customs

New neighbors clue me in to a German tradition I had never heard of…

Bill had to go out of town on business, so I’m spending most of the week alone. We got a bunch of Amazon deliveries yesterday– a new spool for the weed whacker, dog food for Noyzi, contact lenses for me, and two bottles of liqueurs that I was curious about trying. I thought I was finished answering the door when the bell rang again. I will admit, I was a little annoyed, mainly because I wasn’t wearing clothes that people outside of the household should see. But I answered the doorbell anyway…

It was our neighbors-to-be, whom we met on Friday night– mom, dad, and two young children. They were all dressed up, and the wife was holding a plate with what appeared to be a piece of bread on it. She said, in her heavily accented and somewhat broken English (which is still much better than my German any day), that yesterday was the first day of school, and it’s a tradition for sweet “Brezels” to be served for good luck. I think she also said that it was tradition to share the treat with a neighbor, and originally she had described what looked like a yeast bread as “cake”.

In ten years of living in Germany, this has never happened to me before, so I was unaware of the custom, but I was very moved by the gesture, nonetheless. Especially since they are going to be our neighbors as of next month! I did enjoy talking to them at our party the other day, mainly because she was born and raised in the Stuttgart area and had some rather candid opinions about her hometown that I found amusing. Let’s just say that she has the same impressions of the Swabian culture that a lot of people seem to have, and she prefers living in Hesse. Personally, I really like the Stuttgart area, but I have to agree that Hessians are stereotypically friendlier.

She presented the piece of “Brezel” to me on a lovely plate. I asked her what I should do with the plate when we were finished with it. She said I could return it when they move in next month. I am enjoying the Brezel bread for breakfast today, with my coffee. I thought it had raisins in it, too, but now that I’ve tasted it, I think they’re chocolate chips! Even better!

I posted about this surprise gift on Facebook, and my German friend– also hailing from Baden-W├╝rttemberg– was initially confused about the tradition herself. But then when I explained that the “cake” was actually Brezel, she wrote “alles klar”, and explained that it‘s customary for sweet pretzels (Brezels) to be made for the new school year, and passed out to the kids. Usually, one only sees them at New Year’s, when they are made fresh and passed out to family and friends for good luck and cohesion. However, in some areas, they also make them for St. Martin’s Day, or for the new school year, which starts in September in these parts.

Here’s a video about the New Year’s Pretzel, which I guess is the same as the pretzel handed out yesterday.

My friend asked if the bread was braided, and I wrote that I couldn’t tell, as it was only a generous sized piece of the Brezel, and not a whole one. But after a few minutes of research, she was able to find the answer for me. Now that I think about it, I believe our new neighbor’s husband’s family– who is also going to be our neighbor– is from a bit north of Wiesbaden. He brought some special beer to the party that can only be found in that area, and he and Bill bonded over it.

One of the things I like about living in Europe is that there are a lot of surprises. Most of the time, they’re pleasant surprises, like the time we lived in Jettingen and I got serenaded by three kids dressed up for Three Kings Day. They were collecting money for the Catholic church, and they were so adorable I couldn’t resist giving them some spare euros. There’s always something going on here, and so many traditions. We’re also heading into my favorite time of year, when the summer heat dissipates, and the weather gets cozy. I can stop wearing my t-shirts and Daisy Duke shorts (which I can’t pull off worth a damn), and wear pretty sweaters, scarves, and jewelry.

Hopefully, this new family will turn out to be actual friends. So far, so good. The wife even laughed at my jokes… especially when I was talking about having to leave Stuttgart early the first time and said, “I was PIIISSSED…” Come to think of it, I was probably also “pissed”, in the British sense of the word, when I was telling that story… But it’s a good sign that she wasn’t offended. ­čśë

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Uncategorized

Getting to know my German neighbors… after almost four years!

A couple of weeks ago, our next door neighbor, Uli, told Bill she was going to have a barbecue, and we were invited. At the time she made her invitation, we were thinking we might be going to see our dentist in Stuttgart. But we couldn’t arrange boarding for Arran and Noyzi, so we postponed our dental appointments until later this month. That freed us up to attend last night’s festivities.

