Sunday, 31 August 2014


    Gail again. Mom's last post was all about move-in day, which was trying and taxing (five hours in Ikea, for those who haven't read it, and much more than that) but the day before, I did something much more fun. Dad took me to Kletterwald (, a ropes course in Wiesbaden, the city where we stayed until we moved in to our new apartment. I've climbed in Kletterwald many times before this, but now that I'm older and taller I can do the more challenging courses, which are much more fun, with more ziplines. Dad sat on a bench and read and napped while I did some of the courses.I loved it as much as ever, although the easier ones were very crowded. 
    There was one couple right in front of me who wouldn't go to the next platform until there were two spaces open, so that they could always be together (three people were allowed on each platform.) As you can imagine, this seriously clogged up the works. When they got to one platform, they just stood there, talking to each other and their friends on the ground, ignoring the growing mass of irritated people trapped, three to a platform, while they discussed everything under the moon. They eventually told me to go in front of them, but when a little girl, about six or seven, did the zipline-type thing to get to that platform and got stuck, they wouldn't help her. They just stood there obliviously, and only helped her when an employee was summoned to yell at them to for goodness's sake help the little girl stuck on the zipline. When I was younger, I got stuck on that same obstacle; it's hard to make it all the way to the platform with so little body weight. I felt really bad for her. Finally, when they decided to go, they looked at the next obstacle and chickened out, having to be rescued by the same employee, which meant that no one could move on, since, counting them and the guy rescuing them, there were already three people on the platform. The little girl who was behind them did the obstacle with ease, but they were so incompetent and  oblivious that they couldn't make it. I'm sorry that I've wasted so much space with this pair, but I was very irritated (and still am, for that matter.)
    Other than that, I had a wonderful time. The last course I went on was one I had never done before and featured one zipline that went from one tree to another that must have been at least two hundred feet long. The course also had a maximum height of seventy feet, which was exhilarating and amazing. Mom was shocked, but I protested that since dad was napping when I did the course, I couldn't ask for permission, and thus was free to go. She was joking about not wanting me to go that high, mostly, although she did spend about fifteen minutes making sure that I was being extra-extra-extra-careful. I was, and still maintain that I'm safer up there than I am on the ground. This was proven in that, after spending two and a half hours in the treetops without the littlest scrape, I tripped over a tree stump in the first five minutes on the ground and got a beautifully skinned knee. As far as anyone else is concerned, I got it from scraping my knee on the tree bark as I came down, got it? One gets out of a higher course by jumping off the platform and being lowered to the ground, as a matter of fact, so it isn't that much of a stretch to say that it happened then. It was in the same, oh, ten-minute time frame, so who will ever be the wiser?
    With everything as hectic as it is, it'll be a couple of weeks before I can go back, but I'm looking forward to it. With luck, I won't hurt myself again tripping over...I mean, um, heroically rescuing a little girl being held captive on a platform by an, maybe it still needs some work. But I have plenty of time.


I have keys in my pocket again! It is so strange to NOT have any keys. No home, no car, etc. But as of Friday we have a home! If you want the address, please email me or PM me on Facebook. Although the neighborhood is not beautiful - think post-war let's throw up some housing fast - the location is great. From the end of our street the Rhine River is one block away and the main pedestrian shopping zone is a block the other way. I am looking forward to experiencing some of the cafe culture!

Move in day was long and exhausting. Wayne went to get the van we rented while Gail and I did final packing. There is no parking at the friend's apartment where we'd been staying, so we took everything down to street level (90 stairs!), then Wayne parked illegally while we loaded the van at lightning speed. We were a little early at this point to get the key, so we went to a big store (Real) to get some household must-haves: cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. Then at 11 o'clock  we met the very nice woman who gave us our keys and walked through the lease, etc. with us. Once again, Wayne parked illegally while we unloaded the van as quickly as possible into the entrance area, then he found a legal parking space for the van a couple of blocks away and we carried everything up to our new apartment (only 60 stairs!) I followed Cathy Goodwin's philosophy and made our bed first - and was I glad later that I had. We left the apartment about 1 and got caught in a horrible traffic jam - makes me so glad we don't have a car here. When we got to Ikea, we had lunch and then spent an utterly miserable 5 hours there (this is from people who HATE to shop). We bought Gail's bed and shelves, a dining room table and chairs, duvets, plates and silverware, towels, and lots of small items. According to my pedometer we walked two miles in Ikea. I'd much rather do a half marathon - less exhausting and takes way less time! We then stopped back at our friend's to eat a quick dinner of leftovers we'd left in her fridge and load up the rest of our stuff, then back to our new place. We unloaded the van and Wayne returned it while Gail and I carried everything upstairs. After much-needed showers we had a good night's sleep in our own home.

Saturday was a big day for Gail - she assembled her first Ikea furniture. What a milestone in a young person's life.  I did a lot of cleaning - everyone always thinks they leave their place clean, but there are always some things one misses. Or maybe everyone just cares about different stuff being clean. We did a big shopping trip to load up on some staple food items like chocolate and bread. Stores here mostly aren't open on Sunday, so we couldn't wait on that job. I didn't take time to go to the big market on Saturday, but I'll try to go this week. 

