Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tax Payer Remembrance Day

Yesterday was July 18, Germany's "Steuerzahler Gedenktag" – basically Tax Payer Remembrance day.

What does that mean? On average, every Euro people earned in Germany went to the government tax collector from January 1-July 17. That's right. Over half the year.

Starting on July 18, your paycheck goes to you.

Amazing, right? Horrifying even?

Not exactly.

I'll be honest, I've whined about taxes before. Of course I have.

But the more news I see from back home in the US, the more I'm happy to pay these taxes, for socialized health insurance, etc. Things aren't perfect here, but I have never once seen a GoFundMe for a German trying to afford surgery or dental care. I've never heard of anyone here losing their house because they had to pay enormous hospital bills. People here don't have tens of thousands of dollars in debt (or more!) when they get their college degree. They don't work until a day before a baby's due. And child care is subsidized, so you don't end up working for almost nothing just to keep your job.

So would I like to pay less taxes? Sure.

But would I want less taxes enough give up what my German taxes are used for? Not a chance. Because even if I was rich enough to not have to worry about all that stuff for me (which I'm not), I just don't know how you live knowing your neighbors might wonder how they'll make it through the month.

Monday, May 7, 2018


A couple of weeks ago, I booked my first trip to the US in three years. And I've been scared to admit it, but for the very first time, I have mixed feelings.

I really, really want to see my family! It's been far too long!

I can't wait to revel in the Enchanted Mitten that is Michigan, with all its breathtakingly beautiful lakes. 

Look at how beautiful!

I even look forward to eating all those (terrible, wonderful) things you can't get here in Germany, like Twizzlers, Cheetos, and Ranch Dressing. (I'm so classy.)

However . . .

American politics.

One option is to just not talk about our different opinions and hope we'll all get along. But political developments are not just conversation topics. Decisions made are real things that impact real lives.

Removing protections for transgender people, for example those stipulating that a doctor must treat transgender people, will seriously affect one of my loved ones. Could even be life threatening.

Taking away the ACA would mean a good friend, with a pre-existing condition they can do nothing about, can no longer afford health insurance, would no longer be able to afford the medicine that keeps them able to work.  

30 million dollars for a ridiculous military parade, and racism-fueled spending to build a wall to Mexico that experts say wouldn't help anyway will use up money that could be spent on things that could make a real difference. Better pay for teachers like one in my family. Better education for all children (and not only those in private schools). De-escalation Training and Racial Sensitivity Training instead of increased police brutality more likely to affect friends who are people of color.

The name calling, lying, and loss of dignity in government. The resulting loss of respect throughout the world that I see on a daily basis as an expat.

And of course, my home country has the loosest gun controls in the developed world, which lead to more gun-related deaths per capita than any other country. It makes me wonder, makes me fear, that we could be next in the statistics. In case you're wondering, as of May 1, 2018, it's been 4685 people who have died of gun violence in the US this year alone. People with families, friends, colleagues. Not to mention over 8000 injured. People in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could just as we hit one of us.

You may think my view of things is too simplistic. It's not money for the wall vs money for education because one's at a federal and the other at a state level. I don't want to get into the nitty gritty details right now. The point is it shows the priorities of our country right now. Priorities that honestly sicken me.

So do I look forward to going back home after so long. Most definitely.

But with a heart that's tattered and torn and praying the country will be able to bounce back from the dangerous direction it's headed.

picture by me

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Taipei Connection

I spent last week in Taipei, Taiwan on business. Since my company had actually sent me there to work, the amount of time for sightseeing was severely limited, but I wanted to tell you about one especially amazing evening.

My colleagues and I—each from a different country—left our hotel in search of a restaurant for dinner. On the way, we found the stunning Hsing Tian Kong temple and went inside.

The temple was crowded, with the scent of incense in the mild evening air, people praying, and a soft clacking as people cast moon blocks onto the stone floor for divination. One of the temple disciples saw we were foreigners who were obviously curious but worried about disturbing everyone. She gave us a pamphlet in English and pulled us through the crowd to let us see.

We eventually left the temple, and after a dinner of noodle soup, we wandered around the streets of Taipei...and got kind of turned around. The map we had only partially helped, and when we saw brilliant, colorful lights shining at the end of a dark alley, we decided we couldn't get any more lost than we were and followed them. Was it a wedding? A concert?

The alley was packed with tables, families eating and drinking. A couple of older men waved us forward and explained that it was a community celebration to honor the birth of a god. They pulled us right up to the altar, gave each of us three incense sticks and showed us, step by step, where and how to pray. 

When the praying was done, they poured us beer (I'm not a big beer fan, but I thought it tasted pretty good). They asked where we were from, and when we said we lived in Germany, one of the (tipsy) men hummed the German national anthem. Thank you to the World Cup, I assume. ;)

Before we could leave, the men passed out ice cream (I am a big ice cream fan, and it was yummy). A warm rain began pattering down. It was getting late and we had to work the next morning, so I pulled out the hotel card and asked them to point us in the right direction, which they did.

It was such an amazing, lovely, spontaneous connection—a group of people eager to share a bit of their culture with strangers, and the three of us, nervous about what we might be getting ourselves into, but truly touched that we could try it out.