I’ll be honest. I was a bit apprehensive about this event. You see, I’m not that great in groups. The older I get, the worse I seem to be. I tend to say more than I should. But Bill is a very friendly, jovial guy, and he wants to be neighborly. Plus, he just brewed some beer, and mentioned it, which automatically excited our hostess. Of course, the beer Bill makes, while very good, is not German style beer. He makes British style ale, mainly because the yeast required for lagers is more fragile than ale style yeast is. But, over the past twelve years or so, he’s gotten better at his craft. Maybe he’ll delve into making lagers eventually. I would like that.

I did tell Bill to go to the commissary and pick up some Bubba Burgers and American style burger buns for Uli. I know she likes them, and I have a feeling the people before us used to pick them up for her on occasion. Bill gave her the burgers and buns and she seemed quite delighted. Personally, I’m more of a fan of handmade burgers with German buns. But if Bubba Burgers help facilitate neighbor relations, I’m all for giving them out sometimes. Uli seemed surprised when we told her we don’t shop at the commissary very often. We prefer German markets.

We had a nice gathering of about twenty people, with plenty of food and libations. There were sausages, salads, a couple of burgers that Bill contributed and I was too full to eat, and breads. There was lots of wine and beer, including a few bottles of Bill’s brews. At the end of the evening, a lovely Italian man who lives across the street brought out a round of espresso and an Italian digestive. He gave Bill some homemade limoncello, too, and said he would teach him how to make it.

Noyzi and Arran complained loudly at first, but then we brought them outside to see what was going on. Arran was over it quickly. Noyzi was feeling friendly, but he still gets freaked out by people he doesn’t know. So after they came out for a few minutes, we brought them back inside. Our neighbor’s lab, Tommi, spent most of the evening being a host. He is adorable.

Our host’s English speaking mother, Margot, was also there. She lives in the house that borders ours on the other side. I have often seen her walking Tommi, but she told us she had to stop, because he’s too strong for her. Last summer, Tommi got away from her while I was walking our dogs. I happened to have an extra leash, because Noyzi was still pretty skittish. Tommi didn’t have a leash, so I was able to give Uli’s mom the extra one so she could capture her pooch. I even wrote about it, because last year, pandemic restrictions made travel blogging more challenging.

Margot said, “Your dogs make so much noise when you go out.”

Without missing a beat, I said, “Luckily, I almost never go out.”

Bill later mentioned that he thought that was a sign of progress. When we first came to Germany and people would remark about my dogs, I would get nervous and offended. I was still a little put off, but then I said, quite reasonably, that they are seldom alone. Moreover, I know they don’t bark the whole time we’re gone, because they’re never still barking when we get home. I don’t think they would necessarily know to shut up when we were driving up to the house. We do keep our outings short, though, precisely for that reason.

Later, Margot said she wanted to talk to me, simply because she says people ignore the elderly. I told her that I would love to talk to her, because I enjoy having conversations with older people. They always have interesting stories to share. She brightened quite a bit, and told us about what it was like in Breckenheim in 1945, when the US Army came in. She said the Germans all had to give up their homes for the soldiers, and her brother wasn’t allowed to live with her and her mom. They somehow got to stay in their house.

Now… consider that 1945 was World War II… and who was in charge at that time. Yes, I would love to talk to her about that era! I think it would be fascinating. And she said she wants to practice her English, which is already good. But she reminded us that if you don’t use it, you lose it. Then she chastised me for not speaking very much German. LOL… But if people want to speak English to me, how can I speak German? I do understand a lot more than I did in 2007, when we moved here the first time… and 2014, when we moved here the second time. However, I am more successful singing in German, than speaking it. ­čśë That’s not saying much… although I really can sing quite well. It’s just that I can memorize the lyrics and learn to pronounce them without necessarily knowing what all the words mean, even though we did have to translate the foreign songs when I was studying voice. Margot also told us that she only drinks Grauburgunder wines. She doesn’t even like Rieslings. And beer is out!

Toward the end of the night, I think I kind of horrified Uli, when I told her that we had to sue our ex landlady. Although lawsuits in Germany are pretty common– in fact, I think Germans are more litigious than Americans are– they don’t seem to want to talk about them. Uli is a landlady, too, so this was probably something that made her blood run cold. She probably thinks I’m a little crazy, and I bet she tells our current landlord. But if he says anything about it, we’ll just tell him that he’s nothing at all like the ex landlady. He’s courteous, reasonable, and respectful, and he’s done things legally. Uli was probably just shocked that we knew about legal insurance (and liability insurance and pet liability insurance– all things that Americans really should buy in Germany)… but she shouldn’t be, because we’ve lived here a long time, we’re older, and she knows how much our house rents for. Of course we’d be smart to have legal insurance. We had to pay two month’s rent as a deposit. It was a lot of money.

