Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm out for a while...

I'll be back at some point. Not right  now...

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010 - Wally World in Germany!

My only picture of me and the castle!!!
After spending Thanksgiving Day testing toilets, (literally doing toilet tests for the 747-8) I decided to crawl out of my holiday funk and go to the world’s most beautiful castle. Neuschwanstein Castle was built by King Ludwig in honor of some woman blah blah blah. Walt Disney fell in love with this castle and Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. Folks…I am telling ya…when I picked up the little brochure at the Concierge desk at the hotel my heart did a little flitter flutter. I had to go see this castle. The tour left at 10:00am, I paid my $41.00 Euro last night, set my alarm and was downstairs this morning by 9:30am.

This is where the story turns into a Lacie Adventure…the kind of adventure that only I seem to have. I came downstairs at 9:30…fresh battery in my camera and asked the concierge where I was to meet the bus. He told me the tour leaves at 8:30 on Fridays. Perfect! I asked him why he didn’t explain that last night and he showed me on my ticket where in Bold print, it states the tour leaves at 8:30 on Fridays. I asked if there was any chance of getting a refund and he pointed to the next line that stated “No Refunds for missed tours”

Ok…no problem. I happen to be a strong capable female…and I wanted to see this castle. I asked how far the castle was and the concierge said about 2 hours away. Super! He said to head towards Füssen and I wouldn’t miss it. I figure I have mastered the autobahn, my GPS is my new best friend….I will create my own tour. I gathered my things, went to the Mercades and typed in my GPS Fussen.

I was on the road. I was feeling fine…I was driving my Mercades, listening to opera on the Autobahn, had a freshly made Café Mocha in my hands when the first few flakes of snow started to fall. Oh how pretty the little dusting of white was. I thought to myself…this is how romantic chic flick movies start.

I kept driving…looking for Fussen…and looking. I rechecked my navigation system and yep…I was heading in the right direction. Who am I to second guess the GPS? I mean…Susan is getting her information from a satellite…right?

Snow is falling a little heavier now…I slow down to a reasonable speed and keep driving…an hour and 15 min later Susan instructs me to take the next exit. I get excited…My castle must be close I am 5KM from my destination and I made really good time! I follow the left turns and right turns through little German neighborhoods and the doubt starts to creep back in. Then I arrive at Fussen (See picture). Fussen is a little sub-type neighborhood with 4 houses surrounded by GOATS! Yes…goats. I pull over to the side of the road get out of my car and look up at the sky and say to the man upstairs “Your kidding me right? Where is my castle????” I take a picture of the sign and head back the way I came to the gas station I passed on the way in. I walk inside and ask how much further Neuschwanstein Castle is. I got a strange look and then the very nice gas station man said its about 2 1/2 hours in the other direction. WHAT??? I said I typed Fussen in my GPS and it brought me here. He said “Mistake! I needed to type “Füssen”

Apparently those two little dots above the “U” are pretty dang important! Changes the whole word…Again…Super!

I’m not giving up. Sure it’s snowing but the roads are pretty clear. The rental car company charged Boeing an extra $165.00 Euro for winter tires…I’m from Seattle…I can do this. It was 11:15 am I would get there by three-ish and the castle doesn’t close until 6pm…that’s plenty of time. I was on a fricken castle mission at this point. I bought some more coffee and headed South East.

I drove about 100KM when the white out hit. Hindsight being what it is, I guess I should have expected some snow as I was driving straight into the flippin Swiss Alps! I pulled over…and just sat on the side of the road…drinking cold coffee with my seat warmers on trying to figure out if my Boeing life insurance covered stupidity. Assuming it did, I decided I was not going to let this beat me. I was going to see my freaking castle. I signaled to get back on the Autobahn and noticed that really wasn’t necessary as I was the only car I could see…WARNING!!! DANGER!!! Nope…didn’t even dawn on me that if the German drivers aren’t driving…something must be wrong. I kept going at a snails pace…kept driving…straight into the guard rail. “SHIT!!!!” I said out loud for no one to hear…no problem…my credit card insures the Mercades…my GPS said I was 20 min away…I kept driving up that mountain…my castle was so close…I HAD to see this damn castle! (It became the “Damn Castle” after the guardrail incident)

It was 4:30…It took longer than expected but I was driving during a blizzard. I still had time. I saw the sign…I made it to the top of the flipping mountain…I saw my castle…it was just over the next hill. Anticipation was running through my veins…I couldn’t wait to see the perfectly preserved princess bedroom, the kitchen, the ball room….all of it…

I pulled into the parking lot…and it was EMPTY!

