Hong Kong: Popo and the Frogs, Part 1

Hong Kong at Christmas is exciting. This vibrant city has an added air of glamour to celebrate the holidays. But there are still quiet corners nearby. I enjoyed gorgeous waterfront views where I stayed with my sister and nephew in Sai Kung.

In just 40 minutes we could be in the city. In the days before Christmas we visited the Flower Market where a man bought a bouquet of roses bigger than he was,

and explored a street stocked with every kitchen gadget known to cookdom.

I was amused by the street for home aquariums!

I felt bad for the goldfish though

As always, Hong Kong was filled with billboards advertising food and high-end luxury items.

The metro station underneath this glamorous ad is badly defaced

But when I looked again, the graffiti and damage from last year’s protests were everywhere.  The government under Carrie Lam  allowed the police to commandeer MTR (Mass Transit Railway) train cars or reroute trains so they bypassed stops where protesters planned to gather. Since the young people were being hindered, they decided to prevent the police from moving freely, too. And once this happened, the demonstrations took a turn. Hong Kong’s superb transit system became a casualty of the ongoing unrest.

Ticket machines inside stations were vandalized. Strategic stations have been repeatedly shut down. We passed through the Mong Kok station less than an hour before it was set on fire Christmas Eve. The knots of heavily armed riot police (Popo) we saw ended up in street fights with the Frogs (the protesters).

All these machines have been smashed
Traffic lights are damaged
The bank is open for business with a temporary facade, while the street’s bricks are gone

 

 

The Bank of China and the Construction Bank of China continue to be targeted. Their glass facades are smashed, the sidewalks emptied of the bricks used by protesters. In places bricks are now literally glued into the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The protesters have five demands.

  1. For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
  2. Amnesty for arrested protesters
  3. An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
  4. Implementation of complete, universal suffrage
  5. Withdrawal of a bill introduced in April of last year, which triggered the first protests. It would have allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. The bill was finally withdrawn in October 2019. This has not placated the anger of the mostly young students fighting to maintain Hong Kong autonomy. They want all five  demands to be met.

Graffiti and protest signs go up more quickly than the government can remove them. In my next post I have photos of Popo and the Frogs, the police and the protesters, and how they are represented. See you then.

Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. To learn more about the reasons for the protests, go here: Hong Kong protests, CNN 

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Let Them Eat – Elk?

Tradition is a fine thing. I’ve hung on to Thanksgiving even though I live overseas. Actually, I hang onto the holiday probably because I live overseas. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.

The Annual Eating of the Elk tastes as good as it looks

Our traditions include what I grandly call The Annual Eating of the Elk. The Germans involved in this ritual just refer to it as Elchessen, or the Elk Meal. Whatever.

For years, the Spousal Unit spent two weeks out of every single December, January, February and March up in northern Sweden. The Artic Circle in the dead of winter doesn’t offer much in the way of culinary pleasures. The highlights were these:

  • Going out for pizza in a pizza parlor run by two Iranian refugees who had fled SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police, and ended up staying. The pizza was meh but every order came with a free dish of cabbage cole slaw. Because cole slaw is traditional? Because cole slaw is Italian? Because cole slaw provides a desperately needed source of Vitamin C?
  • Fresh reindeer blood, available by the vat in the local grocery store (say Yum everyone!)
  • White bread that is sweetened
  • Smoked salmon
  • Rumps of elk

It became tradition that my husband and his colleagues always packed German bread and bottles of whiskey in their suitcases before they flew north. Because alcohol is expensive in Sweden, and nights up there are reeeeeally long.

It became tradition that the engineers returned home with packages of elk roasts.

