Germany, musings

Repost: The things I see and hear when I visit the textile free area…

I am reposting this piece I wrote for my original Blogspot version of this blog. At the time, we still lived near Stuttgart. We have since left there, and moved to Wiesbaden, where the one spa I’ve been to is completely textile free. Unfortunately, we haven’t been since before COVID struck. I miss it. Anyway, this post is from June 25, 2018, and appears as/is.

The featured photo is one I took in Sweden in June 2019, when we stayed at a wonderful hotel before we picked up our Volvo from the factory. That pool jutted out from the building about 23 stories up. I could see through the glass floor the parking lot below. It was not textile-free, as Swedes don’t go in for nudity like the Germans do. But, for obvious reasons, I don’t have any photos of the textile free facilities we’ve frequented.

Yesterday, Bill and I went to the Mineraltherme, which is a spa not far from where we live.  The Mineraltherme is not like a day spa.  You don’t go there for pedicures, manicures, or facials, although they do offer massages.  Basically, it’s a complex that has a bunch of pools of varying temperatures, saunas, steam rooms, and lounges. 

I love going to spas, but Bill is not really a fan.  He doesn’t like to be seen in his bathing suit.  He especially dislikes the “textile free” areas, which require everyone to be nude.  I mean, yes, you can wear a robe or a towel when you’re sitting on a lounger.  In fact, the staff prefers it that way.  But when you’re in the sauna, steam room, or pool, you have to lose your bathing suit.  Bill is bashful about going naked, but we both admit that once you do it, it’s no big deal…  Or is it?

Yesterday, I wrote about our visit to the spa on my travel blog.  That piece was mostly about lunch and how annoyed I was that there were grade school aged kids in the textile free area.  I mean, I know it’s Europe and people are freer about their naked bodies here.  I guess it just surprises me that people want their kids looking at some of the junk on display down there.  And it also surprises me that the people who are hanging out in the spa want rugrats running around while they’re trying to catch some rays.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I saw one guy with a large metal ring hanging off the end of his junk.  I saw it even though the guy was trying to conceal the jewelry on his family jewels.  Bill and I were sitting at the foot baths, which isn’t far from the turnstile where one enters the textile free area.  It’s six euros to come in and that allows you to frolic in the buff to your heart’s content.  So we’re sitting there, soaking our feet, wrapped in our bathrobes and enjoying the lingering effects of wine. 

A tall man passed by.  He had a towel wrapped around his middle, but it didn’t quite cover everything.  As he passed, I could see his schlong.  I was about to avert my eyes when I noticed a large shiny object at the end of his penis.  I could see that it was a thick, heavy, silver colored hoop.  It kind of looked like a very wide banded wedding ring.  I cringed and wondered if it hurt to wear it as he casually strolled outside.  Then I wondered how much it had hurt to have that part of his body pierced.

Then I turned away and noticed three young kids milling around.  I was under the impression that people under 18 weren’t allowed in that area, but it turns out they can be there with adults.  It suddenly occurred to me that in the United States, people would be having a conniption about kids hanging around adults in the nude.  It was just one of those odd cultural moments, I guess.  I didn’t see any Germans acting inappropriately, other than the few who were making out in the pool.  I did, however, see a few American teens acting inappropriately. 

There were three young guys next to us in the pool.  They were Americans, two of whom spoke fluent Spanish.  At first, I wondered if they were in the Army.  They looked like they could be old enough to enlist… just barely.  But then I realized that two of them had hair that was too long and one guy was a bit too heavy.  The heavy guy was covered in ink and was going around squirting water with his hands like an oyster.  He had his hands together, fingers laced, and would close them to force water through.  I began to suspect these guys were military dependents.  The only other time I’ve ever seen anyone do the “oyster squirt” at a pool is on military installations.  The heavy set guy appeared to be the ring leader of the three.  He was talking about bringing a date to the textile free area of the Mineraltherme.  I kind of wondered what his mother might think about that.

