Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just keep swimming.

Oh my. The last post I made was all about the fam's very boring journey from Fort Drum to Germany. I am probably at some point going to do a VERY in depth post about all the shit that went wrong, but for now...I will just update from our temporary lodgings to our current lodgings.

Okay...We left off with me being driven crazy in apartment style living. We searched for houses, we rented cars...We had an autobahn experience!

Driving in Germany, is honestly like driving anywhere else. Some drivers are courteous, some are not, there are new laws to learn about being in a new place, and the fact that we don't speak German sometimes means we don't do everything the right way the first time. We did get lost on the autobahn more than once...we got on the autobahn after ignoring a very clearly marked "Do not enter" construction zone. Had to find a way off that.

We did eventually find a house to live in. It is considered remote - no village shops, very little public transportation. But it really isn't far from the autobahn, maybe 10 mins. There are also villages nearby which offer shops & public transport, should we want it. We can also get to Ramstein without using the autobahn if we prefer. Really, we are about 20-25 minutes to Ramstein & Landstuhl, which isn't bad at all. The house we found is 4 levels...with some rooms on the upper floors that we have allowed our girls to take over for themselves. They get their own rooms, and have a play room. In all honesty, while we like our house, we are kind of disappointed in picking this area. There's not really anything wrong with it, but since the husband works at LRMC & we use Vogelweh & Kleber at least twice a month, it really would have made more sense to live further south. We have a 12 month lease, and we are not sure if we want to hassle with moving out at the end or not. Especially since it would be mid-school year. And the cost - we aren't sure if we can afford to move ourselves after some of our mishaps (which I will detail later)!

We first rented a car to help us with our search for a house. We continued to rent a car b/c our own vehicle was damaged during transport. Having 1 vehicle meant some days I had to wake the kids up super early to be out of the house early enough to drop my husband at work, then drop the big one off at school. I had to find a way to feed them breakfast before the fast food places opened, and so that it would be in their bellies before I had to leave one at the school house door. Momgenuity. I've got it (eh, sometimes). I used our cups that we're always bringing home from restaurants. This way, if it gets left in the car I don't feel like I need to save it, I can just toss it. I made some instant oatmeal in a bowl & poured it in to the cups (the plastic in these things aren't stellar - it leaves the cups very pliable & HOT, I really do think cooking then pouring is the way to go). The kids could carry them outside, with the utensil waiting. THEN, in the car, I poked the spoons through going the "wrong" way (the straw goes through the lid from the top, well I pushed the end of the spoon up through the bottom/wrong side of the lid), and now we have a spill guard! And when the meal is over, they can put the lids back on the cups & the dirty spoon sits IN the cup, rather than being left on the seat of the car, stuck to clothes, or to the bottom of a shoe.

We also had a pretty good cold snap that made me have to think outside the box for some chilly weather gear. My husband wears a gaiter neck when he's really cold - it is a stretchy fabric tube that can be contorted to fit around his neck, over his ears, nose, or mouth...It's pretty versatile. Well, in our new house, we have to walk about 500m to get to the bus stop in the mornings. 7am. In the dark. With both who has been awake for about 10 minutes. It snowed a few times (a dusting), and temperatures remained low. The little one doesn't have a scarf, Jocelynn needed some extra protection (though she does have a scarf), and I had to find a way to keep them both from complaining of the cold! So we made something up.
I took a simple $1 beanie that was too small & cut off the end with the sewing in it. The beanies themselves are constructed as a sort of tube that is serged in a few places to create a cross shaped seam on the top. They're sort of stretchy, and we had shrunk a few by throwing them in to the dryer (they belonged to the big one, but with shrinking went to the little one). We had other warm hats, and needed something to keep the chill off our faces. Once the seams were cut off (in as straight a line as I could manage) I now had a fabric tube open on both ends! I pulled them over their heads, I positioned them to cover some sensitive & exposed parts, then put their hats over them, being careful not to let the hat push the beanie-gaiter down. Less bulky than a scarf, and easier to keep in place. I am now going all over the house looking for spare beanie hats to use for next year!

The winter is lessening, I have plans for a container garden...I am using a fantastic website called World Food Garden that helps you figure out when the best time to start planting is. Being new to this part of the world, I really had no idea when the right time would be. I also bought a few seed packets at the Exchange, and they only list the American planting zones. I definitely needed some help.

