Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why I Didn't Write This Week

Fakarava Lagoon on Bora Bora. This is where I was, mentally, on the evening of June 27. Photo: Grégoire Le Bacon
I was actually sitting right where I am now, on my living room sofa in Avon-sur-Seine, watching a YouTube video about Bora Bora, when I heard the thunk. It was nearly 7 p.m., and the street below our apartment was streaming with rush-hour traffic.
   The thunk was followed by dead silence and then a shout.
   That thunk, I thought, was a car hitting an object that was not very solid. Possibly a bicyclist or a pedestrian.
   My husband had gone down the street to Le Smile, the neighborhood pub, to have a beer with his friend Pascal.
   I thought, Patrick should be almost home by now.
   I thought, maybe I should investigate.
   I thought, but maybe I’ll just sit here and watch this Bora Bora video instead. Because if something bad is happening down there, it’s really not my business. There is nothing I can do. And Patrick will be home soon. So I’ll just finish watching this video and then we’ll have dinner.
   And then the phone rang. And I thought oh, shit.
   A man’s voice said in heavily accented English: “Your husband has been in an accident. He is in the street. He is okay. The doctor is here.”
   There was some muffled discussion and my husband’s voice came on the line.
   “Hello, darling. I’ve been hit by a car. I’m just across the street from the Carrefour Market.”
   “I’m coming.”
   Eight days later, Patrick came home from l’hopital de Fontainebleau with a broken pelvis and some spectacular bruises. His arms were wrapped in gauze, and there was a big bandage on his head. I went to the pharmacy for a wheelchair, a walker, pain medicine, sleeping pills, bandages, and compression socks.
   That is the number one reason why I didn’t write this week. Or last week. Or the week before. The accident happened 25 days ago.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Malintent: Airport Scanners in the Era of ISIS

This morning, as I was rifling through an online archive of stuff I wrote several years ago for Condé Nast Traveler I came across this ancient blog post about airport security (below), which mentions something called Malintent. The scanning system, which Homeland Security was developing at the time, was supposed to read your mind and warn the nation's supercops if you were planning to commit a crime. I, for one, assumed the crime would take place in midair, or perhaps on the runway, unless Malintent stepped up to save the day. Needless to say, the entire scenario sounded very Orwellian and sinister.
   Given recent events, I decided to check what was happening with Malintent. According to the DHS website, they're still working on it (it's now in a testing-and-tinkering phase).
   Europeans were not too keen on the scanning booths that were emigrating from America in 2008. Maybe they realized their limitations. It is hard to imagine how even Malintent might have prevented what happened in Brussels this week. Obviously, the world has changed a lot since the spyware development program began. By the way, the proper name for Malintent is Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST. 

October 31, 2008

Europe Balks at the Scanning Booth

The future of security scanning?
AP Photo
by Sara Tucker
Invasion of the body scanners!
Digital penetration!
The TSA wants to see you naked!
   Such were the warnings when scanners that bare all began cropping up in the nation's airports last year, starting in Phoenix. "Are you up for this?" Slate asked its readers as JFK and LAX stood in line to receive the equipment. "Are you ready to get naked for your country?"
   Then came this year's rollout and another spate of headlines. "Body-scanning machines that show images of people underneath their clothing are being installed in 10 of the nation's busiest airports," announced USA Today in June, calling the proliferation "one of the biggest public uses of security devices that reveal intimate body parts."
   But apart from the media and the ACLU, nobody seemed to care. Instead of an invasion of privacy or an Orwellian threat to their personhood, most passengers caught in the bovine shuffle through airport security perceived the glass booths as just another boring obstacle in the long, dull slog to their departure gates. That's because they "have no idea how graphic the images are," contends the ACLU's Barry Steinhardt.
   "In a nation infamous for its loud and litigious protesters, the silence, the absolute and utter silence on this issue is screaming," fumed a reader at Slashdot.

