anecdotes, Health

Princess knotty gets a boost…

This post is probably going to contain a lot of crankiness, profanity, perimenopausal TMI… proceed at your own risk.

The day I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. I just got my Moderna booster shot, seven months after my second shot last June. I lived to tell the tale, too… at least so far, anyway.

Bill made me an appointment over a month ago. I would have tried to have gotten in sooner, but the rules were that we had to have been at least six months past our last shot. All of the earlier time slots were full. Bill got his boost on December 1, 2021, and it knocked him on his ass. We’ll see how I react. When I had the first two shots, I didn’t react much at all. Just had a sore arm and a blotch. This time, I don’t yet have a blotch, but the area where I got the shot is a little itchy. The lady went higher on my left shoulder this time.

I should have realized we’d be early for the vaccine appointment, since I am married to “Johnny on the Spot”. He’s always early. I often am, too, but not like Bill is. Bill got home from work at 11:30am. I figured that was kind of generous lead time for my appointment, which I thought was at 1:30. But, he was telling me we needed to go way sooner than that. So then I thought maybe the appointment was at 1:00pm.

We arrived at the vaccination center at about 12:30 or so– too early. But again, I thought I had the time wrong. I was suddenly really glad I had decided to wear my down parka instead of my trusty wool “coatigan”. The vaccination center is on a windy hilltop and I’ve never not been cold there, even in the warm months. I also wore my favorite blue sweater, which was made in Scotland and purchased at a Scottish shop in Rothenburg ob der Tauber a few years ago. I was going to wear a different sweater, but then I realized it was too bulky to get my sleeve up high enough. It turned out that changing sweaters was a good idea, since the nurse injected so high up on my shoulder.

It was cloudy and chilly today, but at least there wasn’t any rain, which we had all day yesterday. I was feeling a little icky, not because of a respiratory illness, but because after a four month hiatus, my ovaries woke up and I got my period, complete with cramps. Naturally, that made me a little grouchy, along with the chilly wind that blew across the hill where the depressing abandoned strip mall on post has been turned into a vaccination center. We all wore masks and filled out a government form, then stood around waiting for the show to get on the road.

As I was thinking about the appointment, I wondered why I didn’t just drive myself. I do have a car. I’m out of practice, though, and it’s been ages since I last drove my car. Besides, Bill likes to take care of me… hence today’s facetious post title. In retrospect, maybe I should have handled this chore myself.

So there I was, cold and crabby, thinking that I had a 1:00pm appointment, since we were there so early. Bill had made the appointment for me, so I didn’t know for sure. A guy finally came out to explain how the process would work. I turned to Bill and said, “What time was my appointment?”

He grinned and said, “1:30.”

Then I said, probably louder than I meant to, “WHY did you bring me here so early?”

He started to explain, and a kind looking lady, also with her husband turned to tell me, “If you have an appointment, you’ll be seen for sure.”

I said, “Yes, I heard him….” then I noticed the look in her eye (I couldn’t see the rest of her expression), and said reassuringly, “I’m just bitching at him…”

She and her husband laughed. I wondered what made her feel the need to intervene. Did I really sound that irritable? I probably did… Suddenly, I felt a little ashamed and embarrassed. The couple laughed and said, “She’s just being a wife.”

“I don’t want to stand in the cold.” I added, realizing that my social skills have eroded further than I realized. The lady and her husband agreed and that little intervention passed.

Then another lady asked me if I was in line. I told her to go ahead and Bill, apparently thinking I was talking to him, said “What?”

“I wasn’t talking to you.” I snapped. Yeah… cranky, chilled, and crampy… that makes me decidedly crotchety. The lady flashed me a look of surprise. I probably seemed really bitchy and entitled.

“Why don’t you go wait in the car.” Bill suggested. “I’ll wait for the announcement.”

“That’s a good idea.” I agreed. My toes were chilled, as were my hands. My lower back ached. My abdomen twitched with Aunt Flow’s tardy arrival. Yeah… I was definitely not fit for human company.

Bill unlocked the Volvo for me. I sat there and watched more people show up… it was a little slice of Americana, with all sorts of people in all sorts of clothes showing up for their shots. It always amazes me to see how people dress on military installations.