The Mineraltherme is located very close to Panzer Kaserne, which is one of the US military installations in the area.  One of the reasons I had kind of hoped Bill wouldn’t want to go to Panzer yesterday is because you never know who you might run into.  I don’t think a lot of Americans use the Mineraltherme, but enough do that you might find yourself looking at your husband’s boss’s junk… or that of your stairwell neighbor’s.  There are other spas in the area that aren’t so frequented by Americans.  However, the Mineraltherme is slightly better for American sensibilities, since there are areas where you wear your bathing suit.  Germany does have a lot of spas that aren’t all textile free, but there are some where bathing suits are pretty much outlawed.  Americans are kind of leery of that.  I’ll admit I was too, at first.  But I think I’m probably a natural nudist.  I find skinny dipping kind of liberating.

Because I write a somewhat popular blog, I do kind of worry that I might be spotted in the buff by someone who’s read my stuff.  It’s happened before.  Last year, we went to the annual Weindorf, which is an event held to celebrate the area’s many locally produced wines.  Someone came up to me and said, “You’re Jenny, aren’t you?”  Sure enough, it was someone who follows my travel blog.  It stands to reason that I could be sitting in the textile free area buck naked and someone will come over to ask me about my blog.  I guess that’s not such a big deal, except for the naked part.  I mean, I know I often bare my soul on my blog, but baring my body might be more than I, or anyone else, can stand.  The lovely thing about Germans, though, is that they truly don’t care what you look like under your clothes.  If you hang out in certain areas, you’re liable to find out, whether you want to or not. (ETA in 2022: My blog is no longer popular for a lot of reasons. I’m happy about that, in part, because of what I wrote in this paragraph.)

After awhile, I got tired of listening to the English and Spanish yammering of the young lads who were thinking of bringing a date to the Mineraltherme.  Bill and I emerged from the pool and went into a sauna.  Saunas are a serious thing here.  There’s a whole culture and etiquette practiced.  We went in and sat down… and Bill forgot to arrange his towel so that his bare feet weren’t on the wooden bench.  I noticed a few disapproving glares from Germans and discreetly whispered to him to fix his towel, which he did.  I don’t usually like sitting in saunas, but I will admit that it felt good yesterday.  Ten minutes later, we emerged from the sauna, I took a quick shower, and then there was this wonderful rush of endorphins that came over me like a comfortable blanket.  I smiled.  I’m sure it was a beatific smile, though I can’t say for certain it was.  That feeling is why I come to the spa…  And with that, our visit was done.

Later, I got Bill to use his foot to work some out some of the knots in my lower back.  Because I sit on my can a lot, I always have sore back muscles.  He doesn’t really like doing that, but he’ll indulge me because although it hurts when he presses, afterwards I get a rush of pleasure.  Pressure against sore muscles feels great.  I guess it’s because all the crap trapped in the muscle fibers is forced out as blood rushes into the tissue.  Someday, I will invest in a massage chair so Bill won’t have to use his feet on my back anymore.  And maybe someday we’ll have our own pool, so we can go naked without having to see Prince Albert piercings or listen to teenagers talk about molesting their dates…  I can dream, can’t I?

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condescending twatbags, funny stories, Germany

The plot thickens… and Bill definitely should have borrowed my Mister Rogers hat!

So, as I wrote earlier today, we were visited by a strange man yesterday afternoon. Bill was the one who saw and talked to him, and thanks to Arran’s enthusiastic barking and Bill’s generally poor German comprehension skills (which are still superior to mine), we didn’t understand what he wanted. Then he came back a second time, a few minutes later, was more polite, and said something about the dogs.

Looking back on it, Bill did say that he’d never seen the guy before, and he also said the guy seemed “out of it”, or maybe not quite all there. He definitely thought it was a strange encounter, though since he only heard and understood a few words from him, we assumed he was upset about the dogs.

This morning, I noticed in our local Facebook group that one of the group members posted this (translated from German to English):

FYI: There is a strange, probably alcoholic guy walking around the Old Village Street right now ringing in various court entrances for no recognizable purpose – he also rang at our place, after I was at the entrance, he is speechless and with grimmi I quickly walked towards the village square. Are there any potential break-in targets? Little Corrupt Man, Mid 50s, black and yellow sweatpants, gray sweatpants.

Other group members posted these comments:

Aha… I think I ran into one of these guys when we lived in Jettingen!

