cereal

When we moved back to the United States in 1987, I was amazed at how different it was from Germany.  I spent most of my life in Europe, so there was a lot that I didn’t know or understand about America.

One of the first things I noticed was the cereal isle in grocery stores.  I was surprised to see an entire isle dedicated to cereal.  I wanted to try every single box of cereal.  I especially wanted to try the boxes that used pop culture to entice shoppers.

Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t willing to purchase that much cereal at one time.  Oh well, that’s how life goes.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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I was drawn to this book by the title.  It sounded intreating, so I decided to buy it.

The narrator of the book is Death, as in a Grim Reaper type character.  The story is about a girl named Liesel.  She lives in Nazi Germany, with her foster parents.  Her brother died on the train ride to their foster home, which lead to her first act of book thievery.

Liesel struggled to adjust to her new family life and new school.  However, she had a scrappy attitude that won her the respect of the other kids in the neighborhood.

In spite of the hatred around them, she learns compassion and love from her foster parents.  She also learns about courage and how to survive during difficult times.

The book is a bit weird, but interesting.  I thought it was interesting and thought provoking.

Black Forrest Family Trip Disaster

Mom, Aaron , and I went to the Black Forrest in 1987.  It was just a family day trip, so we were riding on a tour bus.

This was our last day in Germany.  The next day we would board a plane and move back to America.  Mom was looking forward to this trip, since she probably would not get another chance to see the Black Forrest.

For some reason, my brother was an absolute tyrant that day.  He was rude, obnoxious, bratty, and defiant.  In all fairness to Aaron, he did not normally behave this way.  He was usually a good kid, but that day he was on a roll.

It started as soon as we boarded the bus.  Aaron decided to block the aisle and tried to charge people a toll fee to pass by him.  Mom was rather embarrassed, but the worst was yet to come.

We were walking around and admiring all the sites, then Aaron started crying about being thirsty.  He was winning and about ready to have a full on tantrum.  Mom stopped at one of the shops and bought us each a can of soda.

Aaron took the soda and stuffed them in his jacket.  He refused to give me one of the cans and said he was “holding them for ransom.”  I started yelling at Aaron and we were on the verge of a throwing punches, when Mom stepped in to put a stop to the whole thing.  She snatched the soda cans away from Aaron and give him a good scolding.

Later in the day, we stopped at a shop that made baskets.  In front of the store was a giant picnic basket for sale.  It was so huge, Aaron could have crawled inside of it.

Aaron wanted Mom to buy the giant basket, but she refused.  That set Aaron off again.  He started yelling and screaming about the basket.  Mom had reached her limit.  She got in Aaron’s face and yelled, “I’ve had with you!  I am changing my name.  It’s not Mom or Rita anymore and I am leaving you here.”

Mom spun around and started walking away from Aaron.  I was standing there in shock and wondering if she would come back for me.

Aaron tried calling out to her, but she didn’t respond.  Aaron bellowed out, “Hey lady with the brown coat and the grey streak in your hair!”

Mom’s face was about to turn scarlet red.  She was so angry, I expected to see smoke coming from her ears and nostrils.  She grabbed ahold of Aaron and started walking away with him, without saying a word.

In spite of everything that happened that day, Mom still loved her son.  The next day, Aaron was on the plane with us, instead of being left in the Black Forrest to be raised by wild animals.

 

First Alabama Summer

The winters in Alabama are mild.  We have a lot of warm to cool days and a few days that are actually cold.  Here is our forecast for the week.

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For some reason, checking the weather forecast this week got me thinking about my first summer in Alabama.

I spent my childhood in Germany.  The summers there were mild and it rarely hit 80 degrees.  We didn’t have air conditioning in our house, because we didn’t need it.

In 1987, I was 13 and my family moved to Alabama.  It was summer time when we made the move.  I remember that day very well.  We left Frankfort wearing coats, because summer was just getting started and it was still cold.

Our plane landed in Charleston, South Carolina.  The temperature was over 100 degrees and the humidity was in the 90 percentile.  We drove to our new home in Alabama, which is even further south.

I thought I would die that summer.  Never in my whole life had I expressed such oppressive heat.

As soon as I walked outside, I would begin sweating and it felt hard to breath.  It was like trying to breath steam.  I remember just trying to take a short walk one day, but it was impossible.  I felt like I was about to faint.  My stomach was also affected by the heat and I was nauseous a lot that summer.

Since 1987, I have lived in Alabama and Texas (expect for a brief six month stay in Moscow, Russia in 1997).  Anyway, I have adapted to the weather in Alabama.  The summers are still hot.  It routinely gets over 100 degrees and the humidity is always in the 90 percent range.  It’s hot, but it doesn’t feel like I am about to die.

Thank goodness, because after that first summer I really thought I would have to spend the rest of my life indoors.

 

Culture Shock in Alabama

I spent most of my childhood in Germany.  We moved to Alabama in 1987.

At first being in America was exciting.  I wanted to go to all the fast food restaurants that I had never heard of before.  I could not believe all the different types of cereal in the stores.  There were also candies and other treats there were new to me.  I was always exploring and trying new things.

When school started, I went to East Limestone High School.  That’s when the culture shock really hit me.

The other kids were talking about popular TV shows, movies, singers, and other cultural icons.  Most of the time, I did not know what they were talking about.  The food was different.  Grits, chicken fried steak, okra, and other foods were all new to me.

Aaron and I had a very different accent from the other students.  Some of the other kids did not believe we were Americans.  They called us foreigners.  My math teacher had a long discussion, during class, about how foreigners needed to stay in their own country.

If I broke a cultural norm at school, I would be punished.  Sometimes, I did not even know what I had done wrong.

 

There were a few things that happened during this time that I still laugh about today.  My favorite involves Aaron trying to buy a book.  We had only been in America for a few weeks and went to a bookstore.

In Germany we paid sales tax, but it was figured into the price.  The price on the tag was the price you paid.  Also, we did not use pennies.  Everything was rounded to the nearest nickel and you could not even use pennies as a form of payment.

Aaron wanted to buy a book.  He had enough money, but did not factor in the sales tax.  He goes to the register and hands over his money.  The sales clerk said he was short and needed to give her more money.

Aaron started arguing with her and pointed to the price tag.  The sales clerk made some comment about taxes, which my brother did not understand.  Eventually, my mom stepped in to pay the extra money.

The sales clerk handed the change to Aaron, which included a couple of pennies.  Aaron looked at the pennies and said, “What exactly am I supposed to do with these?”  Everyone in the store was staring at us, like we were crazy people.

The biggest culture shock of my life was moving to Alabama.