Thorsten, Spousal Unit, Konrad and Gerhard all used to work in Sweden. Only Gerhard still does that gig: he’s now responsible for bringing back the elk. Eventually, this evolved into an on-going 20+ year (!) tradition that Thorsten cooks an entire elk dinner for the engineers and their mates Bettina, Heike, and yours truly. *

It’s almost impossible to find a common weekend free when you’re trying to get a group of Germans together. Those 6 weeks of vacation time they’re famous for getting? Germans take every single minute of that time. Good luck coordinating 7 people’s schedules and pinning down a night when everyone’s available to meet for a dinner. We still talk about the year we ended up eating elk roast in August. It was the hottest day of the summer and over 90° in the apartment. (Thorsten’s kitchen had heated to way over 100°.) The heavy meal and accompanying heavy red wines were deadly.

But, Tradition muss sein.

Thorsten has it down to a culinary science, an art form. He marinates the elk in red wine and spices for days. Then he puts it in the oven to roast until it shrinks to about half the original size. Thorsten serves it with gravy, homemade Knödel and cooked red cabbage.

I asked Thorsten for his recipe and have translated it  for you here, just in case you have 5 pounds of elk roast hanging around in your freezer.

You’re welcome.

20 Semmelknödel

20 Teile Baguette (ein Teil etwa so gross wie ein kleines Brötchen) abschneiden. Brot in kleine Würfel schneiden. In warmer Milch einweichen. 5 Eier dazugeben, ebenso 250 Gramm gewürfelten und angebratenen Speck. Ebenfalls 2 klein geschnittene und angebratene Zwiebeln dazugeben. 2 Bund Petersilie kleinschneiden und dazugeben, salzen und Muskatnuss reinreiben. Die Masse gut durchmengen bis ein homogener Teig entsteht. Falls die Masse zu trocken ist Milch dazugeben (Teig muss gut durchgezogen sein).

Tennisball grosse Knödel formen und 20 Minuten in Salzwasser ziehen lassen.

Wer keine Zeit hat kann die Petersilie schon fertig geschnitten aus der Tiefkühltruhe nehmen. Ich nehme immer 2 Becher a 40 Gramm.

20 Bread Dumplings

Cut about 20 small bread rolls into small pieces. Soak bread in warm milk. Add 5 eggs and 250 grams of diced, fried bacon. Add two small diced, sautéed onions. Add 2 bunches of chopped parsley, salt, and grated nutmeg. Mix the dough well; add more milk if too dry. Make 20 big dumplings the size of tennis balls and cook them in simmering saltwater for 20 minutes. If you don’t have the time or can’t find fresh parsley, use 2 packets of frozen parlsey.


This was only Round One. We always go back for seconds

2 kg Elch

2 Beutel Sauerbratengewürz anrösten und mit 2l Rotwein ablöschen. Kurz aufkochen lassen, Beize abkühlen lassen und Elch für 4 Tage einlegen.

Elch abtrocknen, salzen und von jeder Seite 1 Minute scharf anbraten. Fleisch aus Bräter herausnehmen. Wurzelgemüse und Tomatenmark im Bräter anrösten. Rotwein-Beize dazugeben und aufkochen lassen. 8 Teelöffel gekörnte Brühe dazugeben. Bräter in den auf 180 Grad vorgeheizten Backofen geben und Fleisch ca. 2 Stunden schmoren lassen. Fleisch herausnehmen, Flüssigkeit durch ein Sieb in einen Topf abgiessen. Sosse etwas einkochen lassen mit braunem Sossenbinder zur gewünschten Konsistenz abbinden. Zum Schluss 150 Gramm crème fraiche unterrühren.

4-5 Pound Elk Roast

Roast two packs of Sauerbraten spices and add 2 liters of red wine (a bottle of red wine is ¾ of a liter). Let the marinade cool and then marinate 4.5 – 5 pounds of elk in it for 4 days.

Remove and dry the meat, salt it all over, and sautée in oil 1 minute per side. Roast some root vegetables and tomato paste; add the marinade and let the mixture come to a boil. Add 8 tablespoons of broth concentrate. Place roasting pan with elk in sauce in a 180° C (375° Fahrenheit) oven and cook for 2 hours.

