Last night’s take out triumph!

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In March, when our would-be new dog escaped from his pet transport and was later dispatched on the Autobahn, I joined a bunch of local Facebook groups spreading the news of his disappearance. Although the dog adoption did not work out, I stayed a member of the local groups. One Facebook group that has been particularly helpful is the Wir In Hofheim group.

We don’t live in Hofheim, but it’s very close to our neck of the woods. Though the Breckenheim community does have a Facebook group, it’s not as active or entertaining as the Hofheim group is. I should thank my Stuttgart area German friend, Susanne, for suggesting that I join these groups, even though they are mostly conducted in German. I’m learning a lot, not just about the local culture, but also language and community hot spots. It’s also a place where people sell things.

A couple of weeks ago, someone in the Hofheim group shared a link to a restaurant called Blanca Bistro. The food looked and sounded so good that I told Bill we needed to try it. Last night, we finally got our chance when Bill ordered take out.

Blanca Bistro serves healthy food. It appears to be mostly empanadas, salads, burritos, and Middle Eastern favorites like falafel and hummus. There are many vegan and vegetarian options, although the restaurant does serve beef and chicken, too. Last night, Bill got us a vegetarian tapas plate and chicken empanadas. He said when he went into the restaurant to get the food, it smelled wonderful in there. If we weren’t on lockdown, I think we’d happily go there to eat. I would love to eat better food, and if they can make vegetarian or vegan food that appeals to me, I’m all for it. I’d like to stop eating so much meat.

Here’s a picture of last night’s fabulous dinner. I am not a big “healthy food” fan, but I have to say that this food would make me a believer. Bill and I both felt great after we ate. The cartons were eco friendly and biodegradable. Only the sauces came in plastic.

The carton on the left contains two chicken empanadas and a delightful salad with greens, mangos, red peppers, and striped beets. The red dip was sort of a fresh tomato flavored sauce, while the white dip was creamy quark and chive sauce. The chicken empanada had peas, chicken, raisins, and carrots.

The carton on the right has a vegetarian empanada with ricotta, chia seeds, and spinach. It came with the same salad, as well as a chickpea and pomegranate seed salad, hummus, oven baked vegetables, and a falafel.

All of this cost about 27 euros, and it was delicious! We will definitely be back for more, and I will continue to keep my eyes peeled for more fun restaurants offering take out!

EDITED TO ADD… with much sadness… Blanca Bistro announced on May 8th that they will close because of COVID-19.

Goodbye… and hello!

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We started Saturday with breakfast, then a quick trip to Kaiserslautern.  I followed Bill in my car as he drove our Toyota to the Volvo dealership, where we left our 13 year old SUV to move on to its next owner.  I clearly remember the March day in 2006 when we bought that car brand new.  We were living in northern Virginia and we had two cars that were aging and in need of an upgrade.  My 1997 Toyota Corolla was particularly ready to be retired, although it had served me extremely well under rather demanding conditions.  I repeatedly drove it to and from South Carolina and Virginia for three solid years and almost never had a problem with it.

I had enjoyed the Corolla so much that I wanted another Toyota.  We picked the RAV 4, in part, due to Bill’s children.  He wanted a car that would accommodate them, should he ever get to see them.  Well… as it turned out, Bill’s ex wife did a really excellent job alienating the girls; so to date, he still hasn’t seen them in person since Christmas 2004.  However, this story has a somewhat happy ending, since a couple of years ago, Bill’s younger daughter reconnected.  They have regular Skype sessions and, I hope, will soon have a visit so he can meet his grandchildren and son-in-law.  Perhaps someday, the older daughter will also come around.

Bill liked driving the SUV, so he decided to get another one.  We ordered a Volvo XC60 in May and it will be ready for pickup on July 1st.  We’ll be traveling to Sweden on Saturday, spending a couple of nights in Gothenburg, and fetching our new vehicle Monday morning, after a tour of the factory.  Then, we’ll work our way to Leipzig, by way of Copenhagen and Rostock, so we can catch Mark Knopfler in concert.

I’m pretty excited about the new car, but I’m more excited about finally taking a proper trip in a country that doesn’t directly border Germany and isn’t the United Kingdom!  Seriously, we’re long overdue!  Our travels were a bit more diverse during our first Germany tour, although we did miss a lot of local gems in Baden-Württemberg that we caught the second time around.

Anyway, yesterday morning consisted of driving to K-town.  It’s not a bad drive from the Wiesbaden area.  The countryside gets prettier the further west you go from Frankfurt.  I would have liked to have taken pictures but, for once, I was too busy driving.  I don’t especially enjoy driving, especially in traffic, but it’s good to keep up those vital life skills.  I drive a stick shift and, although it’s kind of like riding a bike in that you don’t forget those gear shifting skills, it is easy to get out of practice.

