I've been collecting my writings from years gone by as I find them. Each time I move - now 5 times in the last 3 years - I find more scraps, loose sheets, etc. with my thoughts from various times in my life. I've decided to copy as many of them as I can here to try and keep from losing them again, and to share with the world. Please feel free to comment as thoughts occur to you. Either send them to trekker9er@yahoo.com or use the comment links here. Thanks, and Enjoy!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

 April 12-16, 1995 - Viaje A Espana (Part I)


April 12, 1995
    Well we're on the first plane going to Washington D.C. There was one extra person then seat on this flight. A man got off so that the extra person (a girl from our group) was able to stay on the plane. As we were taxing out to the runway and the stewardesses were doing their presentation a man said he was on the wrong flight! He was supposed to go to Chicago. They stopped the plane and opened the tail door to let him off. His flight had just left so he'll have to get a later one. He got off the plane and as he was walking away the first man that got off was brought back out. I'm so glad! He was nice enough to give up his seat that it's good they were able to find him and bring him back on. Now we know why there was one extra person!

April 13, 1995 8:28 a.m. (2:28, in Boston, a.m.)
    I always here about Europe not having enough space, too many people. It looked like a desert when we were flying over! Well, a desert with grass or lakes or trees planted in rows in some places. We're on the bus and we passed a Coca-Cola plant. Actually, the first familiar thing I saw from the U.S. was a Shell gasoline truck at the airport. Oh, and Spain is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time in the U.S. It's 13 degrees here, that's 13 degrees Celsius. We're staying at the Hotel NH Zurbano for now.
    For lunch we went to Bob's cafeteria. Food is so expensive here! Then we went on a walking tour (See April 14 paragraphs 3+4 for more about today.)

April 14, 1995
    I finally got a full hour of sleep, actually I got 8 hours of sleep. Yesterday seemed like on of the longest days of my life! We were up from sunrise (on the plane) to eleven last night I don't think I've even been up that long.
    Madrid has been Spain's capital since 1561 and before that Toledo was the capital. Madrid has been the capital for around twice as long as the U.S. has been a country. Spain had a monarchy until 1940 when it had a dictator for 43(?) years.
    Madrid is so clean! I noticed that yesterday. There are trash recepticals every few meters and a bin to recycle something at almost every corner. They even recycle batteries!
    Puerta del Sol it the center of Madrid. We went there yesterday. Then we went to Plaza Mayor, a huge area enclosed by one building all around. Then we went to eat.
    Right now we're on a bus tour. The picture of what looks like a Castle is a post office and was always meant to be one. They have a Hard Rock Cafe here! I hope we get to go for lunch one day. There is a statue of Christopher Columbus next to it. We're about to go to the main palace. It has 2,800 rooms including a chapel!
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    We just stopped to see Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, the main characters in Cervantes' book Don Quijote. Cervantes is one of Spain's most known authors.
    The Real Palace (Royal Palace in English) was awesome! (literally). Next to the Palace is a huge cathedral which was built so a Queen could be buried there. Way back when, Kings would be buried next to the Queen who bore the baby who became the next King. All the other Queens (if any) would be buried elsewhere.
    One of the rooms in the Palace is made entirely out of porcelin, even the walls! In the banquet room there are 15 chandeliers! And, Each time there is a new King the thrones are changed. I missed taking pictures of the chapel in the Palace. It was beautiful. The background (main) color is a deep red.
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    We went to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch, I didn't get a picture of Columbus. One of the waitresses was just annoying. She overcharged me for my meal but wouldn't believe me. She said she'd go get a menu but only did it the second time. Then she said I was right but I had ordered cheese on my Vegburger which was extra. I said the menu said either cheese or guacamoi came with the burger but the other was extra. She didn't believe that. The next time she came back, after checking again, the manager was with her for something else, but He stopped when she did and he said I was right. The waitress just said "fine." and picked up the money we had left.
    On the way back to the hotel we lost two kids back at the Hard Rock Cafe. Mrs. Ortwein went back to find them but couldn't. She took a cab back to the hotel and the two eventually showed up. We took the Metro back but the other two made it there before us by walking. (I think.) By the time we all got to the hotel we were half an hour late for the bus to Toledo. By the time we left we were an hour later than schedule.
    On the way to Toledo I sat with a person in the New York group that is touring with us. Her name is Tammy and we talked the entire way. We saw what we thought was a giant Black Bull but it turned out to be a billboard.
    We went to the Cathedral but couldn't go in so I got postcards of the interior. Then we went to see a painting called "The Death of Count " painted by El Greco, a famous painter. I didn't get any pictures. Then we wen to the Sinagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca (St. Mary the White). After that we went to a monastary built by Queen Isabella to celebrate her becoming Queen of Castilla, not Spain which happened later. Then we went to see where the swords are made. They also make jewelry out of steel and 24 karat gold. I bought Michael a sword like he wanted and I bought Mom a pin that is so beautiful. I know she wanted a necklace but I hope she likes this instead. Then we went to a "scenic view" of Toledo and the Rio Tajo, the river that surrounds the city. Now we are going to dinner, then we will go to a Club tonight.
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    Well, we went to the club, it's called Joy, but you have to be sixteen or older to get in, you need identification also, and it was 1500 pesetas instead of 800. When Ms. Ortwein went yesterday to find out when it opened they didn't tell her any of this. So we went to the Seven-Eleven instead (We were surprised Spain had one). One of the bouncers for the club was only fourteen!
    We got back to the hotel at 12:30 a.m. (at night) or 24:30 in Spanish time, which makes it 6:30 p.m. in Boston. I tried to call my Mom but I'm assuming she and my brother Mike went out because no one answered. I won't be able to call her for a while. I hope she isn't worring about me.
    Oh, I forgot, Toledo is the religious capital of Spain. The regional cardinals live there in a building connected to the cathedral.

