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Eight years of contractor life…

I’ve decided to add another entry to my “contractor life” series. Aspects of this story might seem insensitive. Please bear in mind that it’s simply my perspective, and I’m trying to be honest about my personal experiences over here. Other people’s mileages may vary. Also, this article mentions suicide, so please proceed with caution. The featured photo is our current house!

This morning, I noticed that someone hit some old posts I wrote when we last lived in Stuttgart. They were about “contractor life”. I had completely forgotten that I had written those posts, which were pretty popular when I was still using the Blogger platform. I think I meant to maintain that series, but then March 2020 hit, and we all know what happened with that. 😉

My husband’s contractor life in Germany has continued, and now we’ve lived in Germany for eight years. A lot has happened over those years. Hell… I just look at old photos from August 2014, when we first moved back here, I realize that Bill and I both look different. I quit coloring my hair, for one thing. The hardness of German water turned it into straw when I used color, and I hate going to hairstylists. I’m sure this look would surprise people who last saw me stateside, back in 2014.

Last time I wrote one of these posts, we had just found out that Bill’s old job was being converted to a GS (government service) position. At that point, we didn’t yet know that Bill would be an attractive candidate in Wiesbaden. He waited to apply for the job, mainly because we thought we wanted to stay in Stuttgart. At the time, I was a bit trauma bonded– and I didn’t want to move for all the wrong reasons. Finally, one of his old bosses came to him and told him that the folks in Wiesbaden were actually WAITING for him to apply for the job, and had requested him, personally. He had pretty much all of the experience and skills they were looking for. At the same time, I finally had a epiphany one night when I was home alone. Although I had been resisting leaving, I actually wanted to leave Stuttgart.

Actually, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to leave Stuttgart, as I wanted to move out of our old house. For several reasons, our former landlady and I didn’t get along at all. Complicating matters was the fact that former landlady’s ex tenant, an American who was also her “friend”, was monitoring my blogs and apparently reporting back to the ex landlady.

It wasn’t so much that I was posting a lot of stuff about the ex landlady, per se, as that I would occasionally vent in the blog when she would upset me. She had a habit, for instance, of yelling at me in my own home and treating me like an especially slow-witted child. I really resented it. Moreover, the whole time, former tenant (then living in the USA) was occasionally leaving me comments, then dirty deleting them, after reminding me about the importance of maintaining her “privacy”. It made for a very toxic, stressful living situation, which all came to a head when my husband sued the ex landlady for illegally withholding over 80 percent of our deposit (legal insurance for the win, though– get it if you come here).

I liked our neighborhood, but I didn’t like the house. Even if our landlady didn’t have a habit of popping over unannounced, blaming me personally for things that weren’t my fault, and yelling at me for inconsequential things, it was a house without much charm or convenience. It had two things going for it– a nice view into the forest, and a relatively low rent (low for Germany, not the United States). Because we lived there for four years, and we got tax breaks from living abroad, we were able to retire a lot of debt, including my student loans (about $40,000 when we arrived in 2014, and completely paid off less than four years later).

Okay, I also liked the fact that the house was close to Nagold, which is a great little town on the edge of the Black Forest. But the town we lived in wasn’t that interesting, and it was far from where Bill worked. Living there meant long traffic jams and a hideous commute for Bill. And, although the house was badly in need of renovation, our ex landlady acted like we should be grateful to be “allowed” to live there, and willingly put up with her micromanagement and surveillance without any complaint. I figured it was time for her to harass someone else– although hopefully not anyone from the US military community. We did submit her name to the non referral list, along with the paperwork from the lawsuit that took about two years to settle.

I also found the local Facebook environment in Stuttgart to be a little too dramatic, and it was way too easy to get caught up in the drama myself. Stuttgart has a lot to offer, and we still love going down there to see our dentist. But I had made the mistake of getting involved in too many local Facebook groups, and that led to a lot of embarrassing adolescent toxicity that frankly, at my age, I don’t have time for anymore. A move to Wiesbaden meant I could divorce that drama somewhat and start anew.

