Drying Rack Love

Drying racks are featured in every circular, ranging from cheap to the very high end.

When you move to a foreign country, you assume it’ll be the big things that are difficult to deal with…like grappling with a new language, struggling to find your way around, and adjusting to a diet composed primarily of sausage.

But it’s not.

It’s the little things that make you crazy.

Like doing laundry.

A simple, ordinary, everyday thing…

What do you mean I can’t use my good, old USofA laundry soap? Just how long is the laundry going to take, anyway? It’s been in there two hours!

And what is that thing on the dryer…the drawer with the water in it? How come the dryer starts and stops as many times as a bread machine? Cupboard setting? What is that? And most importantly…

Why are all those metal racks standing around the laundry room in yoga poses???

Doing laundry in Europe is…needless to say…different. For starters, laundry washing is a communal event. In our apartment building, everyone puts their machines in a central location…the basement. I haven’t seen that since my dorm room in college.

If you use the soap we’re used to in the States, the suds will float the entire apartment complex down the street. The clothes are in there for at least half a day, and the dryer isn’t a dryer in the literal sense of the word. It’s a steamer. Instead of venting to the outside, a condenser collects the moisture in a drawer that must be emptied after each load.

And in place of  the settings we’re used to…Dry, Super Dry, and “So-Dry-The-Clothes-Incinerate,” European dryers have settings like “Cupboard.” This means the clothes come out slightly more steamed than if you had selected “Iron.” But they’re not dry. Not even close.

Hence the drying rack.

These long metal racks with wings adorn every porch and yard across Germany. After steaming your clothes for a couple of hours, you must hang them on the rack to do the actual drying. When I first moved here, I was not happy about this. Not having the ubiquitous drying rack, I was forced to hang my damp clothes from the lamps, the TV…whatever happened to be handy.

Then one day my dryer broke (Oh, you’re supposed to clean the condenser-thingy?) and I was forced to conform to the drying rack lifestyle.  Luckily, the jet engine spin cycle on the washer squeezes every last drop of water out of the clothes. So with the dryer broken, I just took the clothes out of the washer and hung them directly on the rack. I discovered a shocking thing…they dried just as fast. I’m a lazy person, so now…even though I have a bright, shiny new dryer down in the laundry room…I’ve decided that steaming is an unnecessary step.

I’ve been converted. In fact, when I move back home, I’m going to bring 20 drying racks with me and give them to all of my friends. It’s finally happened. I’ve fallen victim to…

Drying rack love.


Kangaroo Hoodlums and Ugly Faces

The news is weird.

Sometimes the stories are so strange, you’re sure they could only be fiction. When I first heard about the kangaroo hoodlums, I thought the story had been made up. But since then, I’ve seen the story on and The Week. That means it has to be true…right?

Apparently, the three hoodlum kangaroos escaped through not one…but two…fences at a German wildlife park with the assistance of a wiley fox and a hungry boar.

The names of the kangaroos were Jack, Mick, and Skippy. The fox and the boar remain anonymous.

As the three imprisoned marsupials looked on, the boar broke into the wildlife park by making a hole in the fence on the outer perimeter. The fox, being more sly and fit, took over from there. He (or she) slipped through the boar’s hole and made it’s way over to the kangaroo’s enclosure.

While Jack, Mick, and Skippy banged their tin cups on the bars and made cat calls (fox calls?), the fox dug a hole into their enclosure and the kangaroos escaped. Mind you, I have no idea how a kangaroo could fit into a hole dug by a fox, but…the details are sketchy.

In other news around Europe, the Spanish city of Balbao recently celebrated their annual “Concurso de Feos” or “Ugly Competition.” It’s hard to believe that in our world of cosmetics and “beautiful people,” folks would come from far and wide in hopes of being declared the world’s ugliest person. Take a look…

Look mom, no hands!  Since 1978, the northern Spanish city of Bilbao has ...

Click the photo to see the “Ugly Faces” gallery on SpiegelOnline.

So what about the kangaroo hoodlums? Are they still on the lam?

Nope, they were outfoxed by another wiley species…humans.

You gotta give the kangaroos brownie points, though. They managed to travel over nine miles away from the zoo. The last one wasn’t apprehended until, in the words of the zoo’s deputy manager, “a very fit policewoman hurled herself onto the kangaroo.” Kind of makes you wonder…which one of the three kangaroo hoodlums held out the longest?

My bet’s on Skippy.


The Naughty Exhibit Revealed

After I wrote A Naughty Exhibit? a friend of mine emailed me to say, “You are going, right?”

