Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Aren't You Watching the Road?! : Our First Impressions in Ireland

Ireland is wonderful, to sum things up simply and neatly. We were drawn to its lovely rolling hills and beautiful rocky coastline. People are genuinely friendly, and perhaps a cynic would insist that the friendliness is only because we were obviously tourists, but we never felt that way during our visit. Even Dublin, one of the larger cities in Ireland, has a very welcoming and comfortable feeling. You don’t feel like a stranger in Ireland- a visitor, yes, but never like an outsider. Perhaps our excellent experience can be highly attributed to our incomparable hosts, Erin and Terry.



Before I really get going, I have to say “thank you” so sincerely to them. They welcomed us to their home, put us on interesting paths to follow, and really made our vacation an incredible event. I hope we can return the favor one day.

To address the title of this post, I have to explain that one of the first things you are likely to do when you arrive in Ireland, is have to drive somewhere. Perhaps you will not be doing the driving (this is wise), but you will find yourself in some form of public transportation or a private car. Unless you are from Ireland, the UK, or Japan, you will probably feel nauseated for the duration of your time in this beautiful country. Of course, I’m referring to the driving- on the other side of the road. You might think it will not affect you, but I can only say that I, personally, was proven so wrong in this opinion. Because the Irish are used to driving on the wrong side of the road (har har har), they drive very fast and, in some cases, rather recklessly. You might consider saving your Dramamine for the ride upon landing, instead of wasting it on the plane ride. I am only looking out for your well-being.

Terry was kind enough to drive within a reasonable speed, and for that I thank him heartily. Still, every turn brought fear to my being- we were going the wrong way! It’s hard to teach your brain not to fear this reverse maneuvering. I gave up and just tried to watch the beautiful cities and country pass me by, instead of looking forward while in a moving vehicle.

Now I’ve gone and scared you off, eh? I can assure you that if you choose to visit any part of the Irish coast, your arrival at the sea will make the journey all worth while.



I love the ocean. Being able to stand next to the Atlantic and feel the salty breeze on my face was enough to make me want to pack up all of my belongings and leave my landlocked German home far behind.



Of course, we were able to recognize the very real aspects of daily life, which are not so different from life in the United States. Housing is similar, although decidedly more European in form. The country has several types of public transportation, and cars are smaller than in America but nearly as prevalent. Shopping may be done at small markets, in boutiques or department stores, or even in some large malls. English is spoken nearly always, but all signs include the Irish language. There is a blend of commerce similar to that seen in the United States, shoved together into a much smaller space. Google has a headquarters in Dublin, but you can buy hand-spun yarn from Irish sheep a few miles down the road at the Dun Laoghaire farmer’s market each Sunday. These aspects of life seem well-balanced and appealing.

In addition to the natural beauty of Ireland, there is an inherent charm and magic about the island. Somewhere within the fascinating history of Celtic culture and its modern counterparts, the lovely sound and look of the Gaelic language, the stoic stone architecture and the sincere inhabitants of the country, it is easy to become immersed in a permanent daydream. Tolkein wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” I think those who wander in Ireland are happy to lose themselves, for a time.

*Happy Christmas*

We wish you a merry Christmas...




As to the happy new year, we've got BIG plans- and you know they must be big because I capitalized the word. I'm always trying to make things more clear for you, dear reader. It's the least I can do.

Anyway, enough nonsense. We have been keeping a mid-shift schedule, meaning that I'm up all night and I sleep during the morning. It is lousy and today was the first time in about 40 hours that I saw the sun. The point is, it was after midnight and we decided to extend the Christmas Eve happiness into present-giving. Yes, we cheated. Oh well. Christmas is not nearly as festive without your family, in my opinion; maybe I feel that way because of how much I enjoy gathering for holidays. Despite the relative calm of our celebration, we still had a very nice evening. On Christmas day, I cooked a roast for the first time in my life, and we had a small feast with some sweet wine. Afterward, Matt and Katie joined us for a round of Mario Party on the Wii. An evening well spent! Early this morning, we enjoyed Josh's favorite meal, Brinner. That's breakfast for dinner, for those of you who are confused. Again, I do what I can to help.

I hope that you all felt your holidays were well spent, full of love and warmth and family or friends. Full of the things that you enjoy this time of year. We wish you happy hearts and many blessings as 2008 draws to its close.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fa La La La Blog

Kym, blogger for EarthDog (see posts below for praise of their products!) has tagged me in the seven random and weird things about me blog chain. As these bits always require extreme concentration from yours truly, please continue to read in appreciation of my effort!

1.I have a highly overactive imagination, to the point that ANY ominous music in ANY television show or movie fills me with dread and horrible images flood my brain. This is why I so vehemently refuse to watch so many films or shows; they always lead to nightmares.
2.I love ice skating, and when I was young I thought I could be a speed skater. I would dart around the rink (at least I felt like I was going fast), leaning in and imagining that I was in the Olympics.
3.I can isolate each toe and wiggle it separately.
4.My driver’s license says I am legally blind without corrective eyewear, and I do not dispute this claim.
5.I avoid country music, but maybe not for the reason you’d imagine- it almost always makes me cry.
6.I feel more at-home and relaxed when I’m in a city surrounded by thousands of people I don’t know, than I do in the small town in which I grew up.
7.I have an obsession with Urban Decay eye makeup. Maybe in a different life I’d be a makeup artist.
TAG! the following bloggers are it:

Mable N Elmer
Glorious Generalist
DaniLeigh Photography
Bellichka
L_Anana
Big Jules
Paisley Cat

here are the rules for my fellow bloggers:
* link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
* share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
* tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
* let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or twitter.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And, Action!



END Scene! End scene!

...Trixie, stop chewing on the quilt.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Quickie

Guten Morgen! It's snowing like the dickens outside, and I'm getting ready for a day trip to Saarbrucken for Advent markets. Several friends are getting the Pfalz day passes for the train- this allows multiple adults to ride anywhere within our region for one day. I assume that, if we tire of Saarbrucken, we'll head somewhere else! Gotta love train travel.


I wanted to provide some snaps of our new pup! After one week, I can report that Trixie is less stress-inducing every day. She has destroyed a few power cords (mostly for Josh's video gaming systems, ugh), used the carpets as a bathroom, eaten an entire box of her heart worm medicine, and pulled disgusting trash from the can to decorate my living room floor. However, she has also become a great playmate for Maggie, been endlessly cute (when she's not demolishing things), and she is very loving and willing to cuddle. So, I think we'll keep her. *wink*




I've finished Christmas shopping for almost everyone, but my very favorite purchase this year is a gift for the dogs- or really, for me.

A dog-walking coupler!
Thank you, EarthDog! Their products are amazing. I've had a leash and harness from them for a long time, and the quality is great. Plus, everything is so well-made. I highly recommend for all of you dog-lovers!





Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snow

I always love the first satisfying snowfall of the season. It happened today, or perhaps last night is more accurate. I've been up all night, still suffering from jet lag and trying to find a way to get back on a proper schedule for this time zone. My goal today is to stay awake all day (I've been awake for about 16 hours so far) so that I can pass out soundly tonight. Wish me luck!

Now, some may know that I have been on the go recently. I spent two wonderful weeks visiting family and friends in the states. If I missed you this trip, I'm sorry. I was thankful for the time I had and the people I saw, but there are always more places and faces I long for when the journey is through. Many thanks to Margaret, who selflessly traveled to the middle-of-nowhere in central Pennsylvania to spend time with me. We did visit Baltimore's inner harbor, and the historic areas of Philadelphia, so hopefully the time in the country was not too prolonged or boring! I love going to Carlisle for the beauty, but I will admit that I become incredibly tired of the slow pace before long. I guess I'm just a city person at heart- for this portion of my life, at least.

