I’ve got the lockdown blues…

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It’s November, and in November, Bill and I typically plan a Veterans Day weekend trip. Our wedding anniversary is November 16th. This year, it’s number 18, which is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, this year we aren’t going anywhere because we’re in lockdown lite status, thanks to the stupid coronavirus.

Before everything shut down again, I had been toying with the idea of going somewhere local. Actually, months ago, I bought tickets for Keb’ Mo’, who was scheduled to play in Mainz on our big day. Mainz is only about twenty minutes from where we live. But Keb’ Mo’ rescheduled for April, thanks to the pandemic. Hopefully, the show will go on, because I miss live music and I’ve been wanting to see Keb’ Mo’ for ages!

I think of this song as our theme… especially when there isn’t a pandemic.

So then I thought maybe we could do what we did last year. Last year, we booked a really nice room at the Jumeirah Hotel in Frankfurt and had a nice dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Then, the next day, I accompanied Bill on a TDY trip to Wroclaw, Poland. I hadn’t actually wanted to go on that trip because when I tag along on TDYs, I tend to get kind of bored. But since it was our anniversary and I do like Poland, I relented. And we flew to Wroclaw and had a pretty good time there. I’m now really glad I tagged along. Wroclaw is a cool city, and I didn’t know then that this year would end up being such a cluster fuck.

Frankfurt does have nice hotels and restaurants. We could have stayed in another one this year and given Noyzi the chance to meet the people who take care of our dogs when we travel. But COVID-19 has ramped up so much in Europe that restaurants aren’t allowed to do dine in service and hotels can’t accept travelers for tourist purposes. Shops are open, but everything is stricter than it was a month ago, and if the infection numbers don’t go down, they will lock down even more.

I think about how I wanted to move to Germany because of the travel opportunities. I have to admit that we’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of them over the past six years. Prior anniversary trips included Baden-Baden, Ireland, cruising in Scotland, the southern Caribbean, and even an amazing meal at the Alte Post in Nagold, which was a town near where we lived before we moved to Wiesbaden. Unfortunately, the Alte Post is now closed, but it was a wonderful place for food. This year, we’ll have to make do with each other.

Oh well. We have a lot to be grateful for, especially in 2020. Germany has been so good to us. We have gotten to see and do so many things, most of which I’ve chronicled in this blog. And now we have a new dog who is rewarding us every day by being awesome and sweet. I’m sure we’ll get to travel and eat good food again someday.

Thanksgiving is coming up, too. I was thinking this year, maybe we’ll order a meal from a restaurant. Cem Klein, which Bill and I tried before it moved locations, is offering a Thanksgiving deal this year. And we like to do our part in keeping the restaurants going. In fact, I think I’m going to nag Bill into getting some takeout today or tomorrow. I’m getting tired of his cooking, anyway. 😉

I’m kidding… This week, he got really daring and made injera, a type of east African sour bread. Here are a few photos and a link to the recipe. Bill likes exotic stuff more than I do, and his time working for AFRICOM really introduced him to new cuisines. Of course I’m grateful that I have a husband who cooks and does it so well. But I do miss the dining out experience and trying new and exciting dishes. I especially miss the desserts.

Well… maybe instead of planning a fancy trip, I’ll buy an electric guitar. That’s the next big purchase I’d like to make in my quest to be a pandemic era guitarist. We’ll see what happens. One thing is for certain, though. This year, we’re going nowhere fast.

My pandemic birthday… part two

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At last, it was Friday. I was not wanting to pack a bag to go on our trip. I felt nervous, and it seemed like a waste of time and money to go anywhere. I even wrote about my apprehension on my main blog, which I will warn is a hell of a lot rawer, less positive, and more political than this blog is. Because I’ve been watching the news a lot, I got the sense that this trip would not be any fun. I had visions of people watching everyone else, giving them the side eye for any face mask infraction and maybe even engaging in shaming. Having been called out by strangers on more than one occasion when we lived near Stuttgart, I figured things could easily get hostile in Hesse, even though it seems like Hessians are somewhat friendlier and less in your face than some of their southern brethren are. I’ve seen people get yelled at, for example, when they cross the street before the “green man” is showing. One time in 2007, when I was still very new to Germany, I mistakenly walked through a children’s playground with my dogs, and some lady yelled at me for that. I didn’t understand her German shouting and didn’t know it’s forbidden to walk dogs in playgrounds, so I got very upset.

