Saturday, March 28, 2015

Our new house by “The Cats”

Ok, we’re done with this “temporary quarters” business--- not enough elbow room for 3 cats plus 2 people. Although the braver of us (Sidney and Sebastian) went out into the yard on our leashes at temporary quarters. Too bad we had to ride in the cat carriers to get from Ramstein AFB to the small town 15 minutes away where we will live. Our new house is exactly the same size as our old house in Framingham, just a different layout to get used to. It’s normal by German standards, but some folks back home might think it’s small. Well, it will fit our own furniture just right, if we ever get it…hopefully in a couple of weeks. In the mean time, we have borrowed furniture courtesy of Uncle Sam, plus whatever the ‘rents packed or had in the first small shipment of stuff.
When you go in the front door, there is a door to the right to go to the basement, then stairs up to the second floor, then a full bath on the right. Straight ahead is the kitchen, which has a nice glass door to the back patio. We can’t wait to hang out there once the hubbub dies down. The front of the house is a big long living/dining room.
Upstairs are 3 rooms plus another full bath. Apparently the tub is a nice size to allow for bubble baths. We always get worried and wonder why the humans like to wallow in a tub? One room will fit the master bedroom furniture, and the other 2 will be home offices for Jeff and a combination craft room for Barbara.
The basement is interesting. We used to have one nice big basement room, but now there are 2 small rooms, a full bath, and 2 storage nooks. One room has a sauna in it! We cats are not allowed in there, but it will warm up nicely and will keep us cozy after the people-type folks are done and open the door. We have a German washer and dryer, and there is also a small yard that we haven’t been out to yet. Nearby are bakeries, grocery stores, a few shops, and fields with walking paths. Stay tuned for an update from the 'rents after they've had the chance to take photos of the surroundings.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Part 2 yesses and nos “across the pond”

Week 2 in Germany:
Yes- we found a house to live in! Yay! Stay tuned for deets the first week of April.
No- parking in Kaiserslautern is challenging…finally found a spot near this interesting “meter” that prints out a slip for the dashboard based on how much you pay (x Euro for y minutes of parking)
Yes- had lunch with a new friend at an Italian restaurant that had a nice, healthy salmon & vegetable dish- thanks to the Kansas connection!
No- yoga at the gym has been cancelled…ok, I’ll go to Bible study instead, and it was great
Yes- invited to tea at the home of a nice woman from Chapel here at Ramstein AFB
No- our Prius isn’t here yet, sharing one rental car is ok but lots of driving back and forth to Jeff’s office at Landstuhl…how about a second rental car?
Yes- another lunch with another friendly lady from Bible study- this is great!
Week 3:
Yes- we’d be happy to come along to another military installation nearby to see a super performance of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
No- the housing and personnel offices are not interested in talking with “just the wife”…they MUST talk with the man of the house (or the military member, in any case)
Yes- one of our cats met a German Veterinarian, who pulled a tooth that was in bad shape even before we moved. The cat is fine, and we now have a local veterinarian in addition to the military veterinarians who can only do regular check-ups/vaccinations.
No- yoga with Irish dance music in the background is not my idea of fun, so I’ll keep looking for another class!

Yes- our first small shipment of “stuff” from home arrived safely. The cats were soooo happy to have their cat stand again (the younger 2 can jump up to the window sill, but the old guy likes to have the cat stand on the way up to the window sill).

Sunday, March 15, 2015

“Oh, Boston, You’re My Town”