I do submit my apologies for the tardiness of the Ireland posts. The photos are all available on our picasa page, but I have yet to focus my thoughts and type them out into coherent sentences. Currently I look at photos and experience a series of excited thoughts, like "ooh!" and "beautiful!" and "let's go back!" These do not a travel blog make.

A few more pieces of news... I was told that the right-hand pain waking me up and causing me to be a walking zombie for the past weeks is actually carpal tunnel syndrome. People say I'm too young for it, or how did I get it; I don't disagree and I don't have a clear answer. I'll just say that if you look at my life activities- working in offices and coffee shops, playing the piano, writing, using the computer- it is not extraordinary that I have this problem. Thankfully, with the support of a restrictive brace while I sleep or do repetitive activities, my symptoms are nearly gone.

Josh took an important new class last month and was named the honor grad for the session, which will mean a temporary duty trip to California if the funding is approved. I'm so proud of him and excited; he'll make it to California before I do, and that is a feat considering my ravenous desire for travel.

I'm looking for master's program both online and with satellite military campuses. I hope to go back to school next year. I have also come up with an idea for a book, and while I need to do a good amount of research (hopefully no-one else has already written what I am considering), I am excited by the prospect of a long-term project.

Lastly, and most exciting is the news that we will be adding a new member to our family this weekend. We are adopting a second beagle, a 20-month-old girl named Trixie. We may try to modify her name. She is beautiful and sweet and Maggie plays with her so eagerly. We are thrilled to finally have found a pet who will be a good fit with our family, and I can barely wait for her to arrive. Of course, I will post photos as soon as we get her settled.

Until then, ciao!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes, we did!

"...the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

-President Elect Barack Obama

This is an historic day for our nation, and we are proud to be a part of it. May we never forget the determination, self-sacrifice, and hard work that led us to this moment. May we press ahead with the same commitment to our nation!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Memory

I was living as a student in Vienna a few years back, and there are lots of Turkish immigrants there. I love the Viennese, but I must say that their attitude toward immigrants is often not very friendly- I'm reminded of the very aggressive attitudes we see in the states, toward whatever group is believed to be threatening jobs or security or whatever we value.

Anyway, I remember being told that in Europe, people don't get involved in charity or volunteerism nearly as much as they do in the states. I was taught that the reason for this was the socialization of medical care, etc.; people believe that the government is going to take care of citizens. Fair enough. But I noticed that every single day, I passed the same very old, very frail Turkish woman, sitting with her legs stretched out. She looked as though she would not be able to walk, perhaps not even stand. She always wore all black, even a black shawl over her head.

As winter approached, I noticed that she was shivering. I couldn't believe that this woman would CHOOSE to live a life where she sat all day and night on a sidewalk, freezing, with one hand extended, if she had any other options. So finally, feeling guilty that I hadn't taken more notice of this "fixture" of my daily walk, I bought some rolls at the grocery and put them on her lap. I will never forget that moment, because it felt frozen to me. Everyone on the street who was in the immediate area, looked at me. The woman stopped shaking when she felt the bag in her hands. I walked away quickly because I could tell that I had done something that was NOT the cultural norm. I didn't want to draw more attention to myself. I hated feeling embarrassed for something that I knew, in my heart, was the decent thing to do.

I'm sad to say that I stopped walking that way after my experience that night. Maybe I was afraid of the glares I'd received, or afraid that I'd discover that she had been a sham. I want to believe that what I did made some difference to her, if only for a night. And I wish that we could have an attitude of compassion and love, no matter what country we are in, no matter where the person we're giving to is from, and no matter what we expect of someone higher up than us. There will always be people who fall through society's cracks, and if you and I can't do something for them, WHO WILL??

Thursday, September 25, 2008

So Much to Blog

The holiday is over, and now I must organize my many thoughts into intelligible blog entries! In the coming days, look for a full review of our very first experiences in Ireland. For the time being, a very hearty endorsement of the beautiful island, welcoming people, and delicious food, must suffice.

In shorter news, we finally have our brand-new car. Our very first new car! In case you missed the earlier notes, it is a 2009 Ford Focus, and it's completely fabulous. It handles smoothly, is spacious, includes some sweet technologies, and the best feature- it is shiny and new. Now we can each get to our respective work places without the constant hassle, and without begging people for rides all the time. Josh can finally pull his weight in the carpool again. Thanks to those who put up with our vehicular shortcomings in the past few months!

Much more to come, as I have so many thoughts to blog, but so little energy with which to type. Working opening shift at the coffee shop will do that to a person.

Monday, September 1, 2008

For all the saints, who from their labors rest...

I've had lots of music in my head lately, and most of it from my time as a singer in an Episcopal church. My all-time favorite hymn might always be "Earth and All Stars," chiefly because I cannot sing the entire song with a straight face. That's worth something. (If you follow the above link, do yourself a favor and read verse five.)

More directly, the title of this post refers to this Labor Day holiday, and its own juxtaposition of labor and rest. When I was young, I really thought that Labor Day was either a celebration of any women who happened to have babies on September first. Later, perhaps the people who had to work despite the national holiday got some kind of special reward. Maybe a cake, a bouncy ball, or a small pony. Whatever. This is all coming from the girl who created a cost-benefit analysis presentation to convince her parents to get a dog, but who truly believed that lyme disease was contracted from those little green bugs that look like the end of a grass blade.

I didn't spend too much brainpower thinking about the meaning of Labor Day, and that has been true for much of my life. In all fairness, I didn't get to celebrate Labor Day once I started working, or during college. In fact, this is probably the first year that I've been both employed, and had a day off for the holiday; actually just a coincidence, since Josh happened to be scheduled off today. Sadly, due to the current state of affairs in my kidneys (did I write about going to the ER? I went to the emergency room, and I have the nervous eye twitch and four bottles of medicine to prove it!), I'm missing a Labor Day barbecue right now. So much for celebrating a day of rest.

This is totally round-about, but what I mean to write is that far too many workers in the United States are under-appreciated. I am not just whining and citing myself as example. Any person who toils for hours upon hours at a store like Wal-Mart or the local grocery will understand. Talk about thankless jobs! Far too many people are taken advantage of, and it's most apparent on the national holiday celebrating labor. If your job turns a profit for someone above, and if another could easily step in and complete your tasks, you don't get a paid day off. Sometimes you can't even get a non-paid day off.

Today we were able to shop at the commissary, complete transactions at our bank, and eat chicken sandwiches at the food court. I was in shock that these places were all open. When the Germans have a holiday, you had better believe that planning ahead is essential. You may not find anyone willing to sell you another package of sausages for your grill, and if you do you will probably drive far and pay dearly. And although that can be a pain (especially if you are a student or a shift worker's wife... both said with personal experience), I think it's wonderful. Why shouldn't the guy who stocks the shelves at Globus have a day off? Why shouldn't the woman at the bank counter be rewarded for her constant customer service with one day off? Why shouldn't waitresses be granted this day to relax? Why can't I be expected to not spend my money excessively for one day?

I'm sure that economic theorists have tons of replies to this question, but what I'm really getting at is what I believe are twisted, corrupted priorities in American culture. The dollar above the individual. Productivity, revenue, trumps all. Germans- really, most Europeans- could teach us some important lessons in regards to taking care of our labor force.