So, one day in September 2018, when Bill came home from a business trip to Africa, I told him that I wanted him to take the job in Wiesbaden. He threw his hat in the ring, and after a very perfunctory phone interview, was offered the job. In late November 2018, we made the intra-Germany move to Wiesbaden. I did write a series about it, which you can find starting here.

The former tenant finally left me alone after the lawsuit with the ex landlady was settled, although I suspect that she was keeping an eye on me from afar (either by watching personally, or having “flying monkeys” do it). But she did finally quit monitoring me. I now know that this will be a permanent condition, because sadly, she took her own life a few months ago. Maybe it seems tasteless to mention this part of the story, but it IS part of the story, and a reminder that sometimes some crazy stuff can happen that you might never expect.

I don’t know why the former tenant took the actions she did. I had her blocked on Facebook, and did not go looking for information about her, because I wanted her to leave me alone. However, she had worked for the same company Bill does. Last spring, he noticed she was no longer on the email roster and wasn’t showing up in the GS system. So, at that point, I decided to unblock her on Facebook and look her up, because I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be re-entering my life. That’s when I made the shocking discovery about her tragic suicide. The news was easy to find, as it was widely reported online. While I’m glad to know she’s permanently out of my life, I’m also genuinely sad for her friends and family. I’m even sorry for the former landlady, whom I know had held her in high esteem. I never would have expected this turn of events, either. It was truly a shock to find about it several months after it happened.

It’s hard to believe that we’re now coming up on four years in Wiesbaden. It’s been quite a ride. I will say that living here, in spite of COVID-19 and a few personal upheavals, has mostly been less stressful. For one thing, we have a much better house and landlord. Yes, it costs a lot more, but our landlord is much fairer and more respectful. He lives next door, but he leaves us alone. Our neighborhood is very friendly, and we don’t share walls with anyone. Many of our neighbors have dogs, too, so I worry less about them annoying people.

I only know a handful of people in the local military community, which is also, frankly, a plus for me. Again– less drama and less bullshit with people in the military community. Some people like being “popular” and are very extraverted. I’m not one of those people; I just like to write, and I like to be honest when I write. I did have a temporary setback with my blogs, because I felt forced to relocate them to WordPress. That was a real pain, mostly because it meant a lot of work reformatting the travel blog and starting over completely with the main blog. The upside is that I think the blogs are better quality now. I do have fewer readers, especially on this blog, but the ones who do read are of a better quality. I get fewer “drivebys”, and more people who are actually interested in the content, rather than stirring up shit and causing trouble.

Anyway, aside from the difficult and stressful divorce from our Stuttgart life, we’ve really enjoyed living in Wiesbaden. No, it’s not as picturesque as the Stuttgart area is, but Wiesbaden offers a lot of its own charms, and a very different culture. Personally, I think my husband gets treated better as a contractor in Wiesbaden. The US military’s footprint is smaller here, and the population in the military community is somewhat more mature. There’s less traffic and fewer traffic jams. And again, I mostly stay away from any military affiliated Facebook groups, except for the one I run. It’s a food and wine group, so there’s very little drama involved with that. I’ve found that people here tend to be somewhat friendlier, and if you like wine, Wiesbaden can’t be beat!

I’m especially grateful that we’ve been able to experience living in two areas of Germany. The last eight years have flown by, and we’ve been so fortunate to be able to see and do many exciting things, not just in Germany, but in Europe as a whole. So, if you’re reading this and wondering if you should move to Germany, I would highly encourage you to give it serious consideration. Yes, there are some aggravations related to living over here. But, on the whole, I find living in Germany more interesting and fun than living in the United States. I especially love being away from the crazy political climate in the United States. The European lifestyle suits us and, once you get used to how things are done here, it’s not hard to be an expat in Germany. It’s also been very good for us financially speaking. The only problem is, now I don’t want to move back home. 😉

I hope this latest installment is helpful. I know the current political difficulties in Europe means that more Americans will probably consider making the move. If you have any questions, be sure to drop me a comment.

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blog news, France

Why “I Ain’t Been Nowhere” and ten more things I learned in Alsace, France…

It’s time for me to write another one of my “ten things I learned” posts. This one is coming a bit later than usual. I’m going to preface the post with a bit of an explanation for the people who still follow my travel adventures.