Now, however, the scanners are popping up in European airports, and the Europeans are saying not so fast. Citing "serious human rights concerns," EU lawmakers last week called for "a detailed study of the technology before it is used." Germany denounced the equipment as "nonsense."
The word from America: Get over it. Body scanners are "the wave of the future," a TSA official told USA Today back in June. "We're just scratching the surface of what we can do with whole-body imaging."
   In the works: A scanner that can read your mind. "Like an X-ray for bad intentions" is the way Fox News describes Malintent, a contraption that uses sensors and imagers to determine whether a passenger, say, is planning to blow up the plane.
   "There is a point at which you think--I can't write about this, it's a joke or a skit," notes technology blogger Renee Blodgett. "But it's not." Still in the testing phase, Malintent looks "very promising," according to a DHS spokesman.
   To those who would dismiss such gadgetry as "security theater," a reader of the "common sense" blog Ugly Ass Opinion ("Common sense still kicks ass") has this to say: "Homeland Security will now be sending an agent to live in each of your homes to make sure you're not a terrorist. . . . You must feed and clothe him at your own expense. He will bring his own toothpaste, though."

Further reading:
*India's use of brain scans in courts dismays critics (International Herald Tribune, September 2008)
*The Things He Carried: Airport security in America is a sham (Atlantic Monthly, November 2008)
*Homeland Security detects terrorist threats by reading your mind (Fox News, September 2008)
*Homeland (video): A seven-minute "thriller" from the 48 Hour Film Project (Best Editing, 2008)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

You Could Win a Dryer!

That is the subject line in an email that came today from Town and Country magazine, to which it seems I subscribe. A dryer? I had to know more, so I clicked. Sure enough, Hearst (the magazine’s publisher) is giving away a General Electric Gas Dryer With Stainless Steel Drum and Steam. For clothes. I don’t know what I was expecting. A dryer for apples, maybe? Or hair? Or coffee beans? Or . . . well, anyway, this one is for wet clothes. Do I want a dryer? No, I don’t. I already have one. Two in fact. One in Vermont, and one in France. So I didn’t enter the sweepstakes.
    But it got me thinking: Why would Town and Country, a posh magazine if ever there was one, come after me with a prosaic household appliance? I guess because Hearst also owns Good Housekeeping and lumps its subscribers together, but still. If I were into housekeeping (which I’m not), a nice prize would be a butler. Or a two-week vacation in the Bahamas, or a chalet in the French Alps.
    The incident reminded me of the time my husband, newly arrived in Fontainebleau (also posh, at least by our standards), was invited via a telemarketer to attend a luncheon about sweaters. It was a free lunch, so he went. The lunch was in a restaurant on Rue Grande, and there were about 40 people there. Everyone at his table thought they had come to hear about sweaters and enjoy French cuisine. Wrong: The presentation was about mattresses. To this day, he cannot explain it.
    PS: If you need a dryer, feel free to use my name. It seems you have two chances to win. Runner up gets a top-loading dryer with interior drum light. Your housekeeper is gonna love it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hunting Giants: A Spring Pilgrimage Through Western North Carolina in Search of the American Chestnut

Lumberjacks stand beside old-growth chestnut trees in North Carolina around 1910. (Forest History Society, Durham, N.C.)

“Imported on plant material in the late 19th century and first discovered in 1904 in New York City, the blight—an Asiatic fungus to which our native chestnuts had very little resistance—spread quickly. In its wake it left only dead and dying stems. By 1950, except for the shrubby root sprouts the species continually produces (and which also quickly become infected), the keystone species that had covered 188 million acres of eastern forests had disappeared.” —The American Chestnut Foundation

In a region famous for its picturesque settings, Francis Cove is exceptional, a rather largish bowl with an encircling ridgeline in the mountains of Western North Carolina, about two miles from downtown Waynesville. The cove faces more or less northeast and opens into a little valley. In the nineteenth century, this area produced some of the largest American chestnut trees ever recorded.
Except for the high tannin content and the resulting rot resistance of the wood, chestnut appears not to have been much valued as a timber species. It splits too easily for framing uses, and it often grew with a twist, somewhat offset by the fact that it might grow 100 feet before branches disturbed the trunk. This made it possible to get very long, unblemished beams from chestnut.
Around Waynesville, its chief value was for tannin extraction, and the Champion Paper Company of my childhood was the Champion Chestnut Extract factory of my father’s. Times change. The hill folk used to harvest the chestnut mostly for the tannin, and they called it “acid wood.” It was the chief source of natural tannin in the U.S. before the blight, and there was so much chestnut that many of the extraction factories were able to continue operation into the 1960s using standing dead stumps.
    Somewhere I had heard that the largest American chestnut on record was about twelve feet in diameter. One day I repeated this bit of hearsay in a casual conversation with someone at the American Chestnut Foundation (the goal of the ACF is to develop a blight-resistant tree and restore the American chestnut to its native range in eastern woodlands); one thing led to another, and retired UNCA professor Dr. Garrett Smathers dug up an actual reference, a tiny mention in Charlotte Hilton Green’s 1939 book Trees of the South. There she states, “Perhaps the largest of our American chestnuts was one in Francis Cove, western North Carolina, which had a diameter of seventeen feet and a height of more than one hundred feet.” Another colleague found a similar reference in a 1915 issue of American Forestry, which stated that “a tree with a diameter of seventeen feet has been recorded from Francis Cove in North Carolina.” Well, Garrett Smathers actually knew where Francis Cove was, and recalled knowing someone who knew where the stump of that old giant was. That’s how these things come about: threads of memory, oral history, dim recollections, some persistence and curiosity sometimes lead to the real thing. Thus began a pilgrimage in search of evidence of the perimeter of that tree. Garrett dug up some names, including Gene Christopher, who was a relative of Garrett’s late friend Mr. “Pink” Francis.

