31 December 2010
30 December 2010
23 December 2010
1. It snowed every day. Thankfully I found my snow brush/ice scraper in my delivered household goods because the GOV didn’t have one. Some days I had to clear the car multiple times. But, it was very pretty out when it was snowing. At least, when I didn’t have to drive in it.
2. German drivers are not friendly. There are no protected left turns. You are supposed to drive into the intersection (and they will madly honk at you until you do because they’re going to join you in said intersection) and wait until either the opposing traffic ends or the light turns red. Then as many cars as can get through before the traffic starts coming at you the other direction. The snow made the already narrow streets even narrower and obscured the already confusing road markings.
3. My GPS kept losing signal. I was repeatedly left driving aimlessly waiting to reacquire a signal. The first morning it took me about 40 min. to go what should have taken 10. The second morning it took about 80 min. Seeing as I had no idea where I was going and couldn’t see the road markings because of the snow I had a lot of angry people honking at me to get out of their way.
4. I finally visited a Christmas Market. It's a little like the state fair; but with fewer rides. Basically it's a bunch of people selling stuff. It was interesting to walk around for a little bit. It was VERY cold out, though.
And here are some pictures from the drive back.
21 December 2010
So happy solstice, everyone.
12 December 2010
I'm taking bets on two things:
1. The front door doesn't have a door knob. You have to open it with the key. This is typical of Dutch houses. How long will it take me to lock myself out of the house?
2. The house is 2-story. The steps are steep and have a turn. This is also typical of Dutch houses. I have to lean forward and hold on in order not to fall over backwards when going up. And that's when I'm not carrying anything. How long will it be before I fall up or down the stairs (cause can be dog induced)?
I'll let you know when (not if, because they're both pretty much guaranteed) these happen :)
07 December 2010
I'm set to sign a contract for a house on Friday. I move in on Monday. Happy birthday to me!!
I am very ready to be out of the hotel. I'm anxious to be cooking for myself again and I'm definitely ready to be done taking dogs down and up stairs!! Three cheers for back doors to back yards!!
The house is not one of the ones previously described. It's a little larger than I wanted but is the nicest house I looked at (hello heated tile bathroom floor). The yard is the most secure (although I have no doubt my houdinis will figure a way out) but, sadly, has no shade. It's not located right in town like I had hoped but since my houdinis will likely figure out how to get out of the yard that's probably for the best. It's easily bike-able to work and could be walked if I'm feeling energetic.
I'll post more next week about the neighborhood and such after I've had time to explore it.
26 November 2010
Local news site OverEindhoven.nl reports that a three-car collision in the Netherlands tonight was caused by a red couch sitting in the middle of the road.
The couch was lying in the center of highway A270 near Eindhoven, Netherlands, for unknown reasons. The fire department rescued at least one person trapped in one of the cars and one person was transferred to a hospital by ambulance, per the report.
I like how they reported the color of the couch. Would a different color have resulted in a different outcome?
24 November 2010
21 November 2010
17 November 2010
In the mean time, they're going to give me some other things to work on. I'm not exactly sure what but I told them I'll do whatever. I think it's something I've never done before so it will give me a chance to learn something new while I'm waiting.
09 November 2010
Just now, when I tried to heat up some left-overs in the microwave the hotel put in my room last week it growled at me when I pressed start. So I pressed stop, unplugged it and tried again. Same thing. But the light lit up and the plate turned round so I let it go. It growled at me again when I opened the door. The food was still cold. I guess demons don't like hot food, either.
08 November 2010
AFN teases me and plays the intro to NPR's Morning Edition before switching to ESPN radio for, what seems like, hours. I did get to hear Prairie Home Companion yesterday while I was out looking at a house. BFBS plays some song (at least, I think it's supposed to be a song) pretty frequently that repeats, “Barbara Streisand,” over and over. It's interesting to hear the same world news story from multiple perspectives. The Canadian station has news in French sometimes. I haven't learned French. Yet. Perhaps if I keep listening to CFN.
04 November 2010
Now I have 2 ID cards (for 2 bases); I will have at least 2 and possibly up to 5 or 6 licenses (not including my TN license). I still have my credit/debit cards but will have to add new ones from the banks here and I still have my insurance card but will also need to add a hospital registration card. I will be getting an alien registration card (no, I’m really not from ‘round here). And I have two forms of currency; one of which sticks out the top of my wallet because it's taller than the US dollar (don't get me started on two different sets of coins!). It doesn't all fit. Oh, and let's not forget my passport. I have to have that any time I cross a border. I live on 2 borders and will probably cross them pretty frequently so I just figure it will be easier to have the passport all the time.
I need to find something that can hold all of this but still small enough that I can carry it around easily. Anyone have any suggestions?
**Update: I just got a library card and forgot about my ration cards. Because what I listed above wasn't quite enough. I have a feeling there are other cards coming that I don't know about yet. I'm thinking a small wheelbarrow might be what I need.