I’ve held off on writing my usual “ten things I learned” post for our most recent trip to France. I’m sad to say that I’ve kind of lost some of my desire to produce travel blog posts. There are a couple of reasons for this development.

Ever since I moved my blogs to WordPress, I’ve been struggling with lagging morale, particularly regarding the travel blog. Part of the reason I’ve been struggling has to do with people who were following me on Blogspot and decided to cause trouble. That situation was what led me to move my blogs in the first place. I suspect they just didn’t like me personally, for whatever reason, and decided to stir up some shit. It all ended badly, and ultimately, not in their favor, but it left me with some significant psychological angst that has taken some time to overcome.

I spent a year struggling with feeling really violated and angry, mainly because the people who were causing issues were being creepy, dishonest, and toxic. I’ve written quite a lot about that situation, mostly on my main blog, so I don’t want to rehash it here. I do think it’s really sad that some people feel the need to meddle in other people’s business and try to sabotage something like a personal blog. What those people did caused real damage on many levels, and there was absolutely no reason for it, other than their need to be destructive and creepy.

The second reason I’ve been less enthusiastic has a lot to do with the pandemic, and how difficult and annoying travel has been since COVID-19 became part of life. I was finally starting to feel better about writing in early 2020, only to have everything fall apart due to a deadly novel virus. The below song by Rhonda Vincent is pretty much a good summation of my feelings about COVID… If you haven’t heard it, I highly encourage you to listen. I promise it’s good, unless you just can’t abide bluegrass.

Sometimes, I think I’d like to go back to the USA, just so I can see Rhonda Vincent perform in person. Even if you aren’t a bluegrass fan, this song is awesome. Those harmonies make me want to cry! (in a verklempt way)

I am happy to report that Europe really is FINALLY opening up again, and COVID measures are becoming less obnoxious. This is happening, even though COVID infections are on the rise again in Europe, and I was actually exposed to COVID on our latest trip (though I haven’t been sick). I’m hoping the “red tile” on my Corona Warn app will go back to green today. Bill and I had a wonderful time in France, and now we want to travel more. So, I’m hoping we can move back into our former lifestyle, and I will recapture the joy of travel and experiencing new places and things. And now, on to the ten things I learned…

10. COVID-19 measures in France are currently much less annoying than they’ve been in Germany.

One of the reasons Bill and I went to France in the first place is because we didn’t want to be bothered by strict COVID rules. France doesn’t require FFP2 face masks, and if you are vaccinated, you don’t have to bother with masks in public indoor areas of restaurants and hotels. You do still need to wear a mask in shops, because they don’t check for vaccinations at the door. This was true during our visit, but as we know, rules are always subject to change.

9. Soufflenheim is French pottery heaven!

We have been to the Alsace area of France many times, but we’ve always stuck to the Wine Route. This was our first time exploring the area above Strasbourg, and we decided to go there because we knew Soufflenheim was where Alsatian pottery is made.

8. But there isn’t that much else going on in Soufflenheim…

Or, at least that was our impression during our visit. It’s a great place to go pottery shopping, but I wouldn’t say the town is particularly picturesque. However, nearby Sessenheim, where we stayed, is very cute!

7. There’s more to Alsace than the Wine Route.

On our previous trips to Alsace, we stayed in pretty, tourist friendly towns like Riquewihr, Colmar (Bischwihr), Ribeauville, and, of course, Strasbourg. We have visited the picturesque hamlets around Riquewihr and Ribeauville, and even made a point of stopping by Kaysersberg, where Anthony Bourdain took his life in 2018. If you go north of Strasbourg, you’ll still be in Alsace, but it feels different… and it’s well worth seeing.

6. Auberge Au Boeuf is a really cool place to stay!

I think the main reason we enjoyed our trip so much is because we discovered Auberge Au Boeuf, which is a wonderful, historic restaurant. But it also has four really cool bedrooms that can be rented. We were delighted by how thoughtfully designed and beautiful the hotel was. The little town of Sessenheim is also notable for its historic connection to Johann von Goethe, a very famous German poet, playwright, novelist, and statesman.

