The lockdown is never going to end…

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This will be a short post, because frankly, I don’t have much to write about these days. Germany has been in some form of lockdown since early November 2020. Officials keep saying the lockdown will end in a couple of weeks, but as the date draws closer, they extend it. At this point, the lockdown could go on into mid June, and will likely include curfews that will make it illegal for people to be outside of their homes between 9:00pm and 5:00am unless it’s for work or medical reasons, or taking care of animals. It’s all because of the coronavirus, which has continued to infect and kill people. Meanwhile, Germany has few vaccines for its people, and Angela Merkel keeps pleading for lockdowns, which don’t seem to be doing anything.

Bill told me that we would be vaccinated by the end of May, but the vaccine he was told we were getting is the Johnson & Johnson one, which the CDC has just recommended pausing, thanks to six women getting rare clotting disorders. Meanwhile, Bill still travels for work. He’s gone this week and will be gone for most of May, and his office is short-staffed, so he’s also working long hours. I’m feeling bored, lonely, hopeless, and pissed off.

Yesterday, I caught myself fantasizing about just fucking leaving. I mean leaving… right now, by myself, and just going somewhere else. But this fucking virus is everywhere. Pardon my language, but this is how I feel.

I am a resilient person, and I have survived worse, I guess, than endless isolation. At least we’re comfortable enough. I’ve been investing in some things to make the yard nicer, since it looks like we’re going to spend another summer sitting in it in seclusion. I’ve been watching too much true crime TV and reading a lot of books. And I fantasize about when I can travel again and take more pictures.

It feels like it will never happen.

I’m just glad we got to be here for several years before this global nightmare started. I feel sorry for the people who got here last year and have already spent their first year here in lockdown.

Good thing I’m not close to my family anymore. Grateful I have my dogs. Noyzi is getting more comfortable, and Arran remains his feisty, cranky self.

Political Schwag that is sooo German!

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Bill got home last night. He and Arran had a joyous reunion. Both of them cried… Arran cried with joy when he sniffed Bill and realized his favorite person was home, and Bill cried with relief having survived three weeks of TDY. He had a challenging three weeks. Don’t get me wrong– he was in the Army for 30 years and has endured all kinds of stuff. But that doesn’t mean it’s not stressful for him and for us.

I don’t tend to pay a lot of attention to the stuff in our mailbox or on our doorstep, unless it’s something that looks important. Just before the recent elections, someone left a little bag of political schwag for us, not knowing that, alas, we aren’t locals. Bill finally looked in the bag this morning and was very amused. Behold…

I’m delighted by the seeds, especially. Our poor backyard has really suffered over the wet winter months and Noyzi’s insistence on running back and forth like a crazed shepherd. I like to plant flowers and spruce things up, and since the “lockdown” has sort of lifted a teeny bit– Germans can get haircuts, buy books, and visit the garden section of their hardware store– this seems like an especially appropriate gift to voters. Who doesn’t love flowers? Except for those of us with allergies. In any case, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an American politician give out flower seeds or bottle openers as a means of bolstering political support. I think it’s cool… and very GERMAN.

Although yesterday’s bipolar weather might cause us to put off gardening for a week or so.

As you can see by the featured photo, our village’s Easter decorations are up. It makes things look a little more normal, at least, even though the COVID-19 restrictions continue. What a bummer… but at least Bill is finally home again. I have missed him, and this morning, when I felt his hand on my shoulder, I realized how much I have missed human contact. I guess this pandemic is teaching me to appreciate some of the small things in life.

A year ago, we tried to adopt a dog and that effort turned into a tragedy. This year, we’re still healthy and reasonably happy. And we have Noyzi, the Kosovar street dog, in our midst. He has really been a great asset to our family and is turning into a really loving and adorable friend. I live for his daily tail wags, goofy smiles, and poop zoomies/crazy dog. I think he was meant to be ours, against all odds. That being said, I hope to hell those vaccines get out soon, so we can go back to a somewhat normal lifestyle and do some traveling again.

Twice in a week…

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Ever since we moved back to Germany in 2014, I’ve avoided doing a lot of driving. I have a 2009 Mini Cooper Convertible sitting in the garage now. The battery has died three times since we moved to Wiesbaden because I so seldom go anywhere. Bill has his Volvo, which we purchased in 2019 and picked up in Sweden. Those were the days! I miss being able to fly somewhere without a bunch of hassles. Normally he would be driving the Volvo today, but he had to go on TDY (temporary duty yonder) for three weeks, and his company makes him rent cars when he goes on business.

