Christmas, fests, friends, Germany, markets, Wiesbaden

Wiesbaden Christmas Market 2021

My friend Priya, her husband Ron, and our new friend, Heather, came up to Wiesbaden from Stuttgart yesterday. They asked Bill and me to join them at the Wiesbaden Christmas Market. The markets down near Stuttgart have mostly been cancelled, due to rising COVID-19 infections, but there are many towns in other states that are having smaller versions of their markets. Priya and Ron have been making their way to a number of them.

I was glad they invited us to join them. I had been wanting to to go the market, but was having trouble with motivation. The weather hasn’t been nice lately, and the COVID rules can be onerous. But thanks to our friends from Stuttgart, we managed to have a great time. It was quite a shock to hang out with people again. We were all laughing about the erosion of social skills that has happened since March 2020.

After a few hours and too much wine and beer, we said our goodbyes. Priya, Ron, and Heather went on to visit the market in Mainz. Bill and I went home to feed the dogs.

For some reason, the connection on this site is excruciatingly slow today. I’ll have to keep the commentary to a minimum. I also can’t delete the photos, so there are a few that look like repeats. I’ll try to fix these glitches later.

A good time was had by all!

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anecdotes, dogs, friends

Make new friends, lose the old…

This weekend has been a bust in terms of fun stuff. Although Christmas markets in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have been canceled, the one is Wiesbaden is apparently still on. We got some sun yesterday, but I was waiting for a package that didn’t arrive until late afternoon. Also, I had a feeling that attending the Christmas market would be more of a hassle than I cared to experience. Even before COVID-19 was an issue, I was never one to enjoy crowded fests. We did attend a lot of them in the past, but I am not a freak about them, like some people are.

A lot of places in Germany are now employing 2G plus measures, meaning that a person has to be either fully vaccinated or proven recovered from the virus, and even then, they have to get tested. I am fully vaccinated, but it’s about time for a booster. So we stayed home yesterday. Today, the weather is crappy, so I don’t feel like walking around outside, and I don’t feel like dealing with face masks indoors. I don’t know if we’ll go out today, but I tend to think we won’t. It’s already two o’clock, and it’s dark and cloudy outside. I can stay in my warm house, listen to cheesy soundtracks from 80s animated films, and write blog posts… no need for vaccine certs or face masks… or a bra.

Last night, a topic entered my head that I thought might be a good one for this blog. Originally, this blog was supposed to be a travel blog, but COVID-19 has made traveling harder. So now, it’s more of an American’s “life abroad” blog. And there’s something I’ve noticed after living abroad a few times. It’s that friendships don’t always survive the move back stateside.

At this point, Bill and I have lived in Germany this time for just over seven years. During that time, I’ve only been “home” once. Because we’re here with the U.S. government/military, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I sort of made “friends” with some people. And the vast majority of those friendships have now ended as those people have moved on with their lives.

I noticed the same thing happened in Armenia. I made friends with people there– other Americans– and once we no longer had Armenia in common, the friendship fizzled. Now that I think about it, this happens a lot even if you don’t live abroad. How many people were you once friends with at a job or in school that you never talk to anymore? Before social media existed, it happened all the time. Then, when we had Facebook, or its predecessor, MySpace (which I rarely used), suddenly we were “friends” again with people we hadn’t seen since 4th grade. Gradually, some of those connections faded for any number of reasons.

I guess it seems stranger that it happens when you meet people while living abroad. For many people, it’s a life changing event to move to another country. I know that every time I’ve done it, I’ve changed and grown in immeasurable ways. In some cases, it’s made it hard for me to relate to people with whom I used to identify a lot more strongly. For instance, there are certain friends and relatives with whom I probably can no longer discuss politics or religion. In the case of my relatives, they’ll always be family. There’s always a chance we’ll meet again… maybe at a funeral or a wedding or something. Friends, on the other hand, are more likely to fade away permanently.

I’m always a little bit sad when I lose contact with someone I once called a “friend”, even if they were just a social media friend. Maybe younger people have less of a problem with it than I do. I grew up at a time when friendships meant more. Or maybe it just seemed that way. We had fewer friends, because those relationships had to be cultivated in person. Now, you can be “friends” with anyone, anywhere in the world. In some ways, that’s a great thing. I have some dear friends that I have never met offline. And I have other friends I used to party with who are now in my past.

I decided to write about this today because I realized, with some sorrow, that I don’t even really want to try to make friends with people anymore. I don’t want to connect with someone, only to have the relationship eventually fizzle out. That’s kind of a bleak way to look at things. I’d rather not be so cynical. But I also really try to be a good friend, even if I can sometimes be a bit slow to trust people. That comes from being burned multiple times. It also comes from the idea that a lot of people don’t know how to take my personality. Maybe that’s why I’m so much more comfortable with dogs and horses.

