Thursday, October 25, 2007

moving day

Tonight is our last night at the hotel. We'll be leaving early in the morning to meet the movers at our new place, and working to get settled in there. I'm not exactly sure how the weekend will go... I need to get to the laundromat either tomorrow or Saturday to make sure that Bran has clean clothes to take with him for school, I need to supervise the movers to make sure that everything goes where I want it to go, we want to get a computer desk, I need to get to Obi to buy paint for the first room I want to tackle (still not sure which one that will be), and I want to get at least one room done this weekend. Oh, and I have to drop Bran off on base at like 8 in the morning on Sunday.

Actually, I don't think I've mentioned anything about this school that Bran is going to... It's a 2 week course on HazMat (hazardous materials) procedures. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the city that he's going to, but I know it's about 4 hours away, out towards Munich. He's going with 4 other guys from the unit, and they're headed out on Sunday, to be there when the class starts Monday morning. Which means that I'll be on my own for the next 2 weeks... I'll have the car, which is good, and I'm planning to get a lot done in his absence. Plus, I'll hopefully start working soon (still waiting to hear back on the application I put in at the bank, I'm gonna call to follow up tomorrow) so I want to get as much painting done as I can before that happens. So...starting tomorrow, my life is going to be a flurry of activity.

Which also means that I probably won't be posting again for a while. Even though Bran plans to get the computer all set up before he goes, it isn't likely that we'll have internet right away, or that I'd have time to use it if we did. I'll post again when I can...

Monday, October 22, 2007


It snowed yesterday morning. :)
I felt like a little kid, staring with wonder at the little bits of frozen fluff falling from the sky, and trying to catch them on my tongue. It didn't snow for very long; only enough to dust the trees with white. It was so pretty! Of course, I know that the novelty will wear off soon, but until then I think it's wonderful.

*shifts mental gears*
Bran and I have definitely found a place to live. It's an awesome 4 bedroom apartment in Hildrizhausen, about 15 min from the base where Bran works. The place is huge! It's going to be absolutely perfect for having people over to visit, so everyone has to come.
They're letting me paint it however I want, and they're not going to make me paint it all white again, which is cool. This means that I will be a bnusy beaver for the next couple of weeks...I'm planning to paint almost every room in the house! But it'll be worth it. My mental picture of how the place is going to look is great. And yes, I got batteries for the camera, so I will be posting before and after pics.
The whole process starts this Friday, so I am off to Obi (the local Home Depot equivalent) to look at paint samples and such. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 15, 2007

I can Has Volksfest? No, you can't has Volksfest.

Yesterday was fun... I met up with Sarah and Peguy at breakfast, and then we decided to go into Stuttgart to catch the last day of Volksfest. (by the by, the Stuttgart Volksfest, pronounced "folk's fest", is second only to the Munich Oktoberfest as far as German beer-fests go.) There were five of us: Sarah, Peguy, Peguy's boyfriend Niel, and Brandon and me. We met up in the lobby, rode to the train station together, and then took the S-Bahn into downtown Stuttgart. And that was an experience in itself... You have to get tickets at an automated machine, then validate said tickets at another automated machine, and have them available should someone come by to check your ticket. That doesn't happen very often, so you can get away with not buying a ticket sometimes, but there's a 40 euro fine if you get caught. Personally, I'd rather just buy the ticket, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, using the train system was far less complicated than it could have been because Bran had done it before and he schooled the rest of us. He also knew just where to get off, and where to go once out of the train. Yay Brandon! (I suppose there is something to be said for sending someone ahead to do recon...) Brandon steered us successfully out of the train station and through the Stuttgart Stadmitte (downtown) to where the Volksfest was held. Unfortunately, we were missing one Volksfest. In the square where there should have been a maze of tents, tables and booths, there were only a few strolling people and precisely one fat pigeon. It was quite a disappointment, but since we were there, we decided to make the bast of it and have a good time anyway. We strolled around, goofing off and taking pictures until we found an open restaurant (it is mandatory that stores be closed for business on Sundays, and there aren't many restaurants open on Sundays either). There were 2 or 3 in a row on this one little side street, so we chose one that looked promising and sat at one of their outdoor tables. The waiter was prompt, but spoke a grand total of only 6 words in English, so ordering was interesting. And the menu...! There was an English translation, but there were things like crocodile, ostrich and zebra on the menu. How weird is that? None of us was terribly courageous; Sarah and I both got kase spatzle (think mac & cheese, but much, much better), Peguy got spaghetti, Neil got a chicken salad and Bran chose faloffel. I can't speak for anyone else, but the food was delicious (all of us were drinking hefeweizen). It was a blast! There were none of the awkward silences or groping for conversation that often mark the interactions between people that don't know each other well. Rather, the conversation flowed easily and all of us were laughing more than anything else. The best part, though, is that Brandon seems to like these people just as much as I do, which means that I'm not the only one with new friends. :)