I couldn’t back down in the face of a challenge, so of course, I went.

Revealing the exhibit’s secrets was a bit more challenging than I expected. The exhibit text did not have English translations, so I took pictures and typed the text into Google Translate.

What I discovered is that it’s good to be a multicellular organism…and that we’re all looking for the same thing…Mr. (or Miss) Perfect.

Here’s a quick summary of the various exhibits and a glimpse of my favorite part (it was interactive!):

Just for fun? This part of the exhibit looks at the reasons for sex. “Let’s face it,” the display says, “sex is expensive, complicated, and involves high costs biologically. So why do most multicellular organisms still use sexual reproduction?” It turns out there’s no easy answer. Asexual reproduction would require a lot less therapy, yet those of us who claim to be multicellular organisms opt for the It takes two to tango variety. (Maybe it is just for fun!)

Annoying obligations? A discussion of various family models…from the louse that abandons it’s children at birth to the large families that are only able to tolerate each other one day a year (and even that’s a tossup!)

Clash of the Sperm. A look at the sophisticated strategies that males have developed to secure successful reproduction (I wonder if mid-life-crises, cherry-red convertibles count?)

Experimental Sex. Perhaps being a single-celled organism isn’t such a bad idea…they reproduce by simple division, making them potentially immortal. (Who needs cloning and cryogenics?)

Sex and Crime. Watch out men…in some parts of the animal kingdom, sex involves trying not to get killed and eaten. And ladies…not all pairings in the animal world are romantic…some are downright violent. (Who knew successful reproduction was such a dangerous business?)

Here’s the sort-of risqué pictures that were on display:

What? You’ve never seen an e-coli virus in a compromising position? Well, now you have!

And of course, an exhibit on sex would not be complete without a discussion of the age old question…whose is the biggest?

These may look like pictures of bugs, but I assure you they’re not. Think of this panel as the centerfold of the animal world. So who’s the winner?

The walrus, of course (sorry guys).

Now, to my favorite part…the interactive exhibit (hey, get your mind out of the gutter).

The museum invited visitors to participate in a “wet” T-shirt contest.

Each of the “guys” in the exhibit wore a T-shirt that had been doused with a different cologne. Visitors were instructed to sniff the guys’ chests and cast a vote for their favorite scent.

Which one did I like?

Who else?


I’m a Lousy Blogger

My friend called the other day. “Aurora,” she said. “Something’s wrong. I think I dropped off your blog subscription. I haven’t seen any posts since the 4th of July.”

I gulped and spouted something about listservs and ISPs and HTML.

My friend wasn’t fooled. “You haven’t written any more posts, have you?”

I stammered about how I’d been immersed in my latest assignment, diligently writing about my newest adventure (which, by the way, is set in Patagonia), and how hard I’d been…

My friend cut me off. “Aurora,” she said. “Admit it. You’re a lousy blogger.”

So, here I am, admitting it: I’m a lousy blogger!

Now that we have that out of the way, I have two important pieces of news to share. First, See Before You Die: Patagonia will be released early next year. Second, I received a new assignment: 3 years in Europe!

It will take some time for my stories to catch up to all of this, but as a reader of my heretofore lousy blog, you will see sneak peaks of adventures to come. Stay tuned for live updates from Europe. I’m no Rick Steves, but I’m betting you’re not the shirt-buttoned-to-the-top kind of traveler either.

So here’s the inside scoop for the six loyal readers of my blog: I am now based in Germany! Who can resist a land where beer is cheaper than bottled water and the people are comfortable using words like fahrt and badgasse in everyday conversation?

What’s my New Years resolution? To not be a lousy blogger! (What’s yours??)

Auf Wiedersehen

German lessons start right away. This is pronounced owf veederzayhen and it means Goodbye!


8 Travel Lessons from Dad – A Father’s Day Tribute

This Father’s Day, as a special tribute to my Dad, I would like to share some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from him over the years about traveling:

1.  Don’t bring so much flippin’ crap. You don’t need it.

2.  Never ask anyone for directions, just see where the road takes you.

3.  Forget all those new fangled gadgets. Nothing is better than a real map.

4.  If you don’t have any luck at this fishing hole, move on to the next one.

5.  Roll down the windows and feel the wind on your face. Who cares if your hair gets messed up?

6.  Don’t tell your mother you ate chocolate ice cream for dinner.

7.  From the zillions of times my dad and I watched Star Wars together: There is no try, only do.

8.  And from his Vietnam days: If no one is shooting at you, the situation can’t be that bad.