When we got to Kaiserslautern, we parked the cars and I took one last photo of our beloved RAV 4, which has seen us through the bulk of our marriage and taken us to and through many European countries and several U.S. states.  Bill was grinning broadly as he complimented me, once again, for my superior “road march” skills.  He says I would have made a great tanker because I’m good at driving in a convoy.  Thanks, Bill…  I think.

So long, RAV 4.  It’s been a pleasure!

 

Bill took care of a few administrative details regarding the sale of the RAV 4 to Volvo.  It seems like there are a lot of hoops to jump through, although Andre at Capitol Motors really made the process easier for us.  When I remember what we went through to buy the RAV 4 at Koons Tyson’s Toyota in northern Virginia, I’m really grateful for the military car sales program.  Our civilian car purchase was exhausting and stressful, while buying from Capitol Motors was a breeze!

We also bought my 2009 Mini Cooper through that program in Stuttgart, as we left Germany the first time.  It’s so much easier and less stressful to order what you want and not have to deal with haggling or aggressive salespeople trying to upsell their product.  And, if you qualify for the military sales program, you get a nice discount.  Our new car is costing significantly less than it would if we’d bought it in the United States.  I’d say we’re saving about $8,000.  Granted, we’re still going to be paying a lot, but we’ll be getting a really nice, brand new car just the way we want it instead of having to go through the physical and psychological rigamarole that comes from the typical car buying experience.

After we said goodbye to the RAV 4 and finalized our plans for next week’s car buying visit, we went to Cantina Mexicana for a nice lunch.  I mentioned in a previous post how good the food is at that place, especially since it’s Mexican food.  Below are a few photos from our visit.  This time, I decided to have a chimichanga for the very first time.

Cantina Mexicana is a good place for Mexican food in Germany.  We haven’t found too many like it.  Authentic Mexican food is kind of rare in these parts, unless you happen to know someone who knows how to make it and has the proper ingredients.

Aww…  serious Bill in repose.

 

We started with lemonade.  I had the mint version, and Bill went with the ginger version.  I probably should drink more lemonade over beer.  Maybe that will be my next project– discovering new soft drinks with minimal sugar.  They also brought us the usual chips and salsas, some of which were surprisingly spicy.

 

Although we didn’t really need the extra food, we decided to get the sampler of dips.  It came with guacamole, queso, and frijoles.  As you can see, the queso was stretchy.  So were the frijoles!  We brought most of this home for later.  Mexican food is usually better the next day, anyway.

My chimichanga– a fried burrito filled with shredded beef.  I also could have had shredded chicken or ground beef.  It came with an “iceberg salad”, sour cream, and an avocado slice.  I finished most of it and brought the rest home for later.  I liked the chimichanga fine, but I think I prefer regular burritos.

Bill had chicken and beef Mole Poblano.  Mole sauce is made with unsweetened cocoa, which gives it a distinctive flavor.  His dish came with Spanish rice and refried beans.  I could tell he really enjoyed the food, since he grew up in Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas.

Cantina Mexicana also offers a lot of tequilas for sale.  We recently stocked up, so we didn’t need any tequila ourselves.  But I can see it would be handy for those who don’t feel like heading to the grocery store.  Families with children will be happy to note there’s even a play area for kids in this restaurant.  Also, most of the wait staff speaks excellent English and the menu is in English and German.

 

Once we had our lunch, we drove back to Wiesbaden in my car.  I was glad to let Bill do the driving.  We had great weather, so I put the top down and enjoyed the expansive views in this part of Germany.  I’ve been missing the more rural areas we were used to when we lived near Stuttgart.

We had to get home, though, because we had plans for last night.  One of Bill’s co-workers happens to be someone he knew in the late 1980s, when he was posted in Germany as a lieutenant.  Several other guys from that era were also at the party.

To be honest, I don’t always enjoy Bill’s work related gatherings, since I don’t know a lot of Bill’s co-workers and some people in military crowds tend to think I’m a bit weird.  But last night’s party was a lot of fun.  For one thing, Bill’s buddies from the 80s were hilarious and had a lot of great stories about Bill from the days when we didn’t know each other.  For another thing, the food was great… so was the music.  Our host was playing INXS, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard.  I felt like I was back in high school.

Every time we have one of these gatherings, I’m reminded of how small the military world is.  One of the guys Bill knew in the 80s is a Facebook friend of mine.  I “met” him through another Facebook friend, whom I knew offline when we were both in college.  My original friend joined the Army and made it his career; he’s now a colonel, based in Virginia.  One day, I posted on one of his Facebook threads.  So did Bill’s former colleague, Paul, who is now in Missouri.  Bill happened to notice Paul’s name and said he knew him.  I asked Paul if he remembered Bill.  He said he did, so we all friended each other.

