It’s a typical day housesitting: we wake up and find ourselves in the middle of German suburbia, where the streets are filled with skateboarding kids and every yard has its own trampoline.
One side of the small-but-trendy housing development is edged with wide open farmlands, another is covered in a long expanse of woods, and the third opens into the small town of Mascherode.
Except for the kids (who are taught in school), few people in Mascherode seem to speak English. There’s a supermarket, and a small bakery where locals pick up fresh rolls for breakfast, and dozens of old traditional German buildings scattered throughout the village.
The bakery sells the most scrumptious pumpkin-seed rolls (which we’ve been consuming like fiends), and we make regular visits.
None of our language skills are applicable here, so we compensate by relying heavily on our most trusted communication technique (which we’ve dubbed “Smile and Point”) and ordering six rolls each time, because that’s the only number we know how to say in German.
It’s sechs… and yes, it’s pronounced like “sex”. Which is the only reason we know it.
We’re clearly very sophisticated international travelers.
We take Lucy, the family’s adorable rescue mutt, on frequent walks to explore the area.
Everyone in the neighborhood seems to know and love her, so we frequently find ourselves employing our second technique, “Smile and Nod”, while the people petting Lucy chat at us in German.
I imagine they’re mostly asking why we’ve stolen Lucy, but I’m hoping if we continue to just smile and nod they might not call the police.
So mostly we take Lucy into the woods behind the house for our long walks. The two cats, Molly and Daisy, often come as well, but they slink along behind as if embarrassed to be in our company.
Scattered throughout the woods are deep pits overgrown with underbrush. Before they left, the homeowners informed us that these were crater impacts left by bombing raids during the war.
On occasion someone will still find an intact bomb in the woods and the neighborhood gets evacuated for a while.
As you can imagine, we find this news very reassuring.
Back at home, the cats’ favorite past-time seems to be clearing the entire neighborhood of its mouse population.
We dispose of two dead mice in the course of seven days and incompetently rescue another… which isn’t our most dignified moment.
As all three animals chase the stunned mouse in circles around the backyard, Kali and I hop around alternately trying to protect the poor thing (sans shoes) and trying to herd everyone inside… where they almost immediately escape, since we can’t close the door without locking ourselves out.
It takes a full five minutes to reinstate order, but the mouse finally makes its escape and we collapse by the snails on the windowsill to catch our breath.
Right before the family left one of the kids asked if we would watch her pet snails. She then proceeded to inform us that if the snails look dead we can just flush them down the toilet, and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Since flushing dead snails down the toilet struck me as potentially very traumatic (for me, apparently not for the kid) I watched them like a hawk, protected them from the crafty cats, and fed them twice as much snail food as they probably needed.
I’m happy to report that no snails died on our watch.
And this is how we spent our week. Watering the plants, bringing in the mail, teaching Lucy how to shake, taking a few glamor shots of the pets for their humans’ update email…
Housesitting’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.
And it’s actually pretty awesome.