Since the Volvo is in the driveway, I can’t get my Mini out without moving it. I also had two chores to do this week. First, I had to drop off a fecal sample at the vet’s office on Monday. Then today, I woke up realizing that there were a few essential items I needed. I can walk to the Rewe if need be, but I also had an empty rack of beer to deposit. So I got in the Volvo and headed off to the store, after carefully dog proofing the house. I can’t say “beagle proofing” anymore, since one of our dogs is definitely NOT a beagle.

This may seem like not much of a big deal… except prior to this morning, I had not been to the grocery store in over a year. I quit going because of COVID-19. Bill goes, because he’s out and about anyway. I used to enjoy grocery shopping, back when I was single. Now, it’s a real chore. I hate wearing a mask for many reasons, which I won’t get into here. And I hate dealing with confrontational people. I actually looked into using the home delivery service, but that requires a 50 euro minimum order. All of the appointments were also booked for the next ten days or so. And really, it’s ridiculous not to just go to the store… I mean, in another life, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

Bill had given me a few tips about the new rules. Everybody has to wear a mask and use a cart. I noticed in the drink market, people didn’t use a cart. I did, because I decided to get more beer. I don’t need to be drinking beer. In fact, I usually avoid drinking when Bill isn’t home. But this has been kind of a shitty week. Early Monday morning, I skinned both of my knees. One of the knees was already skinned from a mishap two weeks ago, so I undid a week’s worth of healing. All week, my knees have hurt– stinging, itching, and oozing stickiness. Beer helps dull the pain and annoyance of being so clumsy and having ugly knees.

I drove the mile or so to the store. It’s probably not even that far. It’s literally around the corner. I parked the car, put on my mask, and loaded the empty beer rack in the cart, along with the many empty water bottles and odd aluminum can we had. The Pfand refund totaled about 6 euros. I got my beer and a couple of cans of soda in the drink market. Then I loaded that stuff in the car and went back into the grocery store, which is in a separate building. When we moved here in late 2018, our Rewe didn’t have a drink market. It was just built in 2019. It’s nice, since it’s very well stocked.

I picked up my items at the grocery store, doing all I could to avoid the floor cleaning guy. It surprises me he’d be doing that work during regular business hours, especially since there were a number of people shopping, but what do I know about how things run around here?

When I got home, I was confronted by my lack of driving practice. Bill’s Volvo is much bigger than my Mini is. Consequently, it’s a lot harder to park it, even though it has parking assist and tells you how to park. I don’t quite trust it myself. Every day, I watch Bill expertly maneuver the car into the driveway, making it easier for the landlord to get in and out. I had to make a few passes, having parked the car in front of the house because of the groceries. I noticed the landlord drove up in his little car and looked a little annoyed that the Volvo was parked in front of the house, even though we’re allowed to park there if we want (and for the rent we’re paying, it shouldn’t be an issue, anyway).

But sure enough, I got the car parked… and there were no scratches on the car. The dogs were delighted to see me, and I can make something decent for dinner. Lately, I’ve been skipping dinner because I just can’t be arsed. I hate it when Bill is gone. The saddest part is, last night he was messaging me, proposing that we plan a trip to Stuttgart and get our teeth cleaned. We badly need to get them cleaned, since it’s going on two years since we last saw Dr. Blair. But this is not the kind of thing that should be a field trip. And yes, I know we could find a local dentist, and we might go ahead and do that at some point. We just like Dr. Blair. He’s the best dentist either of us has ever had. And we like visiting Stuttgart… and miss the days when we could do that without a bunch of bullshit.

I miss the days when we could go out and do stuff… and I’d have things to write about besides our new dog and random trips to the grocery store. I hate these marathon TDYs. I hate being clumsy. And I hate that Angela Merkel and her minions are keeping things locked down until March 28th. Fuck COVID-19.

Anyway, yes I’m proud of myself for taking care of that little chore. It would have been better if I could have driven the Mini, but it needs air in the tires and Bill has yet to find a place with a functioning air pump. So that’s another project for when he gets home… in two fucking weeks.

