Champagne Bucket trips, emergencies

The journey back to Germany… part eleven of our Armenian adventure!

We’ve finally reached the end of my Armenian series. What an amazing trip it was! Bill says it was one of the best trips we’ve done together, and we didn’t even go to many of the really cool ancient places for which Armenia is famous. Instead, we met people I knew years ago, saw places where I used to live, ate good food and drank wine, listened to great live music, and enjoyed being somewhere other than continental Europe, for a change. I almost hated to leave!

Bill arranged for a van to pick us up at 2:30 AM, giving us plenty of time for our 5:05 AM non-stop flight to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. We didn’t really need a van, but the guy at the front desk warned Bill that it might be best to order one if we had a lot of luggage. So, there we were– two of us with four bags between us. The driver looked at us and said, “That’s it?” For this, we paid a fare of 17,000 drams. He was a good driver, though, so Bill gave him 20,000 drams and told him to keep the change. The driver was happy, and wished us a pleasant flight.

We went up to the Lufthansa baggage drop, and the woman at the counter eyed the portfolio Bill presented and said she thought it should go in oversize baggage. I asked if it was absolutely necessary, and she asked a colleague, who said it was fine for the portfolio to go through the normal luggage queue. So, with our bags dropped, and our tickets printed, we headed to security. This is where things got a bit traumatic.

I mentioned in my first post in this series that I got groped by an aggressive female security officer. I’m not exactly sure what her problem was, but my problem was that there was a woman holding everybody up, because she had a baby stroller that she was struggling to fold. Instead of stepping aside to deal with the stroller, she was in front of the metal detector, blocking everyone’s egress. I don’t know about you, but when it’s about 3:30 AM, and I haven’t had any coffee, I’m not the friendliest person in the world. But I wasn’t complaining. I wasn’t saying anything or causing a scene. I probably just looked a bit annoyed.

I had gotten out of the habit of flying, thanks to COVID. And I live where advanced security screening is in place. Nowadays, travelers coming through Frankfurt don’t have to take off watches and the like. But Yerevan only has a metal detector. It doesn’t have a scanner. I forgot to take off my watch, and the metal detector went off. The security officer started frisking me, then noticed the watch. I had to put it in a bin and go through the detector again. The thing went off again, probably because there was metal in my shoes and my bra. She started her aggressive frisking, ordering me to put my arms out again and snapping, “I haven’t finished with you yet!” as she ran her hands over my stomach and between my legs. I was getting a bit pissed off, and felt rather violated.

Then she started speaking Russian to me, and I looked her in the eyes and said, very calmly and seriously, in English, “I don’t speak Russian.”

In retrospect, maybe I should have said that in Armenian, which I could have done. It probably would have really disarmed her. But English did the trick. She backed off immediately, and I got my stuff and got out of there. I don’t know if she was truly done harassing me, or if she’d thought I was Russian and was taking out collective Armenian hostility toward me… someone she might have thought was from Russia. In any case, while I understand that security screening at airports is very important, that woman’s hostile demeanor and lack of courtesy didn’t leave me with a great impression. Fortunately, most of the other people I ran into during our trip made up for her inappropriate and obnoxious attitude.

Yerevan’s updated airport is pretty nice, and it has a decent duty free shop that everyone has to walk through on their way into the secure gate area. We looked around for the business class lounge, which it turns out is upstairs. There’s an elevator in the duty free shop, or stairs for those who prefer them. The lounge is for business class or higher travelers using any airline. Those who are waiting there can enjoy snacks and beverages… coffee machines with Russian instructions, beer, wine, sparkling water, and the like. Bill and I had some coffee while we waited. The restrooms have showers in them, and only one toilet. I guess if you need a shower, you can lock the door, and all the other travelers would be out of luck.

Bill saw a sign that our flight was boarding, even though it was ahead of the time noted on our tickets. Not wanting to miss Lufthansa’s one weekly flight to Frankfurt, we went down to the gate, where a whole bunch of people were waiting. There were some cute girls in sweats who were wide awake, practicing what appeared to be cheers. I didn’t know Armenia had cheerleaders, and maybe that’s not what they were. But they looked like cheerleaders, and their early morning pep was both amusing and a little irritating.