So I wrote to Bill and asked if the guy he spoke to fit the above description. He said this:

Yes.  Mid to late 50’s.  Black and yellow jacket with a circular logo on the front left breast pocket (couldn’t tell if it was a company or sports team logo), and black pants.  He seemed to be disoriented and acted like he was an angry drunk.  When he got belligerent with me I thought he was going to accuse me of something and demand money.  But now he knows that the house is always occupied.

And then he wrote back that at first he thought the guy was a “tinker”, like the people who used to come to our door when we still lived in Jettingen, BW. But then he got a “Beaune, France” scam vibe from the guy. To explain, when we visited Beaune at Christmas time in 2019, we were victimized by crooks at a rest stop who popped one of the tires on our then brand new car. They didn’t manage to steal anything from us, but they did cost us about 1500 euros because we got stranded an extra night and had to get both rear tires replaced.

Then Bill said, “Yeah, I was thinking circus too.  Funny how they all seem to follow the same storylines.  He definitely went aggressive pretty quickly.  I think the dogs unnerved him.”

Well… that just goes to show that when you live in another country and don’t speak the language fluently, sometimes you fabricate explanations that could be plausible… But it also goes to show that the truth is often stranger than whatever you can make up to explain when weird encounters happen. And obviously, we aren’t the only ones who were visited by this odd guy looking for euros for his “circus”. My guess is that the only circus he’s collecting for is the one in his mind.

At least now we know if he comes back, not to open the door or bother talking to him. He’s probably up to no good.

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celebrities, dogs, funny stories, Germany

“Won’t you be our neighbor?”… My inner Mister Rogers

At about four o’clock yesterday afternoon, the doorbell rang. Since it was Martin Luther King Day and Bill was home, he answered the door. He was soon faced with a grim faced German man he’d never seen before, who started speaking to him. Bill said the man was a bit odd and even seemed slightly out of it.

Our older dog, Arran the beagle mix, started barking, as he always does when strangers come to the door. Bill couldn’t hear our unexpected visitor over the barking, nor could he really understand what the guy was saying, as Bill’s German skills are somewhat basic, but less basic than mine are. One word he did hear and understand was “Tierschutz” (animal protection), which immediately caused us some concern.

Bill told the guy that he speaks only a little bit of German. The guy got pissed and went to our landlord’s house next door. Bill then came up to our bedroom to tell me what happened. As he was explaining the bizarre scenario, the doorbell rang again. Thinking maybe it was the landlord coming over to tell us what was wrong, Bill answered it, and it was the same grumpy guy. This time, he seemed somewhat apologetic, although he didn’t actually apologize. He said something along the lines of “Your dogs are always inside.” Then he gave Bill a dismissive wave and stalked off.

I always get agitated when someone presumes to yell at me, or at Bill, for that matter. Especially if I’m in my own home, minding my own damned business. I told Bill that he should have borrowed my Mister Rogers cap, which is a bizarre Chinese creation that was offered for sale on Amazon.de last summer. I see that it’s now no longer available. Small wonder.

I bought the cap on a whim. I’m wearing it in the featured photo, which was taken right after I got out of the shower yesterday, hence my slight resemblance to Nick Nolte coming down from a GHB bender, circa 2002. One of my friends said I am better looking than Nick Nolte is. I was flattered by that, since Nick Nolte was People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1992. When she reminded me that 1992 was thirty years ago, I replied that, just like Nick, I was also sexier thirty years ago.

That photo of Mister Rogers has circulated quite a lot around the Internet. I once even made a meme of it, which I posted below. Mister Rogers was almost surely unaware of what his two middle fingers were indicating when that photo was taken. I see from a video on Dailymotion that it comes from a song he did with little kids, back in the day…

Hee hee hee!
Actually, I think this image is even funnier than the one with both middle fingers. I wish the enterprising Amazon.de seller in China had offered this, instead.
I made this meme years ago… The quote is by George Carlin. I think Mister Rogers and George Carlin would have made a hell of a team!

Bill and I handle these types of intrusions very differently. Bill is much more polite than I am, and he always attempts to speak German. When someone uninvited rings my doorbell and starts speaking rapid fire German to me, I usually interrupt them in English and tell them I don’t understand them, even if I do. Nine times out of ten, the people who do that stuff are either trying to sell me something or looking for odd jobs… or in a couple of unfortunate situations, they were people up to no good, casing the house to see who lives there and if they’re home.