I know it sounds silly… Some people would tell me to grow up. I will admit that I don’t like confrontations and I tend to get highly pissed off when people get in my face. It takes me a long time to get over it, too… I have a long memory and a tendency to hold grudges, which I know isn’t the best way to be. But that’s how I am. It’s a hang up from my childhood. I prefer to avoid situations that will be triggering, even though I know a lot of people would make fun of me for that. And I, in turn, will hold grudges against them for the ensuing trauma caused.

One of the reasons I felt inclined to stay home was that, at home, I don’t have to worry about dealing with other people. I can do what I want, eat when and what I want, and sit around in my nightgown. But that’s not healthy, nor is it necessarily the right thing to do to people who are trying to restart the economy. If everyone felt like I was feeling the other day, a lot of businesses would fail in a hurry. It’s kind of a duty to go out and spend money and see things… and I think that as much as some people complain about tourists, once this pandemic has reached its end, more people will appreciate tourists and the business they generate. I grew up near Williamsburg, Virginia, and that is a very heavily populated tourist area. I used to do a lot of bitching about the tourists… but I also know that without the tourists, a lot of people would not have jobs. When I was younger, my own livelihood depended a lot on tourists. Tourism is also good for the soul, and it helps curb ignorant thinking. If you go out and see the world, you will open your mind.

So… with all of that in mind on Friday afternoon, Bill and I loaded up the Volvo with our overnight bags and headed off to Hofheim. Hofheim is a whopping twenty minutes away, and also where the famed Tierklink Hofheim is. Our former vet in Herrenberg said that is one of the best veterinary hospitals in all of Germany. Having taken Zane (RIP) there a couple of times, Bill and I concur. I remember when she told me about that clinic, I worried about how I would manage taking Zane there when we lived so far away. Now, we’re just a twenty minute drive from there, and the place where I turned 48 (gulp).

The Vital Hotel is located in a suburban area, with lots of hardware stores nearby. There’s an Aldi very close, although it’s separated from the hotel complex by a large field. I think it usually costs to park at the Therme, but when we left, the arm to the lot was open. Anyway, we were able to drive right into the parking lot, grab our bags, and approach the front desk. Everyone was wearing masks and there were signs like this one, reminding us to stand back.

These signs were everywhere, so you couldn’t forget.

We signed into the hotel. The receptionist took our contact information, since contact tracing is being done here. You tell hotels and restaurants your name and phone number and they keep track of the times when you are in an establishment. If a coronavirus case is detected and you’ve been exposed, they will contact you. If not, your information will be destroyed within four weeks. I know a lot of Americans don’t like this because they think it’s an invasion of privacy. Personally, I’m not bothered by it, because Germany has very strict privacy laws.

The “watch”… you get these at most water parks/Thermes in Germany. They’re very handy!

The receptionist handed us “watches” that served as our key to our room and allowed access to the Therme. Bill and I are familiar with the “watches”, since they are used at a lot of Thermes in Germany. They keep track of your time, allow you to access a locker in the changing rooms, and you can use them to pay for things so you don’t have to carry money in the Therme or the rest of the hotel. She also gave us hand sanitizer and a list of rules we had to follow because of the virus. Masks were compulsory in common areas, especially when it wasn’t possible to keep a distance. I think they also gave out disposable face masks to those who didn’t have them, but Bill and I didn’t need that. We were asked to tell the receptionist when we thought we’d want breakfast. I’m sure that was done to prevent too many people coming into the restaurant at once.

Bill booked a “deluxe” room, so we were assigned room 134. Here’s what it looked like:

The room was pretty clean, although the duvets looked a bit dingy. I was surprised it was a deluxe room, though. It seemed a bit small, and I thought the regular double sized rooms must be tiny. Bill said the difference between the double rooms and the deluxe rooms was a mere two square meters. They also have junior suites, but Bill wasn’t offered the choice to reserve one of those when he did an online booking.

Once we checked in and Bill brought everything in, I was still feeling anxious. In retrospect, we probably should have just hit the pools. Our room was right near the elevator that goes directly to the Therme and the Panorama Bar, which is on the third floor and slowly rotates so that patrons get views of the Taunus and Frankfurt city skyline. We had to take a different elevator to get to the room from the hotel. Getting to the room actually took some walking. The hotel isn’t tall, but it is kind of spread out. I get the sense, based on the construction of the Therme, that the Therme existed before the hotel did by a number of years. Consequently, they aren’t exactly seamlessly or conveniently constructed.