It has been an “awesome” 20+ years in Boston, and I’m feeling sentimental about moving away. Those of you in New England know that this blog post title is a song, and you can hear the guitar riff already! I got choked up canceling my Boston Globe subscription, which I’ve been reading since starting at Simmons College in 1988. I like the International Herald Tribune newspaper just fine, and all I need is the Globe headlines overseas, but it’s been a steady connection through the ups and downs of community life in eastern Massachusetts. I’ll never forget "our" brief alliance with NYC in 2001 or the outpouring of love from the world in April 2013.
Even though I haven’t driven or taken the T into the city every week or even every month during the years I’ve worked in the suburbs, I’ve always loved the Boston skyline, despite changes such as the newer name of the “Boston Garden”, the newer skyscraper next to the Prudential, and the additions to Fenway Park. I could hear the Red Sox fans roaring from my dorm room when the wind blew in the right direction, and attended my first game with a Cleveland Indians fan!
I won’t miss the traffic jams on the Pike or 128, but I will miss the smell of the ocean in Salem. Living in land-locked Austria during my junior year abroad was a preview of our upcoming place in Germany, but other adventures will make up for being away from the ocean. I won’t miss “M***hole” drivers, but I will miss people calling me “Baaahhhbra”, even though I don’t talk that way myself. In German, they say “BarbaRA”.
I won’t miss American fast food, which I rarely partake of, but I will miss our many friends and community groups. I look forward to new friends, and will share updates on finding a church, book group/library, yoga class, singing group, etc. At least I know for sure that the food in Germany is excellent.

What has worked for you to meet new people after a move?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Our second week in Germany

8 observations in the last 8 days

11   Even though I’ve been an Army brat my entire life and an Army spouse for over a decade, I feel great affection for the Air Force planes that are taking off, landing, and flying overhead here.

22    The German road surfaces are so impeccable that there are signs warning of “damage” before a filled-in pothole or filled in road work. Imagine in Massachusetts if there were warning signs before bumpy pavement! I wish I could draw a cartoon of the constant signs “bumpy road surface next 700 meters”, “damaged road surface next 2 miles”, etc. that we'd see in the states! There are even warning signs for “dirty road surface” if a construction or farm vehicle has even ONE SET of muddy track marks on the road! Can you imagine in the US?

33     There are rotaries everywhere here! Very few traffic lights, but constant “roundabouts”. At first, I found this annoying, as you really have to slow down and respect the rotary traffic, NO barging in like some MA drivers! After a few days it started to feel good to not stop at traffic lights all the time.

 4    Trier was a good choice for our first train trip. We sat in a comfortable seat for 2 hours with beautiful views of the countryside, walked around the historic city, and trained it back to Kaiserslautern. We’d recommend a visit to Trier.

 5   We have seen 8 houses, and really liked 3 of them. There haven’t been any built in closets like the US, so we’re trying to figure out storage. Some have been so clean we’d practically eat off the floor, others have been “tired”. We've found a winner, and have an appointment with housing on Monday to approve the rental agreement. Hopefully next week's update will not be another "yes and no" report!
This is a MUSEUM in TRIER, not our new house!
 6   The food here is delicious, but we’ve had to make an effort to get plenty of fruits/veggies every day. Top meals have included Schnitzel, salmon, and lasagna at German restaurants, and BBQ here on base. The military grocery store stocks our favorite brand of frozen broccoli, and we found a nice selection of frozen veggies at a German store (along with fresh, but I'm not cooking much from scratch in our wee kitchenette). The bakeries are ubiquitous.

77     It’s been nice meeting other Americans, who are very friendly. That’s not to say that the Germans we’ve met are not friendly, but 3 American women invited me to get together (separately) for lunch or tea. Thanks to a Ft. Riley, Kansas, connection, 1 from the chapel here on base, and 1 from Bible Study. I miss my friends “back home”, but don’t feel lonely all the time here.

88     I had no idea how good the tap water in Framingham, MA tasted until I started getting dehydrated here because the tap water doesn’t taste good. Hate the environmental waste of drinking bottled water, but that’s how it has to be until we are in our new house. Rental agreement in process, hopefully will be moved in the third week of March. Stay tuned…

Monday, March 2, 2015

Week 1 Yesses and NOS

Day 1:
Yes- arrive at Frankfurt Airport 5:11 am after an uneventful flight, retrieve luggage and cats without any problems.
Yes- Meet pre-arranged van for 1.5 hour ride to Ramstein Air Force Base (we recommend Airport Runner).
No- room not available because after our flight was cancelled due to snowstorm last week, they “forgot” to re-book a pet room. Sorted out after 20 minutes.
Yes- Set up cat litter box in our room, cat food in dishes, sleep for 4 hours.
Yes- Walk to grocery store on base and enjoy the fresh air.
Yes Yes- Weather near 40 degrees!!!