Speaking of dogs… our Noyzi has really started to integrate into the family now. He likes to hang out with me on a little rug by our bed. I had originally put it there for Zane, to give him traction when he jumped on the bed. Now, it’s Noyzi’s little spot when I watch TV, as you can see in the featured photo. Sadly, the man who rescued him got angry with me a couple of months ago, because I didn’t want to get involved in a fundraiser he was trying to organize. I felt it was not a wise thing for me to do, because he didn’t seem to have the fundraiser set up completely, and some of his practices seemed kind of sketchy to me. He got angry with me and blocked me on Facebook, which makes me sad.

Even today, I was thinking about what a miracle it is that Noyzi was found by this man in Kosovo. If it wasn’t for him, Noyzi would, at best, still be living on the streets in Pristina. But he’s here in Germany, giving and receiving a lot of love. He was even named by this young man in Kosovo and I kept the name, though I would have made a different choice if I had been the one to name him originally. I would have liked to have been actual friends with this man, who gave us such a gift. But it didn’t work out, because I didn’t want to bend to his will. He accused me of “playing games”.

I realize I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I truly don’t go out of my way to screw over anyone. I don’t try to annoy or offend people. I’m just who I am, which is apparently too much for some people.

Lately, I’ve realized that living over here can be kind of lonely. I do miss some of my family members, although I doubt most of them miss me. I don’t know if or when we’ll be going back to our roots, but even if we did, I don’t think it would be the same… and I would probably just want to move again. Moving to the States with Noyzi would be quite a project, so I am hoping we can put it off for awhile.

Anyway… this turned out to be more of an introspective and joyless post than I intended it to be. I guess I’ll close this post and go hang out with Bill, who has already been in here twice to talk to me, even though he knows I’m writing. We have chicken and homemade rolls to eat. Last night’s dinner was definitely a better effort than our Thanksgiving dinner was. Hopefully, the holiday spirit will kick in… maybe I will even be arsed to go to a Christmas market before they all get canceled.

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Croatia, friends, restaurant reviews

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part five

Friday morning, we woke up to fog and chilly weather. On Thursday night, I had turned on The Crown, Netflix’s series about the British Royal Family. I had seen all of the episodes, but Bill hadn’t, so we quickly got hooked. While we ate breakfast, we watched another episode of The Crown as we made our plans for our time in Croatia. In retrospect, we should have made more of an effort to make plans before we got to Croatia, but I think COVID and the uncertainty of what might happen at any border, kind of made of reluctant to book ahead.

I knew we definitely wanted to see the lakes, but it wasn’t possible for us to visit on Friday. Visitors can purchase tickets online at least 24 hours in advance or at the gate on the day of the visit– but tickets can only be bought on site if the tickets haven’t already sold out. We had already tried to buy tickets for the Krka River National Park and found them sold out online, which is why we didn’t also visit there during our trip. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t buy tickets for the other park. I’ll explain why in the next post.

So we decided to take a drive, eat lunch in a restaurant, and have a look around. That wasn’t a bad compromise, as there were a lot of leaves changing color. There are also some sites nearby that, if we had been more curious, we might have stopped and looked at. I was content to enjoy very fresh trout, likely from the lakes, which I could see were brimming with fish.

First, we had to find a restaurant that was open. We stopped at one place, but Bill said he didn’t have any Kuna, which is the Croatian currency. Although Croatia is a very card friendly place, we found our in Wels, Austria that not every place takes credit cards. The Greek restaurant where we ate was a cash only establishment. So Bill decided to look for an ATM, only to find TWO of them at the first restaurant and at the place next to it. We ended up eating at Plitvice Holiday Resort, which had a huge menu, friendly service, and it looked like a lot of lodging options, particularly for active types.

The cheerful blonde waitress spoke excellent English and happily brought us a couple of Croatian beers while we decided on lunch. For me, it was easy… I was having trout. Bill decided to have pork skewers. Unfortunately, both dishes came with mushrooms in the garnishes. I noticed that the Croatians are very fond of mushrooms, which is not fun for a person with mycophobia. The restaurant at the resort got mixed reviews, but we had a good experience there. We also enjoyed watching the Croatians at a neighboring table. The wine was flowing very freely, even though it was early afternoon.

After lunch, we kept driving for awhile, checking out the beautiful scenery and interesting scenes in what was once a socialist country that most Americans couldn’t visit. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, I am kind of fascinated by Eastern Europe, especially when there are still signs of the past. Slovenia doesn’t look at all like it was once part of Yugoslavia. It’s very westernized. But Croatia still has some reminders of the past. As you can see from the photos below, I concentrated mostly on the natural beauty of the region.

It was almost dark when we got back to the house. It was chilly and the wind was blowing. We were almost out of wood, so Bill went over to the caretaker’s house to ask where the wood was. He ended up getting invited over for homemade brandy. He called me, and I went over to the caretaker’s house. We sat outside, drank brandy, and talked. It turned out brandy was the only spirit the caretaker, name of Duje, would drink. He told us he had once been a pilot for Yugoslavia, and had flown all over the world to places in Africa and South America. He met his wife in Belgrade, and they eventually moved to Korenica, where they’ve been since 1968.