I don't know what we average citizens can do. Petitions, public interest campaigns... they all seem over-used and too easily ignored. But I'm going to be thinking about it. After all, I've written a cost-benefit analysis before. I'm not afraid to do it again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Becky's Very Interesting Afternoon

I worked a typical shift today- early-morning to mid-day. Because we were reasonably busy, I felt completely drained after work. I decided to have lunch at Chili's, since I get a discount there (at least we have some employee perks). After a very filling salad, I tackled my twice-daily nemesis- driving the manual home. Ugh. I keep telling myself that I'm getting better, but after I've parked and I really consider the truth, I wonder if I'll EVER be able to drive this car the right way! On the way home today, for example, I stalled several times and almost hit two cars. In my defense, neither driver used a turn signal and therefore I found it hard to adjust my own maneuvers. Anyway, I feel really embarrassed every time I peel out. People keep telling me that it's normal, but I'm pretty used to picking new things up quickly. I'm going to mark the sixth month in my calendar; Kara told me to give it six months, to be fair to myself. At that point, I'll take a good look at my driving. Maybe I won't really have to; maybe then I'll already be good. I hope so!

When I finally got home, I made it to the third floor landing and the fire alarm started going off. Well, I know this is bad but I wasn't about to leave without my dog when I was nine steps away from my door and there was no smoke. (Don't worry, I felt my own door for heat, just in case.) So I grabbed the dog and her leash and hightailed it out of my building. No one seemed to be very interested in the fact that the alarms were going off, but all I was thinking of was making sure everything was okay, no one was hurt or in trouble. So I called Germany's version of 911- that's 112, in case you need to know- for the first time. What a surprise, the operator spoke almost no English. So I was able to convey the fact that a fire alarm was going off on a military base, and they transferred my call. Strangest emergency call in my life. The American dispatcher could see that the alarm was going in our building, so they sent a truck. During this time on the phone, I was walking Maggie around in the grass. Well, I came back to the front of my building, just in time I see two housing workers telling another girl that it was safe to enter, they were just testing the alarms. OH! MAYBE SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE POSTED THAT! So I could hear the fire truck's sirens blaring the entire way here. I was so embarrassed! I called emergency for an alarm test! Here is a photo of the scene from my apartment...

At least someone called! I mean, if it hadn't been a test after all and I'd just assumed, awful things could have happened! I felt silly and the Germans were all laughing at me, which was not unlike the time in Vienna that my roommate and I called the gas company to "fix the gas"... which was simply shut off at the valve. One firefighter told me "now you must pay big moneys! HAHA!" But when he saw the alarm on my face, he told me he was kidding. Whew!

Sometimes, when I have chaotic days, I look at nice photos and I feel better. Here's a new one. Take care!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obviously I've been busy, or I would have updated this blog a week ago! After six long, painfully-unemployed months, I'm finally a member of the workforce once again. I'm making "individually handcrafted" drinks at the new coffee shop at the Enlisted Club. So far, so good! Mostly I'm thankful to be out of my apartment sometimes, to have a way to meet people and earn some extra money. Coffee is not my career choice, but it's kind of nice to know that I've developed a skill that can be a side job at any time in my life. Thanks to 7th Street Starbucks for my education. :o)

Along those lines, it looks like we'll be keeping Josh's Honda. It's going to be too much hassle for both of us to work with only one car. If his schedule were more average we could probably figure something out. As it stands, we need the car at conflicting times. The vicious cycle begins- you want a job, so you need a car, and then you need your job to keep the car. I hate cars so much. In the end, I hate being unemployed more, so we'll own two cars.

Like so many others, we've been enjoying various Olympic competitions. We have yet to catch the gymnastics! Mostly, we've watched water sports- swimming, diving, water polo, and lots of rowing. I caught some of the equestrian events; Germany took a gold medal in one division. We also saw that GREAT basketball game between the US and Spain! I've never been very interested in sports, so watching Kobe for the first time was really eye-opening for me. He is an incredible athlete! So fast! So good a slam dunking! Did I mention, fast?! I actually enjoyed that game, especially the first half, when the score was very close.

Speaking of the Olympics, my little brother (Tim) looks like Phelps!

Phelps

My brother.

Well, I swear he looks more like Phelps than this picture makes it seem. They have very different noses, but Tim tends to let his hair get all messy, and he looks older now (the photo of him is from last December).

Maggie is finally getting to run free over here, thanks to a few friends with backyards. She's also getting to be more socialized with other dogs. It's so great to see her running around at full speed (and gosh, is she fast!), chasing sticks and digging holes and being a hound. She's also much more vocal about things now; she's been barking on and off the entire time I've been typing. She doesn't get the "mom's working" concept. It's all about her, all the time. :o)
Here, she's getting some help before a walk. We've also discovered that she HATES to be wet, and I don't just mean after a bath. She and I have been stuck in a few rain showers during walks, and I've never seen her so angry with me! Being wet is obviously not cool.

I can't think of anything else to write, so I'll stop. If Josh has something to share, he'll do it soon. Take care!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Learning to Say NO -- Again.

Wow! I got the latest copy of the Wooster alumni magazine today, and to my surprise, my blog URL was listed in the Class of 2006 updates! Sadly, the information I recall submitting was not included (the fact that I've moved, my wedding photo, etc.); however, if you're joining because you found the site in the magazine, welcome! I hope you'll stop by periodically. If anyone has suggestions for topics they'd enjoy learning about- German customs in this region or daily cultural experiences, for example- please make a suggestion in the comments section!

Today I'll record one major linguistic difference that I notice on a daily basis. When I learned German in Austria (according to the Germans I learned "Austrian"), and when I continued my studies in the classrooms of Herr Figge and Professor Mullner, I was consistently told to decline by saying "nein". Of course, to have "no" as in "nothing" is a different word altogether, but if I didn't want to marry the man following me down the street I could tell him NEIN. If I hadn't completed my excessively long homework assignment, nein- ich hab' keine Antwort.

Things are different here.

It's a small difference, but goodness, it threw me off track for a while. I expected to arrive in my new home and at least be able to manage a negative reply. Nope. I mean, "ne". Like a horse neighing. Everyone here says "ne" constantly! At first I didn't understand- where did "nein" go? I checked the dictionaries and "ne" is not listed. It's a regional idiom, I'm assuming. I've found that I say it now, even when I'm talking to friends in English I'll change my usual "no" or "nah" into a subtle-but-firm NE. Try it out, you might like it.

Of course I'll continue my observations and let you all know if it's used more widely than the Rhineland-Pfalz. Perhaps some readers have personal experience with NE? I'm sure you're dying to know its roots. I know I am. ;o)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Goings-On

Josh has been working a lot lately. His training days are longer than ever. It's getting to the point that I feel I hardly see him! Thank goodness the mids-shift is almost over; only a few weeks more!

We're most likely buying a new car. Ack! It's a 2009 Ford Focus, dark metallic gray, with lots of great features.

It's a four-door car; we're trying to prepare for down-the-road things, if you know what I mean. I'm both excited and nervous. This is the first new vehicle I've ever purchased; in fact, it's only the second vehicle I'll have owned. It's also the biggest thing we've ever purchased together!

Our two-year anniversary is just a few days away. I don't know if we'll do anything on the day; Josh works of course. We are making plans for a trip to Dublin in mid-September to celebrate.

I've been trying to navigate the rough waters of employment, through the Air Force. They are so disorganized, and this is the most work I've ever done to get a job. The dumbest thing is that it's not even a great job; it's just part-time work at a coffee shop so I'm not home alone all the time. I basically have to fill out the application for a security clearance (listing the exact locations I've lived in for the last seven years; every school I've attended; every job I've had including periods of unemployment; people's middle names, etc)just to work in a coffee shop!! And I have to get a physical, but the office in charge didn't have a doctor and wasn't expecting one until September, so they had me calling all of these other places. When I tried to explain that Occupational Health didn't have a physician, I kept getting the run-around; no, call this person or that person. It took a week of phone calls to finally discover that Occupational Health had 1) given me the wrong appointment date for paperwork (I have no way to get there b/c Josh works) and 2) actually was in charge of getting my physical set up after we completed the paperwork. I can't wait to just have the job and be done with all of this!

