Saturday, September 24, 2016

The art is still not on the walls.

I have an excuse, really, I do.

After returning from the States, I dozed my way through the next few days. And then came Monday.

Hello, I'm the new co-CLO-Assistant at U.S. Consulate Frankfurt. I'm currently working full-time, though it won't last once the full-time CLO starts. Once she's there, I'll drop down to a 20hrs/wk job-share. Not optimal by far, especially as once it's a job-share I can't work more than 20hrs/wk. I'd love to get the two co-CLOs onto separate 32hr/wk part-time schedules instead, for better office coverage, better flexibility, and better income.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Another step closer to an empty nest

Last week the girls and I flew out of Germany. Katherine is situated in Cork, Ireland for her semester abroad, and I accompanied Rebecca to Savannah, GA, for orientation for her first year of college.

You might not be shocked to learn that I really don't enjoy the traveling part of traveling so much. Wait, that's not accurate. I don't really like the transition part of traveling so much.  The getting to the airport and checking in and sitting at the gate. The reclaiming of bags and hailing of cabs or picking up a rental car. There are so many points of potential badness. Lost bags, missed connections, wrong reservations. It's exhausting. Throw in the physical discomfort of travel with time zones and cramped seats and mystery foods and truly travel is just not my cup of tea.

But we do it all the time anyway. Usually Ian and I travel together and he handles most of everything logistical. I like it that way. Then I only have to complain about the ridiculousness the airlines call pillows.

Flying to Savannah via Amsterdam and an overnight in NoVA was fine. SAS, aka Scandinavian Airlines, isn't bad. They have comfy blankets and a weird new rule of stuffing the blankets and pillows by your feet or in the overhead for take-offs and landings. And no Samsung Galaxy 7 usage at all. That one I understood.

We picked up the footlocker we'd left at my parents' house and arrived in Savannah without any major incident. Well, in Frankfurt we couldn't actually find our gate, managed to get two stamps in our passports and walked the entirety of the B concourse, but somehow I don't feel that was our fault. Then upon leaving Dulles we had one bag overpacked so shifted items around only to realize that all that weight I'd moved to my carry-on was actually liquid weight so the carry-on then needed to be checked in for a lovely 2nd bag fee. You'd think we never traveled anywhere before. I even wore shoes with laces.

Art kits and text books, for class days 1 and 2.
Savannah was hot and sticky, just like we remembered. Thursday was move-in day for some of the freshmen, which took all of an hour to unpack the suitcase, and then unpack and repack the footlocker (now her supply pantry). The rest of the day we spent shopping for school supplies and items at Target and BB&B we knew weren't coming in her UAB. I highly recommend getting your college kid a memory foam mattress pad. And a small fan.  Becca's room has two windows and while the suite has a/c very little of it actually makes it into the bedroom. It's hot. And sticky.

That evening we met up with the roommates and their parents at a River Street restaurant. It's nice to have a little connection to these folks. The closest live in NC, the farthest in NY so they're all relatively in the neighborhood.

The UAB was scheduled for Friday. It did not come on Friday. Friday was move-in day for the rest of the freshman and the roads were busy, with an accident on one route. Rather than call and ask for another place to drop off items, or even say they were on the way or in the area, the driver returned to the warehouse with her boxes. We were not pleased, and especially not pleased when the next available time for delivery was between 12-5 on Monday when Becca was starting classes and I would be in Chicago. I fussed a bit and somehow the company that doesn't deliver on the weekend happened to be making another delivery on Saturday and would try to make it to us as well. At 12:30 on Saturday we connected and we spent the next hour carting one 100lb box at a time from the mailroom to her dorm. The security guards were sympathetic. FYI, I recommend calling the moving company a couple hours into their delivery window rather than 1/2 hour before the end of the day.

I ended up packing about 1/2 a box worth back into a suitcase to bring to Frankfurt. Fun times, fun times.

But really, the challenge those days was simply to get Becca comfortable in her new space. She spent each night with me at the hotel, we had dinners together, and not until her items had arrived and her space looked a little more hers did she move fully into her dorm. It helped that I was checking out of the hotel at 4:30 a.m. the next morning too.

