Monday, November 19, 2012

Bonjour from Strasbourg, France

After a week of forms, headaches and stress we decided to take the day on Saturday and do some exploring.  We had our choice of tours from the USO on the base . . Brugge, Belgium . . Innsbruck, Austria . . Black Forest. . and Strasbourg, France (capital of the French Alsace region).

We started out at 6 a.m. and took a $35 taxi to our bus station just 11 miles away (highway robbery!!)  We then rode on the bus two hours before arriving in Strasbourg.  It was such an adventure!!  The first main stop on our walking adventure was the Cathedral Notre Dame (not to be confused with the Notre Dame in Paris) and it was spectacular!!  This Gothic cathedral took approximately 400 years to build.  The carvings were so intricate and there was the biggest organ I have ever seen hanging what seemed to be hundreds of feet above us lowly beings below.  It was here that I lit a candle honoring a dear family friend that had just passed from this life.


Continuing on our adventure we ended up in La Petite France, a section of the charming old city lining the Ill River.  Here we witnessed the quaint 16th and 17th century timbered houses already being decorated for the Christmas season.  We were able to amble around the market places and streets on our own for the next three hours . . . we ended up in multiple pastry shops. . .actually buying one eclair from one shop and eating on our way to the next where we purchased another!!  (several times of doing this finally gave us our fill of eclairs. . .until the end of the day were we bought two for the road) :-)  We were also able to try flambee which turned out to be similar to a thin crust pizza. . .only much saltier and with added grease.

We then took a river ferry around this city which was quite neat as the bridges had to be moved in order to let us pass and in several sections the water level had to be brought up to allow us access down the river.  By this time, to my everlasting shame, I was exhausted from the walking, eclairs and cold and happened to nod off for most of the time on the warm and cozy ferry.

Strasbourg is a must see in my opinion!  Loved it!  Clayton stated that we must return (with a wide angle lens of course) and that it was actually a city he would love to live it!  I must get some refresher on my French though. . . I was speaking a combination of French, Spanish, English and some German. . . trying to find anything they would understand and often getting confused myself. .

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sworn in to the Army

I am officially an employee of the United States Government!
Some random laws we have come across here: If you have a dog you must walk your dog at least 1 hour a day.  You cannot keep your dog in a kennel.  You must observe quite hours between 2200-0600 every day, all day on sundays and any German holiday.  You cannot leave your car running while parked for more than three minutes.  You must separate your trash into three separate containers: recycle, paper and waste (this is not an option).
The German government imposes a tax of 19% on everything :-(

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We have landed!

Whewww!  Traveling with two small, high maintenance pups over two days and thousands of miles is quite an ordeal. . . . but I have to say they did quite well in spite of everything!  Mika only had an "accident" once in her carry on and Milo only had to be out of his and on our laps on all three flights to avoid continuous yipping and crying (I had to hide him under the blankets).  Once we arrived on Ramstein AFB we were absolutely exhausted. . . and looked horrible!  The 8 hour plane ride from Baltimore had caused swelling in feet, hands and face, capillaries were busted in the eyes, hair was frizzed and frayed. . . my poor supervisor must have wondered what she got herself into!  We arrived at our Temporary Living Quarters which was a massive house with 6 bedrooms and 3 baths around 3 pm.  We then promptly found a way to blow up our perfectly good HP (we were given an adapter for the outlet, but not the converter).  There was sparks, flames and smoke!  . . . and if that wasn't bad enough I then managed to fall halfway down a flight of marble stairs!  I found myself pouring silent tears and just wishing for 112 C Street and the comforts of home.  "It has to get better" I told myself repeatedly. . . only to wake up multiple times through the night for a hit of albuterol.  By the morning I was in a full-fledged asthma attack!  Good thing I brought my nebulizer, right??  This time we plugged our American machine in to the actual converter which turned out too pathetic to run the Neb. . . in the midst of the asthma attack Clayton did the next thing he could think of. . . he plugged it straight into the wall to give it more "juice". . . sparks, flames and fire!!!  I was panicking!  (the house was super old, smelled of mold, had live plants all over inside)  We had to get out! 

The next day consisted of running some errands, visiting the hospital where I will be working and taking a drive out to beautiful Kusel to see a house I have been viewing over the Internet.  Turns out the house was super cool!!. . . from the outside at least.  The inside reminded us of an office building with no real living room and the kind of flooring you would see in a hospital.  We then relocated to a new apartment free of allergens and spores.  My lungs survived the day . . let's hope they hang in there the rest of my 728 days in Germany :-)

(this was the house we went to look at. . not the one that induced the asthmatic state)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moving. . . a long, LONG, way away . .