5. Michelin starred restaurants are not the end all, be all…

I do enjoy eating fancy food on occasion; but I’m really much more of a comfort food fan. We ate at the Michelin starred Auberge Au Boeuf twice. I’m not sorry we did that, but we did learn that “fancy food” should be special, or the magic wears off. On the other hand, it had been so long since we last indulged!

4. Speaking German often, but not always, comes in handy in Alsace.

We kind of already knew this from other trips, but we did run into a number of people who didn’t speak German or English. It made me wish I had studied French, in school, instead of Spanish.

3. The town of Bitche, which is in Lorraine, is very close to Kaiserslautern and Ramstein.

I did not realize how accessible this town, with its impressive and famous citadel, is to Germany’s largest military community. Maybe if Bill had worked in K-town, we might be slipping over the border more often.

2. Saverne is a cute town I’d never heard of!

We visited Saverne on a whim after we got bored in beautiful Obernai. Seriously, Obernai is a very pretty town, but it reminded me so much of other wine route towns. It was a treat to discover Saverne, which was about 45 minutes away. It had a very different feel. I wish we’d had time to explore more of it. Maybe we can go back.

  1. It’s time to get back to enjoying Europe… for as long as possible.

One of our biggest regrets during our first time living in Europe is that we spent too many weekends at home. We completely missed out on the Black Forest and Alsace during our Army tour. In fact, I don’t even remember any visits to Stuttgart Mitte during those two years. When we came back to Germany in 2014, we were determined to explore more. For four years, we were able to do that, and we did it to great success.

But then, once we moved, we dealt with harassment and COVID-19, which knocked us off track somewhat. As we’ve learned from COVID, life is short and tomorrow is never guaranteed. Putin is making things in Europe a bit tense. Add that to COVID, and things can seem mighty grim. The truth is, every day there are risks to be faced. It’s time to face more risks and get back to living. I hope that’s what we can do more of in 2022.

And to those who want to cause trouble and see me fail…

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Repost: Choucroute Garnie… one last tenuous connection with Anthony Bourdain…

Today is Easter, and we are going to be getting takeout from a favorite restaurant. I hope to write about that meal later today or tomorrow. But, for right now, I would like to repost this essay I wrote about the late Anthony Bourdain, just after he died in June 2018. It originally appeared on the Blogspot version of my Overeducated Housewife blog, when I was living in the Stuttgart area. I don’t have a specific reason for sharing this today, other than I think it’s a good post. Actually, it reminds me a bit of what we’ve lost since COVID-19 came along. I am so ready for another day trip somewhere… and new photos, especially for this blog. I miss travel and eating in restaurants.

Edited to add: Looking back at my original piece, I see it was preceded by another post I wrote just after Bourdain’s death. I had just discovered his show, Parts Unknown, about three weeks before he committed suicide. I had watched it because he visited Armenia, which is where I spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the 1990s. I was enthralled by Bourdain’s show and was looking forward to watching more episodes. But then, seemingly out of the blue, he killed himself. So did famed handbag designer Kate Spade. The post that preceded this one was about how depression really isn’t the “common cold” of mental illness. It can be very serious and even fatal.

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I went to Ribeauville, France for Memorial Day weekend.  Since January 2017, Bill and I have visited Ribeauville, in Alsace, four times.  We’ve found a sympathetic apartment owner who doesn’t have a problem welcoming Zane and Arran.  Aside from that, Alsace is a very beautiful area that isn’t too far from where we live.  It makes for a convenient place to get a weekend away.

Last Friday, Anthony Bourdain killed himself in Alsace.  He was staying in Kaysersberg, a town Bill and I had been hoping to see during our last visit.  We never got around to going to Kaysersberg on our last trip, but it’s definitely a must see the next time we’re in Alsace.  Especially since last night, Bill showed me Anthony Bourdain’s final Instagram post…

This is a screenshot of Anthony Bourdain’s last Instagram post.  He put it up exactly one week ago.

