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New Year - New School - New Nuts

January 10, 2002

(Written February 16)

Dear Friends and Families,

We left Washington on New Year's Day and were home in our German bed the next morning. It would be days before our bodies figured out when to sleep.

That day, Marianne got a call from the Department of Defense Schools asking if she was still interested in a job.


"O.K., you start Monday at the Halvorsen-Tunner School at Rhein-Main."

So that's how our lives changed. One more weekend and we would return to the hectic life of double careers. We could tell it would be a different year but we didn't know just how different.

In any event, we wanted to wander around Frankfurt to enjoy our last free time. On Saturday, we walked down to the river and found that the bank-side park was under water and, on the other side, the flood threatened the old downtown area. Everyone seemed to be taking this all in stride, so I guess it's a normal winter event.

The next day, after our chores, we went again to see if the flood had gotten worse. When we got close to the river, we saw crowds standing along the banks, but we assumed that it was just a nice day for everyone's Sunday stroll. Then we noticed that much of the crowd was looking up at the sky, not down at the flooding river.

When we looked up, we saw a small private plane flying near the dramatic Frankfurt skyline ( 4 PICT P1050029). The pilot was flying in a lazy circle around the buildings. However, outside his lazy circle, two fighter-jets were also circling. Their circles were purposeful, not lazy. Then we noticed that all the river bridges were closed and, across the river, downtown had been emptied. Later, we would find out that the stolen plane had flown around for over two hours before heeding the authorities' orders to fly to Frankfurt airport. Just a nut case starting out the new year.

Speaking of nut cases, Marianne's new school is a challenge. First, there's the whole federal government employee bureaucracy. Forms for this, protocols for that. Then, it's not only government, it's military bureaucracy. It may be the most foreign country she's ever had to work in.

Then, there are the kids. We've all heard the term "Army Brat" used to describe the children of military who spend their school years moving here and moving there every couple years. We never realized that the term was not some quaint endearment but rather an objective assessment of the situation. This "clientele" is different.

In last week's staff meeting, Marianne heard that an unavoidable complication of the start of active combat is the increase in parent complaints. It's natural enough since dads or moms will be leaving kids behind and going out into harm's way for months. Think of what you do when you are under stress - take it out on the innocent! Well, the teachers at the military dependents' schools may be some of those innocents. Here's another lesson in human understanding that will make Marianne a better person. (She's thinking she was good enough without these lessons.)

But, despite all this, Marianne is back in the classroom. It's a lot of work getting back into the swing of teaching and we both hope it will get easier. Who knows, maybe the little darlings will end up learning to like to Mrs. Trotter and her tough-but-fair classroom. Or maybe they'll stay br---.

My job is proceeding. I'm still "temporary" and underpaid, but at least paid. And, if we actually happen to sell this power plant I'm working on, we could be part of a new era and actually see some non-combustion power plants built. But it's still a long road with a less than 50% chance.

Of course both Marianne and I are also half-time students. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we go for almost three hours to the Goethe Institute to learn German. It's a nice enough environment, and learning German definitely makes life here easier, but it's a long day for us old-timers. We leave the house at 7:00am, pass by home to drop off briefcases and grab books at 6:00pm and return exhausted just before 9:00pm. Another challenge to make us better people. Enough already.

We'll be in Germany through summer at least. After that, who knows? We'd like to stay in Frankfurt, but it's pretty foggy in our crystal ball. Meanwhile, we'll try to work in a couple trips and remind ourselves that it's the road, not the destination.

Take care and stay in touch.

John and Marianne.



Website of Marianne's school:

Halvorsen-Tunner School


Rhein-Main Air Base : http://www.rheinmain.af.mil/

This was the western end of the Berlin Airlift in 1948 and 1949. The airlift saw over a quarter of a million flights, two-thirds American, one-third British and a tenth of a percent French. (Sound familiar?) General Halvorson was the Air Force commander for much of the Airlift. Gail Halvorsen was a young Lieutenant who became famous by throwing candy out the window of his plane as it approached the Berlin end of the air bridge. He became know as "The Candy Bomber". The speed and vituperance of the current German government rejection of the current U.S. proposal for use of military force may illustrate that the statute of limitations on candy's good will has expired.












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