02 November 2010
01 November 2010
I bought the unmentioned item at the PX. The sharpie I found at the shoppette (it's like a convenience store). The super glue was at the PXtra (Why is there a PX and a PXtra? I don't know. Chalk it up to the infinite wisdom of the government.). The shoppette had 3 or 4 different kinds of glue but not super glue.
Each base (there are 3 within a few miles of each other here) has multiple little stores like this. I've been told to check out all of them to see what they have. Something tells me I'm going to have to in order to find everything I'm looking for. And mom wonders why I do all my shopping on line!
31 October 2010
30 October 2010
House #1: It has a good yard (a must for the dogs), kitchen is nice, floors are wood. But the bedrooms are tiny. This is typical but, also typical, they don't have closets so you have to factor in fitting more furniture in the room for storing your clothes. It has a driveway and garage. The location is good.
House #2: The bedrooms are a little bigger and it has a huge closet room so not having a closet in the bedroom isn't a problem. It does have carpet which I can live with if I have to. It has a sun porch and a decent yard but there's no fence; just hedges. My dogs would be out of that yard in a heartbeat. I could always ask that they fence the yard if I decide I want this house. It's almost walking distance to work. It has a big driveway and two garages.
House 3: This is the largest house I looked at. The floors are all wood. The bedrooms are big. The "master bedroom" even has the cutest little toilet closet. The yard is good and it's fenced. The kitchen is tiny and there's no dining room. The worst thing is there's no shower/bath upstairs with the bedrooms. There's a shower downstairs off the kitchen which seems rather inconvenient. There's also no driveway. There's a garage but but you can't get to it with a car.
So far House #1 is winning. I was supposed to see another house today but a German family rented it yesterday. Today I'm going to go walk around the neighborhoods of the houses and see how they are. And I'm going to keep looking since I have up to 90 days to find a place. I promise to take some pictures today, too.
28 October 2010
I am trying to conduct as many interactions in Dutch as I can. So far I’ve seen 2 houses and made appointments to see 2 others in Dutch. Sometimes, though, people don’t seem to understand when I ask them to speak slowly or when I say I don’t understand.
Today, I was on the phone with a woman and I asked her to speak more slowly. Instead, she just rearranged the words she had just said but didn’t slow them down at all. After telling her I still didn’t understand she simply repeated herself again. Often I end up with a quizzical look on my face while I struggle to find the words that I don’t have or to understand words that I probably never knew. I rarely understand everything someone is saying but I can usually pick out enough words to get the gist of what they’re telling me.
It surprises and delights folks here when Americans speak to them in Dutch. Sometimes, though, they don’t even realize you said something in Dutch and they continue on in English. Dutch and English are interchangeable for many people here.
I saw a house this morning and I have another to see this evening and one on Saturday. Tomorrow is the newcomers tour of both bases (the USAG and the JFC) and the surrounding area. This weekend I plan to walk around the neighborhoods of the houses I’ve liked and get a better feel for them.
27 October 2010
I also had to get new ID cards today. I ended up making three trips to the same place to get two ID cards. I got the first one just fine. Then I couldn’t find the building for the second and had to get to an appointment. Before I went back for the second I noticed an error on the first. So I got that corrected and went for the second. For some reason, the prints on the fingers that are currently attached to my hands did not match what is in the system. In order to override what is in the system and capture new prints two people are needed. Only one was available. Since I had an appointment at another house I had to leave and go back. It took two more tries to get the system to take everything. Finally I have the two new ID cards I need. The pictures are so different it’s hard to believe they were taken on the same day.
All that back and forth afforded me the opportunity to see more of the area. I had some trouble understanding what GPS wanted me to do a few times. Once I went the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes when she says “Turn Right” she means right now. Sometimes she means a little further up. So sometimes I turned too soon and sometimes I turned too late. Round-a-bouts (of which there are many) require special attention. Sometimes what I consider an exit isn’t an exit to GPS and vice-versa. Which means I really have no idea how to get anywhere yet because I went a different way every time. I kept waiting for her to say, “Where the hell are you trying to go and why can’t you follow simple instructions?”
Daily dog update: I attempted to barricade the couch in the room to keep the dogs off last night. When I woke up this morning one dog was on top of the duffel bag on the couch and the other was on top of a suitcase on the floor. They never cease to amaze me with their determination not to sleep on the floor!
26 October 2010
I slept pretty late (especially for me) and I needed it. One of the worst parts of living in a hotel with dogs (dogs who are used to unrestricted access to the back yard) is having to put them on leashes to take them out multiple times/day. It was hovering around freezing this morning so our short jog was, well, short. It is forecast to be in the 50s during the day and 40s at night for the rest of the week so that's not so bad.
I took my time this morning as I didn't want to have to drive during rush hour. I survived my first attempt at driving in the Netherlands (or, should I say the Netherlands survived my first attempt?). I had one tiny mishap on my way home when I accidentally turned onto a bike path (which was as wide as a street and, thankfully, contained no bikes at the time) due to some confusing (to me) lane markers but I quickly got back on the actual road. And once on the way home I misunderstood GPS's direction at a round-a-bout. But a simple U-turn fixed that problem. Tomorrow I have to go to the NATO base where I'll be working so I'll get to drive another route.
