Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ok, one more...

Ok, fine. One more post before we go off the grid for a week without internet. This one is for my brother Sam, who happily gives me a hard time about everything, including this blog. Are you happy, SAM?! Pretty soon I'm going to learn German and respond to you in a language you don't understand and THEN WHAT?

So we finally made it. We're at the last day. We're checking out of our hotel at 7am tomorrow morning. THANK GOD. The last few days have been emotionally tough as I've struggled to maintain a good attitude and positive outlook about our one-room situation. (I realize I'm spoiled. We'll focus on that another time. But not now.) The whole experience is just very overwhelming. Maybe I'm being redundant, since I can't really remember what I've already shared here, but it's just a LOT to take in. There's a new language, new house, new city, new job (for Z), new EVERYTHING. And while we're really enjoying all of it, we're still kind of in a daze about the fact that we're here...we live in Germany now. It's an overload of emotion and sensation and it's really easy to catch myself thinking about "when we go home"...whoa, wait...this IS our home now.

In an attempt to prepare our new home for all of our stuff, we ventured to Nuremberg this weekend to hit up IKEA for some rugs. Our downstairs living area is big and open and has hardwood floors, so we needed some rugs to break up the space and whatnot. Let me tell you, navigating IKEA in German is an experience. A draining, overwhelming, sometimes frustrating and stressful experience. Sure, you can get a map of the store, but it's useless in a language you don't understand yet. Sure, you can look at tags on items to see if they come in different sizes and colors or what they're made of, but OH WAIT...you can't understand any of that either. We resorted to taking a lot of iphone pictures of items. Then when we got to the warehouse section, we found an information center that had computers to help you find where the items you wanted were arranged in the warehouse. Oh good, this should be helpful...oooh, woops, also in German! Thankfully some things are universal and we used our great wisdom to decipher that "tv bank" for tvs "uber 37" meant tv stands that fit tvs over 37". Then it was all pictures from there. Crisis averted. I did not at any point sit down in the aisle and cry, so I think that, overall, it was a very successful trip. And there was only one "discussion" about which way a certain rug would go under a certain dining room table and a certain one of us wasn't understanding the other one of us (ok, ok it was me) and there may or may not have been a conversation that went in this circle for a while: "Ok, OK...you're standing in the room, looking at the kitchen...the wall is to your LEFT, the window is to your RIGHT--"(interrupted) "No, you're not standing where I'm standing, I'm by the kitchen looking out into the back yard!"

We worked it out.

We also took the opportunity to wander around Nuremberg for the afternoon and came across an amazing outdoor farmer's market that I WILL be going back to. The fruits and vegetables just looked amazing.

Afterwards we headed to the house to put the new rugs down (Zach was right, the rug did have to go that way if you're standing by the kitchen looking out into the back yard). They look great, so we were pleased with our purchases. Now just to get our furniture in there, then I'll take pictures and share them with you here! We're so excited to get settled. SO excited.

That's all for now...catch you on the other side when we have internet set up in our home!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Move-in Monday

We got word that our household goods will be delivered on Monday!! This is wonderful news and we CANNOT WAIT to get our house set up and organized. We went back yesterday to go through the inspection with the housing office and sign the "lease", so it's officially ours. The thought of being somewhere for three whole years is overwhelming to both of us...neither Zach nor I have lived someplace for that long since we graduated from college. Stability will be nice. We are even allowed to paint the walls; can you imagine?! So spoiled. I am also happy to report that there were no gangs of ruffians (or even individuals) hanging around town this time. Big relief.

We've planned a trip to Ikea on Saturday to get some rugs/curtains for our new home. The downstairs is all hardwood and no carpet, so we need something to keep our feet warm and insulate some of the sound. The curtain "rods" aren't really rods here in Germany but more like tracks that run above the windows. Thankfully the German Ikea will have curtains that are made for these tracks, so that solves that issue. I did some googling and learned I'll either have to sew or safety pin (let's be honest, I'll be safety pinning) to rig our US curtains to work with the tracks...so another thing to keep me busy in the coming weeks.