I will give a quick rundown of some of our more stressful foibles:
  • We found a house! But FMO (temp furnishings) couldn't deliver until a certain date & TLA (gives us money to live temporarily) was giving us a hard time about it. Only gave us permission to extend at the very last possible moment - leaving us tired & stressed.
  • A helpful neighbor shows up to tell me all the horrible things about our house. That she used to live in. Don't get me wrong, she's a wonderful, sweet woman. But she scared the ever living fuck out of me and sent me screeching to the housing office - who managed to give me another set of problems! We started referring to Germany as "Doucheland".
  • Husband hit a deer in a rental car - we had to pay for damages.
  • Our own car is damaged in transit, no one wants to take responsibility for it. We are told to repair the damage, file a claim, then maybe get reimbursed after 3-6 months.
  • Another accident with the rental car. This time we have their insurance. Our only out of pocket cost is about 100 euro. We were driving a Yaris (they're tiny!) and someone came left of center on a curve & clipped our mirror. Of course, they said it was our fault, we believe it's theirs. The thing is, we actually noticed them before the incident & moved over b/c they were taking up a lot of space.
  • Our car in shop for repairs has some minor wear & tear maintenance that also needs to be completed b/c we know we'll need them done to pass inspections. Unrelated to the transit issue, but worrying b/c of the rising costs of the final bill.
  • Another rental car accident. Husband on the autobahn - moving along very speedily. Someone coming on from the on-ramp jumps over too many lanes. Husband slams on breaks to avoid smashing her. Rental fishtails, other driver disappears. 3,000 euro worth of damages. But we have the insurance this time. We pay about 100 euro. :)
  • Final bill on our personal auto: 2800 euro. 1500 due to the transit issue, which hopefully one day, will be returned to us. We take car for inspection to register. Small oil leak is found & cosmetic damage from an old accident (they hit me!) we never bothered to repair must be repaired b/c the inspector says if it fell of, it could be a risk for other drivers. We understand, but it seems like a stupid reason. Considering we've been driving it for about 2 years this way. The loose plastic pieces are gone, what's left is a hole where plastic used to be.
  • The worrying thing about the leak & hole that need repair, is that we are now on our SECOND set of temporary tags. We can only have 2 sets in 6 months. If our good friend the auto mechanic cannot help us take care of it in the next few days - we will be carless for the next 4 months.
  • In all we've spent quite a bit of money on rental cars & vehicle repairs. Quite a bit more than we ever planned to spend. It's been very frustrating & left us feeling pretty worn out.
When people ask how we like Germany...we aren't sure what to say. We've only really had problems up to this point. We have been the exception to many general rules & it's kind of tiring. Sometimes we will flat out say, "We hate it, thanks for asking." Other times we say nothing or say, "We haven't really had a chance to experience it, thanks for asking." The response we always get is, "Oh, you'll love it when you get a chance to travel." Ah, I see. So, leaving is the best chance we have at happiness? Good to know. And also...How the fuck are we going to be able to travel if we can't afford to drive around? Duh.

I will leave you with a quick list of little things we have found here that are nice:
  • Our neighbors are good people. The ones we have met only seem to want to help us. This feels good.
  • We have mobile trucks in our village selling bakery & dairy items. This is cute. It's like having an ice cream truck...but you can get pumpkin seed rolls & donuts.
  • Doners are yummy. Keine zwieble - I know how to ask for no onions.
  • We only have a very short drive to get us to familiar American things. American money, restaurants, English language instructions on items. It feels good.
  • My husband is home...with low chances of deployment - this makes my heart feel full. I know he wishes it were different, he likes doing his job - and he is good at it.
  • With all that has gone wrong - now we know. We can learn from it, and hopefully help others so the same things don't happen to them!
Thanks for reading...I will have an upcoming post that will hopefully have instructions on PCSing so that others don't end up in mishap after mishap!


Nichole said...

Holy Hell I knew you had problems when you got here, from reading the FB group but OMG no idea so many issues. Hope the rest of your tour goes better!

Jamie Severt said...

Dang, you have had issues! I like your leaving is the best chance we have at happiness comment..very funny. Take a look at my blog too, Germany isn't always fun for everybody. But it will get better as you settle more. I promise.

Maegan said...

Thanks, ladies! Lol...A friend thanked me for using up all the bad luck in Germany. ;) We are hoping it does get better, b/c we already think we may end up extended here...b/c my husband's next step is to apply to a school in the US that has a wait list for him...and it would be easier to stay put then move when he can get in to the school than leave Germany, get to a new unit...then maybe leave 6 months later. His wait could be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

I try not to freak out the newbies (which is funny, b/c I still think of myself as very new here)...When I say things didn't go well for us...I try to emphasize we are the exception, rather than the RULE! :)