I know a lot of people who read this blog regularly might not necessarily read my travel blog (although this is being reposted on my travel blog in 2021).  Those who haven’t read the travel blog probably missed my recent tale about the dish pictured above, Choucroute Garnie.  

Choucroute Garnie is a very popular dish in Alsace that includes Alsatian style sauerkraut, sausages, charcuterie, other salted meats, and potatoes.  Many restaurants in Alsace serve it, and my husband, Bill, happily enjoys it.  In fact, below is a picture of Choucroute Garnie he ate when we visited the quaint town of Eguisheim, France in February 2017.

Bill enjoyed Choucroute Garnie at Caveau Heuhaus in Eguisheim.

Although a lot of people like this particular dish, it’s not something I would voluntarily order.  I don’t like sauerkraut very much.  Actually, I don’t really like cabbage because it upsets my stomach and makes me fart a lot.  I will eat cabbage to be polite, but I don’t care for it and would avoid ordering it in a restaurant.  While I do like sausage and other pork products fine, I also wouldn’t necessarily order a big pile of them as pictured above.  One sausage is fine for me.  I don’t need to eat a big plate of pork.

On the first night of our most recent trip to Ribeauville, Bill and I decided to have dinner at a restaurant we had not yet tried.  Our experience at this establishment was disappointing from the get go and continued to get worse.  I had decided on an entrecôte (rib eye steak) for dinner, but our waiter somehow heard “choucroute” instead.  I was a bit suspicious when he didn’t ask me what sauce I wanted or how I preferred the steak cooked.  However, he took off before I’d had the chance to say anything and we didn’t see him again until his colleague tried to deliver the dish pictured below…

The Choucroute Garnie I didn’t order.  Bill says it wasn’t as good as the one he had in Eguisheim.

Unfortunately for our waiter, I was tired, hungry, and way over the bumbling service we had already experienced at that point.  He came over to argue with me about what I’d ordered and actually had the nerve to say, “You couldn’t have ordered entrecôte.  If you had, I would have asked you what sauce you wanted and the temperature.”

My acid reply was, “That’s right.  You didn’t ask and I wondered why.”

He scurried off with the choucroute, but then came back and tried to get me to take it, since cooking what I’d ordered would take time.  I really didn’t want the choucroute, but I was especially exasperated that the waiter had accused me of lying about my order and was trying to sell me something I didn’t want.  

Bill, prince of a man that he is, took the choucroute and I took his dish, which was potato pancakes with smoked salmon.  I had actually been eyeing the potato pancakes anyway, so it was initially no big deal.  But then I realized that one of the potato pancakes was very scorched.  I didn’t bother to complain because, at that point, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.  But I did turn the experience into a snarky blog post and a few people in my local food and wine group thought it was funny.  When I saw Bourdain’s final Instagram post last night, I was reminded of my own recent experience with Choucroute Garnie.  It was just something else, besides depression, I’ve had in common with the late chef.

People who read this blog and those who know me personally may know that I have suffered from depression for years.  It’s not nearly as bad now as it once was.  I no longer take medications for it and I don’t have the same distressing symptoms I used to have.  However, I do sometimes get very pessimistic and “down”.  I think about suicide often, although never to the point of making plans or carrying them out.  It’s more like fleeting thoughts of how life is kind of wasted on me, since I don’t really enjoy it much.  I see people with warm, loving families who are dealing with life threatening illnesses or injuries and they just want to live.  Here I am feeling kind of apathetic about my existence.  Although I do enjoy many aspects of living, I don’t necessarily have a zest for life.

A lot of people probably think I have a pretty charmed life.  If I were looking at me, I might think the same thing.  I have a wonderful, patient, indulgent husband; I’m basically healthy; and I get to travel a lot.  While I don’t really make money, I do have a vocation that I’m free to pursue with no hassles with editors or people paying me to create content.  I don’t know if anyone cares about my writing or music, particularly on this blog, which doesn’t bring the hits it used to.  However, writing it gives me something to do with my mind and a reason to get up in the morning.  It gives me reasons to read books so I can review them.  Believe me, although I’m frequently bored and sometimes depressed and anxious, it’s not lost on me that some people might envy my freedom and ability to see the world.  I agree, those are wonderful things.