Glad she brought the rug.

It's all good.  She's figuring things out, finding her classes, doing her hours and hours of homework. Anyone who tells you that art school is easy hasn't been to art school. I keep hoping she'll remember to eat. We're not around enough to take her out.

If you are in Savannah, go here.

Gonna miss that face.
It was with a heavy heart that I left her in Georgia, and even worse that I then had plenty more travel only now all by my lonesome. The return trip was via Chicago so I stopped for an overnight at my aunt's house up in Wisconsin to visit with my grandmother. They went all out, inviting the rest of my mom's side over for a picnic lunch. Babcia has loads of stories to tell and what better way to spend time together than to hear about her youth and her family.

The rest of the trip was standard and went crazy smooth. I transferred in Stockholm, the land of reindeer pelts available at the airport. Who buys a reindeer pelt? Who has room in their carry-on? And since we still don't have a car, once I landed I took the S5 and the U1 back home.

2799Kroner = $329
The boys go to school. Ian goes to work. I'm at home getting over a minor case of jetlag. When the cats nap it's especially quiet (why they can't nap at midnight, I don't know). It won't last, I start my new job in the CLO office on Monday, so I'll enjoy the quiet for today.

And in case you're wondering, the girls are adjusting. Katherine is enjoying Cork and UCC quite a bit.

And the texts from Becca include questions like what to do with someone else's underwear that gets mixed in with hers in the laundry room. Hey, she found time to do laundry!

I wonder if they ate today?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bad Homburg Laternenfest

Strawberry-peach bowle

Blueberry Floof!

Yesterday we rode the UBahn to Bad Homburg where we endeavored to taste everything we could.

Fries with garlic sauce

Best meat ever

Though we missed the greyhound races, we did partake in part of the kidsfest.

And we avoided the rain!

When it's not just dirt.

So... this guy...

Sad ears even while resting.

He was shaking his head and eventually on Sunday just hid all day.  He seemed wobbly when he walked and basically acted like he had a migraine, hiding in dark corners and unwilling to be with anyone.

So today we walked him to the vet.  The first vet we went to said it opened at 9 a.m. but no one was there and a sign on the door said something about a vacation until September 12. So, Google Maps to the rescue and we walked to another vet that was open and didn't seem to mind walk-ins.

Some swabs later and a peek under the microscope showed a pile of creepy crawlies - ear mites. Shawarma is pretty calm on the whole.  He was not calm while getting his ears cleaned out and goo dribbled in. Thankfully he's not a biter, but he can be quite the cat contortionist and threatened to use his claws more than once. A shot of what we assume was antibiotics will help him feel his normal self by tomorrow.

But, he's already a ton better.  We also had the joy of bringing home the ear med and treating both other cats, though their ears seem to be fine.  

With a quick inspection, we also discovered that one of his teeth looks infected. That's an issue for another day, after the ears are taken care of.  Ian gets to figure out bringing Shawarma back to the vet next Monday while I'm gone.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Follow-up to the 56 Steps...

We successfully reached the blood lab in Latvia and they sent their current EU accreditation pdf which I forwarded to the pet import people at the airport.  The lab checks out, and we are no longer faced with getting their blood work repeated.

I do need to find a pet supply store and get ear drops for Shawarma though.  He has one ear that is bothering him so much and it's so full of dirt that I can't wipe it out. He's shaking his head a lot and scratched the ear quite a bit there's now a sore inside. So I have my job for today.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hello new (high) school year

And so it begins. Both boys are relatively settled into the new year of high school.