Let's see, what else? I got a hair cut, Josh has me completely addicted to Scrubs, and Maggie is cute as always. This was probably a pretty boring blog to read; I apologize! Take care!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

France: A First Impression

First impressions are the most important, and I’d have to sum up our opinion of France in one word: Fabulous.

We put a full day-off to good use, doing our sightseeing in Strasbourg on a Wednesday. Matt and Katie joined us. It’s nice to have weekdays off, because things are actually open when you visit a new city. Strasbourg is just under two hours away from our home town, almost directly south. The trouble is, driving directly south would take us through the very narrow, hilly roads that mark the boarder between Germany and France (in this area, at least); we opted to take the longer, flatter, faster drive via autobahns. Josh certainly got to test the car’s abilities on the no-speed-limit sections.

When we crossed the boarder, there was no one there to check anything! I was a little bit bummed out; I’d hoped to get a stamp on my passport. It seems that they only check in eastern European countries by road, or if you are on a train. Oh well.


Frank Krahmer/Getty Images

The French countryside did look a little bit different from our area of Germany. It had more gently rolling hills, and there were many fields growing corn. In the distance, we saw the Jura mountain range, which is just north of the Alps. When we reached the city limits, we noticed more differences. The French use transformer towers, much like you’d see in the United States. There were entire fenced-in areas of power plants. In Germany, we usually see windmills. Also, we drove past about one mile of car sales lots. We felt we had been transported to the states!

We found a parking garage with minimal issue (although we did get to drive the wrong way on a one-way street for a little while…) and set out to explore the oldest parts of Strasbourg, which is in the French state of Alsace. This area of France has a varied cultural history, since it was frequently traded between countries. Strasbourg maintains a French identity with lots of Germanic influence. We noticed this most in the foods native to the region- but more on food later! The old town is situated between the branches of the River Ill- a tributary of the Rhine- and a mini-island is formed. So many buildings are crammed into this relatively small area! We began at the south-western part of the old city, known as Petit France. The name is misleading; it was given in reference to the clinics there, which used to treat the “French disease”- syphilis! ** Luckily, it’s all shops and homes today.

We made our way through many chic clothing shops. In my estimation, even French in the countryside have better fashion taste than the Germans from my area! We stumbled upon several of the churches that dot the old city, each seeming older and grander than the last. Winding through the city streets is a modern tram system. It looked very nice, but we chose to keep to the sidewalks instead. Don’t let that statement fool you- everyone in Strasbourg jay walks constantly. There were more people in the streets, than cars! We found a bakery that sold Ben and Jerry’s by the scoop… and were drawn in. I had my first experience trying to order food in French. It was silly. First of all, I really only knew how to say numbers… as in “un” paired with vigorous pointing. I couldn’t remember how to say “thank you,” and instead said “please” several times. But after all was finished, we ended up with our baguettes and ice cream, and we enjoyed them in Place Kleber.



We continued through the pedestrian zone, finding a Sephora along the way. I have to make a note- Sephora in France just isn’t as good as Sephora in the states. I expected some fancy stuff, more high-end than you could find in the US due to the huge fashion scene in France. I was let down. They actually carried L’Oreal Paris in the Sephora! Surprised- an understatement!

Eventually, all of our minimal-direction walking landed us at the front of the amazing cathedral of Strasbourg. Until Cologne and Ulm took the spotlight, Strasbourg had the tallest cathedral in the entirety of Catholicism. I’ve seen the cathedral at Cologne, and while it is massively impressive, I think that the Strasbourg cathedral is more beautiful. See for yourself!





We walked through to observe the massive organ, stunning rose window, and incredible stained glass. There was a stone-carved depiction of the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as a really detailed astronomical clock. Sadly, the clock only “goes off” (cuckoo-style apocalyptic judgment scenes) at noon, so we missed it for the day. Katie noticed a carved placard near the clock, which was a monument of thanks to the American soldiers who had fought for the region’s independence from German rule during the Second World War. It was touching.

Next stop (after a very busy but FREE public bathroom) was the Palais Rohan. This palace sits between the cathedral and one of the canals of the Ill River.



It is a beautiful building, which was built for the Rohan family. They played important roles in both religious and secular life in Strasbourg, and therefore had enough money and influence to create a grand palace in an excellent location. The Palais Rohan now houses three museums- an archaeology museum, a decorative arts museum, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We four visited the fine art museum and viewed works by el Greco, Goya, Monet, van Dyck, Rubens, and others. It was mostly medieval art, which doesn’t exactly float my boat, but there were some nice pieces.

By the time we finished viewing fine art, we had large appetites to fill. We wandered (again) into a little alley near the Ill and found several small restaurants and cafes all pushed together into a plaza-like outdoor seating area. After purchasing some jewelry from Asia (I got a great enameled bangle), we decided to eat at the Café Rohan. The boys chose the classic European standby- oven-fired pizzas. Katie had this fantastic-looking pasta dish with penne, roasted veggies, and cheese. I wanted to try something specific to Alsace-Lorraine, but foie gras (which originated there) and sauerkraut (which is très populaire) didn’t sound overly appetizing. I chose a local specialty, les pommes de terre avec le fromage de chèvre. Yes, I’ll explain. It was potatoes cooked in an onion-cream sauce with goat cheese and bits of bacon. I chose a glass of champagne to accompany. Having some true champagne at an outdoor restaurant in France was a fun experience. My meal was absolutely fabulous!

To finish our evening, we went on a search for specific souvenirs, and some crêpes. We failed in the crêpe department, mostly because we walked past too many shops, expecting more options… and there were no more. Next trip! I did find an embroidered “France” patch- I collect those from every country I visit. We chose not to purchase any of the renowned Alsacean pottery on this trip, but if you ever visit you should check it out- it’s quite beautiful.

Overall, Strasbourg was a charming city, and had a very different feeling from many German towns, which made us feel as though we’d really experienced a different culture. We cannot wait to see more of France! Don’t forget that more photos are available on our piacasa page. Sadly, Josh’s camera battery died, so we have limited photos of this trip. Thanks for tuning in! Visit France, you’ll have fun!


**Note: In Germany and Italy, syphilis was called the French disease. In France, they called it the Italian disease. Go figure!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Date Night

We had a pretty fun evening, watching rented movies and creating a new recipe for our cookbook. First we watched 10,000 BC, which I had seen before (sometimes the cable movie channel is alright, after all). Josh really enjoyed it, as I suspected he might. :o) It looked really awesome on our new television (thank you, extra tax rebate)... the clarity was wonderful. We watched the alternate ending and I think we both preferred it overall- if you've seen the movie and the alternate ending, what was your opinion?

After an accidental two-hour nap, with the puppy right alongside of course,

we decided that it was time to tackle our dinner plan. We wanted to make chicken fried rice, but had never done it before. Thanks to our love of Miyako (really, any hibachi restaurant), we were able to concoct a really delicious version of fried rice!

We were both quite proud of our work and relished it while watching The Devil Wears Prada, which surprisingly enough, Josh had already seen! I greatly enjoyed the movie, and it was fun to watch something we each knew the other would enjoy. All in all, a very fun evening!

Speaking of films I've seen recently, I'd like to recommend A Mighty Heart to all readers. Keep in mind that it is a true story, and I thought it was very moving- what I'm saying is, if you tend to be emotional you may want to be with someone when you see it. Or maybe you don't like it when people see you crying; then, watch it alone. Either way, go rent the film! (Incidentally, if the latter describes you, also see P.S. I Love You on your own!)

Besides the fact that Angelina Jolie is completely amazing, the story is an important one. Mariane Pearl has long been a person of interest to me, as she has been writing a monthly article for Glamour magazine. Her theme was "Global Diaries: In Search of Hope"; the articles are now compiled into a book, which I recently bought and am anxiously awaiting.