Remove the elk. Purée the sauce or pour it through a sieve. Cook down the sauce to your desired consistency; add corn starch if needed. Before serving, stir in 150 grams of crème fraiche.


If you make the same dish for the same people for enough decades, one of two things will happen. You become the Master of the Meal known as The Annual Eating of the Elk.

Or you order take-out pizza from the 2 Iranian guys.

NOTES: *Not their real names. All other details are accurate. Got to the following posts for related foolishness: It was a Bitterly Cold -22°, My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies, The Rose Colored Windows that Weren’t, Christmas Markets © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Ho Ho Ho, Hong Kong

I just missed the renewal of the protests last night in Hong Kong. Actually, I literally just missed being stuck in a metro station as it was set on fire.

I’m here with my sister Pam at my nephew Niko’s home in the New Territories. He runs an awesome bar called Momentai – go to http://www.momentai-la.com/  for more info! – and yesterday we headed into Hong Kong for some last minute shopping. This is such an easy region to get around. We simply hopped on the bus from Sai Kung to the Mong Kok district and got out forty minutes later.

Like each day I’ve been in downtown Hong Kong, I photographed the smashed traffic lights and graffiti from the relentless months of protests against the Chinese government. Niko says it’s been quiet for the last month, but he’s been in the city when the air was filled with tear gas.

Hong Kong is always crowded. And on Christmas Eve at rush hour after 5:00 p.m. the crowds are, um, impressive. We wended our way through the Ladies Market and walked from there over to a big store on Nathan Road I visit each time I’m here to buy tea. We made a brief stop at the Harbor City Mall. It was around 7:00 p.m. and time to head home.

We exited the mall where a small and intense knot of riot police stood. We passed a second group 100 yards down the sidewalk. And then a third. And then a fourth.

The policemen’s faces under their helmets were half covered in black cloth and they wore black padded knee protectors and heavy boots, and carried clear plastic shields with Police written in English and Chinese, and batons, and pepper spray, and tear gas cannisters, and gas masks, and thick vests, and weapons. They looked like storm troopers.

This was maybe not the time to take photographs. I left my camera in my bag.

The streets were packed with last minute shoppers and everyone who was now off work and trying to get home. All around us young people wore festive Christmas stockings or reindeer antlers on their heads. We inched slowly along underground with the thick throngs through the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR (Mass Transit Railway), squeezed into the train for Mong Kok, and then caught a bus there back to Sai Kung.

An hour later some of those young people in stockings and antlers were fighting in the streets with the police. The Harbor City Mall was the beginning flash point. Last night the authorities were forced to shut down Nathan Road. Protesters set the Mong Kok metro station on fire. The two MTR stations we’d used stopped running, and the area turned into one gigantic traffic jam.

The most bizarre moment is that shortly before midnight and the beginning of Christmas Day, the protesters stopped what they were doing and wished everyone, including the police force, a Merry Christmas.

Ho Ho Ho, Hong Kong.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos to follow. Click here for my author page to purchase my books.

For more information on the present situation in Hong Kong go to these articles: BBC News and  South China Morning Post

Ornaments

Christmas is a tricky holiday for me. My family always celebrated this time of year with gusto, and my mom made it really special. [1] The first year I spent Christmas with my German husband’s family I was hit with a bout of longing for America, for my dead mother, for all things beloved and familiar.

“I’m really, really homesick. God, I miss home at Christmas time,” I confessed to my mother-in-law.

“Well, this year you’re with us. This is your home now.” Her mouth was pinched. I had just royally offended (to say nothing of hurting the feelings of) my new husband’s mom.

I was on the brink: I was going to start crying and not be able to stop. “I think I’ll go for a walk,” I said. I put on my boots and coat, fast. I walked by myself through the snowy dark streets. Of course, on Christmas Eve the roads were silent and totally empty; everyone was in the lit-up homes, celebrating the birth of Christ with their families. I walked for probably forty minutes, until I was worn out and too cold to remain outside any longer.