I really don’t know why I have these deep seated feelings of shittiness.  I think there are probably a lot of factors, some of which are hereditary and some that are situational.  I usually feel worse when I express something negative and someone tries to be “helpful” by telling me how wonderful my life is.  I probably ought to keep my negativity to myself, but that’s not necessarily helpful, either.  Whenever someone, especially a person like Anthony Bourdain, takes his or her life, people are shocked and wonder why they never “reached out”.  I have found that reaching out often annoys other people, most of whom would prefer it if you’d just get over yourself and didn’t involve them in your problems. 

I do want to express one thing that I’ve recently realized.  Despite feeling insignificant most of the time, I know I have made a difference to a few folks.  When we moved here in 2014, I decided to promote my travel blog in the local community.  I’ve gotten some negative feedback from a few people, but for the most part, my posts are well tolerated or even outright appreciated.  I notice the ones I write about things to do locally and/or local restaurants are especially popular.  I recently wrote one post about places to go to “beat the heat” in Stuttgart.  That one has really taken off.  I’ve seen a number of people come back to it repeatedly, since it offers enough suggestions to last a good portion of the summer.  It makes me feel productive when I see that people are inspired by my experiences.

It occurred to me the other day that while I may never know who has been affected by my writing, in a way, I will have helped some people make priceless memories of their time in Europe.  The people who read my posts about obscure places like Ruine Mandelberg, Glaswaldsee, or the Burgbach Wasserfall, especially if they take the time to see them for themselves, will have memories that, in a small way, I helped them make.  I know that may sound like an egotistical statement to some people, especially since I have also been affected by other people’s writing.  However, knowing that a few people are taking my suggestions and making memories of their own does give me another reason to keep writing and going to new places on the weekends.  It gives me a purpose for being here, other than just to wash Bill’s underwear and make him laugh.  I’m always looking for new things to see and write about.  In the process of visiting and writing about different places, my own experiences in Europe are also enhanced.  I’m never sorry after having explored somewhere, even when something goes wrong.

When I lived in Armenia in the mid 1990s, I often felt like I was wasting my time.  I got a lot of negative feedback from my Peace Corps bosses as well as my local counterpart, who felt I wasn’t doing enough.  I was in my early 20s, hampered by depression, and kind of overwhelmed by what I was supposed to be doing.  I didn’t feel assertive enough to start, say, an English club or hang out with the kids.  I remember the summer of 1997, as I was planning to finish my assignment, going through some rough times all around.  I couldn’t wait to leave Armenia, and yet the prospect of going home was very scary.  When I did finally get home, the homecoming I had eagerly anticipated was pretty much ruined by my dad’s entrance into rehab.  As bad as I felt in Armenia, I felt even worse in the year after I returned home.  I felt like such a burden to my parents, especially since I wasn’t even sure my time in Armenia had been productive.  I started becoming very despondent and hopeless.  That was when I finally got treatment for depression.  
Things gradually got better.  I learned how to wait tables and about fine dining.  I studied voice and attended to my depression for the first time.  I made some friends.  Finally, I landed in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, which was fulfilling, although it didn’t lead where I thought it would.  I earned a MPH, MSW, and ultimately an Mrs….  

Before I decided to go to USC, I remember interviewing at Western Illinois University and telling the director of a Peace Corps Fellows program that I knew that I’d made a difference simply by going to Armenia.  He visibly recoiled at that statement.  I think he thought it was an arrogant thing to say.  Actually, it was a statement of fact.  I was in Armenia at a time when there were few Americans there.  There were people I met there who had never seen an American in person before.  I know a lot of them still remember me and always will.  Even knowing that, though, didn’t erase my feelings that I hadn’t done enough and that my time in Armenia didn’t amount to much.