Photo courtesy of glamour.com

I was always touched by her writing and by the intensity of the issues that she brought to light each month. After seeing this tribute to her, and her husband Daniel, she is my new hero. She is an incredible woman and I'm really enjoying learning more about her. I remember quite some time ago, while the movie was being made and before she began her Global Diaries, Glamour did an interview with Mariane Pearl and Angelina Jolie together. The interview was fabulous, but what really stuck with me was Mariane's incredible compassion, her love of all people, and her desire to make silent voices heard. Just in one interview, all of that came through. So, now that I've waxed poetic about my new heroine, I strongly suggest that you check out the film, read some of her articles, or even get your hands on the memoir that she is currently writing...once it comes out, of course. I don't expect you to pull a Devil Wears Prada move and get the seventh Harry Potter book before it is published. :o)

Have a nice day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The pieces fit

We've kept ourselves quite busy in the last few weeks. We had a wonderful Fourth of July, including a barbecue with friends and co-workers, and plenty of Rock Band for all involved. (No more Metallica, please!) Last Saturday, we experienced the Altstadtfest downtown with Kara and Steve.
We ate (too much) wonderful food, perused many handmade goods, and even saw a doner kebap stand with a little special "something".


After a grueling working set, Josh spent the next few days off... helping me to deep-clean our apartment. We've been working almost non-stop to get the place looking better than ever before. We're finally hanging things on the walls!


This past "weekend," we also managed to get a new radio for Josh's car. His old one went missing in the move, so we've been without music. The new head unit is going to be great- it has iPod jacks, Blue Tooth so that you can talk on speaker phone through the radio, and will pick up HD radio when we are back in the states. It was a great deal! We found a local American who will install it for a really reasonable price, and I'm sure that Josh can't wait to set up an appointment. Beyond the car situation, we fixed our bedroom curtains so that we can sleep (it's light here for about 18 hours a day), I got an official job offer (which I accepted), I made some headway in learning to drive the manual car, and we finally created a digital version of the monogram that I designed for our wedding. I just put the finishing touches on it and created copies in multiple colors. I used it to make return address labels, but it will be nice to have for all sorts of correspondence and online media.

Lastly, we're hoping to take our first trip to France next week! We have got to pick up an International Driving Permit to accompany Josh's license... it's basically a paper that translates proof of a license into multiple languages. We're hoping to visit Strasbourg, which should be less than two hours' drive. I'm very excited, but a bit nervous due to the reputation of French attitudes toward Americans who cannot speak French. We don't speak French at all... they could cut me a break, I do speak passably well in three languages, but I doubt that it will matter much! :o) Hopefully it will be a fun experience, regardless of the language barrier.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Time flies when you're traveling!

Becky here, bringing you the latest news after nearly a month of silence! If you've been following along, you may remember that I took my trip to the US last month, so I spent most of the month overseas. I had a fabulous trip, thanks for asking! :o)

It was such a thrill and an honor to help Margaret through that last pre-wedding week, and to be present at her marriage to Mike. They met just a few weeks after Josh and I met, so we always say that the summer of 2005 was a lucky one. Their wedding was beautiful and heartwarming, not to mention a ton of fun! I'll write it again, because it merits repetition- many blessings to you, Margaret and Mike!

After the wedding in Chicago, I headed back to the east coast for some quality time with my family. The scheduling worked out perfectly, so I was able to spend time with my grandparents in Philadelphia, and then head to the Jersey shore for the Lomady family beach week. It was great fun and relaxing, as always. I got a bit of color, but was very careful to use my sunblock! My beach cover-ups (very cute dresses that I can wear all summer) still smell like the beach. I am tempted to avoid washing them altogether!

I was also able to visit a few friends in Maryland, which was wonderful and refreshing. Seeing so many friends and family members, who have been with me through all stages of my life, really made me feel grounded, renewed, and above all else, thankful. I returned to Germany with a new, more positive outlook and with excitement for everything that our future holds.

Oh, I also returned with a puppy. :o) Yes, thanks to the hard work of many people (including receptionists, vets, parents, and airline workers), Maggie made it to Germany. She was a bit shaken when I found her in the baggage claim, but soon after she saw Josh and was allowed out of her crate, she seemed much more relaxed. I've been keeping a close eye on her- big changes could cause chaos, but she seems quite well-adjusted now, and is as comfortable as ever with sprawling her tiny body across as much surface area of a couch or bed as is possible.

Josh recently celebrated his 5 year mark- that's five years devoted to the Army thus far. Only three years and some months to go! Congratulations to him! He impresses me because I have never held one job for that amount of time. I guess that college life and then military spouse life doesn't really lend itself to long-term employment, but still, I think his commitment is to be applauded! As far as employment for this writer goes... well, I had an interview the day before I left Germany, and later this week I get to fill out the paperwork! I will be working in a coffee shop once again, and I'm excited. I see it as a way to get out of the house, make some spending and traveling money, and most importantly, to meet some new people! Perhaps we will buy a second vehicle down the road (hopefully a Smart Car!). For now, I'll work around Josh's schedule and be happy to be working at all!

In closing, it is bloody hot in Germany right now. Today our indoor/outdoor thermometer said it was 102 degrees outside. I don't know if it was completely accurate, but it certainly felt like it may have been correct. I will welcome fall with open arms, if this is going to continue!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

In our "backyard"


I am about 95% certain that the birds nesting in the trees behind our apartment areEuropean Magpies. They are beautiful, but can be noisy! Just a few minutes ago, I was standing by my balcony window, and one perched on our railing and stared at me! They are bigger than you might expect, but even more beautiful up close. I'm glad that I've finally identified the mystery birds that share our backyard.
Photos courtesy of wikipedia.org

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Trip to Triberg

I'll fill in a bit more of recent events by writing about my day trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald. Triberg boasts the tallest waterfall in Germany, as well as a Black Forest History Museum and tons of woodworking and cuckoo clock shops.

Shurrece and I drove for about 2.5 hours, through clouds and rain for most of the journey. Still, the region was beautiful. As I've stated before, Germany is very green this time of year, and all of the flowers are bright and lively. (Incidentally, this includes my own attempts at balcony gardening, both of which are flourishing!)

When we finally reached Triberg, we knew straight away. Cuckoo clock stores (House of 1,000 Clocks being popular) lined the roads for a few kilometers before the city itself became visible. It is situated in the small valley between several hills, with houses and hotels reaching up into the hillsides, and cleared cattle fields at the summits. We decided that the first order of business was finding food, and so began a walk down the main street. Across from the Rathaus, we found a little restaurant that was housed underground, called Pinnochio Pizzeria. It reminded me of going to CW's in Wooster, or maybe like Wags for those more familiar with Frederick. It was full of old paintings that seemed to be inspired by the Brothers Grimm. We ordered Italian specialties- tortollini and pizza. It was delicious! And of course, we ended our meal with some Schwarzwaelde Kirschtorte- Black Forest Cherry Cake! Also, magnificent.

A quick jaunt up and down main street revealed a combination of tourist-geared shops and everyday establishments, such as a photographer's gallery and a hardware store. We decided to tackle the waterfall path first, so we started up the hill. We took many photos because the trek up the hillside was perfectly picturesque.

It was tough work at some spots, but when we noticed a group of senior citizens coming down the path, we decided that we could absolutely handle the climb! :o) It was worth the effort, because the waterfall was breathtaking. They have bridges crossing the falls at different levels, and from those bridges you can see out across Triberg, and into the hills beyond the town.