In other news, I’m thinking about buying a new car… one that can accommodate the moose dog, Noyzi. He doesn’t fit in a Mini Cooper. Also, as you can see in the featured photo, our trash guy smokes while he works.

It’s election time…

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I just bought a new pair of shoes that I needed to try out. I was going to try them yesterday, but ended up taking a nasty fall when I went to check the mailbox. Noyzi followed me outside and I panicked, because it’s almost a year ago that our would be rescue dog, Jonny, escaped his pet taxi before we could get him into the house. He ended up running away and tragically got hit by a car. That memory is still all too fresh in my mind.

When I went to grab for Noyzi, I lost my balance and fell. I got a nice, bruised, scraped right knee, and I tore off part of my right thumbnail. It really hurt, and I was actually a bit dazed for a few minutes. I had to sit on the floor to get my composure, because I almost felt like I might pass out from the acute pain. Needless to say, the boys didn’t get a walk yesterday. Arran capped off the misery by puking.

But anyway, we have sunny skies and nice temperatures this morning, so I decided to try again. We walked down the hill to the Dorfplatz, where there are many election signs. The big day is March 14th, and Wiesbaden has lots of candidates. I took some photos, even though as a foreigner, I won’t be voting.

I’m more than ready to get out of this neighborhood and see more of the sights. I am beyond sick of the COVID-19 lockdown lifestyle, especially since Bill has to go TDY for three weeks. But at least the new shoes were pretty comfortable, even if the shoelaces don’t want to stay tied without bow knots. I think once my knee and thumb stop throbbing, they’ll work out fine. Maybe I’ll even be motivated to walk outside of town and burn off some of this COVID-19 beergut.

Hopefully, the lockdown will be ending next month, although vaccine rollout has been slow here. Bill and I signed up for us to be vaccinated on post, but there’s no telling when that will happen. It will probably happen before we can get it on the economy, though. The school is open today, and I saw lots of kids playing outside, masked with surgical masks instead of cloth ones, which are now outlawed.

It is nice to see the sun… and feel warmer temperatures. I look forward to better weather, so we can at least socially isolate outside.

Tommi is about to break on through to the other side…

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Here’s a quick post to update my last one about how our neighbor’s puppy has discovered a breach in the fence. A couple of days ago, we had a glorious and rare sunny day. I let the dogs out, and sure enough, we soon saw Tommi the lab puppy sticking his head under the fence. He’s very determined! He’s still growing, though, so I don’t know how much longer he’ll be able to do this.

I’m actually surprised Noyzi isn’t standing right by the fence to greet him. He actually backed away a bit as Tommi continued to engage. I suppose it’s time we got some cinder blocks or something. In other news, Noyzi just let Bill his harness on without any help from me, whatsoever! This may seem like a small thing, but he’s been terrified of Bill ever since we brought him home and until very recently, there was no hope of putting him on a leash without my assistance. So that’s another breakthrough. We’ve really been enjoying his personality, lately. He’s starting to show us who he is.

The last forty seconds of this video show Tommi, the cute Lab puppy, trying so hard to visit. It almost feels like a metaphor for the whole COVID-19 nightmare. We all want to visit, Tommi.

Aside from the cold, rainy, depressing weather and Noyzi’s antics, not much else is going on. The crappy weather continues. The lockdown continues. My beer gut keeps expanding. I watch more bad TV and dream of the day when I can post some more adventures that involve actual travel. The one consolation is that I know we’re all pretty much in this shitty boat right now. I’m just grateful I had the opportunity to see a lot of Europe before the pandemic started. I would hate to be a young bride coming here for the first time, eager to travel, and forced to stay at home for months on end. It sucks. At least the weather is bad enough that I probably wouldn’t want to go anywhere anyway, even if we weren’t locked down.

Here are a few more photos of Noyzi, who is learning that the iPad won’t kill him. He’s learned to strike a pose and is quite handsome. I think he knows it, too… and uses his charms to score people food. I love giving him bites of food. It’s like dropping letters in a mailbox. His mouth is so big, and he opens it like a maw!

And here are a couple of photos I took on our most recent walk together. As you can see, the water is HIGH! It’s gross in the backyard… totally sloppy and messy.

I look forward to drying out.