Finally, at about 1:25pm, I noticed Bill heading toward me. I got out of the car and got back in line. Two chatty ladies, obviously friends, were talking about how much of a pain it is to deal with traveling and having kids, especially during the COVID era. The taller one, who appeared to be a bit more experienced, was telling the other one about the wonders of Germany’s train system.

“You can book your own car… and drink!” the taller lady said. “And the kids can have their own spaces.”

Between them, they had five kids, not all of whom could be vaccinated. As they were describing what a pain it is to travel during the COVID era with kids, I realized I am glad that dealing with kids and vaccines isn’t one of my problems.

“I hate driving here.” the younger one said in a charming southern accent.

Me too… I thought to myself.

Finally, it was my turn to enter the building, where the familiar stations were laid out just as I remembered them. It was nice to be out of the cold. Another friendly lady complimented me on my pink and blue tweed tartan purse, which I bought on the Isle of Harris in Scotland. Harris Tweed– don’tcha know? And it matched my outfit, too. She asked it it was my family tartan. It’s not… although it kind of looks like the County Donegal tartan, which is bogus, since Ireland doesn’t really have tartans. That would be a gimmick. But Bill’s kilt is the County Donegal tartan, since that’s where the Crossens are from.

I put the wrong number as my ID number. They did away with using Social Security numbers for security reasons. So now I never know which one to use– mine or Bill’s… or my Social Security number, which I know by heart.

An elderly Black man with two canes was in front of me. I was touched by how attentive the staff was to him. The female half of the couple next to me knew the guy. I got the sense that he was someone well known on the Wiesbaden installations.

The shot stung this time. I was right to wear my sweater with looser arms, as the nurse wanted access to the “meatier” part of my arm. Um… it’s all meaty! The platinum blonde woman who administered the shot said, “You’re a bleeder!” as she slapped a Band-Aid on my shoulder.

In more ways than one… I thought to myself as another wave of menstrual cramps hit me.

After I got my paperwork and rested for ten minutes… which was probably shorter than that, Bill spirited me back to the car. He handed me Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and said, “For your trouble. Why don’t we just go home, instead of messing with getting COV-Pass certificates from the Apotheke?”

“Nah, let’s just get it over with, since I now have to go in there with you.” I said. Apparently, the rules changed since last summer, and I had to bring my passport and sign paperwork. That wasn’t true last summer.

We went to the Globus, where a friendly pharmacist quickly and efficiently got us new QR codes for our COVID apps. A lot of places no longer accept paper certificates as proof of vaccination, since they can be faked somewhat easily. It’s getting to the point at which you have to have a phone, just so you can eat at a restaurant. That was my first visit to Globus since March 2020.

When we got home, Arran and Noyzi were delighted. And they showed Bill in a delightful way.

I’m just glad to be boosted. We’ll see how long it lasts. Maybe next time, I won’t be so cranky, chilly, or crampy. All in all, it wasn’t so bad today. At least the process was basically efficient, and the staff was friendly. Friendlier than I was, earlier today, anyway. My arm is starting to hurt more now, so I think I’m going to go sit on my can. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but since Aunt Flow is here, I have a feeling that either way, I’ll still be feelin’ kinda bitchy.

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How Americans can get COVID-19 legit in Germany via the COVPass app…

Every once in awhile, I try to write blog posts that are genuinely helpful. Today’s post is meant as a service to Americans in Germany, or possibly elsewhere in Europe, who are confounded by the new COVPass app and COVID-19 vaccine certificates. I know a lot of us are in helpful Facebook groups where this information is already available, but for those who aren’t… here’s my story about getting pandemic “legit”.

The COVPass app is compatible with Germany’s EU Digital COVID Certificate, which will make it valid in participating EU countries. Since many countries will require proof of vaccination, proven recovery from COVID-19, or a negative PCR test before you can visit, I highly recommend getting the certificates and the app if you can– especially if you plan to travel.

Edited to add on June 26th: The Corona Warn app is also acceptable for uploading the certificates. I just downloaded that app using my new German iTunes account, and I think I actually like it better than COVPass. It offers more functionality, such as warning of high infection rates, creating QR codes for events, and uploading tests. But for the purpose of uploading certificates, both apps work fine.