Other than the house, not much to report. Z goes to work every day, although he's still doing in-processing as well. I hang out and visit the mean German swans and watch movies and read. I've spent a good amount of time on base this week, using the coffee shop internet. This has been a very good experience for me, Army-life wise. Before I met Zach, I had little to no connection to the military, other than a few extended family members that serve. When Zach and I started dating, he was already well into his military career, so it wasn't like we were learning/experiencing things together. The thing about Zach is that he is in military and it's a part of his life, but it is not his life. If you didn't know him, you wouldn't know he was in the Army. There's just really nothing about him that is "typical Army". This is rare, at least in my interactions and experiences. So I kind of took for granted being "disconnected" from Army life. I always joke that I'm a terrible Army wife because I never know any acronymns, I can't tell you what the different patches on the uniform mean with perfect accuracy, I had never been to a PX or Commissary before coming to Germany, and I haven't been involved with any of the activities on base (mostly because I've had a full-time job and we don't have kids). Oh I've googled and read a lot of books and keep up with a lot of milspouse blogs, but I'm not fully immersed in military life. Not even close. And Z isn't one to talk much about it unless asked directly. Sure, he'll tell me about his days or his coworkers or what he's working on, but I just don't know a lot about the ins and outs of the military. For example, yesterday we happened to be on base at 5pm. I'm sitting in the car waiting for Z to come out of a building and suddenly I hear a bugle play, followed by the sound of a cannon going off. What the?! Zach comes out and I'm all "Was that a cannon? Did a cannon just shoot?" And he's all calm and casual like "Yeah, it does that every day, once in the morning and once in the evening". And I'm all "you mean to tell me that someone shoots a cannon every day? Actually goes and shoots a cannon...this happens...every day?" He says it's a blank round or something like that, and of course it is, but the point is...someone goes out at 5pm every day and shoots this thing. It blows the mind.

Another example: today I was sitting in the cafe and there's a group of slightly older officers sitting at a table nearby. I can tell their rank because they're a rank above Z so I'm familiar with those patches because I've met Z's bosses and coworkers in the past. So they're all chatting and then another officer comes up and sits down and suddenly it's all "sir" and respectful and professional. So I covertly glance at his chest and see an eagle symbol. Great, I don't know what that means. TGFG (thank goodness for google). I immediately google "army rank" and see that it's a colonel. I'm pretty sure most Army wives don't have to google ranks. But whatever. I texted Z to let him know I'd had my very first colonel sighting. It was like seeing an elephant in the wild. Rare and awe-inspiring. At least for me...maybe not for anyone else. Whatever.

The Army is still a pretty foreign world to me...but that's ok. I'm learning, slowly but surely. I still get excited when I walk across base and see soldiers preparing for a change of command ceremony. I still love seeing Z in uniform and in his element and one of my favorite things ever is to see him salute and say "hooah" (I've only actually witnessed this about 10 times ever; it is my Halley's Comet). I like learning about the little quirks and big traditions of the military. And I also like that it's not Z's life, or my life, or our life. I like that it's a PART of our life, but not either one of our identities. All of that to say: I've really enjoyed being on base the past few days and getting a bigger taste of the day-to-day military life. It's been a good experience

Oh, just a heads up, when we move into our house, we'll be without internet for a full week. So I'll be on a blog break for a week starting next Monday. Thanks for keeping up with us!

Monday, June 18, 2012

We have a house!

This is why we didn't want to live on base:

I'm sitting in a coffee shop on post (read: using their internet) surrounded by English speaking people and this is what I hear: "So, we playing beer pong tonight?"

It's like college all over again. If we're living in Germany (and we are), I just want to be in a little coffee cafe and have to work to decifer the menu and the conversations happening around me. I want to see old men drinking beer at 9:30am (typical here). I want to be the foreigner! But I also want really good internet, so we make sacrifices and get Starbucks coffee in our familiar American bubble on base. It's a hard life.

The internet at our hotel has basically rejected us, so Z dropped me here while he does more in-processing and I'm basically on an internet binge. SO MANY THINGS TO GOOGLE! Also, in preparation for being left alone during the day for the rest of the week, I'm downloading a lot of movies on the iPad. I can only keep tabs on the swans for so long before I head back to the hotel room, and I'm rapidly running out of books to read.