Paul couldn’t be at the party last night, where there were at least three guys besides Bill that were part of their original Germany gang in the late 1980s.  But I was able to take a few pictures of that crew and share them, and Paul said he wished he could have been there.  I have never met Paul in person, but I wish he could have been there, too.  I think he would have made the party even more fun!

“Band of brothers”… although Bill now works with the host of the party, he hadn’t seen some of these guys in more than 20 years!  They had a blast!

 

This isn’t the first time Bill’s world has collided with mine.  Bill and I met online in 1999, and we chatted for a long time before we ever had our first face to face meeting.  I was nervous about the prospect of meeting him, since those were the days when Internet dating was still kind of weird.  But then fate intervened, when the Army connected Bill with one of my relatives by marriage just a few weeks before we had our first date.

Bill met my aunt’s brother at a National Guard conference before he met me offline.  I had been chatting with Bill for well over a year when he ran into my relative by marriage, who also happened to be a retired state trooper.  He assured me before I met Bill offline that Bill was “okay”, which made our first face to face meeting a lot easier.

Bill has also met a guy I knew in the Peace Corps, who now works for USAID.  I get the feeling that even if we hadn’t met on the computer, we were destined to be together.  Or, at least we were destined to meet.  As unlikely as it was that I would meet him back in 1999, fate put us together somehow.  Twenty years later, we’re still having fun!

 

And finally… I need to make a comment on our host’s house.  He lives up in the mountainous part of the Wiesbaden area, so he has beautiful views and an awesome terrace for entertaining.  I was impressed with their house, except for the white carpeting, which I think would be hard to keep clean.  But there were a couple of other things I noticed.

First off, this toilet flusher.  In almost seven total years in Germany, I encountered one like this for the first time at Ente in Wiesbaden, when we ate there on Friday night.  I was surprised when I saw another one in our host’s home!  Instead of pressing a button, you turn the knob!

And secondly… his house has an indoor pool!  I have seen houses like this advertised.  I’ve seen other German houses with their own saunas.  This was the first time I ever actually saw an indoor pool in person.  It was awesome, even if they did have it covered up!  I’m jealous!

Anyway… our Saturday was jam packed with action and we really enjoyed ourselves!  I’m not sure what we’ll do today, but I expect the day won’t be so busy.

Beer tasting in Gärtringen… and steak at the Buffalo Grill and Bar!

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After yesterday’s wine filled afternoon, I was wondering if maybe today would be a good day to go to Stuttgart and check out a museum.  But Bill was kind of tired and not in the mood to drive a long way, plus I knew there was going to be a beer tasting in Gärtringen.  The beer tasting was hosted by none other than Martin Damlach, a popular and familiar name in the Stuttgart Beer Club Facebook group.

Over the past few years, I had seen and heard Martin’s name come up repeatedly among beer lovers.  He runs a beer store in Gärtringen called Sueffisant which carries exotic beers from around the world.  Bill and I had been wanting to visit him, but never found the right time to stop by his place, which doesn’t have extensive opening hours.

Today, we decided to meet Martin at the tasting.  When I introduced myself, he immediately recognized my name and, after we tried our first beer, took Bill and me to his place where we proceeded to choose and taste more beers.  We ended up leaving with about fifteen beers, many of which we have never tried before.

Bill tries an IPA from Freiburg.

Martin had some grains available to check out…

This was a good find.

Besides beer, there were also people selling food and accessories.  I saw one woman demonstrating some kind of kitchen gadget.  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t get too close.  My kitchen doesn’t have room for another gadget.

In Martin’s beer store.  He has an impressive array of beers you might not find at your local Real or Rewe.

One of the beers we tried.  Martin speaks perfect English and was happy to tell us about the history of the beers he offers.  

Bill is happy as a clam in high water.

Martin’s door is easy to spot.

 

After we spent some time perusing Martin’s collection, we had to go back to the beer tasting area.  Martin’s wife was handling the crowd and isn’t as much of a beer fan as he is.  Consequently, he needed to get back to answer questions.  While we were there, we tried another beer… one made with sea salt and coriander.

Bill was enjoying it a lot, as was I! 

And if we’d wanted to, we could have had maultaschen and cake.

 

Martin shared his box of wild hops with us.  

 

After about an hour at the beer tasting, we decided to go back to Buffalo Grill and Bar and try their steaks (ETA: This restaurant is now closed).  I also wanted to try their combi-platter of appetizers.  I have a feeling I will be sending Bill there to pick up some of them to go at certain times of the month.