We followed a hiking trail that took us along the hillsides, around a lake, and eventually back to the town church. The church is about 350 years old, and featured some magnificent painted woodwork- the front door, the alter, and the organ were all gorgeous. Interesting fact- this area was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so Austrian flags were painted on several surfaces in the church. (I have posted a few photos of this church so you can see the intricate detail in the woodwork.)

Next, we visited a few cuckoo clock stores and woodworking stores. We bought little carved wooden eggs, and mine is hanging from a cabinet handle. It is lovely. The cuckoo clocks are amazing and diverse, but also extraordinarily expensive! Perhaps one day Josh and I will purchase a cuckoo clock, but not any time soon.

Our last visit was to the Black Forest museum, where we saw traditional costumes, heard music played by one-man-bands and carnival crank organs, saw historical clocks and Fasching costumes, walked through a reconstructed "farmer's bedroom" and "clock maker's shop," and saw a large train layout of the region. The museum was quite interesting and I experienced things I did not expect.

We were fairly worn out at this point, so we decided it was time to head back to the Pfalz. Triberg was an excellent choice for a day trip, and thanks to my friend for planning everything so I could just ride along and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Christmas come early (and other things)

So, you're probably wondering why Christmas came early. Well, I got an XBox 360 last week! I love it. I can't do everything with it that it can do yet, but I hope that I'll be able to soon. I'm still really happy about it, though, because I've been wanting one so long. If you have an XBox 360, let me know what you're gamer tag is, and I'll send you a message when I get online.

In other news, Becky is leaving for the States soon. She's going to be there for a few weeks, so I'm pretty much going to be by myself for a little bit. I hope she has fun though! She leaves in the middle of my next set on, which kind of stinks, but I really think she needs to go back for a little bit, so she can see some people/relatives that she didn't get to see before she left. I would like to go too, but I can't.

I also have a story to tell. Becky, a couple friends of ours, and I went to downtown K-town to see the carnival. While we were there, I went on a ride that flipped upside down. A lot. And what should happen during the last set of flips, but, of course, my PHONE should fall out of my pocket, where I forgot it was! When it came out, the back came off, and the rest fell, mid-flip, to its DOOM! Fortunately, it wasn't quite the doom I had thought. I went up to the counter, and they went to look for the phone. They came back with it, sans the battery, which is kind of important. So I get home, and try to order another one online, but they don't ship to APO addresses (even though their web-site says they do!) So, I called my Dad, who I thought could get me a replacement battery for my phone. As it turns out, he can (thanks, Dad), when he gets back from Mexico in a week. So I had to hunt down an über-old phone that I'm now happy I didn't get rid of. So, yeah, that's my story.

Last but not least, when Becky comes back from the States, she'll have the supplement check from the IRS. So, hopefully, with a little extra saving, we'll get a new TV when she comes back! Yea, HDTV!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, on to the travel portion of my post. Recently, we went to Stuttgart, which was cool, although, kind of an odyssey. We kept getting turned around, and semi-lost, which is fun. Especially with another car following you around (full of friends, not stalkers). But we eventually got everywhere we needed to go, and we ended up staying the night in a hotel there. We walked around downtown with our friends, and saw the castles there, along with the museum in one of them. The next day, Becky and I went to another castle there, which was away from the city proper, which was nice and calm. Before that though, we went to the Mercedes-Benz museum, which was sweet. I got a whole bunch of awesome pics, which are on our picture site, so you should all go see them. After the castle, we started home. And proceeded into yet another odyssey, through the smallest, curviest roads in all of Germany, Thankfully we ended up home all right.

Well I think that's all for now. I'll talk to you all later. Leave some comments.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day-Trippers

We finally made it out of our state again! ...Only to drive back to our state about ten minutes later. The drive to Trier took us through Saarland, a bordering German state, for just a few moments.

Trier might not be a city you've heard much about in the past, but if you check out our photos you may learn a few new things! Trier lies next to the Mosel river, close to Luxembourg. The Mosel river valley is known as one of the best wine-producing regions in Germany. Two thousand years ago, Trier was a bustling Roman city with some 40,000 inhabitants. It is nowhere near that large today. However, archaeologists have unearthed and recreated much of the incredible Roman architecture. Because of its Roman history, Trier is one of the cities on the World Heritage List.

Beyond the rich historical experience one can have in Trier, something must be said for the region's beauty. It was one of the greenest cities I've ever witnessed. The hills rise up sharply on either side of city and river, covered with trees, goldenrod, and many grape vines. Although we were visiting a busy city with a thriving pedestrian district (hello shopping!), industrial zone, and other typical businesses, it felt as if we were taking a countryside holiday.

One of my favorite moments of the day was when my husband experienced one of my favorite aspects of travel- realizing the depth of the history you are seeing. Wondering who else has set foot in the same location you are currently standing- maybe a Roman Emperor. Maybe even, in some instances, a distant relative. It's an amazing feeling.

Another great part of the day was our quick stop at a Weinstube, where were had some light refreshment. Josh tried German meatloaf, which came with the most delicious potatoes I've ever tasted.

I enjoyed two of three cheeses and the bread on a cheese platter- the third cheese was a local farmer's cheese and I felt bad when I couldn't bring myself to eat it due to the scent. If anyone else has a strong dislike of blue cheese, they may understand my problem.

Once we had seen what we came to see, we headed back toward home for a barbecue with some friends. Josh has a new best friend, I think. She is three and loves him because he brings her cookies from the bakery down the street. I'm getting jealous. :o)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Long time, no blog

Well, sorry it's been so long. We probably won't gain any faithful readers with such sporadic blogging habits, but please stick around for a bit!

We have been quite busy for the last few weeks. Highlights...

-We purchased our bowling balls and shoes. I don't remember if I already wrote about this, so sorry if there is repetition.

-Went to IKEA with Steve and Kara, and drove in a huge 9-passenger van with the back seats removed b/c all moving trucks were rented out for the day. We named the van Maude. The day was beautiful, so we had a lovely drive through the German countryside. At Ikea, we spent a ridiculous amount of money, but we now have a real bed, two new desks, two bookcases, a headboard, and an end table. It was worth the trip and the cost. The work of getting everything to the fourth floor was awful, and it took a long time to put everything together... but still, it was worth it.

-Josh found out that he is not being switched to another squad at this time. Mids are coming up, but we prefer that to... frustration. I'll leave it at that.

-We bought the exercise bike we've been drooling over for a few months, and it is wonderful!

-The trees here seem to be more bright and green than I've ever seen before. Seriously, they practically glow. It's impressive! Also, I've managed to keep four potted herbs alive for about 2.5 months, and so far my orchid has lasted about two weeks. This is really good, for my track record.

-We are going to babysit some friend's kids for the first time tomorrow. I'm pretty excited, and a little bit nervous.

-And lastly, there are only 30 days until I head west for three weeks of fun. :o)

Please let us know what you're up to! We miss hearing from people!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Waiting

Just a few things, as we are quite predictable of late.

Becky bowled a 110 today, her highest score to date. Josh is finishing up a class at the moment, and should be cruising right along toward his Associate's degree in the next few months. Becky and Josh have lost about 25 pounds combined in the past month. Becky is going to do her third 5K on April 25th, Josh sadly cannot participate due to work scheduling. Becky is also going to a job fair later this week, but is feeling kind of down on the whole process after hearing horror stories from friends who are trying to get jobs, or in some cases, friends who have already been hired.

Waiting for things is what we do best these days. Waiting for the car. Waiting to get the dog. Waiting even for mail and packages to arrive. It is getting easier, but it's still a lot of waiting, when you put it all together. :o)

Lastly, SHOUT OUT to our wonderful friends, whom we miss very much! :o(

(We miss you, too, family!!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Short Updates

Hello all, just a few notes since we haven't written in over a week, I believe.