And then I went back to the house and smiled.

I still get homesick this time of year, but after being here so long Uwe and I have our own traditions. Putting up a tree and decorating it always helps. We used to just walk up the street to a yard that sold trees, select one, and carry it home between us. Now Uwe purchases the tree at a shopping center parking lot, and I trim it with all kinds of ornaments.

The former Eastern Germany is known for wooden ornaments. I bought three in Leipzig, for both my sisters and one for my own tree. I also hang special ornaments that remind me of where I grew up.

I got this handmade Christmas mitten at the Apple Festival in upstate New York
another from the Apple Festival

About twenty-three years ago we spent the holidays in Sofia, Bulgaria, where my sister Pam was teaching. I bought some insanely delicate glass ornaments there.

Kitty-cat
check out the tail
Beaky bird!

I’ve never seen anything like them, before or since. When I sat down to write this post, I googled Bulgarian ornaments, hoping to get some info on where they were made. But instead I was directed to cheesy sites selling images of Bulgaria, probably mass-produced in China….

Sailor boy

So I have no idea if these quirky (and highly breakable) ornaments are still being made in Bulgaria. I get them out each year, though. Aside from the kitty-cat missing an ear, they’re all intact.

Gnome? Mushroom man?

Wishing everyone the blessings of the holiday season. Do whatever you need to in order to make the occasion joyous. Happy holidays, and see you all in 2019.

last but not least, a smiling Christmas froggie…

NOTES: [1] Go to my posts Happy Halloween and My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies for the ways Mom and Mama made holidays special. Christmas Markets describes the wonderful holiday markets here!

Text and Photos © Jadi Campbell 2018. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Christmas Markets

It’s time again for the Weihnachtsmärkte. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market runs from 29 November to 23 December. Uwe and I always go to drink a glühwein with friends. You should, too!

The Christmas Market began as a short winter market. [1] Europe has held seasonal markets for centuries. Vienna, Austria’s Dezembermarkt dates all the way back to 1294/1296. But a Weihnachtsmarkt is special, and signals the beginning of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. This tradition is found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France. [2]

The Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt

Medieval guilds tightly controlled who could produce or sell wares, so each city market was unique and had a distinct, regional flavor. This remains true today. At a German Christmas Market, you’ll find these items for sale at open-air booths:

  • Tin, blown glass, wooden, and straw ornaments
  • Round wooden presses or molds for cookies known as Springele
  • Nutcrackers
  • Gebrannte Mandeln (candied toasted almonds)
  • Magenbrot and Lebkuchen gingerbread (Lebkuchen is often sold in beautiful and reusable decorative tins)
  • Eierpunsch (eggnog)
  • Candles

  • Clothes, including hand knit hats and gloves and scarves
  • Hot sausages and
  • Glühwein: a magical drink of mulled wine served from huge brass vats, with a shot of liquor added if you want to get extra-warm [2]

Our city of Stuttgart’s Weihnachtsmarkt is famous for its decorated booth roofs.

The market attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors each year! Tour busses pull up and unload shoppers from all over Europe. The Weihnachtsmarkt takes over several piazzas downtown; the 3x weekly Wochenmarkt for fresh produce and flowers moves to the Königstraße, the main pedestrian street.

A huge carousal, lit up and spinning
This larger-than-life nutcracker eats a constantly revolving nut

I try to go a couple times each year. I head for the weekly market for fruits and vegetables and then meet a friend for a Bratwurst and a Glühwein. Or I arrange to meet Uwe after work.

We wend our way through rows of booths, enjoying hearing so many different languages along with the local Schwäbisch dialect.