Here’s a shot of the inside dining room.  We ate outside again.

The combi platter was a hit.  It had chicken wings, jalapeno poppers with cream cheese, mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and onion rings.  The finger food came with a honey mustard dip and a garlic herb dip.  

 

Buffalo Grill and Bar offers several kinds of steaks in different sizes.  I had wanted a rib eye, but they were out of them today.  So I went with an Australian rump steak instead.  Bill had a German rump steak.

My Australian rump steak was a ladies cut– 200grams.  It came with slaw and mixed vegetables– peppers, zucchini, onions, and bleccch… mushrooms!  Mushrooms happen to be my least favorite food ever.  Bill graciously took them off my hands.  Next time, I will ask them to leave out the ‘shrooms.

Bill’s German steak, also a ladies cut at 200 grams.  I tried his steak and liked mine better, mainly because the flavor was less gamy.  Germany is not known for its beef.  

 

If I’m honest, I was not as impressed by Buffalo Grill and Bar’s steaks as I was their burgers.  Besides the fact that they included mushrooms– which I know many people love, but I hate– the meat could have been better trimmed.  I still prefer Tommi’s steaks in Jettingen to what I had at Buffalo Grill and Bar today.  But… that’s just me… and I would definitely go back to Buffalo Grill and Bar for the burgers and the appetizers.

All in all, we had a really fun day.  And pretty soon, I will get to try some cool new beers, thanks to Martin!

Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part seven

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We were literally lodged next to Europe’s Facebook Headquarters!

After our Guinness Storehouse experience, we found a cab right outside.  The driver had “Bullet In The Blue Sky” playing on the stereo.

“U2!” I said.  “How appropriate!”

“What is this song called?” Bill asked.

“Bullet In The Blue Sky.” I said.  “I think it came out around 1987.”

“It’s not from 1984?” Bill asked.

“No, U2’s 1984 album was The Unforgettable Fire.  I feel pretty certain this song wasn’t on that album.” I answered.

“The song was recorded in 1986.” the cab driver said.  “And it was released in 1987.”

“Ha!  I was right!” I cheered.  “I can’t ever forget The Joshua Tree because I was 15 years old and taking a journalism class when it was released.  One of the girls in my class was a big U2 fan and went to Hampton, Virginia to see them perform while they were on tour that year.  She ended up meeting Bono and he signed her white turtleneck.  And she also ‘locked’ her class ring.  She wrote a big article about the experience in our school newspaper.”

“I was in Germany the first time.” Bill said.  “23 years old.”

“Holy shit, you’re old, mate!” the cab driver said.  It turned out he was 46 years old and hailed from Liverpool, England.  He’d come to Ireland to golf and fell in love with a local.  They are now married and have several kids, the youngest of which is six years old.  The driver then told us a story about how the six year old had woken him up that morning by climbing on his face.

The driver went on to tell us about how much Dublin has changed since Bill first visited, back in 1984.  He pointed out an old bar that used to be full of guys who worked in the Docklands area of the city.  He took an old friend to the area, trying to find the bar.  They walked into it and asked where the bar was located.  No one confirmed that they had reached the right place.  I seem to remember there was some talk of the IRA, too.

We left the cabbie and then decided to look for dinner.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great selection of restaurants near The Marker Hotel.  We ended up going into the restaurant at the nearby Clayton Hotel– it was called Vertigo.  From the very start, that was an annoying experience.  They were playing horrible generic dance music in the dining room.  Also, we weren’t aware that in order to be served, you had to go up to the bar.  There was no sign alerting us to that fact.  So we sat for awhile before another customer clued us in to what we needed to do.  Bill was starting to have flashbacks to our very bad experience at the Esquire Bar in San Antonio.

Carlsberg is a thirst quencher, but not that inspiring.

Bill ordered a chicken and avocado burger.  I had a cheeseburger.  It took a very long time for the sandwiches to get to us, plus we were drinking Carlsberg beers, which aren’t all that interesting.  Add in the terrible music and the fact that all we really wanted to do was eat and hit the sack, and you have a couple of crotchety middle aged folks.  First world problems, right?

Disappointing burger…

 

Mr. Bill’s chicken sandwich.  It could have been better.

Neither of the burgers were particularly good, either.  Bill said his was okay, although it had little avocado on it.  My burger was overcooked and not very hot.  I finished less than half before we decided to cash in our chips for the evening.  We have a reservation at a Clayton Hotel the night before we fly back to Germany.  Hopefully, it will leave a better impression than the one in downtown Dublin.