The topic of suing came up, though, because the neighbor was showing off their kid’s school Tute, for the first day of school. Uli kept talking about how much she hated “suing”. I realized that she meant “sewing”. I was very confused at first! Then I confided that I don’t like sewing, either, even though my mom is a master at needlecrafts. I don’t have the patience or dexterity for it. Another lady talked about how her daughter spent the school year in Michigan, and got to attend the prom and football games. I said, that must have been very interesting for her, given how different American schools are. German schools don’t usually have school sponsored sports teams or big, fancy dances… or, at least that’s what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

Anyway, we enjoyed hanging out last night, and meeting some of our neighbors. Uli’s new tenants are moving into their place in October. I especially enjoyed the wife, who hails from B├Âblingen, in Baden-W├╝rttemberg. She said that she taught math, and met her husband in Karlsruhe, while they were at the university. She likes Hesse better. She flat out said it, without any prompting. Why? Because people are much friendlier up here. It’s funny, because she’s not the first German, even from Baden-W├╝rttemberg, who has mentioned that Swabia is a very “special” part of Germany. But I actually like Baden-W├╝rttemberg very much, in spite of the different culture. It was the first part of Germany I really got to know, and it is legitimately a very beautiful place– even if Stuttgart is kind of a homely city. I look forward to going back down there at the end of the month.

Again… I’m not very good in groups. I speak my mind too much, and am not one for small talk. Some people love that about me. Other people hate it, and think I’m an obnoxious freak. And that’s why I have dogs. At least Tommi likes us… the featured photo is of him, knocking on our door. He doesn’t do it often, but when he does, it’s super cute. He also jumped up on Bill and gave him a big smooch, which seemed to horrify Uli. Yes, our dogs bark, but so does hers. And we keep ours on leashes, although we did talk about maybe letting Noyzi and Tommi play sometime. I think they’d love it. If we didn’t turn her off too much, maybe they’ll finally have the opportunity.

Uli says in a few months, we’ll have to share some Gluwein. That is, if the temperatures get low enough to enjoy it. We did get some rain today, which is a great thing. I’m not sure if we’ll venture out today. We were both kind of tired after last night’s festivities. Also… I don’t want my dogs to disturb the peace.

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Uncategorized

A most unusual wine stand in Breckenheim!

Bill came home yesterday morning, after having spent most of the work week in our old stomping grounds, Stuttgart. We were all glad to see him, especially Arran, who looked pretty pissed off when Bill dropped off his bag and headed to work. I wish I’d had the camera with me to take a picture of Arran sitting there, staring up at Bill with his big eyes, as if to say “And just where do you think YOU’RE going?”

It wasn’t so bad, though, because he came back home early, and then we decided to go to the wine stand in our village. It was being held in the parking lot between the Rathaus and the little elementary school that I’ve heard is going to be torn down in the next year or so. A new school is being built on the other end of town. I don’t look forward to that, since it will bring noise, construction, and more traffic to our already congested street. But as I am just an American, and not even an ordinary resident, at that, my opinion is pretty irrelevant.

I’ve mentioned before that our Dorfplatz, which is where the stands are usually held, is unusable right now, because a toilet facility is being erected. It seems strange to put a public toilet in the Dorfplatz, especially since the Rathaus is just up the hill, and there are toilets there. We live so close to the Dorfplatz that when we have to pee, we just go home. Nevertheless, the powers that be decided that a new toilet facility is necessary. So that means the wine stands had to be moved. The good thing is, they’ve been moved even closer to our house! It’s even easier to stumble home!

We don’t always attend the wine stands, mainly because they get crowded, and it’s just as easy to drink our own wine in our backyard. I wanted to go last night, though, because I could hear the lovely dulcet sounds of a pop choir called Die Weinseeligen. I’m wondering if the people who performed last night were the ones who were supposed to perform a couple of weeks ago. The wine stand was canceled then, because several of the members had COVID. They sounded healthy last night, as the tennis club hosted the biweekly fundraiser, which also offers a great opportunity for the community to come together and mingle. The wine stands weren’t allowed during the height of the COVID mess, so it’s been great having them again.