I got to work around 11 and started finding my around the tiny base (it is easily walkable and driving from one thing to the next is absurd) visiting various offices required for inprocessing. I got my ration cards. That's right; ration cards. Alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Except they say coffee hasn't been rationed since sometime after WWII (the gov't doesn't get around to updating forms very often).
Right now all I'm tasked with is inprocessing and finding a house and I'm expected to take lots of time to rest and acclimate. Well, that and I don't have an office or a computer or, really, anything to do yet since the project hasn't started. I see my first potential house tomorrow.
The dogs are doing well and have made themselves quite comfortable. They seem to think it is okay for them to be on the bed here. We're going to have to have a talk about this.
I promise to take pictures of something other than the dogs soon!
25 October 2010
Once I managed to get checked in (leaving Nancy, Eman and Lisa to finish getting the dogs situated with the little man) I did a National-Lampoon-like mad dash through the airport. Of course, the security line was long and, of course, I ended up in the line with the stroller that’s so big it has to be taken apart to fit through the machine and, of course, they held up everyone while they took it apart. I continued my mad dash with my britches falling down because I didn’t want to take time to put my belt back on. I got to the gate right at departure time.
The gate attendant looked up at me and said (in a very pissed-off tone), “ You’re late!”
“I know!” I replied.
“And, you have kennels.” She barked.
“I KNOW!” was all I could manage.
“Get on the plane. Seat 29E.” She practically spit at me. “You’re Reath, right?” She finally remembered to ask (she didn’t bother checking ID).
The flight attendants were visibly annoyed as well as I looked for room in the overhead bin for my carry-on of dog food, bowls, leashes, etc. Seat 29E was the middle seat in the middle section. I had to pee before we got to the airport. By the time I got on the plane I REALLY had to pee. It would be another hour before I would get to do so. I was very grateful for my tro-tro-travel toughened bladder!
Upon arrival in Brussels I had to wrangle 3 luggage carts (one for luggage and 2 for dog crates). Thankfully, someone took pity on me and helped. None of the paperwork I spent an entire day and $122 to get was ever requested by anyone, anywhere. The dogs made it just fine and seem to be suffering no lingering effects of stress or drugs. They’re sleeping next to each other on the floor right now.
Two folks from the Belgium office picked us up and drove us to my new duty station. We dropped off the dogs and luggage at the hotel and they took me to the Garrison to check in. There was a whirlwind of information and several hours later they departed leaving me with the keys to a gov’t car and a GPS. I have to drive myself to work tomorrow. YIKES!! I have no idea how to drive here. That will be interesting.
I’ll try to post about the area soon; once I’ve actually seen it. My hotel is attached to the world’s largest indoor ski slope. Someone told me you get to ski for free when you stay here. I might just have to give it a try.
Tot ziens vor nu.
23 October 2010
Car shipped: check
Truck sold: check
House rented: check
Winter coat: check (it's going to be in the 30s and 40s when I get there)
Paperwork for the dogs: check (I think, I hope!)
Hotel reservation upon arrival: check
I leave in less than 2 days. I think I have everything ready. Well, by ready I mean I think I have everything I need to be ready. Except for the list of things I have to get/do tomorrow. And the fact that while I might have everything it's not organized or packed yet.
And I just realized that while I have a confirmed ticket, I did not print my itinerary. Add that to the list of things I have to do tomorrow. *SIGH* Maybe I'm not as ready as I'd like to think I am.
I plan to get excited about this trip as soon as I get there and clear all customs and borders with the dogs. Until then, I'll be worried that I'm missing some important piece of paperwork or something. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
11 October 2010
The packers will pack anything that isn't nailed down. If there's trash in your trash can they'll pack it. They once packed all my shoes. ALL of them. I had none on. I'm not ready. I'm not going to be ready. I've resigned myself to that. I'm sure I'll have more panic attacks tomorrow morning before they get here. I'm sure I'll be up in the middle of the night because I remembered something. I'm sure some things will be sent that should stay and some things I want to go will be left behind.
I survived 2 years in Ghana with next to nothing. I will survive with whatever ends up there and will live without whatever doesn't. Okay, I think I'm breathing normally again.
That's not to say I won't have a few more mini-panic attacks between now and tomorrow.
25 September 2010
11 August 2010
How cool is that?!?!
10 August 2010
I'm heading to Belgium for 3 years. Courtesy of the US Army. The dogs are coming, too.
Where in Belgium? I'm not exactly sure. Somewhere just across the border from Brunssum, Netherlands; where there's a NATO post. I'll be building something on that post. And I don't know why I'm not being sent to Brunssum since that's where I'll be working. To me, those are minor details. The point is I'm going to Belgium!!
Unlike my last jaunt courtesy of the US Army, people might actually want to come visit me...and be able to. They will be most welcome! Waffles and Godiva chocolates await :)