Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I almost forgot

Mike, Charlie, other Indy folks: How did you enjoy the football game last night?

Ok, I don't follow football. Except when someone tells me we (Tennessee Titans) beat the Indianapolis Colts. Which we did last night.


Wine with Dinner

The Merlot here is wonderful. This is your warning that I am again drunk.

At 8pm one of the churches here rings their bells for maybe a full minute. On Sunday morning at (maybe?) 9am or so (I forget...) one church started ringing, then about 10 seconds later a second church bell joined in. They both rang together for awhile, then the first one stopped, letting the second one finish alone for the 10 seconds they were off. I grew up in a small town that had a church, the one I attended, that rang it's bells to chime the time. I also worked at Indiana University, and the belltower there rang the quarter, half, and the time on the hour. It is funny that I realize while here how much I have missed hearing church bells.

Another way I know I am in Germany, or at least not at home in Tennessee: I went on Sunday to the open air museum as I mentioned. Before paying to go in, there was a building that had food signs outside. I wanted a cup of coffee, so I went inside. As usual I said I didn't speak German, and the woman understood basic English. My coffee came in a china cup with saucer. There was no place to sit down inside, so I said I'd sit outside on the bench. Not sure what the true protocol was, but I think I was not where I was supposed to be, maybe the employee break area? Anyway, she was polite about selling me the cup of coffee. Here, buying a cup of coffee is just that, once cup of coffee and no refills. And almost always in a china cup with saucer. So, while sitting outside in the sun on a Sunday morning drinking my cup of coffee, two men ride up on bicycles. One was at least my age, and in the US would have driven up in his newish SUV from the way he was dressed. But here he rode up on a modest bicycle and talked to the others on the benches as he parked his bike (in German, so I couldn't follow the conversation). Also there was an obviously spoiled small dog who wandered in and out of the door of the place selling food. One of the guys who rode up walked out with a very large bottle of beer. At a museum. On a Sunday morning. While in the museum, at one of the demonstrations of some kind of steam something or other (don't speak German or read it so have no idea what the demonstration was about) I noticed that the person giving the talk had his own large bottle of beer sitting near by.

My biggest frustration here continues to be my inability to read. It was especially frustrating at the museum. The English language guidebook I bought was out of date, and the buildings had apparently been renumbered so that most of it didn't go with where I thought I was at the time.

So far the German people have been very patient, tolerant, helpful and friendly. Usually someone around speaks English to some degree. My needs are simple, usually beginning and ending with 'Koffee?'

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm still here

It's now Sunday evening. I'll catch up with what I did this weekend in Germany. Saturday morning I slept in till around 9am, then went down for breakfast. I was afraid that I'd miss my one chance per day to have more or less unlimited coffee. I found the gang, and it was decided that after breakfast we would drive over to the next town, Rothenburg. It has a medieval village that at least 2 people had recommended we make time to visit. So, around 11am we met at the van and headed over.

We spent the day touring the village. I took lots of pictures. I even climbed the town tower. My legs about gave out on the way up. There is no way this would be allowed in the States, the climb out to the walkway was tight even for me. After lunch I went back to a shop I'd seen earlier and spent a lot of money getting period clothing. I even got a long dress with draping sleeves. I also got a couple of period shirts, one black and one white with a black vest. I got some other things at other shops, including the required beer steins. The next order of business was to go over to post and do laundry at a time when the laundromat would be empty. We planned well, as we were the only ones there. I guess no one else wanted to spend Saturday evening there.

This morning I started talking to a woman at breakfast who obviously spoke English when ordering. Turns out she is from Detroit, MI, and is here working on base for a few months as a civilian. After eating, I came up to the room and fooled around on the internet for awhile. Then I put on my hiking boots and went down to go for a walk. Jimmie and Mark were signing in for their rooms, so now the entire team is here. The guys wanted to head over to post, so I asked for directions from the staff here on where to walk. I was directed to the local outdoor museaum. I spent the entire day walking around it. It is over 100 buildings, mostly dwellings, that cover examples from the middle ages forward of typical homesteads from this area. I took lots of pictures.