On the way back to the hotel, I noticed the European Facebook headquarters, located directly next to our hotel.  I had to take a few photos.  It looks like an interesting place to work, based on the big posters with provocative slogans on them in the foyer.

Several of the signs I noticed from outside Facebook’s headquarters in Ireland.

Monday morning, we got up and had our breakfast.  After that, we checked out of the hotel and got a cab to the car rental office where Bill had arranged to pick up a vehicle for our three hour trip to Sligo.  After a few tense early moments, Bill got the hang of driving on the left again, having done it for the first time back in March of this year when we were in Scotland and England.  Aside from drifting too far off the side of the narrow roads and some momentary confusion, he’s done a great job driving.

I tried to snag a couple more Dublin shots from the car.

We stopped at a grocery store in Ballysadare and picked up some essentials for our five nights at the beach cottage.  We were going to have lunch, but it looked like everything in the little village, except for the cafe in the grocery store, was boarded up tight.  Lots of young folks who obviously attend the local Catholic school were walking around the town in their uniforms.  I actually found myself admiring the uniforms.  As a youngster, I didn’t like the idea of being forced to wear the same thing as everyone else did.  However, as a middle aged woman, I don’t think school uniforms are a bad idea.  And I even liked the classic look the kids were sporting.

In Ballysadare, apparently being versatile is the key to economic success.

The construction stoplights in Ireland have timers on them, letting you know how long you have to wait.  Bill and I both like that.  There is a lot of construction going on here, which is a good thing.  The roads are narrow and very well used.

After we shopped, we finished our drive to Aughris Head, which is where our beach cottage rental is located.  When we arrived in the mid afternoon, Bill found the keys to the house.  The ads didn’t lie.  It’s literally right next to the Atlantic Ocean.  As I type this, I hear waves crashing dramatically on the rocky coastline.  It’s very peaceful.  Adding to the appeal is the fact that there is a bar located within walking distance of our little house.

More on Aughris in part eight!

First impressions…  I picked another winner.

For our next road trip…

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This past Sunday morning, I was on Facebook doing some last minute planning before our day trip to Rheinfall when I noticed an ad.  It’s kind of unusual for me to notice Facebook ads, but this one really caught my attention.  It was from a company called Lazenne.com and the product they were hawking was a wheeled wine suitcase.  This is the perfect product for people who travel abroad and want to check some wine for the flight home.  I might use it for that purpose myself someday.  Actually, what I was thinking when I saw the wine luggage was a great way to transport wine during the road trips Bill and I take.

It’s no secret that Bill and I enjoy our booze.  I especially love finding new wines and beers in the many countries easily accessed from Germany.  Though I had seen the styrofoam inserts included with the wine suitcase that was advertised, I had not seen a bag specifically made for carrying wine.  Intrigued by the ad, I decided to pull the trigger.  I purchased a black wine suitcase that could carry twelve regular sized bottles of wine and three large bottles.  I also bought two wine cradles.  The Wine Check bag is also available in red.

I paid $158.  Yes, though the Wine Check bag comes from a warehouse in France and I think the Lazenne company is in Poland, I paid for my order in U.S. Dollars.  That’s because the company’s payment gateway partner is an American company.  My total included the cost of the bag, the wine cradles, the value added tax, and shipping.

I placed my order Sunday night after we returned from Switzerland.  My parcel arrived this morning. Here are some photos.

The box my new Wine Check bag arrived in.

Wine Cradles.  These are inflatable sleeves for wine.

The bag unwrapped.

Nice wheels for easy towing.

Two handles.

The boxes for the wine bottles.

The blue one is for large wine bottles.

Styrofoam inserts.  Take the top off and tuck your bottle safely inside.

The bag with no inserts.

The red box carries up to twelve regular sized bottles.

Top off so you can see how that works.

 

The styrofoam inserts are nothing new.  When I lived in the States, I used to order wine all the time and it would often be packed with these inserts that kept the bottles from breaking in transit.  What makes this package unique is that the bag is specifically designed for making it easy to transport bottles.  The wheels on the bag makes it a lot simpler to move the booze once it’s securely packed.  I may have to bring this case with me the next time we go wine shopping locally.  I’d love to use this bag in Tübingen next time we visit Vinum.  It’s a real bummer schlepping wine from the store to the parking garage, but this bag would make it much easier to splurge!

Once we have a chance to actually try out this new luggage, I will be sure to post how it went!

Plugging my Facebook page…

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Every once in awhile, I like to point out the dedicated Facebook page I use for all three of my blogs.  I usually post links to all of my latest posts on that page.  I am mentioning this only for the people who read every day and don’t want to miss a new post.

