Monday, November 30, 2009

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Table Contribution

In spirit of the Thanksgiving season (and in honor of Mrs. Rapalje's Thanksgiving table tradition), I’d like to say that I am extremely thankful for being able to live overseas in these next few years of my life. Many people aren’t able to travel overseas in their lifetime, much less live over here, and I am lucky enough to do both, with my very best friend. Couldn’t ask for more!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Refill, please

You know you're an American living in Germany when you go to an American restaurant on base and get excited for the 99cent Coke with endless refills, so much so, that you get 16+ refills. And use one pack of ketchup per french fry. (Today, on base, I swear I had at least 15 Cokes while eating lunch - endless refills are amazing!)

German ketchup is curry ketchup. It's good, but different. They usually eat their pommes (french fries - which are WAY better in Germany than in America) with mayo, not ketchup. But if you do get ketchup, it's curry flavored, tasting more like bbq sauce. I've found myself craving American ketchup.

And as for the soda, well, the Germans make their money on beverages. Water is expensive. Soda is expensive. But beer and wine are dirt cheap. When you order a Coke, or Cola light, at a German restaurant, it is likely to cost you 3-4euro. It comes in a small, 6oz glass, with lemon, room temperature, no ice, and worst of all, NO REFILLS! As for the water, it is also from a bottle, and costing 3-4euro. It will be sprudel (or fizzy) if you do not ask for it otherwise (we now bring our own water to restaurants and wait to drink soda until we are on base!)

Friday, November 20, 2009


The Germans love their bikes and bells.

Literally EVERY German has a bike with a bell attached for convenience when passing. If a biker comes up behind you and sees that you are going to be in his way, he dings his bell. You move to the right, no questions asked. Don't look back, you never know how much time you have. Some dingers ding early, giving you ample time, other dingers ding at the last possible second, almost running you over.

It was amazing how quickly the dogs have learned not to look back at the sound of the ding, only move over to the right.

My friend Kathleen, however, was a different story. First time she heard the ding, she slowly looked back AND moved left! HUGE mistake that could've cost her her life, or at least a bad fall. Luckily the German did not hit her, only cursed, frowned, and acted grumpy, you know, the usual German interaction.

So remember, if you hear a 'ding' while in Germany, MOVE RIGHT.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Watch Your Step

(The Creek and Snake #1)

Boston and Riva are very habitual, in part, I guess, because I am habitual. We have our 45 minute morning walk everyday (of course there are multiple routes we take), and play time by the creek. Recently, it's been muddy and rainy and I haven't let them play in the water. Today, however, was absolutely gorgeous. No coat needed! I was still hoping they wouldn't wind up wet, but that didn't last long.

Boston only chases after the tennis ball. Riva only chases after the stick. This morning, Bos, while chasing after a ball, disappeared into the brush, only to come out five minutes later, soaking wet. Of course at that point, Riva sees her and also joins in the fun. Now I have two wet dogs. At least it's sunny and warm out!

Occasionally, Boston loses the tennis ball under the apple tree. She can't tell the difference between apples and tennis balls (they both are constantly gorging themselves on fallen apples, eating the entire thing, thank you raw food diet). Today, same story. Another lost tennis ball under the apple tree. Boston is searching frantically. I walk over to help her (I of course can tell the difference between an apple and tennis ball!) and step on a snake! EEK! This is the SECOND German snake I've encountered (a little larger than the first). Luckily, they've been friendly, unlike some of the other Germans I've met! No harm no foul, but I think our next project will be to mow/weed eat some of the brush so one of the dogs doesn't get a snake bite!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Old Battles the New

The new couch has arrived.. in part. All we're missing now is the love seat. But what a process this has been.

First, we find out the couch is FINALLY in stock. Of course, it is ONLY the couch, no love seat. What to do, what to do? With the German work force the way it is AND the AF the way it is, who knows when they both would've been in stock at the same time. So we jump on it and buy the couch. Next decision, should we rent a moving van and drive it back to the house today or have it delivered? We rented a moving van for the patio furniture and everything went smoothly. Again, with the German work ethic, who knows when it would be delivered. Decision made! Alex will be picking it up since he's already in the area and bringing it home. I await patiently.

