31 December 2010


Yup, I'm going there. Next week. For 2 weeks. The guy stationed there is TDY and they need a little help. So I volunteered. I've never been to that area of the world so it should be interesting. I should probably look up the weather. That would be a good idea. Definitely a good idea.

30 December 2010


Yeah, we got some of that.

My drive to work.

Walking the dogs.

23 December 2010

A Few Days in Wiesbaden

I had to go to our district office in Wiesbaden, Germany for a few days. Here’s what happened.

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

My Tree

It's a little more brown than green and a little bit tipsy but it's working for me.

The Longest Night

Being further north, now, my days are even shorter than ever before. I have less than 8 hours of daylight. So I am very joyful that we have reached the Winter Solstice. The longest night is upon us and we can celebrate the return of light; something for which I am very grateful. This is, afterall, the origin of the modern winter holiday celebration.

So happy solstice, everyone.

12 December 2010

Moving Day

The lease is signed and I have the keys! Tomorrow we check out of the hotel and our stuff gets delivered. Today I need to move all the junk we have here in the hotel over to the house. Once we check out tomorrow we won't have internet at home for a while so postings will be sporadic.

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

A House For My Birthday

I've been holding off on posting this because I didn't want to jinx it. But I've received too many complaints about the lack of updates. So if it falls through I blame you. Yes, you specifically!

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

Very Odd News Story

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?


Well, sort of. Just a dusting. But a reminder that I need boots. And warmer gloves!

N.B. I have no idea why the pictures post so randomly. I can't seem to make them post the way I arrange them.

24 November 2010

Jessica and the Chocolate Factory

I had to go to the office in Belgium again yesterday to connect my computer to our network. There must have been solar flares or a giant, dense cloud hanging over Belgium because the GPS kept losing signal. All I could do was keep driving until the signal came back. Usually by that time I had missed my turn or exit. I ended up taking the very long way around!

Belgium is known for its chocolates (Godiva is based in Belgium). I had heard of a chocolate factory that was sort-of, kind-of on the way so I stopped by there on my way home. There's a little store (and I do mean little) attached to the factory. The chocolates there are greatly discounted (although still not cheap by any means). The best part, though, are the samples. They don't care how many you eat. You eat them until you feel like you're going to be sick. And then you eat a few more because you realize you haven't tried *that one* yet. My stomach still doesn't feel very good.

This was the "Lucky Corner." There are boxes and boxes of various chocolates and you can buy them in bulk. Because, really, doesn't everyone need good Belgian choclates in Costco-sized boxes?

On the drive back I stopped to use the bathroom and found the cutest male/female symbols on bathroom doors.

21 November 2010

Hotel Room Fever

It wasn't raining today and the sun came out a little today. I figured the dogs were probably tired of being cooped up in the hotel and needed a chance to run around off-leash. So I took them to my construction site which is nothing but a dirt parking lot and a grass field.

Tex promptly rolled in poo and had the displeasure of getting a shower when we got back. But they did get to chase some things and lay around in the grass.

17 November 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Please Sit Tight. There's Going To Be A Brief Delay

My project hasn't started yet. There's an issue with a permit. Lawyers are involved which means it could take a while to get it resolved.

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


Driving home today the GPS started talking to me in a voice that sounded like every demonically-possessed person in every horror movie ever. I tried to record it but the voice went back to normal. Demons don't like being recorded, I guess.

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.

Oh, There's An Upstairs

That's good. Because I needed some socks.

08 November 2010

Radio A-B-Cs

The radio here gets AFN (American Forces Network), BFBS (British Forces Broadcast Service), CFN (Canadian Forces Network) and, of course, lots of Dutch stations. I alternate between them depending on what they're playing.

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

Wallet Woes - Updated

I don't own a purse and don't plan to change that. I carry a very small wallet that holds my gov't ID, license, insurance card, credit/debit cards and maybe a little money. That's all I need.

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


I had to drive to Belgium Monday to pick up my laptop, phone and GPS (phone and GPS to replace the ones graciously loaned to my by ACS). It was extremely foggy on my way down.