A Visit to Francis Cove
Francis Cove has been populated with the Francis and Christopher families for quite some time. In 1887, William Francis chose the site for a water-powered gristmill, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, Francis Cove is home to Christopher Farms, a small orchard that has been in family hands for generations.
Gene and Doug Christopher run not only the orchard but also a small retail produce enterprise, a slightly modernized version of the old mountain stores, which you can find today only in truly remote parts of Western North Carolina. The Christopher Farms store sells real sourwood honey (not clover with a sourwood label), a wide variety of apples, locally produced eggs, and 100 percent pure maple syrup. (A poster above the shelf of maple syrup informs you that Aunt Jemima syrup is 2 percent maple and the maple content of Log Cabin syrup is zero.) One of the store’s niceties is that you can call up and someone will take your order over the phone and box up the groceries so your granddaughter can pick them up—as one young woman was doing I arrived at the store.
With me was Dr. Paul Sisco, a geneticist for the American Chestnut Foundation and a world expert on this species. Our visit had a purpose other than getting us outside on a promising early spring day. We were trying to install a small demonstration chestnut planting at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville, forty minutes away, and we thought it might be nice to give folks a concrete idea of the actual size of these “redwoods of the East” by placing our kiosk in the center of a gravel pad of the same dimensions as a cross-section of this arboreal monster.
When we arrived, Gene (whom I had spoken to earlier on the phone) was off at jury duty and brother Doug was manning the store. Doug managed to break away from the busy phone long enough to walk us outside and point out where we should look. Neither he nor his brother had been up to the site for maybe fifteen or twenty years, and neither could promise that we would find anything. Doug volunteered a couple of interesting items: There were actually two big trees, the second nearly as large as the first; in the old days you could turn a cart around inside the larger tree. After giving us directions, Doug returned to the phone, and Paul and I were on our own.
Up through the woods we went. I was carrying an arsenal of camera hardware, including a digital camera and a camcorder, a vial for collection of chestnut debris for carbon-14 dating, orange flags to mark the perimeter for photographing, rope, a ruler, just the basics. Paul had about the same amount. Optimists. We stopped in the area where Doug had indicated we would find the first stump and began looking around.
As a woodcarver, I have found that chestnut has two distinct features. One is its slight baby-aspirin tint, coming from the tannins that preserve it. The other is its ease of carving, particularly when one is carving contours. As a rough field test, I use my pocketknife to shave through the exterior rot of a fallen limb, scrape down to solid wood, and then carve a curved cup. If it is “easy enough” and it is orange, it’s a safe bet it’s chestnut. Since these hills used to be covered with the stuff, it’s a pretty safe bet anyway.
Paul and I spent twenty minutes walking around the first site. The earth under our feet had that unmistakable feel of a springy mattress stuffed with centuries of humus, penetrated with the bones of dead trees and stumps—some of them chestnut but none of them large. Trickling invisible water . . . mushy, muddy places where seeps emerged out of sudden dips in the slope . . . wildflowers. Our exploration yielded some briar cuts, a warning from a neighborhood brace of watchdogs, and not much else. Halfway through the first site visit, I returned most of my data-collecting gear to the car.