We saw one of the American ladies we met at the last wine stand. She said her partner was quarantining, because she had gone back to the USA to drill for the National Guard, and came back just in time to catch the virus. Apparently, she’s now recovered from the sickness, but still faintly tests positive. My guess is that she’s simply more introverted than her partner is, and would rather hang out at home. I can understand that. Not everyone wants to hang out in a big crowd. I feel that way myself a lot of the time.

I did take a few videos and photos, which I’m sharing below. Bill and I had a great time breaking my alcohol fast. The weather was wonderful; the wine was good; and although we didn’t partake of the food, it looked like they had some good offerings. I saw a guy walking by with smoked salmon sandwiches, which is a departure from the usual pretzels, brats, and broetchen that are usually offered at these events! The video isn’t the best, because it was crowded, and I was drinking. But it does offer an idea of how the choir sounded, and the atmosphere of the event. We love the wine stands, which we never had in either of the towns we lived in near Stuttgart. Down there, we had more Biergartens, and they weren’t standing events, like they are up here in Wiesbaden.

It took a minor miracle to upload this video… and it may not even be worth viewing. But we did have fun, as you can tell.

I have written a couple of well received blog posts about the differences between life in Stuttgart versus life in Wiesbaden. I think this is one thing I like about Wiesbaden. Folks seem friendlier and more social here, and it’s easier to get to know people. Or, at least that’s how it seems. That’s not to say that there aren’t friendly people in Stuttgart. There are. It’s just a different culture. There’s actually a lot I really miss about Stuttgart… but I am glad we had the opportunity to move to Hesse, because it gives us a whole different experience of living in Germany, and that’s a beautiful thing.

When our bladders had enough wine, we went home and hung out in the backyard, where we could still hear the choir a little bit. The temperature was perfect, and it was just so nice to have Bill home again. I even gave my German friend from the Stuttgart a thrill by posting in German on Facebook, without any help from Google Translate! Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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Armenian products

High anxiety…

Another week has passed, here in the land of perpetual COVID-19 lockdowns. Angela Merkel has managed to get a law passed that gives the federal government in Germany the ability to set emergency COVID-19 conditions for the entire country. Since vaccines are still very slowly rolling out here, there are many areas of “high infection” rates. That means, that in addition to the crap that’s been happening since November 2020, we now have curfews from 10pm to 5am, with exceptions allowed for medical emergencies, exercise, reporting to work, or walking alone. Gathering outside of one’s own family is still technically forbidden. And shops and services are mostly closed or offering services by appointment, and only with negative COVID test results.

Meanwhile, Bill has gotten us appointments for either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines on the Wiesbaden installation, although I am not going to get “excited” about it until it becomes more official. What really sucks is that Bill is supposed to leave for another business trip after the shot, so hopefully I won’t get too sickened by it. I will be alone again for about three weeks, like I was in March. And yes, I am pissed about that, since nothing else is open and it’s been ages since we last did anything fun or interesting.

We did have a funny experience yesterday, though. After I dumped the trash into the bins, I checked our mailbox, where I found a coupon from an online wine shop and a notice from DHL that we had a “brief” that needed signing for. I immediately felt a wave of dread, since it’s been my experience that letters that require signatures are not good news. I started thinking about who would be sending us registered mail and why they would be doing it.

It’s true that in the past couple of years, we have been involved in a couple of legal proceedings. Both ended in our favor, more or less. One proceeding wasn’t about us suing or being sued, but Bill was asked to be a witness and testify, which he ended up not having to do, after all. The other was regarding a legal matter we had with our former landlords. ­čśë

I told Bill about the slip and he got worried, too. We were thinking about any of the scenarios that might prompt registered mail. I wondered if maybe we had gotten a package from a friend of mine in France, or our monthly Ararat box was coming. But the slip said “Brief”, which in German refers to a letter, not a box. So we worried until 11:00am, which was when Bill was supposed to be able to go to the nearest DHL pack station (which are replacing a lot of German post offices) and find out what was up.