Duje showed us some of his hunting trophies, as well as the chickens he keeps. He has a couple of dogs, a small black one that had a house in his front yard, and a larger black one who was penned up near the chickens. We saw the bigger dog frolicking in the field behind the house one morning. I felt a little sorry for him. He seemed lonely.

Duje’s wife, whom he called “Babba”, was adorable. She brought out cookies and made Turkish coffee for us. At one point, Duje shouted for her attention. He muttered that she doesn’t hear so well anymore. But she does make a hell of a fire. After we visited, she came back to the house with us, helped Bill gather wood, and made us another roaring fire in the fireplace! We got back to watching The Crown and enjoyed Croatian wines and snacks, since lunch filled us up. Maybe we should have tried to do more on Friday, but there’s something to be said for resting and soaking up the atmosphere… especially since Saturday was the opposite of restful!

I love how, on our travels, we somehow always manage to meet interesting people. When we lived near Stuttgart, we heard many stories from Greeks who had prestigious careers before they came to Germany and opened Greek restaurants. Our old friend, the late “Mad Scientist” in Entringen, had been an engineer in Canada before love brought him to Germany. And the proprietor at the Greek restaurant at the Sportsplatz in our old town of Jettingen had been a pilot for Lufthansa. He had a Korean wife. Probably met her in his flying days… but who knows?

Anyway, Duje and his wife are now country folks who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of Croatia. We were glad to meet them and share brandy with them. We probably would not have had that experience at a hotel in a bigger town.

Stay tuned for part six, which will feature beautiful photos… and many complaints about my aging and aching body.

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friends, Mainz, restaurant reviews, wine

Meeting an old friend in Mainz…

In the spring of 1998, I was 25 years old and living with my parents in Gloucester, Virginia. Six months earlier, I had come home from a two year stint in the Republic of Armenia, where I had served as an English teacher with the Peace Corps. While I will never regret spending those years in Armenia, I came home with a pretty serious case of clinical depression. I was broke and having a hard time finding a job that would pay enough to get me launched out on my own. I also came home to some significant family issues, which made my living at home a burden to my parents.

I spent the first few months home working as a temp, mostly at the College of William & Mary in various capacities. In the spring of ’98, I found myself working in William & Mary’s admissions office. That was an eye-opening experience, but it didn’t pay enough and the work was incredibly tedious. My parents were eager to have me get out on my own and I was eager to leave. I didn’t get along with my dad, who had his own issues with depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcoholism. My mom was at her wits’ end trying to keep their business going, which they ran out of their house. Dad had gone to rehab the day after my return from Armenia. Dad’s rehab ultimately wasn’t successful. He and I fought a lot.

One day, after a terrible row with my dad, I marched myself over to The Trellis, at that time one of the best restaurants in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was then owned by renowned Chef Marcel Desaulniers, who has written many cookbooks and used to have cooking shows on PBS. His partner, John Curtis, owned several businesses in Williamsburg and had himself been a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1960s. My mission was to get a job that would pay more so I could GTFO of my parents’ house and get on with my life.

My eldest sister had worked at The Trellis in 1980, when it first opened. She graduated from William & Mary in 1981 and had gone on to do bigger and better things, including joining the Peace Corps. She went to Morocco from 1984-86. I had followed in her footsteps, but unlike my big sister, I wasn’t finding success. Although I had never worked as a waitress before, all three of my sisters had waited tables. I figured if they could do it, so could I. I liked working with food and was giving some thought to going to culinary school. When I was in Armenia, I had done a number of food related projects and had even once been employed as a cook.

The Trellis had a reputation for being a great place to be if you wanted to make bank, but it was also an extremely demanding work environment. I had applied to work there once in 1994, but the manager passed. I worked in retail for a year, then went to Armenia. In 1998, I was determined to get a job at The Trellis. I was mostly motivated by my rage at my dad and the need to stop living in his house. That must have been the magic that was missing the first time I applied, because that time, I got hired. Or, it could have been that they simply needed warm bodies. In 1998 and throughout my time working at The Trellis, they were always hiring because they were chronically short staffed! A lot of people were hired, only to quit or be fired in short order.

I had a really hard time learning how to wait tables at The Trellis. Marcel Desaulniers had been a Marine and he ran his kitchen with military precision. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have experience waiting tables, though. In fact, the management preferred people who were brand new to waiting tables. That way, there weren’t any bad habits that had to be remedied. But it was difficult getting the hang of the job. I remember it took a few weeks before I was finally at ease with the job itself. And then I had to learn about the food!