It wasn’t long until dinner time, and dinner was included in our rate. We went down at about 6:00 and were presented with the daily specials. The restaurant also offers a la carte items like steaks and burgers, as well as a kids’ menu. Here are some pictures of what we had in the restaurant, as well as the vending machines that were on the hall…

Cash is not being accepted at a lot of places. That’s kind of weird for Germany, which took a long time to get on the credit card bandwagon. The wine was not included in the half board plan, so Bill had to sign for that. Then we put on our masks and headed to the very cool Panorama Bar. I think that was probably my favorite thing about our weekend, despite the very loud Euro dance music. The bar slowly rotates, so you can sit in a very high backed booth and watch the scenery or sit outside on the terrace. The staff is friendly and attentive, and it was just a lot of fun to be in a bar after weeks of lockdown… I drank many cocktails! Luckily, they weren’t very strong.

I know it seems funny to be so excited about a bar, especially one that plays music I would never play at home. But– I have really missed going out, and I have missed being in bars. I also enjoyed the panorama, even though the view wasn’t so awesome as we passed the machinery on top of the hotel’s roof. It really allowed me to forget about the pandemic for awhile, even if I had to strap on a mask to go to the bathroom. But that wasn’t really rigidly enforced, either.

One of the songs played in the bar. I actually hate this kind of music, but I got a kick out of the lyrics of this song, some of which I easily understood. I ended up Shazaming it.

Trip forthcoming?

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Saturday is my birthday. Bill wants to go somewhere. Germany opened up yesterday, as did much of the rest of Europe, although we are still forbidden to leave the country under General Order #1… or whatever they’re calling it now. We are allowed to do overnights, though, and we can go anywhere in Germany. I suspect we won’t go far, since Bill is only planning two nights. I’m kind of dreading/looking forward to it, if that makes sense. I mean, I want to go somewhere, but I dread the hassle of life in a pandemic.

I wrote in my main blog about the new hobby I picked up in May. I’ve been playing guitar. Bill wants to learn too, so I’ve ordered two new guitars. One new one for me, because I wanted one with steel strings, and one for Bill. I hope they get to us before the weekend. I can hardly wait to try the new instrument, although I have been enjoying my Ortega guitar, too. It’s just that it’s a classical guitar with nylon strings and I want something a little edgier.

And finally, while we didn’t go anywhere on Sunday, we did order some food. Bill had to go on post to pick up something on Sunday, so he decided to stop by the Bamboo Asian Restaurant, which is located on the installation in Wiesbaden, meaning that it mostly caters to Americans. They do delivery on post, but I doubt they’d come all the way out to where we live. He wanted Thai food. It was the first time we’d ever had anything from there, although I was kind of curious about it.

He got me duck with peanut sauce, and he had crispy fish in red curry, which was supposed to be spicy. I didn’t try the crispy fish. The sauce was loaded with mushrooms. However, I did notice that they packaged everything separately, so if I had wanted to try the fish by itself, I could have. I liked that a lot. I enjoyed the duck with peanut sauce, too. In fact, l like peanut sauce very much, because I never see it loaded with mushrooms.

He also got some appetizers– Japanese dumplings, pork spring rolls, and shrimp sticks. They came with a sweet and sour sauce that was very gingery. I think there was a little too much ginger for my taste, although I liked the appetizers. They were nice and fried, which suits me fine! Here are a few photos:

I think Bill is going to keep our trip a secret… we could just end up in Frankfurt, which would be alright with me. I still don’t really feel like dealing with the world due to the coronavirus mess. But it would be good to get a change of scenery, I guess. And it would definitely wake up my sleepy travel blog.

It’s amazing. Every day, I look at photos from years past and remember all the fun we had, and took for granted. I hope this mess will be behind us at some point soon. But I’m not holding my breath.

Weird June weather…

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I thought maybe we’d go out yesterday. The weather has been nice lately, and it’s been awhile since I last had a proper outing. But then the sky opened up with rain, so we decided to stay in…

It’s sad when a Saturday is messed up by rain, but we do actually need the rain to fall. It’s been pretty dry lately. Our rain barrel was so depleted that I put in a few buckets of water from our tap. We use the rain barrel water for the plants Bill is trying to nurture into bearing fruits and vegetables, since there isn’t a spigot in the back yard (but there is one in the garage).

Bill went to the store yesterday to pick up a few things. He says the plexiglass barriers remain, but the cashiers aren’t wearing masks anymore, nor is there anyone “standing guard” to enforce wearing them among shoppers. We also got our tickets to FINALLY see Keb’ Mo’, who is scheduled to visit Germany again in November. He’s doing a show on our anniversary. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages. Hopefully, this will go on as planned and we’ll have our chance. We’ll see. At least Mainz is close to home for now.