2 hours later (at this point I'm thinking he would be almost home), Alex calls, lost. Great. I don't know how to help? I'm an hour away and don't know my way around that part of the country. Googlemap to the rescue? No, Completely useless. I finally get the genius idea of calling a friend who was stationed in the area. She calls Alex and magically, he is found again :) Of course at this point, he's on the phone, swearing and saying he doesn't even want the couch anymore. One hour later, the couch, the moving van, my grumpy husband, and the rain have arrived. Luckily the landlord is home to help move it into the house and it looks great!

After all his hard work, Alex sits down to rest. Where does he sit? The old couch (which will temporarily remain in the living room until we have help to move it)! Where does he fall asleep in front of the TV? The old couch! As Bhatta stated, guess it was just his way of saying goodbye!

Monday, November 16, 2009

"All I Want for Christmas is You, Baby"

One of the first things I did when we moved into Trier was a join a gym. The one on base is too far away to go everyday, so why not join the Germans (of course, that's what I said at the time.. now I know why, they're smelly when they're not working out, just imagine when they're all sweaty and working out). I walked in and tried to explain to the trainers that I wanted to join their gym. With the language barrier, this was difficult. I finally got the point across and they gave me the application to fill out, which of course, was IN GERMAN. For the most part, I knew what it was asking for, but not really knowing German, I could have just signed my life away.

I was pretty inconspicuous for a while. I’m definitely the only American there. Minus the one trainer that helped me join, no other members and/or trainers suspected me of being American. I almost got caught one day when not walking in with a ‘handtuch,’ (handtowel) to put on the machines – these are required. A trainer yelled at me in German, so I took the towel and thought, ha, you didn’t hurt MY feelings, I don’t even know what you said!

The cat came out of the bag the other day though. While on the elliptical, one of the trainers was walking around asking a few people questions. Crap, I can’t answer him, I don’t speak German. I tried to ignore him, but had no luck. I used the German I did know to say, I don’t understand you, I speak English ( Ich verstehe sie nicht. Ich spreche English). Turns out, he was just asking if he could open the window (OF COURSE you can open the window – there is no AC and everyone in here smells – PLEASE OPEN!). He says a couple more things to me and walks off. Not so bad afterall? Not so fast…

The next day I walk in, find my machine, turn on my iPod, starting working out, when another trainer comes up to me. He says excitedly, “Are you the American?” Guess everyone knows, might as well admit it.

Me: “Ja.”

German Trainer: “Oh my God, are you listening to an iPod?”

Me: “Ja.”

German Trainer: “I LOVE American music. Can I have it?!”

Me: “Um, NO.”

German Trainer (in broken English): “No, just play over gym stereo today.”

Me: “Ok, I guess.”

Luckily, my iPod decides to play a non-embarrassing selection of tunes for the Germans to listen to. The next day, however, is a different story. The same trainer asks me for my iPod. I agree. Why not? I’ll tell you why not.. First song to come on: Mariah Carey 1990s classic, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” I hear it start to play and think oh nooo. About 30 seconds into it, the song is manually skipped by my trainer friend. I’m embarrassed. Now, before I go to the gym, I weed out the embarrassing tunes!


The neighbor girls who watch the dogs come over often. They pretend to do their homework here, play with the dogs, play the wii, etc. They think it's cool to have an American friend. Well, randomly one day, I showed them some videos of Bhatta and I, including, 'The Flip,' where Bhatta flips a ginormous pancake in the kitchen at Destin, successfully! The girls didn't know what pancakes were!!! How could you not know what pancakes are?! On my next shopping trip on base, the girls come with me and stock up on American junk food, including pancake mix (Oreos are a HUGE hit with the Germans). They take all the groceries back with them, excited to try all the foods (cereal, chips and salsa, pancakes, brownie mix, popcorn, anything microwavable since the Germans don't have microwaves, etc) and that's the last I hear of the pancakes.. until last night.

While I was working on my homework last night, the girls came over saying they were having problems making pancakes. They had friends over and wanted to eat them but couldn't figure it out (I forgot the directions were in English, which they speak well, but don't read quite as well). I walk in the kitchen and find a huuuuge pan is filled with a TON of oil and about half the pancake batter. I said, "Ok, let's try this again. Warm up a new pan, get out your Pam, and I'll show you how to make pancakes." They don't have Pam, they don't know what Pam even is. And they don't have syrup or butter! How could you eat pancakes without syrup?!!! They cook everything in lots and lots of EVOO, which didn't quite work with the pancakes. The pancake batter was just swimming in oil. Not to0 appetizing. So we get the syrup, butter, and Pam from my house, and cook the Germans up their first batch of pancakes, which they loved!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

O Tannenbaum

The Germans outdo the Americans on all major holidays. New Years, Easter, and especially Christmas, with their month-long celebration, christmas markets, picturesque snowy towns, chocolate, gluhwein, and the like. All holidays, that is, except for Thanksgiving, which theyobviously don't celebrate. As we found out last night, not having Thanksgiving makes them feel left out.