Edited to add October 7, 2021: I understand that the COVPass app is now available in the US Apple Store. I haven’t tried to download it, since I already have the app from the German store. This development should make things much easier for Americans, though.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article on The Local: Germany about 50 year old John Camp, an American guy in Cologne who had gotten a COVID vaccine in the United States. When he got back to Germany with his white CDC vaccine card, he found that 8 out of 10 of German officials didn’t want to recognize it. Camp was significantly inconvenienced, because when he’d show the white CDC card– say when he wanted to eat at a restaurant or visit a gym– the locals would balk at accepting it because the CDC card is in English and lacks official stamps.

A screenshot of a trusty German Impfbuch (vaccination book). You can get one of these at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or Amazon.de, among other places.

If you were to get your vaccine locally, you would get a yellow booklet (Impfbuch) that can be stamped. I got a very similar yellow booklet years ago, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. I probably still have it somewhere in storage. It’s an internationally recognized document put out by the World Health Organization. Why the US isn’t also using the yellow booklet, I don’t know. In any case, if you’re American and you get your shot(s) on a military installation or at home in the States, you’ll get a white card instead of a yellow booklet. That can be problematic in some areas of Germany or other parts of Europe, especially where there aren’t a lot of Americans.

German officials at the Robert Koch Institut have introduced the COVPass app, which allows users to upload their vaccine info into smartphones. That makes it easier to prove vaccination status without having to carry a paper around everywhere. The problem is, the German app is only available in the German iTunes store or on Google Play (for Android users). Additionally, it can be accessed from the HUAWEI app gallery.

As an American, I have a US iTunes account. I don’t have an Android phone, and the HUAWEI app gallery proved to be utterly useless. Nevertheless, I managed to get the app loaded and functional last night. So here’s the step by step process on how I went about getting COVID-19 legit. This could work for you, too.

Step 1. I found a pharmacist to issue the official certificates with the QR code by searching the My Pharmacy Manager database for participating pharmacies.

According to the article in The Local: Germany, not all pharmacies are participating in issuing the COV-Pass QR codes at this time. Some pharmacies don’t have the system working yet, and others are apparently opting out (per the article dated June 14th– that may have since changed). So I used the pharmacy manager database to locate a participating pharmacy near me.

Step 2. Bill sent an email in German to a local pharmacist.

This is probably an unnecessary step for anyone living in an area where there are a lot of Americans. We only did it because in the article about John Camp, the American in Cologne, it mentioned that he went to six different pharmacies before he found one that could help him get certified with his American credentials. Now, this was a few weeks ago, and he’s in Cologne, which isn’t loaded with American residents. Things might have changed significantly since that article was written. But we didn’t have the time or inclination to go hunting for a pharmacy that could help us, so we pre-emptively asked the pharmacist if our American CDC cards would be a problem before we visited.

Bill only asked the pharmacist if she would recognize the CDC card because of the article I read. John Camp had explained that one of the SIX pharmacists he visited could make certificates, but would not recognize his Pfizer vaccine. This was because the US vaccine name “Pfizer” wasn’t listed in the drop down menu of available vaccines on the program the pharmacists are using. Even when Camp tried to tell the German pharmacist that the Pfizer shot is the same product as the locally named BioNTech vaccine, it was still a “no go”. So our pre-emptive email to the local pharmacist was simply to save us time and aggravation. This probably wouldn’t be an issue with the Moderna shots, which are named the same in Europe as they are in the States.

We went to Heidelberg last weekend, and knew we’d need our certificates for our trip. So, after we found a participating pharmacist in nearby Wallau, Bill sent her an email in German, which also wasn’t necessary since she was fluent in English. Bill explained that we’re U.S. citizens who live in Wiesbaden and we got our Moderna vaccines on post. He asked the pharmacist if she would recognize the CDC card. The pharmacist responded that it was no problem.

Step 3. Bill dropped off our paperwork at the participating pharmacy.

In our case, it took a couple of days to get the certificates made. That’s because on the day we requested them, the system crashed, as a whole lot of people were trying to access it at the same time. You probably won’t have to drop off your paperwork like we did. You’ll likely get same day service. However, I recommend bringing copies of the CDC card, in case you do get snagged by a system crash or some other unforeseen issue.