Our landlord says he’s going to send in his work crew to check out a piece of siding that came off during a windstorm last year. He asked Bill about our plans, especially since Trump is making noises about reducing the number of troops in Germany. As far as we know, we will be here for at least another year and probably longer. On the other hand, one never knows about these things. Personally, I think Trump is full of hot air, especially right now. Our landlord also worries that we’ll leave Germany for Poland, since Trump has been building up our relations there and there had been talk of a “Fort Trump” (God help us). When we visited Poland a few months ago for Bill’s work, the landlord wondered if it was to house hunt (it wasn’t).

Honestly, I don’t know if a move to Poland would ever happen. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Poland if it ever came down to it. Poland has been steadily improving since our first visit in 2008, and I have heard that Americans are moving there to work. But we did reassure the landlord that we like Germany very much and don’t want to move unless we have to. We didn’t want to leave Stuttgart, either, but that turned out to be a the best thing that could have happened, if only because it got us out of an abusive living situation. Our current landlord is a much better fit for us, treats us with respect, and leaves us in peace.

I’ve been reading a lot about the new rules regarding flying. To be honest, as much as I hated flying before COVID-19, I think I’ll hate it even more now. I am not on the mask wearing bandwagon. I know a lot of people think they are helpful, and wearing them is the considerate thing to do, but to be very honest, I think their effectiveness is limited, especially since many people don’t even wash their hands when they use the bathroom. I do know how masks are supposed to work, in theory. In fact, one of my degrees is in public health, so I probably know more about this subject than a lot of people do. I just think the masks are mostly more about comforting the masses than actually preventing infections. When it comes down to it, social distancing and hand washing are a lot more important, and we’re hearing much less about that because they are impossible to monitor or enforce. Simple, loose fitting masks do not stop viruses from spreading, especially when people are constantly touching and fidgeting with them, although they might slow the viruses down a bit if they are worn properly and laundered or replaced regularly.

Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and the idea of being forced to wear one for hours on a plane is very unappealing to me, especially given that air travel is already unpleasant and expensive. Being glared at, judged, and harassed by strangers over the wearing of masks is also unappealing, especially given how expensive it is to fly. I will wear a mask if I have to for essential travel (say, if my mom dies while we’re in Germany or we have to move), but I will not be happy about it, even if it makes other people *feel* safer, *judge* me less, and *think* I’m more polite.

And so, this blog is probably going to be less interesting to most people for the foreseeable future. That makes me sad, since we really had a great time a couple of years ago, visiting places near Stuttgart. I enjoyed writing and taking pictures, too. Maybe I’ll get back to writing about local spots again, but I doubt we’re going to be taking as many great trips, although Bill definitely wants to. I probably won’t be updating this blog as often, either, since no one wants to read about our life at home. It was fun while it lasted.

So sad.

Speaking of things that are going away. It was announced the other day that our neighborhood restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen, has been forced to close. Bill and I only ate there once, in January 2019, because it was always packed and reservations were essential. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, it looks like yet another great local haunt is being forced to close its doors. This virus has really screwed things up for a lot of people. I also read that the wine stand is going to be dismantled at the end of June. That is especially tragic, since we really enjoyed attending last year, and getting to know our neighbors.

But people are trying to keep up their spirits. Kids in Hofheim and apparently other communities, according to my German friend near Stuttgart, are making painted rock snakes. Here’s a screenshot from our local group about that.

Anyway… I try to keep perspective. I’ve noticed that the kids at the local school seem happy and are still playing. Some wear masks and some don’t. I’m grateful that people where I live are sensible and reasonable about mask wearing, and don’t freak out if people leave their residence without one, since it is entirely possible to stay more than six feet away from others in our neighborhood. I also realize that this is certainly not the first or last time humans have been confronted by pandemics. They always eventually pass or become controllable. This particular pandemic has only been a thing for a few months, so people are still very scared. Some are downright panicky. That’s understandable, given the horror stories about people who have come down with COVID-19. However, I think most of us will eventually be exposed to it and most of us won’t die. Some will die, and some will be left debilitated. And hopefully, there will be some semblance of normal life and travel again at some point in the future.

We’ll see what happens. This blog has been slowly dying anyway, since we left Stuttgart and I quit promoting it and left most of the Facebook groups (which was really a smart thing to do, but that’s a rant for another day).