After lunch (we must have sat there for at least 2 hours) we headed back through downtown toward the train station, but when we got there, Brandon took us to an elevator instead of to the trains. He'd mentioned something about going up in a tower, but we all thought he was joking until he hit the elevator button. So up we went, to the top of this tower that turned out to be an observation point for the city. It was awesome! You could see all of Stuttgart from there, and there were little signs on each wall with a key to identify each of the buildings visible from that side. We took a few more pictures (I didn't have my camera, unfortunately I'm out of charged batteries, but Sarah promised to make sure that I have copies of all of hers), then headed for home.

It's strange, that my home is currently a room at the Sindelfingen Marriott... But home it is, for now anyway, and that's where we went. Poor Sarah had a killer headache that had come on at the end of lunch, so she went on up to her room, but the rest of us stayed downstairs at the bar and the merriment continued for another couple of hours. :) I tell you, I am going to miss the bar regulars and the bar staff when we have to leave, though I will certainly be glad to have my own place again.

And speaking of which, Bran and I have another appointment with the housing office on Wednesday, so cross your fingers for us. Hopefully, they won't still be mad about the appointment that we missed last week, and hopefully we will soon be able to get on with the business of moving into our own place.

PS: If you think that I had a momentary lapse in my grasp of English grammar when writing my title for this post, then you obviously haven't been introduced to ICHC. Oh, and I would suggest that you start at page one. :) (warning: there are some mature captions....)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Night of Firsts

Before I get into the meat of the post, I have to back up a bit. Anytime Bran orders a new kind of beer, I always try a sip, for the sake of trying new things and on the off chance that I might actually find one that I like. When we were at the bar the night before last, Bran ordered the hefeweizen on tap. It's a German wheat beer, light colored and kind of opaque. I reached to take a sip, and Bran pushed it at me, saying, "you're not going to like it". But I tried it anyway, and it wasn't immediately unpleasant. So I pondered the taste a bit, then reached for another sip. It was good! But I was already well into a vodka and cranberry, so the discovery got pushed to the back burner. Then, when we ventured down to the bar for dinner last night (we had already decided to spend the bulk of the evening elsewhere) we each ordered drinks to go with dinner. I was tentative (what if I didn't like it, after all?), but I went ahead and ordered the hefeweizen. And let me tell you, it was delicious. I'm so excited to have finally found a beer, a real beer that I genuinely like! Not something that I had to acquire a taste for, but one that I just like. Yay!

So, that was my first 'first' of the evening. The second is that I saw my first rugby game, and thoroughly enjoyed that as well!

Bran and I went to O'Donovan's Irish Pub after dinner as planned. O'D's is the unofficial hang out of the NSWU2 (known more generally as "the unit", "unit 2" or "SpecWar"), and Bran had been there a time or two before. It's a cute little place, not very large at all, but with a great atmosphere. It was dead when we got there around 8, but then people started coming in and the place was packed before too long. Apparently, they usually have live entertainment on Saturday nights, but that was foregone in favor of watching the championship rugby game between England and France. I was a little put off at first, because of course, I've never been one to get excited about watching any sports game (except maybe the super bowl), but I was once again pleasantly surprised. The game is an odd mix of American football and soccer, and pretty easy to follow. Even better, it was easy to get into. It was a close game from beginning to end... I won't bore you with the details of the game, but I was pulling for England, largely because they were the underdogs in the game, and they won! It was all terribly exciting and enjoyable: the game, the yummy beer, the atmosphere...

As a side note, there were a bunch of unit 2 guys there; Bran recognized them from having played soccer or rugby with them in PT, but there weren't any that he worked with. The interesting thing is that at least 2 of them were SEALs! It's a small thing, I suppose, but I thought it was cool. :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We got the BMW!!!