I came back to the room, and took a nap. Then we met for supper downstairs, where I had a large dark beer with my food. I am looking forward to a hot shower and my soft bed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 6

I'm not quite as tired tonight, but I don't have energy for a full report. Saturday I will catch up with everything. Nothing is really happening except the class I'm teaching, which is going well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day 5

I'm really, really tired tonight. Teaching all day has me whipped. Everything is going fine, I'm just not talktative. I'll write more either tomorrow, or worst case this weekend after I'm finished teaching.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 3

Today was definitely a work day. We checked out of the first hotel this morning after eating breakfast. Since the unit wasn't in till 9am we wandered around the post for a bit looking for coffee. On post they take US dollars. That was an issue for me the first day because I had packed away my US money. Today I was up on it, and was able to pay for the coffee and lunch later.

We worked late this evening to get the classroom computers all imaged for all three of the other classrooms. The publications - the booklets that follow our slide shows when we teach - are now in Frankfurt (Frankfort? I'm again drunk and don't remember...) and tomorrow the guys will drive over there to pick them up. This will take most of the day for them (and that would be if they knew where they were going in the first place...), and the rest of the classes start the next day. Hopefully they will get back in time tomorrow afternoon to finish setting up the other 3 classrooms. I start teaching my class tomorrow morning. I am all set up. It will be interesting to see if teaching an active duty unit is any different than the National Guard units I've had so far.

It was almost dark and starting to rain when we finally checked into the new hotel. It is very different than the first one. In some ways it is probably much more typicaly German. There is no elevator, and the rooms are on the second floor. The one guy who speaks very good English carried my heaviest bag up the stairs for me. He wanted to talk politics, mentioning that we would be away for our elections while on this trip, and who did I expect to win. He mentioned Mrs. Palin, saying that the German people find her comments 'interesting'. I muttered something to the effect that she is embarrassing. I didn't have euros handy to tip with and I hope I didn't offend him by not tipping. Roy and Travis brought my other 2 bags in from the van because it was starting to rain harder and they didn't want to wait on me to get back, getting wetter in the process. I managed to carry the second heaviest up the stairs, and Roy carried my rollaway up for me.

I will miss the restaurant at the other hotel. The guys like it here better. This is more common German cooking, I think. The waitress had to get a translation book to help us figure out the menu. I missed the small book that listed 4 courses, with only a choice between 2 main courses that the other place had. Here we have a set amount to 'spend' at dinner, which wasn't difficult to stay within. However, the food lacked the subtlety of the light sauces and such that the other hotel had. Oh, well. The first hotel was much more upscale in pretty much all ways, but this one is still very much above my usual fare in most ways. I do like the shower here better. No fridge in the room here like we had in the other hotel, but the closet is very large.

The inability to understand basic signage and such is beginning to wear on me. Constantly hoping that the locals will speak my language, and being basically helpless if they don't is also tiring. Being wary of driving is hard for me, not knowing basic road signage (like that some of the streets are one-way), and not being sure what foods are that are set in front of me at restaurants is also difficult. I think after 3 weeks I'll be ready for home.

I stuck to drinking beer tonight instead of wine. I'm still looped, but not quite so badly as the past 2 nights. Since I teach tomorrow I need to unpack now and try to smooth the wrinkles out of my dress clothes. Roy asked to 'borrow' an iron at the front desk after dinner and was informed 'tomorrow, the iron is already loaned out tonight'. Sigh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day 3

Once again I'm completely stuffed with an awesome dinner and half drunk from the wine. If anyone on the team goes hungry while here it is their own fault. Dinner is not to be rushed. It is at least a 2 hour affair. There have been 4 courses, and having several drinks sitting there is common. Water is ordered 'with gas or without?'. I prefer without gas. Marketing isn't big in the translations. I believe 'lukewarm slices of calve knuckle' was one on the menu last night - which I didn't order.

Today has continued my learning. I decided to use the public restroom here in the hotel after breakfast rather than come back to my room. I figured out the WC on the universal sign for male/female restrooms pointing down some stairs. When presented with either an 'H' or a 'D' door I had not a clue and had to ask. Turns out I am a 'D'. The flush mechanism so far has been a button. First push starts the flush, and sometimes a second stops the water. The faucet on post was the same, push to start the water and push again to turn it off. The toilets here at the hotel have a small button on top of the tank to flush. The ones on post have a large square plastic one on the wall behind the commode. It's the little things that give me pause here.