It took forever for our flight to start boarding. In fact, we didn’t start boarding until some time after the listed boarding time. And business class passengers were boarded later. I guess they were loading the back of the aircraft first, which makes sense. I don’t know why people are so eager to get on the plane, anyway. I think most folks just want to get the whole ordeal over with, nowadays. Flying isn’t the luxe experience it once was.

Bill and I were in the third row. As soon as we sat down, an American guy took the seat behind me. He was sitting with a British guy who kept calling him “my brother”. They didn’t know each other before they were seated in the same row, but boy, did they act like they were buddies. The two of them immediately launched into a loud and obnoxious conversation about where they lived (both in England, near or in London), what they did for a living (retired orthopedic surgeon who supposedly worked with US military special ops, and a presenter for the BBC), what kind of luxury cars they drove or hoped to own (don’t remember that part), and how they get their news (American dude preferred reading the news to watching TV, because TV news is too biased). It went on for awhile, and I was worried I was going to have to listen to them blather for five hours.

Meanwhile, the lady sitting in front of me appeared to be Armenian. She had a pretty girl with her who looked to be about 13 or so. The pretty girl went alone to the back of the aircraft, while (mom?) sat down in front of me. I caught her casting a furtive look at the two chatterboxes behind Bill and me, who were continuing to run their mouths about their luxurious lifestyles in England. We were all in on their conversation, whether we wanted to be or not! I asked Bill if he had any earbuds, since I didn’t bring my headphones with me. He misunderstood and pulled out ear plugs. Fortunately, he also had earbuds, and I tested them to see if they’d work on my tablet. They did, and I heaved a sigh of relief, although I hate wearing earbuds. They are usually too big for my ears and don’t stay in well.

We took off, and the lady in front of me immediately reclined. I didn’t mind it, though, because I had plenty of space in front of me. I’m short, anyway, so there’s usually ample leg room for me. Once we were in the air, I had to pee really badly. But the pilot kept the seatbelt light on for ages. Bill finally got up after about an hour or so, and asked when they were going to turn off the light so I could go to the bathroom. The flight attendants said it would only be a few more minutes. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the back. A woman came up to speak to the flight attendants, and they went to the back to see what was wrong.

A few minutes later, the seatbelt light finally went off, and I finally went to relieve myself. Meanwhile, the flight attendants were asking for medical personnel to come forward. The guy behind me got up, as did an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor from Wales. There were many Welsh people in Yerevan during our visit, because of football. I’m guessing that’s why the ENT doctor was there. Bill and I were a little afraid the flight might need to be diverted, since the flight attendants seemed so concerned.

But then a few minutes later, the ortho guy sat down again, and told his new British friend that there was a lady back there who had neglected to take her medication and was having some kind of medical issue related to that. He went on a little more about the woman, then said that he’d let the ENT doctor from Wales handle the emergency, since he’d retired from medicine in ’08. He didn’t look old enough to retire, but based on what he was loudly telling everyone in business class, he had done very well for himself and was now living a life of leisure. Anyway, he did mention that the woman would be alright. So much for healthcare privacy, but there is no HIPAA in the friendly skies. 😉

Then the American “doctor man” started talking about the wonders of Georgian brandies and his visit to the Genocide Memorial, as if he knew what he was talking about. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes… but in my defense, it was very early in the morning; I was still a bit traumatized by the aggressive frisking; and I’d already been listening to those two guys ramble on for over an hour.

Finally, the flight attendants served breakfast. We had a choice between sweet and savory. I chose sweet, and Bill chose savory. It was too dark to take a photo, although I don’t remember the food being inedible. I usually stick with a roll and some water or orange juice, anyway.

We landed in Frankfurt at about 7:00 AM. When we went through passport control, I was confronted with a handsome young German guy in a uniform. He was markedly more pleasant than the Armenian officials had been. He started leafing through my passport and said, “How long have you been in Germany?”

I said, “About nine years.” Bill was standing behind me, rolling his eyes.

“Do you have a residency permit?” the guy asked with a surprisingly flirtatious smile.

“I have a SOFA card in the back of the passport.” I responded.

The guy found it, noted that it wasn’t expired, and sent me on my way. When it was Bill’s turn, he said, “That’s my wife.” The guy stamped his passport and let him go.