The menu changed seasonally, and all of the wait staff had to demonstrate their knowledge. There were daily specials, which we had to recite from memory. We were tested on the menus and learned about wine and liquor. Everyone started working at lunch, which was fast paced and required a lot more work to make cash. As a waiter’s skills improved, he or she would be promoted to “Dinner Cafe”, which was even worse than working lunch. It was basically a hybrid menu that included certain lunch and dinner dishes and patrons were seated on the terrace or in the “cafe” area. The money was nominally better, but the work was just as hard. Finally, when menu tests were passed and table maintenance skills were high enough, the waiter would get dinner shifts and start making good money.

It was a lot to take in, and I felt like I was back in college. In those days, I was strictly a beer drinker and I knew nothing about wine, fine food, or liquor. I remember fumbling with the wine tool, trying to get accustomed to opening bottles of wine with style. I got yelled at all the time by the powers that be, which was hard on me. The job was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. There were a few times when I felt like giving up and trying something else.

Even though I was crippled by depression and anxiety, I was determined to succeed. I just thought about how much I needed to have my own apartment and reminded myself that waiting tables is a very portable skill. After many weeks of hard work, I did eventually make it to a venerable dinner waiter position and even trained some people. But there were many meltdowns along the way… and at first, quite a few people thought I might be one of the many people who didn’t make it through the first week of training. I worked at The Trellis for about a year and a half before I left to go to graduate school.

One of the captains working at The Trellis in 1998 was a guy named CW. I was immediately impressed and inspired by him. He was hardworking, funny, and kind. However, he was also very detailed oriented and task directed. I liked and respected him immediately, especially when I learned that when he started at The Trellis, he took the bus all the way from Norfolk, Virginia to get to work. There were times he missed the last bus home. Still, he showed up to work every day on time and busted his ass to provide great service and make money. He was tough when he needed to be, yet compassionate. CW was a fine role model.

CW left The Trellis a few months after I started working there. I remember his farewell at line up one day. He announced that he was going to work at Kinkead’s, a legendary (and now defunct) restaurant in Washington, DC. I remember the kind send off he received from the restaurant’s more senior staffers. Years later, when I turned 30, Bill and I celebrated at Kinkead’s because I remember CW talking about it. He didn’t wait on us, but I remember that birthday dinner as one of the first of many great meals Bill and I have had together.

CW still works in DC, and has had the opportunity to work at a lot of great restaurants with some amazing chefs. He is now studying to become a wine expert, specifically in German wines. Last week, as part of his sommelier training, he came to the Rheingau to work at a winery. We had the opportunity to meet up in Mainz last night. Even though I hadn’t seen him since 1998, he was easy to spot and there wasn’t a moment of awkwardness all evening.

We had a lovely evening at a Weinstube called Weinhaus zum Spiegel. It’s a charming place in one of the many “alleys and alcoves” in Mainz, a city Bill and I are still getting to know. Over several glasses of wine and small plates, CW, Bill, and I talked for several hours. Here are a few photos from our evening. I do mean a “few” photos, because we were so focused on chatting that there wasn’t much time for picture taking.

Weinhaus zum Spiegel is in a super charming timbered building. I wish I had gotten a picture of it when the sun was still shining. We’ll have to go back to Mainz so I can get a proper photo of the historic looking edifice. I can’t say I was terribly impressed by the food, especially since I had originally wanted smoked trout and they were out of it. I did see a lot of people enjoying Federweisser (new wine) and Zwiebelkuchen (onion “cake”, which looks more like a tart). Although Zwiebelkuchen is a famous dish in southern Germany and popular this time of year, I still have yet to try it. I wish I’d had it last night, although I did like the Spundekäs.

Anyway, we weren’t really there for food as much as we were the company, and CW is excellent company. It was exciting to hear about his plans to break into the German wine industry. Who knows? He may soon join us over here… if we don’t end up having to move again. He has many tales of working in Washington, DC and dealing with some major high maintenance folks– politicians and their ilk– as well as some surprisingly down to earth celebrities.

We finally called it a night at about 10:30, when it was becoming clear that the Weinstube was winding down its service. As Bill and I made our way home, I was musing about how special the memories of working at The Trellis are to some of us. It was a place where I went through many different levels of hell. I remember “shitting Twinkies”, as CW once put it, on the terrace on beautiful spring and fall afternoons and major holidays. I lost a lot of weight working there, and also found myself in therapy and on medication to finally deal with the depression and anxiety that had hindered me for so long. I made enough money to get health insurance, and gathered the resolve to seek the help I desperately needed. I socked away money for the day when I would finally move out on my own. Finally, when I was ready, I launched into graduate school, which led to this “overeducated housewife” lifestyle I currently enjoy.