Germany’s new mask rules…

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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 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.

Happy end of 2020!

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Can you believe it? New Year’s Eve is finally upon us. The year 2020 will go down as one of the worst ever for a lot of people. It wasn’t too bad for me, personally, and it didn’t drag on for me. In fact, we had some very good things happen this year. But I do know that many people have been waiting for this day in a year that, for most people, was like no other.

The last few months of 2020 have been punctuated with losses for Bill and me. I lost a cousin, a cousin’s spouse, and our old friend, the Mad Scientist of Entringen. Bill lost his dad, who was also my father-in-law. But Bill gained one of his daughters, his son-in-law, and two grandchildren. We both gained a new family member when we adopted Noyzi. We got to do some unique traveling, and we went to places we probably would not have gone to if not for COVID-19 and the need to stay kind of local. This was also the first year in quite a few that I didn’t fly anywhere. We’re both learning guitar! This year, I started with no guitars in my house. Now, I have four of them! I’m not a great player yet, but I make improvements every day.

I don’t know what’s in store for us in 2021, although I do look forward to the end of the Trump era. I also look forward to some smart scientists making better vaccines and medications to fight COVID-19. And there are a few things we’ve been doing this year that I wouldn’t mind continuing, like working from home for Bill and fewer TDYs.

It looks like we’ll be staying in Germany for at least the foreseeable future. But if there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that nothing is for certain when you work in government contracting. We’ll see what Biden has in store for us. If anything, I hope it’s more civility and decency than what we’ve been seeing from Trump and his peeps.

I don’t think we will see too many fireworks this year. I believe there’s a curfew tonight. People are supposed to stay inside from 9:00pm until 5:00am tomorrow. If folks have fireworks left from last year, I’ve heard it’s okay to set them off. But there weren’t any for sale this year… which means that this will be a quieter Silvester. Supposedly, this is to prevent crowds and injuries that would send people to the overworked hospitals. This doesn’t really affect Bill or me, since we always have a quiet New Year’s and, at least for the past couple of years, haven’t even made it to midnight still conscious. But I expect we will enjoy some champagne and we’re planning on having Moroccan food takeout.

So… on with the end of 2020. Let us all hope for better days in 2021, even the new year is always kind of weird at first. Happy New Year to you all! We have some snow right now, so I think I’ll go enjoy it until it turns to rain.

My online shopping life… or, the pandemic has made us learn new things.

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It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Bill and I were preparing to journey to France to see my friends Audra and Cyril and celebrate Christmas with them and their family. This year, we don’t go anywhere. I’m serious. I haven’t left our neighborhood in over two months. It’s getting old.

But I’m trying to keep my spirits up. The other day, I ordered chocolates from Neuhaus. I was a victim of Facebook advertising, which kept showing me pictures of Belgian chocolate. Then I remembered that once upon a time, when I was still a working woman, I actually used to sell Neuhaus chocolates.

I worked at a place called Henry Street Chocolatier, which was located in Williamsburg, Virginia. They sold high end chocolates from Neuhaus and Joseph Schmidt, a now defunct confectioner out of San Francisco, California that specialized in making chocolate truffles. They also had locally produced pastries and coffee by First Colony, an outfit out of Norfolk, Virginia. I think First Colony as I knew it went out of business, but they also used to sell coffee to The Trellis, a restaurant where I worked a few years later. It looks like First Colony was sold, so the brand still exists, but it’s not the same people running it.

I ended up buying a shitload of chocolates. I bought a 500g ballotin of Neuhaus truffles, a 500g ballotin of regular chocolates, and a wine tasting chocolate set. Neuhaus also has champagne and coffee tasting sets– those are chocolates specifically selected to be tasted with wine, champagne, and coffee. Wine is not included in the sets, but you do get a nifty booklet in several languages.

I also bought wines from Georgia, Croatia, and Hungary, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Friday night, Bill and I discussed my desire to buy an electric guitar. I showed him the one I wanted, which is quite pricey. I ended up ordering one of those yesterday as my own Christmas present. I tried to get it through its manufacturer’s Web site, but the sale wouldn’t go through. Like, it wouldn’t even attempt to go through at all. So I found the guitar I wanted on another site and did successfully order it. I don’t think the charge has been processed yet. Hopefully, it will go through. Sometimes the credit card companies are very cautious when you live in Europe and have an American billing address. If it actually gets to me, I’ll post a picture of it.