Anyways...Good news! We signed on the house and it's ours!! (Cheering) Our official move-in date is this Wednesday, which is another miracle because the housing office was completely booked this week for move-in inspections, meaning we would have to stay in the hotel until NEXT week, but there was one cancellation on Wednesday and we were able to get that spot. This is a personal gift to me, as I started to have a minor breakdown last night about how long we've spent in hotels, without our things, living out of suitcases. It's been seven and half weeks since we've slept in our own bed or had a place to call our own. It's been seven and half weeks of living out of luggage. I never thought I'd ever say this, and I'll probably never say it again, but I JUST WANT TO DO LAUNDRY IN MY OWN HOME. Is that too much to ask? Oh my gosh I can't wait to do laundry and to fold that laundry and put that laundry in drawers and closets that belong to us. Poor Zach is probably so confused by my new "I can't wait to do laundry" mantra and I can see a conversation in our near future that goes like this:

Zach, rifling through drawers: Hey, where are my shorts?

Katie: I don't know. Where did you put them?

Zach: In the laundry.

Katie: So they're in the laundry

Zach: Oh. They're not clean? I thought you couldn't wait to do laundry...

Katie: That was like three days ago. We're in our house now. I'm back to hating laundry.

God bless Zach. Seriously.

The next "hurdle" is getting our stuff to our house...and this is the tricky part that could mean more time in the hotel. (Deep breaths, Katie. You can do this.) Zach's orders changed the day before we left for Germany. Meaning all of our stuff that was shipped here ahead of us was sent to his original duty station, which is about four hours away from where we are now. You cannot even begin to imagine the ridiculous logistics and paperwork and phone calls and meetings with housing and transportation required to get everyone on the same page that our stuff that was THERE now needs to be sent HERE. So that is what Z is trying to straighten out right now. I'm praying for another miracle here...for huge blessings on some efficient individual who can talk to Z, understand the issue, and come to a solution that sends our stuff to our house sometime this week. That's all we need. One person to say "Oh, no problem. We'll locate your crates, reroute them, and have them to you by Thursday." COME ON, ARMY! You can do it! I know you've got it in you!

But if not, I'm mentally preparing for another week or more (but seriously, please not more) in the hotel. And if that's the case, we will be ok. We have a bed, a hot shower, food, shelter...we're more than ok. Well, we don't have internet so I think we're just ok...If we had Cheerios I'd move it back up to "more than ok". It's a delicate scale.

In other news, the locals are really amped up about Germany's win over Denmark in soccer last night. Zach has always been a soccer fan and is LOVING the team spirit over here. I (sort of, mostly) watched the game last night and was (kind of, mildly) interested and entertained. It is hard to not get caught up in excitement, I will admit. We went into Weiden yesterday, which is one of the bigger cities in the area, and in preparation for the game all of the restaurants and cafes in the town center had set up huge projection screens in their outdoor seating areas where they would broadcast the game. Everyone was walking around with German flags, facepaint, jerseys, etc. And this was 3 to 4 hours before the game started!

We also came across a Rose Festival in Weiden that was really fun. It was very much like the Dogwood Festival or any other local, outdoor festival with booths set up displaying hand-crafted whatever. And of course tons of plants and flowers and rose bushes for sale. We really had fun walking around looking at all of the German crafts and whatnot, plus it was a GORGEOUS day. We bought some local honey that I'm very excited to have in my tea. I'm also going to need to start educating myself about gardening because everyone plants some form of garden here, whether simple pots and window boxes or elaborate vegetable gardens. I think I'll stick with simple pots. Or maybe even silk flowers. Baby steps.

In the meantime, thanks for all the prayers, support, comments, emails, etc. We miss our friends and family a lot, even as we're enjoying our adventure here. Thanks for keeping in touch with us!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Big things and little things

Zachary has requested that I let everyone know that he passed his driving test. We are so thankful to have a car and the freedom that comes with that. He was a little bit sad to be driving a Honda on the Autobahn, however. His car does fine at around 80mph, but he said he was passed by countless Audi, BMW, and Mercedes going much, much faster. I let him know that he is welcome to use the BMW he is going to buy me whenever he wants to drive fast. He's lucky to be married to someone so generous.