It always amazes me when border control guards are confronted by Americans who are very casual about approaching them. They don’t see a residency permit, and ask how long we’ve been here. We tell them “SOFA City, sweetheart…” They roll their eyes and let us go. Wouldn’t you eventually just look for the SOFA card before asking about a residency card? SOFA, for those who don’t know, stands for “Status of Forces Agreement”. It’s basically like a special residency card for Americans who work for the US government or military and their families. It allows us unlimited entrance and exit privileges from our host countries, as well as legal residency, and some other privileges. But it’s not the same thing as a German residency card.

We made our way to the baggage carousel. I noticed there weren’t too many people there, which probably means a lot of people were on their way to the USA or England… or maybe somewhere else in continental Europe. Having flown to Yerevan from the USA before, I didn’t envy them. But I would rather fly from Yerevan to the USA than the other way around. It just gets earlier when you go west.

When I flew back to the USA after my Peace Corps assignment, I had been traveling by train around Europe for a month. It wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when I went to Yerevan in 1995. Well, it wasn’t as traumatic until I met my father at Dulles Airport, and he treated me like something he’d scraped off his shoe, and told me he was going into rehab for his alcoholism the next day. Don’t get me wrong. I was glad he was getting treatment, but he sure spoiled my carefully cultivated “coming home” fantasy that was two years in the making.

After we found our bags, we were looking for that portfolio with our paintings that Bill had worked so hard to acquire the day prior to our journey. A German airport employee guy came around with it and seemed to know that it belonged to us. The Armenian lady at the Lufthansa desk had, sure enough, sent it to oversized baggage, even though it only weighed about two kilos and was flat. I guess it was too cumbersome for the regular baggage drop.

Bill and I easily found a taxi, which took us back to our humble abode in Breckenheim. The weather was cold and drizzly, just as it usually is in Germany at this time of year. I was glad to be back home, although we really had a great time in Armenia. It already feels like a dream, though… Like I can’t believe I went back there and felt so very comfortable. I still know the city of Yerevan like the back of my hand. Obviously, we will have to go back and explore some more. The good news is, now that Bill has had a taste of Armenian hospitality, he’s ready for a new adventure!

So ends my Armenian blow by blow blog series. I just have one more post to make, and that would be my highly entertaining “ten things I learned” list. Hopefully, some folks will read that. I learned an awful lot on this trip. So, by all means, stay tuned if you’re interested…


What’s that smell?

Bill and I were just sitting outside, enjoying a welcome cool breeze before what looks like rain. Suddenly, I noticed the smell of something burning. Afraid something in the house was burning, Bill went inside to see if we’d left something on a hot burner. Then I noticed smoke coming over the trees. We went upstairs to our entertainment room, which rarely gets used, and ventured out on the balcony.

Our neighbors across the way also came out on their balcony. The woman looked over at us and I pointed toward the billowing black smoke. Then, a few minutes later, we finally heard the first siren. Soon, there were many sirens in chorus. Bill was telling me it looked like a petroleum fire, perhaps from the nearby A3 (Autobahn). Edited to add: the local Facebook group says it was an apartment building that burned down on Rieslingstrasse. One of Bill’s colleagues lives near it. Two cats and two geckos died. Nine people, including five firefighters, suffered mild smoke inhalation damage.

I’m sure someone will cover it in one of the local Facebook groups. The whole neighborhood is smoky now, and people are continuing to stick their heads out in wonder.

Below are videos of what we saw and heard…


The waiting is the hardest part…

Today’s featured photo was taken at our neighborhood Rewe, which appears to be very gay friendly… The Rewe could use an Apoteke.

A week from now, barring any disasters, Bill will be home from his latest TDY. For some reason, this one has been harder for me than the previous ones have been. I think it’s a combination of the many months we’ve been locked down, bored, and the many weeks he’s had to travel on business. This time, he’s half vaccinated. At the end of the month, he’ll get his second injection. I’ll get mine on June 9th. Then, maybe we can start doing some normal stuff again. As Tom Petty used to sing, “the waiting is the hardest part”…

One of many great singers from my youth who have died since I’ve lived in Germany. I always seem to be in Europe when icons die. I was even in Europe when Princess Diana was killed, back in 1997. It seems to be my destiny to spend time here.