The time change caught up with me big time today. A bit before lunch I went on auto pilot, and while the lights stayed on, there wasn't really anyone home after that. I slept well last night, and most likely will again tonight. This hotel has been absolutely wonderful. The rooms are comfortable (if unusual in the details), and the food has been delightful. Service is above and beyond anything I've had in the States. We check out of here tomorrow morning and move to a different hotel in town. It will be interesting to see the differences.

I asked for and received a 'tour' of the wine cellar after dinner tonight. It was a single room, all stone. I asked the age of the building, and was told 600 years old, I believe.

Tomorrow starts the serious getting ready for class. The guys may need to drive up and get our publications, leaving me in charge of a detail of soldiers to move the equipment to the classrooms and start the imaging. Being in charge of soldiers sounds fun. The imaging not so much.

Time to float my wine soaked body off to bed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm here

The flight wasn't as bad as it could well have been. I didn't sleep, but there wasn't anything annoying going on the entire night. We pushed back to leave as the sun was setting in Cincy. The novelty of the large plane, and getting settled, and then the drinks, then the dinner service, cleanup and such took me to the start of the first mediocre movie. I have no desire to actually start watching movies after the two I 'watched' during the flight. In these days of paying for every little thing, I have to say I was impressed with this Delta flight. There was a pillow and blanket (wrapped in plastic) on my seat, they came around and handed out free ear plugs, cheap headphones to listen to the videos, and eye masks to get some sleep. Dinner was, well, food, and beverages were offered often enough that I didn't break into the bottled water I bought and brought on board.

We got into Frankfurt, Germany an hour before my itinerary said we would, around 9am. Gathering up with Roy and Travis put us back at the end of the line to get our passports stamped (no line at that point), and although there was a bit of a wait to get luggage, there was no inspections at customs. Roy got the rental car quickly - they have Avis, Hertz, Budget all lined up outside of baggage claim just like in the US - and we got the car. There was some delay as Roy figured out the diesel minivan. Then came the fun of trying to figure out the German road system. We had maps that our travel person, Amy, had emailed us. However, reality and the maps weren't even acquainted. We figured out what city we were headed more or less towards. After 3 loops of the airport interchanges (the guys said it's 2.2 cause we did a U-turn not once, but twice in the process) we headed out. During all of this I was giggling uncontrollably in the back seat. I was almost put out on the curb, since my giggling wasn't helping the guys keep what little composure they still had while trying to decipher the German road signs.

I collapsed into fitful napping while the guys got us to Bad Windsheim, where we are staying. We had to stop and ask directions, since the guys didn't like my suggestion - after consulting the map - that we needed to head into the maze of unmarked (on the map anyway) cobblestone paths towards the center of town. At my urging we stopped at a gas station after I assured Roy that the guys in Clarksville has told me 'everyone' here speaks English. Welllll.... that's apparently not quite true, but some guy took pity on us and lead us into the cobblestone maze to the hotel.

At this point, I am sitting here after a wonderful and very filling dinner. Roy and I spent about an hour wandering on foot to figure out how to get out and back in to the hotel tomorrow. I managed to get some euros, and have been way over tipping because it's easier for me right now to round up to the nearest 5 euro. A brief nap, then the wonderful dinner with an excellent wine. I've had only cat naps in the last 30 or so hours, and now about half a bottle of wine. I've spent 15 of the 50 euros that cost me $69 from the ATM machine next door (just logged into my account to check the cost) on pie and coffee earlier, and the wine and a bottle of water with dinner.

Next up is to figure out how to call my parents, post this, email some others, then shower and totally collapse.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day 1 - Traveling

Nashville, TN 12:55pm

I made it to the airport, through security and have had a sit down lunch at a restaurant here in the airport. Loading for the flight to Cincy should start in about 10 or 15 minutes. I just decided that I really like this smaller laptop for just sitting around the airport. I'll have a 4 hour layover in Cincy, so I'm glad I'm still where my wireless internet card works. It won't work in Germany.

This has been a beautiful fall day here in Nashville. I was running around in a tshirt. I did grab my chambray shirt to wear over that for the trip since I think that where we are going will be cooler. I also have plenty of coats and sweaters with me. I was all packed, loaded, and wandering around the house even before I had planned to leave. Again, I would have enjoyed just staying at home today. I'm learning that I feel that way every time I'm getting ready to head out.

Well, there is activity starting around the gate, so I'm going to pack up and get ready.