I have about half the cash needed to pay for the guitar waiting in a savings account I usually use for traveling. We aren’t doing any of that, so it makes perfect sense to just get the guitar I want. It will give me incentive to keep practicing. Not that I need incentive. I made some real progress with my guitar playing yesterday, finally managing to awkwardly play several difficult chords in the same shape. No, they aren’t perfect, but a few months ago, I couldn’t even attempt them. Now, if I’m very careful, I can actually make them ring out somewhat. Anyway, Bill is going to buy me an amp, and once he’s learned a bit more on his guitar, he’ll probably buy one he likes, too.

We also ordered sushi from Tam’s Kitchen. It was a cold, rainy night, and didn’t really seem like sushi weather, but I was dying for some. And here in Breckenheim, we happen to have a really great sushi guy who does deliveries. I think he’s actually a caterer. I don’t think he has a restaurant, per se. But you can order sushi and it will be super fresh and delicious. So that’s what we did Friday night. I think Tam is actually from Vietnam, but he sure has a way with raw fish.

Last night, I watched the memorial service done for my cousin, Karen, who died a couple of weeks ago. She was the third family member I’ve lost since mid October. I learned some new things about my cousin, who was eighteen years older than I am. We weren’t very close, but she was very much beloved by her family and our extended family. Watching the video made me miss being at home somewhat, although I think during this pandemic, I’d rather be in Germany.

And Noyzi and Arran are doing fine. Noyzi is particularly adorable these days. He has a new habit of silently showing up, ghostlike, when it’s time to eat. I slip him a little snack from the table, which is probably not a great thing to do… but he’s so sweet and basically well-behaved that my heart melts a bit.

I suspect today will be more of the same stuff. It’s cold and wet, and Germany is still locked down. Oh, I guess they call it Lockdown Lite, since stores are still open, and it’s been extended until January 10th. But there’s nothing to do anyway, and the weather is icky. So we’ll stay home, listen to music, and buy stuff online. 2020 has mostly sucked… but in some ways, it’s been kind of awesome. I miss traveling, but it’s also been nice to find new ways to occupy my time and spend money. And we are grateful we still have the money to spend. Maybe it will help some people stay in business.

“Be welcome here…”

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Tomorrow, Bill and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Normally, we travel for our anniversary. This year, we can’t go anywhere, thanks to COVID-19. I decided to buy a few new attachments for the air fryer I purchased at the beginning of the pandemic. We don’t use it very often, in part, because the noise from it seems to bother Arran somewhat. But we have discovered that we can use it in the laundry room and Arran doesn’t mind.

Last night, Bill made air fryer brownies that turned out great. This morning, we had a sausage, egg, spinach, sun dried tomato and cheese casserole made in the air fryer. Noyzi is getting braver and now hovers near me at mealtimes, hoping I’ll share with him. I don’t mind doing that because he’s so polite, and it does help him be less fearful.

After breakfast and starting another load of laundry, Bill and I put leashes on Arran and Noyzi and started on our walk. The sun is shining and the temperature is mild. It’s the perfect day to enjoy fall weather. As we were heading down the “Weg” to the main drag, a tall, slim, older German woman approached. She was wearing black slacks, a purple blouse, and a big black sweater. I noticed she also wore black gloves. Bill and I had just been talking about how Germans seem to bundle up a lot more than we do, even when the weather is nice.

I noticed the woman’s face as she looked at Noyzi, who is a very handsome and striking specimen. Noyzi was shying away from her noticeably. He was nervous enough that he dropped a single nugget of poop, but then he calmed down while Arran hung nearby, eager to keep walking. I fought the urge to pick up the poop as the German woman started talking to Bill. She quickly ascertained that we weren’t German when Bill opened his mouth to speak. She switched to careful, halting English, asking if we were the “new Americans”. It so happened that we were standing right next to a house that reportedly contains Americans. I guess native Breckenheimers talk about who’s who, and who’s new.

Bill explained that no, we weren’t “new” here. We moved to Breckenheim in late November 2018, and we live at the top of the hill. The woman wore no makeup. Her straight, silver hair was pulled into a ponytail. I don’t know how old she is. She appeared to be older than we are by some years, but she was very fit looking. In her hand, she held a bundle of some type of herb– perhaps thyme. I’m not sure, because I stood farther away from her than Bill did.