Contrary to popular belief, I only share my travel blog posts with local Facebook communities when I think they will be interesting and useful to many people.  For instance, I will usually share my posts about restaurants, tourist attractions, and festivals.  But sometimes I write about mundane or goofy stuff that won’t interest many people.  I don’t share those posts because I know some people are annoyed by bloggers and I don’t want to be a nuisance.

I do have two other blogs.  One is the original Overeducated Housewife page.  It tends to be rawer and much more controversial.  The language is not as clean and I write about true crime, controversies, military issues, personal stuff, and some silly stuff.   I also post book reviews there, unless the book is about travel.  Travel related books get reviewed on the travel blog.  I don’t usually share my original Overeducated Housewife posts with the local Facebook community, though I welcome interested readers.

The other blog is a goofy music blog called Dungeon Of The Past.  I was born in the 70s and enjoy obscure pop music from my childhood years, so that’s where I write about music.  I’m also a singer, so sometimes I post my recordings there.

I also use the Facebook page to communicate with people who would rather not leave comments on the blogs.  If you enjoy my content and don’t want to miss the newer stuff that I don’t share with Facebook groups, feel free to like the page.  If I get three more likes, I’ll finally crack 100.  😉

Public domain image courtesy of Ali Zifan.

Snarky exchanges online…

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I have to admit, when I was an Army wife, I wasn’t all that good at the job.  I wasn’t much into joining.  I wasn’t much into helping.  I certainly wasn’t that much into mingling.

I find that now that I am a contractor’s wife, I’m even less into those things.  When Bill and I found out we were coming to Stuttgart, I joined a few Facebook groups, most of which consisted of people in the Stuttgart community.  A lot of people in these groups are Americans and quite a few of them are military spouses who embrace the role with much zeal and fervor.

This morning, a woman in one of the Facebook groups was upset because she was trying to get some yard work done yesterday and was ordered to stop by one of her neighbors.  Yesterday was a religious holiday, so people weren’t supposed to be doing any yard work.  Not being Catholic, the lady wasn’t aware that it was against the rules.  Complicating matters was the fact that this particular religious holiday, while significant, isn’t universally celebrated in Germany.

Now, when Bill and I first got to Germany, I happened to chat privately with the poster.  She is pretty unhappy in Germany and for good reason.  I still happen to like it here, but if I had been through the ordeals she’s been dealing with, I’m sure I’d have a much different attitude.  So I understand completely why she was annoyed.  She did mention that she would soon be leaving.

I think many Americans are taken aback by how confrontational some Germans are. It’s not uncommon for random Germans to start yelling at us Yanks… or, at least to us, it seems like they are yelling.  Add in the fact that there is often a language barrier and things get kind of tricky.  Here was this lady minding her own business and trying to get some work done and she gets yelled at by a neighbor.  I don’t blame her for being pissed.  I would have been, too– even as I understand that rules are rules and it’s best to try to go with the flow as much as possible.

So anyway, we were happily discussing these idiosyncrasies of German style living when you are an American and we were soon joined by a very helpful woman who felt she needed to check us.  First, she chastised the original poster for having a bad attitude and insinuated that she was putting off bad vibes.  She bragged about how she goes out of her way to win over her German neighbors, elderly people who have nothing better to do than watch her comings and goings.  She leaves them treats on holidays and tries to charm them with her elementary German… as if neither I nor the original poster had tried to do those things ourselves (though personally, I don’t think leaving edible treats for people, especially strangers, is all that wise).

Then, further down the thread, when I mentioned that we have a neighbor who has made pointed, passive aggressive comments about my dogs, she suggested that I invest in bark collars for them.  She included a story about how a bark collar had worked for her dog and seemed to imply that her solution was the right one for me.

Before I had a chance to respond, another poster said that she thought the anti bark collars were illegal here.  She said she had a friend who got caught using them and had to pay a stiff fine.  I added that I, too, had heard that they were illegal.  The all knower said that the ones that emit a noise and Citronella are not illegal and that I should get them for my dogs.  I am not a fan of bark collars, but I’m not going to chastise someone else for using them.  I said that I was glad that solution had worked so well for her.

To a normal person, I would think that comment would signify that I had considered her suggestion and was done talking about it.  But no, she came back with another suggestion that I buy bark collars for Zane and Arran… the legal kind, mind you, that emit a noise and spray Citronella when dogs bark.  And then, to my dismay, she added that she knew that I was a responsible dog owner and wouldn’t let my dogs get loose, even if I did use the illegal kind.  That way, the authorities wouldn’t know that I was breaking the law and my neighbors would be happy.  In other words, in order to appease my cranky neighbor, I should be willing to break the law and use dog training devices that I disagree with.