The Second Site
The second site was at the top of the abandoned orchard. It had a lot of fallen timber. In the right places, chestnut has the look of driftwood, but here it looked more brown on the exterior. Doug had volunteered a few comments about the out-of-towner who had come up several years ago, planted the orchard between where the two trees once stood, then disappeared, leaving acres of untended trees right next to the impeccably maintained orchards of Christopher farms. The fellow had also overseen the obliteration of the entire mountainside of its timber. “Made his million and went back to Florida” was Doug’s comment on the subject.
Paul and I spent another half hour wandering in ever widening circles. The spring ground, even in late March, was beginning to sprout a lot of wildflowers. I felt guilty stepping on the bloodroot, trout lilies, wood anemones, and squirrel corn, and was truly surprised that they were out in such early abundance. I normally don’t even look until late April or early May.
Much of the fallen timber turned out to be chestnut, based on my little field test, but we were unable to locate the stump of the old giant. There was a lot of water and moisture on this side of the mountain, perhaps accounting for faster rot (and poorer fortunes for two amateur giant hunters) as well as for the size of these huge trees.
Nor were we able to find chestnut sprouts. The leaves were not out yet, but you can still usually identify them. Paul had heard that where you find chestnuts easily today is in places where they grew most poorly in the past. That’s because many trees have problems growing in those places. But where they formerly grew best, any tree can grow, and the niche of the chestnut was quickly filled with other species. In fact, some biologists say that the best thing ever to happen to biodiversity in our mountains was chestnut blight, since the more commercially valuable oaks, poplars, and hickory colonized the empty chestnut stands. (These biologists don’t get invited to my house for dinner much!)

Vanishing Traces
We went back down to report to Doug that we had found nothing and were fortunate to run into Gene, who had just gotten off jury duty. He took a few minutes to run us back up the hill and point out exactly where the tree had been. We had been looking about 100 yards too far to the left, and he pointed out the little rise and the flat upon which he recollected the stump had been. Gene said that the big tree had yielded twelve to fourteen chords of acid wood, or about 1,800 cubic feet. His grandfather and father had harvested it around the turn of the century.
He also said that the forest we were looking at had already been cut twice in his lifetime (he was about sixty years old) and that it was within twenty years of another harvest. That would mean one heck of a lot of productivity for this site, and might explain why the biggest chestnuts were found here.
Gene drove back down the hill to the busy store, and Paul and I trudged through the woods to the designated place, but we were unable to find even a hint of the big tree—which is pretty much what one would expect when a tree has been gone for 100 years. It’s a miracle that there was any crumb left fifteen years ago when Gene recalled last seeing it.
We just don’t find big chestnuts stumps any more. Even the biggest stumps can’t last forever. But at least we did get to the site. The earth that supported these big trees remains intact, no matter how many “foreigners” mow it down from time to time. It can support the chestnut again. All that’s missing in the equation is the chestnut, and we’re working on that. I’m planning a visit back there in 700 years to see the replacement trees. Paul, unfortunately, will be too old by then to go with me. But I’ll take some pictures for him.
And the site did yield something for me: a rusted lucky horseshoe, complete with a nail or two. Maybe off a horse and cart that used to turn around in the old stump? I’d like to think that, anyway.
Forrest MacGregor is an engineer, inventor, and artist who hails originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina. He currently lives in Randolph, Vermont. Much of his art and writing explores modern man’s relationship to technology.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Darcy Daniels: My Most Helpless Moment

Darcy Daniels and her husband were living in my hometown of Randolph, Vermont, when their three-year-old daughter became critically ill. Today Darcy sits on the Family Advisory Council at Massachusetts General Hospital, teaches history at Mount Ida College, and writes a blog for parents of chronically ill children. The following post, used with permission, is from her blog Brave Fragile Warriors. 