Stuff I’ve learned this weekend so far…

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Last night, I became aware of an aspect of German culture of which I was previously unaware. I have a friend living in Stuttgart who is Croatian, but easily passes for German and speaks German like a native. Yesterday, he posted about an altercation he had with a young woman who had a child with her. They exchanged words because he chastised her (which is VERY German behavior, especially in Swabia) for spitting on the sidewalk.

She, in turn, called him a “shit potato”.

My Croatian friend said that this young woman was speaking perfect “Kanaken German”. I asked him what that meant, and he said it was when a foreign person residing in Germany speaks bad German/slang. I was a bit confused by that. Does that include people like Bill, who speaks German poorly and resides in Germany? So I asked my German friend to explain my Croatian friend’s original comment:

“Wenn du von einem ca 19 jährigen Mädchen als “scheiss Kartoffel” beschimpft wirst, weil du ihr sagst, dass sie nicht auf den Gehweg spucken soll. Sie sprach perfekt Kanakendeutsch. Ach so, sie hatte ein Kind.”

My German friend, who is a superstar researcher and enjoys teaching me about Germany and its culture, found this hilarious video. Don’t worry if you don’t speak German. There are subtitles.

These are people from the Middle East– namely Turkey– learning “German”. This would be Kanaken German, though… poorly constructed and full of profanity. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humor?

Kanaken German is slangy, improperly constructed vernacular German typically spoken by some people of Middle Eastern heritage. Evidently, people who speak Kanaken German tend to be insulting. Like, for instance, the woman calling my Croatian friend a “shit potato”, and the people in the above video using words like “Aaalder” (which means “dude”, although the English subtitles say it means fucker) and “Dutture” (bitch). Well, since he’s not German, he’s technically not a “potato”, but she clearly thought he was German and referred to him as a “potato” as an insult. My Croatian friend sarcastically added, “And I’m the racist!” Clearly he’s not in this case. It’s not nice to insult people using cultural stereotypes, but it sounds like that exchange wasn’t very pleasant regardless!

According to my research, the term “potato” (Kartoffel) for Germans dates back to the 1960s, when Italians were brought in as guest workers. They were known as “spaghetti eaters” and Germans were known as “potato eaters”. Evidently, certain Turkish people have also come to use the term “Kartoffel” for Germans as a whole. As the above video demonstrates, Germans are also called “pig eaters”, which seems even more derogatory since most Turks are Muslims and they don’t eat pork.

I guess, in a weird way, Kanaken German could be characterized somewhat like Ebonics in English, although I don’t think Ebonics is necessarily derogatory. It’s simply “black English”– language patterns that evolved when black people were enslaved in the United States. In the 1990s, Ebonics became somewhat controversial in the United States because certain groups felt it should be legitimized and respected. The term Ebonics dates from the early 70s. It was coined by African American social psychologist Robert Williams, who felt that the dialect spoken by some black Americans should have a name that was less negative than other terms for it, such as “nonstandard Negro English”.

Anyway… I thought it was interesting that I learned a little something more about German culture based on a Facebook post. I’m always grateful to my German friend for being willing to explain these things to me, especially when she finds entertaining teaching examples like the hilarious video above. It definitely drove home the point!

Yesterday, Bill went into Wiesbaden to pick up some Five Guys burgers for us and check out how things are looking as Germany gradually normalizes after the spring lockdown from hell. He said that there were a lot of people out and about, and some people wear masks as they walk around. Most people only put them on when entering a building. People were dining in restaurants. Wait staff wears masks, but if you’re sitting at a table, it’s not required. You just wear them to come in, leave, or use the restroom. And everyone must leave their contact information in case someone is reported ill. After three or four weeks, the information is discarded. I still have no desire to dine out under those conditions, especially as the temperatures rise, but I may change my mind. I’m grateful that people seem to be working together in Germany instead of being polarized, as it appears a lot of people are in the United States right now.

For today, Bill ordered a three course lunch from our favorite fine dining restaurant, Villa Im Tal. He’s going to pick it up this afternoon, and we will dine at home.

I also had occasion to try a couple of Bailey’s liqueur products yesterday. Most Americans know Bailey’s Irish Cream. However, there are a few other varieties of cordials available made by that company. They have the sinfully delicious Bailey’s Luxe Chocolat, which is pretty much like an orgasm in a bottle– Bailey’s mixed with Belgian chocolate. They have Strawberries & Cream. And they have Almande, which is a vegan, lactose free, almond milk drink. All of these cordials can be enjoyed by themselves or as mixers. I have had the Luxe Chocolat many times, so I didn’t need to taste test that.

