Wednesday, June 29, 2016

First impressions from Israel

Tuesday morning I had to get up really early to catch the very first train so I would get to the airport on time for a flight with El Al. That's three hours in advance! Not having had any El Al experience before I figured I would have breakfast at the airport during that lengthy wait.

Little did I know that I would end up in a remote separate hall with all that extra security checking, double control of my hand luggage etc. And very little choice of items from the one little food stall in the hall.

The red x in the upper left hand corner indicates where ElAl flights are handled.
You then go by bus to the plane on the airfield, parked just next to all the other planes as usual.

By the time we took off from Munich I was getting really hungry.

Munich in the 'background'

A first snack to be grateful for: mini-bagels, to tie me over and prevent starvation.
I do prefer real, soft, big bagels, to be honest...

A bit of napping in between, and then this must have been Crete.

At least from what I remember about the geography of the island
when I was there many years ago, this would have been
the western part of Crete - and we had flown over something
that looked like the Santorini - Thira compound just a bit earlier.
Soshi and Gillian picked me up at the airport, we spent a bit of time in a traffic jam getting to the Kibbutz Hotel where the IQA is holding this year's convention.

Fresh Litshis at the welcome desk - yum!

After the first day of teaching today - a very lively and chatty group of very interested participants - and the first-ever SAQA meeting in Israel - I was offered a quick trip to the nearby beach by Judith.

Lots of snails on the bushes on top of the cliffs

Little flower on the side of the trail

Sunset on the beach - but I had grabbed a piece of clothing
instead of my bathing suit, so couldn't go for a swim!
One more day of teaching tomorrow, and then I will have a few days in the country. Looking forward to being shown around a bit!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Optimist - Pessimist

„Optimist“ is not a word I would easily use to describe myself. “Pessimist”, on the other hand, of course, sounds rather dull and negative, but ever since I read a study on how realistic the expectations of optimists and pessimists were in comparison to what eventually happened – and that study said the pessimists tend to be much more realistic in their evaluations of situations, and, accordingly, their expectations – I have come to accept myself as what I call a “skeptic realist”. However, not even my rather skeptic realism prepared me sufficiently for the outcome of the referendum in Britain this week.

what a result!

I just can’t believe this really happened, and I am completely heartbroken. What a mess – and did anybody of those people who voted “out” really know what they were voting for? How could this thing get so very much out of hand that it turned into a nightmare of propaganda without any informational content? How could Mr. Cameron let it slip like that, but also how can the supporters of the brexit so resistently ignore all data and information to blindfold the people for an outdated nationalistic cause? It is beyond my comprehension, totally. I agree, there are many things about the political and economic aspects of the EU which I don't like either. But it would never cross my mind that things could be any better than this for any country if that country leaves the union. Working together to change things, yes, but can you really believe you can make it on your own these days?

I would always consider myself a “European” first, a European from Germany. (Of course, being born German is a special kind of burden, at least it feels like that for me, and being European is less weighted by historic atrocities.)
Did the out-ers consider the fact that this is going to seriously affect the functioning of their beloved Premier League? (And, to be honest, when I heard that, I thought wholeheartedly “Serves them right!”) Not to mention productivity, jobs and stock markets around the world?
What does it mean for the region Europe/Middle East with SAQA, for which I am the current co-rep? I suppose it is an issue we must talk about at the meeting in Birmingham in August. Of course, that is only a very minor issue in the overall image of things, but still.
My son won’t be able to easily go to England for an exchange program as many adolescents have done for years and years, and it used to be so simple to tell students at university “apply for an Erasmus exchange and do something for your English!” And they all came back so much more mature and socially and emotionally intelligent than they were before they left.
As I say, it is beyond my comprehension – and now the skeptic kicks in and really pulls me down: if the Brits can do such a stupid thing and actually listen to that British version of Mr. Trump, just what are the Americans going to do in November?
I really don’t want to turn seventy or eighty and then have to say “June 24th, 2016 was the day when all hell broke loose.” Right now the skeptic doesn’t see how it could still be avoided.

But it was good to meet with my spinning group yesterday, visiting Betina on her farm where we spent all afternoon sitting under the walnut tree, spinning away placidly, eating her fabulous strawberry cake, and not talking about Britain at all.

They also have a little pond on the premises, which is home to many frogs.

And a good occasion for skinny dipping on a - finally! - hot day, like yesterday. Cooled me down physically, but it will take a long time to cool me down emotionally!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

To leave or not to leave...?

Everything is soccer again right now in the news, the war in Syria is almost forgotten because people only think about who is going to be Germany's next opponent in the eighth-final of the European Championship on Sunday. Even Great Britain's referendum about their future with or without the European Union tomorrow is only half as important as soccer. But a radio report this morning where a few people in New York were asked what they knew about a "Brexit" showed that the US don't even know that something is happening in this realm... I really hope that people on the Islands will come to their senses. Does the average Brit really think they would be as well off  these days if they had not been a member of the EU all these years? I know not everything is perfect about the EU, and there are a lot of things that could be improved. But certainly getting out at this time is not going to make it a better world for Britain - or the rest of the EU, as a matter of fact - and I am very curious which side is going to 'win'. If you can call it 'winning', looking at how nasty it all got over the past few weeks. One thing is for certain: this whole thing has gotten much nastier than it ever should have been.

My life-art balance has been a bit off these past two weeks, with the knit-along to get on its way, teaching German, and trying to convince a resilient 11-yr-old that it might make sense to study his English vocabulary if he wants to be professional NBA-player. He thinks he is just about to be discovered and school is one of the most superfluous inventions in the world. Now the test has been written and we are waiting for the results...