Upon considering what the guy said, his strange demeanor, and the sort of half-assed non-apology the guy later gave Bill, we eventually determined that maybe the fellow is someone who lives in the neighborhood, but isn’t someone with whom we’ve ever interacted. We think he was upset that our German next door neighbor, who lives in the house on the other side of us, was leaving her adorable, but loud, Labrador dog, Tommi, outside. Tommi barks a lot when he’s outside. It is definitely noticeable, but it doesn’t bother me much. It’s not like he’s out there all day or anything. I think she or her mother puts him out there for a short time once or twice a day. While he’s out there, he lets everyone know he’s bored, lonely, or whatever.

It’s actually against the law in Germany to leave dogs home alone for long periods of time, and if they make excessive noise, some folks will call the police. We have been pretty lucky, as our neighbors have all been relatively dog friendly, even though we have usually had beagles, and beagles can be very loud. Now that we have Noyzi, it’s really only Arran who raises hell on a regular basis. Noyzi usually stays pretty quiet, unless he’s watching pet grooming or fox hunting videos. But I’m usually home with the dogs, and they aren’t allowed to be outside unsupervised.

Bill dresses down Arran for counter surfing. See? We do discipline our dogs!

Bill said he was sitting on the toilet and heard the man speaking to someone before he rang our doorbell. Perhaps it was the people who live across the cul-de-sac from us. Maybe he asked them who has dogs and they pointed to us. I don’t know if he knew we’re Americans and maybe figured we don’t know the rules here, or he just wanted to yell at dog owners who might be the culprit of his annoyance. But it was still a weird situation, as Bill didn’t understand him for three reasons– Arran was barking, the guy was rambling, and he was speaking German. And the cranky guy didn’t give Bill a chance to step outside to talk to him without Arran’s input.

Then, after he got frustrated trying to talk to Bill, the guy spoke to our other neighbors, who also happen to be our landlords. My guess is that our landlord, or someone in his house, told the guy that we never leave our dogs outside alone. So when he rang the bell the second time, he said “Bei Ihnen (unintelligible) immer”, which confused Bill, until he later translated it to “Bei innen (unintelligible) immer” (something like, “your dogs are always inside”). Then the guy gave him a resigned wave, and left.

It’s true that our current landlords are pretty laid back, and they get paid well to let us be their neighbors, but they’ve actually told us that they rarely hear our dogs. When we still had Zane, they were louder. Zane would go out in the middle of the night to pee and get on scents, which caused him to bay on occasion. But Noyzi doesn’t bark a lot, and Arran really only barks when someone rings the doorbell. He doesn’t even bay a lot when we walk him anymore. Tommi, on the other hand, is only around a year old. He’s young, energetic, and adorable, and yes, he barks like a big guy. I’m not surprised the sound carried.

Tommi was adopted after our neighbors lost their very sweet elderly Labrador, Levi, whom they adopted from an American who couldn’t take him with him when he moved. Levi was a WONDERFUL dog… very friendly, well-behaved, and a perfect citizen. I think our neighbors fell in love with Labradors, which aren’t necessarily popular over here. Unfortunately, Levi got very sick with cancer and died while he was having surgery to remove some tumors in his stomach. I’m sure Tommi will eventually become as sweet, obedient, and adorable as Levi was, but he’s still very young and rambunctious. Even our wonderful beagle Zane, whom I think had some Lab in him, was a holy terror when we first got him. After about six months, he morphed into the most wonderful family dog. It was like magic. I have every reason to assume that will happen for Tommi, too.

I suppose I should, in part, thank the pandemic for yesterday’s chance meeting with an apparently angry neighbor. COVID-19 has really altered our lives. Most of the years we’ve been in Germany, we’ve taken every opportunity to travel over long American holiday weekends. Nowadays, we’re more inclined to stay home, mainly because travel has become so complicated and annoying, even though Bill and I are both thrice COVID vaccinated. This year, we also need to get Noyzi updated on his vaccines, which will happen today.