I only worked at The Trellis for about 18 months, and much of the actual job was hell, but I left there with so many friends I can still count on today, even twenty years after my last shift. We’re all scattered around the world now, but we have the camaraderie of that common experience binding us and, through the magic of Facebook, can stay in touch. And, just like CW, when it was time to leave, I got a warm send off, complete with a signed cookbook from Marcel, and a song from the resident harp guitarist, Stephen Bennett, whose music got me through so many horrific Saturday night dinner shifts. I learned about good food, fine wines, table maintenance, hard work, and even great music. Not only did I discover Stephen Bennett at The Trellis, I also made enough money to invest in voice lessons for myself! And, as difficult as it all was, working at the Trellis absolutely changed my life for the better. In fact, working there might have even saved my life, given my mental state at the time. 😉

The Trellis still exists in Williamsburg, but it now has different owners and is no longer a fine dining establishment. I haven’t been there to try its new incarnation. I’m not sure I could bear it. I think I’d rather remember it the way it was back in the day.

Cheers to all of my former Trellis colleagues who once shat Twinkies in the weeds with me! And cheers to CW as he continues his path to bigger and better things! I have a feeling our paths could cross again on this side of the Atlantic.

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fests, friends, Germany

Partying with Germans!

Last night, the neighbor two doors down from us held a party for the neighborhood.  They planned this gathering several weeks ago.  I found an invite in German with a handwritten note in English asking us to join them.  We were asked to bring something to grill and a salad.  Bill cooked ribs on the grill at home and made a minted cucumber salad, which was really good.  He also brought a few of his homebrews.

Quite a few of our neighbors speak English, so we weren’t without people to talk to.  Bill speaks some German and I understand more and more every day, although I still don’t speak it.  It was nice to hang out with these people we’ve been living among for the past three years.

Bill bonded with the host when he shared his latest homemade beer, a red ale.  The host liked it, although his daughter tried it and I don’t think she was all that impressed.  I have a feeling Bill will be teaching him how to brew beer.  We learned that the host and his wife and kids lived in Boston for a few years, so they are quite familiar with us Yanks.

Unfortunately, Bill got to talking beer with the host while we were heating up the ribs, so they got a bit overdone.  Next time, we’ll bring wurst or something.

It was actually kind of interesting talking to the neighbors, especially the lady who lives next door to us.  I learned that she was a nurse for years.  She doesn’t speak much English, though she speaks more English than I do German.  I learned that she was athletic as a youngster and likes to sing, as I do.  And another neighbor is an opera singer.  I’ve been known to sing a few arias myself.

Having great neighbors is a huge plus.  I haven’t gotten to know the people in our neighborhood, but they’ve been tolerant and respectful of us.  And now that we’ve partied with them, I think the mood will be even better.  It will certainly be better than it was in Texas.  Every day in July, when I look at Facebook’s “On this day” feature, I am reminded of the hell that was July 2014, as we were planning to move to Germany and I was recovering from my dad’s death.  I must admit that it was absolutely worth it to move back here.

This was one of the beers our hosts offered us.  It was an excellent dark beer.  We’ll have to find it sometime.

Bill starts a new job today… well, it’s not a new job in that he’s working in the same office with the same people.  It’s just a new company.  So this week, he and his other colleagues who are joining the new company will be doing all of the administrative stuff that comes with starting a new job.  I will need a new ID card, which is always a pleasure…  NOT.  But at least I’ll get to see Bill during the day sometime this week.

As we were socializing last night, I was reminded of how glad I am we didn’t have to move this year. Germany is really feeling more and more like home, which is sad, since I know I will someday have to leave.  Oh well… for now, we will enjoy our good fortune.

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friends, Germany

Partytime!

Last night, I met some people who read this blog regularly.  It always cracks me up when I run into people in the Stuttgart area who have read my rag.  They usually notice Bill first, because I make a point of putting a picture of him in all of my posts.  I put Bill’s pictures in the blog because it’s a running joke that started a few years ago.  Bill and I share a lot of inside jokes.  It’s part of our collective charm, I guess.  The truth is, Bill is low key and not overly fond of being photographed.  He’s become more tolerant because I often manage to get decent shots.

We met the readers at a party Bill and I attended last night.  Our host was one of Bill’s former co-workers, from the time when Bill was here as an Army officer working for EUCOM.  Bill’s former co-worker is retired, like Bill is, and works as a contractor, also like Bill.  I don’t know the guy that well, although we did attend the same Lyle Lovett concert back in March 2009 at the Liederhalle.  His parties are apparently legendary, though, and now that I’ve attended one, I can see why.

We arrived late in the afternoon.  A crowd had already gathered around the grill, where an impressive spread of a variety of meats were being cooked.  We had salmon, chicken, pork, lamb, and beef, as well as an array of sausages made of venison and elk.  There were lots of side dishes, too.  I wish I had gotten the recipe for the corn casserole.  That was delicious!

I sat down and started chatting with people.  There were only a few there that I knew.  After we’d been there for a little while, a couple walked in.  One guy, who hasn’t worked with Bill, took one look at him and said, “The Overeducated Housewife!”  And Bill smiled and pointed at me, which made me laugh.  The guy’s wife came over and gave me a big hug.  I have to admit, Bill is the face of my travel blog… despite the fact that he usually blinks when people take his picture.