Don’t leave the actual card with the pharmacist; treat it like you would treat any other important document. The pharmacist we had was willing to make copies for us, but your mileage may vary. It’s probably best to be prepared with your own copies.

I didn’t have to be present when Bill dropped off the copies of our CDC cards. We also didn’t need our passports, although some people have said they’ve needed them. I suggest making a copy of the front page, just in case you run into a more anal retentive pharmacist than we did. You also might want to arrange to get the certificates a few days before a scheduled trip to allow for any extra time needed due to system crashes, logistical hassles, uptight officials, or other SNAFUs.

Step 4. Bill picked up our certificates with the QR codes.

Again, I didn’t have to be present. You may want to plan for a wait. When we got our certificates, there was a line of people standing outside of the pharmacy, either to get the certificates or pick up medications.

The pharmacist gave us each two certificates— one for each vaccine. If you don’t manage to get the app, you can also show the paper certificates.

Step 5. I made a new Apple ID basing my location in Germany.

Right now, the German COVPass app isn’t available in the US iTunes store. I couldn’t easily switch my account to Germany, because I have unfinished subscriptions on Apple TV. If you don’t have unfinished Apple TV subscriptions, you can just change your account to Germany without making a new ID.

I couldn’t use Google Play because that only works for Android phones. So, what I did was make a new Apple ID. There are lots of articles on how to accomplish this technological feat. Here’s a link to instructions directly from Apple Support, although these aren’t the instructions I used.

It did take awhile to set up the new ID, and it was a bit of a pain in the ass to do it, mainly because the new ID wanted my billing information. Since I am an American in Germany, I have US credit cards and a US billing address, even though I have a German physical address. Not all Americans have this problem, because some have wisely set up German bank accounts. Alas, Bill didn’t listen to me when I suggested that he do that in 2014, so I frequently run into the address discrepancy issue.

Usually, using PayPal solves the address discrepancy problem, but that wasn’t the case last night. Apple recognized my APO address through PayPal, and would not let me input my German phone number with the American address. Eventually, I just made the account without the payment info and used an old US phone number. It still let me keep my German location. Since this app doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t matter. I probably wouldn’t want to buy anything from German iTunes anyway.

You may want to be near your other computer devices as you’re making a German iTunes account. I had to use my iPad to get codes and confirm my identity on the phone. That’s another reason it took time. Yes, it was a pain in the ass– all in the name of security.

Step 6. Once I had the German iTunes account, I downloaded the COVPass app.

This was super easy.

It’s finally on my phone!

Step 7. I aimed the QR reader through the COVPass app at the QR code on each of the certificates made by the local pharmacist.

Again… super easy! My phone immediately recognized the codes and I was gratified to see all of my info loaded into the phone. This will make traveling a whole lot easier! Hopefully, as Americans start coming back to Europe, the white CDC cards will be less of an issue. But, until then, the official app is a huge help.

Success! On the next page is the special QR code generated just for me.

Now that I have this app on my phone, I won’t need to carry the certificates with me, although I probably will. I have a tendency to dump stuff in my purse where it stays until I buy a new one. Since my current handbag is an expensive Harris Tweed number I bought in Scotland, I probably won’t be cleaning out my purse anytime soon. But this app will certainly make things easier for those who prefer to travel light.

One other note— once I got the app and uploaded my certificates through the QR reader, I didn’t need to keep my iTunes account set to Germany. I switched back to my US account and the app is still accessible and works as expected. How convenient!

Hopefully, this process will become even more streamlined in the weeks to come and you won’t need to follow as many steps as I did. In the meantime, I hope this guide is helpful! Wishing you happy, plentiful, and safe COVID-19 travels!

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First Moderna shot down…

We had truly weird weather yesterday. It’s early May, but yesterday, it was downright cold and windy, with scattered showers and even a brief hailstorm. In the United States, hailstorms are kind of unusual; or, at least they were unusual in the areas where I lived. Here in Germany, we seem to get them a lot, especially in the spring, when the weather gets really bipolar. As you can see from the featured photo, we had some ominous skies yesterday. It made for some dramatic landscapes, though none as dramatic as down near Stuttgart. I do miss it down there sometimes, but mainly because parts of it really are stunningly beautiful. I could probably get some of the same views by heading west.