April 15, 1995
    I had about six hours of sleep last night. I tired to call Mom this morning but our phone wasn't working in the hotel. The group from New York went on an optional excursion today. Our group went to the Museo Del Prado.
    We are at the Musem in line now. Our tour guide Manuel (pronounced Man-well) isn't with us. This is his first tour and he is very inexperienced. Thank Goodness Mrs. Ortwein (My Spanish Teacher) has done this trip a half-dozen times before. She is going to call EF and tell them we don't have a guide. I'm not sure where he is or if he's going to come back or not. I hope something gets worked out soon.
    The national bird of Spain is the Magpie. One of our chaperones says they are all over the place but I've one seen pigeons and one sparrow. Although, they are on a lot of the jewelery, including the pin I got my mother. I hope I see one before we leave.
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    This museum is like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. We saw three painters' works; Goya, Velasquez, and El Greco. There was one painting by Velasquez called "Las Meninas". It used to be called "The Family of Phillip IV." In the center is a little girl in a white dress. She is the Infanta or the Princess. She was Philip IV only child so she was aire to the throne. The people around her are the meninas. They are dwarfs who take care of her. Dwarfs were used to take care of the children because they were the children's size but they were adults in mind. The man standing next to the canvas is Velasquez. He is painting the King and Queen who are standing where we were when we look at the painting. The reflection of either the painting or the actual King + Queen is in the mirror on the back wall. Their daughter had to come see them.
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    After the Museum we went to a park for lunch. Unfortunately there weren't any food stands like Mrs. Ortwein said there should be. We stayed at the park for a while. I saw a Magpie! It's a fairly large bird, mostly black with some white feathers on its side. It was so beautiful! Just like on the jewerly. You could smell the flowers just walking through the park.
    After the park we went to the Plaza Mayor. A huge group of Spaniards, mostly drunk men, were chanting + singing in one of the corners. I think it was for Holy Week.
    Oh, before we went to the park we went shopping at the stores and stands around the museum. I got a Flamingo poster with my name on it. I got some "colorful" stamps for Bill Talley, and for myself. I got spoons for each place we have gone or will go except Granada. That way I don't have to go hunting at each place we go for one. I also got a postcard of the painting I was talking about on the last page.
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    We went to dinner at the same place as last night. Tonight we had the national dish of Spain called piella. I finally found some Spanish food I like! It was some of the best food I've ever had.
    After dinner we went to the night train ride to Sevilla. Three to a Bed, six to a Shower? Try six to a closet with little room for luggage. I actually had fun. I've never been on a real train before. (Feb. 25, 2005: As I type this I am currently on a train ride from OH to MA, which I thought was my first real train ride... heh.) I watched the landscapes pass by for a while before I went to bed. I felt like I did when I was on the Cruise from Florida to the Bahamas. The train rocked back and forth or I only felt the motion of it moving forward. It was very peaceful. It was more cramped than the cruise.