Aside from that, I didn’t appreciate her patronizing comment about how she knows I’m a responsible dog owner.  The fact is, she doesn’t know me from Adam.  Actually, Bill and I are very responsible dog owners.  Zane did get out one time since we’ve been here due to a delivery man not closing our front door after he brought us our washing machine.  It was an isolated incident and I immediately went out to retrieve him and was successful in less than an hour.  Accidents can happen to anyone.  I wouldn’t assume that because my dog got out one time or that I have a neighbor who bitches about them barking that I’m irresponsible.  But evidently, that’s what this person thought of me after reading a couple of posts.

So I thought about it for a moment and wrote, “What a wonderful world it would be if some people would wear bark collars.”  Then I signed off, because Bill and I needed to go shopping.

I haven’t gone back to read the responses, but I did notice that I got several “likes”…  I am not going to read the comments that followed mine because I’m already irritated enough and I think I made my point.  There’s no need to add more fuel to the fire.

First off, I don’t need “schooling” by someone in the community about how to live in Germany and get along with others.  This is my second time here and my fourth time living abroad.  Moreover, I’m 42 years old and a former Peace Corps Volunteer.  Let me tell you, it’s pretty impossible to come out of an experience like the Peace Corps and not have it drilled into your head that you need to be culturally sensitive, open-minded, and considerate to host country nationals.

Secondly, I am literally with my dogs about 90% of the time.  The only time I’m not with them is on the weekends, when Bill and I run errands.  We are seldom gone for longer than four hours at a time.  When we leave town, we put our dogs in a hunde hotel rather than hire dog sitters.  Then they aren’t home at all.

I know their barking is not outside what the law allows.  They do bark if someone rings the doorbell or they see a cat or a stranger, but they never bark for more than a minute.  And on the rare occasions that we leave them alone in the house, we take them for a long walk to wear them out before we leave, lower the shades, and give them Kongs filled with peanut butter.  We never hear them making noise when we come home and, in fact, since we started giving them Kongs, they don’t bark when we leave, either.  They are too busy enjoying their treats.

I am not going to use a device on my dogs that is basically akin to a gag.  Dogs communicate by barking and my dogs, while occasionally loud, do not bark excessively.  How do I know?  Because I am with them all the time and I don’t want to hear excessive barking either.  I wouldn’t force a child to wear an anti-crying collar to appease my neighbors.  I won’t do that to my dogs, either.  I think what we have is a cranky neighbor who just wants to complain and isn’t brave enough to have a conversation with us.  Not yelling or chastising, you understand, but a respectful conversation.  If I had a dog who barked longer than a minute, maybe I might think about using an anti bark collar, but my dogs truly don’t bark that much.

Thirdly, while I am all for maintaining a good attitude and being a good citizen, I think that Americans have the right to expect similarly respectful behavior in return.  I try very hard not to annoy or inconvenience anyone.  I think I should expect similar consideration.  I know they won’t always deliver, but I still think as a fellow human being, they can show me some respect and I’m not wrong or culturally insensitive to express dismay when I don’t get it.

And again, I don’t need a busybody fellow American telling me how I should behave or chastising me for being annoyed or irritated when I run into or want to talk about certain situations.  I have the right to feel any way I want to.  If you want to try to explain to me why something seems odd or annoying, that’s fine; but please don’t tell me I’m wrong to feel or react a certain way.  It’s not your place, especially since we don’t know each other.  I wouldn’t do it to you.  And really, how was I supposed to respond to her holier than thou “advice”?  Say “thank you Ma’am, may I have more?”  I think not.

In any case, that’s one thing I have noticed about some expat Americans.  They want to be “helpers” and offer unsolicited advice to people they think need to be set straight.  My thought is that we should try to treat people like adults and show them all respect.  It’s a two way street.  If you want respect from me, act respectable.  I’ll do my best to behave respectably, too.

Fortunately, it’s still beautiful here…

So steamed I can’t sleep…

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I wasn’t going to post again, but I feel the need to write about what happened to Bill and me tonight.  We went back to the biergarten featured in my previous post because after visiting a potential new home today, we were both really thirsty.  We enjoyed several rounds of beer, then headed back to the hotel room.  On the way there, I heard loud music that sounded like fun.  I decided to check it out.

The music led to a small hole in the wall bar.  A very friendly guy invited Bill and me to go into the bar.  He offered to buy us a round of drinks, which immediately made Bill suspicious.  The guy seemed nice and *harmless* enough.  I noticed the bar had a lot of poker machines in it and I got the sense they were hoping we’d stay and spend money.  It felt very scammy.  Bill, on the other hand, was having a very different response.  He had broken out in a cold sweat and was very pale.