When I was a child, I remember the temperatures were noticeably cooler for most of the year. Hell… even when we were in Germany the first time, from 07-09, I remember the winters were longer and snowier. But the weather is different now… I couldn’t complain about global warming yesterday, though, as I stood in line for my first Moderna shot. As you can see from the photos, people were bundled up. I think the post in Wiesbaden is windier and chillier anyway, since it’s on a hill. It’s weird wearing a jacket in May when you come from the southern United States.

Bill thought my appointment was at 1:30pm, but it was actually at 1:45. I got a reminder email yesterday, but I must have missed the time on it, which figures, since Bill is the one who booked them. No matter… things were moving along pretty well when we got there. I checked in, stood in line at what used to be the “strip mall” on post in Wiesbaden before the latest PX was built, and through a very well orchestrated system, got my injection. It was surprisingly easy. The shot didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I barely felt it. After I got the shot, I easily made an appointment for the the next one by using my phone. Today, there’s a very mild soreness, minor swelling, and an oval of redness around my injection site, but so far, other than that, I have had no ill effects.

I have an appointment to get the second shot on June 9th, which is just before my next birthday. I won’t be quite at two weeks post inoculation on the day itself, but a few days after I turn 49, I should be considered fully vaccinated. Maybe that means a big trip down to Stuttgart, so we can finally see the dentist again. While I’d rather go somewhere more interesting and exciting, we do need to do a quick trip so Noyzi can get acquainted with the lady who takes care of the boys when we travel. I don’t think Noyzi will have any problems. He spent most of his first two years in boarding down in Kosovo. Still, it’s good to do a quick test run, just to make sure there won’t be any serious issues. We need to get him a European Pet Passport, too. We have one for him, but it’s from Kosovo, and Kosovo is not in the European Union. I don’t think we’ll be traveling much with him, since he’s so big, but it’s always good to have the passports. It makes things easier for the Tierpensions, too.

I feel kind of privileged to have my first shot. The vaccines are still kind of slowly rolling out here, and a lot of Germans are languishing without access to the shots. I’ve read that a lot of what is available is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is worrisome for some people due to its association with blood clots. But the risk is probably minimal in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway… I’m glad to finally be on the road to being vaccinated against COVID-19. The shot may not prevent me from getting sick, but it will probably help make things safer and more normal. I have really had my fill of being locked down, even if I have gotten pretty good at playing “Redemption Song” on my guitar. It’s time to enjoy living again, and the more people who get the vaccine, the sooner that can happen.

Of course… for now, I get to sit here alone and ponder things. Bill is on yet another long ass TDY and will be gone for most of May. He left yesterday, after we got my first shot, and will not be home until May 22nd. A few days after that, he’ll get his second shot. Hopefully, the TDY schedule will ease up… because he hasn’t had a break in ages and is a bit burned out. And both of us could use a change of scenery that doesn’t involve work. It’s bad enough that seriously, I would welcome a visit to Stuttgart so we can see Dr. Blair. We’ll go stay at our favorite Stuttgart area hotel… or maybe we’ll try another property. At least it will be a break from the neighborhood! I never thought I’d wish for a dental cleaning for my birthday!

Edited to add: A couple of days ago, I saw something very German while I was walking the dogs. A guy who looked like Barry Manilow circa 1978 was roller blading down the main drag of our village while pushing a baby carriage. He was really moving out, too. I was impressed by his blading AND parenting skills, getting his kid out for some fresh air. It reminded me of when we lived in Pfäffingen, during our first Germany experience. There was a guy there who I would see every day in a reclining bike/wheelchair, using his arms to haul ass down the street. It was a most inspirational sight, because I don’t think the guy had use of his legs, yet I could tell he was very fit. I wish I were as active as some of my German neighbors are.

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Noyzi’s big emergency…

Yesterday, I was expecting a package from Amazon– a new bin system for our dog food. For the past few months, we’ve been giving Arran the same higher calorie food we’d been giving Noyzi. It’s resulted in some unnecessary and alarming weight gain, so I decided to put Arran back on his senior dog food while I continue to give Noyzi something with more oomph. I bought a two tiered bin that allows me to separate their food while taking up little space under the counter.