I shared this story on Facebook and people loved my Mister Rogers hat. But only one person wanted to know where I got it, and NO ONE seemed interested in why I have it! One friend, who happens to be German, said it was because she’s no longer surprised by the crazy shit I say and do… and wear. For the record, I was inspired to buy the hat because of my dad. I’ve already shared the story about my dad and his middle finger woes.

The short version, for those who don’t want to click the link, is that my parents took me to visit the Waterside Marketplace in Norfolk, Virginia, back in 1984 or so, when it was still new. The Waterside had a really cool hat shop that had all of these funny baseball caps. I wanted one that had a little felt dog on the brim and a plastic fire hydrant. You could pull a string and the dog would lift its leg on the hydrant. Sadly, I didn’t have any money and my parents didn’t want to indulge my proclivities for being obnoxious.

Dad did make a purchase, though. It was a black baseball cap that had a bright yellow stuffed felt hand with the middle finger raised, big as life. My dad, who was never one to swear and was unaware of what the middle finger meant, bought the cap. He said he was going to wear it to his next Rotary meeting and say, “I don’t agree with ANY of you.”

My mom said, “You are not going to wear that, are you?”

“Sure! Why not?” Dad said with a laugh.

“You are NOT going to wear that in public!” my mom said, her voice edged with resolute firmness.

“Yes I am.” Dad argued.

“Do you KNOW what that MEANS?” Mom demanded.

“Doesn’t it mean ‘go to Hell’?” Dad asked, somewhat chastened.

“Uh uh.” Mom said, leaning over to whisper in his ear.

Dad kind of blanched sheepishly, and that was the end of his big idea to shock his conservative business friends and pillars of the community in Gloucester, Virginia.

Meanwhile, I thought it was funny that my mom didn’t want to define it out loud, since even at age eleven or twelve, I knew what a middle finger stood for, even if I didn’t know what “getting laid” meant. So I said, “Hey guys, I know what it means.”

The profane middle finger hat was kept under the driver’s seat of my dad’s car for many years, never to see the light of day. I wish I had stolen it from him. I thought it was hilarious, and I haven’t seen one like it being sold anywhere since the 80s. When I saw Mister Rogers’ middle finger on a hat, though, I figured that was close enough. And since it’s no longer available, I guess that hat was just meant to be mine…

Incidentally, my dad also suffered from PTSD, which was brought on by his time in Vietnam. Sadly, he almost lost his middle finger to injury when he had a nightmare and jumped out of bed one night, punching the wall. He didn’t take care of the injury properly, and came very close to needing an amputation. Yikes!

For an update on this post, click here.

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Germany, mental health, modern problems, narcissists, YouTube

Is America really as crazy as it looks from over here?

I recently mentioned that I stumbled across a couple of “Karen” channels on YouTube. And, in spite of my disdain for the derogatory hijacking of the name, “Karen”, some of the videos I’ve seen are like train wrecks. I was especially shocked by the video below…

This video actually shows several incidents, but the one that disturbs me the most is the one captured in the still above. It starts at 8:17.

As I was watching this video yesterday, I literally shrank back against the headboard on my bed. I’m disturbed by the sheer vitriol and rage pouring out of these people. Yes, the woman captured above seems angrier than the guy she’s talking to, but both are extremely distressed. I’m surprised this didn’t become a violent confrontation. Below are a few screenshots.

We do have some angry people in Europe, and there have been some unfortunate incidents of violence and rage reported. But it seems so much worse in the United States, especially given how many people own weapons. In fact, as I was watching this, I felt distinctly uncomfortable. I imagined the other people in that neighborhood being forced to listen to, or actually witness in person, this rage filled argument that was filmed and put on YouTube.

Later, I called my mom and we both lamented how crazy things seem lately. I swear, America is not like it was when I was growing up. People are acting like maniacs. I’m sure much of it is due to our political situation and the terrible polarization that has occurred over the past few years. The pandemic, and all of the new rules and restrictions don’t help. People are very stressed out and worried, and it seems like some people feel like the world is about to end.

I really think a lot of this behavior is driven by the pandemic. People resent the rules and restrictions, and the “holier than thou” and “entitled” behaviors that are prompted in response to the pandemic. Some people seem to have a very hard time adapting, and it doesn’t help that there’s all this doom and gloom news. Several of the incidents captured in the above video are about the mask rules and people not wanting to adhere to them.