Today was a big day for us and I am exhausted...it's not even 5pm yet...too early for this level of tired. I'm still not completely adjusted to the new schedule, but getting there. This morning we headed out early to go look at some housing options. This is my first rodeo when it comes to searching for houses with Z and with the military, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. For those of you who are unfamilar with military housing, you (usually) have two options: 1) live on base with all housing expenses covered; or 2)live off base and receive a housing allowance to use towards rent/utilities, etc. Z and I had decided from the beginning that if we were going to be living in another country, we wanted to LIVE in another country...not be confined to the comfortable American bubble of the base. The base Z is stationed at, for instance, has a craft store, a movie theater, Subway, O'Charleys, Burger King, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, the PX (essentially Wal-mart) and the commissary (essentially Kroger)...everything is familiar and recognizable and in English. Which is awesome. But you could stay on base and never even realize you were in another country. We didn't want that. We wanted to live in a German neighborhood, in a German town, shop at German butchers and bakeries...really get the full experience. So you can imagine our disappointment when we were told that it is now required for all US military personnel to live on-base, unless there is no on-base housing available. Thank God there wasn't. However, there was an off-base government house available (meaning off base but owned by the Army, so still treated as "on-base" living) and a few other off base options. The tricky part was if we refused the government housing, then the Army stops paying for us to stay in our temporary lodging (the hotel). So there's a little bit of pressure there. The housing office gave Z the key and the address to the government-owned house so we were able to check it out today. I was nervous and honestly didn't have very high expectations.

You guys.

It's a brand new townhouse-type house. Never been lived in. Two stories, plus a basement. All appliances included (that's unheard of in German housing, not to mention American, full-sized appliances). Tons of windows. Big backyard. A garage. An insane amount of storage in the basement (because one of us, and it's not me, owns a 17' kayak...and where do you put that?) Two bathrooms WITH SHOWERS. I'll say it again...WITH. SHOWERS. Do you know how many German houses don't have showers? They are all about the bathtubs here. AND...perhaps the best part...no wait, this is not the best part. The best part is that all three of the bedrooms have built-in closets. Closets and showers. JACKPOT. Ok the OTHER best part is that this house includes both German and US outlets. Meaning we don't have to buy new electronics or kitchen appliances or have huge ugly transformer boxes all over our house.

We'll take it. Where do I sign? Woops, how do you like it, Zach?

(He loved it, too. It's ok.) Of course this is just too good to be true so I immediately worried that between now and when we sign the contract on Monday, something will happen and we'll have to start the househunt all over again. It just couldn't have been that easy, or that fast, right? I am continually amazed at how God has gone before us in every step of this process...it's overwhelming and we really feel unworthy of a lot of the blessings...and I think that's why it's such a beautiful thing. And even if the house falls through and we end up looking for someplace else and it takes two more weeks, and even if all of our stuff gets lost or takes a month to get to our new house, and even if it all feels like nothing is working out...we still know God has gone before us and we're confident about the path He's leading us on.

But I will still cry if the house falls through.

We're very excited about the house, but also about the neighborhood and town. Our immediate neighbors will be other military officers and their families, but the majority of the town is German and it definitely feels that way. We spent a long time walking around, finding parks, bakeries, grocery stores, restaurants. It's really a great area and we couldn't be more pleased. There was only one thing that seemed a bit "off". It seemed that everywhere we walked we'd run into small groups of teenagers or college-aged guys (mostly) dressed in black (or shirtless), with long hair, multiple piercings and tattoos...just kind of grungy and gang-like. They seemed to be just wandering around and were certainly making me a little nervous. So I'm all "Zach, I can't live here! There's gangs of ruffians and I'll be home alone during the day and they'll try to get in the house and snatch me!" Z admitted that it was a little strange, but we also saw tons of young children riding their bikes around unattended, so it had to be a safe area, right? Z eventually nailed down what was happening...he's a super sleuth and in the Army, so with those powers combined he was able to notice all of these people were wearing similar shirts and hats and their shirts matched the band name on posters that were plastered throughout town. Turns out, it's Wackel Fest this weekend in a larger city nearby. Of course! How did we miss that? Wackel is apparently a band with a more...alternative following. These people were killing time before heading to the concert. In fact, we think they mostly spent the night in our little town in order to avoid the hotel fees of a bigger city. Also we saw them bathing in a public fountain, soooo...there's that. As we drove away Zach sighed and said "Man, I'm glad we don't have gangs of ruffians wandering around our town". I'm pretty sure he was making fun of me, but I really did feel much better.