I heard Noyzi bark, so I thought maybe the delivery had arrived. I went down to check and found Noyzi standing by a pile of dog toys. Among the toys were two stuffed monkey legs. They were originally part of one of Arran’s favorite and longest lasting fluffy toys, a monkey that had long legs that threaded through holes on either side. The monkey’s torso was long ago obliterated by our resident hunting dog, Arran. But the legs had survived, and they had working squeakers.

From the day Noyzi first arrived at our home last October, he’s been a friend to the toys. Instead of attacking and chewing them up, like Arran does, Noyzi tends to treat them like his pals. He stacks them in his bed and uses them as pillows. So I was a little surprised when I came into the living room and noticed that one of the monkey legs had been amputated at one end. I couldn’t find the stuffed fabric paw or its squeaker.

I emailed Bill to let him know. Bill called the vet and they advised him to bring him in to be seen. Even if I wanted to take Noyzi to the vet, it would not be possible. I drive a Mini Cooper and Noyzi will not fit in it. It’s illegal for dogs to ride up front, and I doubt I could convince him to get in the car, anyway. As it is now, he has to ride in the back of our Volvo SUV because he won’t get in the backseat, which he probably could fit in if he was more cooperative.

Just as Bill was about to leave work, he got a frantic work related phone call from the States that he had to take care of. He ended up getting home about an hour later. We wrangled Noyzi into the SUV and Bill took him to the vet’s office. Noyzi was given an emetic, which made him throw up. Sure enough, we found the offending piece of the monkey toy, although no squeaker was found. It’s possible that Noyzi swallowed it, but it’s equally possible that Arran ripped it out ages ago and I tossed it. If it did end up in his intestines, we may find it in his poop in a day or two. If there are other problems, he’s sure to let us know. We’re lucky enough to have great vets in the next village, as well as the excellent Tierklink Hofheim nearby.

Yuck. That’s the part of the toy he swallowed.

We’re keeping an eye on Noyzi, but so far, he’s back to his old self. In fact, if I hadn’t noticed the amputated leg, I would never have known what he did. He was acting totally normal yesterday until he was forced to puke and given an antidote, which wiped him out for a couple of hours. By dinner time, he was right as rain… and then Arran threw up. But I think in Arran’s case, it was a case of too much salmon. He had a little of our dinner last night. He’s fine today, too, but we have to get him slimmer. I never thought I’d say that about Arran, who has always been athletic and sleek. But he’s twelve now, so he needs to watch his figure.

By the way… anyone want to guess how much this emergency cost us? It was a mere 89 euros. The vet was able to squeeze us in during regular office hours. Several of my friends gave me tips on how to make my dog vomit, but I prefer to let the vets handle that, especially when it’s not that expensive. God bless German healthcare costs. America could take a lesson or two.

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Germany’s new mask rules…

I actually hate to write about this subject again. I am sick to death of reading about face masks. I hate looking at them, and I definitely hate wearing them… but I feel compelled to write this post, if only because if I weren’t an overeducated housewife, I’d probably have a job in public health. This morning, I was reading comments on an article about face masks that was posted by The Atlantic. The article, entitled “Why Aren’t We Wearing Better Masks” was originally published on January 13th. I read it the first time it popped up on my feed. It’s back again this morning.

The article is about how homemade cloth masks were supposed to be a “stopgap” measure until better masks could be made available to the general public. Ten months into the pandemic, a lot of us are still wearing the cutesy face masks that we bought on Etsy. Well… actually, if I’m honest, I only wear the medical surgical masks. From the beginning, I decided I would not indulge in wearing fashionable face masks because I do not want face masks to be permanent fashion statements. I really don’t. I think they cause a lot of problems for people, even though for now, they are necessary. But— now, thanks to a new mutation of the COVID-19 virus that is more contagious, though not necessarily more dangerous– experts are saying we need to ditch the cloth masks and wear medical grade masks.

As I was reading the comments, I noticed that a comment from someone who claimed that Germany is now requiring everyone to wear N95 masks. And they were presenting that fractured fact as if Germany is doing COVID-19 better. Well, if I’m honest, Germany IS doing COVID-19 better than the United States is; however, N95 masks ARE NOT currently required here.