I enjoyed both the Strawberries & Cream and the Almande, though I would prefer original Bailey’s or Luxe Chocolat to either of them. The Strawberries & Cream, which contains milk and milk products, reminded me of strawberry flavored Quik (Nesquik) from my youth, or perhaps the pink, liquid, antibiotic medicine (Erythromycin) I used to get for ear infections when I was a child. The Almande has a nice, rich, nutty taste, but the liqueur isn’t as rich or creamy. I did put some in my coffee this morning, though. It was not bad at all.

And finally, here are some pictures of our garden. We had a tree die in our yard last fall. It was overcome by ivy. As we’ve cut down most of it, a small patch of land has opened up for a small garden. Since we can’t travel like we usually do, Bill has decided to do some gardening. He picked up some garden boxes, since the plain patch was being ruined by Arran’s incessant need to dig. Now that he has a new box, he’s going to move some cucumber plants. We may have some fresh vegetables this summer. In light of today’s post, maybe we should have planted some potatoes…

My first time out of the neighborhood since March 14th…

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Bill and I had to go on post today. We both needed to get our vision tested for new driver’s licenses and I needed passport photos for a renewal. So, for the first time since March 14th, I rode in the car. This time, it was with face masks I bought from Amazon.de. They’re the surgical kind, since they were the easiest to get my hands on quickly. I bought a pack of ten.

As we passed the entrance to our neighborhood, I was reminded of a month ago, when the dog we had hoped to adopt escaped his pet transport and got hit by a car. We live very close to Autobahn 3 and Autobahn 66. A3 is literally right next to our neighborhood. I felt a little sick thinking about that poor dog disoriented, terrified, and lost as he ran away from what could have been the lap of luxury for him. He was so close… And it will probably be a while before we can get our next dog.

Maybe it’s for the best, since it’s hard to get the routine services we need. Bill needs to get new rear tires for his car, since we had snow tires put on them in France back in December. I need to get my car serviced. Arran, Bill, and I all need dental cleanings, which means a vet visit for Arran and the dentist for Bill and me. Germany is starting to loosen up some restrictions, but everyone has to wear masks now in any place where social distancing isn’t easy.

We did decide to order take out again last night. Our local Italian joint/sportsplatz, La Fonte, had pizza and pasta on offer. Bill said the family that runs the restaurant was sitting outside drinking wine as they handed over the orders. They were doing a good business. We’ll probably get more take out tonight, since I’m tired of Bill’s cooking and we want to support local businesses. I’m kidding, actually. Bill has turned into a great cook. But I do want to give some business to the restaurants, since they have provided me with content for so long.

The drive to post was even quicker than usual, since there wasn’t so much traffic. We got to the gate and a uniformed guy in a mask asked us the three important questions about whether or not we had been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not we had symptoms, and if we were ordered to be quarantined by a medical officer. We both said no to all three questions, then presented our IDs to be scanned touchlessly.

This is probably a European eye test as opposed to an American one. It’s probably harder to cheat on it, since it’s not letters. I remember doing one in Armenia that was different, too. It was a Russian eye test.

The PX opened for regular folks (as opposed to high risk folks) at 11:00am. We needed the optical shop. A sergeant was standing there in his mask, enforcing the wait time. Finally, at 11:00, we all washed our hands, donned our masks, and went in. Taking the eye exam was weird. It was a German style test, which meant telling the examiner where the openings were. I had trouble with my left eye until I realized that the steam from behind the mask was fogging up the lens. Once I let the steam dissipate, I could read everything properly.

After the eye test, we found the passport photo booth, where I got new pictures done for my passport. I was actually quite pleased with them, since the photo I’ve had since 2011 is horrible. In that picture, I look fat, hungover, and my hair is a yucky shade of dark brown. I gave up hair color several years ago, because the hard German water mixed with dye was turning it into straw. So now I’m back to my original blonde with silvery hints. And the new pictures done by a machine are prettier and have more natural light, even if I still look fat. The weird thing is, it’s just like taking a selfie with your phone. You think you’re going to look like you do on the monitor, but your image is reversed. But for some reason, it looks less ridiculous taken by the machine.