~ Our car is confirmed as "in transit," which means it's somewhere on the Atlantic, most likely.

~ We may take our trip to Ikea tomorrow, although it's hard to go through with it because the exchange rate is so awful.

~ We are doing another 5K this Saturday! Hopefully we will each improve upon our times.

~ There is only one cardboard box left in our apartment. There are lots of things strewn about the floors, however. This is mostly the case in the red room. The trip to Ikea will fix the problem.

~ Auto insurance is a huge rip-off over here. You have to insure your vehicle for over 2 million EURO. Nuts!

~ Josh improved his qualification score at the latest range, so kudos to him! He also got this (funny-looking) new badge for his uniform because he's been doing his job for a while, or something. Either way, two new things for the uni, sweet. Way to go, babe!

~ I (Becky) am headed back the the states in just a few weeks. I'll be in IL, PA, NJ, MD, and possibly OH. This will be for a good portion of the month of June. Let me know if you are around so I can visit you!

I think that's all for now. Of course I'll put any photos from our second 5K on our page. Who knows, if we get our act together on this set off (Josh's days off) we might even set up our master web page, with links to all of these other pages. It will probably be easier to just remember one page to visit, instead of multiple things. Don't you think?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bowling, again


An exciting update- the painting is finished! We have only 8 more boxes to unpack!

We went bowling again today, and once again we had a wonderful time. Took a few photos, so we'll post those later. We are talking about buying ourselves some bowling shoes... it would make sense if we do continue to play as often as we'd like.

It has been snowing on and off, quite a lot. Almost every day we get complete ground cover, and then within a few hours it's sunny and the snow melts away. The other day it was literally a thunderstorm, but instead of pouring rain it was pouring snow and hail! There was lighting, thunder, and the snow was coming down faster than I've ever seen before!

Other than getting our apartment together and occasional outings with friends, usually to the grocery store, we're pretty boring people right now. Not enough time in the day to do exciting travel and whatnot. That will change once we have a vehicle, and can go explore on a whim. For now, I guess it's good that we're stuck at home- it ensures that we clean it up and get it organized! I can't wait to be able to bring Maggie over here. Every time I set up an area of the apartment, I think about where her things will go, and how she might use the space. She really is our baby! :o)

Tschüss for now!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Unpacking


I just want to point out that unpacking boxes is really lame. This is especially true when your movers pack food that they are not supposed to send overseas, and then you have to sort through the items that are still safe to eat and find a way to discard the rest, all the while feeling really guilty because you could probably feed a village with the expired Bisquick you're finding.

Overall, our belongings are in pretty good shape. There are a few things that have been damaged- our mattress, for example- but at least the dishes and glasses made it safely. Sadly, the items that were broken were mostly things that had some kind of intrinsic value. The beautiful photograph my sister framed for us for our wedding is bent, the glass shattered and all over other items. The hand-carved wooden manatee we got on our honeymoon in Belize is missing appendages. I don't know if they'll give us the "replacement value" of these items, which really bums me out. I don't care very much about generic stuff, but I do like to collect things that remind me of places I've been, and when those things are ruined it makes me sad.

In the time I've taken to type this entry (and I am fast), the sky has gone from blue and sunny, to cloudy. It's snowing and windy. The weather here is even more fickle than Maryland!

We have finished painting one room! Now we need to paint our bedroom. The paint was expensive, but we're hoping it will be worth it to feel comfortable in our home for a few years. (Just gone to blizzard-like conditions!) Personally, I'm getting a bit tired of feeling like "home" is just a transient location. I know that is part of life as a young adult, especially in the military, but it's nice to try to fool yourself into a sense of permanence.

Also, we realized that I may be able to sing in the Wooster Chorus Alumni concert this June. An extra week in the U.S. would allow me to travel to Ohio before Margaret's wedding. As I don't have a job yet, it seems reasonable to plan for these things that are important to me. Concert in Wooster, wedding in Chicago, and family week at the New Jersey shore. Then, bringing Maggie with me back to Germany. All good things. Josh will have to practice cooking a bit more before I go. :o)

Tell us how YOU are doing! We really love to hear from people!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sushi is the new Schnitzel

At least it is in my book.

One of my favorite things about Europe, at least this area, is that you can find really excellent international foods even in relatively small towns. It was hard to find consistently delicious sushi in Frederick, but not so in K-town! Kara and Steve took us to Zum Wok for dinner, and only Euro 16,90 later (about $25.50 these days, ugh) we were enjoy filling, fabulous sushi and sashimi. Josh tried sashimi for the first time tonight, and he seemed to be at peace with it once it was down the hatch. :o)

I love a good schnitzel, especially when it is accompanied with some hearty kase-spatzel (cheese noodles), but a girl cannot live by carbs and fat alone. We cannot wait for our belongings to arrive, in part because we have a full set of sushi-making supplies that we are eager to use with our friends. Hurry up, shipping company!

Speaking of friends, thank goodness for all of the awesome people we have met here thus far. We are really lucky and thankful for everyone who has opened up to us. It makes the move that much easier.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Health, news, and pins.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm on another health binge, and this time, Becky's coming with me. We both joined this cool website called Sparkpeople.com. They enable you to track the calories you are consuming, the calories you are burning, and they let you make goals to those ends. You can also find people with similar goals and plans, and commune with them in the ways of healthiness, as well as hear a helpful and encouraging word or two from those that were once in the same place. I find it very helpful. You should check it out if you are wanting to lose some weight.

In other news, I have one more day of in-processing, and then I'm done with it. I'll be back to my regular job after that. I did learn some cool stuff while I was in-processing, like a little bit of German. Living here is definitely a bit of a change, I'll say that much. I'm walking a lot more than I used to. Of course, we don't have a car yet, but I don't think that'll change too much once we do. It's real nice overall, and Becky and I have met a lot of new people that I hope we'll stay friends with for a long time to come.

We actually celebrated Becky's birthday last night with most of those people. We all went to Chili's for dinner, and then bowling afterwards. We all bowled for about 4 hours! It was crazy. I actually tried out a new style of bowling (where you spin the ball), and it actually seemed to work pretty well for me. When I didn't gutter ball, that is. I think it'll do me good once I practice with it for a bit, though.

Well, that's all for now, I think. Watch for new pictures on our Picasa site.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stealth and Moving Days

Stealth, because we have commandeered some bandwidth from an unsuspecting neighbor in order to keep in touch with the outside world. We'll be minimal and not ruin your internet speed, dear neighbor, I promise!

Moving Days, because we are sitting on loaned furniture in our very own living room. Let me say that again- in OUR LIVING ROOM. This is big. It has been such a long time coming- so many hopes, plans, risks and new experiences culminate in this. Our living room. Our cozy little apartment. We are so in love with this place.

It is on the base at Vogelweh, which is in the town of Kaiserslautern. While we initially hoped to live in the community, after some searching we realized that all we wanted was here, on the fourth floor of an Air Force barracks. Air Force housing is infinitely nicer than the Army housing, in our experience. By living here, we are able to avoid the costly utilities bills, which we would have to pay in Euro. The weakeness of the dollar is a huge factor in our final decision. We are able to walk to a commissary, and a base exchange, where we can buy either German or American goods at American prices. And a quick walk out of the gates puts us on the German economy, where I can pick up all of my favorite European foods. (As if I really needed any more excuse to buy Kinderschokolade products!)

We are discovering that an entire, established German-American community exists here. There are clubs to join, chohttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifirs, arts groups and hiking groups, tours to take, baking and cooking and language classes. Many of these things are available through a German-American friendship community center. Others are sponsored by the armed forces or the USO. It's a totally different world, being stationed overseas.