We spent the rest of our day exploring the big city nearby, and it was wonderful. They even have a mall, and people walk their dogs around inside. We definitely plan to go back and do some more exploring of the city, but we were getting tired (and Z's head was getting sunburnt...that's the real reason, let's be honest) so we headed back towards base so Zach could show me the PX and Commissary. True story, I'm an Army wife and have never been to either one. Shameful. Anyways, I didn't realize how happy seeing those English words and familiar brands would make me. It was such a relief to know I could buy Goldfish and Scrubbing Bubbles and JIF peanut butter. And I almost hugged a box of Cheerios. I almost did. But that would have been weird. I still plan to do most of my shopping locally, but it did my heart good to be in a familiar place. I'm thankful for that. I even heard a very Southern accent scolding some children in a nearby aisle and that made me so happy.

It's the little things...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Too much time on my hands

Another day alone while Zach goes through in-processing. We don't have any contact during the day so I'm anxiously waiting to hear if he passes his driving test. We'll have a lot more freedom once we get his car and are mobile. I didn't sleep hardly at all last night, but that's mostly my fault for letting myself sleep in so late yesterday. Today I forced myself to get up early and try to have a more "normal" day, schedule-wise. In the meantime, a low-grade headache accompanies me everywhere I go as my body tries to adjust to new sleep schedules and meal times. Also, the fact that my diet has been 90% carbs since we got here probably doesn't help. But I'll deal with that...tomorrow.

Today I headed to the local T-Mobile store to get information about German cellphones and plans. Turns out they're pretty affordable, so I'm excited to be able to text Zach throughout the day and (hopefully) get a data plan so I have better internet access. The WiFi at the hotel is very tempermental, at best. Afterwards I wandered into a crowded Kebab restaurant because we've heard how great the donor meat places are around here. However, I got flustered when I couldn't read the menu and there were people waiting in line behind me so I ended up with a very boring "pite kase" which is basically cheesy bread. I think I'll go back another day when I'm feeling braver now that I've had a chance to see what other people ordered and how it looked. Afterwards I had to soothe myself with a pastry, so I headed to the bakery next to our hotel. I felt better almost immediately.

It had been a rainy/dreary morning so I was pleasantly surprised to step out into warm sunshine and decided to take advantage of the weather and head over to the pond to check on the swan lords. I took my pastry and found a sunny spot on a bench and watched nervously as the swans and about 30 ducks started slowly making their way towards me. It was slightly terrifying but I was saved by an old man on a bike who stopped to throw an entire bag full of breadcrumbs into the pond. The swan and ducks changed their direction and suddenly the additional ducks who were obviously only pretending to be asleep on the shoreline flew over to see what the fuss was all about. In the time I sat there I watched no fewer than 4 people come and throw their stale bread and crumbs into that lake. One guy drove up in a car, pulled a bag from his trunk, dumped it, and drove off. So we see why these birds are so eager to follow a person when one approaches the pond. Also, my suspicions about the swans were confirmed. They are obviously in charge. I can't tell if the ducks are exceptionally small here or these swans are just mammoth, but either way, they are in charge and theirs is a reign of terror. I watched the biggest swan hold a duck under water for trying to eat his breadcrumb. I am pretty sure the swan was trying to drown the duck. Thankfully, the duck popped up and scurried away, but it was a scary moment for us all (me and the ducks, at least).

So another big day for me, as you can see. I think I'll be really glad to start my job when the time comes. I'm at risk of turning into an overweight duck-lady if left to my own devices. The weather turned rainy again so I'm back at the hotel waiting for a break when I'll venture out again. Still have to buy Zach an alarm clock and the store that sells them closes from noon until 2pm. Actually, most stores around here close during the lunch two-hours. Not a bad gig...open at 9, close for two hours, reopen for a few hours, close at 6. It's pretty awesome for the store owners, at least. Until then, I have to resist the urge to nap off these carbs.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adventuring...

Day Two is coming to a close and I'm happy to say it was a great day! It started early with Zach heading on base for another day of in-processing activity (there are 7 days of in-processing total...I do have to give credit to the Army for how well they're welcoming and informing incoming military members and their families). I, of course, went back to sleep...you know, jet lag and all that. I finally woke up at 11:30, which I rationalized by reminding myself that was actually 5:30 for my body. I plan on using this rationalization for a week to 10 days, at least.