Could my Bill’s head be turning like Spongebob’s after he was on a commercial?  Not likely.

We really had a good time last night.  I don’t always do well at parties because I either get carried away and run my mouth too much or I feel shy and uncomfortable.  But we were hanging out with a couple I knew from prior events hosted by Bill’s soon to be former company.  We just sat around and chatted about life in the United States.  The couple we spent the most time talking to last night will be heading back to the States after a long stint in Germany.  I am a little sad to see them go now.

A few of my friends who arrived in 2014 have already PCS’d out.  We thought we might have to move ourselves; but it seems we have a new lease on life here… for the time being, anyway.  I’m not complaining, even though I will miss my friends.  The truth is, I’d miss them anyway, since we wouldn’t be going where they are going.  I am very happy that we don’t have to move, although it’s now become clear that even if we had moved, it would not have been back to America.

One thing I noticed while sitting on our host’s balcony was that his neighborhood is a bit densely populated.  Consequently, we noticed quite a few locals passing the party and looking over at us with curiosity.  I saw more than a few expressions of what appeared to be disdain or disapproval.  Granted, our group was large and perhaps noisier than what they’re used to.  But then Bill went to fetch our car and noticed that one of our host’s neighbors was also hosting a gathering and they were as noisy as we were.  In a couple of weeks, we’re supposed to attend a BBQ thrown by our neighbors.  I wonder if people will be giving us the stinkeye if we’re partying with locals.

Speaking of stinkeyes.  I keep meaning to write about this.  Our house sits next to a very large field.  We have a wall of windows and the rolladens are usually up.  Sometimes, when we’re eating dinner, people will pass by.  Many times, they have dogs with them, which make my dogs go berserk.  I notice that as they pass and my dogs go nuts, these looky lous will stop and gawk at us.  I’m usually standing there in my nightgown, trying to wrestle the dogs away from the window so they aren’t too disruptive to our neighbors.  The passers by will just stand there and stare, causing the dogs to bark more and me to give them one of my trademark death ray glares.  It’s probably funny for them to see that.  Maybe that’s why they stare.  Or maybe they wonder why our dogs aren’t trained or I’m not dressed.  I wonder what they’d do if I mooned them…  We might get a visit from the authorities.

I wasn’t actually planning to write about last night.  I didn’t take any pictures.  Someone asked if I would write about the party and I said, “Why would I do that?”  I figure what goes on at a party should stay at a party.  I also figured most people wouldn’t be interested.  But since I know I do have a few regular readers who were partying with us last night, I decided I might as well write.  Besides, nothing salacious happened, other than being on the receiving end of a few disapproving looks from the host’s neighbors.  You can get those anywhere at any time going about your regular business, right?  The food and company were great and we had a fantastic time.  Bill is now picking up a used freezer from his soon to be former colleague.  Maybe later today, we’ll have a new culinary experience or something.  Or… maybe not.

Thanks again to everyone who reads my blog.  I mainly write it to stay productive and pass time.  It is gratifying to know that some people like it and find it useful and/or entertaining.  I’m not doing this for fame or recognition, but I have to admit it does tickle me when we get recognized.  😀

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friends, Germany

Finally went out last night…

But it was to have dinner with Bill’s co-workers.  We drove to Sindelfingen and enjoyed a very pleasant evening with Bill’s bosses.

It was nice to get out of the house.  I have been pretty much cooped up at home since we got back from Ireland.  Most of the reason I haven’t gone out is because I’ve been really upset about my dog, Zane.  Our local vet diagnosed him with a mast cell tumor.  The tumor was removed, but I’ve found other suspicious bumps on Zane.  Also, upon doing research, I determined that some of the other symptoms he’s had lately can be explained by mast cell disease.

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with traveling or visiting restaurants.  Maybe I’m just writing about this because it seems like there’s such a difference between German veterinary care and American veterinary care.  Our vets here seem to have a different attitude about providing care.  In the States, it seemed like we were always getting reminders to get vaccines and wellness checks.  Here, it seems like the emphasis is less on preventive care.

Of course, there is a school of thought that Americans vaccinate their pets too much.  I’m inclined to agree with that assessment, actually.  I’m not anti-vaccine, but I do think it can get to be excessive.  Also, American veterinary care seems to be a lot more about business than German care does.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do about Zane… or even if those other lumps I found are mast cell tumors.  I have a feeling they probably are, but I don’t know for sure.  I’ve found that I have to ask for things here more than I did in the States.  Like, today, when I take Zane to the vet to have his ears checked, I will probably have to specifically ask for an aspirate, whereas an American vet would probably suggest it before I ask.  In fact, both of my dogs have had tumors removed here that I identified.