Stuttgart’s Christmas Market

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2017. Last photo courtesy of Wikipedia; all other photos © Jadi Campbell 2017. [1] Also called Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, or Christkindlmarket. [2] The tradition has since spread to Romania, England, and other countries. [3] Nothing is worse than a glass of hot Glühwein if the weather refuses to get properly cold. It’s just, wrong, on too many levels….[4]

NOTES on NOTES: [4] ….and nothing is better than a starry winter night, a hot mug of Glühwein, snow gently falling as you stand with your sweetie, the sounds of talk and laughter of other Weihnachtsmarkt visitors all around you as carolers sing in the courtyard of the 16th century castle across the plaza. Prosit, und Fröhe Weihnachten!

Go to my earlier post A Guy Goes to a Christmas Market to read an excerpt set in the Stuttart Weihnachtsmarkt. Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_market

http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.htm

http://www.german-way.com

http://www.christkindlmarktleavenworth.com

 

 

What a Year!

2016 was the Year of the Monkey. Wong Tai Sin Medicine Temple, New Territories, China

I’m a little slow sometimes. I recently realized that my new-and-improved wordpress website jadicampbell.com had a birthday in January and is now a year old. (Yes, I’m aware it’s already March!) So, what did I do with a year of blogging?

My usual bounce of topics around the world….

If you want humor, dance to the world’s oldest Beatles cover band in A Boogie With the Bootlegs and survive a terrible trip at The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik. Mess with the wedding caterers in You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too and listen in as I gleefully confess to embarrassing my long-suffering spousal unit in The Honeymooners. Attend an office party that goes south with a whole lot of alcohol in Holiday Insurance 1 & 2.

I weighed in on current events with both outrage and compassion: Ending the Year Pregnant with Hope, Our House is on Fire, Outrage, Role Models and Positive Acts, and my continued thread on refugees The Long Haul. Helping Refugees: Part 5, 6 & 7.

Last summer I lost my mother-in-law, an old friend, and my dad Bobbo, all within a shocking three-month period. Those were by far the hardest posts to write. But I discovered something: the most personal blog essays are the ones my readers (i.e., all of you) respond to most.

Phew. And, thank you for your comments regarding Breath, Loss and Remembering How to Feel.

I wrote seasonal posts about Christmas Holiday Insurance 1 & 2, A Guy Goes to a Christmas Market…, the Hindu Nandi Purnima in Holy CowsBazaar/Bizarre, watching the World Cup from The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik, and the (in)famous Oregon Country Fair.

Somewhere last year I managed to finish and publish a new novel, Grounded. Here are excerpts: Holiday Insurance 1 & 2, Holy Cows and Bazaar/Bizarre, The Reluctant Pilgrim, Save the Recriminations, History’s Loop 1, 2, & 3.

I took part in wonderful projects with NEAT (New English American Theater) involving Gershwin 1 & 2 and The Vagina Monologues.

I wrote about Nature’s waterfalls and snakes.

As always, I blogged about places we’ve visited on this incredible planet. Hong Kong, Laos markets & waterfalls, Hampi, India here and twice again in The Reluctant Pilgrim & Bazaar/Bizarre; Croatia and (the bus) to Canada.

2017 is the Year of the Rooster! Wong Tai Sin Medicine Temple, New Territories, China

What you can look forward to in the Year of the Rooster: a huge blog thread for my father Bobbo that I’m calling The Animal Kingdom. Occasional notes about my volunteer work with refugees. Lots more quirky posts about places Uwe and I visit. And on-going musings about life, the Universe and everything in-between as I deepen the process of saying goodbye to those who have left.

May you find something here that makes you laugh, creates a spark of connection, and moves you enough so that you reenter your own life with a sense of touching upon mine. That would make the new year of blogging – and all the years to come – worthwhile. As Mae West says, “Come on up, I’ll tell your fortune.” [1]

266080joqn_w.jpg

I’m now posting once a week!