The only real negative is that we are not going to have a home phone or Internet service in our apartment for three more weeks. To get Internet we need to go to a friend's place or find public wireless, so updates to our blog will not be very regular for the next few weeks!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Apartment hunt

Gail here-Mom's busy chatting with our friends from Wiesbaden over another dinner of good German bread and cheese, and I'll be writing today's post. When I write, it'll be in this dark blue, just so you can tell us apart; that is, if I'm not too busy with school to write!

Today was utterly exhausting. Mom's pedometer clocked a total of 15,000 steps, mostly around Mainz. Apartment Hunting Day was something I was not looking forward to-what an ordeal, I thought- but in the end, it was successful. But not so quickly. It was a long day.

It began with a trip to an apartment in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood near my school. My room-a loft- was lovely, arguably the best room in the apartment, which was a problem. The master bedroom was tiny, there was no washing machine (and no place to put one), the rent was very expensive, and it turned out that the landlord had no interest in renters for only one year. With regret, I bid farewell to the perfect room; with less regret, to the vaguely creepy real estate agent who smelled of cigarette smoke, and we wandered into downtown Mainz.

Mom and Dad had some errands to run, and we wiled away the time with one thing and another (including jeans shopping-bleagh) until lunch, when Dad made yet another unanswered call to the owners of the apartments we were interested in. We had no other visit to an apartment scheduled until Mom checked her email; within half of an hour, we had an appointment at by far the most promising of the apartments at six o'clock. So, we waited and waited and waited, eventually ending up at a very nice bakery/cafe where we played endless rounds of Hangman on a piece of scrap paper. Finally, finally, the time came, and we followed the much nicer friend of the owner up the four or five flights of stairs.

It had everything: a place to store our at this point theoretical bikes, a dishwasher, a washing machine, a lovely (and partially stocked) kitchen,  a master bedroom with a bed (yay!) and a huge dresser, and art already on the walls. True, the bathroom was old and tiny and all that was in my room was a bright red sofa and a hideous tapestry, but the second (and more important) problem and the lack of furnishings in the rest of the house should be remedied with a monster trip to Ikea. And yes, for those of you who were wondering, Ikea is everywhere, like a virus that, once it's caught you, never lets you go, and you just keep walking and walking and walking and walking and never, ever leave... The more perceptive of you might have noticed that I am not the biggest fan of Ikea, but it will come in handy this time. I'm really looking forward to the trip (not).

Well, thirty-six hours in Germany, and we have an apartment. May all our troubles be resolved this easily. We move in Friday.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

We're back!

We are safely in Germany! For those who've missed a step or two, Wayne is on sabbatical this year and we decided it was too good of an opportunity to spend a year abroad to pass up. Gail is going to attend a German school, and I will continue to do contract work (primarily data analysis and technical writing).

After a hectic two-week driving trip from Conway to upstate New York, including two trips across the George Washington Bridge and Cross-Bronx Expressway, we flew last night from New York to Frankfurt and continued by train to Wiesbaden. It's great to be back and we are excited about our year in Mainz, just across the river from Wiesbaden. We are very lucky to have friends to stay with while we look for an apartment - I feel like we're in our own episode of house hunters international, just at a much lower budget than many of the people on that show! On Monday we begin the search in earnest, looking in Mainz to be close to Gail's school.

When we last lived in Germany (spring 2008) I learned from multiple visitors how to best tackle jet lag, and so after a lunch including several kinds of delicious German breads and cheese we headed to a thermal bath. This one is in Mainz, and we swam indoors and out in the warm waters, went down the water slides, and played in the water features. The combination of sunshine, fresh air, and the bubbling waters is the best way to spend a bleary first day in Europe.

I've had a LOT of questions about what one packs for a year away. We had two major space limitations: the airline's limits, and what would fit in the Prius for the road trip.We also needed to pack for all four seasons since we'll be here for a year. Here's a picture of Gail with our luggage at the Frankfurt airport after our arrival this morning.

We each checked 2 bags and carried one on. Gail's carry-on was her violin, and Wayne had her clarinet in his day pack. We weren't sure the violin would be allowed as a carry on, as a violin case is a bit bigger than the carry on allowance. The check in guy at Singapore Airlines said it was fine, but then we got a little scare as we boarded and one of the flight attendants said, "You can't bring that on." As Gail and I looked at each other in mild panic he added, "unless you play something for us!" He was kidding, of course, and we were glad to get it stowed in the overhead bin!

I was quickly reminded of some of the things I love about Germany. The bread, sure, but also the incredibly reliable trains and the painted yellow box on the train platform that designates the smoking area, and in which smokers obediently stand.

We still have a couple of weeks before school starts for Gail, and I'll try to do sort-of regular updates. You can subscribe to this page to get notified of new posts.