I had a bit of unexpected drama last night. On Friday, we got some new toys for the dogs. Arran had recently destroyed a little blue gorilla that he loved. It was a Kong toy, so it had lasted awhile, though not as long as some of the others we’ve had. I try to cycle the really damaged toys out, even if they are much beloved. I don’t want the boys chewing on toys that are raggedy because they can end up swallowing things they shouldn’t. That seems to be especially true in Noyzi’s case. A few months ago, he swallowed part of an old toy that had been three pieces. Arran had long ago shredded the other parts of the monkey– the toy part had come from– but there was still a leg with squeakers in it. Arran would play with it.

At the time that happened, Bill was at home. He took Noyzi to our vet; they gave him a shot to make him vomit; and he puked up the part of the toy he’d swallowed. It was an old toy, though, so I have been careful to get rid of the ones that get too torn up. Friday, I gave the boys four brand new Kong toys. Kong toys are known for being very tough. But the raccoon toy I got the other day was not as sturdy as the other rope toys I’ve been giving them.

Last night, I came downstairs at about 6:00pm to find that Noyzi had “skinned” the toy raccoon, leaving the head and tail, and the rope innards. I was glad he hadn’t destroyed the head, since that was where the squeaker was. But he had apparently swallowed the “fur”. Fortunately, this particular toy, by design, didn’t have a lot of polyester batting in it.

Immediately, I started thinking I’d need to get him to the emergency vet– Tierklinik Hofheim, specifically, since our vet wasn’t open. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get him into Bill’s Volvo. He’s too big and cumbersome for me to get him into the car by myself. I don’t think he’s too heavy… he’s about 63 pounds, and I can lift that. But he’s long and tall and not very cooperative. After a few minutes of trying to wrestle with him, I gave up.

Then I went looking for hydrogen peroxide, which can be used as an emetic in dogs. I thought we had some on hand, but it turned out we didn’t have any. And Germany, unlike the United States, doesn’t dispense things like hydrogen peroxide at the grocery store. You have to get it at the Apotheke. It also costs a lot more there than it does at US stores. So I went looking to see if any nearby drug stores were open. The one at the nearby Globus was open, but when I tried to get there, I got turned around and wound up in a strange neighborhood. I’m not used to driving Bill’s car… I would have driven mine, but it’s in the garage, and the Volvo was in the driveway. Then, when I got back, I couldn’t get the car parked in the driveway again. I know I should have been able. The Volvo has cameras and park assist, and of course, GPS… I can’t get used to using those things. I don’t trust them.

So I worried all night, although Noyzi was pretty much normal. I came down in the middle of the night to check on him, and he greeted me sweetly each time. I obsessively read a bunch of articles on the signs of a blockage, and finally got ahold of Bill, who said if I needed help with Noyzi, someone from the office could come over. This morning, I found Noyzi lying on his back with his legs in the air. When he saw me, he rolled onto his side and wagged his tail. I kept hoping he’d poop… because again, “the waiting is the hardest part.” A good poop is a good start on the way to recovery from something like this.

I just took the boys for a short walk. It was a short walk because it’s raining. Just afterwards, I let Noyzi in the backyard. For some reason, he doesn’t like to go potty when he’s taking a walk. Arran is just the opposite. Anyway, after a few minutes, he came out, took a whiz, then took a fairly normal looking poop with bits of toy in it. I suspect there might be more bits in his next constitutional, but at this point, I’m not too worried about him needing emergency vet care. He seems to feel better, too, even though he wasn’t that distressed in the first place.

I guess I’ve learned a few things from this experience. The first thing is that we need to train Noyzi to get in the car by himself. If it had been Arran (or the late Zane), it wouldn’t have been a problem getting the dog loaded. Both Zane and Arran fit in the Mini, too. But Noyzi needs the Volvo and has to ride in the cargo area. He needs to learn to get in by himself, because I’m not getting any younger or stronger.

Next– I need to buy some hydrogen peroxide to keep around for these kinds of emergencies. Noyzi has proven that he likes to eat toys. All of the new ones are out of reach, for now.

Next– I need to stop being such a luddite. I have yet to embrace GPS technology because I find the voice prompts distracting and annoying. But the GPS could have gotten me to Globus last night. And the park assist could have gotten the Volvo into the driveway. I have been able to park in the driveway before, by the way, but I was not in the right frame of mind for it last night.

