anecdotes, coronavirus, Germany, Health, Wiesbaden

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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advice, coronavirus, Germany, Health

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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Germany

Our Heidelberger Birthday Holiday! Part one

The featured photo is of our crowded, but quaint, village of Wallau, located near where we live. This was where we got our vaccines registered.

I am delighted to write another travel blog series. It’s been AGES since I’ve been able to write an actual travel post for my travel blog, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things are finally opening up here in Europe. Infection numbers are falling; fewer people are being hospitalized or dying; and people are breaking out of seclusion for some fun. I have been waiting impatiently for the ability to have fun. It’s been too long.

As of June 16th, I became fully inoculated with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. That was enough of a cause for celebration… but today also happens to be my birthday. Bill and I usually try to do fun things when we have birthdays, and this year we needed a break more than other years. We also needed to introduce Noyzi to the Birkenhof Tierpension, since we haven’t been anywhere since we adopted him in October of last year. Since it was Noyzi’s trial run at our boarding facility, we decided to keep the weekend short and close to home.

I’d been wanting to visit Heidelberg again for ages. We went there in October 2008, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. That visit was decidedly friend heavy, as at the time, there was still an active Army installation in Heidelberg. We had several friends who were living there, so during that visit, we hung out with them and went on post. I remember touring Heidelberg Castle one day, eating at Vetter’s, and then the next day, we went to nearby Schwetzingen and visited the palace and castle. We even took a tour in German. The hotel we stayed in then was Appartment & Hotel Kurpfalzhof Heidelberg, which was then, and still is, the number one traveler ranked hotel on Trip Advisor. It was an extremely clean and nice hotel, with friendly owners who were obviously very Army friendly. For some reason, they aren’t taking reservations right now.

For this occasion, I was wanting to stay somewhere fancier and in town, anyway. I found two likely candidates: Heidelberg Suites and Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg. Both properties were extremely appealing for different reasons. I ended up choosing Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg because of its downtown location and parking availability– there’s a garage right next door. They have a pool, and thanks to the heat wave, I knew I’d be wanting to swim. They also have a beautiful bar area, and Bill and I were hoping to enjoy that, too… (and we certainly did).

So, with the hotel booked for Friday and Saturday nights, and the dogs set up for their stay at the Birkenhof, it was time to deal with the next part of the process of breaking back into traveling. We needed to visit an Apotheke (pharmacy) to register proof of our vaccinations with the German government and pick up QR codes that can be uploaded into an app that is easily shown at restaurants, hotels, and shops. I was a little worried about that process, having read a “horror” story in The Local: Germany about an American guy in Cologne who went to six different places until he finally found a place that would recognize his American CDC vaccination card.

Bill and I didn’t have any trouble like that. We followed the link for mein-apothekenmanager.de to find a local pharmacy that had the ability to register people in the system. Not all pharmacies are participating, and some are participating, but don’t have the system set up yet. It turned out a pharmacy in the next village was participating. Bill sent them an email in German explaining that we’re Americans who need the QR codes for the app and asking if they could help. To our delight, the answer was a yes. Bill stopped by on Monday and dropped off copies of our vaccine cards, and the very pleasant druggist told us that she’d have them ready for us in a few days. It took time because so many people were trying to sign up that the system crashed!

On Friday morning, we took the dogs to the Hunde hotel. Noyzi seemed alright when we left. There were several nice dogs there who seemed eager to play! I think it helped that Arran was happy to be there and very relaxed. Arran has been many times and always has fun. We’ll go pick them up in a few hours. Hopefully, everything went alright!

After we dropped them off, we went to Wallau to get the proof of vaccination. There was a long line of people waiting outside of the pharmacy, many of whom were waiting to register. Others just needed to get some drugs. It’s good that we brought in the papers before Friday, since it’s routinely taking the pharmacist a couple of days to get people’s credentials loaded. If we had not had that paperwork, we probably would have needed to be tested for COVID-19 while we were in Heidelberg. Below is a picture of what the papers look like.

Unfortunately, the apps available in Germany aren’t available to us yet. We both tried to download the CovPass app, but that requires a German iTunes account and we have American ones. When I tried to change my location to Germany in the App Store, I got this message:

One of the other two apps is only for Android users. The other one, for some reason, just refused to work at all. I was able to download the Luca app, though, which is used for contract tracing and test results. Supposedly, we will eventually be able to load the vaccine passes into that app, too. I’m sure the German government will hear about this issue soon, or they’ll get used to the American CDC cards. In any case, the paper from the pharmacy worked alright, even though we don’t have the yellow European version of the the vaccine proof card. I suppose we could have gotten one at a pharmacy and had them stamped by the American vaccination center where we got our shots, but we didn’t know about them when we got inoculated. Phew… so much work to get legit before we can take a weekend out of town!

After we got the vaccine paperwork done, we packed a couple of bags and loaded the Volvo; then we set off for Heidelberg, which is about 50 miles– 70 kilometers from where we live. Although it only takes about an hour or so to get there, it’s in another state– our old home of Baden- Württemberg– where Bill and I spent a total of six mostly happy years together. It’s always a pleasure to go back! The drive was easy and fun… I spent the whole time making jokes about Sinead O’Connor’s new book, which I hope to be reviewing on my main blog very soon!

Once we found our way to the beautiful, grand, five star lodging where I had booked a junior suite for two nights, the celebration was primed to begin. More on that in the next post!

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