We went into the PX to pick up a few things… I got a new hairbrush, conditioner, and lotion for my horribly dry skin. I think I have eczema on my boobs, which is not very pleasant. The hard water and constant washing has turned my skin into leather. Edited to add: my German friend says there is soft water in parts of Germany, however in all of the places I’ve lived, it’s been very hard by American standards. It’s been hardest of all in Wiesbaden, where there was so much chalk on our taps when we moved in that we couldn’t turn one of them on and had to get it replaced. We also have to use salt in the dishwasher or else our dishes look terrible. Vinegar is useful for getting rid of some of the Kalk, but it’s an ongoing battle.

After about twenty minutes with the mask, I was ready to get the hell out of the PX. It wasn’t as stifling as I feared it would be, but the thing kept going into my eyes, requiring me to touch it to adjust it, which you shouldn’t do. Anyway… since this was a momentous occasion, I did get some photos…

Anyway… I’m glad to have that chore done with for now. I’ve been bugging Bill about our driver’s licenses and my passport for ages. We should have done it before this coronavirus mess started. Hindsight, unlike my eyesight, is 20/20.

Still social distancing, but we finally got take out…

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With all the dining out we’ve historically done, It’s surprising that it took until last night for us to get any take out from local restaurants. I told Bill I wanted to support local joints during this time of social distancing so they can keep afloat, so he went to Restaurant Ariston in nearby Hofheim to pick up Greek food last night.

For me, he got a Grill Teller with gyros, beef cutlet, souvlaki, fries, and a salad. It came with very garlicky tzaziki. For himself, he got gyros baked in Metaxa sauce and covered with cheese with fries and a salad. We shared the food. I normally wouldn’t get the baked gyros, but they were very good. I especially enjoyed the traditional gyros, though, with the delicious tzaziki. I usually get a bit weirded out by white condiments, but I have to admit tzaziki on grilled meat is delicious!

This cost about 30 euros and we have plenty of leftovers. It’s been ages since we last had Greek food, and over a month since we last had any food from a restaurant. We used to eat Greek a lot, since we’ve always lived near Greek restaurants. There aren’t that many of them in our current area. Bill said the inside of Restaurant Ariston looks nice and the outside area would be great for this time of year, as the weather improves. Hopefully we’ll get to dine in there at some point.

We drank Armenian wine with this interesting repast. Bill said the guy running the restaurant had a few orders going. I found a couple of other restaurants we’re going to try. This week, Germany is going to loosen a few restrictions. Small businesses are going to be allowed to reopen, which I’m sure will help make things feel more normal. Kids will be allowed to go back to school on May 4. I even found a local park we could visit maybe next weekend, if the weather is nice.

I do miss eating in restaurants, though… and I feel like such a hermit. I ordered some face masks so we can go on post and take care of some vital personal business. I need a vision exam and to get some passport photos so I can get a new driver’s license and renew my passport… not that we can use it to travel anytime soon.

I’m glad to be in Germany for this mess. It’s really disturbing to read about the nightmare occurring in the United States right now. People are losing their damned minds.

I wish I had more to write about, other than take out Greek food. On the other hand, it was very exciting to get it. Maybe we can order a fancy dinner from another restaurant at some point. I would encourage anyone reading this who can order takeout food to do so… Let’s keep the local eateries going so we’ll have places to enjoy if and when this virus crisis ends.

Mmm’kay… now that I’ve updated the blog, what do I do now?

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The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating effect on my travel writing. As I was updating the blog over the past few months, I realized that we’ve had a whole lot of fun over the past few years. I’m deeply grateful that Bill and I got to do so much in Europe since we moved back here in 2014. But now what are we going to do? How is this virus going to change things for the immediate future?

I could easily come up with some posts about our travels so far. I could write more about what living in Germany is like when things are “normal”. But what if things aren’t normal anymore? Things are still evolving… and I literally haven’t left my neighborhood in a month. Bill goes to work sometimes and handles most of the shopping and picking up the mail at our U.S. post office in Wiesbaden. But I stay home.

I don’t even have a mask yet. I have my reasons for that. First off, I only leave the house to walk Arran. Secondly, I don’t think the homemade masks are very effective. Theoretically, it seems like they would help, but we’re dealing a virus, which is extremely tiny. The virus can penetrate a fabric mask or your eyes, if they aren’t covered. If the virus is on a ball of saliva, maybe its transmission will be slowed, since the ball of saliva would have a harder time escaping the mask. But if you don’t wear the mask properly, and many people don’t, the homemade mask is not useful and, in fact, gives some people a false sense of security. Many people will reuse them, too, without properly laundering them.