Along with reports of AJROTC class and Psychology research, walking the track at PE and an all day Field Day, we're back to the chats about dress codes and varying expectations. For example, this came home in an FIS email:

The issue of dress is particularly challenging for us at the moment as the summer weather has finally arrived and a number of students feel the only way to keep cool is to wear shorts that in some cases are shorter than underwear! We really would appreciate your help in ensuring that your daughter (doesn’t seem to be a problem with boys!) sets out for school in shorts or skirts that are at least as long as the first finger, and tops that cover the upper part of the body appropriately. Please read the Expectations and Consequences document regarding Dress Code with your daughter and help us enforce this. The document was actually developed and written by students, which I fully supported with one exception – students wanted the length of shorts/skirts to be to the thumb. I vetoed this as being too short, but compromised by changing the prior rule from length of middle finger to length of first finger.

With this portion from the Expectations and Consequences:

Members of the student council agreed upon the following expectations
(with the exception of dress length - administration have changed this from ‘as long a
thumb’ to as long as forefinger - first finger on hand)

● Skirts, shorts and dresses or kilt must reach the end of the student’s extended
● The neckline (front and back) of clothing must not be deeper than the student’s
armpits, or expose a cleavage.
● Midriff must not be exposed.
● Shirt and dress straps must be at least as wide as 2 of the student’s fingers.
● Underwear should not be visible. (under sheer clothing, through armholes, the
back, above waist, or otherwise)
● Inappropriate wording or images must not appear on clothing (references to
drugs, sexuality, racism, violence etc)
● Jeans must have no rips above the extended forefinger
● No hats are to be worn indoors.
● Tights are not to be worn without covering (e.g shorts or skirt) but Leggings are
permitted (leggings are not transparent and do not cover feet).

Three of those items can also extend to boys, but all apply to the girls.

Yesterday WHS talked with the kids about dress code as well... no sleeveless shirts for girls, boys are fine as long as it doesn't have anything profrane/drug-related/etc. I'm relieved that Nicholas saw the stupidity in that as well. If there's no sleeveless for girls, then no sleeveless for boys.  Simple enough in our eyes.

Perhaps every school should go to uniforms (yes, please!). Or better yet, the schools should take on the clothing manufacturers. The girls are held accountable for what's available to them in every Target, Old Navy, Gap, and C&A. The same stores that sell perfectly acceptable boys' clothing sell everything mini, torn, and sheer to girls.

Fix that, and then we'll talk about appropriate clothing for all our students.

The 56 steps to reclaiming your pets

Yesterday our cats arrived in country after spending 3 months in a kennel in Jordan. While flights from Jordan are daily to Frankfurt, getting all three cats into cargo at the same time is challenging.  But it happened, and we're glad to have our furballs back. Two have spent the past 12 hours telling us everything that happened to them.  "Meow, meow, meow, purr, meow, head butt, meow meow meow, scratch some furniture, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow...." I don't think anyone got a decent night's sleep, at least not those of us on the main floor.  Tandoori moved almost immediately upstairs to the quietest corners he could find, and that's where he stayed.  I imagine it was stressful for him the past few months. At best, he tolerates Shawarma and would prefer that Falafel just disappear. So being in close quarters with not only them but other cats as well probably has his last nerve strained. He'll be OK, but he needs lots of alone time right now. Currently he's actually camped out under a couch, so at least he's "around us" without being "around us."

So, planning to bring your pets to Germany on a cargo waybill? Let me tell you about yesterday as an example of how it all works. YMMV.

First, get your rabies titre done as soon as you can long before your pet flies (it takes months), and make absolutely certain it's with an accredited EU lab.  I'd recommend sending it someplace in Germany that you are certain is a good place. And if your vet doesn't know absolutely, ask the pet immigration people here in Germany to be sure. Email one of the vets directly at . Don't skimp on this, don't find a cheaper place, don't go by word of mouth. Just make sure it's absolutely clear that the lab is accepted by the German pet immigration people.

Work with bona fide cargo shippers. Don't trust it to a friend or someone who does it on the side. Hire a company where this is what they do.

Once your pets are on their way, you'll know their flight number and arrival time. Head to the airport with your passport and the waybill about 1 1/2 hours after the arrival time.  Cargo stuff takes a while. For us that meant that a 1:30 p.m. arrival time had us arriving to the first stop about 3:30 p.m.