I was then faced with the trial of showering and trying to do my hair without a hairdryer or straigthener. This was a distressing realization, as all of my appliances have US plugs, and surprise!, we're in Germany. I put my vanity aside and ventured out for food and coffee (since I had slept through breakfast at the hotel). It was a little rainy and it's definitely chilly here, but I battled the elements and made the two block trek to the bakery. Turns out there is a bakery next door to the hotel...and then another one block down the street...but I was out exploring so those later revelations weren't very upsetting.

I feel like maybe I should just have one entire blog post titled "THE BAKERY" and dedicate paragraphs to the wonder that is inside those display cases. Of course I can't pronounce or even read any of the names, but oh my...everything from cakes to pastries to giant soft pretzels to croissants...I can't even wait to try out another bakery tomorrow. Delightful. So anyways, I got my breakfast (really my lunch) and a latte and headed back to the hotel to enjoy my treats. I told Zach over dinner that I felt like today was a really good day for me to adjust and begin to process this "living in Germany" thing because I was alone and free from any pressure or deadlines. I felt like the hotel was my "home-base", my safe zone, and I could venture out as far as I wanted but retreat back to a familiar place as often as I wanted or needed. So after my initial trip to the bakery and fortified with food and coffee, I was ready to head out again...this time a little further. I spent a few hours simply walking around...I went into nearly every little shop I came across, just to see what it was (since I can't read any of the signs...yet). Sometimes it was awkward and I quickly left, sometimes I wandered up and down every aisle (I found two grocery stores and spent a lot of time checking those out...so fascinating!).

My favorite part of the day was stumbling across a little park a few blocks away from the hotel. There was a pond and a swingset and a LOT of ducks and seagulls and two very large, very beautiful, very intimidating swans. I plan to go back tomorrow with my camera just so I have proof that these swans are so huge. Anyways, I walked across the bridge that goes over the pond and stopped to take everything in. Turns out that was a sign for all of the waterfowl that I had food and I was very quickly surrounded by way more birds that I was comfortable with. They then proceeded to follow me around the lake as I walked through the park. They're obviously well-conditioned to people passing by and feeding them. What a disappointment I must have been. Plus, those swans...I'm sure I'll need to bring something for them tomorrow to pay my respects otherwise...who knows. I might not be so welcome to that park again.

After I was satisfied with my very brave and adventurous explorations of the day, I headed back to the hotel to wait for Zach. I read some German travel books and spent a lot of time using Google translator to determine what the instructions on the back of my German Drano said (we have a shower that doesn't drain and it's mostly gross to stand ankle-deep in backed up shower water). Zach came "home" and we filled each other in on our days...it was then that I realized I really only walked a few blocks in each direction and he laughed at how I described my day as if I had wandered miles away. His day was full paperwork and briefings and not being intimidated by a potentially hostile gang of birds led by burly swan overlords. Boring.

After recounting our days, we headed out to dinner at a local restaurant down the road from our hotel. It was a charming place with delicious food. I had an AMAZING salad topped with chicken (who knew that Germans make such good salads?) and Zach had a hearty meat and dumplings dish (very typical German fare). We found a little walking trail behind our hotel and decided that we'll explore it in full tomorrow. We both agreed that we are really loving the feel of this place so far. I wish I could bottle up the charm of this place. I'm finding that I need another word for "charming", but that's really the overwhelming description that comes to mind.

We're back in our hotel for the night (it's ten after 9 and still very much light out) and Zach's studying for his driving test that he'll take tomorrow. We hear the church bells when they toll and we look at each other like "how cute is that?". We'll start looking for houses tomorrow as well and I'm (of course) VERY excited about that. I can't even imagine what a treat it will be to finally sleep in our own bed...although I'm mentally prepared for weeks between now and then. Zach heads out early again tomorrow and I'm determined to get myself into more of a "German timezone" schedule. I plan on making it down to the hotel breakfast (sometime before 9am) and then my tasks for the day include buying Zach an alarm clock, researching cell phone plans, and paying homage to the swans. Oh also visiting a new bakery...I've got my sights set on a pretzel this time. So far, so good. We're taking things one day at a time and trying to soak it all in...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We made it!

Guten tag, everybody! We're in Germany and I just had to sit down to write about our arrival because I'm so afraid the little details will fade from memory.

Let me start by apologizing for any formatting issues that this post will have...it took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to create a new post because, well, everything is in German on the iPad now. Adventures.