Day 2:
Yes- cats are fine, unpack belongings in our efficiency quarters, one bedroom and one living room/kitchenette.
No car…therefor walk 10,000 steps all around base. Food court at military base includes a Johnny Rockets  but I had Chinese food instead for the veggies
Yes- get Air Force library card (NOT valid on Army bases in the area, must get separate Army library card!!!)

Day 3:
Yes- nice contemporary church service at base chapel
No car- walk another 10,000 steps to Macaroni Grill and all over base to learn our way around for tomorrow.
Not possible to register our ID cards for 24 hour gym access on a weekend, must register for 24 hour access only during regular business hours (weekdays)
No laundry on our floor of building due to lobby renovation, so haul laundry bag to 2nd floor for free washer (30 minutes) and dryer (1.5 hours)
No shuttle bus to off-base restaurants, but Jeff’s colleague drove us to an Italian Restaurant in Kaiserslautern, 30 minutes away

Day 4:
No shuttle bus from temporary housing building to newcomer orientation building; walk 40 minutes in the falling snow to helpful meeting with nice people (6 hours)
No shuttle to veterinarian office on Army base…Yes nice person there said we can register the cats once we have a rental car
No permission given to take drivers test here at the Air Force Base where we are staying, must pay 50 Euro for a taxi to take us to the Army installation where the test is administered for Army people (that’s us!)

Day 5:
Not possible to receive special European/US military driving license with my current spouse ID card due to Jeff’s military status…must obtain new ID card with my spouse status due to Jeff’s new civilian job. Um, hello?
No friendly people in the mandatory 2 hour pre-driving test at the Army installation, including a 40 minute video. No, no, no, you cannot take the test right after the class. The office closes after the class. Come back another day.
Yes- helpful and friendly person in the Army ID office; new civilian ID in less than 30 minutes. This feels entirely miraculous.
Yes- new German SIM cards for our cell phones, signed up for 1 month plan

Day 6:
No luck after 7am taxi to Army driving test- on paper with a pencil! Got a few road signs mixed up and 3 questions more than allowed wrong. Oh, the shame. Cried when calling taxi to pick me up, staff finally felt sorry for me at the idea of paying another 50 Euro tomorrow to re-take the test, so they authorized the Air Force to let us take it via the Air Force later in the week. Um, hello?
Yes- registered ID card at gym for 24 hour access, found craft center and post office and community building with BBQ restaurant
Yes- nice people at the mid-week Lent church service at chapel!

Day 7:
No shuttle to different Army installation with housing office, 50 Euro for the cab (round trip) to learn about renting rules we already read about on-line. Got a paper listing of 70 houses for rent, some of which we had seen on-line using a website that is no longer contracted with the military.
Yes- nice dinner at BBQ restaurant on AFB.

Day 8:
No shuttle from temporary housing to driving test building…alarm set for 5:30 am in order to walk 40 minutes. The “test” started with the same 40 minute video we had already watched with the Army. OMG. The test is on a computer! Wow! Ahhh, the sound of a room full of mouse clicks. We passed!
Yes- nice people in the Hertz rental car office…we are now in possession of a small Ford Fiesta! Yay!
No(body) remember to put me – the wife- on the gas ration card. Get to gas station, drive back to customs office so the men (!) can put the wife on the gas ration card. What year is this again? Go back to gas station to validate gas ration card. Also have separate ration card for coffee, tobacco, and alcohol. Not ATF, c/t/a!
Yes- good sandwich at food truck in gas station lot- cooks remembered 3 orders from regular customers as they approached the truck.
Yes- nice house in a teeny tiny village for rent with a narrow lane of a street

Yes- nice dinner in a regular town nearby- whee, free at last!

Stay tuned for week 2 in a week!