And it is niiiiice. :) The loan application went through just fine, and we made it final last night. yay! I'm super excited about it, but no where near as excited as Bran. For me, the best part is that it has heated seats. How cool is that?!

Oh! and I now have an Armed Forces Certificate of License for driving in Germany. This means that I am legally allowed to drive that new BMW. Look out Germany...

In other news, I made a couple of friends yesterday: Sarah and Peguy (pronounced "Peggy"). Peguy's been here for about 2 weeks, and Sarah's only been here for about four days, and both are currently staying at the Marriot. I didn't get the chance to learn much about them (aside from the fact that we have very similar tastes in purses) since we only got to chat for a few minutes, but I have high hopes. We're supposed to meet at he hotel bar tonight for dinner and drinks, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've been hurting for some female company, so this is awesome.

Beyond that, there is nothing much to report. I've been doing a lot of sudoku and crossword puzzles (we get a daily newspaper outside our room every morning) when not occupied with the business of trying to get settled here...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

ich liebe deutschland!

Ok...I have been here for (counts on fingers) 5 days, and I have already fallen in love with this country. The landscapes are gorgeous, the food is delicious and the people are wonderful. I've noticed a few traits that seem to be idiosyncratic to the German culture, and those are taking some getting used to, but I think that is part of the fun of it all. For example, people you see in stores or walking down the street won't greet you, but they will stare unabashedly at you. My first experience with this was on the autobahn with Bran the other day: we were stuck in a Stau, or traffic jam, so we were moving pretty slow. I was looking all over, trying to absorb it all, when I noticed a 7 or 8 year old little boy in the car next to us just staring me down. So I smiled and waved, and he looked startled and waved back. It wasn't until later that I learned that smiling a greeting like that is akin to coming on to someone... Oh well, now I know. But it is so hard for me not to smile at people! That's just the way I am. I smile at people. You think maybe they'll excuse me, 'cause I'm American? :)
I've also learned that the 'Autobahn' is simply what the German's call their highways. The Autobahn runs all over the country, and speed restrictions are only lifted when it is deemed "safe" to cruise at high speeds.
And, German fun fact #3: Most of the bases around here were once German Nazi outposts. Panzer Kaserne, for example, means "tank base" in German. (Not surprisingly, the Nazis used Panzer predominantly as a tank base.) Brandon even showed me a place on one of the buildings on Panzer where the Nazi eagle still sits above a doorway. They got rid of the swastika, obviously, but as the eagle is actually part of the rock of the building, it wasn't as easy to remove. Besides, the eagle rather suits an American base.

Ayway, back to being on the Autobahn the other day. We were driving to Kaiserslautern to look at cars on a military consignment lot there. There wasn't really anything on site that we liked, but there is a large online selection. We picked two, and the guy was was going to have them brought there for us to test drive on Monday. But that is not the important part. Nor is the absolutely delicious lunch that we had at this cute little cantina right down the road from the car lot. Rather, it was the exploring that we did on the way home. You see, Kaiserslautern is about 2 hours away from where we are staying in Sindelfingen (which, in turn, is just a few minutes outside of Stuttgart. More on that later.). I'd been dozing on the way there, but I was wide awake on the way home. And guess what I see out side my window?
No, really, guess.
Ok, give up?
It was a castle! A real, honest-to-God castle! Maybe I'm easily amused, but come on! That's not the kind of thing that you get to see in the states. So, Bran got off of the Autobahn and we went exploring. We spent an hour or so cruising around the countryside, driving through neat little villages and miles and miles of vineyards. It is all just breathtakingly beautiful... We took pictures until the camera died, including one that Bran took of me stealing a grape from one of the vineyards. It was delicious, but I kept waiting for someone to come and yell at me to go away. It was just one wee grape, guys! Come on! But I swear, no more grape thieving for me.
Oh, and you know Dave, of the pissing-off-a-horse-fame? Well, Brandon is now of pissing-off-the-mountain fame. We had driven up a narrow twisty mountain road trying to get closer to the castle, and ended up at a dead end at the top. Bran had to go, and there was NOTHING around, so he, well, he pissed off the mountain. Sorry Dave, but I think that you've been out--um, classed. (I use the word loosely.) to go back and clear up a few other details. Bran is not actually stationed in Stuttgart; that is simply the nearest major city. There are a few small American bases around here, and to the best of my knowledge, none of them are in Stuttgart. We are currently staying at the Mariott in Sindelfingen, which is nice, but I'll be glad when we are able to get into our own place. We went and looked at an apartment here in Sindelfingen this morning, and it was really nice. It's the first place we've looked at, so we obviously don't want to make any decisions yet, but I really loved it. The only thing it lacks, and this is mostly Bran's beef, is a garage for the car/bike. We're going to look at another one tomorrow, and the printout on it says that it has a garage, so we shall see.
As far as a car goes, we are looking at trying to get financing on a 2005 BMW 325i. Or, at least, that's what I think it is. I know it's an '05 BMW 3-series, and that it's fully loaded, and automatic, and reeeeaaaaly nice. So, keep your fingers crossed for us, and hopefully we will soon be the proud owners of a sporty little BMW sedan.