April 16, 1995
    I got around seven hours of sleep, probably less, on the train. We were woken up around 6:30 to 7:00. We had breakfast at some hotel. It had some good bread type stuff. Then we went to our hotel and dropped off our stuff.
    Now we are on a bus tour of Sevilla. Before this we went to Casa Pilatos or pontious pilate's house. (Not really his house.) When the house was built (in 16th century) people would live on the first floor during the summer and on the second floor in the winter. Most noble's houses would use tiles for the walls as well as the floors. The roofs were made of wood from America (not necessarily what is now the United States). When the Americas were discovered Sevilla became Spain's major port for imports from the Americas.
    We stopped at Plaza de Espana which was built during the 1929 exibition. It has symbols for each of the cities in Spain at the time on it (in alphabetical order). It also has a nice, big water fountain. The faces above the symbols are faces of important people in Spain's history. Kings, Painters, Writers, etc.
    Manuel was replaced last night by Miriam as our tour guide. We are staying at the Giralda Hotel in Sevilla. We will check into it before lunch. Tonight we're going to go on a boat ride and see the Flamingo.
    On our way back to the hotel we saw the Catedral . It is the largest cathedral in Spain and the most famous. We'll go there after lunch.
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    Well, they wouldn't give us out rooms when we got back. But, Mariem "had words" with the desk clerk and got us our rooms. Then we had lunch after we moved our luggage into our room, and the elevators were not working. That was O.K. I was on the first floor. I only had to go up one flight of stairs!
    We were twenty minutes late in getting to the Cathedral. We had a 2:30 appointment. Plus we didn't know to bring our passports with us. But that was O.K. because Miriam got us in anyways. How I don't know but I don't care. I'm just happy she got us in. It was magnificent. I used the better part (I hope) of my 4th roll of film taking pictures. We went to the top of the bell tower as well as inside. The view from both places were beautiful. It's amazing inside the Cathedral and it's interesting from the top of the tower to see the new (only decades old) and old (centuries old) buildings of Spain in the same town so close together.
    Right now I'm waiting to call my mother. I got through and my brother answered the phone but wouldn't accept the charges! How dare he! All but 3 kids and one adult have left for the Bull Fight. We four will meet them at the boat for the Flamingo.
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    Part II

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 1996-1997 School Year - Letter to My 2nd Grade Teacher


Dear Mrs. Caviani,
        My name is Jennifer German. I don't know if you remember me, but I will never forget you. I was one of your second grade students at Allen elementary school during the 1985-86 school year. I had transfered to Allen just before 2nd grade from a private school, and then moved to Massachusetts the summer after with my mother and brother.
        I don't remember much from my year at Allen school. I do remember a piano and the Pledge of Allegence every morning, a number line along the top of one wall with negitive numbers and the alphabet in cursive along the same wall, the little bathroom, a firedrill, planting seedlings (or growing them), your smile, learning about the Earth, your pleasantness, and, of course, the NASA shuttle Challenger and its crew. My memories are all dreamlike, but I also remember having a wonderful time in school in 2nd grade, you were, and are, one of my favorite teachers.
        Recently I was asked to say who was the most influencial in my forming a love for science and why. I thought about my answer long and hard, and when I finally began to think about my life in Michigan, I realized that the answer was you. I believe that in 2nd grade, when you taught us about the Earth, outerspace, NASA, and whatever else, that was when my curiosity aobut the world was turned towards science and why/how things are/work. I want to thank you for helping to direct my interest at a young age so that I could develop a love for science. From this love of science I have developed a love for science-fiction, math, reading, and (most recently) writing.
        I also thought you would be interested in knowing what has become of one of your former students. I graduated 9th in my class last June from Arlington High School with a GPA of 3.76. I was accepted early admission to Harvard University in December of 1995. I am now a freshman living on campus, and loving it! I am planning to major in Engineering. I'm not sure which field yet, but I will (hopefully) graduate with a Bachlor of Sciences. I have three roommates and we get along well. So far I have not met the stereotypical Harvard student, but you would be surprised sometimes at the types of people who are here. Not only do we have types you would expect, like study-holics, over achievers, intellectuals, and true geniuses (not me!), we have party animals, drunks, ditzy-blonds (and brunetts), and even one student who accidentally set fire to his room with some pot he had thrown in the garbage can. But overall people are friendly, interesting, diverse, and as normal as can be expected.
        As for my interests and extra-curriculars, there aren't many because school takes up so much time. I am part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus and am currently playing on an intramural co-ed basketball team. I work at a Pharmacy in my hometown, which is about 20 minutes by bus. I coach the Colorguard at my former High School, which happens during the fall. Also, I am
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Obviously I am missing the end of this letter. I also never sent it, as I have yet to track down my teacher so I could send it! I dated my writing of the letter by what I say in it, but my memory of writing it is next to my bed in the room that was mine at the house we lived in while I was in High School. So either I started one to Mrs. Caviani and rewrote it the next year, or my memory is just plan wrong (possible!).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

