Jul 202011
Sunset over cornfield

In the interest of full disclosure and balanced reporting, let’s start with this:

Last night I had a good cry.

And I do mean a good cry.  It was one of those cries that seemingly comes from nowhere and clears out all sorts of built up crap that you may or may not have even known was lurking there.

Almost 3 months in on our actual German Adventure, and I suppose I may have had a fair bit of stress in need of an outlet!  My Mom says that as far as your body is concerned “all stress is distress”.  That being the case, I think a couple migraines and a hurt shoulder are fortunately-small indicators of our situation.  I figure I probably saved myself several injuries and a flu with just this one, cleansing cry!  Should you ever find yourself living for a prolonged period in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, I highly recommend letting it all out from time to time.  Seems like an enormously healthy thing to do!

For the most part though, things here are finally settling into a somewhat boringly ‘new-normal’ daily pattern.  David, of course, works 5 days out of 7.  The kids and I food-shop 5 days out of 7 too, it seems!  And Laundry takes an inexplicably large portion of our homelife.  I cook most meals, so that is a big time factor.  And, the kids and I spend a fair bit of time running errands in addition to the food shopping.  Nothing in Germany is really ‘convenient’ we have discovered. Yes, if you are in town you can easily walk Mainstreet.  But, there is no parking-lot hopping like in the States.  Even small outings take some effort and considerable planning.

Additionally, my work has been picking up so I spend even more time at the computer than I would naturally.  Computers are actually even more key to our existence than they were in the states, if you can believe that!  This is because they are our main conduits to the outside world.  In addition to being a work and financial tool and a recreation source, they serve as our translators (THANK YOU GOOGLE!) and our access to family and loved ones (FB, Email, Blogging and Skype). To encourage at least a bit of human-to-human socialization,  David has started gaming one night per week with a RPG group at work – currently running a Shadowrun campaign. But, as it is all adults and into the late evenings (read midnight or later) the kids and I are on our own and carless that day.

I know, this is all a bit dull and conventional but, HEY, it is taking place in Germany!

Also dully and conventionally, we are still trying to conserve money.  But, perhaps less conforming with American Convention, this is because August will have 2 large and distinctly German Money Sucks: Mandatory German Auto Inspection (we think this is like the CA Smog inspection on steroids) and, of course, Closets.  With our stuff on its way, it seems that it may be a good idea to figure out somewhere to put it once it arrives.    

So, what else is going on?  Here are the highlights to catch you up, but first….

Random Weird German Observations Of the Week 

  • Powders here are coarser than in the US.  Baking Soda (Natron) is like fine sand.  Powdered sugar is gritty.  Sort of like the toilet paper.  Need something smooth and silky?  Go to a different country!
  • Brown sugar is also like sand.  It is dry, not moist at all, and pours and measures just like any other granulated sugar.  Only, it is brown.
  • After a lot of searching I discovered that Chocolate Chips do exist- but they are tiny and come in very small packages.  Like 1/2 cup worth of flat mini-chips.  The packages say they are for making muffins. You can find them among the dozens of other small chocolate decorations carried in most markets- which, incidentally must make for some gorgeous home-made delicacies!
  • Neighbors are not universally quiet, afterall.  On Bastille Day and the weekend thereafter, there was partying into the night.  And, oddly but charmingly,the gentleman who shares the wall with our bedroom seems to be some sort of folk singer! On more than one occasion now he has taken out his Ukelele (!?) and sung Folk Songs into the wee hours. Now, you must understand that most of the walls in this place are 6-8″ of solid concrete (really!). But, apparently the one regular shared drywall wall that we have happens to be shared with an uninhibited singer.  His voice is lovely and full,  his song choice slow and dramatic.  He did a rendition of Hava Nagila that would have made a Mexican Ranchera singer weep.  But, it does disturb me a bit that it is quite so audible in our future-bedroom.  There may be nights- in the distant future you understand- when I might conceivably wish to sleep in that room… unserenaded. 

Ok, so on to the Update!

Health Matters:

First off, my shoulder:  Much Better!  I have been getting physiotherapy a couple times a week and the therapist is having a fair bit of success.

He is kind of an interesting character.  His name is Mario Schultz and he looks to be in his mid-late 20’s, perhaps.  He has lived in this area his whole life- born in Offenburg because it had the best local hospitals.  His grandparents own a house passed down for a couple centuries, at least. When I mentioned that we found it interesting how many people seemed to have been in the area for so many generations he said “We are proud to be from here- it is the warmest corner of Germany!”

He has that calm physical demeanor common to those in his profession, as well as the reserved facade that we notice as a national trademark, here.  But, he also has a twinkle in his eye and he seems much amused by us.  Every week he tries to think of something interesting to discuss with us about America or Germany.  This week, he gave us a German tongue twister to memorize:

  • Wenn hinter Fliegen Fliegen fliegen, fliegen Fliegen Fliegen nach.
    • When flies fly behind flies, flies fly after flies.

Speaking of words, here is a fun German one: Krankengymnastics.  It means “sick-gym” and was the old word for physikalische Therapie (bet you can piece that one together).  They only changed it recently to reflect the growing awareness that not all therapy is addressing illness.  But, a lot of places -including one in our building here at the apartment- still advertise Krankengymnastics on their signs.  Mario says that is mostly for the older folks who have not switched over yet. 

Unlike past PT experiences I have had, this version doesn’t involve a lot of stretches or exercises on my part.  Instead it is what I imagine a trip to the chiropractor might be like.  I relax and he spends his time maneuvering bones and ligaments into their proper positions.  Not entirely comfortable but not painful either.  And, I already have a lot more freedom of motion and less pain than I started with. So, hooray for Herr Mario Schultz!