Bill came back from the store and gassing up the Volvo about an hour later. My stomach was doing flip flops the whole time as I pictured disaster that would lead to many headaches and heated rantings from yours truly. When he walked into the house, he said that the “letter” wasn’t at the pack station, but he’d go back a couple of hours later to check again.

So there we were, worrying more about the mysterious letter that needed a signature. I even looked up the topic on Toytown Germany, which confirmed that letters you have to sign for are often bad news. But then I remembered a couple of times when I have gotten letters to sign for that were positive or neutral things, and hope crept back into my consciousness. Still, I can’t help but anticipate disasters. It works out well that way. If I’m wrong, I’m happy about it. If I’m right, I’m somewhat mentally prepared.

I was sitting on top of our rarely made bed with freshly laundered sheets when Bill came back the second time. He was holding the May installation of our bubble wrapped Ararat box, which apparently was supposed to be delivered on Friday. I must have been in the backyard, because I was definitely home all day, as usual. We had nice weather, for once, so I probably was sitting on the patio with the dogs and didn’t hear the doorbell. I guess since it came from Armenia and went through customs, we have to sign for the box, although I don’t remember doing it for previous boxes.

Bill said he’d gone to the pack station and, once again, the clerk said she couldn’t find our “letter”. She said it looked like it had been delivered already, and we should check with our neighbor. Ironically, on Friday, I did accept a box for the neighbor. Bill was about to leave when the clerk spotted the box of treats from Armenia and said, “Entschuldigung!” She held up the box and Bill let out a big sigh.

Boy, were we relieved… And how nice it was to get it on Genocide Remembrance Day, which is the day Armenians all over the world remember the millions of people who died during the mass extermination efforts perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. Every month, we get our Ararat box and I am impressed by the products coming out of Armenia that didn’t exist when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there. Armenia has come a long way! But then I started thinking about why we were so traumatized by the prospect of signing for a letter in Germany.

Overall, living in Wiesbaden has been a good experience. I do miss how beautiful the Stuttgart area is, and we had a lot of fun down there, dining in many wonderful restaurants, taking trips to the Black Forest and other local areas, and making friends. Wiesbaden is less dramatic, on the whole, and not as pretty, but we’re comfortable here and we’re getting a new experience of living in Germany. It’s definitely different in Hesse, so it’s good that we get to try that. However, we’ve been very stressed out the whole time we’ve been here, for a variety of reasons.

Bill’s job is a good one for him, but it requires a lot of time away. That wasn’t so bad pre-COVID-19. I was even used to it, having been an Army wife and having seen him work at AFRICOM, which also required a lot of travel. He would go to Africa and come back with some novel viral sickness that he’d pass on to me. Then we’d go on a nice trip somewhere, spend a lot of money, eat interesting food, and I could blog about things other than our neighborhood, my dogs, and COVID-19. But now, he just goes to Bavaria for long stints, works his ass off, and comes home exhausted. It sucks for both of us, because these aren’t fun trips and they last way too long. And Bill hasn’t had a break in ages.

I don’t know a lot of people up here. In some ways, that’s good, since there’s also much less stupid drama. However, it would be nice to have a local friend I could hang out with. I get lonely sometimes, and I have little reason to get dressed every day. That’s not what I was planning for myself when I decided to go back to school years ago.

We spent a good portion of our first year here dealing with the trauma caused by our living situation in the Stuttgart area. It took weeks for us to feel comfortable and at home where we live now, and then we had to contend with dealing with our former landlady, who was trying to make us out to be terrible people (which we’re not– especially Bill). She was trying to shame us into letting her steal our security deposit, which she had no legal or proven right to do. So we had to take legal action in Germany, which is something we’ve never had to do anywhere.

That experience clouds what were mostly good years in BW… Overall, I loved living down there. But now we have a bitter taste in our mouths over having to sue… and the memories of the mean and vindictive, shaming behaviors levied at us by someone whom we feel was dishonest and abusive. I am glad we sued. She totally deserved it, and I hope she’s learned from the experience. But it sucked for us. We didn’t take any pleasure in it, and would have preferred not to have felt the need to do it.

Here it is 2021, over two years since we left that place, and we’re still thinking about it and scarred by it… to the point at which getting a notice to sign for a letter makes us nervous. We had no reason to be nervous. Even if it had been legal paperwork, we do have legal insurance and an established relationship with a competent lawyer. But still, that was an emotionally and psychologically trying experience. We are not keen to be involved in anything else involving lawyers… at least not in a country where English isn’t the dominant language. Having to read legalese using Google Translate isn’t fun.