By Darcy Daniels
As the mom of a chronically ill kid, there are things that get thrown at me all the time with doctors, nurses, school nurses, pharmacies, insurance companies, etc. My daughter takes a nice cocktail of daily medicines, along with blood sugar checks and other concerns due to her immunosuppression. Yesterday alone, I had two calls from the school nurse, two from the specialist’s office about prescriptions and appointments, another to confirm an ultrasound, and one visit to the primary care physician, for (of all things) a sprained knee. There are no breaks with this child. It’s a lot, and it can wear on you. However, I have grown as a person and a parent since Wendy was originally diagnosed, and sometimes when I’m feeling a tad overwhelmed, it’s helpful to visit my most helpless moment to see where I am today, how far I’ve come, how far we’ve all come.
Writer, history prof, mom: Follow Darcy on
Word Press at Brave Fragile Warriors.
    It was one of the first weeks that we were in the PICU of Massachusetts General Hospital. We had been transferred first from our local hospital to Dartmouth, and then transferred again to Mass General. Wendy was three and a half, and normally active to the point of hyperactivity. She was always running, always joking, always testing the limits of EVERYTHING including my sanity. Then her illness came and she was in terrible pain, she was dehydrated, her kidneys had shut down along with other organ failures. She was in really bad shape.
    Doctors came in and out, whole teams of them, explaining to us what was going on, what was happening, what they were trying, how long we would be there. It was terrifying and isolating and we had to learn a whole new vocabulary over night. I would stand at rounds and take notes, of the doctors, their names, their specialties, what they were saying, what I didn’t understand, and then after they left, I would sit down and google the terms and try and piece together what the hell was going on.
    It was like living in a nightmare.
    Wendy was largely unconscious, and had tubes in and out of her with medicines and different solutions. I had a flurry of emotions: fear, isolation, uncertainty, but the number one thing I felt was helpless.
    As a parent, I was used to calling the shots for everything (with my husband of course). What Wendy ate, what she wore, making sure she brushed her teeth, making sure she had the proper number of minutes for her time out. Worrying whether she’d make her milestones, if she was eating enough vegetables, you know the drill. Too many decisions that we as parents make ourselves crazy over, wishing there were a no-fail guide book to read and learn from.
    Likewise, every parent has felt helpless at some point. We all have to let our kids experience life on their own terms, and that means getting hurt. How many of us felt helpless when their kid rode with out training wheels for the first time? Sang solo in a musical production? Had to get vaccinations? Had a badly scraped knee? We are helpless because we just have to let the moment happen, but hopeful that it will go as well as it can go. That’s parenthood: responsibility, helplessness, hopefulness, angst and joy.
    Early on in Wendy’s illness was when I was the most helpless because I went from being the Primary Parent In Charge, to just sitting there while other people tried to save her life. I couldn’t do much more than answer questions, sign consent forms, try to make sense of it all, and hold her tiny hand. At some point, one of the nurses took pity on us and decided that we should hold Wendy, that it would be good for all of us if we could do this one, simple, thing. But it’s not simple with all the tubes and wires, all the timing, all the schedules.
    It took the nurse the better part of an afternoon to plan when to unhook, when to drain, when to unplug certain wires and tubes. Between rounds of dialysis, before labs. Slowly things were capped off and Wendy was ready to be held. They sat me in a chair and brought her the two feet she needed to travel from the hospital bed to my lap.
    Here is where the most helpless part kicks in. When they put Wendy in my arms, I was holding her with both of my arms supporting her from beneath. And I couldn’t help it, I started crying, out of the pain that she was suffering and the joy of holding her again, and the uncertainty of our future. The tears just ran down my face. But I couldn’t wipe them. They rolled down my face and splashed onto Wendy, and my arms were pinned beneath her. I couldn’t wipe my own tears and other people had to wipe them for me so they wouldn’t fall on my impossibly sick child and I couldn’t do anything about it.
    That was my most helpless moment.
    It is unlikely that I will ever be that helpless again, because I know so much more, can do so much more, and Wendy is so much stronger. But it helps to remind myself that even at my most helpless, that people were there to support me, and even at my most helpless, we all made it through.
    And we will again.

Darcy Daniels is the mother of two girls and a professor of history at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Her blog is called Brave Fragile Warriors. Check it out here.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Voices From Home: Two Weeks in Tuscany, a Year Germany, and a Great Dane Named Ivan

Addison in Cologne, Germany.
For several years now, I’ve had this crazy notion that involves arm-twisting folks from my hometown—as many as possible—into writing down their stories. My dream is a library of personal histories by, for, and about the people of Randolph, Vermont. I began working on the project a few years ago, and the upshot was Korongo, the publishing company that Patrick and I started in the back of his art gallery on Merchant’s Row. Then we closed the gallery and moved to France, and I set the dream aside. But dreams die hard, so recently—while enjoying another balmy winter in France but missing my hometown—I invited some friends with Randolph roots to write up a few stories for Sadie & Company. Daryl Grout wrote about Two Weeks in Tuscany that marked 32 years of marriage for him and his high-school sweetheart. Joann Farnham Magee responded to my request by sitting down and writing Ivan’s Story, a moving account of the months she spent trying to win the trust of an abandoned Great Dane—all last year I followed their encounters on Facebook. Sixteen-year-old Addison Blanchard-Rooney sent me a Letter From Germany, where he is spending his junior year. His letter was, by sheer coincidence, just what I needed—funny and inspiring, a reminder that discomfort can lead to surprise and even awe. For some reason, Randolph produces a lot of good writers. Iceland and Norway, too—must have something to do with long, dark winters. I am grateful to Daryl, Joann, and Addison for their contributions to Sadie & Company, and for helping to get my “Randolph story project” back on track.