First stop, the south side of the airport, Cargo City Sud to Building 531D.  Go up the outdoor steps, straight ahead through the first office, through the door, and into a second office.  Here they'll make a copy of your passport and hand you a stack of papers about your pet. They'll also give you a map to the opposite side of the airport to the Animal Lounge.

Second stop, the north side of the airport, Cargo City Nord to Building 463. Go in the small door and up the elevator a floor, hang a left past the waiting room and there's a tiny Vet office. Give them the stack of papers you just received.  They'll have you wait in the waiting room. More about the pet station is here:

We waited extra long due to an issue with the rabies titre lab we used. It's a problem still not fixed, and which is why at the beginning of this I said to make absolutely sure that you're using an EU certified lab that Germany recognizes. The vet didn't fully sign off on our cats (we're working on it), but we paid for the vet fees: 3 cats = Euro 184.25. They take credit cards.

Third stop is Customs.  To get to customs requires step 2.5. Leave the vet office, go past the elevator and enter the next door on your right.  Here, you'll ask for a badge to get to Customs and you'll surrender a driver's license. He'll lend you a handy map to find your way to the Customs office.

OK, so to the third stop.  Customs is a 10 minute walk down the street. Leave the Animal Lounge building, go out to the street (there's a door in the fence) and turn left.  Walk to the end of the road where there is a turnstile entrance. Use your handy badge to pass through the turnstile then walk ahead until you find building D on your left.  Easy enough to spot, it has a giant D on it and comes after building C, which comes after building B, etc. At the base of the yellow tower, there is a tiny and extremely slow elevator. Punch up to floor 3 and head straight (bathrooms are on your right if you need to go), then hang a left and you'll see a door labeled ZOLL (aka Customs). There's a spacious room with airplanes hanging from the ceiling. We were lucky that we arrived just before 6:30...  I think the office closes at 6:30 as everyone left while we were standing there except the people handling our case.

They'll take your passport and your forms and look everything up in the computer. Eventually you'll be handed a form to fill in with the kind of animals you're bringing, their ages, and where they're going (your address). When everything checks out, you'll get yet another stamped piece of paper.

Stop number 4 is back to stop 2.5. Return the badges, reclaim your license, and they'll make a copy of the form you just got from Customs. Because the cats landed at 1:30 and it's now 7p.m., there is a charge for caring for them in the lounge: 3 cats = Euro 142.80. They take credit cards.

Then you hear the great news that everything is squared away and all they have to do is bring out your pets.

While we were outside a shipment of tropical fish from Colombia was being loaded into a van.  Five trucks from somewhere else came in to be unloaded and I didn't hear any noise from them so I'm assuming they were snakes or tarantulas or more fish. We were warned that they were going to deal with the large shipment first so we'd have to wait outside, but within about 10 minutes a cart came out with our 3 furrballs. Such plaintive mewling, except Tandoori who is generally stoic. When he's not stoic he's grumpy heading towards mad, so I'll take stoic.

Hiding is his favorite activity.
Finally the cats are quiet and napping (except when I sneeze... Falafel always checks up on me when I sneeze). It has all mostly worked out, we're still waiting to hear from the lab about their accreditation (so we don't have to go out immediately and get all their bloodwork done and paid for a second time), but they are settled onto (or under) the couches in warm patches of sunlight. I'm glad we didn't cargo them on the same day we arrived, I truly wouldn't have wanted to do the additional 5+ hours immediately after a red-eye. But the process is not straightforward and no matter the little information we gathered before heading out, it seemed that no one at the Consulate had more than an inkling of what was involved. At one point they said there "might be a fee."

If you're sending pets cargo into Germany separate from your own arrival, bring a credit card, a passport, the waybill, and have a car (borrowed is great) as public transportation will not help you out. Try to have your pets arrive in the morning to avoid the risk of offices closing. One of the issues with the lab was that as the vet here tried calling they found the office in Latvia closed. It was 5:00 by then. Earlier is better as it gives a better chance of ironing out any wrinkles on the spot.

We realized this gap under the oven continued
under the cabinets as well. If a cat went under
we'd never get it out.