I asked GPS (the borrowed one which, by the way, I like better than the newly issued one) to find me a Total gas station (the gas station for which the gov't car has a card). It took me to one about 20 min off the highway. Of course, the next gas station on the highway once I got back was a Total station. But, it did take me on a very scenic tour to and through a little town and afforded me the opportunity to take some pictures of the fog and some sugar beets that were just harvested. So all was not lost.
The fog had burned off by the time I started back; actually allowing me to see some of what I was passing. Going over bridges where I hadn't been able to see anything to either side I noticed a castle, beautiful countryside more bridges in the distance and so much more. Then I realized that I must have passed all of that last Monday on my way from the airport but that time it was fog in my head that prevented me from seeing it.

The laptop I was issued prmoptly threw a hissy fit on Tuesday and is now toast. I mailed it back to the IT folks in Germany yesterday and will wait for them to mail me a new one. My personal computer, though, has been restored to proper working order and I can now upload pictures with much more ease than I was able to earlier. So more pictures to come; hopefully.

01 November 2010

I Only Needed 3 Things

Most of you know how much I hate shopping. The other day I needed 3 things (well, 4 but I never did find the last one). I needed super glue, a sharpie and something I can't mention because it will ruin *someone's* birthday surprise. But all three things would normally be found somewhat near each other in any regular store. Not here.

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


Repaving the brick street.
View from the top of the hill.

They got so much snow here last year that people skied down here.

Looking up the hill. On the right is the indoor ski slope. In the middle are the stairs.

Fall colors out my hotel window.

The internet connection at my hotel is very slow which means it takes a long time to upload pictures. Thus, you only get a few.

30 October 2010

House Hunters International

I have seen this show at Mom and Dad's. If you haven't seen it, the basic premise is that a person or couple is looking for a house. They see three, each of which has some of what they're looking for but not everything. That's what I feel like right now. At the end of the show they pick one. Here are the details in the order I saw them.

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

Spreek Je Nederlands

Ja. Een beetje.

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

Funny Story From Yesterday

I went to the personnel/human-resources office yesterday. I went there on Day 1 as well. The lady who works there didn't recognize me at first and asked if she could help me. When I told her who I was she said,"Oh, you look much better than yesterday." Then she attempted to clarify by telling me I didn't look bad the day before but rather I looked, "...like an Army tomboy," whereas today I looked, "...like a woman." I told her that, "Yesterday I felt like a swamp creature (slimy and smelly) whereas today I feel more like a human being."

Day Two

Today ended up being a little hectic. I looked at two houses (I was supposed to look at 3 but no one showed up to show me one. I'm going to try that one again tomorrow). One had no yard so I didn’t bother looking at the house itself. I need some yard for the dogs. The other is nice. The bedrooms are on the tiny side (typical for Dutch houses) but the yard is nice and the location is good. I have appointments to look at two more tomorrow. I hope to visit the ones I like this weekend and walk around the neighborhoods to get a better feel.

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

First Full Day

Well, I wouldn't call the day full but I did wake up in the Netherlands so in that respect I'm considering it my first full day.

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

That Was Close!

I felt like I was a contestant on the Amazing Race. The task was to get checked into an international flight with two dogs. First I had to find the right line to wait in. Then a little man kept making me fix things (2 bowls in each crate, screws are facing the wrong direction take them all out (they needed to go up, not down!! Really?!? Who knew?!?!)). Fill out this form. Yes, it’s the same information as the form you already filled out but we want it on this form instead. Take the dogs out; put the dogs back (Cheyenne was already a little loopy from the medication and was having trouble standing, poor thing). All while watching the minutes tick away until it was time for the flight to board and I was still at the check-in counter. If it weren’t for Nancy and Eman and Lisa I would still be there, curled in the fetal position rocking like Rain Man!

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


Moved out: check
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

I'm So Not Ready

The packers come tomorrow to pack the stuff that will be shipped. They will come back Wednesday to haul it away. Then a new bunch comes Thursday to take the stuff that will be put into storage. I've spent the last week trying to organize things so that there's a clear definition between what stays and what goes.

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

I Hate Sorting and Packing

And I don't even have to do the packing part.
All I have to do is sort.

11 August 2010


Seems I am being sent to Schinnen Army garrison in the Netherlands (that's who I'm assigned to). I'll be working at Brunssum NATO base. But, since Schinnen is in that tiny part of the Netherlands that squeezes between Belgium and Germany (see red box on the map below), I can choose to live in any of the three countries. They're all that close!

How cool is that?!?!

10 August 2010


Time to dust off the cobwebby part of my brain where that Dutch I learned back when I was a foreign exchange student my junior year in high school resides. And time to crank up the language-learning center of my brain and, hopefully, finally learn some French.

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 :)