It wasn’t until almost twenty years after I left Armenia that I found out that– for real– I actually had made a difference.  Facebook put me in touch with my very first Armenian teacher, who still works for the Peace Corps, as well as one of my best former students, who is now a high ranking director in the Peace Corps Armenia office.  I didn’t have anything to do with his decision to work for the Peace Corps, but the fact that my former student remembered me and I didn’t permanently turn him off of Americans means that my time in Armenia was well spent.  Maybe I wasn’t the most hardworking or dedicated Volunteer, but I still made a difference.  And maybe people in Stuttgart think I’m annoying, obnoxious, and arrogant, but there are people who like what I do and it’s affected their experience here in a good way.  So that keeps me going… at least for now.

If you’ve managed to read this whole post… which is a lot longer than I’d intended it to be… I want to thank you.  Thanks for giving me a reason to get up in the morning.  Thanks for reading about how Anthony Bourdain and I tenuously have a couple of things in common, even if it’s just being served Choucroute Garnie in Alsace and visiting a few of the same places, like Alsace and Armenia.  Knowing that even a few people like what I’m doing means a lot more to me than you’ll ever know.  And maybe someday, in Bourdain’s honor, I’ll order the Choucroute Garnie in Kaysersberg…  But I’ll be sure to take Gas-X, too.

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Uncategorized

Happy birthday to the US Army!

Last night, Bill and I ventured to Sindelfingen to attend the 241st Army Birthday Ball.  We hadn’t originally planned on attending the event, but got talked into it by a certain low ranking MP.  😉  Since the Army’s birthday is close to my birthday, we figured it would be a fun way to celebrate with friends and fellow party animals.

The last time Bill and I attended an Army Birthday Ball was in 2004.  We lived at Fort Belvoir at the time, so our nearest ball was a fancy one held at a hotel in Washington, DC.  I remember sitting at a large table surrounded by polite but somewhat unfriendly people I didn’t know.  I drank way too much wine that night and ended up spewing in my husband’s car as we drove through old town Alexandria.  My husband later gifted that car to his former stepson, who turned out to be using Bill for money.  But that’s a story for another blog post.  😉

I drank too much wine last night, too, but fortunately no one got hurt and no messes were made!  We only made great memories and a few new friends!  Not for nothing, but I think I prefer the smaller, more intimate Army ball here in Germany than the huge fancy one in DC with big name entertainment.  I’d rather be entertained by fellow revelers.

Bill parked the car at Panzer and we walked across the pedestrian bridge to catch the bus that would take us to the event.  We didn’t really know where we were supposed to be going, but soon spotted several other people dressed like we were.  We got on the bus and I was immediately delighted by the somewhat anatomically correct sticker on the window…

Whose head is on this little guy?

 

I had been a little bit concerned about my attire.  I ordered a long dress for the ball and it got to me in time, but decided not to wear it because it’s a little too long for me.  It’s also made of fabric that I thought would be too heavy for a June night in a venue with no air conditioning.  It wasn’t actually that hot last night, but I was pretty grateful that I dispensed with the long dress and fancy heels.  I am not very physically coordinated under the best of circumstances.  Add in heels and booze and I can be a menace to other people in proximity to me.  We had to climb up and down a number of stairs.  The last thing I needed to do was trip over a long gown while struggling in uncomfortable shoes.  Maybe I’ll save the long dress for the Marine ball in November, after I get it hemmed.

There really was no need to worry about how I was dressed, though.  Plenty of ladies wore short dresses.  Some wore very high heels and platforms, and some wore flats.  I saw a few people take off their shoes altogether.  One of my lady friends even wore stylish pants and rocked them!  Besides, I really just wanted to see Bill in his blues…

I must admit, I miss seeing Bill in his uniform on a daily basis.

Proud to say he still cleans up fine in his blues!  Be still my heart!  My Marine friend, Paul, is looking sharp, too! 

 

Bill waits in line at the cash bar.  Not long after I took this photo, a bugle sounded to signal that it was time to get the party started.  

When we booked our table for four, it was empty.  We weren’t sure if there would be another couple joining us.  We did end up having company and they turned out to be a lot of fun, even if they had to cut out early because the male half had to go on duty.  The Army never sleeps!  I’m sure Bill will eventually run into our new acquaintance, since it turns out they work in the same area.  On the way home, I was thinking about how lucky we were to have such friendly and engaging people sitting at our table with us.  Unfortunately, that’s not always a given!  Not only were they friendly and interesting, but they were also funny.  I truly enjoyed meeting them.