WTF? I refused to accept the obvious. I got out of my car and walked to the ticket booth. I noticed at the time how silent it was. I could almost hear the snow falling and the crunch of the snow under my feet was amplified by the absence of any human life. There was no one at the window. This is when hysteria kicked in.

I saw what looked like a maintenance man and rushed over to ask him when the next tour was leaving. “He said No tour- Castle closed- lots of snow!” and literally walked away from me. I said “No Sh**” and stood there watching him.

Then I yelled “Wait!!!” And I tried to explain that I drove a really long time to see the castle and could he at least take my picture in front of it??? I put my hands together and begged “Please???” He grabbed my camera and shot a picture of my head with the castle in the background. I thanked him and walked back to my car.

I got in and turned the Mercades on and again just sat there…then out of no where…PURE RAGE! I started yelling at Susan (my GPS) Welp…This is my F***ing Wally World on my F***ing European Vacation! Am I F***ing being punked? Is there a F***ing camera??? WTF??? Why the F*** does this S*** always F****ing happen to me???? Really??? Really??? My Castle is F***ing closed…because there is a F***ing white out F***ing blizzard on my F***ing day off??? And WTF do the stupid dots above the letters really F***ing mean? Punctuation goes at the end of the sentence not on top the F***ing letters...SH**, F***, D***, Mother F***er, Piece of S*** stupid A** Castle!!! Oh…I felt better…

Then I looked to my right and the gift shop was open! So I got out of my car and bought some souvenirs of the F***ing castle I only saw from a mile away!

It took me close to four hours to get back to Munich and I had to write the moment I walked into my room.

I have tomorrow off also…Can’t wait to see what happens! I am planning on taking a train to the Christmas Market. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010 - The Conversation

I had one of the most interesting conversations today. The kind of conversation that sticks with you long after the talking ends.

I spoke with a supplier employee today and we were discussing the schedule for the next set up. He said that Boeing is very much like Hitler and that Boeing is making the same mistakes he did. Well, as you can imagine, that immediately got my attention. I asked him to please explain what he meant doing my best to contain the screaming thoughts of “OMG YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT!!!” that I was forcing back. I was sure I had misunderstood the man’s intention for surely he did not just compare my employer to the leader of the Nazi regime.

He stated that Hitler did not win WW2 because Hitler gave the order to fight until the last man died. He never retreated when he was losing and he should have taken some time to plan and regroup. Hitler eventually lost because he ran out of manpower. He then continued to explain that the longer we (Boeing) continue to push our schedules and drive for completion dates, we will just be working until the last man dies.

I had to physically push my own mouth closed as I was just stunned. It would be rude of me to justify Boeing’s position for driving schedule and I won’t say anything negative about why we are pushing the schedule the way we are, as this is just one man’s opinion and not necessarily the opinion of the supplier’s. That being said, I couldn’t let his comment be the last word, and as you all know me…that shouldn’t surprise you.

I ignored the very offensive comment about Boeing and Hitler because it sounded as if this man was offering some sort of misguided advice on getting this test campaign complete. I asked him a clarifying question to be sure.

“Do you think Hitler would have won WW2 if he had regrouped and took some additional time for planning?”

Without a moments hesitation he answered yes.

He said that “Hitler was in a position of power and had he ‘not put the eggs in the basket’ as you Americans say Hitler could have been successful.”

I was treading lightly here at this point and I asked directly if he was a supporter of Hitler and what he stood for. He then told me that Hitler was loved by the German people. Hitler created jobs and saved a starving nation after WW1 and the Great Depression. He said that many people spoke negatively, but Hitler was just guilty of just trying to save his beloved country.

Apparently my face said it all. He asked me if I agreed with him. I dug deep for my professionalism and answered politely that no, I did not agree with him. That I felt in my personal opinion that any good Hitler did for the German people, was grossly outweighed by what he did to the Jewish population and others who opposed him. He told me that the situation was “Overblown” and that people only remember the bad. He explained it was a time of war and that America was guilty of the very same thing. I asked him if he was referring to the Japanese we put in concentration camps? He said was the same thing.I paused at this point, choosing my words carefully and said exactly this…

“With all due respect, America never gassed, starved or shot people point blank, nor did we bury a whole nation in mass, unmarked graves. Out of fear, we did put the Japanese into camps, and we as a nation regret what we did after Pearl Harbor, but we never murdered them. I would hardly call that the same thing. He then said America was not a victim in WW2, that Germany was the true victim.