Anyway… my last three dogs died of devastating diseases.  One had a mycobacterial infection.  The other two had severe cancers– prostate and spinal.  Mast cell disease is not necessarily a death sentence.  It can kill, but it doesn’t always kill.  I’ve been giving Zane Tagamet and Benadryl and it does seem to be helping him feel better.  I’m not sure if the vet will approve, but at this point, I figure it’s better than simply watching and waiting.  I’ve noticed Zane isn’t as itchy, gassy, or sluggish as he was before I started giving him the medicines.

Tomorrow, I will get out again.  We’ll be going to a company Christmas party, where I’ll get to socialize some more.  Maybe we’ll even manage to make it to a new restaurant, too.  I need to stop brooding about Zane and get on with enjoying Germany.

Zane and his buddy, Arran… enjoying the sun yesterday.

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friends, Germany, restaurant reviews

Another American in Jettingen!

Last night, Bill and I decided to go to Taverne bei Dimi’s for our Friday night Greek fix.  It turned out to be an interesting evening, mainly because there were more English speakers than Germans there.  In fact, we noticed one German couple sitting between our table and a large table of Germans and at least one Brit.  Everyone was speaking English.

The waitress was one I hadn’t seen before.  She seemed to be German and was very pleasant.  Dimi was happy to see us, too, and offered a wave as he served lots of food.

Bill and I decided to have something different and ordered a sampler platter for two…

We got two of these beautiful farmer’s salads.  I was enjoying filling up on the vegetables until I got an unusually hot pepper!  I could have used some yogurt!

This was our platter.  It came with Dimi’s yummy fries, bifteki, souvlaki, gyros, and pork steaks, as well as plenty of t’zatziki.  We managed less than half and brought the rest home.  This was a pretty good deal, too.  For two people, it was 27 euros.  

 

While we were eating, an older black gentleman and his son and daughter arrived.  I knew he was an American immediately because he wore a wedding ring on his left hand.  He sat down with the group of Germans and their British friend, but I noticed he kept looking over at us.  He eventually came over and introduced himself.  It turns out he and his family live in Oberjettingen.  His wife is German and he is a government civilian who wished to become a contractor because he’s about to be rotated out of Germany.

So he and Bill talked and it turned out he was trying to score an interview with Bill’s company.  Bill, being a “pay it forward” kind of guy, promised to talk to his boss.  I’m kind of a big believer in fateful encounters.  As I mentioned last week, I have a knack for running into people I used to know.  I also have a knack for doing things that end up benefitting others.

When I was in the Peace Corps, I helped out a beautiful young Armenian woman who was hoping to go to college in the United States.  I didn’t know her, but had noticed she had posted an ad in the Peace Corps office looking for people who had attended certain private east coast colleges.  She needed to be interviewed by alums in order to be accepted.  I happened to know a couple of people who had gone to the colleges she was interested in attending, so I took her number and passed it on to my friends.  They both talked to her and were very impressed.  She ended up getting a full scholarship to Bowdoin College.  She also got accepted to Hamilton College, which was the other school she wanted to attend.

I know about this because I ended up meeting her one night while visiting another friend.  She was dating an American teenager who was the son of a professor who worked for the US Department of Agriculture.  When she found out what I’d done, she thanked me profusely.  The Peace Corps does attract a lot of graduates of small, private, liberal arts colleges, but the odds there would be two local alums available in Yerevan was pretty slim.  Fortunately, someone noticed her ad and knew two people who could help her.

I am certainly not responsible for her success.   She was a very bright and engaging young woman who impressed my friends, who were alums.  All I did was help set the conditions for her success.  I’m thinking that maybe Bill can do the same thing for the man we met last night.  I think it’s a good way to foster positive karma.  I don’t know how my Armenian acquaintance’s story ended.  I’d like to think she enjoyed four years at a very exclusive school.  But I didn’t even know her well enough to be able to Facebook stalk her.  I only remember her first name.

Anyway, this guy we met last night has very good reasons for wanting to stay in Germany.  His son is in high school and plays football.  If they have to move, it’ll be to Fort Polk, Louisiana.  Granted, I haven’t been to Fort Polk, but I have heard it’s not exactly the greatest place to be.  And if you are a civilian, there’s no telling how long the government will keep you in an assignment stateside.

So, I’m hoping things work out for our new friend.  In any case, it’s nice to know we aren’t totally alone out here on the edge of the Black Forest.

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friends, Germany

Old friends and colleagues…

The weather was nicer today, though still pretty chilly.  We took the dogs for a walk before we did our shopping.  Zane especially enjoyed himself, though it was pretty messy going thanks to the soggy ground and occasional ice patches.  On the way back, we ran into a very pleasant German couple who seemed to enjoy our hounds.  I got to tell the husband that I can’t speak German.  Still working on it, though, and making progress in understanding at least.