DIY ultrasound
The other part of my therapie is ultrasound.  Now, this is where it gets a little strange from an American point of view.  Until now, most of what we have seen of the German Medical System has been pretty on par with American SOP.  But, this particular procedure surprised the heck out of us because it really is Do It Yourself!  You go into a little booth, where the attendant sets up a machine that has a monitor and two wired knobs on it.  She sets the timer, puts two kinds of lotion on one knob and tells you to slowly move it over the area where you hurt, trying to keep a particular monitor reading as close to 100 as possible and avoiding any build-up of heat.  Then she leaves.  10 minutes later you are done.  Hope you did it right!  Luckily, I had David there to help me with it because I couldn’t reach the full area of my shoulder pain.  Dunno if it did anything for me, but it was certainly interesting.

Insulin Pens
David has been dealing with physical challenges of his own.  It turns out that insulin here is not injected by hypodermic needle, but by insulin pen.  So, while David had no trouble at all getting the medicines he needs ($5/pop, woot!), the method for injection has proved quite a challenge.  The bulk and mechanical energy of the pens do not allow for the same level of finesse to which David has been accustomed.  So, it has been an ongoing project to adjust to the new hardware and re-find reasonably comfortable means of injecting himself (4-6 times per day!).  He as discovered some work arounds, but I know this is NOT his favorite aspect of Germany so far.

Also tangentially under David Health, I guess- the German Forced Marches have claimed yet another shoe sacrifice.  David’s black leather tennies gave up the ghost this week in a spectacular display of Divided-Sole.  Check this out- looks like someone took a axe to them, but it was just regular old wear and tear.  Does explain how his feet got so wet in the last rainstorm though!

He says he damaged them blocking ninja swords- his kung fu was strong, his footwear was weak

Local Lightning
Speaking of the last rainstorm and David’s Health- for those of you not on facebook- The Man Nearly Got Hit By Lightning, Y’all!!!
Last week David stepped off the bus into a thundershower.  The kids and I were at home and heard the tell-tale sound of a thunder CLAP instead of a roll or roar.  A few minutes later David came strolling through the door.
“Hey, glad you are safe home,” I greeted him, “We just had a lightning strike that was really close!”
“It may have been closer than you think,” he rejoined.
Turns out that after he got off his bus he started toward home.  When he got to the street he needs to cross, the air felt charged and he smelled the crackle.  The CLAP we heard was lightning hitting a light post in the middle of the street he was about to step into!!  He said it was 100 feet away, but my survey of the scene says closer to 50.  Sheiße!!!

The Move
Remember when they told us that transporting our stuff would take ‘1 month to 6 weeks’?  Um, yeah, that was aeons ago.
Definitely a lifetime ago.
One, increasingly mundane, German lifetime ago…. 
In any case, after being passed from company to company, we are now in the hands of the warehouse in England that will be shipping our stuff out for delivery.  They say that they will tell us sometime in the next two weeks when our stuff will be delivered.  Note, it will not be delivered in those two weeks.  But, they will let us know when it will be.  Good lord.  I barely remember what we packed.
Whatever is in those boxes, though, the sure bet is that we will have no clue where to put it once it arrives.  I am not sure if I am looking forward to delivery or dreading it at this stage.  A little of both, I think.  I am just hoping the computers still work and the beds don’t have any unwelcome hitchhikers!

Still sort of an amorphous squishy zone of unknown.  Here is the latest-
DD’s paperwork is almost all in for Hogwarts.  We are just waiting on the Student Insurance.  DS’s paperwork is not all done, nor are we at all sure where will be best for him.  We got a lead on a group who cater to the needs of immigrant boys aged 12-17 (!) and have an appointment to talk with them on Monday.  We are hoping they may have some info that could be useful.  Especially since DS has entered the preteen zone of Unmitigated Angst.  This boy needs an outlet, but quick!

We have also talked with the Offenburg Integration Course organization.  Like the Kehl group, they have classes daily from 8-12 for about 8 months that are offset in cost by the government.  We told them I could start in September since we don’t really want to leave the kids alone in the house for 4 hours per day.  But, I hate to wait that long.  Without language skills or access to other immigrants my ability to chat with human beings outside my immediate family is severely limited.  We have been researching English/ex-pat groups but few if any of them seem to have a strong presence in the area.  Stuttgart and Frankfurt have a few clubs, but Offenburg would seem to be too small to attract much attention.

On the Good-For-Social front, though, David’s work has a company picnic coming up in another week.  It will be near our old stomping grounds in Auenheim and I am looking forward to the opportunity to finally meet a lot of David’s work crew.  Definitely will post some photos from that when it happens!

Also, I hope to be making a trip down to Switzerland in the middle of next month to visit with some old friends (Hi Hans, Kim and Diane!).  Around the same time, David is scheduled to make the trip up to Köln to attend a major video game convention as part of his company’s pitch team.  I am not sure whether to hope that the trips overlap so we are apart for a shorter time, or that they don’t so we can more easily pass the camera back and forth to take photos of our journeys!

Finally, although DS and DH have both gotten haircuts now, I have not.  But, even so, I figured I would fulfill my promise and post a sample of Kirsh.  It is not as cool as the Blue that I used to sport, but, second to blond, it is ever so German!

It looks a bit more purple in the sunlight, but this is the best I could do with a flash and no photoshop.

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