I am finishing tunnels for quilts that are supposed to go somewhere, clipping threads off the backside which I had been too lazy to do when I finished it (not a good idea - one should definitely always do that right away!!!!!!)

This quilt will be shown at FoQ in August - Europe, or not?

I also finished my contribution for the challenge in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, it will be photographed this afternoon, so I can get that application out before I leave. Because I am getting ready to go to teach in Israel next week. That will be very exciting.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Longarm development

Finally we had a day today that felt like perhaps summer might begin any time soon now. This is (Lower) Bavaria in summer on a good day:

This pasture is on the farm where we get our milk,
and the hardly recognizable steeple in the back is the city's
central Catholic Church.
I spent some time in the garden, restacking some of the re-purposed sandbox which had been sitting rather neglected for quite some time.

And the rest of the garden needs a lot of work, too...!

By now we're back to rain - a thunderstorm in fact, and the weather forecast for tomorrow is not good at all. My son is supposed to be a ball boy for the local men's tennis team, and I am counting on the time he is going to be away to continue working on a quilting commission. But perhaps he won't be away for long, if at all...

So far, all quilts I have quilted on the longarm for other people have been such that I could easily have chosen similar fabrics. Now, for the first time, I had a quilt mounted which was made from fabrics that I would never have chosen myself. Which was a very interesting experience. Unfortunately the maker had a clear request what kind of quilting she wanted done, and I did not get a chance to go through the process of developing a quilt design for a quilt in fabrics that would never be my choice. In a way it saved me the time I would have spent thinking about what to do with the patterns on the fabric, and how I could transform them into fitting quilting patterns, and as she only wanted a few straight lines to set off the squares, it was a job very quickly and easily done, and I am expecting to get the second quilt in this commission done as easily as the first. But I really would have liked to face the challenge to deal with the fabrics patterns 'on my own'.

It would have been so much fun to develop
just the right swirl for quilting around the roses!
It would have been a very good learning experience! Wonder whether a piece of fabric like that is ever going to come across my path and stick with me so I can give it a go.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

New and old challenges

It’s been a week with different kinds of challenges.
On Monday all day and Tuesday morning I started teaching an official class for refugees. It’s sponsored by the Jobcenter and not supposed to be a straight German class, but is aiming to ‘prepare for the jobmarket’: learn how to write a CV, search for a job, present oneself in a job interview etc. However, the system of acquiring participants for the class has been, to put it mildly, not exactly goal oriented. Out of the 25 people who showed up on the first day, only 4 were suitable for that course, if that many. All the others need – and want – a straight German class for beginners, or even to start with alphabetization. Their frustration at being forced to take this particular class – if they don’t come regularly, their allowances will be cut – was understandable, but vented towards me. My frustration at the course design, on the other hand, could only be vented towards the organizers, who themselves were not the ones responsible for the recruitment for the course, and kept telling me “this is often the case – the students have very different levels and you just have to orient yourself along the medium range.”
I have to admit that I couldn’t take this easily. This is a complete waste of money, and I consider it totally disrespectful of anybody connected with the class, the participants as well as the teachers. The participants want to learn German, but have not been given a German class. Now they are being forced to go to and sit through a class which is not helpful for most of them, but if they don’t go, they will be getting less money (some of wich all of them send home to their families). And those participants, who could already well use a class like this as well, because their frustration is caused by the fact that now that finally something is happening in terms of help towards finding a job, the slower or less capable students are holding everything back. And the teacher does not have the liberty to cater to the real needs of most of the participants because the topic of the class is set and must not be changed!  What a mess!

On Wednesday I packed the car with all my boxes of fabric to go to Nadelwelt Karlsruhe. Luckily the restoration of the Autobahn has progressed so far that most of the construction sites are finished, it is now a six-lane highway most of the way between Munich and Stuttgart, and that makes quite a difference. It took a good half an hour less to get to Karlsruhe.
For setting up the stand I was at first allowed to drive right up to my new position for unloading. In the past years I had always disliked the people who did that, especially when packing up. It blocks the alleys, and makes life extremely difficult for those who don’t have their car in the hall. But it sure was comfortable for unloading!

For packing up later today, however, I am not planning on bringing in the car. I have secured myself a close enough parking space and will wheel my boxes out just as I have always done. Don’t want to get involved in those car-related fights when all I want to do is pack up quickly and go home!

Sunday, June 5, 2016


Bavaria has been struck by several catastrophic flood events in the past few days due to the unfavorable weather conditions. One of the areas is about 60 km away from us, and today we heard that a small village close to where my mother-in-law lives was the last one to be hit. I vividly remember flood scenes from Augsburg about twenty years ago, and we are very grateful that the canal in our street was fixed. Otherwise we probably would have had some problems, too - we know how it is to clear out, mop up the water and then dehydrate the basement for weeks. But I feel very sorry for the people there - and at present we don't know what has happened with my husband's uncle's house in the newly flooded area!

I've been doing some sample spinning and knitting to decide on my next spinning project.

I received news that my quilt was not accepted for the Art Masters at Birmingham, but I decided to enter it in the Contemporary category. Now I am thinking about whether I should also enter one in the Art Quilts - since they can both be shipped in one package it would save on postage. Have to make up my mind about that.

I finished a friend's quilt on the longarm.

And I will start to teach (getting paid) some German and basic work market skills to refugees tomorrow, Monday. This has only developed since Wednesday, when I happened to be at the particular organization for another reason and on the spur of the moment decided that it was time to finally wave my flag as a potential future teacher, should the need arise. Little did I expect they would say "Can you start on Monday, we are just putting together a new course and desperately need a teacher..." I am not doing all of the class, but I will start tomorrow indeed. Wonder when there will be time to pack up and take my fabrics to Nadelwelt Karlsruhe...