He continued by saying that Hitler was a good man and Stalin was the real tyrant. I agreed that Stalin murdered groups of people without rhyme or reason, but that was not what we were discussing. He then said that we American’s have so little history and that we are so consumed by our our wants and needs that we don’t understand about a country that has been at war for hundreds of years. He said that Hitler chose the Jewish people as a way to unite Germany. Giving every German a common goal to fight for. I asked him for his opinion why Hitler chose the Jewish people to go after and he said very matter of factly…Money. He said American’s work for our own generation. We work to accumulate money for ourselves to spend in our lifetime. The Jewish people work to accumulate wealth for their grandchildren’s children. This threatened Hitler because even though the Jewish population was small they had massive wealth and refused to give it over to Germany willingly. So Hitler took it and used the money to fund the war effort.

Again…my mouth was just hanging open. I knew this was the point in the conversation to agree to disagree and to walk away. I could feel the anger rising as I listened to this man defend one of the most evil men to walk the earth. The visions of Ann Frank and other Holocaust survivors filled my mind and with sadness and pride I said that I didn’t understand that logic and could never imagine living in a country that committed such hateful acts to people based solely on their religion.

He said I do live in that country. He brought up the civil war and asked if the negro people were treated the same as the white people. He brought up slavery and said it was the exact same hatred. That America was built on the backs of slave labor in the south and that it was the immigrants that built Americas railroads and worked in the factories in the north. He said America is no different.

I was losing the debate. I couldn’t argue that plantation owners treated slaves with respect nor were they paid fairly for the hours of back breaking work they did. I couldn’t defend the 12 hour days the immigrant children worked in the factories, nor could I contend that the Irish and Chinese who laid our nations infrastructure were compensated. The only argument I had was that we didn’t gas them in a chamber.

He argued that point also. He said the total slaughter of the American Indians for their land was no different. Our soldiers murdered entire nations of Indians, we infected them with disease to kill them and put them on reservations until most of them died.

All I could do was nod. What could I say? I spoke from the heart and looked this man in the eyes, I said… “Yes, America has committed some terrible acts in the past. We are working at correcting those wrongs and the way we ensure we don’t make the same mistakes is to remember and try to do better, the difference here is we don’t defend or try to justify our actions, we try to learn from them and never let it happen again.”

He said it will always happen again…

I thanked him for the conversation and kindly excused myself to finish my inspection.

I have never really taken the time to sit down and look at that side of our history. I have always been under the belief that America is he greatest nation in the world, not through our economic strength, but our civil rights. I think as a nation we are committed to treating each individual fairly and ensuring our unalienable rights are protected for generations to come. The conversation was enlightening and made me question my opinions and beliefs…which a good debate should.

This trip to Germany is bordering on life changing!

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010 - Sitting Still

I don’t even know where to begin. It’s been a crazy couple of days. Been working 14-16 hour days and I feel like a zombie! On the plus side I have mastered the Autobahn. I own that road and actually got to 100MPH! My Mercedes and I have bonded. It’s an amazing feeling driving a luxury vehicle. Don’t get me wrong, I love my 4 cylinder Kia Sportage and all…but the heated leather seats are like soft chocolate pillows, the leather wrapped steering wheel begs to be gripped and push button controls are like running your fingers across the keys of a beautiful piano. I LOVE THIS CAR!

Today I had a couple of hours to just tour the little town I am in. I am staying at the Schloss Hotel and I love the hotel manager. Her name is Sabina and she knows everyone and literally everything about this town. She sent me to MoMo’s today. She said tell them Sabina sent you and they will take care of you. I walked in and I think they could smell the United States on me and asked if they could help me? I let them know who had sent me and suddenly this tiny woman dressed in sequins and fur grabbed my arm and led me all around the little shop. She shared the history of the building, how old the staircase was and the sorted history back in the mid-1800’s when this beautiful building was used as a brothel. I felt as if I had instantly made a friend. After the tour I purchased some beautiful homemade oatmeal soap. As I was walking out MoMo came around the counter and gave me a hug and told me to come and see her again. I couldn’t help leaving with a smile.

I had an epiphany today and that is what I am most compelled to write about.