The woman didn’t wear a face mask. Neither did we. It’s probably a good thing, as she was very soft-spoken and I’m not sure we would have been as able to hear and understand her. She was very intent on sharing a message with us. She told Bill that today is a special worldwide holiday. She didn’t know how to say it in English. Bill thought maybe she meant it was like Remembrance Day, but having looked up holidays for November 15th, I don’t think so. I have no idea what she was talking about. She said it was a worldwide holiday, but is especially recognized in Europe. It was the first I’d heard of it after living here for several years.

Edited to add: My German friend Susanne tells me that today is Volkstrauertag (people’s day of mourning), and the lady was probably on her way to the cemetery or church, both of which we have in our area. I kept thinking maybe she was referring to Advent, but it’s a bit early for that. Volkstrauertag happens two weeks before Advent starts, and it commemorates members of the armed forces of all nations and civilians who died in armed conflicts, to include victims of violent oppression..

Regardless, of what the actual holiday is today (now I know– Volkstrauertag), she seemed very keen to talk to us about world peace. She spoke about how there’s no such thing as an enemy. We’re all people and we all deserve peace. Bill told her that he’d been to Iraq. I heard her say, “And you survived.”

She went on some more about having regard for our fellow man, avoiding war, and remembering those who died at war. And then, as she started to walk away, she said “Be welcome here.”

Bill turned to me and I could see the tears in his eyes. He was clearly moved. He said, “Well… that was a message.”

It’s not the first time we’ve run into someone who has imparted a message to us in an unusual way. Five years ago, I was stunned into peace and calm by a Buddhist monk we happened to run into at an Italian restaurant near Munich. It turned out he was a famous Japanese peace crusader named Toyoshige Sekiguchi. He was traveling the world, promoting peace and nuclear disarmament. I didn’t even speak to him, and yet he had a profound effect on me just by being who he is and being in my presence.

We lost Bill’s father a week ago and, naturally, Bill wasn’t able to attend his dad’s funeral on Friday. He was emotional about that last night. We spent some time talking and I was doing what I could to assuage his guilt and soothe his grief. He was still pensive and a little moody this morning. Perhaps that’s why got our special message as we walked the dog.

Bill is normally a very approachable person, but he was especially open-hearted today, which may have been why that woman felt the need to speak to us. Or maybe she stops everyone to talk about peace and loving everyone. It was a good message, though, and seemed kind of appropriate under the circumstances. Maybe she wanted to tell us her message because we represent Americans and most Americans around here are with the military. She might have thought Bill was a war monger, although he’s definitely not your stereotypical military man. In fact, I’d say Bill is not even like the typical guy. He’s unusually in touch with his feelings about most things. Maybe she figured we support Trump, though we definitely don’t.

I think a lot of people, with good reason, think that everyone in or affiliated with the military is a war monger. Most servicemembers I know want war less than anyone does. And anyone who knows Bill knows that he’s a gentle, caring, considerate, and kind man. I, on the other hand, graduate of social work and public health master’s programs and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, tend to be a bit feisty. Go figure that!

Anyway, we had a good walk. Noyzi has really come to love the daily walks. He still won’t let Bill put his leash on him, but he will let Bill walk him. And today, since I came along, I got a special treat in the form of butts. As I was putting on my shoes, Noyzi came up behind me and stuck his big nose right in my ass, as if he was greeting a new canine friend. Then, he came around as I was tying my laces, stuck his butt in my face, and backed up, swinging it side to side as if he wanted to use my nose to scratch his behind. He didn’t actually reach my nose, thank goodness, but he did seem to offer me his butt for sniffing. I guess he’s getting more comfortable here. I may have to teach him not to goose me in the ass when I’m tying my shoes, though.

A couple of nights ago, we ordered Greek takeout from Akropolis Restaurant in nearby Delkenheim. Bill wasn’t feeling like cooking, probably because he’d lost his dad and couldn’t go to the funeral. I was tickled because they sent him away with a small bottle of ouzo! I’ve had better gyros, but the rest of the food was pretty good. We had plenty leftover for lunch yesterday, too.