I watched a video by Dr. Ramani yesterday. It was about “narcissists and transportation rage”– people who are freaking out on airplanes or in airports. She seems to think that the people who act like this are narcissists. I’m sure a lot of them are narcissists, but the sheer volume of people who are acting like this is disturbing. Are they ALL narcissists? Or are they stressed and scared people who have completely lost their ability to cope?

I know that some people are entitled assholes no matter what. But is everyone who is wigging out lately really a narcissist? I think everyone has a limit, and recently, Americans seem to be proving that their tolerances for frustration and adversity are not as high as they should be. On the other hand, life was pretty difficult even before the pandemic.

I remember having to work several part time jobs with no benefits just to get my bills paid. I remember being scared of the day when I couldn’t meet my own financial demands. I don’t even have children to worry about. Consider that so many people my age are dealing with their aging parents and children in college, or maybe they waited until later to have children and had one with “special needs” of some sort.

Those are stressful conditions under normal circumstances. Add in the pandemic and the hassles and fears associated with it, as well as inflation, lack of affordable housing, and the inability to take a vacation without being constantly reminded of the pandemic. Add in the challenges of taking care of younger children when schools close or go to distance learning, while meanwhile, your parents have dementia or require help taking care of their needs. Sometimes people just freak out because it all becomes too much. And then they get filmed and put on YouTube, where people mock them.

In some of these videos, both parties are acting atrociously. It’s obvious some of these people are fed up and stressed out, but some seem to be permanently unhinged and uncivilized.

I realize I am very lucky on so many levels. From where I sit, Germany is not nearly as chaotic as the US is right now. People are sick of the pandemic here, and there’s definitely some grumpiness. But I haven’t seen or heard of nearly as many people losing their shit as I have in the United States. Of course, in Germany, filming people and putting them online can lead to legal problems in a heartbeat. As a general rule, Germans are big on privacy.

My mom is 83 years old and still is pretty good health. She has enough money to take care of her needs, at least at this point. She is happy living alone, although she did say that she is probably going to move closer to my sister in North Carolina within the next year or so. But that’s mainly because the assisted living apartment where she’s lived since 2009 is getting too expensive. There’s another complex near Chapel Hill, where my sister lives, that is less pricey. She said she has to wait for someone to die before she moves. Apparently, there’s a long waiting list.

I know I need to watch some different videos on YouTube to change the algorithms of what ends up on my suggested videos list. I also need to change the algorithms on Facebook. Somehow, I get posts from Reddit Ridiculousness, where people share AITA (Am I The Asshole) posts. These posts usually consist of stories about people in certain situations that cause discomfort and questions about whether or not someone’s behavior ventures into “asshole” territory.

I will admit, some of the stories are pretty entertaining and/or interesting. But it’s hard to gauge whether or not someone is an asshole based only on an Internet anecdote, because you can only judge them by objective standards and whatever details they include in their stories. Not everyone has a way with words, so it can be difficult to get an accurate picture of a situation. You also have different personalities that come into play. Some people are better than others at hiding who they are, and some people have abrasive personalities, but aren’t necessarily assholes.

I know this, because many people assume I’m an asshole because of my many ventings about Ex. They assume she’s a “normal” person. I’m gratified, though, because now younger daughter talks to Bill and confirms that we aren’t the crazy ones. Aside from that, I’ve shared some of Ex’s public postings with a couple of friends, both of whom have expressed shock and dismay. If you don’t know her backstory, you’d never know that a lot of what she posts is a facade to try to look good. But then she’ll slip some things in that don’t go unnoticed by the astute. Like, for instance, her constant thinly veiled Twitter attempts to wangle money from celebrities.

Anyway… it’s been bizarre to sit over here and watch some of this stuff from afar. I am an American, but some of these videos make me feel kind of ashamed of that fact. I love my country, and I know that our people are capable of great things. But lately, it’s like everybody has gone off the deep end. And yes, it does seem worse there than it is here… although I did get flipped off in Austria a couple of months ago by a guy on a bike. I think the guy meant to flip off Bill, who was driving at the time, but I got the full brunt of his middle finger. I will admit that my instinct was to respond in kind. So I guess there is that. I probably wouldn’t have done that in Germany, though. Flipping people off, especially in traffic, is against the law. Why? Because finger gestures almost always make things worse and escalate situations that don’t need to be escalated. So does yelling, preaching, shaming, and flying off the handle. I feel like people all over the whole world, but especially people in the United States, need to take a deep breath.