NOTES: [1] Quoted in She Done Him Wrong (1933). Photo of Mae West courtesy of Worth1000.com at http://jeanrojas.tripod.com/ Copyright © 2017 Jadi Campbell. Photos Copyright © 2012 Uwe Hartmann or Jadi Campbell. More of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Holiday Insurance 1

It was quiet at the animal shelter and I left early. I showed up for my husband’s insurance company’s party after all. A garland hung over the front partition. Lights reflected off strands of silver and gold glitter a secretary had hung around a Christmas tree in careful rows. Somewhere on the floor people were singing an off-color version of Deck the Halls.

I checked Rich’s office, but it was locked. When I got back to the front Miranda, the department coordinator, was at her desk. She bent over, tugging at the stockings she wore under a plaid winter jumper.

“You’re here!” Miranda exclaimed. She recovered quickly. “Hi, Nicole. Rich wasn’t sure if you were coming.” Something in the words was stiff, but Miranda and I had never hit it off.

“Is he around?”

“Everyone just headed for the conference room.”

“Thanks, Miranda.” I walked away before she could pretend to engage me in friendly conversation.

The conference room was filled with staff and their significant others, helping themselves to catered food. Rich and the sales reps stood together. Each was twenty pounds overweight and hungry for a deal. All carried cell phones. They formed a modern day, electronic posse at the OK Corral.

Rich waved his arms for the group to quiet down, his face flushed. “Someone told me a new one yesterday.”

I’d been about to make my presence known, but my husband tells a great joke. “One fine weekend in August Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson went camping,” Rich began. “They found a remote spot in a clearing in the woods. The two set up their tent and fell asleep. Some hours later, Holmes woke his faithful friend.

“‘Watson,’ Sherlock Holmes spoke urgently. ‘Look up at the sky and describe what you see.’

“Watson obediently stared up into the skies. ‘I see millions of stars.’

“‘What do they tell you?’ Holmes asked.

“As usual, his companion was setting a puzzle to be solved. Watson pondered. ‘Their light tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets beyond what I can count. According to the constellations, Jupiter is in Leo. The warm air and the trees’ full foliage indicate late summer. From where the moon is over there on the horizon, time-wise it appears to be a quarter to three. I can see the Milky Way. It follows that tomorrow will be a beautiful day without clouds or rain.We’re in the middle of the wilderness, so it’s evident we are small and insignificant, but safe in the Lord’s hands. What do the stars tell you, Holmes?’

“The great detective was silent for a moment. ‘Watson, you fool, someone’s stolen our tent.'”

The conference room burst into laughter.

“That one’s for my wife Nick, who thinks I shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a camp site,” Rich began, and I stepped forward. “Hey! Speak of the devil and she arrives! When did you get here?” My husband put an arm around me and gave me a kiss. It was more than just a display of good will for his colleagues; Rich was genuinely happy to see me. “Look at you!” he exclaimed.

I wore a brocade jacket over a white blouse and narrow black skirt. “I changed before I left the shelter.”

“Babe, you look great. I always tell you, you should dress in skirts more often.”

I opened my mouth to retort that I do wear them, as often as time and place allow. He flushed more deeply.

I walked to the window. Slow traffic crawled along the streets outside the office. Gray snow sprayed from under tires, sludge like my attempt at holiday enthusiasm. We’d had a short thaw, but then the softened snow turned to dangerous black ice.

“While I’m at it, can I get anyone another?” Rich asked the room. How many drinks had Rich had? Later that evening we planned to head to my parents’ house for a family get-together. His hand touched my elbow. “Babe,” he began.

I gave him a wide smile, pretending I didn’t see his guilty expression. “How ‘bout a drink for the spousal unit?”

Rich’s face smoothed out as he realized I was passing on righteous indignation. “I was going to ask if you wanted a gin and tonic,” he lied. “Here – take mine.”