Cincinnati 6pm EDT

I made it here, and have had a good time wandering around the stores along the concourse. I have been good and not spent any money, except way too much for food. I have a confirmed seat for the flight to Frankfort, Germany. Until a few minutes ago I had a 'seat request'. This is going to be a full flight, so I'm glad I was here when the gate agent opened up. I also have 2 bottles of water, and a sandwich to take on the plane. That way I hopefully won't get cranky waiting for the attendants to make their food/beverage runs. Roy and Travis are here now, back in the bar watching the football game. So far, so good on the trip. I'm having fun, and really starting to look forward to the next 3 weeks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Germany, Here I Come

I am 90% packed at this point. My plane leave the airport at 1:30 pm tomorrow. I need to leave the house around 11 am or so. I figure I can stuff the last odds and ends into the luggage, and clean house, and load the truck and still have time to drink a few cups of coffee here at the house before leaving.

I am finally getting a bit excited. I guess it just hasn't been real to me till now. It still just seems like a normal fielding at this point, other than the fact that I'm leaving on a Saturday. I figure about 4 hours into the flight, when I'm almost half way, is when I'll start realizing how far away from home I'm traveling. That, and the fact that English will no longer be the primary language.

I'm really tired from all the planning and packing and lugging the stuff around. I'll sleep well tonight. I'm leaving a few things mid-plan here in town. I am narrowing down the kind of car I will probably buy. I found a 3 wheeled scooter I want to look at (probably won't get it...) as a possibility instead of a car. If I really like it but it seems impractical as primary transportation, I may get it along with a car. Things to ponder that I can't do anything about for 3 weeks.

As I've said, I am really making a pledge to update this journal on a daily basis while I'm gone. I'm not sure how quickly I'll get here once I'm in Germany, but once situated there is no reason not to post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pre Trip

In less than 48 hours I will be in the air on a plane on my way to Germany for 3 weeks with work. I am sitting here at home now, some things laid out to pack, pondering why I am not motivated to finish preparations. It occurred to me this afternoon that I should make myself blog every day of the trip as a test to see if I will keep up a trip journal when I am on the trail. At this point I can't say that I'm not doing anything to write about. Or rather, I should hope that spending 3 weeks in Germany will give me things I want to write about.

At the moment I would rather just crawl into the waterbed and nap. However, the only thing on my list for tonight is to sort out what I'm taking with me, and put it into the luggage. I'm taking a half day off tomorrow, but I want that time to spend around the house doing all those last minute things that I always end up trying to do while looking at my watch knowing that I need to get into the truck and head to the airport.

The good thing this time, well one thing among many, is that the house is pretty clean. I cleaned because Shiloh was here last weekend. Just a few minor things to do, and I can leave with a clear conscious this time. The housemate took his cat home. Perl just never really felt at home here. The housemate asked me how long I thought 'we' would be here, and that 'we' should just get a kitten for this house. I'm thinking that I do want another cat. When I home again I'll start looking into adopting another cat.

Well, no time like the present to start this packing...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Off the Wagon

So, three days in a row, then 2 weeks till I post again. Consistency isn't a virtue of mine. I now have my new schedule for work. I leave for Germany in 2 weeks. I have mixed feelings about it. It will all be new this time, as I've never really been out of the country and I've not fielded an active duty Army unit. I keep telling myself that the National Guard units were a new thing for me when I started, and that I'll do fine. I'll also be traveling with the guys I know. In some ways I think it might be easier to travel alone, though. I only would have myself to keep track of, and my own expectations to meet. With the group I need to blend in somewhat, and I don't do that well.

I have been cleaning house. Shiloh is due here next weekend, and I've invited folks to come over to talk 'trail' with him. The place will be a total disaster again, but I have to start somewhere. I cleaned out a corner of the bathroom yesterday, and I'm working my way through stacks of paper in the living room. The kitchen is still somewhat clean, just need to mop the floor.

I'm going back to lists, like I did back in my FlyLady days. I also resurrected my filing system from Getting Things Done. Between the two, maybe I'll feel more in control.

Perl the cat still hates me. I'll give it awhile longer. After I get back from Germany we'll see if she will make up with me. I have too much else going on till I leave to concentrate on that issue for now. Housemate says she's fine when he's here. She just won't come anywhere near my end of the house. At least she's eating and drinking now.