Herborn is getting ready for Advent which starts on November 28th. The Christmas decorations are being hung slowly, but everyday it looks more and more festive. The town center gets converted to a winter wonderland at Christmas and today was the official tree standing. This town maybe has a population of 2,000 people and the Rockefeller Center size tree was proudly placed in the middle of the town square. It was mid day on a Monday, however the crowds that gathered looked more like what you would expect on a Sunday afternoon. There were children and parents, elderly and newborns. The shops closed up and everyone came outside to stand around the tree as the workers were erecting the stand. I found the only open café, ordered a dark chocolate latte (Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds) and just watched. Men were arm and arm with other men and ladies were doing the same. At that moment the church bells rang in the background as the clock struck noon. I am at a loss for words, which is rare, on how to describe the scene. All of my senses were being stimulated at once. The taste of fine chocolate, the sound of German voices and church bells, the smell of fresh cut pine, the coolness of the air on my skin and being surrounded by the beautiful architecture that was hundreds of years old. It felt as if I was in the scene of a movie…

As suddenly as the crowd had gathered it began to dwindle. The Christmas tree was erect and people went on with their lives. I still had half a latte and I am ashamed to admit my first thought was to go back inside the café and ask for a to-go cup so I could continue on with my adventure. I decided I would fight the urge to become busy and just sit with myself. I don’t do that enough. Between the kids and sports and husband and work, I never…I mean ever…just sit. I had a really difficult time. I felt like I was wasting these precious moments I had away from work by just sitting and doing nothing. Then I started to wonder why. Why do I always feel like I have to be doing something? Why do I feel like relaxation is for the weak? I forced my self to sit and finish my coffee. I smiled at the people walking by while I was having this internal conflict. I had many thoughts today…none of which I am willing to share here…but I ended up having another latte, another smoke and I successfully wasted a full hour just watching people. As I got up I vowed to myself I would do this more often…I really enjoyed getting to know me again…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nov 11, 2010 The Day I Almost Died!

Ausfahrt means "Exit" in German...hmmmm....

The Autobahn might indeed be the single most terrifying experience of my life. I say this after I spent 13 hours thinking I was going to die a victim of a terrorist attack earlier.

I landed in Frankfurt and made my way through immigration. I went to the baggage claim and found my black suitcases in the “who’s whose” revolving luggage game. I made my way through the Frankfurt maze and spotted the little car emblem. I broke free from the herd and stood in a very long line at National car rental. I picked up the keys to the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It was a brand new, shiny black Mercedes Benz. I somehow managed to contain my urge to sprawl across the hood and embrace this fine piece of machinery. I opened the door and slid into the heated leather seats. I programmed my GPS to my hotel address and put my new best friend into reverse. I drove through the parking garage following the exit signs in English and was feeling pretty confident.

Oh My GAWD! As I turned into traffic it was like I had been teleported into a Nascar race. I was sweating…Shrine Frou (I named my GPS) was giving me instructions seconds before I was to turn here or there. It was a game with her. She knew I was a tourist…she could smell the foreigner on me and was not happy about me defiling her beautiful interior.

For those of you who have not ever had the opportunity to drive in Germany, let me fill you in. The first thing that will make even the most devout Christian woman utter “What the F***!” is that two lane traffic is separated by a white line. Not always solid either…just a white line. Which means you have no idea if you will be driving into oncoming traffic or simply changing lanes. I made it a point to follow whatever slow moving semi-truck I could. I took a wrong turn at one point and Shrine Frou instructed me to make a U-Turn. Um…no…wasn’t going to happen. I drove another 5 min until I found a turnout. I got out of my car…lit a ciggaretee with a shakey hand and stood on the side of the road smoking and crying. all those who think I am cold and heartless…I shed some serious tears. I was exhausted, I was lost and I was cold.

God and I got really close on the airplane ride over and I said another prayer. I asked God to help me find the inner strength I knew I had. The words Cowboy up popped in my head and I decided I was either going to get back in the car, or the German officials would have to scrape my cold dead body off of the Mercedes. I got back in and drove…and drove. I pushed the fear out and did it. 2 hours later I found my hotel. It was 10:00 in the morning and the very nice woman at the hotel registration desk informed me they didn’t have any rooms available.

I was sure she didn’t know I had a reservation so I pulled out my reservation and politely showed her. She said “Oh…yes…check-in time is 3:00pm.

People…I was broken at this point. I cried again…I was muttering about my day and this poor German woman looked very confused. I looked like hell and I was on the verge of hysterical. She picked up a phone called her manager and he came over as I was saying “Of course I can’t check in…why would I have a room???” He asked me to wait 20 min and he had housekeeping clean a room in record time. I smiled and said thank you repeatedly.

I walked in and saw two twin mattresses on the floor, I laid down and slept for 6 hours…in my clothes and shoes.

Tomorrow is going to be awesome I just know it! :)