So I'll start with our departure from Atlanta. It was a very sad and bittersweet morning of saying goodbye to our families. But in some ways it was a relief to have that moment over with after weeks of an emotionally exhausting and tense buildup to the final goodbye. There were tears and it was hard and we both had moments of "oh my gosh, what are we doing?"...but then we were on our way. The flight from Atlanta to Baltimore was uneventful. When we landed, Zach had a call from Delta...never a good sign. Unfortunately one of our bags didn't make it on the plane. Of course I was SURE it was my bag and this caused some mild agitation. Zach told me the whole time he was hoping it was his bag that was left behind because he knew it would put me over the edge. God knows and loves me well enough that He sent both of my bags...it was indeed one of Zach's bags that didn't make it. All we could think is "how in the world will we work out the logistics to get this bag to us in Germany when we don't even know which city we'll be in?" But, in another gift of grace and show of sovereignty, God granted Delta the efficiency to get the bag on the next flight to BWI and we picked it up and had it checked in a few hours after the rest of our bags. PHEW. Zach would have been without his uniforms if the bag hadn't made it.

We had a few hours to wait until we boarded our flight to Ramstein, so we had some lunch and sat around watching the other soldiers and families arrive at our weirdly secluded gate. BWI basically has a whole terminal that was (seemingly) devoted to the military charter flight to Ramstein. There were a LOT of families with small children. A lot. I found myself feeling VERY thankful that this move didn't involve children. I can't even imagine. Zach made a friend with one particulary precocious boy who was about 5 or 6 years old. He was very excited to know we were going to Germany (he didn't realize everyone was going) and he told us that they didn't speak the same language there. That's when it occured to me how challenging it must be to try to prepare young kids for a move like this. How do you try to make them understand how long they have to be on a plane, or how the time changes, or what living in another country will be like? I have a lot of respect for those parents who have to PCS to another country with young children. I also have a lot of respect for the dad who was measuring out doses of Benadryl for his kids as we boarded the plane. He's obviously done this before.

The plane ride was pleasantly uneventful. I slept for most of it, thankfully. However, the jet lag was very noticeable after we landed and began our in-processing. Local time was 9am, but to us, it was 3am. Woof. However, the process was very efficient. We were off the plane and through "customs" in no time, had no issues getting our luggage, and were signed in waiting for our bus shortly thereafter. We found out we were officially headed for Grafenwoehr, Bavaria in east Germany. Since it's the furthest duty station away from Ramstein, our bus was the first to leave. Even though we had a four hour ride ahead of us, Zach and I were both very eager to see the country, so we didn't mind. Plus we were promised a stop for lunch midway through the journey. That stop never actually happened, meaning our entire bus went from 9am until about 6:30pm without food. The ride was beautiful though (even though I passed out after about an hour and slept most of the remaining three). Rolling countryside with little villages tucked into valleys. Germany is very progressive in terms of wind and solar power, so there are giant wind turbines perched on hills everywhere and a lot of the roofs are covered in solar panels. Each little town has a church steeple sticking up over the red rooftops. It's straight out of a postcard. ALSO, driving on the Autobahn is everything we heard it would be. Since we were in a big bus, we stayed mainly in the right lane and witnessed people FLYING by in the left lane. It was crazy and I know Zach can't wait to get his license and car...gulp. We finally arrived at the garrison and went through a little more in-processing before our sponsor picked us up and (bless him) took us to the Burger King on base. Sweet, sweet Burger King. I could have cried from happiness. He then took us to our hotel in Grafenwoehr (on-base lodging was full) and we were left on our own.

Our hotel is basically adorable. There's a restaurant downstairs and a biergarten in the courtyard outside. There are flowers planted everywhere here (mostly in window boxes or small gardens), and the biergarten was no exception. We had our first German beer outside while trying (unsuccessfully) to eavesdrop on a group of about 10 very old German men who had met for drinks. It was so quintessentially "German". After their wives came to shoo them home, Zach and I went on a little evening stroll to check out the area. This little town is exactly like the Germany I had pictured in my head. It's adorable...cobblestone streets, bakeries abundant, mom and pop restaurants, flower shops, beautiful churches with bells tolling on the hour. It's all incredibly charming and incredibly European. After a short walk, we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

There's something really nice about finally being here and knowing that this is a long-term assignment and not a short vacation. It takes the pressure off...there's no rush to see as much as we can, as fast as we can. We are HERE, after all of the anticipation and anxiety leading up to this. And it feels really, really good to finally "relax" over the fact that the leaving is behind us and now we're here. Now we can start to make this place home.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hanging in there...