 Story Time: Birth Stories


Here's the story of my birth as I like to tell it. After this is the story of my brother's birth as I remember it being related to me.

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ME

My Mother had an Aunt who's first name was Hester. She was born January 15th. My Mother's sister's first name is Hester. She was born January 15th. When my Mother was pregnant with me, the doctors decided my due date was January 17th. The Hesters said no! I was going to be born on the 15th, I was going to be the next generation! And so MADE my Mother promise if I was born on the 15th she would name me Hester. Ew!

Well, Mom went into labor on January 15th, in the afternoon I believe. And, of course, Hester supporters were ecstatic. They said see how they were right? And therefore I was going to be named Hester. Now I figure I must have heard that, and went "You're going to name me WHAT? Oh I don't think so!"

Mom was in labor for many hours. She was dilating just fine, but otherwise things weren't going as they should and no one knew why. She was rushed to x-ray so they could see if something was wrong with me. After waiting a while, she was told that someone had messed up (or lost, I don't remember which) the x-ray results and so she had to have another taken. And again she was rushed to x-ray, all the while in full out labor. Mom made mention of seeing a young girl in the waiting area as she was wheeled by, and wondering what the girl must have thought on seeing and hearing a pregnant woman clearly in pain being whisked around.

Well, the x-ray showed that I was backwards. I wasn't breech, as in feet down. No, I had my head down, but I was upside-down. Instead of my spine being on the same side as Mom's spine I was on my stomach. The problem with that is I was trying to get out the way every baby does, by pushing with the back of my head and following that. But every time I did that, I was pushing against Mom's pelvis instead of down the birth canal. Hence her being in so much pain. And you know me, I'm so stubborn, I have to do everything MY way, so I wasn't giving up on trying to get out like that.

Apparently no one in the birthing room knew what to do about this situation. And no one in the hospital "had the qualifications" to attempt to fix the situation. (Something about liability.) So the head of the hospital's Obstetrician department was paged. It turned out he had been on the golf course at the time. He arrived at Mom's room still in his suit. I am told he put on One glove, reached in, turned my head, and out I came!

I was born at 10:28 am, EST, on January 16th, 1979.

After I was born, when Mom was brought back to her room by the nurse(s) they found my father asleep on Mom's bed, after having eaten her Jello.

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MICHAEL

They way my Mother tells it: She and Dad were in a bowling league that winter, and the night before he was born she bowled the best game of her life. She said he was the perfect counterweight to the ball on the back swing. And I would think the big stomach would have forced her arm to stay swinging in a straight line.

That night, Mom woke up with contractions. She woke Dad up and told him she was in labor. They proceeded to have a three (or however long) hour fight about whether or not she was actually in labor or if it was false labor, and why didn't she go to the hospital and if it was real call him and then he would come. The fight ended when Mom's water broke. Dad took her to the hospital.

One there, Michael was out in under five hours! Mom used to say that Michael was born running and never stopped.

However, when Michael was born he didn't have a name. See Mom wanted her son to be a Junior. Dad did not. Neither did his side of the family. On my mother's side there was not only a Junior but a III. Dad and his family offers multiple other suggestions, such as switching my father's first and middle names for my brother. Mom refused.

Eventually, as in days later, a nurse came in and said that they Had to put a name on the birth certificate. I think there was also something about not releasing him until he had a name (but I could be making that part up). So Mom and Dad agreed to flip a coin. Mom won. And that is why my brother is a Junior, even though he is known by his middle name.

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