A pretty table!

The shindig started off with the usual protocol.  There was a call to mess, an invocation, and several ceremonial toasts.  I was immediately reminded of the first episode of Army Wives, when the characters were toasting the president and one of the characters thought the president was actually attending.  I didn’t see anyone make that mistake last night.

It wouldn’t be one of my travel blog posts if I didn’t write about the food.  If I recall correctly, we had four choices for dinner, which we chose when we bought our tickets.  There was beef, chicken, salmon, and the vegetarian option.

We had salad and some surprisingly good bread.

I had salmon with rice and a cream sauce.  It was pretty good, though not very hot by the time it got to our table.  That’s understandable, though.  The other couple also had salmon.

Bill went with the beef… also smothered in cream sauce.  Also, not bad at all for banquet food.

 

After dinner, the birthday cake was cut…

I’m sorry this is a crappy picture.  I used a different purse last night and neglected to pack my digital camera that would have allowed me to zoom in.  I did think it was funny that the young soldier helping to cut the cake was born in 1994.  That was the year I graduated college.  I feel old, now.

The cake was delicious!

The colors were retired… and people commenced dancing.

I stayed safely on the tier overlooking the festivities.  I won’t dance, so don’t ask me.

 

At one point, the other couple at our table asked one of the waiters if we could have more wine.  They said we had to pay for it.  But then as the evening wore on, one of the waiters brought us a fairly full bottle that needed to be finished.  Waste not, want not!  We also witnessed a marriage proposal, which was definitely cool, and we got to take home crystal plates as a memento.  I was actually delighted about that, since a few of our small lunch plates got broken during our move!  Those crystal plates will definitely get used.  So will the pretty centerpiece as I celebrate birthday #44 tomorrow.

I was a little confused about the music.  There was a D.J. playing dance music, but then it seemed to morph into karaoke for a few numbers.  I actually would have enjoyed a karaoke party, since karaoke is one of my favorite pastimes.  I sing much better than I dance.  But I think they were only doing karaoke for a few pre-selected slow numbers.  The few singers were good, which is always a blessing at any party.  When the dance music came back on, a huge conga line formed.  I watched the conga line and briefly thought about joining it… but decided I’d rather watch.  I didn’t want to press my luck and faceplant or something.  Okay, I will admit that I did dance for about thirty seconds…  I didn’t fall down and didn’t throw up on the dance floor, so I call that a success!

As I was enjoying the festivities last night, it occurred to me how much I enjoy attending Army events.  There’s always a lot to see and it’s fun watching people have a good time.  There’s never a shortage of good people at Army balls.  People really let their hair down… well, as much as they can let their hair down, anyway.  I was even introduced to several new line dances (that I didn’t attempt myself), including one for “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle.  I happen to have family roots in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, so that song has a special meaning for me.  😉  There’s usually moonshine at my family’s parties, as well as dancing and live music.

The best part of the evening was getting to meet several people I only know from online.  I am very active on Facebook, so I’ve interacted with a lot of folks in the Stuttgart community via the Internet.  Several of them came up to me last night and asked, “Are you the ‘Overeducated Housewife’?”  That was too cool!  I also got to feel like a celebrity as I talked to several people I’ve never “met” online who read this blog and told me they enjoy it.  To those who do read, I want to offer my sincere thanks!  It really made my night last night to hear people tell me they like the blog.  I was even happier to hear that a few folks had tried and enjoyed some of the restaurants I’ve written about.

I write this blog mainly because it’s fun and gives me something constructive to do.  I don’t do it for fame or money, though that would certainly be an incentive to write more.  So, it’s really a treat when people tell me what I do is useful to them.  Being “overeducated”, childless, and unemployed sometimes makes me feel a little worthless.  Last night, I was reminded that every person has worth and one can never know how many people whose lives they touch every day.  Thanks to everyone who touched my life last night by making the evening so much fun.  And I want to offer a sincere thanks to everyone who reads my blogs.  I really do appreciate it.

Happy birthday, Army!  We really had a marvelous time celebrating with everyone last night!

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