It's been almost a month to the day since my last post and there's been good reason for my absence. The last four weeks have been spent as follows:


 -One week in St. Lucia for our delayed honeymoon. I'd like to sum up that trip by using the words "perfect" and "heavenly". Picture hours of sitting in the sun, reading books, drinking pina coladas...mmm.


 -A week and half with Z's family. Wonderful time soaking up family with a few days of seeing (and saying goodbye to) friends. 


 -A week and half with my family. Still in progress, with my best friend's wedding looming this weekend (looming in a mostly good way...the only downside is that it's the last weekend here, the final goodbye). Otherwise good quality time with my family, including a weekend at the lake with my brothers in attendance. 


Basically I have better ways to spend my time than behind a computer screen, blogging about my feelings. And my priorities for this time have been people first. With emotional well-being a close second. (Eating Cheerios is probably third, as usual.) But those priorities don't include getting all sappy and introspective about saying goodbye. They include focusing on things like yoga and meditation and not completely flipping out in hysterics when we found out TODAY (a mere five days before departure) that Z's orders may or may not have changed, sending us to a new base in a new city. A city I have not had five months to adequately Google. HOW CAN WE GO SOMEWHERE THAT HAS NOT BEEN GOOGLED?! 


Maybe normal people can handle that. Maybe after years of Army wife-hood, I'll be able to handle that. But today, I am just not feeling great about it. And that's putting it REALLY mildly. There's not even one small area of my life that I feel like is stable right now. Z would be quick to remind me that he is stable and consistent and he's right. But I have tunnel vision and all I can see is uncertainty and waiting and unknowns. So I reject his logical offers at comfort and choose to pursue my path of wallowing in despair at what is certainly the end of the world and how nothing will ever be ok EVER AGAIN.


I think that maybe I just shut down. It wasn't a conscious decision as much as maybe it's going into survival mode. The problem is that survival mode isn't exactly high-functioning. I find myself tired and absent-minded and wandering around Wal-mart wondering how I ended up with that eyelash curler in my cart when I specifically meant to pick the OTHER one, for high volume eyelash curling rather than just regular eyelash curling. But instead of just walking back to the cosmetics aisle, I check out with the normal eyelash curler, dooming myself to sub-par eyelashes for the rest of my life, because the thought of backtracking is just too...exhausting. And don't get me started on social interaction...it's probably not fair to people around me and I'm aware of that. But it's either this or fetal position on the floor, so I think this is the right choice. 


The bottom line is, we need to just go. We need to get on the plane, get to Germany, get the process of starting our life there underway. Because four weeks of goodbyes is just plain hard and there's no way around that. And it's hard for me to continue to go through goodbye after goodbye and give it the emotional energy and personal attention required...I realize a goodbye feels unique to the person on the other end of things. But for me, and for Zach, it's the 4th, 5th, 18th time we've had to say "goodbye, we love you, we'll miss you, Skype us, no we're not sure when we'll be able to come back for a visit..." 


So I just end up feeling guilty that I've cheated someone else out of their "goodbye moment" because I'm trying so hard to stay disconnected enough that I don't fall apart but invested enough that I'm still PRESENT for the moment when I have to leave someone I love and someone who has such meaning in my life. How do you explain to someone that you can't start crying because if you do, you're afraid you won't be able to stop? 


You don't. You make a joke, you hug tightly, swallow hard, and walk away. 


The truth is, I'm ridiculously excited about Germany and what it holds for us. I think we are going to have an amazing time. But right now, I'm leaving everyone and everything that is familiar and that I love. And that is HARD. And I don't know how to let it be hard; how to balance feeling so sad and so excited at the same time. And how do you perfectly time a meltdown, anyway? It takes a lot of energy to hold in tears until the bitter end...but that's the plan. 


So now I'll post this, not bothering with how to figure out how to change this stupid font or perform a spelling and grammar check on this silly iPad because I just can't find the energy to care about fonts and grammar right now (and yes, I know, that's seriously concerning), and I'll distract myself by googling "How to do the Wobble" so I'm adequately prepared for this weekend's wedding...and I'll hold on for a few more days.