There were several drunk Greeks in the bar… or so we were told that was what they were.  At least two or three of them weren’t wearing shirts and had been dancing.  I took it as them having a party, but it really was kind of a bizarre scene.  Bill had a death grip on the beer he was holding, with his thumb over the top.  He had been well-trained in scams and we had run into our share of scammers in places like Spain and Greece.  The people were running well-known and easily researched scams and they followed the well-publicized games to the hilt.  And Bill was afraid our new “friends” in Germany were of the same ilk… though in fairness to them, they may not have been.  All I know is that my husband was very freaked out.

We got out of the bar and I wrote about our experience on a Facebook group for expats called Stuttgart Friends.  Before too long, someone called us idiots.  Another person said we were paranoid.  Someone else assumed we were totally new to Germany and had just fallen off the turnip truck.  These are people in a group with the word “friends” in it.

I wrote that I had clearly misjudged the group and was sorry I brought it up.  One person got defensive and still tried to blame me for what happened…  This is what happened.  We went into what looked like a “legit” bar.  I had seen it appear operational all week.  An overly friendly guy we didn’t know offered to buy us a round and was grinding against some drunk blonde lady near us.  Two guys were behaving rather oddly in the bar, too, and there were two other guys standing outside, staring at us.  They noticed me noticing them and tried to look friendly.  I wasn’t as weirded out as Bill was, I will admit, and I don’t think these people wanted to hurt us.  I just think they were up to no good.  Call it a gut instinct.

I shared our experience in this group and was somewhat surprised to be immediately labeled an idiot when really, all I was trying to do was be helpful.  This shitty, judgmental, and frankly mean-spirited attitude among military folks is one reason why I don’t enjoy being around them much or getting to know them, although to be fair, more than a few people appeared to be Germans somehow affiliated with military people.  At the very least, one would think they’d be sensitive to PTSD, which may have been all we were experiencing tonight, but it was definitely a real thing that had Bill very rattled.

That’s the last time I will make that mistake.  I got along fine in Stuttgart without the “Friends” group last time we were here and I can do it again.  I suppose I should have told that guy and his buddy to go fuck themselves, but I managed to stay civil in that group, anyway.  I’m glad we’re moving to a temporary apartment tomorrow.  I don’t have to be around the skanky bar anymore…  and next time we have a weird/suspicious experience, I’ll be sure to keep it to myself.  Maybe if they ever encounter a similar situation, they will be able to deal with it better than we did… though I have to admit, neither of us ended up crime victims tonight, so that’s a positive thing.

Old friends…

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One very cool thing about today is that we have Facebook.  Granted, Facebook can lead to a lot of problems for a lot of people, particularly those who don’t use their privacy settings.  It can also lead to hurt feelings.  I resisted joining Facebook for a long time, until an old friend talked me into it.  Oddly enough, she seems to have dropped off Facebook.

Anyway, the other day, I looked up a guy I knew in Armenia who had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in Russia, back when Russia still needed some help.  He later got a job in Armenia while I was there and we ended up becoming friends.  I taught business English at his place of business and he also rented an apartment from an Armenian friend of mine whom I met while singing in a choir.

His former landlady is probably one of the best piano players I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing live.  We used to get together on Saturdays.  She’d practice her English and we’d practice music.  She was a neat lady, though a bit on the eccentric side.  My friend who rented her apartment told me horror stories of cleaning it up.

I sent this guy a friend request and he remembered me!  I always worry that someone either won’t remember me or will think I’m too annoying to be friends with.  But anyway, he’s a good guy… still lives abroad and has had some very interesting assignments as an expat.  Twenty years ago, I wanted to be back in the States, but now I realize that I envy people who can live abroad.

One of the reasons I like living abroad is that you often end up meeting people you would never meet otherwise.  When you are a minority, you end up running into people who are like you… perhaps people you would not meet if you both lived in your homeland.  Sometimes that’s a bad thing, of course.  You can run into assholes you might wish you’d never laid eyes on.  But sometimes you end up meeting folks who are very intelligent, talented, and interesting.  Of course, you might also meet other expats from other countries, too.  I bumped into folks from all over the world when I lived abroad.

Once you’ve done that and survived it, you kind of crave it again… or at least I do.  I miss being out of the country, even though it can be a pain in the butt to live somewhere else.  I remember being sad when my husband told me we were moving to Germany because I realized it would be a logistical pain.  But once we got there and got settled, I really loved being abroad and didn’t look forward to leaving.  Living abroad is a challenge… and it can lead to great bonding experiences with other people.

I hope we get to do it again someday…

I met this gentleman in Armenia in 1995.  We were near Lake Sevan and he was kind enough to let me photograph him.