Addison J. Blanchard-Rooney: A Letter from Germany

Can any of you recall a time in your life when you were puzzled about how to flush a toilet? Now, I’m aware that that’s a highly unorthodox introduction to any piece of writing, but really; please think on the matter. Does a solid memory not come to mind? For most people, that would make sense. However, that’s a good example of my reality lately. On September 5, 2015, I lived through this very moment. The day I moved to Germany. And that, my friends, welcomes you into the life of becoming an exchange student exactly as all of those brave enough to take on this endeavor are welcomed: that first moment, which in retrospect is the most raw combination of funny, embarrassing, and downright humbling.
  To begin more properly, I ought to introduce myself. My name is Addison Blanchard-Rooney, and I’m spending my junior year of high school near Cologne, Germany. I come from a small town in Vermont, and since that first memory of being confused, my life has been a mixture of adventure, new fun experiences, and eye-opening realizations, topped with silly foreign language faux pas, drizzled with deep conversation, and baked for an hour at 300 degrees. (Fahrenheit, mind you—even after nearly five months of being here I still couldn’t tell you that in celsius if my life depended on it.) That’s what I call the recipe of being an exchange student.
Up to now it’s been smelling quite good as it’s cooking. I haven’t tasted the end result yet; that part comes in July when I fly back home. But I already know of all the years I’ve cooked, while that may not be many, this will be the one to get a Michelin star.
  My daily life here leaves me with no complaints other than the odd half-rain/half-snow weather I’ve most decidedly not gotten used to after coming from my fluffy white winter wonderland of Vermont. I wake up and begin my day most mornings with some sort of German roll topped with varying sausages and spreads. My favorite is liverwurst. I like to remind myself that it’s similar to pâté, to feel fancy.
  I then walk to school, a 15-minute journey through the center of town, before getting to the third biggest high school in Germany, where I learn many things about history and German grammar and biology but where I also am asked by peers to say things like “Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitäten-hauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft” (to be fair, Germans can’t say it without reading it anyway) and if I like Donald Trump.
  So there’s the everyday life and there’s also the big “This is why I’m here” moments. Moments like dreaming in a foreign language for the first time and realizing you finally used a new grammar concept correctly in speech without thinking about it first. (This is hard. For instance, German has five words for “the,” and sentences look like this: “I want at beach swim go, because it hot is.”)
  There are the moments when your breath is taken away. This happened to me when I stepped into the main hall of the Cologne train station for the first time and stood like a deer in headlights as I looked up, awestruck as the Cologne Cathedral looming above me, its presence totally tranquil and beautiful but with mocking undertones making me feel ridiculously small and young. Never before was I put in my place by a building.
  There are also the more political moments, such as seeing first-hand how the refugee situation is actually being handled. For instance, just 400 meters from my house here, the city government is planning on building a complex for the refugees accommodating 800 people. While almost every individual I’ve met has supported the refugee issue, situations such as this, where the city decides to cram the people together whilst looking past the several zoning regulations about to be broken, really frustrate citizens. After all, Germans are very, very rule-and-order-following people. Just one more of the never-ending list of differences ranging from gender roles to pen styles to lack of bagger at the grocery store. And boy, do Germans love their sales at the supermarket.
  I don’t see a time in the near future where the surprises like this will stop coming, and I couldn’t be happier about it. That’s why I came here—to be immersed somewhere totally new. I finally am, and ladies and gentleman, I’m flippin’ loving it.
# # #
Addison Blanchard-Rooney is 16, from Randolph, Vermont and currently living in Leverkusen, Germany. His interests span the polar opposites of more sophisticated things such as writing, traveling, cooking, and learning foreign languages, as well as being a typical teenage boy enjoying sleeping in, computer games, and Netflix. He hopes to one day work in international politics, journalism, and/or linguistics, and his bucket list includes skydiving, entering a pie-eating contest, and learning how to whistle. You can follow Addison's blog on Wordpress.