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Germany, history, videos, YouTube

A fascinating video I saw by total chance yesterday…

Today has gotten off to an extremely annoying start. In my travel blog last weekend, I wrote about how I was trying to book our vacation for next week. USAA immediately declined my credit card, which led to my having to call them. Likewise, PenFed allowed me to make two hotel bookings, but then blocked my card when I tried to make a third booking. I will be calling them later today, which doesn’t make me happy, because USAA blocked my debit card this morning when I tried to use it to buy sweaters.

USAA used to send text messages to my phone whenever there were questionable purchases made. Now, they don’t do that, because they don’t want to pay for international texts. So they just decline and restrict the card, causing me to have to call them. It wastes time and costs me money, plus it’s just a huge inconvenience. The real kicker is, an hour after I called USAA, I got an automated phone call from USAA to confirm the charges weren’t fraudulent. Of course, they didn’t go through, and now I am not wanting to use the card because I don’t want to cause another block.

Anyway… none of that has anything to do with today’s post. I just needed to get it out of my system. Today’s post is actually about something much more incredible and life changing.

Yesterday, I was watching a brief YouTube video about a Holocaust survivor. It was a very short video, and I was in the middle of something when it ended, so I didn’t immediately turn off the autoplay. I’m glad I didn’t turn it off, for that is how I became acquainted with Eva Clarke and her amazing story of how she was born in a concentration camp the day before Adolf Hitler committed suicide, and just two days after the Germans ran out of gas in the gas chambers at Mauthausen.

This video is about an hour long, but it is SO worth the time. It was taped at the University of California San Diego in 2018.

Eva Clarke is half Czech, half German. Her parents were both Jewish. Her father had moved to Prague to escape the Nazis. He thought that was far enough away from Germany to escape persecution during the Hitler era. It wasn’t, and unfortunately, he was a Holocaust victim. However, he did meet Eva’s mother, Anka, there, and they married, before they were sent to live in a ghetto and were later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

Eva’s mother, Anka, was an incredible woman with a tremendous will to survive, as well as great pride for who she was. Against incredible odds, and with many strokes of good luck, she managed to survive the Holocaust and lived to the ripe old age of 95. That fact, in and of itself, is astonishing… but Eva is also a tremendous speaker and storyteller. She is very engaging. I wish I could have had teachers like her. Maybe I would have ended up better prepared for life.

I showed this video to Bill last night. Just as I had when I watched it the first time, I ended up in tears because I was so moved by how Eva and her mom managed to survive and thrive, even though Hitler had wanted to destroy them and anyone else he hated. Also, Eva mentions that the American Army were their saviors, as they were the ones to liberate Mauthausen. Since Bill is an Army veteran, it does my heart good to hear good things about the Army… and reminders of a time when U.S. Soldiers and other servicemembers were truly thought of as heroes.

Bill also got a bit teary listening to Eva’s story. He hadn’t meant to learn more about the Holocaust last night, but he did tell me that he didn’t regret hearing Eva talk about how she came to be. Nine days after Eva’s birth, World War II ended. And now, she is a lovely, elegant, eloquent speaker, who is telling the world about why we can’t ever let someone like Hitler come back into power.

This is why I am so vociferous about Donald Trump and his ilk. While I realize that Trump hasn’t started a genocide, some of his ideas and techniques are very much like Hitler’s. He emboldens people to be divisive and racist, and he craves money, fame, and power. I worry that he will influence otherwise good people to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of racism and we could, one day, have another genocide as horrifying as the Holocaust is. And this is not to say that genocide on a smaller scale isn’t already happening. It is.

Anyway, if you have time and are interested, I highly recommend watching the above video. And if you find any other videos by Eva Clarke, I would recommend those, too. I will probably watch another video by Eva… maybe it would calm me down a bit and remind me that my problems are truly first world problems. At least for now.

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