But really, back to the apartment. If you haven't seen the photos, do look! http://picasaweb.google.com/jb.in.germany
We think we're going to paint, because I personally cannot stand four more years of institution-white walls! If anyone has a talent for choosing paint colors and would like to help me from afar, I'd love suggestions. Basically, I've always wanted a red room, and if left to my own devices I may just paint the entire place red. I know, deep down, that this is an awful idea. But it could happen. :o)

By the way, the floors are real, handmade hardwood planks. They are so beautiful. They just shine. I want to lay on the floor and look at the colors in the grain all day. But I won't. I've got much more important things to do... like write this blog.

I'll stop bragging now. I'll get Josh to write the next entry so perhaps you'll get a break from constant apartment talk.

Ciao!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Heidelberg

What a fun and exhausting 24 hours we have had!

We decided, along with the Heards, that is was high time we got some train action and got out of "little America". Last night, we stayed at their place so we could make an early departure. We planned to go to Stuttgart for the day.

Plans often change, yes? :o) Our departure was a bit later than idealized, but no harm in that. We prepped warm clothes, guidebooks, and snacks for the journey. We thought it silly (and perhaps unwise) to leave the car at the train station all day, so instead we walked from base (which is on a small mountain) to the station. The excellent German train system allows for weekend passes for small groups, and up to five people may travel an unlimited amount for three days, for only 26 euro. If you are unfamiliar with train travel, that is a smashing deal.

On the way to Kaiserslautern- the first, very short leg of our journey- we got some annoying news from Josh and Matt's company, and feared that they may be called back to work within hours. Time to revise the plan! As it turned out, our train cards were really only for the Rheinland-Pfalz area (which is where we live) and Stuttgart is well within Baden-Wurtemburg, our neighbor to the southeast. Easily solved! We decided to continue only to Heidelberg. (For those of you who know your German geography- we luckily didn't have any problems at that distance with our territory-specific weekend pass.)


We arrived in Heidelberg mid-morning and began our walk toward the castle. Our guidebook suggested a walking path through the pedestrian area in the old city, and by following it we were able to see some beautiful historic landmarks. Notable was the Jesuit church, whose facade was an impressive presence. They just remodeled their organ and are having its first concert tomorrow. Along the main pedestrian strip, we found lots of delicious-looking baked goods, traditional German restaurants, as well as some interesting shops. Katie was excited about finding a Starbucks- her first in nearly a year- so of course we made a little stop. It was nice to rest the feet and it also made me happy to notice differences and similarities between a European Starbucks and my former place of employment.

Luckily for us, Katie was also excited to see a great little shop called "Lush," which I soon learned makes all-natural and organic bath and body products. It is similar in intention to a Body Shop, but feels much more home-grown and artsy. It was fun for all of us (except maybe Matt was a bit bored) to look at the bath bombs, the butter soaps and jelly soaps, and to smell all of the concoctions. In the end, we each opted for a sale grab-bag of items, and discovering what we'd purchased gave us something to look forward to for the train ride home.

The Alte Brucke (old bridge) crosses the Rhine, and of course we took in the scenery of lovely Heidelberg from its span. Next, we tackled the biggest challenge of all- climbing the ridiculous hill leading to the castle. It was quite a difficult climb, especially considering the cold and our numbing limbs, but it was well worth it in the end. The view is completely astounding. The castle itself is an interesting mix of period archetecture, and I was confused by what seemed to be neoclassical add-ons. The Heards have loaned us a book on the Heidelberg castle, so I can figure out why the architecture was so very diverse and learn move of its history. Interestingly, Josh and I kept stumbling upon sort of Freemason symbolism- a sort of game we play, try to spot the symbols. We ate some schnitzel at a cafe behind the castle and then wandered for a bit in the gardens. Soon after, we realized that the sun was going down and we still had quite a walk to complete.

By the time we reached Landstuhl again, we had walked an estimated 5-6 miles! No wonder we are all aching so badly! But we enjoyed a great day of exploring, allowing ourselves to get lost just the right amount so as to allow for discovery and fun. We have some wonderful photos, but as of now I have no way to transfer my pictures to my laptop. We'll let you all know when we've got that figured out.

And now it's late and my body is tired, but my mind is reeling with all of the excitement of travel. It was especially meaningful because I know it was Josh's first real trip in Europe. I couldn't help but feel so lucky all day, because unlike the last time that I lived in Europe, I don't have the sense of urgency. I feel like we can enjoy these countries, enjoy this rich history and beauty, and it's not going to be taken from us any time soon.

We can't wait for you to come and share these experiences with us!

OH, IN OTHER QUICK NEWS- we found an apartment that we LOVE and we will be moving in next Thursday. Excellent!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Send us a line

If you want to contact us by mail we have an APO mailbox now. I'm not going to say what it is here but you can email us here with a request for the address, and we will send you the address in a reply as soon as we can. Thanks.

p.s. If you don't have your computer set up to use "mailto"'s, don't worry, just take a peek at the address line, and that's where the link would send the email to.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

And the Odyssey begins...

So, we are finally here; after all the months of waiting and prepping. But now I have to inprocess, which will take about a month to do, and in the mean time, I can't do my real job. That's bad, because, for now, I don't know whether or not I'm on a good squad yet, and I'll have to be running around to everywhere, which is annoying. It's also good, because it means I have a predictable schedule to spend time with Becky.

But there's other news also. It seems as though Becky and I have made friends in the two days we've been here: the Heard family. SPC Heard was my sponser while we were in Maryland, and we've hung out a couple times (Becky and I with him and his wife), and we all seem to get along together. They have a couple of dogs, a German shephard and a Belgian shephard, which turned out to be very well trained, and big babies to boot. Becky and I really like the apartment they live in (even though it's on post), and we might look at one in the near future. I hope I end up on Heard's squad, so we can continue to hang out, and also because I heard it's a good squad. I don't know if I will though, because his squad doesn't have the least amount of people on it. Oh well. Here's hoping, anyhow. But, since it's 5 something in the morning, now, I think I'm going to go.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Countdown to Chaos: 17 Days

As Josh is still asleep (all the TX driving must be wearing him out), I'm going to take the liberty of writing our first journal post. Right now, we're visiting family and friends in Texas, both in Ft. Worth and Austin. The weather could be more pleasant, but the company here is superb.

We're treating today as an actual "vacation day," and will relax while exploring Austin. As soon as we get back from Texas, things are going to get really crazy! We'll have weekend trips to say "auf Wiedersehen" to family, moving days (THREE!), days of shipping cars and transferring titles, days of setting up potential travel for our dog, and of course Josh will have to do his out-processing. Out-processing, from what I can tell, involves running around all over our base (as well as travelling to a base out-of-state) to get signatures, turn in specialty uniform pieces, and jump through rings of fire at the whim of the US Armed Forces.

And then on February 7th, we'll get on the plane and hop the pond. I am very thankful that we have a non-stop flight. I know it will be long, but I'd prefer the excessive time on a plane to lugging carry-ons through terminals in Heathrow and then learning, upon arrival, that your luggage is lost. (This happened to me when I was studying abroad in Austria. It was unpleasant.)

Since this is our first post, I'll make this quite clear- you are welcome to visit, and we will try to set up accommodations that will be comfortable. You need only tell us when you hope to arrive and leave. I am very passionate about sharing Europe with everyone, and if my home can serve as a vehicle to allow people to make a trip, I'm happy to oblige. And Josh does not object. :o)

I hope you'll check this journal from time to time. We're also starting a web page, a photo sharing account, and have a joint email in addition to this journal. You'll probably learn about all four of these things at the same time, but if you're catching this early, look for links in the future! And if you haven't already, you should download Skype. It's free and will allow you to "call" us in Germany (FREE), using your computer and Internet connection as a telephone.

Wish us luck! Bis bald!