I need to drive more, too… I just don’t enjoy driving if I have nowhere specific to be. Hopefully, with the availability of the vaccines, that won’t be so much of a problem for too much longer.

I was feeling pretty frustrated, though. I’ve been in Germany for years and I know how most things work here. But I’m still getting to know this area where we live, mainly due to the COVID-19 nightmare. I don’t know a lot of people up here, so being here alone is pretty stressful. I have fewer people to call in case of emergency. And I’m really tired of Bill’s constant business trips. The good news is, he thinks they’ll be done after this one… at least for the time being. I hope he’s right.

He’s perfectly happy. This was what he looked like last night, as I was fretting.

Anyway, I think Noyzi is going to be just fine. I guess I need to watch him more closely when there are toys around. At least until he learns that toys are for playing with, not eating. Sometimes, though, I do miss how things are in the United States… not that I’m hankering to move yet. I just want Bill to come home and fix me a martini and tell me it’s all gonna be okay. Just a few more days to go.

Edited to add: Two more dumps littered with toy debris have appeared… and they were both perfect. After each one, Noyzi seemed even happier and more energetic.


Noyzi’s big emergency…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hurling into 2016…

If you read my main blog, you might have read about my unfortunate New Year’s Day.  I won’t get into what I wrote on that post because it involves descriptions of body functions that not everyone wants to read about.  What we did end up doing yesterday was taking our dog, Zane, to the vet.

On New Year’s Eve, Bill cooked beef strips for us.  They turned out great.  Zane likes beef, but he can’t eat much of it because sometimes it upsets his stomach.  Most of the time, he can have a little piece and be just fine.  We have to be careful, though, because if he gets more than he can handle, it can lead to him having a vomiting episode.  He usually throws up once and that’s it.  This time, it was a little more serious.

Without getting too much into specifics, Zane ended up getting a touch of gastritis yesterday.  He seemed really uncomfortable and was pacing around restlessly.  He had an appetite, but couldn’t hold down any food.  He wanted to eat grass and was even pawing at the door to go outside.

Though I was pretty sure it wasn’t an emergency, I couldn’t stand to see Zane in so much discomfort.  I looked up our vet online to see who the local vet on call was for this weekend.  It turned out the vet who was open yesterday was in Gaertringen.  Bill called them and got someone on the phone who spoke no English.  He finally asked her if he could bring Zane in and got an affirmative answer.  I stayed home with our other dog, Arran, who was not too happy about being left out of a road trip.

Bill was gone for awhile and I started to worry a bit, but it turned out the vet was rather far away and it took 30 minutes just to get there.  Then, once he got there, Bill had to wait for three others ahead of him.  Apparently, the vet looked like Richard Gere.  Now I wish I could have gone with Bill so I could have seen for myself.

While Bill was waiting, he struck up a conversation with a German woman who spoke flawless English.  It turns out she’s living in the United States, getting a master’s degree in New York state.  She has an American boyfriend and had come to Germany for the holidays.  Her mother’s cat needed an ultrasound.

Anyway, after a thorough checkup, the vet gave Zane a couple of shots.  One was to quiet his rumbling guts and make him more comfortable and the other was to stop the vomiting and nausea.  He fixed Zane right up.  Bill paid about 60 euros for the visit and that was that.  Zane seems to be pretty much back to normal this morning after he slept off the antiemetic drug.  By last night, he was begging for chicken and rice.

One thing I like about living in Germany is that vet care is relatively inexpensive here.  Emergency care is especially reasonable, especially when compared to what we pay in the States.  Zane has a special knack for getting into trouble, especially on weekends on holidays.  I feel pretty sure that had we needed the emergency vet yesterday in the USA, the bill would have been several times what Bill paid.  I appreciate that in Germany, one can often get urgent medical help without resorting to using high priced emergency facilities.

The boys were both ready for dinner last night.  Zane is the tricolored one on the left.


I felt a lot better once Zane was back to his usual sunny self.  From now on, we’re going to be more careful about what he eats.

I’m kind of glad the holidays are over.  I’m ready for things to get back to normal.  I’m in the midst of preparing for our trip to Scotland and trying to decide what we want to do after our Hebridean Islands Cruise in March.  I can’t wait to blog about it.

Hopefully today or tomorrow, we’ll get out and try a new restaurant.