Friday, July 25, 2014

We're Calling it Farm Park (but so is everyone else)



Last spring I wrote about the new castle-themed park near our neighborhood.  It turns out Luxembourg City is in the process of creating/upgrading at least 10 playgrounds in this wooden/whimsical-themed style over the next few years.

This country doesn't have one of the highest GDPs in the world for nothing, I suppose.

We were among the first to know about and visit Castle Park, judging by the flood of "WHERE IS THIS???" questions prompted by my post.  This time we're a bit later to the party; there's been some serious mommy-buzz about the new Farm Park for months and it finally opened a couple of weeks ago.   James and I decided to check it out yesterday while Daphne was otherwise occupied.

But just in case someone in Luxembourg hasn't been (which I doubt, because I think we were all there yesterday afternoon) I can show you exactly where it is.  The secret's already out this time!

It's in the Gasperich neighborhood
better to to come at it from one of the streets to the south, not sure if you can walk up from Rue de la D├ęportation
This park has plenty of shade, and the structures are spread over more space than at Castle Park.  


official entrance - and the name on the sign is "English Garden"
It's sad to admit that it won't be long before our kids are too old for these parks!  Daphne actually complains about bumping her head a lot in the main structure at Castle Park, and this one is of similar size.  But I think we can still squeeze a couple more years out of them.  James quite enjoyed the little obstacle course.

notice he's climbing between giant stalks of wheat
hooray for large motor skills
And, like Castle Park, all the lovely wooden details make for great atmosphere.

*baa*
terrified *oink* (*quiek* in German) 
*meow*
*no idea*
*crunch*
And you're never too old for swings.


The next theme-playgound is slated for 2015 in the Cents neighborhood.  We'll be enjoying Farm Park in the meantime.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

End of 2013-1014 School Year

end of year party
Well, another school year in Luxembourg has come to a close.  The public school session runs from mid-September to mid-July.  This past week, James finished Cycle 1.2 (kindergarten) and Daphne finished Cycle 2.2 (2nd grade).  This means they've completed 2 full years of school here, plus the month and a half at the very end of the 2011-2012 school year when we first arrived.  

As such, this was our third year for the end-of-school talent show and party in the courtyard.  The first year it was all quite a mystery, the second year we knew the drill, and now it just feels normal.  Well, almost.  I'm not sure we'll ever fully adjust to kids-singing-and-dancing-to-pop-music-in-English-with-questionable-lyrics-at-a-school-function-but-they-probably-have-no-idea-what-they're-saying-so-oh-well-I-guess-who-cares (?)

I try to lend a hand at these parties if I can (they have a smaller version around Christmas time as well), since it's a good opportunity to interact with the other parents and be generally useful.  This year I actually joined the parent planning committee.  I felt like a bit of a burden because I'm still pretty darn crappy at French, and I didn't want the parents to feel obligated to switch to English for the meetings on my behalf.  But on the encouragement of my Luxembourgish friend/president of the committee, I tentatively joined.  We had a couple of planning meetings, which were a mind-boggling mixture of probably 4-5 languages, including English.  Like in many of my interactions in Luxembourg, I walked away from these meetings feeling like an idiot, but I figure it's better to be a somewhat-useful-sort-of-idiot than a just-plain-idoit.

So I volunteered to help with face painting.   This was a safe bet because 1) I can understand kids pointing at pictures 2) I can copy a simple design and 3) I can recognize the names of the basic colors in French, Luxembourgish, and German.  If you're mildly impressed by that last one, don't be. It still puts you solidly in the idiot camp in this country.  

But for a point in my favor, I printed off a World Cup logo to bring along at the last minute, which was quite popular.  Yeah, the World Cup is kind of a big deal for the kids here in Europe (so, all they've talked about for weeks).

must have done at least 20 of these
By the end of the night, all princess and super-hero designs were abandoned in favor of the logo and special requests for native country flags (thank you, Google-images-on-smartphone).

And according to what is now The-Ts-blog-tradition, below are a couple clips of the class dances.  Not surprisingly, both Daphne and James' class performed songs related to the World Cup.  Americans, you'll have to tell me if these songs were heard anywhere back in the homeland during the World Cup.