“If you can’t beat’em, join’em!” I brought the glass to my lips. I swallowed and almost choked. It was a double, no, it tasted like a triple. I finished off the drink and followed Rich over to the conference table. He mixed new drinks as he kept up a line of patter.

“Can I get another?”

Rich grinned and refilled my glass.

Gin tonic varied cocktails with lima lemon and grapefruit Royalty Free Stock Photography

© Jadi Campbell 2016. From Grounded. Go to following link to order my books: https://www.amazon.com/author/jadicampbell

Gin and tonic image courtesy of dreamstime.com.

 

Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboy's Stumbling Stones

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.”

A newly laid Stolperstein
A newly laid Stolperstein

– from my chapter “What A Guy” in Tsunami Cowboys. Available online at amazon.com. This link will get you there. I will post more on this extraordinary street art project shortly.

NOTES: Photo Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell.

My Mother-In-Law's Cookies

I seldom bake. Germany has the greatest bread on the planet[1]. France may have baguettes and croissants, but for sheer choice and variety nothing beats German baked goods.Why make something mediocre when there’s a bakery on every street corner?

As long as Uwe can recall, every week his mother made two cakes. It’s a German tradition, and women of a certain time period created great desserts that were works of art.

Before we visited, Mama always called to ask what kind of cake Uwe wanted. Sometimes I got to choose and I’d request Black Forest chocolate cake or a Bienenstich, a honey and slivered almonds cake that’s one of my favorites.

When it got to be late November, after each visit Mama Hartmann sent us home with tins full of Christmas cookies. She baked at least ten different kinds. Those cookies became cult. Friends would casually ask, “Have you gotten Christmas cookies from Uwe’s mom yet?” The idea was that I’d bring out a plate filled with said cookies for visitors to sample. “You tell your mother-in-law that these are damned fine cookies!” someone ordered happily.

Whether they had a thumb print of jam in the middle, or were layered with chocolate and ground nuts, or were perfect little crescents tasting of vanilla with a dusting of sugar, each cookie was delicious.

Gerlingen03100_oOMG-Cookies
We came home with three tins of cookies that year.

The supply ran low really fast because our friends consumed all of them, rather than politely taking one or two. Uwe finally told me it had to stop. No more offering cookies to guests!

Mama’s days of baking are behind her. We’ve brought her to a nursing home in our village so we can see her more often. But in the last winter before she had to move, I wrote down the recipes and helped her make cookies. I imitated her steps for each one.

Well, what I baked bore little resemblance to the miniature works of confectionary art that my mother-in-law took out of the oven.

I discovered something. To bake like a professional takes years of making cakes. Preferably two a week, plus cookies every Christmastime. This last Christmas I knew Uwe would be missing his mother’s cookie tins. I was way too intimidated to try to bake Mama’s cookie recipes, so I came up with an acceptable alternative.

I baked one of the few cookies she didn’t: peanut butter with chocolate chips. They’re quintessentially American in their peanut butteriness and chocolate chips, and one cookie I can make and actually have turn out right. While it’s not a Mama Hartmann traditional recipe, it tastes like the holidays.

I like to think that maybe someday I’ll set out Christmas cookies for friends. But really you should try making Mama Hartmann’s Walnut Squares. With practice they’ll be perfect when the holidays roll around.

The Cookie Dough:

250 grams Butter

200 grams Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

4 Eggs

300 grams broken Walnut Meats

250 grams Flour

3 teaspoons Baking Powder

The Frosting:

250 grams Powdered Sugar

2 teaspoons Instant Coffee

3 tablespoons Brandy

2-3 tablespoons hot Water

The Decoration:

100 grams Walnuts

Pour batter into a flat pan and bake at 200° (Celsius) or 390° (Fahrenheit) for 15-20 minutes. Frost the cake, cut into small cookies, and place a walnut meat atop each one.

NOTES: [1] For variety and yumminess, bread from India is a very close second.

Photo Copyright © 2015 Pamela J. Campbell.