Tomorrow we set off on probably the biggest adventure of our short lives. . . we are moving to Landstuhl, Germany.  I know. . super CRAZY, right??  Sometimes I still can't believe it and will call Clayton up just to say "Wow!  We are moving to Germany!"

This great adventure started out with a little girl's dream to one day move to Europe after her 7th grade teacher, Mrs. Wilcox, would tell wondrous stories in history class of castles, gems, romance and wars.  That dream stuck with me my whole life and was reborn when my dear husband stated "Let's move to Europe" early last year.  "Are you serious?" I asked. "Because if you are serious, we will do it."  I immediately started looking for a way to make that possible but it wasn't until I found (with the help of a co-worker) the largest military hospital outside of the United States that the dream started to become a reality.  There were no positions available in the hospital and I had read online that there was a 3 year waiting list for civilians to get in, but I was determined.  I emailed the human resource department of the hospital with my resume and a simple letter stating my interest in any position that my qualifications were sufficient.  I received and e-mail from the director of Labor and Delivery at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center six months later.  I believe God greatly has his hand involved in this whole affair as I never applied for the job, never had an interview, and was offered the position on my first phone call from Germany.

It has been a long process and has not been completely smooth. . . forms, travis air force base, tests, passports, forms, phone calls, headaches, forms. . . did I say forms?? . . . but will be completely worth it I am sure.

Today I sit in my hotel room (as my house has been rented, my car left at the port over two weeks ago bound for Germany, all of my belongings on some European bound cargo ship, my dogs living with my parents) with nothing except for two suitcases and a computer.  I have conflicting emotions. . . excitement, apprehension, tad bit o'fear, joy. . . . my stomach doesn't quite feel right (although that could be from the delish chocolate cake I had for late night snack and breakfast) . . . I am excited and thrilled to see what God has in store for us.  Of course goodbyes are the hardest part. . we will be doing that most of the day, mixed in with some grandma Hammonds' homemade doughnuts :-)  Nothing like leaving the country in a complete sugar coma!  I love all of my family and friends and will miss you all dearly. . . please don't forget us in your prayers. . . I am sure we will need them . . .

Friday, November 2, 2012

India. . . Days 7 and 8

Today we started off on a journey to the Amber Fort, the ancient capital of Rajasthan.  On the drive there we stopped off on the side of the road where a local snake charmer and also a boy and his elephant were.  I was the only one brave enough to snuggle up to a 7 year old (baby) elephant . . . it was so totally worth it!  I was one happy girl . . . couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.

From there we continue to the Amber Fort and my smile turned into jumps of glee as I found out we were to ride elephants up to the fort.  It was amazing!  We even bartered from the back of the elephant for an elephant throw blanket.  The fort was impressive to say the least . . . but boy was it hot!!  The fort was begun in the 17th century and is perched atop the Arvalli hills overlooking the Moat Lake.  The Sheesh Mahal –Hall of Mirrors-was most beautiful!

(beautiful Amber Fort. . . you can see the elephants accending if you look closely.  They are the red dots)
(our ride on the elephant)
After the Amber Fort we were taken to a jewelry store in Jaipur where we were able to witness the process of taking rock and making them into beautiful jewels.  We then went to the City Palace Museum and Jantar Mantar (the largest of five observatories founded nearly 3 centuries ago.)  The observatory housed 14 massive masonry instruments that were used for measuring times, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and more.  We were then allowed the evening to stroll through the streets and bazaars, however by this time Clayton was feeling quite sick (we weren’t sure if it was from dehydration or something he ate) so we opted to return to the hotel.  By 8 pm I joined him in his sickness and by the next morning we felt as if we were dying in a foreign country and would not make it back to the states.  We discovered that others in the group were sick as well as we boarded the bus for the 10 hour trip back to Delhi.  To add to the suffering, the AC in the bus went out 3 hours away from Delhi . . . the bus did not have windows. . . once again we weren’t going to make it back to the states. . . . Harvey and Percival were wreaking havoc on our bodies. . . 

Somehow we found the strength to endure and boarded the plane at 12 a.m. to begin the 14 hour plane ride back to the states.  We almost kissed our U.S. customs officer as she welcomed us back home.  It was a magnificent experience . . . but we pretty much decided we saw enough of India to last our lifetimes.