The two kindergarten classes and the pr├ęcoce performed together to "Magic in the Air" by Magic System from the Ivory Coast.  James is in the back at the left of the screen in a red shirt and grey pants, and holding a large Brazilian flag.  You'll need to click through to youtube and make it full screen to have any shot of seeing him.  And you might be able to hear that except for the title lyric, the rest is in French.


Daphne's class danced to Shakira's "Dare (La la la)."  The class found a youtube Zumba video and copied the moves.  Daphne's on the right/back of the screen, in a light purple shirt. 

As you can see, her hips don't lie.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Diekirch Military Museum


Luxembourg's National Museum of Military History has long been on our list of places to visit.  It's located in Diekirch, a small toward the north end of Luxembourg which we've driven through many times.  We finally paid a visit with Pete's parents when they were back in Lux on the very last leg of their trip.  

a great outing for a rainy day
To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive.  I hadn't researched the place thoroughly, but had heard it was worth seeing.  Awhile back I'd seen couple of photos online of the life-sized dioramas, which are the main features of this museum.

Something about the images of the dioramas creeped me out.  Maybe I have a subconscious aversion to the blank stare of a mannequin?  Who can say. I'm also not a history nor war buff by any stretch of the imagination.  Embarrassingly, if you ask all the countries that fought on each side of WWII, I have to really think for a minute.  My brain just doesn't store that kind of information well long-tem.  

At any rate, my expectations were that the museum would be interesting, but not really my sort of thing.  I almost stayed home, but when looking up how to get there I came across the Tripadvisor page and reviewers had raved.


You can probably tell by now that my initial expectations were wrong.  I found the museum completely fascinating and not creepy at all.  For one thing, I think images of dioramas are probably creepier than dioramas in person.  Secondly, they were very tastefully done, not cheesy or tacky at all.

except I don't remember what was happening in this one...
We rented one English audio guide on an iPod.  After the first couple of rooms, we realized that the word-for-word transcript was available on the screen.  From that point on we took turns reading it aloud, which allowed us to better pace ourselves and skim over bits, easily stopping to point things out to the kids without messing with buttons.  The museum was quiet and uncrowded, so I don't think we bothered anyone by playing tour guide.

The museum covers general Luxembourg military history, with a large section devoted to the Battle of the Bulge (which took place in this area of Luxembourg), and the liberation of Luxembourg with the help of US forces in the fall of 1944.

River crossing during Battle of the Bulge.  Lots of snow.
"Luxembourg is free!"  I immediately recognized the font at the top because this is the same newspaper I now read every day, in English and online.
We enjoyed reading all the names of the weapons, ammunition, and vehicles.
I don't know if you can see the white print, but this one's called "Hitler's Headache"
The one thing you have to be careful about at this museum is becoming overwhelmed.  There is SO. MUCH. STUFF.  Not only scenes and artifacts, but thousands of photographs.  It would take you hours upon hours, probably even days, to see it all.  We made it only about a 3rd of the way following the audio guide, and then just casually wandered for the next 3rd.  The last 3rd we barely peeked in on.  If you want to see it in one day, pack a lunch and take a break part way through!
Could they fit one more item into this case?  Seems doubtful.
easy to get lost in all the interesting details
In addition to the Luxembourg and US displays, many of the uniforms, artifacts, and first-hand accounts that were used to reconstruct scenes were given to this museum by Germans who fought in WWII.  Considering the focus of the museum on Luxembourg's relationship with the Allied Forces and the United States in particular, I found this interesting and quite moving.  I enjoyed seeing the German counterparts to many of the scenes and soldiers.


And as we walked passed some of the displays, Pete's parents could point out a type of soldier and tell us which relatives of theirs had fought in that capacity in WWII.

We Americans don't see images of Nazi flags on our home soil, places we recognize.  It was striking to see even just a painting of Nazi flags at our little Luxembourg train station.   
And just when you think you must be reaching the end, a hall opens to a giant room of military vehicles and scenes.  There was actually even MORE to see after this room, but we left it for another day.