The current rules stipulate that in most areas, medical grade masks are now required in shops, on public transport, and in crowded areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Bavaria is the only state that currently requires everyone to wear a FFP2, FFP3 or N95 style mask on public transportation, in shops and supermarkets, or in crowds. Bavaria has been hit harder by COVID-19 than other states, hence the stricter rules. Everywhere else, disposable surgical masks will still suffice, except in nursing homes, where the FF92 masks are also required to be worn by staff. Also, the FF92 masks are only required on Bavaria’s local trains and buses. On long distance trains, the medical/surgical masks are still okay. Face shields and visors without masks are not.

And, while I know many people think the masks are required everywhere outside someone’s home, I’m here to tell you that in my neighborhood, no one wears a mask of any kind when just walking around outside. They do wear them at bus stops and there are signs reminding people to don them, but I hardly ever see people hanging around the bus stops.

This is not to say that the FFP2 masks won’t eventually become required everywhere in Germany if the COVID-19 numbers don’t improve soon. Despite the effective response here last spring, Germany’s currently having a lot of problems with COVID-19… though not as many as in the United States. There aren’t as many sick people here, and not as many people are dying… but enough are, which is why the better masks are now being mandated.

Incidentally, I have also read that the government is going to make the masks freely available to people over age 60 and chronically ill people, so they won’t have to shell out a lot of money to acquire the better quality masks. But since I’m neither chronically ill, nor over age 60, nor a regular German resident, I can’t comment too much on that.

I’m really hoping that we can get a handle on COVID-19 soon. This lifestyle sucks, and I want to get back to enjoying Europe and writing fun articles about food and travels. The vaccine should help… or, I sure hope it does. We did enjoy some takeout Italian food last night, but I really miss sitting in restaurants and seeing other people.

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My pandemic birthday… part one

Why did we stay twenty minutes from home?

A few weeks ago, Bill and I went to nearby Hofheim to visit the Birkenhof Farm for some fresh products from their 24/7 fridge. I wrote about that experience here. While we were picking out strawberries and farm cheese from the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable dome of a “Therme”. Germany has several areas that are noted for their natural hot springs where the water is rich with healing minerals. Stuttgart and Wiesbaden are both hot springs “hot spots”. Hofheim has the Rhein-Main Therme, that is connected to a hotel, which I spotted as we passed it in May. I mused that I would like to visit.

When we lived near Stuttgart, I loved visiting the Mineraltherme in Böblingen. I see it’s currently still closed due to COVID-19, although it looks like it will be opening again soon. Wiesbaden and the surrounding areas in Hesse have not been as badly affected by the coronavirus as Baden-Württemberg has been. Granted, the pandemic is still going on right now, but things have loosened up a bit. I think Bill was also a bit worried about my mental health, because I sometimes suffer from anxiety and depression and was starting to become a hermit. Until this weekend, I had not left our neighborhood since that short trip to the Birkenhof farm on May 17th… and I wasn’t really wanting to go anywhere.

Bill loves to travel, and so do I… but the whole COVID-19 thing and the constant social media uproar about it was making me very reluctant to venture out. So he decided to book a “surprise” weekend away for me. He didn’t tell me where we were going, but I kind of figured it out. The Rhein-Main Therme is located only twenty minutes away from our home in Breckenheim, but it’s connected to a comfortable hotel that offers half board options and room service. He figured that even if I didn’t want to leave the hotel, we could still get room service. And being the thoughtful guy he is, he even brought Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit, in case I wanted to play board games. Fortunately, those measures weren’t necessary. I ended up consenting to going out, despite my hatred of face masks… so my 48th birthday turned out to be pretty epic.

After arranging for Arran to visit the Birkenhof Tierpension, where he’d get to hang out with his old friend, Celene, who always takes great care of of him (and Zane, when he was still with us), Bill booked us two nights at the Vital Hotel, which is connected to the Rhein-Main Therme. He decided to go for the “Happy Weekend” package, which included half board (breakfast and dinner in the restaurant), free admission to the Therme, and two nights in the hotel. Right now, because of the pandemic, the Therme is limiting day visitors to three hour stays, but if you’re staying in the hotel, you can go directly to the Therme and stay as long as you want.