I wore my favorite dog walking shirt today. On the back, it says in German “Life is too short to drink shitty beer.” I was kind of glad it was covered up with a sweater today, after talking to that very deep and spiritual lady.

Negligent actions have consequences…

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This post is also appearing on my regular blog. I’m cross posting it here, because it’s about travel, and my travel blog can always use extra content during a pandemic and “lite lockdown”.

Yesterday on my travel blog, I posted an article about SeaDream Yacht Club’s unfortunate COVID-19 situation. SeaDream, for those who don’t know, is a fantastic all inclusive luxury cruise line. It has two identical “super yachts” and it’s known for being an awesome cruise experience for couples. Bill and I have sailed with them three times. Our last voyage with them was in May 2013, when we sailed from Rome to Athens with a trip through the Corinth Canal.

Bill and I love SeaDream, but circumstances have not lined up for us to sail with them again since Bill left the Army. I still follow their message board on Cruise Critic. Ever since the COVID-19 crisis hit, I’ve been anxiously wondering if this line will survive the pandemic. Things were looking hopeful over the summer, when SeaDream managed to complete several Norway centric cruises without anyone getting sick from the virus.

After their success in Europe, SeaDream came back across the Atlantic and, last Saturday, attempted their first round trip Barbados cruise. In order to pull this off, SeaDream had to change a lot of its standard operating procedures. Prospective passengers had to get a negative COVID-19 PCR test at their own expense 72 hours before flying to Barbados. They had to take another COVID-19 test before getting on the ship, as well as have an interview with the ship’s doctor. Their luggage and shoes were cleaned with ultrasonic technology. Halfway through the voyage, they would have had to have another routine COVID-19 test to satisfy the rules for returning to Barbados. And, while they were cruising, they visited empty beaches, took catamaran cruises, and engaged in activities that did not allow them to be in contact with any host country nationals.

Having been on a SeaDream cruise, I can tell you that I’m sure it was just fine even without the freedom to engage with locals, shop on the economy, or go exploring. I’m not sure if the piano bar was open, but that was my favorite part of a SeaDream cruise anyway, besides the many cocktails and endless champagne.

Unfortunately, someone DID get sick with COVID-19. As of Wednesday morning, the 53 passengers have been stuck in their staterooms, which I can attest to being really nice, but not very large. The windows don’t open and there are no balconies. It’s a nice cage, but it’s still a cage.

A video done by a couple of Geordie lads who have been blogging about SeaDream’s voyages. They are on the ship as I write this.

The person who got sent to a Bajan hospital with COVID-19 was part of a group of six who evidently decided to overnight in Miami on the way to Barbados. From what I’ve read, other passengers heard the afflicted one talking about partying in the south Florida city for a night. Four others in that group also had positive COVID-19 tests, but evidently aren’t showing symptoms. The fifth person’s test was inconclusive.

Now… in thinking about this, it occurs to me just how many people have been affected by this group’s decision to overnight in Miami…

  1. 47 people have had a very expensive and luxurious vacation ruined.
  2. 66 crew members have had their livelihoods directly threatened.
  3. 113 people have had their health threatened.
  4. The entire cruising industry has had another blot on it regarding health and safety standards.
  5. Hundreds of future passengers will be affected because SeaDream will be cancelling upcoming cruises.
  6. All of the businesspeople depending on support revenue for the cancelled cruises will lose money– ie; pet boarding, taxi services, airlines, etc.
  7. People watching SeaDream to see if cruising during a pandemic could be done safely will be affected.
  8. A whole lot of people have been affected by this… I hope that night out in Miami was worth it.

It really is a shame that this happened. As I wrote in my travel blog, I won’t consider cruising again until there’s an effective vaccine against COVID-19. I don’t think cruising while fretting about a virus on a luxury ship is a lot of fun. Hopefully, we’ll get this virus under control before too long. On the other hand… I’m not holding my breath.

Hopefully, those who got sick won’t get too sick… and the passengers will be able to get off the ship and go home without too much trouble. We’ll see what happens. Actions have consequences. But, on the bright side, by undertaking this experiment, SeaDream has provided some valuable data for others. Perhaps that will help some smart people figure out the best way to get back to a life approaching normal at some point.

ETA: the count is now up to seven COVID positive.