Daphne's favorite was this German "Schwimmwagen"
looking quite patriotic
And speaking of patriotism - the US just celebrated Independence Day this past weekend.  I know I've said this before, but generally speaking, the number of moments I'm embarrassed to be an American greatly outnumber those I'm proud to be one (think obnoxious American celebrities and politicians and news headlines and TV shows and stereotypes and you get the idea).

I'll go head and tentatively count this museum visit in the "proud moment" category.  Proud to be an American and also proud to be living in the amazing little country of Luxembourg, home to a wonderful military museum - small but packed with cool stuff, just like the country itself.

Happy Belated 4th of July to the USA and Happy Belated National Day (23rd of June) to Luxembourg.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Meetings & Music & Backstory in Bruges

Bruges, June 2014

The story of this post actually begins over a decade ago.  In 2002, Pete and I began attending the same church as Pete's parents and grandparents when we moved back to Oregon after university (and we attended this church until we moved to Luxembourg in 2012).  Pete's parents and his grandma had joined the fantastic choir, and we both decided to join too.   

The choir was planning a trip to Europe for the early summer of 2005.  We had assumed we wouldn't go along, but we were somehow cajoled into helping out at the variety show fundraiser for the trip.  It was a February-Valentine-Love-themed show, and as two of the youngest members of the choir, we were assigned to represent "young love" with a scene and song from The Fantasticks.  A sucker for musical theater, I was game, but to this day I have no idea how we convinced Pete.

one of the last known photos of Pete with hair, February 2005.
Well, we were sort of a hit.  I'm not sure of the exact sequence of events that followed, but I remember that various folks in the choir began trying to convince us to come along on the trip.  Between being a young married couple still getting our bearings financially, and then finding out we were expecting our first child, it hadn't seemed practical.

But with some persuasion, and also a scholarship to help with the expense of the trip, we were (literally) on board!

Pete and I had previously visited England to introduce Pete to my mom's side of the family right after we got married, but this was our first trip to continental Europe.  We spent time in France, Italy, and Austria.  It was great fun to travel with the choir, plus Pete's mom, dad, and grandma!
a young Pete in Venice
a 3 months pregnant Rosie in Siena
a practically-antique choir poster
concert rehearsal in Peillon, France
However indirectly, Pete and I have always considered that 2005 trip as part of our journey toward residing in Luxembourg, mostly because it gave us our first impressions of continental Europe.  We liked it.

Anyhow, fast forward 9 years to the present day.  The same choir was planning a second trip to Europe, this time in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands.  Pete's parents were coming along again, and his mom was part of the planning committee this time.  When the committee was researching organizations to help in Europe through holding benefit concerts, they made a connection with the founding chapter of Serve the City in Brussels, Belgium through some friends of ours at our church here in Luxembourg.  These friends recently started a chapter here with the help of our church in Luxembourg.  So through this connection, the choir was able to arrange a benefit concert for Serve the City to be given in nearby Bruges, Belgium as part of their choir tour.

So, 9 years after that first choir trip, we arranged to:
meet up with the choir (that in part inspired us to move to Europe in the first place)
and Pete's parents (who were already visiting us at the beginning and end of their trip too)
in Bruges (just 3 hours away from where we live)
for a Serve the City (cool organization we helped connect them with) benefit concert!

Whew, enough backstory for ya?!  On to the rest of the 2014 photos!

While Pete joined his Dad with the rest of the choir on a city tour, Grammy and the kids and I broke away for a horse and buggy ride...


and some Belgian chocolate.

Later that afternoon we followed the choir out to the church for their rehearsal, stopping for photo-ops.





Fortunately our kids are quite adept by now at sitting through music rehearsals!

Pete's mom shares accompanying responsibilities with the choir's organist
Daphne gets some of her own reps in

I told you there'd be cowbell!
Pete telling the choir about Serve the City
The founder of Serve the City brought some elderly and disabled folks out to enjoy the concert, as well as some refugees
The concert began, and brought back so many memories!  Not only did many of the same people from last time come on this trip as well, but they even sang a couple of the same songs we sang with them 9 years ago.  

reunion with their Joy Choir teacher
We're so pleased everything worked out so we could do this together!