Aaaand at this point, I think that I am all typed out. I'll be back on later, of course, to keep all and sundry updated (because I know that you are all sitting on the edge of your seats with baited breath, waiting for my next post. :).

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm in Germany!!!

The flight over was interesting... I first flew from Orlando to Atlanta: a short, quick and easy hour and a half. I was in the very last row on the plane (I thought for a minute that they were going to out me put on one of the wings!), but I had a window seat, which was nice. There was no one in the seat next to me so I leaned against the wall and stretched out toward the aisle with my book. It was nice...we were there before I knew it. But, being in the very last row, and toting a whole bunch of stuff (the cat included), I was the very last person to get off of the plane. I only had an hour in Atlanta, and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get to my connecting flight in time. I had to go all the way across the airport, but given that they had a nifty train that makes about half-a-dozen stops throughout the airport, it wasn't bad. I got to my assigned gate with about half an hour to spare, and sat to give Han his second dose of the sedative. Just as I finished with that, they started calling for people to board. Perfect, right? Wrong. When I got up there, they informed me that they had changed the gate for my flight, and I had just under 20 minutes to get from gate E17 to gate E4. I hauled butt over there (it was the same concourse, at least, but it was a totally different hallway. and believe it or not, 9 and a half pounds of cat gets heavy!) and made it by the skin of my teeth. I was towards the back of the plane again, but this time I had an inside aisle seat. I had an empty seat to my left, and the aisle to my right. I was able to spread out into the empty seat, so I wasn't so crammed, but those silly seats go back only so far... I didn't even bother trying to sleep until after dinner (which was surprisingly good), and then I only got a few hours of broken sleep. I thought that we were never going to land...but then we did. I got through customs and baggage claim pretty quickly, then had to wait about 5 minutes for the guy (I'm not sure exactly what his role/job title is) to read over the papers on Han and I was free to go. Bran was right there waiting for me, so we loaded up in the car and we were off. :)

At this point, I've been here for a little over 24 hours, and I absolutely love it. Everything is absolutely gorgeous! Fall is in full swing over here, and the trees are just beautiful. It's a wee bit chilly, but more brisk than cold. It's wet today, though, and I think that the temp is going to drop (if it hasn't started already). I'm still jet-lagging (Bran will NOT let me take a nap) so we're doing some low-key errand-running/exploring. We rented a car yesterday, and today I think we might go looking for one of our own. yay! We met a pair of interesting gentlemen at the hotel bar last night (we had to get out of the room so I wouldn't fall asleep too early) and they've pretty much got me convinced that a BMW would be a smarter purchase than a Volkswagon. {The first, Jim, is an American civilian working for the Army at Patch, one of the bases here. Pete is a Brit working for Mercedes Bens here in Stuttgart. They told us a lot about the area, about local foods and entertainments, and, obviously, about European cars.} So, that is our plan for the day. After that, who knows? But I'm sure that it'll be fun.

PS: Han did very well on the flight over here. We've now got him set up in our hotel room, and he is back to his usual self. *whew!*

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Adventure Begins

expedited us passport: $200
4 piece luggage set: $140
total cost of moving Han, the family cat, from US to Germany: $250
finally getting to re-unite our little family: priceless

:) I know, I'm silly. But we (Han and I) are finally leaving, and I am so excited! I leave Wednesday afternoon, and I'll be arriving in Germany Thursday morning. Yay! And even better, Bran has a 4 day weekend this weekend, so we get to spend some time together before he has to go back to work. We'll get to look around, maybe buy a car... It's all a little intimidating, but overall it's just exciting. I plan to post regularly, because I think that this is the best way for people who want to, to stay in touch and keep up with what we're doing. :)