It really doesn’t help that we haven’t been able to get to know and love Wiesbaden over the last thirteen months. Ordinarily, I would have been looking for fun things to do, like I did in the Stuttgart area. But we have no such luck here… so I’ve been buying too much stuff, trying to learn guitar, and daydreaming about trips instead… and reading way too many comments by neurotic Americans.

Ah well. At least we may soon be vaccinated, which could mean trips will be possible again. And when we can go somewhere, I’ll probably drop a lot of money on a really nice experience. So I’ll try to keep hanging on for that reason, and remember that not everything that needs a signature is going to signal doom.

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Military

Another chore done…

This morning, Bill and I went to get my German driver’s license renewed. After five years, your license expires. We’ve been here since August 2014, so it was time to get this chore accomplished. Because we’re here on SOFA status, our driver’s license procedure is different than it would be if we were ordinary residents. We have to go to an office on an installation, in this case, Clay Kaserne, fill out paperwork, take an eye test, and pay $20. Technically, my stateside license is what makes me legal to drive here, but we have to have one issued by the military installation, too.

License renewal is pretty easy, since it doesn’t require taking a test. In 2007 and 2014, I had to take the driver’s license test. I was able to pass on the first try both times, although not everyone does. I think both times, I took a class directly before the exam was given, although the class is now available online. I don’t think it’s a hard test, but it does take time to get it done. I still have the first German license that was issued to me in 2007. I turned my license from 2014 in today and should get a new one in the mail in a few weeks.

The guy who helped me this morning was a delightful German fellow who was cracking jokes the whole time. I found him very amusing, and could tell that he shares a love of sweets with me. He had a jar of cookies, a candy jar full of gummi fish, and another box of cookies on his desk. When he noticed we’d moved up here from Stuttgart, he was extolling the virtues of Wiesbaden versus Stuttgart. To be honest, I think I like living up here more, although there are a few things I miss about Stuttgart. Stuttgart is a lot more familiar to me and I think the surrounding area is prettier… there’s a lot more nature and pretty buildings that weren’t destroyed in World War II. But the people up here seem more relaxed about almost everything, which makes life easier for me.

After we filled out my paperwork, the guy helpfully explained how I can get an international driver’s license. We’ve been here five years and I never bothered to get one. I don’t drive very often. Bill wants to get me one now, though, because they’re good to have in case something happens to him while we’re out of the country. Also, it’s a lot easier to get the international license up here. In Stuttgart, we had to go to a German government office to get one. It took a couple of hours because there were many people waiting and not enough people working. Up here, we can get the international license on post, and the same guy would be helping us. And… he even explained how we can expedite things even more. Very helpful guy… and very friendly! Edited to add: Bill says we still have to go to a government office to get the international license, but it’s a very large office, so it only takes a few minutes as opposed to hours.

I had occasion to use the restroom while we were renewing my license. I was amused by the wall o’ PSAs in the ladies room. There were instructions on everything from how to wash your hands to how to prevent the spread of flu. And there were tons of directives– turn off the lights, report all leaks, and dammit, wash your hands! The ladies room also had, not just a chair, but a full couch! I don’t know how many people hang out in the restroom, but if you wanted to on Clay Kaserne, you certainly could. Maybe the couch was intended for nursing moms, but I noticed they had a nursing room, too.

Seriously, you could spend ten minutes reading all of this crap on the walls. I get a kick out of military installations, because there is never a shortage of reading material. Every bulletin board is chock full of information, and the walls are full of instructions on what to do in any situation. They especially like to put stuff on the stall doors so you can read while you’re taking a dump.

As someone who could have been a public health practitioner, I do appreciate the pictorial on how to wash your hands properly… but somehow, I think those who need the sign the most probably would not take the time to read it. One would hope this would be a home taught skill, anyway. But, on the other hand, you’d likely be surprised by how many people don’t wash their hands after they go to the bathroom.

I’m just glad I didn’t see anything like this in the restroom…

I’m staying the hell away from Kansas City!

This post is proof positive that I can find something to write about every day, if I put my mind to it.

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