Shopping in Trier during the day, A and I ran into a street celebration in the walking platz. A band, everyone dressed up in crazy hats and costumes, and of course, vendors selling beer, brats, and for the holiday season, gluhwein (a warm, spiced wine - delicious). We had no idea what the celebration was for, but of course joined in.

When we got home that afternoon, our neighbor told us about a celebration going on in Trier. She said, 'it's like our Thanksgiving.' She explained that the town meets at the top of the hill, the kids bearing homemade lanterns, the older boys carrying fire sticks, and walk all the way down (responsibly of course, meaning with the fire dpt.) to the town center while singing songs. We of course joined in and thankfully were not caught of fire by all the crazy boys carrying fire sticks. At the bottom of the hill, a huge bonfire, free sugar pretzels, and of course, beer and gluhwein.

While the holiday was nothing like Thanksgiving, it was a fun thing to partake in on a random Wednesday night. With Thanksgiving being just around the corner, we'll have to see who outdoes who on this holiday!
Marie and I drinking gluhwein

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Not for the thin-skinned

Germans have an entirely different demeanor than Americans. No smiling, no waving, they cut in line, etc. They say exactly what they think and don't think twice about hurting your feelings or offending you. Much more gruff than we're used to.

Line cutting gets on my nerves. I am easily agitated. These Germans easily get my blood boiling..

For example, traveling to inter-Europe via RyanAir. RyanAir is a budget airline. GREAT for European travel. My flight to Ibiza was only 40 euro roundtrip. It's a steal. However, there are catches. One, you never want to check luggage. It is the most unorganized catastrophe you could imagine. Two, there are no seat numbers on the plane. Unless you pay for priority boarding, it is first come first serve. People start waiting in line about 45 min. to an hour out. If my flight is over an hour, I am not sitting alone, without Alex, and beside some smelly German. So we wait in line with the rest of the folks. Slowly, you see people behind you creeping up. All of sudden, without even blinking, those line creepers are in front of you. How the heck does this happen? They have TONS of practice line-cutting, tons. After being passed by 3 different people, I decide, this is it, nobody else is passing us. I see a family of 5 start creeping. Not this time, no sir, they are not passing us. Just as they get behind us (by sneaking their way past gobs of other people), I start knocking them out, one by one, with my ginormous backpack (like I said, we do NOT check bags). I'm getting pissed. I don't know how, but the FAMILY OF FIVE got past us. Turns out, joke was on them. First ones in line were first ones on the BUS TRANSFER to the plane, making them LAST ONES off the bus and last ones on the plane. As we're sitting in our seats on the plane BESIDE each other, the German family of five passes us. HA HA - beat ya.

This line-cutting and passing and trying to go first even if they were there last happens everywhere, the gas station, grocery store, bakery, restaurants, etc. It takes some getting used to. And you can't be offended when you smile and wave at someone you pass and they frown, ignore you, and keep on walking.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For Sale

One 10mo. old Labrador Retriever, Riva, and her 18mo. old sister, Boston.

Their puppy faces and entertaining wrestling will help you to forget they just chewed on your new wooden patio chairs. They love to be outside, chase tennis balls, wrestle, shed endless amount of hair on your clean floor, and drool while you're cooking dinner. Riva is an expert at cleaning up her own and others' poop (be it dog, cow, or horse), gobbling it up whenever and wherever she can find it. Boston will keep you in physical shape with her peanut-sized bladder needing to relieve itself every hour.

Special Discount, today, this week, or anytime in the near future: FREE! Riva, Boston, or both! Will ship internationally at no additional cost to you!

(Not really, but gosh, sometimes it's tempting.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

New House Pics - just for Mrs. Rapalje

Rooms are being completed one by one, finally! I'll put up more pictures just as soon as they're done.

the deck - we got patio furniture yesterday from the base equivalent of Craigslist.

dining room, wine rack soon to come

our Hokie office!