Meanwhile, as Bill was planning my birthday retreat, I was eyeing new guitars. I started learning to play guitar a few weeks ago. I bought an acoustic guitar on Amazon.de and signed up for Fender Play, an online service offered by the Fender guitar company that uses videos to teach people the basics of the instrument. The lessons have been going so well, and Bill has been enjoying hearing me play so much, that he decided he wanted to learn, too. So, even though I had a new Ortega acoustic guitar that I picked up on Amazon, I decided I wanted a better guitar with steel strings… and I bought Bill a basic guitar, too. Since we haven’t been traveling, I had some money stockpiled.

Fender Play isn’t available worldwide, but it is available in Germany. And there is also a Fender shop in Europe. My instruments got to me by way of The Netherlands in just three days! I love my pretty blue guitar, although I like the other one for teaching me the basics! As Bill was unwrapping his birthday gift (his is on July 7th), I said I felt like Oprah… “You get a guitar, and you get a guitar, and you get a guitar…” I’m still a lot better at singing than playing guitar, but I’m making progress, and my fingers are getting tougher by the day!

I worked on my new guitar skills as I nervously awaited our first trip away from home since coronavirus fucked everything up…

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Health

Coronavirus craziness in Germany!

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.

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Health

Holistic healthcare for your pets in Germany…

Every once in awhile, I write about things I see when I walk my dogs.  Bill and I happen to live right next to a large nature park.  It’s a great area to live in if you have dogs.  There are a lot of dog owners in our town and they’re pretty friendly and helpful.  Case in point, about a month ago, my dog Arran escaped from our house and several locals were instrumental in helping us bring him back to safety.

Lately, I’ve noticed a woman parking a car advertising holistic medicine for pets.  I don’t know her and have never talked to her, but I see her and her son walking their Maltese dogs several times a week.  She drives a SUV with decals on it advertising her services as a naturopath.  I’m actually kind of interested in what she does, since I have been exploring natural approaches to veterinary care with my dogs, Zane and Arran.  Both of my dogs have had mast cell tumors since we’ve been in Germany.

I already belong to a great Facebook group that offers advice for natural approaches toward caring for dogs with mast cell tumors.  In that group, there’s information about how to feed dogs with mast cell cancer, hot to use CBD oil and other essential oils for healing tumors and lesions caused by the cancer, and nutritional advice for overall wellness.

To be honest, I’m not as much into “woo” as some people are.  I do think natural approaches can be helpful and are often not harmful.  I can personally attest to how much CBD oil has helped Zane and Arran, but I also give them Benadryl to discourage the histamine release that can cause tumors to develop.  I give Zane Tagamet or Pepcid to help him with the upset stomach he gets sometimes and also to help discourage new tumor growth.  It’s been over a year now and this approach seems to be working well for both of them.

Still, I wonder if there’s more I could be doing.  That’s why I took notice of the SUV advertising holistic services for pets.  The other day, I looked up the woman on Facebook.  Her name is Sylvia Fiedler, and according to her official Web site, we were born at around the same time in 1972.  She charges 60 euros an hour in cash for her services.  It appears that she comes to your home, although I see she’s located in Oberjettingen, which is just up the road from where Bill and I live.

It appears that most of Fiedler’s training is very recent, although she started in the field in the late 80s.  I can relate, since my very first job was working for a veterinarian, too.  I quickly determined that as much as I like animals, I didn’t want to work in the veterinary field.  However, my dogs have pretty much demanded that I learn more about how to take care of them.  Our local vets have been surprised by what I know.  One of them thought I was a nurse, but actually, I have a master’s degree in public health and used to work as a technical writer for a public health agency.  I think that’s why I know more than the average person about some of this stuff.

Anyway, it looks like Fielder’s practice centers around feeding a raw diet, laser therapy, acupuncture and acupressure, Bach flowers, and even leeches.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever be calling her… although it may get to a point at which I might decide to give homeopathy a whirl.  Some people do swear by it and it’s kind of cool to know that it’s available in my current “hometown”.  It’s also kind of cool to know that the lady who offers it walks the same routes I do with Zane and Arran.

I’m mainly just writing this post because I know I have some local dog lovers/owners who read my blog.  Perhaps some of them are looking for a naturopath/holistic practitioner for their dogs.  Hopefully, this information might be helpful.

Jettingen is a great place for dog owners… not just because there are so many trails, but also because we have a resident naturopath.

 

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