Well, it was another typical Sunday in Germany and we’re still in our usual rut over having lunch at The Auld Rogue.  Indeed, we did go there today after stopping at Panzer for two top ups for our phones, a new pie plate, and a bigger mixing bowl.  Somehow, I neglected to pack a pie plate, even though I know we have at least one in storage.  We also didn’t pack any decent sized mixing bowls and I have a hankering to make a blackout cake for my husband.  When I do, I’ll have to take a photo of it.  It’s a thing of beauty.  Bill will no doubt take some to work, too, since there’s no way the two of us can eat the whole thing before it goes stale.

On our way into AAFES, Bill caught sight of a familiar face.  It turned out to belong to a guy Bill worked with at the Pentagon from 2001-03.  He and his wife attended our wedding in Lexington, Virginia, and we bought them gifts for their adorable infant daughter who is now about 11 years old.  Their son, a toddler when we last saw them, must be an early teen now.  Bill traded business cards with his old friend and I expect we might hang out once or twice.  It was nice to see them again.  You never know who you’ll run into when you’re affiliated with the military.

We de-Christmased our house and, I’m hoping, tomorrow we’ll be able to start planning a quick getaway for MLK weekend so I can write about something other than life in Germany.  I am more than ready to travel so I can write more on my travel blog.

No pictures today…  but you can bet there will be more soon.

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animals, dogs, friends, German culture, Germany

I think the neighbors are getting used to us…

Santa brought us nice neighbors for Christmas!

Two nights in a row, our German neighbors have lent us a helping hand.  On the night of the 23rd, our landlord/landlady dropped by with a bottle of wine for us as a Christmas present.  Normally, when someone rings our doorbell, I put the dogs in the downstairs half of our house.  Our house was intended to be two apartments, so it’s easy to keep one part closed off.  I answer the door and the dogs are kept out of the way.  Unfortunately, Bill neglected to secure our hounds, Zane and Arran, before he opened the door and they both got out.

I had already dressed for bed because I had taken a shower and figured I wasn’t going anywhere, nor was I expecting anyone.  But when Bill yelled at me that the dogs were on the loose, I got dressed again and went out to help catch Zane.  Arran, thank heavens, is very easy to corral.  Zane never goes far when he gets loose.  He always stays within our sight.  Getting loose is a game for him and he has a great time making us chase him.  Like most hounds, he has selective hearing and a mind of his own.  Sadly, he doesn’t realize that getting out of the house on his own could result in his death.

Zane ended up running to a neighbor’s yard, which has sort of a natural fence around it made of low shrubs. As we were trying to catch Zane, a different neighbor pulled up and helped us corral him.  She was a huge help!  Instead of us having to chase Zane for 45 minutes in the dark, it only took about 20 minutes to get him, thanks to our kind neighbor.  She introduced herself and pointed to where she lives.

Then last night, as we were eating dinner, the doorbell rang again.  This time, Bill closed the door to the downstairs so our dogs couldn’t escape.  It was another neighbor– this time, a man who lives down the street.  He introduced himself and alerted Bill to the inside light of our SUV.  It was still lit and he didn’t want us to have a dead battery!

Now… this may seem like common courtesy to a lot of people, but I’m here to tell you that when we lived in Texas, our neighbors weren’t nearly as nice to us.  When Zane got out of our yard on my birthday, I asked a neighbor who happened to be within reaching distance of Zane’s collar if he wouldn’t mind grabbing him so we could take him home.  That guy totally ignored me.  Fortunately, we were able to corral Zane because there was a tall fence there.  Zane got out because the pool guy came early that morning and forgot to shut the gate behind him.  It was lucky that I got suspicious so soon after I let him into the yard.  He might have easily been killed or gotten lost.

Another time in Texas, a neighbor came over to tell me that the garage door was up.  I was glad she did that, since I was alone in the house and it turned out that neighborhood wasn’t very safe (as evidenced by the blood spatter on our driveway by the lockbox while the house was being advertised for rent).  But that was the one time anyone showed much consideration.  Most of the time, they rang the bell to try to sell us something or proselytize.  Oh, and one guy tried to butter up Bill so we’d let his kid use the pool in the backyard.

When we lived in Germany last time, it took a lot longer before our neighbors got used to us.  We lived in a town near Tuebingen, so very few Americans were in that area.  I think we were the only ones who had ever lived in that village and, according to my former German neighbor, it wasn’t a particularly friendly neighborhood to start with, although I did very much enjoy living there.  It was months before anyone spoke to us, though they did watch us a lot through their windows.  We also got ding dong ditched quite often by local hoodlums.  We finally had to disconnect the doorbell.

Anyway, while I know we’ll always be Auslanders in these parts, it’s good to know we have nice neighbors.  I much prefer where we live now to where we were living a year ago.  And the couple that owns our home is so nice.  I never had an American landlord who brought me wine!

An added bonus… insane sunsets and sunrises easily viewed from our upstairs windows…

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