Now… if I have to go on post, I’ll need a mask. I guess I’ll either make one or buy one, just so it looks like I’m following the rules. But frankly, I think it’s better to simply stay away from people, which is what I’m doing. I stay in the house with Arran or sit outside in my yard. I walk the dog and stay far away from other people. Bill has a mask, so he goes out in public. So far, masks aren’t mandatory in Germany. In fact, there are tentative plans to reopen some businesses this coming week. Schools are going to open in May. But things aren’t going to be normal for a long time.

Anyway… I don’t have any delusions that we will ever be rid of the coronavirus. It’s just one more exotic disease that will probably not be so exotic as time passes. I did read some exciting news stories about doctors who have figured out how to treat the illness. One story came out of Richmond, Virginia. If you’re in Europe, you will need a VPN to read it. Another was on CNN, about a company creepily called Gilead that makes a drug that seems promising. But the headlines are more negative than positive…

What’s so scary about this virus is that it’s affecting people differently. Bill has a co-worker whose had it. He and his wife are now mostly recovered. And I have a friend whose sister has it and is currently on a ventilator. It does look like she’s going to recover. She’s been improving. But she’s been on a ventilator since last weekend, and even though her need for oxygen is going down, she’s still in a fragile situation. I’m sure that at some point, most of us will be exposed… but until we have some kind of vaccine or treatment, a lot of people are going to be affected by this and many people will get very sick and even die.

So it puts a damper on our travel plans… and even our plan to adopt a new dog is affected. We have our eye on one, but he’s in Kosovo and can’t get to Germany until the borders open and he can have a blood test done. Our situation is better than a lot of people’s, but it really is sad and scary to see what’s happening to the world this year.

Maybe I’ll feel more like writing about travel soon. For now, I think it’s going to take some time.

Coronavirus craziness in Germany!

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I haven’t been writing on the travel blog much lately for a few reasons. One is that I’ve been updating the formatting on this blog so that the old posts are readable. This time of year, when the weather sucks so much that I don’t want to venture out, is the best time to be doing that chore.

Another reason I haven’t been writing much is because Bill has been going on incessant TDYs lately. He’s currently in the United States, and this is his third TDY since the beginning of the year. I don’t really go out much on my own. I could. I’ve got a car and still can drive. In fact, this week, I have both cars! But I have no reason to go anywhere and no desire to deal with the hassles of emerging, even though it would probably do me some good.

And that brings me to the third reason I haven’t been writing much… Coronavirus. To be clear, I’m not worried about it much myself. I don’t mingle with many people and, even if I did get sick, it’s not like many people would miss me. I mean, Bill would… and Arran would… and maybe a few friends and family members. But no one really depends on what I do, so if I bit the big one, it’s no big deal.

I haven’t heard that Germany has been really badly hit with the scourge yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from panicking. Today’s featured photo was taken on Saturday, when Bill went to the Globus to buy some groceries. The entire Italian product section was stripped bare. A local chuckled when she noticed Bill taking a photo of the empty shelves.

My German friend, Susanne, says that she was forced to buy “fancy” toilet paper with flowers on it instead of the plain white she favors because there’s no regular toilet paper in the stores. Even the organic markets are being affected by panicked Germans who are hoarding stuff. Yes, it has been in the news— officially reported that even though health ministers in Germany are warning against it, people are buying out the stores.

The same thing was reported by the commissary on post. Bill went there the other day, too, and he said it was a mad house. Local officials even made an announcement about how stock was depleted faster than expected and that they were working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

My German friend wonders why people are buying so much soap and paper products just now… and why they aren’t more concerned that there aren’t many isolation beds in this country. They’re all confined to major cities, too.

I did read one interesting account of a man who got Coronavirus after having been trapped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship for two weeks. He started getting sick on the chartered plane ride back to the States, then went into quarantine. He’s now better, and well enough to write an article for the Washington Post. That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t take precautions. Of course they should. But really, the most important thing is to practice good hygiene and have common sense. Wash your hands. That’s the most important thing. Don’t touch your face, especially if you haven’t just washed your hands. And cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze… then wash your hands again.

I’ve been thinking about taking a walk to the Rewe. I haven’t been in there since they renovated it, following the grand opening of a new drink market in December. Bill always goes and leaves me at home. There are a few things we need at home, though, and it would do me some good to get out. On the other hand, if I do go there, will there be anything left to buy? Or will I be reminded of 90s era Armenia, where everything is behind a counter?

Maybe I’ll find out… if the weather holds. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep eating leftovers.